Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Review: Voyager 3.16: Blood Fever

Rated M, Lemon, Paris/Torres hurt/comfort, a little smut.
Star Trek Voyager - Season Three, Episode Sixteen - Blood Fever
Written 24/9/15.

Star Trek, as a rule, is not very open about sex. It was supposed to be teatime viewing, after all, and despite the show's tendency to fight back against injustice and inequality, the executives at the top were fairly conservative in terms of their censorship of the show. However, the writers still wanted to discuss sex and sexual things, and so there arose an uneasy middle-ground where certain episodes would be more sexual and fanservicey than others, even if it didn't usually make sense. This is the reason why you sit here today, reading a review of Blood Fever, one of the most sexually uncomfortable stories in Voyager, joining the ranks of Elogium and 25% of everything to do with Seven of Nine.
     Voyager has a great need for the made-up mineral... "spins wheel"... galicite! Upon ordering an exhibition of a planet stuffed to the gills with the stuff, recently appeared recurring character Ensign Vorik propositions B'Elanna, accidentally mind-melding her. Vorik has entered the Pon Farr, a period in a Vulcan's life whereby every seven years he must have sex or die. With The Doctor being tactlessly fascinated by the idea of treating him, Vorik is left out as B'Elanna, Paris and Neelix go on the away mission. While away, however, B'Elanna starts becoming aggressive, and all hot-and-bothered. Investigation by Tuvok and Chakotay reveals that the accidental mind-meld transferred the Pon Farr to B'Elanna too, so now she must mate or die. She gets locked in a cave-in with Paris, where despite her attempts to mount him, he resists for the sake of preserving their friendship. Upon leaving the cave-in, Tuvok orders Tom to have sex with her, which is only broken up when an enraged Vorik engages B'Elanna in a ritual mating dual for her own sexual agency, which somehow ends up curing both of them. On the abandoned planet, Chakotay and Janeway find a body - a dead Borg.
   The Pon Farr originally existed in order to give Spock a storyline in which he was emotional and irrational, in contrast to his usual composed self. In Voyager and Enterprise, however, the Pon Farr moved much more into the area of fanservice, and this more or less the first time this appears. Given the intimate nature of what telepathy means to Vulcans, the episode from the start hits on some decidedly rapey tones - Vorik enters B'Elanna's mind, and through the power of inception manages to alter her behaviour. The episode essentially then works as a huge metaphor for an abuse victim repeating the actions of the abused, with the caveat that both of them will die if they don't get their mack on.
Jeri Ryan inches ever closer. (Always a good mental image.)
      That perpetuates itself throughout the episode, as things are prone to do when dealing with the Pon Farr - an idea which collates sex with life-and-death necessity gang aft agley. Throughout the story, several people are robbed of their sexual agency, and it's mostly just paved over as a quirk of the sci-fi universe. B'Elanna is assaulted by Vorik at the beginning of the story, and the end, with intent to essentially rape her. B'Elanna spends a good chunk of the story doing the same thing to Tom, although at least she has enough self control to not do anything more than nibble him. (Klingon mating is weird.) Later, in a bizarre out-of-character moment, Tuvok orders Tom to "help" B'Elanna. In the alien culture of the show, I'm sure this can be explained away as a "logical" move, but for the viewer, we're shown one of the most rational guys on the show basically pulling rank to declare Tom's sexual agency forfeit.
     What this episode does foreshadow is the main canon relationship of Voyager, Tom and B'elanna. There have been hints to it before-hand, but the focus in the first production season seemed to be trying to set Tom up with Kes, and driving B'Elanna through her anger issues. Here in Season Three, the relationship is a great idea for the both of them - Tom grounds B'Elanna, and B'Elanna excites Tom. She loves fixing spaceships, and he loves flying them. (Alongside being a Doctor-Biochemist-Archeologist-Historian). It's such a shame that this is the first episode where they actually discuss having any feelings for each other, especially given all the rapey subtext. There's a nice scene closing out the episode where Tom makes an odd if rather sweet comment, and that almost saves it, but it's a bit of a pointed stick in a gunfight.


NEXT WEEK: We finally meet The Borg, after I've made a million references to them. It's Unity.

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