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Stardate 0010.30: Return of the Repressed

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

By Michelle Erica Green     October 30, 2000

Warning: Spoilers Ahead!

The upcoming Voyager episode 'Shattered' keeps looking more and more interesting. First we learned that it would bring Seska back. Now startrek.com's production site indicates via the cast list that we will meet Naomi Wildman and Icheb as adults. Will the kiddies finally bring Voyager home, and how do they feel about their childhoods in space? This could be a very moving story.

Startrek.com also has some new information about 'Lineage,' the episode in which Torres tries to alter the DNA of her unborn baby so it won't have any Klingon elements. This is a potentially explosive installment, with the possibility of touching on abortion politics as well as fetal rights and racial purification through genetic tampering. For that reason, it's hard not to be excited about the episode, though after last week's 'Drive,' I shudder at the idea of Tom's little woman B'Elanna becoming a mother.

Actress Roxann Dawson offers some comfort in a recent Cinescape interview, where she suggests that Torres' compromises to make Paris happy have their limits. 'I would like to see the relationship with Paris finally be addressed,' says the actress. 'I am hearing rumors of some confrontations regarding the relationship in dealing with her past over our last year.' Reportedly, the pre-Khitomer Klingons encountered by Voyager on a generational ship in 'Prophecy' will make Torres experience the parts of her heritage she would like to ignore. Boy it would be nice if she regained some of that Klingon spark and no one suggested she have it removed immediately.

Startrek.com writes that Paris and Torres 'reach a crossroads in their relationship which could have long-ranging effects on both of their lives,' stating that a childhood camping trip may have traumatized Torres so completely that she might make an irrevocable decision against her husband's will 'that no amount of technology can rectify.' The flashback camping scenes were scheduled to shoot last week.

In a video clip on startrek.com, Dawson says of her character, 'I love that she's still not perfect and that she still makes mistakes, and that she has growth still ahead of her. I love to see her continually fail and grow, trip and recover, and that's sort of been her progress over the last few years.' The actress does not believe Torres will have resolved all her conflicts when the series ends, which doesn't bother her; she thinks it's more interesting that way.

The official Trek site also features video clips of Tim Russ talking about the Vulcan legacy he inherited, Jeri Ryan recalling her trepidation about Seven of Nine's catsuit and the possibility that the writers would exploit the character's sexuality, and Kate Mulgrew claimingfor the first time I can recallthat it was tough for her to play Janeway because the character is so different from herself.

'It's a constant challenge for me,' says Mulgrew. 'Janeway was not an easy or particularly natural fit, and I've had to create her pretty singularly out of a foreign clay for me.' For the past six seasons, Mulgrew has repeatedly claimed immediate love for the character and a growing affinity with her style of command, so it is fascinating to hear her say otherwise. I'd love to know specifically which writing and directing decisions gave Mulgrew a hard time.

Trek People: Bragging

Brannon Braga's official Website, brannonbraga.com, recently allowed readers to send in questions for the executive producer. Now answers have been posted for the first batch, including one I've often wondered about: Whatever happened to the Borg baby from Collective that the Doctor encouraged Janeway to cuddle while she was plotting ways to exterminate all the remaining drones? 'The Borg baby was prepared in a delicious orange glaze sauce by Neelix,' jokes Braga, who then claims the baby was returned to its people, though it wasn't shown in an episode because the writers chose to focus on the older Borg kids.

Is that canon, or can Pocket Books do what it pleases with the character? Another reader asked Braga whether Pocket would be able to publish 'Lost-in-the-Delta' books even if the ship gets home at the end of the series. Braga said that he, Rick Berman and Ken Biller have no contact with the book people, though he understands that the publishers are supposed to take their cues from the TV shows, 'but are not necessarily beholden to them.' Hmm. If Voyager's screen adventures can invalidate Janeway's 'official biography,' Jeri Taylor's Mosaic, can Pocket Books invalidate some of the more appalling television episodes?

Braga said he thought Biller rather than himself would write the series finale of Voyager, since he is very busy with the new series, though he offered no hints about what Series V might be about. On Voyager, he added, 'I feel that creatively it's time to move onto other things. I will always miss those characters, though.'

Add Ken Biller to the long list of Voyager cast and crew eagerly counting down to the end of the series. According to Variety, Biller has signed a production deal with Paramount to create a new drama, 'something more contemporary...without phasers or tricorders.' Biller said he is looking forward to working on something new.

Kate Mulgrew and Robert Beltran don't just share the bridge on Voyager. The pair who play Janeway and Chakotay have filmed public service announcements encouraging viewers to vote in the upcoming U.S. election this November. Both actors appear in uniform, though not on the set. Mulgrew caused some controversy earlier this year when she filmed a political advertisement in uniform for her brother-in-law Robert Hagan, encouraging voters to dump Ohio incumbent Senator James Traficant.

SFX's Iain Hepburn has posted a report in which Patrick Stewart admitted 'a certain friction' from gossip and tabloid reports between himself and William Shatner, before the two of them got to know one another on a ride to Vegas in a Paramount jet.

'Gossips spread rumours of Bill's resentment,' SFX quoted the actor as saying in The Radio Times. 'There were unfortunate incidents but...during that 70-minute flight, we got to know one another and I was absolutely charmed and delighted to discover what a smart, ironic and realistic individual he is.'

Trek This Week: 'Repression' Plot Summary

When several crewmembers are rendered comatose by an unknown assailant, Janeway realizes the common link is their Maquis background. Tuvok realizes the attacks began shortly after the last data stream from Earth, and wonders whether anyone received a message that might have heightened anti-Maquis feeling. Chakotay suggests that all former Maquis work in pairs and carry hand weapons, but he and Torres soon become victims...and neither remembers upon awakening that their attacker was Tuvok himself.

Meanwhile, the Vulcan struggles with visions of a Bajoran preaching rebellion, and eventually has himself confined to the brig. Eventually Janeway realizes that a fanatical vedek hid a message to Tuvok in the data stream, triggering an implanted suggestion to foment a Maquis mutiny. Chakotay takes over the ship and asks Tuvok to shoot Janeway before the Vulcan recovers his self-control and frees the former Maquis from the mind-control.

Trek Analysis: The Bajoran Candidate

It was nice to see Tim Russ getting to show some range. Tuvok experienced rage, fear, confusionall those emotions usually denied Vulcans. We knew from the teaser that a Bajoran was the culprit, and it was pretty obvious from the first fuzzy photonic image that Tuvok had forced Tabor to meld with himfor that matter, it was obvious from the way director Winrich Kolbe shot Tuvok in close-up that something was off-kilter. Yet the story played out with tension and dramatic flair, much better than the somewhat similar first-season episode 'Cathexis,' which also saw Tuvok hiding his own security breaches. As long as one doesn't think about it too closely, 'Repression' makes a nice stand-alone episode in the brainwash-thriller tradition of The Manchurian Candidate.

But poke the story just a little, and the holes emerge. How did Teero manage to piggyback a message to Tuvok on a personal communique from his son? Even if for some reason the young Vulcan was complicit, how come no one broadcasting from Starfleet caught the illicit material, since we've been told repeatedly that the data stream can only contain limited amounts of information? Why did Tuvok need to put the Maquis crewmembers in lengthy comas in order to implant suggestions that could be activated with a single phrase? Why would a Bajoran who'd achieved the position of vedek risk exposure at this late date, testing a mind-control technique so controversial that even the outlaw Maquis rejected itwhat on earth could Teero have hoped to accomplish for himself, the Maquis or the Prophets?

The rushed conclusion didn't answer any of these questions. Nor did it address the issue of the Maquis, which is very frustrating. As in the third-season episode 'Worst Case Scenario,' we're led to believe that the Maquis don't have any lasting loyalty to one another or to their former causethey only band together against Starfleet when under mind control or in role-playing situations. Yet in 'Repression' it takes mere seconds for Chakotay to start talking to Janeway about 'her crew' instead of 'their crew' when his former group gets mentioned. Do the Maquis still harbor residual anti-Starfleet sentiment or don't they? Now that such feelings have been reawakened, even if it was through the artificial stimulation of a mind-meld, will Maquis crewmembers explore their hidden resentments?

Trek Books: Star Trek New Frontier: Excalibur - Restoration

In all honesty, I look for reasons not to like the New Frontier novels. The most recent trilogy rings up at $36 before tax. Since the Trek franchise's greed has eroded the quality of its television and films, focusing more on advertiser demographics than audience appreciation, boycotting Trek products is a clear avenue of protest. If we don't buy, someone in the production offices may realize fans have stopped flocking to any junk they offer with a Trek label on it. Though Voyager may be dreadful some weeks, the only cost is sitting through its commercials. With New Frontier, we're being asked to pay by the installment for the sort of decent stories we used to get regularly on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

And the hell of it is, New Frontier is worth it. It feels like a more direct heir to the original series and The Next Generation than either of the subsequent series; don't get me wrong, I think DS9 was fantastic, but thematically it moved far from the optimism and joie de vivre of its predecessors. Even at its darkest moments, New Frontier exudes the uncompromising, exuberant spirit of Roddenberry's initial vision. Even if you find Captain MacKenzie Calhoun hopelessly arrogant, even if you dislike the Excalibur crew's disregard for the laws of Starfleet (and sometimes the laws of physics), it's impossible not to compare them favorably with the crews of the Enterprises, and end up rooting for them.

Restoration at long last brings back Calhoun from the dead, except of course he never was. We finally get an explanation of how and why the ship blew up, though author Peter David suggests that we may never know how everyone survivedthe mysterious presence of McHenry, who has successfully traded his reality for science fiction, allows all sorts of inexplicable interventions. Not that David has resorted overmuch to deus ex machina cliches: in the beginning of Restoration, the chief of security on a starship is killed by a holographic recreation of Thor from some nouveau-Norse comic book. Perversely, this plays as comedy rather than tragedy.

We catch up with Calhoun in Narrin, a frontier town on the parched world of Yakaba, where people don't bother to dream of space flight or even air conditioning because it would require more social development than they can handle. The most ambitious guy around is also a greedy entrepreneur with such selfish vision that it's not worth trying to work with him. Calhoun hooks up with Rheela, a woman who has the ability to make it rain in the desert. The townspeople are suspicious of both her altruism and her young son, whose paternity she refuses to discuss. To save Rheela from potential exile, Calhoun pretends to be Moke's father, thus entangling himself in the town's cultural chaos even as he dreams of getting back to Shelby and space.

Shelby, meanwhile, has accepted command of the Exeter, and appointed a first officer who's just like she was when she first met Riker during the Borg incident. It's a classic 'be careful what you wish for' scenario, as she takes her hand-picked crew into a textbook Prime Directive dilemma, only to realize all the reasons captains like Kirk, Picard and Calhoun consider Starfleet regulations to be guidelines rather than rules. The story unfolds with humor and great sympathy for Shelby, who can be one step away from thoroughly annoying at times.

Though it's structured like an adventure novel, as were the previous volumes in the Excalibur mini-series, Restoration is primarily a love story. I thought after Voyager's 'Drive' that I would never again want to see two major characters pair up on Trek, but Mac and Shelby's romance plays out wonderfully, with very few clichés despite their fairly traditional values. It makes them both stronger peopleMac because he can admit he needs her more than he needs unswerving faith in his own instincts, Shelby because it puts her in touch with the emotions that allow her to see beyond cold-blooded regulations. The numerous female characters (including a raftload of new ones chosen by Shelby to staff the Exeter) are all smart, complex and fallible, and if the guys fall victim to occasional chauvinism, they also respond well to being put in their places. (Someone's got to do something about Cwan, thoughhis condescension to his sister and Robin Lefler really gets on my nerves.)

The conclusion to this novel isn't a surprise to the reader, but it's a lot of fun to read because none of the characters see it coming. Yet it shifts the basic structure of New Frontiernow that Shelby's a captain, she's not going back to being Calhoun's first officerand through a complicated series of events, Calhoun has adopted a child. Two captains, two ships, one family. Finally we have a married couple on Star Trek who are truly equals, who can work apart as well as they can work together, yet who believe that the bond between them transcends whatever the universe may concoct to drive them apart. That's worth more than the cost of these books; it's priceless.

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