Second it gives us our first story arc with the Seska reveal as said Cardassian. Voyager does not do story arcs like DS9 where multiple story-lines overlapped and intertwined with one another running from one episode to the next without breaks. This arc, like many others on the show, will be picked up here and there and forgotten completely for several episodes before bringing it back whenever needed. The Seska arc will prove to be…interesting, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.
For now I must admit that the seeds of the plot were subtle and well handled. She has not been a main character but has been around just enough in the background so as to not be a surprise. Her relationship with B’Elanna has been well established as is her dislike of Star Fleet regulations. And her prior liaison with Chakotay set up in this episode seems real and earned. All of this does add some mystery and casts doubt on her as the traitor, all very well done.
That being said Seska being a Cardassian infiltrator of the Maquis did seem to me to be a cop out. The idea of a Bajoran being the traitor/villain I thought was a bold move for the series only to reveal that no, she is of course a tried and true Star Trek villain. And to be fair Cardassians are great villains; they are complex and have differing motivations and an intricate culture…in the main Star Trek universe. A lone Cardassian out of context is just not that nuanced. Might as well give her a long mustache to twirl. Which they did! (figuratively of course).
Seska’s rant at the end when her plot is uncovered is flat out evil mastermind monologue played to over-the-top levels by Martha Hackett, all it needed was a Mu-ha-ha! laugh at the end and it would have been perfect cliche. And its a bit of a shame because she actually did have some valid points.
All of this above may sound as if I did not like the episode – this could not be farther from the truth. It was a very entertaining, well paced and had some genuine mystery to it. And it used the ensemble cast to great effect, each member of the crew was given just enough screen time to a) do something interesting and b) actually effect the outcome of the story.
Some things do stand out. Janeway was in full command mode and had some great moments with her “get off my ship” line and the “I don’t like bullies” speech; both hold up as wonderful Captain moments I’d put up against anything Kirk or Picard ever said/did.
Also the back and forth between Tuvok and Chakotay were well played character beats. They obviously have a disdain for each other and their methods but it is the contrast between the two that eventually leads to the capture of the traitor.
(Well, I say capture but of course Seska escapes. Note to Star Fleet: you really need to shut down incoming and outgoing transporter functions until the arrest has been made. You’d think after the first dozen or so times someone beemed away just before being taken into custody they would change strategy – alas no.)
And the end where Chakotay has a genuine crisis of confidence when he asks Tuvok why he was so easily duped by both he and Seska feels honest. It is not played for laughs or meant to portray Chakotay as naïve or stupid; but rather serves to add to his character as one who is willing to trust first and lead with his heart. Again, it just works.
Overall State of Flux is a fast moving, smart action ensemble piece. Just a good Star Trek episode.