After repeated attacks by the Kazon and mounting casualties, Janeway and Chakotay start thinking that they need to change their approach to survive in the Delta Quadrant. They wonder if they can build alliances with some Kazon sects in hopes of getting through their space unscathed. That largely doesn’t work — negotiations with our buddies in the Kazon Nistrim don’t pan out when Maje Culluh makes goofy demands — but Neelix runs into a group of people called the Trabe, once enslavers of the Kazon who were overthrown decades earlier and now are essentially nomads. After an introduction by Neelix, Janeway bonds with Trabe leader Mabus (Charles Lucia) who seems more civilized than the Kazon thugs Voyager has generally dealt with. Janeway and Mabus (who has a small fleet of ships) form an alliance and organize a peace summit among the Kazon sects. But it turns out Mabus actually is using Voyager to get all the Kazon leaders together in one place so he can assassinate them. Janeway foils the plot at the last minute and Voyager escapes — and ends the episode telling her crew that her mistake was going against tried-and-true Starfleet principles. Oh, Kathy. This is why we can’t have nice things.
Why it’s important
If regular readers think we’ve been focusing on the Kazon a lot in recent reviews, it’s because the Kazon are the biggest story thread in Voyager’s second season. This episode furthers that and likely puts Voyager in the crosshairs of the entire Kazon race. As a concept — and given the payoff at season’s end — this episode works pretty well and a lot of the execution (up until Janeway’s goofy closing speech) is strong.
Give Voyager credit, too, for its strong run of continuity. The Trabe had actually been mentioned in the previous two episodes we’ve reviewed (“Initiations” and “Maneuvers”). This episode is also the first time we see former Maquis Michael Jonas (Raphael Sbarge) conduct his covert communications with the Nistrim, which is a big domino in the next several episodes. While the Kazon were not great villains in that they came across as dumb thugs, the creators clearly developed a pretty extensive backstory and plot outline for them. A for effort, C for execution.
What doesn’t hold up
The declaration by Janeway at the end of the episode — that Voyager erred by going against Federation principles — deserves scrutiny. While it’s true that allying with one of the Kazon sects would have been a usual no-no — something Janeway acknowledges during a nice scene with Tuvok but something that doesn’t actually happen — can the same be said about making friends with the Trabe?
The Trabe were, most definitely, separate from the Kazon, so forming an alliance with them didn’t really go against any higher Federation values regarding internal politics. True, allying Voyager with the Kazon’s most hated enemies might not have been a smart tactical decision and you could argue that Janeway was too quick to trust Mabus. But things didn’t go to hell in this episode because Janeway ignored Federation principles. They went to hell because the Voyager crew acted out of desperation and/or were bad judges of character.
The episode would have been stronger if Janeway had done a different kind of soul searching before the credits rolled. As it stands, it feels like the creators were looking for a way to justify Voyager’s essential “TNG in the Delta Quadrant” approach as to why the unique premise that they came up wasn’t being utilized. Having the show’s star essentially say that “Because we’re the Federation, damnit!” as an explanation for nearly everything that went wrong in this episode was mostly inaccurate and was an odd meta moment — a rather disappointing one.
Really, one lesson Janeway ought to have learned is that the ship should kick it up to the much-vaunted warp 9.975 maximum cruising velocity until it exited Kazon space. I know her initial declaration in “Caretaker” was that the ship would continue to explore. But high-tailing it out of a particularly nasty area — in which exploring would have been difficult given the near-constant Kazon attacks — would have been prudent. Of course, as the episode ends and after the ship flees the planet of the peace summit, we see the ship moving along at impulse — a recurring oddity throughout the series that we mentioned in our last review.
Basically, this episode is where the Voyager creators took their ball and went home as far as doing anything new and different in a large, series-shaping way. And that’s a shame. Even if Voyager hadn’t ended up being akin to the rebooted “Battlestar Galactica” (which aired a decade later) making the Voyager crew struggle more wouldn’t have been that difficult. A power shortage here, more shots of the ship traveling at high warp there, a lack of torpedoes there, not having an endless supply of shuttles there …
Coming next week …
One of Voyager’s best episodes, as we explore the Q in a truly great, sci-fi way.