Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager



Air date: 11/20/1995
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You can't possibly believe that you and I could still..."
"Don't flatter yourself. It was never that good."

— Chakotay and Seska

Nutshell: Some significant plot holes toward the end, but Seska's return makes for an engaging action episode.

The Kazon Nistrim sect, with the guidance of the traitorous Seska (Martha Hackett) who has allied herself with them, attacks the Voyager and sends a small boarding party to invade the starship. The boarding party is able to thwart security and steal a transporter unit before making a narrow escape with the Federation technology. Janeway and Chakotay decide they must pursue the Kazon and retrieve the unit. The consequences of Federation technology falling into Kazon hands could severely affect the quadrant's balance of power.

At long last, here's a good episode. It's not perfect, but it's by far the best thing Voyager has done since "Projections." "Maneuvers" has some very engaging action/adventure qualities, and the venomous confrontations between Chakotay and Seska are priceless. Both Robert Beltran and Martha Hackett turn in strong performances.

The story launches itself terrifically with a punchy, action-packed first act in which the Kazon perform their raid and split. Right before the Kazon make their escape with the transporter unit, Seska hails the Voyager and taunts Chakotay in front of the entire bridge crew. Here, Hackett unveils a manipulative, devious character who could easily become Trek's next menacing villain. Her underhanded defection in "State of Flux" was just the beginning—and so is her theft of the transporter unit here. Seska, after a flawless raid of the Voyager, leaves behind a trail of residual engine radiation which the Voyager can follow. It seems like a rather unlikely error considering her adept maneuvering. Actually Seska errs on purpose—she has a trap in store for the Voyager.

Chakotay predicts a trap, however, and begins preparing for the worst. Perhaps, Tuvok suggests, they could use their personal knowledge of Seska to manipulate her the same way she duped the Voyager crew. But Chakotay's plan ultimately involves settling a personal score, so he ignores the chain of command and takes it upon himself to chase Seska down. When no one is looking, he takes a shuttlecraft and slips away to carry out the mission himself.

This does not sit well with Janeway, who is put in a rather difficult position when faced with the fact that her first officer has ignored her authority. In a rather sensible scene, Torres defends Chakotay by explaining to the captain that Chakotay only did this because he thought it was the right thing to do. He sees Seska as his responsibility, and by chasing her himself he doesn't involve the rest of the ship. While this may be true, Janeway points out that it isn't his decision to make. This scene, as well as the closing in which Janeway puts Chakotay on report for his improper actions, is particularly well written.

With some clever maneuvering of his own, Chakotay sneaks up on the Nistrim's ship, beams aboard, and destroys the transporter unit with his hand phaser. However, this leaves him with nowhere to run and he is immediately captured. Soon, the leader of the Nistrim, a Kazon named Culluh (Anthony DeLongis) who has formed a rather intimate alliance (if you catch my drift) with Seska, begins trying to beat Voyager's command codes out of Chakotay. This way, with the help of some other sects, he can capture the Voyager and take all its technology for a future power play in the Kazon civilization.

Naturally, hero Chakotay refuses to fold under the pain. Although Culluh proves typically bone-headed and easy to provoke at times, this torture scene proves amusing at times due to Chakotay's leering answers to Culluh's questions, which simultaneously insult and praise Seska's adeptness at betrayal. Much credit goes to Beltran's commendable performance.

The final act features the Voyager crew in their attempt to rescue Chakotay using some maneuvering of their own. The action is paced well by director David Livingston, but there are some lapses in credibility here that undermine this seemingly clever rescue attempt. The whole idea centers around Torres trying to beam Chakotay out of the Kazon ship despite a containment field Seska has surrounding him. Torres is unsuccessful, so Janeway comes up with the bright idea of beaming the Kazon sect leaders off their ship and holding them until they agree to release Chakotay. Well, fine, except that there's a big battle with phasers going on here, and—unless Culluh is a complete idiot—everyone has their shields up. Everybody knows that transporters are useless when shields are up.

More puzzling (and troubling) is why in the world Tuvok's terms for releasing the Kazon sect leaders doesn't include Culluh turning Seska over to Voyager to answer for treason. I find it extremely difficult to believe that Janeway would just forget about Seska's defection and allow her to continue assisting the Kazon with Federation information. I suppose this allows Seska to show up again in future episodes, which is just fine with me. But the story doesn't even mention her again until the next scene, which is presumably hours later. (Maybe Janeway simply had a memory lapse while caught up in trying to retrieve her first officer. Doh.) The creators really should have found a better way around this.

It's a shame Kenneth Biller's script couldn't come up with a more plausible ending, because aside from this mild botching, the episode's tactical moments are well done. I guess it's not that crucial the maneuvering isn't all perfectly executed, because the action sequences here are fresh—the most involving action in the season so far.

But what makes this episode so entertaining is the adversarial interaction between Chakotay and Seska. Seska escapes with the Kazon but leaves a recorded message behind for Chakotay. Just for spite, she took some of his DNA and impregnated herself with it. "You're going to be a father," she says smugly. This is one daring, unexpected punch in the stomach. I like it. Chakotay ends up humiliated once again by Seska—right in front of the entire bridge crew. Their next encounter should be rather interesting.

Previous episode: Cold Fire
Next episode: Resistance

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21 comments on this review

Jason K - Fri, Feb 1, 2008 - 9:24am (USA Central)
Haha. I always loved the interrogation scene in this episode. I watched it last night on the Sci-Fi channel and laughed out loud again. Beltran seems to be doing his best Robert DeNiro impersonation. That's how it comes off to me anyway. Great show overall.
Mike - Fri, Sep 19, 2008 - 5:04pm (USA Central)
This episode begins several themes that will continue throughout Voyager. First, a single, technologically inferior ship toys with Voyager at will; Voyager barely does any damage, and in fact barely attacks. This will happen again and again and I find it one of the most annoying things about the show. At least later seasons have more technologically advanced 'enemies of the week' (the Borg, for example). The fact that Voyager struggles with the Kazon (and a few other technologically weaker races) is simply pathetic.

There are also other annoyances. Seska has left Voyager....but the crew seemingly hasn't changed any of their codes or methods, allowing her to come back and manipulate the ship at will. Kazon break into the ship...but aren't sealed behind a containment field, nor are the transporters immediately locked to prevent their escape. Surely there are security contingency plans for when the ship is invaded? As with my first complaint, this occurs again and again whenever 'enemies of the weak' board the ship...you'd think Tuvok would learn something. Perhaps worst: Chakotay is captured, and they want the command codes....why aren't the command codes immediately changed when he leaves? How hard would this be?

While I enjoy these action episodes in theory, I just think the writers were often extremely sloppy in trying to create the dramatic situations.
Abhiroop - Wed, May 27, 2009 - 9:53am (USA Central)
I agree with Mike, the action is ridiculous. The number of flaws is insane!

1. How does Seska match the "shield harmonics"? Even with the access codes. Its like setting the shield harmonics to 7.5 and Seska knowing what that number was. OK obviously no point getting technical, but its incredible how weak the tactics of Voyager are. Yes they had access codes but it seems pretty easy to attack Voyager.

2. When it is apparent that a ship is going to be rammed and boarded shouldn't they send some secuirty personnel there? And why does Tuvok have to wait for the Captains authorisation? He should be LEGGING it there!

3. 3 Security personnel? Thats it? Shouldn't there be a team?

4. Why wasn't there any shielding in that area? All they needed was to shield of the cargo bay.

Security generally is TERRIBLE on that damn ship. Actually thats not true, its terrible when it needs to be. The plot of this episode needed this to happen so it happened. Its completely unbelievable and hopelessly executed.
Nick - Sun, May 31, 2009 - 11:28pm (USA Central)
Is this the first episode that transporters worked while shields were up? They did it all the time in later episodes- when Voyager's shields were up, when the other guy's shields were up, whenever it was the least bit convenient... At a certain point you just wonder why they don't beam raiding parties through shields. Sigh... such potential undermined by sloppy storytelling.
Jay - Sun, Feb 6, 2011 - 9:21am (USA Central)
Strange that the Kazon would attack Voyager to steal transporter technology...Voyager would go on to litter the Delta Quadrant with abandoned shuttlecraft...they couyld have salvaged from those.
Destructor - Sat, Mar 19, 2011 - 8:57pm (USA Central)
I like this one- in fact on second watch I am finding the 'Kazon arc' much less annoying and more cohesive than it used to me, esp. knowing that it concludes at the end of the season.

I gave up trying to figure out about transporters/shields. Do the Kazon even have shields? Can Voyager match it's transporter frequency to it's own shield frequency? Who knows? [Tech]
Carbetarian - Mon, Apr 18, 2011 - 10:06am (USA Central)
Well, this was a good episode. But, the plot holes were large and numerous. What I mostly want to know though, is why Seska decided to impregnate herself like that. Wha?!? That pretty much came out of nowhere. What was the point?

Anyway, this was still an enjoyable episode. Three stars.
Fat Sal - Fri, May 27, 2011 - 6:18pm (USA Central)
I felt the same way as Carbetarian about the pregnancy. Kind of funny in a soap opera parody sort of way, but the scene's tone is too serious, making it more bizarre above anything else.
Nebula Nox - Fri, Jul 27, 2012 - 9:10am (USA Central)
If Seska wanted a child, then it makes sense that she would assume that a male from the Alpha Quadrant would be far more likely to have compatible DNA than someone from the Delta Quadrant.
Leif - Fri, May 31, 2013 - 2:25pm (USA Central)
For me this episode didn't have any major plot holes..Here's my rationale: Voyager was only momentarily dropping its shields to get a lock on Chakotay and when they couldn't they would immediately put it back up..hence why they were taking more of a pounding during the battle than they normally would if they had kept the shields up. Also the Kazon ships shields were down in the part of the ship with Chakotay and that's why B'elanna was able to get a lock on him. I'm surprised this didnt cross anyone else's mind as a possibilty, including you Jammer. What do you (and everyone else) think of my explanation?

The Seska thing is harder to explain away...maybe they thought the Kazon would never agree to that or Seska would be more trouble than she's worth or try to blow herself up or kill Chakotay before they could get their hands on them..not sure..but the shields and transporters quibble I think is easy to explain away if you accept my take. Great action episode with great twists more like mind games or digging ito characters' psychology to get the upper ahnd..reminds me of Counterpoint from S5 in that sense
inline79 - Wed, Oct 2, 2013 - 2:19am (USA Central)
This episode made me angry.
Once as a respecter and perhaps worshipper of Trek Tech - were Sternbach and Okuda sent home for this script?
But most of the anger is directed at the Badly-written Bad Captain. So the cunning plan at the end was to transwarp-beam him to avoid getting pummled by 6 wussy ships - cool. But Good Captains have backup plans... In this case the backup plan was to drop out of Warp and get pummled by 6 wussy ships, then let your worst enemy to date go free - not cool.
Fortunately in this quadrant transporters work through shields! Next time beam some corbomite warheads (and some show writers) onto those ships and put us out of this misery!
Caine - Sun, Oct 13, 2013 - 9:56am (USA Central)
I really enjoyed this episode - great pacing, exciting dialogue and character interactions!

I was especially thrilled to see Seska again - the Delta Quadrant's schmexiest femme fatale. Rawr! I like both the way she's written and the way she's played by Martha Hackett! She's a complicated character - very intelligent and ruthless, but at the same time clearly coocoo for cocoa puffs. Her scenes with the captured Chakotay clearly demonstrates this - though she denies her affection for him and tries to keep the upper hand, it's clear that she's obsessed with him. In some way she reminds me a little of Catwoman as played by Michelle Pfeiffer in Tim Burton's "Batman Returns". And I like it!
The "baby surprise" at the end of the episode was great! SO much in tune with the character that's been established throughout this episode. I'm hoping we'll see Seska again often!

This episode was so thrilling, with all the out-maneuvering and manipulating eachother, that I can (almost) forgive it the huge plot holes.

You guys have already discussed some of the major holes, but here's another one:
Chakotay sneaks up on the enemy ship, planning to destroy the transporter thingie, then give himself up, expecting to die. Very heroic and incredibly dumb! By giving himself up he'll be providing the enemy with an huge opportunity to gain:
1) Comnmand codes to Voyager by torturing Chakotay (yeah, that won't happen, because heroes don't break under torture ... right)
2) Federation technology from the shuttle he hands to them, including ttransporter tech ("I wiped the shuttle's computer" - yeah, that's great man, they sure can't use all that hardware at all when there's no info in the computer data banks ... idiot!)

But hey, to me the good stuff in this episode outweighs the mindless blunders ... so here's to Chakotay's baby, let's hope he/she will have the brains and looks of his/her mother!
DLPB - Thu, May 15, 2014 - 11:46am (USA Central)
Another decent episode- but just that and nothing more. The writing is as sloppy as ever.

I am supposed to believe that Seksa is a genius. She can change her appearance back to Cardassian (without any kind of advanced tech to do it), and she can break through Voyager's defences to steal its equipment, and she is apparently a top engineer, capable of interfacing two completely different computer systems and components.

Basically, in Startrek land, every crewman is an engineer, a super scientist, and a computer designer.

The writers simply make anything they want happen.
dlpb - Thu, May 15, 2014 - 11:48am (USA Central)
Also, since Seska had somehow managed to disable Voyager and make it a sitting duck, she could have easily taken over it at this point. Or severely damaged it. Later, she does take over the ship, and Tom Paris in a lone shuttle manages to save the day.

Vylora - Wed, Aug 20, 2014 - 3:26am (USA Central)
Quite an enjoyable episode despite the contrivances. Once again, though, it is also seemingly another example of the writers not thinking things through completely when developing a story. Jammers quibbles are of note. I do like one commenters example of shields going down long enough to attempt transport. I believe that's what they meant in "Caretaker" when they spoke of combat-transport.

Chakotay risking himself was all fine and good, but leaving the opportunity open for the Kazon to have the shuttle, core wipe or no, was utterly foolish. I wasn't too bothered with Seska being left behind. After everything was said and done, it was a judgement call and they probably figured it would be too dangerous of a hassle considering that set of circumstances.

As far as Seska not taking over Voyager at the outset; I can see why they didn't. Why risk the crew of one Kazon ship in a takeover attempt when you can instead steal an important piece of tech, use it as a bargaining chip in acquiring an alliance, and THEN use said alliance to overpower Voyager for the tech? Makes sense to me.

The pacing was great, the direction was tight, and there were some really good scenes. The interrogation especially was well played out.

3 stars.
Skeptical - Sun, Nov 30, 2014 - 5:27pm (USA Central)
I'm sorry. I know a lot of people like this episode, and I wanted to like it too. Because it was pretty interesting and does provide for the continuity and sense of loneliness that speaks for the show's premise. Chakotay had quite a few great scenes. But as interesting as the show could have been, I simply couldn't get past all of the plotholes. They've all been said, well, most of them, but here they are yet again:

1) Why did Janeway just sit around and watch what happened during the initial attack? Can't fire back?
2) Tuvok heads to the cargo bay, WARNS the INVADERS that he's going to shoot, shoots one, then watches the rest leave.
3) The Kazon were able to steal the transporter thingy that easily?
4) Chakotay blows out the shuttle's computer, but its transporter is still there. The Kazon could have stolen that unit. Chakotay shoulda put the shuttle on autodestruct.
5) Chakotay FULLY expects to die on this mission, yet still surrenders. Why not go out in a blaze of glory on the Kazon ship? Or kill Seska? Or if he doesn't want to do that, just kill himself? If he wants to protect Voyager, that seems like the best option.
6) Transporting through shields!
7) Nobody demands Seska's return?

One or two of these wouldn't be a problem. Three or four and I could deal with it. But this many (and I'm sure I missed some)? It just takes you out of the story. It seems clear to me that the writer had several things he wanted to do and didn't care how we get there. So just keep pushing on and hoping no one notices.

But we do notice. And we know that nothing matters because everyone is being tugged along by the plot. You can't even trust the characterization, because we know that the writers will be fully willing to turn our crew into idiots (a la Janeway and Tuvok in the beginning). I mean, Chakotay had some good lines, and good scenes, but it's hard to focus on them with all the problems associated with the plot. Does Chakotay really feel personally insulted by Seska's betrayal? Does he really think his actions are the only logical ones? Who knows? I just can't trust anything this episode says about the character.

There's a ton of back and forth on this site about the quality of Voyager. Most of it tends to be regarding the overuse of the reset button. But it's situations like this that bug me more. I mean, I don't like nitpicking; Wrath of Khan is still a great movie even though Spock's code was incredibly obvious. But Voyager's scripts have a tendency sometimes to feel like rough drafts as opposed to polished final episodes. If Voyager wanted to be episodic, so be it; it's a style choice. But throwing a bunch of scenes together and only half-heartedly sewing them together with a cohesive plot?
Adam - Fri, Jan 30, 2015 - 4:39am (USA Central)
Why on earth didn't they beam Seska aboard?
Brian - Fri, Mar 13, 2015 - 11:56pm (USA Central)
Agree strongly with every one saying that the hand of the writers is far too visible during the space battle at the beginning of the episode, in fact while I am a very strong Star Trek fan and love TNG, that was the flaw/decision by writers that made me more irritated than any other, both because of the wasted potential for epic naval-style star ship combat, but also due to the insult to our intelligence and to Star Trek tech continuity when the ship uses retarded tactics, barely fires back, and is thus defeated, when we know it is a very advanced in ship to ship combat. "Rascals" in TNG was guilty of this more than any other in that series, having the Enterprise be totally defeated, boarded, then everyone on the ship (all 1,000) subdued and removed from the ship by a seemingly small number of Ferengi. Ronald Moore howled in protest at that, thankfully, but was promptly ignored. I understand Michael Piled was partially to blame, and that makes for a good illustration: a writer who is known for loving to write high concept sci fi stories, but here his single mindedness to advancing that part of the plot led to one of the most sloppy opening acts and ship combat in TNG.

Voyager, like most things, is much worse in this area, but I thought I would be fair. I have heard evidence that made me believe (surprise surprise) that good old Rick "I don't care about and suck at creating dramatic art, give me money!!!" Berman to blame for the lack of concern for that issue being a consistent in multiple Trek series. This is the same man who declared that music in TV sucks, so have as little as possible and make it very repetitive from show to show because otherwise he is too stupid to be able to watch the show without the music distracting him. And here, short ship combat scenes save money so you know he was game. I acknowledge budget being a issue, but that explanation garners much more sympathy in TNG than Voyager, when it would have been much easier and cheaper to show decent ship combat. Have Voyager destroy 2/4 ships and make the boarding ships big shuttles holding 20 Kazon "commandos" (if the Kazon are capable of deserving the label) each. No need to show more than 7 of them In a given camera shot if manager wisely.

In this episode, for example: Ok, the writers want the Kazon to succeed in their raid. Then have three Kazon Raiders attack instead of one, and have multiple troop transports as well. Have Voyager commence "Tactical Emergency Procedure Beta" or something when first fired on, under which (appropriately with being under attacking by aliens known to hostile; for all intents and purposes Voyager should have considered themselves to be in a state of war with the Kazon, given their behavior) Tuvok immediately begins shooting back, targeting weapons only while Janeway hails, then doing his best to disable/destroy the ships when the hail goes unanswered. That point is some advice I would have liked to see Picard follow as well; since it is common to target only weapons to disable them without causing many casualties on hostile vessels, why give them the advantage (and screw over any in your own crew who is injured by delay in fighting back) by slowly making multiple attempts to hail a vessel that is firing on you? Immediately retaliate to take out the weapons; that way if your hail is not answered you have not wasted valuable time sitting there like a beached whale while your ship is pummeled. (for ships such inferior firepower as to make their threat to the ship nearly negligible an exception can be made). The same princie applies to hostile troops boarding the ship. Shoot them on site! Obviously they are not going to just drop their weapons at the first sign of light resistance, despite what Mr. "Grossly incompetent for the course of the episode" Tuvok may think. And here with the boarding being done not by transporters but manually in a small vessel almost EVERY security officer backed up by all non essential males on the ship should have been hauling ass to get down to the entry point in time to stop them. It is one thing to tell your enemy to surrender before firing when he is boarding your ship if you have, say, 15 [phaser] riflemen aiming at five enemy soldiers, but otherwise, fire! You have STUN settings on your weapons, we see stun used all the time! That should satisfy any exaggerated Starfleet moral concerns valuing of life of even beings like the Kazon who the Delta Quadrant would have been much better off if they had stayed confined to the gutter the Trabe had them in, since that is clearly where they belong. Shout something like "Our weapons will only stun you if you surrender within 10 seconds, after which you will be vaporized by any hit!" while your men engaged the Kazon and after the ten seconds do set phasers to kill; otherwise if word gets around too many aliens may be too eager to try raiding your ship if it is known that you only shoot to stun, and this would serve as a good deterrent to future attacks and save lives in the long run, and further motivate the attacking Kazon to surrender.

That all took me about 15 minutes to type, so the writers have no excuse for not being able to think up at least that or something better. And with the CGI of Voyager's time being much better and cheaper than in TNG's day they should be able to affordable pull off the battle I descrived win the extra ships. Oh, and in life and death situations Voyager should be way more aggressive with its torpedos, not focusing so much on phasers.
NCC-1701-Z - Sat, Mar 14, 2015 - 7:49pm (USA Central)
@Brian: Awesome post. Starfleet should hire you. Then again, if they did, each episode would be about ten minutes long ;)

Also, I'd like to add on to your post: Starfleet ships in this era have force field generators in all the corridors (see TNG's "Brothers" for an example) - use them to your advantage when enemies are boarding! Cordon them off and flood the sealed-off areas with anesthetic gas, or if you're not feeling particularly merciful, use a more lethal gas/beam them into space using site-to-site transport/blow them out the airlock, Galactica-style!

"Oh, and in life and death situations Voyager should be way more aggressive with its torpedos, not focusing so much on phasers."

I partly agree with that, but take into account that Voyager is stranded and can't easily restock their torpedoes at the next starbase. Given that (ignoring the fact that the Voyager writers didn't really pay attention to the whole stranded-in-the-Delta-Quadrant thing, which is more the writer's fault) I don't blame Janeway for being conservative on torpedo usage. I think early on an episode mentioned they only had thirty-something torpedoes left (although, of course, VOY's writers ignored that if it meant a cool FX shot during a space battle) If it were Picard's Enterprise in the Alpha Quadrant, then I'd say keep firing torpedoes till you're blue in the face. In general, I think the idea is to use phasers to weaken/take down enemy shields, then use torpedoes for maximum damage on the actual ship.
Peremensoe - Mon, Mar 16, 2015 - 11:00am (USA Central)
Voyager was plenty aggressive with its torpedoes: youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DPIGxMENwq1k&sa=U&ei=f_0GVdXCCceqgwSK8oKACA& amp;ved=0CA4QtwIwAQ&usg=AFQjCNGK7UYD-5rDTMLJC_QQCXm6hJ0RYQ
Peremensoe - Mon, Mar 16, 2015 - 11:04am (USA Central)
No, wait. Try this: youtube.com/watch?v=PIGxMENwq1k

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