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The Trek Nation - Lineage

Lineage

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:20 PM GMT

See Also: 'Lineage' Episode Guide

After a couple of dramatic mood swings, Torres becomes dizzy in engineering. Seven scans her and realizes the chief engineer is pregnant -- something Torres and Paris had both hoped for, but didn't expect, since Klingon-human conception rarely occurs without assistance. The Doctor warns them that the inter-species pregnancy may cause biochemical fluctuations and behavioral volatility. The expectant parents agree to keep their news a secret for a while, but Icheb tells Neelix and soon the whole ship knows. Everyone has advice and suggestions, which bothers Torres. She blows up at Paris when he jokes, "People should know better than to interfere with a Klingon mother." She apologizes for the outburst.

Then the Doctor summons them to sickbay with some bad news -- the baby has a spinal problem. Torres recognizes it as a condition that afflicted herself and her mother; they both had surgery for it as infants. The Doctor says the condition can now be treated by genetic modification, and lets slip that the baby is a girl. Paris asks if the Doctor can extrapolate what the baby will look like based on its genes. The Doctor shows them a holographic projection of an infant with forehead ridges, surprising Torres, who had thought human genes would be dominant.

The next morning when she has the procedure to correct her daughter's spine, Torres remembers an unpleasant camping trip with cousins who teased her for being Klingon. She goes to the holodeck and asks for an extrapolation of what her child will look like at 12 years old, then starts deleting gene sequences until the girl looks entirely human. Taking her research to the Doctor, Torres insists that medically it would be in the child's best interests to remove a redundant third lung and other Klingon attributes. He insists that the alterations are unnecessary and would affect behavior, personality, and appearance as well as health.

When Torres asks Paris to support her, he complains that she wants to change their daughter's individuality. "You don't want her to be Klingon. That's what this is really about," he realizes. Torres says she was treated like a monster as a child, and theirs would too: though there are a handful of non-humans on Voyager, more than nine in ten crewmembers are human. The pair go to Janeway, who says Torres' plan is ethically questionable and she won't overrule the Doctor's decision. Paris and Torres leave the ready room angry; Tom decides to sleep on Harry's couch to give B'Elanna some time to calm down.

But his departure has the opposite effect. B'Elanna remembers her father's lack of understanding about her being teased, and overhearing her father telling her uncle that he wasn't sure he could handle living with two Klingon women. In the morning, she makes up with Tom, but their reunion is interrupted by the Doctor calling them to sickbay. He says that after reviewing Torres' research, he has concluded that the proposed alterations are necessary after all; the Klingon-human metabolic clash is too extensive. Paris asks Icheb for help understanding the complex genetic issues, but when Icheb finds a computational error in the Doctor's work, he and Seven realize the Doctor's program has been tampered with.

With Tuvok and a security team, Paris breaks into sickbay and stops the procedure to modify the fetus' genes. Torres claims her modifications to the Doctor were an upgrade so he would understand the issues involved, but Paris gets her to admit that her fears really stem from the fact that her father left her and her mother shortly after she confronted him on the childhood camping trip. Tom swears that he is not her father and would never leave her or their child. Relieved, Torres removes the modifications to the Doctor's program and asks him to be the godfather of the baby.

Analysis:

My initial reaction to this script is to be pleasantly surprised, despite my loathing of Torres' hysterical behavior. But more later on the B'Elanna Version of the Inevitable Trek Father Complex, from which every major character in memory has suffered except fatherless Naomi Wildman. I'm more interested in the beginning of this script, which, like "Tuvix," raises a lot of timely issues. Though it fails to capitalize on nearly all of them, at least it does make a viewer think.

When Torres argues with Janeway about her right as the mother to change the fetus' genetic makeup, she scores major points by pointing out how human-centric Starfleet is. According to Torres, more than 90 percent of Voyager's crew is human. If that's the norm, someone should have filed a discrimination lawsuit against Starfleet decades ago, because I can't believe it's accidental that the vast majority of qualified Academy applicants are human. It seems like nearly all of Voyager's non-humans -- like Bajoran Henley, Bolian Chell, Betazoid Suder, and Klingon Torres -- came from the Maquis. That's quite a disturbing statistic.

Torres also says that by taking out Seven's Borg implants, Janeway did essentially the same thing to her favorite protégée as Torres wants to do for her child. It's another good argument, even though Janeway rightly points out that Seven was already human before assimilation, because we keep being given the impression that it is always preferable to be human. "Everybody's human," Kirk tells Spock in one of the late Trek movies, which Spock rightly takes as an insult. On Deep Space Nine at various times, Quark, Odo and Worf all lost ties to their own cultures and were welcomed as fellow "humans."

Worf, at least, was allowed to express Klingon rage and violent impulses -- he killed the chancellor. But Torres keeps being treated by her crewmates as if her Klingon side were a disease. Not only her father, but most of Federation culture treats normal Klingon behavior as pathological. It's ironic that Torres fears she may lose Paris, because he actually accepts her as a Klingon, even if he doesn't want to spend the night with her when she's in a temper. Chakotay and Janeway have both ripped into Torres over behavior attributed to her Klingon side. No wonder B'Elanna fears abandonment.

Througout "Lineage," Torres resists labeling the baby. Initially she doesn't want to know the sex, let alone the genetic makeup. But once she realizes she has the power to alter her child's genes, she seems to feel a parental responsibility to do so. The episode labels her actions a form of violation, but doesn't address the larger underlying issues.

We know that in the post-Khan era, it's illegal to enhance the brainpower of a child, as Bashir's parents did with him. How far do these laws go? If humans were shown to have demonstrably greater brain capacity than Klingons, then could Torres request genetic alteration? If the fetus didn't have Klingon genes but did have Down's Syndrome, would anyone refuse genetic resequencing, even though the offspring's personality would change as a result? Couldn't even the spinal "correction" be construed as a demonstration of intolerance for differently-abled people, like DS9's Melora?

The script evades the biggest ethical question of all, which is whether the fetus is legally a "baby" as everyone keeps calling it. In a universe where artificial wombs make pregnancy unnecessary in many cases, do parents have any rights over their genetic material? Torres says she believed herself incapable of becoming pregnant without medical assistance. Could she elect to terminate this accidental pregnancy, or do the rights of the gestating fetus supersede the rights of the parents to decide whether or not they want to reproduce? What if she had been raped, and didn't want a child to exist that mingled her unique genetic material with that of her rapist, even if she didn't personally have to carry the fetus to term?

In the Next Generation episode "The Child," Worf suggested that Troi should have an abortion for the safety of the crew when an alien impregnated her, but Picard supported Troi's right to choose. When Samantha Wildman told Janeway she was pregnant in "Elogium," she seemed nervous, as if she thought the captain could order her not to bear a child in the Delta Quadrant. How much power does Starfleet have over the reproductive decisions of the crew? Can the captain make a crewmember bear a child or terminate a pregnancy if it's deemed to be in the best interests of the ship? One wonders whether the Prime Directive would prevent a doctor from forcing an expectant mother to have corrective surgery like the kind Torres has for the spinal curvature if she refused for religious reasons.

I wouldn't expect Trek to tackle a volatile issue like abortion head-on, so it's nice to see an episode that at least touches on the incredible complexities that no amount of technology can mitigate. Surely most of these issues have been legislated by the 24th century, but Janeway doesn't attempt to cite precedent, she merely backs her Doctor's orders. And the Doctor doesn't offer any compelling ethical debate, just insists that parents can neither know nor control what their children might become, no matter how they might try. On the one hand, Torres' alteration of the Doctor shows a disturbing disregard for the individuality not only of her unborn daughter but of her crewmate. On the other hand, Janeway's already had the Doctor reprogrammed once, and the Doctor has more than once tried to impose his own ethical standards on his patients -- which, considering that he is the only doctor on board, is deeply troubling. Who wrote the rule book?

It would be easier to take all these questions seriously, however, in a stronger script with a stronger context for debate. This is at the core the story of a hysterical woman so frantic to keep her man that she'll mutilate her child if necessary. She gets annoyed that the captain practically relieves her of duty, as if she can't handle being an engineer and being pregnant at same time, but the episode proves exactly that. Formerly strong, smart B'Elanna Torres acts as girly-girl fluffy as her new hairdo...and it's awfully hard to write her behavior off as pregnancy hormones, or we'd have to accept the show's implicit assumption that women and men can NEVER be equals because as long as women bear children, they're going to be prone to uncontrollable mood swings and dangerously irrational behavior.

It doesn't help that Torres has the world's stupidest crew to help her deal with her situation. Hotshot geneticist Icheb can't tell a pregnancy from a parasite (though I suspect that line is a joke -- if it's Tom Paris' offspring, by definition isn't it a paris-ite?). Of course, on Star Trek, dying horribly from parasites is more the norm than getting pregnant, though it has now happened twice to a Klingon-human hybrid couple despite the supposedly impossible odds. Torres should read Worf's file sometime.

Marriage and fatherhood still inspire the old ball-and-chain jokes we heard from Q in "The Q and the Grey," and now from Harry Kim. When Janeway offers Torres some time off to adjust, why doesn't she offer Paris the same? Left to his own devices, Paris goes to Tuvok for help. This is fine, except I'd love to know what happened to Ayala, Carey, all the other crewmen with families they're supposedly trying to get home to in the Alpha Quadrant. If they've forgotten their kids in the big happy family on Voyager, what do they want to go home for?

I hate the sappy family melodrama, yet at the same time, we should have gotten this character development on Torres years ago. Torres shares Janeway's father fixation; it's too bad the two women never get together to discuss their complexes about not living up to Daddy's expectations. Thus it's rather freaky when Torres is afraid Paris will turn into her father, which seems completely justified to me. But I don't expect Tom to leave B'Elanna because she's Klingon. I expect him to leave because I really haven't seen much evidence that he's not still the little boy who wants to fly rockets on the holodeck and play sleepover at his best friend's when things are rocky at home.

The ending leaves lots of unanswered questions, like whether it's safe to play with sickbay forcefields in the middle of a medical procedure and whether Torres really escapes discipline using the "hormonal outburst" excuse she's been rejecting all episode. Maybe Janeway has decided that her value as a geneticist supersedes all other considerations; Torres takes one look at a map of her daughter's genome, dices and splices in a few places, and gets everything perfect on the second try! One really wishes we had gotten to see some extrapolation of the daughter's intelligence and personality along with the pretty face that Torres seems to believe she'll need in order to avoid teasing and live happily ever after. But hey -- getting a husband and child is still a woman's highest calling, isn't it, as Janeway's oft-cited total sacrifice of a personal life testifies? Who needs to be a Klingon warrior with such possibilities?

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.