Delta Redux: A Voyager Rewatch: Prime Factors

By Last Updated: July 29, 2015Views: 2686

Welcome back to the Delta Quadrant everyone and this week we meet a race of people who love pleasure and stories and apparently enjoy tying their hair back with baling wire. Yes its Prime Factors, an episode that comes so close to being great but devolves into a puddle of smug.

That introduction sounds a bit harsher than I intended because – again – this is not a bad episode, just an okay one. It is enjoyable, it has a few stand out moments and it has a premise that, if explored completely, could have been a stand out of the season. It just misses for a variety of reasons and I suppose that is what makes me frustrated with this show.

Had we not just seen Eye of the Needle or Emanations I would have just blown off this episode as a first season story of a series attempting to find its footing. But we did get those episodes, so we know it already has a footing – no, it actually has a direction. So to see Prime Factors stumble around as much as it does…well…frustration.

“We have our own set of rules, which includes the Prime Directive. 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’m sure many of them think the Prime Directive is a lousy idea.” – Captain Janeway

Let me attempt to describe what I’m saying. The overall idea that Voyager, or a Federation crew in general, comes across a race that is advanced enough to have technology that it feels could cause harm to a less advanced species and so has devised a law, or directive, to keep that technology away from from lesser species no matter how much it could help that species, and that lesser species is the Federation…brilliant.

Truly, to see Voyager on the other side of the Prime Directive is a great idea. And to see Janeway struggle with this concept is wonderful explore, even if her ruminations are a bit melodramatic. this premise, if explored in depth would add nuance to the core of Star Trek lore. But Prime Factors falls short. It has some wonderful ideas, however in practice it just can’t pull them off.

First of all there’s Gath, the leader of the Sikarians, he is meant to be charming and suave and charismatic to the point of infatuating Janeway and causing her to lose her focus. His portrayal and dialogue just ooze smarmy smug gross guy. So when the so called betrayal happens it is just not believable.

Also, as i understand it, the whole conflict is about advanced transporter technology. the Sikarians didn’t need to give the tech to Voyager they just needed to transport them. Star Fleet doesn’t have to give the technology to to the culture just to beem them on the ship, so why do the Sikarians need to as well? Just send Voyager closer to home and don’t be a jerk about it.

Those issues aside the biggest flaw is the crew relationships. As I said way back in Caretaker the really interesting thing about Voyager was the dynamic between combining a military organization and a rebel quasi-terrorist group. The way these two interacted would fuel years of conflict. But that’s not the way the show went. It was established right away that the Maquis would be incorporated into the crew – they all wore uniforms and followed the regulations, they were subordinate – everyone on Voyager immediately became homogenized in the Star Trek vein. This is fine, not what I would have liked, but fine.

However every now and again they bring out the “differences in the crew” storyline when the plot needs it. It is not developed or even mentioned until a conflict is required. So when the mini-rebellion happens near the end it is very much unearned. And as a result we are cheated from what could have been an investigation into the franchise’s moral center and instead given a cheap moralizing ending on loyalty.

A letdown.

And I have to emphasize it is only a letdown because the series has shown it can do so much more.

Next Time On Star Trek Voyager

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