Even More From Jamelia...
(continued from page 2...)
Despite Kes' parting gift of flinging them ten years closer to home, the crew of the good ship Voyager must anticipate that they will be traveling for decades before returning home. They don't know that they are on a television show, or that they will probably be the recipient of a deus ex machina getting them home at the end of the series run, or possibly before, according to some rumors. A major appeal of the show for me has always been that they are truly Out There, explorers in the truest sense of the word. The comparison that has been made with The Odyssey is an excellent one, although I must say that I hope more of the crew is going to arrive home to the Alpha Quadrant than just Captain Janeway.
The premise sets up some very interesting situations, some of which have been exploited at long last. We have finally lost the Vidiians (whom I could have seen more of) and the Kazon (whom I am truly glad we have left behind for good). We have encountered and managed to survive the Borg, even re-assimilating one. Although the lack of supportive facilities was initially glossed over, with the ship miraculously repaired after the most terrible events (see "Deadlock"), lately the reset button hasn't always been pushed immediately. The grafted-on Borg technology from "Scorpion" was still being removed or incorporated into the ship's structure as of "Revulsion," several episodes later. Supplies are often short, and limited replicator rations are an ongoing fact of life.
(Let me interject here that let's let go of the lost shuttle counting situation, already. It's obvious they are building their own. Why do you think they are always looking for raw materials and on replicator rations? Lose a shuttle one week, the entire crew must suffer through meals from Neelix's Delta Quadrant Kitchen for the next month. End of rant.)
The really unique thing about Voyager's situation is that there can be no replacements from Starfleet Academy, eager to make their mark on Voyager so that they can be promoted and become captains of their own ship someday. Whenever one of Voyager's crew is killed, it is truly a tragedy for everyone on the ship as well as for the person who has died. Even if no one else is lost for the run of the series, the lack of replacements has become a serious problem.
I am sure that the Emergency Medical Hologram is a very competent physician, but does anyone truly think that he is going to be able to keep Tom Paris in one piece for the next fifty years or so if the helmsman continues playing the hero so often? Who is going to be tabbed for away team missions in forty years along with a doddering Tuvok, Harry Kim, and Sam Wildman's daughter (who reportedly will at long last get the name of Alixia this season)? This is a crew that needs a continuing supply of replacements.
There are three methods of crew acquisition that I can identify:
1. Recruit them from the Delta Quadrant, the way Neelix's services were obtained,
2. Abduct them, the way Seven-of-Nine was acquired, or
3. Grow their own. So far, Alixia is the only known example of this.
Since it is unlikely that Captain Janeway would be able to recruit a crew of Neelixes (or, much as I like the little guy, even want to) and would undoubtedly have reservations about kidnapping aliens wholesale, Option #3 seems to be the only likely avenue for crew expansion. Excluding test tube parenthood, that means that some serious reproductive activity needs to take place on Voyager, folks, and soon. Who might logically parent these future crewmembers?
When the show started, Kes and Neelix were lovers/an item/engaged-until-her-Elogium (pick one--it was never made very clear). Guess what's gone from the show?
Tuvok's wife is in the Alpha Quadrant. Now that we have had a taste of what the pon farr will be like on Voyager, we can only hope that the Doctor's holographic Vulcan mate can be perfected before then. Even if a living being ends up doing the honors, it is rather unlikely that many replacements can be expected from that quarter. Doing it once every seven years tends to have a population control effect.
The Doctor is a wonderful character, but unless Torres and her engineers can figure out a way to replicate his holo-emitter, he won't be much help providing replacement crew members, no matter how many holographic children he and Charlene produce.
Harry's having that girlfriend he left behind appears more and more mysterious. As his romantic ineptness is being played up by the writers, Garrett Wang could be excused for getting a little confused. Libby must have been a very aggressive girlfriend to corner Harry Kim into a relationship.
While I love the interaction that has already occurred between Harry and Seven, does anyone seriously believe that TPTB will allow that to go anywhere? From Seven's costumes alone, her position on Voyager is clear: she's the lure to get the male demographic watching the show regularly. Reportedly, it has been working. The ratings have been higher since she of the fantastic Borg/human body has come aboard. An ongoing relationship with Harry would jeopardize the male fantasies that are the raison d'Ítre of her character. Now, if only she were an alien of the week, there might be some possibility of relieving Harry's sexual tension. Those dilated pupils are a dead give away, aren't they, Harry?
I confess, my feminist credentials may become suspect by my admitting this, but I honestly don't mind Seven's costumes. I feel for the actress who has to emote and breathe in them, but the truth is, to one who was exposed to TOS's diaphanous, barely-there costumes in her formative years and who was a Dolly Parton fan for her self-deprecating sense of humor as much as her singing, I don't find them all that objectionable. Plenty of shape, virtually no skin. I could never even dream of having a body like that, of course, but as long as the actress is doing a credible job (and Jeri Ryan has been much more than merely credible in the role), I don't really notice the costume all that much. Now, my teenage sons and my husband are another story. They notice it, and eye-buggingly so.
And there's the rub. If TPTB want to attract the male audience, fine. Their fantasies are being accomodated by Seven, and I do not mind. Higher ratings means a longer run for my favorite show. The female audience's attachment to the show, though, seemingly is being taken for granted. Despite the fact that female humans wrote many (and I suspect most, if the truth were known) of the letters that saved TOS from extinction long enough for syndication to be viable and thereby making possible the eventual revival of the franchise, the female audience's reward has been to be frustrated by the lack of romantic attachments on Trek, except for those on DS9, A.K.A."The Love Station".
Have any of TPTB ever heard the expression, "What's good for the goose is good for the gander"?
It is a generally accepted fact that women like to see relationship stories. I love my science fiction plots, but having a couple in a long lasting relationship on Voyager would be nice, helping me willingly suspend that disbelief. I can hear the cries of "soap opera" arising from some quarters as I type this, but I have news for all of you: just because characters become lovers on television shows, it does not follow that the show automatically qualifies as a soap opera.
To use the police story genre as an example, NYPD Blue could not, by any stretch of the imagination, be called a soap opera, yet somehow the two main characters have had relationships that have lasted for a couple of seasons as of this writing, with no sign that either are ending. Bobby Simone and Dianne Russell are engaged, and Andy Sipowicz has been married to Sylvia Costas for over a year. The Sipowicz marriage has not been portrayed much lately because Sharon Lawrence has another series that is her primary focus, but the relationship has not been snuffed out. Bobby and Dianne had a turn in the bathtub a few weeks ago that makes anything that Kirk ever did downright puritanical in comparison. The fans of that show are happy, male or female, let me tell you.
In a show like Lois and Clark or Moonlighting where the entire show is carried by a couple, marriage between the principals has been detrimental to the run of the series. On an ensemble show like NYPD Blue, that does not seem to be so. Voyager is most definitely an ensemble show. It can carry an ongoing romance, maybe two, without sacrificing the show's possibilities for a close encounter with an "alien of the week."
Janeway and Chakotay have been dangled before the audience for a long while. I will confess that while I have been in favor of Paris/Torres since I saw "Faces," I am also in the Janeway/Chakotay camp. However, there are some legitimate concerns about their relationship which suggest to me that TPTB are handling their connection correctly. Apart from the usual "loneliness of command" and "possible abuse of power" issues mentioned before, there is another matter which needs to be delicately handled. If a female captain has a relationship with her male first officer, how will that be perceived by the television viewing audience at the end of the twentieth century?
We know, of course, that in the perfect world of the future, gender will no longer be an issue. (Right. Don't flame me for this, it will be the subject of a future essay, I'm sure.) In this day and age, however, Janeway's hopping into bed with Chakotay would be trotted out as another reason for her being inferior to the other captains on Trek. Even if the two were married, her "needing a man" would be criticized. Though it hasn't happened yet, as a point of fact, this criticism already has been voiced.
I am not advocating that Janeway should be celibate for seven or seventeen or fifty-seven more years. I certainly am not suggesting that she should be doing the Captain Kirk act in the Delta Quadrant, even if her love of growling "Battlestations" and tendency to let the chips fall where they may appear more Kirk-like all the time. I would love to see her finally get together with Chakotay, but it would need to be done carefully. Slowly. More off the screen, with mere hints to the crew rather than through obvious storylines. Consummation to take place during the last few episodes of the series run. Sort of what the show has been doing with the relationship, as a matter of fact.
This would appear to be more frustrating for our intrepid ex-Maquis first officer than iron-willed Kate. The caveat about the "abuse of power" being a risk for the first officer as well as the captain applies to Chakotay, too. Considering his history of trusting the wrong people, such as Seska and Riley, one would say that should Chakotay have a liaison with anyone other than Janeway, it would almost certainly be disastrous. That means Chakotay may be taking a lot of cold showers. One of the funnier Trek anecdotes I have ever heard was Robert Beltran's comment during a press conference last summer, when a smart-mouthed interviewer slammed him for his "stiff" acting. Beltran's alleged retort was that anyone who hasn't had sex in three years would be stiff.
According to TPTB, we are all to think that Janeway and Chakotay slept alone in their separate beds for a period of over three months in "Resolutions." Two people who respect each other, who are attracted to one another, and who fully expect that they have been exiled from contact with anyone else for the rest of their lives never once indulged in sex, even if only to comfort each other for the loss of the lives they had led on Voyager?
Right. Tell me another one.
I would rather think that once their scientific equipment was destroyed, they did settle into a close physical and emotional relationship. It certainly appeared that way during the scene when the communicator unexpectedly sounded to let Kathryn and Chakotay know that Voyager had found a cure for them after all. Instead of immediately packing up, they could have spared a couple of hours talking things over, deciding to nobly sacrifice their personal relationship For the Good of the Ship. I would have loved to see this, as it would have made certain scenes portrayed in "The Q and the Gray," "Future's End," "Coda," "Unity," and "Scorpion" more comprehensible.
Since TPTB did not spell it out, naturally I am free to have my opinion, and those who believed that Nothing Happened are free to have theirs. Maybe that is better, even though all of those longing looks and hints can be frustrating for the dedicatedly romantic J/Cer.
The one relationship that I really can't think of any reason not to pursue, however, is Paris and Torres. TPTB agreed with me for a while, it seemed. They are the same rank (Paris is "technically" her superior because he is a bridge officer who was made lieutenant two days before Torres was). Neither answers to the other in the ordinary order of ship's command. Since both had failed Starfleet careers and troubled (to be kind) family relationships in the Alpha Quadrant, neither one really has much of a life there to go home to. Making a new one with each other in the Delta Quadrant makes a lot of sense. They like one another, even though they often have a funny way of showing it. Their volatile personalities and insecurities promise that no relationship between the two of them would be boring. And, of course there's their respective sex drives.
B'Elanna Torres, She Who Has Inherited the Legendary Klingon Sexual Appetite, as well as the current holder of the title, Miracle Worker of the Engine Room formerly held by Mr. Scott of the Enterprise. Thomas Eugene Paris, the Designated Male Sex Machine of Voyager as well as the Best Damned Pilot You Could Ever Have. As "Blood Fever" (resolving the pon farr episode #2) proved, they can heat up a cavern. And neither has been getting any anywhere else.
If Tom Paris has had any sexual relationships in the last three years (other than perhaps with Megan Delaney, who was mentioned in the first season and again by him in the third season in "The Chute," which at least suggests an ongoing relationship), they have been carefully hidden. Tom was apparently guilty of bad judgment but not adultery in "Ex Post Facto," since the memories in the dead man's brain were artificially created. He had a strictly platonic relationship with Rain Robinson in "Future's End." He has been making overtures for the last year to Torres, yet when he had his chance to jump Torres' bones in "Blood Fever," he was too concerned about her welfare to take advantage of her inability to control her urges. In fact, he did his best to take care of her. And that, my friends, is it, unless there is someone I missed somewhere.
As Robert Duncan McNeill once pointed out, the holographic Doctor has had more romances than Tom Paris. If the pilot is the Kirk-clone, then Starfleet has certainly changed. Anyone willing to back the bet that Kirk or Riker would be as considerate of B'Elanna's well-being as Tom was, given her "imperative" to mate? Riker? Possibly, but he wouldn't have held out as long as Tom did. Kirk? Please, don't make me laugh.
Our half-Klingon engineer hasn't had it much better. She has been, to all appearances, the ultimate career woman, dedicated to her work as chief engineer, while living "like a Tabern monk." If there has been a romance with Harry Kim, I missed it somehow. (Please, K/Ters, I am discussing what has been shown on the screen, not what some of you wish it to be. Forgive me.) As Roxann Dawson has been saying lately at convention appearances, "The love scene with Chakotay in "Persistence of Vision" was a dream. The love scenes telepathically transferred to B'Elanna in "Remember" were dreams. The love scene I filmed last week was not a dream. Tom, of course, is the non-dream lover.
Everyman and Everywoman, the man who is trying to survive his past mistakes (who hasn't had to deal with that?) and the woman with traits of personality and appearance that she wishes she didn't have (who hasn't felt like that, either?). Their love story screams "archetype." Over the past year, the romance has gradually progressed until B'Elanna finally admitted to Tom she loved him, even though it took a near-death experience to pry it out of her. Tom has been able to say that he "cares" about her; though, by his actions, he appears to feel a lot more than simple caring. I was ecstatic that at least once we might see a relationship between two regular characters on Trek evolve over time, to come to fruition in a meaningful, long-term, and, dare I say it, committed relationship. Like getting married to each other, say, not as a plot device, like the O'Brien marriage in "Data's Day," but as a natural and predictable consequence of the development of the two characters over time.
Because of the ongoing courtship between Tom and B'Elanna, I was thrilled to hear that Roxann Dawson was expecting a baby. Gates McFadden's pregnancy had to be hidden with a medical lab coat and strategically placed chairs. Nana Visitor's pregnancy with the child she bore to new husband Alexander Siddig had to be explained by a shuttlecraft accident, with the child being carried for Keiko O'Brien. Here, there would be no need for crazy explanations or hiding of bellies. Paris has been actively pursuing Torres romantically for a year; they have been friends and close colleagues for at least two. The relationship had heated up. I can think of at least four, and possibly five plausible ways that our half-human, half-Klingon engineer could get caught by an unexpected pregnancy. With new character Seven attracting so much story time, this story arc seemed ideal. It would allow B'Elanna Torres to be a visible participant in the ship's activities while enceinte, while the sorely neglected Tom Paris finally might get a chance to develop as a character. It seemed like an opportunity too good for TPTB to pass up.
Wrong. Instead of exploring the personal, moral and ethical dilemmas that would face Torres and Paris in this scenario, a realistic situation that could enhance that "willing suspension of disbelief " we need to balance out all the science fiction technobabble that assaults us each week, we are going to get Chief Engineer Torres in an "engineer's smock" with tools hiding her burgeoning form.
All the press ink this season has been about Seven-of-Nine. I like the character, and Jeri Ryan is doing a good job, but why restict all the publicity just to Seven? As it happens, Mr. and Mrs. McNeill are expecting their third child at the same time that Mr. and Mrs. Dawson are welcoming their first. Rather than take advantage of the publicity value inherent in the fact that at the same time both are expecting new babies in real life, Tom and B'Elanna on Voyager would have their own bundle of joy, TPTB are ignoring the whole thing. I don't expect to see much of Roxann Dawson on screen for months, and Robbie McNeill must be gnashing his teeth that once again, a chance to give him a meaningful story line has been shunted aside (Sorry, Roxann and Robbie).
Allow me a reprise: Can anyone say, "missed opportunity," Boys and Girls?
The most hysterical reason for changing gears on this (since apparently the original plan was for the baby to be written into the plotlines) is that it is "too soon" in the relationship between Tom and B'Elanna for this to come up. Now, if what appears to be extremely reliable advance word about "Scientific Method" is true, TPTB are leaving no doubt that Tom and B'Elanna are sexually active in that episode. In the context of the long history of bed hopping that Kirk, Riker, Bashir and the rest have done, saying that an unexpected, out-of-wedlock pregnancy would be "unacceptable" to the public seems pretty ludicrous. Apparently there's nothing wrong in showing sexual behavior between unmarried people as long as the consequences are never acknowledged.
Personal responsibility? What's that?
So, what does this all suggest? On Voyager and Star Trek in general, sex is okay as long as it's kept casual and there isn't a long term relationship to bollux up the works. Sex is permissable with aliens-of-the-week. In fact, aliens in general are allowed to have sex (I have a hunch Tom would have continued to be a very frustrated playboy if B'Elanna weren't half-Klingon). Tittilatingly skimpy or painted-on costumes are to be displayed at every opportunity. Committed relationships can occur only if we don't see them actually developing. Children born out of wedlock are acceptable as long as we don't meet them until they are adults or, as with Alexander, at least are capable of speech.
Apparently, conflict that comes from the ups and downs of a complex relationship between lovers who are regular crew members is not dramatic enough for Trek. Two officers struggling to establish both working and personal day-to-day relationships with one another is unacceptable. The idea that two people might find love and comfort with each other, carving out a life for themselves and their child far from home, isolated from their natural family members, cannot be allowed. The consequences of having sex with someone you care about, having to deal with the moral and ethical dilemma of unexpectedly conceiving a child in an uncertain environment, is not worthy of being examined on screen (Sorry, B'Elanna and Tom).
According to the New Lexicon Webster's Dictionary of the English Language, the definition of "Trek" is "a long and tedious journey."
I don't know about you, but the gloriously enlightened twenty-fourth century seems farther away than ever.
Janet Amelia Toner 10/20/97
An addendum from Jamelia, dated 8/15/98:
I've been to a few conventions lately. Robbie McNeill was at Vulkon/Cleveland, and Shore Leave in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Roxann Dawson was at Novacon in Tyson's Corners, Virginia. Both are quite accepting, now that the fourth season is over, that the baby was not written into the script (Well, actually, they were accepting before, too, officially. Whether they are stating their true feelings about this is another story that I am not privy to.)
Robbie said something at Shore Leave, however, in response to a question, that has mollified my position about why the baby was not written into the show. Basically, it was that thankfully, both Emma Dawson and Carter Jay McNeill arrived into the world within a week of each other in January, 1998, and they are thriving. But what if they hadn't? What if Roxann had delivered prematurely, and because of the exigencies of the show, had to continue to be pregnant? It would have been extremely hard on her. And, while Robbie didn't say it, if something had happened with his own wife's pregnancy, it wouldn't have been pleasant for him, either.
Now, I don't have any "secret" information to impart. But, from various sources, it would appear than neither Roxann nor Carol McNeill had easy pregnancies. So, perhaps the often-derided "powers that be" did them both a favor by keeping the pregnancy out of the story line. I'm sure that Married With Children's producers wished they had when Katie Sagal's pregnancy during the run of that show ended tragically. (Thankfully, a subsequent pregnancy resulted in the birth of a healthy son to Katie.)
Now, I am not softening my position about the idea that Trek is very good at showing brief, one-time flings and chary about showing consequences or long-term relationships. I strongly believe that Tom and B'Elanna should, at the very least, be permitted to have a long-term and eventually, committed-to-each-other relationship. Hey, if Robbie wants a love scene or two with another actress or two before "settling down" with B'Elanna, I've got a script idea or two to offer. But I will forgive TPTB for not writing in Roxann's pregnancy this time, if the reason was because they were concerned about her well-being if things hadn't gone well.
But that doesn't exonerate them completely, particularly when the loss of Terry Farrell over at DS9 means that story line is kaput. So why can't Tom and B'Elanna end up with a kid later on? Huh?
Nah. Never happen.
Read More of Jamelia's Work: With Jamelia in the Delta Quad