When Voyager loses a probe within a dangerous nebula, Tom Paris finally gets permission to work on his dream project – designing and building a brand new short range vessel to replace and outclass the standard shuttlecraft. But when B’Elanna seems unenthusiastic about contributing to the project, it merely hints at a greater problem – a deep depression that has driven her to recklessly endanger herself on the holodeck.
Like Night, Extreme Risk was an episode I didn’t get the first time around. Here we have another character who seems to go from feeling one week to being deeply troubled the next. And whilst the switch does still seem a bit swift to me, I have a much greater appreciation for the episode this time around.
In the years since first watching Extreme Risk, I’ve come to recognise and learn to live with my own depression, so I understand exactly how B’Elanna feels here. I know what it’s like to feel numb, to have nothing interest you – not even the hobbies and vocations that you previously cared deeply about. Whilst I never resorted to either self-harm or dangerous activities, this time around I can see why B’Elanna turns to this outlet. Not only is she desperate to feel something, but by hurting herself, she can attain some sort of relief and release that is simply impossible to find anywhere else. Not only that, but she can punish herself for living when all of her Maquis friends in the Alpha Quadrant weren’t so lucky. Of course, this being Star Trek, everything will be back to normal by the next episode, but at least we get some exploration of these issues.
The other headline topic of the episode is the construction of the Delta Flyer, a 24th century ‘hot rod’ that dominates the latter half of Voyager’s run. No more endless parade of flimsy shuttles – this little ship has its own personality and on screen presence. The race to build it before the Malon retrieve Voyager’s probe is a decent enough story in its own right, and complements B’Elanna’s arc nicely.
One of Gene Roddenberry’s ideas for the 24th century was that humanity would have evolved past conflict and negative emotions – that’s why even young Jeremy Aster was relatively calm and unruffled after his mother’s death. DS9 and Voyager changed that somewhat, reintroducing human emotions to its main characters. Gone were the paragons of TNG, and in their place were flawed personalities. Whilst this might seem like a step back, in other ways it was exactly what the franchise needed, enabling the exploration of emotional issues that echoed with its less enlightened 20th (and now 21st) century viewers.
Bits and Pieces
- One from the previous episode – we got to see someone in the sonic shower for the first time. Believe it or not, this was a big deal at the time.
- The Malon return as antagonists for this episode. Having had their offer of clean technology refused by one freighter captain, Voyager has given up on trying to offer the Malon their clean recycling technology. Then again, maybe this means Voyager stays on the right side of the Prime Directive – it’s hard to draw the line sometimes.
- Apparently, Tom has been asking to build a shuttlecraft replacement for months. In the last episode, Seven suggested building a more efficient shuttlecraft, and Tom didn’t pipe up to say “yeah, actually I’ve been saying that for ages”.
- Should it even be possible for an officer to disengage the safeties on the holodeck by themselves? What could the possible benefit be, except perhaps for extreme stress testing of components – although it’s arguable how well a holographic simulation can replicate reality anyway.
- Speaking of which, when Seven turned the safeties off in Night in order to use the Captain Proton gun as a real weapon, how did that even work? Unlike say a gun or a phaser, this isn’t a weapon that even exists in the Star Trek universe, so how does it have the proper internal workings to function as a real weapon? Maybe Tom Paris has such an attention to detail that he designed a functioning weapon for the Captain Proton holoprogram.
Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 11
Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 7
Number of times the entire crew gets enslaved or kicked off the ship: 3
Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 2
Summary – Extreme Risk: In which B’Elanna must deal with her depression.