Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Alter Ego”

“Alter Ego”
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Robert Picardo
Season 3, Episode 14
Production episode 155
Original air date: January 15, 1997
Stardate: 50460.3

Captain’s log. Voyager has encountered an inversion nebula, which no one from the Alpha Quadrant has ever seen up close. They’re supposed to burn out quickly, but the one they find has been around for centuries. They pause to investigate.

Kim is a bit out of sorts. It turns out he has fallen in love with one of the people in Neelix’s Paxau Resort program, a woman named Marayna. He goes to Tuvok to ask him to teach him how to suppress his emotions the way Vulcans do. Tuvok points out that that takes decades, and instead he psychoanalyzes Kim and gives him advice on how to deal with it without going through all that Kolinahr nonsense.

Tuvok accompanies Kim to the holodeck and observes Marayna flirting with Kim. He says that there are only two possibilities: a relationship or a tragic end. Since the former is impossible with a computer subroutine, Tuvok can only minimize the tragedy.

Voyager sees a plasma strand ignite. This the phenomenon that usually leads to the nebula burning out—but instead, the plasma strands just fizzle out. Kim can’t determine why, but they continue to scan to try to figure it out.

Neelix is holding a luau in the Paxau Resort program. Kim initially decides not to come, preferring to stay in his quarters and do Vulcan meditation, but Paris talks him into coming.

Tuvok attends the luau only because Janeway implied that she expected the entire senior staff to attend. Marayna has had the holodeck provide her with the Vulcan game of kal-toh, and she and Tuvok begin to converse about the game and about his obvious lack of desire to be attending this shindig.

When Kim arrives to see Tuvok and Marayna talking animatedly, Kim seethes with jealousy and storms out of the holodeck.

Marayna and Tuvok continue to chat well past the luau’s end.

The next day, Janeway decides that they’ve learned all they can from observing the nebula and orders Paris to set course for the Alpha Quadrant. However, the helm is not responding. Torres, Kim, and Vorik try to figure out what’s wrong. But Torres realizes that Kim’s mind isn’t on his work and tells him to take a break. Kim heads to the holodeck, to find Marayna playing kal-toh with Tuvok. Kim explodes at Tuvok, accusing him of wanting Marayna all to himself. Tuvok points out the absurdity of that accusation and deletes the Marayna character, though that does little to assuage Kim’s hurt feelings.

After Voyager continues to not be able to move away from the nebula, Tuvok returns to his quarters to find Marayna there, with the EMH’s mobile emitter on her arm. She was able to rematerialize herself in sickbay and borrow the emitter. Tuvok calls an intruder alert and is surprised when Marayna is able to silence the resultant alarm. She then disappears as soon as security arrives.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

The senior staff meets. Kim says that he didn’t see Marayna until they arrived at the nebula. They think the holodeck may have created a sentient being who has taken control of some of ship’s systems—likely she is also the cause of the helm malfunction, which they still can’t isolate.

Torres, Paris, and Tuvok go to the holodeck, where the Paxau Resort program is running. Torres finds a subspace uplink to the holodeck from somewhere in the nebula, but then the holodeck characters (servers and entertainment from the luau) start physically assaulting all three of them. (The servers continue to smile sweetly as they kick the crap out of the trio.) Tuvok tells Paris to shoot the holodeck control panel, which gets rid of the characters and they escape the holodeck.

Marayna’s next trick is to stop dampening the plasma streams, the burning of which threaten Voyager. She gets on the intercom and tells Janeway to have Tuvok meet her alone on the holodeck. Tuvok agrees—but Kim is able to trace the subspace signal and beam Tuvok directly to the source of the signal.

Marayna is revealed to be an alien who lives in a small station inside the nebula. Her job is to dampen the plasma streams so that the nebula can be intact for the viewing pleasure of her people and any other ships that come by. She occasionally taps into the computers of the passing ships to see what their lives are like.

Voyager’s holodeck, though, was technology she’d never seen before, and she found she could create an avatar of herself on it and interact with people. She found a kindred spirit in Tuvok, and wants to stay with him, as he will ameliorate the loneliness she feels stuck by herself in the nebula—loneliness she didn’t even realize she felt until she met Tuvok.

Tuvok explains that he can’t abandon his duty, his ship, or his wife back home on Vulcan. He urges her to ask her people for someone to take over this job. She lets him go.

As Voyager continues on course for home, Tuvok goes to the holodeck to apologize to Kim for not being more considerate of his feelings, and also offering to teach him how to play kal-toh.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Chakotay points out that, if they can harness the method by which the nebula dampens the plasma strands igniting, it might provide a method to stop warp core breaches and other disastrous phenomena. When it’s revealed that Marayna does it artificially, it never occurs to anyone to ask her how they do it and maybe trade for the technology.

Mr. Vulcan. Marayna very cannily observes that Tuvok draws attention to his outsider status. He refuses to wear a lei during the luau, which advertises his desire to not participate in the proceedings even as he is participating. Tuvok finds he can’t argue with her logic. 

Forever an ensign. Kim is despondent that he has fallen in love with a holodeck character. Like many young people, he acts like this is a unique thing that has only happened to him and woe is him, but then Paris points out that everyone has fallen in love with holodeck characters at some point or another. (William Riker, Geordi La Forge, and Reginald Barclay, front and center!)

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Half and half. Torres is the one who figured out that there’s a subspace signal coming into the holodeck, which finally puts the crew on the right track to discovering what Marayna actually is.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. The first clue that Marayna is more than she seems is when Kim asks Neelix where she is, and Neelix—who designed the Paxau Resort program—doesn’t recognize the name at first. (Though he does recall eventually that she’s taking Kes hydrosailing, but still…)

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Because Robert Picardo directed the episode, the EMH is only in one scene, though it involves him being kissed by pretty holodeck characters. That’s not creepy at all!

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Let’s see, Kim is in love with Marayna, Marayna is in love with Tuvok, and Tuvok at the very least is intrigued by Marayna.

In addition, Vorik has reserved a table for him and Torres with a lake view, based on an offhand comment Torres had made five days earlier that Torres doesn’t even remember making. This will probably be important later.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Marayna is able to create a holographic avatar of herself on the Paxau Resort program, and later puts that avatar in sickbay and borrows the EMH’s mobile emitter so she can go to Tuvok’s quarters.

 Do it.

“Forget about her.”

“What did Tom say to you?”

“Not a single word. I saw the way you were looking at Marayna yesterday.”

“Hi, my name’s Harry ‘Read Me Like a Book’ Kim.”

“It’s not that bad.”

“Apparently it is…”

–Torres and Kim summing up one of the episode’s themes.

Welcome aboard. Alexander Enberg is back in what was written as his first appearance as Vorik (this episode was produced before “Fair Trade“). He’ll be back in the episode he was created for, “Blood Fever.” Sandra Nelson plays both Marayna and her holographic avatar. Nelson will later play Tavana in DS9’s “Soldiers of the Empire.”

Trivial matters: The game of kal-toh will continue to be seen throughout the rest of Voyager, all the way to the final episode, “Endgame.” It also showed up in the Picard episode “Et in Arcadia Ego, Part 2” and in the DS9 novel Mission: Gamma: This Gray Spirit by Heather Jarman.

Chakotay references the two times that the holographic Professor Moriarty took command of the Enterprise-D’s systems in the TNG episodes “Elementary, Dear Data” and “Ship in a Bottle,” just as Marayna does here.

This is Robert Picardo’s first time directing. He will also direct “One Small Step” in season six. They remain his only two directorial credits to date.

Garrett Wang was suffering from the flu during filming, though that probably helped him look morose and unhappy…

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Vulcans do not hydrosail.” This is a delightfully effective low-key romance. The script fools you into thinking it’s about Kim being a callow youth—and that certainly is the undercurrent—but it switches direction into a sad tale about two very lonely people.

Tim Russ and Garrett Wang do superlative work here. I love watching Tuvok so perfectly analyze Kim’s feelings and diagnose his problem and provide a solution, and I love how annoyed Kim is at what an open book he is. Kim plays very young here, but that’s fine, since he’s supposed to be the baby on the ship, as it were. Of course he acts like this is the worst thing ever, and everyone around him is downplaying it. Tuvok approaches it logically, and Torres and Paris both are pretty indulgent but also make it clear that it’s not the end of the world and he’ll get over it.

And Tuvok finds an unexpected kindred spirit. By serving on a ship full of emotional beings, Tuvok has placed himself in the position of outsider. He is able to function alongside them fairly easily—recall how well he took to command in “Resolutions,” not to mention how readily he deals with Kim’s emotional crisis in this episode—but he’s not one of them. There are other Vulcans on board—we see one of them in Vorik—but he doesn’t seem to socialize with any of them, either, probably due to his position as third-in-command and chief of security. It would only be appropriate for him to socialize with people at his own level on the chain of command, but they’re all humans and half-Klingons. It’s telling that when Marayna asks if Kim and Tuvok are friends, Tuvok answers in the negative. He considers Kim a trusted and respected colleague, but that’s as far as it goes.

The weak link of the episode is Sandra Nelson. She was wonderful as Tavana in DS9’s “Soldiers of the Empire,” which prepared me for a much better performance that we actually got. Marayna is perfectly okay, but you don’t see the same spark that made, for example, Minuet so compelling in TNG’s “11001001,” or, since Marayna isn’t really a holographic character, Denara Pel in “Lifesigns.” I also must confess to being totally unimpressed that the avatar created in a holodeck program that’s otherwise full of Pacific Island folks, is a blond-haired blue-eyed white woman.

Tuvok’s arc here reminds me a bit of Spock’s in “This Side of Paradise,” though significantly less extreme, as Tuvok doesn’t get teased with emotionalism and then have it ripped away. But the tragedy of his loneliness mirrors that of Marayna, both of whom chose this life. I particularly like the way Russ delivers his final urging to Marayna to do the one thing Tuvok can’t do: ask for a way out. Tuvok is stuck—doubly so by virtue of Voyager being stranded in another quadrant. Marayna, though, has a choice…

Warp factor rating: 7

Keith R.A. DeCandido is part of a new Kickstarter for three books, one of which is an anthology he’s in, Horns and Halos, featuring stories about demons and angels. (Keith’s is an urban fantasy about Islamic angels.) The other two books are The Devil’s Way by Megan Mackie and An Unceasing Hunger by Michelle D. Sonnier. Please consider supporting it!

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