Star Trek: Voyager: Displaced   Rewatch 
August 17, 2017 3:10 AM - Season 3, Episode 24 - Subscribe

The crew meets some harmless-seeming aliens who give a whole new meaning to the phrase "habitat for humanity."

Memory Alpha knows its place:

- With this episode, Lisa Klink wanted to devise a story in a style that she was not used to doing for Star Trek: Voyager. "I really wanted to do an ensemble story that was a little more plot-driven," she said, "because a lot of my stuff has been very character-driven."

- The Nyrian corridors were a modified reuse of the Borg interior set from "Unity".

- Allan Kroeker once stipulated that his "only regret" of this entire episode was the Nyrians. He explained, "I thought it would have been nicer if the [Nyrians] were fattening these people up to eat them. [But] all they were doing was taking them from their own environment and putting them in a nice new environment, which was nonetheless a form of imprisonment. I was thinking of the Twilight Zone episode 'To Serve Man.' I thought it would be wonderful if there was just this awful motive that they actually had, and that they were even nastier than they were. I felt that was missing."

- Torres and Paris' bet (referred to at the start of this episode) which led to them visiting the Klingon exercise program takes place in the previous episode, "Distant Origin".

- This episode is the only one that references the four-month Vulcan Rite of Tal'oth. However, that ritual seems very similar to the ten-day kahs-wan maturity test from the Star Trek: The Animated Series episode "Yesteryear".

"I've reconfigured The Doctor's optical sensors and as soon as they're aligned he should be able to detect the microwave signature of the portals."
"Then I can begin my new career as a tricorder."

- Torres and The Doctor

"Shows how much you know about Klingons. They have much less tolerance for the cold than Humans do."
"Really? I thought that was Cardassians."
"No, they just complain about it more."

- Torres and Paris inside the Argala habitat

"You don't think I'm hostile, do you?"
"I, uh... wouldn't describe you that way, no."
"I know that I have a temper, but that doesn't mean that I'm always hostile, does it?"
"No, of course not."
"I am forthright; I speak my mind. That is very different from being hostile."
"Very different"
"And if someone described me that way, they'd be way off the mark, wouldn't they?"
"Way off."
"Then why do you look like you're afraid for your life?"

- Torres and Kim

Poster's Log:
Well, some pretty weak sauce here, squirted between three of the very best episodes of the whole series ("Distant Origin" and the next two, "Worst Case Scenario" and "Scorpion"), but I nevertheless like this one okay. The concept is fun, and they execute it with some fun too. The neighbor guy was a good touch, as was making the antagonists sort of reasonable. (I understand Kroeker's feeling about making them nastier, but I don't think I agree in this case.)

I also think more Trek episodes should have done this "all hands on deck" approach (even though there are ample behind-the-scenes reasons why that might've been tricky to do often). There's a real tendency to have a "So-and-So Episode" followed by a "Somebody Else" episode in VOY, and most of TNG (oddly enough, not so much with its first season), and DS9 probably did it almost as much as TNG too. And about ten minutes into such an episode, the viewer realizes, "Oh, this is a Tuvok episode," and even if you love Tuvok, it makes the rest of the episode predictable in certain structural ways. Somehow, therefore, ensemble episodes are less predictable and therefore a bit more interesting.

All in all, "Displaced" is pretty forgettable, though, and definitely not one to examine too closely, for there is Plot Convenience afoot here. (E.g., both sides allow their respective stuff to get taken over way too easily, which almost meta-suggests that nobody on camera considers this obvious Alien of the Week threat to be any more dangerous than we viewers do—which impairs the episode's ability to generate tension. But OTOH, maybe not every episode needs to be super tense.)

There's a veritable cavalcade of "That Guys Who Were in Those Things" in this one. There's That Guy, and That Other Guy, and This Non-Guy Who Nevertheless Was in That Thing, and The Neighbor Guy whose voice I knew I knew, but whose face was too obscured to identify.

Among the 94 (= 47 x 2) Nyrian habitats shown on the little graphic is one called Bowsers. Presumably it's full of lava, hovering platforms, oversized sapient bullets, and carnivorous ambulatory mushrooms. Why couldn't we get THAT episode.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
My admittedly cursory research suggests that there is no official Trek fandom portmanteau for Paris/Torres. I for one like "B'Eltomma" and have been using it as a tag, but I'm open to goofier alternatives.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (11 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
posted by gusottertrout at 5:37 AM on August 17, 2017

Nah, that one would need a ding dong after it.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:38 AM on August 17, 2017 [4 favorites]

Well, no matter. However Tom and B'Elanna turn out isn't a big problem since we'll always have Pharris.

Harry and Paris 4evah!
posted by gusottertrout at 5:52 AM on August 17, 2017 [3 favorites]

(btw I am not rewatching Voyager (YET!!!)

Binge! It's a perfect time to catch up before the shift change where Kes gets to take a long vacation and they bring in someone from Borgpower Galatic Temp Services to fill in for her.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:32 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Passed on in favor of the translocator technology.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Nyrians never make an appearance in Star Trek Online. Their translocator tech seems like maybe a missing link between vanilla transporters and super powered Iconian gateways though, and it's a shame the crew of Voyager doesn't take some notes and retrofit something.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward again.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 22.
* Shuttles: Down 4.
* Crew: 142.
* 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. I am surprised Chakotay didn't make an effort to hit this during his final moments of the episode, but I'm going to be generous and assume he didn't have time.

* There's some decent character stuff going on here.

I liked a lot of individual moments we got with characters here - like Cheeses, I did enjoy their 'all hands on deck' approach to the story this time. In particular, I enjoyed:

- Chakotay going Maquis on the Nyrians at the end of his stuff.
- The sarcastic ensign who ends up Chief of Security. ("It's everything I ever dreamed of, Sir.")
- The Doctor alternately enjoying and complaining about his new optical sensor range.
- Tuvok's makeshift weapons were reminiscent of Spock's kit bashing in TOS.
- Tom and B'Ellana continue their relationship mini-arc in obvious but fun ways - I particularly enjoy that she's not that into bat'leths.
- Lizard guy was honestly pretty great: he was affable and harmless in a way that Voyager aliens are rarely allowed to be. (He felt like a non-annoying Talaxian to me.)

* I'd forgotten this episode even existed.

That said, this episode is sort of nonsensical and boring in terms of plot, and its very existence had literally slipped my mind. While I thought the whole Nyrian pacifism thing was sort of clever, basically nothing about the plot makes any actual sense:

- This is a terrible way to infiltrate a ship. Seriously, they come on board unarmed?
- Their access to Voyager's systems was magical and dumb.
- Nyrian security makes Starfleet look ironclad.
- Keeping races in habitats forever is less resource efficient than just making your own ships.
- Janeway acts like sabotaging their one translocator will stop them, but that literally cannot be true, any more than sabotaging Voyager's transporter system would prevent the crew from eventually making a new one. I mean, Tuvok makes phasers out of shower parts right in front of her.

The whole thing is a big pile of WTF, so while it's cool to watch some people quip and flirt, this episode is otherwise just very, very meh.

It's a perfect time to catch up before the shift change where Kes gets to take a long vacation and they bring in someone from Borgpower Galatic Temp Services to fill in for her.

Totally seconding this. S3 is a great time to catch up and join us. :)
posted by mordax at 10:57 AM on August 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

This will be brief (on the road again--Gen Con, which is almost as old as Trek), but I agree that this is relatively weak, as it's a conflict with an alien race with One Weird Old Trick that otherwise isn't much of a much; they'd have to know that eventually they'd come across a ship that would get back at them. I wonder if they got the idea from the Borg assimilating tech; their magical transporters are somewhat reminiscent of the Borg's, going right through shields like it's no thing. Also, if most of their tech is stolen, maybe that's why they're so inept at security; they just learn enough about it to use it, without the deep insight that the Borg get from also assimilating people.

But yeah, it's a good ensemble episode with some neat hacking--sort of what "Basics" might have been if they had had more than stone knives and bearskins to work with. I also amused myself in slow moments imagining what the episode would have been like if they'd tried that shit on a Klingon ship.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:22 PM on August 17, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also too: yes, join us!
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:23 PM on August 17, 2017

Any episode that hinges on ship security is not going to be a great one for the show. It's a constant and ridiculous theme that makes no sense within the context of their plight. After last episode one might have hoped there'd been an improvement to security measures given how quickly they captured Gegen, but, nope, even worse than before. Kes disappears without the ship providing warning, the Nyrians somehow gain control without effort, even after Chakotay applies force fields and voice authorization to sensitive areas, and the premise requiring their amazing foreknowledge alone is more than a bit much to swallow.

Beyond that, the Nyrian technology that can run 96 biospheres without a problem makes one wonder what they needed Voyager for in the first place since it's obviously a much weaker vessel than their own, exemplified by they took Voyager over so quickly. It is somewhat interesting to speculate on the socio-political environment in this area of space. If the Nyrians somehow were influenced by the Borg, the Borg developed perhaps in fear of the strength of the Voth and so on, but given how that really isn't explored by the show, there isn't much to go on for any of it beyond superficial connections. The technology magic of the series makes all of it seem so unbalanced as to be just so stories anyway, since any claims made can be whatever you wish them to be given how inconsistent the differences in technology and power appear.

So, what we're left with is the story, which isn't terrible I guess. I mean it's a fairly run of the mill episode in that regard, with a little bit of questioning of events in the build up, the reveal of the threat, and then a somewhat interesting resolution, even though it is also as hard to believe as the take over of Voyager in its way. Janeway's decision on how to deal with the Nyrians, even if disabling their telethingy worked, is hard to swallow, but it shows the difficulty Trek runs into matching their optimism against those who do not share it. The Nyrians kidnapped thousands, some of whom died in captivity, which is pretty much the equivalent of murder, and all Voyager can do is make them promise to release their prisoners and then tut-tut at them before letting them go free. Not really a promising solution, even if one assumes one of the societies with citizens held prisoner will enact their own harsher revenge. That's just putting off the dirty work on others, pretending you're keeping your hands and conscience clean. But they didn't even address that, so its just starting over time for the Nyrians. I'm sure they've learned their lesson and will only do good from now on. They'll probably start doing galactic bake sales or turn their biospheres into recreational centers for local children or something.

More interesting, and troubling, to me is the Tom and B'Elanna romance. To be generous about it, there are some mixed possibilities for how its playing out so far. From Tom's side, he seems either to be interested in B'Elanna because of her "exotic" Klingon side, which we might note by his frequent allusions to Klingon mating rituals, or he's just trying to get B'Elanna to accept that part of herself since he knows it's difficult for her and he's trying to be helpful. Given their history, where B'Elanna first opened up to Tom in talking about her feelings about being half Klingon and Half Human, that could be a possible reading if you're feeling nice about it, but given how Tom specifically refers to B'Elanna and the Klingon traits he emphasizes that might be much too nice.

One of the troubles is the show adopts a weird give and take attitude towards race. It both tries to show complete acceptance of racial differences, yet takes pains to point out those differences at times in ways that echo the same sort of prejudice they are seeking to rule out. With B'Elanna this takes a couple different forms, the most notable is that the behaviors they associate with Klingons tend to match rather too closely long standing stereotypes surrounding Hispanic or Latina people/characters. Some of the dialogue here, for example, could have come straight out of one of the "Mexican Spitfire" movies of the thirties if one substituted "Latin" for Klingon. "I thought that hot Latin blood of yours would keep you warm." being the most obvious example. A quick "hot" temper, jokes about being wild in the bedroom, and possibly even analogies between things like bat'leth fighting and bullfights in the way each might be used as a marker of difference carry strong traces of using "alien" characteristics to echo ethnic ones.

The second problem is perhaps somewhat more subtle and harder to align to an ideal since it's positive attributes encompass its negative possibilities more completely. That's the seemingly constant effort to force B'Elanna to accept her Klingon ancestry whether she wants to or not. The show's goal here seems to be to suggest there is or should be no shame in being Klingon and denying that part of herself could be harmful, which has some merit to it, but not so much when it is forced on the character from others as opposed to coming from her own perspective. It's saying, in effect, there is no "half" B'Elanna, you're Klingon deal with it. That's troubling, even as it obviously has some real world echoes in attitudes surrounding whiteness and color.

Comparing B'Elanna to Harry and Chakotay one can see perhaps some difference between human ethnicity and alien race being stressed. Chakotay, in all his rather generic Native American heritage, is the one who creates the emphasis on cultural and value difference through his own attempts to connect with his past. It's his choice and his journey being emphasized and the rest of the crew respects it, but doesn't label him for it or really push him on it other than sometimes seeking advice via his beliefs.

Harry is shown no indication of any ethnic difference by the crew and perhaps only slight amounts of stereotyping in his background, with his strong connection to his parents, devotion to duty and study, and, perhaps, classical music interest, things which were/are thought of a "Asian" traits at the time of the show and now to some degree. But those values aren't overly harped upon by the show and certainly not indicated as a racial indicator overtly, instead just treated as being more an individual history. Harry's ethnicity is never, to my knowledge, brought up as a thing in itself as Chakotay's heritage is and the show seems insistent on placing no judgment on either focusing on one's heritage or not doing so. That is a constant from TOS through all the series. Human race/ethnicity can influence taste and values, but it isn't an area of significant difference between crew members beyond that flavoring.

Alien races, on the other hand, are treated as more fundamentally different, but inconsistently and sometimes troublingly shown. We've discussed Tuvok's Vulcan behavior before, where the show highlights his alien difference while simultaneously suggesting the difference is as much or more in attitude and behavior as biology. That's a problem, and one which affects B'Elanna as well. In contrast, say, to what the show briefly did with Kes' Ocampan biological difference recently, most of the aliens on the show have differences noted in "attitude" and behavior coming from some cultural situation rather than more clearly, or at all, linked to biological/physiological difference. Linking attitude and behavior to culture and making that the basis of "alien" difference is exactly what human racism in based on, adding different ears or a strange nose doesn't really erase the similarities there.

The show then has it both ways, it presents a positive image of racial harmony and acceptance of difference within the crew and in their methods of dealing with aliens, but then reestablishes the divide of racial difference in how they talk about and exemplify alien races behaviors and attitudes. Behavior and attitude are generally held as things that can be changed, they aren't innate unlike biological differences, but the show obscures that by using alien races where they can suggest biology while emphasizing attitude. It's troubling but needs further examination to see how it works overall, at least in how it all may or may not come together further on as they continue to examine B'Elanna's Klingon side and all the rest.

(Sorry, another overlong post that got away from me. I blame Paris.)
posted by gusottertrout at 12:03 AM on August 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

They'll probably start doing galactic bake sales or turn their biospheres into recreational centers for local children or something.

I realize you're being snarky, but the way the Nyrians are characterized, I could actually see this!

A quick "hot" temper, jokes about being wild in the bedroom, and possibly even analogies between things like bat'leth fighting and bullfights in the way each might be used as a marker of difference carry strong traces of using "alien" characteristics to echo ethnic ones.

Yeah, I almost wonder if the writers (and as you point out, this isn't strictly a VOY-only thing) put these quips in with the mental justification that "These aren't actually INsults because these people are really really good friends and it's actually just witty repartee," but that doesn't work because (A) we almost never get Human-aimed insults, except from Quark, and (B) in Tom and B'Elanna's case in particular, not only is there no evidence that they actually are SUCH good friends that they can say stuff like that*, but to the contrary, there seems to be a wall of actual chilliness and awkwardness between them, at this point in the series anyway.
* = And even if they were, why the need to make the audience witness them saying stuff like that? Kind of taking a big chance there.

Linking attitude and behavior to culture and making that the basis of "alien" difference is exactly what human racism in based on, adding different ears or a strange nose doesn't really erase the similarities there.

It's sad to say, but I feel like this is an indicator of just how bone-deep the racism goes in 20th-century American culture: that even the writers of what is said to be our most progressive franchise couldn't quite get their minds around how a futuristic post-racism culture should relate to others. (I feel like somebody else may have made a similar observation in a previous Trek thread.)

How interesting, then, that the franchise should end up returning at this precise historical moment.

…Bah, what am I saying, DSC's still a month out. That's time enough for ten thousand Trump scandals and for World War 3 to come and go and leave hordes of radioactive hyperintelligent apes in its wake and for at least five Spider-Man reboots.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:23 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's something that's come up before, and I really don't want to harp on it, but the B'Elanna example in this episode really drove home part of the mechanism of the flaw so I wanted to look at it more closely.

I think too much of the problem comes from the format of a episodic exploration driven show where alien cultures are seen as needing to be indicative of some larger whole the crew faces as a dilemma. In any complex culture that simply wouldn't work, but in their 20 people represent a whole planet format it becomes more of a story-telling crutch or felt necessity to get everything they want done in forty minutes.

My feeling is that Discovery might be able to avoid much of this since it is a continuing series and since they're starting from a point of more considerable outward difference moving to unity rather than the other way around, at least judging from the revamped Klingons. That and we are at least somewhat more aware of these problems today, or at least that's my hope anyway.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:22 AM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, and, yeah, it's not even just a Trek thing. It's something fairly noticeable in a lot of fantasy/sci fi in some form or another. I think I mentioned the "I'd rather kiss a Wookie" moment in The Empire Strikes Back once before as another failure to think through implications.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:24 AM on August 21, 2017

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