Star Trek: Voyager: Year of Hell   Rewatch 
September 21, 2017 2:40 AM - Season 4, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Welcome back my friends / To the ship that never ends / We've got histories to mend / Come inside, come inside / In the force field there / Sits my wife's lock of hair / As you pass by, take care / Move along, move along

Memory Alpha is more than a website; it's a museum of lost histories:

- This episode's plot was primarily influenced by "Before and After", a third season installment of Star Trek: Voyager that gives a preview of this episode by featuring both the Krenim and hints of a timeline in which Voyager undergoes the "Year of Hell", becoming badly damaged in the process. Episode co-writer Brannon Braga explained, "Although I don't like to do episodes that rely on other episodes for exposition, I loved the phrase 'Year of Hell' that Ken Biller came up with for that episode. I loved the look of the show. I loved the look of a destroyed Voyager. I wanted to do a whole two-parter like that." This episode's other co-writer, Joe Menosky, related, "What Brannon often does is come up with an image before there's even a story idea [....] The imagistic inspiration for 'Year of Hell', without which it wouldn't have been created as an episode, was the ship all wrecked, a great look."

- The reuse of the phrase "Year of Hell" suggested other elements, such as having the two-parter span a year. Brannon Braga remembered, "The notion of having a story that took place over the course of a year [...] I thought was a very fresh structural approach." The event also implied a reuse of the time-meddling Krenim.

- Indeed, considering the Krenim's destructive temporal capabilities led the writers to explore time travel in an unusual way. Joe Menosky recollected, "Brannon said, 'Time is a weapon. What does that mean?' I said, 'What if there was this big Death Star-like weapon, and you target a planet, and it blows it out of the time continuum? What you have done is erased a thread from the time continuum, everything resets, and suddenly the present is different.'" Braga was ultimately of the opinion that Annorax's meddling with time was analogous to an example of alternate history. "If you can imagine, to use an analogy, that the Nazis, after losing the Second World War, invented something like [Annorax's time ship] to erase the Americans from history so that they never existed. It would change the outcome of things," Braga speculated. "But what the Nazis don't realize is that the Americans provided a crucial antibody that helped the Germans fight off a deadly virus, and so they realize they've got to do something else to history. But that doesn't work either. When you pull one thread, another comes undone." By having the time continuum messed around in such a way but without departing from the present, the writers managed to come up with a method of doing a time travel story without actually doing time travel. "That was enough for us to start running with this as an episode," Menosky recalled.

- This episode was originally to have been Star Trek: Voyager's third season finale.

- Before portraying Annorax in this episode's two-parter, Kurtwood Smith previously played the Efrosian Federation President in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and Thrax in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Things Past". He believed his DS9 role was somewhat responsible for his casting here. "I guess the producers liked what I did on Deep Space Nine," he said, "and asked me to come back, which was fine with me." Ultimately, he enjoyed playing Annorax more than he had liked portraying his DS9 character. The actor stated, "Because Thrax was actually in the imagination of another character [...] he wasn't quite as interesting to play as Annorax. He didn't have nearly as much to do."

- Both Joe Menosky and executive producer Jeri Taylor were extremely pleased with the performance that – for this episode and the next – Kurtwood Smith delivered, Menosky later describing Smith as "incredible." Taylor appreciatively stated, "We got a wonderful performance from Kurtwood Smith."

- Brannon Braga observed that the cast of this episode seemed to be enjoying the process of working on the episode. He reckoned, "The actors I think had a lot of fun with it."

- Tuvok actor Tim Russ found that performing a blind Tuvok was somewhat challenging, despite also being refreshingly different from how he usually played the character. The reason he found it difficult was that his instincts, which he could not – on this occasion – allow, were normally to look another performer in the eye when they were speaking to him and to look straight at a member of the production crew if they had called to him from off-camera. "I had to reshoot it or do another take because I looked where I shouldn't have been looking, at the other actors," remembered Russ. He expected that his task of playing this role could have been aided, artificially. "I would almost rather have played it with something covering my eyes, rather than to pretend, because it would have been even more real for me," the actor admitted. "I think it would have changed the performance, if I could not see where I was going. I would have loved to have had that handicap somehow."

- Tuvok was originally to have been more badly wounded in this episode rather than losing only his eyesight. "We were actually going to have him blind and missing a leg," Brannon Braga remembered, "and we were going to do a Forrest Gump-type of digital effect. He was going to have many physical problems, but for production reasons, we ended up with just blindness."

- Tim Russ also believed that this episode's two-parter contains an insightful exploration of the relationship between Tuvok and Seven of Nine. "You see how this bond could have occurred," he noted.

- Actor Robert Picardo was impressed by the visuals in this episode's two-parter. He enthused, "The 'Year in Hell' [sic] two-parter was really like a movie. The opticals were just as exciting as those you see on the big screen."

- While the second scene in this episode was being shot, the principal cast members required for the filming became hysterically amused. "Everyone was there [on the set of Voyager's astrometrics lab] late and we were all a bit punchy," related Seven of Nine actress Jeri Ryan. "All I can remember is, oh, God, Robert Beltran, Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips hopping around the set doing their impressions of Michael Flatley, the Lord of the Dance guy. They were totally out of control. I was laughing so hard that I had tears running down my face."

- The events of this episode take place between March 16th and May 28th, 2374; Day 65 = May 20 (established as Janeway's birthday in this episode), and the episode ends on day 73.

- Although "Before and After"'s depiction of the "Year of Hell" is seen from the viewpoint of Kes – as she travels through time – her timeline in that episode is not related to any timeline seen in this episode, as Kes is obviously no longer aboard the ship at this point (having left in the earlier fourth season installment "The Gift"). Despite the differences between the timeline featured in "Before and After" and the one shown in this episode, Brannon Braga believed that fans would nonetheless understand that this episode shows an event first depicted in "Before and After". "The fans will recognize that that's what this is," Braga predicted. When asked whether Kes' absence from this episode's two-parter was problematic, Braga replied, "Not at all, because the episode also deals with [Annorax's extremely powerful influence on time]."

- According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia, Annorax's name comes from the main character in Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Professor Pierre Aronnax, though parallels can be noted with the character of Captain Nemo from the same story, including Tom Paris at one point referring to Annorax as "Captain Nemo".

- This episode's two-parter proved unforgettable for Star Trek author Kirsten Beyer. Having started pitching stories to the producers by the time this installment was broadcast, she had heard about the idea of this episode from one of the producers. "One of them had been telling me about this concept they were working on…this 'Year of Hell' that would strip the ship down to its bare bones," Beyer reflected. "I was all for it. I was expecting it to last an entire season, which was one of the early discussions."


"Who would've thought that this eclectic group of voyagers could actually become a family? Starfleet, Maquis, Klingon, Talaxian, hologram, Borg... even Mr. Paris."

- The Doctor, giving a long-winded speech at the commissioning of the astrometrics lab


"Captain's log, Stardate 51268.4. This morning's attack destroyed the power grid on deck 11. No casualties this time but the replicator system was badly damaged. We've gone to emergency rations. As a result, the situation has gotten a little worse. Environmental controls continue to fail, seven decks have been rendered uninhabitable and we've had to relocate the crew. Quarters are close, nerves are frayed, and I'm not sure what's more difficult to maintain – Voyager's systems or the crew's morale. What's important... is that we're together, working towards a single goal – survival."

- Janeway


"Sir, you were correct. The Zahl homeworld was the focal point. Its erasure has produced a complete temporal restoration."
"'Complete'?"
"Yes, sir."
"If I told you to count the stars in the cosmos, would the task ever be complete?"
"Sir?"
"Our attempts may be sufficient; they may even be relatively successful, but they will never be complete. Choose your words with more precision."
"My apologies."

- Obrist and Annorax


"Each of you has done your best, but determination alone isn't going to hold this ship together. It's time we faced reality. We've lost nine decks, more than half this ship has been destroyed. Life support is nearly gone; Voyager can no longer sustain its crew. I promised myself that I would never give this order, that I would never break up this family; but asking you to stay... would be asking you to die."

- Janeway


Poster's Log:
This two-parter has been called VOY's finest hour, and while I don't think I agree—I think that would be giving it too many bonus points for grimdark—it's definitely one of the top five must-sees of the show, and even one of the high-water marks for the franchise. Its approach to temporal shenanigans is intriguing, and unusual for Star Trek. The writing does a good job of mixing the big scary action setpieces with quieter character moments, so we get a genuine feel for what this new timeline has done to our now-familiar crew (in much the same way that "Yesterday's Enterprise" did, and arguably more effectively).

The other big factor is Annorax. We have a reliable franchise actor kicking ass with a subtle, menacing, yet also sympathetic performance. But it's also a gripping character concept. Latter-era Trek wrestles with the notion of eternity much less often than TOS did, preferring stories and conflicts that have a more limited, strategic scale. But in Annorax, and his tragic willingness to doom himself to a needle-in-the-haystack quest that potentially never ends, they did Roddenberry's occasional grandiosity proud. (Although it is a tad corny that he literally has the word "year" in his name.) If they had ever done a Voyager movie, it would have pretty much had to have been Star Trek: Year of Hell; otherwise, whatever it would've ended up being (doubtlessly a Seven/Borg-heavy film) wouldn't have had much hope of living up to series-peak installments like this one, in much the same way that none of the TNG movies even come close to a handful of the best TNG episodes.

Gripes? Well, the undetonated torpedo lodged in the hull was used in DS9 (in "Starship Down", which premiered two years prior to this episode, almost to the day), and to better effect. A specific deck exploding is…cool to see, but hard to explain. (I partly give it a pass because it allows Picardo to have one of those great seal-the-hatch-and-doom-your-crewmates moments.)

And more fundamentally, a case could be made that metaknowledge of the series' refusal to really turn the screws on this marooned and supposedly-deprived ship (in the manner that Moore wanted to, and that BSG did) gives this two-parter a slightly perfunctory, perhaps defensive quality—not helped by the reset button, which you know will be hit on your first viewing. But that's really a topic for Part II, and at any rate, it's still a damn effective two-parter in spite of that.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
"We may regard the present state of the universe as the effect of its past and the cause of its future. An intellect which at a certain moment would know all forces that set nature in motion, and all positions of all items of which nature is composed, if this intellect were also vast enough to submit these data to analysis, it would embrace in a single formula the movements of the greatest bodies of the universe and those of the tiniest atom; for such an intellect nothing would be uncertain and the future just like the past would be present before its eyes."
- Pierre Simon Laplace, A Philosophical Essay on Probabilities (Laplace's demon)
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (24 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Is this thread for both parts or just Part 1? I forget which two-parter is the outlier.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:15 AM on September 21, 2017


Just part 1. We were going to do "The Killing Game" as a single post, though I wonder if we also want to consider "Dark Frontier" as one thing, too, since apparently it was intended as a special, "Event" episode? But it also makes sense for this one to be two threads since it was originally gonna be a season-ending cliffhanger anyway.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:51 AM on September 21, 2017


It'll be pretty tough to keep discussion of the two episodes separate, especially because I went ahead and watched both last night, and there are a lot of things set up in the first part that pay off in the second. But noting that is part of my appreciation of how well this two-parter is done; there's really not a dull or superfluous moment. Even the bit at the start where they're having a little party to celebrate the opening of the new astrometrics lab works on a number of levels; not only does it make sense that they'd upgrade their astrometrics for the long voyage, and that Seven would be qualified to be part of that because of her Borg knowledge, but it also gives Seven a place of her own to work in, which will serve storytelling going forward. In addition, it also contrasts with the adaptations that the crew will have to make during the YoH, not as improvements but just to cope with the losses in crew members and ship resources. Another neat bit was showing the change in the Krenim officer who hails the ship at the beginning, from blustering but ineffectual to arrogant with power. And, of course, Kurtwood Smith's performance was perfectly modulated, which is very effective in making Annorax's irrationality more striking, including his unexplained obsession with Kyana Prime and that lock of hair in the glass pyramid that's his version of Captain Queeg's ball bearings. I was only really familiar with Smith from Red Foreman and Clarence Boddicker, plus of course the Federation president in STVI and Thrax in "Things Past", which was in its own way a time travel story with a difference.

And the story also works well on the level of being metatext about the show itself, and the changes that the showrunners make in it and how that affects things going forward and can even cause some reconsideration of things that have already happened. That's happened on DS9, both when Bashir was revealed to have been impersonated by a changeling (with some dispute over just when the switch took place) and when he was revealed to have been genetically reengineered as a child, which cast some of the things that he'd said about his past in previous episodes in a different light. This would have been a very different episode if Kes had still been on the crew, since as we saw in "Time and Again", her mysterious space-pixie sense seemed to include knowledge of alternate timelines, plus she'd also probably have some knowledge of the Krenim from the events of "Before and After." That would have patched up one of my minor quibbles about the episode, which is that Kes was going to make an exception to the Temporal Prime Directive and write up what she remembered about the Krenim for Janeway; this is handwaveable by virtue of the possibility that Voyager had been subject to a timeline alteration before they met the Krenim in this episode that had wiped out their previous knowledge of the Krenim and their weapons. It also could have set up a scene where they think that they already know the phase variance of the chroniton torpedoes that the Krenim use, get their shields all ready in advance... and still take damage, because the revised Krenim use a slightly different frequency. But, it's all moot anyway, because of the decisions made.

And so it is for the show in general; I'm sure that, for example, the high cost of the pilot made some episodes that they might have otherwise done, or done differently, out of the realm of possibility. Garrett Wang was going to be taken off the show, but People magazine declares him one of the sexiest men alive, and Jennifer Lien gets the boot instead, and Seven gets the scene with the torpedo. Und so weiter. The reset button doesn't completely reset things, as we see with our obsessing over these episodes a couple of decades later. Time is flowing like a river to the sea.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:41 AM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Chronitons, hands down.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Krenim are major figures in the Star Trek Online metaplot: there was a Year of Hell themed lockbox, Krenim ships, even a Zahl one. Krenim are also available as crew members. Basically, it's a lot like how the Voth were a one-off on the show, and season-long antagonists, except the Krenim stuck around for multiple arcs. (An awful lot of stuff in STO is Voyager derived.)

Ongoing Counts: Suspended due to the impending reset button.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 141.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken.

Notes:
* Before we get started...

Just part 1. We were going to do "The Killing Game" as a single post, though I wonder if we also want to consider "Dark Frontier" as one thing, too, since apparently it was intended as a special, "Event" episode?

My personal preference would be to talk about Dark Frontier in one post - IIRC, that's how I watched it on the air, too. It was sort of a special at the time. I'm not the one doing the work though, and I'll be happy with whatever you offer. :)

* Year of Hell is extremely ambitious.

I want to lead with the good, because Year of Hell is legitimately pretty good: they were trying to be big and operatic, and I think they made something that's pretty entertaining.

Probably my favorite bits are actually smaller character beats:

- Janeway telling Chakotay to recycle her present. It's a small thing, and makes no sense, (recycling something should require unthinkable amounts of power, nearly as much as making it in the first place), but the sentiment was suitably unhappy.

- The Doctor closing the hatch on the two crewmen who didn't make it, then having a bit of a breakdown later over it. That was some solid stuff.

- Blind Tuvok and Seven becoming close friends. Those two have a lot in common, and Tuvok treats her with respect, so I really liked seeing them bond. (Can't blame Russ for wanting something to help him not look at people though. I would have a rough time not looking at folks when I'm talking too.)

* We have a good villain.

I also do like Annorax. I pretty much always offer Voyager casting glowing praise, and this time's no different: Kurtwood Smith nails it. We don't know what his tragedy is in this episode, but it's not too hard to guess. His dressing down of his subordinate about precision was spot-on, just the right mix of determined and maybe crazy. Plus, this follows the Trek tradition that we should sympathize with everyone, even the antagonists.

* That said, I do have some notes.

First up: the Kes thing.

It also could have set up a scene where they think that they already know the phase variance of the chroniton torpedoes that the Krenim use, get their shields all ready in advance... and still take damage, because the revised Krenim use a slightly different frequency. But, it's all moot anyway, because of the decisions made.

This is where I was at with this, yeah. I'm willing to roll with it anyway because we can plausibly speculate away, it's just a touch sloppy. (Like the warp plasma container in Distant Origin - the writers clearly aren't referencing notes on this stuff, just going off memory.)

* The impending reset button undercuts some of this for me.

The episode this most resembles for me is Yesterday's Enterprise, as was mentioned in the post. I didn't mind the reset button in that episode, but I do mind it here, and I've spent some time thinking about why. In the end, I think it comes down to that I don't see why Janeway was pushing through contested space in the first place. I mean, they talk about this: astrometrics revealed that Krenim space was on a closer line to home, shaving some years off.

However, I'm not sure that it makes sense to cut through in the altered timeline, where the Krenim clearly have the ability to cripple or even destroy Voyager. I mean... I'd rather spend an extra five years on the trip than be blown up. So that decision makes everything else feel... dunno, sillier than Yesterday's Enterprise, where all the Enterprise-D did was scan an anomaly, (something Starfleet ships do all the time).

* The time weapon gives Annorax power some gods would envy.

There was a bit in Doctor Who someplace about how some civilizations worshiped beings less powerful than the Time Lords. Annorax has that vibe: his weapon is just shy of the sort of shenanigans the Q do. Conceptually, it's very interesting, but it opens up some serious Pandora's Box stuff about the fundamental nature of reality in ways that I don't believe Voyager is equipped to address. (Using time as a weapon is actually further explored with the Krenim in STO, but it's as problematic there, I think. They just get into how and why some more, having more than two hours for it.)

So... I guess overall my verdict is that Year of Hell is very good, but certainly not my favorite Voyager outing because it's not framed well enough - couple plot holes needed filled in, and it telegraphs the reset button pretty hard from the get-go. Still totally worth a watch though, and still a very good effort on their part - if all of Voyager had tried this hard, I would've stuck with it the first time.
posted by mordax at 3:47 PM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


A few things that mordax's comment kicked loose in my head:

- As Seven is guiding Tuvok through the corridors, she moves small bits of hanging debris out of his way. It's not as if any of this stuff would hurt him, but it's a little bit of consideration that shows how she's changing over the year.

- Another thing that I miss about Kes being around is not just that there would have been better continuity with "Before and After", but that she might have been able to directly sense temporal incursions with the space-pixie sense, and drawn some parallels with Guinan's similar ability in "Yesterday's Enterprise." It's not even out of the realm of probability that she may have been able to make contact with Guinan in the AQ, if Guinan had sensed that someone was mucking around with the timelines, even if the effects didn't go all the way to the AQ. (Which is in itself a big unanswered question; if the changes in the existence or nature of particular civilizations were detectable in other quadrants, did their knowledge change with the changes in the DQ? Just how far did the effects of the Retcon Cannon reach?) We don't really know how telepathy works in Trek WRT range; I think that there is some limit on how far the effects go, but the kind of senses that Kes and Guinan have demonstrated may not be subject to distance decay, since they seem tied to reality itself. Certainly Guinan is potentially more powerful than she seems, in some fashion, since she intimidated Q when they met.

- I dig the reference to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9 - 1st Impression - Part 2" in the above-the-cut section.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:28 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


However, I'm not sure that it makes sense to cut through in the altered timeline, where the Krenim clearly have the ability to cripple or even destroy Voyager. I mean... I'd rather spend an extra five years on the trip than be blown up. So that decision makes everything else feel... dunno, sillier than Yesterday's Enterprise, where all the Enterprise-D did was scan an anomaly, (something Starfleet ships do all the time).

You may have identified here another reason why this story, to me, feels like it has a perfunctory element. VOY seems to use the "should we go around or cut through" device quite often and quite randomly, following one choice or the other however it suits the writers' preference of the moment. And here, I imagine they could have figured out a way to make it make sense—say, the crew figures "Bah, Krenim space ain't so vast" and they get halfway into it when suddenly it becomes hundreds of times vaster and they're stuck in the middle of it. Woulda been scarier too.

The reset button doesn't completely reset things, as we see with our obsessing over these episodes a couple of decades later.

How meta, yet how true. Especially of time-travel stories, which have a funny way of changing as our perceptions change (to paraphrase Bruce Willis in the time-travel story 12 Monkeys).
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:00 AM on September 22, 2017 [4 favorites]


You may have identified here another reason why this story, to me, feels like it has a perfunctory element. VOY seems to use the "should we go around or cut through" device quite often and quite randomly, following one choice or the other however it suits the writers' preference of the moment.

Yeah. I think this is exacerbated by the fact that the writers don't really think about scale at all, even to maintain internal consistency within a single script - someone's space might take like two years to go around, but two weeks to cut through, meaning Voyager hits a whole lot of thin wedges from exactly the wrong angle. I wish they'd had a map they were filling in as they wrote or something, to keep stuff reasonable.

The reset button doesn't completely reset things, as we see with our obsessing over these episodes a couple of decades later.

The other thing it adds for me is this sense that there are a bunch of other stories we never see because they never happened in the main continuity. (This idea is explored in interesting ways in Rick & Morty lately.) That's officially true in Trek - see Parallels - but the mechanism for it is inconsistent, which leads to either interesting discussion or madness depending.
posted by mordax at 10:54 AM on September 22, 2017 [2 favorites]


Oh, and one more thing--when they show the galaxy map in astrometrics, the route they show for Voyager has them dog-legging around the galactic core, which as we know, Bob, would be impassible for even a well-shielded ship, due to the sheer density of stars and resultant extreme amounts of radiation, and probably also a supermassive black hole right at the center. (Star Trek V had them going there for Sha-Ka-Ree, but that was just one of the many dumb things about that movie.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:52 PM on September 22, 2017 [1 favorite]


As we've discussed before, the reset thing doesn't really bother me much at all since the kind of tight continuity keeping major developments in order for the length of a series wasn't really a thing back when Voyager aired, it would make the episodic structure unworkable, and, in the end, may not prove much more satisfactory unless many other changes would accompany the continuity. I mean massive damage to Voyager should suggest some real loss of crew, including bridge people, which means changes in cast.

It also suggests strongly that the show would be almost nothing but a continuity driven show, as all those side explorations and other stories would have to come second, if at all, to the needs of continuity. Whatever such a show would have been, maybe Battlestarlite, it wouldn't have been Trek at some point as it would only be about surviving, not all the ideals Roddenberry instilled in TOS. There too is something ridiculous about the idea of Voyager surviving for long in hostile territory that would lend the whole concept something of a hard to accept air, even here the idea Voyager could regularly undergo major conflict and still be operable for the length of time suggested is a bit hard to swallow. So, for me, the resets are fine as the suggestion of alternatives is enough to fulfill the interest in the concepts being put forward.

I can see why this story is considered one of Voyager's best, conceptually it is as good as almost anything Trek's done, but, as mentioned above, that involves leaning heavily towards a darker side of the franchise, something fans love, but which arises in part from it being an alternative to the more usual positivity the shows offer, with the alternative informing the other and being informed by it in turn. A Trek show that was all dark and violent would be a different thing entirely.

As much as I can see why this story is so well regarded, like everyone else here it seems, I don't hold it among my very favorite stories Voyager did. Partly because it does feel a bit rushed, or perhaps doesn't build in an entirely satisfactory manner, with the dramatic shift not allowing for a feeling of the threat developing or seeing it enacted, but just as a result. That the conditions shifted so early on in the episode too makes their drawn out countdown of days feel a bit off, as it is hard to piece together why either Voyager isn't in better condition longer or isn't destroyed earlier. The in-between state is somewhat hard to accept.

Still, it is a damn compelling idea and well handled overall by everyone involved, so those criticisms are just to point at why it isn't one of my very top favorites, it's not to say it isn't a story I rate highly in Trek lore.

Braga remains good at coming up with ideas that take the franchise in interesting directions, not all of them are successful of course, but his contributions are considerable none the less. His gift for pacing and visualizing how all the characters are affected and interact also remains strong, as this single episode feels like it has several episodes worth of subject matter stuffed into it without being hard to follow or unsatisfying. As I mentioned, I would have perhaps like it drawn out even more, but that isn't a complaint on how much there was here, just how little space they had to work with in an episodic structure.

The Kes thing is a little weird, even more so for me since when I first watched these episodes I had no knowledge of the behind the scenes information, so the story comes off as being connected to Kes' previous encounter with the Krenim, which makes forgetting she gave them information on the encounter harder to understand since it seemed like a purposeful set up to this story. That said, it was really clever to have Seven find the unexploded timetorpedo this time as if making concrete the idea of her taking over Kes' spot on the ship. It lends an added sense of meaning to their briefly crossing paths earlier, where Kes saved Seven's life. There is a strange meta quality to that interaction, where Kes reaches in to Seven's body with her mind, before eventually becoming a disembodied spirit herself. Seven's presence being so determinedly physical adds an extra sense of dualism to the substitution that is oddly affecting, in part due to behind the scenes suppositions about the cause of Lein's departure/Ryan's arrival adding to the onscreen representation of it all. Seven taking Kes' place in providing the frequency information adds an extra touch to that I liked.

Mulgrew is really good in some of the scenes here. It's some of her best work in the series so far. It is even more satisfying since it was balanced by a really interesting performance by Kurtwood Smith as Annorax. Both went in some more unexpected directions with their interpretations of the emotions they were experiencing at times, with Smith playing down his tone towards suggesting a sort of rueful necessity of action and Mulgrew often leaning to more interiority rather than dynamic expression as well. Each flared up in some moments, but seemed to also retreat into contemplation of their responsibilities at crucial moments that gave their orders a feeling of being pulled from them without their full desire, more a feeling they are both caught serving the necessity of events rather than dictating them.

The rest of the cast, and guest cast, is also in fine form here. Seven and Tuvok's interactions are touching for being so understated in performance and not being overexplained in dialogue. MacNeill has a couple good moments, Beltran is quite good in his scenes with Mulgrew, that pairing often brings out some of his best supporting work and Dawson, Wang, and Phillips get at least some brief time to shine as well. I wasn't as happy with the writing for the doctor, it sometimes seemed more than needed like his recounting of events to Paris over the crew men he closed the hatch on, and the "I wrote a speech" thing in its predictable excess. Less would have been more in both instances, the latter for just belaboring the obvious and the former for explaining what didn't need to be explained in detail. Picardo was fine, but the doctor's role here felt a bit out of balance with the rest of the cast and the events of the episode.

Adding the astrometrics lab was a big plus for the show. It finally added an interesting new visual sense to Voyager and gave them another set for dialogue more interesting than the ready room or mess hall. That and the renovated cargo bay that came along with Seven's arrival are nice bonuses one can chalk up to her addition to the crew. Kes' gardening thing was nice, but they couldn't do much with it or give it the same sense of space the Astrometrics lab provides. I also was happy to see that at least some of the charts they showed captured three dimensional space, something that always annoyed me in their usual "we have to go around or through" debates which only showed alien territories in 2D. I'm still far from convinced most of that territory stuff makes good sense in any way for the series, but at least now they can display the information more engagingly.

The episode ended on a decent cliffhanger in the sense of what happens next, but the decision to go that route is one of the things that did feel a bit inadequately developed, coming as it does from the compression of events. That is more to suggest there might have been a way to be more effective rather than to suggest it didn't work though.

I'm excited to see what happens next now that Voyager itself is done for. It'll be fun seeing the series pick back up with the crew in escape pods and shuttles!
posted by gusottertrout at 1:17 AM on September 23, 2017


As we've discussed before, the reset thing doesn't really bother me much at all since the kind of tight continuity keeping major developments in order for the length of a series wasn't really a thing back when Voyager aired

I'm going to assume that you're playing devil's advocate here, since, if you haven't mentioned Babylon 5 yourself, other people have. DS9 had already started moving toward arcs longer than two episodes, as well as coming back to characters and situations introduced in previous episodes over several seasons. (They didn't just do one Mirror Universe episode, they did several.)

it would make the episodic structure unworkable, and, in the end, may not prove much more satisfactory unless many other changes would accompany the continuity. I mean massive damage to Voyager should suggest some real loss of crew, including bridge people, which means changes in cast.

Not seeing the problem with that. For one thing, the entire premise of the show implies a series-long arc: they are getting from point A to point B. It's a relatively simple premise, but it's one that implies constant change, at least of location, which in turn changes the nature of the races that they encounter. If they didn't want there to be an essential change in their circumstances, they should have kept the ship in the Alpha Quadrant. Also, with the exception of Seven and one more ex-Borg that we'll meet in a later season, and arguably Naomi Wildman, the only crew that weren't on Voyager or Val Jean from the beginning were Neelix and Kes, who were recruited within a few days of the ships arriving in the DQ. That's weird. (For all the mercenary nature and general nastiness of the revisionist-historical version of Voyager in "Living Witness", at least there were hints of their recruiting more crew from some of the races that they encountered.) They don't have the option of rotating Starfleet crew off and onto the ship as any AQ ship would, but that doesn't mean that they couldn't take on the occasional misfit that they encounter, at least more than twice after the first episode. It's happened in every series besides Enterprise anyway, since some actors leave and are replaced anyway, so they may as well bake it into the show. (If ENT had lasted longer, it wouldn't even be the exception, as Jeffrey Combs would have joined the regular cast.)

It also suggests strongly that the show would be almost nothing but a continuity driven show, as all those side explorations and other stories would have to come second, if at all, to the needs of continuity.

Again, not really seeing this, as there's no reason why you can't have stand-alone episodes in the middle of longer arcs. What you'd lose is the ability to show any episode from any season in any order, which is what UPN wanted because they wanted to put the more popular episodes in heavy rotation to draw in more viewers. We can argue as to whether this was ever a good idea, but history has shown just how well it worked out.

Whatever such a show would have been, maybe Battlestarlite, it wouldn't have been Trek at some point as it would only be about surviving, not all the ideals Roddenberry instilled in TOS.

I've got a few things to say about that. First, Trek isn't just Roddenberry or people who tried to be Roddenberry; even TOS wasn't solely Gene's baby. (It wouldn't have been the same show, or remotely as popular, without D.C. Fontana or Gene L. Coon.) Second, Roddenberry arguably wasn't Roddenberry after TOS' heyday in the sixties; the first Trek movie and the first few seasons of TNG bear that out. (Many people assert that Roddenberry was much less involved in TNG than people believe, and that a lot of the problems in the early season were due to his lawyer, Leonard Maizlish, making decisions that reflected his own tastes and biases rather than Roddenberry's, but either way, the results compared poorly to the show of twenty years earlier.) Third, it makes sense that a crew that was all the way across the galaxy from the safety, security, and comforts of the Federation might possibly have to compromise those high ideals, which in turn calls into question those ideals and how dependent they are on an accident of history and place that can't necessarily be taken for granted. (Again, DS9 already did this, and even TOS occasionally touched on the notion that sometimes hard decisions needed to be made by Kirk and Co. and others.) And, finally, if it's a different show from previous Treks, so what? Those shows have already been done.

One more point about a strictly episodic format: not only have there already been hundreds of previous Trek episodes in other series, but there are also other syndicated space opera series competing with VOY for stories. Somewhere in The Fifty-Year Mission, someone comments that one of the problems that the showrunners were starting to run into is that someone would submit a script or story idea, and they'd have to reject it because it had already been done. The benefit of longer arcs and season-long or even series-long stories is that it takes you off the treadmill of having to find completely original, or even halfway-original, stories to do.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:21 PM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


No, not playing devil's advocate, but, yes, I was aware of Babylon 5 and DS9, and some few others that leaned more heavily on continuity, but those shows are not what UPN was wishing to emulate with Voyager. Babylon 5 didn't draw many viewers and was viewed as largely a failure in terms of ratings, while DS9 continued to do well as a syndicated show when it moved to a more continuity heavy approach, UPN, like any network, would hope for better than matching syndication numbers in viewership. That doesn't mean whatever viewers did watch a continuity driven Voyager wouldn't perhaps enjoy it as some did DS9, it just wasn't a norm for the time for more reasons that go beyond what may or may not be seen as preferable storytelling methods in current hindsight.

The problem, such as it might have been, with continuity regarding cast is more an opinion based on the how people respond to the believability factor with the show as it is. If things like the reset button idea where knowing Voyager really isn't going to be destroyed are hard to accept as is, then adding hull deterioration and other problems without threatening the main cast or the existence of the ship is essentially putting a surface dressing on the issue for the big picture, while maybe sacrificing more "redshirt" types from the crew to prove the seriousness of the project in hopes of the audience maintaining the same suspension of disbelief.

Continuity driven shows can do many different things of course, but the story of Battlestar Voyager would be fairly demanding of a number of changes in tone and method given the extreme nature of their circumstance, or would otherwise be a bit pointless or weak in exploring the "hard version" of the premise anyway. There's a trade off involved, and one I'm not so sure they were on the wrong side of. Battlestar Voyager could have been good of course, but I have no reason to believe it'd be better than Galactica, which puts on an impressive surface display, but is ultimately less appealing to me than the Voyager we already have.

I agree, Roddenberry is't synonymous with Trek, it was just a short hand way of saying moving towards Battlestar Voyager is moving away from many of the things lots of fans liked about TOS and TNG and which Voyager continued to explore. I don't think a lack of stronger story continuity was the problem for the show as much as showrunner continuity, or just having a more developed idea of who the characters are and what the focus of the show should be.

Your point about duplication is a good one and I can't disagree with your overall suggestion that if they had been more continuity driven the show could have been better since there is really nothing there to argue against other than a supposition like the one I'm making, but from a different perspective. If one sets aside all the UPN, showrunner, ratings, and associated issues that led to Voyager being what it is, then all any of us can do is speculate based off of differing sets of assumptions and values.

Assuming Voyager would last seven seasons as a heavy continuity show may or may not be true, for example, so assumptions made about episodes within a limitless frame is more about the ideal of a possible show. In a similar way speculating such a thing couldn't work is leaning heavily on what did exist rather than what could, a choice not less imaginative, just relying on a different conceptual frame. An imaginary Voyager show has the advantage of there being no actual episodes to view, so the imagined ones can be as good as one likes. In defending Voyager as an episodic show you're closer to being stuck with what we actually have, which to many isn't that great, so imagining something other sounds even better.

My belief is that Voyager as an episodic show but with better showrunning sounds more appealing than the discussed heavy continuity versions with Maquis insurrections, Voyager stores depleting, and weakening ship structure and reserves. I can't prove that, as there is no proof for it and even if there were we could reasonably disagree on our responses to the same material. It just sounds dreary to me and less open to some of my favorite episodes of the series, or really most series since ongoing continuity driven shows even today have a lot of problems that aren't much of an improvement over episodic tv other than the drive to see what happens next.

Continuity driven shows, if they aren't planned out carefully in advance, often feel like a complete waste of time since there is so much more involved to get to a stupid ending, gutting everything you've seen up to that point. Battlestar Galactica was compelling tv for a while, but ultimately felt empty to me and didn't even have significantly better character continuity than Voyager, just more "what happens next" stuff. That isn't what I want to see but others obviously do now in the streaming on demand age. If continuity Voyager was as good as the higher quality shows of the current era, minus production improvements that have occurred since their time, then I'm sure I might like it better than the Voyager we have. I'm just not willing to make the leap to assuming that's what we'd have ended up with, feeling it as or more likely it'd be something no better or worse than the Voyager already have.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:26 PM on September 23, 2017


those shows are not what UPN was wishing to emulate with Voyager...moving towards Battlestar Voyager is moving away from many of the things lots of fans liked about TOS and TNG

Which was the problem, because there were a whole bunch of shows in the nineties and early aughts that were trying to be the next TNG. As much as UPN wanted and wished that they could have used TNG or something just as successful to launch and sustain their new network, it was never going to be the late eighties again. The show really needed to try something different, not just in terms of its story and setting but in its format. The Roddenberry ethos, in its purest and most basic form, is about going out and taking risks because that's ultimately the only basis for real growth... and it's not only applicable to the show's setting but to the show itself.

And if it seems like I'm leaning a little hard on this, it's because we're literally on the eve of a new installment of the franchise, and my real fear is not that it will be too different from the previous installments, but too similar. (There are of course many fans who feel just the opposite, and many of them are flocking to, fuck me Agnes, The Orville. They're welcome to it.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:25 PM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


(There are of course many fans who feel just the opposite, and many of them are flocking to, fuck me Agnes, The Orville. They're welcome to it.)

My girlfriend and I are really enjoying The Orville and we're excited for Discovery. It's possible to enjoy both. Ultimately what we seem to miss most of all is Meetings In Space. Ready Room, Observation Lounge, Wardoom! "We can't afford to start second guessing ourselves." All the greatest hits!
posted by Servo5678 at 3:59 PM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


And if it seems like I'm leaning a little hard on this, it's because we're literally on the eve of a new installment of the franchise, and my real fear is not that it will be too different from the previous installments, but too similar.

Not at all, I find this a useful and kinda significant question, I mean maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but for thinking about media. I think one of the differences between Discovery, as I understand it, and a continuity heavy Voyager is in the overall construction of each show. For Discovery the discussed concept is that of a closed mini-series like design, where each story will have a planned arc to it with an ending present from the beginning, and in a form more complete than Voyager reaches home, a vague notion that could be fulfilled any number of ways.

With Voyager the problem of being heavy on continuity in an open ended show means there isn't a clear story arc that has its own overall design, but becomes more a set of requirements and restraints to be followed without an well developed plan on how do to that or, more importantly, the point of it all. Take, for example, the wacky excess of shuttles we've been keeping track of that Voyager obviously couldn't contain. We can retcon in theories about how they keep sending out so many shuttles when Chakotay seems to destroy them with such vigor, while a continuity heavy show would have to keep track of the inventory and write shows correspondingly. That seems fine on the surface, but in an open ended show means a shuttle destroyed in season one is something they'll have to account for in a season five if they get that far. This burdens every dramatic decision the show will have to make, without giving any clear sense of what they'll eventually need to make the series work.

Not blowing up shuttles makes it more difficult to strand characters on planets, removes a dramatic element, and/or requires some further explanation to show how they retrieved the shuttle that is not all that promising or likely much more realistic than the problem with them they already have. It's asking the writers/showrunner to make some sort of vague calculation on whether it's worth it dramatically to destroy a shuttle now or save it up in case they need it later for some unclear reason to come. The same would hold true for most elements of the ship and the characters. Damaging Voyager means having to write every subsequent episode with that damage in mind and still provide some way for the ship to escape total destruction and remain a viable vessel for their continuing journeys. In a shorter closed series, that's doable and can potentially pay off, but in an open series that's likely trouble.

The character issue could also create unintended consequences. If the Maquis are shown as rebellious how does Janeway deal with them throughout the show? With a limited cast this puts some serious constraints on the writers and/or how we see the character. If, for example, the Maquis take over the ship it means the first female captain to have a series has failed to some extent and potentially lost her ship to a guy. That doesn't read well, and it would effectively sideline Chakotay or Janeway from being an equal integral part of the series following the incident however it was resolved.

Even discontent among the Maquis would conceivably limit Janeway's option for how to deal with any phenomenon or threat they might encounter as she couldn't easily leave the ship in Chakotay's hands without raising reasonable criticism of her abilities. It would parcel off the crew into two or three camps, with Neelix and Kes perhaps remaining independent, making each encounter more difficult to write as there would only be three Starfleet members and two Maquis main cast members to balance in whatever efforts were undertaken.

They'd have to rely much more heavily on secondary cast members to carry the action in tense situations, defeating something of the purpose of the main cast as being the identifiable characters for the audience. Bigger budgets or changing some of the crew could alleviate some of that problem, but that's starting to ask for a different show than could be made under the conditions of the time they worked under. Nothing wrong with that in theory, but it is asking more than could be delivered I think.

Just to be clear, my concern is of a continuity heavy show, not a better light continuity one which is what less UPN interference and a good showrunner should have brought to the series. I think following something like the Buffy path of continuing character change and some shorter generalized story arcs revolving around the sections of space they're in while still focusing primarily on an episodic structure makes fine sense. It's something Voyager already tried to do at times, sorta anyway, but more than that feels like it'd provide more burden than reward.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:51 PM on September 23, 2017


That seems fine on the surface, but in an open ended show means a shuttle destroyed in season one is something they'll have to account for in a season five if they get that far.

My problem with this entire reasoning is best summed up by Halloween Jack earlier. Paraphrasing: why pitch a story where things should work this way if they don't want to do that? Why posit 'blended crew' and just drop it? Why posit 'finite resources' and not offer the slightest handwave about unlimited shuttles, something like, 'boy, sure is good we traded for shuttle parts/fixed the industrial replicator/etc.?'

If I agreed with you, (and while I don't, I don't think your position is unreasonable), it'd still be on them for promising a style of show they couldn't deliver. They should've just had Voyager on a five to ten year exploratory mission with occasional resupply, like TOS. There was no call to make it seem like they were going to carry out a series-long trek through hostile territory if they couldn't even be bothered to put together a map as they went, basically.

(I write, and that constraint you're talking about is just part of the deal - as a story progresses, everything should be more constrained by prior events, otherwise the audience knows nothing matters. This is, not coincidentally, the main issue with Voyager: we know nothing has any heft because almost of it will be forgotten in a week.)
posted by mordax at 8:09 PM on September 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


My problem with this entire reasoning is best summed up by Halloween Jack earlier. Paraphrasing: why pitch a story where things should work this way if they don't want to do that? Why posit 'blended crew' and just drop it? Why posit 'finite resources' and not offer the slightest handwave about unlimited shuttles, something like, 'boy, sure is good we traded for shuttle parts/fixed the industrial replicator/etc.?'

I agree with y'all on that aspect for the most part. It, to me, is a mistake in either failing to think through the pitch or in at least making more of a nod to some follow through in some light continuity.

I also agree with what you say about writing constraints generally, I just don't think they could readily do a heavy continuity Voyager under the conditions they were working in at the time. (Though perhaps they thought they could when they started. The Bujold Voyager did look to be a different concept in a lot of ways, a colder more distant captain being chief among them, so I have to speculate they made some radical decisions on the direction of the show only after getting underway, so to speak.)

I'm not so sure about the "nothing matters" part of the equation though since that is pretty common to shows where threats are present. We know things won't really go haywire as the show airs again next week with the same cast, we just want to believe its possible with perhaps some dire show changing event at the end of a season when a cast member's contract is not going to be picked up. It's just we all have differing levels around how readily we'll suspend our disbelief or around how important that idea might be I think.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:25 PM on September 23, 2017


Though perhaps they thought they could when they started.

That may be, yes. Their working conditions sound pretty chaotic, and it can be hard to tease out how much of it is 'they're sorta clueless,' and how much is 'suit interference.' (IMO, both things played huge parts in Voyager not clicking for me when it aired.)

I'm not so sure about the "nothing matters" part of the equation though since that is pretty common to shows where threats are present.

Mm. This isn't really an all or nothing thing though: like, on B5, we all know the station's probably not going to be destroyed unless it's a series or season finale. On most TV shows in general, we understand that the leads aren't going to be replaced midstream very often, and hardly ever outside a season end just due to contract structures. So in one sense, it's true that we know that violent conflicts aren't going to kill anybody in the credits and so on.

But that doesn't mean that conflicts on a show can't have dramatic consequences. For instance... on DS9, Kira and Damar end up working together for an extended period of time despite hating each other, and being on opposite sides of an ethnic cleansing some years earlier. They're never played as friends: Kira hates him the entire time, and she makes a point of rubbing his nose in just how much she thinks the Cardassians have this coming. The relationship is much more interesting and believable than Janeway, Chakotay and the Ambiguous Bathtub Planet.

Or like, Nog actually grows up on DS9. He goes from 'teenage miscreant' to 'respectable officer.' We get to see his actual character development occur. It's arguable that this happens for a couple characters on Voyager: I'd concede that the Doctor, Tom Paris and Seven all get character growth, but it feels like the exception where it could've been the norm. Harry's always still Harry, you know?

I guess what I'm saying is, on a show that is as disinterested in ongoing plot threads on Voyager, there aren't even emotional stakes for the most part. On DS9, it'd be possible for, say, Janeway and Tuvok to have a falling out, or Harry to get PTSD, or... dunno. Just for there to be lasting consequences of any sort, not just 'someone got killed.'

That's why I assert that on Voyager, nothing much matters. That makes it hard to get invested in them, even though I like them a lot better this time around. (I am particularly fond of B'Ellana and Tuvok upon review)

It's just we all have differing levels around how readily we'll suspend our disbelief or around how important that idea might be I think.

Yeah. I do think we agree more than we don't. (I'm particularly interested in this argument because I am a writer, and I'm fascinated thinking about just where I might lose people.)
posted by mordax at 10:49 PM on September 23, 2017 [2 favorites]


I guess what I'm saying is, on a show that is as disinterested in ongoing plot threads on Voyager, there aren't even emotional stakes for the most part. On DS9, it'd be possible for, say, Janeway and Tuvok to have a falling out, or Harry to get PTSD, or... dunno. Just for there to be lasting consequences of any sort, not just 'someone got killed.'

Yeah, I do agree with you completely on this aspect of it, I think I'm just chalking that up to bad showrunning instead of structural continuity, but that's just a labeling preference, not a disagreement on the effect it has. Voyager, for me, has enough strong episodes to not begrudge them their choice of structure, but their character handling is crazy inconsistent at times, where one writer is noting changes in relationships, while others ignore it outside the obvious Tom and B'Elanna type stuff.

One last thing I'd add to the discussion, is that one other aspect that a really heavy continuity based structure can have as a flaw is if the animating idea proves unpopular or unsatisfying, changing directions for the show is really difficult, which can lead to cancellations rather than soft reboots like Voyager has done. I only mention this because it's something that Discovery will have to deal with. If their idea isn't satisfying to start with, they can't really change it. It's a sink or swim situation. Imagine Voyager having to commit even more strongly to the Kazon as central figures in the show...shudder...

I think this explains why they keep going back to pre-TNG Trek. They feel they need the Klingons to be enemies of some sort to avoid risking ending up with Kazon instead. It's only TOS' two major alien races, Klingons and Vulcans, and TNGs Borg that have fully penetrated the culture, Romulans, Tribbles, and maybe Cardassians and Ferengi have some notice, but most of the other Trek cultures have little pull at all outside Trek fandom, and even there the attitudes don't seem entirely aligned on which other cultures are most interesting in themselves.

(Sorry for the excess in this discussion, but I've been cooped up lately and needed some diversion and this talk was interesting to me.)
posted by gusottertrout at 11:15 PM on September 23, 2017


(Sorry for the excess in this discussion, but I've been cooped up lately and needed some diversion and this talk was interesting to me.)

Hah, and my problem is the opposite: I was away this weekend for family obligations and missed all the fun debate!

I think some of the frustration and tangled feelings this thread is demonstrating w/r/t the "reset button" boils down to one of the fundamentals of storytelling (Western storytelling, at least): by the end, characters must have changed. VOY often ended up feeling like that one Simpsons episode (which lampshaded the whole reset button concept) where Homer and Flanders became friends, but in the last minute of the episode Homer inexplicably hates him again. Consider how much weaker "Yesterday's Enterprise" might have felt without Guinan in it.

Broaden that out to any drama show with any degree of continuity at all (including VOY and excluding, say, most Law & Order) and there's an expectation of trackable character change from pilot to series finale. Not to keep rubbing VOY's nose in DS9, but if you look at that cast, every single significant character evolved, right down to regular-guests, and if you watched the whole series you could rattle off specific incidents from seasons earlier that strongly influenced those changes. VOY? Well, Tom sort of became less conflicted, Seven more-or-less became more of a team player…Neelix became less annoying?…and I only feel like I could maybe kind-of pinpoint moments from prior episodes thus far and I'M doing half of these threads.

Back to "Year of Hell" for a second:
more a feeling they [Janeway & Annorax] are both caught serving the necessity of events rather than dictating them

Which suits the theme of the episode admirably well. Subtext! Awesome.

Third, it makes sense that a crew that was all the way across the galaxy from the safety, security, and comforts of the Federation might possibly have to compromise those high ideals, which in turn calls into question those ideals and how dependent they are on an accident of history and place that can't necessarily be taken for granted. (Again, DS9 already did this, and even TOS occasionally touched on the notion that sometimes hard decisions needed to be made by Kirk and Co. and others.) And, finally, if it's a different show from previous Treks, so what? Those shows have already been done.

But UPN was fishing for those Trek-noob viewers. So they set themselves up for a situation where they had to have it both ways: different from what came before in concept, but similar enough in philosophy/feel. Something had to give, and what gave was the concept.

Battlestar Voyager could have been good of course, but I have no reason to believe it'd be better than Galactica, which puts on an impressive surface display, but is ultimately less appealing to me than the Voyager we already have.

Heh, well, BSG (IMO) made the…not quite opposite, but perpendicular…mistake of being way too ambitious with its concept and blatantly not having a plan (which is a bitter irony, since "They have a plan" was a tagline of the show), causing it to faceplant at the 5-yard-line. If UPN had relied on BSG to launch their network, they would've cancelled it at the end of season 2.

My belief is that Voyager as an episodic show but with better showrunning sounds more appealing than the discussed heavy continuity versions with Maquis insurrections, Voyager stores depleting, and weakening ship structure and reserves. I can't prove that, as there is no proof for it and even if there were we could reasonably disagree on our responses to the same material. It just sounds dreary to me and less open to some of my favorite episodes of the series

Well, as you say, we're speculating blindly here. But I think of a potentially similar continuity-driven series: the Patrick O'Brian Aubrey-Maturin novels. The ones I've read seem to put the ship in a Voyager-like situation (no reliable aid, hazards and attrition) fairly often, and rather than being dreary, it's a rollercoaster ride: they have their Year of Hell-ish sequences, and then they encounter safe islands rich in resources in a Sakarian ("Prime Factors") kind of way. The show totally could've been that: cruising from one emotional register to another between seasons, several-episode-arcs, and even individual episodes. I think that was what a lot of people were hoping for, in fact, myself included.

Just to be clear, my concern is of a continuity heavy show, not a better light continuity one which is what less UPN interference and a good showrunner should have brought to the series. I think following something like the Buffy path of continuing character change and some shorter generalized story arcs revolving around the sections of space they're in while still focusing primarily on an episodic structure makes fine sense. It's something Voyager already tried to do at times, sorta anyway, but more than that feels like it'd provide more burden than reward.

Burden under which this writing staff may have buckled, yes. (Although as long as we're speculating, we should consider the possibility that if heavy serialization had been the order of the day, some individuals may have left the VOY team and been replaced with others for whom the burden might have been welcome and bearable!) And I completely agree about the Buffy model. VOY sort of did Buffy-Lite—well, more like Buffy-Extra-Lite—and it could have gone full-Buffy, and even included the O'Brian-style plots I alluded to above within that structure.

One last thing I'd add to the discussion, is that one other aspect that a really heavy continuity based structure can have as a flaw is if the animating idea proves unpopular or unsatisfying, changing directions for the show is really difficult, which can lead to cancellations rather than soft reboots like Voyager has done. I only mention this because it's something that Discovery will have to deal with.

Yeah, and DS9 also faced this possible cataclysm. IIRC, the showrunners in retrospect said they were amazed they didn't get cancelled. No way UPN was gonna take a similar risk.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:21 AM on September 24, 2017 [2 favorites]


The ones I've read seem to put the ship in a Voyager-like situation (no reliable aid, hazards and attrition) fairly often, and rather than being dreary, it's a rollercoaster ride: they have their Year of Hell-ish sequences, and then they encounter safe islands rich in resources in a Sakarian ("Prime Factors") kind of way.

Which was the implication of the original, "Before and After" version of the Year of Hell; we start with the end of Kes' life, maybe several years after their version of the YoH, and the ship looks fine... but Janeway and Torres are gone. They could have gone with a version of the ship that was restored to full functionality, but with more alien tech mixed into it. (One of the advantages of Borg tech is that it seems to be able to regenerate itself to some extent.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:05 AM on September 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


P.S.:
FanFare talk thread on how to handle DSC

and

I dig the reference to Emerson, Lake & Palmer's "Karn Evil 9 - 1st Impression - Part 2" in the above-the-cut section.

WOOT pretentious passe prog FTW
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:27 AM on September 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


(Sorry for the excess in this discussion, but I've been cooped up lately and needed some diversion and this talk was interesting to me.)

Please, never feel like your posts are unwelcome due to length. We're dissecting a twenty year old Star Trek spinoff: this kind of stuff is what we're here for. :)
posted by mordax at 2:43 PM on September 24, 2017 [1 favorite]


Apropos of nothing but the featured guest star: due to DSC's upcoming premiere, I attached the digital antenna to my TV after having it for several years and never using it (even loaning it to my sister for an extended time and getting it back after she got one with better range), and the first program that I ran across on my local CBS affiliate? That 70s Show, with a scene with Red Foreman. Small galaxy!
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:55 PM on September 24, 2017


[Kes] might have been able to directly sense temporal incursions with the space-pixie sense, and drawn some parallels with Guinan's similar ability in "Yesterday's Enterprise."

I think this works better without Kes for that very reason: having Kes as the Guinan-analogue would have made YoH too similar to Yesterday's Enterprise. (Or maybe not; it would still be differentiated by having Annorax's time weapon as the cause of the changes, rather than a random spacetime anomaly.) But having no one with timeline spideysense gives it a different twist; we get to see how the "Year of Hell" starts and it's not until Day 65, when they bring the temporal shielding online, that anyone on Voyager is even aware that timeline changes are taking place.

Although it would have been nice to see more butterfly-effect style changes onboard Voyager from Annorax's incursions. If you erase a long-time spacefaring race from existence, that could have implications across the Delta Quadrant. Maybe Neelix isn't there because Talaxians were wiped out before Voyager got there, or maybe there's a dozen Talaxians on board. Maybe the Vidiians never contracted the phage (or cured it on their own), and peacefully shared their advanced medical technology with Voyager. Etc., etc.

I really like the design of Annorax's ship. It's suitably impressive, and considerably different than most ships we see in Trek. Nice work by the SFX team on that one, and a shame we'll probably never see it in HD.

I do wonder how much this two-parter inspired Enterprise's ill-conceived Temporal Cold War arc. But I can't hold YoH responsible for what it might have inspired down the line. If we erase Year of Hell from the timeline, do we also eliminate the Temporal Cold War arc and improve Enterprise? Maybe, but I don't think that's a price I'd be willing to pay.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 7:22 AM on June 13, 2018


« Older Mystery Science Theater 3000: ...   |  You're the Worst: This is Just... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments