In the yesteryears of the mid 90s, Paramount Pictures looked to continue the Star Trek boom begun by Star Trek: The Next Generation (which had recently ended) and expanded by Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Wishing to both return the series to its adventurous roots while breaking new social boundaries, they premiered the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager on January 16th, 1995. Featuring a female captain and a surprisingly diverse helping of crew members, Star Trek: Voyager would continue on for six years and offer the setting to one of the best Star Trek games ever released (Editor’s Note: This was not a part of the agreed introduction, Tim.) (Tim Response: Don’t care, my phasers are set to frag!).
Every Monday we share a roundtable discussion about a Voyager episode featuring experts pulled from the close group of friends we could easily bribe. This week’s group consists of film/tv critic Ryan and yours truly. Having checked underneath my bed and in my closet, I don’t believe Seth is here…but I could be mistaken. Naturally, spoilers are a matter of course with this territory, and portions of our conversation drew on our knowledge of other episodes of both Voyager and other Star Trek shows. You have been warned.
This week covers the tenth episode of Season 1, “Prime Factors.” After verifying that my voice was still, in fact, usable, I made a point to engage Ryan in some careful, on-point discussion…
Tim – I really enjoyed the development of Tuvok, although according to Memory Alpha there was some worry about audience confusion as to his motivations. Did you find his actions in line with his character, a deeper development of his character, or just not in line at all with what you’d find convincing/logical (ha ha ha)?
Ryan – Whoa, jumping right to the end! The Tuvok dressing down was a surprisingly strong cap to that episode (not that the episode wasn’t already one of the strongest entries mid-season). I think Janeway’s jab said it best: Tuvok can use logic to justify pretty much anything. It references the fundamental flaw Star Trek attributes to Vulcans which sees them so often paired with but second in command to human commanders (besides the obvious audience identification reasons).
Tim – Mmm, very true. But you felt this episode was a strong one then, Ryan? Not to keep painting you as the cynical troll, but when you say something like that I sit up and take notice.
Ryan – Ouch, even trolls have feelings, Tim. I actually want to circle back to my general gripes with Voyager in a minute, but to directly answer the question, yeah, I liked the crux of this episode: essentially putting Voyager (as you mentioned) on the opposite end of the Prime Directive. But as someone who’s been watching the show, metaphorically speaking, cover to cover, this episode came back to a lot of the show’s strongest themes. The Prime Directive was a major theme (clearly) and even the Maquis/Star Fleet split came up again.
Tim – It was quite wonderful to see the Maquis/Federation rivalry get brought up again. Here I’d gone and thought it’d been forgotten by the writers. That being said, please tell me I wasn’t the only one who thought Seska was gunning from 0 to I DO WHAT I WANT! in this episode?
Ryan – Seska really jumped into the foreground this episode. I accidentally spoiled the future of her character for myself looking this episode up on Memory Alpha, so I want to be careful saying too much about my opinions of her. As – they are – tainted. But it was entirely through her the Maquis divide came up again, and it highlighted the changes in Torres by how the latter interacted with the former
Tim – See, I felt like that was handled very well- although I’m not entirely convinced by Seska’s allegation that Torres would have been right alongside her. Even by early Torres standards, Seska’ kinda’ acts a little more…aggressive and odd…at least in my opinion.Then again, as I write this, I realized that I was about to write that I didn’t get the impression Torres would just do things if she thought they were right, which is basically exactly what she does early on, so maybe I’m completely off kilter here.
Ryan – Seska definitely goes the aggressive route as does, surprisingly, the engineering officer who Torres replaced.
Tim – Mmm, yeah, there’s the big shocker.
Ryan – It’s a level of desperation that doesn’t really surprise me… what with the prospect of being marooned on a relatively small vessel for what could potentially be decades away from home… but it’s something we hadn’t really seen yet in a lot of the other members of Star Fleet on the ship.
Tim – You know, this is where Voyager seems to be straddling old and new standards of Shows (in my opinion). Having such a character turn driven by personal aims makes sense in (my continual point of comparison) Battlestar Galactica. But in Star Trek? Based on what we’d seen thus far, I didn’t see that one coming.
Ryan – I can agree that it didn’t seem like a very Trek-y turn.
Tim – It makes sense, especially when you think of the characters as people. But in Star Trek the characters are usually a bit more symbolic and idealistic, or so I tend to think. That’s where it’s a bit odd in my mind.
Ryan – But, yeah, we identified the strongest point of this episode simultaneously: it remembered all the narrative developments it had been building and it utilized them effectively. Which conveniently brings me back to my pillory-er of Voyager persona. I maaaaay have mentioned this before in chat, but it’s the missed narrative potential that always stands out the starkest in any episode that particularly rubs me the wrong way.
Tim – Aye, that’s been mentioned before (though, perhaps not on the record). What did you think was the missed opportunity here?
Ryan – Here there really was none. It was a strong episode.
Tim – Oh, snap. No, I really have to agree. Aside from feeling whiplash at Seska’s personality (going from barely noticed in the background to major player just bothers me for some reason), I can’t really come up with any good critiques or complaints. The Alien race was interesting, the crew dilemma was interesting (and relevant)-
Ryan – Yes! I feel like we’re discussing the episode in reverse. The Sleazinoids and the Chief Sleaze himself merit discussion.
Tim – Don’t worry! We can edit it so that it looks like we’re talking in reverse! (Editor’s Note: Tim, you edited this so that people were actually speaking in reverse. Readers would not understand that taerg si miT is “Tim is great,” and quite frankly you aren’t. We have reedited this conversation to fix your mistake.)