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Prime Factors

Series : Voyager Rating : 5
Disc No : 1.3 Episode : 10
First Aired : 20 Mar 1995 Stardate : 48642.5
Director : Les Landau Year : 2371
Writers : David R. George III, Eric A. Stillwell Season : 1
Guest Cast :
Andrew Hill Newman as Jaret Otel
Josh Clark as Lieutenant Joe Carey
Martha Hackett as Seska
Ronald Guttman as Gathorel Labin
Yvonne Suhor as Eudana
Guest Reviews :
Rating : 4.5000 for 2 reviewsView existing reviewsAdd your own review
YATI : So Sikarian trajectors are identical to self sealing stem bolts, are they?
Great Moment : Seeing the Maquis going behind Janeway's back.
Body Count : Zero
Factoid : Part of the idea for this episode was that the Sikarians were to be recurring bad guys who would plague Voyager during the first season or so.

Tim Russ objected to the way Tuvok's betrayal of Janeway was originally written as he felt it was inconsistent with the character. About a third of Tuvok's lines in the episode were rewritten with his help to make his actions more believable. One of the changes was to rewrite Janeway's criticism of him at the end, which was originally much harsher. Russ would later say that he felt the changes should have gone even further, largely because he objected to Tuvok claiming logic as his reason for acting as he did when logic determines methods for achieving a goal, not what the goal itself should be. The producers actually agreed with him, but there wasn't enough time to make all the changes that they wanted to during production.

Quote : "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?" - Janeway to her staff

"You can use logic to justify almost anything. That's its power. And its flaw." - Janeway to Tuvok.


Plotline

Voyager picks up a distress call and investigates to find a Sikarian ship piloted by Gathorel Labin. To their surprise he explains that he sent the call because it is Voyager that is in distress, rather than himself. He has heard of the ship's plight and offers them rest and recreation on his home world, Sikaris. The crew find the Sikarians to be a highly advanced, peaceful and generous people who are delighted to spend time with them.

Harry gets to know Eudana, a Sikarian woman who seems to enjoy his company. She takes him onto some sort of transporter platform and they travel to Alastria to watch the sunrise. Harry is surprised to see two suns rise even though Sikaris has only one; Eudana casually informs him that Alastria is a planet 40,000 light years from Sikaris. An excited Harry rushes to tell Janeway about the incredible Sikarian transporter technology - they use a trajector, a folding space system which can transport objects across tens of thousands of light years in the blink of an eye.

Janeway asks Gath for access to the technology, which would allow Voyager to cut decades off their trip, perhaps even reach all the way home if they could repeat the process. Unfortunately Gath says that the Sikarian laws do not allow them to share the technology with others, lest it be misused. Janeway's assurances fail to convince him, and she is forced to admit to her crew that Starfleet often deals with far less advanced species and follows the exact same policy as the Sikarians.

Harry Kim offers that the Sikarians seem to value stories very highly, and that since Voyager's library contains literature from hundreds of worlds this would be an extremely valuable thing to offer to the Sikarians, perhaps valuable enough to convince them to compromise. Janeway agrees to make the offer but forbids any attempts to analyze or reproduce the trajector technology whilst these delicate negotiations are underway. She beams down to talk to Gath, offering the literature and a promise to destroy the trajector as soon as they have used it, and he agrees to take the offer to the Sikarian magistrates on her behalf.

Meanwhile on Voyager, Torres and Jo Carey speculate about the nature of the trajector technology and make a few discrete scans for signs that might be left by it. They think they have a handle on how it might work, and speculate that Voyager's deflector dish could possibly be used to replicate the effect.

On Sikaris Eudana takes Kim to a secret meeting with Gath's aide, Jaret Otel. Jareth tells him that there is no way that Gath or the other magistrates will allow Voyager to have the trajector technology, but in exchange for the library he is willing to give them the technology illegally, as being the source of the stories on Sikaris will bring great prestige to him. Kim takes the offer to Janeway, and she and Tuvok discuss the ethical issues involved in essentially stealing the trajector technology from the Sikarians. Janeway, whilst tempted, decides that she cannot commit to such a course of action and that Voyager will just have to soldier on as it is. In the mess hall Seska approaches Torres and discusses how they might be able to implement the trajector technology, noting that engineering would have to be involved in using it.

Janeway beams down to make one last pleas to Gath but she begins to realize that he never had any intention of helping the crew, and really all he was interested in was the novelty of their presence as a means to his own pleasure. She returns to Voyager and orders the crew recalled and the ship prepared for departure.

In the mess hall Seska, Torres and Carey decide to go behind Janeway's back and follow through on the deal with Jarret. They are prevented from beaming down by the arrival of Tuvok, but much to their surprise he announces that he will participate in the plan rather than end it, and beams down to make the trade himself. He is successful and soon returns with a small handheld device which contains the trajector technology. Torres rushes to analyze it and finds that although the technology will work, to make it work over any significant distance would require a truly gigantic amplifier - literally planet sized. The only reason the Sikarians can use it as they do is that Sikaris itself has a unique mantle composed of a crystalline tetrahedral quartz. If Voyager leaves, the trajector will be useless to them. As Janeway calls from the bridge to order the ship to depart Torres fakes an engine problem to keep them there whilst she struggles to activate the device, hoping to send them home right then and there. The device creates a damaging shower of antineutrinos within their power system, threatening to cause a warp core breach. The effect seems unstoppable and as the engineering crew begin to panic B'Elanna grabs a phaser and obliterates the trajector device. She notes that the trajector technology is fundamentally incompatible with Starfleet technology, and even with the planet present there is simply no way it could work. Seska begins to prepare a lie to tell Janeway so they can cover up what they've done but B'Elanna quietly states that there will be no more lying. When Seska comments bitterly that B'Elanna has changed, the engineer takes it as a compliment.

When she B'Elanna to Janeway what has been done Tuvok steps in and states that in fact, as the senior officer involved, he is the one responsible. A stunned Janeway dismisses B'Elanna and demands an explanation from Tuvok. He argues that his actions were logical - Janeway faced an ethical dilemma which prevented her from getting what she wanted, so by going behind her back Tuvok achieved the goal whilst allowing her to keep her hands free. Janeway informs him that she can only regard his judgment as badly flawed now, which is a serious problem given how she has depended on his advice in the past. From now on, she informs him, he will run his conclusions past her for approval.

Analysis

I actually really like this episode, largely because it's put an interesting spin on the prime directive stuff we often get out of Trek. I somewhat approve of the Prime Directive - the idea that lending help wherever you see it isn't necessarily the best thing to do because it can create more problems than it solves in the long terms is an interesting one, and one that does, in my opinion, have a lot of merit. However, like most things there should be a degree or reasonableness about it. To my mind, Kirk interpreted the Prime Directive pretty well most of the time. He took from it the principle that other cultures should be left to develop in their own way... but at the same time, when he encountered a culture that was in a stagnant dead end, or facing some catastrophe, he was willing to step in and do what he needed to do.

In The Next Generation the Prime Directive is elevated in many cases to the status of religious dogma, to be followed without question no matter how disastrous the results. I can even see a case for that, but worst of all the Next Gen folks would spend half their time preaching that the Prime Directive was inviolable, whilst then violating it - and often, for fairly trivial reasons. Seriously, they are prepared agonize over and then violate the Prime Directive to save Wesley from what they consider to be an unjust law, but when Worf's brother suggests that they save a handful of aliens from species extinction everybody reacts as if he'd just spat in their face. It's fairly absurd.

Here, we get a slightly new perspective on the Prime Directive because we see it being applied against the Federation rather than for them. It's the Sikarians that are the advanced ones who have technology that could solve Voyager's problems, yet for reasons of their own they just aren't willing to use it. It's a delicious moment to see them squirm and resort to the exact same pleas that others have no doubt used on Federation captains many times over the years.

That a Sikarian was willing to sell them the technology anyway is also a nice touch, as is the fact that Janeway refuses only to have some of the crew go behind her back. This is just the kind of thing the Maquis should have been doing all along and it's nice to see a little of it, though it would prove to be a case of too little, too late. That the trajector technology proved to be useless in the end is also nice, though honestly I would have preferred it if that failure had character driven rather than technological. For instance, rather than have talk of antineutrinos and such, why not say that the trajector sold to them was a dummy because Jaret double crossed them? Or imagine that it works perfectly, but just as they are about to push the button Janeway shows up in the doorway behind them and blasts the thing with her phaser. Such resolution would be far better than the technobabble we got.

The last scene, between Tuvok and Janeway... this is going to sound sexist, but I can't help but feel that this was a pretty weak moment for the Captain. An officer has disobeyed and betrayed her, and her response to it is to practically tear up. I guess it comes down to different command styles, but my impression is that the writers wanted to paint Janeway as a somewhat more maternal rather than paternal figure to the crew, showing that thing mothers sometimes do with kids where "I'm not angry, just really disappointed..." Yeah, I'm sure I'll get letters about that one, but that's how it seemed to me and to me it's a small weakness in the episode. Still, compared to some of the clunkers Voyager has turned out this is a pretty damn good effort by all concerned.


Copyright Graham Kennedy Page views : 1,193 Last updated : 12 Mar 2013