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UPN's flagship series ends yet it's still lost in space

By Jeff Bond     June 10, 2001

Years after the U.S.S. Voyager has returned to Earth (a journey that takes 23 years and the lives of 22 crew members), a haunted Kathryn Janeway chooses a course of action that will allow her to travel back to the Delta Quadrant and hasten the ship's returnbut only if she is willing to face the Borg Queen in one final showdown.

STAR TREK: VOYAGER gleaned its highest ratings in four years with a series finale that features the shocking new elements of: a) time travel, b) a baby delivery, c) a spaceship battle with Klingons, d) a fight with the Borg. If those ideas and a rousing speech or two are all you require for a STAR TREK fix, 'Endgame' should fill the bill. If you'd like some actual excitement, drama, satisfying character arcs and resolutions, and a sense that space travel is anything other than a good chance to kick back and relax, better tune in to FARSCAPE.

Media outlets and fans the world over actually seem to be mourning VOYAGER now that it's all over. Television critics who had long since crossed the show off their 'must see' list tuned in to this finale and have largely waxed nostalgic about the series. Yet 'Endgame' is a perfect example of why watching VOYAGER was largely an exercise in frustration.

While 'Endgame' started at 8 p.m. (PST), the actual story didn't begin until about an hour into the broadcast after an aging Janeway confronts her younger self in the Delta Quadrant. Up to that point, audiences are treated to endless scenes of the white-haired Admiral Janeway skulking about a Voyager return-to-Earth anniversary reunion. There we learn the less-than-explosive news that the Doctor has married a blonde bimbo, Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres are married with a grown daughter, Harry Kim is still boring and Seven of Nine and Chakotay are dead. If you've been paying attention to Robert Beltran's performances as Chakotay this year, you may have suspected that the Voyager first officer died a long time ago.

Oh, and Tuvok is going crazy. In fact, he suspects that Janeway is an imposter sent to the Alpha Quadrant by the Borgan interesting idea that is never explored. By the time 'Endgame' finds its way to the 'present' (where the Voyager is still trapped in the Delta Quadrant) we're treated to love scenes between Seven of Nine and Chakotay, as well as banter...lots of banter.

Remember when you'd watch the original STAR TREK and be delighted that they showed a scene or two in which the hardworking Enterprise crew relaxed, played chess or had a drink in their spare time? It gave you the feeling you were watching real people and helped give the show the a depth of character that made it so successful. Later on, producers of STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION had the leeway to do entire episodes (like the charming 'Data's Day') about what happened to its characters when they weren't saving the galaxy.

VOYAGER's downfall was in stealing its crew's mission (instead of exploring and/or policing their part of the galaxy, they're lost and trying to find their way back to Earth), it became a show about leisure time. More than any other TREK incarnation, VOYAGER whiled away its time on the holodeck, with the Doctor in sick bay, or on inter-crew romantic dalliances that went nowhere because the show's producers were determined never to allow continuing plot threads to develop between episodes.

VOYAGER could have been the most psychologically deep STAR TREK show of all, cataloguing the sense of isolation and fear, the conflicts and alliances that would naturally arise when several hundred Starfleet crewmembers were stranded on the other side of the galaxy. Instead, VOYAGER kept it light and uninvolving, and lost an increasing share of its audience every year.

VOYAGER had its moments, and indeed some of its finest outings were shows like 'Someone To Watch Over Me' that were light, charming and comic in tone. But the show never came through on its promise to be, as one producer put it, 'the X-FILES of STAR TREK.' Several early episodes were effectively horror-based, and one, 'Meld,' featured the emotional and psychological fireworks that made the original series so compelling and fun (if over-the-top).

'Endgame' has its moments too, but they're few and far between. It's nice to see Alice Krige return to the role of the Borg Queen, which she originated in STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT. Even in an under-written part, she's about 1000 times creepier and more effective than Susanna Thompson was in the same role. The special effects are spectacular as always, but they have little impact since the future Captain Janeway essentially makes the Voyager invincible with shielding technology borrowed from the BATMAN movies. Jeri Ryan is good in her final scenes as Seven of Nine, making and then breaking a romance with Chakotay when the future Janeway hints that it may end badly.

Beltran, on the other hand, couldn't look more bored. Call him a whiner if you want, but his acidic comments about the VOYAGER writers in the past couple of years have been largely on the mark. It's ridiculous to assume that viewers could be moved by a romance between Chakotay and Seven that's only set up in one previous episode (aired long enough ago that it's likely been forgotten). And the easy sentiment gained from having Torres finally deliver her baby (she seems to have been pregnant for about two years) by no means makes up for the fact that neither she nor hubby Paris were allowed to develop even a half inch of depth over the course of seven seasons.

And despite the technical accomplishment of Kate Mulgrew playing scenes against herself, the fact remains that Janeway has never been a very compelling character. Her ultimate sacrifice in order to get the ship home might be more powerful if the Borg Queen weren't allowed to voice the thought that every Trekker who's ever watched an episode is likely to echo: if the future Janeway succeeds in getting the Voyager home 20 years early, she'll no longer have a motivation for going back in time and everything she accomplishes will no longer have happened.

Having voiced this objection to its own plot, 'Endgame' wraps up with a happy ending anyway. The payoff viewers get is the sight of the Voyager being escorted home by a fleet of Starfleet vesselsnice, but imagine how effective those shots would be if we gave half a crap about the characters onboard her. Oh well. Fans will still tune in for this fall's ENTERPRISE and hope against hope that the Roddenberry universe hasn't completely collapsed.





Grade: C

Reviewed Format: Series Finale

Network: UPN

Original Airdate: May 23, 2001

Guest Cast: Manu Intiraymi, Dwight Schultz, Alice Krige

Writers: Rick Berman, Kenneth Biller, Brannon Braga, Robert Doherty

Director: Allan Kroeker



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