Star Trek: Voyager: Alliances   Rewatch 
April 13, 2017 3:22 AM - Season 2, Episode 14 - Subscribe

Crewman Bendera goes to that big exploding console in the sky, a mutiny enters the planning stage, Neelix hits the bar, Tuvok enjoys some horticulture, and Janeway learns why you can't spell "Trabe" without "be" and "tray."

And presenting … Memory Alpha of Wikia! (**trumpets, applause**)

- Originally, Culluh was to die in this episode. The performer of Culluh, Anthony De Longis, later recalled, "When I got to the end of the script, the last scene was like something out of The Godfather, Part III, where all the mobsters are in one room and the helicopter attacks, killing everyone. I went in to see Jeri Taylor the next day and begged her to let Culluh at least be seen twitching at the episode's end. She told me that the script had already been changed and said, 'We've decided not to kill you.' Whew!"

- The creation of this episode made use of a paper – an elaborate, invented sociological backstory for the Kazon, explaining their history (including involvement with the Trabe) and their customs – that originally transpired from research that executive story editor Kenneth Biller did for the episode "Initiations", for which the document was also used.

- Regarding the politics of Chakotay's recommendation to form an alliance with the Kazon, Chakotay actor Robert Beltran mused, "It's no different than the United States giving nation status to China, when we know full well what goes on over there, or any other despotic government that we recognize for our own convenience."

- The Trabe were mentioned in two prior episodes (specifically, in "Initiations" and "Maneuvers") before appearing, finally, in this episode.

- This episode introduces the recurring characters of Michael Jonas and Hogan. When first conceived, however, Hogan was not planned to become a recurring character; actor Simon Billig's performance as Hogan here impressed Star Trek: Voyager's producers so much that they subsequently began to repeatedly reuse the character.

- On Netflix, when the Majes of the Kazon Sects are being introduced, the sound of trumpets along with fanfare and applause is heard for each one. [Ed.: I remember this, but Netflix seems to have removed that version of the episode, because on rewatch a few weeks ago, it wasn't there. See Poster's Log Supplemental below.]

- Much of the metal ornaments on the Kazon costumes are pieces of hardware and tack for horses.


"Holding an entire culture in virtual slavery is not the kind of thing that would go unnoticed."

- Janeway


"I won't have a woman dictate terms to me!"
"Culluh, I found the idea of an alliance with you distasteful. I was willing to explore the possibility, but now I see my instincts were dead-on."

- Culluh and Kathryn Janeway


"Chief, beam our former guest back to his vessel!"
"Captain, don't do this. You're going to need us."
"I don't think so."
"The Kazon will be determined to seek revenge. How can this one ship hope to survive?"
"Not by making deals with executioners. Energize!"

- Kathryn Janeway and Mabus


"In a part of space where there are few rules, it's more important than ever that we hold fast to our own. In a region where shifting allegiances are commonplace we have to have something stable to rely on. And we do. The principles and ideals of the Federation. As far as I'm concerned, those are the best allies we could have."

- Kathryn Janeway


Poster's Log:
I feel like the story in this one is a little rushed, but it might have made a boring two-parter, so perhaps it's better as is. Also, I can't help but feel like the whole Trabe-Kazon history has slightly too much of a resemblance to the "race war" narrative promulgated by paranoid, racist white Americans. (Whether the writers intended that the audience make that connection or not, it seems likely that it's what they were thinking, since they've said the Kazon were based on street gangs.) It probably doesn't help that they cast another White As White Can Be actor as Mabus—I mean that dude is straight out of a Lands' End catalog—but at least his performance is suitably despicable.

For all the talk about the Prime Directive prohibiting Janeway from handing over technology, she seems pretty calm about violating the Prime Directive in terms of interfering with Kazon politics, but given the whole Delta Quadrant situation, I guess it's forgiveable; Seska's presence was probably going to do more to disrupt the natural evolution of Kazon society anyway. The attempt at alliance here probably ranks pretty low on the big list of Prime Directive violations—but I do feel like, given a less rushed episode, it couldn't have hurt to address this a bit more.

Otherwise, it's a fairly exciting installment, and another example of the sort of story that VOY's series concept required. We'll see tense alliances again in the future, which is nice, and of course we'll see more of Culluh, who's about the only thing that make the Kazon worthwhile in my book.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
If you haven't seen it before, watch the baffling "fanfare" version of the scene with the majes entering. I keenly remember it being there the last time I watched VOY on Netflix. Mrs. CoB and I found it astonishing and absurd—for one thing, there's never any indication of a crowd of spectators for the meeting—and we judged that it could not possibly have been intentional on the part of the series' producers. But we forgot all about it until this rewatch, also via Netflix, when we noticed its absence.

I got a little obsessed with this, so I did some research. Some folks on Reddit think it had to do with Netflix using an older or alternate version of the episode that wasn't supposed to air. Folks on the Trek BBS claim that it was not in the original airing, but WAS on the version in Amazon Prime; I also found claims that Amazon Prime has reverted to the fanfare-free version, just as Netflix has. The fanfare's also allegedly not on the U.S. DVD version, but I don't own it and can't verify that. My Google-fu yielded no indication that anyone "official" ever acknowledged this aberration.

My conspiracy theory is that this was no accident, but rather that someone whose job was encoding the episode for streaming services decided to sneak in a little bit of sabotage, either just for the lulz or possibly as a sarcastic signal of his/her personal distaste for either the Kazon or the series itself. (Along similar lines, it could have been an inside joke that got away from somebody.) It wouldn't have been difficult to do; a person in a position like that could very well have access to some of those production CDs with titles like 1001 Generic TV/Film Audio Clips (I used to have one or two myself), from which I suspect the fanfares originated. Certainly, to my ears, they sound just "off" enough in the mix to support my hunch that they were added, amateurishly, after the fact. I have no real evidence for this theory, but I put it forth because I can't fathom why anyone official would have endorsed the inclusion of the fanfares, even for foreign distribution or as a stupid DVD easter egg.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (23 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I haven't rewatched the episode yet, so I'll save my lengthier comment for later, but I don't remember the fanfare from the original broadcast, and the clip comes off as a fan-edit joke--something that's playing off of the Voyager crew's deadpan expressions as the various majes enter. I don't question your memory, but... could be a Berenstain/Sinbad Shazam thing. Welcome to Earth-47, Mirror-CheesesOfBrazil! Shave or grow your goatee as appropriate, and it's OK if you want to bang your doppelganger, everyone wants to or at least has thought about it.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:36 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


Watching it on Amazon now and it includes the fanfare.
posted by 2ht at 9:14 AM on April 13


Particle of the Week: There's no time for something as big as particles with all the backstabbery!
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Using a starship to attack the peace talks would've been obsolete in the era of Star Trek Online. Engineer-class Captains are able to instead actively designate a target for their ship to fire upon from orbit. (While this is certainly possible in the TNG-era, presumably Trabe targeting sensors don't have the surgical precision Mabus would want in order to survive the assault.)

Ongoing Equipment Tally:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 34, as 3 were fired that we saw.

The tally really can't be taken as absolute anymore because Voyager had weeks of fighting in this episode's backstory. I could overlook that last week, but from now on, this is officially just the onscreen count with the open acknowledgment that it's gotta be lower.

* Shuttles: Down 3
* Crew: 148. Of the 3 dead mentioned this week, only Bendera is named.
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: Still just 5, no change.

Notes:
* Dodecahedrons and icasohedrons are 3D shapes.

... most famously, 12- and 20-sided dice. The puzzle on the table would've been useless in D&D! If that happened today, I'd assume someone was trolling their nerdy viewers. /hamburger

* Thanks, Jeri Taylor. (This sentiment now presented without sarcasm for once.)

I went in to see Jeri Taylor the next day and begged her to let Culluh at least be seen twitching at the episode's end. She told me that the script had already been changed and said, 'We've decided not to kill you.' Whew!"

I'm glad they did that. I feel like this would've been a bad place to kill off the character.

* I'm in the 'this should've been a two-parter' camp.

I feel like the story in this one is a little rushed, but it might have made a boring two-parter, so perhaps it's better as is.

They probably would've mucked it up, particularly at this part of the series' run, but I really do feel like this story is rushed. We barely know Mabus and the Trabe before they sabotage the peace talks. A good betrayal calls for giving us a little time to trust the people doing it, and this is all just too fast and too pat.

We also don't get to see the other Kazon talk much, and this would've been a good time to help us understand their infighting better and humanize them more. Also, a two-parter would've meant more Seska, and she's both lots of fun and woefully underutilized.

* On Voyager, beatings will continue until morale improves.
HOGAN: Even if it means us getting home in one piece? Or do you agree with our Captain that holding on to our technology is worth dying for.
TORRES: Who are you to be second guessing Captain Janeway? The hardest thing you have to think worry is keeping that dilithium chamber filled. She os doing the best she can to get us home and if you don't like the way she's doing it, I really don't want to hear about it. Is that clear?
Last week, I was standing up for the management style on Voyager. It still mostly holds true, but the Maquis are another ugly blind spot. I feel like this is a deliberate choice on the part of the writers due to the consistency with which it is applied. These guys are basically press-ganged: they have to wear Federation uniforms and abide by Federation norms even though the Federation abandoned them to the Cardassians. To date, we've seen them physically assaulted and publicly humiliated, and valid concerns ignored until people were willing to mutiny.

B'Ellana has been picking up some good lessons from Janeway and Chakotay, but it looks like the bad ones are rubbing off too. A better way to handle this conflict would've been to point out to Hogan and the others that once any one faction of the Kazon have Voyager's tech, they're liable to waste the ship to prevent any other faction from getting it. This is a simple and obvious point, and would take all of a minute to go over. Instead, these people are expected to just swallow more crap from a society that hasn't been doing them a lot of favors lately.

It's not good stuff, nor is it any surprise that Jonas takes matters into his own hands here.

* The racial politics are, indeed, pretty unpleasant.

Also, I can't help but feel like the whole Trabe-Kazon history has slightly too much of a resemblance to the "race war" narrative promulgated by paranoid, racist white Americans. (Whether the writers intended that the audience make that connection or not, it seems likely that it's what they were thinking, since they've said the Kazon were based on street gangs.)

Yep. This episode actually made me agree with Maj Cullah, albeit for all of like two seconds, before he went on to the horrid misogyny again. But I do agree with this:
I find you nothing but a hypocrite, Captain, allying yourselves to the greatest villains this quadrant has ever known. If this is where your revered Federation values have taken you, I want no part of it.
Dude has a point. He's still a loathsome person, but Janeway really is pretty quick to judge a book by its cover and form major political alliances without doing much recon, the same thing I was complaining about in Prototype.

Oh, and this line is the actual worst:
CHAKOTAY: It seems to me that they've learned their lesson. Mabus and his people have freely acknowledged that they were responsible for what happened to them.
It's not Chakotay's call when the Kazon forgive the Trabe, nobody in that room is in a position to judge what occurred since they know nothing about it, and putting those words in the mouth of the Native American Maquis guy makes it even more insulting.

This is clearly an authorial bias or intent on display, and it's definitely 'fling something at the TV' territory.

Also, it reminds me of the saying that 'taking the side of the status quo means siding with the oppressors.' That's very much what's going on with the Voyager interpretation of the Prime Directive, and this episode highlights it unpleasantly.

* Coming back to the Prime Directive: the talk here digs that hole deeper.

We were having a pretty lively discussion about the Prime Directive last week. In my opinion, this episode muddies the waters about it further. Taken as a hard and fast rule for pre-warp cultures, the Prime Directive is difficult but philosophically defensible. Like, I can see making what happened in Homeward illegal - the ramifications of saving a people are complicated, and likely beyond what one well-meaning guy can handle.

The broader use that Voyager employs, however, is increasingly maddening to me. Moral issues aside, it feels like a retcon. Like... I don't remember the peace talks with the Klingons being framed as a Prime Directive issue anywhere else, especially not in the era of TOS. Objections to it were mostly on the basis of well-earned bad blood.

Moreover, the Federation engages in humanitarian aid and political alliances routinely. As of the timeframe of Voyager, Bajor is receiving lots of help from the Federation. It's true that this is initially with an eye toward eventual Federation membership, but aid and joint operations do continue after Bajor refuses the initial proposal.

This is not construed as a violation of the Prime Directive, even though the 'natural course' in that part of space was apparently Cardassia's boot stomping on the face of all Bajorans forever. It is instead understood in more normal political terms: they're in need, they're not hostile, they're post-warp, so the Federation has a both a moral imperative and enlightened self-interest in offering them aid and friendship.

So... yeah. This one gets a pretty low grade for me due to the racist attitudes underlying and permeating the entire structure of it, and the way they wrapped a tidy little bow on the idea that Janeway is Always Right About The Prime Directive. (As of now, the thing it reminds me of the most is how Rick can never, ever be wrong on The Walking Dead.)
posted by mordax at 11:06 AM on April 13 [1 favorite]


One of the interesting things about the Prime Directive is that, throughout the entire franchise, we never find out what the PD actually is, in terms of its precise wording. (For a while, I entertained the idea that the PD deliberately didn't have a definitive wording in order to prevent people from finding loopholes in it--that it was a collection of general principles that was carefully taught in Starfleet Academy--but I'm not sure how that would even work, to be honest.) So on the one hand you have the Federation and the Klingons in "A Private Little War" engaging in a proxy war in which the natives are being given increasingly sophisticated weapons, and at the other extreme you've got this, in which the murderhoboes are assumed to be untrustworthy, but when the space slavers come along and swear that they've left their enslaving ways behind and they're totally cool now, honest, Janeway takes about two seconds to think it over and decides that they seem legit. And, yes, the racial angle was really not good; the narrative should not leave you feeling sympathetic, even for a few minutes, for the people who thought that it was OK to own other people, and ended up losing in a slave rebellion. This includes even (sentient) robot rebellions, shades of last week's episode, not to mention the Terminator series. (Oddly, the person who Mabus reminded me of the most physically was James Cameron.)

The Kazon are still, by and large, sexist dick murderhoboes, although their interchangeability (distinguishable mostly by minor differences in hairstyles and clothing) is in itself kind of racist; it's not good that Voyager didn't have the possibility of treating with even one of the minor sects. It was good that they were willing to consider dealing with Seska and Culluh, the recent unpleasantness notwithstanding, and vice versa; I was glad to see that Seska was unwilling to put up with Culluh's bullshit any more than she had to, and I have to admit that Culluh was right about the Trabe.

A few other things: I confirmed that the fanfare was present in Amazon Prime's version, but not Netflix's. The Trabe ambush was similar to the one used by Khan in Star Trek Into Darkness (speaking of another installment with problematic racial issues). And Raphael Sbarge, who played Jonas, has among his many other roles (including a brief appearance as Jimmy McGill's father in Better Call Saul) done the voice acting for Kaidan Alenko in the first three Mass Effect games, which featured a race, the quarians, who were exiled from their homeworld because of a successful (robot) slave rebellion, traveled the galaxy in their refugee fleet, and were always looking for a way back home, even if it meant slaughtering their former slaves.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:03 PM on April 13 [1 favorite]


One of the interesting things about the Prime Directive is that, throughout the entire franchise, we never find out what the PD actually is, in terms of its precise wording. (For a while, I entertained the idea that the PD deliberately didn't have a definitive wording in order to prevent people from finding loopholes in it--that it was a collection of general principles that was carefully taught in Starfleet Academy--but I'm not sure how that would even work, to be honest.)

I mean, on a meta level, TOS had a basic notion that cultural contamination is bad, which seems pretty self-evident even without the obligatory Nazi episode. Having space guys show up and mess with primitive cultures is pretty clearly a power imbalance problem. It was just one consideration among a host of others though, including things like competitive balance and proxy wars with the Klingons, like you mention about A Private Little War.

Then TNG came along and wanted to be more utopian and enlightened, so they turned this pretty sensible guideline out of a bunch of rules into an almost religious article of faith. From the wiki:
"The Prime Directive is not a matter of degree. It is an absolute."
- Worf, in Pen Pals
This led to all sorts of weirdness and problematic storylines. Then Voyager went the full Voyager with it, and Enterprise did one of the worst storylines ever because they were terrible.

(I don't recall DS9 really worrying about it to the extent the other two did.)

The Kazon are still, by and large, sexist dick murderhoboes, although their interchangeability (distinguishable mostly by minor differences in hairstyles and clothing) is in itself kind of racist; it's not good that Voyager didn't have the possibility of treating with even one of the minor sects.

Yeah. The only reason I didn't go into that much is that Star Trek does that with just about everybody: Vulcans mostly do 'walk like this,' while Klingons 'walk like that.' Per the discussion in Faces, race essentialism is a very Trek notion that's not cool. (And I guess to be fair, a really common, frustrating and problematic notion in action SF in general. TVTropes has whole subcategories about this.)
posted by mordax at 2:03 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


(The whole Planet of Hats thing is the logical, fictional extension of the 'Where are you from' discussion we've been having on the blue, IMO - like, the same kind of mind that would ask that question wouldn't see anything wrong with it in their fictional universes either.)
posted by mordax at 2:07 AM on April 14


Holy crap. I was rewatching the show and writing at the same time and ended up with a freaking 3100 word, uh, thing. I'm gonna have to read through that and pare it down before responding. My feelings on the episode are complicated, but not that damn complicated. Jeezus.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:16 AM on April 14


Holy crap. I was rewatching the show and writing at the same time and ended up with a freaking 3100 word, uh, thing. I'm gonna have to read through that and pare it down before responding. My feelings on the episode are complicated, but not that damn complicated. Jeezus.

Those words were all about the fanfares, weren't they.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:18 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Mrs. CoB and I recently had a conversation that relates to the Prime Directive question raised by this episode. She had watched an Oliver Stone thing about Harry Truman and Henry Wallace, and though I didn't watch it with her, her summary of Stone's thesis seemed to be "if only Wallace had succeeded FDR instead of Truman, Stalin would've been manageable and the Cold War might not have happened, or at least not as badly as it did." We went back and forth on that question and arrived at the conclusion (helped in part by the events of November 2016) that there's really no way to ever know for sure, and despite the presence of suggestive trends, we are none of us Hari Seldons.

Applying this to "Alliances" (and dismissing the objection that VOY is fiction, because truth is often stranger and more subject to dramatic surprises than fiction is (need I mention November 2016 again?)), it seems to me that the spirit if not the (unknowable) text of the Prime Directive was violated here from the get-go, and Tuvok encouraged it. He says that an alliance between Voyager and the Kazon might teach the Kazon to value peace, and bring stability to the region as a result. It's an understandably optimistic view; Vulcans love peace—they sort of have to.

But it IS optimistic. Isn't it a little more likely that the Kazon sects would play nice until Janeway et al. were out of their space, then descend into post-Kublai-Khan-style internecine competition again? Or that, rather than facing several competing murderhobo sects, the peoples of the region would now face a united, oppressive, extractive, unstoppable Kazon empire—one whose subgroups have learned to work together thanks to the Federation's Friendship-Is-Magic philosophy?

OR, the alliance between the murderous Kazon and this alien ship Voyager with its bad reputation causes various local peoples who previously were on the defensive to band together and stop what must seem to be a truly diabolical plot. It could go so many ways. Real-world history shows this. I always had the sense that the "don't mess with cultures' internal affairs" portion of Prime Directive must have factored in the fact that (canonically) the Federation has no Hari Seldons either.*

In short, I think it's the ambition of the alliance plan in this episode was what made it a pretty serious violation of the PD. Smaller-scale tense alliances, sure, whatever. Even planet-scale tense alliances, back home with some degree of approval from Command, don't necessarily violate the PD. This, to me, really does. It's almost as if not just the crew, but the writers, failed to think far enough beyond the immediate self-interest of Voyager.

mordax: Like... I don't remember the peace talks with the Klingons being framed as a Prime Directive issue anywhere else, especially not in the era of TOS. Objections to it were mostly on the basis of well-earned bad blood.

This goes to the only major counter-argument I can think of: Starfleet folks have seemed pretty OK with PD violations against a culture with whom the Federation is or recently was at war. But even if that exception were somehow codified in the PD (which we don't know, and would seem to undercut the whole PD in a sense if it were), it'd be a stretch to say that Voyager's situation qualifies.

Moreover, the Federation engages in humanitarian aid and political alliances routinely. As of the timeframe of Voyager, Bajor is receiving lots of help from the Federation. It's true that this is initially with an eye toward eventual Federation membership, but aid and joint operations do continue after Bajor refuses the initial proposal.

This is not construed as a violation of the Prime Directive, even though the 'natural course' in that part of space was apparently Cardassia's boot stomping on the face of all Bajorans forever. It is instead understood in more normal political terms: they're in need, they're not hostile, they're post-warp, so the Federation has a both a moral imperative and enlightened self-interest in offering them aid and friendship.


But it's probably worth remembering that the Federation didn't aid Bajor right away. For a long time—wasn't it like sixty years?—they DID let the Cardassian boot stomp away, DESPITE being recently at war with them. (No wonder so many Bajorans joined the Maquis.) The PD may even have been mentioned in an early Bajor-related episode (presumably TNG) as an excuse.

So... yeah. This one gets a pretty low grade for me due to the racist attitudes underlying and permeating the entire structure of it, and the way they wrapped a tidy little bow on the idea that Janeway is Always Right About The Prime Directive.

Agreed, though it's kind of funny that, by my reading, she WAS right, at least at the end when she realized the mistake she'd made (albeit without admitting it in her Kirk Speech).

Going back to our discussion of Trek-'verse consistency, this is all definitely more of a "big picture" complaint, and the (non-fanfare version of the) episode has enough gravitas to pull off the story it intended, IMO. But it's also fair to contemplate the PD angle since the episode itself brings it up.

* = IIRC, in non-canon, one of those "species we see once in the background of something" were given Seldon-style psychohistory as their Planetary Hat. Also, Luther Sloane did a bit of prognosticating in DS9 w/r/t the Romulan Empire's likely moves post-Dominion War, but (A) that's not really Seldoning, just analysis, and (B) since he's Section 31, those might be unsanctioned prognostications.**

** = MetaFilter: Unsanctioned Prognostications.

posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:53 AM on April 14 [2 favorites]


One thing that I forgot to mention was how Tuvok used Spock's negotiation of the Khitomer Accords (from Star Trek VI) as an example of forming alliances with formerly hostile powers, and why that doesn't really work as an example:

1. The Federation and the Empire had already had many years of détente by the time the Accords were negotiated, albeit mostly at the instigation of the Organians, and with a cold war that constantly threatened to go hot.

2. The Klingons were motivated by the explosion of Praxis, aka Space Chernobyl. Being a big interstellar empire, they could probably survive the destruction of their homeworld , but not only would it be a big blow to their culture, but would probably cripple them economically as well; Spock, not known for dramatic exaggeration, said that the Empire had less than fifty years to live at the beginning of STVI.

3. Chancellor Gorkon championed the negotiations, and his daughter Azetbur continued that endorsement after he was assassinated, no doubt to the surprise of Chang and others who probably expected her to launch a war of bloody vengeance. (In the end scene, right before the Enterprise crew beam down to prevent the Federation president's assassination, there's a brief shot of Azetbur making a speech about how some people had considered her father an idealist; I've always wondered how much of that speech was written out and what it said.)

None of these are factors in the proposed Federation-Kazon alliance. The only real reason that any of them are willing to come to the table is the eventual hope that their sect will come to dominate the rest, and we already know how trustworthy Culluh and Seska are; the only thing that any of the Kazon seem to have in common, aside from bad hair, is their hatred of the Trabe. (For that matter, the Klingons aren't that stable; we know from TNG that there's a certain Game of Thrones-ish aspect to the competition between the Great Houses of the Council, and although Tuvok wouldn't have known this, Gowron tosses aside the Accords pretty casually, although he'll eventually reinstate them just about as casually.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:18 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Also, too:

the alliance between the murderous Kazon and this alien ship Voyager with its bad reputation causes various local peoples who previously were on the defensive to band together and stop what must seem to be a truly diabolical plot.

This is a great idea--that Voyager inadvertently leads to the creation of a Counter-Federation in the DQ--and would explain the revisionist historical view of the ship and its crew centuries later in "Living Witness".

She had watched an Oliver Stone thing about Harry Truman and Henry Wallace, and though I didn't watch it with her, her summary of Stone's thesis seemed to be "if only Wallace had succeeded FDR instead of Truman, Stalin would've been manageable and the Cold War might not have happened, or at least not as badly as it did."

Stone has a bit of a Great-Man-as-martyr fetish, I think, as witness his JFK, in which he has his "Deep Throat" knockoff character (invented for the film, although he's based on L. Fletcher Prouty) show up to not only confirm Jim Garrison's crazy theory, but also to claim that JFK was killed because he was about to pull America out of Vietnam--which, of course, is precisely the opposite of what JFK actually did. I'm guessing that what she saw was The Untold History of the United States, which I have not seen and have no particular desire to.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:38 AM on April 14


Holy crap. I was rewatching the show and writing at the same time and ended up with a freaking 3100 word, uh, thing. I'm gonna have to read through that and pare it down before responding. My feelings on the episode are complicated, but not that damn complicated. Jeezus.

I dunno, I was over 1700, and I was only calling it because I gotta work. Of all the stuff Voyager has done so far, this is probably the most complicated notion they've grappled with, and that's going to remain true for awhile, IIRC.

But it's probably worth remembering that the Federation didn't aid Bajor right away. For a long time—wasn't it like sixty years?—they DID let the Cardassian boot stomp away, DESPITE being recently at war with them. (No wonder so many Bajorans joined the Maquis.) The PD may even have been mentioned in an early Bajor-related episode (presumably TNG) as an excuse.

Seemed to me like aid to Bajor happened not too long after the Cardassian/Federation War. The Federation was only talking about a spatial buffer zone in late TNG, *right* before DS9 happened. The war itself dragged on awhile - Miles O'Brien is a veteran of it, which is how I ended up in that section of Memory Alpha.

Prior to the conclusion of the war, aid to Bajor would've been impossible since it was a part of the Cardassian political structure, (willingly or unwillingly). Even minus the PD, that's not practical - presumably, the Federation doesn't help people the Klingons conquer either.

The only other reference I could find was this:
Benjamin Sisko and his crew on Deep Space 9's orders were "to do everything short of violating the Prime Directive" to make Bajor and the Bajoran people ready for Federation membership. (DS9: "Emissary")
That pretty much states that whatever happened in DS9 specifically did not violate the PD. That did include some mutual defense: the Federation arms DS9 with Starfleet weaponry, personnel and ships to defend Bajor's claim to the wormhole from the Cardassians and other hostile powers.

Agreed, though it's kind of funny that, by my reading, she WAS right, at least at the end when she realized the mistake she'd made (albeit without admitting it in her Kirk Speech).

She was right, but in a way that lacked any kind of self-examination. Like... there's no admission of 'hey maybe my attitude and choices got me into bed with Space Nazis and I should think about that.' Just, 'by gum, we're going to keep doing things MY way guys!'

It's pretty obviously the authors shilling a particular perspective, bending the story to fit it instead of just making up a reasonable series of events. Like, we're plainly *supposed* to be impressed with the wisdom of the Prime Directive after this story, not going, 'waitaminute, this doesn't make sense.'

That's why it rubs me the wrong way. This episode should have, by rights, been a reality check for everyone. Janeway in particular should be mindful of low crew morale, and rattled by making a grievous error in judgment. Instead, we get an unearned spiel about 'Federation values,' which is even more bothersome because I feel like you can't have an After School Special about values that you can't even articulate.

When writers cheat that way, I bristle. (*makes bristling motion*)
posted by mordax at 9:20 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Eh, I tried to tighten it up, but short of a complete rewrite I'll have to go with it like this, as I don't have time to rewrite. So apologies for the length.

It seems very much like a good chunk of the recent episodes have been attempting something of a soft reboot of the initial premise of the show, trying to revitalize ideas present in the opening of the series, but not followed through on very consistently or at all until recently. They are hampered in this by the dictate of the show being episode contained rather than having longer story arcs as some of the recent shows, like this one, are trying to back in a lot of information and ideas into one hour. It may be that these episodes then are as much a way to try and loosen the dictate and have longer arcs (which they sort of do after this one with the Jonas conspiracy stuff, but not always to great effect.)

Not only have the writers seemed to want to deal with the Starfleet/Maquis area more, but they've kept shifting the concepts around those Voyager has met, like the Kazon, Suspiria/Caretaker, Ocampa, and the tone of Voyager's encounters more generally. It's fascinating in a way, but also provides some real difficulties for the show given Trek fans generally don't simply let old ideas go or forget them, but try to make sense of it all as a whole. Some of the basic ideas of this episode, I think, would be easier to swallow had they either been adopted earlier and thus had a more consistent treatment all along, or could be viewed without thought of some of the earlier handling of the ideas being bandied about. Given that latter option was never going to happen for anyone who followed the show closely, the writers had to accept the former perspective would matter a good deal in the ongoing reaction to the show.

In some ways episodes like this one do represent an improvement in recognizing and dealing with complexity in the place Voyager finds itself, but in recognizing that now, they add some incoherence to the defining relationships as they've played out to this point. Granted, relationships can change under stress or over time and no show is going to handle them all perfectly, but some of the tension in this episode doesn't work as it could because it isn't coming from interactions we've witnessed as much as the idea of those interactions being possible due to the premise of the show.  The clash between Maquis and Starfleet values here, for example, by not coming up more often earlier in the series seems less like a clash of values than it does a clash of management styles, as if its an argument between adopting Six Sigma or TQM techniques for crew and process control. 

Ideally I think, the Maquis need to represent a somewhat different ideology surrounding alien encounters, not one of total separation of bottom line values, as both Starfleet and the Maquis have ideals of betterment involved and Voyager simply wouldn't work if the clash was too broadly drawn. I'd think it should be more in how each views the use of power, Starfleet coming from a position of having it and not wanting it lost, seeing that maintenance as being for the greater good since that is how they view their influence, while the Maquis would be more challenging of the use of power in such a form seeing it that level of control as being more inherently flawed as it almost demands acquiescence to certain beliefs and it isn't equally shared. The problem of alliances then makes good sense for an area of conflict, but less so about whether to seek them than in how they are sought and which are accepted. By instead making the conflict be over whether or not any would be acceptable the episode ends up muddying the meaning of everything that happens. 

Still though, muddy as much of it is, there is still some really interesting possible reads to take away from the episode that needn't be seen as entirely supportive of the seeming end "lesson". I think there is something of a harsher undercurrent to the episode that undercuts what Janeway and the crew take away from the encounters, without wholly denying their own point of view either. It's difficult to try to account for what viewpoints were "right" in this episode as it complicates virtually all of them with mitigating factors and outright unacceptable behavior. 

On the part of the Voyager crew, the problems arise from Kazon attacks causing the death of Bendera. Chakotay voices concern over Starfleet attitudes without offering an alternative, Hogan questions Janeway's, and Starfleet's, attitudes towards non-interference, and Janeway loses her temper at Hogan after allowing him to speak freely saying she'd rather see Voyager destroyed than share tech with the Kazon. All of those interactions are fraught with difficulties and less than ideal, which points to the tension in their situation, but isn't shown, I feel, as examples of good behavior. Janeway's mention of the ship not being a democracy in answer to Chakotay's mention of crew feelings highlights that and carries some lingering effect over the decision making on seeking an alliance as Chakotay suggests when she seeks out Tuvok's advice and we see the reaction at the bridge staff meeting where Harry, voices an opposing objection. The crux of the issue is, of course, in interpreting Starfleet protocols surrounding the ever vague Prime Directive, and the rest of the show basically seems to both question Starfleet's position by essentially matching them to the Trabe, while also trying to support the big idea at the center of the Prime Directive in showing how involvement in alien culture can go awry as Voyager acts without adequate information on the situation at hand.

In Chakotay's debate with Janeway he uses or interprets Janeway's function as being to act in the best interests of the crew and opposes that need to her unwillingness to get involved with the Kazon and the political events of the Delta sector. This is a bit of a problem as a voice from a leader of the Maquis as they were willing to lay down their lies in defiance of a larger power to support a path of righteous values, but it also could be parsed as Chakotay seeing the crew as being the threatened party and not looking at it in terms of Alpha quadrant politics. He is, however, suggesting something not too far off from Starfleet making a truce with the Cardassians whether he realizes that or not. The way the debate plays out, by the way, is rather effective if the stances are momentarily set aside, with a nice blend of respect threatening to be undermined by tension in differing values, but maintained by the openness of the exchange and willingness to question on Janeway's part.

Janeway's meeting with Tuvok is charming, starting off with a casual affection being shown and not carrying any tension even in face of Tuvok's suggestion that Chakotay may be right. Tuvok, interestingly, uses something like the Cardassian truce as his example of a good alliance in his linking the idea to the Klingon/Starfleet alliance. It isn't the same thing to be sure, but it does carry some of the same concepts behind it. It also links the Kazon to the Klingons, which, duh, but is also interesting given how things proceed in this episode as the analogy does hold even as the possibility for similar outcome doesn't. Tuvok's reasoning here, as I see it, isn't really negated by events, the events only complicate the issues surrounding it. 

The bridge staff meeting is also well played, from Harry's objection to one of Chakotay's seemingly infinite variety of half smiles showing his satisfaction, and Neelix's quick volunteering of ideas. Harry's sarcastic comment about Seska is fun, showing Harry's frustration, and is met by yet another amusing Chakotay smirk (seriously, Beltran must spend his nights sitting in front of the mirror trying our hundreds of variations of grins, just to keep a stockpile for any possible situation), and B'Elanna's perspective on the idea. So now most of the main crew is involved in the idea, making it something more than just a standard decision and effect. The episode seems invested in looking at the chain of thoughts and actions, all seemingly reasonable in some measure, that will lead to the end events. Janeway's rebuttal to Chakotay's sudden reluctance to ally Voyager with Seska is the big moment in setting up where the idea will end up faling, not due to Seska or any of the crew's attitudes, but to the idea of linking them all to something they aren't in control of or wholly understand. 

The meeting with Culluh fails but it needn't have. While his attitude towards women is obviously insulting and meant to diminish Janeway, it comes after Janeway questions Nistrim honor and attempts to assert full control even as Culluh had already expressed enthusiasm for the alliance. The distaste between the parties really seems the cause of the failure, not the proposals as it isn't so outlandish to suggest some crew swaps in a situation of mutual distrust, I mean it makes some sense at least, even if it wouldn't be acceptable in the end, but instead it is used as an excuse to break off the talks where agreement seemed close at hand. Mulgrew and De Longis really sell this point as Mulgrew can barely stand to look at Culluh and Culluh imposes his demand after reacting with insult at Janeway's mention of honor and demand for control. His grin at the possibility of alliance vanishes and he shifts his stance and  tightens his jaw in a look of disdain, and then he moves around the table to stand over Janeway and Tuvok as he makes his demand for crew exchange as a power play. The end result may not be Culluh's desired one, though it is likely Janeway's, but it seemed almost inevitable given the lack of good faith involved. With Janeway crediting her "gut" reaction as being the right one all along.

The intro to Mabus and the Trabe is nicely done I think, in that  showing him as concerned for Neelix and surrounded by women and children provides a quick feeling of sympathy and connection to the Trabe, that will go along with their claims of abuse. It sets up the viewer to see them as the righteous party in all that will follow, until, of course, we come to the betrayal at the end and realize they really haven't changed all that much from their attitudes when they had control over the Kazon. Neelix's own quick trust and dismissal of the Kazon too plays into the overall theme and draws the audience into seeing the Trabe as the wronged party. That they are whitey white doesn't cause concern since that is the default after all, though that gets prodded when one of the main Kazon characters we see at the end meeting isn't default white and stands out because of that suggesting a purposefulness in the choice. (Sadly in the sense one speaking role by a PoC is all it takes to break effect of the default, but  nonetheless it gains meaning this time around.)

The dinner conversation with Mabus is another key scene, where he describes the horrors of Trabe treatment of the Kazon, then smoothly slides into their current exile in a way that gains Janeway's sympathy enough for her to get up, walk around the table to pour Mabus a glass of wine, or whatever the hell they drink, and suggest that "in many ways we're in the same predicament, separated from the lives we knew, searching for home." The connection to Mabus over his story is brutal and suggestive. Linking Voyager, and as we'll see, the Federation to the Trabe at that moment is something that goes beyond deceiving he audience or simply the Trabe deceiving Voyager, to a broader suggestion of similarities. A second connection is made after that when Chakotay mentions it's been thirty years since the events happened and Mabus tries to wipe away his complicity and that of their children by saying they were all too young to have been involved, which is something that also carries a different context once we see the Trabe attempt at slaughter at the end of the episode. Complicity not ending at the instigating events but carried on long beyond them. 

The discussion about aligning Voyager with the Trabe is also fairly brutal as it opens with Neelix talking about how admired the Trabe were for their artists and technology. No one knew about the Kazon because the Trabe were rich and could manipulate information, and no one wanted to lose out on opportunities to trade. (That last codicil contradicting the first denial.) Chakoaty and Tuvok, again, come at the problem from opposing and unexpected sides, given their previous allegiances. Chakotay quick to trust oppressors, Tuvok not wishing to further alienate the Kazon, and Janeway "settling" the issue by dint of suggesting things couldn't get much worse, which they very much will. Her "gut" decision coming from the belief that people have the capacity to change, and Starfleet's belief in a policy of openness and  trust in dealing with new species...until proven otherwise. Something that also almost proves a disaster in this case.

The rumor of some group plotting to attack the peace conference is met with assumptions that it must be one of the Kazon majes. Since Voyager is aligned with the Trabe the possibility its them doesn't even occur to Voyager as they are so obviously alike in their goals. At the meeting of the groups, a potentially telling moment occurs when Culluh's associate Rettik speaks pointing out the Trabe want peace for themselves, while we paid the price. They live in luxury, while the we lived in squalor and misery. As Rettik isn't one of the majes his speech carries a different weight than Culluh's, and coming as it does from a PoC the "we" he uses for Kazon too holds some added significance as the analogy broached clearly draws some parallel involving racial discrimination. Culluh's speech about Janeway being a hypocrite, aligning Voyager with the greatest villains the quadrant has ever known, and linking that to her "revered Federation values" is another damning attack in light of what's about to come. 

The betrayal catches Janeway and crew completely off guard so confident were they in their "shared values" alliance. Neelix the first to react in vicious anger and condemn the attempted massacre, followed by Janeway's righteous anger at being used. The entirety of events leaving Voyager far worse off than before and it all stemming from Starfleet values matched to Maquis sensibility, with only the Prime Directive perhaps still able to redeemed as it now might be looked at from a newly learned perspective coming from involving themselves in a situation they didn't wholly understand based on too easy association with a group liked for their outward similarities. Gut instinct, high minded ideals, and self interest all gone deeply sour. The closing speech by Janeway on the "lesson" they've learned is tarnished by the connections between Trabe and Federation up to the point of ultimate guiding principle, and perhaps even a bit beyond as some of the things see mentions this part of space having are no less true for Voyager being there.

My overall feeling is that is, in many ways an excellent episode taken as a stand alone work, but more troubling when one tries to fit it into the larger context of all that's gone on before. Whatever the Kazon may have started out as, LA Gang analogs or whatever the claim may be, this handling of them didn't really fit the previous template all that readily, while in terms of surface plot and basic outline, its easy enough to accept, but in analogy it becomes more difficult just as they make the analogy more transparent. 

My feeling is that this was at least as much an analog to apartheid as to street gangs, as the nineties were a time where news of South Africa and the truth and reconciliation proceedings were major headlines. Linking the Federation to the US or western alliances with the Trabe as something akin to South Africa has some ready resonance, and pointing to violence among the formerly subjected population had some as well, but they don't balance to the handling of them in the show and the message of Starfleetlike non-interference certainly too blunt and misguided an angle to fit into an analogy with those events. It was partly  through certain kinds of interference that brought the situation in South Africa to a head, even as the limits on involvement also mattered in how events played out. 

It may well be that wasn't in fact the intended analog and that I'm inserting that of my own accord, but even so, it is difficult to fit the summation of the episode to the events preceding it, where similarities are drawn between Voyager/the Federation and the Trabe, while accepting a non-interference ideal without far more nuance involved, or in denying that ideal whole heartedly as coming from a tainted source without calling much more of the show to question in ways that are not compatible with things we see. 

Suggesting, for example, LA gangs, after the end of police and economic oppression, 30 years later would increase their violence and control makes little sense as would suggesting non-interference would make sense or would allowing the allegedly benevolent Starfleet to judge the situation from on high or in whatever way have an important say in what's right as they aren't the oppressed party and, at best, could only speak as outsiders or oppressors. This is why I think the episode suffers from not better defining the Maquis and allowing their fight against the Cardassians to gain more resonance with events surrounding the Kazon, having a better sense of the give and take of the one could better illuminate the other were the analogs well chosen. The root instinct of this episode made sense, coming at the problem of race through a self condemning white perspective that links Voyager, and through it the audience, to the forces of oppression, but without being able to provide suture to close off the connection it bleeds out into the rest of the show which contaminates the ideas with incoherence and contradictions. Taylor was right in her self assessment of the summarizing lesson Janeway provides at the end of the show, it almost single-handedly negates all that has come before it if it is taken purely at face value. It is the major destabilizing element in how one might respond to the show.

Beyond that, it sucks to have a buddy killed on your watch, but, dammit Torres, when the ship is under threat of imminent attack without engines, maybe have someone else to take Bendera to sickbay while you stay in engineering and keep Voyager from getting destroyed. Can't the writers find anything to do with Kes? I mean they gave her a line in sick bay, and she showed up in the background of the last episode, but, really they should be able to do a little better than that if they can find stuff for Neelix all the time.

Fun to see an episode where the crew performs their duties well, but are completely out of their depth in assessing their situation. It makes Janeway seem weaker than the other captains of Trek in many ways, but rather than being so much a complaint about this show, it's something I'd like to have seen more of in some of the others. To me, there is something almost inhuman about Trek utopianism at times that pushes it close to being an attitude of dominance in much the same way “western values” are often used. There is a lot to like about them, but pushing them without deeper consideration is no solution for anything.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:52 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]


This thread alone is evidence that this episode crammed too much stuff into too short a running time. We've just written a supplementary novel for it.

Prior to the conclusion of the war, aid to Bajor would've been impossible since it was a part of the Cardassian political structure, (willingly or unwillingly).

Bajor itself, yes, but (*adjusts nerd-glasses*) the TNG episode with Keeve Falor ("Ensign Ro") establishes that there are other planets with colonies of Bajoran refugees, and elsewhere (maybe that same episode) it's suggested that some Bajoran refugee groups are nomadic. In any case, we certainly don't have to prove that the Federation didn't do all it could have for the Bajorans, because that's established overall in TNG and DS9.

This episode should have, by rights, been a reality check for everyone. Janeway in particular should be mindful of low crew morale, and rattled by making a grievous error in judgment. Instead, we get an unearned spiel about 'Federation values,' which is even more bothersome because I feel like you can't have an After School Special about values that you can't even articulate.

When writers cheat that way, I bristle. (*makes bristling motion*)


Agreed. I was trying to figure out why that speech has always bugged me, and you articulated it.

Fun to see an episode where the crew performs their duties well, but are completely out of their depth in assessing their situation. It makes Janeway seem weaker than the other captains of Trek in many ways, but rather than being so much a complaint about this show, it's something I'd like to have seen more of in some of the others.

Yes, and VOY's series concept is a great opportunity to explore that. And they do, more consciously IIRC, later. I think we just figured out a major reason (besides nerdboy sexism) for people calling Janeway the worst captain: perhaps they feel like she screwed up disproportionately often and don't factor in her circumstances as a mitigating factor.

Off-topic, but this was on Twitter and the MA main page, and I can't believe I've neglected to mention it for this long:
Rainn Wilson has joined the cast of Star Trek: Discovery as Harry Mudd.

Rainn Wilson … has joined the cast of Star Trek: Discovery … as Harry Mudd.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:27 PM on April 14 [3 favorites]


Forgot something:

Benjamin Sisko and his crew on Deep Space 9's orders were "to do everything short of violating the Prime Directive" to make Bajor and the Bajoran people ready for Federation membership. (DS9: "Emissary")

That pretty much states that whatever happened in DS9 specifically did not violate the PD.


Welllll, except that Sisko (to whom those orders were personally given, by Picard) DID sort of become a god-figure to the Bajorans. That has to be, like, Reason #1 for the Prime Directive: the god gambit. Aaaaaand you could argue that Sisko failed that mission since Bajor never joined the Federation prior to his ascension, or even in the canonical prime timeline.

But hey, trying to parse the extent to which DS9 toed the line of the PD is probably just as hopeless an endeavor as doing the same with VOY, since DS9 (A) referred to it less frequently IIRC and (B) was always deliberately trying to challenge traditional Trek notions anyway.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:33 PM on April 14


This thread alone is evidence that this episode crammed too much stuff into too short a running time. We've just written a supplementary novel for it.

Heh. I also take it as much that this thread is evidence that FanFare can be pretty awesome when you have a bunch of committed and generous posters using it.


Rainn Wilson … has joined the cast of Star Trek: Discovery … as Harry Mudd.

I don't even know what to say to that, other than !

But hey, trying to parse the extent to which DS9 toed the line of the PD is probably just as hopeless an endeavor as doing the same with VOY

Yeah, without seeing much of the show, I always figured they wouldn't need to look to the Prime Directive as much since a space station doesn't have the same use for it as a starship given encounters are more likely to be occurring from already established positions instead of first encounters, where the PD is meant to provide guidelines for engagement. Once relationships are established, then I'd think the PD isn't as useful as more specific dynamics of power come into play.

I mean I'm sure there are still overriding principles the Federation expects its staff to adhere to at all times, but in dealing with the Cardassians, for example, the Prime Directive isn't the main concern to the extent protecting interests and avoiding conflict would be. But as I say, that was my thought without having seen much of the show. (I did just sign up for Hulu though so I hope to be rectifying that situation soon, mixed with some TOS just to check my memory on it as well.)
posted by gusottertrout at 2:03 PM on April 14 [1 favorite]


Eh, I tried to tighten it up, but short of a complete rewrite I'll have to go with it like this, as I don't have time to rewrite. So apologies for the length.

Seriously, you never need to apologize for thoughtful writing. I'm enjoying what everyone here has to say about the show. (I *never* thought I'd write this much about Star Trek Voyager, and in retrospect, I'm sorry I didn't just watch DS9 for like the sixth time during that rewatch here.)

Fun to see an episode where the crew performs their duties well, but are completely out of their depth in assessing their situation. It makes Janeway seem weaker than the other captains of Trek in many ways, but rather than being so much a complaint about this show, it's something I'd like to have seen more of in some of the others.

Like CheesesofBrazil, I agree that this is a good point, and something Voyager does do more of later. IIRC, both Equinox and Scorpion are both about this, at least somewhat. I'll be curious if my memory of that holds true when we get there.

Welllll, except that Sisko (to whom those orders were personally given, by Picard) DID sort of become a god-figure to the Bajorans. That has to be, like, Reason #1 for the Prime Directive: the god gambit. Aaaaaand you could argue that Sisko failed that mission since Bajor never joined the Federation prior to his ascension, or even in the canonical prime timeline.

Then the Prime Directive couldn't be that important, because they knew about it and never yanked him. DS9 basically cannot be reconciled with the way the PD is presented in Voyager, full stop.

Agreed. I was trying to figure out why that speech has always bugged me, and you articulated it.

:)

> This thread alone is evidence that this episode crammed too much stuff into too short a running time. We've just written a supplementary novel for it.

Heh. I also take it as much that this thread is evidence that FanFare can be pretty awesome when you have a bunch of committed and generous posters using it.


Yeah. This is fun, and you guys are all great. :)
posted by mordax at 2:33 PM on April 14


Also, I do agree that trying to compare DS9's take on Federation philosophy with Voyager's is pointless, but it bothers me a lot due to my aforementioned practice of taking the entire universe as a whole piece.

In this case, I feel like DS9's take is more correct both because it's much more in line with the political choices we see in TOS and because it's just generally more morally palatable to me. I think TNG is what screwed this up for Voyager though - like, the problem doesn't start here, it definitely traces back to episodes like Pen Pals.
posted by mordax at 2:36 PM on April 14


I'd put it this simply: Sisko didn't violate the PD by acting as the Emissary, simply because he was the Emissary, on a level that even he wasn't aware of until very late in the game. How can you be accused of violating a culture's sanctity if one of the species of that culture has set you up before you were even born for your role in it? That may be the prime weakness of the Prime Directive: on some level, separating out cultures in that way may be more of an illusion or a conceit than a reality. (See also "Blink of an Eye", in which, by the time Voyager can do anything about avoiding contact with the planet, they've become an intrinsic part of its culture.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:51 PM on April 14 [2 favorites]


Ah, good point, Jack: Sisko was "of Bajor." The grey area, then, is when you have to separate out which of Sisko's actions are covered under the Emissary Clause and which are not.

Of course, we had a major plot point in Admiral Ross giving him that whole "so are you Starfleet or what" ultimatum, but as far as the PD specifically? I don't recall any canonical remarks on the part of Starfleet brass along the lines of "Well, OK, all those Bajorans unanimously say you're basically Bajoran, Ben, so we'll factor that in when determining whether you're violating the Prime Directive at any given point," but perhaps that should've been made explicit. I definitely feel like the brass never fully got on board with the Emissary stuff; it's not like the Prophets visited Ross and said "Here's how we think Starfleet should treat Sisko, and if you guys like having access to the 'wormhole' you'll make sure your higher-ups agree."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:53 AM on April 15


I definitely feel like the brass never fully got on board with the Emissary stuff

They definitely didn't. I'm pretty sure it only worked out because Sisko was informed of this by the Prophets directly, and that they were generally either helpful or at least low-impact. If he'd just happened to conform to prophecy as interpreted by the Vedeks, I'm convinced Starfleet would've pulled him immediately.

And I can't see Starfleet being happy with the outcome in any event. I mean, their encounters with gods are usually a little more antagonistic.
posted by mordax at 7:35 AM on April 15


I'm convinced Starfleet would've pulled him immediately.

I'd love to have been a glob fly on the wall of that discussion.

"Ladies and gentlemen, how do we solve a problem like Ben Sisko? Obviously, we can't have him running around pretending to be this, what, this 'Estuary'--"

"Emissary."

"Yes, thank you, Selik. 'Emissary.' I mean, let the Bajorans believe what they will, but when he starts giving them blessings and whatnot, that's just out of the--"

"One minor point, Bob, if I may."

"Yes, Selik?"

"What if he really is the Emissary?"

"What if--oh, come now, Selik! Imagine if... well, you may know of the religions based around Jesus on Earth. Imagine if some officer claimed to be him!"

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't your Jesus say that he'd return before the end of days?"

"Well, yes, but--"

"And what did he do according to this 'bible' of yours that hasn't been demonstrated by the Q, or, say, the humans Gary Mitchell and Elizabeth Dehner after their encounter with the galactic barrier?"

"Why, I... well, let me put it this way. How would you feel if someone claimed to be the reincarnation of Surak?"

"We've seen his katra re-emerge in modern times, which is basically the same thing to a telepathic race. In fact, one of his hosts was a... well, how about that. A human Starfleet officer. One might believe that a pattern emerges."

"But... but he might set a bad example for the rest of the officer corps with regards to the Prime Directive! What do we do about that?"

"There's no reason why we can't ask him to maintain a more low-key tone."

"Thank you! Finally, you're starting to--"

"And pray that he indulges us."

"...well. Yes. Moving right along. I have to say that of all the proposed uniform designs, I'm really liking the grey ribbed shoulder option..."
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:56 PM on April 15 [3 favorites]


"Ladies and gentlemen, how do we solve a problem like Ben Sisko? Obviously, we can't have him running around pretending to be this, what, this 'Estuary'--"

Man, you almost owed me a new keyboard. Hahaha.
posted by mordax at 6:58 AM on April 16


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