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Why were so many characters on Voyager underdeveloped?

KelisThePoet

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Report this Sep. 14 2011, 7:36 pm

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>come on now, pretty much every character had major development, especially tom and b'elanna. They went from being rebellious kids to adults, married with a family on the way. Pretty much every character on voyager had a great backstory....Chakotay left his tribe, turned his back on the way of his people to join starfleet. Kes left her friends and family possbly to never see them again to try to get to the surface and then again when she decided to stay on Voyager. Tuvok was ready to give up logic and the ways of Vulcans for the love of a girl. Neelix watched his home destroyed and his family die. Tom grew up in the shadow of an admiral, never living up to the potential his father wanted from him. B'elanna was split among two worlds neither of which wanted her, and with the shadow of her father leaving because she was too klingon for him hanging over her her whole life.

>that's far more intersting that the perfect cookie cutter starfleet officers of TNG and DS9
I agree.
Me too -- especially that last bit about perfect cookie cutter starfleet officers in TNG.


My personal opinion is that the potential for backstory in TNG actually detracted from character development.  Or another way of wording this argument is that I feel the writers of that series created characters whose personalities were static and devoid of conflict in the "present" of the series' episodes, so they tried to compensate for this lack of conflict by having the characters run into people and situations from their more interesting pasts.  Data is the perfect example of what I mean.  Particularly at the beginning of the series, he was presented as an accomplished starfleet officer with the respect of all his colleagues, and then he ran across Lore and Soong and we learned about his more troubled past.  Contrast this management of Data with the way the Doctor grew, changed the way he thought about himself and challenged others' preconceptions of him in the Voyager series itself (much as Spock did in the original Star Trek, actually).  We got to see the doctor's development.


Or contrast Janeway with Picard.  Picard is actually my favorite character from The Next Generation because Patrick Stewart's superior acting brings such life to the role, but in terms of the character, all of Picard's most substantial growth was in the "past" of the series.  He steps onto the bridge of the Enterprise in "Encounter at Farpoint" a confident, seasoned captain with everybody in the Federation behind him.  So of course we have to learn about his past to see how that character developed.  We didn't have to get as many stories about Janeway's past because her present was more dynamic and conflicted.


That's my opinion, anyway, but I do see how others could disagree, and I do think it's worth talking about the role of backstories in character development.  It's a lot more fun than just generally trashing on the characters of the shows we don't like.


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

KelisThePoet

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Report this Sep. 14 2011, 7:47 pm

Quote: Matthias Russell @ Sep. 14 2011, 6:19 pm

>Kelis, I mentioned Kes, didn't I?

>I was looking forward to Kes before the show started. Then the writers missed the whole point of her. She was a great way to tell stories about aging and facing death. You could start with her seeing life through the optimism and hopes of a teenager and end the series wise, calm, reflective. But instad they just used her for telepathy stories. Her major contribution was helping the Doctor gain his humanity; and the Doctor was the highligh of VOY to me in how he explored growing pains and obtaining a sense of identity.

Same with Neelix. Neelix was filled with regrets and bitterness but you rarely saw that side. They made him into the ship's clown and irrepresible happy go lucky guy. Neelix shined when he had to face the deaths of his family or prove he was not a coward, but those instance were few and far between.  I liked Neelix but he is probably the most hated main character in the franchise and I can understand why.

>So there are 2 characters with great potential but never used properly.  Heck, they simply gave up on Kes and got rid of her before ever properly developing her.  Then her return which once again missed a great opportunity to explore her looming mortality.  They sent her away and pretended she could make it home!
You did mention Kes.  I negligently failed to comment on that because I agree with you on this point, and I guess I just got too focused on the many comments in this thread with which I disagree.  Kes is the one character I feel the Voyager series failed to develop--and for exactly the reasons you state: too much telepathy stuff and a concept about shorter lifespans that the writers failed to see through to the end (or even the middle) of the show.


I do disagree with you about Neelix.  I don't think he was ever supposed to be one of the major characters, so I think the show got as much out of his fear and angst as it could.  And I actually think the optimistic persona Neelix cultivated helped to accentuate the psychological ghosts of his past.  If you think about it, almost all the episodes that focus on Neelix are dark and sad, so his comic, happy moments in the other stories throw the tragedy of his life into a sort of sharper relief.  And if you think about his ebullience in the light of his tragic life, which we learn about in his episodes, you come to realize that all his happy clowning is really a mask he throws up to protect himself.  For instance, he has some great (I think they're great) comic moments with Tuvok, but those moments really demonstrate his fear he will not be accepted and his desperateness to be valuable on Voyager.  To me, the real sign of good character development is if you can look back on earlier representations of the character and view them differently in light of what came later, and I certainly look at all Neelix's comic interactions with Tuvok differently in the light of their final interactions in "Homestead."


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

chr33355

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Report this Sep. 14 2011, 8:34 pm

Quote: willowtree @ Sep. 14 2011, 7:10 pm

>

>come on now, pretty much every character had major development, especially tom and b'elanna. They went from being rebellious kids to adults, married with a family on the way. Pretty much every character on voyager had a great backstory....Chakotay left his tribe, turned his back on the way of his people to join starfleet. Kes left her friends and family possbly to never see them again to try to get to the surface and then again when she decided to stay on Voyager. Tuvok was ready to give up logic and the ways of Vulcans for the love of a girl. Neelix watched his home destroyed and his family die. Tom grew up in the shadow of an admiral, never living up to the potential his father wanted from him. B'elanna was split among two worlds neither of which wanted her, and with the shadow of her father leaving because she was too klingon for him hanging over her her whole life.

>that's far more intersting that the perfect cookie cutter starfleet officers of TNG and DS9

>
  Bah the only characters that gained any sort of development were the Doctor, and 7 of 9 with Tom getting some minor development.  Janeway they never really made here more than The Captain. Harry Kim stayed the same wide eyed ensign at the end of the show that he was at the beginning.   Kes up to her departure from the show was Nelix's girlfriend a few episodes played into her powers but they never went anywhere.  Nelix was for all but one episode portrayed as a parnoid lunatic or a snivling coward.  Chakotey wasn't developed at all we had no references to the conflict between his starfleet and maqui backgrounds except in one episode.  The writers were lazy and more interested in trying to do another version of TNG in a setting where it didn't fit.


Zorf24

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Report this Sep. 15 2011, 6:16 am

i liked how the characters turned out, but they started pretty weak. i actually think they did a good job considering there was pretty much zero growth for the first two seasons.

Matthias Russell

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Report this Sep. 15 2011, 9:40 am

Quote: willowtree @ Sep. 14 2011, 7:10 pm

>come on now, pretty much every character had major development, especially tom and b'elanna. They went from being rebellious kids to adults, married with a family on the way. Pretty much every character on voyager had a great backstory....Chakotay left his tribe, turned his back on the way of his people to join starfleet. Kes left her friends and family possbly to never see them again to try to get to the surface and then again when she decided to stay on Voyager. Tuvok was ready to give up logic and the ways of Vulcans for the love of a girl. Neelix watched his home destroyed and his family die. Tom grew up in the shadow of an admiral, never living up to the potential his father wanted from him. B'elanna was split among two worlds neither of which wanted her, and with the shadow of her father leaving because she was too klingon for him hanging over her her whole > 

>that's far more intersting that the perfect cookie cutter starfleet officers of TNG and DS9



Disagree. Janeway wasn't given near the interesting histories of Picard and Sisko. Picard abandoned the family business to join starfleet, lost his heart due to his youthful hothead and faced a court martial for losing his previous command. Sisko lost his wife and had his life interfered with by aliens. He made captain due to his record at ds9. Little is known or of interest in Janeway's history. She appears to be the perfect student and got promoted due to being a prefect "yes man". Granted, I think she was an effective leader though I disagree with some of her decisions.

Kim, likewise the perfect student and "yes man". He was basically 'lil Janeway.

Tasha was raised on the streets and was so hardened because of her traumatic youth. Worf and Blanna had similar back stories except he embraced his heritage and was more disciplines (granted I do prefer the torres story)

Dax had multiple interesting back stories. In fact, I'd say DS9 wins for best stories and complex stories. Would take too long to summarize.

Blinkn

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Report this Sep. 15 2011, 9:58 am

I always watched the episodes, I would of course be unhappy with this continuity error here, out of character moment there but overall I liked every character. The latter seasons of Voyager felt... blah and the characters felt blah, they all felt phoned in.


All the characters were developed to some degree, some more than others is to be expect, we just tend to get huffy when its one we like, but they all felt like shadows of their season 3 and 4 selves.


Kelis, you pointed out something really interesting about the TNG cast, I hadn't thought of it in that way.


I do think Janeway made some terrible choices, Chakotay would provide her with these options or persepctives and she would just keep on driving not even hearing him. I think that's part of what made me feel like he wasn't there, because it seemed as far as Janeway was concerned he wasn't.


How is being a woman a bigger sterotype to overcome than being black, I'm honestly asking? The comment seems rather callous, beceause it first of makes it seem as though every group of women's experience was the same in America. Second that dispite the 13th, 14th & 15 Amendments it took a whole "movement" a hundred years later to actually see some traction.


When Lincoln came aboard the Enterprise he was not shocked to see Rand running about, though no women served in the military that I'm aware of in his time but he was surprised to see a "negress".

KelisThePoet

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Report this Sep. 15 2011, 8:17 pm

Quote: Matthias Russell @ Sep. 15 2011, 9:40 am

>Janeway wasn't given near the interesting histories of Picard and Sisko. Picard abandoned the family business to join starfleet, lost his heart due to his youthful hothead and faced a court martial for losing his previous command. Sisko lost his wife and had his life interfered with by aliens. He made captain due to his record at ds9. Little is known or of interest in Janeway's history. She appears to be the perfect student and got promoted due to being a prefect "yes man". Granted, I think she was an effective leader though I disagree with some of her decisions.

>Kim, likewise the perfect student and "yes man". He was basically 'lil Janeway.

>Tasha was raised on the streets and was so hardened because of her traumatic youth. Worf and Blanna had similar back stories except he embraced his heritage and was more disciplines (granted I do prefer the torres story)


Exactly the problem--Picard was a youthful hothead and later faced a court martial, but does anyone who commands him or serves under him really care, apart from a few throwaway characters used to introduce those backstories?  Can we see any traces of a hothead at all in the curmudgeonly grump of early Next Generation or the grandfatherly explorer of the later seasons?


And because Worf embraced his Klingon heritage and disciplined his emotions about it, what does it matter that his past was so conflicted and "muti-cultural" (for lack of a better term).  Spock was constantly conflicted and subtly butting heads with everyone else on the crew of his Enterprise because of his Vulcan culture, but the Next Generation writers apparently had no interest in doing anything similarly compelling with Worf.  The guy just loved to be Klingon and everybody he worked with loved that he was a Klingon, even though he's the first Klingon to ever serve in Starfleet and was introduced in a series that directly followed a Star Trek universe in which Klingons were the major enemies of the Federation.  I don't care about the fact that such lack of conflict is preposterous from a realist standpoint.  It's just so maddeningly dull from an entertainment standpoint.


Tasha was really the only Next Generation character who brought anything of her troubled past to her current life and job, and she was killed off before her character could be developed in anything but broad, clumsy strokes.  Honestly, who cares how developed and dramatic a character's backstory is if it has no bearing on who that character is now?


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

KelisThePoet

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Report this Sep. 15 2011, 8:21 pm

Quote: Blinkn @ Sep. 15 2011, 9:58 am

>All the characters were developed to some degree, some more than others is to be expect, we just tend to get huffy when its one we like, but they all felt like shadows of their season 3 and 4 selves.


I don't agree at all, but the most obvious examples of characters who are radically different by Season 7 than they are in Season 4 are Seven of Nine, Tom and B'Elanna.


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

KelisThePoet

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Report this Sep. 15 2011, 8:29 pm

Quote: chr33355 @ Sep. 14 2011, 8:34 pm

>Chakotey wasn't developed at all we had no references to the conflict between his starfleet and maqui backgrounds except in one episode.


Chakotay was a highly trained Starfleet officer.  He wasn't with the Maquis because he disagreed with Starfleet principles or because he preferred the Maquis way of operating.  He felt a duty to fight for his homeland and the memory of his father.  Take those specific, situational reasons for his allegiance to the Maquis out of the picture, and there's no reason he wouldn't fully embrace Starfleet.


This is what I mean about people just disliking Voyager's characters and then giving their personal dislike a more objective sounding term, like "underdeveloped."  Maybe some people would have preferred a character with a more rebellious mind set than Chakotay's--fine--but that doesn't mean the concept of Chakotay was not developed.  I'm not trying to tell other people what to like, but I am going to argue as long as people keep saying that the things I like are somehow objectively "bad."


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

Matthias Russell

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Report this Sep. 16 2011, 6:47 am

Picard's back story is important as it develops the character, lays the foundation of who he is.Origin stories are very important to a character. Jeri Taylor apparently agrees since she wrote a novel of origin stories of Voyager. Unfortunately, none of it is canon. If Taylor thought the origin stories were good enough that she wrote a book, why didn't she put them in the show? Firefly even found the time to provide back story for its characters.

Blinkn

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Report this Sep. 16 2011, 12:02 pm

Once again, I find myself having to agree. Tom, B'Elanna and Seven did grow over the course of their respectives tenures in the series.


However I do feel that Chakotay, Tuvok, and Harry were phoned in. Wang still seem to give it a little something, but I imagine that was becuase he was just happy to have a job.


I want to see a character that isn't labeled as 'gay' have a nice, normal romance with no hint of prejudice, no allegory and no message at all. Just put it there, like it happens all the time and no one gives a damn, which is exactly how it should be. I don't want a story about how no one understands them or how society isn't accepting, just have it happen. ~ SLagonia

Matthias Russell

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Report this Sep. 16 2011, 1:34 pm

I'm torn on Tuvok. He was a true Vulcan so he should seem dull to us humans. However, with Flashback, his talking about his family, and Janeway's stories, we get a decent character profile. He is no Spock, but wasn't supposed to be. It was a powerful moment when Neelix delivered him his first letter from home. Tuvok maintained a dispassionate persona but quickly dropped what he was doing and absorbed himself in the letter.

I also loved it when he shook his foot for Neelix in Homestead. Though I wish he gave a little more.

KelisThePoet

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Report this Sep. 16 2011, 4:35 pm

Quote: Matthias Russell @ Sep. 16 2011, 6:47 am

>Picard's back story is important as it develops the character, lays the foundation of who he is.Origin stories are very important to a character. Jeri Taylor apparently agrees since she wrote a novel of origin stories of Voyager. Unfortunately, none of it is canon. If Taylor thought the origin stories were good enough that she wrote a book, why didn't she put them in the show? Firefly even found the time to provide back story for its characters.
I'm not saying back stories are bad.  I'm saying back stories should have consequences for the "present" of the narrative, and in The Next Generation, they too often didn't.  By contrast, I can't imagine what B'Elanna or Neelix would have been like without their back stories or with different back stories.


And in the case of Janeway, I'm just saying I'll take a compelling main story with no back story over a compelling back story with no main story.


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

Matthias Russell

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Report this Sep. 16 2011, 9:00 pm

The story where Picard lost his heart related to the present. His family background in family may not be important, but the moment where he cries to his brother about the Borg violating him was among the strongest in trek; it is one of the reasons I say the slate should not have been wiped clean after Year of Hell to allow for a strong recovery story.
Riker's story was important in Pegasus (and These are the voyages, lol), another great TNG episode.

KelisThePoet

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Report this Sep. 16 2011, 9:41 pm

I actually enjoy watching The Next Generation.  I'm not trying to say that they never managed a dramatic, compelling story, though in my opinion, "Family" is not an example of one.


Falor was a prosperous merchant who went on a journey to gain greater awareness: Through storms he crossed the Voroth Sea/ To reach the clouded shores of Raal/ Where old T’Para offered truth./ He traveled through the windswept hills/ And crossed the barren Fire Plains/ To find the silent monks of Kir./ Still unfulfilled, he journeyed home/ Told stories of the lessons learned/ And gained true wisdom by the giving. – Falor’s Journey, “Innocence”

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