The Star Trek Chronological Binge: Voyager Season 1

Kathryn Janeway

In reality, I should be posting about Deep Space Nine‘s third and fourth seasons first or alongside Voyager. But Voyager is new at this point. And like Deep Space Nine‘s first season, it’s short. Sixteen episodes starting after seven episodes of the former show, and interrupted by the theatrical release of Generations after only three episodes in the Delta Quadrant.

Voyager returns to the tried-and-true format of a starship setting. Even Picard, made up mostly of misfits helping the old man have a few final adventures, either chartered or stole a ship, with Season 3 reuniting the TNG cast while setting up another show that has yet to get the green light. But it also shook things up. Half the crew is Maquis, renegade Federationers who break away to defy the Cardassians in the Demlitiarized Zone. The first officer, chief engineer (who is never seen), and ship’s surgeon are all killed in the first half hour of the two-part pilot. And “Caretaker,” possibly the strongest pilot of any Trek prior to Strange New Worlds. 

Most notable is Captain Kathryn Janeway, captain of the titular ship. Much was made of Star Trek finally getting a female captain as the lead. Kate Mulgrew made the perfect choice, and her hiring almost played into it. Mulgrew walked into the role mid-shoot after the original Janeway, Genevieve Bujold, flounced. Bujold had been hired for her resume and gravitas, but you don’t hire Louise Fletcher to play Major Kira, and you don’t hire Dave Chapelle to play Sisko. Bujold is an outstanding actress whose takes show how she was woefully miscast (and not ready for the rigors of a 26-episode network TV show.) Mulgrew, whose resume includes a pair of soap operas, made her bones getting handed scripts daily and pulling 12-hour days to make the magic happen.

Mulgrew’s Janeway has the shoot-from-the-hip, no-nonsense style of Kirk, Sulu, Riker, and, surprisingly, Sisko. She is Benjamin Sisko without the baggage or new woo-woo BFFs living in a wormhole. But unlike Kirk and Picard, men who stood alone while making their crews family he could turn to, Janeway is utterly alone. She makes Chakotay, the Maquis captain, her first officer, and only the rather standoffish Tuvok is a real friend. In the meantime, she has to knit two crews together while finding slots for two aliens who have hitched a ride.

Oh. And she stranded her ship and crew 70,000 light-years from home in the Delta Quadrant.


In the beginning, Chakotay is a great first officer and the guy to help the Maquis crew integrate. A former Starfleet officer himself, he can advocate for his people to keep them from being second-class crew members during the long trip back. Chakotay is indigenous, and actor Robert Beltran voiced hope they would make the character Mayan, as Beltran is of Mexican descent. The writers would bungle this aspect of the character repeatedly, but Chakotay as an officer and a backup for Janeway they do rather well, at least in the early seasons.

It’s Tuvok who has the captain’s ear in the beginning. An old friend of Janeway’s, we first see him infiltrating the Maquis before the Caretaker rudely displaces Chakotay’s ship into the Delta Quadrant. Tim Russ’s performance is more Vulcan than that of Nimoy/Quinto/Peck, either Kirstie Alley or Robin Curtis, or Jolene Blalock’s T’Pol. (Kim Catrall is a force of nature unto herself, so Valeris was a different take altogether.) Yet, Russ remains well-known for that scene in Spaceballs, probably his most un-Tuvok-like performance ever.

Tom Paris

Robert Duncan McNeill plays Tom Paris, a former Starfleet officer disgraced and sent to prison. While creating the show, the writers kept referencing Nick Locarno, Wesley Crusher’s arrogant, rule-breaking classmate from TNG. They wanted Paris modeled after Locarno (which sets up a pair of hilarious guest spots on Lower Decks.) Eventually, they hired McNeill, who played Locarno. He’s usually paired off, in season 1 and 2, anyway, with Harry Kim, the wet-behind-the-ears ensign who boards Voyager just in time to get stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Kim is the Chekov of the show, something Trek hadn’t had since TOS. (And Walter Koenig gave that character a little extra oomph come the films.) On the Maquis side, B’Elanna Torres, a half-human half-Klingon woman becomes the chief engineer. For the first two episodes, she has problems with her temper and gets into fights with the presumed chief engineer. However, Chakotay makes the case, and when Torres and Janeway start finishing each other’s wild theories, it’s sealed. Plus the writers toned down the attitude a bit.

Voyager also picks up two aliens. The first is Neelix, a trader who becomes the crew’s guide through the Delta Quadrant. He also appoints himself the ship’s cook with mixed results. While I’ve always liked Ethan Phillips’s work (He starred with Rene Auborjenios on Benson), I found Neelix a bit too earnest, something they got wrong with Wesley Crusher as well. Neelix’s girlfriend is an Ocampa woman named Kes, played by Jennifer Lien. Kes proves more useful both in storytelling and to the crew, replacing Tom Paris as the hastily drafted medic. However, her character’s premise has a built-in problem. Ocampans live less than a decade (which means Kes was only an adolescent a few months earlier.) So there is a very real possibility Kes would die before the end of the series.


Rounding out the cast, Robert Picardo plays the Doctor. No name. A couple of stabs at it over the years, and “Joe” in an alternate future since played out. The Doctor is the Emergency Medical Hologram, a holodeck-type program designed to augment the ship’s surgeon in an emergency. Too bad the surgeon died when Voyager got zapped 70,000 light-years across the galaxy. Now he has to deal with being left on constantly, doing the work of an organic being, and having to learn how to deal with humans. Over time, it becomes obvious he’s more than a computer program.

Season 1 was a true science fiction series. Aside from a couple of network executives thinking of recasting Chakotay and the Doctor as women so a male Janeway could be cast if the right actress could be found, UPN pretty much let its flagship show do what it did, which was be Star Trek. It ran alongside Deep Space Nine, which also allowed the pilot to anchor itself in the TNG/DS9 universe. But the first season also hit the right notes. The ship ran into maintenance issues. They had no clue where they were headed with Neelix their only guide. And the Maquis and Starfleet crew members did not get along right off the bat. Too bad networks gotta network. While Paramount+ is content to pull the plug on a show after five seasons (If that’s the worst we have to deal with from Nu Trek, we’re ahead of the game. You owe us three more seasons of Prodigy and three more of Strange New Worlds, Paramount!), we’re ahead of the game.

USS Voyager