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Recap / Star Trek Voyager S 1 E 9 "Prime Factors"

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The second big Hope Spot for the USS Voyager. Of course, this is still Season One.
In the mess hall, Paris, Kim, Torres and Seska gossip and laugh about Kim's love life. Janeway notices and realizes that the two crews are finally started to unite. But then she's called away to the bridge to answer a distress call from a Sikarian ship. When Janeway hails the ship, however, the captain, Magistrate Gathoral Labin, say that they're not in distress. It's actually Voyager that is in distress. After beaming aboard and serving up some delicious appetizers, Gath invites the crew to enjoy themselves on his planet. Neelix confirms that the Sikarians are legendary for their hospitality, so Janeway accepts.

The Sikarians prove good to their word and lavish Voyager's crew with food, recreation, and gifts. Gath takes a shine to Janeway and offers her outfits of fine fabrics. Janeway is reluctant to impose, but Gath insists that giving pleasure to others gives his people pleasure. Meanwhile, Kim meets a cute local engineer named Eudana who is held rapt by the plot of "Caregiver." She wants him to tell more stories and uses a trajector to beam them both to a place called Alastria for privacy. Kim realizes that they're not on Sikaris anymore. They're actually 40,000 light years away!

Kim rushes back to Janeway, telling her that the Sikarians have technology that folds space, allowing them to transport themselves up to 40,000 light years away. However, Gath tells them that it is illegal for the Sikarians to share their technology out of fear that it could be used for immoral purposes. After years of standing behind the Prime Directive to refuse to help less-advanced civilizations, Janeway admits it feels bad to be on the other side for once. However, Tuvok suggests that Gath's refusal might just be a prelude to negotiations. Janeway resolves to butter him up and try again. Remembering Eudana's thirst for stories, Kim suggests offering the ship's database of literature as payment for the trajector. Torres volunteers to study the trajector herself as a fall-back, but Janeway doesn't want to risk offending the Sikarians during negotiations.

Offering pecan pie and centuries of new stories, Janeway again asks for the trajector, promising to destroy it once they return home. Gath again refuses. Then Janeway suggests that the Sikarians themselves beam Voyager 40,000 light years closer to home, since that would still shave decades off their trip. Gath agrees to bring the offer to his government.

On the planet, Eudana takes Kim to a clandestine meeting with another Sikarian who says he'll smuggle the trajector to Kim in payment for the stories. Kim takes the backdoor offer to Janeway, who is caught in a moral bind. She can't bear to break her principles by acquiring the trajector illegally, but she also can't bear to tell the crew that they will remain stranded because of her scruples. Tuvok advises her to stand firm and at least see how the offer to Gath pans out. But when Janeway returns to Gath, she realizes that he's giving her the runaround and never had any intention of agreeing to her deal. Janeway orders all crew to return to the ship and depart as soon as possible.

However, Torres and her engineers plan to make the deal behind Janeway's back. When they try to beam back to the planet with payment, Tuvok catches them in the act... and insists that he go in their place. He returns with the trajector and hands it off to Torres to install and use. But the trajector doesn't work properly with the ship's systems and starts to go haywire. Torres is forced to destroy it to prevent a warp core breach, but the jig is up. Torres comes clean, and Tuvok admits that it was all his plan to save the crew himself so that Janeway would not have to sacrifice her morals in the process. Janeway needs both of them too much to punish, so she castigates them both before sending them away, highly distraught.

This episode provides examples of:

  • Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder: Janeway and Harry Kim enjoy the local attractions, despite having love interests back in the Alpha Quadrant.
  • A House Divided: With the prospect of getting home in one fell swoop, not only ex-Maquis rebels B'Elanna and Seska but even Starfleet officers Carey and Tuvok end up covertly opposing their captain.
  • Alien Arts Are Appreciated: Stories are of great value in Sikarian society, so Janeway offers to trade Voyager's entire library in exchange for some help getting home. When the respective leaders' negotiations break down, their underlings do it behind their backs anyway.
  • Alien Non-Interference Clause: The Prime Directive is discussed and is indeed a source of conflict, together with the Sikarians' own version of the law.
  • Alien Sky: Harry realises he's been transported to another star system when he sees the Binary Suns.
  • All for Nothing: Sikaris technology was never compatible with the Federation's.
  • Almost Kiss: It's not enough that Harry turns down his chance for some alien nookie, he interrupts Janeway and Gath as well!
  • Bait-and-Switch: Tuvok has caught the conspirators red-handed as they're about to beam down to the planet with Voyager's library. Then Tuvok states he will make the exchange himself.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: The episode begins with Janeway voicing her concern about whether the Starfleet and Maquis crews will be able to get along and fully integrate. The group of officers who collude to steal the Sikarians' technology in defiance of Janeway's orders are an exact 50/50 split of Starfleet and Maquis.
  • Beneath the Mask: Janeway's voice cracks when giving Tuvok her What the Hell, Hero? speech.
  • Call-Back: Harry entertains Eudana with the events of "Caretaker".
  • The Chains of Commanding: Should Janeway bribe a local official to get around the Prime Directive? Is getting her crew home more important than the principles she's sworn to uphold?
  • Chick Magnet: Harry Kim! One of the Delaney sisters allegedly knocked him off a holodeck gondola into the water while trying to make out with him, and he quickly attracts the attention of Eudana.
  • The Conscience: Janeway says to Tuvok, "You are my counsel, the one I turn to when I need my moral compass checked."
  • Continuity Nod: Chakotay points out there have been past occasions when Starfleet personnel have chosen to ignore the Prime Directive on strong ethical grounds.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Gath is The Hedonist, always ready to move on to the next source of pleasure. He doesn't understand why Janeway would want something more permanent, or the crew's overall desire to return to the Alpha Quadrant.
  • Disappointed in You: Janeway to B'Elanna and Tuvok.
  • Downer Ending: Voyager fails to use the trajectory to make any progress, and Janeway is badly shaken by the disobedience of her officers.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: Janeway putting up with Gath's overtly physical attentions, given her later Celibate Hero status.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Seska busts B'Elanna checking out Ensign Murphy.
  • Failure Is the Only Option: Come on, it wouldn't be Voyager if things were this easy for them!
  • Fake-Out Make-Out: Jaret Otel has Eudana bring Harry to him for their secret meeting, as it doesn't look strange that she would take him off somewhere private.
  • False Reassurance: When Janeway calls out Gath on lying about wanting to help, he protests it's not true. After all, he's done everything to convince them to stay on his planet.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: The Sikarians' teleporter works by folding space. Harry theorizes that it could be jury rigged into a Jump Drive.
  • Flashy Teleportation: The Sikarians' spatial projector, which has a greyish mist about it when in use. Voyager hopes to use for a Lightspeed Leapfrog.
  • Food as Bribe: Janeway softens up Gath with pecan pie before pitching the idea of a trade for their technology.
  • French Jerk: Gath has a conspicuous French accent, which aligns with American stereotypes of the French being libertines and also passive-aggressive jerks. The showrunners later regretted indulging in the trope.
  • Funny Background Event: During the Cold Open, a female member of the crew in a blue shirt can be seen behind Harry, clearly having a laugh at the story of his and Tom's exploits with the Delaney sisters.
  • Gossipy Hens: The episode opens with B'Elanna and Seska discussing who's dating who.
  • Honesty Is the Best Policy:
    • Jaret is open about how the trade he is offering is unsanctioned and to his own advantage but makes good points about why it should be accepted and seems somewhat sympathetic to their goals, while only asking for books from another planet.
    • Janeway forbids Torres from trying to reverse-engineer the trajector behind the Sikarians' backs, opting instead to deal honestly with Gath and not risk offending him.
  • Honor Before Reason:
    • Janeway opts to deal honorably with the Sikarians rather than break their laws and steal the trajector, even if it means remaining stranded in the Delta Quadrant.
    • Seska wants to blame the malfunction on the warp core breach, but B'Elanna insists on coming clean to Captain Janeway, accepting responsibility on behalf of all the conspirators.
  • Hope Spot: The Space Folding Matrix seems like it'll work, but the presence of anti-neutrinos means that it never could be compatible with Federation systems. B'Elanna was forced to destroy it when it couldn't be removed from its interface.
  • Humanoid Aliens: Sikarians look exactly like humans. Their only embellishment is halo-like rings strung through their hair.
  • I Did What I Had to Do: Tuvok tries to use this justification for attempting to get Voyager home by using alien technology behind Janeway's back.
  • La Résistance: The first episode since "Parallax" which deals with the Maquis element on the Voyager crew.
  • Letting Her Hair Down: Janeway lets some strands drop out of her Bun of Steel during a late night with Gath.
  • Loophole Abuse
    • As Jaret Otel is a Sikarian, accepting his offer would not be a violation of the Prime Directive, though it is immoral.
    • Janeway bans B'Elanna from snooping, but this doesn't stop B'Elanna, Seska and Carey from discussing 'in theory' how the Sikarian technology might work.
  • The Main Characters Do Everything: When Janeway is called to the bridge, Kim, Paris and Torres are all in the mess hall with her. When she arrives at the bridge, all our main characters have resumed their posts, apparently relieving whatever redshirts were on that shift at the moment.
  • Mistaken for Exhibit: Harry sees Eudana playing what he assumes is a Harp of Femininity. It's actually an atmospheric sensor that works via sound. That doesn't bother Harry much as he immediately deduces how it works and they start bonding over that instead.
  • Mundane Utility: Eudana uses the spatial projector to hop halfway across the galaxy for a Make-Out Point.
  • Nice Girl: Eudana, who responds nicely to Kim's flirting and introduces him to Jaret to buy the space folding matrix when her government won't give it to the Federation.
  • No Sense of Personal Space: Gath repeatedly touches up Janeway, who reacts with surprise at first but warms up to it.
  • Not so Dire: Voyager answers a Distress Call from the Sikarians, only there's no emergency. They actually want to help Voyager, having heard they're lost in the Delta Quadrant and need cheering up!
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: Gath is eventually revealed to be one, doing nothing to appeal for the Federation to use the technology and preferring for them to be there and under his influence.
  • Planet of Hats: The Sikarians are another highly advanced post-scarcity utopia who live only to give and experience pleasure. The downside is that they get bored with things and people after the novelty wears off and are always looking for something new.
  • Pleasure Planet: Sikaris is home to an advanced society who have nothing better to do than pursue pleasure. Their laws give them strict morals, but that doesn't prevent them from being realistically jaded and shallow.
  • Plug 'n' Play Technology: At first literally played straight — the Sikarian device plugs into a console in Engineering despite being acquired only moments before, so the crew wouldn't have had time to construct an interface. However the trope is ultimately averted.
  • Puppy-Dog Eyes: Janeway lamenting The Chains of Commanding to Tuvok in the privacy of her Ready Room. One can't help wondering if the Vulcan is Not So Stoic, given his subsequent actions.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Janeway to Gath on the shallow values of the Sikarians, who responds by throwing them off the planet, as they're not fun anymore.
  • Rest-and-Resupply Stop: Unfortunately their rest is cut short, not by an external enemy but by their own actions.
  • Rules Lawyer: Gath refuses to hand over their transportation technology because of their laws, even when the virtuous Voyager crew just wants to get home. Janeway suggests a compromise in which they transport Voyager as far as possible without handing over the technology. Gath makes encouraging sounds, but Janeway eventually realises he has no intention of helping them.
  • Saved From Their Own Honor: What Tuvok tries to do for Janeway's sake. Ultimately he determines it was logical, but an immoral breach of trust, to act behind his captain's back.
    • Also Eudana introducing Kim to someone who can sell him the necessary technology.
  • Serious Business
    • On a planet which is a paradise, populated by a species with technology far in advance of the Federation, stories are the only thing Voyager has of value.
    • From the Sikarian point of view, the Voyager crew's desire to get home. Why would they want to do that when there's a paradise they can settle down on right here?
  • Shoot the Dog: Tuvok conspires to get the Space Folding Matrix illicitly, because Janeway's moral code prohibits her from taking action when the Sikarian Magistrate has prohibited use of their technology.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Straw Vulcan
    Janeway: You can use logic to justify anything. That's its power, and its flaw. From now on, bring your logic to me. Don't act on it behind my back.
    Tuvok: You have my word. My logic was not in error, but I was.
  • Tempting Fate
    Seska: This is going to work! (Red Alert signals a warp core breach)
    • Janeway is pleased that the Maquis and Starfleet crews appear to be getting along. Then they cooperate to disobey her orders behind her back.
  • This Cannot Be!: Janeway is utterly shattered at Tuvok's betrayal; it's not clear from this how their friendship will be affected.
  • Two Roads Before You: See The Chains of Commanding.
  • Unfinished, Untested, Used Anyway: The conspirators realise the alien technology only works near Sikaris, so have to use it right away before Janeway goes to warp. Unusually for this trope, it goes horribly wrong and nearly destroys Voyager.
  • Walk-In Chime-In: Carey revealing that he wants in on the conspiracy.
    Seska: Look at that neutrino dispersion pattern. Could that be a result of space folding?
    Torres: Maybe. If the device creates a neutrino bubble around whatever's being trajectored.
    Carey: [offscreen] If that's the case, we'd need a bubble big enough for the ship. (Oh, Crap! Reaction Shot from Seska and Torres) Don't worry Lieutenant. I'm with you on this one. After all, it doesn't hurt to theorise.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Eudana disappears after introducing Kim to Jaret.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: A devastating one is given at the very end by Janeway to Tuvok.