Star Trek: Voyager
Season 3

Starring: Kate Mulgrew
RRP £84.99
Certificate: PG
Available 06 September 2004

During an eventful year, Janeway and crew encounter Ferengi from the Alpha Quadrant, a Federation ship from the future, Q and his girlfriend, and a hideously huge viral life form that overruns the ship. Tuvok has a flashback to his time aboard the starship
Excelsior under Captain Sulu, while the entire crew must face the prospect of entering Borg space...

What did I tell you? Voyager got better each year! The list of commendable episodes in Season 3 is very long indeed.

After the previous season's cliffhanger has been satisfactorily resolved in Basics: Part 2, it's straight into the 30th anniversary special, Flashback. Ingeniously reproducing the set and crew of the Excelsior from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, this episode boasts a fine performance by George Takei as Captain Sulu, proving yet again what an excellent captain he makes (worthy of his own series).

False Profits has similar inter-series appeal, tying in ingeniously with the Next Generation episode The Price. The two Ferengi (Dan Shor and Leslie Jordan) who ended up stranded in the Delta Quadrant at the end of The Price have set themselves up as false gods. Neelix (Ethan Phillips) impersonates an envoy of the Grand Nagus. This is not the first time Phillips has played a Ferengi: he was Farek in the Next Gen episode Ménage à Troi.

The first of several successful mid-season two-parters that Voyager would produce during its run, Future's End is an appealing time-travel story featuring guest performances by actress/comedienne Sarah Silverman and Ed Begley Jr. This trip to the 20th century deliberately echoes the original series episode The City on the Edge of Forever, including some comical dialogue that is lifted wholesale.

Warlord and Before and After are both excellent Kes (Jennifer Lien) episodes. In Warlord she turns in a splendidly camp performance when Kes is possessed by the villainous Tieran. Her portrayal is reminiscent of Nana Visitor's mirror universe Kira in Deep Space Nine. Before and After is another fascinating time-travel tale, which predicts next season's two-part Year of Hell.

The Q and the Grey, not surprisingly, sees the return of the ever-popular Q (John de Lancie), while Macrocosm is a bold experiment in the use of CGI. The realisation of the outsize viral attackers is not always entirely successful, especially when they have to interact with live-action performers, but many of their scenes are very unnerving indeed. This experiment paved the way for the even more ambitious Species 8472 in Scorpion.

Doctor (Robert Picardo) episodes rarely disappoint, and accordingly both The Darkling and Real Life rise to the occasion. The Darkling sees the Doctor turn bad when his program is corrupted. Picardo clearly enjoys himself playing the dark side of his split personality. Real Life, directed by Happy Days veteran Anson Williams, demonstrates a remarkable range of tones. It begins like a '50s family sitcom, as the Doctor creates an all-too-perfect virtual family, but then takes on a more modern tone, before becoming something more poignant.

Distant Origin is the first of several Voyager episodes to depict the activities of the crew from an alien point of view, as Gegen (Henry Woronicz), a scientist from a reptilian race descended from Hadrosaurs, postulates a connection between his species, the Voth, and the human race. From this starting point, the storyline also offers social commentary as Gegen's theories, like those of Darwin and Galileo in our own history, challenge his people's "natural law".

Worst Case Scenario sees the welcome return of the villainous Seska (Martha Hackett) in one of the few ways possible: as a computer simulation. Well, it was either that or time travel again.

The very premise of Voyager, which concerns a ship and crew that are constantly moving in a specific direction, means that recurring enemies such as Seska, the Kazon and the Vidiians must get left behind at some point (though the Kazon are no great loss). That is what happens during this season. However, the producers then incorporate a much more potent menace, one that remains with the show right to the end: the Borg. As discussed in the featurette Braving the Unknown: Season 3, the deadly Borg, with their transwarp technology, are able to pop up at any point between the Delta Quadrant and the Alpha Quadrant.

It becomes clear in Blood Fever that the ship has entered Borg space. Then in Unity we see some living examples, though this is not the most exciting Borg story ever, having more in common with the ex-Borg in Next Gen's Descent than the action-packed The Best of Both Worlds or Star Trek: First Contact. However, the producers are merely saving the best for last, which they deliver in the jaw-dropping season finale Scorpion: Part 1.

Of the remaining episodes, none are particularly weak - not even the Kim (Garrett Wang) episode Favorite Son, which many fans deride, but which I actually quite like. If forced to nominate a couple of weaklings, I would go for the touchy-feely religious ritual story Sacred Ground and the Neelix episode Fair Trade.

The seventh disc contains over 100 minutes of special features, including Braving the Unknown: Season 3; Voyager Time Capsules on Neelix and Kes, in which recent interview material with Jennifer Lien is conspicuously absent; Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects; and Real Science with Andre Bormanis, which this time includes input from a couple of other scientists. Flashback to Flashback looks into the making of the celebratory Sulu episode, describing the pains that were taken to re-create the set and track down the old Excelsior cast.

A couple of the featurettes, Creating the Voyager Crew and 30th Anniversary Moments, were not present on the generic Region 1 release. However, 30th Anniversary Moments is not as special as it sounds, comprising eight minutes of celebrity sound-bites recorded outside the venue of Paramount's gala celebration. We hear Joan Collins almost totally misquoting the original series' motto, but we don't hear interviewer Mark Little, who it appears is not allowed to speak on camera.

Season 3 is a great collection of episodes. If you're a completist then you will of course be buying every box set of this series, but if you're a choosier fan then I recommend this as the place to start your collection.

Richard McGinlay

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