Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Voyager -- Nothing Whatsoever to Do With British Television

No. I've not gone ga-ga in the head. At least no more so than in general. I am aware that Voyager is not British television. Its not even headed by a British actor, nor do I mean to compare it to any British program (as I did recently with Star Trek the Next Generation). There is really no reason for it to be here at all except that someone brought it up on the blog the other day.

And I'm glad they did, because I had entirely forgotten about this show. (I think that lapse must be attributable to the fact that it was on when I was in law school.  Anything from popular culture that entered my brain during that time, seems to have seeped out the back just as swiftly. . . . Only so much room in there, you know.) But I have a few spare brain cells this week, and luckily enough Voyager is on Netflix, so I took another look. And now I remember!

Voyager was better in many ways than the Next Generation. Whereas TNG had a bit more of the big plots and it had the "flagship of the galaxy"-thing going for it, not to mention Patrick Stewart as the powerhouse leader, Voyager has a much deeper cast, more emotional charge and a sweeter, more appealing purpose -- getting home. Sure, exploring the galaxy on the way, but striving toward a specific end goal. These factors give the series a completeness and a structure that other Star Treks lack.

So, in brief, if you need a refresher and don't mind me not being a trekkie and probably screwing up the details, here is the basic plot: Janeway is tasked with finding this rogue band of rebels (led by Chakotay) that has disappeared along with an undercover starfleet officer. She is going to track them down and bring them in and retrieve her officer, but first, to help with the mission, she springs an ex-starfleet pilot (Tom), who had been incarcerated for his foibles, out of the big house. They are hot on the trail when both the rebel ship and the Voyager are attacked and flung so far across the universe that they are well beyond any ability to communicate with the known world or to get back to it. Lots of people die and the rogue ship is destroyed, and they are stuck with just a holographic doctor. They combine their forces to work together with the basic goal of getting back to earth -- which should take about 75 years.

Its really a pretty nice little set up. All alone stranded on the other side of the galaxy with nothing but time and adventure on their hands. Add a pretty good supporting cast and some interesting interpersonal dynamics and this is great stuff.

For this mission and the tv show, Katherine Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) makes a great captain. She balances her power with an emotional awareness suited to the mission they're on. Because they truly are all going to spend the rest of their lives together (they think), the crew needs someone who can be more of a guidance counselor, parent, and captain rolled into one. Janeway is definitely decisive and tough, as befits a starship captain, but she is also approachable and warm and has a fairly well-developed sense of fun. She also has a great husky voice, a lovely smile, some pretty cool retro updos, and a seriously hot first officer.

Chakotay (Robert Beltram). Now I do like to keep my blog gender-friendly and avoid gushing about cute guys, but my goodness, Chakotay is crush-worthy. He is new-age, tatooed, tough and rebellous, but willing to completely bend to the captian and the federation and serve them -- though he was thrown into a situation where he needed to do that against his will. He keeps his own needs under control and and emotions in check, but he is full character with deep thoughts, intellectual curiosity and spiritual grounding. A real man. He is also extremely handsome. He and Janeway share an excellent friendship with great chemistry. They make an interesting "couple" (though never really a couple of course because that would be far too gratifying and tv producers just can't give us that. Oh. Am I ranting? Sorry).

Because Chakotay is a very strong and manly man, but is also a subordinate to the really quite feminine captain, they have an unusual power balance in their friendship that is interesting and very appealing. On the surface Janeway is totally in control. But she looks at him often with big eyes that suggest that she is just a hair's breadth from giving herself to him totally. He ends up being quite the heart of the crew - a calm and centered presence -- who is in love with the captain but willing to ignore it and live a full life anyway.

One of my other favorite characters from this show is Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill). Tom is a "Guy" with a capital G -- youthful, libidinous, cool and and friendly, with a past and a chip on his shoulder, a dad who is high up in the federation and misdeeds that cost him his career, until a field commission from Janeway restores them. He isn't trusted fully by others, but is proud and trusts himself. He wants to serve his captain, but, with his juvenile charm, is not your typical starfleet officer.

Better still is Robert Picardo as the Doctor, he's a very strong actor who makes this part feel central and important - even though he is playing an emergency medical hologram -- basically a computer program. He's dignified, flustered, proper and very appealing. If I recall correctly, he gets more and more interesting as the series grinds on and even gets quite friendly with Seven of Nine. Not bad for a EMH.

And having brought her up,  I have to discuss Seven of Nine, a cultural icon who has to be one of the hottest women ever to grace the small screen. Though she clearly joined the cast of this show several seasons in for the sole purpose of her sex appeal, and I should be disapproving for that reason (on principal), I can't. I am totally won over by the ex-Borg Seven. I find Jeri Ryan's performance absolutely endearing -- funny and wooden, cute as hell and of course gorgeous to look at, she adds a touch of humor and manages to be childlike and warlike at the same time. She makes getting assimilated seem like a really good idea. . .

If you haven't seen it lately or haven't seen it at all, it would totally be worth your time to check out Voyager. (And yes I'm aware that this could just be the Spooks withdrawal talking).

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