I just watched the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager. This was Caretaker: Parts 1 and 2, because the Star Trek Powers-That-Be like two-part first episodes.
Short review: I liked it; I liked it a lot.
Where to start? Well, let me think. I feel like I’m taking things a little out of order here. I began this new project with the Next Generation rather than the original Star Trek series. But, by going to Voyager for the next show, I’ve managed to leapfrog Star Trek: Deep Space 9 as well. I know this not because I’ve done any extensive research into the various series (where’s the fun in that?) but because the starship Voyager departs from Deep Space 9 in this episode, and the episode features, albeit briefly, a Ferengi I believe I recognize from the few episodes of DS9 I’ve seen. His name may be Quark, but don’t hold me to it.
I already like this first episode more than I liked the first episode of TNG. But, there are certain parallels. More on those later.
The show opens with the Maquis under duress from the Cardassians. Neither of these names means much to me as I begin watching this, but I’m a quick study. The Maquis are some sort of rebel alliance, apparently formed of many former Starfleet members. The Cardassians are the thick-necked bad guys I saw on the coupld of DS9 episodes I’ve seen. That’s enough background for me. The Cardassians are trying to kill the Maquis. The Maquis are trying to escape from the Cardassians. They do so by gong into the Badlands, an area that has a lot of plasma storms. The Badlands are mentioned as if I should already know something about them, which maybe I would if I’d ever watched DS9 extensively. But, I haven’t, and I don’t, but that’s not important either. I get the point. The Maquis go into the Badlands, where navigation is treacherous, and then they get hit by some sort of displacement wave, which causes them to vanish.
Captain Kathryn Janeway takes the Voyager into the Badlands looking for the Maquis ship, only after retrieving Tom Paris from the New Zealand penal colony first and making sure her—what? Boyfriend? Husband?—looks after her dog. Paris, the son of a Starfleet admiral, was a former member of the Maquis, and he has a checkered past with Starfleet. He’s coming on board Voyager as an “observer.” Anyway, Janeway captains her ship into the Badlands and then gets disappeared just as the Maquis ship did.
Turns out, they were all teleported into the Delta Quadrant, which is 70,000 lightyears away, truly where “no one has gone before.” Or, at least, where no one from Starfleet has gone before, because it seems fairly populated. We, the audience, are told that at maximum warp velocity, the Voyager is a 75-year voyage away from Alpha Quadrant. Or, Home, as we call it. This is the entire premise of the series: the voyage home. Get it?
But, first, there is the matter of why both the Maquis ship and the Voyager were brought to the Delta Quadrant in the first place. The first thing Janeway and crew see, after getting their bearings and counting their dead, is something that fills the viewscreens, which they call the Array. As it turns out, this is the home of a being known as the Caretaker, and the Array is continuously sending energy pulses to a nearby desert planet, for reasons as yet unknown. The Voyager crew encounter a weird creature who calls himself Neelix, and they bring him on board. They are also joined by the surviving crew of the Maquis ship, which includes Tuvok, a Vulcan who has also been an undercover Starfleet spy on the Maquis crew. He’s already a part of Janeway’s crew as it turns out.
We are already assembling our diverse new Voyager crew. Janeway, of course, and Tom Paris, initially as “observer” and later as—what?—pilot or navigator? Anyway, he drives the ship. Tuvok, the science officer. B’Elanna Torres, a half-Klingon female member of the Maquis. Chakotay, leader of the Maquis crew, a swarthy guy with a face tattoo whom Paris refers to at one point as an “Indian” and not a Native American, who—spoilers—becomes first officer on Voyager. Harry Kim, a fresh-from-the-Academy Asian officer, who becomes Tom Paris’s first friend on-board. The Doctor, an emergency medical hologram designed only for short-term use. And eventually, the Delta Quadrant natives Neelix and his beloved Kes, whom Neelix tricks the Voyager team into rescuing from the desert planet.
Kes, it turns out, is a member of the Ocampa race, which lives underground on the planet. These are the people who the Caretaker is feeding energy to, because it is somehow responsible for destroying the ecology of the planet to begin with. The Kazon live on the surface and they are characterized as violent and, if I may be so bold as to presume, evil.
I have left out an important plot point. When the Voyager team beams over to the Array, they find themselves in what is essentially a huge holodeck, and the Caretaker presents itself as a group of friendly Southerners. Really. I can’t make this stuff up. As an American Southerner myself, I should be somewhat insulted but I’m not, really. As we seemingly-friendly rednecks are wont to do, the Caretaker crew turns violent once the crew begins to dig too deeply into its secrets. When the crew is returned to their respective ships, they discover that Harry Kim and B’Elanna Torres are no longer among them.
They were teleported to the desert planet, of course. Which is why the Voyager was already on the way to the planet when they encountered Neelix and were momentarily sidetracked into rescuing Kes. The rescue is fortuitous because Kes knows the way into the subterranean Ocampa home, which is where Kim and Torres are being detained. Incidentally, they both seem to be suffering from a terminal disease, thanks to the Caretaker. This turns out not to be a disease at all, but the Caretaker’s attempt to procreate because it is dying. Can I get a collective “Ewww”?
None of that ultimately matters, of course. Kim and Torres aren’t going to die. They are rescued. But, the violent Kazon are after the Voyager team. To keep the Kazon from gaining access to the Array after the death of the Caretaker, Janeway and team, via a near-suicide run by Chakotay in the Maquis vessel, destroy the Array. Tuvok casually mentions that this may be a violation of the Prime Directive. Oh, well. They destroy it anyway. The Maquis crew is absorbed into the Voyager crew, and their immediate solution for getting back to the Alpha Quadrant is destroyed. Neelix and Kes become part of the crew as local area guides. Plus, Neelix is a cook.
But, the Caretaker had mentioned, as an aside, that there was another Caretaker out there somewhere. So, I imagine the Voyager crew will be keeping an eye out for that one over the next seven seasons. Janeway also mentions wormholes and other possible shortcuts.
I like the way the all-encompassing story arc is set up. This is the story about how the Voyager finds its way home. The individual arcs will be about what happens to the crew during their pursuit of this goal.
Knowing next to nothing about this series, I am intrigued about the plot possibilities that the characters suggest. That’s one of the primary joys of character-driven stories such as the ones the Star Trek creators love to tell.
Captain Janeway is cut off from her lover and her dog, and has to maintain control of crew that is immediately divided into Starfleet and Maquis groups. Tom Paris is seeking redemption for his checkered past, and there seems to be some animosity between him and Chakotay. Chakotay is a Starfleet rebel. Tuvok is, well, he’s a Vulcan, and that has built-in story possibilities, plus he was spying on the Maquis, who probably aren’t thrilled about that. B’Elanna Torres is a Klingon-human hybrid; I can only imagine that there will be stories about the warring halves of her personality. The Doctor is a hologram; will he begin a Data-like journey to becoming more human? Harry Kim is a new Starfleet officer; that’s all I can say about him so far. I imagine his character will gain dimension as the series continues. Neelix and Kes are a mixed-race couple who fall in with the Voyager crew. I can only imagine that they both will be burdened with carrying a lot of the exposition, at least in the early episodes, since they have knowledge of the Delta Quadrant that the Voyager crew does not.
And there will be new characters as well. I’m looking forward to that, and to watching all of the seasons that are still ahead of me. I feel a little like I’m on the same journey as the Voyager crew.