Space - the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Voyager. Its continuing mission: not to explore strange new worlds (although we'll do that anyway), not to seek out new life and new civilizations (although we'll be doing that too), but to boldly go home (although that's not so important).
-An introduction for Voyager that the producers didn't use.
Star Trek: Voyager is something of a novelty in the Star Trek franchise. Unlike The Original Series (TOS) or The Next Generation (TNG), it's not about exploring the galaxy, but about a crew trying to survive a 75-year journey home through hostile space.
Star Trek: Voyager was launched at a time of much activity in the Star Trek universe. The most popular Star Trek series, TNG, had just ended its run after seven seasons. Work was beginning on the first TNG feature film, Star Trek Generations. Deep Space Nine (DS9) was about to begin its third season, a season of much change for that show. Into all this came Voyager.
A Maquis (more about them later) ship is being chased by Cardassians through an unstable region of space called the badlands when a giant energy wave hits them and both ships disappear. But this wasn't an ordinary Maquis ship; this ship contained a Starfleet spy, called Tuvok, from the newly commissioned starship, Voyager, under the command of Captain Janeway. When they lose contact with the ship, Voyager goes looking for it in the Badlands, and they are hit by the same energy wave.
When the crew wake up they find themselves on the other side of the galaxy, in the Delta Quadrant, and a lot of the crew have been killed. They find out that they were brought to the Delta Quadrant by a powerful being known as the Caretaker. He looks after a species known as the Ocampa from his space-station, called the Array, but he's dying and he needs a genetically compatible life-form to mate with so that the Ocampa can be looked after once he has died. So he pulls ships from all over the galaxy in his search, but he's unable to find anyone with whom he can mate.
Once he dies, a savage race, called the Kazon, try to take control of his array and the Ocampa. Janeway won't allow this to happen, so she destroys the Array, which she could have used to get Voyager home. The Maquis ship is sacrificed in the battle and its crewmembers are transported over to Voyager. The ship is now stranded and it would take 75 years at maximum warp for Voyager to get home to the Federation in the Alpha Quadrant; but they can't do that, as they need to make stops along the way for supplies, and to meet and greet the locals.
An important aspect of the first season is the attempts to integrate the Starfleet and Maquis crew into one. The Maquis are given field-commissions and Starfleet uniforms by Janeway, but they find it hard to adapt to the regimental style of a Starfleet vessel. This problem essentially disappears after the first season.
Another problem that remains is the ship's lack of supplies. Being trapped in the Delta Quadrant means that Voyager can't just go to the nearest star-base whenever she's running low on fuel; instead the crew has to buy it from other races, or find some of their own. The ship's replicators, which produce the crew's food, use up a lot of energy, so rationing is implemented. To ease this, the crew of Voyager must also find their own food.
Of course, the most important aspect of being lost far from home is the emotional impact on the crew. Every one of them has somebody that they care for, whether they're family members, friends or lovers, back in the Alpha Quadrant. Being stuck together on Voyager, the crew become close to one another and form new friendships.
By the fourth season Voyager manages to make contact with Earth, and by the sixth season they are in regular contact. It turns out that after Voyager disappeared, Starfleet assumed that the ship was destroyed, along with the Maquis ship. Informing Starfleet, and their families, that they're still alive gives the crew a much-needed morale boost.
Voyager's cast of characters was originally devised to create conflict amongst themselves, but they eventually settled down and became like family.
Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew)
Janeway is the first, and so far only, female captain of a Star Trek series. Her decision to destroy the Caretaker's Array in the pilot to protect the Ocampa is what left Voyager stranded in the Delta Quadrant, and this hangs over her head for the rest of the series. Even though they're far from home, she's unbending in her belief that they must maintain Starfleet regulations and practices. She was engaged to a man called Mark Johnson, but after Voyager disappeared, and was presumed destroyed, he moved on and married someone else, much to Janeway's dismay once she finds out in season four. She is determined to get the ship home. Janeway is also famous for having the most hair-style changes of a Star Trek series, partly due to the short hair or baldness of her male counterparts, and partly because the producers found having a female captain a scary experience!
Lt Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran)
Chakotay was the captain of the Maquis ship. When he moved to Voyager he was made the ship's first officer just to be fair, and was given the provisional rank of Lt Commander1. He is of Native American descent, but he abandoned his father and culture to join Starfleet. After the Cardassians destroyed his community, he joined the Maquis to fight against them, and got a tattoo on his face to commemorate his father. Chakotay is a highly spiritual man and is often inclined to follow his instincts. He also has, as all Native Americans do, a spirit guide who helps him in times of emotional difficulty. While on Voyager Chakotay is largely responsible for the integration of the Maquis crewmembers. He develops a close relationship with Janeway, but nothing too close.
Lt Commander Tuvok (Tim Russ)
Tuvok is a Vulcan, and not a half-Vulcan like Spock, but a full-blooded Vulcan, and over 100 years old. He initially joined Starfleet almost a century ago, left, got married, had four children, then re-enlisted. He became a good friend of Janeway, although they got off to a bad start when Tuvok was the officer in charge of listing every fault Janeway made on her first ship. Tuvok was assigned to Janeway's next ship, and she eventually came to rely on him, frequently describing him as her 'anchor'. Tuvok was an undercover agent on Chakotay's Marquis ship, something that Chakotay isn't pleased about when he finds out.
Lieutenant Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill)Paris was a Starfleet officer who was dismissed because of a piloting error that killed three people. At the trial he lied about his own part in the accident, later confessed, and it was this perjury that brought his dismissal. He then joined the Maquis to give himself something to do, but was captured on his first mission and imprisoned. Since he was a skilled pilot who knew his way around the Badlands, Janeway asked him to join Voyager on its mission to find the Maquis ship in return for a reduced sentence. When Voyager got trapped in the Delta Quadrant, he was reinstated into Starfleet by Janeway with the rank of Lieutenant2 and was made the ship's helmsman. Chakotay initially doesn't trust him for his supposed abandonment of the ship when a member of the Maquis. However, Paris was actually drawing Federation vessels away from the Maquis, resulting in his capture. Paris eventually falls in love with and marries Lieutenant Torres.
Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson)
Torres is half-Klingon and half-Human, and as a result she has small head-ridges and one hell of a temper. She dropped out of Starfleet Academy after her second year because she was too aggressive and couldn't deal with the strict rules of Starfleet. She joined the Maquis where she proved herself to be an impressive engineer. She impressed Janeway so much that she was given the job of Chief Engineer on Voyager, as the original Chief Engineer was killed when hit by the energy wave that transported the ship to the Delta Quadrant. Some officers resent this and feel that her deputy, Lieutenant Carey, a Starfleet officer, should have been given the Chief position. Torress is initially hostile towards the crew, but she gets used to life onboard the ship and marries Tom Paris in the final season, giving birth to their baby in the final episode.
Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang)
Harry is an inexperienced Ensign right out of Starfleet Academy. Voyager is his first posting, and he's not quite ready to get flung across the galaxy, far away from home (then again, who is). He works at the Operations console on the Bridge. He strikes up a close friendship with Tom Paris, and the two can often be found in the Holodeck playing Captain Proton, a fictional 1930s science-fiction adventure. Harry is also a musical genius and plays the clarinet. Music is very important to him and always something he investigates when Voyager encounters new species. Harry misses the Alpha Quadrant most out of all the Voyager characters.
The Doctor (Robert Picardo)
The Doctor is a nameless Emergency Medical Hologram. He is only meant for short-term use, but since Voyager's regular doctor was killed in the move to the Delta Quadrant, he's the only one that can treat the crew's ailments, and he's used full-time. Initially he's confined to Sickbay because there are no holo-emitters outside to support him, but in the third season he acquires a mobile emitter that gives him complete freedom. In the beginning his personality is very basic and he has a horrible bedside manner, but he betters himself and becomes an actual person. Despite working on it for seven years, he never gives himself a name3 although he toys with calling himself 'Dr Zimmerman' after his creator. However, when he actually gets to meet Dr Zimmerman, he decides that the man is too nasty and shrugs off the name.
Neelix (Ethan Philips)
Neelix is probably the second most hated character in Star Trek, right after Wesley Crusher in TNG. He's a Talaxian trader who joins Voyager's crew as a guide, then he becomes the ship's cook, then he appoints himself as morale officer, and he eventually becomes an ambassador for the ship. Talaxians are an odd-looking race that have spots and whiskers all over their faces. He can be very annoying, and is normally irritatingly happy. He has a special friendship with Tuvok4 where Neelix likes Tuvok, and Tuvok tolerates Neelix. Neelix completely fails to understand why the crew never seem to like his food, particularly his version of coffee.
Kes (Jennifer Lien)
Kes is Neelix's Ocampa girlfriend who joined him aboard Voyager, after he rescued her from the Kazon. Ocampa are an alien race that have weirdly-shaped ears. They have very short lives, with the average Ocampa living only 9 Earth years. Kes set up a hydroponics lab in one of the ship's cargo bays so that the crew can grow their own food. She also becomes the ship's nurse, a position where she grew a close friendship with The Doctor. She eventually breaks up with Neelix off-screen, much to the confusion of the fans. She develops powerful mental abilities and eventually these grow so powerful that she is forced to leave the ship, although this was possibly just an excuse to bring in someone with a bigger chest.
Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan)
Seven of Nine is the one with the big chest and the cat-suit. She was a Human girl called Annika Hansen, but she was assimilated by the Borg when she was only eight years old. The Voyager crew rescue her, and despite her initial distrust, she regains her humanity and becomes a valued member of the crew. She doesn't follow protocol like the rest of the crew, and her harsh demeanour frequently brings her into conflict with Torres. Janeway sees her as her own personal responsibility, and the two eventually strike up a close friendship. She uses her Borg knowledge to build an advanced Astrometrics lab to aid Voyager in its voyage home. Despite numerous suitors, she starts dating Chakotay in the final episode, a decision that many fans feel was unwise.
Lieutenant Joe Carey (Josh Clark): Joe Carey is a Starfleet engineer and is going to be the new Chief Engineer until Torres is given the job. He is an important recurring character in the first season; he then disappears for a while until he finally reappears in one of the final episodes only to be killed.
Ensign Hogan (Simon Billig): Hogan is a former Maquis crewmember who becomes an engineer. He's distrustful of Janeway and on more than one occasion he questions her judgement to Torres. He is killed by a giant eel while the crew is stranded on a desert planet.
Ensign Jonas (Raphael Sbarge): Jonas is a former Maquis crewmember who takes Hogan's advice and betrays Voyager to the Kazon. He's later killed after he falls into a green gas-cloud, which is the fate of all traitors.
Ensign Vorik (Alexander Enberg): Vorik is a Vulcan engineer who helps out in Engineering. He's the only recurring engineer who doesn't die over the course of the show.
Seska (Martha Hackett): Seska was a Cardassian spy on the Maquis ship who was made to look like a Bajoran. She becomes Chakotay's lover, but after working as an engineer on Voyager for some months, she then betrays the ship and joins the Kazon. She is later killed in a battle for control of the ship.
Jal Culluh (Anthony De Longis): Culluh is the leader of a Kazon sect, called the Nistrim. He repeatedly attacks Voyager in the hope of attaining their advanced technology.
Naomi Wildman (Brooke Stephens, Scarlett Pomers): Naomi is the first child born on Voyager, a Human-Ktarian hybrid.
Icheb (Manu Intiraymi): Icheb is a male Brunali teenager who was assimilated by the Borg. The crew rescues him, along with several other children, and he remains on Voyager for the journey to Earth.
Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz): Barclay was a recurring character on TNG, but he also had several appearances in Voyager as the engineer who manages to find a way to make contact with the starship Voyager.
The Borg Queen (Alice Krige, Susanna Thompson): The Borg Queen is the leader of the Borg. First seen in the TNG feature film First Contact, Voyager encounters her on several occasions during the voyage home, and it can be said that she's the show's main villain. She has the strange ability to die and keep on coming back to life.
Voyager is an Intrepid class starship. It's much smaller than the Enterprise-D in TNG, and following the leap to the Delta Quadrant is left with only 152 crew members. It's designed as a short-term exploration vessel; it's certainly not designed for a 75-year journey. The ship has an experimental computer system that uses bio-neural gel-packs, which means that the ship can catch a cold from time to time, but on the positive side the ship is eventually able to learn things by experience and develop a rudimentary personality.
Externally, Voyager is somewhat similar in design to other familiar Starfleet vessels, but it's also very different. It has a saucer section of sorts, but it's bigger and bulkier than that of other ships. The saucer section is built directly onto a star-drive section without a long thin section in between. This is tactically more logical than the Enterprises, but the ship still has its bridge at the top of the ship, making it a perfect target. Connected to the star-drive are two small warp nacelles that bend upwards if the ship is in warp mode. Although initially one may think this is just for a cool special effect, it is actually so that Voyager can exceed the 'speed limit' of warp five, without polluting the space continuum.
Every ship needs a special feature. The Enterprise-D had its saucer separation sequence. The Defiant had the ability to cloak. Voyager has the ability to land on a planet's surface and take off again (important, that). Once it nears a planet's surface, it extends four small landing-struts that manage to hold the ship up and keep it balanced despite common sense dictating that the ship should fall over due to the front of it being bigger than its back. Voyager also has a number of modifications to include alien power conservation technology as well as several pieces of Borg technology.
The ship comes with all the old weapons and defences of phasers, torpedoes and shields. One big thing about the ship in the beginning is the fact that it only has 38 torpedoes, so they need to use them sparingly. This is promptly forgotten and the ship uses at least 93 torpedoes over the course of the show.
The ship also has a limited supply of shuttles as Intrepid class ships officially only carry two small ones. Despite this, 15 are destroyed over the course of the show. To make up for all the shuttles lost, a new super-shuttle, called the Delta Flyer, is created by the crew. This shuttle is much larger and more powerful than the rest; it's so large that technically it shouldn't be able to fit inside the ship's shuttle-bay (details, details). This shuttle was destroyed in season six, and a Delta Flyer II was built off-screen.
The inside sets are decorated in the cheery colours of grey, silver and brown; a wonderful place to spend 75 years of your life. The ship's main sets are the Bridge (and adjoining rooms), Engineering, Sickbay and the Astrometrics lab.
Being stranded in the Delta Quadrant, Voyager couldn't just fall back on the traditional aliens of the other series, so they had to create their own.
The Maquis aren't technically aliens, but a collection of peoples opposed to Cardassian occupation of Federation colony worlds. You see, a peace-treaty negotiated between the Federation and the Cardassians forced the Federation to hand over some colonies to the Cardassians, and vice versa, with a demilitarised zone between the two controlled areas. However the Cardassians soon started pushing into the demilitarised zone. The Federation citizens who refused to leave the colonies were badly treated by the Cardassians, so they started a terrorist organisation called the Maquis to fight them. Some Starfleet officers were so taken by the cause that they left Starfleet to fight with the Maquis. The Maquis were successful in many of their aims and assisted the slow collapse of the Cardassian Union. They became such a major political force in the Alpha Quadrant that they were about to declare themselves an independent nation, but then the Cardassians joined the Dominion, and the Maquis were slaughtered by the Dominion's superior military power5. It's interesting to note that had the Maquis on Voyager not been transported to the Delta Quadrant, they too would more than likely have been killed. It's a blessing in disguise
The Kazon are the Delta Quadrant's inferior version of the Klingons6. They're a warrior race with have head-ridges, copper-red skin, and god-awful hair. The Kazon aren't a combined political force, but are made up of a number of sects which usually fight among themselves. They were once subjugated and used as slaves by a race called the Trabe, but they rose up against them and stole their ships and technology, forcing the Trabe to live as nomads ever since. Their technology is primitive compared to that of Voyager, and they are unable to build new ships or technology because they're barely able to understand the ships they have. They are envious of the greatly advanced Voyager and want the ship's advanced systems, such as replicators, but Janeway wont give anything to them, as it would contravene the Prime Directive. As a result, the Kazon repeatedly attack Voyager for the first two seasons.
The Hirogen are a species of hunters spread out over the Delta Quadrant. They have no government, no law, just the hunt. Voyager first encounters them in the fourth season, and they come back on several occasions. Their ships have impressive weaponry, which they need in order to hunt their prey, their prey being what tickles their fancy that week. It should be noted however that the Hirogen have a deep sense of honour and will occasionally break off a hunt if their prey proves 'unworthy' of their attention. Their continued focus on hunting is forcing them to spread further and further into space, and this will eventually lead to their extinction. In order to stop this from happening, and in order to make a peace gesture to the Hirogen, Janeway gives them holographic technology (ignoring the Prime Directive) so that they can hunt fictional prey. This follows an instance when the Hirogen manage to take over Voyager and turn the ship into a giant holodeck, forcing the crew members to participate in various historic scenarios, including the Second World War.
The Next Generation was coming to an end, and despite the fact that Deep Space Nine was still on-air, Paramount wanted another Star Trek series. Unlike TNG and DS9, Voyager wasn't going to be produced into syndication, but was going to be the flagship show of the new American station UPN. Being produced by a network meant that the creative staff on Voyager lost some of their writing freedom that they had on the other series as they would have to do what the network wanted.
Voyager was being developed by TNG's executive producers, Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor while TNG's final season was being produced, and this is part of the reason for the dip in quality of that show. Once filming on the first TNG motion picture, Star Trek Generations, was finished, the sets were torn down and Voyager was filmed in TNG's studio. While some of the TNG writing staff went over to work on DS9, which ran along-side Voyager for its first five seasons, most of them made the transfer to Voyager.
The show's first three seasons were semi-serialised and contained many recurring plot threads, especially when it came to the Kazon. But, like DS9, its ratings went down and by the end of the third season there were threats that the show might be cancelled, so the character of Seven of Nine was created in the hope that it would boost the show's ratings by bringing in younger male viewers. While some fans criticised the move, it did bring the ratings up just enough to keep it on the air.
Executive producer Michael Piller left after the show's second season, and so too did Jeri Taylor at the end of the fourth season. To replace them, in came Brannon Braga, one of the most controversial figures in Star Trek. Under his control the show's focus on characters and traditional science-fiction took a turn to more action-based episodes as a way to increase ratings. Some fans welcomed this while others thought that it was the wrong move.
The show made it to the traditional seven seasons that all Star Trek shows aspire to. For this final season, Braga handed over the executive producer-ship to Kenneth Biller so that he could focus on creating the next Star Trek series, Enterprise, with Rick Berman. The show ended its run with its final episode, 'Endgame'7, in 2001.
Like DS9 before it, Voyager too had a controversial legacy; not so much for what it did, but for what it didn't do. Whereas DS9 pushed the envelope and became a darker and grittier series than the other Star Treks, Voyager, for the most part, played it safe. For this reason, DS9 and Voyager are seen as being at the opposite ends on the fandom, with DS9 fans finding Voyager to be the weakest series, and Voyager fans finding DS9 to be the weakest 8.
Given its premise, you would have expected Voyager to be a darker series. Two crews that can barely stand one another trapped on a ship together far from home, with limited supplies, and aggressive aliens nearly everywhere they turn. You would expect that the ship would be heavily damaged with a massive loss of life by the time it got back to Earth, but Voyager is actually in better shape upon its arrival back on Earth than it was when it left. Its focus on action-driven storylines also annoys many of the long-term fans who believe that Star Trek shouldn't be about such things.
Of course, its stand-alone episode format, like TNG, makes it more acceptable to the general public, and there are some really great stand-out episodes that even the most ardent Voyager hater is forced to agree are great episodes. It's all just a matter of perspective.