Happy Birthday, Voyager!

Are you ready to feel old? I sure wasn't, particularly when such a jarring realization came exploding out of the warm-and-fuzzy tidbit of nostalgia that it did, like some macabre jack-in-the-box from the nightmarish Mirror Universe. What am I talking about, specifically? Okay, I might as well at least try to get used to saying it: Today marks the 15th anniversary of the premiere of Star Trek: Voyager. Believe it or not, it's true ... January 16, 1995 saw the auspicious debut of the UPN television network, with its very first program being "Caretaker", the epic two-hour pilot episode of Voyager.

But I really have to stop making this sound like an occasion to mourn ... on the contrary, it's well worth celebrating! I can remember the setting vividly: we were staying in a hotel during our first visit to the Pacific Northwest to find ourselves a new home. My brother and I shared a room, and I had to plead with him to let me watch it since he wasn't, still isn't, and probably never will be, the least bit of a sci-fi or Star Trek fan. Out of the goodness of his heart (two nouns that I had never thought were applicable to him), he allowed me to be part of that landmark occasion in television history.

I can also remember how entertained I was. This was by far the best Star Trek pilot episode ever! It had an interesting premise, a compelling story, and likeable characters. And you know how The Next Generation finally seemed to find its groove in the third season, and Deep Space Nine also took about three years to get its mojo working? Well I felt, right from the beginning, that Voyager had hit the ground running. The cast seemed to fit together and be comfortable with their characters right from the start, and in retrospect that probably had quite a bit to do with how enjoyable the pilot episode was.

It wasn't perfect, of course -- the interpersonal conflict kind-of flew in the face of Gene Roddenberry's "everybody-gets-along-in-the-future" ideal; I wasn't totally keen on the whole sequence of events that brought about the Maquis in the first place; and then there was the biggest plot hole of them all, the idea that people believed a Vulcan (Tuvok) would forsake logic and join the Maquis -- but the greater overall dramatic potential of the show made those nits much less worth picking.

I'm really, really tempted to watch "Caretaker" this very evening, in a true anniversary celebration of its premiere, but I can't bring myself to do it. You see, I've been watching the Star Trek series DVDs in order for several months now, even going to the point of interspersing DS9 episodes at the same point where it originally began running concurrently with TNG, and I'm intent on doing the same with Voyager at the appropriate time. I've only gotten to TNG's early seventh season (DS9's early second season) at this point, so I still have roughly 30 episodes to get through (all the way up to DS9's "Past Tense" two-parter) before I can "legally" start watching Voyager. I want to re-experience the introduction of the Cardassian treaty, the creation of the Demilitarized Zone, and the introduction of the Maquis in the intended order ... it'll help me appreciate it more, as I've appreciated several other firsts in the TNG-era shows that I'd forgotten about in recent years.

As a special bonus on this oh-so-special day, here's a bonus feature from the Voyager Season One DVD set, which shines the spotlight on the unfortunate miscasting of Genevieve Bujold as Captain Janeway, including a real treat -- actual footage from the first two days of shooting, giving us a peek at the captain that almost was. Happy Voyager Day, one and all!

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