10 – Prime Factors

Grade: B+

Prime Factors (1995) on IMDb


Voyager receives a distress call from some aliens known as the Sikarians. It turns out that they are not under distress but they sent the message specifically to attract Voyager. The Sikarians are famous for their hospitality in this part of the galaxy, and they seem to only want to help the crew of Voyager to relax and have fun.

Kim quickly makes a friend, and she wastes little time taking him to a transporter pad so they can visit one of her favorite planets. He finds out from her that they have traveled almost 40,000 light years, and much to her chagrin, he’s a lot more interested in their technology than in spending some relaxing time with her.


So far, this is the best episode of Voyager that I have seen. I’m not sure if this series can get much better than this, honestly, but this is an excellent episode.

At first, I didn’t think this would be that great. It started out just like a random 2nd or 3rd season episode of the Next Generation. Several crew members had beamed down to the planet for shore leave and a few of them started to discover lots of new and interesting things. If you watch this episode, you can easily imagine Wesley Crusher in place of Harry Kim – especially in the first few scenes. But luckily, these scenes don’t last too long, and that feeling goes away soon.

The episode really doesn’t waste much time getting to the main premise, thankfully. Naturally, Janeway and the rest of the crew are extremely interested in getting back to the Alpha Quadrant as soon as possible, but there’s one problem. The Sikarians have a law that does not allow them to share their technology with other species. So we have a different perspective on the Prime Directive. In every other episode dealing with the Prime Directive, it has been the Federation that has been unable to share technology with others. I liked this right off the bat – it’s something new and unexpected.

But that’s not the end of the story. Some of the natives are not as committed to their laws, and they are willing to trade their technology for a collection of the Federation’s best literature. For some reason, Janeway forbids anyone from Voyager to make this trade, despite the fact that it would most likely cut their trip back home in half, if they could somehow get their hands on the transporter.

This is an episode that is definitely worth watching. One thing that I really enjoyed about this episode is how many unexpected things take place. I loved the ending when Janeway is speaking to Tuvok and Torres.

Right at the beginning of this episode, Seska says “there are no secrets on a ship this small”. Right at the end of that scene, when Captain Janeway hears the crew laughing and having a good time together, she commented to Tuvok that it is good to see the Maquis and Starfleet crews getting along well and becoming one team.

Both of these statements are said in an off-hand manner, and if you didn’t know what happens at the end of the episode, you probably wouldn’t even have noticed them. But both statements become very ironic when it’s all over, and it’s little touches like this that make this one of the best written episodes of this series so far.

I do have some concerns, however. This is only the 10th episode of the series, and already we’ve had three stories in which Voyager might have been able to return home. In my opinion, this does not bode well for this series. By this early in the series, people are probably still patient enough with the storylines, but this won’t last if 3 out of every 10 episodes is yet another failed attempt to get home. People are going to see this series as Gilligan’s Island in Space.

Which brings me to another point. One thing that disappointed me a little about this episode is that Eudana – the character who is completely smitten by Harry Kim – never even hints or suggests that she would like to go with him. This could have been achieved very easily. She could have given him a map of the star systems that would fall along their way back to Earth for the next 30+ years. She could then just as easily show up in future episodes while Voyager passes by these planets.

Perhaps that doesn’t seem terribly important, but here’s why I think it would help. One problem with many of these episodes is that there often is very little connection between one episode and the next. Most of these episodes tend to be completely self-contained – the events of one episode generally have no impact whatsoever on future episodes. And that’s why I would have really liked to have seen Eudana and Kim tie up their loose ends and at least hinted that their relationship could continue in some fashion in the future. She has the technology that allows her to meet him any time she wants, even if he is 40,000 LY away. But their relationship apparently ended once Kim knew he could be home much sooner than he planned. I really don’t understand why this happened – obviously, she liked him a great deal, but he apparently only liked her if he couldn’t be home instead.

One last comment – Maybe the writers didn’t want Voyager to get all the way home in one shot like this, and that’s totally understandable why they wouldn’t. After all, as soon as they get home, the series is over – assuming they kept the premise the same. But I also think there is plenty of middle ground in there. Maybe they could have found a way to get Voyager closer and save a couple of decades on their trip. I almost wish they had, but the episode works really well without this anyway.

Of Note

During the scene when Harry Kim finds out how far they’ve traveled, Eudana tells him that they’re about 2.5 billion times farther than the distance from their sun. He does some quick math and figures out that they’re almost 40,000 light years away. Actually, this would be true if their planet were at the same distance from their sun as Earth is from ours. Good work by the writers to check their figures when this was written.

When Chakotay asks Tuvok about lying, he says he was “honest to my own parameters”. Maybe he said it that way because “a certain point of view” had already been used by someone else in a different franchise.