Caretaker

There are spoilers ahead. You have been warned.

In this month's premiere episode of Star Trek: Voyager, the Federation starship and a rebel Maquis ship are suddenly thrown into a distant region of space. Eventually, the two crews discover that they were pulled into this uncharted area by a powerful alien life form that is searching for a successor.

More than a thousand years ago, this alien unwittingly destroyed much of the planet of the peaceful Ocampa. Guilt-ridden, the beneficient being became the "Caretaker" of the planet's survivors. But now the alien must scram and is deperate to find a replacement-to service "the debt that can never be repaid." The Voyager, it apparently believes, will take that job.

So the Caretaker soon vanishes, leaving behind its awesome technology. But the Voyager crew, which can use the technology to return home, has competition for this incredible power. A terrifying and ruthless race called the Gazon wants to control the Caretaker's astonishing technical system. In a desperate effort to protect the Ocampa, who would be defenseless against a more powerful Gazon, Janeway destroys the Caretaker's "Array," thus saving the Ocampa-and stranding the Voyager.

"I don't know how the audience is going to react to what Janeway does, because for the first time we're clearly violating the Prime Directive," says "The Caretaker" director Winrich Kolbe, referring to the code that prevents Starfleet from interfering with the natural development of other races. "The interesting thing is that Janeway decides that the Voyager has become inadvertently involved in the conflict, whether they like it or not. And so she sends phasers down in the Array." Now, he says, the Voyager is involved and its crew perhaps bears a responsibility to remain involved. "That is a damn interesting decision that was made by Janeway," he says. "[The show] is fascinating because it deals with a real societal phenomenon: the ultimate welfare state. Like the best Star Trek episodes, it has something to say."

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Article by Edward Gross
Cinescape January 1995
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