To boldly go

You need to watch the most underrated sci-fi show on Netflix ASAP

“Keep your shirt tucked in, go down with the ship, and never abandon a member of your crew.”

“To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations. To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

That is, in a nutshell, the premise of the entire Star Trek franchise. So why is the series that took it furthest one of the most hated Star Trek TV shows?

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Following The Next Generation (the peak of Star Trek for many fans) and Deep Space Nine (which has armies of diehard defenders), Voyager had its work cut out for it from the start.

Rather than copy its two prestigious predecessors, Voyager tried to do things a little differently. Okay, a lot differently.

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The most obvious difference: Voyager was the first Star Trek show with a female captain at the helm. That was a huge move for a ‘90s sci-fi show.

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Captain Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) is a complicated character, bonding with her crew or dishing out discipline when needed, and similarly able to use or bend the rules as the situation demands.

There are certainly good-faith criticisms of Janeway, but it’s hard to imagine some of the biggest ones (that she’s impulsive or inconsistent) leveled at a male captain with the same vitriol.

Whatever you think of Captain Janeway, Mulgrew’s performance is one of the best in all of Star Trek — and she’s got a hell of a crew to back her up.

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Tim Russ’ Tuvok and Robert Picardo’s Doctor are some of the funniest characters ever seen in Stark Trek, and Jeri Ryan’s Seven of Nine was a captivating variation on the otherwise villainous Borg.

Voyager’s pilot sees the ship hurled into the Delta Quadrant — an area of space far from home and full of things more dangerous than the ship-wide tension that seems ready to spill over into mutiny in early episodes.

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From its Delta Quadrant vantage point, Voyager is able to truly go where no one (or at least no Star Trek series) had gone before. Entire civilizations unknown to the Federation became the allies and enemies of the ship’s crew.

The distance from home freed Voyager of Star Trek’s reliance on rogue admirals, despotic Cardassians, and Klingon diplomacy for plots. That led to more experimentation, for better or worse.

We’re not here to say that Voyager is secretly the best Trek (and not just because we don’t want to make Kira Nerys mad). But it is one of the most consistently surprising parts of the franchise, able to bounce between high-minded sci-fi and crowd-pleasing goofs like none other.

Voyager may not be the best part of Star Trek, but it’s far from the failure it’s remembered as. And if you’re not convinced after watching — well, at least it’s not Enterprise.

Star Trek: Voyager is streaming on Netflix until September 30, and on Paramount+ after that.