Voyager rewatch 4.03 – “Day of Honor”

This is late! For which I am deeply apologetic — my day job utterly exploded a few weeks ago, and for a while there, I’d go to work, run around all day, then arrive home capable only of sitting on the couch, staring into space, until bedtime.

And all that time, I had a lot of thoughts about “Day of Honour” swirling around in my head. Can I remember them? Let’s find out!

B’Elanna is having a very bad day

She overslept, her shower exploded, every single person on the ship is getting on her last nerve — and, worst of all, it’s all happening on the Day of Honour, a bullshit Klingon holiday designed to sell the patriarchy Hallmark cards tie-in novels.1

B’Elanna is accustomed to blaming herself for her problems, but I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that this is all a combination of (a) bad luck, (b) coincidence, and (c) MEN.

It’s called “day of honour” not “day of consent”

HEAR ME OUT HERE. B’Elanna interacts with three men before the teaser:

1. Vorik. For some unfathomable reason, he is still working in engineering after attempting to sexually assault his boss. Yes, I know there were mitigating circumstances, but how about spending a few years in a science department? Anyway, this dude still thinks “no” is the opening of negotiations. Trash.

2. Tom Paris. This whole episode left me going, “I know I say I like Tom/B’Elanna, but why, exactly, is that?” He spends a big chunk of the episode alternatively pressuring and guilt-tripping B’Elanna into doing the whole DoH program. Sure, she was into the idea at first, Tom, but she changed her mind. SHE WITHDREW CONSENT, TOM. Trash.

3. Chakotay. YES, FINE, he’s her superior officer, he is perfectly within his rights to tell B’Elanna to work with Seven of Nine whether she likes it or not. It’s just a bit much, coming after the rest. Trash-adjacent.

And later, after the teaser, she deals with…

4. Holographic Klingon Dude. And really, he’s just a victim of his culture, and Klingon society’s unreasonable emphasis on a stereotypically masculine construction of honour. You wanna die in glorious battle, dude? You’re not even going to get close unless you have a good engineer keeping your ship running. I swear, these guys had two female leaders in the 23rd century and have been throwing a macho tantrum ever since. Holographic trash.

This is a weird time for Neelix to bring out his humiliation kink, but anyway

The only man in B’Elanna’s life who isn’t trash or trash-adjacent is … Neelix. He’s literally the only person in this whole episode who goes, “You’re allowed to be in a bad mood, and it doesn’t have to be rational, and if you feel like you need an outlet, I am here to be your punching bag. Also I made you a pie, which you may consume or otherwise without pressure.”

I mean. Okay, yes, it’s a bit strange that he has this specific list of ways in which he consents for B’Elanna to mistreat him. On the other hand, well, have you seen his relationship with Tuvok? Neelix has a lot going on here. But it’s what B’Elanna needed.

Does B’Elanna have any female friends?

I’ve had days like this. They usually come about three days before my period, and once I’ve finished enduring the torture and savaging every single person who crosses my path, what I really need is to sit down with my best friend and a bucket of ice cream. Not because ~~~ladies, so irrational, amiright~~~ but because it’s nice to eat a food which makes endorphins in the company of a person who gets it.

Once upon a time, the person bringing B’Elanna ice cream and gin and tonic2 was Seska.  But she’s long gone, and it’s been even longer since the writers remembered that B’Elanna had a friend who was a peer.

And don’t get me wrong, it makes perfect sense for B’Elanna to regard Seven of Nine with suspicion and resentment. That’s who she is! Just as Tom and Harry are the guys who explicitly don’t care about your past! Their animosity isn’t just “two women are automatically rivals”. But there’s definitely an element of that, and I find myself wishing that somewhere in the recurring cast, B’Elanna had a friend.

This is the big “Tom and B’Elanna get together” episode

And I’m kind of like, “Thanks! I hate it!”

…mostly. I love the final, quiet confessions as they’re floating in space and expecting to die. I think B’Elanna is unfair on herself when she talks about being a coward, but that’s consistent with her character.

Really, I don’t have a [massive] problem with B’Elanna’s story at all. It’s Tom I want to rewrite here — I wish he was less fixated with “fixing” B’Elanna’s relationship with Klingon culture, and more able to understand that this is a difficult process for her, and that maybe it’s a journey she’ll choose to leave unfinished.

(To modern eyes, the subtext of the white dude pushing his mixed-race love interest to explore her “exotic” culture is pretty ugly, but as far as I can recall, it was pretty normal for the ’90s — maybe even progressive, in that she wasn’t just expected to conform by default to the most bland version of human culture around.)

I remember that I wound up really liking where the Tom and B’Elanna relationship went in the end, and I love that she keeps struggling and growing even as she becomes a parent. But this … is a flawed foundation.

Meanwhile, Seven of Nine is very, very … shiny

Did we need to open the episode with Seven’s breasts being uplit like they’re telling a scary story around a campfire?

I love the silver catsuit, but it has the (intentional?) side effect of making Seven’s body so prominent as to be a distraction. The cut is great, but I wish it was matte.

She also learns an important lesson about compassion (but not too much compassion, because poor people are bad)

Seven’s subplot here is perfectly good. While B’Elanna blames herself (or her genes) for everything, Seven doesn’t yet have enough sense of personhood to feel responsible for anything. She might be using the singular first person, but she doesn’t feel like an individual — she’s accustomed to acting as a unit, and her very first request is to become part of a new one.

Over the course of the day, she is accused of deception — a concept with which she has little experience, even though we know the Borg are crafty motherfuckers, but anyway — and repeatedly asked to take responsibility for the actions of the collective.

She never does so, which I think is to her credit, but instead stumbles into the concept of reparations, offering the Caatati refugees access to their own technology, assimilated by the Borg along with everyone who knew how to use it.

This is good! It’s really interesting to me that, despite the lingering tension between Seven and Janeway, Seven seems to value Janeway’s opinions and ideas. And it makes sense — the Borg were a collective, but a collective with a queen at its centre. Seven claims she’s unaccustomed to hierarchies, but really, she’s just used to very flat ones.

What’s not great is … literally everything to do with the Caatati.

Voyager, as a show, is really scared of poor people

We saw it in the handling of the Kazon, and we see it again with the Caatati: helping the poor is dangerous, because it will “destabilise the balance of power” or because — as we see here — they’ll prove ungrateful and demanding. Janeway is happy to give the Caatati refugees a little, but has to be guilted into giving them anything remotely adequate for their needs — and it’s Seven of Nine who eventually goes, “Hey, why don’t we just give them the means to support themselves?”

There’s something terribly ugly about the depiction of poverty in Voyager. I don’t think other Treks are necessarily any better, with the sole exception of the “Past Tense” two-parter in DS9, but it never came up as often as it does here. Voyager’s isolation is a factor; she’s like a white tourist flaunting her wealth in a poor country, complaining that the beggars are just, like, really ruining the authentic experience she wanted to share on Instagram.

The problem isn’t exclusive to Jeri Taylor, but this is the third of her scripts to feature it, after “Caretaker” and “Alliances”. And I don’t think it’s remotely conscious — but it seems very much a product of America in the ’90s, and an assumption that, wherever America goes, the people it meets are inferior and desperate for largesse that America doesn’t really want to provide.

It’s interesting! And I hate it!

Other observations

  • “Parallax”, Voyager‘s third episode if you count “Caretaker” as two, was a B’Elanna story, and going forward, the third episode of every season will focus on her. That Day of Honor’s a rough time!
  • I don’t wanna harp on Jeri Taylor’s failings, but it’s hard to overlook that Vorik, a fairly unpleasant character played by her son, only appears in her scripts. Nepotism? In my Hollywood? It’s more likely than you think.
  • (There are Actual Vorik Fans on Tumblr, and I wish them well, but I … don’t get it.)
  • It is completely unfair to compare the janky spacewalk scene to anything in The Expanse, so I won’t. But I will note that I found the dialogue mixing a bit odd, and was not surprised to learn that it was done in ADR, and that Dawson felt their performance on the day was better.
  • I love the silver catsuit and I hate the silver catsuit, and I wish someone would do an oral history of Seven of Nine’s costumes from “Scorpion” to Picard.
  • (Sometimes I wonder how Gersha Phillips would costume a freshly-liberated Seven, and I feel like the answer might be “similar cut, more forgiving fabric, flat shoes”. I mean, if nothing else, we have access to much better stretch fabrics, and I bet you could pull an interesting catsuit together using athletic compression garments as your starting point.)

In conclusion

In terms of arcs, this one is pretty much unmissable. But does that make it good? No. On the other hand, it’s also not bad. A respectable three ejected warp cores out of five.

  1. The story here is that John Ordover of Pocket Books conceived of a mini-series based around what he described as “a Klingon Yom Kippur”, and suggested to Jeri Taylor that it might be particularly relevant to B’Elanna. Evidently Taylor agreed.
  2. No, it’s a good combo, trust me.

2 thoughts on “Voyager rewatch 4.03 – “Day of Honor””

  1. You’ve talked before about the U.S.-centrism of Trek. In that vein I would actually connect the anti-poor people stuff to the Clinton-era welfare reforms, which (to simplify) threw people off benefits unless they could work. The idea that helping poor people is dangerous in particular would have been right out of an administration talking points memo at the time.

    Those Day of Honor books weren’t that good, either, if memory serves.

    1. In that vein I would actually connect the anti-poor people stuff to the Clinton-era welfare reforms, which (to simplify) threw people off benefits unless they could work.

      Yes! “Caretaker” was criticised at the time of airing for implicitly approving those “reforms”! And Taylor et al were like, “Goodness, no, we never intended such a thing!” But then, wouldn’t you work harder to avoid such implications going forward…?

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