In the final episode of Voyager, Janeway concocts another plan to bring her crew home. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to finish Voyager.
Trigger Warning: For discussion of ableism.
Oh, Voyager. I look at this finale, and I see a complete distillation of the entire show: both its sense of wonder and its failures as a serialized story. I see the emotional bonding and intensity of this crew. I see the use of time travel less as an interesting framing device and more of a solution to complicated scripts. When it’s good, “Endgame” is immense, but it’s plagued with some utterly confusing choices, especially given that this is it. There’s nothing else left!
So why end it there?
That’s the question that’s going to haunt me for a while. This is, ultimately, a decent episode with some cool moments, but lord, it’s an awful series finale. There needed to be so much more! I wasn’t given any real closure, and right as “Endgame” showed the most promise, it faded away. That’s it?
It’s not the only problem here, but it’s absolutely the most distracting thing here. Much of what I needed from the second half was here, and I appreciated the surreal chance to get to see Captain Janeway and Admiral Janeway interact. I made a comment during the video for this episode that this all felt way more emotionally complicated than I expected. That’s a good thing! It’s one of the major reasons Voyager has been compelling despite its issues. These characters are so richly conceived and executed that I’ve often been able to put aside things and enjoy the show for what it is. Plus, Voyager is about moral dilemmas that collide with the desire for survival, and “Endgame” is precisely that. As Admiral Janeway slowly (and then very suddenly) reveals the reasons for her presence aboard Voyager, the writers give us yet another one of those complicated dilemmas. Does Captain Janeway secure passage home for her crew, or does she save the lives of millions of strangers? In that sense, “Endgame” completes the circle that was opened in “Caretaker,” and I’ll say this right now: it’s the most satisfying part of “Endgame.” This show completes Janeway’s story by giving her another problem that could put her whole crew at risk.
However, after seven years in the Delta Quadrant, after facing untold creatures and phenomenon and anomalies, Janeway has grown as a captain. “Endgame” doesn’t ignore that. She’s sharper than she’s ever been, but her skills as a leader have been honed through desperation and circumstance. Because of that, she arrives at a different conclusion here than she would have seven years ago. She chose to disable the Caretaker’s array to save others, but here, with the older, more cynical and pragmatic Admiral Janeway at her side, she realizes that life is more than a binary. It’s more than an either/or situation. Sometimes – indeed, many times along the way home – they were able to have their cake and eat it, too. Why couldn’t they think of a means of getting home while destroying the Borg Transwarp Hub at the same time?
The plotting of this plan, combined with the intense conversations that surrounded it, all felt just like an episode of Voyager. It’s why I let myself by transfixed by what I was watching, so much so that the ending snuck up on me. I was convinced that there was at least ten minutes left in this episode!
Granted, a lot had happened before then. Watching Seven struggle with the knowledge of her apparent death was heartbreaking. (And also incredibly well-written, despite that I still feel weird about the idea of Chakotay and Seven being an Official Couple.) Admiral Janeway’s confrontation with Captain Janeway about her justification for traveling back in time was just as painful to watch, especially once Admiral Janeway revealed the full extent of this future timeline. Was it enough to change history? Maybe. On a personal level, I can understand why Janeway wanted to bring her crew back earlier than she’d managed to. She saw it as a personal failure that she’d not been able to save Seven of Nine, that she couldn’t comfort Chakotay, that she couldn’t get Tuvok back to a Vulcan to cure him. (Not a big fan of the whole cure aspect of his plotline, for what it’s worth.) On a grand scale, it felt aggressively selfish, at least until Admiral Janeway realized that she could do something grandiose to save millions and her crew. In those moments, I didn’t question that this was Janeway. This was her! This is what she would do! Sure, she was thinking purely of her crew when she came back in time, but even then, she knew it was going to be a one-way journey, right? She knew that Captain Janeway would be unable to let that Hub sit there undamaged. Deep down, I think she knew that it would get destroyed, but she had to try, right?
And lord, does she ever try. The big showdown with the Borg queen was so satisfying to watch, and I was reminded of the last time Janeway sacrificed herself to the Borg in order to save her crew and those in Unimatrix Zero. Here, though, that sacrifice was complete. There was no coming back from it. She gave her life for Voyager, so in that sense, this finale is complete. As sad as it was, it felt right. Doesn’t that perfectly summarize who she is as a captain?
Yet in those final moments, the satisfaction slipped away. Oh, the way that Janeway hid Voyager INSIDE THE BORG SPHERE so she could get passage to the Alpha Quadrant and destroy the ship was classically beautiful. The sight of that armada of Starfleet ships… yeah, it was a lot. I also want to compliment how muted and shocked the cast played this moment because… well, they’d spent seven years trying to get home. How many times had an easy solution been presented to them? How many times had that been immediately taken from them? How often had they gotten their hopes up to have them crushed? Yet this time, their wacky and absurd planned worked. Thus, the shock on their faces was appropriate. They wouldn’t be jumping around to celebrate because… holy shit, this was real. IT HAD WORKED. I’m glad that at most, we got Harry’s tear-filled eyes. (WHICH IS WHERE I LOST IT.)
However, I didn’t think that would be the end. I thought we’d actually see Voyager go home, since that’s the whole point of the show! Instead, we get a glimpse of them in orbit over Earth, and… that’s it? So, no epic homecoming? No shot of them actually stepping on the ground? No hint of what their lives might hold? If we hadn’t already seen a glimpse of the future before, I might not have cared. But that reality doesn’t exist anymore! So… what gives? Why take this moment from us? It’s perhaps one of the most abrupt endings to a series, and certainly the least satisfying since the Original Series. While I might have closure for Admiral Janeway, I felt like I got none of it for the other characters. They got home… and then what?
So yeah, I have complicated thoughts on this finale. It’s not a bad story, but these choices are coupled with the biggest ending possible, so it feels incomplete. Nothing I can do about that, I suppose. I did enjoy watching Voyager, if that’s worth anything, and I’m glad that the Star Trek universe got REAL WEIRD over the course of this show. That was certainly a delight. But I’ll always come back to the characters, the best part of Voyager, and the one thing I’ll miss the most. Goodbye, Voyager. I’m glad you got back home.
The video for the second half of “Endgame” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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