[Note] Since some folks are calling me the Will Durant of the Trek Universe, I'm gonna start adding the stardates mentioned in the episodes from now on. I may also update prior reviews to include this information in coming months, but I will include it in all new reviews.
The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
Also, if you have already seen the episode and simply want to see the review, click on the link at the end of the summary to skip straight to the Analysis and rating.
This review marks the second straight HUGE review. I went to the extra effort because these are the Very Special episodes of Voyager. But don't expect 25-page reviews every week.
An energy cloud causes Tuvok to dream of dropping little girls off cliffs, prompting a meld with Janeway and a trip back to the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country for a little bit of historical revisionism. Subtitle this one "Everything you wanted to know about Tuvok but were afraid they'd never reveal."
Jump straight to the Analysis
Neelix pours Tuvok a fruity liquid in the galley, swearing this one will be good. "The succees rate of your culinary ...experiments..has not been high," Tuvok points out. Neelix protests that Ensign Golot had a second glass, and she never has seconds. Tuvok replies that Ensign Golat is Bolian, and Bolians have tongues with a cartilaginous lining that would protect them from "even the most corrosive acid." Which means Neelix's cooking has only posed occasional danger to her. Neelix begs. Tuvok lifts, sniffs, sips, and finally responds. "Impressive." From a Vulcan, a five-star rave.
Neelix reacts with ebullience. He promises to squeeze up a second cup of the first thing Tuvok has ever praised in his kitchen, and also tells him the breakfast is coming up: Poroccan eggs. He begins describing the acquisition and preparation of the eggs, until Tuvok says, "I would prefer not to hear the life history of my breakfast." (Side note: This is the first time I've heard Tuvok eating an animal product. Most Vulcans are vegetarians, but I suppose some are a bit more lax, like their human counterparts, and sometimes eat from the dairy and "no animals were harmed in the preparation of this meal" food groups.) Neelix says that on Talax it is traditional to discuss the history of the meal before its consumption. Why, he muses fondly, "my mother could turn every condiment into a character..my favorite was the one about the crustacean..."
Apparently the legal department at Disney has an even longer reach than previously believed. Before you can say "Sabastian," the only shipboard barbecue pit in the Delta Quadrant blazes incontrollably for a few seconds, engulfing the cooking pot and the eggs therein. When the flames die down, Neelix examines the results. "Some sort of power overload...I'm afraid it decimated your breakfast." A sigh. "This is what my mother would call a tragic ending." Tuvok tells him that Engineering is preparing to adapt a new power source for ship's use, which may account for the surge. Then Janeway summons Tuvok and Neelix to bridge
On Stardate 50126.4, the ship pulls up next to Yet Another Gaseous Anomaly. (These things are more common than Quickie Marts....) This one contains large amounts of Cyrillium--an energy source that is both combustible and versatile. Janeway tells Neelix they need to use his pantry as a containment chamber and asks Neelix to make room. Neelix seems disturbed at first, then thinks it might be nice to do set up a cyrillium barbecue....but Torres says that would likely blow up half the kitchen--Cyrillium is better suited as a warp plasma catalyst. Tuvok offers a suggestion of his own--it could boost deflector shield efficiency. Janeway and Chakotay share a grin. "The vultures are circling," Chakotay says. Janeway tells him to have department heads submit proposals for employing their windfall.
The nebula, Class 17, is within visual range. As the analysis proceeds, Tuvok's hand starts shaking. When he doesn't respond to a command to adapt deflectors, Janeway notices; he announces his condition and asks to be excused to sickbay. She consents immediately--but why doesn't anyone accompany him? When a Vulcan says, "I don't feel well," it's like a Stallone supercop calling for backup. It's big news.
Tuvok staggers to turbolift--and begins hearing the terrified voice of a young girl. When he sees her, his unease accelerates to panic--A young human girl, blonde and terrified, is hanging from a rocky precipice...clinging to his hand, staring into his eyes, begging for help. The turbolift spits him out and he stumbles forward, the walls his only support. The girl pops in and out of his vision, her terror inspiring his own...finally, he sees his young self's grasp on the girl's hand fail, and she falls down and away to a certain demise.
Kes is working when she sees him in the doorway, hyperventilating, his eyes the window to insanity. By the time she reaches him, he has collapsed, wide-eyed and speechless, terrified out of his Vulcan mind.
* * *
Holodoc examines Tuvok, looking better and describes his vision to the captain. "There's more. I had an emotional response--anxiety, fear, an almost irratonal anger at myself for letting her fall." Kes asks when it happened, but Tuvok insists it never did. "It was me as a child, and it seems like a memory, but I don't recall the incident," he says. Holodoc rattles off the vital statistics, and concludes, "If you were human I'd say you had a severe panic attack."
"I am not human," Tuvok mutters. "No kidding," Doc retorts. He rattles off possibilities -- hallucination, telepathic comunication from another race, repressed memories, momentary contact with a parallel reality -- take your pick. "The universe is a strange place," Holodoc concludes, rolling his eyes.
Janeway suggests they check out the nebula for clues. Holodoc says Tuvok can be released, but he attaches a neuro-cortical monitor in case the memory resurfaces--it will record the brain's activity in excruciating detail if it happens again. Tuvok accepts it with something approaching gratitude.
In his quarters, Tuvok chants and playing with Vulcan Logs, externalizing the structure of his mind:
Structure, logic, function, control. Structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function. Function is the essence of control. I am in control. I am in control ...
The pieces fall.
Kes makes a house call. "The Doctor wanted me to adjust your monitor to check for peptide readings," she says, and Tuvok consents. She notes the building blocks -- the "Kathira" -- and asks what it means. "The approximate translation is Structure of Harmony...it is used as a meditational aid...it requires balance and spatial acuity. It helps to focus thought and refine mental control," Tuvok explains. Kes notes the chaotic mess on the table. "Doesn't look very harmonious at the moment," she says gently. "What does a Kathira look like when it's done?" Tuvok says it is never the same way twice -- "It's a reflection of the builder's state of mind." She says she'd like to see it when it's finished. Knowing Kes, she means it. I hope we'll see the Kathira again, at least in passing, in a future episode. She leaves. He calls after her. "It's alright; I understand." She leaves. He resumes the Kathira.
The next morning, Tuvok and Chakotay walk to engineering. Chakotay asks how Tuvok is feeling this morning. Tuvok gives a bloodless status report on his ability to perform his duties. "I didn't ask because I am concerned about your ability to perform...I'm concerned abut you," Chakotay says in a gesture of rapproachment between them. "There is no reason for concern," Tuvok says, uncomfortable. "Sorry I sked." Tuvok seems to understand. "My apologies. I am distracted -- I spent 14 hours in deep meditation. Trying to determine the source of my aberrant behavior." Chakotay suggests trying to get his mind off of things, try to forget it for a while. "It's difficult to forget with a cortical monitor connected to your parietal lobe." "Good point."
They reach engineering and ask Kim for a report. While Kim and Chakotay Q&A, Tuvok adds, "I suggest we conduct a tachyon sweep of the nebula...we should be cautious this close to Klingon space." An uncomfortable silence, then Torres states the obvious--the Klingons are a long ways away. Tuvok realizes what just happened, and his discomfiture shows. Chakotay suggests he return to sickbay, but the image of the nebula on the viewscreen causes the vision to return with a vengeance. This time he collapses into the abyss immediately, and the cortical monitor blinks furiously, recording all.
Holodoc examines the recording, and tells the captain he thinks it's a repressed memory. "It's causing physical damage...Talochan Schism is what the Vulcans call it." Humans deal with repressed memories through standard therapy, he says, but Vulcans deal with traumatic repressed memories physically -- and the end result is sometimes a self-lobotomy. He says "there is no medical treatment...but a mind meld with a family member is thought to help bring the memory to the surface." Janeway says she's the closest he's got to a family member onboard; Doc says that Tuvok has a request for her.
He is meditating when she approaches his biobed. She asks if he's sure. "It may be my only hope...I know it's a big thing to ask, and normally I'd have turned to one of the other shipboard Vulcans, but for this...I trust you more than anyone else." Janeway promises to see him through the ordeal. He will use her as his "Pelora" -- a meld guide, a counselor to help him objectify the experience and reach an understanding of the memory. "Will I be living it with you?" She asks. "No -- you'll be an observer."
An hour later, Janeway and Tuvok begin the meld--this time under close medical supervision. Tuvok grasps her face in his hands, and begins the incantation. "Your mind to my mind...your thoughts to my thoughts...I'm taking us back...back to the boy that I was...the boy lying on the precipice--"
Janeway finds herself on the bridge of an unfamiliar ship under red alert, rocked by weapons, surrounded by strangers in ancient uniforms...and out of the smoke and darkness emerges the steely monument of 23rd century Starfleet, Captain Sulu. "Damage report!" he barks in the voice of an ancient demigod.
If you're an Original Cast fan, this is your moment to cheer. Happy 30th anniversary, Star Trek.
* * *
One Hallmark "Voyager" Christmas Ornament commercial later, Captain Sulu continues to shout orders as Commander Janice Rand reports damage and casualties. Janeway finds Tuvok kneeling over a fallen comrade, wearing the old uniform. "What is this place?" Janeway asks. "Can you take us to the girl?" she asks. Tuvok seems confused. "That was the intent." Janeway considers this. "The incidents must be related. When and where are we now?" "Stardate 9521 -- approxmately 80 years ago. We were fighting Klingons--" (keep these numbers in mind; we'll have a quiz in a few scenes) -- "This battle was precipitated by an incident that took place 3 days before."
And at the speed of memory, it's two-days earlier. Brighter, quieter, cheerier. A woman enters the room. "All right, gamma shift...time to defend the Federation against gaseous anomalies," Commander Janice Rand declares, smiling. Janeway notes the coincidence--they were also studying gaseous anomalies before Tuvok's troubles began. That's more than a coincidence, she says.
As the room clears, Rand hands Tuvok the morning's comm traffic. "There's a message from the Yorktown I think you might be interested in. It's from your father." Rand notes the tea Tuvok is preparing. "You're not going to have time to drink that, you know; you're due on the bridge in five minutes...." Tuvok says he's making the tea for the captian; he notes Sulu's fondness for tea, and thought he might like a Vulcan blend. "Ah, I see," Rand says mischievously. "Trying to make Lieutenant in your first month. I wish I'd thought of that when I was your age. It took me three years just to make Ensign." Tuvok reacts diffidently. "I assure you I have no ulterior motive," Rand smiles. "Whatever you say, Ensign...see you on the bridge."
Janeway notes the conversation between the two with unconcealed amusement. She manages not to laugh out loud, but I kept thinking of Chevy Chase smirking during Jane Curtin's "Weekend Update" editorials. When Rand leaves Tuvok to his tea, Janeway stares hard at him. "You've never brought me tea," she accuses, turns her face in a huff, and storms off melodramatically, leaving Tuvok with a "damn humans and their sense of humor" grimace. She is here as an observer, but though I'm sure Tuvok could have used a more dispassionate one, I thought Janeway's playfulness was just the right touch.
Tuvok is waiting for Sulu's reaction to the tea as Janeway looks on from behind the Captain's chair. "Outstanding!" Sulu proclaims. "I may have to give you a promotion." Tuvok looks concerned. "That was not my motivation, Captain. I am not attempting to curry favor with you in any way." Sulu laughs. "Mister Tuvok...If you're going to remain on my ship, you're going to have to learn how to appreciate a joke. And don't tell me Vulcans don't have a sense of humor because I know better." He toasts with the teacup. "I...will work on it, sir," Tuvok says awkwardly. "Very good. And...thanks again." Tuvok is dismissed.
"He doesn't look anything like his portrait at Starfleet headquarters." "Holographic imaging resolution was less accurate in the 23rd century." (Hello!! Anyone heard of photographs, paintings, cartoons, old TV episodes on laserdisc and VHS? This explanation is pretty lame. I'd rather chalk it up to Tuvok's rapidly-scrambling brain.) They walk to Tuvok's station. "This is a science station, isn't it? "Yes. I am one of several junior science officers."
Janeway finally says something that's been bugging her. "Tuvok, why doesn't your service record reflect any of this? I thought your first assignment was aboard the Wyoming?" It's a long story, he says. Suffice to say, this was my first starfleet career. I was 29 years old." (Add this to the math problem. Tuvok is...drumroll...almost 110.) This is just before Praxis explodes, he continues. Janeway remembers the event from her history classes. But what does it have to do with the girl on the precipice?
A rattle. A shake. The spilled tea. The destruction of Praxis. The re-use of STVI special effects footage, though the new acting is a bit less intense than the film. (Could be Tuvok's memory. Them Vulcans has no imagination.)
So what happened? Janeway asks. "Two days later we heard that two Starfleet officers were accused of murdering the Klingon chancellor. They were taken to the Klingon homewrld for trial." As he talks, the scene changes. "Sulu had served under both for many years and he felt an intense loyalty to them." They hear Sulu telling the helmsman to plot a course to the Azure Nebula. "He is planning the rescue of Captain Kirk and Dr. McCoy. As you can see, everyone seemed perfectly willing to go along with this breach of orders. However, I felt differently."
Tuvok enters the scene, expressing his objections to the captain. "It's a direct violation of our orders from Starfleet Command, and could lead to hostilities with the Klingon Empire." "Noted," Sulu says. "Resume your station." Tuvok then formally protests. "A pretty bold statement for an Ensign. With only...two months space duty under his belt?" Tuvok stiffens. "I'm aware of my limited experience, but I'm also aware of Starfleet regulations and my obligation to carry them out." Commander Rand jumps from her seat and relieves him of duty. "I assure you it will not happen again," she tells Sulu.
Sulu holds up a hand. "Ensign, you're absolutely right. But you're also...absolutely...wrong. You'll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just carrying out orders and observing regulations...there is a sense of loyalty to the men and women you serve with. A sense of family. Thsoe two men on trial..I served with them for a long time. I owe them my life a dozen times over. And right now they're in trouble and I'm ging to help them, let the regulations be damned." (Insert patriotic soundtrack here.) Tuvok tries one last time. "That is a most illogical line of reasoning." Sulu's gaze hardens. "You better believe it. Helm, engage!"
"You did the right thing," Janeway says as Tuvok returns to his post. "Perhaps," he replies.
They approach the Azure Nebula. It looks a lot like the nebula observed on Voyager, Janeway says. Tuvok notes it too...and the vision of the girl on the ledge returns.
Tuvok breaks the meld and starts convulsing. HD and Kes spring to action.
* * *
Holodoc tells Janeway that if Tuvok hadn't already been in Sickbay when the latest memory attack occurred, he'd be in a coma right now. The bad news is...the synaptic pathways are continuing to degrade, and brain death is a strong possibility if something doesn't change soon. Janeway thinks they were on the verge of a breakthrough--she saw young Tuvok and the girl on the precipice before the link failed. She wants to talk to him but Holodoc says it will be a few hours before it's safe to consider reviving him.
Janeway is reading in her ready room when the door chimes. It's Harry Kim with an analysis of the dueling nebulae. Harry says the two gaseous anomalies may look similar to the naked eye, but to sensors they're very different, a Class 11 to the Excelsior, a Class 17 here. He says that Holodoc told him repressed memories can often be triggered by a sight, a sound, a smell. Just about anything.
Janeway wonders about the girl on the ledge and its connection to the Excelsior incident. Harry thnks it may just be a meld accident, a wrong turn in the Vulcan mind. Janeway isn't convinced of that. She has been studying the Excelsior's logs...Sulu had written something cryptic about "the ship being damaged in a gaseous anomaly"-- which may be technically true, but is missing some rather pertinent data. Kim is astounded: "You mean he falsified his logs?" Janeway laughs. "Those were very different times, Mr. Kim...Captain Sulu, Captain Kirk, Dr. McCoy -- they all belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officer."
Her tone grows more animated. "Imagine the era they lived in. The Alpha Quadrant was still largely unexplored--humanity on verge of war with the Klingons, Romulans hiding behind every nebula...even the technology we take for granted was still in its early stages -- no plasma weapons, no multiphasic shields. Their ships weren't half as fast." Kim adds, "No replicators--" Janeway looks at her replicated coffee -- "no holodecks...you know, ever since I took Starfleet History at the Academy I always wondered what it would be like to live in those days."
Janeway enjoys that thought. "Space must have seemed a whole lot bigger back then. It's not surprising they had to bend the rules a little..they were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive, and a little quicker to pull their phasers...of course the whole bunch of them would be booted out of Starfleet today. But I have to admit--I would have loved to ride shotgun at least once with a group of officers like that." (Just a thought--we don't know Captain Sulu's ultimate fate, but we do know that Dr. McCoy ultimately became ADMIRAL McCoy, and was decidedly unbooted as of 10 years ago. And of course Spock is alive and well in the Romulan Empire. Sulu was a good number of years younger than McCoy. He could well be alive today. Well, as of Stardate 50126, at any rate.)
When Tuvok is revived, he describes the events on the Excelsior during that incident. There was a battle with the Klingons that forced them to abandon the rescue attempt. (I don't remember that in STVI....) Janeway asks if they relate to the girl in any way, but Tuvok says he doesn't think so. He suggest another meld attempt to get to the ledge....
And once again we find them kneeling over the body of Dimitri Valtane. "It's hard to accept this is a coincidence," Janeway says. She asks him to remember what happened after reaching the nebula; he says Sulu relieved his shift to get some rest. But his bunkmate -- Lieutenant Dimitri Valtane -- had other plans. (And just like that we're in crew quarters, where Valtane on the upper bunk interrupts Tuvok on the lower bunk.)
"Hey, Tuvok, are you asleep?" "No."
"Me either. I can't believe we're going to do this. I didn't think the Captain had it in him."
"Had what in him?"
"You know -- the guts to defy an order and run off in some rescue mission to save old friends."
"I take it from the tone of your voice that you admire this trait."
"Well...yeah. It's courageous!"
"It's illogical and reckless."
"Come on, Tuvok--isn't this more fun than charting gaseous anomalies?" (Speaking of which, the commercial break included an ad for Pepto Bismol--for treating gaseous anomalies of a different nature.)
"Human fascination with ‘fun' has led to many tragedies in your short but violent history. One wonders how your race has survived having so much...fun."
"Whew...Vulcans! You guys heed to relax."
"No, I will not relax. Ever since I entered the Academy, I've had to endure the egocentric nature of humanity. You believe that everyone in the galaxy should be like you--that we should all share your sense of humor and your human values." ("I am Jim Kirk of Earth. Resistance is futile. Assimilate this, babe.")
"If you hate it here so much, why did you join Starfleet in the first place?"
My parents made me, Tuvok says. But when this job's over, I'm outta here.
Dimitri sighs and rolls over. "Your loss."
Janeway, who has observed this tense exchange from the opposite bunk, comes to his side."Did you really mean this?" she asks. Though she and Tuvok are friends, she's apparently been unaware of his less tolerant side. (I imagine Chakotay could enlighten her.) "At this point in my life, yes...my experiences at the Academy and on-board the Excelsior were not pleasant."
(Gee, you mean not everyone enjoys serving with living legends?)
"I knew you'd left Starfleet for over 50 years but I never knew why--I never realized it was because of a conflict with humans." Janeway says. "My perceptions of humanity and Starfleet were undoubtably colored by the fact that I didn't want to be here in the first place." (I gotta admit--I can relate all too well to this one.) "Your parents really forced you to go to the Academy?" Janeway wonders, stunned--it's hard enough to get into the Academy if you really want to. "It was their wish and I felt an obligation to fulfill it."
Janeway asks what Tuvok did in the 50 years outside of Starfleet. "I returned to Vulcan and spent the first several years in seclusion, immersing myself in the Kolinahr ritual, trying to purge myself of all emotion and achieve a state of pure and total logic." Ah. Spock also did this after the original five-year mission. Apparently Vulcans find the Kolinahr a nice change from the emotional turmoil of Starfleet. But, like Spock...it didn't take. "Six years into my studies I began the Ponn Far"-- the Vulcan mating ritual, in which you either give in to the urges or you die in hormonal madness -- "and took a mate, T'Pel. We decided to raise a family together so I decided to postpone my studies."
"And what brought you back to Starfleet?" Tuvok said that fatherhood opened his eyes, and he finally came to appreciate what his parents had hoped him to learn as a young man, that he had failed to grasp in his youth. He decided he needed to expand his knowledge, to learn from humans and other species, and that Starfleet provided such an opportunity. Janeway smiles warmly. "I'm, glad you had a change of heart." "As am I...although Heart had very little to do with it...it was a logical decision." She smiles again. "I'm sure it was."
The ship shakes and a call to Red Alert is sounded. Valtane wakes up groggily; Tuvok explains that at this point in their journey a Klingon battlecruiser is firing on them inside the nebula.
* * *
From the Nebula-Cam, we see an an old-style Klingon Bird-of-Prey. I've always liked those ships. They look mean.
Kang of the Klingons, friend of Dax and favorite enemy of Kirk, hails Sulu's ship. "I see they fially gave you the captaincy you deserve," Kang says, then adds it may be a short career. Sulu blows smoke up Kang's tunic about their reason for being there ("we got lost" -- a classic line from the best dang helmsman in Starfleet history); Kang doesn't buy it, and orders Sulu to accept their escort back to the Federation side of the nebula. Sulu grins and lets Kang call the shots...for now. Janeway observes these events closely, enjoying the view, one captain to another, the student watching a living bit of history.
Valtane seems disturbed by Sulu's apparent buckling. "Captain sulu..." he says, but Sulu cuts him off. "man your station, Lieutenant, we're not giving up just yet." His eyes twinkle like those of a man he once served. As Excelsior is led out of the nebula at gunpoint, Sulu looks for options.
He asks Tuvok for a breakdown of the nebula. Tuvok reports that Cyrillium is one of the components. Sulu notes its combustible properties. "Can we light it?" Tuvok offers a way to do so. "Like tossing a match into a pool of gasoline...." Sulu muses. "Would their shields withstand the blast?" "Yes, but they'd be blind and toothless for a few seconds." Sulu accepts this. "That's all the time we need." He orders Tuvok to ready the positron ignition beam, the "match" for the Cyrillium flame.
Sulu orders them to batten down the hatches, and when they clear the nebula, they light the Kingsford nebula. Special effects ensue. The Klingons get hammered in a nice special effect. "They're not pursuing."
Excelsior resumes course to Q'onos, the Klingon homeworld. But soon, three Klingon battleships are pursuing, photons (I was pleased to see they were the film-era torpedoes) blazing. Ensign Tuvok discovers a rupture in the plasma conduit behind Valtane's station and tells his bunkie to move away--now. "Just another second," Dimitri says. Tuvok tells him he doesn't have time...But the panel blows up before he can reach him.
Tuvok kneels over the dying, charred Valtane, looks into his eyes as Dimitri calls his name, and...
And the falling girl enters his mind. This one is different, though--Tuvok seems to be experiencing this memory for the first time. Janeway can see the vision, but she also sees Tuvok's face, and she also sees something different.
In Sickbay, Holodoc and Kes note that Tuvok and Janeway are in trouble: "The engrams are destabilizing." Doc tries to break the meld, but their patterns seem to be meshed into a death- spiral. In 20 minutes, he says, Tuvok will be brain-dead. "Get me a cortical stimulator!"
Janeway tells Tuvok that she saw the girl again as Valtane died. Tuvok turns his head. "Something's gone wrong with the mind meld!" Sulu turns in the captain's chair. "Who the hell are you?" he demands, looking straight at Janeway.
* * *
Sulu calls Intruder Alert and summons security. Janeway ignores Sulu--it is just a memory, after all--and continues addressing Tuvok, trying to puzzle what's happening here. Tuvok says the damage to his mind must be severe if she can be seen, and she is now in danger as well. Sulu demands of Tuvok--"do you know this woman?" T also ignores the question. He's dying and has more important things on his ... er, mind. "I'll break the meld," Tuvok says. "No, don't-- everything seems centered around the death of Valtane."
Sulu would continue yelling, but the Klingon torpedoes finally take precedence.
Janeway wants to do one more event rewind to solve this puzzle. He tells her that if his mental deterioration continues, she will suffer brain damage too. He also says that if they step once more into the Wayback Machine, they'll still be able to see her. "Then we'll need to find a way to make me inconspicuous."
Here we go, Sherman. Two days earlier, Rand enters the room saying, "Time to defend the Federation against gaseous anomalies." She greets Tuvok, then notices Janeway and asks who she is. Tuvok reaches for her shoulder, and we see the dullest implementation of the Nerve Pinch yet filmed. Rand sighs and loses consciousness.
Then she loses her uniform.
"We could have just asked her," Janeway says, stripping Rand's tunic.
"Asking female officers for their clothing could lead to misunderstanding," Tuvok deadpans. Janeway barely avoids laughing.
Holodoc finds a way to separate the neural pathways so the meld can be broken. But he shows Kes there seem to be THREE mental engrams rather than the expected two. "But that's not possible--so it can't be an engram...it could be a sort of virus." He determines that if they cen see it, they can kill it. He starts microwaving some Starfleet grey matter.
On Excelsior, it's back to two days later but a few minutes before. (Has anyone developed a proper grammar for time travel?) Sulu orders the course change to Q'onos after the hosing of Kang's ship. Then he asks who's supposed to be at communications. Janeway tries to look inconspicuous, but it's not clear that she can even be seen.
Very shortly, the Klingons fire, Tuvok warns Valtane, then Valtane's station explodes. Tuvok goes to him yet again, and Valtane says his name. Janeway tells him to concentrate, pay close attention, this is their last chance. Tuvok closes his mind and thinks furiously.
Holodoc says the brain-nuking seems to be working, it's leaving Tuvok's mind...but the virus seems to have migrated to Janeway--Suddenly the girl is crying out to Katherine, and we see a redhead girl, young Janeway, holding on to the same girl's hand. Holodoc starts bombarding Janeway's mind. The virus returns to Tuvok, as does the name the girl cries out. Holodoc ups the voltage again...and as the virus dies Janeway sees the chain of viral hosts--soon the falling girl is calling out to Tuvok, then to Dimitri Valtane, then to a young American kid in a baseball uniform, then to a horrified young African boy in full tribal regalia. Then a long-haired Chinese kid of the first millennia. Then a Bedouin shepherd girl from the age of antiquity. Then a pelt- garbed Neanderthal boy. Then nothing.
The meld breaks. Janeway's face shows disorientation, followed by that "got a cigarette?" look I hope we see again.
Holodoc and Kes show Janeway and Tuvok the family photo of the recently-killed and long-lived viral parasite. "Its origin and genome classification are not on record," Doc notes. Kes said they were able to kill it with thoron radiation. The virus fed off brain peptides (with mint frosting?), hiding as a traumatic childhood memory most people would really rather not explore. And it fled from host to host (how?) over the centures.
"Did the girl really exist?" Kes asks. "Unknown." "Thank you doctor."
On leaving sickbay, Janeway asks Tuvok if Excelsior ultimately saved Kirk and McCoy. Apparently that part of the record is not exactly public--like most of Kirk's exploits by then, I'd imagine. "Not directly. As usual, Kirk provided his own means of escape. But we did play a pivotal role in the subsequent battle at Khitomer."
Janeway regards her friend. "Mr. Tuvok, If I didn't know you better, I'd say you miss those days on the Excelsior."
"On the contrary, I do not experience feeligns of nostalgia. But there are times when I think back to those days, of meeting Kirk, Spock and the others, and I am pleased that I was part of it."
Janeway smiles. "In a funny way, I feel like I was part of it, too."
"Then perhaps you can be nostalgic for the both of us." They step onto the turbolift for the trek
back to the bridge.
If you've read my past reviews, you've probably guessed I'm not Tuvok's biggest fan. A lot of that can be attributed to the unsympathetic portrait painted by the writers the last two seasons. I believe a lot of it was intentional. After this episode, I still do. But this view into Tuvok's past does put a lot of it into perspective.
This episode was intended to commemorate the 30th anniversary of Star Trek's first airing, and as an homage, I think it does a good job. I'm one of those who survived on syndicated reruns of the original series episodes, the occasional badly-written novel, and fanzine stuff until the first Trek film was released and the franchise rose phoenix-like from the ashes of network cancellation. We got a good long look at 23rd century Starfleet, at a pivotal moment in history--through the eyes of a disgruntled young ensign unimpressed by the knowledge that he was serving with one of the Giants of early Starfleet, a repeat savior of mankind and the universe as we know it.
Janeway's assessment of Sulu, Kirk, McCoy and the rest of the Gang of Seven is at once awestruck and critical. Consider that 80 years ago, we were in the midst of World War One. The world was a much larger place back then, but it was starting to contract severely. There were giants among the generals and politicos, heroes and villains of the air flying and fighting for the first time in history, a mere decade after the airplane had first flown on Kitty Hawk. 80 years ago, the Soviet Union didn't yet exist. 80 years later, the Soviet Union no longer exists. But for most of the elapsed time, it did, and was both our ally and our enemy. 80 years is a LONG time, and someone from this day and age would feel as out of place in 1916 as someone from that era would today. Although the White House would look remarkably similar, with the First Lady doing most of the work.... (it's a joke, I swear. I'm not being political here. I'm taking a class in Constitutional Issues and I was reading this morning about Woodrow Wilson's wife who helped him out after his stroke, and I juxtaposed. I promise, it won't happen again. Unless I think I can find a good reason to.)
In terms of Trek consistency, there are some problems with the events depicted in this episode. First, the obvious: Lieutenant Dimitri Valtane, Tuvok's bunkmate on Excelsior, dies in this episode, but in the movie "Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country," Valtane lived to see Khitomer. This is something only Trek die-hards may care about. Another inconsistently involves the Federation/Klingon peace conference, some details of which are somewhat inconsistent with Tuvok's comments on these events in "Alliances."
Most importantly...also in "Alliances," Tuvok did so bring her tea. She owes him an apology. :)
* * *
I like Sulu. Always have. Great helmsman, strong and textured character. When he got his captain's stripes in Star Trek II, I was glad to see it, though it was discouraging to have to wait for Star Trek VI to see him get the ship of his dreams. As an actor, I thought George Takei did a fine job. His wry humor and steely passion for his captured comrades came off well. I like most everything I see Takei in, anyway--he's a fine actor.
I wish I could say the same for Grace Lee Whitney, "Janice Rand." She hasn't acted much the last 30 years, and it showed in her delivery. It was nice to see her again for sentimental reasons, but I cringed at the acting. In general, the acting among the Excelsior crew was nothing to rave about. I loved the few scenes they had as a crew in STVI, but by comparison this edition of the crew is notably less impressive. Fortunately, they are not the focus of the episode, and Sulu carries the lion's share of the dialog when they do.
Michael Ansara, as Kang, had too little screen time, but what he had he played with relish. I liked the cheerful menace that played between Sulu and Kang. Valtane, likewise, was fairly convincing. He mumbled many of his lines, but he came across as a real person, and I liked that. It was sad to see him go--particularly since I remembered him living to the end of the film--but what the heck. Never let consistency get in the way of a good story. [Smile]
The special effects were impressive. They'd better be--many of them were lifted straight from the film. The explosion of Praxis always gives me a chill. The scene with the ignition of the nebula and the smacking around of the Klingon ship and the old-style photon torpedoes smacked of authenticity, at least enough for me.
The episode as a whole comes off like a small-theater play. Janeway played the fourth wall, the observer to Tuvok's memories. I liked that Janeway observed more than just Tuvok -- she took advantage of the opportunity to study one of the heroes of the original Enterprise, study his strategies and observe the crew and experience what it was like to serve aboard such a vessel among such people. And she had a good time--teasing Tuvok good-naturedly on several occasions. "You never brought me tea..." makes me laugh even now. Tuvok's jumping between observation and participation was effective, and overall I thought the technique worked.
Tim Russ was excellent in this episode. It's not easy playing an out-of-control Vulcan, and I must admit I found this interpretation easier to take than the megalomaniac of "Meld." He opened up a lot here--not just giving us the details of his life and career, but also letting us see under the surface -- the rebellious young man who resented his parents' pressure to join Starfleet, hated humans (describing them with Borg-like traits), saw only the worst in the captain he served, and could not comprehend bending or breaking the rules under any circumstances.
We learned a heck of a lot about Tuvok here. He was posted to Excelsior 80 years ago, during the events of STVI, when he was 29. (This means he was a late bloomer even the first time he entered Starfleet; Wesley was only, what, eighteen when he got in? That puts Tuvok about 7 years behind schedule.) He probably quit Starfleet at 30, married at 36 when sex interrupted his studies (ain't that a universal truth?) And fatherhood changed his mind, if not his attitude, towards humans and Starfleet. He returned to the uniform at age 80, and he's currently 109. To give Tuvok the benefit of the doubt, he said he taught at the academy for 14 years. So...let's say he rejoined starfleet as a ranked officer at age 94. That may explain why he hasn't exactly rocketed through the ranks, and would in fact bring him into a reasonable promotion track. But this is pure speculation on my part.
A little on Tuvok's complaint about the human obsession with "fun," the word made famous by a dying Jim Kirk in "Star Trek: Generations." I felt a little bit of a backhanded slap aimed at those who complain that Voyager isn't quite as "fun" as the original series or TNG. Tuvok's point, that the "fun" of the earlier series often came at the price of lives lost and wars started and cultures strong-armed into assimilation to the Federation collective, has been made before. It may be fun to watch, but after a while you're battling Greek gods and a malevolent neural network of flying turds. In terms of history, not even fisherman would believe half of it.
I find it ironic that the marvels of the 23rd century seem to be only vaguely familiar to the new breed of officers. In some of the novels, it's suggested that even among these officers, those early exploits sound a lot like "tall tales."
The 24th century is a far different place. The alpha quadrant is shrunk greatly thanks to faster warp drives and sociopolitical stability. Going into space is no longer as dangerous, nor as inconvenient. Of all the series, Voyager has the opportunity to relive some of those early voyages of Enterprise--they're in a wide-open tract of unexplored space, and the captain's pretty much on her own. Many of their 24th century conveniences are unavailable, and they're struggling to get the basics of survival, let alone to get home. Much as I like TNG and DS9, Voyager may well be the series that recaptures the spirit of the original series. We now have two ties to that era -- Tuvok, who served with them, and Janeway, who walked a mile in Tuvok's mind--and at least one character who also thinks fondly on those days and has shown a willingness to defy orders for a crewmate, Ensign Kim.
The virus was actually an interesting idea. I very much liked the flashbacks through thousands of years of human history, people of a wide range of cultures and civilization, that had been living in Tuvok's mind for 80 years. He'd been carrying one long-lived human peptide-sucking virus in his head. That'd be enough to give anyone a bad attitude. I liked the interaction between Kes and Holodoc as they struggled to battle the virus once they discovered it.
Finally: Janeway's conversation with Kim was a good opportunity to pay respect to the crew that started it all, and to point out the difference between that century and this. I know a lot of people who feel that those were the days we'd like to see more of...and part of me may agree. But like the passage of time in the Trek universe, so has time passed here. Actors age, entertainment tastes change. Those clamoring for a "Captain Sulu" television series will not gain my vote after this episode--I don't think it would be nearly as popular as the proponents would like to believe. You can't go home again, but you can forge ahead. And that's what Trek is all about.
On a 0-10 scale, I'd give this a 7.75. A solid episode, some flaws, but excellent characterization and some moments of genuine humor. And a nice look back in time, to when men were men and rules were made to be broken.
On this 30th anniversary, I propose a toast to the past, to the future, and "To the undiscovered country."
NEXT WEEK: Kim goes postal in a gladiator prison station. I wager 300 quatloos on the newcomer.