Star Trek: Voyager – 3×14 – “Alter Ego”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Alter Ego”
Originally Broadcast January 15th, 1997
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Stardate: 50460.3

‘Captain’s log, Stardate 50460.3. We’ve been investigating an inversion nebula for several days. This phenomenon has never been seen in the Alpha Quadrant and is proving something of a mystery to us here.’

Voyager is investigating a phenomenon which has previously only been theorised about – an inversion nebula. While Harry daydreams at his console, the rest of the crew marvel at it’s beauty and Tuvok asserts unemotional aloofness. Later that day, Harry visits Tuvok in quarters, interrupting his game of kal-toh, and asks his help in suppressing his emotions, because he has fallen in love with a holodeck character.

In order to deal with his problem, Tuvok escorts Kim to the holodeck whilst interrogating him about his feelings. He is suffering from love at first sight, and as they walk onto the holodeck they discover Neelix is finalising the decorations for that night’s luau. Marayna, the object of Harry’s affections, comes over with Kes, and tries to engage Tuvok in some activities, but agrees to talk instead. She tries to get them to describe the nature of their friendship, but then they are called to the bridge. On the way, Kim agrees that his reactions to the woman were entirely predictable at every stage, and accepts Tuvok’s guidance in deconstructing his emotions.

Up on the bridge, they witness what should be an uncontrolled plasma reaction throughout the nebula be somehow limited to just one strand without causing a chain reaction. The sensors say there was some dampening field in place just at the right time. This could be an important discovery that might help avoid warp core breaches and plasma fires.

That evening, Tom meets up with B’Elanna in the corridor to go to the luau. He was expecting to meet Harry too, but she tells him that he is not coming and they are meeting up with Vorik instead. Tom isn’t having this and goes to fetch his young friend to the fun. In Harry’s quarters, he discovers him trying a Vulcan medication and tries to reassure him that every one falls for a holodeck character at some time or other. The meditation isn’t helping, so Harry gives up and goes to the luau – in a shirt with a pineapple motif, which is nowhere near as loud as Tom’s surf classic.

Paxau is Polynesian for the event, and Tuvok the only one in uniform, whilst the EMH is allowing the girls to kiss him in turn. Janeway and Chakotay arrive, then Tuvok notices Marayna at a table, playing Kal-toh. He goes over to offer some advice on strategy and she tells him that she thought that he might like an opponent instead of playing alone all the time. She also points out that his uniform and lack of lei is emphasising that he really does not want to be there, but has attended out of a sense of duty. He admires her logic and sits down.

Elsewhere, Tom and B’Elanna are trying to decide where to eat, when Vorik tells her that he has already reserved a table at her favourite spot on the programme. Harry has seen Tuvok with Marayna and decides to go back to his quarters. Later, Marayna and Tuvok are discussing the illusion of control in hydro-sailing, and she turns his arguments on him and suggests that his emotional control is also an illusion. He is fascinated by her, and she wants him to stay, but it is late and he has to leave. He exits the holodeck and shuts down the programme.

‘Captain’s log, supplemental. We’ve completed sensor scans and confirmed our discovery of an unusual dampening field responsible for keeping this unstable nebula from going up in flames. The field’s origin is still a mystery.’

The sensors have got enough data for Voyager to duplicate the dampening field with the deflector dish, so they prepare to leave the area only to find they have a problem with the engines. Down in Engineering, the only problem they can find is in the computer pathways, as everything else is working fine; Harry is still distracted by thoughts of Marayna, so B’Elanna sends him off for a while. He intends to go to his quarters but instead diverts to holodeck one, where the resort programme is already running. Harry walks on Tuvok and Marayna playing kal-toh, His jealousy surfaces and the two officers argue. Tuvok deletes Marayna to try and prove that he has no emotional interest in the character, but Harry is not convinced, and storms out.

Voyager is still stationary in the nebula with no explanation as to why, when aft thrusters finally come to life. Slowly they move out. After his duty watch, Tuvok returns to his quarters to discover Marayna playing kal-toh. She tells him that she moved her programme to sickbay and then used the EMH’s mobile emitter so that they could be together. He calls for security and she demonstrates that she has control over ship’s systems. When two security guards arrive, she vanishes, back to the holodeck.

In the briefing room, Chakotay cites Enterprise’s experience with Professor Moriarty as an explanation for her abilities. Tuvok surmises that she is controlling the ship in order to keep him there, because she has feelings for him. They agree that she has some connection with the nebula as this all started when they first arrived there.

Paris, Torres and Tuvok go to the holodeck to try and find out more about what is going on. They discover that there is a sub-space signal coming in from somewhere then the holodeck characters attack them to prevent it being cut off. They escape and report to the Captain that the Marayna character is an interface for someone on a ship or station in the nebula. As they try to track the source down, Marayna contacts Voyager and tells them that she will destroy the ship unless Tuvok returns to the holodeck. He goes, of course, while the bridge crew trace the source of the signal. Marayna is determined that Tuvok will stay with her and share her life, and is furious when Tuvok is suddenly beamed to her real location on a space station in the nebula.

As Voyager is attacked by plasma strands, Tuvok tracks down the real Marayna. He finds a lone woman who has volunteered to spend her life generating the dampening field, so that the people on her planet can enjoy the beauty of the nebula. She claims that she prefers to live alone, and regularly interacts with the computers of passing ships, but she has never met any one like Tuvok, and believes that she cannot live without him. He tells her that he would sacrifice himself if would mean that his shipmates were allowed to leave safely, but that is not how she wants it to be. Marayna thinks that they are alike, that his distance is a cover for loneliness, but he tells her of his family, and she gives up as she realises she will never win his heart. Before he leaves her, he points out to her that it might be time to return to her people, now that she has discovered how lonely she really is.

‘Security Chief’s log, Stardate 50471.3. The remaining damage to the ship was easily repaired, and we soon left Marayna’s nebula behind. Voyager is back on course, and I have resumed my normal routine.’

Alone in his quarters as usual, Tuvok suddenly abandons his solo game of kal-toh and seeks out Harry on the holodeck. There, he offers to teach the young man the complex game, and apologises for his earlier failure to appreciate Harry’s emotional turmoil. Harry accepts, and begins the long, long process of learning kal-toh.

Review

This episode looks at the nature of loneliness and how different people choose to deal with it. Marayana interacts with passing strangers via her computer terminal. Tuvok plays solo games of patience. Neither will admit they need real company until they come face to face with each other. While Marayana is isolated physically, Tuvok is alone among 150 other people. He has a choice whether or not to be sociable. At the start of this story he sits in semi-darkness in his quarters. By the end, he is in the mess hall sharing his knowledge of kal-toh with Harry in a public space rather than teaching the young man how to isolate himself from his emotions. It’s a good move. Whether or not Tuvok turns into a social animal is irrelevant. What is important is that he stops Harry from becoming unsociable. That would be very bad for the young man’s psyche.

In the middle of this tale of solitude is the compulsory socialising of the Holodeck Luau – call it a 3D chat room if you like, where everyone gets to wear bright beachwear and chat up the object of their affections. Marayana’s avatar is Minuet mark two,{Next Generation episode 11001001] and has the same effect first on Harry and then Tuvok that the original Minuet had on Riker. Just to prove there are others in the story as well, Tom discovers he has a rival for B’Elanna’s affections – the other Vulcan on board, Ensign Vorik.

Paradise turns to hell as the lady is spurned by Tuvok, the unemotional devoted family man who cannot give her what she wants. Maybe she should have stuck with Harry? She takes out her rage on the ship – a bad case of if I can’t have you no one will? – until the pair finally meet in the flesh and reason prevails. One gets the feeling that it is that meeting that makes Tuvok realise that he has been behaving just like Marayna, cutting himself off from the crew and pretending to himself that he prefers things that way, only to come to discover that even Vulcans need company off-duty as well as on. A lesson for all us internet junkies, maybe, in a small way?

This is Robert Picardo’s directorial debut, and he makes a pretty good fist of it. There’s humour of course, and good character portrayals from his two main crewmembers. The show goes from darkness to light at a fair pace with no major dragging at any point. Nothing spectacular here, just a nice character-driven story with something to think about if you are that way inclined.

Grade: 6/10

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