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STAR TREK: VOYAGER
Season One

Review by Mark Wiechman

Stars:  Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Roxann Dawson, Jennifer Lien, Robert Duncan McNeill, Robert Picardo, Ethan Phillips, Tim Russ, Garrett Wang
Directors:  Various
Video:  1:33:1
Audio:  Dolby Digital Stereo and 5.1
Studio:  Paramount Home Video
Length: Five discs, 12 hours, 13 minutes
Release date:  February 24, 2004

I feel like I'm all alone.”

"You are all alone. I'm only a holographic projection.”

Show ***1/2

Having grown up with the original Star Trek series featuring William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and DeForrest Kelley, it has always been difficult for me to warm to any of its offspring.   Like so many other phenomena of the 1960’s, Star Trek was gone much too soon.  An incredible 78 episodes shot in only two and a half seasons changed entertainment forever and continues to inspire today, much like many political leaders, musicians, and cultural changes from that era.  Man had not even landed on the moon, and here was a TV drama asking questions and offering solutions never contemplated before.   Only in the pseudo-utopian love fest of that era could all races and beings set aside materialism and prejudice to explore the stars together.  No one questioned why the starship was going boldly into space:  it was an adventure worth undertaking, and that was enough.  

But Voyager, while featuring an excellent cast and inspired writing, always seemed to be holding back.  The excellent 1995 pilot is definitely required watching for any fan of any Trek series:  it features a mysterious god-like figure called the Caretaker casting the embattled Voyager and their rivals the Marqui into the Delta quadrant of the galaxy, meaning that it will take more than a lifetime to get home, even at warp speed.  That is a flimsy premise to start with, and it gets stranger as the series goes on.  I have real problems with stories which feature time-travel through sub-space, even in science fiction.  There should be some sound science to go with the fiction. 

On the other hand, the incredible cast and good writing make the series work.  The best episodes are as excellent as any in any other Star Trek series.  Parallax shows how B'Lonna Torres, the hot-tempered human/Klingon engineer bonds with Captain Janeway and wins her trust.  Time after Time is one of the most interesting prime-directive episodes, in which the issue is not completely resolved.  While there are personal conflicts, Kate Mulgrew’s Captain Janeway always finds a way to hold it together.  I am starting to think she was the best of all the starship captains because she could be emotional and command respect at the same time.  She seemed to insist on discipline for the sake of pride and hope when neither was in abundance.   Tim Russ is as good a Vulcan as Leonard Nimoy and the most interesting character is the sassy, moody, artistic and enthusiastic medical hologram Robert Picardo.  Holograms can’t get diseases, never get tired, and don’t miscount pills, do they? 

The newer Star Trek series all seem much too much like floating monasteries to me.  Children are born and people marry, but no kissing?  No temptations?  No good old-fashioned ass whupping?  No all-out chaos when all is lost, not even for a few minutes?   At least B’Lanna blows her cool now and then, but that is blamed on her Klingon chromosomes.  Surely political correctness died in the light of intergalactic star systems.  According to TV Guide, the Voyager cast members were actually told to underplay their roles so as to make the aliens seem fiercer.  It may be true, but actually most of the villains throughout the series are really frightening and the courage the crew shows in the most hopeless situations are inspiring.  

The first season had only fifteen episodes:  Caretaker, Parallax, Time and Again, Phage, The Cloud, Eye of the Needle, Ex Post Facto, Emanations, Prime Factors, State of Flux, Heroes and Demons, Cathexis, Faces, Jetrel, Learning Curve.

Video ****

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 **1/2

While there is a whole disc devoted to the special features, the only one that is really interesting is the interview with Mulgrew, done after the series was over.  There are no commentaries for any of the episodes.  There is some behind the scenes footage of Caretaker which is interesting, but I expected more.  The footage of Bujold as the original captain is almost painful to watch, she seemed uncomfortable every moment and would have doomed the whole production had she stayed, but whether she quit or was fired is not really explained.  Another interesting tidbit is the origin of the infamous (in my opinion ludicrous) Janeway bun.  The original footage of the pilot showed her with long hair, but the network told them to re-shoot most of it with the bun, adding to her uptight image.  Perhaps future packages will pack a bigger punch of features, like longer interviews with the cast members or deleted scenes.  There are eight featurettes: Braving the Unknown: Season One, Voyager Time Capsule: Kathryn Janeway, The First Captain: Bujold, Cast Reflections: Season One, Red Alert: Visual Effects - Season One, Real Science with Andre Bormanis, Launching Voyager on the Web, On Location with the Kazons, and a Photo Gallery.

Summary:

Voyager has aged well, as most quality shows do.    An excellent series begins strongly, and watching the brave star explorers try to hold onto their courage as they try to get home continues to inspire.