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The Trek Nation - Gravity

Gravity

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:02 PM GMT

See Also: 'Gravity' Episode Guide

A young Vulcan tells the master of a sanctuary that he was sent there against his will for refusing to deny himself passion - he rejects the logic of denying feelings he was born with. The master says that he will teach the young Tuvok control.

On a desert planet, a well-wrapped woman spies the wreckage of a shuttle. When she enters the damaged ship, she sees Tom Paris, whose translator cannot interpret her words; she pulls a weapon and steals his medical kit. Moments after leaving the shuttle, the woman is attacked by reptilian-looking aliens, but Tuvok fights for her. He learns that her name is Noss. Taking her back to the shuttle, he watches her wolf down food and discovers that she is injured. Paris treats her while explaining that the badly-damaged shuttle was pulled down by a gravometric distortion from which no communications can escape.

When the woman becomes agitated, Tuvok pulls out a tricorder and discovers that more aliens are approaching. He tells Paris that it is logical to follow her to shelter since she has survived on the planet for some time. They head for her ship, which has a working force field but no working engines. Paris repairs and activates the Doctor, who can translate the woman more precisely; they learn that she has lived there for fourteen seasons, and has never seen a ship escape the gravity well.

After setting up a remote beacon, Paris tries to learn to kill spiders for food and tells Noss about Torres, admitting that he loves her very much. Later he tells Tuvok that he can tell the woman is romantically interested in the Vulcan, but Tuvok mentions his wife and refuses to discuss the subject further. Later Paris apologizes, but suggests that since they are probably stuck on the planet forever, Tuvok should consider making a decent life for himself there. Tuvok remembers again being the young, rebellious Vulcan who was in love with a schoolmate. The master advised him that love was the most dangerous of emotions, leading to jealousy, grief, and rage - all emotions which the young Tuvok needed to control.

Meanwhile, on Voyager, the shuttle has only been missing for one hour. The crew encounters the gravometric shear, but while Janeway, Chakotay, Seven and Torres try to figure out how to get inside it, the ship is pulled into a tractor beam. Voyager is hailed by one of the reptilian aliens, Yost, who tells them that his people have lost many ships in the gravometric well and they plan to seal it the next day. Janeway orders the launch of a probe, then gets the bad news and worse news from Chakotay: the time distortion from the gravometric forces mean that months have passed for Paris and Tuvok while only hours have passed on the ship, and Seven believes the sinkhole is collapsing, and will crush everything inside.

On the planet, Noss is cooking when Paris brings in a badly injured Tuvok. Activating the Doctor for the first time in weeks, they learn that the Vulcan will survive. As he recovers, Noss lights candles around the room and finally tells Tuvok that she cares for him. She kisses him, but he rebuffs her, telling her that he experiences no emotion towards her other than respect. She curses him and his logic and flees, telling Paris she will leave. Paris interrupts Tuvok's meditation to demand that the Vulcan be more sensitive, but the Tuvok insists that he does understand: he tells Paris about the girl he loved who nearly cost him his sense of who he was. Paris says that love is worth that risk, but Tuvok insists that as a Vulcan, he had to learn to suppress his volatile emotions.

On the ship, Janeway sends a message telling Paris and Tuvok to be within two meters of their beacon in 30 minutes of ship time - several days on the planet - and rages at the aliens who have stepped up their efforts to close the rift. Paris and Tuvok get the message, but Noss' ship is attacked by a horde of aliens. As the time to depart approaches, Noss goes outside to fix the shields, insisting to Tuvok that it is more logical to risk herself alone than to risk him alongside her. When she does not return, he follows her outside, killing an alien and bringing her back. An alien breaks in and attacks, but everyone is close enough to the beacon as Voyager beams them out.

On the ship, Tuvok becomes uncomfortable as they approach Noss' homeworld. Walking to the transporter room, he listens bemusedly as Paris says that he missed Torres for two months, but she only missed him for two days. Tuvok assures the ensign that had he been gone longer by her perspective, Torres would certainly have missed him more. Paris calls Tuvok a romantic. In the transporter room, Noss apologizes to Tuvok, but he intiates a mind-meld so that she will understand him. She smiles and returns his gesture when he tells her to live long and prosper. Then he remembers being told by the Vulcan master that he had been purged of emotion, especially love.

Analysis:

This episode started with promise - a Vulcan ritual in flashback, an unknown alien on a desert world, the discovery of Wrecked Shuttle #113 (oh, I'm exaggerating, Voyager has probably only lost 50 or so shuttles since the series started). But then it turned into Dune - the only desert movie where people wear leather...though in this case only the woman wore it, and tight enough to rival Seven's bodysuit, while the guys stripped down to t-shirts. But then it turned into "All Our Yesterdays" without the sex. I love Mariette Hartley and I even like Lori Petty, who played Zarabeth - I mean Noss - but once was enough, folks!

And it went downhill from there. Like the superlative "Distant Origin," this episode showed us Voyager's crewmembers from the perspective of an outsider, but that outsider turned out to be just another whiny human female, who was reduced to cooking and sponging Tuvok's forehead. At least she didn't turn into a psycho stalker like the spy who loved him in "Alter Ego," but we didn't learn a thing about her other than that she was lonely and she knew better than to go for Tom considering he was still hung up on B'Elanna...though a few seasons ago, that would not have stopped HIM.

Instead we got a little backstory on Tuvok, but it pretty much contradicted not only what Jeri Taylor wrote in Pathways but also what Tuvok himself explained in "Flashback." From what we know of Vulcan history - which has been thoroughly trashed on the present generation of Trek, getting worse with every series - lapses into emotionalism are a big deal. Spock was shamed his entire childhood for not being able to control his emotions, a sign of human weakness. Are we now to believe that all Vulcans go through similar crises - that Vulcans are just like humans only with better mechanisms of repression, rather than that they are genuinely DIFFERENT from us, that their emotions are less accessible and less direct, as we were always led to believe on Classic Trek, where the implication was always that Vulcans had become unemotional genetically as well as psychologically?

And what are we to make of Paris thinking Tuvok should break his marriage vows after just a few days of being stranded (amazing how they didn't need a bath or even a shave after all those weeks)? Boy, if Janeway had been alone with Tom in "Resolutions" instead of Chakotay, she might not be the Virgin Queen anymore! Seriously, I was starting to wonder if Tom was afraid he might be the lucky choice when Tuvok experienced pon farr, and wanted to divert the Vulcan. Otherwise his "logic" made no sense - he misses B'Elanna, so he wants Tuvok to cheat on his wife. Uh-huh.

I realize that Vulcans have become THE major scapegoat on Trek, even more so than Cardassians, and no one takes them seriously at all. The recent DS9 episode "Take Me Out To The Ballgame" pointed that out graphically - the Vulcans were ludicrously supremacist in their sense of superiority, and a personal grudge was elevated to the level of race-bashing. Many of the cracks directed at Tuvok and various other Vulcans are pretty damned offensive even considering that Vulcans are not a real species. For a series where no one's allowed to use epithets based on skin color or human cultural traditions, I want to know why it's acceptable to insult the population of an entire planet for not being "human" enough.

Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, indeed. At least in Classic Trek's version of this story, Spock had major historical distortions to blame for his rising emotions. Tuvok's never acted much like the Vulcans of that series, but I'd hoped they would leave him a shred of integrity. Performing a mind-meld without asking permission or explaining the procedure would have been tantamount to rape for Spock or even Tuvok himself, first season, but he no longer even blinks. It's so disconcerting that even little things like Noss' pathetic crush on him pale by comparison.

There was one brilliant Classic Trek reference I must mention: when the others wanted to shut the Doctor down to save the energy in his emitter, he said, "I'm a doctor, not a battery!" Now there is a worthy successor to Roddenberry's Trek. He may be the only thing on this series which is.

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.