Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Drive”

“Drive”
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 7, Episode 3
Production episode 249
Original air date: October 18, 2000
Stardate: 54058.6

Captain’s log. Paris and Kim are taking the new Delta Flyer out on its shakedown cruise through an asteroid field. A woman named Irina pulls up alongside them and challenges them to a drag race. Paris, of course, accepts.

Irina’s vessel has an accident, and Paris and Kim offer to take her back to Voyager for repairs. She accepts, saying she needs it fixed for the race.

Paris’ query of “what race?” leads to Irina telling them all about the Antarian Trans-Stellar Rally, a two-billion kilometer race that’s held annually commemorating—and extending—the peace among the species in the region. They used to all be at each others’ throats, now they all compete in a race instead of fighting wars.

The Flyer would have to be modified, but they can participate in the race. Tuvok is, of course, against it, but Janeway thinks it’s a great idea. Chakotay points out that the Flyer doesn’t fit the specs, but Irina has offered a fuel converter, and they can make other modifications to make it work.

When Paris goes to sickbay to ask for time off, the EMH says he’s already approved it for his weekend excursion. That’s when Paris belatedly remembers that he and Torres planned a weekend-long getaway in the holodeck. Torres had traded holodeck time with half the crew—including the EMH—to get an entire romantic getaway weekend.

Paris goes to engineering, abashed, and even expresses a willingness to back out of the race, but Torres says it’s fine, though she’s obviously lying, and Paris misses that completely. Later in the mess hall, Torres confides in Neelix that she doesn’t think she and Paris are truly compatible. They love each other, but it’s not enough. She’ll wait until the race is over—she doesn’t want to distract him—and then break up.

Screenshot: CBS

Janeway and Chakotay meet with Ambassador O’Zaal, who approves the Flyer’s entry in the race. Janeway also helps with a diplomatic crisis, as the Aksani want to host the post-race ceremony, which has already been promised to the Chessu. Janeway solves the problem by offering Voyager, as neutral a party as there is, to host all the ceremonies. O’Zaal gratefully accepts.

During the opening ceremonies in the mess hall, Paris tries to talk to Assan, who brushes him off, and he and Kim also meet Irina’s copilot, Joxom. Meanwhile, Torres finds Seven in astrometrics seeking out more efficient race routes for the Flyer. She shares Tuvok’s skepticism about the point of their participating in the race, but she also feels that helping Paris will aid in improving her working relationship with Paris. Torres decides to take this notion to heart with regard to her own more personal relationship with Paris.

And so she takes Kim’s place as Paris’ copilot in the race, to Paris’ surprise and confusion.

O’Zaal asks Janeway to start the race. She orders Tuvok to fire a low-yield torpedo, and they’re off to the races! (Sorry…)

The Flyer is in third place behind Assan and Irina, which is unsurprising because they’re the only contestants with speaking parts. Torres is confident that they can take the lead, but she only skimmed the race specs, and missed the Möbius Inversion, a nasty little wormhole. When they go through the inversion, the ships all fall off sensors.

Torres takes it upon herself to make some engine modifications and they burst ahead into first, their shields “scraping” Irina and Assan’s shields (a maneuver Assan performed earlier).

But right after they come out of the inversion, there’s an explosion on Irina’s ship. All racers are told to hold position. Joxom is beamed to Voyager, where the EMH treats his burns. Tuvok investigates and discovers a component on Irina’s ship that was modified to explode.

Star Trek: Voyager "Drive"

Screenshot: CBS

O’Zaal is aghast. This kind of terrorist act against the race could destroy the peace. There have been constant threats of this kind before, but this is the first time such a threat has been successful. O’Zaal wants to cancel the race, but Irina points out that, if he does, the terrorists win.

Kim, who has taken a shine to Irina, offers to take over as her copilot. Once repairs are complete on Irina’s ship, the race re-commences. Torres comments on how well Kim and Irina are getting along, and the unspoken implication is that they work better as a couple than Paris and Torres do.

On Irina’s ship, Kim notices some issues and tries to fix them, but Irina keeps making feeble excuses for his not doing so. He then narrowly avoids the same fate as Joxom by dodging another exploding console, and when he recovers, Irina is pointing a weapon at him. Kim manages to get the weapon away from her, but even at gunpoint, she won’t say why she sabotaged her own ship. Eventually, though, Kim figures it out, especially since Irina is very invested in the Flyer winning the race—she almost goes into a panic when the Flyer suddenly stops, allowing Assan to take a commanding lead. Irina is one of those people they discussed in the briefing room who wants to destroy the race and go back to the old hatreds. She’s sabotaged the Flyer to blow up when it crosses the finish line. However, she has disabled communications, so Kim can’t tell anyone what’s happening.

Star Trek: Voyager "Drive"

Screenshot: CBS

The Flyer stopped because Paris and Torres got into an argument, as Paris read between the lines of Torres’s complimenting of Kim and Irina’s good chemistry (irony!). On top of that, they’re both visibly upset, him with her inserting herself into the race, her with him for being upset about that, as she thought them doing something together might bring them closer together.

Finally, he goes to a full stop. They have it out, and in the end, Paris actually proposes to her. But before Torres can answer, they detect a modulating pulse from Irina’s ship that’s in Morse Code. They discover that Irina sabotaged the fuel converter she gave to the Flyer and it’s going to cause a warp core breach; the ejection systems are also sabotaged. Paris takes the Flyer far away from everyone, and then Torres manages to get the ejection systems back online. They spit out the core, which goes boom, but doing no harm to anyone.

Once they recover from the shockwave, Torres says yes.

Assan wins the race. The post-race celebration is held on Voyager, while Torres and Paris get their weekend off as planned—but it’s on the repaired Flyer and it’s their honeymoon, as “JUST MARRIED” has been painted on the stern as they go off, sipping celebratory champagne.

Star Trek: Voyager "Drive"

Screenshot: CBS

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The race supposedly only goes at impulse speeds. This means it all has to be within the same solar system. Said solar system apparently has K-class anomalies, dwarf star clusters, and a Möbius Inversion all inside it. Sure.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is all for participating in the race, seeing it as an opportunity to make friends.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is completely disinterested in the race, going so far as to try to submit a security report while the race is on, which Janeway puts off so she can watch the race. However, even the staid Vulcan becomes interested when the ships go into the Möbius Inversion and go off sensors.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Busy episode for Neelix, who gets to play sounding board for Torres and then takes over as the announcer for the race.

Forever an ensign. Kim is the one who figures out Irina’s diabolical plan, mostly by deduction and reading her body language, since she doesn’t actually tell him anything—including that she first approached them in the asteroid field and drag-raced with them to get them to join the race and be her Trojan horse. He also comes up with a clever way to get a message to Paris and Torres.

Half and half. Torres reconsiders whether she should even stay with Paris, given that he’s a thundering dumbass who keeps going off on his own without talking to her first, but she decides to marry him instead.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH has taken up golf, thus maintaining a human medical tradition going back centuries. The holodeck time he gives up for Torres and Paris’ weekend getaway was a tee time. Instead, he golfs into a glass in sickbay.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Kim falls for Irina pretty much instantly, which is not surprising given that she’s played by a former member of the Pussycat Dolls. Paris at one point even compliments her, saying that she wasn’t a Borg, a hologram, or dead, so it’s a step up. But because Kim can’t have nice things, she turns out to be evil.

Do it.

Warp core breach in twenty seconds.

“So what’s your answer?”

“My answer?”

“Will you marry me?”

Warp core breach in fifteen seconds.

“You’re proposing now?”

“It’s a good a time as any.”

–Paris proposing to Torres on a deadline

Star Trek: Voyager "Drive"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. Three past DS9 guests show up here: Brian George, who played Richard Bashir in “Doctor Bashir, I Presume?” plays O’Zaal; Patrick Kilpatrick, who played Reese in “The Siege of AR-558,” and who also played Razik in “Initiations,” plays Assan; and Cyia Batten, who was the first of three women to play Tora Ziyal (in “Indiscretion” and “Return to Grace“), plays Irina. Batten will next appear in Enterprise‘s “Bound” as Navaar.

Trivial matters: We don’t actually see Paris and Torres get married, though we already saw their silver-blood duplicates tie the knot in “Course: Oblivion.” This is the fifth marriage of regular characters we’ve seen, following the O’Brien-Ishikawa wedding in TNG’s “Data’s Day,” the Lwaxana-Odo wedding in DS9’s “The Muse,” the Dax-Worf wedding in DS9’s “You Are Cordially Invited,” and the Sisko-Yates wedding in DS9’s “‘Til Death Do Us Part.” The next one we’ll see is the Riker-Troi wedding in Nemesis. The Torres-Paris wedding is the only one we don’t see any of the ceremony for.

This is the second time Torres has had to have Morse Code explained to her, the previous time being in “The 37’s.” When Paris does so, he doesn’t mention that five-year-old mission, but instead says that he and Kim use it for the Captain Proton holodeck adventures.

This episode establishes that the Delta Flyer was rebuilt following its destruction in “Unimatrix Zero.” We already saw the new Flyer in “Imperfection,” but that episode also has Paris wearing his wedding ring, so it likely takes place after this episode, in which Kim and Paris are giving the ship a shakedown cruise.

Torres mentions that Paris was expelled from Starfleet Academy—except he wasn’t. That’s the backstory of Nicholas Locarno, another Robert Duncan McNeill Starfleet fuckup character from TNG’s “The First Duty.” Paris’ backstory had him already graduating the Academy and serving in Starfleet as a junior officer for a while before doing his stupid-ass thing that got people killed, as opposed to Locarno, who did it as a cadet.

Paris cites three of Kim’s past crushes: Seven (throughout early season four), Marayna (“Alter Ego“), and Ballard (“Ashes to Ashes“). For whatever reason, he neglects to mention the women who tried to turn him into an alien (“Favorite Son“) or the woman who made him sick (“The Disease“).

Star Trek: Voyager "Drive"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I kind of like the sound of Tom Torres.” The final scene in this episode makes me crazy for two reasons. One is that the tradition of the woman changing her name to that of her husband—a tradition that is rooted in the notion that a woman becomes her husband’s property upon marriage—is one that has been increasingly less common for the past fifty years or so. Not anywhere near being completely eliminated, of course, but at this point, it’s not even unusual to see a woman keeping her name when she marries (nor is it unusual to see a woman changing it; still rare to find a man changing his name, but progress is a process…). So to even have a conversation about it in a twenty-fourth-century setting where one of the participants isn’t even from Earth is absurd—and to have Paris’ response to the notion of his changing his name be an appalled, “I hope you’re kidding” makes it worse. Paris runs the gamut in this episode from self-centered douchecanoe to good person trying to do right by the woman he loves, and he had done so well putting himself in the latter camp before that “I hope you’re kidding” comment.

Also: the only reason you put cans and stuff on strings behind a vehicle being used by newlyweds is to slow the vehicle down. It’s completely meaningless in space.

Anyhow, this episode is—fine? I guess? The notion of a sporting event to take the place of a war is a good one—sports rivalries tend to be pretty passionate, but also mostly violence-free (soccer/football match aftermaths in Europe notwithstanding)—and Voyager taking on the role of neutral party (and provider of medical help) is the perfect one for them to take.

Indeed, this is the sort of thing Voyager should’ve been doing more of (see also the station on the edge of the Nekrit Expanse in “Fair Trade” or the Markonian Outpost in “Survival Instinct“), and it’s good to see it here.

It just would’ve been nice if the plot wasn’t so paint-by-numbers. Of course the woman Kim falls for turns out to be the bad guy, especially since it kinda has to be either her or Assan, and Assan’s a bit too obvious a candidate.

Having said that, I do like that Kim pretty much singlehandedly saves the day. And the progress of the Torres-Paris relationship mostly works, though the cliché of the couple almost breaking up right before they tie the knot was tired when they did it with Miles and Keiko on TNG and is really tired here. But Roxann Dawson in particular plays Torres’ uncertainty quite well, and McNeill sells both Paris’ depth of feeling as well as his being completely out of his depth when getting the nuances—though he does make the effort to bridge the gap in the end.

It’s a good premise, it’s decently executed, and we do get Paris and Torres married at the end of it. While geographic progress though the Delta Quadrant has been a thing, character progress for anyone who isn’t a hologram or ex-Borg has been vanishingly rare on the show, so seeing it here is heartening.

 

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be a guest at the virtual Treklanta on Saturday the 7th of August. The all-day online event will also include Trek actors J.G. Hertzler and Tracee Lee Cuocco and Trek screenwriter/novelist David Gerrold. Keith will be doing a Q&A at 2pm Eastern Time. Full details and signup information here.

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