Star Trek: Voyager

"Alliances"

3 stars

Air date: 1/22/1996
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I don't think we can afford to keep doing business as usual." — Chakotay

Nutshell: A good outing in the Kazon storyline, but the ending is painfully naive.

A series of brutal attacks by the Kazon leaves Voyager shaken and seriously damaged; the crew worried that if things continue in this manner, the ship will be destroyed long before it reaches the Alpha Quadrant. As a result, Chakotay suggests to Janeway that maybe the ship should do some Maquis-style thinking and make a deal with the Kazon. Unfortunately, this goes against everything Janeway believes about Starfleet protocol and the Prime Directive issues.

Finally, after an extremely shaky and inconsistent opening leg, the second season is showing signs of an upturn. Here's a Voyager episode that will actually have consequences. But more than that, it's a winner episode that makes some striking statements about the Delta Quadrant and Voyager's role in it.

Let's start with the Kazon attacks. The show opens with a jarring start, as Voyager is barely able to fend off two Kazon vessels, but not before taking some serious damage—temporary loss of all weapons and engines. One crewman dies in the attack—the third fatality in the recent weeks of Kazon assaults. This is a serious situation. Voyager cannot afford these types of losses when they have so far to go without the crutch of Federation supplies.

This leads one outspoken Maquis crewman to voice his opinion: That Voyager should just give the Kazon the technology they want in exchange for a truce. Janeway flat out tells him that she would sooner destroy the ship than hand pieces of it over to the Kazon, but Chakotay thinks there may be a different way of bending the Prime Directive without breaking it completely.

While Prime Directive issues can be tiring and cliche-ridden, "Alliances" presents a genuinely new question: Should the Prime Directive really apply in such extreme cases of survival? The show's first act does a splendid job of posing this question and giving Janeway a chance to answer it. She agrees to investigate the possibility of negotiating with two Kazon factions: (1) The Nistrim, led by Culluh (Anthony De Longis) and Seska (Martha Hackett) with whom Voyager had confronted in "Maneuvers," and (2) the Pommar, of whose leaders Neelix may be able to arrange a meeting with due to his past dealings with them.

Progress is a problem however, as both negotiations with the Nistrim and the Pommar fall through. Janeway's meeting with Culluh proves futile because of Culluh's refusal to allow a woman to dictate terms to him. (Culluh's sexist and obstinate personality traits, however, tire very quickly, and go a long way into needlessly turning the character into a one-note villain.) Meanwhile, Neelix's shuttle mission to meet his contact on the planet Sobras is cut short when he's captured and thrown into a cell with a group of Trabe refugees, a race despised mutually by all the Kazon factions.

It's here where the story loses some steam, however, as Neelix allies himself with the Trabe to escape the Kazon in a jailbreak scene that is virtually destroyed by completely uninspiring music.

Fortunately, this all has a true purpose. Neelix and the Trabe rendezvous with Voyager. A Trabe governor named Mabus (Charles Lucia) lays everything down, including some interesting backstory explaining why the Kazon hate the Trabe, and why the Kazon have become a race of angry armies. It turns out the Trabe persecuted the Kazon like animals, almost treating them like slaves. Thirty years ago, when the Kazon finally got fed up, they exploded into violence and exiled the Trabe. Mabus admits the Trabe were wrong to treat the Kazon the way they did, and he offers to ally himself with Janeway. Together both Voyager and the Trabe would be less vulnerable.

This will surely make the Kazon furious. However, Mabus also believes that together, Voyager and the Trabe can negotiate with the Kazon and bring peace among everyone. It's a genuine gesture that could benefit everybody, so Janeway accepts it. Mabus arranges a meeting on Sobras and invites all the Kazon sect leaders.

The meeting is bound to be problematic, however. When they hear the news, Culluh and Seska begin plotting almost instantly. Neelix hears a rumor that someone is planning an assassination attempt. And no Kazon trusts the Trabe.

The episode culminates with a chilling revelation and special effects display, in which a Trabe starship tries to kill all the Kazon leaders by descending from space, hovering outside the window of the negotiation building and opening fire. Fortunately, Janeway realizes the Trabe's deception just in time to warn everybody to GET DOWN! Now this is something we haven't seen before.

The idea of the Trabe using Voyager under the pretense of peace just to kill everybody is a rather unsettling display that the Delta Quadrant doesn't seem to operate with many rules or underlying values. Janeway's subsequent confrontation with Mabus over his deceitful actions is very potent, showing an extremely forceful and angry, but very plausible, Captain Janeway. Kate Mulgrew's performance this week is a definite standout.

This is good stuff. "Alliances" goes a long way in defining new possibilities in the Delta Quadrant. The underlying theme conveys a sense that this quadrant really isn't the best place to be stranded; the strongest known force so far is aggressive and unfriendly, and even those who seem initially to be friends turn out to be traitors. The Trabe/Kazon backstory does a decent job of explaining why the Kazon are fierce and untrusting, eliminating the traditional writers' theory of "Well, they're the bad guys, so we don't need to give them motivation."

With the Voyager indirectly responsible for an attempt on all the Kazon leaders' lives, the ending has a sense of "let's get out of here fast and hope we don't have to stop anytime soon," which is a particularly powerful motivation that conveys a true sense of urgency.

This one came very close to a 3 1/2-star rating, but there are a few quibbles I have that keep it just below that range. One involves Neelix's meeting on Sobras in a bar that features a scantily clad dancer. This came across to me as a big cliche. Do all under-the-table dealings have to take place in strip bars? That alone might be okay, but the music in this bar seems dead wrong—scored with the same restrained monotone of most Star Trek music.

Most troublesome, however, is the very ending, when Janeway tells the crew she thinks there's a lesson to be learned from all of this: That in this chaotic quadrant of very few rules, the best ally Voyager has are the principles and rules of the Federation. Sure, this is a nicely done speech, but I'm not really sure it's that easy. Is not making a deal and doing, in Chakotay's words, "business as usual" really going to help the crew in their next dealing with the Kazon? I'm inclined to say no. This speech supplies a genuinely positive, non-cynical Star Trek ending, but it doesn't sit right considering all the deceit in the episode. Under the drastic circumstances, wouldn't the Maquis attitude that you have to do what you can to survive be somewhat more appropriate, or at least worth another look? The ending as it is presents a cut-and-dry solution to a complex problem, where a more ambiguous approach would have been better. I would just as soon prefer no speech at all, leaving it up to the audience to reflect on the events that have unfolded. Janeway's attitude that the crew will get by if they hold to their principles has a strong air of naivete that rubs me the wrong way. The episode also insinuates that Chakotay and the disgruntled Maquis are willing to just roll over and accept it, which I don't buy for a minute.

These problems aside, "Alliances" is a good episode with some involving political elements—much like many of Deep Space Nine's stories. That alone isn't why I think "Alliances" is one of Voyager's more important episodes. The reason I find this to be an important show is because it has realistic consequences that will (hopefully) show up again in the future. The idea that what happens in one show could quite possibly come back to rear its head in a story five or six episodes down the road is what makes a series, well, a series. For the most part, Voyager has been the type of series that presents a problem and solves it in 60 minutes. This method lacks the feeling that solving real problems sometimes takes extended periods of time and effort. Overarching storylines could be what makes Voyager a lot more compelling than it presently is. And for a series that has such a large number of dedicated fans who tune in every week, doing longer, continuing plot threads would not really risk annoying that many viewers. "Alliances" is a good start.

Previous episode: Prototype
Next episode: Threshold

◄ Season Index

36 comments on this review

David Forrest
Sun, Mar 9, 2008, 7:01pm (UTC -5)
Re-watching some of season 2, I realized some of these episodes are much better than I remembered. While I agree with much of your review, I think I would have ended up giving "Alliances" a 3.5 star rating. I liked how it played out as the episode moves swiftly with all the right acting (you are right as Mulgrew is magnificent) matching with all the right characterization make this episode great. I actually enjoyed this ending as Janeway points out in this part of the Delta Quadrant, it doesn't matter if you take the high road or the low road in that they'll all still betray you, so we are going to stick to the high road because that is who they are. This was much better than I remembered.
Dirk Hartmann
Thu, Mar 27, 2008, 6:21am (UTC -5)
I agree with David that this episode deserves 3.5 stars. Even while we may not agree with the content of Janeways' speech at the end, what she says is at least understandable from her subjective point of view: She *tried* to bend the rules a bit and it nearly engendered a complete ethical desaster ...
Peter
Mon, Apr 13, 2009, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Not a bad episode, but I had to laugh at the climax. The idea that the weapons of an armed spaceship would merely break the glass of the conference room like some mafia machine gun is ludicrous. That's the best they could do? Then Voyager pummels it with 2 photon torpedoes right outside the window. We know from dialogue in other ST episodes that these explosions should decimate the unshielded building. This was a very poorly done action scene.
PM
Thu, Jun 18, 2009, 5:06pm (UTC -5)
This episode is fine in isolation, but none of it winds up meaning anything, and so its whole point is lost in context of the rest of the show. It doesn't hold up at all.

And I too was under the impression that a photon torpedo was at least equivalent to a tactical nuke, not a dud hand grenade.
DeanGrr
Wed, Mar 3, 2010, 8:37pm (UTC -5)
Janeway's speech at the end about adhering to principles struck me as understandable, given her past dealings with the Kazon, and now the Trabe. Although, the speech came across as much for her own morale, as for the crews'.

It's a case where she can stand by her principles, but many of her crew will judge her based on the ends and not the means. Her decision could have led to a geniune mutiny (as shown for fun in the 3rd season "Worst Case Scenario").

The ending to this arc, Investigations, was not very sophisticated, but I definitely enjoyed Michael Piller's "Basics", where Seska's machiavellian plans reach fruition.
Jeffrey
Mon, May 10, 2010, 10:27am (UTC -5)
Truly the type of episode VOY should have been about. This is one of my top 10 favorites of the series and my favorite of season 2.

I just watched it again last night. Chakotay was saying everything he should have been saying. The Maquis crew were reasserting themselves. There were multiple characters outside of the main cast and the episode felt very layered with lots of different characters having lots of different agendas.

Yes, Janeway's speech at the end is another example of the reset button though presented in a less obvious way than in other episodes.

My one complaint in general is that even with Janeway's warning, I have a hard time believing that everyone survived the Trabe ship's assault on the conference.
Ken
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 8:44am (UTC -5)
This is a decent episode for the most part. These are the kind of episodes that make perfect sense considering the show's context - being lost in the delta quadrant, all-alone and trying to get home in one piece.

There are few problems.

1) Which Kazon were attacking Voyager at the beginning of the episode? I was thinking it was the Nistrim... but I guess not. Are we to believe that it was a faction we didn't know much about?

2) Why did they contact Seska for? This doesn't seem at all logical. I was under the impression that it was the Nistrim that were attacking in the first place... so why invite them for an alliance for? Of course, it wasn't... but I'm not sure why other Kazon factions have as much of a beef with Voyager then.

3) The ending of the story is kind of weak. The events that unfolded are not evidence/proof that Starfleet principles are the only way to operate in the Delta Quadrant. The writers tried to make it seem that way, but the lesson isn't quite that accurate.

I just don't see how trying to form an alliance is a violation against Starfleet principles. The Federation has an alliance with many cultures - Klingon, Bajoran... etc. None of these were part of the federation, but nonetheless, they have offered help, food, medical supplies, assistance to these cultures far an beyond what Janeway seems to think is appropriate.

This is where the story breaks down. Yes, we shouldn't forge alliances with people that are going to screw with us... but that hardly means we are avoiding them because of the prime directive. In fact, we are avoiding them simply because it is not in our rational, long-term self-interest. This is the REAL point.

As far as Starfleet principles go... the story is full of hypocrisy. Janeway didn't try anything that Starfleet hasn't already done in the Alpha Quadrant by Sisko or Picard before.
Destructor
Sat, Mar 19, 2011, 9:15pm (UTC -5)
Just watched this one and liked it a lot. Great scripting, interesting ethical quandary (almost the reverse of the quandary Janeway face in 'Scorpion', really), great action and politics. It was an episode Voyager needed to do, and it definitely elevates S2, particularly in light of the 'Kazon arc'.

Was anyone else bothered that the Trabe were so 'white'? The analogy they seemed to be drawing was that of Zimbabwe, where the working class overthrew and ejected the ruling class... yet Janeway says: "My gut tells me we can't trust the Kazon...but the Trabe say they feel bad about what they did, so they seem okay?" I was seriously WTF-ing over that, like, I'm glad it ended with them being assholes, because it showed up Janeway's, well, apparent prejudice in a pretty stark light.
Carbetarian
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 12:33am (UTC -5)
I felt this one was a little messy. But, I think @Peter, @PM, @Ken and @Destructor already covered most of my complaints. All in all though, this is one of the second season's better shows.

Three stars from me.

Also, did anyone else catch when Seska tells Maj Cullah that she's carrying his child? Isn't it Chakotay's child? Was this a writer's error? Or is she trying to put one over on the Maj? This is my first time watching Voyager since it originally aired. So, I sincerely can't remember which one it is.
Matthias
Thu, Aug 18, 2011, 7:39am (UTC -5)
Seska told both Chakotay and the Maj the child was theirs.

I don't see how Voyager keeps getting into fights with the Kazon considering it's orders of magnitude faster than even the federation's flagship, let alone some backwards yokels with broccoli hair.
I can't see the splintered Kazon sects holding down enough territory that you couldn't simply fly straight past at max warp cruise in about a week but even if their turf is somehow unimaginably huge what exactly is stopping VOY from peacing out at warp 9.7 whenever the Kazon get into sensor range?

Well okay it'd make for lousy television but the way they're handling it now makes it very hard for me to take it seriously. Why did the writers make Voyager so fast in the first place?
Chris Harrison
Sun, Nov 13, 2011, 12:01am (UTC -5)
@Destructor. Yes, it occured to me to. When Janeway was visiting them in sickbay, I just thought "white farmers"!

Anyway, on to the next episode - 'Meld'...
alan
Mon, Jul 30, 2012, 6:35am (UTC -5)
Janeway's pathetic speech at the end was basically her telling the crew:

"Everything was great until I listened to all of you. I hope you all learned a lesson!"

From "Alliances" on, Chakotay & B'Elanna basically lost whatever interesting aspects they had and became Janeway's a$s-lickers. What a deranged bitch Janeway is!
Elliott
Mon, Jul 30, 2012, 10:33am (UTC -5)
@alan. You stole that almost verbatim from sfdebris. Get your own opinion.
inline79
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 1:58am (UTC -5)
It's now 2013 and I want to be the first to say that this episode did the "shoot-up leaders with ship-phasers through a window" thing WAY before JJ Abrams. It was as ridiculous then as it is now - it's the 24th Century, with sensors and other clever gadgets, not The Godfather!
Gooz
Sun, Nov 3, 2013, 10:04am (UTC -5)
I'm re-watching Voyager, and this episode reminded me why I stopped watching it when it first aired. Every episode ends with a missed opportunity, and that gets frustrating in the end. The fact that the majority of the missed opportunities are Janeway's fault isn't the main issue. Having an incompetent leader that is replaced by the crew would have made for interesting TV. The problem is that her mistakes are not only not acknowledged as mistakes, but are lauded as victories.

At the very end of the episode, had she simply chosen to beam all the Kazon out, she would have gone a long way towards gaining their goodwill.

The next episode is Threshold. Not looking forward to that one.
Tricia
Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 5:04am (UTC -5)
@Destructor - I just re-watched the episode and thought the same thing! Anyway, I thought this episode was pretty good until the end. Why didn't they beam everyone out? We don't even know who survived, although obviously Culluh does. I did like the backstory between the Trabe and Kaizon though, it's good to have some context.

I know this is nitpicky, but where does the music and applause come from when the Kaizon leaders walk into the conference room? Is there an audience? It's rather odd.
Paul
Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
@Tricia: The applause thing is really odd. The implication is that there are other people in the room -- which means the Trabe attack is all the more brazen.
Tim
Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 6:45pm (UTC -5)
Interesting about the music and applause. I was listening to this episode on Netflix the other day (something weird I do, listen to movies on Netflix at work). The applause and music threw me, I never remembered that.

I just put the DVD I have of voyager season two and the applause and music isn't there. Wonder if somebody at netflix with a sense of humor added that
Adam
Sun, Feb 2, 2014, 2:30am (UTC -5)
I've been rewatching Voyager seasons 1 and 2 lately , and many of the episodes are much better than I remember. I'm actually enjoying the Kazon arc, on my re-watch. The ending of this episode is a bit of a cop out, but its an entertaining episode, and exactly the kind of thing Voyager should be doing
Ric
Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 4:02am (UTC -5)
Well, mixed feelings on this one. By one hand, certainly interesting and fresh for Voyager. Good political puzzle, nice and rare development of a more deep arc. Nice moral dillema.

By the other hand... so predictable! I could see that coming a light-year away. Sure, in aesthetic nad movie-viewer point of view, I simpatize with the tribute to The Godfather (it has to be a tribute; nobody could so stupid to the point that thinking that the connection would be obvious). But I have to agree with @inline79: this plot solving does not fit a futuristic scifi wolrd in the wa it was executed. Think of it: nobody would have seen the attacke ship coming? We are talking about a huge VANT spaceship, for god sake! And I mean not only some there in the meeting-room, but no one from the many ship from the many leaders presente in the meeting? Weren't them monitoring and scanning the are from orbit? Please, it is this sort of lazy writing tputs you of from any suspension of disbelief.

But what is really enfuriating is a problem that have been present with unfortunate frequency. I am talking about the captain simply not trying to do basic stuff. Like, for instance, trying to contact the other leaders to say Voyager was not involved, saved their lifes and that she would ARREST the one who trie to kill them instead of let him go. With so stupid wrtiting on the final decisions of most episodes, it is not a surprise why the reputation of Voyager is so bad and distorted in the quadrante. Pathetic.

PS: once again I got distracted by the fact the most humanoid races in this quadrant have, as thei primary phisical difference, some different stuff in their noses and above-noses. I really think there is a Bajorian tradiotional fashion spread througout the galaxy. Or the low budget and low creativity were really bad.
Vylora
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 2:09pm (UTC -5)
This has all the necessary ingredients for a fantastic episode and actually comes through for the most part. Great opening that nicely sets up a sense of urgency. We finally get some much needed backstory on the Kazon. The crew gets put into a unique situation involving underhanded politics and corrupt alliances. Plus a lot of meaty dialogue.

The real drawback to all of this is the completely unnecessary speech by Janeway at the end. Before that, though, I completely understood her extreme reluctance in allying with only certain Kazon sects. It is nothing like the Federation allying with (insert species name). In this case, it is a technologically advanced ship contributing its assets to said sects thus causing a change in the balance of power concerning the Kazon as a whole as well as any other species involved.

I noticed a couple of other things here and there. Like the torpedoes hitting the Trabe ship that was firing on the building. I realize that the shields would absorb most of the energy, thus limiting damage to the building. It did seem kind of weak though, like they purposely lowered the yield on the torpedoes so there wouldn't be blast radius damage...also having the added effect of not destroying it, killing all Trabe aboard, and causing massive collateral damage as well...

Really great job all around, however. The fact that I know what becomes of all of this doesn't matter. On its own merits, this is a winner.

3.5 stars.
TP
Sat, Sep 6, 2014, 11:10am (UTC -5)
...seriously the applause and music. Wtf? Is this a joke Easter egg or some post production fail ? I too am watching this on Netflix, is this really not on the DVDs and/or tv version that was aired? Ha.
dlpb
Sun, Jan 18, 2015, 7:36pm (UTC -5)
This is one of those episodes that worked as a standalone, but doomed the series as a whole. Voyager could (and should) have been about two different crews overcoming severe problems both internally and externally. Instead, the writers gave up on this because it is harder to pull off and we were subjected to a show that had no rudder.

Taken on its own, this episode is a good watch. It's interesting. The downside is how it was used to establish rigid, one dimensional Starfleet rules and end ANY internal conflict from this point on. From this point, nothing is going to change. Everyone is going to do things Starfleet's way, under Janeway. The writers basically use this episode to justify lazy future episodes. An really good story opportunity was missed here due to that decision.

The alliance could have been successful this time... and the Marquis v Starfleet conflict could have been extended and made believable. But no... all of this was squandered.
eddie
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 7:58pm (UTC -5)
The peace conference thing was such a long shot, even if it hadn't been sabotaged. Janeway should have told the convoy to contact the other Trebe in the region and give them coordinates to meet along the way to the alpha quadrant. They could have traveled together like Janeway suggested and find a planet on the way. But to sweeten the deal, Janeway could have offered to find them a new home world in the federation if they made it all the way. Janeway is a good friend of Admiral Owen, his son serves with her... she could swing giving away a free planet after returning from the Delta Quadrant. Her ship is by itself, traveling in dangerous space and has limited resources. But a free planet IOU, when used smartly, can potentially buy friends and protection along the way. Maybe she gets in trouble for making such offers without the permission of the federation council but it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission and these are special circumstances. The Council wouldn't refuse.
Yanks
Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 9:21am (UTC -5)
Aside from the cheesy "STID attack the building moment" at the end, I really enjoyed this episode. Still can't believe the 3 photon Torpedoes shot from orbit didn't crash that little ship.

It showed that Janeway is all "my way or the highway". (although this really strengthened her argument, didn't it?)

Brought back the Maguis angle, included one of my favorite actresses (Martha Hackett), Kate was awesome and Beltran was great in this episode too.

This could have been a 4 star episode if not for the ending.

3 stars for me.
JC
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 7:42pm (UTC -5)
dlpb,

I couldn't agree more. It was like the writers were intentionally looking to take the path of least resistance as well. No more continuity, just standalones. And no more questions of moral judgements concerning Starfleet protocols. It would always be someone else's fault or morality coming into play. Think Equinox.

I was always bothered by the fact there wasn't a lot more struggle between the Maquis and Starfleet. The show would have benefitted more from direct conflicts between the crews rather than Melrose place-like underhandedness whenever the issue arose. Tho I still wuv Martha Hackett as Seska. I never wanted to follow such an easy evil as much as her:)

The resolution at the end was simply based on the sneaky machinations of a third alien race in some kind of struggle with the kazon. The architects of the kazon's nomadic existence. One that was never mentioned before or since this ep. Just a nice addition to justify moral posturing at the end of the ep. And to never be mentioned again.

I suppose as a standalone it would be perfect. But it was a piece of the whole kazon story. Hard not to see it in continuity fashion as I was desperate for a little of it in the series. And considering from Season 3 on it was just standard anomaly/alien of the week it does raise it above the others. But dlpb you were spot-on with the writers taking the easy way out.

I'll grant it was a 3 star episode. Martha Hackett was in it and the story was riveting to say the least. The concepts (not to mention conflicts) in the beginning acts were powerful tools the writers could have used. But the slow fizz it became in the final act is so disappointing. The kazon remained cardboard cutouts. Seska wasn't given much screen time afterwards. Not even in the two-parter Basics. And the final speech was an official business-as-usual from here on out as Voyager speeds off into the stars with everyone all warm and fuzzy and with painted smiles.

I'm all for happy endings but only when they ring with the conviction of truth or at the least hope, like Jetrel. All this ending said was "we're always right and everybody else is wrong". Then I rewatch the opening and it practically slaps that dead crewman in the face. May as well kicked his torpedo out into space. Had to dock that 4th star entirely for this cop-out.
MartinB
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 12:53pm (UTC -5)
As others have said, the action scene failed on many levels. First, that a Trade ship could fly right to the window without Voyager's sensors detecting it is hard enough to believe. Second, the Trade ships weapons should have decimated that room and most of the building. Same for Voyager's torpedoes that are woefully ineffective, which must have been from the batch given to the Enterprise-A in ST:V... I can't believe that either of them would have the weapons set at anything other than maximum. Thirdly, I'm pretty sure we've seen (probably in DS9) that phaser fire tends to heat up a room. Now clearly the conference room is not a Jefferies Tube, the use of a sustained barrage from starship mounted phasers should have had a similar effect and cooked everyone there.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Jan 11, 2016, 7:40am (UTC -5)
Finally an attempt to deal with the meat of Voyager's dilemma - that it can't keep getting it's ass kicked every week and expect to survive. So it's good to see the political alliances boiling over, on board Voyager itself, in the attempt to set up alliances, in the intra-Kazon rivalry, and in the Kazon-Trabe relationship.

This works on multiple levels, with enough twists and plot developments to keep things rattling forwards. But I have two main problems - first is that, broadly, the Kazon just aren't that good as villains. And secondly, the conclusion, which as others have identified is basically a risible "I was right" justification that may as well have been performed with a marching band in front of the flag. Sorry, but nothing has changed. 3 stars.
mephyve
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 5:34am (UTC -5)
Crew man Who Cares dies, Then blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ...
RandomThoughts
Thu, Dec 29, 2016, 10:36pm (UTC -5)
Hello Everyone

I liked this episode because it fleshed out the Kazon a bit, about their being repressed, that they revolted, then sending the Trabe into exile. Now we know more about why they don't seem to have a plan (at least to me), simply flying around growling at anyone and anything.

The only plan the Kazon ever had was to be out from under the Trabe. We don't know if they had a single Leader at the time, but it seems all the factions put their differences aside to cast them out. Now they have these somewhat powerful ships and after that, well, they didn't know much of what to do with them (aside from gaining personal power and pushing the Trabe around whenever they find them).

I'd imagine the Trabe had a great deal of space they controlled, with so many Kazon factions having their own piece of it, but it seems there are areas no sect really has dominion over. And, it's probably good that there isn't a true central Leader of the Kazon. If they stopped fighting each other and decided to have a focus, Voyager more than likely would have been in more trouble that it already was. Probably a large portion of the Delta quadrant would be as well. I think if the Trabe wait long enough, the Kazon will wipe themselves out through in-fighting and they will be able to move right back in.

And having the former Trabe space be somewhat huge would help to explain why Voyager keeps running into the Kazon (although some of them must do a great deal of traveling, to keep dealing with the Feds). But we know Voyager stops to look at every nook and cranny, so having Culluh/Seska keep popping up every so often isn't that big a deal for me.

I think if they'd told us some of this earlier in the series, I'd have had more interest in the Kazon. Probably, they just didn't think about it until later...

Now, one thing I didn't really care for. Chakotay talks to the Captain about making alliances in the Delta quadrant, maybe with some Kazon (hmm... former Trabe space really Must have been big for them to need a alliance to get across the rest of it, but I digress...). So he says hey, let's find someone, anyone, to form a temporary alliance with as we head home. It's dangerous out here, and we might need some friends (and a spacedock to repair the ship from time-to-time (my thoughts)). Great idea! Then the end made me feel like she was telling everyone Chakotay's idea was not worthwhile. They were already going to keep their principles with any alliance they made, and did that the best they could. Her speech came across to me as condescending towards Chakotay, and as his character just sits there, I felt really uncomfortable for him.

Oh, lastly, lower power on the phaser-type weapons as that Trabe leader was going to be in the next room, and lower yields on the torpedoes, so they don't wipe out half the city (just getting their attention).

Regards Everyone... RT
Chos
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 9:31am (UTC -5)
As I watch Voyager yet one more time, I've come to the realization that it's actually the story of Seska, a tragic hero in the vein of Candide. She means well, but events happen to her, and she has no way of controlling them.

The way I see it, she bravely volunteered to serve her planet by infiltrating the Maquis terrorist group. By some fluke of misfortune, she gets whisked away across to the other side of the galaxy by a rapey, senile life form with a misguided sense of duty. Then she ends up being absorbed into a crew of uptight space cadets who are led by an incompetent ideologue who proceeds to get her stuck there and who repeatedly places her life in danger. When she does try to take control of her destiny, she's thwarted by her former friends who have now been turned into uptight Star Fleet space cadets who quote rules and regulations to her. What's worse, a terrorist who she had come to love despite his evil ways ends up betraying her by pledging total loyalty to the new leader. Rejected by her former friends, spurned by her lover, and alone in the delta quadrant, she logically seeks the protection of the strongest power in the region. Unfortunately, these happen to be overgrown oompa loompas who can't seem to destroy a pesky little ship despite their seemingly insurmountable tactical advantages.

Team Seska!
Vii
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 1:29pm (UTC -5)
@Chos - I agree about Voyager being Seska's story in a way. When I was much younger and first watched VOY, I simply found Seska to be a villain whom I was not supposed to have any sympathy for. I've been rewatching all the Seska episodes over the last few days, however, and concur that hers is a tragic character.

Her time with Voyager is not particularly a happy one, but leaving them and running right into the Kazon's arms smacks of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. In this episode, notice how simultaneously angry and sad she looks and sounds when Culluh shuts her up in front of Janeway and Tuvok, and she responds in a hopelessly furious voice, 'Yes Maje.' Also in Manoeuvres when Culluh shuts her up again and says something along the lines of, 'You must call me Maje!' 'Yes Maje,' she answers, defeatedly. Sure, there are a lot of scenes where she bosses him around, but Maje's brute attitude can't be exactly pleasant for her.

I get the feeling that she thinks that she's well and truly burned her bridges on Voyager, as well as that she's too proud to go back even if she wanted to. Can't exactly see her new life with the Kazon being an improvement at all on her life on Voyager, even if she didn't agree with Starfleet ideals and resented the fact that her best friend and former lover had suddenly had a complete change of heart. It's also laughable to think that she would find the Kazon to be her equals at all; her own people on Cardassia were eloquent and refined, everything that the Kazon were not. Imagine growing up and being used to people like Garak, then having to fawn over the likes of Culluh. Her own actions led her to seek succour with the Kazon, but she wouldn't have had to make those choices if Janeway's Starfleet ideals hadn't led the Voyager/Maquis crews to be stranded in the Delta Quadrant in the first place, so one can certainly see why she resents Janeway so bitterly.
Linda
Thu, Mar 16, 2017, 11:27am (UTC -5)
The episode opens with the Voyager in battle, severely damaged. They are “dead in the water”, with no warp, impulse or any other way to move. Their shields are virtually non-existent, as is their weaponry. And the Kazon choose not to take advantage? It is imperative that Voyager make repairs quickly. So Torres beams an injured crewman to sickbay and takes time to visit him. After he dies, there’s a memorial, presumably because the crew have all read the script and knew they had plenty of time. And Voyager gets quickly repaired despite all the hull breeches, distractions, etc. Seems like a typical episode to me.
Dr Trout
Mon, Mar 20, 2017, 8:14pm (UTC -5)
Reviews are on the spot. But I finally figured out what is ultimately the biggest stupidity about the Culluh plots. If Voyager is passing through just trying to" get home", how is it possible for the same Maje (Cullah) and of course, Seska, to keep showing up? Unlike the other Star Trek's, which are in the same quadrant, Voyager is never in the same place again.

Of course, plot-wise, they want to keep some of the same villains. But that contradicts the basic fact that, very quickly with warp, Voyager cannot be close enough for that to happen.

Now add all the other idiocy, and its why Voyager's first few years are not looked upon favorably in reviews.
William B
Sat, Sep 16, 2017, 11:28pm (UTC -5)
So the consensus here is mostly that the episode is pretty good and what the show should have been doing until the ending, which sounded a false note for many (not all). I think I'm going to break and say that I thought the whole episode was bad, and I'm not really surprised given that this is the writing staff's attempt to do a storyarc episode why they basically stopped trying. The idea of course is exactly what the show could be about, and what makes use of Voyager's specific, precarious situation in the DQ to mine interesting drama about how to survive in hostile territory, whom to work with, etc., along with the way different crew members will react to the same circumstance. It's a good idea. But the execution struck me as bad from top to bottom. Just a few observations:

I feel it's hard for the show to jump from "let's examine this anomaly/robot species/etc." to "we've lost three men and our ship is being nearly destroyed every week" credibly, and so the teaser already started to lose me. Yes of course you could say that's what the show "should be about," but the bottom line is that this isn't what it's about week-to-week, and the show does not generally paint things as so dire, particularly when Voyager should be (as regularly pointed out by Jammer and the others) moving away from the Kazon. To some extent, I feel the same way about the near-mutiny Angry Crew plot point. There's no effort to indicate this is how people feel most of the time, and no effort within this episode to establish why we don't see these sentiments more often if they're so pervasive. Chakotay should be coming to Janeway nearly every episode telling her that the Maquis are restless and angry if things are as bad as they seem to be here. However, while it's bothersome, I can get past it and recognize that this is maybe the writers attempting to navigate around the difficulty in doing a serialized show with some leadership that wanted it to be non-serialized, so that the serialization has to be mostly retroactive from the teaser. OK.

What happens then is we get Janeway's noninterference material from Prime Factors/whatever, and there's some pushback. So then we get this scene with Tuvok, which has some effective material surrounding his bringing up Spock in STVI. But basically Janeway lays out her case as "You don't deal with outlaws. You don't involve yourself in the political machinations of other cultures." These two are actually very different points, but, first off, the use of "outlaw" here, and in Tuvok's speech about the Klingons, is not really any usage I've heard before. The general colloquial definition of outlaw is someone who broke the law; the historical-legal definition of an outlaw is someone who is placed outside the law's jurisdiction. Neither fit to describe an entire civilization which has rules which Janeway or Tuvok find barbaric. But anyway, it's important that these are two different matters. So Tuvok's Klingon story basically only deals with the "outlaw" (i.e. immoral) argument. So then we get this:

JANEWAY: There are some differences here. By allying ourselves to one faction, we'd be giving that faction more power than the others. That would clearly affect the internal politics of all the Kazon.
TUVOK: I understand your concern, but remember, it would only be a temporary arrangement since we are on our way out of this quadrant. In the meantime, it might bring stability to the region and security for us.
JANEWAY: Once we're gone they'll probably go back to their in-fighting.
TUVOK: Perhaps. But even temporary stability can bring an appreciation for peace. This flower is a rare hybrid. As far as I know it exists nowhere else in the galaxy. I created it by grafting a cutting from a South American orchid onto a Vulcan favinit plant. I doubted the graft would take, and indeed the plant was sickly at first. However, after a few weeks both plants adapted to their new condition and in fact became stronger than either had been alone.

There's some sophistry from Tuvok, where he basically says

1) it doesn't matter if we affect the internal matters blah blah because we're just passing through and it won't last long, so no permanent damage will be done;
2) also we will affect Kazon society by introducing peace to them which will lead to them no longer fighting among themselves.

These points contradict each other and he doesn't seem to acknowledge that he's saying both that it doesn't matter what they do because they're zooming through (1) and also that what they do is fine because they will completely reorient the Kazon to become peace-loving hippies (2). But as if Tuvok making the turn wasn't enough, there's also the very weird turn here where Janeway suddenly seems to take as given that ending the political infighting between different Kazon factions is a goal that she should want.

Now look. Janeway's initial concern seems to be that she'll make on Kazon sect stronger than the others by allying with them and she can't do that. So let's just skip Tuvok's "probably it won't matter cause we're going fast" point aside and go to his second. If his argument is that the alliance will somehow introduce the concept of peace to the Kazon and then they'll all start being peaceful with each other (?), then, okay, maybe. It would avoid the "one sect overwhelms another" problem. But this relies on the Kazon's whole social structure be radically altered to be more in line with Federation values, and that is only a condition on which the idea that not making one sect stronger than the other rests. I'm getting a bit specific here so let me pull back. I don't think *introducing the concept of peaceful coexistence* is any kind of prime directive violation for a warp-capable species on the level of sharing tech. Picard is on diplomatic missions all the time. And if the Kazon did end up becoming peaceful as a result of some alliances with Voyager, I think this would not be a PD violation for that reason. But for Janeway to actually start *wanting* the Kazon to stop their in-fighting, and for Tuvok to then console her on that, suggests this radical change where Janeway suddenly *wants* the Kazon to change, which goes against the spirit what her basic noninterference arguments were all along. And even besides the Starfleet principles stuff, why does Janeway care *at all* if the Kazon continue in-fighting? It'd be one thing if it were a kind of idle speculation -- it's fine to hope for peace, I guess -- but this will come up again later.

Mostly though, I'm really unconvinced by Tuvok's (1) and (2), and what's more I don't think this is meant to be a character flaw but is weak writing. (2) really does seem to be a circuitous argument that Janeway won't have altered the internal affairs of the Kazon provided that an alliance with one sect leads to all the sects coming together in peace, so that there are no internal conflicts anymore for Janeway to have created inbalances in.

So finally Janeway agrees to meet with a Kazon, and she's decided to maybe suspend some of her ideals etc. etc. because survival depends on it. Then she decides to ignore all the specific tricks that Culluh and Seska played on them and go for them -- the ones who have done the most active damage to the ship and have used the most treachery. OK. The way she handles Culluh in that meeting is shockingly bad. I get it -- he's a pig, he's a boor, and most of all he's a misogynist. But Janeway knew all that going in; wasn't the point that they didn't have to *like* or approve of these people to ally with them? The way Janeway shoots down Culluh's "officer exchange program" idea is an example: yes, probably Culluh was Up To No Good, but she is unwilling to make the tiniest allowances for his pride to at least offer a reason why she won't agree to it beyond stern words. She then throws Culluh out well before negotiations are ended because of justified disgust at his misogyny and his dismissiveness toward Seska -- but again, she knew that about him already.

After the unconvincing prison escape stuff with Neelix, Janeway then meets with the Trabe before bothering to meet any other Kazon sects. And here we learn that the Trabe oppression of the Kazon was not ancient history but basically a generation ago. And then Janeway just baldly aligns herself with the Kazon's worst enemy. Tuvok points out the lunacy of making an alliance with the enemy of *all* the Kazon, and it's noteworthy that not even the Trabe dispute that they were the villains of the Trabe/Kazon situation, and Janeway says something about having a hard time imagining things getting any worse. Um. Yes. Yes, if you ally with the blood enemy of all the sects, it will be worse. Janeway adds, "I'd rather not be in the position of making an alliance at all, but that may be a luxury we simply don't have. My gut tells me we don't have any friends among the Kazon. As for the Trabe, I believe that people have a capacity to change. It's always been Starfleet's policy to deal with new species on a basis of openness and trust until proven otherwise." That Janeway has judged all the Kazon by Culluh's behaviour and decided to dismiss *all* the Kazon based on her gut and has embraced the Trabe based on the friendliness of this one guy is a problem when it's clear that the Trabe *have* responsibility for what's dangerous about the Kazon. I'm not even clear on how the Kazon and Trabe, who shared the same home planet, constitute different civilizations (and that the Trabe/Kazon dispute isn't an "internal matter" just because they happen to be different species). It's incredibly rash and careless when Janeway had previously had no interest in making any alliance at all.

Then Janeway decides that now that they're allying with the Trabe, they can make the Trabe and the Kazon all be peaceful together. The goals just keep getting more and more absurd and sky-high. And Janeway repeats the "stability" watchword twice, even though the only other uses of the word "stability" were from Tuvok in the scene in his quarters. Janeway's goal has moved from "survive and don't make alliances because starfleet principles" to "primary goal is to bring stability to the quadrant." Then while inviting the Kazon, including Culluh whom she'd spurned, to this big meet & greet, she says to the various Kazon sect heads of the species that they view (correctly as far as I can tell) as oppressors who cruelly persecuted them, "I found the goals of the Trabe to be compatible with our own. I represent an organisation which is devoted to peaceful co-existence among people. The Trabe want nothing more than that." It's unbelievable. Tactically, she is *bound* to alienate and make enemies of every single Kazon sect by allying herself with the Trabe anyway, but she also throws in large dabs of condescension which even Culluh is surely smart enough to pick up on.

And then we get the not-surprising surprise that the Trabe guy wanted to wipe out all the Kazon leaders anyway, because of course he did. The whole idea that Janeway can basically all on her own convince a bunch of Kazon to walk into a trap from a Trabe who was in a Kazon prison a day ago is absurd on lots of levels. When TNG/DS9 do this cloak-and-dagger plotting (or TOS even in Journey to Babel or the aforementioned ST6), they usually were careful to establish that it takes time for civilizations to trust each other enough for assassination plans to take hold, but here the whole thing has to be played on mega-fast-forward where Janeway's word basically leads all the Kazon to be willing to meet and be killed by their arch-enemy.

Anyway, right, so, then at the end, because resolving post-oppression interspecies blood feud didn't work out, Janeway smugly tells the crew that alliances are bad news and Starfleet woo, etc., with the episode ignoring that it was Janeway who for no reason that I could even really see within the parameters of her character made this peacenik thing her goal.

It's not really that none of this could have worked. I could imagine this story played out over a year as being basically effective -- with time where Janeway's negotiations with other Kazons stalled, time for Janeway to really come to trust the Trabe so that their betrayal actually stung, time for her to actually build trust with Kazon again so that they'd agree to this peace meeting, etc. And along with that, Janeway getting an emotional and spiritual investment in the fate of the Kazon/Trabe and that overwhelming her Prime Directive inclination to leave things be (and leave violent warring peoples to settle their own wars) would have worked. It's just that it's all crammed into one incoherent episode, where each scene seemed to me to be more ridiculous than the last. I'm still not going to go *that* low in rating because I appreciate some of the ideas behind it, but I think it's understated how badly bungled this episode is. 1.5 stars.
Skuggles
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 2:31am (UTC -5)
My post is going to seem pretty lame after the previous one. Sheesh! I agree with pretty much everything said in it though.

My two cents. This episode was nonsensical. Mainly for this reason:

The starship Voyager isn't that tough. Pretty much this whole episode was 'Whoever we ally with will be the bestest mostest powerfulest group in the whole quadrant, because our ship is the freaking awesomest'. But it isn't.

The Kazon aren't afraid of Voyager. They attack it constantly, but not properly for some reason. All the Kazon would have to do is bring several ships and they could kick the crap out of Voyager. They nearly did it with 2 ships at the beginning of the episode. They did it with 6 or 7 ships two episodes ago, and would have captured Voyager easily, if they hadn't pulled that 'transport the enemy through the shields' trickery to end the battle. But they will never win because Voyager is the awesomest.

And the Kazon aren't afraid of the Trabe now. They are attacking them and throwing them in prison. But when Voyager joins the Trabe, suddenly they are intimidated enough that they come scurrying to a peace negotiation. Because, you know, Voyager is the awesomest.

So now that Janeway (the worst captain ever) has messed up making an alliance with anyone and everyone, and pissing the Kazon off even more, and now the Trabe too, they will be attacked more often now, and by both sides, right? Right? It will become an ongoing thing? Another Trabe attack! Here come the Kazon, red alert! Right!?!? Or will this episode be basically meaningless? Let me guess....

And there was no applause in the episode I watched, btw.

2 stars.



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