The Road Not TakenBy Caillan Davenport
Posted at February 26, 2001 - 11:27 AM GMT
“Potential” seems to be the word most often used when referring to Voyager’s achievements. Six years ago, a solitary Intrepid class ship was lost in the Delta Quadrant, opening up a Pandora’s Box of possibilities. There were any number of directions the writers could have taken, many which would have lead to a drastically different series from the one we see today.
What if it had all happened differently?
Starring Genevieve Bujold as Captain Nicole Janeway.
It’s safe to say that if Genevieve Bujold hadn’t jumped ship early in production, the series would have had a very different feel from the outset. Although we’ve never seen a frame of footage, her portrayal of Nicole Janeway was said to have been quieter and more intense; one TV guide article even called her “downright ethereal.” Somehow, I don’t think this would have been a Compression Phaser Rifle-toting, hands-on-hips Captain.
Captain, the Maquis are revolting!The Starfleet/Maquis tension was certainly a part of the first season, but after that, it fizzled out quickly, only to be revisited in later episodes such as “Worst Case Scenario” and the lacklustre “Repression.” The Maquis plotline seemed to be diverted into Seska’s betrayal, which was one of the series’ early highlights. Nevertheless, there was some strong potential for issues of Starfleet supremacy/Maquis inferiority that could have been brought up, perhaps even culminating in a real mutiny. The writers, however, chose to focus on the “one crew, one ship, one family” theme, which is one of the strongest backbones of the series, though it’s a pity that this natural source of conflict wasn’t exploited more.
“Asking you to stay, would be asking you to die.”
The original third season finale was intended to be “Year of Hell,” which had been foreshadowed so effectively in “Before and After.” If this had been the case, would we have seen a multiple episode arc over the course of the fourth season? I think the writers would have had serious thoughts about pressing the reset button after a season finale. Although “Year of Hell” still stands on its own two feet as one of Voyager’s best episodes, exemplifying many of the series' major themes, a multi-episode arc would have made it all the more powerful.
“My gift to you...”
One of the most-debated “what ifs” of the series is the departure of Kes. If Seven of Nine had never come aboard in season four, there’s no doubt that the series would have ended up on a completely different path. With the arrival of Seven of Nine, characters began to fall into patterns, some getting less attention than others. Michael Taylor, in a recent interview at Star Trek Central, remarked on the fact that Seven, “a sexy Borg,” is a character the writers “are encouraged to build a show around.” Seven was certainly a beneficial addition to the series; her presence has opened up other storytelling avenues. However, it shouldn’t have been at the expense of some of the other characters, despite the fact that Jeri Ryan is a talented actress.
It’s a pity that the writers felt that there wasn’t room for Kes aboard Voyager; she certainly added a different viewpoint on the experience of exploration, and after she left, that child-like sense of wonder was missing from the series. It also felt like the writers were distancing themselves from the show’s beginnings, something that should have always been kept firmly in sight.
Executive Producer: Brannon Braga
If Voyager’s got a problem, who do you blame? Brannon Braga.
Would “Voyager” have turned out differently is he had not taken the helm? There probably wouldn’t have been any change. Voyager’s episodic style was already firmly cemented in place by the time he became Executive Producer, and although he didn’t change the style of the series, he certainly didn’t make it any worse. In season seven, we’re still seeing the same style of stories, but people are pointing out more “continuity” than in previous seasons. However, references to past episodes do not make or break a series, and many of the season seven stories have been quite weak. Certainly not what you’d expect from a series trying to go out with a bang, though episodes like “The Void” show promise for the final stretch.
The Captain jumps ship.
Rumours abounded, particularly during the fifth season, that Kate Mulgrew would be leaving the series. If she had left "Voyager," it may have killed the series. There are many out there who don’t like Mulgrew’s performance as Janeway, but she defined the series with her leadership. Without Janeway, Seven’s role would probably have grown until she became the nominal star of the show, pushing other command personnel into the background. Certainly, I could not have seen Voyager continuing without its original captain.
Ronald D. Moore
Ron Moore joined the "Voyager"writing staff for two episodes before leaving the series. Moore is an exceptionally talented writer, and he would have been an asset to "Voyager." The style of the show may not have changed that much, but it would have added some breadth of experience to the writing staff. It was certainly Voyager's loss that he didn't stay any longer.
The final question is one which defines the series: will Voyager make it home? With less than half a season left to run, that question looks like it will have to wait until the series finale. However, there was consistent talk about getting Voyager home earlier from season five onwards, with Kate Mulgrew commenting on how it would open up an array of story opportunities, particularly with Seven and the Maquis. If Voyager had returned at the beginning of the sixth season, it would have become just another Trek series; lost in the Delta Quadrant there’s the opportunity to explore those uniquely Voyager stories.
Of course, from the outset the series could have had a darker, grittier tone, but I think that Voyager may have ended up with a very different fanbase. There’s a part of me that wishes that they had exploited that side of the premise more, yet I love the humourous camaraderie that exists between the characters as they stand. “Voyager” could have been a very different show if other choices had been made, but still, a lot of the potential has been met. Part of being a writer is learning to compromise between the vision and the reality, something that “Muse” demonstrated very effectively. With the finale only a few months away, the writers have one last chance to push the envelope. After all, the sky’s the limit!
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-- Robert Frost
Caillan Davenport is moderator of the Trek BBS Science Fiction and Fantasy forum and is editor of the J-Team newsletter. His 'A Briefing With Caillan' column is published regularly here at the Trek Nation.