Star Trek: Voyager
Season 2

Starring: Kate Mulgrew
RRP 84.99
Certificate: PG
Available 05 July 2004

The crew of the starship
Voyager continue their long trek home from the Delta Quadrant. Captain Janeway struggles to maintain Starfleet standards while traversing this alien region of space, where she encounters Kazon, Vidiians, telekinetic Ocampa, numerous members of the Q Continuum, and a transporter-fused Neelix and Tuvok...

As I said in my review of Season 1, Voyager did not get off to a good start, but it did improve with each season. As a result, there is a far greater proportion of strong episodes in this DVD box set.

My absolute favourite of this season is Lifesigns, which showcases not only the Doctor (Robert Picardo), the series' best character, but also the gruesome yet sympathetic Vidiians, one of the franchise's greatest ever alien races. What more could a fan ask for?

Not far behind that is the chilling The Thaw, a stylish and surreal storyline in which Michael McKean dominates as a creepy clown, the personification of fear in an alien virtual reality.

Projections is another good Doctor episode, which guest stars Dwight Schultz as the former Next Generation character Reg Barclay, in what proved to be the first of several appearances in Voyager. Though not the first Star Trek adventure to do a Jacob's Ladder by causing a main character to doubt his or her own sanity (that honour goes to the Next Gen episode Frame of Mind), it's an undeniably enjoyable experience with some classic lines, including, "Computer - delete Janeway!"

Other highlights include Non Sequitur (I'm a sucker for alternate timeline stories); Cold Fire, which sees the return of the Ocampa race from the pilot show, Caretaker, as well as another member of the Caretaker's own species; the touching Resistance; Meld, an excellent Tuvok (Tim Russ) episode, with Brad Dourif doing what he does best as a psychopathic Betazoid; Dreadnought; Deathwish, which features the return of not only John de Lancie as Q but also Jonathan Frakes as Commander Riker; and Deadlock (I'm a sucker for doppelganger stories too).

Several episodes - Maneuvers, Alliances, Investigations and the season finale, Basics: Part 1 - are made all the more enjoyable by the development of a story arc revolving around the alien Kazon, the defector Seska (Martha Hackett), and another treacherous crewmember. If anything, Investigations is too frenetic and packed with plot, and might have worked better as a two-parter.

More serious flaws affect Tuvix, which is essentially a decent episode boasting many good qualities, not least of which is a stunningly convincing performance by Tom Wright as Tuvix, a transporter combination of Neelix (Ethan Phillips) and Tuvok. There are some very moving scenes as Tuvix bonds with the crew, only to face obliteration when a method of separating his two halves is discovered. The ending, however, is a total cop-out. Do the newly separated Neelix and Tuvok retain memories from their joined experience? If not, why not? We are never told.

Other middling instalments are The 37's, which is marred by a saccharine-sweet ending; Initiations; Persistence of Vision; Tattoo, a Chakotay episode, which therefore predictably involves some Native American spirituality; Prototype, a good script let down by some naff-looking robots; and Resolutions.

The truly bad episodes of this season include Elogium (if Ocampa women are only fertile once during their entire lifetime, how has the race managed to survive - do they give birth to litters of offspring?) and Twisted (yet another spatial anomaly). Whether you count these two offenders as part of Season 2 is open to discussion, because, like The 37's and Projections, they were originally planned and produced to form part of Season 1. However, the second season production block must take full responsibility for Parturition, in which Neelix and Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) do some bonding when they become the unwilling parents of an alien baby; Threshold, in which Paris passes Warp 10 and then mutates into a lizard for some reason; and Innocence, whose daft idea about an alien life cycle is more suited to Mork & Mindy than Star Trek.

Special features in this box set include optional trivia text on The 37's, which reveals copious snippets of on-screen information about the production and background of this episode.

Disc 7 contains over an hour of documentary features, including more Real Science, as described by the show's Science Consultant, Andre Bormanis. The Voyager Time Capsule this time deals with Tim Russ, alias Tuvok, while Saboteur Extraordinaire concerns the character of Seska, and A Day in the Life of Ethan Phillips reveals the lengthy makeup process the actor had to undergo on a daily basis. In Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2, Dan Curry explains how some of the series' stunning effects were achieved, including the various biological layers of the Vidiian hologram in Lifesigns and the interaction of two Janeways (Kate Mulgrew) in Deadlock. Designing the USS Voyager, an extra that is unique to this Region 2 release, details the various concepts that led to the realisation of the now familiar starship. There is also a photo gallery and some trailers.

The most revealing feature of all is Braving the Unknown: Season 2, in which Co-Executive Producer Michael Piller explains that the original concept behind the Kazon would have had them all being played by actors in their teens and 20s. The idea was that their sect wars, which were based upon the violent conflicts that take place between present-day street gangs, meant that none of them ever survived to reach the age of 30. This certainly sounds more interesting and original than the sub-Klingons we ended up with.

However, you have to laugh when, during the same documentary, Co-Executive Producer Rick Berman keeps going on about how the benefit of a second season is that you already have 26 episodes of back story to build upon. The true episode count of Voyager's first season is debatable, but it certainly isn't as many as 26!

Season 2 is a good one - not great, but good. Voyager would not achieve true greatness for another year or two.

Richard McGinlay

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