Star Trek: Voyager

"Flashback"

3 stars

Air date: 9/11/1996
Written by Brannon Braga
Directed by David Livingston

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Human fascination with 'fun' has led to many tragedies in your short but violent history. One wonders how your race has survived, having so much 'fun'." — 29-year-old Tuvok

Nutshell: Not bad. An interesting theme about the Federation and some good backstory of Tuvok. Unfortunately, the ending doesn't amount to much; the show really could've been much more.

Premises like "Flashback" are what make the Star Trek universe so immortal and endearing. If there is one reassuring thing about the way Star Trek sees itself, it's that it knows what it is and where it came from—and "Flashback" remarks on this. At the same time, "Flashback" is a decent story. Not great, mind you—sometimes the events of the story can barely live up to the impetuses behind them—but it's definitely passable and worth the effort.

While searching for energy sources, the Voyager ventures near a nebula. The nebula's visual appearance triggers the surfacing of a repressed traumatic memory in Tuvok's subconscious. Due to convoluted Vulcan mind workings explanations, the Doctor says the memory must be brought into Tuvok's conscious mind and reconciled, otherwise Tuvok's brain will be irrevocably damaged by the side effects. Tuvok must mind meld with Janeway (his closest personal tie on the ship) so they can search through his memories for the repressed culprit. In the process of the mind meld, however, Tuvok and Janeway somehow end up reliving Tuvok's first Starfleet mission aboard the USS Excelsior under Captain Hikaru Sulu (George Takei), some 80 years ago.

Does this sound like a Brannon Braga concept? Braga always seems to enjoy toying with mental states, reality, time, and the like. While Braga's script for "Flashback" is nowhere near as labyrinthine and interesting as his "Projections" was last year, "Flashback" does have its moments of character inspiration and inevitable nostalgia.

Part of the fun of the episode is how it bases its story on "actual" past Star Trek events (that is, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country from the Excelsior's point of view). For example, remember the cup of tea Sulu was drinking in the opening scene of Star Trek VI? Well, I took great enjoyment in finding out it was a Vulcan blend that a 29-year-old Ensign Tuvok gave him—perhaps "trying to make Lieutenant in a month" Commander Rand (Grace Lee Whitney) observes.

Ah, I suppose only a true fan of the franchise could find such fun in such a simple little detail. But for that matter, I also found the recreation of the Praxis explosion shock wave scene from Trek VI to be interesting (if, for no other reason, because of the technical and directing implications).

I also appreciated Braga's attempt to show Sulu in action. For the attempted Trek VI rescue of Kirk and Bones from Kronos, Sulu takes the Excelsior through a nebula to avoid a confrontation while illegally venturing through Klingon space. The evasive techniques are not completely successful, however, and Sulu runs into a Klingon ship commanded by Kang (yes, everybody is popping up here), which leads Sulu to claim he wandered in and got "lost"—a claim he can't even keep a straight face through.

Superficialities aside, the real reason this works is because it makes some statements about both Tuvok and the Federation in the process. When Sulu announces his intentions to violate Starfleet Command's orders and venture through Klingon space, Tuvok speaks up—he points out that it is a willful violation of regulations, and that he must formally protest his captain. "A pretty bold statement for an ensign with only two months space duty under his belt," Sulu remarks, not happily. Sulu's subsequent comments about how duty and loyalty to fellow officers sometimes warrants bending or even breaking the rules makes a lot of sense, and seems credible given what we know of the character.

This further confounds Tuvok, who, fresh out of the Academy, has not had pleasant experiences with human behavior. As Tuvok and Janeway probe through the memories, the flashbacks take us to a scene after Tuvok's confrontation with Sulu, when a discussion between Tuvok and his bunkmate Valtane (Jeremy Roberts) reveals a Tuvok who did not particularly like the presumptions of humanity. "You believe that everyone in the galaxy should be like you, that we should all share your sense of humor and your human values," Tuvok tells Valtane. Russ' performance is good, as usual, creating a young Tuvok who was not pleased with human arrogance and narcissism—in fact, if we didn't know Vulcans better, we might sense some actual anger here. Tuvok's subsequent discussion with Janeway on the topic is one of those Quiet Dialog Scenes, but one of the better Quiet Dialog Scenes on Voyager's record—it was nicely performed and directed, and there was some genuine impact and character backstory development here. By the time the scene was over, I felt like I understood much more about Tuvok than when the scene began.

The other thing "Flashback" gets right is its observation of differences between time periods. After an unsuccessful meld, Janeway goes to her ready room to study up on the Excelsior—only to discover the mission she's looking for was never logged because of its illegality. Kim is astonished—a Federation captain falsifying his logs? It was a different time for Starfleet, Janeway explains, and Sulu belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officers. "They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive and a little quicker to pull their phasers." This is a good point, and it's well said. It's nice to see the newest of Treks acknowledge is heritage, and it's intriguing to note the differences between the 23rd and 24th centuries. It shows that in 80 years there has been significant progress in the Federation, and that people do notice such progress. Nice work.

But what does all of this have to do with the repressed memory? Actually, not a whole lot. One big problem with "Flashback" is how the repressed memory figures into the equation. The main goal for Janeway and Tuvok is to hunt down this memory, but they can't figure out why they keep ending up in Tuvok's memories of the Excelsior. In a plot move that is all-too-typical, the repressed memory turns out to be a parasitic sort of "virus" that hides itself from the immune system by disguising itself as a traumatic memory. Apparently Tuvok has been carrying this virus since Valtane's death on the Excelsior, when it "migrated" hosts—that is, from Valtane to Tuvok. (No, I won't delve into the inevitable implausibilities of this idea.) The ending, in which Doc and Kes kill the virus by irradiating it, is a somewhat effective mishmash of jarring visuals and sickbay technobabble (and a decent score by David Bell), but it has no lasting emotional impact. If the repressed memory had actually been a real repressed memory with some sort of character significance instead of a quasi-red herring, the show could have had much more lasting impact.

Oh well. I'm inclined to ignore the entire repressed memory portion of the show. It's little more than an excuse to launch the flashbacks of Tuvok on the Excelsior, anyway. Fortunately, between the character backstory, the comments on change, and nostalgia for the 30th anniversary of Trek, the ends justify the means.

Previous episode: Basics, Part II
Next episode: The Chute

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55 comments on this post

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gretchen
Thu, Nov 22, 2007, 10:13pm (UTC -5)
In Star Trek VI, TWO MONTHS pass between the explosion of Praxis and Gorkon's assassination.
In this episode, TWO DAYS pass between those two events.
That alone ruined the episode for me.
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Dirk Hartmann
Thu, Apr 3, 2008, 4:02am (UTC -5)
I thought this episode would become a real snooze-fest until suddenly the Excelsior part was brought into play. From then on I loved it!
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Nick
Sat, Aug 23, 2008, 9:21am (UTC -5)
I just rewatched this episode and it reinforced to me that the whole "repressed memory virus" was a huge waste of time. How about this - Janeway is discussing the Prime Directive with her command staff (you know, mentoring her subordinates???) and Tuvok uses the story as an example of doing the right thing even when rules state otherwise. Just a thought, but then I guess all the medical technobabble would never have been used.
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Jay
Sat, Aug 1, 2009, 11:57am (UTC -5)
Does Tuvok being 29 here jibe with his turning "almost triple digits" in "Fury" in Season 6.

Assuming Tuvok turns 99 then, that would be late 2376, which means ST VI took place sometime after 2300, which I believe doesn't jibe with the TOS era timeline.
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Nic
Tue, Dec 1, 2009, 7:53am (UTC -5)
I think this episode is a stroke of genius. DS9 was already using the tired plot device of time travel for their 30th anniversary show, so Braga came up with something more original. The two days/two months continuity glitch is a problem (like the fact that Tuvok only has two months' space duty under his belt VS. the Exselsior returning froma THREE-YEAR mission in the Beta Quadrant), but it doesn't prevent me from enjoying the episode. And I actually thought the concept of a virus masquerading as a memory was fascinating.
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charlie
Thu, Feb 11, 2010, 7:55pm (UTC -5)
Since the Beta Quadrant is relatively close to the Alpha Quadrant, the Excelsior could've had occasional stops at starbases just like Kirk & Picard's Enterprises did.
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Jay
Fri, Jan 28, 2011, 1:58pm (UTC -5)
^ Definitiely possible...the Federation straddles the Alpha/Beta line. Actually, a line connecting the center of the galaxy and Sol is the marker between Alpha and Beta (and Gamma and Delta), so Earth spends half of each solar year in Alpha Quadrant and half in Beta.
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Destructor
Tue, Apr 19, 2011, 8:08pm (UTC -5)
After a second viewing, file this under 'disappointment'. If only they could have made the Excelsior story integral to the plot, instead of totally irrelevant- then it could have been a classic.
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Joe
Sun, Nov 20, 2011, 10:47am (UTC -5)
I couldn't help but laugh at Janeway commenting that Sulu and Kirk would be thrown out of modern Starfleet for a stunt like rescuing a friend they've known for decades and going on to secure peace talks with Klingons leading into a new era of peace.

This is of course the episode after Janeway tried to rescue a test tube baby of the traitorous Seska in the very previous episodes, Basics parts 1 and 2. This mission was also a failure and a complete waste of Voyager lives, time and resources.
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Paul
Mon, Dec 5, 2011, 11:47am (UTC -5)
@Gretchen: Excellent point. The problem with the flub is that it gives no time for Spock to make overtures to Gorkon -- which is a big thing in ST6.

This episode was terrible. Voyager is my least favorite series (by far) but it was at its best in isolated episodes that didn't need to reflect a larger continuing storyline (Living Witness, Timeless, etc.). This was another instance where it could have been good because it didn't need to have long-last effects.

I understand that time travel was overused in Star Trek around this point, but a plot about some sort of brain bug was just ... weird.
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ineffable
Wed, Aug 8, 2012, 12:24am (UTC -5)
Way to kill the franchise, Takei!!!!

This Tuvok story concept is awesome, but it got campy w/ Georgy Takei Boy. This episode could have been way more involved in Janeway/Tuvok history... Which we don't f@#cken know about anyways...

Takei is awesome, tho. He's a funny guy. They should have brought him on as an observer/scientist interacting with Neelix making chemistry food and outfits.

The scene with Takei and his "buddy" Klingon on the view-screen ...that grunt between Takei and the Klingon. Failed innuendo.

Down for the Dr. telling Tuvok immediately to wear that sh*t on his neck. Cuz that was logical.

Down for the Dr. telling Janeway to calm down and fucken wait for Tuvok to recover from drain bamage before waking Tuvok's ass up to ask god damn questions.

Dr. is. the. Win. Voyager.

DS9 NINE BIATCHES!!!!! Fuck Enterprise. Don't make me slap you TNG. Voyager... Thanks for not ruining it like that motherfucking ENTERPRISE.


Firefly/serenity should have been Enterprise.

I damn swear. Firefly would have been the way better Enterprise. Enemy sword dude, could have been a corrupt vulcan or some whatever Enterprise tried to do. Whatevers.

Fuck -- I'ma hit this comment section for a minute. Talk back or talk shit...dont care...

STARTREK FOR LIFE
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Jo Jo Maestro
Fri, Mar 1, 2013, 8:53am (UTC -5)
I agree with Ineffables' point about Takeis' performance being a bit overly camp and almost approaching panto level, no offense to the guy he is seriously awesome but his acting isn't the greatest (sorry Sulu!).

And I was quite bored watching this episode. I love old era Star Trek and this really had the potential to be excellent. I had high hopes. But I was far from impressed, it was simply an average affair and I was left bored half way through. DS9 did it much better with their nostalgia trip to the original series *sigh*.

Perhaps I shouldn't have expected as much, then I might have enjoyed this one a bit more. After all, I am the guy who thinks Threshold is under-rated :).
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Patrick
Mon, Apr 15, 2013, 10:33pm (UTC -5)
This episode is filled with so many sloppy continuity errors, which is par for the course in Star Trek Voyager. But, what really, really hurts this episode is that this is supposed to take place in Tuvok's mind, then why are we seeing outside shots of the Excelsior, the Praxis explosion and Kang's ship? Huh?
Even in the reviled ENT finale, "These Are the Voyages...", we didn't see any outside shots of Enterprise or Shran's ship, because it was a holodeck simulation. We don't see the outside of Enterprise until the very last flashback scene.

But, beyond even the sloppiness, does this episode have any cogent, dramatic point? Or is it just a bunch of stuff that happens? The virus is incidental and it could just as easily been contracted to any other point in Tuvok's personal history.
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Shane
Fri, Jun 28, 2013, 5:44am (UTC -5)
This episode is so screwed up. Apparently the writers confused Tim Russ' human character on the Enterprise B for Tuvok on the Excelsior. They missed the fact that the Excelsior had been in Beta Quadrant for 3 years (Tuvok said he was new to Starfleet) They missed the fact that Praxis exploded two months before the Khitomer Conference in 2293. And finally, Voyager killed Fontaine but we freakin' see him alive at the end of Star Trek VI when Sulu says goodbye to Kirk! Oh, and there's no Tuvok/Tim Russ on the Excelsior in that same shot!

If they HAD to put Tuvok on the Excelsior it would have been better for him to tell a story about some unseen adventure rather than trying to jam it into the continuity of Star Trek VI. It's just sloppy. Braga does this again with Enterprise's finale trying to shoehorn itself into TNG's Pegasus episode. It just doesn't fit!
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T'Paul
Sun, Sep 8, 2013, 4:43pm (UTC -5)
Not that it deserves a response, but really "ineffable", keep your homophobia to yourself.

As for the timeline issues... no one said that Tuvok's memories were chronological... maybe he skipped days or months as he was reliving them.

I think this was a great glimpse into Tuvok's and Star Trek history.
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DPC
Sun, Sep 15, 2013, 2:01pm (UTC -5)
In 1996, I saw the preview and decided to give it a chance. Shoehoring in Tuvok was a joke and the acting of everyone on the Excelsior felt like they were reading their lines off of cue cards as if they were bored.

Fontaine being killed was an obvious gaffe.

Janeway discussing Kirk and the gang felt like a slam against TOS.

The precipice stuff was nothing.

I felt the episode made a mockery of Trek VI.


1 of 4 stars


Fast forward to 2013:



The Excelsior acting: It felt like a rehearsal at least up to the point where Sulu sees Janeway, when Sulu really comes alive. It's as if they all read the script and decided they were supposed to play it out like a dream as well. Noting the difference, I do wonder how much better the Excelsior scenes had been if the director (who had some great shots of an ailing Tuvok) had reminded the Excelsior crew to try to act as if the events really happened. Takei in particular steals the show the moment Tuvok's meld goes awry and he can see Janeway.

Kang's appearance is a cute bit of continuity, and Michael Ansara (RIP) puts in some flair - good to see him again. Sulu's jibing with him feels very TOS-like. More was desired (good f/x in the nebula, too.) Though, without oxygen, there would be no big explosion...

In 1996, I did NOT watch the story to the end - when Tuvok and Janeway discuss the veracity of those memories, it is a very brief scene but does adequately write off the inconsistencies with Tuvok's memory, and Tuvok makes it come across like they did turn around and head back home in the end - because the Excelsior looked pristine when it battled General Chang at the film's finale.

As with 1996, Janeway and Tuvok hopping back between memories to re-live things differently was cornball and convenient.

But at least they're not doing time travel (yet again).

I liked the sci-fi revelation of a virus that lives in a memory, preferably one that the host doesn't want to remember. That was clever. Kudos.

When the virus jumped from Fontaine to Tuvok, there appeared to be physical touch. But not between Tuvok and Janeway. That was an eyerolling moment.

In both viewings, then and now, I did miss out on continuity fluffs (e.g. 2 days vs 2 months re: Kirk being captured, etc). However, this does tie into the end where it's said that we really don't know what happened thanks to how the virus was acting. Given Tuvok's loose associations with the nebula, Klingons, etc, the virus was probably using the Trek VI memories and its effects were distored by Tuvok's attempt to remember. It's woolly, but it's the only way to make the story work. Especially as it's a throwaway line at the end. But it was said; if it wasn't then the whole piece would be a turkey.

In short, there were many interesting points but there was some sloppiness and missed opportunities. :(

3 of 4 stars
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Caine
Sat, Oct 19, 2013, 8:33am (UTC -5)
I really enjoyed most of this episode.

I found the "trip" back to Excelsior fresh, charming and very interesting. Janeways take on Starfleet officers then and now was both fun and right on the money, I thought.

Ultimately, though, the episode was ruined for me by two things:
1) Horrible dialogue. Janeways incessively explaining everything that's going on ... I half expect her at any monment, to look into the camera and say "is everybody following this? Good!" and then continue the toe cringing exposition. I found this to be a problem throughout most Voyager episodes. Teu, all Trek shows are very "talky", but to me that's just fine as long as the dialogue is good. On Voyager it was very often just plain bad.

2) With something like four minutes left of the epiosde The Doctor suddenly goes "oh, it's a virus!" and hings quickly get rapped up with a bunch of medical babble that just doesn't make any sense (the IDEA of a virus impersonating and copying memories might seem great, but trust me, it's a concept worthy of quite a few facepalms - especially the way it's explained here). It just seemed liked such a "we don't have time to go into that repressed memory thing, let's just wrap it up with a quick excuse" thing to do. Boo hiss!
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Jack
Mon, Nov 18, 2013, 3:38pm (UTC -5)
Wasn't it Valtaine?

Fontaine was the excruciating hologram from DS9.
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inline79
Mon, Jan 6, 2014, 4:48pm (UTC -5)
Wow, you folks are a tough crowd to please!

I was blown away by the eye candy in this episode. I mean these people rebuilt the ENTIRE set of the Excelsior bridge for us, then brought in George Takei, and sent us on a nice little side trip from ST:VI that included Michael Ansara! Even Grace Lee had a few lines! This wasn't just our people Forrest-Gump'ed into an old episode, this was all new scenes from an old adventure!

Totally campy, and totally memorable for the 30th Anniversary.
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Dave in NC
Mon, Feb 10, 2014, 12:07pm (UTC -5)
People can be really harsh!

I thought this was an enjoyable romp of an episode. About the only thing I wasn't completely crazy about was Commander's Rand's delivery of the line about gaseous anomalies and Sulu's vogueing/posing before the commercial break. The rest of it was amusing and revealed a lot about Tuvok's character.

Other than that, I dug the episode.

Side note #1:

Someone above griped about the exterior shots of the Excelsior not belonging in the episode, but I would disagree: it is well established Vulcans have exceptional memories and are capable of extrapolating many things through logic and reason. It is entirely possible third-party Points Of View are part of the way Vulcans sort out their memories and purge their emotions. (If anything, the fact that the visual stimuli of the nebula triggers his flashbacks renders credence to this idea.)

Side note #2: The musical scores of Voyager seem to be much more engaging than the dreadfully boring stuff that plagued the last years of Next Generation. I'm noticing a definite improvement in musical quality the further this series progresses.
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Corey
Fri, Mar 7, 2014, 6:37pm (UTC -5)
I thought this episode was a huge missed opportunity. Sulu's plotline should have been weaved into the mainstorm better. The notion of Janeway "walking into Tuvok's head" and "interacting with his subconscious" was also totally rediculous. I thought the core idea of a virus which embeds itself in false repressed memories was great. It's just the execution which doesnt quite work (the girl falling to her death was both cliched and bad FX work).

Still, loved seeing Sulu's bridge. When I was a kid, the Excelsior was always my favourite ship.

"The musical scores of Voyager seem to be much more engaging than the dreadfully boring stuff that plagued the last years of Next Generation."

Agreed. TNG's scores became very bland (ALL GOOD THINGS broke this trend).
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Robert
Tue, Jun 10, 2014, 9:19am (UTC -5)
Just saw the last half of this episode after reading the review and comments above, and it seemed to me to be a pretty good episode - 3 stars anyways I would rate it. The action moved along, enjoyed seeing Sulu and Kang and Janice, thought the virus and falling girl angle was believable and effective. Would agree that the DS9 "Tribble" episode was superior.
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Vylora
Sun, Aug 24, 2014, 4:10am (UTC -5)
In celebration of thirty years of Star Trek; the writers behind both DS9 and VOY decide to take a look back at historical events by reliving them in a sense. DS9 ("Trials and Tribble-ations") uses the time travel approach where it's actually re-lived be the crew whereas VOY uses the brain virus approach whereby it's relived in memory. Both episodes exist solely as pure fan nostalgia and both have obvious amounts of time and love poured into them as evidenced by painstaking detail behind everything from the sets to certain scenes.

As is par for the course for many Voyager episodes; there is some missed opportunity here and a sense of incompletion. The questionable timeline inconsistencies don't help its cause much either. This leaves a dose of frustration that permeates what should be purely thankful fan service.

However, while not nearly the quality of its DS9 counterpart, this is an entertaining episode in its own right. Learning more about Tuvoks past and the comparisons between current and yesteryear Starfleet are certified standouts as is seeing the Excelsior and her crew back in action.

3 stars.
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navamske
Sun, Dec 21, 2014, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
@Jack

"[Re: Fontaine] Wasn't it Valtaine?"

Yes. (Actually "Valtane.")
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Yanks
Wed, Aug 12, 2015, 1:06pm (UTC -5)
Hey, I don't mind the accuracy here that much. It actually never occurred to me watching the episode. I also couldn't care less about a memory-angram-virus-WTF either.

I agree, at least it wasn't another time travel episode. I'll give a A+ for effort here.

"JANEWAY: You've never brought me tea" :-) :-)

Couple things did grab my attention.

1 - "SULU: Starboard thrusters! Turn her into the wave!"

Aaargh.... if you are operating thruster manually, energizing the starboard thrusters would turn the ship to port.

2 - After a nice conversation with Harry about Star Fleet officer of that time, she blurts this out: "JANEWAY ...of course, the whole bunch of them would be booted out of Starfleet today..."

REALLY? I don't like this comment at all. Especially from someone that just risk ship and crew to rescue a baby with no proof that Chakotay was the father, in the face of a known trap. I could go on with other examples. This one kind of ticked me off. One of the reasons I like Janeway is she's more like Kirk than Picard or Sisko, then she says this crap.

The "B" never looked so good on screen. It blew away the movie in this regard.

Love seeing Rand and Kang again. Nice touch putting them in this episode.

It was a fun, eye-candy, 30 year trek homage.

"SULU: Ensign, you're absolutely right. But you're also absolutely wrong. You'll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just carrying out orders and observing regulations. There is a sense of loyalty to the men and women you serve with. A sense of family. Those two men on trial, I served with them for a long time. I owe them my life a dozen times over, and right now they're in trouble, and I'm going to help them. Let the regulations be damned."

The best line Sulu ever had in trek and he delivered it well.

I love the back story we get for Tuvok here. Speaks to his character as well. It also speaks to his love for Star Fleet, as he did come back in to serve.

Janeway's narration here did get a little bothersome at times, but I guess it was needed.

Loved it when Sulu said "Who the hell are you? Intruder alert! Get Security up here." lol Glad that didn't make the log, ay Janeway? :-) (OH, MY :-) )

Just watched this the other night. Every enjoyable episode, it never gets old.

3.5 stars here.
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Jay
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
It took Rand three years to make ensign? Aren't all cadets ensigns upon Academy graduation?
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Peremensoe
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 10:12pm (UTC -5)
Rand did not go to the Academy. She was an enlusted yeoman, later a noncommissioned chief pwtty officer (like O'Brien), then finally an officer.
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Peremensoe
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 10:14pm (UTC -5)
Heh. "Enlisted," and "petty officer."
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William B
Mon, Sep 21, 2015, 10:24pm (UTC -5)
Given how she said in Miri how hard she has tried to get Kirk to look at her legs, I think it's fair to describe her as an enlusted yeoman. :)
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MartinB
Wed, Dec 23, 2015, 12:28pm (UTC -5)
Janeway was funny this episode;

"Starfleet captains delete their logs when they do something against regulations?" Yeh I'm guessing there'll be about a 7 year gap in her logs by the time Voyager gets home. Last entry "Leaving DS9 for Badlands. See you in a week".

And "a captain going off to rescue a friend?" Its a good thing for you, captain, that Tuvok disobeyed your direct order not to contact the Viidians and come back for you in "Resolutions" or you'd still be stuck playing Little House on the Prairie with Chuckles and a monkey.
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Diamond Dave
Tue, Jan 26, 2016, 6:46am (UTC -5)
OK, comparisons are always onerous, but you have to at least consider this against "Trials and Tribble-ations". One is fun, irreverent, clever and a technical triumph. The other is Flashback. And yes, it is a technical triumph as the Excelsior is spectacular looking both on set and in VFX.

But the episode is desperately po-faced and mired in technobabble that ironically leaves Tuvok no role in his enlightenment despite being the centre of the episode. Yes it's a joy to see Sulu again, even if his performance swings wildly close to parody. Overall, it's just not that good.

"I'm afraid it decimated your breakfast" indeed. 2.5 stars.
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David
Sat, Apr 16, 2016, 10:49pm (UTC -5)
"They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive and a little quicker to pull their phasers." This is a good point, and it's well said. It's nice to see the newest of Treks acknowledge is heritage, and it's intriguing to note the differences between the 23rd and 24th centuries. It shows that in 80 years there has been significant progress in the Federation, and that people do notice such progress. Nice work.

This was why Voyager was always the weakest of the franchise, this whole corporate utopia that slithered into Star Trek after Berman, Braga, and Piller abandoned DS9 (and thus that show became a better). This idea that "cowboy diplomacy", as Picard called it one time, was a bad virtue of TOS gang. To be honest, that asset was why everyone liked and loved TOS, and now new Star Trek captains were more like CEOs than true leaders, invoking the mindset that playing by the stacked rules, doing what was best instead of what was right was seen as the way to promotion. Yes, Kirk was a cowboy, but understood that Starfleet could have some very fascist ways and worked around them (and besides, I believe Blameway broke more Prime Directive rules than Kirk ever did). In doing so, in being the guy who ran in without doing a circle jerk around the conference table, Kirk showed instinct, and more bravery than Blameway and that stick in the mud Barcher.
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Skywalker
Wed, Jul 13, 2016, 9:20am (UTC -5)
The Doctor: "I don't know what happened to you. But there can be any number of explanations: hallucination, telepathic communication from another race, repressed memory, momentary contact with another reality...take your pick. The universe is such a strange place..."

LOL! What a hilarious line! That's basically a list of every other similar Star Trek episode's premise.
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mephyve
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 3:07pm (UTC -5)
And from there we jump straight into another hospital show..... no thanks
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mephyve
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 3:19pm (UTC -5)
Having read Jammer's review I decided to watch the Sulu segments. Love the fast forward button
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Del_Duio
Mon, Aug 22, 2016, 7:25am (UTC -5)
^^ ^^

I know mephyve's obviously trolling the boards looking to get a response (I'm pretty sure 15 straight negative posts on various episodes constitutes this) but Jammer, is there any sort of 'ignore member' option on this thing?
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Jammer
Mon, Aug 22, 2016, 12:46pm (UTC -5)
There is no way to filter out a user. If you want to ignore someone, well, just ... ignore them, using your mind and a don't-feed-the-trolls philosophy. Without a registration system, which I won't be adding unless I were to see consistent, widespread, and severe abuse that has never been a problem in the past nine years, a lot of features are simply not possible in this sort of commenting environment -- and I don't even know that they are desired.
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Trek fan
Thu, Dec 8, 2016, 3:06am (UTC -5)
I think this review is dead-on accurate: The Sulu stuff on the Excelsior is fun; the technobabble plot about a mind bug not so much. Had they developed Tuvok's repressed memory as a real thing and overcome it through something other than Treknobabble, this episode would have been great rather than good. As it stands, I think 3 stars is fair.

Love George Takei. And it's fun to see Grace Lee Whitney and Michael Ansara doing what is essentially a TOS plot within a Voyager episode, even if Janeway's running meta-commentary during their scenes makes it hard to enjoy them at times. It's kind of cool that Voyager went back to Trek VI for Sulu, even bringing back a couple of actors from the Excelsior bridge in that film, rather than trying to set something up on the Enterprise with some of the bigger actors.

It makes sense to do Trek VI here, as the passage of six years allows the TOS actors to appear virtually the same age as they were in that film, and makes the Excelsior bridge recreation look that much better. I enjoyed seeing Takei with a bigger role as captain in this story, even if most of his lines were rehashed from Trek VI, as his brief scene with Kang was especially entertaining. It's a shame the later Trek series didn't do more of this kind of stuff with the TOS cast, although it's true that we see most of them in 24th century stories at some point: Kirk (Generations), Spock (Unification), McCoy (Encounter at Farpoint), Scotty (Generations, Relics), Chekhov (Generations), and now Sulu. Of the seven main TOS cast members, only Uhura does not appear after TOS, even though some of these others (especially McCoy) only appear in brief cameos.

When I saw "Flashback" on TV as a 16-year old kid, I remember feeling disappointed that the Excelsior stuff wasn't featured in the story more strongly, thinking to myself at the end: "That's it!?" But watching it again today, 20 years later, I find that I enjoy it much more.

Compared to the DS9 episode "Trials and Tribble-ations" that came out around the same time in 1996 to celebrate Trek's 30th anniversary, the Voyager episode "Flashback" even holds up better for me in some ways: 1. Although DS9 brought back the actor who played Klingon agent Arn Darvin in TOS's "The Trouble with Tribbles," it didn't bring anyone else back from TOS, as "Trials" was essentially a TOS clip show merged with some modern footage; Voyager, on the other hand, actually brings back TOS actors for fresh scenes; 2. Watching the DS9 episode today, I'm struck by the fact that the CGI special effects I found eye-popping in 1996 do not hold up very well today; the footage of DS9 actors inserted into TOS scenes looks especially grainy and poor compared to the remastered TOS episodes now streaming on Netflix, with everything looking weird especially in the final scene of Sisko handing Kirk a log on the bridge; 3. There's a bit more mystery about where the plot in "Flashback" is going, as "Trials" is pretty much a foregone conclusion: Because DS9 is simply inserting actors into old footage, it can't really alter the events of TOS's "Trouble with Tribbles," whereas the Tuvok stuff feels genuinely open-ended even if the final result leaves much to be desired.
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JLPsqaured
Wed, Jan 4, 2017, 7:32am (UTC -5)
fun goofy episode, it was nice to see Sulu even though he was hammy as Shatner, but my goodness was Grace Lee Whitney BRUUUTAL. Every scene with her just grinds to a halt...yuck.
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lizzzi
Sat, Jan 14, 2017, 9:06pm (UTC -5)
Loved the scenes on the Excelsior--yay Sulu, Rand, Kang!--everything else pretty much a yawn.
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Strejda
Mon, Feb 20, 2017, 11:25am (UTC -5)
I have to agree with Brannon Braga, this one is just a good okay. I think it suffers similarly like Generations, in that it spends way too much time focusing on its plot device rather than why they made it in the first place. The resolution mystery upon rewatching, seem rather lame to me as well. There is no foreshadowing to the final revelation. It's just standart Voyager episode with the anniversary stuff written in.

The most interesting thing about the story to me is the good-natured criticism of the TOS era works, with Janeway commenting how they would probably get their asses kicked out of Starfleet (hard to buy with the stuff they were getting away over on DS9 or even back in TNG), Tuvok objecting to Sulu and that talk with Voltane about humans wanting everybody to be like them. Pretty shocking given how unambiguously celebratory DS-freaking-9's anniversary ep was. And I'm... not sure how to feel about it. It is certainly braver than just going "YAY, Kirk and spol. KICK ASS!!!" but at the same time, this IS a celebration. Perhaps I am just reading way too much into it-it could just be them trying to compare the two eras and the differences between them.

Also, I take issue with the Excelsior plot. Sulu violating his orders and risking war with Klngons to go save Kirk is treated as just another thing they did back then. And I'm not sure it is? In Amok Time, they say Kirk going to Vulcan wouldn't affect his mission, it was just a formality. And they were risking nothing but their own careers when they went to retrive Spock's body in the third movie and only got away with it because they saved the Earth on their way back. I mean yeah, it's pretty safe bet Kirk and McCoy were innocent, but even the Enteprise crew IIRC, were only investigating and went to save them after they had evidence.
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JJ not Abrams 8-)
Fri, Mar 31, 2017, 11:09pm (UTC -5)
Janeway "would have liked to ride shotgun with a group of officers like that" ... anyone care to speculate what her job would have been on Kirk's Enterprise?
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Rahul
Wed, May 17, 2017, 7:00pm (UTC -5)
As a big fan of TOS and having found "The Undiscovered Country" half-decent, I enjoyed this episode. Great to see Sulu with Tuvok jammed into the Excelsior - even if there are some issues with the timeline (the less-discerning won't care). Also nice to see GLW again - thought she had a bright career ahead of her with her roles in early TOS...
The episode does require a fair bit of suspension of belief -- I admit I haven't seen much of VOY or DS9 -- but has there ever been another instance of the person you do the mind meld with joining in your memory and being able to provide play-by-play as you go about reliving the past? That was a bit of a stretch.
I actually think the memory virus is a pretty clever way of creating the problem and how it jumped to Janeway briefly.
As others have mentioned, it is great to hear Janeway's take on 23rd century Trek and how the Federation has evolved. Of course DS9, VOY are weaker series because they lack the characters TOS had. Just how dry is the Dr. on VOY??
But bringing in Sulu/Rand/Kang upped this episode from the usual standard of VOY. For me, 3/4 stars.
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Markus
Mon, Jul 10, 2017, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
It seems this episode got a lot of negative reviews. I actually enjoyed this one, I thought the virus masquerading as a memory idea quite original and relatively easy to swallow. I thought it was hiliarious when Sulu recognized Janeway, that was way out of left field.

A solid 2.5 stars from me.
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Startrekwatcher
Sun, Jul 16, 2017, 7:37pm (UTC -5)
2.5 stars. Meh
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William B
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 10:33am (UTC -5)
I think that both the memory virus idea and the idea of revisiting Star Trek VI through Tuvok are worthwhile, and the episode manages to be moderately interesting by juggling the two. However, I don't really feel like the episode manages to synthesize the two into a single story. The closest is maybe that we can take the "memory virus" as being a kind of representation of the way interpersonal trauma passes from person to person, and so Tuvok is scarred by Valtane's death in a way that Valtane was scarred by...uh...a different death. I like that idea, and I particularly like that it seems that the virus tends to pass between people at the moment of a person's death, at a time when a person was already going to develop a kind of traumatic experience of seeing someone they know die. However, even that doesn't particularly follow from what we see in the rest of the Excelsior material. We hear how Tuvok's difficulties on the ship led to his quitting Starfleet, we hear how he didn't understand Sulu's actions but later did, but do we actually see how Valtane's death affected Tuvok (other than giving him this virus), and how *that* plays in with the other elements of the Excelsior saga? Does it matter that Valtane died in a Klingon attack because Sulu went off to try to rescue Kirk and McCoy -- especially when the episode otherwise seems to support Sulu's decision? As others pointed out, the episode feels like the tech plot is mostly a contrivance to get to the Excelsior stuff, rather than having anything to do with the Excelsior stuff...and then it takes over the episode's climax, so that it's what we really are apparently meant to care about the most.

I enjoy Takei here (though I agree that he maybe hams it up a bit too much) and it's nice to see Whitney too. And Sulu's speech about going to rescue Kirk & McCoy out of loyalty, in isolation, is particularly touching, and a great moment for Sulu's character, who doesn't get many moments. And yet -- I'm sorry to say, but (Ensign) Tuvok *was* right. It's not just that it's "against regulations," but it's frankly absurd for Sulu to try to fly to Qo'noS to rescue Kirk and McCoy who have already been extradited for trial for assassination of a head of state. Sulu's plan is to go to the Klingon homeworld, at the heart of their empire, take back Kirk & McCoy, then leave said empire, without being destroyed or stopped. And then *even if that succeeds*, given that the President of the Federation already agreed to let them go stand trial to avoid a war, Sulu would then either have to turn them back over to the Federation, where they'd be sent straight back to Qo'noS to finish standing trial, or Sulu would have to go rogue from all of Starfleet permanently, warping away from the whole of the Federation in order to keep Kirk and McCoy away from the arm of Federation law. This is a nonsensical plan, with no hope of success, to say nothing of the fact that Kirk and McCoy, it seemed to me, "agreed" to the President's orders and to go stand trial. The only way this could make any sense is if one ignores what actually happened in ST6, which seems to be pretty much what is expected, and it's very possible Brannon Braga, who professes himself to have very little love for the original series, hadn't actually watched it (as commented above, this apparently takes place over three days instead of several months). Even within the episode, Tuvok says at the end that the Excelsior had to turn back, which is an obvious result. I don't think this is nitpicking; nearly all the scenes on the Excelsior hinge on this fanfic interpolation of Sulu making a nonsensical decision that goes straight against the plot of the movie this episode is supposedly honouring *and* also doesn't make sense on the episode's own narrow terms. The philosophical discussions about 23rd vs. 24th century Starfleet also depend on this act of loyalty from Sulu (and his erasing it from the logs) is taken by Janeway to be representative of The Way They Did Things Then, which additionally gives serious weight to this crazy choice. This is to say nothing of the weirdness of Janeway talking about TOS ethics in contrast to her own, when she doesn't bother mentioning that, as a ship on the frontier without contact from civilization, she is much closer to the things she identifies with TOS-era. It's an irony that goes unacknowledged, and I'm not convinced Braga was aware of it (and highlighting Janeway's ignorance): the plot of literally the last two Voyager stories was about the Voyager crew foolishly taking huge risks to rescue first Janeway & Chakotay and then a baby none of them had any responsibility for, and so it seems that the only reason to make Sulu also foolishly risk everything on a rescue mission would be to point out that actually the Voyager crew are more like the TOS people than not, etc., which they don't bother doing. Even if Sulu's actions made any sense, it would be weird to base the entire episode around actions from Sulu that had literally no impact on the ST6 plot and which are revealed to be pointless anyway at the episode's end. I do agree, though, that it's great to have Tuvok be revealed to be the one who gave Sulu the tea that broke during Praxis' explosion.

Now, look, checking the transcript for ST6, Sulu does say that he's standing by to assist the Enterprise, and he defies regulations to lie for them later on in order to protect them. It's true that Sulu puts loyalty over regulations in that movie! That's part of what's frustrating -- there *is* this opportunity for this moment, albeit in a less cinematic way, but they rewrite it so that Sulu's actions make no sense so that we can get a more action-y sequence. And yes I'm glad to see Kang again, of course.

I'm going to go as far as to declare: given that the timeline of this episode makes no sense (with the time from Praxis' explosion to Kirk & McCoy's trial being days rather than months), Sulu's logs (as Janeway suggests) don't reflect any of what Tuvok describes, that Valtane was alive later on in the movie apparently (I haven't confirmed this myself), that in fact Tuvok's memory was badly distorted as a result of this virus, and that in fact Tuvok is misremembering everything of those events. Maybe he wasn't even on the Excelsior (since, as others have pointed out, the Excelsior was out in space for a long time).

I do appreciate the backstory for Tuvok, having a hard time with human society and rebelling against his parents by embracing his Vulcan heritage more fully, and that only later on he came to realize that his parents did want something specific for him. It's still unclear what it is that his parents did want for him, and why exactly Tuvok came to see working in the more multi-species, less logic-centred Starfleet as preferable to Kohlinar. Still, it's a nice little moment between Tuvok and Janeway.

The production values are top notch and the nostalgia factor does help this episode out. I'm just pretty unimpressed with the package the more I think about it. 2.5 stars for nostalgia, production values, and guest cast.
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William B
Tue, Sep 19, 2017, 10:44am (UTC -5)
I also like how at the end of the episode, when asked by Janeway if Sulu succeeded in rescuing Kirk and McCoy, Tuvok says "Not directly. We were forced to retreat to Federation space." So by "Not directly," you mean "No," then. It really sounds as if Tuvok is implying that this rescue mission somehow *indirectly* led to Kirk & McCoy's escape, but I can't imagine any way that would happen.

I am just sort of floored that so much incredible effort was put into the production side of things to recreate the Excelsior and the Praxis explosion and the uniforms and everything, and then it's messed up by the central plot being a pointless and nonsensical digression from what Sulu actually did in ST6. We can I suppose view it as a microcosm of Voyager's problems as a series.
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SuperSpaceVirus
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 7:03pm (UTC -5)
This episode served as proof that they should have canceled Voyager and instead replaced it with a series about Captain Sulu's adventures on the Excelsior.
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Skwinty
Sat, Oct 21, 2017, 5:15am (UTC -5)
It was cool to see Sulu and the Excelsior etc. despite the whole thing being shoehorned in.

What I didn't get is that if this is a meld between Janeway and Tuvok reliving his memories, why could anyone see Janeway at all, and how were they able to nerve pinch someone and steal her clothes and have Janeway sneak around and all that business? Were they changing his memories? And if so how can you trust the memories to be what actually happened and find the truth? Once the mind meld started going a bit haywire, they treated it as if they had actually travelled back in time instead of just reliving memories. That whole thing was a bit of a convoluted mess.

All in all, not too bad though.

2 1/2 stars.
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Springy
Wed, Aug 29, 2018, 5:15pm (UTC -5)
Lots of fun. Great to see Sulu and company. The tea! Kang! Etc.

Loved the "he looks so different from his portrait" and "you never brought me tea" lines. And the doc's recitation of all the classic ST possibilities for Tuvok's problem.

Did anyone else think "Tuvok and Valtane talk while lying in bed" scene was a deliberate homage to the "Kirk and McCoy talk while lying in bed" scene, on Rura Penthe? I half expected Iman to show up and plant a kiss on Tuvok.

I liked the memory virus thing, very creative. I also think there's room to believe Tuvok's memories are somewhat distorted, though not enough to explain all the glitches. Though this is a big "who cares?" to me. Mostly very well done recreation.

Four stars for the fun factor.
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Nukey Shay
Sun, Aug 4, 2019, 5:24am (UTC -5)
^ this

The explanation goes that the virus masquerades itself as a repressed memory...so who is to say that the memories that it is currently interfering with are also not affected? This clears up pretty much any inconsistency. The time difference between events, the age of characters, how hammy they acted, which character it was that was actually killed, anything. The catalyst could have been the appearance of the nebula itself. Maybe that was the first time Tuvok met the person that the memory is mistaking for Valtane...it could be seeking out potential hosts upon first encounter in that sense? This is then explained away that all memories from first contact (seeing the nebula near the Klingon neutral zone from Excelsior's bridge) to later infection are potentially less-than-accurate.

Solid 4 stars, warts and all. Stop picking and just enjoy the ride.
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Elliott
Sat, Mar 21, 2020, 10:22pm (UTC -5)
And so we come to the 30th Anniversary episodes. This presents a weird confluence point for me in my review plan, as I won't be getting to Star Trek VI until after “Unification” (I'll circle back to TNG after DS9 and do TOS & ENT after VOY). “The Undiscovered Country” is a rather large culmination point, and I don't want to do a cursory review the way I did for Q stories preluding my “Death Wish” review, or Worf stories preluding “The Way of the Warrior.” Luckily for me (although disappointingly overall), the thematic relevance of the film on this episode is almost non-existent. Given the way the two teams of writers handled their 30th Anniversary assignments, I actually think DS9 and Voyager should have swapped source material. TUC is the kind of political story that I think would sync up very well in the developing plotline on DS9 (think of the potential references to be made between Worf and Ezri later on), and “The Trouble with Tribbles” presents precisely the low-stakes fun that Voyager needs to refresh itself of all its Kazon baggage (we could have seen Neelix thrown across the room during the bar fight!).

All of that said, there are a couple of points about ST6 I want to draw attention to before diving into “Flashback.” The first is that I don't think it's incidental that Vulcan philosophy is placed in the crucible in the film. There's no such thing as purely logical approach to duty; you either get one informed by the *best* of human values, like loyalty, compassion and diplomacy (Spock), or one informed by the worst of human (Romulan?) values, like suspicion, conservatism and fear (Valeris). Logic is the beginning of wisdom.

Secondly, ST6 is very self-conscious of its historical significance, not only regarding the subject it allegorises, but also its place in the Star Trek franchise. It is TOS' true swan-song of course, but it also marks a change in the trajectory of the Federation. With Gene Roddenberry having recently died and TNG moving away from the kind of Star Trek he had finally envisioned, there's poetry in crafting a film that centres on men overcoming their own prejudices to light the way to a better future. It's odd, but the film from 1991 provides the link between the Starfleet we saw in theatres in 1982 and the one we saw on TV in 1987.

But that the dread of something
… puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of[.]
Thus conscience doth make cowards of us all[.]

Teaser : **.5, 5%

By unhappy coincidence, this episode *also* begins with breakfast. This time, it's Neelix serving a new juice blend to Tuvok. It seems Neelix has improved his culinary skills a bit, as instead of giving Tuvok heartburn, he's able to impress him by mixing together two different fruits. Amazing. Op, spoke too soon. In addition to cooking scrambled eggs on a flame hot enough to sear a steak, the power fluctuates and incinerates Tuvok's breakfast.

The pair are summoned to the bridge, as this fluctuation is actually related to the main plot. The Voyager has detected a nebula full of a combustible compound which should help the crew sustain their new coal-fired warp core. When they put the nebula on the viewscreen, most of the bridgecrew spout off silly technobabble and unnecessary metaphors (the Bussard Collectors are like ice cream scoops...). But Tuvok starts trembling and becomes disoriented. He excuses himself, but starts hearing voices in the turbolift. We start seeing, ahem, A FLASHBACK of a little girl on a cliff being let go to her death by a young Tuvok. He manages to stumble his way into the sickbay before collapsing.

Act 1 : ***.5, 17%

Tuvok relates the content of the flashback to Janeway and the Doctor as he's examined. He proclaims that while the memory created a distinct emotional response in him, he's certain that it never actually happened.

EMH: I don't know what happened to you, but there can be any number of explanations. Hallucination, telepathic communication from another race, repressed memory, momentary contact with a parallel reality. Take your pick. The universe is such a strange place.

I take it Starfleet saw it fit to upload the EMH with Deanna Troi's litany of mission contributions. Hilarious. Tuvok is released back to duty (with a monitoring device stuck to his neck, of course), and the crew continue their nebula-gazing.

Tuvok himself attempts to reconstruct his psyche using Vulcan picture blocks in his quarters (cf. “Meld”), but he fails. We aren't quite at homicidal rage levels yet, which is good because Kes enters to make adjustments to his device. She questions him about his blocks but he's dismissive. She leaves remarking she understands why he's being so short with her. This scene is underwritten and hasty, but, as is one of the hallmarks of Voyager, manages to survive because of effective performances and directing. It feels like a nice character touch even though the script doesn't actually provide the substance for one.

The next morning, Tuvok, Chakotay, Torres and Kim meet in Engineering to discuss the nebula itself, revealing nothing relevant. But Tuvok does suggest scanning for cloaked Klingon ships, naturally. This triggers another episode, another flashback, and another trip to the sickbay.

The Doctor explains to Janeway this repressed memory is causing physical damage to Tuvok's brain, a reasonable-sounding extension of our understanding of Vulcan psychology and physiology (c.f. “Sarek”).

EMH: There is no medical treatment for this condition. Vulcan psychocognitive research suggests that the patient initiate a mind-meld with a family member, and the two of them attempt to bring the repressed memory into the conscious mind.
JANEWAY: I'm the closest thing Tuvok has to a family member on this ship.

Indeed, Tuvok confides in Janeway his implicit trust for her, which qualifies her for this task, despite not being Vulcan. This jells for me pretty well, considering what's been implied of their relationship in “Tuvix,” “Meld,” “Prime Factors,” etc. We need to see their dynamic fleshed out beyond a couple of strong scenes, so this is promising.

Beyond the character facets, this is such an important line:

TUVOK: As I am reliving [the memory], you will help me to objectify the experience. By processing the experience, rather than repressing it, I can begin to overcome my fear, anger and the other emotional responses.

Mental health is about the objectification of experience. Objectification in general is a component of the Federation psyche that the Vulcan culture is tasked with modelling in the Star Trek fiction. In TOS, Kirk's central struggle was always to be less like Bones (god love him) and more like Spock. That is the distillation of the evolution of humanity Gene envisioned, and it is very rewarding, to me at least, to get these little examinations of that philosophy.

Tuvok readies himself and then initiates the mind-meld with Janeway under the Doctor's observation. He attempts to bring them into his clifftop memory, but instead, Janeway finds herself on the bridge of the Excelsior, under fire, with Captain Sulu heroically emerging from a cloud of smoke. Starships, in any century, are built for maximum drama.

Act 2 : ***, 17%

We are treated to more bridge antics. Yeoman Rand is now a Commander, apparently Sulu's Number One; Tuvok is a young ensign, and catches Janeway up on what's going on in this memory, although he doesn't know why they're experiencing this memory instead of the precipice. He returns them to a few days prior, where we get some cuteness around Tuvok's brown-nosing.

TUVOK: I've observed that Captain Sulu drinks a cup of tea each morning. I thought he might enjoy a Vulcan blend.
RAND: Oh, I see. Trying to make Lieutenant in your first month? I wish I'd have thought of that when I was your age. Took me three years just to make Ensign.

She leaves out the part about Kirk making her do hand stuff in the turbolift and we move on to the bridge. After a little interaction between Tuvok and Sulu, Janeway notes that this period in her friend's service record omits this auspicious assignment. More on the later. At the moment, we get some nifty special effects around Praxis' explosion throwing a shockwave over the Excelsior. Tuvok continues to narrate for Janeway's benefit about Sulu's decision to go after Kirk and McCoy. The timeline is fudged quite a bit, but this is hardly the point. More significant is Tuvok's own reaction to this decision, which is played out for us. Ensign Tuvok issues a formal protest against Captain Sulu. Rand tries to relieve him over this insolence, but Sulu takes the opportunity to issue a little wisdom instead.

SULU: Ensign, you're absolutely right. But you're also absolutely wrong. You'll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just carrying out orders and observing regulations. There is a sense of loyalty to the men and women you serve with. A sense of family.

This is a nice moment, especially considering how often Sulu was on the receiving end of similar lectures in TOS, and Takei's delivery is magnificent.

Sulu takes them to the Azure Nebula as a back door into Klingon space for their rescue mission and Janeway notes the visual similarity to the nebula the Voyager encountered in the DQ. The sight of it triggers another episode on the cliff, and the mind meld is abruptly broken.

Act 3 : ***, 17%

The EMH delivers a dire medical report to Janeway, who is frustrated as they had just begun to make some progress. While she waits for Tuvok to recover from his episode, she and Kim do a little historical digging in her ready room. She's amused that Sulu and co. seem to have completely omitted their rescue mission from their logs. This scene is...okay. Mulgrew does her best with the material and there are a couple of good lines (“They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive, and a little quicker to pull their phasers.”), but overall this comes across like checking a box on the 30th Anniversary must-do list, and less like a natural conversation or a true appreciation for the breadth of the franchise. The culprit here is another instance where the writers have chosen to give material to Janeway over a more logical character. I'm reminded of “Emanations,” when what should have been a Chakotay-Kim scene was transmuted to Janeway. You'd have to move this conversation about the 23rd Century Starfleet to a different spot in the episode, but this should be a Tuvok-Kim scene. Think of the poetry of seeing an aged Captain Sulu, once a green ensign, offering his wisdom to green Ensign Tuvok, who in turn does the same for green Ensign Kim. It's a lovely thought, but not what we got, unfortunately.

We resume in the sickbay, where the mind-meld is begun afresh. Once again, Tuvok's attempt to access the clifftop memory shunts them to the Excelsior bridge, which is now in shambles amidst the Klingon battle. Tuvok shifts them to earlier in his bunk where Valtane wanted to chat about their mission instead of resting up as Sulu had ordered. Young Tuvok's comments to his comrade are revealing.

TUVOK: Ever since I entered the Academy, I've had to endure the egocentric nature of humanity. You believe that everyone in the galaxy should be like you, that we should all share your sense of humour and your human values.

This is great stuff for a number for reasons. First, it ties into the ST6 material, as it echoes Azetbur's line at dinner that “the Federation is no more than a 'homo sapiens' only club.” This perception amongst non-humans, which young Tuvok shared, is commonly held. We've heard similar remarks from Kira on DS9, and even the infamous Eddington speech about the Federation being like the Borg in its “insidiousness.” This is also another metatextual issue, as there are a number of Star Trek consumers (and even some creators) who hold similar views about Trek's idealism. For both groups in and out of the show, this view is borne of ignorance. Humans (and Trek) can be preachy, this is true. They can be a little myopic sometimes. However...

TUVOK: And I came to realise that the decisions I made as a young man were not always in my best interest. I understood their decision to send me to the Academy, and that there were many things I could learn from humans and other species, so I decided to expand my knowledge of the galaxy. Starfleet provided that opportunity.

Ignorance can arise from stubbornness, cynicism, or in Tuvok's case, lack of experience. Trek's mission and the idealism of the Federation are not perfect, but they are fundamentally good, and with enough patience, persistence, and wisdom, they are worth suffering whatever other trappings this philosophy might create. Woven into this commentary, we get a little more backstory on Tuvok himself, which is nice. We learn of his choice to echo Spock in pursuing the Great Vulcan Kolonoscopy, of taking a mate, of how the vergence of these distinct events, one purely logical, and one driven by instinct, led him back to Starfleet many years later.

Act 4 : **.5, 17%

We are treated to a little cameo from Kang (RIP) on the Excelsior bridge. He and Sulu bullshit for a moment while Janeway hams it up on the bridge. Tuvok devises a technobabble means of “igniting” (sigh) the serilium in the nebula (didn't Kim say the two nebulae only looked similar, but had completely different chemical compositions? Whatever). This tactic allows the Excelsior to evade their Klingon escort long enough to enable her to continue her trip to Qo'onos. But then, they find themselves surrounded by 3 more Birds of Prey. And then the consolose start expoloding. Valtane is fatally wounded he calls out to Tuvok as he breaths his last...er, until the rest of ST6 that is...and then we return to the precipice.

In the Voyager sickbay, Kes and the EMH note that the mind-meld has been frozen and Tuvok's brain is melting. Within the meld amidst the chaos on the Excelsior bridge, Sulu and the rest are able to see Janeway. A very plot-specific medical side effect.

Act 5 : **.5, 17%

Tuvok offers to break the meld, but Janeway feels they're getting close and agrees to risk having her brain melt alongside his in order to get to the truth. Ah friendship. So Tuvok shifts them back to Cmdr. Rand's briefing so they can...steal her uniform for Janeway. Nothing says act 5 drama quite like Scooby Doo silliness. Continuous the Austin Powers gag, the Doctor discovers a third memory pattern squirming around the fray between Janeway and Tuvok. But he diagnoses it as a virus and prescribes some radiation to kill it. Sure.

In the Flashback, Janeway has taken Rand's station and miraculously tailored her uniform down 8 sizes. The consoles explode once more and she and Tuvok rush to Valtane's side to watch him die. Ahem. The little girl returns...the precipice...then Janeway is the one letting her die...then Tuvok again...the “virus” is jumping around, then doing its own flashbacks, I guess, to Valtane, then a Dodgers fan, then an African boy, then a...Mongolian girl?, then a … Tungusic girl?, then a...Paleolithic Siberian boy?? Then the girl (and the virus) finally die. Well, that was fun.

Kes and the Doctor give their science-lite report on the virus. Then Tuvok fills Janeway in the rest of the relevant events from TUC.

TUVOK: On the contrary. I do not experience feelings of nostalgia. But there are times when I think back to those days of meeting Kirk, Spock and the others, and I am pleased that I was part of it.
JANEWAY: In a funny way, I feel like I was a part of it too.
TUVOK: Then perhaps you can be nostalgic for both of us.

Eh...

Episode as Functionary : ***, 10%

I'm with the herd on this one. This was an adequate story that could have been much more. As far as the nostalgia factor, it's surprisingly restrained, which I actually kind of like. When one thinks today about the exausting litany of remakes, prequels, and other projectile Disney vomit being spewed out, cyncially banking on nostalgia for other people's stories, it's remarkable that this story is able to celebrate Trek's past without feeling exploititive or gratuitous. And this from the writer of “Bounty.” The Excelsior scenes are all well-done, and Takei/Sulu make the most of their screentime. There's even a thematic element woven in, with Neelix' juice blend surprising the skeptical Tuvok and young Tuvok's Vulcan tea blend surprising Captain Sulu. An unexpected mixture of the familiar and the new can yield positive results. A safe, but reassuring sentiment for the occasion.

The best part of the story is in the development of Tuvok, who is fleshed out more than perhaps any other episode so far. His personal story is also tied to the relevant thematic material from TUC, which I think gets overlooked. The change in Tuvok's character between his Flashback self and Voyager self is the same philosophical bridge that the film provides between the 23rd and 24th centuries. This is subtle stuff for such a flashy episode.

There are a number of flaws, however. Too much focus is reserved for Janeway—there was a place for her not only as a supporting character for Tuvok's journey, but also to offer a singular comment on the metatextual elements to the story, as Voyager's lead—but this tale should have been about Tuvok and Sulu, with a touch of Harry Kim to provide the narrative foil as I mentioned earlier. The parts of the story that were about Janeway's and Tuvok's friendship are strong and necessary. The Scooby Doo stuff, ALL the medical drama, and the flaccid scene with Harry just kind of waste our time. To me, this feels like Voyager's version of “Relics:” polished, nostalgic yet restrained, character-driven, but not quite meeting its full potential.

Final Score : ***
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Chrome
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 5:19pm (UTC -5)
Like Elliott, I like how TUC seemed to organically fit into the plotline so we didn't feel like the whole episode was an excuse to clip show TUC for the extra views. Unfortunately, what doesn't work is the refilming of the TUC scenes which resulted in weaker lighting, SFX, and audio quality. There must have been some sort of licensing dispute that wouldn't allow movie footage into a Voyager episode, but wow, the transition from film to television was not a good one.

Still, I really like Tuvok's story and I liked the lesson that Sulu imparted on him. Sulu himself sort of went through an arc of rigidity and finally came around, so I think it's great that Tuvok would experience that same arc. Also nice were the discussions involving what could be done in the 23rd century versus the 24th and the reasoning behind it. That type of discussion does a lot to add to the scale of the Star Trek universe.
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Jason K
Wed, Aug 19, 2020, 3:23pm (UTC -5)
I'm sure most of you have seen this clip, but if not, it's a good, quick watch of the '91 UC scene side-by-side with the Voyager version.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nAKRe_gAAFk
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Trent
Sat, Sep 25, 2021, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
This episode has never worked for me. The small-scale, rather trivial Tuvox story has always seemed an ill-fit with the weighty Sulu segment (the audacity of an episode taking place within Undiscovered Country). The juxtaposition has always seemed off.

When DS9 wrote a love letter to Kirk, it did so with pomp and pageantry. Poor Sulu gets a broken teacup and a dour Tuvok.

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