Creator: Rick Berman, Michael Piller, Jeri Taylor
Not comfortable with only one Star Trek franchise running at a time, Berman and Co. launched Voyager shortly after TNG ended. Some say it was a mistake to oversaturate the marker with Trek, but I think it was the perfect time to capitalize given how popular TNG had been. Also, a lot of TNG lovers were turned off by DS9 due to the fact you pretty much had to watch it in order. While Voyager had its own story arcs, it was much easier to digest as a snack.
The decision to go with a female captain was pretty obvious and the casting was spot on as well. Kate Mulgrew is a pretty good actress and has an authoritarian air about her that works for this kind of role. Unfortunately, the writers didn’t quite do her justice throughout the series. They make her cold and calculated much like Picard was early on, and due to having a husband back home they also limit her ability to have relationships. Things loosen up as the series go along. Mulgrew could play sexy as evidenced by a great episode where The Doctor’s fantasies come to life.
Speaking of The Doctor, Robert Picardo was another fantastic casting decision. Having the medical chief die in the first episode necessitating the use of the snarky emergency medical hologram was brilliant. Picardo plays the role great and his holographic character develops well over the course of the series. One of my favorite episodes was when he was given the choice to live on a planet where the denizens are math-oriented and fall in love with is ability to play music.
Aside from those two stars, the rest of the cast is a lot of hit and miss. The character of Chakotay does nothing for me. His spirituality is kind of hamfisted and whenever it’s a major part of a plot it never feels like the writer are comfortable with it. When he concedes the captainship to Janeway, you can tell they were trying to set up this dichotomy of two leaders, one who worships to the god of the Prime Directive, and one who worships a spiritual god. However, Janeway wins that battle almost every time, so the conflict rarely presents itself. And while Chakotay’s Maquis heritage is interesting in the first season, it becomes moot after a while.
Tim Russ (Tuvok) and Robert Duncan McNeill (Paris) were brought back after their one-off performances on TNG. They’re differences are welcomed. I enjoy that Paris is a Federation ex-con. But he becomes too righteous too quickly, another bland Federation officer. Tuvok becomes kind of bland, too. He never rises above Spock as far as awesome Vulcans go.
Officer Kim is funny, kind of a more awkward Geordi. But Garrett Wang’s acting is pretty raw. Jennifer Lien is pretty charming as Kes and is useful in helping The Doctor character, but becomes redundant after a while. It’s too bad about Lien’s real-life struggles. Neelix’s character actually becomes more interesting after Kes leaves.
Finally, Seven of Nine. I love the idea of a recovering Borg on the ship, even if her story line negates a lot of what we learned about the Borg on TNG. Unfortunately, the character has zero personality. When you have no pathos, you have to rely too much on plot, and even then it can only go so far. It’s like Dexter but without all of the serial killing.
Exploring the Delta Quadrant was a cool idea for the show and it brought in some fresh ideas (including needing to find natural resources without space stations to rely on), though the writers wound up just relying on utilizing new humanoid aliens. The suspense about getting home is nullified by the fact you know it’s going to take seven seasons. They also borrow too much from the previous shows, including another contrived episode with Q (though admittedly much better than the contrived episode on DS9).
Overall, this series is fine with some great episodes reminiscent of TNG.