The FightBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:05 PM GMT
See Also: 'The Fight' Episode Guide
In sickbay, Chakotay screams, "Make them stop!" but the Doctor tells Tom Paris that they cannot sedate the first officer because he's the only one who can communicate with the aliens threatening the vessel. On the bridge, Torres warns Janeway that the gravometric shear in Chaotic Space is going to tear the ship apart if they don't get out of there. Chakotay wants to sleep, but the Doctor tells him that he is the only one who can help the crew find a way to safety.
Earlier, Chakotay was injured on the holodeck sparring with a holographic Tyrellian. Boothby, the groundskeeper from the Academy, was there training Chakotay as he did when the first officer was a cadet. During the fight, Chakotay witnessed a spatial distortion which distracted him; his opponent then knocked him out. In sickbay, the first officer told the Doctor that he saw something strange before the hit, so the Doctor scanned him and discovered that Chakotay's visual cortex was hyperactive, as if he had been hit with an energy weapon.
Just then, Chakotay was summoned to the bridge, where the crew was attempting to evade a strange spatial phenomenon which overtook the ship despite their efforts. After Seven called Janeway to astrometrics to explain that she had seen the phenomenon before - the Borg call it Chaotic Space, because the normal laws of physics don't apply - Chakotay hallucinated the computer calling him for Round One of the fight, and saw his boxing gloves in his quarters. Minutes later, they appeared to him again on the bridge...and when Tuvok tried to distract him from his babble about fighting, Chakotay took a swing at the Vulcan, who subdued him with a neck pinch.
In sickbay, Chakotay admitted to Janeway that he might be suffering from a family curse: his grandfather went crazy, refusing medicine so he could hear the voices in his head. The Doctor explained that Chakotay had a latent gene which could trigger audio-visual hallucinations, but the defect was corrected before he was even born. Now, however, something seemed to have switched it on. Voyager then encountered a derelict ship drifting in Chaotic Space with them; the logs revealed that several members of that crew appeared to be seeing visions and hearing voices as well before they died. The Doctor discovered that the hallucinations had different causes, but the same effects as they were having on Chakotay. At his request, Janeway then gave Chakotay permission to go on a vision quest to see whether he could control the mirages.
Chakotay called upon his ancestors and saw his grandfather, who led him to a cave where he heard a fight beginning. After finding himself in the ring, in uniform, he woke to tell the Doctor that aliens were in his vision quest trying to communicate. When the Doctor demanded to know what they said to him, Chakotay began to recite the requirements for leaving Chaotic Space, but had trouble focusing and collapsed. Janeway came to sickbay to ask him to make contact again, though she knew how difficult it was for him the first time. She pointed out that his sanity wouldn't do him any good if they were stuck permanently in fluidic space.
Chakotay recalled being in the boxing ring with Kid Chaos, whom Chakotay ordered the crew to kill. But Boothby pointed out that killing isn't Starfleet protocol, warning the first officer to pay attention to his training and keep away from the ropes. As Chakotay trained for the fight, he was the crew condemning and ridiculing him, but he could not hear the alien voices. "Please come back," he begged, and saw his grandfather, who suggested that Chakotay follow him. As he rejected the madness which that implied, Chakotay woke in his quarters with the Doctor and Paris leaning over him. Everything which had transpired since he started the vision quest was a hallucination.
While the ship found itself going in circles and Janeway recognized the energy pattern of a nucleotide resonance frequency, suggesting that someone or something really was trying to communicate with Chakotay, the first officer was kept in sickbay where he demanded to be allowed back in the ring. With the hull pressure rising, Janeway demanded that the Doctor let Chakotay remain in communication with the aliens so that he could try to learn from them, even if that communication took the form of hallucination. With the gene fully active, Chakotay saw himself in the ring, representing the Alpha Quadrant and Humanity against Kid Chaos of the Delta Quadrant. Boothby reminded him that he was fighting not an alien, but his own fear. As he fought his faceless opponent, Chakotay saw the faces of his friends and co-workers as the aliens telling him that his ship had to leave Chaotic Space and that his mind had to be realigned so that they could tell him how.
Back in the present from the teaser, Chakotay tells the Doctor he can't take the punches, but the Doctor tells him that only his own fear is keeping him from letting himself hear what the aliens need to say. Chakotay suddenly understands what the voices have been trying to tell him and rushes to the bridge, where he enters a dangerous set of deflector commands as Janeway orders the rest of the crew to let him work undisturbed. Voyager returns to normal space, and Chakotay tells the Captain he wants to do a little boxing in his off-time to relax. On the holodeck, Boothby is waiting.
The temptation is strong to say, "This episode hit hard through the first five rounds, but KOed itself in the final minutes." I think, however, that I have had enough boxing metaphors for awhile. I know nothing about boxing, but I recognize cliches from Rocky when I hear them...moreover, I suspect that no one training an opponent of Mike Tyson really tries to convince the poor man that his real goal is to take as many hits as possible in order to see whether he has the heart of a boxer. I understand that the point of "The Fight" was to hammer home the theme of not letting one's own fears become debilitating, but I got hit over the head once too often with that message.
Though "The Fight" was vastly more exciting than I expected from the previews, it did leave wondering exactly what happened and why. A fine performance by Robert Beltran, some very witty hallucinatory dialogue from the Doctor, and more touchy-feely between Janeway and Chakotay than we've gotten for the past two years couldn't rid me of the nagging feeling that - like Voyager in Chaotic Space - the story went in circles which led nowhere. Maybe we'll get some deus ex machina redemption at a later date in which all will be explained, but given this show's track record with continuity or lack thereof, I wouldn't count on it.
The strange thing is that there should be continuity - this should have been an important episode in the only good arc Voyager's done all season. Given that Chakotay bonded with a member of Species 8472 in the guise of Boothby when he came aboard Voyager in "In the Flesh" (which conveniently reran this month to remind us of those events), it would have made sense that the Boothby in "The Fight" was the same alien, trying to communicate with Chakotay on behalf of his own kind. From the moment "Boothby" appeared in a totally out-of-context role as a boxing trainer, I fully expected to learn that Species 8472 was responsible for Chakotay's hallucinations, and for Chaotic Space - which doesn't seem like much of a stretch from Fluidic Space where Species 8472 normally resides. But we never learned anything of that sort. All we found out was that the Academy groundskeeper actually moonlights in the gym. Not only is this silly, it's a big So What?
We did learn a bit more about Chakotay's crazy family background, which was interesting if relatively simplistic...I'm not sure why his grandfather had a tattoo which his father didn't get until after he met the alien Aztec-types we learned about in "Tattoo," but that's just pesky continuity again. We got to see Chakotay box - again, a bit anachronistic coming from a man who once deplored fighting, but if he could be a man of peace in the Maquis, he might as well be a would-be-boxer in Starfleet. However, if Chakotay's really so afraid of going crazy from having his mind taken over by alien voices, why didn't that fear surface when he bonded with the Borg collective? And why, why, why must all mind-controlling aliens appear to people as the Bajoran Prophets? Oh wait - maybe the Chaotic Space aliens are the Bajoran Prophets! But then how come they've shown up in so many other guises, tormenting people with the faces of their friends and colleagues?
Speaking of friends and colleagues, I lost track of how many times Janeway actually put her hands all over Chakotay's face and body versus how many times he fantasized - whoops, hallucinated - that she did - but the count was high indeed. I am a bit chagrined to find myself, like Chakotay, able to be warmed by what embers remain of the sparks which once flew between these two. But I also have to admit that even in these dark days, Janeway and Chakotay have more chemistry during contrived sickbay scenes than Paris and Torres do during passionate love scenes.
This episode left a mostly-good taste in my mouth, and I can only conclude it's because 1) we got to see a lot of Robert Beltran, 2) he got to show some range, and 3) it wasn't in a love story with an Alien of the Week. Please, Paramount, even if the storylines are doomed to inconsistency and character development is kept to a minimum, can we have our first season Janeway/Chakotay dynamic back? Is that so much to ask?
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.