Voyager rewatch 5.13 – “Gravity”

In which Lori Petty falls for Tuvok, as is only right and proper.

This is a fantastic episode, and should probably be on more “best Voyager episode” lists.

It has:

  • a high profile guest star in Lori Petty giving a great performance
  • Tuvok at his most Tuvokian
  • flashbacks to a time when he was less Tuvokian
  • some cool science fictional timey wimey business
  • Tim Russ is just very handsome, okay? Tuvok should wear a tight tank top more often. It’s … logical
  • a great Tom storyline
  • look, Tuvok romance always makes me happy, okay?

As far as I’m concerned, “Gravity” has but two flaws:

  • once again Voyager is pitted against The Delta Quadrant Working Class
  • Noss’s outfit in the final scene is the worst piece of costuming ever to appear in Star Trek
  • that’s a big call, but I stand by it

It’s extremely important to point out that tuvok is very attractive in this episode

But seriously, it’s weird how both the producers and the fandom were out to shame Robert Duncan McNeill for failing to adhere to masculine beauty standards with a little weight gain and some male pattern baldness, while overlooking that Tim Russ was right there.

Like, first of all, there’s nothing wrong with being a bit pudgy and losing your hair, and the outrage that McNeill was in his late thirties and looked it, instead of remaining boyishly handsome for eternity, was kind of wild. (Hey, you know who’s still boyishly handsome, like, to the point where we might want to start asking questions about any mirrors he has stashed away in his attic? Garrett Wang. Just sayin’.)

But, okay, if it’s lean and muscular with a full head of hair that you’re into, here’s Tim Russ. And also Garrett Wang. It’s so weird how they were both overlooked as sex symbols by both show and audience. I wonder what they have in common…

(Robert Beltran is in a unique position of his own — he, too, gained a little weight, and fans were predictably unhinged about it, but they were also furious that the grey in his hair was being dyed. I think fans liked that he was a little older, and wanted him to seem like a match for Janeway, while also putting him in an “exotically sexy” box which was as racist, in its way, as the one Wang and Russ were put into.)

Tuvok gets exactly one type of romance

I cannot help but suspect that part of the reason Tuvok was conceived as married (and monogamous, which went without saying in the ’90s) was to prevent a Black man from becoming a sex symbol, the way Spock infamously did. (“But Sisko,” you say. Sisko is incredibly attractive, but I’m not sure the all-male mostly straight writing team was aware of it. And it’s telling that fandom considers him “dad” not “daddy”. Fandom is, of course, wrong, but that goes without saying.)

I’m not saying this was a deliberate conspiracy. Not even as overt as Rick Berman’s “I just don’t see Harry as sexy, interesting or promotable, no idea why…” routine. It’s just very striking to me that it was obvious by 1967 that Vulcans had incredible sex appeal as far as the audience was concerned, and yet the second-ever Vulcan regular was effectively neutered before his story even began.

(Please note, also, the relentless sexualisation of T’Pol.)

Now, I’ve complained many times before that Star Trek simply didn’t know how to intentionally appeal to women, whether in writing or costume design. That could easily be the source of the problem. But the more I rewatch Voyager, the more I see (a) how under-appreciated Tuvok is; and (b) how much that seems intentional on the part of the writers.

ANYWAY, since Tuvok can obviously never reciprocate the love of anyone but his wife — who has a name but not a personality — his love stories involve tragically isolated women who fall for him, are terribly saddened that he cannot love them, but bravely try to move on. Tuvok remains alone, but for a new closeness with a male work colleague.

I mean. I love “Gravity”, but that is ALSO the plot of season 3’s “Alter Ego”.

And I’m not mad about it.

I know I just said that Star Trek writers didn’t understand how to appeal to female fans (or, really, any demographic outside white men aged between 18 and 45), but I feel like they’ve accidentally hit on the appeal of Spock from day one: here is a man who will treat you with respect and profound courtesy, even though he can never accept your love. (And, really, isn’t there something wonderfully safe about someone who will never ask you to follow through and commit? Or is that just me?)

(Spock and Tuvok also share a quality I’m going to call the Gentleman Barbarian — all that courtesy and reserve, but there’s a seething, emotional monster underneath, one who will fight his best friend to the death to go through with an arranged marriage that no one wants, or who will mind meld with a serial killer just to find out how he ticks. Which is all very interesting, but Noss doesn’t see that side of Vulcans, so it’s not relevant here.)

Speaking of emotional monsters

Flashbacks show us that, as a teen, Tuvok was packed off to Vulcan conversion therapy.

I mean. It’s a sanctuary for learning to control his emotions, but the kid got kicked out of home and expelled from school for developing an inappropriate romantic attachment, what am I meant to think?

(Save that (a) Vulcans really are quite messed up; (b) the only thing we know about Tuvok’s parents is that they kicked him out of home for being straight, and they forced him to join Starfleet. I have questions. Like, when do we get a high budget prequel series about Tuvok’s adolescence and early adulthood?)

Leroy D Brazile has exactly three credits on his IMDB page, two in Star Trek and all in 1999. According to Memory Alpha, he now works in IT. I don’t know what drew him to acting, or why he left the profession so soon, but I love his performance as young Tuvok, whom he played with a mixture of confidence — swagger, even — and vulnerability.

Come on, Paramount+. Star Trek: Tuvok. Think about it.


I don’t really have anything to say about nostalgia, I just wanted to make a pun on Noss’s name.

As I recall, when this episode aired, she was widely compared to Milla Jovovich’s character in The Fifth Element. And I think that’s unfair — Leeloo is a classic case of Born Sexy Yesterday; aside from having a girlish voice and speaking in a fake alien tongue, Noss is a completely different type of character. She’s a scavenger, a survivor, and clearly when she develops feelings for Tuvok, it’s the first time in many years she has allowed herself to be emotionally vulnerable.

But as long as we’re making comparisons, Noss reminds me of a character who came along many years later — Jaylah in Star Trek: Beyond. Jaylah is another scavenger and survivor whose first tongue is not English. I remember expecting her to be attracted to Spock, and now I know why — I was subconsciously thinking of Noss.

But the thing about Jaylah and Leeloo is that they were young. Petty was only 36 when “Gravity” aired, but 36 seemed older back then (or was it just that I was 17?). And there was this sense that, as the face of a failed superhero movie — the criminally underrated Tank Girl — she was somehow damaged goods. At the very least, she wasn’t an ingenue, and that was unforgivable.

(I know that sounds wild, but this was an era where Kate Mulgrew, at 40, was almost too old to play Janeway.)

Sexism and ageism aside, Petty was and is a hugely respected character, and Star Trek was lucky to have her. And it’s delightful to see her in this romantic role.

Tom is also here

Actually, I think this is a particularly good episode for Tom. He easily falls into a supportive brother role for Noss, recognising her feelings for Tuvok and calling him out when he’s being a donkey. Tom Paris, Supportive Friend Guy, is the best Tom Paris.

And the Doctor is there

Doing the usual Doctor things.

Voyager’s war on the working class

I kind of appreciate that season 5 sees Voyager encountering some antagonists who aren’t part of an empire. Like the Malon, the “bad guys” here are just some local contractors engaged to fill a space pothole.

I love this, but as with the Malon, I’m kind of like, Janeway, did you have to go Full Karen on these guys?

Obviously the real villain in this story is the pothole, and also the rival scavengers who will kill Noss and our guys if they can. (I realise that is bad, but I have trouble calling them villains. They’re having a hard time!) But alongside the Malon, it forms an odd pattern, and one I don’t really care for.


Noss’s desert costume: I’m not gonna call it a sexy stillsuit, because that implies that stillsuits aren’t already sexy. And Noss’s outfit is a little less mechanical — I do not believe she is processing urine and waste in her thighpads. (Sorry.)

But it’s a good costume! The veil is practical for the desert; everything else is classic Fighty Lady Warrior. There are a lot of details that look great even on a high definition television. It’s sexy, but it’s not objectifying.

Noss’s Voyager costume: I mean, what the fuck? The colours are fine, but the pattern is wretched. What are those sleeves? Not just the awkward length, but the seams? Was this made by the intern?

Bad enough that Tuvok has to let her down easy with a mind meld, but she has to be dressed by Neelix?

Other observations

  • Chakotay is not also here. I mean, he’s around, but is he, though? This has been a rough season for our man.
  • After a run of relatively sedate episodes, Janeway’s hair is once again voluminous. It’s full of subspace anomalies.

In conclusion

This is a really good episode, and only a few small niggles and a bad costume keep it from greatness. Four delicious spiders out of five.

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