Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S01E02 – Caretaker, Part II

In the second episode of the first season of Voyager, OHHHHHH, SO THAT’S WHAT THIS SHOW IS ABOUT. [In a much quieter voice]: holy shit this is so fucked up. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek. 


The Story

While “Caretaker” sets up the series as a whole, I do want to think about it as an episode all on its own. If there’s going to be an overarching story to Voyager – the journey home of over 70,000 light years – then how else can the show tell us stories? While this episode is intricately tied to the show as a whole, it’s still a creepy and unnerving tale of independence, misguided loyalty, and sacrifice. And I think that matters! It sets a tone for the whole thing while also being entertaining all by itself.

It’s almost like a Twilight Zone episode. The big twist here is that the unnamed species who ruined the world of the Ocampa and the Kazon left two beings behind to “care” for these people. Well, only one of them; at no point does the Caretaker ever reference what they’ve done to the Kazon, and I wonder if that’s intentional. The Caretaker may have intended to do the best thing for the Ocampa, but he may have doomed the Kazon in the process. Even if that isn’t really addressed, we see how the Ocampa have been irrevocably changed. Maybe – just maybe – they’ll learn to survive on their own after the energy given to them by the Caretaker runs out. But who knows? The point is that the Caretaker enabled this culture to thrive, which isn’t necessarily bad. It’s that he never allowed them to thrive on their own.

It’s why Kess is so utterly fascinating to me. She is one of the very, very few Ocampa to ever willingly leave a life they’re all devoted to. And these people are absolutely devoted to their worship and veneration of the Caretaker. Why shouldn’t they be? The Caretaker provided them with the means to survive a hellish existence, so it only makes sense to respect the Caretaker’s (ambiguous and non-direct) wishes. But that doesn’t work for Kess, who leaves the underground facility purely out of curiosity. She just wanted to know. She just wanted to see another world, no matter how harsh or uncompromising it might have been.

Like Deep Space Nine, too, the writers are okay blurring the moral and ethical lines that were often very rigid in The Next Generation. Janeway has to consider whether or not the Prime Directive applies here. Is it fair for her to use the technology aboard the Caretaker’s array to send her ship home, even if that means that the Kazon will most likely obliterate the Ocampa? If they were all forced into this conflict, are they now unjustified in resolving it in a way to protect another race, or is that an interference? And how do you deal with the very terrorists you were commanded to intercept in the first place? Janeway is resilient and calculating here, and it’s a treat to watch. She makes the best decision possible by showing us that the rules don’t always have to apply. Making Chakotay the First Officer in order to assimilate the Maquis crew into the ship is practical and clever. Destroying the array was a shocking sacrifice, but could she truly have traded the lives of the Ocampa just to save her own?


The Characters

A good story can be engaging, but I’ve got one hundred and seventy episodes left of this show. Why should I care about it? Why should I care about the people on the screen? There is a huge main cast for this show, a lot bigger than I expected. (Seriously, I thought Chokotay was going to die in the pilot, which would have pissed me off. BUT HUZZAH.) The joining of the two crews is so goddamn smart and cool, and I expect that season one is going to deal with the ongoing conflict of the Maquis joining Starfleet for the mission home. I WILL RELISH THIS.

But beyond this, there’s a lot here I’m surprised and thrilled by. Holy shit, a canonical Native American character AS A MAIN CAST MEMBER for Star Trek. I cannot fucking believe it, IS THIS A DREAM. Oh my god, TWO LATINX/BROWN CAST MEMBERS AT THE SAME FUCKING TIME? A black Vulcan, and an Asian ensign, and they’re all given screen time, and HOW IS THIS HAPPENING. Isn’t Roxann Dawson the first woman of color in the main cast since Nichelle Nichols? AHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I think the show utterly fumbles the way they introduce Chakotay’s heritage. Writers, do not reveal a non-white person’s race by having a white character yell racial stereotypes at them. I promise you, that’s a super terrible thing to do.

So, not the best moment, but hey. Chakotay is alive. B’Elanna is alive, too! AND SHE’S HALF KLINGON, THIS IS GREAT. I wouldn’t say that she gets the most character development in this episode – that’s tied between Tom and Janeway – but I could tell the writers were already exploring the warring cultures within her, since she’s half human, half Klingon. The Doctor feels a lot like the role Spock and Data played in previous series, since he’s not human whatsoever and provides some comic relief. Actually, Neelix probably has most of that humor within him, and I could see him becoming a less selfish version of Quark within Voyager. AND TUVOK AND NEELIX ARE TOTALLY GOING TO PROVIDE LOADS OF MY FAVORITE TROPE. I want the show to also address how Kim’s naïveté has been shattered by just ONE MISSION, since he came into this all so bright-eyed and eager, only to be kidnapped and infected with some strange disease because he wasn’t “compatible” with the Caretaker. (That is totally unexplained, isn’t it? How did the Doctor heal Kim and B’Elanna? What would have happened to a being that was compatible with the Caretaker? Would he have impregnated them or was he just gonna hand everything over? Janeway does speculate that he was trying to procreate, but it’s never spelled out.)

Anyway, lots of characters. Lots of miles to travel. I’m guessing the endgame of this show is getting the Voyager home, considering that Janeway’s speech explicit references the fact that they’re going to try to find as many shortcuts as possible. How will those work? What sort of SHENANIGANS will these crew members get into? How many times will Tom and Chakotay try to kill one another? How long until Tuvok stuffs Neelix in an airlock? Will we ever find the Caretaker who went on their own adventure???

This is pretty damn cool, y’all.

The video for “Caretaker, Part II” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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