So, the question of Star Trek: Voyager and missed potential is one that rears its head whenever the series is referenced; typically, the stand people take is that it should have been more serialised, more of a focus on scarcity, struggles with integrating the crew, etc etc.
Whenever the question arises though, I always think of another possibility: at the beginning of the series, it was said that Voyager was 70 years away from the Alpha Quadrant.
What if each of the seven seasons had taken place across a ten year period?
I’m approaching this purely from a story standpoint - I’m pretty sure it’d be difficult to pitch something like this to a network, or even to keep it on the air, given that it’d be much closer to an anthology show than what we’ve traditionally seen of Trek.
In any case, though, what I’m picturing is sort of akin to DS9’s Children of Time, or Enterprise’s E2, but on a much longer timeframe.
Each series would have a ten year scope, and then within that timeframe, the writers are allowed to position their episodes how they want; the first few episodes might take place within their first couple of months in the Delta Quadrant, but maybe there would be a six month gap between the third and fourth episode. Perhaps you’d have a mini arc as they travel through Vidiian space, where all the episodes are reasonably joined together, before moving swiftly on the next time. Each episode would need to have a stardate title card; “63 years until returning to Earth”, or some such similar.
Across the first two seasons you’d seen Janeway and Chakotay, integrating the Maquis crew; at the same time, though, you’d start to see them getting older and greyer. Perhaps in the third series, they’ve left active duty - they’re not longer Captain and First Officer, but much more elderly ‘honourary admirals’ types. Perhaps they’d die in battle, or simply pass away from old age or disease between seasons - they certainly wouldn’t still be around in the fourth season.
That immediately posits some interesting possibilities to me, in terms of the themes of legacy; who replaces Janeway as Captain? How do they face up to this role? Do the crew accept them as the new Captain, after such a long time being lead by Janeway?
There would, obviously, be some continuity of cast members - Tuvok, I imagine, would stick around for a while, given he’s a Vulcan, and it’d be nice to see Harry Kim rise up through the ranks. Perhaps we’d see Captain Tuvok and First Officer Kim? Obviously, the EMH would be a stalwart as well, and you could easily have Neelix as a long term crewmember. (Or not.)
Depending on how significant a time jump they would want to have between seasons, or even between episodes, it’s possible we could have seen Kes’ life play out in full across the first season; there’s potential there for some really interesting, and I think quite poignant, character development.
Another interesting potential plotline is the fact that, by the time we reach the fourth season, presumably very few of the crewmembers would have actually been to Earth - the question would arise as to why, exactly, they were risking their lives to a home they’d never known. Maybe you would have a group of the crew splitting off to form their own colony; perhaps, across the forty years so far, something of a proto-federation has grown up through the alliances Voyager has been forced to make.
At the minute now I’m just thinking through the stories we actually saw, and how they might have translated to this sort of series set up - the Krenim and the Year of Hell might offer potential for time travel shenanigans, allowing guest appearances from Janeway, Chakotay and other characters who have long since been abandoned.
Similarly, with the Borg, maybe someone like Tom Paris could be assimilated in one season, and then “rescued” the next season - and in turn being forced to deal with the fact that ten or twenty years have passed since he was last on Voyager, and the ship has changed significantly in that time. Perhaps he’d meet up with elderly Harry Kim, now too an “Admiral”, and reminisce old times.
The question of children would, presumably, come into play at some time or another, and it might be interesting to see Naomi Wildman ascend through the ranks, to eventually reach Captain - in my head, I’m sort of picturing her as the Captain when they reach Earth, though that wouldn’t really work with the 70 year gap. (Not that it’d need to be a hard rule, obviously, they can still find ways to speed things up - I imagine cannibalising and retrofitting the ship would be a significant plot arc across the different seasons.)
That, in any case, is my idea. Obviously, there are flaws; from a logistical point of view, it’d be difficult to sort out aging makeup and whatnot, and we wouldn’t have one nice, easily identifiable Captain for the show.
But, on the flip side, there’s a lot of potential here for something quite different, letting us see a Star Trek series unlike any other; really pushing the limits of Voyager’s format as far as they can possibly go.
What do we all think? I’ve got to say, I’m not wholly convinced by it myself; it might just be a little too out there. But still, it seems like it could be an interesting point of discussion.