the story: Chakotay's disembodied mind helps the crew thwart a takeover.
what it's all about: The alien possession trope is, well, a well-established trope in the franchise, so there's really not much to be said about that. It's one of those odd sci-fi plots thrown into the first season to try and satisfy general viewers, which only infuriated fans joining the emerging serialization bandwagon, and fans who just didn't want another Star Trek.
Fans of Voyager, can rejoice to a tiny extent, because "Cathexis" is an excuse to explore the crew a little, with the odd central premise of being a Chakotay episode without Chakotay, which is a unique franchise experience (Deep Space Nine's "Who Mourns for Morn?" is the only other example that comes to mind, but that one's a different story entirely, as the title character famously never spoke). So there's more of his Native American elements, which for some viewers always felt forced, but then, why have a Native American if there's nothing particularly Native American about him? This was one of the most unique celebrations of diversity in the whole franchise (where Deep Space Nine did pretty much nothing to indicate Bashir's ethnic background, which in hindsight was a huge, huge missed opportunity), so anytime there was a spotlight on it, I say, all's the better. And of course like Chakotay in general it was most likely to happen in the first two seasons.
Also of note is Janeway's "holo-novel" based loosely on Jane Eyre, which makes its debut here. Holo-novels were intended to be a signature element of the series, but Janeway's didn't turn out to be one of them. Instead, it was Tom Paris who came up with all the memorable ones, including the one he helped develop with Tuvok ("Worst Case Scenario") and the one he based on vintage sci-fi serials ("Bride of Chaotica!"), the latter of which is...surely one of Voyager's great ironies...
Finally, the most grim aspect of the episode is actually the appearance of Lieutenant Durst, who in "Faces" one episode later finds a whole new definition of facelift.
- franchise - A classic trope revisited.
series- Not much of true relevance here.
- character - Chakotay without Chakotay!
essential- How much better would this have been if it'd taken place before "State of Flux" and actually featured Chakotay, being guided by Seska?
Brian Markinson (Durst)