Where Star Trek: Voyager Went Wrong
Like many of you, I grew up watching the original Star Trek series. I came to love The Next Generation as well, and got enthused when I saw Deep Space 9.
When Star Trek: Voyager came along, it held a lot of promise. This was the ship that was on its own in an uncharted part of the galaxy, trying to get home. The journey would take decades, and the Federation and Maquis crews would have to learn to live together.
This produced what should have been an excellent story, yet it couldn’t get past several boundaries. Where was the Maquis mutiny? It never happened, yet the possibility was mentioned by Tuvok on an episode. The Prime Directive. I wanted Janeway to have to struggle with breaking the Prime Directive, then doing so for the sake of her people. Yeah, they benefited, but she would have to live with the guilt. The opportunity was there, but in the end, Janeway is a goody-two-shoes. It was an opportunity lost, in my opinion.
Don’t even get me started on the Borg. There was an enemy that went from fearful in ‘The Best of Both Worlds’ (TNG 2-part episode) to just another alien on the block. I don’t know about anyone else, but I got tired of the Borg.
Where Voyager shined the best was in a two-part episode called ‘Year of Hell.’ This episode showed Voyager in a two-part alternate reality where the ship had been beaten up for an entire year. By year’s end, it was unlivable. The storytelling was great, and this was the sort of turmoil I wanted Voyager to go through! It was a shame that, at the end, the timeline is fixed and none of it happened. That kind of cheapened the efforts of the crew. However, I can overlook this
The cast was formulaic. We got to see our first female captain, which was awesome. Yet I felt like she was designed to be “she-Kirk.” Anyone else notice the initials? JK (James Kirk) and KJ (Kathryn Janeway). Uh…yeah. Then we have our gratuitous Klingon in the form of B’Elanna Torres. She doubled up as the gratuitous half-breed. The humans were largely forgettable. Harry Kim was so generic it wasn’t funny. Tom Paris could have been the bad boy, but that was hardly touched. I always felt that it wasn’t the actors’ fault here. Rather, the humans were not allowed to shine.
Tuvok was the gratuitous Vulcan, yet I’m not too critical of him. Tim Russ did an excellent job of portraying a Vulcan whose focus was security, not science. Was it realistic having a black Vulcan? Not every Earth race has a duplicate on other worlds. Yet despite this, I have to applaud Paramount for showcasing that there could be more than one brand of Vulcan.
Neelix was a fun alien, though the writers had to think about his purpose after he was no longer useful as a guide. And did Kes have a point? She was nice, and a short-lived race was cool. Still, she could have grown further.
Then there’s Seven of Nine. She was nice eye candy. I’ll give her that. However, I think they made the Borg to human transition way too quickly. Had it happened in the span of a year, I could see it more. I really could not believe that she was once Borg.
Of all the characters, Chakotay was my least favorite. I had a hard time believing he was Native American. My take is that he should have been one of the Native Americans that Picard ran across, who now live in Cardassian territory. Add more spiritualism to him, and he would have been fine.
Of all the characters, my favorite has to be the Doctor. Yes, he’s the gratuitous artificial life form looking to become more human. That being said, his character was a novel concept and Robert Picardo was so much fun. The mobile EMH transmitter seemed a bit hokey, but then again, he needed to get out of sick bay once in a while. My favorite aspect of him was when they added the emergency engineering and command subroutines so that he could take on new roles.
Two more items: the ship and the theme song. I have to say that I truly enjoyed the theme song. Very nice composition. The Intrepid-class Voyager was a nifty design, though I didn’t care for the miniature warp nacelles. Still, I liked watching them fold ala the Klingon Bird of Prey. All in all, a good design.
Between the subpar goody-two-shoes writing, the ‘greatest hits of Star Trek’ casting, the idea that they were going in the wrong direction (to Earth, not away!), and not allowing the cast to really shine, Voyager had many faults. It took what could have been a phenomenal series and dumbed it down to a so-so Trek series at best. Even though I enjoyed Voyager, I kept re-writing it in my head.
While the suits shot for the elements of classic Trek and TNG that made both of them a success, the suits just weren’t able to achieve that kind of magic. That being said, I still enjoyed Voyager, though it could have been so much more.
Never had a problem with a black Vulcan. Considering often Vulcan was shown as a desert world, kinda made more sense than pasty-white Spock…
Yeah, I’m not with you on all of this. Voyager had a lot of great elements, and many of them involved the characters and the writing. The Maquis Mutiny? Sure, they could have written that in, and have the Voyager crew take teh ship back, throw the Maquis in the brig, then have the Maquis save the day, but the end result would have been the same. The mutiny wasn’t explored because the writers probably felt there was no where for it to really go. Besides, there was enough with Ceska to make that aspect entertaining.
So Janeway didn’t have Prime Directive-guilt. She really didn’t need it. She had enough guilt over destroying the array that could have gotten them home.
Now, the Borg. I’ll consent that the Borg were weakened in some ways under Voyager, but they also were much more developed under them as well, making them a far more interesting villain because they had more dimension to them. The ‘Scorpion’ 2-parter was an excellent look into the Borg.
Plus, I think your dismissal of the characters is too flip. There was a lot to like about most of them, even Neelix to a certain degree. Each character did have depth and interesting, and in many ways, better developed than TNG.
Also, I thought Janeway made a pretty decent captain, when she wasn’t playing a “mother” role. Like any show it did take time to get rolling. ST: TNG wasn’t really good until Season 3.
“Was it realistic having a black Vulcan? Not every Earth race has a duplicate on other worlds.”
You realize there only one human race, right? And that skin color is affected partly by varied strength exposure to the sun and mutation?
I don’t know why you would have a hard time believing Chakotay was Native American. Would he had to rain dance on the bridge in a feathered headdress to sell you on that fact? Now I don’t necessarily remember what Native Americans Picard encountered before but Chatokay is an individual from Native American ancestry. Obviously not everyone is going to share the same level of spirituality because they come from the same culture. It seems like you were looking for the stereotype.
As far as the realism for having a black Vulcan on the show – What the hell does realism have to do with dark skinned Vulcans? Is there a chart out there that breaks down the demography of the entire population on Vulcan? or are you looking at this from your perspective of American demographics? There could be many, there could be few who really knows?
And the lack of a mutiny from the Marquis makes sense because I believe people in that situation would realize that had to put aside their differences and work together given the circumstances. They were alone in the middle of unfamiliar territory and far away from home. There were so few of them that a power struggle would have been pointless.
If the Marquis tried to run off on their own or take over, it would have resulted in all kinds of savagery and barbarism. The essence of Star Trek is ideal human behavior;how things should be among us in the future. The frivolous backstabbing between the factions would go against that.
Lastly, the Borg devolving into another alien on the block made sense too. Voyager had access to plenty of intel on the Borg over the course of the series and adapted. The Borg was more common in the Delta Quadrant so there were civilizations who knew how to handle them. And with Seven of Nine-well…they had to get her out of that Borg gear and into that catsuit ASAP. Simply amazing.
Beside those quibbles, I’m in agreement with you; the show was just ok. I liked it but I wasn’t in love with it. Although I thought it was pretty slick how Voyager parodied its own Sci-Fi genre with Captain Proton.
My favorite ST series would have to be DS9 although I haven’t seen The Original Series and just a little bit of Enterprise. Now, you said while you were watching the show, you kept rewriting it in your head. What type of spin you would have put on it?
I see I have sparked some debate! Let’s get geeky with it!
Black Vulcans – Yes, I’m aware there is only one human race. Yet we use the term racism when people of one ethnic background shows prejudice or discrimination against people of another ethnic background. I use the term here to simply show the difference between backgrounds. Kind of like a sun and moon elf being called different races.
I do not condemn Voyager for using a black Vulcan, and I agree that a dark-skinned Vulcan is very likely. What is not likely is that a black-skinned Vulcan looks exactly like a black-skinned human with pointy ears. I think they could have showed a variety of ethnic background with Vulcans by showing a dark-skinned Vulcan who didn’t look like an earth human.
Chris – You make several good points, but I think we’ll have to agree to disagree on some of this. While the Maquis rebellion may have had similar results, it may have resulted in more character development and a crew who didn’t resemble other Starfleet crews. I was looking for something more non-traditional.
Perhaps I was a bit flip about the characters. I’ll concede that point. What I was looking for was something deeper out of many of them. Let Tom Paris be the bad boy a bit more. Let Harry Kim grow up a bit more and become tough. Perhaps Babylon 5 spoiled me on that one. ;-)
Cowboy Elvis – I don’t believe that I’m working on stereotypes where Chakotay is concerned. I guess I look at him and think that he could be of any variety of racial descent – perhaps even Hispanic. He didn’t need a headdress, but maybe some other signifier. *shrugs* I guess I just never really got into the character.
I’ll post my spin in another post.
How they could have done Voyager Right (TM).
(An opinion by Me)
Do exactly what they did with the series, except change the first couple of episodes:
Instead of Captain Janeway, she should have been First Lieutenant Janeway (or something not too high up the command chain, anyways.) Instead of killing only the 2nd in command and the Doctor, make it so the ENTIRE commanding crew was killed. Janeway happens to be the highest ranking officer, so… instant promotion! She has to struggle with control issues, and everybody has to figure out how to manage with their wits, their training and their bootstraps.
This change would have made me much more interested in watching the show in the long haul. In the state it was presented, I couldn’t keep watching after season 2.
Just an idea,
Thanks! Nice post.
I do not completely agree with the Author but a very well written post with some interesting points.
Harry Kim was likeable but the character was never developed properly and they kicked out Kes after 2 years anyway.
I do think however that Tuvok had in this show, maybe one of the finest “acting” moment in any Star Trek, that being the second season “meld” when he freaks out inside the conainment shield in sickbay. 2nd only to Avery brooks performance in “Far beyond the Stars” DS9 Seasin 6.
This alone made me love Voyager, every so often they would takethe characters out of their comfort zone and make them angry!, remember Janeway in “Equinox” she broke a few rules in that episode.
I think Voyager actually had a lot of balls! Maybe more than TNG or even DS9 in many ways.
“Black Vulcans – Yes, I’m aware there is only one human race. Yet we use the term racism when people of one ethnic background shows prejudice or discrimination against people of another ethnic background. I use the term here to simply show the difference between backgrounds. Kind of like a sun and moon elf being called different races.
“I do not condemn Voyager for using a black Vulcan, and I agree that a dark-skinned Vulcan is very likely. What is not likely is that a black-skinned Vulcan looks exactly like a black-skinned human with pointy ears. I think they could have showed a variety of ethnic background with Vulcans by showing a dark-skinned Vulcan who didn’t look like an earth human.”
My main issue with Tuvok was a continuity thing. Previously the Vulcans and Romulans always had a bit of a pseudo-oriental* look to them. Suddenly we start to get Romulans with weird bumpy forheads and then we get a black Vulcan.
* = They looked a bit like European people trying to pass themselves off as asian people.
Now an entire population of black Vulcan’s, from which Tuvok was a single member, would make sense, but they didn’t do the groundwork and create a new country on the planet Vulcan that was 100 percent black.
I think that Tim Russ did a great job, but would love to have seen some reason for the previously unexplained absense of black Vulcans. Knowing how “logical” the race is, the easy explanation would have been that unlike on Earth, where different people migrate, a Vulcan doesn’t feel any need to move away from their family. We could have had a band around the equator where everyone is black, a band in the north where everyone looks like the traditional Vulcan and a band in the south that looks more like Romulans (or something along those lines).
In fact what Star Trek needs, is to have something (maybe the Vulcan land of black skinned Vulcans) or maybe a new starship, that has a cast of mostly black people and a small percentage of white people and other ethnic groups…
…and then after doing that set up, they need to totally ignore the fact that most of the people are black and not make any big deal about the races. If they showed a young Tuvok in a Vulcan university where 5 percent of the students and tutors were *not* black, that would sell me on the idea of a black-Vulcan nation (especially if all the white Vulcans carried parasols or some other sort of sun-shade when they went outside). You would easily click onto the idea that the light-skinned Vulcans don’t quite have the right metabolism to deal with that amount of sunlight.
I see what you are saying about making Tim Russ look less like a black human. One of the major steriotypes of the Vulcans is that straight across the forehead hairstyle. They don’t all have it, but many do and it would have added to the ears if Tuvok had a wig. He could also have had blue or gree contact lenses. James Earl Jones did that in the Conan film and it looked pretty good on him. But would it have made Tim Russ look more like a Vulcan? Or would it have made him look like a black man pretending to be a white man? I’ll leave it up to some random passer by with Photoshop skills to answer that question! ;-)
I had some negative feelings towards Chakotay. I’m not sure it was because of the Native American thing. I’m sure that the Native Americans of the 23rd or 24th Century would be very different from the ones of today. I think what bugged me about Chakotay was that he seemed to be “more Native American” some days and “less Native American” on other days. I’m sure there are many sides to most real people, but it did seem like the writers couldn’t quite make up their minds what to do with the character. I think I would have liked it if they had a number of other Native Americans (some of different tribes) in the expendables. That would have allowed Ensign Unimportant to have brought up an element of culture that Chakotay could interact with in a meaningful way. Maybe a traditional Native American could accuse Chakotay of abandoning his culture or an overly modern Native American could accuse Chakotay of being held back by his religious beliefs. If an “outsider” had this sort of interaction with Chakotay it would look like racisim, but if an “insider” had this sort of interaction it would be a more meaningful conflict where the culture could be explained by the plot (and the viewer could get to see what makes Chakotay tick).
There was a similar problem IMO with Harry Kim, but in his case it wasn’t a conflict of his culture. It was the fact that he was stuck in a sort of transition between boy and man. And the he likes to follow Tom Paris is just too silly. The start of STV is a gigantic disaster that kills half the crew of each starship. People shouldn’t be able to get through all of that and be that jolly.
Come to think of it, where were the dozens of cases of post traumatic stress disorder that you should have had if half the people from each ship had been killed? We should probably have had the occasional person (in the begining) who wanted to organise a mutiny. But we should also have had a few people who were so unable to deal with the loss that they walked out of an airlock or choose to go on every dangerous mission in an attempt to get themselves killed.
We had a strong Starfleet theme in the series (with the combined crew living on the Voyager and the Starfleet officer being in command), but it would have been nice to have seen more influence from the Maquis culture. And if the series had started off with a bit more inter-crew agression and a few people that killed themselves, it would have been the perfect way to make the Maquis be the solution.
The crew should have worked like a Star Fleet crew but then played like a Maquis crew. The Marquis could have had more family values and individual Marquis “households” could have invited in individual Star Fleet crewmen.
I think Tim Russ did a terrific job playing Tuvok, and I can believe that they ‘created’ black Vulcans because of him.
Nevertheless, as a nitpicker and biologist, the existence of black Vulcans has bothered me, because Vulcan is a desert planet. Maybe I also read too many of those old novels in which similarly obsessed fans tried to explain how the Vulcans adapted to their desert climate and can survive it despite their light skin color. If different skin colors existed on this planet, why are there white Vulcans? Maybe the black skin color is a genetic aberration similar to albinos, but in this case, why is Tuvok’s wife also black? The introduction of black Vulcans raised a number of questions, such as why all the Vulcan’s we have seen previously are white, why all the people in power on Vulcan we have seen so far are white, why Spock never mentioned this in ‘Let That Be Your Last Battlefield’… In short, it introduced a number of real world issues to a fictional construct (Vulcan) which previously didn’t have them… and it makes me think how wonderful it would have been if Vulcans had been black from the start, and how sad it is that such a race was automatically cast white/asian in the beginning.
Voyager was a great show. I watched it from the very beginning and i admit that the first season was kinda slow, Kes was mostly a boring character and Paris, Torres and Kim weren’t the greatest characters (especially Paris) but other then that the show was classic. Voyager explored a lot of creative story elements and even had a few good tie-ins with the other Alpha Quaudrant based themes in the Delta Quaudrant. I thought Chacotay was a good character and he worked as a Native American for me (in the episode “Tattoo” it’s implied that Chacotay is a native to Central America since he was in the jungle in a flashback) and Tuvok played the best Vulcan ever…in fact, his potrayal of a Vulcan was so good thati’m sure that they made black Vulcans because of him (though obviously they were a small minority) and it wasn’t hard to believe. In TOS there were no black Klingons but now black Klingons are the norm…even the white Klingons are made to look more black. Voyager had way better story concepts, action and creative detail then the TNG but it did lack strong characters and they gave Seven of Nine way too much screentime. The Borg being a normal enemy in Voyager was actually very convincing since the Borg originated in the Delta Quadrant and Seven was a part of their crew. A lot of people like to hate on Voyager, but lets be real; it’s WAY better then TOS in everyway. My favorite Star Trek is DS9 but Voyager isn’t too far behind it and neither is Enterprise (a great show to my own personal opinion) and TNG is just too classic for words. Voyager was a great show…if any Star Trek didn’t live up to it’s potential it was Enterprise because the 3rd season killed the show and got it cancelled. Voyager was nearly flawless and i still watch it on Netflix every now and then.
Voyager Sucked, Was stupid from day one. The Maquis were traitors. So when the shit hit the fan Janeway makes Chakotay ist officer? BS… you would have had a mutiny from the voyager crew right off the bat. There would be no way the crew would be required to take orders from him. Then she makes Torres Chief engineer, didn’t she drop out of the academy to join the Maquis ? So she knows more about the engines of the latest star ship than someone who went to to the academy, graduated and was trained for that new class of star ship. Then you have that Stupid holographic doctor that they make part of the crew,if holograms are that good you wouldn’t need people aboard just have androids do all the maintenance. No black Vulcans or Romulans, just hollywood suger coating society to make everyone feel like they’re part of the group.
Voyager Sucked, Was stupid from day one. The Maquis were traitors. So when the shit hit the fan Janeway makes Chakotay 1st officer? BS… you would have had a mutiny from the voyager crew right off the bat. There would be no way the crew would be required to take orders from him. Then she makes Torres Chief engineer, didn’t she drop out of the academy to join the Maquis ? So she knows more about the engines of the latest star ship than someone who went to to the academy, graduated and was trained for that new class of star ship. Then you have that Stupid holographic doctor that they make part of the crew,if holograms are that good you wouldn’t need people aboard just have androids do all the maintenance. No black Vulcans or Romulans, just hollywood suger coating society to make everyone feel like they’re part of the group.