Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Counterpoint”

“Counterpoint”
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Les Landau
Season 5, Episode 10
Production episode 204
Original air date: December 16, 1998
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. Voyager is flying through a large region of space controlled by the Devore. Their space is too massive to fly around in order to get home, so Janeway is going through, which means being subject to regular inspections. Telepathy is outlawed by the Devore, so they are searching for rogue telepaths.

Everyone steps away from their stations and stays visible while Inspector Kashyk and his team check over everything. The inspection teams all beam on board to various decks—Kashyk himself beams directly to Janeway’s ready room and summons her, having the computer play Mahler’s “First Symphony” throughout the ship to relax the crew.

Kashyk is friendly, if firm, expressing interest in certain aspects of Voyager’s cultural database. He also has studied the crew manifest and questions the two Betazoids and two Vulcans in that manifest. Janeway says that Tuvok, Vorik, and Jurot died in a shuttle crash, while Suder died fighting the Kazon.

Prax, Kashyk’s second, says Voyager made two course deviations. Janeway says they were to investigate ion storms, which Kashyk is willing to accept, though Prax says that such an offense usually gets the ship impounded and the crew relocated.

Once the Devore leave and are out of sensor range, Kim activates the transporter. Voyager has held twelve Brenari refugees (telepaths, all) as well as Tuvok, Vorik, and Jurot in transporter stasis to avoid being detected by the Devore.

Star Trek: Voyager "Counterpoint"

Screenshot: CBS

Voyager is taking the Brenari to meet up with people who will escort them through a wormhole out of Devore space. However, they’ve changed the rendezvous point to a nebula that is way off their stated course. They risk being hit with another inspection, and there’s a risk of cellular degradation if they put the Brenari and the three Voyager telepaths through transporter stasis again. But they have to risk it.

While Janeway is talking to Neelix, who has been keeping an eye on the Brenari children, sensors detect another Devore vessel—but it’s a one-person ship, containing Kashyk, now in civilian garb. He requests asylum aboard Voyager, and to prove his worth, he says that the rendezvous in the nebula is a trap. The Devore know all about the planned meetup, and the change in location was at the Devore’s urging to lure Voyager into a trap. The wormhole isn’t there—in fact, the Devore don’t know where it is.

The leader of the Brenari, Kir, is willing to take Kashyk with them through the wormhole—but now they have to find it. Kir turns them on to a scientist named Torat, who is the region’s leading expert on the wormhole.

They find Torat, but he’s very reluctant to talk to them. In fact, they have to beam him onto the bridge—effectively kidnapping him. In exchange for some material he can use that Voyager can easily replicate, Torat provides them with all the data he has on the wormhole. One thing he tells them is that the wormhole’s terminus moves. He knows its last three locations, and maybe they can extrapolate from there.

Star Trek: Voyager "Counterpoint"

Screenshot: CBS

Janeway and Kashyk work together to try to figure out where the wormhole will next appear. After hitting several brick walls, Janeway gets a notion from the music she’s got on in the background: Tchaikovsky’s “Symphony #4.” What if they find a subspace counterpoint, like the counterpoint in the musical piece? Checking subspace harmonics, they find a pattern, and predict that the next appearance of the wormhole will be in the Tehara system.

They have to get through a Devore scanning array first, and while they attempt to make it through undetected, an antimatter surge gives their position away before Torres can do anything about it. They warp away toward Tehara, but now they’re on the clock, as two Devore warships are closing in on them.

Kashyk volunteers to fly to the Devore ships and take over the impending inspection, promising to make it quick and painless. Janeway is willing to stay and fight, but Kashyk insists that Voyager would be toast against two warships. She acquiesces, and before he goes off in his ship, they share a passionate kiss.

The Devore ships arrive and they go through the same rigamarole as they did at the top of the episode, complete with Kashyk beaming into Janeway’s ready room and piping classical music over the ship’s PA. Once Janeway and Kashyk are alone, Janeway assures Kashyk that the Brenari are safe and also that they’ve pinpointed the exact location of the wormhole. They have to detonate a photon torpedo to open the aperture.

As soon as he hears that, Kashyk tells Prax that there are Brenari refugees in the cargo bay transporter buffer. Kashyk has betrayed them, and all of this was a long con to get the location of the wormhole and destroy it.

However, the coordinates Janeway gave Kashyk are false, the items in the transporter buffer are barrels of vegetables, and two shuttlecraft are missing. The Brenari went to the real coordinates of the wormhole in the two shuttles and escaped.

Prax wants to confiscate the ship, but Kashyk would rather not have this failure on their record, so he lets Voyager go. Janeway tells Kashyk that she never lied to him when he was on board previously, the asylum offer—and the offer to take him with them on their journey—was genuine.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Just keeping someone in the transporter buffer was established in TNG’s “Relics” as dangerous.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway takes on the task of trying to figure out the location of the wormhole herself, along with Kashyk, having apparently forgotten that there’s an entire science and engineering staff on board.

Half and half. Torres tries to keep Voyager emissions-quiet when they’re being scanned by the Devore en route to the wormhole, but a surge is beyond her ability to fix in time. Once again, Torres seems to be the only Trek engineer with a plurality of failures on her resumé.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix tries to tell stories to the Brenari children, but they know what’s coming in every story by reading his mind, which the Talaxian finds rude.

Star Trek: Voyager "Counterpoint"

Screenshot: CBS

Resistance is futile. At one point, Prax asks Seven if the Borg implants that allow her to communicate with the Collective make her a telepath. She assures him that it doesn’t.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Janeway and Kashyk have obvious chemistry from the nanosecond we see them together, and that only strengthens as they work together. The kiss when Kashyk leaves to return to the Devore ship feels genuine—but so does both Kashyk’s betrayal and Janeway’s anticipation of same.

Do it.

“I was planning on asking you to stay with us once we got through the wormhole. I wouldn’t mind having someone around who appreciates a bit of Tchaikovsky now and then.”

“Generous—but something tells me I wouldn’t fit in any better on Voyager.”

“Well, you wouldn’t be the first wayward soul we’ve folded into our ranks…”

Janeway making Kashyk an offer, Kashyk refusing, and Janeway reminding him of Neelix, Kes, Seven, Paris, and Chakotay, Torres, and the rest of the Maquis crew.

Star Trek: Voyager "Counterpoint"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Mark Harelik manages an impressive balance of smarm and charm as Kashyk, while Trek veterans J. Patrick McCormack and Randy Oglesby play, respectively, Prax and Kir. McCormack was last seen as an admiral in DS9’s “Dr. Bashir, I Presume?” and will return as a Romulan in Nemesis. Oglesby played one of Riva’s chorus in TNG’s “Loud as a Whisper,” Miradorn twins in DS9’s “Vortex,” and a Cardassian lunatic in DS9’s “The Darkness and the Light”; he’ll play a Xyrillian in Enterprise’s “Unexpected,” and have the recurring role of Degra in Enterprise’s third season.

Alexander Enberg gets guest-star billing and presumably a full paycheck for standing next to Tim Russ for three seconds. (He doesn’t even appear in any of the engineering scenes.) Randy Lowell plays Torat and Jake Sakson plays Adar.

Trivial matters: This episode makes it appear as if there are only two Vulcans on board, Tuvok and Vorik, plus one Betazoid, Jurot. The crew manifest Kashyk reads also lists Suder, whom Janeway correctly identifies as having died fighting the Kazon (in “Basics, Part II”). However, in “Flashback,” Tuvok mentioned the other Vulcans, plural, on board, and Janeway will similarly refer to other Vulcans on board besides Tuvok in “Endgame.” In addition, there’s no mention in Kashyk’s crew manifest of Stadi (a Betazoid) or the ship’s nurse (a Vulcan), who both died in “Caretaker.”

While Jurot is only seen from behind when she’s rematerialized in the cargo bay, the character later appears in the videogames Elite Force and Elite Force II.

This is the only appearance of the Devore onscreen, but the Devore in general and Kashyk and Prax in particular are seen again in the post-finale Voyager novels Protectors, Acts of Contrition, and Atonement by Kirsten Beyer.

Michael Taylor’s script was based on a pitch by Gregory L. Norris and Laura Van Vleet, which focused more on Seven and had Voyager hiding refugees in their landing struts.

Kate Mulgrew listed this as her favorite episode for the Star Trek Fan Collective: Captain’s Log video set.

Voyager loses two more shuttles in this episode, though in this case it was done with malice aforethought, as it were, as the shuttles were given to the Brenari so they could escape through the wormhole. Voyager has now lost nine shuttles.

Neelix tells the Brenari children a Flotter and Trevis story, the characters introduced in “Once Upon a Time.”

Star Trek: Voyager "Counterpoint"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “We’ve been through three inspections, please explain why another is necessary.” This is a very well executed episode, with a clever plot that unfolds skillfully and delightfully. I like that we jump right into the middle of the story, with Voyager having already gone through the tedium of a Devore inspection.

Michael Taylor’s script reveals new layers slowly like a flower blooming. First we have the surprise that it isn’t just Tuvok and Vorik and some other crewmember being hidden in transporter stasis: there are also a dozen telepathic refugees.

This is, honestly, my favorite part of the episode. Of all the Trek shows, Voyager is the one that most often loses track of the fact that our heroes are supposed to be, well, heroes. They sometimes (only sometimes, mind you) are so focused on their journey home that they forget that their first duty should be compassion and helping those that need it. There’s a reason why so many Trek stories start with a response to a distress call.

But it continues from there. Kashyk starts out as the oily, charming bad guy. Mark Harelick plays him perfectly, not so slimy that you don’t buy his asylum request, but not so charming that you entirely buy that he isn’t going to betray everyone. As, indeed, he does.

Kashyk’s asylum request is the next layer that’s revealed, and it’s tremendous fun watching his relationship with Janeway—well, not change, exactly, because the caustic wit and mock-friendliness never really goes anywhere, but it also softens as the episode goes on. Particularly when they’re trying to figure out where the wormhole is, as that’s Janeway’s favorite mode. She was a Starfleet science officer before she was a captain, and Starfleet science officers are at their best when they’ve got a problem to solve.

And then the betrayal. The way it’s played, you’re not entirely sure whether or not Kashyk’s defection was legit or not—at least not until he actually does betray.

Yet the hints are there. For one thing, Janeway never refers to him as anything other than “Inspector.”

Unfortunately, where the episode falls down is at the end. There is no reason, none, why Kashyk shouldn’t confiscate Voyager and take the crew prisoner. Never mind the Brenari, Kashyk now knows that Tuvok and Vorik and Jurot aren’t dead. Voyager is harboring telepaths, Kashyk knows it, and being able to bring the three of them in would more than make up for the loss of the Brenari, I would think.

Instead, we get an incredibly lame, “We don’t want this on our record” excuse that I didn’t buy for a nanosecond. Hell, Kashyk could’ve just beamed over to his ship and opened fire on Voyager and destroyed it in an instant, and then he could easily cover up his screwup, saying he had no choice but to fire on Voyager and killed the Brenari refugees, as well.

But no, our heroes have plot armor, so Kashyk just completely unconvincingly lets them go. It’s too bad, because the episode up until that was so satisfying, but the ending just isn’t plausible on any level. The Devore have proven to be ruthless, and this wimping out at the end is a hundred percent out of character, and is the worst kind of writing manipulation, one that is unworthy of the story that preceded it.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido has two pieces coming out in March. One is a short story featuring H. Rider Haggard’s Ayesha (from the novel She) in the charity anthology Turning the Tied, edited by Jean Rabe & Robert Greenberger, to be published by the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers to benefit the World Literacy Organization. The other is an essay for BIFF! BAM! EEE-YOW!: The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66—Season Two, edited by Jim Beard, with Rich Handley, about “Hizzoner the Penguin”/”Dizzoner the Penguin,” to be published by Crazy 8 Press.

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