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Paramount Studios presents
Star Trek: Voyager—The Complete Third Season (1996-1997)

"This day was inevitable. We all knew it and we've all tried to prepare ourselves for the challenge ahead. But at what point is the risk too great?"
- Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)

Review By: Matt Peterson  
Published: July 06, 2004

Stars: Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Tim Russ, Roxann Dawson, Robert Picardo, Jennifer Lien, Garrett Wang, Robert Duncan McNeill, Ethan Phillips
Other Stars: Anthony De Longis, Nancy Hower, Brad Dourif, Martha Hackett, Michael Ansara, George Takei, Grace Lee Whitney, Don McManus, Dan Shor, Leslie Jordan, Eugene Roche, Charles Esten, Becky Ann Baker, Sarah Silverman, Ed Begley Jr., Anthony Crivello, John de Lancie, Suzie Plakson, Alexander Enberg, James Nardini, Sandra Nelson, Len Cariou, Lori Hallier, David Lee Smith, Alan Oppenheimer, Irene Tsu, Jessica Collins, Glenn Walker Harris Jr., Henry Woronicz, Deborah Levin, John Rhys-Davies
Director: Various

MPAA Rating: Not Rated for (sci-fi violence and adult themes)
Run Time: 19h:43m:00s
Release Date: July 06, 2004
UPC: 097360507942
Genre: television


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
A B+AA B-

DVD Review

On the road again—going to places that we've kind of been. Voyager's noble concept has all but disappeared behind a façade of familiar stories by the third season, but somehow manages to entertain. Captain Janeway and company are still stranded 67 years from home, in the inhospitable, treacherous Delta Quadrant. The mission? A simple one: Get that sleek ship home, and, well, do a bit of exploring while you're at it. Despite the many detours along the way, the crew of the intrepid Voyager manages to clock around 1,000 light years per season, so we've got around 67,000 to go by the end of this round. Do starship chronometers go up that far?

Producers touted the third entry into the series as the season of great change. There were massive overhauls to be made. The powers that be felt the series was falling into a bit of a rut, looking too much like a recycled Next Generation in a different quadrant. Fans agreed, as did ratings, which faltered throughout the shows initial run. Voyager's high concept lends itself to great potential and adventure. It's a series that could and should stand out. However, in their efforts, Season Three contains a few too many shuttle crashes, remaining decidedly familiar, despite an ambitious, epic stand-alone storytelling style that enthralls at times, but wanes at others.

The season opens where we left off: The crew of Voyager is stranded by the Kazon on a prehistoric planet, left without the aid of their "precious technology." Basics, Part II resolves the plight with some thrilling action set pieces that involveÑsurprise!Ña volcano! In truth, the planet side struggles are the least compelling of this all-too-clean resolution. The real drama occurs back on board Voyager, where it is up to the sociopathic Suder and the Doctor to regain control of the ship, and save their comrades. Suder, a homicidal Betazoid whose condition was explored in last season's Meld, is on the tail end of his grueling therapy with Tuvok. As he is coming closer to inner peace, he is forced to kill to survive, making for some heavy drama. Fortunately, this is a fond farewell to the dreaded Kazon, a poorly conceived villain.

Next, we get a fine slice of Trek nostalgia. Written to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the franchise, Flashback brings back the beloved Sulu as Captain of the starship Excelsior. Tuvok served with the famed helmsmen early in his Starfleet career. When Tuvok falls headlong into a mental condition that plagues him with visions of a dying girl, he and Janeway explore Tuvok's past via mind meld, trying to trace the origin of the problem. Their exploration takes them aboard Sulu's vessel during the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. This is a fun story that finds a clever way to bring back the great George Takei, and gives us a rare glimpse of what transpired on the Excelsior during the last film featuring the original crew.

Not a bad start. Right from the get-go, it's clear the show's production values have improved. Most of the episodes are tightly directed, the best talent being mainstay David Livingston, whose creative energy is evident throughout his episodes. Cinematography and lighting are more interesting and varied. Visual effects have begun to include CGI technology, with mixed results. Macrocosm, where Voyager is infected by huge viruses, fails to amaze with some subpar computer creatures. The script was not much better, geared to be an Alien rip-off, or an excuse to get Janeway sweaty and trigger happy. The Swarm, which puts Janeway and crew head to head with a host of leech-like vessels, contains some dazzling shots. By the end of the season, a certain legendary nemesis will come into the picture, and raise the visuals to a whole new level.

Acting is stellar, especially by Kate Mulgrew and her senior staff. The main crew is certainly a talented and varied bunch, despite some of the weak material they have to work with. By this point, the characters are pretty well established, but the explorations of their alter egos continues. Jennifer Lien's Kes has some real moments to shine this season, first with the clever, yet used Warlord. Kes is taken over by the consciousness of a vicious alien military leader, showcasing Lien's great talent. Later, in Before and After, one of the best of the season, Kes wakes up near the end of her nine-year life span and begins to travel back in time. This great tale gives us a glimpse of events to come along Voyager's journey, including the "Year of Hell."

The Doctor's origin is explored through a great double performance by Robert Picardo in The Swarm. Picardo also plays the EMH's creator, Dr. Zimmerman, who appears as a holographic diagnostic tool. The ailing Doctor, who has begun to lose his memories. The two create an amazing comic duo. Later, in Real Life, the opera-loving Doctor finds out what it's like to raise a family through a series of simulations. First, his holographic brood is sunny and perfect, like a 1950s sitcom, only to decay into realistic havoc, marked by his teenage son's fondness of loud Klingon music. The direction of Anson Williams is superb, adapting to different styles that reflect the state of the family.

Others developments include the friendship between Paris and Kim, which takes a brutal turn in the biting, harsh prison of The Chute. Paris and Torres begin their relationship with violence in Blood Fever. This semi-annual, obligatory Pon farr (the Vulcan period of heat that occurs every seven years) episode pits Vulcan newcomer Ensign Vorik against Torres, both of whom are affected with the desire to mate. As the Doctor puts it, the Vulcan's have a very Victorian attitude about sex. Neelix's seedy past comes back to haunt him in the darkly toned Fair TradeÑa refreshing turn for the frequently jovial Neelix. Q returns in the comedic The Q and the Grey, hoping to have a child with Captain Janeway to stop a civil war in the Continuum. John De Lancie is great once again, showing a rare, self-sacrificial side of his character. I always thought "Chuckles" was a better name than Chakotay.

Other entries are stand-alone oriented, creating a show devoid of any kind of story arc. The gut-wrenching, standout Remember places Torres in the shoes of an alien passenger, who telepathically transmits her memories of a hidden genocide on her world to the engineer. Torres lives the events and blows the whistle, hoping to bring to justice those who committed these heinous crimes. Clear, powerful connections are made to the Holocaust. False Profits is a hit-and-miss reappearance of two Ferengi, who have made themselves into deities, ruling over an unsuspecting culture. Distant Origin addresses fear of change through science, reflecting on the initial reaction to the theories of Darwin. Alter Ego looks at holographic love and loneliness though Marayna, an alien who takes the form of a holodeck character, falls in love with Tuvok, and threatens the ship if he does not become her companion. The cover reads "another holodeck-gone-awry episode," but there is more to be found here.

As mentioned, some complete epic stories are told, the most memorable being Future's End. In this two-parter, Janeway and crew must reclaim a "timeship" that causes a temporal explosion in the 29th century, destroying Earth's solar system. This event is precipitated by Voyager, which is led back to 20th century Los Angeles where a computer technology magnate has possession of the ship, the technology of which led to the computer revolution of past years. In the tradition of great episodes like A Piece of the Action, we get to see the crew function awkwardly in our time, despite Paris' claims about his knowledge of 20th century America. Part I is far superior to the wrap-up, but this is a solid entry. The epic events don't stop there.

Here's a likely line of thought: Okay, we're in the Delta Quadrant. A certain nemesis came from the Delta Quadrant. We need to ramp up ratings, use some of those great sets and costumes made for First Contact and make the show edgier. Time for the futility of resistance. You guessed it: The Borg are the big addition this time around, and they add a new sense of excitement and danger to the end of the season. First appearing at the end of Blood Fever, the Borg make a unique comeback in Unity. Chakotay stumbles on a colony of ex-Borg humans who are fighting with other races liberated from their former Collective prison. They have made a new home, but are faced with more bloodshed. Using their remaining Borg technology, the humans want to recreate a link among the warring aliens to share thoughts, and regain peace. To do so, they need Voyager's help to activate their abandoned Borg vessel. Later, in the stunning cliffhanger finale Scorpion, Part I, the crew enters Borg space, and are chased by 15 cubes, only to be passed by. The Borg are more concerned with a new, more powerful threat: Species 8472, a conquoring tripedal alien race that lives in liquidic space, flies organic vessels and cannot be assimilated. Voyager and the Borg have a common threat, and Janeway wants to exploit it for the benefit of her crew. She proposes a shaky alliance. Great visuals, including a successful CGI 8472, and a dangerous, epic tale infuses some fresh energy into the series. Trust me, this is better than the Kazon.

So, what's the problem? Well, aside from a streak of three very weak episodes (Darkling, Rise, Favorite Son, preceding a great end of season streak), the writers still seem to be missing the whole point of the show. When you have two separate crews (Starfleet and Maquis, remember?Ñthe writer's haven't) stranded 70 years from home, things need to feel different. Despite the Maquis themed holodeck fantasy Worst Case Scenario, the conflict evident in the pilot has completely dissolved. There are still strict adherence to rules and regulations, even if it causes great pain to the crew. I'm not advocating the crew become a band of mercenaries bent to get home by any means necessary, but where are the overarching conflicts inherent in such a situation? Why must there be a reset button? Where are the effects of previous episodes? When the Doctor forgets his identity in The Swarm, why is he suddenly back to normal by next week? Don't get me wrong. I'm talking from the perspective of a fan. This is still solid, episodic sci-fi television that is an improvement from season two, but this voyage continues to frustrate.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: B+

 

Image Transfer

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


Image Transfer Review: The image remains strong. Despite some occasional softness, detail is very good, as is contrast, showing deep blacks. Colors are bold and the image is clean. Minor noise or grain can appear in darker scenes. Visual effects still contains some artifacting here and there (since they were from a different source), but this is as good as these can look.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0Englishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby 5.1 remix is effective. Surround activity is mostly faithful to the original Dolby Surround mixes (also included), relying mostly on atmospheric, ambient effects, but the occasional directional effect does crop up. Audiophiles love the Borg. The sound of the Collective fills the soundstage when they speak—extra time was spent mixing Scorpion, Part I. LFE is strong at times during explosions and flybys.

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
10 Featurette(s)
Packaging: unknown keepcase
7 Discs
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The 26 episodes are contained on seven discs. The packaging is now a neon yellowish-green book-like stack of plastic disc trays, enclosed by two clear plastic pieces that fit over the top and bottom. The color scheme is working out better than I expected. This time around, the menus feature different angles of a shuttlecraft instead of Voyager herself.

Here we go with more interview-based extras on Disc 7. Braving the Unknown: Season 3 (13m:10s) looks at specific episodes from the season, featuring interviews from cast members and higher-ups such as Jeri Taylor, David Livingston and Brannon Braga. The information is quite general, focusing briefly on the desire to create more epic adventures for the crew.

Flashback to Flashback (13m:36s) is a fine little piece on one of the highlight episodes of the season. The best material here is a new interview of George Takei, who discusses his view on the episode, including some justified tones of dissatisfaction. Takei found out about his guest role off the internetÑeven his agent had not been informed. The episode's concept and visual effects are also discussed.

Next is two similar featurettes: Voyager Time Capsule: Neelix (12m:05s) and Voyager Time Capsule: Kes (12m:03s). These romantically involved characters are dissected through clips and archival interviews. Ethan Phillips' piece contains a newly recorded interview with some interesting anecdotes and subjects, including makeup, his farewell, and the backstory behind the Star Trek Cookbook. "All-you-can-eat Borg Big Boy's Borscht" sounds like it could go either way.

VFX producer Dan Curry discusses the advent of CGI in Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 3 (16m:56s). Topics include the lava effects of Basics, Part II, the viruses of Macrocosm, models in Distant Origin, and Species 8472.

Real Science with Andre Bormanis (10m:40s) is an interview with Voyager's science consultant, who looks at the science behind the science fiction. He covers various stellar phenomenon, including supernovas. Another fine addition is interviews with Neil deGrasse Tyson and Sallie Baliunas, two notable astrophysicists. They chat about Star Trek's attempts to incorporate real science into its imaginative stories.

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

There is a photo gallery of 40 images, and five Lost Transmissions from the Delta Quadrant. These are brief easter egg featurettes that feature a cast or crew members discussing a memorable moment from the season. Here's what they cover: Martha Hackett on Worst Case Scenario (1m:48s); Kate Mulgrew on Macrocosm, The Q and the Grey and John deLancie (3m:15s); Robert Picardo on The Swarm (1m:21s); Tim Russ on Blood Fever (3m:38s); Director David Livingston on Distant Origins.

Some entertaining features, but still uninspired.

Extras Grade: B-

 

Final Comments

Season three is not the revolutionary change some would like you to believe. However, it is a step up from the second season. Marked by several strong stand-alone adventures, the show is sadly without a story arc or any kind of long term, recurring issues. Despite this lack of consideration for the big picture, this is a good show that becomes darker and more thrilling by the end. Recommended.

 


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