Part 1 of 2: The Summary

Our episode opens with Chakotay playing Ophelia instead of Hamlet... he’s seemingly going mad. As he yells "Make them stop", we desperately *do* want them to stop. He’s in sickbay, but the doc is obviously having a few problems.

Meanwhile, on the bridge of Voyager, things aren’t much better. Everyone is bouncing around like the shock absorbers in Tom’s ‘67 Mustang have gone bad on an off-road side trip, complete with Torres yelling, "We’re going to die!"

Maybe we should go ahead and let it happen…

Back in sickbay, things aren’t getting any better. Doc is yelling to Chakotay that he’s got to "talk with the aliens"... Chakotay is yelling about becoming like his grandfather, "a crazy old man". Doc suggests all of these strange things with Chakotay started when he was injured in a holodeck boxing match, and perhaps he should go back to that time and try to reconstruct what happened.

Once more, we are thrown into a time-warp whirlwind. The kindly old groundskeeper of Starfleet Academy, Boothby, shows up playing Burgess Meredith, as a kindly old boxing trainer. He’s encouraging a forty-five year old Chakotay to box as a twenty year old Starfleet cadet, and it ain’t working, folks! Hey... the Chakman is moving around like he wants to save what he has... he’s just in it for the footwork, not the physical beating! Suddenly, his Turellian opponent appears like a mirror shattering into thousands of "delta" shaped pieces. Chakotay looses his concentration, and whammo! He’s seeing birds and butterflies... and then finds himself in sickbay, where the doc gives his canned anti-pugilistic I-told-you-so spiel.

Back to current time... the doc abruptly notices a change in Chakotay’s visual cortex ganglia... they are very hyperactive. But so is stuff on the bridge, where Chakotay is summoned. Voyager’s position among the stars is changing faster than Bill Clinton’s position in front of Ken Starr. They try to back off, but become hopelessly caught in the fluctuating space.

"Anyone want to tell me where we are?" Janeway says exasperatedly. Seven of Nine, the omniscient, states matter-of-factly that they are in an area where the laws of physics are in a state of flux... that the Borg knew about it. In fact, they had been caught in it, too, on various occasions and only one cube, so snared, survived.

Well. This is comforting news. Janeway calls for a recalibration of their sensors, and an all-hands attempt to come up with a solution.

Chakotay, in his quarters, is poring over his monitor, obviously trying to follow his captain’s orders, when he "hears" the boxing ring bell clang and the "announcer" call for round one to begin. Boothby’s voice tells him to "pick up the gloves", which he now sees in a chair across the room.

Just as he does at all "interesting" moments, Tuvok summons Chakotay. This time, it’s to the captainless-bridge (she’s with the lovely Seven in astrometrics, where they are trying to make some sense of the fleeting stars). The visions and voices follow him, and he sees the boxing gloves on Kim’s console. When he reacts to the vision, the rest of the bridge crew knows that there’s a problem with their XO, who is now flailing out at everyone. Tuvok manages to "deactivate" him with a well placed Vulcan nerve pinch, as Tom calls for a medical emergency and Chakotay is once more taken to sickbay.

The next sickbay scene gives us some of the better moments of the episode. Chakotay revels that it is a "family curse", that his grandfather had similar visions and heard voices, because of a "bad" gene. Although there had been medications for the problem, his grandfather refused treatment, stating that "when the spirit is in pain, the wound must be honored." (Ooooh, good line! FANFIC ALERT!!!!!) Chakotay states that the gene had been deactivated in him.

Janeway, who is here and listening to this tall tale with a very sympathetic expression, asks the doc if indeed it could be the gene re-activating. The doc agrees that it could be.

Chakotay, obviously knocked for a loop as much from his bridge episode as in the holodeck fight, states: "Never spar with a Vulcan." ‘Nuff said.

The bridge has picked up signs of another vessel in their area, and manages to lock on to it. No life signs are detected, but a message is decoded, indicating that the captain and at least one other member of its crew had hallucinations similar to Chakotay’s, before their hull was breached and all perished. Closer examination of his remains by the EMH indicates a form of protein-stripping of the neurons, something that is akin to Chakotay’s problem.

True to character, Chakotay asks permission to go on a vision quest. (Hmmmm. Whenever has he asked for permission before?) Janeway agrees, but only if the doctor monitors him. Chakotay calls upon his spirits to guide him, and he is taken into a shadowy cave/forest, where he meets his grandfather. He asks his grandfather to home with him , but "the crazy old man" says that where he wants to go is much more interesting. and he walks on. By the time Chakotay has caught up with him, he’s gone. Chakotay hears the boxing ring sounds again.

He "comes to" in sickbay, ranting and raving, with the doctor trying to restrain him. On one hand, Chakotay is saying that "they want to tell me something" and on the other, he wants to get rid of the voices that seem to be driving him mad. He starts babbling some nonsensical technical jargon, none of which makes any sense to either him or the EMH. "I can’t focus; it’s too much!" he cries out in obvious psychological misery.

Janeway comes to try to calm him and get him to focus on the voices. In some of the best J/C interaction we’ve seen all year, there’s a lot of touchy-feely stuff as she tries to calm him: she starts with her hand on his foot and works her way up, stopping for a few beautiful brief seconds as he captures her hand in-between his. She ends up with a seductive stroke across his cheek, as she pleads with him to keep trying to communicate with the voices. He weakly nods his head in agreement.

The doctor then leads him back to the original boxing match, and Chakotay enters a chamber of horrors. In the ring is the "champion of the Delta Quadrant, Kid Chaos". He is there in uniform, and urges Tuvok and Harry to set weapons to "kill". Boothby interrupts, telling him that weapons won’t work. He finally freaks, and the match is called off. He suddenly finds himself back at the old punching bag instead, being taunted by voices of his crewmates, accusing him of failing them.. and himself... while the doc chides him for fighting at all. Neelix even gives him a massage in this nightmare sequence. (Boy! Even the very thought of Neelix as a masseur is nightmare!)

He tries to escape, only to find himself back in his vision quest sequence with his grandfather. Wearing the ecru tunic and wide brown belt of "Resolutions" fame (oh, boy! is this a message to J/Cers... or is it supposed to be Chakotay’s suppressed desire/happy place garb?), he finds his grandfather "going to strange places." Chakotay urges him to remain and go back with him. Dear grandpa says to come on; it’s not really too hard a trip. Chakotay begs and pleads that he’s too tired; let’s stay here.

Back in the Real World, Chakotay appears wrestling with himself and panicking; the doc sedates him.

Voyager has been launching beacons to try to keep themselves oriented, only to find that they’ve come back to their first one, that they are going in circles. Janeway also has been going in circles, until she recognizes a lone signature among the chaos. She decides that perhaps Chakotay isn’t "out" of it after all, that the voices are real, and that communication with "them" is their only salvation.

The captain visits her best friend in the sickbay. In between his rants, he asks if she believes him. He ping-pongs back and forth from his reality to the hallucinations, and begs to be allowed to go back to the ring. She agrees, and even the doc now concurs. "Find us a way out of here," the EMH whispers to the beleaguered man.

The ship is wracked by a sudden shear just as Chakotay is spun into his dream world. Once more, he is in the ring, facing "Kid Chaos", but he’s no longer in uniform, or the exercise outfit of earlier. He is introduced, bedecked and as respondent as Tinky Winky in purple satin, as "The Maquis Mauler, champion of the Alpha Quadrant and all humanity." Well, now that’s a nice heavy load to lay on a guy dressed in purple! His opponent turns to face him, and we’re met by a faceless being who is all dark and metallic and covered by a shifting sky of stars.

Faces of fellow crewmembers spin ghost-like in front of him, speaking one word at a time. A message is coming from the fragmented words, and he suddenly realizes what they are trying to tell him --- an escape route for Voyager! He snaps out of the hallucination and starts rattling off the instructions to the EMH, then suddenly runs towards the bridge, yelling that he must do the readjustments himself. Like the madman he has been, he runs onto the bridge, pushes aside a very startled Harry Kim and begins making adjustments and calling out course alignments to Paris. Tuvok calls for security, but Janeway overrides, placing the trust in her first officer that he has had in her.

And, they break free of chaotic space, finding themselves suddenly in an ordered expanse, with no shifts in the view in front of them. Chakotay backs away, only to collapse, almost in Janeway’s arms (we wish!)

Epilogue scene shows a recovered Chakotay walking with Janeway, he in the exercise wear of the first boxing scene; he’s headed for the holodeck for another round. (The man truly is punch drunk; why would he want to do this again, after what he’d been through?) Janeway decides if he’s foolish enough to do this, then he’s well enough to be back on bridge duty. Ha! And we finally see the one and only scene in which he look like he’s got a boxer’s build: he flexes his biceps as Boothby laces one his right glove. The episode ends --- as a knock out.

Part 2 of 2: The Review

Well, the episode may have concluded with a knock-out, it was more of a technical knock out for me. The special effects in this episode were one of the best things going for it. Kid Chaos’ "face" was one scary scene; and the editing in the final "message" communication was very well done.

But --- histrionic acting... Chakotay going mad: it’s the worst of all worlds. Then... we see why, as the credits float before our eyes. This episode was directed by Winrich Kolbe! Aha! It’s revenge time; take that, Kate Mulgrew and Tim what-ever-your-name is! I’ll teach you to break up our relationship; I’ll direct you into your own chaotic space. Which he does with RB... but not our lovely Kate or the doc! Even with bad directing, these two come out looking terrific. In fact, their performances were two of the highlights of this turbulent episode.

I did feel sorry for RB trying his best in looking like a Big Time Jock in this role, but George Foreman he isn’t. Nice footwork, and some good jabs, but he’d never make it a full round with even a Turellian. Some one said that RB, knowing that this script was coming up, had asked for a little warning so that he could "get in shape". Apparently, according to this person, he was given 5 days warning. Now, at age 25, that might have been okay, but not at 45. Even Hunkman Harrison Ford says it takes him months to get ready for a physical role!

If one of the purposes of Joe Menosky’s script jumping back and forth, in and out of reality, was to give us a sense of "chaotic space", he succeeded. Otherwise, it was just that: a script that jumped back and forth. Was the "key" to the real/unreal world Chakotay’s hair? Hmmm... that would open up all sorts of possibilities! With the hair brushed forward, we are to think "make-believe"; with it moussed and brushed back, it’s Starfleet regulation. (Ed. note from Cilla: having seen RB at a con, with the more casual down-in-my-face look, RB seems much more relaxed and pleasant. *Please* let this become true on *Voyager* also!)

Was it the darker theme of this episode that also seemed to make Chakotay’s tattoo seem darker than normal? Maybe they just used a deeper shade of body paint... or got a new make-up artist who wanted to make sure that the design stayed on though all the hot and heavy fight scenes. Then again... maybe it was just me, looking at this story through smoked lenses.

One thing that *did* work was the old J/C chemistry. I really felt here for the first time in a long, long time. The touches seemed warm and honest, and the expressions on their faces culled up some good old fashioned "I really care about you" feelings. Even when Chakotay was supposed to be in mental and emotional agony, he lovingly managed to clasp her hand between his hands, and she didn’t seem to be in a hurry to pull away. Also on the plus-side was the fact that Chicky Babe didn’t have her tits everywhere this time around. Even when she was being supercilious, Janeway managed to do her one better. That’s more like it!

Okay, let’s put this one on the old balance. In spite of the negatives, the good things sort of tip it to the side of a not-too-bad episode. At first viewing, I might have given it a four; but after a replay, "The Fight" wins by a split decision: five out of nine.

Next week: Seinfeld... er... George comes to the Delta Quadrant; it’s going to be all about nothing!