DriveBy Edward James Hines
Posted at October 25, 2000 - 11:11 PM GMT
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
While on a test flight in the new Delta Flyer, Tom Paris and Harry Kim are challenged to a race by an alien named Irina (Cyia Batten). The Delta Flyer prevails, but Irina's power transformer overloads and must be repaired. She accepts Kim's offer of help and returns to Voyager, where she invites him and Paris to join the upcoming Antarian Trans-Stellar Rally, a race comprising formerly warring species that are competing peacefully for the first time. Irina lends a fuel converter to the Delta Flyer, which must be modified to use enriched deuterium fuel for the sublight-speed-only race.
Paris, unfortunately, forgets that he and B'Elanna Torres had planned to spend the weekend together their first chance in months to be alone. He is completely unaware that she has been trading favors with other crewmembers so that she and he could have the holodeck to themselves. Amazingly, she is calm and understanding when Paris asks to postpone their holiday. Later, however, she privately admits to Neelix that she and Paris are a "bad match" and no longer belong together.
Seven of Nine unknowingly helps to lift Torres' spirits by revealing that she has learned how to work more efficiently with Paris by occasionally embracing his interests and supporting him in his personal goals. Torres takes this to heart and replaces Kim as Paris' copilot, preferring to spend time with him, doing something he likes.
With the Delta Flyer in the lead, the race is halted when an accident befalls Joxom (Robert Tyler), Irina's copilot. She blames Assan (Patrick Kilpatrick), one of the other pilots, for colliding with her ship so many times that her shield generator overloaded, causing Joxom's console to explode. Tuvok, however, discovers that someone interfaced a phase inverter with Irina's shield generator, causing the system to overload. Ambassador O'Zaal (Brian George), the race coordinator, wants to postpone the race until safety can be assured, but Irina and Assan argue for its continuance despite threats from extremists who want to end the peace. O'Zaal agrees, Kim replaces Joxom as Irina's copilot and the race begins again.
Kim, however, narrowly avoids another exploding console and quickly surmises that Irina has sabotaged her own ship twice. She is one of the extremists who isn't comfortable with the peace and detests mixing with other species. Kim soon surmises that she involved the Delta Flyer in the race just so she could rig its borrowed fuel converter to explode at the finish line, killing hundreds of innocent spectators.
Fortunately, Paris unexpectedly drops out of the race because Torres has been inferring problems with their relationship. While they are talking, Paris intercepts a message from Kim in Morse code, warning about the rigged fuel converter. Facing a warp core breach, Paris steers the Delta Flyer into a J-class nebula, which can contain the explosion. Torres dumps the core and the Delta Flyer barely escapes. But Torres has one more problem to solve: Will she accept Paris' marriage proposal? Yes! The newly married couple soon departs on a pleasure cruise in the Delta Flyer, which drags several lines of cans behind it and has "Just Married" written on its stern.
After a string of episodes (extending back into S6) detailing much doom-and-gloom, "Drive" at last provides VGR with a chance to kick back and soften its usually serious face. Still a mystery, however, is the reason why the producers decided to show "Drive" after last week's "Imperfection." The production numbers (given on startrek.com) indicate that "Imperfection" was filmed first (No. 248, while "Drive" is No. 249). Clearly, however, the new Delta Flyer (bereft of a distinguishing "A" or "2") is just being flight-tested in "Drive," and Paris and Torres are not yet married. In "Imperfection," Janeway used the apparently flight-ready Delta Flyer on an almost two-week journey round-trip to the Borg debris field, and Paris was shown wearing his wedding band in Sickbay. Occasionally, episodes are filmed out of sequence to conform to various production issues, but later shown in their correct order. It seems, however, that someone may have dropped the ball in determining the proper airdates for "Drive" and "Imperfection."
Where's the Wedding?
As enjoyable, adventurous and humorous as "Drive" is, the overriding, leftover question seems to be, "Why didn't they show the Paris and Torres wedding?" It is unlikely that the producers would give "lack of time" as their answer. The wedding didn't have to happen in "Drive." It could have been saved for any time this season maybe even the series finale.
Knowing how Star Trek's producers think, however, suggests a couple of possible answers. The unlikely one might be that they didn't want to draw comparisons to the other Star Trek wedding involving major characters Worf and Jadzia Dax in DS9's "You Are Cordially Invited" or maybe it's just that the VGR producers didn't think their wedding could compare to DS9's. Another more likely answer might be that we have, technically, already seen the wedding of Paris and Torres in S5's "Course: Oblivion," even though it wasn't really them getting married. "Why film two weddings?" the producers might say. "We've already shown you what their wedding would look like. We don't need to do it again."
Believe it or not, there is a certain logic to this viewpoint. Paris and Torres are the type of people who would choose the quick-and-dirty ceremony because it draws less attention to themselves and the seriousness of what they are actually doing. Paris is the college frat boy who always has to look "manly" in front of the guys and his coworkers. As we learn in "Drive," he saves the "mushy stuff" for when he and Torres are alone. Similarly, Torres would never go for the pageantry of a full Klingon wedding regardless of her "spiritual awakening" in last season's "Barge of the Dead" and would probably prefer the brevity of a sterilized Starfleet ceremony.
What's interesting about the events in "Drive" is how Torres briefly trades roles with Paris in terms of spontaneity, and how this ultimately leads to his marriage proposal. Paris is usually the impulsive one, souping up a holographic car one week, designing a holodeck program the next and restoring an alien spaceship after that. You never know what he will be up to next. In "Drive," when Torres replaces Kim as copilot, Paris is completely caught off-guard. Later, during the race through the Mobius Inversion, he is upset when Torres devises a quick way to cut in front of their competitors, calling the maneuver "too risky" and insisting that "we should have waited." Afterward, when Torres presses the matter of problems in their relationship, Paris regaining his spontaneity drops out of the race (the last thing you would expect him to do) and shows Torres that despite his other interests and seeming priorities, she is the most important one. He would give up everything for her in a heartbeat. She suspected this was true earlier when Neelix suggested that she just ask Paris to withdraw from the race and go on vacation with her as planned but the proof is in the pudding, and Paris passes the test with flying colors.
His marriage proposal is similarly spontaneous just when it seems that he and Torres will die in the warp core explosion. Interestingly enough, this hearkens back to S4's "Day of Honor" when they are on the brink of suffocation in space and Torres first tells Paris that she loves him. His response is the offbeat, "You picked a great time to tell me." In "Drive," Torres' similarly incredulous response to his "death bell" proposal is, "You're proposing now?" Clearly, she was wrong about at least one thing: She and Paris are not a "bad match," not the way they bait and feed off of one another with practiced ease. They belong together, and wedding ceremony or no, they finally do.
VGR's longest-running joke, at least as far as Paris is concerned, is that Kim always seems to fall for unattainable women (which is a truly rotten turn of luck for this young man, who joined Voyager six years ago as a fiancι). Every time it happens, Paris steps up to recite the litany of Kim's lustful losses, which includes the hologram ("Alter Ego"), the Borg ("Revulsion"), the wrong Delaney sister ("Thirty Days") and the dead one ("Ashes to Ashes"). "Drive" adds one more to Kim's lexicon of love with Irina, who, strangely enough, only seems to exude the charming side of her personality off-screen. Unfortunately, actor Cyia Batten's performance is so wooden and her characterization so unappealing that it is impossible to understand why Kim is infatuated with Irina in the first place. To Kim's credit, though, Irina also seems to pull the wool over Paris and Torres' eyes, or else they would likely have tried to warn him away from her. When Kim finally figures things out for himself and disarms Irina, actor Garrett Wang's delivery is humorously effective when he panically exclaims, "Sit down and hold still!"
One of the Gang
There are times, as in last week's "Imperfection," when it seems as if Seven will never understand what it means to be an individual, much less enjoy the human experience. In "Drive," however, she gets in on some of the fun and isn't so quick to dismiss it as "irrelevant," once she understands that witnessing the race will help foster high morale among the crew. She even allows herself to crack a small joke to Torres about how the Doctor should develop a vaccine for the crew's "race fever." Seven's greatest contribution, whether she realizes it or not, is the uplifting advice she gives Torres on how to get along with Paris. These few lines come as a nice counterpart to the scene in last week's "Imperfection," when Torres tried to reassure a dejected Seven.
Janeway is Star Trek's most social captain, to be sure. She is a hard worker when the situation calls for it, but on the several occasions in VGR when Neelix has broken out the party favors, Janeway was always an avid advocate for and participant in the crew's festivities. Her excitement in "Drive" is particularly infectious, especially regarding her expectation that Paris and Torres will win the race for the sake of Starfleet's honor. When they lose, however, Janeway's first reaction isn't to immediately congratulate the winning delegation, according to proper Starfleet protocols and good ol' sportsmanship. Instead, she tosses off a perturbed "Damn!" to Neelix, which is a refreshingly human reaction coming from her.
From the Press Box
After being inexplicably MIA from the Transporter Room in "Imperfection," when most of the Borg children were beamed away, Neelix is right back where he belongs in "Drive," announcing the various race updates (because it's "all in the delivery"). His more important contribution, however, is in lending a friendly ear to Torres as she gripes about her relationship with Paris.
Spectacles in Space
"Drive" boasts some of the most breathtaking visual effects designed for television. This is money well-spent and efforts expertly executed. The teaser alone is chock full of images of the new Delta Flyer closing on a distant comet while surrounded by a dense asteroid field. At first, Irina's ship pulls alongside, seen outside the Delta Flyer's starboard porthole; later, an exterior visual shows the Delta Flyer speeding past Irina's ship, whose nacelle bursts and begins venting drive plasma. One of the most appealing visuals, however, is of the Delta Flyer's new impulse thrusters emerging from the aft hull, similar to how its warp pylons are extractable. Finally, the nicest touch of all is the closing visual with "Just Married" painted on the stern and the trailing cans.
The race theme in "Drive" necessarily calls for the appearance of many other starships, one of which is slightly recognizable. Ambassador O'Zaal's ship, in an exterior-visual-flyby with Voyager, looks like one of the Bajoran vessels that blockaded the moon Derna in DS9's "Shadows and Symbols." Surprisingly, though, the exterior of O'Zaal's ship is featureless, betraying no portholes or other lighting.
At the start of the race, when the ships speed out of the lineup, the visual is slightly reminiscent of the pod race in Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace, which is itself a marvel in moviemaking. A nice addition to the "Drive" race is the exterior visual of Voyager's Mess Hall with all the people cheering inside.
On seeing the first "Drive" previews, fans who follow Pocket Books' Star Trek novels probably made an easy connection back to a similar theme penned by author Diane Carey in her 1993 effort, "The Great Starship Race."
Actor Roxann Dawson, who appears to be suffering from a touch of laryngitis in "Drive," should be accustomed to having a large role in the third episode of a season. For the past three years, the No. 3 show has belonged to Torres (S4's "Day of Honor," S5's "Extreme Risk" and S6's "Barge of the Dead").
Paris and Torres' planned vacation spot on the holodeck sounds like "Getty Prime," which sci-fi genre fans will recognize as similar to a planet in author Frank Herbert's "Dune" novels, "Giedi Prime," home of House Harkonnen.
Costume designer Robert Blackman contributes another flashy addition to the line of "Starfleetwear" with the new flight suits worn by Paris, Torres and Kim.
The start of the race afforded Paris the perfect opportunity to use his old catchphrase, "Here we go," but evidently the writers forgot about it.
A word mix-up leads to a continuity error when Paris explains how his use of mnemonic phrases helped get him through the Academy, to which Torres incredulously responds, "But you were expelled." Her inference is untrue. Paris was not dismissed from the Academy. He did graduate, but he was expelled from Starfleet service after lying about an away mission in which several of his comrades were killed.
The Doctor adds golf to his list of hobbies. At one point, he putts the ball into the Sickbay doors, which open and permit the ball to roll into the corridor. In TNG, Data once said something about starship doors only responding to sentient beings, which was why he couldn't understand how his cat Spot had escaped from his quarters. Evidently, aboard an Intrepid-class starship that boasts a holographic doctor, this rule no longer applies.
Gone are the days, apparently, when Voyager was concerned about wasting photon torpedoes one of which was used to start the race. The crew must now churn out their own (like shuttlecraft and Delta Flyers).
Behind the Scenes
Cyia Batten ("Irina") should be familiar to DS9 fans as the first actor to play "Tora Ziyal" in "Indiscretion" and "Return to Grace." Star Trek's other notable "Irina" character was Chekov's ex-girlfriend from TOS's "The Way to Eden," played by Mary-Linda Rapelye.
Brian George ("O'Zaal") appeared as "Richard Bashir" in DS9's "Doctor Bashir, I Presume."
Finally, Patrick Kilpatrick ("Assan") appeared as "Jal Razik" in "Initiations" and "Reese" in DS9's "The Siege of AR-558."
Copyright Edward James Hines
25 October 2000
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.