Monday, 2 July 2012


Firmly centred: Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is flanked by her top men- Tuvok (Tim Russ) and Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) in STAR TREK: VOYAGER. Images: PARAMOUNT. 

Sent hurtling, then later stranded, into the wild wilderness of the expansive and totally alien Delta Quadrant, it's up to the perseverance and bold heartedness of cosmic Mother Hen Captain Kathryn Janeway to get her loyal and equally stoic crew of the starship U.S.S. Voyager back home, as the second modern STAR TREK series spin-off, based on Gene Roddenberry's enduring legacy, VOYAGER, makes its debut on the UK's CBS ACTION channel daily from today.

First Lady of Modern TREK: Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway.

Created solely by PARAMOUNT STUDIOS out of the need for continuing profit-of wanting to keep the coffers full from their most successful series franchise whilst their most popular TREK incarnation, THE NEXT GENERATION, went off the TV video waves and mades its well-deserved way to the celluloid screen, this trip to the well of TREK storytelling is almost a series too far, but series keeper of the flame, Rick Berman, and his long-serving team give it their best to provide fans with lots of well-made, often quite inventive episodes which, despite some contrivances and re-treading of material here and there, are pretty good, and get better as the seasons go on, most notably with the shows two parters, which stretch the format and character legs a bit more, and have increased budgets for bigger action and spectacle. The series also becomes much more anthology-like by it's mid-point, and breaks away from the kind of multi-part, long-term arc storytelling being done by it's darker and more sinister, later war-themed sister show, DEEP SPACE NINE. VOYAGER was an attempt by creators Berman, the late Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor (then TREK's first female producer, who brought the most character and humanity to Janeway on the script side early on), and later high-concept fantasist storyteller Brannon Braga, to live up to the the original Roddenberry mantra and values he conceived in the sixties: to try and do something of exploration and adventure in the spirit of the original series, with lots of new aliens, planets, and a whole new universe, mostly away from the huge continuity previously established in earlier TREK series and seasons, in a scenario not too far removed from the premise of Gerry Anderson's SPACE: 1999 UK TV sci-fi series of the mid-seventies, as a team of Star Fleet's finest, and that of a rogue group of Maquis resistance fighters (a group of people fighting against a peace treaty initiated by the Federation and the Cardassians that threatens their homelands-a plot line developed prior to VOYAGER with THE NEXT GENERATION finale seasons), led by American Indian descendant Chakotay (Robert Beltran),  have no choice but to join forces in order to survive what will be a seven year journey home...

The full cast of Season One.

1995 Star Trek: Voyager Sneak Peak - YouTube
Star Trek Voyager - Inside the New Adventure - 01/14/1995 - 1/6 - YouTube

The overall series casting for VOYAGER is very good, of which series star Kate Mulgrew, continuing TREK's trend setting as the first full-term TV series female captain, is under-rated and very good in a demanding role as Janeway. Other nods must go out to Robert Picardo as the shows lovable, if always biting and irritating egotistical, holographic Doctor (at first confined to sickbay and then able to move about thanks to a mobile emitter), and, of course, the shapely (very shapely) form of Jeri Ryan, with brains, beauty and a body to kill for as the later Borg recruit separated from her collective, Seven of Nine, who joins the series and gives it a welcome critical and commercial shot in the arm, story and character-wise, from Season Four onwards (the introduction of the Borg, now VOYAGER's regular series baddies, the previous season being a fine move by the showrunners). Behind the scenes-wise, THE X-FILES writer Kenneth Biller helps to bring significant freshness to the storytelling, whilst production designer Herman Zimmerman creates an interesting new Federation starship from scratch, though keeping continuity to what has been seen before. Series diecting veterans like Winrich Kolbe, David Livingstone (the moden series best director) and Cliff Bole also bring their huge experience, enthusiasm and talents to bear in their visual style. The overall incidental music for the episodes is largely forgettabe and samey, but veteran film and TV composer Jerry Goldsmith's main theme, against a lovely title sequence of Voyager in flight through the galaxy, is full of the kind of bold wonder and imagination that the overall series just about lives up to...

Galaxy wanderer: the starship Voyager.

VOYAGER title sequence: Star Trek Voyager Opening Sequence - YouTube

Season One of VOYAGER is a bit of a mixed bag and full of the kind of trial and error you expect from a show in its genesis, but there's a few bright sparks to enjoy along the way. Here's some of our favourites:
Our heroes are captured by the Caretaker in the shows pilot.

CARETAKER. On the hunt for a missing Maquis ship, the newly launched Star Fleet Starship Voyager is captured by a mysterious entity and hurled into the vast expanse of the Delta Quadrant, where both ships crews are experimented on by an alien calling itself the Caretaker, and finding their fates linked to a dying race- the Ocampa- living underground on a dead planet. As ruthless resources stripping alien pirates, the Kazon (a new variation on the Klingons), plan to attack the civilisation, Captain Janeway, living up to the ideals of being a Star Fleet officer, makes a bold choice in order to save the Ocampa, one that will ultimately sacrifice their only quick way home...

A terrific first half start to the series pilot, written by Piller and Taylor, full of tension, action and character building which, sadly, quickly loses focus and ambition as its thin plot plays out by Act Three. Still, a good ending promises better things to come...

PARALLAX. Another one of those complex big idea episodes that the modern series producers loved to write as Voyager encounters another version of itself trapped in a time anomaly. A solid episode and the chance to build up the characters some more, most notably foxy Klingon engineer B'Elanna Torres (Roxanne Biggs-Dawson) and fuse them into a cohesive team.

Hope from the past comes in the form of Romulan scientist Telek R'mor (Vaughn Armstrong) in Eye of the Needle.

EYE OF THE NEEDLE. A quicker way home may have been discovered, as Voyager, via a wormhole, makes contact with a Romulan scientist (Vaughn Armstrong) back in the Alpha Quadrant. But all is sadly not what it seems in this well written, big twist story from Bill Dial and Jeri Taylor), in an episode full of character highs and lows for our heroes, with a genuinely sad finale.

The alien Vidians makes their presence felt in Faces.

FACES. Those dreaded alien bodysnatchers, the plague-ridden Vidians (a promising alien race ultimately never as well developed as they should have been), kidnap B'Elanna Torres and her Away Team and begin gruesome experimentations on them, as her human and Klingon halves are separated from each other in an intriguing dark episode from Kenneth Biller, another variation on the classic series The Enemy Within, well directed by Winrich Kolbe, and with anther strong performance, in a duel role, from Biggs-Dawson.

Chakotay (Robert Beltran) has to investigate his ex-Maquis lover, Seska (Martha Hackett) in State of Flux.

STATE OF FLUX. An interesting what would you do if you were stranded in deep space scenario from writer Chris Abbott, as Janeway and Tuvok discover that one of their new crew-mates, soon to be an intriguing villain for the next two seasons, has violated the Prime Directive and given potentially dangerous high technology to the Kazon.

LEARNING CURVE. Vulcan security officer Tuvok (Tim Russ) gathers four of the ships Maquis officers in an attempt to train them to Star Fleet standards, but tensions soon flare with his inability to compromise, in the kind of variations on a theme storytelling that modern TREK does well.

With Voyager landed in the background, Janeway converse with Amelia Earhart (Sharon Lawrence) in The 37's.

THE 37's. The original Season One ending to viewers outside the US (which, with three other episodes, were held over to launch Season Two States-side), as Voyager makes its exemplary first planetary landing and encounters a selection of kidnapped Humans from 1930's Earth in suspended animation, including the missing legendary explorer Amelia Earhart (played by NYPD BLUE's Sharon   Lawrence). Nicely written by Jeri Taylor and Brannon Braga, The 37's ends the premiere season on a high note of adventure and exploration, as well as a building sense of hope to come, for our wayward Star Fleet heroes.

All seven seasons of VOYAGER are available on DVD from PARAMOUNT DVD.

Check out the official STAR TREK site at: Star Trek Homepage

With thanks to the STAR TREK fansite TREK CORE for help with screen grab images.

No comments:

Post a Comment