TrekGeeks’ Star Trek Voyager Challenge
And so it begins!
One Trek Geek and one hundred seventy-two hours of Star Trek’s fifth television series.
In my Star Trek Voyager Challenge, I’ll be watching all 172 episodes in order with a focus on how it holds up to the best traditions of Star Trek. Along the way, I’ll try to develop an appreciation for the Starship Voyager and her crew.
My journey will begin where Voyager’s does: with the series pilot, “Caretaker.” Debuting on January 16, 1995, Voyager’s two hour pilot was the debut telecast of the United Paramount Network (UPN). It would be the first of the TNG era shows that didn’t make its premiere in first-run syndication.
- Kate Mulgrew as Captain Kathryn Janeway
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B’Elanna Torres
- Jennifer Lien as Kes
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
The Intrepid class U.S.S. Voyager is dispatched to the Badlands to track down a Maquis ship that has disappeared and has her Tactical Officer aboard and he is undercover. However, Voyager is quickly pulled into the Delta Quadrant–just like the Maquis ship was–by a powerful alien called “the Caretaker” and is now 70,000 light years away from home.
The Caretaker has cared for a race called the Ocampans and has done so since his people accidentally destroyed the ecosystem of the Ocampan’s world. Now, they live in a system of caverns below a world occupied by a race called the Kazon. They’re baddies and they’re most valued commodity is water. There’s only one problem, though: the Caretaker is dying and the Ocampans are totally dependent on him for their way of life, as well as for protection from the Kazon. So, the Caretaker looked for a compatible mate with whom he could reproduce and snatched ships from all over the galaxy to run tests on them.
As a result, the Voyager and her crew (along with the Maquis) are 75 years from home. The Caretaker realizes he’s close to death and begins sending the Ocampans extra energy which should last five years along with his knowledge so they can become self-sufficient. (The Ocampans have a nine year life span, so that could be a problem.) He also says that the Kazon must not be allowed to gain control of the array that sends the Ocampans their energy.
Voyager destroys the array, stranding them and the Maquis fugitives in the Delta Quadrant. They form a single crew and set course for Earth hoping to make it home.
WHAT WORKED FOR ME
- Voyager has what I think is the best opening theme of all the TNG spin-offs. It is sweeping and majestic and I think it’s one of Jerry Goldsmith’s finest compositions.
- Kate Mulgrew is cast perfectly as Janeway and even though she wasn’t the first choice, she clearly was the best choice for the part. I think that Janeway is incredibly layered and even a study of contradiction at times and Mulgrew plays her with finesse. She’s a very different Captain from Kirk, Picard, and Sisko.
- I like the “Welcome Bee” scene aboard the Caretaker array and I think it’s well done. I’d have liked a little more explanation as to why that particular setting–because it strikes me a bit like Ray thinking of the StayPuft Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters–but I think it’s still interesting beyond that.
- Robert Picardo is a bright spot as the Emergency Medical Hologram. He really nails this character from the start (no pun intended).
- Janeway’s conversation with the Caretaker toward the end of the episode is great and at the core of what Star Trek is all about.
- At the time Voyager premiered in 1995, I didn’t like the idea of Neelix serving as the ship’s guide. Now, I do kind of like it and I think it makes perfect sense.
- The concept of Voyager having bio-neural circuitry–although you should remember that term because I think the writers are going to forget about it entirely at some point before the start of season 4.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME
- I was annoyed by the Tom Paris character five minutes into the episode. I don’t take issue with McNeill’s performance at all–I honestly think it’s the character. I just don’t think he’s written well (and I think this could be a recurring theme for me).
- Voyager’s Bridge. I think it looks terrible. I almost get the sense that they were trying to make it as different from TNG as possible and…well…MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! Specifically, I don’t like the Captain’s Chair not being in the center and “sharing billing” with the First Officer (among other things).
- Harry Kim seems like he got assigned to a Starship WAY too soon. I just don’t think he should be that green if he’s attending meetings of the Senior Officers.
- Neelix has a warp-capable ship but has never heard of a transporter?!
- Torres looks Klingon, but I don’t get the sense that she has any Klingon blood in her. She just seems like a hot head with rage control issues.
- The “falling bridge” sequence didn’t work in Star Trek: Generations and it definitely doesn’t work here, either.
- I have a very difficult time taking the whole Paris/Chakotay conflict seriously. It just doesn’t seem genuine at all.
- Paris gets a field promotion to Lieutenant from “Prisoner/Observer?”
- “This should be one crew–a Starfleet crew.” Yes, which is exactly why the Maquis crew have completely different rank pips on their collars.
“Caretaker” is probably the strongest pilot episode of any Star Trek series. The writers do an effective job of introducing the crew and set up the potential for great dramatic conflict on board Voyager–something that was never allowed by Gene Roddenberry in The Original Series or The Next Generation.
Further, Janeway stays true to the core principles of Starfleet and the Federation by making her decision to destroy the Caretaker array and strand her crew far from home.
I think that the characters get a good starting off point. I love the internal conflict of Janeway. I think that Chakotay is a really interesting character with tons of potential. The Doctor is meant to reflect that character in search of humanity, albeit in a very different way. Kes, at times, has a child like wonderment and a borderline ethereal quality about her. Neelix, although a little annoying at times, seems like he’s the voice of the UPN audience–trying to understand Starfleet and their ways. Tuvok is a bit of an enigma. Sure he’s Vulcan, but he’s the first Vulcan series regular since Spock and there’s a lot we have yet to learn about him.
However, I think that Kim, Torres, and Paris are far too stereotypical and they almost seem like they were afterthoughts to some degree. I hope there’s more to these three than that and time will tell.
“Caretaker” gets a solid 4 out of 5 Deltas.
The Starship Voyager investigates a distress call and becomes trapped by a quantum singluarity in “Parallax.”