The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Flashback

When a vision of letting a little girl fall over a precipice causes Tuvok to have a panic attack, the Doctor suspects that it might be evidence of a repressed memory. For Vulcans, repressed memories can have fatally damaging effects on their brains, and so Tuvok mind melds with Janeway in the hopes that between them, they can delve into his past. But instead of finding the little girl, they end up on the bridge of the USS Excelsior, as Captain Sulu prepares to help his good friend Captain Kirk foil a Klingon plot.

Flashback was Voyager’s special episode for Star Trek’s 30th anniversary, and for me, it always suffered in comparison to the excellent Trials and Tribble-ations. I was also a little biased against it from reading the novelisation, which packed in all kinds of extra content – such as a cameo from Amelia Earhart (in Janeway’s memories) – that somewhat obscured the main storyline. Nonetheless, with a Captain Sulu cameo in the offing, I was determined to give it a proper chance this time. One of my occasional viewing companions and I even watched Star Trek VI directly beforehand, so as to be fully prepared for the Excelsior scenes.

In fact, I’m still not a fan of the framing story – a mysterious space virus that hides itself in a repressed memory feels like TOS levels of silliness. But Flashback redeems itself somewhat with its enjoyable Excelsior scenes, which not only give fans the chance to geek out over Sulu, Kang and Rand, but offer us an insight into a young Tuvok. This is a man who is not at peace with himself and his career choice – forced into a Starfleet career by his family, he feels uncomfortable and out of place. Starfleet will be a good thing for him in future, but for now he simply isn’t ready.

Character notes

After graduating from the Academy and serving on the Excelsior, Tuvok took a career break from Starfleet, and spent fifty years on Vulcan. At first he studied the kohlinar, but he quit during pon farr to get married and start a family. Later, he decided he should expand his horizons by exploring the galaxy, and rejoined Starfleet. From what we’ve already heard, much of his time in Starfleet was spent teaching at the Academy, but at least this explains why it’s taken him so long to get promoted.

Other points

  • This episode recreates the scene at the start of Star Trek VI, where Sulu is drinking tea when Excelsior is caught in the shockwave from Praxis exploding. The scene was re-filmed for this episode, but is very faithful to the original. We also learn that it was Tuvok who brought Sulu his tea – a Vulcan blend.
  • Rand says it took her three years to make ensign, suggesting she earned a field commission after her time as yeoman on the Enterprise. Or perhaps she left the Enterprise to study at the Academy and earn her commission.
  • Why is the Praxis explosion shockwave only two-dimensional, and, given that it is, can’t the Excelsior just fly over or under it?
  • The Excelsior’s trip through the Azure Nebula to attempt a rescue of Kirk and McCoy does not appear in the original film.
  • Tuvok had already mentioned in Alliances that he was around at the time that Spock proposed peace with the Klingons, and that he spoke out against it.
  • Photography in this, the 21st century, is pretty good in terms of accuracy – so why is 23rd century holo-photography said to be so inaccurate? Are there really no good photos of Sulu in the future, when we have so many good photos of George Takei in the present?

Lost shuttlecraft running total: 4

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 3

Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 1

Summary – Flashback: In which we learn that Tuvok knew some famous figures back in the day.

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