The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Natural Law

On the way to a conference about warp mechanics, Chakotay and Seven end up crash landing on a continent inhabited by a primitive indigenous people. The locals are friendly and keen to help, but how much can Chakotay and Seven risk relying on them without breaking the Prime Directive? Meanwhile, Paris breaks local traffic laws in the Delta Flyer, and is forced to attend a three day course on flight training.

Star Trek characters are both obsessed with going to conferences, and really bad at ever attending them. At this point, how many attempts to go to a conference have ended with someone crashlanding or being kidnapped? And if a character ever does make it to a conference, they usually find themselves having to save their ship from some disaster when they get back.

Anyway, I digress. This episode is pretty standard Star Trek, featuring a friendly primitive culture that our heroes ultimately end up interacting with and affecting, but hopefully not too badly. There’s an extra aspect in that this indigenous culture and its territory is protected from their more technologically advanced cousins by a barrier, but even with Chakotay at the heart of the action there are no references to the loss of Native American territory. There’s a brief threat to their way of life when the barrier goes down, but this plot point feels very shoehorned in, when it could have had an episode to itself. I guess if you like that sort of plot you could always go and watch Avatar, or perhaps Fern Gully.

The B story about Paris having to take flying lessons is mildly amusing, but not so remarkable that I’d even remembered it before it came up.

Character development

  • As we know, Seven and Chakotay are going to get together very shortly. This episode is a rare example of them going on a mission together, and despite their upcoming romance, I really didn’t feel any kind of sexual tension or budding chemistry between them.
  • When the Ledosians admit that they were aggressive towards the Ventu in the past, Janeway shrugs the whole thing of with a “yeah, Earth had a pretty dark past too.” You’re meant to be enlightened and sympathetic, Janeway, so don’t deliver that line in such an offhand, “yeah, what are you gonna do?” fashion.

Points of Note

  • Comm badges are remarkable flimsy. I bet a TOS communicator would have stood up being struck with a rock.
  • Along with Human Error, this is one of the rare occasions where Seven sleeps instead of regenerates.
  • Even this late in the series, Voyager still manages to smash up a shuttle for old times’ sake.

Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 18

Destroyed Delta Flyer running total: 1

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 11

Number of times the entire crew gets enslaved or kicked off the ship: 4.5

Number of times a version of Voyager gets destroyed: 5

Summary – Natural Law: Chakotay gets to play at being an anthropologist for a while.

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