Star Trek Voyager: State of Flux

“You know, I'm pretty easy to get along with most of the time. But I don't like bullies, and I don't like threats, and I don't like you.”

A group of Kazon blow themselves up trying to make a Federation replicator. Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok must try to identify the spy who gave them the materials, while dealing with an especially unpleasant Kazon leader called Cullah.

And so, only one episode after we were properly introduced to her, Seska has run off to fight a one-woman war against Voyager, backed up only by a bunch of poor Klingon substitutes. Poor B’Elanna has now lost the woman who seemed to be her only female friend, while Chakotay has lost an ex-girlfriend who makes a mean, if illicit, mushroom soup.

Following the introduction of the Kazon in ‘Caretaker’ and the vital role they played in getting Voyager stranded in the first place, this is the first of the Kazon-centric episodes that would recur throughout Voyager’s first two seasons. (Presumably, eventually, someone pointed out that since Voyager is constantly moving in one direction, the only aliens they should run into regularly are those, like the Borg, who have super-fast ships). There’s a certain logic to the idea that Voyager should be making new friends and new enemies on their journey. The trouble is, aside from the constant movement issue, the Kazon are spectacularly boring. Honour, tribal warfare, desire for Federation technology, blah blah blah. All they ever do is pose and whine. Dullsville.

And then there’s our spy, Seska, who aside from some lingering romantic tension with Chakotay, isn’t really much more interesting. One thing I’ve never understood about Seska is why the writers felt it necessary to make her a Cardassian. It seems to me her story would be much more interesting if she were a member of Voyager’s crew – Maquis or Starfleet, though there’s an argument to be made that a Maquis crewmember is more likely to rebel against Captain’s orders – who doesn’t agree with the way Janeway is dealing with their unique situation and who breaks away and strikes out on her own. The advantage to Seska’s secret identity is that it marks her out as obviously and unequivocally an active enemy of Starfleet and of Voyager. But it would have been a more interesting story is she was a Bajoran Maquis crewmember, already an enemy of Starfleet anyway, who turned against Janeway because she disagrees with her and with the Federation principles she’s following.

The impression you’re left with at the end of this episode is of half a quite interesting character study. Although Chakotay comes out of the whole thing looking like an idiot, you do get to understand him a bit better – but the conflict between him and Seska, and on a larger scale between Seska and Janeway, is completely undermined when Seska turns out to be a spy who was actively fighting both the Federation and the Maquis anyway. Seska the Bajoran Maquis who disagrees with Janeway’s Federation-style handling of their problem was quite interesting; Seska the Cardassian spy who hates Janeway, the Federation and the Maquis on principle is rather less so.

Bits ‘n’ pieces

 - Immediately after ‘Prime Factors,’ we get a reminder of why the Federation have the Prime Suggestion, the Kazon having accidentally blown up several people while trying to use Federation technology.

 - Chakotay is a horrible judge of character, as he comes to realise over the course of this episode.

 - There’s some nice use of Voyager’s set-up as the Doctor’s programming allows him to spot signs of Cardassian-ness that human doctors might miss.

  - Janeway flirting watch: Paris, sitting at the helm, makes snarky comments and orders the Chief of Security around. Janeway lets him.

 - Chakotay and Tuvok playing cards while staking out Engineering is both cute and hilarious.

Quotes

Neelix: “The day may come when you'll relish every last crunch of leola. Stewed for a few hours in a light herbal broth, you wouldn't even notice the mildew.”

Seska: “Look around, Chakotay. There aren’t that many potential mates out here.”

Torres: “When I say tomorrow, I mean tomorrow. I don’t exaggerate.”

Chakoty (to Tuvok): “You were working for her, Seska was working for them. Was anyone on board that ship working for me?”

Tuvok: “Do not mistake composure for ease.”

Some nice character moments sprinkled throughout the episode, but overall a bit slow and, in the end, underwhelming. Two out of four Cardassian spies.

Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.

2 comments:

CrazyCris said...

Poor Chakotay! He sure knows how to pick them! I guess he's just too honorable to have been a good Maquis leader!

I'd never thought of that, but I think you're right, Seska would have been a more interesting character as a Bajoran! After all, we knew from DS-9 that there were plenty of radical Bajorans who didn't agree with the Federation...

Juliette said...

It always seemed a bit of a cop-out to me - oh look, someone disagrees with Janeway - but it's OK, she's a nasty Cardassian spy anyway, so we don't have to take her point of view seriously! Ah well. Chakotay has awful taste in... well, everything. Even soup ;)