In contrast to TNG, Voyager was a show with all the right ingredients going in, but was completely unable to pull them together into a coherent whole. The cleverness of the setup is only matched by the awfulness of the execution. We’ve got a lost ship, a divided crew, an eclectic mix of non-standard characters, and a solid long-term goal. This is arguably a better setup for Trek-style stories than TOS, TNG, or DS9. “Tiny boat in a big ocean” was the phrase people used to describe it.
I actually really loved how Mulgrew played Janeway. I loved her performance so much it wasn’t until the second or third season that I realized Janeway was a stupid irresponsible bully jackass. Mulgrew was able to take that idiotic dialog and make the character come off as compassionate and smart. For a while I would respond to Kirk vs. Picard arguments by saying my favorite was Janeway. But it became increasingly hard to defend that position when I couldn’t cite anything really smart or clever behind her decisions. She was basically a real-world politician: A dunce with a wobbly moral compass who suggests terrible ideas in a confident and compelling voice.
The most painful part of it is that as much as I dislike Voyager, it has my favorite character in the Trek universe: The Holodoc is brilliant and every moment he’s onscreen is pure joy. Even when he’s in stupid episodesWhich is good, because there are a lot of those.. Even when he’s in stupid scenesPlenty of those, too.. Even when reciting stupid dialogYou get the idea..
The rest of the crew unraveled almost instantly. Tuvok was written and performed as a prickly cantankerous grouch, lacking the calm dispassion we expect from Vulcans. Chakotay had no personality beyond the cringe-worthy native American stuff they gave him to do. Kes was an obvious case of “Hire a pretty actress, we’ll figure out what to do with her once the show takes off”. (And then they forgot to do the second part.) Neelix was a comedy character in a show where all the comedy was unintentional. Having a “bad boy” like Paris was a great idea, except they could never really figure out what “bad boy” meant and ended up making him argue for often sensible things in an unreasonable voice. Kim was the closest thing on the ship to a human being with a soul, so of course everyone treated him like a doormat for no reason. Torres was an interesting idea but ended up competing with Tuvok for the title of “most pointlessly petty and cantankerous person”.
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