Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Maneuvers”

“Maneuvers”
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by David Livingston
Season 2, Episode 11
Production episode 127
Original air date: November 20, 1995
Stardate: 49208.5

Captain’s log. Chakotay and Torres’s hoverball game on the holodeck is interrupted by Voyager detecting a beacon broadcasting a Federation carrier wave—using a security code that wasn’t scheduled to be implemented until a month after Voyager was sent to the Delta Quadrant. Optimism that this might be the Federation trying to find them suffuses the ship, but it’s dashed when they arrive at the beacon to find a Kazon ship firing on them.

Indeed, the Kazon ship’s firing pattern is very specific, targeting a single spot on their shields and poking a hole in them, despite all attempts to remodulate the shields. A Kazon shuttle goes through that hole and crashes into the cargo bay on deck four, penetrating the hull and letting on a boarding party. Tuvok’s security detail fails to contain all of them, and two Kazon head to the transporter room, steal a transporter module, and beam back to their ship.

With the hull breach, Voyager can’t go to warp, but Chakotay is able to snag the Kazon ship in a tractor beam. Only then do the Kazon hail them: It’s Maje Culluh and Seska, and the specific knowledge they had of Voyager‘s operations comes to light. Seska is able to program a feedback loop that disrupts the tractor beam, and the Kazon bugger off.

Voyager can’t pursue until they extricate the Kazon shuttle from the hull. Neelix points out that they don’t have to pursue the Kazon, but Janeway refuses to allow Federation technology to stay in the hands of Culluh and his Nistrim sect, as it will affect the balance of power among the Kazon. Neelix comes around.

Torres figures out how to track the transporter module, and once the cargo bay breach is sealed, they go on their merry way. Chakotay is more than a little bit beside himself with annoyance, as he takes Seska’s betrayal of the crew personally.

On Culluh’s ship, he meets with Maje Haron, the leader of the Kazon-Relora, to discuss an alliance. Haron feels that the Nistrim are too weak to handle this advanced technology, and suggests Culluh simply give it to him and the Relora will share some of the spoils with them in return. Culluh’s response is to beam Haron and his aide into space.

Voyager is tracing Culluh’s ship’s warp trail. There’s a gap in it, and when they investigate, they find the bodies of Haron and his aide. The EMH finds a transporter trace on them, and Neelix identifies the markings on their outfits as belonging to the Relora. Janeway amends her initial theory—that this was a transporter accident when the Nistrim were playing with their new toy—to Culluh using the transporter as a murder weapon.

Once Torres gets the scanner working that will detect the transporter module, Chakotay absconds with it and steals a shuttlecraft. Janeway is appalled to realize that he’s going after Seska alone.

Culluh is angry about how negotiations with the Relora deteriorated. He’s even angrier when Seska reveals that she contacted the other, smaller sects on his behalf to invite them to a summit. The Relora are too powerful, but this technology can unite the smaller sects into a powerful force behind the stolen Federation tech. Seska has to suck up to Culluh to get forgiveness.

Chakotay arrives at Culluh’s ship. (How his shuttle arrives so far ahead of Voyager is left as an exercise for the viewer.) He manages to mask himself from the Kazon sensors for a time, but eventually Seska detects him and stops him from destroying the transporter module remotely. Seska tractors the shuttle in, but when the Kazon board, they find it empty—Chakotay beamed himself off the shuttle and is able to take out the module with a phaser, at which point he has the shuttle send out a message to Voyager. Then he’s taken prisoner and tortured.

Voyager receives his prerecorded message, which says that, if they get this, he’s been captured or killed, but has taken care of the module. He urges Janeway not to rescue him. Janeway ignores this and goes after him.

Unfortunately, by the time they’re in sensor range, they detect a crapton of Kazon ships—Seska’s summit of the lesser Kazon sects is underway. Culluh covers his lack of transporter technology with the fact that he has Chakotay as prisoner—he has Voyager‘s command codes. However, he has not yet given them up, though Culluh hasn’t told the other Kazon that.

Voyager moves in to try to beam Chakotay out, but Torres can’t get a lock on him. The other Kazon call Culluh’s bluff by trying to get him to use the command codes to strike at Voyager; he claims they’re having trouble interfacing the technology, and he asks the majes to join the battle. Voyager gets pounded by the other Kazon ships. Seska has surrounded Chakotay with a dampening field that keeps a transporter lock off him, but the field is only on him. So Janeway has Torres instead beam the majes into the transporter room, where Tuvok holds them at phaserpoint until they free Chakotay and release the shuttle.

Janeway puts Chakotay on report, but takes no other disciplinary action. He receives a message from Seska announcing that she took a sample of his DNA while he was her prisoner, and she intends to have a kid with him.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, simple possession of a transporter module, a piece of technology never mentioned before or since, allows one to utilize transporter technology, and the destruction of that module—which can be sitting out in the open when you’re using it, it would seem—will eliminate that ability. Sure.

Also, Voyager uses the transporter during the climax while shields are up, er, somehow.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway refuses to give up on Chakotay and also comes up with the brilliant solution of beaming the majes off the Kazon ship.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is utterly ineffectual in stopping a bunch of Kazon from boarding the ship and stealing technology.

Half and half. Torres advocates passionately on Chakotay’s behalf after he’s stolen the shuttle.

Forever an ensign. Kim’s excitement at what they think is a Federation beacon is tamped down by Janeway, saying his optimism is premature, but she softens the blow by saying that it’s also infectious.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix earns his nonexistent pay as Voyager‘s local guide in this episode, as his knowledge of the Kazon continues to prove useful.

For Cardassia! Seska’s appearance is reverting to her original Cardassian looks, er, somehow. (I can’t imagine that Kazon medical technology is really up to the task, but whatever.) She’s the power behind the throne with Culluh, only occasionally pretending to suck up to him to placate him.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Seska’s past with Chakotay comes up several times, including her assuring him he wasn’t that good.

Do it. “I had you right where I wanted you.”

“What are you talking about? I was ahead 19-7!”

“I was just lulling you into a false sense of security.”

“Sure you were.”

Chakotay talking smack while getting his ass kicked in hoverball and Torres not buying in.

Welcome aboard. Martha Hackett and Anthony DeLongis are back as Seska and Culluh, respectively, last seen in “State of Flux.” They’ll both be back in “Alliances.” Terry Lester and John Gegenhuber play the other two majes with speaking parts.

Trivial matters: We see the Kazon-Relora—mentioned in “Initiations“—for the first time, and this episode also establishes the Kazon-Hobii, the Kazon-Oglamar, and the Kazon-Mostral.

Martha Hackett was newly pregnant when this episode filmed, and the plan had been for Seska to become newly pregnant at the end of this episode, so the timing was fortuitous. (It’s less clear how she was able to impregnate herself with the DNA of another species using only Kazon tech, which isn’t exactly geared toward high-quality medicine, but whatever.)

Hoverball was first established in TNG‘s “Captain’s Holiday,” and will be seen in multiple Voyager episodes going forward (and also in Kim Sheard’s short story “Winds of Change” in Distant Shores).

Set a course for home. “Flattery, devotion, sex—she has a lot to offer a man.” This really should be a much better episode than it actually is. David Livingston’s directorial resumé for the Trek spinoffs includes some excellent action/thriller episodes (“The Mind’s Eye” and “Power Play” on TNG, “In the Hands of the Prophets,” “The Maquis, Part I,” “Crossover,” “The Die is Cast,” “Homefront,” and “Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges” on DS9), so the flaccid direction here is a surprise and a disappointment. The opening space battle is a mess, Chakotay’s one-person raid on the Kazon is disjointed, and the climactic conflict is weak.

Kenneth Biller reportedly wanted to have Chakotay suffer real consequences, but that’s not a thing Star Trek does, really. Spock kidnapped a captain, forged orders, stole a ship, and assaulted several people in service of violating a general order that came with the death penalty, the Defiant went to the Gamma Quadrant to rescue Odo against orders, Agnes Jurati murdered her lover in cold blood, Worf abandoned his post to kill someone, and Tuvok did a back-room deal with the Sikarians against orders, and none of them suffered any real consequences, so it’s probably disingenuous to ding this episode in particular. But the scene where it happens is so weak, with Janeway coming out and copping to the fact that the consequences are meaningless when she says, “I’m putting you on report, in case that means anything anymore,” and Chakotay’s assurance that it does rings completely hollow.

There are also far too many storytelling shortcuts here that undermine the episode, starting with the magical transporter module that somehow bestows full transporter technology to its user, yet can sit out in the open and get shot at. Then there’s Torres beaming people onto the ship while shields are raised, which has never been possible on Star Trek since the beginning. Plus, somehow Culluh and Seska are able to gather all the sects in this region of space which is ten months’ travel away from the Ocampa homeworld, all in the time it takes Voyager to repair a hull breach. Speaking of that hull breach, man, does the Voyager crew look like idiots in the opening. The nanosecond that the Kazon showed up after luring them with information that only could have come from Voyager‘s computer (the security code was one that was on file but not yet implemented), everyone’s first thought should have been of Seska, yet they’re all surprised to see her with Culluh, even though she was last seen buggering off to a Kazon ship after sabotaging Voyager.

Worse, after giving us some promising development of the Kazon in “Initiations” (also written by Biller), we get almost none of that here. The beats with Culluh and Seska’s attempt to unite the wimpier Kazon factions are all rote and boring and show none of the, well, maneuvers or jockeying or much of anything. Biller is said to have patterned the Kazon structure as being akin to street gangs, and what we needed here was something like the summit meetings among the gangs we used to see on Hill Street Blues, not this bloodless posturing.

The episode isn’t a total disaster. I like Chakotay’s slow burn, and Robert Beltran plays his coolness under torture nicely. I love Janeway’s elegant solution of beaming the majes off the ship and trapping them in the transporter room with deactivated weapons. And Martha Hackett is superb, as Seska manipulates events perfectly. I particularly like how she plays Culluh like a two-dollar banjo. Even in defeat, Seska feels like she comes out ahead in this—Culluh’s the one who lost face, not her, and she’s still in her position of playing Wormtongue to Culluh’s King Théoden. (Or would it be more appropriate to say she’s the Daenerys to Culluh’s Khal Drogo?)

Warp factor rating: 4

Keith R.A. DeCandido encourages all and sundry to support the crowdfund for the third book in the “18th Race” trilogy of military science fiction novels, To Hell and Regroup, which Keith wrote with David Sherman. It’s being jointly funded along with Christopher L. Bennett’s Arachne’s Crime, and it’s already reached the funding goal, so if you support it, you’re guaranteed to get the books! Check it out!

 

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