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Recap / Star Trek Voyager S 3 E 2 "Flashback"

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A nebula encountered by Voyager opens up a repressed memory in Tuvok, which is determined to be some kind of virus passed to him at some point in his past. Tuvok and Janeway undergo a mind-meld to try finding the point at which the virus took hold, and find themselves standing in the middle of the events seen in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.

This was Voyager's Milestone Celebration for the 30th Anniversary of Star Trek, along with Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations". Besides George Takei reprising his role as Hikaru Sulu, it also features Grace Lee Whitney reprising hers as Janice Rand, now a Commander and Sulu's first officer.

This episode contains the following tropes:

  • Big "NO!": As the girl falls, leading to a montage of "No!" at the end.
  • Big "OMG!": George Takei hams it up for all its worth.
  • Bizarre Alien Biology: Bolians have cartilagenous tongues that allow them to withstand even Neelix's cooking.
  • The Cameo: George Takei and Grace Lee Whitney. Kang from "Day of the Dove" and "Blood Oath", also makes an appearance.
  • Captain Smooth and Sergeant Rough: Sulu and Rand — when Tuvok protests the rescue mission, Rand orders him relieved of duty, but Sulu instead gives him a calm lecture on how loyalty to one's friends can go beyond regulations.
  • Continuity Snarl:
    • A rather big one: While Valtane is shown to have been killed during Excelsior's ill-fated rescue attempt, he's quite clearly shown alive and well during the send off of Excelsior's bridge crew at the end of Star Trek VI (The Hand Wave explanation is that Valtane was clinically dead, enough to cause the parasite to seek a new host, but was subsequently revived successfully).
    • Also, Tuvok indicates that the battle, which resulted from Sulu's attempt to rescue Kirk and McCoy when they were arrested for killing the Klingon Chancellor, happened just a few days after Praxis exploded, even though Star Trek VI had established that it was a few months between when Praxis exploded and the Chancellor's assassination. (And given everything that had to happen in the meantime — the opening of peace negotiations between two former sworn enemies; the planning of the peace conference; the conspiracy against it — there is no way it could have been only two days.) However, this can be explained as part of Tuvok's damaged memories.
    • Harry says that holodecks didn't exist in Kirk's era. The Animated Series episode "The Practical Joker" showed Kirk's Enterprise having one, though called a Rec Room.
    • Based on the timing of Star Trek VI, it doesn't seem likely that there was time for Sulu's attempted rescue mission, given the scene where Sulu is awoken by a crewman with a message from Starfleet asking about the whereabouts of the Enterprise, and especially given the damage sustained in combat with Kang's vessel, which, for obvious reasons, went unmentioned in the film.
  • Cordon Bleugh Chef: Neelix's specific characterization as this type of chef gets center-stage in the prologue. Tuvok expresses doubt that Neelix will be able to make something appetizing yet admits that the fruit juice he made is "impressive." Despite Neelix's reputation as a Lethal Chef, he's actually a good chef, it's just that his tastes only rarely coincide with those from the Alpha Quadrant. Played with in regard to Tuvok's breakfast, which a power fluctuation to the burner incinerates.
  • Dynamic Entry: Sulu emerging from the smoke on the bridge.
  • Excuse Plot:
    • The episode has quite the insight on Tuvok's history, but let's be real here, you're here to see Sulu. Specifically, Sulu being the badass Captain again in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
    • The repressed memory of the girl on the cliff is clearly just there to create a reason why Janeway and Tuvok would need to explore Tuvok's memories.
  • Expansion Pack Past: There is absolutely no hint that Tuvok had any long past career in Starfleet prior to this episode. The story has to jump through quite a few hoops to reconcile things like how somebody can have been part of the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country while still only being a Lieutenant 80 years later (turns out Tuvok resigned and later came back to Starfleet, and that he's simply older than he looks).
  • Explosive Instrumentation: For once an explanation is given when Tuvok detects a ruptured plasma conduit behind the console. Dmitri, however, doesn't heed his warning and gets killed.
  • Fake Memories: The memory of the little girl falling off a cliff is most likely that, since the Doctor comments that the virus posing as a memory engram has been transmitted so many times, it's difficult to tell what the original memory was.
  • Fan of the Past: For once, not Paris, but Janeway, who provides some very interesting Worldbuilding in one scene where she paints the crew of Star Trek: The Original Series like old folk heroes.
    Janeway: It was a very different time, Mr. Kim. Captain Sulu, Captain Kirk, Doctor McCoy. They all belonged to a different breed of Starfleet officer. Imagine the era they lived in. The Alpha Quadrant still largely unexplored. Humanity on verge of war with Klingons. Romulans hiding behind every nebula. Even the technology we take for granted was still in its early stages. No plasma weapons, no multiphasic shields. Their ships were half as fast.
    Harry Kim: No replicators. No holodecks. You know, ever since I took Starfleet History at the Academy, I always wondered what it would be like to live in those days.
    Janeway: 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.
  • Flashback Echo: The Negative Space Wedgie in the present reminds Tuvok of the Negative Space Wedgie in the past, triggering the repressed memory.
  • Flashback Within a Flashback: Sort of. Tuvok's first flashback to the Excelsior occurs in the middle of their battle with the Klingons and Valtane's death, then flashes back further to show how the entire mess started.
  • Former Teen Rebel: Tuvok resented being forced into Starfleet by his own parents and resigned his commission. Becoming a parent himself changed his attitude, and he decided to give Starfleet another go.
  • Friendly Enemy: Kang and Sulu have this vibe.
  • Funny Background Event: Moments after Rand jokes that Tuvok was looking for a promotion by serving Captain Sulu tea, Sulu makes the same joke on the bridge. Rand has a huge smirk on her face during this conversation, implying she tipped off Sulu and they're engaging in a little friendly hazing.
  • The Gadfly: Sulu and Rand pretend that Tuvok is after a promotion by preparing tea for the captain. Janeway feigns an indignant "You never made me tea!"
  • Good Old Ways: Janeway and Harry express disapproval and envy over the Gunboat Diplomacy of Kirk's era.
  • Hero of Another Story: This episode fills in the gaps of what Captain Sulu and the Excelsior were doing during the bulk of Star Trek VI, and Sulu intended to mount a rescue of Kirk and McCoy from Rura Penthe before being sidetracked in a confrontation with a Klingon cruiser.
  • Humans Are Superior: Lampshaded when Ensign Tuvok expresses his annoyance over the human superiority complex.
    Tuvok: Ever since I entered the Academy, I've had to endure the egocentric nature of humanity. You believe that everyone in the galaxy should be like you; that we should all share your sense of humour and your human values.
  • Improvised Weapon: Excelsior ignites the sirillium to knock out the Klingon cruiser escorting it from the nebula.
  • Interquel: The lone crossover between the TOS cast and Voyager's.
  • Layman's Terms:
    Tuvok: If we modulated a positron beam to a subspace frequency, it would trigger a thermochemical reaction in the sirillium.
    Sulu: Like tossing a match into a pool of gasoline.
  • Limited Advancement Opportunities: Tuvok was an Ensign on the Excelsior 80 years prior and only a Lieutenant in the present day. It's explained that Tuvok was pushed into Starfleet by his father and after minimal service gladly resigned his commission after his first assignment. It was decades later and starting his own family that made him reconsider, and he returned to Starfleet to set an example.
  • Literal Cliff Hanger: The repressed memory.
  • Loafing in Full Costume: Tuvok, Valtane, and several others from Gamma Shift sleep in their uniforms before the battle, though this can be Hand Waved by them being in a state of battle-readiness.
  • Lower-Deck Episode: With the events of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country in the background.
  • Memory Trigger: Voyager's encounter with the nebula triggers Tuvok's memory of the Excelsior and the Fake Memories of the falling girl. As commented by Harry Kim, the visual similarities between the nebulas encountered by Voyager and Excelsior were enough to trigger Tuvok's Trauma Button.
  • Mood Whiplash: Janeway and Tuvok join in a mind meld in the serenity of Sickbay, only to find themselves on the bridge of a Starfleet vessel on Red Alert.
  • Mugged for Disguise: Captain Janeway does this to Commander Janice Rand in order to pose as a member of the Excelsior crew, with help from Tuvok giving Rand a Vulcan neck pinch.
  • Mythology Gag: Tuvok made the cup of tea that gets broken in the explosion of Praxis.
  • No Sense of Humor: Ensign Tuvok, having not yet mastered the art of Deadpan Snarkery. Lampshaded by his original captain:
    Sulu: Mister Tuvok, if you're going to remain on my ship, you're going to have to learn how to appreciate a joke. And don't tell me Vulcans don't have a sense of humour, because I know better.
  • Nostalgia Filter: Denied by Tuvok. He suggests that Janeway be nostalgic for both of them.
  • Older Than They Look: Vulcans had long been established to live several hundred years and maintain a youthful appearance, but this episode is the first to indicate Tuvok is actually much older than he seems as he was an ensign on the Excelsior about 80 years prior.
  • Oven Logic: Neelix says that injecting sirillium into his thermal array could "improve cooking time". Torres counters that it will probably blow up his kitchen.
  • The Power of Trust: A mindmeld to uncover a suppressed memory is typically performed with a family member, as the level of intimacy involved requires that it be someone the person trusts implicitly. As Tuvok has no relatives aboard Voyager, he asks Janeway to do it, as he trusts her more than anyone else.
  • Pseudo-Crisis: Tuvok's mind is breaking down along with the fourth wall; Sulu sees Janeway on his bridge and has them hauled off to the brig. Next scene, they've just moved back to an earlier part of Tuvok's memories so they can steal Rand's uniform.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: This episode centers around Sulu and the USS Excelsior in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country because "The Trouble With Tribbles", which DS9 based their anniversary episode around, was one of several season 2 episodes of TOS which George Takei (Sulu) wasn't present for.
  • Rebuilt Set: From Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, of course.
  • Red Herring: The nebula has nothing to do with what's wrong with Tuvok, except for triggering his memory.
  • Repressed Memories: This episode is triggered by Tuvok apparently having one of these.
  • Riddle for the Ages: Where did the virus come from? Was the girl real or imaginary? The Doctor commented that the virus has been transmitted so many times, it's difficult to tell what the original memory was.
    Kes: What about the girl? Did she ever really exist, or did the organism invent the memory?
    EMH: Memory is a tricky thing. If it was a real event, it's been buried and copied and twisted so many times, there's no way to tell what really happened.
  • Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right!: Captain Sulu to Ensign Tuvok, when the latter questioned his decision to violate orders and try and rescue Kirk and McCoy.
    Sulu: Ensign, you're absolutely right. But you're also absolutely wrong. You'll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just carrying out orders and observing regulations. There is a sense of loyalty to the men and women you serve with. A sense of family. Those two men on trial, I served with them for a long time. I owe them my life a dozen times over, and right now they're in trouble, and I'm going to help them. Let the regulations be damned.
    Tuvok: Sir, that is a most illogical line of reasoning.
    Sulu: You better believe it.
  • Space Clouds: Nebulas may all look alike, but they're not the same.
  • Strange Minds Think Alike: When Ensign Tuvok makes a cup of tea for the captain, Commander Rand asks if he's planning to make Lieutenant. Tuvok sternly denies an ulterior motive. When Captain Sulu samples the tea, he declares it outstanding and says, "I must give you a promotion".
  • Survival Mantra: The keethara ritual.
    Tuvok: Structure, logic, function, control. A structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function. Function is the essence of control. I am in control.
  • Take Off Your Clothes: Lampshaded by Tuvok, when Rand is Mugged for Disguise; he points out that just asking a female officer for her clothes might lead to misunderstanding.
  • Trauma Button: The virus uses this to hide within its host, creating a false memory so traumatic that the host's mind would repress it into a part of the brain that the conscious mind would want to avoid at all costs. Unfortunately for the virus, doing this with a Vulcan can literally kill them due to their unique neurology.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: In a sense. Tuvok's time on Excelsior was not a happy time for him, though he concedes it was probably colored by the fact he didn't want to be there in the first place.
  • True Companions
    • In the absence of a family member, Tuvok chooses Janeway to undergo the Mind Meld with him, as he trusts her the most. Janeway was already eager to volunteer, as Tuvok has been repeatedly stated to be her oldest friend.
    • Sulu decides on Honor Before Reason when he disobeys Starfleet orders to rescue his Kirk and McCoy.
  • Unreliable Narrator: Sulu's Captain's Log has no mention of their battle with the Klingons or an unauthorised rescue mission.
  • You Can See Me?: As the mind meld breaks down, Captain Sulu suddenly demands to know who Janeway is, and calls Security to throw them in the brig. Janeway has to steal Rand's uniform when Tuvok restarts the memory so she'll fit in on the bridge.
  • You Never Did That for Me: Janeway says this of Tuvok when she sees his younger self serving tea to Captain Sulu.
  • Your Mind Makes It Real: Vulcan mental trauma leads to brain damage if untreated.