Star Trek: Voyager – 1×01/1×02 – “Caretaker”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Caretaker”
Originally Broadcast January 16th, 1995
Reviewed by Christina Luckings

The Story

Stardate – 48315.6

“Damage report” orders the man fighting with the controls of a small ship. His crew, a Klingon-looking woman and a Vulcan, among others give him the bad news. Fuel lines are ruptured and the shields are failing. A Cardassian, Gul Evek, gives them an ultimatum – surrender or… Instead they launch torpedoes at him and head into the Badlands, an area of space with plasma storms that small vessels can navigate, just about, but larger vessels cannot. The Cardassian ship is damaged and sends out a distress signal. But just as they think they have time to start repairs, this crew encounters a tetryon beam and then discover a displacement wave coming towards them. Can they avoid this danger?

At the Federation Penal Settlement in New Zealand, a woman in StarFleet uniform is introducing herself to one of the inmates. She is Captain Kathryn Janeway, and she has served with his father, Admiral Paris. There is a mission that she would like him to help her with. A search for a Maquis ship that went missing in the Badlands a week ago. Tom Paris doesn’t think this is a good idea. He was only with the Maquis a few weeks before he was caught and doesn’t know their hiding places. Janeway wants to find this particular ship because her chief of security was on board as a spy. He is still reluctant, until she tells him that the Captain of the ship is called Chakotay. There is ill feeling there and he has no problem in agreeing to go along as an observer to help capture this ex-StarFleet officer.

From a shuttlecraft, Tom gets his first view of Voyager, an Intrepid class ship capable of crusing at warp 9.975. It has 15 decks and bio-neural circuitry which speeds up response time. They are docked at Deep Space Nine, where a young ensign is having an encounter with a Ferengi barkeep called Quark. Harry Kim is trying not to be sold some Lobi crystals, and when he says that they were warned about Ferengi at StarFleet Academy, Quark claims the high ground. Surrilous insults against his people! The Federation Council can expect an official query about this. Eager to avoid an incident, Kim backtracks and tries to open negociations when Tom Paris intervenes. Claiming the goods are very common and worth little, he drags Kim away to safety.

The pair report to sickbay and the doctor there curtly informs Tom that the Captain was wanting to know if he was on board. Harry decides that he ought to report for duty too. In the hallway, Harry asks Tom why the Doctor was so offhand with him. Tom doesn’t explain, but says that someone else will tell him sooner or later.

In the Captains Ready Room, Kathryn Janeway is talking over a monitor with her fiance Mark about a very important subject. Her dog is due to have puppies in seven weeks and she can’t put her in kennels in that condition. Mark agrees. He’s already picked up the doggie bed and will take care of her while Kathryn is away on her short rescue mission. The door chimes and Ensign Kim and Mr Paris report for duty. They go to the bridge together where she introduces them to the first officer, Lt Commander Cavit. Kim takes his station and Lt Stadi pilots Voyager away from DS9 on their mission.

Down in the messhall, Tom Paris discovers that replicators can be overprogrammed. There are 14 varieties of tomato soup available, and he doesn’t like the one he’s got. Harry has heard the story of the Tom’s disgrace and wants to know if it is true. Tom says it is. He falsified reports about the deaths of three officers, got an attack of conscience and confessed. He was dismissed from StarFleet and, looking for a fight, joined the Maquis. On his first assignment with them he was caught, tried and put in jail. Then Captain Janeway calls him to the bridge. They are approaching the Badlands.

With the help of the last known position as provided by the Cardassians, and charts of that days storm activity, they hope to work out the course the little ship was taking. Tom Paris suggests they were trying for an M-class planetoid in the Terikof Belt. They adjust course and move in to the Badlands proper. Harry detects a tetryon beam scanning them, and a displacement wave behind it. Janeway initiates red alert and Cavit tries a graviton field to disperse the wave, but with no effect. They brace for impact.

There’s a hull breach on deck 14, comm lines to engineering are down and Sickbay is not responding. Stadi is dead and Harry is trying to make sense of what the sensors are telling him. There is something out there, and the stars say they are 70000 light years from home.

The something nearby is an array, with the Maquis ship docked. There are no lifesigns on the ship and sensors cannot penetrate the array. It does not respond to hails so instead Janeway responds to a call from Engineering and sends Harry to find out what is happening in Sickbay. Tom goes with him to discover both the Doctor and nurse have died when a console exploded. Ensign Kim puts out the fire and then activates the Emergency Medical Hologram and informs him that the medical personnel are dead and they are a long way from getting replacements. Injured crew begin to arrive for treatment. Meanwhile, in engineering, the Captain is directing operations and preventing a warp core breach when the array scans them again and everyone disappears. Except the EMH, who is annoyed at not being switched off.

On a farm, an old woman offers lemonade and cookies to the crew. A man begins to play a banjo. But Captain Janeway decides immediately that this is not real and orders her people to search for a holographic generator. Harry Kim is carrying a tricorder, and detects Sporocystian life signs in a barn. A holographic girl tries to stop them going in but fails. When Harry announces a Vulcan and other human lifesigns nearby she becomes aggressive. They weren’t ready for them yet but now will have to proceed ahead of schedule. The back wall of the barn fades to reveal rows of people with things stuck into them. Then the Voyager crew join them, and Kim screams as the needle enters his body.

Back on Voyager, three days have past and the Maquis ship is powering up it’s engines. Janeway orders a tractor beam to be put on them while Tom discovers that Ensign Kim is missing. She hails the Maquis Captain Chakotay to see if he is there, and learns that the klingon-looking engineer B’Elanna Torres is missing from his crew. They agree to work together to solve their mutual problem.

Chakotay beams over to the bridge with Tuvok and another crewman, phasers drawn just in case it’s a trick. Janeway orders her crew to put their weapons down and the Maquis do the same. Then Tuvok turns to Chakotay and informs him that he is a StarFleet spy working for Captain Janeway. Chakotay sees Tom Paris there and demands to know what his price for betraying them was this time. The Captain intervenes, insisting that Paris be treated like any other member of her crew. Moving to the matter at hand, Tuvok gives his assessment of their recent experience. He believes that the holographic environment was created from information in their computers as one likely to be most comfortable while they waited to be examined by the lifeform. So why were two of their number not released? Janeway orders the rifles to be handed out. She and Chakotay will look for Torres and Kin on the array while Tuvok tries to learn more about it. As it brought them here, they have to assume it can send them home. Tom volunteers to join the hunt for Harry, his new friend.

Back on the array, the trio meet the man with the banjo. He is dismissive of them. They don’t have what he needs but Harry and B’Elanna might. He tells Janeway and Chakotay to leave them behind. When they say they won’t he tells them that he understands, but there is not enough time left. He has to honour a debt that can never be repaid and his search has been going badly. Sending them back is terribly complicated and he doesn’t have time. The away team is back on Voyager, watching energy pulses being sent from the array to…somewhere.

Kim and Torres are in a hospital, and Torres is not happy about it. She apologises to Harry for the temper of her Klingon half. One of the locals brings them clothing and invites them to a meal in the courtyard where some things get explained. This is an underground society, and has been for over 500 generations. When their planet turned into a desert, the Caretaker opened the ground and led them down here. He has provided for them ever since. Food is dispensed from processors at regular intervals and from time to time they care for people with the same illness that Harry and B’Elanna have. Until now however, none have survived.

The Captain is in her ready room writing her log. ‘Captain’s log, Stardate 48315.6. We’ve traced the energy pulses from the array to the fifth planet of the neighboring system and believe they may have been used in some fashion to transport Kim and Torres to the planet’s surface.’ Tuvok comes in to inform her that the pulses are getting faster. Janeway shares some of her research with him. This planet is incapable of producing rain. This could only be the result of an environmental disaster. Once repairs are complete they will go there. Meantime, Kathryn is musing over their situation. People back home will be worrying about them. She has to get the crew home and promises that she will get Tuvok back to his family.

On their way to the planet, they encounter a debris field and a small ship with one lifeform on board. His name is Neelix and so long as they are not after his debris, he’s delighted to know them. Janeway asks him what he knows about the energy pulses and it turns out that they are not the first people to have been brought here by the Caretaker. There have been up to fifty previous ships in the past months who have had crew members kidnapped and taken to the Ocampa on the planet. The Captain asks for his help and he is reluctant to agree until he names his price as water, and is told he can have all the water he wants. Tuvok meets Neelix in the transporter room and shown to quarters.

A little while later he calls back to discover trays of food and water glasses everywhere, and Neelix wallowing in a hot steamy bath. they are now at the planet, and they want to know where to find their people. Neelix gives directions to an encampment. Janeway, Tuvok, Paris, Chakotay and Neelix beam down to the arrid surface and approach the people living there. It turns out that they are not Ocampa, but Kazon-Ogla and the group are quickly taken prisoner. Neelix demands to speak to the Maje, Jabin and tells him that he has come to return the water he took some time ago. A sample is accepted and Janeway orders two large containers to be beamed down. She asks the Maje to help her find the Ocampa. Jabin points to a young woman who has crept out to join Neelix. She is an Ocampan who has made her way to the surface. It seems they make poor servants and only live nine years anyway. Neelix offers water in trade for the woman, but Jabin has his sights set higher. He wants the technology that makes the water. Captain Janeway refuses, saying that it is part of the ships systems. While Jabin is disctracted, Neelix pulls a weapon on him and tells him to order his men to drop their weapons. Then he fires on the water canisters instead. While the Kazon are trying to save what water they can, the group escape back to Voyager. Neelix is triumphant. He’d promised the young woman he’d save her, and he did.

Deep underground, Harry and B’Elanna are exploring the Ocampan city. They meet a woman who tells them that not all Ocampans live in the city. Some have moved out and grow their own food. Harry asks her to help them get to the surface and find their own people. She replies that some would say that was against the Caretakers wishes, but he has been acting strangely lately, and they now have enough stored energy to last 5 years. The old tunnels still exist, but it would require digging through rock to get out and they are not strong enough yet.

On Voyager, in Sickbay, the EMH is treating Kes for her injuries. When he orders everyone out, Janeway simply orders his programme ended. She wants the young woman, Kes, to guide them below the surface. Kes tells them about the security barrier decaying, leaving gaps and Janeway orders Tuvok to scan for these breaches. Neelix is ready to leave now, taking Kes with him. Kes isn’t too keen to go just yet. He rescued her with their help. Now they need her help.

Kes takes them to her old home, one of the breakaway groups. Her friend is not willing to help at first but after being chastised for his dependancy on the Caretaker he joins them. Meanwhile Kim and Torres are climbing ancient stairs upwards. While they take a rest they realise the pulses are getting faster. So does Janeway down in the city. Then..silence. No more pulses and the array is changing position. At the clinic they find Torres and Kim have been missing for hours and split up to find them. Tom Kes and Neelix go to check the tunnels while the ground begins to shake and Voyager reports the array has begun firing on the planet. Tuvok surmises that this is to seal the energy conduits now the pulses have ceased. The transporter can’t get them back from there, they need to be the other side of the security barrier so now Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok also head for the stairs.

The barrage from the array is making the tunnels and stairs unstable. Tom, Kes and Neelix catch up with the ailing Harry and B’Elanna and help them on the final stage of the climb. They get to a breach in the barrier and Kes shows how to squeeze past it, warning them that it’ll burn their skin off if they touch it. Now just below the surface, Tom and Neelix use their weapons to open a hole in the ground and get out into daylight. Kes, Kim and Torres are beamed to Voyager using Neelix’s comm-badge while the men return for their collegues. Just in time. The stairway is collapsing and Chakotay has fallen, breaking his leg. Tuvok is stunned by debris. Neelix helps the Captain with Tuvok while Tom goes to get Chakotay on the rickety stair. The Maquis refuses his help, saying it’s too dangerous, it won’t take both their weights, but the young man teases him about Chakotay’s life belonging to him if he saves him. “Wrong tribe,’ comes the answer. Or how about turning into a bird to fly them out of danger? ‘You’re too heavy’ replies Chakotay as Tom pulls him to safety just before the stairs finally give way.

Safely back in Voyager’s sickbay, Chakotay’s leg is knitted and whatever was wrong with Harry and B’Elanna is now cured. The bridge reports Kazon ships are approaching the array, and the patients discharge themselves to return to their own ships, leaving the EMH to lament once again that no-one seems to know how to turn him off.

The Kazon Jabin insists that he cannot allow Janeway to board the array again, but she is going across with Tuvok anyway, and leaves Tom Paris at the helm of Voyager, and Chakotay and his Maquis ship to hold off the Kazon in the meantime. On the array, the Caretaker explains that he was one of a group of explorers from another galaxy, but their technology destroyed the Ocampan atmosphere so two of them stayed behind to take care of them. His companion left some time ago to look for more interesting places while he searched for someone to replace him while he died. The thought of letting the Ocampa look after themselves never occurred to him. They are interrupted by a message from Ensign Kim. A very big Kazon ship has arrived and Voyager has taken damage to their weapons array. Chakotay sees their predicament and beams his crew over to Voyager, then sets his course to ram the main Kazon ship with his own. He is pulled out at the very last moment as the two ships dissolve into one big fireball and crash into the array.

The holograms disappear and we see the Caretaker as he really is – a large amorphous mass. The explosion has also disrupted the array self-destruct sequence. Before he dies he insists that the array must be destroyed. The Kazon must not be allowed to gain control of it or they will annihilate the Ocampa. Tuvok suggests that the Prime Directive applies because any action they take will affect the balance of power in this system. Janeway retorts that they are already involved. They pick up the shrivelled remains of the Caretaker and return to Voyager. There, she orders the tricolbalt devices armed and warns the Kazon to move away from the array. Then she blows it up. Jabin is stunned by her action. ‘You have made an enemy today’ he tells her before leaving the area.

In her ready room, Captain Janeway summons Tom Paris to see her. She is making the Maquis part of her crew, and giving Chakotay the job of First Officer. A field commission of Lieutenant is awarded to Thomas Eugene Paris, who is assigned to Conn. Very cheerful, he leaves and Neelix and Kes come in. They want to join the journey too. Neelix offers his services as guide, local expert and cook. On the bridge, everyone is in StarFleet uniform now as Captain Janeway addresses them all. ‘We’re alone in an uncharted part of the galaxy. We’ve already made some friends here and some enemies. We have no idea of the dangers we’re going to face. But one thing is clear. Both crews are going to have to work together if we’re to survive. That’s why Commander Chakotay and I have agreed that this should be one crew. A Starfleet crew. And as the only Starfleet vessel assigned to the Delta Quadrant, we’ll continue to follow our directive to seek out new worlds and explore space. But our primary goal is clear. Even at maximum speeds, it would take 75 years to reach the Federation. But I’m not willing to settle for that. There’s another entity like the Caretaker out there somewhere who has the ability to get us there a lot faster. We’ll be looking for her. And we’ll be looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere along this journey, we’ll find a way back. Mr. Paris, set a course…for home.’

Review

This is a jolly good pilot, as Trek pilots go. It introduces all the main characters, gives them a little history, a little depth and gets on with the story. We meet new aliens and get a feel for the new location, with no replicators and no transporters out here. And the Kazon ship blowing up is a superb effect.

The crew of Voyager are an interesting mix by the end of the show. The first female Captain to lead a series will be interesting to watch. How will the writers deal with having a woman in the big chair? Will it make a big difference to how the role is written or not? At the helm is a convict with a field promotion. The first Officer is ex-StarFleet and on the Most Wanted list back home, while the person at Tactical / Security was a spy on his ship. Added to this motley crew are a half-klingon with a talent for engineering, a Talaxian salvage expert cum cook and his Ocampan girlfriend, a Hologram with an attitude standing in for the Doctor and the obligatory Eager Ensign.

The potential is immense. There is a whole new quadrant to explore on the way home. Lots of new races, attitudes, technologies to meet. This is Trek truely going Where No One has gone before, and a welcome return to the ethos of the original series. One Captain, One Ship out on their own. Set course, Engage!

Grade: 9/10

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