“Parallax” – VOY 1X3

In the second episode of Voyager (it says episode three because both parts of the pilot, “Caretaker” are counted) we get to learn more about the characters and there’s significant development for Torres and Kes.

Carey and B'Elanna in the conference room

The episode revolves around a spatial anomaly that creates a parallel version of the ship slightly out of sync in time. But the part I’m going to focus on is just as significant: Janeway’s need to pick a new Chief Engineer from between Carey (the senior officer and her preference) and B’Elanna (probably the more skilled engineer and Chakotay’s recommendation).

It doesn’t help B’Elanna’s odds that she starts off the episode breaking Carey’s nose.

Carey in Sickbay with a broken nose

“You keep that woman out of my engine room and everything will be fine,” he rages to Chakotay and Tuvok as he’s being treated in sickbay.

Chakotay gives Torres what will become one of his signature fatherly dressing-downs (dressings-down?) and says she better shape up because she’ll need support to become Chief Engineer. At this point early in the series she’s still deeply insecure and so surprised Chakotay would consider her an option.

B'Elanna talks to Chakotay

Janeway calls a meeting for senior staff to talk about their personnel issues and power/food shortages. Neelix and Kes crash the meeting, which sort of feels like first season TNG whenever Wesley finagles his way onto the bridge: just annoying.

At least Kes has some useful ideas: she wants to convert a cargo bay into a hydroponics space so she can grow vegetables to help feed them. Neelix offers to help them find plants and to cook for them, so I have to give him some credit. But when the group gets called out to the bridge because they’ve encountered a quantum singularity, he’s really condescending in explaining it to Kes.

Neelix and Kes on the bridge

You’ll just have to imagine his tone, saying “A singularity is a star that’s collapsed in on itself. The event horizon is a very powerful energy field surrounding it. Why, er, once on a particularly dangerous trade mission to the twin stars of Keloda, I myself was almost trapped inside.”

Well, actually…

The awesomesauce in this episode comes as Janeway and B’Elanna slowly learn to appreciate and even trust each other. It’s well-written, believable, sensitive, and really establishes theirs as a friendship based on respect and mutual geekiness.

It starts when B’Elanna impresses at a staff meeting, even though Carey had told her, with more than a hint of assholery, “Try not to say anything unless somebody asks you something.”

Soon Janeway and B’Elanna are geeking out together over astrophysics and even though I don’t understand the technobabble, it warms the cockles of my trekkie feminist heart.

B'Elanna and Janeway talk about science

B’Elanna: Wait a minute. What if we’ve already made a crack in the ice?

Janeway: When we first entered the event horizon.

B’Elanna: If we could find our entry point, we might be able to slip out the way we came in.

Janeway: So we’d be looking for a subspace instability in the event horizon. What would make it show up on our sensors?

Janeway and B’Elanna: Warp particles.

Janeway: If we saturate the event horizon with warp particles, we might be able to see the escaping through the rupture we made when we entered.

At the end, before Janeway gives her the job, Janeway lets her know that she was more missed after she left Starfleet Academy than she realized.

By telling her how much her professors admired her, she addresses B’Elanna’s major insecurities in a way that’s not patronizing.

“Some professors like students who challenge their assumptions, B’Elanna. And so do some Captains.” 

Subsequently, this is me:

GIF of Rapunzel sighing contentedly

What we learned from this episode:

  • Janeway is running a ship where you get ahead on brains, talent and initiative
  • B’Elanna defies engineering/science geek stereotypes by showing she has mad skillz at the same time as strong emotions.

Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Janeway talks to Kes about the hydroponics bay, and to B’Elanna at several points.

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