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The five best Star Trek: Voyager episodes of all time!

Even Voyager haters have to concede the show flirted with greatness at times, as these five episodes ably demonstrate.

For all its critics, Star Trek: Voyager boasts more than a mere cult of adoring fans, but also an often-overlooked set of redeeming episodes. We run down the top five chapters in Voyager's contentious TV run below.

5. Equinox [Video clip from part one, video clip from part two]

Voyager was often criticized for how little ethical and personal conflict its characters endured, despite their castaway status. This two-part episode exists to demonstrate just how bleak and unlikeable Voyager could have been if the crew gave in to their darker impulses.

The USS Equinox is a Federation starship thrown across the galaxy in the same accident that stranded Voyager. Except the Equinox is demonstrably worse than Voyager in every sense of the word: it's an even smaller and more heavily damaged ship, run by a more desperate crew who espouse none of Captain Janeway's high-minded devotion to the Prime Directive.

The Equinox's rather blatantly named Captain Ransom is more than willing to torture and murder aliens in a desperate attempt to get his crew home -- and he's willing to destroy Voyager if they interfere, too. While the ending is a bit convenient, and Janeway has her own rather undercutting mid-episode brushes with morally dubious tactics, "Equinox" is a solid contemplation of how easy it is to concede one's core principles when they are no longer convenient. Voyager, for all its faults, was a story of a crew that held fast to their ideals in the face of adversity, and "Equinox" ably demonstrated just how powerful that simple storytelling concept could be.

4. Scorpion [Video clip from part one, video clip from part two]

Voyager was thrown to the Delta Quadrant of the galaxy. The Borg reside somewhere in the Delta Quadrant. The "Scorpion" two-parter sees those plot points finally collide in what proves to be both compelling television and a shark-jumping moment for the series.

A race of extradimensional conquerors -- Species 8472 -- has invaded Borg space with technology and biology that are impossible to assimilate or defeat. For the first time in their history, the Borg face annihilation by a superior foe. Voyager, in a convenient bit of individualistic creativity, has somehow devised a means of neutralizing Species 8472's advantages -- which means they have an asset the Borg need, and want, more than assimilating another Federation starship.

Janeway makes the bold move to negotiate with the Borg collective for safe passage through Borg space in exchange for their tactical research - a gambit that constitutes a violation of the Prime Directive, a possible death sentence for Species 8472, and a gamble that the Borg can be trusted to keep their word. A domino of double-crosses sees Seven of Nine a prisoner of Voyager, the ship trapped in the outskirts of under-siege Borg territory, and a new set of enemies who blame Voyager for their own first defeat. While the Borg would never again loom quite so large as antagonists, "Scorpion" showed just how desperate Voyager's crew could become when so hopelessly isolated, and how such desperation could lead to morally ambiguous ingenuity.

3. Deadlock [Video clip] You have to admire a simple concept taken to its ultimate storytelling conclusion, even if on its face it seems outlandish (and for a sci-fi show, that's saying something). Case in point: Captain Janeway literally debating with herself over the fate of her crew -- because a bizarre nebula accident has made two Voyagers with two crews, and only enough antimatter fuel to save one. The ship duplication conceit lets the writers actually up the stakes more than a conventional episode would allow, killing crew members, warping storylines, and letting the bad guys -- in this case, the organ-stealing Vidiians -- defeat Voyager at least once.

In the wrong hands, this episode could have devolved into predictable self-parody very quickly, but Kate Mulgrew turns in one of her finest Janeway performances in acting against herself, and comes to a self-sacrificial conclusion that illuminates precisely how intriguing a character Janeway could be -- and how great a show Voyager could have been.

2. Timeless [Video clip]

One of the recurring themes of Voyager was the cost of returning home -- and when that price was too much to pay. More than once, Voyager's crew refused or even reversed a quick and easy homecoming that compromised their principles. There is no better example than "Timeless," which sees future versions of Harry Kim and Chakotay as the only survivors of Voyager's return to Earth. The pair is determined to change the fate of their crewmates, even if it means sacrificing their own comfortable futures, and perhaps even their lives. The solid use of flashbacks and the future-tense frame story (featuring a guest appearance by Captain Geordi La Forge) only up the tension. In the end, to no one's surprise, the status quo is restored -- but the restoration was a choice made by the main characters, if only because being stranded together was better than going home alone.

1. Year of Hell [Video clip from part one, video clip from part two]

The two-part episode that should have been Voyager's entire series centers on the time-manipulating warlord Annorax (played with sterling understatement by Kurtwood Smith) who wants to both restore his race's former empire and resurrect his dead wife. Unfortunately, Voyager is caught in the crossfire of his time-warping weapon and, by quirk, becomes the only ship immune to the continuity shifts. Annorax kidnaps Chakotay and Tom Paris in an effort to compel Voyager to submit to his timeline changes, but Janeway refuses, setting off a yearlong game of chess between Annorax's increasingly unpredictable timeshifts and Voyager's increasingly decimated and desperate ship and crew.

The temporal shifting gives the Voyager writers license to radically shake up the status quo of the cast and its relationships, making for some great character moments between Janeway and her subordinates, particularly Tuvok and Neelix. Meanwhile, Chakotay and Paris become philosophical foils debating whether Annorax's limited time manipulations are their responsibility to stop, or is protecting (or benefitting) Voyager their sole concern.

In the end, Janeway chooses self-destruction to save Annorax's victims, a heroic act that resets the ship (and the show) back to its pre-episode status. A deft balance of action and personal drama, and an uncharacteristic willingness to stretch the cast and the setting into new places, make "The Year of Hell" the finest episode Voyager ever produced. If only the rest of the series had been so bold.

Got another Voyager episode you believe deserves Top 5 status, or just want to debate the finer points of the series at large? Hailing frequencies are open in the comments section.

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Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

22 comments
Nytrydr
Nytrydr

Just reading all your best and worst of Trek. You give the episode of Enterprise with Trip's clone top marks when it ends with yet another "brave self sacrifice" from Sim, but for me that's exactly why Tuvix is one of Voyager's best episodes. They worked with Tuvix, they liked Tuvix then they freakin' (spoiler alert) to get their old buds back (I don't know how to invisble ink on here, but if you saw the ep, you know what they did) and all the while he begged for (spoiler alert). Now if that's not Trek boldly going, I don't know what is!

mjd420nova
mjd420nova

Kirk, spock and Bones are escorting a blind damsel over rough terrain. Jim chastises Bones when the lady slips and bones retorts "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not an escalator". I don't know the name of the episode but it was an early episode.

pampopwheely
pampopwheely

Sorry, but this episode ("Timeless") should've been rated as perhaps one of the 5 worst Voyager episodes! Yikes!! I'm so stunned by this reviewer's opinion/rating that I'm not sure whether to laugh or cry until I've run dry. I can't even replace it yet with an episode that should be in its place but rest assured, I'll get back to you on this.

techrepublic
techrepublic

The "species" is 8472, Kids. NOT 8742. I could have written the first one off, but it is incorrect throughout the entire article. tsk tsk tsk

Regulus
Regulus

I assume that this article was pre-screened and approved by Sheldon / the Gang of 4?

watsonea4
watsonea4

8472, my dear. 8472. :) Otherwise, totally agree!

mikecarlucci
mikecarlucci

The Doctor travels to the Alpha quadrant and meets up with his successor - only to find out their ship has been captured by Romulans! Also, multi-vector assault mode.

bowlingbrad
bowlingbrad

Please correct the name of Species 8472. You don't want to pi$$ them off.

lehnerus2000
lehnerus2000

"The Year of Hell" was my favourite Voyager episode. "[i]Episodes like the super smart self flying missile were better. Or the one where the Kazon actually succeed in taking Voyager, and the lone serial killer takes back the ship. [/I]" Those were good episodes too.

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

1. Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy - The Doctor daydreams, sings, Tuvok's Pon Farr being sung about to the tune of La Donna Mobile, photonic cannons, Seven of Nine nude painting... Who could ask for more? 2. Blink of An Eye - Oh wow, seeing the development of a whole civilization from superstitious star worshipers to technologically advanced in a matter of days. 3. Critical Care - The whole concept of TC, ( Treatment Coefficient ) could be translated to "How much medical care can you afford? " on Earth. You have the money, then we'll give you the best. You don't, then who cares? At least that's how it is in Third World countries like where I live. 4. Future's End - Also a two parter with special guests Ed Begley Jr. and Sarah Silverman. "Your curves don't look right" :) 5. Fair Haven - Men are not holograms!!! Many more Voyager episodes I like, some I outright hate but that's for another discussion.

Slayer_
Slayer_

I always hated that episode, it never made sense to me that those bursts they were doing to keep the warp core working, could somehow damage the other ship. Shouldn't they have just kept the warp core going for both of them. And the hull breach that kills Harry, what, Voyager suddenly doesn't have blast doors? Close the damn doors and let the air vent out, no big deal. Episodes like the super smart self flying missile were better. Or the one where the Kazon actually succeed in taking Voyager, and the lone serial killer takes back the ship.

RexWorld
RexWorld

Interesting that so many of your top picks were two-part episodes. What do you think it says about the series, that their long-form episodes were better than the hour-long ones?

Slayer_
Slayer_

We already know that if you start two transporter beams on 1 person, they get duplicated. So duplicate Tuvix, and split apart one copy back into Tuvok and Nelix. Solved. I assume this is how they managed to maintain 150 crew members for all that time. Or recreate torpedos and shuttle craft.

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

1) I think you're confusing two episodes. One included McCoy helping a pregnant woman over rough terrain and up a mountain (The World is Hollow and I Have Touched the Sky), and another that featured a blind woman being transported for diplomatic reasons that took place entirely aboard the ship (Is There in Truth No Beauty?) 2) The series under discussion is 'Voyager', not the original series. The 'Best Original Series Episodes' discussion is here: http://www.techrepublic.com/blog/geekend/the-five-best-star-trek-episodes-ever/8999

Suresh Mukhi
Suresh Mukhi

Could you at least tell us WHY you think it is a bad episode? I consider it one of the better ones too. Sorry for making you cry again.

Slayer_
Slayer_

As they discover that the ship responds to voice commands :) .

tim
tim

I was surprised at this gaffe. It even overlooked the "47" reference that ST manages to work into most episodes.

Nytrydr
Nytrydr

I agree, the work around was pretty easy to spot, and I for one would have liked to see how pissed Tuvok would have gotten having Tuvix around and how Neelix would have been his best bud too (hey, they guy likes everyone). That's not the point. Tuvix stands out for me as the episode where they coldbloodedly murdered that generally nice bloke and potentially valuable crew member for reasons that are actually a bit hard to wrap ones head around. And if Kess got with Tuvix, whould that be a devil's threeway?

Nytrydr
Nytrydr

Yeah, but people die. Seem to recall Voyager losing a few beloved crew members over the years, but if we assume Tuvok and Neelix to be dead and Tuvix to be patently alive, it's still a pretty cold bitch to do that, even if we assume he kept Tuvok's commission in starfleet, rather than serving as a willing volunteer like Neelix. Not that I'm complaining, as I said, I thought it was a pretty rockin' episode.

Slayer_
Slayer_

But I actually think she was right. Two for one is a good deal. And I think Tuvix would have been hated before long. People missing Tuvok and Neelix. And as the captain, it is her right to order a crew member to die.

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