Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Drive"

**1/2

Air date: 10/18/2000
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Winrich Kolbe

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I was just going to congratulate you. She's not a Borg, she's not a hologram, and she's not dead. Looks like you might've finally found yourself the perfect woman." — Tom to Harry

In brief: An average, amicable, marshmallow-consistency show in which some underused characters actually show up.

If you're looking for something substantive, you'd best look elsewhere. "Drive" is a featherweight Voyager outing — an amiable episode that will hopefully make you grin from time to time, hopefully make you glad that they've actually dealt with a character theme that has been largely ignored for the past three years, and hopefully remind you that the plot of last week's "Imperfection," while mired in overused Borg milieu, was a pretty meaty story — which this is not. The plot details of "Drive" are an excuse to give us a relationship show on a series which the now-only-peripherally-involved Brannon Braga has always maintained "is not a relationship show."

In other words, this is generally effective marshmallow fluff. Ambitious? Hardly. Reasonably well-executed on its terms? For the most part, yes. A pleasant, likable hour? I think so.

It's a rare Paris/Torres episode, with a subplot involving Harry "I'm Such a Hapless but Lovable Chump" Kim. For once we have a story that is actually about the characters, and not about the plot. Well, sort of. Sure, the relationship story involving Tom and B'Elanna may be a fairly standard iteration on a formula — but, hey, I'm glad the writers made the effort. Maybe Kenneth Biller, running the show from here on out, will actually deliver on some of those rumored reports of increased continuity and character development for Voyager's final season. "Drive" displays some possible signs of that.

Regarding the plot — it begins as a somewhat refreshing change of pace in that the aliens we meet aren't automatically shooting at us. On the contrary, Kim and Paris find themselves testing the new Delta Flyer and drag-racing another pilot in the episode's teaser. Shuttle drag racing — that's sort of an interesting idea. ("Imperfection" and "Drive" were flip-flopped from the originally intended air schedule, which I think is proven here as a dumb idea — the whole idea of establishing the "new" Delta Flyer is at least made into something of a point here, whereas in "Imperfection" it was reduced to a lame joke.)

The drag-racing opponent in the teaser is a woman named Irina (Cyia Batten, who was the first of three actors to play Dukat's daughter Ziyal on DS9), whom Harry very quickly attempts to befriend. (Place your bets now on whether Harry will hook up, but I urge you to consider his track record.) Irina informs Tom and Harry of a racing event taking place nearby. This region of space, you see, was once a big war zone, but now the formerly warring societies have established this shuttle race as a celebration for the anniversary of a peace treaty that is only a few years old.

Paris is excited about this race. Very. It's a great opportunity for him to play up one of the two character traits he's known for: the Expert Pilot. (The other trait is of course Lt. One-Liner.) Janeway thinks a race in the interests of peace is a perfect way to take a breather and to exercise Federation diplomacy, so Paris is pleased as punch about the chance ... except that in his state of pilot's rapture he forgets all about the romantic weekend he and B'Elanna had planned in the holodeck. Doh!

B'Elanna's reaction to Tom's apology is surprisingly restrained — and she even encourages him to follow through on whatever "makes him happy." Okay, guys — this is where a red flashing light and a buzzer should be going off in your head right now: RELATIONSHIP TROUBLE AHEAD. B'Elanna's response is a mix of understanding and hidden exasperation. But mostly masked disappointment. She begins to realize that perhaps she and Tom are too different to be together.

I liked Dawson's less-is-more performance. When she sulks in the mess hall, it's underplayed in a way such that her disappointment shows through all the more. It reminded me of her detachment in "Extreme Risk," an episode where her performance transcended the shallowness of the story.

Tom also comes across reasonably. He obviously cares for B'Elanna, but what exists here is a failure of communication for these two to clearly reveal their perceived relationship problems. B'Elanna feels like Tom assigns her too low a priority, but hasn't told Tom she feels this way. Tom is more than willing to make B'Elanna his top priority, but isn't sure that she wants him to overwhelm her with "mushy stuff." The way all of this comes to a head is after B'Elanna becomes Tom's co-pilot in the race in order to spend time with him doing something he feels is important. This allows issues of control and possession of responsibility during the race to be melded into the psychology of these two and their relationship.

This isn't the deepest material ever conceived, but I thought it was adequately conveyed by Michael Taylor's script and the actors. Dawson and McNeill do a good job with the material they have, but they still don't have a natural, unforced chemistry with each other that truly sells intimate scenes, especially concerning the "mushy stuff." I must confess a bit of a soft spot for relationship shows that give us a payoff after years of setup (or in the case of Voyager, occasionally acknowledged setup), so I found this mostly enjoyable even if a little hackneyed. One apt moment is when Tom stops the Flyer in mid-race to have an immediate, serious talk with B'Elanna.

All of this segues into and out of a plot involving somebody trying to sabotage the race and tear down the uneasily maintained peace treaty. (The reasons for this, once revealed, are hopelessly perfunctory, but an even bigger question I had is why golf balls in the 24th century have blinking, bleeping lights inside them — but forget it.) A sabotaged console on Irina's shuttle blows up, injuring her co-pilot. This leads Harry to volunteer as her replacement co-pilot. No points for guessing who the saboteur is; the Law of Economy of Characters basically gives you two choices: Irina herself, or gruff (red-herring) opponent Assan (Patrick Kilpatrick, who appeared as a hardened Starfleet soldier in DS9's "The Siege of AR-558"). If you didn't guess Irina, you obviously weren't paying attention to the implications of the Harry Kim attraction angle.

This poor sap. I'm beginning to think the writers take some sadistic pleasure is teasing him with potential girlfriends who are, of course, not what they seem. Of course Irina is the saboteur. It's inevitable. If she weren't, Harry might stand a chance to hook up, which simply would go against everything about the Harry Kim (Not) Getting the Girl rule. (Hey, at least the writers are consistent!) If this guy isn't a walking poster boy for the theory "nice guys finish last," then I don't know who is.

Structurally, I thought the way the climax was executed, with the crosscutting between the Tom/B'Elanna and Harry/Irina dialog scenes, worked pretty well, explaining the sabotage plot while Tom and B'Elanna face their communication barrier. I should probably point out that only on Voyager will you likely see a marriage proposal happen in the middle of a speeding attempt to move a bomb from A to B during a 30-second countdown. (This isn't the usual gratuitous Action Insert, but instead gratuitous full Action Integration.) Peace is maintained, Irina is exposed, Harry is still a chump, and Tom and B'Elanna live happily ever after.

The episode ends with an off-screen wedding and then a scene on the Delta Flyer, in which an enormous conceit of cuteness was taken in having "JUST MARRIED" written on the back end of the Flyer. I sort of enjoyed the idea of the two teasing each other about the last name (marital struggle #1: "B'Elanna and Tom Torres" or "Tom and B'Elanna Paris"?). Whether or not you like this — or any of it — may simply depend on whether you've ever liked the idea of Tom and B'Elanna together. I'm one who always sort of liked it, but didn't find great insight in the way it was executed. Such are my feelings for "Drive."

Next week: The trailer claims mutiny, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe it's "Worst Case Scenario, Part II."

Previous episode: Imperfection
Next episode: Repression

Season Index

32 comments on this review

Gretchen - Thu, Oct 25, 2007 - 12:03pm (USA Central)
This episode begs the question: What the heck does a nice girl like B'Elanna see in such a nitwit like Paris?
EP - Mon, Mar 9, 2009 - 5:05pm (USA Central)
I thought this episode could have been more fun without the whole "Moonlighting"-like relational squabbling between TP and BLT. Dialogue like that is nice for 90210. Not so much Trek.
I had to smile, though, when it turned out that Harry's new crush was a xenophobic assassin. If the writers aren't going to have him grow beyond his Trek Bible Bio, at least they're consistent.
Damien - Mon, Apr 6, 2009 - 8:36am (USA Central)
I enjoyed this one a lot because it was so amiable and focused on the two characters I have a lot of time for - Tom and B'Elanna. I think they have great chemistry together and both put in a fine performance. It doesn't have to be 'meat and potatoes' all the time, a light soufflé now and then makes for a pleasant change.
indijo - Thu, Jun 25, 2009 - 9:21am (USA Central)
I could have done without Neelix hijacking astrometrics and electing himself big-game play-by-play announcer. Dang that guy has a big noisey trap.

The race was okay, but Belanna in that racy outfit was better.
Nick - Thu, Jul 23, 2009 - 10:50am (USA Central)
Ummm... anyone else notice that Belanna claims that Tom was expelled from the academy even though this contradicts his biography from the series premiere! Maybe she was thinking of his alter ego Nick Locarno.
Michael - Thu, Jul 15, 2010 - 2:30pm (USA Central)
At the start of the show I thought "Oh, god, this is gonna be about Harry "Can't-Get-A-Lock" Kim either getting some booty or screwing something up, as usually." (I REEEAAALLY don't like Kim: He has no personality, excels at nothing and usually succeeds in effing up whatever he lands his hands on.)

But no: It's about Tom Paris acting out a juvenile boyish fantasy (racing) with a 24th-century twist AND Harry "No-Lock" Kim screwing up.

But sarcasm aside, I thought Torres supplanting "No-Lock" was really sweet of her. I also liked the jumpsuits they wore, especially the gray vs. white contrast. But much of the Paris-Torres sparring would be more suited to some third-rate soap-opera than a sci-fi series. It was nice when they reconciled though and, call me sentimental, but i really enjoyed the soppy ending, mainly because it didn't come across as contrived.

Neelix succeeds in being a massive pain in the ass in every single scene. On the other hand, Irina has a nice ass, so they pretty much cancel each other out.

Stupidity peak: Paris and the Morse Code. Tantamount to a N.A.S.A. astronaut being able to recognize and decipher a flag semaphore message. *sigh*

Overall, a watchable and rather entertaining episode. I'd give it 2.5 stars.
Jay - Sat, Mar 12, 2011 - 8:17pm (USA Central)
Paris was expelled from Starfleet Academy? I thought his troubles started later, with he Maquis. RDM's pother character, Locarno, was the one that was expelled.
Cloudane - Sun, Apr 3, 2011 - 1:55pm (USA Central)
Don't know if it's ever been confirmed, but I always thought it was meant to be the same person. I remember he had a remarkably similar backstory about having done something stupid that led to the death of his team mate, or am I misremembering. They changed his name because Nick Locarno was already claimed by another series, or some such.

Anyway, average fluff really. And alas, poor Kim yet again. Pleasant enough but far from amazing.

I'm a little disappointed that after all those years of buildup they get an off-screen wedding. I was looking forward to watching Lt One-Liner snarking his way through the marriage vows.
Kieran - Wed, Apr 27, 2011 - 9:19am (USA Central)
Hold the phone - they got married at the end? Clearly I blinked and missed that.
Cloudane - Wed, Apr 27, 2011 - 9:41am (USA Central)
It wasn't shown but at the end the shuttle was towing 'just married' stuff (lol) and it's confirmed in the next ep.

It did seem a bit of an anticlimax skipping all the stuff normally considered important and just 'ending' like that, but without spoiling Voyager's grand finale too much... erm, let's just say, get used to it :)
Jay - Mon, Sep 5, 2011 - 6:41pm (USA Central)
They did the wedding in Course:Oblivion. It was actually their dupes, but they still probably figured why do it twice.
V - Fri, Feb 10, 2012 - 12:40am (USA Central)
I'm with Damien on this. Love the Tom and B'Ellana pairing, it is unusual and unexpected that's why I love it. I love how the actors handled the characters. I wish they did more with these 2 in the series instead of this being a seven show.
Eric - Mon, Mar 5, 2012 - 2:18am (USA Central)
Does it ever get on anyone else's nerves that space opera series writers always forget about intertia? Its like they think that you stop as soon as you shot off your engines. Yeah, yeah, I know, that "inertia dampers" hogwash... still, they never turn them off for their own benefit. Once you reach top-speed, you wouldn't need to use your engines at all until the next sharp turn.

Eric - Mon, Mar 5, 2012 - 2:19am (USA Central)
*shut off your engines
Cappo - Sun, Mar 11, 2012 - 7:36pm (USA Central)
Without inertial dampening field, the crew would be mere splatters on the aft bulkhead at the slightest (for a starship) acceleration.

However... aren't they only supposed to be INSIDE the ship? The ship should still coast though space, just like in the TNG episode when they were towing the Constellation.
Jay - Sun, Jun 17, 2012 - 8:04pm (USA Central)
More ridiculous holodeck spatial physics...as if Doc could be on a golf course while Tom and B'Ehlanna are wherever they are.

Really though, since Doc is just a hologram he could really do whatever he wants if they made one of those yellow plastic cube things that the TNG crew put Moriarty and the Countess in...
Jack - Sun, Oct 14, 2012 - 2:26pm (USA Central)
@ Jay...well, Doc is a hologram. Technically they could build some kind of poor man's holodeck (like the yellow box that they put Moriarty and the Countess in at the end of "Ship In A Bottle") that only he could use, and to his heart's delight.
stargazer - Wed, Mar 27, 2013 - 8:01am (USA Central)
Well, at least Jammer is consistent. This review is full of cynicism. :)
azcats - Wed, Aug 21, 2013 - 11:55am (USA Central)
@jay. I was thinking the same thing. the wedding on course:oblivion is the only wedding we needed to see.

@michael, i think i enjoy his comments more than jammers reviews.

i am suprised Michael liked the mushy stuff. Michael reminds me of Fred Savage on "Princess Bride." lol

finally, if you watch this episode in 2013, does it make you think of the Boston Marathon bombing?
SpiceRak2 - Thu, Sep 12, 2013 - 12:55am (USA Central)
I just want to know: what is so awful about Neelix??!!?!

I think his character is complimentary and shows more depth of emotion than some of the others. For that matter, I think Quark was an amazing character in DS9. I just don't get all the hate.
Jo Jo Meastro - Tue, Oct 8, 2013 - 11:22am (USA Central)
I've always had a soft spot for the Tom Paris shows. I even saw some merit in the admittedly silly Threshold! I think its his under-dog status and everyman charm, and I enjoy the fact he has a lot of relatable quirks and a very normal personality.

Its just a shame that the writers all too often either ignored him or ruin his interesting love of the 20th century by constantly ramming it down our throats. Another failing is that we really needed to see Tom and Torress as more of a couple with a vibrant relationship, and not just when the plots forces it.

The good news is that this is a very good Tom episode which allowed him to shine at his brightest for a change. This was fun, natural, cool, stylish, tight and layered with all the right emotional cues which make great entertainment.

The only thing I would have liked to see was at least a glimpse at the actual wedding, even a montage over the closing credits would have been satasfying. All in all, 3.5 stars.
Cloudane - Tue, Jan 21, 2014 - 6:27am (USA Central)
Hmm, the problem with Neelix... it's actually a good question, he's just sort of annoying?

I think it's that he's so absolutely unrelentingly cheerful at all times, often when it seems inappropriate. There is only so much one can stomach of a "happy go lucky" sort of character.
Nick - Mon, Feb 3, 2014 - 7:05am (USA Central)
I know its rather silly to bring this up, but Trek would be a whole lot more interesting if the ships moved on a 3-D plane as opposed to a 2-D plane...something to ponder. ;)
DavidK - Mon, Feb 3, 2014 - 8:14am (USA Central)
In the way BSG (and to a lesser extent Star Wars) render space combat as fighter planes and aircraft carriers, Star Trek seems to render space combat more as a navy metaphor...with your large, slow moving cruisers firing cannon volleys like the Enterprise, or your cloaked ships standing in for submarines. I think that's where the 2-D bias originates, when you're thinking of space as an ocean it's easy to get stuck in that mindset =P

Not saying it's good or bad mind you, that's just how I see the way Star Trek "thinks" (and it's not a hard rule or anything, things like Bird of Preys or the Defiant, when they're decloaked anyway, are a bit more in the fighter plane category).
Steinway - Wed, Feb 5, 2014 - 4:59pm (USA Central)
I liked the scenes between and Seven and B'Elanna in this and the last episode. They make a little more sense if the episodes are flipped… First, in this episode, you have Seven inadvertently giving advice to Torres, and Torres quietly taking that advice. Then, in the next episode, you have Torres giving heartfelt advice to Seven. It was a nice development of the relationship, which until now has shown us Torres blowing up at Seven and generally being frustrated with her. It fit with the rest of the episode, a calmer, more secure B'Elanna. Makes me think back to Barge of the Dead, that maybe she really has changed and developed as a character.

I liked this episode for its cheesy but sweet story. I've always enjoyed the B'Elanna and Tom relationship for the most part, although I didn't like when it became a vehicle for us to just see them bicker. It's especially fun to watch because my husband and I are a lot like them! I'm kind of glad it didn't show the wedding, although it did make the end of little confusing – you don't realize that they're married until you see the last shot of the Delta Flyer. I much prefer church weddings myself, and the Starfleet ones always seem a little dry to me. The version of their wedding in the episode when they were actually metallic slime didn't do much for me - glad they didn't try to reprise it. But maybe they could've given us a five second shot at the end of this episode with people smiling and toasting Tom and B'Elana in the mess hall, presumably at the end of the ceremony? It would've gotten the point across more clearly before the scene in the Delta Flyer.
Susan - Wed, Feb 5, 2014 - 9:47pm (USA Central)
I'm 12 minutes in to it, and so far I have just one question. Tom walks into engineering to talk to B'elana, and she asks him if he's packed. If they're just going to the Holodeck, why do they need to pack?
Ric - Sun, Jun 1, 2014 - 1:11am (USA Central)
Not so bad at all. Actually, surprisingly engaging.
The conversation between Paris and Torres when just stops the Delta Flyer to debate their relationship, was interesting to watch.

It was not an awesome episode, for sure, but a good enough one.
The Professor - Sat, Jun 7, 2014 - 5:33pm (USA Central)
For what its worth, I loved this episode, but I think it might be hard to really enjoy it unless you have a Paris type personality.
Nic - Sat, Jun 14, 2014 - 9:44am (USA Central)
This episode was good but could have been better. The very concept of a race in space was a relatively fresh idea and very interesting to see brought to the screen. The Tom/B’Elanna stuff was nothing surprising, but still good.

What I thought really didn’t work was the constant cross-cutting in the final act between the romance scene and the plot « revelations » regarding Irina. This may be one of the worst editing choices made in Star Trek. And although I thought Cyia Batten made the best Tora Ziyal, her performance here wasn’t all that convincing. Really, they should have just dropped the entire sabotage subplot and focused more on the excitement of the race itself. That being said, I did appreciate how the guy who was so obviously set up as the Hard-Headed Alien of the Week [TM] turned out to have done nothing wrong.
Eli - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 9:55pm (USA Central)
Why are relationship based romantic comedy type episodes fluff? Relationships can be just as deep as anything else. And the occasional levity or gentle competition in the episode does not prevent the show from having substance. "Depth" is an inherently subjective term anyway. Does a substantial show have to be dark and cynical?

Further, on a side note, I like that characters like Quark and Neelix that provide humor and contrast to the show. In my view, Neelix is not as interesting as Quark, but he's a fine addition to the cast of characters.

Overall, I thought the show had a good balance of romance, humor, competition, diplomacy and mystery. I think those elements complement each other rather than undermine each other.

I'd give the show at least 3.5 stars.

My only quibbles: 1) the romantic scenes could have have been a little more direct and therefore could have had a little bit more of a payoff. I feel like the writers and the actors were terrified of coming across as corny. But, you have to "go for it" in romance at some point. You have to take a leap of faith that the audience will support your sincerity and go along with it.

2) I know the show is only around 40 minutes, but they completely sidestepped the handling of the punishment of the conspirator. The ending, as a whole, was rushed.


Very good episode.
Eli - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 10:03pm (USA Central)
Re: azcats: the conspirator element is actually more unnerving when you think about it than the characters (other than Kim perhaps) seem to think it is in the show. Boston marathon is one recent example of what could happen in real life if a terrorist used a sporting event to hurt people.

This does leave me conflicted because it is the one element in the show that could potentially topple the other elements. That's why the situation should have been addressed in the show's ending.

Ultimately, I think it is, after all, a TV show, and the fact that the woman appeared to be relatively independent in her actions does soften some of the horror of the situation.

Perhaps the fact that the writers took that element of the story quite that far is the biggest flaw in the episode. (That is to say, the writers decided that the conspirator not only wanted to kill one ship, but also many innocent bystanders.) This theme, therefore, risks being too serious to be an afterthought.

But I still hold that it is a very solid episode in that so many ingredients were effective. Every cultural work is flawed somehow. I guess that's why the subjective nature of our tastes is important to our views. We all chose to tolerate some things and not others.
Eli - Thu, Aug 28, 2014 - 10:05pm (USA Central)
I meant: kill one person or destroy one ship, not kill one ship...

it would be great if we could edit our posts, oh well

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