Seven of Nine: Revulsion

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Throughout the different series of Star Trek there are always episodes that have a storyline that is darker in tone. And there are even some that are a bit, shall we say, cringy. However, it is rare to find an episode that contains a macabre storyline paralleled by one that is also cringeworthy. Luckily, one need look no further than 1997’s Star Trek Voyager season four, episode five titled, “Revulsion” to get both story characteristics.

This episode begins with a series of promotions. The Bridge crew are gathered in the mess hall to celebrate Tuvok’s promotion to Lieutenant Commander, Tom Paris’ promotion to be the Doctor’s new nurse, and to see Neelix being given the opportunity to be Voyager’s ambassador by Captain Janeway. It is a poignant moment in the Voyager narrative to have crew members promoted for their efforts and assigned new duties based on their skills and the needs of the ship. This moment is a bit fleeting as Voyager answers a distress call from an alien vessel. This call is unique as it comes from a holographic being who is the lone survivor on a damaged ship. The Doctor and B’Elanna beam over to the alien vessel and are thrust into a plot line of a sci-fi horror b-movie made for television. There is an entire article to be written about the sole surviving hologram and the attempted rescue by the Doctor and B’Elanna, but we will have to save that for another time. Let’s stay focused on the Seven of Nine storyline.

Ensign Harry Kim is asked by Chakotay to work with Seven to update Voyager’s Astrometric Lab. Seven has access to Borg technology and information that will prove very useful for Voyager as they find their way through the Delta Quadrant. Harry is reluctant to accept this assignment and rightfully so. The last time he and Seven worked together she knocked him out by striking him on the back of the head so that she could attempt to return to the Borg collective. However, we quickly learn that there is more to Harry’s hesitation to working with Seven. Harry has taken quite a bit of grief from his good friend Tom Paris during their time on Voyager for falling for women who are perhaps out of his league or who are not even real (he fell for a hologram in a previous episode, but it wasn’t really his fault). This all adds up to Harry being nervous around beautiful women and no one denies that Seven is a beautiful woman.

What proceeds is a series of interactions where Harry desperately attempts to make casual conversation with Seven while trying to abide by Starfleet protocols. The problem is that Seven has not yet achieved a working understanding of casual human interaction and only has a textbook knowledge of human interaction from the Starfleet database she has been studying. Harry and Seven are basically two young adults trying to interact with each other despite their inexperience and naiveté. Harry vacillates between trying to teach Seven to work within Starfleet protocols and trying to hide his attraction to her. The result is a fountain of cringeworthy dialogue peppered with some occasional humorous exchanges.

Seven is still far from understanding her human side let alone the intricacies of human interaction and conversation. She still speaks in a very monotone voice with little emotional inflections. We do get to see her attempt at humor with Harry during this episode which begins to show that she is learning with each new encounter. What is difficult to get past, most especially in retrospect, is the blatant sexism around this entire Harry and Seven story. This storyline could have been presented as another opportunity for Seven to learn from a fellow crew member and even make another friend on board Voyager. Instead, we were given a story that would play into the “sex sells” idea and one that would best impact the show’s ratings.

The episode concludes with Harry reporting to Chakotay that he and Seven have completed the updates for the Astrometric Lab and that he believes a crew can take over the construction without his assistance. Chakotay is quick to inquire as to why Harry doesn’t want to oversee the project moving forward and asks if it has anything to do with Seven of Nine. Harry awkwardly stumbles over his words trying to explain himself when Chakotay interjects to let Harry know that Seven had reported that working with Harry had proved sufficient despite him being human and that she had learned a lot from their interactions. Harry is stunned but relents and agrees to continue working with Seven to complete the project. In the end, despite the cringe moments in their interactions, Seven learned that not every detail of every interaction must be reported to superiors which is quite human of her.

We must give credit to Jeri Ryan and Garrett Wang for their acting skills in this episode. Garrett Wang makes the viewer feel his intense levels of awkwardness and uncomfortableness. As a character, Harry is endearing, but can be incredibly frustrating because his implied youthfulness is sometimes overwritten. But in this episode, Garrett Wang found a great balance for the young Ensign. Jeri Ryan continues to shine as Seven as she expertly plays the balance of an emotionless former Borg drone learning while discovering her humanity with every new interaction. We know that there are great things ahead for Seven as a character and that Jeri Ryan will continue to develop Seven into a character that is respected and admired despite having to contend with storylines that are hurdles for the actor.

Calling this episode “Revulsion” should have been the warning sign to viewers. The word itself implies a sense of disgust and loathing. This is exactly what the two storylines have in common. The murderous hologram from an alien ship that has totally gone rogue paired with an oversexualized play on two characters’ naiveté is not what we expect from Star Trek. The reality of what we deal with in the world daily isn’t what Star Trek is supposed to give us. We are constantly bombarded with the horrors of the disenfranchised and oppressed, the unnecessary killings of innocents, sexist comments, stereotyping, and gender discrimination…the list goes on and on. Star Trek is supposed to hold humanity to a higher standard and give us hope that this higher standard can be achieved in the future.

Should you watch this episode? Absolutely. However, watch this episode knowing that it reflects a time when sexism was a normal part of society, when gender roles were more limited and highly defined, and sexism was a large part of marketing. Then use this episode as a primer on how to improve our treatment of others by not repeating a single blunder from the “Revulsion” storyline.

LLAP & Go Boldly

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Fueled by coffee and willing to charge into a nebula for more. I’m a lifelong musician and creative with a love for all things sci-fi. In a universe where you can be anyone, be a Trekkie.

Go Boldly & LLAP

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