In the twenty-sixth and final episode of the fourth season of Voyager, THIS WAS SO GREAT. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
I don’t think this is a perfect finale – and I’ll get to a few issues I had with it – but it was exciting, a fantastic culmination of numerous storylines with yet another glimpse of the future for Voyager. In the end, though, I’m glad that the writers focused on what has made this show so great this season: Janeway and Seven of Nine. It’s rare that two women are both the central focus of Star Trek, and Voyager completely destroys pretty much every other Star Trek show in this regard. But this season in particular has given both Kathryn Mulgrew and Jeri Ryan a ridiculous amount of material to work with, and both actresses have responded beautifully.
At the heart of this finale is Seven’s struggle with her humanity and Janeway’s attempts to guide Seven while also caring for her crew. At times, those things collide, and this episode is a fine example of that. Who does Seven want to be? Where does she want to go? Does she belong on Earth now, or will she seek out a future that has nothing to do with humans or her humanity? This is all wrapped up in a story that (occasionally, I admit) feels a little familiar, but I saw that as intentional, too. The crew has been tempted by circumstances a number of times prior to this, and there’s an open reluctance on display here. Especially from Janeway! She knows better than to just expect that everything will go well for her or that she should allow herself to be excited by the promise of returning home.
Thus, even if this was a finale and there might have been the possibility that Voyager would make a huge leap towards home, I was still nervous as hell. SOMETHING WAS WRONG, I KNEW IT. NOTHING GOOD HAPPENS EVER. And my gods, so many good things were happening. Granted, much of the “good” seemed plausible. It had been years since Voyager left Earth, so it made sense to me that technology had advanced greatly in their absence. I believed that the slipstream engine was a Starfleet creation, too, and that they had directed Voyager to rendezvous with a new ship in order to get them home quicker. See, I just assumed that there was some other catch on that message, one that they’d learn as they started their journey home.
I DID NOT EXPECT THE MESSAGE AND THE SHIP ITSELF TO BE FAKE. But even if I still have logistical questions about how this plan for revenge was exacted, I still saw this twist as integral to Seven’s story. As uncomfortable as “Hope and Fear” was, it still kept true to that vital question: Who is Seven of Nine now? With the hope of a return home looming over Voyager, Seven justifiably considered what this would mean for her. How many more lessons on social dynamics would she have to take? Would she find a place amongst the population on Earth, many of whom are terrified of the Borg? Could she change enough to fit in?
Many of these questions aren’t exactly vocalized within the script, but it’s easy to see how Seven’s growth over the season doesn’t lead her to an easy decision, and I appreciated that. Yes, she had changed a lot, but that doesn’t mean her future was guaranteed. She is not the character we met at the start of the show, but she’s also not fully human by a long shot.
“Hope and Fear,” however, gives us a definitive answer… for now, that is. The most rewarding thing about this episode is that events literally bring Seven to the brink of a reunion with the Borg, and she realizes she doesn’t want to be a drone. It’s such a great fit post-“One,” you know? There, we had Seven proclaiming that she would survive alone, and here, she commits to her life as an individual. IT IS SO FULFILLING, Y’ALL.
There’s a neat idea in Arturis, too, one that addresses the fact that just by existing in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager has had an affect on the civilizations living there. In this case, it was a negative one. I don’t have a problem with the show addressing this; indeed, I love morally complicated issues like this appearing in Star Trek. (THANKS, DEEP SPACE NINE.) The resolution of Arturis’s problem, however, is… quick? And perhaps that is what season five will address, so maybe I’m just wrong here. The show takes a lot of time before revealing Arturis’s real plan, and it does so by rushing the story. His antagonist monologue feels a bit too much like a villain twirling their mustache, which is frustrating because he’s not really a villain, is he? His people were wiped out by the Borg, and they wouldn’t have been if Janeway had not intervened in the war between the Borg and Species 8472. I do not understand how he was able to set up any of the things he used to manipulate the Voyager crew. How did he change that message? How long had he been tailing Voyager, and how did he remain undetected for so long?
Well, at least there’s the promise of slipstream technology for the next season. Whether or not Voyager gets to use it… yeah, I have no idea. Without Seven and Janeway’s story here, “Hope and Fear” would not have been an exciting finale. I mean, aside from the extra 300 light years worth of travel, this episode doesn’t change anything. But those two characters do change, and that’s what made this such a fun episode.
Onwards to season five!
The video for “Hope and Fear” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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