While trading for some vital techobabblium, Tuvok and Torres are captured by alien Stasi (they have informants everywhere, are paranoid and torture people for information. Also they wear dull brown colours). Janeway, however, is rescued by a man called Caylem, who has mistaken her for his long-lost daughter.
The guest star for this episode is Joel Grey, who is absolutely fantastic (his performance as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret is mesmerising). This is, obviously, a very different part, but he’s equally good here. His Caylem is vulnerable, deeply sympathetic and tragically, believably flawed. He keeps the audience’s sympathy throughout his explanation of his history, explaining how he was too frightened to meet his wife to help with the resistance as he promised and as a result, she was arrested. It's impossible not to feel his pain and regret.
Grey also walks a very fine line with precision, making Caylem mad but not too mad. When he allows himself to be humiliated to protect Janeway, it’s both heart-breaking and awesome all at once, and underlines the fact that he isn’t completely insane. I think it’s possible to interpret his whole delusion two ways – does he really think Janeway is his daughter? Or, given that he starts ‘reminding’ her about her ‘mother’ at one point, does he cling to an initial mistake because she’s reminiscent enough of his daughter for it to work? I think it could go either way.
This is a great episode for Janeway, too. As a captain, Janeway is always compassionate towards her crew anyway, but we see an especially tender side of her here. She never loses sight of her main goal, to rescue her crew, but she also demonstrates great compassion for Caylem and is very gentle with him.
Chakotay, meanwhile, has to act in loco captainis back on Voyager, and does a remarkably good job of being a well-behaved Starfleet captain. He mostly ignores the minor issue that our guys have been breaking laws on this planet, but this week we’re choosing not to respect alien laws because we don’t agree with them, so that's OK. Anyway, we can tell they’re baddies because their opponents are called ‘the resistance.’ If the authority were good and the resistance bad, the resistance would be called ‘terrorists.’ All that aside, Chakotay works very hard to find a diplomatic solution, despite having recently belonged to a ‘resistance’ group actually named after the French Resistance himself. It does seem a bit weird that Paris is the only person to realise they need to take advantage of a break in the whatjamajig to break their guys out of the prison, but still. Ten out of ten for good Starfleet effort there, Chakotay.
This is mainly an episode show-casing Janeway, but Tuvok and B’Elanna get some nice scenes together in the prison as well. Poor Tuvok gets tortured, not for the last time; Tim Russ does stoic suffering so well, it’s almost too easy to create drama by torturing Tuvok, especially when you put him next to hot-tempered Torres. Her reference to hearing his pain is both creepy and revealing and his point about fighting back by refusing information is nice.
I like this episode. It’s never going to stand out on anyone’s all-time best lists, but it’s a nice little character piece with strong performances, and a nice exploration of our heroes’ characters – except for Chakotay, who you really would expect to be a bit more pro-active here, as a former resistance fighter himself. Luckily my boy Paris is there in a pinch.
Bits ‘n’ pieces
- No one has ever escaped the prison Torres and Tuvok are thrown in to. Of course they haven’t. Why don’t our heroes ever end up in prisons that only a few people have escaped from, or that people get out of quite often really as the security is clearly a bit rubbish?
- Vulcan nerve pinch! Yay! Love one of those.
- Janeway has very nice hair and jacket in this. The alien costumes are still fairly plain, but at least there’s something a bit interesting on them.
- Janeway flirting watch: she uses flirting as a weapon to distract a guard with the sexy (I bet Picard never thought to do that). And Paris is awfully familiar when he pulls her away from Caylem.
Tuvok: Vulcans are capable of suppressing certain levels of physical pain. Beyond that, we must simply endure the experience. Explaining Vulcan Stoicism to B’Elanna.
Janeway (comforting Caylem): She forgives you. We both do.
Slow-paced but the bar is raised by a beautiful performance from Joel Grey as Caylem. Three and a half out of four Vulcan nerve pinches.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.
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