Monday, August 20, 2012

Roxann Biggs-Dawson's Last Hurrah As A Sex Symbol On Star Trek Voyager When Torres Gets "Blood Fever!"

The Good: Generally good acting, Interesting (if predictable) plot, Moments of character, Serialization
The Bad: Resolution, Some of the acting
The Basics: When a new Vulcan Ensign goes into his mating drive, he assaults Torres who is essentially infected with the same desires, which she focuses on Tom Paris.

When it comes to Star Trek: Voyager, it sometimes might seem to some that I am overly harsh with the series. There is so much I do not like about the series as it progresses and I can come across as mean about it, I suppose. The truth is, I feel a great deal of pity for the series, the franchise and most of the people involved in it. Despite my virtually undying love for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, so many of the people who worked on Star Trek: Voyager are simply the nicest people in the world who were given terrible material to work with. I feel bad for Robert Picardo because he's associated with a series that gave him a great part, but didn't give him a supporting cast to truly lead. I pity Kate Mulgrew who was rolled over in the fourth season when the show sold out to the Baywatch audience and her part was diminished and the attention was turned over to Jeri Ryan's Seven of Nine. But mostly, I feel bad for Roxann Biggs-Dawson, who played the half-Klingon, half-human B'Elanna Torres.

Roxann Biggs-Dawson started Star Trek: Voyager as the series' legitimate sex symbol. She was attractive - even with the prosthetic forehead -, fiery, passionate and alluring. Whenever a storyline came up that involved a female character on Voyager having a real sexual desire - like "Remember" reviewed here - Torres was the character focused on. At the beginning of the fourth season, though, Torres is rather unceremoniously dumped from that position. Her last attempt to wow audiences with her sex appeal comes in the third season episode "Blood Fever."

When the Vulcan Ensign Vorik begins to undergo the Vulcan mating ritual known as Pon farr, he approaches his superior officer, Chief Engineer Torres with a proposition. Torres expresses no interest in Vorik and he assaults her with a Vulcan mind link. To escape him, Torres, Paris and an Away Team investigate ruins on a nearby planet, which result in Torres and Paris being trapped underground together. In the confined area, Torres begins to pressure Paris for sex, which he dutifully avoids. Unearthed, Vorik challenges Paris to a fight to the death for Torres, an offer she will not simply sit still for . . .

Pon farr, one of those geek culture common knowledge things that virtually anyone outside the science fiction-loving community would not know about, was always a concept that viewers of Star Trek: Voyager assumed would come up over the course of the projected seven season story. Most fans figured the story would involve Lieutenant Tuvok, the Chief of Security and most noticeable Vulcan on the ship. So when Ensign Vorik popped up on the show as a background character beginning in "Fair Trade" (reviewed here!), many fans had their suspicion that something was going to happen before that. "Blood Fever" is the execution of that general idea.

First, what works well is that "Blood Fever" sets off a series of serialized character arcs that actually endure through the end of the series. Torres and Paris are not chosen at random and "Blood Fever" marks the beginning of a relationship between the two. For sure, Paris was tender with Torres in the first season episode "Faces" (reviewed here!) where the pair found themselves in a life-or-death situation, but since then Torres has been mostly fixated on Chakotay. "Blood Fever" sets the pair on a road toward being a couple and the unlikely pairing works well. This is a fair start to that arc.

Second, Torres gets a chance to shine in this episode and seeing the character overcome by her lusty Klingon half is a nice change for the usually temper-prone character. The concept that that aggression could be channeled into something sexual is - at worst - entertaining. The way Torres resolves the situation works as well and is satisfying to many of the viewers.

Finally, Roxann Biggs-Dawson truly shines as Torres in this episode. Channeling her aggression, Dawson is able to recreate Torres with a real sense of sexual gravitas. She is forceful and forthright and Dawson plays the part that could be heavy-handed with a fair amount of allure and flair. She makes it work.

As a sidenote, the mostly neglected Robert Picardo has what amounts to an amusing cameo appearance where the Doctor expresses disappointment over how Victorian Vulcans are about their mating practices. It's a clever scene and Picardo and Tim Russ - as Tuvok - play off one another brilliantly in it.

The problems start with Vorik. Vorik is the least-Vulcan Vulcan in the history of the Star Trek pantheon until Enterprise begins. His actions essentially amount to psychic rape and his ability to do that, even under the auspices of the insatiable Vulcan mating drive do not read as very real. On an equal level, it's hard for the viewer to care about Vorik. He's a babyfaced Vulcan with no charisma or intrigue. He is a character who is impossible to become emotionally attached to.

I blame actor Alexander Enberg, son of executive producer Jeri Taylor. Enberg plays Vorik . . . poorly and outside nepotism it's hard to see how he might have gotten the role. Enberg lacks the physical control - especially the ability to keep the eyes from expressing emotion - to sell himself convincingly as a Vulcan character. He is smirky and when he plays Vorik in a rage, he seems like a man playing at being enraged. The result is a gutting of any real menace to the episode. Indeed, viewers will likely find themselves rooting for Torres to simply kill Vorik so he does not clutter up our television screen again.

Added to that, the episode ends before it is over. The whole concept of the "Blood Fever" is dealt with and the show feels complete when all of a sudden, there is something tacked on. The last frames of "Blood Fever" set up the following episode, but they do it with a feel of desperation, as if to say, "We really need you to watch next week! See what's coming?!" That type of quasi-manipulation fares poorly and it cheapens the character moments that dominate much of this episode.

Fans of general drama are likely to be entertained by the episode, though it's definitely geared more towards fans of Star Trek and Star Trek: Voyager than a general audience. Is it enjoyable? For sure; it's one of the better episodes of the third season. Is it satisfying? That's debatable. But it is worth at least a viewing for fans as it does set up important character developments between Torres and Paris.

[Knowing that VHS is essentially a dead medium, it's worth looking into Star Trek: Voyager - The Complete Third Season on DVD, which is also a better economical choice than buying the VHS. Read my review of the entire season here!


For other Star Trek episode reviews, be sure to visit my Star Trek Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2007 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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