Thursday, 31 October 2013

Review: Voyager 1.10: Prime Factors

http://images.wikia.com/memoryalpha/en/images/f/f5/Carey%2C_Torres%2C_Seska_2371.jpg
The engineers rebel against Janeway's moral quibbling.
Star Trek Voyager - Season One, Episode Ten - Prime Factors
Written 1/6/13

A few episodes ago I mentioned the trend in Voyager episodes to offer up a way home with us in the certain knowledge that nothing could ever come of it. This was problematic, of course - how could there be tension in an episode like that? Prime Factors does a similar thing, but it changes the things at stake by both reducing the possible reward (it's only 30/40 years off the trip) and by making it a matter of personal standing and belief. It actually gave us some character work to chew on instead of a singular bland scenario with a character subplot hidden somewhere inside it.
     Creepy but harmless Gath invites Voyager to his home planet, which is known throughout the system for its hospitality and its belief in the sanctity of stories. As the crew enjoy themselves, Harry flirts with an alien girl (I won't do a count on that one, there aren't enough man hours) and discovers that the planet has technology capable of teleporting people 40 thousand light-years - over half of the way home. When Janeway asks to use the technology, Gath reveals a policy where they don't give advanced technology to other species. They make a bargain - all of the Federation's literature for the tech. Gath refuses, revealing unintentionally to Janeway his species' fetishisation of novelty and his intention to keep Voyager there forever, but as she prepares to leave, a team of gold-shirts including Carey, B'Elanna, Seska (who will rise to importance next week) and Tuvok organise an exchange with another minister who wants there to be a cultural revolution. Ultimately the tech proves destructively incompatible with their ship, and Janeway can do nought to punish the rebels but to express how disappointed she is.
     I enjoyed the concept of a species known universally for hospitality and kindness having a sinister undertone of superficiality and posessiveness. Guest star Gath (Ronald Gutman, later to have guest roles in Lost and Heroes) manages the transition between the two mavellously, and his flirting with Janeway throughout the episode switches between the idiosyncracy of a species of kind people into a twisted posessive habit, wanting to hold Voyager there until he gets bored of them. In fact, everyone on the planet had that weird kind of attitude. I think it's something akin to the Uncanny Valley that makes me suspect everyone who is unnaturally nice of being the most sinister mofos I can think of.
File:Alastria surface.jpg
Harry doesn't know whether to get laid or make
a Star Wars reference.

     As for the rebellion, I thought it was a great idea. There was commentary early in the episode of Maquis and Starfleet personel working together, and it's rather funny that this rebellion ended up being perfectly half-and-half as both sides wanted to get home despite Janeway's moral objections to breaking the planet's laws and taking the shady offer. Notably, considering all of the crazy shit she'll end up doing, this is quite notable as the first time that someone disagrees with her. Plus, it highlighted Seska, a character whose importance in the first two seasons is gonna be made a little more clear in next week's episode, which is possibly the closest thing to a plot development that we're going to get this season.

Thanks.

NEXT WEEK: Voyager finds a traitor in their ranks. Based on what I've been saying this week, guess who it is! Things are in a State of Flux.
P.S. HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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