The Other Side of the Fence
"Prime Factors" Plot Summary:
Voyager is hailed by a ship from Sikarius, a planet renowned for hospitality. They accept the leader's invitation to visit their planet, and Janeway is charmed by the generous lifestyle there - as well as by the magistrate Gath, who seems interested in her romantically. A woman who is similarly interested in Harry Kim invites him to use Sikarius' transporter system to vacation with her, and Kim discovers that the Sikarians are capable of traveling across thousands of light years in an instant. They could get Voyager halfway home.
Janeway asks Gath about negotiating for the technology, but Gath says that his people don't share their advanced devices. He does agree to take it up with the council, but sounds discouraging, and ultimately reveals that his desire was for the crew to settle among his people. Meanwhile, a renegade offers to trade Voyager's crew the technology for the entire contents of their library, as his people value new stories above all else. Janeway refuses to deal with criminals, but Torres, Carey, and Seska plot behind her back to trade for the device. When Tuvok bursts in on them, they expect to be arrested, but he announces that he has decided to make the deal himself.
The device proves incompatible with Starfleet equipment and fails, nearly wrecking engineering until Torres destroys it. Janeway is livid and threatens to demote her if she ever disobeys an order again, then demands to know what Tuvok was thinking. He explains that he knew she would be unable to compromise her principles to get the crew home, so he compromised his instead. The captain is moved by his protectiveness toward her but also stresses that it is not acceptable.
The final scene in this episode blew me away; it reminded me a lot of DS9's "Necessary Evil," when Kira asked Odo whether he would ever be able to trust her again and he couldn't answer. Janeway and Tuvok's relationship has been better developed than any other two characters' on the series so far, and this new wrinkle just adds more depth. I also thought Tim Russ and Kate Mulgrew were terrifically moving and believable in the scenario.
I'm not sure I like the way they're writing Janeway in terms of her command decisions: she makes grand statements about the Prime Directive in "Caretaker" and "Time and Again" which this episode appears to muddy, and I'm don't know how to take her threats to the Vidiians or her decisions about educating the girl from "Emanations" in light of this. She seems overly rigid here, sticking to the letter of a rule which the ship would not have broken in spirit by negotiating with other than the legal governing body on Sikarius; hell, Kirk would probably have gone looking for a renegade group and tried to overthrow the legitimate government. The drama was gripping, but it makes for an inconsistent captain in some important ways.
Still, there was some absolutely wonderful stuff in here: The way Seska and Carey swayed Torres into joining their mutiny plan and the conflict she showed all along, then the way she responded to Janeway's reprimand. Janeway's comfort with having a personal life while acting as the captain. Tuvok's thinking like a Maquis even though he's back in Starfleet, and the probable consequences thereof. Chakotay's input was notably missing in this episode - I expected him to put up a MUCH bigger fight with Janeway in favor of trying to get the technology by hook or by crook. I am starting to get the feeling that he likes being stranded in the Delta Quadrant with her, not having to deal with the Cardassians or the Federation back home. Which is interesting in and of itself, if the show deals with it...