Voyager 1.6: Eye of the Needle

Subtitle: Probably should have listened to Tuvok

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Summary: Voyager finds a tiny wormhole to the Alpha Quadrant

Grade: B (C level plot, A level character development)

Etc. There are a lot of  small character beats in this otherwise run of the mill lost-in-space plus folding-space-time plot.

 B’Elanna and Harry’s  relationship is adorable. She encourages him, comforts him, and even tries to cheer him up when they learn the fate of their work (thanks to timey-whimeyness the Romulan agent they gave their messages to died two years before they were lost).

KIM: This has to work. It’ll mean so much to people back home to know we’re alive and headed for Federation space.
TORRES: We haven’t been gone that long. People won’t give up on us so soon. They probably just think we’re lost.
KIM: It’s still going to be hard on my folks. I always called them once a week, even when I was on my training missions. I’ve never been out of contact for so long.
TORRES: Well, it is going to work, Starfleet, so pretty soon they’re going to know you’re all right.
KIM: How about you? Any family?
TORRES: I haven’t seen my father since I was five. He and my mother separated. He went back to Earth and that was the last I saw of him.
KIM: And your mom?
TORRES: I think she’s on the Klingon Homeworld.
KIM: You think?
TORRES: We didn’t get along very well. Okay, the signal generator should be tuned to the probe’s long range sensors.
KIM: Isn’t there anyone back home who’ll be worried about you?
TORRES: The Maquis are as to a close family as I’ve ever had. Most of my friends are here, on the ship, so no, there’s no one back home who’s going to care one way or the other whether I’m alive. 

We know B’Elanna has a fear of abandonment and now we know why. B’Elanna equates everything she hates about herself with what her father left behind, which can be abbreviated to “Klingon”, and everything she wants for herself with what her father took when he went — family, stability, security, love — which can be abbreviated to “Human”. B’Elanna doesn’t feel comfortable with humans or klingons, only with other misfits — the Maquis.

She also has a key moment when she has figured out she could transport people through the wormhole but she doesn’t trust it/herself and tells Janeway in confidence so as not to get anyone’s hopes up. B’Elanna is used to being disappointed (and being a disappointment).

TORRES: I think this will work, Captain, but I didn’t want to bring it up in front of the crew. It wouldn’t be right to get their hopes up in case it doesn’t work, although I think it will.
JANEWAY: Slow down, Torres, and tell me what you’re talking about.

As someone who babbles, especially when trying to make a point about something I am sure of but not sure I should be sure of…I relate to B’Elanna a lot in this moment.

Harry Kim is a far more interesting character than he gets credit for. 

  • Harry is very young, not just in years (he is the youngest bridge officer) but in experience. He’s just out of the Academy, Voyager is his first assignment. 
  • He is an only child and clearly close to his parents. In the pilot Janeway tells Tuvok Kim’s mother contacted her to ask if she could bring him his clarinet before they left for the mission. This tells us that his parents (or at least his mother) doesn’t fully understand Starfleet protocol and is an involved (possibly helicopter) parent. 
  • Of all the main characters, Harry is most often shown to be homesick, at times truly desperate to get back. 
  • And where Janeway and Torres find beauty in science, Chakotay in spiritualism, Tom in pushing limits and Tuvok in defining them, Harry finds beauty in beauty. 

From all this I can put together a composite of a privileged and sheltered childhood. His parents gave him whatever he wanted and encouraged him in all his endeavors (from Starfleet to music). He’s bright enough to be made a bridge officer right away but he has no practical experience (Quark almost swindles Harry in his first 5 minutes on screen). I get the impression he chose to be a somebody on a small ship instead of a nobody on a bigger/more prestigious ship like Enterprise — but not necessarily realizing that put him on the fringes of space even before Voyager was lost. He has a lot of ideas about how the universe should be and now he has to reconcile how it actually is with those beliefs. But in his interactions with the crew, Tom and B’Elanna particularly, Harry is compassionate. He’s naive but willing to learn. Easily intimidated, but willing to speak up.

I wish tumblr was a thing when Voyager was around because I want to read someone’s 10,000 word essay about Harry as a representation of Asians (/Asian-Americans?) and how it differs from others in Trek (I do not feel qualified to write it myself). Fanlore doesn’t like Harry very much and he’s not a character I remember caring about but in this rewatch I find him very interesting! 

And that is 500 words to introduce that in this episode Harry shows initiative in finding the wormhole, and gets very excited that it could be a way to communicate with home. Tuvok worries that he is TOO excited and will be disappointed and Janeway answers “I’d rather assume that he’s going to be successful.” and the whole exchange (and episode) tells us so many things about all three. Poor Tuvok is a pragmatist surrounded by idealists.

On that same note Janeway tells B’Elanna “Don’t worry about secrecy. I doubt you’d be able to keep this quiet for very long”. Janeway is a FIRM idealist, which makes perfect sense for a Captain in Starfleet who was also raised by a Starfleet admiral and mentored by another. But her scientist turned captain “oh well that didn’t work, keep trying” attitude must be hard on people who aren’t so resilient. Good thing Tuvok and Chakotay are around to keep the crew grounded (like, imagine if it was only Janeway,  B’Elanna, Tom and Harry making decisions…they’d have grand adventures but they would die young, ne?).

Kes and The Doctor continue their bonding and by the end of the episode Kes has decided to go to medical school and The Doctor has decided he wants a name. Additionally Kes goes to Janeway to convince her that The Doctor is a person, not a program, and needs to be treated as the member of the crew (and in fact bridge officer) he is. Janeway in turn speaks with The Doctor about taking responsibility as CMO. It’s all a lot of great character building.

Finally! In this episode Captain Janeway takes a call in her quarters, in a pink satin nightgown with her hair flowing free, and we are all better for it.

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