With all the buzz surrounding the upcoming Voyager documentary, it’s hard not to feel the call of the Delta Quadrant. With four shows since it’s premiere, and at least two more on the way, it’s easy for fans to forget about The Little Ship That Could (And Did). Before we get caught up in the nostalgia, this series will note some of the significant yet rarely mentioned contributions of the USS Voyager and her crew.
While Janeway’s initial decision to stay in the Delta Quadrant and shut the door behind them was inspired by the Prime Directive, the auspicious captain and her crew grew more likely to bend the rules as time went on. Still, when faced with the choice between following the rules and getting home sooner, Voyager managed to stay on the right side of history… mostly.
Towards the beginning of its sixth season, Janeway and her crew were faced with a challenging decision in “Dragon’s Teeth.” After accidentally stumbling into a high-speed subspace corridor, Voyager gets shoved out by the self-proclaimed owners of the corridor, a species named the Turei. When exiting the corridor, the crew discovers that they’ve traveled more than 200 lightyears in less than five minutes.
Eager to use the corridor to get home, Janeway tries to negotiate with the Turei for safe passage until backup arrives, insisting that Voyager allow the Turei to board and purge the ship’s computer of their meeting. Janeway naturally refuses, and the ship takes damage in the subsequent conflict. They seek refuge on a nearby planet, only to find that the subspace corridor has a history shrouded in mystery, lies, and a little bit of genocide.
Voyager lands on the planet to wait out their new enemies as they make repairs, and discover an entire civilization in cryo-stasis far below the surface. In a misguided attempt to gain intel on the sleeping population, Seven of Nine wakes one of the scientists after 900 years in stasis, and sets off a chain of events that blurs the black and white of right and wrong into a slippery grey mess.
Initially, the stakes aren’t terribly high. The Doctor revives and heals Gedrin, the Vaadwaur scientist from the surface. Gedrin tours Voyager and explains the plight of his people to Janeway, dropping subtle hints about Vaadwaur cruelty along the way. But when the Turei increase their efforts to destroy Voyager, Gedrin offers long-dormant Vaadwaur technology to defend the ship as the crew continues to make repairs.
With the Turei on the run, Gedrin asks for the protection of the Vaadwaur and offers access to the subspace corridor to shave some time off of Voyager’s trip. Naturally, Janeway is intrigued by the offer, but was it the right idea to get involved with a centuries-old conflict?
With the rest of the Vaadwaur battalion revived, Janeway and the crew get started on the task of navigating the corridors while simultaneously looking for a new home for the Vaadwaur survivors. But when examples of that same cruelty reach Neelix, he does a little digging through Talaxian lore and uncovers a forgotten history speaking to the brutality of the Vaadwaur. Slowly but surely, the Vaadwaur reveal themselves to be a despotic, aggressive species, hell-bent on reclaiming their former glory.
Like most matters of foreign affairs, it becomes exceedingly difficult to determine who’s right and who’s wrong the more both sides share their version of history. More often than naught, that binary is indistinguishable, and most would not fault a decision to remain neutral. But in Voyager’s case, the time for neutrality had come and gone, and Janeway was faced with yet another exceedingly difficult decision.
While it was not lost on her that the consequences of reviving a malevolent race of conquerors were immeasurable, it’s important to note that instead of taking the easy way out and using those corridors to get Voyager home, Janeway decided not to compromise her integrity and stay the course.