USS Voyager goes on a short mission to the Badlands in search of its missing Security Chief and the Maquis ship he was last seen on. After an unexpected 70,000 light year detour to the Delta Quadrant, it ends up heading home via the scenic route.



Plot Synopsis

The episode opens with a Maquis ship dodging into the Badlands, embracing the nearest plasma storm with a view to evading a pursuing Cardassian ship that seriously outguns it. The ploy works, but before they can plot a course back to their home base they are scanned by a coherent tetryon beam which is closely followed by a massive displacement wave which they cannot outrun.

A week later, Captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager is out recruiting personnel for a mission to investigate the disappearance of the Maquis ship... at the Federation Penal Settlement in New Zealand, of all places. Her requirement: someone who knows both the Maquis and the difficulties of navigating the Badlands, and who might also be persuaded to help Starfleet. Her target: an ex-Starfleet pilot by the name of Tom Paris, currently serving his time after being apprehended on a Maquis mission. He's bitter and uncommitted, but she knows all the right buttons to push - his father (a Starfleet Admiral with whom he has a love/hate relationship), her new Starfleet wonder-ship Voyager (small and manoeuvrable enough to navigate its way through the Badlands - just the carrot to dangle in front of a pilot), and the Maquis ship's captain, Chakotay (with whom he has a hate/hate relationship).

Paris's curiosity about the ship is soon satisfied, as his shuttlecraft pilot to Deep Space Nine - Lieutenant Stadi - gives him the grand tour fly-past and its full technical specification. But then, she's the ship's helmsman and quite as likely to be in love with the idea of flying this ship as the man who wants her job.

Cut to Quark's bar, where an amused Paris watches the attempts of its owner to fleece Voyager's new operations officer, Harry Kim... and then steps in and rescues him. Perhaps he's just in a good mood after seeing Voyager, but whatever the motivation behind that impulse it earns him a friend. And he needs one, as he's about to undergo a barrage of very cold shoulders, with the ship's doctor and first officer Cavit (Lieutenant Commanders both, and therefore amongst Voyager's most senior officers) being the chief offenders. He also doesn't like standing around on the bridge doing nothing while Stadi is piloting the ship. However, he's not likely to have much more time for that.

Approaching the Badlands, Voyager barely has time to speculate on the likely heading of the Maquis ship before it too is caught up in the displacement wave and pulled more than 70,000 light years into the Delta Quadrant. Casualties: Cavit, Stadi, the doctor and nurse, the chief engineer and Janeway's hair. The latter gets fixed as Janeway marches down to engineering to take charge of the junior engineering staff, who appear to be unable to prevent a warp core breach without a little hand holding from their ex-science officer captain. The sickbay situation is resolved by Kim activating the Emergency Medical Hologram after putting out the fire from the panel explosion that killed the medical staff. The still jobless Paris tags along. Everything else is put on hold, as the entire Voyager crew are transported to the array. Except, that is, for the newly activated holographic Doctor, who complains that nobody remembered to turn off his program before leaving.

On the array, the Voyager crew are somewhat disconcerted to find themselves on what seems to be a farm in the American cornbelt, and invited to a hoe-down to boot. To a man, they whip out their tricorders and confirm that their eyes are in fact deceiving them. Despite their scepticism, the illusion is only dispensed with when Paris and Kim discover the holographic generator and the lifesigns of the missing Maquis crew.

Three days later Voyager's crew awake back aboard their ship - minus Harry Kim. Janeway contacts the Maquis, who are also missing a crewman, and proposes that they should try to solve this shared problem together. Chakotay, unsure, looks to Tuvok for advice. Tuvok encourages him to meet with Janeway. His underlying motive becomes rapidly apparent as soon as Chakotay's team beam aboard and Janeway welcomes back her security officer. The other member of the team, Ayala, moves forward as if to deck Tuvok, but is held back by Chakotay. By the rules of the spy game Tuvok isn't a fair target, since he was only doing his duty as a Starfleet officer, and besides you can't upset a Vulcan by getting emotional with him. But Chakotay needs a target for his anger, and fortunately there's one handy: he bad-mouths Paris as a traitor and a mercenary instead, until Janeway bawls him out for speaking like that to one of her crew. Much to the surprise of everyone, including Paris, who was probably unclear until this moment that he even counted as such. It's a turning point for Paris, who then pleads successfully to be allowed to join the away team. Janeway questions his reasons - she's not in the business of helping him look better in Chakotay's eyes - but she approves of his wholly genuine concern for Kim. He's even allowed to hold one of the compression phaser rifles. They talk briefly to the Caretaker. He's evasive and cryptic in his replies, but it's apparent that he intends to keep the missing crewmembers to fulfil whatever purpose he took them for, that sending them back where they came from would be "terribly complicated" (but not impossible), and that time is short. He then dismisses them back to Voyager with a wave of his hand.

Meanwhile Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres have been relocated to an Ocampa hospital on a nearby planet and are getting acquainted, after a false start where Torres threw a major tantrum and had to be sedated. They are understandably upset to find themselves with mysterious growths on their bodies, and even more so once the Ocampa inform them that nobody has ever been known to recover from their "illness". They learn that the Caretaker is the unseen provider who looks after the Ocampas' every need - shelter, food, energy, security - and that the Ocampa have lived in their subterranean settlement since the "warming" many generations ago. The only hint of trouble in paradise is that some of the younger Ocampa are discontented with this spoon-fed existence.

Voyager has traced the pulses from the array to the Ocampa planet, and is curious about its desert state and the unnatural lack of nucleogenic particles in its atmosphere. Janeway and Tuvok speculate that it must have been caused by some environmental disaster in the past. With Paris hovering at the shoulder of the replacement helmsman and watching her every move with hungry eyes, Voyager heads in the direction of the planet, stopping only to pick up local salvage merchant Neelix on route, after he offers his services as neighbourhood guide. They learn from him that their current plight is far from unique, and that the Caretaker has been bringing ships here for months.

Neelix is somewhat less forthcoming about his intentions on the surface, leading them into a Kazon-Ogla camp where he is seized upon, blabs about the existence of replicator technology (whoops!), and is only saved by Voyager's demonstration of their ability to create water out of thin air. The away team then meet their first Ocampa - Kes - who has managed to find a way through the forcefields and the tunnels from her subterranean home, and is now a slave of the Kazon. Neelix gets the jump on the Kazon Maje Jabin (just as the Maje starts demanding water technology for free) by firing on the water containers beamed down from Voyager to cause a distraction, and using the opportunity that creates to grab Kes and suggest a beam out. It then becomes apparent that he and Kes knew each other already, and that rescuing her was his object all along. This does not go down well with the rest of the away team.

Fortunately, Kes is a more fair-minded soul, and she offers her assistance in finding Kim and Torres. They beam down again, to find that Kim and Torres have heard about the tunnels and the breaches in the security barriers and are trying to make their own way out. They split into two parties, with Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok heading for the hospital to learn all they can about the "illness" and Paris, Kes and Neelix checking out the tunnels. They find the right tunnel, and catch up with the sick Kim and Torres easily enough, but there's a problem. The array has stopped sending the energy pulses, realigned itself, then started firing at the surface to seal the energy conduits, and the firing has prevented the transporters from detecting the breaches in the barrier. Everybody will have to get to the surface on foot before they can be beamed aboard Voyager. Paris's party get there safely, but a final blast knocks out comms with Janeway's team and causes the stairway in the tunnel to become unsafe. Paris sends Kes up with the sick and goes back to the rescue, accompanied by Neelix, who's feeling much more helpful by now. Janeway and Neelix help the stunned Tuvok to the surface while Paris risks his neck to save Chakotay's life.

Back in sick bay on Voyager, Kim and Torres have been cured. Alerted to the arrival of Kazon ships in the vicinity of the array, Chakotay and Torres return to their own ship, and Janeway tries and fails to reason with the Kazon - who want the array and are willing to fight anybody for it. Janeway and Tuvok prepare to beam back to the array, but first she gives the conn to Paris, who looks startled but pleased. Like Christmas just came early. I guess for him it did.

Janeway and Tuvok talk to the Caretaker, who tells them that he is one of a race of explorers from another galaxy, who accidentally damaged the atmosphere of the Ocampas' planet. Two of them stayed behind to care for the Ocampa, although his mate has since moved on. Dying, he sought a compatible biomolecular structure to his own, in order to mate and have someone to replace him as caretaker of the Ocampa. Janeway suggests that he should let them care for themselves, and that they need the challenge of survival to help them evolve. Tuvok reports that he has figured out how to access the system to get them back, although it will take several hours. But the Caretaker has initiated an auto destruct sequence to prevent the array from falling into Kazon hands.

Meanwhile, the Kazon have got reinforcements, and the space battle is getting desperate. Voyager's weapons array is hit. Chakotay sets his ship on a collision course for the nearest Kazon ship, and the Maquis all beam across to Voyager. The disabled Kazon ship collides with the array, disabling many of its systems, including the holographic generator and the self destruct sequence that the Caretaker has set. Janeway and Tuvok get to see the true form of the Caretaker, which is a kind of shimmering, glowing blob, which on death shrinks to a fist sized lump of quartz.

Janeway decides to honour the Caretaker's wishes (and protect the Ocampa from the Kazon) by destroying the array rather than using it to get home. Torres throws a tantrum, but Janeway doesn't need anyone to remind her about the implications. She has as much to want to get home to as anyone, and rather more than most. She certainly looks quite as glum as Kim and Torres as Voyager fires upon the array.

Afterwards, they have to make the best of it. Janeway invites Chakotay and the Maquis to become part of Voyager's crew, with him becoming her first officer. Paris's good deeds and heroic acts are rewarded with a field commission and an assignment as helmsman. And Neelix and Kes sign on board after selling themselves as guides, suppliers, cooks, etc. And then Janeway instructs Paris to set course for home... the long way round.


Random Reflections

The decision that Janeway is faced with at the end of the episode is one of those no-win situations. If she uses the array to get Voyager home, the Kazon will overrun it, steal its technology, and probably exterminate the entire Ocampan race shortly afterwards. If she destroys the array instead, Voyager's faced with a 70,000 light year flight home. The option she takes is the Starfleet one - noble and self-sacrificing - not to mention the only way to make the series last longer than the pilot episode! And, whatever Tuvok says, it doesn't violate the Prime Directive since that only applies to not contaminating the cultures of pre-warp civilisations. The Kazon have warp technology (albeit stolen), and in honouring the Caretaker's wishes for the Ocampa they restore the status quo. If anybody has contaminated the Ocampa civilisation it is the Caretaker himself, but that was millennia ago and it's a little late to do anything about it now.

Besides, even if Tuvok was correct in thinking he could set the array's systems to send them back successfully, is it likely that the Kazon would have sat around and done nothing in the several hours before that was possible? They had already called for more reinforcements. It's likely that they would have destroyed or disabled Voyager and/or the array long before the return journey kicked in. This way, they backed off and settled for dogging Voyager's every move and calling them names for the next two years instead.

It might have been a good idea to find a replacement for Stadi at the conn who looked a little less similar to her. Okay, so they're not exactly identical twins, but this is the first episode and these are two very minor characters. It wouldn't have hurt to make the temporary helmsman blonde, or male, or blue, in order to make sure that the less observant in the audience didn't have cause to think: "Hang on. Isn't she dead?" Although, of course, by the end of the episode Stadi had a permanent replacement who was both fair-haired and male!

The opening credits of the pilot episode are unique in that they don't give rank for anybody other than Janeway. It's a nice touch, since it refrains from giving away too much about the fates of the other regular characters. Okay, so it wouldn't blow any plotlines to acknowledge that it's Ensign Kim, but Lieutenant Tuvok isn't revealed as Janeway's missing security officer until well into the episode, and nobody else has an official place in Voyager's pecking order until Janeway breaks out the field commissions at the end of the episode. And Torres still has another episode to wait before she makes lieutenant.

While we're on the subject of rank however, let's note a few oddities. "Lieutenant" Tuvok shows up with a lieutenant commander's pips after changing back into Starfleet uniform, and despite the fact that the next episode's opening credits won't support his claim to them he persists in wearing them for several episodes in Season One. Paris shows up in the final scene with the two pips of a full lieutenant, though he's generally seen with the one-and-a-half of a lieutenant junior grade. And while Chakotay will habitually be referred to as "Commander", the two-and-a-half bars on his Maquis insignia would seem to indicate that he is actually a lieutenant commander. His rank upon resigning from Starfleet has never been mentioned, although it's implied that he was reasonably senior and used to commanding others. Possibly he's been restored to his previous rank, but he could equally well have been promoted or demoted. But it's the right rank for the job, and the same one held by his predecessor, the late Lieutenant Commander Cavit. Voyager's a much smaller ship than the Enterprise, and wouldn't necessarily rate a full commander as the first officer.



The episode gives us enough information to form an opinion of Voyager's captain. Kathryn Janeway has many sides to her personality. She can be soppy and sentimental with Mark and her dog, but she is equally capable of telling someone when they are out of line. She tries first to negotiate with both the Caretaker and the Kazon, but she's not afraid to stand up to the enemy and use force if that approach fails. She's concerned and protective for her crew, but she will also sacrifice them in what she considers to be a good cause. She makes the tough and unpleasant decisions alone because as Captain it's her job and she's not going to shirk it or offload it on anybody else. Lest we forget, despite being the one who gave the order to blow up the array, she looked more upset about the implications of it than anyone else on the bridge except Harry and B'Elanna (though I'll never understand why B'Elanna of all people was so much hotter to get back than the people with families...) She's very much a hands-on kind of captain, pitching in with the engineering staff when the problem with the warp core arises. And personally, I rather like it that she takes the time to fix her hair on her way down to Engineering!

The episode also tells us a lot about Tom Paris. The pilot is given a complicated, flawed but redeemable character, with more excess emotional baggage than most. Having hit rock bottom in terms of both self-esteem and future prospects, he is given the opportunity to make a fresh start in life, and he makes the most of it. By the end of the episode he's back on the straight and narrow, but that doesn't automatically make him the model Starfleet officer. However heroic his instincts, he's still just a little bit too cynical and defensive for that.

The other major characters are dealt with in less detail. We learn that Chakotay is master of every sneaky trick in the Maquis book, but that he still has a lot of time for the Starfleet way of doing things. Harry Kim is the young, innocent idealist on his first posting after the Academy. His encounter with Quark is typical: he's bright enough to spot the pitfalls, but not streetwise enough to avoid stepping into them. B'Elanna Torres is hot tempered, and a lateral thinker when it comes to solving engineering problems. Tuvok does everything rigidly by the Starfleet book, so much so that it is a wonder that he ever managed to stay undercover with the Maquis, but he has an interesting flaw: for all his pride in his Vulcan heritage, he's not as emotionless as he would like to think. If you doubt that, watch his expression of pained distaste in his initial encounter with Neelix.

Neelix himself is bouncy, colourful and enthusiastic. The Talaxian can be annoying at times, and on first acquaintance he looks to be little more than the comic relief, but time has proven him to be more than that. His Ocampan companion Kes comes over as bright and curious, concerned that her people have become inward looking and dependent, and eager to widen her own horizons. Ideal explorer material, in fact. And the holographic Doctor is only seen briefly, but for long enough to establish that he has no bedside manner worth mentioning.

Minor crewmembers Carey and Ayala get to make their first appearances. Carey is one of the leading contenders for the now-vacant job of Chief Engineer, although I fear that he didn't do much to improve his chances here, since he and the other engineering staff were unable to prevent a warp core breach without the assistance of the captain. And Ayala will be seen again, in the job of general purpose Bridge flunky, just as soon as he changes out of his Maquis togs into a Starfleet uniform. Be warned though: despite his prominent appearances in this episode as third Maquis, he doesn't actually get to speak until Basics: 2.



This is Voyager's pilot episode. Its mission: to boldly spend 90 minutes spinning out a few snippets of feeble plot in order to let us Get To Know the featured players. Except that... it exceeds its brief! It has a plot that holds the viewer's attention, and while each of the cast gets at least a few moments in the spotlight in order to establish their character's main foibles it's not afraid to concentrate extensively on a few of them in the interests of better serving that plot.

Essentially, and a little surprisingly (since you'd normally expect the first episode to spend more time concentrating on the captain), this is a Paris episode. And it works very well on that basis, perhaps because Tom Paris is the character in the series who has effectively been rejected by both Starfleet and the Maquis. He is the man in the middle, and his own personal road to redemption is marked by the way that in the course of the episode he earns the respect of the leaders of both groups (albeit a somewhat grudging respect on Chakotay's part). It would probably be going too far to say that he is a symbol of the merging of the two crews, but he's certainly the person whose life that merger complicates the most!

My one major reservation about the episode is the holographic hoe-down on the array. I don't entirely buy into Tuvok's theory of the waiting room to pacify the crew before they were examined. It didn't deceive or pacify them. If the factor the Caretaker was looking for was biological, why should their mental state matter? And if it does, then why not just keep them unconscious after transporting them over and feed them a few nice dreams from their memories? That's got to be a lot less complicated than generating a whole holographic environment and peopling it. Particularly when there's only one of you to keep an eye on all of them. Still, it did allow Paris an opportunity to demonstrate to Janeway that he could conduct himself professionally in time of crisis, thus making it more plausible that she would allow him to join the later away teams. And the illusionary segment has been a feature of Star Trek pilots ever since The Cage, so it's a bit late to break with tradition now.

I thought it the strongest pilot episode of a Star Trek series since Where No Man Has Gone Before, and since it does serve the needs of the entire cast rather than just the captain and a couple of guest stars, I'm inclined to give it precedence over that as well.