VOY: S1E01: “Caretaker: Part 1”

In which a long and bitter road begins. Also, this show is about people getting stranded.

We open with the sounds of war drums and an attempt at a Star Wars scroll. Just… here you go.

Unhappy with a new treaty, Federation Colonists along the Cardassian border have banded together.
Calling themselves ‘The Maquis’, they continue to fight the Cardassians.
Some consider them heroes, but to the governments of the Federation and Cardassia, they are outlaws.

A long time from now, in a galaxy that's this one...

A long time from now, in a galaxy that’s this one…

It even includes a classic upward angle on a Cardassian ship firing on a much smaller ship. There’s a fine line between homage and ripoff. No, I should give this show a fair chance. I’ll do my best. The maquis crew includes a guy with a face tattoo, a Vulcan that I think we’ve seen before, and a half-Klingon, and their broke-to-hell 39-year-old ship. And it’s our good old friend Gul Evek chasing them down. He’s going to accept a surrender, but let’s face it, that’s a suck option too.

B’Elanna, the half-Klingon, is evidently the engineering specialist and tweaks the engine. Tuvok, the Vulcan, is the tactical pessimist, and their little ship dives into a region full of plasma storms, where their more nimble ship can dodge horrible space vortexes. However, they’ve just encountered a tetryon beam and are hit by some sort of energy wave. Fade to white and the credits.

At least the credits sequence is nice. It shows a lot of the Voyager zooming around interesting planets and oh god the nacelles flap. Why do the nacelles flap.

Me too, Tom. Me too.

Me too, Tom. Me too.

The Federation has a penal settlement in New Zealand. Prisoners wear ankle trackers and are trusted with complex machinery. Cadet Locarno is one of those prisoners. I wonder if anyone told him that Picard killed one of his squad? Maybe he’s plotting revenge. that’d be a really interesting character hook for – oh, no, this is someone named Tom Paris. He’s being recruited by Captain Kathryn Janeway, which is supposed to be an offer he can’t refuse as it will get him out of gardening duty. Janeway is established by some of her past as one of ‘the best and brightest’ and the job she’s got is tracking down this Maquis ship, using the new starship VoyagerVoyager is supposed to be nimble enough to not get destroyed by the plasma storms. Tom’s job is to lead her to the Maquis base of operations, since he ran with them for all of three weeks. This particular ship is important because Janeway’s chief of security was under cover on board the ship, and hasn’t been reporting in. The commander of said ship was Chakotay, another one of Paris’ short-lived compatriots. Chakotay was from one of the colonies, a member of starfleet, and left to defend his homeland.

Paris is quite mercenary in his outlook on life, and it’s refreshing from someone who isn’t wearing orange makeup and big ears. Speaking of which, we are now on our way to Deep Space Nine, which he’s for some reason being chauffeured to in a shuttlecraft. Did… did someone just drop them off? The shuttle doesn’t even have a ship registry. In addition to being a pilot, Paris is also an incorrigible flirt.

"No, it's perfect. They'll never run into anything head-on, no need to put any hull plating there."

“No, it’s perfect. They’ll never run into anything head-on, no need to put any hull plating there.”

Voyager is a fast little ship. the Intrepid-class has a sustainable cruising speed of War 9.975, in comparison to the Galaxy’s sustainable speed of warp 8.2 and peak warp of 9.6. Logarithmic scales, though.  That’s a lot. It only has 15 decks and a crew of 141, but the ship uses an upgraded computer infrastructure that includes neural linkages. It might be based on some of the progress Maddox has made over the years… or they might be using wetware because of the lack of any progress there. Voyager also has some exposed machinery, right on the front where it’s an ideal target.

Quark is enjoying the commerce brought by all the Starfleet officers passing through, but one such officer, the fresh-faced Ensign Harry Kim, has apparently been warned about Ferengi at Starfleet Academy. While I can’t really fault them, that’s also a bit sketchy. Quark agrees. This appears to be Quark’s berserk button… or this might be a sales pitch. Lucky for Harry Kim, Tom Paris is a scoundrel of the finest caliber, and seems to be in a rescuing mood.

Paris reports in to sick bay, where the Doctor is throwing quite a bit of attitude, but we never learn his name. I wonder if that could be important in any way within the next… say… ten minutes?

Janeway’s got a call from her boyfriend and foists her pregnant dog off on him for the duration of this simple trip around the block. Ahh, they have a wonderful relationship. Surely nothing will possibly go wrong. Also, early hints of Janeway’s management style: wry. Literally everyone is giving Paris the stinkeye, but he gets to be on the bridge for embarkation, so that’s something, at least. Still, he can’t even get tomato soup from the replicator without the rest of the crew getting up and leaving the room. Are we sure this isn’t Locarno? He was in an accident, which he was at fault for, which he lied about for a while and falsified reports on. But the show’s puppy Harry Kim is not to be deterred! Someone tells him not to hang out with the cool dangerous outlaw? Why, that’s just what he’ll do.

"I'm sure the nice people at this station will help us out."

“I’m sure the nice people at this station will help us out.”

Voyager has reached the badlands. Paris gives Janway a heading, they do some extrapolation based on the storms, and then a tetryon wave starts scanning them and a displacement wave heading towards them. Starfleet protocols still, apparently, do not include allowing the helm the initiative to navigate away from big dangerous scary energy waves, and Voyager is hit too. They can’t go to warp in the plasma field, and when the whiteout fades, the bridge has been savaged. The first officer is dead, the doctor is dead (called it), the helmswoman is dead. There’s a weird station on screen firing energy pulses off into space, and Voyager has been moved 70,000 light-years away from the outer edge of Federation space.

They’ve found the Maquis ship, at least, but there’s no life signs aboard. They can’t scan the array, but they also have bigger problems in averting a warp core breach when the chief engineer is dead. Janway has some engineering chops and goes down to put out that fire, while Paris and Kim go to put out the fires in Sick Bay. These are literal fires, by the way. I guess when the ship is this badly damaged, the emergency fire suppression force fields go offline. Good thing Voyager has actual extinguishers. Janway took the time to put her hair back in a bun, but she’s good at triage. Speaking of triage, Voyager has an Emergency Medical Hologram, but it’s only programmed for short-term use. Who knows what could happen with all the medical staff dead and the ship this far from resupply.

So we’ve already got our Outsider character. Like Spock, Data, and Odo before him, the EMH is set up to have to deal with pesky Humans / Organics / Solids / Massies without quite being one of them. Paris also fills this role, as a Federation-native reprobate.

Janeway’s got the engines up and running, but moments later the Array starts scanning them and transporting people away to leave the Doctor confused and alone on the ship and unable to self-terminate.

Oh good, just what Star Trek was always lacking. Banjo music.

Oh good, just what Star Trek was always lacking. Banjo music.

The crew, meanwhile, have been trasported to a a southern manor and are being invited in for lemonade. They’re on the array in some sort of mega-holodeck being subjected to some interpretation of a welcoming ritual intended to make them feel comfortable. That’s the problem with god-like energy beings… they’re ridiculously out of touch. The whole crew is here – Paris even did some wrangling. Making himself super useful.

The GEBs aren’t giving any answers, so the crew are going out to look for whatever’s generating the illusions. Paris and Kim have teamed up, and Tom is barely distracted at all by the Farmer’s Daughter. In the barn, Kim detects some sort of life-form with an omnipresence, and suddenly the simulation turns hostile as they approach, and then relents and dissolves some setpieces.

B’Elanna, Chakotay, Tuvok, and dozens of others are suspended in some sort of lab, getting needles plunged into them. Then they all wake up back on the ship, three days later. The Maquis ship is also back up and running, and some certain members of the crew are not aboard. Oh, just Harry Kim. Chakotay is also missing someone – B’Elanna. Janeway suggests they team up in this moment of crisis.

Okay, hold up. Chakotay, Tuvok, and some rando beam over with their phasers out. The warning that they’re armed comes so late its comical. At that point, don’t even bother. Also, it is at this time that Tuvok reveals that he was the mole. After a brief and to-be-continued Airing of Grievances, they settle into a tactical assault plan. They beam over to the array and menace the banjoy guy with phasers. Banjo guy is looking for something, and the two crew members might have what he needs to repay a debt before time runs out.

Now, I can definitely respect the “leave no one behind” ethos, but if someone moved you 70,000 light years and your ship goes somewhere in the rather generous ballpark of 3,000C maximum, you’re not really in a position to make demands. Not like the Array Being is offering anyway. There’s still that pulse it’s firing off, though. Surely that’s a lead to follow.

Yeah, I'd be pissed too. Well, the first season is always rough. Surely it will get better.

Yeah, I’d be pissed too. Well, the first season is always rough. Surely it will get better.

Harry Kim wakes up in an alien hospital, covered in horrible growths. B’Elanna is there too, and starts attacking the doctors until they sedate her. Janeway picks up on the lead, and Tuvok notices an increase in the pulse frequency. Since he’s a security officer rather than a science officer, he has no idea why. The planet the pulses are going to is completely barren, too. It’d be an M-class planet except that it doesn’t have the particle that produces rain. That particle isn’t, somehow, water.

Janeway is already starting to break down under the stress, and indulges in some pointless guilt tripping. On the way to the planet, Voyager encounters a debris field and a one-man cargo ship scavenging off it. This person is Neelix, and he’s quite personable once they make it clear they’re not interested in scrap. He’s familiar with the whole story, and has clearly encountered others on this plotline before. We keep cutting to reaction shots of Paris. The Array Being is called the Caretaker, and the inhabitants of the planet are the ocampa, and this is kind of a standard operation. Neelix is a bit busy scavenging through debris, but is willing to help them out in exchange for the rare resource ‘water.’

So Neelix doesn’t have and doesn’t know of anyone who has ready access to replicators. Fine, but all you really have to do is find a way to spark off hydrogen and oxygen without dying in the process. He’s in a ship that has FTL capabilities. In any case, Janeway agrees to his price. It should not be surprising that Neelix is not familiar with transporter technology either, although to be fair the Federation seems to have invented transporters before matter editation as well.

Tuvok introduces himself to Neelix, but is evidently not trained in first contact protocols, as he flubs the introduction and tells their new guest that he smells as hideous as his mohawk-mullet looks.

On the planet (Ocampa?) B’Elanna’s woken up again and is not particularly endeared by Harry’s sarcasm or his basic common sense. One of the Ocampa doctors walks in and starts explaining the situation – the Caretaker sent them, the Ocampa has no idea what the blistering pustules growing on them are, and it’s time for lunch. The Ocampa have an underground city going back five hundred generations, even since their planet surface fell to global climate change. It was around this time that the Caretaker arrived, carved a chasm in the crust, and helped them get set up. Therefore, they respect the Caretaker as a… well, a caretaker. The Caretaker built their facilities, including some replicator stand-ins. Harry, showing his Starfleet training, asks why the Ocampa think he and B’Elanna are there, and the Ocampa believe that the Caretaker found the horrible blister disease and separated Kim and Torres from the rest of their species. Because nobody ever survives the disease.

To be continued…

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