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In the Star Trek: Voyager pilot, The Caretaker, the Voyager gets stuck in the Delta Quadrant because they had to destroy the Caretaker's array, which was their only way back home. The explanation was that if they use it to go home, the Kazon would take it over in their absence and use its power to dominate the quadrant.

So why didn't Tuvok program the tri-cobalt device with a time delay circuit to blow the array after they go through? Federation warheads are highly programmable.

P.S. Obviously, I'm expecting a possible in-universe answer, not "because that'll be the end of the series".

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Perhaps I am mis-remembering the sequence of events, but didn't they destroy the array in an attempt to get the Kazon to leave them alone? They could hardly spend their time investigating how to use the array to send themselves home while under attack. –  Xantec Jan 23 '12 at 13:15
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Because it was a Voyager conspiracy! –  Jared Jan 24 '12 at 0:40
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2 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

A few reasons:

  • With a time-delay, they can't be sure it went off as planned.
  • Related to the first reason, what if the Kazon were able to interfere with it or remove the charge before it exploded?
  • They can't be sure just how long the trip back will take. They don't have enough information to know if things like blackholes and wormholes and supernovae could change the timing of the trip home and the Voyager could be torn to pieces if the array blew up before they reached Federation space.
  • Related to all the others, it'd be quite tricky to set the timing to be long enough to ensure they made it home, but short enough that the Kazon can't disarm it.
  • What if activating the array disturbed time and space enough to mess with a timing device?

Put yourself in Janeway's captain's chair: If you set the tri-cobalt device to detonate after you get home, how long do you set it for? And can you be 100% sure that once you've departed, you'll have a smooth trip and it'll go off after you make it back and that nothing will go wrong once you're gone? And can you be sure that the Kazon, whom you've been fighting, won't manage to sabotage the tri-cobalt device?

The only sure way is to blow it up immediately, while you're there and can be sure it's gone.

Another point is that even a highly trained starship captain may not see every option open to them at every moment, especially in times of stress or battle. Their focus is survival and getting the job done, so other options may not have occurred to her at the time (but I don't consider this a likely explanation).

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Bullet 3 seems like it had a bris –  DVK Jan 23 '12 at 8:13
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Time pressure. Tuvok said he could access the program to send Voyager back to Federation space but it would take several hours to initiate. And that was before the Kazon ship hit the array and screwed things up further. With Kazon reinforcements coming, Janeway couldn't bet on holding the array long enough for Tuvok to get them home. If they couldn't hold the array, they might as well blow it to Kingdom Come and save the Ocampa.

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When they were inside the array, didn't Tuvok say that the program was ready? –  HNL Jan 23 '12 at 8:14
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Tuvok said "Captain, I can access the system to send us back to Federation space, but it will take several hours to activate." Janeway then begged the Caretaker for help to speed up the process, but he declined, and then died. –  Kyle Jones Jan 23 '12 at 8:22
    
It seems you are correct. But it raises another question: Why didn't they leave the tri-cobalt device on board with a remote dead-man switch or a booby trap and fight the Kazon as long as possible? If their position were to become indefensible, they could have fled, leaving the array to blow on its own. This way, they could have at least had a chance at returning home. –  HNL Jan 23 '12 at 10:40
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Too many times the warp system has gone offline in the middle of a fight. If you wait until running is your only option, running might no longer be an option. Also, can you imagine goody two shoes Janeway laying a booby trap? Maybe by season seven, but not at the beginning of the series. –  Kyle Jones Jan 23 '12 at 15:35
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