“Maneuvers”

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“Allegedly, I’m a tactical genius. And, now, I’m gonna be a working mom!”

The Kazon Nistrim lure Voyager into a trap and steal a transporter module. The Nistrim is aided by Seska (after joining forces with the sect in “State of Flux”) and Seska mocks Janeway and Chakotay before escaping. After making repairs, Voyager pursues the Nistrim ship and a humiliated Chakotay steals a shuttle, intent on recovering or destroying the transporter technology without endangering the rest of the crew. Chakotay eventually destroys the transporter but is captured in the process, while Seska and Nistrim Maje Cullah try to build a coalition of rival sects to capture Voyager when it comes for Chakotay. Seska’s plan doesn’t work and Chakotay and the shuttle are recovered. But Seska sends a message to Voyager as the episode ends, telling Chakotay she stole his DNA while he was captured … and that she is now pregnant with his child.

Why it’s important

While we learned a lot more about the Kazon in “Initiations”, this episode sets up the continuing storyline involving Seska/Cullah that we see throughout the rest of the season. The plot involving Seska carrying Chakotay’s child is probably the biggest domino in Voyager’s early years.

We also see the beginning of Seska’s plotting to build an alliance of the fractious Kazon sects to capture Voyager. That the series built on “State of Flux” from season one and continued a sort of arc is an indication that the creators were trying to do something with this series that most people don’t remember. It’s possible that the poor execution of the arc is why the creators went more episodic in later years …

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“The worst ‘maneuver’ in this episode was your choice of that shirt, Chakotay.”

What doesn’t hold up

This is a really strange episode. There are some great parts and good acting. And some of the actions — Chakotay’s decision to go rogue, Torres defending him, Janeway to go with her gut to save him — are all believable moments that worked. But there are just so many other glaring oddities.

For one thing, the details around Chakotay stealing the shuttle are quite odd. Around that time, we see Voyager traveling at warp to catch up with Cullah’s ship. For some reason that’s not explained, the ship must have stopped — otherwise, Chakotay couldn’t have left with the shuttle. Beyond that, shortly after Chakotay takes off, Tuvok says he has a three-hour headstart. But … how? Why didn’t the ship immediately pursue Chakotay’s shuttle? Keep in mind that Voyager was warp capable right before Chakotay took off — and there’s no indication he disabled the ship.

Then, there’s the matter of the shuttle. Chakotay flies it toward the Kazon ship in a sort of stealth mode. When he’s eventually detected, he beams to the Kazon ship and destroys the transporter (though it’s not clear how he knew where to find the thing). Seska then gloats that she has the shuttle, but Chakotay says it’s worthless because he wiped the computer core before he beamed over. Seska seemingly agrees that this makes the shuttle worthless.

But, that doesn’t make any sense. Something on the shuttle would have been usable to the Kazon — shuttles have warp cores, don’t they? — even if they were only able to get the raw materials. And at the end of the episode, there’s dialogue that Voyager was able to recover the supposedly worthless shuttle. If it was worthless, why bother? Honestly, Chakotay should have just destroyed the shuttle as he beamed over.

The problem with an episode like this (other examples include DS9’s “Blaze of Glory“,  TNG’s “Bloodlines” and the upcoming “Investigations”) is that the intricate plots are just too intricate to work or are flawed when you look at the logic behind them. Or, maybe put another way, the writing isn’t strong enough to make the “maneuvers” believable.

Last thing. Voyager is traveling at impulse at the end of this episode. This is something that happens a lot — establishing shots of the ship traveling slowly or not at all — when the ship should almost constantly be at warp on the way back to the Alpha Quadrant. It’s really one of the strangest things about the series, and we’ll call it out again.

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“Wait, Federation. You’re telling me the creators will forget about you as a character and the Kazon generally by this time next year?”

Final thoughts

While it’s not a logical gaffe, Seska impregnating herself is arguably the most cartoonish/soap opera move in the history of Trek villains. It’s a somewhat compelling moment and ups the stakes. But it makes Seska look less like the tactical genius from “State of Flux” and more of a spurned lover. Someone will argue that Seska’s move here was designed as a way to get leverage over Chakotay — leverage that is put to good use later in the season. But I don’t buy that. There are too many variables that could have had her plan — if it was a plan — blow up in her face. More on that in later reviews.

That said, this episode does have redeeming character moments and shows, again, that the creators really put a lot of thought into mapping out the Kazon as bad guys. The execution just isn’t there.

Coming later this week …

The Kazon, again. And one of the pivotal moments in Voyager’s history. Really.

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