STAR TREK: VOYAGER: SEASON 4 - DVD review

...Season 4 isn't afraid to examine the ramifications of Janeway's actions.

 
Eddie
Feng

Paramount certainly knows how to release TV shows on DVD. The studio is doing "Star Trek" fans a great service by releasing entire RUNS in one calendar year. 2002 saw the release of all seven seasons of "Star Trek: The Next Generation", and 2003 saw the release of all seven seasons of "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine". Now, all seven seasons of "Star Trek: Voyager" are being released in 2004, and it looks like "Star Trek: The Original Series" will be re-released in box sets in 2004, too. Coupled with the special edition re-releases of the "Star Trek" feature films, there's an average of one new "Star Trek" release every month--a definite cause for celebration.

"Star Trek: Voyager" begins with a Federation starship being sent to look for a Maquis (i.e. rebel) raider that was lost in The Badlands, an area of space near the Federation-Cardassian border that is filled with dangerous phenomena. The Voyager finds itself being pulled by an alien force from the Alpha Quadrant (which includes Earth) to the Delta Quadrant--a distance of more than 70,000 light years. The Voyager and Maquis crews join forces to find a way back home. Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) leads the Vulcan Chief of Security Tuvok (Tim Russ), pilot Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), and Operations Officer Harry Kim (Garrett Wang). The Native American Chakotay (Robert Beltran) heads a Maquis crew that includes the half-human/half-Klingon Chief of Engineering B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson), and the combined crew picks up the Talaxian Neelix (Ethan Phillips) and the Ocampan Kes (Jennifer Lien). There's even a holographic doctor (Robert Picardo). New to Season 4 is Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), a Borg drone who has been dis-assimilated from the Borg Collective.

Disc 1: "Scorpion, Part II", "The Gift", "Day of Honor", "Nemesis".

Disc 2: "Revulsion", "The Raven", "Scientific Method", "Year of Hell, Part I".

Disc 3: "Year of Hell, Part II", "Random Thoughts", "Concerning Flight", "Mortal Coil".

Disc 4: "Waking Moments", "Message in a Bottle", "Hunters", "Prey".

Disc 5: "Retrospect", "The Killing Game, Part I", "The Killing Game, Part II", "Vis a Vis".

Disc 6: "The Omega Directive", "Unforgettable", "Living Witness", "Demon".

Disc 7: "One", "Hope and Fear".

Season 4 begins with Voyager becoming the new home of Seven of Nine, a Borg drone who is becoming human again after Janeway and the Doctor remove her Borg implants. Seven's arrival heralds the departure of Kes. Everyone seemed to realize that Kes had become a static deadweight for the show, so she was written off by having her explode due to her telepathic abilities (so much for a guest appearance). Although the DVDs' menus suggest otherwise, the Borg have little to do with Season 4 after Seven joins the Voyager crew.

The modifications to the cast line-up re-organize the crew dynamic. With Kes gone, Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres get together for good. Janeway gets to be a mother/sister figure for Seven of Nine as the latter re-adjusts to human interaction. Neelix and Tuvok develop a tense but oddly believable friendship. Seven's curiosity about her nature reflects the crew's newfound sense of adventure as it travels through the Delta Quadrant. After all, the crew has gotten used to being so far away from home, so it might as well learn as much as it can about its home-away-from-home.

The crew manages to get in touch with Starfleet via a network of communications relays. However, the Hirogen, a fierce race of warriors, decides to punish Voyager for trespassing on their satellite network. Therefore, the Hirogen attack Voyager several times, culminating in a temporary occupation as seen in "The Killing Game Parts I and II".

Perhaps taking a cue from the "Deep Space Nine" episode "In the Pale Moonlight", Season 4 isn't afraid to examine the ramifications of Janeway's actions. For example, in "Living Witness", a society's archeological finds blame the Voyager crew for causing devastation and racial injustice. In "Hope and Fear", we learn that Janeway's alliance with the Borg resulted in the near-complete destruction of one alien race.

Video:
"Voyager" arrives on DVD with its original 1.33:1 (full-frame on 4:3 monitors) aspect ratio. As with Season 3, every episode in Season 4 looks consistently great. Colors are appropriately muted and vibrant when necessary, and there are no compression/authoring problems. Everything is sharp and clear.

Audio:
There are several space fights in Season 4, so the Dolby Digital 5.1 English audio tracks are very active and wide if not as aggressive as mixes for some theatrical releases. Still, for the most part, "Star Trek" has always been more dialogue-oriented than other science-fiction works. Therefore, it's sufficient that the center channel comes through clearly.

You can watch each episode with its original DD 2.0 surround English track (recommended for those of you without DD 5.1 set-ups). Optional English subtitles as well as optional English closed captions support the audio.

Extras:
All of the set's extras are on Disc 7. "Braving the Unknown: Season Four" gives viewers a glimpse of cast and crew members' memories. "Time Capsule: Seven of Nine" features interviews with various people as well as archival interviews with Jeri Ryan about her character. "Time Capsule: Harry Kim" features interviews with Garrett Wang about his character.

"The Birth of Species 8472" examines the creation of the look of the one alien race that can threaten the Borg outright. "The Art of Alien Worlds" shows how matte paintings and other visual effects techniques are used to create "large" environments. A "Photo Gallery" offers a couple of on-location/on-set stills. There is a preview for "Trekkies 2". Finally, if you get creative with your remote control's directional pad, you'll find six Easter Eggs.

--Miscellaneous--
The discs are housed in Digipak plastic trays that are bound together like the pages in a book. Two clear plastic slipcases prevent the trays from flapping wildly, and episode listings are printed on one of the slipcases.

Film Value:
Like "Deep Space Nine" and "The Next Generation" before it, "Voyager" needed some time to hit its stride. The Voyager crew's quest to return home allows for the show to re-capture the adventurous spirit of the "Star Trek" philosophy. There's a sense of urgency as Voyager encounters increasingly hostile aliens, and there's a sense of poignancy as the characters deal with certain changes that took place back home while they've been stranded 60,000 light years from the Alpha Quadrant.

Ratings

Video
8
Audio
7
Extras
5
Film Value
7