Thought crimes. Ever since the novel 1984, the term has become synonymous with extreme dystopian societies. What if you were on a planet of telepaths and your thoughts were as open as your very words? This is explored on the episode that originally aired on November 19, 1997. This is Random Thoughts.
Captain’s Log Stardate 51367.2 Random Thoughts.
B’Elanna is arrested and subjected to criminal prosecution for violent thoughts while visiting a planet of telepaths. Now it is up to Janeway and her crew to find a way to save their fellow crew-member.
Visiting a planet of Telepaths, B’Elanna and Janeway begin negotiating for some supplies with a man named Guill. While the negotiations proceed, one of the Mari bump into B’Elanna causing her to get angry but all is calmed when he apologizes. Moments later that same man acts out in a violent manner toward someone else only to claim he did not understand why he acted as such. Soon Tuvok and Chief Examiner Nimira arrive, having just toured Voyagers security measures, and Nimira arrests Torres for putting violent thoughts into the aggressors head claiming that, because the thoughts originated from Torres, the crime is her fault. Janeway is appalled at the idea that someone could be arrested for their thoughts but Nimira explains that this is the only way to maintain peace with this race of telepaths. All violent thoughts will be purged from B’Elanna’s mind so that she no longer has these tendencies and will be safer to be around.
Not long after, another violent episode erupts, this time claiming a woman Neelix had taken a liking to. Working with Tuvok, Nimira agrees that this murder and the previous incident are connected but still believes that it all stems from B’Elanna’s stray thoughts. Tuvok initiates a mind meld with B’Elanna and they both discover that Guill has a secret he had been hiding.
Tuvok goes to talk with Guill and soon discovers that this peddler has been doing more than selling supplies. It seems he also sells violent images to others via a black market. Tuvok, hoping to catch him in the act offers to ‘sell’ Guill some of his own violent images. Accepting the offer, Tuvok learns that there is a vast black market for ‘illegal’ feelings and mental imagery. Tuvok asks about the thought that Guill took from Torres but the peddler claims he is not in possession of it. Attempting to leave and take this evidence to Nimira, Tuvok is attacked and kidnapped.
With Tuvok missing and no additional evidence has been presented, Nimira informs Janeway that Torres’ procedure with be conducted post haste. Despite their protests, it is clear there is nothing Janeway or Paris can do to stop it.
Soon Tuvok returns to the ship with Guill having overwhelmed the black market peddler with some seriously violent images held deep within the Vulcan’s mind. Tuvok stops the procedure from continuing citing his new evidence of this Black Market and Nimira finally releases Torres despite the procedure having already been started. It seems that the citizens of Mari have a dark secret and desire to obtain violent images and Nimira has her work cut out for her.
Back on the ship the Doctor is able to reverse the damage done by the engramatic purge and Tuvok offers to help Torres with her violent tendencies, finally understanding how hard it is for her to manage her Klingon nature.
In the end, Seven recommends to Janeway that the Captain stop putting the crew at such unnecessary risk by exploring and meeting other cultures like this. Janeway explains that, while they are on a mission to get home, it is Star Fleet’s mission to ‘Explore New Worlds and Seek Out New Life and New Civilizations.’ While it may be safer to make a direct line home, it would deprive them of valuable knowledge even if that knowledge comes with a risk.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
The concept of illicit material and the attempt to prevent it’s distribution is not a new concept. From the beginning of civilization there has been something that society has deemed inappropriate that could result in severe consequences. Even in modern society things like pornography and even violence in comics and films have come under the scrutiny of government officials. However, with any regulation there will always be those who refuse to accept the restrictions, eventually forming a black market to trade in such contraband. The thing most societies forget is that the tighter you restrict something, the more people want it. I mean just look at the biblical origins of humanity…there was a forbidden fruit and we all know what happened with that.
The thing that makes this episode interesting is that we get a chance to really dive into both Torres’ and Tuvok’s minds in a way that we really haven’t seen before. For Torres, it is not surprising that she has some repressed violent tenancies but we really didn’t realize how much she held back and how much she struggled with these feelings. This episode really finally addresses that Torres is more at war with herself than she is with others and it is that single fact that explains her constant agitation. You can almost forgive the Chief Engineer’s gruff attitude knowing that, in a way, she is constantly in pain.
Then there is Tuvok. For years we have been told that Vulcan’s have not eliminated emotion but have learned to control it. It has been said that Vulcans actually have very deep and very potent emotions that, should they be exposed, would be overwhelming at best. A Vulcan fully un-tethered by any of the teachings of Surak would likely be far more violent and far more dangerous than even the most viscous of Klingons. Tuvok finally shows gives us a hint of those repressed emotions and thoughts while dealing with Mr Guill on the planet. Boy are those visions dark! Much like Tuvok having a newfound respect for Torres, after discovering how much Vulcans go through to suppress their emotions you have to have a newfound respect for them as well.
One aspect I do love about this episode is that the series gets a bit of a chastising by it’s newest crew-member. As Seven has just joined the crew it is fun when we get a chance to see things from her perspective. While discussing the matter with some of the crew members, Seven makes it clear that she disapproves of the way Voyager likes to ‘explore’ without first determining if the species or planet is safe for the crew. This comment by Seven to both Neelix and Janeway is a direct response to the fans who have called out Janeway for recklessly putting the ship and crew in danger while exploring the Delta Quadrant while also wasting time on their journey home. Janeway quickly puts an end to this judgement by referencing the original mission of seeking out new life, etc etc. This also seems to be a direct response to fans basically telling people to deal with it, this show is about exploration and would be rather boring if it was just a ship going home.
After the incredible events of the Year of Hell two parter, it is no surprise that we get a more subdued story, if not snarky, episode, that, while interesting, is really more filler than anything. While the episode does give some good character insight into both Torres and Tuvok it really serves as nothing more than a resting point for viewers. I mean, it’s not like the show could handle another all out action episode right after literally screwing around with time, although none of that actually happened so….
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 22 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -1 remaining
- Tuvok once again uses the Vulcan mind meld to help solve a crime. Seems the Deus Ex Vulcana is alive and well.
- If you pay attention to the images Tuvok has in his head you may get the idea that he is fan of 20th century horror films as several of the images come directly from the film Event Horizon.
- Neelix laments the difficulties of dating telepaths although he spent several years with Kes and even tried to start a relationship with a Mari woman. I guess he is a glutton for punishment.
- We also learn that the Talaxian Whiskers are an erogenous zone much like the lobes of the Ferengi. Bet you’ll never look at Neelix’s facial hair the same again!
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: Concerning Flight
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.
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Late To The Game 9/28/2020
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.
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