VOY: S6E03: “Barge of the Dead”

In which we learn about Klingon religion but nothing else interesting happens. 

Looks like there’s room for one, MAYBE two shuttles in there.

Torres is in a shuttle that’s falling apart, due to a particularly bad ion storm. Voyager has to reconfigure the tractor beams to capture the shuttle and the arresting beams don’t slow her down properly, nor do the shuttles inertial dampers do their jobs. Torres ends the ride with a mild concussion that seems to be getting off lightly. Torres got into that situation by chasing down their only multispatial probe, and in the dressing-down Janeway accidentally calls B’Elanna ‘Lana,’ an old pet name she used to get from her mom.

Chakotay has found an old piece of Klingon debris lodged in the nacelle, which is what took out the shuttle. It’s also extremely old, and starts pouring blood as soon as Torres puts it on the table. Pouring blood and issuing the screams of the damned. Torres should really get that concussion looked at.

Torres insists she wasn’t hallucinating, despite Harry running multiple scans and not finding any fluid or vapor traces. Given how often this show has treated us to situations that ‘can’t be explained by science’ she might not be wrong, but her fervor right after a head injury is not even remotely reasonable. Neelix has taken some time to research Klingon history in light of the new discovery – as Morale officer, an artifact of the Alpha Quadrant is an excuse for a celebration, and he’s replicated some bloodwine and set B’Elanna up for a speech.

Tuvok is still working with Torres to calm her temper and understanding her hallucination, by confronting her with the fundamental truth that she needs to come to terms with her self-hating Klingonitude. In making her confront this, Tuvok shows off some stylish bat’leth katas, cuts Torres across the face with the blade and across the heart with a castigation of her cowardice for not immediately attacking him. Also, we know it’s true for Klingons and it might also be true for Vulcans, that comparing someone to a Ferengi is basically the worst insult you can levy.

At the party, the Doctor teaches Seven a Klingon drinking song, and Tuvok can barely contain his disgust when Torres walks in. Neelix has replicated some Gagh, which he offers with the traditional ‘eat this or I’ll force it down the gullet of your corpse.’ He’s sprinkled it with a little chemical to make it move, because the replicator can’t create living things. I wonder what the limit is- can the replicator create active yeasts? Is it impossible to make bread by hand aboard a starship? Or is the line perhaps drawn at complex multicellular life? And is that a practical concern or a software restraint?

The party goes on and Torres talks about her past with her mom, and how Torres was sent by her mother into a Klingon monastary where she failed to take in much of the Klingon warrior culture. Janeway gives a speech, but as she does time slows down and the room turns red and hazy, and a Klingon warrior appears  in slow motion to slaughter the crew. Another one slays Janeway, and soon Torres is the last one alive, but not for long. She gets killed and wakes up on the titular barge of the dead.

Upon arrival, she is branded with the Klingon triple-diamond, but it doesn’t take. Still she’s thrown down with another dishonored soul on the way to Gre’thor – Klingon Hell, after having been dragged from the naj – the Dream Before Dying. Klingon religion appears to be afterlife-centric to the point of denying the existence of life, though Torres still hears her crewmats calling to her – these sirens are called kos’karii and they attempt to lure souls from the barge of the dishonored dead to a fate worse than Klingon hell. Being eaten by Shrieking Eels.

The barge steersman rejects Torres – it’s not her time, though she’s come close many times. The steersman is Kortar, the first Klingon who destroyed the gods that created him. That’s why he runs the boat. B’elanna tries to attack him, but since she’s alive and he’s dead, she can get hurt there and he can’t. Another soul coalesces onto the barge, Torres’ mother, and that’s when B’elanna wakes up in sick bay. She never actually escaped the ion storm, Voyager had to track her down, and everything we’ve seen so far in this episode has been a hallucination. Since her hand is still bleeding from where it was cut, we don’t have urge reason to suspect this state of affairs has changed.

Nevertheless, Torres now accepts that she was legit dead for a while and actually present on the Barge of the Dead. When Chakotay tells you you’re taking your hallucinogenic religion too seriously, it’s time to listen. Nevertheless, Torres is diving into it, to Tom’s chagrin. She’s got to rescue her mom, who’s being punished for B’Elanna’s dishonor. The plan is to put her in a controlled medical coma and hope that hallucination… uh… does something in the hour they’ll let her stay down. I should note that when I say controlled medical coma’ I mean they just recreate the ion storm in sick bay and nearly starve her brain.

Next week, on Vikings…

She wakes up as expected on the barge, only this time she gets some Klingon armor. She stays hidden until she finds her mom for some family therapy. Without a medium, it doesn’t go well. Also, her mom doesn’t want to have her dishonor ritually transferred away just for Torres to be resuscitated. That’s kind of the whole ‘dishonor’ thing in a nutshell.

Kortar and his goons grab them both and do the whole Guarian of the Damned thing. He knows about Torres’ plan and does an end-run around her plan, and Torres decides at that point that she’ll do things right, and honorably take her mother’s place. Thus, the Voyager crew will not be able to revive Torres. And with that, they arive at the upside-down-icon gates of Gre’thor for Torres to walk through. On the ship, Tom, Janeway and the doctor work to save her while in the NDE Tuvok punches her off the plank. She wakes up in a sick bay full of coal embers and Voyager crew with the demeanor of smug torturers who’ve just read Sartre’s No Exit and are eager to try things out. Apparently Torres’ idea of hell is just Voyager but with Klingon accouterments and never-ending recriminations.

Then she appears back on the barge because her atonement didn’t work properly. Her mother explains that it Wasn’t Her Time, and goes above decks so that everyone can have an intervention for Torres’ endless self-defensiveness. Whatever catharsis B’Elanna needed, she’s got it.

Did we miss something awesome?