Barge of the Dead - Star Trek Voyager
edited: Tuesday, May 29, 2001
By Rose G rose.moss@LineOne.net
Posted: Tuesday, May 29, 2001
Become a Fan
After a near death experience, B'Elanna confronts her Klingon heritage.
Note - The copyright for Voyager and its characters belong to Paramount. The following review is purely a personal opinion.
Barge of the Dead
· Episode 123, Production 923
· First Air Date: Wednesday, October 6, 1999
· Guest Cast: Eric Pierpoint as Kotar, Sherman Augustus as Hij'Qa, Karen Austin as Miral, John Kenton Shull as Brok'Tan
· Teleplay By: Bryan Fuller
· Story By: Ronald D. Moore & Bryan Fuller
· Directed By: Mike Vejar
B’Elanna Torres is alone in a shuttle trying the retrieve Voyager’s multi spatial probe, when she is caught in an ion storm and gets into difficulties. Voyager manages to fix a tractor beam on the shuttle and get her to safety just in time. Tom rushes to her aid with a med kit and asks her the rather silly question "Are you alive?" before telling her she has a mild concussion.
Captain Janeway reprimands B'Elanna for taking unnecessary risks, saying her safety is more important than the retrieval of the probe, Smiling warmly, she welcomes her back on board, calling her "Lana" as her mother used to. From that moment, things become increasing strange as, while B’Elanna relaxes in her darkened quarters, wearing her off duty tank top, Chakotay brings her a Klingon artefact, which he says caused the shuttle crash. He enthuses over the find but B’Elanna is unimpressed, putting it down to the Borg assimilating a Klingon ship.
When B'Elanna is left alone with it, blood pours from it and she hears voices calling to her in Klingon
In Engineering, an exhausted Harry can find nothing unusual about the artefact. Neelix then arrives and tells her he’s arranged a party a party to celebrate finding the artefact. B’Elanna is unenthusiastic.
She seeks guidance from Tuvok, who after some traditional Vulcan meditation accuses her of despising her Klingon heritage and being filled with self-loathing He fetches a Batleth, which she regards as a clumsy weapon, and brandishes it, raging at her for despising her heritage. The blade catches her on the face. Tuvok dismisses her, telling her to take her dishonour with her.
In the Mess Hall, B’Elanna tells Tom that her mother was immersed in Klingon culture, which she blames for making her father leave when she was a young child, while B'Elanna herself was made to study in Klingon monastery.
The party begins and The Doctor sings a Klingon drinking song and persuades Seven to join in, while Neelix dispenses Klingon food, including wriggling Gagh. The Captain begins a speech about it being a glorious day for the Klingon Empire, but time suddenly seems to slow down. B’Elanna vainly shouts a warning to Janeway, as Klingon warriors storm the room and, starting with the Captain slaughter the entire crew.
B'Elanna suddenly finds herself on a dismal Barge with blood red sails, which creaks and sways After useless shouts of "Computer end program!" B'Elanna is told she is on the Barge of the Dead, which ferries dishonoured Klingon souls to Grethor, the Klingon version of hell. She complains angrily about her friends being killed, but is told it was only an illusion, as she struggled to hold on to life
One of the warriors on board tries to brand her with the mark of dishonour, but her flesh remains unmarked. B'Elanna protests that she doesn't believe the Klingon stories and is assured they are true . The voices of the Voyager crew call her from the murky water As other siren like voices are heard; one of the Klingons jumps overboard and is immediately devoured
She is dragged before the captain, who calls her “the mongrel child”. He knows all about her past and how often she’s come near to death .She recognises him, from her mother’s stories as Kotar, a figure from Klingon myth, condemned to take dishonoured souls to Grethor as a punishment for killing the gods. She refuses to believe he is real and attacks him with a Batleth; he grabs it, injuring her hand. A storm brews up as another dishonoured Klingon is delivered to the Barge. B’Elanna recognises her mother, Miral.
The barge vanishes and B'Elanna finds herself in Sickbay. Tom and the Doctor try to reassure her The Doctor tells her she's been in a coma since her shuttle ran into difficulties. She has a deep cut on her hand, which the Doctor soon heals.
B'Elanna is deeply troubled by her experience and broods in her darkened quarters Chakotay visits her, and she tells him about what she experienced, and how it coincided with the tenth anniversary of the last time she spoke to her mother. He tries to persuade her that her experiences were mere symbols and not real but B'Elanna finds this unhelpful and remains unconvinced.
Tom finds her in Engineering studying Klingon texts and reaching the horrifying conclusion that her mother was on the Barge, because of her daughter's dishonour, caused by rejecting her Klingon heritage. Other Klingon texts tell of the Klingon hero, Kahless returning from Grethor with a wound acquired there, and also that her mother could be saved to go to Sto Vo Kor, the Klingon heaven, if someone took her place in Grethor. Tom tries to reassure her, with no more success than Chakotay.
B'Elanna goes to the Captain to ask permission to be placed in an induced coma to return to the Barge of the Dead to save her mother. Janeway refuses, saying she can't allow B'Elanna to take such risks and gives her the famous "look," as her chief engineer becomes increasingly angry, and claims she is being denied religious freedom. B’Elanna tells Janeway she hopes the Captain is proud of her, but her mother never the chance to be .The argument develops into an eyeball to eyeball shouting match B'Elanna storms our, shouting "You're just like my mother." This causes Janeway to relent.
In Sickbay, Tom frantically tries to persuade his girlfriend to change her mind and “Go to church or something” If she wants to be a born again Klingon, but B’Elanna is adamant. Tom kisses her and the Captain informs her she has an hour to in an artificially induced coma.
Watched by Tom and the anxious Captain: who wishes her k'apla, (Good luck) the Doctor places B'Elanna behind a sealed force field and reproduces the ion storm, and she was caught in.
She falls into a coma and finds herself back on the Barge, this time dressed as a Klingon warrior. She finds her mother and tells her the plan, but the two women argue furiously, just as they did when they last spoke ten years ago. B’Elanna tells her mother she’s changed and regrets rejecting her heritage. Her Mother says she would never listen and B’Elanna accuses Miral of driving her father away.
B'Elanna tells Kotar that she has come to take her mother's place, and the offer is accepted, despite Miral's protests. When B’Elanna explains her plan, she accuses her of taking the easy way out. She is transferred to Sto Vo Kor and disappears
Kotar realises B'Elanna's plan is to reclaim her mother’s honour and then be revived and tells her there is no going back. This time the brand of dishonour stays on her cheek.
Hesitantly, yet bravely B'Elanna walks across a plank to a fiery castle only to find herself on a darker version of Voyager.
Back on the real Voyager, B'Elanna's condition is causing grave concern, and the Doctor, Tom and the Captain fight to revive her.
In Voyager "hell," her crewmates accuse B'Elanna of holding everyone at arm's length and tell her she is to blame for her plight The Doctor and Neelix welcome her, while everyone sings Klingon songs
Tuvok again attacks her with a Batleth and tells her to fight. Janeway makes a sarcastic speech.
Meanwhile, the real Janeway is desperately trying to help the Doctor revive her.
B'Elanna find herself back on the Barge, this time only her mother is there, dressed in the Captain's uniform. She tells B'Elanna that the ritual is meaningless and only she knows the answers. When B’Elanna asks for an explanation. She says, “Request denied” Waving the Batleth, B’Elanna, asks everyone what they want her to be. Janeway says, “We only want you” The others continue to provoke her. Furious, she flings the Batleth away. It sinks into the dark ocean
B’Elanna finds herself alone with Miral, now dressed as Janeway. She tells B’Elanna to “Choose to live “ before embracing B'Elanna and telling her that they'll see each other again. She vanishes.
B'Elanna revives slowly in sickbay, amazed and delighted to be alive. Calling out “Mother?”She flings her arms round the Captain who returns her embrace.
This episode was somewhat slow to begin with, but once it gained momentum, I loved it, and plan to return to it for repeated viewings. The story is to some extent, B'Elanna's version of “Sacred Ground,” as the two episodes both involve self sacrifice, willingness to die to save another, a journey of self realisation, and a ritual, which proves to be "meaningless" as the answers are already there, buried within the soul.
Nevertheless, for both Janeway and B'Elanna, their experiences were necessary for their own spiritual growth, rather than just as a means to an end, however admirable their intentions.
Janeway needed to learn that neither, she nor science, were infallible, and B'Elanna needed to accept her own heritage, make peace with herself and stop holding everyone at arm's length.
Both episodes, also let the viewer make up their own minds as to what "Really" happened.
I'm not complaining, though that Barge of the Dead is merely a rehash, as each person's inner journey is unique, and worth exploring.
I was amazed by B'Elanna's courage in being willing to risk eternal damnation for a mother; she'd never got on with and hadn't spoken to for ten years. However she thinks of herself, she has Klingon courage in abundance, and has proved it time and again.
I loved the mythic references in this episode, which made me think various quest myths, such as those described in Joseph Campbell's work, the Greek myths of Orpheus seeking Euridice in Hades, and Charon ferrying the dead across the River Styx.
I also thought of the story of The Flying Dutchman, the vessel with blood red sails, doomed to sail the seven seas for all eternity with it’s dammed Captain and his crew, a nautical version of hell.
If Klingon heaven, Sto Vo Kor, closely resembles Valhalla, with an endless cycle of fighting and feasting Grethor, Klingon hell seems to resemble Hades, a gloomy underworld, with punishments tailored to the individual. It comes as a surprise, however, when we find ourselves on a version of Voyager,
I've seen criticism that B'Elanna has struggled with her joint heritage before and should have come to terms with it. I disagree, as I know from personal experience that it takes many years to come to terms with questions of identity. It would be far more unrealistic, had B'Elanna solved her problems overnight. B’Elanna faces similar problems to those of adopted children torn between their genetic background and their home environment, or people of mixed race, whose parents came from very different cultures. I know “ Mongrel” is regarded as an insult, yet all species with a mixed genetic heritage tend to be stronger than the so called “pure bred”.
Roxanne Dawson's acting was stunning in this episode. I was completely convinced that she was B'Elanna and not just an actress playing a part. Kate Mulgrew also gave a beautifully acted portrayal of the Captain.
Robert Duncan McNeil was also good, as B'Elanna's concerned but baffled boyfriend.
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to fully understand how another person feels, as what matters not at all to one person, can be devastating to another. The TNG episode,” The Loss” is a good example of this.
I also loved the exploration of the relationship between B'Elanna and the Captain. Both women are so much alike, resolute, stubborn, inclined to take the hard way, loyal, courageous and determined to face up to their responsibilities, that it's no wonder they sometimes clash. I also enjoyed the mother and daughter undertones. B’Elanna has lost one mother, but found a substitute in Janeway. Both women, one Klingon, one human have made her the person she is today.
I was somewhat surprised that Janeway was prepared to allow B'Elanna to risk her life, especially after the events of “Nothing Human”, when I felt Janeway was too authoritarian (or maybe maternal), as everyone should have the right to refuse medical treatment if they wish.
Perhaps, Janeway was making amends for overriding B'Elanna's wishes previously, as the accusation "You're just like my mother!" seemed to perturb her.
Chakotay came across as surprisingly unsympathetic towards the validity of B’Elanna’s experience. He professes spirituality, but when called to make a leap of faith such as in “Sacred Ground “ is less able to do so, than his supposedly more scientifically minded colleagues
The contrast between the “real “Voyager and “Voyager hell” were cleverly indicated by lighting effects, the “real” ship being much brighter. However, B’Elanna chooses to be alone in her darkened quarters, much as Janeway did in “Night”. creating her own hell. I liked the idea, that hell is what we make it to be, and have heard of people revived after a near death experience, coming back with a renewed sense of purpose and regret for missed opportunities They have also reported relatives telling them to return to life, as Miral told B’Elanna to choose to live, though in this context the remark is ambiguous, as it could mean either being revived physically or living as opposed to existing. An individual can easily create their own “hell” by refusing to accept themselves, lacking self-esteem and shutting out people who want to help them
I loved the hug at the end, as it showed B'Elanna taking the first steps in reaching out. It was lovely to see Janeway respond, as I can imagine some of the other Captains being outraged at a breach of protocol. Its yet another example of Janeway's warmth and unique style of command.
This was a visually stunning and thought-provoking episode. I loved it.