Various and Sundry

A Viewing Guide for Star Trek: Voyager

One aspect of Trekdom I discovered when I released my rankings of all the Star Trek series was how many people loved Star Trek: Voyager. Oh sure, I knew people were fans. And I became a bigger fan on my rewatch. But I hadn’t counted on the love. And just as with all Star Trek series, there are wonderfully Trekkish episodes to love here.

So if you haven’t watched Voyager since the 90s — or never got around to it and are itching for some more Trek, this is a guide that will put an analgesic cream on said itch as only an Emergency Medical Hologram can. You’ll get adventure, moral dilemmas, compelling characters, and intriguing villains — to say nothing of technobabble. Glorious, classic Trek technobabble.

But before you reverse the polarity and jump right in, I need to point out that this viewing guide, like all my viewing guides, is not for everyone. If you are an ardent Voyager fan who doesn’t want a single character moment overlooked OR someone who is, by nature, a completionist, this guide is not for you. Tuvok would point out it is logical for you to move on. (Spoiler if you don’t already know: Tuvok is a Vulcan tactical officer and therefore well-suited to knowing when to pick battles).

This viewing guide is for the fans who want an abbreviated binge watch that will nevertheless give you that rich Delta Quadrant experience. It’s also a guide for those fans who want to introduce new viewers to Voyager the same way you might introduce a friend to a band you love: not with every song from every album from the beginning, but with a curated playlist. If these new viewers find they absolutely love the show, those “deep cuts” are there for a rewatch.

For younger viewers or people who haven’t watched older TV shows in a while, remember that Voyager does not match modern “prestige television,” in two key ways.

First, it gravitates to a notion of the Status Quo common to countless shows prior to the 21st Century. Sure, there’s an overarching goal in the series of getting home –it was developed after Deep Space Nine, so it’s not as episodic as The Next Generation. Still, it’s more episodic than DS9 and it’s not uncommon to visit one planet or species that will never be seen again.

Second, there’s going to be a lot of planets to visit. Each season has 26 episodes, an amount that would give modern line producers an aneurysm. In other words, you can leave many a subpar episode to the vagaries of the Borg. Let them assimilate those episodes so you don’t have to.

This viewing guide cuts out about 46 episodes, cutting Voyager‘s travel time considerably.

Load up on some coffee, pull up a command chair, and make sure you don’t leave the leola root in the pressure cooker for too long. Above all: enjoy the journey.

Season One

  • #s1&2 – “Caretaker”
  • #3 – “Parallax”
  • The first 4 minutes and 19 seconds of #5, “The Phage”
  • The first 5 minutes and 10 seconds of #6, “The Cloud”
  • #7 – “Eye of the Needle”
  • #11 – “State of Flux”
  • #16 – “Learning Curve”

As with all the “second age of Star Trek” (TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT), the first seasons can be a bit rough, and Voyager is no exception. However, there are several serialized story elements with this series from coming to terms with being stranded in the Delta Quadrant, some of the bad dudes of the Delta Quadrant, and those wacky Maquis. That means I’ve included some episodes that aren’t stellar, but continue those themes. In fact, in a first for these viewing guides, I’ve included just the first few minutes of a couple episodes. So, for example the ‘cold open’ or scenes before the opening credits of “The Cloud” give you the sense of how both Janeway and the crew are adapting to their situation, plus it gives you the source of a certain internet meme. Were that I could slice out just the bits of episodes #3 the same way, but I can’t, so Vulcan up and we’ll see you in the next season.

Final note: existing Voyager viewers will note that I’ve completed excised the Viidians with this guide. Sorry. Yes, I think they’re more interesting than the Kazon, but narratively, they are sadly not as important as the Kazon.

Season Two

  • #8 – “Persistence of Vision”
  • #10 – “Cold Fire”
  • #11 – “Maneuvers”
  • #12 – “Resistance”
  • #13 – “Prototype”
  • #14 – “Alliances”
  • #16 – “Meld”
  • #17 – “Dreadnought”
  • #18 – “Death Wish”
  • #20 – “Investigations”
  • #22 – “Innocence”
  • #23 – “The Thaw”
  • #26 – “Basics, Part I”

At this point, Voyager has some serialized elements, but starts leaning into the episodic format familiar to TNG viewers where one of the main characters takes center stage for the hour — and this is where you get to really enjoy the crew more.

If you want to err on the side of speed and favor the Kazon storyline, you can drop episodes 8, 12, 13, 17, 22, and 23. That leaves you with just seven episodes for Season 2. While not part of the Kazon storyline, you’ll want episode 10 for some follow-up from “Caretaker” and episode 18 has implications later in the series. But honestly, don’t you want to see Kate Mulgrew and Joel Grey in “Resistance?” And don’t you want to see Michael McKean as a freaky clown in “The Thaw?” There’s some quality Trek in there.

Finally, I have not included #24, “Tuvix,” in the viewing as I found it irretrievably silly at the time of the ranking, but I may have been too harsh — not as harsh as Janeway, though… Nevertheless, seeing as “Tuvix” continues to live on in memes and even a recent episode of Star Trek: Lower Decks, you may want to include it. Choose wisely.

Season Three

  • #1 – “Basics, Part II”
  • #2 – “Flashback”
  • #4 – “The Swarm”
  • #5 – “False Profits”
  • #s8&9 – “Future’s End (Parts I & II)”
  • #10 – “Warlord”
  • #11 – “The Q and The Grey”
  • #12 – “Macrocosm”
  • #17 – “Unity”
  • #21 – “Before and After”
  • #22 – “Real Life”
  • #23 – “Distant Origin”
  • #24 – “Displaced”
  • #25 – “Worst Case Scenario”
  • #26 – “Scorpion, Part I”

At this point, if you’re not enjoying a bunch of the Voyager characters, this isn’t your series, and you won’t like that some of the episodes fall into the “wacky fun” or the “entirely decent not great” category of the sort you might see on TNG (though I daresay Voyager does more on the wacky side of things: if you don’t believe me, go visit the cheese Tuvok ordered to sick bay in season one).

Besides, “the wacky” includes George Takei, a somewhat unexpected sequel to a TNG episode, immortal beings as American Civil War reenactors, dino-Galileo, the marauding Medieval hat militia, and an actual good holodeck episode. Oh yeah, and one of the best Trek cold opens ever.


Season Four

  • #1 – “Scorpion, Part II”
  • #2 – “The Gift”
  • #3 – “Day of Honor”
  • #5 – “Revulsion”
  • #6 – “The Raven”
  • #7 – “Scientific Method”
  • #s8&9 – “Year of Hell: Parts I&II”
  • #10 – “Random Thoughts”
  • #11 – “Concerning Flight”
  • #14 – “Message in a Bottle”
  • #15 – “Hunters”
  • #16 – “Prey”
  • #17 – “Retrospect”
  • #s18&19 “The Killing Game: Parts I&II”
  • #21 – “The Omega Directive”
  • #22 – “Unforgettable”
  • #23 – “Living Witness”
  • #24 – “Demon”
  • #26 – “Hope and Fear”

With 21 episodes to watch, you’re hitting some peak Voyager, balancing continuing storylines with the “dilemma of the week” format favored by the Original Series and The Next Generation. You also get to enjoy how they do two-parter episodes to great effect.

There’s a big shift in the Voyager ensemble with the introduction of Seven of Nine, but your feelings on form-fitting attire notwithstanding, you’ll find another familiar Trek trope: the character learning more about what it means to be human.

Season Five

  • #1 – “Night”
  • #2 – “Drone”
  • #3 – “Extreme Risk”
  • #4 – “In the Flesh”
  • #5 – “Once Upon a Time”
  • #6 – “Timeless”
  • #7 – “Infinite Regress”
  • #8 – “Nothing Human”
  • #9 – “Thirty Days”
  • #10 – “Counterpoint”
  • #11 – “Latent Image”
  • #12 – “Bride of Chaotica!”
  • #13 – “Gravity”
  • #14 – “Bliss”
  • #s15&16 – “Dark Frontier”
  • #17 – “The Disease”
  • #18 – “Course: Oblivion”
  • #20 – “Think Tank”
  • #21 – “Juggernaut”
  • #23 – “11:59”
  • #24 – “Relativity”
  • #25 – “Warhead”
  • #26 – “Equinox, Part I”

At this point, my premise is you’re watching Voyager because you like –even love– a number of the characters. This viewing guide isn’t for hate-watchers after all. And enjoying the characters is important as you’ll be watching 25 of the 26 of the episodes of season five. It’s far more episodic than season four, with episodes centered on particular characters in a familiar TNG (and DS9) style as well as some fun variations on familiar Trek themes. If you really want to cut a few more, you could opt to excise #5 (Neelix and Naomi), #8 (The Doctor and ETHICS), #17 (Harry actually lucky in love, but not), #20 (Seinfeld‘s Jason Alexander as a Machiavellian), & #21 (The Malon and B’Elanna’s anger issues).

Season Six

  • #1 – “Equinox, Part II”
  • #2 – “Survival Instinct”
  • #3 – “Barge of the Dead”
  • #4 – “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy”
  • #6 – “Riddles”
  • #7 – “Dragon’s Teeth”
  • #8 – “One Small Step”
  • #12 – “Blink of an Eye”
  • #14 – “Memorial”
  • #15 – “Tsunkatse”
  • #16 – “Collective”
  • #18 – “Ashes to Ashes”
  • #22 – “Muse”
  • #23 – “Fury”
  • #26 – “Unimatrix Zero, Part I”

A somewhat quicker watch compared to season five, with a couple episodes feeling like they wandered in from the DS9 writers’ room, some episodes with solid characters moments, and some episodes that explore classic sci-fi ideas in a Trek way.

Season Seven

  • #1 – “Unimatrix Zero, Part II”
  • #5 – “Critical Care”
  • #6 – “Inside Man”
  • #7 – “Body and Soul”
  • #8 – “Nightingale”
  • #s9&10 – “Flesh and Blood: Parts I & II”
  • #11 – “Shattered”
  • #12 – “Lineage”
  • #13 – “Repentance”
  • #14 – “Prophecy”
  • #15 – “The Void”
  • #s16&17 – “Workforce: Parts I & II”
  • #21 – “Friendship One”
  • #22 – “Natural Law”
  • #23 – “Homestead”
  • #24 – “Renaissance Man”
  • #s25&26 – “Endgame”

With a few judicious cuts, you’ll get a number of two-parters, some very Trek/very Voyager episodes, and some characters getting a chance to shine one last time. Just remember that while the series finale “Endgame” does not have the 1/10th the budget of Avengers: Endgame, there’s still excellent badassery on display.

So there you have it: a 7-year, 70,000 light year journey cut down to about 87 bingeable hours where you realize there’s the right way, the wrong way, and the Janeway.

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