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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: Voyager—The Complete Second Season (1995-1996)

"Am I the only one who is intent on getting home? Is it just me? Am I leading the crew on a forlorn mission with no real hope of success?"
- Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: June 02, 2004

Stars: Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Tim Russ, Roxann Dawson, Robert Picardo, Jennifer Lien, Garrett Wang, Robert Duncan McNeiill, Ethan Pillips
Other Stars: Sharon Lawrence, Aron Eisenberg, Dwight Schultz, Nancy Hower, Jennifer Gatti, Michael Cumptsy, Carolyn Seymour, Douglas Spain, Gary Graham, Anthony DeLongis, Martha Hackett, Joel Grey, Rick Worthy, Brad Dourif, Gerrit Graham, John de Lancie, Susan Diol, Michael McKean, Tom Wright
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence and adult themes)
Run Time: 19h:43m:00s
Release Date: May 18, 2004
UPC: 097360507843
Genre: television

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer

DVD Review

As season two of Lost in Space, Star Trek -style opens, we find ourselves exactly where we left off: Stranded 75,000 light years from home, the crew of the starship Voyager is on an arduous journey back home, facing feelings of desperation, isolation and uncertainty. Led by the strong-willed Captain Janeway, the crew, composed of Starfleet and Maquis personnel, overcome their differences a bit too quickly to face a common threat: The innumerable challenges and adversaries found within the borders of the Delta Quadrant. Regardless of the dangers inherent in such a situation, Janeway is not about to let the Roddenberry charter of "seeking out new life and new civilizations" behind. Voyager, after all, is a ship of exploration. This new, uncharted territory will not be left unexplored. Great. With all these fantastic diversions, the crew should get home in about, oh, say, 500 years.

Tongue-in-cheek comments aside, this is the nature of the beast. Voyager noble concept is one that is inherently riddled with problems. Sure, the crew will explore and encounter new and strange life forms, but what is the ultimate mission? To get home, of course. Within that context, any episode that hints this may take place is ultimately a tease. If they got home, the show will end. These are some of the issues I brought up in my review of the first season (which serves as a primer to the series as a whole, if you're going in blind). Indeed, they are present to a lesser degree in season two (see Cold Fire), which begins with a block of episodes produced during the first season. This still feels familiar, despite a new hairdo for Captain Janeway, and new style phasers and tricorders that appear without explanation (I guess UPS runs in the Delta Quadrant). Granted, new ground is being approached, but ever so slightly. By the end of the season, the writers, led by legendary Trek scribes Michael Piller and Brannon Braga, will begin to up the ante and to take risks.

The season opener, The 37s, is certainly a highlight piece of science fiction. Somewhat of a retread of The Next Generation's The Neutral Zone, Janeway and crew discover a group of humans cryogenically frozen on a planet. These humans are from the early 20th century, among them, none other than Amelia Earhart. Along with several other individuals from every walk of life, Earhart was abducted by aliens (I new it!). Humans were brought to this planet for labor purposes, but eventually, the humans resisted, conquering their captors and began a new civilization that reveres Earhart and her frozen comrades as deities. This is a fun episode that features Sharon Lawrence as the legendary aviator, and brings into question the wisdom of Janeway's commitment to returning home. We also get to see Voyager's landing capabilities for the first time, giving us a rare sight of blue sky out the Captain's Ready Room window.

Now that characters and concepts have been established, season two has the luxury to further explore the back stories and relationships of and between its cast of characters. These explorations, combined with hard-hitting ideas that speak to issues affecting our lives in the 21st (or at the time, 20th) century, are what make Trek shine. Probably the strongest, if not the most entertaining, character on Voyager, The Doctor questions his state of existence in Projections, featuring a guest appearance from Dwight Schultz, playing the quirky Broccoli, er, Barclay. Though the episode is almost entirely set in sickbay, Braga's intelligent script explores the line between machine and man, filling the void left by Spock and later, Data. Lifesigns is another memorable Doctor episode, exploring romance with a Vidiian patient, whose eventual appearance proves that true love goes beyond skin deep—one of the season's best.

Others include Persistence of Vision, which uses the deceptive telepathic abilities of an alien to reveal back story for characters though powerful hallucinations. We learn more about B'Elanna's romantic interests, Paris' adversarial father, and Janeway's fiancée. Kes' telepathic abilities are also developed in this episode and throughout the season, as is her short Ocampan lifespan. Where would we be without a telepath on board? One of my favorite episodes of the season, Non Sequitur throws Ensign Kim into an alternate universe, back home in San Francisco with his beautiful fiancée, showing the life he left behind. In this reality, Kim never served on Voyager, and is now a ship designer for Starfleet. Despite this paradise, Kim knows it's not real and strives to get back to Voyager. A questionable move. Tattoo powerfully recounts Chakotay's tribal origins. We also see the banter between Neelix and Tuvok increase, Tom and Kim's friendship develop and the trust between Janeway and Chakotay, strengthen, brought to a new level in Resolutions.

Some of season two's episodes appropriately address the hardships of being stranded so far from home. In the opener, Janeway offers her crew the chance to live with other humans in a thriving civilization, realizing some may see the mission as hopeless. Rules and regulations begin to become obsolete in such an environment, and Elogium addresses the possibility of Voyager becoming a generational ship. Crew members begin to pair off, creating some friction between Neelix and Paris, who begins to have feelings for Kes. Neelix, the jealous type, will not stand for this, culminating in the old stranded-on-a-planet-then-become-good-friends episode Parturition. Childbearing is explored thorough the unusual puberty of Kes, who begins eating everything in sight, requires foot massages, and starts secreting what looks like mustard from her hands. I'll just let that one stand on its own.

The first glimmer of an ongoing story arc appears in season two, culminating in the standout season finale. The dreaded Kazon, one of the worst enemies devised for Star Trek, continues to be the primary nemesis, first returning in Initiations. Things heat up with the return of Seska in Maneuvers. Seska has joined the Kazon, and hopes to exact revenge on the Federation crew by stealing their technology. Her Lady Macbeth-like relationship with the Kazon Cullah and her former romantic connection to Chakotay makes this an interesting character, but is not as dynamic or chilling as the writers would want us to believe. In the cliffhanger finale, Basics, the Kazon succeed, stripping the crew of their precious technology and abandoning them on a prehistoric planet.

There are also a few solid, studio-satisfying standalone episodes that explore many issues, and new life forms. Memorable episodes include Dreadnought, in which Torres has a Hal like face-off with a computer automated weapon she designed; Meld introduces Suter, a sociopathic crewmember who is aided by Tuvok; Death Wish marks the return of Q (a rarely serious John de Lancie), who flashes in to reclaim another Q who wishes to commit suicide, bringing into question all sorts of moral conundrums; Deadlock, one of the season's best, features the Vidiians, a duplicate Voyager and the ever-present reset button; Finally, Tuvix, a blend of Tuvok and Neelix (quite a combo) created by a transporter accident, brings into question the rights of new life.

Despite some ambitious entries, there are still quite a few misfires in this season, as I hinted throughout. The largest steaming pile is certainly Threshold, in which Paris breaks the warp 10 barrier, then proceeds to de-evolve into a lizard, kidnaps Janeway, who also ends up de-evolving, and the two have little lizards. This is an actual episode. Seriously. Writer Brannon Braga, who has written over 100 episodes of Trek, admits this is a terrible piece. Like he says, when you write that many scripts, there's bound to be some stinkers. Unfortunately, as Shakespeare says, "the evil that men do live after them...the good is often turned with their bones." The memory of this one will die hard.

Threshold aside, Voyager season two begins to take risks by the end, but feels like old territory. Character development is better this time around, but by no means revolutionary. There are some superb episodes within, and this is still a solid television show, but remains to be one of the weaker Trek series. A slight improvement from season one, but we've still got some ground, and a few thousand light years to cover.

Rating for Style: A-
Rating for Substance: B


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio1.33:1 - Full Frame
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: Image quality is up to snuff with previous boxsets, showcasing strong blacks and solid contrast. Grain can show up in darkly lit scenes from time to time, and the occasional shimmer does appear around VFX shots and other post-produced effects, but none of these are distracting. The effects blend very well into the live action photography, not exhibiting the obvious difference in sources commonly seen on the TNG DVDs. A gorgeous image.

Image Transfer Grade: A


Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital

Audio Transfer Review: ª?ty 5.1 remix really packs a punch. Even though much of the mix is front heavy, surrounds provide a nice sense of ambient fill, immersing the viewer in the sounds of the starship, or an alien planet. Discrete effects do appear from time to time, but do not call too much attention to themselves. LFE kicks in during starship flybys and explosions with great effect. Not as dynamic as some mixes, but faithful to the original track (which is also included) and enhanced enough to make the experience fresh.

Audio Transfer Grade: A


Disc Extras

Animated menu with music
Scene Access with 208 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Other Trailer(s) featuring Star Trek: The Experience—Borg Invasion 4-D
1 Documentaries
12 Featurette(s)
Packaging: unknown keepcase
Picture Disc
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The 26 episodes are contained on seven discs. The set's packaging follows the first season's scheme, housing the discs in a book-like arrangement of plastic disc trays, enclosed by two clear plastic pieces that fit over the top and bottom. I've realized this is not the most resilient packaging, but I still find it attractive.

Once again, the extras on Disc 7 are mostly interview-based and quite uninspired. A glimmer of innovation appears on the first disc, which includes a "Text Trivia Version" of The 37s. With this option turned on, large, obtrusive graphic boxes appear during the episode providing interesting historical factoids, many of which may be familiar to Trek fans. A nice bonus, but not as informative as Mike Okuda's tracks on the special edition re-issues of the feature films.

The rest of the features follow the format laid out by the first season. Braving the Unknown: Season 2 (16m:30s) features new interviews with the usual suspects: producers Rick Berman, Jeri Taylor, Michael Piller and Brannon Braga discuss the philosophy going into season two. Piller sounds especially proud of their work, which attempted to accelerate tension and take risks to reflect the new energy found in TV shows of the time, most notably, ER.

Voyager Time Capsule: Tuvok (13m:57s) focuses on Tim Russ' Vulcan, how he got the role, his appearance in Star Trek Generations, and more. We also get a glimpse at the actor's other creative endeavors. Russ is an accomplished musician, and this piece includes a rare glimpse at his singing talents in action. You've never seen Tuvok like this.

In Saboteur Extraordinaire: Seska (06m:42s), actress Martha Hackett gives a new take on her character that gave Chakotay such a headache in the second season.

A Day in the Life of Ethan Phillips (07m:03s) follows the actor who plays Neelix around for a day of production, starting with his multi-hour makeup application that begins at 3:30 in the morning. We get to see some candid behind-the-scenes rehearsals and footage, along with Phillips' great sense of humor. A fun piece.

VFX producer Dan Curry takes us through the impressive visuals of season two in Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2 (12m:51s). One of the VFX centerpieces of the season is the first use of Voyager's landing capabilities. Curry takes us through the process of making those shots happen, along with other practical effects used in various episodes (including the dreaded Threshold).

Real Science with Andre Bormanis (11m:26s) is a discussion with Voyager's science consultant, who compares fact with the science fiction of season two. Topics include the ship's bio-neural gel packs, androids (relating to the episode Prototype), planetoid rings, and more.

The disc also contains a brief trailer (00m:57s) for the new Borg Invasion 4-D ride at Las Vegas' Star Trek: The Experience. A coupon for up to $25.00 off admission to up to 5 attractions ($5 off each attraction) is included in the package.

Finally, we are given another photo gallery of 40 images, rounded out by six Easter eggs, easily found on the Special Features menu pages. Dubbed Lost Transmissions from the Delta Quadrant, these brief featurettes showcase cast and crew discussing certain moments or episodes. Okay, last time, I promise: The best of these is Brannon Braga's confession regarding Threshold, where he admits the faults of this notorious adventure. Funny stuff. All right, I'll stop. Let's give Braga a break. Remember, he did write the excellent Deadlock.

Extras Grade: B


Final Comments

Voyager's second season improves a bit on the first, but the series is still finding its footing. Characters become more developed and solidified, exploration is stressed just as much as getting home, and a recurring story arc with the Kazon feels lacking, but makes for a solid cliffhanger. There are some great episodes to be found here, and the show is always entertaining—Just don't go past warp 10. Sorry, I did it again. Recommended.


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