Star Trek: Voyager

"Extreme Risk"

2 stars

Air date: 10/28/1998
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Cliff Bole

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Look, we could spend weeks trying to solve this, but we've got a ticking clock. Engines are working, weapon systems are on-line—I say we launch now and hope for the best."
"Mr. Paris, that is perhaps the most illogical statement you've ever made."

— Paris and Tuvok

Nutshell: Sigh...

There should be a special category for episodes that get your hopes up and pique your interest before suddenly thudding to the ground and becoming disappointments. In fact, let's go ahead and create such a category for the sake of discussion. And while we're at it, let's go ahead and put an episode in this pigeonhole—maybe even an episode like, say, "Extreme Risk."

"Extreme Risk" proves all the more frustrating because it has the potential to be good but settles for so much less. I'm not talking plot-wise, because the plot is extremely middle-of-the-road sort of material. What could've been memorable here was the character work—more specifically, character work centering around Torres, who, on a writer's good day, has the potential to be one of the ensemble's best and most complex characters.

Unfortunately, "Extreme Risk" looks like it was written on several good days, followed by an awful last day. The treatment of B'Elanna ultimately frustrates this viewer, who thinks characters need to be complex on a consistent basis rather than a random basis—even if that consistency only spans one entire episode (though I would hope it would span many more).

This episode is a sort of mysterious character analysis that looks at Torres and establishes a problem, and slowly works into the circumstances to reveal what is obviously a deep-rooted psychological barrier that she is trying to overcome but not succeeding in doing so.

Let's just get to the point—B'Elanna is disturbed. She's distracted, apathetic, and distant. She manages to perform her duties, but barely. And she sure isn't going out of her way to take the initiative on anything. Meanwhile, she spends every free moment in the holodeck, running dangerous simulations with the safety measures disabled. The crew is taking notice, to be sure: Janeway and Chakotay lead the initiative in finding out what's wrong with their chief engineer.

Why is this all happening? Well, that's the story's central issue, which brings up some interesting possibilities. In a key sequence, Chakotay confronts Torres over her behavior and demands an explanation about a violent program featuring old friends from the Maquis days. The confessions come pouring out: It turns out this all goes back to "Hunters" from last season, where B'Elanna learned about the elimination of the Maquis. She has since been in denial over the slaughter of one of her most important families ("I've lost every family I've ever had," she notes), which has taken its toll on her.

There's some promising stuff here. For one, I found the way Chakotay dealt with Torres to be very effective—reminiscent of his "Maquis alternative approach" from way back in season one, applied when typical action didn't get the job done. Chakotay grabbing Torres and physically dragging her through her holodeck simulation to get at the truth was both refreshing and believable. It utilized the history of these two marvelously, as well as showing that the news of the Maquis' destruction had a significant impact on Torres.

Unfortunately, this material is severely undermined in several ways:

1) First and foremost is the episode's annoying final act, which is so painfully shallow that it manages to neutralize all the interesting character material that came before. It's one of those action devices that gives Torres an opportunity where her engineering skills are desperately needed. The curves the writers throw at the end are laughably obvious and lacking in sophistication. B'Elanna is practically playing MacGyver, concocting forcefields out of phasers in order to save the day.

2) There's the fact we haven't seen a single shred of evidence concerning Torres' distress since the news broke in "Hunters." As a result, a lot of this feels conjured for the sake of one story rather than a believable outgrowth of the character. Now, I'm not asking for extensive, perfectly documented webs of characterization and plot, but I do ask that a character's self-destruction make sense rather than coming completely out of left field. If this has truly been eating away at her for weeks or months as the story tells us, why didn't we see the slightest trace in any episode previous to this one? This alone might not bug me so much if it weren't for my third point.

3) Since, based on the sledgehammered-home happy ending, all of this will be neatly put behind B'Elanna after the screen fades to black, why does the episode treat this as a complicated, troubling issue that she will have to slowly work at to overcome? What I particularly found ridiculous was Chakotay telling Torres that she'd have to "give it time"—and that "time" apparently turns out to be about 30 seconds. It just goes to show what MacGyver day-saving techniques will do for your deep-rooted psychological troubles when combined with a healthy serving of banana pancakes.

And about the episode's plot—who really cares? It's certainly not off-putting (Janeway benefits from some good no-nonsense moments), but it's pretty thin. It involves a Voyager probe getting stuck in the atmosphere of a star where the ship cannot venture to retrieve it. A Malon crew (the toxic-waste dumpers established in "Night") also wants this probe. Naturally, they feel they can take whatever they want, making them another entry in the lengthy list of Hard Headed Aliens of the Week™. The plot becomes a race between the two crews to build a shuttle capable of surviving the atmosphere. This gives rise to the notion of Voyager's new "Delta Flyer," a super shuttle designed in part by Paris. Aside from serving as an excuse to build the Delta Flyer for use in future episodes, and to provide Torres with a chance to save the day, the plot is actually little more than filler in my book.

It's too bad—Roxann Dawson does such a good job portraying her character as dispassionate, vacant, and buried in repressed emotion, performed in believable and often subtle ways. But the writing can't back her up, and instead sends her character in directions that are never entirely convincing, erasing all promises of consequence by the end.

Next week: Chakotay has a date with an 8472.

Previous episode: Drone
Next episode: In the Flesh

◄ Season Index

52 comments on this review

grumpy_otter
Wed, Jul 30, 2008, 6:52pm (UTC -6)
One of the things that really bothered me about this episode--aside from what Jammer already pointed out--was Neelix' clueless reaction to B'Elanna's emtions. He is constantly prying into people's personal lives if they show the least bit of discomfort, yet when she comes to the mess hall and behaves distracted, vacant, and despondent, all he does is replicate banana pancakes.
Markus
Sun, Jul 26, 2009, 3:29am (UTC -6)
But one good thing remains: Two weeks ago I first trief this recipe for banana pancakes with cream cheese and blueberries for breakfast. Absolutely amazing, tastes even without putting something on it. Never heard of those pancakes before!
Mal
Thu, Feb 18, 2010, 1:56am (UTC -6)
pancakes!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgalX6GEV3M
John Pate
Thu, Feb 18, 2010, 5:50pm (UTC -6)
The hour we saw spanned events over several days. The past events they discovered had been going on some time but had heretofore not been germaine to various scenarios we'd seen. It worked for me.
Michael
Mon, Jun 28, 2010, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
You know what, I could've done without the whole "disturbed Torres" tripe. Dealing with emotional scars should be done on Oprah, not Star Trek. But let's agree to disagree.

One thing that REALLY peeved me off about the Delta Flier was Paris's 20th-century-Earth nonsense. He build parts of the helm based on Capitain Proton straight out of the 1930s. WTF?!? Do today's N.A.S.A. engineers build space shuttles featuring technology from the days of Joan of Arc!? Why this harking "back" to the 20th century Earth? Why no obsession with the 15th century Volcan or 22nd century Earth? Ah, that would take a bit of creativity and imagination! Much easier to just get Paris to poke around a 1950s hot-rod in a 1950s garage (q.v. one of the episodes from Season 4). It's sheer laziness on the writers' part.

And a post-scriptum: Harry "Who??" Kim's middle name should be "There's-Some-Sort-Of-Dampening-Field-Around-It." Honestly, in every other episode, when he yet again manages to NOT be able to beam someone or something, that's the phrase he utters *GROAN*
Procyon
Mon, Aug 23, 2010, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
What really irked me was near the end, when Chakotay says to Janeway that the Malons have trouble getting their shuttle-craft out of the gas giants atmosphere, then they smile/chuckle and depart immediately.
Isn't there a real chance they will die there if they can't get out.... and then they even chuckle at it? That's not very starfleet of them.
Nathan
Mon, Nov 7, 2011, 1:00pm (UTC -6)
Was that Wesley's repulsor beam from "The Naked Now"?
Elliott
Mon, Nov 14, 2011, 5:08pm (UTC -6)
I too found the MacGeyver scene all but ridiculous--clearly meeting some producer's (ahem, Berman) standard that the DF needed to be shown off. However, I find your assessment of Torres' emotional recovery a bit faulty. I've known a few people who've been in emotional ruts, bordering on suicidal behaviour. While, of course, no one recovers instantaneously from that kind of depression, there is usually a turning point, a very sudden one in fact, which brings them "back to life."

The goofiness of Torres' epiphany means the deduction of at least half a star to be sure, but the idea behind it is not unworthy and it really gave Dawson a chance to shine as usual.

High 3 stars from me.
Nic
Thu, Feb 16, 2012, 7:46am (UTC -6)
Yes, it would have been more interesting to see Torres' mysterious behaviour from "Hunters" onward (similar to what they did with Dr. Franklin's use of stims on Babylon 5), and have the solution come gradually rather than suddenly.

But you gotta love Tuvok's one-liners!
Rosario
Tue, Mar 27, 2012, 1:39pm (UTC -6)
As to the continuity, I'd guess that this was the writers way of trying to explain Dawson's very limited screentime and occasional absences (due to her pregnancy) within the show.

That's all I'll stand up for. This episode was pure drivvle.
Justin
Sun, Apr 29, 2012, 11:26am (UTC -6)
I can't bring myself to dislike this episode, because self-harming is a worthy subject and Roxann Dawson's performance is excellent.

The ending, however, does bother me a great deal. In taking on an issue as serious as self-harming the writers also took on the social responsibility to treat that issue as realistically as possible. Which they did fairly well up until the MacGuyver/banana pancake ending.

I have 3 teenaged daughters and self-harming among their peer group is quite common. One of their friends is actually in the psychiatric ward of the local hospital because she self-harms, and her recovery will depend on a lot more than Mom's home cooking. It will depend on many factors, not the least of which are love and support from her family and friends as well as a commitment on her part.

There's no quick fix to this sort of thing and "Extreme Risk" does a disservice to its audience in even remotely suggesting that there is.
Keiren
Tue, May 8, 2012, 3:49am (UTC -6)
Hmm...i didnt like this one, but I will say, why cant you just enjoy the hour that is on without over analysing??

Its a decent hour, things will happen off screen, this is the story that has been told competently. Maybe we should look at it this way, instead of the writes not continuing the story in late episodes, we should use our imagination for ourselves?? Rather than being spoon fed everything....

Im not necessarily an advocate of this, im just playing devils advocate and seeing if anyone might agree with that...?
Elphaba
Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 1:36pm (UTC -6)
The main problem with this episode and, indeed, Voyager as a whole, as well as most Star Trek that takes place on a ship (i.e. not DS9) is that pretty much every episode is self-contained. You can do an episode with character development or have an interesting person pop up but that person and that character development will be gone by the next episode. And that is simultaneously its biggest problem as well as one of its strengths. Because every episode is self-contained, a new viewer can come in and watch it without having to have seen any previous Star Trek (with the possible exception of The Best of Both Worlds and some others), thus exactly what a studio wants to boost the ratings. I think it's no coincidence that shows like Battlestar Galactica and DS9 had lower ratings in their initial runs because they have a long running story. It's difficult for new people to come in and watch an episode so producers don't like those types of shows.

However, this episodic format is not necessarily a bad thing. Look at Doctor Who. Look at Firefly. But Star Trek more often than not has episodes that are so self-contained that when you try to tell a serious story, it's all erased by the next episode. And that is extremely frustrating for long time fans. And that's the main problem with this episode. It introduces a problem that we've never seen before and solves it within one episode. The reason DS9 worked so well was that it introduces problems that didn't have such easy solutions. We didn't get an easy resolution to our problems at the end of each episode.

That's not to say that ship themed Star Trek doesn't have some incredible stories, it does. Star Trek has some of the greatest stories I've ever witnessed. But the main problem is that all of those stories are so self-contained that you don't have to have seen any other stories to watch them.
Jay
Sat, Oct 20, 2012, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
Ideally they wouldn't have wanted to wait so long after Hunters to deal with this, but I imagine Roxann's pregnancy had more than a bit to do with it. You can't exactly do an episode like this and use the creative filming they used in the second half of Season 4.
Jay
Sat, Oct 20, 2012, 12:17pm (UTC -6)
And I found it a little strange that the Doctor could determine that a wound was healed "with the skill of a first year nursing student". All that's involved from what we've seen is waving a contraption over a wound that apparently emits some sort of healing beam.
Jay
Sat, Oct 20, 2012, 12:41pm (UTC -6)
Am I the only one that found it odd that the Delta Flyer breaches on a bulkhead, when there are all those...windows? Even if they're transparent aluminum, they would still have to be the weak spots.
Jack
Sat, Mar 9, 2013, 6:40pm (UTC -6)
It's hard to reconcile Torres' behavior here even with the two previous episodes...she figured prominently in Drone and seemed just fine...and interested in the idea proposed in that episode that would become the Delta Flyer. And before that, the long duration that Voyager was in the void area in "Night" surely would have seen Torres' issue come to a head at that time. As someone said above, the reason they couldn't do this episode in a timely fashion is because Roxann was pregnant, but that being so, they really missed their window of opportunity for this to make any sense...they just should have given up on the idea.
W Smith
Thu, Apr 11, 2013, 1:43am (UTC -6)
The last scene in the Delta Flyer with the crew handing off components for Torres to play McGyver was painful to watch. It would have been better for Torres herself to scramble putting it together while the other crew members keep the ship from blowing up. Still would have been weak, but watching each crew member playing hand-off the gizmo was silly.

Agree 100% on the writers' laziness in making Paris a 20th century tech and culture fan. Why did they have to pander so? It's such lazy writing and a slap in the face to Trek fans who watch the show to explore different cultures, not to be reminded of the time we are currently living in. Like the other poster said, make Paris a fan of 22nd century Earth, or medieval Vulcan, or Renaissance Cardassia, or whatever else.

One of the big problems with Voyager is its vanilla writing. The writers relied on cliches and tropes, rather than trying to stake out new ground. What a missed opportunity and eventually it poisoned the franchise to where we have no Trek on TV today and a new film series that has erased the canon and become a space action saga.
William B
Thu, Apr 11, 2013, 6:03am (UTC -6)
@W Smith and Michael, in all fairness, pretty much all Trek shows have the problem with characters loving 19th-20th century Earth, especially the next generation-era stories. Why is Picard in love with 1940's detective stories, Riker with 20th century jazz, Data with late-19th-century Sherlock Holmes, Troi and Alexander with the "ancient West" (mostly 19th century America)? Why did Data choose "Joe Piscopo" as a hacky 1950's-ish comedian to learn humour from? Sisko *and* Kassidy are crazy about the dead sport of baseball, Bashir with 1960's spy stories, Bashir & O'Brien with the Battle of the Alamo from the 1830s, and everyone loves 1960's lounge music, not to mention that the Prophets apparently chose 1950's sci-fi pulp to inspire Benjamin in "Far Beyond the Stars." Even the Napoleonic uniforms in "Hide and Q" are 19th century. There are exceptions in terms of references to Earth's past outside the 1800-2000 range, mostly Shakespeare. But it is hardly a Voyager invention to lean on the 20th century as inspiration.
William B
Thu, Apr 11, 2013, 6:08am (UTC -6)
Of course, I do agree that Paris getting the idea how to build the Delta Flyer from 1950's hot rods is a silly conceit. But that's a more specific problem than the criticism of characters loving 20th century Earth too much (and the not-that-far-off 19th).
Grumpy
Thu, Apr 11, 2013, 4:55pm (UTC -6)
"...pretty much all Trek shows have the problem with characters loving 19th-20th century Earth..."

As a tangent, I'll mention that lately I've been tempted to compile a supercut of Trek scenes where characters express fondness for the past. Starting, for instance, with Samuel Cogley's book fetish in "Court Martial." Rather than illustrate the writers' laziness, the motif could be read as portraying a futuristic longing for old ways.

I'm throwing this supercut idea out there because I probably won't actually get around to making it. But anyone who does a video essay on this topic now has a starting point with William B's list of examples.
Jo Jo Meastro
Fri, May 17, 2013, 6:40am (UTC -6)
I just wanted to add I agree with Elliots' comment about the way people suffering from depression can often turn that corner to break out of the numbness quite suddenly, depression is like a endless cycle of days when you can keep your head above water and days when you just get swallowed whole. I fortunately don't speak from personal experience but a lot of people close to me struggle with it so I understand it all too well. The episode did a respectable job in protraying the numb emptiness, if the ending had been more subtle and done more to suggest the every day struggle even on your good days; this may have been worthy of more praise. In all honesty they should have at least given the issue an entire episode, something akin to DS9s' Only A Paper Moon, the writers would be on to some powerful relevant stuff (which is what Star Trek is all about). Another thing, the Doctor really wasn't much help to Torress at all, I would have thought he'd be there for his patient a lot more instead of being so distant and
Jo Jo Meastro
Fri, May 17, 2013, 6:57am (UTC -6)
*unhelpful. The same can be said for Neelix, you'd think from what he went through in Mortal Coil would make him the perfect candidate for helping Torress through her difficult time. The rest of the crew at least have the excuse of not understanding and being too caught up in the mission, the more I think about it the more convinced I am that this needed at least one full episode in order to adequately cover such a relevant and important issue. It would be like trying to seriously cover a cancer story in a subplot, then abruptly ending it with "good news the alien of the week cured you!" *roll credits*...
Lt. Yarko
Thu, Jul 25, 2013, 2:28am (UTC -6)
Exactly, Jay. If micro-fractures don't occur in transparent aluminum, why don't they just make ship exteriors completely out of transparent aluminum?

@Procyon: I really laughed at the end.

Janeway: And the Malon?
Chakotay: They're a little preoccupied. Seems their shuttlecraft's having a problem climbing out of the gas giant's atmosphere.

As they smirked at each other, I half expected Janeway to say, "Well, f*ck them! Get us out of here, ensign! Warp two."

I imagined Voyager going in and just blasting the struggling shuttle and the freighter to bits. Now that was a funny thought.



Domi
Fri, Aug 9, 2013, 2:08am (UTC -6)
I liked this episode a lot. I thought B'Elanna's mental health state was handled so much better by the script writer's than Janeways depression/guilt in Night.

Some problems though-built a new shuttle in a week? Who are they kidding? The writers seem to have poor attention to detail.

Another thing is that the writing has seen a gross lack of subtlety in every episode so far this season. It seems the writers think the audience won't get their concepts unless they shove them in their faces over and over. Just one example from this episode is the incessant warnings from the computer about how dangerous it is to turn the holo safeties off. There are many other examples from this and the previous two episodes but I don't feel like enumerating them. I'd think writers of a sci-fi show would hold their audience in higher regard.
Mike P
Fri, Aug 23, 2013, 12:52am (UTC -6)
" Am I the only one that found it odd that the Delta Flyer breaches on a bulkhead, when there are all those...windows? Even if they're transparent aluminum, they would still have to be the weak spots."

" Exactly, Jay. If micro-fractures don't occur in transparent aluminum, why don't they just make ship exteriors completely out of transparent aluminum?"

Actually Jay and LT, transparent aluminum is not that unrealistic or far off, and would resist fracturing. As most people know carbon under extreme pressure creates diamond. But not as many know aluminum oxide under extreme pressure creates sapphire, which is nearly as hard. There has been a lot of R&D into creating sapphire windows for high heat and high pressure applications.

So "transparent aluminum" windows in space craft is not far off, and while it can resist fracturing, I'm sure it wouldn't be suitable for the entire Air (space?) Frame where weight savings and even a degree of flexibility are needed.
Nick
Wed, Nov 6, 2013, 6:02pm (UTC -6)
Next time the Borg attack, have Neelix replicate a huge batch of banana pancakes, is there anything they can't solve?
R.
Sun, Mar 23, 2014, 10:46pm (UTC -6)
This episode was written by someone with the screenwriting expertise of a first-year film student.

Roxann Dawson was its only saving grace.
Paul
Thu, May 15, 2014, 8:41am (UTC -6)
Jammer nails the review here. This is classic episodic Voyager, where we're supposed to believe there was setup to a big problem (setup that we didn't see) and that the big problem is still big even though it will be solved by the end of the episode.

Also, the fact that a crew with such limited resources (at least, based on the first couple seasons and some later episodes) would have the ability to build (essentially) a runabout? Where did they come up with the warp core?

The crappy thing about this series is that, other than Garrett Wang, all of the actors are pretty good or very good. I actually think some of the series's best moments come from Beltran, who is all but marginalized in the later seasons. Picardo was great, Ryan was good and even Mulgrew -- who had to deal with terrible writing for her character -- was a trooper.

I realize that Voyager was really before the serialized drama revolution that came with "The Sopranos," but it's still amazing that the premise of this series was used so poorly.
Jeff
Fri, Dec 5, 2014, 4:43am (UTC -6)
To Keiren. Yes, I'm with you on this one. The episode we see is not the whole story. Just because the episode ends with Torres eating banana pancakes and smiling does not mean she has finished being depressed; it only means that she has begun to deal with the problem. Just because the previous and following episodes do not mention her depression does not mean the depression was not there; she could have been dealing with it without the camera being on her. Voyager supposedly took place over 7 years which works out to over 6000 hours. Of that we see
170 45-minute episodes, a total of about 125 hours which is less than 2% of 6000. As Keiren says, can't we imagine the rest for ourselves?

Toony
Thu, Jan 29, 2015, 3:13pm (UTC -6)
Know what made the 'we must build a new shuttle' plot redundant? they already have a Runabout equivalent sitting beneath the saucer section, it's called the Aeroshuttle.
Peremensoe
Sun, Sep 20, 2015, 11:17pm (UTC -6)
I haven't watched any of the relevant episodes lately, but I was reading Bernd Schneider's reviews over at Ex Astris Scientia. On the episode "Juggernaut," he says,

It is already hard to explain that the Malons are encountered thus far away from last time. ... I have the impression the episode was originally scheduled for the early fifth season. This would also explain B'Elanna's violent behavior like in "Extreme Risk" that never showed up again in the meantime. ... Although this is a custom-tailored episode for B'Elanna, there is only a small amount of character development, as if a following episode, namely "Extreme Risk", were to further elucidate it.

So--would that work? What if "Juggernaut" *were* watched in between "Night" and "Extreme Risk," rather than much later where it doesn't seem to make sense? Could that improve *both* that episode and this one, and effectively complete a little B'Elanna arc? Is there actually any on-screen reason not to do this, if one is not beholden to broadcast order?
Andrew
Sat, Dec 5, 2015, 12:38pm (UTC -6)
Dawson's performane is pretty good in itself but it's also so unrestrained that it makes the lack of lead-in or foreshadowing in prior episodes really too much and too incongruous. I agree that "Juggernaut" would make for a pretty good, at least much better, lead-in and make this episode feel more natural and satisfying.
Skeptical
Sun, Jan 17, 2016, 8:50pm (UTC -6)
Way back when Prey appeared, I complained that the Maquis destruction was practically ignored by Torres after her original outburst. So because of that, I'm glad that it's back. And sure, it's certainly a bit silly that they went this long without mentioning it, but the whole point was that Torres was hiding it from everyone (which is perfectly justified). And, heck, maybe this explains her mysterious weight gain and then disappearance last season...

Also, the way Torres tries to feel alive, by taking risks, throwing fights in the hologram, feels right to me as well. After all, K'Eyhlar enjoyed blowing off steam through her adrenaline as well, so it must be part of the Klingon nature. Chakotay's hands on approach to solving the issue, as was Janeway's conversation with Paris and Chakotay (as her two closest friends on Voyager), also worked as well. So on the whole, the episode has a lot going for it.

Until the ending. We had the cheesy "I need to do this" line from Torres, with no explanation, no reason, no true change of heart for why she had to join the ship. Maybe Chakotay should have been more blunt about Torres, told her that there was a good chance that her other family (Paris) was gonna die if she didn't snap out of her funk. Maybe instead of her silly technobabble solution they could have done... uh, something, I don't know. I hate all the special little endings like that. And instead of the pat ending where all is better, maybe have her break down and have an emotional moment with Paris at the end. After all, they did a great job building up to their relationship, but (as so often is the case in entertainment), didn't seem to do anything with it once they got together. This was a perfect chance to give their relationship some actual weight... and they completely missed it.

So it was a good idea, just fell slightly at the end, but I'm glad they did it nonetheless. Especially since it was a very well acted piece by Dawson, and every one of her scenes (until the end) was so good. Ignore the bad ending and the fact that this plotline suddenly appears out of nowhere, and this could be considered excellent.

By the way, one of the things I liked about the episode is that the overarching plot was so mundane. No space-time anomalies, no vertigo particles or tetrarch radiation, no silly technobabble. Just "hey, our probe is stuck in a gas giant and we want to get it out." It's nice to see something simple for once.
Diamond Dave
Fri, Feb 26, 2016, 1:52pm (UTC -6)
Deserves a lot of credit for even trying to bring up the issue of depression and self-harming, and actually for the most part treats the issue with some sympathy and delicacy. Until we get to the great dropped ball of the conclusion, which really does just seem to suggest that everything is just fine again and we can all move along.

Plot wise this is a whole bunch of nothing, and also gets to see the Malon again, which I'm sure I was not alone in thinking we could have done without. But more worked than didn't, and it took a brave path, so 3 stars.
Yanks
Tue, May 24, 2016, 9:56am (UTC -6)
I don't think this is quite as bad as Jammer indicates. I will say this could have been a couple episode arc...

I will agree that this episode really started strong, then someone like me took over the writing. It's so apparent watching this.

At least we get a Torres centered episode where Roxann can once again show her acting chops. Sadly they don't do enough of these. She's awesome.

I'll go 2.5 stars.
Del_Duio
Fri, Aug 12, 2016, 10:02pm (UTC -6)
I had never seen this one before a few mintutes ago and actually it was pretty good. They had me guessing for a while on just what was wrong with B'Lanna and I really had no idea. I thought maybe this was the episode where she found out she was pregnant and started freaking out, oh well.

Charity was actually GOOD in this one too for once! That was very surprising, as I feel he's usually a big weakness in this show during the episodes I've seen. I'll admit that ending and the reason why she was doing all this came out of nowhere and I would have hoped it was something else- anything else- but honestly I don't know what else to suggest they would've used instead.

Hey, I was entertained for an hour and for VOY it was pretty good (and Roxanne Dawson did a great acting job) so I'll give it 3 stars, why not.
Del_Duio
Fri, Aug 12, 2016, 10:06pm (UTC -6)
"What really irked me was near the end, when Chakotay says to Janeway that the Malons have trouble getting their shuttle-craft out of the gas giants atmosphere, then they smile/chuckle and depart immediately.
Isn't there a real chance they will die there if they can't get out.... and then they even chuckle at it? That's not very starfleet of them."

I was expecting them to offer assistance to the Malon shuttle! When they took off I was very surprised too. Picard would've made the offer, even if he knew they'd refuse it. I totally forgot about this part until I read the comments section.
mephyve
Wed, Aug 31, 2016, 2:06am (UTC -6)
Watchable. (*)
Mikey
Wed, Nov 9, 2016, 5:43am (UTC -6)
I don't like Torres. Never have, never will. So any episode centred on her is going to annoy me. This one did so more than any other I can remember. An arrogant bitch who treats people like shit, and a whiner as well. Mind you I don't think much of Worf either. Is it racist to hate Klingons?

Give me Neelix any day.
Robert
Wed, Nov 9, 2016, 8:20am (UTC -6)
"Is it racist to hate Klingons?"

Probably not IRL. In-universe it is.

"I've never trusted Klingons, and I never will. I can never forgive them for the death of my boy."

The thing about not liking a Trek race is that they are often extreme caricatures of a single quality, so if that quality annoys you then... ya. On the other hand I think I liked Torres because she was way more multi-faceted than most Klingons.

I did not like her in this episode or this episode though. This and Barge are the only two Torres episodes I don't like.
Mikey
Sat, Nov 19, 2016, 7:54am (UTC -6)
@Robert: ugh, don't even get me started on Barge.

I'm not usually inclined to dislike a character, but I think what you said makes sense.

Have you got an explanation for Jar Jar Binks?
Connor
Fri, Mar 31, 2017, 8:30am (UTC -6)
I thought it was very weird how, towards the end of the episode where B'Elanna needs to fix the microfracture in the Delta Flyer, the rest of the crew (Seven of Nine, Tom, and Harry) just don't seem to react at all. Like, what was their plan once they got the probe? How would they have survived if Chakotay had come along instead of B'Elanna? I know this is kind of typical on Voyager but in this episode it really, really bugged me how she's desperately putting together some kind of forcefield to save all their lives and everyone else is just staring at their consoles without a care in the world.
Shane
Sun, Apr 30, 2017, 2:08am (UTC -6)
I agree with most of the comments above, and certainly Jammer's review.

However! As a depression sufferer, I feel Dawson's performance was riveting. The writing hit all the right personal notes for me. Her portrayal was believable and relatable. I saw my own presentation in her performance.

I'm not concerned with the delay between cause ('Hunter') and effect. Depression sufferers understand that their condition can present years after a stimulus/trigger event. And sometimes there is no such event. It just happens. And often you soldier on in a manner where nobody around you would suspect that anything was 'wrong' until the straw breaks the proverbial camel's back. So to it was with Torres. That's how I choose to see it anyway - and I respect that others find it a bit tough to swallow.

I give top marks for the episode as the only entry in the Trek canon where a series regular (or anyone?) has openly been diagnosed with depression. O'Brien's one-time PTSD in Hard Time is not quite the same thing (though it's in the ballpark), nor is T'Pol's substance abuse in Enterprise season 3. Torres' struggles were more rooted in the context of everyday shitty things life throws at us - loved ones dying etc - and was thus a bit more relatable.
Startrekwatcher
Sun, Aug 6, 2017, 2:29pm (UTC -6)
I didn't have the issues that you did. I just found it utterly lacking

1.5 stars
Dave
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 2:26pm (UTC -6)
Tom said they "could use an extra hand", so Chakotay was going to go, but B'Lana decided to go instead.

But then...Vorik left. So the net number of "hands" never changed.
Courtney Graff
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
I know a lot of people dislike this episode, but I have to point out that this is representation of what depression is like. I know people don't like to talk about because of the stigma it has.
I have depression and anxiety and it is a lot like Dawson's acting in this episode. Obviously you can't recover from that quickly because it sticks with you and haunts you. I see people bashing on Chakotay for dragging her to the holodeck but that was a hell of a thing to do. You have to face it face to face and you sure as hell do not want to face the demons but you got to. You have two options either fight and win or fight and die trying and that's what I think is trying to be conveyed.
William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 10:45pm (UTC -6)
More later, but I found the tech plot agony to sit through this episode. Who cares about the stupid probe? What possible reason is it worth risking the lives of four crew members by going in a rickety, untested ship to get it back? That's in addition to the dozen or so Malon who die over the course of the ep trying to get it, presumably including the crew of that shuttle they send in which apparently was unable to escape from the gas giant, leading to Janeway sociopathically smiling. Blow it up so the Malon don't get it and move on; surely they could shoot it or something, or have a self-destruct option or something? Strap a warhead to another probe and send it in if they genuinely have no other ideas. And even then, the no tech sharing rule has already been bent, and they attempted such with the Malon no less, so maybe they should just let them get it rather than throwing another shuttle and four senior staff members at it. I wondered watching this ep whether the grinding boredom and apathy and desperate need to feel anything else I experienced in every scene where they talked about the probe was a trick by Biller to get me to feel what B'Elanna was feeling. If so, very clever. I am joking and exaggerating, but not that much.
William B
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 10:53pm (UTC -6)
I should clarify -- I like Skeptical's point that the probe is a mundane problem. My problem is that the continued treatment of he probe recovery as an unquestioned necessity, after the Delta Flyer was suggested, is bizarre and seems unfounded, especially once they get to the stage where they are clearly risking lots of lives over it. It was such a strange mundane/high stakes combination that I was finding myself both bored and frustrated. Which, again, maybe fits the B'Elanna plot; it is certainly the kind of tech plot that would be extremely difficult to keep oneself going through while in a depressive spiral.
William B
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 2:38pm (UTC -6)
Anyway, I was all set to go to bat for this episode, and then I actually rewatched it. I don't think the B'Elanna material is bad at all and I have a lot of respect for what they were trying to do, and I can understand people who think it succeeded. To me, it sort of succeeded most of the episode and then fell apart at the end. And even there, I can, again, see what they were going for; I just don't think it worked.

The basic idea here that B'Elanna is that since the Maquis revelation, some parts of B'Elanna have shut down and she's had a sort of high-functioning depression with some extreme risk-taking self-harming behaviour in private, undertaken largely to help her maintain her daily functioning. I'm not sure if Dawson sells all the nuances here, but the attempt to generate fake enthusiasm over a flat affect more or less works and feels authentic, and (particularly because the tech plot is so boring) I think that the experience of feeling one has to fake enthusiasm and joy in order to avoid having to deal with others' concern and attempts to solve a problem which maybe can't (and maybe shouldn't) be solved felt very real and relatable to me. She feels nothing at the loss of the Maquis, so either means that she is on some level shutting down her feelings, in which case she can anticipate a huge surge of pain and loss once her defenses go down and she's terrified, or else she's simply become a terrible person who, as it turns out, didn't love her friends anyway, in which case she's also terrified. The way the episode tries to play things so as to be consistent with the portrayal of B'Elanna from Prey through Drone is to imply that she's been able to maintain a basically believable facade for several months, but it's finally starting to crack now. This does and doesn't work; honestly I didn't feel as if previous episodes portrayed her as all that emotionally numb, and the implication that she has been less irritable lately doesn't quite seem to work, although even within this episode there are moments in which we learn that B'Elanna actually still is quite irritable, but at random times. (I'm thinking specifically of the moment where she yells at Vorik to "turn that damn thing off.") The self-harming, risk-taking, addictive behaviour makes sense to me as someone whose only way of feeling comes from the survival instinct popping up when she encounters the possibility of death; and it's also a way to play with her own fear of death and loss in what seems like a setting that's just barely safe enough, but also dangerous enough to make her feel she's experiencing something of what her fellow Maquis may have encountered when they were mass-slaughtered. There's some survivor's guilt in there too, and in general a PTSD-type inability to adapt to a "normal" life where the reality of death is pushed to the background in order to focus on day-to-day functioning.

But it's not entirely implausible that she's been mostly externally functional in the intervening time, especially because in fact there was very little B'Elanna material after Hunters anyway, largely due to Dawson's pregnancy. I think had the episode emphasized that B'Elanna has been less able to maintain her composure *lately*, leading to more and more extreme behaviours on the holodeck culminating in her injury, would have given a greater sense of why exactly it's clear to everyone (including the audience) what is wrong in this episode, but was not clear at any point before now. The big question mark is the relationship with Tom; in Vis a Vis, the show went to big trouble to show B'Elanna trying to make things work and Tom pulling away, and this episode reverses it, while seemingly attempting to suggest that B'Elanna was already in this stage in this episode back in that episode. Vis a Vis was already unconvincing, and so to retcon that on top of that episode, B'Elanna was also already consciously feeling nothing for Tom and pulling away, but that this somehow didn't show up when she was trying to convince him to let her into his life, just seems especially unbelievable. Not only that, but the episode fails to have any real resolution for B'Elanna and Tom, besides I guess her saving him in the Flyer. It's not that their relationship has to be the most important thing to her, but Day of Honor was the main Torres episode the previous year and that really pushed the relationship front-and-centre, and the way in which this episode fails to resolve that aspect is overall disappointing. In general and with Tom specifically, the episode could easily have tied things into Night and emphasized that B'Elanna was managing to hold herself together until they hit the void, and then her ability to present herself in a functional way unraveled when crew morale in general started to fall apart.

I guess Janeway giving the go-ahead to investigate B'Elanna's holodeck programs isn't a grave violation of privacy under the circumstances; whereas in DS9, the Holosuites are private (and I think Julian even says something to Garak in Our Man Bashir about it being illegal to break into someone else's program without permission), the holodeck on Voyager seems to be one that people can walk into at all times, and anyway B'Elanna engaging in life-threatening behaviour does probably become Janeway's business. And I guess Chakotay is the first officer. That said, for her to encourage *Tom* to go with Chakotay to investigate B'Elanna's logs reads to me as particularly inappropriate. I think as her boyfriend, he maybe abstractly has a right to know what's going on with her, but that is something B'Elanna should decide (provided he's not in danger) -- or, if she refuses to tell him, he can leave her, but I don't think putting him in the position of investigating her makes sense, especially before the root of B'Elanna's problems become clear.

Chakotay's method of getting through to B'Elanna is not recommended to try at home, but I think it makes sense on a character level that Chakotay would make that call, and as Jammer says it fits with previous depictions of "the Maquis way." I don't think we need to "approve" to see that it's his judgment of how best to reach her, and to get her to admit what's going on with her and maybe examine it. The scene between the two does seem to me to be effective, and is sort of the emotional climax, and it mostly works -- her grief and and the suggestion of some of the underlying truth breaking through that she fears might lose her family again breaking through, and Chakotay's reassurance that he can't promise nothing bad will happen, but that she has to realize that she's not in the same kind of unstable situation she was in earlier in her life. And then --

And then, yeah, the ending. I think I get what they were going for. After talking to Chakotay, the spike of pain at confronting those feelings she's afraid of, after Chakotay gets through to her, sparks her to action. And the action involves an actual life-threatening, risky situation, and I think it also helps resolve some of her problem because she actually does get to experience "extreme risk" in an *appropriate* setting -- i.e. one in which she gets the chance to risk her life for her loved ones and even save them, rather than one in which she continually risks her life purely in order to satisfy some emotional needs she can't understand. Not only that, but the Flyer's "microfractures" causing a hull breach which B'Elanna can cover up using a force field is a metaphor for her own self-saving; the "microfractures" of despair finally lead, through Chakotay's forcing her to see her friends murdered again, to a whole part of her being forcibly blown out, and it's only then (and when their lives are threatened on the Flyer) that the omnipresent but invisible threat she feels becomes a problem she can go into problem-solving-mode to combat.

And yet -- first off, Voyager gets regularly threatened with destruction, and so I'm not sure why this particular event triggers the transformation for her; and on some level her sudden realization that she wants to go on this mission also strikes me as somehow forced. The main way it makes sense for me is if B'Elanna really believes that if she doesn't go on the mission, her friends will die, and she gets a chance to repeat the trauma of losing her Maquis friends but this time she can do something about it -- and that's probably what is intended, especially with B'Elanna's "if that hull breaches..." line. But just a few minutes prior, she was still intent on moping in the holodeck while Chakotay was called to the bridge. Was she listening in on the comm channel? How did she know where Chakotay was?

And maybe more importantly, this actually goes down to structural flaws in the script, which seems as prone to devastating "microfractures" as the Flyer is: if the Flyer is in such danger of the hull breaching, then they *shouldn't launch*. It makes Tom (in particular) and the crew in general look like idiots for going ahead. And the justification that they need to get the probe back remains flimsy at best -- without any particular reason to care. And even if we imagine what Janeway et al.'s reasons are to be willing to risk lives to get the probe back, it seems clear that Tom's reason is purely that he wants to test out his new ship, and is willing to take huge risks for *that* reason alone. That's really stupid and reckless -- and in fact, is actually much more reckless and self-destructive than anything B'Elanna does in the holodeck. The only way it works is if Tom and Janeway (at least) believe that the microfracture threat is not a real risk to the shuttle, and they happen to be wrong. But we know Tuvok considers it a grave risk, and I'm not sure what changes between the scene of Tuvok snarking about the Captain Proton elements of the ship's design and the actual launch that would override Tuvok's opinion, as the senior officer working on the project, whether it's Tom's baby or not. Really, given that the episode didn't supply a plausible reason for taking the risk to getting the probe back, it's necessary for the emotional arc of the episode to have Tom (as pilot), Janeway (as approver of the project) and the rest of the crew on the Flyer to believe that the microfractures are no grave risk, to be willing to go even with B'Elanna having been switched out, AND to have B'Elanna believe that the microfracture risk is potentially catastrophic and could destroy the ship. And then to buy that, we also have to believe that B'Elanna was so out of it that she didn't even say outright how risky the whole endeavour is until the very last minute, after Chakotay's pep talk, and also that Tom apparently doesn't let his discovery his girlfriend's months of self-harming behaviour interfere with the schedule of his vanity project. Further, the construction of the Flyer, already a difficult task, is not even halted when the chief engineer working on the project was revealed to be psychologically unfit throughout the period of time in which the ship was constructed. (I want to underline this. Shouldn't the crew have to go over all of B'Elanna's work to make sure that she didn't make a mistake because her mind has been elsewhere throughout the project?) The ending relies on the type of situation where her friends' lives depend on B'Elanna opting in AND B'ELANNA APPARENTLY KNOWS IT, but no one else seriously seems to think that B'Elanna's presence or absence is a significant change in the project's feasibility, including B'Elanna literally right before she decides she needs to go after all. And it's not impossible; we can say, for example, that perhaps all the simulations showed that the hull would not be damaged by the microfractures and Tom was confident, but wrong, and B'Elanna had some kind of "engineering instinct" that warned her that the shuttle wouldn't survive when she actually came around, and that B'Elanna was so depressed that before the shuttle launch was imminent her mind didn't even work through the actual likelihood of a hull breach, or something like that. Or, it's hard to evaluate the likelihood of a hull breach, and so B'Elanna went on the off chance that she would be needed, and it turns out she was; so in this case, it was actually really unlikely that the microfractures would cause hull problems, hence why it was just, like, that one panel that had a problem, and B'Elanna "got lucky" that her services were actually required so that she could get her necessary catharsis. The latter is probably what they were going for. But somehow the tone of it still feels wrong to me -- the stakes seem out of whack. The thing is, of course, having something higher-priority than a probe (like, say, a crew member) would make more sense of the absolute need to take risks to get it back...but then, that would have the effect of risking making B'Elanna look unsympathetic for being so blase and (apparently) uncaring about the shuttle. So I think the problem is that the show is attempting to play things two ways, which are mostly (though not entirely) contradictory -- starting with "mundane, non-life-threatening shuttle-building plot is too much for B'Elanna in her depressed state" and turning to "actually, the shuttle-building plot is life threatening and that allows her to get the emotional catharsis she needs to get better," and in the process just looking incoherent.

I think what the script maybe needed -- if they were going to go the route they did -- was some sort of escalation that transformed the Flyer project from a fun, semi-serious diversion where they might just have to not launch, into some sort of crisis where they absolutely needed to go. I'm thinking of something like TNG's Hollow Pursuits, where a slowly-brewing crisis only became unambiguously dangerous in the final act, and it's there that the protagonist's ability to solve the technical problem (which also mirrored his emotional problem) became important and gave some sense of resolution to the emotional plot through metaphor. The space race with the Malon kind of does that, but while the ticking clock provides urgency it doesn't provide any sense of why this is important, which is what we really needed. As is, either Tom et al. are reckless idiots, or B'Elanna got very "lucky" that something did go wrong, neither of which is satisfying.

Banana pancakes scenes: one of my favourite movies of the 2010's, if not exactly a "good time," is Lars von Trier's Melancholia, and in one scene, the depressed co-protagonist Justine gets her favourite dish and bites into it, and declares with horror, "it tastes like ashes!" We get something similar with B'Elanna's disinterest in her favourite dish early in the episode, but at the end, she orders it again...this time with maple syrup. Ah, so that was the missing ingredient all along! :) I kid, and I don't hate that final moment, and I don't think it necessarily implies she's "all better," and, yes, sometimes there are subtle signposts/shifts in the way people get out of depressive periods in their life that defy analysis. Mostly, though, I don't buy it, but it's not really the scene's fault; it's that I don't buy the Flyer scene, and so don't buy the joyous coda afterward.

This ended up getting really negative, I know, but it's mostly that the climax on the Delta Flyer was so unsatisfying. I'd actually maybe say 3 stars for the whole of the B'Elanna plot, and something like 1 for the probe plot; the former is clearly more important and has more screen time so I'd maybe give the whole episode a low 2.5.
William B
Thu, Nov 9, 2017, 2:48pm (UTC -6)
Last beat: I'm not sure which episode to blame this on, because I suspect that the relevant dialogue was thrown into Drone after Extreme Risk was written, but I find it very funny that in Drone, there was a little exchange about how bad class II shuttles are, and Seven makes a vague "you should design a NEW shuttle" and everyone looks at each other with interest, as if this idea had never occurred to anyone before; and then in this episode, when Tom brings up the Flyer, Chakotay and Harry complain that Tom has been bringing this up again and again, meeting after meeting. So the scene in Drone which was SPECIFICALLY DESIGNED to set up this episode gets contradicted. Oh well.
NoPoet
Tue, Nov 28, 2017, 5:56am (UTC -6)
This is going to seem like an anti-American rant, which it isn't, but this episode is pretty typical of American "pop psychology". Here in the UK we are deluged constantly with glossy, perfect shows featuring glossy, perfect people who all look like models, all of them with 20+ episodes per series (or "season"), all of them from America. The amount of mcguffins, plot devices, simple characterisation and rampant deus ex mechanics seen in American shows is just ridiculous, insulting the viewer's intelligence. Voyager is not really any different from the thunderstorm of new series which explode from the USA in these respects.

Hollywood is the bottom of the barrel film producer and American television networks are the absolute dross of the TV entertainment world. Occasionally we get something brilliant, including the many,many episodes of Voyager which had decent writers and decent directors. But people expect miles too much from this show, because they fail to consider who made it. This episode is extremely flawed, and Torres has always been weakly written and poorly portrayed, making her one of the least popular Trek characters. But at least Chakotay got something to do, and overall, bearing all of the above factors in mind, this episode wasn't bad. The bit where she turns a phaser into a force field was ridiculous though - I mean how? Just how? Kudos for obliquely referencing the Dominion War.

Submit a comment





Notify me about new comments on this page
Hide my e-mail on my post

◄ Season Index

▲Top of Page | Menu | Copyright © 1994-2017 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved. Unauthorized duplication or distribution of any content is prohibited. This site is an independent publication and is not affiliated with or authorized by any entity or company referenced herein. See site policies.