Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"State of Flux"


Air date: 4/10/1995
Teleplay by Chris Abbott
Story by Paul Robert Coyle
Directed by Robert Scheerer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I want it ready by the end of the day."
"No, Captain. When I say tomorrow, I mean tomorrow. I don't exaggerate."

— Janeway and Torres

I think one of the reasons "State of Flux" works so well is because, under scrutiny, it makes a hell of a lot of sense. It's an episode that considers Voyager's premise, builds on the Kazon which were introduced in the pilot, has an interesting plot with ends that meet, and makes a character deal with a tough personal situation.

The last item in particular is what Voyager has done best so far this season. The season's best shows to date—"Prime Factors," "Eye of the Needle," "The Cloud"—all work because they put characters in tough emotional situations that they must deal with and put behind them before continuing with their long voyage.

In "State of Flux," the crew encounters the Kazon while on an away mission. After beaming up and leaving the area without a major incident (aside from Chakotay and Seska exchanging some phaser-fire with some Kazon in a cave), Janeway receives an urgent distress call—it's from the same Kazon ship encountered at the planet.

Some new technology has apparently blown up in their faces, and after a rescue attempt that retrieves only one Kazon survivor, Torres finds that the technology was a food replicator taken from the Voyager. There's only one explanation—a traitor on board. Somebody gave the Kazon the unit so it could be analyzed and transporter technology could be brought to the Delta Quadrant.

But who is the traitor? It could be anybody, but most likely someone on the engineering team. Was it Carey, who may be angry because he was passed up for the chief engineer position? Or perhaps Seska, who may have actually been in the cave to rendezvous with the Kazon?

Most of the show centers around Chakotay and Seska (Martha Hackett returns in the role of a Maquis crew member who has always been outspoken with her dissatisfaction of Captain Janeway). The show makes it clear that Chakotay and Seska were once intimately involved in the old Maquis days, before they were pulled into the Delta Quadrant. But a sensible scene where Seska brings Chakotay some mushroom soup—which she has stolen from Neelix's storage—shows Seska in a position with responsibilities and guidelines which she has no desire or intention of following, whereas Chakotay has adapted and accepted his Starfleet job.

The question "State of Flux" poses is whether or not Seska is guilty of treason—and, for once, this is a question that is successfully mired in a complex plot that (1) is not always obvious, (2) cannot be predicted so easily, and (3) works plausibly given the events and the past actions of the characters. As a mystery, the show works well, because the plot carefully holds back just enough information so that we aren't sure whether or not Seska is guilty, but we can follow and fully believe the events and revelations that unfold as Tuvok and Chakotay's investigation progresses.

For example, there's the mystery of why Seska hasn't "gotten around" to having her blood sample put on file. When Doc finally forces the issue, he discovers that Seska is missing key Bajoran properties. He tells Janeway that Seska is not a Bajoran—probably a Cardassian (who possibly infiltrated Chakotay's Maquis crew). But the episode throws several subtly-played smokescreens at us, playing the event down so that we're not completely sure what exactly it means, if anything. Seska claims the blood anomalies were caused by a childhood Bajoran disease that swept through her camp during the Occupation. And when she explains this to Chakotay, she's so convincing and innocent-looking that the scene makes us wonder if Seska is truly the guilty party, or just a victim in a framing scheme.

Ultimately, the mystery's solution hangs on a trap Chakotay and Tuvok devise, based on some information Chakotay feeds both Seska and Carey. As the traitor's computer-hacking cover-up attempts reveal the guilty party, the show comes together in a closing scene that skillfully ties all loose ends together.

Actually, the show could've ended in one of two ways, and still worked: (1) Seska could be the victim of a framing by Carey, or (2) Seska could be a very guilty and clever traitor. The former option would still be believable, but the latter option, which the show wisely takes, is much more powerful. Seska dealing with the Kazon follows, to the letter, from what we've seen from her character in past episodes. And when we learn that she is, in fact, a Cardassian spy altered to look Bajoran, it has a real reason: it gives the character an added edge of attitudes—attitudes that explain everything she does.

You can't just give the Kazon technology like this, Janeway says. It could shift the balance of power in the quadrant. But if we forge an alliance now, Seska replies, the shift would be in our favor. "That is all that matters at this point," she says icily. And once she's found out, Seska turns on a dime (in a charged dialog scene) from a soft and innocent-seeming Bajoran to a glaring, menacing Cardassian personality who calls the captain a fool to her face, and calls Chakotay a fool for following her. "I can't imagine how I ever loved you," she says to him, and then beams onto a Kazon ship and escapes. Ouch.

Hackett's performance is one of the show's highlights, particularly in this final scene. But I don't find just her performance enjoyable—I'm also pleased in the way the episode uses it to turn the plot into a cohesive whole, because it takes a character who has never been understanding or supportive of Janeway's Starfleet methods ("If this had been a Cardassian ship, we would be home now"), and uses her in a believably devious way. There are larger series-impacting statements here, too—the show demonstrates that the Voyager is still at least partially divided in its Starfleet/Maquis mentalities, and that maybe not all of the crew is willing to just lie down and accept its situation.

Then there's Chakotay's problems. Not only does he have to deal with integrating his rough-edged crew into a Starfleet environment; now he has former-lovers turning out to be crafty Cardassian agents who despise his Starfleet sentiments. At least Tuvok, who was also aboard Chakotay's Maquis ship, was fooled by Seska's treachery as well. Strange, Tuvok wonders, that Chakotay would find this failure comforting. "Misery loves company, Tuvok," Chakotay replies. Indeed.

Previous episode: Prime Factors
Next episode: Heroes and Demons

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16 comments on this review

stallion - Thu, Oct 23, 2008 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
I was watching this episode today on spike TV. It's a great episode and made me think what if Voyager had a recurring character that was a cardassian spy and she was expose. It would be interesting to see what the crew would do with her considering being a Cardassian isn't a crime.
Jake - Mon, Aug 24, 2009 - 10:26am (USA Central)
I still crack up when Chakotay asks if there were reports of other missing starships & Janeway replies, "Not to my knowledge."
Ummm...what about the Hera (which disappeared a year earlier in TNG's "Interface") or even the Equinox (that two-parter never makes it clear whether it arrived in the Delta Quadrant before or after Voyager)?
navamske - Mon, Sep 20, 2010 - 10:27pm (USA Central)
"Ummm...what about the Hera (which disappeared a year earlier in TNG's 'Interface') or even the Equinox (that two-parter never makes it clear whether it arrived in the Delta Quadrant before or after Voyager)?"

What about it (the Equinox)? Chuckles asks Janeway if there were any reports of other missing ships, not if she omnisciently knows about every Federation vessel that got yanked into the Delta quadrant. Evidently there were no such reports where the Equinox was concerned.
Carbetarian - Fri, Apr 8, 2011 - 1:29pm (USA Central)
I agree, this was a good one. The only thing I had a little trouble believing was that no one noticed a replicator go missing. Aren't they always talking about how they have to ration out their replicator use? And didn't Janeway say in Caretaker that the replicators were fully integrated into the ships systems? It seems to me that it would be difficult to just remove one from the ship without anyone noticing.

Other than that though, I enjoyed this one a lot! Three and a half stars from me too!
Matthias - Fri, Aug 12, 2011 - 5:16am (USA Central)
I'm watching all this for the first time just now but I'm going to go out on a limb and guess nobody on the bridge will take note of the fact that an unshielded replicator makes for a terrifying makeshift bomb. Because that's not at all relevant information to a trouble magnet of a ship lost 75 years from home with only eight photon torpedoes left (or was it seven?).
Nebula Nox - Thu, May 31, 2012 - 3:43pm (USA Central)
Love the title of this episode! Many relevant meanings
Tony - Tue, Jun 26, 2012 - 6:54am (USA Central)
"What about it (the Equinox)? Chuckles asks Janeway if there were any reports of other missing ships, not if she omnisciently knows about every Federation vessel that got yanked into the Delta quadrant. Evidently there were no such reports where the Equinox was concerned."

So Starfleet wouldn't have reported that ship missing? If Janeway didn't 'omnisciently' know about it or any other missing ships, couldn't she do that non-complicated thing called 'looking things up'?
eddie - Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - 5:43pm (USA Central)
This was a good episode. Its too bad that as the series went ahead, Seska's motivations were not as clear. Here she's trading Voyager's tech to keep the Kazon of their backs. Can't really argue against self-preservation. Obviously, she has to get away when found out. But later on, I never quite understood what her point was. Did she give up on ever returning home and just building a base of power with the Kazon?
Shane - Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - 4:19am (USA Central)
Hey folks, the reason Janeway didn't know or didn't mention the Equinox is because the writers don't think that far ahead!

If they had been on the ball Janeway could've mentioned the Hera (La Forge's mother's ship) and that would've been a nice touch for Trekkies. Lost opportunity as so much of Voyager was.

As for the rest of the episode, I didn't find myself captivated by Seska's lying. I knew for a fact she was indeed lying because I saw this episode well after the fact. I guess if I had caught it during the original run I'd have liked it better. Unfortunately it just came off as a waste of time waiting for the truth to come out.
Jack - Tue, Nov 19, 2013 - 3:17pm (USA Central)
Well after Neelix described the consequences of eating those "apples", I'd think Carey should have run back to the other crew members he said were picking them to warn them...it's not hard to imagine one of them biting into one.

As for the leola root...if this is the planet they are indiginous to, they must have harvested a heap of them...Neelix mentions them in his cooking for years to come.
Adam - Fri, Dec 13, 2013 - 1:06am (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this episode. It used the premise of the show, and showed consequences of Janeway's actions in 'Caretaker'. Seska had a good point in her speech near the end. I think the first two seasons, for everyone's complaints, did have a story arc of sorts. There was the Kazon/Seska arc, and the Vidiian arc. I wish more had been done with the show's premise, ultimately.

But episodes like this one were a step in the right direction, as was 'Equinox' in seasons 5 and 6. Interestingly enough, Janeway doesn't know about the USS Equinox's disappearance in this episode, but then again, I guess she isn't omniscient.
K'Elvis - Tue, Feb 18, 2014 - 8:37am (USA Central)
If you want to talk about missing ships, there is the Defiant: the original Defiant, from the TOS episode The Tholian Web. It disappeared into a some strange area of space. It might not have been taken by the Caretaker, but I always thought it would be interesting if it popped back into normal space sometime.
Peter - Sat, Mar 29, 2014 - 1:45pm (USA Central)
Actually the original Defiant's disappearance is explained in the season 4 episode of "Enterprise", "In a Mirror Darkly".

The anomalies of Tholian space pushed the Defiant into the Mirror universe more than a 100 years earlier where the mirror Jonathan Archer and the crew of ISS Enterprise NX-01 hijacked it and took back to Earth (or at least the mirror universe Ensign Sato did that, after she took over control of the two ships from Archer.)
Vylora - Tue, Aug 19, 2014 - 12:36am (USA Central)
Another standout installment that smartly utilizes not only the Kazon (in this case the Nistrim sect), but also a secondary character known for her outspokenness against the captain. Everything in this episode flowed logically from what the first season has built up thus far and brought us to what is now a defining moment for several future episodes.

Despite a bit of by-the-numbers plotting, this was well-conceived and smartly executed with some of the best characterizations of the first season. This is, in my opinion, the closest yet that Voyager has knocked it out of the park.

3.5 stars.
Skeptical - Tue, Oct 21, 2014 - 8:04pm (USA Central)
Best episode so far! State of Flux is a good name for the episode. It really does show how unstable everything is. Even though I knew who the traitor was, the show still did a good job of casting doubt. I agree with Jammer; Seska's pleas of innocence were very convincing, all things considered. When she went to the Kazon ship to retrieve the replicator, it is perfectly logical that she's doing it to remove evidence... AND perfectly logical that she did it to prove her innocence. We already knew she doesn't play by the rules, and we already knew she thought this was a good way to extract the replicator...

And then there was the revelation that she was possibly a Cardassian. Honestly, I sort of wish that she had stayed on. After all, being a Cardassian spy doesn't make you a traitor... And hey, having a lone Cardassian stuck with the humans worked on DS9, maybe it would work here? But it does make sense that she would then be the least willing to play by Janeway's rules. So I guess I understand why they went the way they did. Having Seska be a Cardassian spy yet not actually betraying the crew would have been a risky plot to take, but perhaps not the most realistic.

In any case, one thing I liked about this episode was that Seska wasn't being a mustache twirling villain here. Her motives were clear; protect Voyager. It was almost noble in a way. And now the reason the Kazon never attacked Voyager since Caretaker is made clear. Seska's rant at Janeway after being caught had a certain amount of logic to it. I'm not saying she's right, but it does certainly make sense to her. And it again touches on a theme that has come up multiple times in the first season: should you sacrifice your principles to get home? In fact, here it's not even about getting home. Should you sacrifice your principles in order to stay alive in a dangerous world? Seska obviously has no problem with it, Janeway obviously won't. And that's why Seska directed a lot of her rant at Chakotay.

Once again we get a good Chakotay episode. Once again he is torn between his Maquis loyalty and his desire to keep this a Federation ship. And this time, his Maquis loyalty was wrong. And we get to see him get punched in the gut repeatedly. I liked that he was taking his frustrations out on Tuvok. He may have accepted Tuvok's betrayal by now, but he hasn't forgotten it. And he's perfectly entitled to be frustrated and venting some steam here.

So yeah, I enjoyed it. This was a show that was truly Voyager's and didn't feel like a bad TNG rerun. It may have come a bit too early in the season, but really, even that isn't too bad. We would have been wondering about the Kazon eventually. So maybe it's best that Seska was revealed so soon.
Marmota - Tue, Feb 17, 2015 - 10:11am (USA Central)
Re: leela root: I imagine later on, they grew them. They did have a hydroponic bay, right? (Except that I noticed it was, if I remember correctly, cargo bay 2, which later houses Seven of Nine? I may not remember correctly.)

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