64

When Voyager was stranded in the Delta Quadrant, it would seem they had two options: either fly straight towards Federation space in the Alpha Quadrant, or go to the far end of the Bajorn wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant.

A common response to this question is that the end of the Bajoran wormhole would have been no closer. Indeed, maps of the galaxy that I’ve seen show that the distance is pretty much the same. This makes distance a non-factor, but I can think of two others:

  • The Federation knows about the approximate location of Borg space because Q took the Enterprise D there. Voyager should have known that flying directly towards Starfleet HQ would take them through Borg space. The Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant would surely be a much lesser evil.

  • The direct route to the Alpha Quadrant would take Voyager closer to the centre of the galaxy, where stars are denser, therefore there would likely be more civilisations, therefore more potential for conflict. (Voyager could not know in advance that they would be able to circumvent this region of space.)

The only downside I can think of is that the Bajoran wormhole may no longer be there when they get there. Why didn’t Voyager fly to the end of the Bajoran wormhole in the Gamma Quadrant?

  • 6
    Q didn't take the Enterprise-D to Borg space, just the cube nearest to the D's current position (and if you like, the retconned information given from the ENT episode Regeneration, was heading towards Earth from the delta quadrant since 2153, giving the cube some 212 years before 2365, during the events of Q Who). – dkuntz2 Nov 26 '11 at 16:52
  • 2
    "The Dominion in the Gamma Quadrant would surely be a much lesser evil." Really? As far as I can tell, Voyager wouldn't have stood a chance flying through Dominion space. At least they knew that the Borg would pretty much leave them alone if they weren't perceived as a threat. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 10 '16 at 14:51
  • 2
    "closer to the centre of the galaxy, where stars are denser, therefore there would likely be more civilisations" I'm not convinced (without data) that there are more habitable stars closer to the centre of the galaxy. If anything, I'd expect this increased density to increase the statistical frequency of stellar events, and reduce the chances of life. – Lightness Races in Orbit Oct 10 '16 at 14:52
  • The maps of the Star Trek galaxy you have seen are likely to be inaccurate. The dialog in "The Price" and "False Profits" shows that the Caretaker's Array where the Voyager appeared is likely to be less than 200 light years from the line between the Gamma and Delta Quadrants. Thus most points in the Gamma Quadrant are likely to be closer to the Caretaker's Array than the Federation is. – M. A. Golding Apr 11 '18 at 2:44
  • Even in the Voyager episode Q2, Q Junior brought 3 Borg Cubes to Voyager, as opposed to transporting the whole ship to the Delta quadrant – ackmondual Apr 16 '18 at 23:56
56

There is no canon explanation for why they didn't opt to head for the Gamma Quadrant and seek out the Bajoran wormhole, but there are a few reasons why that wouldn't have been a good idea:

  • Immediately after the destruction of the Caretaker array, Janeway makes the command decision to head directly to the Alpha Quadrant. The most direct, unambiguous path to the Alpha Quadrant is a straight line.

  • Quadrants are enormous: tens of thousands of light years across. The vastness of the quadrants leads to two things:

    1. Even if you granted all the knowledge gleaned from the Dominion War (which occurred after Voyager was thrown into the Delta Quadrant), the Gamma Quadrant was not explored in any great detail. It's pretty safe to assume Voyager would have no idea how to find the Bajoran Wormhole save for "heading to the Gamma Quadrant".

    2. Similarly, even though the Federation knew the Borg existed somewhere in the Delta Quadrant, the quadrant hadn't been mapped at all. Assuming the Borg were on Janeway's radar as something to absolutely avoid during the consideration on whether to head directly home, there was a pretty good chance (all things being equal) that Voyager would never run into them.

  • You say that heading close to the center of the galaxy would have lead to more potential conflict, but that's against the charter of Starfleet: to seek out new life and new civilizations and "to boldly go where no man has gone before." Janeway likely would've seen it as an opportunity, not a hazard.

Based on this, Janeway's decision seems to have been the correct one and the safest bet.

Of course, the simplest answer to all of this is that the Delta Quadrant was a perfect blank slate upon which to base the series as it was completely unknown—save for part of one episode—to the rest of Star Trek canon, and Voyager running into the Borg made for good TV after the success of Star Trek: First Contact.

  • 2
    Plus, the federation did mine the wormhole. It's not like Voyager would have known that. If they did happen to find the wormhole, whos to say that it wasn't still mined (even though we know it was unmined by the time they finished, but still, it could have been). Additionally, the federation has allies in the Beta Quadrant... – dkuntz2 Feb 27 '11 at 21:26
  • 8
    I can't tell you how excited I was when they happened upon those two Ferengi in 'that' episode. I had been hoping they would through the whole series. – DampeS8N Nov 23 '11 at 4:27
  • 1
    Also, I think that distance from the caretakers array to the Federation, or at least Federation explored space versus the Gamma Quadrant wormhole are about the same. – Tyson of the Northwest Feb 17 '12 at 1:44
  • 2
    Janeway should have slept with Q and in return Q would have sent Voyager back to alpha quadrant. Whats simpler than using female "charms" as proven trough out the history of mankind... – no9 Feb 5 '14 at 12:14
  • 1
    Finding the wormhole's other end would be simple. They knew approximately where the other end was, and you can orient yourself with stars, like Voyager's astrometrics systems do. – Nate Watson Sep 10 '15 at 17:15
33

Considering the number of times in DS9 that the wormhole was nearly destroyed, over a seven year period, it would be extremely foolish to assume that it would still be there in seventy years. Voyager could well be faced with a seventy year journey to where the wormhole used to be, then another seventy year journey back to the Alpha quadrant.

  • 6
    And keeping in mind that that 7 year period was supposed to be 70 years. The likely hood of the wormhole lasting that long is very small. – Sponge Bob Feb 26 '13 at 1:21
  • Except that the orbs of the Prophets have been appearing in space near Bajor for 10,000 years. Examining the Dinorus Belt to find the origin of the orbs, Sisko and Dax found the wormhole, and realized that it had been stable for 10,000 years. So the information available to Starfleet and Janeway indicated that the wormhole should last for millennia in the future. – M. A. Golding Apr 11 '18 at 2:35
  • 1
    @M.A.Golding The wormhole is physically stable, but it’s far from being politically stable now that people know it’s there. After its discovery, there were repeated attempts to close it or block it. – Mike Scott Apr 11 '18 at 4:40
14

That's a great question, I've wondered that myself.

I have several theories in addition to the ones described above.

  • Even if it would take years to reach Earth, establishing communications (in particular two-way) would be important (and for personal reasons as well). In addition, new technologies or intelligence could improve their speed (e.g., engine upgrades). Since subspace comm is not instantaneous or unlimited in range (warp 9.9 if I remember correctly), reducing the distance to earth by heading towards the alpha quadrant would allow establishing such communications earlier.

  • Janeway hoped to find additional wormholes and similar phenomena along the way which would cut the trip. By going towards earth, they can make use of more localized or short-range shortcuts. And the chances of finding a wormhole are likely equivalent everywhere.

  • 1
    This second bullet applies equally well if they are headed to the far end of the wormhole. – ThePopMachine Sep 10 '15 at 19:37
12

1 look at the star trek galaxy map found online, and it appears the distance to the wormhole is close enough to equal that it would be dismissed as an option the instant someone mentioned it. If you're barely capable of making it home, then you take the direct route. You wouldn't take the risk of being barely capable of making it to an alternate route for getting home.

If you're presented a 50 mile walk home, you don't go 50 miles to a bus station.

  • Except that the Star Trek galaxy maps are likely to be inaccurate. The dialog in "The Price" and "False Profits" shows that the Caretaker's Array where the Voyager appeared is likely to be less than 200 light years from the line between the Gamma and Delta Quadrants. Thus most points in the Gamma Quadrant are likely to be closer to the Caretaker's Array than the Federation is. – M. A. Golding Apr 11 '18 at 2:39
4

Three errors made by some posters here:

One:

The Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole has a very specific location. Space is very, very transparent. You can see objects that are billions of light years away, unless you are looking through the dust clouds near the plane of the galactic disc. The Galaxy has over 100 globular star clusters that surround it in all directions - most of them are not obscured by galactic dust clouds.

Measuring the angles to three or more globular clusters would be enough to measure the position of the Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole very precisely, and it would have been done many times, at least once by each science ship that passed through it. And Voyager would have measured its position near the Ocampa Array from observations of globular star clusters.

According to the Voyager pilot episode "Caretaker", just about a minute after being transported to the Ocampa Array Ensign Kim says:

KIM: Captain, if these sensors are working, we're over seventy thousand light years from where we were. We're on the other side of the galaxy.

So obviously starship sensors can measure positions very rapidly.

http://www.chakoteya.net/Voyager/101.htm

If Janeway wanted to head for the Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole they could have plotted a very precise course toward it.

Two:

The Dominion did not rule the volume of space that included the Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole.

DS9 made contact with various space travelers that come through the Bajoran Wormhole in the first season and into the second season and none of them mentioned that they were subjects of the mighty Dominion and the Federation better stay on good terms with the Dominion.

Obviously the Dominion border must have been tens, hundreds, or thousands of light years away from the Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole.

The Dominion ordered the Federation to stay out of the Gamma Quadrant and the Federation ignored their warning. The Federation obviously considered the space traveling realms that were closer to the Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole to have more right to control who used it than the Dominion did.

If the Dominion ruled the space that included the Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole they could have and would have simply stationed a war fleet by the mouth of the wormhole to blast each and every starship that came out of the mouth of the wormhole. But they didn't.

Three:

By the time that Voyager was lost in the Delta Quadrant the Federation probably already had rough maps of the size and location of the Dominion. The Dominion probably didn't keep its borders secret. Thus Voyager could have plotted a course that took it past Dominion space and turned back to come to the Gamma Quadrant exit of the Bajoran wormhole from the direction opposite to the Dominion and least likely to be conquered by the Dominion.

3

I will dispute Point 1: Voyager was thrown into the Delta quadrant well after the events of Wolf 359, but the encounters with the Dominion had only just begun.

With the Borg, it was possible to avoid them, since they knew what to look for, and extremely dangerous to fight, but events at Wolf 359 had shown that it was possible to win.

The Dominion on the other hand, was still a complete unknown, but was already showing signs by the time of Voyager's disappearance that the Federation was unwelcome in the Gamma quadrant.

3

I think the Voyager crew chose the route in question because it was safer. At this time, the the Borg's specific borders weren't widely known, so in terms of Borg encounters, one efficient route is just as unsafe as another efficient route. On the other hand, on the Gamma quadrant end of the wormhole is the Dominion's home territory. There is no way a single federation vessel could break all the way through the dominion to reach the wormhole. We saw how a galaxy class handled a few of their fighters, and Voyager is less powerful than those. Aside from the Borg, whose exact locations were unknown anyway, the direct route was mostly unknown, which one could regard as safer than the dominion. I think they took the non-wormhole route because it was safer.

0

Voyager was thrown into the DQ weeks after the first encounter with the Jem'Hadar... it was in Season 3 of DS9 after episode 6.

Janeway at the very least would have had knowledge of the Dominion residing in the Gamma Quadrant... and knew them to be a threat. However, the Defiant was already well in service by then and was designed to fight and defeat the Borg (per Sisko's own words)... and since Voyager was state of the art, it stands to reason it would also have much of the same technologies as the Defiant... but was faster, warp-wise. The Defiants shields in the initial encounter with Jem'Hadar ships actually held up nicely, so SF obviously implemented those lessons learned from the Borg which likely was more effective against Dominion ships (the Dominion didn't have superior tech over the Federation really, just better Intel on the Federation and its technology from the ships they captured in the first 2 years of DS9).

Anyway, Voyager knew (or should have known) where the Bajoran GQ end of the wormhole was, but it had no guarantees it would have been there by the time they reached it, plus I would imagine that going straight for the GQ (where a hostile Dominion resided) was likely not a good idea. If the trip would have taken Voyager same amount of time and if the wormhole wasn't there, or something else happened, then they would have to travel on their own back to the AQ from there again.

It was a better decision to just go back to the AQ directly from their original location and not take a chance with the wormhole.

But I take issue with the premise it would have taken them over 70 years to do so. Mainly because according to canon data, Warp 9.9 = 4 billion miles per second, and that would result in 21 473 times speed of light. Even Harry Kim stated in the early seasons 'traveling at relative velocity of 2 billion miles per second' - or 10 736 times speed of light - when discussing a plan to beam Chakotay out of a Kazon ship. Even at that velocity, it would have taken Voyager 7 or 7.5 years to get back - the writers could have gone with that.

Voyagers maximum sustainable cruise velocity is Warp 9.975. Past 9.9, each increment results in exponential increase in velocity, which would mean that Warp 9.975 would take Voyager about a week to traverse 75 000 lightyears.

And no, it's not far fetched. Most Federation ships were never seen achieving Warp 9.9 (or even 9.5) sustainably (and by that I mean as a cruising velocity) before Voyager in the first place, and the damage Voyager received in it's initial pull into the DQ was extensive (possibly preventing them from achieving those speeds and forced them to use slower velocities like Nebula class ships of the time, while their 'maximum' sustainable speed was reduced to say 9.5 - as Tuvok mentioned in Threshold episode that Paris exceeded their maximum velocity, which was mentioned to be 9.9).

I realize the show hinged on the premise of the ship taking decades to get back, but for their technology and overall cruising speed Voyager was said to have, it would have been easier for the writers to say that Voyager was thrown well beyond the Milky Way. Warp 9.97 would equate to about 2.748 million times speed of light...

The observable universe is about 91 billion Lightyears across... Throwing Voyager about 192.398 million lightyears away would have resulted in a 70 year trip. Now THAT would have been far better and more suitable for their technology and ability.

Voyager was an entirely new ship class, so it wouldn't be a stretch that Starfleet managed to make it a lot faster than all other ships in their fleet given faster than exponential developments and what happened in TNG with warp speed explosions in the first season (remember 'where no one has gone before'? - Enterprise-D was said it would take just over 300 years to get back from a distance of about 2.7 million lightyears away... that's about 15 000 times speed of light - at a velocity of Warp 9.2, or 9.4 at the time for the Enterprise-D - or maybe 9.6).

And we've seen the USS Prometheus (the experimental ship from Voyager's season 4 message in a bottle) that it was travelling at Warp 9.9 towards Romulan space - so it's likely that newest SF ships would be a lot faster - at least Warp 9.9 and above for sustainable cruising velocities.

I apologize for a bit of a rant... but thought it was relevant to mention.

protected by PearsonArtPhoto Nov 29 '11 at 3:22

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.