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The Trek Nation - Drive

Drive

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:14 PM GMT

See Also: 'Drive' Episode Guide

When Paris and Kim meet Irina, an alien who tells them about an Olympic-style race, Paris forgets all about the romantic vacation Torres has been planning for herself and him. He suggests to Janeway that he and Kim enter the Delta Flyer in the competition. To Tuvok's surprise, the captain agrees that the peaceful contest will promote Federation values and give the crew some needed R&R. Torres appears to take the letdown well, but later she laments to Neelix that she thinks she and Tom make a bad match. Neelix says she should tell Tom before he lets her down again, because keeping him in the dark doesn't seem very honorable.

Ambassador O'Zaal tells Voyager of the fragile peace between the competing species, prompting Janeway to volunteer the ship for pre-race festivities. During a big party in the mess hall, Paris tries to be friendly with competitor Assan, but the alien thinks of the race as a battle. Kim becomes a bit jealous of Irina's partner Joxom. Torres learns that Paris even has Seven plotting a course for him in astrometrics, and resignedly acknowledges that the entire crew has come down with "race fever." Seven says plotting the course is important for crew morale and for her relationship with Paris, since they will function more efficiently as crewmates if she embraces his interests.

Torres shows up for the first round in a flight suit, announcing to Paris that she's replaced Kim as co-pilot so they can spend time together. Paris doesn't sound pleased about this development, and when Torres takes a risk with the shields to put them in the lead, her lover rants, "I'm the pilot, that means I do the flying." The point becomes moot when they are ordered to shut down due to an accident: Irina's ship has been damaged and her co-pilot injured. Irina blames Assan, but Tuvok finds evidence of sabotage aboard her vessel. O'Zaal thinks someone is trying to end the peace.

Kim -- who thinks the alien woman is funny, smart, and easy to get along with, as he tells Paris -- offers to become Irina's new co-pilot. She accepts with some reservations since her ship needs repairs. During the race, Torres notes that some people seem meant to be together, but not others. Paris says that if something is bothering her about their own relationship, they should talk about it; he shuts down the engines when she tells him to concentrate on the race. Though Torres thinks his hobbies have always been his priority, Paris says he just wants to be the man she loves.

Meanwhile, Kim wants to reroute power so he and Irina can take the lead, but she refuses. Then Kim's console explodes and the alien pulls a weapon, telling him she doesn't like mixing with other species. Kim wrests the weapon from her and figures out she must have sabotaged the fuel converter she loaned Paris. Since communications are down, he sends a message in Morse Code to the Delta Flyer. Recognizing the code from the Captain Proton program, Paris learns of the tampering, and races toward a nebula where Torres dumps the corrupted warp core right after Paris asks her to marry him. Torres agrees, so once Assan has claimed victory, the engineer and the pilot take off with "Just Married" painted on the back of the Delta Flyer.

Paris announces that even if they lost the race, they're winners. He wants B'Elanna to take his last name, but she suggests that he take hers instead, since it is the 24th century.

Analysis:

"Drive" is a really excellent Harry Kim episode. He's a good sport, he has a sense of humor about his own failings, he can take good-natured jokes about his pathetic love life. In a crunch, he defends himself against an enemy who has him at a grave disadvantage. Then he single-handedly figures out her scheming, thus saving his shipmates and the peaceful aliens. In an episode obsessed with naming a winner, Kim deserves highest honors.

Regrettably, Kim doesn't get nearly as much screen time as the Paris/Torres romance. Now that they're married, I hope they fall into the traditional cliched image of TV married couples and become asexual, because their kissy-kissy routine is intolerable. Paris is a snotty, self-centered brat. His explanation that he didn't think B'Elanna liked mushy stuff doesn't come close to excusing his suggestion that she recite, "I am not the pilot, I will not attempt to fly this ship," in penance for her attempt to win a race that's of such importance to him. Oh, Paris wants to win, all right. . .but apparently only if he gets all the credit for the victory. From his actions over the past two years, particularly the number of engineering recommendations he's made even though Torres is the chief engineer, it's evident that he can't tolerate the idea she might be better than him at something.

And how does Torres respond? Does she ignite her Klingon nature and challenge him, as Jadzia did with Worf, or does she demonstrate her maturity by telling Paris it's been fun, but he can play with his toys by himself while she pursues a mature relationship with someone who shows at least faint curiosity about her interests? No, she sulks and turns passive-aggressive, pouring out her troubles to blabbermouth Neelix, making sniffly remarks about Harry and his girlfriend to Tom. Indeed, Torres has gotten the sort of man she deserves -- someone who will go right on assuming that his idea of a fun vacation should be her idea of one. Whether or not she takes his name, Torres looks like a more traditional human wife than Keiko O'Brien, who at least has the sense to whine to Miles when he spends hours on end playing with Bashir.

The romance wasn't helped any by the most transparent plot since Janeway -- surprise! -- survived the Borg Queen. We all know by now that if Harry's attracted to a guest star, she's going to turn out to be a bad guy or a corpse by the end of the episode. Even forgetting that, it's obvious Irina's the saboteur from the moment Assan starts growling at Paris in the sort of over-the top display all benign prosthetic-wearing Trek aliens favor. In an episode where self-effacing Torres is the Good Woman, any competent female pilot who tells Kim to sit down and shut up because she knows her ship better than he does has got to be the Bad Woman.

Then there's the captain, who's supposed to be self-effacing -- she can't even go on a date without angst. Tuvok brings her a security report (which probably mentions the fact that Irina gave Paris a fuel converter), but Janeway tells her security chief to sit down and shut up because she's busy watching a race. The woman who taught Seven to be a good sport at Velocity is very disappointed to see Assan win, but when the ship is rocked by an explosion, she suddenly recalls her duties on the bridge -- oh yeah, this is a fragile peace and there may be terrorists about! "Starfleet's honor is at stake," she tells Paris when he first proposes entering the contest. Now we know it's not how you play the game, but whether you win that counts.

As Torres observes, even Seven of Nine suffers from the desire to be the kind of girl Paris would want. If she embraces his interests, they will function more efficiently as crewmates, says Seven. Sheesh, when was the last time anyone embraced her interests -- Janeway, who's usually determined to make Seven share her own interests, or the Doctor, who gives Seven suggestions for interests he'd like her to share? Naomi Wildman comes closer to acting like a peer. And when was the last time Paris embraced anyone else's interests, listened to Kim's clarinet or played kalto with Tuvok or shared the Doctor's various hobbies?

Well, he has demonstrated remarkable skills as a medic and engineer and first officer of late, so perhaps Paris hasn't had time to figure out what Torres or anyone else enjoys. I like it better when Seven's the selfish brat who can do everything at once -- at least, being Borg, she has an excuse. Next week, the Maquis try to take over the ship. This can only be an improvement over the current status quo.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.