It was 24 years ago that Star Trek: Voyager made its debut on the UPN with the first female captain to lead a series in Trek history.
It was January 16th, 1995 when a new network made its debut on the television airwaves. UPN was going to be Paramount’s attempt to launch their own network and what better series to serve as the anchor for their venture than Star Trek?
The franchise was in something of a golden age at that point. Star Trek: The Next Generation had just wrapped up their critically acclaimed run and had moved onto the big screen with Star Trek Generations. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was in the midst of finding its voice and stride so a third spinoff from the original Star Trek seemed like a no brainer to launch UPN.
The result was Star Trek: Voyager. The new series made its debut with a two-part premiere episode entitled “Caretaker” and was created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller and Jeri Taylor, all Trek vets by that point.
For the new series the creative team decided that wanted to mix things up and do something more daring. First they looked at the “to explore strange new worlds” part of the original Star Trek introduction and made that the key part of Voyager.
The new series would take place during the same time as Next Generation and Deep Space Nine but would be set in the unexplored region of the galaxy called the Delta Quadrant. The ship would be stranded there during the events of “Caretaker” and the crew’s efforts to return to Earth would serve as the overreaching plot of the series.
In addition to having Voyager explore a new and dangerous region of space, Berman and company made the bold decision to have a female captain for the series lead. It was a first for the franchise and, despite there being no social media at the time, fans were buzzing about it at every Trek convention you went to.
The role of Captain Kathryn Janeway originaly went to film actress Geneviève Bujold, but it was decided that she wasn’t right for the role and couldn’t handle the rigors of a weekly television series. She was replaced by Kate Mulgrew, who was best known at that time for her role on the daytime soap opera Ryan’s Hope.
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One look at the footage of Bujold as Janeway and you can be pretty certain the producers made the right choice. Now it’s impossible to think of anyone but Mulgrew in that role. She is a huge part of the reason the series has such a diverse and large group of hardcore fans who consider it the best of all the Trek series.
“Caretaker” was were it all began and at the time it was the most expensive pilot ever made. The episode, which everyone will readily admit was entertaining as hell, was nominated for four Emmy awards and won Best Visual Effects.
Star Trek: Voyager would go on to run for seven seasons with the ship eventually returning home in the final episode, “Endgame.” While not the critical smash that The Next Generation was, Voyager did pretty well for itself. A number of the episodes are regularly listed among the best Star Trek episodes ever and the series has lived on in a number of bestselling novels.
Happy birthday Star Trek: Voyager. You paved the way in many ways for Discovery‘s Michael Burnham and even, some may argue, Rey from Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Not a bad legacy to have.