Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Alliances”

“Alliances”
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Les Landau
Season 2, Episode 14
Production episode 131
Original air date: January 22, 1996
Stardate: 49337.4

Captain’s log. Voyager is getting their asses kicked by the Kazon, though they do destroy one of the ships on them. The Kazon retreat, and not a moment too soon, as propulsion is completely shot, as are all defensive systems. While there are a ton of injuries, there’s only one fatality: Engineer Kurt Bendera, who was part of Chakotay’s Maquis cell.

After the memorial service for Bendera, Crewman Hogan confronts Janeway. He’s doesn’t think it’s worth risking their lives just to deny the Kazon technological assistance, but Janeway makes it clear that she’ll destroy the ship before she’ll let any Starfleet tech fall into Kazon hands.

Chakotay then proposes a radical notion: forming an alliance with one or more of the Kazon sects.

Janeway rejects the idea initially, but she also goes to Tuvok, and he surprises her by agreeing with Chakotay, using an Earth-Vulcan hybrid flower he created as a cheesy-but-effective metaphor.

The senior staff then meets to discuss a strategy. Neelix has a Kazon who owes him a favor on the world of Sobras, and he can feel him out about who would be amenable to an alliance.

Kim sarcastically suggests contacting Seska, but Torres jumps on that as a good idea. Chakotay disagrees, but his history with Seska is complicated. Janeway instead takes the lead on that, contacting the Kazon-Nistrim.

Culluh agrees to meet, and he and Seska rendezvous at a location chosen by the Nistrim. However, the negotiations break down almost instantly due to Culluh not taking Janeway at all seriously thanks to her sex, even going so far as to propose the laughable notion of asking Tuvok to keep Janeway under control.

Neelix seems to have even worse luck at first. He meets with his contact, Jal Tersa, at a night club on Sobras, but instead of helping Neelix, Tersa calls the cops on him, and Neelix is imprisoned.

However, he’s tossed into a cell with some Trabe, led by Mabus. Since being overthrown by the Kazon, the Trabe have become nomadic refugees, trying to find a new homeworld and continuing to be persecuted by the Kazon. Mabus admits that the Trabe brought it on themselves by building their empire on the backs of the Kazon they oppressed, but still, that was three decades ago.

Neelix arrived just in time to ride the coattails of a jailbreak, as Mabus breaks out with the help of a convoy of what appear to be Kazon ships, but which are actually Trabe ships—all of the Kazon’s technology is pilfered from the Trabe and whoever else they’ve pirated from in the years since.

At Neelix’s urging, the Trabe rendezvous with Voyager and propose an alliance. Janeway thinks it’s a good idea, since the Kazon will obviously never take Voyager seriously as an ally as long as Janeway is in charge. Tuvok points out, prophetically, that allying with the Kazon’s blood enemy could have the unintended consequence of uniting the sects against them.

Meanwhile, another crewmember, Michael Jonas, covertly contacts the Nistrim, offering cooperation and information about Voyager. This will probably be important later.

Janeway decides that the possibility for peace in this sector is worth it, and the Trabe’s help should allow them to continue away from Kazon space unmolested, while Voyager can help the Trabe find a new world somewhere else in the Delta Quadrant on their journey home.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Mabus also suggests a summit on Sobras among the Kazon majes to try to achieve peace. Seska has to convince Culluh to go along with it, and the other majes do as well—though Neelix warns that someone was seen sketching the meeting site, possibly casing it. Tersa—who sets up the meeting by way of apologizing to Neelix for getting him arrested—is also very nervous about the meeting. Neelix is concerned that one of the majes may take advantage of the opportunity to take out his competition in one shot.

The summit goes moderately smoothly at first, but then Mabus suddenly says he needs to speak to Janeway outside. Janeway balks at the notion, and then a Trabe ship shows up and starts firing on the summit. Janeway beams her people out and drives the Trabe ship off with photon torpedoes.

The majes leave, furious at Voyager for betraying them. Mabus is also furious, as they spoiled what was the best shot at peace. Neelix allows as how a massacre doesn’t really equate to peace, and Janeway says she doesn’t ally with executioners and kicks him off the ship.

Voyager continues toward the Alpha Quadrant. Tuvok plans more battle drills, and Neelix and Torres assure Janeway that they’re well stocked in food and supplies so that they don’t have to stop for a while, thankfully.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway stands by her principles, but is convinced by both Chakotay and Tuvok to give allying with the locals a try. This proves disastrous, and in the end she says she should’ve stood by her principles anyhow. 

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok mentions the controversial notion proposed by Spock in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country to ally with the Klingon Empire. Tuvok himself said he spoke out against the idea because of the Klingons’ history of brutal conquest—but the Federation-Klingon alliance has been a cornerstone of the Alpha Quadrant for the better part of a century.

(The punchline, of course, is that, unbeknownst to Tuvok, back home that alliance has fractured and the Klingons and Federation are at war again…)

Half and half. When Hogan bitches about Janeway to Torres, the chief engineer comes to the defense of her captain. At this point, Torres is completely on Team Janeway.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH and Kes are overworked like whoa in the opening, having to deal with a crapton of injured, though they only lose Bendera. Later, the two of them treat the Trabe prisoners, who are all suffering from malnutrition.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix apparently has a Kazon who owes him a favor, which for some reason he has never mentioned up until now. Given that he knows the Kazon better than anyone on board except maybe Kes, it’s a bit odd that he never once mentions the cultural bias against women that would keep the Kazon from taking the captain in any way seriously as an ally. 

Forever an ensign. Kim is appalled by the very notion of allying with the Kazon, and is shouted down by Janeway, who echoes the alternate Picard’s words from “Yesterday’s Enterprise“: “This is a briefing, I’m not seeking your consent.” Janeway offers to discuss it with Kim at a later time, which we never actually see.

Do it.

“It goes against everything I believe, everything I trained for, everything experience has taught me.”

“Quite right.”

“Do I hear a ‘however’ coming?”

“You are perceptive, Captain.”

–Janeway going to Tuvok for advice.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Seska is pregnant, but while she told Chakotay she was pregnant with his child in “Maneuvers,” she tells Culluh that she’s carrying his child here. The truth of the baby’s father will be revealed in the “Basics” two-parter straddling the second and third seasons.

Also the night club where Neelix meets Tersa looks exactly like a strip club in the United States would now, which is a depressing failure of imagination.

Welcome aboard. Whole mess of recurring characters in this one. Back from “Maneuvers” are Anthony De Longis as Culluh, Martha Hackett as Seska, and John Gegenhuber as Maje Surat. And debuting in this episode are two Voyager crew who will continue to appear through to the top of the third season, Raphael Sbarge as Jonas and Simon Billig as Hogan.

Larry Cedar plays Tersa; he was last seen with one of the few hairdos that’s even worse than the Kazon’s in DS9‘s “Armageddon Game,” and will return with less ridiculous hair in Enterprise‘s “Marauders” as Tessic. Charles O. Lucia plays Mabus; last seen as Alkar in “Man of the People” on TNG, he’ll also return on Enterprise, in “Fortunate Son.”

Trivial matters: “Death Wish” was produced between “Prototype” and this episode, but it was held back for February sweeps due to it bringing in both Q and Riker from TNG. Given that UPN was only a year-old network at that point, and wasn’t exactly lighting the world on fire with their overall ratings, they wanted to leverage any advantage.

The Trabe were first mentioned as the Kazon’s old oppressors in “Initiations.” This is their only onscreen appearance.

We’ll see Tuvok’s opposition to a Federation-Klingon alliance up close and personal in “Flashback” in the third season.

Tuvok’s affinity for growing orchids was first mentioned in “Tattoo.”

Voyager has now lost five crew from the 154 they started with in the Delta Quadrant: Durst, Seska, and Bendera, plus two more who are unnamed, but who were killed in off-camera encounters with the Kazon.

We never do find out what happened to Neelix’s shuttlecraft that he went to Sobras in…

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I won’t have a woman dictate terms to me!” This should’ve been a much stronger episode than it actually was. The potential was there, and parts of it are quite excellent, but both the pacing and the dialogue are uneven. There’s too much time talking about Starfleet ideals in the abstract without specifics, and it’s maddening, because it sounds so much like a vague abstraction, and it really isn’t.

There are very good reasons for not dealing with the Kazon as anything but antagonists, starting with the fact that they were introduced to Voyager’s crew as the people who kidnapped and tortured one of their own (Kes), and who since then have twice held their first officer prisoner. On top of that, there’s their cultural bias against women, which Seska has been forced to work around, and which undermines Janeway’s negotiating position from jump. It’s maddening that neither Neelix (the one with the most experience with the Kazon) nor Kes (who spent quite a long time as their prisoner) nor Chakotay (who observed this both times he was their prisoner) never mentioned this issue to Janeway at any point.

But just jumping into bed with the Trabe is also ridiculous, partly for reasons outlined by Tuvok. The Kazon hate the Trabe even more than they hate Voyager, and seeing their two most hated enemies together is just going to piss the Kazon off more, and that’s before Mabus’s incredibly predictable treachery on Sobras.

Having said all that, Tuvok’s best argument for an alliance is something that should’ve gotten more play: Voyager’s on their way out of the area. In fact, it’s been a year now, they should’ve left Kazon space way behind by this time. Truly, especially given the assertions at the end by Torres and Neelix that they don’t need to stop for resupply for a while, they should just book it at warp eight for a week and get the hell outta Dodge, thus solving all their problems with the locals.

Quite possibly the most embarrassing moments in the script are when the crew is talking about the Trabe. First Chakotay expresses surprise to Mabus that the Kazon still hold a grudge after thirty years. Then Chakotay says that the Trabe seem genuinely regretful about how they oppressed the Kazon. First of all, thirty years is nothing, and Chakotay should know that, given that he comes from a group of peoples who were hunted and persecuted to near-extinction for centuries, and secondly, that history of hunting and persecution included lots and lots of occasions where their conquerors insisted that they were sorry and would be nice to them now and then weren’t. Of all the people on that ship, Chakotay is the last one who should be jumping into an alliance with the Trabe and the first to understand why it’s a hilariously awful idea.

On top of that, someone in the casting department looked at Charles O. Lucia’s rhapsody in blandness in “Man of the People” and inexplicably thought it would be a good idea to use him again. He’s awful, and his spectacularly dull line readings sink the entire second half of the episode. It’s especially frustrating, because Lucia gets way more screen time than Martha Hackett, who has almost no presence in this episode beyond the one great scene where she convinces Culluh to go to the summit. Hackett’s Seska has been such a good antagonist, and her minimal use is a missed opportunity.

There are good ideas and good scenes here. Chakotay’s argument—that they need to be a bit more Maquis given that they’re alone without support—is a really good one, and one the show needed to be having more often. I liked the dissent in the ranks with Hogan and Jonas, and the start of the ongoing thread of Jonas’s betrayal, which will continue throughout the season. (This would’ve been an awesome time to bring back the characters from “Learning Curve.” Sigh.) And I really liked Tuvok’s scene with Janeway, using the events of The Undiscovered Country and the eight decades of peace between the Federation and the Klingons since then as a good touchstone for the best-case scenario of these attempts at an alliance.

Warp factor rating: 5

Keith R.A. DeCandido is excited to say that there’s less than a week to go in the crowdfund he’s involved in with David Sherman and regular rewatch commenter Christopher L. Bennett. We’ve got three science fiction novels, one of which is To Hell and Regroup, the third book in the “18th Race” trilogy of military science fiction novels, which Keith wrote with David Sherman. The other two are Bennett’s Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile. We’ve hit multiple stretch goals, and there are a ton of nifty bonuses. Please check it out!

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