VOY Challenge, Ep. 10: Prime Factors

VOY_S01_E10TrekGeeks’ Star Trek Voyager Challenge

One Geek’s challenge to to barter his way home to the Alpha Quadrant aboard the Starship Voyager.

OVERVIEW

The crew of the intrepid U.S.S. Voyager (Ha! See what I did there?!) seems to be getting along at this point in their journey. Whether Maquis or Starfleet, there seems to be harmony. Seska and Torres chat in the Mess Hall about Paris and Kim’s date with the Delaney sister–one that didn’t go to well for Harry. He apparently arranged for Holodeck time to enjoy a canal ride in Venice with Jenny Delaney and wound up falling over the side of the gondola. (Poor Harry. Too bad self-inflicted torture doesn’t make the TrekGeeks’ Harry Kim Watch.)

Janeway notices the harmony and comments to Tuvok that the two crews seem to be coming together. Tuvok logically observes that kind of development should help improve performance and maximize efficiency.  Just then, Chakotay notifies the Captain that the Bridge is receiving a distress call and the vessel alters it’s course to intercept Voyager before they can change course. She hails the vessel to ask the nature of the emergency, and the person responding says there is no emergency and that the Voyager crew is the one in distress.  Janeway and Chaoktay exchange puzzled looks as we head to the opening credits.

The gentleman not in distress is Gathorel Labin of the planet Sikaris, but you can just call him Gath. He welcomes the Voyager crew to the Sikaran system and extends the hospitality of his people. He is invited aboard the Voyager where he promises gifts and an offer that they just might find irresistible.  (He doesn’t want to oversell it, I’m sure.)

Once aboard, Gath provides samples of Sikarian dishes and offers the crew a chance at shore leave on his planet. The Sikarians have heard about the crew’s journey and they are well-known for their hospitality. Janeway accepts the invitation and the ship is off to Sikaris.

Once there, Harry Kim meets a local named Eudana who is working on an atmospheric sensor. They hit it off and Harry hopes to go somewhere with a little more privacy with her. She takes him to a platform that kind of resembles a transporter and they materialize in a place she calls Alastria. Harry observes that Alastria has two suns and Sikaria only has one, so they’re in a completely different system.  (Hey, be warned–you can’t put one over on ol’ Harry.) What’s more, Alastria is 40,000 light years away from Sikaris. Forty. THOUSAND. That’s more than half of the distance the Voyager needs to go to get back to the Alpha Quadrant and would shave about 35 years off their journey.

Kim wants to get back and report this immediately.  (Yes, he blows yet another date.)  He tells Janeway about the technology and how it provides real hope in shortening their journey. The Sikarian transporter works on the principle of folding space and is called a Spatial Trajector. Janeway suggests to Gath that the Voyager could modify the technology to get the ship closer to home and this doesn’t fly with Gath.  The Sikarian Canon of Laws prohibits them from sharing their technology since it could fall into the wrong hands. For the first time, this Starfleet crew is on the other side of the Prime Directive and it doesn’t feel so great.

Back aboard ship, Harry has an idea. While he was on Sikaris, he learned that they value stories as a measurement of character. He proposes that they barter for the technology with the ship’s entire library of literature. Janeway approves, and she meets with Gath over a piece of Pecan Pie.  She asks again for the technology and Gath declines, which she expected. She then offers their bartering chip and Gath is interested. He promises to meet with the other Sikarian magistrates to discuss the offer.

Back on the surface, Eudana takes Kim to meet Gath’s aide in secret. He tells Kim that Gath has no intention of accepting Janeway’s offer, but that he is willing to trade the technology for the literature behind Gath’s back. Jaret says the Sikarians believe rules should be flexible enough to meet the needs of the moment. Plus, he wants to be the one to provide the Voyager stories to the public so that he can gain prestige. Everybody’s got an angle.

Harry wastes no time reporting this development to Janeway, and she agrees that Gath will probably not go through with the deal. She now finds herself between a rock and a hard place–either she deals with Gath who doesn’t want to play ball or she negotiates a deal with his aide who is willing to break Sikarian law. Tuvok attempts to apply logic, but Janeway reminds him that she’d also adhere to Starfleet principle while in the Delta Quadrant. Problem is, now she isn’t sure if she can tell the crew that her principles are more important than getting them home. (Y’know…like in she did already in “Caretaker.”) For now, Janeway will deal with Gath. She thanks Tuvok for the talk.

Janeway goes to see Gath one more time on the planet’s surface to try and get his answer. She asks Gath about the decision of the Magistrates and he evades her answer and even belittles her desire to get home. Janeway now realizes Gath’s intentions never included helping them. He directs Janeway and the Voyager crew to leave Sikaris and Janeway beams up to the ship, insulted and upset.  She tells Chakotay to cancel Shore Leave and get everyone back to the ship. She tells Tuvok that she feels like she’s been strung along. He asks her if she’s going to acquire the technology through Gath’s aide, and she says that she wishes she could.

Back in the Mess Hall, Seska has downloaded the entire Federation library and she, Torres, and Carey discuss making the deal with Gath’s aide.  This doesn’t sit so well with B’Elanna.  Seska says they made a promise to the Maquis and their people are still dying at the hands of the Cardassians.  Carey says that he has a wife and two children and he doesn’t want them growing up without a father. Torres reluctantly agrees and the three of them head to the Transporter Room. They plan to beam down and make the exchange where they are halted by Security Chief Tuvok.

He explains that went to download the library and  he noticed that it had already been downloaded. He had planned to make the exchange himself which completely stuns Torres, Seska, and Carey. He tells them to prepare Engineering and he beams down to make the exchange.  Tuvok returns with the trajector technology and tells Torres not to use it until he talks to the Captain. They run some tests on the device and discover that the trajector needs an amplifier the size of a planet in order to work–they can’t use the trajector if they leave orbit of Sikaris. They need to use the trajector now or the opportunity is gone. 

They activate the device and the trajector comes online but it’s causing the plasma manifold to become unstable. The trajector is bombarding Engineering with anti-nutrinos which are part of the space folding technology the device needs to transport. As a result, plasma temperatures are going through the roof and there’s the potential for a warp core breach. Seska attempts to compensate but it doesn’t work and Torres is forced to use a phaser and destroy the trajector. She realizes now that the anti-neutrinos made the trajector totally incompatible with Federation technology and that it never would have worked. Seska offers to delete logs and cover their tracks, but B’Elanna tells her there will be no cover-up. Seska tells B’Elanna that she has change and Torres says, if that’s true, she takes it as a compliment.

Tuvok and Torres are in Janeway’s Ready Room and the Captain is far from pleased.  B’Elanna tells Janeway that she takes full responsibility and she was the senior officer involved.  Tuvok interjects that Torres isn’t entirely accurate and that he was which stuns the Captain. Janeway dresses down B’Elanna and tells her how deeply she has disappointed her and that if there is another incident with her, she will no longer be part of the crew.

Janeway then asks Tuvok to explain himself. He tells her that she was in an ethical dilemma and he was the logical choice to lift that burden from her shoulders. He did it for her because he knew she could not. Janeway talks of their friendship and how he is her moral compass and that she depends on him in that role. She realizes he made a sacrifice for her, but it’s not one she would have allowed him to make. From now on, she wants him to bring his logic to her before acting. Tuvok gives his word. Tuvok is dismissed and Janeway looks out the window of her Ready Room, full of emotion and seemingly heart-broken.

WHAT WORKED FOR ME

  • Voyager runs up against a species with its own Prime Directive. Turnabout is fair play!
  • The Sikarians have a new-fangled Transporter technology reminiscent of Transwarp Beaming in the J.J. Abrams movies.
  • There are flashes of the old B’Elanna in this episode—the one that’s not happy with Janeway’s decisions and takes matters into her own hands.
  • I like the undercurrent of mutiny and insubordination in this episode—and how it sucks Tuvok in, too.
  • Janeway’s dressing down of Torres is the appropriate amount of anger I’d expect.
  • Seska the Instigator! Martha Hackett is great in this episode.
  • Tim Russ–he’s got this Vulcan thing down. I found myself asking in this episode, “WWSD?  What Would Spock Do?” I think he’d do what Tuvok does in this episode for his friend.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME

  • Weakest tease of any Star Trek episode I’ve seen. They sent out a distress call because the Voyager was “in distress?” Painful.
  • Episode 10 and Voyager has another potential way home? It seems way too early for something like this.
  • The Sikarians seem like an entirely codependent society—they derive joy from doing things for others. If Voyager hadn’t offered them their library, what would the payoff have been for them?
  • Janeway almost seems jilted after she gets back to the Voyager, and I don’t like that writing of the character.
  • I don’t feel as invested in the Janeway/Tuvok friendship as the writers think I should. I think the writers needed to build that more on screen to make Tuvok’s defiance of Janeway’s orders matter more.
  • Janeway’s dressing down of Tuvok is almost not angry enough.
  • I’ve had enough of heart-broken, almost-crying Janeway. Enough already…she’s a Starship Captain!

PHOTON TORPEDO COUNT

The Voyager didn’t fire any photon torpedoes this episode, so the count still stands at 37.

HARRY KIM TRACKER

Harry Kim’s Condition#Episode(s)
Abducted by Alien Race1Caretaker
Mysterious illness1Parallax
Killed1
   Euthanized in Vhnori Death PodEmanations
Dejected over mini-wormhole1Eye of the Needle
   Wormholes named after him1Eye of the Needle
Dejected over teleportation technology1Prime Factors

VERDICT

This episode was a nice turnabout since we’re always looking at Starfleet’s Prime Directive and how it influences their dealing with other cultures. We haven’t really seen them on the other end of that and I think it was a great change.  Plus, the insubordination aspect is great.  There are some nice cornerstones laid for the Janeway/Tuvok friendship and, while I wish they had explored that more before this episode to give the end of the episode more weight, I think it was a scene that was well done. Prime Factors is a good episode of Star Trek and it rates 3 and 1/2 Deltas out of a possible 5.

3halfdelts

WATCH IT

You can watch Prime Factors via Hulu below. (U.S.)

NEXT TIME

The Kazon return and there’s a big reveal for our crew in “State of Flux.”

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