Episode Guide/Review by Charlynn Schmiedt
Season 1, Episode 9
Stardate 48642.5 (2371)
Episode 9 of 168 Released in Star Trek: Voyager
Episode 9 of 168 Produced in Star Trek: Voyager
Production Number: 110
Original airdate: March 20, 1995
Directed by Les Landau
Teleplay by Michael Perricone and Greg Elliot
Story by David R. George III and Eric A. Stillwell
Voyager encounters a pleasure-seeking race of aliens known as the Sikarians. Their friendly demeanor and hospitality give the crew some much-needed shore leave. While enjoying his time with a Sikarian named Eudana, Harry discovers that the Sikarians possess technology that could cut the crew’s journey in half. However, the Sikarians have their own version of the Prime Directive which prevents them from sharing their technology. Even a proposed exchange of Voyager’s entire literary database for access to the technology doesn’t persuade the Sikarian magistrate, Gath. Surprisingly, Tuvok makes the exchange with Gath’s aide, Jaret, who is willing to give Voyager the space-folding technology. B’Elanna, Carey, and Seska—who were planning an exchange themselves—try integrating the technology into Voyager’s systems, but the technology is incompatible. B’Elanna takes responsibility for her part in the conspiracy and receives a serious dress-down from Janeway, who warns her that one more incident like this will lead to loss of her field commission. Janeway then turns to Tuvok, almost in disbelief that she is having such a confrontation with someone she trusts so much. She reminds Tuvok that she needs him as her “moral compass,” and that they have been friends and fellow officers for too long for her not to count on him. She is left with the question of whether or not she can do that when her closest confidant has betrayed her.
On a superficial level, I see the Sikarians as a reflection of our instant-gratification society. They seek nothing but pleasure and enjoyment in their lives. The more they get, the more they need. Sound like a familiar culture?
We see this idea in practice everywhere: rich corporations getting richer, devices doing more while getting smaller, and the “more is better” mentality when applied to luxury items (and their price tags). Living in such a fast-paced world means we place similar demands on ourselves; we’re expected to do the most efficient work possible for the least amount of time at our jobs, so it stands to reason that we expect the biggest “bang for our buck” when it comes to relaxation. We want the most concentrated form of entertainment possible for our time, whether it’s a movie, TV show, travel adventure, or even the silly Internet meme of the week. If it doesn’t adequately entertain us, we’re more than happy to move on to the next thing that will fulfill this undying need; and we need it fast.
While it’s not necessarily a bad thing that we as a people are striving for more and better in just about everything—some call it progress—it’s downright exhausting at times and it can lead to problems. Somehow, the Sikarians became an enlightened race and they avoided the pitfalls of seeking pleasure. Food, for instance, is pleasurable. So how did these people avoid becoming a race of overweight, overindulgent, compulsive overeaters? Or what about drugs? Nothing is more instantly pleasing than the euphoria of a chemical high in the brain. How are the Sikarians not a people overridden with the problems associated with addiction? As these questions illustrate, sometimes less is more when it comes to pleasure-seeking activities, and that’s something we should all consider as we navigate our world at a breakneck pace.
For an early Voyager episode, this one is incredibly well-written. It is also an episode that stands out as an installment that’s unique to Voyager, meaning that it isn’t an episode that could have come from a reworked TNG script with the Voyager characters plugged in. Throughout Voyager’s run we’ll get those episodes, but not this time; the Enterprise isn’t 75 years away from home and desperately looking for ways to cut that distance.
This episode turns the tables on the Prime Directive, where it’s the Federation being denied access to technology instead of the Federation doing the denying. It gives Voyager’s crew a taste of what it must feel like to races they’ve denied technology to, such as the Kazon, who could (theoretically) improve themselves with access to better technology but cannot have it simply because they haven’t developed it themselves.
I love B’Elanna’s element in this story. She’s caught in the middle between doing what Seska and Carey want and maintaining her integrity as an officer. It is an interesting dynamic because it shows just how much B’Elanna has grown as a person, even this early on. The fallout shows how different she is from Seska, who is overeager, doesn’t think things through, and seeks to get what she wants without caring about the consequences. I’d describe the B’Elanna we saw in “Caretaker” the same way, but not anymore. The B’Elanna in “Prime Factors” showed she is much more likely to look before she leaps. She’s also much more likely to involve herself in a situation like this knowing the possible consequences even before going in. Then, when things don’t end favorably, she owns up to her part in the matter and faces Janeway. Responsibility as chief engineer has disciplined her.
The makeup department certainly went all-out with these aliens, didn’t they? Looks like they wrapped some colorful wire around the guest stars’ heads and called it good.
Janeway is drinking out of the smallest coffee cup ever in this episode. It holds, what, one shot of espresso? We all know that’s not enough java for Janeway.
Gath creeps me out with how much “pleasure” he gets out of just about everything.
Janeway seems quite taken by Gath. What about Mark? In episodes like “Persistence of Vision,” he is very much in her thoughts. But in this episode he’s not even an afterthought. What gives?
Oh, Harry. Eudana quite obviously wants to sleep with you. The more you refuse her advances, the less I believe you are a heterosexual human male.
Was this the point where Janeway starts trusting Chakotay more and seeking his counsel as opposed to Tuvok because Tuvok betrayed her?
“It’s the first time we’ve been on the other side of the fence. How many times have we been in the position of refusing to interfere when some kind of disaster threatened an alien culture? It’s all very well to say we do it on the basis of an enlightened principle. But how does that feel to the aliens?”
“I don’t have the luxury of throwing you in the brig for the rest of this voyage. I need you. I need every person on this ship. But I want you to know how very deeply you have disappointed me. If there are any further transgressions, even a minor one… you will no longer be an officer on this crew.”
—Janeway to Torres
“My logic was not in error… but I was.”
—Tuvok to Janeway
“You are one of my most valued officers. And you are my friend. It is vital that you understand me here. I need you. But I also need to know that I can count on you. You are my counsel. The one I turn to when I need my moral compass checked. We have forged this relationship for years and I depend on it.”
—Janeway to Tuvok
“You can use logic to justify anything. That’s its power and its flaw.”
—Janeway to Tuvok
Eudana. Since the producers scrapped plans to make the Sikarians recurring antagonists, we won’t see her again and thus Harry missed his only chance with her.
This is a must-see first season outing that fully embraces the Voyager concept.
(9 out of 10)
Ronald Guttman as Gathorel Labin
Yvonne Suhor as Eudana
Andrew Hill Newman as Jaret Otel
Martha Hackett as Seska
Josh Clark as Joseph Carey