Written by Michael Taylor and Joe Menosky
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 5, Episode 19
Production episode 208
Original air date: March 24, 1999
Captain’s log. We open with Chakotay screaming in anguish in sickbay, begging for something for the pain. The EMH refuses, as he needs to let the aliens rewrite his neural pathways so they can communicate with him and help them get out of chaotic space.
Eventually we flash back to a few days earlier. Chakotay is on the holodeck, in a boxing ring. Boothby is his corner man, just as he was when Chakotay boxed as a cadet. He’s in the ring against a Terrellian. Chakotay sees an odd disturbance behind the Terrellian which distracts him long enough for the alien to deliver a knockout punch.
Chakotay wakes up in sickbay to the EMH treating him for a mild concussion and lecturing him snidely about how stupid boxing is. Chakotay mentions the odd disturbance, which the doctor chalks up to the typical hallucinations one gets after being cold-cocked, but Chakotay insists it was before he was hit. Further examination shows that the ganglia in his visual cortex are highly active, which wouldn’t happen from a punch. (The EMH asks if his boxing opponent used a directed energy weapon, but Chakotay allows as how they stuck with boxing gloves…)
The first officer is called to the bridge, but the EMH wants to run further tests. On arriving at the bridge (after taking the time to change into his uniform), Janeway informs Chakotay that there’s a spatial phenomenon that’s interfering with sensors. It’s also moving constantly, and they can’t seem to maneuver around it.
Then the distortion envelopes Voyager, covering it in distortion similar to what Chakotay saw on the holodeck. In astrometrics, Seven informs Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok that the Borg have encountered this before: it’s called “chaotic space.” It’s full of gravimetric distortions, subspace sinkholes, and other craziness. Voyager is now trapped in it, and Seven doesn’t know how to get out of it.
Chakotay starts to hallucinate events from the holodeck session, both aurally and visually, both in his quarters and on the bridge. At one point on the bridge, he starts actually boxing, and Tuvok is forced to take him down with a neck pinch.
The EMH explains that Chakotay has a genetic marker for sensory tremens. It’s genetic and inherited—Chakotay’s grandfather suffered from it—but it was suppressed in Chakotay up until now. Something in chaotic space has activated the gene.
Kim has reconfigured sensors so that they finally work, and they’re able to move forward. They come across another ship, which has a hull breach, and no life signs. They download the ship’s log. The vessel was stuck in chaotic space for a year before the hull breached, killing everyone. Also the captain and one of the engineers suffered from hallucinations similar to those suffered by Chakotay.
The EMH beams the captain over for autopsy, and learns that the captain’s DNA was also altered in such a way as to make him susceptible to hallucinations. Chakotay wants to go on a vision quest, which Janeway approves over the EMH’s objections.
He finds himself in a forest, and sees his grandfather, and immediately falls into what sounds like a very old, very constant argument over whether or not he took his meds. Then he goes into a cave, which oddly leads to a boxing ring, where he makes brief contact with some aliens.
Chakotay comes out of the vision quest knowing that Voyager can escape chaotic space by altering the warp field to a rentrillic trajectory. Unfortunately, nobody has the first clue what a rentrillic trajectory actually is. Chakotay is afraid to commune further with the aliens for fear of losing his mind the way his grandfather did.
Janeway convinces him to start up the vision quest again. He bounces from the boxing ring—where he’s to fight “Kid Chaos,” a boxer with blackness and stars for a face. Tuvok is also there with a security detail, but Chakotay calls them off. Paris tries to stop the fight, as does the EMH. Neelix becomes his trainer, and then he tries to avoid the fight, bouncing from the ring to engineering to the bridge and back to the cave, where he sits with his grandfather. Then he’s back in the ring, where the EMH histrionically tries to call the match for medical reasons.
Chakotay comes out of the vision quest, and he accuses the EMH of stopping the fight. The EMH is forced to sedate him. Chakotay is in an altered state of reality, mixing up the real world with his boxing hallucination. Sensors have found a frequency in chaotic space that can rewrite DNA, and this is what happened both with the other ship and with Chakotay. To the EMH’s chagrin, Janeway sends Chakotay back into the ring, so to speak, to continue the contact, which puts us back where we were in the teaser.
After giving himself over to talking to the aliens by entering the boxing ring with them, he’s able to make contact. He goes to the bridge, still half-in and half-out of reality, and reprograms the sensors to run through the deflector dish, which enables them to find a course out of chaotic space.
Then he collapses.
Janeway gives him a couple of days off, and Chakotay decides to spend some time in the holodeck boxing ring, blowing off some steam…
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Chaotic space is apparently a place where the laws of physics don’t apply and are constantly changing. Someone should tell Scotty…
There’s coffee in that nebula! Twice Janeway overrides the EMH’s medical concerns about Chakotay because without his contacting the aliens, the ship is well and truly borked.
Mr. Vulcan. After being forced to subdue Chakotay on the bridge when he starts acting like he’s in a boxing ring, Tuvok comments to Janeway that the first officer has a mean left jab. Chakotay’s rejoinder is, “Never spar with a Vulcan.”
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. We don’t see the real Neelix at all in this episode, only an illusory version in Chaktoay’s vision quest where he’s the first officer’s boxing trainer, which makes about as much sense as Boothby being his corner man.
Resistance is futile. Seven is able to identify what chaotic space is, though it’s not much help, since only one Borg Cube has actually escaped chaotic space in one piece.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is snidely dismissive of boxing as a sport, and goes from wanting to protect Chakotay from the harmful visions to encouraging him to partake of the harmful visions to save the ship.
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Based on Chakotay’s holodeck program, boxing gyms in the 24th century look exactly like boxing gyms did in 1923…
“A hard shot to the head and neck collapses the carotid artery and cuts the flow of blood to the brain. The hook: the head and neck twist laterally, traumatizing the cerebral tissue. And who can forget the upper cut? The head snaps back, rupturing tissue in the cerebellum and upper spinal cord. Yes! And the result of all this poetry in motion? Neurologic dysfunction, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, loss of balance and coordination, loss of memory—starting to sound familiar?”
–Chakotay’s hallucination of the EMH in his vision quest outlining the various bits of cranial trauma available to a career boxer.
Welcome aboard. Ray Walston returns as the image of Boothby on the holodeck, in Chakotay’s vision quest, and in his hallucinations, having previously played the real Boothby in TNG’s “The First Duty” and an 8472 pretending to be Boothby in “In the Flesh.”
Ned Romero, who previously played a different Indigenous character in TNG’s “Journey’s End” and a Klingon in the original series’ “A Private Little War,” plays Chakotay’s never-named grandfather.
Carlos Palomino, a professional boxer, served as Robert Beltran’s boxing trainer for the episode, and also played Chakotay’s holographic Terrellian sparring partner.
Trivial matters: The Terrellians were created for TNG’s “All Good Things…” but the scenes with them were cut. The species was mentioned in DS9’s “Life Support,” and finally seen in this episode. They’ll be mentioned again in Enterprise’s “Future Tense.”
The idea of giving Chakotay a spotlight involving boxing was first proposed during a dinner among Robert Beltran, Kenneth Biller, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky. That notion was joined with a story by Michael Taylor—the first one he submitted after joining the staff, which was initially rejected by Rick Berman.
Chakotay’s love of boxing will be seen again in “Tsunkatse.”
Set a course for home. “It’s the fight you’ve been waiting for!” Yes, it’s The Inevitable Boxing Episode that every third TV show seemingly has to do. Science fiction shows aren’t immune from it, either, viz. Babylon 5’s “TKO,” Batman’s “Ring Around the Riddler,” Battlestar Galactica’s “Unfinished Business,” Buck Rogers in the 25th Century’s “Olympiad,” Future Cop’s “Fighting O’Haven,” Quantum Leap’s “The Right Hand of God,” etc.
Chakotay being a devotee of boxing is kind of out of left field, but there’s nothing in the character’s history that contradicts it. We’ve seen so little of the first officer’s leisure time, and when they have bothered to give him any, it usually involves vision quests or some other attempt at Indigenous culture provided by the show’s fake Indian advisor. And of course, we get a vision quest here, too, but at least in this one it makes sense with the plot.
The general story here is perfectly serviceable. “Chaotic space” is yet another bit of nonsense that sounds cool but isn’t based on any actual astronomical phenomenon, which by this point in Trek’s evolution had become depressingly commonplace. But the general storyline of two very disparate life forms trying to communicate with each other, and of the problem of the week being solved by talking, is very good to see, and nicely played out. Yes, we’ve seen this sort of thing before—the original series’ “Devil in the Dark,” TNG’s “Darmok” and “Night Terrors,” DS9’s “Emissary,” etc.—but it’s still a solid premise.
But man, did they not have enough story for an hour. While some of the repetition is to be expected given the nature of what Chakotay is experiencing, it grows very tiresome very quickly. (If I had to hear Majel Barrett’s computer voice say, “Begin round one” one more time, I was going to throw my shoe at the TV.)
And holy crap, what a total waste and misuse of Ray Walston! The role Boothby plays here is completely absurd, as there’s nothing in any of the stories we’ve been told of the character going all the way back to TNG’s “Final Mission” that indicates that the Academy groundskeeper moonlit as a boxing coach. That wouldn’t be so bad except he’s barely even used. What’s the point of bringing Walston back if he’s only going to have a few lines, all of which are right out of the Boxing Cliché Handbook? There’s virtually none of the character’s trademark sass.
At least some of the actors get to have fun. As usual, when actually given material to work with, Robert Beltran proves up to the task, as his agony and confusion and frustration are all palpable as madness takes its toll. Ned Romero is his usual dignified self, and both Ethan Phillips and especially Robert Picardo have a grand old time as the hallucinatory versions of their characters. Picardo is especially delightful, doing his best impersonation of Burgess Meredith in the Rocky movies as he tries to convince Chakotay not to fight.
For The Inevitable Boxing Episode, it’s not bad, though I can’t bring myself to go out of my way to call it good, either, especially given how it wastes Walston.
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido is also writing about Falcon & The Winter Soldier for this site. Check out his brief history of the two characters in the comics, and look out for his review of episode one tomorrow.