Star Trek 629: Endgame

629. Endgame

FORMULA: Dark Frontier + Firstborn + All Good Things + The Search for Spock + Timeless

WHY WE LIKE IT: The real timeline. Harry's speech.

WHY WE DON'T: The new timeline. The ending.

REVIEW: Endgame begins by showing us how Voyager's journey ended 16 years later (after 23 years total), and just how the characters were faring an additional 10 years after that. Harry's a captain. B'Elanna has pull with the Klingon High Council. Tom and the Doctor are noted holonovel writers. Miral Paris is all grown up and an ensign in Starfleet. Naomi Wildman has children of her own. Janeway and adopted crew member Reg Barclay are teaching at the Academy. And the Doctor's got a newly minted wife and a name for himself (amusingly, just "Joe"). They didn't all do so well, however. Tuvok is mentally ill and both Seven and Chakotay are dead (the latter from sadness at losing the former, his, hem hem, wife). Which is why this timeline simply has to go, as crazy Admiral Janeway decides to change everyone's fates.

This is really too bad. Not just because it involves one of this ill-considered, ill-designed temporal paradox stories, but because it breaks Voyager's premise. As soon as the ship gets home, it's no longer special. And while I have no doubt the characters continued their adventures in spin-off novels, it's like following the DS9 crew NOT on DS9. It's not the same. Imagining the ship lost out there for the remainder of in spin-offery would have been fine with me, a lot more believable AND a lot more impressive to boot. A 7-year trip isn't all that long, is it? Whatever the details upon the ship's return, a longer voyage is simply a cooler idea. It's Harry who gets the big homage speech in this finale - "To the journey" - and it defines this idea well. For a second there, it lets you believe they won't take the easy (and quick) road home.

Now on to Admiral Janeway, showing all the signs of crazy finale Janeway, messing with the Temporal Prime Directive for a handful of people she didn't think should have died or become senile (and the actual Prime Directive too since she's been manipulating Klingon politics). Admiral Janeway is corrupt and everything she does or undoes is fruit from the poisoned tree. She cuts Voyager's journey short by 16 years, undoing every impact the ship had during that time. If the last seven years are any indication, how many people have been "unhelped"? She also brings future technology to the present, setting the Federation up to become a military giant with phased torpedoes and ridiculous batmobile armor. (No really, even if such a thing didn't look like magic, where the hell did Voyager get all that metal just sitting in deep space?) To top it all off, she annihilates the Borg, ridding the galaxy of them perhaps permanently. How can the guys on the Relativity just sit by and NOT undo the finale? The Borg Queen is under the impression that killing young Janeway will prevent old Janeway from coming back in time and destroying the Borg, but isn't sending Voyager back home now ALSO going to undo that timeline. In other words, nothing here makes sense.

Destroying the Borg is just too much. I don't just mean in the tally of Admiral Janeway's temporal crimes (though genocide is pretty bad), but that it makes Voyager too powerful, competent or legendary in comparison to other starring ships. How great is the Enterprise's victory in First Contact once Voyager's blown up the Collective? The writers are playing at escalation to the detriment of past stories, or since those older stories are much beloved, to the detriment of this one as viewers roll their eyes at pseudo-cool attempts to top everything that came before. Blow up a transwarp hub, sure, but erase the entire threat? Come on. Would only have worked if there were a cost, but Voyager indeed "has its cake and eats it too".

The return of Alice Krige as the Borg Queen might have been reason to cheer if it just wasn't so odd to see her back in the role. It's odd because it's so different from Susanna Thompson's. Did Alice's Queen die or didn't she? How can she be back? If she could (cloning or 4D thinking), then why didn't she back in Dark Frontier? While I prefer her performance, it's amazing how much is lost with Voyager's cinematography in place of First Contact's. That harsh, flat green light on her dry, unsweaty skin changes her tremendously, and not for the better.

Back on present-day Voyager, I can't say I like things any better. The episode tells us two surprising things about the future, and then retroactively makes them true in the past. That is extremely cheap writing. They had 4 years to develop a romance between Chakotay and Seven, and though we knew Seven had an interest (Human Error), Chakotay never showed any. Suddenly, and because it's relevant to the plot, they're on their 3rd date. And it's EXTREMELY AWKWARD. There's no real chemistry and Chakotay seems way too in love with her for a handful of dates and the preceding nothing. The other cheap plot point is Tuvok's illness. This time, the writers had 7 years to introduce a degenerative illness for Tuvok and didn't, but here it's retroactively inserted into his medical record.

I seem to have a lot of issues with the finale, don't I? But is a series finale, and so it tries to be a celebration of sorts. There are appearances from a number of regulars, like Barclay, Neelix and Icheb, with Naomi and Chell rating mentions. It all looks pretty sharp, with lots of ships and explosions. Celebratory fireworks. However, the lack of an epilogue is a woeful mistake. There's a quick fake out where you think they didn't make it back before they come out of the Borg sphere surrounding them (awkwardly staged), then you see they're at Earth (the ships in shot include a Galaxy and a Defiant, which is a nice tip of the hat) and then... credits. WHAT??? Except for a few "what will you do?" conversations (that yield no answers), there is absolutely no closure for the characters. There were two things that were almost bound to happen: The birth of Miral and Voyager's return. And they chose only to show us what was obvious from the outset. With other series, you had a sense of what would happen the next day. Not here. And this is one series that almost demanded answers, with half the cast not being Starfleet, some even wanted by the law. If the future isn't the future, then what is? We shouldn't be forced to dig into other media to get a real ending.

LESSON: Regret is the mind killer.

REWATCHABILITY - Depends: Personally, I wish I'd never seen the finale and consider it a Low. I've been relatively negative about the series, I know, but when it's part of your daily routine for more than 5 months, you still get attached to the characters. You want it to do well. Endgame doesn't do right by them, and I sometimes think it would be better if the ship never came home (though I certainly would have included a sequence that shows them home 16 years later or whatever). If you were happy to see them get home, then I can't call this anything better than a Medium. It shares traits with a number of other nonsense paradox stories, big on eye candy, short on plot and characterization. Either way, it's the first finale (if the TOS story ends with ST VI) that doesn't tug at your heart strings.

14 comments:

De said...

We shouldn't be forced to dig into other media to get a real ending.

I cannot agree with this statement enough. I've stayed away from the spin-off novels so far. However, I am told that the Borg are still around.

My friends and I watched "Endgame" live when it aired and even the uber-Voyager fangirl in the group hated it. A little temporal goofiness we could handle but the lack of any real closure was what earned our collective (pardon the pun) dismay.

Jayunderscorezero said...

At the time of this airing I was evidently so weak-willed and desperate for closure that I went out and grabbed the post-finale spin-off novels as soon as they came out, and indeed, they really do offer some much-needed closure. However, I too have to agree with the above statement: spin-off fiction shouldn't be there to fix the problems of the show itself. I liked Voyager, but that was a piss-poor finale for fans of the show and its characters.

FoldedSoup said...

I very uncharacteristically missed the finale somehow. I'm not quite sure how it happened, but Voyager will always remain unfinished to my mind. I've been told several times to keep the series in my head that way, and so far, so good.

Based on what you've written, I think I'll keep it up.

Siskoid said...

I think that while individual episodes were often no better or worse than, say, TNG's, it's when Voyager is perceived as a whole that it fails miserably.

If each series is essentially a huge story, then Voyager is one that ends terribly. Works of entertainment are often judged by their endings, and so: maximum suckage.

Siskoid said...

De: It's also why Matrix Reloaded sucked hard-boiled eggs.

The Mutt said...

I gave up on Gilligan's Starship after about 2 and a half seasons, mainly because all the boring characters never got any more interesting, and because I judged Janeway to be unfit for her command. hell, she was barely fit to wear a Starfleet uniform.

Because of that, I really enjoyed reading your recap of the rest of the run. It was nice to know all the things I missed, and it was heartening to know that I had made the right decision. The boring characters never got any more interesting, and Janeway confirmed that she was unfit to walk around among law-abiding citizens, never mind walk around in a Starfleet uniform.

Thanks for your herculean efforts, Siskoid. Live long and prosper. And for god's sake. don't try this with Enterprise. Not if you value your sanity.

Jeffrey said...

I'm of two minds. (Three if you count my motto, coined during the dark days between Star Trek I and Star Trek II: "Even bad Star Trek is better than no Star Trek.")

First, the idea of the series ending works. Think about "The Fugitive." Would that series have been so successful had the One Armed Man never been captured, violating the premise of the series? No, it made the series special.

Second, there is no way in Heck that Voyager can be compared to The Fugitive. This show sucked. And for all the reasons you mentioned. You're right. Voyager should have been stranded in the Delta Quadrant.

I am looking forward to your reviews of Enterprise, because that series came darn close to being good, and I'm interested in hearing your take on the show.

snell said...

Decent episode (maybe), but TERRIBLE series finale. "We're home, hurray, then end?!?!"

Perhaps if they didn't spend so much time allowing two versions of Mulgrew to overact opposite each other they might have had time for something, anything, other than the abrupt "ending." Really, it was rather Shatner-like, watching Janeway suck all the time and "character development" out of the episode...it's no wonder they had no time to tie up anybody's arc.

Siskoid said...

Mutt: I really do like Enterprise, and I'm not one to let my 2-year mission remain unfinished this time. So close to the end too!

I hope to show you how underrated the series is.

The Mutt said...

I await your wisdom.

Doctor Mi said...

I like this finale.

No really. The only two outcomes possible for the series finale were Voyager makes it home or it doesn't. Quite binary. The cliché would have been to have that answered only in the last minute of the show, you know, to keep the suspense.

I thought it was gutsy and outside-the-box to have Voyager come home in the opening scene. Of course, vigilante-Janeway puts everything on the line to save the missing two. But Janeway has often quoted "the family" and I guess it was a failure if two of the crew were missing. It was as if Voyager never made it, in a sense.

I find it highly rewatchable because its entertaining. Of course, if you're nitpicky about the temporal mecanics, then I can understand your hatred of this episode. Just turn your brain off and watch it. How did Voyager make it inside the sphere, and even survive in there? How will advanced weapons and armor change Starfleet? All good questions but its just a show after all.

Much better than that terrible Enterprise finale. Just aweful.

Siskoid said...

Yes, sure, I liked how it came home before the opening credits too, it's EVERYTHING ELSE I find fault with. In the end, Voyager DID get home at the last second. At the expense of actual closure. Neelix was the lucky one. He got a definite fate.

Switching my brain is perhaps not possible. Not for me. However, even if I excuse the paradoxes and "cool nonsense" (and I can), it's still no excuse for no closure or for conveniently raised stakes (Chakotay/Seven for example).

I don't remember hating Enterprise's finale, but only saw it once. We'll find out come December.

Dave said...

Well done son, Getting to the end of Voyager is no mean feat. I often wonder if Jeri ryan was cast as captain and they had a more BSG feel to the series, that it could have been the ultimate Star trek show. Plus it's very similar to Red Dwarf in concept, if not execution. I'd like to see you continue with the books once you finish Enterprise!

Kaiser The Great said...

A perfect review for a horrible ending to a mediocre show. Funny how one of Voyager's themes was "upholding Starfleet values even though we're alone", but then Janeway solves to show's biggest problem by violating Starfleet values. Perfect.

 

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