The following is a SPOILER Review. I tell you pretty much everything that happened in the episode, so if you want to be surprised when you finally see it, leave now. Otherwise, welcome aboard, pull up some shuttle debris and enjoy the ride.
I rate each episode based on how much I enjoyed it. I don't claim to be accurate or objective. But with luck, you'll enjoy yourself along the way.
So kick back and roast up a s'more. You may want to hit the bathroom first, because this is a long one. Fatherly Uncle Jim's got a story for ya, which may or may not resemble the episode that actually aired.
Tuvok and Torres discover they have something in common. Neelix falls for another short, cute, young blonde.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
Captain's log, Stardate 51367.2: We've spent the last three days on the Mari homeworld. It's been a while since we've had the opportunity to make new friends and the crew seems to be making the most of our stay.
A beamed-up Tom Paris, carrying a heavy shrink-wrapped bundle with both hands, runs into a departing Neelix in the transporter room. Paris tells Neelix it's a present for B'Elanna, but its contents are personal.
"Say no more," says Neelix. "I'm on my way for a little romantic rendezvous myself."
Paris begins sniffing around the Talaxian. Whatever his nose is telling him, it's not good news.
"Neelix...are you wearing cologne?" he asks when he finds the malodorous Ground Zero. The transporter officer in the background winces sympathetically.
Neelix says it's Talchok musk. "Very enticing scent, don't you think?"
"Well, uh, it certainly is...musky." (Not to say musty, funky, or stanky.)
Neelix says he's going down to see Talli again. Fast work, notes Paris, who asks for details of the date. Neelix admits he's still in the pre-date quadrant, but he has a plan. "I'm going to visit her shop under the pretext of buying some produce for the ship--and then I thought I'd just sort of segue smoothly into some dinner and dancing." Tom, smiling, compliments his strategy.
Neelix smiles as well, then shifts his feet nervously, hoping Paris isn't just saying that. "You really think so? I mean...you used to be quite the ladies' man."
Paris' smile fades; his jaw drops. "'Used to be'?" he asks, genuinely hurt.
"I mean, of course, you're involved now," Neelix explains, backpedaling from the frying pan into the fire. "You won't be availing yourself of all the beautiful, fascinating and very open-minded Mari women."
"Neelix--are you trying to depress me?" Paris asks--but the gleam is back in his eye. He may no longer be a ladies' man, but he's still his lady's man, and seems comfortable in that choice. He doesn't look even slightly tempted by the affections of the local wimmens.
Neelix admits to Paris that he hasn't been with anyone since Kes (they mentioned her name!!!) And he's desperate for advice. Paris smiles kindly and says the best advice is simply to "be yourself." Neelix takes it gratefully and steps on the transporter pad.
"Actually...that's the second best piece of advice," Paris admits. Neelix asks about the first. Paris hesitates, looking for the kindest way to say it. "Go a little easier on the musk."
The transporter officer fails to suppress a grin.
On the surface of the Mari homeworld--a clean, modern place you'd expect the crew to feel comfortable in--the local culture beckons. Some rest and relax. The senior officers, naturally, conduct business, though in a less formal setting.
Janeway and Torres are haggling over the price of a resonator coil with someone named Mr. Guill, who looks a little like Jarod on The Pretender. As we join them, Janeway makes her "final" offer.
Guill says, "Actually, Captain, I sense you'd be willing to raise your price to 300 Renns. Lieutenant Torres needs this resonator coil to upgrade Voyager's communications systems."
"Telepaths," Torres mutters, arms crossed; haggling with telepaths is hardly fair, especially when they don't hesitate to read your mind. But her irritation is feigned, and her frown dissolves into a smirk.
Janeway just smiles. "Wait a minute," the captain says, affecting a trance-like state. "I sense you'd be willing to--settle for 250!"
Guill chuckles at the captain's spunk. "You must have read my mind," he says, laughing, and holds out his hand as Janeway begins counting the local currency in her hand. Torres smiles broadly at the exchange; we can even see teeth. She's in an uncommonly good mood.
A man in blue walks by and bumps into B'Elanna, hard enough to spin her around a bit. She yells Hey! But she doesn't do more than glare and half-ball her hands into fists. The other guy apologizes immediately and sincerely, and Guill checks on his customer as Torres exerts the effort to wrestle her rages to trembles. Her few deep breaths and Guill's soothing voice and comforting (and restraining?) hands on her shoulders are enough to do the trick. "I just wish people would look where they're going," Torres says, the anger fading with each word.
Bumping into B'Elanna is bad. Check.
The crisis averted, Guill returns to Janeway and completes the transaction. Janeway tells Torres to get Neelix as she resumes paying the merchant with shiny bits of shaped metal.
Neelix is standing a few feet from Talli, the Mari apple of his Talaxian eye. She's shortish, young, blonde (hair kinda short and almost elfin), large eyed...in short, she bears a passing resemblance to Kes.
There are differences, of course. Those melons she's patting, for example, are huge. Kes never grew anything that big--
I'm talking about produce, people. Get yer minds out of the gutter.
Though now that you mention it...
Neelix compliments the fruit at her stand. Talli confesses that the waterplums are far less sweet this year. Neelix doesn't let that deter him; he bites into one and puckers instantly. "Oh, how wonderfully tart!" Neelix declares. (Why do I pity the crew at this moment?) "They'll make excellent preserves." He takes a few more bites, enjoying the potent sensations the fruit provides.
"Ummm...Neelix?" Talli asks, puzzled. "Why do you want me to tug on your whiskers?"
Whoops; caught in the act. (Dating on a planet of candid telepaths must be quite a challenge.)
"That is what you're thinking, isn't it--that you'd like me to tug on your whiskers?" She's smiling now.
Busted, Whisker Boy...
"I'd love to," she says.
Tuvok and a Mari woman are walking across an overpass in the city.
"I guess you could say I'm becoming obsolete," the woman says. Their crime rate is virtually nil. Violence is a thing of the past. She's one of the last cops still on the beat.
"And no doubt one of the best," says Tuvok in a rare show of admiration. "I'm curious to know more about your crime-prevention methods."
"Under one condition: I want to see Voyager-- learn about your methods," she says pleasantly. Tuvok agrees, and they head toward the transport site.
"You prefer speaking aloud. Why is that?" the Mari officer asks telepathically.
"I've grown accustomed to it over the years," answers Tuvok in like manner. "There are very few telepaths in Starfleet." (To my knowledge, Tuvok has never shown this ability before. Coolness.)
Torres approaches Neelix, who is helping Talli with her melons. She asks if he's ready to leave; Neelix says he hasn't finished "examining the produce." Talli smiles at him.
Jim checks his TV Guide to make sure he's not watching the FOX network by mistake. Voyager is not known for this degree of innuendo.
While engrossed in that in-depth Urkel interview, the reviewer's attention is drawn back to the screen by shouts of monotheistic blasphemy and wanton destruction. Torres, Neelix and Talli rush to the scene, where a crowd gawks as a familiar blue-clad Mari is getting medieval on some pottery with a very large stick.
Then he gets medieval on the pottery seller. We're talking full-contact bloodletting, shocking in its brutality.
"This will teach you to watch where you're going, you idiot!" the man in blue rages. "You idiot!"
The Mari stand immobile. Finally Neelix grabs the whacking stick, Janeway drags the man in blue aside, and Torres looks after the bleeding merchant and screams for someone to get a doctor.
"Why were you beating that man?" Janeway demands, shocked.
The man in blue loses his rage and looks utterly confused. "I...don't know."
Good answer, dude. Stick with it until your lawyer arrives.
* * *
When you're the only cop on a crime-free world, road trips don's seem that hard to plan.
Tuvok and the Mari officer exit the brig on Voyager. She seems puzzled by the concept of incarceration. "Shutting someone away as punishment. Do you find that it rehabilitates the prisoner?" Tuvok says it's mostly used for the safety of others. "If we find ourselves with a hostile alien in our custody we may need to confine the individual until we can locate the proper authorities....And on rare occasions we have been forced to incarcerate a crew member who has committed a serious infraction."
This shocks the constable. "I'm surprised that one of your people could be capable of doing something serious enough to warrant imprisonment," she admits--and her admiration for the vessel and its crew goes down a notch. Tuvok says it's rare, and that the Brig "has been occupied for less than one percent of our journey."
"Forgive me, Tuvok, but it seems...Barbaric."
Tuvok doesn't argue. "If all species were as enlightened as yours and mine," he says telepathically, "there would be no need for prisons."
Ah, irony. Repeat after me, kids: "Foreshadowing..."
Kim hails Tuvok from the bridge. "Chief Examiner Nimira's been recalled to the surface. There's been some sort of attack in the marketplace."
Talli stares blankly ahead, muttering to nobody in particular, while Neelix does his best to console her. "I've never seen so much blood before....I heard about someone getting beaten once when I was a little girl....I had nightmares for weeks...." Neelix has seen worse, but he too is in shock--that scene would shake anyone. He offers his words of comfort, and places a protective arm around her. She sinks her head into his chest.
Janeway and Torres report the event to Tuvok and Nimira. Janeway explains the confusion of the attacker: "He said he didn't realize what he'd done."
"I don't understand why nobody tried to help him," says Torres.
"People were shocked; violence is almost unheard of here. But when it does occur we like to investigate thoroughly." Her tone is a shade hard here; understandable, but disquieting.
"Can we help?" Janeway asks. Nimira says she'd like to ask Janeway, Neelix and Torres to answer some questions. Janeway assures her their complete cooperation.
"Chief examiner," asks Tuvok with more formality than he's used so far with the chief examiner, "are you suspicious of my colleagues for some reason?" He's telepathic, remember; he catches the edge in her voice. She's already used the word "barbaric" once in reference to his crewmates.
"No, Lieutenant," she says formally, screwing up his rank. "I'm simply conducting an investigation."
Danger, Will Robinson!
"Please, follow me," Nimira says, and leads the way. Torres follows; Janeway shares a long look with Tuvok before doing the same.
Commander Tuvok looks worried.
Captain Janeway and Chief Examiner Nimira enter a large room filled with equipment. They are alone. Nimira gestures to a seat. More than a mere barcalounger, it looks like an interrogation device.
"I will be monitoring your thoughts telepathically during the interview," Nimira explains. "This transcription device will log your engramatic activity so I can review your statement later."
Janeway doesn't look fond of the idea. "Let me get this straight: not only are you going to read my mind--you're going to record my thoughts."
She may be the last cop on the planet, but she doesn't mess around. "Yes." The only problem is, it makes playing good cop/bad cop a lot trickier.
"I guess it'd be pretty tough to keep a secret from you," Janeway says jovially, sitting in the chair.
Nimira grabs Janeway's head and moves it to the back of the chair. Janeway's look is priceless.
Before Year of Hell, the Chief Examiner would be a smoking pile of ashes about now. Nobody touches The 'Do and lives.
[Fast Forward] The next bit of exchange is a nice set of intercuts between the interviews of Janeway, Neelix and Torres. The relevant bits: They'd been in the marketplace about an hour when the attack occurred. Neelix was buying groceries for the ship. Janeway and Torres were picking up a resonator coil from Mr. Guill, whom they'd met the day before. The man who did the attacking was the same guy who bumped into B'Elanna; they'd never seen the victim before (not much call for pottery onboard, I guess).
Nimira asks what they were thinking. Janeway says she was thinking that she isn't used to handling currency; we get the Mari-Cam view of Janeway's thoughts (third-person) as she and Guill point out the coins to use for payment. Neelix lies and says he was thinking about water plum pie; the Mari-Cam shows him focusing more on the merchant than the merchandise, and we are subjected to a lascivious moment of pre-marital whisker-tugging. Nimira's voice registers amusement at this rather harmless dissembling.
[Play] The chief examiner considers the bumping incident significant. With Torres, that's the focus of their conversation.
"I suppose I was a little annoyed," admits Torres of the incident.
"Can you be more specific?"
"All right...I guess I was thinking my foot hurt. I mean, the idiot stepped right on it."
"Did you call him an idiot?"
"Of course not."
"But you thought it?" Nimira says tightly.
"I guess so," Torres says, not sure why it matters.
"Did you also think about retaliating?" Nimira asks, demanding an answer.
Torres realizes the room temperature has dropped a dozen degrees. "It was an accident."
"But you said he hurt you. It didn't occur to you to hurt him back?"
"I'd never do that," Torres insists.
"But you thought about it," Nimira says, voice rising. "Yes or no, did you think about hurting him?"
"Well, maybe for a split second," Torres admits. We see the Mari-Cam view of how the Inner Torres considered acting. You bump me, I pound you like a tent peg. Man in blue gets black and blue. "He should have been watching where he was going," she says, still a little peeved by the incident, "but I realized that he didn't do it on purpose so I shook it off and I left. Why? What does it matter what I was thinking?"
On a planet of telepaths, you have to ask?
Chief Examiner Nimira places Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres under arrest. "On what charge?" Torres demands. "Aggravated violent thought resulting in grave bodily harm."
On this planet, apparently, it's worse to think about something than to act on it.
Lucky for Neelix that lust is legal.
* * *
"Are you saying it's a crime to think about violence?" Janeway demands. Nimira nods. Torres fumes.
"I assure you, it's quite necessary. We were once a society plagued by violence. When we prohibited hostile thought, crime began to drop immediately. Over the past three generations, it's all but disappeared."
Oh, crud....a planet with a mental V Chip.
"So you believe that it's all right to tell people what they can and cannot think?" demands Torres.
"It's an irrefutable fact that violent thoughts from others can lead to violent actions," Nimira says. (Note the from others.)
Janeway points out that Frane--the guy in blue--committed the actual violence, but Nimira counters that he "received" the thought from B'Elanna. "His mind was contaminated by the image and it resulted in a loss of control. He may have committed the physical act but it was instigated by you."
How? She's not telepathic. Besides, just because someone gives us a thought doesn't mean we have to use it. Okay, granted, even we non-telepathic humans are susceptible to suggestion, or advertising wouldn't be nearly as effective. And hypnosis wouldn't be such fun at parties.
"Where we come from, people are responsible for their own actions," Torres growls.
"And here, people are responsible for their own thoughts," drawls Nimira, eyes like ice. "I'm sure you can understand how that's necessary for a race of telepaths."
Shouldn't Tuvok or Janeway have checked out the local legal code before letting anyone beam down? They wouldn't have let Torres anywhere NEAR the surface had they known this law.
Janeway concedes Nimira's point about thought crimes on a telepathic world, but asks how B'Elanna can be considered the only suspect. "The Mari no longer have violent thoughts," Nimira explains (ignoring the Fox Mulder rule of criminal investigation: Trust No One). Besides, she says, they have it on engramatic record that Torres thought about committing a hostile act.
Janeway asks for and receives a copy of the evidence, then asks what happens next. Nimira, showing more of her cultural prejudice, says the Mari have an enlightened penal system; no barbaric brigs (she shudders) for punishment. "You'll be released...once you've undergone the engramatic purge," the Chief Examiner explains. "It's a procedure that will identify and remove the offending images from your mind. Once identified the images can be removed from Frane's mind as well."
Let me get this straight. Prison, bad...Lobotomy, good. Oh, yeah, these Mari sure are enlightened. I'd like to catch Cop Girl thinking about jaywalking.
Torres' Violent Thought Counter is moving fast enough to be installed as a ceiling fan. Janeway doesn't seem that fond of the idea either. "Memory extraction...That's a dangerous procedure."
"There is a risk of neurological damage," Nimira says with a wave of her hand, "but it's necessary for us to treat Frane."
Janeway presses for at least a day's reprieve so she can review the evidence. Nimira says it'll take that long to retool their equipment--but that's all the time she gets.
"That's all the time I'll need," Janeway promises B'Elanna, and leaves her to the tender mercies of the local constabulary.
So. If they don't have anything brig-like...where are they keeping Torres?
The first person to greet Janeway on the transporter pad, naturally, is Tom Paris.
"Captain, we've got to get B'Elanna out of there," he says before she finishes materializing.
"You know the rules, Tom. We can't pick and choose which laws we'll respect and which we won't." (Dang; that temporal reset last week gave Janeway a Galaxy-class attitude adjustment. This is not the Janeway of "The Chute," "The Swarm," "Innocence," "Sacred Ground," "The Raven"...shall I go on?)
Nobody can be expected to control their thoughts, says Paris. Tell that to the Mari, says Janeway, grimly.
"Are you just going to let them put her through this process?" Paris demands.
"I'm doing everything I can to stop it," she assures him. "Neelix is going to file a diplomatic protest, and Tuvok and I will be going over the witness statements. Maybe we can poke a few holes in the chief examiner's case."
No mention of the Spank Ray, Paris notes, which she's used more than once for one of her family. "And if you can't?"
Janeway sets her jaw. "Then let's hope the Doctor can figure out how to reverse an engramatic purge."
This does not comfort Helm Boy in the slightest.
On the bridge, Kim tells Chakotay in a deeper-than-usual voice that all planetside crew have been summoned home. And to guard their thoughts until they get back.
"So much for R&R," Chakotay says from his seat.
Paris arrives and tells Chakotay they've got to talk. "Have a seat," Chakotay says, motioning to the Big Chair. Paris' eyes go wide. "I'm sure the Captain wouldn't object," Chakotay says with a smile, and Paris takes advantage of the rare opportunity. "What's on your mind?"
What else, dude? "While Tuvok and the Captain are 'reviewing the evidence' B'Elanna's sitting in a Mari jail cell waiting for some sort of lobotomy," Paris says desperately. "We can't let that happen."
Chakotay, another of B'Elanna's closest friends, seems to agree. "What's your idea?" he asks.
"Break her out," says Paris, a little too obviously.
"And risk an all-out confrontation with the Mari?" Chakotay asks.
"They're a bunch of pacifists. They're no match for us," says Paris.
Oy. Way to lose the sympathy vote, Helm Boy.
Chakotay could give him major grief for that line of thinking, but he may well be entertaining similar thoughts. "You're probably right--but before we start resorting to extreme measures, don't you think we should give the Captain a chance to find a legal solution?"
"By the time that happens, it may be too late," pleads Paris. The 24-hour countdown has already begun ticking. Time is an issue.
Chakotay considers this for a few seconds. "I'll tell you what. Why don't you come up with a rescue plan-- one that minimizes the possibility of violence-- and I'll review it."
Paris smiles weakly. "You're just trying to keep me busy, aren't you?"
"Can you blame me?" Chakotay says, smiling.
"I'm serious about this, Chakotay."
"So am I. If your plan is sound and the Captain doesn't have any luck on her end, I'll recommend we attempt the rescue."
That's all Tom needs to hear. "Thanks. I'll get right on it." He rises to go.
Chakotay catches his attention before he's in the turbolift. "I may have let you sit in the Captain's chair, but remember--she's still the boss."
Paris accepts the gentle reprimand graciously, then gets to work on his rescue plan.
Janeway and Tuvok pore over the evidence, each with their own PADD.
"Then you don't accept the chief examiner's conclusion?" Tuvok asks.
"I'm not dismissing it but I'm not going to accept it blindly either," Janeway says.
Tuvok points out that he's spent a lot of time with Nimira since their arrival, and he admires her investigative skills. He also notes that Torres' temper has caused problems in the past. Janeway concedes both points, but "I have a hard time buying that one fleeting thought makes her responsible for a vicious attack."
"From what I've learned," says Tuvok, "crime here is a result of exposure to violent thought, much as it was on Vulcan before my people learned to control their emotions. In my opinion, the Mari should be applauded for their efforts." Janeway doesn't fault their intentions, "but I'm not about to let them scramble B'Elanna's brain without a fight."
Tuvok says they should prepare themselves for the "probability" of Torres' guilt. Janeway's expression changes. "Maybe so...And then again...Maybe not. Take a look at this." She hands Tuvok the PADD. "I don't mean to accuse your friend Nimira of being less than thorough, Tuvok, but don't you find that just the least bit curious?
"New evidence?" asks Nimira. She and Tuvok are in one of Voyager's conference rooms.
Tuvok points out that Frane the pottery hater has a history of possessing violent thoughts (I thought the Mari no longer have violent thoughts. Hmm...). "You classified him as an 'habitual perpetrator of hostile images.'"
"True," says Nimira. "But those thoughts were purged each time. He spent years in neurogenic restructuring. The records also say he was cured." [Four times? Nice cure.]
"Still," says Tuvok, "it is possible that Frane had a relapse--that he alone is responsible for his actions at the marketplace."
"Possible, but unlikely," says Nimira, growing impatient. "Our engramatic scans of Frane show that Lieutenant Torres's thought was prevalent in his mind during the attack."
Prevalent, you say? Tuvok asks, naturally, if Torres' thought was the only violent image in Frane's mind.
Good thing Nimira is off-world, or Tuvok could say, "officer, arrest thyself.". She looks pissed. "I'm beginning to feel like I'm the one being investigated," she seethes. Tuvok points out that he is simply exploring all logical options. "As a fellow law enforcement officer you should understand that."
"I do. And I'm willing to share my findings with you. But if you're trying to prove your crewmate's innocence, you're too late. The case is closed." So, it would seem, is her mind.
Some of the vaunted Mari control slips. "Do you think that this is easy for me? I don't want to harm B'Elanna, but I don't have a choice. That thought has to be contained. Otherwise, we risk further violence, maybe even a city-wide panic. You told me your people spent centuries learning how to control their violent impulses. I know we haven't achieved your level of discipline but we're trying. I thought you'd understand."
"I am not judging your culture," Tuvok says. "In fact, I admire it. I have enjoyed your company in particular. But I cannot abandon my responsibility to B'Elanna. I must continue my own investigation."
She gives him license to continue investigating planet-side. "But I intend to proceed with the engramatic purge." Her jaw is set; Tuvok doesn't doubt her one bit.
Neelix and Seven pack the items they've purchased for their return to Voyager. The current batch appears to be mostly mechanical pieces.
"Telepathy...I don't like it...Never have," mutters Neelix. "It's bad for negotiations, it's bad for relationships, and it's certainly been bad for B'Elanna."
"The fault was her own," says Seven with typical lack of emotion. "She was careless with her thoughts. The result was violence."
Neelix jumps to her defense. "B'Elanna's not used to being around telepaths. That doesn't make her guilty."
"Then her crime was ignorance-- a common affliction among your crew. You make contact with alien species without sufficient understanding of their nature. As a result, Voyager's directive to 'seek out new civilizations' often ends in conflict."
Way to endear yourself to the crew, Seven. Though in fairness to her, I've often thought the same thing. Seven of Nine is simply following her directive (which was once Neelix's), to be the Outsider View, the Voice of the Skeptic.
"What you call ignorance, we call exploration," rasps Neelix, missing the point that you can, but need not, do both at once. "And sometimes it means taking a few risks. But it's certainly better than assimilating everything in your path."
"Your goal is to share knowledge. Assimilation is the perfect means of attaining that goal."
Neelix glares at her. "Perfect," he mutters.
Meanwhile, Talli greets a smiling elderly woman. "Good morning, Miss Tembit. Your usual selection?" She bumps into her cart, which sends some stuff spilling. She apologizes profusely and stoops over to clean up the mess.
Miss Tembit sees what B'Elanna was thinking, however briefly. She goes postal. A blood-curdling cry of "idiot!" and a reach for Talli's cutlery later, a scream of anguish sends Neelix and Seven rushing to Talli's stand, where a crowd is gathering.
They push past the old woman, who stands in shocked silence with the bloody knife in her hand. Talli, Neelix's favorite grocer, lies still; her blood is an expanding pool of thick redness on the ground. Neelix touches her head as he feels for a pulse, while Seven kneels passively beside him, observing.
"She's dead," Neelix whispers, his voice hollow.
This season, even looking like Kes can be deadly.
* * *
Neelix, back aboard Voyager, does his best to provide details to Tuvok as they walk through the corridors. He is still devastated by her murder.
"Seven and I were packing to return to the ship. We heard a scream. I went running...The old lady was just standing over Talli's body holding the bloody knife in her hand....I didn't even get a chance to say good-bye."
"Did the old woman say anything?" asks Tuvok. Neelix says no; "She was as shocked and confused as anyone else. Do you think this is somehow connected with the other attack?"
"I'm not certain. But it strikes me as more than coincidence that two violent altercations have occurred within two days, in a city which purports to have eliminated virtually all crime."
Me too, Commander.
The bridge hails Tuvok, saying Nimira wishes to come aboard. Tuvok has them direct her to the briefing room. He tells Neelix they'll talk more later.
Neelix calls after the Commander. "She was a wonderful young woman. Whoever's responsible for her death--find them and see that they're brought to justice."
Just as the Mari doubt the source could be anyone but Torres, the crew of Voyager suspect the truth lies among the natives.
"I will do my best, Mr. Neelix," promises Tuvok, not unkindly.
Tuvok is standing--and apparently meditating--in the briefing room when Chief Examiner Nimira is escorted by a security officer. She thanks him for seeing her, and he says he heard about the latest incident. He asks if she knows what caused the attack. She says that the same thought that sent Frane into his frenzy was also the cause of the murder. The old woman was somehow controlled by that thought.
"B'Elanna's thought? But both she and Frane are in custody. How could the thought have been passed to anyone else?"
Nimira, shoulders slumped, admits she doesn't know. "That's why I'm here. I need your help," she begs. "Then you shall have it," he says, and her gratitude is obvious.
"I don't know why that thought is still contaminating people," she says, "but I have got to put a stop to it. I've never dealt with a murder before. But you've had experience with homicide investigations?" she asks, not rhetorically. As it happens, he's had several.
"I thought I would start by tracing the old woman's whereabouts to see where she might have encountered the thought," she says.
"A wise choice," Tuvok says. "In the meantime, I would like to interview B'Elanna more extensively. Perhaps a fresh perspective might uncover facts you hadn't considered." This time, there is no argument from Nimira. There is nothing like panic to take the arrogance out of one's voice.
"I'm not sure I like the idea of a mind meld any better than an engramatic purge," Torres admits. She and Tuvok are alone at Mari Police Central.
"It will be a limited meld," Tuvok assures her. "I will focus exclusively on your memories of the events surrounding the crime. It poses no danger." He asks if she's ready; she's not, but she consents anyway.
As he intones the familiar melding ritual, we begin to see into B'Elanna's mind. We see past the expected visuals of her and Tom Paris in various compromising positions, until we reach the moment in the marketplace.
"Recall your encounter with Mr. Frane. He bumped into you. What happened next?" We see her angry reaction in Meld-Cam slow-motion. She says that's the moment she thought about decking the man. Tuvok prompts for what happened next. She describes Guill, the merchant, coming over and asking if she was hurt. We see the man with his hands on her shoulders.
"And what were you thinking at that moment?" Tuvok asks. Torres wonders why. "I'm sensing something more to the encounter [with Guill] than what you've told me. Try to recall. It may be important." She mentions that he held her by the shoulders. Tuvok asks if he was still reading their minds, as he had been during the haggling. She says she doesn't know.
"You experienced negative feelings about him," says Tuvok--something he picks up from the meld. "He gave me the creeps," she admits. "He...Wanted something. Something terrible--"
"What the hell?" Torres shouts, and breaks the meld, hyperventilating. "Why didn't I remember that before?"
"You may be recalling an unconscious thought you had at the time or an intuition," Tuvok suggests. "Perhaps I should ask Mr. Guill."
Guill heads home in the dim artificial lighting of the Mari evening. Tuvok approaches him and introduces himself. Guill says he doesn't want to upset the kids by being late for supper, but would happily make an appointment with the Commander for tomorrow to discuss business.
Tuvok's got a different topic in mind. "I'm here to talk to you about the attack." Guill asks the expected Why Me. Tuvok says his crewmate Torres is the prime suspect, and says he knows they knew each other. Guill nods. Tuvok says Nimira suspects Torres' violent thought, which she came up with on his premises.
Guill answers the questions openly enough, but we get the creeps listening to him. He then gets a funny look on his face, and Tuvok seems to realize that he's being telepathically scanned. "You're not like the others from your ship, are you? You're a telepath," Guill says, and Tuvok nods.
"Why are you so curious about what happened?" Guill asks. Tuvok says he's conducting his own investigation.
"I see. For a moment I thought you had another reason for asking. You...struggle with violent thoughts as well. Terrible images, but they're hidden deep within your mind." Guill seems troubled by his scan of Tuvok's mind. Or perhaps it's another reaction. Tuvok tells Guill that Vulcans have a 5000 year head-start in the emotional suppression arena. "If my unconscious thoughts are disturbing you I will attempt to suppress them further," Tuvok offers.
Guill says they're just out of focus enough to not be a bother. But Tuvok says he senses that Guill is far from bothered--he's "fascinated with my unconscious thoughts. That you would like to see more of them if you could." Guill denies it--insists, almost seductively, that he's more interested in helping Tuvok deal with them. Tuvok assures the man he's got his emotions well under control.
"I'm sure you do. No more questions? Then, if you'll excuse me I really can't be late for the table." Guill heads off downstairs into the deepening darkness of the night.
The kids will have to wait; Guill is taking a detour. He stops in a darkened corner of somewhere, and looks around furtively. Eventually another Mari appears with a large box of change (3000 Renns, the local currency) and a keen interest in what Guill is selling.
"I have something exciting for you tonight," Guill promises. They duck into the darkness.
Tuvok follows, and is met at the entryway by Guill and the other Mari. Guill asks why Tuvok is following them; Tuvok says he has a proposition: "Telepathically exchanging violent images. That is what you want, isn't it? To see what's buried in my unconscious?"
The other Mari is confused, but Guill is licking his lips at the prospect. "Why should I trust you?" Guill finally asks. "Because you know we are very much alike," Tuvok says. Guill says nothing, and Tuvok turns to go. Guill stops him. "Maybe we can be of use to each other," he says, but says Tuvok will have to lose the combadge. Tuvok palms the communications device and tosses it aside without looking where it fell.
Guill swallows; his throat is dry with anticipation. "Come back later, Malin," he tells the other Mari, never taking his eyes from Tuvok.."If I'm right, I'll have thoughts to share that are darker than anything you can imagine."
Meet Commander Tuvok: underground smut peddler.
* * *
A series of violent images parade across the screen: knives raised in anger. Barking dogs. Green plasma engulfing and incinerating someone. Screams. Large aliens snacking on the limbs of the innocent. Faces melting. Screams of agony. Stuff blowing up real good.
Guill takes his hand from Tuvok's forehead. Both are breathing heavily.
What a rush. It's like a Stallone movie fast-forwarded through all the boring exposition.
"Fascinating," says Tuvok.
"Now...Show me," insists Guill.
"I'll need a few moments to recover," says Tuvok. "I'm surprised you're so easily tired. Your telepathic abilities are strong," Guill says. "It is not often that I exercise those skills," Tuvok admits.
"There must be violent thoughts to be had from your shipmates whether they want to share them or not," says Guill. "After all, they couldn't stop a telepath from probing their minds, could they?"
"Is that how you acquire your merchandise?" asks Tuvok.
"Sometimes I buy. Sometimes I find a person like you who's willing to share. And, yes, when the opportunity presents itself, I take what I need." Sweet guy.
"Which is what you did to Lieutenant Torres," Tuvok surmises.
"Frane took her thought, not me," Guill says defensively. "So, you know Mr. Frane," Tuvok says. "Only casually," says Guill. "Well enough to be in business with him?" Tuvok asks. "I am interested in the thought he acquired from B'Elanna--her violent tendencies have always fascinated me, yet I've never succeeded in probing her mind. If you could help me purchase that thought..."
"It's impossible," says Guill. "Frane's already had it purged." (Guill can't be speaking the truth here; the Examiner said he couldn't have it purged until they'd extracted it from B'Elanna, which hasn't happened yet. But perhaps it's just wishful thinking. Mari justice is usually swifter than this.)
"Odd," says Ttuvok. "I was certain you possessed it...Didn't you extract the thought from B'Elanna as well just after she collided with Frane? I reevaluated B'Elanna's memories of the incident. She remembers that you probed her mind." Guill denies it, but not convincingly.
"Perhaps...Or perhaps you did extract that image. Which would explain why that same thought is still in circulation--why it prompted a murder this morning."
Guill doesn't care. He just wants Tuvok's dirty little violent thoughts.
"The only person you'll be sharing thoughts with tonight is the chief examiner," Tuvok informs him, and grabs his arm and leads him out toward the police station.
They are intercepted by two Mari who look like regular customers of Guill, who demand to know where he's going. Guill says he's being taken into custody.
The customers aren't fond of that idea. He might rat on them as well. They decide to act out some violent imagery--whether their own or B'Elanna's is anyone's guess, but it's clear bynow that Nimira's claim of a violent-thought-free Mari is poppycock.
Tuvok manages to kick some butt...but in the end, three against one doesn't bode well. They subdue him.
Then they pound on him for a while, just for the fun of it.
Voyager scans for Tuvok without success. But they keep trying. Meanwhile, Kim reports that Nimira is hailing them. Janeway takes the call on the bridge--probably a mistake, given that Paris is at the helm, so he's on camera.
Janeway asks if the Mari have found Tuvok yet; Nimira says they haven't. Janeway says she'd like to send a search party, but Nimira can't allow that because Voyager people have dirty little thoughts that they can't help spreading and causing trouble with among her pure and innocent violent-thought-free people, helpless vessels that might translate unwitting icky Federation thoughts of badness into actual Mari mayhem.
"That's ridiculous," says Paris, who'd probably be a candidate for the Engram Eraser himself at the moment (he of the "they're wimps, we can kick their butts easy" plan for Torres' rescue). Janeway shushes him, then tells Nimira they (Voyager's people) don't pose a serious threat to the local population.
Nimira says time's up; Torres goes under the tender ministrations of Mr. Lobotomy pronto, then will be shipped back to them a little less angry than before.
"Captain you can't let them do that," pleads a panicked Paris.
Janeway doesn't like it, but she doesn't make any move as the screen goes dark.
Torres does not go gently into that comfy chair, the garish black dentist's chair with the leather straps and the evil laser drill. She kicks and screams and conjures a whole lot of violent images, most involving the sensitive areas of Mari anatomy.
"B'Elanna, please...try to relax," soothes Nimira, with all the bedside manner of an axe murderer.
"Oh, you have got to be kidding!" Torres spits at her.
The verbal method fails; they go for the chemical approach. Mr. Hypospray does its thing, and soon Torres is down for the count and easily strapped in.
Let enlightened Mari justice commence.
* * *
Tuvok, dragged by three Mari, tells them You Won't Get Away With This. (In every other show ever made, whoever says that line usually dies shortly thereafter. Yipes.) "You are responsible for a death," he pants, still recovering from the beating.
"I never meant that to happen," Guill insists. "The old woman begged me for that thought. I had to help her."
Ah. A philanthropic drug peddler.
"You're justifying murder," Tuvok points out, but Guill silences him. They push Tuvok into a seated position in the darkest recesses of the Mari underground, far from the thoughts of their fellow citizens. Guill tells his companions to hold Tuvok still while he grabs the images he seeks. "Show me," he tells Tuvok; he won't take no for an answer. Tuvok relents, and Guill smiles as the slide show begins.
You want violent images, Thought Boy? You got 'em.
Men on fire, skin melting. Neelix choking on leola roots. John Tesh live at Red Rock. Ugly-ass aliens with nasty teeth and gingivitis up the yin-yang.. Angry explosions of Supernovae. Planets going boom. Morton Downey Jr.
"You're holding back. I haven't seen the best of it yet, have I?" Guill asks, the greedy puke. "Show me."
"If I show you, will you let me go?" Tuvok asks.
"Yes," says Guill, hardly the most trustworthy fellow we've met.
"Come closer," Tuvok urges. Guill does--and Tuvok grabs his head in his large Vulcan hand, in the traditional Vulcan fashion. Guill starts to panic, but Tuvok explains that this is his ticket to Happyland, and Guill stops squirming.
"My mind...To your mind. My thoughts...To your thoughts."
Guill looks positively turgid with anticipation. "Yes...Good...This is the side of you I wanted to know."
Guill sees past the obvious shock-value imagery, less graphic than you'd see in your average Nine Inch Nails video, and into the darkest recesses of Tuvok's mind. There's not much there--a barren room with low ceilings, a little mood lighting, and Tuvok.
Moving slowly in Meld-Cam. Ever forward. Look of unadulterated menace on his face. Stalking his prey like a cat. Guill likes this a lot.
Right up to the moment that the mind of Guill throws a punch at the mind of Tuvok--and finds his telepathic fingers crushed like dried leaves in Tuvok's hand.
This goes well beyond violent images...and into violent telepathic sensation. What Guill feels in the link, Guill feels in reality. His hand spasms as though palsied in real life, and begs to know what is happening, in genuine pain.
"We are locked in a Vulcan mind meld. You don't understand the truth of violence," Tuvok rasps within the meld. "Its darkness...its power!"
The great Vulcan hand leaves the shattered bones of the hand--and wraps around the Mari's neck.
The two companions, seeing Guill choking to death merely from a mental link, and close enough to get some idea what is happening, make tracks before the strange alien kicks their telepathic butts as well, as Guill does his best to beg for mercy through a windpipe crushed merely by a thought.
Damn. Be careful what you wish for, dude....
Mari justice is swift, efficient, and merciful. In its own way.
But tell that to Tom and B'Elanna.
Nimira does her best to ensure that they perform the procedure with the utmost care, so she doesn't have to explain to the captain of the Starship why their chief engineer can no longer use verbs and calls everyone brbrbrbrbrbrbr. She's just doing her job.
The procedure is still underway.
Nimira is hailed from Comm Central, saying Janeway's on the line, and it's extremely urgent. Nimira has it patched through.
"It's imperative that you discontinue Lieutenant Torres' engramatic extraction immediately," Janeway's voice says. "Commander Tuvok has found new evidence which proves her innocence."
In the transporter room of Voyager, Janeway speaks as Tuvok and Guill step off the pad. Two large security men lead Guill away as Janeway pats Tuvok on the back in a "glad to have you home" gesture.
Tuvok's combadge isn't on his chest. I assume he's carrying it after he picked it up where he threw it.
Janeway paces in the briefing room while Tuvok sits. He's still roughed up from his encounter with Guill and his junkies.
Nimira finally enters, escorted by a female security officer.
"I hope this interruption is justified," says Nimira, struggling to control her temper. "Suspending an engramatic purge once it's begun is highly irregular." Janeway suggests they get right to the point and turns the time over to Tuvok.
"I have discovered that Guill and Frane are responsible for the beating in the marketplace. And consequently, for Talli's murder."
Nimira is surprised; she knows Guill, but can't imagine him capable of any such involvement. Frane's role is already known--partially, anyway.
"Lieutenant Torres' thought was not transferred accidentally," Tuvok informs her.
"I don't understand," Nimira says, shocked.
"When Guill first met Lieutenant Torres he sensed strong, violent tendencies within her--a potential for mental imagery which interested him. In order to exploit that potential he conspired with Frane to provoke B'Elanna. They wanted to trigger a violent thought so they could telepathically draw it from her mind."
Nimira's Rockwellesque image of her enlightened little society begins to crumble, but few things are as potent as denial. "I can't believe that."
"It is precisely what happened," continues Tuvok. "Unfortunately, they underestimated the intensity of the thought. It was more powerful than anything either of them had ever experienced. As a result, Frane lost control and attacked the victim."
It's like hearing that Santa violates child-labor laws. "Why would peaceful men like Guill and Frane want to subject themselves to such hostile images?" Nimira demands, missing the obvious -- that they are not peaceful men. She already knew that about Frane, but allowed her faith in Mari justice to blind her to it.
"My investigation has uncovered a rather disturbing side of Mari society," continues Tuvok, aware of but unconcerned by the spreading panic on her face. Good thing he admires her; he could be really brutal with someone he doesn't like much. "A black market if you will, in which many of your citizens trade in illicit mental imagery. Guill is a very prominent figure in this underground--or was, until I brought him into custody."
"Why would any of my people want to indulge in that kind of behavior?" she begs, wounded by this new information.
"Apparently, outlawing violent thought hasn't made it go away," says Janeway. "All you've done is force people to share it in back alleys."
"It seems you have a more serious problem than the random thoughts of a single alien," adds Tuvok.
There is no anger left in Nimira. There's little cultural superiority left either. All that's left is a deep-seated shame that such a situation could even be suggested, after generations of effort. "Even if I believed you," she says, voice cracking, "I'm not sure anyone else would."
"Then I suggest you interrogate Guill yourselves," says Tuvok evenly. "His engramatic record will undoubtedly confirm what I've told you."
"Where is he now?" she whispers.
"We have him confined...in our brig." The significance of that is well known to them both.
What did Tuvok say? "If all species were as enlightened as yours and mine, there would be no need for prisons." Well, the Vulcans stand alone now.
Ah, the barbarian approach. Poetic justice is a bytch [sic], ain't it?
Captain's log, supplemental. Chief examiner Nimira has taken custody of Mr. Guill. Whether his arrest will lead to reforms in the Mari justice system is anyone's guess. In the meantime, the Doctor is treating Lieutenant Torres and Commander Tuvok.
Doc waves his magical medical thingy over Torres' head. "Fortunately," he is saying, "the Mari didn't get very far with the procedure. You can return to duty, Lieutenant--though perhaps with one or two fewer violent engrams in that fiery head of yours." He smiles at his joke.
"It's all right, Doc, there are plenty more where those came from," Torres says, her eyes dancing with fresh violent imagery as she rubs her neck vigorously.
"Duly warned," Doc says, beating a hasty retreat.
Ah, post-traumatic stress levity. You gotta love it.
"Thanks for getting me out of there," Torres tells Tuvok as he helps her to her feet.
"I was merely pursuing the truth," Tuvok says.
"So if I was responsible for passing that thought you would have let them lobotomize me?" she asks as they leave Sickbay.
"It is incumbent upon us to respect the laws of the societies we visit," Tuvok quotes, chapter and verse.
"So...You still a fan of the Mari legal system?" Torres teases maliciously.
"My views have been...somewhat modified," Tuvok admits.
"Then you're not going to lecture me about losing my temper?"
"If you must know, investigating this case has given me a new respect for your inner struggle."
Torres had not expected that. "Really?"
"Burdened as you are by your primitive Klingon psyche it is a wonder you are able to keep your violent thoughts under control as much as you do."
"Thanks...I think," says Torres.
"You're welcome. Of course, there are various Vulcan techniques which could help you increase your self-control."
I smell a potential future story arc...
"You don't say," says Torres, not completely uninterested, as they continue their walk through the corridor."
Janeway is in her office, reading a PADD and sipping something out of her lucky teacup on the couch by the window, when Seven enters without knocking and marches over to her, stealthy as a cat (in four-inch heels). Janeway didn't hear her enter, so she jumps a bit when she shifts in her seat and notices the former Borg wordlessly standing there.
"Come in," Janeway says, deciding to be amused rather than annoyed.
Man, this is a different timeline....
"I must speak with you."
"Of course. Have a seat," she says, rising instinctively--
"I prefer to stand."
"I keep forgetting," says Janeway, falling back into the couch and throwing up her hands in resignation.
"You encouraged me to express my opinions if I had something relevant to say," says Seven.
"Go right ahead," says Janeway, happy for the opportunity.
"You wish to return this vessel to the Alpha Quadrant, yet you are following Starfleet protocol regarding First Contact. The objectives are incompatible."
"How so?" asks Janeway.
"Your philosophy of exploration exposes Voyager to constant risk. If you maintain a direct course to earth and avoid all extraneous contact with alien species it will increase your chances of survival."
"Well, that would make a dull ride home," Janeway harrumphs, her eyes twinkling.
This catches Seven off guard. "Captain?"
"We seek out new races because we want to--not because we're following protocols. We have an insatiable curiosity about the universe."
"Your chief engineer and security officer were nearly lost today. That is unacceptable."
Unacceptable, of course, is Seven's favorite word. And it carries about much weight as Vessini's "Inconceivable!" in Princess Bride.
"To you, maybe, but not to me or my crew. Our experience with the Mari gave us an insight into a culture we've never encountered." (And will likely never see again, but that's another matter entirely.)
"But...that is irrelevant," says Seven.
"No. It's how we gain knowledge," says Janeway, leaning in, selling the concept to the recalcitrant Borg.
Seven considers this. "We are in disagreement," she concludes.
"Good. I dread the day when everyone on this ship agrees with me. I thank you for your opinion but our mission is not going to change," Janeway says, smiling.
Seven turns on her heels and walks out while Janeway is taking another sip from her coffecup. The captain's eyes go wide at the departure but she finishes the sip.
"Dismissed," she says, long after the door has closed behind Seven, amusement filling her voice and her face.
Dang--this Janeway only drinks Decaf. It's the only possible explanation.
Ya know, it's funny. Last week, I express my distaste for the way Tom Paris was written, and I got disagreed with in a big way. Piles of email defending Helm Boy came my way (though a respectable amount agreed with me).
This week, I've already received piles of mail complaining about Tom Paris in this episode. But I don't feel the same way; I thought Tom acted reasonably given that his girlfriend (and the chief engineer of the ship) was about to get a medical attitude adjustment that could potentially leave her a vegetable, or worse.
Paris walks all over Chakotay in Year of Hell, and people call him a hero and chew me out for being pissed at him. Paris begs the captain to do something at an inopportune moment, and people call him a jerk. Go figure.
I know, he did more than that. Don't write just to complain about the above comment; I'll contradict myself later, I promise. I just wanna be the first to say, "I told you so."
I know; it's childish, but dang if it didn't feel good.
So what do we have here?
A morality tale on the legislation of morality. You try to outlaw behavior, and the behavior will still find a way to express itself. The Mari have certainly made a noble effort, but they made the mistake of declaring Game Over in the third inning. Vulcans have been suppressing their violent emotions for millennia, yet Tuvok is living proof that those emotions have not been bred out--they've simply been controlled, a person at a time, an emotion at a time, the whole time. They're taught from birth that emotions can be controlled--and how to do so.
Outlawing thought is like outlawing war. Ask Kellogg-Briand how well that works.
The way we look at criminal justice is, so to speak, put under the knife. The Mari call detention cells "barbaric," yet they have no problem with the surgical altering of brain tissue--which is barbaric by 24th-century human standards (we of the 20th century can't exactly talk; we have shock therapy and lobotomies on our list of therapies, not to mention mood-altering chemical solutions that Saddam Hussein wouldn't dream of employing, all in the name of rehabilitation. And we will put some folks to death if they really go overboard with the lawbreaking).
On modern-day Earth, different cultures have different ideas of justice and barbarity. Many Americans got outraged when a Singapore court orders a vandal's buttocks whacked with high-speed bamboo. Some Britons cried foul when an American jury recommends a murder conviction and a 15-life prison term for a nineteen year-old nanny. And nobody was happy when the conviction was changed to manslaughter and the sentence reduced to time served.
Given the choice, I'd take the bamboo. You take your licks, you break out the Bactine, you dry your eyes, and you move on.
But the point is this: each society comes up with the laws that work best for them. The Mari's problem wasn't that the effort wasn't noble--it was that they still had those tendencies. The more law-abiding channeled those energies into other directions. The rest got their kicks in the back allies, sticking their heads into the telepathic brown-paper wrapper. The police, who are hired, essentially, to believe the worst in people in order to do their jobs effectively, in this case were negligent--they believed the only possible cause of problems came from without. Torres didn't cause the problems; she was a true victim, and the unwitting agent of change. In looking inside her head, Guill opened Pandora's box.
An ironic twist is that Torres, the obvious choice for extracting a violent thought, turns out to have more self-control than anyone gives her credit for. (Someone wrote me to complain about all the racist Klingon jabs at her expense, which even the enlightened and logical Tuvok can't help but make (and how many zingers against Vulcans have we heard over the years?)
Racial prejudice was at play here. The Mari looked down on Voyager; they considered the non-telepathic species inferior, and Guill saw the opportunity to exploit them without their knowledge, setting them up so he could steal violent images from their minds. Nimira was oblivious, because she could not possibly believe her people capable of such acts. She will likely curse the day Voyager flew into their orbit to her dying breath, because they took away her innocence, her faith in the strides her people had made.
Which is a shame, because as Tuvok said, there is much to admire in their society. A little more awareness about how far they had yet to go would have done their society wonders, and left Torres with perhaps a few more of her "violent engrams" intact. They have made remarkable strides in making their world safer if nobody is old enough to remember the last murder, and the last assault took place decades before. If the Mari are truly that susceptible to violent thoughts, perhaps it is in their best interest to force it underground, where people are bound to be very careful not to be caught. Until Torres came along, it was a mostly victimless crime, affecting only the individuals who indulged in it.
Of course, that "until" does complicate things.
Violent imagery is an issue in our society. V-chips are proposed to make it possible to block out "inappropriate" content. Ratings are introduced to label television and film content by the level of "adult" material contained. Of course, the means to do so is already there--it's called the remote control, or the dial. Or the off switch. The government, like the Mari, want to control content. The Vulcans, like the populace, would prefer to control themselves.
Self-control is infinitely preferable to imposed control. The latter is employed when the former fails. So if you worry about the loss of freedom--clean up your act before someone cleans it up for you. And encourage others to do the same. The better behaved a populace is, the less pressing the need to outlaw behavior that nobody's doing anyway.
This is not to say that there are no bad laws, or that they shouldn't be fought through legitimate means; this was Janeway's point. If you work within the law, you have greater moral authority to demand its reconsideration. Taking the law into your own hands only weakens your position. Paris' recommendation for an armed rescue mission against a bunch of pacifists was not followed through; in the end, Tuvok's legal approach was far more effective, and far more devastating. Paris' method would have probably ended with Voyager running away and the Mari closing its borders and being suspicious of aliens for years, and never uncovering the problem. Tuvok's solution left a much-humbled Mari society.
Granted, good timing saved the day for B'Elanna. And the relatively mild punishment (assuming all went well) meant that Janeway was a lot more willing to bend to the local law. Had Torres been ordered put to death, there is no question in my mind that they'd have rescued her, by force of arms if necessary. Executing someone with their name in the credits is, to quote Seven, "unacceptable." Improving her attitude, however drastic the means, is irksome, but not intolerable. Or so they seem to suggest.
This was a pretty darn good Tuvok episode. I liked how he pursued the case. I liked how he let down his guard a little and used his cultural and genetic distinctiveness to his advantage. He was the flipside of Nimira--appreciative of their efforts as a society, but suspicious of everyone when it came time to nail down a suspect. He tells Torres his interest was justice, and that's true. But this is a different Tuvok from the man in the first season's "Ex Post Facto;" who was distant from all but Janeway. Torres is a colleague, a crewmate. And through this experience, Tuvok finds new respect for her self-control, and for the battle she fights with her emotions. She, likewise, gains a new respect for Tuvok's struggle--the dark corridors of their hearts may be more familiar to each other than they previously realized. And both desire to master their baser impulses.
Pity poor Neelix. He falls for another Kes type--and she dies on him before their first date. He never got a chance to get his whiskers tugged.
It's funny that Neelix, who in the first part of Season One was the "outsider" who dared to speak what the fans have been saying for years, has stepped over to the Dark Side and now spouts the Federation dogma like the true believer he now is. I loved Neelix for his ability to say, "why the heck are we going into that man-eating nebula?" Kes would usually point out how stimulating the whole thing was, tug at his whiskers, and kiss away his objections (blecch). But that Neelix is long gone, and it's a pity. I liked that side of him.
But now we have a new and improved curmudgeon in the form of Seven of Nine. She calls it like she sees it; she points out the irrelevancies and the unacceptable realities with no regard for how her pronouncements will be received. It's tactless--but she's still too soon away from the Collective to have learned the fine art of tact just yet. Which I'm glad of--someone should be the Doc McCoy or the Worf or the Odo, the outspoken naysayer who points out the holes in the argument, even if she's overruled.
Her point in this episode is a good one: making contact with new life is inherently risky. Her recommendation, however, is too extreme--ignore everyone along the way and haul hiney for home. That goes against Starfleet training, and against the blood that sends so many of our Starfleet crew into space--the insatiable curiosity for What's Out There.
There's a middle ground, though, the overlooking of which has led to a huge number of episodes that Just Shouldn't Have Happened.
I remember the first time I was sent abroad. I spent eight weeks studying the language, the culture, and some of the particular laws one should be concerned with. When I got there, I spent the first five months as the junior member of the missionary team, continuing to learn the ropes, the customs, the social and legal pitfalls that a foreigner like me wouldn't automatically know. I still managed to unintentionally (yet repeatedly) offend or amuse the locals throughout my stay with my ignorance, though I did manage to stay out of jail. I understand the military and diplomatic corps expend some effort, likewise briefing their personnel on the more important do's and don'ts of the regions they're going to, because bailing someone out is a royal pain.
So...simple question. Why the heck doesn't the crew get a travel advisory before beaming down to a planet like the Mari homeworld? The first thing I'd be asking the constable before setting foot on the surface is, "can we have a copy of the rules your people live by? Can you tell us what will really piss you off were we to do, even in ignorance? What did the LAST ship that came by here get in trouble for?"
If I'm beaming into someone else's neighborhood, I want my butt covered. It won't protect me from every possible calamity, but it should save me from the more obvious embarrassments.
Seven's point is sound: the crew jumps into too many situations unprepared. They see the smiling faces and the open marketplaces and they think, "cool, let's go for some R&R." They don't ask the pertinent questions about what will get your brains minced until it's too late.
In short: there are unavoidable catastrophes--and there are avoidable ones. This one was most definitely avoidable. The redeeming point of it is that Seven points this out. Sure, Janeway says, "we're gonna keep boldly going thataway, and we'll say hi to everyone we meet." And perhaps it is inevitable that for dramatic purposes the crew will occasionally act like they've already HAD some memory engrams excised. I like that they bring up the question. I hope that the crew will learn to consider the implications rather than dismiss the criticism out of hand.
Okay. Tom Paris.
He comes back from the Mari homeworld with a surprise present for his woman and a happy attitude about life--and why not? He's more at peace than at any prior time in his life.
He meets with a malodorously musky Neelix, who points out that his days as People Magazine's 2374 A.D. Hunk O' The Year...are over (Bashir is back, baby!) And he points out in excruciating detail just what Paris is missing dirtside in his present monogamous state. If Paris is tempted, he doesn't show it. This, I think, should be great news for the relationshippers.
Then his woman gets charged with thinking about slapping someone upside the head. Big deal; he knows for a fact she's thought about doing worse to him, and he doesn't hold it against her. As "enlightened" as the Mari claim their justice is, it doesn't set well with him.
The odd thing is, Paris seems to be one of the few people visibly upset by the whole thing. The new and mellowed Janeway of the "original" mellow Krenim timeline seems virtually unflappable. The old, ponytailed Janeway would have blown Nimira's pompous keister to kingdom come with Betsy the Badass Compression Rifle just for grabbing her skull and repositioning it in the high-backed interrogation chair, or death-glared the woman into years of expensive therapy. Tuvok's dark side was given free reign in her behalf, thank goodness, but Harry said nothing, and Chakotay merely sat there and sounded reasonable when Paris suggested a rescue attempt (damn the man). And Seven--well, let's just say she won't win brownie points for pointing out that "the little hothead deserves what's coming to her."
So here we have Lieutenant Love, facing the prospect that the first person in years he's dared to open himself up to, a woman he's just barely gotten to know, could be condemned to permanent brain damage for a (provoked) thought crime.
I'd be pissed too if I were him. And I would at least ask for alternatives, which Paris did with Chakotay. He didn't rant or rave; he presented an option. Chakotay told him what he'd do, and in what order. Paris took that, and ran with it. He did speak out of turn when Janeway was online with Nimira, but two pleading interruptions wasn't enough to get him tossed in the brig, relieved of duty or even reprimanded.
He was shusshed. And he behaved after the shusshing, much as he wanted to act, or scream, or do any of a hundred impulsive, emotional, heroic things.
He didn't say, "if you don't do something about this maniac, I will."
He stayed at his post, and shut up, and did his job. He remembered, as Chakotay reminded him, that she's the boss.
That says something for the boy.
If you thought him a jerk for speaking out of turn, it's MY turn to point out that you're being too hard on him.
Of course, if you're mad at him for not doing more...well, now you have even more reason to be ticked. Tom the loveable rogue seems well and truly assimilated into the chain of command. He used to be the bad boy, but he hung that leather jacket up along with his little black book.
I'll admit it--part of me will miss that side of Paris. He's not nearly as interesting as a Company Man. Though he is far more mature.
Acting in this episode was a notch or two below that in "Year of Hell" across the board, particularly from the guest stars. To call the acting generally low-key would be charitable. But Tim Russ was outstanding. We got some great insight into the Tuvok character, and Russ had a lot of room to play. Exploring a character's dark side is supposed to be more fun, and Russ seemed to have a blast this time out. He also showed a nice range of reactions (not to say emotions), from his downward-spiraling relationship with Nimira to his "psst--wanna buy a violent thought?" scenes with the merchant and his thugs. High-fives to Russ for this performance.
Mulgrew's Janeway...wow. We're talking Stepford Captain. Ever since she yelled Time's Up and plowed Voyager into Annorax's timeship, she's been one mellow redhead. In fact, it's looking browner every day. It's enough to make me weep. The new attitude is less abrasive than the one that's seen her clear a path with her favorite compression phaser rifle. But I'm not sure yet if I like the change that goes with the new hairstyle.
Granted, I far prefer it to the bun-wearing, "back off or I'll nuke the ship" hard-as-nails schoolmarm from season 2. But if she gets too loose, I'll start to worry.
"Captain, the enemy has breached security and captured decks four through seven!"
"Yeah, whatever. Computer, gimme another decaf."
Captains should be at least a little bit tense, should have at least a small chip on their shoulders, should be ready at a moment's notice to shred someone's shorts if the moment requires it. We allow them the occasional respite; we want them to be able to laugh, love, relax, read, play, party, whatever, from time to time. Keep them rested so when the inevitable crisis arises, they're sharp as a light-saber and nimble as a spider monkey.
And after the lengths we saw Janeway go through to protect her "family," we expect her to get angry as a mama bear if one of her cubs gets threatened. I didn't see that here, and Tuvok's rescue of B'Elanna through legal means doesn't diminish the fact that Torres was left to the tender mercies of alien justice. And Janeway looked merely annoyed.
Makes me want to demand Janeway send that "I am my kids' mom" T-shirt back to Dr. Laura.
I'm going to explain this so people don't get confused.
If an episode is awe-inspiring, complex as all get-out, jaw-dropping, epic--and pisses me off--I take points off.
If an episode is lightweight, amiable but innocuous, good for what it is but hardly something to write home about--and doesn't piss me off--my score might be higher.
Does that necessarily mean all "3" episodes are created equal? Hardly.
But my philosophy is, "whate'er thou art, act well thy part."
If you want to be fluff, be GOOD fluff.
If you want to be epic, be GOOD epic.
If you raise the bar, expect me to as well. I'll grade harder if you dare to suggest that this episode will blow my socks off. I'll hope to heck you succeed, but I will grade harder.
After the mind-blowing (and email-inducing) Year of Hell, this episode is fluff.
But I watched it, enjoyed it, and didn't have any really negative feelings about it when it was over. Like Janeway, I invested some, but not a great deal, of emotion into the outcome. I was even pleasantly surprised, all things considered.
Not enough to rave about it, but not enough to rant at length (more so than usual, anyway) about any one thing that chapped my hide.
Last week's show kicked this week's show's butt from one end of the time stream to the other. But I was frothing at the mouth about the elements I hated, which countered the elements I loved.
This week's show has a much-flattened range of emotions. Likes and dislikes. But the same midpoint.
Why, then, should they try for the expensive, ambitious epics?
Because, simply, I'm just one guy, and my tastes are hardly representative of the audience at large. I wouldn't want to be the Audience Spokesman. Like Janeway, "I dread the day when everyone on the Internet agrees with me." I'm thrilled that anyone considers me worth reading at all, let alone worth arguing with. I'm more than happy that folks sometimes agree, and sometimes don't, with my opinions.
Clear as mud? Good.
I'm giving this a 7.00 on a 0-10 scale--or a respectable, if unenthusiastic, (* * *).
As opposed to last week's jaw-dropping, head-banging, what-the-hell-were-you-people-thinking (* * *).
Next week: Janeway battles terrorists with a little help from her 14th-century friends.
If you want a second opinion, check out Julia's, or head on over to the lounge where Kris and some of her pals offers their musings from the Rec Room O' Reviews.