In January of 2018 I began a journey that I honestly didn’t think would stick, I decided to not only revisit one of my favorite television series and franchises but I also decided to write a review for each and every episode. That series? Star Trek The Next Generation, now here we are two years later and I have not only completed reviews of STNG but also the entirety of DS9, so where else would I go but to the Delta Quadrant and the intrepid little ship known as the Starship Voyager. We have come a long way since those early reviews and I hope you will continue to journey with me as we dive into the return of the exploration aspect of the Star Trek franchise. So without further adieu, originally premiering 25 years ago on January 16, 1995 this is Star Trek Voyager Episode One: Caretaker.
Captains Log Stardate 48315.6 Caretaker (Parts 1 & 2)
Chasing a Maquis ship into the badlands the USS Voyager and their prey are flung into the far reaches of the Delta Quadrant with no easy way home. After facing a new enemy, it is clear that the two crews must work together in order to find their way back home.
The series opens with the Maquis ship, captained by Chakotay, as it enters the badlands being pursued by Gul Evek. After being scanned by a mysterious source the ship, with a crew including B’Elanna Torres and a Vulcan named Tuvok, the crew are stuck by a wave of energy and vanish.
Meeting with Tom Paris in a Federation Penal colony, Captain Katheryn Janeway informs the former Starfleet officer that he is to be used to help track down the missing Maquis ship (which happens to have her undercover Security officer Tuvok on board) in exchange for a favorable parole hearing. Soon Paris finds himself heading toward the USS Voyager (which happens to be docked at Deep Space Nine) with the ships conn officer Lt Stadi, a Betazoid woman. She informs Paris that Voyager is the latest ship in the line with experimental bio-neural circuitry (something that will certainly come back to haunt them in later episodes).
On the station, Ensign Harry Kim encounters a certain Ferengi Bartender and is saved from Quarks ‘dealings’ by none other than Tom Paris, who saves the green Ensign from a bad deal. Reporting to the ship, Kim and Paris find themselves in sickbay reporting to the doctor who never gets officially named, that’s not a good sign, and it seems Paris’ reputation has preceded him as the doctor makes it clear he wants nothing to do with this ‘observer’.
In her offices, Janeway says her farewells to her boyfriend Mark before welcoming both Kim and Paris to the ship. Janeway makes it clear that she prefers to be called ‘Captain’ and proceeds to introduce the two to her bridge crew including her first officer Lt Commander Cavit. Soon they take the ship out and head into the badlands after the Maquis Raider.
As they head to their mission, Paris soon finds that word of his past deeds have already begun to spread around the ship. It seems that he was responsible for the deaths of three officers and ended up in the Maquis only to be caught and sent to a penal colony. It’s clear that Paris still has some issues and warns Ensign Kim to listen to his crew-mates and stay away from him. Soon they are summoned to the bridge as the ship enters the badlands…
That is when all hell breaks loose. Before long, after being scanned by a strange tetryon beam, the USS Voyager finds itself swept into the same wave the Maquis ship was believed destroyed. With a massive amount of damage, and several dead crewmen, inducing Commander Cavit and Lt Stadi, the crew soon discovers that they have been deposited in front of a strange array over 70,000 lightyears from their previous location.
Discovering that not only has her chief engineer has been killed but a warp core breach is eminent, Janeway leaps into action in an attempt to get her ship from facing a warp core breach. Meanwhile Paris and Kim head to the sickbay to treat injuries as they find that the chief medical officer has also been killed. Activating the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) the two begin working on the wounded crew. Just as Janeway secures the ship and Paris’ team begin to treat the wounded, the crew suddenly find themselves ‘beamed’ to a nearby planet where they find…a farm?!
Using her tricorder, Janeway finds that they have been beamed aboard the strange array in a setting that resembles a small country community. Clearly a ruse to ‘make them feel comfortable’, the crew begin to investigate their surroundings. Soon Kim finds sporocystian life-signs in a nearby barn but, after being warned off by one of the holographic people, they soon find themselves under attack by their hosts. It seems the two have stumbled on something they should not have found. Joining them, Janeway and the rest of the crew soon discover the crew of the Maquis ship in a state of suspended animation being ‘operated’ on via strange devices. No sooner do they find the missing crew that they find themselves in the same situation.
In what feels like moments, the entire crew of Voyager and the Maquis ship find themselves returned to their respective vessels only to discover they have been away for three days. Not only that but Harry Kim is missing from Voyager and, after contacting the Maquis ship, they discover that B’Elanna Torres is missing as well. Agreeing to work together, Chakotay, Tuvok and another Maquis crewman beam aboard the USS Voyager. Janeway welcomes her chief of security Tuvok back aboard her ship much to Chakotay’s dismay. It seems that Paris and Chakotay have history as well when the Maquis Captain makes it clear he is not happy to see Tom Paris.
Navigating the issues, Janeway assigns the crew to their duties in the current crisis. She, Chakotay and Paris head to the array to confront their captures while Tuvok and the third Maquis member head off for recon. Confronting who they believe to be their captor, Janeway and team ask someone about their missing crew members. They soon find an old man and it is clear that he is after something but it is unclear what he needs. It seems he is searching for something to fulfill a ‘debt that can never be paid’ and he does not have time to return them home. With a wave of his hand he sends them all back to their ships only to continue his mission.
After meeting with her security chief Tuvok, and lamenting that she needs to ‘get her crew home’, Janeway decides to follow some strange energy pulses to a nearby decimated planet and soon come into contact with a junk traitor named Neelix. It is soon clear that Neelix has encountered others in similar situations and informs Janeway that their crew-members are likely with the Ocampa and that the strange alien is in fact their ‘caretaker’. Requesting an exchange of information for Water, Neelix agrees to join Janeway in her search for her people. Neelix is an eccentric being and, beaming aboard it is clear that he will be a handful for security chief Tuvok.
While Janeway and crew try to find their missing team members, Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres find themselves in a strange location with odd growths. After lashing out, B’Elanna is knocked out and, when she awakes begins searching for a way out. B’Elanna and Harry are soon visited by a doctor who inform the two that their people now live underground after a great warming happened on the surface. The two have been sent by their ‘Caretaker’ and in such, they must be cared for themselves. The Ocampan Doctor inform B’Elanna and Harry that they are suffering from a strange disease that others have not ever survived and that they are to live the rest if their lives with the Ocampans. The two soon learn that ‘The Caretaker’ has been acting strangely by tripling the energy supply to the Ocampans, they also learn that there may be a way to the surface and to safety.
Back on Voyager Neelix, after partaking in the vast riches of the replicators, agrees to take the crew to the surface of the planet where he introduces them to the Kazon, a race of interstellar mercenaries, who might be able to assist them. Soon it becomes clear that Neelix had ulterior motives and, after causing a conflict with the Kazon by taking their leader Jaben hostage, Neelix rescues a young Ocampan woman named Kes. Back on the ship, they learn that Kes may be the answer to their problems and could help them find their missing crew-members. They begin to search for breaches in the Ocampan security net and, after some convincing from Kes, Neelix agrees to help the crew of Voyager.
Beaming to the underground Ocampan city, Kes works to help find Harry and B’Elanna. The Voyager crew is soon rebuked by the Ocampans but Kes demands that they still help find the missing crew. As they search, suddenly the pulses from the array end and the array begins to realign sending a burst that seems to be meant to seal the energy conduits. It seems that the Caretaker is in fact dying and is attempting to try to protect the Ocampan people before he passes away. Finding a way through the security net, it seems that they have a way to escape but both Janeway and Chakotay soon find themselves in danger. After rescuing them both , Paris and Neelix return to the ship as The Caretaker continues sealing in the Ocampan people.
It seems a battle is imminent when two Kazon ships begin to attack the Caretaker array and both Voyager and the Maquis ship leap to action. Meeting with the Maquis Jaben, they find he is unwilling to negotiate as he begins to attack both Voyager and the array. As the battle commences, Janeway and Tuvok visit the Caretaker who informs them that he only has enough strength left to save the Ocampans before he dies. It seems that years before, his people accidentally caused the destruction of their planets atmostphere. He and another being like him were left to care for the Ocampans and have been ever since. (The other having left sometime before for something more interesting). It seems that The Caretaker has been searching for someone or something to mate with in order to secure a new Caretaker for the Ocampan people. This search resulted in Voyager and the Maquis ship being swept into the Delta Quadrant.
As Janeway discusses the matter with the Caretaker, the Kazon launch a coordinated attack. Soon it becomes clear that the array will not survive the attack and Chakotay lanches his ship on an intercept course smashing into the Kazon vessel just seconds before being beamed off. The Kazon ship crashes into a part of the Array exposing the Caretaker’s true form to Janeway and Tuvok. Just before it dies, The Caretaker informs them that they must destroy the array preventing the Kazon from taking it or the Ocampa will be annihilated. Knowing that she can not allow the Ocampa people to die, Janeway knowingly decides to strand her crew in the Delta Quadrant and, returning to the ship, she destroy’s the array.
With the two crews not forced to join as one, Janeway promotes Chakotay to her first officer and, the recommissioned Lt Tom Paris as the new helmsman. Additionally, Neelix and Kes volunteer to join the crew as guides to the Delta Quadrant and Janeway reluctantly agrees to their request. Now with a somewhat full crew, Janeway prepares them for what is to come alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. They will now all have to work together in order for them all to survive following the directive to seek out new life and new civilizations all while searching for a way home. Thus begins the journey of the Starship Voyager.
For a pilot episode this one has a ton to digest. Lets try to break this down in chunks.
First, lets talk about the crew. For the first time we have a crew that consists of two separate ships and ideologies. A crew consisting of both Federation ‘traditionalists’ and that of the renegade Maquis. This is sure to cause some friction but, as we saw in the episode, the Maquis Captain, Chakotay, isn’t without some honor, plus he has a pretty rocking face tattoo so there is that. Since we are talking about the Maquis side, lets discuss what we know about them so far.
Outside of the unnamed crewman, at this point we have only met Chakotay and the half-Klingon B’Elanna Torres. Chakotay and B’Elanna are both former Starfleet, although B’Elanna never finished the academy, and is seems, even though he was never mentioned on DS9, Chakotay has quite the reputation in the Maquis. We don’t know much about them at this point and, seeing that Maquis Raiders have an approximate crew of 23 there are still many others that we haven’t met yet.
Now for the Star Fleet Crew. Let’s start with the Captain, Kathryn Janeway.
It is clear from the beginning that Janeway cares deeply for her crew even though it would seem many of them are new to her. She is in a committed relationship and happens to love dogs. One of her crewman, Tuvok, is an old friend and confidant to her. The thing that bothers me about her in this one is her lack of empathy toward the deaths of her 1st officer, her chief engineer, her helmsman and her chief medical officers. There was not a moment in the episode where she laments this, or really even mentioned their loss. I have to wonder how green this crew was to her or if she even knew many of them. Even so, you would think she would have had a moment of silence for the lost crew or even would have been seen reviewing a casualty report. Oh well, I guess we can chalk that up to episode time limitations huh. Let’s pretend that happened off screen shall we?
Tuvok. What we know about Tuvok at this point is that he has been in Star Fleet for many years, is a family man with a wife and children, and has known Janeway for some time. Outside of that, his life is very mysterious and one that will certainly be explored as the series progresses.
Harry Kim is probably the only career Ensign in Star Fleet. I swear, even though this series lasts seven years, not once does this poor guy get promoted. We are getting ahead of ourselves though, What we know about Harry is that this is his first assignment. He is green and boy does that show, he is eager to learn but also nervous about messing up. In many ways Harry is a good anchor point for viewers to watch through as he is as new to this ship as we are. We get to know Harry quite well as the series progresses.
Tom Paris. So far, we know more about Tom than anyone else on the show. In a way, he serves as the lead character in this pilot, introducing everyone to each character through his actions. Based somewhat on another character also played by Robert Duncan McNeil, Paris is a former prisoner who is given a chance to redeem himself by helping track down someone from his former Maquis cell. Responsible for the deaths of three officers during an accident, Paris is introduced as somewhat of a rogue character, the “Han Solo” of Star Trek if you will. He plays by his own rules but, when it matters, he will always be there for you. Having to live in the shadow of his father, one Admiral Paris (of whom Janeway once served with), Paris makes it clear there is no love lost between them.
Rounding out the cast are Kes and Neelix. While we don’t know much about them except that Neelix is a junk traitor who has Ferengi qualities and Kes is a VERY young (2 years old) woman from a species that only lives 9 years. I’ve always wondered about this though, how long is a year on Ocampa…I mean, is that like Dog years or are each year more like 2 or three Earth years. I am not sure this was every really addressed but we will get to know her better over time. It is hinted that she might have some cool telepathic powers so watch out for those.
Now what about Voyager the ship? The USS Voyager is an Intrepid Class starship that is meant for long term exploration. This is not the family ship we got used to in TNG, no this is more like a large version of the Defiant and is a ship that is meant to be able to be quick, and nimble in some of the most difficult situations. While we don’t get to see many of the ship’s new features, besides a mention of the bio-neural gel packs (something that will certainly be an issue later, and the new EMH, she has some pretty cool features that will come up as the series progresses.
Plus, lets talk about that theme song! The theme to any Trek show is an important character of it’s own. Not only does it set the stage but it also is your constant reminder of what series it is you are watching. A theme can evoke a sense of wonder, a sense of dread or, in this case, a sense of adventure.
Composed by Jerry Goldsmith, the entire soundtrack for this series was a completely new composition providing the series with a unique feel to it’s new look. As usual, here is the theme for you to check out, it is a beautiful piece to be sure.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Okay, with all of that out of the way, lets really talk about this episode. Was it any good?
Comparing it to the other Star Trek Pilots, this one still holds up. Having taken a break from the traditional exploration with DS9, Voyager makes it clear that this show is all about the unknown. I mean, the crew is literally stranded 70 years from home making the ship a virtual generational ship if it actually takes that long to get back. While not much is known about the crew individually, it is pretty clear that this crew work well together from the start even in the crazy situation they are in. Janeway is a Captain that commands a sense of respect, someone who really stands up and makes sure no one doubts her place on the ship and that is a good thing as they are certainly going to need that strength for the things to come.
From the beginning it is clear that the Prime Directive will be a major issue on this series and one that will be bent, twisted and even broken as the series progresses. From the moment that Janeway destroyed the Array, she started down a slippery slope that will make for some interesting stories. Lets be honest though, would you have let the Kazon have the advantage over the Ocampa? Yeah, probably not. One thing I really love though is the seeds that are planted in this episode. From the attitude and eventual evolution of the EMH to the interesting and fun relationship between Tuvok and Neelix, there are so many small moments that eventually become key character development points for each character. The writers really seem to have had some far reaching ideas or were just clever enough to plant some seeds with the hope of reaping the benefits at a future time. Either way, the pay off on some of these moments are really worth waiting for.
My first impression of the new ‘villain’ was, that it looked like even the Delta Quadrant had their own version of the Klingons. I mean, sure these guys look more like the ‘Alien Guy‘ than a Klingon but it just seems that every system has a bitchy warrior race that Federation ship has to cross paths with. Plus the whole ‘water is valuable’ thing was strange seeing that they are literally a space fairing species and, as we will see in the upcoming episodes, water doesn’t seem to be all that scarce if they bothered to look for it. Why stick around on a planet that doesnt have water when you could, I don’t know, find a planet that does? I mean, this isn’t Star Wars where entire planets have only a single biome, well in this case it did but you know what I mean. It’s a plot point that will bother me all season, but it does give them a ‘desire’ for Voyager’s technology so there is that. Trust me, this comes up…A LOT!
Overall, Not a bad first outing for a new series, sure it has some strange plot points but keep in mind, this series was kinda rushed seeing that it started only after DS9 had been on the air for two years. It was also one of the first attempts on a series by Rick Berman, Michael Pillar and Jeri Taylor that wasn’t directly influenced by Gene Roddenberry or set on a space station so you have to give it a chance to flesh out. First seasons are always rough and, luckily, this first season isn’t a long one. All in all, a decent start, and one that will actually get better over time.
I remember when this series first aired and how excited we all were, I mean, check out this teaser, how could you NOT get excited?
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- Known Death Toll: 5 (but possibly over a dozen counting off screen deaths)
- We are briefly introduced to the EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram) but at this point he is nothing more than a new program on this state of the art ship. That, of course, will change.
- We see our first glimpse of Janeway’s coffee addiction, something that will not be further explored until much later.
- This episode marks the only real crossover between DS9 and Voyager with Quark and Morn appearing in it almost as a sendoff for the series. We even get an appearance from Gul Evek!
- There is a mention to ‘another’ of the Caretakers species…this is important and will come back.
- Another crew-member I didn’t mention is Lt Carey, we see him briefly in this episode and he will be back but he is never a ‘major’ character in the series, although he is rather important.
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: Parallax
If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 4/3/2020
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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