“Tell me what? That my mother is going to hell?”
Powerful words particularly if you believe in hell or have interesting family dynamics. They are said by B’Elanna Torres the chief engineer in the science fiction television series Star trek Voyager. Star Trek: Voyager is the fifth Star Trek series. The fact that the ship has a female captain, is lost and alone, about 70,000 light years from home gives it a familial crew. In the Barge of the Dead, they take this a step further after, captain Kathryn Janeway reprimands Torres for not following orders and refers to Torres as “Lanna”, something only her mother did. This analogy is further emphasised when Torres says Janeway reminded her, of her mother since, she was as dedicated to Starfleet principles as her mother was to Klingon traditions.
Barge of the Dead touches on a number of issues but largely focusses on B’Elanna “coming to terms with her Klingon identity, as well as resolving — or at least making a decisive turn — on some big internal issues she has about her mother.”
B’Elanna Torres and Mother land
I first saw the potential of science fiction and star trek when, in the film Star Trek VI: Undiscovered Country (1991), there is a conversation around human rights and someone says ‘Human rights.’ Why the very name is racist!”
Since then, I have learnt that “Gene Roddenberry brought Star Trek to television in 1966, he brought with it the first positive portrayal of a Japanese character in Helmsman Hikaru Sulu. In the midst of the Cold War, the show later introduced the Russian Ensign Pavel Chekov as the tactical officer…Lieutenant Nyota Uhura on the bridge, a female African-American character whose surname comes from the Swahili word for “freedom.” She was an important part of the original series’ and one of the first black characters to be portrayed in a non-menial role on an American television series.
All great stuff but with everything there is always room for improvement and conversation. One of these is the one-dimensionality of its extra-terrestrials: every alien race exhibits a single cultural stereotype: Klingons are violent, Ferengi are greedy capitalists and Vulcans …” There is also a question about which race is superior and has the best values?
B’Elanna Torres is described as “Intelligent, beautiful and with a chip on her shoulder the size of the Horsehead Nebula. She also had a kind of vulnerability that made her quite endearing.” What is it that makes her combative or easily angered: the fact she is has Klingon blood, comes from a broken home, or that, not all in the two races she represents, truly appreciate the other? In the Star trek universe, the Federation’s principles are put on a pedestal and something we should all try to achieve, but what if you are a member of a colonised race and these principles sound like empty words? That could lead to a discussion of the origins of the phrase “speaks with a forked tongue” but back to B’lanna and her chip!
B’Elanna was born in 2346 with a Human father and a Klingon mother. She spent much of her early life on Kessik IV, but because relations between the Klingon Empire and the Federation were not “too cordial” B’Elanna and her mother were the only Klingons on the planet. She felt alienated and to cap it all, she heard her father saying that he had a hard time living with two Klingons before leaving. This led to B’Elanna’s mother moving them to Qo’noS, the Klingon home world where she was sent to a monastery to learn Klingon ways. This “kind of vulnerability is what led her to make changes to her appearance, appreciated when her ridges were removed by an enemy who separated her two identities, and ultimately to try and genetically alter her unborn child’s Klingon features
The episode Barge of the Dead takes place on the tenth anniversary of B’Elanna not speaking to her mother! A shuttle accident, putts her into a coma. While in the coma, she was sent to the Barge of the Dead, where she found out that her mother had died in the Alpha Quadrant and was being sent to Gre’thor. After being resuscitated she read several ancient Klingon texts, including the Eleventh Tome of Klavek from the paq’batlh, and concludes that she has to go back, as it was her fault her mother was being sent to the Klingon hell: that is, she does not follow Klingon traditions as her mother was supposed to teach her to do.
“Remind me to plant a flag on behalf of the Empire.” - Torres, in regards to Chakotay pointing out the Klingon claim to being the first Alpha Quadrant power in the Delta Quadrant
“And if you even think of joining in on this “embrace your heritage” nonsense, I swear I’ll rip out your tongue and wear it as a belt.”
“Oh no, there’s not a lot of Klingon in you!”
“I inherited the forehead and the bad attitude. That’s it.” - Torres and Paris in the mess hall during the Klingon party
“ Torres is lighting big fat candles.)
PARIS: I can’t believe the captain is allowing this. One minute you’re in a coma, the next you’re a born-again Klingon? I just don’t get it.
TORRES: I’m not sure I get it, either. I just know this is something I have to do.
PARIS: There must be an easier way for you to explore your spirituality. Go to church, or something?
TORRES: It wouldn’t be enough. — - Tom Paris, to Torres
TORRES Captain? (But it is Miral, her mother in a Starfleet uniform.) What are you still doing here? I released you to Sto-Vo-Kor.
MIRAL You can’t free me until you free yourself.
TORRES I don’t understand.
MIRAL You never did.
TORRES I did everything that the ritual told me to do. I came back for you.
MIRAL Forget the ritual. It’s meaningless.
TORRES Meaningless? I died for you.
MIRAL No, you didn’t. It’s not your time. You still don’t understand this journey.
TORRES Then tell me.
MIRAL Request denied.
TORRES What do you want?
MIRAL Who are you asking?
TORRES You. Kahless. The tooth fairy. Anybody who will tell me what I am supposed to do.
MIRAL You are the only one who can answer that question. Choose to live, B’Elanna. — Torres and Miral
When another character suggests Torres explores her spirituality and relationships in an easier way, she says it wouldn’t be enough which made me wonder if it is ever enough? In the star trek universe, it comes to some kind or resolution when B’Lanna throws her weapon into the river, gives up and chooses to live. In addition, in a later episode she names her baby girl Miral, after her mother. In the real world it is not so easy. There is a interesting meditation in Anger: Buddhist Wisdom for Cooling the Flames by Thich Nhat Hanh:
focus on your breathing for a while and imagine your mother as a five year old child, see your mother as a five year old childing smiling etc. It goes on to ask you to mediate on your father as a five year old child etc. It could be interesting to imagine others as five year old children too!
May we all be well, healthy and strong:
May we all be happy.
May we all abide in peace
May we all feel safe and secure
May we all feel loved and cared for.