January 2015 marks 20 years since Voyager first aired. Caretaker’s original airdate was January 16, here’s TrekMovie’s list of 20 great Voyager episodes you may have missed.
Voyager (and its sister spin-off DS9) has a mixed following, where Trek fans seem to either love it or just write it off very quickly. If the latter describes you, consider the following 20 episodes you may have missed to get to know the crew of the NCC-74656. (Note that I’ve skipped the big Borg ones like Scorpion that everyone’s probably seen.)
20. False Profits
We start our list with what is technically a sequel to an otherwise embarrassing episode of TNG (The Price). The Voyager crew have to outwit a group of Ferengi who have overtaken a primitive planet, but without polluting the planet’s culture even worse. It’s what Trek should be: our heroes navigating between what their technology lets them do and what their ethics forbid them from doing.
I don’t want to oversell it, but this is seriously the best Prime Directive episode since A Private Little War.
One of the criticisms against Voyager is that a lot of The Doctor (and Seven) episodes about “learning what it is to be more human” feel like retreads of what we’d already seen with Data over on TNG. But this one doesn’t: this is an existential story that you could only tell with a hologram.
Also this brought into the Voyager fold Reg Barclay, who as a holodicted engineer is the only one who knows more about holography than a hologram.
18. The Omega Directive
Something that was always missing from Trek, even its most Cold War-y episodes, was weapons of mass destruction. The reason the Soviets and Americans never really went to war was the mutually assured destruction of nuclear weapons – in Trek, it was just the Organians saying “Nope!”
Omega Directive introduces WMDs to Trek and reminds us that the galaxy is a dangerous place.
17. The Thaw
We mentioned this one in our list of Halloween episodes, so I won’t rehash it too much. The lead guitarist from Spinal Tap traps our crew in a nightmare hellscape – how can you miss? Also this video of Janeway crushing the Monster of the Week is one of the classic moments of the entire franchise:
16. Living Witness
The only episode of the three Star Trek series set in the 24th Century (TNG, DS9, and VOY) to take place completely outside of the 24th Century, Living Witness shows us what we never get to see otherwise: the lasting impact our heroes have on a planet they just visit and leave. We know they’re heroes, but 700 years of history and cultural bias tell a different story…
14 and 15. Year of Hell (1 and 2)
One of Voyager’s more creative entries, this two-parter features an extrapolation of the time travel trope: weaponized causality paradoxes. Honestly the only sad thing about this story is that it wasn’t stretched out for a whole season.
But genuinely doing a year of hell would have been very ambitious for network TV in the 90s. Maybe if we go back in time and share this article with Rick Berman…
One of the criticisms of Voyager is that there are too many “Gilligan’s Island” episodes, where the crew sees a way home and oh maybe they’ll make it this time! But of course they can’t or else the series would be over. This one takes that conceit and makes it the whole episode: the crew tried to get home and died in the process, so future Harry and Chakotay have to save the day. Throw in a cameo by LeVar Burton and you have one of the best episodes of the series:
12. The Void
You know what would be the worst part of flying in one direction for 70,000 light years? Boredom. Not alien fights and classic “I must, but I must not!” dilemmas. Just facing the black, nothingness of space week after week. That’s what this episode is about.
(But don’t worry they do eventually throw in alien fights and a classic “I must, but I must not!” dilemma.)
11. Life Line
Remember how I said that a lot of The Doctor episodes feel like Data retreads? Well this one proves that you can do that and still tell an awesome, fresh story. The Doctor meets his dying creator, played by the same actor – just like they did with Brent Spiner in Brothers – but with a much different outcome and emotional impact to the tale.
Also this one episode features Deanna doing more actual counseling than she got to do on seven years of TNG.
10. Bride of Chaotica
It’s unfortunate that Gene’s vision of a secular humanist future prevented our crew from fighting Satan’s Robot for so long… but with this episode we were finally able to see that conflict:
Kate Mulgrew’s turn as the eponymous Bride is a pinnacle of retro sci-fi glory. Seriously, you show up to a convention dressed up so you look like a black-and-white Arachnea and everyone will stop you for a picture.
9. Blink of an Eye
Hey remember in Interstellar where gravity affects the speed of time? Well Voyager does, because they did that 15 years ago.
Also note the homage to the TOS Wink of an Eye in the title.
8. Worst Case Scenario
A terrific illustration of BOTH the conflict between Maquis and Starfleet and a “the holodeck runs awry” story that isn’t ridiculous. This is a terrific tale full of twists and action… plus the UPN trailer promises the “ultimate act of betrayal!”
7. The 37’s
One of Trek Movie Kayla Iacovino’s favorite Voyager episodes, The 37’s is in the same vein as classic TOS episodes like “Who Mourns for Adonais?” or “Bread and Circuses” where the crew finds answers about Earth history on a distant planet. (This is the one where Janeway meets Amelia Earhart.)
Also there is this cool sequence where they land Voyager on a planet:
Way better than the pointless saucer separation on TNG if you ask me.
6. Message in a Bottle
Even if you’re not a Voyager fan you are certainly aware of this episode: it’s the one with Andy Dick as the EMH Mark 2. It’s full of a lot of great humor, a lot of Robert Picardo, some wonderfully insidious Romulans (including one played by Joachim from Wrath of Khan), and some terrific action.
Also it introduces us to “multi-vector assault mode,” which is better than landing the ship and the saucer separation combined:
5. Good Shepherd
We mentioned this one on our Christmas list: Captain Janeway takes some personal time to work with rejects on her ship who would have otherwise been booted out of (or left) Starfleet. My personal favorite moment of this episode is when we learn that one of these rejects only joined Starfleet because he thought it would look good on his application to grad school.
4. Eye of the Needle
The first “Gilligan’s Island” episode features a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is Voyager makes contact with an Alpha Quadrant race who can help take them home! The bad news it’s the Romulans.
The Romulan scientist, ably played by Trek super guest star Vaughn Armstrong, is an endearing deviation from the standard Romulan schemer and much kinder than the ones in Message in a Bottle. The outcome (Voyager doesn’t make it home) shouldn’t surprise you, but the story is still a good one.
3. Barge of the Dead
This one feels a lot like a DS9 Worf episode… because it was. When Ron Moore came to Voyager after DS9 was over, he brought this script with him. He switched it to Belanna, who dies and goes to Klingon hell. Alas we do not see a triumphant return of Fek’lhr:
If you’re a DS9 and/or Worf fan, maybe you should start with this one.
2. Learning Curve
Introducing the popular minor character Chell, “Learning Curve” shows us how Tuvok tries to whip a bunch of Maquis into shape – a challenge given that he’d spent months undercover lying to their faces about his intentions.
The episode also features the most innocuous Monster of the Week in Star Trek history (spoilers in the video):
My personal favorite episode of Voyager is this Belanna vehicle. Structurally, this episode is what every Star Trek story should aspire to: a real-life dilemma (Belanna’s pregnancy) is played out against a science fiction backdrop (genetic engineering, holographic ethics), causing believable conflict among the lead characters.
Throw in some nice flashbacks to young Belanna and Lineage is so watchable it could have been an episode of Lost.