Star Trek: Voyager

"Counterpoint"

***

Air date: 12/16/1998
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"You created false readings!"
"That is the theme for this evening, isn't it?"

— Kashyk and Janeway

Nutshell: The plot's gear-turning is fairly evident, but overall it's a good balance of characterization, deception, and attitude.

Why is it, after several years of expectedly dumb Voyager promos, I still let myself get angry with them? You'd think I'd just ignore them at this point and let go of my anger. Well, most of the time I do.

But just look at the trashy promo for "Counterpoint," for crying out loud—dubbed by the trailers, "Sleeping With the Enemy." Is there some rule in UPN marketing that says advertising must pander to the lowest primordial demographic of the brain dead? Don't they think it's possible for us to be entertained by a story without it being over-sensationalized to the point of lowbrow absurdity? Do the producers of Voyager feel the need to strangle the studio's publicity department? I sure would if I had written "Counterpoint."

Trailer issues aside, "Counterpoint" is a pretty enjoyable hour. It's a tad deceptive in plotting terms, but only so much in that the characters themselves constantly seem to be hiding things. This is a very plot-reliant episode. Yet it's a significantly character-orchestrated endeavor. One might say that "Counterpoint" succeeds because it balances the plot aspects with the character aspects. It's a plot show that uses its people as personalities about as much as it uses them as pieces in its jigsaw puzzle.

Because Voyager meets a lot of people during its journey, we get a lot of "aliens of the week." Some aliens are people with a problem that the Voyager crew helps to solve, like the people in last week's "Thirty Days." Others are "bad guys" who serve as sources of conflict. The subjects of "Counterpoint" fall into the "bad guys" category.

I often dislike Voyager bad guys, because they're too often lacking in identity and personality—serving merely to provide the special-effects crew with the opportunity for pyrotechnics and camera shaking. But what's particularly refreshing about "Counterpoint" is that the bad guys for once are allowed to have a dynamically acerbic—rather than blandly confrontational—personality.

They're called the Devore, and they're xenophobes who don't like visitors (labeling anyone who isn't them a "gaharay"). They have tough rules for anyone passing through their space. Their most stressed rule: no telepaths allowed. Anyone caught smuggling a telepath will have their ship impounded and crew incarcerated. Ships in Devore space are stopped and inspected for contraband on a regular basis. As the episode begins, Voyager is being stopped by a Devore inspection team, quite obviously not for the first time.

The Devore inspectors are smug. They're led by an especially smug inspector named Kashyk (Mark Harelik), who claims to want to be Janeway's friend through these ongoing difficult procedures. Smug can be annoying, but here it works as a surprisingly entertaining source of conflict. Kashyk is one of the few Voyager adversaries in recent memory that I actually enjoyed seeing on the screen. A big reason Kashyk works is because of the piss-and-vinegar dynamic between him and Janeway. Janeway does not like Kashyk. But Kashyk doesn't care. He beams into her ready room and sits in her chair, telling her with a smile, "Make yourself at home."

Mulgrew's internalized but commanding performance reveals a less-than-diplomatic side of Janeway at her surliest and most sardonic; the "let's be friends" stage of these encounters has long since passed. Janeway is tired of her ship being stopped, and her resignation to cooperation does not filter through into her attitude. I liked seeing this side of Janeway.

Kashyk, meanwhile, seems to take pleasure in his work; he beams onto Voyager and instantly plays Mahler's "Symphony Number One" over the ship's comm system as a way of telling Janeway that her ship is temporarily his.

The success of the plot is more dependent on execution than in meaning: Janeway is smuggling about a dozen telepathic refugees who had requested transportation through Devore space. When the Devore inspectors come on board, the telepaths are hidden in "transporter suspension"—transformed into energy until the Devore leave. Is "Counterpoint" an analysis on obeying the laws of other cultures? Don't make me laugh. And don't go looking for moral ambiguity, because you won't find it. As far as the story is concerned, the Devore are bad people who persecute telepaths, so it follows that Janeway can break their rules if she damn well wants to. Hey, I'm game.

The episode's twist is that Kashyk isn't really the bad guy; he later comes to Janeway requesting asylum. He sympathizes with the plight of the Devore's telepathic neighbors, and he wants to help Janeway smuggle them out—which could be helpful given his knowledge of Devore space and their inspection procedures.

Question of the day: Can we trust Kashyk? Ultimately, no. The twist upon the twist is that Kashyk really is the bad guy; he has come to Voyager under the pretense of being a friend so Janeway will find (and he can subsequently destroy) the wormhole that could provide other telepaths with a means for escaping Devore space. I'm not even sure whether or not his roundabout intentions completely make sense under the circumstances (the story seems to be stretching a bit to give Kashyk a reason for going undercover to infiltrate Janeway's ship).

That's okay, because the plot is crafted carefully enough that we put such questions on hold. Kashyk's true intentions aren't revealed to us until the very end, when Janeway herself realizes the extent of his treachery. I won't explain all the plot advances that are required to get to the end; just suffice it to say Kashyk and Janeway begin working together closely to locate the wormhole, and the chemistry of contempt is replaced with a chemistry of mutual respect. (Admittedly, the chemistry of contempt was more entertaining.)

In looking back at the whole picture, we can see that "Counterpoint" is really a series of intricate, obscured mind games between Janeway and Kashyk, where we're not sure who trusts whom, or who's getting the better of whom, until the gamesters themselves have realized the nature of their opponent's deceit.

In essence, Kashyk's sole intent is to gain the trust of the captain, so that she will lower her guard as a result of that trust, at which point he can make his move. Contrary to the trailers, which would like to suggest some love affair erupts between Janeway and Kashyk in the course of the episode, "Counterpoint" is not at all about love or attraction. It's about trust and exploited weakness. Kashyk and Janeway are two people caught in a conundrum of need for the other's help. The episode's Big Clinch [TM] comes at a crucial moment, when a perceived crisis needs to be solved using careful tactics—but also at a point where Kashyk most needs Janeway to trust him, and where Janeway most needs to be objective and cautious in regards to Kashyk's true intentions.

So at the end, when Kashyk's collaboration with Janeway turns out to be a sham to attempt taking advantage of her trust, Janeway ingeniously turns the tables and takes advantage of Kashyk's own plotting. Without going into needless detail, I simply want to say that the multiple levels of deception are nicely executed by the plot.

Deceit is the name of the game. The game is the whole point of "Counterpoint." There simply isn't much else to it. "Counterpoint" works because it ultimately makes for an enjoyable Janeway feature. It deftly reveals her human weaknesses and emotional vulnerabilities while at the same time showing her ability to remain a focused, resourceful, sensible, and intelligent captain. If the plot is an ongoing manipulation exercise where one can stand back and notice the gears turning, so be it.

I say, If you're going to have a conflict between the Voyager crew and an alien society, this is a good example of how to do it. Forget the phaser-fire and "shields down to 44 percent" standbys. Make it a battle of wits, and use the characters and their attitudes and bounce them off one another in interesting, acerbically devious ways.

Next week: A rerun, as we come face to face with last season's "Vis A Vis." Pun. Ha. I kill me.

Previous episode: Thirty Days
Next episode: Latent Image

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61 comments on this review

David Forrest
Thu, Feb 7, 2008, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
I have been re-watching past Voyager's recently, and defintely view this episode as one of my favorite of the series. The characterization, acting, and storyline were all executed wonderfully, and I would have defintely given it a much higher rating than three stars. I enjoyed Voyager, moreso than DS9 (I consider both excellent) but I defintely think this episode is one of Star Trek's best.
Locke
Tue, Mar 4, 2008, 2:53pm (UTC -5)
I agree with David, this episode is one of Voyager's best, a very good battle of wits with a great dynamic between Kashyk and Janeway. Excellent how music is used also
Pauly
Sun, May 18, 2008, 5:54am (UTC -5)
This one too, definatley in my Top 5
Dirk Hartmann
Mon, May 19, 2008, 1:45pm (UTC -5)
I for one found the story too predictable ...
grumpy_otter
Wed, Jul 30, 2008, 8:52pm (UTC -5)
In addition to liking Kashyk, I enjoyed Torat. Unlike most of the ridiculous forehead prosthetics that distinguish alien from human, his facial differences were cool. And pretty hilarious. I could actually come up with some convincing evolutionary explanations for the way his face was structured.

Torat was a nice break from the usual zitfaces, ridgenoses, baldies, or speckleheads we usually see.
Aaron
Thu, Jul 31, 2008, 1:59pm (UTC -5)
I really like this episode. It's one of the few times where Voyager's "every episode is self-contained" ideal worked for the premise here. Points for bravery as well: the episode opens up to the audience in the middle of the story...no log to dumb us down. And Mulgrew, as always, is pretty damn amazing. Half the time I'm impressed by her ability to create a character out of essentially nothing (well, certainly not plot or story arcs as informants.) And the other half I feel for her, trapped in this drek, week after week.
Kelly
Sun, Sep 14, 2008, 11:15am (UTC -5)
Along with Living Witness, Counterpoint is my favorite VOY episode. Compared to much of the rest of the show, it's complex, intricate, and thought-provoking. Plus, it's got all sorts of really provocative, non-gratuitous sexual tension. Trailer aside, this was an episode for grown-ups. Also, this ep spawned some of the greatest Janeway fanfic ever written. Predictable? Sort of. . .I mean, I don't think too many viewers were taken in by Kashyk, and it's not as if we didn't think KJ would triumph in the end. But it's predictable in that good way -- when you more or less know where the story is going, and the fun comes in seeing how it gets there.
Bill T
Mon, Dec 8, 2008, 9:00pm (UTC -5)
Agreeing with most of the above, for once I won't criticize people's criticisms. I'll just add something no one seemed to notice.

Kashyk lists the telepathic members of the Voyager crew. The only vulcans listed are Tuvok and Vorik. It's been implied several times throughout the series that there are more vulcans on the ship, such as when Tuvok can't be helped in his medical condition (Endgame) by mind-melding with any other vulcans on the ship because "none of THEM are compatible." THEM. Vulcan perfection wouldn't use that word to describe only Vorik. I'm sure it was also implied in the Vorik pon-farr episode, and possibly elsewhere.

I've been meaning to watch the whole series again, painstaking analyze every scene of every episode, and make a running tally of crewmembers with names and faces, when they were mentioned or shown, how many people have died and possibly who died (if known), and see just how much of an utter mess the final count would be. :D I'm betting if I included screen captures of all the random people shown on Voyager, it would probably be over a thousand people. :)
Baz
Sat, Jan 3, 2009, 4:12pm (UTC -5)
Hmmm... it's an interesting idea but it's far too predictable and ho-hum.

OK, Kate Mulgrew loved it, and it is a different kind of vehicle for her talents (I think she's great), but we've seen all this before in episodes like Clues and Alliances and as such it doesn't hold a lot fo weight for me. OK, but nothing spectacular.
EP
Sat, Feb 28, 2009, 3:12am (UTC -5)
I really liked the characterization of the jackbooted Devore security thugs. They destroyed private property, menaced people with their weapons, and generally made traveling a miserable experience.
They predate the Transportation Security Administration by a few years :-).
Damien
Wed, Mar 25, 2009, 7:48am (UTC -5)
This is probably my favourite Voyager episode. Janeway and Kashyk are simply superb characterizations - intelligence and chemistry in equal measure. It was a joy to re-watch after so many years and easily worth four stars, IMO.
Markus
Fri, Aug 7, 2009, 1:51am (UTC -5)
I adore this one and always when I think of Voyager this episode comes to my mind. I consider it to be the perfect essence of the series.

But didn't you recognize the big big flaw at the end: The telepaths escape through the wormhole, but we see tuvok on the bridge during the last inspection. And as Vorik and Tuvok won't have escaped with the other telepaths they must be on bord. But where???
Brian
Tue, Nov 17, 2009, 1:13pm (UTC -5)
I have to agree with Markus, and I'm surprised this didn't bother anyone else: Tuvok and pals obviously didn't go with the refugees to the wormhole, and Tuvok on the bridge was stupid. The captain could have easily decieved the baddies, at the end, by scrambling the telepathic crewmembers molecules somewhere different than the fruit in the cargo bay, where the pretty bad boy thought he knew they were. I was waiting for the crew telepaths to arrive, on the bridge or something, after the baddies left, (I realize that the reason they were in the cargo bay was because of the corrupted antimatter, or whatever, that was messing up the baddies sensors- this could've easily been written out, to keep the story's cohesion, as it was not an essential plot element, by any means) but apparently this issue just wasn't resolved, soiling an otherwise good episode. Odd that a creative writer couldn't come up with a solution, mine was certainly simple. I guess the writers, or some other jerks, were appathetic; lame.
Michael
Wed, Jun 30, 2010, 12:44pm (UTC -5)
I concur with the others: A great episode. Engaging, fast-paced, unexpected, no drama... I wish more had been like this one.
Niall
Thu, Jul 15, 2010, 2:34am (UTC -5)
I agree - another one of Voyager's top 10 episodes. Love it to pieces. The use of music is excellent, and the whole episode seems to hark back to the smouldering thrillers of the 1940s. Tuvok on the bridge at the end is a bad oversight though.
Elliott
Sat, Aug 28, 2010, 12:09am (UTC -5)
Hmmmm

Missed it again. I love this episode because if nothing else, Voyager is a masterpiece of character development. This episode's plotting and twisting is entirely at the mercy of one central feature--Janeway. Her fiancée is no longer hers. She still has the prospect of a daunting and lonely decades long shepherding to Earth--whom can she fall in love with? The "counterpoint" in the episode is the balancing act between Janeway's command duties and her ability to be a good captain and her quite genuine attraction to Kashyk. Now the feminists might bock at this but it seems clear that because he can get the better of her in a powerplay, there is a sexual tension between them. The fact that she can't really control him like she controls everybody else is the spark of the passion (it's a lot like Vash and Picard). The use of classical music (in general on this show) is remarkable and very carefully done as well.
Cloudane
Sun, Dec 5, 2010, 9:29am (UTC -5)
Great episode. I like twists upon twists upon twists when they're done well, and without actively searching for holes (which I'm sure probably exist) it seems very well executed.

Season 5 is really showing how the series can still be very entertaining whilst keeping the bottled episode format they aspire to from around season 3/4 onwards (probably to contrast from DS9). Unlike much of season 4 which aside from Seven seemed to shove the negatives of the format down our throats, this season so far proves how it can actually be a perfectly good format and not the waste that it'd seem after watching too much DS9. Voyager's strength - now those are two words rarely heard in one sentence through various parts of the series' run :)
Paul
Mon, Jan 24, 2011, 11:03am (UTC -5)
"I was waiting for the crew telepaths to arrive, on the bridge or something, after the baddies left"

No. They cut the episode at exactly the right moment for my money. Focussing on Janeway's face, with the suppressed tears in her eyes, regretting what might have been had Kashyk turned out to be on the level after all.

I can't recall Tuvok on the bridge - and that was clearly a poor oversight - and it was a dangling thread. But had they just not showed Tuvok on the bridge for the last inspection, we could have assumed that an adult audience would work out that Tuvok and the other crew telepaths must have hidden elsewhere, and the emotional impact of ending on Janeway's disappointment with the man trumps the banality of explaining every last plot point to the nth degree for me.
Cirrus1500
Sun, Jan 30, 2011, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
Since Kashyk knew where the telepaths were hidden, why didn't he capture them all the first time?
Iceblink
Sun, Jul 31, 2011, 8:58am (UTC -5)
A really strong episode, engagingly done with an appropriately gritty feel to it. It's always good when you actually feel Voyager's predicament of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant so keenly. The only qualms I have are the fact that Kashyk's defection seemed so unwarranted and unbelievable from the get-go. He didn't have a strong reason to defect and as a result Janeway and the crew seemed incredibly gullible to trust him. I felt the notion of a little semi-fling between Janeway and Kashyk was a little forced and unnecessary, but the actors did a nice job with it anyway. I have a lot of problems with Janeway as a character, which is just about all down to the inconsistent writing the character received, but Kate Mulgrew really is very good in the role.
Elliott
Fri, Nov 18, 2011, 11:38pm (UTC -5)
Worse trailer still is for "Lineage" where they imply B'Elanna is going to give birth to a mutant which will destroy the ship...oy
enahma
Mon, Dec 26, 2011, 9:32am (UTC -5)
I, too, liked this story, and I'd have given it 3,5 or 4 stars.
My only question is, what did Janeway do to Tuvok and the other Voyager telepaths during the last inspection?
Destructor
Sun, Jan 29, 2012, 9:31pm (UTC -5)
While I understand why this didn't get four stars, I still rank it as one of my favourite Voyager episodes.
Timbuktu
Wed, Feb 22, 2012, 11:02am (UTC -5)
Would have preferred it to be a bit more ambiguous whether kashyk really did betray Janeway, or if it was a more elaborate ruse to let the refugees escape and for him to not get caught. Would have been interesting if he stayed as a recurring character too.
Captain Jim
Mon, Mar 12, 2012, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
Predictable and boring. Two stars.

I'm astounded at how much so many people seem to like it.
Justin
Wed, May 2, 2012, 10:08am (UTC -5)
This is an excellent episode for all the reasons Jammer points out. Which is why I'd have given it an extra half star. I love a good battle of wits and this one is a classic. Janeway's best moment is when she changes the music selection just to get an extra dig in. That is so Janeway...
Justin
Wed, May 2, 2012, 10:30am (UTC -5)
On a nitpicking note, they should have included Stadi and Kes on the list of telepaths who have died or left the ship.
Latex Zebra
Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 6:21pm (UTC -5)
Sometimes fun is more important than 'all' of the dots connecting.
Always had a soft spot for this episode.

"You created false readings!"

"That is the theme for this evening, isn't it?"

Great line.
Nic
Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 2:05pm (UTC -5)
For what it's worth, I will add my name to the list of people who love this episode. I am probably a little biased because I love the Tchaikovsky and Mahler pieces that were used as a "counterpoint" (haha) in the episode. But the writing, acting and directing were all fantastic. And there were exceptionally few "filler" scenes.

And that final shot is eternally tragic. Janeway is without a doubt the loneliest character. She can't forge deep relationships with her own crew, but she can't afford to trust anyone else either, because her ship and crew must come first.
skadoo
Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 9:33pm (UTC -5)
I liked this episode and when she kissed Kashyk back I thought it was hot! And it made the ending that much more "tragic" for Janeway.
Josh
Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 9:49pm (UTC -5)
Good episode if fairly slight. The use of Mahler no 1 is something of a strange choice alongside Tchaikovsky no 4, but i definitely enjoyed it. Though I do have to wonder why only one movement from each was included.
Nick
Fri, Nov 8, 2013, 4:13pm (UTC -5)
This episode plodded along at a leisurely pace to a rather predictable end.

By far, the most enjoyable part was the 'search' sequences overlaid with classical music. Sure, it was a cheap gimmick, but the change of soundtrack imbued a powerful resonance that increased the emotional presence of the ship. Not only does this speak to the power of classical music to elicit an emotional response, but glaringly highlights the often melodramatic nature of the canned sountrack. --- contrast to Babylon 5, where every episode was scored individually using both synthetic instruments and a live orchestra. No small feat! But the emotional payoff was worth it.

Kevin
Sun, Jan 26, 2014, 4:32am (UTC -5)
Just a thought about Tuvok's presence on the bridge, which did bother me...the episode concludes with the Inspector declaring that this inspection never happened. It would be hard to "forget" this inspection if they arrested Voyager's crew, so I took it that they just let Tuvok and Voyager go to put the whole thing behind them.

At least that's how I made it make sense.
Amanda
Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 1:12am (UTC -5)
I remember breathing a sign of relief that this episode wasn't bad. As voyager typically disappointed me week after week.

I can't decide if I liked the final shot of Janeway or not. A reminder of her loneliness, yes but we already know. I would like an alternative ending where she gets up out of Chakotay s chair and returns to her own with a smug look on her face.
I know the chosen one was to reflect her expression to the audience that she felt this wasn't t an ideal ending and wished she had been wrong and we had defected. Another tough day for our lady captain.

Corey
Sat, Feb 15, 2014, 8:39pm (UTC -5)
Counterpoint and Latent Image may be VOYAGER'S best one-two punch.
DLPB
Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 5:40pm (UTC -5)
Decent episode with 3 let downs.

1. Janeway appears to be genuinely startled by the revelation she has been tricked (when she is supposed to know).

2. This guy knew where the telepaths were, and wormhole or no wormhole, he wouldn't be playing stupid games.

3. Janeway and Federation just have to win, don't they?

Overall, this is one of Voyager's best.
Ric
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 12:40am (UTC -5)
I don't find this one to be as good an episode as most people do. I don't find it to be especially smart, deep or good in character development. Sure, there is a nice chemistry between the characters on focus here. Sure, the twist was sort of cool. But I found it to be not that compelling.

Still, it was certainly quite good overall. Voyager has been growing as a show and this season is very consistent so far. Even an episode that I find not as good as most people, I find mysel rating as very good. Glad with that and hope the show continued in that direction.

I sort of agree with the stars rating.
Corey
Thu, Jun 5, 2014, 5:33pm (UTC -5)
Counterpoint and Latent Image are Voyager at its best IMHO.
Nesendrea
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
I'm surprised no one has mentioned the symbolism here of protecting a caste of innocent people just trying to live their lives from a ruthless, authoritarian regime seeking to exterminate them for no good reason. This is an allegory for hiding Jews from the Nazis.

My biggest problem with this episode was the romantic tension between Janeway and Kashyk. It just doesn't work. I know Janeway is lonely and Starfleet is forgiving, but I don't buy for a second that she could go from resenting this man for subverting her authority to passionately kissing him like an old lover so quickly. In time, perhaps, but this episode didn't have enough of that and it makes the whole thing feel forced.

Other than that, an intriguing and interesting story. Not for the first time, Kate Mulgrew's performance carries the day. Sometimes I feel like this lady can say more with subtle facial expressions than with Janeway's entire not-unsophisticated vocabulary. A brilliant actress. On this show, only Jeri Ryan and Robert Picardo can compare. Bravo.
Andy's Friend
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 3:07am (UTC -5)
^ Perhaps you're reading too much into it.

Every now and then someone will have to persecute someone else in order to create the context of an episode. This has nothing to do with nazis and Jews: it has to do with creating dramatic tension.

Many groupings have persecuted other groupings throughout history. You might just as well argue that this is a story about Calvinists persecuting Lutherans, or Protestants in general persecuting Catholics, or vice-versa... or something else entirely, say, Turks persecuting Armenians. There are plenty of cases of large-scale, systematic persecution in human history.

In this case, the writers just needed some "good guys" and some "bad guys", that's all. I am of course not defending the nazis in any way whatsoever, but please, let's not read nazis and Jews into everything, shall we?



Not everything has to do with nazis and Jews.
Andy's Friend
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 3:30am (UTC -5)
^^ ...and about your "romantic tension" between Janeway and Kashyk: you're absolutely right, of course. But then again: they only have 40 mins to tell a story; this isn't exactly "Anna Karenina". As Jammer points out, Kashyk is definitely one of the better alien-villains-of-the-week in Star Trek. So why not be a little more forgiving? Personally, I have a much greater problem with the "romantic tension" between Janeway and Gath in "Prime Factors" ― because that guy was downright creepy...
Nesendrea
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
Come on, now. A race of over-the-top xenophobes that performs random warrantless searches and goes out of its way at every turn to show the rigidity of its authoritarian command hierarchy, all while hunting a powerless minority of innocent people who have committed no crime other than being born a certain way, doesn't scream "Nazi" to you? If they hadn't been this way, I find it hard to believe that Janeway would so readily have thrown the prime directive out the airlock. I can practically hear her voice saying "I'd like to get the Devore's side of this" before agreeing to smuggle people she knows nothing about. For all she knew, these telepaths were criminals fleeing justice, or political insurgents flying around planting bombs. But their enemies were bullying strangers with invasive police state tactics and trying to root out space Jews; that's all she (and we) needed.

Of course there have been similar regimes and persecutions elsewhere in history, but it is an established American literary device to make the bad guys - especially when they are cardboard bad guys not designed to have moral ambiguity or elicit any sympathy from the audience whatsoever - noticeably reminiscent of Nazis. The Empire from Star Wars is probably the most well-known example in science fiction. Voyager itself has done this before, again symbolically, in "Remember", and of course literally in "The Killing Game". It's an effective technique. Decades of social conditioning have already trained most people to (rightly) regard the Nazis as evil, so bringing them to mind in a group of bad guys sends a clear message to the audience in a short time: Don't worry about understanding or sympathizing with these characters; just hate them and root for the good guys to triumph over them. In terms of storytelling, it's one step deeper than making your antagonist an animated skeleton who laughs maniacally and sits on a throne of bones. And it works.

Finally, it's interesting that you should bring up "Prime Factors". I actually never thought Gath was as creepy as most others seemed to, probably because I found his accent amusing. I also thought it was plausible that Janeway was developing feelings for him during that episode. Ultimately, Gath never did anything but show her kindness; even when he did deceive her about the transporter technology (he was never going to give it to her or anyone else), it was only in an effort to get her to prolong her stay so she and her crew would decide for themselves that they didn't want to leave. That doesn't excuse lying, of course, but it's a far cry from a man who practically spent half of "Counterpoint" slapping Janeway with his generative organs. Besides, if I remember correctly, "Prime Factors" included a "kissus interruptus" scene (Gath and Janeway were about to kiss, but somebody walked in or something happened to distract them and ruin the moment). That's another American literary device, used by writers to signal that nothing happened. These characters like each other, they might be interested in taking it to another level, but it hasn't happened yet because their kiss got aborted. I can believe that; it doesn't move so fast (or give the viewer whiplash) as the Janeway/Kashyk thing did.
William B
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
It's been a very long time since I've seen this episode, but it is one of my favourite Voyagers so I might as well chime in: I think the speed of Janeway/Kashyk is attributable, among other things, to the fact that both were playing the other. Janeway *did* hope that Kashyk might turn out to be a good man after all, and did hope that some of their connection was real; but fundamentally she also sped up their relationship because she needed Kashyk to believe she trusted him in order to survive. The reason this is effective and doesn't set off alarms with Kashyk is partly because they actually *did* have some degree of connection, and also because Kashyk is a narcissist who assumes that Janeway easily will fall for his manipulations.
Robert
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 3:46pm (UTC -5)
As someone who has been harsh to VOY and very harsh to Trek hour long romances, I just want to say that I generally respect a script that respects itself.

"Captain's log, supplemental. After WEEKS of playing hide and seek with the Devore inspectors our goal is near. A transport vessel that will take our passengers to a wormhole leading out of hostile territory. "

Emphasis mine on "weeks".

In their first meeting that we see...

KASHYK: Captain Janeway, report to your Ready room.
KASHYK: Good morning, Captain. I took the liberty of playing this music throughout your ship. I thought it might help your crew relax. Sometimes these inspections can be stressful.
JANEWAY: How thoughtful.
KASHYK: I've replicated some coffee. Black, as usual?

We start off weeks into this series of encounters and he knows how she takes her coffee. This bit of the script respecting itself makes me overlook anything "too fast" about this relationship.

It's light years ahead of nonsense like Meridian, the Outcast or the Disease. When episodes like Rejoined or Counterpoint start off with 2 characters who are supposed to know each other for a while (either Dax's ex-wife or in this case someone Janeway has been working with for weeks) the staple Trek "hour long romance" is way more forgivable.
Elliott
Mon, Jun 9, 2014, 4:02pm (UTC -5)
If the Nazis are to be allegorised as the Devore, then I would say Telepaths more correctly represent Gypsies than Jews whose "magic" was seen as degenerative.

I don't think there's anything wrong with seeing the episode as possibly allegorising an aspect of the Holocaust, but, as Andy's Friend pointed out, there's no reason it has to be THAT event over any other than happens to resonate more profoundly with a particular viewer. When allegories are good, this is the case, there's a built-in ambiguity which elevates the allegory from social commentary to archetype.
Yanks
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 9:50am (UTC -5)
My #1 Voyager episode!

Love how Janeway "changes the music" at the end.

Classic Janeway.
Andy's Friend
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 2:44pm (UTC -5)
@Robert: well said.

@Nasendrea: I will defend allegory in television any day. Allegory is part of what made TOS great television. The frequent use of allegory is part of why TNG later became the best Star Trek around. But more than that, we need stories that are larger than life. We need stories that are eternal. We need ― as Elliott would put it ― myths. What did Stanisław Lem write in “Solaris”? “We don’t need other worlds. We need mirrors”.

So, just as Elliott, I don’t mind reading the Devore allegorically. Of course not. My point is simply, that a Russian will most likely see the Devore’s “totalitarian methods” and think of Stalinist totalitarian persecution, rather than Nazis. A Spaniard might think of Franco’s political persecutions. An Armenian might think of the stories his or her grandparents told of the Turkish persecutions, and how they barely escaped alive hidden somewhere, and that’s how they met each other and fell in love. In Latin America, in places such as say, Chile or Argentina, many people might think of the persecutions by the secret polices there ― for a Chilean, for example, the Devore agents could just as easily be Pinochet’s DINA as they could be Nazi Gestapo.

My point is, quite simply, that this could be the story of any large-scale, systematic persecution, anywhere. What we see is persecution. Not a specific persecution, but the act of persecuting. What we see here is universal.

People whose family or country didn’t suffer Hitler’s regime are lucky if they’re in a position where all they can think of is Nazis and Jews. For in many, many other countries, people will watch this and think of their own persecutions in recent history. We need mirrors, indeed.
Robert
Wed, Jun 11, 2014, 9:36am (UTC -5)
@Andy's Friend - Well said. If a script is done well and the show acted well in a way that shows the human condition, it will transcend whatever allegory the writer was thinking of and just show basic human issues. The Nazi's often come to mind because it's the most blatant first world western example of such, but it's hardly the only similar thing that's ever happened.

One of the reasons I think DS9 has aged the best is because I feel like a lot of the episodes have BECOME allegories for recent things (see Homefront where Mr. Sisko refuses the blood test and compare to things like the Homeland Security Act/Airport Screenings). Regardless of what a writer had in mind, when you hold a mirror up to the human condition and you make it a really damned good mirror it can ring true as an allegory for things long past and things to come. If we see ourselves or something else we recognize in the reflection, it's a good allegory, even if it's not what the writer had in mind.

This was a good episode, and a rare (in my opinion for the later seasons) fine hour for Janeway. I'll give it 4 stars.
NCC-1701-Z
Thu, Jun 26, 2014, 5:59pm (UTC -5)
The story itself was kind of blah. The execution made it shine. I liked the interactions between Janeway and Kashyk. Torat was also a pretty cool alien as well. And the uses of classical music - nice stylistic flair that we don't see often on Trek. This is definitely one of my favorite Voyager eps.

One plot hole though: Where did Tuvok and the other telepathic members of Voyager's crew go during the final inspection? They couldn't have been in the shuttles heading for the wormhole.
Yanks
Fri, Jun 27, 2014, 11:32am (UTC -5)
@ NCC-1701-Z

The only thing I can come up with is they didn't look for them because Janeway already told them they were dead.

"Kashyk: I've examined your crew manifest from our last inspection. Commander Tuvok, Ensign Vorik -- Vulcans. Ensigns Suder and Jurot -- Betazoids, all telepaths, and yet for some reason you neglected to mention them. Janeway: For a simple reason -- they're dead. "
Peremensoe
Sat, Oct 4, 2014, 6:22pm (UTC -5)
Voyager has few essential episodes, but this is one. So, four stars.
Xylar
Fri, May 1, 2015, 8:00pm (UTC -5)
So, where are Tuvok, Vorik and that betazoid guy hidden? They weren't on the shuttles, because both shuttles jumped through the worhhole and out of Voyager's reach. They weren't in transporter suspension, because that turned out to be a decoy. They couldn't have been on Voyager, because they would have been found.
I guess the only other explanation is that they hid on a shuttle that used a shield modulation that the Devore couldn't detect. I know it doesn't matter, because no one really cares where Tuvok and the other Voyager telepaths are, but still...
dlpb
Sun, Jun 21, 2015, 4:34pm (UTC -5)
It's been driving me mad thinking about where I'd seen that inspector before... The Big Bang Theory!

Dr. Eric Gablehauser!
Andy1
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 10:26pm (UTC -5)
Not only was Janeway able to to help the space refugees escape, but she was also allowed to leave after her actions were discovered, along with her crew and her ship, due to Kashyk's "excuse" of not wanting what happened to be on his service record.

So, in the end, may be Kashyk kept his part of the deal... the only way he could.
Skeptical
Sat, Jan 23, 2016, 1:08pm (UTC -5)
This one's tough. I mean, the plot is relatively simple. I could see the ending coming a mile away, both Kashyk's betrayal and Janeway's one-upmanship. OK, so I didn't see how they would launch the shuttles without anyone detecting them, but the broad details of the plot seemed as if it was on rails to me. Maybe I just got lucky. Maybe I subconsciously remembered it from 20 years ago, I don't know. But the plot wasn't overly impressive.

The flip side is that it was very well directed and well acted. Mulgrew's barely disguised contempt about the whole proceedings matched with the guest's smugness, and their growing warmth and snapping back to coldness was effective as well. The opening shot was fun, and for the most part everything moved at a rapid, enjoyable pace. It may have been a relatively simplistic adventure episode, but it was a strong, well paced simplistic adventure episode. And the full plots within plots worked well for what it was. I can live with that.

The one thing that really bugged me, though, is the hard-headed aliens of the week. Because, morality wise, this episode was all over the map. We are clearly supposed to relate these aliens to being jack-booted fascists, meant to hate them and their actions, and meant to sympathize and cheer with the Voyager crew from the get-go. And yet:

- Border control and security is a real issue. Everything is subject to search when entering a sovereign nation's land here on Earth, and no one bats an eye about it. Cargo ships are routinely inspected. So why is the thought of someone inspecting Voyager so horrendous?

- Flight deviations are a real issue. Lots of countries allow planes to pass through their airspace, but they need to follow the flight plan. Try diverting your plane toward Washington DC some time and see how fast fighter jets are on your tail. Again, the episode presented this as oppressive, when it actually makes sense.

- Janeway is smuggling fugitives! Whatever happened to the Prime Directive? Regardless of the morality behind it, we generally agree that nations have the right to control their borders. It may be a bad idea, it may prove the nations are idiots, but if they don't want telepaths in their land, who is Janeway to decide otherwise?

- Just what the heck are all these telepaths doing going through their space? I mean, if Germany suddenly declared that they don't want any French people in their country, well, maybe that means they're a bunch of jerks. But then, once that happens, wouldn't any French people who want to go to Poland just go around the country?

- Worst of all is Janeway's hypocrisy. She hates these Devore folk for their border security. She can't believe that these people would dare step foot on HER ship and impede HER voyage. Then, she locates the shuttle containing a professor who could help them. Except the prof says he's busy to talk to her and just wants to leave. So what does she do? She KIDNAPS him!!! Talk about your violations of civil liberties! The episode makes no mention of it, brings no attention to it. If Janeway thinks she has the right to beam someone out of his own ship, obstructing his own path, just because she wants to talk to him, she's just as much a fascist as the hard-headed alien of the week. Y'know, between this and the solitary confinement bit of last episode, I'm thinking the Federation is starting to look like a nightmare more than a utopia.

So yeah, part of the reason I wouldn't rate this three stars is because the aliens annoyed me. So how would I have done it?

Decades before, the Devore came across a group of refugees by another race, a race devastated by the Borg. This race was well developed, and was actually holding its own against the Borg at first. They were also closely allied with a second race of telepaths. Because they were telepaths, the first race found it hard to hold on to secrets. Unfortunately, one telepath happened to be friends with a major defense contractor or something of the first race, and inadvertently learned quite a bit of the first race's defense technology. And he ended up assimilated by the Borg. Which means the Borg learned of the first race's technology. And then adapted to it. And then attacked. And then won. Thoroughly.

The Devore know of the Borg. They know they have to stand up against them. Their technology is superior in many ways, and so as long as the Borg don't assimilate it, they can survive. Any highly placed person in their military comes equipped with cyanide capsules that break at the first site of nanoprobes in their bodies. Every ship has multiple layers of self destruct options. They are desperately concerned about their own security. They know just a tiny, single slip up would mean the end of their civilization. They want to be secure at all costs. Yet when they heard the story from this other race, they know that, even if they can trust themselves with security, they can never trust telepaths. Hence the reason for the ban. Hence the reason for the authoritarian approach. It's their only hope of survival.

Maybe their ban against telepaths is still wrong in that situation (and their extreme punishments are probably still wrong), but isn't it a bit more debatable? Aren't they a bit more sympathetic? Maybe Janeway rescued these refugees without knowing they were telepaths, and then couldn't bring herself to turn them over. We could still have the exact same story, just with a bit more moral ambiguity.

And maybe change the rest of the Devore to be less of jerks. Maybe it would have elevated a good episode to a great one.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 3:00pm (UTC -5)
I am also a bit conflicted over this one. On the one hand the dance between Janeway and Kashyk is interesting and well plotted, and yet on the other hand leads to a fairly predictable conclusion where our gallant captain outwits the space Nazi. Of course. But in order to do that it suggests that their brief romantic entanglement was part of her playing him as he tried to play her - so the emotional weight of the conclusion is lessened. And Kashyk's portrayal was a bit too heightened for me - just a minute fraction away from scenery chewing. With all that it falls into the middle category rather than anything outstanding in the end.

The use of a classical score this time is noteworthy and perfectly integrated though. 2.5 stars.
Mark
Fri, Mar 4, 2016, 8:20am (UTC -5)
When and how did Kashyk learn about the telepaths hiding in the transporter buffer? Why didn't he have the transporter activated and impound Voyager from the beginning? There would be no episode, but that would be better than a gaping plot hole like this. Especially one that the whole episode rides on.
Yanks
Fri, Mar 4, 2016, 8:28am (UTC -5)
Mark,

Read the comments above and watch the episode.
AmagnonX
Wed, Apr 20, 2016, 9:48am (UTC -5)
This was one of the better episodes - however the romance between Janeway and Kashyk made me cringe and I skipped over it .. it was just laid it on too thick.

The other thing that annoyed me was that this actually looked like Janeway was about to finally get it in the neck for her stupidity and niavete - she is always saved by deus ex machina - at least she managed to use her wits to get out of this one.

If she had actually been properly prepared and in control of previous events in which she did apparently stupid things - then her character would have been a superstar hit .. this episode only highlights what could have been - but definitely isnt.

I'm not buying it - Janeway isnt smart enough to have pulled this off, never before has she had a hidden ace - she never needed it - because the writers never follow through with realistic consequences for her character.
Yanks
Thu, Apr 21, 2016, 9:03am (UTC -5)
AmagnonX,

You should buy it and stop pretending to be a hater. She did it right in front of your eyes and you still refuse to accept it.
JD
Sat, Apr 30, 2016, 3:10pm (UTC -5)
Easily one of the most enjoyable, well-executed Voyager episodes for me. Mulgrew shows her chops but Mark Harelik sticks out to me as one of the best guest actors to do a one-off character on Trek. It could've gotten either very hammy or bland and underdone so easily. Like exclaiming his right hand's name repeatedly, etc. But he struck the right notes with Mulgrew, didn't let it get away from him. Really enjoyed it. "Prax!"

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