Star Trek: Voyager’s pilot still holds up even 25 years later

LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 11: Cast of "Star Trek Voyager" participate in the 11th Annual Official Star Trek Convention - day 3 held at the Rio Hotel & Casino on August 11, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - AUGUST 11: Cast of "Star Trek Voyager" participate in the 11th Annual Official Star Trek Convention - day 3 held at the Rio Hotel & Casino on August 11, 2012 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Albert L. Ortega/Getty Images) /

Star Trek: Voyager has an enduring pilot episode

The 90s saw a strong surge in the popularity of Star Trek, with series or reruns of series all airing simultaneously. The Next Generation, of course, saw massive success and is still considered by some as the gold standard for a Star Trek series and, indeed, science fiction television as a whole, but Deep Space Nine experienced its own type of popularity with the first-ever Star Trek series to take place on a space station instead of a starship.

The mid-90s would give birth to yet another Trek series, and while Star Trek: Voyager never reached quite the popularity of its predecessors, it still broke ground with Star Fleet’s first female Captain and a series premise that, while it might have been explored in certain episodes, has never been done for an entire series. Voyager would go on for seven seasons, with its pilot “Caretaker” still being one of the most popular episodes of the series, but let us see if it still holds up over 25 years later.

While the theme of TOS and TNG was always one of exploration, the pilot of Voyager begins with a clear cut and dry mission, to investigate the Maquis ship that has come into contact with a displacement wave and also to discover the whereabouts of Voyager’s security officer Tuvok, who was acting as a spy aboard the Maquis ship.

In order to achieve this goal, Captain Kathryn Janeway recruits disgraced former Starfleet pilot Tom Paris. The pilot does a great job of setting up the main cast that, while they do not quite accomplish the screen presence and chemistry of TNG’s cast, still offer up solid performances and interesting characters, such as Tim Russ as Tuvok, Voyager’s version of Spock, and the scene-stealing Kate Mulgrew leading the way.

I also love a good crossover scene, and our introduction to Ensign Harry Kim, as he is being swindled by that mischievous Ferengi, Quark, on DS9 is one of my favorite scenes in the entire pilot.

Tension is quickly ramped up not long after Voyager departs from DS9, and we are plunged into what turns out to be actually quite an interesting story regarding the “Caretaker” feeling he owes a debt to the inhabitants of a planet known as the Ocampa after his race accidentally destroyed the atmosphere of the planet.

He pays off his debt by taking care of the Ocampa in an underground facility; however, the Caretaker has grown old and will soon die and wants to make sure the Ocampa are taken care of after he has passed away and is in search of someone who can be his “offspring” to do so.

I found this to be a very interesting science fiction story, told in a way that only Trek can deliver. The tension of the story had you rooting for the new crew of Voyager, fearing for Harry Kim and B’elanna Torres, and genuinely interested to know the outcome of the story.

The Starfleet characters, such as Janeway, Kim, Tuvok, and others are well established, and the colorful cast is rounded out by characters such as Chakotay, Nelix, Kess, and B’elanna joining the crew.

Star Trek: Voyager’s “Caretaker” holds up with some admitted issues

While I think Caretaker still holds up to this day, and, in fact, found it more entertaining than the pilots of both TNG and DS9, it is not without a few faults, in my opinion.

The 90s were definitely a different time, even though they were not long ago, and that is made clear in some of the dialog of Tom Paris that has not aged well.

At one point, he is flirting fairly aggressively with a young Betazoid even though she is clearly not interested. I know that is consistent with the character with Paris. All I’m saying is that I don’t think it would fly in 2021, nor would his teasing and comments made towards Chakotay regarding his Native American heritage.

By choosing to destroy the array, condemning her crew to a 75-year journey home, Janeway directly violates the prime directive and seemingly justifies it by saying that they did not choose to be there, but they are so she will do what is morally and ethically right. This is something I am going to talk more about in a future piece.

I found “Caretaker” to be a very solid entry in the Star Trek canon, and in my opinion, I found it to be one of the better pilot episodes in the franchise and it still holds up over 25 years later.

Which is your favorite Star Trek pilot?

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