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Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Real Trouble With Voyager

I have to take issue with an article on RogerEbert.com entitled Now, "Voyager": In Praise Of The Trekkiest "Trek" Of All. In it, Ian Grey basically says that the reason Star Trek fans didn't like Voyager is because it had female characters as the lead, and male fans didn't like that.

To which I say: Bull puckey.
The problem with Voyager was never the female leads, but rather the lack of urgency and poor execution of an awesome idea.

Look, Voyager was supposed to be about two separate ships with opposing philosophies flung across the galaxy that had no one to turn to but each other. Think of the possibilities of that sort of Star Trek series. As a matter of fact, you don't need to think of the possibilities: Battlestar Galactica handled those possibilities through the first three seasons or so and showed what kind of show Voyager could have been.

At the end of every Voyager episode, the reset button was pushed. No matter how broken the ship was, it would be pulled back together. No matter how fractured the crew, there was a perfectly good reason for it and everything would be fixed. No one questioned Janeway's authority. No one tried to suggest settling down. No one gave in to despair. Compare this to BSG. BSG was willing to go to dark, dark places that Voyager never dared.

People don't like a TV show unless it feels real. Voyager never, ever felt real. Since the reset button was always being pushed, there were no stakes, hence no sense of realness.

Well, what about the female characters? Is that why the show never connected?

Not exactly. BSG gave us a strong female character in President Roslin who frequently butted heads with the male characters. No one complained about her.

Yet, here is Mr. Grey placing all of the blame for Voyager at the feet of misogynists who disliked female characters, when they were the best thing about the show. News Flash: A lot of Star Trek fans are female. They wanted to see a female character. No one was complaining about the female characters at the time, yet here we are, pointing fingers years later.

The real problem with Voyager is this: Voyager ran from 1995-2001. When it began, NYPD Blue, with its emphasis on real situations, conflict and story arcs that had consequences had just begun. By the time Voyager ended, The West Wing was at its full power and The Sopranos was signaling a paradigm shift in the way we thought of TV. Star Trek: Voyager pales in comparison to other shows that were on the air at the time, and only looks worse in retrospect.

And the amount of women on the show had nothing to do with it.