Monday, May 6, 2013

Star Trek Voyager: Episode 1x01 & 1x02 - Caretaker (1995)

Created by Rick Berman, Michael Piller, and Jeri Taylor

Network: UPN

Cast: Kate Mulgrew (1), Robert Beltran (2), Tim Russ (3), Robert Duncan McNeill (4), Roxann Dawson (5), Garrett Wang, Robert Picardo (6), Ethan Phillips (7), Jennifer Lien, and Alicia Coppola (8)

Blink & Miss It - Alicia Coppola has a small speaking role in the first episode of Star Trek Voyager. I first noticed her when she played a murderer on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation so when I re-watched Star Trek Voyager, I noticed her straightaway. 

My interest in Star Trek began in the mid 90s when I started watching Star Trek Voyager late at night on cable TV with my mum. She was the one who was interested in science fiction space shows and she got me hooked on them too. Shows like Babylon 5, seaQuest DSV, and of course Star Trek Voyager was the staple for late night viewing at home. She would shoo me off to bed because it usually airs really late at night and I had school the next morning. So I would beg her to record them for me and I would watch it in the afternoon after school. 

Even so, I missed quite a bit of the series and only saw parts of the series and never in its entirety. It was only in the early 2000s when I was studying in Australia that I rediscovered my interest in the series when I stumbled upon the Star Trek Voyager series on DVD! We didn't have Blu Ray theAll 7 seasons! We didn't have Blu Ray then. But it was still pretty pricey. But I never regretted spending money on the DVDs because I fell in love with the series and its characters. When I watched the final episode, I was pretty bummed and wish there was more to watch. 

Strangely, I never got hooked on the other series under the Star Trek franchise like Star Trek: The Original Series, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, or Star Trek: Enterprise. I haven't tried watching them again but maybe one day I will. 

The reason why I decided to pull out my Star Trek Voyager DVDs and take them out of storage to watch is because of the soon to be released Star Trek film Star Trek Into Darkness, a follow-up to the first J.J. Abrams' film in 2009 Star Trek. I thought, why not re-watch the series that got me sucked into the world Gene Roddenberry created before the film is released. That would be a great way to remember all the reasons I fell in love with the ethos of Star Trek. 

So here I am. Sitting back in the chair of my home "office", feet propped up on my bed, cold coffee beside me, on an enjoyable Monday afternoon, about to embark on a journey back into the Delta quadrant with Captain Janeway and her Voyager crew. 

Episode 1 & 2 - Caretaker

It took 2 1-hour episodes just to set up the premise of the show. While the 2 episodes may be a little slow moving, I'm still glad they did it because it really allowed the audience to get to know the various players in the series better. And since Star Trek Voyager has a large ensemble cast, it had A LOT to do! 

Here's a crew list for Season 1:

Captain Kathryn Janeway played by Kate Mulgrew
First Officer Chakotay played by Robert Beltran
Security and Tactical Officer Tuvok played by Tim Russ
Helmsman and Medic Tom Paris played by Robert Duncan McNeill
Chief Engineer B'Elanna Torres played by Roxann Dawson
Operations Officer Harry Kim played by Garrett Wang
The Emergency Medical Hologram Doctor played by Robert Picardo
Cook, Morale Officer, and Ambassador Neelix played by Ethan Phillips
Nurse and Botanist Kes played by Jennifer Lien

"Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kanas anymore."
- Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in the film The Wizard Of Oz

Stadi: Do you always fly at women at warp speed Mr Paris?
Paris: Only when they're in visual range.
Reminds me of the scene when Bones and Kirk
first see the Enterprise from their shuttle.
The U.S.S Voyager. What a beauty.

Lieutenant Stadi: That's our ship. That's Voyager. Intrepid-class. Sustainable cruise velocity of warp factor 9.975. 15 decks. Crew compliment of 141. Bio-neural circuitry.  
Tom Paris: Bio-neural?
Lieutenant Stadi: Some of the traditional circuitry has been replaced by gel packs that contain bio-neural cells. They organise information more efficiently. Speed up response time.

I love that Star Trek Voyager is the only Star Trek series with a female captain as a main character. And I think Kate Mulgrew does a fantastic job as Captain Kathryn Janeway. She is able to inspire with her leadership abilities and to be empathetic to the needs of her crew. And the fact that Voyager has a female captain is lightheartedly addressed with this scene between Harry Kim, Tom Paris and Captain Janeway. 

=P I love the budding relationships you can see
even in the first episode of the season.
Captain Janeway: Gentlemen, welcome aboard Voyager.
Harry Kim: Thank you Sir.
Captain Janeway: Mr Kim, at ease before you sprain something. Ensign, despite Starfleet protocol, I don't like to be addressed as Sir. 
Harry Kim: I'm sorry... Ma'am. 
Captain Janeway: Ma'am is acceptable in a crunch but I prefer Captain. We're getting ready to leave let me show you to the bridge. 

Now the bromance between Tom Paris and Harry Kim is evident right from the moment Tom saves Harry from the Ferengi who is trying to talk him into buying a gift for his parents. And I love the way Harry stands by Tom despite knowing his history. It is very telling of both their characters. 

Tom Paris: There you see. I told you it wouldn't take long.
Harry Kim: Is it true?
Tom Paris: Was the accident my fault? Yes. Pilot Error. But it took me awhile to admit it. Urgh! 14 varieties and they can't even get plain tomato soup right. 
Harry Kim: They said you falsified reports. 
Tom Paris: That's right.
Harry Kim: Why?
Tom Paris: What's the difference? I lied.
Harry Kim: But then you came forward and you admitted that it was your fault?
Tom Paris: I'll tell you the truth Harry. All I had to do was to keep my mouth shut and I was home free. But I couldn't. The ghosts of those three dead officers came to me in the middle of the night and taught me the true meaning of Christmas. So I confessed. Pft. Worst mistake I ever made, but not my last. After they cashiered me out of Starfleet I went out looking for a fight and found the Marquis. And on my first assignment I was caught.
Harry Kim: It must have been especially tough on you, being the son of an Admiral. 
Tom Paris: Frankly I think it was tougher on my father than it was on me. Look, I know those guys told you to stay away from me and you know what, you ought to listen to them. I'm not exactly a good luck charm.
Harry Kim: I don't need anyone to choose my friends for me.

Friendship is one of the core themes of Star Trek Voyager. It is friendship that helped the Voyager crew to survive as long as they did in the Delta quadrant. And from friendship, it of course develops into a tight knit familial bond.

Tuvok is the logical one of the group which as I understand from the special features is the least alike his character. You see Tim Russ, a fantastic actor who also guest starred in my favourite science fiction series seaQuest DSV, is very easy going and very much the joker of the group. While Tuvok is a character with the driest sense of humour. If not for the special features, I would have never know he was the comedian of the lot. 

By the mere fact that Captain Janeway goes after Tuvok when he disappears in the Badlands, we know that she is someone who never gives up on a person under her charge, and that Tuvok is someone of importance to her. And we find that out in their discussion in the first 2 episodes of the season. 

Captain Janeway and Tuvok. What she lacks, he provides.
What he lacks, she provides. Now that's what I call
a great working relationship.
Tuvok: Captain. You require sleep.
Captain Janeway: Kim's mother called me just after he left earth. Delightful woman. He's her only son. He left his clarinet behind. She wanted to know if she had time to send it. I had to tell her no. Did you know he played the clarinet in the Juilliard Youth Symphony?
Tuvok: I did not have the opportunity to meet Mr. Kim.
Captain Janeway: I barely knew him. I never assumed to have the chance to get to know any of them. I have to urm... I have to take more time to do that. It's a fine crew. And I've got to get them home.
Tuvok: The crew will not benefit from the leadership of an exhausted captain.
Captain Janeway: You're right as usual. I have missed your counsel Tuvok.
Tuvok: I am gratified that you came after me so I can offer once again.
Captain Janeway: I spoke to your family before I left.
Tuvok: Are they well?
Captain Janeway: Well... But worried about you.
Tuvok: That would not be an accurate perception captain. Vulcans do not worry.
Captain Janeway: They miss you.
Tuvok: As I do them.
Captain Janeway: I'll get you back to them. That's a promise Tuvok.

Another very fascinating relationship that exists in Star Trek Voyager is between 2 very opposite characters - Tuvok and Neelix. Not everyone has the affinity to become good friends. And it's really fascinating to see Tuvok and Neelix try to find a way to co-exist amicable. This relationship's roots form in this 2 episode pilot and already even without knowing what comes next, we can foresee a lot of issues between these two. 

Tuvok looked so uncomfortable it made me laugh so hard.

Captain Janeway: We'd appreciate any help you could give us in finding these Ocampa.
Neelix: I, I, I really wish that I could help you. I do. But as you can see there's just, there's so much debris for me to investigate today. You'd be surprised the things of value some people abandon.
Captain Janeway: Of course we'd want to compensate you for your trouble.
Neelix: Ah! There's really very little you could offer me. Unless...
Captain Janeway: Yes?
Neelix: Unless of course you had... water?
Captian Janeway: If you help us find our missing crew members, you can have all the water you want.
Neelix: That sounds like a very reasonable arrangement.
Captain Janeway: Good. We're beam you over and tow your ship into our shuttle bay. Mr Tuvok, go to transporter room 2 and meet our guest.
Neelix: Beam?
Captain Janeway: We have a technology which can take you instantly from your ship to ours. It's quite harmless. May we?
Tuvok: Energise.
Neelix: Astonishing! You Federations are obviously an advanced culture.
Tuvok: The Federation is made up of many cultures. I am Vulcan.
Neelix: Neelix. Good to meet you! Interesting. What? What exactly? What exactly does all this, all this do?
Tuvok: I assure you that everything in this room has a specific function. However it would take several hours to explain it all. I suggest we proceed to your quarters. Perhaps you would care for a bath.
Neelix: A what?

Oh and I love the way Harry talks back to B'Elanna. It really changes our perception of his 'pushover' status from when he encountered the Ferengi. It also sets up a friendship between B'Elanna and Harry that promises much playful jabs and name calling. Mostly by B'Elanna calling Harry 'Starfleet'.

B'Elanna meets Harry 'Starfleet' Kim for the first time.

Harry Kim: It's okay. It's okay.
B'Elanna Torres: Who are you?
Harry Kim: My name is Kim. Harry Kim. I'm an Ensign on the starship Voyager. I was kidnapped from the array just like you were. I don't know where we are.
B'Elanna Torres: What was Starfleet doing at that array?
Harry Kim: We were looking for you actually. I mean one minute we're in the badlands, the next we're...
B'Elanna Torres: You mean you were trying to capture us!
Harry Kim: Yeah. Consider yourself captured. Oh I know I have a phaser here somewhere.  
B'Elanna Torres: I don't find this at all amusing Starfleet.
Harry Kim: There's no point. It's locked. Hey! Hey hey hey what's that going to accomplish?
B'Elanna Torres: What are they doing to us? What are these things growing on us?
Harry Kim: Look do you want them to sedate you again?
B'Elanna Torres: You're right Starfleet. It's the Klingon half of me. It's just hard to control sometimes.
Harry Kim: What's your name Marquis?
B'Elanna Torres: B'Elanna. B'Elanna Torres.

In the pilot episodes, besides setting the scene and introducing characters, the show also takes the opportunity to address an environmental concern that was very big then and even now - Global warming and the importance of water conservation. Maybe I was thinking too much about what its trying to say, but still, if it was done on purpose then props to the scriptwriters to be able to fit in a moral story on top of introducing characters and setting the premise of the show. I mean, there might not be a water source running under the surface in every continent that can sustain our entire civilization for 500 generations!

Subterranean society. Decent CGI methinks.

Harry Kim: We're underground.
Ocampan: Our society is subterranean. We've lived here for over 500 generations.
B'Elanna Torres: But before that you lived on the surface?
Ocampan: Until the warming began.
Harry Kim: The warming?
Ocampan: When our surface turned into dessert and the caretaker came to protect us. Our ancient journals tell us he opened a deep chasm in the ground and led our ancestors to this place. Since then he has provided for all our needs. 

Ethan Phillips is awesome as Neelix! Imagine the hours he
had to sit in the make up chair to become Neelix!
Tuvok: Sir.
Neelix: Ah! Mr Vulcan. Come in. Come in. Please. I can hardly see you. I wanna thank you for your hospitality. I must admit I haven't had access to a food rebel, er er er, replicator before. 
Tuvok: I'd never have guessed.
Neelix: And to immerse myself in water. Oh do you know what joy this is? No one around here wastes water in this manner. Good sand scrub. That's the best that we can hope for.

Jennifer Lien as Kes. An Ocampan.

Chakotay before he becomes Captain Janeway's First Offier.
I had always wished their friendship would develop into something more.

Kes: That's right. They don't understand. They have no way of knowing that the Ocampa have been dependent on the caretaker for so long that we can't even think for ourselves anymore. They don't understand that we were once a people who had full command of our mind's abilities. 
Toskit: The stories of our ancestors. Cognitive abilities are apocryphal. At the very least exaggerated.  
Kes: We lost those abilities because we stopped using them.
Toskit: We should not dwell on what's been lost but on all that's been gained.
Kes: We've gained a talent for dependance. For simply taking what we've given. I'm going to help them Toskit whether you like it or not. And I think my friends will join me.

The Doc becomes one of my favourite characters on the show.

Doc: Is the crew always this difficult?
Harry: I don't know Doc. It's my first mission.
Doc: Doesn't anyone know how to turn off the program when they leave?

The Doctor is also a source of much comedy that you will see in future episodes. And while you don't really know much about him yet, you already know the basics in this first 2 episodes. 

I think part of the draw of Star Trek is the idea of exploration and the adventure of finding new worlds and meeting new cultures. That's why the travel industry is so huge isn't it? We all have this innate desire to explore and to discover new things. And I like that these first 2 episodes refresh our memory as to the core goal of the Federation. Along with the Prime Directive and the fact that evolution and technological advancement is as exciting as it is to explore space. 

Captain Janeway: Did you ever consider allowing the Ocampa to care for themselves?
Caretaker: They're children.
Captain Janeway: Children have to grow up. We're explorers too. Most of the species we've encountered have overcome all kinds of adversity without a caretaker. It's the challenge of surviving on their own that helps them to evolve. Maybe your children will do better than you think.

What works with Star Trek Voyager is that the series is given the opportunity to explore a new side of the galaxy. This means that it is able to encounter new species and the fact that they don't have an army to rely on means the stakes are higher for them to use all means necessary to find a way home. But does that mean they should compromise on their beliefs and what the Federation stands for. 

Tuvok: Shall I activate the program to get us back?
Captain Janeway: And what happens to the Ocampa? After we're gone. 
Tuvok: Captain, any action we take to protect the Ocampa would affect the balance of power in this system. The Prime Directive would seem to apply.
Captain Janeway: Would it? We never asked to be involved Tuvok. But we are. We are.

Just like Dorothy, the Voyager crew just want to find a way home. But it's journey home that is where all the excitement is isn't it? It's not just about how to get home, but what you had to do in order to do so. 

B'Elanna: What do you think you're doing? That array is the only way we have to get back home.
Captain Janeway: I'm aware everyone has families and loved ones at home they want to get back to. So do I. But I'm not willing to trade the lives of the Ocampa for our convenience. We'll have to find another way home. 
B'Elanna: What other way home is there? Who is she to be making these decisions for all of us?
Chakotay: She's the captain.

An Ocampa and a Talaxian - new crew members of Voyager.
"It will be my job to anticipate your needs before you know you have them. And I anticipate your first need will be me."
- Neelix

"We're alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We've already made some friends here, and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we are going to face. But one thing is clear. Both crews are going to have to work together if we're to survive. That's why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew. A Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet crew assigned to the Delta quadrant, we'll continue to follow our directive - to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take 75 years to reach the Federation. But I'm not willing to settle for that. There's another entity like the caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We'll be looking for her. And we'll be looking for worm holes, spacial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere, along this journey, we'll find a way back. Mr Paris, set a course. For home."
- Captain Janeway

My favourite lines - "We are their commanding officers, we are entrusted with their safety, they are our responsibility.""We're alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We've already made some friends here, and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we are going to face. But one thing is clear. Both crews are going to have to work together if we're to survive. That's why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew. A Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet crew assigned to the Delta quadrant, we'll continue to follow our directive - to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take 75 years to reach the Federation. But I'm not willing to settle for that. There's another entity like the caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We'll be looking for her. And we'll be looking for worm holes, spacial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere, along this journey, we'll find a way back. Mr Paris, set a course. For home."

Read about the other episodes in Season 1:

Episode 3 - 'Parallax'

(1) Kate Mulgrew has acted in films like Star Trek Nemesis (2002) and The Best And The Brightest (2010). She also guest starred in television shows like Cheers, Murder, She Wrote, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Warehouse 13.

(2) Robert Beltran has acted in films like Zoot Suit (1981), Eating Raoul (1982), and Lone Wolf McQuade (1983). He also guest starred in television shows like Miami Vice, Murder, She Wrote, Lois & Clark, CSI: Miami, Medium, and Big Love.

(3) Tim Russ has acted in films like Spaceballs (1987), Star Trek Generations (1994), and Live Free And Die Hard (2010). He also played the character of Frank in the television series Samantha Who? (2007-2009) and guest starred in shows like The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, Star Trek: The Next Generation, seaQuest DSV, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, ER, NCIS, Without A Trace, Hannah Montana, iCarly, The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, and CSI: Miami. 

(4) Robert Duncan McNeill also acted in the film Masters Of The Universe (1987) and has guest starred in television shows like Quantum Leap and Murder, She Wrote. He has also directed episodes of various television shows like Star Trek Enterprise, Dead Like Me, One Tree Hill, The O.C, Las Vegas, Medium, Supernatural, Desperate Housewives, Samantha Who?, and Chuck.

(5) Roxann Dawson has guest starred in television shows like Baywatch, Without A Trace, and Closer. She also directed episodes of television shows like Charmed, Star Trek Enterprise, Lost, The O.C., Crossing Jordan, Cold Case, Hawthorne, Melrose Place, Heroes, Lie To Me, The Closer, The Mentalist, The Good Wife, Smash, Scandal, Touch, and Vegas. 

(6) Robert Picardo has acted in films like Grelims 2: The New Batch (1990), Star Trek: First Contact (1996), and Small Soldiers (1998). He is also known for playing Dr. Dick Richard in the television series China Beach (1988-1991) and guest starred in shows like The Wonder Years, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Stargate SG-1, The West Wing, Stargate Atlantis, The Closer, CSI: NY, Smallville, Castle, Supernatural, Stargate Universe, No Ordinary Family, United States Of Tara, and The Mentalist. 

(7) Ethan Phillips has acted in films like Bad Santa (2003) and The Island (2005). He also guest starred in television shows like Star Trek: The Next Generation, Star Trek: Enterprise, and Bones.

(8) Alicia Coppola acted in the film National Treasure: Book Of Secrets (2007) and has guest starred in television shows like NYPD Blue, Touched By An Angel, Chicago Hope, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Ally McBeal, Dawson's Creek, Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Monk, Las Vegas, NCIS, Medium, CSI: NY, Crossing Jordan, Bones, Jericho, Lie To Me, NCIS: Los Angeles, Revenge, and Two And A Half Men. 

The Eclectic Reviewer thinks... Star Trek Voyager will thrill you with exciting new aliens and countless new possibilities now that they're far away from home. And because of their unique circumstances, its a fascinating journey that has much potential for character development and growth over the years. Ultimately, with "case of the week" type series like Star Trek Voyager, the longevity of the series lies much on the audiences' love for the characters. Lose that and the series dies. With Star Trek Voyager, I think it's off to a fantastic start. 

* Poster from & screen grabs from the show

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