Retro Review: Investigations

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Neelix nearly ruins an undercover mission to learn the identity of the traitor helping Seska.

Plot Summary: Neelix begins a regular news briefing show in his capacity as morale officer. He intends to feature the Doctor discussing how to keep healthy and his own gossip about crew romance, but then he learns from a Talaxian friend that a crewmember plans to leave the ship. When Neelix warns Janeway, he is told that Paris asked to be put off Voyager after Chakotay relieved the lieutenant of bridge duty. Paris admits to Neelix that he never fit into Starfleet and would prefer to join a Talaxian convoy. Investigating more discontent on Voyager than he previously suspected, Neelix looks into an accident in engineering that has injured Jonas and suggests repairs at the nearby Hemikek system. While the ship heads to Hemikek, Neelix’s Talaxian friend informs him that the Kazon have abducted Paris from the convoy, which makes Neelix suspect that someone must have told the Kazon of Paris’s whereabouts. Jonas contacts Seska to tell her that Voyager is en route to Hemikek, after which Seska visits Paris, suggesting that he help her take the ship. Neelix finds evidence that Paris himself was the traitor and announces it on his show, at which point Janeway and Tuvok reveal that Paris is working for them, pretending to defect in an attempt to uncover the real traitor. Chakotay is angry that he was kept out of the loop because Tuvok believed Chakotay would not be impartial if the traitor turned out to be Maquis. While imprisoned by Seska, Paris finds proof that Jonas is the traitor and the Kazon are going to ambush Voyager. Escaping in a Kazon shuttle, Paris warns Janeway. Jonas locks the crew out of main engineering and disables Voyager’s weapons, but Neelix is able to knock the traitor away from the controls with an antimatter pod. Jonas falls into a plasma stream, which kills him. Neelix restores the weapons, allowing Voyager to escape from the Kazon. On the next episode of A Briefing With Neelix, Neelix interviews Paris about his heroic spy mission and is amused to hear that Paris enjoyed acting insubordinate to Chakotay.

Analysis: Voyager‘s Maquis problem comes to a head in “Investigations.” I don’t mean what should have been Voyager’s Maquis problem: having a group of rebels aboard with solid reasons for distrusting Starfleet, who are therefore reluctant to obey regulations that have not only deeply harmed their own families but apparently seemed arbitrary even to a captain who chose to interfere with the Delta Quadrant’s development by destroying the Caretaker’s array. I mean that the show’s writers themselves don’t want to stray too far from familiar Starfleet strictures, which has left them only two possibilities for writing about Maquis crewmembers: turn them into passive Starfleet loyalists like Chakotay and Torres, who both face Janeway’s wrath when they try to think independently, or script them as inherently dangerous and wrongheaded like Suder and Jonas, who both represent serious threats to the entire crew. It’s obvious that Jonas is at the very least a selfish idiot, throwing in his lot with Seska for no reason that’s ever apparent. It’s fair for Maquis like Hogan and Jonas to have concerns about serving under Janeway’s newly rigid interpretation of Starfleet regulations, but rather than letting them address their grievances with Starfleet as an institution, the writers script these characters as scared and petty men. Hogan, at least, confines his dissatisfaction to verbal complaints, since he’s smart enough to realize that he has no better options for getting back to the Alpha Quadrant. But Jonas…what does he want? He doesn’t seem to be bothered that his friend Seska was a Cardassian spy sent to infiltrate and ultimately destroy the Maquis…which suggests that he joined the rebels not out of deep ideological commitment to protecting his home from the Cardassians, even if it meant defying the Federation, but for other reasons. Does he like to fight and kill people, like Suder? Does he have a secret crush on Seska regardless of her political alignment? Does he merely want a fancier title? We’re never told, and I get the impression that the writers never decided.

This is a huge hole in Voyager‘s scripting, because the behavior of every single character who interacts with Jonas makes the crew look stupid. Tuvok, who has got to be the worst security officer in history, takes weeks to figure out that there’s a spy aboard and then isn’t logical enough to bring into his confidence the people most likely to be able to identify the traitor – Chakotay and Torres – because, even after more than a year of serving with them, Tuvok doesn’t trust their judgment. If Janeway and Tuvok know that coded transmissions are secretly being sent through the EPS system, Torres is the obvious person to recruit to help track them, but Tuvok chooses to leave her in the dark, though he himself lacks the technical background to track the origin of the messages. And if Tuvok doesn’t want to tell Torres because he still has concerns about her loyalties – even though he was himself involved in her one major act of defiance, when the two of them worked with Seska to obtain Sikarian trajector technology over Janeway’s objections – then Tuvok should be talking to Chakotay, who has been a friend to Torres as well as her commanding officer and who hasn’t shown any pro-Maquis bias, going so far as to let Tuvok single out the least competent Maquis officers for extra training. Instead Tuvok decides to treat Chakotay as if the first officer, too, may let personal feelings interfere with the good of the ship, and Janeway goes along with this plan on the grounds that Chakotay will put on a better show of conflict with Paris if Chakotay is actually angry at Paris. Chakotay turned in his own former lover as a Cardassian spy and saboteur; all evidence indicates that he’d do the same to any Maquis crewmember posing a danger to the ship. Yet Janeway decides to play him for a fool much as Seska did, letting Tuvok insult Chakotay to his face about how neither of them wanted to put him in conflict if the guilty party ended up being a Maquis.

The character development of Paris from the beginning has involved turning the screw-up into a hero, so it’s really no surprise when he proves to be a bigger asset than the first officer. But given that every Maquis crewmember has been transformed into either Starfleet loyalists like Chakotay and Torres or dangerous rebels like Jonas and Suder, Paris also had become the last remaining free agent. It was often refreshing to hear his doubts about Starfleet and his disdain for a command structure that rarely allows challenges to disdainful autocrats like Tuvok. Paris’s challenge to Chakotay a few weeks ago, in which Paris suggested that Chakotay was Janeway’s lap dog, made for terrific tension. To find out that it was just a ruse to make Paris believable as a dissident is a disappointment, all the more so because Chakotay looks worse for having bought into it. Paris voiced aloud the opinion that he wasn’t the only one who was frustrated and not one person in the mess hall spoke up in disagreement! If only A Briefing With Neelix had gotten into the subjects that would really interest his audience – the real spats and jealousies that surely arise among a crew of this size under these conditions, the more extreme sports injuries and food fights that must occasionally erupt from frustrated crewmembers, the gossip not about whether two random crewmembers are getting hot and heavy but about whether one of the senior officers has such a crush on another that it’s apparent to anyone who’s paying attention. The absurdity that a Talaxian without Starfleet training can reactivate the weapons systems single-handedly, yet spends most of his days working as chef and morale officer, becomes aggravating when the people who should be reactivating the weapons systems, like Torres and Hogan, have been sidelined because they wear the label “Maquis” even though they aren’t permitted to express any ideology that might bring Starfleet values into question.

I suppose this is to make Janeway look good – the female captain doesn’t have to face direct challenges she can’t squash with a couple of lines of dialogue – but it has the opposite effect, making it seem as if the writers don’t believe her character can stand up to any serious challenges. If I didn’t know how the arc ended, I might be rooting for Seska, who manages to be a very strong character despite having positioned herself as the pregnant pawn of the nearest powerful man. Her failures in large part have to do with the fact that Culluh isn’t smart enough to put her fully in charge, though she continually underestimates her former shipmates, Starfleet and Maquis both. The extent to which Janeway seems uninvolved in the major challenge to her command posed by the treachery of Jonas also suggests that she underestimates most of her crew and overly values Tuvok, who may still be under the influence of the meld with Suder and clearly has a grudge against Chakotay whether or not the Vulcan will acknowledge it as such. Jonas may be the only traitor but he’s sure not the only crewmember filled with dislike and distrust for others, and that’s a situation Janeway should be actively working to address; no number of giggles from the morale officer can compensate for a hands-on leader. Let Neelix be Neelix, and let everyone else do the jobs he takes over for them while he notices things like, oh, look, it’s the then-Prince, now King of Jordan! Surely there must have been some way to identify that anonymous crewmember for posterity!

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Michelle Erica Green

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Michelle Erica Green

Writer, mother, reader, traveler, teacher, partner, photographer, activist, friend, fangirl, student, critic, citizen, environmentalist, feminist, vegetarian, enthusiast. TrekToday staffer for many years, former news reporter, current retro reviewer.

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