Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager



Air date: 1/16/1995
Teleplay by Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Story by Rick Berman & Michael Piller & Jeri Taylor
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Gentleman, welcome aboard Voyager. Mister Kim, at ease before you sprain something." — Janeway

A commendable start for the cast and crew of Star Trek: Voyager gives the new series a chance to establish its identity. While the drama isn't quite as striking as "Emissary," the Deep Space Nine pilot of two years ago, "Caretaker" serves its primary purpose first and foremost—very successfully launching the new USS Voyager and its substantial cast of nine with an entertaining but not entirely spectacular story. The episode is solid, with first-rate production qualities and special effects.

"Caretaker" begins with a renegade Maquis ship being chased by Cardassians through the Badlands. After narrowly escaping them, the Maquis ship becomes caught in a mysterious energy pattern. Starfleet designates the ship as missing, and sends a ship to search for it. Not just any ship, but the USS Voyager—a sleek, fast and powerful new Intrepid class starship with some interesting features and improved computer technology. (For the record, this new vessel bears the registry NCC-74656.)

The Voyager is commanded by Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), who enters the episode on Earth where she recruits prison inmate Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill) to help track down his Maquis former-allies. The Voyager begins its search of the Badlands after a quick stop at Deep Space Nine. On the station we meet fresh-out-of-the-academy Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang), an inexperienced but mature "kid" with a good head on his shoulders.

Paris has a bit of a tarnished past and bad reputation. In less-than-subtle ways, several senior staff members display their distaste of him by giving him the cold shoulder at every turn. Officially labeled an "observer" with no rank, Paris is faced with life aboard a ship that hates him. Kim, of open mind, gives Paris the benefit of the doubt and accepts him as a friend, opening the door for the first friendship aboard this series' Federation starship.

In the Badlands, the same energy pattern that grabbed the Maquis ship also takes the Voyager by surprise, causing some serious damage and heavy casualties. The first officer, doctor, and chief engineer are all killed by the impact. This leaves the emergency holographic doctor (Robert Picardo) in charge of all medical situations, for which there are plenty.

After stabilizing the situation and assessing damage as best possible, the crew discovers they have traveled over 70,000 light years to the Delta Quadrant—at maximum warp it would take them 75 years to reach Federation space. The Voyager finds the missing Maquis ship orbiting a mysterious array that kidnaps both ships' crews and performs experiments on them. Three days later, the two crews awake on their respective ships. One member from each crew is missing. Kim is missing from the Voyager, and Maquis engineer B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Biggs-Dawson) is missing from the Maquis vessel.

The two crews decide they must work together to find a way back to the Alpha Quadrant. Janeway leads an away team back onto the array along with Maquis leader Chakotay (Robert Beltran), a Native American who left Starfleet on principle, and Voyager security chief Tuvok (Tim Russ, supplying the first regular Vulcan role on Star Trek since the original Spock), who unbeknownst to Chakotay had infiltrated his Maquis group to arrest them.

On the array, the away team meets a mysterious lifeform known as the Caretaker, who tells them they were probed for medical information in his search for a compatible replacement. The Caretaker is dying, and he needs someone to take his place to oversee the welfare of the Ocampa, a race of humanoids who live on a nearby planet. Further, the away team learns that Kim and Torres were sent to this planet for further study as potential Caretaker replacements.

Janeway sets a course for the Ocampa's planet. On the way, the Voyager encounters a space-junkyard owner named Neelix (Ethan Phillips), from a race known as the Talaxians. In exchange for a supply of water (a very limited resource in this quadrant), he agrees to guide them to the Ocampa homeworld and help them deal with the Kazon, an unfriendly race who has claim in nearby areas of space. By the way, no one in this quadrant has transporter technology, which gives the Voyager an edge in several instances.

Meanwhile, Torres and Kim are analyzed by the Ocampa, who, based on their inferior medical knowledge, inform Torres and Kim that their chances for survival are slim. The only realistic goal is to get off the planet and seek treatment in the Voyager's sickbay.

Around this time, Janeway and her team beams down to the Ocampa planet's surface, but can't get into the Ocampa's underground cities, which are surrounded by force fields to prevent Kazon intruders from robbing the planet of its resources. Here, the away team is met by an aggressive Kazon force holding a young Ocampa woman hostage. Using water as a negotiation item, Neelix (who has obviously had dealings with these Kazon before) distracts the Kazon leader and then turns on them. He rescues the Ocampa woman, who is actually his intimate companion Kes (Jennifer Lien).

Kes knows of access tunnels which may allow Voyager to rescue Kim and Torres. At the same time, an Ocampa helps Kim and Torres to these same tunnels in their attempt to get to the surface. The rescue attempt is successful, complete with earthquakes and collapsing bridges, and a scene where Paris saves Chakotay from falling to his death in an attempt to show a good gesture for his earlier betrayal of the Maquis. This action scene is okay, but sabotaged by an all-too-quiet, unexciting score by Jay Chattaway.

As the crew beams back aboard the ship, they are confronted by Kazon warships which attack them. Janeway and Tuvok beam onto the array again to talk to the Caretaker, whose imminent death is marked by his last wish that Voyager destroy the array to prevent the Kazon from using it to conquer the Ocampa. Unfortunately this would mean no way for the Voyager to return to the Alpha Quadrant.

Meanwhile, Voyager and the Maquis ship battle the Kazon is some well-done pyrotechnic numbers. Best of all is the spectacular Kamikaze attack Chakotay runs with his Maquis ship toward the large Kazon ship, beaming out the moment before the collision which destroys both ships. This is a great, exciting effect.

Janeway returns to the Voyager and destroys the array, which makes instant enemies of the Kazon who attempted to claim it as theirs. They withdraw, however, leaving the fight for another day. With the array destroyed, the Voyager has no quick way back to the Alpha Quadrant. Their new mission becomes the voyage home, but not without exploring this vast, unknown region on the way.

"Caretaker" does what it's supposed to. This show does an excellent job of introducing its characters and giving them all something to do. It's remarkable how much we learn about everybody. The combining of the Starfleet and Maquis crews promises to show friction in future episodes. At the same time, the writers introduce some friendly aliens (the Ocampa), and some enemies (the Kazon) right off the bat. It's a very good way to jump-start the series, and there's the feeling that with these two short hours, the series has already done a great deal in establishing its tone.

However, there are some fundamental situations about the show that aren't set up nearly as well as they could've been. For example, the Ocampa's introduction is nice, but why is it Janeway sides with them so easily? It's really hard to feel sympathetic toward the Ocampa when we hardly know them, and the writers really give no reason to care, unless we automatically accept what the Caretaker says about the Ocampa and the Kazon. Making the Ocampa look like cute, innocent, elves alone is not enough. It would've been nice to know more about them.

For that matter, why does Janeway decide to destroy the array, sacrificing the only reasonable way home, based solely on the Caretaker's wishes? Tuvok is quick to point out that this is a Prime Directive issue. It's clear, he says, that it is not up to Voyager to see that the Ocampa are safeguarded from the Kazon. So why does Janeway decide to "interpret" the Prime Directive some other way? She says something like, "We didn't ask to be involved, but we are." This line is weak and vague. It really doesn't mean anything if you think about it. Yet Janeway destroys the array and makes enemies with the Kazon because the Ocampa need to be protected. This is very noble, but hard to understand based on everything Star Trek lore says about the Prime Directive. I would have no problem with it if the writers would have found a better way of explaining it. Instead it seems very much like an arbitrary decision.

Most troubling however is Janeway's selection of Chakotay as first officer. I don't disagree with her decision. I just don't understand why the writers don't explain why she decided to make him second in command. There is no real explanation; just a passing reference to it when she names Paris a Lieutenant. The scene where she gives Paris rank and duty is good, but it's bothersome that there isn't a similar scene for Chakotay. When we're going to live with this decision for the entire series, it would be nice to know where it comes from.

Aside from these quibbles, I liked "Caretaker." Voyager shows promise with its action, adventure, exploration, and characters. While this isn't the best Trek to hit the screen, it does the job quite nicely.

Next episode: Parallax

Season Index

43 comments on this review

AJ Koravkrian - Sat, Nov 17, 2007 - 9:07pm (USA Central)
Apparently, delayed activation of weapons is non-existent in the 24th century.
Russell - Tue, Jul 29, 2008 - 5:47am (USA Central)
Every time I rewatch "Caretaker", it gets a little worse. I don't like the Kazon and it's a little silly that they have interstellar ships, but can't find any water. I also don't like Janeway's decision for stranding the crew. I don't have a problem with that as the outcome, but it could've been played out better.
NoPoet - Tue, Feb 24, 2009 - 7:34am (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this episode and found it to be the best of the Trek premiers. I love DS9 but I have seen "Emissary" several times and find it slightly boring, I just can't get into it. It is far, far better than the opening TNG episode which is -- let's face it -- an embarrassment. On the other hand "Caretaker" was an excellent start to Voyager, with a depth of characterisation that would not be followed up by subsequent episodes, particularly for Chakotay who is a proper badarse in this episode. I liked the slightly devastated feeling of being stranded so far from home with zero notice. Janeway's decision was flawed and there is no explanation as to why Voyager is carrying illegal weapons, or why they couldn't simply rig the station to explode after they used it to get home, but if you overlook these (admittedly very important) flaws, you get something special.
Chris H - Sun, Mar 1, 2009 - 12:29pm (USA Central)
I've never understood why Voyager has tri-cobalt warheads in caretaker, but never uses them again in ANY episode. I also find Janeway annoying in early episodes and somewhat like a cardboard cutout. I think as her hair goes down her characterization goes up, she becomes motherly and caring in later seasons and i think that does her good. The episode itself does have a good premise, but the whole Kazon Nistrom idea is dull, all the aliens introduced here are boring and I couldnt understand why they had such boring storylines..but im going off topic here.
one place where voyager always failed was the US-only zone, no characters from any other countries were in it. even the aliens were american, the caretaker was american the kazon and ocampa are american...annoying :/
stallion - Wed, Jun 24, 2009 - 10:50pm (USA Central)
After they filmed this episode they should had given the series and franchise over to Ronald D. Moore.
Nic - Thu, Oct 8, 2009 - 10:23am (USA Central)
I would give "Caretaker" 3.5 stars and "Emissary" 3 stars. While the opening scene of "Emissary" was emotionally poignant, and the episode did a good job of introducing the characters, nothing much of note happened and there were a lot of redundant scenes. "Caretaker", however, did the perfect job of introducing the characters AND telling a good story.
I completely disagree with Ron D. Moore's statement that the Maquis should have refused to wear Starfleet uniforms. The Maquis have only been around for about six months at this point, and most of them are former Starfleet officers, so they're not stupid. They know that it would be ridiculous to let border conflicts from the other side of the galaxy hinder their survival in this uncharted part of space.
Moore's other often-quoted idea was that the whole series should have been like "Year of Hell", and while that was a good episode, 170 more fo the same would have made for a very depressing show, one I would not have been interested in watching. I like Star Trek for its positive depiction of life in the future, not to see a galaxy populated with hostile aliens.
Jake - Mon, Jan 25, 2010 - 8:28pm (USA Central)
I still crack up when I recall how Neelix was predicted to be this series 'breakout character'-and how the result was the same as that of his spiritual brother Jar Jar Binks
Bad Horse - Wed, Jun 2, 2010 - 4:00pm (USA Central)
"Moore's other often-quoted idea was that the whole series should have been like "Year of Hell", and while that was a good episode, 170 more fo the same would have made for a very depressing show, one I would not have been interested in watching. I like Star Trek for its positive depiction of life in the future, not to see a galaxy populated with hostile aliens."

But that's exactly what Voyager gave us, isn't it? A whole quadrant full of hostile aliens. There are 170-some Voyager episodes and the majority of them (especially after season 3 or so) conclude with a ship-to-ship firefight. And the violence is pointless, generally. It's always because one side or the other has been hardheaded. It's always weightless, too, because no major characters are ever hurt for long, the ship is usually shiny by the beginning of the next episode, and we never, EVER see any real consequences to Voyager's actions. If that's what passes for an optimistic future - meaningless violence with little hope of resolution - count me out.
Nic - Tue, Nov 2, 2010 - 11:28am (USA Central)
Bad Horse, you are absoloutely correct. I didn't mean to say that Voyager couldn't have been better, of course it could have. Voyager's premise and characters had the potential to be vastly different from both Next Generation AND Deep Space Nine. It could have showed the crew face realistic long-term dilemmas of being trapped alone in the unknown, and still uphold their ideals and values. The episode I think came closest to this was "The Void" in season seven. Alas, it was not to be. But I still prefer the great episodes we did get to "Seven Years of Hell"!
Carbetarian - Wed, Apr 6, 2011 - 10:26pm (USA Central)
@Jake lol, I know right!

This is a decent episode. It does a good job of establishing all the characters and is fairly interesting throughout. I thought the caretaker alien was pretty lame though. I mean, he scans a ship presumably full of people from different backgrounds and even different planets and decides that the most comfortable atmosphere he can put them in is a county fair in Kentucky? I question that.

Anyway, all in all, I liked this epsiode. I think it's at least on par with Emissary and Broken Bow, and it's certainly much better than Encounter at Far Point.
Paul - Tue, Dec 6, 2011 - 11:30am (USA Central)
Here's what I've never understood about Caretaker ...

How many Maquis crew members transferred to Voyager. There's a late-season episode that makes it appear like there were about 20-30, but Chakotay's ship in this episode is the same model we see for the smaller Maquis vessels in DS9 and TNG, which were little more than shuttles. The question is valid because it could have been used to explain a few things:

Let's say it was fewer than 20 (I can think of about 10, without trying too hard). If it was 20 or less, then the whole crew-integration thing wouldn't have been that difficult and a Maquis mutiny wouldn't have been much of a threat (in other words, Starfleet had numbers). If that's the case, the fact that Chakotay, Torres, Seska, Jonas, to a lesser extent Hogan and the misfits from 'Learning Curve' are the only ones who caused conflict is less difficult to get your arms around, logically.

But, then, why introduce the premise in the first place, as Jammer so often asked during the series run?

If 30 or more Maquis had transferred over -- and you figure Voyager lost a lot of people in 'Caretaker' -- then maybe a mutiny could have actually happened.

I guess what I'm saying is that the fairly easy crew integration could be explained by the (implicit) small number of Maquis who transferred over. The creators could have explained that -- and could have at least seemed logical in their crafting. Even if they missed a big opportunity for better TV.

Paul - Thu, Jan 12, 2012 - 1:40pm (USA Central)
Oh, and the water thing is really dumb. In addition to the Kazon not being able to go to other planets with water, Neelix seems to cook with water throughout the series.
Jeffrey Bedard - Tue, Jan 17, 2012 - 10:54am (USA Central)
I've often felt the powers at be made a mistake in having Janeway order the array destroyed and purposefully stranding her crew and the Maquis in the Delta Quadrant. I understand that they wanted her to come across as a leader willing to make a tough call, but I know I for one did not feel she was in the right. Yes, the Kazon would have ravaged the Ocampa otherwise, but you can very easily argue that it would happen without Voyager's presence. I think it would have been better if the writers had made the Kazon destroy the array to spite Voyager or simply have the array be so damaged in the firefight that it blows up before Voyager can use it. That way the premise stays the same (Federation starship stranded 70,000 light years from home) and Janeway doesn't get saddled with the blame for stranding them on purpose. It's a more tragic circumstance for trapping them in the Delta Quadrant. But obviously there's no way to change it.
Duge Butler Jr. - Sun, Apr 1, 2012 - 12:23pm (USA Central)
I thought that this was a pretty good opening/introduction to ST:Voyager but, frankly, I never really got into Voyager until the later seasons and even then remained only casually in the series compared to ST:TNG and ST:DS9. I liked the Voyager/DS9 crossover at the beginning with Quark trying to swindle Harry and Paris thwarting him. ;-) The rest of the episode kept my interest with Voyager being sent light-years away from home and losing some key crewmembers, which, of course necessitated the leading characters to assume their posts. The idea of a holographic doctor was interesting, as well as the merging of the Federation and Maquis crews for survival. My biggest complaint about the episode is the ending and Janeway's decision that stranded them in the DQ when there could have possibly been other solutions- such as sending over a timed explosive that could have gone off after Voyager was on it's way back to the DQ. Of course, had they had managed to successfully get back home, well, of course, there would obviously be no series. It would have been interesting- though not necessarily essential- for there to have been some acknowledgement back in the AQ about Voyager's disappearance- perhaps as a brief status report to SF by Sisko or another Federation official.
Tom - Tue, May 1, 2012 - 1:30pm (USA Central)
I want all star trek fans to see this. As an avid star trek fan I almost cried with laughter after I saw it. It is a blog that shows photos Of people in northeast philadelphia that have the exact same haircut as Spock. check it out you wont be disappointed
Sintek - Tue, Sep 11, 2012 - 10:38pm (USA Central)
I recently finished my bi-yearly runthrough of DS9 and decided to start on Voyager since I can't stand TNG anymore.

Anyway, it's been years since I've watched any Voyager, but man, after seeing a quality series like DS9 are VOY's warts more noticeable. The pacing in this episode is plodding and without direction. Maybe I'll just watch the Doc episodes, I remember those being the only good ones.
Jeff Bedard - Mon, Sep 17, 2012 - 4:50pm (USA Central)
I had forgotten about Neelix mentioning that water was hard to come by. That never gets mentioned again, not even in the rest of season 1.
Yakko - Sun, Sep 23, 2012 - 11:48am (USA Central)
As long as we're dogpiling on this pilot episode nearly 18 years later I have a minor quibble that's always bugged me. The Caretaker is almost portrayed sympathetically and nobody seems to hold him accountable for the mass murders he commits in bringing ships to the DQ. Janeway is pretty hard nosed with him on their first encounter about how unacceptable his actions have been in bringing her ship there and abducting her crew. We couldn't at least get a line indicating that she's a just a little pissed that he caused the death of over a dozen of her crew?

I agree with the general sentiment here that the show is a fairly solid pilot that shows quite a bit of promise that the show will largely not deliver in the ensuing seasons.
Jay - Tue, Nov 20, 2012 - 4:07pm (USA Central)
When Stadi is bringing Paris to Voyager (docked at DS9) aboard a shuttlecraft, where were they supposed to have been coming from? Presumably they didn't launch a shuttle to fly from DS9 to a vessel docked at DS9.
Chris - Wed, Nov 21, 2012 - 10:26am (USA Central)
The Kazon never again showed any sign of having a ship as powerful as the one they have here, and it's even more peculiar that they had that kind of vessel, but no water.
Anna - Thu, Jan 10, 2013 - 4:05am (USA Central)
It's a good episode until the very end, where Janeway pretty much blows off the Prime Directive for basically no reason. I'll give the episode credit for having Tuvok point this out.

That aside, it was a solid episode that shows off the cast and sets up the premise.
Grumpy - Sun, Feb 3, 2013 - 11:29am (USA Central)
Interesting that, in this earliest review, Jammer almost always used the definite article when referring to the ship -- "the Voyager" -- and only a few times used the Navy style, i.e. no definite article, preferred by this series. By the end of season 2, his "Basics" review was a 50/50 mix, and by "Scorpion" a year later, Jammer usrd the definite article for the ship only once or twice. By the 4th season, the non-article style had fully taken over.

Okay, that's not really interesting at all.
Clark - Sun, Feb 10, 2013 - 12:37am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode but a few things bothered me.

1. The Kazon live as a tribal culture on a planet with no water and as far as we can tell, few resources. The only group we see who live in a modern setting is the Ocampa, and even then, they were "blessed" with those comforts by the Caretaker. So, how is it that the Kazon are capable of building these large starships with weapons that seem to overpower the Voyager. When Janeway supplied them with water, they seemed to revere the Federation crew as 'gods,' but suddenly, they're capable of taking them on in battle. It just seemed a bit...off.

2. Have been forgotten that bombs exist? I mean, the Maquis were resistance fighters. They had to be familiar with concept of a device that exploded after a certain amount of time. Couldn't that set a bomb on the installation, and use the installation to go back home before it detonated? But I guess, we wouldn't have much of a series then...

3. The way Tuvok and Janeway interacted with each other, I thought he would have been the first officer.

Other than that, I enjoyed the episode. The premise sounds interesting. I can't wait to see how they handle it.
grumpy_otter - Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - 7:10pm (USA Central)
I only watched this episode when it first came out so I thought I'd check it out again and try to look at it with fresh eyes that didn't know any of the crap that was to come later. It actually worked--there was so much from Caretaker that I didn't remember that it was like seeing a new episode.

I agree with many others regarding Janeway destroying the array. It is SO easy to think of about 20 different ways they could have handled the situation that this first big action of Janeway simply makes her seem like an idiot. I liked her very much when I first saw this--but that was because I liked Mulgrew, not Captain.

How hard would it have been to set up an alternate scenario to use the array to get home, but the Kazon swoop in and cause it to fail? Janeway could still have the guilt later (assuming that's why they made it play out this way) without seeming so stupid. She could have felt guilty because she forgot to order attack pattern delta or some such crap. The choice made by the writers seems lazy.

What surprised me upon this viewing is that Neelix was okay--until he chose his clothes from the replicator. I had forgotten his outfit, so I was ready to laugh--then I saw it. Lame.

And then he acted like an idiot after "he" rescued Kes. Neelix had moments throughout the series that were great--they just took some wrong steps and made him ridiculous and cloying most of the time. I actually loved his cooking.

Others mentioned; I'll echo. Chakotay being first officer is a throwaway moment? I think that, more than any other bit of this pilot, presages the problem with Voyager--the writers just didn't understand what would have made it great. They focused on the Kazon and ignored great character moments.

But the Doc was perfection from day one! Best character on the show.

When I read where Jammer said: "The combining of the Starfleet and Maquis crews promises to show friction in future episodes," I spit my soda on my screen. lol. Another failing.

Grumpy--I noticed that too. I prefer the article.
Chris - Thu, Apr 25, 2013 - 11:33am (USA Central)
Towards the end, when their escaping the complex, Janeway tells Neelix to "help her with Tuvok" (who seems more or less uninjured and has the stamina of a Vulcan), and then Neelix helps him along and Janeway just scurries behind them, supervising I guess. Meanwhile, Paris is left to carry the injured Chakotay all by himself.
Sintek - Wed, May 22, 2013 - 10:17am (USA Central)
Why did Neelix change into one of Quark's outfits? Does the replicator have a clothing section for annoying people? I don't know why but he would have been a better character had he stayed in his fur pimp coat.
navamske - Sat, Jun 1, 2013 - 8:13pm (USA Central)
@Jeff Bedard

"I had forgotten about Neelix mentioning that water was hard to come by. That never gets mentioned again, not even in the rest of season 1."

That's probably because Jammer is incorrect in saying that water is hard to come by "in this quadrant." It defies credulity that that would be the case throughout the vast Delta Quadrant; clearly it's just the local system that has a water shortage, which may explain why the Kazons' hair looks dirty. I believe Jammer is also incorrect in saying that "no one in this quadrant has transporter technology." C'mon, the *entire* quadrant? I don't think so, and I don't know on what basis Jammer says this.
Lt. Yarko - Sat, Jun 8, 2013 - 5:11am (USA Central)
I also would rather have seen the array blown up in some manner other than having Janeway do it. Hell, the thing was on a countdown to self-destruct at one point and then there was that gigantic disabled ship rolling by. Either of those would have been a much more satisfying dilemma-creator.

Good episode for a Trek opener, even though both Neelix and Kes were annoying characters from the start that never needed to join the journey as far as I was concerned.

@Chris: I saw this episode again recently, but I first saw it long ago. On this recent viewing before that scene came up, I was recalling that something happened on the broken walkway between Chakotay and Paris, but I wasn't sure how it went down. As the scene neared, I saw that Paris wasn't even with the group with Chakotay and that he was already on the surface before the big scene. So, I was thinking, "How the heck do those two end up back underground in a goofy action piece together?" And, yeah, as I watched how it played out, I thought, "Well, that was awkward." All just to get Paris to save Chakotay in a rather forced character interaction.
Shane - Thu, Jul 4, 2013 - 12:13am (USA Central)
Always interesting to come back to a series' pilot to see what the potential of a show could've been.

Unfortunately with Voyager I think this pilot shows a good deal of promise and also the unfortunate lack of thought on the part of the writers. I think the premise of Voyager is fantastic, it's just a shame they didn't have better writers. The show quickly settled into a safe and dull status quo.

If I were to do a rewrite of "Caretaker" I'd have the crew place timed explosives on the array so that they could attempt a return to the Alpha Quadrant. They generate a displacement wave and get pushed away but unfortunately with the Caretaker entity dead the wave dissipates quickly and sends Voyager only a short distance away. The ship turns back to try and disable the explosives but is unable to do so in time. Voyager is still a good distance from the array as we see it on the view screen exploding. The spirits of the crew Starfleet and Maquis alike are crushed as the reality of their situation takes hold. 70 years from home.
inline79 - Thu, Jul 18, 2013 - 12:46am (USA Central)
I've been following Jammer on and off(more off) for over a decade, but never felt the need to post until my new commitment to all of Voyager. A few years ago I rewatched all of TNG, but TNG is to me, like many others, sacred. It's the show that defined much of my morals and career choices in my youth. So I don't need to read or comment on reviews even as good as Jammer's are.

Then came DS9 and, seemingly at the same time, Voyager. It was a bit too much Star Trek for me in 1995, and I was disappointed with DS9 and Voyager when I did watch it wback then. Now having just finished rewatching DS9, the characters became so real, so familiar, I was sad to see them go, and even felt a bit lost having just spent almost 7 years rewatching TNG and DS9.

After some time, soul seeking, and discussion with friends, I decided I wanted to continue my 24th Century adventure and committed to actually watching Voyager. Which brings me to this comment - I guess I have high expectations after all of TNG and DS9, and I enjoy reading all the opinions on the new-to-me Voyager. Well enough Trek rant, what do I think of Caretaker and what Jammer says above?

I actually think Caretaker is a great pilot. Clearly a lot of money and effort was spent to make it look spectacular, and the cast was done properly (even Neelix - just think of Benson when he talks). However, I agree with many that there are serious flaws that provoke the need to comment on a review website.

First off, I don't buy the Kazon as bad guys. They are no Klingons, or even Cardies. I like my bad guys smart. These guys belong on Mad Max.

Second, I really, really like the attempt to put the Captain in a serious, TNG-like, moral dilemma at the climax. Most unfortunately Janeway immediately proves herself to be a Bad Captain (you're going to see me use that phrase a lot). I don't think Kirk or Picard would have gotten their whole crew stranded like Janeway did. Bad Captain, or bad writer.. you decide.

I have one counterpoint to Jammer, and that is I fully agree with Chakotay as 1st Officer. It is a hark back to Shakelton and his mutineer... keep your enemies close. Great stuff.

Some superb performances too for first outings in their characters.. particularly Robert Beltran and Jennifer Lien. If this is how the rest of the series is going to go, I don't feel so bad for committing!

One final point - the quality of the DVDs is excellent, unlike the TNG DVDs, or the early DS9 DVDs. Voyager looks great on HDTV!
Ren C - Tue, Sep 24, 2013 - 9:24pm (USA Central)
I'm going to comment on this just to also throw in my support for Chakotay as First Officer.
Over the course of the series Chakotay became my favorite character overall.
Just based on this episode though I see why Janeway would have chosen him over Tuvok as First Officer.

Firstly, trying to combine 2 crews, who just a week ago would have been shooting at each other, is no mean feat. The smaller Maquis crew would feel like the underdogs on the Federation ship. It makes for bad integration.
I think what Janeway did was smart. To gain the cooperation of the Maquis crew treat their leader with respect. It sets the tone that she's willing to give them a chance on her ship - their new home.

Secondly, Chakotay is more of a people person than Tuvok. His logical approach makes him ideal as a security chief & tactical officer. While Chakotay's intuition makes him a good First Officer.

Third, Janeway's decision to combine the 2 crews under the Starfleet banner meant that any former-Starfleet officers in the Maquis would assume their previous rank. Chakotay was a Commander so he would be next in rank after Janeway. He was a respected person among Starfleet personnel which would make it easy for the Voyager crew to accept him as their new First Officer too.

As to why he agreed to be First Officer & didn't demand to be treated as her equal, I can only imagine that's because he could see the wisdom & practicality in trying to forge a cohesive crew rather than a pointless & energy-wasting power struggle.

Anyway, I hope that makes sense :)
Tricia - Sat, Dec 21, 2013 - 2:59am (USA Central)
Am I missing something here? Janeway decides to destroy the array, but then leaves the Ocampa high and dry with only 5 years worth of energy reserves. What are they going to do after 5 years? (I know some of them are starting to farm outside the city and take care of themselves, but they're a fringe element. It would be hard to adapt the entire society in 5 years). Also, how are they going to maintain their force fields to keep the Kaizon out? Seems like she didn't put much thought into her decision, and it definitely doesn't seem worth stranding her crew in the Delta Quadrant. I know the whole premise of the show is being stranded in the Delta Quadrant, but it could have been more well-done.
K'Elvis - Tue, Feb 11, 2014 - 2:42pm (USA Central)
Water being scarce does stretch credibility. If you can navigate around a solar system, you have access to all the water you could ever want. Just hack a piece from a comet and melt it, and you have water. It's only when you are trapped on a dry planet that water is a problem. The Ocampa might have a water shortage, but the Kazon would not. You could bombard the Ocampa's planet with comets to create lakes.

The Ocampa have five years to learn to fend for themselves now that they aren't being given power by the Caretaker. Either they will build their own power source and survive, or they won't. Perhaps the Caretaker underestimated the Ocampa, he does call them "children". With such a short lifetime, the Ocampa could probably do things quickly, they don't have a lot of time to waste.

They could have rigged the station to explode after it had sent Voyager home. I understand that if they had done that, the series would have been over, but it might have been more plausible if they had tried that and failed.
Latex Zebra - Wed, Feb 19, 2014 - 4:39am (USA Central)
Flawed but entertaining.
Pretty much the perfect description you can give for Voyager as a whole.

At least it started as it meant to go on.

Watched this last night for the first time in years and whilst some bits had me wincing. Especially some of the conflict/drama that looked set to be introduced that was ignored soon after. It also held my interest very well.
Voyager will always be the Wham Bam Thank You Maam of Star Trek but that's OK. We had TNG for the typically Trekian values, DS9 for the OMGWTF Dark Trek and Voyager for the quick relief.
That I think is it for me. Many of TNG and DS9 episodes actually stay with me. Voyager I have to watch again to be reminded it is good fun but, par a couple of episodes, is soon forgotten.
Ric - Mon, Mar 3, 2014 - 2:16am (USA Central)
Ah, what a relief! Finally, Star Trek is back. I mean, I have just finished DS9 and I am starting Voyager today. Right, there are quite a few flaws in this episode. But what a relief to see the Federation and Starfleet once again portrayed as in common Star Trek. After their overall lenient and even genocide-friendly versions from the last three seasons of DS9, the very opening of this Voyager first episode was refreshing. Showing a quite civilized penal colony on Earth made me feel relieved as I was almost expecting that penal colonies from DS9’s Federation and Starfleet would be labor camp-like.

More than that, the honorable and integer postures of officers are back. The scifi without magictechnobabble… I enjoyed quite a bit. Maybe I am biased by the atrocious end of DS9, but I really liked the first approach of Voyager. The idea of an holographic doctor was quite a smart move, considering that TOS had Spock, TNG had Data and DS9 had Odo as their characters that posited a bigger challenge and benchmark for our thinking about humanity. I can only hope it is explored later here as well. Talking about the crew, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of alien diversity. Basically, we have a Vulcan (a black Vulcan, interesting) and that’s pretty much it. Hmm…. meh.

In any case, I will be really looking forward to seeing more Trek material flowing.
Paul - Mon, Mar 3, 2014 - 12:03pm (USA Central)
@Ric: Unfortunately, you're about to watch about 160 disappointing episodes.

I love DS9, but I do understand why some fans hate it. Sisko's actions to bring the Romulans into the war and the Federation's decision not to give the Founders the cure to the disease created by Section 31 were questionable writing choices.

I'll agree that "Caretaker" was a strong episode, but the inconsistency of the series will be maddening. The interesting storyline of the Maquis integration is all but forgotten by season three. Season 2's serious attempt at a continuing storyline will be plagued by poor characterization and faulty logic. And when Voyager decided that it couldn't do continuity very well, it pretty much punted on that and all but discard the premise that resources should be scarce in the Delta Quadrant.

Also, Captain Janeway's behavior will often fly in the face of the Starfleet way we saw in TOS and TNG.
Grumpy - Mon, Mar 3, 2014 - 12:50pm (USA Central)
@Paul: Heh.

To which I'd add: "...from the last three seasons of DS9, the very opening of this Voyager first episode was refreshing."

You probably didn't mean to imply otherwise, Ric, but just to be clear: "Caretaker" premiered during DS9's 3rd season, so the tonal contrast was not as stark. Also, as Paul implies, Voyager eventually is complicit in some nasty business, too, made more frustrating by TNG Season 1-level self-righteousness.
Ric - Tue, Mar 4, 2014 - 12:20am (USA Central)
@Paul Thanks for your thoughts on the show. I appreciate that. In fact you have also summarized quite well what I disliked the most in the last three seasons of DS9: the lack of consequence for many Sisko's misconduct and the very different portrayal of the Federation/Starfleet. But I shoul just mention that I didn't hate DS9. In fact I really liked a lot most of the first seasons.

About the Voyager, I have been reading many comments that go in the same direction as yours. If I end up thinking the same, I must say that it is a shame. Voyager has one of the best premises in all Trek. Hope I just don't get too mad with future offenses against the canonical Starfleet portrayal...

@Grumpy Many thanks for bringing this up. In fact I know that DS9 and Voyager overlapped during 4 to 5 seasons of DS9. But my previous comment could leave some confusion behind, so your clarification is most welcome.
Vylora - Mon, Aug 18, 2014 - 8:49am (USA Central)
Interesting premise. Decent execution. Despite a few rough spots the characterization shows promise. A few very "Star Trek" moments that were pleasant to see, mostly involving the Caretaker. Not in the least bit impressed with the cookie-cutter villains known as the Kazon, though, future episodes would attempt expanding upon them with limited success.

The much-debated decision by Janeway to stay behind in order to help the Ocampa made sense on its terms albeit a bit vaguely. A bit more thought put into the whole situation by the writing staff would have definitely not hurt. Especially seeing as it's the crux of the reason for the entire series premise. But what's done here isn't horrible either.

All in all, nothing groundbreaking here. But it is a good opener with a good idea with some good characters. I'd rate this third behind Emissary and Broken Bow as far as ST series premieres go.

3 stars.
Vulcanextra - Thu, Oct 9, 2014 - 1:59am (USA Central)
I just watched Caretaker after not seeing it for many years. The writers' decision to have Janeway destroy the array is just plain stupid. Several comments here have come up with much better ways to strand Voyager without it being a really bad and badly thought out decision by the captain. The Kazon/water thing is only slightly less stupid.
Skeptical - Sat, Oct 18, 2014 - 2:04pm (USA Central)
Not bad for a first episode. I remember being excited about it when it first appeared, being the first Trek show I saw from the beginning. I remember not being disappointed by it either. And while I currently have a bit of a jaundiced eye against this show for failing to live up to its promise, I thought it held up pretty well.

Yes, the water scarcity among a warp capable species is absurd. But sci fi never really understood resources in space. And honestly, it isn't really that bad. Each Kazon sect traded with others; clearly the Ogla were a worthless sect that just happened to be stuck in this system mining the whatever mineral. And Neelix? Maybe his ship lost warp capability and he was stuck there. Of course, there's no reason the entire system was out of water, the Caretaker said they only screwed up the planet. So there might be comets and icy moons and stuff out there. But oh well.

And then there's Janeway's controversial decision. There's no doubt it could have been better, but I appreciate what the episode was trying to do. Let's face it, Picard would have been willing to sacrifice the Enterprise to save another planet. The Enterprise C willingly went back into battle to try to save a Klingon outpost. So Janeway willing to strand her crew for the greater good is fine, and provides a bit more of a weighty reason for the series than the crew randomly being stuck over there for no reason (i.e., if the Caretaker just refused to let them go back). Yes, there are ways around it. Yes, a bomb may have worked. But then again, maybe the Kazon would have deactivated the bomb before it could go off. Or maybe they didn't have enough bombs to set it up. I don't know. So while they could have done a much better job of scripting Janeway's dilemma, I'm willing to let it go. Unfortunately, this poor scripting would show up all too often, but we wouldn't know that until later. I guess in retrospect, it was a warning. But like I said, for this episode I can deal with it.

As for the rest of it? Some comments::

- Who's bright idea was it to start the series with a scrolling text screen followed by a small rebel ship being attacked by the giant imperial starship? Star Wars, anyone?

- The beginning of this episode really, really dragged. There was too much dumping of information, and too much establishing character moments (which I suppose is kinda necessary, but still annoying). I mean, did we need to have a chat about bioneural gelpacks or whatever? Did we need to have a chat about calling Janeway sir or ma'am or captain or whatever? Frankly, I was bored until Voyager actually gets to the Delta Quadrant.

- Fortunately, at this point things start up again. Watching the crew react to the disaster was great fun, and we got plenty of real character defining moments. First of all, I imagine this is Janeway's first command, and she's not too far removed from a more hands on job. She is clearly more comfortable taking a hands on approach, skipping the idea of overseeing everything and heading straight to Engineering. This might not be the smartest thing to do (given how bad the disaster was, one would presume she should be on the bridge), but it is a very clear contrast to Picard. We also see the Doctor at his sarcastic, standoffish best, absolutely stealing his scene in sickbay. We see Kim being pretty much useless, but that's to be expected for a very young officer.

- And we see Tom being highly competent at everything. I'm not sure if this was intended. But Paris immediately starts walking around and taking charge of everything. He's basically acting like a professional, trained member of Starfleet. He's easily Janeway's right hand man now. Not Kim, not any other random Lt still on the bridge, but a criminal who's just an observer. Was this intentional? Was it planned? Was it intended to show that this is Paris' true character, and what he would have been had he not had that little accident and freaked out? That his bad guy routine was really just him projecting, as he doesn't feel he deserves to be rehabilitated? Maybe. I thought the whole "loner" bit was played up at first, but I think this part of Paris is for the best. He gets a second chance, and without even realizing it makes the best of it. He's a natural leader, even if he doesn't know it himself.

- Meanwhile, a bunch of the junk on the array with the Southern Fried Weirdness was pretty boring. Worst part was when they came back a second time, and we had the clichéd "cryptic" conversation when the Caretaker was giving random lines while not responding to Janeway. It was obvious what he was talking about, but Janeway and company seemed confused. And I guess the medical bay was creepy, but it didn't seem to move the plot along. Really, the best parts of the show was on board Voyager; anywhere else and the show drags.

- I didn't get the impression that there was much sympathy for the Caretaker. Janeway couldn't be judgmental with him too much, because she was still trying to convince him to send her home. Rule 1 of trying to get a favor from someone: don't piss them off. But yes, I agree that he wasn't all that sympathetic of a guy.

- Why on earth did Janeway trust Neelix again after what he did on the surface? Admittedly, Neelix was actually pretty interesting in this episode, but yeah, he should have been thrown off the ship.

- And for that matter, Kes and Neelix's relationship seemed a wee bit askew. Namely, we never see much in the way of affection from Kes, and constantly see Neelix try to reinforce their relationship. Again, I'm not sure if this was intentional or not. But it does give an interesting twist that we shall see if it comes up again. After all, Kes is technically only 2 years old and lived a very sheltered life. So Neelix could be seen as being very predatory here.

- Is it just me, or did moving straight to ramming speed for the battle with the Kazon seem a bit excessive? It seemed like it was just there because the writers didn't want the Maquis ship around. I guess, at that point, the Maquis still thought that Janeway was going to send them all home, so losing their ship wasn't that big of a loss. Still, it seemed quick to be done. It also seems like no one cared that Chakotay just killed thousands of aliens in one shot. That's one way to turn an angry skirmish into an all out war. And nobody complained?

But like I said, overall this episode had a good pace and did a good job introducing the characters. It's a good start; let's see how it goes.
Tim - Sat, Nov 1, 2014 - 9:16am (USA Central)
Watched this last night for the first time in years. I don't understand all the comments suggesting Janeway plants a time bomb and activates the program to get back home. Tuvok said it would take hours to activate the program. So it's not as if the crew could be off in their quarters packing their bags while waiting for the array to boot up and send them home. They were under attack by several Kazon ships!

I loved the tough decision made by Janeway to destroy the array and strand them in the Delta Quadrant. A poorly written script would've gone for a cop out like the array self destructing and making the crew victims of the plot.
Andrew - Sun, Feb 8, 2015 - 9:29am (USA Central)
The episode did an OK job of introducing some of the characters (Janeway, Paris, Chakotay, Tuvok) but it didn't introduce Chakotay or Janeway well enough, especially in their decisions to join forces and her's to destroy the array, far too arbitrary and unjustified by what we had and how much we hadn't learned about her. Neelix and Kes joining the crew was completely unjustified.
It's hard to not compare this to "Emissary" which managed to introduce the lead character, much of the rest of the cast, setting and alien species much better.

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