There And Back Again: Looking Back at the Star Trek Voyager Relaunch

Voyager holds a unique place in the Star Trek canon. It is the only show that started with a goal – to bring the ship home to the Alpha Quadrant. (In theory, Deep Space Nine also had a set goal of bringing Bajor into the Federation, but this was largely forgotten as the show went along.) Though Voyager took a long and winding route with a fair bit of unrelated sightseeing along the way, the two-part finale ‘Endgame’ wrapped up the voyage rather conclusively, with a final shot of Voyager approaching Earth. And that was that. The end of the road. For all of two years.

Enter the Litverse. In 2003, Voyager returned with new stories set after the events of ‘Endgame,’ written by established Trek author Christie Golden. Homecoming and The Farther Shore saw the crew dealing with the immediate aftermath of their journey. Meeting old friends and family, dealing with a post-Dominion War Federation, and fighting off a Borg virus on top of things. The duology was followed by another pair of books just a year later. The Spirit Walk series saw Chakotay take command of Voyager, leading a new crew on missions through the Alpha Quadrant. These four books saw the sundering of the Voyager crew. Neelix had obviously been left in the Delta Quadrant, but Janeway was now behind the desk as the Admiral we glimpsed in Star Trek: Nemesis. Tuvok took up a teaching position at the Academy, while Seven and the Doctor joined a think tank. Tom and B’Elanna took a leave of absence to investigate the possibility of their child being the Klingon Messiah. It was left to Chakotay and Harry Kim to carry the Voyager flag, a task which they performed admirably. This early phase of the relaunch slotted the characters into existing Alpha Quadrant politics, making good use of the crew’s mixed-Maquis background. But with the characters so spread out, and lacking the singular mission statement of the show, it was quite a detour from Voyager as we knew it.

For reasons I’m not entirely sure of (though one has to imagine sales figures factor in somehow), these four books were all we got of Voyager for a long while. While the Next Generation and Deep Space Nine relaunches continued, Voyager was abandoned. However, the characters lived on in the shared Litverse. Tuvok became one of the main characters in the Titan series. Seven appeared or was referenced in numerous Borg-related stories, most notably David Mack’s Destiny trilogy. Most significantly of all, in the Next Generation relaunch novel Before Dishonor (which I will hopefully soon obtain a copy of) Admiral Janeway was killed off, the first major character to suffer such a fate in the Litverse. When David Mack kickstarted a new era of the Litverse with Destiny, he made reference to many Voyager adventures, and sowed the seeds for many more.

2009. One year after Destiny‘s release. The Voyager is itself relaunched. Christie Golden is no longer at the writer’s desk, but in her place we have Kirsten Beyer, who will be here until the end of the Litverse (and beyond, as she now works on the new range of Trek TV shows). It’s fitting that, even in Janeway’s absence, Voyager‘s missions were directed by a woman. The first of Beyer’s novels, Full Circle is a weighty tome with the unenviable task of fulfilling the promises set up in Spirit Walk while also chronicling the events of three years that have passed between books. As such, it’s a slightly messy, flashback-laden book that largely revolves around the trauma of Janeway’s death and the subsequent Borg invasion. This carries through into Unworthy, but this is also where Beyer truly makes her mark known. The scattered crew are pulled back together. Chakotay is in command, with Paris as his XO. Tuvok and Janeway remain absent, but the Doctor now has a holographic crew of his own, and Torres is once again Chief Engineer. Tasked with returning to the Delta Quadrant for proper exploration, the gang is finally back together. This leads into my favourite book of the relaunch, Children of the Storm, which is a proper strange-alien-of-the-week story. After a series of stumbles, Voyager was finally back on its feet.

But then came The Eternal Tide. When you see a dead character on the cover of a book, you know something significant is about to happen. Sure enough, Kathryn Janeway comes back from the dead (with a little help from Q) and over the course of this and Protectors, is soon back in command of Voyager. While I understand that Janeway’s resurrection was largely a popular move, for me it remains the wrong one. Over the past three novels, we’d seen the crew come to terms with their loss, and to forge new relations. All of that work was now undone, and it revealed something very important about the way Beyer approached the series. All of this occurred at a time when the Alpha Quadrant was becoming increasingly political. The Typhon Pact was coming into being, and every other book would feature politics and military action rather than science and exploration. Voyager, isolated once again on the far side of the galaxy, had a unique opportunity to get back to basics. But Beyer, while she writes enticing scientific mysteries, is more interested in the relations between members of crew. Of particular note, she finally made canon the romance between Janeway and Chakotay, but this is far from an isolated example. Even Harry Kim got a love interest. Seemingly the only character Beyer was not interested in developing further was poor Neelix, who is relegated to the odd guest appearance.

Acts of Contrition, Atonement, and A Pocket Full of Lies all promised consequences from Voyager‘s earlier seven-year jaunt. In these books, we meet an alliance of familiar antagonistic species. This is a great idea, but is soon revealed to have a more immediate cause in the form of a rogue hologram from Voyager‘s current mission. Furthermore, Janeway plays a central role in each book. Yes, all of the stories are well written and engaging, but it’s a shame that we don’t get to see other characters take the lead more often. B’Elanna perhaps, or novel-original counsellor Hugh Cambridge. Architects of Infinity proved the strongest of this run of novels, delving into the Krenim of ‘Year of Hell’ fame. Though as with any time-travel story, paradoxes abound.

After a length delay, and in the full knowledge that the Litverse was coming to an end, Beyer ended Voyager‘s relaunch with To Lose the Earth. This final novel was a swansong not only for the series, but for Harry Kim in particular. Having been so often underused since 1995, in 2020 Harry Kim finally had his day in the sun. To Lose the Earth is a phenomenal novel that manages to wrap up every character arc in more or less a satisfactory manner. The wedding of Janeway and Chakotay is a fitting tribute to the ‘shippers’ who kept the fandom alive for so long (much as it irks my sense of propriety), while Harry finds out that not everyone has the same idea of a happy ending. With the show having ended on that iconic shot of Voyager and Earth, it’s fitting that the relaunch ends with Voyager heading out into the known, further than any have been before.

The Voyager relaunch benefited greatly from having so few hands at the controls, and while Golden and Beyer have very different styles, together they have woven a fitting continuation of the show. While I don’t agree with every decision made, there is a lot more consistency here than in other parts of the Litverse. Particularly in Beyer’s run, Voyager maintained a sense of identity that the crossover series could never manage. And if you’ve read the whole relaunch and still want more Voyager, perhaps its a good thing that so many characters found their way into the Litverse at large.

Published by Alex Hormann

I'm a writer, reader, and farmer, with an interest in all things speculative.

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