Welcome back to Underrated Trek, where I take a special look at Star Trek episodes that I loveâ€¦which may not be the most popular or even liked by most. Once in a while the network will mandate that Trek do a special sort of episode with a certain theme. Sometimes, they work. For instance TNG’s “Unification” came about because the powers that be wanted to get people interested in Star Trek VI. You know it was mandated, but the creators put their effort into it and the episode turned out really good. But is it forgivable if the episode fails to live up to expectations? And speaking of Star Trek VI, today I wanted to talk about :
When Star Trek’s 30th Anniversary was coming the two series were asked to do a special episode. DS9’s “Trials and Tribble-ations” went back to the classic episode “Trouble with Tribbles” and was an instant classic not to mention one of my favorite episodes of anything! Voyager gave us “Flashback”. How did that fair? Um….let’s talk about it.
Voyager has encounter a gaseous nebula when suddenly Tuvok starts getting panic attacks when a painful memory from his childhood resurfaces. Problem is, the event he is remembering never actually occurred.
Via a mind meld, Tuvok and Janeway try to find the source of this memory. And end up on the Excelsior under the command of Captain Sulu from the time of the events in Star Trek VI. It doesn’t seem to make sense why they would be coming to this moment which seems so unrelated to the memory Tuvok kept seeing.
They finally determine that the connection is the death of an officer named Valtane. The Doctor determines that when Valtane died a virus migrated over to Tuvok. The virus lives inside the brain by acting as a memory so painful that the brain would repress it. It wold live there until being passed on. The Doctor kills the virus before Tuvok suffers any serious brain damage.
Not only do we get George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney, but Michael Ansara even returns as Kang. Cool! I’ll have more on this below.
Seeing Sulu and Rand again is just awesome, especially Rand. I briefly touched on this a few weeks ago but Grace Lee Whitney was fired after the 8th episode of the show. Some say it was because they wanted Kirk to have more freedom to date (Rand was supposed to the love interest), others indicate it was due to her substance abuse problem. I can buy both of these arguments. There is yet another story that Whitney was assaulted by someone who worked on the show, but I wouldn’t dare get into that one. But whatever the case she was a fan favorite and she would return in Star Trek The Motion Picture, Star Trek IV, and obviously Star Trek VI. (and before Les points it out yes she had a cameo in Star Trek III…just teasing my friend). It was just great to see her in a Star Trek TV episode again.
And by the way, the scenes of the Excelsior were quite good, especially their conflict with Kang. It really felt like we were watching scenes from the movie we had never seen before and it adds to Sulu’s story in Undiscovered Country, which is nice. Let’s be honest, one of that movie’s failings was how much Sulu got shafted. Sure it was nice to see him get a command but he was hardly in the film! This rectifies that in a way. The scenes are well done and fun to watch. I even like how Janeway is observing everything, nice set up.
This is one time they used stock footage but it makes sense. And as a result, we get movie style effect in Voyager when we see the shockwave strike the Excelsior. I know I should probably be complaining, but I like it. They also recreated the scenes from Star Trek VI when the shockwave hit the ship, including the same shots (and some extras) that Nichols Meyer’s used. I compared the two and they were really close! Even the later scenes where they fought the Klingons were decent effects.
I love this dialogue between Janeway and Harry so much I am adding it:
“It was a very different time, Mister Kim. Captain Sulu, Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy. They all belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officers. Imagine the era they lived in: the Alpha Quadrant still largely unexplored… Humanity on the verge of war with the Klingons, Romulans hiding behind every nebula. Even the technology we take for granted was still in its early stages: no plasma weapons, no multi-phasic shields… Their ships were half as fast.”
“No replicators. No holodecks. You know, ever since I took Starfleet history at the Academy, I’ve always wondered what it would be like to live in those days.”
“Space must have seemed a whole lot bigger back then. It’s not surprising they had to bend the rules a little. They were a little slower to invoke the Prime Directive, and a little quicker to pull their phasers. Of course, the whole bunch of them would be booted out of Starfleet today. But I have to admit: I would have loved to ride shotgun at least once with a group of officers like that.”
I guess because TOS seems so far removed from the world of TNG and VOY that this speech just works.
Finally, this is definitely Tuvok’s story and we get some good backstory about him. If you’re a fan of Tuvok this is one of his best episodes. And the chemistry between him and Sulu and Rand also worked, he fit into that era very easily which helped to sell the episode.
Let’s start with the fact most of Voayger’s cast is shafted. It is nice to see Sulu and Rand, but it doesn’t really feel like a Voyager episode. Though it’s not as bad as “These are the Voyages” which was more a TNG episode than an ENT one! Heck the scenes between Tuvok and Kes were added when Nichelle Nichols refused to return as Uhura (shame on her by the way, she can do a crappy online movie but this wasn’t good enough? Takei begged her to do it but she refused and it would have been a great scene). The Doctor is the only other character given anything to really do.
Let’s just admit it. The story is stupid. I outlined above what ends up being the source of Tuvok’s memory, and it’s real lame. Not “it ruins the episode” lame, but it’s still lame. It’s a virus that lives inside the brain as a repressed memory? Um…..no. And the story gets a little redundant. I feel that Tuvok and Janeway could have figured out what was happening faster, by the last trip back to the Excelsior it’s enough already. It starts to get silly when Janeway is suddenly able to interact with Tuvok’s memories. I think they wanted Janeway and Sulu to actually interact but it just doesn’t make any sense. And having to nerve pinch Rand to get her uniform was really pushing it. Plus if the doctor is to be believed Tuvok should have massive brain damage by the end of the episode. Oh and how does the virus get killed? The doctor simply kills it with radiation and all is well. Wow, exciting.
And I will mention what everyone else has. The plot revolves around the death of Valtane. One problem, if you watch the end of Star Trek VI you will see Valtane standing there alive and well. Um, did they think no one would ever notice that or something? Oh and the time frame is way off. Tuvok says the fight with the Klingons was three days after Praxis exploded when in the movie Spock indicates three months had passed.
As a Voyager episode, it’s OK. But for a tribute to the original series, it just doesn’t match up. Going back to the movies isn’t the same as revisiting the actual series. That scene between Janeway and Kim was the closest the episode would come to actually feeling like an homage. Well except for the last few lines of dialogue which were nice, but still not as good as what DS9 gave us. Yeah Sulu and Rand were back but the connection to the movies was weak, so weak this episode was almost considered a back door pilot for a new TV series! That isn’t what fans were hoping for, and left many a bit disappointed. Even Brandon Braga later admitted DS9 simply had the better episode.
Fast Forward Moment:
The long opening scene between Tuvok and Neelix and the scene between Tuvok and Kess discussing meditation was added after Nichelle Nichols refused to participate. And it shows. I love Nichelle Nichols but I think she should have sucked it up and done it. When Leonard Nimy and DeForest Kelley refused to be in “Generation” that made sense. Here? C’mon!
Final Thoughts-I wouldn’t say this was a total miss but I don’t think it was a huge success either. One other problem I think is that it took itself to seriously. DS9 had fun with their episode which is one of the reasons why fans loved it. As a result “Flashback” feels less like a tribute and more like just another episode of Voyager. And a pretty weak one at that.