Voyager has a deceptively simple (if somewhat ludicrous) premise: the starship Voyager gets transported seventy-five million light years away and ends up stranded in the Delta Quadrant. So now they have to get back to the Alpha Quadrant, by hook or by crook! M-mostly by hook because Janeway is no crook (that is a recurring theme). On top of the general How Do We Get Home? is another cool idea baked into the setup: the crew of the lost Voyager includes both members of Starfleet and members of the Maquis (and many of these terrorists are former Starfleet). How are they all supposed to work together...and what are the chances of a mutiny?
Captain Kathryn Janeway (aka Space Mom) loves two things above all: coffee and Starfleet principles. The two things that are going to get her through this ordeal. Time and again, we see Janeway turn to the Federation charter for guidance, some way to know how to act in lawless space and still maintain her humanity, and it's an admirable quality, despite the pressures it puts on her and her crew. There's the easy way and there's the Janeway. Chakotay (aka Space Dad) often offers the Maquis perspective, the "whatever, Starfleet RULES" perspective, but he also has to keep Janeway in check when her adherence to a strict moral code (or potential deviation from it) may put the ship at risk. I can't think of many other positively portrayed Native American characters in science fiction, and even though his may not be the most accurate representation, he's a great character. Harry Kim is quite adorable, a precious cinnamon roll who wants to get home and see his family, but the show doesn't give him a whole lot to do most of the time. Tom Paris starts out as Entitled White Guy, a pilot with a chip on his shoulder, but he eventually reveals an endearingly nerdy side; I was not very fond of him for a while but I grew to like him. B'Elanna Torres is half-Klingon but the opposite of Worf: she hates everything Klingon and has no desire to connect with that side of her. She's also a brilliant engineer, and she gets to geek out with science nerd Janeway a lot. I love B'Elanna a lot and was surprised she doesn't come up in discussions of awesome Star Trek women! Tuvok is a black Vulcan with a history with Janeway, and he is...very Vulcan! Like, even more Vulcan than Spock, much more stern without as much lightness to him, but that just makes me love him more somehow. The Doctor is a self-aware hologram who becomes one of the best characters on the show, thanks to both Robert Picardo's entertaining performance and all the different ways the show makes use of him as a hologram. Neelix is a Talaxian who is responsible for crew morale and food; he's a bit irritating at first but once he settles down he's a good guy. Kes is an Ocampan with a sexy-as-hell voice and...a poorly written character. Finally, though she doesn't join the show until later, Seven of Nine is one of the best written and best acted characters, a former Borg drone torn between her Borgness and her developing humanity; she is my Spock, my Worf, my Odo. Jeri Ryan's performance is wonderful, and the character is fascinating, and her sometimes-contentious relationship with Janeway is compelling, and it's a real shame she often gets dismissed as a sexy fanservice thanks to her skintight costume.
Although TNG has the more iconic characters thanks to their place in history, I think Voyager has much better developed characters who actually grow and change in noticeable ways throughout the series (TNG, of course, was more of a reset-to-the-status-quo kind of show). While its plot arcs aren't as complex as DS9's, I loved that there were times when I would watch an episode that had a huge plot twist that had been set up over the course of several episodes but I still felt the impact because the episode itself slyly provided all the necessary information to experience the twist. Voyager is rather skillful at crafting episodes, especially ones that open with a WTF scenario that is then explained as an alternate future or a daydream or a hologram (this show really knows how to use the holodeck). I also loved at how well it tied character development into the crisis of the week (especially with regards to Seven of Nine); I know I watched the best episodes but goddamn there is some fine writing in this show and it deserves to have a better reputation.
I enjoyed Voyager so much that I wasn't even halfway through my very abridged list before I realized that I would want to watch more, that 40ish episodes was not enough. I am glad I got the compressed experience of this crew's journey, but I want to have more adventures with them!