The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
This is a long, detailed retelling of the actual episode, with running commentary. The subject matter of the episode and review is recommended for mature audiences. This review deals with issues of a frank sexual nature, which are only partially discussed maturely by the author. Grab a cup of something warm, snuggle up to your significant others, and get ready for a bumpy ride.
Vorik wants to mate with Torres. Torres wants to mate with Paris. Paris wants her to respect him in the morning. Torres and Vorik beat the snot out of each other. Oh, and they run into some dead Borg.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
On Stardate 50537.2, Voyager discovers a large deposit of Galacite on the fourth planet of an uninhabited star system. Galacite can be used to refit the warp coils, and the deposit they find--nearly a kiloton--could build them a whole new one, according to Torres. Paris adds that with all the damage they've sustained the previous two years, the coils could sure use a refit.
Chakotay asks if anyone is around to claim it, but the only evidence they find suggests the colony has been long abandoned. Janeway gives Torres the OK to gather the away team.
As Torres prepares, she is assisted by Vorik, the young Vulcan engineer. He volunteers to join the away mission--he has rock climbing experience, and this expedition will require some spelunking. Torres appoints him and Paris the Safety Patrol on the mission; she and Neelix will fill out the rest of the team. (Neelix once worked on a mining colony.) When all seems ready to go, Vorik leaves Engineering to prepare.
Then he stops. "Let me take this opportunity to declare kunat soliik--that's Vulcan for 'will you marry me?'" Torres says it's a little sudden. She also asks if he's not already betrothed; Vorik confirms that he is, but after two years he expects his fiancé on Vulcan considers him dead and has picked a new significant other; Vorik feels--oops, sorry; he considers it only logical--that he should do the same. He proceeds to tell Torres what he admires about her, and they are certainly admirable qualities: engineering skills, integrity, bravery, moral propriety.
Torres blushes. "You're Vulcan, and I'm half Klingon--" Vorik admits it's not an obvious match on the surface, but it's more sensible than she might realize. They complement each other; he can help her develop emotional control over her Klingon side....
Torres offers a gentle but firm No, and walks away. Vorik doesn't take it well, and calls after her. He points out that there are only 73 male crew members on board, "some of whom are already unavailable." He also points out that most are puny humans who don't have the physical wherewithal to handle the primal sexual needs of even a half-Klingon; the physically superior Vulcan could take a licking and keep on ticking, he promises with logical but intensifying bravado. Torres calls for a Red Light and tells him to deactivate the hormonal tractor beam.
Vorik grabs her, cupping her head in his hands, and she spasms as if shocked electrically. After a few seconds she gets enough of her wits back to resist--and does she ever. She breaks his hold on her face, shoves him away--then she knocks him on his butt with a flat-palmed stiff-armed shot to the jaw. They look at each other with an unspoken, shared thought: What the heck is going on?
* * *
Holodoc examines a rigid, frowning Vorik as Torres--looking concerned but no worse for wear--looks on. Doc looks at the report Kes hands him and notes that Vorik has a chemical imbalance. Torres asks what this means, but Doc won't tell her; it's a private doctor-patient matter. Torres leaves. So does Kes, her one line (poorly delivered) for the episode complete.
"You're going through the Pon Farr, aren't you?" Doc asks carefully.
His face changes. "That's an...extremely...personal question, Doctor," says Vorik, offended at the mere mention of the term, before regaining his stoic composure.
Doc notes that most Vulcans apparently prefer not to discuss it; what little he could find in the medical databases were noted by non-Vulcan doctors who observed the phenomenon. But from what he could find, Vorik's symptoms seem to be a nice match. He begins to ask questions about those symptoms. "I was hoping it wasn't...this," Vorik admits without admitting, distaste rising just thinking about Pon Farr.
[For those playing the home game, Pon Farr is the Vulcan mating instinct, which occurs in adult Vulcan males every seven years. It's been depicted (to my knowledge) only twice in all of Trek--in the TOS episode "Amok Time," and in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. Both involved Spock, a half-Vulcan. The mating instinct is incredibly powerful for this usually logical, emotionless species: you either get in flagrante or kill something to purge the chemical imperative, or die of hormonal poisoning. Vulcans also tend to mate for life, and since they're telepathic, they tend to establish a psychic bond with their mates. For them, mere sexual athletics are not sufficient; it must be lovemaking--an intimate, utterly committed, body-heart-mind-soul connection that lasts long after the biological imperative passes.]
Doc does what he can to assure the young and horny Ensign, but all attempts to get details from him fail. At one point Vorik leaps to his feet. "We do not discuss it!" he hisses. (For earthling males, consider this: how comfortable would you be discussing impotence or sexual inadequacy, particularly your own? It's hardly the sort of stuff we like to talk about. Prowess is something best freely discussed only about the sexual legends: Wilt Chamberlain, Jack Kennedy, King Solomon, etc.) Doc doesn't let embarrassment stand in his way; if there's anything he knows, it's that Pon Farr is a matter of life and death. "How do Vulcans deal with it?"
Vorik finally relents. "We...go home." Every seven years they feel the instinctual, irresistible urge to return to the home world and take a mate. Doc notes the logistic difficulties of that, and posits that he looked for the next best thing. Vorik nods. "I hope Lt. Torres isn't too upset with me," he says, shoulders slumping.
"With Lt. Torres, upset is a relative term," says Doc, in the first of many slams against the chief engineer.
Doc wants to perform more medical scans, but Vorik finally puts his foot down. He demands to be released to his quarters where he will resort to meditation, which is rumored to help in these situations. Doc consents, but attaches a cortical scanner to monitor the young man at all times.
Doc and Tuvok discuss Vorik's cortical readings. Well, Doc discusses them. Tuvok does what he can to avoid divulging further details about Pon Farr. Doc notes that Vorik's regulatory system seems to be shutting down. Tuvok can't offer much. Doc asks if he can't, or won't.
"For such an intellectually enlightened race, Vulcans have a remarkably Victorian attitude about sex," Doc comments. Tuvok notes that this is a typically human observation. "Then here's a Vulcan one," Doc continues. "I fail to see the logic in a race deliberately perpetuating ignorance in a basic biological function."
Tuvok lets his guard down a tad. "There's nothing logical about the Pon Farr. It's a time when Instinct kicks the butt of Reason. It can't be considered rationally, and it can't be treated medically. It must simply be followed through to its natural resolution," Tuvok says, each word forced. Doc asks what that "natural resolution" is.
Tuvok turns. He knows three possible outcomes. First: take a mate, which Vorik tried to do with Torres. Second: the ritual combat, which Tuvok says doesn't apply here--the hormonal hostage fights for the right to party. Third is the intensive meditation, which Vorik is attempting right now. If he can successfully perform a biochemical feng shui through better thinking; if he can realign his shakras; if he can somehow reestablish mental control over his endocrine system...he'll be okay.
"The Vulcan mind never ceases to amaze me," Doc says sardonically. "Thanks, Mr. Tuvok, you've been a big help." His look says otherwise. Neither seems happy with the conversation, though for the viewing audience it's more than we've heard in a while about this most intriguing of Vulcan cultural peculiarities.
Imagine how much better life would be for Tuvok's people if Hugh Hefner had been born there....
Torres arrives in the transporter room, outfitted for outdoorsmanship in a grey environmental suit with the thin gold-velour stripe of Engineering just above her chest. Paris and Neelix are waiting, dressed similarly--Neelix also in a gold-striped suit, Paris' with the red of Command.
Torres is rarin' to go. She's more outgoing than usual, even a little cheeky to Paris, who notes the change in attitude--she gives him subtle (well, subtle for a Klingon) digs at him that seem designed to provoke a response. Torres shows the two their itinerary--beam down, hike a little, then start spelunking...ten meters here, fifteen meters deeper after a little bit of hiking. (What would Freud say?) She speaks rapidly, her words clipped, and when she finishes, she turns on Tom, without missing a beat. "Do you have a problem with that, Tom?" she barks, her eyes afire. Paris stammers a bit, then answers, "not if we take it slow and easy." (Man, where's the bad jazz music when you need it?) Torres then turns on Neelix, asking if he's ready. Neelix, oblivious to the sexual tension in the room, starts cataloguing the contents of his knapsack. He's a few items in when Torres interrupts him. "In other words, you're ready." She slaps the console. "Let's do it!" she barks, and practically sprints to the transporter pad. Neelix and Paris share a "hoo-boy" look, Paris exhales in a silent whistle, and they follow.
They arrive on the planet. Neelix notes the ruins of the last civilization near the beam-down point, and he and Paris start analyzing it with the tricorder--they note the decay seems awfully advanced for only 60 years' passage of time. Torres is in a hurry to look for the Galacite deposits, and suggests they send down an archaeological team later. "Are we in a hurry?" Paris asks.
"What, are you stalling to avoid showing off your spelunking skills?" asks Torres, the challenge clear in her voice. Paris doesn't argue; he pockets his tricorder. "Grab your stuff and try to keep up," he says, answering her dare. She smiles.
The first leg of their descent comes off without a hitch. Neelix says the real thing sure beats the Holodeck--it's exhilarating! Paris laughs in agreement. Torres smiles. "If you're looking for exhilaration..." she looks downward, to a very steep hole. Neelix's exhilaration wanes.
They pound their pitons into the rock. Actually, these are self-pounding pitons; they explosively embed themselves into the surface, and voila! Instant rope-hold. "This Starfleet technology almost takes the fun out of it," Neelix mutters half-jokingly. Paris suggests that the fun of one's piton giving out while one is dangling half-way down a cliff is a brand of fun he can do without. Paris takes the first trip downward, followed by Neelix, then Torres. Torres soon catches up with Neelix; "You're right, this is exhilarating! My heart's pumping faster!" Neelix isn't quite as pumped up as he was earlier. "I'm just getting started!" Torres crows. Neelix points out the return trip will be a bugger, with all the Galacite samples they'll be lugging. Torres overtakes Neelix.
Then Neelix's anchor gives way, and the Fun Paris said he would rather pass on, Neelix learns first hand. Soon he's plummeting, and he takes Torres with him. Paris shouts: No!!!
They land, hard. Neelix's legs are broken. Torres is physically unhurt, but her anger has broken loose. She fumes at Neelix for almost getting them both killed, then at Paris for not being the safety boy. Paris insists that Neelix pounded his piton into the rock properly; it must have malfunctioned. It's nobody's fault, he assures her, but Torres is in mid-rant and will not be stopped. She's also limping a bit, though she shakes off any attempt at aid by Paris. He urges her to calm down, take a (limping) step back, gather her wits. The adrenaline from such a fall is bound to subside soon.
It doesn't. Torres grabs her stuff and starts marching through the stone corridors alone. Neelix begs her not to go off alone. Paris grabs her arm, urging them to stick together.
"Get your hands off me!" Torres demands, but--unlike with Vorik--she doesn't even try to break free of his restraining grip, which she could easily--compared to the mighty Vorik, Paris is just a girlie-man Human, intergalactic stud boy though he may be. Instead, she emits a husky, snarling growl, like a jaguar, and bites Paris--hard--on the cheek. It leaves a mark. He screams. "B'Elanna! What's wrong with you?!"
Nothing, she insists, though she seems more disoriented by what just happened than he does. "I'm in charge of this mission; I'll finish it." She disappears into the blackness of the caverns. Neelix tells Paris to go after her. Paris shakes his head. "The last thing we need is for all three of us to split up." He hails Voyager and says they have a problem.
* * *
Paris reports Torres' disappearance, and the exchange that preceded it. When Paris mentions her biting him, Chakotay and Janeway and Tuvok do a double-take. "Bit you?" Chakotay finally asks. "Oh yeah," Paris confirms. "And she seemed to be enjoying it in a Klingon sort of way. She's not acting herself," he adds.
Janeway looks to Tuvok, who looks distinctly uncomfortable. Janeway then checks with Ops, not presently manned by Ensign Kim. The female ensign reports that they can't get a transporter lock on the away team because of their position beneath the surface (then why does communications work?) Janeway says she'll send down an away team to (1) retrieve Neelix, then (2) help in the search for Torres. Chakotay and Tuvok will comprise the team, she says.
Tuvok asks for a brief delay; he says he may have some answers to the question of Torres' behavior.
Vorik is in his quarters, meditating--but not well. The lights are off, the only illumination coming from a few dozen candles. The door chimes, and Vorik murmurs a Go Away. The door slides open, and Vorik stands and turns. "I said...go AWAY!!!" he screams primally...then looks abashed as he sees Lt. Tuvok filling the doorway. "I'm sorry, sir," he says sincerely.
Tuvok apologizes for the intrusion; it's apparently a Vulcan no-no to interrupt a Pon Farr sufferer when he's trying to meditate. Vorik asks if Tuvok knows what he's going through, and Tuvok confirms that he does. He regrets that he must ask some pointed questions about his encounter with Torres, but that it is very important that he answer them, painful though they may be. Vorik consents.
Tuvok asked if there was any physical contact with Torres. Yes, he says. Tuvok asked the nature of the contact. Vorik says it's hard to remember because he was in an irrational state of mind at the time, but he describes and demonstrates the cupping gesture, the way he held her face. "I tried to be gentle, but she resisted," he says; he knew without knowing why that it was very important to not let go.
Tuvok tells him that he was trying to initiate a telepathic mating bond. Vorik says he didn't know it could happen that way. "I did want to bond with her; that much I remember clearly."
Well guess what, dude...you succeeded. Tuvok tells him that Torres is now displaying the early signs of Pon Farr. Vorik asks how this is possible in a non-Vulcan. Tuvok notes that there are historical precedents of Vulcans mating with those of other races. But she rejected me, Vorik notes. Even that brief moment of bonding seems to have been enough to disrupt her self-control, Tuvok posits.
Vorik moves toward the door. "I've got to see her," he insists. Tuvok says he can't; Torres is on the planet (below, actually) and is indisposed. Vorik says he'll find her. Tuvok says it's more sensible to get her back on board before seeking a resolution. Vorik says the only resolution is for he and Torres to make the sign of the double-spined hedgehog. If the bond worked, he says with strained logic, it is only logical that they are mates for life. (Just like a guy....) "We must be mates; it is only logical."
"Lt. Torres has never been a devotee of logic," Tuvok points out, besmirching her character yet again. He suggests the young man continue meditating. "I'll do my best, sir." Throughout the exchange, the two never look at each other. It's bad form to witness a fellow Vulcan acting emotionally. Out of sight, out of mind. Tuvok is discreet, and leaves the younger man to his travails.
On the planet, Chakotay preps Neelix in the harness to pull him to the surface, while Tuvok briefs Paris on Torres' condition. "I don't know how long it will be before her condition becomes life-threatening," he concludes. Paris is stunned; "this could kill her?" Tuvok says Yes. "And you go through this every seven years of your adult life?" Paris asks. "You need only concern yourself with Lt. Torres," Tuvok notes, deliberately evading the question. Paris takes the hint.
Chakotay joins them and Paris says the Tricorders have only a limited range down here. Chakotay says that since Torres is going for the Galacite, so will they--it should lead them to the same spot. Neelix indicates he's ready to go; Chakotay yanks on the cord, and the Talaxian begins to ascend as the senior officers follow after B'Elanna.
Torres, stumbling and limping her way slowly through the caverns, finally comes upon something promising. Her tricorder suggests she's right on top of the Galacite, and with a little effort she finds some loose rocks. She moves them, and finds the pulsing brilliance of an alien power conduit. Huzza! Success at last.
Apparently her injuries slowed her down a lot, because within seconds of unearthing her discovery her three rescuers catch up. "B'Elanna!" Tom says, relief evident in his voice.
"Tom!" B'Elanna says, affection flowing through hers. She moves toward him, takes his hand in hers, and leads him, hands clasped, to the conduit. Paris' expression is bemused.
"How are you feeling?" Tuvok asks. "Fine," she answers offhandedly. She's too busy showing off her find to Paris, every word of her explanation delivered with unconscious do-me body language. She may as well be inviting him to her quarters to see her "etchings."
Chakotay says their first priority is to get her back to the ship. She refuses; what's been keeping her going the past hour or so has been "the mission" to find the Galacite. Tuvok steps in. "You successfully completed your mission," he assures her, "and now you must tend to yourself." He tells her she's undergoing the Pon Farr. She's never heard of it. He tells her that her biochemical innards have been mucked with. She throws up her arms, gives a "talk to the hand" gesture, then puts her hands on her hips demurely, looking at Tom. She's either in serious denial, or genuinely doesn't know what he's talking about.
Ironically, though Klingons and at least some future humans (Kirk, Riker, Paris, Bashir--the Four Cocksmen of the Apocalypse) are open books on matters sexual, Torres may well be more Vulcan in this respect than she'd care to admit. She's so concerned about her Klingon side losing control that she's built up a number of internal defenses--shying away from intimacy in all its forms, acting as standoffish as possible, opening up rarely if ever. In the nearly three seasons we've known her, she's been seen as a sexual being only twice...and each time was only in her mind. (Well, she did once lead around a Holodeck boy-toy in skimpy swimwear, but even that's more fantasy than reality.)
Tuvok's tone becomes urgent--you must come with us. Torres looks to Tom pleadingly, but seeing no support there, starts backing into the stone walls. "Leave me alone," she begs.
The walls come to her aid. Did you see that scene in Rambo: First Blood Part II where a Soviet spetznaz is looking for Rambo and stops for a moment by a waterfall, and the muddy wall behind the waterfall sprouts an eye, then a wicked Green Beret knife, and Rambo appears and kills him? (Man, that was cool.) Well, the same thing happens here. Several chameleon-like humanoids appear out of nowhere, their crusted-earthy appearance blending in eerily with the walls. They are armed.
It's always something, ain't it?
* * *
"Who are you?" one of the armed chameleon-men demands. Chakotay introduces himself by name, and assures him that they have no hostile intent. "She does," the alien notes, accurately; B'Elanna is moving deliberately, anxiously, like a caged cougar. Tuvok takes her arm gently but firmly, and explains that she's suffering from a chemical imbalance. "Is it contagious?" the alien asks, concerned now. No, Tuvok says. Chakotay says they came looking for her, and they'll be happy to go and leave this planet be.
The alien asks why they're here. Chakotay says they found Galacite readings, and since they found no traces of life on the planet, they came to get some. "Why are you armed?" the alien asks. "Standard procedure. They are purely defensive weapons." The alien demands to see one; Chakotay hands him a standard phaser, and seems satisfied. He asks about Paris' device; "is that a scanner?" Paris says Yes. "Did it detect life?" No, Paris admits. Satisfied, the alien returns Chakotay's phaser.
The alien's beeper goes off. Torres' alert levels skyrocket. What's that? She demands. The alien turns off the beeper. "Seismic alert; that wall is unstable. Be careful." He turns to leave the Starfleeters in peace. Everyone backs away from the unstable wall, except B'Elanna. One of the aliens tries to protect her by pulling her back before the wall collapses, but she takes it as an aggressive move; she hits the alien hard, but this is a hardy race. The alien and Torres struggle over its weapon. Tuvok tries to fire his phaser but it doesn't work. Paris grabs Torres' shoulders and urges her to stop.
The wall starts to collapse. Torres keeps fighting, Paris pushes her and the alien into a section that seems to be unaffected by the rockslide, falling down in the process. Torres finally wrestles the weapon away from the alien, who falls to the ground. Paris looks to her, then looks back to the fallen alien--but it is gone. Dead or disappeared or transported or blended back into the environment, is anyone's guess. Paris and Torres find themselves...trapped behind a new wall of stones, cut off from Chakotay and Tuvok and the other aliens.
Situation normal: all fouled up.
They need to find a new way out. Torres figures there must be a hidden passageway, since she doubts she killed the now-gone alien. Paris isn't detecting a hidden passage or any lifesigns on his tricorder; she grabs it roughly. "You must be using it wrong!" she growls.
Paris grabs it back. "Yeah, that must be it," he mutters hoarsely.
For those playing the home game: To a Klingon, this is called flirting. Naked aggression is a sign of interest. Trust me on this. Unfortunately, Paris is not doing it to flirt; he's genuinely irritated with her, his concern notwithstanding.
Torres, taking a page from the Action Kate school of sweating, strips off the top of her jumpsuit, leaving her only with the drenched tank-top undershirt Janeway displayed so well in "Macrocosm." The adrenaline rush seems to be wearing off, and she's slumped and hyperventilating. She looks a little nauseous. She insists that they need to get back to Tuvok and Chakotay. Paris, exploding a little, says they need to find a way out so they can contact the ship--for their sake, and for hers. She asks what all the fuss is about over her. Paris says he'll try to explain, but they need to keep moving.
Doc gives Vorik a hypospray, and notes with small satisfaction that the serotonin levels in his system are stabilizing. However, he knows it's a stopgap measure at best. Vorik wants to return to his meditations, but Holodoc suggests he try an alternative-therapy option he's whipped up. Vorik angrily cuts off that suggestion. "Pon Farr is, among other things, a test of character for a Vulcan. I've already humiliated myself and Mr. Tuvok by letting such a private matter become so...public." His shame is obvious.
Doc tries to calm him. "Give yourself some credit; you're doing your best under unusually difficult circumstances. If you were at home you'd have friends and family [not to mention his betrothed mate] to help you with this. You shouldn't have to go through this alone."
"I shouldn't need help."
"I know self-sufficiency is very important to a Vulcan. But there's nothing wrong with getting a little guidance once in a while." Doc's bedside manner has improved tremendously, may I say. He asks Vorik to consider his therapy before deciding whether to try it.
Vorik appears on the Holodeck. It is running what looks like a modified version of Neelix's Resort program, but it appears deserted. He finds Holodoc, and once again insists he'd rather find his own solution. But he's here, so Doc can at least show him his alternative therapy.
"Mr. Vorik, I'd like you to meet T'Pera." A stunning young Vulcan woman in ceremonial robes not unlike a traditional Korean hanbok nods deferentially, but says nothing. Thin of face, her hair a near-mirror of Vorik's own Roman cropped bangs, utterly placid of expression.
Vorik scoffs at the suggestion. Holodoc suggests, hovering around the Holo-Vulcan, that while she may not be Miss. T'Right, she could be Miss T'Right-Now.
Vorik seems not displeased by her appearance, but beauty in a hologram is truly only skin deep. "She is a hologram," he spits. "She is not real." Doc sniffs. "Then I assume you have the same low regard for me." Vorik backpedals slightly, praising his medical skill...but still pointing out the Doc's limitations in physical matters (which, limited though they may be, are still more numerous and varied than Vorik can lay claim to--doc's mashed lips with Kes, Freya the Beowulf warrior babe, several Polynesian holo-honeys, and Denara Pel...and fended off the advances of more than one of Paris' Sandrine's Bar holo-hussies. I'd say in matters of the heart, Vorik could do a lot worse for an advisor.)
Doc refuses to rise to the bait, though, his own cyber-sexuality secure. He points out that it's the Ensign's problems they're here to discuss. Vorik repeats that she's not real, not like a real woman. Doc recounts the tales of Bud Bundy from "Married with Children," who had to make do with 20th-century alternatives to real women in the absence of a meaningful human companionship--magazines, strip clubs, Playboy Channel, and inflatable dates. Discomfiting though this thought may be, Doc continues, the fact remains that the difference between sex with a hologram and sex with a real person is all in his head--and that, he argues, is where the Pon Farr must ultimately be resolved. He suggests Vorik do what women through the aeons have been doing: fake it. Fantasize. Look at the holo-Vulcan but think about B'Elanna. Convince yourself you're having a good time, and you will. It's a mental exercise, just like meditating, only you'll be having sex.
Throughout the conversation, T'Pera regards him without a word, or a reaction of any kind. She does look good, though. Vorik, for whatever reason, probably desperation, suggests that there may be some logic to Doc's therapy. He stares intently at T'Pera for the first time, and she smiles slightly. He agrees to try, and Doc smiles, basking in his small victory. He then hovers over the two prospective bunkmates a little too long before realizing that he's no longer needed here, and he exits, leaving Vorik to his, er, meditations.
[Have you noticed I write more when there's something prurient to write about? I think I'm in a slow-burn Pon Farr of my own. My apologies. Believe it or not, I am trying to be discreet. I'd hate to be mentioned by name in the Communications Decency Act.]
Paris and Torres wend their way through craggy tunnels with only Paris' wrist light to guide them. Torres is finding it hard to accept what Tuvok's told them about Pon Farr. Paris says it would explain how she's been acting. She claims there's nothing strange about her behavior.
Paris laughs. "Let's see now...picking a fight with a group of armed aliens, lighting into Neelix, giving me this--" he points to his cheek-- "you know, if I read my Klingon custom correctly, biting someone on the face means--"
Torres makes him Talk to the Hand. "I know what it means," she says, wordlessly begging him not to say it aloud. (As I recall, it means they're engaged.) She runs away from him, then stops, panting. "Okay, so maybe I do feel...something. What am I supposed to do about it?"
Paris goes to her, their faces inches apart. He seems to be doing some severe self-restraint of his own. "When we get back to the ship, I'm sure the Doctor will be able to help." He smiles mischievously. "Or...there's always Vorik...."
Torres goes ballistic. "I am not going to help that Vulcan patoQ!" she snarls, using to my knowledge her first on-screen Klingon obscenity--which roughly translates to, "one who enjoys the musical stylings of John Tesh." Say it to another Klingon, and you'll be holding your pancreas in nanoseconds.
That leaves Mr. Right Now. And, believe it or not, Paris is resisting the urge.
As Torres runs through the caverns, muttering about the folly of "bonding" with Vorik, Paris does his best to keep up, wrestling with his own chaotic emotions. Torres finally runs into a dead end; a recent rockslide appears to have penned them in. She's abut to blast a hole in it when Paris stops her. "You don't know what that will do," he insists reasonably. She's not in a mood for reason. They struggle a bit over the weapon, which (I must again point out) is a Klingon Dance o' Love. Torres remarks dangerously, her breath labored, the folly of fighting with a Klingon. Paris holds his ground, but says he's not going to fight with her. "Afraid I'll break your arm? You should be!" she growls.
Paris, showing surprising manly strength, wrestles the weapon away from her and tosses it on the ground. Torres aims a vicious sideswipe at him--and Paris blocks it cleanly. (Apparently, Vorik's more of a wuss and Paris is more of a stud boy than we've been led to believe.) That, or Torres was holding back a little--though her face looks deadly earnest.
Paris yells at her, their lips mere centimeters apart. "Give it up! This isn't about the gun! This is about sex."
"...But it's not going to happen right now." [Dang!]
"I think it is," B'Elanna breathes. She says she's picked up his scent; she's tasted his blood. She turns his face, and rubs her lips against the bite she'd earlier inflicted.
Paris almost--almost--gives in. But something stops him, and he stops her. "I'm your friend. I'm not going to take advantage of you when your judgment is impaired. You'd hate yourself later--and you'd hate me." He moves away. "I can't do that."
B'Elanna hyperventilates in solitude for a few seconds. "Maybe--maybe we should continue separately," she rasps. Paris says No. "You don't know how strong--how hard it is to fight this urge," she says, saying each word only with great effort.
Paris' old smile returns. "Are you telling me I'm impossible to resist?" he asks coyly.
Torres looks ready to bite his head off (also a Klingon endearment): "I wouldn't go that far," she finally says, grateful for the chance to belittle him like old times. Paris smiles cheerily at the small victory. "Good." He throws her backpack at her--a provocative gesture, but one she takes in the spirit it was intended, and they start backtracking, looking for a new route to the surface.
[We're 2/3 done, folks; hang in there!]
The aliens have disarmed Chakotay and Tuvok, and are now scanning them with their own devices. The lead alien notes that Tuvok has an artificial implant in his right elbow. Tuvok says it was necessary to replace the joint after an injury in a combat simulation.
The alien turns to Chakotay. "I also want to know all about your people's technology--medical, computer, weapons." Chakotay says he'll be happy to share all this information, and learn more about the alien's advances. He would prefer to discuss it as friendly neighbors, though, not as hostage/captor. "You should expect no better treatment after invading Sikari territory," the alien says, finally giving me something better to call them. Chakotay insists they didn't know that this planet was inhabited; "so you said," says the Sikari.
Tuvok points out that the Sikari have been diligent in hiding all traces of their existence; is it so unreasonable to believe, he suggests, that their efforts were generally successful? The Sikari whirls around, says that they obviously didn't do a very good job of it since Voyager found something interesting enough to bring them here.
Chakotay says, "that's something we can help you with." He offers to help the Sikari pinpoint the things that caught Voyager's interest, and conceal them more completely. It was the ruins and the Galacite readings that brought them here, and those can be hidden better--and they'll gladly assist in this effort and then leave the Sikari alone for good.
The Sikari says the ruins were once inhabited, before he was born. They were attacked 60 years before, and in less than an hour the civilization was toast. There were a fortunate few who escaped into the mines, and they've hidden here in safety ever since. Chakotay says they do not wish to jeopardize their safety, and are eager to help the Sikari better avoid detection lest the invaders return. All they ask is the chance to leave unharmed. (And a little Galacite wouldn't hurt.) The Sikari considers this, then agrees. Then his beeper goes off--another wall's about to come tumblin' down.
And wouldn't you know, it's the one Torres and Paris are about to encounter. He asks if she can make it; "like I've got a choice?" she asks. The rocks start falling, and the two barely make it past the deluge.
They recover, coughing, on the ground, hemmed in on all sides. Torres says they should use the weapon--but Paris says they lost it in the avalanche. She's angry, but there's no good place to direct it. She huddles a bit; "I'm crawling out of my skin!" she shouts. "I've got to do something!" She leaps on top of Paris, smothering him in dusty kisses. He rolls over, pinning her, then reconsiders and breaks away.
She starts laughing. "You've never been hard to get, Tom." "I'm making an exception," he shoots back. "Oh, but you wish you could," Torres points out, the lust in her voice rising with each syllable. "All those dinner invitations; the looks you'd give me on the Holodeck when you thought I wasn't looking. And the way you'd get jealous whenever I was with someone else." She pins him against the wall, and they share every panted breath. "You can't tell me you're not interested in me!"
"You're right, I can't," Paris admits. "Then don't push me away!" she begs.
"I really wish I could," Paris says, meaning Go Through With This. "But I know this isn't really you. You've made it clear you're not interested, and I have to accept that's how you feel, even now." Chivalry is not dead!
Torres' voice softens. "No...no, it isn't. I've just been afraid to admit it. I've wanted this for so long..." they kiss. "Just let it happen," she whispers, and they kiss some more, and Paris begins to return them, tenderly. They caress each other's faces. But then Paris pulls away. "I hope someday you'll say that again, and really mean it."
She pushes him away fiercely. "You'd let me go insane rather than help me!" Paris begs her to believe that's not true. She huddles into a corner, her instincts for fight or flight truly driving her nuts. "Stay away from me!" she says, wishing she could sound more sincere. Paris stands, looking at her in impotent (whoops, bad choice of words) anguish.
Holodoc reenters the holo-program. It's quiet; too quiet. He can hear the crickets. He finds Vorik lounging, looking better than he has in days. "You...called for me, Ensign?" Vorik says he feels quite well, and compliments the Doc on his innovative solution. Doc's face lights up. He can see the Starfleet Medical articles now, and makes the mistake of exulting out loud. "When we get home, I'm sure the medical community will--" Vorik's head whips around to face him, "--will, um, never hear about your personal experiences." Vorik offers an emotionless, "thank you, Doctor." He rises to leave. "Can I return to duty?" he asks. Doc says he still wants to run some scans, but he sees little reason to see why he shouldn't.
In sickbay, Doc reports to Janeway. He says the scans still show some fluctuation, but the worst seems to be past. Janeway compliments him, and asks if similar treatment could work for B'Elanna. Doc doesn't see why not. "I'll start working on a Klingon holo-mate right away; there's a copious amount of information on their mating practices," he says with the giddy expectation of a scientist in the middle of a breakthrough find. Janeway rolls her eyes as only a good Catholic girl could and moves away.
Doc's subroutines are already processing. "Did you know that a broken clavicle on the wedding night is actually considered a blessing on the marriage?" he asks the too-slow-to-escape Janeway. "As a matter of fact I didn't," she says, fervently wishing she could still say that. Doc says he's thinking of doing an exhaustive comparative study on everybody's mating habits; he thinks it'll be fascinating. Janeway's look suggests she doesn't share the fascination. Doc says, "in a purely academic sense, of course," eager to deflect that look from him--the look that stops stars from hydrogen fusing. The look that would give Absolute Zero the shivers. Kathryn's got a look that could incapacitate a mugatu from 100 meters, and shake the very foundations of Hell.
She tells him that B'Elanna will appreciate his efforts. She fixes him with one last Death Glare, and he literally begins to break down into component bits of data before the sickbay door closes behind her.
Paris does what he can to pull down the rock barrier of the cave. Torres comes to a little, asking where they are, what they're doing here. Her mind is going fast, it would seem. Fortunately, Chakotay and Tuvok arrive on the other side of the barrier and help clear the way for them just in time.
They reach the surface, and try to hail Voyager, but they get no response. Paris panics a little, very concerned for B'Elanna. Tuvok tells him flatly that her symptoms are worsening, and that he must help her now...or she will die.
Who is Tom Paris to defy a direct order? He bows to the inevitable, and now that his butt is covered by the chain of command, he approaches the suffering chief engineer, as Tuvok and Chakotay leave them some privacy. Tom kneels before her, and tells her it's a bizarre situation, and it's not happening the way either of them would have wanted, but...
She tells him to be quiet. She stands, takes him by the hand, and leads him into the woods.
* * *
After a promo that gives away next week's episode before the Big Surprise of this week can be delivered, we rejoin Tom and B'Elanna, who work their way awkwardly through cross-species foreplay. She is kissing him all over; he is making small talk. "Is this the part where you throw heavy objects at me?" "Maybe later." She kisses, almost bites, his wrist. "I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do," he says. She growls from her sternum, and he kisses her neck.
She throws him to the ground. He lays there, stunned, as she waits for him to respond. She slaps him on the chest. "What are you doing?" she demands, exasperated. "Enjoying myself?" he asks, confused. She grabs his hands and pins them to the ground. "Then show it!" He resists, trying to free his hands, and she giggles her approval. Taking the hint, Paris roughly flips her over and pins her to the ground, putting his full weight on top of her. She roars her approval.
Just when things are getting interesting, Vorik tosses Paris aside like a rag doll. "You are my mate, not his!" Vorik looks ready to devour something, and he pronounces "mate" like "meat." At this point, I don't think he knows the difference.
Torres demands to know what he's doing here. "To claim you as my mate, to complete the bond, and if necessary, defeat my rival!" he spits out the words, his logic utterly gone. He gives a primal shout for Tuvok, who soon appears with Chakotay. Tuvok demands to know what Vorik is doing here. "I demand the rite of tuna casserole!" Vorik says, garbling the ancient Vulcan tongue so badly I had to improvise. It means ritual combat, though, which Tuvok translates for the non-Vulcans in the area.
"You want a fight, you got one!" shouts Paris, advancing hard on the Ensign, undergoing a bit of human Pon Farr himself--boinkis interruptis, unrequited tumescence, pick your own term.
Chakotay stops him. "There's not going to be a fight!" He demands to know if Vorik hosed the communicators. Vorik said it was necessary to disable the communicators, transporters and shuttlecraft so he could get his honeymoon started. (This comment strains credulity; why does security fall apart so badly only when it's dramatically desirable for it to do so, and then so easily?)
Torres flies at him, restrained--barely--by Chakotay and Paris. "Ain't no way I'm mating with you," she spits. "We shall see!" he rages. "I'll smash your Vulcan face in myself! I'll challenge your sorry butt!" Vorik is stopped cold by this. He looks to Tuvok, who says she has the right to choose her champion, even herself.
Chakotay doesn't like this one bit. Paris argues that they'll tear each other to pieces. Tuvok points out, logically, that picking up the pieces of severe injury is a lot easier and more survivable than the certainty of biochemical immolation. They can't meditate, they don't seem eager to mate with each other. All they have left is combat to the death.
I know a lot of relationships like this. Fortunately I've never been in any.
Vorik is preparing himself for combat in the Vulcan fashion: head bowed, fingers steepled, his aura radiating rage. B'Elanna is dancing around in the Klingon Tai Chi, her own violence simmering dangerously. Chakotay still doesn't like it, but Tuvok argues forcefully that the Vulcan tradition is their only hope. He finally consents.
All that's missing is the "Amok Time" soundtrack, heavy on the brass instruments. (If you don't know what I'm talking about, rent The Cable Guy and watch Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick battling in the Camelot restaurant. The rest of the movie kind of bites, but that whole scene is worth the price of admission for any Trekster with a healthy sense of humor.) But I must say, they came up with a half-way decent substitute. It's not THE fight music, but it elicited that memory.
Torres and Vorik proceed to beat the snot out of each other. Vorik tries to cheat with the nerve pinch, which is not allowed in this form of combat (too tidy, too civil--totally out of place). It takes well over a minute--full-fisted, straight-armed, full-contact bloodletting, wrestling on the ground as if their very lives depended on it, neither giving an angstrom. It was a fairly even fight, though Torres seemed to have the upper hand toward the end. She was left standing, but exhausted, by the end, though she collapses into Paris' arms. He comforts her tenderly as the last vestiges of strength and anger drain away. Vorik is out cold, face down, all by himself.
But both are alive.
Tuvok announces (without using the Tricorders) that the Blood Fever has been purged, and both will survive now.
Stardate 50541.6: the Sikari are now more secure than ever, their monuments obscured, their Galacite deposits shielded from detection. In gratitude, they have provided all the Galacite the ship needs for its warp coils. Preparations to leave are under way.
Paris approaches the turbolift, which opens its doors to reveal a reflective B'Elanna Torres. Apparently not all wounds have healed; they're still awkward. Paris orders Deck 2. They engage in clumsy smalltalk about the warp coils.
Paris halts the turbolift and starts talking even before it acknowledges compliance. "Look," he says, "this is ridiculous. We're going to be together on this ship a long time...."
Torres nods enthusiastically. "Right. We need to pretend that the whole thing never happened."
It may have worked for Tasha Yar, but Paris is no android. "Something did happen, B'Elanna."
She thanks him for what he did on the planet--what he was willing to do. But she was under the influence of a Vulcan chemical imbalance and whatever she did--whatever she said--"it wasn't me." She says this in a way that suggests she's trying very, very hard to convince herself that this is true.
Paris smiles kindly. "I know, you're afraid your big, scary Klingon side was showing. But you know, I've seen it up close, and it wasn't so terrible. In fact, I wouldn't mind seeing it again someday." The usual Paris smirk is gone; he has let his guard down, and has shared a secret that could well be used against him. In Klingon terms, he's bared his throat.
B'Elanna says nothing. She looks away, not trusting herself to say more. An uncomfortable silence is broken when Paris accepts the inevitable and orders the turbolift to resume. A few seconds later, it halts on B'Elanna's exit. They look at each other wordlessly, and Paris looks like he wants to say something, but doesn't. She takes a few steps, pauses, and without looking back, says "Be careful what you wish for, Lieutenant." She resumes walking, a delicious smile on her face, as Paris looks up in shock from his datapad to see her retreating form and the closing turbolift doors.
[Insert "Love in an Elevator" by Aerosmith here]
On the Sikari planet, Chakotay greets Janeway, who wants to know why she was summoned. He says they found the remains of one of the Sikari's attackers, and she needs to see it. He pulls aside the brush to reveal a humanoid skeleton with a partial black cybernetic shell.
Janeway gasps and looks at Chakotay. "The Borg...."
I think I've already said way, way too much about this one. My analysis will be brief.
On the plus side, we've finally revisited Pon Farr, and added to the mythos surrounding this much-discussed-but-little-of-it-officially Vulcan cultural phenomenon. We have, effectively, one episode prior to this upon which all Vulcan mating practices are based. We know Spock wasn't limited to just the Pon Farr; he fell in love and kissed women or flirted frequently on the show. They sent him back in time, before Surak instituted the logical reformation of his people, and he loved a cave woman in every sense. He was zapped with an alien flower, and he was soon hanging from trees and consorting with cute colonists. The "Naked Time" virus threw down his mental controls, and he found himself pining for Christine Chapel. He flirted with a cloud dwelling blonde who asked him rather pointed questions about Vulcan mating habits (in an effort to circumvent them, obviously), though he would never admit to it. And so on.
Holodoc called Vulcan attitudes about sex "Victorian." I might have said Puritanical. Scarlet letters and all. A species that represses all its emotions could well be expected to pay particular attention to the truly primal ones. Ritualize it. Humans do the same thing, or at least did--the betrothal and wedding are often elaborate affairs, a time for celebration, and combat has frequently entered into the picture over the hand of a particularly desirable mate.
The thing is, if you know every seven years you're going to have to return home and mate, or die, why the heck would you leave home? Or at least, leave home alone? Military men from time immemorial have married before shipping out, and frequently bring their families along except in times of direst hostilities. The Enterprise-D was a nod in this direction--people need their families.
Anyway. This complaint is meaningless; the ship was only supposed to be gone for a few weeks when it was yanked into the Delta Quadrant, so it's not Vorik's fault. Nobody expected to be where they are.
Another complaint. The Holodeck Vulcan woman wasn't enough to do the trick (and I knew it wouldn't--Doc's hopes to the contrary, Tuvok hadn't given him enough information about the mental aspects of Vulcan mating, the deep Bonding that occurs between the couple. A hologram cannot provide that, and is a pale and shallow substitute. However, holo-COMBAT doesn't require a mental link--it just requires some hard-core pummeling between two relatively equal aggressors. Doc could easily have whipped up a combat simulation, turned off the mortality overrides, and let Vorik kick some serious hiney to work through his "chemical imbalance."
This brings me to my major complaint: the medical explanations. I don't want to know the science behind Pon Farr--I prefer it to remain shrouded in mystery. To a large extent it did, since we got few if any medical answers. But chalking everything up to a "Chemical imbalance" is the regrettable outcome of the Prozac Nation. Thirty years ago flaring tempers, raging hormones and blood fevers were taken at face value. Kirk, Spock and McCoy had to deal with it on a psychological level. No prescriptions, no medibabble, just plain ole dramatic "he's dying, Jim" and a shirt-ripping battle with cool two-handed Vulcan cutlery. I know Voyager is more "cerebral", but there's something to be said for instinct. I thought DS9's "Looking for Par'mach in all the wrong places" handled the subject quite nicely--granted, it was all about Klingon mating rituals, which the Doc says is copiously detailed, but B'Elanna is half-Klingon, so her side of the story could have been approached from that angle.
On the one hand, it was nice that medical science couldn't come up with all the answers. On the other, it irks me that they try to come up with the answers at all. All the "chemical imbalance" talk bugged me. "You're sick," or "if you don't sleep with me right now, I'll go mad!" That kind of thing. Sex defies logic; so why try so hard to bring logic into it? It mucked up the narrative.
Now, the pluses. Pity poor Vorik, played by Alex Enberg. You knew he was courting her, from "Alter Ego." It was obvious then. Whether he was in Pon Farr then, I have no idea, but he was clearly attracted to her. He's young, inexperienced, far from home and not in perfect control of his emotions. In a way it's endearing. But considering most people might have been turning to this episode right after the "Donna gets held hostage by a crazed stalker" episode of Beverly Hills 90210, Vorik's affections seem remarkably sinister. He can't help the do-or-die biological imperative, but his violent pursuit and mental violation of Torres is anything but forgiveable. In the role, Enberg turns in a creepily effective performance. I didn't buy the I-disabled-Voyager bit for a nanosecond, but that's not his fault. He does what he's there to do--be tortured, experience violent mood swings, and get his butt kicked by Torres--in fine form. He's just not very sympathetic this time around, as Spock was in "Amok Time," even as he "killed" Captain Kirk.
The Torres/Paris exchanges were more textured. Roxanne Dawson did a good job of showing the impact of the "chemical imbalance" on her progressively going worse. She portrayed her desperation through anger, frustration, passion, fear, denial, etc., and she was convincing. At least to me. I found it less easy to buy Paris' reluctance, though I must admit I caught as far back as "The Swarm" Paris' efforts to woo her more sincerely and completely than, say, the Delaney sisters. In Torres, he's seen a potential long-term commitment, and he's changed his approach accordingly. He wants to win her heart now and forever, not just steal a kiss. His awkwardness with her this season suggests he's on very unfamiliar territory with this wish.
I think he honestly deals with his concerns--"I don't want to take advantage of you now, because it might ruin things between us in the long run." But when he knows she will die if she doesn't have sex, and still refuses, I just don't get it. There's a limit to chivalry, and Paris does ultimately reach it when all options are removed and Tuvok tells him he has no choice but to do his bit for ship and crew, now. I just can't see him waiting so long. She looked like she was slipping before Tuvok made it an order.
The very end, where Paris and Torres have their turbolift conversation, was promising. Torres was back to her old half-Vulcan self, trying desperately to conceal her feelings from herself and everyone else. She does have a deep-seated fear of losing control, and there may be good reason for it--a Klingon on a rampage can kick an insane Vulcan's hiney, and that's no small achievement. But Paris said the right thing--if she's afraid of frightening him off, she can relax. He's seen the worst she's capable of (safely assuming a battle to the death which she barely wins can be considered her worst) and he's still willing to see it again. Pleasure and pain aren't entirely foreign combinations to humans, and he already knows she's worth fighting for. As long as Holodoc's around to stitch him back together, she's not such a daunting prospective mate. High maintenance, perhaps, but not excessively so.
The thing that struck me the most was "morality in the face of killer instinct." By Trek standards, this was a downright modest show (my retelling to the contrary). A whole lot of wink wink, nudge nudge, but not a lot of naked lust. It was a passionate episode, but a lot less sexy than it could have been. This episode made a clear distinction between lust, and love in the face of lust. It also explains the allure of mosh pits; that hormonally-charged teenage sexual aggression finds a nice safe outlet in good-old-fashioned, relatively harmless violence set to music. Better a bloody nose and a big Bactine bill than some of the alternatives. This episode ultimately showed that even in the face of sex, Paris and Torres have a chance at lasting, mature love.
And given Trek's abysmal record of showing stars in a lasting, committed relationship (the only one in all four series at the moment is the O'Briens), this is something I hope fervently to see.
On a 0-10 scale, I'm giving this one an 8.00, or (* * * *) Complaints aside, this is one episode I may watch many, many times.
Next Week: Most Starfleet crews see the Borg and either fight or flee. Janeway finds a disabled Borg ship...and wants to help them jump-start it.