Star Trek: Voyager debuted 26 years ago on Monday, Jan 16, 1995, on UPN making it just the third series to not air in first-run syndication.
For the first time since the animated series of the ’70s, Star Trek had an actual network home. Star Trek: Voyager debuted on the fledgling UPN network and was literally the first-ever original programming to air on the network. UPN, much like Voyager, launched on the very same day. To many, this was the first time they got to see Star Trek in one dedicated place across the country and didn’t have to go hunting down where to watch it.
Other Star Trek series like The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine didn’t air in a uniform timeslot, like Voyager. Instead, fans of the series had to go out of their way to find them whenever they aired. For me, Deep Space Nine was on in the mid-afternoon on Sunday’s. My cousin, who lived two-hours away, had it on at 11 at night during a weekday.
Voyager though, got to be broadcasted by UPN on Monday, at 8 PM. That’s partly why the first episodes of Voyager, “Caretaker” parts 1 & 2, garnered over 20 million viewers.
For me personally, it was the first time I ever saw Star Trek. The only shows on syndication I ever was able to find were WMAC Masters, Hercules, and Xena, the rest constantly got moved around in my area. So the first taste of The Next Generation came in the late summer of 1995 when Star Trek: Generations made its way to HBO. Then in 1997 First Contact landed on HBO. After that, I was hooked on the franchise as a whole.
I watched every episode I could find of Voyager, all four Next Generation films, and then even Star Trek: Enterprise. Granted, it wasn’t until the advent of Netflix that I finally got through Deep Space Nine, but none of that adventuring would’ve happened had I not tuned in on UPN’s premiere night to see Voyager’s maiden adventure.
For many, it was the series that got us into Star Trek. While it’s not always viewed in the most positive light by the fandom, it created a whole new era of Trek fans. It’s also stood the test of time, as most of its best episodes stand up against any of Star Trek’s best.
So happy birthday, Voyager and thank you.