Scotch and Star Trek

Scotch… the final frontier.

Several years ago, I came to the realization that I have never actually seen much of the original Trek. This provided me with an excuse to go through from the beginning to see the process by which a cohesive, generation-spanning and inspirational setting is presented to viewers. In the end, though, it’s an excuse to get snarky and pick apart a show I’ve loved since childhood.

Why the drinking? Because every time I reflect on the scope of this project I realize there are over five hundred hours of Star Trek ahead of me.

Here’s to you, Scotty. 

Today’s feature:

VOY: S5E21: "Someone to Watch Over Me"

In which Neelix babysits, Tom eats foot, and the Doctor fractures his pericardium.

“I’m not here for this nonsense.”

Tom and B’Elanna are having dinner together, and Torres wants Tom to teach her to drive a stick. Seven is looking on, to Torres’ annoyance. Neelix drops by to show off his cuisine for their upcoming visitors, who are an entire species of John Harvey Kelloggs. They’re offended by everything, and apparently particularly by stimulating food. As he goes off to reblandify his cheese, Torres confronts Seven, who does not deny her research into human mating behavior. Apparently B’Elanna and Tom are… loud in bed. This leeds to a meeting with Janeway in which she explains that it is inappropriate to Jane Goodall her fellow crewmates. What Janeway meant by ‘observe human behavior’ is left as an exercise to the reader. Or not. Apparently Janeway meant ‘participate in fluid-swapping.’

Janeway is introduced to the Counselor and his flunky-Ambassador Tobin. Janeway and Tuvok get to beam down with the Ambassador while Neelix will show Tobin around the ship. Tobin wastes no time in deviating from the planned tour to sample some of the spicier foods Voyager has available. This is one of those ‘how are you gonna keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paris’ situations. While the ambassador indulges his immorality, the Doctor engages in some gossip with Seven and he too suggests that she engage in some horizontal dancing. Since the Doctor and the Captain both agree, Sevcen can’t refuse.

The Doctor performs his interpretive Uterus dance.

The Doctor has created a holodeck program to walk her through the basics, starting with a very dry slideshow. One fun fact is that species 8472 might have 5 genders. Or they might have 5 biological sexes and the Doctor is not using the right word. It quickly devolves into a redundant biological overview, and so Seven asks to skip ahead to the ‘practical exercises.’ To this end, the Doctor brings back the French cafe set in order to practice small talk on the patrons. It’s easy mode, but training wheels have their place. While she works her magic, Tom and the Doctor gear up to an inevitable gross bet. The terms – if Seven has a real date by Thursday and it doesn’t ruin a vital diplomatic mission, then the Doctor wins. Otherwise, Paris gets a month off from Sick Bay duty. Guarantee #1: Seven will take her hair out of its up-do and everyone will gasp.

Tobin is really enjoying his review of human foods, and also the opportunity to work in a gender-unsegregated environment. Guarantee #2: Tobin will attempt to grab a part of Seven that she does not wish to have grabbed. Neelix is certainly doing a poor job of raining the Ambassador in. Cut to the Doctor explaining the social utility of hobbies as a means to facilitating conversation and a functional work environment. Seven seizes on music, for its mathematical properties. It also turns out that Borg drones have perfect pitch as a byproduct of improving interface technology. When testing her acuity at a duet, I do believe holo-Pygmalion starts to fall for robo-Galatea.

Seven quickly progresses to scanning the crew manifest for a first date candidate, which process Harry walks in on. He is not one of the candidates, but offers to help Seven make a selection anyway. At first it looks like he’s going to veto both of her suggestions and lobby for himself, but he actually does give her a legitimate criterion to make a decision. The Doctor is all ready to gloat, but her selction, Chapman, is notoriously nervous around women and Seven is not what you might call a relaxing personality.

“Don’t sniff her hair, don’t sniff her hair…”

Prediction 1 comes true, and once he takes her hair down and does The Thing, and suggests a dress for her to wear, he barely manages to abandon her to the intricacies of fashion engineering before she makes him help her change. The date starts off with a lot of little etiquette elements that Seven either doesn’t know how to deal with or doesn’t even notice. Lobster is still considered a delicacy and a date food in the 24th century, despite the radical marginalization of scarcity economics. Maybe it has something to do with how much effort it takes, and the dominant Federation cultural paradigm that working is rewarding even when survival doesn’t depend on it. For all Tom’s talk, Chappman seems to be coping with Seven fairly well… up until she tries to spin him and tears a ligament in his shoulder.  Chapman goes off to Sick Bay and the Doctor tries to stop Seven from giving up, including a more formal lesson in dancing.

Ambassador Tobin is really, really loving Tom’s tavern simulation, and the pair of barflies that Tom hid behind thirty nested folders once he started dating B’Elanna. That’s going to go great, with the Ambassador already plastered, Tom telling terrible jokes, and Seven on a date with the Doctor. It wasn’t in the terms of the bet, but assuming anyone still cares about that this ought to nullify the terms. According to the ancient formula, what will instead happen is that someone, probably Tom, brings it up, Seven gets outraged in an already-fraught social situation, and resolving that drama takes the rest of the episode. Let’s watch.

While we wait to see how that plays out, it turns out Tobin’s people don’t have a concept of humor, but they do have a sense of humor, at least while drunk. To distract Tobin from terrible jokes, the Doctor prompts her to make a toast and be the center of attention, and Tom almost maliciously explains the bet. To cap off the drama, Tobin starts to proposition and grope Seven, who was not in a good mood to begin with. Tobin throws a tantrum before passing out.

The Kadi people don’t have the biological wherewithal to break down synthehol, so in order to get him un-drunk before Janeway comes back Seven offers up some nanoprobes to target all the alcohol in his bloodstream. This affords the Doctor a chance to apologize and explain. Tragically for him, Seven cuts him off before he can say ‘with benefits.’ Tom gives him the advice that ultimately, you have to make your feelings known.

Tobin turns out not to have violated the spirit of the Kadi customs, even if he violated the letter, because the people on this planet are not necessarily strict and rigorous allegories for the dangers of fanaticism. Instead, they were the B-plot all along. The Doctor confesses his love to Seven, but it turns out that was just a holosimulation. The real encounter is more random – Seven gives him an enhanced medical tricorder as a thank-you gift, as she informs him that their lessons are over and she’s putting her social skills on ice as there’s nobody she can date on board.

Did we miss something awesome?