|DELTA BLUES @ Reviewboy.com - Jim Reviews...|
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BLACK SUNDAY meets DAYS OF THUNDER meets HONEYMOON IN VEGAS. You gotta love it when Sybil does High Concept.
[NOTE: Includes guest commentary by Heather Jarman]
Jump straight to the Analysis
Harry Kim is pinned into his chair as Tom Paris makes yet another hairpin turn, darn near scraping the very large asteroid to port. Tom is having the time of his life.
Harry's life is flashing before his eyes. Cute holograms, Borg hotties, babes both dead and undead, fiancés from alternate realities, and more bodacious terrorists than a James Bond film festival. And his own death... over and over and over...
Tom looks over his shoulder. "What's the matter, Harry? You look a little pale." His tone is almost scolding.
"I volunteered for a test (urp) flight, not a suicide mission," Harry groans. Where's a hurl bag when you need one?
Paris snickers. "How can we put the new Delta Flyer through her paces without taking a few risks?" To prove his point, Tom performs a maneuver so deft, Harry's spleen takes a few seconds to catch up and reenter his body.
"Another risk like that and we'll have to rebuild her all over again," Harry grumbles. He silently plots his revenge as Tom laughs at his distress. Commander Tuvok, no doubt, will be eager to assist.
But Harry had to admit, the Greased Lightspeed 2 was one heck of a ship--perhaps even cooler than the original, an extension of Tom Paris in every sense. And despite the furious notes Harry had taken about the needed tweaks to the inertial dampers--let Tom feel every turn if he wants to, but the rest of the ship could stand to tone it down a notch--there was little doubt that with Captain Proton in the pilot's chair, the Flyer would do Voyager proud. And no doubt save their collective bacon as often as had her predecessor. Even thought the asteroid field loomed large through the large windows to forward, and Harry was nauseous from the ride, he felt safe in Tom's hands.
Harry's controls light up without warning. "There's a vessel coming up fast off our starboard beam."
Tom is all business. "Shields."
Harry complies, then monitors the newcomer. "Range: 50 kilometers. Ten. It's pulling alongside."
Tom looks over his right shoulder. "Wow--nice ship." Check out the nacelles on that baby...
"It's scanning us--" Harry says.
Tom takes the initiative, opening hailing frequencies. "This is Lieutenant Tom Paris. Please identify yourself."
The response is a female's voice. And what a voice. "Vectored exhaust ports, accelerated driver coils. Your vessel must be fast."
Not exactly an identification, but Tom preens at the appraisal. "Gets us where we want to go, Alice."
"Check your scanners. You'll see a comet on the other side of the asteroid field. I wonder which of our ships could get there first."
Harry groans. Tom smacks his lips. "Sounds like a challenge."
"Are you going to accept?" Is there any doubt? Tom is already kicking it up a notch. Bam!
Oh, no, Harry thinks, rolling his eyes. "We are not going to race her!"
"This is a test flight, right?" Tom asks, pumping some nitrous into the impulse reaction chamber.
Tom affixes the official fuzzy dice to the aft viewport. "What better way to test the new ship than to see how it stands up to a little competition?" Sounds reasonable enough.
But Tom Paris sounding reasonable is the universal signal that something is about to go very, very wrong. Harry flicks a switch and a panel opens, revealing the Bet-Hedger 9000--a cabinet, protected by triply-redundant stasis fields, containing the deities, icons, totems, relics, and rosaries of 4794 known religions. Seven of Nine's vast knowledge of assimilated cultures had made this the most comprehensive collection of Heaven Help Us distress beacons in the known galaxy.
"Don't even think about it, Harry," Tom warns. Harry had already pressed the Deus ex Machina button once on this trip--by accident--and the avenging warrior god #8472 of fluidic space had shown up and in its divine wrath unleashed bloody vengeance on a perfectly innocent sentient nebula. On the previous Flyer, that was the button used to replicate a basic chamomile tea, and Harry had been trying to calm down after one of Tom's more intense barrel rolls.
Tom completes his preparations. "We're ready over here. Shall I count to three?"
But the sleek alien vessel takes off like a shot before Tom even gets to One. "Guess not." His blue eyes gleam with anticipation.
Harry, making doubly sure to press the right button, replicates an extra large spewage spittoon.
* * *
The other pilot is good. Her ship drives like a dream--it's even more maneuverable than the Flyer. Beads of sweat form on Tom Paris' brow. No male--particularly a hotshot pilot--likes to get his hiney whupped by a girl. (Painfully obvious follow-up joke omitted.) Defeat looms.
Despite Harry's we're-gonna-die-and-it's-all-your-fault whining, he's the faithful sidekick to the end. He suggests using the Flyer’s new impulse thrusters. Paris grins; "That's the spirit, Harry!" We're treated to a new special effect as the Flyer sprouts afterburners. Tom tells Harry to kick it up one extra notch using the backup generators, and... BAM! The Delta Flyer leaps ahead and passes the smaller, highly maneuverable ship "by a nose." Even Harry's grinning ear-to-ear by the stellar showing of their newest toy.
Unfortunately, the alien ship’s starboard nacelle catches fire, and the friendly competition becomes a rescue mission. Paris orders the computer to beam out the unknown pilot. A willowy pony-tailed blonde clad in a shimmering multi-colored race outfit materializes. She coughs a few times before taking a seat--assisted, of course, by Harry, who initializes a level-five visual scan.
Shiny red-and-gold outfit. Long blonde hair. Sleek as a gazelle. Ears like Kes. Voice like Portia de Rossi (the evil Nell on Ally McBeall), girlish but with an undercurrent of smug mockery.
In a word, Yummy. Mad, bad and dangerous to know.
"I told you this was a bad idea," says a fussy Harry, who is instantly smitten. It's hard to blame him. To borrow (and mutate) a phrase from the Doctor's favorite song, La Donna e mobile (from the Italian, "Babe on wheels.")
"Does that mean you’re afraid to try again?" she taunts. She's got spunk--that hottie-haughty Julie from the Real World ferality--that sends poor Harry reeling.
"Yeah, Harry, you afraid?" Tom teases while flashing a smirk.
Harry quickly demurs and invites Fast Betty to repair her ship on Voyager. "We were just on our way back there."
Tom's amusement is tempered by his concern. He sees the way Harry's tongue is rolled out like a welcome mat. Here we go again... "Whatever you say, Ensign Eager..." says Tom, amused by Harry’s attempts to impress her, and turning back to his controls to ignore the shards of hot death shooting from his sidekick's blazing eyeballs.
Meanwhile, back on Voyager...
In Sickbay, the Doctor resists B’Elanna’s pleas to part with his holodeck time. Apparently the Doctor’s three hours are the final time slice standing between B'Elanna and Tom and a nice quiet holodeck weekend, which she's already bartered her way through half the crew to piece together. She’s tight lipped as she follows the Doctor around sickbay.
Ordinarily, he says, he’d be happy to oblige, but he’s looking forward to pursuing a hobby known to MD’s for centuries: his tee time awaits.
B’Elanna sighs, crosses her arms and the corners of her mouth droop. The Avenging Angel of Engineering transforms herself into the fragile poster girl for shattered dreams. "Well, if your tee time is more important than our happiness...Our first chance to be alone in months..." B’Elanna does the"pity me in my pathetic state" routine with more subtlety than Tom does.
Doc's subroutines don't stand a chance--B'Elanna knows his program code better than he does. Always a sucker for feminine wiles, the Doctor gives in. B’Elanna’s glee is palpable. With a new spring in her step, B’Elanna dang near defies gravity. Her weekend with Tom on Gedi Prime is now a lock.
"The vacation paradise that makes Risa look like a tourist trap," says the Doctor, impressed.
Crystalline beaches, mood reefs, bioluminescent waterfalls and...a championship golf course! The Doctor invites himself to Tom and B’Elanna’s getaway. B’Elanna doesn’t think he’d contribute to the mood.
"Don’t be so sure. You haven’t seen me in a bathing suit," he calls after her.
Thank heavens for small favors...
Safely aboard Voyager, Harry tries to make himself useful as the alien pilot, Irina, makes repairs. Harry may be no slouch with a Starfleet toolbox, but Irina's species never evolved a Sears hardware department, so her requests for things like Veridium Injectors leave Harry feeling like Tom Paris when he was first assigned to Sickbay. Worse, actually, since Tom never cared that much about impressing the EMH, whereas Ensign Eager is desperate to wow Voyager's newest guest.
But Irina is more Tom Paris' type--hotshot pilot, under-the-hood grease monkey, tall, blonde and way too sure of herself.
Harry, always one for verbal flirtation, falls back on Lesson One: encourage your friend to talk about herself. He compliments the comfy seats; "my copilot thinks so, too," Irina says. Harry can smell defeat, so he changes the subject to "where are you from". She's from a trinary star system. "Must make for some long days," Harry says coquettishly. "Are you always this inquisitive?" Echoes of Seven of Nine, perhaps? If so, Harry has made great strides the past few years. "Depends on who I'm talking to," Harry counters, giving her a nervous puppy-dog smile.
Tom shows up, and he and Irina speak in Pilotese for a bit. He compliments her impulse drive; she smiles--she built it herself. He wonders why her warp drive is so feeble; she disses the "physics,not flying" nature of warp--it's "fine if you like flying fast in a straight line."
Tom grins; he can relate.
"Anyway, for the kind of flying I'm here for warp is not a factor," Irina says. "The race course is only two billion kilometers long."
You might as well yell "cat with a Milk Bone collar!" at the Westminster Dog Show. Tom nearly jumps out of his uniform. "Race course?"
Harry leans forward; drool escapes from the side of his mouth. "What kind of race course?"
Diagrammed on a computer monitor in the conference room is the Anatarean Transteller Rally, a two million kilometer race course. Tom and Harry want to borrow the family car to join in the fun. They start with the "ultimate test of ship design and piloting skills" argument, as Tom traces the course with his finger. He and Harry make a great team, finishing each others' sentences like a well-oiled race crew. Their enthusiasm is palpable.
Tuvok coolly points out the drain in ship's resources the boys' joy ride would be. Chakotay cautiously mentions that the fuel requirements are incompatible with the Flyer's technology (Tom and Harry counter by saying Irina's already offered to lend them a power converter).
Throughout, Janeway thoughtfully, silently examines the written proposal PADD, revealing nothing.
The boys use every possible proper reason to plead their case: interstellar diplomacy, peace in the sector, Starfleet ideals--all valid points, as this area only recently ended a hundred years war, and the race is an attempt to commemorate (and bolster) the fragile peace--you can practically hear the patriotic music swell in the background. But it's obvious the real source of their enthusiasm is the universal constant--boys and their toys. Mach 2 with your hair on fire. The need for speed.
Cue Kenny Loggins.
The captain interrupts the impassioned plea with her decision. "I think it’s a grrrreat! idea!" the auburn tigress roars.
"You do?" Tom asks, unable to believe he pulled it off.
"You do?" Tuvok asks, unable to believe Tom pulled it off.
Chakotay just stands back and smiles. One suspects he even knew how long Janeway would make them beg before giving the go-ahead.
Action Kate's got That Look. "Absolutely!" she leaps from her chair and caresses the race course on the screen. "This competition is just the sort of break we need. It gives us a chance to make some friends, and give the crew a little R&R. Request granted." She tosses the PADD back to Tom, who catches it deftly--still stunned by his good fortune, and reminded once again why Captain Janeway is the bestest, most reeking-of-coolosity captain in the whole dang galaxy. Lacking the proximity of a Rolling Stone airbrush artist, Tom holds the PADD in such a way as to, er, conceal his enthusiasm.
Before Tom and Harry can sprint for the turbolift, Janeway stops them. "One more thing, gentleman--now that we’re in this race, we’re in it to win." She gives them her trademark Cheshire grin. "After all, Starfleet’s honor is at stake."
Tom and Harry beam with pride. "Don't worry," Tom vows. "It's in good hands."
Tom strides toward Engineering to give B'Elanna the good news. But he stops as he walks by Sickbay, in time to hear the door slide open, and a blinking 24th-century golf ball roll into the corridor by his feet. He drops into sickbay to give the Doctor a bit of friendly advice: play the game outside for better results. (Mama Kate always said, Don't play ball in the house... ) He notices the (empty) beaker with blinking balls all around it. Doc sends another one toward--but not into--the thing, and he growls.
Doc snuffles with wounded pride at Tom. "Here to rub salt in the wounds?"
"Huh?" asks the erudite but oblivious helm boy.
"I planned to be putting the greens at St. Andrew’s," Doc sniffs. "Instead I’m working on my putts in Sickbay." (No comment.)
Tom's eyes fade to a grayish Hazel, a clear sign that he feels like a border collie at a Mensa meeting.
"Oh, don’t be coy. I’ve already approved your time off."
Thinking he’s avoided the "I’ll work double shifts in sickbay" routine, Tom sighs with relief. "The Captain’s told you about the race already?"
Now Doc is confused. "What race? I was referring to your romantic getaway."
Tom's eyes go wide. Then they get wider. Then they scrunch shut as the Lorena Bobbitt of reality slices home. "Oh...nooo...."
Doc is disgusted. "Don’t tell me you forgot!"
"Do me a favor Doc," Tom asks as he bolts toward the door. "Keep a lock on my biosigns..."
"Because in about five minutes there may be a medical emergency in engineering." The door slides open, and Tom disappears.
Doc grins. "Maybe I can get that tee time back..." To presage his brightening fortunes, Doc's next putt rolls cleanly into the beaker's mouth.
Tom skulks into Engineering. He finds B'Elanna, face buried in a PADD as she walks, and steels his courage. He walks over and stands in her path. "Hi," he says.
B'Elanna looks up, and beams. "You’re early!" Before Tom can get a word in, she takes him by the hand, guides him to a secluded corner, leaps up into his arms and plunges into an earnest lip lock.
Breaking the kiss, she slides--sloooowly--off her luckier-than-he-deserves favorite guy. "You packed?" she coos.
Tom recovers from the kiss--no mean feat. He holds B'Elanna close, crushing her arms between them to limit her ability to pummel him, and lets out a shuddering sigh. "Not yet...Ummm, actually, there might be a little problem..."
"Problem?" B’Elanna asks softly, her questioning expression prompting Tom to continue.
Just tell her the truth, man! "I--I have the chance to pilot the Flyer in a race—a really unique race and, uh, the Captain thinks it’s a great idea and... I guess I got so excited I... forgot about our plans."
B'Elanna's face falls—I never thought I’d see a Klingon cry but this might be the day.
Tom quickly attempts to smooth things over. "But I don’t have to do it. The captain would understand."
"It’s okay," she whispers in a tight, high-pitched voice, the dedicated, supportive, long-suffering girlfriend.
Tom is dubious. Heck, a ranting, raving B'Elanna would have been easier to take than this passive acceptance. "No, no. I should have remembered!" Tom says, his voice laden with remorse. Not enough remorse, however, to hide his sparkling enthusiasm for the race. "This just seemed like such an amazing opportunity; pilots from all over—"
B’Elanna holds firm, and adds a bit of vicarious enthusiasm to her brave front. "I said it’s okay." She says it in that way that tells everyone watching (except for a certain review boy, who required help from a certain voyager virgin who Speaks Woman fluently enough to enlighten him) that it’s really not okay and that if Tom had half a brain he’d drop to his knees, kiss her feet and promise to be her love slave for the next three weeks for even forgetting.
Naturally, the one person who needs to see this--Tom--doesn't. Instead, B’Elanna takes the noble high road, putting his needs first. "The holodeck will always be here. This race won’t."
Tom is incredulous. This isn't the hiney-whupping he was expecting. She's practically giving him her blessing. "I don’t deserve you--"
Well, DUH. Who'd you buy THAT clue from, Jerky? B’Elanna quirks a half-smile. "You’re right about that."
A quick but heartfelt peck later, Tom gives B'Elanna's hands a grateful squeeze and then backpedals--smart boy--toward the door. "We'll plan this vacation for another time. I’m going to make this up to you, I promise."
B’Elanna sighs, soberly watching him leave. Some things just never change.
* * *
Some hurts are best treated by a doctor.
But some maladies require a specialist.
As B'Elanna had learned the past six years--particularly the three since she and Tom began their courtship--nobody on board was as skilled in the triage of the heart as the ship's self-appointed morale officer. His leola root stew might be a torture device, but his plomeek soup for the soul was beyond compare.
Whether or not she did so consciously, she finds herself in the mess hall, seeking out the nearest sulking couch to crash on.
She's got the place more or less to herself, but Neelix is on duty. "Can I get you anything?" the host with the most asks his forlorn friend.
Neelix feigns injury to give him an excuse to sit a spell with his friend. His acting is laughably bad, but there is method to his badness, and they both know it. Which makes the gesture endearing.
But B'Elanna isn't going to be an easy sell. She's got some serious thinking in that pretty turtle-shell head of hers. "If you're thinking of cheering me up, don't bother."
"Who, me? Never!" Neelix protests with such dissembling earnest that she can't help but crack a ghost of a smile--which quickly fades. Neelix has his work cut out for him.
But that's why they pay him the big replicator rations.
"And by the way, you can have your holodeck time back." Ah! The truth starts to seep out...
This surprises Neelix. "What about your weekend with Tom?" he asks.
"He just cancelled it." And clearly B'Elanna is far from okay with it.
"Does he have any idea how much planning it took?" Granted, Neelix is more sensitive than the average male, but it sounds like B'Elanna had to swipe rations from half the ship--how could Tom not have known? Sounds like he's taken self-absorption and willful-ignorance lessons from the Doctor.
"No," B'Elanna says sadly. "And you’re not going to tell him either." She's determined to be the long-suffering martyr of love. Neelix's look is questioning, bordering on scolding. She elaborates, in Tom's defense. "He just entered this big race and he’s really excited and... " She slaps the PADD she holds a couple of times, searching for the words. "I don’t want to spoil it for him." She stares off into space, avoiding Neelix's gaze.
Neelix urges her not to just lie down over this. "If you tell him how important this weekend is to you, I’m sure he’ll reconsider." Neelix always assumes the best in people. Tom may be a clueless dweeb at times, but Neelix has filled enough of Tom's desperate requests for replicator access to know that the boy's heart is in the right place, wherever his mimbo mind may happen to be to prompt the NEED for last-minute or peace-offering gift suggestions.
"Probably," B'Elanna says, her voice choked with resignation. "But he should be able to do what makes him happy." Hmmm. There must be more to this than a thwarted weekend....
Neelix gives her a penetrating gaze. "What about what makes you happy?"
Aye, there's the rub. Is B'Elanna happy? We're about to find out...
Torres' voice is soft. Sad. Resigned to an unpleasant reality. "It’s time I faced facts, Neelix. Tom and I just don’t belong together."
Say it ain't soooooo...
[announcer voice] Could this be the end of P/T? Could three years of heart-pounding, hormone-pumping, sweaty-snugglebunny panting over the Dynamic Duo of Dating, Voyager's lone explicit long-term lovefest, have come to this?
It's season seven. Anything's possible. If that long-awaited Janeway/Paris pairing is ever to happen, this is the time to do it. We saw the look the randy captain and the naughty helm boy gave each other over the prospect of this race. They share a common bond as children of admirals. We know what going Ludicrous Speed does to those two; it's summed up in three words. Lounge Lizard Lovin'. He still sends his captain flirtatious notes each Mother's day: "Eel be seeing you around..." And let's face it, Neelix is an absolute sweetheart, who has been about as good and healthy and emotionally nourishing for Torres as anyone on board--
Ummm... I've just received word. Rosie from Terre Haute bought herself a fully-stocked MIG on eBay, and she's inbound at Mach 3. I've got about five minutes to reach the fallout shelter before she cracks open a vat of high-grade whupass.
Kidding, Rosie. Just kidding. I grieve with thee. Tom and B'Elanna are two halves of the same soul. Their hearts beat as one. Their spirits were joined in Klingon eternity, and Sto-vo-Kor will be rent in twain with rage if they are separated. The universe would contract before allowing this match of all matches to self-destruct.
Neelix, with his gift for empathy and his long history of shepherding Tom and B'Elanna toward lasting happiness, is stunned. "Then you’re not in love with him anymore?" he whispers, devastated.
The barometric pressure in Terre Haute drops precipitously as the entire town gasps and holds its breath in unison. The earth itself hangs in the balance.
[Heather: Pleaseohpleaseopleaseohplease--ehem. I'm speaking on behalf of those who emotional well-being hangs on this answer, not for myself. But to continue.]
Torres shakes her head. "I didn’t say that!" [Heather: You GO girl!]
"B’Elanna, if you still love each other—"
"Maybe that isn’t enough."
"Call me a hopeless romantic, but I still think it is."
B'Elanna has a wistful smile on her face. Clearly she appreciates Neelix's sentiment, but clearly the situation is more complicated. "There’s a Klingon phrase my grandmother used to use—mok'tah. It means 'bad match.'" Torres' face begins to take on an aspect of determination. It's a hard epiphany to swallow, but there's some comfort in making even an unpleasant decision that trumps the agony of uncertainty. "That’s what Tom and I are. I just hate that it's taken me three years to realize it." Her voice cracks toward the end.
Neelix scolds her gently with a look. "If you’re really such a mok'tah, it must have been an awful three years."
Awful? Wellll...there was that time Tuvok caught us making out on the consoles and Janeway came down on us like an isoton of bricks, and there were some arguments that darn near breached the structural integrity of the hull... on the other hand, Deck Nine, Section Twelve had more than its share of happy memories....
"No," Torres says. "Tom is a great guy. We’ve had a lot of fun together."
But then the enthusiasm fades. "And that seems to be enough for him. But not for me."
Wow. This is beginning to sound bleak. "Why aren’t you saying all this to Tom?" Neelix asks.
"I plan to. After the race."
Neelix, bless his soul, flies in for the kill. "By which time he will have already disappointed you again." Cutting to the chase--perhaps that's why she came to see him, whether she realized it or not. Nobody provides homespun perspective like Neelix.
His big finish is even better. "I may not know as much about Klingon tradition as your grandmother, but somehow keeping Tom in the dark doesn’t seem very honorable."
B'Elanna says nothing. She lets that last comment simmer.
Neelix stands. "My feet are feeling better. I should go back to work." He moves back to the kitchen, leaving B'Elanna with her thoughts.
Captain's Log, Stardate 54096.6. Our request to enter the Delta Flyer into the rally has been accepted. I'm meeting with the race coordinator, Ambassador O'Zaal to work out the details.
Ambassador O'Zaal officially welcomes Team Proton to the race in Janeway's ready room. He seems kind of grumpy to be an ambassador, but we see soon enough why that might be. An urgent message from his assistant is patched through, and Janeway and Chakotay eavesdrop as O'Zaal fields yet another crisis. It seems the Aksani want to host the post-race ceremony, and will walk if they don't get their way. But that honor has already been promised to the Chessu.
You can see Janeway's wheels turning as she listens. She whispers something to Chakotay while idly stroking the prehensile plant she was gifted the year before. The plant purrs.
The call ends. The ambassador shrugs helplessly. "Well, I hope the race you just entered doesn't end before it begins."
"It's that serious?" Janeway asks.
"The peace is still very fragile. Every decision I make, no matter how trivial is looked upon as symbolic."
Janeway groks. "So, every time you make a concession to one participant..."
"Another is offended, yes."
Janeway's all over that conundrum. Voyager is neutral territory, so nobody should object to them hosting all the ceremonies. And Neelix just loooooves to cater.
Gentlecreatures, start your engines...
Next thing you know, the mess hall is one big party. Aliens from several species mingle amiably with Voyager crew.
Tom and Harry are looking spiffy in their Flying Elvises (UFP Chapter) flight suits, black and pearly white and hunky all over. They stand near the center of the room, hovering over the drink table with Irina, who briefs them on their competition.
There's a guy in the corner, staring out the window, arms crossed and inviting everyone to keep their distance. "There's someone to watch out for," Irina says. What's his story? Tom asks. "His name is Assan. He was a fighter pilot--one of the most ruthless."
Tom steels himself, and begins to walk in Assan's direction.
"Uh, where you going?" Harry asks, grabbing his shoulder.
"A little personal reconnaissance." He grins. "We are the hosts."
Tom walks over and extends his hand in greeting. "Lieutenant Tom Paris. Welcome aboard."
The shoulder he gets in return is cold enough to keep his drink frosty.
"Could I get you something? A drink? Something to eat? A tour of the ship?"
Assan finally deigns to give Paris a sidelong glance. "Were you assigned to serve me?"
"Um, not exactly."
"Are we friends?"
Brrr. "I guess not."
Assan rumbles subvocally--a laugh, perhaps. "Then you must be one of those pilots who believes in 'the fellowship of combat.'"
Tom snorts out a laugh. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but I thought this was a friendly race, not a battle."
"If that's what you believe then you've already lost." Assan returns his gaze to the stars--excuse me, the field of battle.
Tom offers a terse goodbye and returns, tight-lipped, to his party.
"Learn anything?" Harry asks.
"Yeah, I should leave the hosting to Neelix." Harry chuckles.
Someone new enters the mess hall--he's dressed like Irina. "Joxom!" Irina shouts, and runs over to bear-hug her copilot.
"Looks like they're good friends," Tom observes dryly.
"They're teammates!" Harry corrects.
The hug lasts a long time. The two begin to spin each other around, as though locked in a Crazy Glue embrace.
"Close...personal teammates," Tom says.
"Ooooooohhhh well," Harry sighs with just the right mix of self-pity and humor. "It was nice while it lasted."
Tom laughs, and tosses his arm over Harry's shoulder. "Come on." They head over to meet Irina's close personal teammate.
But first, they'll need to replicate a crowbar.
Ummm... silly question. This is Tom's big night. Where the heck is B'Elanna? And why is Tom not wondering that very thing? The pig.
Perhaps B'Elanna is on the holodeck, in the old Sandrine's. Perhaps she's realized even Gaunt Gary has charms her helm boy lacks.
Who else--aside from Vorick--has given her the kind of attention she needs? Who has really sunk teeth into the tender cheekmeat of B'Elanna's face as a declaration of Klingon engagement?
Naaah...couldn't be...we said goodbye to the son of K'vok a long time ago, right?
Torres enters Astrometrics. Seven of Nine is decked out in her very yummy gunmetal blue catsuit (Do-raq mee-roch!).
Ummm...I'm gonna stop there.
Torres is busy doing her job. Seven, surprisingly, is busy helping Tom win the race. If even the ex-drone has "come down with race fever," Torres realizes, this is not going to be a happy weekend. There will simply be no escaping it. The whole crew will be celebrating what for her is the last hurrah of her fast-fading relationship.
"Maybe you could persuade the Doctor to develop a vaccine." Seven, witty? Goodness gracious. This is the Season of Character. The amazing thing is, this is several weeks running when B'Elanna and Seven have had downright sincere bonding moments.
There must be something in the Paramount water these days. Good on 'em.
"I’m surprised you’re putting time into this," B'Elanna admits.
Seven concurs—initially this appeared to be a frivolous exercise. But she concluded that the race would be good for the crew’s morale and would help her improve "my relationship with Lieutenant Paris."
This stings, but not in a way you'd expect. Torres repeats Seven's phrase, her voice hollow, her eyes cast to the floor. No heat toward Seven herself--just sadness over B'Elanna's own impending loss. One more reminder of her decision, one more of the thousand cuts to the corpse of their future together.
You heard me, Rosie. Seven is innocent. Stand down. Defcon Three.
Seven’s no fool. She knows Tom might as well have "property of B’Elanna" stamped on his forehead. Or indented on his cheek. "He can be an erratic individual. But he's also a very competent officer and clearly a skilled pilot."
"It's the erratic individual that takes getting used to," Torres says sadly.
"No doubt," Seven agrees wryly, nodding. "But I've learned that if I embrace some of his interests--support him in his personal goals--we're able to function more efficiently as crewmates."
Tom attends to prepping the Delta Flyer. A door hisses open. "Harry, where have you been—" Tom spins around in the pilots seat and hears—
"Say 'Q'aplA'!" Tom gets freeze-framed for posterity.
"It means success," B'Elanna says, smiling broadly, waving the holocamera. "I just wanted to capture the moment--not to mention that cute bewildered expression!"
B'Elanna is now wearing a flight suit of her own. She looks adorable, smart and sexy.
Like Captain Moron would notice--all he sees is that Buster Kincaid ain't nowhere to be found, and in his faithful sidekick's place--a fembot. "What are you doing in that flight suit?" he asks, irritably.
"There’s been a change of plans. I’m your new co-pilot." Torres takes her seat and gets straight to work.
Tom laughs irritably. "Look, I don't have time for practical jokes."
"Neither do I." Torres completes her pre-flight diagnostics. "Ready to bring that impulse drive on-line?"
She fesses up. "Okay." She takes a deep breath. "I was upset that you cancelled our weekend. But then I realized... why should we spend this time apart, when we can be together--doing something you love?"
Give it a minute...it's still taking time to sink in...
DING. Tom finally gets it. Not that he's completely convinced he wants to. Switching copilots this close to the race is never easy, after all.
He gazes at her with a look that melts Paris-ites knees everywhere. "But what about Harry?"
A mischievous smile lights her face. "I assigned him to a level 5 diagnostic in engineering"
Tom makes a face. "Oh, that’s terrible—" Tom sounds only a wee bit appalled. He's also amused.
"I’m just kidding," Torres says, rising from her seat to check a wall console. "I told him how hard it was for us to get time together and he understood. Anyway. The way I see it, you’re trading an ensign for a chief engineer."
B'Elanna gives Tom one heck of a seductive hair toss. She leans against a railing and balls her right hand on a cocked hip, providing Tom with perhaps the one temptation that might keep him from racing....
Tom's lips curl upward. He rises from his pilot's chair, wraps his meaty paws around her, draws her close and consumes her with a kiss of fire. "You don’t have to convince me. I couldn’t ask for a better co-pilot."
Then he turns into a total buzzkill. He wags a scolding finger. "Just remember--we’re not on vacation. The point is to win." He runs back to his pilot's seat.
B’Elanna eagerly takes her own station. "You know how much I hate to lose!"
The two offer each other one last encouraging smile.
And so, to business.
"Thrusters online...." Tom says manfully.
"Shuttle bay doors open...." B'Elanna says huskily.
[Note to self: Whoever wrote this dialog is in dire need of a date.]
P/T fans, start your engines....
The shuttle bay doors open, the racers move into position and Ambassador O'Zaal gives the pre-race pep talk about peace, good natured competition and all that rot from Voyager's bridge.
The pilots of the dozen or so spacesters prepare for the starting signal. "Captain--the honor is yours," O'Zaal says with a bow.
At Janeway's command, Tuvok fires a single low-yield photon torpedo, which detonates a few hundred meters in front of the starting line.
Aaaaaaand they’rrrrrreeee off!
The ships start off well, whizzing past the observation deck of Voyager, as representatives of a dozen once-warring species find something to cheer together about.
* * *
The vessels streak past the latest course marker. The Delta Flyer is playing catch-up, but Tom and B'Elanna seem to be working well together and they're now in fourth place.
True to his philosophy, Assan flies the way he fights--victory or dishonor. This is no mere flight of fancy for him. This is the 1936 Olympics all over again. At one point, he "scrapes" (Tom's term--it's an old but irritating Academy trick) the Flyer's shields. Tom files it away for future reference. So does B'Elanna.
But they aren't using the same filing system.
Neelix arrives in Astrometrics, where Seven of Nine is monitoring the progress of the racers. He's dying for an update. Seven points out she provided a status reports eleven minutes previously.
Neelix's frustration boils over. "In a race like this, 11 minutes can be an eternity!"
Seven sighs and indulges the wascawwy Tawaxian. "The Delta Flyer is in fourth position, having completed 62% of the course. The Aksani vessel is in third position, having completed 68% of the course."
Neelix shakes his head. "You don't make it sound very exciting," he grumbles.
"I'm relaying the relevant information."
"It's all in the delivery!" Neelix says, getting an idea. "Do you mind?" Seven steps aside; Neelix activates the shipwide comm system. "Attention, all hands. Stand by for a race update!"
In the corridors, the crew stops to listen. He's got their attention.
Neelix channels Howard Cosell about as well as you could ask for. "With only 58 million kilometers left in the first segment the Aksani, Imhotep and Terrellian ships are still battling for the lead!"
The crew is now eating out of Neelix's hands.
"Wait--The number Eight ship just cut off the number Three in the Darla system. Now Three's changing course using the gravity from a gas giant to boost its speed. It's making up for lost ground!"
Janeway enters the room, accompanied by Ensign Kim. The captain has a big smile on her face. "Sounds like quite a race!"
"Apparently, it's all in the delivery," Seven huffs, continuing her scans but leaving the announcing duties to Neelix. Janeway laughs delightedly.
Back on the Flyer, Tom’s expert piloting technique pushes them ahead, squeezing them past the Aksani at a marker buoy and into third place behind Irina (babe) and Assan (baddie). The race as metaphor for the P/T relationship seems to be on the right course.
But this is Tom and B'Elanna we're talking about, right? Nothing is EVER this easy with these two.
"Well, we still got the Mobius Inversion coming up," Tom says, warning her that the race is far from over and that the real fun is just beginning.
"The what?" Torres asks.
Tom winces and looks over his shoulder. "Tell me you read the course manual...."
"I skimmed it..." Torres says defensively, then weakly appends, "more or less."
Tom's frustration shows. "Oh, great." He doesn't say more.
B'Elanna breaks the silence. "So, what exactly is this--Mobius--whatever?"
Tom nods his head toward the front window. "Take a look."
Looks like a whitewater rapids in space. B'Elanna blanches.
"It covers the entire last third of the course," Tom explains. "Level-six subspace distortions, gravimetric shears. Just think of it as a little wormhole with a big attitude."
You can actually hear B'Elanna gulp.
Astrometrics is crowded, and exhilarated. Janeway and Chakotay stand side-by-side up front, sharing an extra large uniform built for two.
Neelix is in rare form today. "The Terrellian and Imhotep ships are still in the lead; the Delta Flyer trailing by a few seconds. Meanwhile, the two Chessu ships are continuing to advance, claiming fourth and fifth position!"
Tuvok arrives waving a PADD. "My weekly security report," he says, offering it to Janeway.
The captain grabs it but doesn't bother to avert her gaze from the screen. "I'll read it later."
"There are a few matters we should discuss," Tuvok presses.
"She said later, Tuvok," Chakotay says.
"Something's wrong! They're disappearing!" Neelix shouts.
Seven checks. "Radiation from the Mobius inversion is blocking our sensors."
"How will we track their progress?" Tuvok asks, suddenly interested in the race.
"We can't," Chakotay says. "Not until they emerge from the other side of the anomaly."
Janeway gets an impish look. She holds up the PADD. "Want to talk about that report now, Tuvok?"
His eyes are glued to the screen. "Later--" he says, then gives the captain a sheepish look. "If that's permissible."
Janeway gets a nicely ironic look. Gotcha, Logic Boy.
B’Elanna is a quick study. Soon the Flyer is within striking distance of the two lead ships, and she's got an idea. Despite Tom's protests, B'Elanna's in a mood to show an interest in his hobbies, and that includes winning. "It's too risky!" Tom growls, but she presses on anyway. "Just steer the ship!" B'Elanna finally snaps. Her engineering wizardry essentially forces his hand--she stokes the furnace, and the Flyer surges ahead, ready or not.
Within seconds, they're ahead. They "scrape" the shields of Irina and Assan, knocking both out of the way as they plow into the lead.
Neelix is gleeful as the ships begin to emerge from the Mobius. "It's them. It's the Delta Flyer! They're in the lead! They're pulling away!"
Pandemonium. Astrometrics explodes in cheers.
B'Elanna is exultant. "We did it!"
Tom is furious, but does his best to contain his temper. "You should have waited!"
B'Elanna is still on a major high. "I saw a chance and I--"
"I'm the pilot!" Tom snaps. "That means I do the flying."
I wonder how this will play. I gotta admit, I side with Tom on general principle; even Captain Janeway knows to give a crisp "aye sir" when Tom's sitting in the Big Chair. Torres compromised teamwork by pressing on in spite of Tom's objections.
On the other hand, when Harry took the initiative in that informal race with Irina, Tom was all for it. One suspects at least part of the reason Tom objected was because he's a control freak. He hurt teamwork by pulling rank and by smacking her down even after she got them into the lead.
In short--they scraped shields, and both are smarting from the bump.
Speaking of metaphors, just as the two take the lead, they begin to bicker. And just as they begin to bicker, the race stops. "Attention all racers: there's been an accident. Stay in order and shut down your engines."
Guilt appears on B'Elanna's face. Could it be her fault? Tom appears to think it might be...
The wounded contestant, Irina's co-pilot Jaxom, is being treated in Sickbay--scorched but stable, the victim of an exploding console.
In Voyager's conference room, Irina blames Assan's aggressive "scraping" for causing an overload that led to the explosion.
Assan doesn't deny the charge, but he's defiant. "If I'm guilty of anything, it's of coming in second--a situation I'll remedy in the next leg."
O'Zaal contains his anger. "You do a poor job of defending yourself."
B’Elanna confesses that the Flyer scraping Irina’s (and Assan's) ship might have caused the accident--Janeway is shocked at the thought that it was intentional, but Paris covers, saying everyone was flying aggressively and that bumps were inevitable in such a confined space. Irina quickly absolves the Voyager team.
Tuvok enters with a whole new wrinkle. He's studied the damaged vessel and discovered a charred piece of [tech] that seems to have been rigged to go BOOM.
Suddenly, the stakes go up. The Ambassador worries that it may be more than a case of over-zealous competition--that it could be a deliberate effort to disrupt the fragile peace.
* * *
Janeway has to ask. "Maybe I'm missing something. But we're talking about a single act of sabotage. How does that threaten your treaty?"
O'Zaal explains. "By itself it wouldn't but we received several threats of a more serious nature." This attracts Tuvok's attention. "Groups opposed to the alliance: arms dealers, isolationists, political extremists. Up until now I wasn't sure how seriously to take them."
"Clearly, they pose a security threat," Tuvok says.
"Yes, yes," O'Zaal mutters dejectedly. "We've done everything we could to protect the races, but that may not be enough. I don't want to risk any more lives! We should cancel the race--or at least postpone it until we can guarantee everyone's safety."
Irina objects. "No! If we stop now we'll be letting these extremists win." Assan agrees. The Starfleet folks nod their silent support.
The ambassador relents. "Very well, then. If that's the consensus we'll resume tomorrow as scheduled."
Janeway stands beside the ambassador, who feels obligated to let the "neutral" species off the hook in the face of the new threat. "Of course, Captain, if you decide to withdraw, we'd understand."
Janeway just smiles. "The last time I checked, I believe we were winning." Tom and B'Elanna take comfort from that, and give each other a big ole grin.
The metaphor is back on track.
Time enough, before the race resumes, for the racers to see to their vessels. One can only assume that everyone wants to give their ships a thorough once-over, at the very least, for booby traps.
Tom and B'Elanna are no different. They continue to fine-tune the Delta Flyer, working out the kinks that the still-new vessel revealed during the race.
It's also learnin' time. Tom is the Type-A taskmaster, B'Elanna the uneager pupil. He's invented several obnoxious nursery-rhyme Cliff's Notes to help B’Elanna remember precisely what she’s supposed to do during the tortuous Mobius Leg. She recites each nonsensical phrase under protest. Tom notes that such phrases helped get through the Academy.
Succeed? She snorts. "You were expelled."
Ooh. Big mistake.
(Heather) Before anyone has a nervous breakdown, I deal with this little jarring bit of info (Expelled? Tom? When?) in the commentary.
Not content to let B’Elanna get the last word, Tom instructs her to recite, "I am not the pilot. I will not attempt to fly this ship."
"That one doesn’t even rhyme," she shoots back saucily.
Uh oh. Trouble in Gedi Prime. Trouble with a capital T...and that rhymes with P...and that stands for Paris.
Harry Kim, decked out in his Flying Elvis flightsuit, his face smudged with grease and puppy love, stops by to wish them luck. He spent the sleepless night with Irina--Tom's eyes waggle, but Harry says it was purely innocent working on her ship. (Go ask Alice. "When you're touching these engines you're touching me...") Harry looks as happy as he's ever been. He and Irina get on marvelously: she’s funny, smart and they function like a well-greased machine. "To be honest I can't remember the last time I had so much fun. She's funny, smart--we get along without trying."
B’Elanna takes mental notes, her eyes distant. Three years with Tom and they still have trouble talking beyond nursery rhymes, TV schedules and bickering. Three years of wrenching struggle.
A mere three days with Irina, and Harry's found a frelling soulmate.
Tom, of course, misses this subtext completely. The swine.
"I'm going to ask her if she wants to spend some time on Voyager after the race," Harry says. Turns out Joxom is just her teammate, nothing more.
Harry stops Tom before he can say anything snarky. "I know what you're going to say--"
"No, no," Tom protests. "Actually, I was just going to congratulate you. She's not a Borg, she's not a hologram--and she's not dead!" He's leaving out a category or two--the wrong twin, for example, or a terrorist--but the point is made. "Looks like you might have finally found yourself the perfect woman." Tom smiles, happy for his unlucky-in-love best buddy. Even B'Elanna manages a small but sincere grin for Starfleet.
Awwww. Our little Ensign Weenie is finally growing up!
The announcement goes out--racers, take your places. Harry dismisses himself to return to Irina, and Tom returns to the task at hand. Chances are, he's forgotten he and B'Elanna were even arguing just a few moments before.
But B'Elanna hasn't developed that particular talent. She's still thinking about Harry and Irina...and Tom and B'Elanna.
The race resumes. Neelix continues the color commentary, and the crew reacts as expected. The Delta Flyer is in the lead. The competition is fierce, but fun.
Life is good.
Life is pain, B'Elanna thinks, as she recites yet another nursery rhyme to show Tom she's been paying attention to her studies. They thread the needle, passing cleanly between two pulsars. They're still in the lead.
Since the course is textbook, B’Elanna takes a minute to wistfully contemplate Harry and Irina’s blossoming relationship. "Harry sure had that glow, didn't he?"
"What glow?" Tom asks.
"You know--that look you get when you first meet someone."
Ah. Tom gets it now, and smirks. "His cheeks were a little redder than usual."
"We're through the pulsars," Torres announces. "Harry and Irina are right behind us."
"Ease up off the thrusters now," Tom says. "I want to conserve some fuel for the final leg." Torres does so.
They travel in silence for a bit.
"If circumstances were right they might even have a future together," B'Elanna muses.
"What?" Silly Tom--focusing on the race.
"Harry and Irina."
Tom makes a face. "They just met. It's a little early to be planning a wedding!"
"No," B'Elanna says anxiously. "I just meant that--some people just fit together without having to work at it...and other people, no matter how much they try..." her voice trails off.
Tom begins to catch on. "Are we talking about them, or us?"
It's B'Elanna's turn to be surprised. Since when does Tom speak Woman? Danger, Will Robinson! "What? No, I didn't mean..."
Tom may be slow, but once something comes on scanners, he has a pilot's instinct for navigation. "If something's bothering you, let's talk about it."
Uh oh. Raise shields, B'Elanna! "We should concentrate on the race."
Tom shrugs. Whatever.
He checks his sensors and clucks his tongue. "Maybe Harry and Irina aren't such a great team after all. They're falling behind."
If Torres only knew.
Harry reads malfunctions in the E.P.S. relays. He finds that odd. "We double-checked all of them last night."
"We must have missed something," Irina says. Or it could be sabotage. Her ship was targeted before. But neither brings up that uncomfortable thought. "At this rate, we're going to be out of the race in a couple of minutes."
Harry gets an idea. "I think I can reroute power through the impulse manifold." He gets up to effect repairs, but Irina pushes him back--gently, but insistently--back in his seat. No, she says, a little too urgently.
"Why not?" Harry asks.
"It--could damage the reactor coils?"
Harry rolls his eyes. "What do the reactor coils have to do with the impulse manifolds?"
Irina is evasive. Not to mention distant. If this is Harry's idea of bliss, no wonder he's still single. "These systems are different than what you're used to."
Harry gives her a no-BS stare. "You do want to win, don't you?"
A pause. "Of course I do." Oh, that was convincing.
"It just seems like every time I make a suggestion you find a reason to reject it," Harry sulks.
"I'm more familiar with my ship than you are." B'Elanna could well be doing cartwheels if she heard this dialog.
Something beeps. "Now what?" Harry growls.
Irina practically leaps from her seat. "I think it's the injector port."
Too late, Harry sees different. "No, it's an overload in my console!" He leaps out of his own seat, luckily avoiding the worst of the energy discharge that makes his console go all sparkly with plasmodic death.
Harry brushes himself off and turns around. "That's the second time your copilot's console exploded. Quite a coinci--"
He looks up to find Irina, perky blonde with evil, pointing a nasty looking hand weapon at him.
"I'm sorry, Harry. I really am."
* * *
"You sabotaged your own ship--twice! Why are you trying so hard to get out of the race?"
Irina stands there, her weapon trained on him, refusing to speak. Harry makes a desperation move, and slaps the strategically placed "tilt shuttle just enough to throw girl off balance" button. He lunges, and a brief struggle ensues. Harry wraps his hands around Irina's waist, grabs her elbows--waitaminit, those aren't elbows!--and finally gets his meat hooks on her weapon.
Irina elbows--yep, that's an elbow--Harry in the gut, and he goes reeling. But he takes the gun with him. Before Irina can lunge back, Harry has her in his sights, and she's given him every reason to pull the trigger. She doesn't press her luck.
His attempt to contact security fails, though--because Irina’s nuked the communications system. No problem--he's got the gun. He can wait.
But dang that Tom Paris, anyway, Harry thinks as he glares at Irina.
Dead? Definitely not.
Hologram? Ohhh, no, he thinks, rubbing his sore belly.
Check, check, check.
Wrong twin? Not as far as he knew. Check.
Merde. Now he was starting to repeat himself. And she even made him glow like the last girl did, too...
The Delta Flyer is in the home stretch, and still in the lead.
"We passed the last marker. Time to deploy the thrusters?" B'Elanna asks.
"Whatever you say," Tom says amiably.
"What happened to 'I'm the pilot'?"
Tom lets that sink in. He looks over at her. "That really bothered you, didn't it? Is that why you think we don't...f-fit together as well as Harry and Irina?" He's agitated, though his voice is still relatively even.
B'Elanna retreats. "Could we talk about this later? Assan is gaining on us."
"Well, then," Tom says irritably. "I guess you'd better deploy the thrusters."
"Thrusters deployed." Torres looks over at Tom. "This isn't about the race anymore, is it?" B'Elanna's surprised by Tom's reaction, and caught off guard.
Neelix's words come back to haunt her when she said she'd talk to him after the race. "By which time he will have already disappointed you again...Doesn't seem very honorable..."
Tom returns the gaze. "You tell me."
But she has no response. She averts her eyes.
B'Elanna's mind and heart are reeling. The race, like their relationship, is in the home stretch--or on its last lap. But which is it?
It all depends on what they do from here.
And they'd better hurry, because time is running out.
Irina asks Harry to check on the Flyer’s status. The bloom is definitely off this particular rose, and Harry is SO over her now. Attempted murder tends to have that effect on a guy.
But she appeals to Harry's curiosity, so he obliges.
The news is good. "The Delta Flyer is still in the lead," he says smugly.
Something flashes in Irina's eyes. Then she smiles, a little too sincerely. "Good for them."
Unfortunately, Harry doesn't speak Terrorist.
Meanwhile, back at the Flyer, couples therapy is underway.
B'Elanna is talking now. In fact, she's fuming. "I thought if we could do this one thing together--something you cared about--it would help our relationship." Two points on for honesty. One point for getting the ball rolling. Minus one for the nonconstructive tone.
"I didn’t know it needed help." Oh, Tommy me boy, ye damn fool...minus forty-seven.
"Well!" Torres practically bounces in her seat with nervous laughter and anxious uncertainty, as agitated as a fully-primed nova bomb. The engines are stoked, the thrusters in Overdrive, and The Talk is gonna happen--ready or not. Hang on, kids, it's gonna be a bumpy ride. "That’s part of the problem." Zzzzinnngg! That draws blood. Minus one for style, but plus ten for substance.
This gets Tom's attention. This is serious business. "What’s the rest?" he asks, fully focused on her response.
"You know the rest." BZZZ! Wrong answer. He don't speak Woman, remember?
Tom doesn't know the rest, but he takes a stab at it. Might as well use a race metaphor. "So we scrape shields occasionally! it keeps things interesting." Klingon chicks dig conflict, right? She got mad at him when he didn't "resist" in "Blood Fever," after all. In her mother's culture, if you're not spending a fortune in replacement furniture at Ethan Allen, you're just not doing it right.
B'Elanna's voice is soft. "Maybe interesting isn’t enough for me," she confesses, a world of hurt underscoring every whispered syllable.
Decision time. Tom thinks furiously, wondering just what the frell he's supposed to do now, but knowing that a whole lot is at stake.
He slams his hand down on the thruster controls, killing the engines, then falls back in his seat.
"What are you doing?" B'Elanna demands.
It's Tom's turn to keep it zipped.
He's got a lot of thinking to do. And not a lot of time.
"They're stopping," Harry says. "They're dead in the water."
Irina's eyes widen. She gets up to take a closer look.
"ah ah!" Harry says, waving her back to her seat with his phaser.
Irina complies. She sulks, but she complies. "How far from the finish line?"
"Less than a million kilometers," Harry says after checking the sensors.
Then Harry gets a puzzled expression. Now why would she ask that....?
Assan blows past the Delta Flyer, which shudders as their shields scrape.
Tom doesn't move a muscle.
"That was Assan! Why are we just sitting here?" B'Elanna demands.
For the moment, forget Helm Boy. Forget Captain Proton. Forget Nurse Tommy. Hell, forget Lieutenant Paris. Each has, at various times, been the source of tragedy as well as pride. Each time, Tom has walked through the valley of the shadow of death, and returned--sadder at times, but always wiser.
Now it's the turn of Tom Paris, Boyfriend.
Whatever his faults up to now, he's determined to tackle the issues head on, and fight for what matters to him. With the fortitude of a knight, he prepares for the battle of his life: understanding his girlfriend.
Tom gets up from his seat and traps B'Elanna in hers, leaning against the armrests. "If we’ve got a problem, we’re going to resolve it--right here, right now." He leans in close. She has his undivided attention.
Attaboy, Tom. You just made a major deposit in the Love Bank.
On Irina's ship, Harry's having an epiphany of his own.
"You done everything possible to take yourself out of the race, and now you seem worried that the Delta Flyer won't reach the finish line."
Irina just stares at him.
Harry scans the finish line. "I'm counting more than a dozen ships there. Spectators, officials..."
"All congregated in the name of peace," Irina says caustically. "Touching, isn't it?" You know, she's not nearly as pretty when her politics bubbles through to the surface.
Realization dawns on Harry. "You've planned some sort of attack... There are hundreds of innocent people there! How can you do that?"
Irina is soft-spoken, but passionate. "Not everyone is as comfortable mixing with other species as you are, Harry. Some of us believe it was better when we were separate."
Speaking of believing it was better when they were separate...
B'Elanna sounds frustrated. "Hey, I never asked you to give up this race! Or anything else that you care about. I never asked you to stop being yourself!"
Tom's frustrated as well. He leans in close. "The only self I want to be is the guy you’re in love with!"
Talk about kicking it up a notch. BAM! Perhaps this is just the kick in the complacency Tom needed to express what she's been so needing to hear.
All negative emotion drains from B'Elanna's expression, along with a good deal of her natural olive color. "Wow," she whispers. It takes her a few seconds to find her voice again. "I didn’t know you felt that way."
There's a touch of hurt in Tom's voice. Wounded pride--and sorrow at the hurt he realizes he's caused B'Elanna. "How can you say that?" he pleads, softly but with a desperate earnestness.
Houston, we have communication.
B'Elanna says what's foremost among her concerns. No heat--only sorrow. "You always seem to have other priorities--"
"I’m showing you those priorities. Right now."
Ladies, check out that close-up of those eyes. The blue is back. Tom is in top form. The battle is joined, and he's taking no prisoners.
Death to uncertainty. Death to distraction. Down with the enemies of Happily Ever After.
B'Elanna melts as Tom racks up the points, one longing gaze after another.
Irina is exercising her Miranda rights.
No, not her Carmen Miranda rights. This bird ain't singing.
Harry does all the talking, and thinks through the mystery. His mind, uncluttered by the asteroid field of infatuation, works clearly, piecing together the elements.
"The Delta Flyer wouldn't even be in this race if you hadn't told us about it. You gave us the fuel converter so we could qualify--"
Irina's eyes flash involuntarily.
Bingo. "The fuel converter...That's why you're so concerned about Tom and B'Elanna's crossing the finish line."
Now comes the next question. "What'd you do to it? Rig it to explode?"
Irina offers no hints. But Harry's got what he needs.
He begins tapping at the ship's controls. Dit dit dit. Dah dah dah. Dit did dit.... Has a beat, but you can't dance to it.
Irina looks on, perplexed.
B'Elanna has retreated to the rear end of the Flyer where she sits on the stairs, her elbows resting on bent knees. She's still reeling from Tom's confessions. "How come you never talked to me about this before?"
Tom joins her on the stairs. He invades her personal space almost completely. His huge, basketball-palming hands rest on her calves. But he sits a step down, so he's looking up to her. Nice touch. "Look, you've got that tough Klingon exterior, and..." He's got exactly the right tone of voice, but searches for the right words.
What he finds isn't eloquent, but it does the job. "And I didn't think you liked... the mushy stuff."
B'Elanna laughs softly, sadly. "Do I look that tough right now?"
Tom lets go of her leg. His eyes never leave hers. He takes a deep breath and bets the farm on his next roll.
His voice is silky, boyish and filled with hope. "Well, does that mean you're in the mood for some mushy stuff?"
B'Elanna isn't going to make this easy. And dangit, after three years, she deserves this moment. "Maybe," she says evenly.
Tom sighs. But not with irritation. In fact, he realizes this could be the opportunity of a lifetime. Might as well enjoy it. "Exactly what kind of mush are we talking about?" he asks, intensifying his gaze.
A pause. Ball's in her court. She spikes it. "You tell me."
Back to you, Tom.
"Well," he sighs, standing up, but never breaking eye contact. "There's, ummm..." his lips continue to make that "mmmmm" vibration as he leans in for a slow, deep, soft, wet kiss.
When he leans back, B'Elanna's eyes are closed. But only for a moment. "The kissing stuff," Tom whispers.
"That was nice," B'Elanna admits, her knees wobbly.
Tom palms her shoulder, and moves his hand slowly, slowly down the length of her arm as he continues. Their faces are mere inches apart. Tom is really warming to the subject, and B'Elanna's icecaps are beginning to melt. "And there's the...'you're the most important person in the world to me.'"
Torres is beginning to realize that this is not your garden-variety mush. "I like that one, too," she rasps. The ghost of a smile crosses her face.
Time to close the deal, Tommy me boy... "And there's the 'happily ever after.'" He runs his hands gently through her hair, caressing the back of her neck.
B'Elanna giggles, and the light in her eyes tells the story. There's hope for this boy yet. "How does that one work?"
Tom smiles. "Well, traditionally, it requires a proposal--"
Rosie, was that you?
Sorry. Just had to check. She's got a lot of firepower on that MIG, and with only a few minutes left in the episode--especially with the P/T moving along so well--I'd hate to see Terre Haute suffer a premature evacuation.
All right, Rosie. I KNOW that one was from you. But yeah, I deserved that one.
Bartender, can I get some water to put these flames out?
It turns out the BOOM was a high-volume, sustained ping from Irina's ship.
WARNING: We interrupt the mushy stuff to bring you the following plot complication.
Tom and B'Elanna rush to the Ops station to see what's happening. Since they're still dead in the water, right in the middle of the race track, it's a surprise Assan is the only one who's passed them so far.
Unless EVERY two-creature crew has become the set of CHANGE OF HEART.
Perhaps Assan was right after all. I saw his co-pilot; I doubt there's any sexual tension on THAT bridge. No wonder he's in the lead.
They're all business. "We're being scanned by some kind of modulating impulse. It's from Irina's ship," Torres says.
"They must be wondering why we stopped."
"There's something odd about the amplitude--"
Tom's eyes go wide. "Wait a minute. Dit-dit-dah...That's Morse code! Harry and I used it in the Captain Proton holo program."
"What's it saying?"
Paris traces his finger across the screen. "'Fuel...Converter...Rigged. Eject.' What does he mean by 'rigged'?"
Torres checks. "The converter's leaking veridium isotopes." Uh oh.
"Why didn't the computer warn us?" Tom asks as he takes his place in the pilot's chair.
Torres runs a diagnostic. "The online sensors have been tampered with."
"Can you contain the leak?" B'Elanna shakes her head--too late.
The countdown has begun--they've got less than a minute before the warp core breaches.
"Then do what Harry said. Eject the converter!"
B'Elanna tries. "It's too late. I have to eject the core."
Tom squirms in his seat. "Here? We'll never survive the blast." Then a more disturbing thought comes to him. "Neither will anyone else within a million kilometers." He realizes they're less than a million clicks from the finish line, and all those species gathered in the name of peace.
Tom powers up the engines. He sets a course.
The Delta Flyer leaves tire tracks in space.
Irina's console beeps as the location of the Delta Flyer changes. "They're moving again," Irina observes. Her hopes rise.
Harry checks the readout, and smiles. "Away...From the finish line."
Oh well. Lethal or not, she's way cute when she pouts.
The Delta Flyer screams toward the center of a beautiful, hopefully non-sentient nebula. After what just transpired, a certain review boy expresses deep concern that B'Elanna Torres may feel the need for a hot mug of chamomile.
"Warp core breach in 30 seconds."
Torres sees what looms ahead. "Where are we going?"
"A J-Class nebula filled with ionized gas. Should contain the explosion."
Torres nods and rushes back to her station, but her frustration mounts. "I can't get the ejection subroutines online."
"Warp core breach in 20 seconds."
Paris is frustrated--so little time. What to do with what's left?
He wrestles briefly with what's on his mind, then goes for it. "So--what's your answer?"
Torres is a little slow on the uptake. "My answer?"
In for a penny, in for a pound. "Will you marry me?"
"Warp core breach in 15 seconds."
B'Elanna is stunned. "You're proposing now?"
Paris doesn't back down. "It's as good a time as any."
"Subroutines back online," B'Elanna announces. (One must ask--how convenient is that?)
"Warp core breach in ten seconds, nine, eight..."
The Flyer shudders as the warp core flies free inside the nebula. "Clear!" B'Elanna shouts.
Tom guns it.
"Go!" Oh, they're going.
They clear the nebula just in time.
The Flyer gets hammered by the resulting shockwave. The outer hull burns.
Assan crosses the finish line, winning easily.
Janeway frowns, puts her hands on her hips, and glares in Neelix's direction. "DAMN." Then she puts on her happy face and joins the post-race festivities.
"I'm sorry your team didn't win, Captain,' Ambassador O'Zaal says to Janeway, who shrugs and shakes her head, but smiles to let him know she won't be bombing anyone's cities over the loss.
booooooooooooommmmmmmmmmmmmm....they feel it, but the blast is decidedly nonlethal at the finish line.
Janeway's instantly on alert. "Janeway to the bridge. Report."
Tuvok responds. "That was a shock wave from an antimatter explosion approximately 1.2 million kilometers from here."
"Excuse me," Janeway says, heading for the bridge. Chakotay joins her.
The Flyer, scorched and still smoldering, hangs dead in space.
The interior looks like a suite at the Waldorf after the Monsters of Rock check out.
But Tom and B'Elanna are still moving. And look surprisingly non-injured.
"B’Elanna," Tom says gently.
"Guess we lost," B'Elanna says.
"Well, that depends," Tom says as he returns to his seat to run a damage report.
"On what?" Torres demands.
Deep breath. "On how you answer my question... "
This really surprises her. "I thought you only asked it because you thought we were about to explode--"
Tom swivels his seat around to lock eyes with her. "We’re still alive. And I’m still asking."
Okay. The danger's past. The race is over. Their ship is out of commission for a while. No distractions.
Let there be mush for all my P/T minions.
Torres walks over and sits across from Tom's seat. "How come you never asked me before?
Tom kneels before her. "How come you’re still avoiding the question?"
"Think faster." They're close enough to kiss.
"Why? You going to withdraw the question?"
"No... but I might start to beg. Could get embarrassing."
Going once... going twice...
Happily Ever After goes to the cute couple in the Elvis costumes.
Houston, the lips have landed.
Captain's Log, Supplemental. The Antarians have invited us to participate in the post-race festivities, which has allowed me to give two of my senior officers time off for a well-deserved romantic getaway. The Delta Flyer still needs a new warp core, but I don't think they're in a hurry to get anywhere.
Tom pours the champagne. He hands B'Elanna a glass, then slips his arm around her.
Torres raises her glass in a toast--and holds up her other hand long enough to show off the ring on her left hand.
"To the winners!" Tom says. They clink glasses, and take a sip of bubbly.
They do have that glow, don't they?
Tom waxes poetic. " 'B'Elanna Paris'... has a nice ring to it."
B'Elanna nuzzles into Tom's shoulder, then holds up her hand. "Thanks--but I already have a ring." They giggle. "Anyway, I kind of like the sound of Tom Torres."
Tom guffaws. I hope you're kidding."
"Hey! It is the 24th century... "
There are five kisses in history rated the most passionate. The most pure. This one left them all behind.
The Delta Flyer II continues on its leisurely way, trailing dozens of storage canisters, its hull declaring the aftermath of the great race, and announcing the winners.
I'm going to let Heather do the lion's share of the analysis. There's plenty I could say, but Heather has already said most of it, and more besides. If you want heavy analysis on this kind of episode, it requires the skill and passion of a dedicated relationshipper. For that, there's Heather--and she's outdone herself. (In addition, this gets me off the hook--I devoutly hope--with those who are in a mood to argue. I'm sure Heather would love to hear from you...)
Suffice to say, I quite enjoyed "Drive."
The short take: this is a solid, well-crafted hour of television that plays off the established strengths and shortcomings of the regulars without appearing contrived. I have my quibbles--I'm one of those who wonders, "where the heck was the 'I love you'? What happened to the engagement and/or wedding?" (Heather has her response to such questions below, but I'm sticking to my guns. I would have preferred at least a nod in this direction. But perhaps that's just me.)
Still, everyone stayed more or less in character, the performances were for the most part excellent, the writing was tight and well-paced and gave every cast member at least one good scene...and dang it, "Drive" was FUN. It dared to call "the mushy stuff" exactly what it is, and made room for it even as B'Elanna validated her comments in "Muse". ("When your life is on the line, you're not thinking about kissing." Immediately before, right after--sure, that's fine. But during the danger itself, concentrate on saving lives.) The interesting thing is that they carried on their Big Talk even during the crisis period, but the tone of it was appropriate to the moment.
It's an odd variant on Happily Ever After, but given the last four years of this very stormy relationship, it fits.
The guest performances weren't bad. Irina was particularly effective as the latest in a long line of women who make Harry wonder why he even bothers falling in love. For once, Harry recovers his wits early and saves the day--not the first time he's EVER done this, but the first time he's seen past his libido in time to do so.
Call it 3.5 stars on the 4 star scale. Mushy but not maudlin, fun but not flimsy, with some laugh-out-loud moments where you're chuckling with--rather than at--the characters.
Thumbs up from this pompatus of love. That's three straight for season seven.
And now...Heather's perspective.
"...three years of uncertainty and doubt, passion and tenderness, shouts and tears and anger and joy. In the end it came down to giving and taking, loving and forgiving, putting the pieces back together time and again."
--From "Driven," inspired by spoilers for "Drive," by DangerMom, 9/11/00
Asking me to be objective about Tom and B'Elanna is like asking Matt Lauer to be objective about Al Gore: it ain't gonna happen. Lest you think I'll exclusively play apologist on behalf of Voyager's only canon couple, stay tuned. Truth be told, I had prepared to be keenly disappointed by "Drive."
When early spoilers surfaced, I worried that the writers would elect to portray Tom and B'Elanna without truthfully dealing with the past two years. What's that truth? The Voyager writing staff rarely finds the precise balance in the Paris-Torres dynamic. Either they tilt too far to the juvenile sniping, or they tip too far toward "Days of Our Trek." B'Elanna would be too angry, Tom would be too passive or both of them would be childish. Even when episodes would begin well ("Memorial") the P/T subplot would be inconclusive: they have a warm reunion after several weeks of separation; some kissy face, huggy bear; Tom hallucinates, yells at B'Elanna, she stomps out and then... We're left hanging. No resolution.
From time to time, the writers included a throwaway line to show the audience that the pair continued dating. Last year, two A-plot Paris-Torres episodes were featured in the first 10 episodes. After that, they slipped into the background (except the aforementioned "Memorial"). Until "Unimatrix Zero" showed both status (B'Elanna stands behind Tom on the Bridge when Tom's lieutenant rank is reinstated) and temperature (Tom confesses he'd willing forfeit his hard-won pip if it meant assuring B'Elanna's safety), the audience wasn’t sure what they were.
Enter season seven.
From initial impressions, character and continuity appear to be the defining trait of season seven episodes in considering both what we've seen so far and what we know of episodes to come. Does "Drive" continue that trend? Yes. Does it continue that trend successfully? IMHO, Yes.
Michael Taylor uses a stock frame to hang his story on: a good- natured sports competition between former rivals. Think interstellar Indy 500 or Olympiad. The concept isn’t original but the concept isn’t the selling point of the story—the characters are on the marquee. Taylor’s exhibited his strength in building strong character landscapes on the foundations of archetypal stories (the Pygmalion "Someone to Watch Over Me", the Dostoyevski confessional "In the Pale Moonlight" (Ron Moore’s uncredited re-write notwithstanding) and the Cold War style chess match, "Counterpoint").
In this case, "Drive" is an homage to 1930’s serials and screwball romantic comedies. Take a handsome, cocky hot-shot hero who jumps from adventure to adventure, surviving by wits, God-given talent and extraordinary luck; add in a brassy female sidekick, a strong gal-pal who can take down the bad guys with her brutal right hook and finish off the team with a wide-eyed boy genius who saves the day by lending his brains to the hero’s brawn. The bad guy often takes the form of a beautiful but treacherous terrorist who lures one of our intrepid trio into her lair. There, she launches her dastardly machinations to destroy the peace.
Basically an amalgam of "Raiders of the Lost Ark," Tracy-Hepburn, James Bond and Captain Proton. Larger-than-life, exaggerated scenarios are the bread and butter of this storytelling style. Unheard of is the individual who plugs in "Live and Let Die" and expects to discuss the Freudian dynamics between Solitaire and Bond after the final credits roll. Drawn out chases, big explosions, slick tech toys and corny banter characterize the genre. You don’t turn into "Cool Car, Cool Chick Week" on TBS and expect a Bergman film fest, folks.
So all you people out there in TrekLand who are moaning about "how this story could have been much deeper and have more moral resonance, etc."...Get over it. This episode was never intended to be a socio-political metaphor for the Middle Eastern peace process.
That rant over, back to my commentary.
Not content to rest on genre conventions, Taylor simultaneously embraces and tweaks our expectations in his script. On one side, the reincarnation of the 'Delta Flyer' sports retro, World War II era controls; the Doctor takes up golf; and Neelix delivers sportscaster style play-by-play during the race.
Yet "Drive" steers away from fedora hats and nasty Nazis and coasts into the 24th century. Instead of Gestapo agents in black trenchcoats, "Drive"’s bad guys are xenophobic terrorists seeking to destroy an interstellar peace accords. Their weapon of choice? Sabotage. A violent explosion resulting in mass murder—not unlike setting off a bomb at the Super Bowl. The irony? Our heroes are duped into carrying the weapon.
Hot Shot Paris and His Girl Torres are too embroiled in their interpersonal warfare to perceive that anything might be amiss. Boy Wonder, Harry Kim saves the day by exposing the diabolical scheme to Hot Shot. In the nick of time, Hot Shot pilots the ship to a safe distance, His Girl ejects the bomb, and good triumphs over evil. He gets the girl or in a nice role reversal, the girl gets him—she’s not doing a lot of swooning and sighing by the time he manages to propose. Instead, he doggedly persists--to the edge of begging--in his "drive" to convince her of his true affection.
(The "love" scenes in particular reminded me of Karen Allen and Harrison Ford's "Where Does It Hurt" scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark.)
Besides the warm tribute to adventure films past, "Drive" references multiple episodes. Internal continuity is first rate. One small glitch: when B’Elanna retorts to Tom that he was "Expelled," no clarification is given. To my knowledge, Tom graduated from Starfleet Academy and served as an officer before the Cadlik Prime incident that cashiered him from Starfleet. When B’Elanna says Tom was expelled, it could refer to an incident we don’t have any knowledge of i.e. Tom’s already established disastrous semester in the South of France or it could simply be a misstatement. Being an admiral’s son, it isn’t outrageous to think that Tom could manage a re-instatement at the Academy after an official expulsion. Or, it could be one of those things the producers throw in to drive us nuts. No matter, this particular remark doesn’t change the fact that the continuity in this episode is terrific. Starting with...
The Harry-Tom friendship began in "Caretaker." The writers rarely misstep when they feature these characters ribbing each other good naturedly or teaming up in a male bonding moment. Watching them drag race and then attempt to convince Momma Janeway to let them play with the other kids was delightful.
The Tom-Harry interactions aren’t the only nod to continuity. Indeed, Taylor appears to have borrowed a page from another Taylor's story, Jeri's "Day of Honor." To refresh your memory, B'Elanna and Tom remained at loggerheads through most of that epsiode. Neelix offered a listening ear while B’Elanna struggled toward self-understanding. Like "Day of Honor," "Drive"’s penultimate scenes are life-threatening. Tom and B’Elanna face each other most honestly when death stares them in the face. Other nods to P/T episodes past are there for the sharp-eyed fan.
Rick Kolbe’s brisk direction never allows the action to lag. Intercutting between the critical Harry/Irina and Tom/B’Elanna scenes creates a strong juxtaposition between the couples. The pairing B’Elanna envies for their smooth, radiant rapport collapses under lies and deceit; the pressure of those collapsing lies smooths Tom and B’Elanna’s rocky path. What sinks one couple sends the other soaring. Kolbe skillfully extracts winning performances from the supporting cast. His deft comic touch is evidenced in virtually every scene.
Jeri Ryan once again proves her knack for light comedy in her brief but sidesplitting scene with Roxann Dawson. Picardo successfully manages to walk the line between self-centered obnoxiousness and adorable obtuseness. Every scene graced by Ethan Phillips crackles with energy. Kate Mulgrew’s lighthearted Janeway makes a welcome appearance. The primary players are equally as competent.
Garrett Wang has maintained the optimistic, bright-eyed innocence of his character but has shaded Harry with more wisdom. This isn’t Harry walking into the Den of the Vampire Women. In the past, Harry’s naiveté often equated to stupidity. Here, while Tom ribs him about his failed romances with a hologram, a Borg and a dead woman (Lindsey Ballard from last year’s "Ashes to Ashes"), Harry intuits Irina’s intentions before he stupidly falls into her trap. He saves not only the innocent bystanders, but also himself and his compadres, Tom and B’Elanna. Harry as Hero is nice change of pace.
Robbie McNeill and Roxann Dawson finally have a script that allows them to play their characters with more subtext. So often in the past, both Tom and B’Elanna have been reduced to one note background noise; B’Elanna is the angry, angsty one, Tom is the mischievous playboy. In "Drive," Dawson shows a different side of B’Elanna’s insecurities. Instead of self-loathing, we see her vulnerability. She is pensive without wallowing. Dawson gives B’Elanna room to be irritated without igniting that notorious short fuse. From McNeill, he takes the opportunity to portray Paris as honest, sincere and devoted and runs with it. Together, they’ve given credibility to the relationship of their characters. The body language, the timbre of their voices, facial expressions—all of them convey a natural intimacy. They look and act like a couple familiar with one another.
The production values are fabulous. Kudos to the special effects teams—this is Emmy caliber work. The excellent post-production SFX contributed to the exhilarating feel of the episode. Part of what makes the adventure genre work is the awesome effects. I’m typically not one for booms and endless chase sequences, but in this case they made a measurable difference in the storytelling. Even the music set a wonderful tone for the episode. Reminiscent of John William's "Raider's March," all that energetic brass helped maintain the episode's jaunty pace.
A finally philosophical thought: I appreciated how Taylor thematically unified the episode. He effectively used the metaphor of the race to parallel the Tom-B’Elanna relationship. Two alien species (man and woman—and if you don’t buy that, go ask a bookstore how many "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" books they’ve sold) attempting to cement a peace accord, racing down a challenging course with the reminder of high stakes always haunting the competitors. The reward for being willing to risk everything to win is priceless.
I’m going to be completely predictable and award "Drive" a **** (4 stars!) These jaunts into fun, frivolous territory may not be deep, but sheer enjoyment has to be worth something.
NEXT WEEK: The movie-rama trend continues as Biller borrows from "Manchurian Candidate."
You endured the summary and commentary. Now for something completely different: I have specific replies to some of the points I’ve seen raised on BBs, e-mail, reviews etc. To simplify things, I’ve phrased these points as if they were comments from fictional fans. So no, these aren’t real people and no, I’m not talking about you. :-J Set your blow-torches for stun, here we go...
Personally, I don't see the chemistry. What's everybody so hyper about. --Wanda, JetC 54, ORB; IRC NICK: ChakRocks
Chemistry is in the eye of the perceiver. Just as sex is largely a cerebral function, what makes something appealing or desirable is as unique as a fingerprint.
How attractive an individual or couple is depends on so many psychological, subliminal and taste factors, it's not even worth the bandwidth to argue over. Why do I find Paris-Torres compelling and someone else doesn't? Who knows? In my case, I find that personality and temperament-wise, I fit better with the JetC’ers than I do with the PTF gang. Does that mean I don’t love my PTF sisters? Hardly. I adore them. We’re like a massive, quarrelsome Irish family—brimming with hot heads, sentimentality and genuine affection. (And hi, I’m part Irish so I’m not attempting to malign anyone). But the fact remains: I love P/T even though it’s pretty uncharacteristic of me to do so. I see the chemistry where I know many fans don’t.
Ironically, I think it is that on-screen chemistry that may have encouraged TPTB to make Tom and B'Elanna's relationship canon (while the reasons why TPTB elected to not pursue the Janeway/Chakotay romance are obvious). Some answers emerge from Voyager's early seasons. Take the episode "Faces."
I've talked to P/T'ers who claim to have been seduced by the potential of a P/T romance as early as "Faces." Others claim their P/T infatuation grew out of Tom helping rescue B'Elanna from the Ocampa. While I'll concede that hindsight is 20/20, I've found no definitive evidence to prove that the producers intentionally cultivated a P/T romance before "The Swarm." Still, as I've been re-watching the early seasons, I think a substantive case can be made to support the first P/T'ers enthusiasm.
In seasons one and two, Tom served as ship's playboy/jerk and B'Elanna as the tough-on-the-outside/soft-in-the-middle antagonist. Neither appeared to have the slightest personal interest in the other. Oh yeah, the old name-calling-what-a-jerk thing is usually a clue that the producers might be cultivating a romance, but not always. Tom did deserve to be called a pig (Gaunt Gary? Ah yes, I remember him well) and B'Elanna's prickly exterior hid deeply rooted insecurities, as well as a secret crush on Chakotay. Tom seemed bent on a career as a serial dater; B'Elanna seemed content with the chance to "prove" her worth. Why should he waste his energy pursuing one woman and why should she care about finding a mate?
Consequently, when Tom and B'Elanna found themselves Vidiian prisoners, few in fandom chalked it up to producers conspiring to play matchmaker. Careful watching of "Faces", however, gives evidence to support a strong chemistry between the characters/actors. Tom had a chance to show something deeper than a starry-eyed infatuation junkie (he was nursing a serious crush on Kes at the time). He proved to be a dependable, supportive friend, particularly to the human B'Elanna. His spending time with and seeing both sides of B'Elanna put him in the position to understand her in a way that no one else--including Chakotay--did. It was the beginning of a legitimate friendship and solid working relationship. The rapport between the characters grew on away missions; time spent with Harry and working together to solve Voyager's various problems. Until "The Swarm," it didn't appear the producers were pushing an obvious Tom-B'Elanna agenda.
My theory is that the natural charisma of both Roxann Dawson and Robbie McNeill emerged in dallies. Whether it was in the wretched "Threshold" or throughout the Michael Jonas arc, Tom and B'Elanna looked like a team. Taking their relationship to the next level was an easy risk to take. Whether the relationship has continued to the present because the producers were too lazy/apathetic/uninspired to try anything else, I can't say. But I do think that the roots of the now flowering Paris-Torres romance grew from first season seeds.
Regardless of whether you like the P/T dynamic or not, McNeill and Dawson are excellent actors with charm to burn. Together they can be delightful to watch. How compelled you are by the relationship of their characters depends on individual psychology. One need look no further than the volumes of different 'shippers in fandom to prove how different pairings appeal to different viewers.
I saw zippo chemistry between Kasidy Yates and Ben Sisko and they got married. Worf and Jadzia's romance and subsequent marriage felt like a ratings ploy, though I had fun watching it. Odo and Kira's tale of star-crossed lovers had compelling moments in a grand, opera sort of way. Picard and Crusher embody the great, 'What if?' Riker and Troi smoldered for years but without being given an opportunity to ignite, their rendezvous in "Insurrection" felt like a little too late.
Bottom line, a lot of people saw and see chemistry in the P/T dynamic. Now it’s the first canon marriage between two regular characters featured in the premiere cast. A nice distinction for Voyager.
B'Elanna sacrifices her Klingon honor to humor that childish pt'AK! She would be better off without him. She's been reduced to a soft weakling! --K'Gharak of the House of L'ethor
Sigh. How boring is it for a character to be one-dimensional? Not even Worf was forced to put on the full "I am Klingon, Here Me Roar" persona every week. The guy drank PRUNE juice for Pete’s Sake. Expecting B’Elanna to be a one-note born again Klingon warrior maiden episode after episode assumes that she never grows. Why can’t being a spouse and lover be part of a multi-faceted character?
The audience learned early on that B’Elanna despised her Klingon side. She was willing to remain fully human after her separation from her Klingon self. The primary source of her self-loathing is her Klingon heritage and how she perceives that her Klingon-ness is what alienated her father. As the years have passed, B’Elanna has gradually accepted that side of herself. In no small part thanks to Tom Paris. You can shred Tom’s maturity, but it was he who hauled her into the holodeck and challenged her to bat’leth duels. He finished her Day of Honor program and encouraged her to embrace it. He offered to learn Klingon and study the scrolls with her. This isn’t a guy who doesn’t respect her Klingon honor.
And while we're talking about how ridiculous it is to expect B'Elanna to remain within narrowly drawn boundaries, many fans have just as rigid, narrowly focused expectations for Tom.
In the words of DangerMom: As a character, Tom Paris can't seem to win either. Should he also be the one-dimensional "guy," the slightly obnoxious pig with the low self-esteem we first saw in "Caretaker?" The bad boy of Starfleet with a bit of an edge?
Yet when we see the Tom that emerged over several seasons--the caring officer in "Faces" (not just for B'Elanna, but for poor Pete Durst); the tinkerer who knows his way around various systems on a starship; the ideas-man who comes up with unconventional solutions ("Year of Hell"); the compassionate, responsible medic--people complain loudly, as if being a jack-of-all-trades and a basically nice person (albeit with a devilish side!) is some sort of unforgivable crime. Yet B'Elanna was able to fall in love with this "wonderful guy," and appreciates his many facets, despite that "erratic individuality."
IN CONCLUSION, not only is B’Elanna a Klingon, but she’s also a woman. Where’s the law that states that allowing yourself to be vulnerable in a relationship makes you weak? The power in feminine traits shouldn’t be underestimated. Why else the quote, "The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world." I’ll continue more on this subject in the next section.
You'd think that by the time the 24th century rolls around we'd be past the paradigm that implicitly implies that a woman needs a man to be happy. Such an episode as "Drive" negates any potential she has for growth. --Marguerite Genovese-VanFilbert; Smith '81; Sarah Lawrence '85; E-mail: MGV@NOW.org
I keep reading that moving into a relationship with Tom has ruined B’Elanna. That somehow she's less of an engineer or officer or woman because she was first involved with, then married a quintessential guy's guy.
Tom has rarely been categorized as a model of progressive male behavior. Some believe that B'Elanna falling in love with him-who is often characterized by his detractors as Mr. Overgrown Teenager-allegedly weakens her, reduces her value because she's succumbed to a more traditional paradigm.
The biggest problem B’Elanna’s had on Voyager hasn’t been her relationship with Tom Paris: it’s been the writer’s insistence that Seven of Nine function as Wonder Woman. Some episodes when Seven saves the ship are episodes that could have—and should have been B’Elanna episodes. Frankly, I don’t think the writers have known what to do with B’Elanna for almost two years.
In terms of character development, Tom has been a critical part of helping B’Elanna face the parts of her personality and her past that she struggles with. For the most part, it’s been a synergistic relationship on an interpersonal level. B’Elanna’s gradually become less defensive, she’s calmed some of her more tempestuous inner battles and she’s learning to give and take on an emotional level. B’Elanna’s intelligence and skill have never been a question. Instead, her journey on Voyager has been more about stilling her inner demons. Why shouldn’t she take that journey with a life partner?
The whole episode felt rushed--I can't buy the proposal, engagement, marriage and honeymoon in 42 minutes. The producers should have developed it over a couple of episodes. --Reverend Jim
Why? I mean, we've had three years for them to court, fight, date and figure out whether they like each other enough to want to make their relationship permanent. Essentially the engagement period.
Should they have chosen to show an engagement period, what could they possibly have done that hasn't been done before? They break-up (Kassidy and Sisko). They fight and call off the wedding (Jadzia and Worf). The other possibilities are equally predictable: one dies/vanishes/is kidnapped/develops a terminal illness/is wounded. Story options with less drama would be criticized for being out of character or too mundane (picking china patterns or bedroom linens anyone?).
This episode's unifying theme focuses on the "drive" to complete a journey and the desire to finish as a winner. It's about taking the risks required to accomplish one's purpose. Very much carpe diem. Dragging out the pre-marriage process would make the relationship more susceptible to the soap opera-ish elements that few Trekkers like.
Besides, the impulsivity of it is quintessential Tom and B’Elanna. They qualify for adrenaline junkie status. Taking the proverbial plunge has it’s own rush.
HE can do better than HER. --LaDawn aka ParisSlave and 18 other signatories; United League of J/P, C/P, P/K, P/7, P/P, P/W, P/D
Many fans dislike B'Elanna for the same reasons many Klingon followers can't stand Tom. I see both groups as feuding in-laws. "No woman is ever good enough for my boy" and "That boy isn't fit to lick her boots!"
Time to call a truce. Tom and B’Elanna will now be officially entered into future editions of the Star Trek Encyclopedia as a married couple. Whether they stay married, who knows? So why not get it out of your system by writing a good old "Kill B’Elanna off" angst story. You’ll feel better. :-J
He treated her like leftovers! What an insensitive cad! Tom had some nerve ordering her around like some anonymous crewman! She's a competent, capable officer that outranks him! --Assembly of United TrekFeminists
There are two parts to this question. I'll address the last part (the part about Tom ordering her around) first. From a friend on one of my lists, the good captain Ch'gris:
"Someone on the writing staff knows a bit about protocol on military aircraft. There are two designations: Pilot (aka Command Pilot) and Co-Pilot. All, and I do mean all, flight decisions are made by the Pilot. It is a serious breach of both protocol and safety regulations for the co-pilot to do anything without first getting the pilot's OK. The only exception is when the craft is in imminent danger and time does not allow discussion. Given Tom's "canon" accident (the one that got him tossed from Starfleet), it is perfectly understandable that Tom would react strongly to B'Elanna's subverting his commands and taking action without his authorization."
Tom may have been playing it up for all it was worth (That ‘right at the light’ stuff seemed a touch condescending) but he was within bounds in doing so.
The other facet of this is simple: until B’Elanna told him, Tom didn’t get how upset she was. What’s he supposed to be? A mind reader? A classic (much to the chagrin of the uber-feminists) male-female communication meltdown. Tom took the situation at face value. B’Elanna read more into it and personalized what he did. Neither was wrong. Once B’Elanna confessed her fears, Tom plunged into a discussion with her. He punctuated it by throwing the race.
If Tom is guilty of one thing, he’s guilty of seeing things in the straightforward way most men see things. Whereas women have a tendency to make everything a Byzantine conspiracy, men deal with the issue and move on. Women brood. B’Elanna should have been honest from the start. She wasn’t and the subsequent "insensitivity" wasn’t intentional.
Some have commented that Tom's remark about assuming that B'Elanna doesn't like the "mushy stuff" bordered on cad behavior. I disagree. The old "when to be mushy" and "when to be pragmatic" give-and-take between men and women is eternal. For example, my husband gave me a filing cabinet for our first Valentine's Day married. He's given me pearl earrings when I asked for a cell phone.
Along these lines, B'Elanna isn't exactly Jane Eyre. In the past, she's shown she isn't necessarily comfortable with PDA. Her gift to Tom, a television set, isn't along the same lines as say, silk boxer shorts. Their dates tend to be skiing, sailing and Klingon combat. In seven seasons, we haven't seen her indulge in frivolous flights of fancy. The only hint we've had about her 'romantic' side was when Tom caught her reading Women Warriors At The River of Blood, a Klingon romance novel.
Tom is clearly more sentimental. He's fond of bringing her gifts and flowers. He usually suggests the candlelight and moonlight dinners. He courted her without her encouragement, always flattering her with comments about her beauty, her desirability. In short, his style is mushier than B'Elanna. Even with his affectionate approach, we still haven’t heard those "three little words," a fact that irritates more than few romantics. To his credit, it’s not entirely Tom’s fault.
For a long time, TPTB preferred tap dancing around "the mushy stuff." Some of it was Paramount politics, some of it was Braga style. Regardless, let’s keep some perspective here: it’s fiction, folks.
WAAAH! We wanted a wedding! --Suzy, Mellie, Clarinda, Leisel & Shellie at hoplessromantics.com
The wedding issue posed a lose-lose choice from the start. They incorporate a wedding: Trekkers from every incarnation compare said wedding to every wedding that's gone before it and complain that it's derivative. They avoid a wedding: confusion and wounded romantics result.
I’ve read comments that some viewers were confused about whether or not they were actually married. I’d say the rings, the champagne and the "Just Married" painted on the back of the "Flyer" provided plenty of clarification. I was grateful they decided to show, not tell—and that they assumed we, the viewers, had the intelligence to figure it out.
We had an Alternate universe P/T wedding with the "Demon" clones. Focusing on the ceremony would have taken our focus off the characters. Since the characters, not the pageantry, were the important part, I’d say the producers made the right choice.
You want a wedding? Check out DangerMom's wonderful missing scene story, "Driven," which she has graciously made available--and which Jim has graciously consented to be posted on his site.
I think that covers it. It's been fun hanging at Reviewboy's page--maybe I'll see ya'll out in fandom sometime!
Best... Heather Jarman (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Next week: The Maquis are back.
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