Star Trek: Voyager – Season 7, Episodes 25 & 26
No, not that “Endgame…”
Well, here we are – at not only the last installment of this “Best of Voyager“ feature, but the final episode of Voyager itself! It’s been a long road, as they say. No, wait.
Although the sixth season of the show contained a lot of surprisingly strong episodes, the seventh demonstrated a noticeable slump in quality and inventiveness. It’s not surprising after so many years, and like many shows Voyager probably should have ended a little earlier than it did. But the Seven Seasons was a tradition that needed top be upheld, dammit! (until Enterprise would come along and put an end to that with an embarrassing wet fart of a finale) At any rate, the creative forces of Star Trek: Voyager pulled together to craft an epic finale that provided an exciting conclusion to this unique series. It rivals the finales of The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine in excitement and it appropriately mirrors all the qualities and aspects of Voyager as a show, for better and for worse.
So let’s get to the worst first!
Voyager has been accused of being derivative of The Next Generation, and indeed, the overall tone of the series and some of its stories did seem to conspicuously chase the appeal of that groundbreaking progenitor. Voyager was very much its own animal that pushed the Trek envelope in some compelling ways, but I would agree it did not stray from the TNG formula enough and fully exploit the potential of its own premise. So it’s appropriate that its finale would pay… let’s say significant homage (to put it charitably) to TNG’s “All Good Things…” in some unmistakable and even peculiar ways.
Like “All Good Things,” “Endgame” is a timeline-spanning adventure that visits the crew several decades in the future, utilizing the same general era (and uniforms) of TNG’s finale. Its plot is heavily intertwined with TNG’s most distinctive foe the Borg, a race Voyager heavily mined for many, many storylines throughout its run. It even features a brief battle between a Starfleet ship and two of the exact same types of Klingon warships from “All Good Things…” As a tribute to TNG’s finale it’s right on the money. But is that what the finale of Voyager should have been? I would have preferred not. None of it is bad, just odd.
But what is truly bad and the absolute biggest misstep of the episode?
You guessed it: Chakoven Stallone.
Yes, the inexplicably sudden romance between Chakotay and Seven of Nine. To be absolutely minimally fair, there was precedent for some sort of attraction between the two earlier in the season. Seven ran a holodeck simulation of a more normal, human life with Chakotay as a romantic partner. It was an odd and not great episode in itself, and although it laid some sort of groundwork for Chakoven, their passionate partnership in “Endgame” sticks out like a big tattooed and cybernetic sore thumb. Nothing about it works and it does a disservice to both characters. It’s an entirely random pairing, as the two have had no real chemistry or unique relationship at all, generally. I mean, pairing her with the Doctor would have made way more sense from a character perspective. Or even Harry Kim. As is, it’s a cheap way to inject some pathos, as Seven marries Chakotay but dies before Voyager reaches home in the future timeline. Chakotay, unable to live without what is apparently the love of his life, also suffers an early, totally unspecified end. He pretty much Dies of a Broken Heart in an almost Padme way and it’s so ridiculous. There’s just so many scenes of them here, partly because this is the first time that this romance has been featured and there’s a lot of work to do to set it up. But none of it works because of how rushed it is, and none of it feels organic or compelling. Blech.
Centering the episode around the Borg is fine. Although created by TNG, Voyager would devote many more hours to the cybernetic race and flesh them out (as it were) in some interesting (as well as credibility-straining) ways. So with as much history as Voyager (the ship and series) have had with the Borg, it’s appropriate to do some sort of concluding arc to send them off. But did it need to be the finale of the show? I like me some cyclical storytelling, and it would have been nice to maybe tie the end of their journey back in with the Caretaker (or the other Caretaker), or something else similarly unique only to Voyager (like Kes? Remember her???). But the Borg plotline here is pretty good and although the Collective isn’t explicitly destroyed, there is something final and definitive about the defeat they are handed here.
And one other criticism of the finale that I don’t quite agree with (but maybe do lol) is that the return to Earth is too abrupt an end to the show. I’ll delve more into it at the end here, but I totally get the desire to want to see the crew back on Earth, the home they’ve been journeying towards for seven years. The episode does spend almost half of its time depicting the crew back on Earth in the future. These are technically the same characters we’ve been with throughout the show. But they’re also not – being older, gray-haired (except for the ageless Doctor and unseen Chakotay/Seven) future versions that are decades removed from the current timeline.
So yeah, we never see the current Voyager crew back at home, and there’s something unsatisfying (and even slightly sadistic) about that. Getting the ship back home was always the way the show was going to end (it wasn’t daring enough to Quantum Leap us like that). But as with the conclusion of the Borg, did that need to be in the last episode? What if the return to home were depicted in the penultimate episode, and the two-hour finale being dedicated to all the facets of their homecoming? There’s potentially mountains of drama and interesting material there and would have been cool to see explored. What happens to the Maquis? Where is Seven going to end up? Is Tom’s dad proud of him? Is Janeway’s dog still alive?
The opening of the episode is cool and literally gets us to the fireworks factory immediately – with Voyager swooping down over San Francisco as celebratory fireworks explode all around it. It’s a smart start, essentially reassuring us that yes, the bloody ship gets home, don’t worry – now let’s go back and see how that happens.
The majority of the first hour is spent with Future Admiral Janeway (the silver hair and age makeup is convincing and surprisingly sexy, NGL) and the future crew. We get to see what everyone is up to, and their fates range the spectrum of happy to depressing (as do the aging effects). Paris is a balding author still married to now Klingon liason Torres. The ageless Doctor is married to a flesh-and blood woman and is named Joe (Paris is incredulous that it took him 33 years to come up with “Joe”). Kim is captain of the science ship USS Rhode Island, Reginald Barclay is an instructor at Starfleet Academy. Seven and Chakotay are dead, of course. And Tuvok…
Tuvok’s fate is a genuine bit of pathos that actually works. It’s always upsetting to see the decay of age, especially on people’s minds. Now senile, he lives in a facility and his mental condition is erratic (much like Barclay’s visits, he notes). It recalls the similarly disturbing final state of Sarek as witnessed by Picard, his logic and control having given way to madness and a storm of mercurial emotions. Janeway visits him one last time and Tuvok spends the entire scene hunched over on the floor, scribbling furiously on paper by candlelight. Russ gives a great, altered performance as an unstable Tuvok. Janeway lets him know that she’s leaving and won’t be coming back. The way Mulgrew’s voice breaks as she says goodbye is gutting and might be some of the best acting she’s done in the entire show. In his deteriorated state, Tuvok doesn’t realize what’s going on but there’s a slight glimmer of understanding. Janeway and Tuvok’s friendship was one of my favorite relationships of the series, and it’s nice to revisit it here. The tender kiss she places on the back of his head that he doesn’t even notice is an emotional gut punch that always gets me.
In the present day aboard Voyager, they locate an unbelievable concentration of wormholes inside of a nebula and are intrigued at the possibility of finding a shortcut home (Harry most of all, since that’s like 25% of his personality). Unfortunately, as the ship journeys into the murky nebula, they almost literally run into a Borg cube and GTFO ASAP. Turns out there’s several dozen more in the nebula, and despite Kim’s protestations (really, dude?), that’s that. He tries to conscript his usual partner in crime Tom to sway the captain, but Paris doesn’t really care much about getting home – with a life and career aboard Voyager (including a wife and baby on the way), he is home. It’s a really nice character moment for him, and a good reminder that he didn’t have much of a life before Janeway plucked him out of prison in the pilot. For many aboard Voyager getting stranded far from home has been a huge setback, but it’s the best thing that ever happened to Tom. Several moments between Tom and a very pregnant (and cranky) B’Elanna are sprinkled throughout and they create some much-needed warmth.
In the future (and with the help of B’Elanna’s Starfleet daughter Miral), Admiral Janeway has set up a meeting with a crazed old Klingon scientist named Korath, who spends his time puttering around with weapons. But he has something Janeway needs, and she’s even secured a High Council position for him in exchange. It’s a detail that quickly goes by, but the fact that Janeway has used her influence to get what is clearly a bad guy into a position of political power is a dark idea. However, it tracks with her willingness to do whatever is necessary to accomplish a mission and to protect her people (which is what her mission is about). Korath even reneges on their agreement until she promises to surrender her shuttlecraft’s powerful weapons tech to him. But she hilariously serves him some karmic justice by double-crossing him and stealing the device (even more delicious is her cutting off his transmission threatening to make her drown in her own blood).
Janeway warps off but is soon intercepted by Captain Harry Kim of the Rhode Island! He’s come to arrest her, and the situation curiously reverses the one presented in “Timeless” – where he and Chakotay labored to alter the timeline while Geordi La Forge tried to stop them. But, she’s able to convince him to do her Crazy Plan, and soon enough Admiral Janeway has used Korath’s device to travel into the past (and the Delta Quadrant) to meet up with Voyager. She tells a shocked Captain Janeway that she’s here to bring Voyager home. But among the Borg, the Queen observes the transmission with rapt attention…
It is indeed Alice Krige reprising her First Contact role as the Borg Queen. The Queen was featured in a handful of Voyager episodes but played by a different actor (Susanna Thompson). I always found the disparity a little confusing, and was never sure if they were supposed to be the same character. In a way, this episode complicates that even further. Krige and Thompson look different (even with the same iconic makeup effects) and their performances were always distinct from one another. Thompson was flatter and colder while Krige injects much more varied emotion into her version of the Queen. It’s a more nuanced and compelling performance, although it makes less sense from a logical perspective. Then again, nothing about the Borg Queen makes much sense and you kind of just have to go with it (or not). At any rate, it is cool to see Krige here and it does raise the episode’s profile. She brings that unsettling sliminess and wrath that made the Queen such a memorable aspect of First Contact.
The scenes with the two Janeways are impressive from a SFX perspective, and Mulgrew’s performances in both roles displays a nice duality – Admiral Janeway is a bit more grizzled, wiser, and even cynical (and doesn’t drink coffee anymore?!). Captain Janeway seems almost youthfully idealistic in comparison, and their at times prickly banter is fun to watch. They’ve both finally met their match!
Admiral Janeway’s plan is to bring Voyager back to that Borg-infested nebula and use one of those wormholes to whisk them home. Captain Janeway hesitantly agrees to the Crazy Plan and they start applying Admiral Janeway’s future tech to Voyager, temporal prime directive be damned! With new armor and weapons, an upgraded Voyager heads into the nebula and is amazingly nonplussed by the full fury of the Borg’s attack. To those who criticized Voyager for steadily neutering the Borg over the years (I’d probably be among them), this scene is practically a mocking raspberry. But at the same time there’s something so immensely satisfying in seeing the normally fearsome and invincible Borg cubes completely unable to faze this little ship. Voyager has entered the God Mode cheat code and not only withstands their attacks, but uses its transphasic torpedoes to blow apart two cubes with only 1-2 shots! It’s awesome. A visibly frustrated Queen silently calls off the attack and Voyager proceeds to the heart of the nebula.
What they find is an awe-inspiring sight and one of the best and most imaginative visuals of all of Star Trek. I always relish the few times when Trek gets hard core sci-fi crazy like this. The sight of the Borg Transwarp Hub is right up there with V’Ger, the Whale Probe, Genesis Cave, or Tin Man in terms of cool weirdness. It’s a truly cinematic image – the gigantic Borg machinery consisting of dozens of portals dwarfed by the even more colossal star (or whatever it is). Borg ships enter and exit the apertures to be whisked away to almost any part of the galaxy. Admiral Janeway orders Paris to take Voyager into the hub, but Captain Janeway, feeling betrayed by this surprise, belays the order and they exit the nebula.
Though the Admiral is myopically fixated on getting Voyager home, the Captain wants to destroy the Hub and deal a huge blow to the Borg. Even with Voyager’s new weapons, destroying the entire thing is next to impossible, and the Admiral is frustrated that the Captain won’t just take the damn ship home already. The Admiral knows that the Captain would once again make the virtuous choice (as she did with the Ocampa that started the whole show) instead of the quick and easy (and selfish) one. Hence why she didn’t tell her about the Hub ahead of time. It’s some good character work in establishing how different the two Janeways are – the older one is clearly more ruthless when it comes to accomplishing her objectives and poisoned by regret.
Privately, the Admiral explains that in her timeline, Voyager eventually gets home, but it takes another 15 years and several more crew deaths – by taking the shortcut now, they can save those lives while shaving years off their journey. The Captain is still hesitant until the Admiral drops a couple of bombs: Seven will die, and Tuvok has a medical condition that can only be resolved at home. Not only that, Chakotay will die because he won’t be able to live without his wife Seven (eh, can’t really blame him for that).
Janeway presents their situation to the senior staff and basically leaves it up to a vote. It’s an interesting about-face from the pilot – instead of a unilateral choice made by her, she puts their fate in the staff’s hands to decide. Not surprisingly, they all choose to deal this blow to the Borg rather than get home sooner. Even Tuvok (who already knows about his condition) makes the self-sacrificing choice of fucking up the Borg instead of saving his brain (and even quotes Spock’s “the needs of the many” philosophy). As cynical as she is, the Admiral seems impressed.
But conveniently, the Admiral has an Even Crazier Plan that could possibly get Voyager home AND kill the Borg. It’s a little too convenient in that Star Trek kinda way that there’s a third alternative that gets them everything they want (or maybe not…). The two Janeways part company amicably with the Admiral flying off in her shuttle to the Borg mainframe. Appearing as a hologram before the Queen, the Admiral seems to double-cross Voyager, letting them know about their attack, how to adapt to their weaponry, and negotiating for a Borg ship to just tractor Voyager home instead. The Queen is incredulous that the Admiral would suddenly betray her people like this, and indeed there’s something kind of cheap and not convincing about this apparent heel turn. As they talk, the Queen pinpoints Janeway’s shuttle, beams her aboard, and assimilates her. Uh-oh!
Voyager heads into the Hub and starts its Crazy Plan as the Queen stands victorious over Admiral Janeway. However, the True Crazy Plan is revealed as the Queen realizes that in assimilating Janeway, she absorbed a pathogen that has disrupted her link to the Collective and weakens the shielding of the Hub, allowing Voyager’s weapons to destroy it and set off a cascade that conveniently takes care of the rest of the Transwarp Network. The Queen’s body begins to fall apart as Janeway’s succumbs to the Borg technology infecting her. However, the Borg Queen is still able to signal a sphere vessel to intercept Voyager and destroy them, which would supposedly prevent Admiral Janeway from ever existing. The Borg mainframe explodes, killing them both (and ultimately satisfying Janeway’s thirst for martyrdom). Double uh-oh!
It’s an exciting sequence as the sphere changes course and chases Voyager, wearing their defenses down. Meanwhile near Earth, Lieutenant Barclay and Admiral Paris observe in horror as a Borg transwarp portal opens and a sphere emerges. But Voyager blasts its way out of the Borg ship. It’s a nice “fuck yeah!” moment, as well as possibly the coolest entrance ever in Trek (and kind of meta for how much Voyager fucked over the Borg, lol).
The vessel finds itself near Earth in the midst of dozens of other Starfleet ships. “We did it,” Janeway says softly, sounding surprised. Everyone else is speechless, and after a brief convo with Admiral Paris, the silence of the moment is broken with the Doctor calling and informing Tom that there is someone who wants to meet him in sickbay. His newborn daughter can be heard wailing on the other end, and he leaves the bridge to go start screwing up her life.
As discussed, the moment is perhaps too truncated – either by a little or by a lot. Chakotay takes the helm and Janeway relaxes in her chair as Voyager heads towards Earth, surrounded by Starfleet ships. Fade out. As compared to the emotional parting shots of Next Generation and Deep Space Nine it’s not bad, but maybe falls short in epic grandeur (though nothing could match that deeply affecting final zoom out in “What You Leave Behind”).
Voyager was a controversial show for a lot of fans, so it’s appropriate in a meta way that its parting scene be rankling in some way. One could sit and formulate about 10 better ways to have done it (or 100), and lament the more interesting and dramatic paths that weren’t taken – but that’s Voyager for ya! However, I like and appreciate it for its surprisingly quiet and restrained tone (although I wish they ended the red alert and raised the light level back to normal for a final decent bridge shot). For as much as they (and we) looked forward to their homecoming for seven years, the future of the Starship Voyager and its crew is uncertain, so it’s a moment of quiet reflection and anticipation rather than jubilant celebration (which we already saw at the very beginning over the Golden Gate). They’ve been more than a crew this whole time, and now the family will be breaking up.
“Endgame” provides a decent conclusion to the journey of Voyager. Like the show it completes, it’s not perfect but it provides plenty of excitement and emotion to send us off. As Harry Kim underlines at one point, it was never about the destination, but the journey. It’s not a new idea, but it is a subtly clever way to emphasize that as important and defining as a final episode can be, it’s also beside the point. This whole “Best Of” mini-series has been its own journey through the brightest adventures of Voyager and how they connect to the existing mythos of Star Trek – by reminding us of the things we love about the franchise and discovering new frontiers. True to its premise, the show took existing virtues with it and explored new avenues of adventure. These episodes are not only the best of the show, but many of them stand as some of the best entries in the franchise.
In some ways, Voyager may have presented the truest expression of Star Trek‘s concept by featuring the boldest and strangest exploration yet. Not just exploration of space, but in themes and issues both old and new with a plethora of interesting and entertaining characters. It was an enjoyable trip that I won’t forget, and ultimately isn’t that what Star Trek: Voyager was all about?
- The future tech that Voyager brings home with it is game-changing, to say the absolute least. As far as I know (and somewhat predictably), the fallout from this was never dealt with in any of the subsequent entries in the timeline. But c’mon – torpedoes that can blow apart a Borg cube with a single shot and hull armor that can withstand the full force of several Borg ships would make the Federation a force to be reckoned with. This powered-up Voyager could have won the Dominion War single-handedly. Of course, it probably wouldn’t be long until this tech fell into enemy hands with the balance of power being restored once again. Because it’s the last episode, there’s the luxury of pulling out all the stops without having to deal with the consequences, but still. Craziness!
- Similarly, the implications for the Borg are huge and we don’t get any concrete answers about what happens next for them. Destroying the Queen and her central complex seems like a killing blow, but the Borg being finished for good seems doubtful.
In the “Dragon’s Teeth” write-up I complained that the Borg had only apparently been around for about 900 years, despite Q’s assertion that it had been much, much longer. Perhaps they’re both correct, and that 900 years ago the Collective had been struck an almost killing blow similar to the one here and it took them all that time to recover? My money is that the Collective does still exist, but it might take them hundreds of more years to regain their former glory.
- The retractable metal armor is absolutely silly, but goddamn do I love it.
- Neelix is in the episode for like a minute. I always thought it was so bizarre that he jumped ship (literally!) so late in the show.
- Seven would go on to appear on Picard, but Chakotay would not be seen again. Which is for the best, but it further emphasizes how dumb this sudden romance and its overwrought weight to the plot was. LOVE OF YOUR LIFE, HUH?
- Star Trek veteran Vaughn Armstrong plays Korath and he’s delightfully nutty here. He played one of the first Klingons of the TNG era back in “Heart of Glory,” so this feels kind of poetic.
- Despite Korath being cool, I do not understand how this guy has a time portal device. Did he invent it? He apparently likes to tinker with weapons, but it’s like if some crazed right wing militia dude who makes custom sights for his rifles in his backwoods shack was also a nuclear physicist. Surely a slingshot trip around a star is better than dealing with this asshole?
- Kudos to the casting of Torres’ daughter Miral. She really looks and acts like the daughter of B’Elanna.
- Torres’ new nickname for Tom – “Flyboy”…. just no. Stop that.
- The existence of the Transwarp Hub and the apparent ability of the Borg to just place vessels anywhere in the galaxy is definitely new, although it kind of fits in with what we’ve seen of the Borg already so as not to be a total retcon. It makes their inability to conquer Earth all the more nonsensical, though (let alone a single Starfleet ship).
- Seven is the one who detects the huge concentration of wormholes, and yet doesn’t piece together that this might be one of the six famed Transwarb Hubs? She definitely knows they exist. For that matter, with all the knowledge in her cybernetic head, she doesn’t have the coordinates for these locations? She must, since they all look at a map of the galaxy with the transwarp corridors.
- Why does Admiral Janeway bother to take Voyager through the Transwarp Hub? She has a time portal device! That can send ships through time AND space! And don’t tell me Voyager can’t fit through it – two much larger Klingon ships almost travel through. Future Harry says something about it probably burning out after she uses it, but c’mon. Fix it! They outfit the entire Starship Voyager with all new weapons and shields. I SURE HOPE SOMEONE WAS… oh, I’ve wasted my life.
- The Queen seems confident in the fact that if she destroys Voyager, Admiral Janeway (and the damage she’s caused to the Borg) will retroactively cease to exist. Indeed, this would be a case of the Object Without an Origin paradox, but I don’t think this is a hard and fast rule Trek obeys. After all, the Tasha Yar from the alternate timeline in “Yesterday’s Enterprise” continued to exist after her universe was deleted. And older Harry Kim’s message from the erased future “Timeless” timeline still existed, so people (and objects) removed from their timeline are untethered to changes in that timeline (or their destruction).
- The Borg Queen casually mentions that the pursuing sphere has assimilated Voyager’s armor technology. And this indeed… seems like a big deal. Bringing any technology back in time and exposing it to the Borg only seems like it would make the Borg that much more powerful. I mean, there was an entire episode that was based on this premise. Then again, individual Borg ships might assimilate and adapt to all sort of tech without necessarily distributing it throughout the collective.
- Why exactly does the Borg sphere swallow Voyager? “Surely this crazily powerful ship can’t hurt us if we take it into our soft belly.” What was the plan there, guys?
- Starfleet has always left Earth shockingly unprotected, so it’s nice to see them scramble several dozen ships within a matter of minutes to greet the Borg sphere. That’s what I’m talking about! This is like the third time in a 10 year span that a Borg ship has popped in on Earth.
- Hey, it’s Promotheous!
- It’s a little odd that Tom doesn’t get any dialogue with his dad – especially when he’s on the freakin’ viewscreen at the end! There’s something so very Voyager about that.
- Both the first and last episodes end with Janeway ordering the helm to set a course for home. The circle is complete and the cosmic ballet… continues to ballet.