Tuesday, February 14, 2012
Voyager Season 5
Year 5 of Voyager is another season that steers head-on, as only science fiction can really do, at big issues and topic areas such as environmentalism, mental illness, childhood development, and ethics in medical and scientific research. It has a Pygmalion romance, a Schindler's List-esque refugee rescue, a Flash Gordon spoof, an ice world, a water world, a ship-eating space monster, a time travel escapade, several weird encounters with non-humanoid aliens, and a record number of different characters played by one guest actor in one season. Speaking of guest actors, the list of distinguished visiting artists this season includes Ray Walston (in two of his three franchise appearances as "Boothby"), David Clennon, Mark Harelik, Lori Petty, Charles Rocket, Jason Alexander, Kevin Tighe, Bruce McGill, Titus Welliver, and John Savage. This season also includes the last three of 42 Star Trek episodes directed by Cliff Bole, the last of six ditto directed by former Happy Days co-star Anson Williams, and no less than seven episodes helmed by the franchise's most prolific director, David Livingston.
Night opens the season with the loneliest starship in the galaxy entering an expanse containing no visible stars, the whole area made pitch-black by a surrounding mantle of technobabble which blocks light from outside the Void (as the Voyagers call it). It's supposed to take them two years to cross the Void, but after only a few weeks everyone is becoming unnerved by the lack of spacial reference points. Most affected of all is the Captain, who finds herself at leisure to dwell on the blame she bears for getting everybody into this. So it comes as a relief when beings adapted to living in a dark void invade the ship. Hard on their heels is a heavily-armed toxic-waste transport belonging to the Malon, a race whose solution to their pollution problem is to haul contaminated technobabble out into somebody else's backyard and dump it. This Malon captain is so attached to his dumping ground that he refuses to stop using it, even though it is poisoning the Void aliens. Janeway shows him a way to recycle the technobabble, but the Malon reject it because it would ruin their business. So, switching to Plan B, the Voyagers race the Malon for the secret wormhole they use to travel between their world and the Void. Winning the race means shaving two years off their voyage and collapsing the gateway so the Malon can't go on poisoning the Void aliens. Janeway: "It's time to take out the garbage." An important episode for several reasons—including our first visit to Tom Paris' retro-sci-fi "Captain Proton" holo-novel, the first of four appearances by the Malon, the the first of Martin Rayner's three appearances as monochromatic holo-villain Doctor Chaotica, and the speaking Void alien being the first of four different characters played by Steven Dennis in just this season of Voyager (which seems to be a record)—it is nevertheless best remembered for the scene in which the senior officers stage a minor mutiny to keep their captain from going on a suicide mission.
Drone is the one in which a transporter glitch causes nanoprobes from Seven of Nine to assimilate the Doctor's mobile emitter—which, remember, is a piece of purloined 29th-century technology—and the result is a bouncing baby Borg, 500 years ahead of his time. The drone, who calls himself One, has an insatiable curiosity about all things, especially things Borg, but when a Borg sphere (the first seen outside of Star Trek: First Contact) homes in on his signal, he could also be the ultimate threat to humanity. If his 29th century hardware falls into Borg hands, resistance could really be futile! So, spurred by the values Seven of Nine has taught him, One takes out the sphere single-handedly. Then, refusing to allow the Doctor to treat his injuries, he dies following this piece of unforgettable dialogue—SEVEN: You're hurting me. ONE: You will adapt.—I'm not kidding you. I cried the first time I saw this scene in the fall of 1998, and I cried again when I saw it just the other night. Well written as it is, the scene owes much of its effectiveness to the acting powers of Jeri Ryan and frequent Trek guest J. Paul Boehmer, playing One. Also appearing in this installment is Todd Babcock (of MTV's "Undressed") as the good-looking Ensign whose involuntary donation of DNA makes him One's third parent, after Seven and the Doctor.
Extreme Risk is only the second episode since the season premiere to deal with the issue of depression. In this case, B'Elanna is the one showing symptoms, such as losing interest in everything and engaging in high-risk holodeck stunts with the safeties turned off. While Chakotay probes for the roots of B'Elanna's depression (which turn out to have something to do with not being able to feel anything since she learned that all their Maquis buddies were wiped out by the Cardassians), everybody else is engaged in a "good old-fashioned space race" against the odoriferous Malon. Whoever proves the faster at design-building a shuttlecraft that can withstand the pressure 10,000 kilometers deep in a gas giant will win a USS Voyager probe with experimental technobabble that could seriously unbalance the, oh, whatever. All you really want to know is that Tom Paris leads the winning team and, in the process, introduces the "hot-rod" shuttlecraft known as the Delta Flyer. Guest starring as the Malon captain is the late folk-singer and actor Hamilton Camp, best known for lending his voice talent to animated TV series and low-budget films.
In the Flesh revives the intergalactic threat of Species 8472, now using some kind of DNA technobabble to assume human form and practice impersonating Starfleet officers in at least one ginormous simulation of Starfleet Command, San Francisco, Earth. This seems to be part of a plan to invade Earth and neutralize the threat of a human invasion of their native fluidic space. But it turns out to be an opportunity to establish diplomatic relations with one of the alienest and villainousest of all alien villains yet encountered. Reprising his TNG role as Starfleet Headquarters' groundskeeper-cum-Jedi master Boothby is My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston. Other guests include: Tucker Smallwood (a jazz singer and actor, frequently cast as military types, who later played a recurring alien on Enterprise); Zach Galligan (the star of the cult film Gremlins); and Kate Vernon (of the late Battlestar Galactica). The lattermost provides a romantic interest for Chakotay worthy of The Original Series. Watching the man first reluctantly, then enthusiastically, help an 8472 practice her kissing technique is a real highlight.
Once Upon a Time features Wallace Langham (of CSI) and Justin Louis (of Durham County and Stargate Universe) as a pair of whimsical characters in an educational holodeck program for children. "Flotter" and "Trevis," respectively, have been the Bert and Ernie of holodeck brats since Katie Janeway was six; now it's Naomi Wildman's turn. The first child born on the Voyager is now a precocious girl whose homeschooling includes lessons in cellular physiology with the Doctor, a comprehensive knowledge of Starfleet protocols (her ambition is to become the Captain's Assistant), and—at least while her geologist mother is with Tom and Tuvok on a Delta Flyer-powered away mission—lots of facetime with her godfather Neelix. But Neelix, who remembers the torment of not knowing what happened to his family when the metreon cascade (cf. Season 1's "Jetrel") destroyed their homeworld, is the last person on the ship who is going to tell Naomi that her mother may or may not have survived a crash landing. Time is running out as search-and-rescue teams comb the planet in search of the Delta Flyer, but rather than spoil the ending for you I'll simply add that this is the first of 16 episodes in which Scarlett Pomers played young Naomi (who had been played by other young actors in a handful of earlier episodes). Meanwhile, Nancy Hower makes the seventh of her only eight appearances as Naomi's mother Samantha.
Timeless is the episode in which two parka-swathed figures, who turn out to be Chakotay and Harry Kim from 15 years further in the future, beam down to an ice planet and find the Voyager buried under a glacier. They had made it all the way home via the slipstream drive which tantalized their shipmates in the Season 4 finale, but they were the only ones who did; everyone else perished when the Voyager, careering off course, augered into the ice at full impulse speed. Separated from their shipmates by the good luck of being on the Delta Flyer, flying ahead of the ship with the intent of guiding it through the slipstream, the two men have spent 15 years looking for the wreck in the hope of using technobabble from Seven of Nine's freeze-dried corpse, the long-dormant Doctor's medical expertise, and a piece of stolen Borg technology to send a message back in time to prevent the accident before Captain Geordi LaForge (!!!) blows them to kingdom come. Obviously, it's not the last episode they ever made, but there's no point spoiling another suspenseful climax and poignant epilogue, so I'll just mention that Christine Harnos, who played the wife of Anthony Edwards' character on ER, plays Chakotay's main squeeze who, in a mindblowing display of altruism, willingly gives her all to help the man she loves change history so that, most likely, they will never meet. Time paradoxes are a bitch!
Infinite Regress begins with Seven of Nine staggering out of her lair in the middle of an incomplete regeneration cycle (that's Borg talk for "sleepwalking") and savaging a drumstick in Neelix's fridge with the ferocity of an unreconstructed Klingon. As the episode unfolds, Seven's case of multiple personality disorder worsens as an alien weapon, meant to destroy the Borg, brings to life within her the minds of all the individuals the Borg have assimilated. Tuvok attempts a mind meld, which looks really psychedelic but doesn't seem to accomplish much, while the aliens who planted the sabotage device bombard the Voyager in order to get their weapon back. The final solution involves more technobabble than you can shake a Klingon pain-stick at. Again, the episode depends heavily on Jeri Ryan's acting talents.
Nothing Human features David Clennon (late of Thirtysomething) as a holographic simulation of a Cardassian exobiologist whom the Doctor calls to consult when a really weird life-form gloms onto B'Elanna, as pictured here. Crell Moset, like all the best Cardassian renaissance men, turns out to be not only the genius doctor who cured a Bajoran plague, but also a war criminal whose medical discoveries were based on cruel experiments and a disregard for the lives of his patients. One young Bajoran crewman is so disgusted with the decision to consult with holo-Moset that he resigns his commission. The moral dilemma falls squarely on the Doctor's shoulders, though the Captain backs him up by deciding that it is more important to save B'Elanna than to respect her wishes not to be treated by Moset. It turns out to be another thought-provoking episode about medical ethics (cf. Season 4's "Scientific Method"), though it leaves me unsatisfied for two reasons: first, because the Doctor finds it convenient enough to judge Moset's program worthy of deletion after using it to save B'Elanna's life; and second, because the status of the Bajoran crewman is never resolved. Which is as much as to say, the after-effects of the Doctor's having gone ahead and used Moset's research to treat his patients are never explored.
Thirty Days begins with Lt. Paris being busted down to Ensign for as-yet-unknown disciplinary reasons. Then, as Tom whiles away his 30-day sentence in the ship's brig by writing a letter to his Admiral father, the story skips backward to show what he did to mess up (again) his promising career. While helping a scientist from an all-water planet investigate what keeps his world from boiling off into space, and why whatever-it-is is starting to fail, Tom and his Delta Flyer crew discover a 100,000-year-old gizmo at a depth of 600 kilometers, which is failing due to the Monean's underwater industries. While the Monean government seems uninterested in any of Voyager's proposals for fixing the problem, a lone scientist (played by Blue Collar's Willie Garson) teams up with Tom in an act of eco-terrorism narrowly averted by the Voyager. Ethically, the episode is an intriguing study in the prime directive as it comes up against political activism. On a more intimate level, it recharges the troubled character of Tom Paris just in time to keep him from becoming tediously domesticated.
Counterpoint is the episode music nerds (like me) remember for the extended sequences in which movements from Mahler's First and Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphonies provide the musical accompaniment. The episode guest-stars Mark Harelik (of Jurassic Park III and TV's Hearts Afire) as Inspector Kashyk, an official from the Devore Imperium, through whose space the Voyager must fly. Unfortunately, the highest law of the Devore is to persecute telepaths, which means the Voyagers must hide its Vulcan and Betazoid crew members, as well as a group of telepathic refugees who need a lift to the nearest wormhole out of Devore space. During Kashyk's frequent inspections, the telepaths must be held in the transporter buffer, a gimmick they can't afford to do many more times since it causes cellular degradation. It's starting to look desperate when Kashyk turns up, without his usual cohort of thugs, claiming that he wants to defect. Though he strikes up a romance with Janeway, she continues to take precautions in case it's a trick; which is lucky, because it is. And so, when Kashyk betrays the Voyager, its captain proves to have a few tricks of her own in store. Further cast members include three-time Trek guest J. Patrick McCormack as Kashyk's sidekick, and Randy Oglesby—whose seven Trek characters included a pair of twins—as the leader of the refugees.
Latent Image promises to be deliciously creepy, as it begins with the doctor discovering evidence that he performed surgery on Harry Kim that neither of them remembers; and it continues promising for a while, with hints of a conspiracy, the recovered memory of a crewwoman whose very existence has been erased, and a philosophical debate about whether the Doctor is a person or a toaster. But, in spite of some moving character touches, it proves in the last analysis to be a slow-paced, talky episode in which not much happens but scenery-chewing on the part of Robert Picardo (as the holographic Doctor whose ethical subroutines get tied in knots by a frankly implausible dilemma) and, to a lesser extent, Kate Mulgrew (as the flesh-and-blood captain who second-guesses her first impulse to reprogram the Doctor when his coping skills prove obviously, ludicrously inadequate).
Bride of Chaotica!—by way of a welcome contrast—furnishes both Picardo and Mulgrew with a chance to appear out of character in a segment of over-the-top humor, satirizing the science-fiction serials of the 1930s. As the Voyager spins its figurative wheels in a morass of subspace technobabble, all on-board systems are failing—including, to horror of Morale Officer Neelix, the bathrooms. But the holodeck is where the real carnage is taking place, as aliens from a dimension of pure energy combat the holographic character of Doctor Chaotica and his evil minions. To get the ship free, and to save beings who are unable to perceive the reality of "biochemical life-forms" such as the Voyagers, the latter must infiltrate the out-of-control holonovel and, in the guise of characters within it, disable Chaotica's Lightning Shield, destroy his Death Ray, and convince the photonic aliens to go back to their own realm. Picardo looks great in Harry S Truman glasses, suit, and fedora, while Mulgrew vamps it up as Arachnia, Queen of the Spider People. Meanwhile, the late Nicholas Worth makes his first of two appearances as Chaotica's sidekick Lonzak, one of his three Trek roles.
Gravity begins with a shuttle, piloted by Tom Paris and Tuvok, getting sucked into a "subspace sinkhole" and crash-landing on a desert planet where there is nothing to do but hunt giant spiders (the only locally available food) and fend off raids by the crews of alien ships. Together with the Doctor and a woman named Noss who has survived 14 years on this dusthole, Tom and Tuvok set up a defense perimeter in Noss's wrecked ship and divide their energies between survival and trying to get a signal out to the Voyager. Noss, who claims that she has seen many ships go down on the planet but none go up again, tragically develops romantic feelings for Tuvok, while he relives adolescent memories of studying the Vulcan technique of suppressing emotions after nearly losing his head over a girl. Meanwhile, back on Voyager, the non-marooned portion of the crew wastes no time discussing the fact that Tuvok should not be allowed near a shuttle (this is at least his third crash so far), and instead races to set up a rescue before the local alien authorities collapse the sinkhole for public safety reasons. It's a poignant episode with some real sci-fi chops, featuring Lori Petty (Tank Girl, A League of Their Own) in a very effective performance as Noss. Other guests include two-time Trek guest Leroy D. Brazile as young Tuvok; Paul S. Eckstein in one of his six Trek roles, all of which required heavy prosthetics; and Joseph Ruskin, whose six Trek roles spanned all five incarnations of Trek.
Bliss is the one in which the Voyager flies down the throat of a 200,000-year-old monster that has somehow evolved to subsist on a diet of starships. If you don't pause to ponder that ludicrous concept, you can enjoy this episode for its touch of gleeful paranoia. Seven of Nine returns from a survey mission to find everyone on the ship swept up in the euphoria of discovering a wormhole that leads straight back to Earth. No one else seems interested in discussing the evidence that it's a deception, except the Doctor and young Naomi Wildman, who are also immune to the mind-controlling powers of whatever they are headed toward. And when their immunity is noticed, they become a target. Essentially alone, Seven must race to elude capture and simultaneously take control of the ship so that, with the aid of a crusty old starship-eating-monster hunter named Qatai, they can force the monster to puke them out of its digestive chamber. Complete with a false ending, references to Moby Dick, and a concluding scene of Qatai grimly returning to stalk his nemesis, the episode succeeds in part through the appearance of W. Morgan Sheppard, whose other Trek appearances included a human on TNG, a Klingon in the last TOS feature film, and (uncredited) a Vulcan in the J. J. Abrams-directed restart.
Dark Frontier is a feature-length episode, actually scripted and filmed as two separate episodes but originally aired in one double-sized piece. Taking its cue from the TNG feature-film First Contact, it showcases a Borg Queen who welcomes Seven of Nine back into the fold—surprisingly, without requiring her to become a drone again. The Queen claims that she allowed Seven of Nine to become a Voyager in order to gain an insight into what makes the human race—by all accounts nothing very special—so resistant to assimilation. Hoping to study the nature of human individuality and turn it to good account in the next invasion of Earth, the Queen tests Seven by making her watch the assimilation of an alien colony. Meanwhile, the Voyagers are intent on getting their ex-drone back, even if it means walking into a trap. Through flashbacks to the career of Seven's human parents Magnus and Erin Hansen, who studied the Borg much as Diane Fossey studied gorillas, this episode fleshes out a good deal of Seven's pre-assimilation backstory as little Annika Hansen. It also benefits from guest appearances by two-time Trek guest Laura Interval (as Erin Hansen), and Susanna Thompson as the Borg Queen in her first of two two-part episodes in that role, one of her four roles in three Trek series.
The Disease is the one in which Harry Kim, heretofore the "perfect Starfleet officer," violates the handbook on fraternizing with aliens and develops a (ahem) biochemical bond with a female of another species. The end result is a heartache for which the Doctor, naturally, has a cure, but Harry chooses rather to suffer. In between there's a lot of bother with a generational ship whose denizens aren't all happy to be stuck with each other; some of them, in fact, are prepared to risk a close encounter with the vacuum of space, assisted by bio-engineered critters that eat the joins between their ship's modules, in the hope of going their own way. But it is Seven of Nine who puts her distinctive stamp on this episode, analyzing romantic love as a disease. Her parting words to Harry: "Get well soon." Guest stars include a surprisingly wooden Charles Rocket, who was famously fired from Saturday Night Live for dropping an F-bomb on air; and Christopher Liam Moore (late of Season 3's "Distant Origin") as the alien stowaway.
Course: Oblivion opens with the wedding of Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres—a development one has expected since at least the beginning of Season 4. Your first clue that it isn't really happening is when Capt. Janeway, pronouncing the couple man and wife, addresses Tom as "Lieutenant"—whereas the real Tom Paris was busted down to Ensign a few episodes back. Then weird stuff starts happening to the ship, people's faces start to melt off, and Tom loses his bride in a touching sickbay scene. What gives? Tuvok and Chakotay comb backwards through the ship's adventures in search of a likely cause—Clue Number Two being that you've never heard of any of the adventures they describe—until they come to the "Demon" planet where the sentient, biomimetic "silver blood" copied the crew of the real Voyager. The penny drops: This ship, and everybody on it, is a dead ringer for the real Voyager and its crew. Copied down to the molecular level, including memories of their previous lives, they have forgotten that they are copies and now have to come to terms with that fact, while trying to figure out what their true mission is. Eventually survival becomes a matter of getting back to that Demon-class planet or, failing that, contacting the real Voyager. Which, in one of Trek's most tragic endings, proves to be almost but not quite possible. Some might call this a pointless episode, but you have to admit there's a certain poignancy to the faux-Voyagers' plight and the "near miss" revealed in the final moments of the episode.
The Fight features Ray Walston in his third and last appearance as Boothby, the Starfleet Academy groundskeeper, athletic trainer, and all-around mentor to select undergrads first featured in TNG's episode "The First Duty." If you can't remember his second appearance, you must have a very short attention span. While the Boothby in "In the Flesh" is really a Species 8472 impostor, the one in this episode is at times a hologram, at times a hallucination, as Chakotay slowly loosens his grip on what we conventionally regard as sanity. Don't worry; it's all for a good cause. With the ship lost in a region of "chaotic space," Chakotay's dormant "crazy old man" gene is the crew's only hope of communicating with the life-forms who live there, and who evidently vibrate on a wavelength undetectable by any sane person. These beings, represented in Chakotay's mind by a boxing champion called Kid Chaos (pictured), know the only way out for a ship that will soon perish if it stays in chaotic space. But Chakotay doesn't unclench easily, making for a lot of drama and one of the show's most compellingly weird sci-fi stories. Ned Romero, who had previously guested on both TOS and TNG, here plays the grandfather Chakotay has always feared that he would become.
Think Tank features Jason Alexander, who even now is difficult to see without thinking of George from Seinfeld, as a member of a group of aliens who (with the aid of a device that links them telepathically) put their heads together to solve problems... but always for a price. They offer their services to Voyager when a network of Hazari bounty hunters has them surrounded with no apparent escape route. The price they ask includes Seven of Nine, who is tempted to offer herself up to save her shipmates but who, given the choice for its own sake, would rather decline. Then it turns out that the Hazari were hired by the Think Tank, precisely to force Seven of Nine into joining them. With a little thinking of their own and the dubious aid of the Hazari (whose loyalties are always deliciously ambiguous), Janeway and Co. come up with an alternate solution that leaves the Think Tank with problems of its own. It's one of those episodes that leaves one with a cold sense of satisfaction. It also features Christopher Darga in Hazari makeup, the only one of his three Trek roles that isn't a Klingon; Christopher Shea (as the blue-skinned alien) in one of his four Trek roles, which also included a Vorta, a Suliban, and an Andorian; and an uncredited Steven Dennis, also a sometime Andorian, playing the incomprehensible Think Tank alien Fennim in his second of four guest roles in this season of Voyager.
Juggernaut represents the final appearance of the environmentally unfriendly Malon. A series of improbable accidents cripples a Malon waste transport, killing most of the crew and forcing the survivors to flee. By the time the Voyagers pick them up, only two of the Malon crew survive, and are so scared of the toxic environment on their ship, or perhaps of the radioactive gremlins reputed to be on board, that they almost have to be forced at gunpoint to help Chakotay, B'Elanna, and Nelix purge the transport of technobabble, deck by deck, until they can access the control deck again. Before they manage this, Chakotay is injured, one of the Malon survivors is killed, and Janeway is forced to move to "Plan B"—tractoring the Malon ship onto a collision course with a star—even while her people remain on board. Not much can be done for them unless they can save themselves from the actual, flesh-and-blood gremlin who threatens them. The episode's guest stars include Ron Canada in his third of three Trek appearances, Scott Klace in his first of two, and Lee Arenberg in his fourth of six, his first three guest roles having been Ferengi.
Someone to Watch Over Me is a romantic, funny, touching episode in which the Doctor plays Pygmalion to Seven of Nine's Galatea. Spurred partly by a bet with Tom Paris and partly by his own growing infatuation with his student, the Doctor tries to teach Seven how to make out, as it were, in the world of dating. Lessons with holodeck characters are one thing; dinner at Sandrine's with a nervous crewman proves to be something tendon-tearingly different. Meanwhile, a diplomatic guest from a colony that practices puritanical self-denial enjoys a lost weekend amid the foods, drinks, holo-babes, and other pleasures of the Voyager, driving Ambassador Neelix to frustration. Played with a light touch and a minimum of sci-fi action or melodrama, it is nevertheless a successful episode, aided by such guest stars as Scott Thompson (of The Kids in the Hall), the late Ian Abercrombie (of Army of Darkness and a two-time Voyager guest), David Burke (of Joan of Arcadia and The Tick), and Brian McNamara (of Army Wives).
11:59 features Kate Mulgrew in a dual role, both as Capt. Janeway and as her distant ancestor Shannon O'Donnell. In the final days and hours of the year 2000 (which, you'll recall, was only a bit over 18 months in the future when this episode first aired), a small town in Indiana became the site of an experimental biosphere that proved to be a step toward colonizing Mars. The family tradition that O'Donnell, one of the first female astronauts, played a role in building the Millennium Gate went on, fifteen generations later, to inspire a young Kathryn Janeway to become a spacefaring scientist. Only, as she finds out when Neelix and Seven of Nine try their hand at genealogical research, it didn't really happen that way. The truth, as this episode vividly dramatizes, is that Shannon O'Donnell washed out of the astronaut program and only played a minor role as an engineering consultant on the biosphere project. More significant was her romance with Henry Janeway: single father, bookstore owner, and lone holdout against the future (i.e. the Gate) obliterating the past (i.e., the Indiana town where he has deep roots). While we see the fate of the Millennium Gate pivoting on the romance between two strong-willed people, the Voyagers cheer up their disillusioned captain by inaugurating a new holiday, Ancestors' Eve. Guest stars include Kevin Tighe (of TV's Emergency! and numerous big-screen roles), young Bradley Pierce (of Jumanji), and John Carroll Lynch (late of Body of Proof).
Relativity begins with the brand-new Voyager in drydock, orbiting Mars, when Captain Janeway first came on board. The ship's ill-fated mission to track down the missing Maquis ship with Tuvok and Chakotay on board is only starting to be planned. Everything is as it was five years ago (from the point of view of series continuity)... except... one of the Starfleet Ensigns putting a shipyard shine on everything happens to be Seven of Nine. And she, in case you haven't been paying attention, doesn't belong there. Or rather, then. Seven, we soon learn, has been recruited by Captain Braxton of the 29th-century time-ship we previously encountered in Season 3's two-parter "Future's End." Her mission is to recover a sabotage device that gives new meaning to the phrase "time bomb," which in our immediate present is destined to destroy the ship. The only way to stop it going off it to prevent the saboteur from putting it in; but since he's a time traveler, his opportunities for doing so undetected are limited only by the occasions when Voyager's shields were down while under attack by an enemy ship. This furnishes us with a look not only at the "prologue to the pilot" timeframe, but also to a firefight with the Kazon back in Year 2. Seven-time Voyager guest Josh Clark reprises his recurring role as Lt. Carey, who for some reason hasn't been seen since Year 1. As in the Season 6 episode "Fury," his appearance in this episode seems to highlight the Year-1-ness of an alternate timeline, even though Lt. Carey remains alive and on the ship until his demise in Season 7. Well-known character actor Bruce McGill, meanwhile, takes over the role of Capt. Braxton previously played by another actor; Dakin Matthews, lately known for his recurring role as a minister on Desperate Housewives, plays the admiral; and Jay Karnes of The Shield plays Braxton's second-in-command.
Warhead is the one where a distress call brings Harry and the Doctor to the rescue of a sentient machine which, after crashing on a desert planet, doesn't remember that it's an artificial intelligence or what its purpose is. It's difficult to understand how anyone even glancing at it can fail to tell that it's a WMD, but somehow the Voyagers manage to beam it on board before they cotton to it. By the time they realize what they're dealing with, the warhead has taken over the Doctor's program and is holding Harry and B'Elanna hostage in sickbay, demanding that the ship take it to its programmed target. While Harry tries to convince the weapon that its mission has been called off, 32 more of the blighters show up and demand that their buddy join them in what would probably become a planetary holocaust. The only hope lies in the ability of an artificial life-form to exceed its programming, and the willingness of the good to sacrifice themselves to prevent a greater evil. Pictured here is the alien who makes an offer he thinks Janeway can't refuse: another of Steve Dennis's four guest roles in Voyager Season 5.
Equinox, Part I is the cliffhanger season-finale, featuring John Savage (late of The Deer Hunter) as Captain Rudy Ransom of the Federation science vessel Equinox, which was pulled into the Delta quadrant like the Voyager was, and has been trying to get home for at least as long. The difference, besides the smaller ship and crew, is that Equinox has had a harder time of it, and (as the episode gradually reveals) that its crew has made more compromises with their conscience along the way. Voyager finds them on the verge of being wiped out by aliens from another dimension and extends its shields around Equinox, buying both ships a little breathing space before, inevitably, the shields fail and the creatures attack. What Ransom isn't telling is that the Equinoxes have brought these attacks on themselves, by fiendishly sacrificing alien life-forms to fuel their voyage home. Janeway wants to try to communicate with the aliens and end the conflict, but Ransom rallies his crewmen for a last push home, leaving the Voyagers in the lurch without shields and with angry aliens swooping down on their heads. The guest cast includes Olivia Birkelund (a five-year veteran of All My Children), Rick Worthy (whose six Trek roles included a recurring character on Enterprise), Steve Dennis (in his fourth guest role this season), and a surprisingly wooden Titus Welliver (late of Deadwood) as the ex-boyfriend who calls B'Elanna "BLT."
For want of a TV in my vicar's quarters in Terre Haute, Indiana, I missed pretty much all of these episodes when they first ran. I remember only seeing a handful of them on television before this current survey, in four-episode installments, via Netflix DVD. But the overall excellence of Season 5 is one of the reasons fans like me were still with the show for another two years. And many of its episodes have a shot at becoming timeless classics of the Star Trek art form.
For more on spaceship-based TV series, see my reviews of Star Trek: TOS seasons one, two, and three; of TNG seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of DS9 seasons one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven; of Voyager seasons one, two, three, and four; and of Enterprise seasons one and two; of Farscape seasons one, two, three, and four; of Firefly; and of Babylon 5 seasons one, two, three, four, and five.