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Star Trek Voyager: Prime Factors

“It’s the first time we’ve been on the other side of the fence.”

Voyager stops for some shore leave on a planet of aliens who are legendarily generous and hospitable... until our heroes ask them for technology to help them get home, and come up against the aliens’ version of the Prime Directive.

There have been several episodes of Star Trek based around the Prime Suggestion (breaking it or upholding it), but it’s rare to see it from the other side. Whereas Stargate SG-1, for example, pits Earth’s armed forces against much better-armed enemies, the Federation is, more often than not, the most sophisticated culture around and stories about the Prime Suggestion are usually about the feelings of guilt associated with upholding it. Voyager, however, is on its own with one desperate, unattainable goal, to get home, so the crew are at the mercy of alien rules and regulations.

The alien race in question are even odder than usual. How on earth their economy works is a mystery and they’re generous to the point of creepy (particularly Gath's offer to make a wardrobe’s worth of new clothes for Captain Janeway, at which his 'pleasure will be greater than hers'). Meanwhile, this episode properly introduces Seska, who’s been floating around since ‘Parallax.’ She and B’Elanna seem to be good friends, though Seska seems even more willing to take risks than B’Elanna is, and even less interested in obeying rules, senior officers or anything else. She also speaks for the Maquis crewmembers who, unlike B’Elanna, haven’t changed over the course of the show so far, largely because they haven’t been abruptly promoted to senior officer.

At the opening of the episode, Janeway notes happily that the Starfleet and Maquis crews have bonded already. Oddly enough, when she discovers Torres, Seska, Carey and Tuvok have worked together to disobey her, she’s less happy. Seska, Torres and Carey’s motivations all make sense, but Tuvok’s reasons for violating Starfleet principles do not hold together quite so well. Apparently he was trying to spare Janeway the ethical dilemma, but surely logically, this is a dangerous position to adopt; where would it stop? Would he massacre an alien species to save her that ethical dilemma as well? Perhaps Tuvok is just a closet psychopath...

This episode addresses something that needed to be addressed – how far will Voyager go and to what extent will they bend the rules to get home faster? Janeway proves here that she is determined not to so much as tweak her ethics for the sake of a faster journey home, no matter how some members of the crew feel about it. That’s an important note to establish, though the plot follows some odd twists and turns in taking us there.

Bits 'n pieces

 - Harry has obviously got over his girlfriend back home, as the episode opens with him explaining how he fell out of a gondola on a double holodeck date with Paris and the Delaney sisters.

 - Janeway flirting watch: Gath flirts aggressively with her, threatening to make her irresistible offers, grasping her shoulder, and so on. So, naturally, she flirts right back.

 - Janeway gives Torres the old ‘I’m disappointed in you’ speech beloved of angry parents everywhere.

 - Paris is completely uninterested in anything that’s not above board. He’s obviously grown as a person. Or he really hated that New Zealand prison.


Eudana: “Stories can be whimsical, or frightening, or melancholy, or many other things. But noble stories are the ones that can most affect our lives.”

Janeway: “I’ve seen how quickly you get tired of your pleasures. All that interests you is what’s new and unexplored.”

Janeway: “You can use logic to justify almost anything. That’s its power – and its flaw.”

A nice try at addressing the problems inherent in Voyager’s situation, but logically flawed. Two and a half out of four creepy aliens.

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


  1. I can't remember where I first heard that, but it's so true...!

  2. good laughs with the Prime Suggestion! Definitely doesn't seem like much of an order considering the number of times it's been ignored!

    And yeah, interesting seeing them on the other side of the fenc for a change! ;o)


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