CONTENT WARNING: A brief discussion on the second page involves rape.
In the yesteryears of the mid 90s, Paramount Pictures looked to continue the Star Trek boom begun by Star Trek: The Next Generation (which had recently ended) and expanded by Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Wishing to both return the series to its adventurous roots while breaking new social boundaries, they premiered the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager on January 16th, 1995. Featuring a female captain and a surprisingly diverse helping of crew members (by the end of this episode, at least), Star Trek: Voyager would continue on for six years and offer the setting to one of the best Star Trek games ever released (Editor’s Note: This was not a part of the agreed introduction, Tim.) (Tim Response: Don’t care, my phasers are set to frag!).
We here at Acagameia would like to introduce a new regular feature: Roundtable Voyager. Every Monday we will share a roundtable discussion about a Voyager episode featuring experts pulled from the close group of friends we could easily bribe. The group currently consists of fellow Team Acagameia member David, film/tv critic Ryan, the indomitable Seth and, well, yours truly. Naturally, spoilers are a matter of course with this territory, and portions of our conversation drew on our knowledge of other episodes of both Voyager and other Star Trek shows. You have been warned.
This week covers the two-part Pilot episode for Star Trek: Voyager, “Caretaker.” Right off the bat, David lashed out against the nostalgic memory of Voyager-
David – I didn’t remember Tom Paris being such a lousy womanizer
Ryan – The character of Tom Paris is an interesting one. He’s the first white male character we’re introduced to (and if I remember correctly the second character introduction after Janeway) and so I cannot help but think he’s meant to be the character the creators meant for the male segment of the audience to relate to. It certainly fits with a picture of an idealized male of Star Trek watching age (let’s say early 20s) in the 90s: the wounded rebel, the slick womanizer, the slick-talker and the pinch-hitter hero.
David – And resplendent critic of tomato soup
Ryan – Yeah, that gave him sort of a “down-home, meat and potatoes guy” kind of vibe. Unimpressed with all this fancy technology when all he wanted was a good ole fashioned bowl of tomato soup. Did that strike anybody else as a really weird choice? Mr. Space Pilot of the Future is eating tomato soup for lunch?
Seth – It is a bit odd. It’s the first meal we see him eat since being let out of the detention facility, and he goes for something incredibly simple as opposed to a fancy array of things he wasn’t able to have in prison.
David – If the prisons of the Federation in the future are anything like Norway, he probably ate pretty well.
Seth – True, we don’t really know what the living conditions are like in those prisons. But seeing as the Federation is built along the lines of an idealized American culture, I could see the attitude being more along the lines of “You’re in prison, the replicators are only programmed for plain, nutritional food.”
Tim – Yeah, I read elsewhere (I think AV Club?) that another reviewer found Paris to just be a weird character for the show to follow in that first episode. We’re dealing with what’s arguably the most diverse crew of a Starship up to that point and the suave white dude is the one with the character arc/focus of the pilot, which I thought was an interesting criticism to make. (Editor’s Note – It WAS the AV Club, and here’s a link for curious parties. HIGH SCORE!)
David – I get Paris’ character as a relatable protagonist amidst a strange and alien cast (AND A WOMAN CAPTAIN! *gasp*) although his dialogue is sometimes…meh.
Tim – Problematic?
David – Yeah.
Almost all the group testified to approving of Kate Mulgrew’s steely Captain Janeway, though.
David – All things considered though, Janeway really establishes herself as a great captain through the pilot, something that I imagine was weighing heavily on them when they made this
Tim – Oh no doubt, and I heartily agree. I liked that she was something of a meld between Picard and Sisko. Fully diplomatic when needed, yet also completely willing to be a stone-cold hardass.
Ryan – I want to throw my weight behind Janeway as an awesome captain. I really liked Kate Mulgrew’s performance as Janeway. She embodied confidence and authority. There were several great moments where Mulgrew managed to convey an emotion like amusement, affection or surprise with just her eyes while maintaining the cool captain’s exterior
David – I almost feel like she had a harder time when she was supposed to be completely off-guard and casual, like when talking with her boyfriend(?)
On the next page, we get into a great discussion about the eponymous Caretaker and the Prime Directive!