Star Trek: Voyager Sixth Season
Original air dates: September 1999 – May 2000
Executive Producers: Rick Berman, Brannon Braga
Captain’s log. By the sixth season, Voyager had settled into its role as the spiritual successor to The Next Generation. While the general backstory of trying to get back to Earth was always there, the actual day-to-day adventures that they had were mostly unrelated to that, instead focusing on two catch-phrases that have been associated with Trek for ages: “to seek out new life and new civilizations” and “the human adventure is just beginning.”
When the crew aren’t making contact with new alien species (“Survival Instinct,” “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy,” “Alice,” “Dragon’s Teeth,” “Blink of an Eye,” “Virtuoso,” “Memorial,” “Tsunkatse,” “Ashes to Ashes,” “Child’s Play,” “Muse,” “The Haunting of Deck Twelve”), they’re exploring their own characters and learning about themselves (“Equinox, Part II,” “Barge of the Dead,” “Riddles,” “The Voyager Conspiracy,” “Fury,” and again “Virtuoso” and “Memorial”).
There’s also contact with the Alpha Quadrant, both direct (“Pathfinder,” “Life Line”) and indirect (“One Small Step”). The former is particularly important, as real-time communication is finally reestablished with the folks back home, and will remain so from this point to the end of the series.
Plus, of course, there’s continued issues with the Borg. They come across three ex-Borg who have managed to pull away from the Collective. They discover a ravaged Cube with only five very young survivors, four of whom are de-Borgified and made part of the Voyager community (“Collective”). They encounter the Borg twice more, including the origin of the devastation of the kiddos’ Cube (“Child’s Play”), and then discover a haven for drones who are regenerating that the crew helps make the base of a Borg rebellion (“Unimatrix Zero”).
Seven and the EMH do garner the lion’s share of the attention, as they get several spotlight episodes each (“Survival Instinct,” “The Voyager Conspiracy,” “Tsunkatse,” “Collective,” and “Child’s Play” for Seven, “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy,” “Virtuoso,” and “Life Line” for the EMH). Having said that, Janeway (“Good Shepherd”), Torres (“Barge of the Dead,” “Muse”), Tuvok (“Riddles”), Paris (“Alice”), Kim (“Ashes to Ashes”), and Neelix (“The Haunting of Deck Twelve”) get their moments in the sun, too.
Most comments (as of this writing): “Spirit Folk” with 91. Why such a terrible episode got so many comments is beyond me.
Favorite Can’t we just reverse the polarity? From “Ashes to Ashes”: Despite the dozens of times we’ve seen medical professionals do cosmetic surgery on people to make them appear like a different species (from simple stuff like what we saw in the original series’ “The Enterprise Incident” to more complex stuff in TNG’s “Homeward” and DS9’s “Apocalypse Rising“), it’s not at all clear why the EMH can’t do that with Ballard, instead being forced to resort to injections of stuff.
Favorite There’s coffee in that nebula!: From “Alice”: Janeway saves the day by coming up with the notion of putting a second voice in Paris’ head. This makes up for her totally not noticing that her alpha-shift conn officer—who, it must be reiterated, sits right in front of her for eight hours a day—is a bit of a mess.
Favorite Mr. Vulcan: From “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy”: Poor Tuvok gets the short end of the stick throughout: In the EMH’s fantasies, first he suffers pon farr in the middle of a concert, then he gets turned into a Borg and is downed by the EMH giving him a Vulcan neck pinch. Then in the real world, he has to pretend to arm a weapon that doesn’t exist, a course of action he is very obviously not thrilled with. (The contempt with which he says, “Activating the photon cannon—sir” is epic.)
Favorite Half and half: From “Collective”: Torres is at ops for the entire episode, because the chief engineer has nothing better to do than run a bridge station instead of her engine room, and because the producers have given up on even pretending that there’s anyone in the crew beyond the opening-credits regulars.
Favorite Everybody comes to Neelix’s: From “Good Shepherd”: The Delta Flyer’s replicator includes a pasta soup that is listed as Neeilx 651, and I shudder to think what Neelix has done to pasta soup…
Favorite Please state the nature of the medical emergency: From “Spirit Folk”: The EMH gives a fiery sermon on being excellent to each other and partying on, dudes, and then later is hypnotized, er, somehow. Amusingly, when they ask him what his real name is, he says he hasn’t decided yet…
Favorite Resistance is futile. From “Life Line”: When Seven observes that the EMH and Zimmerman “bear a striking resemblance,” the EMH replies that it’s so a doctor will inspire confidence in his patients. “Compassionate eyes and a strong chin can go a long way.” Seven’s look of massive dubiousness in response to this is epic.
Favorite What happens on the holodeck, stays on the holodeck: From “Pathfinder”: I know I’ve complained a lot about the entire notion of holodeck safeties that can be disengaged, so let me point out that the safeties work just fine in this episode, and it’s very funny to see the holographic Torres shoot the security guards and absolutely nothing happens to them.
Favorite No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: From “Fair Haven”: Janeway knocks boots with a hologram, and she acts like it’s some kind of weird thing when you know that that’s how most people use the holodeck, really…
Favorite Welcome aboard: Whatever else one might say about this season, holy crap did they have an impressive roster of guest stars, starting with Dwight Schultz and Marina Sirtis reprising their TNG roles of Barclay and Troi, respectively, in both “Pathfinder” and “Life Line.” Jennifer Lien also returns to her formerly starring role of Kes in “Fury.”
The Borg kiddos, Manu Intiraymi (Icheb), Marley McClean (Mezoti), and Kurt & Cody Wetherill (Azan and Rebi), join the cast as new recurring regulars starting with “Collective.” We have recurring regulars Scarlett Pomers as Naomi in several episodes, as well as Richard Herd as Owen Paris and Richard McGonagle as Harkins (“Pathfinder”), Nancy Hower as Wildman and Josh Clark as Carey (“Fury”), Jack Shearer as Admiral Hayes (“Life Line”), and Susanna Thompson as the Borg Queen (“Unimatrix Zero”). Also Robert Picardo once again does double duty as Dr. Lewis Zimmerman in “Life Line.”
Past and future Trek actors Rick Worthy (Lessing in “Equinox, Part II”), Bertila Damas and Tim Kelleher (Marika and P’Chan in “Survival Instinct”), Eric Pierpoint and Karen Austin (Kortar and Miral in “Barge of the Dead”), John Fleck (Abaddon in “Alice”), Jeff Allin (Gedrin in “Dragon’s Teeth”), the great Phil Morris (John Kelly in “One Small Step”), Albie Selznick (Tash in “The Voyager Conspiracy”), Daniel Dae Kim and Obi Ndefo (Gotana-Retz and a protector in “Blink of an Eye”), Kaitlin Hopkins and Francis Guinan (grifters in “Live Fast and Prosper”), John Schuck and Joseph Will and Kellie Waymire and Kathleen Garrett (various actors in “Muse”), and Mark Deakins and Tony Sears (two of the Borg in “Unimatrix Zero”) all show up at various points. Plus, Vaughn Armstrong plays two of his dozen Trek roles this season, appearing as Lansor in “Survival Instinct” and the Vidiian captain in “Fury.”
Other excellent guests include John Savage and Titus Welliver and Olivia Birkelund (various Equinox folk in “Equinox, Part II”), Jay M. Leggett and Googy Gress and Robert Greenberg (the Hierarchy members in “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy”), Olaf Pooley (the scholar in “Blink of an Eye”), the great Paul Williams (Koru in “Virtuoso”), Jay Underwood and Michael Reisz (Harren and Telfer in “Good Shepherd”), Gregg Daniel (Mobar in “Live Fast and Prosper”), Stoney Westmoreland and Jack Axelrod (the sponsor and one of the chorus in “Muse”), and Tamara Craig Thomas (Haley in “Life Line”). There’s also a delightful cameo by Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine in “Good Shepherd.”
For reasons passing understanding, we twice have to put up with Irish stereotypes and bad Irish accents, as Richard Riehle, Fintan McKeown, Henriette Ivanans, Duffie McIntire, Ian Abercrombie, Ian Patrick Williams, Bairbre Dowling, and Jan Claire all torment us in “Fair Haven” and/or “Spirit Folk.”
We’ve got a mess of Robert Knepper moments, including Claire Rankin (“Alice”), the great Kim Rhodes (“Ashes to Ashes”), Mark A. Sheppard (“Child’s Play”), Zoe McLellan (“Good Shepherd” and “The Haunting of Deck Twelve”), and Tony Amendola (“Muse”), not to mention the actual Robert Knepper (“Dragon’s Teeth”)!
But the highlight of the season has to be “Tsunkatse,” in which two of DS9’s finest, J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Combs, show up to knock it out of the park as, respectively, a Hirogen and a slimy fight promoter, with the added bonus of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson making his debut as a dramatic actor as a Pendaran fighter.
Favorite Do it: From “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy”:
“Tuvok, I understand.
You are a Vulcan man.
You have just gone without
For seven years about.
Paris, please find a way
To load a hypospray.
I will give you the sign.
Just aim for his behind.
Hormones are raging, synapses blazing,
It’s all so very illogical! Illogical! Illogical!”
–The EMH’s new lyrics to “La donna è mobile.”
Favorite Trivial matter: Probably the one for “Survival Instinct,” just because there was so much of it.
Set a course for home. “Snacks are irrelevant!” When this season has a good episode, it’s really really good.
“Survival Instinct” is a brilliant examination of life after Borg, and giving us a hint of what might have been had Ronald D. Moore stayed in the writer’s room.
“Dragon’s Teeth” is a superlative first-contact story, visually striking, strongly acted, and cleverly written.
“One Small Step” is a tear-jerker of an episode, one that magnificently embodies Trek’s ethos, through a great guest performance by Phil Morris, a passionate performance by Robert Beltran, and a subtle dawning of understanding from Jeri Ryan.
“Pathfinder” is a perfect melding of TNG and Voyager, bringing back two great characters in Barclay and Troi and giving us a major milestone in the titular ship’s journey home.
Both “Blink of an Eye” and “Muse” do a superb job of creating an alien world, in the former giving us a world’s entire history in an hour, in the latter showing us one moment in the world’s history. In both cases, we get pathos and impressive complexity, plus superb guest performances that help invest the viewer in these aliens.
“Memorial” is a complex and brutal look at history and remembrance and the price of violence, one that very smartly pulls few punches.
For all that “Tsunkatse” is The Arena Fight Episode that everyone has done (including Trek twice before), it’s elevated by fantastic performances by Ryan, Tim Russ, and guests J.G. Hertzler and Jeffrey Combs.
And “Live Fast and Prosper” is just a fun little caper story.
But man, when it’s bad, it’s just awful. “Equinox, Part II” mangles the character of Captain Janeway for no compellingly good reason, and is just a terrible resolution to what was already a terrible first part at the end of the prior season, wasting four great guest actors in John Savage, Titus Welliver, Rick Worthy, and Olivia Birkelund, and completely ruining a great concept. Not to mention the massively blown opportunity of never seeing the four Equinox folk who become part of the crew ever again.
Speaking of ruining a great concept and blown opportunities, we have “Barge of the Dead,” which takes what should be a great journey for Torres and instead makes it scientific reality that being put into a coma will send you to the afterlife your mother believes in. Yeeeeeeeeah.
Not to mention the nonsensical idiocy of “The Voyager Conspiracy,” which is actually fun until you think about it for a nanosecond; the wasted potential of “Collective,” which gives us four wonderful new characters, but fails to actually tell an interesting story; and the continued defanging of the Borg in “Unimatrix Zero.”
Plus we have three of the biggest embarrassments in Trek’s entire five-decade-plus history, the insult to the character of Kes that is “Fury” and the sheer unbridled awfulness of “Fair Haven” and “Spirit Folk,” which is made a billion times worse by the utterly baffling decision to do Irish Stereotype Theatre, not once, but twice.
This sixth year is all peaks and valleys, a roller coaster of a season, which really is the perfect metaphor, because it’s at once incredibly thrilling and makes you want to throw up.
Warp factor rating for the season: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be an author guest at GalaxyCon Raleigh at the Raleigh Convention Center in North Carolina this weekend. He’ll be spending most of his time at the Bard’s Tower booth (#500) alongside several other authors. Other guests at the convention include fellow Star Trek scribes Melinda M. Snodgrass and Peter David, as well as Trek actors William Shatner and Carlos Ferro. He’s also doing panels—his schedule can be found here.