the story: The crew faces one last great shortcut home...but it goes through the Borg and...Admiral Janeway?
what it's all about: Like the rest of the series, Voyager's final episode proved controversial, difficult to like among fans. Some of them merely singled out parallel elements from Next Generation's finale (a new relationship: Chakotay and Seven/Worf and Troi; a degenerative illness: Tuvok/Picard; a time travel element, different time periods), and thought it merely derivative. Some were actually upset they didn't get to see just a little more, the crew reuniting with family. Some were, as they'd been since the third season, upset that the series was still pretending it had something to say about the Borg. And some still just didn't like Janeway, much less two of them.
To which I say: humbug. It's surprising, really, how many of Star Trek fan complaints amount to so much humbug, a stubborn insistence to be grumpy, a trend that has grown more and more prevalent among fan cultures of any extraction in recent years, and so Voyager ought to celebrate being at the vanguard of such a movement, no matter how dubious the honor.
I say humbug, too, because this is a perfect ending to the series. It is a parallel, to the first episode of Voyager. Janeway has to make a difficult decision that will determine when they get home. In "Caretaker," she makes a principled stand, a correctly Starfleet one, that strands her ship seventy thousand lightyears from home, so that if it took the full length of time none of the crew would be alive to actually reach it, that it would end up being a generational journey. By the end of the series, two children had been born into the crew, Naomi Wildman and Miral Paris, whose birth actually occurs in "Endgame." Throughout the series, Janeway had also struggled with that original decision, notably in "The 37s" and "Night."
"Endgame" is a chance to revisit it, and once and for all determine whether she made the right call. But she has help this time. Namely, herself. Future Janeway, or as she's known Admiral Janeway, has actually once and for decided she made the wrong one. Ultimately, one of them has to pay the price. It might seem cheap for it to be Admiral Janeway, since her timeline ends up being erased anyway, but this is a franchise that has long celebrated such sacrifices, most memorably in Deep Space Nine's "The Visitor," and even in Voyager's own "Timeless," which "Endgame" also parallels and serves as a spiritual sequel. In that one, it's an older Harry Kim who goes back to fix things, and it's the best Harry appearance of the series. While Janeway can't quite claim that honor with "Endgame," it's still among her strongest episodes, precisely because it does force her to decide, once and for all, if she was right in "Caretaker." It's a bold call to say she thinks, at least, that she wasn't. But she also has an opportunity she didn't then, the classic "have your cake and eat it, too," which results in a dramatically memorable trip home in a metaphorical belly of the whale, a Borg cube that the ship quickly emerges from...in home territory at last.
For a series that long chased truly cinematic moments, knowing like Deep Space Nine before it that there were likely no movies in its future, it's a truly achieved objective. Getting Alice Krige to reprise the Borg Queen one last time, regardless of whether or not it's a final defeat of the Borg, at least gives the series another long-held objective of giving Janeway a defining win over the Collective, building on everything that had come before it.
All that and more is why I love "Endgame," and the series around it. It's a strong final episode, arguably the most appropriate one of the whole franchise, accomplishing in grand fashion what might have been inevitable, but never guaranteed to be so memorable.
- franchise - A series finale that completes the story exactly as expected but still manages to surprise. In that sense, totally unique in Star Trek lore.
- series - Parallels the very first episode in a deliberate fashion.
- character - Allows Janeway to finish an argument she's had with herself since the beginning.
- essential - To see how the crew gets home, especially that spectacular final sequence, really has to be seen to be believed.
Kate Mulgrew (Admiral Janeway)
Ethan Phillips (Neelix)
Manu Intiraymi (Icheb)
Richard Herd (Admiral Paris)
Dwight Schultz (Barclay)
Alice Krige (Borg Queen)