Star Trek: Voyager

“Random Thoughts”

3 stars.

Air date: 11/19/1997
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Alexander Singer

"We seek out new races because we want to, not because we're following protocols. We have an insatiable curiosity about the universe." — Janeway to Seven, perhaps reiterating the Voyager mission statement

Review Text

Nutshell: Some evident flaws, but a surprisingly probing hour overall.

The exterior plot sketch of "Random Thoughts" may very well exemplify what Star Trek: Voyager is now all about: a relatively unchanging story setting where the ship and crew can fly in, meet some people, encounter and subsequently solve a problem, and then fly out. In a way, the setting of Voyager has turned into what TOS and TNG originally set out to be. I know this isn't exactly a news flash; Voyager's setting has always made it more TOS-like than the other Trek series of the decade. But after watching the original Voyager ideology disintegrate through two disappointing seasons followed by a wandering third, and now witnessing the first consistently entertaining opening stretch of a Voyager season (if a little on the slight side) that I can remember, I find myself realizing that perhaps this series can reconceptualize the TOS mentality for the 1990s—while simultaneously framing it within the Voyager alone-in-the-Delta-Quadrant premise.

There are two very nice things about "Random Thoughts" that elevate it above the average Voyager (or TOS) premise:

  1. This story deals with the Voyager condition in terms of a statement of purpose.
  2. This story brings up some interesting questions about individual responsibility, using an effective device surrounding on the idea of "thought control."

Now, I personally prefer the building of compelling situations and characters over time the way DS9 has so successfully done (and I still hope Voyager will try doing it again, regardless of the precedent the creators have set). But the above two key strengths go a long way toward making "Random Thoughts" a very capable single-shot installment, featuring one of the most certain themes so far this season. While we still haven't had a real groundbreaker yet this season, the series does seem to be pulling itself together with a solid streak of good shows (with the exception of "Scientific Method," that is).

This week, Voyager makes friends with a race of telepaths called the Mari, a peaceful race which has eliminated violence from its society. A problem arises, however, when a Mari named Frane (Bobby Burns) "accidentally" steps on B'Elanna's foot. She's angry, but there's no harm done. But later Frane goes off and beats a man. An investigation by a Mari official named Nimira (Gwynyth Walsh, who played the scheming B'Etor of the Duras house on TNG) leads to the conclusion that B'Elanna had a violent thought, which she inadvertently passed to Frane, causing him to beat the defenseless man. B'Elanna is arrested and sentenced to an irreversible procedure that would remove the violent thoughts from her brain. Tuvok takes on the investigation to prove B'Elanna's innocence, in a strangely effective mix of "Meld" and "Ex Post Facto."

Okay, I'll go ahead and get my qualms out of the way: First, I find it very unlikely that Janeway and the Voyager crew would not have been made aware that violent thoughts could lead to this sort of eruption in the first place. The Mari officials must be awfully stupid not to warn aliens who are not as "enlightened" as they are about the serious repercussions something so simple as a subconscious violent thought could cause. Sorry, I just don't buy it. Second, I wasn't totally convinced of the impetus behind the urgent "need" to have the violent thoughts purged from B'Elanna mind (something about preventing a recurrence of the incident?). How exactly would this help? If it is so important one wonders why the Mari would risk hosting alien visitors in the first place (which brings me back to my first complaint).

I have some other plausibility questions, like how the Mari could force B'Elanna into a restraining chair without being affected by more violent thoughts B'Elanna would be thinking—thoughts which any person would certainly have under the circumstances. But never mind, because the debate over this fictional element is probably futile (although the show didn't always seem to be playing by its own set of rules), and I'd rather look at the story the idea conveys.

Ah, how I love psychological analysis. It's not every day the dark themes of violence and the perverse fascination with it crosses the path of Trekkian mythos. It's intriguing here because the Mari's solution of eliminating violence comes at another price: the inability to think freely. Granted, free thought means something completely different to a race of telepaths, but its denial still has consequences, as evidenced by a "black market" of violent thoughts and images, which is uncovered by the end. (We'll get to that momentarily.)

The use of Tuvok for investigating this sort of thing is very appropriate, especially considering his role in "Meld." I usually dislike situations that put Trek crew members at the mercy of alien legal systems (often because such systems create a forced conflict, a subset of the Hard-Headed Aliens of the Week syndrome). But here it works because the story's alien legal system comes in the form of Nimira—a surprisingly fair character who is truly worried about repairing the unfortunate situation that has unfolded. Gwynyth Walsh turns in a strong, believable performance (transcending her stylized, one-note turns as B'Etor), creating a character we can sympathize with, even though her intended course of action is certain to violate B'Elanna's rights. There's an engaging chemistry between Tuvok and Nimira—a respect each has for the other in the way their respective societies have eliminated violence—both Walsh and Russ deserve praise in creating this believable working relationship.

Tuvok's eventual uncovering of the "black market" is also handled adeptly for the most part. A series of well-documented plot developments reveals that violent images are commonly shared in the "back alleys" by people who want to illegally experience what they've apparently become incapable of imagining. Guill, the man Tuvok uncovers as the reason why B'Elanna's rouge impulse is running awry in the telepathic public (he conspired with Frane to provoke and "capture" the thought, but the plan backfired on them when they lost control of the image), is revealed as a "dealer" in violent contraband images—an interesting idea. I only wish Wayne Pere (who played Guill) had been a little more effective; his performance is a tad bland.

Admittedly, I also could've completely done without the second incident that sets Tuvok's investigation in motion, namely, the script's less-than-effective murder of Neelix's new "friend" Talli (Rebecca McFarland) and Neelix's totally misconceived and dramatically unfulfilling reaction to her death. I also wonder if Tuvok was so smart to conduct his subsequent investigation without first reporting to Voyager (effectively "calling for backup"). His plan backfires on him, which I think he should've anticipated. The plot could've been tighter without some of the silliness.

Nevertheless, the payoff works. The underlying question that "Random Thoughts" wrestles out of the plot is whether or not violence can truly be controlled or eliminated. Even by outlawing violent thought, the Mari find themselves with a disturbing problem in the realization that it hasn't truly gone away. Nimira's stunned disbelief that "peaceful Mari citizens" would want to subject themselves to such darkness is the story's most pointed social commentary, and I rather liked it. The question of who is responsible for this mess is a difficult one; sanctioning thought is a ghastly idea for us, but the Mari ideology doesn't see it a problem—yet the issue of violence still hasn't eluded them.

What also works in "Random Thoughts's" favor is a wonderful closing scene between Janeway and Seven that successfully reiterates the series' "mission statement" verbally. Seven's clear-cut declaration that Voyager's goal to get home and the attempt to meet new races in the meantime are inherently incompatible strikes me as a very Seven-like appraisal of Voyager's mission. I very much liked Janeway's response that "We seek out new races because we want to." The most important outcome for the Voyager crew, despite the fact Tuvok and Torres were endangered as a result of the encounter, is that meeting the Mari offered an insight to another culture, hopefully teaching the crew about themselves in the meantime. Janeway's well-conveyed confidence in stating what may very well embody the new "Voyager manifesto" is extremely refreshing, offering what I suspect Voyager hopes to accomplish as a series from this point on. Dialog exchanges like this one are what make Trek what it is, and that's probably the highest praise I can give "Random Thoughts." If the series can keep going and push just a little harder with the storylines, I think we'll find a direction and have the best season of Voyager yet.

Next week: Forget about Schwarzenegger and Stallone. We have LEONARDO DA VINCI: ACTION HERO!

Previous episode: Year of Hell, Part II
Next episode: Concerning Flight

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Comment Section

93 comments on this post

    Purging B'Ellana's mind for containing such violent thoughts was a bit extreme, after all, she's not a Mari, she's a human from another race. It would have been much more civilized and logical for them to simply deny her further contact with their species. Can't recall if Tuvok pointed this out but he should have.

    A great review as usual. I'm currently rewachting the whole series and find this episode is well-done Star Trek: Though hardly outstanding itself, it does manage both to show fine character interaction and deal with a deeper issue.

    Anyone else notice the clips from "Event Horizon" during the violent images montage?

    This episode brought some interesting ideas to the table, and that alone makes it a winner. But it didn't quite go far enough to make it a classic. Sometimes it's good to just ask questions, but other times it's more interesting to actually provide answers (which often make you think just as much as the question). One of the reasons I loved "The Thaw" so much was the revelation that 'fear exists for one purpose... to be conquered.' Here, all Tuvok says is "You don't understand the truth of violence. Its darkness. Its power". Duh!

    I really liked this one, and I think the idea that the Voyager crew weren't aware of all the Mari laws actually was addressed- when Seven pointed out, quite rightly, that Voyager stumbles into new cultures with insufficient knowledge.

    I saw Event Horizon, Halloween, Predator.. all in Tuvoks mind meld violent image montage. Took me out of context of Star Trek, so that was really weird.

    I think there was no Predator in Tuvok's mind, but the aliens from the Nemesis episode. :)

    On a nitpicky note, I don't like the precedent this episode sets that Vulcans can communicate telepathically without initiating a mind meld. I hate it when writers take liberties with canon, especially when they serve no purpose. Tuvok and Nimira are just casually strolling down the corridors and start having a telepathic conversation. Why? Seemed kind of pointless...

    I don't have a problem with Tuvok communicating telepathically without physically touching the strong telepathic alien. All that would need to take place would be for her to 'plant' her thoughts in his mind and then 'read' his responses. It could be done in a one-way manner quite simply, requiring little or no effort on his part.

    Justin, non-touch telepathy in Vulcans was established canon before Voyager - I direct you to Memory Alpha:

    Stronger minds were capable of non-contact telepathic projection and scanning, usually over short distances, (TOS: "The Devil in the Dark", "The Omega Glory"; VOY: "Random Thoughts", "Prey") but sometimes even over interstellar distances. (TOS: "The Immunity Syndrome"; Star Trek: The Motion Picture)

    Also, it's important to remember that, like it or not, Voyager was an officially sanctioned Trek property, and thus, it's stories ARE canon.

    I generally liked this episode even if the premise was really stupid, every time I heard them talk about 'the thought' I cringed. But other than that it was ok.

    "Your brig is barbaric."

    *12 hour later*

    "Put the Klingon woman in chains and lock her up."

    Another interesting example of the hypocrisy of thought policing. I sometimes can't tell if the writers of ST:Voyager are contemptuous of the notion of continuity and logical storytelling or if they're just kinda bad. In this case I think the usual inanity of character actions works in their favor because of the subject matter and I enjoyed watching an episode where the plot holes could be justified.

    I appreciated Seven coming into Janeway's ready room and giving her a piece of my mind. Voyager suffers from contrivances that rely upon the crew intentionally putting themselves into harm's way in order to create a conflict/mystery to resolve and, finally, Janeway was forced to answer on behalf of the writers why it is that they do this.

    Non-touch telepathy among Vulcans has been shown ro exist, but is also shown as being very limited, but this episode makes it appear that speaking telepathically is common among Vulcans, but Tuvok chooses to use spoken words to deal with humans. There's little indication that Tuvok has substantially greater telepathic gifts than other Vulcans, and so rather than throw out the rest of canon to accommodate this episode, I choose to interpret it as he is able to communicate telepathically with someone who is a strong telepath.

    I'm not sure what to think of this episode, because it requires judging this society, and we really don't know that much about it. It makes sense that a species of telepaths would have to control their violent thoughts. Are there better methods available? Perhaps they could work on shielding themselves from negative emotions rather than forcing them not to have such emotions. The Vulcans are even less open to emotions than these people are. While I don't think they would force you to have memories erased, they expect Vulcans to control both positive and negative emotions, and a Vulcan who went about expressing emotions would be treated as mentally ill.

    A few notable flaws, mainly the ones that Jammer mentioned; but overall a nice allegory of how restricting personal freedoms can (and usually does) have unintended negative consequences. A good Tuvok vehicle with some decent enough guest star performances.

    As to Chris P.: Holding Torres until everything is ready for the ingramatic purge is fundamentally different than any actual short or long term incarceration. Probably partially explains why the Mari were adamant about getting it started as soon as it was ready. They didn't want to hold Torres any longer than what was necessary. Also, one of the huge aspects of a lot of humanity in Star Trek is that of exploration, learning from other cultures, and bettering themselves from it. Janeway's answer wasn't "forced" by the writers as some sort of apology for Voyager's continued exploration. I do agree at times that there's a lot of contrivances in many episodes, however, but I understand the insatiable curiosity. Hell, I'll bet that a lot of the crew would be rather upset if Voyager did nothing BUT travel straight home. (:

    All in all, it's not without its downsides but it is intriguing enough. Some food for thought supplied by meaty dialogue interspersed with great character interplay among the cast makes this a recommended viewing.

    3 stars.

    I do not like how Tuvok comes off very weak , at first, in his confrontation with the thought criminals.
    Also, why did not the ship simply not be allowed to leave and take their bad thoughts with them?

    I love the double standards used for Voyager and TOS... TOS is the perfect, amazing series, and each of its episodes is thought-provoking, and a classic, while Voyager is supposedly aimless and limited.

    I'm sorry but that's complete bullshit. Once you accept Voyager is NOT DS9 and was never meant to be, and you compare it to TNG and TOS, it fares quite well. TNG had it fair share of doozies, and TOS well don't get me started on TOS.

    Voyager is being judged by it's time. Pretty much all shows by this point, including sitcoms, had some amount of character development, continuity and do not fully reset at the end of each episode. DS9 had "serial" elements. I don't judge Voyager for not having them. I judge Voyager for needing to end the episode in the same "state" it began it. If it wanted to be judged by the same standards as "Lost in Space" and "TOS" it needed to be made 30 years earlier. And if it wanted to be judged as "TNG" it needed to be made 10 years earlier.

    That's not to say some of Voyager doesn't do really well. I recently touted the Doctor's personal arc as excellent and relatively reset button free. And this episode was a great showing for Tuvok, Vulcans in general and Voyager.

    But Voyager, like every other show, needs to be judged as a product of it's time.

    @Robert :

    "But Voyager, like every other show, needs to be judged as a product of it's time."

    I have to fundamentally disagree here. While some aspects of TV production may naturally evolve (read: improve) over time, such as special effects in an objective manner, there is no standard which says that story-telling formats are automatically better the more tightly they follow (or lead in DS9's case) trends. It can be of historical interest to note how show well shows capture the spirit or styles of their time, but it is not a measure of quality. Otherwise, the soap opera would an evolutionary highpoint of storytelling with its uninterrupted continuous narrative.

    Several artists have been considered out of step and old-fashioned in their day (Vermeer, Bach, Pushkin), while others were cutting-edge (Hemingway, Wagner, Monet, Shakespeare). This does not diminish the greatness of any artist or work of art, it is simply a stylistic choice. The Voyager authors apparently felt it was easier to stick to the Trek ethos by embracing the Trek format of yesteryear (be it 1960s or 80s). This retro-style had little to no impact on the quality of the writing. Judge that as you wish, but I for one reject the notion that "timeliness" accounts for calibre.

    While you are right about art.... being old fashioned on purpose can be charming. Being old fashioned because you refuse to adapt is... sad?

    TV shows were crippled in the past by the requirement from networks that the episodes be able to be shown out of order. I'm not aware of any TV writer that laments the fact that now you can have characters develop (even if that wasn't the focus) because the shows are more likely to live on in DVD than to be watching in 30 years of TV reruns.

    Refusing to grow up with the times is not always a sign of being old fashioned, sometimes it's just a sign of being dense. Like I said, I don't judge Voyager for not being a serial (I actually liked House M.D. to use an example LESS when it got more serialized, I preferred the patient of the week stories... but either way the characters were still developing), I just judge it because the network pressure to make it something lesser than it could have been is sad.

    Whereas TNG was literally as good as it could have been at the time.

    It'd be like TOS doing "Angel One" or "Code of Honour". I'd be MUCH less judgey about a show in the 60s doing that. TNG should have grown up enough to have never tried that nonsense.

    For a lot of it's run Voyager did not much concern itself with how it would be viewed if you were marathoning it on Netflix, and it doesn't really hold up. Things like Kes breaking up with Neelix while possessed, Janeway not following through with her threats to the Vidiians, the Doctor's memory wipe barely being addressed again, Kim forgetting about Libby nearly entirely without it ever being mentioned again, and a whole slew of other things shows a casual disregard for continuity that keeps it from being great under a lens of how TV is viewed today.

    And while you can forgive TNG some of those things I think it's harder to forgive Voyager. They DID try this a few times, and I thought it mostly worked (the Doctor's story holds up well over a Netflix marathon, the continuing growth of the Borg kids, Naomi growing up, Torres&Paris' relationship). I give credit where credit was due, but I swear a lot of times it seemed like the guy writing the episode of the week was barely familiar with the canon.

    Are you saying you have a filter in your brain which silences criticisms over continuity, etc. based on when the show was produced? Are you saying that TV shows of our time are automatically better (or held to a higher standard) than shows of the past because our format has changed? I find this rather difficult to accept. I don't watch "2001" and think, "Boy this is great...for 1968," I just love the film for everything it is. True, I can analyse features of the film and account for how "of," "ahead of," or "behind" the times it was, but that doesn't affect my enjoyment of the film. The same is true for me of Star Trek. I don't hold a higher suspension of disbelief with TOS than I do for ENT; I've said before that I think Trek is best absorbed as mythology, anyway, but that's another discussion.

    I'm saying that if Final Fantasy 15 looked like Final Fantasy 7 I wouldn't play it h t t p://

    That doesn't mean the original isn't one of my favorite games or that I won't break it out again the next time I miss it. It just means that the blockheads don't bother me because at the time you couldn't do better.

    Just like I'd not give my time, energy or money to a television show capable of producing the sexist DRECK that is "The Turnabout Intruder", but since it's a product of it's time and made some really brilliant sci-fi I'm willing to look past the flaws.

    I like Voyager (and have actually been saying a lot of nice things about it recently as I look over my comment history) but it just can't sit up there with TNG because TNG was a product of it's time and Voyager could have been better. The specific comment I was replying to was

    "Once you accept Voyager is NOT DS9 and was never meant to be, and you compare it to TNG and TOS, it fares quite well. TNG had it fair share of doozies, and TOS well don't get me started on TOS. "

    Saying it fares well in a DIRECT comparison to TNG or TOS is just not really a fair fight (it's like comparing the graphics of FF7 to FF15). Want to know what TOS is like with continuity? See ST2, ST3 and ST4. On going themes, story lines and continuity. The result? REALLY FREAKING AWESOME. Why were they brave enough to try that? Because Star Wars was doing it.

    Voyager could have done these things AND played it safe. They didn't have to trail blaze. They could have just followed DS9. You don't have to agree with my assessment of Voyagers flaws. You don't have to agree that I won't cut Voyager slack against TNG and TOS. But I can't see it any other way.

    Let me put it to you this way. Do you roll your eyes when Lucy and Ricky sleep in separate beds? Would you eye roll if Ross and Rachel did? I sure would......

    So I guess the reality is, no I don't think "I Love Lucy" is great.... for 1950. I think it's just great.

    But it sure does make it easier to overlook certain flaws.

    I can sort of see both sides in this Robert/Elliott conversation. A few quick thoughts:

    I do think it's worth distinguishing between *format* and, uh, *cultural assumptions*. It is true that over the past half-century, sexism and racism have become less extreme. I can find "The Enemy Within" quite a good episode, even though Spock basically jokes that Rand really must have enjoyed Evil-Kirk almost raping her. And it's not that it wasn't sexist then; it was wrong then. And it is a real failure of imagination that *Spock* would regard sexual assault as a great time to make jabs. However, on some level I am aware that people are not wholly separate from their culture, and while I find it disappointing that they were not able to break out of certain styles of thinking (and while I have my suspicions that Grace Lee Whitney's having a very rough time on the show and her departure may have something to do with the fairly crappy treatment her character gets, especially if you imagine that offscreen follows onscreen at all) I find it easier to let it slide while watching than sexism in TNG or post-TNG Trek.

    Along similar lines, while it doesn't affect my enjoyment of TOS that much on an episode-to-episode basis, the presence of Uhura especially, and to a lesser extent Sulu and Chekov, does endear me to the show and to Roddenberry's vision in a big way. Uhura was a revolutionary character. She would not be now, because she very seldom has a big role, but she inspired a generation of women and black people, ala Whoopi Goldberg. That is huge, and it is an example of the show, on a meta-level, "putting its money where its mouth is," picking specific examples of things that were lacking in 1960's America and putting them in the imagined future. Uhura would not be a revolutionary character today, which is good -- because representation has changed over time. I'm not sure if I could say for sure that it would affect my *enjoyment* of the series, but it does in some senses affect my evaluation of the show.

    The difference between that and the fabled continuity is that I don't think there's any rule that says that continuity is automatically better than not-continuity. Most of my favourite shows are continuity-heavy. I think that it is a very good use of the television medium, which allows for long-form storytelling in a way that films can't, and in some senses even in a way individual novels can't (though novel series can). As such, television *can* benefit from continuity in storytelling -- which allows for the possibility of seeing people change over a long period of time and as a result of key events, with some of the rhythms of life. Now, Elliott has made a good case that this still happens in Voyager, just without that many explicit references to individual events, so, you know, good if that's the case (my memory of Voyager is still kinda foggy). I do think Voyager wasn't using all the tools that it "had available" in terms of the benefits of continuity, though, of course, no series use *all* the tools that are available, including all the Treks.

    If we do include an assumption that continuity is automatically better, then I think it is possible to construct an argument about why it's easy to let the earlier shows off the hook. For one thing, it really is true that continuity, even on DS9, was to some degree discouraged by the execs out of fear that viewers would be lost. I'm pretty sure that a Dominion Occupation arc of longer than six episodes was suggested by the writing team and axed. I can't say for sure how much resistance there was to TNG's small bouts of continuity, if any; the continuity in TNG is well integrated into episodic stories for the most part. With Voyager, I do think that there is some degree of network interference preventing the show from having greater amounts of continuity, etc. This goes back to "network interference" as the reason we couldn't have a female first officer in TOS (though TNG, alas, killed its only female line officer within the first year). On some level, recognizing that it's impossible for a series to show a certain something because of network requirements does factor into my view of the work. But then, is there a difference between NBC making demands in the 1960's and UPN making demands in the 90's/2000's?

    I do think that there is something of a rebellion, at least in some quarters, against the ultra-heavy continuity. "Louie" is a pretty cutting-edge comedy/drama which overtly eschews episode-to-episode continuity often -- ending one two-parter with the title character apparently caring for his niece for the immediate future, and then dropping her in the next episode. In its case, the show is clearly experimenting, because it's an experimental kind of existential comedy. However, I think in there is a recognition that excessive dwelling on continuity can be stifling to creativity, that these stories aren't actually real, and that it may be that making something of a loose anthology consisting of several great stories featuring the main character, along with certain long-running arcs following more "traditional" recent modes of continuity, is a better option for telling as many great stories, packing the most punch. I think it may be possible that a new age of standalone or even anthology shows will eventually develop and the idea that it's automatically better for shows to be continuity-heavy will fade in proportion. On the other hand, it may also just be that the television medium works best when taking advantage of the long-form medium to tell, well, long-form stories.


    "The difference between that and the fabled continuity is that I don't think there's any rule that says that continuity is automatically better than not-continuity."

    I will MOSTLY agree with this. There is no rule. That being said, the REASON most shows didn't have any continuity (the way Friends does but say Lucy doesn't) is because networks didn't like continuity.

    If a writer decided their show would be better without continuity, that'd be an artistic choice. The choice to scrape away continuity to a point where episodes can function in any order is rarely an artistic one and almost always a business one. That said, continuity != serial. I LIKE that DS9 had serial aspects, but I do enjoy many shows that focus on "episode of the week". But the characters often do grow and continuity is present.

    So when I compare lack of continuity to sexism I don't mean to equate them at all, but they are both more forgivable in the past because they are both relics of an older era of television. It's why I used the example of Lucy and Desi sleeping in the same bed because that level of conservativeness (ridiculous levels) is also a relic.

    "I do think Voyager wasn't using all the tools that it "had available" in terms of the benefits of continuity, though, of course, no series use *all* the tools that are available, including all the Treks."

    This is really what I meant. Not that Voyager doesn't have continuity but that the fear of change and the need to return to the status quo (which was a very real thing in most networks) hampered Voyager at a time that it should have felt bolder to make some real changes. It was missing a tool it should have had in it's shed and as such is a bigger disappointment than TNG, even if many of the episodes are of comparable quality.

    "But then, is there a difference between NBC making demands in the 1960's and UPN making demands in the 90's/2000's? "

    Probably not. Maybe it is unrealistic to expect that just because DS9 was trailblazing that VOY would follow it... but UPN making those demands in the later 90s was probably pretty anachronistic.

    I do appreciate your last paragraph. I think I disagree pretty strongly with the possibility that abandoning continuity could ever be desirable, but perhaps there will eventually be a backlash to heavy serialization. Although maybe the extreme popularity of CSI/NCIS type shows are already that. They are VERY episodic (even if they do have continuity).

    William B and Robert, are you aware that Grace Lee Whitney said she was sexually assaulted by a Desilu producer during that time period?

    @Peremensoe, I was not aware of that -- I recall hearing that Grace Lee Whitney found the environment very difficult, but I didn't know more than that. That's really awful (and makes that "Enemy Within" moment harder to stomach, somehow).

    Yep. She mentions it in this interview,

    For more, see her book The Longest Trek.

    Very good episode. It indicates that even if thought control were attainable, it may not be desirable. Or, that thought control to a more extreme degree is fake control. The story also implies that excessive control has adverse consequences. Instead, there must be a desirable middle ground between seeking control and allowing for the world to be as it is.

    I think the most interesting argument in this story is that regardless of how preventable violence or instability is, managing violence and instability is essential. I think that is at the heart of the Vulcan ideology as I have understood it. That is why Tuvok is such a great ambassador here; he sympathizes with those who would seek to control thoughts, but views a strategy for managing thoughts to be more effective than a strategy attempting to eradicate them. This is the most pragmatic pathway to self-control. I would add also that having a positive goal helps one seek self-control. Janeway's final speech suggests that exploration is a goal that helps people live more meaning lives; but, I think exploration in Star Trek also helps give people the sense of purpose to achieve self-control.

    On a side note: I think people on this website focus unduly on details of stories that they perceive as plot holes. I think "plot holes" that matter are plot holes that impede the clarity of an argument, or inhibit the full realization of an idea. Also, inconsistencies will always exist in a story, whether they are immaterial or related to some more essential theme.

    Ultimately, people can prioritize whatever they want to prioritize when they are evaluating a story. But, in my view it's OK if their are slight inconsistencies in stories.

    Concerning part 1. What's the big deal? A guy steps on B'elanna's foot, telepathically extracts her violent thought and, being unable to control it, allows it to burst out and he smashes up a shop. A shock to the Mari, I'm sure, but so what? He smashed some pottery and suddenly they're making B'elanna, who was unaware of their no violent thoughts rule, public enemy number one? Seems a little unfair. If you're going to be so sensitive about something so obscure, a little warning would be nice. Since the crew doesn't know about this rule, wouldn't it be better to just pay for the damages, pack up and leave?

    However, as for forcing B'elanna into the chair, it does seem likely that B'elanna would be having all sorts of violent thoughts, but if they really are a race of strong telepaths, they can probably shield their mind from such imagery when they so choose.
    Neelix doesn't react strongly to the death of what's her face because he only met her a few days ago. Sure, he was attracted to her, but a few days is hardly enough to form an emotional bond that would be significant enough to burst out in tears at the sight of her death. He liked her, as far as he knew her, but he barely knew her to begin with so yea...

    The end of the show was great, though. The whole concept of their species secretly seeking out violent thoughts and the implications of that on their society is very intriguing. I continue to like the relationship between Seven and Janeway, as usual. One of the best Voyager has to offer and both of them do a wonderful job with it.

    Nitpick moment: How many humanlike aliens are in this quadrant? Quite a few, it seems.

    Interesting episode, if not on Yanks' must watch list.

    Something about it just didn't set with me.

    I think it has to do with these lines at the end:

    "TORRES: So, if I was responsible for passing that thought you would have let them lobotomise me?


    TUVOK: It is incumbent upon us to respect the laws of the societies we visit."

    Two things. Picard raised the "going to far flag" when Wesley walked on the grass, I think Janeway let this one go to far. Also, I think it is incumbent of Janeway and company to more clearly understand the laws of the societies they visit.... and the punishment associated with infractions in the event something should happen. I'm not sure I let my crew go down to this planet. Just how can she be certain that her crew will only have good thoughts? Especially with what they've been through?

    For me this was the first average to sub-par episode in season 4. That's saying something as we have completed 10 hours of production thus far.

    Oh, Neelix's "melon shopping" was hilarious :-) I'll add 1/2 star for that! :-)

    2.5 stars for me.

    Two highly improbable events occurred: 1) someone, somewhere, was looking through TNG episodes and thought Justice of all shows would be a great one to rip off for Voyager, and 2) that it ended up being good.

    Well, the second part shouldn't be too improbable, I guess, since they went an entirely different direction. Justice tried, and failed, to focus on the clash of two cultures, and how to balance the diplomatic relations when it comes to silly laws. Voyager, however, focused instead on the law, or more accurately the society's reaction to the law. And explaining why such a law might appear.

    Justice was a silly, contrived incidence. Here, everything made a great deal of sense. The policewoman or whatever made it clear that the punishment wasn't punishment, but rather treatment (as opposed to a random death penalty). And, regardless of one's opinion on thoughtcrime, it was fairly logical in this instance. We are used to thinking of our thoughts as our own, precisely because they are. But here, a violent thought can be accidentally passed on to another, and violent actions can end up occurring without the person realizing it. Having a violent thought in public here is more akin to driving drunk; it's a real danger to society. Hence, the plot holds together.

    Likewise, it holds together on the reason why the aliens were so demanding that they treat Torres. The lady said something about not being able to fully treat the other thoughtcrime person until Torres was treated first. Well, ok, I fail to see how that makes sense, but at least they tried to have a reason to have Torres go through the treatment rather than simply the Prime Directive. And yes, as Jammer said, it seems very contrived that the natives wouldn't warn offworlders of such a thing, but maybe they aren't used to neighbors dropping by. Also, the plot failed with Tom demanding a rescue mission, then completely forgetting about it at the end during one of Voyager's inevitable countdown timers at the end. OK, so the episode isn't perfect, but it is good. This is Voyager, I give points for effort.

    It was a good character piece for Tuvok, reinforcing both his close connection to violent thoughts (which was brought up with Suder) and his strong investigative skills. We also see him have quite a bit of sympathy for this race; perhaps because they do mirror the Vulcans in a way. The Vulcans bury their emotions under the idea of logic; the Mari managed to (supposedly) eradicate their violent emotions entirely. Perhaps a bit of jealousy on Tuvok's part behind his admiration?

    But once he met the bad guy, and started offering his negative thoughts, it became more interesting. I mean, sure, to some extent he is simply investigating everything, and setting up a sting. But, well, I'm wondering if Tuvok himself is like these black market violent thought users. Is he really, deeply fascinated by the violence inside him? After all, he's a Vulcan working as a security guard/tactical officer. Sure, not all Vulcans are pacifists, but it seems like most prefer to avoid violence as much as possible. Tuvok is an expert archer, expert liar, comfortable enough to hang out with terrorists on an undercover mission, and personally presses the button that kills people and makes starships go boom. What motivates him to do that? Patriotism? It must be hard to logically fit it in to a Vulcan lifestyle. Or maybe because he finds his own impulses curious and wants to explore them more in an orderly fashion?

    Yes, he was setting up a sting, but the way he was talking about violent imagery, he looked practically eager to share his imagery with the black marketeers. And when he did mind meld, forcing it on the others, he seemed to practically enjoy it. Maybe I'm reading too much into it, but I think there is a darker side to Tuvok. He's almost certainly got it under control and everything, but it's there. It showed up in the episode with Suder, and it showed up here. I wonder if it'll show up again?

    Also, I like the fact that the show didn't try to be too preachy here, even if the security lady was rather arrogant in the beginning and got shot down by Tuvok in the end. But they showed a logical problem with violent thoughts, and a logical way to get rid of them. And then they showed a logical consequence to that, that simply passing a law doesn't make the problem go away. It's not really a "Message!" to get out, but rather an observation. And they showed it, let it come to the episode naturally, rather than preached about it. Much better than the typical sledgehammer style.

    Once again, the police woman calls Tuvok Lieutenant despite his promotion to Lieutenant Commander. Also, how many times can we have aliens looking EXACTLY like humans? Are there any aliens who look exactly like Klingons?

    "Just like I'd not give my time, energy or money to a television show capable of producing the sexist DRECK that is "The Turnabout Intruder","

    Robert - I found nothing sexist in "Turnabout Intruder." The woman who possessed Kirk's body was crazy. For you to say that an individual female being portrayed as crazy is "sexist" is for you to succumb to the typically feminist "a slap against one of us is a slap against all of us" sisterhood concept, which collectivizes and de-individualizes all women. In that case, showing any female individual as psychotic is sexist, while men can be portrayed, as individuals, as crazy or evil.

    I disagree with this because I see that as a form of female supremacist bigotry - the belief that we can show psychotic men but not psychotic women, thus implying moral superiority on the part of women, thereby disrespecting the concept of equality, except from the other side.

    Turnabout Intruder was fine. There is nothing sexist about having a female villain for a change.

    @John - I did not mean to imply that Turnabout Intruder was sexist because she was crazy. It's sexist because of lines like this

    JANICE: Your world of starship captains doesn't admit women. It isn't fair.
    KIRK: No, it isn't. And you punished and tortured me because of it.

    I'm sorry, she's crazy but that sounds a lot like Kirk AGREEING with her that being a captain is an all boys club.

    There are other things in there I think are sexist, but how rational she is wasn't on the list. There are a lot of ugly implications around the episode. A crazy female villain is cool with me though.

    Robert - my interpretation of that line from Kirk has always been that he knows she's crazy and he just thinks that arguing with her isn't worth it. I have some evidence which supports my theory, such as the fact that we know from Star Trek: Enterprise and the entire franchise as a whole that Starfleet has always allowed women to be captains.

    But maybe you're right. Maybe the 1969 writers intended for Starfleet to not allow females to command starships. I don't know. I just think it's more open to interpretation than you might think.

    But I suppose, if anything, we can just agree to disagree. No big deal.

    I never thought it was a disallowed thing. I just figured it was more like women Senators or Presidents. It happens, but it's much easier to do it as a man.

    Mostly I just wanted to clarify that I didn't find a crazy woman to be sexist :)

    Starts off in look and feel like an early season TNG, but actually turns into quite an effective little psychological thriller. It explores some interesting and fresh concepts, even if at one point it looks like descending into a typical legal/courtroom episode.

    It must have been an interesting challenge to come up with some disturbing imagery for a family show - and yet this succeeds with some genuinely odd images that certainly meet the bill, and I couldn't even tell you why. 3 stars.

    I enjoyed this episode. Its nice to know that a seemingly perfect world (the day settings were so 90s campy, yet concurrently so christian purity and free market. as a British person, it reeks of american "normal") having a seedy underbelly.

    what surprised me was how homoerotic i found the backalley image exchange scenes. the intimacy of it, the dissent, the craving, the need to keep it hidden... and then the line by Janeway about how making things illegal just sends it underground. Although the stronger allegory is drugs, I wonder whether the choice of only men participating with Tuvok was on purpose. also, exploring the what if, same-sex intimacy via telepathy. would be intense for me. addictive even. who would need crystal meth?

    Obviously star trek and sexuality did not openly mix (another american issue - networks!), but after seeing Kes' almost kiss when her body was taken over by that warlord with his former wife, I look forward to these hidden eggs.

    Obviously there was that old lady. wish they hadnt just thrown out a whole section of society (the elderly) with one comment, but anything more would have ruined the seedy effect.

    this is the problem with one-episode-storylines. worldbuilding is so limited. but i enjoyed myself enough that im writing this now.

    Tom, this is one of the episodes I discuss in my book "Gender and Sexuality in Star Trek." I agree with you that the exchange between Tuvok and Guill is very homoerotically charged.

    Mr. Jammer, I must disagree with you: "I only wish Wayne Pere (who played Guill) had been a little more effective; his performance is a tad bland." I think Pere is great here. It's his very smooth, affable demeanor that makes his black market dealings and willingness to hurt Tuvok so chilling. Pere performs the scenes of the meld with feverish intensity.

    This was certainly a terrific Tuvok episode despite the wobbly premise.

    This was an average episode of voyager to me. It doesn't leave an impression like say Deadlock The Chute or Tuvix.

    Some of the guest actors in this episode were really bad. That guy in the teaser shouting you Idiot! you Idiot! is almost as funny as brain brain what is brain

    Regardless Tuvok focused episodes are so rare after Seven shows up that I'm willing to overlook some of the flaws 3 stars.

    "a relatively unchanging story setting where the ship and crew can fly in, meet some people, encounter and subsequently solve a problem, and then fly out."

    Well, they are traveling to Earth, so its only logical for them to fly in and then leave again.

    Anyway. This was a good episode. I think it was (at least also) about homosexuality and the way society deals with it. The scenes between Tuvok and Guill were indeed very homoerotic. There was double meaning in the dialog as well.
    But this also does work very well with the violent nature of human beings as well. So the episodes agenda is pretty much open for personal interpretation, rather than telling the audience "deal with violence, homosexuality, etc.".

    This doesnt make up for the fact though, that voyager was much less liberal and forseeing than TNG or the original Series.

    For a people who have a hatred for prisons they have no problem imprisoning people. Stupid episode. Justifying memory purging? How is that better than prison?

    Hogwash Vyiora. Imprisoning a person for a second is still imprisonment. The way she reacted to the brig you'd think that her society had found a way around imprisonment. They haven't.

    With its exploration on the fascination and struggle people have with their "dark side" this one reminded me of the Star Wars core theme.

    The premise was ridiculous and impossible. Violent thoughts are not the result of passing a meme back and forth. Violent thoughts are the result of evolution. It is therefore impossible to solve crime problem in your city by criminalizing violent thoughts because violent thoughts arise as a result of uncontrollable neurons firing as a result of environmental stimuli which cause those neurons to fire.

    Also the thought of Neelix getting it on with any attractive woman is disgusting.

    I know Star Trek likes to say that it would respect the laws of any planet, but let's be realistic, no one would ever propose forcing people to obey batshit crazy laws without any real moral background or pressing need. Wesley was never in any danger in TNG and Belana was never in any danger here. No Interplanetary organization would ever hold such an idiotic and small minded view. It is very easy to judge cultures, find them wanting, and refuse to obey with their immoral laws.

    Also, we know for a fact that Starfleet doesn't obey stupid rulings or laws. Tuvok, in the first or second season went against the decision of the ruling government to try getting technology that would allow Voyager to return home. There is clear precedent that stupid laws from other species cannot be imposed on outsiders and there should and would be no expectations that other species visiting the planet would be held to laws they could not predict running afoul of. For one thing, this is a diplomatic exchange between the Federation and the new species, a first encounter situation. Thus the Voyager crew are diplomats and would be given a certain level of diplomatic immunity. There are many other precedents against the upholding of unexpected immoral laws.

    Considering that Starfleet looks for legal precedent based on legal decisions from all planets in the Federation then we can say that there is likely precedent that allows Starfleet to perform any action or refuse to obey the ruling of any government during a first contact situation.

    This is my third time through voyager and I'm finding it tough going at times.

    Most of the plot holes have been covered by Jammer and others so there's no point reiterating them, but it's just shoddy work. Maybe they were operating on too strict a timetable but to me it's just poor editing. In most episodes a couple of lines of dialog would be all that's required to clear up some really obvious flaws but they either don't care (which is disrespecting the audience) or they don't notice the flaws (which is poor writing and editing). Either way it seriously detracts from the product.

    I like the premise for this episode but in my current disgruntled mood I give it 1.5 stars.

    I think this will most likely be my last trek through voyager :(

    I know I must seem like a whiner who just hates Voyager because he was told to hate it and I see a lot of people really liking this one but I'm sorry, I think it's pretty mediocre.

    1. The premise is very cliched. A member of the crew is accused of a crime by an alien society with extreme punishment and the crew has to investigate what really happened. This doesn't ruin anything but at this point, but you should do something really original with it.

    2. The plot relies on Voyager crew to be morons. Did they not bother to look up basic laws of a culture they are trading with? If they are around long enough for Neelix to get a date (on personal level, thanks a lot for showing us his fetish, really needed that), they should know SOMETHING.

    3. I'm... confused about the message here. If it's about literal thought crimes, then it's stupid, because we can't transmit those by accident. If it's about homosexuality as some suggested, I guess gayness makes you rape people? If it's about drugs... Actually, maybe? It's definitely pretty gutsy for a TV show at the time to suggest legalising drugs may be for the better or at least that war on drugs does more harm than good. And it doesn't portray dealers as some innocent victims either. Well, according to Memory Alpha, it's meant to be about censorship of violent media, which I guess works too.

    I do like insight into Tuvok and his violent nature, but it's nothing all that new. I also like that the poliewoman was an actual character and not just strawman to preach at.

    BTW, regarding the discussion above, I thing with Voyager's continuity that a lot of people defending it miss, is that it's a symptom of a larger problem: That the show fails to utilize its premise.

    Two times have I finished most of this comment and two times I lost it. This has nothing to do with anything, but it pisses me off and I neeed to share it.

    "Skeptical" good comments. This episode established Tuvok is a different character from Spock.

    Everyone - why did the mind-wiper have to look so phallic??!! Did anyone on the set notice it at the time?

    Interesting episode - started out like a fairly typical Trek episode with a member of the crew violating what is a sacred rule on an alien world (that is trivial to the crew member) and then dealing with the justice system.

    But "Random Thoughts" had enough twists to make it decent, like the idea of a black market for violent thoughts in a culture that tries to suppress them. As for the suppression of the thoughts, we understand the Vulcan mental disciplines to try and control them but it never got in to what the Mari do to try to enforce mental discipline -- if there is anything other than the surgical purge.

    Guill, the dealer in black market thoughts, comes across as your typical sleezy Trek villain. It was pretty clear from the 1st scene with Torres, something was up with him. Interesting encounter with Tuvok although Guill isn't a very good actor. It was intriguing to watch Tuvok go about the investigation and following up with Guill -- I think, like DS9's Odo, he makes a good investigator.

    Torres is also good in this episode -- her "fiery head" as the Doc puts it adds more character to the episode. The Mari investigator was also more than just another bland hard-headed alien, and developed a rapport with Tuvok. They both have similar roles and can learn from each other.

    Other good interactions came right at the end between Torres and Tuvok, who pays the former a sort of back-handed compliment about how she, as a Klingon, suppresses her emotions; and 7 of 9 questioning Janeway about the mission. I like Janeway's answer but 7 has a fair question. Given that it'll take several decades for Voyager to get back home, I guess (not having seen every VOY episode up to this one -- and not looking forward) that Janeway will get as far as she can to home and then somebody else will take over. So might as well explore and lolly-gag around before reaching the Alpha quadrant -- whatever the mission.

    "Random Thoughts" just barely gets to 3 stars for my rating. Nothing hugely wrong, some interesting ideas, and good character moments and acting for the most part. But not a super-compelling story of greater magnitude which is fine after "Year of Hell", which was supposed to be just that.

    The thing that annoyed me most in this episode was Janeway's statement "We can't pick and choose which laws we'll follow". Janeway has done EXACTLY that many times throughout the series.

    The writers really messed her character up. You just never know what you're going to get from her - it's whatever the plot demands.

    Sooo... Nobody found it absurd that, while Tuvok was probing Guill's mind and Guill was in obvious pain telling "Tuvok" to stop, his two collaborators who were holding Tuvok down would just idly sit there and let it happen? I did..

    Otherwise a great review by Jammer and interesting comments by many.

    The big, glaring, distracting problem of this episode is that at no point does Janeway simply ask the Mari to let B'Elanna go back to Voyager and let Voyager leave. It's possible the Mari would have refused, but the argument Nimira keeps presenting is not even that B'Elanna needs to be *punished* as that future crimes need to be prevented and that her violent thoughts cannot be allowed to continue affecting their society. Fine! Let her leave! Nimira seems to find *punishment* to be barbaric, and so it is not even a "we have to obey local values" issue -- it seems that her values would be entirely consistent with letting B'Elanna simply leave provided that she didn't return to pollute their culture any more. Of course no one mentions it, because then either there would be no story, or Nimira would come across as too unsympathetic. Seven is, of course, correct in the final scene with Janeway, not so much about whether they should stop and interact with cultures they pass through, but in the question of whether they should actually have someone (Tuvok, presumably, but maybe sometimes-ambassador Neelix, or command officers Janeway or Chakotay) read the rulebook of planets they are stopping at to check if there are any rules that will lead to the crew being executed, incarcerated or violated as punishment. I get that there are some edge-case ambiguities in laws, and sometimes things are so "unthinkable" that they wouldn't bother to codify them in laws, but I feel like "thinking violent thoughts is a crime punishable by space lobotomy" is something that could plausibly have come up.

    Putting that aside, though, I think the episode works overall quite well. The way the episode examines the unintended consequences of different laws is really plausible and perceptive, and the basic notion -- of whether "violent thoughts" should or can be outlawed -- is compelling and well executed. "Violent thoughts," here, I think is an exaggeration/metaphor; for our non-telepathic society, substitute violent speech or art, or anything that can plausibly lead to second-order violent outcomes and people hurt and damaged. The idea here that people are extremely sensitive to any ideas that pass their way, and that it's better to control ideas than to control actions themselves, is compelling and makes sense, with the telepathy of the Mari a stand-in for the various ways (subtle and not-so-subtle) that ideas can be transferred and harmful ideas can spread. B'Elanna as the representative for "violent thoughts (art, words, etc.) are fine (or at least, should be non-criminal), violent actions aren't" posits that a person is responsible for their actions only, whereas Nimira as the representative for the Mari points out that violent thoughts (art, etc.) make violent actions more likely, and both are correct, though (of course) I (and the show) agree much, much more with B'Elanna. The second-order consequence that banning violent thoughts outright creates a black market because of the bestial nature of humans (sorry, humanoids) and the fact that we still crave a certain rush from violence even if we don't wish to participate in it, and maybe ESPECIALLY if we don't want to participate in it and if we want it as a replacement (and violent-thought voyeurs like the ones we see in this episode seem to mostly be seeking the thoughts themselves and not to do violence, which is only an unintended consequence) is also totally believable and meaningful and it's an investigation plot where the resolution to the "crime" ends up being genuinely thematically interesting. (Compare to Ex Post Facto.) It's also a good Tuvok episode (which I believe are rare in s4-7), bringing up the violence of his thoughts again (Meld) while hinting at his mixed reaction to extreme (excessive?) control, including thought control. He's got a violent enough temperament, deep down, that he is not so sure that making violent thoughts illegal and purging them is such a bad thing, but he ultimately comes to respect B'Elanna for having her own internal controls rather than imposing societal ones. The contrived aspects of the set-up keep this from being a great episode but I think it's a good one. 3 stars.

    The first act or two I was thinking whoa this is a lot like "Justice", why would they do that (IMO not a terrible episode but I know it's widely derided), and then it actually claims that no, Yar wasn't and now Tuvok isn't incompetent, that kind of thing supposedly happens regularly ....

    Otherwise Tuvok is interesting but seems a bit too reckless, especially for being after his experiences in "Meld".

    A dog barking being thought to be scary sure was goofy.

    A very intriguing moment was, though it was contrived that Neelix would still stick around after most crew had been called back, when Neelix was really bothered by when Torres's thought led to violence against someone he really cared about and thought maybe Torres should therefore be punished/treated.

    They should have just beamed Torres up and left. Who cares? The rule about following local laws is because they want to stay friendly with species that they make contact with, so that relations aren't strained in the future, but they are never going to see these people again ever, and Janeway breaks the rules all the time, so who cares?

    And I don't understand most of this episode.

    The Mari are telepaths. And they don't have violent thoughts. Or do they have them and then suppress them? Because some of them have violent thoughts, or they wouldn't be able to get any for the black market, and would have no need of a violent thought erasing machine. And are they always reading each other's minds constantly? Or else why would a violent thought from someone make someone else get violent? But if they are doing that all the time, how come no one notices all the violent thoughts in the people getting them from the black market? And if they don't notice those, why not? Because they are suppressed and only thought about when they want to think about them? And if they can do that, why can't they think their own violent thoughts themselves? And if they can control when they think about the thoughts, why would the old lady think about it in public and then attack someone? Why didn't anyone else notice the thought that she was having in public? And once all those people saw the guy getting beaten and the woman being murdered, wouldn't they have violent thoughts about it and need to be purged too? And if the thought police can locate a violent thought in someone's head and know exactly what it is, in order to purge it, wouldn't they then have to get that thought removed themselves? And what makes B'Elanna's thought so powerful anyway? All she did is think about punching the guy. They exchange thoughts of violence and murder all the time so how would punching someone make them lose control of themselves? And since when does thinking something violent make you suddenly beat the hell out of someone or murder them? If it does, why aren't these black market guys killing people all the time?

    It all makes no sense whatsoever.

    And Seven is right. They waste entirely too much time doing pointless crap. Janeway is so gung-ho to get everyone home as soon as possible, that she breaks all sorts of Federation regulations, murders people, trespasses all over the place, etc. Yet they stay for days at this stupid planet for no reason whatsoever.

    1 1/2 stars.

    Here I am in 2018 writing a comment against this review which is likely 10 years old now. What a fantastic site - I hope this can be preserved for 100+ more years as an integral part of the Star Trek Voyager cultural history.

    Anyhoo, Tuvok is the Chief of Security and a Vulcan to boot, seems a bit embarassing for him to be taken out by a few flabby marketplace merchants.

    Don't worry, 'Neelix is going to submit a diplomatic protest'. Everything that stuffed toy does is just designed to keep him busy under the pretext that he's not genuinely useless.

    Who the hell sells resonator coils from a stall in a town marketplace?

    A good episode overall, I just have a million nitpicks over the various was Star Trek depicts its alien-of-the-week civilizations.

    No, no, no. Simply idiotic. If a premise is flawed, the whole show is screwed up. This is just a pedestrian trekkian cliche with a pertubing facist undertone: ops, one unsuspecting crew member suposedly commited a crime against the aliens of the week, who happen not to allow "bad" thoughts in their "enlighted" society.

    The uniforms in the nightmare sequence are First Contact style, how could anyone have had Knowledge of this style (apart from seven)?

    A good one, relatively standard fare, though. The literal thought police!

    Ep seems to be making a statement about censorship and repression, as in: Must be done, but with intelligence and moderation and vigilance.

    Didn't really grab me, though.

    I haven't read any of the comments yet, (even yours Jammer), but I imagine they will differ greatly from my views. I know that removing violent thoughts with a device is pure science fiction, but I do not see why it was such a "bad" thing-even if B'lanna was not guilty as in the case of this episode, her having her violent tendencies removed could only help her in life!

    But indeed, control of one's thoughts is something to be striven for. By this I mean doing one's best to eliminate violent, immoral, and otherwise improper thoughts. The fact that this does not happen in the world around us is a real shame and the increase in violence is the sad result. Such things as violent videogames, television, and other "entertainment" (I use the word in quotes as it is anything but) is sadly condoned and again, the results speak for themselves


    Forgive me if someone else corrected this-I am writing this as I read the comments, but this is not the first time Vulcans communicated telepathically. Spock and Savvik did it in the Wrath of Khan (when they discussed how human Kirk was)

    @ John

    Yes! The Kazon! Hehe!

    @ mephyve

    I don't think they were going to imprison her at all. If Janeway didn't ask for time, they would have removed her violent tendencies immediately.

    I don't understand why a lot of people here have it in for Neelix. Yes, some things he does are strange, but people here seem to have no patience whatsoever (Hmm-that actually goes back to the prevalence of violence. If people controlled and banished thoughts of annoyance with others, the level of violence overall would be lessened. There are MANY applications of this)

    "But indeed, control of one's thoughts is something to be striven for. By this I mean doing one's best to eliminate violent, immoral, and otherwise improper thoughts. The fact that this does not happen in the world around us is a real shame and the increase in violence is the sad result. Such things as violent videogames, television, and other "entertainment" (I use the word in quotes as it is anything but) is sadly condoned and again, the results speak for themselves"

    Control of one's thoughts and emotions is indeed something to be strived for. But if it is your desire to have the state enforce this control through authoritarian means, then that is where most are going to part ways with you.

    Indeed, assuming such technology existed, it would only be adopted society wide through the use of force. To think otherwise is utopian.

    @ Jason

    Well, the government I pledge allegiance to is God's Kingdom, not a man-made stricture. So in that, yes, I agree that it shouldn't be enforced by people of a "state"

    her having her violent tendencies removed could only help her in life!

    And you know this, how? There is a reason violence is there. It's to protect you. If you remove all violence and anger from a person, they then become a door mat for everyone to walk all over - and will often grossly underestimate a threat.

    Your idea is woefully short-sighted. Billions of years of evolution has created a situation for a reason. You come along with 1 brain cell and think you know best.

    I believe that this was one of Voyager's better planet of week stories. The aliens aren't boneheaded and stupid, their culture is relatively plausible, and the circumstances regarding the plot aren't arbitrary or dumb. However, the scene where 3 random dudes from planet hippy somehow easily overpower and beat the crap out of Tuvok is ridiculous and reeks of plot convenience.

    As for the argument about continuity, I believe the big difference between Voyager and TOS is that you expect it from the former. I don't just mean from the context of the time it was produced, Voyager constantly teases continuity and serialization, through the plot of certain episodes, and even through it's very premise. On the other hand, on TOS there is no reset button, the show is just content to tell stories that are fully resolved within an hour. Another big factor is internal consistency. Although TNG for example is pretty light on serialization, whatever bits are sprinkled in, like the Worf/Klingon civil war plot, or Data's quest to become more human, or even the recurring Borg threat, are consistent, even if they are limited. Meanwhile, Voyager is happy to disregard or outright contradict previous episodes when it's convenient, sometimes blatantly so.

    While on paper it's pretty interesting (I certainly got more out of reading this than I did the actual episode), I just found the execution too silly. Like surely there's a way to convey the same ideas without literal back alley dealers who trade in dark thoughts, for example. The last scene is terrific though, up there with Kirk's "risk is our business" speech.

    I'm going off memory here so I may be wrong, but,

    It never quite sit with me well that the voyager crew basically left that alien guy (the guy who traded in the negative emotions and "caused" the violence) in the hands of that planet's twisted and evil justice and morality system, probably to be locked away forever, simply for the "crime" of thinking bad thoughts.

    It was like, "This is horrible! Thoughtcrimes! How utterly barbaric and Orwellian and evil, we've got to find a way to rescue B'Ellana!"

    --after saving b'ellana--

    "yeah, we found the guy who had the negative thoughts we're gonna turn him over to you to punish horrifically. have a nice day, see yah later!"

    Just didn't seem noble.

    @Ari Paul

    I guess that in the case of B'elanna, since she was with a foreign ship, they didn't like that she was being punished for a rule she didn't know about and didn't have the training to suppress. However, the guy that was selling the thoughts knew about the rules and punishment, had a lifetime to train (which was successful, he couldn't think brutal thoughts like we can) and was native to the planet, they couldn't do much to stop them from punishing him.

    ["The exterior plot sketch of "Random Thoughts" may very well exemplify what Star Trek: Voyager is now all about: a relatively unchanging story setting where the ship and crew can fly in, meet some people, encounter and subsequently solve a problem, and then fly out. In a way, the setting of Voyager has turned into what TOS and TNG originally set out to be. I know this isn't exactly a news flash; Voyager's setting has always made it more TOS-like than the other Trek series of the decade. But after watching the original Voyager ideology disintegrate through two disappointing seasons followed by a wandering third, and now witnessing the first consistently entertaing opening stretch of a Voyager season (if a little on the slight side) that I can remember, I find myself realizing that perhaps this series can reconceptualize the TOS mentality for the 1990s—while simultaneously framing it within the Voyager alone-in-the-Delta-Quadrant premise."]

    Thank you for making it clear that you had never bothered to understand this show. Your criticisms of it strike me as incredibly shallow. Mind you, I have expressed criticisms of some of the show's episodes . . . just as I have criticized other Trek shows. But your perception of it strikes me as ridiculously shallow.

    The mind meld scene was intense. In fact I loved the whole B plot of Tuvok infiltrating the memory black market. The direction succeeded in establishing a menacing tone and seeing the "darker" side of Tuvok's mind was exciting. 7.5/10 episode for me.

    I’m not sure if this was taking an abortion or war-on-drugs approach. The thought that you cause more problems by making something illegal is an interesting notion. Much like Prohibition gave rise to organized crime in America, or how making abortion illegal leads to back-alley abortions that are even riskier, outlawing bad thoughts would logically give rise to underground violence porn. I’m surprised that there wasn’t a similar situation on Vulcan. I doubt that the whole planet said “well, we’re done with emotions!” I suppose the group that didn’t want to submit just said, “we’re out of here, and we’re calling ourselves Romulans now, losers!” At any rate, I found it to be great sci-fi 3 stars

    It’s absolutely HILARIOUS that they used Event Horizon clips. Paramount was thinking “well, Event Horizon is a complete box office turd, here Voyager, might as well wring some value out of it. It’s not like anyone will ever see it.”

    And then Event Horizon becomes a cult classic. Which makes it super funny, because along with the other horror movie clips, it looks like Tuvok likes to watch old horror movies. And it does fit in the Voyager universe because Paris is a buff of old films.

    Agreed that the homoeroticism was just obviously below the surface in the interplay between Tuvok and Guill. First thing I thought of during that scene.

    This is obviously a retread of TNG Justice.

    Justice was an early TNG episode. I actually rather liked it, but at the end of the day, the rational response to dealing with visitors that have completely different value systems, and more importantly, different expectations of punishment, is expulsion.

    The children of the god Edo were at least children. They were children, resulting in a necessary and valid deus ex mechani. But these people aren’t primitives. They quite clearly understand what they are trying to fight.

    It’s true that they ultimately find understanding here, but considering Janeway’s history in this quadrant... ok, it’s a story, but really Janeway’s big ass should have beamed up all Voyager crew and aborted this planet in great haste.

    I've been binge watching star trek for the first time all of this year (it's been getting me through all the lockdowns!), and as much as I'm enjoying voyager I am finding the "crew meets new aliens, new aliens are really friendly, crew didn't research customs, aliens didn't tell them customs, crewmate messes up, aliens are intolerant and aren't friendly anymore, crew has to rescue crewmate" trope a bit overused at this point.

    What if someone on that planet had some kind of neurotic thought disorder where they constantly had negative thoughts? They would purge their brain every 2 minutes? Living on a planet like that would be the worst invasion of privacy ever, but good episode

    Tuvok is utterly terrifying in this episode. The direction emphasizes his height, his strength, and how physically imposing he is. He rises out of the shadows and looms over his prey. He single-handedly takes on three or four bad guys. He stalks the shadows in slow-motion. He is shown to be in constant possession and control of oceans of dark, violent thoughts, thoughts that would cripple most minds. And he's utterly methodical as a security officer, smartly tracking down bad guys and even using himself as a sort of carrier-mule for "illegal evidence".

    The Tuvok we see in this episode is unlike any other Trek episode about Vulcans. We've seen violent Vulcans before, but they were all either psychotically unhinged or prim and effete. Most were outright bad guys. Tuvok here, though, is dangerous, has a weird kind of machismo, but it's all harnessed for the good.

    And this episode abounds with great scenes: Tuvok - his body shuddering with repressed emotion - confessing his love for the alien society. Tuvok engaging in powerful mind-melds. Two scenes in which Seven questions Starfleet ideology. A neat scene in which Paris sits in Janeway's chair. A shocking set of night-time scenes in which we learn of the alien black market. One hushed scene in which an alien reveals his hunger for violent imagery. Torres receiving Tuvok's praise (her ability to control her emotions impresses him). And so on and so on.

    What's interesting is how all the aforementioned good stuff, aesthetically clashes with everything else. The good stuff is all directed in an elegant, classy, shadowy, low-key way. And yet the rest of the episode is TOS/TNG Season 1 level cheese.

    But it's that loveable Trek cheese. We get big yellow melons next to alien cleavage. We get Neelix getting his sideburns masturbated. We get some hokey violent scenes. We get goofy flashbacks. We get a phony village. We get an utterly cartoonish alien society which ridiculously represses violent thoughts. We get the absurd rooms full of giant pipes on the wall. We get silly "brain scan" rooms and "giant pointy brain lasers".

    This half of the episode should be laughable, but it instead comes across as utterly charming. It's that shameless Trek aesthetic that is so hard to get right nowadays- like a big, lavish fable rendered by amateur actors at your local theater house. Yes, it's not perfect, but the fable - a tale of repression, sublimation, and the inevitable "return of the repressed" - captures many truths, so ultimately works.

    Personally, I didn't buy Tuvok's naivety and confusion in "Meld", an episode which most fans regard as Voyager's first great Tuvok episode. The Tuvok of "Random Thoughts", however, I buy completely. This is how a mature Vulcan acts. I find his behavior here to be very convincing, and would rank this episode as my favorite Vulcan episode in the show thus far.

    The budget must have been limited in this episode since all the aliens were exactly like humans with no make up on their faces, foreheads, whatever. They didn't even bother or try to distinguish the aliens from humans at all.

    @Ian (2014)

    "I do not like how Tuvok comes off very weak, at first, in his confrontation with the thought criminals. Also, why did not the ship simply not be allowed to leave and take their bad thoughts with them?"

    I agree that they should have beamed B'Elanna up and then hauled ass out of there. However, that probably would have violated some Starfleet protocol ("Obey local laws") — not that anyone in Starfleet would ever find out about their transgression. In an episode I saw a few days ago — it might have been "Nothing Human," the one with the big pastel-colored bug on Torres — Paris wanted something done about which the Starfleet rule book said, "Nuh-uh" and exclaimed, "We’re 8 gazillion light years from home; who's gonna know?" Tuvok said, "WE will know."

    I suppose the crew couldn’t locate Tuvok on the surface because he'd removed his combadge. First of all, wouldn’t they think they *had* located Tuvok and beamed up the combadge? We’ve seen that happen in other episodes. Or did one of the aliens step on it or something? Second, there’s only one Vulcan on that planet; how about scanning for Vulcan lifesigns?

    Random thoughts on "Random Thoughts":

    Neelix says, "I haven't been with anyone since Kes." At least in our culture, "I haven’t been with anyone since Kes" would probably be interpreted as "I haven’t had sex with anyone since Kes" or, more broadly, "I haven't had a sexual relationship with anyone since Kes." I’ve seen some posters here speculate that Neelix and Kes's relationship may not have been fully sexual.* There’s some evidence for that being the case, if you want to see it that way. When Kes is super-fertile in "Elogium," she says she wants to "mate" with Neelix, which could suggest they never have fully consummated their relationship, in the way humans think about that kind of thing. In English, the verb "to mate" can mean either "have coitus" or "procreate." Maybe for Talaxians and Ocampa, "mate" means specifically to conceive, not just have sex.

    * And if it was sexual, let's not have any of that "Neelix was a pedophile" nonsense. Kes may have been only two years old chronologically (in "Elogium"), but physically, emotionally, and mentally she was the equivalent of a young human woman.

    I mostly enjoyed the episode. What I don't get is why B'Elanna had to undergo an engramatic purge when all that was necessary to prevent her from influencing more telepaths was to simply remove her from the planet... which is exactly what would have happened anyway when Voyager departed.

    The rest of the episode was interesting, especially the depth psychology aspects.

    Jammer why donyou say we haven't had a groundbreaking yet..what constitutes a groundbreaking episode? Why did you nkt consider Scorpion 2 or Year of Hell or The Gift groundbreaking?

    I don't remember this episode, but I see that I commented on it earlier (on my last Voyager rewatch) I don't think there is much more to be said. As I said, the entire sci-fi purging is pure fantasy, but it really was handled in a way to make one think that this would be a bad thing, when it isn't

    @navamske I don't see it as sexual, but then again, I don't believe in sex outside of marriage. The courtship between Neelix and Kes is actually the most favoured one to me in the entire show. I don't see them doing anything immoral unlike some others (like Paris and Torres)

    @Michael Miller If they are going to use the sci-fi element of a thought purge, it would be best if those bad thoughts can be permanently deleted (instead of having to have treatments "every 2 minutes")

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