Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Blood Fever”

“Blood Fever”
Written by Lisa Klink
Directed by Andrew Robinson
Season 3, Episode 16
Production episode 157
Original air date: February 5, 1997
Stardate: 50537.2

Captain’s log. Voyager has found a source of gallacite, which can be used to refit the warp coils. The planet has a long-abandoned colony on it, so Janeway lays a claim. Torres and Vorik plan out how to set up a gallacite mine, and then Vorik surprises Torres by proposing to marry her.

Vorik has a lengthy, detailed, very logical explanation for his actions, but a stunned Torres turns him down. Vorik then becomes insistent, going so far as to grab her face. Torres then punches him out.

She takes Vorik to sickbay, but the EMH will only discuss Vorik’s condition in private. After Torres and Kes depart, the EMH states that he assumes Vorik is going through pon farr. It’s his first one, and he obviously can’t return home to Vulcan. He had hoped that Torres would accept his proposal, but in the sober light of sickbay, he realizes that that’s foolish. The EMH takes him off duty, and he will confine himself to quarters. The EMH puts a cortical monitor on him.

The EMH consults the only person he can on the matter: Tuvok. However, the security chief is less than helpful. He feels it is not his place to involve himself in Vorik’s struggle, and he also confirms that there are only three possibilities for him to get past pon farr in one piece: mating, fighting for a mate (as we saw in “Amok Time“), or intense meditation.

Torres, Paris, and Neelix beam down to the planet to scout out the gallacite. The colony appears to have been abandoned for some time. They climb down into the mine, but one of the pitons fails, and they all fall to the ground. Neelix is badly injured—and Torres, who has already been acting weird, goes completely batshit. She blows Neelix’s injuries off, and when Paris tries to keep her from wandering off, she bites him.

Paris contacts Voyager, and everyone is now disturbed by Torres’s behavior. Janeway sends Chakotay and Tuvok to the surface, but Tuvok says he needs to make a stop first, as Torres’s behavior is very familiar.

Tuvok stops by Vorik’s quarters to ask exactly what happened when he proposed marriage to Torres. They soon realize that when he grabbed Torres’s face, he instigated a mind-meld with her, and now she’s going through pon farr.

They beam down and Neelix is brought up to the surface to be transported. Chakotay, Tuvok, and Paris search for and eventually find Torres. They try to convince her that she’s ill and needs to return to the ship, but she resists, as it’s her away team, dammit.

And then they’re ambushed by the Sakari, who are native to the planet. Apparently the colony is still active, it’s just moved deep underground, where they’re hiding from the people who invaded them years ago. Chakotay assures them that they didn’t know the Sakari were there, and they’ll not follow through on mining the gallacite—what’s more, they’re willing to help them camouflage themselves better.

The Sakari try to warn them that a wall is unstable, but Torres punches one of them out, and then the wall collapses.

Paris and Torres are separated from the others by a collapsed wall. They try to find their way out, but Torres is being overcome by the urge to mate, and she wants Paris to help her with that. Paris, however, refuses, because it would be for the wrong reasons, he says.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

The EMH prescribes the holodeck for Vorik. He creates a holographic Vulcan woman for Vorik to mate with. It’s not a real Vulcan, but it’s worth a shot. Later, the EMH returns to a calmer Vorik who says it worked beautifully.

The away team gets to the surface, but they can’t contact Voyager for some reason. Tuvok urges Paris to accede to Torres’s implorations to mate—if he doesn’t, she’ll die. Paris reluctantly agrees, but then Vorik shows up and demands that he mate with Torres, claiming the koon-ut kal-if-fee. (Vorik faked his calm with the EMH, and then sabotaged Voyager‘s communications, transporters, and shuttles to keep everyone else off the planet and the away team on it.)

Chakotay reluctantly agrees to let them fight it out, and Torres chooses to fight for herself, and so she and Vorik beat each other up a lot. The fight burns out the blood fever in both of them, and Torres renders Vorik unconscious.

They beam back to Voyager. The Sakari take up Chakotay’s offer for assistance in better camouflaging themselves, and in return the Sakari let them have some gallacite.

But then Chakotay summons Janeway to the surface. They found an old corpse in the ruins of the colony: it’s a Borg. They were the invaders who destroyed the Sakari colony.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently, Vorik—while suffering from the effects of pon farr—can sabotage Voyager’s communications, transporters, and shuttles so thoroughly that it completely cuts the away team off. Neat trick!

Mr. Vulcan. Good Vulcan that he is, Tuvok is initially of very little help when the EMH asks him to assist in treating Vorik, but when Torres starts to show symptoms, he breaks Vulcan protocol because now another of the crew is in danger.

Half and half. The pon farr makes Torres much more passionate even than normal. 

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix apparently was a miner in the past. Along with all the other things he’s done. How skilled he actually is at it remains a mystery, as he’s hurt before they get to the gallacite.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is frustrated by the paucity of information in the Starfleet medical database about pon farr, as it makes it extremely difficult to treat.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Torres goes for Paris when the mating urge overcomes her, but Paris begs off because he thinks she doesn’t really feel that way about him, he’s just convenient, and he doesn’t want her that way. But then after it’s all over, she opens the door the possibility of her wanting him that way for realsies, which surprises the crap out of him.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. The EMH tries giving Vorik a holographic blow-up doll to mate with as a substitute for a real Vulcan, but apparently the needs of the pon farr require flesh and blood rather than photons. 

Do it.

“For such an intellectually enlightened race, Vulcans have a remarkably Victorian attitude about sex.”

“That is a very human judgment, Doctor.”

“Then here’s a Vulcan one: I fail to see the logic in perpetuating ignorance about a basic biological function.”

–The EMH and Tuvok discussing pon farr

Welcome aboard. Alexander Enberg is back as Vorik, in the episode for which he was originally created. He will continue to recur throughout the run of the show.

Trivial matters: Pon farr was first established on the original series episode “Amok Time,” and referenced again in “The Cloud Minders” and, after a fashion, in the movie The Search for Spock.

The original plan was to do an episode where Tuvok underwent pon farr, but they didn’t wish to put him in a position where he would be forced to commit adultery, since he was established as being happily married. (Well, the Vulcan version of happily married, anyhow.) How-some-ever, Tuvok will undergo his own pon farr in the seventh-season episode “Body and Soul.”

This episode sets up Voyager’s inevitable encountering of the Borg with the final shot of a Borg corpse. They’ll be seen in the very next episode, “Unity,” and become recurring antagonists for Voyager (and also provide a new cast member) starting in the “Scorpion” two-parter that will straddle seasons three and four and continue through to the end of the series. The producers deliberately waited until the movie First Contact had been in theatres for a few months before having the Borg show up on Voyager.

This is the first mention of Neelix’s past working at a mining colony, though it will come up again.

This is the first of two episodes directed by Andrew Robinson, best known for playing Garak across the lot on DS9. Robinson had previously directed “Looking for par’Mach in All the Wrong Places” on DS9, which made him the first recurring actor to direct a Trek episode. He’ll be back on Voyager to direct “Unforgettable” in the fourth season.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “If anyone is going to smash your arrogant little face in, I will!” One of the things that made me absolutely crazy about a lot of Star Trek tie-in fiction that I read over the decades, starting in the 1980s when I devoured the early Pocket Books novels and tracked down the older Bantam ones, was that so often the stories were written in such a way that pon farr was public knowledge. Not just Kirk, McCoy, and Chapel knowing about it thanks to the events of “Amok Time,” but people all over the Trek universe knowing all about the fact that Vulcans swim home to spawn every seven years.

Now to be fair, this was a time before things like home video and wikipedias and such, but still, the fact that Vulcans keep the pon farr extremely secret was a major plot point of the episode, so to see it suddenly be treated as common knowledge was maddening. (Of course, it didn’t help that Spock blabbed all about it to Droxine in “The Cloud Minders,” but still…)

So it was a huge relief to watch this episode and see that Lisa Klink actually watched “Amok Time” and paid attention to everything that happened in it, including the fact that Spock practically had to be put into a headlock before he would admit to his best friends what he was going through.

This means that the EMH waits until he is alone with Vorik to discuss his condition, and the only other person he can even consider talking to about it is Tuvok—who is not only another Vulcan, but one with several children and who has gone through pon farr before, while also serving a couple of tours in Starfleet.

Klink also caught something that was only implied by “Amok Time” rather than outwardly stated: the ritual combat burns out the plak-tow, as evidenced by the fact that Spock underwent the ritual combat and then no longer had the urge to mate.

Still, I found myself watching Paris manfully restrain himself from having sex with Torres, and all I could do was ask myself, why? Tuvok has already broken with Vulcan tradition by telling him and Chakotay about pon farr in order to try to help Torres, so he already knows that the urge to mate is overwhelming. And once they’re trapped in the caverns, the likelihood of help on Voyager becomes slim, and even then, it’s not like the EMH has had a helluva lot of luck with Vorik there.

So why does Paris resist? Yes, it’s not the ideal circumstance, but why are you saving yourself for a theoretical future friendship/relationship/whatever when the present is that she’s dying and there won’t be a future anything unless you stop being a puritanical schmuck and mate with her!

I mean, I get why, in 1967, Star Trek did an entire episode about a mating ritual at the end of which nobody actually had sex with anyone because, well, it was 1967. But thirty years later, there’s no excuse for repeating themselves. This was the chance to do a pon farr episode in which actual mating happened, and they blew it, mostly by using the same out they used three decades previous. And it’s not like Star Trek as a franchise has ever been against the notion of characters having sex, as both TNG (“Justice,” “The Price,” etc.) and DS9 (“Looking for parMach in All the Wrong Places,” “A Simple Investigation,” etc.) were full of plenty of instances. Hell, “Elogium” had a lengthy conversation on the subject between Janeway and Chakotay. So why avoid it here?

Having said all that, the episode is still fun. Alexander Enberg does decently with the role of the seriously messed-up Vorik, Roxann Dawson is having a great time as the pon farr-riddled Torres, and for all that I dislike the story choice, Robert Duncan McNeill does a very good job with a Paris who is trying really hard to do what he thinks is the right thing.

But the episode belongs to Robert Picardo and Tim Russ. Picardo beautifully shows the EMH’s frustration and inspiration as he finds himself in a situation where his expansive database of Federation medical knowledge fails him because Vulcans refuse to talk about this most basic of biological functions. And Russ plays the elder Vulcan statesman beautifully, trying very hard to balance the needs of his culture versus the safety of the ship. It’s worth mentioning that Tuvok’s duties as security chief are never compromised: the moment it becomes clear that Vorik has put Torres in danger, he has to break the sanctity of pon farr in order to save her.

Still, it’s frustrating when the only sex that anyone has in an episode about mating is with a holographic character…

EDITED TO ADD: Several people in the comments and on Facebook have rightfully pointed out that Paris’s reluctance shows a sensitivity to the fact that Torres isn’t really on a position to give informed rational consent, which is an important and valid point. It’s not as cut and dried given the stakes, but it’s something I should have considered in my review and I apologize for not doing so.

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido is part of a new Kickstarter for four 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 three books are The Devil’s Way by Megan Mackie, An Unceasing Hunger by Michelle D. Sonnier, and Dragon by Ty Drago. Please consider supporting it!

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