TsunkatseBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:25 PM GMT
See Also: 'Tsunkatse' Episode Guide
Voyager's crew takes shore leave on a planet where the violent sport of tsunkatse is all the rage. As Chakotay, Paris, and Kim enjoy the martial arts competitions, Seven of Nine and Tuvok take a shuttle to study a micro-nebula, while Janeway takes the Delta Flyer to nearby Pendari for some R&R. An explosive device detonates aboard Tuvok and Seven's shuttle. When Seven comes to, she finds herself a prisoner of Penk - a fight promoter who insists that his Borg captive must fight in the arena. Otherwise, the greedy Penk threatens that he will put injured Tuvok in a death match in her place.
Seven fights reluctantly against a powerful Pendari who overwhelms her. Yet Penk congratulates her, reporting that the match received excellent ratings because everyone wants to see the Borg lose. He expects that even more will tune in to see her die. Several Voyager crewmembers who witness the match try to beam Seven out, but Torres realizes that the spectators don't see live competition - they are watching holographic projections of fights taking place on an orbiting ship. When Penk schedules Seven for a death match, a Hirogen champion who helped heal Tuvok offers to train her. Seven is reluctant to have anything to do with the deadly sport, but realizes that her only hope for survival is to become a champion.
As Janeway races back to Voyager, Chakotay tries to negotiate for release of their missing crewmembers, then attacks the orbiting ship where the matches take place. The alien vessel is much stronger, but the crew realizes that if they can stop the broadcast of the fight, then Penk will have no reason to continue a death match. Seven enters the arena and is appalled to learn that the Hirogen who trained her is to be her competitor. She resists fighting, but he scoffs that she is weak and wishes he had chosen a more worthy adversary to end his 19 years of servitude. Janeway uses the Delta Flyer to disrupt broadcast, forcing the aliens to divert energy to their signal generators, so that the crew is able to beam Seven and the Hirogen aboard Voyager just as the ex-Borg is about to kill her opponent. She tells Tuvok that she lost control and possibly her humanity in tsunkatse, but he insists that her remorse and guilt prove otherwise.
Fans of martial arts probably will get a bigger kick out of this episode than Voyager fans - it's nearly the antithesis of Gene Roddenberry's Trek, using a shameless commercial crossover with UPN's WWF Smackdown to attract viewers to this floundering series. "Tsunkatse" featured much more violence than usual - though largely bloodless, like Kirk's fights with aliens in episodes like "The Gamesters of Triskelion." Yet it struck me as grotesque to watch a crew which a week ago lived through a holocaust cheering happily for competitors in the hideous arena. Did they happen to miss all the death matches, or is it infinite diversity in infinite combinations to celebrate alien blood sports? I kept thinking of the Tosk on Deep Space Nine, and wishing Voyager's crew responded as strongly to the suffering of others in the context of an acceptable alien athletic event.
The writers may think it's consistent to declare that Chakotay would like tsunkatse if he likes boxing, but I sure miss the man he was first and second season, when he believed violence outside of fighting for a noble cause was misplaced. Seven behaved far more logically, though it was ridiculous that she never asked the Hirogen what species her opponent would be. If I could figure out that her guide would be her competitor the moment he suggested training her, surely the thought should have crossed her mind as well. However, I liked her scenes with Tuvok very much - they humanize one another in all the best ways. And I greatly enjoyed J.G. Hertzler as the tough-but-sensitive Hirogen, and Jeffrey Combs as revolting Penk - a cross between Weyoun and Brunt, the power-hungry and greedy characters he played on DS9.
Less enjoyable was the sequence where Chakotay, Torres, and Paris accused Harry Kim of being a clarinet-playing weakling, especially since there was no follow-up indicating that the crew had realized anything untoward about their affection for violent pastimes. I guess it makes sense for half-Klingon Torres (who had wonderful repartee with Chakotay, while Tom whined to Seven about his girlfriend's annoying habits), but Harry wants to supersede his Parisi Squares triumphs in the ring? Please. Fortunately, on this show, he will have forgotten about that by next week...just as the crew forgot the horrible violence they witnessed in "Memorial," Seven will undoubtedly have forgotten "Tsunkatse" by the time she meets the Borg children in next week's episode.
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.