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Star Trek: Voyager – Season 4 (Review)

The fourth season is probably the show’s best season.

Of course, that is arguably damning with faint praise. By any measure, the fourth is probably weaker than at least four seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation and four seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. It is also weaker than the first two seasons of Star Trek or the final two seasons of Star Trek: Enterprise. In the grand scheme of things, that places the best season of Star Trek: Voyager around the franchise median. Somehow, this feels entirely appropriate.

The fourth season of Voyager has some of the show’s best episodes. As such, it also has some of the franchise’s best episodes. Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II are spectacular television, while Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II offer a glimpse of the show that Voyager could have been while also developing some of the series’ core themes. There are also truly great standalone episodes like Nemesis, Prey, and Living Witness. More than that, there is a lot of really fun storytelling as well, with lighter episodes like Concerning Flight and Message in a Bottle.

However, there is also an unevenness to the season. While there are arguably fewer truly terrible episodes than in the earlier seasons, there are a couple of true stinkers like Retrospect or Vis á Vis. More than that, there are quite a few disposable and dull episodes, stories quickly forgotten after the end credits. Stories like Scientific Method, Random Thoughts, Waking Moments, Unforgettable and Demon fail to make a lasting impression. They just fill up the season order adding very little beyond a familiar Star Trek beat sheet.

In some ways, this is the central tension of the fourth season, one reflected in the addition of Seven of Nine and the focus on Borg culture. The fourth season of Voyager is caught between mediocrity and brilliance, between being a perfectly serviceable mid-tier Star Trek show and being something a little more ambitious. The fourth season is a weird synthesis of generic Star Trek and something unique, reflecting the fusion of organic and mechanical that defines the Borg Collective.

The fourth season of Voyager ultimately retreats back to the comfort and safety offered by familiarity, but there are moments when it looks like the show might finally be ready to take flight. Unfortunately, it never really gets off the ground, but there is something heartwarming in the effort.

As with the fourth season of Deep Space Nine, the fourth season of Voyager largely works because it builds on the strongest aspects of an intriguing-but-flawed third season. The fourth season of Deep Space Nine is one of the best seasons in the franchise, in large part because it took many of the structural elements of the third season as a foundation; from the decision to open the year with a pseudo-pilot and the positioning of an ambitious Dominion-centric mid-season two-parter through to an increased emphasis on scale and spectacle. It then improved on them.

Similarly, the fourth season of Voyager recognises a lot of what worked with the third season and doubles down. This is apparent looking at the specific episodes, many of which borrow key elements for earlier stories. Most obviously, Living Witness would never have been possible without Distant Origin. More than that, Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II established a time-shifting mid-season blockbuster aesthetic that undoubtedly informed Year of Hell, Part I, Year of Hell, Part II, The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II.

However, the fourth season also inherits a broader sensibility from the third season. When Michael Piller departed Voyager at the end of the second season, the writers seemed to stop searching for a unique identity. The production team seemed to embrace the idea that Voyager could be a more archetypal and generic iteration of the franchise, that it could capture that almost intangible “Star-Trek-y” aesthetic that many people associated with the franchise without being anything particularly unique or distinctive.

It is fair to argue that many episodes of Voyager could easily have been adapted for The Next Generation without too much fuss. A particularly cynical critic might argue that the production team would only need to do a “find and replace” on the cast names. However, a lot of the more solid and reliable third season episodes had that “generic Star Trek” quality to them; The Chute, Remember, Coda, Distant Origin. So it makes sense that this aesthetic would carry across to the fourth season. A lot of the forth season is devoted to similar generic Star Trek stories.

Some of these count among the best episodes that Voyager ever produced, like Nemesis or Living Witness. A lot of these are fairly bland and forgettable, like Scientific Method, Random Thoughts, Waking Moments, Unforgettable, Demon. However, using these stock episodes as a framework means that the fourth season has a relatively solid foundation. The average quality goes up, if only because there are fewer truly awful misfires like Alliances, Threshold, Investigations, Warlord, The Q and the Grey, Alter Ego, Blood Fever, Favourite Son, or Displaced.

To be fair, there are terrible episodes of the fourth season, but they are much fewer and further between than they had been in the earlier years of the show. Retrospect has not aged well, as a story that is essentially about how rape allegations ruin men’s lives. Vis á Vis somehow inexplicably decides that the best version of Paris was the jerk who appeared in the second season’s (completely fairly) maligned Kazon arc. However, in general, the worst episodes of the fourth season are forgettable rather than offensive. It is not perfect, but it represents a clear improvement.

More than that, this foundation of “generic Star Trek” stories allows the fourth season to do other interesting things and to play with other interesting ideas. The fourth season of Voyager was the last to be produced by Jeri Taylor, but the influence of her successor can be keenly felt. Brannon Braga might not have officially taken the reigns of the show until Night at the start of the fifth season, but the third and fourth seasons see Braga boldly pushing forward his own vision of what Voyager could be.

Building on the idea of Voyager as the most generic of Star Trek series, Braga pushes for a more blockbuster sensibility. Taking advantage of the major advances in computer-generated imagery since The Next Generation launched, Braga pushed for a more ambitious style of visual storytelling. There are quite a few episodes of Voyager that play well as miniature movies, offering impressive spectacle and special effects on a television budget and a very tight schedule. Braga pushed to make Voyager much more of an action adventure show.

This is particularly apparent in the context of the fourth season, with the various big two-parters. In technical terms, the creation of Species 8472 for Scorpion, Part I, Scorpion, Part II and Prey was as ambitious as anything that the franchise had ever accomplished. Although Year of Hell, Part I, Year of Hell, Part II, The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II are well-constructed stories, they are impressive technical accomplishments. The fourth season of Voyager repeatedly manages blockbuster storytelling on the small screen.

What Braga was doing could be compared to work of JJ Abrams on the Star Trek reboot, an attempt to package a collection of stock Star Trek iconography into a action-driven sugar rush, to create a version of Star Trek that might be more palatable to mainstream audiences than the franchise had previously been. Braga was just attempting it with a much lower budget and with much less experience managing a project of this scale. Still, there is something very endearing in this approach, with Braga writing Prey as the franchise’s nod to Alien vs. Predator.

Of course, the merits of this approach are open to debate. Certainly, Braga’s attempts to push the franchise forward were very much at odds with the work being done on Deep Space Nine. While Ira Steven Behr was looking to the future of television with leaps in serialisation and long-form storytelling, Braga seemed to be taking most of his cues from science-fiction cinema. The fourth season of Voyager tried to effectively construct a “Star Trek movie-of-the-week” on a tight budget and schedule, rather than really pushing the franchise forward.

That said, this combination of stock Star Trek storytelling and blockbuster stylings did leave room for other pursuits. The fourth season of Voyager seemed to have a firm grasp of the essentials, and so had a bit more room to manoeuvre and experiment than earlier seasons. Most notably, the fourth season features the series’ most successful experiments with serialisation and long-form storytelling. Plot points carry across episodes, with certain key decisions having long-term consequences for the cast and crew.

Indeed, The Gift is an episode that carries over a whole host of character beats from Scorpion, Part II. It feels very much like the production team have apportioned the space to deal with the fallout from the epic season-bridging two-parter. Voyager finds itself wandering through Borg space, under constant threat. Kes’ exposure to fluidic space causes a spike in her telepathic abilities and an evolutionary leap that forces her to leave the ship. Janeway deals with the sole surviving Borg drone from her failed alliance.

This is not the only example. Even Seven of Nine’s integration into the crew unfolds across a small handful of episodes, with the production team carefully seeding the construction of astrometrics across little subplots in Revulsion and Scientific Method before finally unveiling it in Year of Hell, Part I. The show never made a big deal of the construction, instead using it as an opportunity to play Seven off Kim in Revulsion and off Torres in Scientific Method. It was unobtrusive, but effective. There were other more pronounced threads.

The crew discover an ancient network of relay stations in Message in a Bottle, a means of communication with the Alpha Quadrant. In the context of the episode, it provides an excuse for a fun runaround with special guest star Andy Dick fighting a bunch of Romulans. Given earlier episodes that reconnect the crew with the Alpha Quadrant, like Eye of the Needle, Non Sequitur, Death Wish, False Profits, Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, it seems likely that this will be a self-contained episode with no lasting repercussions.

However, this relay network sets up a number of long-running plot threads that play out across the season. The episode introduces the Hirogen, an alien menace that dominate this stretch of the season, appearing in every episode between Message in a Bottle and The Killing Game, Part II, with the exception of Retrospect. Starfleet uses the network to send messages to the crew in Hunters. One of those messages is encoded, with the crew attempting to crack it in episodes like Retrospect and Hope and Fear.

These six episodes demonstrate a remarkable sense of continuity. The Hirogen Alpha from Message in a Bottle reappears in Hunters. Seven of Nine acknowledges her punishment from Prey at the start of Retrospect. There are lots of little dovetailing details. The invasion of Species 8472 in Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II has long-lasting consequences. Janeway confronts a stranded member of the Species 8472 in Prey, while finds herself held accountable for her alliance with the Borg in Hope and Fear.

Given that Voyager‘s last experiment with serialisation was the disastrous Kazon arc in the second season, all of this flows remarkably well. None of these connections feel force. Many of them feel relatively organic. More than that, they tend to be rooted in logical ripples rather than predetermined plot points. It never feels as if a plot point is being introduced (or shoehorned in) specifically to set up some long-delayed pay-off. The writers are simply taking advantage of the storytelling opportunities created by earlier episodes to construct new and interesting narratives.

Of course, some of these attempts at long-form storytelling are clumsy and awkward. While The Gift is an episode dedicated to exploring the aftermath of Scorpion, Part II, it bends over backwards to ensure that the fallout will be contained. By the end of The Gift, the fourth season status quo has been established. Voayger is clear of Borg space. Kes is gone. Seven of Nine looks a lot more like Jeri Ryan. Day of Honour can get back to something resembling business-as-usual without standing in the shadow of Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II.

There are a number of other awkward beats like this in the season. Vis à Vis unceremoniously drops all of the plot threads running from Message in a Bottle. The Hirogen are gone, their arc concluded in The Killing Game, Part II. However, there are no further references to Seven’s punishment for her behaviour in Prey, and no discussion of the secret message from Starfleet in Hunters. Although a coded message from Starfleet should be a pretty big deal, the topic is not actually broached again until the season finale, Hope and Fear.

More than that, this is hardly pushing the envelope in terms of serialisation. Television shows like The X-Files and Buffy: The Vampire Slayer had already embraced a much more continuity-heavy approach to storytelling. Even within the Star Trek franchise, Deep Space Nine was doing much more adventurous experiments with continuity. The sixth season of Deep Space Nine, airing in parallel with the fourth season of Voyager, opened with a sprawling six-episode episode running from A Time to Stand through to Sacrifice of Angels.

Still, this serialised storytelling provided a foundation upon which later seasons of Voyager could build, if the production team were willing to stick to their guns. There are any number of intriguing possibilities that suggest themselves: an extension of Night, with the ship spending an extended stretch of the fifth season in the starless void; the use of Rudolph Ransom and the Equinox crew as recurring characters beyond the events of Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II; much tighter coordination with Starfleet as the ship moved closer to home in the final year.

However, none of these things happened. The continuity experiments of the fourth season remained an outlier in the larger context of Voyager. To be fair, there were some strands of continuity. There were sequel episodes, with Course: Oblivion following up on Demon. There were also a number of recurring threads, from the introduction of the Borg children in Collective to the establishment of communication with Starfleet in Pathfinder. However, there was never as tangible a sense of continuity as there was in the fourth season.

Instead of pushing forward and building on what was a relatively solid foundation, the gentle flirtations with serialisation within the fourth season would remain an exception to the largely episodic structure of Voyager. Although the fourth season’s ambition was modest, it eclipsed any that might be found in the remaining three seasons. The fourth season of Voyager brushed softly against the boundaries that it had set for itself. However, it would never find the courage to push past those boundaries.

To be fair, the later seasons would maintain a quality level quite close to that of the fourth season. There would be a lot of genuinely great episodes, like Drone, Timeless, Counterpoint, Latent Image, Bride of Chaotica!, The Voyager Conspiracy, Blink of an Eye and Memorial. There would be only a handful of truly spectacular failures, like The Disease, Fair Haven, Spirit Folk, Fury and Nightingale. However, there would be a lot of truly generic and forgettable episodes in that final three-year stretch.

The fourth season established a framework for Voyager in its second half, although none of those seasons would push any further than the fourth season had. After a turbulent first two seasons, and a stabilising third year, the fourth season of Voyager seems to finally settle into a groove. The remainder of Voyager will work very hard to make sure that this groove is not disturbed. Voyager has always had a decidedly conservative streak both narratively and politically, yearning for the familiar and the safe. The fourth season offers a sturdy blueprint to go forward.

Indeed, the show’s core themes and interests shine through in the fourth season. A lot of these interests had been established during the show’s third year, but the fourth season really commits to these themes. In particular, Voyager is a television show that is particularly engaged with the concept of memory and history, particularly in an increasingly postmodern world. Voyager embodied a certain fin-de-siècle anxiety, one not so much concerned about the future as anxious about the past.

Memory was a recurring theme in the third season; false memories went viral in Flashback, history faded from living memory in Remember, the past was manipulated in Future’s End, Part I and Future’s End, Part II, the fossil record was bent to patriotic mythology in Distant Origin. However, the fourth season doubled down on this concept. Memory was malleable, unreliable, prone to distortion. In some ways, this ties back to the fourth season’s experiments with continuity, the question of memory within the show itself.

In The Raven, Seven of Nine makes a journey to reclaim her own past. In Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II, Annorax wages war on history itself. In Random Thoughts, memories are traded on the black market. In Retrospect, Seven of Nine struggles with buried memories. In The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II, the Hirogen stealing the history of other cultures. In Unforgettable, Chakotay faces a lover he cannot remember. In Living Witness, the EMH faces revisionist history. In Hope and Fear, the crew’s past comes back to haunt them.

This is also true of the show’s politics. Voyager was in many ways the most conservative and reactionary of the Star Trek series, with the possible exception of the first two seasons of Enterprise. The show’s racial politics had long been awkward, particularly the Kazon arc during the second season or the anit-immigrant attitude of Displaced. For a show with a female lead and more female regulars than any other Star Trek series, there was a strong whiff of misogyny to scripts like The Q and the GreyAlter Ego and Favourite Son.

This strand of the show’s politics tended to bleed through the fourth season, in a number of different ways; the presentation of refugees as untrustworthy freeloaders in Day of Honour, the monstrous queering of Dejaran in Revulsion, the anxiety about political correctness and thought police in Random Thoughts, the paranoia about false rape accusations in Retrospect. While these individual creative decisions might be debatable taken up on their own terms, they do suggest exactly how Voyager sees the larger world.

More interesting is the elevation of Voyager into something of a legend in the Delta Quadrant, tying together the series’ interest in the malleability of history and its aspirations towards generic Star Trek. There is a sense that the characters driving the ship are largely interchangeable, and that there is something almost archetypal about the crew’s journey. The third season set up this theme, with Voyager entering into mythology at the end of False Profits and into speculation at the start of Distant Origin.

The fourth season hits upon this idea of Voyager-as-myth repeatedly. Although Annorax can bend the entirety of time to his whim in Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II, Voyager itself remains a constant; it exists beyond history. Living Witness is set so far in the future that it is the last piece of Star Trek chronologically speaking, and it uses that framing device to talk about two cultures profoundly changed by a fleeting interaction with Voyager. In Demon, the crew leave behind an entire planet cast in their image.

As much as Voyager struggled to define a unique identity for itself, the fourth season had a much clearer vision of the series than any of the surrounding seasons. Although Voyager would never be as distinctive as The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, or even the final two years of Enterprise, the fourth season at least had a firm grasp of its own interests. The fourth season of Voyager was not just the strongest in terms of quality, it was also the season with the strongest sense of self.

Of course, the fourth season also solidifies the ensemble that will see the show through to Endgame. The production team drafted in Jeri Ryan at the start of the season, to play the former Borg drone known as Seven of Nine. While Deep Space Nine had gotten away with adding a new character to an established cast in its own fourth year, Voyager had to recruit Jeri Ryan as a replacement. Rumours suggested that Garrett Wang was on the chopping block, granted a last-minute reprieve when he placed on People magazine’s “50 Most Beautiful People” list.

As a result, Jennifer Lien was released from the show. She appeared in the first two episodes of the fourth season, serving as a mouthpiece for Species 8472 in Scorpion, Part II before evolving to a higher plane of existence in The Gift. It was hardly the most elegant of departures, and there was something disappointing in the decision. Lien was not the strongest performer in the cast, but she was not the weakest. More than that, Kes was a character with a lot of unfulfilled potential. Writing her out in such a way was a wasted opportunity.

Ryan’s arrival on the show was tumultuous. Ryan’s relationship with her co-stars could be troubled at time, particularly with Kate Mulgrew, who took offense at the insertion of such blatant pandering into what had been sold as a feminist Star Trek series. Mulgrew’s fears were compounded by the ridiculous costuming choices made by the production team. Seven of Nine was clearly intended to add sex appeal to the show, a questionable choice given the decision to characterise her as a child.

More to the point, the other actors were quite right to be afraid of the threat posed by Seven of Nine to their characters. By the end of its third season, Voyager had effectively given up on several members of its primary cast. Chakotay, Kim and Tuvok frequently found themselves fighting for storytelling scraps, repeating the same beats over and over again. The writers had little idea what to do with Paris beyond his relationship with Torres. Neelix typically got a little material from episode to episode, but seldom took the spotlight.

Seven of Nine threatened to consume a lot of storytelling real estate, which would hurt those characters who were already neglected. Seven immediately dominated the show. She was one of the central characters is the primary plot threads of Scorpion, Part II, The Gift, The Raven, Hunters, Prey, Retrospect, The Omega Directive, One and Hope and Fear. She had character-driven subplots in Day of Honour and Revulsion. She even took a place of prominence in ensemble pieces like Scientific Method, Year of Hell, Part I and The Killing Game, Part I.

In contrast, certain members of the cast were forced to fend for themselves. Chakotay got to take centre stage in a couple of “generic Star Trek episode” instalments, Nemesis and Unforgettable; while Nemesis was brilliant, these were episodes that could easily have been built around any interchangeable Star Trek lead. Kim got some half-hearted character development in Demon. Neelix got a quirky subplot in Demon and focus in Mortal Coil. Tuvok had to settle for the closing scene in The Gift and the second half of Random Thoughts.

To be fair, introducing a new character into an existing show is always a risky proposition. In terms of production, the new actor runs the risk of upsetting existing cast dynamics. In terms of writing, there is a sense that the writers might be attracted by the novelty, neglecting existing characters to flesh out the new arrival. This is what happened with Seven of Nine, who came to dominate Voyager from her introduction through to the end of the series. In the final four seasons of the show, Seven received a disproportionate focus.

This is understandable, but it was also avoidable. Deep Space Nine introduced two new characters over the course of its run, but it did a much more balanced way than Voyager. It continued to develop characters like Bashir and Jake even after the introduction of Worf and Ezri. Of course, Deep Space Nine had the luxury of introducing new characters that had already been established. Worf was a seven-year veteran of The Next Generation, and so was a known quantity. Ezri was the latest host of the Dax symbiont, and was so a continuation of a preexisting character.

Still, there were a number of factors that accounted for Seven’s immediate elevation to the top of the ensemble. Most obviously, the writers had already given up on about half the primary cast. While the writers on Deep Space Nine devoted considerable energy to characters that had been troubled in the early seasons, like Jadzia Dax or Julian Bashir, the writers on Voyager very quickly tired of characters that were not working. It was easier to invest energy in the characters that worked, rather than to fix those that did not.

More than that, there was Seven of Nine herself. The character was just familiar enough to fit comfortably within an established Star Trek archetype and just novel enough to be an interesting wrinkle to the status quo. On paper, Seven of Nine was an extension of the archetypal “outsider” character; Spock on Star Trek, Data on The Next Generation, Odo on Deep Space Nine. The EMH was arguably already an example on Voyager, and he had been the breakout character of the first three seasons, so it made sense to double down on that direction.

However, Seven of Nine also brought some new material to the table. If Data was an innocent child who looked to Picard in awe and wonder, Seven was an unruly teenager who would put Janeway to the test. The dynamic between Janeway and Seven is more fraught than that between Data and Picard. The tension between Janeway and Seven elevates a lot of Voyager episodes, make great episodes like Prey or The Killing Game, Part I even more effective and providing a nice bite to more middling episodes like The Omega Directive or Hope and Fear.

More than that, Seven’s status as a former Borg drown opened up all manner of interesting story ideas and character directions. What would it be like to grow up inside the Borg Collective? Episodes like The Gift and The Raven play up that idea of trauma and recovery, trying to figure out if Seven of Nine is a drug addict or a former cult member. Her trauma reverberates in episodes like The Raven and Retrospect, suggesting a character who already seems more nuanced and developed than Chakotay or Kim ever will be.

Beyond that, the presence of Seven of Nine allows Voyager to have some of its cakes and eat it, as far as the Borg are concerned. The Voyager writing staff were understandably fascinated by the Borg Collective as a concept, but somewhat hamstrung when it came to writing about the Borg Collective. After all, every story throwing Janeway into conflict with the Borg became an “event.” Allowing Voyager to repeatedly and decisively outwit the Borg Collective would diminish them as a credible antagonist.

To be fair, this happened any way. While The Next Generation managed to (mostly) avoid eroding the menace posed by the Borg Collective by employing them sparingly, Voyager would return time and time again to the Borg. The Borg Queen became a recurring character on Voyager, appearing three separate two-part stories. However, introducing Seven of Nine allowed the production team to slow this erosion. Seven of Nine allowed Voyager to tell stories that were about the Borg without literally featuring the Borg.

So the fourth season used Seven to construct episodes built around key themes concerning the Borg Collective, anchoring their techno-organic horror in the forge of Leonardo da Vinci. Seven would often return to that set after contemplating her Borg perspective; the flashbacks in The Raven, her brush with the divine in The Omega Directive. Seven even became a vehicle for exploring social isolation and automation in One, two concepts very closely tied to the conceptual framework of the Borg.

The production team also got very lucky in casting the role. Seven of Nine was a compelling character in her own right, but Jeri Ryan did tremendous work. In some ways, the sleazy costuming choices distracted from Ryan’s dramatic abilities; it is very difficult to talk about Seven of Nine without first acknowledging the absurdity of her wardrobe. However, Ryan was immediately one of the stronger performers in the cast, easily on par with Mulgrew, Picardo or Phillips.  Ryan gave a performance that deserved to steal the show.

Then again, this is the central tension with the introduction of Seven of Nine. Seven of Nine was undeniably one of the most interesting characters played by one of the strongest performers. Her presence energised the writers, and provided a very strong storytelling hook. Does this justify the way in which she stole the spotlight? Does the fact that the writers had already given up on Chakotay and Kim make it acceptable to channel that effort into developing a character who is fundamentally more interesting played by a performer who is much stronger? There are no easy answers.

The fourth season really galvinised the character relationships on Voyager, which had the effect of cutting certain characters out of the mix. Seven became the primary relationship for Janeway, which deprived Chakotay of his strongest dynamic on the show. The relationship between Torres and Paris meant that most Paris stories gravitated towards Torres, and effectively removed Kim’s strongest interpersonal relationship on the series. The characters on Voyager tended to cluster, and certain players were effectively deprived of key relationships.

To be fair, the production team did at least attempt to foster relationships between Seven of Nine and the rest of the cast. Certain early episodes of the fourth season are designed to put Jeri Ryan on set with other members of the ensemble, in the hope that sparks might fly. Seven gets a subplot involving Kim in Revulsion, for example. Seven spends considerable time with Tuvok in The Raven, Year of Hell, Part I, Year of Hell, Part II and Hunters. However, neither of these dynamics really clicks.

The fourth season of Voyager is a season of television, containing a handful of genuine classics, a number of highly generic stories, and relatively few true stinkers. On a better television series, this season could serve as a springboard to something truly impressive. Instead, the fourth season stands as the single best year of Voyager ever produced. It is not a bad season by any measure, but Voyager should have been capable of so much more.

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6 Responses

  1. Excellent analysis. In hindsight, I really wish that the Borg had never again appeared after Star Trek: First Contact, or at the very least that they had been given a vacation of several years. Introducing them as semi-regular antagonists on Voyager was a huge mistake. As you say, it resulted in a serious case of Diminishing Threat Syndrome. They went from being a force that could conceivably wipe out the entire Federation to just another baddie for Janeway to outwit over and over again.

    • Or even just after Scorpion. But, yeah, the Borg became far too watered down, far too quickly. See, for example, the use of the Collective in Drone.

  2. Also notable is that Season 4 set the seeds for many of Voyager’s stronger episodes in future seasons, especially continuing the storyline established ‘Message in a Bottle’ with Pathfinder in S6.

    Personally I’d rate S6 as the best VOY season (I just did a quick count and I enjoy at least 10/26 of the episodes in it, compared with ~6 in S4 and a miserable 3-4 in most other seasons), but I could see an argument that S4 is the most narratively cohesive season.

    • Interesting.

      I think my preference for the fourth is both a listing of episodes I like, which would be around the ten to fifteen mark, and a counter list of episodes I don’t like. I hate fewer episodes of the fourth season than other seasons. In the case of the sixth season, it’s the Fair Haven episodes that I truly loathe.

  3. I think the reason this season is Voyager’s best is that it is the only season of Voyager where you feel as if progress is being made. Seven is becoming more human, Voyager makes contact and gets closer to the Alpha Quadrant. The crew encounters the Hirogen and then leaves their space. This all stands in stark contrast with Season 1-2 in which Voyager was perpetually stuck in Kazon space, Season 3 in which Voyager seemed to be wandering aimlessly, and post season 4 which was continual poor rehashes of past seasons, though of course there were some good episodes. For example, we get the Borg even though Voyager is allegedly out of Borg space. Heck, we even get the Hirogen and the Kazon again. The only true sense of progress we get in the later seasons is Tom and B’Elanna’s relationship finally becoming one of marriage.

    • That’s a very fair point, actually. There is a sense of linear progress in the fourth season that is entirely absent from later seasons, contact with Starfleet notwithstanding.

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