Star Trek: Voyager

“Prime Factors”

3.5 stars.

Air date: 3/20/1995
Teleplay by Michael Perricone and Greg Elliot
Story by David R. George III & Eric A. Stillwell
Directed by Les Landau

"You can use logic to justify almost anything. That's its power ... and its flaw." — Janeway to Tuvok

Review Text

When a race of aliens called the Sikarians—renowned for their unequivocal hospitality—invites the Voyager crew to visit their homeworld, Ensign Kim stumbles upon their unique technology based on "folding space" that may be able to send the Voyager more than halfway home. The question becomes whether or not the Sikarians are disposed to share this technology.

Janeway has a number of personal dealings with Gath (Ronald Guttman), one of the magistrates of the Sikarian government, who informs her that their rules forbid them to share their technology, lest it fall into the wrong hands. Gath is a man interested only in the simple pleasures of life, and despite his hospitality, he is not willing to make an exception to help Voyager in its journey home—deep down he is only selfishly interested in convincing Janeway and the Voyager crew to join his society and indulge in the Sikarian ways.

Meanwhile, another Sikarian named Jaret (Andrew Hill Newman) approaches Kim with an offer: knowing that Gath will not likely give Voyager the technology, Jaret agrees to trade the technology for a collection of Alpha Quadrant literature, since literature is very highly valued in Sikarian society.

This leaves Janeway with a dilemma: should she violate her Starfleet ethics and engage in under-the-table dealings? After all, no one would likely be the worse off, and the crew could gain some 40,000 light-years on their trip. But, as she says to Tuvok, when Voyager started its trip, she made it clear to the crew that they would behave like a Starfleet crew with Starfleet values. Should integrity be compromised?

As subsequent negotiations with Gath fall apart, Janeway decides she can't cope with the moral implications of cutting a deal with Jaret. It's wrong, she argues, and the best thing to do now that Gath has denied them what they need, is to move on.

It's about here that "Prime Factors" turns compelling. With their minds now unavoidably set on getting home ("We could be there tomorrow!" Seska exclaims), the chain of command slowly starts to break down, and members of the engineering staff begin planning an exchange for the technology so they can integrate it into the ship's systems. What's most interesting here is how things progress from one unauthorized step to the next. The situation doesn't go wrong all at once. It starts out innocently enough—at first Torres, Seska, and Carey (Josh Clark) merely toy with hypothetical situations, trying to determine if the technology unit can be used at all.

But as Janeway's attempts with Gath fail, Seska starts pressuring Torres to think about other options. "Janeway is so infatuated with the magistrate that she can't think straight," she says. "Besides, she made it clear that our first priority is to get home." And Carey doesn't want his kids back home to grow up without a father. If getting home means bending a few rules, then so be it. Torres, with no real ties back home of her own, finds herself between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Biggs-Dawson, effectively using pained facial expressions of reluctance, does a fine job of portraying that Torres really wants to do the responsible thing, yet can't simply deny the urgent requests of friends who want to oppose the captain in an interest that apparently takes higher priority.

And before long, Torres, Seska, and Carey are scheming to beam down and trade the technology, consequences and Federation ethics be damned. They don't want to do the wrong thing, but in their mind there is no other choice—this is too much of an opportunity to pass up, so they have to try. They're just about to beam down to the planet without authorization when Tuvok walks in on the three of them in the transporter room.

But Tuvok isn't here to bust them. He announces his plan to make the exchange, and much to the three engineers' astonishment, he beams down to meet with Jaret himself.

Surprised? I sure was. One of the reasons "Prime Factors" is such a good episode is because it tries risky things like this with the major characters. And Tuvok's actions are believable, because the show allows us to understand why he does what he does. At the end of the show after everyone confesses for their improper defiance of the chain of command, Tuvok's reason—that he made a logical choice for Janeway where she couldn't, due to her conflicting emotions of guilt and responsibility—is one that makes an awful lot of character sense, even if it wasn't the proper choice of action.

Of course, the reason a confession is necessary is because the engineers nearly blow up the damn ship trying to get the space-folding device to interface with the Voyager. In one of the most exciting technobabble scenes ever created, Torres, Carey, and Seska frantically attempt to shut down the device after it overloads and runs awry and nearly causes a warp core breach. I don't really understand what this technobabble means, but due to some rather convincing line delivery, when something happens on that weird graphical display, it's very easy to tell when it's good, or when it's very, very bad (in a big "uh-oh" kind of way).

There are a number of effective levels and themes here. First of all, we have Torres' realization that she has changed, that as an assimilated Starfleet officer she has more responsibilities, and that she can't continue to live the way of the Maquis. When Seska tries to convince B'Elanna that they can cover up what was a near-disaster, B'Elanna refuses. "It has to do with being able to live with yourself," she tells Seska.

There's also the theme of Janeway losing some faith in members of her crew whom she thought she could trust. The ending, where Janeway has to discipline Torres for her behavior, shows a certain helplessness. She can't throw anyone in the brig for this mess—she needs every person on the ship—but when she gloomily says to Torres, "I want you to know how very deeply you have disappointed me," the line hits with the force of a sledgehammer. And Janeway's talk with Tuvok is just as charged: she depends on him for advice, yet here he is doing something she would never have permitted.

Lastly, there's the theme of what is really right in this situation. Although Janeway's decision is what the episode ultimately chooses as the correct path, there's a lot of grey area here. Janeway is torn and indecisive through many moments of the show, and given how far Voyager is from home, breaking an ethical stance may be necessary at some point in time. Tuvok and Torres weren't necessarily wrong in their assessment of the situation. They made some errors in judgment, and their methods may not have been correct, but one of "Prime Factors's" biggest strengths is that it has interesting subtleties and grey areas, and no simple answers or questions to give any of the characters an easy way out.

There are only two real quibbles I have with this show. First, where was Chakotay during all this? His role wasn't important; he had no real decisions to make. Given that he's a Maquis and has known Torres for so long, why couldn't he have been used as a major factor in the way the show played out? The other quibble is that this episode poses the Voyager with yet another way to get back to the Alpha Quadrant. If the writers are going to tease us with ways Voyager can get home every three or four weeks, the series is going to get old fast. Nevertheless, the plot device falls perfectly into place and works quite well, allowing the ethical core of the episode to take form, which shines and makes the show a winner.

Previous episode: Emanations
Next episode: State of Flux

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Comment Section

89 comments on this post

    I completely agree with your review. This was a powerful episode as soon as we see Tuvok side with the conspirators; suddenly all bets were off. It's a tragedy that the creative staff wasn't very creative for the run of the show and that these sorts of risks weren't taken far, far more often.
    And Janeway's dialog when the plot is revealed is devastating because of Kate's delivery. Not just the quote to Torres that you cite, but also her nearly plaintive, "I want you to tell me how you, of all people, could be involved in this?"
    You can see she's been struck in a vulnerable place and at the same time is struggling to control her anger. Wonderful acting.

    Two things ruined this episode for me. The first was that I found that Gath guy to be seriously creepy and off-putting. Maybe that was partially the point, since he turned out to be a sorta-bad guy, but FWIW, Michael Piller has been quoted as saying that he didn't like the casting choice. The second was the "We don't even know if it will interface!" (with shipboard technology) bit and yet the magical Sikarian transporter thingy just happens to have two cylindrical projections that conveniently fit nicely into two corresponding receptacles on the engineering console.

    Is response to navamske's second quibble- Tuvok directed Belanna to 'prepare for the trajector'. Since she'd already seen it, it presumably wasn't too hard for her to fashion an interface unit to suit their requirements.

    Anyway, this will always be one of my favourite VOY episode, primarily due to Janeway's speech to Tuvok at the end.

    Jammer, I almost entirely agree with your review and concur that this one was a winner. But, I'm knocking a half star from your assessment because I also agree with navamske; alien of the week guy was totally skeevy and off putting.

    Three stars from me!

    Oh, and I know Harry is excited to get home and all, but he could have at least gotten to 1st base with the cute alien chick before running off to Janeway like that. That poor boy has no game at all.

    This is the first episode I saw that was really compelling and made me think Voyager had some serious potential. Unfortunately, it very seldom lived up to this. Aside from Harry Kim having his love romp, this was an absolutely excellent episode.

    @ navamske

    Re: the connections matching...I chalked that up to them replicating an interface that had a ""ederation" plug at one end and a Sikaarian one on the other.

    As for the creepiness of the Gath...I agree 150%. I also found the guy that played the first Trill we ever saw in TNG's "The Host" to be terribly offputting too. Horrible casting there and again here.

    At the risk of diminishing the best episode of Voyager's 1st season... isn't it odd that the Sikarians are never seen again, given that their technology would have allowed them to easily colonize most of the galaxy?

    Oh poor Harry, that Sikarian was really cute and was throwing herself at him.

    But really, i don't think the story works since if the Sikarian are so much more advanced technologically, wouldn't they quite easily chase Voyager down and outgun them in everyway? They could easily invade the Federation if it gave them 'pleasure'.

    I agree with the review entirely.
    One comment, however - it seems unlikely that a race that is so devoted to pleasures could have developed such sophisticated techology. Someone must have invested a lot of sweat, years and pleasures for this kind of invention to be created - so unsikarian.

    @ Grumpy...

    That goes for the race from "Blink Of An Eye" as well. At the end of that episode, they overcome the planetary barrier when the pair of ships comes up and drags Voyager out of its gravity well. From that point on, their ultra-advanced civilization would have free reign in the "greater" universe.

    Rewatching random Voyager episodes.

    Dunno why.

    This one was neat.

    Sikarian trying to get with Harry was super cute.

    I'd tap that.

    @ Grumpy...since the technology was shown to be something that built upon a natural and unique characteristic of their planet, I can believe that maybe this culture stumbled upon this technology accidentally when some other experiment they were trying went awry somehow and revealed this unique property, but isn't otherwise incredibly technology advanced beyond the one gadget.

    I recall waaaaay back in "Angel One" where the culture there didn't seem particulary technologocally advanced but had this crazy execution gadget that was activated remotely by touching a crystal ball.

    This was one of my favorite episodes of the first season. For pretty much the same reasons Jammer has stated.

    But it was one I considered a type of missing opportunity for the series. I felt that Janeway's attitude that if she couldn't negotiate for the technology in a day or two then they should be on their way was misguided. They could have attempted to find a way to send voyager 40,000 light years w/o actually transferring the technology. (they did it with that catapult later on). But even if they didn't want to give Voyager that advantage so early in the season, then just let that effort fail. But while voyager a) negotiates with an alien culture it knows little about and b) they attempt to build the tech device that takes them home but would fail... they could have had voyager park on a planet for a couple of episodes and really explore those chances but more importantly build an arch with a species they've met to explore its culture/politics (I liked DS9, so i guess i'm biased towards that type of story).

    Another way they could have explored species in an ongoing way could have been to join a convoy with ships they met along the way. They were alone in an unknown place... and ever since ships sailed the oceans, there was safety in groups. Whether it had been voyager travelling for a couple of episodes with a talaxian mining convoy to having them stay with the Trebe longer (trying to help them to find a new home along the way before the Trebe pulled that attempt to kill the Kazon leadership and parting ways). A couple of others that I remember were those aliens that had their world destroyed by the Borg and tried to steal the warp core. They were kind of annoying but it would have been interesting for voyager to escort their 30 or so remaining vessels while they looked for a new home on their way to the alpha quadrant (heck Janeway could even promise that if they don't find an acceptable planet on the way and somehow stick around with them until they find a shortcut to the alpha quadrant, she'll ask the Federation to give them a planet they can settle). The xenophobe aliens that gave Kim and STD... the ones that broke off from the generational ship could have formed a convoy with voyager for a bit. All they wanted to do was explore... hey, Voyager does that and they have more firepower than us and we can watch out for each other on the way for a while!

    And adding vessels to a convoy commanded by Janeway would have given them the opportunity to have larger battles if they antagonized aliens species along their way.

    Outstanding acting job by Kate. What a moving scene at the end. She nailed it. Roxanne and Tim were wonderful too.

    Kate is easily the 2nd best captain from an acting standpoint after Patrick.

    @Milica: Even people on earth get pleasure from scientific endeavor. Some people devote their entire lives to it and don't miss the things that others find pleasurable. I don't see that the Sikarians would have a problem with scientific advancement.

    If the show really wanted to break new ground it would have allowed them to use the technology one time for a 40,000 light year trip. It would still keep them in the delta quadrant but at least move the story forward.

    This, and not Ex Post as Jammer noted... is the real first Tuvok defining episode. No, more than that, this changed the way we look at all Vulcans. Suddenly they're a little more "transparent"... they just use logic to justify what they want to do, so really they are human. Wow. I think Tim Russ also started to get that after this episode too. Another great addition to the first season.

    As for Harry... don't we all have a friend like that (or were/are like that ourselves?).

    Wouldn't an incredibly advanced piece of technology like the spatial trajector have made the Sikarians a prime target for any number of militaristic neighbours? The Kazon, the Trabe, the Viidians, the Haakonians, the Krowtonan Guard (if the crew of the Equinox are to be believed) are all in the locality of Sikaris. You'd think a "remarkably pleasure-oriented species" like the Sikarians would have been conquered by now, or at the very least learned to keep the technology a more closely guarded secret.

    And that's not even factoring in jaunting over most of two quadrants without a care. A forty-thousand light year range brings them well into range of highly militarized civilizations far more advanced than their neighbors. Oh, and there's these guys called the Borg Collective too...

    I'd forgotten how good early Voyager was. Just rewatched this episode for the first time in ages. The first couple of seasons showed real promise, imo. Episodes like this one could only have been done on Voyager. It uses the show's premise, and this show uses its premise all too rarely. I especially liked the latter half , with the stealing of the technology, and Janeway's scene at the end with Tuvok. These are the kind of character driven episodes that Voy should have done more often.

    Twenty minuts into this episode, and I thought Jammer was nuts giving this episode a high grade. It seemed like a bad Miami Vice episode, with cheesy aliens and locales. And then, almost suddenly, it becomes great. The premise then builds to arguably the greatest scene in Season 1, Tuvok and Janeway eyeing each other emotions that can only be described as wonderfully mixed.

    "Wouldn't an incredibly advanced piece of technology like the spatial trajector have made the Sikarians a prime target for any number of militaristic neighbours?"

    My understanding is that the technology could only be used around or in their planet. Maybe I am mistaken. But that was my impression.

    @Trent: Hey, what's your problem with Miami Vice? ;-)

    - and + on this one:

    - Gath is one of the creepiest alien males in Star Trek.
    + Eudana is inversely one of the cutest alien girls in Star Trek.

    - Janeway is bloody incompetent as usual.
    + Tuvok shows some serious initiative.

    - Neelix. Arrgh!
    + (No redeeming factor here. There never can be).

    As to the 'ethical dilemma', however: I fail to see one. Let's not fool ourselves: this is a fantastic piece of technology, and Janeway would be rewarded upon return to Earth nearly regardless of how she had acquired it. As it is, what is the cost? Literature. We're talking trading Don Quixote and Faust for utterly improbable technology. It's not like Jaret is asking for the secrets of themonuclear warfare, bioterrorism and cybercrime, is it? I say hit'em hard with Milton and Montaigne, and take off with the tech.

    About whether "the technology could only be used around or in their planet" or not: "...they would need an amplifier the size of a planet to make the system work. The Sikarians are able to use the technology because Sikaris itself has a crystalline mantle that focuses and amplifies the trajector field" [Memory Alpha]. But surely some other celestial bodies out there must have such a 'crystalline mantle', wouldn't you say?

    @Milicia: A member of a species devoted to pleasure might well develop this technology. There are many kinds of pleasures. A Sikaran engineer might take great pleasure in learning and exploration. Someone on that planet is producing all those goods, the foo, fabrics, jewelry, etc, and if they are devoted to pleasure they presumably enjoy doing so. Pleasure may be their highest ideal, but they don't have to pursue pleasure in the same way: Gath just wants to collect new playthings, Jaret wants credit for introducing all these new stories, but we don't know that all Sikarans pursue pleasure in the same way that they do. They are powerful people, and can presumably afford to be as indulgent as they wish.

    I would have made the trade for the technology too. It's not at all clear that the Prime Directive forbids an under the table trade like this. The Federation would certainly have made the trade. Kirk infiltrated the Romulan Empire to steal a cloaking device, after all.

    This technology would be utterly destabilizing. If you could move your ships 40,000 light years in an instant, you would be only seconds away from every species home worlds. You could annihilate empires in minutes. Thus every power would want it. It's understandable that the Sikarans would not want to allow this technology to escape, but it is a technology that the Federation would be foolish not to develop.

    The technology may have required the particulars of the Sikaran planet, but in the long run, that's not a problem. It should be easy enough to find another planet with similar properties, or to develop a technological means of getting the same result. The reason they needed to rush it was that if they were going to use it against Janeway's wishes, they had to do it now, this was their once chance to use it in the appropriate environment. They could find another planet that met the requirements, but to do so, Janeway would have to order Voyager to go to such a planet, and that wouldn't happen.

    The technology may not have been compatible with Voyager's technology, but it should have been possible to make it be compatible eventually. It's just that Torres needed to destroy it to save the ship. For this type of technological advancement, the Federation would eagerly alter their technology around it. They did get some scans of the technology, and I suppose when they got back, Federation science labs went to work attempting to study it.

    This episode begins as a Risa-like episode of the Delta Quadrant. And boring as all usual Risa episodes. Additionally, with an annoying repetition of hedonist races already found more than once in Trek history (another one that comes to my mind are The Edo).

    However, its second half ends up being a Trek powerhouse. Not only due to the amazing dillema that puts the Starfleet officers "at the other side of the fence". But also due to the interesting idea of a people almost addicted in stories.

    In the end, the sacrifice made by Tuvok gave us a brilliant Trek moment. Outstanding. The sentence about logic being able to justify anything was also memorable. The only downside is in fact Kate Mulgrew's delivery in the last scenes. Although a strong acting, she was looking as she was close to crying. This was overacted and bad for building the strong character she should build.

    Ric > I disagree. Let me explain my pov even if we reach an impasse. If anything it shows the writer's/acting in a synergy. They tend to write the characters so wooden it's hard to imagine if they experience any emotion. She's with a trusted friend in this scene ( which has come into question), not staring down the barrel of a gun of an antagonist pleading for her life. It shows she's not invulnerable. She's more believable and still is strong in my eyes. If she looks weak it is when she makes choices that make Cpt Ransom's point.

    Now, my pointless contribution about the episode: I was so glad for part B of the story. I was put off by the alien immediately and couldn't see why Janeway was so seduced by him (Or maybe she was faking) I feared it'd be a pointless shore leave ep. Without the holodeck this time. I was pleasantly surprised.

    This is a really great review for this episode that after watching 19 years later really holds up well. Yes it is very unfortunate that Voyager couldn't continue with a lot of the concepts brought up in this episode, especially in light of some of Janeway's later misuse of the Prime Directive.

    This episode was sooooooo much better, both in my mind back then and now, then Emanations was just before it, although I do agree about the creepiness of Gath.

    Would have loved some more of Sikarans at some point and I agree that the engineer who developed the space-folding device did out of pleasure.

    Also the idea of Voyager combining with Delta Quadrant native'sconvoy was used in a later 4th season two-parter that could have been an interesting place to reintroduce the Sikarans. And that was in "Year of the Hell, Part 1 & 2" -- at least in the alternate timeline created from the Krenen timeship. It would have been interesting and so like the Krenen if they were the aliens of the Delta Quadrant to fight the Sikarans for the space-folding device and made Janeway and Voyager crew's ability to fight the Krenen even more of a problem.

    I do love how "Prime Factors" and "Ex-Post Facto" moved along in interesting ways both Tuvok as a character and how we felt about the Vulcans. It started making me wonder just how different the Vulcans truly were with their distant cousins the Romulans? (Or even much the same they were?)

    I agree that Chakotay was woefully missing from this episode, especially near the end in Janeway's ready room (surprised both then and now that Chakotay would not have been in there when Torres was pulled in), but it would have also been interesting to see if Chakotay would have agreed more with Janeway's actually correct way of dealing with Gath and the Sikarans. That might have set-up some interesting dynamics of having Torres, Siska, Lt. Carey, Tuvok and somewhat Harry Kim on one side, and Janeway and Chakotay on another and might have been an interesting dynamic put into the show's run in terms of what was about to happen with Siska, as well as Chakotay's later dealing with Torres, Tuvok and Kim and even to an extent Paris and the rest of the crew. Does anyone know what was going on or where Beltran (Chakotay) was during this episode's filming that would make him not be involved more?

    What begins as a seemingly lightweight yet intriguing episode with more nicely conveyed character moments quickly builds into fantastically written drama with dynamic interpersonal conflicts. It basically pulls you in with a false sense of serenity before punching you in the face.

    I did find the character of Gath a bit creepy initially but it wasn't noticeable again until Janeway, and thus the crew, were told to leave.

    The last couple of acts are among the best, if not THE best, scenes of this season. Tuvok's statement of: "My logic was not flawed, but I was" spoke volumes.

    Some really good stuff here that elevates the above-average first few acts into something even better as a whole.

    3.5 stars.

    I'm watching all the way through Voyager for the first time, essentially (I saw a handful of the episodes when it was airing, but not since), and I just finished a rewatch of TOS, TNG and DS9. It is very sad that this is apparently considered a high water mark for the series, because I found this episode really, really annoying. I may be an unusual Trek watcher, because I think the Prime Directive is morally bankrupt, but I found the position promoted by this episode to be pretty deplorable. If your crew is willing to do this, including the officer you use to act as a moral compass, doesn't that mean that you, Captain Janeway, might be in the wrong on this ethical issue? If the leader of the planet was Hitler, and there was a subjugated underclass of slaves, would Janeway be talking about how only dealing with the official power structures of this clearly warp-drive capable civilization is the appropriate form of action, because that's their law? Janeway isn't being "Lawful Good" she's being "Lawful Stupid" to crib some tabletop RPG terminology.

    Between that and the meta-issue of me thinking "There's no way the authors are going to let this work" the entire time, I was annoyed through most of the episode so I can't say it was enjoyable.

    So there's two issues of trust here. First, the crew didn't trust Janeway to make the right ethical choice in this situation (and this lack of trust was well-founded), and she doesn't even have enough ACTUAL introspection to think she might have been wrong, no matter how many scenes they show of her struggling over the issue. The struggling they showed is more of an indication of the pain she felt about being given two unpleasant choices rather than actually examining her choices and questioning them, which would have implied a real possibility of going either way (there was never a credible consideration of the choice she didn't like). She knew her bottom-line before she did the math, and she just didn't like what the bottom-line was.

    And second, I didn't trust the authors to deal fairly with the issues at hand. That lack of trust was also well-founded.

    @Roger Dalton :

    First of all, according to whom is this a high watermark for the series? It's a good S1 episode, but it doesn't come close to the really great episodes of the series.

    Second of all, that you deplore the Prime Directive does not make you unique amongst Trek fans. Hell, visit any of the hot-button PD pages on this site (Pen Pals, Homeward, Prototype, Dear Doctor) for a veritable onslaught of indignant rants against the philosophy.

    However, your hypothetical

    "If the leader of the planet was Hitler, and there was a subjugated underclass of slaves, would Janeway be talking about how only dealing with the official power structures of this clearly warp-drive capable civilization is the appropriate form of action, because that's their law? "

    doesn't really hold up. If the leader were a kind of Hitler instead of Fabio, Janeway wouldn't have ordered shore-leave and they never would have discovered the technology. If somehow that still had, Janeway would not have gone with "well fuck it, these guys are assholes, so it's okay to steal from them." Not Season 1 Janeway. Give her a few years of seeing her crew die and suffer and check back in with her around Season 5.

    "First, the crew didn't trust Janeway to make the right ethical choice in this situation (and this lack of trust was well-founded)"

    Well, yeah, that's the point--they barely know her. She hasn't done much to earn their trust at this point, has she?

    "She knew her bottom-line before she did the math, and she just didn't like what the bottom-line was. "

    That's called having principles and sticking to them. I'm not saying that her choice was objectively the right one, but it's in keeping with her character development at this point in the series and did quite a bit to flesh out the supporting characters and heart of the show, regardless of whether we knew they wouldn't actually get home this way.


    I'm happy there are better episodes coming down the pipe.

    You make several good points. I've actually enjoyed some of the episodes this season much more than the average reviewer and commenter here, so I hold out hope that I'll enjoy the show more than average as well. Perhapse Janeway's principles will end up seeming endearing like Picard's, rather than stupid like they seem right now. It can be hard to enjoy a show where every time there is a big moral question of consequence, the implied "better choice" is contrary to one's opinion. If doing morality right were as easy as having simple, firm principles and sticking to them, that would be very nice, but out here in the real world, deontology is probably best thought of as a heuristic for consequentialism that works most of the time, but not all the time.

    I have enjoyed your comments on the latter episodes of DS9, when I started following Jammer's reviews. Although I disagreed with you as often as not, your comments always had a rational basis and were well-argued.

    Re-Watching the entire series, I must admit that Gath was creepy - but in the context of a race of beings that get bored easily I thought the actor did the job well.

    I do get tired of Janeway's preaching - she is right quite often but in this case Tuvok/B'Lenna were also.

    Wonderful, thought provoking trek episode!

    My only real knock is Gath... man, I just wanted to jack-slap him (and not because of not giving us the technology either) :-)

    I don't remember when the "Prime Directive" tide was turned like this in trek. Bravo!!

    Then Tuvok of all people choses to "betray" his Captain so she would have to. Brilliant.

    Very touching exchange at the end, delivered flawlessly by Kate. She's so damn good....

    3.5 star from me. Hard to believe an episode like this is a season one episode.

    Strong episode, and another with a particularly Voyager slant to it, although ultimately it boils down to principles and whether to compromise them. This time at least it puts a twist on the standard Prime Directive episode by having the Sikarians unwilling to compromise their ideals.

    This does indeed start off like a TNG Risa episode, but the second half really does kick into high gear. It's interesting just how quickly the crew starts to come apart at the seams. And the major shock that Tuvok becomes involved is a good one - the standout scene of the episode of course being the one between Janeway and Tuvok at the end. 3.5 stars.

    So shortly after their being stranded in the Delta Quadrant we get an episode dealing with directives and rules. The story and execution (not to mention Seska) were first rate. I don't have much to add on to the story that hasn't been mentioned by the previous commenters. (One response to Hlau - I got the impression the Sikariians gained pleasure from giving others pleasure. Chasing Voyager like prey would most likely not give them pleasure as it sure would not have given Voyager any pleasure being hunted).

    Anyways regarding ethics and Prime Factors...I just can't help but facepalm the title given all of Janeway's lack of adherence to those same "Prime Factors." Here she is lecturing Tuvok on something that required no emotion on his part, simply a logical choice not allowed To the Captain. Now while I agree with her line about logic's flaws we can fast forward to her actions in S5/6's Equinox when she was willing to turn that ship over to the aliens. Or the fact that her future self decided to change the past knowing clearly it was a violation of the Temporal Prime Directive. Or the fact she was willing to 'unravel all of history' to get answers about Seven's mission in Relativity.

    Not to mention the fact that she was the sole reason all of these things were happening. I still think it was too early for this level of coziness between Starfleet and The Maquis, essentially a gang of outlaws. Especially when one considers it was her destroying their only means home. I'm rather surprised they didn't try to commandeer the ship themselves before that. But chuckles just seemed to go along with her decision. He was perfectly ok with being stranded 70 thousand light years from home yet was willing to go rogue over the Cardassians occupying his tribe's home space. Uh, right.

    So seeing all this emotion in her when the crew took it upon themselves to barter for the technology struck me as hypocritical and frankly, dishonest. I wished the technology would have worked. Then they would have found themselves back in the Alpha Quadrant. Of course it would have been tough to court martial since a) it obviously worked, and b)they can always counter it wouldn't have been necessary if the captain hadn't gotten them stranded in the first place. Helping another race out entirely over her own people. And a race that only lives 8 years at that.

    I'm all for peaceful resolution, too. But in this case it was far too swift and sanguine. The first season alone should have been more of what State of Flux was regarding the dissension in the ranks. When these first aired I was surprised the Maquis were so accepting of all of this. And even the crew itself.

    I just wonder what it would have been if they spread the conflict out much longer than they did. But that would have involved both continuity and something original, something the writers seemed to balk at.

    I still rate it 3.5 stars for both its execution and because it was nice seeing Seska taking initiative as she always did. Whatever it took was her motto. Maquis to the core. With Cardassian ruthlessness and Starfleet precision.

    "You can use logic to justify almost anything.
    That's its power ... and its flaw." — Janeway
    to Tuvok

    Janeway reminded me of Home Simpson here; "Facts are meaningless, you can use facts to justify anything that's even remotely true".

    I wonder if this is the reason why Tuvok goes from being Lieutenant Commander to Lieutenant a bit later on (aside from costuming error of course) odd though that Torres wasn't demoted and it was mainly her idea, plus Janeway would have an excuse to put Carey in charge like she wanted.

    Funny how the console in Engineering just happened to have a two prong socket in it that exactly matched the trajector ports... I can't go to America without having to buy plug socket adapters, but two pieces of technology built by aliens on the other sides of the galaxy from each other managed to make their stuff compatible. Maybe it was made by the same company that makes matching airlocks for every single ship ever encountered...

    My biggest issue here was that immediately dealing with Gath was assumed morally right, and dealing with Jaret was assumed morally wrong. But we are never really presented with strong evidence either way here. For all we know Jaret is the good guy and Gath is lying or whatever (and evidence actually kind of points to something like this).

    So I couldnt really buy into the dilemma. I just didn't see any reason for Janeway to so readily and blindly accept that dealing with Gath was the morally better choice. I had to side with Skinny O'Brien and the World's Ugliest Bajoran not because of a moral choice but because their course of action was the only one with any compelling weight behind it.

    I did appreciate Janeways point at the end, though, where her biggest problem wasnt what they did, but rather that tuvok went behind her back when doing it. I thought that was a strong and well executed interaction.

    I just had a really hard time with Janeways struggle here, I wish a more contrasting dilemma would have been present.

    @MartinB I know, right? Too bad the federation didn't hire that same company to design their holodeck and ship power systems.

    I wonder if that company also designed every door lock in the universe. That could explain why they all have the same security flaw where shooting the keypad immediately opens the door.

    The unfortunate thing is that this episode felt like it was (somewhat awkwardly) introducing the Sikarians to be one of the big antagonists of the area ... yet even here in introductory mode they were quite interesting ... and then they weren't seen again.
    Regardless, in my view the episode is at least one of the best episodes of the series. Great uses of Janeway, Torres, Seska, Carey and Tuvok.

    As soon as you know it's a get off the island story everything becomes blah blah blah blah blah. It aint gonna happen, why pretend that it is.

    @mephyve - While I largely agree with you, VOY had the potential to turn these stories on their heads and make them game changers instead of just "failed getting home attempts". It later embraced that more, but I'm of the opinion that once a year or so VOY should have gotten a territory reset in a large jump.

    How much more interesting would this story have been if the spacial fold actually worked, but only once because the planet was a factor? Let's say they jump 7 years and leave behind the Kazon and the Vidiians.

    Now Janeway has to decide how to treat these people that are heroes to the crew for the jump but that also broke the PD and violated her orders. Obviously main cast isn't staying dead and VOY isn't getting home, but these stories could have been interesting if they actually were game changers instead of massive reset buttons.

    But then, that holds true for more of VOY than I'd like to think about.

    1. No ethical dilemma. You're making a deal with an individual on another planet. As clear a case for mutiny as I've seen since Janeway decided to trap them by picking a fight with the Kazon.
    2. Why wasn't anyone on the ship surprised that the Sikarians look exactly like humans? Lazy week for the makeup team?
    3. Kate over-acting as always.

    I'm in complete disagreement with some of the commenters, who suggest that Torres, Tuvok etc. acted appropriately in disobeying Captain's orders because they believed their goal to get home sooner outweighed their personal sense of honor. Tuvok may be the most reprehensible character here - not only does he lie to his Captain - a Captain that he knows trusts him implicitly - but he then engages in ridiculous contortions of rationalization that he was merely "protecting" her from her own ethical ideals. What a jerk. At least Torres knows from the get-go that she's letting Seska (I'd use a different, more descriptive term, besides "jerk" for her) browbeat her into doing something that's completely wrong.

    I know Starfleet is not the military, and I know that Seska and Torres didn't sign on for this gig, but they are essentially conscripted crewmembers on a starship, and they owe an oath of duty to the Captain so long as the orders they are being asked to obey are not unlawful. Tuvok and Carey have no excuse whatsoever. They've taken a literal oath, and just pissed on it.

    If these four (assuming they were the only ones involved) truly believed that the only proper course of action was to disobey the Captain, they should have proceeded honorably and formally taken control of the ship from her to see where loyalties lay among the rest of the crew. Instead, they schemed and lied - hell, their actions nearly cost everyone onboard their lives, and even in the midst of that crisis Torres is STILL lying directly to her Captain about why there's a delay in departure. And let's not gloss over that latter point - the fact is, everyone almost died here, because these four took action contrary to their Captain's orders for their own selfish purposes. Had they shared their intentions with the Crew and assumed command of the vessel over Janeway's objections, at least everyone else on board would have had the benefit of knowing who was gambling with their lives and could possibly have added something to the discussion - something that might have allowed them to avoid or solve the technical issue that prevented the device from working.

    Ships have captains for a reason. Some people here think the reason is for the captain to make decisions until someone disagrees, in which case, apparently, it's OK to lie to her and disobey.

    Climbing down off my soapbox..... this was an entirely enjoyable episode - great premise, intriguing character developments that really spice things up (I know I just went off on Tuvok but I love the fact the writers went there with him - it adds an entirely new dimension to him that makes things all the more interesting), and I know some think Mulgrew was overacting at the conclusion, but honestly I think it was true to form. I can only imagine how I would react if I were a captain of a Federation vessel and found out that my long-time first-officer and trusted friend could so easily talk himself into deceiving me in such a fundamental, consequential way. The Janeway character is in a bad place at the fade-out. Literally, there's no one she can completely trust.

    I always liked this episode and felt that it was a good one. Reminds me of the Lotus eaters in the Odyssey.

    The fact that Tuvok was willing to go behind Janeway's back and conspire with former Maquis and Carey is very intriguing. Certainly adds a layer of depth to Janeway-Tuvok's relationship. Janeway may trust and hold Tuvok in high regard but does he feel the same way?

    The Sikarian chick was beautiful too.

    That's more like it, stick to your premise!
    To top it off... Taste your own medicine style. How do you like it if alien 'Prime Directive' get thrown in your face and possibly denying you way to get home much early! Awesome premise.

    Too bad the writer didn't dare enough to put Chakotay in direct confrontation.
    Seems to me Chakotay purposely omitted from doing it in this episodes, so Janeway don't have to face direct opposition someone challenge her morale.
    Tuvok as a Vulcan and Janeway loyalist can't provide that one effective. Chakotay as Maquis and first officer on the other hand is the perfect vehicle (it stands to reason all the Maquis and good chunk of starfleet officer will back him up), He have a very strong ground to bring this matter up directly!

    I like to see Janeway answer Chakotay, is her principal alone is worthy throw a mean to get home? is a mere-literature worthy to maintain that principal? It's not even a weapon, or other high-tech technology that has potential to change the power balance... It's pretty much 'harmless' compared to huge potential they'll gain. And as Tuvok pointed out, they not even directly in violation of Federation Prime Directive. It's the dealer who's violating the local-law.

    How will Janeway react if Chakotay said something along the line "Half the crew is unsettled you dont budge to your morale principle just for a mere literature. They ask me to do something, some of them is even talk about mutiny". "How if I lifted you of that burden by taking full responsibilities if Federation blaming the decision, I'm an outlaw already anyway, but I will not let a mere literature and your morale principle standing on our way and the whole crew to get home".
    I bet the writer gonna have a hard time come up with reasonable answer

    Maybe it's a wise decision by the writer for not bringing this up on Chakotay. Instead choose with Tuvok 'taking matters to his hand'. With Tuvok-way, pretty much Janeway is cop-out to take the brunt of big-decision and consequences. It's a no-lose situation for her now, while still has a strong impact on scene because Janeway-Tuvok long standing relation.

    If it's working, Janeway will simply reprimand the crew responsible, but everyone know it's not a big deal anyway, if it means they're back home.
    If it's not working, Janeway high-horse now is more justified, and she can deliver her 'I believed you, but you let me down', which later become so often and a patented trademark [TM].

    Using the planet to power up so they can only use the device while on orbit is a smart plot. Forcing the conspirator to made 'now or never' decision before Tuvok inform Janeway or they can made sufficient test. That plot part is crucial and what made this episode from good to solid strong episodes. Solid performance by all the main and guest cast (bar that creepy Gath), and there's some good character development.
    For sure they're not gonna get home and the plan will fail, so we got the first glimpse of that patented talk.

    Also a bit of irony/hypocrite/inconsistencies (you pick) that shortly later in the 2nd season Janeway trade with Terorist/Guerilla/Resistance movement on 'Resistance' (I bet it cost way more than a literature), smuggling people on 'Counterpoint', and some other. All the while maintain her high-morale stand in between episodes.

    Damn Harry. Couldn't you enjoy the chick first!
    Everyone mention that Sikarian chick, but the medical-ensign behind Paris on the opening is also cute!

    I'll throw 4 stars if Chakotay thrown into equation too and the focus is more to Janeway dilemma and how it (possibly) affect her character and decision making in the future.

    Still and outstanding episodes
    3.5 stars

    I can't believe nobody has brought up one of the wittiest (and funniest) delivery lines in all of the Voyager series:

    "[...] should improve performance and maximize efficiency."

    ... delivered twice, first by Tuvok, second by Janeway, both priceless.. :)))

    Yeah, I find this one really strong. One of the funny things is that you can read this as a remake of, of all things, TNG's Justice, done right -- where we have similar themes of a hedonistic pleasure-oriented society and a captain having to decide between obeying a society's rules and the good of the ship. But anyway, I like that here the alien hedonistic society's "dark side" ends up being that they are self-absorbed twits rather than anything darker; the vaguely creepy performance that went into Gath (which reminds me a bit of Maurice Chevalier in Gigi) actually works for me, because it tends to *suggest* that there's a darker, deeper secret here, but the secret is just that there is no "there" there; Gath is "charming," pleasure-oriented, and shallow. I *really* appreciate how this episode basically turns the Prime Directive around on the crew, and up to the point where Janeway suggests that they could maybe launch Voyager without giving them the tech, it's hard to argue with Gath's logic -- of course they can't trust that the Voyager crew won't abuse the technology, or turn it around on them. I like also that the shadowy backroom deal that is offered to Kim doesn't even seem *that* sleazy; it's not some murderous criminal syndicate, but self-interested independent actor hoping to make himself famous by telling stories. It's one of the more refreshing one-off alien species in Trek.

    As for the big moral dilemma, I agree with commenters above that there's no certainty that Gath is "right" and that the individual trying to make a secret deal is "wrong," and I think a strong case could be made that there's a bit of blindness on Janeway's part not to consider it more strongly. And yet, I see Janeway's point. From his interaction with Kim, it doesn't seem like Jaret is some sort of oppressed individual, or even a representative of some group that is kept down by the main government hegemony, but a guy who is motivated by totally selfish reasons to betray his society's principles. Gath's principles don't seem to particularly make him a good guy, but there's little indication that he's lying that these *are* the organizing principles of the society. Janeway identifies with Gath early on, when she sees him as a benevolent leader who operates on core principles, and that doesn't *entirely* go away even when she finds out about his phoniness; pragmatic, amoral Seska identifies with the ruthless, selfish, principle-flaunting Jaret and that's part of why she pushes as hard as she does to make a deal with him, and can't particularly even imagine why Janeway would allow principles to dictate their behaviour. Most of the rest of the crew fall somewhere between those extremes. It's possible that Janeway is a little blinded by her default assumption that society's organizing principles, especially as espoused by a leader, shouldn't be broken, and she doesn't particularly change when it becomes possible, from reading Gath's behaviour, that maybe the society is not as devoted to those principles as they claim, but that Gath is deploying them for self-interested reasons. But it seems to me like she's mostly correct that from a strict Starfleet interpretation, they should respect what they know about this culture's operating principles, if they are to demand that anyone treat them the same way. I'd say Janeway is, then, mostly right and consistent, with some hints at the edges of a little too much rigidity.

    The Tuvok material is *very* strong -- I really do believe him that he operates mainly out of a way to express Janeway's not-so-hidden desire without breaking her principles, and it is an edge case where making the deal they make is not *entirely* immoral (they aren't, seemingly, supporting murder). We do really get the sense of the long relationship between those two, and Tuvok recognizing and attempting to resolve Janeway's contradictions and save her from heartbreak, rather than from action from his own desires (beyond helping Janeway). I also think this episode uses Kim well; while the character has a bad reputation, and I admit that it's very funny watching Wang attempt to figure out how to act "trying to find out about navigation system while distracted by sex wind," for the most part Kim's role here as having a Starfleet-ian inquisitiveness and desire for contact with another world, which leads to him both making keen observations (the "musical instrument" early on, recognizing the double sun implying that they are no longer on the same planet, noting these people's love of stories) and to him being a natural contact point for various aliens (storytelling, Jaret's attempt to get through to him).

    The episode's biggest weakness is probably Chakotay's absence from the plot. Not every character has to be in every episode, but this episode *so obviously* foregrounds the Starfleet/Maquis issues, from Janeway's noting the two crews' coming together in the opening scene and eventually moving toward Janeway and Seska as the primary voices of the two opposing positions. Chakotay would be in a real position to point out to Janeway that despite their agreeing to be part of her crew, they did not make oaths to Starfleet or go through training, and that it is not fair to expect them to stay far from home for decades because of principles they only agreed to because Chakotay sacrificed his ship and they need to survive. Chakotay's perspective would also be interesting because he is not dedicated-Starfleet in the same way as Janeway, but is also very principled, and so would probably sympathize with Janeway's preferring to operate with Gath, who at least claims to operate according to society's principles, as opposed to the unprincipled black marketeer; I think Chakotay would stand up for an anti-government rebel who had a Just Cause, but would maybe find an individual planning on getting personal fame out of peddling stories to be distasteful, and so what he thought would end up being interesting. Of course, the episode is not *strictly* Starfleet vs. Maquis -- Carey is all in with Torres, for instance, and of course there's Tuvok -- but there's enough of a Starfleet/Maquis conflict here that Chakotay's absence is frustrating if we take the episode seriously. As is, we get six major characters who make decisions based on their own specific operating values -- Janeway (principles), Tuvok (attempting to resolve Janeway's dilemma), Kim (as ensign, he follows his captain), Carey (reuniting with his family), Seska (pragmatism), and Torres (torn between her newfound responsibilities to her captain and her pragmatic instincts), and that's still very interesting, but it sort of highlights who ends up being absent. (For what it's worth, Paris seems to be closest to Kim, but we don't really learn much about him. Neelix, Kes and the EMH are kept out, which is not a *big* problem, except insofar as Neelix and Kes would be affected by the ship jumping so far from their original homes.)

    The final moments between Janeway and Torres and Tuvok are electric. Melgrew is so goddamn good. 3.5 stars.

    Janeway should have traded with Jeret for the matrix since it would have been such an extremely minor violation of the PD, for a TREMENDOUS gain. Especially after the other guy turned out to be such a jerk.

    And when the jerk says all he wanted was for them to stay there for awhile, and Janeway realizes they would be bored of her and her crew before too long, maybe she could have suggested that they would stay for a month or six months or something if they would send them the 40,000 light years after that. Instead she insults him and gets them all thrown off of the planet.

    The rest of the crew should have mutinied for real. But since they didn't and just snuck around behind her back and it all went to crap, Janeway should have at least punished Torres and Tuvok somehow. They violated the prime directive, disobeyed her direct orders, and nearly destroyed the ship killing everyone. Instead she just tells them that they hurt her little feelings. Poor thing! Noone will ever disobey her again! Don't want to make the captain feel sad. :(

    Janeway is the worst starfleet captain ever.

    Still not a bad episode though. :D 2 1/2 stars.


    I couldn’t stand this hedonistic culture. The early part of the episode seemed like fluff and dragged. Kim
    And his love interest were MEh

    Things kinda pick up towards the end when their request for the tech falls through. Tuvok being the one who breaks the rules and gets the tech was a surprise. Ultimately when it is revealed that the tech would never work on the ship it felt a little too self righteous in making Janeways decision the rught one

    One of the few Voyager S1 episodes I had missed and just caught it recently, overall not very impressed with Season 1 but this one is a standout episode in my opinion, it all works really well and shows a lot of thought, it's the first time where the characters really open up and the situation of Voyager being stranded in the delta quadrant is used to motivate a good story with a nice 'prime directive' dilemma turned completely on its head in that the Starfleet crew are on the receiving end of a law/directive that it always a good way of introducing and exploring moral dilemmas, it's all really tight and nicely paced writing and plot development that stays true to the developed characters which are all performed well, but especially Roxanne Dawson, Tim Russ and Kate Mulgrew.

    Nice work - it's a pity there wasn't more of this in Voyager.

    Still stands up as quite a decent bit of TV 20years later and that's a credit to the writers and cast and crew.

    Wow - this one's a masterpiece for me. Powerful, compelling, edge of your seat stuff and hard to find fault with anything. Loved how this one played on the testing Voyager's principles, respecting the aliens' principles (while subtly being played/used) but also Tuvok using his logic to do an unwanted favor for Janeway.

    Had to know an episode like this one was coming -- Voyager wants something so desperately and it is not just on a whim. It's about getting home. And the solution is there for them but for their Star Fleet principles.

    At first, you have to wonder what the the hedonistic society actually is getting out of Voyageur -- just trying to give pleasure to Voyager's crew -- and how these aliens defend themselves etc. But those questions quickly become unimportant when the meat of the episode is presented. Their only challenge seems to be avoiding boredom and thus the thrill at encountering Voyager -- something new.

    Kim's always been one of the crew who most wants to get home it seems and his vulnerability is first tested with the space-folding transportation technology shown to him by a cute girl. But then this episode gets some riveting performances from a couple of tertiary characters -- Seska and Carey who practically go nuts to get the technology hooked up. Nice surprise when Tuvok catches them in the act of trying to beam down with the library of stories but instead he beams down to conduct the exchange. All along, the viewer has to think he's one to act correctly and that he was trying to help Janeway stick to principles, do the right thing. This was unexpectedly great stuff from minor characters and Tuvok.

    The edge of the seat action came when Janeway wanted to leave orbit but the engineers were trying to get the space-folding technology to work, which caused a warp core breech. Then Torres phasers the gadget. Seska says Torres has changed and Torres responds that she's proud of her change - the facial expressions from Dawson despite the prosthetics worked out just right. Seska just might have a lot of potential as a stubborn -- to say the least -- character.

    I really liked Janeway in this episode. Her dilemma - the questions about whose law is being compromised, behaving as Star Fleet and upholding principles. Powerful scene with her reading the riot act to Torres and Tuvok.
    "You can use logic to justify almost anything. That's its power and its flaw." A great line from Janeway.

    Good enough for 4 stars -- "Prime Factors" is emotionally riveting, compelling and one I want to watch again. So much to like about this episode, a well-thought out plot and some really strong scenes at the end between Torres/Seska and then Janeway/Torres/Tuvok.

    "I don't really understand what this technobabble means, but due to some rather convincing line delivery, when something happens on that weird graphical display, it's very easy to tell when it's good, or when it's very, very bad"

    Yup, if there were an academy award for Best Technobabble Scene, the actors here really nailed it.


    I can understand how you felt the main actor was "creepy", but I think it is a cultural thing. The romantic French (or in this case Belgian) typically act in a way that many North Americans find off-putting. I think a lot of his acting comes from a French/Belgian culture not much seen in N American television

    I don't know how many here have watched The Young Riders, but I did back in the day, and Yvonne Suhor was one of the first grown up girls that I found attractive back in the day (as a tween/teen of 13 when it came out in 1989, the girls I found cute were usually closer to my age) so it was good to see her here

    @Grumpy: I don't think the Sikarians have any desire to colonise other worlds. Also, since it was established that the "fuel" that powers their device comes from their planet, they probably don't travel far from it besides thru their device itself. And since they have such a device, they probably don't have much in the way of starships (Why would we have truck drivers, or indeed cars, if we could beam to anywhere in the planet for instance?)

    @Andy's Friend:

    I am actually glad that Voyager didn't underhandedly use the technology. That would make them total hypocrites with the Prime Directive. In fact, Janeway even mentions in her discussion how they now saw the other side of the coin of the PD.

    @Gooz Chos:

    Ok, here is the real reason why these and other aliens look like humans with a bit of wire around their heads: Unlike Alpha Quadrant shows, Voyager will encounter MANY different species of aliens. Having Klingon, Vulcan, Cardassian and a few more makeups handle is a lot easier than making up and designing a different and unique looking costume/face every week! That alone would probably bankrupt the show! Just pretend the aliens look totally different-you guys wouldn't survive in the 50s/60s with shows like Dr Who (the EARLY years), Captain Midnight and others that had NO budget and effects of a ship model on a string with a firecracker in back to be rockets. Just use your imagination-I personally like a good plot with cheap effects over the shows today with excellent CGI and little or no plot! (I know you didn't mean that, so sorry if I got on a rant)


    I completely agree!

    I really liked this episode-it is my favourite thus far (I'm rewatching the series again after almost 25 years). I also like that the show did not have Kim and the alien girl delve into an immoral relationship. Yes, they were attracted to each other, but there was nothing objectionable in their conduct.

    Is it a coincidence that Kim and Paris mention Venice at the beginning of the ep, and we end up meeting the Italians of the Universe?

    The ep held my interest and I liked how the dilemma helped us understand the characters better. I especially liked the twist with Tuvok.

    Teaser : ***, 5%

    In the mess hall, where Neelix has completed his renovations to the kitchen, Torres and Bajoran Ja-Rule are gossiping about on-board flirtations. Apparently, after the events of “Time and Again,” Tom and Harry had their double date with the Delaney Sisters—which ended with Harry falling out of a gondola on the holodeck. The Maquis ladies, Paris and a few “Hey I'm part of this conversation, too” extras enjoy a laugh at Harry's expense. Nearby, Janeway comments to Tuvok that this behaviour pleases her.

    Chakotay calls the senior staff to the bridge to respond to a distress call from a small vessel. The vessel responds to the Voyager's communiqué with a man—Meghan Draper's French Canadian Father, for you Madmen fans—claiming that it is they, the Voyager crew, who are in distress. Hmm. Well, that's a new one.

    Act 1 : **.5, 17%

    Fabio or whatever his name is insists on escorting the Voyager to his home system as well as bestowing gifts upon the crew, and Janeway consents. Before long, he's in the mess hall preparing some snacks. Neelix has heard of Fabio's people, the Sikarians, who are renown for their hospitality. The Sikarians are “well-travelled” and the Voyager's odd journey has intrigued his people, so they sought Janeway out quite on purpose. Even Tuvok can't come up with a reason to refuse Fabio's offer to provide the crew some shore leave, so they're off, but not before Janeway makes some googly-eyes at Fabio.

    On Sikaris, Fabio keeps foisting gifts on Janeway, expressing his confusion over the crew's reticence to indulge themselves. Kim meanwhile is chatting up a young woman—the two nerd out momentarily before she offers to show him how to operate her musical dildo. Kim is delighted. All the while, Fabio is laying on his “pleasure” shtick a little heavily, at one point physically restraining Janeway and inviting the crew to dinner. All of this ranges from tepid to uncomfortable.

    Act 2 : **.5, 17%

    Kim recounts the events of “Caretaker” to the young woman, Eudana, after the evening's dinner. She asks for permission to share his story.

    EUDANA:: But stories are an essential part of every person's being. I would never share one without permission.

    This is an interesting contrast to the teaser, when the crew were jovially dumping on Harry over that gondola gossip. Eudana brings Kim to some sort of transporter pad and beams them to a different location, Alastria. This place, wherever it is, features a morning breeze that is essentially like a hit of ecstasy. So, she has brought Kim far away from the crowd and treated him to a natural high that gets you horny. She starts touching his neck and...Kim wonders how there can be a binary sunrise when Sikaris has only one sun. Jesus, Harry. Well, beyond all reason (unless he just wishes Tom were here with him instead of Eudana), Harry is more turned on by the idea of instantaneously travelling about 40K lightyears than by having sex. Kim insists on blue-balling the young woman and returning to report his finding to Janeway. Harry—you know, you could have sex with her under the viagra breeze and THEN go back and report to Janeway, right?

    Well, back on Sikaris, Janeway is enjoying her little date with Fabio, only for Kim to blue-ball HER as well with his ill-timed interruption. It turns out the platform operates on a principle of folding space, which allows the Sikarians to travel wherever they wish within its range. Janeway asks Fabio if they could adapt the tech for the Voyager, but it turns out the Sikarians don't share technology with outsiders. Where have I heard that before?

    Act 3 : ***.5, 17%

    In the conference room, the crew debate the issue in frustration.

    TUVOK: Since they've already said no, this kind of thinking is only going to make you feel worse.

    Hahahhaha. Oh, Tuvok...I love it. Janeway points out the obvious—the Sikarians' law is their Prime Directive. She even concedes that many alien cultures probably hate the Prime Directive when its principles prevent Starfleet from aiding their worlds avoid natural disasters and so forth. Chakotay, well within character, points out that the PD is something Starfleet officers do choose to violate under certain conditions. The framing of this conversation is rather poignant, with Janeway being shot from outside the window in the foreground and her crew, blurred, in the background debating the issue. The camera tells us that the weight of the situation is beginning to get to her. This is the fourth time in the series that Janeway has had to contend with the PD. In “Caretaker,” she insisting on replacing her divot and destroying the Array, stranding the crew in the DQ. In “Time and Again,” she essentially did the same thing, replacing their time-displaced divot, but of course doesn't remember this since it didn't happen...then in “Ex Post Facto,” she almost lost her helmsman, allowing him to be prosecuted within the legal framework of an alien culture.

    At any rate, the staff hit on the idea that the Sikarians' laws may not be as strict as their own, and Kim suggests offering to trade stories for the space-folding technology. Torres, meanwhile, wants to see if she can decipher the alien tech on her own, but Janeway forbids it. I realise this may upset the pragmatists in the room, but it makes sense, from a character perspective, for Janeway to be clinging to Starfleet protocol when dealing with her subordinates, especially someone like Torres whom she has given a bit of a wide berth so far. Torres notes darkly to Kim that she hopes Janeway is successful. For her, this has to be the final act of “Caretaker” all over again.

    So, Janeway makes her play, offering to trade the Federation literary database for a single use of the trajector. And hell, cutting their trip down from 75 years to 30 is a very big deal. In Engineering, Bajoran Ra-Rule finally gets a real name—Seska. Torres attempts to placate her friend's melancholy by theorising about necessary tech tech to deal with the Sikarian space-folding. To her surprise, Carey pipes in to offer his input. It's certainly ironic that we should see the Maquis and Starfleet personnel come together behind this issue—of violating Starfleet protocols and disobeying the captain's orders.

    On Sikaris, Eudana, presumably in the hopes of finally getting herself off, invites Kim to meet with one of the junior agents we saw earlier with Fabio, Jaret.

    JARET: Many people believe that rules should be flexible enough to meet the needs of the moment. There is a great desire here for new stories and I want to be the one to supply them.

    So, there's a lot going on here. Jaret sees the opportunity to gain prestige for himself by offering these aliens something they want. Jaret also insists that Fabio has no intention of making good on the deal with Janeway.

    On the Voyager, the gondola gang all discuss Kim's little sojourn. Kim is called to the captain's ready room to share his findings, and Seska and Torres are left to ponder the inevitable. Seska believes they need to proceed with the transaction behind Janeway's back. She displays a talent for manipulation: on the one hand, she gives her friend shit for “waiting for permission” for taking a decisive action, something alien to the ethos of the Maquis. But on the other, she uses Janeway's own words against her, reminding Torres that everyone's primary mission is to return to the AQ. She exits the mess hall, leaving Torres in a dilemma—it's more or less certain that Seska is going to go ahead and make the trade with Jaret somehow. Torres has three choices: turn her friend(s) in for conspiring to mutiny, do nothing, or help them.

    Act 4 : ***.5, 17%

    Kim delivers his report to Tuvok and Janeway, and Janeway thanks him for helping complicating the situation, and dismisses the ensign. Tuvok simplifies the issue: he believes that Janeway ought to deal with Jaret directly, as it would be Jaret who is violating his own law, instead of Janeway violating theirs. This strikes me as transparently sophistic for a Vulcan, and indeed Janeway calls him on it.

    JANEWAY: I told the crew when we started this journey that we'd be a Starfleet crew, behaving as Starfleet would expect us to. That means there's a certain standard I have to uphold. Principles, principles. That's what it comes down to. Do I compromise my almighty principles? But how do I not compromise them if it involves a chance to get the crew more than half way home. How do I tell them my principles are so important that I would deny them that opportunity.

    In my opinion, this is where Janeway displays a potent character flaw: as the captain, she is the responsible for leading the crew, literally *and* ethically. But here, she makes the issue personal in a way which boxes them all in. They are *her* principles, not the principles of this ship, of this culture they share. When Picard finally chose to release Hugh back to the Borg in “I Borg,” his ethical journey was about overcoming his own emotional limitations and acting upon the principles which define his entire crew, the entire ethos of Starfleet. It was in letting go of the personal issues that Picard re-discovered his own enlightenment and made a moral choice. We'll come back to this.

    Anyway, Janeway presses the issue with Fabio, who displays a certain...boredom with those old Sikarian pleasures. He all but begs Janeway and co. to remain on Sikaris indefinitely. She notes that his interest in her, and in all of them, is inevitable fleeting. He will grow bored eventually, and then what? The Federation prefers “permanence,” she says; she worries that, given time, her crew may lose their attachments to relationships which endure and evolve for the ephemeral pleasures to which the Sikarians have become accustomed. Fabio scoffs at Janeway's “judgement,” upset that such introspection doesn't produce pleasure. This cracks it open for Janeway, concluding the Sikarian hospitality is really just a self-interested addiction to novel pleasures. Fabio dismisses her angrily.

    Janeway cancels shore leave and admits to Tuvok that she cannot, despite her desire, entertain Jaret's offer. Meanwhile, Seska makes an interesting point to Torres—the Maquis are still going about their bullshit crusade in the AQ, and those on the Voyager aren't much use to them out here. Carey, on the other hand, admits he's desperate to return to his family. With her people on both sides pressuring her, Torres caves and commits to meet with Jaret. The trio head to the transporter room to proceed, but before Seska can even stand on the transporter pad, Tuvok interrupts them. Busted! Ah, but there's a twist—Tuvok has determined to make the exchange himself, and orders the trio to beam him down and prepare for the new technology.

    Act 5 : ****, 17%

    Tuvok returns and delivers the device to Torres. He orders her to wait to activate the device until he speaks to Janeway. Seska presses their luck by having them prepare a simulation—they quickly discover that part of what makes the trajector work is a natural technobabble phenomenon. In other words, they can only hope to use the thing while in orbit of the planet. Of course, if Tuvok is able to convince Janeway to use the device, they can always just return to Sikaris, but Seska and Carey are being swept up in the emotion of the moment, so the trio shuts down engines and Torres bullshits the captain to give them time to activate the trajector. But then the warp core is bombarded by technobabble, smoke starts billowing out of the core, Torres evacuates Engineering—the device locks up and finally, Torres is forced to destroy the trajector with her phaser. She concludes that the tech was never going to work with Federation systems—she also determines to come clean to Janeway in a lovely confession to her friend:

    SESKA: I don't understand. There's no need for this.
    TORRES: I'm sorry if you don't get it, Seska, but it has something to do with, er, with being able to live with yourself.
    SESKA: That doesn't sound like you. You've changed.
    TORRES: If that's true, I take it as a compliment.

    Tuvok and Torres admit their transgression to the captain. Tuvok's confession pushes Janeway's reaction from profound disappointment, to gut-punched horror—beautifully conveyed by Mulgrew, as usual. She warns Torres never to pull this kind of shit again and dismisses her.

    Then there's Tuvok...oh my.

    JANEWAY: I don't even know where to start. I want you to explain to me how you, of all people, could be involved in this.
    TUVOK: It is quite simple, Captain. You have made it clear on many occasions that your highest goal for the crew is to get them home. But in this instance, your standards would not allow you to violate Sikarian law. Someone had to spare you the ethical dilemma. I was the logical choice, and so I chose to act.

    Again, Janeway calls him out: Tuvok isn't behaving logically—he's acting on behalf of his friend. He attempted to sacrifice himself, his career, possibly his friendship with the captain, in order to provide Janeway the means of giving the crew what they *want* without betraying her principles. And so, Janeway's error in framing this dilemma as a personal issue from the beginning ends up biting her in the ass. What Janeway needed from Tuvok was for him to the be Guinan to her Picard. In her words, she relies on him to be her “moral compass.” And he failed her. He took to heart her moral frustration and used logic to tidy up his emotional choices. This is extremely interesting on a character front—it reveals the affection Tuvok has for Janeway, buried under that Vulcan discipline. Remember that in “Ex Post Facto,” he would have allowed Paris to be punished his crime if he had been guilty. It says a lot that he was willing to assume the ethical responsibility of this choice for Janeway's benefit.

    Episode as Functionary : ****, 10%

    The episode is quick to frame the Sikarians as an alt-Federation. They have interests in art and science, avoid conflict, operate under a set of principles, and welcome the peaceful exploration of different cultures. But, there are some very subtle distinctions between the two which make all the difference. The Sikarians frame everything as transactional—they will bestow gift after gift on the Voyager crew, but only because they receive pleasure from the interaction; Fabio will offer the crew habitation on the world, but only because he's grown bored with the current climate; Jaret will violate their own inviolate laws, but only because this will bring him personal fortune; it's even implied that Eudana will assist in the trade, only because she's hot for Harry. So, even though there are numerous superficial similarities between Sikaris and the Federation, what we learn is that the only guiding principle on Sikaris is pleasure; it's shallow and it's fleeting. When Janeway tells Fabio that they prefer permanence, relationships which grow and mature over time (something reflected in her final appeal to Tuvok), we see that Federation principles mean something because they require sacrifice. Fabio sounds a lot like Picard at first when he refuses to share the trajector with the Voyager; “Once it's out of our control, it might fall into the hands of those who would abuse it, and our canon of laws strictly forbids that.” But later, it's revealed that he isn't willing to try and find a way to send Voyager a great distance, without sharing the technology, because there's nothing in it *for him*. He doesn't really care that the technology might be abused, he just doesn't want to be responsible.

    The character work, even by the high standards the show has set for itself so far, is masterful here. First, we see that the crews have come together in a mutual desire to get home. They have a common goal which unites such disparate motivations as the Maquis' desire to return to the fight (amusing to imagine the Maquis just fleeing the Voyager the moment they return to the AQ somehow) and the Starfleet member's desire to see their families. What this episode proves is that Janeway has failed to unify the crew around a common *principle.* She reminds Tuvok that she said they'd be a Starfleet crew in “Caretaker,” but what is unifying them in this episode is self-interest, which is decidedly un-Starfleet. This is why Torres gets swept up by the emotions of her staff, and why Tuvok is able to twist his logical mind into betraying Federation principles. Yes, there are practical reasons why Janeway can't throw Torres and Tuvok in the brig, but I think her choice in the end is a reflection of her realising the magnitude of her own failure here. In Act 3, when Chakotay pointed out that Starfleet captains do sometimes violate the PD for moral reasons, Janeway had the opportunity, perhaps the obligation to point out that the only reason she has to violate the PD here is in the name of their own self-interest. Upon reflection, this would make her no better than Fabio and the Sikarians.

    In the end, Tuvok, Torres and Janeway grow from the experience; Janeway impresses on the other two the deeper meaning behind the protocols she expects them to uphold; Tuvok admits that succumbing to emotional weakness was a mistake; and Torres realises that her character matters more to her than she had previously realised. However, we're left with two minor characters, Carey and Seska, who represent two lurking dangers to the stability of the ship and the success of their mission; the crew's self-interest overriding ethics and a lack of loyalty to Starfleet, respectively.

    As a production, the opening acts on Sakaris/Alastria are a bit dull, and the dialogue rather pedestrian, but this is made up for with a climax that is virtually action-free, and technobabble which is mercifully subsumed into character-driven sequences (Kim doing savant maths while Eudana fondles him, the engineering trio being caught by Tuvok, B'Elanna phasering the trajector); the plot, much like in “Eye of the Needle” is *about* something relevant to the character material, which is about as good as it gets.

    Final Score : ***

    Yeah, this is one of the Voyager episodes this lives up to its premise. There’s notable friction on the ship for an understandable ethical dilemma. It’s interesting to have an episode that puts Janeway at a crossroads as to whether she wants to run a Federation ship or just a regular ship that wants to get home. And it’s notable that Tuvok is willing to side with the Marquis when it’s logical. Mulgrew, Russ and Dawson have some great performances as well.

    Gath doesn’t do much for me and frankly his accent makes him hard to understand. But I suppose that’s a minor point in what should be the standard for Voyager shows.

    Hey Elliott, should the final score be 3.5? Seems like the score should be 3.27 -> 3.5. (Man I'm nerdy. But I only checked the numbers this time because I was surprised.

    @William B

    Lol--It is indeed a 3.27, which for me rounds to **.5 stars. I only bump up to 3 when there's a third decimal place above 4. I know it's super nit-picky, but I wanted to be consistent with the rest of the episodes I've reviewed. The only 3-star I've done so far which ranks higher (by like 1/100 of a star) is "Visionary." It's right on the border.

    We're all nerds here :)

    @Wiliam B

    I stated that wrong--3.3-3.74 stars rounds to 3.5 stars. Hence why this and "Visionary" at 3.27 and 3.28 respectively score 3 stars.

    0-.2999 = 0
    .3 - .74 = .5
    .75 - 1.2999 = 1
    1.3 - 1.77 = 1.5

    Huh. I imagined the cutoffs would be at the .25 and .75's, rather than .3 and .75, which I would think would slightly inflate the range of the integer star ratings and slightly shrink the half-integer ones.

    This is true, but I feel that the star ratings do kind of work that way: 3.5 is a variant of 3 stars (so good, it's excellent), 2.5 is a variant of 2 stars (not just watchable, but entertaining), 1.5 to 1 star (annoying, but not quite terrible). The integer ratings are like letter grades, and the half stars like +/- modifiers. That's why I give x/10 ratings as well in the recaps.

    "We're all nerds here :)"

    We are spending a portion of our limited lifespan an online Star Trek review site.....


    There are worse ways to spend one’s time, or waste one’s life.

    ...After Reading the comments a second Time I am fascinated by the qoute how ones stories are essential to one ˋ s being and how they would Not be retold without Harrys permission.
    For the first time I wish this alien society would have been more fleshed out— because they have standards and concepts about what constitutes the inner self, and that my Story is part of my personality..— just very alien.
    And it makes the trading of stories a little bit gruesome: isnt it trading something very Important under the table?

    ( Sorry for the mistakes, autocorrect on this new device is crazy...)

    I enjoyed this episode. A few silly parts in the episode, but nothing that diminished the episode. The last scene was quite well done. Janeway was believable, and Tuvok was credible.

    Wow, I need to give this ep a second chance. Last time I attempted to watch Voyager was in between either Stargate, Farscape, or DS9 and I didn't get very far in the series, however I got to this episode, watched enough that I remembered what happened, and skipped it. Really, really disliked the lead alien - it was bad enough they he was creepy but I got the impression he was almost trying to force them to stay (the kind of character I wouldn't have been surprised if he sabotaged the ship to stop them leaving) and I just couldn't make it through the episode, so in my proper rewatch this time skipped it again. I'll have to come back to it when I can cope with Gath a bit better, and try to see the episode beyond him.


    You seriously need to give this ep a second chance -- I think it's phenomenal. Really picks up around the mid-way point and just gets everything right (including Gath).

    One of the very rare 4-star VOY episodes for me.

    Also think Yvonne Suhor who played the girl that showed Kim the transportation device is one of the prettiest in all of Trek. Really tragic she died at just 56.

    Very good outing on all fronts. For those of us who feel like "Voyager" didn't live up to what it should have been, it's because of episodes such as "Prime Factors," which did live up to the promise. We just wanted more than we got.

    So far into Season 1, I rate the following as "good or better":

    Caretaker / Phage / Eye of the Needle /Prime Factors. That's out of nine episodes. That was certainly more than Next Gen at this point.

    Wow, Picard’s “The Impossible Box” reference to this episode, somehow made this episode even better

    I come very close to calling this one the second four star episode after "Eye of the Needle", but the opening feels a bit hokey before the episode pulls things together nicely in act one and gives the crew a real dilemma, so I'll go with three and a half. Once again it's a given that the crew will not succeed, but the character choices made with B'Elanna and especially Tuvok, and the establishment of Seska as a solid supporting character really carry this episode for me. And Josh Clark makes me wish that Joe Carey had been a recurring supporting character beyond season one as a father who really just wants to get home to his family. Voyager would have benefitted from more recurring characters that could be developed a la DS9, and I really like the "engineering staff" that allow B'Elanna to have her own subplots apart from the main cast.

    Nice to see a Starfleet crew on the receiving end of a "prime directive" for once and having to just live with that. I thought that particular reality could have used a bit more discussion in the episode, maybe leading to some flexibility on the topic down the line.

    Like ovaduh, I love that this episode is referenced in "Picard". I didn't expect so many Voyager references in that show, and most were quite welcome, this one in particular.

    One thing I never see anyone mention, and this episode isn't specifically the problem, but in the pilot, we meet the Kazon who marvel at the technology to create water from thin air. We will continue to meet the Kazon for a while yet.

    Caretaker led me to believe that Voyager was going to be established, at least for a while as technologically superior in this quadrant, and that the feeling of this quadrant was going to be quite different than the Alpha Quadrant.

    But virtually immediately we started meeting cultures that *appeared* to be of similar tech level to Voyager and feel very much similar to those we've met in TNG. We meet the Videans in episode 4 who have advanced tech - although perhaps primarily focused only on medical tech. We also meet the Banea in episode 7 who the crew turns to for engineering advice and who have the technology to both read and 'transfer' memories even into an alien host.

    And now, in episode 9, we meet a culture that has mastered an advanced "space folding" technology and is at least well off enough to apparently live a luxurious life and to offer their hospitality to space strangers as well.

    Now, nothing in any of this *proves* that anyone else has replicator tech - particularly enough to make water. And even the Kazon themselves have somehow managed space travel tech not far behind Starfleet's. They even show up in the very next episode.

    How the heck can the Kazon have travelled this far from the Caretaker planet - close enough to the the planet in this episode - and Neelix is familiar enough with these people even though he is from the same area. So is it really that realistic that the Caretaker Kazon's should consider water-synthesis miraculous?

    I mean, it's possible the Kazon barely travel and the group on the Caretaker planet have never travelled far outside of that system (though they showed up with a fancy ship at the end of the episode), and their sect - the Ogla - also show up in one further episode all the way into the second season. Maje Culluh of the Nistrom (admittedly a different sect) appears in the episode after this one, and continues to appear all the way to the season 3 premiere, so at least he has a ship with comparable range to Voyager).

    It is *POSSIBLE* that even within the sect, they don't really travel very far individually or communicate very well. It just *FEELS* inauthentic.

    This episode also got me thinking of one other issue that is never strongly addressed during the series. The Caretaker was supposedly bringing ships over for months. I don't think it is ever established exactly how many ships were actually transported, but in these early episodes, everyone treats Voyager as an amazing unique story and a technological marvel. Why does no one ever say "yeah, we meet another ship that the Caretaker brought over last week." Maybe in two or three years, we're moving in a different direction than most other ships would be going, but in these early episodes, where people like Neelix hear all the rumours of what's going on, I'm surprised no one ever mentions any other ships. Not even the Equinox that we later discover has a few months head start, but is on a similar path.

    TH - In a way, the Kazon could be viewed as irrational on an evolutionary perspective, but you could say the same about Klingons - they've been exploring space for a how long now, and they're still eating worms and brawling? And in my book that's fine, because in the 'real world' we only know of one species who has developed advanced technology - humans. We don't know there's any such thing as a 'natural' course of development, from from unevolved and earthbound to somewhat enlightened and reading books and learning and building things, to becoming enlightened space-faring travelers through Western physics and chemistry. That's a Trekkian theory, and it's fiction.

    Pretty darn good episode. Solid characterization, including playing off the relationships the show had been building, and a genuinely tense sequence in Engineering as B'Elenna and company struggled to fend off a warp core breach (that they'd caused). The Sikiarians were intriguing, if not wildly original, and the guest parts felt well-performed and distinct. This was one of the first episodes that felt like it fully exploited Voyager's unique situation to tell a new story. Good stuff.

    Along with ‘State of Flux’ and ‘Eye of the Needle’, ‘Prime Factors’ showed us what potential VOY had, at least early on. Like ‘Eye of the Needle’, the timing of the episode seems dubious, because it is so early in the series as a whole that it is obviously implausible that the crew will manage to make it home.

    But ‘Prime Factors’ – again, like ‘State of Flux’ and ‘Eye of the Needle’ – is not really about the act of making it home; all three episodes are about the crew inexorably sinking into the realisation of their predicament – their distance from home, yes, but also the dilemmas, challenges and quandaries to which they will have to become horrifically accustomed on their passage through the Delta Quadrant. These episodes are about the compromises the Delta Quadrant will force the crew to make. Janeway’s speech at the end of ‘Caretaker’ seems naively chipper in its simplistic optimism (‘we’ll be looking for wormholes, spatial rifts, or new technologies to help us. Somewhere along this journey, we'll find a way back’) when compared to the sudden insubordinate reality laid out so starkly and so brilliantly in this episode.

    It is interesting, too, that the longed-for Maquis-Starfleet co-operation is actually on full display here *not* because the writers have forgotten the tension between the two crews, or because they choose to ignore it, but because one instinctive point of agreement between e.g. Seska, Torres and Carey – and then famously Tuvok later on – is that *everyone* wants to find that way back home; and preferably as soon as possible. It is outstanding to see that the betrayal and rebellion comes *not* from the Maquis (as originally feared by the Starfleet crewmembers – by Janeway most of all) alone, but from Starfleet crew *as well* and from none other than Tuvok, the embodiment not only of logic but of law and order on the ship. Desperation, determination and a potentially once-in-a-seventy-five-year opportunity can make anyone cut a corner, no matter how starched their collar seems (or actually is).

    In many respects, ‘Prime Factors’ is the anti-‘Caretaker’: in ‘Caretaker’, Janeway unilaterally took the unexpected decision to strand everyone in the Delta Quadrant; in ‘Prime Factors’, the crew just as unilaterally take the decision to try and get everyone home again when the possibility equally unexpectedly presents itself. Like ‘Caretaker’, the episode concludes with a speech from Janeway, but this is not a inspiring ode to hope and homesickness to set up the many for the long, long journey homeward; no, this Janeway speech is a self-righteous reprimand wallowing in very personal ire and outrage and a self-indulgent sense of betrayal. It is a wonderfully short-sighted, selfish rebuke limited to the confining privacy of the captain’s ready room. No two contrasts could have been greater. It is hard not to feel sympathy for Tuvok as he is forced to dutifully stand and absorb Janeway’s pompous, tricobalt disappointment in him. (I hasten to add here that I think the characterisation of Janeway in that scene is spot on; it is not a criticism of her as a character.)

    Finally, one superficial aspect of ‘Prime Factors’ that I always liked was that it reminded us that the Delta Quadrant included breathtakingly advanced technology (such as the Caretaker’s array, the Vidiians’ medicine, and – here – the Sikarian transporter) alongside relatively limited species (such as the Kazon). It was a nice touch, and underscored the dog-eat-dog, unco-operative nature of the Borg’s home quadrant in contrast to the other three.

    ‘Prime Factors’ remains a true high watermark for VOY, and having ‘Prime Factors’ and ‘State of Flux’ one after the other is a rare treat.

    Everyone pretty much agrees this is a great episode.

    But it's funny how we celebrate most the episodes which run counter to the normal tone of "Voyager". Cherished episodes like "Prime Factors", "Tuvix" or "Eye of the Needle"...these represent the show at its most low-key. Here Janeway and the crew are forced to brood quietly in corners, speak in hushed whispers, or contemplate things in dimly lit rooms. There's little traditional action, shaky-cam or unnecessary bombast in such episodes. It's all just confident scripts written by writers who seem confident in their material being inherently interesting.

    When was the last time we saw a script like this in Trek?

    According to "Star Trek: Picard" the Sikarian space-folding technology was assimilated by the Borg and it appeared as if that was soon after this episode. Not even the Borg could make the technology work for objects as big as a ship, they only used it to bring the Queen to safety in case of an emergency.

    According to the film "First Contact" the Queen was on the cube in "The Best of Both Worlds" before it was destroyed. So the Sikarian technology was assimilated even before that. So how are the Sikarians still alive and non-assimilated in "Prime Factors"?

    It appears the Sikarians are trading their technology with others even though they claim they dont. So the question "what if it falls in the wrong hands" is already answered, because the Borg already have it.

    @microfish like everything Picard introduced you can just write it off as garbage nonsense. It was obvious even in First Contact that the Queen wasn't literally an individual who could be killed for good but something that could be regenerated anywhere in the Collective. This was pretty much confirmed in various episodes of Voyager when the Queen appeared alive and well despite having been definitively killed in First Contact.

    So getting the Queen to "safety" is just one of those throwaway nonsense plot points from the Abrams/Kurtzman hack writing team.

    @microfish - the Borg might have assimilated small groups or individuals while they were off travelling using the trajector rather than attacking their home world.

    I don't get why Janeway gets so butt hurt by Gath's actions and attitude. He repeatedly insisted that he couldn't give Voyager the technology because it was illegal to do so and only started to waver after repeated pressure. And even then he insisted he would have to confer with the other ministers and they aren't all here right now-- sounds like another version of "no" to me.

    I give Prime Factors 4 stars. Plenty to watch and not a single ship has to explode. Mulgrew shines in the final scenes. Thank you Voyager!

    I think it would've made much more sense for Chakotay to be the brains behind the Maquis because Torres, within the past few episodes, said that there's nobody back home who she cares about and all her "family" are right here in the Delta Quadrant. It kind of doesn't add up, given how determined she becomes in this episode to get everyone home.

    It's also surprising and somewhat implausible that, right after Harry tells his new friend about how Voyager got stranded in the Delta Quadrant, she would not bother to mention to him that her society has trajector technology, right before she uses it to take him as far as the technology can go. She later brokers the meeting between him and the man who was willing to make the deal anyway.

    Apart from that, the episode was decent at putting the Voyager crew on the other side of the Prime Directive, even if it's hard to believe that Sikaris would live in such idyllic paradise, all alone in the middle of the many hostile aliens Voyager has to contend with. You'd think that with a trajector, the Sikarians would have a vast interstellar planet. Instead they seem to be just one planet.

    This episode is in Voyager's top 10 for me, only held back by the ridiculous aesthetic of the Sikarians and the typical "nothing mattered, it wasn't going to work anyway" resolution at the end which was to become a signature trope of the series. I particularly enjoy the shades of grey with no clear best answer to the initial dilemma and the (unnecessarily overexplained) Prime Directive allegory. Voyager should have done more stuff like this. Tuvok is the star of the show with his betrayal and it's nice to see Janeway trying to be Picard with the ending speech. Even if she doesn't fully succeed, even being reminiscent of Picard is a win. I also like the friendly-but-creepy portrayal of Gath. He was not evil per se, but he was a selfish man who used the law of the land for his own pleasure and went into meltdown mode when the crew refused to stay on Sikaria. A refreshing departure from the typical moustache-twirling villain.

    This was the most promising Season 1 ever got. But of course VOY had to be VOY and do a complete reset which allows Seska to "covertly" deal with the Kazon in the next episode as if she had a spotless record.

    I haven't read all of the comments yet, but I want to add my thoughts as I rewatch this episode: (If I commented earlier, please forgive me-I have known about jammer's website for several years now, and I do rewatch the first 5 Star Trek series every few years, so I might have already commented):

    Unlike a lot of the early commenters at least, I didn't see Gath as creepy. I think in real life he is Belgian, and I find the French and Belgians I know to be a bit more touchy, than North Americans (I assume most of you here are Canadians, or from the States). Who I found REALLY creepy was Janeway in her interactions with him. The way she stared at him as he ate pecan pie seemed bizarre to me!

    As far as the crew, I know they are in a desperate mood, but they were really hypocritical! The Prime Directive is something they espouse (at least the Starfleet crew, and the Marquis crew pledged to join them so they do too at least indirectly), and yet they are trying to subvert another race's laws!

    We either follow the law or we don't. Desperation is no excuse for this! I know some people don't agree (for instance, people steal if they are starving and people think that is ok), but I firmly believe that doing things the right way is imperative!

    At the time, it was easy to identify Gath with the then-widely known term "Eurotrash" -- an American understanding of a continental leisure class.

    Great episode. Helpfully, @William B already said pretty much everything I’d thought, so I don’t have to write it. Except this addition:

    I wasn’t surprised when Tuvok arrived to transport down because I’d been thinking since his and Janeway’s conversation about principles, that Tuvok was headed that way. And, even, that they’d reached a tacit agreement that he should do so, with Janeway retaining plausible deniability and the ability as his superior officer, to negate a court martial or other repercussion for him (similar to Picard absolving Data at the end of Redemption II).

    Given this, at the very end when she dismisses Tuvok and we see her alone in her room, eyes tearing up, exhausted — it’s extraordinary acting. Here’s a leader who has just learned the hard way that the buck stops with her. By letting down her guard with Tuvok in the earlier conversation, leaning on him perhaps a bit more than she should have (that rueful, self-deprecating chuckle at the end of the earlier conversation when she told him, somewhat lightheartedly, how much she appreciated him), by letting him see her vulnerability — she realizes now that she’d led him (however inadvertently) to believe this was what she wanted: for him to take care of the problem and of her. And so in that closing shot, she’s most disappointed in herself. And completely alone. Lonely, the way leaders ultimately have to be, to effectively lead.

    During the recent sentencing of Sam Bankman-Fried, judge Lewis Kaplan noted: The Defendant ran a cost-benefit analysis of getting caught versus getting away with fraud.

    Tuvok intoned at the end of the show that his logic and deductions were impeccably correct, but HE was wrong.

    Aside from the Prime Directive lunacy (including this reverse-version of it) and Janeway always forcing her own personal dogma on the whole crew even ones that didn't sign up to be there and selfishly putting all that before the welfare and families of the crew, I found the technobabble even more ridiculous in this one.

    They just casually step on a platform and trust getting sent 40,000 light years away to a random planet? What if they couldn't get back. At least Voyager is an entire ship, Kim would have just had his uniform and the lady had they gotten stuck lol.
    How did they get back? I saw no control pads or any handheld devices at the destination. If the "trajector field" depended on that's planet specific geology to work, how were they pulled back from the other planet? How does such drastic folding of space not affect anything else along the way? 40,000 light years is nearly half the galaxy, how could they "fold" half the galaxy like it's nothing and without affecting anything else? At least warp drive is just the bubble and the bubble is what's moving, but this is astronomically more absurd?

    Also, just as how ridiculously easily invading species can learn and operate all their controls and seize te ship in 10 minutes in various episodes, how do they just casually hook it into their system through a 25th century USB port like that LOL Something that folds half the galaxy just magically compatible with alien technology from the other side of the galaxy that they can just hook into a random port in engineering and it immediately activates and starts working LOL

    While entertaining and interesting, both the character morals AND the technobabble was sub-par in this episode, 2 stars

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