Yesterday at work I found myself talking Star Trek: Voyager with one of the other writers in the department. No reason why — it’s just where the conversation went.
Oh, wait. I remember now. It was the “T’Pau/T’Pol” problem — why was the planned use of T’Pau changed to a new character named T’Pol? Nothing to do with the band, it had everything to do with writer’s royalties, and was the same reason Tom Paris wasn’t Nick Locarno.
And this led us into Voyager.
And this led us into what Voyager could have done differently.
And I threw out my completely radical idea, the one that only makes sense in retrospect. It wouldn’t really have “fixed” the series, but it would have strengthened the characters.
“Caretaker” doesn’t launch the series. Rather, it’s the first season cliffhanger.
Consider. Janeway loses, let’s say, a third of her crew in “Caretaker.” She has to take aboard the Maquis crew, who just so happen to fit into the slots of the dead crew members.
Suppose that we had spent the first sixteen episodes or so getting to know the crew members that would ultimately die. Janeway never seemed attached to Commander Cavit, never seemed to regret his death. As tragic as the Caretaker incident was, there was no emotional connection to the dead crew members. Sixteen episodes — the length of the first season — would have given us time to learn who these characters were, built that emotional connection.
But what would happen in this hypothetical season one? The last five or six episodes might have had Janeway and the Voyager hunting down Chakotay’s Maquis cell. In other words, we would spend some time getting to know Chakotay as a villain, as the season’s “big bad.” We could even see Tuvok’s defection to the Maquis, giving the audience an emotional connection to Janeway’s attempt to bring Chakotay and Tuvok to justice. There could even have been a full-blown DS9 crossover, as Sisko and Janeway hunted down Maquis raiders in the Demilitarized Zone.
So, Voyager season one would have been a little bit like a TNG season eight, but with a different group of characters. Only in the final episode of the season, the series spins off into a really different direction. Half the crew is killed off in a single blow, and a group of characters the audience had spent some time hating are suddenly slotted in as major, ongoing characters who have to redeem themselves in the eyes of the show’s lead and the audience.
This would have strengthened the character dynamics, especially between Janeway and Chakotay. Instead of being her loyal first officer, the audience would have been used to him as her nemesis, and what happens when they’re forced to work together? Keep the character conflict!
Would it have worked? I don’t know. But it would have been interesting. 🙂
What fun conversations we have at work!