In 2371, while under the command of Chakotay, the Val Jean was pursued by the Cardassian warship Vetar, Gul Evek's flagship. Chakotay ordered the ship into the Badlands to try to escape the Cardassians.
After eluding pursuit, the Val Jean was scanned by a coherent tetryon beam and transported into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker. Once there, the crew was abducted and subjected to medical tests to determine their biological compatibility with the Caretaker. One of the crew, chief engineer B'Elanna Torres, was removed from the others and sent to the surface of the Ocampa homeworld.
In order to recover his missing crew member, Chakotay reluctantly joined forces with Starfleet captain Kathryn Janeway of the USS Voyager, who had been sent to capture him but had instead been pulled into the Delta Quadrant as well. The cooperation proved successful, and both Torres and Voyager crew member Harry Kim were rescued.
Subsequently, both Voyager and the Val Jean were engaged in a dogfight by a small fleet of Kazon-Ogla warships, including a massive Kazon carrier vessel. Because the Kazon vastly outgunned both Voyager and the Val Jean, Chakotay chose to perform a ramming maneuver to destroy the much larger ship and "take some heat off [Voyager's] tail." The ramming was successful; the carrier was destroyed after colliding with the Caretaker's array, and Chakotay was beamed out of the cockpit in the nick of time.
Following the destruction of their ship, the Maquis crew were accepted as members of the Voyager crew and given temporary Starfleet commissions. Although they came from hostile backgrounds, the two crews would have to work together to survive in the Delta Quadrant and return home to Earth. (VOY: "Caretaker")
- See: Val Jean personnel
According to the Star Trek Encyclopedia (4th ed., vol. 2, p. 450), the ship was named by one of the writers for "Repression" after Jean Valjean, the hero of Les Misérables. The Star Trek Encyclopedia also notes that the ship's name is a typographical error, as it was incorrectly spelled as "Val Jean". Michael Eddington also referenced Valjean, comparing his situation to the Maquis in DS9: "For the Uniform".
A number of other names have been given for the ship in non-canon sources:
- Zola: from a cut line in VOY: "Parallax".
- Liberty: from Jeri Taylor's novel Pathways.
- Selva: from Susan Wright's novel The Badlands.
- Spartacus: from the novel Quarantine. The novel also stated that Maquis captains frequently change the names of their ships in order to make it appear that the Maquis have more ships than they actually do. This novel also mentioned this vessel is of the Peregrine-class.