"Gravity"

[Disclaimer]

The usual. It's Paramount's playground; I'm just borrowing the equipment. Any resemblance to products, productions, novels, television shows, films, characters, public figures, celebrities, bodily fluids, et al., is purely intended for entertainment purposes.

These reviews are long, highly opinionated, and prone to digressions. They retell each episode from beginning to end in excruciating but dubiously accurate detail. If you haven't seen the episode yet and want to be surprised, run away.

But some people seem to like them, and if you don't mind your Trek with some tongue-in-cheek running commentary, hop on the fun bus and join the crowd, because Fatherly Uncle Jim's in a storytellin' mood.

[Summary]

yet another shuttle gets flushed into a crappy part of space, where Tom, Tuvok and Doc must battle the elements, aggressive aliens, their own anxieties, and young Tank Girl love.

Jump straight to the Analysis

[Breakdown]

A black Vulcan teenager with close-cropped hair strides purposefully through a dark cave. He takes careful notice of his surroundings, casting his eyes about as he walks, his robes flowing in the slight breeze. Candles mark the path, and set a tranquil mood--or would, were it not for the dark clouds hovering over the young man.

The cave opens into a large chamber filled with ancient symbols, stone altars, ritual instruments, and many more candles and braziers. The young man heads for the altar with particular interest.

A voice resonates within the echoing cave walls. "The kol-ut-shan. A cornerstone of our beliefs."

The young man turns around as a much older man emerges from the near-darkness of the corridor. He turns around and marches to close the distance between himself and the newcomer. " 'Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations.' I know all about Vulcan philosophies." His eyes blaze.

The elder man can't help but note the young man's disrespectful tone. "Why have you come here?"

"I was sent against my will!" The youngster is awfully hot-tempered for a Vulcan.

"Then I suggest you leave," says the older man imperiously.

This takes the young man by surprise. "I'm not a prisoner?"

"Only of your emotion. Or so I have been told," he adds softly.

The young gaze intensifies. "My emotions free me!" he insists. There is a familiarity to the face of the young man. The steadiness of the gaze. The hairline. The inflections. I'm not sure I can place it, though . . .

Of course, so does the Vulcan Master. He looks like the guy who turned Kirk, Chekov and Uhura into Federation Gladiators for talking omnipotent Jell-O molds to wager quatloos over.

The elder's tone betrays nothing. "I see. It's regrettable that I won't be able to teach you."

That wasn't the freedom he was expecting; it brings him up short. "Where should I go?"

"Are you seeking my counsel?"

"I...can't return home," the boy confesses, stammering a little. "My father banished me."

"Your school?" The elder prompts.

"They revoked my seat," he admits, somewhat embarrassed. Well, at least he's not limiting himself to the fun emotions. The Vulcan Master asks why, and the boy's courage of righteous indignation returns. "Because I refused to deny myself passion, the way you and men like my father do."

"You reject logic." Again, the elder betrays nothing of his own opinion.

"If I was meant to deny feelings, why was I born with them? Where's the logic in that?"

"Hidden, for you to find...or in plain sight, for you to ignore."

The young man's anger flares with accusation. "You speak in riddles because the truth frightens you!"

"You're right--it does frighten me." The Vulcan Master's rope-a-dope conversational skills throw the poor kid for a loop. He's stunned speechless. A human master would be smiling about now. "You are surprised to hear a Vulcan master admit to having emotion?" The boy confesses he is.

"Emotions can be a powerful tool. To deny their existence is illogical. But you must learn to control them."

The boy asks Why. The Master asks if he wishes to be taught. The offer clearly tempts the young man, whose eyes drop to the ground as he considers, but when he raises them again it's clear he still has defiance to burn. "I would question everything you say," the young man vows.

The Vulcan Master nods. "You would not be a worthy pupil otherwise. Let us begin."

The master gestures to the pupil. "Sit down, Tuvok." The boy sits, but with a mask of open defiance.

Yow. First Paris, then Chakotay, to a lesser extent Torres and Janeway and the independent-minded Kes and Neelix and the precocious Naomi Wildman . . . now Tuvok, too? Is Harry the only one on board who didn't start out as a rebellious kid?

But the Vulcan Master is no slouch in the formidability department.

Forty-seven quatloos against the newcomer.

* * *

Dune. Desert planet.

Well, almost. I see some vegetation, some rock outcroppings, and a buttload of crashed ships strewn about the vast barren brownish ground. Some low hills, or sand dunes, are visible off in the dusty distance.

A lone figure wends its way through the rocky terrain, wearing an ever-so-functional desert leather ensemble with headgear.

As the figure approaches the camera, we see that it is humanoid, and unmistakably female, even though the head and face are almost completely covered with desert-friendly cloth.

Or it could be Lawrence of Arabia coming home from La Cage au Folles.

Well, let's call it a she. She stops in a particularly rocky area, where she unloads her pack. Breaks out a cross between a worm thumper and a bug zapper and places it on the ground behind a couple of small stones. She then extracts a three-pronged gardening tool from the same pack, and waits.

A few seconds later, a brown spider-like creature big enough to saddle up and ride home on walks slowly into view on eight meaty legs.

A quick downward thrust. A slight screech, then silence. The woman lifts her instrument, to which the spider is now impaled. Satisfied that it is no longer moving, she tosses the creature in her bag.

A noise catches her attention. This world looks dead enough that any noise not of her own making must be out of the ordinary. She looks into the sky in time to see it open up like a bathtub drain.

But then a streak of violet bursts from it, on a course that suggests the desert spaceship parking lot of the dead has just filled another stall in valet crashing.

The woman packs up her thumper and grabs a set of alien binoculars, and within seconds homes in on the latest addition to the landscape.

A tiny little thing it is. Looking like Sgt. Murtaugh's station wagon at the end of Lethal Weapon 2, cracked and lopsided and nowhere near spaceworthy anymore.

Oh, and I'm sure this will come as a big surprise: it's got the numbers 74656 inscribed on the side. Another shuttle has joined the ranks of the retired.

Anyone want to bet Chakotay was driving? Ten quatloos against the ensign he was flying with.

*

The outside of the shuttle is bleak. But the inside shows at least some signs of life. Blinking panels, no dead bodies. Always encouraging.

The woman cautiously enters the shuttle and starts looking around. Some time has passed; it would have taken her from hours to days to reach it from when she first found it on her binoculars.

While the female window shops, Tom Paris, loaded down with stuff, enters the broken-off hatchback of the shuttle.

But he backs into the craft, so by the time he faces front he finds himself staring down the alien's weapon.

"Tun beveg!" she shouts, high pitched, alien. Paris doesn't grok. "Senn...Nebah senn?" She asks.

Paris shrugs, keeping his hands raised to show he's not a threat. "Either the universal translator's off-line or I hit my head harder than I thought," Paris says, mostly to himself.

The woman gestures with her weapon. "Ruck." Paris gets the point and moves away from the rear of the shuttle. "All right. Take it easy. Take it easy."

She gestures again--at the equipment satchel Tom is carrying. "Fitah!" Tom pleads with her; "Listen, I really need this." But she's insistent: "Fitah! Ud neetot." She waves her weapon more urgently, and her tone of voice has a definite don't-mess-with-me quality. Tom hands it over. Seconds later, weapon trained on him the whole time, she backs out of the shuttle and is gone.

Tom leans heavily against the bulkhead and sighs. "First day in town and I've already been mugged."

*

The woman high-tails it through the rocks, jealously guarding her newly-acquired booty, and her spiderific meal-to-go.

Her caution is warranted. Not long after she passes by one particularly hilly place, we see a new figure. Male. Six feet tall, easy. From that first fleeting glimpse, not too unlike a Jem'Hadar in appearance.

It begins its pursuit.

We see the woman walking, and above her on the rocks, the male alien following stealthily.

She turns around to see if she's being followed, but the male bolts behind some rocks just in time.

When she turns around, she finds herself facing another male of the same species.

Then the friend on the rocks joins in, cutting off her escape route.

Let's get rrreeady to rrrrrrummmmmbbulllll . . .

The female's eyes go wide with panic. She reaches for her weapon, but the male behind her grabs her arm. She whips around and knocks him off his feet with her supplies.

But the other knocks her down with a vicious blow.

The other regains his footing and pounces, striking her once, twice. He whips out a nasty crescent-shaped blade and prepares to do some major damage.

But a hand reaches out to block the killing blow.

Tuvok. Jacket open. Slightly dusty. But looking no worse for wear.

Sing it with me and Carl Douglas . . .

Oh oh oh hooooooh . . .

Oh oh oh hooooooh . . .

Oh oh oh hooooooh . . .

Oh oh oh hooooooh . . .

Everybody was pon farr fighting (whoo! Wah!)

Them sehlats was fast as lightning (Zinng! Pow!)

Spock thought it was a little bit frightening (Whap! Toink!)

Tuvok fought with expert timing (Oop! Ack!)

He's a funky Vulcan man who flunked his Kohlinahr

Crashed upon a barren desert world for a little R & R

Alien girl approached the ship, ripped off Tom's stuff and got the slip

Ugly-a** men got on her case till our man Tuvok smacked their face!

Everybody was pon farr fighting (whoo! Wah!) . . .

[cough] but I digress.

Yup. A guy old enough to get birthday cards from Willard Scott opened up a can of Jackie Chan drunken master whupass on those girl-bashing wiener-boys. He did it smooth, he did it without breaking a sweat, and he did it without his eyebrows betraying any emotion whatsoever. He even managed a well-placed neck pinch to finish the job. He then extends his hand to help the very surprised young woman to her feet.

It's just another day at the office for Logic Boy.

But the young woman, still on the ground, doesn't have enough trust to give him her hand.

Tuvok introduces himself. "I'm Commander Tuvok of the Starship Voyager." No response. Too much information. He points to himself. "Tuvok"

"Tuwok," the woman says a moment later. She must be from the Babwa Wawa sector. She introduces herself as Noss. This time, she accepts his outstretched hand. "We'll go to my vessel," he tells her.

Tuvok, ever the gentleman, reaches for her sack, which broke open in the fight. He can't help but recognize some of the equipment. "I see you've already been there," he says.

*

Back in the shuttle, Tom Paris tries in vain to contact Voyager. His frustration mounts at yet another attempt fails. His jacket is off; he's wearing a high-necked, long-sleeved gray Starfleet shirt.

Tuvok arrives with the young woman. Paris jumps a little, but Tuvok provides a proper introduction. "Her name is Noss. She was attacked by two humanoid males."

"You sure she didn't attack them?" Tom asks dryly. "They were attempting to rob her," Tuvok explains. "Seems to be a local pastime," Paris mutters, but his guard relaxes a bit.

Tuvok removes the woman's veil. One's first impression is that she's awfully young. What's a nice girl like you doing in a desert hellhole like this?

Besides bleeding, I mean. Tuvok tells Paris she needs some medical attention. Paris says pointedly that someone stole their med-kits. Tuvok provides them out of Noss' sack, and Tom gets to work. Then he reaches into the shuttle's emergency stores and hands her a nutrient bar, indicating by gesture that it's food.

She promptly wolfs it down. Unlike spiders, Starfleet rations don't stare at you while you eat 'em.

Paris gives Tuvok a status update on the shuttle. In a nutshell: it's dead, Jim. "Told you we should have brought the Delta Flyer," Tom can't help but add. The comm system is working, but as Tom explains, "Every time I transmit a signal, it gets bounced back by the distortion field that pulled us down here. It looks like we fell into some kind of gravity well. As far as I can tell this planet is a part of an entire solar system that is stuck in a pocket of subspace."

"Fascinating," Tuvok says. Paris chuckles. "Yeah. Well, scientific interest aside I don't see any easy way out." Tuvok removes his own jacket.

"No doubt Voyager has begun a rescue effort," Tuvok says. "The Doctor?" Paris holds the inactive portable holoemitter. "His mobile emitter was damaged in the crash. With luck, I might be able to repair it and bring him back on-line." Make it your top priority, Tuvok tells him.

"Gren, gren," Noss says. (Where's subtitles when you need one?) Tuvok breaks out a tricorder; 13 of the hostile aliens are on their way in. Tuvok makes a command decision: time to relocate.

"You think it's smart to abandon the shuttle?" Tom asks.

"Noss appears to have survived here for some time. It's logical to assume she has access to a more secure shelter."

"Nemmok. Eilen. Eilen," Noss says, motioning for Tom to follow.

Paris shrugs. "Whatever you say."

*

It's a sunny day on Tattooine. Nice day for a hike. A bit warm for the full Starfleet, though. Neither Tuvok nor Paris brought their jackets. Tuvok has his shirt partly unzipped; Tom's is all the way unzipped, showing off the crescent-moon undershirt (and an ample sample of his sweaty chest hair--I'm forced to report this on pain of retribution from the P/T 4Ever regulars, who are still hyperventilating over this image). They've been walking for a while.

"Eid kahn," Noss says at last, pointing downward to a good-sized vessel, encouragingly intact.

*

The powered doors of Noss' downed craft even work. But the one thing it won't do is fly. Paris focuses on this downside, but there is good news--some power, some life-support, and a working force field to keep away the bad guys.

"Great," Paris grumps. "We've got two unusable ships, and the only way Voyager is going to detect our distress call is if they crash-land right on top of us." But he's got more important things to worry about--getting Doc back on line. Now that he's got the luxury of time in a safe environment to work, he has the Doc back online within a few minutes.

"I'm guessing we hit a snag," Doc notes when he reappears in a completely alien surrounding. "An accurate assumption," Tuvok notes.

Noss enters with some stuff in hand, but when she sees Doc she freaks. Out comes the weaspon. "Rev din ud? Ud rev?" she screams.

"Tun sang. Ton rev ud tim seid," Doc says, without skipping a beat. Tom and Tuvok share a surprised look.

"You speak her language?" Tom asks. Doc rolls his eyes impatiently. "The universal translator was written into my program." Tom urges Doc to act as translator, and has his first question ready. "Ask her how long she's been here. If she knows a way to get back through that sinkhole." Doc does, and Noss--her happiness at having someone to talk with giving way to sadness as she tells the story--is enough to know without understanding that the news isn't good.

"She said she's been here 14 seasons," Doc says at last. "And in that time, she's seen many ships come down. but she's never seen one go back up again."

* * *

Tom Paris, keeping alive the Season of the T-Shirt, sits on his legs while he figures out how to turn on the Thumper, which way is up, etc. Once he gets past that step he gets ready with the jabbing stick. It's another sunny day on New Vulcan, and Tom's all sweaty. He readies the three-pronged poker with both hands.

A few seconds later, a spider emerges from under a rock. After the slow, tentative first few seconds, the spider gains speed. Too late, Paris brings the hammer down. Again. And again.

"Come back, you little bloodsucker!" he shouts, chasing after the thing. But it gets away. Noss laughs teasingly at Tom's pathetic hunting skills She handles her own jabbing stick like a pro.

"I don't know what's worse--catching them or eating them."

"No poison," Noss says in her Nell-like sing-song voice. She's learning English, it would appear. This suggests they've been here for a while.

"They may not be poisonous but they give me the creeps," Paris says. "Maybe I should have left the hunting to you and Tuvok."

"Let me." Noss takes the poker and lies in wait near the spider hole, moves the thumper to a different rock, chooses her moment--and pounces. When she lifts her spear, there's a spider on it.

Tank Girl to the rescue!

Paris flinches slightly at the sight of the eight-legged meal on a stick. "Looks delicious." Trying to conceal his distaste, he helps keep the sack open while she tosses the meaty morsel inside with the others. Noss slaps his back in the universal "it's Miller time" gesture and they head back to her ship.

*

Back on Noss' ship, Doc reacts with shock to something Tuvok just said. "Shut down my program? Why?"

"Our resources are severely limited. We may need your mobile emitter as a source of power," Tuvok says, moving from station to station, seeing what he can get working or salvage for parts.

Doc rears back in protest. "I'm a Doctor, not a battery!" Snarf. Good line.

But Logic Boy does have a point. "Until we are rescued or you are needed for an emergency I must insist that you remain off-line."

Paris and Noss return. "Make way for the mighty hunters," Tom announces grandly, holding up his (near-empty) sack. Doc takes the sack, looks in, and frowns. "If Mr. Paris' hunting ability is any indication, maybe we should take him off-line."

Doc's just whining, but I certainly see his side of things. In his place, I'd rather be online than not.

Paris makes a face. "Thanks for the vote of confidence, Doc."

Noss tosses her own, much fuller sack laden with dead things onto a table. "The hunt was good," she says, smiling proudly.

Tuvok nods appreciatively. "Impressive."

The return look Noss gives Tuvok is electric.

And they called it . . . puppy love . . .

*

Tuvok and Noss are doing something efficiently--whipping up a spider sauté. Exactly what doesn't matter; it's part of their daily routine. Tuvok is explaining where he came from. "Voyager has 15 decks, a crew of 152," (what, did they pick up some hitchhikers along the way? Did the Delaney sisters have matching sets of twins?) "warp and impulse engines."

"I want to see," says Noss with her girlish, new-to-the-language voice. (Think leeloo in The Fifth Element.) Tuvok doesn't discourage that line of thinking. "Someday, perhaps."

Noss, awed by Tuvok's presence, fills the lull that follows. "Tell me about you there."

"I am the chief tactical officer."

A pause. "What else?" Genuine interest.

Tuvok isn't sure he follows. "Can you be more specific?"

"Your duties, uh...Where you sleep? What you eat? Music? Friends?" She smiles shyly.

Tuvok looks distinctly uncomfortable. "Why is any of that relevant?"

Noss blinks twice. Her voice is softer, more fragile. "Because it is you."

Tuvok's expression says it all.

Did you ever know that you're my hero . . .

*

It's night. Time for the evening meal. A loaf of arachnid, a jug of brackish water, and thou. Candlelight. And stories. It's Tom's turn, and his eyes have a faraway look. "When I first met her she wouldn't even look at me." He smiles. "But she warmed up after, oh...Three years."

"The longest flirtation in Starfleet history," Doc says, ribbing him a little. Paris laughs; "No kidding."

Noss smiles. "She sounds...Fascinating," she says, looking to Tuvok for approval of the use of his favorite word.

Paris' tone grows wistful. "I just hope I see her again."

Noss gets a little misty. "You must really..." not having the words, she looks to Doc. "Bot yah jouton," she says in her native language. Doc translates. " 'Love her very much.' "

Uh oh. The L word. Tom's never said it. It's been assumed, there's been circumstantial evidence, but he's never confirmed nor denied by actual response the Big Question.

But now it's on the table. How will he respond?

Tom's whole body goes into the answer. "Yeah." And follows through. He visibly sags, knowing at this moment that he may never see her again, and feeling the weight of that loss keenly.

The collective sigh heard coast to coast actually changes the barometric pressure, causing a weather system in Terre Haute, Indiana. Rosie from Terre Haute throws in a Stevie Ray Vaughan CD.

The Sky is Cryin' . . .

It's a heck of a moment.

Noss breaks the silence by extending a greasy plate in Tom's direction. "More spiders?"

Paris laughs nervously, grateful for the change of subject. He pats his stomach. "Oh, no, thank you. Three's my limit." He gives her a thankful smile.

Noss begins gathering up the dishes. Tuvok offers to assist. Doc sighs dramatically. "Well, I suppose it's time I shut down my program . . ." in the hope that someone will protest.

Paris give Doc a warm clasp on the shoulder and a friendly, "Good night, Doc." The emitter hums, and Doc enters a state of digital dormancy.

*

Tuvok moves to a control panel where Tom Paris is already working. He and Tuvok are alone. "She likes you," Paris says casually.

Tuvok looks disquieted. "She has been alone for many years. She appreciates our company," he says neutrally.

Paris shakes his head. "No. I mean...She likes you."

Tuvok stops what he's doing. "What are you implying?" he says sharply.

"Oh, come on, Tuvok. You may be cold, but you're not blind."

"Need I remind you that I am married." He gets back to work.

Paris gets a little frustrated. "Your wife is 50,000 light-years away, in a different layer of space! The chances of you ever seeing her again are practically nonexistent."

Tuvok gives Paris a cold and dismissive look. "Excuse me," he says, and leaves Paris alone to feel like a total creep.

[Pause]

Oh, way to help, Mr. Sunshine . . . Even Vulcans need hope. But Tom means well. He's in a love-centered mood at the moment, pining after his own snuggle-muffin, and feels like playing Cupid.

One has to ask whether, if Noss had fallen for him instead of Tuvok, he'd use the same arguments to justify a here-and-now relationship. There are some differences--Voyager has to be looking for them, and nobody loves a spatial anomaly like Cap'n Kate and Seven of Nine. The loss of their tactical officer, their best pilot and their only two skilled medical officers would increase the likelihood that Voyager would not give up until they rescue the away team. B'Elanna is just on the other side of that nigh-impenetrable sky.

Getting out of their current situation is at least thinkable. But whether they do or not, Tuvok is and has been alone since he "joined" the Maquis as an undercover agent, and getting back to Voyager, as Tom says, still puts them 50,000 light years from home, up to 53 years between dates. Though if there's any chance of Voyager reaching Earth, even in 53 years, Tuvok's still young for his species; Spock at 150 looked merely middle-aged, and his dad at 200 was still robbing human cradles for wives 150+ years younger than himself. Tuvok's wife could well be waiting for him still, particularly since Doc got the message through a year before. They could have decades left together after he gets back.

Pon farr's got to kick in sometime (it MUST happen before the end of season seven, and probably should happen this year or next), and will have to be addressed sometime.

Could it be this week? Tuvok and Tank Girl? Why the early look at a young and impulsive Tuvok in the teaser? Could Logic Boy be on the verge of getting in touch with his inner teenager and dating a girl young enough to be his granddaughter?

Stay tuned . . .

[Play]

*

Paris finds Tuvok outside, working on some technology. "What are you doing?" Tom asks carefully.

"I'm recalibrating the distress beacon."

"Listen, um...What I said in there about your wife--I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings." His tone is sincerely apologetic.

"I have no feelings for you to hurt," Tuvok says after a long pause.

Tom's tone is surprisingly gentle. "I think you do. You work hard to bury them but they're there."

Tuvok says nothing. He continues to work on the beacon.

Tom presses on. "And even if they're not, this is home now. You might as well accept it and try to find as much happiness as you can. Listen, you have a chance to make a decent life for yourself here."

Tuvok looks at Paris, notes his intensity. "There is still a possibility that Voyager will rescue us. You may see Lieutenant Torres again." Whoa. Concern for Tom's feelings?

Paris is taken a little aback, in a good way. "If I didn't know you better I'd say you were trying to cheer me up, Tuvok."

"Is there a point to your pessimism?"

Paris throws his hands out. This isn't going as well as he'd hoped. "It's not pessimism. It's practicality. You of all people should understand that. Look, I've never met your wife. But if she's half a logical as you are, I bet you she'd tell you the same thing."

Tuvok tries another path to dissuade Paris' efforts. "Your attempt to play matchmaker is misguided. I am not experiencing pon farr."

Or even Jamie Farr. The irresistible need every few years to appear as a judge on the latest revival of The Gong Show.

Sorry. Couldnít resist.

"What difference does it make?" Paris says, voice rising a little. "You obviously care about Noss. If you won't admit it to me . . . at least admit it to yourself."

"I . . . respect her ability to survive." Ooh, that'll set her heart racing.

"It's more than that. I've seen the way you look at her."

Tuvok gives Paris a harsh look. "What way is that?"

Paris struggles to find the words.

At last, he finds them.

"Like someone who wishes he wasn't Vulcan." He nods with understanding and leaves Tuvok alone with his thoughts.

*

Flashback.

"I'm sorry I was born Vulcan!" Young Tuvok says intensely.

"B'elak paar. Self-pity."

Young Tuvok bristles. "Are you cataloging my emotions?"

"What is the source of your self-pity?"

"Isn't it obvious? If I weren't Vulcan, I wouldn't be here now going through this pointless ritual." Ooh. Snappish . . .

"You see only what is in front of you. You must learn to see behind you." And get a theme song.

"Another riddle!" Young Tuvok complains. "I have no eyes to see behind me." His voice is a shout.

"You have the eyes of memory--the knowledge of why you are here and why you have lost control." Fishism. "Tell me your story."

"My father's already explained it," Young Tuvok says, flushing slightly. Disappointing his father bothers him more than he is willing to say out loud.

"I wish to hear it from you."

Young Tuvok finally spits it out. "Her name is Jara."

HA! A woman. Figures. At last the connection is clear.

"Her father's a Terrelian diplomat," Young Tuvok continues. "She's been granted a seat at my school."

"And you have developed an emotional attraction toward her." Yes, the lad admits. "You love her." He cannot tell a lie--Yes. "Does she love you?"

Ummm . . .

"No," Young Tuvok confesses. "She's . . . Jara . . . Doesn't return my feelings." Never a fun position to be in.

The Vulcan Master circles the carrion of Tuvok's heart like a pointy-eared vulture. "What if I were to say that I received a letter from your father, telling me that Jara is in love with one of your fellow students?"

Tuvok's anger flares. His body tenses. His eyes are flame. "That's a lie! Who is it?!"

"Jealousy?" the elder man asks, as neutrally and emotionlessly as ever, his pedantic tone exquisite in its perfection.

More or less.

Tuvok's anger subsides, but his resolve remains. "I'll challenge him."

"That would be illogical. Because I have received no such letter."

Tuvok simmers. "You're trying to trick me."

"No," the Master says. Bygones. "I'm trying to help you to understand. Shon-ha'lock--love--is the most dangerous emotion of all. It produces many other emotions--jealousy, shame, rage, grief. You must learn to suppress them all. Otherwise, they will consume you." Apparently the Vulcan Master is well-versed in the human genres of the romance novel and the Very Special Episode.

The Master's eyes bore into the youngster. "I can sense emotions building inside you like a gathering storm. If we begin now, we may be able to stop them."

Tuvok doesn't look like he wants to stop them. It's better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.

Right?

* * *

Just in case you were wondering if we were ever going to see Voyager again . . . we do.

Captain's Log, supplemental: it's been over an hour since the shuttle disappeared from sensors.

Whoa, wait. Only an hour? We've seen at least a full day and night and another day on that planet. And the suggestion of even more time than that--Noss didn't learn even her minimal amount of English overnight.

Curiouser and curiouser . . .

Most of the bridge crew is here, as is Seven of Nine. Neelix is not. Torres is running scans from the bridge. She reports no debris detection. Chakotay suggests that maybe the shuttle got tractored or transported somewhere; Janeway orders a scan for "plasma emissions, E.M. displacements, anything that might indicate another ship."

"Nothing out of the ordinary," Harry says. "Hydrogen, helium, space dust."

"There has to be something out there," Janeway mutters. "Shuttles don't just vanish into thin air."

Be careful what you wish for. The ship gets rocked without warning. "It's a gravimetric shear," Torres shouts. Source? Janeway asks. Unknown, says Ensign Kim.

Say the words we love to hear, Cap'n.

" Red alert," Janeway says. (Ooh, yeah.) "Helm, full ahead."

We get an awesome exterior shot of Voyager getting sucked down into an angry red gravimetric space drain. Way cool.

"We're caught in some kind of subspace sinkhole. It's pulling us in!" Harry reports at the top of his voice. Chakotay adds that the gravimetric shear is increasing. Janeway orders a jump to warp, but Torres says they can't establish a field. Janeway focuses on the impulse drive, and at Torres' suggestion adds some plasma ventine (3 million isodynes) and a reversal of shield polarity.

Nothing saves your bacon like babble.

A few seconds later, the rumbling stops. Harry lets out a deep breath. "We're clear."

"Move us away. Stand down red alert. Secure all stations," Janeway orders, then stands. She looks at the forward viewscreens. "I'd say we have a pretty good idea what happened to that shuttle."

*

Astrometrics is the next logical stop. Seven of Nine has already done a rough workup of what's on the other side of the sinkhole, which she and Torres show Janeway and Chakotay on the big screen.

"The anomaly is approximately 600 meters in diameter," Seven reports.

"It's out of phase with normal space. Even after recalibrating the sensors it barely registers," Torres adds.

"The distortion circumscribes a subspace zone that includes a Type-G sun and three planets," Seven concludes.

When Chakotay asks about the shuttle, Seven admits their scans didn't pick it up. Chakotay gives Janeway a meaningful look. "I'd say it's time to break out the multi-spatial probe." (The one they built the Delta Flyer to recover back in "Extreme Risk." The one with Borg parts, nigh-invulnerable, able to go where no probe has gone before.) Janeway agrees.

The ship rocks again. "What the hell is that?" Janeway demands. Seven does a quick check of her station. "A vessel approaching off the port bow. They've locked on a tractor beam." Seconds later, Ensign Kim summons the captain to the bridge.

*

Harry's been getting to sit in the big chair a lot this year, I notice.

He's got his hands full this time. He's got an alien--the same species as those on New Vulcan beating up on Noss--on the viewscreen. "I'm only going to say this one more time," Harry says politely but firmly. "Disengage your tractor beam, sir."

"You were in danger of being pulled into the distortion," the alien insists. "You should show a little gratitude." I don't like them much more when they can talk . . .

"We appreciate your help, but we didn't ask for . . . " harry says, then exhales gratefully when the turbolift doors open. "Captain, this is Mr. Yost."

The alien bristles. "Supervisor Yost, Renovation Team Nova." Janeway introduces herself. The alien suggests--if you can call it a suggestion--that Voyager back way the heck off from the galactic sinkhole. At least until tomorrow.

"What happens tomorrow?" Janeway asks.

"The rift will be closed by then," Yost informs her. It would seem he's part of the road crew come to fill in a subspace pothole. Janeway says she's got people stuck in there. Yost says that's too bad, but anyone who goes in is basically stuck. His own people have lost 11 ships over the past year. "It must be sealed," he says. "The best we can do is to prevent others from being trapped."

Janeway isn't the type to give up so easily. In times like this, it's a definite virtue. "We can't abandon our crew. If you could delay your mission . . ."

"My orders are to seal the rift by this time tomorrow. If you want to attempt a rescue between now and then, the risk is yours to take--but I wouldn't advise it." The alien cuts off the transmission.

"Launch the probe," Janeway orders. Chakotay gets to it. Janeway then turns to Harry. "Work with B'Elanna and Seven to enhance the sensors. Do whatever you can to find Tom and Tuvok. I'll be looking for a way to counter those gravitational forces." She heads for her ready room.

*

Janeway is engrossed in her research when the door chimes. Chakotay enters. " I've been brushing up on sinkholes, quantum singularities," Janeway tells him. "All the data leads me to the same conclusion. They're mono-directional phenomena--what goes in doesn't come out."

Chakotay holds out a padd. "If it's any consolation, something's coming out of that anomaly." Janeway's interest is piqued. "What is it?"

"Telemetry from our probe." She takes the padd. "We've located the shuttle's distress beacon on a Class-D planet."

Janeway scans the data. "Vulcan, human, alien life signs. At least we know they're alive."

Chakotay's face is grim. "Keep reading."

Janeway's eyes go wide. "There's astronomical data here covering a three-month period. How is that possible?" Chakotay gives her a somber look. "There seems to be some sort of temporal differential." How big a differential? Janeway asks. "It's difficult to say, but every hour that passes for us could mean weeks, even months for Tom and Tuvok."

Janeway shakes her head. She gets up and begins to pace. "Months trying to survive in a Class-D environment? And more than likely, they've assumed that we left them behind long ago."

"Ready for the bad news?" Chakotay asks tentativly.

Janeway darn near guts him with her gaze. "You're kidding."

"The gravitational stress is increasing. Seven believes the sinkhole is on the verge of collapse. When it does, everything inside will be crushed."

Janeway is left momentarily speechless. This is not good.

* * *

Noss slaves over a hot stove, but seems rather tranquil.

We can't have that, now, can we? What say we add a little complexity to her life . . .

Ah. I know.

The door opens. Tom screams for Noss. He is half-carrying, half-dragging in an unconscious, wounded Tuvok. Tom's kinda banged up himself.

Noss springs to action, clears away an elevated section of the room that probably doubles as a dining-room table. The place has been decorated since we last saw it.

Once Tuvok is safely on the table, with Noss propping a pillow under him and holding his shoulders protectively. Paris rushes over and grabs Doc's mobile emitter. A few seconds later Doc is online. He looks at Tom questioningly, then sees Tuvok. "Medical tricorder!" Doc says, getting right to work.

Paris grabs the medical supplies. "We were ambushed," he says, still breathing hard from their escape. Doc asks for 20 milligrams of inaprovaline; Paris gets it. "They got away with a pair of resonator coils that we found," he explains.

Doc's initial prognosis is serious but survivable. "Three fractured ribs, subdural hematoma, internal bleeding." Easy work on a starship, but it won't be a quick recovery in this environment.

"Will he live?" Noss asks, concern filling her voice.

Doc gives her a look of deep compassion. "Vulcans are very resilient. He'll be fine."

While he treats Tuvok, Doc turns to Paris. "How long has it been since I was last activated?" Which suggests it's happened before. "Almost two months," Tom admits, and he sounds like he's really missed Doc's company. Noss seems nice, and he and Tuvok can banter occasionally, but I imagine they've had their Odd Couple moments. Especially if Tom kept pushing on the Noss question.

Doc's first instinct is shock. "Two months?!?" But one look at Tom and he knows not to press the point. Both know it's Tuvok who controlled that decision. Doc tries appreciate that he's back online now. "So...What's new?"

Paris tries to sound flip. "Oh, same old thing--fighting off scavengers, hunting spiders..." but the fatigue in his voice is unavoidable.

"No word from Voyager?" Doc asks. Paris has apparently already given up on that hope. "They're probably 300 light-years closer to home by now."

"I think I should remain on-line until Mr. Tuvok is fully recovered," Doc says. Part doctor's recommendation. Part plea.

Tom has no strength to argue. He clasps Doc's shoulder like an anchor. "It's good to have you back, Doc." No doubt--he means it.

*

Noss cares for Tuvok in a candle-lit part of the vessel. She's got him just where she wants him. Or will, once he wakes up. His long sleeved shirt is finally all the way off, leaving him in a tank top.

Eventually, Tuvok does come to. He groans and tries to sit up.

Noss holds him back. "Rest."

"How long was I unconscious?" Tuvok asks weakly. "Too many hours," she tells him. "Mr. Paris?" he asks. "He'll be fine," she assures him.

Noss sighs. "I was afraid. It is good to see your eyes."

Tenderly, slowly, she leans in close, and gives him a kiss.

It lasts only a second or two. Tuvok pushes her away. "Don't," he says, still weak--and not just physically. It took a lot of effort for him to break that contact.

Noss' voice cracks a little. "I only want . . . to show you how I feel." She leans in again--but Tuvok grasps her hand with a strength she cannot overcome.

Noss is more than a little surprised. "You . . . You-you feel n-nothing for me?" Tear begin to form.

Tuvok's eyes and words don't exactly match. "I told you I don't experience emotion. I have developed an . . . appreciation and respect for you--nothing more."

Bullstuff. We wouldn't be getting these flashback scenes if that were so. He may be Vulcan, but he's only human. Oid. He can resist the temptation, but his argument that he's not even tempted is not persuasive.

But poor young Noss cares nothing about that. All she knows is that her affection is not returned. "Nothing?" she asks tearfully. Each of his words are like daggers to her heart.

"I am sorry. I cannot return your affection."

Noss gets a little angry. "You cannot? Or you will not?"

"A minor distinction," Tuvok says, retreating into familiar territory.

Noss gets mad. "Logic! I hate logic!" She stands up, furious.

"Your emotions will only exacerbate the situation." (This works as well for Vulcans as it does for humans, I'm happy to see. You'd think a guy who was married for 60+ years would know women a little better . . .)

"Shevrot kass!" she shouts at him, their faces inches apart. Sounds obscenely biological--not to mention painful.

"Insulting me will not help," Tuvok reminds her.

"Derot oraht!" Noss stalks off, the stinging tears evaporating rapidly in the angry flush of her cheeks.

*

Back on Voyager, Seven of Nine and Torres have an idea.

"We can use the multi-spatial probe as a transporter relay," Seven suggests.

"It'll take a little time to reconfigure the targeting scanners but, with a little luck, it should work."

Whether or not they like each other, Torres and Seven of Nine have really begun to work well together, I've noticed.

"Any reason we can't use the same relay to send a com signal?" Janeway asks. "I don't see why not," Torres says. Janeway tells her to send an advance message, "Let them know that help is on the way."

Ensign Kim summons Janeway to the bridge. Plot complication ahead . . .

*

"They've started ahead of schedule," Harry tells the captain. Janeway tells him to get in touch with Yost. "It was my understanding you wouldn't begin for another six hours," she tells the alien when he comes online.

"We're ready now," Yost says.

"Well, we're not. We need at least another two hours to make a rescue attempt."

"I'm sorry," Yost says--though somehow I doubt he means it. The channel is closed on his end.

Janeway asks how long they've got before the rift is sealed. Thirty minutes. Janeway sets her jaw. "Then that's all we've got."

*

It's a very hot day. Tuvok meditates on a rock shelf, still in the tank top. It would have taken a hearty effort to get up there, as we see when Tom Paris comes after him. He's out of breath before he even makes it to the top, shouting at Tuvok.

"I am meditating, Mr. Paris," Tuvok says harshly.

"I don't care!" Tom says, his tone even more scolding.

"I trust there is an urgent reason for your lack of courtesy."

Paris finally reaches the slab of rock. "You're damn right there is. What did you say to her?" he demands.

"Our conversation was private," Tuvok says, clearly not wanting to talk about it.

"Well, whatever you said, she's talking about leaving. Going off by herself because it's too painful to be around you!"

"She is under the influence of unfettered emotions," Tuvok says. Well, duh. Love's funny that way sometimes.

After all this time on planet, Paris no doubt feels as protective of Noss as he does for his crewmates, and he's clearly upset that she's so upset. "Well, maybe you're able to 'fetter' your emotions, but the rest of us don't have that luxury. She is a living, breathing woman who for reasons that I can't begin to fathom has fallen in love with you! Now, if you're incapable of returning her feelings, at least show her some compassion!" He softens his tone a little. "Try to let her down easy," he pleads.

"There is no easy way to recover from infatuation," Tuvok insists, and his tone suggests he speaks from experience.

But Tom has a hard time believing that. "Oh, really? And what do you know about infatuation?"

Tuvok hesitates. "More than you might imagine." He refuses to look at Paris. Tries to leave the rock.

Paris cuts him off. "Enlighten me!" he insists.

Tuvok digs in. "I have no intention of continuing this conversation any further." He again tries to leave the rock, but Tom has decided that he will make his stand. Again, he cuts the Vulcan off. There is nowhere for Tuvok to go but down, and even Vulcan resiliency would have trouble recovering from such a leap.

But he seems to consider it.

"No, no! Come on, Tuvok. Come on! It's just you, me and the rocks!" A demand for understanding, if nothing else; perhaps he can explain things to Noss if Tuvok himself cannot.

Tuvok finally succumbs to the inevitable. "When I was a young man, I experienced an emotional attraction toward a woman. It nearly destroyed me."

Paris drops his confrontational tone. "Your wife?" he asks, neutrally.

"No," Tuvok confesses, refusing to look at Tom. "Her name was Jara, a Terrelian female."

It takes him a long time to add, "I would have violated every tenet of Vulcan philosophy simply to be near her."

After a three-year pursuit of B'Elanna, Tom can no doubt relate. "She must have really been something." He knows enough about Vulcans to know how devastating such an experience could be, if just getting him to talk about it takes such effort.

Tuvok continues. "I lost all sense of who I was. The emotional attraction I felt for her became a kind of . . . insanity." (This actually DOES sound like a plot from a recent Ally McBeal . . .)

Paris treads carefully. "Tuvok, everyone feels a little insane when they fall in love . . . but it's worth the risk!" Pon farr, after all, is ritualized Vulcan insanity, a healthy and necessary way to get a logic-obsessed emotion-shunning people to lose it every few years, go crazy, get married and get busy producing the next generation. Love is primal, and even among the most cloistered species, there's got to be some sort of outlet, if for no other reason than to keep the species alive.

When you're a teenager with the first stirrings of biochemical upheaval changing your voice, putting hair under your arms and redirecting bloodflow southward for no reason, temporary insanity is darned near inevitable. And if you're Vulcan . . .

"For you, perhaps," Tuvok tells Tom. "But I am Vulcan. My natural emotions are erratic, volatile. If I don't control them, they will control me." Oh, hey, I can relate.

"Whatever happened to Jara?" Tom asks.

"I . . . chose to leave her. I spent several months in isolation studying with a Vulcan Master. I learned to suppress my emotions."

Tom Paris closes his eyes. Part of him can no doubt relate. Certainly his own childhood was plagued by more than his share of emotions he'd as soon forget. But is the freedom from pain worth the denial of pleasure? "Too bad," he says at last, and in his eyes it's clear he means it.

But at least he knows what's going on now, and will probably be able to smooth things over with Noss.

The sky distorts. It's a beautiful outdoor shot, the two guys on the ledge with the swirling sky above them. I can't possibly say it often enough--the special effects have been truly outstanding the past couple of seasons, particularly in the more subtle ways than blowing stuff up. Realistic shots like this are not easy.

"Gravimetric distortions," Tuvok says. "What's causing them?" Tom asks. "Unknown."

*

Twin lances of energy assault the angry red sinkhole.

"No response to our hails, Captain," Harry reports. The ship is on red alert with Yost's people nearby and her away team in trouble.

"At this rate, their anti-graviton beam will seal the distortion in approximately 29 minutes," Seven says.

"Transporter status?" Janeway asks Torres, who says that they'll only be able to make one transport. Chakotay says they can bring everyone out, but they'll have to be within two meters of the distress beacon.

Janeway tells Harry to open a channel to the beacon. Time to send a message. "Voyager to away team . . ."

*

The distress beacon begins to blink.

Inside Noss' ship, Noss and Tuvok and Paris and Doc are all present. "What is it?" Tom asks. Tuvok says they're receiving a transmission. Paris asks Noss if she can retrieve the message through her systems.

Paris does the heavy lifting. A low hum is heard. "If I'm right, this message was sent almost nine hours ago in a very slow carrier wave," he says. Doc asks if they can speed it up, and Tom says he'll try.

He succeeds. Slowly, the hum increases in pitch until it becomes semi-recognizable. Then a lot recognizable. Then Janeway's voice is unmistakable. "voy-a-ger to . . . away team. A transporter beam with a radius of two meters will activate at the coordinates of your distress beacon in exactly 30 minutes."

Doc reacts with dismay. " '30 minutes'? That would have been over eight hours ago!" Paris shushes him. "There's more."

Be advised we've detected a temporal difference between our two positions. According to our calculations, the differential ratio is .4744 seconds per minute. Repeat: Voyager to away team: a transporter beam with...

I knew they'd get a 47 in there somewhere.

Tuvok whips out his tricorder and starts making calculations. "According to that formula, 30 minutes would translate to two days, 11 hours and 47 seconds."

Wow--they're spoiling us this week.

"Well, we've waited this long," Doc says. After however many months they've been here, the light is finally visible at the end of the tunnel.

Noss, though, looks worried. Tom," she says, looking through her binoculars.

Tom borrows them.

They've got company. Nearly a dozen of Yost's people are on their way in. They look like they want to borrow some stuff.

And they don't look like they'll take no for an answer.

* * *

Our heroes watch as one of the aliens approaches the forcefield with an unpleasant looking device. He runs away. A few seconds later . . . boom.

"The force field is holding," Tuvok says after crunching the numbers.

"Not for long if they keep pelting us with these photon grenades," Paris says sourly.

"How are we supposed to hold them off for two more days?" Doc wonders aloud.

*

"The rift will be sealed in less than two minutes," Seven of Nine reports.

"Move us into range," the captain orders the female helm officer. "Stand by for transport," Janeway orders.

Torres acknowledges. "Yes, ma'am."

What was that crack Q made a few years ago about "ship of the Valkyries"?

*

"The force field is losing power," Paris says. "Time?"

"We still have another hour before transport," Doc says.

Tuvok notices that Noss is heading out the door of the ship. He stops her. "Where are you going?"

"To repair the field generator," she says. "I will accompany you," he says.

"No. You stay. Prepare for the attack."

Tuvok's tone is almost a plea. "You can't go alone."

"Risking two lives . . . Would be illogical."

Tuvok watches her go.

What a woman.

*

"We're in transporter range," Chakotay reports.

"Link up with the probe and relay the signal," Janeway orders. Torres says she's got a lock on the beacon.

"They're supposed to be ready for transport in 32 seconds," Janeway says to nobody in particular. "Let's hope they don't stand us up. Begin 20-second countdown on my mark."

Janeway pauses. Waits for her moment.

"Now."

*

"We've got less than ten minutes to transport," Doc says with rising panic. The aliens are getting much closer now.

"Where the hell is Noss?!" Paris shouts.

The ship is rocked by weapons fire.

Tuvok goes after her.

*

Noss works on the shield generator. Two of the aliens pound against the energy barrier, further weakening it, until finally the field collapses. They rush her, blades at the ready.

Noss gets off one shot, flattening the first alien. But the second closes the distance before she can fire again.

*

Torres counts down. "15 seconds. 14 . . . 13 . . ."

*

Tuvok arrives just as the alien lifts its blade high for a killing blow on the fallen Noss. His phaser ends that threat for good.

He rushes over and puts his hand protectively on her hip, leaning in close to help her to her feet.

Noss smiles broadly. "Tuvok . . ."

"I could not leave you behind," he tells her.

He practically carries her back to the vessel in his bare, manly arms.

*

"Nine . . . Eight . . . Seven..." Torres counts.

*

"Now, Mr. Paris!" Doc shouts, tricorder in hand. I suppose he means that the transport is to start now.

But Tom's still trying to reestablish the forcefield under the barrage of weapons fire.

One alien enters the ship and enters into some hand to hand with Paris.

Tom doesn't exactly prevail, though he manages to push the crescent dagger-wielding alien away from him.

Which sets up a perfect shot. Thanks to Tag Team Tuvok and his phaser of persuasion, the alien goes down.

"Hurry," Paris orders. Doc and Tom, Tuvok and Noss, stand around the circular distress beacon.

And wait.

*

"Four . . . Three . . . Two. . ."

"Initialize transport sequence," Janeway orders. "Energize."

*

Before another alien can arrive to spoil the going-away party, the four sinkholed explorers return to sender in that welcome blue sparkle.

*

"We've got them," Harry announces from the transporter room.

Four figures appear. "Welcome back," Harry says.

That surprises Harry enough. But the big shock is that the stranger is attached to Tuvok in a more than casual embrace. "Who...?"

"A friend," Tuvok says, not elaborating.

Harry gets one of those looks on his face. He just smiles and keeps his comments to himself, and makes plans about who he'll tell first to start the rumor mill churning.

Meanwhile, the undershirted Tom and Tuvok, the leather-clad veil-wearing Noss and the as-always impeccable Doc stroll out of the Holodeck and into the nearest shower.

None of that wussy sonic stuff, neither. After three-plus months, a shower and a change of outfit is definitely called for.

As they step into the corridor, even the Bolian holds his nose.

*

Commander Tuvok, personal log, stardate 52438.9. We are en route to Noss' homeworld. As I prepare to say good-bye, I find myself experiencing a certain discomfort.

"Tuvok!" Paris hurries to catch up with Tuvok in the corridor on the way to the transporter room. "Weird day."

"Problems?"

"I've spent the last two months wondering if I'd ever see B'Elanna again. As far as she's concerned it's only been two days. I guess I expected her to have missed me, too." He's griping, but I'm sure he wouldn't trade this particular problem for the ones he had just hours earlier.

"Were it not for the time differential I'm sure she would have experienced a deep sense of loss," Tuvok says, with minimal irony.

Tom stops him. "You know something? I always thought that beneath that . . . cold, Vulcan exterior lay a--" Words fail him. "An even colder Vulcan interior. But now, I'm convinced you're a hopeless romantic." He slaps and kneads Tuvok's shoulder like an expert masseur, or a drunk declaring the jukebox his new bestest [hic] friend.

Tuvok rolls his eyes. "There is no need to insult me, Mr. Paris." He enters the transporter room, with Tom following, suppressing a smirk.

Neelix and a transporter crewman are here with Noss. "Oh, here they are now!" Neelix says cheerfully. "I was just getting Noss' recipe for sautéed spiders. She told me how much you enjoyed them."

Tom's laughter has a distinct undertone of not-even-in-jest. "Let's just say it's an acquired taste," he says diplomatically. He might even look forward to Neelix's cooking for a change.

"Bye, Tom," Noss says. She gives him a hug. Now, there are hugs, and there are hugs. This is one of those hugs that sonnets are written about--that can come only from absolute trust and affection. Unreserved gratitude and affection and farewell. No hidden agenda.

That ain't even acting. You can't fake a hug like that. It's the perfect goodbye between two people who would likely not have survived without each other.

The hug ends. Paris tells Neelix and the crewman to come with him, to let Tuvok and Noss say their goodbyes in privacy.

"I'm sorry," Noss tells him. "For what?" Tuvok asks.

"I know how difficult this was for you . . . for us. I just wish things had been different."

Tuvok lets his guard down. "As do I."

And then, something amazing happens. He puts his hand to Noss' face. Aligns his fingertips on her temple, cheek, forehead, chin.

Noss' eyes flutter shut. Her eyes move rapidly under her closed lids. She breaks into a beautiful smile. When she opens them at the conclusion of the meld, we can see the change in her eyes. Noss sighs. "I understand. Thank you."

Tuvok, taking her hand, leads Noss to the transporter platform, and takes the controls himself. He raises his hand in the Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Noss."

Noss barely manages to keep the tears in check. She breathes deeply. Her voice cracks a little. "You, too."

A final lock of the eyes, and then she is gone.

Tuvok stares at the empty platform a long time.

*

Later, we see Tuvok in his quarters, in his meditative robes, in the familiar meditative position. All lights are off, the only illumination coming from the single flame of the Kes lamp. He appears to be at peace--or headed in that direction.

*

Young Tuvok looks serene for the first time. Serenity now.

We hear the voice of the master. "Infinite diversity . . ."

"In infinite combinations," Tuvok says. The tremble in his voice is almost completely gone. The voice hints at the evenness of a soul in firm control of his emotions.

"Your training is now complete. You have done well," the Master says.

"Thank you," Tuvok says neutrally, but with a flash of pride in his eyes--quickly suppressed.

"You are now prepared to return to the world. Grief, anger, fear, and especially love, will never threaten you again."

"I am . . . " Tuvok's eyes lower to the ground. A hesitation. A wavering control.

Soon reasserted. "Grateful," he concludes.

The Vulcan Master watches his pupil gather his robes about him, and walk alone out of the chamber and into the barely-lit corridors of the cavern.

[Analysis]

The first thing that comes to mind with the episode is the performances, which really stood out. I give earnest high-fives to Russ, McNeill, and Petty.

This episode appears to be the antithesis of "All our Yesterdays," the episode where Spock and McCoy go back in time (not of their own volition) and Spock turns proto-Vulcan with Mariette Hartley while Bones gives him grief.

Here, Paris encourages Tuvok to consider a new life with the only woman around, who happens to be crazy about him. But we learn that in his own teenage past Tuvok did the Neanderthal Spock thing until a little Vulcan Tough Love burned all the free-range emotions out of him. And now he's got a serious fear of commitment with anyone but his wife, who holds the keys to his pon farr anxiety closet.

Vulcans live upwards of two centuries on average. Even at the relatively young age of 109 (give or take a couple years), Tuvok's got a good century of productive life ahead of him. He may be in better shape than most of his human colleagues by they get home. He's already put a good five or six decades into his marriage. Vulcans have legendary patience, so even a full-length trip home (unlikely, at the rate they're progressing) would not necessarily hurt his relationship.

Well, I guess we'll know for sure when pon farr hits, as it must--and soon. If they go an entire seven-year run without even a mention of Tuvok's inevitable but forgotten Blood Fever, someone's gonna have some 'splaining to do. (Not that it has to be the focus of an episode, but it's an event some fans would be particularly interested in noting.)

Nevertheless, as a big fan of faithful monogamy, I certainly respect this decision here. Considering the, er, gravity of their situation, it couldn't be an easy decision, especially when they thought that Voyager was several months away and that this was their new home. Noss is a sweetheart, and she clearly cares about Tuvok, and he just as clearly has feelings for her.

But having lost himself to love before, as we are shown, the lessons learned then still hold today.

*

Vulcans are an ill-understood species. We get lots of jokes and references about "live long and prosper" and "logic" and "fascinating." Less often we hear about pon farr, plomeek soup and vegetarianism, though Tuvok's not above the occasional carnivore buffet if that's all there is, whereas Spock was downright religious about his food choices.

The concept of emotions and Vulcans has also been somewhat less than slavishly consistent over the years. Is it a matter of nature or nurture?

In "All our Yesterdays," Spock reverts to a meat-eating, pleasure seeking pre-logical Vulcan, simply because they've gone back in time to before the great Reformations of Surak. Not to be too picky about it, but in the same episode Kirk went back to Puritan Salem, and he didn't start saying "thee" a lot or checking to see if witches weigh the same as a duck. And McCoy didn't revert to humanity's Bronze Age sensibilities. Why the relative age of the universe would have anything to do with Spock's attitude is beyond me. He's still the same guy, the company he's keeping is relatively mellow. But episodes like that were more conceptual than, um, logical.

We saw Spock lose his grip on his emotions only a few times. A brief glimpse when he realized Kirk was still alive at the end of "Amok Time," that might have had something to do with the last gasps of the pon farr. Under the influence of some alien poppy plants, which turned him into a girl-wooing hedonist. (Can't remember the episode. "Party time"?) Under the influence of alien sweat, which made him cry a lot while doing math in his head, in "Naked Time." (Apparently if there's something time-related in the title, Spock's equanimity is screwed.)

Things seem to work a little differently for Tuvok. First, he's a full-blooded Vulcan; Spock, as a half-human, often had to out-Vulcan the other Vulcans just to earn mere mild disapproval from his father. Second, Spock was apparently vulnerable to temporal fluctuations in his mental controls; Tuvok usually only has trouble when a meld goes bad. Spock typically claimed that Vulcans didn't have any emotions at all (but the past-based episode suggests that they did have them once, and pon farr more than hints that the emotion is just stored up every seven years and then released in an apocalyptic mating ritual). Tuvok's version of Vulcanness suggests--with some consistency--that this emotional control is more a learned behavior. ("Innocence," for example).

This episode expands on that idea, which makes more sense than the Spock version. Vulcan emotions are powerful things; Tuvok's darker thoughts were deemed highly marketable among the black-market thought race ("Random Thoughts"). With his mental controls inactive, Tuvok managed to out-freak a Betazoid sociopathic killer, and he had to reestablish his control from scratch.

Perhaps it's just the age in which they were written. We want more explanations these days. So we wrap up Vulcan philosophy in more explainable terms than were needed in Spock's day. Back then, Spock getting zapped by some funny flowers and suddenly feeling romantic, well, that was back around the days of Woodstock. Tuvok's more a 90's kind of Vulcan--older, in some ways wiser, staying away from the smitten women young enough to be his interns, no matter how great the temptation.

The important thing here is that Noss' affection IS a temptation for Tuvok. He cannot help her feelings for him. But he thinks his feelings for her are his concern, and we see the flashbacks to a time when his feelings for someone else became a great concern to his family and society in general. He allowed love to consume him, to lead him to spit in the face of Vulcan society and philosophy all for the (unrequited) love of a woman. An alien woman at that.

Funny how nobody gives Sarek grief for his recurring case of Terran Fever, isn't it? Not really; Sarek has his emotions in relative control. He doesn't become a full-throated heretic when he runs into a human who catches his fancy. Tuvok, as a teenager who hasn't yet hit his first pon farr, is simply infatuated. He loses his mind with young lust.

Can't say I can't relate.

It's a common theme in literature. Boy meets girl, girl think boy has cooties, boy goes on shooting rampage to impress girl, which for some odd reason works about as well as the Van Gogh method of mailing severed body parts to his love interests. Keeping kids on the Straight and Narrow has been a challenge ever since the days of Cain and Abel. It would seem that Vulcans aren't all that much different growing up.

Some of them, anyway.

So Tuvok has a defining moment in his late adolescence. He falls for the exotic alien girl in his class. Falls hard. Gets all emotional about it. Revels in the antisocial quality of his behavior, even though the object of his affections does not return them.

Tuvok was a Rebel without a Date.

That no doubt made his antisocial behavior worse.

Time for some Tough Love.

Tuvok gets sent to a Vulcan Master for a little reeducation. It was encouraging to see some voluntary aspect to it, though Tuvok didn't have a whole lot of options at the time. But leading Tuvok to make the decision to be there, rather than allowing Tuvok to enter his studies "under duress" was important.

The Master told him the truth rather than feed him the Official Line, that emotions are simply unacceptable. There are those who will question everything. So he is straight with the kid. Even Vulcan Masters have emotions. They even fear the stronger ones, like love, for their destructive potential. To be in control of one's emotions is not to deny their existence, but to acknowledge their power, and to deny it to them.

Doc has said more than once how unhealthy that seems from a medical standpoint, but Vulcans seem more content and less hostile than their emotional Romulan cousins, which is a good thing.

Isn't it?

*

Poor Noss. She meets Tuvok under circumstances that would make Tuvok really attractive--he saved her life. That's gotta make anyone look good.

Tuvok is kind to her. He's a gentleman. Tom's responsible here, but his clumsy spider-catching efforts don't exactly make him a prime mate in this Darwinian environment. Tuvok makes a far more likely Alpha Male.

But Tuvok turns her down. Not because her offer isn't tempting. But precisely because it IS. That way lies madness. The Vulcan Master drilled that into him all too thoroughly.

This approach shows the downside of it, especially when dealing with non-Vulcans; "I hate logic!" Noss yelled as she left the room in tears after being rebuffed. Vulcan emotional mastery helps out the Vulcans, but it can wreak havoc on the people who love them.

And it's not without its toll on the Vulcans themselves. The bookmarks, of Young Tuvok at the beginning and end of his logical journey, show him coming to grips with his mental control. But despite all his training, there's still just a hint that it's not gone entirely.

Because it never can be. The difference between Young Tuvok and Old Tuvok is that when he was younger, he gave control to his emotions until his father intervened. Now, he gives control to his control, diving into Vulcanness to avoid intimacy.

Ironically, just before Noss parts, Tuvok gives her the most intimate encounter known to Vulcans--a mind meld. He didn't even ask, which is awfully rude. He shared a bit of himself with her, which is much of what she wanted from him--to share a bit of his life with her.

Theirs may have been a purely platonic relationship (not unlike J/C) but Tuvok and Noss still shared something special. They saved each others' lives. Ultimately, he gave her her life back on her home planet. In between, they cooked together, hunted together, swapped stories of home. Became friends.

*

Paris' role is interesting here. He plays the "matchmaker." He doesnít always do it smoothly, but he shows a concern for both Tuvok and Noss that is touching, and darned good to see. He exhibits maturity and an understanding of the situation that Tuvok eventually finds he can learn from.

He's still Tom, of course--not a great hunter, complaining about the food. But he is also an indispensable member of the team over time. He saves Tuvok from an attack. He handles technical duties, gets the Janeway message, and holds his own in battle. He keeps hope alive, even when his fatigue is evident.

Good man in a storm. And compared to his mostly-sniping reactions to Tuvok in "Once Upon a Time," his banter with Tuvok, and his more serious discussions, rang very reasonably here. This was a Tom I wouldn't mind going down with the ship with.

*

We get several tales of love here. Young Tuvok's one-way crush on "Jara." Mature Tuvok's marriage to his wife T'Pel. Noss' crush on old Tuvok.

And of course Paris and Torres.

The big news for P/T fans is that Paris actually admitted loving Torres, out loud. We've known it, yes, but someone finally said "you love her," and he said "yeah." He missed her, but had hope of seeing her again. He never hit on Noss, though logic dictated that he was a better match for Noss than Tuvok was. I'm proud of him; he apparently didn't even think about it.

*

the time-dilation aspect of the pocket of space they found themselves in allowed for stuff to happen that couldn't have otherwise. Losing two days of their journey was worth it to get doc, Tuvok and Tom back. But they wouldn't have stuck around town for four months or more doing a system-wide search. Letting the away team have a long stay while the mothership only notice hours also allows for that amusing encounter in the corridor at the end, the very lonely Paris no doubt looking very forward to his homecoming, and Torres thinking, "I didnít miss you THAT much." How could she? Snicker.

*

One weakness I saw. They never got to know the aliens. Never captured one, got to know them, tried to halt hostilities. Being Starfleet, you expect them to at least make the effort. I still remember a Trek novel, Kobiyashi Maru, that referred to a cadet exercise: essentially a massive game of Capture the Flag with a virtual body count, a competitive exercise inside a space station between teams of cadets. Chekov is determined to lead his team to victory, to kick butt and take names, but gets a lower score than he'd hoped for. He learns that only one cadet has ever earned top marks in the exercise--James T. Kirk. What Kirk did was set up security perimeters, organizing his group, making treaties with other groups, not letting anyone die within his sphere of influence. Cadet Chekov had been determined to be the top dog in the junkyard, the sole survivors of absolute anarchy. Cadet Kirk had taken anarchy and forged order.

Starfleet liked Kirk's approach better. Fight if you must, but avoid fighting when you can. The best battles are the ones you never have to fight. The best way to remove an enemy threat is to make him your ally.

There's no doubt Tuvok can fight; he's spent most of his life studying the martial arts and police and military work. But diplomacy isn't high on his list of talents. Though he has his moments. I, for one, like Tuvok a lot more these days; the first few years I didn't like him much at all. But as with most characters, growth and development and maturity is a lifelong process, and he's not all the way there yet.

Which is good. Makes plenty of room for new stories.

*

As I said earlier, the performances were terrific. McNeill, Russ and Petty made this episode fascinating. The guy who played Young Tuvok did pull off a lot of Tuvok's characteristics and inflections of voice. The guy who played the Vulcan Master is a TOS veteran, playing Head Thrall in one of my favorite cheeseball episodes, "The Gamesters of Triskelion." As one friend said, "he looked old in 1968. He doesn't look much older now. Maybe he IS Vulcan." But he was an interesting character, and it was fun watching him instill Vulcan wisdom into his rebellious pupil.

*

All in all, an okay episode. I didn't thrill over it the way some did because of the all-important Tom Paris moments (says he loves B'Elanna, shows off his chest hair), but I acknowledge them, and I appreciated the strong character-focused drama, the genuineness of the emotions.

Call it * * * 1/2.

Next week: is that big blue marble really Earth, or just a gigantic ravenous space creature's uvula?

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Copyright © 1999 Jim Wright

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Last Updated: February 7, 1999
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