Janeway looks into forming some kind of alliance with the Kazon. It doesn't go brilliantly.
As the episode opens, Chakotay is insisting that, without Starfleet back-up, Voyager needs to operate more like the Maquis. Some former Maquis crew-members think they should just give the Kazon what they want (Federation technology) while Tuvok argues for a temporary alliance in the hopes of gaining greater security for themselves and everyone else, though Janeway feels even that would be a breach of Starfleet ethics and in danger of violating the Prime Suggestion by interfering in local politics. Harry jokes that they should contact Seska and Tom and B'Elanna both jump on that as a good idea, since she's allied to the powerful Kazon Nistrim faction.
Neelix, meanwhile, is captured and kept with a group of people called the Trabe, who are enemies of the Kazon, caught in a cycle of mistreatment with them (the Trabe mistreated the Kazon, who rebelled and mistreated the Trabe, who are now fighting the Kazon...). Ultimately and predictably it all goes horribly wrong and Janeway comes to the conclusion that she was right to stay well out of Kazon politics and just try to get through their space as quickly as possible in the first place.
This episode has high ambitions. After a direct shout-out to Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country earlier in the episode, the dinner scene with Mabus the Trabe can't help but recall it (no Romulan Ale though) while the episode's conclusion definitely owes something to The Godfather Part III. The trouble is, the episode itself doesn't really live up to the high expectations such parallels invite.
One of the drawbacks of this episode is that it brings out the worst in Janeway and Chakotay, and not in a particularly entertaining way. Chakotay whines and needles at the Captain in a completely inappropriate fashion - in character for a Maquis rebel, perhaps, but irritating (Riker would never have talked to Picard that way). Once she feels she's been vindicated in her original viewpoint, Janeway becomes her most obnoxiously self-righteous self. The episode is supposed to be dramatising a dilemma in which the two have opposing but equally valid viewpoints (like a Greek tragedy) but since neither come across especially well, that point is a little lost.
Perhaps the problem is that Star Trek has never been very good at providing equally valid but opposing viewpoints - in the world of Star Trek, one person is always right and the other always wrong, more like a medieval morality play. And so Janeway is proved correct without really arguing her case that effectively, while Chakotay has to just sit back and accept her smug 'I told you so' speech.
Others come across better. B'Elanna comes out of the episode pretty well, standing up for Janeway to her irritating former Maquis crewmate, and Tuvok's advice is respectfully given and logical, albeit possibly flawed. Neelix is actually useful as a spy, negotiator and ambassador (he's much better at that than at cooking). Ultimately, though, the episode becomes more about Kazon/Trabe politics more than it is about Voyager, who are just stuck in the middle of everything, and that's not terribly engaging. You can see what the aim was - to dramatise Janeway's dilemma concerning whether or not to make alliances independently or stay separate from local politics. It just isn't very engagingly done.
Bits 'n' pieces
- The cold open is quite exciting and rather good. They're under attack, an expendable ensign dies... it all looks much more dramatic than the rest of the episode.
- Naturally, the process of negotiation involves Neelix going into a seedy bar with an exotic dancer wearing a gold bikini. Star Trek really shouldn't try to be Star Wars, it never works. And the dancer is in the background for an unnecessarily long time.
- Engineering expendable ensign Michael Jonas contacts Seska in secret, in a plot thread left dangling for future episodes.
- Janeway flirting watch: She spends the beginning of the episode fighting with Chakotay, getting up in each other's faces... She also wants to 'be of mutual benefit to each other' with the Trabe leader Mabus (it's not really flirty, it's just the way she says it). That's nothing to the expression on her face and Mulgrew's delivery when she observes to Tuvok, "I've been in your quarters before" though.
- Spock gets a shout-out as a 'great visionary', the second reference to an earlier Trek show in as many weeks.
- Tuvok's interest in hybrid orchids is introduced.
- I liked the senior staff meetings in this episode. Nearly everyone gets something to do (except Kes) and while, as Janeway points out, the ship is not a democracy, it's nice to see them all working together (very Next Generation-esque as well - as opposed to the original series, which was pretty much Kirk, Spock and Bones ruling the galaxy together).
Janeway: This isn't a democracy, Chakotay. I can't run this ship by consensus.
Janeway: In a part of space where there are few rules, it's more important than ever that we hold fast to our own. In a region where shifting allegiances are commonplace we have to have something stable to rely on. And we do. The principles and ideals of the Federation. As far as I'm concerned, those are the best allies we could have.
Honestly, it's just really dull. One and a half out of four scantily clad exotic dancers.
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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