Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “State of Flux”

“State of Flux”
Written by Paul Robert Coyle and Chris Abbott
Directed by Robert Scheerer
Season 1, Episode 10
Production episode 111
Original air date: April 10, 1995
Stardate: 48658.2

Captain’s log. Chakotay leads a large away team that also includes Carey, Kim, and Seska to a planet Neelix led them to because it is a great source of food. Paris detects a ship in orbit that’s hiding itself well from Voyager’s sensors, but Tuvok is able to pick it up when Paris gives him a specific spot to aim sensors at. Tuvok somehow recognizes the configuration as belonging to the Kazon-Nistrim, even though we’ve never seen that sect before.

Janeway orders the away team to beam back. Chakotay gathers everyone, but there’s no sign of Seska. Chakotay tells the others to beam back while he looks for her. He finds her in a cave, and then also finds two Kazon, who fire on them. Chakotay is wounded, but Seska takes out the Kazon and gets Chakotay to the transport site and back to the ship.

The Kazon ship got away. Seska has some fellow Maquis distract Neelix so she can steal supplies to make Chakotay mushroom soup. When he realizes that they raided Neelix’s kitchen, Chakotay docks everyone involved two days of replicator privileges—including himself. Seska then hits on Chakotay, but he resists her advances, as their relationship didn’t really work last time.

Voyager receives a distress call from the same Kazon ship they encountered earlier. Neelix warns them that the Kazon-Nistrim are violent and not above tricking people, but Janeway can’t turn her back on someone in need, and they might even be able to make friends with the Kazon.

They arrive and beam over to find everyone on board but one dead—and he’s unconscious. Several people were fused with the bulkheads, and there’s a ton of nucleonic radiation, which is being contained by a force field.

The damage seems to have come from a device on the bridge that Torres identifies as a radically different technology than everything else—and it has elements that are only found in the Federation that they haven’t yet seen in the Delta Quadrant.

Tuvok proposes three possibilities: the device is local, and the scan showing Federation material is a coincidence; another Federation ship is in the Delta Quadrant and gave it to them; or there’s a traitor on board.

Suspicion is already on Seska because she was found in a cave with the Kazon. She’s not happy about that, and she goes to sickbay to see if the Kazon is conscious (he isn’t). Kes is searching for compatible donors, as the Kazon’s blood needs to be completely replaced. There’s no blood sample on file for Seska. She never got around to donating, as she has a childhood ailment that means she can’t donate blood. The EMH tartly reminds her that that’s all the more reason they should have her blood on file.

Torres and Carey develop a plan to retrieve the device without dying from nucleonic radiation, but it’ll take the better part of a day to implement. Seska has an alternative idea that Torres had shot down as too risky, but she beams over and tries it anyhow, almost getting killed in the process.

This does nothing to take suspicion off her, as she could have been beaming over to destroy the evidence. Plus, the EMH has examined her, and he believes she’s a Cardassian altered to look Bajoran.

First Maje Culluh of the Kazon-Nistrim arrives and demands to see the survivor and also take custody of the ship. Janeway refuses the latter until they know for sure what caused the explosion, but she does allow Culluh and another Kazon to beam aboard and see the still-unconscious survivor. Janeway asks the EMH privately if they can keep the survivor on the pretense that it would be dangerous to move him. The EMH assures her that it would be no pretense.

But then Culluh’s aide sticks the survivor with a needle before Tuvok can stop him. It has a poison that kills instantly. Janeway has Tuvok escort them off the ship.

Torres retrieves the device, and it turns out to be a replicator from Voyager. They didn’t shield it properly, and the radiation leakage killed pretty much everyone.

There’s definitely a traitor on Voyager. Tuvok has tracked a communication from engineering during a maintenance cycle to Carey’s console, but Carey denies it, and also mentions that Seska was in the cave with the Kazon, so maybe it was her?

It quickly becomes clear that Seska and Carey are the best suspects. Chakotay confronts her with the EMH’s findings that she’s Cardassian, and she explains that she had Orkett’s Disease as a child, like many Bajoran children during the Occupation, and was given bone marrow by a Cardassian woman who took pity on her.

Tuvok and Chakotay mention to both Carey and Seska that they’re gathering evidence. The computer manifest is then clumsily altered by someone using Seska’s code. Torres thinks this means Carey did it, trying to frame Seska, but Tuvok traces the alteration to sickbay, where Seska is still under medical care. Chakotay and Janeway confront her, along with the EMH who explains that Orkett’s was ruled out before she even mentioned it—she’s definitely Cardassian.

Seska finally admits it, and says that she’s trying to build alliances in the Delta Quadrant, to try to salvage the mess Janeway made of things. Then she beams away to the Kazon ship. While Culluh wasn’t willing to challenge Voyager by himself, his reinforcements have arrived, and Janeway is forced to let them get away, as they’re now outgunned.

Chakotay is annoyed that he had two infiltrators in his cell. Tuvok reassures him that Seska had him completely fooled as well, which makes Chakotay feel better, to Tuvok’s confusion. “Misery loves company,” Chakotay explains.

Chakotay (Robert Beltran) and Seska (Martha Hackett) in Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Nucleonic radiation is yet another new kind of radiation in the 24th century that does nasty things required by the plot. 

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway makes it clear that she isn’t going to take any shit from the Kazon, though she’s forced to back down when two other ships show up. 

Half and half. Torres proves she’s not Montgomery Scott, as she makes it clear that when she says she needs a day to do something, it means she really does need a day and she can’t shave the estimate because the captain says so. 

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is apparently really good at gin rummy, to Chakotay’s chagrin. He also reminds Chakotay that controlling one’s emotions and balancing the needs of Vulcan society to not lie with the realities of life in Starfleet is not always easy. “Do not mistake composure with ease,” he says, a great summary of what life is like for a Vulcan. 

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix informs Carey and Chakotay in graphic detail the violent allergic reaction people will have to kaylo fruit. They just take his word for it, even though the species from the Alpha Quadrant might react completely differently to it, and also Carey has a tricorder that should tell him if something is poisonous. Neelix instead recommends leola root, which is a great source of vitamins and minerals, but which tastes awful. 

For Cardassia! Seska goes on at great length about how a Cardassian ship would deal with the situation. First she points out that they’d be home—Seska having apparently missed the memo that the Caretaker’s array needed to be reprogrammed to send them back, which would have taken time the Kazon would not have given them—and then she explains how they should be forming alliances and exchanging technology for protection and building a power base. 

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Seska and Chakotay were a couple, but it didn’t work out. Seska tries to reignite the spark by bringing him his favorite soup and generally hitting on him and reminding him of the limited options on Voyager now.

Do it. “You know, I’m really easy to get along with, most of the time. But I don’t like bullies, and I don’t like threats, and I don’t like you, Culluh. You can try and stop us from getting to the truth, but I promise you that if you do, I will respond with all the ‘unique’ technologies at my command.”

Janeway talking smack to Culluh while calling back to his earlier reference to Voyager’s fancy tech.

Welcome aboard. The three main guests in this episode are all recurring regulars: Josh Clark as Carey, Martha Hackett as Seska, and, debuting this episode, Anthony DeLongis as Culluh.

Trivial matters: This episode establishes that Seska—like Boone in DS9‘s “Tribunal” and Iliana Ghemor in DS9‘s “Second Skin,” and later Dukat in DS9‘s “Penumbra“—is a Cardassian surgically altered to look Bajoran and go undercover.

This is Seska’s last first-season appearance—she’ll next be in season two’s “Maneuvers,” also the next appearance of Culluh.

This is also Carey’s last appearance in the present until the seventh season’s “Friendship One”—his appearances in “Relativity” and “Fury” are both in flashbacks that predate “State of Flux.”

Tuvok mentions the possibility of another Starfleet ship being sucked into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker. In the season-spanning two-parter “Equinox,” it will be established that another ship did come through the array. Voyager will encounter them five years hence.

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Was anyone on that ship working for me?” One of the most common tropes of mystery fiction is the red herring. The person you suspect from the beginning turns out not to be the person whodunnit because of misleading evidence.

As a student of police procedure, and as a writer and editor, I find the tendency tiresome. Most of the time, the first person detectives suspect really is the person who did it, mostly because working detectives are generally good at detecting patterns and such. Plus, it’s such a common trope in fiction, that it’s never the first person they suspect, and that becomes much more predictable than the story would be without it. I will, therefore, respect any cop show in which they don’t do that more than one that does.

For that reason, I really like “State of Flux.” Yes, we also have Carey along as an alternate suspect—and we just last episode saw him willing to toss Federation principles out the window to get his hands on the Sikarian trajector. But generally, Seska is our first suspect, and because of that, TV watchers are trained to think it won’t be her.

Which is why I love that it is her.

Watching it now, twenty-five years later, when I know full well that she’s the traitor, it’s also fun to watch as an acting exercise for Martha Hackett, who really sells the notion that she’s an innocent Bajoran who’s being singled out. She’s very convincing in her denials, right up until the EMH pours cold water on her Orkett’s Disease cover story, which probably would’ve been good enough for whatever mediocre medical treatment she might have gotten in the rough-and-tumble world of the Maquis, but doesn’t pass the smell test for a hologram programmed with all the medical knowledge available in the Alpha Quadrant.

And as soon as she’s exposed, Hackett does a wonderful job changing her mode. She’s been a fairly typical Bajoran—brittle, cranky, cynical, but generally friendly, if prickly—but once the jig is up, she goes full Cardassian—arrogant, high-handed, snotty.

Voyager’s status as a ship all alone ties Janeway’s hands here, unfortunately. Her trash talk to Culluh is less effective than it might be because they back off as soon as Culluh’s reinforcements show up. Culluh’s aide commits murder right in front of her and all she can really do is toss him off the ship. Sure, she could imprison the pair of them, but then she’s responsible for feeding him and letting him take up space and resources on a ship that can’t really spare it. But there really isn’t much else she can do.

Instead, they lose a crew member. Poor Robert Beltran is stuck playing the idiot here, as Chakotay is made out to be a fool a second time, having let, not one, but two undercover operators into his cell. The episode is effective because both Carey and Seska have appeared in enough prior stories to establish their personalities, and make you not a hundred percent sure which one of them might be the traitor. (Seska’s romantic history with Chakotay is a bit out of left-field, but it works, and helps keep Chakotay doubting things.)

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at Pensacon 2020 this weekend, spending most of his time at Bard’s Tower alongside fellow scribes Brian Anderson, Kevin J. Anderson, Jim Butcher, Michelle Cori, Phil Foglio, Charles E. Gannon, JB Garner, Andrew E. Gaska, Marion G. Harmon, Kevin Ikenberry, Megan Mackie, and Jody Lynn Nye.

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