After the huge success of The Next Generation and the moderate success of Deep Space Nine, rumours soon began to circulate about another Star Trek incarnation. The producers of TNG and DS9 were keen to capitalize.
The big news as far as fans were concerned is that Star Trek was to have its first female captain. Many actresses were mentioned as possibles including Linda Hamilton, Lindsay Wagner and most alarmingly, Patsy Kensit! Eventually, the respected French Canadian actress Genievieve Bujold was cast as Captain Elizabeth Janeway along with the usual bunch of little known but hard working American actors.
However, Miss Bujold sensationally quit after only a few days, much to the dismay of all concerned. Aparently the film actress had a problem with the workload. Kate Mulgrew, who had been up for the part, and lost out, was the replacement. She stepped in on very short notice and quickly established herself as Captain Kathryn Janeway. I wonder why they changed the name?

The pilot show, The Caretaker, had the usual function of establishing the characters and setting the situation. But Voyager was a departure from other Treks because the ship was to be left stranded in a remote part of space, more than 60 years from home. Consequently, The Caretaker was a very full story. The characters had to become recognisable, and the story set up believably for the forthcoming series.
When you think back to The Cage, Encounter at Farpoint, of The Emissary, there is no doubt that The Caretaker compares favourably. As expected, the production values are impressively high, but the script is far more plausible and the actors more comfortable than those other pilot shows. Mulgrew was criticized by some for her high pitched, Katharine Hepburn-like voice, and the bun was particularly severe, but I thought she was very authoritative and compassionate.
A big hit immediately, and one of the best characters in the three recent Treks was the holographic doctor, who still remains nameless. Robert Picardo is brilliantly idiosyncratic. The other characters are popular to varying degrees. First officer Chakotay has been criticized a bit, mainly because the writers didn't seem to know what to do with his character and consequently he was barely established as a distinct character during the first series. This was resolved as the series progressed as Robert Beltran got a bit more to sink his teeth into.

The series proper followed soon after, and has been received with varying degrees of enthusiasm. There are problems, chief of which is the excess of poor scripts. There have been too many tired ideas and old formats. Another criticism is that the enemies Voyager has met have not been popular. Of course, Romulans, Klingons, Ferengi etc are out, but the Kazon just don't cut it.
There has also been some criticism of Janeway's captaincy of Voyager. She does seem to take the ship into some dangerous situations, but there would be no plots at all if she was as cautious as Picard.
In my opinion, there is a talented group of actors, likeable characters and some humour (remember that DS9?) but the stories and situations are what lets it down. Meeting some new spacial anomaly every few weeks is unacceptable. Having some character stranded is old. Meeting new races with different beliefs needs to be properly scripted. There have been some excellent episodes, including "Eye Of the Needle", in the first series that suceeded on many levels. "Time and Again" and "Prime Factors" were pretty good too in the first series.
The second series began terribly with a string of poor episodes, reaching its nadir with the ghastly "Parturition". However, a few lights at the end of the wormhole sneaked through with episodes like "Manuevers" and "Resistance", although "Threshold" 's crapness virtually cancelled them out. However, the series ended strongly with some better scripts. Q's visit was a triumph, and "Deadlock" and "Tuvix" were good. The final two episodes were the Janeway/Chakotay almost romance, "Resolutions", and the thrilling cliffhanging finale, "Basics I".

Series Three offered more of the same, with a mixture of good and bad episodes- still some clunking scripts. However, as the cast and characters became more established, the series strengthened. The traditional opening resolution of the previous season's cliffhanger was good, the villainous Seska and the tiresome Kazon finally defeated. An early homage to TOS had Tukok going back in time- in his mind- to the time he serves on Captain Sulu's ship- and a nice look at those old Starfleet uniforms. The two part "Futures End" was another enjoyable story, as Voyager travelled back to Earth to fix a time paradox- yes time travel again. Q and Janeway work well together , and "The Q and the Grey" was fun for John DeLancie and us. The series ended strongly with that rare thing, a good holodeck story!! "Worse Case Scenario" was exciting and "Scorpion part 1" was one of the best ever episodes, with definitely the best Trek teaser ever!! A Borg cube floats into view with the "resistance is futile, you will be assimilated!" A ship of some sort then blows it up pretty spectacularly. Short but fabulous and it set up what was a great episode with a scary new enemy that even the Borg can't beat.
Sadly, there were a large number of competant but frankly dull episodes in amongst these pearls. Episodes that I can barely remember. There were still too many characters who were not well developed or sufficiently interesting. Rumours abounded that a cast member was leaving. Bets were on Jennifer Lien(Kes) and Garret Wang(Harry Kim). Undeniably, Captain Janeway and the Doctor were big hits, Torres, Tuvok and Paris were OK, Chakotay was nice but rarely had a good script, Neelix was irritating, Harry bland, Kes sweet but dull. Voyager was about to get a shake up.

Series 4

The big news for series 4 was that it was Kes who was leaving - although the producers claimed the actress wanted to leave. The REALLY big news was a new character, a Borg named 7 of 9 played by Jeri Ryan. She is a human assimilated as a child. After being separated from the collective she joins the crew. Early shots of Ms Ryan as the Borg babe had her in a VERY clingy skin tight lycra outfit, and indeed she did bring some new sex appeal to Voyager. However, more that that, she was a facinating character whose conflicts with Janeway and the crew provided some fresh ideas and stories. Also, her re-discovery of her humanity was similar to Data - a real Trek favourite.
I was sorry Kes left, as her character has developed a fair bit since the series began. The Ocampa were supposed to be very short lived, so her maturing had to be accelerated. I also liked the relationships with the Doctor and Janeway- a sort of surrogate father and mother.
Series 4 has been the most successful so far and has pushed Voyager from Trek carthorse to the front runner. The introduction of 7 of 9 proved to be a masterstroke, but more than that, it seemed to give new ideas to the writers. The most interesting shows arose from the conflicts between 7 and Janeway- Ryan and Mulgrew excelling in a variety of episodes. However, the other characters weren't totally forgotten. The Doctor continued to be a favourite, and one of the very best episodes, "Message in a Bottle", was almost all Robert Picardo. Roxann Dawson(Torres) was pregnant, so her romance with Tom Paris was almost all from the waist up! Chakotay got a few episodes, Harry got a crush on 7, Tuvok was pretty much unaltered. New villains the Hirogen were a curius lot. In their initial appearance, Voyager used a communications array to get messages from Starfleet, but we soon saw they were hunters- very large hunters who skinned and flayed their prey. However, they seem to have shrunk when they invaded Voyager in "The Killing Game", a highly enjoyable holodeck adventure.
In many ways, series 4 was the Jeri Ryan show - indeed , some thought she should have had her name right up there with Kate Mulgrew's as the star. Whether she will continue to facinate remains to be seen. Despite the general upturn in Voayager's fortunes, the departure of co-creator Jeri Taylor and writer Lisa Klink meant the female production imput was cut. New bigwig Brannon Braga is a hit and miss sort of guy. Some of the dregs of the series have been his - can we forgive him for Threshold? However, he is a creative thinker, so who knows. Rumours persist that Voyager may be returning to the Alpha quadrant- especially once DS9 has finished. Surely the Trek producers would want a tv show presence? Let's just hope the quality of writing remains high.

Here is an Episode Guide including my views on series one to four

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