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Voyager had had many opportunities to cut their journey short or even directly return home which they did not take. For example, Q tried to bribe Janeway during an arbitration by instantly transporting Voyager to Earth in exchange for a favorable ruling (“Death Wish” S2E18). I am thinking only about opportunities that would ultimately return the existing crew home, not merely reduce the trip.

My thought is the first opportunity the crew had to see their home was with the Sikurian space-folding technology in “Prime Factors” (S1E9). The focus is here is “missed opportunities” considering all relevant factors (including timeline preservation which is actually enforced).

Harry Kim was covertly offered the technology in exchange for Voyager’s literature database. Yet even without that offer, Gath offered the crew to stay as long as they liked, which means they could have studied and duplicated the technology themselves within a matter of years - certainly fewer than the 35 years a one-shot use could have left them with.

Likewise, the Sikurians did not restrict crew’s personal use of the technology. This means in a matter of several years the Voyager crew could literally construct a new base and/or ship 40 years closer to home.

A second question would be: how many opportunities to return the existing crew home has Janeway squandered?

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  • S1E9 doesn't count, because that technology wasn't going to work for Voyager anyway; see the description of Act 5 at Memory Alpha. – Harry Johnston Sep 11 at 0:32
  • Potentially "Eye of the Needle" (season 1 episode 6) but would probably not be allowed due to the Temporal Prime Directive – SpacePhoenix Sep 11 at 5:59
  • On a technical note, my question was not accurately worded because until the array was destroyed Voyager could not be considered stranded - the Caretaker normally returns all abducted vessels after testing for compatibility. So I suppose what I meant to say was when was the first opportunity after being stranded (versus abducted) for the Voyager crew to return home. – Mark Henry Sep 12 at 2:02
  • I agree the Sikurian technology was incompatible with Starfleet technology due to antinutrinos, however getting the crew themselves (sans Voyager) home within their lifetimes would have been possible. Using the smaller trajector to locate a suitable system midway between Earth and Sakoris, they could construct another trajector and move the entire crew in two hops. Instant access to every system within 40,000 light years would offer them limitless resources to accomplish this, and they had an offer for free labor and indefinite visitation. – Mark Henry Sep 12 at 2:15
  • I believe the 20-year time discrepancy in Eye of The Needle would have forced the Relativity to prevent the transportation of the crew back to a time where alternates of themselves already existed. Fairly certain the Temporal Prime Directive would be enforced here. – Mark Henry Sep 12 at 3:06
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Voyager first had an opportunity to return home at the end of "Caretaker", the very first episode, but Janeway felt it was more important to ensure the destruction of the Caretaker's array than to use it to save themselves.

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    And of course that Janeway (and/or the writers) didn't think about an alternative like... a bomb with a timer, for instance :P – Muzer Sep 11 at 9:24
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    @Muzer Timers don't cut it if you want to be absolutely sure. After all, they couldn't check afterwards whether they had succeeded. Besides, it would've turned a 7-season series into a single movie :-) – Mast Sep 11 at 10:01
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    @Mast then Janeway should have showed her captainship by volunteering to stay behind to ensure the array was destroyed while her crew got home. Then you could have the whole thing of the crew mutinying because they know she wouldn't survive out here on her own, etc. – Muzer Sep 11 at 10:06
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    Hence the biggest problem with Voyager's entire premise. They had to be too far away from home to return easily, while simultaneously making constant references to things from the Alpha quadrant in order to make it still feel like Star Trek, thus Romulans coming through a time-travelling wormhole, etc. (I mean, just use the wormhole and slingshot around the sun to return to your time, Kirk already proved you can do that...) There were countless opportunities to return that they had to somehow not allow every time... It's like Gilligan's Isle sometimes. – Darrel Hoffman Sep 11 at 14:27
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    To be honest Voyager’s choice to deny the Kazon access to the array did violate the prime directive as Tuvok stated. If Voyager simply returned events would have unfolded exactly as they would have if Voyager were never abducted. – Mark Henry Sep 12 at 1:56

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