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Star Trek: Voyager – Alliances (Review)

This September and October, we’re taking a look at the 1995 to 1996 season of Star Trek, including Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager. Check back daily for the latest review.

One of the more persistent and convincing criticisms of Star Trek: Voyager is the idea that it was very narrative conservative; that the show got comfortable playing out the familiar formula that had been established by Star Trek: The Next Generation, and so never attempted to innovate or experiment in the way that Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (or eventually Star Trek: Enterprise) did. This is a perfectly valid criticism of the show as a whole, but it does ignore some of the weird tensions that played out across the first two seasons.

It is fair to say that Voyager never truly experimented. However, there are several moments in the first two seasons where it looks like the show was considering doing something unique or unprecedented. The show walked up to the edge, looking up and down; it never quite made the leap, but it seemed to weigh the possibility of jumping headlong into uncharted territory. However, it ultimately only dipped its toes in the water before getting cold feet and returning to the comfort of the familiar.

"Everyone liked Godfather III, right?"

“Everyone liked Godfather III, right?”

The sad truth about the second season of Voyager is that the show made a number of attempts to do something different or unique, only to botch each and every one of those attempts so completely that the production team learned not to even try. The second season’s more adventurous creative decisions all ended in humiliation and farce, explaining why the show desperately sought the warm blanket of a familiar format and an established template. After all, it was the more conventional episodes of the second season that had been (relatively) well received.

The second season of Voyager turned the process of trying something moderately ambitious and failing spectacularly into something of an artform. Of course, given the simmering tensions behind the scenes, it often seemed like the show wanted to fail. Michael Piller desperately wanted to do new things, only to meet resistance from his fellow producers and writing staff. Writers like Kenneth Biller would publicly criticise assignments they had been handed, offering a sense of just how much faith the staff had in these ideas.

"You wouldn't like me when I'm angry..."

“You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry…”

Alliances marks perhaps the most ambitious element (and most spectacular failure) of the second season of Voyager. It is the centrepiece of Michael Piller’s attempts to develop the Kazon into a credible (and convincing) alien threat, while also setting up a recurring arc that will allow Piller to push Tom Paris into the role of “lovable rogue” of which Piller was so fond. These were elements that excited Piller a great deal, but left most of the rest of the production team relatively cold.

So there is a great deal of irony in the fact that Alliances is ultimately written by Jeri Taylor, who was increasingly at loggerheads with Piller over the direction of Voyager. In light of that context, it makes sense that Alliances is an episode that aggressively critiques its own existence. Janeway spends most of the episode frustrated at the fact that the story is happening at all, and Alliances builds towards a climax that seems designed to convince the viewer that this whole idea is misconceived on just about every possible level.

Blooming disaster...

Blooming disaster…

One of the more interesting aspects of the creative conflict over the direction of the second season of Voyager is that there is no clear right and wrong party. Piller was trying to innovate and experiment, but his experiments tended to be spectacular failures. Piller is a producer who thought that Tattoo was a good idea, and that the episode was boldly pushing the franchise forward. It is perfectly understandable that the writers on staff would question his direction and guidance.

Jeri Taylor might have been advocating for the conservative and formulaic approach that would come to define Voyager, but it is hard to vilify any creative voice advocating for less exposure of the Kazon. Quite simply, the Kazon are the most spectacularly racist Star Trek aliens since the Ferengi. While the Ferengi were ultimately redeemed (somewhat) by Ira Steven Behr, it seems unlikely that Michael Piller was going to let his staff radically reimagine the Kazon to the extent that they might seem less like racial caricatures.

Janeway feels be-Trabe-d...

Janeway feels be-Trabe-d…

The unfortunate racial subtext of the Kazon has been bubbling away since they were introduced in Caretaker as a generic “primitive” species to play up the “western” sensibilities of the new Star Trek show. The Kazon at once embodied stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans in classic westerns and also reflected contemporary anxieties about “gang” culture in Los Angeles itself. The writing staff on Voyager was predominantly white and middle-class, so that intersection of racial “other” went about as well as one might expect.

The Kazon are a bunch of primitive savages without the technology of the explorers who have arrived in their territory. Voyager and its crew are presented as a civilised and progressive influence on Delta Quadrant politics; the Kazon are consistently portrayed as a barbaric and backwards species who pose a threat to everything around them. In Mortal Coil, Seven of Nine makes a passive-aggressive dig at the Kazon, suggesting that they are “unworthy of assimilation.” She ponders, “Why assimilate a species that would detract from perfection?”

"It's on, like Kaz-on!"

“It’s on, like Kaz-on!”

The Kazon were originally conceived as a vehicle through which the production team could explore the increasing gang violence in contemporary urban society; given that Star Trek was produced in Los Angeles, this made a great deal of sense. As Jeri Taylor explained in Captains’ Logs Supplemental:

We felt with the Kazon we needed to address the tenor of our times and what […] was happening in our cities and recognizing a source of danger and social unrest. We wanted to do that metaphorically.

The Kazon might be named as an allusion to “the Kazan Phenomenon”, but they are clearly rooted in Los Angeles gang culture. (Early production documents suggest sects like “the Crips” and “the Bloods.”) The Kazon were introduced in Caretaker at around the same time as Deep Space Nine was dealing with the issue in The Abandoned.

Slaves to fate...

Slaves to fate…

This is already a highly questionable creative choice. Street gangs in Los Angeles were frequently the subject of sensationalist news coverage, presented in a manner that tended to heighten racial tensions in the community. The reality of the situation was often more complex and nuanced than the twenty-four-hour news cycle would allow; the emergence of gang culture was rooted in all manner of complex socio-economic factors that were less compelling than urban legends about crazy initiations or reports of drive-by shootings.

All indications are that the production staff probably should have been quite careful when dealing with the racial subtext that came with the Kazon; they were obvious stand-ins for a contemporary subculture that was associated in popular media with young black men. As a result, the decision to portray the Kazon as inherently violent primitives was a risky proposition at best. It suggested that the production team were rather tone-deaf when it came to issues of racial politics and subtext.

"Racial caricatures? Never!"

“Racial caricatures? Never!”

The second season decided to double-down on this uncomfortable metaphor by revealing that the Kazon had a history of slavery. Kenneth Biller prepared a memo outlining Kazon history, explaining that a race known as “the Trabe” had kept the Kazon as slaves until the Kazon rebelled against their masters and vanquished them. This is a rather awkward addition to an already loaded racial metaphor; the addition of slavery to the history of the Kazon even more explicitly ties them to the African American experience.

In this context, there is absolutely no justification for the decision to repeatedly and consistently portray the Kazon as violent savages incapable of self-government. The treatment of the Kazon in episodes like State of Flux and Alliances seems to suggest that maybe the Delta Quadrant was a much safer place when the Trabe kept the Kazon as slaves; the Kazon seem barely capable of taking care of themselves, they are a major risk to just about any civilised society in the region.

"Who died? ... Oh, right."

“Who died? … Oh, right.”

Alliances allows the show to compare and contrast the Trabe with the Kazon. The Kazon are repeatedly and consistently portrayed as backwards. Maj Cullah is repeatedly portrayed as misogynistic in his attitude towards Janeway. (“I won’t have a woman dictate terms to me,” he insists.) At the same time, Cullah is completely oblivious to how thoroughly Seska is manipulating him. While the Trabe share fine wine with crew of Voyager, Neelix meets his old Kazon friend at a strip club; that friend is unable to solve a basic trigonometry problem.

In contrast, the Trabe are portrayed as much more civilised and advanced. “They produced scholars and artists who were widely admired and their technology was among the finest in the quadrant,” Neelix tells Janeway. Mabus enjoys a nice civilised meal with the crew, in which he is allowed to argue that the Trabe were somewhat justified in “protecting” themselves from the Kazon. “I was told they were violent and dangerous, and had to be kept isolated so they wouldn’t get loose and kill us. Which is exactly what they did, but we brought it on ourselves.”

"But, hey, we're better dinner guests... right?"

“But, hey, we’re better dinner guests… right?”

There is something quite reactionary about all of this, as if Alliances is suggesting that the Kazon were better kept enslaved. Even allowing for the end of the episode, the script is sympathetic to Mabus and the Trabe. “Most of the Trabe who persecuted the Kazon are either dead or old men by now,” Mabus tells Janeway over dinner. “Most of us were children when the uprising occurred, and our children are innocent, but the Kazon’s desire for revenge is as strong as ever.” He makes it sound almost unreasonable that the Kazon would harbour resentment and anger.

There are obvious uncomfortable parallels running through all this. Race can be a particularly complicated and sensitive issue in the United States, but Alliances is blunt and offensive on almost every level. It seems like the Trabe were entirely right to keep the Kazon in bondage, given the violence that occurred when they were released; when Mabus complains about the Kazon’s reluctance to move past atrocities that occurred outside living memory, he is repeating a lot of the rhetoric that attempts to divorce current racial tensions from their historical context.

"We'll meet in approximately twenty hours. It's best not to question the geography."

“We’ll meet in approximately twenty hours. It’s best not to question the geography.”

To be fair, Alliances makes it pretty clear that the Trabe are not nice people. Mabus conspires to assassinate the leadership of the Kazon factions in a sequence that borrows rather directly from The Godfather: Part III. However, it does not use Janeway’s experience with the Trabe to inform her other dealings with the Kazon. Indeed, there is a rather unfortunate subtext to Janeway’s different behaviour towards the Trabe as compared to the Kazon. Janeway is willing to ally with former slavers, but finds the prospect of dealing with former slaves “distasteful.”

As such, Alliances becomes a story about how Janeway finds it easier to trust a bunch of white former slave-owners than a group of dark-skinned former slaves. Of course, it is ultimately revealed that Janeway is wrong to trust anybody, but Jeri Taylor refuses to allow that Janeway made any errors in judgment. The message that Janeway learns at the end is not that you shouldn’t trust people who owned slaves; instead, Janeway learns that you shouldn’t trust anybody, not even nice middle-class white people.

The hovering Kazon Raider made the rest of the delegates a little uncomfortable. And dead. But mostly uncomfortable.

The hovering Kazon Raider made the rest of the delegates a little uncomfortable. And dead. But mostly uncomfortable.

Which, of course, suggests another problem with Alliances. Even aside from the uncomfortable racial subtext, the episode is written terribly. The script is credited to Jeri Taylor, but it feels like she drew the short straw. Various elements of the plot seem to reflect Michael Piller’s aesthetic: the emphasis on the Kazon, the moral ambiguity, the sense of compromise, the desire to play up the conflict between the Maquis and the Starfleet crew. These are all elements more in line with Piller’s vision of the show than Taylor’s.

As a result, it seems like Taylor absolutely skewers the very idea of Alliances. With the Kazon growing ever more bold in their attacks on the ship, the crew of Voyager find themselves wondering if their idealistic principles are outdated and irrelevant. Starfleet regulations may not have been written for this particular situation, so why not compromise? The crew are dying in this region of uncharted space, perhaps it is time to accept that tough decisions have to be made. It is a very Deep Space Nine set up. However, Jeri Taylor is not at all interested in any of that.

"You can tell I'm allied with Mabus because he's the whitest guy in the room."

“You can tell I’m allied with Mabus because he’s the whitest guy in the room.”

At its core, Alliances is the story about how Janeway thinks that this particular plot is a bad idea. While everyone around her convinces her to at least try an alternative approach, Janeway remains steadfast in her absolutist rejection of what she sees as a violation of the crew’s core values. Reluctantly and half-heartedly, Janeway attempts a compromise to appease her restless crew and save lives. However, the entire episode is just a set-up to prove Janeway right. She even gets an “I told you so” speech at the end.

Alliances is an episode entirely structured to validate Janeway’s black-and-white morality. At Crewman Bendara’s funeral, Ensign Hogan asks Janeway what she plans to do about the situation. Janeway assures the young officer that he can speak freely; he does so. Almost immediately, Janeway outlines her position. “I appreciate your concerns, crewman, but let me make it absolutely clear. I’ll destroy this ship before I turn any part of it over to the Kazon.” It is more than just an ironic foreshadowing of Basics, Part I. It is a statement of principle.

"The Kazon are dying!" "Let them die!"

“The Kazon are dying!”
“Let them die!”

Janeway is incredibly stubborn and self-righteous here. While still in earshot of Hogan, Janeway practically snaps at Chakotay, “So that’s how the Maquis would do it?” The script for Alliances brings up the conflict between the Maquis and the Starfleet crew for the first time in what feels like ages. Chakotay argues that the desire to strike a deal with the Kazon comes from the Maquis crewmembers. “A lot of the Maquis feel the Federation abandoned them years ago. You may be willing to die for Federation principles, but they’re not.”

In a way, this foreshadows the issues with Alliances. It seems strange that the Maquis should be the only members of the crew vocal on the subject; surely some Starfleet officers have to feel the same way? If Tuvok feels comfortable enough to suggest the alliance to Janeway, then surely there must be a large number of Starfleet personnel who would support a proposed alliance with the Kazon? Either way, Janeway is immediately paranoid. “I can’t believe you’d support that man’s position,” she accuses Chakotay.

This funeral really blows...

This funeral really blows…

“I don’t,” Chakotay responds. “But isn’t there something in between your position and his?” It is a perfectly reasonable and justifiable position. After all, Star Trek has always been built around the idea of integration and understanding. Deep Space Nine and Voyager were airing in an increasingly multicultural world. Would it be so bad for Janeway to learn to work with outsiders; whether those outsiders were the Maquis on her crew or the Kazon in the Delta Quadrant?

Tuvok makes a similar appeal to Janeway, drawing on the history of the Star Trek franchise. “When I was a young man, a great visionary named Spock recommended an alliance between the Federation and the Klingon empire,” Tuvok recalls, another nice piece of foreshadowing of future developments. Tuvok is entirely right here; if the Federation can make peace with the Klingons, why can’t Voyager make peace with the Kazon? It makes Janeway uncomfortable, but all world-changing ideas must seem frightening at first.

Spaced out...

Spaced out…

However, Alliances eventually validates Janeway’s perspective. She is right; everybody else is wrong. Alliances suggests that it is impossible to make peace with the Kazon, and that it is impossible to trust anybody in the Delta Quadrant. It is a ruthlessly cynical ending, but one that is quite jarring. The ending of Alliances should be a bleak and nihilistic rejection of the franchise’s utopian idealism, given that the crew just learned that they are truly and completely alone in this strange part of the universe. Instead, Taylor’s script plays it as an upbeat ending.

“This appears to be a region of space that doesn’t have many rules,” Janeway tells her crew. “But I believe we can learn something from the events that have unfolded. In a part of space where there are few rules, it’s more important than ever that we hold fast to our own. In a region where shifting allegiances are commonplace we have to have something stable to rely on. And we do. The principles and ideals of the Federation. As far as I’m concerned, those are the best allies we could have.” Janeway was right; it’s easiest to stick to the principles.

Cullah and Seska. The new sitcom, coming this fall on UPN.

Cullah and Seska.
The new sitcom, coming this fall on UPN.

Of course, this all misses the point of principles. People don’t adhere to principles because they make things easy. The true test of a principle is not whether you would adhere to it if the alternative were chaos and horror; the true test of a principle is whether you adhere to it when it makes things tougher and harder. Janeway’s decision to stand by her principles would be easier to admire if the entire forty-five minute episode weren’t a Rube Goldberg machine designed to prove that everybody should have just listened to Janeway in the first place.

Discussing Janeway’s reluctance to break from protocol, Chakotay observes, “Frankly I’m not sure they were ever intended for situations like this.” Janeway responds, “I haven’t seen any evidence that they’ve let us down.” She is entirely right; but only because Voyager has been structured so as to give the crew a seven-year pleasure cruise. It doesn’t take courage or conviction to stick to your principles when life is easy. Voyager has made sure that its characters have never been hungry, never been stranded, never been desperate. Principles are easy in those cases.

A puzzling alliance...

A puzzling alliance…

After all, the teaser to Alliances opens with the ship under siege from the Kazon. Voyager takes a pounding; a crewmember is killed, consoles explode, smoke billows. It really feels like the ship is in trouble, as the crew read out damage reports. However, the damage is not substantial. No character we care about is harmed during the teaser; everything is conveniently tidied away after the credits have rolled. Half-way through the episode, there is absolutely no indication that the crew have been under strain at all. As such, it is hard to take the pressure or anxiety seriously.

It doesn’t help matters that Alliances has the crew compromising their principles in the stupidest manner possible. The crew doesn’t fail because the idea is bad, the crew fail because the execution is spectacularly awful. In a way, it feels like the production team are holding up a mirror to the second season as a whole; the second season of Voyager is populated with interesting ideas that are realised in the most atrocious manner possible. Here, it feels like Janeway is actively sabotaging her attempts to strike an alliance, so that she can ultimately be vindicated.

Chakotay is a pretty impressive eugooglist...

Chakotay is a pretty impressive eugooglist…

Why would Voyager consider an alliance with the Nistrim? The ship has a long record of dealing with Maj Cullah and Seska, and knows that they cannot be trusted; in fact, Seska sexually assaulted one of the senior staff. Of all the other Kazon sects out there, the Nistrim are the least trustworthy and would be the hardest with which to deal. On a similar note, why ally with the Trabe? How does Janeway imagine that the Kazon will react once she shows up aligned with their former slaveowners?

Maj Cullah is pretty much a two-dimensional villain, but he gets perhaps the most pressing line of the episode. “I find you nothing but a hypocrite, Captain, allying yourselves to the greatest villains this quadrant has ever known,” he remarks. “If this is where your revered Federation values have taken you, I want no part of it.” The episode suggests that Janeway was wrong to compromise her values at all, but it does seem like she made the worst possible choice she could make in choosing to violate those principles. Just to repeat, Janeway allies with slavers.

It is so tough being right all the time.

It is so tough being right all the time.

(The script tries to suggest that this is inevitably where compromise leads. When Chakotay raises the obvious objections to allying with Seska, Janeway reflects, “You can’t have it both ways Commander. If you want to get in the mud with the Kazon you can’t start complaining that you might get dirty.” Of course, this is a rather glib deflection; it is quite easy to set limits on just how dirty you are willing to become, and what compromises you are willing to make. Still, the issue is not about degrees of compromise; instead, these are simply stupid decisions.)

This is to say nothing of just how hypocritical Janeway can be. Her refusal to parlay with the Kazon in Alliances stands at odds with her willingness to negotiate with the Borg in Scorpion, Part I. The show hasn’t yet allowed Janeway’s inconsistencies and contradictions to reach critical mass; however, episodes like Alliances are establishing firm absolutist principles that the show will violate with increasing frequency in the years ahead. Janeway’s self-righteousness is not an appealing character trait, but neither is the fickleness set up here.

"Slaver" is such a harsh term...

“Slaver” is such a harsh term…

In a way, the way that Janeway botches (or sabotages) her attempts at moral compromise reflects the way that Voyager is botching its own attempts at embracing serialisation. The Kazon arc running through the second season of Voyager is perhaps the longest arc running through the seven seasons of Voyager. It is, in no uncertain terms, a complete travesty. It is a disaster on a truly epic scale, and seems quite likely to have contributed to Michael Piller’s departure from the franchise.

Alliances itself has some issues that result from botched serialisation, even if it is only really setting the larger arc in motion. Most obviously, the idea that the Kazon attacks on the ship are taking their toll on crew morale seems to come out of nowhere. Crew morale seemed pretty okay in Resistance and Prototype; it certainly doesn’t take a knock in Threshold. This is the first indication that the show has given of a recurring Kazon threat since Manoeuvres. (Which, of course, reopens the whole “how big is Kazon space?” or “how slow is Voyager moving?” debate.)

"We hardly knew ye. No, really."

“We hardly knew ye. No, really.”

Similarly, the plot is spurred by the death of Crewman Bendera. He is a character who does not have any lines; he dies in the teaser, having never appeared on the show before. It is hard to get too shaken up by all this, despite laboured exposition about his history with Chakotay or Torres. Voyager does not have a recurring cast with the same depth or nuance as Deep Space Nine. Joseph Carey has already vanished into history. Alliances introduces Hogan and Jonas; the two characters recur throughout the season, but are both dead by the end of the production year.

In short Voyager is very bad at serialisation. It is a problem that becomes more pronounced as the Kazon arc kicks into high gear. The show awkward shoehorns stilted scenes into standalone episodes, refusing to let organic character development or integrated plot threads map out a larger story. The second season’s Kazon arc is handled horribly, perhaps contributing to the decision to steer away from longer plot arcs in the later seasons of the show; it is understandable that the production team would not want to repeat the experience.



In his infamous exit interview, Ronald D. Moore was extremely critical of the lack of serialisation on Voyager. He argued that the show was patronising and condescending to its viewers:

It’s very hard to write in continuity, because of the nature of television. You are writing ahead, and you are writing at the moment, and you are changing things in post. It’s really hard to keep all the ducks in a row, which we found at Deep Space Nine. In that last ten-episode run, where it was almost completely serialized, that’s a tough act to carry off. But it’s also worth the effort, because the payoff is the world has more validity. The audience can sense there is truth in it. It’s a better show, and it will last longer as a result. If you are really just so concerned that this week’s episode won’t make sense because you didn’t see that episode three years ago, why can’t Star Trek do like Ally McBeal, or The Practice, or ER, all the big successful shows do. Put a little recap at the top of the show: ‘Previously, on Star Trek: Voyager…’ — even if it’s an episode from two years ago. You just quickly get the audience up to speed, because the audience is not stupid. The audience has watched television for a long time. They understand that they have missed some things, that perhaps this is a reference to a show that they didn’t see. They aren’t just going to throw up their hands and move on. If you are pre-supposing that, you are aiming towards the person that is grabbing a beer, and isn’t really paying attention, and is walking out of the room every ten minutes and coming back and sitting down; all you are going to do is dumb down the show. You are reducing it to its lowest common denominator, and what’s the point of that? What do you get out of that? You just get a so-so kind of television experience.

Deep Space Nine was experimenting with serialisation and embracing the future of televised storytelling. Ironically, Voyager would end up being the Star Trek show that boldly and stubbornly remained in place.

Hardly a blast...

Hardly a blast…

Alliances is a misfire on a fairly spectacular level, one that is often overlooked in examining the context and legacy of Voyager. The fact that it aired right before the broadcast of Threshold probably offers insulation and protection that it doesn’t really deserve. It is one of the worst episodes of Voyager ever produced; if not one of the worst episodes the franchise every produced. It is certainly among the most toxic, tainting both the racial politics of the show itself and also sabotaging any credible attempt to modernise storytelling on Voyager.

24 Responses

  1. You’re right that DS9 is the more logical successor to The Original Series, in tone and themes. (Just compare The Armageddon Factor to For the Uniform. ) And yet defenders of VOY tend to compare it TOS. This proves that the show is strongest when it jettisons the serial approach (as you said) and focuses on standalone stories. To paraphrase Winston Churchhill, you can always count on Voyager to do the right thing after everything else has been tried!

    “Everything else” being a DS9 retread. TNG retread. Retread of popular movies. Retread of SG1. Retreads of itself (!!).

    On VOY, you have episodes like “Meld”, “Remember”, “Night”, “Nemesis”, “Timeless”, “Memorial”, and particularly “Workforce”, which brings out some inspired performances in the actors and put them in uncomfortable places.

    Paradoxically, the fact that VOY’s cast were such “blank slates” lends them to episodes where their sense of identity is challenged or questioned. On TNG we roll our eyes when Riker suddenly thinks he’s in a mental institution. Even on DS9, one has to swallow a lot of disbelief to watch O’Brien in “Hard Time”. Because we see so little of the senior staff outside of their assigned “roles”, there are precious moments where we learn something new about them.

    • Yep. I worry that it sounds like I hate Voyager in these reviews. I actually like it a lot. It’s probably my least favouritye Star Trek show, but that still leaves a lot of affection for it. (Funny you should mention “Meld”, it might be my favourite episode.)

      • Do you still like it a lot after this most recent re-watch?

      • You know, I do.

        The sixth and seventh seasons are a slog. But if you asked me after the fifth season, I’d be much more enthusiastic. The fourth season is great fun from beginning to end, and the fifth season has any number of really great episodes.

        It’s funny. A little while ago, my Voyager reviews got shared on TrekBBS. They met with the same sort of response you’d expect – this guy is no fun, this guy hates Star Trek, this guy over-thinks it, this guy hasn’t done enough research – but what was remarkable is how they fixated on my negative reviews. Which, to be fair, are a lot of them.

        But that involves overlooking the fact that Voyager gave us Counterpoint or Gravity in the space of a handful of episodes, or the steps the series made in producing blockbuster spectacle on a television budget in Future’s End or The Killing Game, or the wry self-aware deconstruction of Course: Oblivion or Child’s Play.

        I still think Voyager is (by far) the weakest Star Trek show and the one that doomed the franchise. But I also think there’s a lot here to like.

      • Yep, I don’t hate Voyager either. I’m frustrated by its worldview and its creative choices, but there is a point where I’m being unfair. “Voyager” wasn’t the only Trek show to struggle mightily. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, it’s all been going downhill since the end of DS9. There hasn’t been a truly great season of Trek since 1999.

        The modern shows do exactly what we all criticized “Voyager” for not doing, and they still misfire hugely. And neither “Enterprise”, “Discovery”, “Picard”, or “Lower Decks” ever came close to reaching the heights of “Voyager”.

  2. “If you want to get in the mud with the Kazon you can’t start complaining that you might get dirty.”

    Bluh…!? Who was that forging an alliance with the Borg in “Scorpion”, then?

    And Chakotay is the one insisting on playing by the rules four years later…I’ve heard of alternate continues but not in the same series.

    “‘Previously, on Star Trek: Voyager…’ ”

    Right here. Moore has stumbled on the reason for the Kazon’s failure.

    If we recap what happened in Caretaker, we will be reminded of that nonsensical episode from here to perpetuity. It’s the same reason why Kes must go.

    Well done, Mr. Mooney. This was a good read.

    • Thanks! Glad you liked it. I’m actually quite happy with how the second season reviews of Voyager turned out. Turns out that there is a lot to talk about when it comes to the show.

  3. Ouch, you were certainly not kind towards this episode. I have to say it is completely justified, however. This episode feels like a mission statement from the creators of voyager. There will not be consequences and any kind of risky storytelling will not be tolerated.
    What amuses me about the deaths of hogan and Jonas is that two other engineers at least will bite the dust before too long in Suder and the man he kills. It makes me wonder how on earth voyager has any engineers left besides B’Elanna.

    • Well, Carey is still present. Lieutenant Carey of seasons one and two, never to be seen again until “Friendship One”. That’s when the fans wrote in to remind the writers about him. The staff mistakenly thought they had killed Carey, so they bring him back at the end of season seven to kill him off.

      That is not a joke. (Same with that Bolian man, Chell I think, who “survived” in the sense that he was forgotten about and then killed by Psycho!Tuvok once they realized he still draws breath.)

      • I remember thinking that everytime they brought back Samantha Wildman.

        “Voyager only remembers it has recurring guest stars among the Starfleet crew when it needs to kill somebody off.”

      • When did Chell die? I remember he wanted the job of chef after Neelix left Voyager in Homestead and that was only two episodes before the end.

      • I don’t think Chell dies. I think he is attacked by Tuvok in Repression, though. Although I might have referenced him dying in a later review. If you catch it, let me know and I’ll correct.

    • Clearly, all the real work was being done on Voyager’s bottom deck by Mortimer Harren. They conscripted B’Elanna’s people from security, which is why Tuvok never delegates work.

    • “You know, you’d imagine security’d be the riskiest profession on Voyager, but no!”

      I think I mentioned a few weeks back that Alliances is probably my second least favourite episode of the season, behind (or ahead of, depending on how you look at it) Tattoo. It is just a spectacularly ill-judged piece of television. Janeway meets a bunch of slavers and declares, “These are my kind of people!”

  4. I never saw “Alliance,” but your review makes me glad that I missed it.

    Reading you analysis of this episode, it makes me appreciate all the more how the reboot of Battlestar Galactica was, at least in part, the show that Voyager was originally supposed to be in concept but which was completely lacking in the actual execution. Battlestar Galactica was a continual exercise in demonstrating the ongoing struggle between principles and practicalities, and it was most definitely not afraid to depict the regular characters in a morally ambiguous, if not outright negative, light.

    • Yep. Alliances is the episode where Janeway meets a bunch of slavers and sighs in relief, “These are my kind of people.” And the writing staff thought it was a good idea.

  5. I dislike the Kazon’s misogyny because it wasn’t hard wired into their characters when we first met them. Is it supposed to be some sort of (arrested) development on their parts, and whose bright idea was it anyway?

    It’s interesting that Janeway and Tuvok liken what’s happening with the Kazon to when the Federation tried to make peace with the Klingon Empire, since the Kazon have often been accused of being a substandard replacement in the absence of the Empire, right down to the cranial ridges (although Tuvok is unaware of Federation relations with the Empire at this point in time).

    It is nice to see there are still some Maquis conflicts on Voyager which always makes for good drama. I enjoyed both scenes with Hogan where I felt he held his own against Mulgrew and Dawson. In fact, Simon Billig impressed the producers enough to expand his character throughout the season from what was intended to be a one-shot appearance (and why I was so angry when they disposed of him in a most callous way in S3).

    I found it unusual that Hogan and Jonas trust Seska since she is a Cardassian and they were Maquis terrorists, but that never even comes up. And I suspect the reason Janeway didn’t want Chakotay opening negotiations with Seska was because she might manipulate him into worsening their situation in the Delta Quadrant, instead of strengthening it.

    I think Jeri Taylor’s script lays it on a bit thick here. You know Janeway is setting herself up to be disappointed when she says the Trabe can change and especially the ending with Janeway’s speech just in case we missed the point.

    Is Hogan an ensign or a crewman? I think Harry said he was a crewman in Resolutions. The crewman killed in the teaser was called Kurt Bendera.

    • Yep, there is some irony in Tuvok’s whole “the alliance with the Klingons worked out pretty well” speech, to the point that I almost imagine a Family Guy style cutaway gag to the events of The Way of the Warrior.

  6. I agree with your nuanced analysis, yet I found this episode all in all well paced, densily packed, and at times quite intriguing. As you mention, it asked a lot of good questions but cut the answers short. Janeway, especially her arrogant stance that the ship is not a democracy (which is true, but the wording and the strictness is awful) and her “told you so”-speech in the end were unwatchable. In some ways the ending seemed to indicate Roddenberry’s optimism, but it also sounded heavily “end of history”-like and arrogant, especially since she seemed to believe the Trabes’ intentions to be good at first and that history and its debts are forgotten. The Kazon, though obviously no realiable partners either, at least pointed the finger at Janeway. But despite the obvious weaknesses of the show and putting lack of serialization aside I could not see a better way to resolveor continue this dilemma once it is there. Sticking to principles – what story would you tell? Continue the deal with the Trabe – impossible. Maybe Janeway should have tried allying with another Kazon tribe, just to prove that they are not all bad, brown, evil idiots.

    The one aspect were Voyager did serialization – Seska – keeps on annoying me. Why don’t we get any sense of her motivation? What does she believe to gain by joining the Kazon? It seems to be not really a pleasant or safe environment. The little power she might gain could be lost any minute.

    The whole episode, btw, could indeed have come from Piller’s mind – it reminded me a lot about Star Trek IX in which the Federation’s moral ambiguity was critizised in order to restore it more fully at the end.

  7. In that conversation where MAbus was explaining the history of the kazons, it wasn’t saying that the Kazon were inherently violent and that the trabe were right in enslaving them, it was saying that had become violent BECAUSE they had been enslaved by the trabe, and mentioned that they made them fight each other so that they wouldn’t turn on their masters.

    As for Janeway allying herself with former slavers, in her defence, the crew did seem to genuinely believe that the trabe had learnt their lesson and they were willing to give them a second chance, not to mention that they seemed easier to get along with compared to the Kazon (plus they probably had that whole without a home thing that gave them extra sympathy points). Of course, this proved to be a farce as it became clear that MAbus had no intention of wanting to make peace with the Kazon, and the episode doesn’t condone his racial argument that the kazon no nothing but violence, with Janeway saying that maybe he’s the one who knows nothing but violence.

    Also when I was going to add this comment, I was surprised to see you say in one response that you actually like voyager, as in nearly every review I’ve read about Voyager you’ve been critical of the show, or at least there’s less to be wanting.

    • There’s still a huge difference in how Janeway treats the Trabe as opposed to the Kazon. She pops the champagne for the former slavers, and doesn’t subject them to anything close to the level of scrutiny that she has had for the Kazon since the outset.

      With regards to Voyager, I’d point you to me reviews of episodes like Prey, Gravity, Counterpoint, Course: Oblivion, Child’s Play, Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy and lots of others. If you’re reading Alliances, you’re probably reading reviews of the show’s second season, which is (I would contend) one of the worst seasons in Star Trek history. It’s highly likely that most will be skeptical of the show. Even then, it still produces episodes like Meld or The Thaw or Lifesigns. I even really loved Projections, although it’s debatable to which season it belongs.

      • You mean the descendants of the former slavers, as mabus had only been a child when the Kazons rose in revolt.

        As for the episodes you pointed out, I’ll look out for them, as previous articles and reviews looked at episodes like Fortunate son, family, displaced, day of honor, lineage, and author author, reviews that contain aspects of just how horrible a series voyager is (And I don’t mean badly written, although I’m sure there’s that as well, I mean how it the series portrayed horrible values).

        That said, I do agree with a couple of points you made, like pointing out the uncomfortable comments about race, such as splitting torres up created a more ‘genetically aggressive’ individual, or the negative portrayal of klingons in family. It’s funny to think how in comparison to a show like ds9 where a klingon restaurant was an option for food, characters drank ratkajino and klingon opera was part of the school curriculum, voyager seemed to emphasise just how negative the Klingon culture was.

        (Oh since I came up with this, I did read about one, and yes it was surprisingly positive. Mind you it’s not that I haven’t come across the odd positive review (or at least a neutral one), it’s just more often than not I come across a review that seems to focus on the worst of this series, so much that it has potential to put me off a series that I had enjoyed when it was on, even though it was no deep space nine).

      • Sorry! I shouldn’t put you off. Just ignore me. The worst thing in the world I can do is kill somebody’s enthusiasm for something they love. All I am doing here is arguing for my own reading of the series. It’s not absolute, nor should it be. It’s just one guy writing about what runs through his head when you pour hundreds of episodes of Star Trek into it.

        One of the most disheartening things that I ever read was one of my reviews shared on reddit and somebody saying that I was right and that they were wrong to enjoy the show. Which is the exact opposite of the point of this.

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