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The Trek Nation - The Disease

The Disease

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:05 PM GMT

See Also: 'The Disease' Episode Guide

Voyager is docked to a really long, phallic ship, where Harry Kim meets an alien who gives him an STD before Janeway can remind him that Star Trek characters are not allowed to have sex without asking their captains first...

Whoops. Sorry.

Voyager is docked to the Jupiter-bound ship from 2001, where Harry Kim plays the plant guy from Quark the intergalactic garbage scow show, until the Rebel Alliance challenges the Imperial Senate...

OK, OK. I'll try to take this episode seriously. Honest.

Voyager is docked to a large ship which started out lost in space just like the Starfleet crew, but which became a generational vessel when the Varro could not find a way home. Though the Varro are highly xenophobic as a rule, Ensign Kim becomes intimately involved with a young engineer from the alien crew. Their night of passion reveals some bizarre physiological differences which Kim says would confound the birds and the bees, but which is deeply satisfying to both until Harry starts to glow...phosphorescently.

Back on Voyager, Seven of Nine compares love to a disease since it causes physiological changes, then sends Harry to sickbay so the Doctor can figure out what's happening to his skin. Harry is forced to confess that he had sex with Daran Tahl, so the Doctor is forced to tell the Captain that Ensign Kim has violated a previously unmentioned Starfleet rule of protocol: no crewmember may engage in intimate relations with a member of an alien species without first procuring permission from the commanding officer and the ship's medical officer.

OK, sorry, I'm howling again. But, I mean, what's the point of pretending that this show has anything to do with real Star Trek? "Kirk to McCoy. Sorry to bother you, Bones, but I'd like to get it on with that hot green-skinned alien chick on this planet. Please do old Jimbo a favor and write me a medical permission slip...oh, and contact Commodore Decker to clear it with him." Hoo boy, is Riker going to jail for a long time.

Anyway - back to Voyager, if we must - in this episode Janeway puts on her most prunish expression and cites anti-sex regulations which not only contradict previous Trek series but which clearly did not exist at the time of the Voyager episode "Elogium," when Janeway specifically stated that Starfleet was reluctant to interfere in the romantic lives of its crews. A very restrained Ensign Kim refrains from pointing out that he hasn't had any fun in five years, and what's more, Janeway never put any of the other crewmembers on report for sex...not Paris when he did the deed with Lidell Wrenn in "Ex Post Facto," not the Doc when he got it on with Denara Pel in "Life Signs," not Chakotay when she sent him to pimp for Species 8472 in "In the Flesh," not even Paris when he turned into an evolved human and knocked her up in "Threshold." Instead Harry accepts a formal reprimand and agrees to the captain's demand that he break up with Tahl.

Unfortunately, Janeway makes the monumental blunder of letting Harry beam into Tahl's bedroom to do so. So the next thing either of them know, they're at it again. Tahl's justification for this behavior - as well as her explanation of his glowing skin - is that the Varro develop a biological bond called the "shared heart," but she thought humans were too genetically different for that to develop between herself and Harry Kim. But since it did, she agrees to go on a little excursion into a nebula aboard one of the dozens of shuttles Harry hopes Voyager will never notice is missing (a reasonably good bet, since they have an infinite supply - a recent issue of TV Zone calculated that Janeway's crew has lost 28 of their original four shuttles).

Janeway relates to the Varro because - even though Voyager took decades off their journey last week with Borg transwarp technology, and another fifteen years using the slipstream earlier this year, and another ten years courtesy Kes, and they've been traveling forever without growing up so it seems like the ship should be home already - she's afraid Voyager will not get home fast enough to avoid becoming a generational ship like the Varro vessel. I don't see how that's possible, since the crew is not allowed to have sex without her permission, and giving people permission to have sex - Torres and Paris in "Scientific Method," for instance - has been more distasteful to her than having intimate dinners with her first officer so she can tell him how wrong he is, as she seems to do regularly this season.

But while Janeway frets about how Harry screwed up Voyager's platonic bonding with the Varro ship, Tuvok and Neelix discover a stowaway and learn of a resistance group aboard the Varro ship, mostly young people who want to get away from the traditional stodgy xenophobic ways of their elders. When Voyager catches up with the stolen shuttle, they learn that Tahl is one of the leaders of the movement, and that she has helped infect the alien vessel with tiny artificial parasites that will break the ship up into several smaller vessels (which will miraculously have independent propulsion). Janeway asks the girl to help her people hold off the sabotage until everyone has been cleared from where the breaches will occur, then sends Harry to Sickbay to be cured of what she assumes is an alien virus possessing his brain.

Harry, however, is a better man than that. After yelling at her on the bridge, thus forcing a meeting in the dreaded ready room, Ensign Kim tells Mommy that he has been very good for five years and he's sick of it, then demands to know whether an old hag like her has ever been in love on the outside chance that she can understand how it feels. Janeway says not that she'd admit it if she had, but theoretically, if she could live with losing Mark, then Harry had just better learn to deal with the fact that he can't keep his lover either. This charming display of understanding on her part leads Harry to demand to know whether Janeway would have taken a hypospray to make her forget the hurt if she could have. This heartwarming discussion is interrupted by a call from the bridge to tell them that the alien ship is breaking apart and they're in the way.

After Voyager helps protect the aliens, thus demonstrating that not all non-Varro are evil people conniving to seduce young Varro (pardon the phrase) away from their responsibilities, the rebels are permitted to take little pieces of the mothership and go their merry way. Harry says goodbye to Tahl, then refuses medication for his heartburn and swollen glands. Janeway agrees to let him skip his medicine because he's proved his manhood, causing the Doctor to note, in the episode's one good line, that sometimes he wonders whether everyone on the ship has been possessed by alien hormones. Sorry, Doc, that was "Persistence of Vision." Janeway admits that she's overprotective of her little boy in a way she would not be of space stud Tom Paris, and Harry promises to do better.

Later, Seven finds Ensign Kim trying to take his mind off things by finishing her work for her, and announces that she may have been wrong about love being a disease: now she knows it's a temptation from the devil instead. Just kidding. The Borg don't believe in the devil, they ARE the devil, as Janeway pointed out in "Scorpion"...or at least they used to be, before Voyager tamed them, corrupting them just as they corrupt everything they touch which came from a previous Trek series. What Seven actually said was that now she realizes sex, I mean love, can be a source of inner strength. Maybe she'll do everyone a favor and tell Janeway.

Analysis:

I always hated Alien Sex Disease of the Week episodes. I didn't think the concept could get much worse than "The Naked Now" (TNG) or "Fascination" (DS9). Regardless of what he claimed, Harry MUST have had an alien disease: where else would he have gotten that much backbone in such a short time? Yet despite my aversion to the disease-as-excuse plot device, I wish the Doc had been right in "The Disease" and we'd learned that all those incredibly stupid, continuity- and common-sense- violating directives were made up by Janeway under the influence of an alien virus. Otherwise, I have to conclude that the captain is not only misinformed or deluded about Starfleet regulations, but a laughable prude as well. She needs to start reacting as a captain of a deep-space mission and stop playing Mommy. Chakotay wasn't much better; once upon a time, the Maquis first officer would have actually listened to an oppressed dissident instead of threatening to send him back to an apparent dictatorship for punishment. It's a sad state of affairs when I'm thinking I want Tom Paris to be running the ship.

One other complaint: the directing choices in the opening scenes were perfectly dreadful. The crew was shot through some kind of fisheye lens which made them all look beak-faced and spooky. I have no idea what the point of that was, except maybe to cover up the fact that the alien ship was clearly using the same set as the DS9 holographic control room, but it looked perfectly awful and made Janeway look scarier than necessary. The writing is doing just fine in that regard without any help.

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.