Star Trek: Voyager

"Alliances"

3 stars

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

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Previous episode: Prototype
Next episode: Threshold

◄ Season Index

63 comments on this review

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

And I too was under the impression that a photon torpedo was at least equivalent to a tactical nuke, not a dud hand grenade.
DeanGrr
Wed, Mar 3, 2010, 8:37pm (UTC -6)
Janeway's speech at the end about adhering to principles struck me as understandable, given her past dealings with the Kazon, and now the Trabe. Although, the speech came across as much for her own morale, as for the crews'.

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

The ending to this arc, Investigations, was not very sophisticated, but I definitely enjoyed Michael Piller's "Basics", where Seska's machiavellian plans reach fruition.
Jeffrey
Mon, May 10, 2010, 10:27am (UTC -6)
Truly the type of episode VOY should have been about. This is one of my top 10 favorites of the series and my favorite of season 2.

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

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

My one complaint in general is that even with Janeway's warning, I have a hard time believing that everyone survived the Trabe ship's assault on the conference.
Ken
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 8:44am (UTC -6)
This is a decent episode for the most part. These are the kind of episodes that make perfect sense considering the show's context - being lost in the delta quadrant, all-alone and trying to get home in one piece.

There are few problems.

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

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

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

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

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

As far as Starfleet principles go... the story is full of hypocrisy. Janeway didn't try anything that Starfleet hasn't already done in the Alpha Quadrant by Sisko or Picard before.
Destructor
Sat, Mar 19, 2011, 9:15pm (UTC -6)
Just watched this one and liked it a lot. Great scripting, interesting ethical quandary (almost the reverse of the quandary Janeway face in 'Scorpion', really), great action and politics. It was an episode Voyager needed to do, and it definitely elevates S2, particularly in light of the 'Kazon arc'.

Was anyone else bothered that the Trabe were so 'white'? The analogy they seemed to be drawing was that of Zimbabwe, where the working class overthrew and ejected the ruling class... yet Janeway says: "My gut tells me we can't trust the Kazon...but the Trabe say they feel bad about what they did, so they seem okay?" I was seriously WTF-ing over that, like, I'm glad it ended with them being assholes, because it showed up Janeway's, well, apparent prejudice in a pretty stark light.
Carbetarian
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 12:33am (UTC -6)
I felt this one was a little messy. But, I think @Peter, @PM, @Ken and @Destructor already covered most of my complaints. All in all though, this is one of the second season's better shows.

Three stars from me.

Also, did anyone else catch when Seska tells Maj Cullah that she's carrying his child? Isn't it Chakotay's child? Was this a writer's error? Or is she trying to put one over on the Maj? This is my first time watching Voyager since it originally aired. So, I sincerely can't remember which one it is.
Matthias
Thu, Aug 18, 2011, 7:39am (UTC -6)
Seska told both Chakotay and the Maj the child was theirs.

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

Well okay it'd make for lousy television but the way they're handling it now makes it very hard for me to take it seriously. Why did the writers make Voyager so fast in the first place?
Chris Harrison
Sun, Nov 13, 2011, 12:01am (UTC -6)
@Destructor. Yes, it occured to me to. When Janeway was visiting them in sickbay, I just thought "white farmers"!

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

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

From "Alliances" on, Chakotay & B'Elanna basically lost whatever interesting aspects they had and became Janeway's a$s-lickers. What a deranged bitch Janeway is!
Elliott
Mon, Jul 30, 2012, 10:33am (UTC -6)
@alan. You stole that almost verbatim from sfdebris. Get your own opinion.
inline79
Mon, Oct 14, 2013, 1:58am (UTC -6)
It's now 2013 and I want to be the first to say that this episode did the "shoot-up leaders with ship-phasers through a window" thing WAY before JJ Abrams. It was as ridiculous then as it is now - it's the 24th Century, with sensors and other clever gadgets, not The Godfather!
Gooz
Sun, Nov 3, 2013, 10:04am (UTC -6)
I'm re-watching Voyager, and this episode reminded me why I stopped watching it when it first aired. Every episode ends with a missed opportunity, and that gets frustrating in the end. The fact that the majority of the missed opportunities are Janeway's fault isn't the main issue. Having an incompetent leader that is replaced by the crew would have made for interesting TV. The problem is that her mistakes are not only not acknowledged as mistakes, but are lauded as victories.

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

The next episode is Threshold. Not looking forward to that one.
Tricia
Wed, Dec 4, 2013, 5:04am (UTC -6)
@Destructor - I just re-watched the episode and thought the same thing! Anyway, I thought this episode was pretty good until the end. Why didn't they beam everyone out? We don't even know who survived, although obviously Culluh does. I did like the backstory between the Trabe and Kaizon though, it's good to have some context.

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

I just put the DVD I have of voyager season two and the applause and music isn't there. Wonder if somebody at netflix with a sense of humor added that
Adam
Sun, Feb 2, 2014, 2:30am (UTC -6)
I've been rewatching Voyager seasons 1 and 2 lately , and many of the episodes are much better than I remember. I'm actually enjoying the Kazon arc, on my re-watch. The ending of this episode is a bit of a cop out, but its an entertaining episode, and exactly the kind of thing Voyager should be doing
Ric
Thu, Mar 27, 2014, 4:02am (UTC -6)
Well, mixed feelings on this one. By one hand, certainly interesting and fresh for Voyager. Good political puzzle, nice and rare development of a more deep arc. Nice moral dillema.

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

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

PS: once again I got distracted by the fact the most humanoid races in this quadrant have, as thei primary phisical difference, some different stuff in their noses and above-noses. I really think there is a Bajorian tradiotional fashion spread througout the galaxy. Or the low budget and low creativity were really bad.
Vylora
Wed, Aug 20, 2014, 2:09pm (UTC -6)
This has all the necessary ingredients for a fantastic episode and actually comes through for the most part. Great opening that nicely sets up a sense of urgency. We finally get some much needed backstory on the Kazon. The crew gets put into a unique situation involving underhanded politics and corrupt alliances. Plus a lot of meaty dialogue.

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

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

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

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

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

The alliance could have been successful this time... and the Marquis v Starfleet conflict could have been extended and made believable. But no... all of this was squandered.
eddie
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 7:58pm (UTC -6)
The peace conference thing was such a long shot, even if it hadn't been sabotaged. Janeway should have told the convoy to contact the other Trebe in the region and give them coordinates to meet along the way to the alpha quadrant. They could have traveled together like Janeway suggested and find a planet on the way. But to sweeten the deal, Janeway could have offered to find them a new home world in the federation if they made it all the way. Janeway is a good friend of Admiral Owen, his son serves with her... she could swing giving away a free planet after returning from the Delta Quadrant. Her ship is by itself, traveling in dangerous space and has limited resources. But a free planet IOU, when used smartly, can potentially buy friends and protection along the way. Maybe she gets in trouble for making such offers without the permission of the federation council but it is easier to ask for forgiveness than permission and these are special circumstances. The Council wouldn't refuse.
Yanks
Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 9:21am (UTC -6)
Aside from the cheesy "STID attack the building moment" at the end, I really enjoyed this episode. Still can't believe the 3 photon Torpedoes shot from orbit didn't crash that little ship.

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

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

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

3 stars for me.
JC
Wed, Nov 11, 2015, 7:42pm (UTC -6)
dlpb,

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

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

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

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

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

I'm all for happy endings but only when they ring with the conviction of truth or at the least hope, like Jetrel. All this ending said was "we're always right and everybody else is wrong". Then I rewatch the opening and it practically slaps that dead crewman in the face. May as well kicked his torpedo out into space. Had to dock that 4th star entirely for this cop-out.
MartinB
Mon, Dec 21, 2015, 12:53pm (UTC -6)
As others have said, the action scene failed on many levels. First, that a Trade ship could fly right to the window without Voyager's sensors detecting it is hard enough to believe. Second, the Trade ships weapons should have decimated that room and most of the building. Same for Voyager's torpedoes that are woefully ineffective, which must have been from the batch given to the Enterprise-A in ST:V... I can't believe that either of them would have the weapons set at anything other than maximum. Thirdly, I'm pretty sure we've seen (probably in DS9) that phaser fire tends to heat up a room. Now clearly the conference room is not a Jefferies Tube, the use of a sustained barrage from starship mounted phasers should have had a similar effect and cooked everyone there.
Diamond Dave
Mon, Jan 11, 2016, 7:40am (UTC -6)
Finally an attempt to deal with the meat of Voyager's dilemma - that it can't keep getting it's ass kicked every week and expect to survive. So it's good to see the political alliances boiling over, on board Voyager itself, in the attempt to set up alliances, in the intra-Kazon rivalry, and in the Kazon-Trabe relationship.

This works on multiple levels, with enough twists and plot developments to keep things rattling forwards. But I have two main problems - first is that, broadly, the Kazon just aren't that good as villains. And secondly, the conclusion, which as others have identified is basically a risible "I was right" justification that may as well have been performed with a marching band in front of the flag. Sorry, but nothing has changed. 3 stars.
mephyve
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 5:34am (UTC -6)
Crew man Who Cares dies, Then blah blah blah blah blah blah blah ...
RandomThoughts
Thu, Dec 29, 2016, 10:36pm (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Regards Everyone... RT
Chos
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 9:31am (UTC -6)
As I watch Voyager yet one more time, I've come to the realization that it's actually the story of Seska, a tragic hero in the vein of Candide. She means well, but events happen to her, and she has no way of controlling them.

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

Team Seska!
Vii
Wed, Jan 25, 2017, 1:29pm (UTC -6)
@Chos - I agree about Voyager being Seska's story in a way. When I was much younger and first watched VOY, I simply found Seska to be a villain whom I was not supposed to have any sympathy for. I've been rewatching all the Seska episodes over the last few days, however, and concur that hers is a tragic character.

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

I get the feeling that she thinks that she's well and truly burned her bridges on Voyager, as well as that she's too proud to go back even if she wanted to. Can't exactly see her new life with the Kazon being an improvement at all on her life on Voyager, even if she didn't agree with Starfleet ideals and resented the fact that her best friend and former lover had suddenly had a complete change of heart. It's also laughable to think that she would find the Kazon to be her equals at all; her own people on Cardassia were eloquent and refined, everything that the Kazon were not. Imagine growing up and being used to people like Garak, then having to fawn over the likes of Culluh. Her own actions led her to seek succour with the Kazon, but she wouldn't have had to make those choices if Janeway's Starfleet ideals hadn't led the Voyager/Maquis crews to be stranded in the Delta Quadrant in the first place, so one can certainly see why she resents Janeway so bitterly.
Linda
Thu, Mar 16, 2017, 11:27am (UTC -6)
The episode opens with the Voyager in battle, severely damaged. They are “dead in the water”, with no warp, impulse or any other way to move. Their shields are virtually non-existent, as is their weaponry. And the Kazon choose not to take advantage? It is imperative that Voyager make repairs quickly. So Torres beams an injured crewman to sickbay and takes time to visit him. After he dies, there’s a memorial, presumably because the crew have all read the script and knew they had plenty of time. And Voyager gets quickly repaired despite all the hull breeches, distractions, etc. Seems like a typical episode to me.
Dr Trout
Mon, Mar 20, 2017, 8:14pm (UTC -6)
Reviews are on the spot. But I finally figured out what is ultimately the biggest stupidity about the Culluh plots. If Voyager is passing through just trying to" get home", how is it possible for the same Maje (Cullah) and of course, Seska, to keep showing up? Unlike the other Star Trek's, which are in the same quadrant, Voyager is never in the same place again.

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

Now add all the other idiocy, and its why Voyager's first few years are not looked upon favorably in reviews.
William B
Sat, Sep 16, 2017, 11:28pm (UTC -6)
So the consensus here is mostly that the episode is pretty good and what the show should have been doing until the ending, which sounded a false note for many (not all). I think I'm going to break and say that I thought the whole episode was bad, and I'm not really surprised given that this is the writing staff's attempt to do a storyarc episode why they basically stopped trying. The idea of course is exactly what the show could be about, and what makes use of Voyager's specific, precarious situation in the DQ to mine interesting drama about how to survive in hostile territory, whom to work with, etc., along with the way different crew members will react to the same circumstance. It's a good idea. But the execution struck me as bad from top to bottom. Just a few observations:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's not really that none of this could have worked. I could imagine this story played out over a year as being basically effective -- with time where Janeway's negotiations with other Kazons stalled, time for Janeway to really come to trust the Trabe so that their betrayal actually stung, time for her to actually build trust with Kazon again so that they'd agree to this peace meeting, etc. And along with that, Janeway getting an emotional and spiritual investment in the fate of the Kazon/Trabe and that overwhelming her Prime Directive inclination to leave things be (and leave violent warring peoples to settle their own wars) would have worked. It's just that it's all crammed into one incoherent episode, where each scene seemed to me to be more ridiculous than the last. I'm still not going to go *that* low in rating because I appreciate some of the ideas behind it, but I think it's understated how badly bungled this episode is. 1.5 stars.
Skuggles
Tue, Oct 3, 2017, 2:31am (UTC -6)
My post is going to seem pretty lame after the previous one. Sheesh! I agree with pretty much everything said in it though.

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

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

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

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

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

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

2 stars.
Paulus Marius
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 6:53pm (UTC -6)
I have to agree with the previous two commenters. Re-watching this weak season now, so many years later, this episode felt full of holes and glaring inconsistencies, as laid out by many commenters. If this were today placed under the kind of scrutiny every episode of Discovery has faced thus far, I don't think it would hold up very well. (I did enjoy most of Season Two the first time, if I think about it. Perhaps I'm the one that's changed...)

Also, the music was terrible, and that didn't help.

To me, the robot episode was a bit stronger than this one.

1 star. OK, 1.5 for effort, however misguided, to make a relevant episode that has consequences.

Oh boy, on to Threshold, yippee!!
Rahul
Mon, Jan 29, 2018, 11:30pm (UTC -6)
Really good interesting episode that gets into the politics of the Kazon and with Janeway having to question her belief in Star Fleet principles and doing things the Maquis way. Some interesting backstory to the Kazon, which makes them more than just stock villains + some good scenes with Seska/Culluh. The Janeway speech at the end is a too naive, however.

Good opening with Voyager getting its ass kicked & setting up Chakotay's conversation with Janeway about using Maquis principles -- this philosophical challenge to Janeway (BTW what was she doing just contemplating in her ready room while all hell was breaking loose on the ship??) is an interesting one in which she potentially has to abandon Star Fleet rules. And then I liked Tuvok's role here as advising Janeway on the alliance (discussion of Spock's role brokering an agreement between the Federation and Klingons) -- the analogy to grafting a Vulcan plant to an orchid was appropriate. Really good setup for the rest of the episode.

What's also good about this episode is getting Seska and Culluh's views (having the informant on Voyager and deciding on strategy re. attending the conference) -- reminded me a bit about the Romulans in "Balance of Terror" -- getting a deeper understanding of the enemy's perspective/motivation. Culluh's sexism is kind of weird here -- doesn't he have enough reason not to trust Janeway?

But other than Janeway's "our principles are our best allies" speech at the end (which should only piss off the Maquis crewmembers more), she's really good in this episode giving it to the Trabe after his treachery. Pretty neat scene with the Trabe ship trying to gun down all the Kazon at the negotiating table -- ballsy attempt by the Trabe, I must say.

Solid 3 stars for "Alliances" -- has kind of a DS9 flavor to it with motivation/backstory for Kazon/Trabe and a decent examination of Janeway's Star Fleet principles. Some good secondary characters here with Seska/Culluh and even the Trabe dude liven things up. Good to get a better lay of the land in the DQ and with Voyager in a worse situation vs. the Kazon than at the start of the episode.
Lee Jones
Tue, Jan 30, 2018, 2:47am (UTC -6)
I'm late to the party, but I'll add my two cents.

As I see it, the real reason Janeway is so opposed to sharing technology with the Kazon is not so much because she cares about destabilizing their society, it's all about preventing the Kazon from gaining a technological advantage over the rest of the Quadrant.
Way back in "Caretaker," the Kazon made it very clear that they wanted to dominate and oppress the Ocampa, and steal their water and the technology the Caretaker gave them.
If the Kazon got superior tech from Voyager, it wouldn't be very long at all before they started using it to change the balance of power of the Delta Quadrant in their favor by subjugating everyone else.

THAT would be the greatest Prime Directive violation of all.
CJE
Mon, Mar 12, 2018, 9:53am (UTC -6)
A fun action piece, and an interesting dilemma. Unfortunately, Janeway's resolution to it is uncharacteristically simplistic.

This is one of the times where they should have bashed it out in the writers' room a little harder... like when Ronald D Moore wanted Wesley to stay loyal to his friends instead of Starfleet in "The First Duty" (which would have been more controversial, and more interesting), and when Worf refused to help treat the Romulan patient in "The Defector" (which gave depth to his character, in my opinion).

The ending would have been more effective if Janeway chewed out the Trabe for their act of violence, but maintained the alliance with them. There wasn't much choice... with the Trabe and all the Kazon factions as their enemies, I was surprised they lasted until the next week. As a leader, Janeway would have had to recognize the Trabe alliance as a necessary evil, and grudgingly maintain it. That's the kind of sacrifice that her crew needed her to make, no matter how much she hated herself for it. I thought the Trabe/Kazon conflict was very interesting and should have been developed further.
SouthofNorth
Mon, Apr 9, 2018, 8:01pm (UTC -6)
2-stars, perhaps it was 3 until that ridiculous closing speech by Janeway.

This is one of those episodes where it could have been so much better if some more foresight and real-politik had been applied to the situation.

First of all, Voyager is at war with the Kazon and since we're constantly reminded that Voyage represents the Federation in the quadrant it means that the Federation is at war with the Kazon. So all of this nonsense about the the Prime Directive doesn't apply.

Second: If you want the attacks to stop, you don't go hat-in-hand to the Kazons begging for peace. That will only send the signal that the attacks are working and all the Kazons have to do is keep up the pressure because obviously Voyager is starting to crack.

How much better would this episode have been if Janeway's conference with Tuvok had been something like this:

----
Janeway: Tuvok some on this ship want us to negotiate with the Kazon in violation of all federation principles. What do you think?
Tuvok: I think that would be very unwise
Janeway: I agree
Tuvok: But not for the reasons you have stated. We need to send a message to the Kazon and I suggest that the message be written with phasers and photon torpedoes.
Janeway: But we're not at war with the Kazon
Tuvok: Perhaps not, but the Kazon are at war with us and I do not believe the principles of the Federation negate the right of self defense. In any case, opening negotiations would be unwise without a show of strength.
Janeway: Tuvok, how many battles do you think we can fight until we can no longer make it home?
Tuvok: Captain this ship has fought three battles in the last 2 weeks and it today it has cost the life of a valuable member of the crew not to mention severe damange to the ship itself. The current course of action is unsustainable without a change of tactics.
Janeway: I'll take it under advisement. Your logic is - as always - difficult and persuasive Tuvok.
----
From there the episode should have moved forward with the conference without it being clear what Janeway had decided to do. The conference is punctuated with Janeway destroying some important water treatement plant (without the loss of life) with severe repercussions to the Kazon.
----
Kazon: You have made an enemy today Captain Janeway
Janeway: Really? By the way you've been attacking my ship, I didn't think we had been friends. But know this. We could have fried your entire planet if we wanted to. These attacks stop NOW! Or maybe next time I won't be able to restrain my crew. You have NO IDEA what Voyager can do. Be thankful that we're leaving this sector soon. You tell the rest of the Kazon to back off. We won't bother you if you don't bother us.

Janeway out.
-----
Sean Hagins
Mon, Aug 20, 2018, 9:31pm (UTC -6)
I remember this episode when it came out! I really liked it-call me naive, but the Trabe turning on the Kazon was a BIG surprise to me! Even the villianous look on the Trabe leader's face was a complete 180!

I don't know what the Godfather term is some brought up here, but yes, I would think the phasers shot by the Trabe ship would do more damage. I would think though that Voyager's torpedos were set on low yield (but why they had to use up 3 of them, I have no idea)

I just don't like the speech at the end where Janeway says the only ally they need is the Prime Directive. They are replacing true values with their made up ones again.

But a good solid hour of entertainment.

Oh, and I do agree that Voyager should just maximum warp out of Kazon territory, but then there wouldn't be the suspense of a threat to them
Elliott
Sat, Jan 5, 2019, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
Happy New Year, everyone! So, what was all that on the Discovery pages? Anyway...I'm pressing on with these reviews from a show that's been off the air for almost 20 years, you know, back when everyone in the Trek community agreed about everything. Ahem.

Teaser : ***.5, 5%

So. the Voyager is having its ass kicked by some Kazon marauders. While, the Kazon are eventually driven off, the ship and crew are left in a not-so-great condition—the warp drive is down, there are sparks everywhere, oh and a gold-shirted Maquis in Engineering is severely injured. The sickbay is inundated with casualties, damage is extensive. The EMH is unable to save the burned gold-shirt, leaving Torres shaken. The music and cinematography are pretty effective, but I'm not crazy about the director's choice to have the cast screaming at each other for no reason...I mean, it's supposed to be dramatic, but it reads rather silly.

Anyway, we find ourselves in the aftermath with Chakotay reporting the bad news to Janeway in her readyroom. But this experience has given the XO serious pause:

CHAKOTAY: When we first started our trip home, you made a conscious decision to treat Voyager as a Starfleet ship with a Starfleet crew following Starfleet rules...but out here, maybe we should be thinking more like the Maquis. The Maquis had to survive on their own. We were up against insurmountable odds. We had to create our own opportunities for success, because nobody was willing to help us. Sound like anybody you know?
JANEWAY: If you're suggesting we abandon our principles just because we're out of hailing range?
CHAKOTAY: [] I don't think we can afford to keep doing business as usual.

The teaser is extremely promising, picking up the threads of the Kazon arc and revisiting potent themes from “Caretaker,” “Prime Factors” and “State of Flux.” It's interesting that this aired so close to “Homefront” over on DS9. There I wrote:

“So the idea here is that extenuating circumstances will force people to abandon their principles. And that's not necessarily incorrect, but it doesn't PROVE anything other than that the circumstances are, well, extenuating. The situation is extreme and so is the fallout. If we don't want people to abandon their ideals, we should make efforts to prevent such conditions.”

Here we are then, with the Voyager facing extenuating circumstances just like President Jared. Let's see how things play out in the Delta Quadrant.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

In the mess hall, the gold shirt is eulogised by Chakotay. It's a decent speech that carefully sidesteps the usual problems associated with the Maquis as a concept. The crewman is described as “always fighting the good fight,” which fits right in with that self-romanticised identity the Maquis all seem to share and avoids the problematic details of describing exactly what those fights were about. The memorial is capped off by by an ensign blowing the boatswain's whistle, which is just the perfect touch of irony for this rogue Maquis archetype's funeral. In my view, the Maquis as a political concept is a broken story thread; the only meaningful way to keep using it is as fodder for character material. So, kudos, writers.

Another Maquis, Hogan, confronts the captain in front of the senior staff as the crew begin filing out. He expresses collective concern over their safety in the wake of these attacks. She turns the question around and gives him latitude, so he gives her an earful:

HOGAN: I'd give them what they want. Give them the replicators and the transporters and whatever else it is they're after.
JANEWAY: I'm sure you realise that would be a violation of the Prime—
HOGAN: I know all about the Prime Directive, but you know what? The Federation is seventy thousand light years away. What does it matter what these people do to each other with our technology.

Janeway excuses his behaviour, citing heightened emotions, but his attitude seems to confirm her suspicions that “the Maquis way” is little more than anarchy in the name of self-preservation. Fearing mutiny, or perhaps just wanting to give his people a stake in the Voyager's mission (c.f. “Parallax”), Chakotay begs Janeway to consider a middle ground between the positions of strict Starfleet policy and such anarchy. Let's revisit the infamous decision from “Caretaker”:

“What this is really about is a new captain trying to make an ethical decision. Remember that the array would have blown itself up if the Voyager hadn't gotten into a fight with the Kazon. Janeway's and Chakotay's choices have led them to become involved in the internal affairs of the Caretaker. In that scene in the ready room with Tuvok, Janeway laments the fact that she hasn't gotten close to the crew, and she vows to re-unite them with their families. And now she has the opportunity to make good on that promise. All she has to do is sacrifice the Ocampa. So does she make the right decision, here? From a Starfleet perspective, I think she does. While the letter of the Prime Directive, as Tuvok points out, would prohibit her from blowing up the array, its spirit demands that she rectify the consequences of her own involvement and replace her divot...she resists the urge succumb to the emotions which are pulling her towards the decision that would most please her crew []. Instead, she womans up and makes an enlightened choice.”

The crew have been stranded in this dangerous part of space because of Janeway's choice to adhere to not only Starfleet protocols, but Federation values. One curiosity with the script in “Alliances,” is that the characters keep equating the two, when they're really very different concepts. One is procedural, the other is ethical. This is something that happens frequently on DS9, but in this case, I think the confusion is intentional. Bending the rules to accommodate difficult circumstances is not the same as loosening one's morality to improve the odds of survival. And the former is something Janeway is obligated to consider as the caretaker of her own people. But of course, there's always the slippery slope. Chakotay finally suggests taking on some Kazon allies.

JANEWAY: Nothing we've been through with the Kazon would lead me to believe they're trustworthy. I can't imagine making a deal with them.
CHAKOTAY: With all due respect, maybe that's because your imagination is limited by Starfleet protocols.

He has a point.

Facing another serious dilemma, Janeway turns to her oldest friend and confidant, Tuvok, for some Vulcan clarity. Well, he surprises her by endorsing Chakotay's suggestion, even referencing “The Undiscovered Country” and the unlikely peace with the Klingon Empire that...ironically, has fallen apart thanks to Changeling shenanigans. But he doesn't know that. Janeway counters that their alliance with some Kazon sects would create a power imbalance (which is specifically what Janeway cautioned to Seska in “State of Flux”). Tuvok's attitude is essentially the same as in “Prime Factors”; Janeway isn't wrong, but logic dictates that they pursue difficult avenues of getting home. It's nice to see that both characters have grown since then, with Tuvok taking his logic to her, as she demanded, and she considering a broader perspective in order to pursue good faith with the needs of her crew. What finally convinces her is a metaphor concerning Vulcan orchids (c.f. “Tattoo”). Whether they wanted to or not, the Voyager has created a reputation for itself in the region. Shouldn't her legacy be one of promoting peace? One might turn Janeway's words around on her: “We didn't ask to be involved, but we are.”

We cut to the briefing room, where Janeway breaks the news of her decision to the senior staff. Neelix thinks he can make some inroads with the Kazon Pomar at a nearby planet, Sobriety or something. Good luck with that, furball. Torres takes Kim's flippant remark about Seska seriously and suggests allying with the Nistrim itself. Well, now it's Chakotay's turn to be incredulous, leading to an amusing remark:

JANEWAY: You can't have it both ways Commander. If you want to get in the mud with the Kazon you can't start complaining that you might get dirty.

Act 2 : **, 17%

We pick up with Caligula and Seska on the viewscreen responding to Janeway's overture. All parties are clearly skeptical of this idea, but the opportunity is too great to resist. In the meantime, Neelix has taken a shuttle by himself to planet Sobriety—yeah, sure. He finds his contact, an especially orange Kazon trying to solve a puzzle (one which is geometrically-impossible, if you're curious) in order to purchase a night of nerd-fucking with the stripper. The alien stripper is kept in the frame for most of these shots, apparently in an effort to distract us from the tedious conversation between the Kazon and Neelix. Meh. This ends as expected, with Neelix being apprehended by Kazon guards and hauled away.

Let's see if Janeway's meeting with Caligula is going any better. Well, his over-written misogyny and history of lying to her face conspire to make the conversation...awkward. He agrees to the terms Janeway lays out—military support and emergency aid to the Nistrim, but no exchange of technology—but insists upon an additional bullet-point, the exchange of crewmen. This is where things go to shit in more ways than one. The meeting itself ends in failure, despite Seska's efforts to keep Caligula from peeing on the furniture. But more disappointingly, Janeway's reaction to the obstinate Kazon betrays the fact that she has refused to seriously consider the possibility of an alliance. The crew-exchange is probably a non-starter, and the Kazon attitudes about women would certainly make things tenuous at best, but Janeway is too smart not to have realised this already. The point of this alliance is to stop the Voyager from getting shot at and her crew murdered. Frankly, if she has to put up with piggishness from her would-be ally, that's a small price to pay.

Meanwhile, Neelix gets tossed in a cave with a group of aliens, bumbling in his Neelixish way all the while. He finds himself amongst a group of alien families, including babies, being help captive by the Pomar.

Act 3 : **.5, 17%

It turns out these people are the Trabe, the Kazons' former oppressors as explained in “Initiations.” Their leader, Mabus, informs Neelix that their imprisonment won't last long, as his group was able to contact relief vessels before they were captured. So, Neelix is conscripted to aid in the escape.

The Voyager arrives at the rendezvous coordinates with Neelix, who is of course a no-show. This gives us the chance to revisit the lower-decks issues from act 1. In Engineering, Hogan asks Torres to fill them in on how the politics are going. He's pessimistic and Torres lets her anger slip out a bit. Despite having endorsed the idea of allying with the Nistrim to begin with, Torres explains to Hogan that his hopes of using their old friendship with Seska to try and force a deal are naïve. It may make tactical sense to seek an alliance, but fundamentally, they cannot trust her or the Kazon. On the surface, this seems like a curt dismissal of legitimate concerns by this lower-deck character whose confidence Janeway is supposed to be trying to cultivate, but again, I take this as a Maquis issue; Hogan still considers the loyalty between the anti-Federation guerilla fighters to be something upon which they should be relying, despite Seska's betrayal, but this is the post-”Prime Factors” Torres. She may not fully trust the captain yet either, but she doesn't need to hear it from this whiny engineer. This conversation is overheard by a buck-toothed Maquis gold-shirt who gets some ominous chords to accompany his consternation.

After a couple of hours, a fleet of Kazon ships approaches the Voyager, prompting a red alert.

Act 4 : ***, 17%

Ah, but this is actually Neelix and the Trabe—in their own vessels. They were rescued from the Pomar prison and it turns out the Kazon technology was actually stolen from the Trabe after their uprising, which we discuss over dinner (to help reinforce the connection to ST VI). Mabus explains that, in his view, the Trabe brought about the Kazon uprising on their own. I do like the way this works with the sub-par material from “Initiations” to show that many of the problems with the Kazon, culturally, stem from Trabe imperialism.

MABUS: The Trabe treated them like animals, fenced them in, encouraged them to fight amongst themselves so they wouldn't turn on us, and sat by while they turned into a violent, angry army. When they finally realised we were their true enemy, we didn't stand a chance.

Does this have any real-world analogues? Nah! So, Mabus' candour aside, Janeway's gut seems to give her better vibes about the Trabe than about the Kazon...probably due in large part to the fact that the Trabe may have been oppressive, imperialist fascists, but at least they aren't sexists! In other words, Janeway's guilty here of some very white Neera Tanden-style feminism. Again, disappointing.

There's a brief scene where the buck-toothed engineer (a communications specialist called Jonas) contacts the Nistrim in secret, hoping to get a message to Seska. Hmm.

After dinner, Neelix, Tuvok, Chakotay and Janeway meet to discuss the Trabe. Neelix confirms that the Trade manipulated information to obscure their enslavement of the Kazon. Chakotay, sensing Janeway's sympathy for them, says that he believes in a people's ability to change, to learn from its mistakes. A point has been made in the comments about how foolish Janeway is here to ignore Tuvok's warning about uniting the Kazon against the Voyager by allying with their common enemy, but Chakotay points out that having the Trabe armada on their side is worth the risk. You don't have to agree with the decision here (I don't), but it's a question of tactics and a valid manoeuvre, as far as I'm concerned. The point of the scene, really, is to show Janeway attempting to have her cake and eat it, too; allying with the Trabe allows her to bend the protocols a bit, but she gets to play-act as Picard, regarding a new species with “openness and friendship,” because the Voyager has no personal history with the Trabe, and hey, they aren't sexist! So, principles are in tact, but we get our safe passage through Borg, excuse me, Kazon space.

Well, the alliance is afoot, with the EMH giving the Trabe checkups and Janeway asking Mabus to add the Voyager to his armada until they escape Kazon space together. Mabus wants to go even further, however. He wants to use their alliance to force the Kazon to the negotiating table, to forge a legitimate peace between the Kazon factions and provide the Trabe and the Voyager the stability they need to achieve their own goals. Hmm...what was it Janeway said to Chakotay earlier?

“You can't have it both ways Commander. If you want to get in the mud with the Kazon you can't start complaining that you might get dirty.”

Yep.

William B, whose views on Trek I admire, complains that the stakes for this episode seem unwieldy. And indeed, the next scene shows Seska and Caligula reeling in the wake of the message from the Voyager calling for a meeting with all the Kazon factions. I think this is intentional, though. I'm reminded of “Pen Pals,” and that wordless exchange between Picard and Riker where he signals that they seem to have gotten in over their heads with the planet of sticky-finger people. This episode is about the slippery slope of justifying the loosening of principles. Janeway has been seduced into trying this approach. Since “Prime Factors,” people have died, Seska has betrayed them, and the Voyager's survival seems a lot more tenuous. Mabus offers her the opportunity to suspend the risk to her crew and her ship, AND prove Seska wrong, AND appease Chakotay and the restless Maquis, AND achieve it all through non-violent, Starfleet-mostly-approved diplomacy. It's not hard to see why she goes for this.

For her part, Seska has used her pregnancy by stolen Chakotay DNA to give herself an advantage with Caligula, whose misogyny is stayed but equally-robust machismo—believing the child to be his. Seska explains about their new agent, Jonas, onboard the Voyager and insists that the Nistrim be present for this historic meeting. She Lady Macbeths a bit and convinces the oaf that he can turn this around, unite the Kazon (as Tuvok feared) and take the Voyager as a prize in his eradication of the Trabe. Caligula is so excited, I think he pops a boner right then and there. Gross.

Neelix, meanwhile, has some bad news from Sobriety as his orange buddy has reported espionage at the conference site. Janeway speculates that one of the Kazon sects is trying to sabotage the meeting. She has Chakotay repeat their trick from “Faces” and keep the away team on a constant transporter lock, but she's unwilling to cancel at this point (see above).

Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

The delegates arrive, Janeway, Tuvok, Neelix, Mabus and several Majes and their aids, including Caligula, of course. He is openly skeptical of this peace proposal and eggs the other Kazon on in their distrust. His hostility makes Janeway and Tuvok nervous, suspecting him to be the saboteur. While she equivocates at first, Janeway eventually admits to Caligula that her choice to ally with the Trabe over himself was a tactical one. He accuses her of hypocrisy, allying with war-criminals like the Trabe in the name of Federation peace. Frankly, he makes a better point than Cal Hudson and the other Maquis have thus far in criticising Federation policy.

Mabus asks Janeway and co. to join him in a private word, but she recognises that he has laid a trap for the Kazon, and indeed a Trabe ship approaches the window, Godfather-style, and attempts an assassination, prevented only by Janeway calling for the Majes to duck.

Back on the Voyager, Janeway is livid.

MABUS: Captain, don't do this. You're going to need us.
JANEWAY: I don't think so.
MABUS: The Kazon will be determined to seek revenge. How can this one ship hope to survive?

We shall see. Mabus is beamed away and Janeway has the ship scurry off in a hurry.

Discounting pithy asides, I don't usually like to break the timeline in these write-ups, but the common thread amongst those who both do and don't like this episode regards the alleged naïvety of the brief speech that closes the episode.

JANEWAY: In a region where shifting allegiances are commonplace we have to have something stable to rely on. And we do. The principles and ideals of the Federation. As far as I'm concerned, those are the best allies we could have.

Jammer, for one, thinks this is too easy, too simple, but the series is not sticking to this interpretation at all. Remember that, in “Basics,” Janeway's choice to avoid messy alliances will leave the crew stranded on a hell planet, restored to the Voyager by the most unlikely of rescue missions. A year following that, her experiences lead to the strikingly similar ethical dilemma in “Scorpion,” which of course has its own myriad fallout. By the time we get to “The Void,” Janeway is actively trying to re-create the Federation in the Delta Quadrant. And in the future timeline of “Endgame,” Admiral Janeway has sunk to the point of conspiring with terrorists on purpose in order to violate the Prime Directive. I won't spoil for now whether I think Janeway's thesis here, that in the end, one need the allies of principles and ideals above all others, is proved correct or not by the show, but the point is that the premise is tested in many complex ways following this episode. But even without jumping the timeline, the entire subplot with Michael Jonas clearly points the way for their to be consequences to Janeway's choices here. Unlike with Picard's speeches regarding the Federation, we are given reason to suspect that Janeway's is not the word of god in these matters. She is clearly fallible. In fact, I think her failures define the series. But this is a literary strength, not a weakness.

Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

This is a satisfying continuation of the meaty middle story from Season 1. The plotting isn't nearly as intricate as, say, the Klingon/Federation war over on DS9, but of course, it doesn't have the benefit of so much rich backstory. The plot does, however, serve a couple important functions for the series, giving the Kazon some needed depth (although not enough to make them compelling), and tying together several different threads into a cohesive direction for the show. Chakotay and Tuvok, who have often butted heads as respective avatars for their Maquis and Starfleet allegiances, find themselves essentially in agreement over the issue of alliances; divorced from his cringey relationship with Kes for the moment, Neelix actually seems to have a function as DQ intermediary; Chakotay and Janeway establish the crux of their dynamic, with Chakotay pushing Janeway to consider different perspectives; Seska actually seems to have a plan!

All of this coheres around a strong character piece for Janeway and consequently another opportunity for Mulgrew to carry the episode, which she does marvellously. Perhaps it is simply that the kind of sexism displayed by Caligula is so alien to her (only the Ferengi seem worse in this respect), but his toxic attitude really does seem to get to her and cost her a needed perspective regarding the story's central issue. And that's fitting because this is a story about fear. The Trabe feared owning up to their past and it cost them their civilisation. Seska feared Federation idealism keeping her from home and it cost her her autonomy as a woman. The Kazon fear inferiority to women, to other races, to other sects, and it costs them a stable culture. And Janeway...Janeway is afraid, too. She says that “we have to have something stable to rely on,” but by “we” she means “I.” Janeway is afraid of the slippery slope. And she should be.

Final Score : ***
William B
Sun, Jan 6, 2019, 2:01pm (UTC -6)
@Elliott,

I really like your take on this episode.

I think the..."Neera Tanden feminism" (I don't know that much about Tanden herself, though I have seen criticisms of her for what you mention, so I completely understand your point even if I don't know for sure that I'd share the criticisms of her in particular) aspect of the episode is more or less believable for Janeway, and I'm glad to see your analysis talking about it. I did feel like the readiness to "forgive" the Trabe for their past deeds but unwillingness to look past the Kazon's current state, which we were told even by the Trabe was basically encouraged by them, is really pointed. Watching the episode I found myself taken aback by it, and/but I can see how the Trabe's past crimes seem less dangerous than the Kazon's current thugocracy.

To be honest, overall, this episode reminds me of Shakaar, in that it's a situation which follows up from previous plot threads and in which the female lead (Janeway/Kira) makes a series of reckless, almost crazy choices and things escalate extremely quickly in order to get the story to pass within an episode, and then things are somewhat unstably reset at the end. Both episodes left me bewildered and I don't really like either. However most of the defenses of Shakaar as an ep seem to argue that Kira was more or less acting rationally, if perhaps being hotheaded in a Kira way, whereas your defense of this ep does rely on Janeway's flaws all being intended.
Elliott
Mon, Jan 14, 2019, 9:29am (UTC -6)
@William B

Thank you. Anti-Janeway bias creeps in prevalently in a lot of Voyager reviews. Given that all of her attempts at forming alliances here end in failure, whether the ones she found unsavoury (Cullah) or the ones that she actively endorsed (Mabus), I don't see how one can miss that the failure is an intentional choice to shape the character.
William B
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
@Elliott,

Well, on the "how one can miss" thing --

My take while watching the episode is that it felt like we were being shown that the idea of making alliances itself would inevitably lead to disaster. This was Janeway's initial impression and her final conclusion at the ep's end. So then there are two (rough) ways to read the intervening material:

1. Janeway does an exemplary job attempting to make a faulty premise work. The failure proves that alliances as a whole are bad.

2. Janeway doesn't want to do alliances, and then when she starts trying she fails, often catastrophically. At the end she snaps to "all alliances are bad" because she desperately needs something to cling onto.

Your take seems to me to be closer to #2, with some allowances for the idea that Janeway makes many good points.

The way I tended to read the episode while watching it was that it was closer to #1. The "Neera Tanden feminism" you speak of seemed to me to be possibly the perspective of the series. OK, so, I *know* that the Trabe betrayed them, and so making an alliance with them was the bad move. But somehow the casualness with which Janeway allies herself with the friendly looking white guys who are ex-slavemasters but who are less sexist threw me for a loop and -- for reasons I find difficult to explain -- felt like the series making that mistake, rather than Janeway. I guess I wouldn't entirely put it past Jeri Taylor to think that way, I guess is what I'm saying. The Trabe's betrayal then plays out more like "Well, you can't trust anyone, QED" rather than that they were obviously unsavoury people to make a deal with.

As I'm writing this, I guess I can see the objection really clearly -- the episode basically told us not to trust them, and then showed us that they shouldn't have been trusted. So it is possible that I was just so thrown by how readily Janeway hitches herself to them that I assumed it must be a writing error rather than an in-character mistake, even if the writing is probably giving enough info to say that it's a character mistake. So that is promising.
Peter G.
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 1:22pm (UTC -6)
That's interesting, William, except for one thing: Janeway is never, without exception, shown outright to have made a character in the entire series. She, herself, later takes responsibility for the choices made in Caretaker, but other than that I can't remember a single instance of the show portaying her as making a blatantly wrong move, or anyone on the show coming to that conclusion.

SPOILERS

Even in Scorpion, as I observed recently, despite Chakotay outright saying she's wrong, never in the episode do we actually get any sense that he's been proven right (even though I think he is).

Therefore if you see something in Alliances making it look like Janeway screwed up royally I have to assume it's a writing mistake and not deliberate. Mulgrew certainly never spoke about her characterization as indicating questionable decisions or traits. Or if she did I missed that one.
Elliott
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G

I would point to "Hope and Fear" and the fallout in Season 5 as ample evidence of exploring Janeway's failures. She eventually starts openly trading technology ("The Killing Game," "The Void") and making military alliances ("Year of Hell"), both of which she told Hogan would happen over his dead body in this story. And in fact, Hogan does end up dying because of her stubbornness in "Basics." I will go into this more when I eventually get to reviewing those episodes, but as memory serves, the events of "Scorpion" are eventually what break Janeway away from her white feminism and the letter-of-the-law approach to captaining that she clings to here. To me, the ending of "Alliances" reads very clearly as a set up for the later fall from grace.
Iceman
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:20pm (UTC -6)
@Elliott-

" Thank you. Anti-Janeway bias creeps in prevalently in a lot of Voyager reviews. Given that all of her attempts at forming alliances here end in failure, whether the ones she found unsavoury (Cullah) or the ones that she actively endorsed (Mabus), I don't see how one can miss that the failure is an intentional choice to shape the character. "

Define "Anti-Janeway bias". Are you referring to disliking Kate Mulgrew's performance, or critiques of Janeway's characterization?
Elliott
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:29pm (UTC -6)
@Iceman

I think many fans at the time of Voyager's airing reacted negatively to the character for several reasons, some less forgivable than others--like Mulgrew's voice--that betray some underlying sexism. And then there's the controversy over Janeway's command choices, especially in stories like "Caretaker" and "Tuvix" that seem to lend credence to Janeway = bad captain. These elements came together in making many viewers actively look for examples of Janeway being bad at her job, as a justification for hating the series which subverted what many of those same fans wanted Voyager to be, by dropping the cynical Maquis angle fairly early on and by having a complicated female captain. All of the other captains at this point had made questionable decisions, but they were granted the benefit of the doubt, or called pragmatically tough or whatever, whereas Janeway was not.
Peter G.
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
Iceman is right: there's a difference between objecting to the writing and objecting to the actress. I was a big fan of Mulgrew's portrayal of Janeway all along, but was constantly baffled by what she was being made to say, like a confused puppet. Take Janeway at her best and she's a charming Captain, but take her at her worst, like with "I beat the Borg with coffee" and it just sounds like the writers stroking their own egos, which I think were enormous. Insofar as the character is basically the spokesperson for whatever the writers want to tell much of the time, I think they infused an enormous amount of confusion into the series, putting things into Janeway's mouth that don't suit her character (as Mulgrew saw it) but instead issue thoughts of the writers/showrunners. And I think this is at least in part responsible for the "Janeway is always right" thing that I and others observe. I think it's the writers being mostly oblivious to any way of thinking other than their own, so that their own storytelling techniques and values never challenge themselves.

Elliott, regarding your idea that the writers were deliberately giving Janeway an arc going from "alliances are ok" to "actually maybe not", to finally later on getting to "we'll do whatever it takes to get home" is sort of interesting in an armchair sort of way, but really I don't see it. The series never gave me that feeling, it's certainly never made explicit, and I think that it takes some measure of cherry picking to suggest that there is a clear line threading this arc through the series. I mean, sure, Janeway does eventually end up totally in the "any means necessary" camp *in the finale*, and the fact that many people see this as a betrayal of her basic characterization should only go to show that if they really did intend for this to be a clear arc then they failed miserably.

So while I do like the idea you propose, when it comes to the nuts and bolts of what went into the episodes across the seasons I just don't see it. Maybe the odd writer threw something in to that effect, sort of insinuating an arc that they wished had always been there, but I see no efforts on the part of the series to demonstrate Janeway regretting previous positions she's taken, or having rethoughts her command priorities. I find it inescapable that the episodic conclusions always end with her moralizing being a QED to cap off the action.
Elliott
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 3:16pm (UTC -6)
@Peter G

"Take SISKO at HIS best and HE's a charming Captain, but take HIM at HIS worst, like with 'I can live with it' and it just sounds like the writers stroking their own egos, which I think were enormous. Insofar as the character is basically the spokesperson for whatever the writers want to tell much of the time, I think they infused an enormous amount of CONTRARIANISM into the series, putting things into SISKO's mouth that don't suit STAR TREK (as RODDENBERRY saw it) but instead issue thoughts of the writers/showrunners."

See how that works?

As far as the through-line, for me it's very clearly there, but I'll reserve final judgement until I get to those episodes in my detailed reviews.
methane
Wed, Jan 16, 2019, 10:47pm (UTC -6)
Elliot-

1) It's strange to bring up SIsko in this conversation. We all know DS9 riles you, but there is no Star Trek Captain who showed more development over the course of his/her series than Sisko. And during the series where viewers should question whether he is doing the right thing (including on 2 very big occasions).

Sisko is shown to be a flawed man, right from the very beginning, unable to get over the death of his wife, and basically having given up on life. He does show real evolution over the show, at first rejecting, then embracing his role in Bajoran spirituality. After many fits and starts, he builds a new romantic relationship. And, under the continuing danger from war or the threat of it, he does make decisions he probably wouldn't have made in the early seasons.

Sisko feels like a coherent character. No, the writers didn't do a perfect job developing him (and you're free to dislike him), but I feel he's better defined than any other captain, especially Janeway and Archer, despite the fact he was less of a central figure in his series than any other captain.

In a conversation about how Janeway developed as a character, bringing up Sisko is only going to make Janeway's development look worse by comparison.

2) You have this recurring tendency to accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being somehow evil or somehow intellectually inferior to you. Somebody who didn't like Janeway somewhere on the internet didn't like her voice, therefore they were sexist, and if you don't like Janeway you're sexist too!

-----

If you have more of an argument supporting your idea that Janeway is a great character, I'd be interested in reading it. But when you avoid the subject and instead (1) try to insinuate everyone who has a different opinion is morally bankrupt or (2) try to change the subject to something else (Sisko here), it doesn't give the impression that you have much of an actual argument.
Elliott
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 10:46am (UTC -6)
@methane

"It's strange to bring up SIsko in this conversation."

I'm not; I am using an analogy to illustrate a point. The complaint about Janeway I was responding to was entirely subjective. If you're interested in my views on SIsko (you are under no obligation so to be), then by all means, feel free to read my DS9 posts for the last 80 or so episodes.

"You have this recurring tendency to accuse anyone who disagrees with you of being somehow evil or somehow intellectually inferior to you. "

Please point to an example where I have done this.
Iceman
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 10:50am (UTC -6)
@Elliott-

I see. Well, I don't care for Janeway's character. Not because of the actress, who shined whenever given a good script. For example, "Counterpoint" is in my top 5 Voyager episodes. However, I do feel that the writers never quite got a handle on characterizing her consistently, which leaves me never quite being as invested in her as I should be. And yes, she made many reprehensible decisions for purely selfish reasons ("ENDGAME"-ok, not going to rag on this again, but it's awful). At least Sisko's "I can live with it" was done to save the entire Alpha Quadrant. Besides, Sisko was under no delusions about what he'd done.
Peter G.
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 10:51am (UTC -6)
@ Elliott,

I think it's actually legit to throw back at me that Sisko may be charming at his best (do you really think he is?) but at his worst says things you disagree with. But I think you should be clear about what your argument is, because re-using my specific objection to how they wrote Janeway sometimes couldn't apply to Sisko if we're going to go based on how you, yourself, review Sisko. Your predominant critique of Sisko is that he is consitently unprofessional, that his values don't mirror what you think Trek should portray, and that you don't like the values the writers are implicitly issuing through him. Now while I disagree vehemently with all of that and find the evidence lacking, neverthless it is a coherent viewpoint and clearly expressed. I know exactly what you're saying about it, and I understand your opinion even if I disagree with it. What you don't like is that the writers have views about darker Trek that seem to undermine TNG's values, even trying to one-up them. Ok, fine. But in that case your objection is actually the diametric opposite of the objection I make in regards to the writing of Janeway. I'm happy to disagree, but let's be consistent about what we're each saying.

If you're saying that Sisko, in a sense, accurately reflects a flawed view of Trek on the part of the writers, then your position would then be that they are effectively using their character to get across their point of view, and doing so in a manner consistent with their [wrong] views. Your general argument, if I'm to take it as you present it, is that Sisko consistently acts inappropriately. And my comment about Janeway is the opposite: that they don't have any views at all to issue through her, and that instead of using her as a mouthpiece for the ethos of the show, they instead just have her be the voice of whatever expediencey was used in writing the plots. The typical complaint about her is that she lacks a consistent set of values and procedures, and so instead of being a vehicle to annouce Trek values she ends up flip-flopping whatever way the plot requires. Or we could rephrase this: instead of asserting executive control over her characterization, the showrunners seem to have allowed each guest writer to do whatever they want with her; whereas on DS9 the problem as you put it seems to be that the showrunners too much use him as a mouthpiece for their agenda without just letting him be, as a character.

Do you think this is an accurate representation of your position, and mine? If so, our objections are not at all the same, and if examined closely not even of a similar type. Your objection would essentially boil down to the direction the showrunners wanted for DS9, whereas mine would boil down to the fact that the showrunners for VOY didn't manage their writing staff sufficiently to permit for much of any vision at all. The VOY writing over the course of the series feels much more Wild West than DS9's does, and in that respect actually sort of resembles TNG S1-2, which were all over the place in terms of message.
Elliott
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 11:22am (UTC -6)
@Peter G

I think that's fair, although I agree that we disagree : )

I will say that there can be no argument that the writing of DS9 as a series was much more intentional than Voyager, and that's entirely down to the way the shows were produced. I think the Voyager staff was, for the most part, content to take the early TNG ethos and run with it. Janeway makes some very bad calls over the years, but the show, to my recollection, rarely seems to suggest that she's correct. With "Alliances," her choices end up getting them all stranded and many of them killed. With "Tuvix," the episode takes the time to show Janeway drowning in guilt over her decision. With "Scorpion," we see direct fall-out throughout Season 4 leading to "Hope and Fear." That episode sends her into a deep depression in Season 5, contributing to her decision in "Timeless" to gamble the lives of her crew to get them home again. This pattern continues and leads future Janeway and her totally self-centred actions in "Endgame." My point with all that is simply that, whatever the directives from the producers, there is a coherent direction to Janeway's character. Her actions do not (for the most part) feel random, at least to me.

I am much more bothered by Sisko--not explicitly for being the anti-Trek mouthpiece, but because the writers constantly contrive ways to have their cake and eat it too with him. He gets to be Starfleet directive-defying cynic half the time and receives promotion after promotion.

"If you're saying that Sisko, in a sense, accurately reflects a flawed view of Trek on the part of the writers, then your position would then be that they are effectively using their character to get across their point of view."

It's not terribly impressive to have a character stand on a soap box and proclaim a point of view. And that goes just as much for sermonising Picard or Kirk or Janeway as it does for Sisko. I don't think it's "effective" in the way you imply. The story itself has to carry the message for it to be effective. SIsko's speech to Kira in "The Maquis," for example, is a fine little sermon, but the heaping pile of contrivances in the story that were necessary to "prove" his point make the episode and the message ineffective. I'll say the same about "Time and Again"; while I don't object to the PD the way many do, that particular episode does a horrible job of selling the message because the plot is so contrived, whatever speeches Janeway wants to give on the subject.

At least Janeway wasn't accountable to Starfleet, being lost in the DQ. I actually think S6, when they started to make contact with the AQ again is where her characterisation is at its weakest. That particular season is riddled with problems.

I feel a bit like I'm rambling...

The answer to your question is yes and no. I understand where your objections are coming from, but I think you are dismissing a very interesting character journey for "behind the scenes" reasons. I get that stuff. I also hate Seven's catsuit and the reset buttons and the insane promotional materials on UPN, etc. To me, Voyager felt a lot like TNG, which is why I like it, but with darker character threads and a more specific series objective.
William B
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 1:26pm (UTC -6)
What I like about Elliott's read on the series and Janeway is that it does feel like he connects the dots of her story in a way that generally makes sense to me. I also agree with Peter (and others) that it is something I sometimes (though probably not as consistently or totally) have trouble seeing in the moment while watching. That what we hear from behind the scenes tends to agree with Peter's criticisms of the writers behind the show is a point in favour of his view. But I also basically think that if what ends up on screen works, it works, even if it was either not intended, or was intended in a scattershot way (i.e., if some writers and Melgrew -- perhaps not always even fully consciously, because while a fantastic actress I think she's on the record at not always being able to make total sense of her character -- managed to connect the dots effectively). I'm not a full "the author is dead" type but I also don't think that intention is everything, nor do I think it's necessary for something to be clear (on a first viewing) for it to be effective. There are lots of reasons, some of which are bad but many of which are completely reasonable on the part of the viewers that Voyager is not always given the benefit of the doubt, including by me. I enjoyed it more when I gave it a little more latitude, I guess is what I'm getting at. There were still episodes where the more nuanced and interesting interpretations of the episodes and Janeway's arc just did not reach me, even with a relatively open mind, and I'd put that in part to failures on the part of the creative team (if they were intending it, that week)...but it's also going to be down to the viewer, not in a sense of everything being purely subjective but also partly in terms of what people are interested in and have experienced in their life. To be honest, Janeway *does* make more sense to me now that I'm older and have gone through more periods of having my nerves frayed and being an isolated adult, even if the show's flaws are still obvious to me.
Peter G
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 1:44pm (UTC -6)
@ William B,

I generally agree that it's possible in some sense to plot out a sort of arc in the series, if one cared to inspect it carefully. You and Elliott do inspect things carefully, and I wouldn't deny that you may see such patterns. But my point isn't that they are totally absent but rather that if they exist at all I suspect it's more serendipitous than planned, and in any case it doesn't become apparent during a regular viewing unless you sit back and analyze the series in the abstract. I will agree that if you do that you will find things, but I object to the idea that viewers should have to do this in order to receive the main themes or arcs. I wouldn't demand spoonfeeding, but as a storyteller it's imperative that the stories are *told*, not just available for those with great critical insight.

@ Elliott,

"It's not terribly impressive to have a character stand on a soap box and proclaim a point of view. And that goes just as much for sermonising Picard or Kirk or Janeway as it does for Sisko. I don't think it's "effective" in the way you imply. The story itself has to carry the message for it to be effective. SIsko's speech to Kira in "The Maquis," for example, is a fine little sermon, but the heaping pile of contrivances in the story that were necessary to "prove" his point make the episode and the message ineffective. I'll say the same about "Time and Again"; while I don't object to the PD the way many do, that particular episode does a horrible job of selling the message because the plot is so contrived, whatever speeches Janeway wants to give on the subject. "

This is a neat thing to discuss: how much does making the theme blatant help or hurt a piece? I think this is a much deeper issue than can even be discussed merely within the confines of Trek. How many classic films or shows invoked legendary speeches that stir us in a way that merely observing the action wouldn't? Like for instance, would Chaplin's "The Great Dictator" be half of what it is without Chaplin's famous speech at the end about machine men with machine minds? I personally think that speech is worth the rest of the film twice over. Or for a recent TV example, take Walter White's final admission on Breaking Bad: would we understand his arc as well without that explanation being provided? I really don't think so, even though sharp minds might debate it and ultimately come to that conclusion. So it doesn't have to be a sermonizing speech per se, but it often does have to be something overtly stated, one way or the other. Kirk's "risk is our business" couldn't really have been expressed in any way other than just saying it, since we routinely saw him taking risks but surely wouldn't have ever thought of it in those terms without him laying it right out.

For the record I do sort of agree that Sisko's "it's easy to be a saint in paradise" speech is overwritten, and I do think that some of Picard's speeches were likewise overwrought. So for me the issue isn't whether the character should overtly stand for a point of view, or even state it out loud, but that if done it should be done well. I guess that can be put in the "duh" column, but actually it's no joke: write a bad sermonizing speech and you end up sounding like a total dolt (and preachy, to boot), whereas write one filled with wisdom and grace and suddenly you're written high art. So there's a place for these things. Like for instance I think there was a lot of power in the episode Paradise when Sisko gets into the punishment box. It wasn't a speech, but there was definitely a point of view being championed there filled with meaning. When it's not well done it really sucks, though, and actually this is one of my big beefs with Discovery, which is that it's not content to deliver action but pretends to sermonize as well, doing so mostly nonsenically.

So maybe you've hit on a more specific way of framing what I'm trying to say about Janeway: to whatever extent the episodes typically involve her having her way and then sermonizing about why she was right (like in Scorpion) it really grates on me, because that sermonizing isn't even coming from a single coherent ethos but from whatever the writer of the week felt like throwing in to justify his plot-scheme.
Jammer
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 2:14pm (UTC -6)
I will just say that today's comments in this thread should be held up as a case study on how to disagree about things and conduct oneself on a discussion thread. I salute you all for your willingness to listen and argue intelligently and respectfully. Were the world only to follow your example. :)
William B
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 3:13pm (UTC -6)
Hear hear, Jammer!

@Peter, I definitely get what you're saying and I basically agree with you -- both about the necessity of stories being told, and also in your point to Elliott that it's valuable to find ways to state in dramatic terms (either through speeches, or through the other resources available in drama) to communicate the message clearly. I think some what especially works (for me) about the speech in The Great Dictator or Walter's monologue or the Risk Is Our Business speech or Sisko getting into the box in Paradise (an episode I'm not big on overall, but I agree that that sequence with Sisko is great) are

1) it is very important for the characters themselves. This is especially true in your examples for Walt, who spent the whole of his series cycling through various forms of denial before coming to different understandings of himself. It's important for us to know that about him.
2) It is important for an artist to communicate to people that they are understood, and at times to reach out to the audience. In the case of The Great Dictator, in story the barber is trying to reach out to people who are current or potential victims of fascism and to let them know that they are seen, understood, and not alone, and to offer them the hope for a better future. In our world, Chaplin, through his character, is offering the same. The point being drawn is in some senses "bigger" than the story. And while all stories, to some degree, carry a message, I feel like here there is more of a direct link being created between artist and people who genuinely need someone to connect to them.

I guess I'd say with Janeway in particular that I am...agnostic about her arc. I'd say that I still both do and don't see it, I guess. And I don't think that my ability to see it is really the result of great critical insight. Maybe having practiced writing about this type of stuff for a while has given be better tools to articulate it. And I do think that having those tools has sharpened my eye. (I'm mixing metaphors here.) But a lot of what I try to do is to find ways to describe what I am kind of already seeing, and maybe which, if I didn't write it down, I would only semi-consciously perceive. When there's a repeated line of dialogue or a connection to a past episode, I get some sort of charge, and then I try to figure out why. Now there are times when it really does feel, even after trying to parse out why, that the charge might just be a random firing of some neurons; a pattern sprang up but maybe the cigar was just a cigar. Other times though I feel like it's talking about something that does feel authentically like it's *there*, which without some work I wouldn't have been able to describe, but which I maybe "felt" on some level. In cases like that I would say that the story "did its job," at least to a degree. Obviously it's better if more people understand it, and a work of art that doesn't communicate at all (and has something to communicate) is probably a failure. But there are different ways to get an idea across, and some things are going to hit some people harder and others less hard.

This is partly, I guess, so obvious as to be almost not worth saying ("people react differently to different things"), but I think sometimes it's hard to explain why a read just *feels* right to me, whereas another doesn't, even though the same amount of work is needed to explain the two of them, and even if both are on some level "buried."

With Elliott -- well, I think that he's got a lot of insight, and artistic training as a composer. However, and I'm going to take a guess here, I think that a lot of the things he's describing really *are* "obvious" to him, not because he's a fancy artist, but because Janeway's arc (as he sees it) resonates with him, in the sense that the art stirs something within him, which makes it register to him as clear. That Janeway's arc seems not to have affected that many people that way -- and I am kind of on the fence -- is certainly worth discussing.

I'll give a random example that popped into my head: I think I recall Jason R. suggesting that the problem with Lore as a character is that there's no particularly clear explanation of why he went evil. And I agree with him to a point. I think that Brothers is a good episode and I like a lot about Datalore and Descent, but there are problems with most of them. And yet on some level, the fact that Lore is full of resentment and anger at humans seems incredibly natural to me. I don't know if it's because I watched TNG when I was young and just accepted the characterization as presented, but in my mind Lore's various scenes from the episodes blend together and the combination of his *actual, literal* physical and mental superiority with what seems to me to be the obvious isolation and fear he'd suffer at the hands of the Omicron Theta villagers, combined with the insecurity and rage that we see toward Soong at various points, combined with the contrast with Data whose emotionlessness and, I believe, humility were programmed in with him as a deliberate response to Lore, all make Lore's character really "obvious" to me. I think there are scenes where it's spelled out, which are effective to various degrees, and some of it rests on other tropes and archetypes which are not even really spelled out. But on some level, it just makes sense to me. I don't think it's obvious to me because I'm trying harder to gain insight, nor because I'm uniquely insightful even. In that sense, what seems to you a reach that Elliott and I are making (and which I kind of agree with, too, because I never feel entirely sure how much I buy Janeway's arc on an emotional level) is not a reach at all for him.

This is maybe a long way of saying, I'm still trying to figure out what it is that I personally really admire most in a story. I tend to agree with *both* the idea that if something is possible to excavate in a story that it is there and worth admiring, and also that if something requires specialized tools to excavate it's probably a fault of the story.

I think to my mind, the best, most successful kind of story is the one where the broad strokes of what is happening are basically coherently and clearly expressed, but where there are supporting and complicating details, careful stitchwork that supports the main thing. An example of something like that is Far Beyond the Stars, and the recent discussion you and Mal had about it. I didn't take the time to mention it, but I loved Mal's specific character observations, and the way, in particular, he compared (SPOILER up to FBTS) "Bashir's" passing for white to his passing for non-genetically engineered. It's a detail that may or may not have been directly intended, and certainly was not obvious (and I had not ever thought of it before). But the episode certainly does not live or die on that particular detail, and including it adds to the richness of the episode overall. Obviously not everyone on the site agrees on that episode's quality, but I know this is one area where I, as well as you and Elliott, opposed in opinions on a lot of DS9/Voyager (I feel vaguely like I'm in between, though it varies depending on the ep/character/etc.) can agree on. An art work where the *only* attraction is something so subtextual it's hard to know if it's intentional can become intensely frustrating while watching -- fun to write about, maybe, but...and one where the only attraction is what is emblazoned in neon lights doesn't feel particularly rewarding to closer inspection. Something that can cover both of those bases and do both exceptionally well is what's really exciting.
Elliott
Thu, Jan 17, 2019, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
Hey, thanks Jammer! The odd exception aside, this site is definitely a place one can enjoy mature discussion on a lot of interesting topics.

First I'll say that indeed, as a classical musician, I am very used to regarding works of art in which the text--if there is any--is of far less importance to the meaning of a work than other elements. Classical music, including programmatic works like operas, require one to decipher and draw connections between things because the language is metaphorical.

I think we can all agree that no work of art is perfect, let alone a cash-cow TV franchise like Star Trek. What Peter G says about the Voyager writers being tied up in many cases is true--Rick Berman had his fingers much more deeply plunged into the Voyager pie than DS9, and so the latter was granted a lot more freedom to do novel things with the storytelling. And we all have our own biases. I have a lot of affection for early TNG, despite its flaws and think (as I've said many times) that S3 of that show is the best representation of what Trek can be to date. So saying that Voyager resembles that era of Trek is kind of a compliment, however it was intended.

Peter G:

"So maybe you've hit on a more specific way of framing what I'm trying to say about Janeway: to whatever extent the episodes typically involve her having her way and then sermonizing about why she was right (like in Scorpion) it really grates on me, because that sermonizing isn't even coming from a single coherent ethos but from whatever the writer of the week felt like throwing in to justify his plot-scheme."

See, this is what I don't understand. Janeway makes her call to Chakotay in that episode and "gets away with it" for the moment sure, and of course, like any human, has rationalisations for her behaviour. But her choices come back to bite her in the ass several times over the course of the series. I don't understand how someone would see that as just stochastic fit-the-plot-of-the-week writing. It's certainly true that an arc for Janeway wasn't planned ahead in this respect, but the same is true for Battlestar Galactica, a show that makes DS9's continuity look quaint. It's just...Rick Berman definitely hindered what Voyager could have been, and deserves a lot of ire for his management of the franchise, but Ira Behr especially threw in a lot of what I consider to be highly detrimental elements into his show as well. The problems are different, but they're still problems. Yes, Sisko's guilt and private confession in ItPML is very well done, but there are actually no long-term negative consequences to his actions. He doesn't decide, after the war is over, to resign and confess his crimes. He gets to eat his cake. The same goes for his treatment of Eddington, his involvement with the Prophets, etc. etc. It feels very strange to me that his choices are lauded as bravely pragmatic, when they're just cynical, but always seem to work out, whereas Janeway's are seen as evil or mad (which they might be), when there are actual consequences. I mean look at the way she behaves in episodes like "Year of Hell," "Night," "Extreme Risk," "Timeless," "Equinox," "Workforce," and "Friendship One." This is not the way a person who thinks she has always made the best choices acts! This the behaviour of a guilty person shouldering a massive burden. Does Sisko ever seem as guilty over anything he has done?

William B:

I don't want to speak for you, but for me, the kinds of thoughts that I write about, which were characterised as critical analysis beyond what should be expected of a viewer, are exactly what go through my head when I watch television or film. The fact that Trek opens the door to so many wonderful speculations is one of the things I love about it.

Moreover, Voyager's production problems were with the higher-ups; a lot of other artists, including the writers, actors and production staff put in a lot of hard work to make the series what it is, and that's worth appreciating. Like I said, being from a classical music background, there are many, many operas whose stories are almost completely worthless, but whose music is sublime, and thus, they are performed regularly. This isn't even a matter of debate amongst the opera community in most cases; the story is garbage and nobody cares. I'm not saying television can be as loose with the text as opera, but my point is that there are other things to look at in a show and love about it besides the way in which the series was directed. Janeway has an arc because enough individual writers and Kate Mulgrew managed to forge one out of the materials granted to the show. Just because this wasn't Rick Berman approved, and thus glaringly obvious within the scripts doesn't unmake the arc.
Justin
Mon, Aug 12, 2019, 9:35pm (UTC -6)
I agree, it was a pleasure reading that discussion and debate above. So well-written and civilized!

I'm re-watching on Amazon Prime and the preposterous fanfare and very canned applause are the introduction of each of the sect leaders. It's so out of place, but humorous at the same time. Is this someone's inside joke or what?

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