Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"State of Flux"

“State of Flux” is the episode in which Seska is revealed as a traitor. It is not a bad episode in spite of a lack of emotion and mystery, but it mostly earns it high marks for expanding story possibilities for future episodes. The crew has made a new, recurring enemy in the Delta Quadrant--one that burns at Chakotay personally.

A large away team is gathering fruit and vegetables on a planet when Voyager accidentally discovers a Kazon ship hiding in the atmosphere. The away team quickly assembles in order to beam off world only to discover seska is missing. Chakotay goes off to look for her. He finds her in a nearby cave where it appears she is hiding from a team of Kazons. Ship and crew all get away safely.

The Kazon ship is later discovered severely damaged with only one crewmember still alive. An explosion was caused by a failed attempt to integrate Federation technology into the ship. Took runs through the possibilities that it is not Federation technology, Federation technology stolen from another Starfleet ship stranded in the Delta Quadrant, or from a traitor on board Voyager.

As a notorious nitpicker, I have to note two things. The Kazon were attempting to integrate a replicator into their ship. Janeway told them the first time they met, after the kazon wanted the device that creates water, the replicators are not separate devices and cannot be removed from the ship. But for the sake of argument, let us say they can. Would it not be easy to find out if one was missing? I guess took is assuming the last possibility is so obvious, there is no need to, you know…look.

I have already blown the fact Seska is the traitor, but I have not really blown anything. There is only a brief moment in the second act in which Carey is introduced as a possible suspect that Seska is not the obvious culprit. The Kazon are using a Maquis tactic to hide in orbit. Seska is with the Kazon in the cave. She is the only crewmember to have never given a blood sample. When the blood sample turns up abnormal, she has an excuse--a childhood disease. She beams over to the Kazon ship to either cover her tracks, or attempt to clear her name, depending on how sympathetic you re to a love struck Chakotay. There is virtually nothing that points to Carey, so where is the mystery?

Or the emotional impact? “State of Flux” is the first hint we get that Seska and Chakotay were an item. Her betrayal would have been much more powerful if we had any hints of their romance before now. I cannot entirely dismiss the impact as it is, even if Robert Beltran is more wooden than a log cabin. But the real impact comes from the reveal of Seska’s motivation. She thinks Janeway is an idiot for destroying the array and refusing to steal the warp technology to get them home. At the very least, she ought to be forging alliances, which is what Seska was attempting to do by giving over the replicators. Seska has a logical argument. She is also proof not everyone on the ship may be willing to quietly accept their fate.

Martha Hackett plays Seska to the hilt. She turns from a passive bajoran engineer to a conniving, sneering Cardassian on a dime once she is exposed. As makes quite a memorable villain in her subsequent appearances, though I seem to recall a abrupt end to her story. It has been fifteen years since I have seen those episodes. Things will become clearer to me later.

Seska manages to elevate “State of Flux” above it flaws. Her betrayal could have been hidden much better for much longer, and her twisting the knife between Chakotay’s shoulders would have been more poignant if we had known for more than two commercial breaks he was in love with her. Nevertheless, the episode does not deserve a bad score due to lukewarm set up. It definitely has its merits.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

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