Klingon hell. For a race that is all about pain, suffering, beating the crap out of one another and, oh yeah, honor, you would think that their hell would be pretty terrible. If they do that to themselves in life I can’t imagine what they would consider going through hell. Maybe it’s twenty four hour cuddles? Anyhow, B’Elanna faces her own Klingon Hell in the episode that originally aired on October 6, 1999, this is Barge of the Dead.
Captain’s Log Stardate Undetermined: Barge Of The Dead
When B’Elanna finds a metal fragment that might be from a Klingon ship, she begins to have visions of the fabled Klingon Barge of the Dead and her mother who may be going to Hell because B’Elanna never became a true ‘Klingon’.
After a near death accident in a shuttlecraft, B’Elanna begins having strange encounters with a piece of metal that was lodged in her ships port nacelle. After analyzing it, several of her shipmates begin acting strangely Klingon in nature and she suddenly finds herself on a barge filled with Klingons on her way to Gre’thor.
Shocked, she demands to know why she is there but is given no answers, only a brand that does not take. Soon she see’s her mother, Miral, appear on the barge with her only for B’Elanna to awaken in sickbacy confused and frightened.
In sickbay, The Doctor informs her that her shuttle was badly damaged and she has just emerged from a coma. Despite what she experienced, she recovered no artifact and, in fact, has not been awake until now. Talking with Chakotay, B’Elanna is convinced that she was dead and had actually gone to the Klingon Underworld where she saw her mother. Chakotay assured her that it was only her brain’s way of dealing with the trauma but she is not convinced. Soon, after she learns that, according to Klingon scripture, B’Elanna’s mother may be being sent to Gre’thor for B’Elanna’s dishonor and the only way to save her is to return to the Barge of the Dead.
After convincing Janeway to allow her to be returned to a coma state so that B’Elanna can save her mother, B’Elanna reports to sickbay to do just that. Given only an hour in a coma state, the Klingon Engineer soon finds herself back on the barge in full Klingon armour.
Finding her mother, B’Elanna and Miral pick up an argument that they have been having for much of B’Elanna’s adult life. Miral blames Torres for dishonoring them both despite Miral’s every effort to provide her daughter with the means to live an honorable life. After the argument, Torres is taken to Kortar, the shipmaster, and demands that she be allowed to take her mother’s place in Gre’thor. Despite Miral’s plea’s to the contrary, Kortar accepts and B’Elanna is taking through the gates of Gre’thor allowing her mother to go to Sto’vo’kor.
On Voyager, B’Elanna takes a turn for the worse and they begin to revive her. Torres awakes on Voyager, still wearing her Klingon Armour and is told that she is now in hell. Confused, she claims she never though of Voyager as Hell but the versions of her crewmates in Gre’thor feel differently. As her body dies, the visions of her crewmates talk about how B’Elanna never tried to be among them, to acccept their friendship and thus she has died a solitary life. She is soon attacked by a vision of Tuvok only to awaken back on the Barge where her mother is waiting for her. Miral tells her that it is not her time to die and that Torres needs to choose to live. Miral assures B’Elanna that they will see one another again, maybe even when B’Elanna gets home.
B’Elanna finally confronts the visions of her crewmates and learns that they are not her enemies and she does not have to always defend herself from them. She awakens in sickbay where Janeway welcomes her back.
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
I remember this episode being much better than it actually is and that kinda dissapoints me. I love a good Klingon Story and that coupled with a story exploring B’Elanna’s heritage is almost too good to be true but this episode just falls a little flat for some reason.
There is not any single ‘thing’ in the episode that makes this feel off but a combination of things that make this story feel less than natural. Throughput the series both Chakotay and Janeway have made it a massive point to honor and believe in the spirituality of the crew, even allowing that spirituality to put crewmembers in danger at times. However, for some reason, when it comes to B’Elanna (or really anyone else on the ship), the pursuit of spirituality is treated as an extreme request that the requestor has to practically beg for. The fact that not only did Chakotay all but dismiss B’Elanna having journeyed into the Klingon Afterlife and for B’Elanna to have to nearly insult the Captain to get permission to get to even consider going back felt so out of place that those moments all but disrupted the flow of the story creating a false conflict that was not needed in the least.
That beings said, Roxann Dawson was tremendous in this episode. It is fun to watch her dive in to Torres’ Klingon culture while we get to learn a little more about the Klingon afterlife. Dawson is a fabulous actor and really any chance to see her work is worth while. This episode also marks a significant shift in the character of B’Elanna as she learns to embrace not only her own culture but also begin to accept her crewmates as her friends and family. This event goes a long way to help set the stage for her and Tom Paris to finally marry and start a family.
One thing that really threw me in this is my memories of this episode were entirely wrong in the casting of a certain Klingon character. I vividly remember Kate Mulgrew playing the part of Miral, B’Elanna’s mother, but she is played by Karen Austin instead. While Austin does a tremendous job, for some reason I have specific memories of Mulgrew in that role as I always wondered if B’Elanna thought it odd how her mother and Janeway had a similarity beyond just attitude. Whether this is my own private Mandela Effect or I somehow slipped in an alternate universe, I will never know but on this viewing, it was not Mulgrew and that also somehow disappoints me.
Overall, not a terrible episode but one that still falls flat despite it’s weighty subject matter. Honestly, it would have been better if the entire episode was the Voyager crew trying to save B’Elanna as she fought to save her mother but what we got was a halfhearted attempt at Klingon lore and personal growth. Oh well, moving on.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, -14 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -4 remaining
- We see Klingon Afterlife, so there is that.
- It is never determined if Miral is actually dead or not as we never see B’Elanna actually return to her family.
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: Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy
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Late To The Game 1/6/2021
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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