Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's "Drive."
If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.
In brief: An average, amicable, marshmallow-consistency show in which
some underused characters actually show up.
Plot description: Torres and Paris' relationship takes a twist on the eve
of a shuttle racing event Paris has entered, celebrating the anniversary
of a peace treaty in a former war zone.
Star Trek: Voyager -- "Drive"
Airdate: 10/18/2000 (USA)
Written by Michael Taylor
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
Rating out of 4: **1/2
"I was just going to congratulate you. She's not a Borg, she's not a
hologram, and she's not dead. Looks like you might've finally found
yourself the perfect woman." -- Tom to Harry
If you're looking for something substantive, you'd best look elsewhere.
"Drive" is a featherweight Voyager outing -- an amiable episode that will
hopefully make you grin from time to time, hopefully make you glad that
they've actually dealt with a character theme that has been largely
ignored for the past three years, and hopefully remind you that the plot
of last week's "Imperfection," while mired in overused Borg milieu, was a
pretty meaty story -- which this is not. The plot details of "Drive" are
an excuse to give us a relationship show on a series which the
now-only-peripherally-involved Brannon Braga has always maintained "is
not a relationship show."
In other words, this is generally effective marshmallow fluff. Ambitious?
Hardly. Reasonably well-executed on its terms? For the most part, yes. A
pleasant, likable hour? I think so.
It's a rare Paris/Torres episode, with a subplot involving Harry "I'm
Such a Hapless but Lovable Chump" Kim. For once we have a story that is
actually about the characters, and not about the plot. Well, sort of.
Sure, the relationship story involving Tom and B'Elanna may be a fairly
standard iteration on a formula -- but, hey, I'm glad the writers made
the effort. Maybe Kenneth Biller, running the show from here on out, will
actually deliver on some of those rumored reports of increased continuity
and character development for Voyager's final season. "Drive" displays
some possible signs of that.
Regarding the plot -- it begins as a somewhat refreshing change of pace
in that the aliens we meet aren't automatically shooting at us. On the
contrary, Kim and Paris find themselves testing the new Delta Flyer and
drag-racing another pilot in the episode's teaser. Shuttle drag racing --
that's sort of an interesting idea. ("Imperfection" and "Drive" were
flip-flopped from the originally intended air schedule, which I think is
proven here as a dumb idea -- the whole idea of establishing the "new"
Delta Flyer is at least made into something of a point here, whereas in
"Imperfection" it was reduced to a lame joke.)
The drag-racing opponent in the teaser is a woman named Irina (Cyia
Batten, who was the first of three actors to play Dukat's daughter Ziyal
on DS9), whom Harry very quickly attempts to befriend. (Place your bets
now on whether Harry will hook up, but I urge you to consider his track
record.) Irina informs Tom and Harry of a racing event taking place
nearby. This region of space, you see, was once a big war zone, but now
the formerly warring societies have established this shuttle race as a
celebration for the anniversary of a peace treaty that is only a few
Paris is excited about this race. Very. It's a great opportunity for him
to play up one of the two character traits he's known for: the Expert
Pilot. (The other trait is of course Lt. One-Liner.) Janeway thinks a
race in the interests of peace is a perfect way to take a breather and to
exercise Federation diplomacy, so Paris is pleased as punch about the
chance ... except that in his state of pilot's rapture he forgets all
about the romantic weekend he and B'Elanna had planned in the holodeck.
B'Elanna's reaction to Tom's apology is surprisingly restrained -- and
she even encourages him to follow through on whatever "makes him happy."
Okay, guys -- this is where a red flashing light and a buzzer should be
going off in your head right now: RELATIONSHIP TROUBLE AHEAD. B'Elanna's
response is a mix of understanding and hidden exasperation. But mostly
masked disappointment. She begins to realize that perhaps she and Tom are
too different to be together.
I liked Dawson's less-is-more performance. When she sulks in the mess
hall, it's underplayed in a way such that her disappointment shows
through all the more. It reminded me of her detachment in "Extreme Risk,"
an episode where her performance transcended the shallowness of the
Tom also comes across reasonably. He obviously cares for B'Elanna, but
what exists here is a failure of communication for these two to clearly
reveal their perceived relationship problems. B'Elanna feels like Tom
assigns her too low a priority, but hasn't told Tom she feels this way.
Tom is more than willing to make B'Elanna his top priority, but isn't
sure that she wants him to overwhelm her with "mushy stuff." The way all
of this comes to a head is after B'Elanna becomes Tom's co-pilot in the
race in order to spend time with him doing something he feels is
important. This allows issues of control and possession of responsibility
during the race to be melded into the psychology of these two and their
This isn't the deepest material ever conceived, but I thought it was
adequately conveyed by Michael Taylor's script and the actors. Dawson and
McNeill do a good job with the material they have, but they still don't
have a natural, unforced chemistry with each other that truly sells
intimate scenes, especially concerning the "mushy stuff." I must confess
a bit of a soft spot for relationship shows that give us a payoff after
years of setup (or in the case of Voyager, occasionally acknowledged
setup), so I found this mostly enjoyable even if a little hackneyed. One
apt moment is when Tom stops the Flyer in mid-race to have an immediate,
serious talk with B'Elanna.
All of this segues into and out of a plot involving somebody trying to
sabotage the race and tear down the uneasily maintained peace treaty.
(The reasons for this, once revealed, are hopelessly perfunctory, but an
even bigger question I had is why golf balls in the 24th century have
blinking, bleeping lights inside them -- but forget it.) A sabotaged
console on Irina's shuttle blows up, injuring her co-pilot. This leads
Harry to volunteer as her replacement co-pilot. No points for guessing
who the saboteur is; the Law of Economy of Characters basically gives you
two choices: Irina herself, or gruff (red-herring) opponent Assan
(Patrick Kilpatrick, who appeared as a hardened Starfleet soldier in
DS9's "The Siege of AR-558"). If you didn't guess Irina, you obviously
weren't paying attention to the implications of the Harry Kim attraction
This poor sap. I'm beginning to think the writers take some sadistic
pleasure is teasing him with potential girlfriends who are, of course,
not what they seem. Of course Irina is the saboteur. It's inevitable. If
she weren't, Harry might stand a chance to hook up, which simply would go
against everything about the Harry Kim (Not) Getting the Girl rule. (Hey,
at least the writers are consistent!) If this guy isn't a walking poster
boy for the theory "nice guys finish last," then I don't know who is.
Structurally, I thought the way the climax was executed, with the
crosscutting between the Tom/B'Elanna and Harry/Irina dialog scenes,
worked pretty well, explaining the sabotage plot while Tom and B'Elanna
face their communication barrier. I should probably point out that only
on Voyager will you likely see a marriage proposal happen in the middle
of a speeding attempt to move a bomb from A to B during a 30-second
countdown. (This isn't the usual gratuitous Action Insert, but instead
gratuitous full Action Integration.) Peace is maintained, Irina is
exposed, Harry is still a chump, and Tom and B'Elanna live happily ever
The episode ends with an off-screen wedding and then a scene on the Delta
Flyer, in which an enormous conceit of cuteness was taken in having "JUST
MARRIED" written on the back end of the Flyer. I sort of enjoyed the idea
of the two teasing each other about the last name (marital struggle #1:
"B'Elanna and Tom Torres" or "Tom and B'Elanna Paris"?). Whether or not
you like this -- or any of it -- may simply depend on whether you've ever
liked the idea of Tom and B'Elanna together. I'm one who always sort of
liked it, but didn't find great insight in the way it was executed. Such
are my feelings for "Drive."
Next week: The trailer claims mutiny, but somehow I doubt it. Maybe it's
"Worst Case Scenario, Part II."
Copyright 2000 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.
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