The Voyage(r) That Could Have BeenBy E. L. Zimmerman
Posted at December 15, 1999 - 6:00 AM GMT
If Carl Sagan was right, there are billions upon billions of stars out there in the known galaxy.
Logically, I could then extrapolate that there could, in fact, be billions upon billions of individual star systems.
Logically, with this number of star systems, I could further extrapolate that there would be (at minimum) one planet, Class M or not, for each star.
Hypothetically, this could mean that the universe might boast billions upon billions of lifeforms … other civilizations waiting for Earth's understanding of science to dramatically warp forward, granting us the ability to detect the existence of this intelligent life while sitting bound to this big blue planet of ours.
With that in mind, I couldn't hold back. I keep thinking of the Voyage(r) that could have been.
Janeway and company were catapulted to the other side of existence, for all practical thematic intents and purposes. The Caretaker, with its relatively simplistic mission, delivered not one but three ships that STAR TREK : VOYAGER viewers know of (the USS Voyager, the Maquis ship, and the USS Equinox) to the Delta Quadrant. In the process, the Caretaker also positioned the Creative-Powers-That-Be behind this latest incarnation of Star Trek at what I've always referred to as 'Wimp Junction.'
Let me explain.
Since 1992, I've worked in the human resources field, specifically selling staffing services to a variety of companies, large and small, in several geographic markets. Now, before you turn a blind eye, I'm not trying to sell you anything, other than the idea that's about to unfold. I promise to only take you where no one has gone before.
As a sales representative, you reach a point in the negotiation process with the potential buyer that I call 'Wimp Junction.' Others have called it the 'Put-Up-Or-Shut-Up Moment' or the 'Dollar Equation.' It's meaning is simple: you've found yourself in a precarious predicament, and you have to decide whether to take the high road (representing honestly, integrity, and professionalism) or take the low road (representing the basic instinct of every sales rep's agenda - get the money at any cost). True achievers take the high road. Sell-outs take the low road. We high achievers call these sell-outs 'wimps,' hence the term, 'Wimp Junction.'
STAR TREK : VOYAGER, in its first episode THE CARETAKER, began at Wimp Junction.
In my humble opinion, the creative staff took the low road: immediately upon completing the adventure, they set course for the Alpha Quadrant and engaged..
Examine where STAR TREK : VOYAGER stands today. It certainly garners solid ratings (not those like the glory days of STAR TREK : THE NEXT GENERATION). It certainly garners quality story telling (THE YEAR IN HELL, EQUINOX, THE CARETAKER, DARK FRONTIER, TIMELESS, and ONE SMALL STEP to name a few). It has even garnered some top notch, publicly known guest appearances (certainly a rare occurrence for either STAR TREK : THE NEXT GENERATION or STAR TREK : DEEP SPACE NINE).
Still, STAR TREK : VOYAGER lumbers on its quest toward Earth.
Brannon Braga and Rick Berman have admitted that the franchise is tired, perhaps in need of a break, a rest, and a creative sabbatical. Despite Rick and Brannon's comments to the contrary, internet rumor after internet rumor after internet rumor pop up almost daily regarding Paramount's dissatisfaction with Voyager and/or the direction of the STAR TREK movies and/or the premise of the next STAR TREK series.
So, I can't help but wonder about the Voyage(r) that could have been if the creative team had taken the high road.
Let's imagine this for a moment:
The USS Voyager arrives in the Delta Quadrant. Captain and company eventually destroy the Caretaker, to keep the technology from falling into Kazon hands. Next, the captain and crew are faced with the prospect of, "What do we do now? We've saved the day. We've made a few new friends. We've had a few laughs. What next?"
Instead of putting that ship into high gear and heading for home, suppose Voyager had stayed in the Delta Quadrant?
That's right. Pure and simple. Instead of flying for 70 years on a mission they might not survive, suppose Janeway and company had put down roots and stayed? Suppose (and this is the really exciting part of it for me) Captain Kathryn Janeway and her crew had opted to actually bring and grow Starfleet's mission of peace to the Delta Quadrant?
Let's examine the challenges the crew might've faced.
Perhaps they would have to build alliances with the alien races they just royally ticked off.
Perhaps they would have to build alliances to further expand their own mini-Federation. (This, in fact, would've been a unique twist on the internet rumor, BIRTH OF THE FEDERATION series premise, and it could've been accomplished with characters of the current continuity.)
Perhaps they could've chosen a new home planet for their own Federation.
Perhaps they could've built their own version of Starfleet Headquarters.
Perhaps they could've began a scientific exploration of a new means to communicate with the Alpha Quadrant.
Perhaps they could've committed their mission to seek out new lifeforms and explore new worlds and new civilizations in the truest sense of Gene Roddenberry's original vision … all with the intent of sending this data via some sort of hyperspace probe back to the Alpha Quadrant.
Perhaps they could've brought peace and galactic harmony to the Delta Quadrant.
Perhaps they could've engaged in First Contact procedures on a routine basis with warp-faring civilizations.
Perhaps they could've encountered the Delta Quadrant's version of the Romulan Empire, the Klingon Empire, the Cardassian Empire, and so on and so forth.
Of course, with any television series, even Carl Sagan would agree that there are probably billions upon billions of possibilities.
The current premise behind STAR TREK : VOYAGER's mission, in my humble opinion, is precisely the reason for the laconic story telling. It's the action/adventure episode of the week. It's the Chakotay/Janeway moment of the week. It's the freaky-alien-of-the-week. It's the 'how can we incorporate the Borg to boost the ratings' episode for sweeps week. It's the space-battle / drive-by-shooting-of-the-week. The mission is destined to bring about eventual retreads and inevitable comparisons to vastly greater episodes of the other STAR TREK shows.
Am I cashing out on STAR TREK : VOYAGER? Absolutely not.
I strongly disagree with the naysayers every opportunity I get. At conventions. Online. In chatrooms. On message boards. My retort is simple: if you don't like it, turn the channel. If you don't like it, don't tune in. If you don't like it, go and find something that you do like, because life is too short for you to endure (potentially) seven seasons of moaning and groaning and griping and nagging about how Paramount forced you to watch what is, in your opinion, substandard STAR TREK moments. Move along, little Trekkie, and let the rest of us continue dreaming Gene's vision in the peace and quiet that Mr. Roddenberry envisioned for our collective tomorrow.
STAR TREK hasn't lost its Midas' Touch. It's there. Creatively, by exploring strange new worlds and new civilizations, STAR TREK : VOYAGER is carrying the torch.
Still … I can't help thinking about the Voyage(r) that could have been.
I'll never know now, but I wonder if the creative personnel behind the show shouldn't be more closely examined. A staffing change here, a staffing change there, and viola! VOYAGER will warp back into the Paramount spotlight, with a premise, a fan following, Nielsen ratings, and a mission that'll live long and prosper.
E. L. Zimmerman is a new contributor to the Trek Nation.