Voyager, Season 1
Airdate: March 20, 1995
9 of 168 produced
9 of 168 aired
Voyager is contacted by the Sikarans, a famously hospitable race who desires nothing more than to give Voyager's crew a much needed respite. Things become more complicated, though, when the crew discovers a spatial folding technology that could send them halfway home in the blink of an eye.
You know you've been out at sea for too long when this guy starts looking attractive.
Matthew: The story of rating this episode, in my opinion, is trying not to let one miscast character override the episode's actual merits and flaws. We'll get to that character in the Acting section below. For the most part, I think this is a pretty solid episode. Although it starts with a basic "amazing shore leave planet offers ultimate pleasure... what's the catch" setup, it evolves into a pretty interesting story of two factions in the crew opposing each other with respect to the best course of action. I thought the tension ramped up pretty well, I liked the scenes on Alastria with Harry and Eudana, and the conclusion, in which Janeway dresses down Tuvok and Torres, was effective.
Kevin: I agree that the idea is a good one. Of the shore leave planet twists, this is a pretty good one. I think the story did develop well, even if you did know some big reveal was coming. I will say that the teaser was not the most scintillating in the show's run. I found the "joke" of the inverted use of a distress call to be pretty lame. Given that no other species in the quadrant or anywhere has used it that way, it would seem obviously confusing, and since they knew who Voyager was, why not just hail them by name?
Matthew: The prime directive in reverse angle was pretty good, with the caveat that it should have been more strongly developed. The Sikarans seem effusive to a fault in sharing anything and everything, except for the one MacGuffin that drives the plot. The idea should have been expanded, maybe with one more item they refused to share, or a deeper explanation of the rule's history. As it is, it seems a little arbitrary. Overall, though, it's still an interesting hook for the tale. I didn't think the way it played out felt cheap, either, a la Gilligan's Island. Had there not been the character story, it may have. But since the misadventure prompted some good character conflict and development, it was forgivable to me. I felt that the pleasure-seeking orientation of the Sikarans was a bit muddy, too. Apparently, the Sikarans were under consideration as a recurring villain. The problem, I think, is that they only seem like insensitive dicks, not like villains.
Kevin: I think what I liked the most about the prime directive angle was that it puts the Federation on the losing side, and I like that Janeway describes it the way she does, as "on the other side of the fence." Also, despite it being an interstellar transporter, this doesn't break the universe. It affects the Sikarans in a meaningful way. Since they have the ability to travel great distances at ease, they (1) do it regularly, and (2) they apparently don't have a fleet of starships with a mandate to explore the universe. You gotta question if they have almost Iconian-like travel abilities, they don't go out and conquer, but the people are sybaritic enough to make it plausible that they don't. I would have liked the tone of the Sikarans to be a little brighter, like overeager children with new toys. It would make their attention spans make sense. Maybe they could have even been a stagnant society, like the Aldeans, benefiting from an ancient technology without understanding how it works. That could have solved the selective sharing problem as well, if they had a religious-like reverence for the technology that barred exploring how it worked.
Matthew: Torres' character arc makes a good amount of sense. She is responding to the pressures of two worlds, ends up falling into the temptation to act without orders, but then regrets it after seeing the trust she betrayed. But does Tuvok's motivation make sense? Saying that someone had to spare Janeway the ethical dilemma is all well and good for nearly any other character - but wouldn't Tuvok feel hamstrung by the same dilemma? Either way, Janeway's sense of betrayal was really nice story-wise. I think perhaps she should have demoted both characters for a season or so, but I guess they felt it was too soon to change things on the viewers.
Kevin: I really liked the whole wrap-up in her ready room. As for Torres, it's only nine episodes in, and we have meaningful growth. I think it helps that Carey was in on it too. It really is more interesting if Starfleet crew disagree with the way Janeway is captaining. As for Tuvok, I did really, really love it when Janeway describes their friendship. It felt like a conscious call back to Kirk and Spock, though even the movie versions of the characters would never be this open about their bond. I like when Janeway says that Tuvok is who she goes to with moral questions and the she "depends on it." It another in a nice string of scenes showing that Janeway is a more emotionally attuned Captain that her Trek predecessors, but not in a way that diminishes her abilities or authority. I do agree that Tuvok deciding to violate the Prime Directive seems a little neat, but maybe they could have cleared that up in with more dialogue. "Logic" as way of living doesn't tell you what is right and wrong, it only tells you with no evasion if your actions comply with your morals. Maybe Tuvok could explicitly state he considered the safety of the crew more valuable than the Prime Directive in this case since the theft would not destroy Sikaran society where allowing the Kazon access to the Caretaker array would. It's a fine line, but not one without an internally consistent morality.
Matthew: Ronald Guttman is not a terrible actor as far as I can tell. I thought he did his job, delivered his lines, and generally wasn't bad. He was just so mismatched with the rest of the planetary guest cast due to his look and accent that it was extremely jarring, and almost derailed the episode. Yvonne Suhor was good as Eudana, seeming very much to possess the hedonism that her race was supposed to embody. Her innocence was the fault of the writing, and may have contributed to the Sikarans not becoming a villain. But she played the role well. Andrew Hill Newman was good as Jaret Otel, the minor functionary with nefarious ambitions. He had just the sort of squirrely demeanor the part called for.
Kevin: I remember thinking the whole time, "Why is he French?" He came off as too slick. Where Eudana was just enthusiastic, he seemed to be obviously a jerk from the start, and we were just waiting for Janeway to catch up. And Mulgrew acted the hell out of it, but I just didn't buy the chemistry they were trying to imply. It would have worked with a more grounded individual. From what we've seen of her taste in men, she went for a pretty down-to-earth, easy going guy with Mark, so it seems odd she found this guy compelling enough to forget the time.
Matthew: I think Tim Russ was rightfully ambivalent about his part in the episode, but you couldn't tell from the performance. The ensemble as a whole did a fine job here, especially Martha Hackett, Roxann Biggs-Dawson, and Garrett Wang. But Kate Mulgrew again gets the gold star for acting this episode. Her hurt and anger at the end of the show was palpable and really well done.
Kevin: I did like Tim Russ in this episode a lot. He certainly sold his characters position. I loved loved loved Dawson in all her scenes. Her self-appraisal and confession to Janeway were just gangbusters. I always love Martha Hackett. I found Garrett Wang pretty flat again. I bought his attraction to Eudana, but his technobabble about the musical instrument and the "euphoria acting" were not there for me.
Matthew: I liked the overall look of the planet, but it was missing a matte shot to tie it all together, which lent a sense of smallness to the proceedings. The headdress things were interesting looking, and I'm happy they were on both sexes.
Kevin: Like the Beneans in Ex Post Facto, the costumers seem to favor complicated headdresses to give cohesion to new species, and I have to say that so far, it works. I agree, we got a pretty small sense of the planet, it looked like on large mall. I like Janeway's civilian clothing and hair a lot. It read a bit close to the mid-90s professional woman that Mulgrew actually was at the time, but it's a flattering look for her, so I don't mind.
Matthew: There are two conspicuous prop re-uses in this show. Harry is wearing Picard's pleated shirt from several episodes of TNG, and the trajector was the electromagnet from TNG "The Dauphin." The Okudarams at the end were reasonably well done, and conveyed the important aspects of the action. I was a bit disappointed that they had two ready-made holes to stick the trajector device into, as if it were a galactic standard or something. More jury-rigging would have been appreciated.
Kevin: Maybe the Preservers spread USB cables along with humanoid DNA. I caught the shirt, but did not catch the magnet from Dauphin, so you get the points this round. This really is my favorite game here. I like the Okudagrams as well.
Matthew: Overall, this is pretty average. Some interesting character moments are explored, and there is a reasonably good ironic hook to the story. But it doesn't leap to mind as a "best" or the series or the franchise. I think it's right in the middle of the curve, maybe slightly to the bad side, for a 3.
Kevin: Dawson, Russ, and Mulgrew's last scene along keep a 2 flatly off the table, and we will not let one anomalous Frenchman derail an otherwise interesting idea. I think this is in the fat part of the bell curve, so I agree with the 3 for a total of 6.