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, Seth, and yours truly! 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 eleventh episode of Season 1, “State of Flux.”
Ryan – So did anybody not know the plot twist for this episode before watching it? I spoiled the exciting conclusion to who-stole-the-replicator for myself on Memory Alpha… but the fact that they were suddenly focusing an episode on a character who had only played on the periphery kind of pointed a big neon flashing finger in Seska’s direction. Not to mention the lover spurned subplot seemed too juicy for the Voyager writers to just pass up.
Seth – I didn’t know the plot twist. I just thought it was weird that both Seska and Carey were staying in the limelight after the last episode.
Tim – I accidentally spoiled Seska’s treason at the very beginning of the show when I was trawling the Memory Alpha wiki, so I’m really happy that at least one of us got to greet the plot twist head on as viewers would have.
Ryan – So Seth, you hadn’t known about the Seska betrayal before you watched this episode?
Seth – Nope.
Ryan – Did they manage to throw you off the trail? How did you receive the Cardassian revelation at the end?
Seth – I reserved judgment until they raised the idea that Seska was a Cardassian, at which point I figured she was the culprit. It was established in DS9 that the Cardassians do that sort of thing, and agents altered to look like other species has been a thing since the Original Series.
Ryan – I liked how they returned to Chakotay’s aside “was anybody actually working for me?” at the end of the episode. It does kind of seem like everyone he thought was loyal to him aboard his crew was working for someone else…
Seth – Well, he’s still got B’Ellana I suppose. But yeah, it’s got to be embarrassing to have that many infiltrators in your crew. At least it means he was important enough for people to want to keep tabs on him, I guess.
Tim – Can’t wait for the inevitable reveal that Chakotay was, in fact, working for the Romulans this whole time.
Seth – Regarding the whole “lover spurned” thing, I just have to take a moment to complain about the atmosphere of compulsory heterosexuality on the Voyager. I mean, they haven’t emphasized it all *that* much, but the whole “WE’RE STUCK HERE FOR DECADES BETTER FIND SOMEONE TO GET JIGGY WITH OR ELSE DIE ALONE” thing is already getting old for me.
Ryan – To be fair, that atmosphere is mostly coming from the first half of the season focusing on Tom Paris – also the 90s. I’ll take a dive into the Seth knowledge pool here: do we know of any openly gay or otherwise not totally straight characters in any Star Trek series?
Seth – Hoo boy. Short answer: a qualified no. Long answer: There are a couple of alien species that might qualify due to alien weirdness, but no straightforward cases of openly gay characters. There’s an episode in TNG called “The Outcast” which involves a single-sex androgynous species called the J’naii. Who are all played by women. And one of them falls for Riker and is brainwashed as a result. If you squinted you might be able to argue that many Trill are bisexual since the symbiote transfers its memories to hosts of different genders, but that’s not really explored.
Ryan – Hiding portrayals of minority or otherwise culturally neglected groups in alien species seems like kind of a copout, but it’s not particularly surprising and at the very least it seems like Trek for the most part never swung too far in the other direction toward bigotry.
Seth – In grad school I read a journal article about gay Star Trek fans who launched a letter writing campaign to try to get representation. They had mixed feelings about “The Outcast”
Ryan – I’m still really enjoying Kate Mulgrew playing Captain Janeway. She gets to break out some juicy facial expressions when she trades threats with hostile alien races.
Seth – Oh yes. I love it when she calls the Kazon’s bluff. I also enjoyed the brief exchange where B’Ellana tells Janeway that they won’t be ready to retrieve the console until tomorrow, Janeway tries to push that timeline forward, and B’Ellana basically says, “No, really, it’ll take us until tomorrow.”
Tim – Ha! Yeah, I rather enjoyed that exchange myself- usually we see Torres as this person who can do whatever Janeway asks of her – to see her turn around and set those kind of boundaries…Let alone how it allows us to see how Janeway reacts to being told “No.”
Seth – It’s an interesting contrast to the exchange between Scotty (there was a transporter thing) and Geordi in TNG where Scotty is flabbergasted that Geordi gives Picard accurate time estimates, saying “Oh, laddie, you have a lot to learn if you want people to think of you as a miracle worker.”