Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Day of Honor"

**1/2

Air date: 9/17/1997
Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Jesus Salvador Trevino

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Flattery won't get you any more oxygen." — Tom to B'Elanna, upon being called a "pig."

Nutshell: Not consistently riveting, but reasonable—and with a good ending.

Boy, I'll tell you—I'm fairly sure I'm going to lead a violent revolt against those preview people one of these days. Not only did they all but give away some of "Day of Honor's" key emotional moments, but they did it with an abundance of silly cheese. Enough already. Week after week we're treated to pretentious, superficial nonsense with Big Words [TM] and phrases like "You won't believe...". But my complaints are futile, for looking back on reviews past, I now see that I began my review of "Warlord" with almost identical comments. That was a year ago, so why am I still wasting my time?

Forget the preview. "Day of Honor" is another quiet, reasonably entertaining Voyager outing that displays a television series going through (we hope) a healing process. The episode is nothing on the scale of, say, "Scorpion," but shows like "Day of Honor" are exactly what Voyager needs right now: small, understated stories that simply work.

That's not to say "Day of Honor" is great, because it feels a little too "standard issue" at times and has its share of shortcomings. But I'd rather see a few problems within some fundamentally solid shows than the major strokes of misguided-ness that characterized much of seasons two and three. And considering how impacting the emotional payoff of this episode is, the wait is well worth it.

The plot is not audacious, but it serves its purpose by allowing the characterizations to prevail. The day is B'Elanna's Klingon "Day of Honor," and it's a really lousy day. First, she's late for her shift. Then Chakotay assigns Seven of Nine some tasks in engineering. Torres isn't happy. She doesn't want "the Borg" walking around her department. Chakotay all but orders Torres to deal with it—and like it.

To get in touch with the Klingon culture that she has always repressed, Torres tries to engage in the Day of Honor ritual (and I appreciated the consistency of the "pain sticks" test from way back in Worf's TNG days). The result is a holodeck fiasco that puts her in an even worse mood.

Set in the background are two other plot threads that eventually come into play with Torres' personal issues. The episode is set in motion when Voyager happens across a race called the Cataati. They're a devastated people of dwindling numbers whose population was mostly assimilated by the Borg. They're starving, dying; their technology is failing them. They don't have the energy supply to sustain their remaining ships. They need help—and they won't hesitate to ask for it.

Question of the week: If you're already short on resources (as the Voyager crew is), at what point do you deny people who are in even more need? It's certainly a relevant issue, and the story handles it capably, proving that Borg stories are reliable even when they're only indirectly about the Borg.

Let's face it: The Voyager crew may have to ration its food supply and replicator usage, but everyone has clean clothes, plenty to eat, and excellent medical care. The Cataati have none of this in abundance—they're fighting for mere survival. And the one who speaks on the Cataati's behalf doesn't mince words; you have so much, he remarks, and we have so little—so surely you can help us out and give us some of yours.

Janeway agrees, and gives the Cataati all the extra supplies Voyager can spare. But it simply isn't enough for them. There are no miracle cures to poverty, even in the 24th century. And it's not surprising that the Cataati turn to treacherous acts when they don't get what they need. If I may make a 20th century observation, this is comparable to the impoverished turning to crime. These people have nowhere to turn, so they do what they feel they must, and Voyager ends up in the middle of a confrontation.

I only wish the guest actor who played the Cataati negotiator had been more effective. There was something about his performance, particularly during the initial contact scene, that seemed very ... off-kilter.

The other plot centers around Voyager's experiments with transwarp technology and Janeway assigning Seven of Nine (who agrees to be called "Seven" for short) duties in engineering to facilitate these dangerous experiments. There's a lot of repressed hatred toward Seven by members of the crew; Torres wants nothing to do with her, and even Janeway is suspicious when the experiment goes wrong. One exception is Paris, who offers his help in what is obviously a difficult transition for Seven. Paris' sentiment is sincere, although the story also indicates that Paris may have an interest in her that goes beyond simply helping her. Still, his reasoning for wanting to help Seven—the fact that "we all have a past" that we're trying to escape—makes a lot of sense given his own history. I always appreciate when writers acknowledge the fundamentals of their characters in subtle ways like this case. It makes the people more dimensional.

Seven's issues are relevant, though nowhere approaching the power of her role in last week's "Gift." Prejudice is never a simple topic, and it's probably not going to prove simple in Seven's case either. "Day of Honor" scratches at the surface without delving too far into the issue. One interesting notion is the way Taylor's script makes Seven so emotionally detached from the mistrust around her. She analyzes the situation and discusses it with Janeway in a calm, Borg-like monotone, but she doesn't respond to it emotionally or get angry when suspected of sabotage. It's a believable and interesting approach, although I don't think it really gives Jeri Ryan much of a chance to demonstrate an acting range.

While we're on the topic, much has been made of Ryan's addition to the cast. Some have said the producers wanted to add an actress with a great body simply to boost ratings. I'm still reserving judgment to that end, but I will admit that her costume this week seemed to go out of its way to highlight all those curves. I only hope that some of the more cynical attitudes toward Ryan don't turn out to be correct ones, because I still believe this character has a lot of promise. It would be a shame to have her reduced to eye candy alone.

But where was I? This story is really about Torres, and it works on a number of levels. The plot takes some turns that make this the "worst day of her life," ending with a mishap in the transwarp experiments and leading to the topper catastrophe-of-all-catastrophes for a chief engineer: the ejection of the warp core. Torres and Paris then have to take a shuttlecraft to salvage it. The Cataati get there first, however, and steal it. Torres and Paris attempt to stop the Cataati, and their shuttle is destroyed in the process. (Shuttle loss #2 of the season for those who wish to keep count.)

Torres and Paris suit up and beam into space just in time to witness their shuttle explode. I'll admit that this is a fairly contrived way of getting these two characters alone together to finally drop their walls of pretense and talk. But it turns out to be surprisingly effective. Even powerful.

For one, the space setting is utterly convincing. It's not every day that Trek does space walking, and this proves a refreshing change of pace with a genuine sense of ominous silence and uneasiness. The special effects are believable, and the setting wonderfully captures the sense of B'Elanna and Tom being alone in a vacuum, with only their space suits as their mode of survival.

Naturally, the oxygen supply is damaged and the two find themselves with only a half-hour air supply left. They know they stand a good chance of dying before Voyager can find them. So all that remains is a dialog—what they believe may be a final dialog—between two people who have had a sexual tension for some time now. What really, really works here is the way these discussions are so firmly grounded in what we know of the characters. Particularly with B'Elanna, the setting allows us to learn something new about her that we hadn't considered before, while still remaining true to what we do know. She admits her tendency to "push people away," and she regrets it. She has always been running from the Klingon in her, and now she feels she has been a coward her entire life. We feel for her.

And her regret that she is going to die without a shred of honor—and more, that this is the first time in her life that such a prospect has actually bothered her—is fascinating, well-written character material. Torres has always been one of the ensemble's most interesting people, and "Day of Honor" highlights why. She's complex and multifaceted. She's vulnerable, but she masks her vulnerability under acerbic sarcasm and cynicism. (I don't mean to slight Tom, because Taylor's script utilizes his persona very effectively, too, but this is B'Elanna's show, after all.) This is all interaction that comes across much stronger on the stage than on the page.

And in the eleventh hour, when oxygen was all but gone and rescue seemed beyond hope, and when B'Elanna struggled to utter those three words to Tom, it was genuinely moving—a lot more powerful than the cliche I thought it could've been. A big part of the credit goes to the standout performances—Dawson and McNeill both deliver characterizations that I believe rank among some of their best work on the series. But a part of it is the way the dialog beforehand leads up to this moment, making the payoff both credible and compelling.

Where things go from here I will not predict. As always, we'll just see how the writers handle it. I'm glad they decided to take a risk and bring this out into the open; now I can hope to see it put to reasonable use in the future (certainly, I hope, better than Worf and Dax on DS9 has been handled so far).

Would only all Trek romances be handled with such attention to subtle emotional states and character foundations, we'd be in good shape.

Next week: Chakotay apparently gets pulled into a war of some sort—but, more importantly, the preview didn't treat us to Big Words [TM]!

Previous episode: The Gift
Next episode: Nemesis

Season Index

25 comments on this review

mlk - Tue, Dec 25, 2007 - 9:20pm (USA Central)
They should have blown the Cataati out of the sky and then made a jump for it. Damn ingrates, no wonder no one wanted them on their planet.

The episode had a lot of good character developement, good one.
indijo - Tue, Jul 1, 2008 - 7:33am (USA Central)
Why did Tom and Neelix insist upon pushing B'Ellana to participate in the Klingon rituals on the holodeck? WTF is so damn important about Klingon rituals? Fer Chrissake, B'Ellana is only half Klingon, and besides, if she didn't want to do it, why force her? Idiots.

Also, if this was truly hard sci-fi, the shockwave from the shuttle explosion should have pushed Tom and B'Ellana on a roll through space. But I spose that would have complicated things considerably.
impronen - Fri, Aug 22, 2008 - 3:29pm (USA Central)
To indijo:

I believe that if this was hard sci-fi, there wouldn't be such things as warp drive at all. Such technology is quite impossible to construct after all.
Bill T - Sun, Nov 30, 2008 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
This is a great episode. Imperfect but still really great. I think Jammer's anger at the previews clouded his assessment. He'd probably increase his score in retrospect or more viewings. 3 stars (at least.)
AC - Tue, Jul 14, 2009 - 3:32am (USA Central)
Soo, was this the only time in Star Trek history where the warp core ejection system actually works?
Nic - Wed, Sep 23, 2009 - 9:16am (USA Central)
Yes! I finally understand why your Voyager reviews get so lousy star ratings! It's those damned previews! Although I completely agree with your assessment of them, I don't think they should be taken into account when reviewing the actual episode. And if you remove the first paragraph of the review, it deserves at least three stars, personally I would give it three-and-a-half, because the flaws you mentioned were accurate.
John Pate - Fri, Jan 15, 2010 - 7:45am (USA Central)
No surprises but entertaining and engaging.

Seems to me Seven's thorium producer-thingy and the thorium tech is needed by Voyager. Since the thorium is used to generate power and Seven's magic thorium generator makes thorium then either: it doesn't work because they use thorium to make the thorium in first place or, even if they do use thorium to make thorium in the first place they get more energy out than they put in and, presto, something for nothing - no more worries about running out of fuel.
Sam - Wed, May 26, 2010 - 9:37pm (USA Central)
When Tom and B'Ellana are floating in space, where does the light on them come from? a nearby star? a nearby moon or planet? or just a spotlight in a studio?
Destructor - Thu, Jun 30, 2011 - 10:07pm (USA Central)
Perhaps it was non-digetic light? Or starlight, that can be pretty bright.

Either way- I like this episode!
chris - Wed, Oct 12, 2011 - 3:42pm (USA Central)
lol at these annoying Cataati people, Janeway should have fight and teach them instead a good lesson.
TDexter - Sat, Jan 21, 2012 - 10:27am (USA Central)
@Sam, it's from a spotlight in a studio. The actors are not actually floating in space. Likewise, we can hear their dialogue because it is being recorded by microphones for the audio track of a television show. There is no aural implant in your ear. Trust me.

As a sci-fi fan myself, I am disappointed that the entire scene wasn't twenty minutes of silence and darkness. Alas, we are constantly asked to suspend disbelief for the sake of "narrative." Psh.
Justin - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 2:31am (USA Central)
I agree with those who think the rating doesn't even come close to matching Jammer's positive and very apt review. At least 3 stars are deserved. Even though the stories are a bit too broken up I consider it a true classic. The B'Elanna A story is terrific and it results in what is perhaps THE BEST Star Trek romance by simple virtue of the fact that it feels more real than any of the others because of its volatile nature.

On a personal note, I also know first hand what it's like to be in love with and married to someone who is headstrong and tends to push people away at the first sign of trouble. I almost look at Tom as a role model for how to handle my marriage. Almost, because he's just a little bit too good at it.

@mlk & Chris, would you feel the same way if the Cataati were Jewish refugees from the Holocaust? The Bosnian war and its awful Srebrenica genocide had happened not very long before this episode aired. Your comments are so callous that I doubt you see the obvious historical parallels the writers were trying to draw here.

The sense of guilt Seven shows over the Cataati's fate is real if only on a basic level. Guilt is a new emotion to her which makes for a fascinating character study.

Eventually Seven's guilt over her actions as a Borg would become so powerful and yet so internalized that it would practically consume her and define her as a human. This episode served as a terrific catalyst for that aspect of her character.

I look at Seven of Nine as sort of a 24th century parallel to Traudl Junge, a young woman who was employed as Hitler's secretary who escaped Nazi Germany after it's defeat, and over the years was forced to confront her feelings of guilt and remorse over her involvement, however insignificant it may have been. She never thought about politics, she was simply Hitler's typist. But after her escape she came to realize what a monster Hitler was and she felt a tremendous amount of guilt not just because she worked for him, but because she even liked him.

It may seem a silly comparison to some, but Seven's situation is rather similar. She was raised as a Borg from a young age. She likes the collective and takes pride in Borg "perfection." The Borg are all she ever really knew. But now that she's free of it she's confronted by the fact that she played a role in countless Borg atrocities - a role that was also insignificant in the grand scheme. Yet as the months and years pass she becomes more and more aware of the guilt she feels over that involvement and she wants to somehow atone for it. Like I said, it makes for a fascinating character study...
Chris - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 2:45am (USA Central)
@Justin
Why do we have to compare everything with the Jewish refugees and the Holocaust? Did you watch the entire episode? Janeway DID help the Cataati a lot, although her ship was short on supplies and far from home. But when Cataati came back with allies, threatening to destroy Voyager (what a gratitude from them!!!) and demanding Seven of Nine to be delivered to them to torture and kill her (!!!), then YES, i wanted Janeway to play it tough and give them a good lesson. :)
Justin - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 12:58pm (USA Central)
@Chris, because the Holocaust is the genocide people most recognize and understand. You'll note that I also mentioned Bosnia/Herzigovina which was more relevant to the '90s. However, I don't give people enough credit to actually know what that means.

The Cataati were desperate people who had lost everything and they acted out of that desperation. But it seems like what you're saying is that you wish Janeway had finished what the Borg had started. Instead, she was able to remain compassionate and find a more diplomatic solution. Kudos to Janeway for putting the Federation's best foot forward.
Chris - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 1:18pm (USA Central)
No, Justin, I didn't wish that. I was with Janeway and her compassion too, and I would do the same thing in her shoes. But what do you think she would do in case Seven didn't come with her final solution and Cataati started firing at the Voyager (since they got allies and of course outnumbered Voyager)? Just sitting in her chair and letting Cataati stealing all Voyager's supplies, just because they were desperate? Besides, don't forget that it was the Cataati that picked up Voyager's core (despite Tom warning them) and then destroyed their shuttle (!!!) leaving Torres and Tom helpless drifting in space!!!
Justin - Tue, Apr 10, 2012 - 2:01pm (USA Central)
They only destroyed the shuttle so Tom & B'Elanna could do their zero-g love scene.
Josh G. - Mon, Jun 11, 2012 - 11:04pm (USA Central)
Just saw this one. I'm kinda surprised by the rating, both from the episode itself and the generally positive review. This feels like a strong three-star or even three-and-a-half star episode. I have only the vaguest memory of the previews, though I do seem to remember emphasis on B'Elanna and Tom's involuntary spacewalk.

Otherwise I agree that the Cataati spokesman is a bit oddly performed - slightly unhinged, might be the phrasing - and I wonder if that was the intent.
duhknees - Fri, Jul 13, 2012 - 9:30am (USA Central)
It's been several weeks since I watched this episode, but I keep going back to it and agree with Josh G. that Jammer's rating does not seem enough. The discussion about poverty, Seven's growth, and the amazing love scene put it at least 3 stars, if not 3 1/2. Required watching, IMO.
milica - Mon, Sep 17, 2012 - 3:47pm (USA Central)
3 stars!
nadav - Tue, Oct 2, 2012 - 3:15pm (USA Central)
What I found hardest to believe in this episode was Seven's recall of some obscure Borg technology. If I take a single computer off the Internet, would it have all the knowledge of the internet? Not quite. Moreover, if seven does know all Borg technology, why isn't she asked to sit and write everything down? Especially Borg defences?
Joe Joe Meastro - Sat, Mar 30, 2013 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
This was a really good episode I thought. I think most people can relate to Torress when she's just having one of those days, things like this help build on the impression of Voyager being an actual workplace and community.

Her interaction with Tom was beautifully handled, and about time too! It was a long time coming and the pay-off was magnificently realised in the closing scene. I think the alien refugee plot angle was good too, it's certainly relevant to Voyager with its themes of home and survival as well as compassion in the face of desperation.

Season 4 so far seems like it's finally devoloping on the show, at the very least these last 3 episodes have stirred up Voyager further than most of season 3 (not that I was ever against the show).

Each Star Trek show had its own setting and devolopments on its unique scenerio. For TNG it was the Alpha Quadrant with Romulan goings-on and Klingon complications (same with TOS but with a Wild West Frontier flavour), DS9 was fairly obviously the Bajorian situations and the wormhole etc....I thnk Voyager has had a harder time establishing itself because part of the idea is that they're constantly moving and consantly finding themselves in new regions of space leaving everything they previously encountered behind which is potentially narratively limiting.

But with season 4 it seems to present the possibility that the devolopment and ongoing situations and reaccurring elements and unique flavour of Voyager can come from within the ship itself with the way the crew survive and adapt and become a community.

At least this is what I hope. You could argue its the writers' failings for taking this long to come to this, but in terms of episode-to-episode enjoyment I've been mostly happy enough with Voyager. I knew from the start Voyager had chosen to follow in the footsteps of pre-DS9 Trek, so I've never had any hope or expectations of heavy serialisation. Maybe this is the key to enjoying the programme the way it was intended to be enjoyed.

Oh back to the episode, yeah it would get a 3/4 from me (possibly even 3.5)!
Lt. Yarko - Thu, Jun 20, 2013 - 6:45pm (USA Central)
A few things that bugged me about this episode:

1. Ugh. Seven's outfit. I know, I know. Even the original series used sexuality to attempt to attract viewers. Blah blah. But, god damn it, this was over the top. Every time she walks in camera view, I get distracted. I literally lost track of the scene in engineering when they were preparing the transwarp test because I couldn’t take my eyes off Seven’s damned ass. Janeway and Torres just look silly next to her in their jumpsuits. And every camera angle makes sure that her big ass is somewhere in the shot. I would have been pissed to be one of the other women actors on the show. It's just disgusting. And, I don't mean that it's immoral or anything. I love a sexy woman as much as the next guy. But, it's disgusting because it's pure audience manipulation. It's like - Hey! We can't produce a show interesting enough to attract viewers. Let's try to get horny guys! Seven and then T'Pol really screwed up Star Trek for me, because they were so over the top. I don’t watch Trek to get a b*ner. I watch it to see sci fi. ARGH.

2. This seems to be the point at which mugging for the camera began in Trek Voyager. Seven herself had AT LEAST 2 and maybe 3 end of scene camera mugs in this episode alone. That’s one of these really annoying and retarded things some TV shows and movies do where two people are talking, one says a final thing and walks away, and the other stays in place for a second watching after the one who walked away and makes some face to SHOW THE AUDIENCE their response to the last thing said. Grrr. I haven’t noticed this phenom in Voyager at all up until the last few episodes. But in this episode, the ones they had Seven do were SO overdone! It’s like: Hey everybody! Look! It’s the new actress we put on the show! You’ve seen her body! Now see how she reacts to conversation! I know Jeri is a good actress. I have seen here act enough to be sure of that. I just hate some of the goofy crap TV producers force their actors to do.

3. I didn’t buy that Torres was in love with Paris at the point that she told him she loved him. I have been paying attention and, unless I missed something (which could be possible), I don’t feel like enough has happened between them for her to feel this way. I feel like they rushed this relationship.

4. Why didn’t the core explode? Wasn’t that the point of ejecting it? That was really weird. It was weird because no one seemed interested in the question.
Lt. Yarko - Thu, Jun 20, 2013 - 6:58pm (USA Central)
Oh, I wanted to mention one other thing. The scene in which Neelix plays morale officer to Torres was done so well, it made me really sad that he hasn't been played that way from the beginning. I hope this is a sign that Neelix will be a more real person from here on out.
Susan - Fri, Feb 7, 2014 - 10:23pm (USA Central)
The BEST time to have long long long conversations about 'feelings', is when you're nearly out of oxygen.

(That was sarcasm, btw, in case anyone didnt get it.)

Oh and if it would have been me, the energy matrix would have had a secret self destruct built right in, those a-holes didnt deserve anything.
Tricia - Sun, Mar 2, 2014 - 7:05am (USA Central)
Wasn't it the episode right before this one (The Gift) where Kes supposedly pushed them safely out of Borg space? Oops, I guess not. Not only did they devastate the Cataati, but we see the Borg for the whole rest of the series.

The Cataati were horrible. If Janeway can find the means to provide food and a clean ship for her crew, with absolutely no resources or support from other ships, why can't they? They're too busy feeling sorry for themselves to get off their asses and figure out how to survive. If I was Janeway, I'd be very hesitant to help others after this experience.

The Torres/Klingon storyline didn't hold much interest for me. Torres has angst about her Klingon side, what a surprise. Yawn.

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