“There's got to be a way to have our cake and eat it, too” - Captain Janeway, speaking to an alternate timeline future version of herself, but also summing up how “Endgame” wound up being the best of all possible conclusions for Voyager.
This week marks the 11th (!) anniversary of the airing of the final episode of Voyager. I know it makes more sense to do reflections every 10 years, but I wasn't writing the One Trek Mind column last May, so we're doing it now. I think both Captain AND Admiral Janeway would appreciate my decision to make take charge of this situation and make it work for me. Here are three key reasons why I think “Endgame” really knocked it out of the park.
*A Peek at the Future
Ever since Janeway, Chakotay and their respective crews got zapped out to the Delta Quadrant we knew that, eventually, they'd get home. The show was about the journey and the growth of the characters, of course, not just the adventures. But we'd all be lying if we didn't want to see how our shipmates would find their footing back on Earth.
An extended coda checking in on how everyone ended up would have been anticlimactic, but “Endgame” still scratches this itch by front-loading the story with a look 26 years down the timeline. B'Elanna and Tom have a daughter in Starfleet, The Doctor is married (!) and calls himself Joe (!!) and Janeway is an Admiral, teaching with Reg Barclay. We get more than enough time in this possible future for it to feel fully fleshed out before Admiral Janeway goes back to her past (“our” present) to speed up the process Voyager's return.
Better still, the events of “Endgame” determine that this is not how things REALLY end up, but it gives us just enough of a taste to satiate our curiosity, while still leaving the fates of the crew open for (endless) debate and conversation.
*The Return of the First Borg Queen
Underneath all that makeup there are actually real people. The first time we met the Borg Queen in First Contact, she was played by Alice Krige. The next two appearances (“Dark Frontier” and the two-parter “Unimatrix Zero”) she was played by Susanna Thompson. Thompson had multiple Trek roles over the years, as a Romulan on TNG, a Trill on DS9 (playing Dax's former lover in a new host) and as a simulated Tilonian in the Riker's-gone-cuckoo episode “Frame of Mind.” However, when it was time to bring the Borg Queen back to meet her fiery doom in “Endgame,” Krige once again got the nod.
No disrespect to Thompson, but Krige is the better villain. She has a lithe way of moving, which is all the more fascinating given the clunky nature of her Borg drones. Her eerie smile is seductive and unsettling, and when she literally starts becoming undone in the final sequence the duel takes on a dreamlike quality reminiscent of David Cronenberg's Scanners.
It takes a lot to upstage an actress like Kate Mulgrew, and Krige certainly holds her own.
*Perspective Changes Things
Here's something from my own life, and quite possibly yours. Every now and then you'll go out with your friends to the bar. You'll have one drink, and another, and another and you'll be having a terrific time. The next morning you'll wake up, your head will be throbbing and you'll be late for work. “I'm never doing that again!” you'll say. Six months later, it's the same deal all over again.
Not a very classy example to bring up around such a sterling character as Janeway (though she's a very understanding woman, so she'd let it slide), but it speaks to an important truth about getting caught up in your own point of view. Admiral Janeway specifically withholds information about the Transwarp Hub, knowing that her noble, younger self would never do anything as selfish as go home without destroying the Borg's conduit system. After spending time back on the ship, she comes to recognize that maybe this isn't such a bad way to be.
On the other hand, a lecture about repeating mistakes from the older Janeway to the Captain hits a little closer to home than usual. She decries her decision to not use the Caretaker Array seven years earlier as putting the lives of strangers ahead of those of her crew. It's the type of argument that, at any other time (and from any other person), Janeway would simply smack down.
But this is what makes “Endgame” just a little bit brilliant – both individuals are beginning to grow, to reach a middle ground and, eventually, a winning strategy. Older Janeway thanks younger Janeway for letting her “get to know her again,” and you can read on younger Janeway's face how happy she is that she will continue to be a wise, strong-willed individual as she ages.
Put aside the science fiction aspect for a minute and the larger story is this: each individual has a core belief that may get tweaked by circumstance, but after a long enough “conversation with themselves” they will reach the right conclusion. Heavy!
The final episode of a seven-year series isn't going to make everyone happy. I think we all recall the Simpsons episode where Homer sobbed “Oh, Captain Janeway, your mission ended too soon.” Yet even with a ramped-up love affair between Seven of Nine and Chakotay and a shoehorned kadis-kot game with Neelix over a subspace communication, I think “Endgame” did a really good job of wrapping up the story and giving closure to a series that was flung out to the far end of the galaxy and left to fend for itself.
Many of you, no doubt, disagree, and you are ready to banish me to the Delta Quadrant for my beliefs. Give me your best arguments – and suggestions for other possible finales – in the comments below.
Jordan Hoffman is a freelance writer, critic and independent film producer living in New York City. He fell in love with Star Trek through TOS reruns just as TNG was getting ready to launch. On his BLOG, Jordan has reviewed all 727 Trek episodes and films, most of the comics and some of the novels. He has a funny story about the one time he met Leonard Nimoy. Click HERE to follow him on Twitter.
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