Star Trek: Voyager: State of Flux   Rewatch 
February 6, 2017 9:18 AM - Season 1, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Starfleet captains hate this crewmember's one weird old trick for escaping the Delta Quadrant--their true identity will shock you! (Or not.)

Memory Alpha is having a bad hair day:

- According to Seska actress Martha Hackett, the revelation that her character turns out to be a Cardassian operative was decided shortly after the series went into production. The actress recalled, "I think it was three episodes or four episodes in, they thought, 'Well, let's make her a Cardassian spy.'" After laughing at the outlandish idea and then nodding, the actress enthused, "So, um, it was a good surprise." She elaborated, "That episode was a real surprise! I wish I had known earlier that Seska and Chakotay had been lovers, because I would have played some scenes in previous episodes differently. In that story, she became more mature and craftier than I had initially envisioned her; Seska definitely has a lot of colors to her."

- Robert Beltran himself felt that this episode succeeded in exposing certain facets of Chakotay's persona. The actor said of "State of Flux", "That episode lets you see Chakotay's vulnerable side. Normally, Chakotay can handle anything, but he made a mistake with Seska. The episode also showed Chakotay's loyalty in that he was willing to stand by her until it was absolutely certain that she was a traitor. I think that's one of the strong things about Chakotay: he's very, very loyal and it takes a lot to shake his belief in people. That's something the writers had captured well." Midway through Voyager's second season, Beltran further said of the relationship between Seska and Chakotay, "Given the way it fizzled out, which has not been made real clear, I think it was probably a mutual breakup. What had become a platonic relationship wasn't enough for Seska, who was obviously holding onto the notion of getting a romantic relationship started again. When she saw the door shut, I think, it made it easier for her to leave the Voyager and go ahead with the Kazon." In fact, the scene in which Seska departs Voyager, moments after criticizing both Chakotay and Janeway, was a moment that Beltran found memorable, saying, "I remember Seska turning into this awful, awfully scary person [....] She turned into this evil, malevolent person who Chakotay had never recognized in the Seska he thought he knew."

- In order for Anthony De Longis to look the part of Maje Culluh, he had makeup applied to him by Makeup Supervisor Michael Westmore and also wore a headdress. Of his makeup, De Longis recalled, "We were sort of making do because they really hadn't done it before except en masse for the opening episode. Michael began by giving me this Klingon-looking forehead, and then he designed these pieces to build up my cheeks slightly along with a funny nose appliance that made it look as if I had nostril tusks. Some of the pieces didn't quite fit me, but I could still animate the prosthetics. We managed to find something that worked pretty well." The headdress that De Longis wore for this episode was mostly made out of sponges and dog chew toys. An amused De Longis remarked, "When I saw the hairpiece, I thought, 'Well, Culluh must be the leader because he has the biggest head of hair.'" According to De Longis, seeing how the production staff had designed Culluh's hair and makeup reinforced the realization that the actor would not be romancing Captain Janeway in this episode.

- While trying to explain how the Kazon acquired Federation technology, Tuvok ponders the possibility of another Federation ship being brought to the Delta Quadrant. Captain Janeway explains that, to her knowledge, no Federation ships had gone missing in the Badlands prior to Voyager. However, it is later revealed (in the two-parter "Equinox" and "Equinox, Part II") that the USS Equinox had been pulled into the Delta Quadrant just as Tuvok guesses in this episode.

- Torres' line claiming she doesn't exaggerate is an allusion to Scotty's habit of exaggeration, which led to his becoming known as a miracle worker. (TNG: "Relics")

- While discussing whether Seska could be a Cardassian agent, Tuvok mentions that Starfleet has documented several instances of Cardassians using cosmetic alterations for the purposes of infiltrating an enemy. This is demonstrated in several episodes of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, such as "Tribunal" (wherein the crew of space station Deep Space 9 arrests a Cardassian agent who has disguised himself as a former Starfleet officer as part of a plot to discredit the Federation), "Second Skin" (which involves an incident wherein Kira Nerys has been surgically altered to become a Cardassian in an ultimately unsuccessful Cardassian plot to convince her that she was an Obsidian Order agent) and "'Til Death Do Us Part" (in which Gul Dukat disguises himself as a Bajoran to earn the trust of Kai Winn).

"You know, I'm really easy to get along with most of the time, but I don't like bullies and I don't like threats, and I don't like you, Culluh. You can try and stop us from getting to the truth but I promise you that if you do I will respond with all the 'unique technologies' at my command."

- Kathryn Janeway

"You were working for her [Janeway], Seska was working for them [the Cardassians]... was anyone on that ship working for me?"

- Chakotay to Tuvok, on finding out that Seska was a Cardassian spy

"I did it for you. I did it for this crew. We are alone here, at the mercy of any number of hostile aliens, because of the incomprehensible decision of a Federation captain. A Federation captain who destroyed our only chance to get home. Federation rules. Federation nobility. Federation compassion? Do you understand? If this had been a Cardassian ship, we would be home now. We must begin to forge alliances. To survive, we must have powerful friends. The Kazon-Nistrim were willing to be our protectors in return for some minor technology."

- Seska

Poster's Log:

This episode obviously belongs to Seska, although Chakotay gets some good bits as well. His conversation with Tuvok at the end was especially good; Tuvok is obviously not really going to apologize for doing his duty, but he's also quite cognizant of needing to mend and maintain relationships with the Maquis crew that he "betrayed." I also liked how the episode kept the question of who gave the tech to the Kazon-Nistrim up in the air, floating the possibility of the evidence pointing to Seska as a red herring and possibly Carey being the one. (I think that B'Elanna should have also been a suspect, with her participation in the trajector acquisition of last episode, but anyway.) Seska and Chakotay's conversations, with her falling back on her explanations for her Cardassian genes until she doesn't have any more fallback positions, and her closing rant/mic-drop, were also very good.

That having been said, there are a couple of things that I wish they'd done with her character: a) Made her a Cardassian-Bajoran "war orphan" of the type seen in the DS9 episode "Cardassians". Not only would it have made her passing for Bajoran, with her story about getting the bone marrow transplant, a lot more plausible, it would also have given her some sympathy in terms of being yet another Trek biracial character (Spock, Alexander Rozhenko, Deanna Troi, B'Elanna), but one whose parent cultures were deeply antipathetic. She may have even gotten a sliver of sympathy from B'Elanna on those grounds.

Coming off of that, b) I wish they'd kept her as a character on the ship. She could have still gone off and done her dragon lady turn with the Kazon-Nistrim, only to turn on them during the events of "Basics", and claim that that was her plan all along, with a number of the crew wondering if it really was or if she was just switching sides again because she decided that the murderhoboes weren't the winning team after all. It's not as if there hasn't already been a sympathetic and well-done Obsidian Order character in the franchise already (I'm assuming that Seska was an agent of the OO), and even though she would have a tough, if not impossible, nut to crack with a lot of the crew, especially the Maquis (and very especially B'Elanna), going by Garak's example, she could probably be pretty ingratiating when she needs to be. (Which would worry Janeway and Chakotay, especially as she would make her own point of view more popular in the process.) They could also have had her and Chakotay get back together, which would have thrown more monkey wrenches into relations between Chakotay and the crew, and yet still been more plausible than the Chakotay/Seven late-series romance. Alas, none of this was to come to pass. (I'm not sure if I should mention this, because I don't know if it's been substantiated, but one of the explanations that I've read for Seska and other recurring characters being killed off is that they were mostly Michael Piller's characters, and they got axed when he left the series. Could be true.) Yeah, I probably just need to write another fanfic to get it out of my system.

Poster's Log, supplemental: The MA entry mentions that the Doctor doesn't say "Please state the nature of the medical emergency" when he's activated, and that it's explained in a later episode, but I had assumed that it was because the Doctor's program was already running--The Doctor is really a program resident inside a computer, and he "sees" with the sensors built into the sick bay; there's no reason why he needs to have a holographic manifestation, except to give people something to talk to. He should even be able to pick things up, as his hologram is a combination of light projection and force field projection (IIRC the explanation for the holodecks in the TNG tech manual). So he could be this invisible, intangible ghost if he wanted to, unless that sort of behavior is hard-coded into his program.

Also, too, it's worth reading Anthony De Longis' (Maje Culluh) MA entry as another example of a Trek actor having a lot more serious dramacred than is suggested by what they get to do in the franchise. A "founding member of The Australian Light Horsemen", if you can but dig it!
posted by Halloween Jack (18 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Made her a Cardassian-Bajoran "war orphan" of the type seen in the DS9 episode "Cardassians". Not only would it have made her passing for Bajoran, with her story about getting the bone marrow transplant, a lot more plausible, it would also have given her some sympathy in terms of being yet another Trek biracial character (Spock, Alexander Rozhenko, Deanna Troi, B'Elanna), but one whose parent cultures were deeply antipathetic. She may have even gotten a sliver of sympathy from B'Elanna on those grounds.

That…is a really cool idea. It would have retroactively added a little payoff for the existence of the Ziyal character in DS9. OTOH, it might have required a bunch more Bajoran historical exposition than they'd have been willing to provide.

Each time I rewatch the Culluh episodes I appreciate De Longis more and more. Something about his style seems…I dunno, amusingly old-fashioned? Like he should be a suit-wearing foil for Laurel and Hardy. He'd have made a fun recurring Cardassian on DS9.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:43 AM on February 6 [2 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Nucleonic radiation. (Just going to assume that's a particle of some sort.)
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Kazon trick deployed to fool Voyager is, IIRC, a one-off event on the series. However, Mask Energy Signature is a commonly available flimsy cloak-substitute in the world of Star Trek Online. It also makes so much sense as a tactic that it's a little jarring that we don't see it more.
Equipment Tally: Down one crew member.

Notes:
* Neelix was pretty fun in the opening.

I liked his description of what'd happen if anybody ate the 'apples,' and I appreciated the pragmatism about Leola root. This isn't important, just figured I should point out when he's tolerable. (The further they keep him from Kes, the better he comes off.)

* They could've used more stuff like the soup fight.

I really liked Chakotay and Seska's argument about mushroom soup. This sort of friction needed to be more common on the ship, and was a good illustration of Maquis vs. Starfleet values. I especially appreciated that the incident has such low stakes. That makes it easy to sympathize with both points of view. On the one hand, Neelix is a terrible cook and it's not much food... but on the other, poor discipline leads to all sorts of bigger problems.

I wish they'd done more with that. It's like the Torres/Kim relationship to me in that it's a good way to generate tension without going so far as 'these guys are close to killing each other.' It also made Chakotay throwing in with Janeway make more sense: in this episode, it looks like he's clinging to that as a coping mechanism. (Beltran does good work when he's given the chance.)

* Janeway's initial reaction seems a bit clueless, given the events of last episode.

This is another one of those, 'I know Voyager wasn't shooting for strong continuity, but c'mon' moments for me: Prime Factors just had a minor mutiny. It shouldn't surprise Janeway that someone would be working behind her back now.

I also felt like making *just* Carey and Seska suspects was weak. I can sort of see why B'Ellana wasn't - she's the one who came clean about the trajector related conspiracy - but it made the whole investigation aspect of the episode seem shallow. A few more interviews with random engineering people or an explanation of why Carey was particularly qualified to do the hacks would've been a help.

* Seska's great.

she's got a believable motivation, her in-world skills make sense and her actions all track. Martha Hackett's also pretty good at chewing scenery. That said, I agree with this:

I wish they'd kept her as a character on the ship.

Voyager needed more nuance and disagreements, and keeping her on board would've been really good for that, even if they kept her in the brig awhile as a 'consultant.'

* Maje Culluh is a good foil.

He really does come across as sophisticated for a murderhobo. The background info there makes that make a whole lot of sense.

* The bones of the story are decent.

Recurring theme with Voyager here too: there's not much wrong with the basic ideas of these plots. I found the accident site pretty creepy and effective, and the patient's condition was both chilling and a convenient way to get the information about Seska's heritage out.

So yeah. It was an okay episode overall, but lots of missed opportunities.
posted by mordax at 11:23 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I always through the reveal about Seska's true heritage should have been saved for season two or later so it felt like a shocking betrayal. We barely had time to get to know her as a Bajoran before we learn the truth here. And like you all, I wish she'd stayed on / come back to Voyager instead of throwing in with the Kazon permanently.
posted by Servo5678 at 12:29 PM on February 6 [3 favorites]


Good point about the pacing; we're only eleven episodes in, and already a lot of stuff has happened that could have been stretched over a season or more. (Although this season is only sixteen episodes long--fifteen, if you count "Caretaker" once--but still.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:01 PM on February 6 [1 favorite]


I have mixed feelings about this episode, as has been mentioned, the premise of someone on Voyager working with the Kazon for their own interests was a nice idea, and much of it played out well enough in a sort of generic story form, but too many of the details disappointed or worse.

Revealing Seska as Cardassian was the most irksome development for me, since there was really no need to invoke the Cardassians for the story to make sense and by having her identity revealed through her blood just rings all sorts of alarms for me over eugenic/genetic basis of values and worth. (I'm not familiar with the war orphan connection to DS9, but it sounds much more interesting than what they went with.) Having Seska as Cardassian too shows up Chakotay, again, as not a particularly good commander and makes him still weaker than he already was, which isn't ideal. But at the same time it gives him some decent scenes and plays off well against his support of B'Elanna in the earlier episode so it isn't in itself completely misguided, just steals yet another chance for his character to become a more necessary element of the show. They'll return to this later with some better results, but, as suggested, playing out the relationship more before showing Seska as turncoat would have been better all around.

While limiting the suspects to Carey and Seska might be a bit too spare, using Carey as one of them was a good feint at misdirection since he's been used as a foil before, so it was a somewhat plausible scenario and when he has been used he's been generally unlikable, or close to that, so it does allow the viewer to at least join in the suspicion around him, especially since the story seems to push Seska a little too hard, which often means that character is being misjudged. Having more suspects including those two would have been better still, and my own wish was that Seska had indeed framed Carey effectively making Janeway treat him as the turncoat, leaving her as a continuing character. It would have added more weight to the actions and shown Seska as more capable and allowed for a relationship with Chakotay to develop, not to mention providing the audience with a different twist in relating to the show.

The Kazon this time were better than our initial encounter with them, but they're still lacking enough that Seska throwing in with them, a lesser power, seems kinda off. Hard to figure what her ultimate plan was. Having them as protectors for Voyager isn't something she can really control on her own, choosing them instead of Voyager doesn't bring her any closer to home and really doesn't seem all that attractive when even compared to the Sikarians of the last episode, who at least potentially could either get her closer to Alpha Quadrant or who's world is a lot more attractive than that of the Kazon who don't even have adequate water reserves at times. It all comes across as premature and could have stood being built up longer.

Sorry to say I can't agree about Neelix in this episode. He came across as pretty damned annoying again, mostly due to being off tone with Phillips too aggressively pursuing that poisonous apple joke in the early segment, seeming almost mean rather than any shade of funny, neither unaware of Carey's enthusiasm where the explanation of the effect of the fruit is just funny in contrast without added emphasis needed, nor teasing Carey by exaggerating the effects for a mutual laugh with Chakotay, he just comes off as being a dick to Carey for no good reason in my eyes. His Interruption by com badge of Chakotay and Seska also just seems off and way too much for the level of offense and even more for his assumption that Seska was involved. His dislike of her seems to come from not much of anything and doesn't fit his character in most other instances all that well. His character at this point seems pretty ill defined other than in providing color to the show, and Phillips isn't doing a lot to make him more welcome.

A long continuing annoyance with the Trek world is how shoddy their security protocols are around the main computer with lock out functions, transporter use and so on. I get that having it that way allows the writers to get away with a lot more shenanigans that would otherwise be difficult, but always feels like a complete cop out to allow lesser crew members or visitors to use the main computer against the rest of the ship when there certainly should be all sorts of ways to prevent that in most instances like this one. Maybe Tuvok should consider a different position on the ship since security doesn't really seem to be his strongest suit, but then again no one else seems all that much better at it either.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:17 AM on February 7 [1 favorite]


Revealing Seska as Cardassian was the most irksome development for me, since there was really no need to invoke the Cardassians for the story to make sense and by having her identity revealed through her blood just rings all sorts of alarms for me over eugenic/genetic basis of values and worth.

Not to mention morality. Do we ever get any clearer hint about why she is the way she is other than "she's Cardassian and they're sneaky"? (Apart maybe from being Chakotay-baby-crazy, which is a whole separate category of problematic—and which IIRC becomes a bigger factor later, sadly.) The MA Seska page says "Seska's true intentions in helping the Kazon-Nistrim were never explicitly revealed, though she initially claimed that by helping them, she would be helping Voyager gain a protective ally."

I mean, if we infer that she's Obsidian Order (which, in a spin-off novel, she was), then that could go a long way toward explaining why (A) she's willing to sacrifice any number of lives to get back to the AQ and (B) why she might view the Kazon as her best bet: they have the largest fleet that she knows of so far, which (in a militarily-trained Cardassian's mind) might equate to more opportunities and access relevant to her purposes, in general, than the Sikarians would likely have provided. (They don't have a fleet, after all; they don't need one.) Her being Obsidian Order would also fit well with the obviously high opinion she has of her own abilities.

BUT, all of that would again require Voyager to spend a lot of time on DS9-catchup-exposition about why the Obsidian Order isn't just your typical intelligence service. But that might be why Seska never rang as false to me (at least, early on) as she could have: having seen all of DS9 before getting this far into VOY, I always just figured that she was with the Order. It's the Kazon I was never sold on—which of course hurts the Seska character's efficacy as a villain.

BTW, Mrs. Cheeses agrees that Seska shouldn't have been killed off so quickly, but I'm more inclined to feel that she COULD have been a really solid long-term villain, given a better set-up than she actually got. So in retrospect maybe it's good that they disposed of her. Besides, if any show concept justifies having a series of short-term villains rather than any long-term villain (besides perhaps Q), it's Voyager's.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:03 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


That's true. Voyager's sense of travel really doesn't work with having minor reoccurring villains. The Kazon make little sense if they too span the breadth of the Delta Quadrant, given our introduction to them. Q, the Borg, and species 8472 make enough sense to show up at unexpected intervals, and Seska, in theory, could also work if she continued to shift alliances or hijacked some ship and set out to track Voyager for reasons of her own, but beyond that it often seems as if Voyager isn't getting very far in their journey, even post-Kes boost.

Seska would work best sticking with Voyager itself longer, having another confederate on board, (I'd nominate Paris as her lover instead of Chakotay and make him only partially aware of her actions, willing to cover for her to some extent, tying their relationship to his earlier actions both in getting kicked out of Starfleet and in joining the Maquis, but that's getting pretty fanfic and away from what actually occurs), and maybe provide some deeper rift that gives her more reason to seek Voyager either to acquire it or destroy it. The only reason to do those sorts of things is that she is a more interesting adversary than random Delta Quandrant foes in being connected to the ship and the Alpha Quadrant and willing to do the sorts of things Janeway isn't. It could set up a nice parallel, something they do explore in other ways with episodes like Equinox, but could have done more with perhaps as it would give more weight to the interactions with species they are hoping to move past on their way home.

Also, if Seska was a Cardassian spy, why would the Cardassian's be so eager to burn her in pressing Voyager to go after Chakotay and his Maquis? They had an insider that could have tipped them off any time to their actions so they could have, one assumes caught them on their own. Something a little more singular than "evil Cardassian spy" would have been a big help for her character in giving her actions more gravitas.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:40 AM on February 7 [2 favorites]


"You were working for her [Janeway], Seska was working for them [the Cardassians]... was anyone on that ship working for me?"

- Chakotay to Tuvok, on finding out that Seska was a Cardassian spy


This may be my favorite line of dialogue from the entire series. Poor Chakotay, never in control of any situation. I always forget that his Maquis ship, the Val Jean, was supposedly manned by dozens of people and not just the few folks we saw in the cockpit/bridge in "Caretaker". I always assume that Chakotay, Tuvok, Seska, and Torres were the sole crew of that little ship, making it more like a shuttlecraft.
posted by Servo5678 at 7:15 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


That's true. Voyager's sense of travel really doesn't work with having minor reoccurring villains. The Kazon make little sense if they too span the breadth of the Delta Quadrant, given our introduction to them...It's the Kazon I was never sold on—which of course hurts the Seska character's efficacy as a villain.

That's spot-on, and articulates one of the major issues I've had with this plotline: it feels like Seska betrays Voyager with the Kazon because...the Kazon are there? They're already an established villain, and they're a villain the writers were pushing. But why would Seska, in the context of the show, think it's a good idea -- not to betray Voyager (take that as given), but to betray the ship with the Kazon? If the writers had been playing up a lack of resources, I could see it making sense -- if there was a demonstrated need for Voyager to make allies or find energy/food/raw materials, and those things were in short supply, you could make Seska's betrayal part of a broader arc of the ship's crew debating what steps were worth taking. You could even make this episode the reverse of Prime Factors; where that was about breaking someone else's laws, aiding the Kazon in return for goods, services, and protection would then be about breaking the Federation's. At that point, you could also make the issue not one of Seska's betrayal alone but make her the focal point in a small mutiny or schism or or or -- you could hang a lot of plot hooks off that.

Complete aside: the Vidians would make more sense given the plot we get, here -- what if Seska was trading Voyager's tech (what if Voyager could replicate organs for them?), or perhaps crew members, in return for Vidian technology, with the aim of playing the long game of life extension: sure, it make take a really long time to get back home, but if the crew could keep repairing themselves then more people might (eventually) make it back. You'd have to have written the earlier Vidian episode differently to set this up, to be fair.

But the biggest problem here is really that the Kazon just don't work well as villains, in and of themselves. The best Star Trek villains have also been reflections of, I would argue, either real-world socio-political-technological issues or else reflections of issues with the Federation (at times both, and to the shows credits they best villains are rarely one-note. The Klingons and Romulans in TOS reflect Cold War anxieties over proxy wars and the risk of open conflict; the Borg, in TNG, touch on the fear of the unknown (in contradiction to Starfleet's aim of seeking out new life) -- an unknown enemy is disappearing colonies; eventually, we learn they come from far far away, hinting that things lie beyond the scope of the known and that exploration is not without risks; the Dominion, in DS9, are a dark reflection of the Federation, an internally peaceful organization of several star systems interested in trade and association with those outside it, that just happens to also be run from the top-down, aristocratically, and uses genetic engineering and cloning -- the one branch of technology the Federation eschews -- to keep its members in line (through the Vorta/Jem'Hadar).

Stacked up against that, the Kazon are -- to hear the writers of Voyager tell it, per Memory Alpha:
The series' co-creators originally conceived of the Kazon as contemporary Los Angeles street gangs. Jeri Taylor recalled, "We felt with the Kazon we needed to address the tenor of our times and what [...] was happening in our cities and recognizing a source of danger and social unrest.
The earliest drafts actually have the Kazon named the 'Crips,' as a placeholder, with the 'Bloods' being another group of Kazon.

Fundamentally, 'street gangs in space' isn't really reflective of 'the tenor of [the] times' -- that's a huge issue in and of itself, and a problematic one to ground so much narrative in. But to the degree it is or was (it isn't, it wasn't), the writers also do not really address it through the Kazon; and in that framing, the writers essentially have set up Seska to be paying into a protection racket, but it comes off more, here, as handing over lunch money to some bullies in order to not get beaten up. The Kazon, generally, feel petty rather than threatening; bullying rather than actually threatening. As a framing device for a story about a ship trapped halfway across the known galaxy, that's remarkably unimaginative and...small?

I mean, DS9 had a series-spanning storyline about, essentially, a dark mirror Federation that threatened the very political fabric of the galaxy. And Voyager had some misogynist dudes who want a replicator.

The Kazon are still better than the Ferengi in The Last Outpost, which remains my low bar for recurring villains, but worst than the Ferengi in...every subsequent episode.
posted by cjelli at 8:40 AM on February 7 [5 favorites]


I've always found the Kazon enjoyable and feel that they are underappreciated. It's sometimes tough to defend the decisions that the Voyager writers make, but they did find themselves in a somewhat difficult position with regards to aliens. They needed to really make it clear that Voyager was in a part of the galaxy that is nothing like we've seen before. So in a universe already filled with 200+ episodes of alien encounters they needed to come up with something that felt alien to everything we already know.

(Side note, they finally achieve this when we meet Species 8472, something I'm looking forward to very much. However, this were only made possible by advancements in CGI that wouldn't have been available in season 1.)

Instead of going big, they tried to go small with the Kazon. The Alpha Quadrant is dominated by large empires - the Federation, Romulans, Klingons, and Cardassians - all prosperous and with roughly the same level of technology. So instead of another empire the first recurring enemy race we see is one of resource starved, tribal scavengers. If Voyager had the backing of the Federation the Kazon would hardly be a threat - but alone in unexplored space, even bandits are a threat.

We even see the same scenario with the Vidiians. They lure the Voyager crew, and then Voyager itself into a trap. Voyager may as well be a Conestoga traveling through a valley.

I feel like this is what the writers were going for, and at times they achieved it. And if the Kazon didn't look so ridiculous I feel they would have been better received.
posted by 2ht at 9:31 AM on February 7 [4 favorites]


2ht, that's a great interpretation of the Kazon, and they will get a better showing in Season 2, as we get to meet some of the other sects and see the crew negotiate with/between them. As far as Seska joining them goes, her motivation seems to be that she thinks that she can become queen of the murderhoboes by stealing enough Federation tech to give the Kazon-Nistrim an edge over the others. That she would do so despite being an operative of the Cardassians, with their emphasis on loyalty to the family and the state, is one of the reasons why I headcanoned her as being a war orphan and maybe not even a full Cardassian; she may have been promised by the Obsidian Order that she'd get full citizenship on Cardassia as a reward for her service, but she may have looked at the situation in the Delta Quadrant and decided that she could bring order to the Kazon and rule the DQ. Dreaming of being the Woman Who Would Be Queen is a variation on an old imperialist fantasy, and the Cardassians are nothing if not serious imperialists.
posted by Halloween Jack at 12:55 PM on February 7


On an unrelated note, I was curious about the size of various factions in the Alpha Quadrant. Star Trek has never been known for its scientific consistency, but First Contact says the Federation is "spread over 8000 light years." At maximum warp it would still take several years to travel across Federation space! Suddenly 5 year missions make so much more sense. However, this doesn't mesh with... anything we see in Trek.

A subspace message from Voyager to the Federation should take about 4 months to arrive.

Someone on an old forum proposes that the Federation might span 8000 cubic light years. I'll let someone else do that math on that.

I also discovered the delightful little relic of Internet history that discusses this issue at length. Oh, and the next chapter deals specifically with Voyager. But MAJOR SPOILERS if you're on your first watch.
posted by 2ht at 1:28 PM on February 7


8000 cubic light years is only 20 ly on a side. Seems a lot more reasonable, maybe even a little on the small side. (There is an official book of star charts that includes Voyager's trip across the Delta Quadrant that's pretty neat, but a lot of things in the book don't really line up with canon, although there are things in canon that don't really make sense; for example, the energy barrier at the edge of the galaxy (there's no such thing actually observable in the Milky Way; the stars just sort of peter out at the edge) or being able to travel to the center of the galaxy in Star Trek V (not only would it take decades, but the center of the galaxy is a supermassive black hole and the cumulative radiation of billions of stars outside of the black hole would probably destroy any ship that entered the core).)
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:07 PM on February 7


A sphere with a volume of 8000 cubic light years is a little under 12.5 ly in diameter. If you center that sphere on the solar system, you get a total of 33 stars, according to this: http://www.atlasoftheuniverse.com/12lys.html

Definitely too small.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 2:30 PM on February 7


More on this topic at Ex Astris Scientia, the debilitatingly thorough clearinghouse of Trek hyperanalysis.

nerrrrrds
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:22 AM on February 8 [2 favorites]


I agree that Seska's reveal would have made more sense further down the road a little - or maybe just given the actress a little more to work with? I had a hard time remembering her as anything other 'other maquis person who isn't Chakotay or B'Ellana'. Maybe given her a couple more times when she is prodding the rest of the crew to act recklessly or get with Paris (I really like that idea - not only because we can stop having Paris hitting on a new woman every week, but it would be so very much in character for him to ignore any warning signs and stick up for Seska, especially if Seska fed into his ego a little bit,).

I had also totally forgotten who Carey was, except for being a science officer.

Regarding Seska being a war orphan, and that bringing in more backstory: They're already leaning on a lot of other backstory already. To understand why the Maquis would have a Cardassian spy means recalling that they were Federation colonists whose lands were ceded over to Cardassians - which is honestly hard to remember at this point. Seska mentions the Cardassians occupied Bajor in her explanation of her blood typing, and she also mentions the camps at the same time. Going one step further - that the Cardassians slept with Bajorans during the occupation - doesn't seem like a lot.

Seska also wasn't angry enough at being mistaken for a Cardassian to actually be Bajoran.

But mainly - Voyager's continuing problem is that it's forgotten its own premise and erased most of the differences between the Maquis and the Federation, and then just explained away and then got rid of the one character that was not fitting in in Federation rules. And, I mean, there don't have to be tons of episodes dedicated to it, but having it as a background characterization would go a long way. If the colonists are used to living without all of the comforts of the Federation, maybe they take better to Neelix's cooking that the Federation officers. Maybe Chakotay relied more on decisions by consensus (which seems like a very Chakotay thing), and it reads to Janeway as insubordiantion. Maybe have the Federation act like clueless rich people some of the time, because in a lot of ways, that's what they are to the Maquis.

That in itself would explain why the Maquis were more likely to give out Federation technology and ignore the prime directive, because it's easy to have these ideals if you haven't actually had to live through some of these consequences, and the entire reason why the Maquis exist is because of high-minded Federation decisions that were better for most but really, really screwed over the few. Reminding us of this more often would have made this episode make more sense, and made Seska's monologue at the end even more powerful.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:37 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


That in itself would explain why the Maquis were more likely to give out Federation technology and ignore the prime directive, because it's easy to have these ideals if you haven't actually had to live through some of these consequences, and the entire reason why the Maquis exist is because of high-minded Federation decisions that were better for most but really, really screwed over the few.

Yeah, I mean if you're going to bother bringing up the Cardassians, then you might as well explore some of the ideas a little more. I'm still stuck on the notion that, from what I've seen, the Cardassians are shown as pretty damn evil, later in this series even likened to Nazis, which if you're going to go that route (and again even with the Nazis it wasn't a universal German "blood" thing that made them evil, just the false belief of some that there was something superior about them genetically, so it was a Nazi belief, not reality about blood being so important), then having the Federation sign a treaty with a Nazi-like race is really questionable and makes the Maquis' resistance more commendatory or at least gives it a lot more moral weight.

That could have been explored in the different attitudes each crew had, or in the leadership styles. Like in the previous episode, where the law of the Prime Directive and the treaty could be weighed against the the more singular morality of specific incidents, where ad hoc measures may be applied as long as some more general principle were upheld, like do no purposeful harm. Trading lit for tech could certainly fit in that looser restriction, especially given those seeking to trade were, in their way, rebelling against their own government where little clear harm and some potential good might be seen as an outcome for the swap assuming one recognized the arbitrariness of Gath's decision.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:25 AM on February 9 [1 favorite]


Seska's big speech at the end seemed weirdly out of place with what the rest of the episode showed and implied about her situation. Apart from that speech, you can connect the dots like this: Seska was feeling mounting time pressure to get off of Voyager. She knew that she couldn't keep blowing off the blood tests from Kes and The Doctor indefinitely, and she was (rightly) afraid of being found out. So she contacted the Kazon and offered the replicator as payment to get herself (and only herself) off of Voyager. Sure she'd be stuck in the Delta quadrant forever, but she had a hard life ahead of her in the Alpha quadrant, trying to re-integrate into Cardassian society after a lifetime of posing as a Bajoran. Her rendezvous with the Kazon in the cave was to be her departure. If the Voyager search party had been any other member of the crew, she'd have stunned them — but she couldn't bring herself to shoot Chakotay. So she aborted her escape.

It's all reasonably internally consistent, until she gives her big villain speech and announces that she did it for Voyager as a whole. Which contradicts the whole story about Seska being in it for herself. I'd almost say that "I did it for us" was a cover Seska used because she couldn't bear to tell Chakotay the truth, but nothing in Martha Hackett's performance suggests that.

Also: How cliche is it that the writers felt they had to use a romantic past to intensify Chakotay and Seska's bond. They fought a damn war together, but apparently that's not enough of a bonding experience. She's a woman, so romance is her default relationship to men. (I'm aware that there's an upcoming plot with the baby, but I don't remember much about it.)
posted by Banknote of the year at 10:49 AM on February 19 [2 favorites]


« Older Victoria: An Ordinary Woman...   |  The Young Pope: Episode Eight... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments