VOY: S4E10: “Random Thoughts”

In which the War on Thoughts goes exactly predictably because human nature isn’t restricted to humans. 

Voyager has been staying above the Mari homeworld, which is a friendly planet. Tom bought a present for B’Elanna, and Neelix is wearing cologne that fits in with his general chemical aesthetic. Paris tries hard not to tell Neelix that he smells like an unwell cat, and Neelix in return compliments Tom about how much of a Ladies Man he used to be. Thus begins the trope where Tom has to ruin things for himself to prove that he’s capable of ruining things for himself. Or maybe not. Paris gives the old ‘be yourself’ advice.

Those smiles went away when they realized that the fast food store had given them twelve sets of chopsticks despite knowing it was only the two of them eating.

Those smiles went away when they realized that the fast food store had given them twelve sets of chopsticks despite knowing it was only the two of them eating.

The Mari homeworld is nice, and the people are both telepathic and not total jerks about using those abilities for commerce. After the business deal, Torres gets sideswiped by some random stranger, and Neelix hits on the fruit store vendor. Apparently nobody told him they were telepathic, or he wouldn’t possibly have bothered with his ‘pretend not to be flirting’ plan. Meanwhile, Tuvok gets a lesson in civics from his planetary counterpart. Crime on mari is nearly nonexistence, and she barely has a job anymore. They proceed with a cultural exchange, interrupted only when some guy goes nutbar and starts beating a guy to death over a good old watch-where-you’re-going. It may be the same guy who bumped into Torres. That’d be a crazy coincidence, wouldn’t it?

The Mari don’t understand the concept of the brig, and the purpose of containment in general. They commiserate over the the barbarity of humans, when the inspector is called down to the surface to investigate the beating. Everyone nearby was shocked and appalled, and the inspector pulls the Voyager crew into their deposition room, which consists of a mind-reading chair. This follows with one of those one-questioner-multiple-subjects montages. The interrogator asks them all what they were thinking, and B’Elanna eventually gets drilled about thinking about hurting the guy who bumped into her. Therefore, she’s under arrest for Thoughtcrime.

They’ve prohibited Violent Thought for three generations. In this society, people are as responsible for their thoughts as Federation citizens are for their actions. As a race of telepaths, they see thought as the instigating, communicable event. And the inspector claims that the Mari no longer have any violent thoughts. Anyway, in a sanely run world, Janeway would thank them for their hospitality, send Tuvok to do any final commercial pickups that needed to be arranged, and be on her way with an apology for not knowing the rules and a promise never to trouble their civilization again. Of course, this is not what’s going to happen. Instead, the Mari will do coercive mind-surgery on Torres to remove her violent impulses. This comes with an acknowledged risk of brain damage, but is required to treat the guy who went berserk.

Tom is worried sick about Torres, and they have some plans. Thankfully, those plans do include pulling the away teams back as quickly as possible. Janeway also drops a line about not being able to pick and choose which laws they follow, but that can’t really be right either. It’s far too easy to construct a scenario where a Starfleet exploratory crew would be unable to comply with local laws, simply based on differing biology. There quite literally has to be a provision for satisfying Starfleet Regulations while scarpering off a planet where they’ve made themselves unwelcome. Chakotay’s a little more pragmatic, and offers Tom the opportunity to come up with a nonviolent rescue plan, in case Janeway has no luck.

Janeway is consulting with Tuvok, where he indicates that the Mari solution to violence mirrors the way Vulcan dealt with the problem, but Janeway evidently found something relevant. The attacker, Freyn, has previous arrests for violent thoughts. Also a consistent recidivist despite continuous engramatic purges. Now, this may seem like kind of a slam dunk, but Voyager doesn’t have time to sit around while the case goes to the local Supreme Court, and I doubt the writers will bother to mention Injunctive Relief. The inspector is hardly willing to consider this, since their records show Freyn was cured each time. Hmmm. And the case is already Closed, officially.

"'Throwing shade' is inefficient, nevertheless I shall attempt it."

“‘Throwing shade’ is inefficient, nevertheless I shall attempt it.”

Oh hey, remember what we said about pulling the rest of the crew back to avoid any further potential mishaps? Forget all that, although they did only leave Neelix and Seven, the two crew (aside from Tuvok) least likely to harbor violent thoughts. Seven’s criticism is for B’Elanna in specific and Voyager‘s headlong approach to exploration. While they discuss, Neelix’s fruit-seller girlfriend drops some plums and gets stabbed by an old woman. We also get a flash of Torres’ violent thought, which sort of undercuts the notion that this isn’t her ‘fault’ inasfar as blame can be measured in thoughtcrime cases.

Since the old woman had that thought even though Freyn and B’Elanna are in custody (hey, looks like they understand containment after all) she’s got to go back to the roots of the profession and actually do some investigating. She also allows Tuvok to interview/Mind Meld with Torres. During this time, she remembers the shopkeeper contacting her, and being creepy. Seems like he tried to steal Torres’ violent thought, for unsavory purposes. Tuvok next goes to confront this Mr. Gwil. During that interview, Gwil gets insight into Tuvok’s deep and hidden Vulcan violence, in a really Norman Bates-y way. When Tuvok follows him, Gwil appears to be making some kind of clandestine deal, and we really don’t have to wait for the proof to know that he’s a Violent Thoughts Dealer.

At this point I can’t tell if this is a War of the Worlds allegory or a gun control allegory. Whether the downfall of the society will be their lack of resistance to violent thoughts (Vulcans suppress and it causes problems, but not as many as if they’d tried to excise) or whether the underlying message will be ‘when you outlaw idly daydreaming about mashing someone in the guts with a sledgehammer, only outlaws will idly daydream about mashing someone in the guts with a sledgehammer.’

Either way, Tuvok does go through with the deal with Gwil, and gets him to admit to being in business with Freyn, as well as trying to maneuver Gwil into further admissions. However, when Tuvok tries to take Gwil in, he gets stopped by the man’s customers and beaten. Savagely. And since the inspector won’t let them send a search party, they’ll just have to let Torres get purged. Now would be a good time for Paris to implement that nonviolent rescue plan which, given Torres is still wearing her commbadge, should consist of ‘beaming her out.’ Sadly, it doesn’t.

Tuvok is also in bad shape. He’s being escorted out of public and into a place where they can take his violent thoughts. Tuvok’s plan comes out of the Ironic Action Hero playbook, transferring his thoughts into Gwil unfettered, and the Mind Meld is a little stronger than Gwil is used to, and the experience gets Gwil to surrender, and giving Janeway the chance to stop the lobotomy before it gets going. His admission becomes the inroad to the Violent Thoughts Black Market, and Torres’ violence was pure black-tar heroin to these people. The good news here is that the allegory, while heavy-handed, is at least not stupid.

Aftermath: B’Elanna’s fine, Tuvok offers her some Vulcan self-control lessons, should she want them, and Seven is extremely confused about why Janeway is continuing to follow terrible first-contact procedures that get their crew in terrible peril. Janeway’s response is ‘meh. Worth it.’

 

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