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HTF REVIEW: Star Trek: Voyager: The Complete Fourth Season

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#1 of 16 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted September 26 2004 - 04:34 AM

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Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Fourth Season





Studio: Paramount

Year: 1997 - 1998

Rated: NR

Length: 19 hours, 53 minutes

Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1

Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1

English subtitles; Closed Captioned in English

Special Features: 5 featurettes, 6 "Lost Transmissions," Photo Gallery, Promotional Trailer (Trekkies 2)

No MSRP. Expected street Price: $100 USD
Release Date: September 28, 2004





Spoilers ahead... Certain casting spoilers are unavoidable in this review.

Star Trek: Voyager
sees its strongest season right here in season four. There was a casting adjustment that threatened to turn Voyager into a sci-fi version of Baywatch, but the show managed to avoid that distinction to a degree, offering up a strong new cast member who opened the doors to many stories that couldn’t have been explored before.

Of course, I refer to the addition to the cast of Jeri Ryan, as Seven of Nine - a human girl turned Borg, raised Borg, and returned to humanity by the unwanted actions of Captain Janeway.

Something had to give in order for this casting change to happen. That was, unfortunately, the cute but ineffective Ocampan character, Kes. While the character was rife with possibility, the writers were never able to do anything interesting with Kes - and so she was written off the show.

The one thing about the addition of Seven to the crew that would undermine Voyager late in season four, and in the seasons to come, is the over-reliance on the character to the exclusion of many of the existing characters on the program. Each episode, it seems, would be bookended with a lesson for Seven of Nine. This was carried too far.

This is not to say the the Seven of Nine character wasn’t worthy. The problem is, Star Trek has always been an ensemble show. The excessive attention to one character, no matter how impressive, is detrimental to the ensemble.

With that in mind, the addition of Seven of Nine did create the opportunity for some exciting shows, added tension to the crew, and eye-candy to the screen. The pluses would outweigh the minuses here in season four.

Standout episodes include:

Scorpion, Part II
The resolution of season three’s cliffhanger introduces serious changes to the series.

Scientific Method
The Voyager crew becomes unwitting experimental subjects to an alien race.

Year of Hell 1 & 2
This two part time-travel episode has some great elements. The only criticism is a big one - it’s that big “reset button.” This episode would have been great if it had lasting consequences for the crew. Unfortunately, as with many time-travel stories, the whole plot fails under even mild scrutiny. It’s fun, though - watching Voyager getting kicked to Hell and back again.

Message in a Bottle
A humorous “Doctor” episode, with guest star Andy Dick.

The Killing Game 1 & 2
A good two-parter: The Hirogen take over Voyager and hunt the crew as prey in the holodeck.

The Omega Directive
An interesting science based episode that parallels some Earthly concerns about nuclear technology.

Hope and Fear
A great season ender.


Video
Once again, the quality of the video is essentially unchanged from prior seasons of Voyager on DVD - and that is a good thing. This is the best picture quality that Trek’s TV incarnations has had to offer on DVD.

The picture is fullscreen. It is sharp and detailed, for the most part, with an occasionally soft scene here and there. There is no evidence of sharpening artifacts like ringing, jaggies or moire.

Contrast is good, with good shadow detail. Colors are accurate and stable, with good saturation.

Occasional mild banding can be seen, and an extremely rare instance or two of drifting pixels can be seen. These problems are very infrequent and mild, and are hardly worth mentioning as they are not indicative of overall quality of the set - they are rare and isolated issues.


Audio
The audio, too, is essentially the same as previous Voyager releases. The 5.1 mix is good, but non-agressive. Music sounds wonderful and full across the front soundstage, with some ambient effects.

Dialog is consistent, clean and clear and is pinned front and center. Some sound effects will pan across the front soundstage. Rear effects are present to a lesser degree, but do present a pleasing atmospheric effect. The surrounds are well used for flybys of Voyager - regularly seen in the opening credits.

Low Frequency Effects are adequate, if unimpressive.

Special Features

Braving the Unknown: Season Four (21:07)


Brannon Braga, Roxann Dawson, Jeri Ryan, Kate Mulgrew, David Livingston, Rick Berman, and Jeri Taylor talk about the major change in the show - the addition of the female “Babe Borg” (as Braga put it), Seven of Nine. Discussion revolves around the design of the character - the desire to have a sexy character, but to avoid a “Baywatch” mentality.

Another major change in season four was the result of a decision made concurrently with the addition of Seven - that is the writing out of the Kes character. Berman reports that, try as they might, they just couldn’t make the character “work” the way they wanted. Kate Mulgrew describes how upset she was that Jennifer Lien was written out of the show, and how difficult it was to film her last episode.

There is a focus, also, on the grander episodes of Voyager - the two part episodes, “Scorpion” and “The Killing Game.” Braga indicates that “Scorpion” was a turning point for him and the series - and it was the first good two-part Voyager episode, and certainly the first with a really satisfying conclusion.

Livingston and Braga also talk about the two part “The Killing Game.” The World War II period aspects are what they found most interesting about it, allowing them to leave the confines of the future and work in the past. Roxann Dawson talks about the unusual step of revealing her real-life pregnancy as a holographic pregnancy - an unusual way to explain it. Tim Russ talks about the welcome aspect of playing out of character.

The interesting and comical episode “Message in a Bottle,” with Andy Dick, is discussed by Robert Picardo. Picardo and Dick were referred to as the “Frasier and Niles of outer space” for their comedy work in the episode.

This piece is an interesting recap of a season full of changes for Voyager - a major point of evolution for the show, and includes current and period interviews with principle cast and crew.

Time Capsule: Seven of Nine (13:44)
Jeri Ryan talks at length about her character, “jumping on the moving freight train” of Star Trek. Included are discussions about makeup, costumes (or lack thereof), and the fans. She has many fond and funny recollections of her time with Star Trek, and seems to take her place in Trek history seriously. Included are comments by other cast members.

Time Capsule: Harry Kim (14:09)
Garrett Wang talks about the two and a half month process that he endured for casting. Being a young, untried actor, he went through a longer process than many. Wang talks about pushing the writers for more action and romance for his character, and the episodes that resulted. And, he talks about working the Star Trek Cruise Conventions. Included are recent and period interviews with Wang.

The Birth of Species 8472 (9:35)
Visual Effects Supervisor Dan Curry and CGI Animator John Teska talk about designing and creating a new species for Star Trek, a species more alien than most - even for a science fiction series. Starting with crude sketches, they created a “tripod” species, the likes of which could only be realized in CGI. Lightwave 3D was used for modeling the creature. The fact that the species communicates telepathically was a blessing and a curse - animating speech was not necessary, but other methods needed to be used for expressiveness. The difficulty of having a CG character fight with an real actor is also discussed.

The Art of Alien Worlds (10:42)
Visual Effects Producer Dan Curry and Matte Painters Syd Dutton and Rob Stromberg talk about the history and advancements of matte paintings through all of the Star Trek series and films. They talk about the process of making the paintings, and combining them with miniatures, actors and motion control cameras to create a convincing virtual set. This is a very interesting piece, tying together the process of matte painting throughout the Star Trek universe.

Lost Transmissions (Easter Eggs)
Jeri Ryan talks about adjusting to Star Trek fame - 1:05
Tim Russ talks about his directorial debut - 3:23
Jeri Ryan talks about the cast and crew’s warm welcome - 0:56
Ethan Phillips talks about his makeup in the dual role of Klingon and Talaxian - 1:26
Brannon Braga talks about naming the Borg - 1:30
David Livingston introduces the Hirogen - 2:50

Photo Gallery
38 production stills

Promotional Trailer - Trekkies 2 (1:53)

Final Thoughts

Above average video and audio quality for a television series, combined with the best overall season of Voyager, result in a DVD set that should please any fan of the series. Some very interesting featurettes, combined with a bit of fluff, add up to over 80 minutes of special features. Overall, this is a good season package for Voyager fans.

Recommended.

#2 of 16 OFFLINE   Rob Gardiner

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Posted September 26 2004 - 07:43 AM

Thanks for another excellent review, Scott. I don't have quite enough information to make an informed decision on this set, so I'm going to ask you and everyone else for some opinions on the subject matter. I am a lifelong (2nd generation) fan of the original show, got through high school watching TNG, and discovered DS9 on DVD last year. The 17 existing seasons of Star Trek I have are my favorite television show in my collection. However, I have not been very impressed with the first three seasons of Voyager. While each season does include a handful of episodes I would characterize as "good", they have yet to produce any truly "great" episodes, with one exception (100 quatloos to anyone who can guess what the great episode is). Even the weakest seasons of TNG and DS9 contain at least 2 or 3 "great" episodes, but for Voyager to have only 1 great episode in 3 whole seasons is inexcusable. However, a friend of mine, who is a Voyager fan, tells me that the show does improve somewhat when Seven of Nine joins the crew (with the exception of an over-reliance on the Borg as recurring villains). Should I give the show one more season? Considering how disappointed I was with the first 3 seasons, is the jump in quality enough to justify giving the show one more chance? (Note: I buy these on Ebay for no more than $75.) Any opinions, pro or con, would be appreciated.

#3 of 16 OFFLINE   danak

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Posted September 26 2004 - 09:35 AM

Rob, Season 4 has quite a few great episodes, as do the following seasons. The show doesn't fully gel as a whole (the writers don't take enough risks nor make the show darker given the premise) but there are some really great episodes. Season 4 does seem to be the turning point for the show. Scott, great review. I for one was thoroughly annoyed by the fact that Seven of Nine was treated as eye candy with the way she was dressed. What caused me to manage to look past the juvenile behavior of the producers (in the way they dressed Seven to appeal to the teenage boys) was the fact that Jeri Ryan was a really good actress and the writers made Seven intriguing. However, as Scott said, I also was annoyed by the overuse of Seven to the detriment of the other characters. At times, I wondered if Ryan's relationship with Braga (they were dating; I don't know if they started before or after she was cast) was the reason. Dana

#4 of 16 OFFLINE   danak

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Posted September 26 2004 - 09:43 AM

A question for those in the know. During Voyager's run, I was constantly hearing rumors that Garrett Wang (Harry Kim) was at risk for being fired due to chronic lateness to the set (and possibly other things). One thing I heard was that Kim's illness in "Scorpion" would have been fatal if the producers decided to fire Wang and they were seriously thinking of doing so (instead Lien was let go). Can anyone confirm Wang's troubles and how close he came to being fired? Dana

#5 of 16 OFFLINE   Rex Bachmann

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Posted September 26 2004 - 01:10 PM

Scott Kimball wrote (post #1):


I've got news for Brannon: it was just about the only good two-part Voyager episode. It looked like a "turning point" at the time, but the producers took the wrong fork in the road. Most of the other two-parters were, unfortunately, just hypy bloat-bloat-bloat designed for "sweeps weeks" or cheap seasonal "cliffhangers". "The Killing Game" is just dumb, in my opinion; certainly nothing to "Braga about"!

"Delenda est . . . . "

 


#6 of 16 OFFLINE   CaptDS9E

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Posted September 26 2004 - 01:28 PM

Voyager has a lot of good episodes. It also had some really bad one. However Season 4 was its best , and ill be picking this up soon along with season 3 which i havent picked up yet capt

#7 of 16 OFFLINE   Rex Bachmann

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Posted September 26 2004 - 01:48 PM

Rob Gardiner wrote (post #2):


"Giving it one more season" is moot. You won't get "the best of Voyager" (such as it is) by buying in season sets. The show has one long, long, mostly mediocre run, relieved here and there by a few good, and, rarely, a very good episode. However, I don't think you have to buy the sets if you just want an episode or two from here and there. As a Columbia TV-DVD Club member, I think you will be allowed to buy specially commissioned and licenced disks with two or three episodes on them apiece. Naturally, your cost per episode will be higher, but if you really, really, really want only four or five, or ten episodes out of the whole 7-year run of the series, you're probably better off going that route. I think I will.

Other episodes that, for various reasons, make the Bachmann list of interest:

"Prototype" (#29) (war of the robots)
"The Thaw" (#39) (dream beings affect the waking world)
"Unity" (episode #59) ("pre-Borg" Borg)
"Distant Origin" (#65) (a new theory of Earth history, albeit drenched in "message")
"Waking Moments" (#81) (more dream aliens able to manipulate the waking existence)
"Demon" (episode #92) (weird planet, weird life)
"Hope and Fear" (#94) (a decent episode)
"Think Tank" (#114) (interesting concept)
"Barge of the Dead" (#123) (good exposition of character background and Klingon mythology; not surprisingly, Ron Moore co-wrote it)
"Fury" (episode #143) (telekinetic Kes returns along with Vidiians in a "semi-alternate" reality)

Note that these are scattered throughout the series.

"Delenda est . . . . "

 


#8 of 16 OFFLINE   Joseph J.D

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Posted September 26 2004 - 02:10 PM

Great review Scott! I'm looking forward to picking this one up on Tuesday.....along with the bonus disc that Best Buy always adds to the set. Can't wait to watch the conclusion of 'Scorpion'.Posted Image
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#9 of 16 OFFLINE   Scott Kimball

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Posted September 26 2004 - 03:11 PM

I knew you'd chime in with that, Rex. Absolute no offense intended, or taken, with a disagreement, here... but I actually like some of the holodeck and time travel stories. I know that you know that Star Trek is not, and never has been, about hard sf. I am, therefore, willing to cut the show a lot of slack in this area. I liked "Year of Hell." It had some very good performances, including the one by Kurtwood Smith. Yes, it telegraphed the ending, there was at least one plot hole large enough to fly a shuttle through, and there were no lasting consequences to the story. But, it was good escapist entertainment, and fun to watch. I also liked "The Killing Game." This was one instance where revisiting a dark page in Earth history made sense, since it was the alien who picked that period of Earth history from the memory banks for a very specific reason. Though it would be nice to see a holodeck story that takes place in something other than our familiar Earth history and literature, I still find it occasionally interesting to watch these episodes. I found some of the Holmes episodes from TNG to be very entertaining. Of course, I also found Vic to be an interesting character in DS9 - a point to which I know you will disagree. TOS was rife with Earth history and literature... obviously, Shakespeare is the big one there, and throughout all of Trek. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. When I want real, hard SF, I go read a book. There just isn't a good representation of it on TV or in film. When I hear complaints about shows like Voyager or DS9, I have to refer people to the truly bad "SF" shows on TV. Andromeda, anyone? For the record, I've written several times that Voyager, on the whole, is mediocre at best. But, given what else is available in this medium, I'll take it. For this season, the best episodes are (in my opinion): Scorpion (2) Scientific Method The Omega Directive Hope and Fear

#10 of 16 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted September 27 2004 - 11:54 AM

danak, I certainly wasn't there and don't consider myself "in the know", but from what I have read and heard on various mediums, Garrett Wang was the one who was going to be ditched at the end of S3 (Harry gets infected with the Borg virus in "Scorpion I"). That summer, I think, he was named one of People Magazines 50 Most Beautiful People so TPTB decided he should stay because of the publicity. Jennifer Lien was the next in line to be axed. I don't know if the reason Wang was always on the chopping block was lateness (similar rumors were rampant during DS9 in regards to Colm Meaney wanting to leave). I think the real reason was that someone finally realized having nine regular characters who had to at least appear on screen every week was getting a bit ridiculous. It's nearly impossible to do on a weekly basis while telling a coherant, quality story. I will say 99% of Kes' episodes meant nothing (as opposed to 100% of Kim's eppys). She finally was given something to do at the end of S3 with work like "Before and After" but by that point it got to be too late.

#11 of 16 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted September 27 2004 - 03:47 PM

Anyone know if Best Buy will continue to include the extra disc if this set is purchased from them? I didn't see any infomation on BB's website. Nelson

#12 of 16 OFFLINE   Lee Jamilkowski

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Posted September 27 2004 - 05:07 PM

Yes, Best Buy's sets will have the bonus disc.

According to http://www.trekbbs.c....=1&o=7&fpart=1:


Go to see the film An Inconvenient Truth - one of the most important films of a generation.

Watch the I've Got Munchies podcast.

#13 of 16 OFFLINE   Nelson Au

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Posted September 27 2004 - 05:56 PM

Thanks Lee!

#14 of 16 OFFLINE   Tarkin The Ewok

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Posted September 27 2004 - 06:32 PM

Could somebody please give me a one or two-sentence synopsis of "Hope and Fear?" Use spoiler tags if you must. I thought I remembered all of the season finales, but this one escapes me.

#15 of 16 OFFLINE   PeterTHX

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Posted September 27 2004 - 06:46 PM

Brandon: Hope and Fear synopsis (no spoilers): Voyager encounters an alien who helps them reconstruct a damaged message from Starfleet Command, with instructions to a new starship with faster than warp drive. With Earth possibly only a 3 month trip home, Seven expresses reservations about rejoining humanity.

#16 of 16 OFFLINE   Mike Broadman

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Posted September 28 2004 - 02:56 AM

Huh... this is the first I've heard about it! I would totally do this for all of Trek and maybe DS9 (though picking only a few "important" eps from that series would be difficult), as there are too many mediocre, uninteresting, or just bad Trek eps for me to warrant buying the sets. I'm no fan of Voyager, but I must be the only one who considers Year of Hell one of my favorites of post-Kes episodes. I am willing to forgive a lot when there's a great performance and that guy from Robocop is great (I can even tolerate the movie Fortress because of him). And it's a blast seeing the crew so beat up, Janeway getting bad-ass. Yes, the reset-button... frankly, I don't care, since I don't plan on ever watching the series again, so if I were to just watch Year of Hell, it makes for a nice movie. Rex did a great job though of pointing out the many very cool ideas Voyager brought up and wasted. A shame...





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