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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Reversal of Borg

I have to go back on anything I've previously written on the Rambler that might cast aspersions on the quality of the fourth Star Trek series (well, fourth-and-a-half), Voyager.  It had a rougher start than some of the other shows, and the ensemble had weaker links than the other series, particularly among the male actors - Garrett Wang and Robert Beltran are probably the most wooden actors in the entire franchise.

But the rest of the cast is excellent, with particular mention of Robert Picardo (as the doctor) and Jeri Ryan, who can seriously act.  Of course, Jennifer Lien, who played the previous blonde eye candy Kes, also had some real acting range, but the writers never seemed to know what to do with the character.  They saddled themselves with Kes from the start with the usual new-agey space chick that Marina Sirtis had as Troi on Next Generation, but Troi was at least an adult with a specific agenda, while Kes was three years old (her species only lives nine years) and written with a constant sense of awe that grated after awhile.  I should say that I liked the character a lot -and the actress even more - but they wrote themselves into a corner with her and couldn't seem to get out of it, no matter what they tried.

The Kes problem boiled down to giving her no real interests and zero potential conflict.  Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine, on the other hand, is a much more interesting character from the start, laced with classic lines and enough built-in conflict (thanks to about a decade's worth of Borg continuity from TNG) to keep her and stories that centered on her tight and entertaining.  The character also was able to embody the Kes traits that made her unique among the crew, with technobabble versions of new age abilities and an outsiders child-like take on human interaction, with Seven being emotionally arrested at the age at which she had been assimilated, around six.

At any rate, Yesenia and I have just completed the obnoxiously difficult-to-acquire* fifth season of Voyager, and it stands with the top seasons of any Trek series - I don't think there's a bad episode the entire season, and even the weaker entries are redeemed by nice character bit, vastly improved, cinema-quality FX (the FX on the series had been seriously weak for the first three years) that still hold up impressively, a strong set of background elements to work with such as Tom Paris' Flash Gordon-like holodeck adventure, filmed in black & white, no less.

Overall, the level of adventure, wit, invention and charm on the series reached a high point and then plateaued there for a full year.  I hear that seasons six and seven are equally good, so I very much look forward to getting seriously lazy in front of the TV with them shortly.

D.

*While all of the original Star Trek and Enterprise are available to watch for free online (over at CBS.com), none of the 90's era Treks are streaming anywhere.  A brief search online doesn't seem to indicate that it's currently being aired anywhere in syndication - which would be a moot point since we don't have cable anyway.  And our usual method of getting entertained is through Blockbuster Online, which completely failed to deliver on this season after getting us the first four.  Thankfully, I bitched about it one day at work and a coworker was kind enough to grab it from her local library - which may be one of the nicest things anyone has done for me without a previous history.

3 comments:

John said...

I can't believe there were seven seasons of Voyager.

BTW, those first three episodes of the final season of Enterprise are NOT available on the CBS site.

I guess I'll never know what happened with those alien Nazis...

Dave Kopperman said...

Yeah, looks like they've changed it. It actually looks like they've even taken all of season one down, the bastards. They had the entire series up most of last year.

D.

Dave Kopperman said...

BTW: The Nazi-plot payoff was fun, but kind of rote.

D.