The Delta Quadrant. Unknown and hostile territory, filled with dangerous races like the Borg, and Voyager's location for the seven long years of its epic journey.


Delta Quadrant

Flying In Circles... And Taking That Straight Line Shortcut

[Delta Quadrant Map]

On the whole, Voyager made reasonably good progress on that daunting journey homewards to the Alpha Quadrant. During the first three years of their 70,000+ light year trip, they averaged about 1,000 light years per year - which must mean that they spent a lot of time at warp 8 and above in the periods between episodes! Kes's parting push in The Gift put them a further 9,500 light years closer to home. Seven of Nine, using Borg astronomical knowledge, was able to trim a further 5,000 light years off their journey. The limited use they were able to put quantum slipstream technology to in Hope And Fear before it threatened Voyager's hull integrity took them a further 300 light years closer to home. Their use of the Malon's vortex in Night cut two more years off their journey, and they gained an additional ten years during their brief but doomed slipstream experiment in Timeless.

Considering that thhe ship appeared to spend much of the first year flying in circles, that's pretty impressive progress!

It took Voyager two years to pass beyond the territories of the Kazon and the Vidiians. That in itself isn't too surprising. After all, the United Federation of Planets is some 10,000 light years wide, as is the most densely populated area of Borg space. It's entirely possible that a culture with interstellar travel and warp-equivalent technology would expand their borders 2,000 light years or more. The Vidiians, with their ever more desperate search for replacement body parts and organs to fight the phage that attacks their people, would be highly motivated to range widely in that search. In all probability, they would venture far beyond their own borders, as indeed Janeway feared when she saw the illusion of a Vidiian ship in Coda, despite having left Vidiian territory behind some months earlier. And prior to the phage, the Vidiians were scholars and scientists: they had the advanced spacefaring technology to keep up with and even outpace Voyager, and demonstrated it on more than one occasion.

The motivation of the Kazon is equally easy to understand. A race of warriors and scavengers; they had the intelligence to understand and operate the equipment they stole or appropriated from other races, but not the drive and vision to create it for themselves. They might blow up a replicator through an imperfect understanding of its workings and its incompatibility with their own systems, but they were on more familiar ground in operating Voyager itself, particularly with the coaching of one of its former engineers. Certainly the spaceships they appropriated from their former masters, the Trabe, were capable of keeping pace with Voyager... and they certainly outgunned it.

And while it might seem easy in principle to simply avoid both races by going around their territory rather than through it, in practice it probably wasn't. Voyager had no knowledge of the region of space they found themselves in, beyond what Neelix could tell them, and his knowledge seems to be patchy in the extreme. He probably knew the borders of Kazon and Vidiian space, and even how to avoid them, but that doesn't mean that there wasn't a more hostile and territorially formidable foe in the other direction.

It's quite possible that, Janeway's stated preference for never going around if there's a shortcut through aside, they actually had no choice but to go through Kazon and Vidiian space. It could be that both races had territory stretching as far in other directions, and that Voyager was in fact taking the shortest and fastest route out of hostile territory that was possible. It could be that the alternative was to head through areas where star systems were few and far between, where the risk of starvation and exhausting their resources was far greater than Kazon belligerence. Whatever the case, it's likely that they were taking a line through the most thinly populated areas within those territories that Neelix's knowledge could guide them to, since they were able to avoid both races for a quite creditable amount of the two years that they spent passing through their space.

No, the problem is not with the extent of Kazon and Vidiian space; it's with the fact that they kept encountering the same people! The Vidiians aren't so much of a problem; with the exception of Danara Pel, whom they met twice within the space of five months, they always encountered different members of that race, albeit all going about the same macabre task. But having encountered the Kazon-Ogla on Ocampa within days of first arriving in the Delta Quadrant, they then ran into them again eight or nine months later, when Chakotay's shuttlecraft strayed close to a Kazon-Ogla training ground in Initiations. In the meantime, they had had encounters with another Kazon sect, the Nistrim. The Kazon-Nistrim seem to have been particularly expansionist and acquisitive. After they'd had secret dealings with disaffected Maquis such as Seska from very early on, Voyager spent much of its second year in the Delta Quadrant with the Nistrim in pursuit of them. While it is likely that it was mainly Kazon-Nistrim territory that Voyager travelled through during that second year, and spending their lives aboard their spaceships in pursuit of the resources they wish to appropriate seems to very much be the Kazon way of life, this must have taken the Nistrim's Maje Cullah and many of his warriors away from his sect's territory for a extended periods of time, leaving it exposed and vulnerable to attack by any other sect with an eye to expansion. And if Cullah did return to the Kazon-Nistrim territory between raids on Voyager, his ship's means of propulsion would be impressive enough that it might well have paid Voyager to swap a replicator or two for one, as a means of getting home a little faster!

However, the real proof that Voyager spent time flying round in circles is the planet Ilidaria. They first pass within range of it in Parallax, when they briefly consider going to it for assistance for the ship they believe to be trapped in the quantum singularity. Three months later, just prior to Cathexis, Chakotay and Tuvok leave Voyager by shuttlecraft to trade with the Ilidarians. Unless the Ilidarians came part way to meet them, or there happens to be a second planet named Ilidaria in the neighbourhood, you can't help but wonder whether the ship accidentally doubled back at some point.

Encounters with the Borg during the later years of the journey are altogether less puzzling. The Borg have the transwarp technology to move quickly and easily from place to place, even between quadrants. Voyager was fortunate enough to be able to get through the highest concentration of Borg territory without incident, thanks to Kes's parting push, but they were still in constant danger of running across a lone cube or sphere in the territory that the Borg travel and patrol between the heart of their territory and the Alpha Quadrant. And Borg travelling through real space were the least of their problems. Voyager could hide from them, but with the Borg Queen stalking them like prey, any time she could pin down their location she could get a ship to them through the vast network of transwarp conduits.

In many ways it's kind of fitting that it was finally Borg technology that enabled Voyager to cut short its journey and make it home in only seven years, so much sooner than could ever have been expected.