Why Fans of Classic Movies Should Like Star Trek: Voyager

11 May

I’m a firm believer that Star Trek: Voyager has something for everyone; however, everyone is not the same, of course.  For example, if I were trying to  indoctrinate cajole my Grey’s Anatomy-loving coworkers into watching my favorite show, I would entice them with a completely different set of pros.

As it stands, the following list is inspired by my blog friend Ruth, who is a delightful classic-movie blogger.  Several posts ago, I talked about Voyager’s still enjoyable bad episodes, and she commented that she’d never watched the show before.

That’s an Internet gauntlet, folks.

I’ve compiled this list to attract a certain kind of person, and I have faith in my tactics.  And, as Captain Janeway would say, I feel lucky today!

Series Overview

Let’s get a quick rundown of what’s going on in this series before I start the list rolling.  I’ll pretend anyone reading this has never watched Star Trek, so I’ll try not to be too technobabble-y.

The Premise:  It’s the 24th century, and Earth and several other planets have long ago joined together to form The United Federation of Planets.  Starfleet–a space navy, basically–serves and protects this governmental agency.

There’s some disputed regions on the fringes of the Alpha Quadrant (because they’ve divided the galaxy into quadrants and named them with Greek letters, of course), and a rebel group called the Maquis has sprung up to defend what they feel is their own land.  Officially, The Federation sees the Maquis as terrorists, but they’re all wronged idealists, mostly (and the dudes they’re fighting [the Cardassians], who are officially in The Federation, are sneaky jerks, tbh).

Captain Kathryn Janeway and her new starship Voyager have been sent out to the Badlands to go after a particularly trouble-causing Maquis ship, on which one of Janeway’s oldest friends is serving as a spy!  Quelle drama!

Before she goes, she springs a dude from jail who had been in Starfleet and then also in the Maquis to act as her guide! Quelle more drama!

Well, both the Maquis ship and Voyager get gotten by an alien who pulls them 75,000 lightyears away from Earth–all the way to the Delta Quadrant.  This dying alien is trying to figure out if anybody has similar DNA so that he will have an heir to look after this planet he’s looking after.  Spoiler alert:  Nobody does.

Meanwhile, these other aliens are trying to get at the thing that transported everybody from the Alpha Quadrant so they can use it to gain power and take over stuff.

Janeway can’t let them gain power and take over stuff because they’re meanies, so she destroys the thing, stranding her ship and the Maquis ship in the Delta Quadrant.  Quelle drama-est!

This is the first time Janeway meets Chakotay (the Maquis captain). I hope they both brushed their teeth this morning because dang.

Janeway and the Maquis captain decide to join forces to get back home, so they all take up residence on Voyager and are forced to work together.

Meanwhile, they’ve picked up a few people from the Delta Quadrant to be on their crew:  a dude who’s a trader and is supposed to be good at navigating this–to Alpha Quadrant types–uncharted space and a lady (from the planet the alien who whisked them away was guarding) who has a really weird short lifespan.

Also, meanwhile, the ship’s doctor dies in the first twenty minutes or so and is permanently replaced by the Emergency Medical Hologram.  His journey into sentience becomes a plot point in many episodes.

Also along the way they run into the Borg, a species that is not so much a species but an amalgamation of species who act as one unit, like a hive, and they basically steal other species’ bodies to use in their ultimate goal of perfection through putting together the best parts of every species and then enhancing themselves with robotics.  The Borg are weird and scary and robotic and hard to describe, and when you’re part of the Borg, you have no personality of your own and do only the will of the Collective.  Anyway, Janeway rescues a lady from the Borg, and her journey into humanity becomes a plot point in many episodes.

So, if all the sci-fi hasn’t already turned you off, let’s have a go at the list.

Honorable Mention:  Clean (with a Little Innuendo)

One thing I really love about old movies is that they’re not explicit.  If a couple is intimate, they cut to a fireplace.  If somebody’s mad, he gives a glare and bunches his hands into angry fists instead of cursing a blue streak.

And because of the cleanness, they get to have a little more fun (and be a little more creative) when they wanna be a little bit dirty.  So they say things like, “You know how to whistle, don’t ya?” instead of something yuckier.

Because Voyager aired on regular old TV instead of HBO and because we have a lady captain who is so stagy and sassy, we get cleanness, and a little bit of sassy dirtiness once in a while.

#5:  Dialogue

Classic movies boast some classic lines.  I probably needn’t wax poetic on the virtues of “Frankly, my dear” or “Don’t let’s ask for the moon.”

Meanwhile, Janeway’s got some lines.

She always needs everyone to “do it. NOW.”

And there’s my life motto:  “Sometimes you just have to punch your way through.”

And my secondary life motto:  “Sometimes diplomacy requires a little sabre rattling.”

And my tertiary life motto:  “One of these days I’m going to surprise you . . . but not today.”

These folks are always saying stuff that’s pretty choice.  And more than that, there’s a certain cadence to it.  We can all probably agree that people don’t actually talk like they do in classic movies.  Nobody talks like Star Trek, either.  Especially with all the technobabble.  But it’s all so euphonious that even if you don’t catch every nuance, it certainly sounds good.  Like watching Shakespeare.

#4: Genres for Every Taste!

  • Oh, you like hammy, murderous, conniving lady villains à la Brigid O’Shaughnessy in The Maltese Falcon? Let me introduce you to a little gal called Seska.
Seska

Chica don’t play. That phaser is not set to stun.

She presents herself as just another Maquis crewperson.  But lo and behold she’s been a Cardassian spy this whole time.  And she double crosses everybody  by having babies with some villain aliens and stuff!

  • Oh, you like charming, egotistical jerks who sometimes learn from their mistakes but mostly are fun and jerks like in His Girl Friday?
Doctor's daydreams

In “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy” the Doctor programs himself to daydream. He promptly touches Janeway’s derriere in said daydreams.

You’ll love the Doctor!  He’s a hologram, so sometimes he takes his programming into his own hands with interesting results.

  • Oh, you like farces where folks impersonate other folks in order to con yet other folks like in The Lady Eve?

Some space hucksters do just this, in pretty funny fashion, in “Live Fast and Prosper.”

  • Oh, you like slow-burn romances that probably never come to fruition but are achingly sad and sweet and filled with commitment to duty above all things à la Casablanca?
Resolutions

Janeway and Chakotay contemplate getting a pet together. A feral monkey, to be exact.

Let’s talk about the episode “Resolutions” in which Janeway and Chakotay get this disease and have to be quarantined on a planet together, where Chakotay gives a pretty speech about how Janeway saved his very life and then builds her a bathtub.  HE BUILDS HER A BATHTUB.

  • Oh, you like murder-mysteries with abounding plot twists and some psychological elements thrown in like Spellbound.

Try out “Meld” in which our resident Vulcan security chief mind-melds with a creepy killer!  Or “Repression” in which our resident Vulcan security chief must track down someone who’s attacking ex-Maquis crewmen!

  • Oh, so you like old-timey sci-fi  à la Buck Rogers?

Bride of Chaotica!

I probably don’t even need to describe this, then.  There’s an episode that has this.  And it is hilarious.  And the best.

  • Oh, you like gripping courtroom dramas that tackle ethical dilemmas like 12 Angry Men?

Oh, hey, “Death Wish”!  The episode about assisted suicide that has some really good dialogue!  I was grading papers during this episode, but I was still listening to it, and it totally works as a radio drama!

#3:  Happy Endings

Critics deride Voyager’s rather infamous “reset” button–no bad stuff really sticks to Janeway and her merry men–as kind of lazy writing.

But there’s a big part of me that clings to that reset button.  There’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to have my feelz decimated every time I sit down to watch TV.

Just like how we can watch The Postman Always Rings Twice and be like, yeah, errbody sucks and is now dead.  But for each noir downer, there are like 15 White Christmases.  That’s how Voyager is, too!

#2:  Acting for Two

In classic movies, we often have twins or very similar cousins show up, and these are almost always played by the same actor.  I’m thinking of fun-as-all-get-out films such as A Stolen Life, The Dark Mirror, Dead Ringer.  You know, that type of thing.

This happens in most Star Treks (because of an awesome thing called the Mirror Universe, which is always a treat), but Voyager does it with such panache.

And ups the ante with actors playing each other all the time with body-switching stuff because the ship’s doctor is a hologram and can download himself into their ex-Borg’s cybernetic implants.  And both Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo are awesome.

But my personal favorite is any time a character must talk to him or herself.

One time, this alien separates one of the characters out into a full human and a full Klingon (because she’s regularly half and half), and the two halves discuss their strengths and weaknesses and come to terms with each other.

Torres and Torres

Klingon B’elanna Torres vs. Human B’elanna Torres!

And then one time, some technobabble makes this happen so that Janeway can strategize with herself and decide ultimately to blow stuff up:

Janeway and Janeway

Janeway’s face is always getting scratched up, for some reason.

And then another time, Granny Janeway arrives from the future and is SO SASSY as she takes over proceedings like a boss:

The sassiest admiral in Starfleet vs. the sassiest captain in Starfleet.

#1:  Kate Mulgrew Is the Stagiest Actress Ever

Why do I love classic movies?  Because they feel big.  And the actresses in them are the biggest.

Ok, I love Meryl Streep.  She’s an actress.  You believe she’s the character.  But old-timey actresses… it’s like kabuki.  It’s all about the ritual and the grandness and the costumes:  Show it bigger, show it more–an “I am big; it’s the pictures that got small” situation.

So we come to Kate Mulgrew as Captain Janeway.

Just look at this lady.

Her voice rivals Tallulah Bankhead’s in raspy alto ridiculousness.

She could steal a scene from later-years scenery-chewing Joan Crawford.

I wouldn’t know whom to look at if she and Marlene Dietrich showed up in the same tux.

idek

I don’t even know, guys. I don’t even know.

She is as larger than life as Bette Davis.  There I said it.

And that’s why fans of classic movies should give Voyager a go.

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4 Responses to “Why Fans of Classic Movies Should Like Star Trek: Voyager”

  1. silverscreenings 11 May 2013 at 9:49 PM #

    You’ve sold me! Who could resist such fab comparisons to classic film? I had no idea the show involved all that you mentioned. I promise to give it a go.

    • TheBestofAlexandra 12 May 2013 at 12:02 AM #

      And I even forgot to mention one of my favorite two-parters, which mostly takes place during WWII (a holographic simulation of it, anyway). All the crew’s been technobabbled by some aliens, and Janeway thinks she’s a French Resistance leader using a nightclub as a blind. It’s all very Casablanca. And that’s where Janeway wears her tux, of course.

      • Maribel 19 October 2013 at 7:19 PM #

        Please–Edit the post or post a part two to the list. The Killing Game is an awesome two parter!

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