20 years of Star Trek: Voyager

Jeri Ryan in 2012
Jeri Ryan in 2012

On January 16, 1995 the TV show “Star Trek: Voyager” made its debut, set in the same period as the show “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine“, which at that time was still on the air.

When “Star Trek: The Next Generation” was heading to its end, Paramount Pictures decided to create a new Star Trek show after seeing that having two of them on the air together was successful. The new show was also meant to promote the new television network UPN (United Paramount Network), a collaboration between Paramount and Chris-Craft Industries through its subsidiary United Television.

The basics of “Star Trek: Voyager” were built in the other shows with the story of the Maquis. In the pilot episode “Caretaker”, the starship USS Voyager leaves from the space station Deep Space Nine looking for a group of Maquis but finds much more than the crew bargained for. The mission succeeds but the Voyager is transported to the Delta Quadrant, 70,000 light years from Earth, taking many casualties in the turbulent journey.

The basic idea was to create a show that came back to exploring the frontier in a difficult situation, without the comfort that often were seen in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”. In the previous Star Trek shows women were seen to command Federation starships, in the new series Captain Janeway commands the Voyager, a big step forward.

The shows tells the journey of the Voyager in an attempt to get back to the Federation territories. The crew is composed of the survivors of the Voyager and those of the Maquis starship, who must learn to work together. There are also Neelix and Kes. Because of the death of the medical officer, the Emergency Medical Hologram (EMH) becomes the starship’s doctor.

“Star Trek: Voyager” cast consists of:

  • Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway
  • Robert Beltran as Chakotay
  • Tim Russ as Tuvok
  • Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
  • Roxann Dawson as B’Elanna Torres
  • Garrett Wang as Harry Kim
  • Robert Picardo (foto ©Gage Skidmore) as the Doctor
  • Ethan Phillips as Neelix
  • Jennifer Lien as Kes (seasons 1-3)
  • Jeri Ryan (foto ©Commander Idham) as 7 of 9 (seasons 4-7)

Unfortunately, very soon you could see that the premise of “Star Trek: Voyager” was watered down. First of all, the Maquis were integrated in the crew in just a couple of episodes and in the rest of the series there were very few occasions to remember that those are people who had fought each other. The discovery that Seska, a former Maquis, was actually an infiltrated Cardassian and what happened next didn’t solve the problem.

Another of the elements that were supposed to mark the show concerned the limited resources available. The Voyager is in uncharted territory, potentially hostile, so the crew never know when they’ll will find new raw materials. One of the measures taken is the restriction of the use of replicators and even more holodecks, so much as to cook their meals. Nevertheless in many episodes we see a purely recreational use of the holodeck.

The purpose of the Voyager crew is to go back to the Federation territories in less than the 75 years predicted using the possibilities of the starship’s engines. During the show, they find some “shortcuts” and also get their hands on more advanced technologies. In those cases, however, curiously they work for a little while and then they are totally forgotten.

Despite its flaws, “Star Trek: Voyager” went on with some success, also by having the Voyager go through Borg territories. The production team decided to make some changes to try to increase the audience. Eventually, Kes was axed and replaced by 7 to 9, a Borg drone separated from the collective who slowly learns to live with the crew and discover her individuality.

Surely actress Jeri Ryan’s beauty, stressed by 7 of 9’s costume, was an element of her success. Luckily she’s also a good actress and contributed to the quality of many episodes. In particular, I had the impression that 7 of 9 worked well together with the Doctor.

Robert Picardo at the San Diego Comic-Con International in 2011
Robert Picardo at the San Diego Comic-Con International in 2011

On the contrary, I think the Borg were ruined in the show. They were created as an impersonal collective that was almost invincible in “Star Trek: The Next Generation”, at the end of “Star Trek: Voyager” they were almost a joke that depended on their Queen’s mood.

Despite the flaws, I think in “Star Trek: Voyager” there are also several good episodes, some really great, but I’ve always seen many ups and downs. It was supposed to be a show different from the others but in the end too often it lacked originality, along with the courage to have the crew in constant trouble. Consistency was also sometimes lacking: just think about Janeway, who, depending on how she woke up, rigorously followed the rules or didn’t care at all about them.

In the end, I think “Star Trek: Voyager” has more flaws than merits and is the show that marked the decline of Star Trek. It lasted seven seasons but it failed to fulfill its potential. Instead of boldly going where no one had gone before, it’s the show that started going lazily where everyone had already gone before.

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