January 16, 2015
Nostalgia Time 16 January 2015: Star Trek: Voyager, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Star Trek: Voyager premiered on the all-new (now defunct) United Paramount Network on 16 January 1995. It was the flagship series for the new broadcaster, and while the syndicated series Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was still on the air (and halfway through its third season) it was Voyager that Paramount treated as the proper successor to its monster hit Star Trek: The Next Generation. To be honest, it seemed a more appropriate successor than DS9 anyway: bright where DS9 was moody, and optimistic where DS9 was cynical. It even used The Next Generation's sets, subtly re-built to look a bit fresher and more contemporary.
In practice the series was pretty uneven, with characters and elements that worked well and others that did not. To my mind one of the series' greatest strengths was its captain, Kathryn Janeway - played exceptionally well by Kate Mulgrew. When you're the fourth star of a Star Trek series it's difficult to find a way to chart your own course, and I think both Mulgrew and the writers managed that and made Janeway a subtlely distinctive and appealing character. Some of the other regular cast did not fare so well. Personally I found myself struggling to warm to the likes of Tuvok or Neelix.
Proof of Hercules' effect on American television was the number of imitators that were rapidly commissioned to cash in on its blend of light-hearted humour and action-oriented fantasy. Some, like Roar (1997), were reasonably good. Others, like The Adventures of Sinbad (1996) or The New Adventures of Robin Hood (1997), were relatively dire.
I think Hercules is a pretty underrated series, that tended to fly under the radar in its later years once audiences grew more interested in Xena Warrior Princess. Kevin Sorbo was a strong, charismatic lead, and supporting actor Michael Hurst added a huge amount of entertainment value as his sidekick Iaolus.
For both series, happy 20th anniversary.