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By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:06 PM GMT

See Also: 'Juggernaut' Episode Guide

A Malon freighter experiences a containment failure in both its waste tanks which disrupts its engines. Though the controller sends down a reluctant worker to the core, the ship is flooded with theta radiation.

Meanwhile, Tuvok teaches Torres to meditate, explaining that her latest loss of control - losing her temper at the Doctor while he photographed "A Day In the Life of the Warp Core," which broke his camera - demonstrates her need to learn to control her emotions. "You can't order someone to meditate," Torres says defiantly, but Tuvok reminds her that Commander Chakotay believes otherwise. She recalls being enraged in her childhood when a classmate called her Ms. Turtlehead. When she resists further questioning, Tuvok calls her Ms. Turtlehead as well, using her reaction to demonstrate her need to master her emotions.

Voyager receives a distress call and follows a trail of theta radiation to a group of escape pods which they correctly surmise to be Malon. Janeway orders the two sole survivors beamed to sickbay. The leader introduces himself as Controller Vezek and insists that Voyager must get away from his decaying ship - when it explodes, it will destroy every living thing in three light years. Sixty of his own crewmen were liquidated in minutes just from the limited radiation leaking on his ship. Though she fears there could be other ships caught in the disaster, Janeway orders Voyager to retreat, but the warp engines won't work in the middle of the theta radiation. So she orders Voyager to approach the Malon ship instead, insisting that if they can't escape, they will have to find a way to stop the disaster from happening.

Neelix is full of ideas for containment since he used to work on a garbage scow, and Torres suggests that even if most of the ship is contaminated, they might be able to vent each deck of the ship as they come to it. But she snaps at the Malon and ridicules them for their way of life, leading Janeway to silence her and Chakotay later to tell her that she needs to learn diplomacy. "Diplomacy - Janeway's answer for everything," she sneers. The Doctor has prepared an inoculation against short-term theta radiation exposure, but there's another problem: a Malon myth about monsters that live in the storage tanks, creatures of poisonous waste that destroy ships. Vezek demurs that only hallucinating workers already dying from radiation poisoning have ever reported such sightings.

After Paris gives Torres an affectionate send-off, she beams over with Chakotay, Neelix, and the Malon to a ship full of dead bodies and poisonous gas. While working in an injector pod with Pelk - the other surviving Malon - Torres learns that he is a sculptor with a young son who does this horrific work half the year so he can live well for the other half of the year; she snaps that she doesn't know how he can enjoy his own planet, knowing that he's polluting other people's backyards. When they are unable to vent radiation from an injector pod, Pelk agrees to go alone to the next deck to try to clear it. He is attacked, and when the away team recovers him, he tells them that he saw a creature. Then he dies. Vezek observes that he has burns on his body but refuses to believe that he could have seen the mythical poison creatures.

After Pelk is beamed to Voyager so the Doctor can determine what killed him, Torres develops welts on her face and hands which Vezek identifies as the beginnings of terminal radiation poisoning. Chakotay insists that Torres go to the Malon infirmary over her protests. There, Torres sees a core worker dead of exposure, and learns that only three of ten core workers survive a standard mission; however, they make more money in two months than most Malons make in a lifetime. Back on Voyager, Janeway tells Tuvok that she has a contingency plan: if the away team can't stop the Malon freighter from exploding, maybe they can divert it into an O-type star, which would absorb the theta radiation as it exploded. Seven of Nine has yet another contingency plan to protect the crew from radiation in case they fail in both cases.

Torres and Vezek get the injectors open, but on the wrong deck. They are flooded with radiation and must flee, but Chakotay collapses. Fortunately, Voyager manages to beam him aboard. As Torres screams at Vezek, blaming him for the problem with the injectors, a grotesque arm reaches out from a piece of equipment; it is clothed in a Malon uniform. On the ship, Janeway tersely asks Tuvok about Chakotay. The Vulcan reports that the first officer will recover, then says that there is no room for emotions in such a dangerous situation; he believes that logic dictates Janeway should pull Torres off the mission. Janeway refuses, saying it's not about logic but trust. Meanwhile, Neelix catches Torres meditating and laughs as she begs him not to tell Tuvok.

Ten minutes before the estimated detonation, Torres has one containment grid back online but it cannot support both tanks. The Doctor has found unidentified tissue in Pelk's wounds - something which seems to be resistant to theta radiation. When he asks Seven, she says she has been scanning; there is nothing alive on the freighter but the away team. But after he tells her to search for something which looks similar to the ambient radiation, she finds that there is a creature on the Malon ship. Janeway warns Torres that they have readings on a lifeform heading towards them.

Torres, Neelix and Vezek are trapped, however, unable to vent the gas in the control room. Neelix and the Malon are attacked, leaving Torres alone to fight the creature...which turns out to be Malon, a core laborer. "Don't make me kill you!" she demands, brandishing a metal pipe, but he replies, "I'm already dead." The mutated Malon has been sabotaging the ship because he was poisoned by it. He is unconcerned that an explosion could contaminate other ships, and evades Voyager's attempts to divert the Malon freighter into the corona of the O-class star. Torres tells him she understands his anger but there's a better way to make his people understand. He will not listen, however, and finally she is forced to subdue him with the pipe so that she can send the freighter careening towards the star and rescue Neelix and Vezek from the polluted room.

Voyager is safe from the freighter, but the Doctor announces that he cannot cure Vezek's radiation poisoning, which has built up over many years. The Malon says he has no idea what he will tell his people about what happened; Torres demands that he tell the truth about the "myth" of creatures in the core. Alone in her quarters, she recalls her violence, meditates for a moment, then takes a sonic shower which removes the filth and grime from her body.


Finally we get a Torres episode to follow up on her depression in "Extreme Risk," and it leaves me with one burning question: How come when Worf gets mad, it's excused as typical Klingon behavior, but when Torres behaves the same way, it's treated as a pathology which must be cured by alien meditation? First they won't let her grieve, then they won't let her refuse medical care by a mass murderer, now they won't even let her express a little frustration on the job. Infinite Diversity in Infinite Combinations, in Tuvok's book - and Chakotay's, and Janeway's - seems to be limited to races whose behaviors fit their own personal codes of proper comportment.

Yes, Torres was very naughty to break Doc's camera, but considering that she has a job to do in engineering making sure the ship runs properly and doesn't blow up, it's understandable that the oft-meddlesome Doctor might drive her up the wall - at least she didn't break his nose. She's obviously a vastly better engineer than anyone else on board (well, except Seven, and Tom, and Neelix, but let's just block all those past episodes out for now), so like the exceptions Picard made for Worf to do things his way, Janeway should be doing the same for her Klingon Terrible.

In "Extreme Risk," Torres' dislike of Janeway was portrayed as a symptom of her pathology. Here, it seems to be a part of her personality...and you know what? It makes sense. In the past couple of months, Janeway nearly killed and then demoted her lover, overruled Torres' own wishes not to be medically treated by a mass murderer, and turned increasingly to Seven of Nine as her expert on engineering matters. She's no longer warm, she no longer seems to care about Torres (or anyone else on her crew, save Seven) as a person. She may tell Tuvok she trusts her chief engineer, but I can certainly see where B'Elanna herself might doubt that.

Paris was relatively sympathetic in his scene supporting his girlfriend, but he had no guilt about sneaking behind her back to ask Tuvok about how her training was going - Tuvok insisted that it was confidential, then made jokes about what a challenge it would be. And Paris agreed that teaching his lady love to meditate would be like convincing a Ferengi to leave his estate to charity. Was this supposed to be funny? Because I certainly hope it's true. After a year and a half of kindler, gentler, pushover B'Elanna, I am delighted to see her resisting Janeway's Starfleet platitudes and Chakotay's talking to her like a five-year-old.

Yet once again, we're expected to take Torres' hot-headedness as a sign of her need for affection, psychobabble, and mysticism, rather than as an expression of the Klingon character she's had to repress for too long. Though one gets the feeling she's happier in Starfleet than she was in the Maquis, one really has to wonder whether she'd have found herself and her place in the universe a lot more comfortably among a group of people who know that Starfleet's lowest-common-denominator codes are too damn human-centric to be reasonable. Roxann Dawson gave a nuanced performance, showing us B'Elanna's embarrassment and unease as well as her rage, but she can't help looking over-the-top when the tantrums are written as tantrums rather than as integral Klingon traits.

And while we're talking about character continuity for Torres, since the writers went out of their way to resurrect the Malon - this sector's Vidiians, a lovely culture with one miserable vice that destroys untold numbers of lives - what happened to Torres' plan from "Night" to help the Malon treat their antimatter so that it wasn't so lethal? The idea was rejected by the Malon in the Void, but that doesn't mean she couldn't try again with a more reasonable candidate like Vezek. At least the episode made good use of Neelix, a former garbage collector from his life before Voyager; he might make a better boyfriend for Torres than Paris, considering that in this episode he seems to know as much about medicine and he's evidently more tuned in to her feelings.

To ask a really dumb question: we know from the episode "One" that because of her Borg nanoprobes, Seven is resistant to radiation which is lethal to most humanoids. Not that I want to see any more episodes in which Seven and her superpowers save the ship, but why in heck was she not on the away team to the contaminated freighter? This could have been a perfect use for Ms. Borg and her Borg Things, and Torres still could have saved the day. Moreover, it would have made a lot more sense for Torres to be sparring with Seven, a perpetual antagonist, than with her oldest and best friend Chakotay.

I did rather like the Time Machine plot in which the evil aliens and the not-so-evil aliens turned out to be the same exact species; this is one of the better pro-environmentalist episodes Voyager has done. And I have an idea for how to help the Malon: let's call in the Think Tank to help them. I for one am perfectly willing to give them Seven of Nine in recompense.

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.

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