Star Trek: Voyager: Extreme Risk   Rewatch 
November 30, 2017 3:21 AM - Season 5, Episode 3 - Subscribe

Therapy the Maquis Way, 47th Edition - Chapter 1: When and How to Sucker-Punch Your Subordinates - Chapter 2: 19th-Century Earth Literature as Coping Mechanism - Chapter 3: So You're the Only Survivor of Your Cell's Extermination - Chapter 4: There Are Four Lights: Enduring Cardassian Incarceration - Chapter 5: How to Disable Holographic Safeties

Memory Alpha is an EXTREEEEEMEly thorough Trek encyclopedia:

- Torres actress Roxann Dawson was influential in devising this episode's plot. The idea for the episode came from a conversation she had with Executive Producer Brannon Braga and Supervising Producer Kenneth Biller, while all three were having dinner together. Ken Biller explained, "[Roxann Dawson] was interested in this notion of self-harm, the phenomenon that exists, if you look at the psychiatric journals, mostly among women." Biller also noted that the condition in general may be an unsafe method, as it is in this episode, of temporarily alleviating emotional numbness. The actress recalled, "We were talking about the nature of depression. I had some ideas for B'Elanna about exploring that side of her. I started to elaborate on some of my ideas." Dawson further explained, "I thought that she had a part of her that was very dark, that maybe we hadn't touched on yet and a part of her that, if left unattended to, would become very self-destructive. And I thought it would be interesting to explore that side of her." Calling to mind the writers' reactions to her ideas, Dawson stated, "They were really interested. They said, 'We'll do something with that,' but I didn't expect to hear anything. Then all of a sudden this episode was handed to me."

- Robert Duncan McNeill was regretful that, instead of Paris helping Torres with her issues in this outing, he concentrates on building the Delta Flyer. The actor admitted, "I wish they had used Paris more in that [....] I thought that would have been a really nice opportunity to let Paris, as her significant other, be really concerned and pro-active there." On the other hand, Roxann Dawson valued how the episode does depict relations between Paris and Torres, liking how B'Elanna pushes Tom away during her struggle with her emotions. "That was very true to nature," said Dawson, "because often when we dissolve into those parts of ourselves, the ones that are closest are the ones that have the hardest time. They are the first people that you cut off. It seemed very right, his struggle to try and get through to me, and his inability to do so. I felt that it showed the relationship in a very real way, instead of an ideal way. What she was going through put tension into the relationship and caused an inability for them to communicate, and that was realistic."

- This episode features Torres coming to terms with the death of the remaining Maquis in the Alpha Quadrant, which she learns of in the season four episode "Hunters". B'Elanna's depression over the annihilation of the Maquis is not touched upon between these two episodes, however. As to this issue, Ken Biller offered, "Why don't we know anything about it before? Brannon [Braga] felt pretty confident that since we don't see B'Elanna every week, we have no idea what's going on with her." Ken Biller ultimately had mixed feelings about this episode. He observed, "It may have felt a little forced [....] I liked the scene a lot between Chakotay and B'Elanna where the truth comes out. What I didn't like is that it relied on a previous episode."

- This is the first episode to feature the Delta Flyer, which Seven of Nine first gave Tom Paris the idea of designing in the previous episode, "Drone".

- The multispatial probe around which this episode's plot revolves reappears in three more episodes. "Brief Candle", a short story in the Distant Shores anthology, reveals that the probe was created from the remains of One, explaining why the crew always went to great lengths to recover it as it was literally irreplaceable.

"Look, we could spend weeks trying to solve this, but we've got a ticking clock. Engines are working; weapons systems are online. I say we launch now and hope for the best."
"Mr. Paris, that is perhaps the most illogical statement you have ever made."

- Paris and Tuvok

"Vorik, turn that damn thing off!"

- B'Elanna, to Vorik, who is using a noisy tool

"My security training is going really well. Tuvok told me the other day that I'm 'not completely inept.'"

- Neelix, to B'Elanna

Poster's Log:
Way to go, Roxann Dawson, for contributing the whole heart of the story to the episode. But I've never felt that Trek handled these real-world-psychology topics all that well (ironically, "Afterimage", the DS9 episode where Nu-Dax tries to cure Garak's claustrophobia, aired exactly two weeks before "Extreme Risk"). In this case, the performances work all around, and a lot of Torres' dialogue was believable (if the Office-style awkwardness I felt in some of those scenes is any indication), but the flow of events is weird and the ending felt too tidy.

As for the Delta Flyer, I like its interior: the asymmetrical layout, old-school switches and levers, and color scheme all make it quite visually interesting. The exterior is—eh, okay, I guess. More interesting than a standard shuttlecraft or runabout, to be sure, but I always felt like it could have had a bolder look. I mean, it's clearly VOY's Defiant, so why not break the mold a little more design-wise, as IMO the Defiant did.

Bernd Schneider of Ex Astris Scientia has written a literal essay on the dimensions of the Delta Flyer and of Voyager's shuttlebay. Short version: the Flyer's too big to fit inside Voyager, especially if Neelix's ship is still on board, which it is [season 7 spoilers at this link], despite almost never being mentioned.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Speaking of orbital skydiving, let's all enjoy the cut scene from Generations where Kirk shows off how young and virile he still is. The costume is the exact same one Dawson wore in this episode. I hope they dry-cleaned it first.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (20 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I need to get this out of the way: I was made intensely uncomfortable by the scene in which Chakotay tricks B'Elanna into going to the holodeck, then physically forces her into it. I mean, we're supposed to understand that Chakotay has known B'Elanna longer than anyone and wouldn't actually hurt her, but the optics are really bad. (And even the sort of tough-love, forcing-someone-to-confront-their-trauma thing is very seventies intense-encounter psychotherapy in the mode of est which seems horribly outdated by the time this aired, although arguably even est survives in the form of Landmark.) Even the idea that there's no time for the huggy-touchy-feely sort of counseling that Deanna Troi or Ezri Dax would do is negated by B'Elanna's needing to convince Chakotay to let her go on the mission.

That flaw is the only wrong note about an otherwise tight episode, one that ties in well to previous developments (i.e. finding out about the Maquis slaughter, needing a bigger shuttle, even Jim Kirk's orbital skydiving; speaking of which, I figured out that 300 kilometers works out to about 186 miles; the current skydiving record is about 25 miles) and is set within a plot that moves thing along nicely, with the interstellar trash lords going after the MacGuffin. The episode establishes that, yes, Voyager can knock together a shuttle in surprisingly little time, and that it probably does so in large part by using an industrial replicator. I even didn't mind Tom Paris' cheesy little toggle switch panel, which is something that bugged me previously as kind of an unnecessary affectation in an otherwise pretty sharp looking runabout-esque ship; there's a throw-away line in "The Visitor" in which they're aboard the Defiant sometime in the future, and future-Jadzia (!) says something about how she hasn't "worked a two-dimensional control panel" (referring to the standard LCARS interface) for some time. That made me think that Starfleet would eventually go to some sort of holo-interface that would generate 3D controls on the fly (maybe even creating physical controls, as the Dauntless in "Hope and Fear" seemed to do via its "particle synthesis" capability), on the basis that Tom Paris' desire for haptic feedback would gain popularity.

As for the inconsistencies in size re: the Delta Flyer and the Voyager shuttlebay that the Ex Astris Scientia article discusses: well, welcome to the realities of television production, where they have to work with the space available. I used to think of that while watching DS9 and seeing the Hall of Warriors of the Klingon Empire on Ty'Gokor seeming to be somewhere between "small-town VFW" and "small-town high school gymnasium" in size, or the headquarters of the Dominion on Cardassia Prime seem to be about the size of the office that I'm in right now, which is none too big. Besides, I'm used to size inconsistencies between internal and external dimensions from Mass Effect.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:25 AM on November 30, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: No clear winner, although both polarons and theta radiation are name checked.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: A lot of stuff sticks out, actually: for starters, the Delta Flyer is both available in the cash shop, and the most powerful small craft in the entire game, including many more exotic and expensive options. (For what it's worth, I'd fly one before using the Aeon timeship from Future's End.) Also of note: the KDF faction has no equivalent vessel.

The tetraburnium armor mentioned in the episode is also a thing in Star Trek Online, although I can't imagine it ever being best-in-slot.

Finally, many food items mentioned on these shows are low quality noncombat healing items, and banana pancakes are on the list.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 4.
* Shuttles: At this point, it's probably charitable to drop this count. However, I will note that it took until Season 5 before they established the ability to make a new shuttle and what that would entail. I will also note that nobody bothered to compare the construction of the Delta Flyer to replacing a lost Class 2 shuttle, which seems like an obvious narrative thing to do.
* Crew: 135.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* Treknobabble is hilarious.

I laughed when the pilot in the skydiving scenario warned B'Ellana she might 'thermalize' instead of burn up.

* Starting with the good: Roxann Dawson.

Roxann Dawson is a treasure, seriously. I'm going to complain about what they did here in a minute, but her performance was excellent, and I appreciate what she was attempting here. I also like knowing that so many actors on various Trek shows had so many thoughts about what their characters were like and should be doing. (Nana Visitor is probably the person I'm most fond of here, but I've been impressed with most of these anecdotes.)

* This is another week I like Neelix.

Neelix's interaction with B'Ellana was pretty good.

* Some Voyager framing issues.

We come into this problem without knowing what data the probe was after, why it was important, why Voyager was two hours away from it and so on. Like, I'm not clear if they're worried about the Malon just getting and stealing an experimental probe or the data that they were attempting to gather. It isn't super critical in this instance, but it's a problem I've been on about since S1, and it's as much a thing now as then.

The multispatial probe around which this episode's plot revolves reappears in three more episodes. "Brief Candle", a short story in the Distant Shores anthology, reveals that the probe was created from the remains of One, explaining why the crew always went to great lengths to recover it as it was literally irreplaceable

Like, it would've been good to learn this during the episode itself.

* The Delta Flyer is pretty cool.

This doesn't come up much, but I'm totally with Tom Paris about the controls on the Delta Flyer, or at least the need for haptic feedback. I hate touchscreens, and they'd be especially shitty in an emergency situation where it's easy to misclick/misgesture. If there was smoke or sweat or blood on my face, I'd want to be able to feel what I'm doing.

That made me think that Starfleet would eventually go to some sort of holo-interface that would generate 3D controls on the fly (maybe even creating physical controls, as the Dauntless in "Hope and Fear" seemed to do via its "particle synthesis" capability)

I'm totally stealing that at some point, that's awesome. I have never liked Iron Man style holo-UI stuff, but making actual controls would be so cool.

* I feel like stories like this are damaging, rather than awareness-raising.

I get the impulse behind something like Extreme Risk or Afterimage, but speaking as someone who deals with this stuff both personally and as a caregiver? Stories like this normalize a lot of really shitty ideas that many people hold about mental illness, chief among them that it is temporary, something that you get over by just... having one breakthrough, and then things are fine. I don't need to hear that, see it on TV or generally have that notion spread around.

I'm not angry at the writers the way I was watching something like Faces or Tattoo or Retrospect, but I do feel like this is a wrongheaded way to depict this stuff even though Dawson's performance is so strong. (Watching this, I feel like she understands it.)

So I think of this episode as a well-meaning mistake instead of hackle raising shit, I guess?
posted by mordax at 5:25 PM on November 30, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh, quick further thought:

They're awfully chill about another confrontation with a Malon freighter - last time that happened, they were completely outclassed. That was a bit of a disconnect for me here. (Like, them being surprised by the lack of reinforcements and so on.)
posted by mordax at 5:31 PM on November 30, 2017

This is another episode I liked better on rewatch than I did the first time around. In part due to it, for me, not being a "one off" fix for B'Elanna since we'll see her continue to struggle with some of these same issues later on, which of course I couldn't know on first viewing.

The generous way to read this, I think, is in seeing B'Elanna's actions here taking their more serious course from the loss of her Maquis friends, that defines the dangerous expression of the problem in the moment, but it isn't the root of the issue, which goes back to her family. Chakotay helps her deal with the immediate focus of discontentment, but doesn't alleviate the deeper underlying issue from her family history. As such, his actions forcing her to confront the issue is more along the lines of an AA confrontation, forcing the person to admit there is a problem that needs addressing rather than making it the whole solution in itself. I can accept his physicality along those lines, where once he initiates the B'Elanna Theta One program he expects her to somehow deflect or deny its existence rather than admit and deal with what it represents.

With the episodic nature of the show, it would have been easy to leave it there as a one and done, but they come back to B'Elanna's family more than once in future episodes and use it to also inform her relationship with Tom. So accepting that each episode isn't going to feature B'Elanna fully acting out her depression and anxiety, the show still manages to suggest it continues to exist by revisiting it. The "solution" here is only in addressing the most "extreme" expression of her feelings, not the entirety of them. Since B'Elanna hadn't engaged in self harm previously, that element doesn't seem too lightly put off by the events here since it is more of the moment than a longer term method of coping, something she's experimenting with, though with limited satisfaction. It isn't an ideal analog for some other "real" world types of self harm, but it isn't entirely unsatisfactory in both representing the issue and in not entirely solving the problem.

The entire cast does a fine job here again in conveying a sense of history and place with the crew. I don't think there is a bad moment among them other than maybe a couple lines I would have liked to see rewritten a touch. Like Tom's line about wanting an explanation, where that comes off as a bit more harsh than it should given his concern. At the end of that scene he expresses worry, but that should have been the first response, telling B'Elanna he wants to know what's going on rather than demanding an explanation which carries a different kind of relationship thrust to it for being more authoritarian, even more off-feeling for coming right after saying he wasn't her boss. I can live with it though in much the same way I can live with Neelix's line that was something like "Come on B'Elanna, that was a perfect set up" and delivered with a bit too much emphasis. Each fits the way B'Elanna would hear the lines more than how they might actually be delivered and that helps the audience get a better feel for her state of mind without having to explain it directly.

The matched plot about the probe works well for the cast too and informs the idea of risk admirably, differentiating acceptable risks and their effects from risks undertaken without gain. Also worth noting is that the balance of tension stayed on the B'Elanna story in making the Malon "threat" more a space race in building the Flyer as a crew than getting in the way of the more important B'Elanna stuff by increasing the threat to Voyager itself. It not only highlighted the B'Elanna story better, but it gave the crew a chance to exhibit some different attitudes and competencies than bigger threats allow. That it also helped remove Paris from some of B'Elanna's problems in a useful way was another bonus since Chakotay is the better choice for the focus here, leaving Tom and B'Elanna's relationship to be addressed in more depth later. They more or less thread the needle in showing Tom caring, not being fully aware, and being caught up in making the Delta Flyer without excess enthusiasm. It's a tough group of things to balance for him, but the writers and McNeill pull it off well enough for me to not feel things being too far amiss in any one direction or damaging the relationship between Paris and Torres.

As to the probe, ugh, the made of One idea is dreadful, I'm so glad they didn't go with that serving of extra creepy. I thought Tvuok's explanation of why the Malon might want the probe more than sufficed for any added reason other than it belonging to Voyager as reason to prevent the Malon from retrieving it. That it was used to unclear purpose doesn't bother me since it didn't really need one aside from being a probe, something that Voyager might reasonably use often. The "space race" idea was cute and it served well enough as an impetus for creating the Delta Flyer, which was filmed really nicely in this one with the shot coming in from the "space windshield". It made it look nice and snazzy, something that sometimes gets lost a bit later on if memory serves.

All in all I liked this one, again as much for its suggestive continuity and crew building as a dramatic storyline in itself. The more low key external threat provided some balance to the more intense episodes, while the personal stakes for B'Elanna and the crew were revealing in a beneficial way.
posted by gusottertrout at 1:56 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

As such, his actions forcing her to confront the issue is more along the lines of an AA confrontation, forcing the person to admit there is a problem that needs addressing rather than making it the whole solution in itself.

But even then, it's really wrongheaded, because you cannot force a person to admit that there's a problem, in AA or elsewhere. I mean, if you use enough physical coercion, i.e. torture, you can make the person say the words, but as the old joke goes, change has to come from within. Per mordax above, it's a stupid dramatic conceit that needs to go away.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:34 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

But even then, it's really wrongheaded, because you cannot force a person to admit that there's a problem, in AA or elsewhere.

No, of course not, but the point of interventions, as I understand them, is to provide evidence of the problem as an attempt to show the person others are aware of it and care about the issue since it is affecting them as well. The show can't go into enormous detail in an episode, so they chose to dramatize the incident in heightened detail to suggest the larger problem to give some indication of the issues affecting B'Elanna that inform how she acts. That Chakotay knew what the incident B'Elanna chose to dramatize was and was himself connected to it is the link that provides indication what part of her difficulty in the moment may be. It isn't a past trauma she directly suffered as witness to the events, but a touchstone for her larger problems, sparking her current risk taking behavior.

The need felt by Chakotay and Janeway is in finding out what B'Elanna's actions portend, whether she's suicidal or something else, and in then seeking some way of addressing that. The goal of first getting through to her by breaking her denial of the problem is addressed by making it plain Chakotay is aware of what she's doing. B'Elanna could try to deny that, but the evidence is right in front of them both, so that won't go very far. She could shut down and not let Chakotay in at all, which is a risk, but even that would inform their following actions since they still see the risks for her, which is what led to the revocation of holodeck privileges. Since Janeway and Chakotay are both friends and superiors, their interest is twofold, helping B'Elanna as much as possible while doing the best to ensure her safety as well. If she wasn't responding to gentler questioning, then confronting her with evidence of the problem isn't out of line in itself as that is what would happen in any incident where one crew member was acting in a dangerous manner.

Here the difficulty is the direct danger is confined to B'Elanna herself, at the point of intervention, and isn't criminal exactly even if it is a violation of regulation. Balancing the the roles of superior officer and friend made putting the latter at risk by use of the powers of the former. The intent, one would imagine, is to emphasize personal concern, but command concern is involved as well. It'd have been easier to show this were it simply pictures of the incident instead of a holodeck recreation, but the result likely would have been similar, with the photos being put in front of B'Elanna's face instead of the holo-recreation. B'Elanna, like anyone confronted with evidence of a problem could continue to refuse to admit a problem, but that doesn't mean they have to do that since at some point many people do want help. B'Elanna's meeting with Neelix suggested that was likely the case with her.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:32 AM on December 1, 2017

Here the difficulty is the direct danger is confined to B'Elanna herself, at the point of intervention, and isn't criminal exactly even if it is a violation of regulation.

This is exactly what I'm complaining about: this is the sort of dramatic action people take on TV, and so people who are not steeped in the system think it must be acceptable.

It's not. This is most emphatically not how these issues should be addressed. He was wrong to grab her. They were wrong to send her on that mission. Basically, this episode is a how-to guide for how to fuck a situation like this up, should something analogous arise in real life.

The reason they have regulations about what people are or are not allowed to do is because playing fast and loose with these rules gets people hurt. It's true that Voyager doesn't have a counselor, but that's also why it's very important for them to follow protocol - none of them are qualified to make the assessments that they're doing here. I will note that Chakotay's idea of how to handle Maquis disciplinary problems is to *punch* people. He's not fit to improvise in this kind of scenario.

The main thing this episode does right is Dawson's symptoms: her depiction of what it's like to feel or see someone experiencing depression is absolutely chilling.

Everything else here is a mess, and it was - as Jack noted - pretty outdated even in the late 90s. (This is a recurring Voyager issue - the Doctor's misuse of psychology jargon is pretty unfortunate even for the era every time it comes up. Moreover, Seven's transition from drone back to human has been mishandled in any number of unethical and scary ways that are considerably greater than B'Ellana's issue in this episode.)

The other thing here:

In part due to it, for me, not being a "one off" fix for B'Elanna since we'll see her continue to struggle with some of these same issues later on, which of course I couldn't know on first viewing.

I may not have expressed myself well enough in my first post - the other problematic angle here is supposing that this is unique to B'Ellana.

If they wanted to get into 'what would people really feel about the death of all those Maquis?' then it was time to show more than one person having a bad reaction. Making this about one crewman also normalizes the idea that this is something that only happens to outliers.

This isn't an issue the Voyager writing staff was equipped to handle, period. Flailing around with it is another symptom of their inability to pick a tone and stick to it.
posted by mordax at 9:48 AM on December 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Also: I don't mean to sound upset with anybody here. Like... no pile-on is intended. I'm emphatic because I see the consequences of misinformation about mental health... well, a lot, and it's frustrating.
posted by mordax at 10:27 AM on December 1, 2017

the point of interventions, as I understand them, is to provide evidence of the problem as an attempt to show the person others are aware of it and care about the issue since it is affecting them as well.

But the intervention is not the solution. It's a presentation of the problem; it doesn't solve the problem in and of itself.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:49 AM on December 1, 2017

No, it's good. There's some real value in discussing these kinds of things.

I think the disagreement comes down to how much we each are willing to accept the "heightened" element of the drama here. I'm more willing to go with it as a pared down account of the overall process involved with some elements accentuated for dramatic effect coming from who the characters are more than any "true to life" clinical process. For me, that's just a non-starter given the nature of the show as episodic and as Trek. There's simply no way they were going to have B'Elanna go through months or years of therapy to deal with her problems, which necessitates foreshortening were they to address the issues at all, and I think that they did address them is more positive than not given the context.

If the disagreement mostly comes down to the grabbing and the speed of events, then we don't really disagree other than in how much we accept the limitations of the show as being acceptable for dealing with the issue at all. It certainly isn't how this sort of issue would be dealt with in real life for those elements, but that's how Trek, and most other shows, roll as condensing is necessary and heightening can serve to sell an idea to an audience in that limited amount of time. What I liked about the episode was in how they showed the interpersonal relationships with the various crew members and B'Elanna, the specifics of how they presented the information go to inform those relationships, which is the heart of the show for me. It definitely isn't a disagreement over more general issues of how mental/emotional difficulties are portrayed in Hollywood, since that is an area I agree on completely.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:58 AM on December 1, 2017

There's simply no way they were going to have B'Elanna go through months or years of therapy to deal with her problems

See, I think that they could have, if they'd cared to. It doesn't need to be a big thing where they've got a B'Elanna therapy scene in every other episode, just a once-in-a-while offhand mention during a corridor walk. The same complaint has been made about the DS9 episode "Hard Time" and O'Brien. Sacrificing psychological realism for narrative tidiness isn't a great trade, IMO.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:45 AM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

See, I think that they could have, if they'd cared to.

While it's hardly surprising that THIS show did not do so, I concur with Jack that it COULD have, though not easily. There's evidence for similar subtle-continuity-of-characterization:

- Neelix becomes much more zen after his near-suicide. We've all noticed that most of his appearances have been quite tolerable lately.
- Seven gradually starts faintly smiling and behaving a little more like a human throughout season 5.

It would've been tougher in Torres' case—either she becomes more testy than usual, which may have rocked the boat too much by any measure, or she remains depressive in that "chilling" way, which would have been a huge distraction from whatever else was going on.

Perhaps a best-plausible-case-scenario would have been for Torres to be…just kind of quieter than usual, less full of vim and vinegar, like Bashir was post-Zimmerman—and maybe even more impactfully: for the rest of the crew to be seen to tread a little more carefully around her for a while, at least until her next big characterization episode, whichever one that is.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:15 PM on December 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

My last couple ideas on this topic so as to not go too far overboard in giving my perspective.

First, I'd suggest the show did something even better than the usual therapy stuff Hollywood does, with its over-emphasis on "revelation" and talking cures where the person basically ends up "deciding" to get better like so many really crappy movies have it. Here they maintained the underlying issues throughout the rest of the run and showed B'Elanna dealing with them dramatically rather than us just hearing about it or seeing them try to show such a process, which I'd have serious doubts about them doing well. The B'Elanna episodes I remember deal with different aspects of her difficulties and suggest her gaining some partial understanding of them without a total resolution involved, which seems a fair method for the show to take on the subject overall, but I won't comment on how well they handle the given episodes until I see them again since my opinions on quite a few previous ones have changed some.

Secondly, in art, even middling stuff, added realism doesn't necessarily equate with added "truth". The more symbolic and/or emotionally important truth can sometimes be better found in an artificially constrained form rather then more messy processes of life. If the show wanted to dramatize the lengthy process of psychological treatment and how that works into a life, then emphasizing the process makes sense, but the more you go into process the more you potentially change the audiences effective relationship to whatever led to needing the treatment in the first place. Keeping someone interested in why B'Elanna is in therapy and maintaining some sense of power to the initiating events is difficult at best. Eventually the therapy just defines the character which can cause its own problems for how people relate to the story.

Sometimes its better to provide some key representative detail to stand in for a larger whole so that it can crystallize a feeling or idea in the audiences mind better. The framing of significant detail is central to how art "means" since it mediates reality through selective detail to focus audience attention on what might otherwise not be noticed. That's some high falutin' mumbo jumbo perhaps, but it is how I see it and, in its limited way, how I find the best episodes of the show work. We can certainly disagree on this, for this episode or any, as art can't appeal to all people the same way since we aren't bringing the same things into it. Voyager sure ain't ever going to be confused for a major work of art, so the stakes here are pretty low, but I as I do try to give credit where due and do my best to explain where I'm coming from I figured I'd at least try to give an indication of where I'm coming from.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:47 PM on December 1, 2017

Sometimes its better to provide some key representative detail to stand in for a larger whole so that it can crystallize a feeling or idea in the audiences mind better.

Yeah, this type of dramatic shorthand seems especially common in both genre fiction and in episodic series; VOY being both, it's not surprising to see it here. And I don't think it's overly charitable to say that the presentation of B'Elanna's issues here may have been a more-or-less deliberate example of that phenomenon. The question becomes, where is the line w/r/t using the appropriate amount of dramatic shorthand to still be respectful of the real-world issues, and the answer to that question is probably intensely subjective depending on one's closeness to those real-world issues. I recall that I have reacted, to something in a TV episode at some point, similarly to mordax here, but I can't recall what it was.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:28 AM on December 2, 2017

I spent the weekend pretty sick, so didn't have the oomph to revisit this discussion before this morning.

The thing about giving it a pass because it's art is tied up in visible intention for me.

Some stories exist purely to entertain. Nobody is trying to make a statement in them - see Caretaker. Information is still imparted and moral perspective in these stories can still be critiqued - a story like Caretaker still has tons of implicit biases and assumptions that we can pick apart, but nobody thinks they're supposed to learn something from it, so the bar for that stuff is somewhat lower.

Basically, nobody in the Voyager pilot promised us a lesson, so I judge the lessons that do exist in that story less harshly, although I still want to dissect them because that's what I do with everything.

In a story like Extreme Risk, there's a strong implication that we should all learn something. The framing implies that there's a lesson to be had here about depression - why it happens, what to look out for, what to do.

That means it behooves the artists behind it to educate themselves before trying to educate the rest of us, because real people do take their cues from this stuff whether that's smart or not. The writers spent more time researching gang conflict for the Kazon than they did updating their psych lexicon here, and so I'm pretty down on them about this story.

(Dawson gets a pass because it's clear from her performance and the backstage lore that she does know about this stuff and did her best to depict it well.)

I also think stories with real world implications have more on the line than purely fantastical ones. Like... I'm more concerned by the message in The Punisher than Thor: Ragnarok because people could try to be like Frank Castle, but there's no risk of Joe Mall Cop trying to conquer Asgard.

People might try to apply the stuff they see here, and that's troubling to me in a way that wouldn't occur in a more fantastical story.

Anyway: it's okay to disagree and all that, and sorry for dropping outta the discussion abruptly.
posted by mordax at 11:37 AM on December 4, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh, no worries mordax. I'm glad you're feeling better.

It was an interesting and informative discussion. I think where our individual "ugh" switches flip are just keyed to different things for mental illness issues. I think you're probably more pragmatic minded than I am, where I'm more attuned to symbolic concerns. It's an interesting and difficult to unravel little side area of aesthetics I've had conversations about in the past, without any clear resolution presenting itself. It really is something worth noting just because those different approaches will sometimes lead to very different understandings where the disagreements aren't easy to resolve since there is no single "right" way to come to terms with them.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:03 AM on December 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I'm glad you're feeling better.


I think where our individual "ugh" switches flip are just keyed to different things for mental illness issues.

A lot of that's going to be down to personal experience, I expect.

I think you're probably more pragmatic minded than I am, where I'm more attuned to symbolic concerns.

Yeah, that feels like a recurring theme in these discussions, which is fine.
posted by mordax at 1:34 PM on December 5, 2017

The banana pancakes scene with Neelix literally made me cry. Agree with everyone else that Dawson's depiction of depression is powerful.

Given the situation it seems odd that the whole crew doesn't have a bit of training on recognizing the signs of depression, PTSD and other mental illnesses, and a protocol for response - reporting it to the Doctor, say. Asking the crew member (kindly!) what's going on and if they might be suicidal. Assuring them that they are loved and supported.

I'm sure it would be unethical for the doc to administer the appropriate anti-depressant through air vents (such as when Janeway won't leave her quarters) .. unless they all had to sign a waiver saying "I understand I may receive medical care including medication without my knowledge or consent when deemed necessary by medical personnel." Of course that would kill a lot of stories.

Also just asking people what's going on and pressing angrily for an answer is kind of useless in the face of depression, unless the person who has it actually understands that they have it and feels safe talking about it. You'd think that this was the first time anyone on a spaceship lost in the middle of nowhere with a crew subjected to multiple traumas had gotten depressed, for all the awareness and knowledge on display.

Also - the doctor diagnosing her with depression and sending her to her quarters with, as far as we can tell, no medication or attempt at therapy. I'm pretty sure he says in an earlier episode that his program contains some sort of psychological component so, why the heck wouldn't he treat her in some way other than sending her to a darkened room?

There are so many great things about this episode (and by "so many great things" I mean B'Elanna) that it makes the ignorant bits incredibly just .. GRAR.
posted by bunderful at 1:49 PM on January 29, 2019

DOCTOR: B'Elanna, according to these readings you are clinically depressed. I'm going to inject you with a futuristic-sounding antidepressant. This doesn't solve the underlying issues - for that you need regular therapy - but it will help you get through the day-to-day in the meantime.

It's not unusual for people with depression to isolate themselves. Try to engage yourself in activities around the ship and not hole up in your quarters all the time. Even if you just go to the mess hall and read a novel, or go see a movie in the holodeck with Tom. At some point in the future you might be interested in the trauma support group on Thursday nights, or the Monday night depression support group.

B'ELANNA: So I can talk about my feelings and have the whole crew laughing behind my back? No thanks.

DOCTOR: The groups are confidential - it's taken quite seriously. (pauses, turns and looks directly at B'Elanna) You are far from alone. There's not a single person on this crew who has not been impacted by mental health issues - directly or indirectly. (mutters)Sometimes it seems like there's a traumatic event every week - as if it's on a schedule. (sighs)

B'ELANNA: I ... I didn't know.

DOCTOR: (resumes working) I created a holodeck program to run therapy because I simply can't provide it to everyone who needs it *and* stay on top of my medical responsibilities. I'm rather proud of it. You can chose from a variety of diverse therapists and disciplines.

B'ELANNA: I don't have to do therapy with you?

DOCTOR: No. There's a copy of me in the simulation - more focused on psychotherapeutic techniques of course - but no. You can pick any one you like.

B'Elanna's quarters. Chakotay enters.
CHAKOTAY: I was hoping we could talk.

B'ELANNA: Um. Ok. I guess.

CHAKOTAY: I want you to know you are surrounded by people who care about you and would be glad to listen to you any time ... any time we aren't under attack. Doesn't have to be me, you could talk to Tuvok, Neelix, Tom ...

B'ELANNA: I want to talk to Tom. I don't know why it's hard. It's like his understanding of psychology is trapped in the 1950s ... like his cultural tastes.

CHAKOTAY: Well, it's hard to be emotionally open and vulnerable when you're depressed. Honestly I've been struggling a lot, especially recently.

B'ELANNA: You get depressed?

CHAKOTAY: Yeah, we're stranded light-years from home, I don't know if I'll ever see my family again, we have traumatic events happening like ... practically every week really, come to think of it, my Maqui friends are dead, and the woman I love maintains a strict professional distance so yeah. Sometimes I get depressed. Honestly it seems like a pretty natural response. Even for a fighter like me.


(They sit quietly for a while.)

CHAKOTAY: I'm going to go but you can talk to me any time. Or not talk. We can play checkers or muck around in aeroponics or get some coffee. Might be good to do some of those things with Tom too, or any of your friends on the crew. It really helps to spend time with people who care.

(B'Elanna begins therapy with a trauma-informed Klingon-human holotherapist who really understands her heritage and specializes in a 24th-century descendant of EMDR. Tom starts taking her on regular walks in a Welsh countryside simulation. Sometimes the walks are very quiet and that's okay. Eventually Tom beings therapy to work on his relationship skills. The doctor implements quarterly mental health training for the whole crew - how to recognize the signs of a mental health problem and how to respond. Appropriate response does not include yelling at people who are sad and traumatized).
posted by bunderful at 4:03 PM on January 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, if you'd asked me to picture banana pancakes before this episode, I'd have guessed like bananas foster, with pancakes. Not a few sad slices of banana perched on an ordinary stack of pancakes. I want bananas foster. harumph.
posted by Kyol at 6:01 AM on March 31, 2022

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