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Star Trek: Voyager – Day of Honour (Review)

Day of Honour is a reminder that, while Brannon Braga is clearly the heir apparent, Jeri Taylor is still the showrunner on Star Trek: Voyager.

Day of Honour is noticeably and recognisably a Jeri Taylor episode, particularly following so sharply from Scorpion, Part I, Scorpion, Part II, and The Gift. This is a script that plays very firmly to Jeri Taylor’s idea of Star Trek, including an emphasis on the development of interpersonal relationships and also a very traditional perspective on how the franchise is supposed work. Day of Honour is a very conservative episode following the bombast of the three very ambitious stories bridging the third and fourth seasons.

"Don't worry, Janeway will never miss it."

“Don’t worry, Janeway will never miss it.”

In some ways, this is undoubtedly a good thing. Jeri Taylor is clearly more interested in developing relationships between the characters than Brannon Braga. Taylor was a very old-school television writer and producer, but her best material on Voyager suggested a genuine interest in the cast and the characters. Resolutions is an episode consciously rooted in the romantic tension between Chakotay and Janeway. Coda is a very clear elaboration on Taylor’s interpretation of Janeway.

Taylor even drafted biographies for the crew in the form of Mosaic and Pathways, suggesting a deeper interest in the characters’ inner lives than any other writer on staff. In some ways, Day of Honour is an extension of this approach. It is the culmination of Taylor’s attempts to push Paris and Torres together in third season episodes like The Swarm, Blood Fever and Displaced. That relationship became one of the nicer dynamics on Voyager, and would never have happened under the oversight of either Michael Piller or Brannon Braga.

Adrift.

Adrift.

However, there are also very serious problems with Day of Honour. In keeping with the tone of Voyager during Taylor’s tenure, it is a very conservative piece of television both in terms of style and politics. After The Gift worked so hard to generate tension between Seven of Nine and the Voyager crew, Day of Honour casually brushes that aside. And it deals with an interesting story about the legacy of Seven’s relationship to the Borg in the most trite manner possible, the plot hinging on a techno-babble solution to ensure there is no actual conflict.

More than that, Day of Honour is incredibly reactionary in its portrayal of the Caatati, a refugee race who were rendered homeless by the Borg Collective. These dispossessed aliens are presented as greed and underhanded, ready to exploit the charity of our heroes and to betray them at the first opportunity. It is an extension of the xenophobic panic of Displaced, a tale about how our privileged heroes should react with paranoia and mistrust to those who arrive by accident or in distress. It is a rather uncomfortable Star Trek theme.

Means of transport.

Means of transport.

One of the recurring motifs across the seven-year run of Voyager is the idea that the Delta Quadrant is effectively the developing world. The Alpha Quadrant is occupied by empires and unions and alliances, while the Delta Quadrant seems more scattered and disorganised. In the first two seasons of Voyager, it was suggested that the Kazon and Vidiians were the biggest players in the region; a collection of roving gangs and a once-great civilisation that had imploded.

To be fair, the premise of Voyager means that the series could never engage in world-building to the same extent as the other Star Trek shows, as the crew never stayed in place long enough to get a lay of the metaphorical land. More than that, the Borg clearly cast a large shadow over the Delta Quadrant as a whole, arguably a bigger empire than the Romulans or the Cardassians or the Klingons or the Federation. However, there is a recurring sense that the Delta Quadrant is less advanced and less centralised than the Alpha Quadrant.

Playing the hand you've been Delta.

Playing the hand you’ve been Delta.

Just look at the alien characters who appear week-in and week-out, small-scale aliens who occupy a single planet or system instead of large swathes of space; the nomadic Mikhal Travellers from Darkling, the primitive Takarians from False Profits. Consider the emphasis on communication difficulties with the eponymous hive from The Swarm or the Tak Tak from Macrocosm. The poverty of Talaxians in episodes like Caretaker and Fair Trade. It is clear that the Delta Quadrant operates according to a different set of logic than the Alpha Quadrant.

Even the recurring species have a character very distinct from the major Alpha Quadrant aliens. The Hirogen will be introduced in Message in a Bottle and Hunters as a group of nomadic “big game” hunters. The Malon will first appear in Night as a staunchly materialist society using their resources to dump vast amounts of waste with little regard for the region’s inhabitants. There is a recurring theme of exoticism and exploitation to the Delta Quadrant powers.

"Sometimes we look at the Kazon and think, 'there but for the grace of the Great Bird of the Galaxy'..."

“Sometimes we look at the Kazon and think, ‘there but for the grace of the Great Bird of the Galaxy’…”

In fact, in some respects this plays into the larger idea of the Borg Collective as a twisted mirror of the Federation. Voyager repeatedly suggests that the Borg are an exploitative scourge upon the Delta Quadrant, as demonstrated in the countless species devastated by the Collective; the Caatati in Day of Honour, Species 116 in Hope and Fear, the Brunali in Child’s Play. It seems quite likely that the Borg are at least part of the reason that no larger Delta Quadrant infrastructure exists akin to the Federation or even the Dominion.

As such, the Borg could be seen to represent the darker tendencies of the Federation as a twenty-fourth century extrapolation of the United States. If the Delta Quadrant is to be read as a metaphor for the developing world, then the Borg are an expression of the manipulation and exploitation of third world powers by developed countries; the suppression of democracy, the fostering of political instability, the attempted exploitation of natural resources.

Gimme shelter. And everything else.

Gimme shelter.
And everything else.

However, there is also a recurring sense of cynicism in this portrayal of the Delta Quadrant, some of the subtext seeming very reactionary and conservative in tone. Voyager‘s fixation on the Prime Directive means that Janeway spends more of the series trying to avoiding helping these poor and disadvantaged aliens. As David A. Gonzalez argues in The Politics of Star Trek:

Star Trek: Voyager indicates the extreme degree to which relations between the developed and underdeveloped world could deteriorate, where the starship Voyager is stranded in the Delta Quadrant – that is, the so-called Third World. Voyager introduces the Kazon, with which peace is ostensibly not possible.

There is definitely a trace of that to be found in the handling of the Cataati in Day of Honour. They are introduced as a dispossessed and pitiable collection of refugees, however they quickly show themselves to be villainous and untrustworthy. As with Displaced, there is a strong suggestion that the proper reaction to people in need of assistance is paranoia.

Look at that water wastage.

Look at that water wastage.

The first sign of trouble occurs relatively early in the episode, when the Cataati make their case to the crew of Voyager. Day of Honour bends over backwards to insist that the Cataati are being unreasonable and pushy. “Forgive me but, from my perspective you live in luxury,” Lumas suggests. “You don’t suffer from debilitating diseases. You have many sources of energy. Replicators. Your crew is very well fed. Apparently, keeping your bellies full is more important to you than helping those less fortunate.”

Naturally, Neelix is quick to bristle at the implied accusation. “These are the most generous people you could hope to meet,” Neelix reprimands Lumas. “But if we gave supplies to everyone who asked, we wouldn’t have anything left.” It is worth noting that Lumas has not even heard what Janeway is willing to offer, he just jumps right to trying to shame and guilt-trip the crew into surrendering to his demands. The Cataati are quickly defined as ungrateful and unappreciative of those in more privileged positions.

"There are children on Cataatia that are starving and would be very grateful for some blood pie. Well, those that aren't assimilated."

“There are children on Cataatia that are starving and would be very grateful for some blood pie. Well, those that aren’t assimilated.”

There is something disconcerting about this characterisation from the beginning, even before the Cataati prove themselves untrustworthy. It plays into stereotypes about the dispossessed and the disadvantaged that are frequently used to justify broader indifference. Refugees from Syria in 2015 and 2016 have been described by more reactionary media and hostile residents as “ungrateful” for the charity they receive, with many racist and nationalist organisations perpetuating these reports.

To be fair, this sort of paranoia and distrust is not exclusive to immigrants and refugees. Virtually any dispossessed or disadvantaged group is subjected to these accusations and criticisms. Homeless men and homeless women are frequently criticised for being “ungrateful” for the assistance offered to them. This an uncomfortable idea, the sense that treating a person with dignity needs to be rewarded with eternal and unquestioning gratitude, and that those who receive aid should be happy for what they receive rather than arguing for better conditions.

Missing their core values.

Missing their core values.

This is an incredibly privileged perspective, and one at odds with the progressive humanism expected from Star Trek. It is more akin to the rhetoric employed by the political right to deal with any criticism or opposition. Sarah Palin famously responded to Colin Kaepernik’s “taking a knee” protest by calling him an “ungrateful punk.” In these early scenes, Day of Honour suggests that the Cataati should be grateful for Janeway even agreeing to hear their request in the first place. The implication is that Lumas should say nothing more than “thank you.”

Naturally, this scene exists to foreshadow the climax of the episode. When Voyager is forced to jettison its warp core, the Cataati respond by holding it hostage. Again, there is no sign of gratitude to the ship and crew that showed them charity. Instead, they use to the opportunity to pounce upon Voyager and to deliver an ultimatum. The Cataati are ultimately presented as outlaws and thugs, an untrustworthy race that refuse to show Janeway and her crew the respect that they deserve.

Sharing is caring.

Sharing is caring.

“You’ve brought some friends,” Janeway reflects. “Needy friends,” Lumas replies. “We’re hoping you will offer us more supplies.” Janeway protests, reasonably, “I made it clear last time that we couldn’t possibly you with enough for all your ships.” Lumas is pragmatic and opportunistic. “And I had to accept that because your ship is more powerful than ours. But the situation has changed, hasn’t it? You seem to be at a disadvantage now. We have your warp core. You can’t escape. I’m hoping that’ll make you more generous.”

Again, this feels like familiar xenophobic paranoia. It reflects the fear that immigrants and refugees are just waiting for an opportunity to turn the tables on their hosts. The argument suggests that it is better to keep these dispossessed individuals at a disadvantage, because they will take any opportunity to undermine the countries foolish enough to welcome them. After all, consider the paranoia around alleged plots by minorities to impose Sharia Law or to smuggle terrorists across borders. It is as paranoid about immigration as Displaced was.

Engines of destiny.

Engines of destiny.

This is not something unique to Day of Honour or Displaced. By its nature, Voyager tries to find reasons for the crew to avoid helping the disadvantaged and dispossessed residents of the Delta Quadrant. This is most notable in Janeway’s application of the Prime Directive, a rule nominally intended to prevent colonialism or imperialism, but which also serves to advocate moral responsibility. It was also an issue with the Kazon; the visuals in State of Flux suggested that the Kazon deserved Janeway’s sympathy and compassion, but the script ignored it.

Day of Honour is also very conservative in terms of narrative. The story represents a clear departure from the tone of Scorpion, Part I, Scorpion, Part II and The Gift. In those episodes, characters were given the freedom to hold conflicting opinions and to argue with one another. Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II is rooted in a fundamental disagreement between Janeway and Chakotay. The Gift has Seven of Nine and Janeway engage in a battle of wills with one another. It is suggested that characters can stand in opposition to one another.

"All by myself..."

“All by myself…”

Day of Honour casually discards that tension. The episode opens with Seven of Nine meeting Chakotay, and requesting a duty assignment on the ship. “I am finding it difficult to spend so much time alone,” she confesses. Chakotay is sympathetic. “I can understand that. How can we help?” There is something very stilted and awkward in their interaction, as if they are strangers with no back story or motivations beyond the demands of this individual episode.

In The Gift, Seven made it quite clear that she does not want to become more human; that she will resist Janeway’s attempts to force humanity upon her. However, in Day of Honour, Seven is practically jumping up and down to become a member of the crew. At the same time, Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II established that Chakotay was distrustful of the Borg following his experiences in Unity. It seems like there should be some palpable tension to that interaction. Instead, it is all very flat.

Borganic character development.

Borganic character development.

To be fair, Day of Honour does acknowledge that Seven of Nine’s presence on the ship will generate some tension, but it is all abstract. When Torres objects to assigning Seven of Nine to Engineering, it is contextualised in terms of Torres having a really bad day. The implication is that she doesn’t really mean it. She is just being grumpy. Later, when Paris apologises for Lumas’ reaction to Seven, she simply states, “There are many people on this ship who have similar feelings towards me.” However, it is treated as something abstract rather than anything real.

The Gift suggested any number of interesting metaphors for Seven of Nine’s journey: that of a former cult member, or a recovering drug addict, or a child raised by wolves. However, Day of Honour has already stripped away a lot of that. Seven of Nine seems to have been completely domesticated. She is willing to play nice and to help the crew of Voyager take her further away from the collective. When Lumas brings up the trauma that the Cataati have suffered at the hands of the Borg, he is portrayed as unreasonable and unjustified.

"And no assimilation, either!"

“And no assimilation, either!”

“I am unaccustomed to deception,” Seven flatly states at one point. Again, this seems like the broadest and most uplifting read on the character. Seven of Nine was party to deception during Scorpion, Part I and Scorpion, Part II. When the Borg broke their alliance and betrayed Voyager at the end of Scorpion, Part II, Seven was the instrument that they used. However, Day of Honour works hard to sand the edges off the character, to remove anything that could lead to conflict or disagreement.

Naturally, Day of Honour ends with the most happy and trite of conclusions. Seven of Nine was not trying to sabotage Voyager, the warp core malfunction was an accident. Seven also just happens to have memories of magical technology that can provide everything that the Cataati might need, volunteering it because she is learning to be human and thus compassionate. She even offers to sacrifice herself to save the crew at the climax of the episode, demonstrating that she is as selfless and idealistic as any member of Starfleet. It is all very tidy.

"Hey, look. Last time we went to transwarp, it worked out quite well for us, eh?"

“Hey, look. Last time we went to transwarp, it worked out quite well for us, eh?”

(Similarly neat is the attempt to open “a transwarp conduit” that might get the crew home a lot quicker. Seven attempts to open one in Day of Honour as a gesture of good will, but things go disastrously wrong due to “erratic fluctuations in the ship’s warp power.” However, once the problem has been diagnosed, there is no attempt to fix it. The crew simply opt not to try again. This seems strange, given how easily it might get them home. It recalls the casual abandonment of the transwarp breakthrough in Threshold once it served its plot function.)

Day of Honour is also notable for being the first episode to feature Jeri Ryan in her distinctive body-hugging catsuit for the entirety of its runtime. Seven’s costume was teased at the end of The Gift. Although the production team would make a number of changes and revisions to the outfit over the course the show’s run, the basic costume remained largely unchanged. It was a heavily sexualised tight outfit designed to emphasise Jeri Ryan’s voluptuous figure. It is a very creepy piece of costuming, one that looks as though she is walking around naked.

Structural integrity is holding.

Structural integrity is holding.

Ryan has talked about the absurdity of the costume, right down to the custom corset that was created for underneath the catsuit:

Apparently they don’t wear bras and underwear in space. It was a very elaborate undergarment. I have to say that Robert Blackman, the costume designer, is an absolute genius. That costume was a real feat in engineering, because the producers had said that they wanted it to look like skin, to be skin-regenerative fabric. For the breast mound, they wanted two individual breasts and they wanted it to hug every curve, like skin.

Sorry, the breast mound?

Yep, that’s what they called it. The fabric naturally stretches from high point to high point, right? So he had to devise this construction, this corset. It also added to the mechanical non-human look of Seven.

The costume is incredibly crass, effectively an attempt to get a beautiful blonde woman to walk around naked without upsetting the censors.

Shades of grey.

Shades of grey.

The amount of attention that the production team paid to Jeri Ryan’s physique is unsettling, particular given there is no justification for it in plot terms. There is no reason why Seven of Nine could not have remained in a hybrid state between human and Borg for a longer period of time, emphasising the alien nature of the character. Even if the production team did not want to have Jeri Ryan in Borg makeup for the entirety of her time on Voyager, Seven of Nine could have dressed like Neelix or Kes during the first few years of the show.

The absurdity of the situation is obvious from the opening shot of Day of Honour, as Seven of Nine is regenerating in her alcove. The alcove is designed to look atmospheric, with blinking lights creating an unsettling tone. However, the shape and design of Seven’s costume means that every time the light at the bottom of the alcove switches on, her breasts catch and reflect the light. Instead of creating an impressive silhouette as such lighting would normally, the sequence makes her breasts pulse. It is a frustrating opening shot.

"The Doctor's catsuit is creepy enough. His lighting is completely unnecessary."

“The Doctor’s catsuit is creepy enough. His lighting is completely unnecessary.”

In The Fifty-Year Mission, director Jesús Salvador Treviño confessed that the initial grey costume created all manner of logistical challenges for directors who wanted to film the actor without seeming leery or exploitative:

I did one of Jeri’s first episodes when they were still fine-tuning the costume on her, because she’s a gorgeous woman and they wanted to sell her sexuality, obviously. We had other difficulties. There was one scene where she comes into the room and there’s a bunch of objects on the table. She picks one of them up as she’s talking and the skintight outfit was really showing her breasts. She picked up this thing that happened to be longer than it was wide, and as she held it up she was inadvertently holding it right between her breasts. I turned to the DP and he turned to me and we said, “Let me change that.” So I repositioned the camera so that we would get on with the storyline instead of the inadvertent sexual allusion there. Jeri’s sex appeal and beauty as a woman was enough, but this was just hilarious. I don’t thing anyone even got wind of it, except I had to stop and redo the whole thing. People probably said, “He’s just a crazy director; he doesn’t know what he needs.” Well, I knew what I didn’t need.

This is just one of the smaller problems with Seven’s costume. The initial grey jumpsuit was so tight on Ryan that she “got faint” while wearing it and the production team kept nurses on set with oxygen to help Ryan breath.

No comment.

No comment.

Seven of Nine is not the primary focus of Day of Honour, but it does set the tone for the fourth season as a whole. Introducing a new character into an established ensemble is a challenge in any situation, and part of that challenge is finding the balance between the new arrival and the existing players. Seven of Nine threatened to overwhelm Voyager and to squeeze the other characters out of their own show. Even this early in the fourth season, it is apparent that Seven of Nine is a primary focus of the series.

Of the first six episodes of the season, Seven of Nine is an important character in all but one. Scorpion, Part II introduces Seven of Nine. The primary plot of The Gift establishes her character and her arc. The subplot of Day of Honour finds her integrating with the crew. The subplot of Revulsion finds Seven of Nine propositioning Harry Kim. The primary plot of The Raven delves into her history and back story. As such, Seven of Nine is a major in every one of those first episodes apart from Nemesis. Already, Seven is dominating Voyager.

"This is my episode. Remember that."

“This is my episode. Remember that.”

This is not the best way to introduce a new character. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine did a much better job with Worf in its fourth season, although it had the luxury of importing an established character from Star Trek: The Next Generation rather than creating a new character from scratch. Even allowing for that, the rockier introduction of Ezri Dax in the seventh season was still a lot smoother than the introduction of Seven of Nine in the fourth season; only three of that season’s twenty-six episodes treat Ezri as the focal character.

Still, Day of Honour is not primarily concerned with the addition of Seven to the cast. Instead, it is an episode dedicated to building the relationship between Tom Paris and B’Elanna Torres, which had been lightly teased across the third season in episodes like Blood Fever and Displaced. In this respect, it feels very much like a Jeri Taylor episode. Taylor was much more interested in the emotional lives of the crew than other showrunners like Michael Piller or Brannon Braga, having written biographies in the form of Mosaic and Pathways.

"Although flat-headed Klingons observe different ritual holidays. We're trying to build a ridge between us."

“Although flat-headed Klingons observe different ritual holidays. We’re trying to build a ridge between us.”

Indeed, the concept of the episode actually developed from Taylor’s work on Mosaic and Pathways. According to Voyages of Imagination, the eponymous Klingon holiday was actually developed by Pocket Books editor John Ordover and incorporated into the script:

“The fun thing about that though is that it actually led to a Voyager episode.” As the books were being developed, John contacted Voyager executive producer Jeri Taylor, who had worked on her Voyager novels Mosaic and Pathways around this time – and told her about the Day of Honour miniseries, on the off chance that she might wish to tie-in an episode with the project. He told her, “‘There’s this Klingon holiday called Day of Honour which is kind of like the Jewish Yom Kippur, where you take the measure of your honour for the past year. It seemed like a perfect storyline for B’Elanna so I just called you up to say this is what we’re doing.’ And they tied into it. It was the first time a Star Trek episode had been created around a Trek book concept.”

It is an interesting example of cross-pollination between the television series and the tie-in books, unique to Taylor’s tenure on Voyager. Similarly, she had incorporated background details from her work on Mosaic into the script for Coda.

B'Elanna Torres and the Goblet of Ire.

B’Elanna Torres and the Goblet of Ire.

There is always something interesting about these more playful approaches to concepts of canon that extend beyond the dry continuity accountancy of people like Richard Arnold. It is always fun to see Star Trek adopt an expansive approach to what matters and what doesn’t in the larger context of the shared universe. While concepts like character continuity are important for drama and characterisation, there are times when the obsession with rigid boundaries can seem like close-minded gate-keeping.

Jeri Taylor’s willingness to play nice with Pocket Books in its own way reflects the guerilla efforts of the Deep Space Nine writers to pull the then-controversial Star Trek: The Animated Series into the canon through veiled references in episodes like Broken Link, Tears of the Prophets and Once More Unto the Breach. It is always good to see the Star Trek universe getting bigger (and perhaps even a little messier) as it expands to include stories beyond careful-defined expectations.

"You know, B'Elanna, when I said I wanted to get freaky, reliving Threshold was not what I had in mind."

“You know, B’Elanna, when I said I wanted to get freaky, reliving Threshold was not what I had in mind.”

In fact, Day of Honour is positively cheeky in its approach to continuity. While Jeri Taylor includes a nod to the work happening in the tie-in novels, she also subtly implies that not every episode of Star Trek that made it to air should be considered to be an essential part of the franchise. “I’ve never navigated a transwarp conduit,” Paris confesses to Seven. While he could simply be using very specific technical language, it comes close enough to implying that Paris and the crew of Voyager have consciously decided that Threshold never happened.

The primary focus of Day of Honour is trying to force Paris and Torres to confess their latent attraction to one another by putting the through a horrific ordeal together. It is similar to the approach that Taylor employed with Resolutions, stranding Janeway and Chakotay together on a planet so that they might have the opportunity to work through their complicated emotions. In some ways, this repeated fascination with interpersonal relationships on Voyager was a hallmark of Jeri Taylor’s approach to the show.

A Torres love affair.

A Torres love affair.

To be fair, Taylor never followed the relationship between Janeway and Chakotay to its conclusion. Resolutions was constructed to be ambiguous, to allow the audience to read the episode in whatever way they would like. Janeway and Chakotay would grow apart over the remaining seasons of Voyager. In some ways, Seven of Nine was the spoiler here; Janeway would develop her strongest interpersonal relationship with Seven, while Chakotay would find himself in a last-minute romance with Seven in Endgame.

However, Taylor did manage to establish a relationship between Paris and Torres during her time on the series. In fact, Paris and Torres would become one of the best indications of actual growth and development on the series. The pair would get married in Drive, conceive a child in Lineage and become parents in Endgame. The pair never work as well as Worf and Dax or Kira and Odo on Deep Space Nine, but they do add a lot of texture to Voyager. Unlike the other lead characters, Paris and Torres do feel like they grow, if only in spurts.

Their wedding song would be "Every Breath You Take."

Their wedding song would be “Every Breath You Take.”

In Braving the Unknown, Taylor argued that a strong storytelling reason was needed to get the pair to acknowledge their mutual attraction:

Tom and B’Elanna seemed to have an adversarial relationship. They didn’t each bump each other the right way but I started thinking that often that kind of conflict is covering inner feelings that are not acknowledged by either participant. They are feeling something else but don’t want to face it. And so it comes out as conflict. For me it was a natural outgrowth of what had gone on before, so in [Day Of Honor], once again they are stranded. Put two people on a desert island and things will happen. So they’re hanging out in space and the admission is finally made.

Star Trek has never really committed to that kind of storytelling, and Taylor’s interest in it is one of the defining features of her run.

It's like she wears a suit of armour around her heart. And a space suit.

It’s like she wears a suit of armour around her heart. And a space suit.

To be fair, Day of Honour is not a particularly smooth piece of television in this regard. There is something to be said for watching a relationship grown and develop organically, instead of seeing it forced by external circumstances. As fun as it might be to imagine love blossoming as our heroes face certain death, it is also something of a melodramatic cliché. Then again, Star Trek has never been particularly good at getting characters into relationships; for every Looking for Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places, there is a His Way waiting.

More than that, there is something very sudden about hearing Paris and Torres confess their love for one another. “I love you,” Torres tells Paris in the final scene of the episode. To this point, there has never been any indication that the pair have gone on a single romantic date or that they have kissed or that they have talked as anything but friends. Having Torres suddenly confess her love for Paris is a suitably dramatic moment, but it doesn’t feel real or earned.

All in a day's work.

All in a day’s work.

The two have no idea how they’ll function in a relationship, or how they’ll manage to live together. These are important things to figure out. Day of Honour treats those three words as the biggest possible hurdle that could exist between Torres and Paris, the only barrier to eternal happiness and satisfaction. The implication is that once this declaration has been made, everything will work itself out. It is a very old-school and romantic interpretation of how love works, one that discounts a lot of the mess that defines human relationships.

Deep Space Nine certainly faced its share of challenges in portraying long-term relationships, but there were something more honest about the ambiguity surrounding the relationship between Worf and Jadzia at the end of Looking for Par’Mach in All the Wrong Places or in the complicated nature of the dynamic between Worf and Ezri in Penumbra. Of course, the show was also capable of glossing over these details, as with the conversation between Kira and Odo in You Are Cordially Invited… or the pairing of Ezri and Bashir in Dogs of War.

Well suited to the task.

Well suited to the task.

Not all of the production team were particularly interested in a long-term relationship between Paris and Torres. Interviewed at the start of the fifth season, actor Robert Duncan McNeill confessed some concern that the relationship would limit the storytelling potential for his character:

“My hesitation to get tied down to B’Elanna on the show is that because it’s a series and each week you’re doing a new story, sometimes a new relationship can create a very interesting story, whereas the same relationship can become a little boring as a story,” says the father of three. “I think there is a responsibility for television to set a good example, but the most important responsibility is to tell a good story. Sometimes with alien-of-the-week stories, you get a relationship that you can explore in a really focused way, and you can tell a story in that experience – it’s more difficult to sustain characters episode after episode, and keep that interesting.”

In a contemporary interview with Cinefantastique, Braga confessed to discomfort with the relationship, acknowledging, “I had mixed feelings about the romance angle.” As such, the blossoming of the relationship between Paris and Torres is very clearly something that Taylor is pushing.

Drifting together.

Drifting together.

There is something to be said for the basic premise of the episode, in which Paris and Torres find themselves stranded in deep space with only each other for company. It is a nice concept, acknowledging that Star Trek generally does quite well when it throws two characters together and lets them talk; Darmok, Duet, Shuttlepod One. It is surprising that it took the franchise more than thirty years to do an episode in which two of the regulars were trapped in the void.

There are obvious production limitations. Shooting for a television budget and schedule, director Jesús Salvador Treviño struggles to realise that sense of dread and threat. There are a number of nice establishing shots of Paris and Torres floating in space together, but the episode also leans on several shots of the pair from the waist up. These sequences, in which Dawson and MacNeill are clearly just standing in front of a blue screen, look like they were lifted from a nineties direct-to-video science-fiction film.

Floating in a most peculiar way.

Floating in a most peculiar way.

There is also a sense that the production team are aware of these limitations. Episodes like Darmok, Duet and Shuttlepod One get straight to the plot of two characters squaring off against one another. However, Day of Honour takes forever to get to the sequences of Paris and Torres drifting through space. In many ways, Voyager feels like an old-fashioned television series. Day of Honour is a painfully slow episode, almost reaching the half-way point before reaching the big story hook.

At the same time, there is something disconcerting about the premise of Day of Honour. The episode is about Torres reflecting upon her heroic deeds for the past year, in observance with a long-standing Klingon tradition. It is not a bad tradition at all, as contemplation and celebration are always worthwhile endeavours. However, there is a palpable tension running through the episode with regard to Torres’ long-standing ambivalence to her Klingon heritage.

"I'm flying, Tom! I'm flying!"

“I’m flying, Tom! I’m flying!”

Torres’ discomfort with her Klingon half is a cornerstone of her character stretching from the first season until the last; it drives episodes like Faces or Barge of the Dead or Lineage or even Prophecy. Torres’ larger arc is about growing comfortable with that part of herself. It receives less attention (and a less clear conclusion) than the arcs of the EMH or Seven of Nine, but it runs in parallel with them. Indeed, that is a major part of Day of Honour, as Torres grapples with whether she wants to follow this Klingon ritual through to its conclusion.

There are any number of reasons why Torres might decide to follow the idea through to its conclusion. Perhaps being stranded in the Delta Quadrant brings on a nostalgia. “I’ve been thinking a lot about the rituals that my mother taught me, and they don’t seem quite so hateful as they did when I was a child,” she confesses to Neelix. “Maybe being so far away from anything Klingon has changed me.” Perhaps she accepts the ritual on her own terms.

Klingon to her heritage.

Klingon to her heritage.

However, there is an uncomfortable subtext running through Day of Honour that Torres essentially has to complete the ritual for no other reason than because she is part-Klingon. Torres has no choice but to respect the traditions on her mother’s side of the family. When Paris asks how the ritual went, she replies, “It was ridiculous, meaningless posturing. Honour, dishonour, what does it matter?” Paris replies, “It matters because it’s part of who you are. You’ve been running away from that your whole life.”

In some ways, this exchange resonates with the debate between Janeway and Seven of Nine in The Gift. There, Janeway argued that Seven had no choice but to accept individuality because she was born human. No matter what choices Seven made at this interval, no matter her experiences to this point, Seven could never be anything but human and so was expected to behave like a human. Day of Honour does something similar for Torres and her Klingon half, albeit without the slight shade of ambiguity that The Gift lent to Janeway.

Blowing a gasket.

Blowing a gasket.

There is something very conservative and normative in this, the insistence that identity is ultimately determined by DNA. It stands in stark opposition to the more open-minded approach taken by Deep Space Nine, where an individual’s identity is determined by more than their biological make-up. It is a result of other factors, including personality and choice and upbringing. Rom completely eschews Ferengi tradition to become an engineer. Nog joins Starfleet, while still retaining (but not being defined by) his Ferengi values.

When biological determinism comes into play on Deep Space Nine, it is generally treated as a tragedy. The Jem’Hadar are bred to fight and die, while episodes like The Abandoned, Hippocratic Oath and Rocks and Shoals present them as sympathetic figures trapped within their genetically-predetermined roles. Even the Vorta are subject to such pity in Treachery, Faith and the Great River, when an accident of genetics grants a clone of Weyoun free will. This sort of determinism is certainly not to be celebrated.

Borg on board.

Borg on board.

Even in terms of plotting, Day of Honour is fuzzy. Exactly how long is the eponymous Klingon holiday? The name would seem to suggest that it is only one day long, but the episode unfolds over an unspecified amount of time. Torres first acknowledges the holiday during a shift in Engineering when nothing appears to go right. However, she the day seems to last until the end of the shift, past dinner, into her evening on the holodeck and long enough for Seven to set up a transwarp conduit. That is one very busy day, with Torres working at least two shifts.

Day of Honour is a disappointing episode, one that carries over a lot of the flaws from the third season and ignores the potential of the past three episodes.

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8 Responses

  1. Darren, your reviews are helping me recognize there is a strong libertarian reading to be had out of Voyager – that the depiction of the Delta Quadrant as comprised by a bunch of looters and poor people who expect handouts is all over “Alliances,” “Displaced,” and “Day of Honor.” It’s not even something tied in particular to Jeri Taylor as it continues past this season, with the long run of “how do we justify not helping people?” eventually leading to “Dear Doctor.” It would not surprise me to learn Voyager was Zack Snyder’s favourite Trek show.

    And this attitude you’ve noted doesn’t seem like a deliberate creative choice, but it does feel like a legitimate extrapolation of how the Berman era writers treated the Prime Directive – as a “good fences make good neighbours” policy. As you’ve noted, DS9 has a bad reputation for being the “dark” Trek show and yet its heart bled for the people to whom bad things happened, it was foundational in DS9’s DNA to be concerned with the plight of the Bajorans; not so much Voyager, the program which surveyed the universe and declared, “there’s nothing worthwhile out there. Let’s go home.”

    >The costume is incredibly crass, effectively an attempt to get a beautiful blonde woman to walk around naked without upsetting the censors.

    Culminating in “Q2!”

    • “a strong libertarian reading to be had out of Voyager”

      Intriguing.

      I figured it was just symptomatic of a creative crisis, and in some respects “a mid-life crisis”, as the writers grew tired of spinning the same yarns. We’ve seen it happen with other franchises.

      Compare this season to the pilot episode, by which I mean Janeway’s “Clinton-esque” appeal to Tuvok.

      “But we ARE involved Tuvok, we are.”

      • I may be reading too much into this, but I do think there was a conscious swing to the right in pop culture (and culture at large) in the mid- to late-nineties.

        I noticed it around roughly the same point in The X-Files, and I think the SNL writers have acknowledged it as well when it comes to explaining the electoral success of George W. Bush. I can’t find the stats in my reviews at the moment, but I do think that the evangelical movement was growing in influence and that things like the Lewinski Scandal were feeding into that right-wing resurgence. (I suspect personally that millennial eschatology played a part, but I can’t find any stats to bear that out.)

    • I think the trend might have continued past Taylor’s time on the show, but I certainly think it’s strongest in those first four years. Of course, the Kazon skewer the results somewhat. But I do think there is a difference between the yucky Prime Directive story in Alliances, for example, and the paranoia of Displaced.

      Although, obviously the Prime Directive dilemma as it relates to the Kazon ends up more overtly racially coded than the Prime Directive stories in Pen Pals, Who Watches the Watchers? or Homeward, to pick three TNG examples.

      (I think Brannon Braga was less concerned with the Prime Directive than Taylor, at least on Voyager, which may have been rooted more in his iconoclastic tendencies than any philosophical belief. Most notably, I am not convinced Taylor’s Janeway would have helped the refugees in Counterpoint, to pick an example. I also think Voyager is more sympathetic to the “Night” aliens at the start of the fifth season than it is to most of the disadvantaged aliens in the first four seasons.)

  2. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’ve always found Torres a fascinating character as the one ‘half human’ character who was always much more connected with her human side. She’s the flip side of Spock or Worf (not biologically half human but raised by humans). Why shouldn’t her choice (and it seems very much her choice) to embrace being human rather than Klingon not be equally respected.

    Somewhat hypocritically I am firmly in Janeway’s corner regarding Seven but it is very hard not to see Seven as a rescued cult member – or even a Hitler Youth (or rather the League of German https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/League_of_German_Girls) undergoing deprogramming.

    • Yep. The “TORRES MUST RESPECT HER KLINGON HERITAGE!” aspects of Voyager are quite jarring, even if they do speak to the show’s odd fascination with ethnic purity. “You are what you are, and you can’t change it,” Voyager seems to decree. Which is strange when watching DS9 alongside it. The Voyager writers would never let Rom become an engineer or let Nog join Starfleet for example. They probably wouldn’t even let Jake be a writer.

      I like Seven a lot, but I do regret that the arc wasn’t more planned out, and that we didn’t get a good season full of stories like Prey. Which may be my favourite of the S4 Janeway/Seven stories.

  3. “It is an interesting example of cross-pollination between the television series and the tie-in books.” It is a shame that there will probably never be any adaptations of any of the Star Trek books. I just finished A Stitch in Time, and I would love to see a miniseries adaptation of that book instead of yet another Star Trek show about a Federation Starship exploring space.

    • A Stitch in Time is amazing. It’s probably the best Star Trek book, along with The Final Reflection or maybe The Never-Ending Sacrifice. (I also adore Serpents Among the Ruins, but admit it’s a more acquired taste.) That said, I’m not sure it would work as well in live action. Although part of me suspects Andrew Robinson reading the audio book version in character might be the perfect adaptation.

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