• Following Us

  • Categories

  • Check out the Archives

  • Awards & Nominations

Star Trek: Voyager – Endgame (Review)

Appropriately enough, Star Trek: Voyager ends with a betrayal of itself.

Endgame even frames that betrayal in terms of its own internal logic. The first scene after the teaser finds what remains of the crew attending a tenth anniversary reunion following the successful completion of their mission and their return to Earth. Reginald Barclay, “adopted” member of the family and veteran of Star Trek: The Next Generation, offers a toast. “Twenty three years together made you a family, one I’m proud to have been adopted by. Let’s raise our glasses to the journey.” The room toasts, “To the journey.”

Toast of the town…

This is first point of betrayal. Her glass raised, Admiral Janeway suggests a modification of the toast. “And to those who aren’t here to celebrate it with us.” It is a fair toast given how many crew members Janeway had lost over the course of the journey. However, it also suggests the central thesis of Endgame, which is itself the central thesis of Voyager. It was never really about the journey, despite what any of the crew might say at any given point in the show’s run. It was never about the time spent together, or the family forged. It was never even about the people.

It was about getting home. It was about completing the journey. It was about reaching the end point at the designated time. The journey, the adventure, the exploration; these were never the focus. All that potential, all that possibility, was squandered. Endgame is the story of how Admiral Janeway erases sixteen years of exploration, sixteen years of growth, sixteen years of character development. Admiral Janeway does that so that Voyager can complete its journey after the designated seven years, the expected one-hundred-and-seventy-eight episodes.

Living with herself…

But if you can’t trust yourself, who can you trust?

The cast of Voyager were very rearely well-served by the material afforded to them, especially in comparison to the primary casts of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine. It makes sense that this should carry over to Endgame. To be fair, the episode generally works hard to find something for most of the cast to do, but very little of it feels essential. Tuvok’s disease doesn’t even get a name. Although he is a large motivator for Admiral Janeway’s actions, Chakotay has no agency in the plot.

Kim gets the big motivational speech when Janeway asks the crew to decide on a course of action, a creative choice that doesn’t play to Garret Wang’s strengths as a performer. It feels like a grim joke that Kim makes a big speech about how “it’s not the destination that matters” within an episode that exist solely to get the crew home. Still, there is some nice self-aware humour when future!Kim complains about what will happen if Starfleet discovers he helped Admiral Janeway. “If Starfleet Command finds out I had anything to do with this, they’ll demote me back to Ensign.”

Janeway or the highway…

Robert Beltran did not pull any punches in offering his assessment of the episode and the season around it:

“This is what we’re going out with?” he said. “I was right, [the writers] are idiots. So I feel vindicated but unfortunately, you’re going to have to sit through it'” He felt that there should have been much more of an emotional build-up to the finale, instead of more “[Episodes where the Doctor] got laryngitis and was depressed because he couldn’t sing anymore and then we had a Seven of Nine [episode] where she had laryngitis and Seven of Nine can’t save the day, what are we going to do?”

Beltran may be confrontational, but he has a point. Voyager has never served its ensemble particularly well.

Unable to shrug it off…

However, Endgame does make one very smart decision with its cast. The story is structured to put a heavy emphasis on Kate Mulgrew. In fact, Mulgrew is essentially asked to play the two largest roles within the story. While this arguably means squeezing out narrative real estate that could have been better distributed among the supporting cast, it certainly feels earned. Mulgrew has a tumultuous relationship with Voyager, and Voyager has had an awkward relationship with Kathryn Janeway. Still, Mulgrew was always a strength of the series.

It is worth acknowledging that Mulgrew as not always easy to work with. She made life incredibly unpleasant for Jeri Ryan. She apparently threatened to quit the series during the fifth season, only to sheepishly walk back the threat. More than that, Kathryn Janeway was perhaps the least clearly defined lead character in the franchise, with her personality varying greatly depending on who was writing her at a given moment. However, Mulgrew was always a delight to watch, in episodes as distinct as Concerning Flight, PreyNight, Counterpoint and Bride of Chaotica!

‘Soup Janeway?

So it feels oddly appropriate that Endgame is largely given over to Mulgrew as a performer, who has spoken fondly of the finale:

The sharp edges of loneliness, I think, were very much in play for Janeway. And that made the ultimate sacrifice that much more delicious. The admiral sacrificed her life so that the captain could persevere. That’s who I really was as Janeway, and I tried, always, to show that conflict. What better thing can I do as an actress, but to bring my own experience to something? But I think what happened to Janeway absolutely reflected what would happen to a woman in her situation. I was very proud of Endgame, partly because I had a hand in the choices, the story. I loved it. There’s no way you’re going to satisfy everyone after a seven-year investment. How can you? There’s no way. You can’t do it. It’s heartbreaking, an ending of any kind. But I thought our finale was a pretty good way to say goodbye.

Mulgrew has always worked best with a scene partner, as demonstrated by her long-lasting dynamics with Chakotay and later Seven of Nine. It is no surprise that pairing Mulgrew off with herself results in an interesting dynamic.

Admiral-able traits…

The scenes between Admiral Janeway and Captain Janeway are largely narratively empty, anchored in a false moral dilemma that will be solved by plot contrivance. However, Mulgrew manages to forge an interesting dynamic between the two. Janeway is a character who by this point in the series has come to be defined by the force of her personality, so having two versions of that same personality at odds with one another makes for a compelling dramatic hook.

Mulgrew also subtly modifies her performance as Admiral Janeway, extrapolating a version of the character who is as far from the version presented in Endgame as the version presented in Endgame is from the version introduced in Caretaker. Admiral Janeway is presented as a little more ruthless than her younger self, a little more reckless, and a little less inhibited in how she accomplishes her goals. Endgame doesn’t necessarily exploit the potential of this character in the most interesting ways, but it does give Mulgrew one last dramatic showcase.

This is your ship, your crew. Not mine.

Admiral Janeway spends most of Endgame engaged in the art of self-deception. She lies to her past self. She betrays her own ideals. Even at the climax, as she is assimilated into the collective, Admiral Janeway betrays the collective consciousness into which she has been absorbed. This is not the fragile and scattered mental state that Captain Picard experienced in All Good Things…, this is something more meticulous and more calculated. Admiral Janeway knows exactly what she is doing it, even as she manipulates the people she claims to care about into helping her.

This art of self-betrayal is arguably the core of Voyager. No other Star Trek series so blatantly and so fundamental betrayed its core premise; and this is saying something considering the fact that it took Star Trek: Enterprise roughly two full seasons before it even attempted to grapple with its place in the larger tapestry of the franchise. Voyager squandered one of the most interesting and compelling premises in the history of franchise by the end of its pilot episode.

Not-so-L’il Kim.

Caretaker promised an epic story about two rival crews stranded together at the opposite end of the galaxy, with no support structure and no supplies to assist them. However, Voyager never quite managed to live up to that potential. There were a handful of episodes that hinged on the basic premise of the series, like Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II, Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II, Counterpoint, Equinox, Part I and Equinox, Part II. Unfortunately, the overwhelming majority of episodes could easily have been written for any other Star Trek series.

Outside of episodes like Learning Curve, Worst Case Scenario or Repression, the tension between Starfleet and the Maquis evaporated almost immediately. Outside of episodes where it was plot convenient, like Phage or Demon, the idea of a lone ship trapped outside of established support frameworks was largely ignored in favour of business as usual. Outside of spectacular misfires like Alliances, the question of what it actually meant to be the only Starfleet ship in the Delta Quadrant was largely ignored.

Kessed wishes…

Any damage to the ship was inevitable repaired between one episode and the next, if not by a convenient reset at the end of the episode in question. Voyager didn’t just ignore larger shifts in contemporary television, it seemed openly scornful of them. The Voyager Conspiracy mocked the idea of long-form serialisation, while Pathfinder played with the basic premise of The Sopranos. For a series that was nominally supposed to be about the journey, there was never a sense of forward progression.

There was, however, a pull backwards. This makes sense, given that the series was always supposed to be a trip back to the familiar and the safe. Following a turbulent and traumatic first two seasons, Voyager settled into pale imitation of The Next Generation. The series became something of a flatter and generic extension of the beloved science-fiction television show from its late second season; making Q a recurring character from Death Wish onwards, bringing the Borg back in Unity, and even writing an episode featuring the Ferengi in False Profits.

A Galaxy-class far, far away…

So it makes sense that Voyager should finish with an extended homage to The Next Generation, which cast a long shadow over the spin-offs that followed. (Enterprise would go further in These Are The Voyages…, folding its wrap-up into the Next Generation episode The Pegasus.) That shadow hangs of Voyager, the closing shot of the series even featuring the familiar shape of the Galaxy-class starship in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Even before that, Endgame confirms that Voyager has “adopted” the secondary character Barclay from The Next Generation.

In its final two hours, Voyager completely betrays any sense of itself. It goes for broke as a nostalgic tribute to The Next Generation. Specifically, a tribute to that series finale All Good Things… This is obvious in a number of ways, most obviously in the familiar Star Trek plot device of time travel and the use of that device to depict a future where the crew have gone their separate ways. Voyager refuses to end on its own terms, instead choosing to end on the terms of The Next Generation.

“We’re in the Endgame now…”

Producer Kenneth Biller acknowledged this in contemporaneous discussions with Cinefantastique, conceding that the basic premise of Endgame owed a sizable debt to All Good Things…:

We were mindful of the fact that there would inevitably be comparisons to All Good Things…, which was a time travel episode. That was a wonderful episode of Star Trek. I think one of the best, and so I said, ‘We don’t have to shy away from that. It’s a different set of characters, and a different show, and ultimately it is a different story. The only thing that it has in common is that they do involve time travel.’

Biller is being just a little bit disingenuous here. It isn’t just the use of time travel. It is the exact future, down to the uniforms. It is the washed-up series lead embarking on one last mission.

Shades of grey…

To be fair to the production team working on Voyager, there had been more than five hundred episodes of Star Trek produced to that point. It can be difficult to continuous generate original story material. This is true even within the seventh season of Voyager; the penultimate episode of the season, Renaissance Man, often felt like a hybrid of two earlier episodes of the very same season, Inside Man and Body and Soul. More than that, some ideas are worth revisiting, and it is possible to revisit old concepts from new angles.

However, it is rarely a good idea to invite comparison to a universally-beloved cultural phenomenon, and to engage in a halfhearted attempt to rip off that universally-beloved cultural phenomenon. All Good Things… was a success by any measure, watched by over thirty million people. By Biller’s own estimation, it was “a wonderful episode.” Even assuming that Endgame turned out perfectly, any comparison between Endgame and All Good Things… was highly unlike to favour Endgame.

Novel approaches.

Voyager did not have to end this way. The final season of The Next Generation had been written in a blind panic, with the commitment to Star Trek: Generations leaving Ronald D. Moore and Brannon Braga rushing on All Good Things… There was no sense of similiar pressure at work on Voyager. The production team had a number of ideas for the finale. This was a source of minor frustration for staff writer Bryan Fuller, as he admits in The Fifty-Year Mission:

We had talked about so many different things to end the series. One of them we sort of used earlier in the season, the idea being Janeway, to get everyone home, allows the crew to be assimilated knowing that the Doctor can activate and disassimilate the way he did Seven of Nine and that Voyager was going to cross the finish line in the belly of a Borg cube and then, as it explodes, some bursting out of the debris with everyone safe in this bold gambit that only Janeway could have pulled off. But what we got was sort of a Voyager version of All Good Things. It was a good episode and a satisfying one and there was certainly some nice emotion to it, but it just felt like had told that story before.

To be fair, some of those elements carried through to the finished episode. Admiral Janeway does allow herself to be assimilated as part of a ruse, and Voyager does burst from the belly of a Borg sphere like a twenty-fourth century chestburster. However, these elements all swoop in during the final act, and get crowded out by the All Good Things… homage.

Oh, the almighty Temporal Prime Directive. Take my advice. It’s less of a headache if you just ignore it.

Biller correctly points to time travel as a narrative thread that links Endgame to All Good Things… However, the use of time travel in Endgame feels especially clumsy, even by the standards of Voyager. To be fair, this was perhaps inevitable. Endgame is an episode that affords a story credit to former showrunner Brannon Braga, who was busy working on Enterprise at this point. However, the script is trying to employ many of Braga’s trademark narrative tics, in a manner that often feels like pale imitation.

Although Braga had (not entirely undeservedly) turned himself into a figure of fan hate by this point, he was still a writer who had a pretty sold grasp on the conceptual logic of time travel. More than that, Braga had a rare gift for making these more abstract ideas accessible to a broader audience in episodes like Cause and Effect or Year of Hell, Part I and Year of Hell, Part II. Braga certainly doesn’t deserve praise for scientific accuracy, given his involvement in episodes like Genesis or Threshold. However, he was generally competent at keeping the mechanics transparent.

No time to think about it.

After all, All Good Things… is skillfully and carefully written to avoid too many concerns about temporal mechanics. The involvement of Q helps in this respect, the omnipotent trickster serving as a deus ex machina. Picard is able to establish relatively early in All Good Things… that his past, present and future exist independently of one another. This saves the already crowded script a great deal of time and effort, freeing it to focus on character development and its own storytelling instead of meditating upon the possible impact of cause and effect within the story.

Endgame lacks that sort of clarity. Throughout the episode, it is left ambiguous as to the impact that Admiral Janeway will have upon the future that she abandons. Her plan is to fundamentally alter history, to bring her crew home more than a decade and a half early. This will have profound implications on the timeline; not just for crew members like Seven of Nine or Tuvok or Chakotay, but for everybody who might have been changed in any way by what happened in those intervening years.

Nothing gets past her.

To pick two small examples from within the episode, the childhoods of Miral Paris and Naomi Wildman would be drastically different. Ignoring questions about nature and nurture, it seems fair to suggest that raising a child on a ship with less than two-hundred people would be a radically different experience than raising a child on a densely populated planet inhabited by friends and relatives. These differences are not minor. They make a huge difference in the development of a child’s personality. Miral Paris and Naomi Wildman would be very different people.

This is without considering the butterfly effect. In the seven years that Voyager has been in the Delta Quadrant, it has had a profound impact on various civilisations – for better and for worse. To pick a few direct examples, the crew effectively saved what was left of a planetary population in Friendship One and inspired another race to reach for the stars in Blink of an Eye. They changed the way that the Voth understood the universe in Distant Origin and preserved the memory of genocide in Memorial.

Putting her neck on the line…

They fundamentally altered Hirogen society in The Killing Game, Part I and The Killing Game, Part II, and then confronted the consequences of that intervention in Flesh and Blood, Part I and Flesh and Blood, Part II. They saved an indigenous species from the Malon in Night. They repelled an invasion by Species 8472 in Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II. These are only some of the more direct influences that Voyager had on the Delta Quadrant.

As Hope and Fear argued, the decisions that Janeway made often trickled down to greater effect, impacting civilisations that she never directly encounters. The ship and crew were folded into local mythology in episodes like False Profits, Live Fast and Prosper and Muse. The opening scenes of Endgame suggest that the ship will spend another sixteen years in the Delta Quadrant, which means that it might (mathematically) triple the impact that the crew has had on the civilisations that they have encounter. Admiral Janeway even names one, “the Fen Domar.”

Reaching Future’s End

Logically, all of that will be erased when Admiral Janeway cuts the journey short. However, while Endgame alludes vaguely to these consequences, it never acknowledges them head-on. In the first half of the episode, future!Kim is shocked to realise that Admiral Janeway intends for her mission to be a one-way trip. “This device of Korath’s, it produces too much tachyo-kinetic energy. It could burn itself out by the time you get where you’re going. You wouldn’t be able to get back,” he protests. Admiral Janeway responds, “I always assumed it was a one way trip.”

This ignores the more uncomfortable question: what would Admiral Janeway be coming back to? If she brings Voyager home early, she rewrites the future. To pick a small example, future!Kim encounters Sabrina at the party, the daughter of Naomi Wildman. Assuming a sixteen-year shift in Naomi’s personal timeline, particularly an early arrival back in the Alpha Quadrant, it seems statistically improbable that Naomi would still encounter Sabrina’s father at just the right moment in her life to conceive Sabrina. It seems more likely that Sabrina would never have existed at all.

His Koloth.

Nevertheless, characters in Endgame speak as if Admiral Janeway isn’t wiping out an entire future in order to assuage her guilt. Most of the arguments between the two versions of Janeway are abstract, involving the “temporal prime directive.” Once that is cleared, the plot pivots to the morality of using the “transwarp hub” to get home instead of destroying it, replaying the moral decision at the end of Caretaker. It is never acknowledged that Admiral Janeway is making a decision that affects millions of lives, including the implied erasure of the future in the episode’s first half.

Despite this implied disconnect between Captain Janeway’s present and Admiral Janeway’s future, Endgame does make it clear that the two still share a causal link. Falling apart inside her chamber, the Borg Queen seizes on one last desperate plan to save her life. “Captain Janeway is about to die,” she gloats. “If she has no future, you will never exist, and nothing that you’ve done here today will happen.” This makes a certain amount of sense. If Captain Janeway dies, she cannot become Admiral Janeway. If Admiral Janeway does not exist, she cannot travel back in time.

No time like the present.

Of course, as with all time travel stories, it is possible to follow this idea well past the point of no return. After all, if Admiral Janeway does not travel back in time, Captain Janeway would never have attacked the transwarp hub. If Captain Janeway never attacked the transwarp hub, the Borg Queen would never have killed her. If Captain Janeway doesn’t die, she can become Admiral Janeway. If Admiral Janeway exists, she can travel back in time. And that resets everything back to starting positions. This creates a conceptual paradox, a story that loops like a Möbius strip.

However, without getting too fixated on the logical paradoxes, the Borg Queen’s threat implies that what happens in the past can affect Admiral Janeway’s future. This creates a very interesting implication. Perhaps Admiral Janeway is correct. Perhaps her future – or something so close as to be indistinguishable from her future – will survive all of this meddling. Perhaps Kim will still become a captain. Perhaps Paris will still write holonovels. Perhaps the EMH will still get married. Perhaps Torres will still serve as “Federation liaison” to the Klingon Empire.

Holo promises.

This is very much in keeping with how Voyager views the arc (or the straight line) of history. Reflecting its status as a nineties television show, Voyager believes that the future is immutable. Voyager introduced the idea that Starfleet would be a dominant force into the twenty-ninth century in Future’s End, Part I, Future’s End, Part II and Relativity. A product of the prosperous Clinton era, Voyager extrapolated the American century into the American millennium . Endgame aired in May 2001, four months before America’s view of the future would change dramatically.

Admiral Janeway seems incapable of imagining that anything could seriously alter the future or change the course of history. This is marked contrast to the political volatility suggested by Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges and implied volatility of the Temporal Cold War in Enterprise. Even after Endgame, it is notable that both Star Trek: Nemesis and Star Trek suggested a more precarious political and social galactic status quo, depicting events that radically altered the established framework of the Star Trek universe.

Talax over telex.

As such, Endgame represents the last gasp of a certain cultural complacency, the sense that the future was set and secure. Admiral Janeway may not believe that she will get to come home at the end of the story, but she doesn’t seem to doubt that home will still exist in a recognisable form. Tuvok should be better and Seven should still be alive, but otherwise everything will be stable. It is notable that the future in Endgame suggests a more stable relationship between the Klingons and the Federation than All Good Things… did.

More than that, though, Admiral Janeway’s indifference to the long-term consequence of her actions suggests a more unsettling underlying possibility: none of this matters. After all, Voyager ends once the credits roll on Endgame, so why worry about what follows? This is the end of the line for this cast and crew, and the future belongs to Enterprise, so who cares about the future? Star Trek fans will be able to tune back into UPN in four months to receive their weekly dose of Star Trek, produced by many of the same people. Admiral Janeway is right; the future is stable.

It’s no picnic.

Endgame feels like a pro forma obligation. Actor Robert Beltran clearly felt this anxiety:

“Frankly, I don’t think [the writers] really cared what happened at the end. Voyager has been the ugly step-child of the Star Trek family, and that’s the way we’ve been treated,” he told Starburst Magazine (via the Great Link). “We’re also the only show that’s had to carry a whole network [UPN]”

“[…]The ratings are down because it’s not being seen by as many people in the world who could see ER. Then they took it out on us by saying ‘This show’s no good. Let’s get it over with as quickly as possible so we can fix it for the next one.'”

Endgame is not happening because it is a good idea. Endgame is happening because the decks have to be cleared.

The plotting for the first season of Enterprise is going exactly to plan.

Outside of Nemesis and (arguably) These Are the Voyages…, Endgame marks the end of the twenty-fourth century Star Trek universe as overseen by Rick Berman. This should be a big deal. Twenty-one televised seasons of Star Trek were set against this backdrop, including more than five hundred and twenty episodes. This is the end of a continuous thread of televised Star Trek dating back to Encounter at Farpoint almost fifteen years earlier. This should be a big deal.

Despite spending between a third and a quarter of its time in a hypothetical future – slightly more than half of the first part of the two-parter – Endgame is incapable of looking beyond its own present. There is a sense of obligation and fatigue to all of this, as if  that all the production team wants to do is to meet the obligations that have been imposed on them. The episode focuses on paying off the two set-ups that it has been handed; getting the crew home as promised in Caretaker and wrapping up Torres’ pregnancy as announced in Lineage.

Chakotay may see her in… Seventh Heaven.

It is revealing that Endgame does both of these in its final minutes, understanding that there might otherwise be an obligation to do something with these elements. There is no sense of a future beyond those closing scenes, beyond the arrival of Miral Paris and the shot of Earth on the viewscreen. Actor Richard Herd confessed:

My only frustration with Voyager is I was hoping, at the end, in the very last episode, when I finally had a chance to see my son, that we’d have had a few sentences. I was hoping to say, “It’s been so long” or “Welcome home, son.” But we never had that opportunity to talk, just to stare at each other. When I was looking at him, all I was doing was looking at a piece of masking tape on the wall that they could match with Robbie’s eyeline.

This makes sense. Paris’ troubled relationship with his father has been a defining attribute of his character since Caretaker. He was haunted by visions of his father in Persistence of Vision and wrote a letter to him in Thirty Days. Admiral Owen Paris has been recurring across the final two seasons since Pathfinder. There should be more pay-off.

Giving continuity a wide birth…

There is no sense of what awaits these characters on their return to Earth following their seven-year absence, what it must be like to set foot on familiar soil and to breathe familiar air. There are no tearful reunions with loving family members, no question of how best to reintegrate this crew into Starfleet, no debate about all the decisions that Janeway made in order to bring her crew to this point. All that matters is that the crew got “home” in a literal sense, without any thought as to what “home” might mean.

Voyager has always treated “home” as an abstract idea rather than as anything concrete. However, episodes like Message in a Bottle and Extreme Risk allowed more concrete ideas to seep in around the edge of that abstraction. Endgame argues that Reginald Barclay is an adopted member of the crew, and he has been based on Earth for the final two seasons. As much as Voyager might want it to be, “home” is not a simple abstraction to these characters and this crew.

Regular ol’ Reg.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine had navigated these challenges much more gracefully with its own finale, What You Leave Behind. The production team had the foresight to plan an impressive ten-episode closing arc for the series. That arc didn’t always work, but it did allow the production team to deal with most of the dangling plot threads. Key character and dramatic beats could be resolved in individual segments of the epic finale; Bashir and O’Brien got to hang out one last time in Extreme Measures, while Quark’s story wrapped up in The Dogs of War.

Even within the finale itself, the production team made a point to wrap up the biggest plot element around the midpoint. The Dominion War came to its conclusion with about half-an-hour to spare. This allowed the writers the opportunity to write meaningful farewells to the various characters; Odo returning to his people, O’Brien returning to Earth, Worf serving as ambassador to the Federation. What You Leave Behind knew better than to position the Dominion surrender as the last shot of the last episode.

Drinking it all in.

In contrast, Voyager leaves these threads dangling. John S. Hall articulated just a handful of these questions in Star Trek Magazine:

What would become of The Doctor, as a sentient hologram with a mobile emitter in the Alpha Quadrant? Likewise, how would Seven of Nine be received by Starfleet – as a valued commodity, or a subject for dissection? Would her relationship with Chakotay go anywhere? And what would be the fates of Voyager’s Maquis crewmembers? Would they receive amnesty for their crimes against Starfleet, or be locked up for them? Also, after seven years of self-sufficiency in the Delta Quadrant, would the Voyager crew reintegrate effectively with Starfleet, or would there have been difficulties?

None of this actually matters to Endgame or to Voyager. After all, the larger Star Trek franchise was about to turn its gaze towards its own past in Enterprise.

The Voyager home…

There had been a time when Voyager represented the bold new future of Star Trek. It had helped to launch the United Paramount Network, and had served as its flagship. It received attention and praise, succeeding The Next Generation as the Star Trek show about exploring “strange new worlds.” It was on the air during the franchise’s celebratory thirtieth anniversary year, marking the occasion with the episode Flashback. There was a time when the television series Voyager looked as shiny and novel as the eponymous ship, but its glow had faded over the years.

The Voyager sets always remained pristine. Outside of episodes like Deadlock, the ship never accrued any damage from the seven-year journey through uncharted space. Even that damage was quickly repaired and restored. The ship was in near-mint condition, give or take Seven of Nine’s amendments to the cargo bay, when it returned home in Endgame. Janeway’s Ready Room looked pretty much exactly as it had during Caretaker. There was no sense that had accrued seven years of living.

The audience figures for the series finales were quite impressive.

Unfortunately, the same could not be said of the show itself. During its seven years on the air, Voyager had weathered its blows both internally and externally. By the time it wrapped up, Voyager was an uncomfortable fit at the network that it had launched, a network now focused on African American comedies and professional wrestling. Even internally, Voyager had largely been abandoned and forsaken. Michael Piller had quit the show half-way through the first season, before returning at the start of the second only to be ousted at the end of a turbulent year.

Jeri Taylor them steadied the ship for the following two seasons, before quietly stepping away at the end of the fourth season. Brannon Braga stepped into the gap for the following two seasons, but had taken a breather from the series in its final season, nominally to invest his energy in the launch of Enterprise, but also perhaps nursing burnout and needing time following the dissolution of his friendship with Ronald D. Moore. Voyager lacked the same security and stability that had guided its sister series like The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine through their runs.

The cast had to remain tight-lipped about the finale…

The seventh season of Voyager had been driven by Kenneth Biller. Biller had worked on Voyager since its first season, even if he had never been a breakout writer. Biller had even briefly departed the series at the start of the sixth season, when he was denied a pay rise and when Ronald D. Moore had been brought in above him. After Moore’s spectacular departure, Biller had been very quickly rehired to step into the breach. When Braga decided to focus his energies elsewhere, Biller was promoted to showrunner for the final season.

Biller was a journeyman, not a visionary. He did not have a strong vision of what Voyager could be. The best thing that could be said about Biller was that he kept the show on schedule and recognisable. Biller’s work on the seventh season is largely about evoking a generic and archetypal sense of “Star-Trek-ness”, without anything of substance to underpin the aesthetic of episodes like Critical Care or Repentance. Biller could passably emulate what Voyager and Star Trek were, providing a vision of the show that hit all the necessary marks.

Facing herself.

However, Biller lacked any vision to see what Voyager or Star Trek could be. He never wanted to push Voyager beyond the boundaries that the show had established for itself over the previous six years. It is possible for a television series to find new energy and new direction in its final season, as Enterprise did. However, Biller is not interested in pushing Voyager forward. He is primarily motivated by a desire to glide it safely into dock, to let it coast gracefully towards its predetermined end point.

Of course there is no sense of any future existing beyond that closing shot. Voyager was never really a show about the future or a show about potential or a show about possibilities. Voyager had always been a show about retreating to the comforts of the familiar, on delivering the bare minimum of what was required, packaged in such a way that it (mostly) fit with what had come before. Enterprise might have been the show that took the Star Trek franchise into its own past, but Voyager was the show that killed the Star Trek franchise’s future.

I know, you don’t want to hear too much about the future, but let’s just say I ran into the Borg a few more times before I made it home. If I hadn’t developed technology and tactics that could defeat them, I wouldn’t be standing here today.

Endgame invites comparisons to All Good Things… through its use of time travel, but this was very much in keeping with Voyager‘s broader approach towards appropriating as much of The Next Generation as possible. Voyager has often felt like a child desperately raiding its elder sibling’s closet for hand-me-downs, happy to settle for clothes that looked great in their heyday, but have long faded in the wash and fallen out of fashion. Riker appears in Death Wish, LaForge stops by in Timeless. Troi pops up in Pathfinder and Inside Man.

The Borg were one of those hand-me-downs. With no disrespect to the Ferengi, the Borg were the breakout new aliens of The Next Generation, among the series’ most significant contributions to the larger Star Trek mythology. They are the most enduring legacy of this particular iteration of the franchise, with possible exception of characters like Picard and Data or ship designs like the Enterprise-D. After all, the Borg are one of the handful of Star Trek aliens that are instantly recognisable to even the most casual of television viewers.

It’s good to be the queen.

The Next Generation used the Borg sparingly, understanding that their power could be diluted through repetition. Over the seven years of The Next Generation, the Borg only appeared in a handful episodes; Q Who?, The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, The Best of Both Worlds, Part II, I, Borg, Descent, Part I and Descent, Part II. That neatly added up to roughly one appearance in each of the show’s final six seasons. They even haunted The Neutral Zone at the end of the first year. Star Trek: First Contact cemented the Borg as one of the defining features of the Berman era.

Voyager made a point to heavily feature the Borg from the mid-third season onwards. they appear quite a bit in that stretch of the late third season; a corpse in Blood Fever, a damaged community in Unity, an epic war in Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II. Seven of Nine was introduced in the fourth season as a former Borg drone, and brought a renewed focus on the Borg Collective. Whether through that connection or just in general, the Borg turned up with incredible frequency on Voyager.

Coming out in hives…

The Borg played a major role in episodes like The Gift, Hope and Fear, DroneInfinite Regress, Dark Frontier, Part I and Dark Frontier, Part IICollectiveChild’s Play, Unimatrix Zero, Part I and Unimatrix Zero, Part II and Imperfection. It reached the point where the appearance of a Borg ship was not a cause for dread or anxiety, but instead just another facet of life in the Delta Quadrant. The Borg appeared far more frequently than they had on The Next Generation., becoming business as usual for Janeway and her crew.

In Endgame, there is a conscious effort to recapture some of the spirit of The Next Generation. The seventh season of Voyager has been very engaged with the franchise’s history; the lost probe in Friendship One, the “First Contact Day” celebrations in Homestead, Icheb’s project on James Kirk in Q2. There are shades of this to the involvement of Deanna Troi in the plot of Inside Man or the statement that Barclay is an “adopted” member of the Voyager cast within Endgame. Endgame finds Alice Krige reprising the role of the Borg Queen for the first time since First Contact.

Admiral nanos best.

Krige is reclaiming the role for actor Susanna Thompson, who had played the part in Dark Frontier, Part I, Dark Frontier, Part II, Unimatrix Zero, Part I and Unimatrix Zero, Part II. Talking about her process, Krige seemed to suggest that she saw no continuity between her portrayal and that of Thompson:

I chose not to watch Susanna. I generally don’t like watching myself. In retrospect, it’s OK to watch rushes or to watch the replays on the monitor in the flow of making it, but I find it very painful to watch myself afterward. And I decided that I would not watch Susanna. It had absolutely nothing to do with Susanna. Whoever had played the role, I would have made the same decision. But I did ask to receive all the scripts. And I read them. I read all of the Voyager episodes that the Borg Queen was in, but I didn’t watch them. I didn’t want something in my head, in my imagination. I needed my performance to happen in the moment, and I didn’t even watch First Contact again. So not only did I not watch Susanna, I didn’t watch First Contact. I just focused on the stories I’d been sent, that had been filmed, and on the new script for Endgame.

This is a perfectly reasonable approach to a role like this, but it speaks to the extent to which Endgame sees the Borg Queen as a character belonging to First Contact, rather than a character that Voyager helped to define. (To be fair, Thompson was busy working on Once and Again, and so was unavailable for the finale.)

In a league of her drone.

Notably, outside of some light joking dialogue in the future!classroom, Endgame completely ignores the events of Unimatrix Zero, Part I and Unimatrix Zero, Part II. There is no sense that the Borg Queen is dealing with an ongoing “Borg resistance movement”; nor is there any sense that she has recently vanquished such a insurgency. This would seem to be an important point to note in a story that hinges on dealing “a crippling blow to the Borg” by destroying a vital part of their infrastructure. It is as though nothing of note has happened to the Borg Queen since First Contact.

Similarly, the Borg Queen’s single scene with Seven of Nine in Endgame is more heavily sexualised than any of the sequences the pair share in earlier episodes. Krige’s performance is more tactile and more aggressive than Thompson’s; the Borg Queen intrudes into Seven’s personal space, the two so close that the camera hovers between them. Krige understands where to pause in her line readings. When Seven asserts that they are not friends, she replies, “We’re more than that.” There’s a long pause before she clarifies, “We’re family.”

Don’t press it…

Endgame hinges on a crippling and humiliating defeat of the Borg. When the crew detect signals suggesting a wormhole that could possibly take them back to the Alpha Quadrant, they stumble upon one of the six transwarp hubs that the Borg have established in the Milky Way. This is a huge tactically resource for the Borg Collective, allowing them to deploy their ships and drones across the universe with ease. It is established as a cornerstone of the Borg Collective’s political and logistical power both within the Delta Quadrant and beyond.

The particulars of the hub are vague. Do the transwarp corridors only work in one direction, meaning a ship can only enter transwarp at the hub? Why haven’t the Borg incorporated the more efficient technology employed in Descent, Part I and Descent, Part II? If one corridor leads to Sol, why didn’t the Borg employ it in The Best of Both Worlds, Part I, The Best of Both Worlds, Part II or First Contact? Did the Borg build the hub, or merely assimilate it? Can they rebuild it after it is destroyed? How does one quantify destroying seventeen percent of the Borg’s infrastructure?

The Borg have been well and truly disarmed.

To be fair, none of these questions really matter in the context of Endgame. The transwarp hub is important because the characters state that it is important. It also serves as an effective opportunity for Endgame to offer the crew an easy victor. It allows Janeway and her crew to triumph over an iconic foe. In doing so, it serves as validation for the characters and the larger series. Jean-Luc Picard may have killed a Borg Queen in First Contact, but he never destroyed one sixth of the Borg’s infrastructure.

Of course, this only matters if the audience assumes that victory means anything. Picard never destroyed a transwarp hub, but he never had to. The Next Generation so effectively established the Borg as a credible threat that the mere act of surviving a conflict with them was a victory of itself. The Borg have been so consistently out-manoeuvred and outwitted by Janeway and her crew that this doesn’t feel like a victory. It feels like an inevitability. The Borg have reached a point where they have no more credibility than any other antagonist, from the Malon to the Kazon.

The Borg no longer exist at pole position in the Star Trek villain hierarchy.

In fact, Endgame starts from the premise of the Borg as joke. It is revealed that Admiral Janeway “literally wrote the book on the Borg” and is guest-lecturing a course on the Borg at Starfleet Academy. Had that course existed during the run of The Next Generation, it would have been a very solemn and very dignified course. After all, the Borg completely challenged the way that Starfleet and the Federation operated. Picard considered genocide in I, Borg, and The Search, Part I and The Search, Part II revealed that Starfleet had been motivated to start designing warships.

In contrast, this future lecture on the Borg Collective treats them as a joke. During her introduction to the class, one boisterous student inquires, “When you informed the Queen that you were going to liberate thousands of her drones, could you describe the look on her face?” Janeway doesn’t correct the student or call him out. Instead, it seems to be accepted that the Borg can be treated as comedy antagonists, dismissed and mocked in the same way as the Ferengi.

To keep track of all these queens, we’re going to need a Borg Chart…

Writer Brannon Braga acknowledges this in discussing the finale, arguing that he wanted a sacrifice in order to lend dramatic weight to the victory:

There were a couple Borg episodes I don’t think were quite as successful. I don’t remember the finale well enough… I think I have a story credit on it, so you’d think I’d remember it. I don’t know that the Borg were super impactful there.

I think Seven of Nine should have bit the dust. I think there had to be a real sacrifice for this crew getting home; a real blood sacrifice. Seven of Nine was, for me, designed to be a character that was gonna die tragically. I planned that.

A Spock moment. Somebody who’s not human, becomes human by making the ultimate sacrifice.

Right. There’s an episode called Human Error that I wrote in the final season, where she experiments on the holodeck – it’s actually quite an interesting episode – she tries to feel emotions. She actually succeeds, and she almost dies. She learns there’s a Borg implant, that if she becomes too human, it will kill her. It was that moment in my mind that would set up the finale, where she realized she can’t live here, can’t live there…

She dies getting her family home. I think, then, you have a finale.

Of course, it is debatable whether killing off characters is just a cheap way to establish dramatic stakes. Even if it is, it would add a sense of danger and risk that had been absent from Voyager since Caretaker.

A long time ago, I made a decision that stranded this crew in the Delta Quadrant. I don’t regret that decision. But I didn’t know all of you then, and Voyager was just a starship. It’s much more than that now.

Endgame does bookend Voyager in an interesting way, bringing back the central dramatic hook of Caretaker. This is not a bad idea when writing a series finale. There is a certain poetic or lyrical quality in looking back to the start of the journey, providing both a sense of structural symmetry and demonstrating how far the characters have come in the time that the audience has spent with them. Frankly, given how rigidly episodic Voyager quickly became, it is a pleasant surprise that the series even vaguely remembers Endgame.

To be fair, this is standard practice with Star Trek spin-offs. All Good Things… unfolded across three different timelines, and one of those timelines happened to take place during the events of Encounter at Farpoint. While What You Leave Behind did not end with Bajor’s admittance into the Federation, it did make a point to end with Sisko fulfilling the role of Emissary to the Prophets that had been bestowed upon him in Emissary. Whether or not it resolved that story thread in a satisfying manner is a debate for another time.

Hunter and (hypo)spray…

Endgame essentially confronts Captain Janeway with the same dilemma that she faced in Caretaker. The ship has discovered a highly advanced piece of technology that can be used to send the crew home. The transwarp hub is a handy stand-in for the Caretaker’s Array. However, there is a moral dilemma at play. That technology could easily be usurped and exploited by ominous forces, which would lead to the suffering of countless innocent lives. Once again, Captain Janeway is placed in the uncomfortable position of having to decide between her crew and strangers.

Of course, this dilemma is imperfect. To be fair, most moral dilemmas on Star Trek tend to be rather broad, and don’t necessarily hold up to scrutiny. More than that, the edges of the two dilemmas do not overlap perfectly. At the end of Caretaker, Janeway was trying to stop the Kazon from seizing control of the Caretaker’s Array. In contrast, the Borg already have control of the transwarp hub in Endgame, and Captain Janeway would have happily continued on her way if not for the arrival of Admiral Janeway.

“Still no word on whether Bajor joined the Federation…”

As with a lot of Star Trek moral dilemmas, the internal constraints of the choice that Janeway faced in Caretaker were left deliberately fuzzy. The choice was made in the heat of battle, rather than around a conference table, so there wasn’t time to fully unpack it. While there are undoubtedly any number of “cheats” that would have allowed Janeway to get around the moral dilemma – whether placing a timer on a torpedo to detonate after the ship was sent home, or remaining behind herself in a shuttle craft – the basic concept was sound.

At its core, that choice in Caretaker represented the utopian humanism at the heart of the vision that Gene Roddenberry had outlined for Star Trek beginning with Star Trek: The Motion Picture. Janeway was presented with a choice: she could help herself at the expense of others, or help others at the expense of herself. Janeway chose selflessly. Of course, the outcome of that choice was all but predetermined by the nature of the show around Janeway. Had Janeway chosen selfishly, there would be no Voyager to watch for the following seven years.

Not quite her cup of coffee…

Still, as contrived as that choice might have been, it was idealistic and optimistic. Ignoring sizable issues with execution, Janeway’s decision spoke to the finer ideals associated with the larger Star Trek franchise. It makes sense to revisit that dilemma for the series finale. It would neatly bookend the series. Much like All Good Things… demonstrated how far the cast of The Next Generation had come and much like What You Leave Behind had Sisko accept the responsibilities of being the Emissary, Endgame asks if Janeway would make the same choice again.

The results are somewhat disheartening, if entirely predictable. On a moral level, Endgame argues that Janeway essentially made the wrong choice seven seasons ago. This is arguably the pay-off to a thread building through the larger seventh season, a weariness and anxiety about the idea of exploration. It is perhaps most obvious at the end of Friendship One, when Janeway reflects on the loss of Joseph Carey during a mission that ultimately saved an entire alien civilisation.

Taking care.

“The urge to explore is pretty powerful,” Chakotay reflected as Janeway sorted through the engineer’s things. Janeway simply responded, “But it can’t justify the loss of lives, whether it’s millions or just one.” There was a real sense that exploration was a mistake, a firm rejection of the utopian idealism of the Star Trek franchise that drove the crew “to seek out new life forms and new civilisations.” Considering the risk involved in such exploration, Friendship One seemed to argue that exploration was just not worth the cost.

Endgame plays out this moral thesis to its logical conclusion with Admiral Janeway. Admiral Janeway is committed to the idea that the lives of her crew are the most important thing in the universe; more important than the stability of the future, more important than any of the civilisations encountered by the ship, more important than those lives that will suffer as a result of the Borg’s use of the transwarp hub. No price is too high for the safe return of Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant, as long as some other people are paying it.

Worrisome across the board…

In fact, Admiral Janeway even argued for her plan as an extension and extrapolation of the sort of isolationism suggested in the closing moments of Friendship One. After all, Admiral Janeway contends, changing the timeline is really just a form of more thorough and retroactive isolationism. It is erasure. “Even if you alter Voyager’s route, limit your contact with alien species, you’re going to lose people,” Admiral Janeway warns her younger self. “But I’m offering you a chance to get all of them home safe and sound today. Are you really going to walk away from that?”

When Captain Janeway proposes destroying the transwarp hub instead of using it, Admiral Janeway is horrified. She appeals to Seven of Nine, whose death is assured by this decision. “My future is insignificant compared to the lives of the people we’d be saving,” Seven states, a strong moral principle. Admiral Janeway will not accept that. “You’re being selfish,” she replies. “Selfish?” Seven counters. “I’m talking about helping others.” Admiral Janeway dismisses that. “Strangers in a hypothetical scenario. I’m talking about real life. Your colleagues, your friends, people who love you.”

Looking back, it is all a bit strange.

The plan to destroy the transwarp hub is repeatedly framed as selfless. When Captain Janeway invites Tuvok to discuss his “degenerative neurological condition”, she asks, “If you knew that returning to the Alpha Quadrant was your only chance for recovery, why didn’t you object when I asked you to help find a way to destroy the hub?” Tuvok replies, “My sense of logic isn’t impaired yet. If we succeed, millions of lives will be saved.” Janeway inquires, “What about your life?” Tuvok replies, “To quote Ambassador Spock, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

Admiral Janeway is arguing that needs of the few outweigh the needs of the many, so long as that few happen to be the people closest to her. This is an incredibly morally suspect position. It is revealing that Janeway didn’t travel back in time to before Basics, Part I and Basics, Part II to save the lives of Crewman Hogan or Ensign Suder. It is an extremely selfish and self-centred view of the universe. It is completely understandable from an emotional perspective, but is not heroic in the way that Star Trek has traditionally understood heroism.

It all comes together.

This tribalism makes sense. It is a fundamental part of the Voyager‘s identity. The show has always been suspicious and wary of aliens. After all, this was a Star Trek series that was fundamentally build around retreating inwards instead of pushing outwards, and which embraced a very rigid-but-generic vision of what Star Trek could be. This attitude occasionally led to some uncomfortable places, as in episodes like Displaced or Day of Honour, but it also simmered through the series. It makes sense that Endgame should bring it to the fore.

Of course, Endgame is not so cynical as to entirely embrace Admiral Janeway’s philosophy. However, it also refuses to reject it. The crew’s willingness to sacrifice themselves is heroic, but also naive. In contrast, Admiral Janeway’s self-sacrifice is presented as virtuous. She gives up everything to get her crew home. Occasionally grouchiness aside, Admiral Janeway is never presented as a morally ambiguous figure. Even during the episode’s first half, she does not betray Korath until he betrays her.

Janeway needs to screen her calls better.

When Admiral Janeway makes a deal with the Borg Queen at the climax, the episode is careful to avoid any suggestion that she is betraying Captain Janeway. There is a scene between the two versions of Janeway on a shuttle craft, in which they confirm that what is to follow has been mutually agreed. “You’re sure you want to do this?” Captain Janeway asks. Admiral Janeway responds, “No, but Voyager isn’t big enough for both of us.” Admiral Janeway surrenders her life to help get the crew home. This is not a condemnation of her perspective.

To be fair, Endgame works hard to avoid picking a side in the moral debate that it has set for itself. Instead, the episode is true to another Voyager cliché. Ultimately, both Admiral Janeway and Captain Janeway are satisfied by how events play out. The crew can get home without having to make any moral choice whatsoever. The crew doesn’t have to make that choice, and can instead have the best of both worlds. They can use the transwarp hub to get home and prevent it from being used to harm other civilisations.

Klingon to the classics…

The most charitable reading of this would be to suggest that it is yet another expression of nineties optimism, the belief that there is no need to make any sacrifices because anything is possible. However, it also speaks to the ease with which Voyager tends to weasel out of these sorts of dilemmas. Seventh season episodes like Critical Care and Repentance raise weighty themes, only to deliberately obscure the details to avoid offering a strong statement one way or the other.

As a result Endgame replays the central moral dilemma of Caretaker in a completely vacuous manner. As ever, techno-babble provides an easy out for the crew. “Once inside, we’d fire a spread of transphasic torpedoes,” Tuvok explains. “If the torpedoes penetrate the shielding, the conduits should begin to collapse in a cascade reaction. In order to avoid the shock wave, we’d have less than ten seconds to exit the hub.” This is the sort of belaboured copout that Caretaker avoided, the equivalent of rigging the device with a time bomb. It is a simple plot contrivance.


This approach robs the moral debate of any weight, as the audience knows that the plan must work. This is the last episode of Voyager. If the crew is takes a risky course of action that might get them home, it is as certain to succeed here as it would have been to fail in any prior episode. Maybe this isn’t a betrayal of the moral logic at play in Caretaker, but simply an extension of it. Janeway’s course of action in Caretaker was dictated by the fact that it was the pilot of Voyager, just as her course of action in Endgame is determined by the fact that it is the series finale.

This is perhaps the ultimate expression of how Endgame sees itself. This is not so much an extension or extrapolation or reexamination of Caretaker. It is instead a negation. This is the end of the line for Voyager, the last episode. Janeway’s choices are not longer shaped and defined by the narrative necessity to keep the ship in the Delta Quadrant. Instead, they are determined by the opposite need. The choices that Janeway makes here and the way in which the plot flows are all determined by nothing more than than the need to draw the shutters down.

19 Responses

  1. (Initiating Stan Lee style narration)

    And while I am now committing the cardinal sin of posting a comment before reading the review, let it be known that I salute your resilience in finishing your Voyager reviews despite the noticeable drain it had on your energy and interest levels. You have completed the task you set out to do on September 17th, 2014, which is over five years ago.

    I have been anticipating this review for sometime and feel it is appropriate that you have reached the current chronological endpoint of Star Trek prior to the release of Picard.

    (End Stan Lee style Narration)

    Also in all seriousness I have missed these episode by episode reviews but I understand that they are a huge time commitment for you. Thank you for sticking with it.

    • Hey, I am – as ever – sorry that it took so long. It will be a while before I take on my next project, but it will likely be something smaller. I am not jumping into something like, say, TNG right after this. I might do TAS, or finish The X-Files. But it’ll be January before anything happens, I suspect.

      Thank you for being so patient and sticking with this.

  2. 3 years I did a trek marathon were I watched to whole franchise in order. An I mean everything TOS,TAS,TNG,DS9,VOY,ENT, and all the movies and it took about 3 months of bing watching.

    I have to say of the entire franchise there were two great slogs. The first was the first season of Next Generation, truly one the worst seasons of television I’ve ever seen.

    Seriously, any trekkie who thinks Discovery season 1 is the worst thing ever needs to be strapped to a chair and forced to watch Next gen season 1 on a continous loop. I actually think your reviews of season 1 are little too kind, there are for me only two kinds of season 1 episodes, unwatchable and barely tolerable.

    The second big slog was pretty much all of Voyager. Now yes there are some good episodes and overall it wasn’t as bad as TNG season 1, but the mind numbing sameness just got to me after a while.

    The thing is that Voyage was so bland that it possible made me like enterprise more than I should have. Everyone always talks about how awful the first two seasons of enterprise were, but honestly I kinda liked them when I saw them. A part of me wonders if I was just so desperate to be done with Voyager that it made Enterpise seem better than it was.

    • It was easy to give Enterprise rope at the outset because – even though underneath it was the same ol’, same ol’ – it had the sheen of being a different take on Star Trek, what with the very name of the franchise being absent from the title!

      The crew of Voyager had been so very jaded about exploration in the years prior to Enterprise, that I think simply seeing Archer’s crew becoming giddy about doing standard Trek stuff like use transporters, visit planets and investigate comets gave it a bit of punch. The sheen degraded really quickly, but there was a brief moment where I thought Berman’s Trek had finally achieved escape velocity from 1987.

      • That’s fair. I do think the third and fourth seasons of Enterprise were distinct from the nine years of generic mush leading into them. But I accept that’s not a majority opinion by any account.

    • I can see that. I actually like Voyager a great deal more than people think I do. I suspect that’s because its highs are fleeting and often seem to be a result of random happenstance rather than grueling work, and its flaws are so systemic as to be part of the show’s DNA.

      But man, that seventh season was a slog. Even the godawful second season was at least interesting in how bad it was. The seventh is just a grey/beige haze.

  3. Congratulations on completing your Voyager reviews! I look forward to one day seeing the completion of your Next Generation reviews as well.

    My biggest problem with “Endgame” is that it’s a story Voyager had already told – “Night” had already placed the crew into another Caretaker-esque moral dilemma but concluded with them finding a way to have their eat and eat it too. The moment Janeway used that phrase in “Endgame” – “Have our cake and eat it too” – I sighed. As if the crew of Voyager weren’t constantly having their cake and eating it too! Finding a means to sidestep moral dilemmas was Voyager’s de rigueur.

  4. Congratulations on finishing Voyager Darren! You made it!

  5. It’s a little odd that they brought back Alice Krige for the finale. She died once already. Why does there have to be only one model of Borg Queen?

    I daresay it was a snub against Susanna Thompson, who shepherded the character to the best of her ability.

  6. I wouldn’t necessarily say that Endgame was the finale that Voyager deserved, but I think it’s probably the kind of finale that could be expected. In the end it’s an above average episode of Voyager. But since the average episode of Voyager isn’t very good, it’s nothing special when compared to better Star Trek or even better non-Trek television. Kate Mulgrew does some good work, but no one else has an essential or even interesting role in the proceedings.

    What I find interesting are the parallels between Avengers: Endgame and Voyager Endgame. I don’t think it’s an overreaction to claim that Avengers: Endgame is basically a copy of the plot of the Voyager finale. The essential difference is how much more effective Avengers is and how it has some poignancy and emotional impact. The 20+ Marvel movies leading to Avengers: Endgame total less than half the screen time that Voyager had in its 7 years, but Avengers actually used that time to develop its characters in a way that the audience might care what happens to them. Voyager squandered its opportunity to do anything meaningful with its characters. Avengers: Endgame actually spends some time with the heroes after the mission to show what they had gained and lost. Voyager ends the moment Earth is in sight and gives no clue how the seven year odyssey might have affected the crew, but the show was never interested in exploring that story anyway.

  7. I’m so happy to have finished my watch-through of Voyager. I doubt I’ll ever watch through it again. I think it may be my least favourite Trek series…maybe tied with Enterprise. There are a few scattered gems in the series, but it’s difficult to muster through all the gruel to find the rare desserts. The seventh season takes this to new heights.

    One note: The veneration of coffee here seems weirdly some repudiation of Picard’s enjoyment of Ear Grey tea, or some American sentiment Janeway’s ‘alpha’ or mid-western identity. It’s also a final rejection of the Taylor-version of Janeway.

    The Doctor’s marriage and sudden adoption of the name “Joe” is deeply weird and flat. Maybe it’s one way they let us know that it’s good for Janeway to obliterate such a future, lol.

    What sane person would make Janeway an admiral? It seems like a recipe for disaster.

    The first few minutes of the finale remove all the stakes. We are shown the ending, in a sense, and it is fronted by a minor sub-character from TNG. Like many Voyager episodes, we are now left to sit through drama that we know really has little point. Not only do we know the ending, we also know the problems faced by the characters are but ephemera and have no real consequence. There is no mystery, no story, just exposition.

    The Borg queen is now fully established as the dictator of a ‘collective’ of slaves. One of her cubes/sectors tells her they will assimilate Voyager. She literally argues with her own collective, saying “No”, and then also says “I’ll keep an eye on them.” She is clearly defined as an individual with a different will than the collective. The Queen is no longer a representative or avatar of the collective. She is a literal queen, over a society of zombie-serfs. She later switches back to pure Batman-villain dialogue, stopping short of maniacal cackles as she interacts with Seven, both of them giving line upon line of straight exposition. “All we want is to return to the Alpha Quadrant”. Oh thanks, the audience had no idea!

    Also, why doesn’t Seven immediately know what is in the mysterious nebula of wormholes. We find out later she knows about the transwarp hubs, and even knows how many there are and where they are. Yet she doesn’t immediately inform Janeway of what they’ve encountered. This is a huge internal logic failing even within the same episode.

    It’s interesting that one of the scenes between Seven and Chakotay have her bring him flowers, and then she physically yanks him to her. This was a rare role reversal for Voyager and done fairly subtly. I wonder if this was Braga’s BDSM-fan side coming out or a genuine decision by the actors/writers.

    It’s also interesting that Seven’s deaths are what drive both Janeways to action. Future Janeway speaks with horror at it, and present Janeway is shaken to the core. Then Janeway casually throws out the stat that 22 other crew will die. They remain nameless. Present Janeway doesn’t even ask their names. It’s only Seven that matters. This seems rather symbolic.

    We also see Janeway casually destroy cubes with tens of thousands of drones on them, despite objecting to the slaughter of drones in previous episodes. No breath of objection is made here.

    I note the later dramatic scenes between Chakotay and Seven (which have little impact due to the suddenness of their relationship) are highly stilted, based on infantile understandings of risk of emotional hurt, and are accompanied by music pulled from daytime soaps. I have nothing against romance in Star Trek, but this is the most hackneyed stuff I’ve seen in a long time.

    It seems fitting that Tuvok’s final episode is structured around a sense that he faces a looming madness/psychosis. This is his perennial trait in Voyager. Tuvok must be made crazy or bedridden. The writers simply cannot write an episode or plot around Tuvok without making him lose his mental faculties in some way.

    And then of course it means we never see Tuvok re-unite with his large family. No shot of him landing on Vulcan. Not stories of anyone doing anything. Just Voyager and earth. No pay-off.

    I am reliving the hollow feeling I had when this episode first aired, a bitter taste in my mouth…the taste of the rot.

    If anything could be taken from this finale, it’s that time-travel should be severely limited as a plot contrivance. Of course in Enterprise the writers double down on it.

    I’m going to need a break from Trek for a good while now.

    At least it’s finally done. Hooray!

  8. I’ve never much cared for time travel plots, despite how much they get over-used in science fiction. Time travel is very hard to do well, and typically ends up as a crutch for writers to move past walls they’ve written themselves into. Star Trek has used this trick quite often all throughout its history. Even the 2009 Star Trek movie heavily relied on it. Outside of Star Trek, the MCU used time travel to undo the damage from Infinity War, which was expected but still disappointing. Once time travel is introduced, it’s harder to build stakes and consequences mean less, since there’s the chance any action with poor consequences can be redone.

    This episode’s idea also reused the plot from Timeless, though in that one the whole ship had crashed due to Kim’s overconfidence, so Kim and Chakotay’s motivation for meddling with time was more compelling. If they had to go with this plot, they could’ve had Admiral Janeway as the villain, having continued down the cynical path the seventh season in particular had been pushing. This would’ve given a chance for Captain Janeway to exorcise that particular demon and reaffirm the optimism of the franchise.

  9. Thanks for your work here – it became a big part of the fun of watching the whole thing. I don’t always agree but you write so well that it doesn’t matter.

    We’ve watched DS9 and Voyager in the space of a few months, and the difference between them is quite shocking. With DS9, we started getting a painful sense of loss well before the finale, and found we couldn’t let go at the end.

    We reached the end of Voyager last night with a general sense of disbelief at the terrible clumsiness of it all. It started badly with a penultimate episode “Renaissance Man” that made no sense and did nothing at all to move us nearer home. How were they going to get home? We still didn’t know and there’s only one left!

    Endgame is a terribly disappointing finale for all the reasons you say above, but I would add its narrative structure – it’s about half an hour before we understand what is going on, why we’ve jumped forward to an OK but somewhat sad future. An hour left, and we STILL don’t know how they’re going to get home, so by the time they bump into the Borg conduit, there’s no time. So then it’s lots of busy action and nothing else.

    Fond farewells are sometimes a bit clunky – the Grey Havens, even DS9’s montage – but you do need some. Neelix got a whole episode, but no-one else did. Was Janeway’s dog still alive? Is Seven’s cortical thingy really fixable in such a throwaway evening appointment? Did humanity accept a Borg among them? Did Tom’s dad ever tell him he was proud of him? Did Tuvok see his kids again? Couldn’t we have seen Harry’s proud mum? There’s just nothing at all. It all just stops.

    You’re quite kind in your review about Janeway. She’s an actor with an ability to express a wide range of very subtle shades of emotion. But as a character and as a captain, she’s a big step backwards in management style – impulsive, random and uninspiring. Picard understands his weaknesses and consciously leans on his team to compensate for them, while always accepting that accountability remains with him. Janeway doesn’t – she just wings it, and it’s all about her. I never really bought the idea that her crew were happy to put their lives in her hands because she never developed a plan, an approach, a style, or principles, she never really built a team, and by the end doesn’t give a stuff about Federation ideals either. For me, Endgame was a very painful process of chucking out all the rest of the cast and making it all about her, and I didn’t buy it at all.

    Watch the DS9 fan documentary “What We Left Behind” and try and imagine the same thing about Voyager. What would it be? Just a bunch of disgruntled actors and producers, but nothing more, and perhaps at best a bit of polite reconciliation between Mulgrew and the others, and perhaps some speculation about how much more they could have said about the final frontier.

    • Thanks Peter, glad you enjoyed!

      And, based on the success of the recent fundraiser, we’ll find out what that Voyager documentary will look like soon enough. (There’s a lot of Voayger nostalgia out there.)

  10. I have many good years of Science Fiction under me…but must say I always avoided Voyager.
    Oddly, I came to the show in 2021 as we eased out of the pandemic…only having seeing the final season; so I come to it from a unique perspective.
    I…find all the naval gazing in this piece about Endgame difficult to swallow. It was quite good and fortunately avoided a lot of what you suggest would have made it someone ‘better’.
    As the final season moved along, I became attached to it. To keep this short….it was a very good finale – far better than all the hand wringing that went into this review. Relax…enjoy. I am now looking forward to watching the whole series from ep 1.

    • Eh, mileage varies.

      I think it’s great you enjoyed it. I also think that it’s perfectly reasonable to take a thorough and in-depth look at the art we consume and how we consume it. (And, as I’ve noted throughout these reviews, it’s interesting to see the fandom’s reassessment of Voyager in the years since it ended.)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: