Caretaker (Star Trek: Voyager)
"Caretaker" is the pilot episode of the American science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager. This series premiere was first broadcast as one double-length episode on January 16, 1995, as the first telecast of the fledgling UPN network. It was later split into two parts for syndication, but released in the original one-episode format. Set in the 24th century, the series follows the adventures of the Starfleet and Maquis crew of the starship USS Voyager after they were stranded in the Delta Quadrant far from the rest of the Federation.
|Star Trek: Voyager episode|
|Episode no.||Season 1|
Episode 1 & 2 (or 1 pilot)
|Directed by||Winrich Kolbe|
|Story by||Rick Berman|
|Teleplay by||Michael Piller|
|Featured music||Jay Chattaway|
|Production code||101 & 102|
|Original air date||January 16, 1995|
The premiere was seen by 21.3 million people in 1995. The debut of "Caretaker" marked the launch of United Paramount Network and also a follow on from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
Original Broadcast & UPNEdit
"Caretaker" aired on the United Paramount Network on January 16, 1995. It aired as a single hour and half show, although later it was also played as two separate roughly 45 minute episodes. "Caretaker" marked the debut of a then-new Star Trek series launching along with Paramount's new television network, United Paramount Network, or UPN, coming on the heels of previous Star Trek series. The preimere aired between 8-10 p.m. on that Monday, however the network's content was also aired on affiliate channels that may or may not have delayed the first showing in their television region. In other words, "Caretaker" was also aired on UPN affilliate channels, such as KCOP and WPWR. The way channels worked, a schedule of show's played on one channel in a certain order decided by the broadcaster, and viewers would then change "channels" to watch that stream in real time. In the case of Voyager premiere, some of the shows it aired in competition with included other Star Trek shows like DS9 and or TNG re-runs, and Melrose Place.
"Caretaker" was the debut episode of the new series Star Trek: Voyager which, while less popular than in its predecessors drew in consistent set of watchers over what would turn out to be seven years of episodes.
After a scrolling text introduction to the Cardassian and Federation relationship with the Maquis rebels, the opening scene shows the Cardassians pursuing a smaller Maquis spacecraft. The Maquis ship escapes into the Badlands, a dangerous nebula, where the Cardassian vessel is damaged by a plasma storm and the Maquis ship is caught in a displacement wave.
On Earth, Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation starship USS Voyager recruits Tom Paris, a captured Maquis, from a New Zealand prison to help track down the missing Maquis spacecraft. She's looking for her security chief, who was aboard the ship as a Federation spy at the time of its disappearance. Leaving from Deep Space Nine, Voyager journeys to the Badlands, where it is scanned by a "coherent tetrion beam" before being struck by a displacement wave that wreaks havoc on the ship.
The crew recovers to find themselves in the Delta Quadrant, over 70,000 light years from Federation space. Dead crew members include the second-in-command, helm officer, chief engineer, and the medical staff. The crew activate the Emergency Medical Hologram to treat the injured. Before they get their bearings, the crew are transported to a holographic simulation aboard a nearby array by a being known as the Caretaker. Seeing through the simulation, the Voyager crew discover the Maquis, unconscious and undergoing strange medical experiments. Before they can react, the crew are subjected to the same experiments. Later, both crews awake on their own vessels and find they are each missing one crew member: Harry Kim from Voyager, and the Maquis B'Elanna Torres. Attempts to negotiate with the Caretaker are fruitless as he insists there's no time for such talk. Janeway offers to work with the Maquis leader Chakotay to find the missing people and return to the Alpha Quadrant.
The two ships follow pulses of energy sent from the array to a nearby planet. En route, they encounter Neelix, a space trader who is eager to help them out in exchange for rescuing his companion, the Ocampa Kes, from the violent Kazon that inhabit the planet's surface. Kes explains that her people live in a subterranean complex and are cared for by the Caretaker who supplies them with energy, with the only expectation in turn that they care for the beings that he sends to them, each one suffering from a strange disease that appears incurable. As the crews determine how to rescue Kim and Torres, the Caretaker realigns the array and begins firing more bursts of energy. Janeway's security chief, the Vulcan Tuvok, deduces that the Caretaker is dying and is ensuring the Ocampa are kept safe by sealing the underground complex. With time running short, a combined Away Team penetrates the shields protecting the complex and rescues Kim and Torres.
The crews again ask the Caretaker to return them to the Alpha Quadrant. He reveals that he was part of an alien race whose technology had long ago accidentally destroyed the Ocampan planet's atmosphere, leaving it an arid desert. In recompense, he and another of his race have cared for the Ocampa ever since. His companion having long moved on, he experimented on species from distant galactic sectors with the hope of finding a compatible match so that he could reproduce and pass the responsibility to his offspring. With death almost upon him, the Caretaker initiates the array's self-destruct sequence to prevent the technology from falling to the Kazon. As the Caretaker dies, the ships are attacked by a Kazon fleet. Janeway and Chakotay coordinate a counterattack to protect the array; Chakotay sacrifices his vessel to destroy one of the Kazon's, but damage to the array disables the self-destruct sequence. Janeway opts to respect the Caretaker's wishes and orders the destruction of the array, despite it being their only chance at returning home. With the array destroyed, the Kazon disengage, and their leader tells Janeway, "you made an enemy today".
As Voyager starts on a 75-year journey back to the Alpha Quadrant, Janeway integrates the Maquis into the Starfleet crew, with Chakotay as her second-in-command. Janeway appoints Paris as helmsman, and Neelix and Kes remain on board as guides to the local area of space.
Due to the nature of the plot, the rest of series has a different set of crew starting with the next (third) episode:
Main bridge characters in "Caretaker" of Voyager
- Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew), who commands the starship USS Voyager
- Lt. Commander Cavit (Scott Jaeck), her first officer when they set out from Deep Space Nine
- Lieutenant Stadi (Alicia Coppola), the Betazoid Helm Officer
- Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang), the Operations Officer
- Tom Paris (Robert Duncan McNeill), Observer/Maqui consultant
- Lt. Tuvok (Tim Russ), he is the Security/Tactical officer of Voyager but is working as a spy on Maqui ship Val Jean
Filming began on September 6, 1994, with the scenes set on Deep Space Nine. Scenes with Geneviève Bujold, the first actress chosen to play Captain Nicole Janeway, were filmed with her over September 7 and 8. Bujold and the director Winrich Kolbe reportedly disagreed over Bujold's performance: Bujold insisted on playing the role in a more restrained way than Kolbe wanted. She quit on her second day of filming and production was suspended until September 12, when filming of scenes without Janeway recommenced. Actresses reported as possible replacements for Bujold included Joanna Cassidy, Susan Gibney, Elizabeth Dennehy, Tracy Scoggins, and Lindsay Crouse. Kate Mulgrew was cast as Captain Kathryn Janeway, from among four actresses recalled from the original round of auditions, and shooting of her scenes began on September 19. Several of Bujold's scenes can be seen on the Season One DVD extras.
"Caretaker" took 31 days to shoot, and was filmed at multiple locations. The production of the pilot episode remains one of the most expensive in television history, reportedly costing an unprecedented $23 million.
The pilot has similarities to Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda, which also features a hologram, a starship transported by an anomaly into a new alien landscape and the deaths of bridge officers and their replacement with a misfit crew. The scenes of medical experiments on the array appear to pay homage to Bujold's 1978 film Coma, and the opening sequence of the episode—a text crawl followed by a small spaceship being chased by a larger one—mirrors the opening of Star Wars.
The art department for Voyager was based out of the Dreier building at Paramount studios.
Many of the main sets for the series were located at Stage 8 and Stage 9 at Paramount Studios.
An example of the complexity of some of the sets is the bridge of Voyager spacecraft. The bridge had 11 different monitors of three different sizes, that had custom graphics displayed depending on what was being shot for each scene. For example, for a scene with the "red alert" setting, the appropriate video graphics would have to be displayed on que. These graphics were created a by a team of people, with a need for both static and video graphics. The videos were recorded to videocassette to be played at the right time, such as when an actor is looking at a monitor. For "Caretaker" due to changes, and re-shoots there was some very difficult deadlines on having graphics ready for shots, and often involved discussions between staff.
The Hollywood Reporter ranked "Caretaker" among the 100 best episodes in the Star Trek franchise, and noted its similarity to the Next Generation universe, where the Enterprise was often transported to a distant location from which the crew were expected to escape. Two examples of this are "Where No One Has Gone Before" and "The Price", in the latter of which a spacecraft is stranded in the Delta Quadrant, just like Voyager. Voyager encounters the characters from "The Price" in the third season episode "False Profits".
On the other hand, "Caretaker" marked a reduction in viewers from the last episode of The Next Generation, which had over 30 million viewers when it concluded the previous year in early 1994. Voyager was not able to maintain the viewership achieved with "Caretaker" (21.3 million), but did achieve average ratings and seven seasons of production. As with Deep Space Nine, it had consistently lower ratings than The Next Generation but managed to be successful in expanding the Star Trek franchise and fill the popular appetite for Star Trek shows that had grown to a frenzy in the 1990s. Although "Caretaker" successfully established the characters and their predicament, reviewers complain that the integration of the two disparate crews so quickly is unconvincing, and too many plot points are left unexplained, such as how Neelix and Kes met and how Kim and Torres were cured.
In 2017, Den of Geek rated "Caretaker" among top fifty episodes of all Star Trek, noting that it launched a new television series and was a "landmark". The very diverse set of characters and for the first time, a woman captain as a main character. This paid homage to Roddenberry's egalitarian vision of the future, when he included the female Number One character as second-in command of the Enterprise in the original 1965 pilot of Star Trek ("The Cage"). The actress that played that character, Majel Barret also has the role of a voice-actor for the starship Voyager's computer in "Caretaker".
Alicia Coppola, the actress who played Lieutenant Stadi in the pilot, remarked that the role was "a great part". 
Caretaker was released multiple times on VHS in various markets after its showing in 1995. The first VHS release in the United Kingdom was in June 1995 by the company CIC. By the 2010s, it was noted as a struggle to record VHS history with some Universities trying to save libraries of the cassettes. "Caretaker" was released as various sets, for example in the VHS set The Four Beginnings, which included pilots from TOS, TNG, DS9, and Voyager.
The soundtrack, with works by Jay Chattaway and Jerry Goldsmith was released on compact disc on October 17, 1995. The release also includes a text pamphlet with various facts about the composers in regards to the "Caretaker" soundtrack.
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