Voyager rewatch 4.05 – “Revulsion”

A one-word episode title beginning with the letter R? Must be Voyager time!

First, I had no memory of “Revulsion”‘s A-plot whatsoever. Harry and Seven? I’ve been cringing at the memory for years. Homicidal hologram? Most of it felt completely new to me — even though Netflix says I’ve watched it before, and I did remember details from Jim Wright’s recap back in the day.

Mostly, “Revulsion” is just your straight-up completely-unrelated-A-and-B-plots. While the Doctor and B’Elanna deal with a holographic serial killer, Harry and Seven start work designing a new astrometrics lab and have a comedic1 misunderstanding about sex.

But the opening scene gives us a whole lot more than that, and somehow manages to do it all seamlessly:

  • Tuvok is promoted to the rank of lieutenant-commander, though first enduring the ritual humiliation of having Tom and Harry recount a prank at his expense. Hey, it could be worse — unlike Worf’s promotion, he got away without an attempted drowning.
  • Janeway and Neelix have a conversation about the aliens they’re about to meet, establishing that Neelix’s diplomatic skills have come along in leaps and bounds.
  • Chakotay tells Harry to work with Seven on the astrometrics project.
  • Three days after the events of “Day of Honour” (and may I say, Chakotay is looking well-rested and chill after “Nemesis”), B’Elanna and Tom finally have a conversation, which ends in a kiss.

(Said Jim Wright in his recap: “A thousand sighs echo across the heartland. Hundreds of fanfic authors get pitchforked into frenetic activity by their respective Muses. And forty-seven feminists get mad because a dang man told a strong, independent woman to shut up before forcing himself on her.” And yeah, I will add myself to that number of feminists, because it was super jarring, and yet another moment where I asked myself why I like Paris/Torres.)

Then the distress call comes in, the Doctor learns we have a HOLOGRAM IN NEED, and the story splits into its A- and B- plots.

B’Elanna is the final girl

Ben and Adam of the podcast The Greatest Generation have a concept they call Star Trek As A Place: the idea that Star Trek as a franchise is a vehicle for stories in a range of genres. So last week we had Star Trek As War Movie, and now we have Star Trek As Horror Movie.

I know … marginally more about horror movies than war movies, and a considerable chunk of my knowledge comes from the You’re Wrong About episode on slasher movies.

But here’s what I know: a lot of horror tropes are based on the fear of the other, but essentially, an other who has been wronged by the dominant culture and wants revenge. It’s a way of reframing perpetrators as victims — yes, Dejaren was mistreated and maybe even sexually abused, but look, he killed his crew!

So there’s a cultural unease that underpins these stories, a sense of, “Yes, these grievances are legitimate, but you’ve gone TOO FAR!” #notallorganics, Dejaren!

(The science fiction version nearly always involves machines created for labour rising up against their creators– consider the Cylons in Battlestar: Galactica or the geth in Mass Effect. I assume it has something to do with America’s ongoing reckoning with slavery.)

Voyager‘s iteration seems pretty competent, but I’m really not enough of a horror fan to comment more — save that Dejaren is written and played as an obsessive-compulsive autistic person, and I’m super not into that framing. I don’t think it was intentional — the deliberate comparison was with the killer in Psycho — but it was a wee bit uncomfortable.

Harry Kim is still not terrible with women (but he is, here, terrible)

I’ve complained here before about the myth that Harry is bad with women — when he’s actually very successful, romantically speaking, but racism means we had to pretend he was a dweeb.

It rears its head again in “Revulsion”, only here he’s not only unsuccessful, he doesn’t deserve to be.

The plot: as Harry works with Seven to design the new lab, he starts to see her as … a person. Separately, he is also attracted to her, but mostly he just seems to enjoy her company and want people (Tom) to treat her with respect.

Tom — filling in for the Doctor, because it’s been four years and no one thought to train a second nurse until now — is like, “Maybe pursuing Seven is a bad idea?” Not because she is brand new to personhood, mind, but just because she’s an ex-Borg, and suddenly, contrary to what he said in “Day of Honor”, Tom is all about judging people by their past.

(I totally buy that what Tom says to Seven is different from what he says to his friend, about whom he cares, but I’m also annoyed at both these guys and don’t want to cut them any slack.)

The problem with this conversation with Tom is that, for some reason, it diverts Harry onto a romantic track, where he’s suddenly adding mood lighting to “work sessions” and proposing holodeck dates. And I’m like, Harry, you are better than this! Just keep treating Seven like a person! Stop making it weird!

And maybe Seven feels the same way, since her offer to cut out the romance and have sex with him shuts that right down. Only it’s also completely out of character for her at this stage in her journey, and brings us back to the “Harry is scared of women” nonsense.

(Harry’s behaviour, I note from 2021, is more akin to that of a guy who has behaved inappropriately, knows it, and is worried that it’s going to get out.)

It’s just a mess. It’s bad writing (Jeri Ryan herself called it cheesy) and doesn’t match either characters’ personalities. Fortunately the show course corrects and this is never spoken of again, but it’s nevertheless painful to watch.

Other observations

  • The construction of the astrometrics lab is another baby step towards serialisation. Bless.
  • Dejaren is all, “fish are cleaner and neater than other organic lifeforms!” but obviously he’s never had to clean a fishtank.
  • Goldfish poop a lot, guys.
  • How can one tiny fish create so much poop?
  • Obviously Chakotay should not be amused by Harry’s foray into workplace sexual harassment, but it’s always nice to see Robert Beltran’s dimples and an unrestrained expression of emotion from Chakotay.
  • Tuvok regrets so many of his choices.

In conclusion

Look. The opening scene immediately after the teaser is great. Watch that, skip the rest. Two holographic fish out of five.

  1. Actual comedy not guaranteed

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