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Stardate 0010.23: Every Day is a Winding Road

Plus: Trek News, Trek This Week, Trek Analysis, Trek Books

By Michelle Erica Green     October 23, 2000

Caution: Spoilers ahead!

The upcoming Voyager episode 'Shattered,' which filmed last week at Paramount, promises to be a treat for long-time series fans. Visitors to the Paramount lot last week noticed Kazon, Vidiians and other species long gone from the show wandering aroundand this time they're not even Hirogen holograms. Because 'Shattered' concerns different pockets of the ship being thrown into different time-frames after an encounter with a dreaded temporal anomaly, all sorts of strangeness from Voyager's past and future can pop up.

In the best news yet, scheming Cardassian spy Seska is scheduled to make a reappearance. When we last saw Seska, she had turned up in holographic form to try to kill Tuvok in 'Worst Case Scenario,' but technically she's been dead since 'Basics Part Two.' A real loss to the series, because during the two previous seasons, she betrayed Voyager (and her onetime lover Chakotay) by giving technology to the Kazon, defecting, stealing Chakotay's DNA to impregnate herself, allying with (and actually getting pregnant by) Kazon leader Culluh, then taking over the ship and stranding the crew on an isolated planet. She called Janeway a fool! She claimed Chakotay raped her! She convinced Torres to betray the captain!

The official site at startrek.com adds that 'Shattered' will feature Chaotica's Lair from the Captain Proton holo-program. Robert Picardo told me that he plays the Doctor in a scene set during the second season, when the Doc was less compassionate and more cranky. So this episode promises to be great fun, even though Picardo thought the rumors of a Janeway/Chakotay future-tense romantic bonding were inaccurate. Well, can't have everything in a single episode.

Good news from the Trek comics division, as well: Wildstorm editor Jeff Mariotte has announced plans to bring back the planet-eaters from the original Star Trek's 'The Doomsday Machine.' In January, Wildstorm will publish a three issue mini-series, Star Trek Voyager: Planet Killer.

Written by popular Trek Pocket Books authors Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch, the series will feature Voyager encountering one of the nasty cornucopia-shaped devices chomping its way across inhabited Delta Quadrant planets. Though Janeway has access to Kirk's records and knows the previous Doomsday Machine was destroyed when the Constellation blew up inside its maw, she doesn't have a spare starship she can use to wipe out the new threat. Illustrated by Robert Teranishi and Claude St. Aubin, the comic promises to bring back one of the most mysterious adversaries of the original series.

Trek News: Having a Ball with Ratings

Although the ratings for 'Imperfection' dropped off from those for 'Unimatrix Zero Part Two'a fairly common event after a highly-rated season premierelast week's episode garnered solid overnights, earning a 5.2 rating, 8 share, which beats Voyager's average for last season. Though the show remains in fifth place on Wednesday nights, it appears to be holding its core audience against top-rated series The West Wing.

Robert Beltran held his annual Galaxy Ball to raise money for Down's Syndrome charities last weekend. Some of the same people who visited Paramount and spilled the beans about the Kazon and Seska were guests at the festivities and sent reports, though no one brought tape recorders so the following summary includes a lot of paraphrasing. The Saturday festivities began with an onstage appearance by TNG's Jonathan Frakes and Michael Dorn, who joked about their need for hairpieces and how much they enjoyed torturing Marina Sirtis when they worked together. They sang, as did most of the subsequent Voyager guests. The three Roberts and Garrett Wang also performed a Riverdance parody.

Beltran introduced his castmates before they arrived, noting that Bob Picardo still had to get there, Robbie McNeill was upstairs nursing a cold and Garrett Wang hadn't yet made it back from Vegas. They discussed upcoming events from the show like Paris and Torres' wedding and Tuvok's pon farr, which was enlivened by Ethan Phillips, who jokingly 'offered' Neelix to Tim Russ, only to become the victim of Russ' willingness to play up Tuvok's mating drive to the hilt. (Supposedly this scene is on tape somewhere!) There were numerous other slash jokes, including jokes about 'The Chute,' which Beltran once described to Wang as 'the episode where you and Robbie fell in love.'

A questioner asked a question about whom they would choose if each of the men could have a romantic relationship with anyone on the show. Beltran and McNeill dreamily batted eyelashes at one another, though McNeill later chimed in that he thought he and Torres were right for one another, and Beltran said he still wanted Chakotay to have a chance with Janeway. There was then some joking about whether they meant the characters or Roxann Dawson and Kate Mulgrew, since the men had a tendency to refer to themselves in the first person when speaking of their characters, and to substitute actors' names for their characters. Picardo said he still yearned for Freya from the Beowulf episode 'Heroes and Demons,' while Wang thought it was time for the captain to notice that Harry had become a man, and have a menage a quatre with him, Seven and Torres.

The group also joked about Beltran being known as 'Mr. Discipline' on the set. Wang apparently did a wonderful impression of Mulgrew playing Janeway as Arachnia. Someone asked Picardo how long he had been bald. The group answered questions about their stupidest lines, with Beltran saying it was Chakotay saying he needed to talk to his dead father and McNeill sticking with the last line of 'Future's End': 'Tuvok, you're a real freakasaurus!' Beltran thought Wang should pick, 'I don't care if she's a hologram, I love her!' from 'Alter Ego.'

Asked about roles they would like to do, McNeill said adult films, while Beltrana notorious original series hatersaid he would like to play a role from Star Trek. Picardo sighed that he'd really like to get a chance to play a doctor on television. Beltran said that after the series wraps, he intends to sleep, while both McNeill and Picardo want to spend time with their kids. Picardo joked about taking a job in a Chinese restaurant, at which Wang offered to join him, doing a comic routine as a Chinese short-order cook.

There were live and silent auctions, including a pair of pants that used to belong to Patrick Stewart, and a hat signed by the four men of Voyager who smothered the buyer in a group hug. Dinnertime entertainment was provided by Tim Russ, backed by Neil Norman and the Cosmic Orchestra. During dessert, McNeill, Roxann Dawson, Ethan Phillips, Picardo and Beltran performed, then Wang led the big-ticket-item auction. Beltran's brother, Louie, and his orchestra provided the music for the dancing portion of the evening.

Trek This Week: 'Drive' Plot Summary

When Paris and Kim meet Irina, an alien who tells them about an Olympic-style race to promote peace between planets, Paris forgets all about the romantic vacation Torres has been planning for him. He suggests to Janeway that he enter the Delta Flyer in the competition. Let down, Torres laments to Neelix that she thinks she and Tom make a bad match, but decides to become Paris' co-pilot rather than sitting at home. Kim hooks up with Irina when her co-pilot is injured in an accident.

Paris orders Torres not to interfere with his piloting. During the climactic lap, she suggests that they don't fit well together, which upsets Paris so much that he shuts down the engines so they can work things out. Meanwhile, Kim realizes Irina has sabotaged the Delta Flyer, and sends a message warning Paris that his ship is rigged to explode. Paris races toward a nebula, where Torres dumps the corrupted warp core right after he asks her to marry him. Torres agrees, so once Assan has claimed victory, the engineer and the pilot take off with 'Just Married' painted on the back of the Delta Flyer.

Trek Analysis: Drive...Up the Wall

'Drive' is an excellent Harry Kim episode. He's a good sport, he has a sense of humor about his own failings, he can take good-natured jokes about his pathetic love life. In a crunch, he defends himself against an enemy who has him at a grave disadvantage. Then he single-handedly figures out her scheming, thus saving his shipmates and the peaceful aliens. In an episode obsessed with naming a winner, Kim deserves highest honors.

Regrettably, Kim didn't get nearly as much screen time as the Paris/Torres romance. Paris is a self-centered brat. His explanation that he didn't think B'Elanna liked 'mushy stuff' doesn't mitigate his suggestion that she recite, 'I am not the pilot, I will not attempt to fly this ship,' in penance for her attempt to win the race that's of such importance to him. Paris apparently wants to win only if he gets the credit for the victory. From his actions over the past two years, particularly the number of engineering recommendations he's made even though Torres is the chief engineer, it's evident that he can't tolerate the idea she might be better than him at something.

And how does Torres respond? Does she ignite her Klingon nature and challenge him, as Jadzia did with Worf, or does she demonstrate her maturity by telling Paris it's been fun, but he can play with his toys by himself while she pursues a mature relationship with someone who shows at least faint curiosity about her interests? No, she sulks and turns passive-aggressive, pouring out her troubles to blabbermouth Neelix, making sniffly remarks about Harry and his girlfriend to Tom. Indeed, Torres has gotten the sort of man she deservessomeone who will go right on assuming that his idea of a fun vacation should be her idea of one. Whether or not she takes his name, Torres looks like a more traditional human wife than Keiko O'Brien, who at least has the sense to whine to Miles when he spends hours on end playing with Bashir.

The romance wasn't helped any by the transparent plot. We all know that if Harry's attracted to a guest star, she's going to turn out to be a bad guy or a corpse by the end of the episode. Forgetting that, it's obvious Irina's the saboteur, because in an episode where self-effacing Torres is the Good Woman, any competent female pilot who tells Kim to sit down and shut up because she knows her ship better than he does has got to be the Bad Woman.

Trek Books: Star Trek: Voyager - Dark Matters Books One and Two

Christie Golden has ruined Voyager for me because she writes it better than the show's producers ever have. Her novels The Murdered Sun and Marooned star my fantasy Janeway, and all her characters have more lifenot to mention more consistencythan those on the show. Even Super-Borg Wonder Bra, I mean Wonder Woman Seven of Nine, becomes an enjoyable member of the Voyager ensemble in Golden's books. And her Chakotay is a man of introspection, passion annd wit. Why don't we see these characters on television?

Golden also creates intriguing alien cultures and spins good sci-fi yarns. The Dark Matters trilogy begins with a question never answered by the writers of the television serieswhatever happened to the messages Voyager sent to the Alpha Quadrant in the first-season episode 'Eye of the Needle'? They were carried by Telek R'Mor, a Romulan scientist who lived twenty years in Voyager's past. Golden hypothesizes that the wormhole through which Voyager contacted R'Mor was an artificial construct, and that Romulan espionage agents from the Tal Shiar would try to exploit R'Mor's knowledge of Voyager's existence. The Romulans could claim a Federation starship from twenty years in their future as their prize, if only they could open a wormhole in the right place.

R'Mor, who seemed like a good guy in 'Eye of the Needle,' decides to risk his life and his family to warn Voyager of an impending attack. Janeway rescues him by beaming him through a wormhole to the Delta Quadrant. The scientist shows his gratitude by sharing his knowledge about a deadly threat from his own Empire: an alien named Lhiau, from a Q-like race that calls itself The Shepherds, has taught the Romulans to make impenetrable cloaks using dark matter. This elusive material makes up the bulk of galaxies, yet (in Golden's books at least) can exist benignly only in an inchoate state between universes. When Lhiau pulls the dark matter completely into the universe of the Federation and the Romulans, the matter becomes malignant, destroying everything with which it comes into contact.

While Janeway sets off on a quest to find the Shepherds in the hope of learning how to stop the dark matter from killing her crew, Chakotay discovers that his spirit guide has been replaced by the trickster Coyote, who speaks in Q's voice and seems determined to explain the nature of the threat via maddening riddles. After the sudden arrival of a mysterious alien whose DNA is nearly the reverse of most humanoids', Chakotay pulls Paris through a portal to what is apparently the universe of the alien's origin. As the two Voyager crewmen struggle to survive on a dangerously divided planet, Janeway and the engineering crew try to save people and planets infected with mutated dark matter, without destroying Voyager in the process.

Meanwhile, back in the Alpha Quadrant, Tal Shiar leader Jekri Kaleh begins to suspect Lhiau has no real desire to help the Romulansin particular, she is disturbed by his invasion of their minds, including her own. A faked love affair with her second-in-command to hide their conspiratorial meetings backfires, leaving her on her own, with nothing but forbidden Vulcan mental disciplines to shield her from Lhiau. By the time Kaleh realizes the magnitude of the threat he represents, it may be too late for her to save the Romulansor the galaxy.

Janeway is strong, assertive and completely likeable in these books, working with Torres to save the ship, keeping Seven firmly in the background. Kim gets to romance an intriguing alien, Neelix gets to use his cooking for diplomatic purposes. As in Golden's Marooned, poor Paris is badly injured and can't play superman, but his weakened physical state gives him a rare chance to act as diplomat and researcher instead of hotshot pilot.

Chakotay is by far the most improved character, maintaining all the intriguing elements we saw early on in the series that have largely been absent of late. He meditates, he tries to talk to his animal guide, he recognizes the Lakota Ghost Dance paralleled in an ancient culture on a distant planet. He weighs heavily the decision to contradict Janeway in public, but does so when he feels he should. His feelings for Janeway as both first officer and friend occupy Chakotay's thoughts a great deal, which humanizes both characters and adds a dramatic element absent from the television series. In these books, when Chakotay risks his life to save Janeway's, or when she takes his hand on the bridge because they think they've found a way home, the subtext gives the scenes emotional power.

There are lots of nods to previous seriesBeverly Crusher's warp bubble, the Bajoran Prophetsas well as explanations of some of the irrational aliens from Voyager being affected by mind-destroying mutated dark matter (Culluh, the Baneans and Numiri from 'Ex Post Facto,' the manipulative prime minister from 'Prime Factors'). There's also a mysterious entity with ties to Voyager whom I'm hoping turns out to be an evolved Kes, but it could be the creature Janeway saved in 'The Cloud' or some other alien. As usual, Pocket Books leaves us with a cliffhanger until Book III comes out in December...but apart from screaming in rage at being left hanging, Books I and II are sheer delight.

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