Star Trek: Voyager: Caretaker   Rewatch 
January 5, 2017 4:01 AM - Season 1, Episode 1 - Subscribe

(Series Premiere) The newly-commissioned U.S.S. Voyager ventures from Federation outpost Deep Space 9 into the Badlands to hunt down a Maquis raider…only to encounter something that, even for the Badlands, is really bad.

Unless otherwise indicated, all below-the-fold background information in this and subsequent Voyager FanFare posts comes from various pages on the exhaustive (though unofficial) Star Trek wiki Memory Alpha. (Most VOY posts will likely not be as long as this one!) Here's the show page for "Caretaker", from which much of the following is taken:

- Despite the general prosperity of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Paramount pressured executive producer Rick Berman for yet another Star Trek television series. Although it was decided very early on that the new series would be set aboard a starship once again, it was important for the writers to vary the series from Star Trek: The Next Generation in other ways. Berman stated, "When Voyager came around and we knew we were going to place the next series back on a starship we wanted to do it in a way that was not going to be that redundant when it came to The Next Generation. So we had a certain amount of conflict on the ship because of the Maquis. We had a different dynamic because we were not speaking everyday to Starfleet and because we had a female captain."

- The series' premise of being lost in deep space was itself a variation on a theme explored in The Next Generation. Executive producer Michael Piller explained, "We remembered the episodes, many episodes, where Q would show up and throw one of our ships or one of our people off to a strange part of the universe. And we'd have to figure out why we were there, how we were going to get back, and ultimately – by the end of an episode – we'd get back home. But [...] we started to talk about what would happen if we didn't get home. That appealed to us a great deal [....] You have to understand that Rick, [executive producer] Jeri [Taylor] and I had no interest in simply putting a bunch of people on another ship and sending them out to explore the universe. We wanted to bring something new to the Gene Roddenberry universe. The fans would have been the first people to criticize us if we had not brought something new to it. But everything new, everything was... a challenge, in the early stages of development of Voyager."

- Differentiating the new series from what had gone before hardened the challenge of inventing the series' main characters. Jeri Taylor recounted, "It took a long, long time, it took us weeks and weeks and weeks, even to come up with a cast of characters, because we found that so many wonderful characters had already been done and we didn't want to exactly repeat ourselves. We'd come up with an idea then say, 'No, that's too much like Data,' or, 'That's too much like Odo,' or, 'That's too much like Worf.' So to try to find the right balance of characters, in terms of gender and alien species and that kind of thing, really took a long time."

- The concept of a Starfleet crew hurrying after a group of renegades was thought up because the three executive producers asked themselves what they believed might make an interesting Star Trek crew. "The answer for us was to find ourselves chasing an outlaw group," reflected Piller. "We all get tossed onto the other side of the universe and everybody has to team up in order to survive. That seemed to be an interesting dynamic that would give us plenty of story material."

- Berman on Janeway: "We didn't want to just create a captain and cast it with a female. We wanted to create a female captain who was a captain that was somewhat more nurturing and a little bit less swashbuckling than someone like Captain Kirk, a little bit less sullen than someone like Captain Sisko, and a little bit more approachable than Captain Picard."

- French-Canadian actress Geneviève Bujold was first cast as Voyager's captain, originally named Elizabeth Janeway. At Bujold's request, the character was renamed "Nicole Janeway". Bujold left the cast during filming of "Caretaker", two days after she began filming. The first season DVD release includes the first public release of footage featuring Bujold as Janeway. The extant footage shows a subdued Bujold; accustomed to the big screen, her quiet, nuanced acting style did not blend well with the rest of the cast. In 2006, Rick Berman shed more light on Bujold's departure from the series: "This was a woman, who in no way, was going to be able to deal with the rigors of episodic television." Jeri Taylor related, "I am deeply grateful to her that she did this after a day and a half instead of after six weeks or two months, because that would have destroyed us." When she left the set after two days of filming, Kate Mulgrew, who had been Brannon Braga's second choice, was asked to come back for another audition. Mulgrew ended up being cast in the part, replacing Bujold. At that time, the character's name was changed to its final form – Kathryn Janeway.

- The Native American character that became Chakotay was one of the first characters devised for Voyager. It was inspired by the positive influence that the character of Uhura has had on African-Americans.

- Tom Paris was written into the first half-dozen or so Voyager scripts with little or no knowledge as to who would play the part. The inspiration for Tom Paris was Nicholas Locarno from TNG: "The First Duty", who was also played by Robert Duncan McNeill. When the writers were trying to cast for the part, they couldn't find anyone that seemed to match McNeill's persona, so they eventually just asked him to read for the role, and he got the part. The producers at the time wanted him to bring some of the same edginess and qualities he had brought to Nick Locarno, to the character of Tom Paris, with the difference that Paris' character would be redeemable. Reasons for not simply bringing back the Locarno character have varied. It may have been because they would have had to pay royalties to the writers of "The First Duty" every episode, even though in interviews the producers of Voyager have said they felt Locarno's actions in that episode made him irredeemable.

- Actor Robert Picardo says he ad-libbed during his audition for the role of The Doctor, adding the line, "I'm a doctor, not a lightbulb," at the end of his script; he says that he "got a laugh" from the assembled studio executives, even though ad-libbing isn't something that's generally done on a Star Trek production. The Doctor was thereafter played by Picardo.

- When this episode was shot, Torres actress Roxann Dawson was not yet sure how to portray her role. "'I was basically just kind of jabbing in the dark and hoping I was in the right ballpark," she said. "I was just kind of praying that when the thing finally aired and I saw it up on the screen that I would see a character. I still had no idea how to work my face under that rubber and I really wasn't sure who [Torres] was at the time, so I was just taking some jabs, and some of them were right and some of them weren't."

- The plot point about the Caretaker having a partner who had left him was inspired by concerns which Paramount studio chief Kerry McCluggage voiced to Rick Berman regarding the slowly evolving series' premise. Berman remembered, "Frankly we made a concession to finally finish the sales job... we put the one-armed man out there – which is the other entity that we met in the pilot." The existence of the missing Caretaker's partner was conceived as a viable "out," meant as potentially a convenient method of returning USS Voyager's crew home, if viewer response indicated the series had to make a fundamental shift in its premise and setting.

- Due to the cost of building Voyager's [super-badass --ed.] bridge, converting the old TNG sets, reshooting the scenes shot with Geneviève Bujold and the ones after Janeway's hairstyle was altered, some very ambitious special effects scenes and a substantial amount of location filming, this episode had a final budget of US$23 million, making it the most expensive television episode in the history of the Star Trek franchise. When adjusted for inflation, it proved even more expensive than Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, and more than twice as expensive as ENT: "Broken Bow", the episode with the next-highest budget.

- Armin Shimerman was thrilled by how this episode involves his character of Quark. The actor recalled, "I was very honored by having that appearance [....] I took the baton of Deep Space Nine and handed it on to Voyager."

- The creative staff of Voyager had nothing but praise for this pilot episode. They felt it effortlessly established everything it needed to, in launching the series. Michael Piller was also somewhat proud of this episode. "It has huge thematic explorations," he commented, "about the welfare state, about religion, and about a variety of other subjects. It works on a lot of levels. I think it's less pretentious than some of our other Star Trek shows." DS9 executive producer Ronald D. Moore, who briefly wrote for Voyager, was dissatisfied with the episode's conclusion. "By the end of the pilot, you have the Maquis in those Starfleet uniforms, and – boom – we've begun the grand homogenization," he critiqued. "Now they are any other ship."

- UPN (United Paramount Network) launched on 16 January 1995 with this episode. Voyager was right from the bat slated to serve as the first flagship of the new network. After Voyager ended in 2001, UPN immediately replaced it with Star Trek: Enterprise, which was canceled after only four seasons as UPN attempted to change its image. UPN ceased to exist on 15 September 2006 when it combined with Time Warner's "The WB" network to become a new network called "The CW".

- Voyager's first season was broadcast concurrent with Deep Space Nine Season 3.

- Lieutenant Tuvok wears the insignia of a lieutenant commander throughout most of season one in an apparent costuming error. It will not be until the season four episode VOY: "Revulsion" that he is actually promoted to lieutenant commander.

- As of this episode, Armin Shimerman (Quark), Richard Poe (Gul Evek) and Mark Allen Shepherd (Morn) played the same character on three different live-action Star Trek series. The only other actors to do so are Jonathan Frakes (Commander William T. Riker), Marina Sirtis (Counselor Deanna Troi), John de Lancie (Q), and Michael Ansara (Kang).

- Tarik Ergin (Ayala) is the only actor, besides the regulars, to appear in both this episode and the finale "Endgame".


"Didn't they warn you about Ferengi at the Academy?"

- Tom Paris, after rescuing Kim from Quark's scheme


"At least the Vulcan was doing his duty as a Starfleet officer, but 'you', you betrayed us for what? Freedom from prison? Latinum? What was your price THIS time?!"

- Chakotay, to Paris


"The Federation is made up of many cultures. I am Vulcan."
"Neelix. Good to meet you!"

- Tuvok and Neelix, as the former received a bear hug


"If I save your butt, your life belongs to me. Isn't that some kind of Indian custom?"
"Wrong tribe."
"I don't believe you."

- Paris and Chakotay


"Is the crew always this difficult?"
"I don't know, Doc. It's my first mission."

- The Doctor and Kim


"Captain, any action we take would affect the balance of power in this system. The Prime Directive would seem to apply."
"Would it? We never asked to be involved, Tuvok. But we are. We are."

- Tuvok and Janeway


"We'll have to find another way home."

- Janeway, to Torres, deciding to destroy the Caretaker's array, Voyager's only way home


"We're alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We have already made some friends here, and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we're going to face, but one thing is clear. Both crews are going to have to work together if we're to survive. That's why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew. A Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet vessel assigned to the Delta Quadrant, we'll continue to follow our directive to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take 75 years to reach the Federation, but I'm not willing to settle for that. There's another entity like the Caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We'll be looking for her, and we'll be looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere along this journey, we'll find a way back."

- Captain Kathryn Janeway


Poster's Log:
In working up this post, I got to thinking that there's an essay waiting to be written (or maybe somebody in a TV industry trade magazine already has) regarding the role each Trek series played in the TV industry of its time—and the extent to which each series' broadcast situation affected, for good or ill, the show's quality. TOS's quality was lower in the third season and, perhaps not coincidentally, they'd been moved to a bad timeslot. Remarks by Roddenberry here suggest that TNG and DS9 may have been so creatively independent (and consequently creatively successful) in part because of their comparatively cushy places in syndication. Likewise, I wonder if one factor in what made VOY so uneven may have been UPN being gunshy about pushing the envelope with its tentpole (forgive the intensely mixed metaphor); after all, as indicated above, UPN cancelled ENT for short-sighted reasons of "image" for a network that was soon to disappear anyway. If this thesis holds water, then it doesn't bode well, IMO, for Discovery and the ill-reasoned CBS All Access web service which it is intended to prop up. I cannot imagine CBS being as creatively hands-off as, say, Netflix demonstrably is.

Anyway, back on topic. Voyager's opening credits sequence and theme song are my favorite of any Star Trek series, maybe even better than the excellent music in TOS movies II-IV; the song and the visuals convey both thrill and yearning. Beyond that, this is a pretty solid premiere all told…a little busy, but most are. You can already notice some preliminary indicators of the show's strengths and weaknesses. I'd list under strengths the show's overall great casting, and its focus on characters' relationships—it seems like this episode establishes more about how these characters relate to each other than did the first season or two of TNG. And a couple signs of the show's weaknesses: overreliance on "action-adventure" stuntwork setpieces like the climactic cave sequence, which VOY tended to pull off better than TNG or DS9 but which still feel anemic in the same way that all such Trek scenes have since, well, "The Cage" (doubtlessly due to budget constraints more than anything); like, I'm trying to think of a ground-action stuntwork sequence from anything Trek that I'd rank as among the standout moments of the franchise and I just can't. Secondly, there's the conceptually-interesting but awkward-in-execution Kazon, or as I call them the "Cabbage-Heads". And a random aside: I know I wasn't imagining things when one of the shots of Stadi's shuttle showed it marked "1701-D" >.>

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
If Mulgrew hadn't worked out to replace Bujold as Janeway, a solid third choice might've been Michael J. Nelson.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (41 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Before getting into the show itself, I'd say it's likely true that Voyager suffered a fair amount from having higher expectations placed on it from UPN. It strikes me that they ended up abandoning some of their more promising ideas in order to make the show have a closer vibe to TNG, at least in terms of character and general tone of how things work on Voyager itself. The crew is a little soft, or perhaps too comfortable and satisfied for where they came from and how they came together. The emphasis seemed to be to push for more genial or lighter interaction among the crew than makes sense given the premise. This partly may come from an over-idealized view of the Federation as well, where good government evidently makes for good citizens in ways that narrow the range of "good" possibility to a small set of characteristics. While there may be some sense to the idea, it plays as the crew sometimes lacking in more singular characteristics beyond the obvious surface traits assigned to the various races in Trek lore and "real life". In other words, they often seem to be thought of as representative rather than individual, which gives their actions weight beyond their immediate circumstance since they won't be thought of as just acting for themselves, but their group.

I knew they'd considered Geneviève Bujold to play Janeway, and they were nuts to even entertain that idea working out. Not because Bujold is a bad actress, but she'd been noted as a difficult one for a long time before the show was being mooted. Her style would have been, um, interesting as a captain, I mean for a movie or miniseries it might have worked, but even had they been able to keep her on board, so to speak, she relies on a more subdued internal method of presentation in quiet moments, which would have seemed mysterious in the best of times, and downright bizarre in others, and she tends towards method acting and personalizes her characters in ways that make for unexpected bursts of emotions and often more choppy and rapidly shifting line readings. She certainly comes across as intelligent enough to be a Captain, but she would have likely made one question Starfleet putting her in command and made for difficult interactions with the rest of the cast who are nothing like her at all. (And finding a cast more like her would have really led to an odd series. Hard to even say whether for good or bad, but definitely unlike any Trek and probably unlike anything else on at the time.)

It's a little shocking to see that this cost more than Star Trek II, though reshooting Bujold's scenes and the delay probably figured into that a bit. It doesn't wear its budget well, not seeming nearly as vivid or dynamic as Wrath of Kahn in what it shows or how it captures it all. If they were going to spend that much, they should have looked for a more accomplished director and cinematographer. Kolbe might be fine for mid-season TV work under deadline and lower budget, but he and Rush don't really add any visual flair to the show. The basics are solid, but the look is too generic TV to really sell some of the spectacle.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:52 AM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


By the way, excellent post Cheeses!
posted by gusottertrout at 6:53 AM on January 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


Voyager was the first Trek I started watching from the very beginning. I was introduced to TNG by my mother when I was 12 and that was right at the end of Season 6. I passed on DS9 because the promos made it look like it was Star Trek: Bajoran Religion All The Time and it wasn't until Season 3 of that show that I got on board. But Voyager was an event in my house when it premiered. My family had an old fashioned giant satellite dish that could pick up whatever broadcasts bounced around the air and we watched "Caretaker" a few hours before it debuted on UPN. Ground flood, baby!

I was spoiled by the DS9 Companion that went super in-depth into each and every episode, so when a Voyager Companion was released I bought it right away only to be disappointed that its behind the scenes stuff was closely guarded and dry. That's why I have to recommend last year's The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek which finally goes into the dirt behind the series. The Bujold saga is covered in more detail than I've ever seen before, for starters. I can't recommend it enough. Go read it. Or listen on Audible. It's exceptional.

As for "Caretaker", it's a decent pilot that sets up the premise although I felt they just jettisoned the central conflict of Starfleet vs Maquis way too soon. It became TNG Lite as everyone got along more or less, and the few Maquis holdouts would be handled before Season 2 was over. Not that I wanted to see the crew fighting each week, but there must be a middle ground there somewhere.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:30 AM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


I remember finishing the pilot and telling my husband excitedly, "It's the Odyssey in space! And there are these two adverse factions on the same ship and there's going to be all this conflict as they butt heads over how best to get home." Yeah. Not so much.

Not that I don't still love Voyager. I have a soft spot for the series, and B'Elanna is my favorite from all of Trek. But it had so much potential that just got squandered. I heard a talk from Braga last year in which he described getting to the studio and being told about this concept of having Federation and Maquis crew on the same ship and he just dismissed it out of hand, said there was no way it could work, they had to have the crew working together since they had a shared goal. (This was not him advocating for Roddenberry's stance that everyone on the ship needs to get along. It was just Braga not understanding that you can write people as sharing a common goal but differing in how to go about achieving the goal.) I think it's a terrible waste, because it could have been such a more interesting (and realistic) show with those underlying tensions.

So I guess that's what I takeaway from Caretaker. A very promising pilot for a show that didn't always live up to its own premise.
posted by mama casserole at 10:13 AM on January 5, 2017


I have a lot of thoughts about the episode, the show, and the network--fair warning.

The most important thing to remember IMO is that Paramount/Viacom wanted not only another successful Star Trek spinoff series, but also wanted it to serve as the anchor for UPN. This was something that had been kicked around since the seventies, when Paramount was considering the Paramount Television Service, which similarly would have been anchored by Star Trek: Phase II. They were hoping not only for the show to draw viewers to the new network, but also for those viewers to come in TNG-type numbers, even though the TV space opera field was starting to become a little more crowded, with not only DS9 and Babylon 5 still on the air but several other space operas (LEXX, Farscape, Andromeda, etc.) coming down the pike; you have to wonder if eventually even TNG would have gotten TNG-type numbers. But that was basically their business plan. I'm kind of disappointed that we don't have more information about the network's interference in the show; even The Fifty-Year Mission, which has revealed quite a bit about various aspects of the franchise (for example, it goes into the Mulgrew-Ryan feud in some detail), doesn't really get to the meat of the matter that much. There's some stuff there, though, and I'll probably be sifting through it more as we go along. Sometimes it was obvious from the way that episodes were promoted that the studio was perfectly willing to lowball it: there was the episode in which Kes was possessed by some alien warlord that had a promo that implied some hot hot girl-on-girl action, or later one that described Seven of Nine as "Voyager's Battlestar Babe" (um), you can practically smell the desperation. Plus, the general proclivity of the network to go for the reset button when at all possible, which I've heard attributed to their desire to make as few permanent changes as possible in order to be able to rerun the episodes in whatever order they wanted. Or the thing with the Maquis using Starfleet uniforms, which is disposed of in the most perfunctory fashion in the pilot. I think that many of the production staff were aware of these problems, which is why you occasionally got episodes that addressed what would have seemed like the sensible outcomes of the situation, such as the "Year of Hell" and "Equinox" two-parters, which showed the likely outcome of a Federation starship stranded on the other side of the galaxy from maintenance and resupply facilities, or "Pathfinder", in which Barclay's holographic recreation of Voyager shows the Maquis in their original clothes, because why the fuck wouldn't they be? I have lots more thoughts about what the show should have done, but I'll probably pick those up in the threads about the episodes already mentioned; for now, I'll re-post the Ron Moore interview link that I put up in the FanFare talk post, which covers some of the same turf WRT pretty interesting premises not followed through on. I'm totally with mama casserole in that "it had so much potential that just got squandered."

WRT the pilot itself, very interesting in the rewatch; the opening could be straight out of DS9, with Gul Evek (who had also been on TNG) making the first crossover appearance. Speaking of appearances, it's interesting that Chakotay is the first series regular making an appearance; in general, this premiere seems to be less focused on its main character than previous Trek installments were in theirs, especially DS9. The focus on Paris almost places him as a deuteragonist, which would have been a very interesting way for the series to go; like Wolverine in the X-Men movies (well, the first few), Paris could have been the Chaotic Neutral pivot that had one foot in each camp, but was shunned by both. Although this didn't happen, it's remarkable that his primary relationships are with Harry (Starfleet) and eventually B'Elanna (Maquis). Most of the other characters have fairly standard getting-to-know-you intros, including Janeway, oddly enough--or maybe not, given the trouble in casting the character; most of the character's appeal came not so much from character development as from Mulgrew's ability to go from charming to ironclad badass in nothing flat. The way that Neelix and Kes were introduced was a cute headfake, although I wish that Neelix had kept a bit more of the scrappy jack-of-all-trades that he is here and less of the hey-there-Mr.-Vulcan comic relief. The real tragedy here, though, is Kes, who comes off as a very impressive character, especially with her hey-assholes speech to her fellow Ocampa. Jennifer Lien could make something of the part if she was given something that she could sink her teeth into, but, as with many of the other cast, that was usually too seldom.

Other musings about the pilot:

it seemed weirdly-paced to me, with maybe a little too much spent on the Cornpone County holoprogram and a little too little on the craziness of a bunch of scruffy Maquis dumped onto what was supposed to be the most advanced Starfleet vessel of the time.

I really liked Paris' response to Kim after the other Starfleet people trash-talked him in the mess: "I'll tell you the truth, Harry. All I had to do was keep my mouth shut and I was home-free, but I couldn't. The ghosts of those three dead officers came to me in the middle of the night and taught me the true meaning of Christmas." It's the best line in the episode and one that hints at a more complex internal ethical structure for Paris than was generally shown in later episodes, with a few exceptions.

Speaking of the Starfleet officers who died, First Officer Dude and Doctor Dude weren't much of a much (they seemed to be there mostly to give Paris shit), but I wished that Stadi hadn't been killed off.

The opening's resemblance to that of the first installment of another particular space opera franchise was kind of amusing.

Also amusing is that, given the amount of attention given to Janeway's appearance (and their reshooting Mulgrew's first few scenes, after having to reshoot all of Genevieve Bujold's--I think that Janeway's first hair was fine, BTW, and not that far off from what it would be once they lost the bun), there is that inconsistency in the pilot; not only does her hair change markedly from one scene to the next, but in some of them, her makeup is almost clownish.

And speaking of the pilot: after all the money that they spent on it, the pilot almost didn't air on time because of the most staggeringly basic fuck-up. In the book Season Finale, written by a WB insider about the rise and fall of that network and UPN at about the same time, they described how UPN had set up simultaneous launch parties for the network in New York City and Hollywood, which would also be the premiere of Voyager. Someone forgot to get the tape to NYC. They managed to make it happen anyway by beaming the pilot to the East Coast in 20-minute chunks via satellite, but it still ran over the official sign-on time for the network. $23 million and they almost blew their big night for want of a courier with a business-class ticket.

Oh, and lest I forget: nice showing for the introduction of the Doctor/EMH. Picardo doesn't get a lot of screen time, but he makes good use of it; his impatient "Medical tricorder" made me laugh, and I also noted that Janeway shut him off when he was objecting to something, which was the beginning of a long and satisfying character arc in which he fought to be taken seriously as a person.

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll think of more later. Excellent job on the post, COB; I especially liked "lostinspaceINSPAAACE".
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:54 AM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Great post! I'm in the beginning of the sixth season currently on my first watch, so maybe I'll be able to watch the rest fast enough to follow here and avoid any major spoilers.

The pilot convinced me that I was going to love the EMH and be thoroughly bored by Chakotay, impressions that have not changed so far. It also has the first of approximately five billion references to the number 47 in Voyager for some reason (the array's pulses of energy to Ocampa decrease in interval by 0.47 of a second).

I'll leave you with two wretched earworms of mine to torment your day: an Animaniacs tribute to Voyager, and some lyrics to help you sing along to the theme song, as I do most times, to my husband's chagrin:

"We’re so lost/We’re so motherfucking lost/We’re so goddamn lost/We are so lost/We’re lost

We are so motherfucking lost/We’re so lost/We are so lost, we’re so lost/We’re lost/And

We’re so lost/We’re so motherfucking lost/We’re so goddamn lost/We are so lost/We’re lost"
posted by ilana at 12:37 PM on January 5, 2017 [5 favorites]


Sorry but these will always be the official unofficial lyrics for me.
posted by yellowbinder at 1:28 PM on January 5, 2017


So, when Voyager aired, I was pretty unhappy with it in short order. I actually stopped watching sometime in S5, only to return for Endgame to see how they wrapped it up. I caught the rest later on streaming. Rather than focusing on that out of the gate, I want to approach this rewatch with as open a mind as possible. (No promises I will succeed, but it's worth a shot.)

Specific stuff:
* I'd forgotten the opening entirely, with the text crawl and the decent fight between Team Chakotay and Gul Evek. It was all right, although everybody knows you should use Attack Pattern Omega when you're up against heavy CC or can really unload the weapons - Chakotay's DPS rotation needs work.

* I remain pretty nonplussed about them reskinning/renaming Nic Locarno. They should've used the same character - still feels hinky to me that they didn't. That said, I feel like the casting was perfect there: Robert Duncan McNeill was definitely the guy for this. (I don't buy the 'irredeemable' argument for a second - Paris' actions also explicitly resulted in the death of three fellow Starfleet people. It was totally about the royalties, and that's not right.)

* Quark kills it in this episode. His encounter with Kim made me laugh out loud.

* The holographic farm segment really did drag.

* In ages past, I was the guy who added Neelix to the Alien Scrappy page on TVTropes. Nothing I saw here made me change my mind. I was especially disappointed in him going, 'Well, you helped me save Kes, but now we're outta here.' I also blame him for a *lot* of the trouble the crew will have with the Kazon later: he shouldn't have opened his big mouth about replicator technology.

* The interactions between Harry and B'Ellana were what I initially hoped for out of the promised Starfleet/Maquis tension in the show. This episode struck a good balance with the two of them, and I wish the writers could've kept that. B'Ellana reminds me quite a bit of Ro Laren here, which is a definite plus. It's sort of funny to hear that she didn't have the character down, because I think she nailed it here.

* Still puzzled as to why Voyager was equipped with WMDs. That always seemed shady to me. I mean, I don't recall the Enterprise-D ever having a supply of tricobalt warheads.

* Man, Paris' racist Native American trope rundown made me cringe.

* When B'Ellana demanded to know who Janeway was to be stranding them there and Chakotay said, "She's the captain," I was gravely disappointed. He should've had his own moral argument to back her up, not deference to her rank. I feel like that was the moment the aforementioned Starfleet/Maquis tension started to get wrecked, and it's a shame.

* Making Chakotay First Officer in a scene not even including him was really abrupt. I wish they'd chopped some farm time and spent a little more on Janeway and him negotiating how to integrate the crews. Even just a couple minutes of 'how do we even' would've been nice. I mean, they spent more time on justifying Neelix and Kes tagging along, and that issue was a lot more cut and dried.

... and I guess that's about it. Overall, I liked the pilot better than I remembered - the only parts I still felt were inexcusably dumb all centered on treatment of Chakotay, while the rest felt more normal for a show still finding its footing.
posted by mordax at 1:50 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


I certainly watched a fair amount of its predecessors growing up, but Voyager was and is "my" Trek. So I'll probably be overly enthusiastic at these discussions.

The pilot starts in a unusual way, with the scrolling text, and we don't even see Starfleet until post-intro sequence. And when we do it's a penal colony. (What!? The Federation has a penal colony... on Earth... with a former officer in it?)

Then we jump over to DS9 and get a good dose of Quark before finally making it onto Voyager.

I know that the internal conflict between Starfleet and Maquis gets a little whitewashed later on, but it was a bold way to start a Trek series. If Voyager had delivered on some of the promises the pilot made then it may have been "Dark Trek" before DS9 really got dark.

Random thoughts...

Tom Paris vs. the Replicator was a nice bit and very relatable with modern voice software.

What makes a Vulcan go into security? Almost all the Vulcans we've seen in the past have been in a science field.

In retrospect, having the captain in a committed relationship might be a bigger move than having a female captain.

And she's a scientist! Sisko had an engineering background, but he rarely got his hands dirty or got excited by the tech the same way Janeway does.

They did a great job showing us that we were in a very different part of the galaxy. Fighting over water. Kazon factions. Lack of replicators and transporters. Usually when we meet alien races that are at a similar technological level as the Federation all have the same basic set of technologies (with the strong exception of cloaking devices). Why couldn't an alien race achieve interstellar travel without a transporter?
posted by 2ht at 1:52 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


Oh, and cripes:

*facepalms for forgetting to address this*

Oh, and lest I forget: nice showing for the introduction of the Doctor/EMH. Picardo doesn't get a lot of screen time, but he makes good use of it; his impatient "Medical tricorder" made me laugh, and I also noted that Janeway shut him off when he was objecting to something, which was the beginning of a long and satisfying character arc in which he fought to be taken seriously as a person.

Yes, absolutely. The Doctor is the best from the very moment he's introduced. Picardo's always on.
posted by mordax at 1:54 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


In general, when looking at movies or shows, I try to take then as they are and not get too caught up in thinking about other ways they could have gone, but in the case of Voyager, given it's inconsistencies, it's hard not to look at those alternatives as also informing the show by suggesting relationships that are hinted at but not developed, or plot choices that were left untapped in their potential.

Even looking at the opening of the show, from the opening scroll explaining the situation between the Maquis, the Federation and the Cardassians, and the pre-credit tease that joins the Maquis ship in action against the Cardassians seems like a bit of a misfire. First off it suggests a greater significance for the Maquis then they are eventually given, with the need for the scroll and the show focusing on those characters. It doesn't help matters that we catch up to them after they've seemingly been bested in some form, and are on the run from Gul Evek. That they escape shows some resilience, but it isn't a particularly compelling introduction to the group as a power on their own, more suggesting a weak and largely ineffectual group than any real threat to the treaty. That they are then immediately caught up in the temporal displacement removes them from the follow up actions with Voyager, making their attempts to find them a foregone conclusion as we already know they won't be able to locate them and will run into the same phenomenon we've now already seen.

Instead, I'd think a better opening would have been in showing Chakotay and his crew succeeding in a attack on a Cardassian vessel, not destroying it, since Tuvok being present would make that difficult, but perhaps in neutralizing the ship and retrieving an object or prisoner, ideally another cast member. After the successful attack then they flee back into the badlands which is where they hide to avoid capture. Post-credits, we would find Janeway receiving a briefing on the attack and being ordered to locate the Maquis, this is where the explanation of the treaty and encapsulation of who the Maquis are could be inserted, with some brief mentions of the crew we've already seen, discussing their abilities. Janeway assembles her crew, chases after the Maquis and a cat and mouse running battle in the badlands ensues with each side seeming to score some points, but Janeway appearing about to win the battle, perhaps with a sly assist by Tuvok, when the temporal displacement hits both ships, sending them all to the Delta Quadrant.

The point here being, that the show really could have beefed up the preliminary elements to better introduce the crew in action, while showing the capabilities of the Maquis and Chakotay to make them seem more formidable and closer to equals with Janeway's crew. Without that, Chakotay doesn't seem to hold as much authority and command as he, I think, should, and the revelation of Tuvok being a spy doesn't carry much weight. It also allows the two ships to be sent to the Delta Quandrant at the same time, which makes more sense, and it preserves a better narrative flow and sense of surprise for the plot as it unfolds.

As it is, the post-credit start of the show focusing on Paris being "invited" to join Voyager seems another weird choice as it puts a lot of excess emphasis on Paris, making him seem more vital to the crew than reasonable, and it puts Janeway in a almost secondary position, asking for his help rather than starting off the series in a more commanding light. It does show something of her communication style to be sure, but the entirety of that segment, and the later one with Harry and Paris, seems to suggest there was some concern over a female captain so they placed a lot of weight on Paris to be a crude Kirk analog on the ship in case people didn't take to Mulgrew. It isn't ideal and makes the flow of the story rather more awkward than it need be.

(I'd also agree that killing off Stadi was a mistake, as Alicia Coppola makes a more vivid impression with her few throwaway lines than others of the cast did with a lot more to go on, though some of that was likely due to so so writing for the intros for the Maquis.) (Also weird though that Stadi gets to make the introduction to Voyager when she brings Paris to the ship, but I suppose that is a way to trick the audience into thinking she'll be a bigger cast member than she ends up being, dying offscreen with a brief comment by Paris acknowledging the event.)

Harry Kim's intro was sufficiently informative of his basic character and provided some amusement, and shows Harry to be a devoted son, but more than a little naive and overly worried. Suggesting a bit of an Asian stereotype, but not pushing it too hard. Again though, Paris takes over the scene, which continues to emphasize his presumed importance to the show, so much so that it's even hard to tell who, other than Janeway, is supposed to be a balance for him. Harry, Tuvok, Chakotay, and B'Elanna don't get the same sort of treatment at all, with the other main cast members coming in later. Still, it provides a nice intro to Harry and Tom's friendship and provides a bridge to the conversation with the doctor and that element of Paris' past and his conversations with Harry about it. The doctor is kind of a drag, but in a good way since he isn't long for the world anyway. Paris is a lot tougher seeming and more resolute in these early segments than he is able to maintain being. Becoming more petulant and reactive as things go on.

The first real intro to Janeway is when we see her speaking to her boyfriend about her dog, so the show is taking pains to tie her to someone on Earth from the get go, and give her more of an emotional backstory with "nurturing" and the co-dependency of an ongoing relationship meant to humanize her. (They even take pains to show her bansai tree in the background of the shots with her talking with Mark.) It's something that seems to be tied to the idea that a female captain is going to be different than a male, which is a tad worrisome, but Mulgrew handles it all wonderfully, not giving too much away or losing a sense of command in the exchange, so it isn't a major problem and in a way worked out to the show's advantage as Mulgrew is able to embody both concern and command throughout the show.

Lieutenant Cavit, the First Officer, is as generic as the doctor, so seemingly doomed from the get go, no surprise since he didn't get a real introduction anyway, just the handshake with Harry and Tom. (Even the Computer gets the better intro with the tomato soup exchange.)

That brings us up to Voyager reaching the badlands, in very short order too, making one wonder how long this mission was supposed to last and if it was really necessary to call in Tom Paris as an observer in the first place, but I guess they might have needed him to help chart a way through the area and find the Maquis, but it still seems to go somewhat overboard with all the hoopla around Tom compared to the seeming ease of the main mission. Anyway, I'll leave it there for now since that's surely more than enough on the introduction to the show, and maybe say something more about the rest of the episode later.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:46 PM on January 5, 2017 [3 favorites]


* Man, Paris' racist Native American trope rundown made me cringe.


Oh, that reminded me of another bit of Trek/VOY trivia: Jamake Highwater. Something to remember later when Chakotay is going on about blah blah spirit guide, blah blah dartboard with rocks on it.

What makes a Vulcan go into security? Almost all the Vulcans we've seen in the past have been in a science field.

Averting the Planet of Hats trope works for me. Even if they were mostly ceremonial, you certainly had enough Vulcans standing around in armor carrying weapons during Spock's wedding. You could argue that a Vulcan security officer would be more effective, even if Tuvok's record re: the ship being boarded will turn out to be not so great.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:27 PM on January 5, 2017 [4 favorites]


In general, when looking at movies or shows, I try to take then as they are and not get too caught up in thinking about other ways they could have gone, but in the case of Voyager, given it's inconsistencies, it's hard not to look at those alternatives as also informing the show by suggesting relationships that are hinted at but not developed, or plot choices that were left untapped in their potential.

Nice work, gusottertrout. That was fascinating!

Oh, that reminded me of another bit of Trek/VOY trivia: Jamake Highwater. Something to remember later when Chakotay is going on about blah blah spirit guide, blah blah dartboard with rocks on it.

*shudders*
I see. You're right: that totally explains a ton.

Up side, this is a lot of why I love discussing this stuff with you guys. The greater context really helps me understand the show better.
posted by mordax at 7:33 PM on January 5, 2017 [2 favorites]


So we had a certain amount of conflict on the ship because of the Maquis.

You don't say!

By the end of the pilot, you have the Maquis in those Starfleet uniforms, and – boom – we've begun the grand homogenization," he critiqued. "Now they are any other ship.

Indeed.

I know it's unfair to compare different television eras but if this was produced today beyond the reach of cotton candy cloud executives much of the entire first season would have focused on the tension between the Maquis and Starfleet and it's interesting to see even by the standards of the day this opportunity was effectively ignored, usually to be used in as needed manner more than exploring it.

Watching this again it's astounding how quickly Chakotay is made first officer and pulls his respect authority routine with the "She's the Captain" line.

We all get tossed onto the other side of the universe and everybody has to team up in order to survive. That seemed to be an interesting dynamic that would give us plenty of story material.

And here I thought I understood what plenty meant.

You have to understand that Rick, [executive producer] Jeri [Taylor] and I had no interest in simply putting a bunch of people on another ship and sending them out to explore the universe.

Pity.

The Native American character that became Chakotay was one of the first characters devised for Voyager. It was inspired by the positive influence that the character of Uhura has had on African-Americans.

Focusing on the goal rather than the means usually means you don't achieve the goal.

When B'Ellana demanded to know who Janeway was to be stranding them there and Chakotay said, "She's the captain," I was gravely disappointed. He should've had his own moral argument to back her up, not deference to her rank. I feel like that was the moment the aforementioned Starfleet/Maquis tension started to get wrecked, and it's a shame.

I laughed and cringed at the same time. Voyager was unfortunately very on board with the "Make my day" vibe. Janeway saying things like "Time to take out the garbage" and such.

Still, I agree with others, it had quite a lot of potential and as usual the actors for the most part lifted it above the material so I found it enjoyable. Didn't convince me to move Voyager up from the bottom of my personal Trek series pile.

Always thought the Kazon were ridiculous and looking at this today I laughed aloud at how reality tv the Kazon leader was which triggers a vague memory of Voyager in particular hiring less than stellar non regulars.
posted by juiceCake at 8:30 PM on January 5, 2017 [1 favorite]


I know it's unfair to compare different television eras but if this was produced today beyond the reach of cotton candy cloud executives much of the entire first season would have focused on the tension between the Maquis and Starfleet and it's interesting to see even by the standards of the day this opportunity was effectively ignored, usually to be used in as needed manner more than exploring it.

This is completely true, but just shows that they didn't really think some things through very well in setting up the premise. For an ongoing conflict between the two groups to work, you'd need a bigger on-going cast than was normal for the time and than they actually settled on. The main Maquis "group" is just Chakotay and B'Elana, with Tom as a sorta in-between, and Tuvok as a traitor to the group/spy. Even if you rearranged some of those relationships and added yet another improbable connection to Harry, there simply aren't enough characters to make an ongoing conflict mean much other than Chakotay and B'Elana griping at the others.

They add a few more notable members of the Maquis for a few episodes and occasional reoccurring minor fill in roles, but as those former members work, effectively, as the weekly dilemma to be solved they get slotted more as guest stars. You'd need a much more robust main cast, or at least a revolving one, where actors were signed on for a longer series of episodes, but where some wouldn't appear in every show. That, seemingly, is more than they wanted to commit to, keeping things, as usual, focused on the main bridge crew, the doctor, Kes, and Neelix. They could have waited to take on those last two until they settled some Maquis vs Federation infighting first, and then replaced a couple of those cast members with the two new arrivals, but, for whatever reason, they felt Neelix needed to be there for "comedic" purposes and as an excuse for having more knowledge of the area to make scripting easier I imagine.

None of that is to say they couldn't have pulled it off, though better dialogue would have been a must, but that they really didn't seem to budget for it or otherwise take that notion too seriously from the beginning, so sometime between the work up of the premise and actual casting and filming there seem to have been some different ideas winning out over where things were going to go, while keeping the possibility for picking up the Maquis issue at times just to keep it as an open option for the writers to work with for future episodes. (Which they do with some success later.)

I didn't really mind the Maquis getting Starfleet uniforms, as that seems reasonable enough given their integration into the crew, but some compromise in allowing them there own insignia or "flair" to offset the uniform might have been a good way to go. I say that in part because the Maquis outfits were kinda silly anyway, a problem that creeps up often for those they encounter in the show. Delta Quadrant not big on fashion sense I guess.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:20 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Watching this again it's astounding how quickly Chakotay is made first officer and pulls his respect authority routine with the "She's the Captain" line.

On this rewatch, as soon as he said that, I turned to Mrs. CoB and said "She's the Sheriff."

So can we discuss whether Janeway's decision to destroy the array makes any sense at all, or rather, whether the episode sufficiently justifies it? Every time I watch the pilot, I find myself thinking, "There had to have been another way." I'm about midway through season 1 right now and I find myself sympathizing with certain characters (not named b/c of spoilers) who accuse Janeway of putting her personal moral compass above the needs of the crew. It's to the point where Mrs. CoB's "Guess Janeway's D&D Alignment" project is, right now, pegging at Lawful—like, extremist, paladin Lawful.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:34 AM on January 6, 2017


Well, first I have to question the methods of the array itself as it doesn't seem entirely useful to drag ships across the galaxy when a bunch of the people on them will end up dying as a result. Kinda limits your options on getting that useful DNA or whatever it was it was looking for. Maybe it could have just given some of those ships with the dead crews to the Ocampa and pointed them in the direction of a safer planet and then split with his SAO (significant array other), to greener pastures.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:21 AM on January 6, 2017


Lots of people have pointed out that the alleged dilemma of "use the array to get back/destroy it to keep it out of the hands of the Kazon" could have been easily solved by reviving the ancient eldritch art of Timed Explosives. Voyager is supposed to be the most advanced ship in the fleet (and in the near future will replace supposedly irreplaceable torpedoes and shuttles at a remarkable rate), but they can't gin up the equivalent of a Casio wristwatch for some photon IEDs. A short line of dialogue WRT the Kazon probably being able to disarm any bomb they left behind before it destroyed the array--as we'll find out, the Kazon are pretty good at stealing tech; they're basically the murderhoboes of the Delta Quadrant--might have mitigated that. (I've also wondered just how difficult it would have been for the Kazon-Ogla to bust into the Ocampa underground complex; it only had five years' worth of energy left anyway.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:06 AM on January 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


So can we discuss whether Janeway's decision to destroy the array makes any sense at all, or rather, whether the episode sufficiently justifies it?

That was jarring to me in the same way the 'she's the Captain' bit was jarring: they passed up better justifications for a dumb one that make the crew look like chumps.

In Janeway's shoes, I would've destroyed the array in a cold minute. Not for the Ocampans - the Caretaker doomed them anyway. Those poor bastards are absolutely going to die in the current scenario: the Caretaker made them weak and dependent and stuck them in a death trap, then sealed them in it. As lessons about the Prime Directive go, it was pretty heavy-handed, and Janeway probably should've lectured the Caretaker about that because holy crap, dude, way to ruin a perfectly good civilization that could've just been moved *elsewhere* with all that tech that moves things *elsewhere*.

No, it seems clear to me that there was a decent risk the Kazon would figure out how to use the array. Probably not maintain it, probably not reproduce the tech, but if Tuvok could figure out how to access the interstellar starship beaming tech in five minutes, I bet a hundred Kazon could do it in five years. At that point, the Federation would be dealing with a dimwitted foe that could steal starships from more or less anywhere and demand their wallets. It's a threat to the security of the entire quadrant.

It pretty much had to go. But again, the dialogue and justifications surrounding that were absolutely dire.

Upon preview:
murderhoboes

You almost owed me a new keyboard, hahaha!
posted by mordax at 8:09 AM on January 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


Oh, and Fridge Logic: I guess it *is* unclear to me why Janeway didn't turn her tricobalt warheads on the Kazon, rather than the array. The 'timed detonation' thing is a good point, and it's not like they were pulling any other punches.

Maybe it's the Space Geneva Convention at work: 'No tricobalts, no Varon-T disruptors, no comfy captain chairs.'
posted by mordax at 8:12 AM on January 6, 2017


Still puzzled as to why Voyager was equipped with WMDs. That always seemed shady to me. I mean, I don't recall the Enterprise-D ever having a supply of tricobalt warheads.


This question will be explicitly and directly raised in a far future episode and it's still left unanswered even then! The characters even talk about how unusual it is for Voyager to be caring these warheads, but nobody ever says "hey, we had them because ______." It's a smaller item on the list of Voyager's sins, but it still bugs me.
posted by Servo5678 at 9:31 AM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Oh, randomly seguing to another thing that stuck out:
The premise that Ocampa had no rain because there were 'no radiogenic particles in the atmosphere' was, uh... I mean, Star Trek has had some dumb technobabble, but we do actually know how rain works. Like, right now. It's not actually mysterious.

That was dumb enough I felt actively trolled, like when Futurama used to have Professor Farnsworth parodying technobabble.
posted by mordax at 10:02 AM on January 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


So one thing that kind of bemused me about Janeway's speech is the implication that the Federation would already have a super-fast warp drive if only they had looked hard enough. I guess the Federation just didn't want it badly enough.
posted by happyroach at 10:41 AM on January 6, 2017


I guess the Federation just didn't want it badly enough.

Gonna back out a bit because I think maybe I'm responding too much, but one last thing:

From a certain perspective, that's correct. The Federation is obviously science-ing as hard as it can to get faster propulsion systems, but they're avoiding a number of potential shortcuts:

* Trade with more advanced civilizations.

There's no evidence the Federation really pushes for this. I think it's because of Roddenberry's vision of morality: more advanced civilizations tend to hew to notions similar to the Prime Directive unless they're explicitly villainous, so opportunities to trade for better tech don't really come up often.

* Reverse engineering randomly encountered super tech.

The Federation has specifically missed out on a number of one-off advances that they didn't necessarily have to, including Iconian gate tech, whatever the Cytherians were doing, and so on. Each individual episode usually has a justification for missing out on the tech, but in a big picture sense, there's no reason to think something like this wouldn't work if a crew really dug in on a find.

* Theft.

And this one'll be a plot point more than once. Desperate times, and all that.

So yeah, Janeway's not wrong, she's just engaging in more cynicism than Starfleet captains are typically known for.
posted by mordax at 11:43 AM on January 6, 2017


I recently did as was suggested earlier and listened to The 50 Year Mission which really laid out why Voyager was doomed from the beginning. One thing that the book laid out that I never really caught onto was that Roddenberry's (and later Rick Berman's) edict that as of TNG humanity has risen above interpersonal conflict. In retrospect it's an intensely stupid concept, but Roddenberry wanted it to be clear that Humanity has progressed since the days of Kirk. This edict carried on all the way down through the years and very much did influence the neutering of the Starfleet/Maquis conflict. Why even have two crews if it never amounts to anything? Because it was a good idea that didn't survive the committee. Similarly, why have a series with even the vague overarching goal of "go home" when syndication requirements dictate that you're not allowed to ever get closer or further away from achieving it?

The only good thing Voyager achieved was spurring Ronald Moore to develop Battlestar Galactica, which was everything Voyager wasn't. I'm not convinced BSG was worth putting more than half the nails in Star Trek's coffin, though.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 6:35 PM on January 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


The premise that Ocampa had no rain because there were 'no radiogenic particles in the atmosphere' was, uh...

The "-genic" suffix is going to get a heavy, heavy workout on this series.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:06 PM on January 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


- The concept of a Starfleet crew hurrying after a group of renegades was thought up because the three executive producers asked themselves what they believed might make an interesting Star Trek crew. "The answer for us was to find ourselves chasing an outlaw group," reflected Piller. "We all get tossed onto the other side of the universe and everybody has to team up in order to survive. That seemed to be an interesting dynamic that would give us plenty of story material."

Yeah, that would have been cool.


I was coming to say exactly what Mr.Encyclopedia said two comments above: in the long run, the best thing about VOY was that Ronald Moore learned lessons that he applied to BSG a few years later. There are some really good individual episodes to come ("Timeless," "Eye of the Needle") but by and large i recall that it is kind of a slog. I will do my best to rewatch with the rest of you because most episodes I have seen only once, most of twenty years ago, and I am happy to have my mind changed.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:18 AM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here's my alternate universe pitch for Voyager, from a world where Deep Space Nine never got made and The Next Generation lingered on for several more years, if that's of any interest to anyone:

A Bold Voyage Into The Unknown (first published in SXFX issue #1, June 1995)

With Star Trek, The Next Generation reaching its conclusion last year after nine glorious seasons, television has seemed a little duller in the interim. But now Star Trek is back with a new series, a new ship, a new crew, and even a new Riker. David N. Guy investigates.

It’s been a long year and a half since Star Trek: The Next Generation finished. Something as successful as Star Trek was never going to be gone from our screens for long, but even so, television has seemed a little duller in the interim. Every Wednesday evening for the last 18 months has seen me pining by the TV, desperately longing for its return. But there’s also been a touch of fear in there, too — what if, when it returns, it’s all a bit of a disappointment? And with early word from the States that Star Trek: Voyager is unlike anything seen in the Trek universe before, my apprehension had been building for a while.

But all those worries were swept away when I was shown the first few episodes of Voyager at a special press event in London recently, and my fears were further assuaged in my subsequent conversations with returning Next Generation star Jonathan Frakes and the new series’ head writer, Christopher Priest.

When I explain to them how nervous I had been about the new series, Jonathan Frakes, especially, is sympathetic to my initial unease.

“We know we’ve got a lot to live up to with this. And although we knew we could just come back with the same old stuff — a new ship and a new crew but the same sort of adventures — we wanted to give everyone something different. So we spent quite a long time searching for something entirely different, something that would give us a whole new way at looking at Star Trek, while retaining the core experience that our fans all know and love. So we needed something not just with great characters and great enemies, but something that also went deeper than that.”

The backroom staff at the show had been working on ideas for a Next Generation spin-off series for some time, as far back as 1991 if some reports are to be believed. But no real progress was ever made and tension was said to be running high at Paramount that they would be without a successor when Picard et al finally hung up their uniforms in 1994 after an incredible 221 episodes. Just in time, however, the premise of the new series was brought to them by veteran British science fiction writer Christopher Priest.

“We were so excited when Chris showed up with these ideas. Everyone was a huge fan of his work, especially Short Circuit [winner of the Hugo Award for Best Novelisation in 1987]. That book was such a huge influence on The Next Generation, not only on Data, obviously, but also on the slow expansion over the years of Majel [Barrett]’s role as the Enterprise,” says Frakes. “So it was a huge honour to discover Riker was central to his plans, as I thought my days on the show had come to an end [with the conclusion of Next Generation].”

“I’d always been fascinated with the transporters in Star Trek,” Christopher Priest announces. “How did they work? What happened to you when you stepped into the beam? Was that really you when you rematerialised on the other side? Or was it someone else? It seemed like every time you stepped onto that transporter pad you’d be crippled by some existential crisis, but no-one ever batted an eyelid and that seemed incredibly strange to me.”

But that all changed when he watched the sixth season episode Our Two Rikers, where it is discovered that a duplicate of Jonathan Frake’s iconic First Officer had been created in a transporter accident ten years before.

“That episode showed to me that my ideas about the transporter had been right all along. Yet still, in the episode, they both quickly come to terms with this scenario [of a duplicate Riker], and so does everyone else. The second Riker leaves for his new job aboard the Voyager and the next week everything’s back to normal and they all go back to being obliterated and reborn in that transporter beam without a second thought. There’s no thought to what they’re doing to themselves, and similarly, no thought to the actual potential of this incredible duplication device they have.” He shakes his head in astonished wonder. “But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.”

And so to Star Trek: Voyager. The set-up is this: while engaged in a battle with (long-running NG antagonists) the Cardassians in a disputed area of space, both ships tumble through a wormhole and find themselves stranded in an unexplored and hostile region of space thousands of years away from home. With supplies low, limited crew and the Cardassian ship beyond repair, the two long-time enemies decide to team up and work together on the Voyager for their long journey home.

“So you’ve got this great set-up,” enthuses Frakes. “The ordered, friendly, cosy world of the Enterprise is gone, and here you’ve got this messy reality of isolation, distrust, and a genuine fear that all is lost. It definitely sets it apart from any Star Trek that’s gone before. They have to question everything about the rules of the Federation, about what you need to give up and what you need to change to survive when you’re on your own. And also what you need to hold on to — what are the essential things that make the Federation the Federation, that make you you.”

Into this comes W. Thomas Riker. Still haunted by his ten years of solitude in Our Two Rikers, and faced with a small crew and the utter hostility of the territory around them, Thomas comes up with a terrible, essential plan.

“He takes advantage of the new situation on the ship to get himself in the position of having total control over the transporters,” Christopher Priest outlines. “And, using the knowledge he’sgained analysing his transporter accident all those years ago, every time a crew member transports off the ship, he creates a duplicate of them, which he keeps in stasis until the original — well I say original, but as we show they are both duplicates, there is no original — but he keeps one in stasis on the ship, and lets the other go down to wherever it is they’re going to that week. If the other returns safely, he can transport the stasis-held one out into space. But if there’s an accident on the planet, he can transport the perfectly preserved stasis body to the infirmary. Of course, eventually, this leads to a whole new world of problems, for both Riker and the rest crew.”

“Everything Riker does here is motivated by his desire to keep the crew safe,” Frakes explains. “But he knows that this plan of his is somewhat unethical, and so he does what he can to keep it a secret from everyone. It doesn’t happen straight away, but things eventually come to a head.”

In America the show is already into its mid-season hiatus, and from what we’ve heard so far this is quite an understatement. And although we don’t want to give away too many of the shows secrets, it’s certainly, shall we say, notable how many of the principle cast (Linda Hamilton, Jeremy London, Clare Buckfield, Kim Deal) just happen to be identical twins in real life.

As you can see from that list, Star Trek: Voyager also re-unites Jonathan Frakes with his long-time Beauty and the Beast co-star Linda Hamilton, a move that has certainly got fans talking.

“Its great to be working with her again,” Jonathan says. “We had such a good time on that show. Those.. was it four years? [Editor’s note: It was 2 years] They were incredible years for both of us, really.”

So, is there going to be any romance between your characters?

“That’s what everyone wants to know, isn’t it?” he chuckles. “But no, Riker, he might be a different man now, but he’s still the same Riker at heart. He respects the chain of command too much to try and romance a superior officer.”

Instead, W. Thomas Riker has his sights set on the returning Seska, in a continuation of the burgeoning on-screen romance between the characters towards the tail end of Next Generation’s run.

“Actually, it’s not a continuation of that at all. That was William Riker. Thomas Riker has never met Seska before. He was either trapped in that cave all the time, or on a different ship. So for him it’s entirely new. As for Seska, who knows what her true motives are!”

So with two characters from Next Generation in there so far, is there any scope for others to return?

“I’m not sure,” Riker admits. “It’d be great, but I’m not sure if any of them would have the time. They’re all quite busy these days, from what I hear. If you’ve won an Oscar [like NG’s Marina Sirtis did early this year for her lead role in Running Down That Hill: The Kate Bush Story] you’re probably not going to have much interest in going back to the grind of a weekly television series.”

There’s just time for one last question. Considering William T. Riker spent nine years as First Officer on the Enterprise, and now W. Thomas Riker is set for another long stint as Transporter Chief on the Voyager, is he ever going to get to sit in the Captain’s chair?

“I don’t know,” he sighs. “I really don’t. I’d like him to.” He pauses for a second and then smiles that wonderful Riker smile. “Maybe he can rig the transporters to duplicate the entire ship. Create ourselves an entire fleet out there in the Gamma Quadrant. An infinity of Rikers. Wouldn’t that be something!”

Star Trek: Voyager begins on BSB One in August, every Wednesday at 6pm.

Meet the new crew…

Captain Elizabeth Janeway (Linda Hamilton) — An all-action Captain in the mold of Kirk, Janeway’s fierce demeanour and incredible fighting prowess make her a match for almost anyone.

Transporter Chief W. Thomas Riker (Jonathan Frakes) — Not the Riker we know, but still a Riker to love. But just what will the crew say when they find out what it is he’s up to with those transporters…

Image: "W. Thomas Riker in his new role as Transporter Chief aboard the Voyager"

Lieutenant Chakotay (Michael Horse) — A tough but likeable senior officer, he is always the first to support Captain Janeway in whatever decisions she makes..

Science Officer Tuvok (Mae Jemison) — Another Vulcan science officer aboard a Federation starship, but this one’s played by an actual real-life astronaut.

Navigator Tim Paris (Jeremy London) — An ace pilot with a bad attitude, Paris is sure to be a new fan favourite.

Chief Engineer Belony Torres (Kim Deal) — A Klingon warrior who believes there is no greater honour in battle than that of repairing the warp coils while being showered in sparks.

Ensign Harrold ‘Harry’ Kim (Benedict Wong) — An inexperienced recent recruit who initially struggles with the responsibilities thrust upon him due to the heavy casualties aboard the Voyager. Distrustful of the new Cardassian doctor, he is currently working on a Medical robot of his own to replace him.

Gul Macet (Marc Alaimo) — Captain of the Cardassian vessel, he agrees to call a truce and to work with Janeway as her new First Officer.

Chief Medical Officer Garak (Andrew Robinson) — A jocular Cardassian medical professional who seems to know a worrying amount about human anatomy.

Glinn Seska (Michelle Forbes) — Seska originally appeared in several Next Generation episodes as Ensign Ro Laren, a seemingly Bajoran crew member who is in reality a genetically altered Cardassian spy. Here we finally see her in her true Cardassian form in her new role as head of security aboard the Voyager.

Lamia (Clare Buckfield) — The last survivor of an alien race (the Espers) native to the Gamma Quadrant, Lamia possesses great, almost mystical, power in her tiny frame. Rescued in the pilot episode from her tyrannical slave master, Neelix (one of the series’ ongoing recurring villains, who wishes to use her powers for evil), Lamia’s extensive local knowledge helps provide the crew with important information on a weekly basis.
posted by dng at 10:56 AM on January 7, 2017 [10 favorites]


If you’ve won an Oscar [like NG’s Marina Sirtis did early this year for her lead role in Running Down That Hill: The Kate Bush Story]

I LOL'ed.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 11:39 AM on January 7, 2017 [2 favorites]


Flagged as fantastic, dng. Please continue with these, I about died.
posted by mordax at 4:09 PM on January 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


At the risk of wearing out my welcome by excessive posts, there were a few other things that grabbed my attention from the second half of the show I felt compelled to note:

When Harry announces that Voyager is now 70,000 light years from where they were, on the other side of the galaxy, the camera has a profile shot Janeway and Paris looking at the viewscreen, with Paris the center of the image in focus and Janeway on the left of the screen slightly blurred. The main reaction then, at the announcement is Tom's as he turns to look at the captain who continues staring forward without change. Further suggesting the show was thinking of Paris as being perhaps the main audience surrogate, while hedging their bets on Janeway's popularity as captain in case audiences didn't take to the idea.

Mulgrew though continues to do a fine job suggesting emotions without needing to overdramatize them, such as when she reacts to Harry not being sure what's out there or how to explain it wwhen sensors picked up the array. She gets a nice little show of anger at his uncertainty without seeming to come down on Harry personally. She balances the command giving with some more personal reactions to dilute the authoritarian edge well, something a woman might come across poorly exhibiting. The feel of the damage is kind of odd, with Tom and Harry looking untouched, Janeway looking mussed with her hair coming undone and dangling by her face, but otherwise fine, and Stadi and Cavit dead. it all just makes the damage seem a little strange and random rather than a more clear suggestion of what happened.

The intro of "our" doctor is nicely handled, solid hints of personality and a well played scene in his primary function as EMH. Good lighting and character blocking/action in this scene too, little things like Harry donning a large protective glove before trying to extinguish the fire add some extra touches of verisimilitude to the proceedings, something that is often lacking in scenes.

The holo-farm is just soooo TNG/Voyager. They love that kind of homey rural touch, despite it being of improbable popularity among a diverse 23rd century crew to say the least. Those scenes didn't play well, the usual dull extras problem and no clear purpose being served by the scenes figure into that, but the return trip with just the old man and the banjo came across much better. I'm not sure why these shows tend to shy away from attempting more "alien" encounters/places so often, but in my view it isn't ideal, particularly for this show set in an area of the galaxy we and they have never seen before. (The Borg cube was a great counter example, as something really unexpected and powerful because of that. Generic extras on a farm set wielding pitchforks don't come close.)

Upon return to their ships, Chakotay is shorted again on an opportunity to show him being commanding or decisive or clever or pretty much anything other than angry at Tom. Janeway controls their entire interaction from the start, and discusses her plan to return to the array with Tuvok and Tom directly, while Chakotay is pouting or something in the background of the shot. He agrees to her plan, but doesn't evince anything that might make him come across as a leader or much of a personality at this point. Also not keen on Chakotay's line of dialogue "Were you going to deliver us into their waiting hands Vulcan?" That kind of address by race is surely bordering on a slur in any society such as they have in the show. It reminds me of Leia's "I'd rather kiss a wookie." moment in ESB, innocuous seeming initially, but increasingly grating on further listens once one groks the heart of its insult.

Paris ignoring the EMH upon his return to the ship despite being asked a question by the doctor is, again, a nice underplayed moment that really works well for the show. It sets up the relationship between the doctor and the crew.

Tuvok's job responsibilities never do seem all that confined to security, he pretty much takes on a science officer role as well. Kinda sad he has to double up on jobs with so many of the crew seem to have no clear responsibilities at all.

The scene with Janeway and Tuvok in her room is one I that seems central to their initial idea of a woman as captain, with her distraction staring out the window and digression about not knowing Harry well, and getting the crew home a more vulnerable look than one might expect this early on from male captains, but it's a nice scene and, for me at least, is actually not a bad direction to go for any captain, not just Janeway.

Neelix's intro is well done, I wish they were able to find the kind of balance in his character like this more often in these early seasons.

The med lab scenes with Harry and B'Elanna are so-so, the sets are impressively "futuristic" but devoid of much interest and the Ocampan doctor and staff too bland to give a feeling of "realness" to the scene. I think Garrett Wang has a really natural seeming delivery of his lines that works well for his character. Dawson, as a half Klingon has a little more trouble in balancing the aggression with a more practical delivery at times, where the flow between emotions doesn't seem to build or come from something as much as just fit the script.

Ugh. The Kazon-Ogla, nice name, are yet another race that makes little sense to me on the face of it. Evidently they are a sect that relies on inter-group trade and mutual distrust/violence to exchange water, food, and cormaline, living in inhospitable environments that look like shanty towns when they aren't out travelling between planets in their spaceships. Murderhoboes seems about right, but remains inexplicable.

I'm still trying to figure out what they thought they were thinking with Neelix and Kes. Neelix as comic relief seems evident enough, but poor Kes as the comic's sidekick and love interest had nowhere to go. Was she written in as an excuse to add a cute human looking woman in the cast and give some plot purpose to Neelix and the crew running into the Kazon? It all seems unnecessary and not all that interesting. That Kes had suffered abuse as a "poor servant" doesn't make it any better, even with her show of spirit against the Ocampans later, though she was a little harsh with poor Toscat who was foolish, but trying to be accommodating. That Jennifer Lien is able to make anything much out of Kes is pretty impressive. She comes across well, even as she has little practical purpose to serve. It is interesting to see her speak of her people once having "full command of our mind's abilities", giving some indication of at least one areas they appear to want to explore later, tied to the telepathic gift her people share, so no strong practical purpose, and one which doesn't really translate all that well to TV, likely coming across as mental straining followed by some physical or claimed psychological result that is difficult to write convincingly. A nice little touch, by the way, of having Ocampans wear scarves that often cover their mouths. An interesting look and one that works for a telepathic society.

I could have done without the earthquakey stairway collapsing "action" as it comes across as a bit of a cliche when Chakotay needs assistance and bravely tries to send the rest of the crew on, but Paris resists and helps him. It isn't a literal cliff hanger, but the very term of that being such an old and overused adage gives some indication that it's a situation better avoided at this late date.

Chakotay gets his own heroic scene crashing the Maquis ship into a fine looking Kazon destroyer. (And he gets a nice little moment when beemed back to Voyager, where he goes over the the generic crewwoman working the transporters and gives her an affirming grip of thanks on her shoulder for getting him out of the ship. It's another example of the kind of detail that really helps a show. Unremarked upon, but real and humanizing. Maybe an adlib of sorts by Beltran? Seems more like something he'd do somehow, and not scripted.

One of the things I've never really come to grips on with the various Star Trek shows, and some other franchises as well, is the interest in direct moralizing in so many episodes. Here, the Caretaker and the Ocampa carry some of that weight, but in its less troublesome form as more a general message about civilization, that isn't exactly profound even in its extreme form. In a slightly toned down version it has been used, I imagine as a argument against the welfare state, since it echoes things many conservatives have argued about social programs, but it also has some relevance for how rich nations send aid to poor nations sometimes instead of aiding in helping develop more self-sustaining solutions to problems. At an extreme it's reasonable, but in other less all or nothing situations its merits are more debatable and specific to the issues at hand.

And, finally, the other big moral issue this show is that decision by Janeway to destroy the array rather than let it fall into Kazon hands. Like others have said, this could have been addressed in any number of ways that would have been more sensible, like Tuvok suggesting he might be able to figure out how to send them home in time, and Janeway deciding they didn't have time to wait with the Kazon coming lest they get caught up in a non-stop battle to control the array and that sector. So not giving Janeway an out suggests they obviously wanted to pin the decision on her directly, to make her choose to stay in the Delta Quadrant at their own expense rather than take a quick trip home or try and find some other way to get both what they wanted and prevent harm. The suggestion being, it seems, that they intended this decision to define Janeway and effect her actions in the future. Whether, within the scope of the presented possibilities, her decision is sound or not, seems open to some question, even as they may have been trying to make it seem heroic instead. The Kazon are too weak, the possible alternatives too many, and the situation with the caretaker too, well, illogical, to make it all work without raising questions.

If one attempts to tie those two moral dilemmas together, it may not show either the Caretaker or Janeway in the best light. The Caretaker, so caught up in protecting the Ocampans due to having harmed them a millennia ago, shows no concern for the lives of those he brings to the array in an attempt to find a mate, killing many in the process. So, his concern has slipped its initial definition of protecting life, to taking it in the cause of protecting a specific group. Janeway's decision could be seen as echoing this, with her desire to fulfill the Caretaker's dying wish to destroy the array in order to "protect" the Ocampans. In order to do this, Chakotay destroys a large Kazon battleship , presumably taking many lives in doing so. Thus, again, basing the protection of one group on the deaths of another. That the Kazon's may have been a threat to the Ocampans can't really jiustify the action since all it does, like with the Caretaker, is delay the moment the Ocampans will have to face the end of their subsurface world and likely deal with the Kazon.

That the Ocampans weren't even involved in the decisions is, at the least, odd, and more than a little troubling. Surely they could have taken over the array as easily as the Kazon, so just giving it to them would have worked better, Though it isn't clear what kind of power or how much the array has versus the Caretaker himself. (That the array seems clearly designed for accommodating roughly humanoid type creatures, and not the Caretaker's own giant brain looking form is another issue that should have warranted a little more care or concern on the part of the makers of the show or the crew of Voyager, depending on how one wants to spin that issue.)

That the moral dilemma is considered "solved" by destroying the array hardly addresses the longer term issues, and thus really solves little, and that makes the relative lack of interest in what's happened below ground with the Ocampans now that the array has gone silent by the crew, and especially Neelix and Kes, just bizarre. Taking all this as a blind spot in the writing may be the more accurate perception, but one could also take it as an example of the kinds of uneasy choices the crew will have to make on their journey, which is where I'm going to go with it since that makes the show more interesting and avoids some of the cliche in having these strongly defined moral choices.

As I sort of mentioned in the Fanfare talk thread on the show, I'm personally fine with them not trying to make a Star Trek version of BSG. I don't think that really fits the legacy of the show all that well, though keeping some internal crew conflict is surely fine. Chakotay's decision to side with Janeway certainly can make sense given they are 75 years away from home, so any direct fight for control between Maquis and Starfleet crews is going to be a bad decision for all involved. At the same time though having some added conflict in ideals and how they should be best carried out seems almost a necessity given how strong the moral dilemma aspect is on the show and the mix of groups and races involved in the crew. We'll see how that pans out in future episodes.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:15 PM on January 7, 2017 [4 favorites]


Minor editor's note: this episode technically qualifies as both episodes 1 and 2 of season one. IIRC this happens a couple more times in VOY's run.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 8:44 AM on January 8, 2017


Holy shit, dng. If any alternative Trek scenario could get me to buy into a non-DS9 world (and I'm not necessarily saying that any could), that would be it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:26 AM on January 8, 2017 [1 favorite]


Was [Kes] written in as an excuse to add a cute human looking woman in the cast and give some plot purpose to Neelix and the crew running into the Kazon?

In part, I'm sure. But it's part of the tragedy of VOY that they didn't really get into the potential of having a main character whose entire life mostly takes place during the run of the show, and if they'd stuck with that aspect of the character, it would have made for a really unique character arc. Instead, we ended up getting little glimpses of that; here's the episode where we see Kes going through the only fertile period of her life, here's the one where we get a thumbnail version of the rest of her life (and a preview of "Year of Hell", which because of the show's personnel changes ended up not including Kes at all), here's her as an old woman going apeshit for some inexplicable reason. A lot of it seems to fall into that VOY pattern of an episode being written to demonstrate what they could do if they were given more creative freedom. It's disheartening to look at the background information for the character and read quotes from the production staff being remarkably honest as to how they failed the character. There are some odd parallels between Kes and Marvel's Jean Grey of the X-Men, who was similarly disposed of after she got extremely powerful and ill-defined psychic powers.
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:18 PM on January 8, 2017 [4 favorites]


I don't think I've ever seen any voyager before - the main thing I know is that Seven of Nine and the Doctor were the best characters because execs didn't take either of them seriously enough to pay attention to them. Also to expect a lot of use of the reset button.

I'm mid-season six in my DS9 rewatch right now and jumping between the two is a huge difference in tone and quality. I'm not sure if there would be the same jump if I was heading from the first season of any start trek show to this pilot, but by season six DS9 was very committed to overarching, long-standing conflicts, and it's weird to go from that to seeing the maquis set up and then nullified within the course of the pilot episode. I mean, it would have made sense for there to be more of a concept that the Maquis were biding their time, maybe even trying to convert the Federation crew. It's jarring to see them in starfleet uniforms so quickly.

Part of this is also the Roddenberry Utopia problem of why anyone would want to not be in the Federation. For the Maquis to be sympathetic, you have to have a more complex view of the Federation and a darker show than it seems like UPN wanted.

Also - they were very obviously pushing Tom Paris as the point of view character. He's the one who has the most relationships with the rest of the cast - rivarly with Chakotay, friends with Kim, we see his recruitment from Janeway. And ugh, he is my least favorite character so far, maybe tied with Neelix. The racist banter with Chakotay might have put him over the edge, but he's also a character type that was tired in 1995 and has only gotten worse since. Imagine if we'd spent the same amount of time with Tuvok - as the traitor, he also has relationships with the Maquis and the Federation. But he also has more potentially interesting and complex motivations than Paris's daddy issues, and we would have been shown, not told, why Chakotay and B'Ellana would have issues with him.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:25 AM on January 10, 2017


Also, man, what a missed opportunity by not having the hologram in the array be explicitly taken from one of the crew member's minds. If you have to have a random rural farmhouse location in your pilot, at least do some character setup with it.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:29 AM on January 10, 2017 [1 favorite]


Man, Paris' racist Native American trope rundown made me cringe.

It would be giving Rick Berman too much credit to say he intended it this way, but I think Paris's behavior makes perfect sense given two facts:

1. Most Indians left Earth centuries ago, so Paris is probably less familiar with those cultures than your average North American today.
2. Paris gets his information through his fondness for mid-20th century B-movies.
posted by riruro at 10:08 AM on January 14, 2017 [1 favorite]


I only watched DS9 all the way through for the first time during the recent rewatch (I ended up not participating in those threads, though, due to spoilers), so I wasn't as familiar with Quark as I am now, but regardless of whether his taking offense was feigned, he wasn't wrong in the VOY pilot: "We were warned about the Ferengi at the Academy" is an assy thing to say, Harry.

For me, probably the biggest disconnect with the Starfleet/Maquis relationship is with Tuvok. Everyone is basically like, "Oh, haha, he was a Federation spy all along. Oh well." Paris gets more shit from Chakotay for being a merc. I agree with dinty_moore that they left a lot on the table there with Tuvok.

The point about how much the pilot focuses on Tom (who at least once was called "Harris" in the subtitling, lol) is an interesting one that is much more obvious on rewatch. I also only recently learned about how his character was probably supposed to actually be Nick Locarno from TNG, but instead they made up a character with a similar backstory, played by the same actor (as noted above). Too bad; that would have been an interesting crossover.
posted by obloquy at 1:40 PM on January 14, 2017


As I sort of mentioned in the Fanfare talk thread on the show, I'm personally fine with them not trying to make a Star Trek version of BSG. I don't think that really fits the legacy of the show all that well, though keeping some internal crew conflict is surely fine. Chakotay's decision to side with Janeway certainly can make sense given they are 75 years away from home, so any direct fight for control between Maquis and Starfleet crews is going to be a bad decision for all involved.

One thing that struck me in re-watching this first episode is how -- and this is probably influenced by having watched BSG after VOY -- unnecessary setting the show in the Delta Quadrant actually is; supplies don't really matter (except when they do), crew allegiances don't really matter (except when they matter a lot), and the actual episode-to-episode plotting is rarely contingent on the show being in the Delta Quadrant (consider that even the Borg could have be re-done as having significant outposts elsewhere). The core of a lot of upcoming episodes is simply that the ship's crew finds A New Thing -- a planet, a society, a [technobabble] -- to which is added the nominal complication of not being able to communicate with the Federation for guidance (until they can), or call on it for aid (about which: see supplies not mattering, above). I remember a lot of the discussion around the time that Voyager came out centering on how it 'should be' grittier -- more DS9 like, more risks, more continuity. But watching this now -- Caretaker is a surprisingly enjoyable episode, especially for being a first episode, and the main bad moment for me was the already-discussed head-scratcher of a decision to write the destruction of the Array as if it was the only option; it clearly was not. What if they didn't destroy it? What it the Caretaker was actually mostly fine, if a bit cranky, could deal with the Kazon fine and then sent them back?

What if, instead of a uncertain voyage back to earth, Voyager was tasked with charting a path to the Delta Quadrant? Make it a long-term voyage of exploration -- stock up on supplies. Prepare. Bring along the Maquis who want to go along as a condition for the commutation of their sentences and reintegration into Starfleet. Bring Neelix, who wants to go home. Basically: invert the premise. Send them out -- far, far out -- so that supplies are still a concern (when the writers want them to be a concern), but because resupplying might entail having to turn around and lose time, not because it might mean death. Making it a continuing voyage, rather than a terminal one.

Further re-litigation of Other Shows Voyager Could Have been, I was mostly struck by how the cast already seems to work fairly well together -- TNG and DS9 both (I think, although now I want to watch them back-to-back to compare) had rockier starts. The central moral question of the episode (how to resolve the Ocampa and Caretaker situations) is undermined by the writer's need to resolve the situation in a certain way (to strand the ship), which is unfortunately going to be a recurrent problem.
posted by cjelli at 7:41 AM on January 18, 2017


Yeah, that really is the biggest problem with the premise, that it isn't really used much as such. They could have gone any number of different directions with the show given that germ of an idea about being sent to the Delta Quadrant, but they ended up mostly making it just different for the sake of difference. Some new races and problems, but mostly nothing that couldn't have more or less happened in their "normal" encounters in the Alpha sector. That's disappointing and I think colored a lot of the experience people had with the show. It's likely the most inconsistent of the Treks, having some really fine moments and ideas mixed with some ridiculously banal ones.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:48 AM on January 18, 2017


Further re-litigation of Other Shows Voyager Could Have been, I was mostly struck by how the cast already seems to work fairly well together -- TNG and DS9 both (I think, although now I want to watch them back-to-back to compare) had rockier starts. The central moral question of the episode (how to resolve the Ocampa and Caretaker situations) is undermined by the writer's need to resolve the situation in a certain way (to strand the ship), which is unfortunately going to be a recurrent problem.

TNG famously had the 'no interpersonal conflict on the ship' thing going on, but DS9 definitely had a lot more discord - Kira's arc in the first season was all about her growing to trust the Federation, and if not trusting the Federation, trusting Sisko. Odo was also very much set apart from the Federation part of the cast in the beginning.

The show that I keep on thinking about when talking about Voyager isn't BSG - because, let's face it, BSG was a much better show but also had the privilege of being built on Voyager's mistakes - but Stargate Atlantis. And while the show wasn't great to start with and has aged even worse (racially it is incredibly uncomfortable), it did an decent job during its first and second season of stressing that these people are stranded in an unfamiliar and dangerous environment with no way of getting home. And when opportunities to get back to Earth are realized, they are still time consuming or for specific emergencies.
posted by dinty_moore at 8:53 AM on January 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


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