1 – Caretaker

Grade: B-

Caretaker (1995) on IMDb


A Maquis ship under attack by the Cardassians escapes into the Badlands. Suddenly, they are overtaken by some kind of weird plasma storm.

Later, Captain Kathryn Janeway recruits Federation prisoner Tom Paris to help her track down the Maquis ship that went into the Badlands.

It turns out that the weird plasma storm sent both ships to the other side of the galaxy, about 70,000 light years away from Federation space. At continuous flight at maximum speed, it would take Voyager 75 years to arrive back in Federation territory.


After not seeing this episode for 18 years, I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed it. The set-up for the series really was fantastic. There were some scenes on Deep Space Nine, and of course Quark and Morn were there. The Maquis war played a major role in the setup, along with the Cardassians, so it really tied in well with the DS9 series.

It also established some very interesting characters – the holographic doctor who seems to have plenty of attitude and a horrible bedside manner; the Vulcan Security Chief; a Maquis Commander who is Native American; a half-Klingon engineer; a female Captain; etc.

There was also the mysterious Caretaker who is sitting on a porch step playing a banjo when we first see him. Obviously, this is some kind of holographic representation meant to distract or make the humans feel comfortable. From the start of the episode until the very end of it, I was very entertained. The second half probably won’t live up to the first half, but that’s how it usually goes in Star Trek.

I really try not to give away any clues about the plot of the shows that I review on my website. But since I think it’s reasonable to expect that everyone visiting my site has already seen this particular series and this episode, I’m not going to worry about spoiling it for you. But if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading now, and then come back once you have seen it. For the rest of you, please read on. Thanks.

Ever since I first saw this episode way back in 1995, I questioned why Janeway would destroy the Caretaker’s array and make it impossible for Voyager to return home using the array. After watching it again, almost 18 years later, I still think it was a mistake for Janeway to do that, but I have a slightly different take on the issue. The writers needed a way to keep Voyager in the Delta Quadrant, since that’s what the entire series is based on. But I often wonder why the writers decided to make Janeway the cause of their being stranded there. I guess it shows a side of her character – that she’s going to defend the people who can’t defend themselves, and that she’s going to set aside the Prime Directive when it suits her needs. And this also gives the writers a good bit of background to refer to during the rest of the series. A lot of the arguments we’re going to hear on this ship over the next 7 years’ worth of episodes will deal with Janeway’s decision to destroy that array.

With that said, I personally think it could have been done differently so that Janeway would not have been the one to cause them to be stranded. It actually does bother me that she quotes the Prime Directive when she wants to follow it and then ignores it when she doesn’t. It comes up at least a couple dozen times in the Original Series, and Kirk does the same thing. So I often wonder what good this thing is in the first place. It seems nobody wants to follow it at all. It’s whatever the writers think it means and it only comes up when the writers want to bring it up. Truth be told, there’s no way to explore space without exerting some kind of effect on it.

Well, anyway, I thought the second part of this episode wasn’t as good as the first, but that seems to be fairly common in Star Trek – the endings usually are a letdown compared to the setups. Maybe it’s because things get resolved so quickly and easily.

Overall, this was a very good series pilot and I’m looking forward to seeing the characters grow and the plotlines develop. With all these new aliens, new planets, new technology and completely unknown space to explore, there really is no limit to what the writers can do. Ultimately, I think that’s the reason why this series exists in the first place – the writers really needed some uncharted territory to develop, after so many other series had already covered the familiar territory very extensively.

Unfortunately as the series went on, they fell back into familiar territory and Voyager ended up being no different than Next Generation. I wish they had made this series to be different from all the others.

Of Note

When this episode first aired, I wondered why they used the same actor to play Tom Paris who played the role of Nick Locarno in the Next Generation episode “First Duty.” The writers actually wanted a similar character as Locarno, but not necessarily the same actor. Since they used the same actor, then it seemed their character was the same person but with a different name. I think they should have either used the same character or a different actor so they wouldn’t confuse die-hard fans like me who would have been familiar enough with the TNG episode. Actually, the rumor is that they would have used the character of Nick Locarno, but they didn’t want to pay royalties to the writer who came up with the character in the TNG episode First Duty.

For the character of Kathryn Janeway, there were several actresses who wanted the part, including Linda Hamilton, Nicola Bryant, Erin Gray, Lindsay Wagner, Patty Duke, Carolyn McCormick and Joanna Cassidy. No offense to Kate Mulgrew, but I really wish they had chosen Erin Gray instead. Oh well.

This is interesting – the end of this episode as well as the end of the series finale episode end with the exact same line. Captain Janeway says “set a courseā€¦for home.” I think that’s a nice touch, but unfortunately, most people would miss that. I only caught it because I recently re-watched the series finale.