As I cook, I’ve been…

As I cook, I've been thinking about all the episodes of Voyager I've watched recently, in the context of the new novel I'm working on. (Perhaps a relief to my agent, who sees me posting all sorts of things that aren't word counts -- don't worry, Russell, I'm thinking! More writing soon, I promise.) I've recently noticed something weird.

I started re-watching these in part because it's one of the very few SF series featuring a female protagonist (which is also what I'm trying to write). I was curious how they handled it -- for the most part, decently so far, though they do seem to go out of their way to emphasize how feminine she is in the early episodes -- loving scene with her serious boyfriend Mark early on (and their dog), and a nice pink nightie shot not much further in. How many episodes does it take before we see Picard in his jammies?

But the weird part is the kinds of episodes they've been writing (which don't have anything to do with gender, I think). So you've got a spaceship, stranded halfway across the galaxy -- you'd expect a lot of encounters with new aliens, right? Lots of external conflict to add to the internal conflict of trying to integrate two Federation and Maquis crews on starship (the latter, they actually handle pretty well, and is giving me some ideas for the book!). But there's actually not much of that. What there is, over and over, are episodes where the crew's perception of reality is distorted somehow, where they aren't sure that things are really how they seem. Sometimes it's the whole crew, sometimes it's just one or the other crew member. The first episode is like that too, actually.

It's enough to make me want to shout at the screen at this point -- "No, you're not losing your mind! It really is aliens / spatial anomaly / etc. doing this. Don't waste half the episode questioning your sanity! Didn't we just go through two episodes ago?"

It's funny, because they're actually mostly pretty decent episodes taken one-by-one. But there are too many of them bunched up together, and what we AREN'T getting is the kind of long-form storytelling that DS9 did so well, the slow build-up of rising tensions, the increasing complexity of relationships with other species (with their own complex political and social agendas). Maybe this is part of why Voyager kind of tanked with the audiences when it came out, why even die-hard Trekkies like myself had trouble getting and staying engaged with it.

Series tension. It's a good thing. Also, reality is really real, so deal with it!

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