Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!

Trek Tuesday: Voyager at 20

It has been a while. Trek Tuesday never meant to go away, but life happened, and it just wasn’t in me to write new entries. But, things change, and I cannot promise a new entry every Tuesday.  I’m ready to go again, and there is much to do.

voyager

And, what a time to come back to it! Star Trek: Voyager premiered twenty years ago this month (January 16th to be exact). I distinctly remember when the show came on. I was off of school for Martin Luther King Day. The United Paramount Network (UPN) was being heavily hyped on Chicago WPWR (Power 50!) and Voyager specifically. It was to become the flagship show of the new network. A week or so before the premiere of “Caretaker”, my family got package of popcorn in the mail in some sort of promotion for the show. Nothing was special about the popcorn other than it had a very large Star Trek: Voyager logo on the packaging. My parents and I decided to eat it during the show.

Ah…memories. And I can’t believe that was 20 years ago!

Despite a really solid pilot episode, Voyager was a mixed bag of a series (especially after the second or third season). To celebrate its anniversary, I do not want to focus on the negatives. Instead, I want to celebrate Voyager and all the good it did as a television series.

One of Voyager’s strongest attributes was its cast, specifically Kate Mulgrew. While her character might have been dubiously written over the course of seven years, Mulgrew committed to the role. Captain Janeway was very much a mother to her crew, and Mulgrew really conveyed her concern and loving nature a mother would have. Perhaps she drew on her own experiences as a mother, but she completely sold it. But she wasn’t a pushover either. Mulgrew had a commanding presence, and you knew Janeway meant business.

Much was hyped about having the first woman captain in a Star Trek series, but the fact that she was a woman was never a focal point of the show or her character. In the ’90s, the movie/TV business was trying to really diversify their casts, but many times, despite good intentions, it was clumsily handled and not written all that well. Gay and lesbian characters were especially dogged by this. Voyager did it right in that regard by not making her character having to overcome others’ issues with her because she is a woman (a popular trope then and now). I really think this was one of the aspects that really pushed Janeway to become a culture icon at the time. Her character was tough, intelligent, and was portrayed by an impressive actress. Janeway had flaws, but was never a damsel (at least no more than any of the other characters).

Voyager was also very action-oriented, much more than other Star Trek series. That isn’t meant as a slam. Voyager did its action very, very well. It was always interesting and exciting. The show started to make use of CGI in its later years, which opened up what the showrunners could do during the space battle sequences.   As I noted in my “Endgame” review, Voyager knew how to put on a spectacle

Additionally, Voyager was just completely crazy at times. Many episodes really pushed the boundaries when it came to incredible high-concepts. Some of the crazier episodes involved an evil clown, the ship all twisted around, space dinosaurs, 1930s B-movies, and the ship being split into multiple timelines. Not all of these ended up working, but I can’t help but be impressed with the risks and the ambitious nature of what they were trying to do. Considering that the show was spearheaded for much of its run by Brannon Braga, who likes to play with high-concepts, it isn’t a surprise that that became one of the staples of Voyager.

Star Trek: Voyager is twenty years old. Its reputation isn’t the greatest, but you cannot deny that the show definitely carved out its own identity. I’d argue that the show was middling at best. However when it was good, it was good. Unlike the more popular Deep Space Nine series or the more recent Enterprise series, pop culture enthusiasts seem to remember Voyager. Its imprint has been made, and twenty years later, it remains.

What about another twenty more?

~N

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