Written by Michael Jan Friedman & Kevin J. Ryan and Lisa Klink
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 2, Episode 12
Production episode 128
Original air date: November 27, 1995
Captain’s log. Janeway, Tuvok, Torres, and Neelix are undercover on a planet. Neelix brings a vial to Janeway in a covert manner, looking for all the world like they’re consummating a drug deal. Once Janeway confirms that it’s the terellium they’re looking for, she sends Neelix to finish the transaction.
While he’s gone, some Mokra soldiers ambush them. There’s a big donnybrook, ending with Tuvok and Torres captured, though not until after they’ve done significant harm to the soldiers. Janeway, however, is rendered unconscious and taken away by someone.
Neelix exits the shop to find the away team gone. However, Voyager’s need for terellium is sufficiently great that Chakotay beams him straight to engineering so Kim can apply the terellium to the plasma injectors. This does the trick and Kim is able to restore main power.
Now they need to locate the away team. Neelix is concerned that a member of the Alsaurian resistance gave them away—but not Neelix’s contact that got them the terellium, as if it had been him, he never would have acquired the substance in the first place.
The moment they come out from behind the moon, Voyager is hailed by Third Magistrate Augris of the Mokra, who pretends to be friendly and kind, and says he’ll check and see if their away team has been detained.
In truth, he already knows, as he immediately goes to Tuvok and Torres and interrogates them about the rebels they’re collaborating with. The two officers’ insistence that they don’t know anything about the resistance falls on deaf ears, and Augris takes Tuvok away to be tortured.
Janeway awakens in the care of an old man named Caylem, who thinks Janeway is his daughter Ralkana. Janeway is grateful to him for treating her wounds, but she needs to find the rest of her team. Caylem assumes that Ralkana is telling him a funny story about her being a starship captain. Every attempt Janeway makes to get a straight answer out of Caylem fails, as he clings to the delusion that Janeway is his daughter. When the subject of the prison comes up, Caylem says that his wife, Ralkana’s mother, is imprisoned there.
Augris boards Voyager and, like Tanis before him, speaks of the bad rep that Voyager has gotten since their arrival in this quadrant. He goes so far as to say that he’s not sure he even believes that they really come from another quadrant. (The fact that they’ve been on a straight-line course for the better part of a year should be a clue, but whatever.)
He tells Chakotay that he will consider letting him talk to the away team, but Chakotay doesn’t believe him for a second.
Caylem shows Janeway the letters he’s written to his wife in prison. Caylem wants to help her get the others out of prison, but Janeway doesn’t want to endanger him. The question is tabled when Mokra soldiers show up to search the house. They escape via a secret route.
Augris is seeking Janeway out, and he almost arrests Darod, Neelix’s contact. However, Caylem play-acts like a complete fool, which defuses the situation. Augris leaves, and Janeway pleads with Darod for help. He offers weapons so she can break the others out of prison in exchange for Ralkana’s jewel-covered necklace, which Janeway is reluctant to offer, but Caylem insists. However, the contact is three hours late for the exchange, and when he does show up, Janeway notices that he’s wearing military boots.
Darod has obviously been compromised and the weapons exchange was a trap. So she tries Plan B: pretending to be a prostitute trying to get in via a horny guard. This actually works, but then she locks Caylem in a cell so he won’t get hurt, promising to find his wife.
Tuvok returns to the cell battered and bloody. Torres is disgusted, but Tuvok insists that what matters is that he did not give in.
Kim tries a trick to make the Mokra think there are multiple transporter signals beaming down when they beam a rescue team into the prison. This fails, and the Mokra fire on them. But then Janeway is able to kill all power in the prison, which eliminates all the force fields. Chakotay takes advantage and beams Paris and a rescue team into the prison.
Tuvok and Torres are able to leave their cell, as are Caylem and Darod, and everyone is reunited. However, Augris ambushes them, and reveals that both Caylem’s wife and daughter were killed years ago. Every once in a while, Caylem tries to break into the prison to get them out, and every time Augris lets him go quietly back home, as he’s harmless and makes a good example to others who would defy them.
There’s a firefight, and the Voyager crew are victorious, with Augris fatally stabbed, but with Caylem also shot. As he dies, Janeway finally gives in to his delusion, pretending to be Ralkana and saying that she and her mother both forgive him. Darod promises that the tale of Caylem’s bravery will be told.
Chakotay beams them back and they high-tail it out of orbit, the ship now fully operational. Janeway still has Ralkana’s necklace, and clutches it sadly.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, if you run out of terellium, the warp core stops working and main power fails. It looks like a lubricant of some sort, and I guess it can’t be replicated?
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is patient but insistent with Caylem, not giving in to his delusion, but not completely denying it, either. She’s focused primarily on getting her people safely offworld. She also does everything she can to protect Caylem, though she is unable to save him in the end.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is tortured so badly, he screams in agony. Torres is shocked to realize that a Vulcan can feel pain like that.
Half and half. Torres tries to break out of the prison by mucking with the control circuit, and fails.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix is the one who sets the deal up, and who gets the terellium, which pretty much saves everyone’s ass, as the ship is falling apart without it. Just in general, this episode is one of the best uses of Neelix, as he’s actually serving the function he boarded the ship to serve, to wit, local guide.
Forever an ensign. With Torres in a cell on the planet, it’s left to Kim to do all the technobabble, including talking Chakotay into dropping shields to preserve power, and also coming up with ways to try to rescue the away team, with varying degrees of success.
“May I assume you’re seeking permission to conduct business with us?”
“No, some of my crewmembers have already been to the surface. We’ve lost contact with them.”
“I see. You must have been unaware of our regulations. I’ll transfer a complete copy for future reference.”
–Augris being a dick, Chakotay responding, and Augris being a bigger dick.
Welcome aboard. Trek veterans Alan Scarfe and Glenn Morshower play, respectively, Augris and the prison guard. Scarfe previously played two different Romulans on TNG, Mendak in “Data’s Day” and Tokath in “Birthright, Part II.” Morshower previously was Burke in TNG’s “Peak Performance,” Orton in TNG’s “Starship Mine,” and an Enterprise-B bridge officer in Generations, and he’ll be back as Sheriff MacReady in Enterprise’s “North Star.”
Tom Todoroff plays Darod, and one of the extras is played by Chuck Butte, who won a contest to appear on Voyager.
But the big guest is the great Joel Grey as Caylem. The producers had been trying to get Grey on the show since the beginning, and this was the role that finally landed him.
Trivial matters: The story for this episode is by Michael Jan Friedman and Kevin J. Ryan, who both have a long history with Star Trek fiction (and, full disclosure, both are friends and colleagues of your humble rewatcher). Friedman has written extensively for Trek in prose and comics, including more than thirty novels, a bunch of short stories, original-series comic books, and reference works, plus he was the writer of DC’s monthly TNG comic book for its entire 80-issue run from 1989-1996. Ryan was an editor in charge of Trek fiction from 1988-1996, a period during which Trek novels regularly hit the Times best-seller list. Ryan also wrote two original-series trilogies, Errand of Fury and Errand of Vengeance, six novels that set up the Klingon war that broke out in the episode “Errand of Mercy.” Ryan and Friedman also collaborated on the TNG novel Requiem. The pair pitched several stories to both TNG and Voyager, though this one, which they more or less pitched as Voyager meets Don Quixote, is the only one that sold.
The script was assigned to Lisa Klink, who had newly joined the writing staff and was thrown into the deep end of the pool by being told to write this episode. She did well enough to stay on board, working her way up to executive story editor for the show’s fourth season before moving on to other projects. Klink also would write the Borg invasion short film used at Star Trek: The Experience in Las Vegas.
Set a course for home. “She forgives you—we both do.” This is a really good, solid episode. On the surface, it’s somewhat cliché, but clichés become such for good reason, for the most part, and in this case the story beats work due to three factors.
First there’s Winrich Kolbe’s superbly atmospheric direction. There’s a sense of heavy oppression in every scene on the planet, which combines with Kolbe’s trademark excellent use of closeups to hammer home the misery of life under the Mokra. Kolbe has consistently been one of the best TV directors in the business, and I’ve always felt that he was one of the two or three best directors Trek has ever had (with only Jonathan Frakes and Hanelle Culpepper giving him any competition)
Then there’s the solid script by Lisa Klink. It would have been very easy to play Caylem’s delusions for cruel laughs, with Janeway growing angry and frustrated by his delusions, but Klink’s script keeps Janeway’s reactions reasonable and understandable and kind, without her ever losing track of her most important mission, to wit, finding and rescuing the rest of her team. I also like the way Klink handles the Tuvok-Torres scenes, as Torres makes the oh-so-common mistake that Vulcans are emotionless, when in fact they have very turbulent emotions that they suppress through logic and discipline—which are hard to maintain when someone’s torturing you.
I also admire Klink simply letting the crew do their jobs without any of the baggage. Neelix is The Local Guide, and he does that job very well in that episode, and we don’t get any of the character’s goofy excesses. Kim is The Science Guy, throwing technobabble ideas at Chakotay fast and furious, while Chakotay is The First Officer, holding things together while Janeway’s out of commission, the same way Spock, Riker, and Kira have done for their captains in the past.
And finally there’s the best part of the episode, the acting. The casting helps Klink’s script out a lot. For starters, we need to be introduced to the Mokra in fairly short order, and the teaser does that nicely with the tense, clandestine meeting to see if the merchandise is any good, followed by showing how incredibly nasty the Mokra are by the simple expediency of casting Alan Scarfe at his absolute slimiest as Augris.
Scarfe has one of the most amazing voices in the world, and he puts it to excellent use, as his oily line deliveries make it very easy to root against Augris, even before he starts torturing Tuvok.
Kate Mulgrew puts in one of her finest performances, giving us a captain who does everything she can to help out her crew, while still showing compassion for the crazy guy who rescued her. (I’m less sanguine about her pretending to be a prostitute to break into the prison—I started getting Star Trek V flashbacks—but it says a lot more about the Mokra that they fell for it in this case…) I love that she never gives in to the delusion—not even to make her own situation easier, as she could have easily at several points—until the very end, when it’s a kindness to a dying person.
And then we have Joel Grey, who absolutely makes the episode. Without his nuanced, delightful, frightening, tragic performance, the episode would fall apart. He is brilliant as Caylem, and you find yourself tearing up alongside Janeway at the end after he dies. I especially love that he’s together enough to mount the occasional prison break attempt, and also enough to play the fool to defuse the situation with Dorad, going so far as to wear a melon as a hat. It highlights the tragedy—there’s enough of his frayed persona left to be that self-aware, but not enough to admit that Janeway isn’t his daughter or that his wife and daughter are both dead.
Warp factor rating: 9
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 duology, Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile. It’s already reached the funding goal, so if you support it, you’re guaranteed to get the books! Check it out!