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Star Trek: Voyager got off to a respectable start with its first season. The quality of episodes varied somewhat, but that was to be expected. Season two continues the voyage home in more or less the same manner as previously seen, but now the show has evolved well enough to enjoy more thoroughly. Sit back, buckle up and let us take a look at the complete second season of Star Trek: Voyager.

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Series
There are some spoilers contained within this review, please be aware of this before reading on.

As I mentioned in the complete first season review, Star Trek: Voyager’s debut was an abbreviated one. With only sixteen episodes to its name and no actual season finale per se, season two sort of follows on from that season, upping the ante quite gently as it went. As a matter of fact, some of the early episodes from this season were actually filmed at the end of last season. Not that you can really tell though.

Perhaps the only thing that does actually give this away is the quality of the second half of episodes as compared to the first bulk. I noticed that when I reached the half way mark, the road started to incline more prominently, veering off in more interesting directions in so doing. This could be due to them being more recent, I am not quite sure, but the second half was certainly a more interesting ride.

Quite a lot had been established in the previous year: Janeway and her crew had to deal with the reality of their unique predicament, the Doctor finally came to realise he wanted more responsibility and respect, Kes and Neelix settled in and a good deal of other stuff happened that paved the way for the future of the series.

I do have a confession to make however: I have never seen Star Trek: Voyager in this way. Sure I caught most of it during the mid to late nineties, but I never saw it episode after episode the way it was meant to be seen. As a result of this, I am frankly startled by how gripping and clever the character development is and how strongly the writers were focused on logical continuity. Matter of fact, season two has one little character arc that took me completely by surprise – one of the best I have ever seen. More on that later.

As the show has progressed, I have been paying meticulous attention to the show’s premise, looking out for any plot holes and such. You know, stuff like how many torpedoes they have and how many have they used. How their power supply situation is faring, the food situation, the many interlocking arcs etc. I can honestly say that there were no contradictions or plot holes of any kind. Again, this came as a pleasant surprise.

Episode wise, season two is the usual twenty-six hour long affair. Our first episode is a delightful number entitled ‘The 37’s’ and showed Voyager landing for the first time – it makes for one of the coolest uses of CG this season! One little dilemma I am sure the production team stumbled upon while making this was the ship’s windows. Obviously when the ship sets down on a planet you are not going to see stars outside are you? In what must surely have been a time consuming and rather costly move, the team modified dozens of sets (with all those huge windows) and replaced stars with impressive matte paintings.

What is especially cool about this episode is the parallels between Janeway and Amelia Earhart; and that brings me to another point – the concept. We’ve all been lectured on the mysterious disappearance of Amelia Earhart in school haven’t we? The writers really got to play with the idea that she was in fact abducted by aliens – who have long since died – and their energy that flows throughout this entire episode is often overwhelming. From the moment Voyager finds the rusty car in space to the moment when Janeway unfreezes the captors, it all makes for one of the best adventures this season.

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‘Projections’ sees the doctor go temporarily mad when his program seemingly malfunctions and leads him to believe his time spend on Voyager was in fact an illusion. Dwight Schultz makes an appearance here as the infamous Reginald Barclay. It’s a great little cameo and a welcome tie-in with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Of note, this is one of many appearances from Barclay. The next time he appears won’t be for a few season’s though.  

‘Elogium’ is the sexually charged episode in which Kes goes into an early maternity. ‘Non Sequitur’ is another worthy of mention, and one that sees Harry Kim mysteriously awake on Earth. ‘Twisted’ is yet another space phenomena type episode, but one that almost rivals last year’s ‘Parallax’ for avidness and intelligence.

‘Cold Fire’ is the twenty sixth episode of Star Trek: Voyager and is sort of the unofficial season one finale if you will. Perhaps it is just coincidence that it happens to be the twenty sixth, but this would certainly make for a great finale. While Kes and the Doctor are working in sickbay, a faint sound emanating from a storage unit signals that Voyager has finally come into the realm of the female Caretaker.

This occurrence ties into Voyager’s pilot episode in which the alien entity that brought them into the Delta Quadrant informed them that his counterpart, a female Caretaker, could well send them home. Meanwhile, Kes develops her powers of telekinesis when a band of Ocampa teaches her to further develop her unique skills – to a deadly degree.

‘Maneuvers’ brings the evil, and now fully Cardassian Seska back into the arena. As expected, this makes for great drama and some truly gripping Splinter Cell-like tension. ‘Prototype’ is a wonderful episode directed by Jonathan Frakes that sees Torres being made to build robots for an ongoing interstellar war between two robot races. What oozes style is the fantastic monochrome opening sequence and the cool, almost classic sci-fi-movie-style design of the robots themselves.

‘Alliances’ pits Janeway against the formidable Kazon once more, and she even seeks and unlikely policy with them. ‘Meld’ shows a darker side of the Vulcan mind when Tuvok melds with a newfound murderer aboard Voyager, while ‘Dreadnought’ becomes one of the most tense and exciting episodes so far. In deciding the top three episodes of the season, ‘Dreadnought’ is almost certainly up there, perhaps the second best overall.

What makes it so special is its unique blend of action and interpersonal dilemma, mixed beautifully so as one does not overpower the other. Its story is simple yet elegant: When Voyager comes into contact with a pile of space wreckage, they identify the attacker as a deadly weapon from the Alpha Quadrant – a weapon Torres and the Marquis help to manipulate from its original Cardassian programming. The dilemma: the weapon is now headed for a densely populated planet and is sure to kill millions.

Torres and the crew fight desperately to outwit the  super intelligent computer before the time runs out. What also makes it great is the relationship Torres forges with the computer, and this is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of this wonderful, often jaw dropping episode. ‘Dreadnought’ is a true classic if ever there was one.

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‘Death Wish’ sees the return of the infamous Q Continuum and a nice little cameo from Riker. ‘Lifesigns’ was actually an episode that took me by surprise. It was one of those Star Trek romance episodes that often sprouts from time to time; a band of episode that don’t exactly have the best reputation. ‘Lifesigns’, however, was easily one of the better varieties of romantic endeavours.

Remember that arc I said we’d come back to? Well, that arc was one of the most unobvious and thoroughly satisfying of any mini arc the franchise has spewed out so far. I can’t exactly remember in which episode it all begins, but in the episode ‘Investigations’, everything comes to a head. Over several episodes we see that Tom Paris is troubled by something. His constant run-ins with various crew members, his rugged appearance and even his duty failings trigger him to leave the ship.

All this (as we are later informed) was a huge blanket of wool pulled over the eyes of the crew – save for Janeway and Tuvok that is. During many of these episodes we see that one of the crew is in regular communication with the Kazon, Voyager's second trailer no less. Tom’s departure from Voyager was all part of a masquerade in effort to find and try the antagonist. When you are watching these episodes back to back, it really does make for a satisfying experience.

Now we come to the best episode this season by far, and one of the best Star Trek episodes of all time – ‘Deadlock’. I honestly don’t know how to describe this mini masterpiece; its sheer and utter genius, perfection of the highest degree...and that’s being modest! ‘Deadlock’ has everything: technical wizardry the likes of which broke new ground in its day; a truly gripping story; some of the most shocking scenes in the history of the franchise; production design on a scale that has to be seen to be believed and of course the underlining forces of human emotions that bind this whole experience together. You have to see this episode, it's a must!

Aside from the episode above, one of the most emotionally powerful and charged feats is ‘Tuvix’. When Tuvok and Neelix transport back to the ship with some plant extracts, they somehow merge into one being. As the doctor tries to reverse the process, Tuvix develops a need to survive as the person he is. Needless to say, Janeway, against all her ethical beliefs, orders Tuvix to sacrifice himself in exchange for her crewmen. A very good episode and one that has some unforgettably touching moments towards the end.

Finally, we reach the last two episodes, both of which are a blast! The penultimate, ‘Resolutions’, is one of the many Janeway/Chakotay themed stories, and perhaps the best overall. Basically both officers are sent into exile on an Earth-like planet when they contract a lethal illness. Their only chance for survival is to remain on the planet – which seems to shield them from any signs of the sickness. It’s a wonderful story and makes for one of the best penultimate episodes in quite some time.

Finally, ‘Basics, Part I’ ends the season with a reckoning bang. Led into a trap, Voyager is ceased by the Kazon, with Seska and her Maje now occupying the captain and first officer's seat aboard the ship. The crew have unfortunately been stranded on a seismically active world and must ward off deadly creatures, primitive cavemen and lethal conditions in order to survive. ‘Basics’ is a superb finale to what is a genuinely great season of Star Trek: Voyager.

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Video
You may have noticed the final score for the video has declined one fraction last season. This is because the image was not as good as the previous year, for some bizarre reason that is beyond my comprehension. Still, the picture is not without merit. Once again the colour is vibrant and clear, as is the image sharpness. Overall it just didn’t look quite as polished as the image in the previous boxed set. I also noticed that the average episode would look a little grittier in places.

Audio
Not much has changed audio-wise from boxed set to boxed set. Perhaps the only thing that 'has' increased from season one is the actual usage of sound. There are now ten additional episodes in this set, and many of them are more action orientated. Dialogue is as sharp as always and the LFE use has been cranked up a notch. Directional effects are somewhat minimal, but the sound is good, or as good as it has every appeared before.

Extras
Why Paramount insist on such a dull array of features I will never know. Yes the features are quite pleasant, but come on, throw me a bone why don’t you; where’s the variety? Alas, season two maintains true to its slightly older brother in that the features are more or less identical. Cue the roll-eye icon!

The second season’s packaging is a lovely deep plumb purple colour, looking quite spiffing next to the vibrant orange colour of the season one set.

‘Braving the Unknown: Season 2’ is a short feature that gives you a brief glimpse into the episodes of the second season. Again, it is a decent feature, though somewhat short.

‘Voyager Time Capsule: Tuvok’ is a feature detailing the Vulcan security officer. Tim Russ walks us through this interview segment and proves to be an entertaining talker.  

‘Saboteur Extraordinaire: Seska’ is a pleasant little feature that centres on the devious traitor herself. ‘A Day in the Life of Ethan Phillips’ similarly focuses on the actor who plays Neelix.

‘Red Alert: Visual Effects Season 2’ is a short to mid length feature detailing some of the highlight visual effects from the second season.

‘Real Science with Andre Bormanis’ is a continuation from the exact same season one feature, while ‘Lost Transmissions from the Delta Quadrant’ and ‘A special text trivia version of "The 37's"’ round out the special features on the second season DVD boxed set.

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Overall
Blending near perfect character and concept development, wonderful visuals and production design plus some poignant uses of storytelling, season two of Star Trek: Voyager was a truly great season. What’s more, the quality and feel of the show has now evolved pleasantly from its freshman, making this sophomore one to watch, and one to embrace.

Technically, the second season set is slightly disappointing with its reduced image quality and non-changing collection of features, but is still noteworthy regardless of that. Still, if you’re in it just for the episodes, then this set is fantastic.


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