In the 30th anniversary celebration of Star Trek, Voyager visits Tuvok’s past and someone special shows up.  Originally broadcast on September 11, 1996, this is Flashback.

The Episode:

Captain’s Log Stardate 50126.4 Flashback

Tuvok has a mental breakdown as Voyager enters a nebula, and Janeway, via a mind-meld, accompanies him back in time to the USS Excelsior.

The Story:

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After another one of Neelix’ fateful breakfasts, Tuvok and Neelix head to the bridge to discuss a nearby anomaly and it’s potential for much needed elements within.  Bringing the nebula onto the screen causes some unexpected results when Tuvok begins to have a flashback of himself as a child watching a young girl fall to her death.  Requesting to report to sickbay, Tuvok collapses to the floor upon his arrival.

Tuvok tells The Doctor and Kes of his vision although he does not know how this memory got into his head as he does not believe it to be his.  The Doctor activates a neurocortical monitor in case of future attacks.

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On the Bridge, Kim can not find anything that could have effected Tuvok in such a way but when Tuvok suggests scanning for cloaked Klingon ships in the nebula, everyone knows that something is wrong.  Being struck with vision again, Tubok is taken to the sickbay where the Doctor suggests that a mind-meld with someone Tuvok trusts may be in order. Janeway agrees to the mind meld and soon finds herself on the bridge of the USS Excelsior in the presence of Captain Hikaru Sulu.

Immediately it is clear that the Excelsior is in the middle of a battle with Klingon ships.  Sulu maintains his composure as Commander Janice Rand provides a damage report.  Hunched over the body of a dead crewman, Tuvok and Janeway are shocked to be in this unexpected place. Tuvok explains the situation to Janeway informing her of the events that took place leading up to this event.

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Flashing back further, we find Ensign Tuvok preparing tea for Captain Sulu.  Tuvok provides Sulu with tea, after getting ribbed by Rand for trying to get a promotion which Sulu also comments on, Janeway finds herself somewhat enthralled by experiencing the history in front of her.  She soon notes that Tuvok is stationed at the science post and asks why his assignment to the Excelsior is not on his served record. Reluctant to discuss the matter, he reveals that this was his first assignment and that moment is just before the destruction of the Klingon Moon, Praxis leading to a peace treaty between the Federation and the Klingons.

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The ship shakes and Sulu discovers that Praxis has indeed exploded. Passing through the shock-wave they attempt communication with the Klingons to offer assistance but are told to keep their distance.  A few days later it is reported that Kirk and McCoy have been arrested for the assassination of the Klingon Chancellor and, Sulu goes against orders in order to save them.  Tuvok informs Janeway that he was one of the few officers on the ship to disagree with the rescue attempt citing it to be irresponsible and against regulations. Sulu tries to explain that there is a certain loyalty that must be maintained and he will do all he can to save his friends. Janeway assures Tuvok that he was well within his rights to question these orders but Tuvok now has his doubts now that he has more experience.

Sulu orders the ship into the Azure Nebula in order to slip into Klingon Space and, upon it’s appearance on screen, Tuvok has his flashback to the girl falling from the cliff.  Janeway notes that the Nebula in the past and the one in the present look similar but they are both pulled out when the mind meld is broken.

With Tuvok now unconscious, Janeway begins her own investigation into the Nebula and it’s connection to her tactical officer’s past. Learning that the two Nebula are very different, Janeway is unsure as to why it has caused this mental break in her officer. Upon his revival, Tuvok re-melds with Janeway to finish their exploration of his past.

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They once again find themselves over the body of Demitri Valtane and Janeway believes there is something to that. Taking themselves back to when the Excelsior is traveling through the nebula, they find themselves back in Tuvok’s quarters.  It seems Valtane was Tuvok’s bunk-mate and he wants to discuss the situation they are in.  Disagreeing with Tuvok it is clear that Valtane admires Sulu’s rescue efforts, but Tuvok makes it abundantly clear that he does not. After a brief discussion, Tuvok explains to Janeway that he retired from Star Fleet after this incident as it was not his choice to join and he could not handle the bias presented by humans and Starfleet.  Returning to Vulcan to study the Kolinahr he eventually joined with T’Pel and started a family only to return to Starfleet sometime later in order to learn more about the universe and other species.  Tuvok’s discussion is interrupted when the ship shakes after a de-cloaked Klingon ship begins it’s attack from within the Nebula.

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The crew of the Excelsior finds itself under attack by Kang himself who challenges Captain Sulu in his reason for being in Klingon space.  Sulu ‘agrees’ to return to Federation space but continues to watch for a way to escape their Klingon ‘escort’. Noticing that they could use the gas in the anomaly as a weapon against the Klingon ship, Sulu works with Tuvok to device a way to disrupt the Klingon vessel without destroying it.   Using a positron beam, the Excelsior ignites the nebula allowing the Federation ship to resume course to Qo’noS where Kirk and McCoy are being held. Unfortunately the ship is met by three Klingon battle cruisers and Janeway watches as Tuvok tries to help his friend Valtane after Valtane’s console explodes. Just as Valtane dies the memory of the girl returns causing Tuvok additional brain damage.  Keeping the connection with Janeway established, Janeway realizes that the repressed memory and Valtane are connected but Tuvok notes that something is wrong.  Sulu turns to Janeway and demands to know why she is there.

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On Voyager The Doctor scrambles to save both Tuvok and Janeway as Tuvok has only 20 minutes until brain death. Unable to separate them due to their engrams being locked together, The Doctor begins to use Thoron Radiation to attempt to separate them.  He soon finds that a virus has infiltrated Tuvok’s mind and has made itself look like a memory engram.

After nearly being ‘Arrested’ in the memory, Janeway and Tuvok travel back and take Janice Rand’s uniform for Janeway so that the memory can go unchanged.  As they both return to the moment of Valtane’s death the Doctor manages to eliminate the virus allowing the memory to play as it should.  The event on the precipice now shows a young Valtane holding onto a young girl but then flashes to different children.  It seems this virus moved from Valtane at the end of his life and has lived in Tuvok for nearly 80 years.

Now healed, Janeway is curious about the results of the attempted rescue.  Tuvok informs her that the Excelsior was unsuccessful but, as usual, Kirk and McCoy found a way to survive.  While not nostalgic for the past, he admits that meeting Kirk, McCoy and Spock soon after was a highlight of his career.

Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:

Oh man.  Talk about a great way to celebrate the anniversary of Star Trek.  Not only do we get a chance to learn more about Tuvok, we get a previously unseen adventure of the USS Excelsior under the command of Captain Sulu.  I have to admit, after watching this episode I longed for a new series or even a feature film depicting Sulu and his command of the Excelsior.  Sadly this never occurred but I have to express how thankful I am to have had this small glimpse into this time.

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Exploring the vastly unexplored time-frame of Star Trek Undiscovered Country Era Star Trek is certainly a treat.  While Sulu’s appearance as a Captain was somewhat brief in Undiscovered Country (relatively speaking), that appearance made waves in the fandom as it showed us the considerable growth our favorite characters experienced since the original series.  For Helmsman Sulu to rise to the rank of Captain and be in command of one of the most powerful starships in the fleet was nothing to balk at.  He was now, officially, on the same level as that of Captain Kirk himself and would go down in history as one of the finest Captain’s in Starfleet even being honored with his holographic portrait being placed in Starfleet Headquarters.

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Not only do we get the return of Sulu but also that of Janice Rand as well as a few other crewmen last seen in the feature film Star Trek The Undiscovered Country.  Now a Lieutenant and the Communication Officer aboard the Excelsior, Janice Rand was first seen as a Yeoman aboard the original USS Enterprise under James Kirk. Portrayed by actor Grace Lee Whitney we have only caught glimpses of her career in moments from Star Trek The Motion Picture to The Voyage Home so it was incredible to see her once again and in such an influential place in Tuvok’s life.  Additionally, the return of Jeremy Roberts as Valtane and Boris Krutonog as Lojur really helped to firmly connect this episode with the events of Undiscovered Country in a way that could not be challenged.

One other major standout is the appearance of the Klingon Kang played by Michael Ansara.  This appearance marks Ansara’s appearance on three Star Trek series as the same character, an honor reserved for only a handful of Star Trek actors.   This appearance makes for even more of a depth for both his character, who also appears on DS9 in Blood Oath, while also creating some very intriguing continuity showing that this Klingon Captain continued his service for the empire well into his old age making his final journey in Deep Space Nine all the more powerful.

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It is rare for a series to have a clever way to explore the past without using Time Travel as a crutch, and boy did this episode succeed. But  while the incredible appearance of the Excelsior crew and the exploration of previously unseen moments in Star Trek Undiscovered Country was cool, one key aspect of this episode is that of Tuvok and his past.  For the first time in the series we get a deeper and immensely satisfying backstory for the Tactical Commander of the USS Voyager.

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Until now we didn’t know a lot about Janeway’s Vulcan confidant other than his deep history with Janeway herself. In this episode we are finally exposed to, not only his time on the Excelsior, but also learn that he has evolved as a person from his first, rather unpleasant, encounter with humanity.  It is interesting to note that Ensign Tuvok’s attitude toward humanity is very similar to that of the earlier Vulcan’s who appear in Enterprise.  He doesn’t care for the brash nature of humans and this nearly ruined the career of a young Tuvok. With this new backstory, the character of Tuvok and his rather brash behavior at times makes much more sense but this would also allow the actor, Tim Russ, to dive deeper into the character he portrayed.

Overall, Flashback is a brilliant story that allows for some very fun exploration of both Tuvok’s and Star Fleet’s history in the late 23rd century.  It is episodes like this that make this series such a joy to watch despite the rather uneven nature of the series as a whole. Once again, while we never got the rumored Captain Sulu series, I have to say it was nice to see him on the screen one last time.

Gleanings and Cool Bits:

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  • 0 photon torpedoes fired, 29 remaining.
  • 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, 5 remaining.
  • We learn, through conversation, that there are other Vulcans aboard USS Voyager.
  • We learn that Tuvok’s father served on the USS Yorktown, indicating that this is why his parents ‘forced’ his entry into Starfleet.
  • One Aspect I LOVED in this is the appearance of a teacup that breaks in the film Undiscovered Country.  This teacup get’s an origin story of it’s own as it happens to be the cup giving to Sulu by Tuvok himself.
  • It is established that Tuvok met Kirk, Spock, McCoy and others from the Starship Enterprise.
  • We never discover the origin of the virus or if the girl in the vision was ever real.

Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review,  I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!  Next Review: The Chute

If you would like to read more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

Late To The Game  7/10/2020

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We also learn that Tuvok is a champion Vulcan Jenga Player. Who knew?

Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available.  Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.

Star Trek and all related marks, logos and characters are solely owned by CBS Studios Inc. This fan production is not endorsed by, sponsored by, nor affiliated with CBS, Paramount Pictures, or any other Star Trek franchise, and is a non-commercial fan-made production intended for recreational use.  No commercial exhibition or distribution is permitted. No alleged independent rights will be asserted against CBS or Paramount Pictures.”

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