The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Caretaker

When a Maquis ship containing an undercover Starfleet officer goes missing in the Badlands, Captain Kathryn Janeway and her new starship Voyager decide to go after him. However, both Voyager and the Maquis are transported 70,000 light-years away from Federation space, to the distant Delta Quadrant. There, a mysterious alien named the Caretaker seems desperate for something from the crew, but what, exactly? And can the technology used to bring them there also be used to send everyone home?

Deep Space Nine has come to an end, and it’s finally time to venture out into the unknown with the much maligned fourth Star Trek series, Voyager. Voyager was ground-breaking at the time for having a female captain at the helm – indeed, they had to audition men as well because some people believed it was beyond a woman’s abilities to even play a starship captain on TV. However, whether through unconscious bias or otherwise, Voyager has earned its fair share of detractors – but is the hate really justified? I’ve never thought so, but now I’ll be seeing how well the series has withstood the test of time.

The first episode is of course the usual double-length, but it still has a lot to pack in. There are nine new characters to introduce, not to mention a whole new quadrant of space, filled with races we’ve never seen before. When it comes down to it, the main story is rather creepy – the Caretaker is abducting aliens from all over the galaxy in order to find someone to procreate with – but aside from the whole space rape thing, it’s not a bad episode. There’s a good amount of characterisation, plenty of action scenes, and the beginning of two new themes for the new series. One is obviously the drive to get home – the opposite of the outward facing nature of the Enterprise missions and DS9’s Gamma Quadrant exploration, and the other is the assimilation of the Maquis into a Starfleet crew. This second strand never really gets the attention it deserves, but luckily there is plenty going on in the Delta Quadrant nonetheless.

Characters

  • Captain Kathryn Janeway is a former science officer who is now captain of Voyager (we say ‘the Enterprise’, ‘the Defiant’, etc, but rarely ever say ‘the Voyager’). Her keenness and expertise in the field of science will drive her interests over the coming years, whilst her Starfleet morals will be sorely tested.
    At the start of the series, Janeway leaves behind both a fiancé and a pregnant dog.
  • Commander Chakotay is a Maquis commander who becomes first officer of Voyager. He previously left Starfleet in order to defend his homeworld from Cardassian intrusion. He is scrupulously loyal and fair, and values his Native American heritage.
  • Lieutenant Tuvok is the Vulcan chief of security and second officer. His logic and strict adherence to the rules can often cause friction with other crewmembers, whilst his undercover work with the Maquis give them extra reason to distrust him. Tuvok is also the first black Vulcan to be seen on Star Trek, which was quite a big deal at the time.
  • Lieutenant Tom Paris joins the ship as an observer with knowledge of the Maquis, but later gets the field rank of Lieutenant and becomes helm officer. Paris’s past is based on that of the actor’s TNG character Nick Locarno, but it was cheaper to make up a new character than pay the writers of The First Duty royalties for every episode of Voyager in which Locarno would have appeared.
    Like Locarno, Paris was in Starfleet until he was involved in a piloting accident for which he was responsible. All would have been well if he’d just kept quiet, but a guilty conscience caused him to confess. Upon leaving Starfleet, he joined the Maquis, only to get caught on his first mission. At the start of the episode, he is serving in a Federation penal colony in New Zealand.
    Paris’s father is a Starfleet admiral; Janeway previously served under Paris senior as his science officer.
  • Ensign Harry Kim is the typical wet-behind-the-ears ensign who has just joined as operations officer on his first mission. He swiftly befriends resident ‘bad boy’ Paris, forming a friendship that would last for many years.
  • B’Elanna Torres is a half-Klingon, half-human Starfleet Academy dropout who ends up serving with Chakotay’s Maquis cell. Her Klingon temper has caused her many difficulties and issues with authority over the years. She will be given the field rank of lieutenant and become chief engineer in upcoming episodes.
  • The Doctor is the ship’s Emergency Medical Hologram, who must serve as the ship’s physician after the human doctor is killed. He is currently terse and difficult to work with, but his character will see a major evolution over the course of the series.
  • Neelix is a Talaxian trader who helps Voyager to rescue their missing crewmembers, and later talks his way into a permanent position on board. He claims that his knowledge of the Delta Quadrant will be vital to the Voyager crew, and will later settle down into the roles of ship’s cook, morale officer and self-proclaimed ambassador. He is always quite possibly the most annoying regular character in Star Trek.
  • Kes is an Ocampan, and Neelix’s girlfriend. She has never left her home planet before, and is keen to explore. She will later take on the role of ship’s nurse.

New alien races

  • The Caretaker is a member of an unnamed species from another galaxy. When his people accidentally ruined the Ocampan homeworld, he was one of two individuals assigned to stay behind and look after them. The second Caretaker abandoned her post, but will be seen in season two. Spoiler: she doesn’t send Voyager home.
  • The Ocampa are a race of aliens who have an average lifespan of just nine years (Kes is fully grown at a year old). They used to be self-sufficient and have significant telepathic and telekinetic powers, but these have atrophied as their society became completely dependent on the Caretaker.
  • The Talaxians are currently solely represented by Neelix, so there’s not much to say about them so far.
  • The Kazon-Ogla are a tribe of the Kazon species, who have an interstellar gang culture. Each gang aggressively defends its resources. The Kazon are one of my least favourite enemy races, but fortunately are only really around for the first couple of seasons.

Other points

  • Just as Picard had a cameo in Emissary, Caretaker sees Voyager commence its journey from DS9. Kim and Paris have a run-in with Quark at his bar, where Morn and Broik can also be spotted.
  • Whilst I’m willing to accept that the Caretaker’s people may have ruined the atmosphere of the Ocampa homeworld, what does it really mean to have no nucleogenic particles in the atmosphere? Yes, water droplets usually form around a bit of dust or grit, but such particles are clearly still present on the planet. There must surely have been a more plausible throwaway sentence to explain the situation.
  • This is just one planet that doesn’t have much in the way of fresh water – given the relative density of habitable planets in the Star Trek universe, are you really telling me that there is nowhere else Neelix or the Kazon-Ogla could take their starships in order to find water or ice?
  • Replicator and transporter technology does not appear to exist in this part of the Delta Quadrant.
  • Why do both Spock and B’Elanna act as if their mixed heritage means they are two separate racial identities struggling for control over a single body? I’m mixed race, and I feel like one person with one coherent personality.
  • Why does Harry’s tricorder detect only Vulcan and human lifesigns on the Array when B’Elanna (half Klingon) and presumably Seska (Bajoran/actually Cardassian) are both present?

Summary – Caretaker: In which a powerful alien abducts and rapes individuals from across the galaxy in a desperate attempt to create a child born into lifetime servitude.

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