(written from a Production point of view)
When Voyager is caught in "chaotic space," an area where the laws of physics are in a state of flux, Chakotay begins hearing and seeing things, apparently caused by the aliens living inside it who are trying to contact the ship.
On USS Voyager, Chakotay is lying on a biobed in sickbay, shouting and thrashing about. Also present are The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Tom Paris. Paris asks The Doctor to give Chakotay something for the pain, but The Doctor refuses, saying that they could lose the chance to make contact with the aliens. Suddenly, the ship shudders.
Captain Janeway calls from the bridge, asking if they've made any progress. The Doctor replies that they haven't. B'Elanna Torres tells Janeway that if Voyager doesn't find a way out of chaotic space soon, they are all going to die here.
Chakotay calls The Doctor. He's tired, he wants to sleep. However, The Doctor again won't let him. If he loses consciousness, he could sever the link to the aliens who live in chaotic space, and who may know a way out. Chakotay doesn't want to talk to them, as he's afraid he may end up like his grandfather, a "crazy old man". The Doctor tells him the aliens are reconfiguring his neural pathways in an attempt to communicate with him. He makes Chakotay concentrate, and remember when he came into sickbay after he had been injured in a boxing simulation on the holodeck.
In a flashback, Chakotay is in a holodeck simulation of a boxing ring. Chakotay is in the ring, fighting a Terrellian. Boothby, who used to coach him as a cadet, is in his corner. At the end of the third round, Chakotay returns to his corner where he is chastised by Boothby for not allowing his opponent to land some punches and tire himself out, saying that boxing is as much about heart as technique. Round four begins, and Chakotay sees a disturbance forming in the corner of the ring, right before he is knocked out.
Chakotay wakes up in sickbay, where he argues with The Doctor over the merits of boxing, which The Doctor describes as "pointless violence". The Doctor nicknames him "The Maquis Mauler" to further his point. Chakotay complains of a headache, and tells The Doctor about the disturbance he saw before he was hit. The Doctor initially dismisses this as hallucinations, but further examination shows that the ganglia in Chakotay's visual cortex are highly active. The ship shudders, and Chakotay is called to the bridge as the doctor instructs him to return for further tests.
Chakotay arrives on the bridge, where a spatial phenomenon is interfering with the ship's sensors. Apparently, it shifts position every few minutes. Then the ship shudders again, and a distortion similar to the one seen by Chakotay in the boxing ring envelops Voyager. Seven of Nine calls Janeway to astrometrics, where she informs her that the Borg have been aware of this phenomenon for many years. It is called chaotic space, a zone where the laws of physics are in a constant state of flux. Changes in the gravitational coefficient cause shear forces along the hull, shields offering only temporary protection. Due to the shifting of the physical constants, sensors can't function. Janeway orders the sensors to be reconfigured.
Chakotay, while alone in his quarters, hears noises, such as Boothby shouting and the end of round bell. He sees a pair of boxing gloves on a chair, which disappear when he looks away. Tuvok calls him to the bridge. With the sensors useless, Voyager can't move safely. While Tuvok and Paris argue about what to do, Chakotay starts to hallucinate again. He hears crowd noises, and sees a pair of boxing gloves at the sensor station. Tuvok asks him if he is all right, at which Chakotay swings at Tuvok. Tuvok uses the Vulcan nerve pinch to render him unconscious.
In sickbay, The Doctor has discovered that Chakotay's hallucinations are due to a genetic marker for sensory tremens, a cognitive disorder. Symptoms include auditory and visual hallucinations. The gene was suppressed before Chakotay was born, but now it has been activated, possibly due to chaotic space. The Doctor orders Chakotay to remain in sickbay, where Chakotay tells him his grandfather suffered from similar hallucinations, but he refused treatment.
Meanwhile on the bridge, Harry Kim has managed to reconfigure the sensors, and Voyager starts to move forward slowly. However, before the ship moves very far, a starship appears on sensors. The log from the damaged ship reveals that the captain and an engineer both suffered from hallucinations. The ship was trapped in chaotic space for almost a year before the hull was breached. Janeway notes that it is no coincidence that both the aliens and Chakotay suffered similar hallucinations. The dead captain's body is beamed over for an autopsy.
Scans of the alien's brain reveal that optical and auditory neurons have been partially stripped of their protein insulation, leading to hallucinations. The Doctor concludes that the gene responsible for producing protein insulation was shut down – something in chaotic space altered the DNA. The Doctor discovers that he can control the hallucinations using a neural suppressant.
Chakotay wants to go on a vision quest, to find out more about the hallucinations. The Doctor disapproves, but relents when Janeway gives the go ahead. In the vision quest, Chakotay sees a forest, and then his grandfather walking among the trees. He tells him to take his medicine, but his grandfather refuses. He goes in to a cave, where he hears boxing noises again. Suddenly, he is in a boxing ring, a strange ring that has only three sides.
When he awakens, he tells The Doctor that the aliens were watching him, trying to tell him something, but he's afraid to listen to them, afraid he'll lose his mind. The Doctor reassures him and a moment later Chakotay, apparently paraphrasing the Chaos entity, falteringly explains: "chaotic space intersects ours at the 18th dimensional gradient. Voyager entered through a trimetric fracture. We must escape by altering the warp field to a rentrillic trajectory". However, Chakotay refuses to listen to "them" anymore as he doesn't want submit to cognitive impairment, as did his grandfather.
The Doctor tells Janeway that Chakotay definitely made contact with the aliens, but Janeway says they need more information. She convinces Chakotay to try again. Chakotay is back in the ring with his opponent "Kid Chaos", who has his back turned. Also there is Tuvok and a security detail, with phasers. Tuvok wants to fire on Kid Chaos, but Boothby warns Chakotay not to let him, that it won't work. Chakotay orders Tuvok to stand down. Then Chakotay is in the ring, dressed in boxing gear. Paris tries to stop the fight, citing the odds, and then Neelix enters the ring and leads Chakotay out. He says that Chakotay isn't ready for the fight.
Chakotay is then on the bridge, punching a punching bag, where Kim, Janeway, and B'Elanna Torres all try to stop his fighting. They all act as if he will not return, and he claims he is only doing it for them. Finally, The Doctor tries to scare him into not fighting by telling him the fight will cause him to lose his mind. Chakotay and his trainer, Neelix, run through engineering where Torres glares at them.
Chakotay is then back in the cave from the vision quest, where he sees his grandfather again. He tells him they'll get in trouble if they don't go home. His grandfather refuses. He says "this is a nice place to call home". He tells Chakotay there is a lot of "them" out there, and that "they" are coming for Chakotay. When the sounds of the boxing ring return, Chakotay's grandfather hears them too. Then he's back in the ring. He tells Boothby he's afraid, before The Doctor steps into the ring, and says the fight has been canceled on medical grounds.
Chakotay comes out of the vision quest, which he was stuck in. He wants to get back in the ring, and accuses The Doctor of stopping the fight. He becomes hysterical, yelling for them to let him back in the ring. In order to stop him, The Doctor is forced to sedate him.
On the bridge, Kim is trying to navigate the ship by dropping stationary beacons, but Voyager ends up going around in circles.
In astrometrics, Seven has found an isolinear frequency in the energy signature of chaotic space. It does not respond to any of the standard language decryption routines. The source is unknown, but Janeway recognizes the frequency as the nucleotide resonance frequency from an examination question she answered incorrectly during her time at Starfleet Academy. The signal was designed to activate DNA, and realigned Chakotay's molecular bonds.
Meanwhile, Chakotay is in an altered state of reality. He recognizes the captain, but is still angry at The Doctor for ending his fight and "ruining his career." Chakotay describes the alien he saw in his vision. However, he is thinking of them in terms of the prize fight. The Doctor explains that the holodeck simulation is still fresh in his memory, so it is the primary source of imagery for his hallucinations. Aliens that the sensors can't detect are inducing the hallucinations. Their only means to communicate with Voyager is by altering people's senses, as they did with the people on the damaged ship. In this case, the aliens tried a vague semi-telepathic way to communicate with Chakotay by activating his Sensory tremens gene which caused him to hallucinate and those hallucinations provided memories, images, and words for which the aliens could speak through.
Chakotay reminds Janeway that Voyager does not frequently avoid making first contact with newly-discovered lifeforms and hull pressure is increasing, so despite The Doctor's warning, Janeway tells The Doctor to send Chakotay "back in the ring".
On the bridge, it is obvious that Voyager cannot survive for much longer inside chaotic space. Janeway orders The Doctor to begin. The Doctor fully activates the gene, and Chakotay is back in the ring. He tells Boothby he's worried, but Boothby reassures him and gives him advice. Chakotay removes his robe adorned with The Doctor's nickname, "The Maquis Mauler", and turns to Kid Chaos. Kid Chaos turns to face Chakotay. He has no face, just a starfield. The aliens speak using a montage of words said by the crew up to this point. They tell Chakotay they live in chaotic space, and that Voyager must escape by realigning its sensors.
Back in sickbay, Chakotay wants to stop, but The Doctor pushes him, until Chakotay starts to understand what the aliens want him to do. He runs to the bridge and pushes Kim out of the way. He has to make the modifications himself; he can't explain how to do it. He reroutes the deflector through the sensors, and then puts the deflector on line, at full amplitude. Kim says the sensors have found a course through chaotic space. Voyager flies out of chaotic space at full impulse. Janeway orders Paris to resume course for the Alpha Quadrant, before Chakotay collapses.
Janeway gives Chakotay a few days off, which he uses to get in some boxing practice on the holodeck.
- "Chief medical officer's log, supplemental. Despite my efforts, Chakotay's condition continues to deteriorate."
"Tuvok tells me you've got a mean left jab."
"Never spar with a Vulcan."
- - Janeway and Chakotay
"Begin round one."
- - Voyager's computer, several times
"He said his spirit was in pain, but that the wound must be honored."
- - Chakotay, about his grandfather
"It's not so bad... when you get used to it, they're not so bad. They're just a lot of talk. Sometimes I wish they were more quiet. I'm too tired [to come home]... this is a nice place to call home."
- - Chakotay's grandfather
"Pick 'em up, son. It's the fight you've been waiting for!"
- - Boothby, when Chakotay sees boxing gloves in his quarters
"Victory, defeat, knockout, TKO, it's all beside the point. We know how it really ends: a crazy old man..."
- - The Doctor, in Chakotay's vision quest
"Your opponent wasn't firing on you with an energy weapon, was he?"
"Just his gloves."
- - The Doctor and Chakotay, after Chakotay is injured in a holographic boxing match
"In this corner representing the Alpha Quadrant, Earth and Humanity, the challenger Chakotay!"
- - The Announcer
"You haven't had the time to train, you're not ready! If you fight now, you'll be destroyed!"
- - Neelix, in the vision quest
"Why are they after me?"
"Because you have the gene!"
"The crazy gene?!"
"Yes, the 'crazy gene'."
- - Chakotay and The Doctor, talking about the chaotic space aliens
"Who am I to dispute logic?"
- - Captain Janeway
- This episode evolved from the first Star Trek story that Michael Taylor contributed after joining Star Trek: Voyager's writing staff. Scriptwriter Joe Menosky recalled, "There was a guy living in the 21st century, and feeling himself becoming unhinged, because there are aliens trying to make contact. We were telling the story with Chakotay suffering a mental breakdown as a result of a first contact happening in our Voyager time. That was the story that Michael Taylor wrote." The outline of the plot was overly thorough, however. "It was an extremely well-written document," Menosky remarked. "I don't know if he actually put footnotes in it, but he might have, it was so detailed, and so intellectual. [Executive Producer] Rick Berman read the story, and he could not believe it. He just went off on, 'These goddamn people like Mike Taylor, you need a subscription to the 'Journal of the American Medical Association' to understand his goddamn story.' Rick just threw it out." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50)
- Subsequently, Executive Producer Brannon Braga replotted the story. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50) According to Cinefantastique (Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50), it was Chakotay actor Robert Beltran who posited the idea about his character boxing. However, Beltran himself explained that the idea was suggested to him by Kenneth Biller, Brannon Braga, and Joe Menosky, while all four were having dinner together. According to Beltran, the idea came up that evening after he, at their request, pitched them a few episode concepts that ultimately weren't developed. "Then they said, 'What about a boxing episode?' And I said, 'I like boxing, OK, let's do that. Just give me about two months heads up so I can get in really good shape, so I can look like a real boxer.' And they said 'Okay, we will do that.' But then one day I get a call saying they were doing the boxing episode the next week," Beltran commented, with a laugh.  At about the same time as the idea of doing a boxing episode was conceived, Joe Menosky wrote the episode's script, which incorporated both that plot point as well as the concept of first contact requiring a mental breakdown. After filming the installment, it was discovered that the story was too short, so the sickbay frame story was added to the episode's narrative. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50)
Cast and characters
- According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (pp. 299-300), Robert Beltran requested several weeks' notice to prepare for this episode, so that he had time to work himself into good shape for the installment. Due to a fire earlier in the fifth season, however, Beltran was not allotted the three weeks' advance warning, only being notified the usual ten days before the outing entered production. The actor himself recalled, "It was an episode I really liked, but I didn't feel the bare-chested thing would be a smart thing to do because I was in good shape, but not boxing shape. Those guys are in incredible shape. I was working with former World Champ Carlos Palomino who I had seen box and was a great fan of, a Mexican fighter. His body and mine were a little different," Beltran laughed. 
- In this episode, Ray Walston makes his last appearance as the recurring character Boothby.
Production, music, and effects
- The scenes showing the aliens communicating with Chakotay was shot much like the Orb experiences in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. (Delta Quadrant, p. 300)
- The last day of production on this episode was 29 October 1998. (Star Trek Magazine issue 132, p. 53)
- The music for this episode makes use of some thematic, Chakotay-centric musical content from VOY: "Tattoo". (Delta Quadrant, p. 300)
- According to the book Delta Quadrant (p. 302), the vessel encountered by Voyager in chaotic space was designed to resemble a giant flea.
- The model used for the chaotic space hulk was later reused as both an unidentified craft at a Ledosian spaceport in the seventh season episode "Natural Law", and (much more prominently) as two identical Romulan drone ships in three episodes of Star Trek: Enterprise.
Continuity and trivia
- For this episode alone, Chakotay has a new hairstyle, similar to that of an evil Chakotay hologram in "Living Witness". (Delta Quadrant, p. 300)
- Chakotay's boxing pseudonym, "The Maquis Mauler," was changed to "The Tattooed Terror" in the Season 6 episode "Tsunkatse".
- During Chakotay's vision quest, his grandfather bears the tattoo of the ancient Rubber Tree People. He apparently took the mark late in life, after his son (Kolopak) returned from his expedition. Chakotay himself didn't take the mark until about the time he joined the Maquis.
- Ensign Paris, at the end of this episode, refers to Captain Janeway as "sir." The pilot episode "Caretaker" establishes that Janeway prefers to be called "captain," or "ma'am" in a crunch.
- This is the second of two Star Trek: Voyager episodes that feature the character of Boothby, the other being the earlier fifth season outing "In the Flesh". In their unauthorized reference book Beyond the Final Frontier (p. 328), Mark Jones and Lance Parkin wonder whether this episode originated as a sequel to "In The Flesh", with chaotic space having once been fluidic space.
- As in TNG: "The First Duty" and VOY: "In the Flesh", Boothby here uses the sentence "Good enough for me!"
- While inside chaotic space, Voyager deploys a stationary beacon. After three hours, Voyager re-encounters the beacon, in the same fashion that the USS Enterprise-D did while in the Nagilum's void in TNG: "Where Silence Has Lease".
- This is the second of two consecutive episodes to feature no scenes with the real Neelix but only an alternate version of him: the biomimetic copy of him in "Course: Oblivion" and the illusory version of him in Chakotay's mind in this episode.
- Joe Menosky ultimately found this episode to be very muddled but liked one specific sequence. "I'm confused when I watch it, so I can't imagine the audience not being confused," Menosky admitted. "There is one thing that I am very proud of in this episode, and that is the actual first contact sequence. The result is truly hallucinogenic." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 50-51)
- In an interview published in the March, 1999 issue of Star Trek Magazine, Robert Beltran, when asked about if he had any favorite episodes, cited "The Fight" among several, noting that he had gotten to box. He stated that viewers saw Chakotay training to unwind, which was something new that was learned about the character. This interview was later reprinted in Star Trek: Voyager 25th Anniversary Special.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.10, 4 October 1999
- As part of the VOY Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Harry Kim
Special guest star
- Elizabeth Carlisle as Voyager command officer
- Christine Delgado as Susan Nicoletti
- L.J. Dougherty as Sharr
- Tarik Ergin as
- Sylvester Foster as MacAlister
- Caroline Gibson as Voyager operations officer
- Peter Harmyk as Thompson
- Alicia Lewis as Voyager sciences officer
- Michael Muñoz as alien corner man
- Arthur Murray as Voyager command officer
- Pablo Soriano as Voyager operations ensign
- Simon Stotler as Voyager operations ensign
- Unknown performers as
- James Delano – fitting photo double for Ray Walston
- Sue Henley – stand-in for Kate Mulgrew and Michael Muñoz
- Pete Leinbach – stand-in for Robert Duncan McNeill
- Susan Lewis – stand-in for Roxann Dawson
- Brita Nowak – stand-in for Jeri Ryan
- Lemuel Perry – stand-in for Tim Russ
- J.R. Quinonez – stand-in and hand double for Robert Picardo
- Keith Rayve – stand-in for Robert Duncan McNeill and Ned Romero
- Joey Sakata – stand-in for Ethan Phillips
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Robert Beltran
- Gene Smith – photo double for Ray Walston
- Pablo Soriano – hand double for Robert Beltran
- Simon Stotler – stand-in for Ray Walston
- Stuart Wong – stand-in for Garrett Wang and Carlos Palomino
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- "The Fight" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Fight" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Fight" at Wikipedia
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