Nutshell: Nothing riveting, but some welcome development of the Kazon.
While on a secluded spiritual outing in a shuttlecraft, Chakotay is attacked by a young Kazon named Kar (Aron Eisenberg, who plays Nog on DS9), who must prove his worthiness as a warrior for a coming-of-age test by killing a Federation foe.
In the battle, Chakotay severely damages Kar's scout ship, then beams the young Kazon into the shuttlecraft just before his ship explodes. Unfortunately for Kar, this means he has failed his mission in every possible way. It was a kill-or-be-killed mission, and by being captured, he has disgraced himself in the eyes of all members of his Kazon sect. When the Kazon sect's mother ship comes looking for Kar, they find Chakotay's shuttlecraft and tractor it, taking both Chakotay and Kar prisoner.
Kar and Chakotay are both sentenced to die by the leader of the sect, a rather nasty guy named Razik (Patrick Kilpatrick). With the prospect he will die in dismal disgrace, Kar turns on Razik and helps Chakotay escape. From here, as they say, the chase is on.
The obvious intention here is to develop the Kazon, the Delta Quadrant's most recognizable yet, up to now, virtually unused villains. They make unique Trek villains in that they travel in sects, with territorial claims that change every day. It would seem that very few of these sects get along—there is discussion of battles and conflicts that have gone on between them for apparently centuries.
If this is a new idea, the way the Kazon act definitely is not. You may as well make the mental note, "Kazon = Klingon" because the similarities are shamefully obvious. Naturally, since they're villains, the Voyager writing team paints them somewhat more negatively. Positive qualities like honor aren't stressed here, while the warrior intensity is fairly in-your-face. These are guys who kill 13-year-olds who fail them.
It's up to Chakotay to see this doesn't happen, and since he can't outrun the Kazon's ship in his damaged shuttlecraft, he and Kar beam down to a nearby moon as the shuttle burns up in atmospheric entry. This gives the two a chance to talk to one another and exchange some cross-cultural polemic on personal roles and duty. Kar continues threatening to kill Chakotay, because after all, "We're enemies!" Chakotay feeds Kar his Federation beliefs, while doing his best to be open-minded and tolerant. But after all the superior posturing this smug little Kazon displays, I must admit I wanted to see the passive Starfleet commander smack him around a little bit.
Meanwhile, the Voyager goes looking for Chakotay and tracks down the wreckage of his shuttle. Janeway leads an away team to the moon's surface to go searching. This leaves Paris is in command of the ship (he actually gets to do something!). As the resident expert on Kazon diplomacy, Neelix confronts the Kazon commander on the viewscreen to negotiate a compromise (Neelix actually gets to do something important!). Janeway's team meets the Kazon's away team on the moon's surface, where the two groups form a rather puzzling alliance to cooperate in the search of their lost shipmates. Later, there's an even more puzzling double-cross.
Fortunately, this episode has a decent, non-contrived ending in which Kar is able to return to his Kazon sect by killing Razik in a rather eye-opening power play. Given what the episode teaches us about the Kazon, this makes sense, and highlights the bizarre warrior customs that will hopefully make the Kazon more interesting foes in future episodes.
This makes for a good Chakotay show, and does a reasonable job of expanding the Kazon background. It's a satisfactory but not outstanding episode. The plot handling is still a bit on the clumsy side.
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