Star Trek: Voyager

"Initiations"

3 stars

Air date: 9/4/1995
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Unfortunately, our territorial claims change every day. Maps do not serve us well." — Kazon sect leader Razik

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.

Previous episode: The 37's
Next episode: Projections

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33 comments on this review

Mal
Fri, Oct 23, 2009, 8:36pm (UTC -6)
""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."

I agree, but at this point in the show (very early season 2), keeping the kazon strictly evil was actually a good thing. Remember, the Klingon were strictly evil for decades - it wasn't until they stopped looking human, and started looking ugly (and signed a peace treaty with the Federation) that we started thinking of them as honorable, and even, great.

Babylon 5 showed how effective such a switch can be. In season 1, the Narn were evil, petty, conniving, expansionist. Yet when the Centauri finally conquered their homeworld, we were suddenly (and much to our own amazement), very sympathetic to their plight.

I'm not saying that VOY did anywhere near as good a job with its villains as B5 (it did not). I'm just saying that keeping it simple (and simply evil) at this point in VOY was not exactly a mistake, assuming VOY's writers were capable of planning for future seasons...
CJ
Tue, Dec 15, 2009, 1:42pm (UTC -6)
Interesting parallel with this plot and Aron Eisenberg guesting. I like the inter-series situation of Chakotay talking about earning his uniform, when right around the same time this was aired, Nog was on his way to SF Academy. I found Eisenberg's delivery a bit too Nog-like in some respects, though that may be because I had watched DS9 seasons 4-7 over the last several weeks.
Ken
Thu, Feb 3, 2011, 4:30am (UTC -6)
Again, another episode with problems.

Why does anyone, let alone the first officer, get to go out alone in space with just a shuttle for? Where is Voyager? Do Janeway like to leave members of her crew stranded in the middle of nowhere while she goes on ahead towards Earth? Was the shuttle supposed to reach warp 9.9 and catch up?

The whole premise of Chakotay being left alone in the Delta Quadrant is just crazy.

And of course, we are expected to believe that a Federation shuttle - of all spacecraft - can take multiple hits from a Kazon fighter. Yes, the Kazon are not supposed to be that advanced... but we are expected to believe that a single blast of phaser fire disables/destroys the Kazon ship yet the shuttle can withstand multiple hits?

I'm only 4:11 into the episode and I already hate the writers.

The one thing Voyager almost never gets correct is a good, solid premise for the story, let alone the show. The shows tries to get you to "Accept" these "situations" as a springboard for the story, but all of the situations are not at all logical, have holes, or the characters end up doing things we shouldn't accept.

No matter how good the episode gets, it will never excuse the fact that the premise is broken from the start.
Destructor
Tue, Mar 8, 2011, 6:38pm (UTC -6)
The problem with the episode is that it was boring and rote. Can't believe this one got 3 stars- halfway through I was just dying of boredom.
Carbetarian
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 2:44pm (UTC -6)
@Ken I completely agree.

Also, I need to bring up how ridiculous it is to have Chakotay, former Maquis Captain, talking up how great starfleet is. I know he went to Academy and has proper starfleet experience. But, really? Starfleet couldn't have been all that great if he decided to leave them for the Maquis.

Frankly, that speech was a huge missed opportunity to explore Chakotay's Maquis past. It just feels totally ridiculous to have him punching a guy in the face and calling it "the maquis way" a mere two episodes ago, and then have him completely forget that and become mr. uptight starfleet guy here. Maybe he could have found some way to better relate to this kid, being somewhat of a former terrorist himself. But, no. He's willing to let this kid shoot him because *maybe* it will teach him a lesson and, hey, teaching leassons is the Starfleet thing to do!

What a mess.

Does anyone else think the Kazon look like angry oompa loompas? Or a lost member of the cast of Jersey Shore? An electrocuted troll doll? Lamest aliens ever.

I'll give this episode one star for Aron Eisenberg because I love Nog on DS9, and one more star for giving us some kind of possible explanation for Neelix's continued existence. So, two stars from me.

And, for the record, I think that's being generous.
Matthias
Sun, Aug 14, 2011, 7:10am (UTC -6)
Stupid off-brand Klingons..

I don't know I kind of liked Chakotay here, and the way I interpreted it is he left the fleet because he couldn't live with their policy of leaving the border colonies to fend for themselves rather than because he wanted to be a rowdy borderline space terrorist. His LOOK AT ME BEING ALL INDIAN stuff is usually annoying but here, taken to this extreme I found it hard not to respect him.
Sintek
Wed, May 22, 2013, 9:20am (UTC -6)
Kazon are just queeny Klingons with krusty quaffs. Sad that they aren't the worst thing introduced by Voyager.
inline79
Wed, Aug 28, 2013, 5:19pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode, and find Chakotay respectable. But it badly needed a real B-story. There might have been more that Neelix could have shed on the Kazon through interaction.

My biggest quibble though is it seems like we've taken a step back in debris analysis technology... Picard's crew would have figured out where the shuttle was in a few seconds. It felt like Voyager spent half the episode analyzing chunks of metal!

Well, maybe they used all that crap they beamed aboard to rebuild the shuttle!
K'Elvis
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 8:23am (UTC -6)
Just how alone does Chakotay need to be for his ritual? Alone in his quarters should do. He's light-years away from Voyager! On Earth, the best he could do would be to be miles away from the nearest person. There could have been a more plausible way to get him isolated from Voyager.

Kazon society seems to splinter easily, with so many factions. Thus, leaving your faction shouldn't be that big a deal, you find some more dissatisfied Kazon and start a new faction. With so many factions, each faction ought to welcome defectors. You can use the defectors as cannon fodder, because they would be eager to prove themselves. If they don't give a second chance, another faction would give them a second chance.

How do the Kazon manage to build and maintain these ships? They seem to have no economy, just fighting. The Kazon faction that wins would be one that focuses on being smart rather than brutal.
Paul
Mon, Feb 24, 2014, 8:52am (UTC -6)
@K'Elvis: Later, we learn that the Kazon overthrew their oppressors (the Trabe) and that the Kazon ships were really Trabe ships.
Ric
Mon, Mar 10, 2014, 10:06pm (UTC -6)
The following quotation from Jammer's review hit the spot:

"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".

This was precisely what I'have been thinking and got fully clear for me in this episode as well. How disapointing. It is such a silly decision to write the Kazon like this. It is plain obvious that it would be recognized rapidly and could possibly annoy Trek fans a lot. I am one of these annoyed ones. And other comments above show I am no exception.

True, the ending was not 100% predictable as it was looking to be. Nice. I also enjoy how Chakotay is portrayed. I liked to see true Federation principles in action. But in the end, since this is na episode, as Jammer said, aiming on developing the Kazon, I can't help but say that these poor-man's nomad Klingon are super cartoonish and completely lazy writing.
Vylora
Tue, Aug 19, 2014, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
An average episode made better by a couple of nice twists in the plot and surprisingly intriguing dialogue between Chakotay and Kar. Entertaining enough all around if a bit derivative. The reason for Chakotay to have the shuttle was absolutely stupid.

3 stars.
Yanks
Mon, Jul 13, 2015, 6:48pm (UTC -6)
I'm not a fan of the Kazon, but this episode is made pretty good by Aron Eisenberg's and Belran's performances.

For some reason I just like this one.

3 stars.
MartinB
Sun, Dec 20, 2015, 10:24am (UTC -6)
Yeh I don't get why Chakotay needed to so far away in a shuttle to do it little ritual. Locking the door to his quarters should have been enough, or even getting in the shuttle and locking it without flying it anywhere. Or the holodeck. Or the aeroshuttle, no one ever goes down there...

As for why Chakotays shuttle could take such a beating from Kar's shuttle. Aside from him extending his Indian powers or character shield around it, the bigger problem is Tom's shuttle in Basics that survived several hits from the more powerful raiders, so it isn't too hard to believe Chakotays shuttle would survive this.

Diamond Dave
Sat, Jan 9, 2016, 6:47am (UTC -6)
A good performance from Aeon Eisenberg elevates this slightly above a merely derivative example of culture clash between warrior codes and codes of nobility. It doesn't break any new ground but it does what it does well enough, with a decent twist that resolves the episode nicely. 3 stars.
Justus
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 1:03am (UTC -6)
The Kazon seem like a lazy choice for main Season 1 villain. As Jammer points out, they are too much like the Klingon. I wonder how so many primitive warrior races learn to build star ships? It would have been interesting if Voyager was confronted with some organization that could serve as a counter point to the Federation and embody the otherness of the new quadrant. Maybe the organization could appear cooperative and peaceful like the Federation, but be slowly rotting and power hungry internally. This could have fed back into tensions between the Federation and Maquis aboard the Voyager, since Delta Federation embodied how the Maquis perceive the Alpha Federation.
JC
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 6:52pm (UTC -6)
I don't think the fact that Kazons and Klingons have some similarities is fair grounds for criticicism. There's a lot of races, many are bound to have similarities. The KazonKazon are no more like Klingons than the Romulans, Cardassians, Vulcans, Bajorans, etc. are like humans.

The share some warrior traits, but since we can't relate directly because of their stark contrast to humans, it's easy to lump Klingons, Kazons, etc. together. It doesn't really strike me as lazy writing or retreading though. Just another race with a warrior inclination, of which we can reasonably assume more than one exist in this universe.

That said that doesn't mean I like the choice of making the Kazon be the primary villain in the quadrant. The Kazon can be criticized but not because they share some common traits with Klingons. They can be criticized because they're not particularly interesting. We're in the Delta quadrant. We should get something weirder. Trek has had a lot of unique, interesting villain races, like the Vidiians, Vorta, Borg, and many others. The Kazon don't really make the cut.
dipads
Sat, May 21, 2016, 1:56pm (UTC -6)
The exterior scene filmed at Vasquez Rocks with the jagged rock formation pointing skyward reminded me of a similar scene location where they filmed the battle between Kirk and the Gorn in the episode Arena from ST TOS.
Ivanov
Sun, Jul 31, 2016, 1:07pm (UTC -6)
"My people believe one does not own land" Chakotay you idiot your tribe settled a planet in the DMZ that they definitely believe belongs to them otherwise you wouldn't have joined the Maquis to "gasp" fight to defend your land.

The Kazon remain bad Klingon rip offs even though Aron Eisenberg gives a good performance. 2 Stars
mephyve
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 2:17pm (UTC -6)
Move along. Nothing to see here. (*)
RandomThoughts
Fri, Nov 4, 2016, 8:27pm (UTC -6)
Heya Everyone

Slowly re-watching along with DS9. While I never actively disliked Neelix, he wasn't my favorite, and I suppose I never realized how many times they showed him cooking, or trying to raise morale by smiling and being of good cheer, in the first season through now. He's in the opening credits, so they had to give him something to do, but I have gotten tired of seeing him smile. So it was a nice surprise to see him with actual knowledge of how to handle the situation with the Kazon ship.

I thought Aron Eisenberg did a good job, but I simply kept thinking about Rom. It was interesting to see him do more than he'd been doing on DS9, but a part of me thinks they should have cast someone else in the role.

Razik (Patrick Kilpatrick). I liked him as the head bad guy, and was thinking I'd rather see him as the Kazon leader they cross swords with down the road, instead of who they eventually get. I just thought he acted the part well. And when they meet up with him on the planet, my every thought was that this was going to be a double-cross. We never get to see what he was going to ultimately do.

It seems the new Mahj decided to let Voyager leave, but as enemies, perhaps to help keep the secret of the moon base, rather than bother them more. Remembering a bit about what happens later with the Kazon, I am looking at these earlier episodes in a new light, concerning their motivations and tactical skills etc. But I'll leave those comments for the episodes when I get to them...

It's something, seeing how much I don't remember about a few of these after a couple of decades, but I was very, very into Babylon 5 at the time. I'd watch Voy and DS9 first, keeping B5 for last, then savor the episode, even letting the commercials run to make the experience last longer...

Enjoy the day... RT
RandomThoughts
Sat, Nov 5, 2016, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
^Kept thinking about Nog, not Rom^

RT
Ildaf
Tue, Feb 14, 2017, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
Chakotay needs to be alone in shuttle, long way from the mother-ship just for his ritual? yea right, sounds like good idea eh..

'Kulbit maneuvers' in space battle, I'm half expecting 'Pugachev's Cobra' will be performed next. But why bother doing inside loop maneuvers on 1vs1 situation when phaser in 24th century can fire in any direction?

Aah.. The kid want to die after being saved by Chakotay, because he considered die in a battle is honorable.. sounds familiar? Damn!! Why can't we have a cunning opponent species, who do what it takes to achieves his goal.
Why can't this kid to be intelligent by observing his enemies, curious about this new culture, absorb everything he can learn from this new species and it's technology. Then take advantadge of it at the right time by reclaim the shuttle (kill Chakotay along with it also help us), because 'he consider it's honorable to help his people and defend his space'.

Instead, this kid is continually begging to let me die.. let me die.. let me die..
Just kill yourself if it's really that matter will ya. But no, he is all bark and effectively letting Chakotay to 'brainwash' him.

The Kazon having some similar trait to Klingon, but more than that, they're now officially branded to be just another hard-headed-alien eh. Instead using the Kid for inteligence data, they just want to kill him to 'teach lessons' for other kids, also hell-bent to after and kill Chakotay with the kid when both escaped.

Voyager can scan and pick up a tiny rust in the middle of nowhere. But can't immediately determine a Kazon shuttle debris by scan.. and for that matter, a federation own shuttle. They need to beam it in to determine that?
Doc need to scrapping debris in sickbay to find if there's a human remnants, what happen to bio-scan?
Oh boy, seems to me they just don't have enough scene time and have to fit it with pointless investagating scene (or to give other main cast something to do).

Neelix prove his usefulness with knowledge of the region and Kazon. He push the Kazon to reason and avoid a possible battle, good to see him actually utilized on the show.
So the Kazon willing to negotiate and can be reason with, that's good to see.

But wait.. wasn't all this trouble begin because they are a hard-headed-alien that just go for kill.. kill... glory in battle, and protect their region. Suddenly they are now a reasonable people?
If they are reasonable, why attack Chakotay shuttle in the first place?
They are well aware that the mother-ship is nearby and will looking for them regardless what the result of Chakotay if they attack the shuttle. The end result will be the same, a direct confrontation which they now seek to avoid. So why attack the shuttle in the first place?
I'm confused, it seems they have a button that turn them between hard-headed-alien and reasonable-races at a moment's notice.

Regardless. I'm glad with the Kazon development. Razik, the Kazon-sect leader offer an alliances, which is a reasonable thing to do rather than opposing species with a clear superior technology. This could make things more interesting and complex development. I hope that hard-headed-alien button is now discarded.

The conclusion is very impressive, manage to avoid the cliche of Chakotay falsify death for Kar benefit.
Instead Kar double back and kill Razik, it's a reasonable for them, and in the process kill many birds on one shot with this single powerful act. Kar accepted back to the Kazon, the alliances door that offered by Razik back to square one with his death, and Federation maintan their status quo as unwelcomed party for Kazon. It is a very well done!

Pacing could use a little help here, but Eisenberg deliver a respectable performance to offset it.
Overall, its a quite enjoyable episodes with some minor inconsistensies, and a bit silly opening.

2.5 star
William B
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 10:18am (UTC -6)
So I liked this one. I agree that the Kazon are too obviously meant to be Klingons, and are basically uninteresting as a species. But in this episode, I think there's another subtext which works well. Framed by Chakotay's prayer to his father (and his general contact with his ancestors), the episode goes into a little bit of the male (yep) initiation rites of the member of one of a set of warring Kazon sects, and we learn that the Kazon live a kind of nomadic existence and that they are fundamentally suspicious of people with excessive technology based on the way they were oppressed and exploited by the Trabe. I think we're meant to see Chakotay drawing an implicit analogy between his own Native American ancestry and the plight of the Kazon (with the Trabe being Europeans), and that although his own tribe is peaceful, he maybe understands a certain amount about how less-peaceful tribes operated and why. Not only that, but the Kazon's territorialism and deep suspicion of technologically advanced peoples also resonates with his Maquis experience being part of a band of (violent) rebels resisting the overpowering Cardassian force (which of course is also tied in, within the mythos, to Chakotay's Native American routes, via Journey's End). I am skeptical, I guess, about the series' handling of Chakotay's Native American roots in general, but I think it's left as subtext here and the episode is the stronger for it. I don't think it's the sole reason why he ends up finding himself sympathetic to Kar -- as a Starfleet officer and a "gentle man, from a gentle people," of course he doesn't want to ruin a teenager's life if he can help it -- but I think it deepens it a little, and maybe gives him a little insight into Kar. Chakotay personally and his tribe in general seem to have found a way to maintain some sort of initiation rites without it being as violent and cruel as the Kazon (and the Kazon-Ogla in particular), but I think he gets the need for initiations and tribalism in a way that most of the crew wouldn't. The episode's general arc seems to be about Chakotay trying to convince Kar that he knows a better way to maintain a kind of tribal identity (and even the capacity for violence) without becoming a violent thug the way Kar's people seem to have been. Chakotay's contact with his father also suggests the way in which he relates to Kar as substitute father, and the general scenes between the two have an effective quiet father-adopted son energy. It's like TNG's Suddenly Human, and this time arguably Voyager improves on the material. I think Eisenberg and Beltran are both good; Eisenberg is suitably far from Nog.

Of course it's weird that Chakotay takes a shuttle out to be alone to pray. Lots of the plot doesn't strike me as particularly plausible. Chakotay's escape from the Kazon ship, in particular, makes the Kazon look like incompetent boobs even more so than usual. I think *maybe* we're supposed to read Razik's "let the cowards run!" thing as projection and also a reveal of his own cowardice; surely a Kazon who really longs to die in battle etc. etc. would fight back against being taken hostage, and maybe that is part of what leads the second-in-command to accept the wisdom of Kar's murder. That the Kazon-Ogla's petty booby traps are so valuable that Voyager can blackmail them by threatening to tell the other sects about it also doesn't strike me as believable. On a personal level, as people pointed out above, Chakotay pontificating about earning his Starfleet uniform leaves a lot unsaid that maybe should have been said -- about, you know, the Maquis and about how he discarded his uniform and only "got it back" by chance. I guess I'm talking myself down the more I say about the episode, but overall I liked it especially for a Chakotay show and I'm going to go with a marginal 3 stars.
William B
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 11:18am (UTC -6)
I forgot to mention -- most unintentionally (?) hilarious exchange in the episode:

CHAKOTAY: Would any other Kazon sect accept you?
KAR: I would be a goven, an outcast. Each Kazon sect I meet would cut one digit off, and send me away.
CHAKOTAY: How many Kazon sects are there?
Peter G.
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 11:52am (UTC -6)
William - 100% unintentional. No one who wrote for Voyager ever wrote a funny, sardonic line like that.
William B
Tue, Sep 5, 2017, 12:02pm (UTC -6)
@Peter -- probably. And certainly, *even if* it were intentionally funny, the way it was directed and acted was totally straight, so I don't see Chakotay as being in on the joke.
Skeeto
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 7:28am (UTC -6)
I just noticed this episode, that the stars out the windows of voyager and shuttlecraft twinkle. I don't remember if the other shows did that as well, but they shouldn't be twinkling. :D

Also I'm getting sick of Voyager using the inability to do anything to create a story. We can't scan so we have to do this. We can't transport so we have to do that. Communications aren't working so we have to do so and so. We can't go to warp so we have to do thus and such. Etc. How about create a story that actually uses all the cool stuff they have, instead of the other way around?

And I really wish someone writing for star trek would have payed even a little bit of attention to warp speed and distances and whatnot. They say Chakotay is 'a few' light years away from Voyager. So let's be conservative and say it's 3 light years away. One way, that's an 18 hour trip at warp 9. So 36 hours round trip. Even at warp 9.99 it's a 7 hour round trip. And that's for Voyager making the trip. A class 2 shuttle only has a top speed of warp 4 (which iirc was the type in the episode) and would take 3 weeks to make a 6 light year round trip!

This episode was ok though. Nog was the best part of it.

2 stars from me
Cmj
Sun, Apr 8, 2018, 7:41pm (UTC -6)
Some very good points in the comments. Chakotay is by himself for a ritual that could have been done in his quarters. Chakotay is a former 'freedom fighter' and has killed before, so his explanations and attitude in this episode don't make sense.
When they introduced Kar as 13 years old, I really thought 'that's one muscular 13 year old'. It wasn't until his voice pattern sounded familiar that I looked up the cast to see it's Nog. I really like that actor. Actually, I like all the 'Ferengi' actors on DS9.
Garth of Izar
Fri, Sep 14, 2018, 7:10am (UTC -6)
So this is what happens when the Voyager writers wanted a Klingon-type species, but found actual Klingons to have too high an IQ, too much culture and technology, and too sensible a hairstyle...
Startrekwatcher
Sun, Oct 14, 2018, 12:59pm (UTC -6)
2 stars

a pretty boring episode. I liked the Kazon but not this particular story. The whole young warrior thing did nothing for me and the traipsing about from the Kazon ship to the moon had no urgency or excitement.
Rahul
Thu, Oct 18, 2018, 10:20am (UTC -6)
Not a bad episode but certainly not great -- most important is fleshing out the Kazon and, yes, finding out they have much in common with Klingons. So there is potential for them as a foe over the next little while. I think they come across as foolish and treacherous. Based on what we know of them at this stage, I also find it hard to see how they've managed to develop warp-capable ships etc. I assume some Kazon like Razik must have some scientific/technical knowledge, though it doesn't seem like it.

Interesting also is Chakotay's attempts at making peace and more about his spiritual side. Paris and Neelix play minor out-of-character roles on the ship as Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok were all gone. That was enjoyable to see.

Kar was like early-DS9 Nog -- just annoying. But Chakotay wears on him and I was surprised when he kills Razik. No idea what the consequences would be. Why wouldn't the 2nd in command kill Kar? So this seemed like a gamble but I guess all the rules of Kazon weren't explained -- or maybe you'd have to apply Klingon logic (Worf kills Gowron and then he gives the power to Martok -- or something like that).

The Kazon coming across as foolish or idiotic: Their landing party deceives Janeway and co. -- not sure for what purpose. They put them in a forcefield but Janeway and co. easily get out and then there's no further conflict between them other than threats after Nog kills Razik. So I think the writers could do better with the Kazon -- or at least the plot is a bit wonky here.

2.5 stars for "Initiations" -- at least at this stage I'm interested to see more of the Kazon and their inter-relationships if they can make a few of them recurring characters. Maybe by sheer numbers they can be a worthy foe for Voyager. I liked Chakotay's principles and his spirituality has always been somewhat interesting. The Kazon should be annoying and Kar certainly was all that.
Elliott
Tue, Oct 30, 2018, 12:39pm (UTC -6)
Since “The 37s” was moved to the top of Season 2, my putting in back as the S1 finale creates the problem of what to consider the season premiere. Even in realtime history, I think the producers knew better than to try and compete with “Way of the Warrior.” Voyager had assumed to retain the TNG fans just because the setting was mobile, so S2 started up pretty low-key. Anyway, my options are to treat “Initiations” or “Non Sequitur” as the season premiere. Both focus upon under-developed characters, but I since this season's arc is based around the conflict with the Kazon, I think it makes sense to start with “Initiations.”

Teaser : **, 5%

In a lone shuttle, Chakotay gives a log; Janeway has given him a shuttlecraft to perform his Hollywood-invented commemoration of his father's death. Some tribes in what is now the Southwest US and Mexico celebrate(d) the anniversary of ancestors' deaths by slicing their legs open and wailing about, screaming in agony, so I can see why Chakotay asked for a little privacy. Alas, instead of that fun, we are treated to the return of the medicine bundle and the drug-free psychedelic mouse pad. In case we weren't sure that this was a Native American ritual, the wooden flute is right there to remind us.

The contrivance of having Chakotay alone in a shuttle for “spiritual” reasons puts him in the sights of a Kazon-Ogla ship. The Kazon claim that the shuttle is in their space, and so he must DIIIEEE. Displaying equal wisdom, the Ogla send out a single young man to destroy the shuttle. Chakotay engages with the vessel and gets a transmission from Aron Eisenberg. My rule is that all roles played by Eisenberg must be named after holiday beverages, so this Kazon is called Coquito. Coquito doesn't plan on letting Chakotay leave peacefully.

Act 1 : **, 17%

So Chakotay pulls a little Millennium Falcon trick and disables the Kazon ship, apparently leaving Coquito unconscious. So Chakotay beams him aboard to save his life from the ensuing explosion. The skirmish has damaged the shuttle's communications array, meaning Chakotay can't contact the Voyager.

Speaking of which, we pick up in the ready room with Neelix bitching and moaning again to Janeway about being left out of defence simulations on the holodeck just because, you know, he's a terrible cook, unreliable guide and a liar, qualities usually unassociated with security personnel. Despite how irritating Neelix continues to be here, it is good to see that Janeway has apparently taken up the mantle trying to foster community aboard the ship, discussing impromptu therapy and counselling for the homesick crew. It's a start. Janeway is called to the bridge after promising to invite him to the next simulation. What on earth did Tuvok do to piss Janeway off this badly? Chakotay has not returned to the rendezvous, so the Voyager heads out to pick retrieve him.

In the shuttle where Coquito has been hogtied—literally, the boy tells Chakotay that he should have just let him die. Then the larger Kazon vessel appears so Chakotay can return their child. Coquito is visibly terrified, and begs Chakotay to kill him before the Ogla pull them in with their tractor beam.

Act 2 : **, 17%

Chakotay and his little buddy are hauled off to a secure location. Coquito continues to lament that he isn't dead (join the club) and begins an awkwardly-blocked speech about how this IS SPARTA, or whatever, which culminates in him showing off the trophies of battle scattered about this place. Kazon apparently earn their names by killing people or being killed. So yes, they're basically Klingons but without the subtlety or “extra steps” as Morty Smith might say.

There's a brief scene on the Voyager where they discover the Kazon ion trail and decide to follow. So devoid of interesting content is this scene that the director has Janeway walk around to each station, to ops, to the helm, to tactical and then right back to command in order to try and provide some interest, but all this does is make Janeway appear over-caffeinated, which is probably accurate.

On the Kazon ship, the Ogla leader, Haliz, confronts Coquito. He offers the boy forgiveness and gives him a kiss. This causes Coquito to start weeping which has...creepy connotations. However, the intent of the exchange is sort of interesting. Coquito doesn't want to be forgiven—this causes him so much shame that it brings him to tears. The boy is sent off and Haliz questions Chakotay. The dialogue is stilted and hackneyed, but a bit of curious backstory emerges: the Kazon propensity for territorial disputes predates their time in space. They both desire and resent the uniforms and advanced technology that the Federation represent. Chakotay reminds him of his oppressors.

Act 3 : *.5, 17%

A group of young Kazon males are brought in to bear witness to Chakotay, who fails to impress them with his “gentle ways.” Haliz hands Chakotay a weapon and orders him to kill Coquito, but Chakotay pulls another clever move (he taught Ro, remember) and manages to hold Haliz as a hostage. Despite all his bluster about there being “no second chances,” Haliz is willing to let Chakotay run away in the shuttle to save his own skin, and he invites Coquito to join him. Next thing you know, the pair are in a shuttle, under attack from the Kazon ship and scanning for a habitable place to set down. They find a Kazon training facility on a small moon right as the shuttle is fatally damaged. Chakotay prepares for a long-range transport despite the computer's warnings. The Voyager later pick up some of the shuttle's debris. Welp, guess he's dead.

Act 4 : *.5, 17%

Chakotay and Coquito awaken on the moon—I guess long range transports put you to sleep?

CHAKOTAY: Yes, you're stranded here with me, and I'm stranded here with you, because for some reason that escapes me at the moment, I keep saving your life. Now, if you want to hate me for that, fine. But I'd really appreciate it if you kept it to yourself.

I'm enjoying Beltran's performance overall, despite the anaemic scenes he's been plopped into. Coquito reveals that the moon is littered with death-traps which are designed to train young Kazon into being such great warriors as Haliz, who let himself get hostage-napped.

The EMH is finally brought into the story to be amusing, and report that Chakotay must be on that moon since there's no tissue in the shuttle debris. The senior staff explain what we already know to each other in case we nodded off during the last act (a distinct possibility). Janeway assigns herself, Tuvok and Kes to the away team and puts Neelix on the bridge to help Paris. What did Paris do to piss her off so badly?

Chakotay and Coquito have holed up in the cave set and we get a little cultural exchange. I don't *hate* this conversation (although it's not exactly inspired, either). Chakotay draws comparison's between Coquito's quest to earn his Ogla name and the Starfleet uniform, which he also had to earn.

KAR: I must protect my territory. Territory is power.
CHAKOTAY: Let me tell you something. I have no interest in your territory or anybody else's. My people taught me a man does not own land. He doesn't own anything but the courage and loyalty in his heart.

This is a lovely sentiment, but it raises all kinds of problems.

1. What is Chakotay's tribe? The way the scene is written and structured within the episode is obviously trying to make this sentiment flow from some sort of “Indian spiritualism,” but this homogenous view of Indians is extremely inaccurate and absurd. It's Disney garbage. The Charokee nation, for example, threatened their own people with death if they agreed to sell land to European settlers. Some tribes didn't believe in the ownership of land, but this didn't mean they were happy to cede their territory to white conquerors either. As you might recall, that's part of what led to the near genocide of so many native peoples.

2. The perspective Chakotay is expressing is actually more of a *Federation* ethic. Humans don't “own” land or territory in the same way that we understand it today, or indeed, the Kazon. When he says “my people taught me,” to whom is he referring? His nation or his Nation?

3. This issue of course brings us back to the incongruity with the Maquis. Since Federation individuals don't own land (an idea apparently re-enforced by the vague Indian culture Chakotay hails from), the whole notion of the Maquis rising up to defend *their land* from the Cardassians never made any sense. So, are we forgetting that Chakotay was in the Maquis? Did he amend his thinking in the last several months? Or what?

Anyway, Chakotay falls asleep and Coquito shuts off Chakotay's homing signal, picks up his weapon and aims at it Chakotay's face. But he can't go through with it, I guess, so he reactives the signal and sits himself back down. The music and Aron Eisenberg are really trying to sell this scene but I have no idea what's going on in the Kazon's head because nobody has explained it to me, so this all feels very empty and pointless.

Act 5 : *, 17%

While the away team is on the surface, Haliz' ship returns to the moon to question the Voyager's presence. Paris greets him on the viewscreen and Neelix makes himself semi-useful. He pipes up to taunt Haliz over the unusual mercy being offered to allow the Voyager to leave Ogla space unchallenged. Apparently, the reasoning is that this moon is super-valuable to the Ogla because it's their training ground...??? Huh? Well, we endure several minutes of this tedious bullshit until the Ogla back down, I guess.

Chakotay reveals that he was awake when Coquito contemplated murdering him, suggesting that maybe he's starting to realise they aren't enemies. M'kay. Coquito can't join a different sect without losing a finger and being sent away. Since there are currently 18 Kazon sects that's not going to work out. Janeway's team runs into Haliz who bullshit them and offer to help find Chakotay. Brilliant.

Finally, FINALLY, something semi-interesting happens. Coquito explains the Kazon backstory further: they overthrew a group called the Trabe, aliens who had once enslaved them. I will grant the Kazon this much over the Klingons; it at least makes some sense how the Kazon came to be in possession of spacecraft and weapons when their society is so primitive—they stole it. That makes more sense than the Klingons who are often depicted as stinky oafs who have somehow developed cloaking tech, transporters, advanced weaponry and opera. Chakotay reasons that, like Harry in “Emanations,” he's going to rely on their advanced medicine and allow Coquito to kill him, you know, temporarily.

B'Ellana finally breaks through the interference (oh yeah, there's interference) and makes contact with Janeway and with Chakotay. Chakotay calls the Captain to tell her, in obvious earshot of the other Ogla, that Coquito has taken him hostage and is threatening to kill him. Haliz and his No. 2 manage to trap Janeway and co. in a forcefield with so little effort it's laughable. This allows the Kazon to arrive at the cave set ahead of the crew, who escape the field with equally minimal effort and arrive in the cave seconds later. So what the fuck was the point of all that?

Anyway, Coquito makes his choice, abandoning Chakotay's plan and killing Haliz instead, offering leadership to the No. 2 guy instead—I guess that's how Kazon nonsense works. Who knows. So, the Federation beam away, Chakotay tries his ritual again—apparently he doesn't need the solitude of a shuttlecraft any longer—and asks his father to look after Coquito.

Episode as Functionary : **, 10%

Most of the ideas behind this story are good; the development of the Kazon as an oppressed and primitive people who, because they never evolved, but simply overthrew their oppressors, have taken their absurd traditions into space with them; the exploration of Chakotay and the parallels between Native Americans, the Maquis and the Kazon; the way in which men can shape their sons, either to be strong yet peaceful (Chakotay) or toxic and violent (the Kazon). But all of these are very underdeveloped, and often contradictory. The result is an extremely passive and tedious hour, padded by redundant and pointless scenes aboard the Voyager and on the planet's surface (and don't get me started on Neelix). A profoundly unremarkable hour.

Final Score : *.5

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