Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Dragon’s Teeth”

“Dragon’s Teeth”
Written by Michael Taylor and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 6, Episode 7
Production episode 225
Original air date: November 10, 1999
Stardate: 53167.9

Captain’s log. On the Vaadwaur homeworld, orbital bombardment is destroying their capital city. In an underground cavern, Gedrin and his wife Jisa have put hundreds of their fellow Vaadwaur into stasis pods, though some pods have failed. Their plan is to wake up in five years and rebuild their civilization.

Nine hundred years later, Voyager finds itself accidentally sucked into a subspace corridor, where they’re dodging debris. Paris tries to find a way out when they’re hailed by another ship in the corridor. A member of the Turei claims ownership of the “under-space” they’re in, and views Voyager as invaders. Janeway insists they’re there by accident, and the Turei hit them with a shield modulation that kicks them out of the corridor (they’re also two hundred light-years ahead of where they were five minutes ago when they entered the corridor). However, the Turei insist on boarding Voyager and wiping all records of the corridor from their computer. Janeway refuses, and a fight breaks out.

Seven finds a planet they can hide in: the Vaadwaur homeworld, which is lifeless and awash in radiogenic particles. Voyager goes into the atmosphere and lands, their shields able to protect them from the radiation. They gambled that the Turei shields wouldn’t be able to handle it, and won.

After landing, Kim picks up faint life signs. Janeway, Tuvok, and Seven beam to the caverns where they find the stasis pods, which obviously didn’t wake them up five years later as planned. Seven revives Gedrin without consulting Janeway first. Gedrin passes out after seeing that Jisa didn’t survive in stasis.

He wakes up in sickbay, knowing that nine centuries have passed, and shocked to learn that the Turei now control the subspace corridors. The Vaadwaur used to control them, and explore the galaxy as merchants. Gedrin even recognizes Neelix as a Talaxian—using an ancient term for the people—as the subspace corridors extended as far as Talaxian space.

Star Trek: Voyager "Dragon Teeth"

Screenshot: CBS

The Turei have proven unwilling to allow Voyager passage through the corridors to get home faster. They’re also bombarding the ship from orbit. However, the Vaadwaur know the corridors very well, and are willing to give Voyager information on how to navigate them in exchange for getting the remnants of their civilization to a new homeworld. As a make-good, Gedrin gives Voyager access to a defense satellite, which Voyager can use to get sensor readings on the Turei ships in orbit and target them with phasers. This drives them off for a time, but they’re likely to come back.

With help from Voyager’s crew, they revive the Vaadwaur from the stasis pods, and Gedrin also shows them their battleships, which Chakotay refers to as dragon’s teeth from Greek myth: when a dragon was killed in battle, its teeth were spread on the battlefield, and new warriors sprung up to continue the fighting.

Neelix is disturbed by Naomi’s reactions to the Vaadwaur children, who are incredibly mean-spirited, especially toward Neelix, as they view Talaxians as inferior and idiotic. Neelix reassures Naomi, then digs into the Talaxian database and finds references to the Vaadwaur in some ancient fairy tales, all of which paint a picture of conquerors and imperialists.

After being refused photon torpedoes, Gaul and Gedrin meet with some other Vaadwaur and express a desire to take Voyager for themselves, as they stand a much better chance of rebuilding with the starship than with a bunch of nine-hundred-year-old battleships.

Star Trek: Voyager "Dragon Teeth"

Screenshot: CBS

Janeway confronts Gedrin about what Neelix—with Seven’s research help—has turned up about the Vaadwaur. Gedrin admits that, yes, they were also conquerors. After consulting with Chakotay, Janeway changes the plan so that fewer Vaadwaur ships are involved in the attack on the Turei. Gaul isn’t thrilled, and he has the Vaadwaur ships fire on Voyager. Gedrin, however, is not as trapped in the past as Gaul, and is willing to help Janeway by regaining control of the satellite, which will enable Voyager to target the Vaadwaur ships.

After convincing the Turei to take on the Vaadwaur, Janeway has Kim suck radiogenic particles into the nacelles to power the ship, since they’ve lost power from the Vaadwaur attacks. It works, and they blast off into orbit and space, leaving the Turei and the Vaadwaur to fight it out.

Seven apologizes to Janeway, and Janeway rebukes her, but admits she probably would have done the same in Seven’s position.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, if you absorb radioactive particles into the nacelles you can power the ship. Nifty.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is willing to trust the Vaadwaur up to a point, but proves willing to shift gears when it becomes clear that they’re assholes.

Half and half. Torres helps Morin revive more Vaadwaur, and they talk about Klingons, which Morin has read up on in Voyager’s database. He particularly likes the phrase about how it’s a good day to die, as Vaadwaur children are taught to go to sleep imagining how many different ways they can die.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix only knows “vaadwaur” as a word meaning “foolish” in the ancient version of Talaxian. However, hearing what jerks the Vaadwaur were toward himself and Naomi makes him dig a little deeper, and he uncovers their mendacity.

Resistance is futile. Seven is eager to rebuild a civilization for a change, having spent her time as a Borg drone destroying civilizations.

Star Trek: Voyager "Dragon Teeth"

Screenshot: CBS

Do it.

“We don’t know anything about this species. They could be hostile.”

“Most humanoid cultures are.”

–Tuvok being cautious, followed by Seven with the burn.

Welcome aboard. I started doing Trek rewatches exactly ten years ago yesterday, with the Star Trek: The Next Generation Rewatch debuting on the 9th of May 2011. A month later, when I did the rewatch of “Haven,” I noted with surprise that the character of Wyatt Miller was played by Robert Knepper, an actor I knew well from his later roles in things like Carnivale and Prison Break, and had never realized that he was on TNG back in the day with a mullet.

As the rewatch went on, I found this happening with other actors (Brenda Strong in “When the Bough Breaks,” Anne Ramsay in “Elementary, Dear Data,” Teri Hatcher in “The Outrageous Okona,” etc.), and the “Robert Knepper moment” became a thing in my rewatches on this site.

And now we’ve come full circle, because here we are a decade later, and we have a Robert Knepper moment with the actual Robert Knepper! After spending ten years using my shock at his appearance in “Haven” as the basis of a running gag about being surprised by actors showing up, he surprises me again by showing up here! Knepper plays Gaul.

Jeff Allin plays Gedrin, having previously played Sutter in TNG’s “Imaginary Friend.” Ron Fassler plays Morin, Mimi Craven plays Jisa, and Bob Stillman plays the Turei. Also Scarlett Pomers shows up as Naomi Wildman.

Trivial matters: This episode was originally planned as a two-parter, but then was reduced to a single hour.

One of the worlds Gedrin suggests going to is shot down by Seven, as it’s now controlled by the Devore, whose space Voyager traversed in “Counterpoint.”

Janeway tells Chakotay that she wishes they had a Betazoid on board to read the Vaadwaur’s minds. Of course, “Counterpoint” established that there was a Betazoid on board, Ensign Jurot. Maybe she was one of the ones killed in “Equinox, Part II.”

The Vaadwaur will also appear briefly in “The Void,” play a major antagonistic role in the game Star Trek Online, and appear in the post-finale Voyager novels Protectors and Acts of Contrition by Kirsten Beyer.

Star Trek: Voyager "Dragon Teeth"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I wanted to help revive a civilization, not start a war.” This is a solid little first-contact story, one that creates an interesting alien species, and which shows the pitfalls of jumping in to trust and help someone without knowing much about them.

As a matter of fact, this episode is a great example of why the Prime Directive is a good thing—without ever actually mentioning the PD—because Voyager’s interference wound up doing serious damage to both the Vaadwaur and the Turei, as they revived their nine-century-old war at the end.

And yet, you can’t really fault Seven for reviving Gedrin—as Janeway herself says, she would’ve probably done the same if she was the junior officer on an away team and saw the stasis pods. It was the compassionate thing to do, especially given that the pods were meant to have reactivated after a few years rather than a few centuries.

I particularly like that we get hints right away that the Vaadwaur aren’t just victims here. Gedrin at one point speaks poorly of his dead wife because she was scared before going into the pod, which strikes Janeway as being appallingly cruel. Then we have them upsetting the usually quite cheerful Naomi, which is a nice way to show the nasty underbelly.

Well, that, and casting Robert Knepper as one of their leaders. Knepper so rarely plays a nice person that it’s not really much of a shock when he proposes that they take over Voyager rather than work with them.

(Speaking of Naomi, this episode oddly acts as if Samantha Wildman doesn’t exist. Neelix is tucking her into bed and saying he doesn’t have time to read her a bedtime story with no mention of Naomi’s mother at all. Of course, it’s perfectly possible that Wildman’s duty shifts overlap Naomi’s bedtime, but it’s still odd.)

I really like that one Vaadwaur praises the Klingon phrase “it is a good day to die,” which was co-opted by the writers from Crazy Horse, while another uses a metaphor that’s right out of Hagakure, a warrior’s guide for samurai (Gedrin’s line about walking with dignity through the rain instead of dashing from door to door). And then there’s Chakotay’s titular citing of Greek myth in relation to the Vaadwaur ships.

The episode is also one of Voyager’s most visually impressive. The opening shots of the Vaadwaur city being bombarded are striking as hell, the turbulent atmosphere of the Vaadwaur planet is beautifully rendered, and Voyager’s landing, and especially their flying through the atmosphere being fired upon by the Vaadwaur are among the most fantastic special effects renderings on the show.

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido’s latest book is All-the-Way House, which is part of the Systema Paradoxa series of novellas about cryptids. His tale, which spans three centuries, is about the origin of the legendary Jersey Devil, and is available to order.

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