Caretaker (Star Trek: Voyager)

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"Caretaker"
Star Trek: Voyager episode
Episode no. Season 1
Episode 1 & 2 (or 1 pilot)
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Story by Rick Berman
Michael Piller
Jeri Taylor
Teleplay by Michael Piller
Jeri Taylor
Featured music Jay Chattaway
Production code 101 & 102
Original air date January 16, 1995 (1995-01-16)
Guest appearance(s)
Episode chronology
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List of Star Trek: Voyager episodes

"Caretaker" is the first and second episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager. This series pilot premiered as one double-length episode on January 16, 1995, as the first telecast of the fledgling UPN network. It was later split into two parts for syndication. Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet and Maquis crew of the starship USS Voyager after they were stranded in the Delta Quadrant far from the rest of the Federation.

The two hour long debut version was seen by 21.3 million people in January 1995.[1] "Caretaker" has existed in two forms, a single hour and half show and as two episodes.[2]

Plot[edit]

After a scrolling text introduction to the Cardassian and Federation relationship with the Maquis rebels, the opening scene shows the Cardassians pursuing a smaller Maquis spacecraft. The Maquis ship escapes into the Badlands, a dangerous nebula, where the Cardassian vessel is damaged by a plasma storm and the Maquis ship is caught in a displacement wave.

On Earth, Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship USS Voyager recruits Tom Paris, a captured Maquis, from a New Zealand prison to help track down the missing Maquis spacecraft. She's looking for her security chief, who was aboard the ship as a Federation spy at the time of its disappearance. Leaving from Deep Space Nine, Voyager journeys to the Badlands, where it is scanned by a "coherent tetryon beam" before being struck by a displacement wave that wreaks havoc on the ship.

The crew recovers to find themselves in the Delta Quadrant, over 70,000 light years from Federation space. Dead crew members include the second-in-command, helm officer, chief engineer, and the medical staff. The crew activate the Emergency Medical Hologram to treat the injured. Before they get their bearings, the crew are transported to a holographic simulation aboard a nearby array by a being called the Caretaker. Seeing through the simulation, the Voyager crew discover the Maquis, unconscious and undergoing strange medical experiments. Before they can react, the crew are subjected to the same experiments. Later, both crews awake on their own vessels and find they are each missing one crew member: Harry Kim from Voyager, and the Maquis B'Elanna Torres. Attempts to negotiate with the Caretaker are fruitless as he insists there's no time for such talk. Janeway offers to work with the Maquis leader Chakotay to find the missing people and return to the Alpha Quadrant.

The two ships follow pulses of energy sent from the array to a nearby planet. En route, they encounter Neelix, a space trader who is eager to help them out in exchange for rescuing his companion, the Ocampa Kes, from the violent Kazon that inhabit the planet's surface. Kes explains that her people live in a subterranean complex and are cared for by the Caretaker who supplies them with energy, with the only expectation in turn that they care for the beings that he sends to them, each one suffering from a strange disease that appears incurable. As the crews determine how to rescue Kim and Torres, the Caretaker realigns the array and begins firing more bursts of energy. Janeway's security chief, the Vulcan Tuvok, deduces that the Caretaker is dying and is ensuring the Ocampa are kept safe by sealing the underground complex. With time running short, a combined Away Team penetrates the shields protecting the complex and rescues Kim and Torres.

The crews again ask the Caretaker to return them to the Alpha Quadrant. He reveals that he was part of an alien race whose technology had long ago accidentally destroyed the Ocampa planet's atmosphere, leaving it an arid desert. In recompense, he and another of his race have cared for the Ocampa ever since. His companion having long moved on, he has experimented on species from distant galactic sectors with the hope of finding a compatible match so that he can reproduce and pass the responsibility to his offspring. With death almost upon him, the Caretaker initiates the array's self-destruct sequence to prevent the technology from falling into the hands of the Kazon. As the Caretaker dies, the ships are attacked by a Kazon fleet. Janeway and Chakotay coordinate a counterattack to protect the array; Chakotay sacrifices his vessel to destroy one of the Kazon ships, but damage to the array disables the self-destruct sequence. Janeway opts to respect the Caretaker's wishes and orders the destruction of the array, despite it being their only chance at returning home. With the array destroyed, the Kazon disengage, and their leader tells Janeway, "you made an enemy today".

As Voyager starts on a 75-year journey back to the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway integrates the Maquis into the Starfleet crew, with Chakotay as her second-in-command. Janeway appoints Paris as helmsman, and Neelix and Kes remain on board as guides to the local area of space.

Production[edit]

Filming began on September 6, 1994, with the scenes set on Deep Space Nine.[3] Scenes with Geneviève Bujold, the first actress chosen to play Captain Nicole Janeway, were filmed with her over September 7 and 8.[3] Bujold and the director Winrich Kolbe reportedly disagreed over Bujold's performance: Bujold insisted on playing the role in a more restrained way than Kolbe wanted.[3] She quit on her second day of filming and production was suspended until September 12, when filming of scenes without Janeway recommenced.[3] Actresses reported as possible replacements for Bujold included Joanna Cassidy, Susan Gibney, Elizabeth Dennehy, Tracy Scoggins, and Lindsay Crouse.[4] Kate Mulgrew was cast as Captain Kathryn Janeway, from among four actresses recalled from the original round of auditions, and shooting of her scenes began on September 19.[3] Several of Bujold's scenes can be seen on the Season One DVD extras.[5]

"Caretaker" took 31 days to shoot, and was filmed at multiple locations.[6] The production of the pilot episode remains one of the most expensive in television history, reportedly costing an unprecedented $23 million.[4][7]

The pilot has similarities to Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, which also features a hologram, a starship transported by an anomaly into a new alien landscape and the deaths of bridge officers and their replacement with a misfit crew.[3] The scenes of medical experiments on the array appear to pay homage to Bujold's 1978 film Coma,[3] and the opening sequence of the episode—a text crawl followed by a small spaceship being chased by a larger one—mirrors the opening of Star Wars.[2]

Reception[edit]

The Hollywood Reporter ranked "Caretaker" among the 100 best episodes in the Star Trek franchise, and noted its similarity to the Next Generation universe, where Enterprise was often transported to a distant location from which the crew were expected to escape.[6] Two examples of this are "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "The Price", in the latter of which a spacecraft is stranded in the Delta Quadrant, just like Voyager. Voyager encounters the characters from "The Price" in the third season episode "False Profits".

Variety found "Caretaker" to be a worthy launch of a Star Trek series, calling it "impressive" and praising the design of the Intrepid-class Voyager spaceship.[8]

On the other hand, "Caretaker" marked a reduction in viewers from the last episode of The Next Generation, which had over 30 million viewers when it concluded the previous year in early 1994.[9] Voyager was not able to maintain the viewership achieved with "Caretaker" (21.3 million), but did achieve average ratings and seven seasons of production.[1] As with Deep Space Nine, it had consistently lower ratings than The Next Generation but managed to be successful in expanding the Star Trek franchise and fill the popular appetite for Star Trek shows that had grown to a frenzy in the 1990s.[9] Although "Caretaker" successfully established the characters and their predicament, reviewers complain that the integration of the two disparate crews so quickly is unconvincing,[3][10] and too many plot points are left unexplained, such as how Neelix and Kes met[10] and how Kim and Torres were cured.[3]

Releases[edit]

Caretaker was released on VHS tapes on April 4, 2000,[11] and on DVD in 2004 and 2017 as part of the Season 1 Voyager DVD set when the whole Voyager series was released.[12]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Nowalk, Brandon (May 28, 2013). "Star Trek: Voyager accidentally presided over the franchise's decline". AV Club. Onion Inc. 
  2. ^ a b Harrisson, Juliette (July 24, 2012). "Star Trek Voyager: Caretaker". Doux Reviews. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jones, Mark; Parkin, Lance (2003). Beyond the Final Frontier: An Unauthorised Review of the Trek Universe on Television and Film. London: Contender Books. pp. 273–274. ISBN 978-1-84357-080-6. 
  4. ^ a b Kim, Albert (September 23, 1994). "Genevieve Bujold Abandons 'Star Trek: Voyager'". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. 
  5. ^ Star Trek: Voyager Season 1 DVD Collection, Disc 5
  6. ^ a b Couch, Aaron; McMillan, Graeme (September 8, 2016). "'Star Trek': 100 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. 
  7. ^ Franklin, Garth (October 4, 2016). "A Closer Look At The 'Westworld' Budget". Dark Horizons. Dark Futures Pty. 
  8. ^ Lowe, Kinsey (January 15, 1995). "Review: 'Star Trek: Voyager the Caretaker'". Variety. 
  9. ^ a b Schmuckler, Eric (July 24, 1994). "TELEVISION: Profits, Reruns and the End of 'Next Generation'". The New York Times. 
  10. ^ a b Hoffman, Jordan (January 16, 2013). "One Trek Mind #58: Revisiting 'Caretaker'". StarTrek.com. CBS Studios. 
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Star Trek: Voyager - DVD Re-Releases Continue with 'Complete Series' and Season Sets

External links[edit]