Star Trek: Voyager: Blood Fever   Rewatch 
July 20, 2017 4:37 AM - Season 3, Episode 16 - Subscribe

Ensign Vorik, in a commanding capacity, chooses his first mate. But she prevents his intended debriefing by employing evasive maneuvers after first contact. Then on the holodeck, he faces the risk of dishonorable discharge. And after the climax, in a scene with Janeway and Chakotay: somebody bones. matches lonely single characters along forty-seven points of compatibility:

- This is the first of two Star Trek: Voyager episodes directed by Andrew Robinson (who played Garak on Deep Space Nine), and the second episode overall of Star Trek that he directed (after DS9: "Looking for par'Mach in All the Wrong Places," whose story also involves interspecies mating.)

- According to executive producer Jeri Taylor, this episode of Star Trek: Voyager involved a much anticipated theme but took a while to be written, at least partly because the writers wished to defy expectations. At the time, she said, "Everyone has been wondering when we were going to do [a pon farr episode], and one of the reasons we hadn't was because we could not think of a fresh way of doing it. Everybody expects that Tuvok is going to be going through the pon farr, and that's not what we do. We have a very offbeat approach to it."

- In fact, the producers initially wanted this episode to feature Tuvok experiencing the pon farr that B'Elanna Torres ultimately goes through. The change to B'Elanna suffering from the condition made a lot of sense to episode writer Lisa Klink; she agreed with Russ that, because Tuvok was married with children, "the idea of even suggesting that he would mate with someone else just seemed to be unattractive." Accounting for the writing staff's decision to use B'Elanna Torres as the alternative, Klink stated, "Because of the half-Klingon, half-human struggle that she always goes through, it certainly seemed like she was someone who had a lot of sexual energy to vent. That whole Klingon side of herself that she represses, is actually not unlike the way Vulcans tend to suppress their emotional side. So it seemed fairly credible that if you could remove your emotional control in the same way, you'd get the same kind of reaction."

- Andrew Robinson ultimately took a moral from this episode, regarding sexuality. He explained, "For me, this story had an important and dangerous [...] mythic theme: We all have to confront and explore our sexuality which requires that we descend into the 'caves' of our subconsciousness."

- Andrew Robinson believed that the only way to overcome the problem of making the pon farr phenomenon convincing was to gain the trust of the performers (particularly Vorik actor Alexander Enberg, Robert Duncan McNeill and, most especially, Torres actress Roxann Dawson). In turn, the cast made a definite impression on Robinson during the making of this episode. He noted, "If I didn't know it when I started this episode, I certainly found out on 'Blood Fever' just how valuable it is to listen to actors and their input."

- Robert Duncan McNeill had some concerns over his character. "I wanted to make sure Tom didn't come off as a little too, you know... he's attracted to her, and she's saying, 'Help me, help me.' So he's turning her down, but there weren't a lot of reasons for that [as far as I could see]. That was my complaint all along. I kept saying, 'Why does he keep saying no? If he's gonna say no, let's make it really hard for him, and really get to the limit but have some good reasons why he thinks this is a bad time. Let's walk that thin line and get as close to the edge there as much as we can, and then not follow through.'"

- Roxann Dawson thought this episode was notable for exhibiting facets of her character as an individual. "In 'Blood Fever', we really explored many aspects that were very particular to B'Elanna but not necessarily particular to Klingons or chief engineers in general," Dawson explained, before adding, "We're discovering that she's not just strong in the masculine sense, but that she can be sexual and feminine and interested in learning more about herself."

- Due to the last-minute rewrite of Tuvok scenes becoming Tom Paris moments, essentially every scene had to be revised during production. "We were kind of rewriting scene-by-scene as we were shooting," Robert Duncan McNeill explained, "because you know, [the original version] was a very different story, and they had to deal with a lot of sexual tension and things going on with Tom and B'Elanna." It was these on-the-spot rewrites that concerned McNeill about there being sufficient reasoning for his character to be turning B'Elanna down. Although the rewrites added a degree of pressure to the filming, McNeill suspected that they perhaps made the shooting company (the cast and crew) compensate, ultimately making for a better story.

- A suggestion that Tim Russ made, regarding the scene where Tuvok visits Vorik in his quarters, was to Andrew Robinson. According to the director, this suggestion "turned out to be my first classic Star Trek shot." Robinson further explained, "In the scene between Vorik and Tuvok, I was going to cover the end of the scene in a conventional way with two Overs (an Over is a medium close shot in which an actor is shot 'over the shoulder' of the other actor in the foreground side of the frame). Tim suggested that I instead cover the end with a shot that held both actors in profile. Since they're Vulcans, it's a shot about ears."

- Robinson felt that the episode was of vital importance to his learning curve as a director. "'Blood Fever' was pivotal," he opined. "That was the show that really made me realize that not only could I direct, but that I wanted to."

- This episode's exploration of pon farr is a return to the concept, as the idea was originally conceived and executed in "Amok Time", an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series' second season. According to Tim Russ, this episode gave an opportunity to explore several questions about the concept, some having been answered in the earlier episode. After noting that a moment such as the quarters scene between Tuvok and Vorik – an encounter between two Vulcans, with one of them enduring pon farr – had "not been exposed, really, or shown before that," Russ asked, "What are the other cultural aspects of pon farr? I mean, what about the marriages? You know, if they're betrothed to someone when they're born, what happens if they're not, if that falls through? What happens if they reject, if one of the other partners reject? Can they marry outside their race, as was done in the original series? What's the cause and effect for it? We had to make it up; we had to create this back-story, so that was part of the aspects of, you know, designing and building upon what we already had, as far as the philosophy of this character."

- When Chakotay shows Janeway the remains of the deceased Borg drone at the end of this episode, the moment constituted the first appearance of any Borg since the release of the Borg-centric film Star Trek: First Contact and is also the first appearance of the Borg in the entirety of Star Trek: Voyager. Although the crew of the starship Voyager was probably fated to encounter the Borg at some point (due to both groups being present in the Delta Quadrant), the release of the aforementioned movie influenced their return here. According to Brannon Braga, the decision to wait until a while after the movie's release before featuring the Borg on Star Trek: Voyager was made because the producers wanted to give the film "its breathing room" and avoid making the Borg's reappearance on Voyager redundant. The discovery of the Borg corpse also represents the first foreshadowing that Voyager's crew are nearing Borg space. The Borg make two subsequent reappearances in the third season, featuring in the very next episode, "Unity", and the season finale "Scorpion".

"I have always had great respect for B'Elanna. I hope she isn't too... upset with me."
"With Lieutenant Torres, upset is a relative term."

– Vorik and The Doctor

"For such an intellectually enlightened race, Vulcans have a remarkably Victorian attitude about sex."
"That is a very human judgment, Doctor."
"Then here's a Vulcan one: I fail to see the logic in perpetuating ignorance about a basic biological function."
"There is nothing logical about the Pon Farr. It is a time when instinct and emotion dominate over reason."

– The Doctor to Tuvok

"I'll get to work designing the half-Klingon version of the program. There's a copious amount of information in the cultural database about their mating practices. Did you know that fracturing a clavicle on the wedding night is actually considered a blessing on the marriage?"

– The Doctor

"Are you telling me that I'm impossible to resist?"
"I wouldn't go that far."

– Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres

"You're afraid that your big, scary Klingon side might have been showing. Well, I saw it up close and you know, it wasn't so terrible. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing it again someday."
"Careful what you wish for, Lieutenant."

– Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres

Poster's Log:
This episode works like gangbusters as far as I'm concerned. Consider everything it had working against it:
- it spends nearly half its running time on a guest character whom we know very little about;
- it's about a tough subject to work with, not only thematically (and w/r/t the censors!), but for a show that often goes to the Space Action well;
- and perhaps most significantly, they reworked the script while shooting it.

And it still sticks the landing. Clearly all the actors, and our simple humble director Garak, brought their A-game. It's fun and awkward and interesting, and while it lacks the depth of our last installment of "Vulcans in Love" from two episodes ago, it's a more involving story, perhaps because more characters are embroiled in it. That scene with Tuvok and Vorik is just dynamite.

And there's another challenge it faced: At its core, this episode could be perceived as just a tweak of "Amok Time," with Torres as the complicating element. But (A) at least it's not a straight-up rehash like "The Naked Now" was, and (B) I'd argue it's doing a good deal more: like Russ says, it's building on previous Trek lore while remaining true to it both factually and thematically. It's what DS9 was good at, but DS9 also would often contradict previous Trek lore ("confront" is perhaps a better word), so when VOY does stuff like this, it satisfies the Trekkies without irritating the ones who insist upon Strict Roddenberry Constructionalism.

Going back to "Alter Ego" for a moment, during our discussion of that episode, gusottertrout said: "it's Star Trek episode 183 of the ongoing series 'Vulcans are Full of Shit and Everyone Knows It', where Tuvok is as transparent as Harry in his usual bluff about emotions." Given the fact that "Blood Fever" is entirely about what may be the touchiest of touchy subjects for Vulcans, it was a smart and necessary choice to have somebody confront Tuvok about it. And who better to do so than the Doctor? In fact, on this rewatch, one thing that's really standing out for me is his willingness to just say stuff—not in that Data/Seven "I innocently don't know how others will react because I don't yet know what it means to be human" way, but more in a IDGAF way. It's refreshing in this setting; his perspective sometimes almost akin to Quark's, and his manner is usually not very Starfleet at all. Little wonder that the Starfleet brass (minor spoiler) eventually has him replaced with a different template.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
We will see Vorik in five more episodes, but this is really his big one. According to MA, Jeri Taylor (Enberg's mother) "once suggested that Taurik [the Vulcan crew member of the Enterprise-D who was also played by Enberg] and Vorik were twin brothers. According to the video game Star Trek: Starship Creator, Taurik and Vorik were twin brothers."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (16 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I agree that the episode was ultimately successful, although it had to negotiate some potentially tricky areas; the one that stood out for me was the whole issue of consent. It's difficult to characterize Vorik's attempted mind meld with B'Elanna in engineering as anything but an assault, and at first it seemed like the show wasn't going to address that, but I thought that the Doctor's confinement of Vorik to quarters and insistence on his wearing the cortical monitor (for medical purposes, but somewhat reminiscent of an ankle bracelet in context) was their acknowledgement that, dude, that was totally not cool. It does square up with my previous impression of Vorik as being smart but very socially inept (as opposed to Spock, who not only socializes at least some of the time but clearly enjoys it, and Tuvok, who makes it clear that he's not into it, and has to make an effort to do so, as in "Alter Ego"); he seems to have worked out in his head that he and B'Elanna should be together, but not gotten to the part where propositioning her in the middle of Engineering is a bad idea. (There's also a passing line in that scene which not only seems to assume that only heterosexual pairings are valid, but that the entire crew is cisgender, which is... unfortunate.) The fact that he hadn't prepared for a more-or-less inevitable event reinforces Tuvok's later comment to the Doctor about pon farr and how there's nothing logical about it; even though they know it's coming, and logically should make any and every preparation necessary to deal with it, Vulcans in general are reluctant to do so and especially if it involves dealing with non-Vulcans (at least going on a sample size of two, Spock and Vorik; when it eventually hits Tuvok, he will allow Tom Paris to help him get through it, although he may have been encouraged to do so not only by the incidents in this episode but by his own previous experience when his pon farr interrupted his attempt at achieving the Kolinahr). Vulcans can probably get away with this sort of suppression of the issues surrounding their mating practices and rituals because they're so important to the Federation, but I don't see the kind of crap that Vorik pulled as being able to fly very far, even in the get-along-gang that is Starfleet and the Federation in general.

So, fast forward to the scene where B'Elanna is coming on to Tom and he's like, look, I like you, but this isn't right, because you're not in your right mind. He changes his mind later because it becomes apparent that, thanks to wibbly-wobbly-spacey-wacey physiology, she literally will die if she doesn't get it on, but that's different. (And, of course, the communications with the ship are conveniently down, so they can't just beam up Vorik and B'Elanna to the holodeck and have them do the koon-ut-kal-if-fee there.) She even says something to the effect that, hey, of all the people, I didn't think that you would turn me down, but we already know that Tom isn't really the chaotic neutral bad boy that everyone assumes. (Or, at least, he's decided that he won't be.) Just as Jim Kirk (at least the original version) is not that guy, Tom Paris isn't either; his love life has, thus far, consisted of a married alien woman (who turned out to be setting him up for a murder); one or the other of the Delaney twins (although that always came across as an excuse for something to talk to Harry about; they won't actually appear until they gamely join Harry and Tom for a Captain Proton adventure, some seasons hence); and some interest in Kes, although he backs off when Neelix has a jealousy fit. (In a few episodes, we'll see an alternate future in which he and Kes do get together, but that's not going to happen in this continuity.) Otherwise, it's his holo-girlfriend Ricky. He's just really not that guy.

Can't think of anything else specifically, except of course for the Big Reveal at the end. My faulty memory told me that their going into Borg Turf was a secret until partway through "Unity", but when the alien (whose presence otherwise seemed superfluous) told them about their civilization being obliterated overnight, I suddenly went, "oooooh."
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:35 AM on July 20, 2017 [5 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Gallicite, apparently critical to warp core maintenance.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Rappelling is totally a thing in Star Trek Online, although there's no chance of failure. It's just used in a number of missions to add atmosphere.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward again.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 23.
* Shuttles: Down 3.
* Crew: 143, though Vorik's lucky that didn't go the other way.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 8.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

* Andrew Robinson! Yay!

Getting the guy who understood *Garak's* sexual/relationship dynamics to handle a delicate episode like this was a stroke of genius, IMO. (I don't want to get into that too much because of DS9 spoilers, but he always struck me as such a thoughtful person.)

I'm happy to hear that he had such a positive experience doing it, too.

* I like this one too.

And there's another challenge it faced: At its core, this episode could be perceived as just a tweak of "Amok Time," with Torres as the complicating element. But (A) at least it's not a straight-up rehash like "The Naked Now" was, and (B) I'd argue it's doing a good deal more: like Russ says, it's building on previous Trek lore while remaining true to it both factually and thematically.

Yep. This gets back to a recurring theme we've been seeing: the best of Voyager tends to be when it tries to do TOS. They seem to get that better than TNG/DS9 style writing, and I feel this is a classic example. The plot here is similar to Amok Time, but with a few upgrades. First of all, as Jack notes, Vorik isn't exactly off the hook here for what amounts to sexual assault. (Mitigating circumstances and all, but they take appropriate steps to keep him and B'Ellana apart and try to help him.)

Even more important to me is that B'Ellana is the one fighting for her own honor. The lazy way to do this is to have Tom 'win' her against Vorik, but they don't do that - they have a dirty, unpleasant brawl between her and Vorik where she decides her own fate. They're not afraid to make her look unattractive, to make her own choice about who she ends up with and so on.

That impressed me at the time, and impresses me even more now. It's a deeply feminist message at a time when that wasn't seen much.

It also seems to be a recurring theme for Voyager: there was a lot of buzz around Kate Mulgrew as the first woman captain, (and I love Kate Mulgrew's work even when Janeway is inconsistent/crazy/evil), but B'Ellana is at least as important for moving the franchise forward about women. She's not like Dr. Crusher or Troi - B'Ellana's a properly handled strong female character. Plus, rather than shill that, they do a great job of showing us how great she is with storylines like this one, Dreadnought and Prototype. Also, Dawson is great in the role.

Upon rewatch, B'Ellana has been one of my happiest surprises, and Blood Fever is an excellent example of that working out for the show.

* As discussed already, Tom remains a decent person.

This episode is another in the continuing series of 'no actually Tom isn't a bad boy at all.' I thought that was deftly handled here - he's hugely tempted, but he knows it's wrong, and their relationship develops on a more natural course. (I especially appreciated that they don't get together at the end of this story, because there was a lot to process here.)

* The aliens of the week are reasonable for a change.

These guys are terrified of the Borg, but they come across as people just doing the best they can, which is a welcome change from Voyager's usual Hardheaded Aliens of the Week. There are misunderstandings, but at the end of the day, they and Voyager help each other and move on in a friendly way.

Voyager needed stories like that.

* The main weakness is Vorik's appearance down below.

Him disabling the whole ship with, like, a fork was plothole-ish. I know they just ran short on time though, and needed to get to the resolution. This time, I'm willing to look the other way, just obliged to point it out.

* The Vulcan stuff pushes credibility a bit, but I could see it.

As Cheeses talks about, I thought the lack of information about pon farr this far into the future from Amok Time was a bit hard to believe, but the Vulcans are founding members of the Federation. (And canonically super important to humans making their way in the galaxy.)

I'm still mulling over how I feel about that side of the story, and will probably be back with more in a bit. Overall though, I was sort of cringing with this one coming up, didn't remember it too well apart from the Borg reveal, but I was pretty happy with it when the dust settled.
posted by mordax at 10:06 AM on July 20, 2017 [8 favorites]

This is maybe one of the only successfully sexy episodes of Star Trek, for me. Also, I'm not sure if this is where the fuck-or-die fanfiction trope originated, but it certainly is a classic example of it. I like that the resolution is B'Elanna fighting Vorik herself.
posted by chaiminda at 8:32 AM on July 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

I'm not sure if this is where the fuck-or-die fanfiction trope originated, but it certainly is a classic example of it.

I'm afraid fanfic authors are citing the very first mention of pon farr, from TOS:
MCCOY: Jim, you've got to get Spock to Vulcan.
KIRK: Bones, I will, I will. As soon as this mission is
MCCOY: No! Now. Right away. If you don't get him to Vulcan within a week eight days at the outside, he'll die. He'll die, Jim.
KIRK: Why must he die? Why within eight days? Explain.
MCCOY: I don't know.
KIRK: You keep saying that. Are you a doctor, or aren't you?
MCCOY: There's a growing imbalance of body functions, as if in our bodies huge amounts of adrenalin were constantly being pumped into our bloodstreams. Now, I can't trace it down in my biocomps. Spock won't tell me what it is. But if it isn't stopped somehow, the physical and emotional pressures will simply kill him.
KIRK: You say you're convinced he knows what it is?
MCCOY: He does, and he's as tightlipped about it as an Aldebaran Shellmouth. No use to ask him, Jim. He won't talk.
(Via Chrissie's Transcripts Site, which has been my go-to for these threads.)
posted by mordax at 9:42 AM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

My favorite bit from "Amok Time" (besides "Jim!", of course) is when Kirk finally susses out what's going on:

"Well... there's no need to be, uh, embarrassed about it, Mr. Spock. It happens to the birds and the bees."

"The birds and the bees are not Vulcans, Captain."
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:09 PM on July 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

So, I have been mulling over the whole issue of Vulcan prudishness here, and something did occur to me:

The whole cultural stasis thing is somewhat more plausible in Vulcans and certain other mainstays of Trek because they live such a long time. I mean, Tuvok himself actually hails from the same time period where Bones couldn't get a straight answer out of Spock, and Spock is still alive when this is set.

So I guess it makes sense that attitudes about pon farr wouldn't move much on what we would consider a reasonable timescale. (Ditto a bunch of Klingon cultural stuff, and other Vulcan attitudes.)
posted by mordax at 10:13 PM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

Such a good episode for the doctor. He's persnickety, informed, and just the right amount of over-eager and a bit naive about how his enthusiasms will come across as he relates them. It should serve as a blueprint for his future use, but, unfortunately they don't always adhere to this pattern. Nonetheless it is a real pleasure here.

So too is how they handled the other characters, aside from some of the more sticky issue of how they treat the Pon Farr and Vulcan belief/action/biology(?). Dawson does a fine job with B'Elanna here and the writers manage to keep her character reasonably well drawn in an awkwardly framed concept, maintaining her dignity and strength of character without relying on the others to intercede for her in those regards. The same with McNeill's Paris, where a line is walked between what he wants and what he feels is right, without pushing too hard on trying to make a lecture about where that line is exactly.

Chakotay shows some fine diplomatic skills again in dealing with the Sakari in what should be a signature style for him, and Russ does quite well with Tuvok's precarious position defending Vulcan heritage and being adaptive to the circumstance. It's clear they needed a secondary character like Vorik to be the one affected by the Pon Farr since using Tuvok in this instance would have been damaging to his character and his interactions with B'Elanna particularly. Vorik as a stand in, can be shown behaving more recklessly without significantly shifting the dynamic of the crew or show.

Enberg is fine as Vorik, though perhaps a bit unbalanced towards the villainous aspect of the event due to his being so infrequently seen up to this point. It's a big difference between using Tuvok, with a more meaningful previous history, and a secondary character. That added weight towards the violence of the action has some benefits and drawbacks. The benefits being that it better serves as an analog for sexual violence of the real sort, making B'Elanna's actions more significant in return in how she deals with him. It does though also somewhat twist her actions in regards to Tom a little bit, but not too damagingly, more importantly though is how Vorik's actions are dealt with by the crew, especially Tuvok and Chakotay on the planet.

It's the difficulty faced in part by making Vulcans so freakin' vague, where choice and biology aren't clear. Even in this episode there is something of a suggestion that how Vulcans deal with their seven year itch is as much a choice for denying the emotions they actually have as it is something purely physiological. That vacillation leaves reaction to Vorik's actions being closer to accepting attempted date rape because Vulcans will Vulcan than a, well, there is no real analog for humans in biologically forced action, just perhaps psychological compulsions which are not excused by dint of "I couldn't help it" generally, shy of serious mental illness.

It's closer to vampirism, where vampires need to drink blood to survive, according to lore, but can, depending on the source, refrain from the action if necessary, even to the point of significant suffering. The original Dracula or Nosferatu instead might be offered, where holding back isn't considered, but that isn't a particularly nice analogy for Vulcans either, even if it does only happen once every seven years. Making it a fuck or fight reflex too is a bit touchy, though it gives some out for B'Elanna and, with her gaining the Pon Farr through contact, also helps evade the larger questions about Vulcan action by adding a half-Klingon to the mix, since Klingon sex practices are considered more amusing in their consensual brutality. It is unclear how much consent can or should play a part here, given the vagueness involved, but the encouragement of Tom to get it on with B'Elanna to save her and the readiness of them all in allowing a fight between B'Elanna and Vorik isn't without some difficulty.

Overall I think they managed to sneak through without enormous damage due to some of the good character work here, but, for me at least, some uneasiness still remains, a bit about some aspects of the episode, but more about how the franchise uses Vulcans, a subject that's irked me before as we've previously discussed. There's a lot to like in the episode though, so I won't harp any further on some of the touchier elements since they're kind of trapped with Vulcan lore anyway and they clearly spent the time in trying to find a reasonable footing to address the issue while providing somewhat healthy fanservice in the Tom B'Elanna encounters.

I also agree the Sakari were a really nice change for an alien race, neither threat nor friend exactly, which seems about right, and the Borg drop at the end is properly ominous, though also suggesting a bit of a retreat to the known for the show.
posted by gusottertrout at 10:48 PM on July 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

It's closer to vampirism, where vampires need to drink blood to survive, according to lore, but can, depending on the source, refrain from the action if necessary, even to the point of significant suffering. The original Dracula or Nosferatu instead might be offered, where holding back isn't considered, but that isn't a particularly nice analogy for Vulcans either

This is actually part of what I like about Vulcans: their idiosyncrasies are not readily reducible to an easy Earth analog. Unlike, say, the Ferengi, they aren't completely a metaphor for some commentary on humans. They have elements that are, in a word, alien.

And I say that knowing full well that a lot of people would respond with "What are you talking about? Vulcans are just Humans who repress their emotions; they're a commentary on how we manage our passions" etc. But someone who's steeped enough in Trek lore should be able to perceive, I think, that they are more than JUST that. (Whether the franchise is always consistent or non-shitty or w/e about Vulcans is a more tangled argument. And in light of that, by the way, isn't it interesting that Vulcans apparently are going to have a major influence on Discovery?)

the Borg drop at the end is properly ominous, though also suggesting a bit of a retreat to the known for the show.

I see what you mean, and it IS a kind of atypical thing for the franchise—TNG and DS9 never embarked upon an extended arc that could be perceived as a rehash of a previous show's arc—but I'm willing to give VOY a full pass on this, because
1- let's face it, the franchise is aging—this was gonna happen eventually;
2- the show still hasn't completely settled into a tone/mood, so the promise* of an extended arc with as much potential* as the Borg stuff was likely to help matters;
3- with the departure from the Kazon/Vidiian region, we needed another recurring villain;
4- it's the tense Third Season, when the continuation of the series is at stake, and you gotta change it up in some big and obvious way that attracts viewers;
5- from the studio's POV, the Borg have always paid off before;
6- and they were naturally gonna wind up in Borg space at some point anyway.
(* = Note my careful choice of words here)

Really, I don't see how VOY could've not gone to the Borg well.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 4:32 AM on July 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

5- from the studio's POV, the Borg have always paid off before;
6- and they were naturally gonna wind up in Borg space at some point anyway.

This is how the Borg didn't make my list of Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts. Well, that and the fact that the Borg were depicted as a galactic scale threat even before now - their prior appearances were over an absolutely vast stretch of space. (They didn't even really need to be native to the Delta Quadrant to have a significant presence there.)
posted by mordax at 11:33 AM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

This is actually part of what I like about Vulcans: their idiosyncrasies are not readily reducible to an easy Earth analog. Unlike, say, the Ferengi, they aren't completely a metaphor for some commentary on humans. They have elements that are, in a word, alien.

I actually agree with that, in theory, and find more troublesome the show's frequent tendency to make Vulcans more analogous than they need to for the stories to work. It's all the suggestions that they aren't all that different that really causes more problems than it solves, with the actions in this episode a case in point.

Regarding the Borg, I've no problem with Voyager's Borg stories on their own, for the most part, I think they did some really good work in many of them and even picked up the ball a bit from TNG who'd ended up diminishing the Borg somewhat in the end. The Borg are really the most successful element of the post-TOS shows, other than the main cast of TNG perhaps.

As such, continuing to develop stories about the Borg only made sense, so in that way it isn't a surprise Voyager would turn to them. What is disappointing though is that they hadn't really developed anything all that substantial of their own to rely on by this point. The show seems like it's using the Borg for a new identity more than adding the Borg to a show which already had a more solid foundation, at least in some major ways. That's disappointing even as the turn makes perfect sense for the show.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:28 PM on July 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

Or think of how Voyager, and I think Trek in general, uses Vulcans by comparing this episode with that of Alter Ego.

Here, Vorik propositions B'Elanna using "logic" about the scarcity of males on the crew and reference to being so long gone and so far from home that his intended mate will likely have chosen another and that those on Voyager will have to make do with what they have, essentially. In Alter Ego, Tuvok denies Marayna by using his need to be faithful to his wife and children, despite being 70ish years from home with no guarantee of return, as his reason for denying his interest in her.

In both cases, the human status quo morality is maintained or justified by plot devices that shape each story, with Marayna willing to destroy Voyager to get what she wants, thus proving herself unworthy or unreliable, and in Vorik being under the strain of a kind of madness and assaulting an unwilling partner to attempt to get what he wants. The plot devices discredit the values that go against accepted human behavior, even as the logic in each instance, were the situations presented differently, allow for an alternative, equally plausible response. It is almost as if Vorik's situation was created in response to possible alternatives for the earlier Tuvok situation in an attempt to deny an avenue of resolution not chosen.

It isn't to suggest that absent threats of destruction Tuvok would have been "right" to seek some further relationship with Marayna, there were other avenues of argument that could have been reasonably pursued to give cause why that would not be an acceptable option. His feeling necessary to aiding Voyager in their journey at the expense of his own desires, Marayna not being able to, or not willing to leave her watch at the nebula, or simply the logic of romance/connection not being as necessarily defining to one of both of them as it often shown as being to humans.

By having Tuvok refuse on the grounds of monogamy, it makes Vorik's use of logic more unacceptable from the beginning, even absent B'Elanna's obviously reasonable denial of his wants given her own non-reciprocation. By framing the issue in the way they do, it not only upholds B'Elanna's unquestionable right to self-determination and sexual freedom, but it also implicitly links the idea of sexual relations outside the standard codified story form of being based on true love and monogamy as an aberration akin to assault as Vorik, in his crew accepted madness, will not be denied as he continues to pursue B'Elanna through devious and destructive means.

As an analog for "real" behavior, there could be some real merit in showing the kind of selfish destructive path too many men follow, which is what I take the initiating idea for the show to reflect, but by tying that to a Vulcan quasi-biological condition it gravely weakens that analog both by suggesting that it's just how men are, in an analogous sense, or how people are when they're in love, should one add B'Elanna's actions with Tom as additional example. How much the crew actively plays along with some aspects of the encounter, encouraging Paris to "help" B'Elanna and then going along with the fight without interference, is also really problematic in that regard. It accepts Vorik's behavior as an unavoidable condition, which damns the likeness, while still relying on analogy to make its moral point.

In Alter Ego, the summation of the episode, with Tuvok seeking reconciliation with Harry, does something similar. Suggesting that one his Tuvok's failures was, more or less, cock-blocking Harry. That coming between him and Maryana was a central fault, without regard for Marayna's own interests, which can be easily discounted given her destructive impulse, at odds with what we saw of her up to that point. The male bond then is given primacy over the female interest, with "dibs" seemingly being held as an important standard, or at least the value of a male friend over a possible romance outside "true love's" reach. True love in this case also being played in conflicting ways, with Tuvok's Vulcan marriage upheld as an ideal, and Vorik's arranged marriage something much more empty or flawed in concept.

Basically, the way the show uses Vulcans creates serious contradictions that can be a real problem for the show as they use them as analogs. They try to have it both ways too often and lack the kind of clarity over the similarities and differences necessary for that to entirely work. Russ does a fine job in trying to balance those contradictions, but it's something that, I think, runs too deep for him to smooth out on his own.

It'll be interesting to see what Discovery does with this. I suspect they'll take a different, more contrasting approach, playing up the "alieness" of the Vulcans, to set off human emotional issues, and perhaps ones not quite so white bread standard given the times.
posted by gusottertrout at 6:59 PM on July 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

On the topic of Discovery and Vulcans, new news. It seems the central character is Spock's step-sister.

Also, Sarek uses one of those The Sphinx-isms in the new trailer. And we get our first look at Rainn Wilson as Harry Mudd.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:23 AM on July 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

4- it's the tense Third Season, when the continuation of the series is at stake, and you gotta change it up in some big and obvious way that attracts viewers;

My dad paid for a subscription service that sent him one VHS tape (each containing two episodes) on a monthly basis. He did this for the entirety of TNG, and did the same for Voyager. He was pretty bored by this point in the series and on the verge of canceling until the Big Reveal at this episode's end. He ended up sticking around until the bitter end of the series. So there's one data point for you.
posted by duffell at 10:36 AM on August 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm perpetually irked throughout this episode by the way that B'Ellana is persistently described as "half klingon".

I think it might have been better if at any point there was a discussion of her being on a human ship and having a human upbringing, so that she would see herself as primarily human, but I don't recall that being the case.

Even more so, the Doctor refers to developing a sex therapy holodeck program for half klingons. He should be more precise in his language.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 8:38 AM on March 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

This has bothered me, too. She's half Klingon, half... avocado? No, the other half is the default, no need to specify. The similarity to how we describe multiracial people in the US is obvious but I don't think it's intended as social commentary.
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:45 PM on April 10

Tom Paris isn't either; his love life has, thus far, consisted of a married alien woman (who turned out to be setting him up for a murder); one or the other of the Delaney twins (although that always came across as an excuse for something to talk to Harry about; they won't actually appear until they gamely join Harry and Tom for a Captain Proton adventure, some seasons hence); and some interest in Kes, although he backs off when Neelix has a jealousy fit.

And Salamander Janeway! We mustn’t forget Salamander Janeway.
posted by Naberius at 10:21 PM on June 23

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