Star Trek Voyager: Displaced

"Tell me that doesn't put a knot in your stomach."

A mysterious alien suddenly appears to interrupt Tom and B'Elanna's latest spat.

This is one of those episodes that I know probably won't be troubling anyone's Top 10 lists, but I really like it.

At first, the seemingly random appearance of an alien for no reason, and then the discovery of the random disappearance of a Voyager crew-member (poor Kes gets nabbed first), seems really cool and creepy. It's almost spooky, the blinking in and out of people with no warning.

Then when we realise what's actually happening, it's revealed to be a really ingenious method of hostile takeover. The aliens appear bewildered and helpless for ages, and by the time the crew has worked out that they're not, it's too late – too many crew-members have disappeared and they're now outnumbered by the aliens. Perhaps when they try this on less trusting, more suspicious alien races, the Nyrians have more trouble. But although Janeway does confine them to one area and put a security detail on them, our well-meaning Starfleet crew are just a little too slow to take action. Plus, if they're some distance from a planet to land on, they'd struggle to do anything anyway – that's the genius of the plan.

It's nice that Chakotay ends up working with a bunch of random crew-members as the crew gets thinned out, so it's not just the senior bridge crew all the time. On the other hand, this raises the unfortunate suggestion that the Nyrians' weapons aren't stunning, but killing all these people, and therefore they all had to be expendable ensigns. Let's hope the disappearance of their bodies means they were just stunned and transported to the habitat! Janeway's reaction to the population listing of 148 (no horrified shock that half a dozen crew have been killed) suggests that's the case.

Chakotay realising that he's the last crew-member left and running around sabotaging as much as possible before he's snatched makes for some nice mid-point action, and then the episode shifts into a different gear. The "human habitat" is quite fun, but with Voyager's entire crew shoved in there (not that we see them all at once, of course – the sets aren't that big!) it's hard to get a sense of the crew being trapped in a zoo exhibit style set-up.

But of course the most fun thing about the latter part of the episode, and one of the big reasons I like it so much, is all the cute Tom/B'Elanna shipping stuff. B'Elanna's tetchiness over the Klingon programme is a bit odd considering she was reading Klingon romance novels for fun two episodes ago, but then, her feelings about her Klingon heritage have always been complicated and conflicting. The Doctor ruining a perfectly good apology and reconciliation is hilarious, and a perfect use of his sometimes poor social skills.

Driving the two of them into a freezing cold environment is a bit of an obvious way to engineer some romance, especially when you throw in a Klingon intolerance of cold. The dialogue is fairly on the nose too, as B'Elanna observes at the end of the episode that things got "chilly" for a while. But I don't care, it's cute. They make a good couple, with their constant sparring managing to stay genuinely cute and romantic (and not just irritating or an indication that they really shouldn't be together) and the slow build of their deepening friendship is a really nice way of approaching this storyline.

Lots of different cast members get little moments here – little jokes, things to do. That's relatively rare, as, with a fairly big cast, more often than not everyone who's not the subject of the major storylines tends to be relegated to technobabble. Here, Chakotay, Janeway, Tom, and B'Elanna all get a fair bit of plot work while the Doctor and Tuvok both get some nice little humourous moments. All in all, this is a really enjoyable little episode, and a very good one for the Tom/B'Elanna shippers.

Bits and pieces

 - The habitat is, to quote Paris, "like an idyllic version of Earth" which was made especially for them. Which begs the question, why are Kes, Tuvok, and presumably Neelix, and Vorik there? Clearly it wasn't worth building habitats for each separate species, so they just went with the majority.

 - These are smart aliens – once they get control of the ship, they try to delete the Doctor's programme, meaning he can't fight off the attack by himself or with minimal help, as he usually does in these situations.

 - The Nyrians don't like war and cruelty, but it's not entirely clear why they go to so much trouble to keep their captives alive and happy. Presumably they hang on to them partly in case they need any help with the captured ship's technology.

 - Tuvok "improvising" with equipment is reminiscent of Spock improvising with radios in the Classic (in every sense of the word) episode 'City on the Edge of Forever'.

Quotes

B'Elanna (to Harry, crossly): You don't think that I'm hostile, do you?

Janeway: Chakotay, I don't care how they seem... Something about this is wrong, I can smell it.

Chakotay: How do you like your first day as Chief of Security, Ensign?
Lang: It's everything I dreamed of, sir.

Janeway: This place does have an artificial quality (well yes, it's a small studio set!).

Tuvok: During the Rite of Tal'oth, I survived in the Vulcan desert for four months with a ritual blade as my only possession. After that, Starfleet training exercises seemed less of a challenge.

B'Elanna: Shows how much you know about Klingons. They have much less tolerance for the cold than humans do.
Tom: I thought that was Cardassians?
B'Elanna: They just complain about it more.

Tom blows on B'Elanna's hands to warm them up. I love it. Four out of four mysteriously appearing aliens.

Juliette Harrisson is a storyteller, freelance writer, Classicist and Trekkie. She runs the podcast Creepy Classics, re-telling and discussing ancient, medieval and early modern ghost stories. She tweets @ClassicalJG

1 comment:

lisam said...

I thought I was the only who liked this episode!