The best thing was simply the privilege and the challenge of being able to take a shot at the first female captain, transcending stereotypes that I was very familiar with. I was able to do that in front of millions of viewers. That was a remarkable experience—and it continues to resonate.
Star Trek: Voyager (VOY) is a sci-fi TV series created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor (who all worked on TNG). It originally aired from JAN 1995 to MAY 2001 on the newly est. United Paramount Network (UPN), lasting for 172 episodes over 7 seasons. Paramount Pictures commissioned the series following the end of TNG to accompany the ongoing DS9. Berman served as head executive producer (EP) in charge of the overall production, assisted by a series of EPs: Piller, Taylor, Brannon Braga (who started as an intern on TNG), and Kenneth Biller. Some of Braga’s teleplays, as well as his decisions as showrunner (in this series), were considered controversial. More on that later (if I continue to review the show)…
VOY is set in the 24th century, and follows the adventures of the USS Voyager (an Intrepid class starship) as it tries to return home (Earth) after being stranded in the Delta Quadrant (the other side of the galaxy). It was the first of the franchise w/ a female captain as lead character, Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew). Racial diversity was built-in from the start, as the studio wanted; the ensemble cast was made-up of Latinos (Robert Beltran; Roxann Dawson), a Black actor as a Vulcan (Tim Russ- the runner-up for LaForge on TNG), and a Chinese-American newcomer to acting (Garrett Wang). I learned that Dawson grew up w/ Shatner’s daughters; she was formerly married to actor Casey Biggs (best known as Damar on DS9). The conflicted relationship between Starfleet and former Federation colonists living along the Demilitarized Zone (the Maquis) is explored. Viewers see new alien species as recurring characters, but some familiar adversaries also show up. Being so far from the Federation (75 yrs), Voyager is truly going where no one has gone before!
I will take full responsibility for any flawed or downright bad storytelling or creative decisions that hurt the franchise. –Brannon Braga (2010)
The show was shot on the stages TNG had used. Costume designer Robert Blackman decided that the uniforms of crew would be the same as those on DS9. Jerry Goldsmith composed and conducted a new main theme (which is OK, but not as cool as the one for DS9). This was the first ST series to use CGI, rather than models, for exterior space shots.
Series Premiere (Caretaker, Parts I & II)
In the pilot ep, USS Voyager departs the DS9 space station on a mission into the Badlands. They’re searching for a missing ship piloted by a team of Maquis; Voyager‘s security officer, Lt. Tuvok (Russ), is on board gathering intelligence. While in the Badlands, Voyager is enveloped by a powerful energy wave that kills several crew members, damages the ship, and strands it in the Delta Quadrant. The wave was not a natural phenomenon; it was used by an alien entity (the Caretaker). This entity is responsible for the continued care of the Ocampa (a race of aliens native to the Delta Quadrant) and has been abducting other species from in an effort to find a successor.
The Maquis ship was also pulled into the Delta Quadrant; eventually, the two crews join forces after the Caretaker’s space array is destroyed in a battle w/ a local alien species (the Kazon). Chakotay (Beltran), the leader of this Maquis group who left Starfeet to protect his home colony, becomes first officer. B’Elanna Torres (Biggs-Dawson), a half-human/half-Klingon who dropped out of Starfleet Academy, is assigned engineering. Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeil), a pilot released from a Federation prison, is the helm officer. Harry Kim (Wang) is the young ensign on his first mission. The Doctor (Robert Picardo), an emergency medical hologram (EMH) meant for short-term use, is employed as the ship’s F/T chief medical officer. Also, two Delta Quadrant aliens are on board- Neelix (Ethan Phillips), a Talaxian scavenger- and Kes (Jennifer Lien), a young Ocampa.
Capt. Janeway: We’re alone – in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We’ve already made some friends here… and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we’re going to face. But one thing is clear: both crews are going to have to work together if we’re to survive. That’s why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew – a Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet vessel assigned to the Delta Quadrant, we’ll continue to follow our directive: to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take 75 years to reach the Federation. But I’m not willing to settle for that. There’s another entity like the Caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We’ll be looking for her. And we’ll be looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere, along this journey, we’ll find a way back.
Season 1: Selected Episodes
Episode 2: Parallax
Repairs are underway and it’s time to pick personnel for senior crew positions. Tensions are high as the (disciplined) Starfleet crew absorbs the (go your own way) Maquis members. Neelix finds his place as chef and Kes builds the airponics bay. Paris is the Conn Officer and also trains as a field medic w/ the EMH. Chakotay recommends Torres for Chief Engineer, but Janeway isn’t convinced (b/c of the woman’s hot temper). All must put opinions aside when they mount a rescue of a ship caught in a quantum singularity, only to find the ship in distress is Voyager itself.
Cmdr. Chakotay: You’re right, Captain, I do consider these my people, because nobody else on this ship will look out for them like I will. And I’m telling you: you’re gonna have to give them more authority if you want their loyalty.
Capt. Janeway: Theirs? Or yours, Commander?
The ep starts (cold open) w/ a man in the yellow Starfleet uniform exclaiming in Sick Bay that “she broke my nose!” No, it’s not the captain, it’s Torres- she has a hard time controlling her temper. It turns out that she’s a gifted engineer also; in one meeting scene, Torres and Janeway get very excited re: science. Now, this isn’t the kind of scene you see everyday on TV! Later on, Janeway and Torres go out on a shuttlecraft to gather more info; we learn that some of the teachers at the Academy saw potential in Torres (though she didn’t realize it).
Episode 5: Phage
With dilithium reserves running low, Janeway follows Neelix’s advice and proceeds to the nearest supply. When they arrive in orbit, scans reveal a massive supply. When the away team transports down to the planet, there is none there. Cmdr. Chakotay orders the away team back to Voyager but before they return, Neelix is attacked by an alien (Vidiian) who removes his lungs! The Vidiians are potentially quite scary villains w/ advanced tech. The EMH then comes up with a solution – holographic lungs, but this means that Neelix has to stay in a restraint. Capt. Janeway along with Cmdr. Tuvok and a security attachment return to the planet to find the alien. They make a gruesome discovery- a lab full of alien organs!
Capt. Janeway: Take a message to your people: if I ever encounter your kind again, I will do whatever is necessary to protect my people from this… harvesting of yours. Any aggressive actions against this ship or its crew will be met by the deadliest force. Is that clear?
Episode 6: Eye of the Needle
[Telek R’Mor has admitted to not having seen his family for over a year]
Capt. Janeway: You must miss your family very much.
Telek R’Mor: I knew, when I accepted this assignment, that there would be a price to pay. Perhaps I didn’t realize how high that price would be.
The crew detects a wormhole and immediately changes course w/ hopes it will provide a faster passage home. Upon reaching the opening, the find it to be too small for the ship, but large enough to establish contact w/ a ship in the Alpha Quadrant. This is the first appearance of veteran ST guest actor Vaughn Armstrong in this series. He is playing the Romulan captain/scientist; he played Klingons and Cardassians in TNG and DS9.
This is the best ep of the (lackluster) S1 of the series. Like most new shows, the first few eps are a bit unclear, w/ characters still coming into their own and the writing lacking depth. Some critics/fans commented that these problems are esp. true of genre shows; the first seasons of TNG and DS9 weren’t impressive. Janeway’s talk at night (in a pink nightgown) w/ the Romulan is esp. well done; she gets the chance to talk to a peer and has some hope for the future.
The captain of the Romulan science vessel is named Telek (played by Vaughn Armstrong) in one of the most sympathetic portrayals of a Romulan in recent memory. Telek isn’t your typical villain personality, he’s a real person. Initially, he’s not forthcoming with assistance. He’s suspicious, and severely doubts Janeway’s claims that Voyager is transmitting from the Delta Quadrant. He wonders what a Federation ship could possibly gain from pretending to be in the Delta Quadrant.
-Excerpt from Jammer’s Reviews
Janeway is the most sympathetic and sincere captain that we have been presented with throughout all the series, and I feel that in her talk to the Romulan about the crew wanting to make contact with their families.
The best Star Trek makes you feel some emotion and this one succeeds in that regard.
-Excerpt from IMDB review
Episode 10: Prime Factors
Voyager makes friends with the Sikarians, a hospitable/pleasure-seeking alien race who value stories. When Janeway realizes they have the ability to “fold” space (instantly transporting people 40,000 light years), she is desperate for the technology. The Sikarians’ leaders, Gath, explains that their law forbids sharing their tech. Several Maquis refuse to give up on this chance to get over halfway home and try to make a trade. There are a few scenes where Gath (who comes off as too forward and a a bit creepy) is trying to get close to Janeway; some fans commented that the casting was off.
Capt. Janeway: It’s the first time we’ve been on the other side of the fence.
Lt. Tom Paris: What fence?
Capt. Janeway: The one that’s made of binding principles. We have our own set of rules, which includes the Prime Directive. How many times have we been in the position of refusing to interfere when some kind of disaster threatened an alien culture? It’s all very well to say we do it on the basis of an enlightened principle. But how does that feel to the aliens? I’m sure many of them think the Prime Directive is a lousy idea.
This ep’s writing was nominated for a Sci-Fi Universe Award. David R. George III and Eric A. Stillwell (freelancers) wrote an original story where the crew encountered the race that had dispatched Gary Seven in TOS: Assignment: Earth; they’d boasted transporter technology that could transport people over thousands of light-years. The events of this ep represent the second time (besides the premiere) that Voyager’s crew encounters the possibility of returning home.
 A very philosophical episode and one wonders if the Captain would still have been disappointed if the device had worked. But then when do the ends justify the means? Tough call.
 The crew really becomes human for this episode, almost sacrificing their personal bill of rights.
-Excerpts from IMDB reviews
Episode 11: State of Flux
Voyager answers a distress call from a Kazon-Nistrim ship, finding all but one of the crew dead in an explosion. Investigation reveals that the Kazon were experimenting w/ Federation tech (perhaps acquired from a traitor on the ship)! While discussing if Seska could be a Cardassian agent, Tuvok mentions that Starfleet has documented several cases of Cardassians using cosmetic alterations for the purposes of infiltrating an enemy (shown repeatedly in DS9). In this ep, we learn that Seska (Martha Hackett) and Chakotay are former lovers; she wishes to rekindle the romance (but he doesn’t).
Cmdr. Chakotay: The one thing I still can’t understand is… why?
Seska: I did it for you. I did it for this crew. We are alone here, at the mercy of any number of hostile aliens, because of the incomprehensible decision of a Federation captain – a Federation captain who destroyed our only chance to get home. Federation rules. Federation nobility. Federation compassion? Do you understand, if this had been a Cardassian ship, we would be home now! We must begin to forge alliances. To survive, we must have powerful friends. The Kazon-Nistrim were willing to be our protectors, in return for some minor technology.
It’s very unusual to see a villain in a Starfleet uniform, but this is a new world! Torres also feels betrayed by Seska- they were friends. Some viewers commented that (in a way) Seska could be right; Federation ways may not work in this area. Why wasn’t she put in the brig after they learned the truth? She just beamed out of sick bay so easily!
The exterior scenes of the cold open were filmed at Bronson Caves in Bronson Canyon. The leola root that was collected on the planet was made from a painted ginger root (as I assumed) w/ some additions to make it look more alien. The headdress that First Maje Cullah (Anthony De Longis) wore was mostly made out of sponges and dog chew toys- LOL! Torres’ line re: not exaggerating is a call-back to Scotty’s habit of exaggeration (which led to his becoming known as a miracle worker on TOS).
Beyond the Seska reveal we do get some good character development scenes. An early scene with Chakotay being a stickler about honesty in regards to the theft of the mushroom soup. Captain Janeway being a bad ass with the following quote directed at the Kazon, “I don’t like bullies, I don’t like threats and I don’t like you…” We get more Tuvok development as a dogged investigator who plans out a clever trap with the help of Chakotay.
-Excerpt from IMDB review
Episode 13: Faces
Lts. Paris, Torres, and Durst are imprisoned by the Vidiians. In an attempt to develop a cure for the phage, a Vidiian doctor splits Torres into two people (one Klingon and one Human) b/c he believes Klingons are immune to the Phage. The two escape the prison, but the Klingon Torres is fatally injured protecting the Human while she cracks the computer to escape. Before her death, the Klingon Torres tells her Human half that showing courage makes her death honorable. The Doctor tells the Human Torres that she will not survive unless he re-integrates her Klingon DNA.
Cmdr. Chakotay: I’d have to say that you two made quite a team down there.
Human B’Elanna Torres: I know. I came to admire a lot of things about her. Her strength – her bravery… I guess, I just have to accept the fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting with her.
Tackling the ep was one of the first duties assigned to Kenneth Biller after he joined the writing staff. This ep was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Individual Achievement in Makeup for a Series. Dawson dealt with the separation of her character’s personality, not only in her own mind, but also with copies of the episode’s script. She said, “I had two scripts, one labeled ‘The Klingon’ and the other labeled ‘The Human’. I went through each script, treated both as two totally separate people.”