Voyager, Season 3
Airdate: February 5, 1997
56 of 168 produced
57 of 168 aired
Vorik begins to suffer the onset of pon farr and decides on B'Elanna as a mate. An attempt to initiate mating causes an unexpected effect: B'Elanna begins to suffer it, too.
Obsession, by Kh'lat'Klrghh.
Kevin: I feel like this episode covers a lot of ground covered by previous Trek outings without either introducing us to something new or giving us a character story that can cover the gap. "Amok Time" managed to give us both, in fact. The fact that B'Elanna can 'contract' pon farr seems silly, honestly, and a bit of a retcon. Did Amanda also go coocoo for Sarek's Cocoa Puffs every seven years? I guess my other problem is that the only close to real narrative tension is a will they/won't they or will he for her own good story with Tom and B'Elanna, and that presents me with two problems. One...he can't. He just can't. This is a family show, and as they thankfully point out, her condition meaningfully muddies her consent. The other problem is that this is pretty much the archetypal slash fiction story, two people trapped on a planet, one going through pon farr. It's weird and it makes me feel like I need an adult.
Matthew: On the one hand, I agree that Tom does the right thing, and that this is good overall for the episode. But I actually have two arguments for why he should have nailed her (to use the medical term): first, he already knew that her condition was potentially fatal, and had no idea how long, if at all, it would take them to reach the surface. Second, I feel as though Star Trek has indicated often enough that people in the future do not have the hang-ups that we do about a little FWB action. OF course, this raises the question of why she doesn't just mate with Vorik on a one-time basis. Anyway, I end up feeling like, quite the opposite of doing the right thing, Tom is withholding for selfish reasons, to maintain his personal sense of ethics. Anyway, yeah, it was very difficult to not let one's mind wander into how this slash fiction scenario would play itself out. That's not a pleasant feeling on Star Trek, IMHO.
Kevin: I was also not a huge fan of some of the Doctor's comical attempts to bypass pon farr as, one, I just don't buy he could come up with something that Vulcans had not, and even a modestly successful attempt diminished the emotional impact, retroactively, of other explorations of this. If young Spock could have meaningfully held out for medical attention, it makes Saavik's action in ST:III unnecessary. Also, even while pointing out the absurdity of Vulcan reticence, the "hehe...they're talking about sex" attitude of the jokes belies the Doctor's admonishments.
Matthew: Totally agreed. I grant that this solution would not have even been feasible during TOS, but the way pon farr is portrayed makes it seem as what would essentially be an elaborate masturbatory aid wouldn't cut it. Resolving it with violence? Makes even less sense, but then it was a part of "Amok Time," so I can't fault this show.
Kevin: I was not the biggest fan of the resolution either. Let me say that I am deeply, deeply appreciative that Tom did the right thing, but that no one went out of their way to point out he did the right thing. The idea they could just fight it out seemed almost to be recalled at the last second, as if they were watching "Amok Time" while writing it. Again, the retread is not successful. Kirk's apparent death is painted as necessary to fool Spock's body into reacting the way it does. If all he had to do was clock Kirk really hard, then why don't all Vulcan men just do that? Go play ambojitsu or something until it wears off. There was a way, I think to give this episode a stronger footing. I think had this episode come a little later in the Tom/B'Elanna relationship, it could have been a fun wrinkle. What if they were already having a physical relationship, but the pon farr artificially accelerates things? Can you come back from that? Something like that would have kept this from feeling so pulpy. That all being said, that last scene in the turbolift was pretty good. no two ways about it.
Matthew: The Tom and B'Elana dialogue almost lifts this episode up for me. It's great stuff in terms of advancing their relationship. It gets B'Elanna to admit her feelings, and her rejoinder in the turbolift really whets the viewer's appetite for more scenes between them. One dynamic I found very interesting is the Vorik/B'Elanna scene at the beginning, in which he proposes. It definitely feels like it hits the nail on the head for the way a nerdy guy might broadcast his affections for a woman, how the woman would try to discreetly demur, but then when pushed too far would go for blood. I wonder if Lisa Klink has had personal experience with that sort of interaction.
Kevin: I will say that the last shot was solid. We knew this moment was coming, and the one-off lines about a mysterious adversary really paid off in that last shot of the drone. I may have some profound issues with the manner in which the Borg were eventually handled, but I can't fault the cliff hanger note in this episode for that.
Matthew: Personally, this is my bigger problem with the episode. The B story is clearly just here to precipitate the cliffhanger reveal. It's hard to care much about it at all. In this case, the pon farr stuff could have been as entertaining, if not even more so, playing out in a bottle episode. Absent the artificial situations creating urgency, what would the rational choices be for people suffering in this way?
Kevin: Maybe it's because we haven't seen enough of Vorik to really invest or compare his reactions, but his break to pon farr doesn't have anywhere near the same impact as Nimoy's. He was paying off years of spot on emotional work with skillfully crafted breakdown. Enberg is okay, I guess, overall, but I wasn't bowled over by his screaming.
Matthew: Although I certainly agree that he doesn't have Nimoy's range (or screen time to let it show), I was relatively pleased. I especially liked his hapless nerdery at he beginning, and the way he deferred to Tuvok, who was ably played as uncomfortable but firm by Tim Russ.
Kevin: Dawson did a pretty solid job with a script that could have easily veered into the ridiculous or offensive in lesser hands. She really does look like she could jump out of her skin. And she's not suddenly a mewling sex kitten, she really gave her performance something feral. It's right up there with Dwight Schultz's proto-spider in terms of really nailing the energetic shift in personality.
Matthew: Dawson nearly elevates thic schlocky material alone. She and McNeill have palpable chemistry, so I'm quite gratified that the creative staff recognized and acted on this (as opposed to the narrative blue balls we've mostly been given). I was also quite impressed by her physical acting. It was similar to drunkenness, but had that edge that showed she was trying to incorporate both her character's traits as well as the sci-fi scenario.
Kevin: You'll have to forgive me, but I have been watching a lot of RuPaul's Drag Race recently, so I am really analyzing everyone's wigs very, very carefully, and sadly, Vorik's always looks a little...off to me. His appearance as Taurik in Lower Decks always looks a little sharper to me.
Matthew: I agree that his wig and eyebrows need some work. I really liked the climbing jammies the Starfleet crew had, and their equipment all looked nice. The aliens were yet another bird-like feather-head getup, and were completely forgettable.
Kevin: The jungles and caves were a solid B+. They at least felt numerous and diverse. And the make-up work for the dead drone was just awesome.
Kevin: I have to go with a two, unfortunately. Dawson and McNeill's performances keep a one off the table, but there's just not enough of an actual, fresh story here for me to put this in average territory.
Matthew: This is so close to a 3, but I agree with the 2 for a total of 4. It's kind of one of those "I can't believe they went there" stories. Also, "Why did they go there?" Pon farr really only works the two times it's been shown with the Spock character. "Amok Time" worked because it was used to explore the Kirk/Spock relationship. "STIII" worked because it fit brilliantly into the Genesis-Spock's sci-fi life cycle. Here, it just feels crass. The actors nearly made it work, but they weren't given the scenes or the screen time to really explore it - a superfluous B story gobbled up that time. Oh, well. This episode precipitates further Tom/B'Elanna development, and finally brings us some Borg action. So it's not all bas.