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VOYAGER's Bon Voyage - Part 1

Executive producer Ken Biller shares his thoughts on the seven-year "trek" home.

By Anna Kaplan     June 14, 2001


The VOYAGER crew poses for its final season
© 2001 UPN

Almost nine million people watched the series finale of STAR TREK: VOYAGER, on May 23rd, 2001. In the two-hour episode titled 'Endgame,' the titular ship returned home not once, but twice (using the old alternate timelines gag), thus completing its journey which began with an intergalactic 'wrong turn' nearly seven years ago.


Speculation as to the fate of Voyager, if and when it would get back to Earth, ran rampant throughout the series' last season. Shortly before the airing of the finale, Ken Biller, executive producer of VOYAGER during its seventh year, discussed his tenure on the show and where the series has gone during its lengthy UPN run.

Seven of Nine engages in a little sex farce episode of VOYAGER called 'Body and Soul'


'We are basically done,' says Biller. 'I've seen the first hour of the two-hour [finale]. It looks terrific, and I'm really pleased with it. I think it has been a great year. I am exhausted, so I am relieved that it's just about over, and everything is good.'


Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) gets to live a new life in VOYAGER's 'Workforce'

The writer-producer has been with the show from beginning to end. He wrote his first episode, 'Faces,' for VOYAGER's first season, and managed to work his way up the ranks from staff writer to executive producer. Biller took a brief hiatus from the series at the beginning of its sixth season, only to quickly return as a co-executive producer. He then worked closely with executive producer Brannon Braga, shepherding alternate episodes through sixth season production. During its seventh season, Braga stepped back to work with franchise head honcho Rick Berman on developing the next TREK series, ENTERPRISE, at which point Biller took control of the VOYAGER writing staff.


After looking back on seven years worth of programming, a number of episodes come to mind as Biller's personal favorites. However, he admits his answer will change based on what kind of mood he's in.


'I think that 'Body and Soul' - VOYAGER's little sex farce - was a lot of fun,' says Biller. 'I thought it was just an all-out, slam-bang, fun episode. I think Jeri Ryan [Seven of Nine] was great in it, and it was really well directed by Robbie McNeill [Tom Paris]. That's a favorite of mine on the lighter side.'

VOYAGER gets epic with 'Body and Soul'


On the opposite end of the spectrum is 'Lineage' the episode that dealt with genetic manipulation. In it,' B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) was forced to come to terms with her Klingon heritage, when she discovered her baby would grow up with Klingon traits. She contemplated removing the unborn child's DNA, an issue Biller thought was timely and interesting: 'On the heavier side, I loved the episode 'Lineage.''


'Critical Care,' an episode written by James Kahn that featured the holographic Doctor (Robert Picardo), tackled medical ethics in a way that Biller could truly appreciate.


''Critical Care' certainly had a lot of contemporary resonance for people who negotiate the difficult waters of modern medicine,' says Biller. 'It took the Doctor out of his cushy environment, put him into a situation that he wasn't used to dealing with, and forced him to ask himself some difficult ethical questions. That's an example of my favorite kind of episodes, which have a broader theme, and a broader social context, but that have real resonance for a particular character

During season seven, Biller and his staff produced three two-part episodes. Particularly fond of these types of shows, Biller liked the fact that they allowed him to tackle larger issues.

[IMG5R]

'We did three shows this year with big, epic scope, one being 'Flesh and Blood,' the other being 'Workforce,' and the third being the final, two hour,' says Biller. ''Flesh and Blood' seems like a long time ago now, but that was our first big, two-hour movie earlier in the season, a high concept episode. I thought it was also in the grand tradition of STAR TREK. It takes on themes of slavery, and oppression, and individual rights. On the Janeway [Kate Mulgrew] side of the story, it forced her to confront the ramifications of a lot of the decisions that she made in the Delta Quadrant. I was really happy with 'Flesh and Blood.' 'Workforce,' which aired during February sweeps, had crew members placed on a planet by aliens who removed their memories as they lived other lives as workers. This allowed Janeway, who did not know she was a Starfleet captain, to experience a different life and to have a romance with a real person.


'Is there a simpler kind of life that would be a nicer, happier, more satisfying life than the very pressure-filled, lonely life of a captain on a quest?' asks Biller. 'That's an episode I've wanted to do for several years.'


Another story Biller wanted to tell involved the offspring of Q (John de Lancie). In the third season 'The Q and the Gray,' Q had a son. Biller wanted to see the son as an adolescent wreaking havoc, and have Q turn to 'Aunt Kathy' for help. This became 'Q Two,' and featured both John de Lancie as Q and his son Keegan de Lancie as the young Q.


'Q Two' was one of the episodes LeVar Burton directed during the show's seventh season. Burton, best known to viewers as THE NEXT GENERATION's Geordi La Forge, is a veteran TREK director who may even be under consideration for the next feature film. Biller has nothing but praise for Burton's efforts on VOYAGER.


'LeVar Burton, who directed three episodes for us this season was an absolute pleasure,' says Biller. 'I shouldn't pick favorites, but just in terms of day-to-day working relationship, I had the most fun working with LeVar as a director this season. He did wonderful work for us.'


Not only did Q return, but also other old friends made appearances in season seven. One was Dwight Schultz's Reg Barclay, the inventor of the Pathfinder project that allowed Voyager to communicate with Earth.


For the episode 'Inside Man,' Barclay developed a hologram of himself to interact with the Voyager crew. The Ferengi, however, hijacked the hologram.


'We knew we wanted to keep Barclay and the Pathfinder project alive during the course of the season,' says Biller. 'The real Barclay had to solve the crime. It was a light, fun episode. We brought in old STAR TREK favorites, the Ferengi, and had some wonderful moments.'


Barclay returned again in 'Author, Author,' and for the finale, while other familiar faces appeared in 'Shattered,' a time-travel episode.


'We wanted to do one slam-bang, twisted, time travel episode,' says Biller. 'That allowed us to have not just the cool, science-fiction concept, but also to send Janeway on a little IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE tour of her own life. The Janeway of seven years ago has to learn what her life is going to be and to trust a guy that she had no reason to trust, namely Chakotay [Robert Beltran]. It was fun to see Dr. Chaotica [Martin Rayner]. It was fun to see Seska [Martha Hackett].'


However, in Biller's opinion 'Shattered' did more than just show the audiences variations of the past.


'It hit the theme,' he adds. 'If there was a theme for this season, it was 'what does home really mean? What is important?' I can tell you a couple of things about the finale. It really takes on the big themes of the show. 'What does home mean? Are they home already? Is getting home what's important? Is staying together what's important?''


At the time of the interview, Biller was vague about the finale's themes, but did reveal as much as any diplomatic TV show executive producer usually does about upcoming plot developments.


'It's a big, epic adventure,' Biller reveals. 'It has a real tour-de-force performance from Kate Mulgrew, and it has an unexpected romance that I think is going to be a lot of fun for the audience. Janeway is forced to confront her arch nemesis the Borg Queen [Alice Krige] in a very dramatic way. I think it's going to keep the audience guessing because it is full of twists and turns.'


The audience may not have been guessing quite as much as Biller hoped, seeing how almost the entire plot for 'Endgame' appeared on multiple websites across the Internet. However, this magazine will catch up with some of the series' cast members in order to get their reactions of the finale in second part of our VOYAGER bon voyage coverage.

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