Created by: Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor
Starring: Kate Mulgrew, Robert Beltran, Roxann Dawson, Jennifer Lien, Robert Duncan McNeill, Ethan Phillips, Robert Picardo, Tim Russ, Jeri Ryan, and Garrett Wang
- All twenty-six fourth season episodes
- “Braving the Unknown: Season Four” feature
- “Time Capsule” featurettes: Seven of Nine and Harry Kim
- “The Birth of Species 8472” effects featurette
- “The Art of Alien Worlds” production design featurette
- Photo gallery
Released by: Paramount
Rating: NR, suitable for most audiences 13+
Anamorphic: N/A; appears in its original 1.33:1 format.
My Advice: There are a few episodes worth seeing, but not enough to make it worth buying the set.
[ad#longpost]After three seasons of Voyager, the show’s popularity was flagging, and serious doubts still lingered about making it to the magical syndication point of no return. In a desperate bid to get more eyes on the screen, the show’s creators reverted to a tried-and-true television tactic…T&A. Demure cutie Kes (Lien), who had always sort of seemed a cheap Deanna Troi knock-off to me anyway, exits in the season’s second episode, clearing the way for the cast’s newly acquired member, Seven of Nine (Ryan). With Seven, the makers of the show set their crosshairs squarely over the endocrine systems of the much-vaunted “Male 15-34” demographic, and pulled the trigger. The result was a serious boost to the show’s popularity, drawing enough ratings to push the show through not just to the syndication mark of one hundred episodes, but three more seasons beyond that. Die-hard fans thought it a cheap trick, unless they fell in that demographic, at which point they cared little, provided Seven never got issued a less-skintight uniform.
The writers kept the focus squarely on the curvaceous Seven throughout this season, quickly making her the most-used crew member aside from Captain Janeway (Mulgrew). The best of the season, however, typically revolves around spotlighting other characters. Kes gets an episode to say her goodbyes (“The Gift”), and Chakotay (Beltran) gets an episode to get brainwashed and play soldier in a bizarre Red Dawn/Lord of the Flies story (“Nemesis”). Tom and B’Elanna (McNeill & Dawson) even get a fascinating episode in which their ill-defined relationship grows into something much more, but the concept isn’t sufficiently expanded or explored in the episodes that follow–a tragic wasted opportunity to make a couple of sometimes-flat characters more interesting.
Unfortunately, there’s just too little here. Out of twenty-six episodes, there are maybe six or seven that are really solid storytelling. Such a percentage is hardly inspiring, given the price tag of owning the season. If one cuts the show a little more slack, or just lowers one’s standards a bit, then perhaps half the shows in the season are watchable. In the remaining half, there’s too much of “LOOK AT SEVEN’S BOOBS!” and not enough actual plot. Character development regarding the new Borg on board could have been interesting, but not when it’s spread out over so many episodes as an excuse to keep the cameras on the actress in question.
The special features list is as stacked as any Trek offering to date, but that’s no surprise. The audio and video are excellent, as well. I’ll give Paramount credit…they throw their all into the production of the DVDs, regardless of the relative popularity of the particular Trek series in question. For those out there that were lukewarm on Picard and Company, but can’t get enough Janeway, it’s nice that the studio’s not giving them short shrift. I can’t imagine too many such people existing (or at least being capable of feeding themselves, much less buying DVDs), but hell, Firefly had fans. Who am I to judge?
You get the typical season overview we’ve seen before, along with two more character/actor spotlights: on Harry Kim and Seven of Nine. There’s also a brief featurette that takes you through the creation of CG-alien race, 8472, as well as an art featurette. Sadly, also par for the course is the lack of commentary tracks–just one a boxed set would be nice.
Rent it if you can, because there are a few episodes that are quite well done. Just be prepared to scene-skip through about half the episodes in the set.