Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Unexpected Heaviness of Voyager

Voyager is often remembered as a kind of puppy dog, goofy series. They spend seven years in the Delta Quadrant wandering around like a bunch of kids lost at the mall. One is a goofy alien with a mohawk thing and spots, another is a dude who's way into the 1990s, another is an Indian guy who's always going on about his spirit animal etc while pan flutes play. This is the series where two guys are accidentally merged into one guy in one episode and one character is split into two in another. Goofy, right? Except it's not really.

While I was watching DS9 a lot of people talked to me about how "dark" the series was. How different it is from the rest of Trek because of its hard-edged themes and shades of grey. And that's true. But, watching Voyager at Warp 9, it becomes obscenely clear how serious the series is. It's strange how underrated it is in terms of its subject matter and character development.

Take a couple of the characters and episodes I mentioned already:

1- Neelix is a gregarious dude who's kind of goofy and likes to mess around in the kitchen making stuff too spicy. But, in "Jetrel," we see a new side of the character. He dodged the draft, wasn't there to defend his family when they were under attack, helped with the relief effort and ended up with awful survivor's guilt. Nightmares of a little girl who suffered horrible burns (and died as a result of her injuries while Neelix watched over her) haunt him.

Ethan Phillips is absolutely brilliant in this quiet but emotionally powerful episode. 
2- "Faces," the episode wherein B'Elanna is split into her Klingon and human halves, seems kind of wacky at first. But not only does it feel just like something that would've been in TOS, we actually get some amazing character development from this episode. B'Elanna hates and resents the Klingon part of her but she can't live without it. She will be forever at war with herself and that's a pretty powerful thing. Additionally, one of the crewmen who's been hanging around for a few episodes gets his face cut off and an alien who has a crush on B'Elanna WEARS IT AROUND AS A MASK.

You know, just in case the sheer idea of it wasn't horrifying enough.
These episodes are back to back. They're just as "dark" as anything that was ever in DS9 and they both provide insight into B'Elanna and Neelix that would inform those characters for the rest of the series.
And then there's Tuvix. We aren't to Tuvix yet but we'll get there and when we do, I'll inevitably talk about all this again.

So why does DS9 get all the credit for super deep characters and serious plots while Voyager often gets overlooked? Maybe we forget about this stuff because the characters on Voyager don't wallow. They don't sit around in Quarks drinking raktajino staring forlornly at the wormhole. The Voyager crew has somewhere to be and they don't have time to muck about. They get on with their lives and deal with their emotional issues while they get up every single day and try to figure out a way home.

1 comment:

  1. I've said it before, and I'll say it again; You and I get Star Trek!!! :D

    I agree wholeheartedly with this post. I watch Voyager so much EVERYDAY that I had to disable the Netflix share so I wouldn't bug facebookers.

    And, I thought the face mask was entirely creepy, too. Very haunting image.


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