Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Blood Fever"

***

Air date: 2/5/1997
Written by Lisa Klink
Directed by Andrew Robinson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Did you know that fracturing a clavicle on the wedding night is actually considered a blessing on the marriage?"
"As a matter of fact, I didn't."

— Doc and Janeway, on Klingon mating rituals

Nutshell: Par for course. Pretty superficial, particularly near the end, but a fairly diverting hour.

When Ensign Vorik finds himself at the mercy of his first Pon Farr cycle, the Vulcan mating instinct, he announces to Torres his desire to take her as his mate. She refuses, at which point he briefly attempts to force a mental bond between them—before Torres slugs some sense back into him. Because of the failed bond, Torres soon finds herself with the same chemical imbalance Vorik has, and must fight her own sexual urges. Intertwined with this situation is a subplot within the caves of a vacant M-class planet containing a valuable mineral which Torres, Paris, and Neelix beam down to retrieve.

"Blood Fever" is basically "Amok Time" in the Delta Quadrant, where a Vulcan does not have the luxury to return home to take a spouse. This is not an extremely deep episode of Voyager, but it is effective on its own terms. The best single-word recap for this episode may be "entertaining." Then again, words like "shallow" and "glib" also come to mind.

The early acts work fairly well, as Doc attempts to help Vorik proceed through the Pon Farr with medical assistance; to which Vorik answers that it's merely a "Vulcan" matter that he has to resolve on his own with meditation. "How well a Vulcan deals with the Pon Farr is a test of his character," Vorik tells the Doctor, refusing to discuss it further. A subsequent discussion with Tuvok gives Doc little further enlightenment.

Much of the early material (for those who are not already familiar with the Pon Farr from TOS's "Amok Time," that is) is background about Vulcan mating cycles (i.e., every seven years an adult male must either (1) take a mate, (2) fight a ritualistic battle of competition, or (3) resolve it with deep meditation—or else the chemical imbalance could kill him). None of this stands out as particularly special, though it is sensibly handled with some occasional bits of effective dialog. One interesting exchange in particular reveals some perspectives:

Doc: "For such an intellectually enlightened race, Vulcans have a remarkably Victorian attitude about sex."
Tuvok: "That is a very human judgment, Doctor."
Doc: "Then here's a Vulcan one: I fail to see the logic in perpetuating ignorance about a basic biological function."
Tuvok: "There is nothing logical about the Pon Farr. It is a time when instinct and emotion dominate over reason."

Doc comes up with an alternative for Vorik, by programming him a holographic "mate," which, as Doc puts it, may be able to help him with the short-term problem. The solution appears to work at first (though I don't quite understand how Vorik would form a telepathic link with a computer program).

As Vorik's situation is analyzed on board the Voyager, Torres begins slowly losing control as the chemical imbalance begins to release her Klingon urges, interfering with the away mission in the caves. Worse comes to worse when it's revealed that the planet isn't truly vacant, but occupied by a race of aliens who are hiding underground. The aliens transport out of the area, taking Chakotay and Tuvok prisoner, leaving Torres and Paris alone, lost in the caves.

The aliens are suspicious of outsiders, ever since they were attacked and conquered more than a half century ago by a powerful group of unknowns, in a swift defeat that left them ruined in less than an hour. Chakotay negotiates a trade with Ishan, their alien captor (Bruce Bohne) after assuring them Voyager isn't a threat.

The remainder of the episode is mostly devoted to the issue of B'Elanna's intense need to appease her case of "blood fever" by using Tom's, well, male presence; which, as one could probably expect, is where the character core of the story lies. Dawson, as usual, delivers a compelling performance, creating a instinct-driven B'Elanna whose mental awareness strives to remain in control over the vehement, irrepressible desires. Tom plays the part of a good guy—making sure B'Elanna doesn't do anything she'll later regret—and him too, given that B'Elanna is someone he's been subtly chasing after for months.

On more than one occasion she throws herself at him (literally), but Tom handles the delicate situation as best possible—pushing her away because it's in the best interests of their friendship. Both Dawson and McNeill are believable in the extreme situation—the former as a distressed, confused person pushed to the limits of sanity and her own endurance and ready to crawl out of her skin; the latter as the calm, cool-headed sense of reason and survival. Amidst the background of some handsomely-produced cave-ins and rock slides, the results are good.

Unfortunately, the conclusion, like many episode conclusions, does not have a payoff that's in sync with the rest of the story. As Torres and Paris are rescued by Chakotay and Tuvok, Torres' time runs out, and the away team loses contact with the ship. Tuvok explains that Paris must "help" Torres now, or she will die as a result of her chemical imbalance. I didn't necessarily have a problem with this—in fact, to see what would've happened as a result of this extreme solution to such an extreme situation could've potentially been interesting (although I don't see how it could've been pulled off without seriously risking the apparent friendship between these two characters).

What does strike me as superficial, however, is Vorik's appearance out of nowhere (apparently Doc's holodeck solution was a failure) to assault Paris and claim Torres as his mate. This leads B'Elanna to face Vorik (in accordance with Vulcan tradition) in a glib fight scene concept that's straight out of "Amok Time"—an idea suited more to the lighter hokiness of TOS's reign. This fight, like much of the show, is entertaining and kind of fun; but as drama goes, it's as transparent as a piece of Plexiglas. The stuntwork is decent, but Chattaway's "action" score could use work. Alexander Enberg's portrayal of Vorik in the closing struggle is annoyingly overacted; Dawson, on the other hand, remains within the realm of credibility.

The fight purges the "blood fever," as upon B'Elanna's, er, KO of Ensign Vorik, Tuvok announces that both will return to normal.

What does "Blood Fever" add up to besides a diverting hour? Not tons, but there is a hint that Torres will look at Paris differently from now on because of what he did for her.

What will be most impacting from this episode, though, comes with Chakotay's discovery of a dead invader in the ruins of Ishan's world—a Borg. (That's right, Voyager crew, there are Borg in the Delta Quadrant to keep you company.) This revelation works because it certainly makes sense that the Borg would be behind an attack like this—and a Borg threat could also potentially re-energize the series. (I'm looking forward to next week's "Unity" in particular.) Still, this revelation would've been much more powerful had it not been shown on last week's trailer. So it goes.

I think that a very low-end "good" seems fair for a rating of "Blood Fever." Glib entertainment is still entertainment.

Previous episode: Coda
Next episode: Unity

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18 comments on this review

mlk - Sun, Dec 23, 2007 - 9:47am (USA Central)
This show was certainly interesting but a few things seemed so strange. First off, is it me or does Vorik's voice just seem way too constructed, he sounds like a sociopath or something.

Second, hands up guys, who here would refuse to be with a hot woman if she actualy wanted you AND she needed it so she wouldn't die? Noone? Well Tom Paris would. It's just so stupid, any guy, in ANY century would have done B'Elanna right there and then.

Also I agreew with Jammer, the whole ending was stupid and would have felt much more fullfilled without the fight and Stuvok's fight.


And to agree with Jammer,
Jakob M. Mokoru - Mon, Jan 7, 2008 - 6:46am (USA Central)
I think the whole story would have been a LOT more interesting if Tuvok had gone through his Pon Farr-cycle, including his dilemma of being married but far away from his wife - this could have been a terrific episode!
Chris H - Sat, Mar 21, 2009 - 10:44pm (USA Central)
i agree with mlk i most certainly wud have done b'leanna right there and then, no questions asked! ;)
John Pate - Fri, Dec 25, 2009 - 2:13pm (USA Central)
There had been a hint of Vorik-Torres-Paris in "Alter Ego," if you go back and check.

Entertainment is the point of TV. A good episode, tho the fight was a bit disappointing.

If the fight had been in a larger arena, with a bit more throwing around of bodies, it might have been a little more complete. Neither Dawson nor Enberg particularly looked much like fighters - tho I suppose it's a bit much to expect better than the customary Trek Fu. Otherwise, the acting was fine and the characters all played to type. Dawson turned in a charismatic performance, as usual.

Seems reasonable to me to put in a nod to "Amok Time." There's no pleasing some people.

The aliens managed to be integral to the plot and not simply an excuse for space battle of the week.

They were repairing Voyager and talking about that being an on-going concern. It foreshadowed the Borg plots, Torres-Paris for the future. 3 and half stars I'd say.
navamske - Sat, Aug 14, 2010 - 7:03pm (USA Central)
"It's just so stupid, any guy, in ANY century would have done B'Elanna right there and then."

You are mistaken.
navamske - Sat, Aug 14, 2010 - 7:16pm (USA Central)
I was glad that Jammer touched on this: The notion that a Vulcan could address a pon farr problem with a holodeck character is absurd. Yes, there have been several intimations in various incarnations of Trek that "organics" can have physical relations with holograms, but Vulcans, as I understand it, aren't seeking merely a physical release -- they need to bond with their mates on a telepathic, or at least mental, level. I don't know the limits of holographic programming; perhaps the Doctor did create something more than a simulacrum of a hot Vulcan chick, something that could assuage Vorik's mental or psychic distress as well. This would have been more believable in the later episode in which Tuvok had to resort to "holographic sex therapy"; presumably he could have programmed a holo-T'Pel with some of her characteristics, possibly including some mental ones.
Nic - Thu, Sep 30, 2010 - 2:14pm (USA Central)
Fight scene aside, this has always been one of my favorite episodes. Perhaps viewing it without having seen "Amok Time" helped. I thought both Paris and Torres were very true to character, and yes I do believe that he would have been able to resist her, seeing as how giving in could have destroyed any chances of having a serious relationship later on.

What a frustrating trailer, though. It's bad enough they usually five away half the plot, now they actually gave away the ending!
JAcob Teetertotter - Mon, Dec 27, 2010 - 8:24am (USA Central)
i didnt understand the ending. In AMok time it was a fight to the death right? Here a punch and a throw and 1,2,3. its over and we have a new WWF Intercontental Champion
Destructor - Tue, May 31, 2011 - 12:42am (USA Central)
The only thing wrong with the fight scene was that they didn't start playing the Decapodian national anthem on top of it. Yes it would have been ridiculous and over the top, but at least it would have shown committment to the over-the-top ridiculousness the episode had already embarked on. Admit it, if they'd done that, this episode would have totally gone down in history as being totally megarad awesome.
duhknees - Sun, Jun 24, 2012 - 10:22am (USA Central)
I wish they had not scrimped on Voyager so much. The off-world sets are claustrophic and reused. The fight scene needed more space, and how do they always manage to beam down to the same cave entrance? But B'elana and Partial I liked, and I wish they'd kept the Enberg character longer.
Sintek - Sun, May 26, 2013 - 9:32pm (USA Central)
Yikes, whole lotta rapists here. If you claim you would take advantage of a person in obvious psychological distress, sorry, but you are a sexual predator.
Lt. Yarko - Mon, Jun 17, 2013 - 11:08pm (USA Central)
Although I'm not buying the idea of a Vulcan forcing another species into Pon Farr, I really enjoyed Roxann's performance in this.

And, yeah, I wouldn't have sex with a person I knew wanted me due to health problems. I am a bit saddened by some of these posts. I hope many of them are kidding.
Jordy - Tue, Jul 23, 2013 - 2:44pm (USA Central)
So, at the end Torres and Vorik are fighting over whether or not she's going to be his mate. No-one seems to have considered what would have happened if he'd won - would he have got to force himself on her? That was a very questionable thing to include.
Nancy - Sat, Jul 27, 2013 - 1:14pm (USA Central)
Good point, Jordy. I also found Tuvok's "You have to help her, Tom" command disturbing. In the same way, would B'elanna have been ordered to "help" Vorik after he basically tried to rape her? Surely not, but that is exactly what Tom was told to do. Yes, he likes her and would enjoy it, but the fact is he did not want to have sex with her and was ordered to. That's messed up.

This was not a well thought-out concept.
Mike P - Sat, Aug 17, 2013 - 11:21pm (USA Central)
"And, yeah, I wouldn't have sex with a person I knew wanted me due to health problems. I am a bit saddened by some of these posts. I hope many of them are kidding."

Sadly, they most likely aren't kidding, these are the same guys who think if a "chic" passes out drunk in your bed, then she obviously wants it.

I've never thought twice about sleeping with any women who's judgment was impaired in any way, no matter how much she "asked for it" and any guy who would has to seriously reevaluate his moral compass.
Chris P - Wed, Jan 29, 2014 - 11:53am (USA Central)
"I've never thought twice about sleeping with any women who's judgment was impaired in any way"

That's not what that conflict was about so I'm a bit curious about yours and the previous posters' intentions and biases in steering the conversation in this direction. It's made very clear that she is suffering from the Pon Farr and the solutions to resolver her issue are clearly defined in the episode.

That you, Nancy, and Jordy seem to view women as vulnerable but also superior to men (Where is your sympathy for the male character who is suffering from the exact same symptoms, only without the fortune of having someone willing to help him alleviate his issue) says something about you. Sure, something bad is happening to her, but if during a journey in which she's had plasma coils explode in her face, various life threatening viruses/parasites/genetic experiments performed on her, you take issue with her needing sex and having a man she likes willing to provide it then I submit that you have major hangups about sexuality.

In the episodes where bad things happen to Torres I haven't seen reviewers get hung up about her well being until it involved her vagina. How strange.




K'Elvis - Fri, Mar 28, 2014 - 4:15pm (USA Central)
Pon Farr is not analogous to a woman being passed out. A person who is drunk can't consent to anything, while Torres isn't just consenting, she's demanding it. Lust is a basic motivation to have sex, it would be peculiar at best to say "I can't have sex with you, because you're experiencing lust! Come back when you're not horny." I wonder how many would be objecting if another female member of the crew were to have sex with Vorik.

It's not so clear-cut whether or not Torres is capable of consenting - or demanding - sex. Aphrodisiacs that make people become lusty don't really exist, so this is a situation were we don't have any good real-world analogy. Is Torres condition more like someone who is drunk or someone who is just experiencing lust? Normally, lust is a perfectly understandable reason for someone to consent to sex, but perhaps we have a special case here? I am not saying it is appropriate to have sex with someone under these circumstances, only that it is not analogous to someone passed out.

As far as the fight resolving the Pon Farr, I think that was a misinterpretation. Spock was shocked out of his Pon Farr from the horror at realizing (so he thought) that he had killed Kirk. The Vulcans have probably tried the holodeck solution and found it didn't work, because the holodeck can't provide the telepathic connection. I don't think they considered finding another woman on Voyager who might like to mate with Vorik, perhaps there was someone who had a secret crush on him.
Ric - Mon, Apr 7, 2014 - 2:09am (USA Central)
"I'm a bit curious about yours and the previous posters' intentions and biases in steering the conversation in this direction".

If you read all comments since the first, you will understand that the later comments were addressing the first ones. So, be curious no more.

"(...) you take issue with her needing sex and having a man she likes willing to provide it then I submit that you have major hangups about sexuality"

Sure, IF Paris really knew before that she had previous feelings for him, then maybe your sentence could even begin to make sense. However, he didn't. And he made it quite clear. When Torres told him she had previous interest on him, he was skeptical that she could have been saying these things due to the situation. Now, in this case, under such circunstances (that are NOT the ones in you example), i.e. having any room for doubts, it would be morally sick for him to go on. Sorry, but it would, and slashing commenters on regards of how they deal with their sexuality will not make it less sick.

"In the episodes where bad things happen to Torres I haven't seen reviewers get hung up about her well being until it involved her vagina. How strange."

Let's be intelectually honest, shall we? It is pretty obvious that everyone knew from the start that nothing really bad would happen to Torres. Would we really expect comments here saying "wow, I was almost crying because I really thought that Torres would die today!". Second: as far as I have noticed, many debates on the comments of this website (if not most of them) are about moral issues that were either raised by the episodes on purpose, or have emerged as an externality. So this is just the case. Criticizing people because they do so instead of being concerned about the safety of a character they know will be all right makes no sense at all.

Now, for me personally, of course it is disturbing to hearh Tuvok saying "you have to help her now". Nancy was 100% right in the question "would B'elanna have been ordered to 'help' Vorik after he basically tried to rape her?". Of course not. One could say: oh, but Torres didn't like Vorik before, but Paris did like her. But it is not true. There was no previous indication that the rest of the crew knew Paris was in love with Torres. Oh yes I see, he does not need to have feelings for her, since used to be the jackass so sure he would not mind doing the business. Please, this is just wrong. More than that: there was no indication that the crew would have thought that Torres liked Paris. So you just send a guy she might disgust to go there and "help" her? Ok, I see, it was for her own good.... I am sure a lot of women heard that before throughout history. Sure, not with their lives depending on having sex, but it was, to say the least, a disastrous - even it unintentional - analogy.

Besides that, I found this to be a really good episode. Very well acted, brave enough to touch on moral issues that are not always presente in the episodes. Not to mention fresh enough to deal a bit with how humans and other species deal with sex in the 24th. Also, it managed to be funny sometimes, like in the performance of The Doctor. Oh yes, and finding the Borg in the end was na amazing surprise (I am glad this is the first time I am watching Voyager, so I chose never saw the dumb trailers before watching the episodes).

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