Cut to Captain Kathryn Janeway, who is visiting a Federation criminal rehabilitation facility in New Zealand. She meets with inmate Tom Paris, an ex-Maquis member, and informs him that one of her officers, Tuvok, has vanished whilst attempting to penetrate the Maquis. Since Tuvok's target was a terrorist cell led by Chakotay, Paris's former commander in the Maquis, Janeway wants to enlist his help on the mission to find Tuvok. Paris agrees, and the two head off to Deep Space Nine. Here the crew of Janeway's brand new ship, USS Voyager, are assembling and enjoying the sights of the station. We meet young Ensign Kim, a brand new Academy graduate on his first assignment, who narrowly avoids being ripped off by Quark thanks to Paris's help. The two report aboard Voyager and meet Janeway before the ship heads out into the Badlands. Ensign Kim is warned off about Paris - in his time at the Academy he was involved in a stunt that killed some cadets, and then after leaving topped that off by becoming a terrorist who was captured on his very first mission. Despite the warning Kim offers friendship to Paris.
Voyager is not a huge ship - with fifteen decks, massing 700,000 tons, and a crew of around 150, the ship is closer in size to Kirk's Enterprise than Picard's.
They head into the plasma storms and quickly encounter the same energy wave Chakotay did earlier. The wave sweeps them across space, badly damaging Voyager and inflicting many casualties. The ship barely survives, with the emergency medical hologram being activated to replace the dead chief medical officer. The crew find a huge space station near their location, but before they can react a mysterious force beams the entire crew away. We see them in a rural "waiting area", but when they try to find out what is going on they are quickly transferred to a medical facility of some sort and we see them being subjected to some kind of experiments before they are returned to the ship - only with Ensign Kim missing.
The Maquis ship is nearby and Janeway quickly captured it and offers to negotiate with the crew. Chakotay beams aboard to talk, along with Janeway's missing officer, Tuvok. We learn that a Maquis officer, Torres, is also missing and the two crews agree to work together to find their missing people. They try going back to the alien space station but the being they meet in the waiting room declares that he hasn't time to help them, and beams them back. Seeing the array sending energy pulses towards a nearby planet, Voyager heads there to investigate.
On the way they encounter a debris field where the scavenger Neelix is working. He has heard stories like their before, and knows the local area, so they take him aboard to act as a local guide. In exchange they offer water, apparently a rare and valuable thing in this region of space. Neelix calls the alien on the space station The Caretaker, which is what the Ocampa, residents of the planet they are headed for, call him. He takes them to the planet and they beam down to find the Kazon-Ogla living on the devastated, arid surface. The Kazon are holding a young Ocampan girl prisoner, and Neelix demands she be released. Janeway goes along, freeing the girl and beaming them back to Voyager. She's unhappy that Neelix apparently misled her, but Neelix says that the Ocampa city deep underground is likely where the missing people are being kept. And indeed they are; both Kim and Torres are in the city, being held there by the natives. Their bodies are decorated with strange blisters, a result of the medical experiments by the Caretaker. Janeway is able to penetrate the Ocampan city with the help of Kes and they rescue Kim and Torres and begin to make their way out. Tuvok arrives at a theory : The Caretaker was responsible for some ecological disaster on the planet which destroyed its ability to produce rain. He dedicated himself to caring for the surviving Ocampa natives, building their underground city. But now he is old, near death; he has been bringing species from across the galaxy to experiment on them because he is looking for a way to reproduce himself. Unsuccessful, he has used the energy blasts to top up the city's reserves as much as he can to preserve them for as long as possible after his death.
As the Caretaker dies the Kazon, sensing a chance to get control of the technology on his station, bring in ships to attack. Voyager and Chakotay's ship defend the station, but the Maquis vessel is badly damaged. Chakotay beams his crew to Voyager and makes a suicide run on a big Kazon ship, damaging it badly. On the station Tuvok finds a way to send Voyager back... but leaving the station intact will give the Kazon massive power, letting them destroy the Ocampa and who knows what else. Unable to fight the Kazon off and unwilling to leave, Janeway beams back to Voyager and blasts the station into pieces. The Kazon curtly inform her that she has made an enemy, and depart.
Janeway sums up their situation to the crew; 70,000 light years from home, they are 70 years away from the Federation. They have no choice but to head back the long way, but she assures them the two crews will combine and work together, searching for anomalies, wormholes, new technologies, anything that might help them. So beings the epic quest of the USS Voyager.
There are also issues inherent to the story. For one, the Kazon. We know looking back that they simply didn't work, in the long run, but to honest they didn't work even on first meeting. When we meet them they're living in rags, in a desert settlement more primitive than most places you'll find in the 20th century. They have no transporters, a technology the Federation has had for over two centuries. Hell they can't even produce water for themselves. Think of this; in Voyager's time the food replicator is basic, everyday technology, their equivalent of your DVD player or printer... and it's utterly beyond the Kazon. Is this really what the writers though would make a big threat for Voyager?
And of course we have the most infamous issue with the pilot; Janeway's dilemma is that she actually finds a way to send the ship back, but if she does then the Kazon will seize the Array and gain all that lovely power and technology. So she blows it up, stranding herself. And Trek fandom did raise it's unified voice to the heavens and cry "well why not leave a few photons behind on a timer to go off after you leave, then?"
Ahem. Yeah, end of problem right there. One COULD suggest that Janeway thought the Kazon would disable such devices before they could go off (although they don't know what a transporter is, can they handle a photon torpedo with any certainty?)
You could solve this problem; I would have Tuvok work out a theoretical way of using the technology whilst still at the planet, and then head back to the array to use it only to find the Kazon already aboard, already establishing control. Have THEM offer to use Tuvok's method to send Voyager home to get it out the way; Janeway then can only accept the Kazon offer or fight. And in destroying the array with many Kazon already aboard, we have a more believable reason for the Kazon to hate Voyager for years afterwards.
But there is the more fundamental problem with Voyager, which is this : the show was set up to show the crew as failing. They want to get home; every episode where they don't get home is one where they have failed. Every episode where they do something OTHER than try to get hom is one where you question their motives. They toss off a bland "we're supposed to be explorers" line every now and again, but no, you are NOT supposed to be explorers in this situation, you're supposed to be trying to get home. Voyager's constant stopping off at every nebula, every primitive planet... it may be necessary to set up stories, but it makes it look like they aren't especially keen to be on their way home. And of course, all those times when ways home were dangled and then lost... it just makes the crew look incompetent. In TOS and TNG the ship might deal with the unexplained well or they might do it badly, but the mere fact that they encountered it at all and lived to tell the tale means that the crew are fulfilling their stated mission. Voyager is set up from day one so that the crew will fail in their stated mission, every single episode - because even one success would mean the end of the show.
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