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"Caretaker" opens in the 24th century, a setting contemporary with that of Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Carrying over story elements from each of those series, Voyager's debut finds Starfleet Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) stepping into the middle of Federation troubles with the Maquis, an army of rebels violently resisting the interplanetary organization's treaty with brutal Cardassians. Janeway hopes to intercept a Maquis cell that unknowingly has a Starfleet spy, Tuvok (Tim Russ), in its midst. Instead, both Voyager and the Maquis ship under surveillance are accidentally catapulted out of the galaxy's Alpha Quadrant (the familiar stomping grounds of Starfleet personnel) by a benign but dying being called the Caretaker. Voyager ends up in the unexplored Delta Quadrant, some 70,000 light years away. Several of Voyager's key crew members are killed during the mishap, prompting an agreement with the skilled Maquis fugitives to cooperate on returning home.
So much seemed dramatically promising in this debut of Star Trek: Voyager, especially the unwieldy alliance of Starfleet regulars and hostile Maquis, and the likelihood that a lifetime spent in isolation, trying to get home, would lead to the development of a self-contained society on the ship. The curiously cheesy sets and fascinating, progressive management style of Janeway (half mommy, half taskmaster) were also new developments in Star Trek culture. Yet things didn't turn out to be quite so intriguing or original as the years passed--though that doesn't mean Voyager isn't a sporadically good show. It just isn't the one that "Caretaker" seemed to promise. --Tom Keogh