Voyager is my favorite Trek. Favorite crew, favorite captain, favorite series. I describe it as a show about misfits who become family. Even the series itself is a misfit: a network show, but on a brand new network. Episodic, but also serialized. It plays it studio mandated safe (for example, the episode where Seven of Nine is kidnapped and forced to fight The Rock because UPN’s only other hit was wrestling) but takes wild high concept risks (the episode where Captain Janeway’s holographic subconscious stares down a literal manifestation of Fear who is the ringmaster of a brightly hued nightmare circus — no, really, here’s my photo-cap). Voyager is my favorite Trek and if that makes me an anomaly, it just means I fit right in.
Here are my top ten episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.
As Voyager travels through Devore space, they are stopped and boarded at regular intervals to be certain they are not carrying any telepathic refugees over the borders. Which of course they are, because saving refugees is one of Janeway’s main deals. Along the way she becomes friendly with the lead inspector, Kashyk, and they must decide what that means for their respective duties. Most of Janeway’s romances are terrible (she has more than one holographic boyfriend and the most boring boy back home), this one is a beautiful dance.
9. “Worst Case Scenario”
Voyager’s Vulcan security officer, Tuvok, writes anonymous Real Person Fanfiction of Voyager’s crew and it becomes a big hit. Then, as with all holodeck stories, his holonovel versions of the Maquis crew try to take over the actual ship. It’s as delightful as it sounds.
What’s better than Captain Janeway and crew attacking the dark unknown with science and grit? Two Captains Janeway and crews attacking the dark unknown with science and grit! Everything goes wrong twice in this episode and the Janeways’s doubled determination to save the day is a sight to behold. Plus Kate Mulgrew’s chemistry with herself is really amazing.
7. “Faces” + “Lineage”
“Faces” is a late season one episode and “Lineage” takes place halfway through the final season. These episodes bookend B’Elanna’s character arc, highlighting her struggle to build a cultural identity and the deep seated anxiety it causes her. It’s a credit to the series that B’Elanna’s issues don’t disappear (they are actually revisited each year) but also don’t remain constant. She slowly but surely comes to terms with herself and her place in the community. The similarities and differences between B’Elanna’s interaction with Tom in these two episodes from either side of the series are both poignant and profound.
6. “Scorpion, Parts 1 and 2, and The Gift”
In the fourth season, Voyager gains former Borg drone, Seven of Nine, and the series is elevated for it. Native to the Delta Quadrant, the Borg loomed over Voyager from the beginning, but “Scorpion” is when they become a real threat, and then necessary ally. And it’s at that point Voyager‘s underlying theme crystallizes: “I will adapt”. From the pilot on, everyone on Voyager has had to adapt to their new circumstances — Seven’s arc embodies it.
5. “Latent Image”
The Doctor’s transformation from computer program to ‘real boy’ is not new to Trek, Data followed the same path in The Next Generation, and there are even sentient holograms in both TNG and Deep Space Nine. But where Data is literally introduced as Pinocchio, the Doctor doesn’t have the benefit of assumption he is even capable of becoming a fully formed individual — he was never meant to be one, for the first two and a half years he was confined to Sickbay and the Holodeck, and through the end he can be deactivated and deleted by the Captain at any time. Or, as in this episode, altered. After a decision paralyzes the Doctor’s ability to function, Janeway deletes the Doctor’s memory of what happened. But she can’t delete the physical evidence and the whole thing starts again. Robert Picardo gives a strong, emotional performance and the final scene caps a thoughtful episode about ethics and despair.
The final ten minutes of this episode bring tears to my eyes every time I watch it. The Barclay side has all the humor, awkwardness, and loneliness Barclay episodes always do, and the Voyager side has the emotional reunion we’ve been waiting for since the pilot episode.
And here’s another I cry through every time. I could make a whole list of just Borg episodes (“Dark Frontier”, “Survival Instinct”, “Imperfection”, “Endgame” etc.) but I chose to have this one represent them all. In “Drone”, Seven in tasked with doing for ‘One’ what Janeway did for her: turn him into an individual. It shows how far Seven has come and emphasizes the community that Voyager has become for her, and by extension its whole crew.
2. “Living Witness”
The Doctor activates on a planet Voyager visited years back in its journey to find himself in a museum that details the planet’s encounter with “the warship” Voyager. Distraught at all the details the museum has wrong, the Doctor works with a historian to fix it — but the society’s politicians don’t want their history altered even in the face of the truth. It’s both a hugely fun episode full of cheeky performances as the crew are recast as bizarro world versions of themselves, and a deeply thoughtful look at how history is captured and sustained.
1. “Year of Hell, Parts 1 and 2”
“Year of Hell” is, in my opinion, the most compelling two-parter in all of Star Trek. These two hours are better than the majority of the Star Trek films and this is where I point when I say Janeway is best captain. Voyager becomes stuck in one man’s plot to reconfigure time in order to save his family from destruction. As Voyager falls apart around her, Janeway only gets stronger and more determined to do whatever she has to to get her crew home. The episode rips away everything safe and clean and familiar in the little Starfleet bubble Voyager has created in the Delta Quadrant and relies on the people, with Janeway at the center, to rebuild the dream with blood, sweat, and broken glass. It’s the crew, captain, and series at its best and its my favorite.
I haven’t see enough of The Animated Series or Enterprise to do top ten lists so here ends my rankings in honor of the 50th Anniversary. Thanks for reading — Star Trek has had a significant impact on my life and I’m thrilled to share my thoughts. To the journey!