How Star Trek Voyager could have been Much better from the get go.

Ok, let's take things back to the 90's here, where Star Trek spins off were plentiful thanks to the success of The Next Generation which made Paramount come to the genius decision to commission a second spin off, Deep Space Nine. And then, with TNG going off the air to take over the movie side of things as Kirk and crew made their final voyager together in The Undiscovered Country, and having spent seven years with five rather good seasons to it's name and three rather mixed seasons, and DS9 in it's second season, the decision was made to make a third spin off live action show, and would build on certain plot threads introduced in TNG and DS9 regarding the Nazi like Cardassians, and the Maquis. The Maquis (who took their name from WWII French Freedom fighters, becasue, why not?) are a group of Federation citizens who have taken up arms against the Cardassians as the Federation kept declining to take action to prevent the various incursions the Cardassians kept making into Federation space, not to mention the various attacks they also kept making against the same citizens who eventually banded together for self defence and to take the fight back to the Cardassians.
This spin off would be Star Trek Voyager.

Ok, so for those that haven't seen it, or have forgotten all about it (it first aired twenty years ago after all, chances are some of you reading this might not have even been a glint in your fathers eyes just then) the setup was simple, a federation scoutship/explorer ship in the form of the recently commissioned USS Voyager is sent on a mission to discover what happened to it's security chief, Tuvok, who was deep under cover on a Maquis vessel and last seen in the badlands, a region of space that is kind of mostly a gas giant nebula that came from someones nightmare as it's rather volatile, what with giant, planet sized space twisters made of the same gases that could tear most vessels apart if caught unaware.

Actually, now that I think about it, the premise might take a bit more than just one or two paragraphs. Let's go for a full basic synopsis, eh?

Voyager is under command of Captain Janeway, who deciding she needs a guide to the Maquis and their tactics and hideouts, picks up former Starfleet Ace Pilot, Tom Paris, the disgraced son of her previous commanding officer, currently serving a prison sentence in New Zealand for having joined the Maquis after being dishonourably discharged, and being captured on his very first mission for them. After introducing herself, allowing Tom to provide some details that she must be good as his father only took the best as his crew, she gives him a simple offer.

Join her or die.

Ok, only kidding. There's a few fan parodies of Janeway that tend to take her character down a very extreme route, more so then the writers of the show did, as more often than not, your kind of wondering how she became a starship captain. Unlike Picard who prefers diplomacy, she does seem to like using her guns first, more so then Kirk did, and that IS saying something. Not that she's incapable of diplomacy, she does make use of it quite well in the series as a whole, but still, you do get the feeling the different writers all had different ideas of what she was supposed to be like, and this gave Kate Mulgrew (a very capable, talented actress) a very, very difficult job in reigning in the character and keeping her as consistent as she could. But this is getting beyond the whole point of this article.

She asks Tom to be her guide and he'll be freed from the rest of of his jail time, so naturally he agrees and joins her in the role of an observer. After a quick stop off at DS9 where Tom saves Voyagers hapless Ensign Harry Kim from being conned by Quark, and marks the start of a beautiful friendship, (Sorry shippers, not that kind of friendship. Slash fiction be damned.) they head off to the Badlands and get hit by the same kind of energy wave that captured the Maquis vessel, resulting in chaos over the ship as it turns out 24th century surge protectors aren't built to and decent standard, killing any senior staff whose names weren't on the main cast list, as well as 
the ships pilot, a number of extras in all three colours of shirts and leaves them 70,000 light years from home in the furthest reaches of the Delta Quadrant.


And THEN they get
 abducted.


Yes, again. This time they vanish from the ship altogether, and bizarrely they find themselves in a recreation of an American farm, complete with cornfield (possibly a homage to a certain twilight zone episode, or just a reality of American farms in general?) and promptly every member of the crew, every single extra included, of which their are dozens, start scanning with their tricorders, they obviously want to be productive, but it gives the scene a very bizarre look to it. The residents of the farm are incredibly friendly, offering food and drink to everyone with no questions asked and big smiles all around. It's like Little House on the Prairie on........ something sinister and unwholesome. Which is why this turns out to be a ruse by aliens who knock the crew out and start doing medical experiments on them. We have no idea if it involves probing.

You know what I mean.

They all come too and find themselves on the ship and begin to check themselves and find everyone's ok.
Oh and Harry is missing.

This sets the scene for the rest of the pilot, quickly repairing the damage and catching up with the Maquis ship, and allows them to introduce the rest of the main cast, such as:
The Emergency Holographic Doctor, a computer programme with a personality seemingly based on Bones from TOS, on high doses of bitterness steroids with extra sourness thrown in for good measure. He doesn't have that much to do in this episode, except wonder about the crews inability to turn him off when they don't need him anymore, leaving him to pace around sickbay feeling bitter
Chakotay, the leader of the Marquis cell they were tracing, and his flight crew which includes Tuvok whose role as an undercover agent takes Chakotay by complete surprise. He doesn't like Tom much and considers him a mercenary.
And Neelix, a Talaxian and Delta quadrant local who offers to be a guide, and who in later episodes assumes the role of chef, morale officer and even becomes an ambassador for the ship, and seems to develop a borderline obsession with Janeway and makes it his mission to make Tuvok smile.
He even starts his own youtube channel.
Seriously.

Harry meanwhile wakes up in an alien medical facility and meets the fiery Torres, a human Klingon hybrid who was part of the Maquis flight crew, chief engineer and is also one of Chakotays closest friends. Both turn out to be infected with something that tends to be lethal and are getting treatment from the aliens for it, but it turns out to be rather lethal in all cases. Getting into bad situations like this tends to become a defining character trait for Harry, while trying to beat the hell out of anything that annoys her is certainly a recurring theme for Torres. Thankfully we never see her resorting to hitting the warp core with a hydro spanner.

Neelix meanwhile manages to sideline the crew with their attempts to locate their crew by taking the, to meet with the Kazon, the local low rent Klingon wannabes, who have hair that seems to be a feat of engineering in of themselves. It's just a shame they have none of the good points of the Klingons, like brains or providing a boneafide legitimate threat. Apparently they can help them find the missing crew mates, and has them beam down to a planet that is nothing but desert, complete with a large supply of water to trade with, as apparently it quite rare stuff (remember the Kazon do not have the brains of the Klingons, so that isn't necessarily true). But it's just a trick to rescue his girlfriend, Kes from the Kazon who had captured and beaten her.

Kes is a member of the 
Ocampa, a race of aliens with less then a decade to live, and she's only three years old! The unintended creepiness of her relationship with Neelix, and any other possible romantic partnering outside of her own race, is not something ever looked into by the show, beyond the fact that the females can only ever have one child, and their reproductive system, just doesn't sound compatible with humans. But in fairness she does look very much like a human woman in her early twenties or late teens, and has a personality with the same level of maturity you would expect of a woman in that age range, if not maybe a bit more so. 


Because of her life expectancy and since she has found out about the wider world, she wants to explore and see as much of it as she can, Neelix meanwhile wants her to come with him and leave the Voyager crew, but she convinces him to stay and help.

More to the point her race is the very same race looking after Harry and Torres!


Her entire race lives in an underground city on the same planet they just rescued her from and they have power supplied by a space station in orbit above their planet, that is operated by none other than the same alien that abducted the crew in the first place, or the Caretaker as they know him. For some reasons the amount of energy he sends them has been increasing in frequency in it's deliveries, but no one knows why. This power is what is used to allow the Ocampa to live a rather luxurious lifestyle and even protects their city with a force field that prevents anyone getting in or out. But Kes had discovered a gap and used it to explore the surface.


And as it turns out, that underground city is where Harry and Torres are being treated for the terminal case of approaching unnatural death they have received from that very same alien in the cornfield. Janeway and Chakotay agree to team up to use the resources of their crews and ships to find their missing crew mates and find a way home. T
he crew makes use of the same exit from the Ocampa's underground home that Kes used to leave, in order to get in and rescue their crew mates. 


But the Kazon have other ideas, and send in their own ships, including a massive warship that would make Picards Enterprise D feel inadequate. During the resulting battle, Harry and Torres are cured by the EMH, Tuvok determines the Caretaker is dying and making sure they have enough energy to live safely for a few years, and Janeway manages to confront the Caretaker, finding out the very reason he was was abducting aliens. Tuvok was very much correct, the Caretaker IS dying, in fact, he has only moments left and confesses he was trying to find someone he could propagate with and have a child who could take over his work of protecting the 
Ocampa, whose planets condition he is responsible for. He did have a mate, but she left years ago for reasons that are never explained.


His space station also has the technology to get the crews home, in fact he had sent home other abducted aliens until he took the Maquis, but if they do use it, the Kazon will be able to take over and then use it to get to the Ocampa. and at best, they would just kill them all as they see little value in them as a people, but love the idea of getting their hands on their advanced technology. And Voyager is a great example of being Very advanced technology, which puts it right at the top of the Kazon's WANT IT list.

During the battle in space, Chakotay beams his crews aboard Voyager and rams his ship into the Kazons biggest vessel, taking it out and only just getting beamed out himself at the last possible second. But Janeway finds herself with an impossible choice, does she use this technology to get home? Or does she destroy it to save the 
Ocampa?


#dilemma

She makes her decisions, and blows up the Caretakers space station, quickly receiving a message from the head Kazon that she has made an enemy, but more importantly her next actions has fans asking the question, what could she have done differently in that moment before she blew up the space station?

What action does she take? She invites the Maquis crew, some of who were ex Starfleet to begin with to join her crew, commissions Tom back to his old rank, gives her new combined crew a rousing speech, and orders a course to be set to go home.

So, screw the 
Ocampa then? In the next few years they'll have no power left, they'll run out of food and have to head to the barren, desolate, lifeless hellhole that is the surface of their home world, and also just so happens to be the Kazons favourite spot in the system to stop to take a piss break, and yeah, we can all see good things coming out of that, can't we? Why exactly did you save them, only to leave them to that fate?


Yeah, it is a good point about her snap decision at that point to blow up the array, it's a battle, any captain might have made the same choice, including Kirk and Picard, and both are noted tacticians. Given her weapons are better then the Kazon, but while you might think she could have won that battle quite easily, they do have weight of numbers on their side, not to mention fanatical stupidity as well. You still get the feeling she could win easily against smaller numbers, but that great big ship which had to be taken out by Chakotay going kamikaze, was more than an equaliser.

But what of the Tri Cobalt devices? She used two of those to blow up the Caretakers space station, and that was supposed to be far more advanced technology than anything Starfleet had, so imagine if she had used one, just one on a Kazon vessel? Even with their tenacity, the remaining ships might have decided to put some distance between themselves and maybe try a new tactic, like thinking first.

But no, the writers wanted to do a story about getting home, about trading for supplies and living a harsher life beyond the frontier that Kirk or Picard had known, meting much stranger aliens of the week and so on, most of which they never did and Voyager always looked like it had just flown out the Utopia Planitia fleet yards, no matter how much of a pounding it took the episode before hand. Some thought it was the writers of Trek trying to do their own take on Lost in Space, but the difference is that they weren't lost, they knew exactly where they were, and how to get home, even how long it would take, 70 years, they just seemed to want to wrap the episode up a bit, and work out all the kinks, and this is pretty much the only flaw in that episode.

One thing that is immediately obvious, given Janeway had Tri Cobalt weapons, which are basically a supper powered photon torpedo substitute, she could have used one to take out the Kazons most powerful, massive ship, allowing her to pick off the smaller ships at her leisure. But which in turn could have destroyed the Caretakers station as that same massive ship lost control of itself and crashed into it before then crashing into the planets surface, possibly doing even MORE damage to the planet, possibly cutting the Ocampas time safe in their underground city, even shorter.

And something I'd not thought of till now, if s
he had stayed in orbit of the Ocampa home world, regardless of whether the Caretakers station is still there or not, she could still explore that system in great detail. Much of the first season features Janeway doing just that, and any one of those plots could have been reworked to be fit into an episode where they were exploring and charting just that one system, rather than possibly a different system each week. And staying in that system makes more sense again to perform a really deep analysis of it, in far greater detail then we normally see in a Star Trek series, especially if it turns out to have another space station near it's edge to potentially trade with and set episodes on, and fill the system up with numerous gas giants and their own moons to explore, some of which might be home to other aliens. And not to mention asteroids to mine for materials all in the name of protecting the Ocampa and helping them move on and develop their planet.

Ok, that would mean violating the Prime Directive of none interference, but she'd already done that in the episode proper anyway, might as well go for broke.

AND in this setup you can have even more possible story lines about mixed crew friction as a lot of Maquis and Starfleet crew members might not like this situation and might want to move on and get home. Something that was originally meant to be the case, but quickly got shelved, along with a lot of other ideas that would make sense for a ship by itself with no support like a Starbase. Tension between Tuvok and Chakotay could be a prime example of this, something the show did occasionally do, but usually in a way that made Chakotay look like an utter idiot.

You could even have Paris feel his loyalties are divided as he feels sympathetic to both crews and is torn between doing the right thing, but not being sure what that is.

Not to mention what would happen if the Caretakers ex decided to show up. It would have to be a lot better then what they actually did with her on the show itself.

Hmmm, this actually sounds pretty good. Where did I put my word processor? I've a story outline to write.

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