The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
This is not just a review; it's a retelling of the episode from start to finish, limited only by my ability to remember the details. I do this for my friends in uniform and those living overseas or who otherwise do not have access to the episodes as they are aired.
I watch the episode only once--maybe twice--before I compose a review, and I rarely don't take notes. I rely on my memory, hence the term SASR (short attention span review).
WARNING: I am also a charter member of the Wordy Muthah Hall of Fame. I'm enrolled in a Brevity twelve-step program, but these things take time.
Chakotay learns that Seska has given birth to his son, and Voyager risks all to recover the child from Culluh and the Kazon-Nistrim.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Ensign Suder, the deer-eyed psychopath from "Meld," proudly shows Tuvok his latest creation--a hybrid orchid that against predictions is growing nicely. He tells Tuvok he wants to honor the security chief by naming the orchid after him. Tuvok says the honor should go to Suder himself, but Suder insists--the meld with Tuvok introduced him to an interest in horticulture, and it's the only thing he's found both an interest and a talent for...aside, of course, from killing.
(For those who didn't see "Meld," Suder was a Maquis, convicted of killing another Voyager crewman "just because." Tuvok, who couldn't take that for an answer, melded with Suder. The mindlink gave Suder a measure of mental control and inner peace, but it Outed Tuvok's Dark Side. In the aftermath, Suder was confined to his quarters for the remainder of the ship's journey home, and Tuvok recovered, but the two of them keep in touch. Suder is still technically dangerous, and under guard, but he's making progress.)
Tuvok seems pleased with Suder's progress--the ensign is an eager pupil, who shows a real talent for plant science. Suder asks a favor--he has an idea that would allow him, even from his confinement, to help the ship, by helping to improve the productivity of the aeroponic gardens under Kes' care. Tuvok agrees to bring the proposal to the captain. The two then kneel before each other, and Tuvok guides Suder in a meditative trance.
On the bridge, Paris announces that a message beacon is nearby, of Kazon design. They slow and intercept the message. It's from Seska, for Chakotay. She sounds frantic, and the view is a Live At Five shakycam. She has given birth, she says, to a son--a half-Cardassian, half-human child (we see the kid onscreen)--and Culluh is furious that it isn't his. We hear Culluh in the background. Soon the video cuts, we hear a panicked Seska and an outraged Culluh, and then the message ends abruptly.
Chakotay is in Janeway's ready room. Chakotay would just as soon ignore the message and keep going homeward. Janeway won't let him, at least not without some thought. They both know it's a likely trap, and even if not a mission to recover the child is almost certain to be perilous. Janeway tells him it's his call, but she wants him to think about it first. If he wants to go after the boy, the'll all go.
Chakotay retires to his quarters and prays to contact the wisdom of his father, in the traditional manner. He is understandably agitated. His efforts are rewarded--soon he's in a vision, with his father in the outdoors, as Kolopak builds what looks like a campfire. Kolopak eyes his son, and notes with surprised appreciation the tattoo on his forehead (see "Tattoo").
"I have a son," Chakotay says, as if this is a bad thing. "This is a cause for happiness, not despair," his father replies. Chakotay tries to explain; the mother grabbed his DNA by force and deception. He was not a willing participant. His father says the child is innocent of any wrongdoing, and is no less a part of Chakotay or of the tribe than if it had come through a more voluntary union. He reminds Chakotay that many tribal women were raped by the white man centuries before, and children came from that shameful act. But the children themselves were welcomed, and one--whose name sounds a bit like Seattle--grew up to be a great leader, and the forebear of Chakotay.
A funny part of the exchange; Chakotay insists he had nothing to do with the birth of the child, and Kolopak argues that though he's dead, he's not so dead to forget that he had at least something to do with producing a child. Chakotay has to explain that the DNA extracted against his will wasn't the stuff usually employed in reproductive purposes. (Seska jammed a needle into his neck, you may recall, probably to avoid trouble with the network censors.)
When the vision ends, Chakotay knows his course is clear.
The crew makes preparations to rescue the child. Neelix has made arrangements with a Talaxian mining colony to provide ships as backup, if needed. Kim believes they can create sensor shadows that will show up as Talaxian ships as a diversion. Holodoc believes he can go one better--use holoprojectors and mirrors to give a realistic visual of those same ships. It's not a complete solution, but as a temporary confusion measure it should help them in a crunch. Holodoc has a few good lines here, such as "Mr. Paris' predictable attempts at humor notwithstanding..." when Tom suggests using mirrors to create ships like the magicians used to. As the meeting breaks up, Chakotay thanks everyone for their assistance.
As they follow Culluh's ship, they come across a damaged Kazon shuttle. (BTW, I noticed that from the underside, Voyager indeed looks like a ship that hasn't seen a starbase recently--there are ugly patch marks where the ship has been jury-rigged to plug the hole left by the Kazon bullet shuttle, and there are other scars and fixes. It was a nice continuity touch, I thought.) They beam its only occupant aboard--Teirna, one of Seska's aides, injured and suffering from hours of breathing poisoned air. Before passing out, he announces that Seska is dead.
"She got too big for her britches," Teirna tells Chakotay in sickbay. "She would correct Culluh in public, tweak his pride, not bother to hide her contempt when she thought he was being stupid." He explains that when the baby came out and was obviously no-parts Kazon, Culluh took off the gloves and slit her throat. As her assistant, Teirna barely escaped with his life when someone helped him get to a shuttle, but Culluh fired on it and left him for dead. The baby, he says, is being taken to a not-quite-nearby planet (Jima 4) to be raised as a servant.
Teirna's injuries, though severe, are treatable, aside from an unexplained high red blood cell count. Chakotay wants Holodoc to run a lie-detector on the Kazon the next time they talk, but Holodoc points out that they don't have a non-lying Kazon baseline from which to make such a determination. He does say that if the ship hadn't intercepted Teirna when they did, the guy wouldn't have lasted another hour.
Others make the same determination. If it is a setup, they tell Chakotay, Teirna had to have been willing to breathe poison for several hours. They're willing to believe him. Chakotay is not.
At the next briefing, Teirna describes the Jima system and gives his recommendation. Neelix challenges him, Teirna sticks to his guns, and Neelix admits he was testing the man's veracity. Teirna claims he has no loyalty for Culluh, and has no desire to lead the ship into a trap--his life is now in their hands. They ask him for a gesture of further trust, the command codes for the Kazon-Nistrim defense grid. He provides the code, and (I guess Windows really is everywhere--software standards even span quadrants) in short order the Kazon defense grid appears. Another point for Teirna. He explains that the area--should they decide to take the straight-through route--is filled with unaligned rogue Kazon sects that will shoot at anything. He recommends against the direct approach.
Guess which one they take.
The course set, they soon encounter a Kazon vessel, which fires on them, doing some damage to their secondary command subprocessors. But a few shots and the ship veers off. Paris announces they've passed the communications range of the Talaxian fleet; from this point they're on their own. They anticipate no further contact for a while, so Janeway and Tuvok pay a visit on the resident prisoner.
Suder is nervous in Janeway's presence, but eager to please. He knocks over a table to give Janeway a chair. He thanks her for coming, and heaps praise on Tuvok until Tuvok tells him Janeway's time is precious. Suder stops babbling momentarily. Janeway wants to hear more about Suder's plan. Basically, Suder says, he has an idea for increasing the crop yield of the aeroponics gardens by using a thingie that has done wonders for the orchids. Janeway asks what he'd need to do the experiments from his quarters; Suder has a list. She tells him she'll discuss this with Tuvok and Kes, and get back to him. Suder says he's already talked with Kes and she's enthused about the idea. Janeway repeats that she'll get back to him, but she wants to think about it first.
Suder presses the point. "I want to do something for the ship," he says, sincerely but with a disquieting intensity. Janeway tries to reassure him, but Suder seems to take any answer but an immediate Yes as a bad sign. He repeats that he just wants to do something for the ship, and his escalating desperation finally prompts Tuvok to put him in his place. With a visible effort, Suder shuts his eyes and mouth, shudders for a few seconds, then regains control of himself. It is clear that his self-discipline is fighting a valiant battle against the raging demons that are still too near the surface. Janeway looks shaken when she leaves. "I just want to do something for the ship," Suder whispers, his countenance now desolate.
Four attacks later, a pattern emerges. Each of the rogue Kazon have hammered the same part of the ship, where the secondary command subprocessors reside. It is rapidly becoming unrepairable.
In sickbay, Teirna is nearly recovered from his injuries, though his blood still has an unexplained, elevated red-cell count that concerns Holodoc. He is otherwise free to leave. Teirna encounters Chakotay at the entry to sickbay. Chakotay notes that the Kazon pride in Teirna's eyes that he saw when the man beat the stuffings out of him ("Maneuvers") is still in his eyes. Chakotay doesn't trust Teirna, and tells him so. "Are you still working for Culluh or Seska? That's what scares me," he says. "Scared? You wuss," sneers Teirna. (I'm paraphrasing.)
Chakotay grabs Teirna by the throat and slams him against the wall. He basically tells the man that if he's a spy, he will get medieval on Teirna's hiney. Teirna begins to show fear through his defiance, but Holodoc gets irked--if you're going to abuse my patients, don't do it where I can see you. Chakotay thinks Teirna knows more than he's letting on, knows why the "rogue" Kazon are fighting in what appears to him a pattern.
More attacks, closer together, from these unaligned Kazon. The secondary subprocessors are completely toast now; Kim reports it will take a day to rebuild them. Janeway decides this has gone on long enough and orders a course change. Very soon thereafter, the main Kazon fleet arrives, in clear Cardassian attack formation. She directs that Teirna be confined to quarters under guard. "Battlestations," she barks.
Teirna is tossed into house arrest, conveniently, next door to Ensign Suder. Neelix arrives, under guard, with food for Suder. He enters a dark, silent room. Suder sits in the darkness, his mood darkening the room still further, the infinite blackness of his eyes penning volumes of prose that would chill the heart of Stephen King. Neelix tries to sound friendly, but he's clearly spooked. Suder says he's not hungry. Neelix leaves the meal behind and escapes as soon as he can.
Time for the bag o' tricks. Janeway directs Kim to activate the sensor ghosts. Of the eight Kazon ships, four follow the phantom Talaxians. That makes the odds a bit better. Janeway asks Torres to ready the holoprojections. Holodoc repeats once too often that he thinks they should run another diagnostic, until a killing glare from Torres changes his tune.
In his quarters, Teirna prays.
Torres activates the mirrors. One ship, then another, appear in the sky, and begin to draw fire. Torres tries for ship number three...
And the next thing you see is Holodoc In Space. He doesn't look much like a Talaxian fighter, nor does he look all that happy to be there. He still manages to draw some fire, which he doesn't at all appreciate.
"In space, nobody can hear you scream." Except in Trek--I heard Holodoc just fine. Soon he's projected back inside, Torres asks if he's okay, and Holodoc manages an "I told you so."
All in all, things seem to be going very well for Voyager. The ship is taking far fewer hits than they have any right to expect--the fake ships are doing their job nicely.
Teirna pulls off his toenail. From it, he extracts a nasty looking needle. Steeling his courage, he jams it into his arm....
And Teirna begins to grow. And warp. And scream. Soon, it's "Honey, I blew up the Kazon."
As Ensign Suder soon learns, there are people on board having a worse day than he. Exploding Kazon parts blow a hole in the wall between their rooms and trash his room to boot. We don't see what happens to Suder.
There's nothing like an exploding Kazon to turn the tide of battle. It's immediately clear to Chakotay that Teirna is the source of the explosion, though I doubt he'd guessed that Teirna was the explosion. Ship's systems start to fail; down go the decoys; soon all shots are being directed on Voyager. Paris suggests that now may be a good time for him to take a shuttle and whistle for the Talaxian backup. Janeway approves, and soon Paris is flying home, under serious fire. Within moments, they lose contact with Paris, his fate unknown.
As one vital system after another goes down, and Kazon begin boarding the ship, Janeway orders the crew to abandon ship, and tells the computer to activate the destruct sequence.
Unable to comply, the ship's computer responds. You need a functioning secondary subprocessor for that.
It doesn't take long to realize the ship is in a world of hurt. Kazon are everywhere, including the bridge. The crew is gathered and forced to their knees. "I want to speak to Culluh," Janeway demands. In comes Culluh, with Seska and the child by his side. (Anyone surprised by this?)
Seska takes the opportunity to gloat, and show Chakotay his son. "I'm glad he's got my forehead, though; you humans have such weak skulls." Chakotay spits that he hopes the child never learns of his contempt for the mother. Culluh chides Chakotay for his dishonorable defiling of Seska while she was under his command. Chakotay almost laughs; "Is that what she told you?" It's clear Seska's still a dang good liar, and she'll use whatever keeps her alive and in a position of influence. Culluh announces that the child will be raised as his own son, and will be an Askara (lieutenant?) from birth, for he helped them even in his infancy to win their greatest battle.
Janeway stands and asks what happens now. Culluh delivers a vicious backhand and Janeway goes sprawling. "Your ship is now mine, and I won't have a woman speaking to me like a real person." Janeway, of course, speaks to him. "You're worse than she is," Culluh rages, pointing at Seska. "What is it about your quadrant that your women are so impudent?" He ticks off Seska's outrages--countermanding his orders, speaking up in the presence of Culluh's subordinates, acting without Culluh's authority, not letting Culluh enjoy his power of place without comment. Seska, playing the role of sheepish, servile woman for a moment, bows her head and insists softly that she means no disrespect to the great Mazh. It seems enough for Culluh, but it should be clear to everyone that Seska is merely playing along.
Culluh settles into the command chair, and orders a course change for Hannan system. "What's there?" they ask. "Your new home," sez Seska.
The crew is herded into a cargo bay, as Seska settles into Chakotay's old seat, and offers a maternal breast to the Kazon's Littlest War Hero.
The ship is scoured. Every room is searched. Before he can be seen, Holodoc shuts himself off for twelve hours. Suder's quarters are searched, but they find nothing but debris. Soon everyone is accounted for, but two people. (I'm guessing those two are Paris and Suder; I doubt they count Holodoc. Or if they do, they know where he is, and consider him accounted for. My guess is the former.)
They know about the missing shuttle, but Culluh orders a search for it anyway. Seska, no longer the proper servile Kazon woman, orders that the search be thorough, and to check for warp trails if they don't find it. Culluh is annoyed, but he's too thrilled with his victory to beat her for it.
The ship approaches Hannan, a volcanic nightmare of a world. Culluh orders the ship be landed. When Voyager is safely on the planet's surface, he allows himself a manic, triumphant laugh, and Seska beams.
The crew is herded outside, and their combadges are taken. When Janeway's is removed, her eyes shoot daggers. "A fitting end for a people who don't share their technology," exults Culluh. "Now you can live without it." They are stranded, and Janeway (who was complaining about her lifestyle in "Resolutions") and crew must now learn the true meaning of Roughing It. She tells everyone their first duty is to find water, food, and shelter. They walk away from their ship, resigned--for the moment--to their fate.
Janeway is still firmly in charge. She has a walking staff meeting, telling Chakotay, Neelix, Kim, Torres, etc. that they absolutely must maintain the hope of imminent rescue. "Can we be sure of that?" Neelix asks. "You're the morale officer, you tell me," Janeway replies. Neelix gets the point, and raises the banner of hope. They begin roughly analyzing the planet--likely equivalent to Earth's prehistoric age. (A big lizard peeks its head out from the darkness of a cave to confirm the supposition.) They break into teams and agree to meet in two hours (so who has a watch?)--food, water, shelter, tools, any and every resource they can find or conceivably use. they look at the nearby hills, and note the cavemen taking notice of them.
I think they may be Sleestaks. Starfleet, welcome to the land of the lost.
Voyager lifts off. Culluh settles into the command chair, and Seska allows herself a satisfied grin. Revenge is a dish best served cold.
In a darkened and abandoned sickbay, Holodoc reappears.
There is nothing stirring in Ensign Suder's quarters. Pan up to a ventilation grille. Shift focus to the ventilation shaft, where Ensign "I'll do anything for this ship" Suder sits and thinks. (Anyone remember DIE HARD?)
Voyager flies away. The last shot is of Janeway's determined face before
the "To be continued...." ends the season.
Huh huh...that wuz cool.
What was cool? Excellent battle scenes. Exploding Kazon. The return of Chakotay's father, whom I like very much. The return of Seska, whom I love to hate. The return of Culluh, whose painful demise I really look forward to, hopefully at the hands of Seska. The return of Ensign Suder (Brad Dourif), whose eyes freak me out--eager to turn over a new leaf, yet obviously still so unstable and ready to taste blood that putting the ship into Kazon hands is nothing less than a License to Kill. Holodoc in Space. Tom Paris, location unknown. The second birth of the season (third, if you count the muppet baby in "Parturition"). The first two-parter of the series, and the first cliffhanger. Starfleet crews going where none have gone before, and getting stuck there.
Are there flaws? Yeah. But I don't care. The exploding Kazon alone was enough to vault this puppy to the top of my charts.
The idea of going after Chakotay's Child is asinine, but entirely in character. It's exactly the Starfleet thing to do. And Chakotay's conversation with his father clinched it. You know it's going to be a rough ride, you strongly suspect it's a trap, but dang it, kin is kin.
It's noble. Moronic, but noble. When you've got a fleet of ships on your side, when you're the big dog in the alpha quadrant, a mission like that isn't out of the question. But when you're all by your lonesome (Talaxian backup notwithstanding) running into the home turf of your blood enemies, where each ship is dozens the size of your own, and there are a dozen or so of them, is the sort of idea that cooler heads would discard and turn tail for home.
I'm not a father. Perhaps I'll change my mind when I am. But as a single guy, I have to admit that in Chakotay's place I'd be sending Culluh a box of cigars and no forwarding address.
But you know they're not going to do that. They're going to rush in where angels fear to tread, hoping against hope that their luck will change. It's a valiant effort, and were Seska not involved they may have pulled it off. But we have here a truly worthy arch-nemesis, not the wimpy wanna-be that Denise Crosby played as the half-romulan child of an alternate-universe Tasha Yar whose name escapes me. Seska's got lots of smarts, and she isn't afraid to use them. If she were a man, she'd be running this quadrant already. As it is, she's not doing at all badly, despite the mental driftwood of a Mazh she's allied herself to, Culluh.
The trap is exquisitely laid. They play the Voyager crew like a fiddle, twanging the strings of loyalty, honor, self-importance, etc. Like a fine chess player (I'm guessing; I'm lousy at chess) Seska's prepped her people several moves ahead. When the trap is sprung, all the pieces are in place. It's a beautiful thing.
I also like how different elements were woven into this episode. The return of Suder, whose story we know, whose volatility and tendency to violence are well understood, who we know to be a stowaway. It will be fun to see him operate in the season premiere. Dare we to hope for more exploding Kazon? Perhaps his orchid research will include that symbiogenetic weed, and we'll see Seska turned into a plant. Kolopak, Chakotay's father, who died before he accepted the tattoo and his father's cause, providing his wisdom and warmth. The exterior view of the ship, with the remnants of past battles clearly visible. Nice touches all.
Holodoc was a hoot, as usual. Seeing him projected into space, trying to lean away from disruptor fire, killed me. He's also likely to play a key role in the eventual liberation of the ship, with or without Suder. The season-long efforts to expand Holodoc's ability to project himself into key areas of the ship will likely play into that.
We don't know what happened to Paris, other than his shuttle got pounded. Chances are excellent that he escaped and is asking the Talaxians for help.
There are plenty of questions raised from this episode, and the fun thing about a good cliffhanger is that you spend the next few months speculating what will happen in the conclusion. Done right, you can't help it. When the TNG cliffhanger, "The Best of Both Worlds, part 1" aired, the online services were awash in speculation and general merriment. I don't know if this episode will have the same effect, but I hope so. I recall Best of Both Worlds as the end of the first TNG season I truly enjoyed, and I was hooked from then on out. the fan involvement had a lot to do with that enthusiasm--we had a great time coming up with our own Part II. That, and an obscene number of "best of both worlds" puns which I, regrettably, contributed more than my fair share to.
All in all, this was a strong season ender by any objective means. It's whetted my appetite for more, and was still satisfactory in itself.
On a scale of 0-10, I'd give this one a 9.00. I'll probably spend the summer guessing how Part II will turn out. Your guesses welcome.
Next week: Repeat of "Prototype". I guess it's time to write that review now.