Star Trek: Voyager


2.5 stars

Air date: 2/9/2000
Teleplay by Robert Doherty
Story by Gannon Kenney
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"If three billion people paid to see you hurt, imagine how many will pay to see you die." — Penk (delivered by the reliably amusing Jeffrey Combs villain persona)

Nutshell: Surprisingly tolerable. Nothing particularly interesting, but not a bad bubble-gum show. Just don't be prepared to think.

When you have an episode that comes billed by its trailers as "America's Smackdown Hero takes on Voyager's Battlestar Babe," let's just say that one doesn't exactly go in with the highest of expectations. I'll be honest: I was expecting this episode to be a cynical ratings-stunt disaster. (And besides, with this episode having aired the same week as Homicide: The Movie, how can I honestly say I cared about what Voyager was up to?)

All things considered, "Tsunkatse" is surprisingly okay. I'm hardly thrilled with it, but as an hour of lightweight entertainment, it fares reasonably and is not quite as dumb as the trailers make it look. It's average fare—a workable mix of lowbrow action-violence exploitation and middlebrow (if way-too-familiar) themes on violence.

Really, how many times has Trek done the Violence Is Bad episode? Plus, it seems to me this episode has an unconscious built-in conflict of interests. It presents to us as viewers the idea of arena fighting as a "fun" demonstration of athleticism before then presenting the same thing as "brutal" and "wrong" in story terms.

The plot. (What plot?) Let's see. Seven and Tuvok are captured while on a shore-leave shuttle expedition (yes, only these two would investigate a spatial anomaly while on shore leave). Tuvok is injured in an explosion and requires medical treatment. The captors, however, will only grant treatment if Seven agrees to participate in a brutal arena fighting sport called Tsunkatse. Prior to the kidnappings, we've already been introduced to Tsunkatse, which resembles a cross between kickboxing and pro wresting, and is seen being enjoyed by spectators including Chakotay and other members of the Voyager crew. The rules allege some sort of strategy involving hitting the electronic targets affixed to one's opponent, but the strategy mostly seems to be to beat the hell out of the other guy before he beats the hell out of you. The targets seem only vaguely relevant.

Tsunkatse as an organization is obviously supposed to parallel professional sports, and pro wrestling organizations like the WWF in particular. There are dialog nods to the marketing aspects—it's a huge revenue builder for several nearby planets—and the depiction of the event includes a lot of showboating, rock-concert-like stage lighting, and screaming spectators. Like the WWF, it's designed to play for an audience. The fights are broadcast from a holo-projection arena on board a ship that has no local crowd. For some reason I like the idea of a Trek-technology take on pay-per-view, but it seems sort of odd that since the actual fighters are in an empty arena they don't get that immediate audience feedback.

In any case, even if it weren't for UPN's cross-promotion with its popular WWF Smackdown! it would still be very obvious that one source behind the writers' depiction of Tsunkatse was wresting.

And, yes, the cast even includes real-life WWF star Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who plays Seven's first opponent. But when considering the X-treme Promotion used to hype The Rock's appearance in this episode, it's perhaps interesting to note that he only has about two minutes of screen time. I never thought such a question would arise in this review, but will WWF fans feel short-changed? (Maybe less is more; I did, after all, get a chuckle out of The Rock playing to the audience with his WWF eyebrow-raise.)

The episode's real guest stars are none other than reliable DS9 alumni Jeffrey Combs and J.G. Hertzler. Combs plays Penk, the guy who runs this arena starship and arranges the fights. He "recruits" (read: captures) promising candidates to fight in his games so he can make big money off the broadcasts. And you thought UPN went to extremes to sell their material. (I found it amusingly fittingly cynical that the nearby planets tolerated and disavowed any knowledge of these kidnappings for the simple reason that they don't want to rock the boat. After all, a large percentage of their revenue depends on Tsunkatse profits.)

Part of "Tsunkatse" is fight action, giving us scenes like the one where Seven goes into the ring and gets her Borg butt kicked by The Rock. Not exactly material worth thinking about, but at least it's presented with some semblance of skill. The arena fight story isn't exactly my favorite Trek premise. I was none too fond of TOS's lackluster "Arena" and I hated the boring and cliché-ridden "Gamesters of Triskelion." I expected "Tsunkatse" would fall in a similar vein (it's original title, in fact, was "Arena" before someone realized the title had been used previously in Trek). But somehow the episode executes better and is more entertaining. It's not much more smart, but can you really expect smarts from something like this?

There are stunt scenes and punches and spin-kicks and body slams. Should Star Trek be the WWF? I vote no, but I also vote that Trek can borrow whatever it wants within reason if it can utilize said borrowed material effectively. "Tsunkatse" does not cross the line into the untenable; it borrows some of the sports-entertainment fun factor without selling out completely—just mostly.

It also features some very effective guest performances that elevate material that could've fallen flat in lesser hands. DS9 turned me into a Jeffrey Combs fan, and here Combs is amusing as Penk, who is a shallow villain, yes (see quote at top of review), but is very funny in his succinctness and smiles a friendly smile as he announces that, yes, Seven, you're going into a death match.

The other important character here is the Hirogen warrior played by Hertzler, who is Penk's number one fighter, a ring survivor for 19 years. Hertzler is a commanding presence as he teaches Seven in the ways of the Tsunkatse—never mind that the story of the fighter trainer/trainee is about the oldest thing about fight movies. And when Seven gets into the ring, the fact that it's her own trainer that she ends up facing in this death match is pretty much an anticipated aspect of the formula.

But the episode manages to survive on good pacing and good guest roles, and Jeri Ryan does well in a physical role, getting to play the badass (dare we go so far as saying the "battlestar babe"? Where did they come up with "battlestar" anyway?) while conveying enough hesitation regarding her character's dilemma to give this episode a legitimate (if tired) storyline. The question: Can she go through with actually killing her opponent, especially when it turns out to be her own trainer?

So will anyone actually die in the ring? Or will Voyager beam out both exploited contestants at the Last Possible Moment and make Seven's Big Decision unnecessary? Can we vote more than once?

The Voyager/Delta Flyer/alien ship battle scenes leading up to the beam-out strike me as unnecessary, but hey, it's sweeps month. Gotta blow stuff up.

We also get our dose of Trekkian Morality Dialog, which, frankly, feels very weary. Isn't it about time we have an episode about violence where the dialog is somewhat new? (Hint: This isn't it.) At the very least, "Tsunkatse" isn't preachy and ties relevantly into Seven's character and her quest for humanity, and uses Tuvok reasonably as a supporting character. But don't expect great insights; Seven's quest isn't looking like the newest thing in the world these days either.

In many ways, "Tsunkatse" is challenge-free trash, but at least it's entertainingly assembled trash.

Of course, I do have to ask: What are the Hirogen doing out here? I can maybe accept that a lone warrior who has been a prisoner to this game for 19 years might be this far from his homeland by now. But if we're something like 30,000 light-years from where Voyager ran into the Hirogen during season four, how can there be a convenient nearby Hirogen scout ship way out here to give our new friend a ride home? (I give up—Voyager's location in the Delta Quadrant is completely arbitrary. Why even bother shaving thousands of light-years off the trip, anyway? Grrr...)

One thing I found a little shortsighted on the part of the Voyager crew was the notion that they weren't aware of the extent of the Tsunkatse ring violence. How could they have heard about this huge sport and be cheering it on, yet didn't know about the existence of the popular "red match," a battle to the death? What kind of blinders are they wearing? But then again, this is the Voyager crew, who respect other cultures. Apparently they respect the right for two ring opponents to beat the hell out of each other. It's all about being a good sport, I guess.

Next week: Kiddie Borg. Don't piss 'em off.

Previous episode: Memorial
Next episode: Collective

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72 comments on this post

Jakob M. Mokoru
Mon, Feb 4, 2008, 2:29pm (UTC -6)
Come on! You give THIS episode a two and a half-star-rating and recent quite decent outing "Virtuoso" only two stars?!

Well, I daresay wrestling has never been anything I would care for.

You were right tough in some aspects: Combs and especially Hertzler save this episode from being the ultimate desaster.
And, you predicted: "Oh well--it will undoubtedly be the season's highest-rated show." I guess you were right!
Tue, Sep 8, 2009, 8:13am (UTC -6)
Regarding the Hirogen being out this far:

I believe it was implicit that the Hirogen were the creators of the huge communications network stretching through the Delta and Beta quadrants (Message in a Bottle) and that it was constructed by the Hirogen in order to keep in contact across tens of thousands of lightyears as their culture spread itself evermore thinly in pursuit of the hunt.

Therefore the idea is that the Hirogen are all over the place, over the last few thousand years they seem to have spread across a third of the galaxy hunting new prey, so the idea that Voyager finds a Scout ship isn't too implausible.

This does raise an interesting point though, the consequences to the hirogen of no longer being able to stay in contact with the rest of their species since Voyager crippled the network. Bah, consequences schmonsequences.
Wed, Nov 18, 2009, 10:31am (UTC -6)
You surprise me. You`re always overly critical of episodes, so I expected a scathing review of this one. I would have given this one star.
Fri, Jul 9, 2010, 8:51am (UTC -6)
Torres: "The Borg wouldn't know fun if they assimilated an amusement park" :)))))

That deadpan "cluelessness" and "awkwardness" of Seven is precisely what makes her so interesting and, ironically, unique. I find their efforts to mold her into a Neelix simply infuriating.

The Doc: "Vulcans aren't exactly known for their...winning...personalities."

Er, compared to what: Humans? Every individual from every race in the Universe who's not exactly like Janeway or Paris is somehow deficient? How myopic and bigoted! And that such a statement should come from a computer program that supposedly possesses knowledge about millions of species makes it doubly stupid.

Next, Harry "Can't-Get-A-Lock" Kim supposedly did amateur boxing while in college. Yeah right, yank the other one. He'd be knocked out cold by the sneeze of a koala. Oh, and AGAIN he couldn't get a lock! LOL!!!!

It's a pretty good episode. Considering how it began after Seven and Tuvok's abduction, it could have been MUCH worse... - when Seven said "I will not kill anyone in that ring" or something along those lines. No, god forbid; you should put your arm around your opponent and encourage him to talk about his misplaced aggression *rolls eyes*

This preachy sanctimonious side of Voyager is very irritating. Now not only is force not to be used to accomplish desirable goals even against unpalatable and bellicose opponents, but it is to be avoided even in self-defense!?!

The last five minutes were a total waste of time. Take the shitty soul-searching and psychological analyses to freaking Oprah!

I'd give this show three stars.
Thu, Feb 10, 2011, 7:42am (UTC -6)
"Next, Harry "Can't-Get-A-Lock" Kim supposedly did amateur boxing while in college. Yeah right, yank the other one. He'd be knocked out cold by the sneeze of a koala. Oh, and AGAIN he couldn't get a lock! LOL!!!!"

Huh? Harry was a Parisi sqaures champion, not a boxer. The dialogue mentioned Chakotay playing a couple of Parisi squares players in his earlier career. At no point did Harry or anyone say that Harry had ever been a boxer.

And, iirc, this was the episode where Tuvok was transported with virtually no problems and a "we got him" the very second the Tsunkatse people decided to shift power away from their shield to the broadcasting once Janeway knocked out a couple of satellite dishes.

Who wasn't paying attention then?
Mon, Mar 7, 2011, 12:56pm (UTC -6)
Yeah, Kim being a former boxer was hilarious, but hey, he was also the champion armwrestler of Fair Haven, so in for a doubloon, in for a pound schilling.
Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 4:37pm (UTC -6)
Crap. It just didn't seem to have any point at all, it was just 'there' and then it ended.

The only thing that saved it was indeed Combs and Hertzler, and that was mostly for novelty value for me.

Incidentally was that Marc Alaimo getting beat up in the teaser? If it wasn't him, I bet they wanted him to complete the list of arguably DS9's biggest guest stars, and perhaps went for a lookalike / actalike for some reason.

Could've done without the Neelix sunburn stuff.

Harry was 50/50 so you're both right there. He amazingly managed to grab Tuvok right away (gosh!!) but he did get to say the infamous "I can't get a lock" when trying to get Seven.

I didn't think it was all that preachy. The Doctor was, but you'd expect that. Meanwhile half the cast were cheering on this game (until some of their own were involved, hypocritically) so I thought as Trek moralisation usually goes this one was almost balanced.

2 stars max for me though. It wasn't terrible, just not interesting at all.
Mon, Aug 29, 2011, 4:29am (UTC -6)
Meh. Cynical, ratings-driven dreck. The very name "Tsunkatse" is an anagram of "Stunt Sake", which gives a clear indication of exactly what this episode was blatantly intended as. Frankly I find WWF and related shows imbecilic and creating a Star Trek crossover was totally misguided. Maybe it could have been worse, but as it stands only thing this ep really has going for it are classy performances by two of DS9's most loved guest stars, Jeffrey Combs and in particular JG Hertzler. I noticed that Seven's cell actually reused part of the set from DS9 (the airlocks, painted white here) which kinda made me sad...
Mon, Feb 20, 2012, 7:36pm (UTC -6)
Forget "Threshhold", this is the worst ST Voyager episode!
Thu, Apr 12, 2012, 5:39pm (UTC -6)
There was more action in this episode then there has been in the WWF(E) in all the... 14? years since it came out.
Mon, Jul 2, 2012, 1:11am (UTC -6)
I thought this was a lot of fun- meaningless, empty fun, but a good time nontheless. I'd give it 2.5 also, I guess, but I liked it.

Eric: You take that back.
Latex Zebra
Fri, Dec 28, 2012, 10:29am (UTC -6)
I can't remember it being mentioned so I am working on the assumption that despite all his home work on Tsunkatse, Chakotay had no idea that there was such a thing as 'Red Matches' and 'Blue Macthes'

Surely Federation citizens aren't going to spectate a 'sport' that has fights to the death.
Fri, Feb 1, 2013, 9:08am (UTC -6)
I'm really not understanding all the negativity. They weren't hypocritical by not enjoying the matches once seven was involved. They stopped enjoying it when they realized that the contestants were not volunteers but prisoners forced to fight. I really enjoyed this episode and I think you all should lighten up. Also about the doctor saying that about tuvoks personality he's a hologram of a human. So he thinks like a human.
2 of DD
Mon, Feb 4, 2013, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
Harry can get a lock on deez nutz.
Sat, May 25, 2013, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
Hey so never been on this site but I was watching this episode and noticed the music during the fight was the same as Battlestar Galactica. Also the shaky/zoomy camera shots. Is that where the battlestar babe comes from?
Tue, Jun 25, 2013, 6:17am (UTC -6)

This episode aired almost 3 years before the Battlestar Galactica mini-series was even a gleam in Ron Moore's eye and nearly 4 years before it made it to TV screens. If you heard BSG music in "Tsunkatse" (hint: you didn't) then it was BSG that took it from Voyager.
Tue, Jun 25, 2013, 6:35am (UTC -6)
This was one of the few episodes I skipped during Voyager's first run and the only one I did so willingly. The reasons for this are pretty much summed up by the first paragraph of this review. Normally I don't think I would have been as put off by an arena fighting premise per se but the stunt-casting of The Rock left me utterly certain that this was going to be a total cheese-fest. A Star Trek episode aimed at the WWF demographic? NOt for me, thanks. I'll pass.

But also like you, when I finally got around to watching the ep (which was just now, haha) I was surprised that it wasn't anywhere near as offensive as I always thought it would be. Chalk it up partly to very low expectations, partly to some pretty slick looking fight choreography (certainly better than what you see in Pro-Wrestling), and an appearance from everyone's favorite Star Trek character-actor, Jeffrey Combs. All in all, your review is right on the money, in my opinion. Lower your expectations and put your brain in Energy-Saver mode and you might have a reasonably fun time.
Mon, Aug 12, 2013, 5:02am (UTC -6)
Watching this just now for the first time, I was completely unprepared to see The Rock on my screen. I busted out laughing at the idea of him fighting a woman who probably weighs 105 pounds soaking wet. I wonder if it was in his contract that his character wouldn't lose to a girl, even one with Borg enhancements? lol!
Thu, Aug 15, 2013, 10:36am (UTC -6)
the idea is to be entertained. and i was.

as for harry kim. If they didnt ask him to get a "lock on x person." then you would all be complaining..."why didnt he just beam him out." they do explain...

2.5 stars. i enjoyed hte ds9 casting.
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 9:48pm (UTC -6)
I'm with Megan. Why all the negativity?? These reviews are so hyper-critical.

I enjoyed this episode. I was not looking for deeper meaning but we weren't supposed to look for it in this episode. There was minor character development as Seven struggles with her humanity and I'm ok with that. Actually, I was impressed by Jeri Ryan's physicality. She looked fierce.

If I have any criticism, it's that Tuvok is consistently passed over in the ensemble episodes. In TOS, when McCoy showed a frustrating lack of tolerance for the emotionless Mr. Spock, it was witty, humorous and endearing. Tuvok is the target of many of the other character's snide comments or his character is left out of the storyline altogether. Are we supposed to think, "oh, that silly Doctor...making fun of Tuvok again!" Or "Tom Paris! He really told Tuvok how to lighten up!" There is no appreciation for the Vulcan culture from the crew at all and the writers have only promoted disdain.

And...while I am here, I will say...I must the only person to like the Harry Kim and Neelix characters. This is really a tough crowd.
Wed, Nov 13, 2013, 8:25am (UTC -6)
I completely agree with Jammer's review and rating. Given the premise, this episode was probably as good as it could be, but what keeps it from being a winner is the inherent contradiction of telling a Violence is Bad story using so much gratuitous violence. You’d think the crew would not be this thrilled to see such a barbaric "sport", even before they learned that people were competing in it against their will and actually dying. You could say they didn't know there were 'Red Matches', but that just means they didn't do their research.
I couldn’t help but laugh and Penk’s ridiculous logic with the line Jammer quoted above. Wouldn’t he make a lot more money in the long run by making her compete again and again without killing her?
Interesting trivia bit: despite both having played major recurring characters on DS9, this is the first time Jeffrey Combs and J.G. Hertzler appeared together in a scene on Star Trek.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Mar 24, 2014, 3:57am (UTC -6)
Watched this again at the weekend as I wanted a quick fix. I do appreciate the split between the crew about watching a villent sport.

I hate doing the whole mention DS9 on Voyager thing but I can't help it... Maybe if others didn't I wouldn'y be so tempted!
People winge about DS9 characters not acting like evolved humans and yet here, we have Voyager characters still enjoying people beat the snot out of each other. We have the admission that Boxing still exists. I know the Federation is supposed to have a few tough sports (Parisi Squares) but boxing... Seems a bit unrealistic when people argue that Starfleet officers shouldn't be good in a fight.
In some DS9 episodes Quark was almost the voice for humanity... An alien. In this episode it was a Hologram, The Doctor. Maybe it is time to put the wishy washy My Trek vs Your Trek behind as it just seems daft.

Anyway! A fun episode and the marks are spot on. Loved The rock giving the eybrow and hitting a Rock Bottom on Seven!
Thu, May 15, 2014, 9:28pm (UTC -6)
@Latex Zebra Because enjoying a martial-art based sport (what I personally don't and I am against to) is comparable to Sisko destroying a whole planet and the Starfleet playing blind with or even supporting the genocide-tactics against the Founders in DS9...

That said, this is a silly episode and bad executed. This is Trek in its worse: when dumb scripts just transpose almost 100% of 20th century humans to a fantastic future. This is not an allegory of the present to question the present, but the present with blinking silly lights being naturalized once it is presented as perennial.

I should also say that the silly details go beyond the enjoyment of a fight. Think for instance about the scene where Paris talks to Seven and says that she is just like Torres, over-packing to travel. Then Seven replies she just wanna be prepared for anything, etc. Gesus, this so 20th century and actually quite a bit sexist.

Well, the whole episode is full of crap. And even its plot of people hijacked to fight is not even new in the Trek franchise. On the contrary. For me, more than 1 star here is being generous.
Wed, May 28, 2014, 10:09pm (UTC -6)
The impression that I got was that the Hirogen were not the builders of the communications array, but merely used abandoned technology and claimed it as their own. If the Hirogen did build it, then their culture has degraded - they can't fix it, and all they do is hunt. If all they do is hunt, they must also steal technology - someone has to make the blood wine.
Sun, Jun 22, 2014, 9:04pm (UTC -6)
This episode is okay entertainment...but in the end, pretty bland and forgettable. Nothing special or memorable at all. I agree with Jakob that Virtuoso is better.
Tue, May 5, 2015, 9:57pm (UTC -6)
How depressing that Starfleet officers in 2377 would enjoy arena fighting. I appreciated the relationship between Seven and the Hirogen, as well as the quiet dialogue between Seven and Tuvok at the end. I couldn't believe how enthusiastic Chakotay, B'Elana, Tom, Harry, and Neelix were about seeing the fighters kick one another and throw each other around. I don't think they even winced. Maybe this was heavy handed writing, but it made me dislike their characters. I may be in the minority on this one, but I would hope that the deliberate damage of organs such as the brain, liver, etc. would not be a sport to "advanced" civilizations in the future.
Tue, Jun 2, 2015, 7:59pm (UTC -6)
I really like this episode. It's heavy on the action (which I always enjoy) and still ties together decently into the Trek universe, which I did not believe possible for an episode based on martial arts. I've generally come to accept clumsy throws, telegraphed punches and kicks and Vulcan neckpinches as the pinnacle of Trek hand to hand combat. This episode proves otherwise and I enjoy that.

I also like the fact that they acknowledge Chakotay's love for boxing/wrestling. It's not groundbreaking or anything, but at least they didn't completely throw away that part of his character after the one episode it got.
If I were to have any complaints (and these would be of the nitpick variety), it would be that it doesn't stand out in any way, shape or form. No new ground is being tred, the action is good but not great and the story is predictable. In short, it's a good hour of fun, but it doesn't really say or do anything that stands out. In the end, the only thing this episode will ever be remembered for is the appearance of The Rock.
Sun, Feb 28, 2016, 11:10pm (UTC -6)
An average, but entertaining episode. However, after The Rock started beating the crap out of Seven, I was hoping Seven would be pushed over the edge and assimilate him. One quick jab with the nanoprobe tubules and we would've had The Rock turn into a Borg. Awesome. Now we have a completely different episode. For those who like character episodes, Seven would have to come to grips with her actions of assimilating someone in order to save herself.
K. Burgin
Fri, Mar 11, 2016, 10:56am (UTC -6)
One thing that bugs me....the Hirogen is supposed to be maybe 8-10 feet tall (as seen from the other episodes) . How come this one is regular sized?
Diamond Dave
Sun, Mar 13, 2016, 7:29am (UTC -6)
Weyoun! Martok! Dwayne freaking Johnson! Stunt casting abounds in what no doubt was a fairly brazen ratings grabber at the time. This far distant that matters less so, and frankly the episode doesn't really suffer because of it. Despite the hoariest of sci-fi cliches (innocent beings captured and forced to fight to the death for the pleasure of the audience) this is handled well enough, and the fight sequences are at least exciting (and not a double-fist punch to be seen).

Breaks no new ground but is amiable enough entertainment. "Can Toby the targ correct hull ablation?" indeed. 2.5 stars.
Mon, Mar 14, 2016, 8:31pm (UTC -6)
The Rock's presence here makes this episode really, really dated. I know they were aiming for a big ratings boost at the time, but it certainly looks rather silly now. That said, I was impressed that they actually tried to give this episode some meaning as opposed to just making it a meaningless action piece. But with that said, I agree with Jammer that it really wasn't that impressive. Really, it's just kinda there.

One thing I do want to mention, which does bug me and probably gave me a more negative opinion of the episode as a whole, was the ending. First of all, it felt trite. Seven having to fight her mentor and be forced to kill him is a pretty standard trope, but it worked here. Their dialogue while beating the crap out of each other was pretty effective. But then, we had the typical Trek cliche of beaming Seven out at the last moment so she doesn't have to go through with it. A bit of a copout, but whatever. Ah, but then we had the good ole "would you have gone through with it?" "I don't know..." bit. What?

This is Seven we're talking about! Yes, she's a lot more human than she was in the fourth season, but she has always been known as a person of action. When she decides what the proper course of action is, she takes it. Wasn't it just Dragon's Teeth where she decided to take it upon herself to wake up a race just because? Didn't she beam the 8472 alien off the ship in Prey? Quite frankly, she was never a person who was portrayed as indecisive, even in stressful or dangerous situations.

She had plenty of time to think about this. She had the entire fight to think about it. Assuming she was the better fighter (as she was), she had three choices: kill him, sacrifice herself, or refuse to kill him after he's been incapacitated (and, given the nature of these slavers, would probably mean both would be executed to prevent an all-out revolt among the gladiators). Delaying until Voyager saves the day should not have been an option, given that she had no reason to believe Voyager would swoop in at the last moment. It shouldn't take long for an efficient person like Seven to make up her mind.

So the idea that Seven would truly not know is a bit silly. Even worse, look at where she was when she beamed out. She was basically ready to give the finishing blow to a prone, incapacitated Hirogen. If she was not going to kill him, what exactly was she doing with her arms raised like that? She had half a second left to choose whether or not she was going to kill him, and it certainly looks like she chose to kill him. Rather silly to claim she still didn't know. So what, was she just lying to the Hirogen to protect his feelings? Or to protect herself? Again, that is completely out of character for her.

Essentially, it looks like the writers wrote the two scenes entirely separately, going for the maximum cliche in each scene. They wanted the dramatic beam-out at the last second, and wanted the dangling thread of whether or not Seven would have done it in the sickbay scene, and completely failed to notice (or fail to care) that the two scenes were completely contradictory. It's these sort of writing blunders that really make me annoyed with this show. Surely the writers are better than this?

Also, for those who talk about how they think people should be more "evolved" than enjoying fighting matches, whatever. Just because you don't like something doesn't mean that people who do like it are less moral or less intellectual than you. Feeling some pain is not necessarily a bad thing; even exercising will cause pain. And given the super advanced medical skills of waving blinking lights over people that the 24th century have, maybe they have solved the issue of concussions or long term disabilities from boxing. So why is it barbaric? If both sides consent to it, if it's safe, what's the harm of martial sports? I mean, it's not my thing either, but I'm not going to assume I'm better than people who do. Are people who like playing first person shooters barbaric too? How about chess, with all of that capturing of units?
Thu, May 19, 2016, 12:51pm (UTC -6)
A more sophisticated/morally ambiguous ending probably would have seen Seven kill the Hirogen right before being beamed out, then spent the ending dealing with her guilt. I imagine times have changed enough that if this episode had been made today, that's what would probably have happened (cough Breaking Bad Battlestar Galactica cough).
Tue, Jun 14, 2016, 9:49am (UTC -6)
Jeffry Combs and JG Hertzler.... have they EVER screwed up a part?

I think not.

I'm so hoping they both are involved somehow in our new trek series coming in January.

After watching the trailer I just went into this one expecting a fun romp.

Then Hertzler did it again and made this episode a little more than that. His performance sold it.

I would also like to say Tuvok did an exceptional job of portraying someone that got his ass kicked :-)

NCC-1701-Z makes a valid point. Seven actually killing the Hirogen and having to deal with it later makes sense, but so does her decision not to kill.... and I think it fits the episode better.

3 stars. (raises my eyebrow in tribute to "The Rock") :-)
Sat, Jun 25, 2016, 6:22pm (UTC -6)
What bugged me in this episode is that a Kradin is seen for a short period of time. I always assumed that the beastly appearance was as a result of the mental manipulation that Chakotay suffered, but apparently, this is what they look like. Shame.
Nicholas Ryan
Sat, Aug 27, 2016, 5:27pm (UTC -6)
Yeah the Hirogen network of communication satellites extended all the way to the Beta Quadrant, so it's plausible to have ships nearby.
Fri, Sep 9, 2016, 7:49am (UTC -6)
Didn't I see this on DS9 with Worf vs the Dominion? At least Worf didn't lose (*)
Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 6:17am (UTC -6)
I thought future humans were all pc tree huggers, that we'd learned from our past violent ways, even to the point that we can loftily look down on those "less enlightened species" and point out the error of their ways.

But no, the voyager crew are into bloodsport? What's next: a fox hunt?

Reasonably executed for what it is though: 2 stars
Wed, Nov 16, 2016, 11:27am (UTC -6)
Just a note....

I heard on the radio that Duane Johnson (The Rock) was voted "People's Sexiest Man Alive"

I'm sure the gals will chime in :-)

Good to see good things happen to good folks. He's only of Hollywood's good guys.
Mon, Jan 9, 2017, 5:20am (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was good fun. There's a lot of humourous interactions between the crew the stand out being the following between paris and seven:

[Paris observes Seven preparing several containers for an away mission]
Tom Paris: How long are you planning on being gone?
Seven of Nine: Approximately 48 hours.
Tom Paris: [laughs] Just like B'Elanna.
Seven of Nine: Clarify.
Tom Paris: Well, she overpacks, too.
Seven of Nine: I haven't overpacked. I simply wish to be prepared for any contingency.
Tom Paris: [holds up a piece of equipment] And... what contingency is this for?
Seven of Nine: That's an isomodulator, enhanced to correct hull ablation in the event we encounter a meteoroid stream.
Tom Paris: Couldn't you just replicate an isomodulator?
Seven of Nine: I prefer this one.
Tom Paris: Oh, I get it. You like to have your own things with you. B'Elanna's the same way. You know, she'd never admit it, but she still takes her stuffed animal with her whenever she's gonna be away for more than a day. 'Toby the Targ'.
Seven of Nine: Can Toby the Targ correct hull ablation? Your comparison is flawed.
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 12:49pm (UTC -6)
Great point mick! That was a funny passage.
Sun, Feb 5, 2017, 3:08am (UTC -6)
Watching this 16 years ago, who would have guessed that The Rock would one day become Hollywood's top box office draw?
Thu, Jun 8, 2017, 3:17pm (UTC -6)
Pretty decent, 3 stars. The bond between Seven and the Hirogen works because of the quality of the actors.
Mon, Jul 10, 2017, 1:37pm (UTC -6)
From reading almost all these comments I guess Trek fans don't like hand to hand combat films or TV. I'm a huge Trek fan and love Van Damage so I guess I'm an outlier. I wish there were more sequences in episodes that had seven doing spin kicks and looking badass doing it.
Mon, Jul 17, 2017, 1:12am (UTC -6)
I think this episode was terrible for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that the crew would have been interested in any of this in the first place.

1 1/2 stars
Prince of Space
Tue, Jan 23, 2018, 8:09pm (UTC -6)
Well said up there, Skeptical! These whiny soapbox tirades against fighting sports comes across so typically 2000’s.

This glorious age where every 2-bit opinion is sacred and instant validation awaits you 24/7 by just logging into your social media echo-chamber of choice.

Funny thing is, like you, fighting sports really aren’t my ‘thing’ either. But nor is moralistically sitting back in judgement of every little thing I don’t find 100% to my taste.

Well... ok... except for all the anti-gluten goofballs. They’re fair game. haha
William B
Fri, Feb 2, 2018, 2:54pm (UTC -6)
I've stopped commenting for a while. My wife and I got to Tsunkatse last night. At the episode's end, I was wondering what it was about this episode (for example) that left me so cold. Certainly, the gladiator combat stuff is really old hat, and was very hoary back in The Gamesters of Triskelion, and despite the superior production and fantastic acting from Ryan and Hertzler, the whole thing feels rote and warmed-over. But I don't think it being a cliche by itself covers everything; I found the Worf-Jem'Hadar fight stuff in By Inferno's Light kind of on the dull side, but not just the performances (with Hertzler in a somewhat similar role!) but also the script seemed to indicate that the people behind the story cared. In this script, I detect a lack of conviction. The problem with cliches is largely that they become numbing, to the point where we expect the beats before they come, but they become especially toxic when the writers seem to know that too, and seem to lose interest in actually getting us to believe the beats. In particular, the Hirogen's training Seven never gets sufficiently justified; why does Seven think he takes a big interest in her in the beginning? And when his reason for training her is revealed, the explanation only really covers why the Hirogen is training *someone*, not why he chose this particular untrained newcomer to be the one to kill him. It's not that I can't imagine possible explanations for it -- maybe not!Weyoun wants not!Martok to fight indefinitely and keeps throwing inferior fighters at him, and Seven is the first one that showed promise, or something; the emotional dynamics don't ring true, because it's a big buy to begin with that the Hirogen wants to die in the ring but has to put a huge amount of work into training an opponent for that to happen, and that he simultaneously picks a newcomer to train her to kill him over two days. Similarly, while it makes sense to have the episode's climax be a fight between Seven and the person she's closest to, having there be only one brief fight, which she loses badly, before her Red Match fight-to-the-death means we have to have all her character transformation into vicious fighter be in somewhat abstracted training matches. It feels like there needed to be some intermediate moral lines if the story was genuinely selling "will Seven kill in the ring?" -- have another few non-Red Match (non fight-to-the-death) matches where Seven becomes more aggressive, or something. It's possible I'm just complaining about the plot being thin. Anyway, I guess this is a long way to say, I think the idea of Seven finding herself in a situation where she might have to kill and whether this affects her self-image is a good one, but it feels vaguely tacked on here to a story that seems mostly cooked up because The Rock wanted to do a cameo.

The vague moralistic stuff on Voyager, where the crew learns that they were watching wrestling which kidnaps players for their games and Chakotay or whoever says some kind of "we watched it too," is also on the dumb side. That the crew somehow were big fans of the game but didn't find out that sometimes there were matches to the death is pretty unbelievable, and the casualness with which they accept that in this game, people have lights put on their body that deliver painful electric shocks when hit also seems to belie their "I'm in it for the athleticism!" talk. But even given that, I'm not sure who exactly they are criticizing -- if there is some attack on the complicity of audiences, it's worth remembering that most pro sports still don't literally kidnap people and make them fight to the death two days later. A nuanced discussion about, say, major injuries in pro sports (e.g. concussions in football) could be interesting and worthwhile, with say the Doctor and Chakotay maintaining their approximate positions from this episode (the Doctor: this is barbaric, unhealthy, and anyone who thinks they know what they are getting into is being manipulated or is foolish; Chakotay: it's a way to push yourself and people choose it, and the cultural history shouldn't be ignored -- or some such), but this episode is not that.

Annnnnyway, I don't mean to say this episode is awful, and there are some good things about it. The performances are good; it's great to see Hertzler and Combs again, even if their characters feel like warmed-over, far less complex and interesting versions of Martok and Weyoun. 2 stars maybe.
William B
Fri, Feb 2, 2018, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
General season update: I'm finding s6 wildly inconsistent, but often very rewarding. I basically feel positive about it, and I am stating this now because I suspect that the next three episodes will take a big hit out of my enthusiasm. (I remember liking Child's Play, though.) The last few eps have really had an on/off pattern (One Small Step +, The Voyager Conspiracy -, Pathfinder +, Fair Haven -, Blink of an Eye +, Virtuoso/Memorial middle, Tsunkatse -).
Sun, Mar 11, 2018, 6:31pm (UTC -6)
Fun show. Also, relevant to Seven's character as the final dialog with Tuvok demonstraded. 3 stars.
Fri, Jul 27, 2018, 6:56pm (UTC -6)

"Actually, I was impressed by Jeri Ryan's physicality. She looked fierce."

I was interested to know to what degree, if any, Jeri Ryan did her own stunts. I was surprised that the Memory Alpha article on this episode said nothing about that.
Wed, Aug 15, 2018, 5:56pm (UTC -6)
This is pretty basic TOS Trek updated to factor in the WWE phenomenon -- I was actually reminded of "Bread and Circuses" more than "Arena" or "The Gamesters of Triskelion". It's pretty predictable but it benefits from the guest acting of Hertzler and Combs a great deal. Another good episode for 7 who puts in a good physical performance and does the emotional "regaining humanity" thing well, although that part seemed like a tiny afterthought instead of being played up more throughout the episode.

I suppose having The Rock also helps -- he does his eyebrow-raise and his "rock-bottom" move on 7. Impressive that VOY got some pretty famous actors like him and Jason Alexander for guest roles.

7 is about to kill (or not) when she and Hertzler are beamed back to the ship -- of course the timing of this is arranged perfectly so that Hertzler can't escape and 7 doesn't actually kill. This kind of convenient timing is tiresome -- the show lacks balls.

Wonder if Chakotay and the others have a different perspective on the sport now? The episode didn't address that. Anyhow, violence is bad blah blah -- the episode doesn't do anything new to address the issue. It's just pretty superficial entertainment.

2.5 stars for "Tsunkatse" -- basic entertainment here and nothing really annoying or weak. The ending with 7 and Tuvok, who can provide interesting dialog, was good -- the Vulcan tells her she has regained her humanity and the "weakness" was just that. 7 is not an animal and didn't kill Hertzler although the simple, convenient nature of the show avoided any serious repercussions.
Wed, Aug 22, 2018, 9:17am (UTC -6)
This episode would have been 10 times better if not by the missed opportunities:

- no fighting for Tuvok and Chacotay? Even if Seven is the Star, those 2 were supposed to be great fighters - wasted potential.
- the episode could have been playfull/joyfull by putting some sort of holographic avatar tech.
- Seven is awesome as aways, but why didn’t she demonstrate a few feats of strength? She maybe not as strong as Data by a order of magnitude, but still...
- for the Love of God, Voyager shields and weapons would not fail as aways...

PS: they can’t decide on Hirogens size and strength, can they?
Wed, Sep 5, 2018, 10:05pm (UTC -6)
Once again, this episode underscores how utterly useless the non-opening-credits crew of the Voyager are. Two egregious, unnecessary examples here:

Watching 7 fight for the first time, realizing she's being held elsewhere, Chakota contacts Voyager: "4 to beam up". Him, Neelix, Paris, Kim. Meanwhile, there were several other Starfleet personnel visible in the stands, but... we know they don't matter.

Beaming 7 and the Hirogen back to Voyager, with shields knocked down and the ship locked in a life-or-death struggle with a superior foe: Paris gets sent down to the transporter room. Never mind that there are three security personnel and the transporter operator there, we need to have Opening Cast present to say 7's name, that's a much more important job for the ship's primary pilot at this time.

I was also rolling my eyes when the $#$&* Delta Flyer swoops in and saves the day, with Janeway making her obligatory heroic contribution. Starfleet sure sucks at making shuttles, while Paris' hobby project routinely holds its own with capital ships, and seems to have no deficiencies whatsoever. Incidentally, they lost another shuttle this episode... I've come to predict whether the shuttle will crash or not by whether it's the Delta Flyer (always makes it back), or a generic shuttle (routinely toasted).
Sat, Oct 27, 2018, 10:05pm (UTC -6)
Tuvok is such a steady, smart guy. The best person to be with in a crisis.

I liked Janeway sweeping in at the end. The Hirogen being Seven's opponent, and Janeway's appearance, did manage to surprise me. So, overall, not that predictable!

Also, I was surprised by the Tuvok-Seven conversation at the end. Well done.

For once, I did not hate the Hirogen.

Solid ep.
Sean Hagins
Sun, Dec 2, 2018, 5:30pm (UTC -6)
I HATED this one! I know this is science fiction and man won't really advance on its own this way, but why did the writers portray the "advanced" humans on Voyager enjoying a violent sport? That made no sense to me!
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 4:50pm (UTC -6)
I know this is science fiction and man won't really advance on its own this way, but why did the writers portray the "advanced" humans on Voyager enjoying a violent sport?

Perhaps because not everyone in the world is forced to believe and think as you do? You suggest the future should be a mindless conformism.

"Violent" sport is a test of human ability. It is a sport practiced by people who know the risks and enjoy the challenge. It isn't for you to outlaw it or decide who likes what, you mindless bigot.
Sean Hagins
Tue, Feb 19, 2019, 7:32pm (UTC -6)

Name-calling is not going to help
The Man
Sat, Aug 3, 2019, 8:35pm (UTC -6)
@DLPB You are mentally ill and take this stuff to seriously. Try getting a life and then come back and have a discussion, when you're more mature.
The Woman
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 1:29am (UTC -6)
@The Man

Stop harassing and attacking the people here.

Thank you.
Tue, Sep 10, 2019, 8:13pm (UTC -6)
Tough crowd here.
Sleeper Agent
Mon, Nov 11, 2019, 4:25am (UTC -6)
I understand that when this was filmed the times were different, but I really think the story would've benefited if Seven had finished the Hirogen off at the end. Not only would it be visually cool, but her guilt would be way more convincing and harder hitting (no pun intended) for the audience. Also, too bad we didn't get to see Tuvok fight.

3 solid stars.
Fri, Aug 28, 2020, 5:13am (UTC -6)
This episode is worth the entertainment factor plus Hooters of Nine strutting around, kicking ass, in that metallic-color overalls that accentuate every attribute of hers that we've come to know and love. Know'm'sayin'!

The resolution, with her and the Hirogen getting beamed out at literally the last second had me rolling with laughter. So lazy.

Three stars.

P.S. Those lambasting boxing and "violent" sports: Get a life. Not everyone is a gamma cuck who thinks adrenaline and testosterone and everything unpleasant in the world must be outlawed. We don't all want to be a part of a collective tickling each other's feet with goose feathers. I personally have zero interest in boxing, etc., whether as a participant or a spectator, but I recognize the right of consenting adults to do what they want with their bodies. My body, my choice, right? Or does that apply to one political issue and that issue alone?
Joseph S.
Mon, Oct 26, 2020, 9:33am (UTC -6)
One actor in this episode will go on to have a prolific and successful Hollywood career. (Hint: It's not a regular cast member.)
Wed, Feb 3, 2021, 3:06pm (UTC -6)
Very minor nitpick, but did Jammer -and some others- got different versions of the episodes? I noticed you keep talking about one hour episodes, but mine are definitely only 39-40 minutes tops :( Unless you count commercial breaks :-) But why would you count those as part of the episode. On a semi-serious note, so they did have to cram eveyrthing effectively in those 39-40 minutes - which is fairly short - instead of 60 minutes.
Thu, Jul 22, 2021, 2:00am (UTC -6)
I liked the best Seven and Tuvok scenes. They really show how they understand and respect each other, unlike others who constantly mock their interests and trying to change them. What is wrong with finding scientific discovery fun or enjoyable? What is wrong with liking being in companionable silence? Absolutely nothing unless you are some bigot who thinks everyone should be the same and like the same things.
I wish there were more scenes with those two in general, they should be great friends.

Aside from that, ep was okay, nothing special, kinda bland. I wasn't sure that was Dwayne, hah, but comments confirmed it. I'm not a yank, not really into violent sports or action films so my knowledge is sketchy there.

Overall I agree with Jammer **
Daniel B
Fri, Aug 6, 2021, 5:34pm (UTC -6)
Not great, but hey, it was a lot better than The Fight.

{{ I expected "Tsunkatse" would fall in a similar vein (it's original title, in fact, was "Arena" before someone realized the title had been used previously in Trek). }}

Arena would have been a better title. Granted almost anything else would have been. I probably care more about episode names than most so if nobody else minds, no problem. But naming the episode after the fictional sport that outside of the episode we never hear of, especially when if you aren't familiar with the episode and just read a list of episodes you aren't even sure how to pronounce (it's not even in an Earth language, so why transliterate it using silent English letters?)? I always feel like episode titles just named after a One-Off Character are the weakest ones (Aquiel, Jetral). Not every title has to be poetic or amazing, but even something simple and generic like Blood Sport would have been better.

{{ There are stunt scenes and punches and spin-kicks and body slams. Should Star Trek be the WWF? I vote no, but I also vote that Trek can borrow whatever it wants within reason if it can utilize said borrowed material effectively. }}

I just don't think it did. The fight scenes were pretty bad. Supposedly expert fighters clearly just standing there leaving themselves open for attack without blocking or dodging because the script says it's their turn to get walloped. Also it bugged me that I never got a sense if Seven's ex-borg-ness actually gives her greater physical abilities or not. She acts like it does when she warns The Rock that despite the size disparity she can destroy him, but the episode never really shows it being the case.

And the training scenes were pretty weak despite JG Hertzler giving a good performance (also, man, was it the Totally Not Surprise of the month when he turned out to be her opponent?). She's working on her stances while talking to him and suddenly he attacks her out of nowhere and says she can't count on her opponent waiting for her to be ready. Uh what? She was stretching, not sparring. He follows it up by saying you can't let your guard down because an enemy could be behind you without you realizing it at any time. What?! This isn't warfare, it's a structured competition. Unless your opponent has a fake version of himself (like Arnie in Total Recall), no, he couldn't suddenly be behind you in the ring without you having any clue.

Also, if having everyone watch an ex-Borg get the crap beaten out of them is so good for ratings, it makes no sense at all that they'd set up for her to get killed in her second fight. Not an awful episode despite all my complains, but certainly not a good one.

I did like the poignant moment at the end when Tuvok tells Seven that struggling with difficult emotions doesn't mean she's failing at being human, but succeeding.
Fri, Oct 1, 2021, 9:56am (UTC -6)
Just couldn't deal with The Rock pummeling Seven. What's that supposed to prove?

I like Coombs and Hertzler a lot...and it helped to have them around. Nevertheless, their talents couldn't lift this deadweight episode much higher than the kickplate of the arena door.

1 Star
Sat, Oct 2, 2021, 3:16am (UTC -6)
Too harsh am I. Re-visiting the episode after a necessary hiatus, I can add another point (raising it to 2 stars) based on the closing few scenes.

I found the Tuvok and Seven discussion of "difficult emotions" to be particularly uplifting. It redeems the whole, and deserves praise. Both actors were great in that. Russ is excellent; he completely nails the Vulcan essence. Ryan's performance is very nuanced...almost Vulcanian with 'an affinity for silences' (what a great line), but full of emotion surging below her controlled surface.

All of that is shown by careful rotation of her penetrating eyes, reactive lip movement, a head swivel and a release of breath (the faintest hint of a sigh) at the end. Poetry. Definitely worth rewatching!
Tue, Feb 8, 2022, 10:09am (UTC -6)
Watching this in 2022 and it's quite surprising how soft The Rock looks in the middle, particularly when you see him today.
Thu, Mar 31, 2022, 8:25pm (UTC -6)
Excellent episode!

"Just don't be prepared to think." - If you don't know how to see the wisdom in some of the teachings of this show. It's packed full of them.

The writers of Voyager excelled in thought provoking content. Unfortunately it goes past a lot of people's heads.
Mon, Mar 13, 2023, 10:00pm (UTC -6)
Just rewatched this. It’s the only time I can remember where Torres was left in command and sat in the captain’s chair!
Sat, Apr 22, 2023, 1:07am (UTC -6)
He just gave ST Picard S3 Vox 3.5 starts, and give this 2.5? There's more action related character development than in the entire series of Star Trek Picard!
Dan LaVault
Thu, Aug 3, 2023, 11:08pm (UTC -6)
I have a question. Are the symbols on the shirts of the slaves in Bread and Circuses the same as the symbols around the arena in Tsunkatse? I know not very important but I thought I’d ask. Thank you very much.

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