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STAR TREK:  VOYAGER
Season Five

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Roxann Dawson, Jennifer Lien, Robert Duncan McNeill, Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, Tim Russ, Garrett Wang, Jeri Ryan
Directors:  Various
Video:  Full Frame 1:33:1
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo and 5.1
Studio:  Paramount
Length: Seven discs, 20 hours, 16 minutes
Release date: November 9, 2004

"They trusted me and I killed them!"

"Mr. Kim, I didn't spend all those years in an ice bucket so that I could listen to you berate yourself!  If you want to wallow in self-pity, fine!  Do it on your own time!"

"Don't you see?  History is repeating itself!  I destroyed Voyager once and I'm doing it again!"

"Someone has got to knuckle down and change history, and that someone is you!"

Show **** 

In my humble opinion, time-travel is a greatly overused plot gimmick in science fiction, for several reasons.  First of all, to our knowledge it is scientifically impossible since nothing can exceed the speed of light.  Only by going faster than the speed of light would time go backward, according to Einstein's theories.  Secondly, if it were possible, plenty of damage could be done to history, with every alteration having infinitely diverse consequences.  Third, it would be all too easy to alter history for personal gain.  It is best that this remain fantasy.  Although, if it were possible, it would wonderful to prevent several major disasters, such as the sinking of the Titanic.  Occasionally, time travel does work as a plot device, if the situation is grave enough. 

In this fifth season of Voyager, the one-hundredth episode was produced (Timeless) and it is an excellent one, comparable to the original series' masterpiece City on the Edge of Forever.  Any series, which reaches one hundred episodes, is obviously a success, and this episode was truly special.  It reminds me of the night lookout on the Titanic going back in time to see the iceberg and warn the ship's crew in time. 

The short version of the story is this: engine modifications and advanced physics have revealed a way for the crew to finally get home through slipstream (which is similar to hyperspace, another fiction that is still a very useful plot device).  It involves incredibly complex calculations, and before the attempt is made, Tom Paris and Harry Kim discover that in simulations, the ship falls out of the stream every time, sustaining heavy damage.  But since the problems do not arise when try it on their shuttle, Ensign Kim suggests that the Delta Flyer go ahead of the ship and transmit slight changes in the ship's course, much like a tug boat guiding a bigger ship through tricky passages.  However, Harry accidentally sends incorrect data to Voyager, which causes Voyager to sustain damage and fall out of the stream.  It eventualy loses all engine power and navigational control, and fatally crashes into an icy planet, where the ship is entombed in ice.  Harry and Chekotay, who was also on the Flyer, make it all the way back to earth, but have to live with their guilt over the tradgedy.  They eventually go back to the planet and try to transmit new information back in time with Borg technology.  As the above exchange shows, it does not qork as easily as he thought.  Wang turns in an incredible performance as the guilt-ridden, bitter and broken man desperately trying to fix his mistake.   This Harry Kim is completely differently from the obedient little ensign we know from the other episodes.

I do not understand some of the reviews of this season, which rank it as a poor one.  This season saw bolder story lines and more raw emotion from all crewmembers (such as Be'Lanna dealing with depression and anger in Extreme Risk), perhaps due to the change in executive producers.  An example of a big step forward in Star Trek lore is the two-part Borg masterpiece Dark Frontier, in which we learn about how Seven of Nine's parents studied the Borg in great detail, but became the first humans to be assimilated.  One wonderful feature of the DVD set as with some other Star Trek series is that two-part episodes, if shown in the same season, are shown as one episode without any break---more like a movie than TV. 

Video ****

As with prior seasons, the picture is crisp and clear, despite the fact that so many special effects were done before the digital revolution and so many dark scenes.  I could not detect any visual flaws.

Audio ****

Science fiction rocks in 5.1!!!  While the rear speakers are not used as much as in some adventure movies such as X-Men, they are still used mainly for background effects and explosions, and the dialogue is still heard easily in the mix.  Voyager always featured excellent sound production and mixing, as good as any on TV, and that translated well into the DVD mix.

Features ***

The two excellent profiles of Robert Duncan McNeill, who plays Tom Paris, and Roxann Biggs-Dawson, who plays the half-human half-Klingon spitfire B'Elanna Torres), are probably the two most interesting profiles so far.  They both possess enormous range as actors and their characters are extremely volatile, and of course their characters marry in the series.  If you have read my prior reviews of the Voyager series you know how bored I was with earlier special features and with many of the early episodes, but they definitely got more interesting as the series went on.

Other features include Braving the Unknown: Season Five, The Borg Queen Speaks (interview with Susanna Thompson, who was rejected for this role in First Contact, but was excellent in this reincarnation), Delta Quadrant Makeup Magic, and the obligatory photo gallery.  There are also the usual easy-to-find Easter Eggs which have short but interesting interviews.

Summary:

What was 7/9's human name?  Will Harry Kim save his crew?  Will Tom and B'Elanna live happily ever after?  Well, you have to watch Season Five to find out, now don't you?

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