In which Janeway looks a gift horse in the mouth, and Seven has second thoughts about the whole humanity thing.
Voyager‘s first season accidentally ended with a low-key, low-stakes finale. UPN was messing about with episode order, and for some reason, the ’90s Treks just didn’t end their first seasons on cliffhangers.
Voyager‘s fourth season — the soft reboot — deliberately ends with a low-key, high-stakes finale.
The thinking, as I understand it, was that the writers didn’t think they could top “Scorpion”, and didn’t want to stretch out “Hope and Fear” beyond the 45 minutes its story naturally occupied. And I totally get the latter point — I think that was a solid choice, and I respect it.
But I’m not sure about this “couldn’t top ‘Scorpion'” business, given that this is the season which gave us “Year of Hell” and “The Killing Game”, two all-time great Trek two-parters. But maybe that was part of the problem — it wasn’t just “Scorpion”, it was the stories that followed. I can see that.
The result is that “Hope and Fear” is an unusually small episode for a finale, and a bit of a disappointment as the ending to a season which has limped along since “The Killing Game”. But separate from that context, it’s a very good bit of TV, and I’m glad that Prodigy is giving us reason to revisit it.
I cannot believe a Ray Wise character would turn out to be a bad guy!
I hadn’t even seen Twin Peaks when I first watched this. I just had bad vibes from the start, probably because Voyager operates on a fundamentally conservative worldview in which outsiders are never to be trusted.
So I knew from the start that Arturis was a villain, and I remembered the elaborate plan with the fake Federation starship, but I had completely forgotten the whole thing where his people were only assimilated because Janeway’s actions in “Scorpion” enabled the Borg to keep on doing their Borg thing.
Way back when I covered “Scorpion” part 1, I wrote:
I don’t think making a deal with the Borg is a terrible decision — although Chakotay is right to raise the ethical quandaries involved…
And I still wouldn’t go so far as to say that Janeway made the wrong choice, but there’s no denying there were consequences, and one of them is that Ray Wise wants to kill her. Or at least see her assimilated.
Arturis’s whole position — that there’s no point raging at the Borg, but an individual who knowingly assisted them is effectively guilty of a crime — is interesting. And I know I just said I still agree with Janeway, but I also don’t think he’s wholly wrong. Ethics are complicated! It’s what Star Trek is all about!
I think Wise’s performance goes a bit OTT in the end, but that’s okay, by that point he has a solid foundation.
I’m not wholly sold on Seven’s subplot here
Bringing the season full circle means that Seven has to finally choose to be an individual. Which she eventually does, and I love that, but I don’t completely buy that her thinking is “don’t wanna go to the alpha quadrant, so I’m gonna get dropped off, alone, in a shuttle in the delta quadrant”. That feels more like Annika-the-little-girl’s thinking than Seven of Nine’s, and I could buy that Annika is in the driver’s seat here, save that it’s never really established.
I love that Janeway and Seven are both experiencing doubts (but for different reasons), and I enjoy that they end up where they started: having a deep and meaningful conversation in the brig.
The use of their overlapping logs was especially effective — Voyager is usually so set in its format that it could have come across as gimmicky, but it worked to draw the parallel.
However, I’ve gotta say, “We’ve given you a lot, Seven, now it’s time you gave us something in return” is a bit … yikes. Not only in terms of Voyager‘s conservatism, but, like, didn’t Seven just risk her own mental and physical health to guide the crew through a nebula? Didn’t she save all their lives? Not even for the first time?
This is mostly a two-hander
But some other characters do get moments: B’Elanna is wary of returning to the alpha quadrant, but prefers it to the delta, and Tuvok entertains the self-indulgent fancy that he has been a small influence over Janeway.
- This is not going to be the last time the Voyager writers ask us not to think too hard about how a Federation starship gets built. Well, too bad, guys. I’m gonna think about it.
- I assume that “particle synthesis”, which is Arturis’s shipbuilding strategy, is a primitive form of what will be known in Discovery as programmable matter
- Please don’t think I am calling for Captain Janeway to be objectified, it just bugs me a little that her work-out gear is a cute-yet-loose dress, while Seven’s is almost as tight as her catsuit. I simply think both outfits are amazing and I wish they had matched.
- Seven’s exercise outfit is proof that she could have been wearing flat shoes all along. Also, it’s not clear from the standard definition footage whether or not her corset is present, but I hope not.
- Seriously, assuming the lack of corset, you could wear that to a gym right now.
- Okay, maybe velour is not good exercise fabric, but, you know. The overall shape and style. It’s a bit Lululemon, but without the cult.
- Why did the Federation decide to build its own Dauntless? I do hope Prodigy tells us!
This is not gonna knock your socks off, but it’s a solid 45 minutes of character work with some handwavey fun. 4 conveniently appearing Federation starships out of 5.
If you’re reading this in October 2022, I’m going to take a few weeks off, and then I’m going to start on season 5, but give myself a bigger runway this time. You can expect posts to resume in early January. See you in 2023!