Tony Wilkins looks at the danger involved in having a Pussycat Doll take part in a shuttle race
While testing the rebuilt Delta Flyer, Tom and Harry (everytime I say that I keep thinking “Where’s Dick?”) stumble across the beautiful Irina in her race oriented shuttle. Thus begins the story of how the crew of Voyager find themselves participating in a ceremonial race to celebrate peace amongst previously warring groups of factions but alas there is a plot afoot. At the same time B’Elaana starts questioning whether her relationship with Tom is worth saving.
This episode has been viewed in two ways. Firstly it has been called “NASCAR in space” for the race element and secondly it is known as being a sequel to the earlier Paris-shuttle-obsessed episode “Alice”. To be honest neither of those descriptions are accurate. The race, despite a high speed start, feels more like a yacht race than NASCAR despite the collisions which were supposed to be exciting. As for the similarity to the previous episode they both take place in shuttles and that’s it.
This is an enjoyable romp. I don’t think it was ever supposed to be taken as a serious episode despite the efforts to do so in the third act and beyond. I would never say that this is one of Star Trek Voyager’s best episodes but it is one I do like watching. I have always thought this episode was probably inspired by the pod racing in Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace and indeed when the racers set off it does look very similar. From there on it becomes more like the yacht racing I said earlier but that’s not a criticism. I think shuttle racing probably would be more like this. Neelix’s commentary was delightful although I thought the gag about Tuvork and his security report was a little contrived. I also have to give the episode credit for actually giving the race a bit of meaning with the history of conflict being replaced by sporting events. For a real world comparison the Olympics have always been events where politics (in theory at least) are put aside in the name of friendly competition.
The story of Tom and B’Elaana’s faltering relationship actually started to bore me after a while and I think is probably the weakest aspect of the episode. We start off learning what a bad boyfriend Tom is and because he threw the race away to prove he loved her they are married in the end? I think that was terrible. B’Elanna has a big scene with Neelix where she gives all the reasons in the Delta Quadrant for ending the relationship. I’d buy that their relationship was back on track by the end but B’Elaana should have said “Yes” but then given him a long engagement to make sure they are right for one another. The whole thing was rushed and I hate that.
Cyia Batten’s Irina joins the long list of beautiful women who Harry falls for right before she is found to be evil. Yes – the young Ensign is shockingly unlucky in love during his time in the Delta Quadrant. Irina’s sole purpose in this episode is eye candy for red blooded males who might be getting a bit tired of Jeri Ryan. She has almost no backstory and hence no established motive for why she wants to sabotage the race other than she is a racist. What she does have is yet another tight fitting bodysuit. The Voyager costume department went all out on their apparent bodysuit fetish in this episode having Irina, Tom, Harry, B’Elaana and the aliens all wearing clothes so tight that the actor’s sweat couldn’t even escape. I am sure being a Pussycat Doll Cyia Batten was used to such costumes.
In summary this is a fun episode at times but there is too much going on with effectively three different stories all clumsily interwoven. I do have a soft spot for it because I love the idea of space racing but I think it would have been better as an early DS9 story with Bajorans, Cardassians and a DS9 team racing. I think this because we would already know so much of the history and hostility it would add more weight to the story. That’s my two cents on it anyway.
Thanks for reading…