When scientists discover that the Earth will soon no longer be able to sustain human life, they start searching for a new planet to call home. In 2063, they find one. But it’ll take 86 years to travel there, and they have no idea what they’ll find there once they arrive.
But the future of the human race is at stake. So, they breed a group of children in a lab using artificial insemination and incubation—to send them to humanity’s new home.
These kids are the genetic offspring of bio engineers, physicists and the like. Raised in a lab, they’ve never known anything of the outside world. They’ve been trained their whole lives to perform specific jobs on the spaceship in order to maintain it and ensure it reaches its final destination. And someday, they’ll create children the same way they were created, train them to perform their jobs and then die before they ever reach the planet, leaving it to their “children” and “grandchildren.”
But when they uncover some disturbing secrets about their mission—like a hidden, classified compartment on the ship and a chemical they’re being fed to suppress their emotions—the kids, who are now teens start rebelling.
They stop taking the mysterious blue medication that was created to dull their personalities and decrease their pleasure responses. They stop doing their jobs to keep the ship running.
And pretty soon, emotions like fear, anger, jealousy and lust take over, resulting in chaos and endangering not only the mission, but their lives as well.
Richard, one of the scientists who helped raise the kids, becomes quite attached to them. And, having no family left on Earth, he decides to accompany them on their mission as the sole adult to act as their mentor and guide as they transition from children into adults.
Part of the reason that the kids were raised in complete isolation was to prevent them from developing Earthly attachments and to preserve their mental health. Why? So they won’t miss what they’ve never had. However, Richard argues against this approach, explaining that the scientists should trust the kids to make their own decisions and allow them to experience the things in life that make it pleasurable. He also expresses discomfort with lying to them, since they are smart enough to figure things out on their own.
As the ship descends into chaos, a few of the teens fear that hatred and violence are part of their true natures. They wonder what the point of “being good” is if they’re going to die anyways.
However, Sela, the crew’s medical officer, doesn’t believe this. She states that she isn’t prone to violence and that they can control their actions. This is backed up by other members who try to uphold their “goodness,” believing they can still enjoy life without giving in to every impulse. And later, when other members realize they’ve been lied to, they stop acting out and try to restore some order.
Two teens have sex, and we see part of the boy’s exposed backside. Other couples kiss and touch each other sensually. Christopher (the chief engineer) and Sela make out on a bed; we see close ups of their bare skin (though nothing explicit); we later see them wake up together in their undergarments.
As the teens experience new sensations, we see close-up flashes of skin that represent the lust they are now experiencing. Teens walk around in their underwear.
Christopher pretends to have sex with Sela in order to protect her from Zac, who is willing to hurt her to get what he wants. Later, Sela tries to seduce Zac to trick him.
[Spoiler Warning] We later see some characters pregnant and children running around the ship, indicating that the crew eventually reproduced.
Zac, Christopher’s friend who stops taking the blue medicine with him, scares the crew into believing that an alien killed Richard and is now hiding inside one of them. (Richard is dead, but not because of an alien.)
Zac accuses one boy of having the alien inside him, and the boy runs away, convincing the others he must be guilty. They chase after him and tackle him to the ground, punching and kicking him repeatedly. Christopher tries to stop them but gets elbowed in the face. The mob swarms the boy, and we later see his dead body covered in blood. (Several people are later traumatized by their own actions, but Zac seems to have enjoyed it.)
When someone tries to kill them, Sela and Christopher fight back, hitting him over the head with a fire extinguisher and injecting him with a lethal substance from a syringe.
Zac and his minions find a cache of weapons intended for the defense of the generation that would be landing on the planet. A girl is killed with one of these guns. Zac shoots repeatedly at Christopher and Sela, trying to kill them. He also stabs Sela in the leg with a knife.
One person is electrocuted, and we see severe burn marks on his corpse. Three teens fight inside the airlock, with two of them getting shoved out into space. (One, who wasn’t wearing a spacesuit, starts turning blue from the lack of oxygen.) We see flashes of war, death and animals eating each other from movies that the kids are watching.
Zac touches Sela on her face and shoulder before grabbing her breast. When she pushes his hand away, he gets aggressive and continues to grope her while she tries to fight him off until Richard sees and pulls him off of her. He later threatens her and others, so she arms herself with a scalpel.
People shove each other and beat each other up. One boy hits another in the head with a hammer. Several people grab him to stop him, but Christopher has to punch the boy in the face multiple times before he lets go of the weapon. Teens play-wrestle, but Zac takes it a step further by choking people out.
Zac and the others call the blue medicine a drug and refuse to take it.
Richard and the kids hear strange creaking noises on the ship throughout the film. Richard explains that it’s the result of a temperature drop, but some of the kids believe the ship is either going to capsize or that something outside is trying to get in.
Zac exploits this fear of a potential alien either outside or onboard the craft. He manipulates his fellow voyagers with an elaborate story about how the alien could potentially have gotten onboard. And he continues to use the fear of an alien to leverage power and turn members of the crew against each other.
Many of Zac’s (and the other crew members’) actions stem from the fact that he never learned impulse control. While the blue medication did help to pacify the kids, it also took away their ability to process emotions—because they never had them—and to respond to their feelings in a mature manner. Before long, they all neglect their duties, opting to do what pleases them individually rather than what’s necessary to ensure everyone’s survival.
Several people mock a girl who insists on following the rules laid out for them by mission control. Two boys set a room on fire to destroy the surveillance records that would implicate them. Two teens sneak out of their rooms at night to hack into the ship’s computer system.
In a rather philosophical sense, Voyagers is an examination in human nature.
There’s the good—Sela, Christopher and others who choose to do good not because they have to but because they want to. They are inspired enough by the “noble” cause to preserve the human race that they’ll sacrifice a few of their own desires to ensure everyone’s survival.
Then there’s the bad—Zac and his little band of misfits. Of course, even this is more complicated than that. Technically, they do know better, they just don’t see the point. Why should they give up something they want now for a generation that might not even make it to the new planet? It’s not that they want to be bad, it’s just that they don’t see the point of being good.
It’s an intriguing study in human psychology and motivation, one that broadly echoes similar dynamics in William Golding’s classic story Lord of the Flies.
But that doesn’t make it a story that everyone will want to watch. Though Voyagers is free of really explicit content, it’s still chockful of PG-13 levels of violence and suggestive scenes. People kill one another. Teens experience sexual desire for the first time (enough that Voyagers is one of the rare films with this rating to be labeled by the MPAA as having “some strong sexual content). And to be honest, it’s a little frightening how quickly these kids go from being brainwashed by the blue drug given to them to being brainwashed by their peers.
So, while some might be interested in seeing where Voyagers goes, others will likely want to skip this cinematic journey altogether.
Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and indulging in her “nerdom,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything she loves, such as Star Wars and Lord of the Rings.