The crew of Voyager discover what it is like to be held to another culture’s Prime Directive, even when respecting that means they will have to ignore a potential shortcut home. Originally Airing on March 20,1995 this is Prime Factors.

The Episode:

Captain’s Log Stardate 48642.5 Prime Factors

Janeway and her crew are shocked to discover a technology that can cut their journey in half but the owners refuse to share siting a version of the Federation’s very own Prime Directive.  However, some crew members disagree with the Captain’s decision to respect it.

The Story:

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After a brief exchange in the mess hall, Janeway comments that the crew seem to be getting along well. Tuvok notes that this will lead to an increase in efficiency but their conversation is interrupted by a distress call.  Upon investigating they are surprised to find that the ship who sent out the alert is not in trouble, in fact, they have come to help Voyager’s own crew.

The Captain of the alien ship introduces him as Gathorel Labin and offers to come aboard with gifts and an offer to assist the ship’s crew in what ails them.  Taking him to the mess hall, Gath is introduced to Neelix who seems impressed with the stories of Gathorel’s people.  Gath then goes to offer Janeway and her crew to take a shore-leave on his home planet of Sikaris much to everyone’s delight.

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Arriving on Sikaris, the crew are amazed by open kindness of the people there.  Janeway is embarrassed by the generosity of the Sikaris people but begins to realize that she can relax for once.  That evening as the crew attends a special festival, Harry meets a young woman who is smitten with his stories.  Stepping on a platform, the young woman takes him to a her favorite place to learn more about Voyagers young Ensign. Unfortunately Harry is distracted by the twin suns making him realize that they are no longer in the same system, somehow they have been transported 40,000 light-years from their previous location in a matter of moments.  Harry, unable to concentrate on the romantic moment rushes back to tell his crew-mates of the wondrous technology he has discovered. Gath acknowledges that the platform can indeed transport people via folding of space but, explains that they have laws forbidding them from sharing their technology so they can not allow it’s use on Voyager.  Harry is devastated but Janeway understands.

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On the ship the senior staff debate the issue and, after some debate, Janeway boils it down for them.  This is the Sikarian’s version of the Prime Directive and must be respected. It hurts to be facing the very thing they have had to uphold regarding their own technology but she can not disrespect it.  Despite some frustration from a few members of the senior staff, they finally agree to attempt a negotiation to trade the ships library of stories in return for the Sikarians using the device on Voyager instead of Voyager taking the tech.  Gath considers this offer and promises to discuss it with his leadership.

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As Janeway negotiates with Gath, Torres and Seska devise a plan to discreetly analyse the space folding tech.  With the assistance of  Lt Carey, the three begin working on a study that they might use to allow Voyager to take advantage of this new tech. That same evening, Ensign Kim is offered a device by one of the locals, named Jaret, in exchange for the literature offered by Janeway.  Taking this opportunity back to the ship, he proposes the offer to Janeway.  Although the Captain is torn as to the right path, she makes it clear that no such offer will be accepted.  However, Torres and Seska take it a step further citing that Janeway made it clear that their primary mission was simple, find a way home.

Returning to the surface, Janeway soon realizes that Gath has no intention in providing Voyager’s crew a quick way home.  Gath soon becomes upset when Janeway challenges his motives causing him to ask her and her crew to leave.  Beaming back to the ship Janeway cancels shore-leave and prepares to depart. Despite Gath’s true nature exposed, She informs Tuvok that she can not accept the secret offer made by Jaret.

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As Torres and her team plan to head to the planet to accept Jaret’s offer, they are interrupted by Tuvok who makes it clear that he plans to take Jaret’s offer himself much to their surprise.  Beaming down, Tuvok makes the exchange and returns to the ship with the device.

Analyzing the device, Torres and team discover that the device is tied to the planet’s core and they must activate the device before leaving or lose the ability forever.  Rushing to install the new device Torres locks the navigation preventing Voyager’s departure.  Activating the device they soon discover that the Sikarian space folding device is not compatible with Voyager’s tech nearly causing a warp core breach in the process. Destroying the device in order to save the ship, Torres realizes that there was no way for the device to work.  Torres stops Seska from wiping the logs fully accepting responsibility for their actions.

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Reporting the events to Janeway, Torres takes full blame but both she and Janeway are shocked when Tuvok admits his culpability in the exchange.  Janeway makes it clear that if Torres makes one tiny mistake again and she will be removed from her position and rank.  Torres accepts her punishment and leaves.  Turning her attention to Tuvok she demands her most trusted officer to explain himself. He explains that he did what she could not do citing that his most logical choice was for him to do it.  Fully expecting to be stripped of his rank and position, Tuvok is shocked when Janeway refuses to do it.  She makes it clear that he has damaged a significant relationship and she may not be able to trust him as she has for their many years together.

Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:

While this episode does have some rather questionable actions taken by members of the crew, especially on the part of Tuvok, it does propose a very interesting quandary that has not really been explored on Star Trek to this level. In all of the stories about the Federation maintaining The Prime Directive,  what is it like being on the side that is denied advanced technology?

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From the start of the series Captain Janeway makes one thing clear, her main mission from here on out is to get the crew home.  That being stated she also made it abundantly clear that she would maintain a Star Fleet crew and in doing so hold them all to the standards most of them swore to uphold.  While at the time this may have seemed like an easy statement things are rarely so easy when it come so Starfleet Captains and so we had to expect that sentiment to come back sooner or later, I bet she never expected it so soon.

To appreciate this episode you have to ask yourself, what would you do in this situation? In many ways it is like a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure book.  While there are many paths you can take, choosing the wrong path in this case would only lead to certain doom, specifically a warp core breach.  Without that foresight however, the choice would almost seem easy, break the law of a people to get your crew home, right?!  well, maybe not so easy as that.

You see, this is where morality comes in to play and you have to ask yourself where do you draw the line?  Do you allow yourself a few indiscretions to get what you want?  I mean, Sisko did in the episode In the Pale Moonlight but, while it did managed to help save the Federation, who knows what damage it did in the long run.  For one, if anyoine ever found out what Sisko did his career would be over and from that point on he did not really respect himself despite the good that came of it.  But beyond that, where do you draw the line?  Do you casually take what you want without question?  Do you kill anyone in your way? Do you use your superior power and tech to take over star systems to create a way home using other races for labor?  Hmmm sounds like the beginning of the Terran Empire.   While those are indeed extremes this is one of those cases where Janeway is forced to uphold the first duty of every Star Fleet officer, the duty to the truth.   This is where I have a problem with another character’s actions in this episode.

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While Janeway was determined to uphold one of Starfleet’s guiding principles, one of the most unexpected members of the crew did just the opposite tarnishing (and making him a bit of a hypocrite in the process.)  What we know of Tuvok so far is that he is one of Janeway’s oldest friends.  He is someone who has shown a sense of integrity unlike anyone she has ever known to the point that he is her embodiment of a conscience.  So for Tuvok to take matters into his own hands like this was something that seems completely out of character despite his attempts to consider it a practice in Logic. For this I had a hard time accepting Tuvok as a proper Vulcan.  Sure Spock had gone against orders here and there but would never have violated Kirk’s trust in any way form or fashion.  It kinda makes me wonder if his time in Chakotay’s crew didn’t rub off on him the wrong way.

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Speaking of Chakotay’s crew, you have to give props to one specific character who has certainly come a long way in just eight episodes.  That person is, of course, B’Elanna Torres.  The Torres we first met would have never thought twice about taking the tech. In fact she probably would have just beamed up the platform and used it without a second thought.  This new B’Elanna has been given a chance and a person to look up to, that person, well Janeway of course.  For the first time in Torres’ life, she has a Starfleet Captain that believes in her, not only for her abilities but for her integrity as well.  She has proven herself to this Captain and want to do all she can to avoid letting her down. While she got close here, it is clear that the Captain still believes in Torres and this Half-Klingon will not let it happen again.

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Finally, we have to address Harry Kim.  This guy.  I swear, he gets a chance to have a nice romantic moment with a lovely alien lady who is clearly into him and what does he do?  He spoils it with science.  Yep.  Dude, you are supposed to BLIND THEM WITH SCIENCE not distract yourself with it.  I know you are so desperate for a promotion but dude, they will never promote you if you keep this kinda silliness up.  Take Tom’s advice and RELAX!

All in all, solid episode despite the rather odd actions by the Vulcan security officer.  I love episodes that give the crew a challenge especially one that is not solved by simply shooting it with a phaser.  Okay, they did that too but who’s counting.

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Gleanings and Cool Bits:

  • X photon torpedoes fired, 37 remaining.
  • Seska really turns on the waterworks in this one even revealing that she has a brother.  But notice how that emotional outburst kinda vanished.  Almost like someone was trained to cry on command… hmmmm
  • We never seen nor hear from the Sikarians again.

Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review,  I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!  Next Review: State Of Flux

If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

Late To The Game 4/22/2020

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Don’t mention how much you hate sand, Don’t mention how much you hate sand…

 

Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available.  Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.

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