“I don’t think I really know enough to say this with any intelligence, but I’m not gonna let that stop me.”

Liz and Anika sit down to discuss the Voyager pilot “Caretaker”, and end up with a podcast almost as long as the episode itself!

  • We are not good arithmetic
  • “It’s a good pilot, but not a good episode.”
  • The script has a really complicated relationship with Janeway’s femininity
  • Tom Paris is a truly awful character in the pilot (and for a while after)
  • Chakotay: stereotypes and racism abound
  • Tuvok is magnificent and we love him
  • Harry Kim and the completely unsupported idea that he’s bad with women
  • We love and adore Kes and hate most of the storylines for her
  • (We also love and adore age gap relationships … except Kes/Neelix)
  • “Neelix doesn’t know what a boundary is.”
  • B’Elanna doesn’t play a big role in the pilot, so we make up for it by discussing her whole arc over seven seasons
  • The Doctor is basically just Cranky Siri in the pilot
  • The paternalism in this story

Other episodes discussed:

“Initiations”
“Alliances”
“Basics Part 2”
“Journey’s End” (TNG)

Notes: At one point, Liz refers to Evan Evagora as “half-Maori”. A better term would have been “of Maori heritage”, rather than a phrase which suggests some sort of division or blood quantum. My apologies.

Transcript

Anika:   Welcome to Antimatter Pod, a Star Trek podcast where we discuss fashion, feminism, subtext and subspace, hosted by Anika and Liz, and Cali the cat. This week we’re discussing the pilot episode of Star Trek: Voyager, “Caretaker”.

Liz:   So it’s the 35th anniversary or something. No, that cannot possibly be it. 25th?

Anika:   30th. 30, isn’t it?

Liz:   No, I was thirteen when I first saw it, and I’m thirty-eight going on thirty-nine. So it’s got to be the 20th. Right? No, 25th…

Anika:   No, it’s definitely not — um, it could be 25th. Because the 20th, I did a panel for the 20th. And that was probably five or six years ago?

Liz:   I feel like 1996 plus 25 might be 2021?

Anika:   I don’t know! Math!

Liz:   Welcome to Antimatter Pod, the podcast where we don’t do maths.

It’s the 25th anniversary of “Caretaker”, and I’m really really curious to know, when was the first time you watched it?

Anika:   I don’t remember! I remember watching “Emissary”. I did not see “Encounter at Farpoint” first, I saw it, years after having seen Next Generation.

Liz:   Which is really the way to do it.

Anika:   Yes. And Enterprise, also, I have no actual memory of watching the pilot, but I probably did. I probably watched Voyager and Enterprise live, but I don’t actually have a good handle on it. If it was 1995, I was — yeah, I didn’t have a Star Trek group at that point. I was in college, you know, so I was, like, making new friends.

Liz:   You weren’t ready to unleash the full force of your geekiness?

Anika:   Yup. I mean, I was a ridiculous person, you know, there’s no way that I wouldn’t have been known as a geek by pretty much everyone.

Liz:   I actually have very vivid memories of the first time I watched “Caretaker”, because I received it on VHS as a Christmas present the year I was thirteen. I really remember how much I liked Janeway, and I wished — like Kate Mulgrew has a very unusual voice, and that was sort of everyone in the family’s reaction. And I’m like, Yeah, it’s a weird voice, but I love her, shut up. 

And the next day my parents’ marriage ended, so…

Anika:   Wow. Okay!

Liz:   I don’t think these things are really connected. But in my mind, and in my heart, they very much are. 

Star Trek wasn’t really my main fandom at the time. TNG had ended, and I was very deep into having feelings about seaQuest DSV. So — there are probably still dozens of us.

Anika:   I loved that show.

Liz:   It was so great. We could talk about my OTP for seaQuest next. But yeah, that was my first encounter with Voyager, and I didn’t really become a capital letters Voyager Fan until a few months later, when we accidentally got season two videos.

Anika:   Accidentally. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s a good pilot episode. Not a good episode.

Liz:   I want you to expand on that.

Anika:   So the thing about pilots is, there are very few good ones out there. It’s really hard to introduce a show in a way that isn’t cliched, and isn’t, like, a bunch of people expositing about everything you need to know about them to each other. It’s a — it’s hard. It’s hard to do it well.

Liz:   Yes. If you want to see a bad pilot, I highly recommend the pilot for Babylon 5. It is unwatchably bad.

Anika:   Voyager still has plenty of pilot problems, like, “Caretaker” still has plenty of pilot problems, but they cover a huge amount of ground. They introduce so many things, and when you think about all of the stuff that has to happen in this episode versus, say, “Encounter at Farpoint”, which is really just a bunch of people introducing themselves to each other — that’s literally all that happens in “Encounter at Farpoint”.

Liz:   And not even by name.

Anika:   And then Riker watches what happened in the opening scene? I mean, that is a terrible, terrible pilot, and a terrible episode.

Liz:   My friend and their partner have decided to start with Star Trek at “Encounter at Farpoint”. And I’m like, I love you. You are good people. You don’t deserve this.

Anika:   Don’t do it! No. 

But — so what I like about “Caretaker” is that everyone except B’Elanna — and I will tell you more about that in a little bit. But everyone except B’Elanna has an introduction that is not them introducing themselves to each other. Or to the audience. They don’t stand and say, “Hello, I am Harry Kim.” 

There’s like little bits and pieces, like the — what we learned about Harry Kim is what Janeway says about him to Tuvok, you know. What we learn about Tom Paris is that, you know, he’s in prison. And the first time we see Janeway is Tom looking up at her, and it pans up and she’s got her hands on her hips. And she’s like, “Hey, I’m totally in charge, and I’m here with Obi Wan Kenobi to rescue you.” 

So it does pilot things. We get that there is tension between everyone and Tom Paris, like, literally everyone and Tom Paris, there is tension. And we get that there is tension between the Maquis and the Starfleet people, we get that Janeway and Tuvok have a very close, established relationship. Like, there’s a lot of established stuff going on? 

The Janeway and Tuvok stuff is so much better than the Picard and Crusher stuff, like, I can’t even — they’re worlds apart in terms of how they play.

Liz:   And not just because the language of setting up a platonic friendship between a man and a woman is different from setting up a romantic tension. Seven years have passed, and the writing is different. And Janeway — the woman is the one in a dominant position. And it’s just better.

Anika:   It’s just better, it’s just better. But the actual story is not. Like, the whole Caretaker thing, it’s clearly a plot device, it’s very deus ex machina for “we have to get them lost in the Delta Quadrant. Like, we have to get them to the Delta Quadrant, and then we have to get them lost here.” 

And so, while it is entirely Janeway’s choice, she’s the only one with agency. She takes it away from everyone else. There’s no meeting to discuss any of these things. And it’s all very driven by this “there was, a guy, an ancient guy who, like, steals people and keeps them as pets. And his favorite people, like, he needs to” — it’s just ridiculous. Like, he’s seeding himself so that someone — so his child will be stuck with this horrible job of taking care of his ant farm of Ocampa.

Everything about it is bad. Like, nothing in that whole story is good. He’s a bad person. And it’s so wildly ridiculous. Like, he dies before they can even begin to understand how any of it happened? Like, they just blow up the array?

Liz:   It’s sort of like the writers going, “Oh, shit, we really don’t want to ask too many questions about this guy, we’d better kill him as fast as we can.”

Anika:   Exactly. So. So if you start to think about this story at all… Being a pilot that introduces you to these characters and this situation, it’s bad. But if you’re just watching to be introduced to these characters and this situation, it’s good.

Liz:   I have never thought about it in those terms until you said this in our preparation, but I think that’s a really, really good point. 

And I’m going to confess that I have not re-watched “Caretaker” to prepare for this episode because I have seen it so many times, I can quote big chunks of it by heart. And, honestly, it’s actually not that rewatchable. Deep Space Nine is not my favorite Trek, but I have seen “Emissary” so many times, and I enjoy it every single time. After a while, watching “Caretaker” starts to feel like a chore.

Anika:   Yeah, because what’s actually happening is not interesting.

Liz:   Yeah, yeah.

Anika:   And it’s just full of holes, and I just get mad at everybody if I start thinking about it.

Liz:   That’s before we get into the bit where the Kazon exist.

Anika:   Oh, the Kazon. They tried so hard to make the Kazon happen. And it just never happened.

Liz:   Re-watching season two for my blog, I was struck by the fact that, with a different writing team, the Kazon could have been really fascinating and nuanced and interesting. And instead, it’s basically white people having a moral panic about Black people. You know, they explicitly said that the Kazon were, like, “They’re based on East Los Angeles area gangs!” And I’m like, Sure, okay. That’s potentially interesting, but you’re all white people. And, you know, we find out that thirty years ago, they freed themselves from slavery. And that’s why the–

Anika:   Thirty years!

Liz:   I know! I know! That is my own lifetime! [But] that’s why they’re low tech and dysfunctional and desperate. And they’re not given even an ounce of empathy, or sympathy, or even consideration. Even “Initiations”, which I think is a good episode, and certainly, by far the best Kazon episode, there’s just — there’s one good Kazon, and that’s it. 

And I do think part of the problem is that we never see their women, we never see them in any situation other than hostility. But mostly, I think the problem is that the writers are racist.

Anika:   And the one good Kazon is a kid.

Liz:   Yeah, yes.

Anika:   It’s almost like it’s like a white savior — or a Chakotay savior story, you know, like, Dangerous Minds

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   — where Michelle Pfeiffer goes into the inner city to save it.

Liz:   The mental image of Chakotay as Michelle Pfeiffer is amazing. And yeah, that is a really messed up genre, and the only good thing it ever gave us was “Gangsta’s Paradise”. 

So, yeah, that limitation in the perception of the Kazon is built right there into this pilot. And a lot of people go, you know, “It’s so stupid how they have spaceships and they don’t make — they can’t replicate or create their own water.” And it’s like, this would have been a great opportunity to explain some of their history instead of going, “Surprise! It’s actually really racist!” a season later.

Anika:   Yep. It’s just really bad. Everything’s bad about the Kazon. They’re not great. They’re not good villains. And anything — every time they are almost interesting, they’re almost instantly not interesting and/or racist at the same time.

Liz:   It troubles me that the series with the first female captain is also the first series where sexism and misogyny are treated as anything other than a joke. We’ve had the Ferengi for years, and it’s always been, “Haha, they like women to be naked.” And it’s only now that suddenly these writers are forced to empathize with a female character, that they’re like, “Oh, maybe that attitude is … bad?”

Anika:   Maybe it’s bad. We never see a Kazon woman.

Liz:   Right, are they living in — is it a Kazon Handmaid’s Tale thing? Or are they warriors in their own right? Do they have their own politics? Are they trying to pull the strings from the background and maybe doing so more successfully than Seska because they’re further in the background? We don’t know. We’ll never know. 

Are we the only people who look at Star Trek and go, but what if the Kazon came back?

Anika:   So we’re definitely the only people who look at Star Trek and think, what if the Kazon came back? 

But Cullah was almost an interesting character. And, really, the most interesting he ever was, was when he took the baby, and, like, cared. That he cared about any of that happening, that he cared about Seska dying. It was like, Oh, my gosh, this is a real relationship all of a sudden. So it’s just interesting. And they had a lot of interesting Macbeth scenes that were fun, that could have been so much better if they’d leaned into that instead of what they did.

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   But we’re we’re getting beyond the scope, because we’re supposed to be talking about “Caretaker”, and Cullah is not even in it

Liz:   Turns out we could do a whole episode on the Kazon

Anika:   Whoops!

Liz:   That’s really gonna get the listeners.

Anika:   Let’s talk about our first impressions of the crew.

Liz:   So the scene where Tom looks up, and there’s Kathryn Janeway with her bun of steel and her hands on her hips, and, you know, in her very first scene, she tells us that she was a scientist before she was a captain. I fell in love. 

And yet, the pilot is really eager to tell us that just because she’s a woman in command doesn’t mean she’s … not a [breathy voice] woman.

Anika:   She has the world’s most boring fiancé.

Liz:   Oh my God.

Anika:   I hate — like, my favorite part is that they’re talking, they’re facetiming on the viewscreen and all, and she’s literally doing work while talking to him. Like, this is the last — and they don’t know that it’s gonna be the last time for seven years, or whatever, but it’s still gonna be months. And yet, she’s just doing her work, and he has to tell her to look at him, which is hilarious. But he’s also — he’s so milquetoast, I don’t care.

Liz:   He’s just sort of your standard extruded Star Trek male love interest.

Anika:   And then there’s puppies. She loves her dog.

Liz:   She loves her dog. She likes to be called ma’am rather than sir. It’s a very 1990s “don’t be too threatened” scenario, which is interesting, because you contrast that with Major Kira, who, I think, as the second lead, rather than the primary lead of the show, has more freedom to be abrasive, and unlikable, and unfeminine.

Anika:   Yeah. But even in Deep Space Nine, like, Jadzia is super feminine. In presentation, at least, and the more it goes on, she gets — the more they were like, “Don’t worry, we also have this pretty one.” Like, Nana Visitor is gorgeous, just, you know, don’t yell at me. But–

Liz:   After the pilot episode, she went and cut off her hair into — it’s not even a pixie cut. It’s a really butch style. And she did that without getting the permission of the producers. She was just, like, that’s how Major Kira would have her hair. 

And then, over the next seven seasons, they worked really, really hard to force Kira into a feminine mold.

Anika:   You’re right, they absolutely do it to Janeway [too]. She has that whole Jane Eyre holoprogram thing that — everything she does in her free time is, like, from the 19th century. It’s just very weird. She’s super old fashioned in her forward-thinking scientist future ladyness.

Liz:   I think a lot of that is down to Jeri Taylor, and the fact that she was already, for the ’90s, older than the generation of feminists who were defining the movement at the time. I realized once that she’s only a year younger than DC Fontana.

Anika:   It’s interesting. Kate Mulgrew was forty when she started Voyager, but according to apocrypha, she was playing five years younger, like, she’s not supposed to be forty.

Liz:   No, I’ve heard that too, that Janeway was meant to be about thirty-five. Which, I mean, I guess? Maybe?

Anika:   [What that] means is that she is admiral super young. That’s what I take out of it. So good on her. It’s just weird. It’s like, why? I don’t know. It’s just very Hollywood. It’s very, “Oh my gosh, we can’t have a forty-something woman in a starring role. We can’t possibly do that. So, okay, we got this one and, and we’re gonna go with her, but she’s not really forty. You can still be attracted to her. You’re allowed, everybody.”

Liz:   You know, “We’ve got her in a corset so she’s thin, and she’s in high heels so she’s tall and she’ll walk in a sexy way.”

It really struck me, the first time I watched Discovery, the first time I watched “The Vulcan Hello”, how feminine and comfortable Michelle Yeoh looked with her hair in a ponytail — and it’s a very loose ponytail — and she’s wearing flats. I was like, Oh my god, this is what Janeway could have been.

Anika:   Right.

Liz:   Now, I know that the next character on our list is Chakotay, but I think we should talk about Tom, because he and Harry the POV characters for this pilot. It’s sort of telling that Chakotay is sidelined from the beginning.

Anika:   I always say that there are three co-protagonists in this pilot. Tom, Janeway, and Kes are the people who have a point of view and an arc.

Liz:   Yeah, you’re right.

Anika:   And everybody else is just sort of in their orbit.

Liz:   Even Kes barely has agency.

Anika:   It’s a giant cast, so they couldn’t — and again, B’Elanna is not — like, the B’Elanna that I know and love is not in this pilot. She’s just not even actually there. There is a B’Elanna in this pilot, but it is not even close to who she is. And she’s barely on screen. She’s just an angry Klingon lady, that’s all she is.

Liz:   Who almost flashes her whole boob in one scene.

Anika:   But she immediately — like, the very next episode is a B’Elanna episode. So it’s sort of like, “We didn’t put any effort into her in the pilot, because we’re gonna, you know, we’re gonna have a whole episode about her. It’s gonna be okay.” And it’s great, “Parallax” is a way better story.

Liz:   Yeah, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad choice. That’s like Discovery taking six episodes to introduce it’s whole cast. And I think B’Elanna is better served by that, but it’s interesting how objectified she is in this story.

Anika:   Yes.

Liz:   To get back to Tom, I listened to the Delta Fliers episode on “Caretaker” when it came out. I’m sort of at peak Star Trek podcast, so I’ve gotten behind on them. But that’s Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang talking about their memories of each episode. And–

Anika:   It’s very fun.

Liz:   –among the things that I enjoyed were Robert Duncan McNeill calling himself out for how sleazy Tom is towards women, particularly Janeway. But he blames himself and I’m like, I’m pretty sure you are following a script, dude. Like, this is not your responsibility. 

But also, he says at one point that Tom Paris was considered as a potential love interest for Janeway, and that they were going to cast someone older for the role.

Anika:   I’ve been saying that since the beginning. Janeway and Paris, as we all know, are my OTP of Voyager. And I’m not off that! I ship that! Like, I ship literally everything. But it’s always going to be — Janeway and Paris are going to be the most important to me, in terms of Voyager characters, just partly because, again, I was, what, 20? And I — not even–

Liz:   Yep.

Anika:   It was formative, you know, it’s like, I loved Voyager so much, and I loved Janeway and Paris. The first fan fiction that I read and wrote was Janeway and Paris. Iit’s just gonna be them. 

And so the idea that they were ever considered, quote, unquote, canon, it just makes me feel like I wasn’t a crazy person reading into the entire first two seasons.

Liz:   No.

Anika:   I firmly believe that you can see a relationship behind the scenes in the — you know, up until he starts having a thing with B’Elanna.

Liz:   No, in fact, there’s a point in season two where Robbie is like, “I think this is around the time they stopped pushing Janeway and Paris and started moving towards Janeway and Chakotay.” 

I found that really interesting, because the other thing that we know about the development of Voyager is that they always wanted a Nick Locarno type of character. They always wanted Robert Duncan McNeill in the role. And, honestly, that doesn’t mean that they never considered casting someone older. We know that there were legal issues with having the Nick Locarno character, and that’s why he’s Tom Paris. 

And, you know, it’s like how they auditioned men for Janeway and women for Chakotay at one point. Like how DS9 auditioned white men for Sisko, you throw everything at the wall and see if it sticks. But I think the AU with an older Paris would have been interesting.

Anika:   I’m fine with it as is. I like the ten-year age gap, personally, but I don’t even mind — I wouldn’t mind the five-year if she’s really thirty-five. Whatever, fine. Then we’re closer to a five-year age gap. But I like the idea of her, like, meeting him when he was a kid and then forgetting that that happened.

Liz:   Not giving him any thought, and then meeting him as an adult and going, oh.

Anika:   “Whoa.”

Liz:   Yeah. That would have been really cool because it’s a sort of borderline creepy storyline that we see a lot with men and younger women. And I don’t remember ever seeing it with women and younger men. And I like an age gap, and I like a relationship where there — there are problematic elements to be negotiated.

Anika:   Yes, exactly. Oh, my favorite things.

Liz:   But also I think Tom Paris in the pilot is a deeply terrible person, and I hate him.

Anika:   Oh, yeah.

Liz:   So many of my friends are watching Voyager for the first time and going, “Wow, Tom Paris, he is the worst.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but wait a few seasons, he’s going to be the suburban dad of everyone’s, I don’t want to say everyone’s dreams, but he’s going to be peak suburban nice dad. And it’ll be great.”

Anika:   You said that Robbie says that he blamed himself for being skeezy — see, I give Robbie all the credit for him not being skeezy. I’m on the other side, where I really feel like they tried, they tried to make Tom Paris that guy, the guy that I don’t ever like and never want in my Star Trek, and they keep trying to put him in Star Trek. Like, every series has that guy. And it was Tom Paris. 

And he was just not capable of playing it. He put so much warmth into these horrible lines and situations that you couldn’t — you couldn’t read it that way. And so there was, like, oh, there’s something deeper here, he’s not just hitting on people, he’s lonely. He’s not just, like, he’s not getting, you know, doing — he’s not trying to hit on the captain in her pool [game] or whatever, he’s actually trying to make a friend. He’s telling her that she matters to him because she’s giving him these second chances. 

I read all of my Janeway/Paris stuff into these early seasons where he has horrible storylines, because the actors aren’t acting like he’s a skeevy, horrible person.

Liz:   No, and all of Tom’s good qualities are — or seem to be — Robert Duncan McNeill’s good qualities. You know, he’s open, he’s generous. He’s kind of funny, kind of a dork, but self-aware about it, and very passionate about holding up the people that he loves. That seems to be Robert Duncan McNeill. And that is who Tom Paris becomes. 

But I also think, like, what you were saying about how he’s not flirting, he’s trying to make friends, I also think that his background in terms of having neglectful and emotionally negligent parents, he needs people to like him. And if the only way he can do that is to make them attracted to him — to build an attraction — that’s the strategy he’ll use.

Anika:   It’s such a psychological thing that really happens, and again, often with women.

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   I gotta say, this might be a good place to say, where Voyager does an incredible job of giving all of the men various feminine traits or, like, you know, stereotypically woman-centered things that happen–

Liz:   Right, right, Chakotay is sensitive and domestic. And Tuvok defines himself to a large degree by his parenthood, and Neelix is the cook, and the Doctor is a caretaker, and Harry — with Harry, I feel like a lot of it’s bound up in anti-Asian racism, to be honest, and the emasculation of Asian men. But he is another very sensitive and gentle guy who doesn’t really like — he likes to be romanced, he doesn’t like to be seduced.

Anika:   It’s great. And then, you know, the women — we get B’Elanna in the engineering role. And she’s also angry all the time.

Liz:   Yes.

Anika:   And Janeway is a scientist and in charge, you know, she’s the authority.

Liz:   And Seven — Seven, when she’s comes, in is sort of her own thing altogether. But she’s the Spock. She’s the Odo. She’s the Data.  And it’s notable that the most classically feminine of the characters is Kes, and she’s the one who is treated as a failure and discarded and in the fourth season.

Anika:   Yeah. They don’t know how to write for her, is what it comes down to

Liz:   I think it’s that thing where they don’t know how to empathize with women who don’t act in some way, like men. And this is all very binary and very steeped in stereotypes and generalization.

Anika:   But it’s very ’90s.

Liz:   It is so ’90s.

Anika:   

I can say, as a child of the ’90s — I can still call myself that — that it’s what we were grappling with. Like, the ’80s were — there was this whole power fantasy stuff, right? And then the ’90s were, you know, grunge and riot grrrls. And so there’s just — this show, like, yeah, it’s using all those stereotypes, and so that’s why I’m calling them feminine traits. I don’t think that cooking or being a good parent or having soft hair or being a musician is feminine in any way.

Liz:   No, but we are dealing in stereotypes.

Anika:   It’s gender coding. That’s what I’m talking about.

Liz:   Relatedly, one of the reasons Janeway’s character is considered ‘inconsistent’, and I’m using air quotes because I don’t think that’s actually — I don’t think she’s the worst in terms of inconsistent writing and Star Trek captains. But — (Archer) — but part of the reason for that–

Anika:   My trash boy.

Liz:   –is that all the writers had a different feminine stereotype or archetype in mind when they were writing Janeway. Some people saw her as a schoolmarm and Jeri Taylor saw her as an earth mother for some godforsaken unknown reason. And it seems like no one was really able to go, “Hey, what if we get past the stereotypes and archetypes and just write her as a … person?”

Anika:   It’s just bad. And it’s true. There are definitely inconsistencies where she — the one that I always point out is that she has this super faith thing where she literally has a scene where she explains the concept of faith and God to Harry Kim. And then, a season later, she has to go save Kes from whatever horrible thing is holding Kes hostage.

Liz:   And suddenly she’s a TV atheist.

Anika:   Yeah. And it’s like, what are you talking about? That is not Janeway. It’s just wrong. You can’t have it both ways. And so there are inconsistencies. 

I think you’re right, that it’s a problem with different people having — like, putting different ideas of who Janeway is onto her.

Liz:   And certainly, Archer is at his worst when they try and force him into an equally narrow masculine box.

Anika:   Yeah. Right.

Liz:   So, the patriarchy. It hurts men too!

Anika:   But I do think that, yeah, Janeway isn’t alone in her inconsistencies. And I also think, of every Star Trek character, or every captain, she has the most reason to be inconsistent.

Liz:   One hundred percent. Because she’s the only one–

Anika:   She shouldn’t be–

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   She shouldn’t be consistent when she’s holding the entire, like, the idea of Starfleet and the Federation herself. She’s gluing it together in a place that doesn’t know what any of those words even mean.

Liz:   And she can never get a break. Picard can take a holiday and go to Risa, and wear skimpy shorts, and have a fling, and have adventures. Janeway has to do all that in the context of her ship.

Anika:   Right. And she’s always captain. She never gets to not be captain, even if she’s in the holodeck hanging out.

Liz:   Yeah. Basically, Voyager is 2020, and Janeway is working from home.

Anika:   So I cut her a little slack.

Liz:   Hah, I cut her a lot of slack.

Anika:   And I write into my own little headcanons that it is all of this psychological stuff that she’s dealing with. Uou know, I say, Oh, well, she was depressed then, so she was making these choices. So.

Liz:   Honestly, Janeway makes sense to me. There are inconsistencies, but she holds — like, she feels consistent emotionally. And that’s what’s important.

Anika:   Right.

Liz:   Let’s talk about Chakotay, who you’ve described here as the most stereotypical Native character ever.

Anika:   It’s just really sad.

Liz:   I — yeah.

Anika:   Like it’s sad on every level, because now, creating a Native character now, which they should definitely do, but putting that character into Star Trek, that character automatically is stuck with the Chakotay baggage. And that’s just so upsetting. We’re never going to get this clean, quote unquote, Native character, because of this mess that we got with Chakotay, where he — like, it was already bad, the TNG episode isn’t any better. That episode is really bad.

Liz:   That’s the episode “Journey’s End”, which sets up either Chakotay’s home planet or one very much like it, colonized by Native Americans, because that is absolutely how Indigenous people work.

Anika:   So bad. And then they get kicked out, kind of like in Picard, you know, Starfleet’s like, “You gotta leave now, because the Cardassians own this place.” And it’s like, but they don’t really? And no one really does? 

So, right, it puts them on the wrong — it’s just all it’s all bad. It’s all bad. And it’s all very much a white person writing what they think an Indigenous person is.

Liz:   Right.

Anika:   All it did the dream watching, and–

Liz:   The vision quest…

Anika:   –none of it is true. That’s where I end the sentence, none of it is true to the idea of an Indigenous character. And it’s just it never gets good in Voyager. I want to like Chakotay, and I have troubles.

Liz:   To their credit, they hired a consultant. Unfortunately, the consultant was a white fraud, a Native faker, who was already notorious for being a fake, and Native American groups had been warning Hollywood for years that he was actually a white guy. So they start off on a bad foot. 

They audition a lot of Native American actors and decide they’re too, quote unquote, on the nose, meaning too Native American. So they cast Robert Beltran, who is a very talented Mexican American actor, who doesn’t seem to have any Native heritage. I don’t know how Indigenous identity in Mexico works, but to my knowledge, he doesn’t really participate in Native culture, or anything like that. So, yeah, they just went for the nearest brown guy, basically.

Anika:   And the thing is, if he was Mexican American, and not Native, that would be better,

Liz:   Right, or just a Mexican American character who has some Native heritage that he is learning about, like, that is a really interesting story. But like, so much of it is dated even for 1996.

Anika:   Right. That’s right, exactly.

Liz:   I remember as a kid cringing every time they use the word ‘Indian’, because even then I knew that the new and appropriate term was Native American. And just the whole “I hear in some tribes, if I save your life, you belong to me” — that’s a setup for a slash fic. It shouldn’t be canonical.

Anika:   Yeah, everything about poor Chakotay is poorly done. And the further we get from Voyager, like, the more time goes on, the — [it gets] more blatantly bad. It really starts to stick out.

Liz:   I understand what you’re saying, that everything they do from now is tainted by what they did with Chakotay. But I really do think that new Trek, the Trek Renaissance, needs Indigenous representation.

Anika:   They should definitely do it.

Liz:   Yeah, like Discovery films in Toronto and there is no shortage of hugely talented Native Canadian — I think it’s Canadian Aboriginal? Of Indigenous Canadian actors. And and, obviously, Evan Evagora in Picard is half-Maori … but he’s playing a Romulan, so.

Anika:   I’m not saying they shouldn’t do it because of all this baggage. I just feel sorry for the actor.

Liz:   Yes.

Anika:   I feel badly for the person who has to deal with it.

Liz:   Also because they’re inevitably going to end up on panels with Robert Beltran, and honestly, he seems like a dick.

Anika:   Everything I’ve seen of Robert Beltran has been very, like, dismissive, I guess, is the best way — like, when people bring up to him that, you know, maybe it wasn’t the best representation of an Indigenous population, he sort of gets defensive and doesn’t listen.

Liz:   Yeah. 

So let’s move on to the greatest character in all of Star Trek

Anika:   Tuvok?!

Liz:   Tuvok! Yes.

Anika:   I have a Tuvok standee in my house now. I love it. It’s just — Tuvok is amazing. Best Vulcan by far.

Liz:   Yes.

Anika:   His relationship with Janeway is so precious to me. I just love everything about it. I love how warm it is right off from the beginning. I love that he is just as — he does crazy stuff for Janeway, the way that Kirk does crazy stuff for Spock. It’s that same level of “that’s insane,” and I love that. I love that they have that relationship. And I’m forever sad that they are the least represented in fan fiction. Like, even, like, platonic. I’m not saying — I do, I would ship them. But…

Liz:   But we don’t even have fic about them having adventures.

Anika:   Right? There’s just — I mean, Tuvok, yes, best character in Trek. Chemistry with everyone is highly — [but] he’s the least represented in Voyager. It’s very upsetting to me because it cannot not be racism. There’s just — I don’t have another explanation for why Tuvok is so ignored.

Liz:   I have a theory, but I think the primary reason is indeed racism. But I also think it’s that Tuvok enters the series as a man who already knows who he is, and his regrets are mainly behind him, and he doesn’t really change much over the course of the series, save that he unbends to an extent to reveal his affection more than he did at the start. But, on the whole, he’s not the most dynamic character. 

And I love that about him! I love his stability, I love the respect that he has for everyone, even Neelix, who often doesn’t deserve it. And I think he is a character who is almost the heart and soul of the show in a way that’s easily overlooked because he is entertaining and fun to watch with every single other regular character. 

When I put it like that, the only reason he is overlooked — aside from — like, I really do think a lot of it comes down to racism

Anika:   Yeah, he absolutely is stable. And he absolutely does — he’s a supporting character in every way? He supports, but it’s sort of like, so shouldn’t he be supporting people? Can’t we still write fic about that? I don’t understand.

Liz:   Now I’m thinking that if he was a white guy, he would probably be the male bicycle of the cast. Like I realized the entire cast minus Neelix is basically the bicycle, but now I’m side-eyeing fandom extra hard.

Anika:   I just love Tuvok so much. And I have written Tuvok, but I’ve definitely written for January and Paris. So I’m also part of the problem, I guess.

Liz:   I will confess that I completely overlooked him until my current rewatch, so I am not excusing myself from anything here.

Anika:   I try to give him, you know, his due, at least in my ensemble fic. I don’t actually write much Voyager fic right now.

Liz:   No, no. I haven’t for years

Anika:   And also T’Pel, too, I’m, like, on a mission to give T’Pel literally any characterization whatsoever.

Liz:   Someone somewhere out there is going to write me a Janeway/Tuvok/T’Pel fic, and I’m going to be very grateful.

Anika:   Nice.

Liz:   We’re almost at an hour. Let’s talk about Harry Kim. Every time I watch “Caretaker”, I’m blown away by how beautiful Garrett Wang is, and the floppiness of his perfect ’90s non-threatening boy hair. It’s magnificent.

Anika:   That’s absolutely true. One of my photo caps, he just has amazing hair. One shot, you know, my, like, tagline for Janeway is that her hair is fabulous. And I was like, Oh, HIS hair is fabulous, and I compared it to Poe Dameron.

Liz:   Oh, no, you’re not wrong. I said something in my “Q and the Gray” post about how the only redeeming feature of that episode was Harry’s floppy hair. And then I mentioned that when I linked to it on Twitter, and Garrett Wang replied, and I — I cannot be acknowledged by the actors in that way. Like, I want to objectify you, you don’t get to respond. This is a one-way relationship.

Anika:   Poor Harry Kim. Harry Kim is another one who is routinely overlooked by fandom. But unlike with Tuvok, there are like the rabid Harry Kim fans who will come to his defense and do write him, usually with Tom, but–

Liz:   I understand that there is a thriving, powerful of Tom/Harry shippers, and I don’t ship it, but I fully respect them.

Anika:   And so he has his own little corner, I guess, of the fandom. But it is still true that, in wider fandom, if you’re gonna ask non-Voyager fans — but Trek fans — they’ll point out Harry Kim as a waste of space, that he has no characterization whatsoever–

Liz:  Lies!

Anika:   –that, literally all they know about him is that he was never promoted during the series. And it’s just, it’s gross.

Liz:   Which is, again, racism.

Anika:   Which is just really bad.

Liz:   Because Rick Berman did not like Garret Wang.

Anika:   Exactly. What I do when I’m watching Voyager, and I really saw it — like, Voyager actually does a good job — you know how we were always complaining about making the bridge crew annoyingly prominent in Discovery? Voyager does a really good job with their giant ensemble. And to be fair, they’re all like actual regulars.

Liz:   They are, which I do think was a mistake.

Anika:   They’re supposed to be prominent, but little things. Like there’s this great part where we learn that Harry wears a mask to sleep, and why. And, of course, he has his clarinet and his love of music, that he, saved up replicator rations to make a clarinet because he left his actual one at home. 

And he has his fiancée, and when he is in that little bubble reality where he’s back on Earth, and he has like a favorite coffee place, and he has a favorite coffee order. And it’s like, those are the details that I want. You know, they’re like throwaway — not important to the plot. They just tell you who Harry is.

Liz:   And what he values.

Anika:   And he’s a really sweet guy that cares about community, and knows people’s names, and pays attention to little things. I don’t understand the criticism that Harry Kim doesn’t have character, because he has so much character.

Liz:   What I don’t get is this idea that Harry Kim is bad with women. He is wildly successful with women. He just finds it uncomfortable when women come at him aggressively. Like–

Anika:   Yeah!

Liz:   –that’s it. And I think, again, this memetic idea that Harry is bad with women is racist, because it comes up in the script, and people accept it as reality, but it’s not remotely true.

Anika:   It’s not true. And it’s weird. He has plenty of little one-off relationships.

Liz:   Right!

Anika:   It’s strange. It’s strange. And also this idea that he’s not promoted. That’s not on Harry.

Liz:   No. That is, in universe, on Janeway and, in reality, on Rick Berman

Anika:   Right.

Liz:   And why are we passing up an opportunity to criticize Rick Berman? We love that shit!

Anika:   Let’s always criticize Rick. Definitely everything wrong is Rick Berman. And, you know, all of them. Brannon Braga and Jeri Taylor aren’t — they’re better than Rick Berman, but they aren’t great.

Liz:   No, no, I’m very fond of Braga because I share his tastes for weird science fictional time travel stuff. Buuuuuut…

Anika:   There’s stuff. There are things that are questionable. And obviously Rick Berman is a trash person and not the way that Jonathan Archer is.

Liz:   No, he is a trash person in the low level #MeToo way.

Anika:   Right. But back to Harry.

Liz:   Yes.

Anika:   Harry had a fiancée, so I don’t exactly understand how he’s bad with women. And in the new Janeway autobiography, he gets back with her.

Liz:   Oh, nice!

Anika:   I was like, Oh, that’s actually — like, I always sort of I make fun of [Libby] almost as much as I make fun of Mark, but that’s really not fair to Libby, because she–

Liz:   She has a personality.

Anika:   In the one episode we get with her — yeah, she has a personality, they actually have a really sweet relationship that I’m sort of, like, I can cheerlead that, you know? And since I don’t like any of his canon relationships in the show, it’s like, sure, he gets back together with Libby. They have a happy life, that’s great.

Liz:   Yeah, I love that for him.

Anika:   I’d also — while we’re because we’re allegedly talking about “Caretaker”–

Liz:   Oh, yeah.

Anika:   The pet names, the way that B’Elanna and Harry call each other Starfleet and Maquis, every once in a while it comes back up, and every time I’m happy, and I love their relationship the way that it — like, it’s not actually in the show. But their relationship that is seen in those tiny moments where they call each other by these pet names, and they support each other and, like, share, Tom is really great. 

I just wish that they had built on the potential of those characters and that relationship, and that we got more of that friendship.

Liz:   And it really feels like they were setting the groundwork for a canonical romance. And I have to believe that the only reason they didn’t go through with that was, again, racism.

Anika:   Yeah. Racism.

Liz:   Because it had faded well into the background before they worked out that Roxann Dawson had amazing chemistry with Robert Duncan McNeill. And I like Tom and B’Elanna, but I also would have liked Harry and B’Elanna. 

I just think at some point early on, they decided, “Actually this Asian kid, we’re not going to do anything to support him or uphold him.” 

And, you know, allegedly he was the one — almost the one who was fired at the end of season three, and then Garrett Wang made it onto the People’s most beautiful 50 Most Beautiful People of the Year list, and they ditched Jennifer Lien instead. 

Wang has said that that’s not entirely accurate, and I think I’ll have to dip back into Delta Fliers when he discusses that, because certainly Jennifer Lien seems to have had problems even then.

Anika:   Yes.

Liz:   And I hate that her career came to an end because I wonder if she would have been in a better position now than if she had — if it had not [been her that was let go]. For those who don’t follow Voyager actors in the news, Lien has not acted for a long time, and I think is living in Texas, and has racked up a bunch of criminal charges. And basically — “don’t do meth” is the moral of the story.

Anika:   Her story reminds me a lot of Grace Lee Whitney’s.

Liz:   Yeah. And you know, Whitney really struggled with addiction for a very long time, and got through it and her career revived, and she wound up having a successful and happy life. So I hope that comes true for Lien as well. Is this a good segue to talk about Kes?

Anika:   Yes. I love Kes, and they from the beginning did not know how to write her. They did not know what they were going to do with her. I hate her introduction. I love Kes as, like, the girl who’s climbing up the rabbit hole.

Liz:   The fairy princess going on adventures.

Anika:   But I hate the fact that we meet her as battered and bruised, and a prisoner, and being saved by Neelix, who’s lying to our heroes in order to do it. Everything is bad about that. That’s not just — that’s just not good.

Liz:   I think even if Janeway had been the one to save her, it would have been better.

Anika:   Yes.

Liz:   But yeah, I think the whole Neelix/Kes relationship was–

Anika:   Oof!

Liz:   –poorly conceived. Yur note here is that Kes is an abuse victim and also a literal child. And to be honest, I never have any problem accepting the Ocampa for fully grown adults at the age of one, and they are sexually mature and emotionally mature — or as emotionally mature as an adult twenty-year-old can be, and there’s nothing skeevy happening here. But nevertheless, the gap in age between Ethan Phillips and Jennifer Lien is so great?

Anika:   Right.

Liz:   I think if they had cast someone younger as Neelix, it might have worked, but it was so far from being a relationship between equals.

Anika:   The issue with the actors’ ages is, because they’re both playing aliens, and they’re both playing aliens that are new, even — like, they’re not even Vulcans or whatever, that we’re aware of, we don’t know how how old either — like, I guess we know that Ocampa live to be seven-years-old. But until she comes back in “Fury”, I was always sort of like, What’s seven? You know, we made up time, seven in the Delta Quadrant could be eighty, we don’t know.  You know, it’s another thing that you shouldn’t think too much about in science fiction. 

And then, Neelix. The thing is that even if he is a young — what is he? Talaxian? Even if he is a young Talaxian, he has a ship, he has a job. He was in the military for a while, and left.

Liz:   I was gonna say, his history in the military makes me think he’s considerably older than, say, thirty?

Anika:   Yeah. He’s lived too much to have this. And she literally lived her two years underground, being one of the Caretaker’s ants in his ant farm. [Note from Liz: we regret to report that Kes is, in fact, one year old in “Caretaker”. She turns two in “Twisted” and WHY DO I KNOW THIS WITHOUT LOOKING IT UP?]  She has no experience whatsoever. So putting those two together is the — it’s just not balanced in any way.

Liz:   No. And I, as much as I love an age gap, there are certain conditions that have to be in place for me to be on board. One is that, in experience, or intelligence, they have to be equals. And two, the story has to acknowledge the unevenness and the consequences of that. And Voyager tried really, really hard not to.

Anika:   Right.

Liz:   It felt dishonest in a way. And then there was the whole Neelix jealousy subplot that came along a season or so later. It really served both characters poorly. I like Neelix? But I like him best after Kes breaks up with him in season three.

Anika:   I like him best, really, after Kes is gone. Unfortunately,

Liz:   No, no, that makes sense. I think sometimes a relationship holds a character back, even the memory of it. And it’s easier to overlook the skeeviness of the Neelix/Kes relationship once Kes is gone.

Anika:   And the issue is that Neelix’s other closest relationship is with Tuvok, who is another person who — like, Tuvok is Mr. Boundaries, and Neelix doesn’t know what a boundary is.

Liz:   Yeah. That’s my other beef.

Anika:   So my — like, I get why they put those two characters together, and why they built up that relationship. But when you look at the way that Neelix treats Kes, and the way that Neelix treats Tom, and the way that Neelix treats Tuvok together, it doesn’t make Neelix look good.

Liz:   No, no, you kind of have to take him — you really have to compartmentalize him. 

And it’s a shame, because I love Kes, and I really identified with her when I was a teenage girl. Obviously I identified with Janeway, and weirdly, I sort of overlooked B’Elanna because she was so angry, and I was very much in denial about being an angry teenage girl. But I love her now, obviously. 

But one of the reasons that they thought Kes was unappealing was that she was too much aimed at the teenage girl demographic. And in the costume book, they describe her as dressing like a teenage girl. And I’m like, you keep saying that like it’s a bad thing!

Anika:   Hollywood — society as a whole — really looks down on teenage girls.

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   And, you know, a politician says something that you don’t like, and they say, “Oh, just like a teenage girl.” And it’s like, what? What are you talking about? So yeah, it’s just bad.

Liz:   I’m just saying, you know, who were the first to be into the Beatles? Teenage girls.

Anika:   Well, teenage girls are great, and we should always support them. I have that — that’s one of my, like, reusable hashtags, #SupportTeenGrls, because it’s just, it’s just silly. It’s silly not to.

Liz:   I think that Kes could easily have coexisted with Seven. Like, I think it would have been really fascinating.

Anika:   Yeah! You’ve said this before, that they should — like, they should have had, like, five regulars and a bunch of supporting characters. And that’s true.

Liz:   If they had gotten to season four and dropped, say, Kes and Harry down to recurring, so there’s not the pressure to have them in every episode and not the pressure to give them stories–

Anika:   And Neelix! Why are we keeping Neelix?

Liz:   Oh yeah, no, Neelix has to go.

Anika:   Just saying. But for some reason, they were really against all of, like, that.

Liz:   Ironically for a science fiction show, I think Star Trek in the ’90s was really afraid to change.

Anika:   Yeah, it’s because, you know what happened with Terry Farrell, where she was like, “Look, I don’t want to be a regular. I still want to play this character. I just don’t want to be a regular,” and they were like, “No.” And–

Liz:   You say “they”, but–

Anika:   –they wrote her out and brought in someone else. Yeah.

Liz:   It’s Rick Berman.

Anika:   We all know who.

Liz:   This is a great episode for criticizing Berman. I love it.

Anika:   It would have made so much more sense to spread the love. But … I don’t know, they wrote B’Elanna really well, so I gotta give them that. B’Elanna is my — you know, B’Elanna and Seven — but Seven is, like, on a whole other level. B’Elanna is–

Liz:   Seven is extraordinary. B’Elanna is also–

Anika:   –an incredibly well-written character over seven seasons. She goes on a journey. And they check back in with her at the same time, you know, every season. And it’s really clever, and it’s really well done.

I don’t know how they did so well with B’Elanna when they did so poorly with others. But they did. And maybe — I said that she’s angry all the time, and that’s a, quote unquote, masculine trait. And so maybe it just was easier to do — like it was easier for the writers to write that. But you said that you didn’t initially identify with B’Elanna.

Liz:   No.

Anika:   I want to repeat something I said on a panel some years ago now, where I said, B’Elanna is my Spock.

Liz:   I remember you’ve talked about that before, and I think it’s a really great point. And I think having a character who is as angry as her, and as conflicted about her identity, and whose story carries over seven seasons — and it never really comes to an easy resolution. She goes forward, she goes backwards. She has good days, she has bad days. I think it’s an absolute masterclass in writing a key supporting character over time.

Anika:   That she is consistent in her inconsistency, that all of the inconsistencies that come up in B’Elanna ‘s story are there — are pointed out, are part of the plot, are, like, “We’re gonna deal with this now.” 

And she’s consistently going back and forth in different ways, and she never gets over her — like, she never fully gets over her identity issues. She’s dealing with, an anxiety issue pretty much throughout the entire — even in the seventh season, she’s still dealing with that anxiety.

Liz:   Yeah!

Anika:   And that’s true to life. And so it’s just really well done. I think that if they had paid more attention to her, they would have screwed her up.

Liz:   That’s exactly what I was going to say.

Anika:   It’s exactly the right amount of attention.

Liz:   I feel like B’Elanna’s story succeeds because she’s a supporting character, and she’s not the focus of attention the way Janeway and Seven are. And therefore, there’s not the pressure riding on her, and not the level of attention, and they can just go through and quietly tell a good story, you know, the way they did with Worf in TNG.  Worf’s story back then was very — pre-Deep Space Nine — was very consistent and very well-told. I mean, you need to have tolerance for Klingon shit, but I’m a bit fond of Klingon bullshit.

So — so we have not discussed the Doctor.

Anika:   Oh, the Doctor. Well, he is barely a person in this first episode.

Liz:   He’s just Cranky Siri.

Anika:   He’s literally the program. He doesn’t do anything new. He grows — that’s a character that goes on quite the journey over Voyager, you know, it’s kind of required of that character to grow in many ways.

Liz:   But what’s interesting is that he wasn’t planned to be a funny character, and that was something that Robert Picardo brought to the role. And it almost leads to him taking over the series. Like, I find the Doctor very wearisome. And this argument that Seven of Nine takes over, when the Doctor is there every second episode. Seriously?

Anika:   Yeah, Seven takes over in a way that, like, Tuvok, Chakotay — B’Elanna’s pretty — like, B’Elanna’s always second tier, that’s where she exists. So she doesn’t change. Tom arguably — but Tom still gets to do all his Tom stuff. 

But Harry, Chakotay and Tuvok, definitely, are sort of put in the shadows by Seven. You’re absolutely correct, the Doctor has just as much character stuff. But he’s been there all along, I guess. Like, you don’t see it as a change, because what happens is his story doesn’t go back the way that Tuvok’s and Chakotay’s — he’s not put in that box.

Liz:   I think it frustrates me with the Doctor, whereas it doesn’t with Seven, because I feel like, with Seven, they were doing something genuinely revolutionary in terms of the character and the way her story was written. And it obviously built on a lot of great writing from other science fiction series. 

But Seven was new, and the Doctor is just, you know, mash up Data with McCoy and you’ve got the holographic doctor.

Anika:   I am interested that you said that he wasn’t meant to be funny, because I can’t actually imagine him as not funny.

Liz:   No, I know!

Anika:   Like, what even would that be? That would literally be like, you know, Siri talking to me. That’s not interesting.

Liz:   I get the impression that he was basically conceived as Medical Siri. And I guess because it was the ’90s and we didn’t have Siri, then no one realized how boring that concept would be. And I think the idea always was that he would grow — go on this journey of personhood, but it’s Robert  Picardo, who made it a journey of comedy personhood.

Anika:   I like it. I like that. I can’t imagine it another way. 

I don’t love the Doctor, I think I agree with you that it’s just sort of tired. It’s like, we did Odo, we did Data, we did Spock. And Seven brings something different to those same tropes, whereas the Doctor doesn’t, really. 

The Doctor is basically Data again, not the same personality, but it’s sort of the same idea. He’s also put on trial to prove that he exists, and he’s also used in poor ways. I like the Doctor-centric episodes that aren’t about his identity, but are more about how his identity fits into his community.

Liz:   Yes, no, that makes sense. And, yeah, I don’t dislike the Doctor. I just get tired of him by the end of season seven.

Anika:   I mean, I think that’s fair. I think that he also has a harsh personality.

Liz:   Yeah, a little goes a long way. And honestly, I don’t think he’s a very good doctor. So …  he’s not … yeah.

Anika:   I wouldn’t want Siri to be my doctor either.

Liz:   No, and we know that he was programmed by one of the biggest creeps in Starfleet.  

Anika:   Yes!

Liz:   And I’m not even talking about Reginald Barclay!

Anika:   Well, yeah, it’s kind of amazing that he is a nice person at all, really, when you think about it?

Liz:   Sheer luck, and also the influence of Kes.

Anika:   Yeah, I was gonna say, it’s the people. And that’s why those are the more interesting episodes. Because someone building an identity is not as interesting as someone becoming more of themselves because of the interactions that they’re having.

Liz:   Right, yes. 

So your note here is, “Janeway’s choice. If this were a Cardassian ship, we’d be home now. If this were a Klingon ship, we’d be home now. If this were a Vulcan ship, we’d be home now. Why are humans?”

Anika:   I’m just saying.

Liz:   Which brings me to my thought, like, we don’t see Seska in this episode, but I have to think that the whole Caretaker shenanigans — it’s just a very bad day for her. She’s thrown to the other side of the galaxy, she’s abducted, she’s put through tests. 

Then it turns out that Tuvok was a spy, and she didn’t even notice, and that it has to be embarrassing, even though he didn’t notice her, so at least they’re even. 

And then this Starfleet captain goes and traps them on the other side of the galaxy, and she has to wear a Starfleet uniform, and she’s going to be on this ship for seventy years pretending to be a Bajoran?

Anika:   Seska’s worst day ever.

Liz:   Uh, yeah, basically.

Anika:   But, yeah, so obviously I was quoting Seska in the “If this were a Cardassian ship, we’d be home now.” One of the best lines, best episodes? Yes. But, one hundred percent, Klingons and Vulcans would also not have done this. And probably Andorians. It’s pretty much very human to do this.

Liz:   It is. And I think it reflects the way that we have a strong sense of justice and decency and also a dash of paternalism.

Anika:    I guess it’s also a super American choice?

Liz:   That brings me to my note here, “the Social Security controversy”, because this episode ends with Janeway telling the Caretaker that, you know, children have to grow up and the Ocampa have to learn to stand on their own feet. 

And this aired around the time that Bill Clinton was tipping a lot of people off Social Security, and a lot of left-wing and liberal viewers interpreted this episode as having a subtext — basically an anti-Social Security subtext. 

And it’s interesting, because all through the series, Voyager does sort of have this odd, low-key reactionary tendency. You know, refugees are a bit scary. These former slaves are scary, and not white, and all of that stuff. And it’s really built into the pilot.

Anika:   Yeah, it’s definitely there. And, you know, Voyager is my Trek, I guess, as you say.

Liz:   And that’s how we can criticize it.

Anika:   And that’s how we can criticize it, right. And I am very critical all the time.

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   Of many of the things both within the storylines, and things that happened behind the scenes and outside of — and like, why things happened the way they did, and the storylines and stuff like that, all of that. 

I can’t watch an episode without thinking about the different things, and the way that I saw it when, again, I was a very young adult (in terms of science, not an adult at all) and yet, being asked to make decisions that they kept saying would affect my whole life. “Where do you want to go to college? What do you want to major in? What are you going to do with your life?” You know, and it’s like, I don’t know.

Liz:   “I’m a kid, man.”

Anika:   And Voyager was my show at that time. And I was also — like, I’ve mentioned before, on various places, I went through a — I was — I had a mental breakdown during Voyager. As Voyager ended, within six months after Voyager ended, I was hospitalised. So it I think it was even — because — if it ended in May that — yeah, it was like, less than. 

So it’s just really — I was becoming a person when Voyager happened, and on the backside of it, on the other end, when it was over. And I literally named myself after Seven of Nine. So when I say that Voyager shaped my personhood, I mean, it literally. Watching this show, at that time of my life, it shaped how I think, and how I feel, and how I see. And that’s why I can look back on it without my rose colored glasses, and say, Whoo, that’s really rough. 

And I’m on Tuvok’s side, when Tuvok was like, “This is not our job. We are, we are — like, that guy was overinvested in this nonsense, and you’re just — you’re just continuing that, and you have even less reason to be doing this.” 

That’s why I love Seska so much. That’s why I’m always talking about Seska, because Seska’s the one who’s pointing at it and saying, “This is — like, letting the Kazon do whatever they want is a wrong decision. But what you’re doing is also a wrong decision.” And–

Liz:   I don’t think Janeway is necessarily wrong. I think the Kazon would have probably wiped out the Ocampa if they were left to their own devices. I think, if you can prevent a genocide, then you should do so.

Anika:   Everything I know about the Kazon … I don’t think that they could–

Liz:   You don’t think they’re capable?

Anika:   ‘Cos there were two ships.

Liz:   Yeah, that’s true.

Anika:   Like how would — I don’t see people who have to steal water being able to take out the Ocampa. 

Like, the Ocampa not being able to defend themselves is a problem, that is true, the Ocampa not being able to leave their planet. But I guess my point is that the Caretaker is the one who put them in that position.

Liz:   Right.

Anika:   And Janeway still, like — yeah, they blow up the array and the two Kazon ships, but then they still leave. Like, the Ocampa are still hanging out on their planet, right?

Liz:   And they don’t even know about the danger. They don’t even know that the Caretaker is dying.

Anika:   So I don’t see how Voyager taking care of this one threat, and then bouncing, is actually better for the Ocampa.

Liz:   It’s so typical of ’90s Trek.

Anika:   I guess there’s no right choice here is the real  — the real answer is, there’s no good choice, and so I’m fine with Janeway’s choice. I just think–

Liz:   As opposed to killing Tuvix, which is the only right choice.

Anika:   I’m just saying that the idea — like, Janeway’s saviorhood is super — you can tell that her dad was an admiral, you can tell that she lives and breathes Starfleet. And that’s interesting, and that’s good, and that makes her a great character. I just am that person who says, also Starfleet can be bad sometimes.

Liz:   Yes. And also, I think that if this had been a Next Generation episode, there would have been a meeting about it where everyone argues the rights and wrongs of destroying the array and incorporating the Maquis into the crew. But because they’re so set on establishing Janeway as a, quote unquote, strong female character, there was no room for that consultation. She needed to make that decision or else they thought it might be sexist, I guess?

Anika:   I guess? She just comes off as like —

Liz:   High handed.

Anika:   Yeah. It’s just, literally Tuvok is like, “Hey, maybe let’s not do that.” And she’s like, “No, I’m gonna do that.” And then–

Liz:   I’m sorry. When Tuvok speaks, you should listen.

Anika:   Right?

I mean, the truth is, in more than one episode, Tuvok, like — in the teaser, Tuvok will say something, and then it’ll turn out to be correct. And the entire episode would not have happened if we just listened to Tuvok.

Liz:   See, this is why Tuvok needs to join the cast of Star Trek: Picard. Like, maybe their episodes would be shorter, but they will have a much easier time getting things done.

Anika:   They also need an adult.

Liz:   And obviously Picard is not — you know, he’s the cool granddad.

Anika:   But yeah, so I just think it’s very human. It’s very American. It’s very, it’s very ’90s, as you say. Absolutely. Like that is — and it’s interesting to look at it from our lens of now, to look back and think about how the entire series is based on this one decision.

Liz:   Yeah. I don’t think I know enough to really say this with any intelligence, but I’m not going to let that stop me! It sort of highlights the difference between liberalism and leftism? And I think Voyager thinks it’s very liberal, and is actually very centrist.

Anika:   Right, which is what liberalism is.

Liz:   And that is so 1990s. This is Clinton-era Star Trek.

Anika:   Very much so.

Liz:   Yeah.

Anika:   Well, that was fun!

Liz:   We have talked about “Caretaker” for about as long as “Caretaker” runs. I’m so proud of us!

Anika:   Whoops! Um, before we wrap up, I have one thing I wanted to say.

Liz:   Yes?

Anika:   This aired in 1995.

Liz:   Oh, shit!

Anika:   So it’s actually the 26th anniversary.

Liz:   Oh, that’s so interesting!

Anika:   But since 2020 was–

Liz:   2020?

Anika:   –you know, let’s just skip over that, we can call it the 25th.

Liz:   25th with an asterisk. Yeah, that makes sense, because I was born in ’82. So I was thirteen in the summer of ’95. Cool. Okay. I’m really glad that we got this sorted out.

Anika:   I was like, okay, when did I graduate? I was trying to figure out exactly how old I was. And so yeah, so I looked up the air date and, yeah.

Liz:   My very first memory of being aware of Voyager was a column about Genevieve Bujold quitting the role. And I had a scrapbook where I cut out and saved any Star Trek related articles that happened to cross my path. I saved this article because it was basically, overworked, underpaid journalist thinks that being a starship captain sounds much easier and doesn’t know what Bujold was complaining about. 

What I took from that column at age about twelve is, “Ooooh, another Star Trek, and this one has a lady captain! I don’t know if I can ship a lady captain because any of the crew will be subordinate to her in rank. Oh, well, I’ll watch it anyway, and I’ll probably like it. Anyway, when’s seaQuest on?”

And look where we are now.

Anika:   That’s so funny.

Liz:   I think I was a weirdly sexist little kid, actually. 

Anyway, thank you for listening to Antimatter Pod. You can find our show notes at antimatterpod.tumblr.com, including links to our social media and credits for our theme music. 

You can also follow us on Twitter at @antimatterpod, and on Facebook, and every single episode I say I’m going to be better about sharing episodes on Facebook at every single support night I forget. 

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And join us in two weeks, when we will be discussing the classic TOS episode “City on the Edge of Forever”.

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