Most cats have nine lives, and most Star Trek series
have seven seasons: Voyager, the fourth incarnation of Gene Roddenberry's
"Wagon Train to the Stars" franchise, is no exception to the rule.
On May 23, 2001, the two-hour movie "Endgame" brought closure to the
syndicated UPN centerpiece with both a bang and a whimper.
For the last several years, producer Rick
Berman found Voyager's stability (also known as "rut")
in exploring the internal aspects of its premise: a by-the-book Starfleet
crew and an outlaw Maquis crew are stranded in the Delta Quadrant, a remote
part of space unexplored by the Federation, and forced to join together
on the starship Voyager to survive and return home. The voyage
promises to be so long, at least by traditional means of space travel, that
most crewmembers might not survive to see Earth or their respective home planets
Though the premise promised the opportunity to "seek
out new life and new civilizations" every week, the series turned its eyes
inward to focus not on alien cultures and spatial anomalies,
but on the many lives and loves of the crewmembers. In the seventh season, for
example, ex-con and ambassador's son Tom Paris and half-Klingon, half-Human
engineer B'Elanna Torres took the next step in their tumultuous romance and
entered the state of holy matrimony.
The diminutive Talaxian cook and gadfly
Neelix chose to leave Voyager and his role of godfather-to-all in order
to serve as the permanent Federation Ambassador to the Delta Quadrant, a post
he won due to a complete lack of competition. Former Borg Seven of Nine explored
her humanity by falling for the oft-jilted Commander Chakotay, who apparently
decided he couldn't wait forever for Captain Janeway to thaw.
of Trek-style soap opera were punctuated by occasional clashes with the
ever-present Borg, in which little new territory was covered (save in
the two-parter "Unimatrix Zero," which began the seventh season and
remains one of its highlights), but lots of ships, to borrow a phrase from SCTV,
"blowed up real good."
Voyager will be remembered for two key Trek
firsts: the introduction of the first woman Captain, Kathryn Janeway, and
the first regular Native American character, First Officer Chakotay.
also be remembered for the not-so-subtle feud that emerged between actors Kate
Mulgrew and Robert Beltran, who pioneered these important parts, as both revealed
frustration with repetitive scripts and cardboard characterization (and, in
the case of Mulgrew, the alleged unprofessionalism of her less-than-motivated
co-star); at one point, the two seemed to be vying for the opportunity to put
their characters six feet under in the series finale.
"Endgame" incorporated two parallel storylines,
one in Voyager's present, and one twenty-six years in the future, ten
years after Voyager's return to Earth. In the future Chakotay followed
his late wife, Seven of Nine, to the grave, and Admiral Janeway planned
a risky time travel adventure to return to the past and save Seven of Nine in
order to, well, not to spare thousands of lives, really, since the plan would
cost lives, but rather to save her friend's life at the expense of
nameless others, with nasty little unintended consequences thrown in,
Needless to say, Janeway isn't taken with her doppelganger's
priorities. In the end, Admiral Janeway sacrifices herself to introduce
a pathogen into the Borg collective and destroy Voyager's chief enemy,
and in the process, the real-time Voyager makes it home early, with its
entire crew alive and well.
The finale mixed the ingredients of soap opera (Paris
and Torres delivered their baby daughter) and shoot-'em-up (the Borg Queen literally fell apart, arms, legs, etc., as her collective
erupted in fiery self-destruction) with little regard to continuity or scientific
accuracy, making "Endgame" the perfect poster child for the series
as a whole.
On the other hand, fans shouldn't throw the finale's baby out with
the bathwater. An unexpectedly compelling portrayal of future Tuvok, suffering
from a degenerative neurological condition, and a convincing portrait of an
aging Reginald Barclay, finally at peace due to his part in bringing Voyager
home, should earn "Endgame" its share of cheers.
Trek fans have little time for self-pity, with
Star Trek: Enterprise in the works for a fall debut.