Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Initiations"

***

Air date: 9/4/1995
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Unfortunately, our territorial claims change every day. Maps do not serve us well." — Kazon sect leader Razik

Nutshell: Nothing riveting, but some welcome development of the Kazon.

While on a secluded spiritual outing in a shuttlecraft, Chakotay is attacked by a young Kazon named Kar (Aron Eisenberg, who plays Nog on DS9), who must prove his worthiness as a warrior for a coming-of-age test by killing a Federation foe.

In the battle, Chakotay severely damages Kar's scout ship, then beams the young Kazon into the shuttlecraft just before his ship explodes. Unfortunately for Kar, this means he has failed his mission in every possible way. It was a kill-or-be-killed mission, and by being captured, he has disgraced himself in the eyes of all members of his Kazon sect. When the Kazon sect's mother ship comes looking for Kar, they find Chakotay's shuttlecraft and tractor it, taking both Chakotay and Kar prisoner.

Kar and Chakotay are both sentenced to die by the leader of the sect, a rather nasty guy named Razik (Patrick Kilpatrick). With the prospect he will die in dismal disgrace, Kar turns on Razik and helps Chakotay escape. From here, as they say, the chase is on.

The obvious intention here is to develop the Kazon, the Delta Quadrant's most recognizable yet, up to now, virtually unused villains. They make unique Trek villains in that they travel in sects, with territorial claims that change every day. It would seem that very few of these sects get along—there is discussion of battles and conflicts that have gone on between them for apparently centuries.

If this is a new idea, the way the Kazon act definitely is not. You may as well make the mental note, "Kazon = Klingon" because the similarities are shamefully obvious. Naturally, since they're villains, the Voyager writing team paints them somewhat more negatively. Positive qualities like honor aren't stressed here, while the warrior intensity is fairly in-your-face. These are guys who kill 13-year-olds who fail them.

It's up to Chakotay to see this doesn't happen, and since he can't outrun the Kazon's ship in his damaged shuttlecraft, he and Kar beam down to a nearby moon as the shuttle burns up in atmospheric entry. This gives the two a chance to talk to one another and exchange some cross-cultural polemic on personal roles and duty. Kar continues threatening to kill Chakotay, because after all, "We're enemies!" Chakotay feeds Kar his Federation beliefs, while doing his best to be open-minded and tolerant. But after all the superior posturing this smug little Kazon displays, I must admit I wanted to see the passive Starfleet commander smack him around a little bit.

Meanwhile, the Voyager goes looking for Chakotay and tracks down the wreckage of his shuttle. Janeway leads an away team to the moon's surface to go searching. This leaves Paris is in command of the ship (he actually gets to do something!). As the resident expert on Kazon diplomacy, Neelix confronts the Kazon commander on the viewscreen to negotiate a compromise (Neelix actually gets to do something important!). Janeway's team meets the Kazon's away team on the moon's surface, where the two groups form a rather puzzling alliance to cooperate in the search of their lost shipmates. Later, there's an even more puzzling double-cross.

Fortunately, this episode has a decent, non-contrived ending in which Kar is able to return to his Kazon sect by killing Razik in a rather eye-opening power play. Given what the episode teaches us about the Kazon, this makes sense, and highlights the bizarre warrior customs that will hopefully make the Kazon more interesting foes in future episodes.

This makes for a good Chakotay show, and does a reasonable job of expanding the Kazon background. It's a satisfactory but not outstanding episode. The plot handling is still a bit on the clumsy side.

Previous episode: The 37's
Next episode: Projections

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11 comments on this review

Mal - Fri, Oct 23, 2009 - 8:36pm (USA Central)
""Kazon = Klingon" because the similarities are shamefully obvious. Naturally, since they're villains, the Voyager writing team paints them somewhat more negatively. Positive qualities like honor aren't stressed here, while the warrior intensity is fairly in-your-face."

I agree, but at this point in the show (very early season 2), keeping the kazon strictly evil was actually a good thing. Remember, the Klingon were strictly evil for decades - it wasn't until they stopped looking human, and started looking ugly (and signed a peace treaty with the Federation) that we started thinking of them as honorable, and even, great.

Babylon 5 showed how effective such a switch can be. In season 1, the Narn were evil, petty, conniving, expansionist. Yet when the Centauri finally conquered their homeworld, we were suddenly (and much to our own amazement), very sympathetic to their plight.

I'm not saying that VOY did anywhere near as good a job with its villains as B5 (it did not). I'm just saying that keeping it simple (and simply evil) at this point in VOY was not exactly a mistake, assuming VOY's writers were capable of planning for future seasons...
CJ - Tue, Dec 15, 2009 - 1:42pm (USA Central)
Interesting parallel with this plot and Aron Eisenberg guesting. I like the inter-series situation of Chakotay talking about earning his uniform, when right around the same time this was aired, Nog was on his way to SF Academy. I found Eisenberg's delivery a bit too Nog-like in some respects, though that may be because I had watched DS9 seasons 4-7 over the last several weeks.
Ken - Thu, Feb 3, 2011 - 4:30am (USA Central)
Again, another episode with problems.

Why does anyone, let alone the first officer, get to go out alone in space with just a shuttle for? Where is Voyager? Do Janeway like to leave members of her crew stranded in the middle of nowhere while she goes on ahead towards Earth? Was the shuttle supposed to reach warp 9.9 and catch up?

The whole premise of Chakotay being left alone in the Delta Quadrant is just crazy.

And of course, we are expected to believe that a Federation shuttle - of all spacecraft - can take multiple hits from a Kazon fighter. Yes, the Kazon are not supposed to be that advanced... but we are expected to believe that a single blast of phaser fire disables/destroys the Kazon ship yet the shuttle can withstand multiple hits?

I'm only 4:11 into the episode and I already hate the writers.

The one thing Voyager almost never gets correct is a good, solid premise for the story, let alone the show. The shows tries to get you to "Accept" these "situations" as a springboard for the story, but all of the situations are not at all logical, have holes, or the characters end up doing things we shouldn't accept.

No matter how good the episode gets, it will never excuse the fact that the premise is broken from the start.
Destructor - Tue, Mar 8, 2011 - 6:38pm (USA Central)
The problem with the episode is that it was boring and rote. Can't believe this one got 3 stars- halfway through I was just dying of boredom.
Carbetarian - Sun, Apr 10, 2011 - 2:44pm (USA Central)
@Ken I completely agree.

Also, I need to bring up how ridiculous it is to have Chakotay, former Maquis Captain, talking up how great starfleet is. I know he went to Academy and has proper starfleet experience. But, really? Starfleet couldn't have been all that great if he decided to leave them for the Maquis.

Frankly, that speech was a huge missed opportunity to explore Chakotay's Maquis past. It just feels totally ridiculous to have him punching a guy in the face and calling it "the maquis way" a mere two episodes ago, and then have him completely forget that and become mr. uptight starfleet guy here. Maybe he could have found some way to better relate to this kid, being somewhat of a former terrorist himself. But, no. He's willing to let this kid shoot him because *maybe* it will teach him a lesson and, hey, teaching leassons is the Starfleet thing to do!

What a mess.

Does anyone else think the Kazon look like angry oompa loompas? Or a lost member of the cast of Jersey Shore? An electrocuted troll doll? Lamest aliens ever.

I'll give this episode one star for Aron Eisenberg because I love Nog on DS9, and one more star for giving us some kind of possible explanation for Neelix's continued existence. So, two stars from me.

And, for the record, I think that's being generous.
Matthias - Sun, Aug 14, 2011 - 7:10am (USA Central)
Stupid off-brand Klingons..

I don't know I kind of liked Chakotay here, and the way I interpreted it is he left the fleet because he couldn't live with their policy of leaving the border colonies to fend for themselves rather than because he wanted to be a rowdy borderline space terrorist. His LOOK AT ME BEING ALL INDIAN stuff is usually annoying but here, taken to this extreme I found it hard not to respect him.
Sintek - Wed, May 22, 2013 - 9:20am (USA Central)
Kazon are just queeny Klingons with krusty quaffs. Sad that they aren't the worst thing introduced by Voyager.
inline79 - Wed, Aug 28, 2013 - 5:19pm (USA Central)
I enjoyed this episode, and find Chakotay respectable. But it badly needed a real B-story. There might have been more that Neelix could have shed on the Kazon through interaction.

My biggest quibble though is it seems like we've taken a step back in debris analysis technology... Picard's crew would have figured out where the shuttle was in a few seconds. It felt like Voyager spent half the episode analyzing chunks of metal!

Well, maybe they used all that crap they beamed aboard to rebuild the shuttle!
K'Elvis - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 8:23am (USA Central)
Just how alone does Chakotay need to be for his ritual? Alone in his quarters should do. He's light-years away from Voyager! On Earth, the best he could do would be to be miles away from the nearest person. There could have been a more plausible way to get him isolated from Voyager.

Kazon society seems to splinter easily, with so many factions. Thus, leaving your faction shouldn't be that big a deal, you find some more dissatisfied Kazon and start a new faction. With so many factions, each faction ought to welcome defectors. You can use the defectors as cannon fodder, because they would be eager to prove themselves. If they don't give a second chance, another faction would give them a second chance.

How do the Kazon manage to build and maintain these ships? They seem to have no economy, just fighting. The Kazon faction that wins would be one that focuses on being smart rather than brutal.
Paul - Mon, Feb 24, 2014 - 8:52am (USA Central)
@K'Elvis: Later, we learn that the Kazon overthrew their oppressors (the Trabe) and that the Kazon ships were really Trabe ships.
Ric - Mon, Mar 10, 2014 - 10:06pm (USA Central)
The following quotation from Jammer's review hit the spot:

"If this is a new idea, the way the Kazon act definitely is not. You may as well make the mental note, "Kazon = Klingon" because the similarities are shamefully obvious. Naturally, since they're villains, the Voyager writing team paints them somewhat more negatively. Positive qualities like honor aren't stressed here, while the warrior intensity is fairly in-your-face. These are guys who kill 13-year-olds who fail them".

This was precisely what I'have been thinking and got fully clear for me in this episode as well. How disapointing. It is such a silly decision to write the Kazon like this. It is plain obvious that it would be recognized rapidly and could possibly annoy Trek fans a lot. I am one of these annoyed ones. And other comments above show I am no exception.

True, the ending was not 100% predictable as it was looking to be. Nice. I also enjoy how Chakotay is portrayed. I liked to see true Federation principles in action. But in the end, since this is na episode, as Jammer said, aiming on developing the Kazon, I can't help but say that these poor-man's nomad Klingon are super cartoonish and completely lazy writing.

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