Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Initiations


Voyager, Season 2
Airdate: September 4, 1995
20 of 168 produced
17 of 168 released


While away on a shuttle performing a religious rite, Chakotay is attacked by a young Kazon seeking to earn a reputation with his people. Chakotay defeats him, and saves his life in the process. Surprisingly, his young captive is not grateful, but outraged. By neither winning nor dying in the fight, he will be an outcast among his people.

Chakotay drives a juvenile delinquent home.


Kevin: I suppose this was an attempt to flesh out the Kazon and give them some depth. Sadly, I don't think the episode succeeds. The first problem is that we have the increasingly absurd trope of "lone officer is shuttle outside of communication range." He can't be alone in his quarters? Or on a planet Voyager is in orbit of? At the end of the episode, he seems to be finishing the ritual in his quarters. And how many of a limited supply of shuttles full of verboten Federation technology are we going to send into the void? Also, like two or three times, Chakotay makes seemingly stupid decisions regarding the Kazon. This is not a group with whom you have ambivalent or merely strained relations. The minute the first attack was over, he should have made a bee line for Voyager. Continuously leaning on the "just passing through" thing with the other Kazon didn't read as faith in Federation ideology, it read as naive.

Matthew: I agree on the silliness of Chakotay engaging in his vision quest in a shuttle. It was an artificial setup and they even contradicted it by the end, as he continues the quest in his quarters
in the final scene. I also agree that the Kazon's hostility level seemed a bit opaque. It was very weird to me how violent they were towards Chakotay initially, but then were so cordial to Janeway and her landing party near the end.

Kevin: As far as the substance of the look we get at Kazon culture, it's not bad, but it's not terribly engaging. Maybe if this episode had come earlier in the first season, before I was kind of set against the Kazon, it might have worked better, but still not much. The dialogue about these Kazon rites of passage were was pretty leaden and artificial. It didn't leave me with the sense of them as a real people, but still just this two-dimensional picture of a street gang. Also, they stated several times he could never earn his name in life or death, but then does so by the end of the episode. Even, apparently, faking killing Chakotay would have done the trick. You can't make a cultural precept the center of your narrative drama and then abandon it casually at the end.

Matthew: I was relatively engaged by the "gang" elements of the story here, and the Kar character had shades of the child soldier narratives we're seeing out of Africa, in which children are embroiled in murderous tribal struggles. The scene with the other children was quite chilling. I agree that the follow through wasn't quite there. I would have liked more about how Kar could never even adapt his thinking to the mindset of Chakotay and the Federation. On the other hand, is Chakotay really the best representative for this viewpoint? He himself turned his back on the Federation in favor of violent revolutionary action.

Kevin: The Kar character as and for himself is pretty well drawn, I will say. He has a clear goals and is frustrated when he can't achieve them, and I like that they had him go the route he did, killing the Maj rather going with Chakotay. That makes more sense for the character and is the bolder choice for the writers. We've done similar stories, like TNG's "Enemy" and they normally end on a more positive note, so the change was nice. As for Chakotay, I don't really feel like we learned anything new about him. Wouldn't any of the other crewmembers pretty much done the same? Save his life and try to help him?

Matthew: I agree we learned more about Kar than about Chakotay, and that's too bad. Perhaps this could have been a turning point for Chakotay, realizing that he has far more in common with the Federation that he has with a member of a violent gang culture.


Kevin: Aron Eisenberg is a great actor, and we've praised him before for his portrayal of Nog on DS9, but that's the problem here. He's basically Kazon Nog. I remember thinking that the whole time when watching this episode the first time through. It just felt like a retread of the Nog arc, albeit with a different ending.

Matthew: I think the similarity to Nog is less about the acting, or even the script, and more about the makeup. They cast a very distinctive actor as a brown alien twice. It was going to get noticed. As performances go, I was relatively engaged by Eisenberg. There was definitely an inner life to the character, and he made many good choices. He had good chemistry with Beltran, too. Was it overall too close to Nog? Yeah, probably. But it still worked on some basic level.

Kevin: Beltran was okay here. I think his dialogue alone in the shuttle was a little flat. Other actors seem to handle an imaginary conversation with the computer with a little more oomph. I also found the choices for the posturing with Kazon a little off. I will say that I liked his scenes with Kar on the moon. Those scenes had a lot more life to them anyway, in terms of writing.

Matthew: I believed Beltran in the role. I think the failings are failings of script and story concept.

Kevin: The rest of the guest cast was just okay, leaning on the same snarling Kazon that hasn't really set the world on fire before.

Matthew: I actually found both actors in the main Kazon roles pretty engaging. I think they gave the Kazon more inner life that some previous episodes, had distinct personalities from each other, and conveyed a good sense of menace.

Production Values

Kevin: My favorite part of the episode was the shot of the shuttle approaching the planet and moon. That was a great shot. Though, that makes me wonder where it was the rest of the time given than two seconds at impulse shouldn't have gotten them that much closer. The outdoor and caves sets were good too.

Matthew: This was a cave that didn't bore me to tears. I definitely agree on the exteriors - they shot on a neat little rock face, and found interesting nooks and crannies to stage scenes in.

Kevin: The interiors of the Kazon ship were okay, if drab. At least there was plenty of people and stuff, which helps. The trophies weren't the best props, again kind of drab, but at least there were a lot of them.

Matthew: The Kazon ship has never made sense to me. It's sort of a big... wedge or something, and I have no idea of what is inside it. The sets are kind of drab and mundane. I have no idea of what sorts of equipment or technology they have. Do the Kazon sleep in bunks? The aesthetic makes you think they huddle around a trash can with a fire in it. But that doesn't fit a space ship.


Kevin: The episode has a noble intention, but the final result is pretty boring. I did not and do not care about the Kazon and the look into their culture was not terribly illuminating. I am going with a 2.

Matthew: I think this was average. Despite a casting (really makeup) issue and some lacking development, I was engaged by what was on screen, and I found myself caring about Kar by the end. So I think this just squeaks into 3 territory, for a total of 5.


  1. Meh...Kazon. Yawn. I always skip this stupid episode.

    1. Don't hold back. Tell us what you really think. :)