Star Trek: Voyager: Random Thoughts   Rewatch 
September 28, 2017 3:07 AM - Season 4, Episode 10 - Subscribe

This planet's too chilly. Should've worn my "Engineering Smock." Except it makes me look pregnant. Heh, that'd freak Tom out. This market looks like the one on Sikaris. Wonder if Janeway noticed. Maybe I'll point it out! Yeah right, maybe if I want my head torn off. That kid's got weird socks. At least these people have invented socks. Ughh, so bored. Socks are actually a pretty good idea, really. Oh good, now these guys are staring at me. What, you've never seen an alien that doesn't look human before? Okay, now THIS petaQ's in my space bubble. If you don't step off RIGHT now, I'm gonna reach down your throat and RIP OUT your SPINE and cram it back UP YOUR ASS SIDEWAYS!!

You don't understand the truth of Memory Alpha. Its darkness...its power!:

- The initial spark that started the development of both this episode and the Mari specifically was writer Kenneth Biller's interest in the topical subject of broadcast violence. Confronting the roguish character of B'Elanna Torres with the laws of such a society made sense to Ken Biller. He said, "B'Elanna seemed like the natural person to put into that predicament, somebody who is not in control of her thoughts, but struggles to control her behavior. In this society, though, just controlling her behavior simply wasn't enough."

- Another element whose inclusion (like that of B'Elanna Torres in the story) attracted Ken Biller and (in common with both the episode and Mari society in general) had its roots in somewhat controversial issues was the Mari's underground culture of violent thoughts. "I [...] thought it was an interesting element to bring in this underground, red-light district," Biller stated. "Like drug addicts, they traded in illicit thoughts and illicit material. It was a way to get into a lot of different issues in our society now, where I think that people are often considered not responsible for their own actions. We make lots of excuses for people's behavior. Also, I think that the more we criminalize and make things that may be natural for people illicit, the more people will do to get them, like in Prohibition."

- The script of this episode was repeatedly rewritten, with changes still being made to the teleplay during the episode's production period. Nimira actress Gwynyth Walsh recalled, "The script underwent quite a few revisions. The plot didn't really change a lot, however, as the changes were mainly to the dialogue. There was some more explicit dialogue in the first draft of the script, and [the producers] probably thought that it was hitting the nail on the head a little too hard, so they backed off a little."

- Prior to appearing as Nimira in this episode, Gwynyth Walsh previously played B'Etor in three TNG episodes, DS9: "Past Prologue" and Star Trek Generations. Walsh was relieved that, unlike with her character of B'Etor, she did not have to don makeup here.

- Gwynyth Walsh was also attracted to the thought-provoking nature of the episode. Shortly after working on the installment, she related, "From my perspective, the episode certainly seemed to be dealing with the censorship issue, which is especially prevalent in the United States right now. The American Far Right [lobby] has a lot of control over what is on television these days, and I think the script attempts to explore the potential negatives of that kind of censorship. So 'Random Thoughts' is a frightful look at a controversial topic. I found the whole subject matter very interesting myself, and was happy to be involved with the episode in that respect." Walsh also approved of the changes that the episode's script underwent, preferring that – instead of outrightly telling the audience what to think – the episode allows the audience to form their own views of the subjects explored in the installment. "I think that's better writing. Besides," a grinning Walsh added, "it's always better to be a little subtle when you're dealing with possibly inflammatory topics."

- Gwynyth Walsh enjoyed appearing alongside the regular actors of Star Trek: Voyager in this outing. "I hadn't had the opportunity to work with any of those actors before, and they were all great," Walsh enthused. She especially liked performing with Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew (who Walsh respectfully described as "a consummate professional") and Tuvok actor Tim Russ (of whom Walsh said, "[He] is, for lack of a better phrase, just a big goof [....] He's just the complete antithesis of Tuvok"). Recalling the experience of collaborating with Russ, Walsh noted, "Almost all of my scenes were with Tim, and I found him to be so much fun."

- Ken Biller was dissatisfied with this episode's production, especially the Mari marketplace set. "That's a show that production-wise was really a big failure. That was our production design at its worst," Biller complained. "It was one of those sets that really looked like a set. We have a really hard time trying to do marketplace sets. I wasn't really happy with the episode the way that it came out, in terms of the production."

- For the violent thoughts of Tuvok that Guill received, a couple of re-used sequences from other productions was used, such as brief shots from the 1997 film Event Horizon, a Paramount Pictures production that was released to theaters on 17 August 1997, two weeks before the production of "Random Thoughts." Also included was a shot of Starfleet personnel from a Borg drone's perspective from First Contact. This is the first time that the First Contact-style uniforms were seen on Voyager, albeit in footage only. This creates a continuity error: Voyager doesn't make contact with the Alpha Quadrant until "Message in a Bottle", hence Tuvok (or anyone else on board, except perhaps Seven of Nine) has no knowledge of those uniforms during this episode.

- The stardate given in this episode, 51367.2, would put it in between the previous two-parter episodes, "Year of Hell" (stardate 51268.4) and "Year of Hell, Part II" (stardate 51425.4). Due to the fact that the timeline after "Year of Hell, Part II" is restored to the beginning of the episode "Year of Hell" Part I, it can be assumed that this episode, as well as the following ("Concerning Flight" (stardate 51386.4)), took place instead of the events seen in "Year of Hell" at the dates given (which would be in 2374, sometime after March 16 and before November 19).


"I'm surprised that one of your people could be capable of doing something serious enough to warrant imprisonment."
"It's extremely rare. In any case, the brig has been occupied for less than one percent of our journey."
"Forgive me, Tuvok, but it seems barbaric."
"If all species were as enlightened as yours and mine, there would be no need for prisons." (telepathically)

- Chief Examiner Nimira and Tuvok


"Where we come from, people are responsible for their own actions."
"And here, people are responsible for their own thoughts."

- Torres and Chief Examiner Nimira


"You don't understand the truth of violence. Its darkness...its power!"

- Tuvok, when sharing his violent thoughts.


Poster's Log:
I'm usually good to go with any Orwellian story, and any VOY episode with lots of focus on Tuvok, but this one's a tad limp. I think the black-market stuff came off too corny, though IMO it stopped short of actually feeling like an after-school special, so that's good. And I suppose it's a more original resolution to the Prime-Directive-conundrum plot hook than is typical. Plus it's nice to see B'Etor out of makeup, and Nimira is less one-note than these sorts of Intransigent Aliens of the Week tend to be. But all in all, definitely not one of VOY's more memorable outings, except insofar as it includes very short clips from the wacky Event Horizon. (BTW, it's really too bad they couldn't work in a shot of Lon Suder's face during Tuvok's mental Super Freak-Out.)

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Nimira is not to be confused with Namira, the Daedric Prince of vermin, disease, and cannibalism. Good thing the Mari don't have access to The Elder Scrolls, or else Nimira'd have some real problems.

NIMIRA: But chief, it's not MY fault that everybody who plays those games thinks about cannibalism when they hear my name!
CHIEF: You're a loose cannon, Nimira! Now turn in your badge and your brain.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (21 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Once more, there's an interesting science fiction premise (if bad thoughts are outlawed, only outlaws will have bad thoughts) that has some problems with the plausibility of the set-up. You've got this society that is willing to open its doors to aliens who want to stop by and do a little shopping, but if anyone has bad thoughts they get hauled off to the thought police and get those nasty notions negated from their noggins. OK, how would that work with, oh, just about every race that Voyager has met, with a few exceptions such as the pah-LEZH-oor people? I mean, the pre-intervention-from-Annorax Krenim who are now the status quo seem pretty chill, but really? To go back to, yes, Mass Effect as a counter-example, you have the quarians who have no immune systems to speak of, and as a result wear hazmat suits at all times and are super cautious regarding visitors to their colony ships; this scenario would be like the quarians not bothering with suits at all on their colony ships and being shocked, shocked when a visitor brings a bug aboard and subjects them to draconian sterilization procedures after the alien flu is already out in the general population. It's also pretty much like TNG's "Justice" when Wesley falls into the flower bed and the Edo are all like, whoops, sorry, but at least his execution will be painless. (It also reminds me of Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle, in which any and every crime, no matter how small, is punishable by impalement on a razor-sharp hook.) The engramatic purge chair also reminds me of the "neural neutralizer" from the TOS episode "Dagger of the Mind"; not intended as a torture device, but still really problematic. I don't see how that could possibly not backfire on them, sooner or later, and probably sooner.

The episode would have been improved by having the Mari set up some sort of "contact zone" in which they could do trade and negotiation with aliens, instead of just having them wander around open markets; the zone would be staffed by Mari who had had special training to ward off any stray violent thoughts that they might pick up, and in return, aliens were told to have their less aggro members do the negotiating. B'Elanna insists that she no longer wants to kick the crap out of everyone who annoys her in the slightest, so she gets to go down to look at gadgets, and so when Nimira has B'Elanna arrested, it's a bit more justified as it's with the assumption that the Voyager crew was warned beforehand and if B'Elanna couldn't keep her shit together then they should have stuck with the Vulcans and Seven. Guill is one of their customs people who has a little thoughtcrime-smuggling business on the side, and Nimira eventually admits that, while they supposedly all have purged their bad thoughts, there was a little black market problem that they didn't want to admit to. Oh, and one other thing: Tuvok gives up his combadge, which makes sense, but why didn't he have a stealth version hidden on him? I'd think that Mr. Went-undercover-with-the-Maquis-for-who-knows-how-long would figure out the benefits of wearing a wire.

Other things: I also enjoyed seeing Gwynyth Walsh in a very different role; I raised an eyebrow at the idea of the notoriously jealous Neelix going on a date on a planet of telepaths; and wow, of all the movies to mine for clips for a broadcast television show, Event Horizon? I mean, damn, son.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:58 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Stray thoughts.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Telepaths are still a very inconsistent plot device in Star Trek Online - there are a lot of problems you'd think they would solve, (especially strong ones like full blooded Betazoids), that they don't really touch.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 141.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* I'm tempted to start counting 'dumb first contact scenarios.'

The only reason I'm not going to is that it would be picking on Voyager unduly - being terrible at first contact is a proud Starfleet tradition, and I think my favorite example is still TNG's Justice, rather than anything these guys did. But Voyager certainly continues that proud tradition of sucking at their core mission in Random Thoughts.

Once more, there's an interesting science fiction premise (if bad thoughts are outlawed, only outlaws will have bad thoughts) that has some problems with the plausibility of the set-up.

Yep. This is pretty bad all around, because on the Mari's side, there's the thing you're talking about, wherein there's simply no way a culture of traders could be so insulated. It's also pretty clear that they must interact with outsiders routinely because Nimira specifically lampshades that Tuvok is speaking verbally when he doesn't need to, but none of the other Mari seem surprised to talk. If they really, truly needed outsiders to be so cautious with their thoughts, they should've mentioned it clearly because - as telepaths - they know the crew of Voyager didn't know to refrain from physical contact or violent thought or both.

Their justice system is also another one of those generic hardheaded alien ones that doesn't make much sense: they decided B'Ellana's guilt in a day, with no provision for 'she's on the crew of a ship armed with enough weapons to destroy our biosphere, maybe this should be kicked up to a diplomat instead of a beat cop.' I mean, it's true they might know Janeway won't fire, but in general, the protocol should probably be to assume she will. (Particularly if B'Ellana were actually injured by the procedure - the ramifications of that could've been apocalyptic for them.)

Their society just doesn't scan. Honestly, no planet where ships just swoop in and crews are allowed to walk around without a welcome packet or something makes much sense to me. Seems like they should have a visitor guide at the very least, and that just about every society they meet should do the same, (special exception for the aforementioned pah-LEZH-oor planet, where misunderstandings are probably considered amusing).

On the Federation side, Voyager once again fails to go over the 101 stuff for shore leave: 'think un-violent thoughts! Think un-violent thoughts!' And it's true that every society probably has lots of laws and customs a visitor could run afoul of, but the ones Starfleet crews miss are usually pretty obvious - see also outings like Sacred Ground.

* We have another false utopia.

So, as before, Justice is actually the first place my head went here, because I think of it as the most-this-episode-episode that the franchise ever aired, and another couple themes the episode have in common are: (a) if it seems too good to be true, it probably is, and (b) we need our faults.

(a) is a callback to TOS/TNG themes too - Gene Roddenberry's vision is deeply suspicious of places where all crime has been eliminated. See stuff like The Masterpiece Society or This Side of Paradise or This Way to Eden or... gah, like any third week of either of those shows, really. Like... the Federation describes itself as a utopia - it's a post material scarcity civilization in search of personal improvement - but anything that goes further than that is depicted as bad because I think that's where Roddenberry thought the sweet spot for people was.

The Mari aren't quite there yet, which is a twist, but they're clearly trying to be one of those places, and this episode continues the theme of 'don't trust that.' It's not just about what happens to B'Ellana either - the crew are clearly uncomfortable being around so many telepaths, and I can't blame them.

(b) The notion that we need our violent impulses also dates back to TOS and Roddenberry's take on human nature - The Enemy Within correlates violence with ambition, and posits that an 'all good' Captain Kirk would be pretty useless, even if an 'all bad' one is a monster.

I feel like this is some pretty rich territory for discussion myself, but this is already running long, so I'll come back to it if anybody else is interested in picking at it too.

* I actually think Random Thoughts rises above the dumb formula somewhat.

The ending is, as rightly called out, edging pretty close to after school special territory. Despite that, it's surprisingly spot on about a couple of things. Nimira is prejudiced. She thinks all problems must stem from outsiders, she thinks her own system of justice is above reproach, she thinks she can't be wrong. She demonstrates privilege-related fragility really well, with the actress offering a pretty good performance - asshole behavior mixed with vulnerability, ('even if I believed you, no one else would'). I wouldn't normally expect that kind of self awareness from Voyager, so that's all a pleasant surprise.

I also like Tuvok actually conducting a successful investigation. He does legwork, he infiltrates a criminal circle and he saves the day. I enjoyed watching that. I also could not believe they included shots from Event Horizon. (I love Event Horizon, and recognized the stuff they used.) All too often, security officers are the butt monkeys of Star Trek - I mean, there's actually a trope called The Worf Effect - so it's good to see why Tuvok is actually qualified to do his job, good to spend some time with the underused Tim Russ, and good to see a problem solved with police work instead of deus ex particles.

Oh, and finally: female members of a show are often placed in damsel in distress situations, but Voyager is actually pretty good about putting B'Ellana in danger without falling into that trap. Places where she's in terrible trouble are often about her own personality and choices instead of 'she's the woman, grab her on the shoulder and let a man sort it out.' Random Thoughts follows the same general theme as Dreadnought or Prototype there.

* Random stuff:

- The engrammatic purge device was pretty suggestive, wasn't it? I laughed out loud.

- The marketplace really does suck, just like Ken Biller complains.

- I love Event Horizon enough to mention it twice. Woo! Event Horizon!

- Seven's conversation with Janeway is good, but could be better. As ever, I feel like Janeway doesn't really justify her position well enough to help Seven understand it, and while I believe that, it's disappointing out of someone responsible for things like first contact with new races every week. Seven was right to stomp out, even though I'm much more inclined to actually side with Janeway.

So despite me spending 2/3rds of this complaining or nitpicking about this episode, I think it's an above average example of this particular Trek formula. It's still pretty forgettable, but I'm okay with that.
posted by mordax at 11:38 AM on September 28 [2 favorites]


Oh, further note:

It was especially galling to see the crew all 'we have to follow their laws' after watching Janeway get the ship kerploded by ignoring Krenim requirements in Year of Hell.

I'm not counting this as a plot hole because it was retconned out of history, but it leapt out at me due to the timing.
posted by mordax at 12:03 PM on September 28 [1 favorite]


It was especially galling to see the crew all 'we have to follow their laws' after watching Janeway get the ship kerploded by ignoring Krenim requirements in Year of Hell.

It really is something they should be addressing more. I mean the whole notion of space territories raises all sorts of questions that aren't dealt with in any detail. I mean it seems awfully likely, in the way Trek has these things, that most of the space they'd have to travel through would be claimed by some group or another, or be in dispute or otherwise "taken". So some process should be identified about how one does attempt to travel through "countries" that may not be welcoming when you need to get to pass through to get home.

So far, most episodes don't deal with the idea, the few that do show the species controlling the space to be either excessively hostile or improbably welcoming to Alpha Quadders in a ship of alien technology. They've recently been pointing to this aspect of the journey more, as if they just remembered it should be a thing, but Janeway and Voyager's perspective on the situations has been variable, mostly by strength of the group making territorial claims. The show has Janeway making some initial gesture towards complying, but they don't have it as anything like a mandate for the crew, different than when on a planet. That may be a practical issue, planetary law being harder to get around, but being more forthright about the values involved other than "That would add X amount of years to our journey" would be sensible.

Given how they've set up the idea of space territory, I think there could be solid reasons put forth for not simply accepting claims on their face and "going around" but those reasons need to be articulated better.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:13 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


I mean the whole notion of space territories raises all sorts of questions that aren't dealt with in any detail. I mean it seems awfully likely, in the way Trek has these things, that most of the space they'd have to travel through would be claimed by some group or another, or be in dispute or otherwise "taken". So some process should be identified about how one does attempt to travel through "countries" that may not be welcoming when you need to get to pass through to get home.

Yeah, it's as though the Trek universe doesn't have signal buoys.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:52 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Given how they've set up the idea of space territory, I think there could be solid reasons put forth for not simply accepting claims on their face and "going around" but those reasons need to be articulated better.

Yeah; I mean, we can assume that there are all sorts of negotiating protocols that get skipped over in the narrative because that's the boring part, but it still seems like rando alien of the week comes up and goes, "So, OK, we're the hereditary viceroys of this sector, so you gotta put your pants on your head and come watch the traditional performance art of our people, which lasts like five months, and give us your lunch money," and Janeway & Co. are like "seems legit."
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:49 AM on September 29 [2 favorites]


So, OK, we're the hereditary viceroys of this sector, so you gotta put your pants on your head and come watch the traditional performance art of our people, which lasts like five months, and give us your lunch money

Man, those guys are just ASKING for war with the Tak Tak.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:56 AM on September 29 [3 favorites]


Like... the Federation describes itself as a utopia - it's a post material scarcity civilization in search of personal improvement - but anything that goes further than that is depicted as bad because I think that's where Roddenberry thought the sweet spot for people was.

Yes, and that's one of the things that was pretty consistent in Roddenberry's Trek. "The Cage" had Pike being tempted with anything he wanted--better than the next century's holodeck, because the Talosians could bring up things that he didn't even consciously know that he wanted--but he was willing to kill himself before submitting to that. Roddenberry believed that humanity could and would evolve to higher levels of existence, but that they needed conflict, challenge and danger to do so, and further that they couldn't take shortcuts to that stage, whether we're talking about being gifted with psychic powers ("Where No Man Has Gone Before", "Charlie X") or genetic engineering ("Space Seed"). In TNG, Q's purpose was to shake humanity out of its complacency, mostly by the tactic of daring Picard and crew to take the easy way out of various situations. (This is arguably why Q won't simply send Voyager back to the AQ with a snap of his fingers; he expects better things out of them, and that they'll gain far more out of the journey than simply achieving the destination.) Of course, Roddenberry could be extraordinarily anvilicious in making this point, as with the aforementioned "Justice."
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:43 AM on September 29 [1 favorite]


Hello mefite Trek rewatchers. I stalled out on Voyager in s01 a couple years ago because I kept arguing with the scripts and it was terribly distracting. Is there a duffer's guide online that compiles, say, the best three or four episodes from each season or something like the TNG guides that present the best 25 or 50 episodes?
posted by mwhybark at 12:42 PM on September 29


Well, WIRED lists the following as absolute must-sees, which I agree with at minimum (with the exception of "Deadlock," which is...okay I guess?)...
Caretaker (S1 E1/2)
Deadlock (S2 E21)
Flashback (S3 E2)
Future's End I & II (S3 E8/9)
Worst Case Scenario (S3 E25)
Scorpion I & II (S3 E26 / S4 E1)
Year of Hell I & II (S4 E8/9)
Timeless (S5 E6)
Equinox I & II (S5 E26 / S6 E1)
Endgame (S7 E25/26)

...but I would add these as absolute must-sees, and I suspect not many folks here would fight me on any of these:
Meld (S2 E16)
Blood Fever (S3 E16)
Distant Origin (S3 E23)
Living Witness (S4 E23)

...and am reserving judgment for now on seasons 5-7 beyond those that WIRED listed. My opinions are changing a lot on rewatch, but these are the ones that remained the cream of the crop.

To get a sense of the top 3-4 per season? I suppose you could browse these FF threads!

The good news is, you needn't worry overmuch about seeing episodes out of order.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:20 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


I found this list just after posting and started in on it, will correlate.

Looks like Amazon still doesn't provide a per-episode interactive playlist tool too, huh? Laser-like focus on consumer delight my ass.
posted by mwhybark at 2:11 PM on September 29


...and I am glad to just skip s01 after the intro episodes. I remember how frustrating that season was on initial broadcast and it was not getting better on rewatch.
posted by mwhybark at 2:13 PM on September 29


Here's their list, parsed:

1 Year of Hell S04, E08 E09 (1997)
2 Equinox Parts I & 2 S05 E26 / S06 E01 (1999)
3 Living Witness S04 E23 (1998)
4 Scorpion S03 E26 / S04 E01 (1997)
5 Blink of an Eye S06 E12 (2000)
6 Endgame S07 E25 E26 (2001)
7 Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy S06 E04 (1999)
8 Hope and Fear S04 E26 (1998)
9 Future's End Parts I & II S03 E08 E09 (1996)
10 Timeless S05 E06 (1998)
11 Worst Case Scenario S03 E25 (1997)
12 Deadlock S02 E21 (1996)
13 Mortal Coil S04 E12 (1997)
14 Caretaker S01 E01 E032 (1995)
15 Flashback S03 E02 (1996)
posted by mwhybark at 2:20 PM on September 29


In the Venn diagram of your list and theirs, these are the episodes not on your list:

5 Blink of an Eye S06 E12 (2000)
7 Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy S06 E04 (1999)
8 Hope and Fear S04 E26 (1998)
13 Mortal Coil S04 E12 (1997)
posted by mwhybark at 2:24 PM on September 29


Yes, I should have included Blink of an Eye. I enjoy Hope and Fear a lot, but whether it's must-see is arguable. Tinker Tenor is good IIRC. Mortal Coil, meh.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:35 PM on September 29


Re: Best of Voyager -

I'd want to toss "Timeless" on the list, and while I agree people should see Endgame, I didn't like it at all.

Getting back to Random Thoughts:
Yes, and that's one of the things that was pretty consistent in Roddenberry's Trek.

This is both true, and a great list of examples. I guess it's not for nothing that Khan is the most well-defined and meaningful personal nemesis that existed in TOS, because he's the living embodiment of this notion.

So how do *we* feel about the premise? Personally, I'm sort of in Roddenberry's camp: I do think adversity is good for the soul, but it's hard for me to tease out how much of that is fair, and how much of that is me trying to take something good away from some very bad events in my own life. (Not to mention how this interacts with the myth of the rugged individual in US culture.)

Anybody else have Big Thoughts about this?
posted by mordax at 4:57 PM on September 29


I think that either one of the lists above are good starting points, but can be fleshed out further with episodes that develop your favorite characters further, sometimes even if those episodes are problematic. This is true of some of the Doctor-centric episodes, for example.

And WRT the Roddenberry Ethos, a central point of it, which keeps it from being a paean to rugged individualism, is about a substantial portion of the risk being in reaching out to others, not just even if but particularly when that's difficult. "The Corbomite Maneuver" doesn't end with the Enterprise defeating Balok, but reaching out to him.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:07 PM on September 29 [1 favorite]


This is a weird one. There are two different elements to the story, the first of which, that looking at the Mari social order, is heavy handed and not all that effective, while the second, the more Tuvok centered element, with B'Elanna and Guill figuring in, works rather well I think.

The social order of the Mari, not to mention how it's depicted, is rather silly and is hard to imagine outside Voyager's visit. It's as if it sprung into existence when they arrived, was found wanting thanks to the actions of our hearty crew, and then left to reform itself or simply disappear once Voyager departed. Nothing new for Trek there. Evidently there are a great number of didactic planets in the galaxy just waiting to be encountered by Federation ships in order to be tested and cured of their cultural afflictions.

To, I'm sure, no one's surprise the universal standard agora once again takes center stage for the crew, but this time at least the intitial interactions are pleading enough, the cast members playing their time at ease, well, easily, giving a sense of leisure to the affair. (I was amused, by the way, at the captain's log opening to the show mentioning that it had been some time since the crew had been able to take shore leave. After Year in Hell, that is an understatement)

Paris and Neelix's exchange was pleasing enough, helping to maintain the notion of Paris being on the right track as a character and giving Neelix a bit of added depth in his mention of Kes and relationships. Janeway and B'Elanna also gained a little by just being seen at ease after not getting much opportunity to show that side of their characters for a while. Their interactions with Guill worked for me, but the "accidental" collison and subsequent violence not as much. I have to say I didn't like the direction Walsh took Nimira. It wasn't that it didn't make some sense, but it stands out as one of the elements that made the episode feel more Afterschool Special than it should. Her moral majority Chief Examiner comes across as too naive and designed for message more than "real" in a deflating way. That is, no doubt, on the writers to a large extent, but abetted by Walsh digging in to that perspective more deeply as the show progressed.

The demand to erase B'Elanna's violent memories doesn't make much sense at all since she would be leaving the planet, so erasure gains little for the inhabitants, and as punishment it seems more spiteful than either judicial or punitive. The interviews Nimira conducted with the three crew members was well handled, but an odd thing for them to agree to even with Starfleet protocols. The reaction of Janeway to all of the events seems off, suited more to the knowledge of further dramatic needs than reasonable on its own accord. Her demeanor is that of one knowing things would work out in the end, which clearly shouldn't be the case. The reaction of the Mari towards the Voyager crew, being untrained in emotional suppression but still allowed to wander freely, was also kinda wacky though so at least it balanced in that regard.

The Tuvok parts of the show worked much better, making this indeed feel a bit like a continuation of his inner struggles since dealing with Suder. Wayne Pére, I found, did quite well with Guill. A nice balance of seeming friendly concern at first, underlying creepiness that didn't push too far, and final bit of reaction to the too much too fast imagery. Not anything truly exceptional, but for a somewhat cliched bit of Trek villainy it was well handled. The show didn't really seem to follow through enough on the question of how reasonable his actions were, or how much or even if blame needed to be apportioned to Guill more than the social order, sort of leaving him as villain without intent in terms of how the crew ends up seeing the Mari social experiment.

The choice to parallel Tuvok's abilities with that of the Mari and their mind reading device was a more meaningful part of the episode. B'Elanna having her mind read first by the device then by Tuvok in much the same way, for example, works to suggest something of the responsibility and inner conflict of both Tuvok and B'Elanna, something Tuvok points out more or less explicitly near the end of the episode. There was admirable consistency and handling of Tuvok's own struggles with violence thoughts, where Russ manages to give some feeling of Tuvok's control yet also a conflicting desire to indulge in those kinds of thoughts. I even enjoyed the way it played out where Tuvok's violent thinking was too much for Guill, more used to a milder strain of fleeting lapses in control the Mari must normally experience. That also further explicates the power of B'Elanna's thoughts, without overdoing it. Mild violent thoughts for her would be enormous for the Mari, but without needing to distort the character of B'Elanna to emphasize that.

The lingering question overall about the episode might be in how it views violence and violent thought. The suggestion seems clearly to be that violent thought is at the least unavoidable and perhaps necessary and desirable in and of itself, which is a bit questionable in what that then allows for as "good" in that sense. There is a feeling that the episode is suggesting too strong a divorce between thought and action in some regards, as if the two weren't connected and forgiving then any thought no matter how lewd, as with Neelix, or anti-social or destructive. That may be a defensible outlook, but it isn't quite as clearly the obvious a result as they make it seem.

All in all it was an okay episode, Tuvok's investigation was much better than the rest of it and makes me wish they could have found a bit better framing for the contrasts they set up.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:10 PM on September 29 [3 favorites]


Just had to double check to make sure I posted this in the right thread. With so many different current Trek related threads being active right now, I get a bit confused about which one I'm reading at any given moment.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:13 PM on September 29


Just had to double check to make sure I posted this in the right thread.

Heh. Right? We seem to have an embarrassment of riches with Trek-related stuff right now, which is fun even if I'm not watching all of it.

The lingering question overall about the episode might be in how it views violence and violent thought. The suggestion seems clearly to be that violent thought is at the least unavoidable and perhaps necessary and desirable in and of itself, which is a bit questionable in what that then allows for as "good" in that sense.

The most 'morally advanced' character in the episode seems to be Tuvok, both due to characters claiming Vulcans are superior in that regard, and because he took center stage as the heroic protagonist for the second half. Given that - and the discussion Jack and I were having about the underlying philosophy of Trek in general - I think that the message is that real maturity comes from managing your violent thoughts yourself.

The Mari have taken that responsibility away from their citizenry, and some people have reacted to that childishly: Guill and his underground are basically dabbling in things they no longer understand, and are therefore unable to regulate their behavior in the process. Tuvok's own dark thoughts are deeper and more severe, (Event Horizon, woo!), but he's able to comport himself with dignity at all times anyway because he has self discipline. Guill is literally unable to withstand the darkness in Tuvok's psyche, but you'd never know it to talk to Tuvok - Nimira would've been horrified.

Basically, the Mari are robbing their people of the chance to truly grow up.

It makes sense for Voyager to take that position both because it's consistent with Roddenberry's vision, and because they're purveyors of entertainment themselves: they obviously don't think offering somewhat violent stories is messing up the kids who watch.

There was admirable consistency and handling of Tuvok's own struggles with violence thoughts, where Russ manages to give some feeling of Tuvok's control yet also a conflicting desire to indulge in those kinds of thoughts.

Yeah. I basically like this one because as nonsensical as it is as an after-school special, it's a pretty good *Tuvok* story, and Voyager needed more of those.
posted by mordax at 11:36 AM on September 30 [2 favorites]


(thanks guys, I assembled the lists into a linked Duffer's Guide and posted it to FanFare Talk. It sort of seems like maybe the post could be directly tied into the Voyager rewatch thread but I am not sure how to go about this or what the etiquette might be. apologies for posting off topic here but I knew the most recent post in the rewatch thread would be a good way to get eyes on my query. Thanks again and I hope the new post is of service.)
posted by mwhybark at 3:36 PM on October 4 [1 favorite]


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