In many ways, the end of UPN's "Star Trek: Voyager" is indicative of its lowly station within the "Trek"universe.
In the eyes of Trekkers (as the devoted fan base likes to be called), the third spinoff of the popular science-fiction franchise has always been inferior in storylines and characters to the rousing "The Next Generation" and the complex and darker "Deep Space Nine."
It took a few years after the series' 1995 debut before plots went beyond the standard "we meet, we conflict, we go on our way" level. It also took Jeri Ryan's debut as the sensual half-human/half Borg character Seven of Nine to attract more attention, as well as a serious infusion of action.
It took a while for Kate Mulgrew to be accepted as Voyager Captain Kathryn Janeway, the first woman to play a starship captain as a lead character. She's a calm, steady presence who measures up to Patrick Stewart as "Next Generation's" Jean-Luc Picard and Avery Brooks as "DS9's" Benjamin Sisko, and the original's James T. Kirk, played by William Shatner.
Voyager's two-hour finale tonight will be compared to "Next Generation's" and "DS9's" satisfying conclusions - Picard again saved humanity, and celebrated by playing poker with his senior staff as the Enterprise rode into the sunset; Sisko joined the alien celestial beings the Prophets, while his son Jake (Cirroc Lofton) watched longingly for signs of his dad from a porthole on the Federation space station DS9.
Voyager's end could have been right up there with the other two, and even surpass "Next Generation's" exit. It is exhilarating, fascinating and at times moving. Unfortunately, it also falls short of the other two.
Mulgrew admits fans might be ambivalent about the finale.
"I think it's a very good ending. I understand that some people find it to be slightly anticlimactic; I do not," says Mulgrew, 46. "I find the ending very moving in its simplicity. And the two-hour lead-up has just about every element you can wish."
The resolution is exciting, and one that will keep you guessing almost until the end. But, not to give anything away, it's also one that is ultimately unfulfilling.
Back from the future: When one Trek ends, another begins. The new "Trek" series is called "Enterprise." It stars Scott Bakula ("Quantum Leap") as unconventional Starfleet captain Jonathan Archer. But it's set roughly 200 years before the characters, aliens and situations of "Voyager" and its fellow modern-day "Trek" shows. The series is set at a time when Earth is still new to interstellar travel.
Rick Berman decided to go in such a dramatically different direction as a way to reenergize the franchise. "For us, going back to a time when deep space travel was new to humans, it gives us a chance to truly see humans going where no man has gone before," he says. "It gives us a chance to deal with more contemporary characters because they're closer to us now."