|Seska and Chakotay have a heart-to-heart.|
Voyager gets into some serious bizniz this week as we return to the early seasons' central storyline involving Seska and the Kazon, in an episode which both draws excellent characters and takes a number of liberties with common sense along the way. The problem came with the Kazon threat, which is usually so lily-livered that the only way to make them threatening is to force the characters on Voyager to make innumerable silly decisions, almost to the point where it breaks character. At the same time, there was also a hell of a lot of very mature sci-fi action going on, even if the direction it took was towards one of Voyager's most soap-opera-esque twists.
Voyager are hailed by someone with a Federation frequency, and they blunder into a trap wherin the Kazon-Nistrim, led by our old pal Cullah and his new ally Seska, totally thrash Voyager and make-off with transporter equipment which Cullah plans to use to show off to all of the other sects with. Chakotay, who used to screw around with Seska before she revealed her true nature as a spy in the first season, takes the attack personally and decides to save the rest of the crew by gallivanting off after her. His mission is less than successful, but when a reluctant Voyager picks him up again, the ship is able to hold its own long enough to embarrass Cullah in front of all his rival sect leaders. Chakotay is saved, the Kazon don't have the tech any more and Seska impregnates herself with a DNA sample she found somewhere. Wow.
Seska's manipulative nature, first showcased in Season One's "State of Flux", is expanded on here to great effect, revealing an underbelly of sexual manipulation that gets quite gritty as we see her trying the same trick on Cullah, to much greater success. One of the best scenes for this in the episode is one in which Cullah is trying to torture Chakotay and the latter just keeps reeling off intimate parts of Seska's anatomy. "My favourite part is the mole on her stomach!" The revelation at the end of the episode makes very little sense in-story, and comes out of nowhere - apparently the actress had fallen pregnant, but the writers were amazed when she told them because they'd written it in anyway.
Elsewhere, and we see Chakotay's character explored in ways that don't manage to offend entire races of people. Both directly in the way that his scenes with Seska are written and indirectly in the discussion regarding his actions that goes on between Janeway and B'elanna, we see his dilemma and his inner struggles working their way to the surface, in what is a star performance from Beltran. Never more have I felt for Chakotay than through the bitterness of his humiliation, of his shame and disappointment in both his former lover and in himself. This is what I meant when I said proper grown-up sci-fi - personalities that feel like real people.
|Seska's plan puts a thorn in the ship's side.|
On the face of it though, it's hard not to put that down to Voyager's innate underlying style, and while that may sound quite damning of the series as a whole it is something of a testament to this episode that it stood out not because it was particuarly more offensive than usual, but because the rest of the writing surrounding it was of such top notch. After the very weak introduction of the Kazon plot I feel as though at least some people on the writing team were trying hard to make these plot sections as well-done as possible. That is true here, and despite its glaring inconsistencies it does stand out as a very well-written character piece for our man Chakotay and, for the most part, this season's main villains.
NEXT WEEK: An episode that I've actually never seen before. Let's hope I don't meet too much Resistance.