Jumping the gun a bit on the "will they get home?!" plot device, perhaps, but this one is actually pretty well made.
A full description may be found at Memory Alpha. Spoiler alert! They don't make it home!
They did many things well here - even the science was in its proper place (laying the backdrop for the story and technobabble kept to a minimum). Their visualization of the wormhole was stunning, the delicate nature of the Romulan science vessel at the other end was well-written, the B-plot involving the Doctor, Kes and Janeway was very effective indeed. I am reminded when I watch this episode why I was bitterly disappointed to see Kes go and why I have always admired the show's handling of the EMH. So don't let my following comments fool you into thinking I didn't like this episode or thought there was nothing worth watching. Because neither is true. The ultimate problem with the script, IMHO, is either than it's out of place happening just six episodes into the story (you know that no one is going to get home this early in the show - c'mon, what would the point of THAT be?) or that it should have been about the characters - specifically Harry Kim and The Doctor - reacting to the hope (or doom, in the Doctor's case) of getting home and then having to recover when those hopes are dashed. Unfortunately, they didn't spend quite enough time on Harry and his new friendships and it ends up feeling a bit too generic.
BUT...this story could very well have been told...even this early in the run of the show...and had a much more important emotional effect on the viewer if they'd just slightly altered the delivery and spent more time on the elements that could actually create drama, so...
Let's Go With It!
The long odyssey of the far flung Starship Voyager was certainly not going to end after six episodes, and there's not much of a payoff if the big end result is simply that we get some messages home to the friends and family of the crew. Given all of that, and given our desire to see the crew of Voyager take every opportunity they can to try to get home (meaning stories like this do indeed need to be told), how do you keep the audience from having SFDebris's reaction: namely classifying every such episode as just another "how will the crew's hopes be dashed THIS week?" episode and hand waving it, no matter how well you do in making it? The answer would have been obvious to Ron Moore and especially to Renee Echevarria. It's the characters, stupid!
My girlfriend was favorably impressed with the wormhole graphics and the intrigue about who was on the other side. I would say that the atmospherics of the episode were well better than normal, right down to the darkened lighting used when Janeway was conversing with the Romulan science officer and the acting of Tim Russ when he realized the fate of our Romulan ally and felt obliged to inform the crew. But...we exchanged great atmospherics for great character work, I fear. If we'd spent a little less time admiring the wormhole or having delicate discussions with the Romulans, and a little more time following Harry around as his hopes lifted ever higher and then gotten to see the end result when they were crushed - with a sense of foreboding looming over us the whole time, knowing that it can't possibly end well for poor Harry - we could have done two important things:
- We could have seen how Harry - the enthusiastic and naive optimist - responds to his first major adversity, leading us to root for him to grow while holding onto his sense of hope and good spirit.
- We could have become more invested in Harry's friendship with Tom. Tom could have been begging Harry not to get his hopes up too high and then he could have been there for Harry to console him and cheer him up just a little when it all went wrong.
The basic script could have been left largely intact. After all, they did do a good job with the doctor and the basic plot was sound. All you'd have needed were more scenes from Harry's POV. And, I think it should have been Harry who discovered the link between communication bandwidths and transporter technology. I'm just saying, we could have gotten more invested if the story had been about Harry, and not about the generic situation for the crew.
Having said all of that, the writing for this episode was basically solid and they did do some great work with Kes and the EMH, so it's not a bad start on an even better effort.
And actually, the performances were well above average. Jennifer Lien and Robert Picardo work so well together it's not even funny. And actually, Tim Russ and Garrett Wang weren't nearly as wooden and uninteresting in the first season and they became later (I think they realized their characters weren't going to get worthwhile material and stopped caring...but that's just me).
Kes's dogged determination to view the EMH (correctly) as a sentient being will be a huge factor in future episodes and it's fun to watch her make Janeway squirm. :)