Ronald D. Moore says Star Trek: Voyager started with a big mistake that effectively killed one of the most interesting parts of its original premise.
- The decision to have the Maquis crew members of Voyager wear Starfleet uniforms at the end of the pilot episode killed the potential for conflict between the two groups.
- The show missed an opportunity to explore the tension and rivalry between Starfleet and the Maquis by having them easily adapt and cooperate with each other.
- The addition of Seven of Nine to the cast in season 4 revived the conflict between Starfleet and an opposing perspective, allowing for a deeper exploration of different values and ideologies.
One big mistake spelled death for Star Trek: Voyager, and it happened right at the end of its pilot episode, “Caretaker”, says writer Ronald D. Moore. Voyager promised more than the simple story of a Federation vessel making its way home across the Delta Quadrant. Its conflict was supposed to arise from the clash between the Starfleet crew commanded by Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) and the members of the Maquis led by Commander Chakotay (Robert Beltran) who were also stranded, but that concept faded from Voyager‘s scripts fairly early on.
Writer Ronald D. Moore explains the lack of promised tension between the two halves of Voyager’s crew in The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years, by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross. Moore posits that the patent ideological differences between Starfleet and the Maquis should have provided more fuel for Star Trek: Voyager‘s fire, but a particular costuming choice reduced the potential bang to mere embers, and eventually just ash. Read his quote below:
Ronald D. Moore: When the Maquis put on those Starfleet uniforms at the end of the pilot, the show was dead. That was the biggest mistake, because they went through this whole thing to bring on their enemies. We made up the Maquis on DS9 just so that they could appear on Voyager. Here are Starfleet officers who had become terrorist resistance fighters, guerrilla warriors. The Federation has got them on the run and both of these groups are thrown in a ship on another side of the galaxy and forced to live together. You’d think that’s the setup for a major show about conflict, but at the end of the pilot they all put on the Starfleet uniforms and that’s it. It was a huge mistake. It should have been these two sides that were forced to work together that still don’t like each other and still are gunning for each other, wondering who’s going to come out on top. Who’s going to betray who? It should have been gold, but they got scared. Unfortunately, the fact that DS9 didn’t do as well as Next Gen scared them and they didn’t want another dark show that wasn’t as successful. They wanted a show that was more like Next Generation and easier to swallow and where people didn’t have to think as much. So they drew all the wrong lessons and said, “Let’s play it safe.”
In Star Trek: Voyager season 6, episode 10, “Pathfinder”, the holographic counterparts of Voyager Maquis crew members are dressed in civilian clothing, since the program’s creator, Lt. Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz), would have no way of knowing they’d adopted Starfleet uniforms.
Seven of Nine Brought Voyager Back to Life in Season 4
Seven’s Costuming Set Her Apart From Starfleet Officers
Star Trek: Voyager did, in fact, play it relatively safe in its early seasons, as Ronald D. Moore suggests, but Voyager rose from the metaphorical dead when ex-Borg Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan) joined the cast in Voyager season 4, and fulfilled the promise of conflict between Starfleet and an opposing perspective. Instead of Janeway representing Starfleet’s cooperative spirit and “needs of the many” against Chakotay’s Maquis independence, Janeway argued in favor of individualism versus Seven of Nine’s adamant insistence on the Collective’s superiority. This flipped script helped define Janeway’s values through Seven’s ongoing opposition.
In costuming Seven of Nine, Star Trek: Voyager avoided the mistake that sentenced Voyager’s Maquis crew members to an early fate of easy cooperation. Besides the obvious appeal, Seven’s conspicuous civilian clothing set her apart from Voyager’s uniformed crew, while also providing a visual marker that Seven was not part of Starfleet, and did not share their values. This costuming choice also served to illustrate how members of the Maquis crew adapted to Starfleet too quickly, seemingly abandoning their Maquis roots the moment they put on their Starfleet uniforms, just as Ronald D. Moore pointed out.