Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast April 8th, 1996
Reviewed y Christina Luckings
A very second hand looking shuttle is sitting on the forest floor, and Tuvok is rushing out with a medkit whilst trying to contact Voyager. His companion on this trip, Mr. Bennet, is dying of a broken back, and regretting that there is no one to miss him when he is gone. Tuvok tells him that he believes Ensign McCormick will miss him greatly, and the token yellow-shouldered crew goes to the next emanation slightly comforted. There is a noise in the bushes, and a young girl in a red dress dashes out. Tuvok catches her and gets her to explain her presence. Her name is Tressa, and their ship has crashed on this moon as well. She asks about the stasis field he has put around Bennet’s body, and his explanation seems to assure her that he is trustworthy. She calls to her two young companions and they emerge from their hiding place. These three children are the sole survivors of their shipwreck. Tuvok tells them that he will look after them and get them home safely. They thank him with a group hug.
‘Captain’s log, supplemental. I’ve sent out scouting parties to analyse the mineral deposits in the moons around Drayan II. Meanwhile, I’ve arranged to meet with the planet’s leader.’
On their way to the transporter room, Chakotay tells the Captain that Neelix knows nothing about the Drayans. It seems they have kept themselves very private for decades. He wishes they had some idea of what to expect on this occasion, but Janeway is looking forward to the unknown. She always envied the captain’s privilege of making first contact. So did the young Chakotay, to the point where he made a big error in Tarkannan gesture language and propositioned the ambassador on his first diplomatic mission. Relaxed and happy, they arrive to greet First Prelate Alcia and her party on board Voyager. The Drayans are dressed head to toe in grey, with veils over their faces, but are polite and the two groups exchange traditional blessings. Alcia is only meeting them because the story of their journey has intrigued her. Captain Janeway invites her to tour the ship.
In engineering, Alcia asks if technology is their highest achievement. Janeway explains that it is merely a tool to help them explore the universe, and Alcia tells her that they used to be a very technologically minded race, until they had a Reformation and returned to putting the people first. Chakotay comments that some human societies feel the same way.
On the moon, Tuvok has moved Bennet’s body into the shuttle, and Tressa tells him that the attendants on their ship got the children to the escape pods before they crashed. The other two children, Corin and Elani, want to leave straight away, but Tuvok explains that he has to repair it first but that he is more concerned with finding a way to navigate through the electro-magnetic turbulence that caused him to crash in the first place. He tells them that Vulcan parents never shield their children from unpleasant truths, and when they ask for food, gently explains that they only have rations to eat, not takka berries in cherel sauce. The three youngsters become very upset when they think that they will have to stay on the moon overnight. That is when the Morrock comes out of its cave and takes it’s victims. The cave is within sight of the shuttle, so Tuvok goes over to scan it with his tricorder, while Corin explains that last night it took the other children from the ship, and tonight it will take them.
Next stop on the grand tour is the Sickbay, where Alcia and her group are greeted by the EMH, proudly boasting that should anything unfortunate happen to them while they are on board, they will receive the best possible medical care. Janeway explains that the EMH is a hologram, and this gives Alcia the opportunity to share the Drayan philosophy that physical matter is an illusion, a mere representation of the true self. Janeway picks up the cue and refers to Plato’s idea of higher planes of true existence. Just as the two women have reached a common understanding, Kim calls through with a message for the First Prelate. She takes it in the Doctor’s office while the Captain thinks through the next step in these diplomatic exchanges – finding out what the Drayans might what in exchange for the polyferranide in their moons. Her plans are crushed when Alcia comes back out of the office and suggests that Voyager continues on it’s journey. Snubbed, Janeway brusquely orders the scouting parties back.
Tuvok is interrogating the children while searching for the Morrock and the others. It is clear that he believes that their missing companions simply wandered off, but Tressa assures him that they have been taken. He points out that the only fact they know is that they are not within range of the tricorder. To calm their fears, he teaches the three a simple meditative technique to picture the fear as a cloud, then imagine a wind blowing it away from them. He goes to repair the shuttle, expecting them to behave like good Vulcan children. Of course, they do not, and he has to tell them to sit down again. So they ask him questions about Vulcans, and the shape of his ears, and he answers them with patience and thoroughness. In an attempt to stop Elani fiddling with some equipment, he makes them clasp their hands and focus on the ends of their fingers to try and attain a meditative state. During the question sessions, he admits to being ‘incomplete’ without his children, in a wistful sort of way. Then Tressa hears another ship coming. They all go into the shuttle to see if the sensors can identify it. It is a Drayan vessel, and the children tell him that it has not come to rescue them. They are the ones who sent them here to die.
Tuvok and the children hide in the bushes as a search party reaches the shuttle. He sets the tricorder to hide the group from the Drayan’s scanners and they are passed by. Then they discuss why a society should send it’s children to die on a moon, and the nature of death itself. It turns out that Tuvok doesn’t entirely believe in the katra, or soul, but does think that there is something else after this life. However, he does promise to protect them and get them safely to Voyager.
On Voyager, the bridge crew is beginning the search for Tuvok and Bennet. Torres and Neelix had found a source of pure polyferranide on their survey, and when they last spoke to the other team, they had been told that they were going to check the outermost moons. Paris follows the shuttle’s trail to the moon, where they find a Drayan ship already in orbit and Alcia in a bad mood. She accuses Janeway of desecrating their sacred ground, their ‘crysata’ and tells her to transport anyone on the moon back to Voyager immediately. Unfortunately, solar flare activity is causing the electro-magnetic disturbances and preventing the targeting scanners and sensors from doing their jobs properly.
Night has fallen, but the children cannot sleep. Tuvok leaves his repairs to return with them to the camp fire and tuck them back into to their beds. He reminisces about his youngest son’s fondness for the epic ‘Falor’s Journey’ when he could not sleep. It is a 348 verse song, sung to lute accompaniment. Tuvok sings them a couple of verses, and they fall asleep immediately.
Dawn breaks and Tressa awakes to see two empty blankets. Somehow, whilst Tuvok was awake and keeping watch over them, Elani and Corin have both vanished.
Meanwhile, on Voyager, Torres has sorted out the sensors and now they can see the two crashed shuttles on the moon. Kim has found life signs too, but one moment there were four, and then there were only two. Transporters are still not an option, so Janeway tells them to find a way to get a shuttle down there safely, as a last resort.
Tuvok is baffled. The sensors did not pick up any other life forms during the night and there is no sign of the missing two within five kilometres. So he hands Tressa a phaser, and seals the shuttle while he goes to look inside the cave. There he finds two sets of clothing, but no bodies. Tressa is greatly relieved to see him back safely, and, as the disappearances have only happened at night, he promises her that they will try to leave before sunset. In return she promises to be quiet and not touch anything. That will make it hard for you to help me, he tells her.
The Drayans have several search parties on the surface now, and Chakotay is getting impatient. Then there is a break in the interference and Tuvok makes contact. He explains about the disappearing children, and Tressa’s belief that the Drayans want to kill her. Then they lose contact again. The mood on the bridge changes, and Janeway hails Alcia to offer help with a joint search party. The First Prelate insists that outsiders must not set foot on their blessed haven, which is a shame as Janeway tells her that she is going anyway. Voyager will not leave Drayan space until every member of her crew is back on board her ship. She picks Paris to go with her, and Kim tells her that the Drayans use a dielectric field to protect themselves from the turbulence. Janeway overrides her first officer’s objections by saying that she has to be the one on the scene if there is any chance of a diplomatic solution.
The pre-launch check list is glanced at briefly and they launch with the warp drive offline while Paris creates the dielectric field with it. The Drayans give chase, and they just hope that they will not fire.
Tuvok is ready to take off, and he has also worked out about the dielectric field. The shuttle’s thrusters are a problem however, and there is a search party approaching. With a shower of sparks from a console, he lifts off and hopes that they can clear the atmosphere so that Voyager can beam them aboard. Alcia appears on the view screen, promising to answer all Tressa’s questions if only they return to the surface. When Tuvok refuses, the Drayans open fire on him and he begins to lose power. Janeway makes contact with him and after he has explained his situation, she tells him to land. She and Paris will follow him down.
The sun is beginning to set again as Tuvok and Tressa walk into the clearing by the Morrock’s cave. Tressa is afraid, and Tuvok can only say that he will be there with her. Then both Alcia and Janeway arrive to begin the confrontation. Tuvok refuses to leave Tressa, and his Captain backs him, saying that the child wants to live. Finally Alcia explains the reality of Drayan existence. Tressa is not a child, she is 96 years old and about to die. To the Drayans, other races aging processes are reversed, and outsiders cannot understand how they approach death as innocent children until the moment that the energy inside their bodies is released. Nothing can change it, not even wanting to live. They are all drawn back to the cave at the end to complete the cycle of life. Tressa appeals to Tuvok, who calmly explains that he cannot and would not try to protect her from the normal conclusion of life. Alcia tells Tuvok that he has fulfilled an honourable role in attending a child on the crysata, and accepts Janeway’s apologies for disturbing their traditions. The two groups leave Tressa and Tuvok alone in the clearing for the most sacred moments of Tressa’s life – the final ones. She now knows that it is her time, and for those moments she is no longer a child, but a grandmother with sorrow at leaving her family behind. Assuring her that she will live on in their thoughts, and his, he takes her hand and together they walk into the cave.
This is an episode that you will either love or hate. You will either adore the way Tuvok easily relates to the children, patiently answering all the questions with just a brief glimpse of exasperation as they play while he is trying to do his repairs or the Drayans with their veils and their backwards aging premise with drive you to despair. I recommend that you push the weird lifestyle resolution of the mystery to one side and just enjoy Tim Russ giving Tuvok a depth of character and motivation that he needs.
Tuvok is the only family man in the main cast. Ayala is known to miss his sons, and we can assume other members of the 150 strong crew feel likewise, but it is only through Tuvok that such feelings get clearly expressed, albeit couched in ‘non emotional’ Vulcan terms of incompleteness and so on. The two very short Drayan moon days he spends in the company of the ‘children’ give us a good view of the caring, tolerant father that he evidently must be to his four children back home. Like another Vulcan before him, he is also a lute player. I wonder if it is safely in his quarters, ready to emerge for a jam session in the mess hall in some future episode?
The young actors acquit themselves well too. Their performances have a relaxed, natural feel that you don’t always get from children on television. Quite often you get a stilted, stylised self-conscious performance (think Suspiria in Cold Fire) which is uncomfortable to watch. Alcia had passion too. Behind that veil the actress did a fine job. Oh, yes, those veils. How impractical. Perhaps they only wear them when outsiders are about? And I suppose we have to conclude that the young looking First Prelate is actually a very mature woman, given that they ‘age backwards’? It’s an interesting concept, and the evidence of the episode suggests that, at their core, the Drayans are really an energy life-forms who take physical form just for a while. Hence the lack of bodies in the cave, just clothes. It’s a shame that the limitations of television didn’t allow a better representation of this people than ‘humanoid with thing on forehead’.
Poor Ensign Bennet, such a brief role, to set the scene for this journey into the meaning of death. The yellow shouldered uniform is the twenty fourth century equivalent of the original series red-shirt, but at least deaths in action are comparatively few on Voyager. They don’t have a ready source of new recruits to fill the gaps, after all.