Since the return of Star Trek onto television thanks to Star Trek: Discovery and Star Trek: Picard it would seem as though the franchise has become something that fans inevitably argue over, mostly about what is and isn’t Star Trek. This isn’t anything new, however. Some fans were enraged when the franchise went back in time to explore the beginings of the Federation in Enterprise; some were appalled with the flip-flopping behaviour and morals of the crew of Voyager; some said that it couldn’t be the same because Deep Space Nine didn’t go anywhere and was too dark; and some said The Next Generation was bad just because it wasn’t the original series.
People being angry about some aspect of the series is nothing new. Whilst some of these shows have since gone through something of a resurgence and found critical acclaim since their original airing, Deep Space Nine being a prime example, one that still seems to get a lot of hatred is Voyager.
Voyager gets a lot of hate despite previously being one of the most rewatched Star Trek shows on Netflix. It’s easy to point at things that make the show a little bad in places – Jennifer Lien’s Kes was pretty dull, and Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) was a bit erratic at times – but that’s not what I’m doing here. Instead I’m going to argue that the show is actually better than you’d think.
Now, the crew of Voyager are probably one of the most interesting groups in Star Trek. This doesn’t necessarily mean the best crew (that’s absolutely Deep Space Nine) but interesting at least. Whilst the divisions between the Starfleet and Maquis crew wasn’t massively explored, certainly not to the extent that it might be today, there were still many episodes that focused on this.
Over the seven seasons we saw that despite friendships and romantic relationships between the two groups they often still thought of themselves as two crews, and this led to conflict. Season seven’s ‘Repression’ is a great example of how even towards the end the two crews could still create drama.
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Robert Picardo is easily the best actor on Voyager, and is one of the all time fan favourite characters in the entire franchise. Originally supposed to be a minor recurring character, he made his Emergency Medical Hologram into a being whose journey to sentience was as exciting and engaging as Data’s (Brent Spiner) in The Next Generation. We saw his character learn how to act human, how to form friendships with people. The crew went from thinking of him as a piece of equipment to a real person, and eventually a part of their family who they’d go through hell to protect.
Whilst there are too many great episodes about The Doctor to list here, season three’s ‘Real Life’ saw him programme himself a family, so that he could learn what it’s like to have a wife and children. Thanks to some unfortunate events he has to watch his daughter, who he genuinely loves, die in front of him in what might be the most emotionally moving episode the series ever made.
The Delta Quadrant
The main premise of Voyager, a lone ship lost on the other side of the galaxy, is still one of the best set-ups the franchise has ever given a series. We have a single ship that’s separated from home, with no back-up, no reinforcements, and every species they come across a potential threat. Whilst the show did kind of ignore this sometimes, with an apparent infinite supply of shuttles and torpedos, and the ability to get the ship looking brand new after every battle, there were occasions where the scenario was executed very well and you really felt the stakes were high for the crew.
It also added a lot more mystery to the series, as unless it was a species tha kept coing back to plague them, such as the Kazon, each week viewers would be getting something brand new that’d never been seen on Star Trek before. This led to some exciting and interesting new allies and villains in the show, including the vicious Hirogen, and the terrifying Vidiians.
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The Borg are hands down one of the best alien races in Star Trek, and have become as iconic as Klingons and Vulcans. Despite this, they only featured in half a dozen episodes of The Next Generation, and only appeared in one brief flashback on Deep Space Nine. Voyager, on the other hand, got to have a whole lot more fun with this big bad, as they had to literally pass through Borg territory to get home.
Voyager didn’t over-use the Borg, but managed to feature them a number of times and, in part thanks to the introduction of Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), we got to learn so much more about them. The Borg episodes are easily some of the best Voyager has to offer, and really highlight how great a villain they are.
This isn’t an exhaustive list of what make Voyager a good show, but these are some of its best bits. But there is so much more about the show that’s good – great even. It takes a little while to find its feet, but seasons three onward are very good, and have some brilliant episodes. With the show celebrating its 25th anniversary, maybe now is a good time to give the series another go and discover that there’s actually a lot of good to be found here.