In which they make a decent submarine movie and ruin it at literally the last possible second.
I said I’d let you know when it happened, and it finally has. The establishing shot is, miracle of miracles, Voyager actually at warp. Heading somewhere at speed. And I can mention here that the Intrepid-class looks deeply at home when traveling at superluminal velocities. Today’s activity-interrupted-by-duty is Chakotay and Torres playing hoverball, and the interruption is a beacon sending a Federation signal. So that’s cool. The signal is authenticated, and using a carrier wave standard that was only deployed nine months ago.
The beacon is drifting inside a cloud that seems perfectly positioned to be hard to access, in an ionized cloud that makes scanning difficult but which let the signal out. Janeway orders the tractor beans used to get it into sensor range, so I guess the targeting scanners can see further than the scanner scanners? Or maybe they just don’t care about detail as much. However, as soon as the tractor turns on, a Kazon ship comes out of the cloud and fires on them. Ambush it is, and the Kazon manage to start opening a hole in the shields, using insider knoweldge about how Federation shields work. If they have that, and knowledge about Federation frequency signals, there’s really only one good explanation.
Once the shields open, a light shuttle makes it through the opening and boards in a cargo bay on deck 4. It is now Tuvok’s job to abandon the tactical station in the middle of a battle and lead a party to repel boarders. Which, frankly, only makes sense if Tuvok is the worst department head in history, or if the Federation is aware of the Redshirt effect and knows that a member of the senior staff has to lead a team or there will be no survivors. Also, knowing that phasers (or at least phaser rifles) can be set to a wide sweep now means that every time security doesn’t burst down the door and phaser everything in the room, we have to assume the canisters they’re near are full of volatile or toxic substances.
The intruders make it to a transporter room and steal a piece of the system. the transporter module is about fist-sized, and wouldn’t work on the Kazon ships without a little bit of help. Seska’s reverting back to Cardassian, and much better at tactics and forward-thinking than anyone on Voyager. Now that the Kazon have an advisor with Federation training, Maquis ingenuity, and Cardassian education, they’re doing things like modifying shuttles to pierce the hull in such a way that it destabilizes Voyager‘s warp field and makes them unable to pursue.
Janeway commits to retrieving the technology in order to keep their Federation tech from altering the balance of power in the sector, while Chakotay manages to detect the next stage of the trap. Unless, of course, the real trap is that Seska knew Voyager would track them down and left an obvious warp trail so that Chakotay would second-guess their pursuit and delay long enough for the Kazon to reach a safehouse. While Chakotay and Janeway are discussing the best way to approach the problem, Tuvok is making cracks about Chakotay’s choice in girlfriends.
Meanwhile, the Kazon Nistram are making arrangements to sell the transporter module. Sounds like Seska’s less interested in tribal squabbles and more interested in empire-building.
Chakotay and Torres are going to pull some old Maquis tricks… a trick that Seska taught them, in fact, to try and get the transporter module back and destroy it. I’m still questioning how the module is fist-sized if they need the whole transporter pad setup to make it work.
Majj Cullah is not having much luck dealing with the ingrained tribalism of Kazon culture, but Voyager finds some proof that the Kazon have already gotten the transporter working and integrated with their systems – and used it to beam his rival Majj into space. There’s that Cardassian ruthlessness.
Chakotay is late to the meeting to discuss how to get their little surprise in place, mainly because he stole a shuttlecraft to go deliver it himself.
Jal Cullah is working with Seska to refine his plans to empire – this time by trying to become the leader of an alliance of smaller sects rather than hitching his star to an already-ascendent one. And Seska anticipated his plan and has already carried it out. Kazon, however, hold their pride above efficiency. That said, all it really takes to smooth things over is someone with symmetrical features pretending to be subservient at you. He’s gonna wake up one day with a knife in his neck and never see it coming.
Torres is going to bat for Chakotay, so that assuming he comes back alive maybe Janeway won’t space-keelhaul him. Assuming it even gets to that, of course. Chakotay is attempting to sneak up on the Kazon by running silent, but with Seska at their Ops console it’s not really working. She remains a step ahead of Chakotay, and you know what? Even on Voyager, it’s hard to ruin a good submarine sequence. Plus the byplay between Cullah and Seska is pretty great. Cullah’s definitely getting used to taking orders, and Chakotay may have planned on being captured. He’s beamed into Kazon Command & Control, destroyed the transporter module, and called Voyager via message beacon. Then he’s surrendered to Seska and told Voyager not to come rescue him.
Next up, the interrogation sequence! Very Affiable Evil, which is always so much more interesting. Seska’s got the Voyager shuttle. And while Chakotay wiped the computer, it’s still got… like… hardware. Unless he also wiped the firmware of all the embedded devices, like the shuttle’s transporter module. Before he beamed over. Seska wants the command codes, ostensibly so that she can keep the Kazon and all their buddies from killing everyone on Voyager when it arrives. Voyager shouldn’t be coming, but Torrest has convinced Janeway that the morale problems of not rescuing Chakotay will be worse than the potential loss of the ship with all hands. And Janeway isn’t so far gone that the argument doesn’t resonate.
Cullah’s interrogation techniques are somewhat less than inspired, and Chakotay is definitely getting the better of this exchange even with his face being beaten in. It’s just the beatings, and then drugs, and then some alone time with Seska.
Voyager sees the congregation on long-range sensors, and picks up on the alliance immediately. B’Elanna suggests a warp-speed drive-by transport, which is something of a novel concept. Warp transports are doable if both ships are maintaining relative velocities, but beaming through the warp field makes it difficult. When the two ships are moving several times the speed of light relative to each other, a several-second transport process is nigh-impossible. Remember, transporter range is about 40,000 km. The speed of light is a little under 300,000 kilometers per second. Even going at Warp 1, that gives them two-fifteenths of a second to complete a transport process that generally takes six seconds. We must postulate that the data transfer itself is nearly instant, but it is the assembly process that takes time. Oh wait never mind, Kim states that they’ll be traveling at two billion km/s, or 6,666c. This better be a figure of speech. Or he meant to say million, which would only be 6.6c.
Either way, the transport risks kill Chakotay, but the alternative is leaving him in the hands of the Kazon. Cullah’s diplomacy is improving, and Chakotay is being used as a prop in negotiations, and Because Seska’s not an idiot, Voyager has to drop out of warp in order to get around her firewall. They start playing ping-pong with Chakotay’s body, and it’s really fortunate that they can now transport with the shields down, because the Kazon aren’t being pushovers here. So instead of being Chakotay out, they just beam all the Kazon leaders out as hostages. That’s gotta sting. Plus, Seska seems to know when to make an exit.
Now that Chakotay’s back, he and Janeway have their little heart-to-heart. He gets the “I’m not mad, I’m just disappointed” speech, followed by a message bouey from Seska, gloating about her escape and letting Chakotay know she impregnated herself with his DNA while he was asleep. Which is a hell of a way to end an episode.