"Barge of the Dead"


It's Paramount's playground. They own the characters, the ships, species, planets, quadrants, and the dialog, plots, etc. My summaries and reviews are for the purpose of entertainment and analysis only. The reviews are full-spoiler, which means that it's about as close as you can get to seeing the episode. All that's missing are commercials and pictures. If you want to be surprised and haven't seen the episode yet, read no further. But if you've already seen it, or you don't mind finding out the details in advance, strap in and get comfy--it's going to be a long, wild ride.

[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]


B'Elanna Torres goes to Klingon Hell to rescue her mother.

Jump straight to the Analysis


B'Elanna Torres is in a shuttlecraft--alone, and in trouble. Turbulence rocks the shuttlecraft; sparks fly inside the cabin. "Torres to Voyager. I could use a little help here!"

If it's the third episode of the season, it must be about B'Elanna.

What's your status? Chakotay asks.

"I'm approaching your position, but that ion storm blew out my deflector field. I've lost helm control and I'm venting plasma from the port nacelle."

We're modifying a tractor pulse to slow you down, Chakotay says. "Acknowledged," Torres says. She furiously works the shuttle's controls, fighting for control as she barrels toward the impossibly small shuttle bay

The arresting fields are in place. You're clear to land, Chakotay says a moment later.

Hold on, B'Elanna. This is going to be bumpy, Janeway adds.

The view shifts. We see what B'Elanna sees--Voyager in the distance, down and a little to the right, growing larger with each passing second. It's not a smooth approach; intermittent flashes of blue from Voyager straighten the shuttle just enough to let it pass through the open bay doors at Voyager's tail, with only the occasional scrape and bump. More blue flashes inside the shuttle bay slow the craft, bringing it to a stop before it can crash against the far wall.

But the rapid deceleration takes its toll on B'Elanna--her head pounds against the controls after one nasty jolt, and she's unconscious before the dust settles.

Tom Paris rushes into the shuttle a moment later, wielding a medikit. "B'Elanna? Are you alive?" He pulls Torres up into a leaning position in her seat.

"You tell me," Torres says, groaning, keeping her eyes squeezed shut.

Paris runs a scanner over her. "You've got a mild concussion," he says.

"That's the best thing that's happened to me all day . . ." Though she doesn't see it, Tom smiles--if she can joke, she'll be okay.


Captain Janeway is in a stern mood in her ready room. She paces as she addresses B'Elanna Torres. "When I give you an order, I expect you to follow it. I told you to return to Voyager, not chase the probe into the center of an ion storm." Janeway's tone is soft, but has a clear "I'm disappointed in you" quality.

"We only have one multi-spatial probe," B'Elanna says simply. "I didn't want to lose it."

Janeway gives Torres a gaze that is at once withering and motherly. "We only have one B'Elanna Torres. I don't want to lose her, either."

Torres doesn't argue; it's a reprimand and a compliment. "Understood." Compared to the blowups these two have had in the past, this is almost dull, a mere formality. One wonders what impact Janeway's speech here might have had at the end of "Nothing Human" instead of "don't be mad; that's an order." Even so, Torres looks haggard from her close call, and leaves as soon as she gets the chance.

Janeway calls after her, her stern Captainly features softened to something more maternal. "Lanna...I'm glad you made it back in one piece," Janeway says warmly.

This stops Torres short; she turns around, an odd look on her face. "Did you just call me Lanna?" Torres asks.

Janeway smiles that exquisitely beautiful Family Moment smile of hers. "I suppose I did," she says.

"That's what my mother used to call me," Torres says, surprised.

"Well, then, I'm in good company," Mama Kate replies.

Torres, unsure how to react, exits without another word.


We next find B'Elanna lying face down on the couch in her darkened quarters, propped up on her elbows reading a PADD. The door chimes. "Come in," she says.

Chakotay enters, carrying a thick slab of metal the size of a street sign. "Feeling better?" he asks.

Torres sits up. "I've felt worse," she says as Chakotay takes a seat on the couch beside her.

"I found something you might be interested in. It's what my ancestors called a 'monkey wrench.' It was lodged in your port nacelle."

"How did it get there?" Torres asks.

"Judging by your sensor logs, it looks like you ran into it after your deflector field collapsed. But the big question is, how did it get in this quadrant?" He hands the metal slab to B'Elanna.

"What do you mean?" she asks, then blinks when she sees a familiar triangular insignia. "What? It's Klingon!" Intrigue and revulsion blend together on her face.

"And it's old. That's about all we know. Looks like the Klingons beat Starfleet to the Delta Quadrant by a few hundred years. You may be holding the most important archaeological find in Klingon history."

Torres smirks. "Remind me to plant a flag on behalf of the Empire," she says, unable to keep the irony from her voice. She hands the slab back to Chakotay, then gets up and walks over to the table across the room. "You know, the simplest explanation is that the Borg assimilated a Bird of Prey somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant and they blew it out an airlock on their way home." Grabbing a coffee mug from the table, Torres takes a healthy drink.

Chakotay gets up and walks over to her just as she sets her cup down. "Maybe so. In any case, it makes a nice souvenir." He hands the artifact back to B'Elanna and leaves.

Torres gently places the artifact on the glass-top table and grabs the cup again, and walks to her room's replicator to order a refill.

The camera stays on the artifact, and the Klingon symbol. Which begins to bleed--a rich, angry crimson. It flows off the artifact like raspberry syrup, spilling over onto the glass table.

The room begins to echo with voices shouting in Klingon--softly at first, but reaching a crescendo loud enough to draw B'Elanna's attention. She looks over at the table and gasps.

[For those who speak Klingon, here's what the closed-captioning says. "PICH VIGHAJBE'. JIYAJBE'. JIHTAHBOGH NADEV VISOVBE'. BIJEGH BE'CHUGH VAJ BIHEGH. CHAY'. HAB SOSII'QUCH."]

Then the blood and the voices vanish--leaving B'Elanna looking like she just heard a ghost.

* * *

This journalistic maxim is often echoed onboard Voyager: if it bleeds, it leads.

And so we next find B'Elanna Torres in Engineering, poring over the Klingon artifact with all the high-tech tools at her disposal--joined in body if not in spirit by a very sleepy, very grumpy Harry Kim.

"Harry, it bled--it screamed," Torres says. "There's got to be some explanation!"

Harry, punchy from fatigue, can't keep the frustrated chuckles from his voice. "Hey, I've got one for you: you hit your head harder than you thought."

"I wasn't hallucinating," Torres says, looking at Harry sharply. "Now, run a sub-molecular scan."

"How many more scans are we going to run?" Harry says. "There's nothing there! No fluid or vapor residue."

"We may find some irregularities at the atomic level."

"It's a hunk of metal!" Harry pleads. "What you heard may have had nothing to do with this artifact. Maybe the com system picked up some stray signal from a pulsar--I don't know."

Torres looks at him. "A pulsar that speaks Klingon?"

Harry throws up his hands. "Okay, B'Elanna, there probably is some explanation for what happened--but it's 0300 hours! I'm tired, you're tired. Let's just stick this thing in a containment field and deal with it in the morning!"

Neelix picks that moment to arrive. "Ah! Just the Daughter of the Empire I've been looking for," he tells B'Elanna. "I wanted to be the first to congratulate you on your discovery of the Klingon artifact!"

B'Elanna stares blankly at the Talaxian. "Neelix, I ran into it with a shuttle."

Neelix titters at her modesty. "Some of the greatest discoveries in Klingon history were accidents. When Sarpek the Fearless unearthed the Knife of Kirom he was searching for his lost targ." He laughs delightedly. "Isn't that amazing? I've been doing some research."

Why? Torres asks. "Well, I'm planning a celebration." Neelix eyes the artifact reverently. "This...must be the treasure." He caresses the metal lightly.

"Neelix, look, I appreciate your enthusiasm," B'Elanna says, "but since I'm the only Klingon onboard there's really no point in throwing a party."

"Oh, nonsense! This artifact isn't just a testament to Klingon spirit. It's a piece of the Alpha Quadrant--a symbol of Voyager's home! And that's just as worthy of celebration and song as finding some old knife."

"The man's got a point," Harry says, earning him a withering glare.

"And besides," Neelix continues, warming to the subject, "I've already replicated five barrels of bloodwine. I'm not going to let them go to waste. Festivities begin at 1900 hours." Neelix begins to walk away, then stops. "Oh! Uh, I almost forgot. As guest of honor, you're going to be expected to say a few words on behalf of your people." He then flees before Torres can kill him where he stands.

Harry stifles a yawn. "It sounds like you've got a big day ahead of you. You should probably get some rest!"

Torres gives up. "All right, all right, let's call it a night."

"Thank you," Harry says, and sprints for the exit.


Tuvok's quarters are dark. The meditation lamp offers one of the few lights in the room. Tuvok and B'Elanna kneel opposite each other.

"Do not underestimate the power of the mind," Tuvok says. "The artifact was a catalyst for your already active imagination. It served as an unwelcome reminder of your ancestry--the self-loathing you experience when you look in the mirror and see a Klingon."

Torres blinks--she's unused to this level of directness from the taciturn Tuvok. "Who said anything about self-loathing?"

"You despise being Klingon. It's no secret," Tuvok says with a slight edge in his voice. "What you experienced in your quarters was a subconscious manifestation of that hatred. The blood in your veins, the voices of your ancestors--all symbols of your Klingon heritage."

Torres gives Tuvok a bemused [sic] smirk. "And when the blood disappeared that was, what? Me trying to vaporize that part of myself?"

To her further surprise, Tuvok says Yes. "But the essence of who you are--the artifact itself--remained."

Torres' skepticism grows. "And the moral of the story is...?"

"Quite simple. That despite your efforts to become something else--whether it be Starfleet or Maquis--your Klingon nature continues to assert itself."

"That's an intriguing theory," B'Elanna says sarcastically.

Tuvok rises. "Perhaps we should forego your meditation in favor of a different exercise." He exits into another room. Fine by me, Torres mutters.

Tuvok returns, holding a bat'leth. "This should be interesting," she says when Tuvok holds it out to her.

"Feel the weight of the bat'leth in your hands. Describe the first thought that enters your mind."

Torres sighs and takes it. "It's a clumsy weapon, overstated--like everything else Klingon."

Tuvok takes the weapon back, as though she is unworthy to hold it. "You can't see the elegance of its design because of your hatred."

"I don't hate Klingons!" Torres insists.

Tuvok's manner changes. His voice grows harder. More . . . Klingon. "It's a warrior's blade...crafted for precision and balance. Observe." Tuvok twirls the bat'leth around with the skill of Worf--better, in fact, venturing into Bruce Lee territory. Each complex fit of wizardry ends with the blade mere inches from B'Elanna's neck. To her credit, B'Elanna doesn't flinch, though the fire in Tuvok's eyes grows by the moment.

But Tuvok's final series of too-fast-to-see maneuvers ends with a wicked Sammy Sosa swipe at Torres' face, leaving a nasty slash and flow of blood on her cheek.

Torres cries out, furious. "Is this your idea of therapy?!"

"Listen to yourself whine like a Ferengi!" Tuvok bellows, eyes ablaze with contempt.

P'taQ! Torres shouts in turn, advancing--then stopping herself.

Tuvok glares at B'Elanna with naked derision. "You're not worthy of the blood in your veins! A true Klingon would try to kill me where I stand!

"What the hell has gotten into you?!"

Tuvok, still wielding the blade, marches over to the door and opens it. "This exercise is over. You are dismissed, Lieutenant--and take your dishonor with you."

He doesn't have to tell her twice. When the door closes behind her, Tuvok stands motionless in the shadows by the door, as though the only thing animating him were her presence.


B'Elanna and Tom Paris enter the mess hall, which has been transformed as only Neelix manage into a makeshift Klingon hall of warriors. Bloodwine flows. Neelix serves barbecue. The Doctor, standing with Seven of Nine, is singing dramatically, waving his heavy wine cup dramatically.

In Klingon. With English translation for Seven's benefit. "MIGH HOHK-CHEW KOO EJ IM-TA EW DE-JA I...and the blood was ankle-deep. EJDAHK-SO-TAS GHOS VA SKRAL BYTEEK...and the river Skral ran crimson red."

"I fail to see the merit of learning a Klingon drinking song," Seven says.

"It's not about drinking, Seven. It's about saluting the noble deeds of our ancestors and honoring those who fell in battle. Think, 'q'pla!' think, 'Long live the Empire!'"

"Think again," Seven says dryly.

Torres and Paris make the rounds, smiling as the crewmembers congratulate B'Elanna on her Find. But then they pass by the table where Tuvok sits with Chakotay. When the two stand, Tuvok glares at B'Elanna for a long moment (just as Doc is saying, "Long live the Empire!"), and walks away, as though he cannot bear to be in the same room with one so dishonored. Torres looks a bit spooked by the unspoken exchange, and Tom gives her an understanding look; he caught the bad vibes as well.

"Okay," says Doc, "so I'm overdoing it a bit--but try to get into the spirit of the occasion!" he says happily. Very well, Seven agrees--and leads the next chorus. (What the heck is it with these two and singing this year, anyway?)

Ej im-ta fey de-ja I

ejdahk-so-tas ghos va skral byteek

empa jaj law-moch jaj-push

jaj Kahless molor-migh hohk-chew koo.

It ain't "You Are My Sunshine," but it is kind of catchy.

While they sing, Janeway ladles a healthy measure of bloodwine into Harry Kim's heavy metal cup. Harry sniffs at it suspiciously, but raises his glass as Seven and Doc reach the dramatic end to their song. Those who aren't chugging down the potent brew applaud the digital duo, who take their bows.

Neelix approaches Torres and Paris with a squirming bowl of something. "Gagh, anyone? SOP JOQ JIH YUV GAGH DREK!" he says formally.

Tom looks at Neelix--then at B'Elanna, who translates. "He said, 'Eat this or he'll force it down the gullet of your corpse.'"

Neelix smiles gamely. "No offense."

Paris smiles. "Oh, none taken. So this is . . . replicated, right?" Unfortunately, confesses Neelix, sad that he couldn't come through with the real thing.

Tom examines the dish. It resembles a twitching bowl of Mexican Jumping Pasta--nothing like the writhing, wormy appearance of authentic gagh. To a Klingon purist, it would be like serving up tofu loaf to a man who ordered tenderloin. But neither Tom nor B'Elanna look interested in gagh, real or not.

"And how do you get it to...move?" Tom asks, trying to contain his nausea. "I used a kinesthetic agent to give it a little oomph," Neelix explains. Ewww. Neelix leaves the bowl on the table where Tom and B'Elanna sit, then heads for the kitchen for another tray of appetizers.

Torres looks around at her crewmates, having a grand old time. "Is it just me, or has everyone gone Klingon-happy?" she asks.

Tom laughs. "Oh, come on, B'Elanna. They're all doing this for you," he teases.

"Well, then they don't know me very well! And if you even think of joining in on this 'embrace your heritage' nonsense, I swear--I'll rip out your tongue and wear it as a belt."

Tom chortles. "Oh, no...there's not a lot of Klingon in you."

Torres smiles, loosening up a little. "I inherited the forehead and the bad attitude--that's it."

B'Elanna looks around again, at all the festivities, the smiles, the laughter, and her smile grows wistful. "She would have loved all this."

"Your mother?" Tom asks.

B'Elanna nods. "She was so obsessed with Klingon ritual, myths. It used to drive my father and me crazy."

B'Elanna leans across the table and whispers, "Did I ever tell you that she put me in a Klingon monastery?" You're kidding! Tom says. B'Elanna nods. "It was after their marriage ended. She pulled me out of a Federation school in order to teach me 'honor and discipline.'"

Paris shakes his head sympathetically. "Hmm...out of the plasma cooker and into the fire."

"She prayed to Kahless every day to guide me in the Ways of the Warrior." B'Elanna smiles gamely. "I guess he wasn't listening."

The relevant background established, it's now time to move from the intimate to the public. Captain Janeway taps on her metal chalice and strides to the center of the room, and the crew gathers around her. "Ladies and gentlemen, could I have your attention, please?" Janeway declares in her resonant Mayor Kate alto. "I hate to interrupt the festivities, but before I turn the floor over to our resident Klingon--" the room breaks into polite laughter as B'Elanna blushes slightly--"I'd like to say a few words. This is a great day for the Klingon Empire--a day when we honor their ancestors..."

Time begins to slow. Torres appears to be the only one who notices the change.

"Those warriors whose deeds--" Janeway continues, her voice slowing to a crawl.

B'Elanna can hear her own heartbeat now. It pounds in her ears, drowning out the captain's speech. The room changes color as well--to a hemorrhaging crimson. Again, B'Elanna is the only one who appears to notice.

"Of valor and glory--" Janeway drawls.

Torres looks over her shoulder and sees, to her shock, a Klingon warrior in full battle armor, wielding a bat'leth with clear intent to use. He runs past B'Elanna--in slow motion--toward the cluster of officers.

"--led them to the Delta Quadrant. May they live on in song and story--" Janeway continues, unaware of another Klingon warrior standing behind her, his pronged dk'tag blade raised to strike.

"Captain!" Torres yells, too late. The knife falls, plunging into the captain's back. With a grunt, Janeway falls.

The room is now filled with a half-dozen Klingon berzerkers, mowing down B'Elanna's crewmates like a threshing machine of souls. Even Tuvok is slaughtered before he has a chance to defend himself.

Tom rushes forward--and is cut down by a single nasty swipe of the bat'leth.

Torres is now the only one standing.

But not for long. The warrior swings again. We hear the sound of sliced meat.

B'Elanna Torres yelps . . . then falls.


B'Elanna wakes up somewhere else. She's wearing her Starfleet uniform. But that makes her very out of place in this very alien surrounding.

B'Elanna slowly rises from the unfamiliar deck. She sees people around her--all Klingons. Some are warriors; the remainder, downcast Klingons of all stripes.

There are liquid sounds, and the sounds of violent storm. The ground shifts and creaks beneath B'Elanna's legs.

B'Elanna looks over at one of the warriors. "Where am I?" she shouts over the din.

"Silence!" the warrior bellows, glaring at her. "The dead ask no questions."

B'Elanna's eyes widen with shock.

* * *

Two warriors rush over and haul B'Elanna to her feet--almost. They drag her over to the warrior who commanded her to be silent.

"Computer, end program!" B'Elanna shouts. Nothing happens; the two warriors hold her in place before the third. He calls out to a fourth Klingon, who wields a red-hot branding iron.

"Let go of me!" Torres shouts, then blanches when she sees the red-hot brand. "Wait...Wait..."

The warrior with the brand thrusts it at her left cheek. We hear an angry sizzle; B'Elanna's screams.

But when the brand comes away, Torres' flesh is unblemished.

The warriors look at each other with consternation. "She won't take the mark!" says one.

"What the hell is going on?" B'Elanna demands. But the warriors simply drag her over to where a wretched Klingon sits, and force her to sit beside him.

"Where am I?" B'Elanna pleads.

"You should know; you're half Klingon," the seated man says morosely. Wait--how did he know that?

"Enlighten me."

"This is the Barge of the Dead. Our dishonored souls are being taken to gre'thor."

Well, she did ask. Torres doesn't like the answer. "Klingon Hell is a myth!"

"That's what I thought--just a foolish superstition. Imagine my surprise," he says, regarding her sadly.

"But I was on Voyager with my crew!" Torres insists.

"That was the naj--the 'dream before dying.' When we can't accept that we've died we create the illusion of life to hold on to."

Torres looks up, and for the first time notices the ancient warrior manning the wheel of the Barge. Torres' eyes go flinty. "He slaughtered my friends."

"No," the sad Klingon corrects her. "He slaughtered the dream. He dragged you from the illusion of life. This is where you belong."

Suddenly, the other sounds are supplemented by haunting siren-like calls beyond the ship itself. "What is that?" B'Elanna asks.

"It's the kos'karii. They'll try to lure you to them. Don't listen!" he urges her.

The voices continue. Those onboard move to the edge of the barge, listening to the voices. A few, B'Elanna recognizes. Chakotay, Janeway, Paris, all calling out to her. B'Elanna, are you there? Lieutenant, can you hear me? Help us find you!

"Tom? Chakotay?" Torres calls back. "It's not your friends!" the Klingon pleads with her, holding onto her arm in case she decides to jump.

One Klingon does jump. "Jih qoy soh!" [Klingonese for "Geronimo!"] he shouts as he plunges into the murky waters.

The poor sap immediately begins screaming. The waters look toxic, or corrosive, or both. If that weren't bad enough, a school of large eel-like creatures converge on him, and the man's screams are soon drowned out by the din of a feeding frenzy.

"There are things here worse than death," the Klingon says, leading Torres away from the edge. B'Elanna is badly shaken. But before she can recover, a pair of warriors drag her up to the captain of this barge.

"So. Is this the mongrel child you spoke of?" the man asks.

"Yes. The one whose face would not bear the mark."

The Klingon Charon regards Torres. His voice is almost gentle. "B'Elanna, daughter of Miral...it's not your time."

You'd think this would be good news. But instead, she frowns. "How do you know my name?"

"You've come close to boarding this ship many times," says the man, talking at her as he steers. "I remember the first. You were a child. Your mother took you to the Sea of Gatan. Your curiosity was as deep as the water."

B'Elanna's voice grows small as she remembers the childhood incident. "I fell in. I almost drowned."

"When your mother breathed life back into your lungs she told you about me," he reminds her.

Torres frowns. "So. You're supposed to be Kortar," she says, a bit skeptically.

"Ah...you remember me," Kortar says, pleased.

"I remember the myth of Kortar, the first Klingon," she says. "He destroyed the gods who created him."

"And as punishment, I was condemned to ferry the souls of the dishonored to gre'thor."

Torres shakes her head--then spies a bat'leth hanging on the wall, and heads for it, trying to be inconspicuous. "I may have believed in you as a child, but not anymore!"

Kortar shakes his head. "If you didn't still believe you wouldn't be here."

Torres grabs the bat'leth and moves toward Kortar. He laughs when he sees the small woman with the big weapon.

"Foolish girl," Kortar says, chortling. He easily wrests the weapon from B'Elanna, who yelps; she looks at her injured hand, which looks half sawed off at the palm from where she'd been holding it.

"You cannot harm me," Kortar says. "I'm already dead."

But before they can get back to the Good News--that it's not her time to die yet--the winds whip up a little. Torres asks what's happening, and Kortar answers. "The soul of another dishonored warrior is being delivered."

The deck below the wheel shimmers--and a middle-aged female appears.

B'Elanna recognizes the woman. "Mother . . . " B'Elanna gasps.

Kortar's laughter rings in Torres' ears.

There's a flash of light--


--and B'Elanna awakens in Sickbay, bolting upright on the main operating bed with a huge gasp. She finds herself flanked by the Doctor on one side and Tom Paris on the other. Both look awfully relieved to see her awake.

"It's all right. You're safe," the Doctor assures her.

But if the last day has convinced B'Elanna of anything, it's that safe is not a term to take at face value.

* * *

Torres still looks very disoriented as she sits on the Sickbay bed. Unlike the relatively harmless concussion Paris diagnosed in the teaser, her condition in this incarnation was much more grim. "Your shuttle was drifting on the tail of an ion storm," Tom explains. "You lost life support. We found you just in time."

"But I got through the storm. I remember crashing into the shuttle bay," Torres whispers, unable to believe her ears.

"When we tractored your shuttle back to Voyager you were in a coma," the Doctor tells her.

"We almost lost you," Tom adds sadly.

Torres just stares blankly ahead, still trying to process everything she's been through since the crash. "The Klingon artifact--" she whispers.

"Artifact?" Tom asks, confused.

Maybe it was all just her imagination.

Then Torres looks at her badly wounded palm. "My hand--" she gasps.

Doc gently takes B'Elanna's hand and examines it, then runs a regenerator over the wound. "You took quite a beating out there," Doc says gently. "More than your fair share of cuts and bruises." He lets go, and B'Elanna regards her now-healed hand--no trace of blood remains.

Except in her memory.


If it's a Torres episode, you know B'Elanna will lose her jacket eventually. There's no sonic shower this week, but the off-duty T-shirt look is back.

In the darkness of her quarters, B'Elanna stares at her hand, lost in thought.

The door chimes, and Torres answers. Chakotay enters. "How are you feeling?"

"Um...a little out of place," she confesses.

"Would you like to talk about it?" he asks.

"Yes--" she says, and Chakotay heads for the couch.

"--and no," she says. Chakotay nods. "Let me know when you decide." He heads for the door.

"I don't know how to say this without sounding crazy," Torres says before he can leave. Chakotay heads back for the couch, then--hearing no protest--sits. "Try," he says kindly.

It takes B'Elanna a moment or two to say what's on her mind. "Do you believe in an afterlife?" she asks.

Chakotay blinks. He hesitates. Then proceeds with caution, remembering a similar conversation with Neelix a couple of years earlier. "I accept there are things in the universe than can't be scanned with a tricorder," he says cryptically. He looks at his longtime comrade. "What happened to you out there?"

"I think...I died. I died, and I was on the Barge of the Dead in the Klingon afterlife." There. It's out. It's on the table.

Chakotay doesn't respond right away. What do you say to a friend who died and went to hell? Sto-Vo-Kor, heck, that's a good thing; if your friend's afterlife is looking good, there's no harm in playing it up. But if they're on the low road to gre'thor, Miss Manners dictates a different approach.

Chakotay finally says, "Klingon mythology has been ingrained in you since you were a child. It's not surprising you experienced some of those images while you were unconscious."

"I saw my mother, Chakotay! If it was real, then she's dead."

"B'Elanna...your mother...the Barge of the Dead...those are just symbols. It's your subconscious mind trying to tell you something."

Torres' voice rises a bit. "Tell me what? That my mother is going to Hell?"

"You need time to digest what you experienced," Chakotay urges. "You have to interpret the symbols and search for their meaning!" The last time we heard Chakotay give this advice, it wasn't taken--and Neelix almost beamed himself up to oblivion.

But Torres isn't convinced. "What if there is no symbolism to interpret? What if the afterlife is real?"

B'Elanna begins to pace. "I'm an engineer. My whole life, I've immersed myself in science and...and schematics. But what if it's time to start looking beyond that?"

Chakotay reaches into his personal history to illustrate a point. "My grandfather used to think he could transform himself into a wolf so that he could venture out to explore the spirit realm. It was real to him. As real as what your experience was to you. But that doesn't mean he grew hair all over his body and walked around on all fours." Would that be the "crazy old man" from "The Fight" whose visionary condition haunted Chakotay's childhood dreams?

Torres doesn't look entirely convinced--but she does change the subject. "My mother has been on my mind a lot lately. We just had a big anniversary. It's been ten years...since we talked." So her mother, and the arguments they no doubt had, the issues raised, would have been thick in her memory.

But then the original topic returns with a vengeance. "But it was so real! I could taste the blood in the air. I could feel the wind. I was seasick from the rocking of the boat!"

For that, Chakotay has no answer.


Tom Paris, looking worried, enters Engineering. He finds B'Elanna poring over a screen filled with Klingon writings. "Hi," he says softly. Hi, she says back, distractedly.

"What are you reading?"

"The paq'batlh. It's a sacred Klingon scroll," she says.

"Find anything?"

"You don't want to know." From her tone, she means it.

Tom scoffs affectionately. "Oh, come on. It can't be that bad," he says, laughing slightly.

His laughs die in the face of her response. "You want to bet?" There's no heat in the response--heat would have been easier than the quiet desolation in her voice. "I found out why my mother is on her way to gre'thor. It's because I sent her there."

Tom's tone grows serious. "What do you mean?" he asks, curious.

"The sins of the child," B'Elanna explains, still looking at the computer screen. "She's being punished for my dishonor. I turned my back on everything Klingon--and now she has to pay the price."

Tom gulps. "B'Elanna, you can't even be sure your mother is dead, much less blame yourself for what happens to her in some afterlife!"

But B'Elanna ignores him, too wrapped up in her studies. "Look at this. The 11th tome of Klavek. It's a story about Kahless returning from the dead--'Still bearing a wound from the afterlife.' A warning that what he experienced wasn't a dream. The same thing happened to me." She looks at her hand as the vivid memory returns.

"B'Elanna--" Tom tries to interrupt, but Torres isn't finished. "And the only reason Kahless was in the afterlife to begin with was to rescue his brother from the Barge of the Dead and deliver him to Sto-Vo-Kor!" she says, as understanding begins to dawn.

"O . . . kay--"

"Don't you see?" B'Elanna asks, suddenly energized, if not enthused. "I have a chance to rescue my mother if I can accept responsibility for her dishonor before she passes through the gates of gre'thor." She sets her jaw as her eyes go wide. "I have to go back."

"Well--wait a minute. What do you mean, 'go back'?!" Tom demands.

"I can't let her suffer for what I've done. It's the only way!" Torres' voice, if soft, is intense--and Tom is taken aback.

"B'Elanna," he says softly, "I respect what you believe in but--you're starting to scare me!"

B'Elanna looks deep into Tom's eyes. Her words are barely audible. "I'm scaring myself," she says.


"It's a controlled procedure," Torres explains to Captain Janeway in the conference room. "I'll be under constant supervision. The Doctor can simulate the conditions of the ion storm. He's agreed to help me--but only with your permission."

"I'm still not inclined to grant your request," Janeway says. Add Mama Kate to the list of the scared.

Torres glares. "Are you telling me that I can't pursue my spiritual beliefs?"

Janeway waves her off. "B'Elanna, I'm not going to let you turn this into a debate about freedom of worship."

"But that's what it is!"

"There's a limit to how far I'll let religious practices go aboard this ship. If your belief system required you to sacrifice a child to your gods I wouldn't allow that, either."

B'Elanna's eyes flash. "That's an absurd example."

But Janeway just looks at her. "You want to simulate a near death experience so you can revisit the Barge of Death, and you're telling me what's absurd?" Technically, she has a point. worst case, B'Elanna is advocating the sacrifice of her mother's child--herself--to whatever Klingon forces decide who goes to warrior Heaven and who is consigned to a dishonored Hell. "Bottom line, B'Elanna: I'm not going to let you risk your life for this."

Torres says Please. Request Denied, Janeway says.

"What I do with my own life is one thing," B'Elanna says earnestly. "But to know that I have condemned my mother...that because of what I've done, she's--"

"I appreciate what you're trying to say, B'Elanna. But whatever you experienced, it wasn't real."

Torres' anger flares. "It doesn't matter if you think it was real! It was real to me!"

The silence in the room is deafening. B'Elanna begins pacing. "Whatever it was, it changed me. I can't ignore that. I need to confront what's happened."

"I'm sorry," Janeway says. End of discussion.

Torres throws up her arms angrily. "You know, you're just like her," she says bitterly, and heads for the door.

This catches the captain off guard. "Lieutenant?" Janeway asks.

Torres pivots on a dime and glares. "My mother. You're as dedicated to Starfleet principles as she was to Klingon honor." Janeway doesn't quite know how to take that--Torres has chafed against Starfleet protocol and her Klingon roots more than once in her life, as Janeway well knows.

B'Elanna's voice softens a little. "I know that we haven't always seen eye to eye," she says, unable to meet Janeway's gaze, "but despite our differences you helped me become a good officer--and I'd like to think that you're proud of me for it."

"I am," Janeway assures her.

"My mother never had the chance to be proud of me," Torres says, then fixes her eyes on Janeway's. "I'd like her to know me the way you do."

Now it's Janeway who turns away, looking out the window of the conference room.

B'Elanna walks toward her, her tone muted but earnest. "I don't want her to die thinking of me as a disgrace."

Captain Janeway's eyes go wide; she turns toward B'Elanna Torres. Their eyes meet.

"You have to let me do this," Torres softly urges.

Perhaps today is a good day to die after all . . .


The Doctor works at his desk while Tom Paris paces in Sickbay. B'Elanna, her jacket stripped off, is lighting ceremonial white candles around the main operating bed.

"I can't believe the Captain is allowing this!" Tom rages, his voice trembling with emotion. "One minute, you're in a coma. The next, you're a born-again Klingon? I-I just don't get it."

For her part, Torres is moving swiftly, with quiet determination. "I'm not sure I get it, either. I just know this is something I have to do." Her tone is all business, focused on her task.

Tom, desperate to change her mind, thinks furiously. Anxiety has drained the blue from his eyes, leaving them an almost transparent gray. (Put that bat'leth down NOW, Rosie...) "There must be an easier way for you to explore your spirituality! Go to church, or something?" He's not joking; he offers this as a serious alternative.

"It wouldn't be enough," B'Elanna says, closely examining a ceremonial sash before sliding onto the bed, propping herself up on her elbows.

The desperation in Tom's voice rises. "Look, I'll read the scrolls. I'll learn Klingon!" B'Elanna looks up at him. "We'll figure this out--together," he pleads.

B'Elanna looks at Tom appreciatively for a long moment. But . . . "Next time," she promises.

Tom squeezes his eyes shut and shakes his head. When he looks at her again, his voice is much softer, calmer. If not resigned to the inevitable, he's finally done arguing. "I just hope there is a next time," Tom says, concerned but sincere.

"There will be," B'Elanna assures him. She lies back on the bed, resting her head on the pillow as Tom leans over her.

Captain Janeway enters. "Report."

The Doctor gets up from his desk and joins her at near the doorway. "I've examined the sensor logs from the shuttle mission. I should be able to re-create the exact conditions that triggered her near-death experience." Good, Janeway says.

"B'Elanna?" Janeway calls softly. "I'm ready," B'Elanna says.

Tom leans in close. "Be careful," he begs, his now blue eyes looming large. Gently, he leans forward and presses his lips to hers. They hold each other's gaze for a final moment, then Tom leaves her side and mans his station at a console in the middle of the room.

It's Janeway's turn to lean in close. But she speaks as captain, not as Mom. There is authority in her voice. "You'll have an hour to do whatever it is you need to do. At the first sign of trouble, we're bringing you out. Understood?" Torres nods. Janeway returns the gesture, then joins Paris at the computer terminal.

Doc wheels a cart bearing a computer terminal next to Torres' head. He attaches a cortical monitor underneath B'Elanna's right ear as the bed's restraining Cone of Silence arches up around her midsection. It's time.

The Doctor does the honors. His photonic nature allows him to stand beside B'Elanna as the conditions change in this part of the room. "Computer...erect an isolation field around the surgical bay." We see a field sizzle into place. "Decrease oxygen concentration within the force field by 27%. Begin ionizing the enclosed atmosphere to 5,000 particles per cubic meter."

B'Elanna wastes little time; her eyelids immediately flutter shut. Within seconds she's unconscious; we know it before the Doc announces the fact.

Tom handles the monitoring. "Neural activity is decreasing to 87 percent...62 percent..." An alarm sounds. "Synaptic function is failing," he says, his eyes betraying the unnatural calm in his voice. Compensating, Doc says.

"Neural activity is nominal," Tom says a moment later. B'Elanna rests in peace.

"She's not breathing," Janeway observes. But Doc corrects her. "She's still alive. Her lungs are taking in just enough oxygen to keep her brain from necrotizing."

Janeway's eyes are large as she gazes at her chief engineer, now on a journey only she can take. "Q'pla, B'Elanna," Janeway whispers, almost as a prayer.


B'Elanna Torres awakens, once more on the creaking deck of the Barge of the Dead.

But something has changed. This time, she is wearing the full battle leather of a Klingon warrior. The aggressive wave of her hair, a style introduced earlier this season, is curlier than ever.

Rising slowly from the deck, Torres looks around, seeking out Miral--the mother who prompted this return trip to hell.

* * *

B'Elanna rises to her full height. Backlit, we see the severe outlines of her warrior's attire in greater detail. Outside of "Faces," B'Elanna Torres has never looked so appealingly Klingon.

She hears the voices of the warrior guards: sus'a g gre'thor qay ("John Philip Sousa writes hell's show tunes"?) B'Elanna takes a quick seat and tries to look downcast so as not to attract their attention. When the guard passes by, B'Elanna opens the hatch and slips into the lower deck.


It doesn't take her long. B'Elanna finds Miral in a large, darkened room, a few scattered torch lamps providing the only light. The lightning doesn't seem to reach down here, though the intermittent thunder can still be heard.

"Mother," B'Elanna says, moving toward Miral. But Miral recoils in horror. "Stay away! You are an illusion! You're a kos'karii trying to lure me away!" Miral says fearfully.

Torres grabs her. "Mother, it's me. It's me! It's me."

Miral finally sees who has grabbed her. "B'Elanna? No," she says desolately. "Then you died as well?"

"I've come to lift your dishonor," B'Elanna assures her.

In the darkness we see a flicker of hope in Miral's eyes. It soon fades. "But you don't believe in Sto-Vo-Kor," Miral says sadly.

"A lot's happened since the last time I saw you," B'Elanna says. "I've changed."

If only . . . "Not enough. It was you who brought this damnation upon me," Miral says, her voice filled with sorrow.

B'Elanna breaks away, raging at one of the lanterns. "If you hadn't tried to--to force me to become a warrior..."

"I tried to guide you in the ways of a Klingon," Miral says. "You tried a little too hard," B'Elanna says, bitterly.

"If you had listened to me when you were younger, we wouldn't be on the Barge of the Dead. You were always running away!"

"You drove me away...the same way you drove away my father!"

"He abandoned us!"

"You pushed him to the point where he couldn't bear to be around anything Klingon--including me." B'Elanna's final words trail off in a pained whisper.

"I wanted to give you honor!" Miral says earnestly. Then her voice grows sad. "And if you had understood that I would be not be on my way to gre'thor."

B'Elanna's frustration grows, but then she stops herself, changes direction. "We're on the Barge of the Dead...and we're still having the same argument we were having ten years ago . . ." Sounds like Hell to me--saying and doing the same old things, expecting a different result. Hell is betting on videotaped replays of the superbowl--double or nothing. Miral merely grunts, resigned to her fate.

"Look," B'Elanna says, desperate to find a way to salvage the situation. "If I have dishonored you I am truly sorry."

But Miral merely looks at her daughter. "Are you? You have too much anger in your heart to be sorry." It's odd that even a true-believer Klingon would point to anger as a vice, an impediment to progress, rather than a noble Klingon virtue. Or perhaps, not so odd. Klingons are known for their passion, but anger--or any emotion, insufficiently controlled--can be a stumbling block on the road to honor.

B'Elanna fumes. "We don't have time for this if we're going to perform the transference!"

"Is that how you intend to lift my dishonor? By taking my place?" Miral sounds almost hopeful.

"Oh, don't worry. I have no intention of being on this barge when it gets to gre'thor. We've got just enough time to perform the ritual before my crew resuscitates me."

Miral's flicker of hope disappears, replaced by everlasting disappointment. "Oh. I should have known you'd choose the easy way."

"What are you talking about?!" B'Elanna rages. "Do you know the risks I've taken to save you?"

But Miral will have none of it. Some of the fire that we've known for so long in B'Elanna, we see in her mother. "You still understand nothing about being a Klingon!" Her tone matches the infernal setting. "I would rather face damnation with what little honor you have left me than cheat my way into Sto-Vo-Kor."

Like mother, like daughter. Willful and stubborn to a fault. The two glare at each other, neither giving an inch.

Then a trio of guards wrench open the door at the far end of the room. "There she is. Bring them."


Kortar mans the wheel, as always. He laughs mirthlessly as B'Elanna and Miral are carried into his presence. "The mongrel child has returned."

Torres marches up to the legendary First Klingon. "I'm here to take my mother's place," B'Elanna declares.

"B'Elanna!" Miral shouts furiously. She is held in place by two Klingon giants, who shake her to silence.

"You wish to claim her dishonor as your own?" Kortar asks. Yes, B'Elanna says.

"You're willing to die for her?" Kortar asks. B'Elanna nods. "Yes. Release her to Sto-Vo-Kor."

"No!" Miral bellows.

"Keep her quiet!" Kortar yells impatiently. Silence! One of the guards shout at Miral, clamping a huge hand over her mouth to prevent further outbursts.

"It's not your decision. She has the right to reclaim your honor," Kortar tells Miral. Then, to B'Elanna, he says, "Once we have reached gre'thor and you are within its gates I will release her."

"No. Now," B'Elanna insists.

Kortar laughs, a deep baritone chortle. "You're very impatient. Time must be slipping away in the living world. You're concerned your friends will revive you before you complete your deception." B'Elanna's eyes go wide--how did he know?

But Kortar knows all. "Did you really think that I could be fooled so easily?" Miral tries to scream through the warrior's jaw-clamped hand.

B'Elanna looks at her mother. Then looks at Kortar. "I will die for her." Miral squirms; Torres ignores her. "No tricks, no games. I will take her place--honorably. Like a Klingon."

Kortar's ancient eyes bore into hers. "If you choose this path your friends will not be able to save you."

Miral wrenches the warrior's hand from her mouth. "No! I forbid it!"

Torres matches Kortar's gaze. "I understand," she says, resolve forging a new calm in her voice.

Miral protests, but then gasps as the triangular brand on her cheek vanishes. It appears on B'Elanna's--she lifts a finger to touch the raised and cracked skin, but she registers no pain.

"Your dishonor has been lifted," Kortar says to Miral. "Sto-Vo-Kor awaits you."

Miral's eyes flash with determination. "I will not abandon my daughter!"

"She has made the choice. Go!" The warriors throw Miral away from themselves. She disappears a moment later in a cloud.

Kortar turns to B'Elanna again. "Daughter of Miral--embrace your fate."

And what a fate it is. Gre'thor makes human Hell look like Risa. A massive fortress of stone and sulfur, the walkway leading to its imposing gates carpeted red with molten lava. The Barge pulls up to the entrance. The plank lowers, and an armed warrior motions for her to walk it.

Torres takes her first step off the barge--and hesitates.

Where's Saint Peter when you need him? She's half-human, after all.

What the hell has she just agreed to?

What price dishonor?


In Sickbay, things aren't looking good. "Her neural patterns are breaking down!" Tom Paris shouts.

"I'm initiating emergency resuscitation," the Doctor says. "Vent the ionized particles."


B'Elanna seems to be having second thoughts--and it's hard to blame her.

She looks over her shoulder--and sees the determined look of the bat'leth-wielding warrior urging her to get on with her eternity, already. There's no going back. Torres sighs, looks ahead at the opening gates to gre'thor, and tries not to gasp too audibly when she sees the impenetrable wall of flame.


"20 milligrams cordrazine, now!" Doc orders.

"I'm deactivating the force field," Janeway says. Tom Paris is at B'Elanna's side as soon as the field drops, applying a hypospray to her neck.


Torres, standing at the edge of the plank, dares one more look over her shoulder.

The wicked curved blade of the bat'leth is still there--but now Tuvok is holding it. Impatiently, Tuvok jumps up onto the plank, walks up to Torres, and whups her upside the head with the blade.

Grunting, Torres falls off the plank and onto the red-hot road to hell.


Torres awakens in Sickbay. Only she's still wearing the Klingon outfit, still bears the brand of dishonor on her cheek. The bed she awakens on is surrounded by candles and by a brazier of hot coals.

Neelix approaches B'Elanna's bed, saying nothing--and looking not all that happy to see her.

The doctor approaches a moment later, smiling with the sort of menace we got to know too well in "Equinox, Part II."

"Welcome to gre'thor," Doc says with sociable menace.

Torres enters the commercial break with a slack-jawed silence.

* * *

B'Elanna launches herself off the bed. "This isn't gre'thor!" B'Elanna growls.

"Oh, I assure you it is. You've taken your mark," he says cheerfully, pointing to his cheek.

B'Elanna reaches up to touch her own cheek--and sure enough, the three-bladed triangle of welts is indeed there. "What is this, some kind of a joke?"

"This is no laughing matter," Neelix says menacingly.

Doc maintains his cheerful demeanor. "You've met Mr. Neelix--our ambassador to the recently deceased. Questions, comments, suggestions...he's your man."

"If you'll follow me," Neelix says, pointing to the door. Torres follows.

Doc calls after her. "By the way, I'll be performing an aria from Berlioz's Faust tomorrow night in Holodeck two. Feel free to stop by." Sounds appropriate to the occasion. Maybe Tuvok can play "Devil Went Down to Georgia" on that Vulcan lute of his. If he sings it backwards with Led Zeppelin as the house band it could be perfect.


Neelix gives the usual spiel about Voyager from Hell to B'Elanna, as though she were a first-time tourist instead of the chief engineer. "15 decks...Computers augmented with bio-neural circuitry. Top cruising speed: warp 9.975. Not that you'll be going anywhere," he sniggers.

B'Elanna marches through the corridor. "No fek'lhr? No Cavern of Despair?" she asks mockingly. No John Grisham reading room? No DMV lines?

"Don't need them," Neelix says proudly.

Torres looms over Neelix. "I don't consider Voyager hell!"

"Are you sure?" Neelix asks. "Have you ever been truly happy here? If you thought fifty years aboard this ship would be difficult, try eternity!" He seems to enjoy B'Elanna's escalating agitation.


The door to the mess hall slides open. The scene is remarkably like the "Klingon Heritage night" of B'Elanna's death dream.

Only the mood, and the setting, is decidedly more Klingon than before. Even the gagh looks authentic.

Torres marches through the sea of bodies in the darkened, fire-illuminated room. Everyone--even Tom--regards her with jovial contempt as they sing the Klingon drinking song in unison: EJ IM-TA FEY DE-JA I EJDAHK-SO-TAS GHOS VA SKRAL BYTEEK EMPA JAJ LAW-MOOCH JAJ-PUSH...

Janeway raises her tankard of bloodwine high. "This is a great day for B'Elanna Torres! A day when we pay tribute to her dishonor." The flicker of menace in Janeway's eyes is unmistakable.


In the actual Sickbay, the doctor and Tom and Janeway work furiously to revive B'Elanna Torres.

"She's not responding to the cordrazine," Doc says.

"Neural activity at 48 percent...37--" says Janeway.

"We're losing her!" Tom Paris says softly.

"We have to stabilize her synaptic functions," Doc says. "I'm attempting a direct neural resequencing."

For her part, B'Elanna just lies there on the table . . . silently dying.


Janeway-from-Hell is still in fine form as she roasts her condemned chief engineer. "B'Elanna's misdeeds have led her to gre'thor. She comes with no valor, no glory...nothing to celebrate in song and story." Apparently Seven of Nine's meticulous account of B'Elanna's exploits with Tom Paris on Deck Nine, Section Twelve have yet to make it into the public record….

Neelix whispers into B'Elanna's ear. "You really have no one to blame but yourself."

Harry Kim whispers into her other ear as he walks by. "You've kept us all at arm's length--even Tom, who you claim to love."

"Hear, hear!" shouts Tom, raising his mug.

"I tried to assist you in making engineering more efficient," says Seven of Nine, "but you resisted. You're stubborn."

"She inherited that from her mother--along with the forehead," Doc adds with a raised Eyebrow of Irony.

Leave it to Chakotay to put things in perspective. "What do you think of the Afterlife so far?" he asks, without the harshness of the others in the room.

"It's not exactly what I had in mind," Torres admits wryly.

"Are you interpreting the symbols? Searching your subconscious for their meaning?" Chakotay asks.

" Lieutenant Torres..." The crowd parts. Tuvok appears, wielding the bat'leth. "Defend yourself."

B'Elanna backs up nervously--


And finds herself back on the Barge of the Dead.

Only it's deserted. Aside from one figure, leaning against the wall in the shadows at the edge of Torres' vision. "Captain?" B'Elanna asks.

The figure steps into the light. It's Miral--but she's wearing Janeway's uniform--and has Janeway's confident bearing.

B'Elanna panics. "What are you still doing here? I've released you to Sto-Vo-Kor!"

"You can't free me until you free yourself," Miral explains, smiling serenely. "I don't understand," B'Elanna says. "You never did," Miral says.

Torres' frustration grows. "I did everything that the ritual told me to do. I came back for you..."

Miral shakes her head. "Forget the ritual. It's meaningless." Hmm. Shades of "Sacred Ground," perhaps?

"Meaningless?!" Torres demands. "I died for you!"

"No, you didn't," Miral says. "It's not your time." She smiles sadly. "You still don't understand this journey."

"Then tell me," B'Elanna begs.

Miral gives an eerily Janeway-like nod of the head. "Request denied," she says crisply.

"What do you want?!"

Miral steps toward her daughter. "Who are you asking?"

"You! Kahless! The tooth fairy! Anybody who will tell me what I am supposed to do!!!"

Miral smiles patiently. "You are the only one who can answer that question. Choose to live, B'Elanna." With that, Miral steps back into the shadows, leaving B'Elanna alone.


In Sickbay, Torres is still in a precarious state. "Neural activity's at 23 percent," Tom Paris reports.

"Initiate cortical stimulation. Pulses at 50 millijoules," Doc orders.

"No effect!" Tom shouts.

"Increase to 70 millijoules," Doc orders.

Tom resets the controls. Janeway mutters, looking at the bed, "Come on, B'Elanna . . ."


B'Elanna emerges at the top of the stairs on the Barge--her crew, and her mother, are standing in a semicircle all around her. There is nowhere to run.

"Defend yourself," Tuvok says, roughly throwing the bat'leth at B'Elanna. She catches it.

Torres wields the weapon better than she did earlier. "You want me to fight? You want me to be a good little Klingon? Is that it?" Torres makes a few rudimentary moves, and lunges--stopping with the blade only an inch or so from Tuvok's throat. He doesn't flinch.

"You let your anger consume you. Now it's consuming us," Janeway says.

"She's condemned us all," Seven says. "Misery loves company," Doc observes.

"Get away from me!" Torres screams, waving the bat'leth about defensively, but randomly, a lashing out that accomplishes nothing but to sap her strength.

"Or what? You'll kill us where we stand?" Har3ry [sic] Kim scoffs.

"Tell me what you want me to be!!!" Torres screams. "A good Starfleet officer?" she asks, lunging at Janeway with the curved blade. "A good Maquis?" she asks, taking a swing-and-miss in Chakotay's direction. "Lover?" she asks, almost nicking Tom Paris. "Daughter?" she asks, feinting toward Miral.

Torres begins chasing her own tail, as it were, looking for an enemy but finding none. "Just tell me what you want from me!" she pleads at the top of her lungs.

"We don't want anything from you, B'Elanna," Miral tells her softly.

"We only want you," Janeway says kindly.

"We're not your enemies," Neelix says politely.

"Defend yourself," Tom says.

B'Elanna is on the verge of weeping. "I don't know how. I am so tired of fighting."

"We know," says Janeway with perfect compassion.

Torres looks for a target--any target toward which to vent her anger. Finally, she flings the bat'leth--her anger?--off the ship, watching it arc high into the sky against the pink-tinged river of anguish, before collapsing to her knees.

Miral approaches, regarding her daughter with pride and joy. "You've taken the first step of your journey."

Torres looks at her estranged mother. "And what about you?"

"We will see each other again," Miral promises.

"In Sto-Vo-Kor?" Torres asks.

"Yes, in Sto-Vo-Kor. Or maybe...when you get home."

Ummm…Say that again?

B'Elanna finally seems to catch on. When she does, she leaps into her mother's outstretched arms, for a long-delayed embrace of reconciliation.

There's a flash of light--


B'Elanna awakens in Sickbay. "Mother?" she says, bolting upright. She realizes that her mother isn't there--but Janeway is, and Tom, and the Doctor.

"Oh, god, I'm alive," B'Elanna whispers. She reaches out to Janeway--and clings to the captain's neck as though her life depended on it. Initially surprised, Janeway soon returns the embrace with gusto. "Welcome back," the captain whispers into B'Elanna's ear. Her relief at Torres' survival is joined by the joy at Torres' outburst of affection.

Tom walks over and places his hand comfortingly on B'Elanna's back.

B'Elanna weeps, holding onto Janeway as though the very forces of Hell could not pry her away.


Damn you, Kevin Bacon.

Yes, I know, "Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon" isn't his fault. But I spent too much time connecting the dots between guest star Eric Pierpont and The Kevin through their movie credits. It may not seem relevant, but that's just how my mind works.

How B'Elanna Torres' mind works is relevant to this week's episode.

I'll start out with the easy stuff. Visually, this episode was breathtaking. The Barge of the Dead was nice and dreary, the stuff of unpleasant dreams. The exterior view of Klingon Hell was appropriately menacing, but I'm glad that they went beyond the mere horrifics of roasting the damned on spits forever or tossing them into brimstone hot tubs. It might look cool--I've seen the Sam Raimi rendition of Hell on Hercules and Xena--but there's not a lot of drama to it.

The parallel structure of the story I found fascinating. In the "death dream," Torres returns to Voyager, more or less under her own power. She shouts that she could use some help, but she still does most of the work on her own, and she suffers only minor injuries. In reality, she almost dies and has no role in her own rescue. In her mind, Janeway takes the role of her mother, even calling her Lanna; when arguing to return to the Barge, the argument that ultimately convinces Janeway is the comparison to her mother. In her vision, Chakotay brings her a Klingon artifact that is destined to make her an Immortal through song and story (as Neelix confirms later in Engineering); in reality, Chakotay argues as best he can not to take her near-death experience at face value. In her dream, Torres opens up to a surprising degree to Tom Paris about her family; in real life, she doesn't, talking more at him than to him. In her dream, Tuvok represents her Klingon side in all its fury--the self-loathing, the self-hatred, the feelings of personal dishonor. She beats up on herself but good. In real life, we don't see Tuvok; she's there to do her own damage.

There is also the more general parallel; in the dream, Torres is the only one NOT talking about Klingon stuff. Neelix, Tuvok, Chakotay, Janeway, even Seven, are singing the songs and drinking the bloodwine and having terrific fun playing Klingon, as Torres says, "they don't know me very well if they think they're doing this for me." But in reality, B'Elanna becomes the one obsessed, studying the ancient texts, pondering the matters of eternity, arguing for the right to worship as she sees fit, putting her all on the altar, as everyone around her asks, "are you sure you want to do this?" the pressure they exert on her in her dream represents the pressure she places on herself to be (or not to be) what she thinks people expect of her.

Her time on the barge is a voyage of self-discovery. If there is a just Kahless in Sto-Vo-Kor, we'll see this character development carry over into future episodes. "Day of Honor" did signal a sea-change for her character, but "Extreme Risk" and "Juggernaut" didn't seem to have any long-term impact.

Bottom line: I'd be curious to see a "born-again Klingon" onboard Voyager. Not the outward appearances and "meaningless" rituals; Torres doesn't need to wear her beliefs on her sleeve. But Miral says here that B'Elanna's journey has begun--I'd like to see her take a few more steps, and the direction(s) in which that may lead her.

The performances I quite enjoyed. Eric Pierpont, "George Francisco" of Alien Nation fame, made for an interesting captain of the Barge of the Dead. He didn't overplay it; no growling Klingon bluster, his voice had the proper quality of weariness one would expect from a guy who's been ferrying the damned for all eternity. The regular cast did a fine job in pretty much every scene. They were amusing in the parts that called for it, but their wit took on a dark edge in "Hell." Tom's concern and charm showed through, and his helpless pleas were convincing--here's a couple in dire need of counseling to come to terms with their past, but it's encouraging to see them still plugging away at a relationship. B'Elanna's scenes with Janeway were downright touching. Her scenes with Chakotay helped move the story along in a plausible way; he didn't just hand her the Akoona and warn her not to kill her spirit guide. He tailors his advice to the occasion, as he should. And of course there's Tuvok, whose abandon-all-hope eyes and master-of-the-bat'leth artistry made for a scene that was both impressive and disquieting to watch.

I enjoyed it the first time I watched. But it took a few more viewings to truly appreciate it. There's a lot going on in this episode, and not everything is obvious on first viewing.


Who are we, really? What is our purpose in life? Where are we headed when the heart stops beating and the neural activity flatlines?

Fiction, poetry, philosophy, religion--everyone has a theory designed to explore the questions and the possible answers. Questions and answers are often formalized in ritual; rituals combine to form culture. Some embrace that culture; others reject it; others are indifferent.

Some cultures--Klingon, for example--don't leave much room for indifference.

But whether it's Sto-Vo-Kor or oblivion or heaven that awaits, it all boils down to some pretty basic questions. How am I doing? Am I happy about that? Is there something better?

Though we've only seen her commemorate the Day of Honor once, I note that many Torres episodes land in the third week of the season, a happy coincidence. This year, Torres is thinking about a ten-year anniversary of a "conversation" she had with her mother, with the strong implication that it was the last time the two ever spoke. The Day of Honor would be a reasonable occasion for the sort of argument they apparently had, and the issues on B'Elanna's mind at the time of the accident.

B'Elanna's had it rough. A chief engineer on a ship with a surfeit of engineering prodigies, she rarely gets the respect of a Scotty or Geordi or Chief O'Brien. A Starfleet washout turned Maquis, now forced to serve the past five years on a Starfleet vessel, under Starfleet rules. A daughter who feels her "forehead and bad attitude" were responsible for her father's abandonment, she struggles to open up to her lover, while simultaneously keeping her distance as much as possible. She blames her Klingon nature, her "bad attitude" in particular, for many of her problems.

But as we learn here, the attitude isn't an inheritance. Klingons see the perils of anger as well.

Not that B'Elanna is completely out of control. In "Random Thoughts," Tuvok gains a new appreciation for her self-mastery after a mind-meld. In "Day of Honor," she manages to drop many of her defenses and open up emotionally to Tom Paris--not a lot, but it was a start, and she never looked back after that. If she's still more distant than she'd like to be, B'Elanna still merits congratulation for the steps she's made to date.

But does she see it that way?

In this episode, her own thoughts condemn her. She's more Klingon than she cares to admit--the training is there, and she judges herself in that light whether she realizes it or not--but not Klingon enough to save her mother or herself from an eternity of dishonor. She gets religion in an effort to safe her mother, but she plans to make it a round-trip. She doesn't want to commit to her beliefs, she just wants to use them to get what she wants. But there's no deception on the Barge of the Dead--she has to choose, and she has to mean it. If she truly wants to save her mother, she must embrace her fate, no matter how bleak.

Intriguingly, B'Elanna never gives a thought to the idea that someone else would be willing to do for her what she plans to do for her mother. She underestimates the influence an honored warrior of Sto-Vo-Kor can wield, much less a devoted and loving mother.

Klingon Hell is a fascinating place: an eternity of self-recrimination and Friar's Club roasts. (Dilbert Hell no doubt consists of cubicles, pointy-haired bosses and memos from Marketing, and meetings, meetings, meetings. WWF hell: strictly-enforced Greco-Roman rules, a dress code, and no dwarf-tossing.) But more than that, it's a place where parole is possible. All you need to do is figure out what brought you here, and do something about it.

What was B'Elanna's dishonor? What holds her back?

The fact that she holds back. That she often refuses the help of those who would be closer to her if she'd let them. She ran from her mother. She fled Starfleet Academy. She'd have spent her trip back to the Alpha quadrant in the brig if Chakotay hadn't maneuvered her into the chief engineer's position. She feels overwhelmed by events beyond her control, so she cuts herself off from parts of her life that are within her control--how she lives, who she loves. Anger and resentment and fear allow her to keep her distance.

Perhaps there's an element of the Albert Brooks film Defending Your Life to this episode. That film's message is that the purpose of life is to live it without fear. To take a chance with life. To risk being hurt; to dare to love. To "sin boldly."

There's more to Klingon theology than bloodwine, grunting and battle. Klingons are poets; they sound their barbaric yawps over the rooftops of the world. (Walt Whitman even looks a little like a Klingon, doesn't he?) At times, B'Elanna seems to look toward Kahless (and in this case, Kortar) as the "sweaty-toothed madman" (Dead Poet's Society) of her mother's people.

It's an oppressive force that threatens to crush every ounce of joy and hope from her life, because when she looks in the mirror, she sees the forehead that she believes prompted her father to leave home. She sees the eyes that burn with unwanted anger--and blames the forebears behind the forehead. She doesn't see that the Klingon path to honor is much like the Vulcan path of logic--a way of channeling, and controlling, and reining in those impulses to something constructive. She spends so much time trying not to break noses and trash hotel rooms that she's oblivious to the possibility of using that raw energy for acts of valor and glory. She holds back, afraid to unleash everything she's got into a task. She can stomp Vulcans by hand; how can she be all the lover she can be with a fragile human?

I'm not trying to evangelize the Church of Q'onos here. As Chakotay says, this is all symbol and metaphor for B'Elanna's dissatisfaction. Her mind is what tells her that she's not opening up to people. That she's trying to define herself and her worth by labels: Klingon. Maquis. Starfleet officer. Engineer. Lover. Friend. Daughter. Some of those labels, some of those tasks will be hers as long as she's on Voyager. Others, as long as she breathes. Some, perhaps, are hers forever. She can't pawn off their definitions to other people. Some things only she can determine.


I sometimes wonder how often we can revisit the "B'Elanna Torres reluctantly explores her Klingon side" theme and still keep it interesting. But as with last week's "Survival Instinct," this episode takes the familiar theme and gives it an intriguing new twist. It's far from perfect, but there's a dark feast for the eyes and plenty of grist for the mental mill.

This episode's dramatic cousins include "Day of Honor," "Mortal Coil," and "Coda." There is also strong parallel to the film Flatliners, which prompted my Kevin Bacon tangent--four med students play around with brain death to see if they can unlock the secret of the afterlife--and find themselves in their own private Hell, requiring each to seek their own paths to redemption. What is it that stands between you and a happy afterlife? Some kid you taunted in fourth grade? A parent's death that you never got over?

In that respect, this episode also has parallel to the DS9 premiere, "Emissary." Faced with creatures who live outside of linear time, Ben Sisko is repeatedly brought back to the time of his wife's death. "You exist here," they tell him. Linear time or not, your heart is still stuck in the crew quarters of Saratoga, where your wife lies dead under an unmovable pile of debris. Likewise, part of Torres is still that little girl, whose chief belief about Klingons is that they drove away her daddy and made her life miserable.


This is a couple days late, and by no means short. But I'll end here.

Verdict: I'm giving it (* * * *). It looked great, I enjoyed the pacing, and it made me think.

Some folks wonder how I come about my scores; there's no real science to it, but it boils down to this. If I hate it, one star. If I'm disappointed, two stars. If I like it, three stars. If I love it, four stars. The half stars split the difference.

I liked last week's episode, but it didn't have me jumping up and down. This episode did.

Final Note: Heather Jarman contacted Maud Freifelder for help with the Klingon dialog translations; Maud provided some translations and contacted the the "thIngan Hol" mailing list for assistance with the rest. A couple of people responded (Alan Anderson and Mark Shoulson) and here's their reaction.

"Since you're new, you probably don't yet know the sad truth of TV Klingon. It's not comprehensible tlhIngan Hol....This is not Klingon as we know and use it; it's just someone's feeble attempt to turn English sentences into Klingon ones by looking up each word in turn and occasionally "faking it" when there are gaps....The reviewer should instead note that the attempted Klingon in the episode is a sorry excuse for translation. I suspect the writers think they're doing the fans a favor, but their cavalier treatment of the language is on the edge of being offensive."

Many thanks to Maud Freifelder, Alan Anderson and Mark Shoulson for their translation assistance, and to Heather for knowing who to ask.

>From: Alan Anderson
>Reply-To: tlhIngan-Hol@kli.org
>Subject: Re: translation from Barge

>>mag HoshonaH neS 'a gre'thor
>[This one eludes me, but it might be something like:]
>Proclaim the power and honor of Gre'thor.
>>jIH neH
>I want...
>>jIH ghaj nug SoH neH
>I have what you want.
>>jIH ghaj nej SoH
>I have searched for you.
>>nuq SoH' loS
>What [are] you waiting for?
>>vav nuqDaq SoH (where is your father[is this right?]>
>Father, where are you?
>>nuqDaq 'oH puchpa'e' (Where is the bathroom {from TKD]
>Where is the bathroom?
>>qoS'qar qavlI
>[I don't have a clue.]
>>Duj tlvoqtaH
>Always trust your instincts. [from TKD]
>>tugh = soon
>>jIH qoy SoH
>I hear you.
>>qot' maH SoH gre'thor
>Lie [with] us you Gre'thor. [?]
>>paq'batlh = school [book] of Honor
>book [of] honor
>>pIcH vIghajbe' = I believe this was corrected for me as " I am not at
>It's not my fault. [from TKD]
>>jIjajbe' = I don't understand[from TKD]
>I don't understand. [from TKD]
>>jIHtaHbogh naDev vISovbe'
>I'm lost. [from TKD]
>>bIjegh be'chugh vaj bIHegh
>Surrender or die! [from TKD]
>>Hab SoSlI' Quch = Your mother has a smooth forehead
>Your mother has a smooth forehead! [from Power Klingon]
>>Sop joq' jIH yuv gagh Dreq = I'm stuck on the word Dreq , the sentence is
>>eat the gagh or I will push it ,etc ....
>Eat or I [will] push gagh [?].
>>qem nuHneq =sentence is about bringing a weapon ?
>Bring [the] weaponstick. [Probably referring to the branding iron.]
>>'uch ghH = Hold her! (this is when they are trying to place a brand on
>>Torres' face I believe
>Hold her.
>>I do not know if the first word here is with a q or a Q . The translation
>>capitalized *every* first letter in every sentence ...
>>Since I can't figure out the rest I don't know what it is yet.
>>It really might be a q because of the  2nd word .
>>q(Q)uSDaqba' quSDaqba' puqDoy'lo vlIo'la
>[This one I can't decode at all.]
>Sit in a chair, sit in a chair, child tired use I am used. [?]

Next week: The annual Hormonal Carbonation episode. Lust comes to NCC-74656.

Other Reviewers:

Copyright © 1999 Jim Wright

Star Trek (R) is a registered trademark of Paramount Pictures registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Star Trek: Voyager is a trademark of Paramount Pictures.

Last Updated: October 12, 1999
[Previous Review] [Home Page] [Next Review] [E-Mail]