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'Voyager' finale treks down same mediocre path

Wednesday, May 23, 2001

By Rob Owen, Post-Gazette TV Editor

EVEN IN ITS FINAL EPISODE, the writers of UPN's "Star Trek: Voyager" (8 tonight, WNPA) can't resist hitting the reset button. Sort of.

In far too many episodes of this disappointing series, the episode began, everything went to hell, and then with five minutes remaining, a reset button got hit and all was restored to the way it started.

"Star Trek: Voyager"

When: 8 tonight on WNPA.
Starring: Kate Mulgrew, Jeri Ryan, Robert Picardo.

The two-hour finale isn't quite that obvious, but the ending does manage to negate pretty much everything that leads up to it.

Without spilling the beans on the big question -- Will the lost-in-space ship and its crew ultimately return home? -- the finale offers some closure for fans. But not much.

If you're expecting to see the reaction of Earthlings to Borg babe Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) in a Starfleet uniform, not to mention those pesky Borg children, don't get your hopes up. Assimilation may be big with the Borg, but showing the crew rejoining Earth society escapes the imagination of "Trek" writers.

I've cursed "Star Trek: Voyager" plenty of times in print for its lack of courage in storytelling, its willingness to jettison any shred of conflict, a blatant disregard for the show's entire premise by the end of the pilot episode and an over-reliance on Treknobabble in place of character development. Executive producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have been with the franchise for far too long. It needs new blood.

Paramount executives, who clearly don't watch their own program, are blind to this. They've entrusted the next "Trek" -- "Enterprise" debuts this fall on UPN -- to the pair, which only ensures further disappointment.

Having said all that, and acknowledging that by flash-forwarding into a possible future the "Voyager" finale rips off the last "Star Trek: The Next Generation" episode -- one of the best series-enders of all time -- it also must be said that this "Voyager" is one of the better episodes in a sub-par series.

It begins 26 years in the future on the 10th anniversary of the return of Voyager to Earth. Capt. Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is now an admiral. Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) is a captain, Lt. Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) is balding, Tuvok (Tim Russ) is locked up in a mental ward, and some of the others, well, they didn't fare so well.

A graying Adm. Janeway regrets the 23-year journey her ship made through the far-flung Delta quadrant, so she plans a trip back in time to confront her younger, by-the-book self in hopes of changing the future and saving lives. There she encounters a defiant Capt. Janeway and for what feels like the 50th time, the Borg Queen, played by Alice Krige, who returns to the role she created in "Star Trek: First Contact" (past TV Borg Queen actress Susanna Thompson was presumably busy filming "Once and Again").

Mulgrew, who always rose above the mediocre and inconsistent scripts she was given, gets a nice showcase in the finale. Even though "Voyager" threatened to become "The Seven of Nine Show" at times, the coffee-swilling captain rightfully gets the spotlight in this last installment.

How does the "Voyager" finale compare to past last "Treks"? It can't touch "Next Generation." But it's probably a Tribble hair better than the last episode of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine." "DS9" was a far superior series, but its finale was a cop-out clunker (Sisko should have died to fulfill prophecy rather than promising to return from the realm of great white nothingness).

The "Voyager" finale rewards longtime fans with a few warm, fuzzy moments. Too bad they have all the authenticity of a prop phaser.

"Maybe it's not the destination that matters," says Harry Kim in the most obvious platitude. "It's the journey."

Actually, it's smart, thought-provoking writing that matters to discriminating fans. Too bad that was never a priority for the creators of "Star Trek: Voyager."

You can reach Rob Owen at rowen@post-gazette.com Post questions or comments to www.post-gazette.com/tv under TV Forum.

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