Monday, October 19, 2015

Character Insight No. 164: Best of B'Elanna Torres

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe. An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here 

Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we continue the "Best Of" series with a look at the best episodes featuring Engineer B'Elanna Torres, from Voyager. 


(B'Elanna Torres, courtesy Wikipedia)

Although Voyager was the first show since the Original Series to feature a Vulcan main character, Torres actually serves as more of an analogue to the character of Spock, a relative outsider who struggles with her hybrid heritage, in this case half human and half Klingon.

In the Season 1 episode Faces, this balance of the two heritages is shown in great detail when the Vidiians use advanced medical technology to split B'Elanna into two people, a timid human and a tenacious Klingon. Her human half admits that she cannot survive without the Klingon toughness, but she fights an internal conflict which has lasted since she tried to cover up her different Klingon roots since she was a child.

Human B'Elanna Torres: I do know that right now - the way I am... I'm more at peace with myself than I've ever been before. And that's a *good* feeling.
Commander Chakotay: But?
Human B'Elanna Torres: I'm incomplete. It doesn't feel like me. I guess I've had someone else living inside of me for too long to feel right without her.
Commander Chakotay: I'd have to say that you two made quite a team down there.
Human B'Elanna Torres: I know. I came to admire a lot of things about her. Her strength - her bravery... I guess, I just have to accept the fact that I'll spend the rest of my life fighting with her.

Indeed, much of the remainder of the series shows B'Elanna struggling to keep control over her raw Klingon instincts, which is a similar battle that we understand Vulcans must master to be like Spock.

This character's coming of age moment perhaps did not come until the Season 6 episode Barge of the Dead. This is a Klingon heavy episode, so Darrell beware, but a near-death experience lets B'Elanna travel to Klingon hell, where she finds out her mother will spend all eternity thanks to the dishonor she has caused her family. But thankfully, she discovers on the barge heading to Klingon hell that she can renounce her uncontrolled anger which creates the family dishonor, thereby going instead with her mom to Sto-Vo-Kor. 
 B'Elanna Torres: [of her mother] Did I ever tell you that she put me in a Klingon monastery?
Tom Paris: [snorts] You're kidding.
B'Elanna Torres: It was after their marriage ended. She pulled me out of the Federation school, in order to teach me... honor and discipline.
Tom Paris: Hm - out of the plasma cooker into the fire.
B'Elanna Torres: She prayed to Kahless every day to guide me in the ways of the warrior. I guess he wasn't listening.

 But by my watch, the best episode for Torres is hands-down the dark piece called Extreme Risk in Season 5. In this episode, the crew discovers after a holodeck accident testing the Delta Flyer that Torres has been regularly risking her life in the holodeck without safety precautions. When pressed by Chakotay, she reveals that she has not been able to mentally deal with the news from the Alpha Quadrant that most of her Maquis friends have been eradicated by the Cardassians and the Dominion, coping only by putting herself in near-suicidal danger. This is a fantastic character piece that should speak wisdom to all those who suffer from depression, or the friends and family of those in that state.

B'Elanna Torres: When I was six, my father walked out on me. When I was 19, I got kicked out of Starfleet. A few years later, I got separated from the Maquis. And just when I start to feel safe, you tell me that all of our old friends have been slaughtered. The way I figure it, I've lost every family I've ever had. Chakotay: B'Elanna - you have a new family now, here on Voyager. And you're not gonna lose us. You're stuck with us. B'Elanna Torres: You can't promise me that. Chakotay: No, I suppose I can't. Losing people's inevitable; and sometimes it happens sooner than we expect. But I can promise you that the people on this ship aren't about to let you stop living your life, or break your neck on the holodeck. You're gonna have to find another way to deal with this.

B'Elanna is a young character who comes into her own in this series, a much better and more developed version of Harry Kim, if you will. Half Klingon heritage plays a big role in the show runners making this character better.

Fun facts: Roxann Dawson was the first actor to be cast on this show after her reading for this character. She was pregnant in Season 4, but the crew covered it up with lab coats except in the holodeck episode Killing Game, where Dawson is shown to be pregnant with a Nazi officer's child! You never know what you might find lurking inside those big lab coats!

Until next time, overcome the internal struggle and be the best mixture that you can be.


Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy.

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