“Resistance” is one of my favourite early Voyager episodes. It has a simple, yet very intense and effective story; it gets Janeway into a whole new situation; it guest-stars the super-talented Joel Grey; and it flips a classic story on its head.
Michael Jan Friedman and Kevin Ryan, who pitched the story idea, came up with the concept of one of the Voyager characters (originally intended to be B’Elanna) acting as the Dulcinea to Don Quixote. Jeri Taylor suggested the story be refocused around Janeway and Friedman agreed:
“‘Janeway plays Dulcinea to a Kazon Don Quixote’ [….] We figured Janeway would be reluctant to go along with anything a Kazon had in mind, especially if he was a deluded Kazon intent on tilting at windmills.”
In their need to make the story about Janeway/Dulcinea instead of their alien “Don Quixote”, the creators ended up doing an arguably (and possibly unintentionally) feminist rewrite of the classic story.
Dulcinea/Aldonza is interesting to discuss in her own right, but Don Quixote is not about her – her role in the book is defined by how she is differently viewed by Don Quixote (as the most beautiful and pure of all women) and Sancho Panza (as a stout, brawling bar wench).
But what if you wanted to tell a story from her perspective? What if the conflct wasn’t between virgin/whore but beloved daughter/starship captain?
Lisa Klink, who was given the teleplay to write, says of the challenge:
“It’s not going to be one of our people crazy; it’s Janeway hooking up with this crazy guy, so how do you make it about her? And why wouldn’t she just ditch him? You had to make him crazy, but still somewhat helpful, but not so helpful that she’s not driving the story!” [x]
The story they came up with has Janeway and her away team attacked by the Mokra authorities while trying to buy desperately-needed tellurium. Neelix makes it back to Voyager, where shit must really be desperate, because it takes a while before Chakotay even asks what happened to all the important people.
Turns out B’Elanna and Tuvok are captured and being held in Mokra jail. Janeway has been rescued by an old Alsaurian man (no longer a Kazon, as in the original concept), Caylem (Grey).
It is now seeming really questionable why you would take so many senior officers on a risky away mission, except for plot purposes. They could’ve at least had the Doctor give them temporary Mokra noses. Nonetheless, I forgive them, since the rest of the episode turns out so great.
Caylem tries to nurse Janeway, who he’s convinced is his daughter. She tries to politely explain to him she’s not, but he’s totally invested in his delusion. He gives her a necklace that originally belonged to his wife and tries to show her letters he wrote his wife in prison.
Right off the bat, Grey’s acting is so compelling that you can’t help feeling sadness for him and wanting to at least protect him from getting hurt. Janeway’s sense of urgency to rescue her crewmembers conflicting with her compassion for Caylem makes for great tension.
Things are just as tense in the prison, where B’Elanna is chafing to fight her way out (in awesome culottes) and Tuvok is remaining typically calm. The Mokra prison administrator accuses them of helping the Alsaurian resistance and takes Tuvok for interrogation.
The interplay between B’Elanna and Tuvok in prison makes it a great episode for them as well. They debate tactics and later bond after Tuvok is brought back from interrogation, covered in bruises.
B’Elanna controls her anger and shows Tuvok her concern for him, having heard his screams while he was being tortured.
Meanwhile, Janeway is off to contact the resistance to get weapons and information to help her rescue her people from prison. Caylem comes along, from her perspective, partly for his own protection and partly because he insists on coming to rescue his wife.
One of the most touching scenes comes when the Mokra administrator comes after a man from the resistance who was giving them information. Caylem plays the “village idiot” and puts a half melon on his head and a bun in his mouth to distract the administrator and the crowd.
Once the administrator leaves, Janeway clearly realizes how brave this was and doesn’t want to see him further humiliated. From this point, she knows he’s with her for the duration of this mission. When another resistance member asks her to trade Caylem’s wife’s necklace for a weapon, she hesitates and doesn’t agree until Caylem urges her to.
But she’s still the one making the plans and calling the shots. She notices in the nick of time that the arms dealer is wearing Mokra boots and that he’s likely part of a trap.
Her next plan is something I don’t totally love: she tricks one of the prison sentries by posing as a prostitute.
Klink says she and the other writers discussed the issue in depth before ending up going in that direction. Memory Alpha quotes a Cinefantastique article that interviews her and Jeri Taylor:
“There was a lot of discussion about that. Somebody – I forget who, but it wasn’t me – came up with the idea of her distracting the guard by pretending to be a hooker. We went round and round on that for a while. Is that going to diminish the Captain in some way? Is that the typical bimbo thing to do?” – Lisa Klink
“When we [first] talked about that, every eye in the room turned to me and said, ‘Are you alright with that?’ If I were down there, trying to save my people, I would do anything and if that seemed like a good idea I would do it in a minute. Would my dignity and my sense of feminism prevent me from helping my people? Absolutely not.” – Jeri Taylor
Clearly Klink’s language here is pretty problematic but I think the overall point she and Taylor make is that the scene isn’t meant to say anything about Janeway’s character except that she is devoted to her crew and will take any opportunity to help them.
It could’ve been a lot worse – more drawn out or with skimpier clothes or more focus on the guards’ assessment of her. As it is, the scene is brief and there’s never really a doubt that Janeway is the one with the power.
Caylem hits the sentry on the head after he’s distracted and Janeway takes his gun to shoot the other guard. Caylem takes the fallen man’s knife.
Through this whole thing, Chakotay has been half-negotiating with the Mokra and half encouraging Kim to find a way to beam their people out of the prison. As Janeway breaks down the prison power grid, the Mokra are telling Voyager they have two minutes to withdraw.
Of course, this seems like a great time to send your best pilot down to the surface to rescue the others, so Paris goes down but ends up captured, along with Janeway and some other resistance members.
But again I forgive the less-than-brilliant decision because there’s drama to happen! The Mokra head, Augris, informs Janeway that Caylem’s daughter is dead and his wife has been dead for 12 years. He says the Mokra kept letting Caylem try to infiltrate the prison as a show to the people of how futile it was to resist them.
Caylem launches himself at the guy and the Starfleet folks take the moment to attack the guards. In the following firefight, Caylem is shot and dies in Janeway’s arms. She decides to let him die happy in his delusion, pretending she is his daughter and that she and her mother forgive him.
Every set of characters – Janeway and Caylem, B’Elanna and Tuvok, and even Chakotay and Kim though I didn’t get into that much – have the need to work together but reasons to conflict or disagree with each other. The result is a compelling, intense, emotional show centered around a female protagonist but with great opportunities for everyone else.
Bechdel-Wallace Test: Fail