On the eve of the newest Trek series to launch (Star Trek: Discovery) I take a look back at my favorite Trek and I try to explain why the most maligned in the franchise may actually be it’s very best.
The Voyager crew from Seasons 4 through 7.
Airing from the Winter of 1995 to the Spring of 2001, Star Trek: Voyager was the final Star Trek television series to follow in the footsteps of Paramount Studios new line of Star Trek television productions that began with Star Trek: The Next Generation. Produced by primarily the same individuals responsible for ST:TNG and also ST:DS9, Voyager took another huge step forward in the Trek-verse, breaking new ground not only by placing a female Starfleet captain at the helm, but also by dropping the show’s flagship namesake into an unexplored region of the Star Trek universe.
Here’s a look at 10 reasons why Star Trek: Voyager may have come closer to Gene Roddenberry’s vision than any of the others…so far.
10. The Delta Quadrant
By whisking Voyager into an unexplored region of the Star Trek universe with the pilot episode, the creators of the show immediately raised the stakes for the show. With a female captain at the helm, Voyager found itself in literally uncharted territory, populated in large part by Federation nemesis, The Borg. By Voyager’s projections, it would take nearly 75 Earth years to return home, thus placing Voyager in a place where literally “no man had gone before.”
9. The Emergency Medical Holographic Program
In a new twist on an old Star Trek staple, the show’s creators implanted a holographic program to run the ship’s sick-bay, as opposed to the usual, living and breathing, chief medical officer. Gone were the days of the in-the-flesh doctors, “Bones” McCoy and Dr. Beverly Crusher, and instead we got Robert Picardo’s fantastic holographic character, “The Doctor.” Forced to run on a full-time basis due to Voyager’s sudden relocation to the Delta Quadrant, sans a medical officer, The Doctor would become this series first person in search of the meaning of humanity, following in the footsteps of the great Data from the TNG series, and further advocating for full sentient status with help from Captain Janeway.
8. Chakotay And The Maquis
True to Star Trek series tie-in form, the pilot episode of Voyager finds the ship leaving DS9 in pursuit of another vessel. This vessel would turn out to be a rebel ship, piloted by the Maquis, a race of people who are at war with the Cardassians. What is so significant about the Maquis in this particular episode is that they, too, are whisked over 70,000 light years from their last known location along with Voyager. Both crews are forced to unite their survivors in order to survive and ultimately find their way home to the Alpha Quadrant, and the Maquis crew thus becomes part of Voyager’s personnel. Included are Chakotay, who would become Voyager’s second in command; Tom Paris, who becomes Voyager’s helmsman; B’Elanna Torres, a half-human, half-Klingon Maquis who becomes Voyager’s chief engineer, and the Vulcan Tuvok: initially Voyager’s second in command who had infiltrated the Maquis ship in an undercover role.
7. Big Time Guest Stars
Star Trek: Voyager was ripe with guest star appearances, including some of the earliest work of today’s more famous actors. Included in this list are screen legends such as Jason Alexander from TV’s Seinfeld, John Rhys-Davies from the Indiana Jones films and Lord of the Rings trilogy, and even WWE’s The Rock, Dwayne Johnson, who was featured in an episode of the show’s 6th season.
6. Recurring Star Trek Series Characters
Star Trek: Voyager probably contained the greatest number of former Star Trek character appearances of any of the post-original series. Throughout it’s 7 seasons on-air, the Voyager television show gave us a nostalgic look back at some our favorite characters from Star Trek’s past. Included would be the great omnipotent Q, portrayed fantastically as always by John DeLancie, who hilariously attempts to court Captain Janeway on several occasions. Also making appearances were Trek legends such as Dwight Schultz’s Reggie Barclay, Marina Sirtis’ Deanna Troi, and even Jonathan Frakes’ Will Riker. But perhaps the most important and notable appearances are those of the Borg Queen character: her/their story plays a vital role in the overall tale of the Voyager spacecraft and it’s ongoing trek home.
A native of the Delta Quadrant which became home for our Voyager spacecraft, Jennifer Lien’s character of Kes was instrumental in the ship’s quest to return to the Alpha Quadrant. She was the life partner of the ships cook, Neelix, and a student of The Doctor, where she worked in the ships sick-bay and also attempted to help The Doctor with his inter-personal skills as it related to the crew. Kes was an Ocampan, and thus she possessed the race’s psionic abilities. Her abilities would eventually evolve and with the help of Vulcan Tuvok, Kes would learn to harness her powers and eventually use them at the time of her death to send Voyager beyond the Borg-infested area of space, and 9,500 light years closer to home.
4. Tuvok: The Return of a Vulcan to a Starfleet Bridge
The Tuvok character was instrumental from day one of the Voyager series for two reasons: the character itself was an homage to the classic and original Trek series by once again having a Vulcan as part of the ship’s senior staff for the first time since Captain Kirk’s reign; but more importantly the Tuvok character was also largely responsible for landing Voyager in the Delta Quadrant as the ship pursued the rebel Maquis vessel on which Tuvok was an undercover agent in the series pilot episode. These two reasons alone are enough to warrant the Tuvok character a place in the top 5 awesome reasons in this column; not to mention that Tim Russ did an awesome job carrying the Vulcan torch for the full 7 seasons while constantly taking a “#2” backseat to the lackluster Chakotay character and his “#1” position on the crew.
3. Species 8472 Changes the Game
From fluidic space, a dimension outside the known Star Trek universe, emerged Species 8472. Discovered by The Borg, Species 8472 was unknown to Star Trek space until The Borg invaded their fluidic space in an attempt to assimilate their technological and biological distinctiveness into their own. How’d that work out, you ask? Yea, not so good: Species 8472’s complex triple helix DNA structure allowed them to forego and avoid assimilation, and practically destroy The Borg at will. As a result, Captain Janeway forms an alliance with The Borg: allow Voyager safe passage through Borg space, and Voyager will help with a nanotechnology answer to the Species 8472 threat. The result gives us the first and only Borg/Federation alliance, and the retreat of Species 8472 back to fluidic space.
2. Seven of Nine
Arguably the defining character / subject of the Star Trek: Voyager series, Jeri Ryan’s orphaned Borg drone was the designated representative in the Federation/Borg alliance against Species 8472. After neutralizing the Species 8472 threat, Seven of Nine attempted to assimilate Voyager’s crew and was then separated from her collective. In the seasons that followed, Seven of Nine would be slowly integrated into the Voyager crew, with the majority of the crew resisting trusting her. She would also join The Doctor as another member of a Star Trek crew seeking to understand humanity, as she searched to reclaim her assimilated innocence.
1. Captain Kathryn Janeway/Kate Mulgrew
Without question, the character of Captain Kathryn Janeway broke through the final typecasting barrier that had stood for so long in the Trek universe: having a female series lead and also in the captains chair. Kate Mulgrew was cast as Voyager’s fearless captain, and so began Trek’s final television journey without an Enterprise leading the way, and with a female captain in control. What followed was seven fantastic seasons with the Star Trek universe being experienced through the eyes of a female captain, placing a new spin on familiar story arcs, and a new approach to unfamiliar territory. The Janeway character would later appear as a Starfleet Admiral, again portrayed in a cameo by Mulgrew, in the feature film Star Trek: Nemesis as a superior officer to the Enterprise’s Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and even later in a novelization that had her assimilated into the new Borg Queen as Seven of Nine sought to rescue her. Overall, a fitting lead for the final non-Enterprise related Trek series, and a legendary character to be sure, fitting of the Captain’s chair.
So, fellow trekkies, do you agree or disagree? Do you miss the show now that you’ve relived some of its finest elements, or do you disagree with me. I have been watching Star Trek almost my entire life (I am 53) and this one touches all the bases of Gene Roddenberry’s vision, and just like in our lives there are missteps along the way.
However in the end – it is the journey that matters the most.