Star Trek Voyager: Basics (Part 1)

"Do I think Seska is capable of manipulating you and me with this? Oh, yes."

Seska has apparently given birth to Chakotay's son and contacts Voyager begging for help because the Kazon have taken the baby away.

Janeway leaves the decision whether to go after the baby entirely up to Chakotay, which seems kind of mean, really. Surely this is a situation in which she, as Captain, should make the sort of logical decision the father of the child couldn't possibly make with a clear head. Chakotay, meanwhile, is remarkably reluctant to do so and seems sorely tempted to abandon the whole messy situation and keep moving. Of course, that's partly because both are aware it's probably a trap.

The conversation Chakotay has with the - vision? Spirit? Dream? Goodness knows how this works in the Star Trek universe - of his father is a high point of the episode. The analogy drawn between Seska stealing Chakotay's DNA and their ancestors who were victims of rape is far from perfect (Chakotay hasn't been physically violated, for one thing) and the argument presented extremely one-sided (the specific subject of abortion is never brought up, but Chakotay's father's argument isn't exactly supportive of a woman's right to choose, which makes for slightly uncomfortable viewing). However, it's a heartfelt conversation about a difficult and, while science-fictional, really very plausible topic, and emphasizes what a difficult position Chakotay is in.

Of course, in the end, Chakotay's initial doubts are proved solidly founded when Voyager is attacked by a suicide bomber and boarded by a very much alive and healthy Seska, who has told Cullah Chakotay raped her and persuaded him to raise the child as his own. Janeway tries to follow the Starfleet Captain Code of Conduct and blow the ship up (for the third time over the last few episodes), but the Kazon attack has somehow damaged the self-destruct system and she isn't able to. With no back-up available and blowing the ship up no longer an option, Janeway is forced to adopt a completely new and un-tried stratagem for a Starfleet captain - she actually surrenders. And, somewhat surprisingly, the Kazon choose not to slaughter them all, but to abandon them on a planet with only very primitive civilization that looks remarkably like the desert around Los Angeles, with a few added volcanoes. And a cave monster.

This is a pretty bold move for Star Trek - a captain giving up her ship is almost unheard of, even allowing for the fact she tried the usual blow-the-ship-up solution. It feels a bit like the whole episode is just a slightly awkward set-up for the end of season cliffhanger the writers wanted, with nearly all of the crew stranded on the planet watching Voyager take off - everyone except Paris (disappeared taking a shuttle to ask the Talaxians for help, but no sign of a body), the Doctor (deactivated for twelve hours) and Suder (released from his quarters and injured in the explosion, then forgotten about by everyone else; the Kazon assume he was on the shuttle). It's a good cliffhanger, and the fact that Voyager is so alone makes it plausible, but the episode itself isn't the most engaging way to get there.

Luckily, it's pulled up quality-wise by Suder, who must be one of the most fascinating characters on Star Trek. He's a psychopathic serial killer who, although at first he appeared to experience little remorse, nevertheless tries to control his urges. Having found a measure of peace through a Vulcan mind meld, Suder wants to find a way to contribute to the ship without leaving his 'prison' in his quarters and has been devoting his time to creating new orchid-life. Beautifully played by the always wonderful Brad Dourif, Suder is a walking, talking grey area who is surprisingly sympathetic, following his chilling initial appearance in 'Meld'.

Like so many Star Trek Parts 1 (Part 1s? Is this like surgeons general or courts martial?), this is all set-up and no payoff - but it's intriguing set-up at least.

Bits and pieces

 - You know things are really bad when Janeway's hair gets messed up.

 - Suder names a new species of orchid he's bred after Tuvok. Aw.

 - Ethan Phillips plays Neelix's discomfort around a clearly pissed-off Suder wonderfully.

 - The special effects showing the Doctor flying around in outer space, however, are terrible.

 - Without the Universal Translators built into their communicators, or any other Starfleet technology, how does everyone communicate with each other on the planet? Has everyone, including Kes and Neelix, learned English?

 - For the second episode in a row, Janeway and Chakotay have to rough it and work on their survival skills. No baths this time though. And rather more company.


Tuvok: That is an honour you should reserve for yourself, Mister Suder. You gave this species life.
Suder: And you gave me life. All of this is because of you.

Cullah: A fitting end for a people who would not share their technology. Let's see if you manage to survive without it.

Janeway: Each of you will be a team leader. Make it clear to all your people that we expect to be rescued and our job is to survive until help arrives.
Neelix: Do you really think it's likely that someone will find us, Captain?
Janeway: You're the morale officer, Neelix. You give me an answer.
Neelix (to the crew): Help is on the way!

A decent enough cliffhanger for the end of season 2. Two and a half out of four new breeds of orchid.

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


Billie Doux said...

Congratulations on finishing season two, Juliette.

Brad Dourif is amazing in anything.

Juliette said...

Thanks :) Brad Dourif is so fantastic. First thing I saw him in was The X Files Beyond the Sea, one of my favourite episodes - he's mesmerizing.

Billie Doux said...

Yes, that's my favorite episode of The X-Files. He did an amazing episode of Babylon 5, too.

Dustin said...

I first saw him in Babylon 5 and Billie is right, it was an amazing and thought provoking episode. He also played Piter De Vries in David Lynch's Dune.

mazephoenix said...

I've seen all of Voyager and I'd forgotten so much of it. Brad Dourif was on there? Damn, I like him. He was a great Grima in The two towers.