Friday, May 25, 2018

Seeing Star Trek: Voyager Again

In reruns the later iterations of Star Trek have been less conspicuous than the original series, and the franchise's relaunch on television with The Next Generation. By and large their appearances as regular programming have been fewer, briefer, further between.

Star Trek: Voyager, however, has recently returned to the air on BBC America, and the new H & I.

Seeing many of the old episodes again I have had some occasion to rethink my earlier assessment of it.

After all, the show came right on the heels of two fairly well-received editions of Star Trek--some two hundred episodes in a little over seven years, with the second of those shows, Deep Space Nine, the more obviously unique with its space station setting. And those two shows, moreover, were part of a larger boom in TV space opera such as has not been seen before or since--the years when we got shows like Babylon 5 and Lexx and Stargate and Farscape. Simply standing out was that much more of a challenge in that very crowded field, where shows unencumbered by their attachment to an established universe, an established franchise.

Additionally, the show seemed to be trying to do things that Trek had not been great at in the premise it served up, the characters it presented--this crew of mixed Federation and Maquis who had to get along. The Trek shows generally do best when focused on dashing captains and charming exotics, not the regular human drama of which we got more than usual this time around. (Where The Next Generation is concerned, fans fondly remember Picard, Data, Worf--not Riker, though he did, at least, inspire Steak Starbolt.1)

I still think Voyager was not, could not, have been as original, distinctive, fresh as a B-5 or a Lexx, that in many ways it did feel and sound a lot like the other Trek shows that previously covered much of the same ground in more compelling fashion. (Making the big speeches, this ship's officers just didn't seem to have the same gravitas as their predecessors.) And my favorite character, the most consistently sympathetic and entertaining and interesting, remains the Doctor, an opinion in which it seems I'm far from alone.

Still, I find myself more generously disposed to it, more inclined to enjoy those things it got right and more charitable in appraising those things it got wrong.

1. I have a recollection of Riker being told by a woman that he's "seasoned," and replying "Like a good steak?" I haven't been able to trace the precise exchange, and I admit that my memory may be faulty here, but it does seem that Deanna Troi did refer to him as seasoned in Part One of "The Best of Both Worlds" and he replied that "It's a horrible thing to say to a man."

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