Hathor Watch-Along: Voyager S3E2: “Flashback”

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The show begins with Neelix being typically annoying and insisting everyone try this stupid, complicated drink. Tuvok is all NOOOOOO! but then takes a sip. He doesn’t die, have an allergic reaction, or kill Neelix, so he dubs the drink “impressive.” Neelix is thrilled, and starts making Tuvok breakfast. In Neelix’ culture, you tell the history of a food before you eat it, which is actually kind of cool. Tuvok’s SUPER over it though, particularly when there’s a plasma flare and his eggs get burned. I ALSO like eggs, so sympathize. I’m also wondering how they’re storing all their fresh goods — Neelix has a big bowl of eggs hanging out in the galley, and presumably enough for every crew member to get a little nummy protein hit. I wonder how the galley is organized, where and how all those fridges must be, and if Neelix has ever seen The Shining because now I’m all creeped out thinking of those big empty freezer units and the potential GHOSTS OF THE SHIP.

I swear, every creepy sequence in The Shining begins in the kitchen. How does Neelix sleep at night??

Anyways, the plasma flare is serious business — so serious B’Elanna is on the bridge and then bam! Everyone realizes that there’s some neat sirrilium (it’s blue!) and that it can be a volatile but useful energy source. Tuvok gets a hand tremor, is disoriented, and basically starts exhibiting the combined symptoms of a stroke and panic attack. This is when I squeed because I realized this would be another Tuvok ep. Anyways, Tuvok flashes back to a white girl hanging over the edge of a cliff, begging him to save her, as little!Tuvok clutches her hand. His grip slips and she falls into the bestest foggy cliff bottom CGI can buy.

At sickbay, the Doctor is all, “WTF do you want me to do about this?” His exact words are:

“I don’t know what happened to you, but there can be any number of explanations – hallucination, telepathic communication from another race, repressed memory, momentary contact with a parallel reality… take your pick. The universe is such a strange place.”

I translate this as: “I hate my job. Fucking Voyager. Nobody is ever sick-sick. It’s always goddamn telepathic alien infections this or overlapping space-time continuums that. Anywho, good luck with that creepy dead girl thing, Tuvok, and here’s a sick pass for missing class!”

He also gives Tuvok a monitoring thing so that the next time he gets a panic attack sick bay will know and maybe possibly help.

The next scene of interest is of Tuvok repeating a Vulcan meditation and playing meditation Jenga — it’s a Vulcan meditative practice called Kithira, and basically you’re building a structure of harmony. Tuvok’s collapses and he’s sad. Kes tries to be soothing, but because she’s often written as the bubbly useless naif, she fails abominably and, uh, leaves him. I actually think this building-harmony/Jenga-as-meditation thing is a really cool concept.

The Doctor suggests that a mind-meld might work to fix Tuvok’s brain since he’s obviously dealing with some deeply repressed shit, and needs a buddy to help him process this. Tuvok asks Janeway to do it, because she’s the closest thing he’s got to family. IDK why Tuvok doesn’t want Kes, the other telepath he’s been mentoring to do it, but I’m thinking this is evidence of writing fail, since in THIS ep she’s friendly-but-not-close to Tuvok, and isn’t “Hi, I’m Kes, your friendly alien telepath!” like she’s been in a few others. Then again, this episode really solidifies Tuvok and Janeway as besties, so I guess him picking her makes narrative sense, even if it under-utilizes Kes as a character.

Anyways, Janeway and Tuvok mindmeld, and Tuvok talks them to his first tour of duty, where he served on the Excelsior with Captain Sulu. They’re supposed to look at gaseous anomalies but Kirk and McCoy got captured by Klingons and Sulu wants to rescue them. Tuvok is all, “WTF that’s ILLEGAL and will cause an INTERNATIONAL INCIDENT!” Everyone else is like “SHUT UP TUVOK GO TO YOUR ROOM.”

Going back to the LoGI link on American tropes: I think this little interchange illustrates both a fetishization of military loyalty and service, and an implicit justification of illegal and unjustified military action without the tacit endorsement of either a civilian, governing, or regulatory body.  You see similar things in SF movies like Battle: LA, the Transformers franchise, and others. I think it’s interesting because of the affiliation between DoD and these larger projects, and suspect that because of DoD’s molding of scripts since the 1920s that this is not only an invented trope but also a particularly American one. Anyways, it’s also interesting because Janeway later waxes rhapsodic about a time when captains were captains, Klingons were Klingons, and Star Fleet boldly fucked up other people’s shit, Prime Directive be damned. Respecting international borders is fuckin’ boring, y’all. Here’s a particularly interesting line:

“Space must’ve seemed a whole lot bigger back then. It’s not surprising they had to bend the rules a little. They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive, and a little quicker to pull their phasers. Of course, the whole bunch of them would be booted out of Starfleet today. But I have to admit: I would have loved to ride shotgun at least once with a group of officers like that.”

Note the vaguely cowboy imagery.

Anyways, we learn that Tuvok saw one of his bunkmates die, and the memory of the girl falling keeps popping in and interrupting the mind-meld. Outside Tuvok’s memories the Doctor realizes that there are actually two overlapping memories: the girl falling and the Excelsior encountering trouble. Janeway has Tuvok replay the memory, and outside his brains the Doctor realizes that it’s NOT a memory, but a virus that mimics the functions of one. He bombards both Janeway and Tuvok’s brains with a radiation that messes with telepathy, and kills the virus-memory. As he does so, both Janeway and Tuvok re-experience the memory of the girls falling, but each time they are another child they’ve never met before.

When they’re out of the mind-meld, the Doctor is all “HOLY SHIT, we just discovered a new disease!! Cool!!” and explains that the virus was mimicking the format of a repressed memory so it would go undetected in the host’s brain. When the host dies, it implants itself into a new host, as was the case between Tuvok and his bunkmate. The ep closes with Tuvok and Janeway walking away into an elevator together. Janeway asks if Tuvok misses working with some of the great heroes of Star Fleet, like McCoy, Sulu, and Kirk. He says no. She presses the issue, and finally he says he was pleased to have been part of those great events AND that Janeway can be nostalgic for both of them.

I kinda want to shake Janeway and tell her that being nostalgic for the “good old days” is generally a TRICK, and a code for a return to toxic social mores dangerous to women and POC.

Overall: This was a pretty great look at Tuvok and Janeway’s relationship. I really dug their interaction, and that Tuvok’s not a perfect character. He argues with and defies his parents, is ambivalent but satisfied with fatherhood, etc. Unfortunately, neither Janeway or Kes got substantial development; we don’t learn anything about Janeway that we don’t already know, and Kes and her telepathy are totally not mentioned.

 

Comments

  1. says

    “Janeway later waxes rhapsodic about a time when captains were captains, Klingons were Klingons, and Star Fleet boldly fucked up other people’s shit,”

    I LOL’d.

  2. says

    Palaverer,

    I just came down here to quote that and laugh, so I’ll just say “Ditto.” And “boldly fucking up other people’s shit” should be a textbook definition of imperialism.

    Maria, the “affiliation” link is terrific. That’s documentation of the kind of thing many people “know” is going on in H’wood, but can’t prove. One of my profs at UCLA also taught that the whole 50’s trad-fam sitcom genre was on Washington’s orders: show the little ladies how awesome it is to stay at home and let them men have their factory jobs back. That ties into the whole military industrial complex.

    It’s not that America’s an imperfect experiment in personal freedom. It’s that it never actually was about personal freedom – they just hid the restraints extra carefully, settling for manipulation instead of force, and this whole “freedom” thing was just spin. And because enough people buy it, American imperialism continues unabated.

  3. Shaun says

    Maria, as someone who watches Star Trek, what do you feel like the representation of women and racial minorities is in-universe? I know canonically they’re supposed to have eliminated racism and sexism and poverty but that’s definitely not the representation I see as a casual viewer.

  4. says

    Maria,

    Whoa. When I read your comment and clicked over, I was expecting to see something about “I’d Like to Buy the World A Coke”, which I believe was a Christmas commercial. This… is so much more insidious, and I had no idea.

    Maria: I notice they’re often absent, and are used as things to facilitate the plot instead of as characters.

    I think of the Treks, DS9 probably does best with women and minorities. You get Kira and Dax as regular characters. Keiko and Kasey – who are WoC – are recurring characters, so they do tend to faciltate plot, and yet they have passions and concerns I’m aware of. You also get Kai Winn recurring, and she’s a great antagonist. Among the regulars, of course, you have a black captain and Dr. Julian Bashir, whose ethnicity is never made explicit, IIRC, but his parents are Australian, and Bashir is, I believe, an Arabic name – which is part of the background of the actor playing him. All characters on DS9 are better than average for TV, IMO. I believe the way the show was syndicated from the get-go gave them a little more flexibility than TNG and VOY enjoyed.

  5. Maria says

    Jennifer Kesler,

    Yeah, right now I’m most familiar with Voyager, TNG, and the first season of Enterprise. I remember LOVING Keiko and O’Reilly’s relationship though, because they each made decisions that supported one another’s career ambitions <3, and seemed to be in a non-fetishy interracial relationship.

  6. Patrick McGraw says

    I translate this as: “I hate my job. Fucking Voyager. Nobody is ever sick-sick. It’s always goddamn telepathic alien infections this or overlapping space-time continuums that. Anywho, good luck with that creepy dead girl thing, Tuvok, and here’s a sick pass for missing class!”

    I love this.

    Also, yay Paula Cole!

  7. meerkat says

    That was an awesome summary. The scene with the eggs has always bothered me, because aren’t Vulcans vegan? I figure Tuvok is really roughing it by eating whatever the rest of the crew eat rather than use some replicator rations (maybe he used all his replicator rations on slab-of-meat day, except Neelix doesn’t seem to slaughter his own livestock so their meat is probably replicated anyway).

  8. Maria says

    meerkat,

    That’s a really good question — maybe that’s part of why Tuvok was so grossed out by the food’s biography.

    Also: if the meat is replicated, would it count as vegan?

  9. says

    My guess on replicated food is that it depends on what you feed into the machine in the first place. A lot of sci-fi universes have it be protein to start with, whether small reptiles like LMB’s Vorkosigan Saga or humans like Soylent Green. When they bother discussing how replicators work at all, that is.

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