Initiations is a good episode where both Chakotay and Neelix get to shine, highlighting how much Captain Janeway is under-using the valuable skills and knowledge of the Talaxian. In fact, Neelix, as soon as he has the opportunity to interact with the races that he knows well, does a better job than any other Voyager officer, in this case the inexperienced Tom Paris. In this episode we also find out that the Kazons, unlike most of the races we normally encounter, are divided into sects in continuous struggle with each other (we had seen some in Caretaker and in State of Flux, but it wasn’t clear how they were organized). And how can we not mention the good Aron Eisenberg that is, Nog in Deep Space Nine, who here has the opportunity to play a stubborn teenager who wants to become an adult in battle?
The plot of the episode is very simple: Chakotay is chosen as the target of the first mission of young Kar (Aron Eisenberg) who naturally fails miserably against the good commander. However, both are captured by the mother ship of Kar’s sect in which no one takes failures in battle lightly. In short, the Kazons are not that different from the Klingons: they are a warrior race who value honor above all else and prefer to die in battle rather than old and in bed. Chakotay is amazing in the face of the senselessly violent decisions of the Kazons and daringly escapes with Kar. The two develop a relationship which at first resembles the one between Captain Picard and Jono in Suddenly Human (Season 4 of The Next Generation), but fortunately with very different results. The final confrontation in which the Chakotay and Kar meet the leader of the sect played by Patrick Kilpatrick, and even Janeway and company, takes place on a rocky planet full of traps.
Not everything works in this episode. In the long run, Kar’s character is a bit boring, so much so that even Chakotay at one point bursts out at him saying that he’s had enough of his threats. It’s also a bit strange to see Chakotay as the champion of the values of the Federation when until a few months before he was a maquis fighting against the Federation itself! Perhaps it would have been less strange if Harry Kim or Captain Janeway had been the protagonists of the episode, but it’s just a minor detail. Finally, it seems a bit idiotic to me that the first officer is allowed to go away on a shuttle a few light years from Voyager for some personal reasons. He could have used the holodeck to isolate himself! The result is that the USS Voyager now has one less shuttle, and I don’t think there are that many in the cargo bay(s)! Ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: the podcast episode is naturally dedicated to the memory of Aron Eisenberg. The two hosts Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang invited an exceptional guest: Robert Beltran! After discussing with him his new project, a short film called Butterflies (here’s the page on Imdb), the three started talking about a possible Captain Proton series of short films that I wouldn’t mind watching at all! I hope McNeill decides to really make it!
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