570. The Disease
FORMULA: The Perfect Mate + Retrospect + A Matter of Honor
WHY WE LIKE IT: Harry shows some balls.
WHY WE DON'T: Janeway's attitude again.
REVIEW: It's the one where Harry gets VD. Actually, that's a bit mean of me. The metaphor here is that love is essentially a disease, and the love bond is amplified in the story with some kind of sexually-transmitted chemical element. Things are made more complicated by this being a case of forbidden love, Harry breaking the rules to be with this girl (who's a right hottie, I agree). It's actually good to see Harry get off-spec, if you will, and show that he's more than just about duty and doing what he's told.
Of course, the way the conflict is engineered strains credulity (as per aforementioned Voyager laziness). We have this truly xenophobic race, the Varro, allowing themselves to be convinced to accept help from Voyager. Throughout, Janeway is desperate to help these people who do not want her help. Why? At some point, she mentions an off-chance that they might share some technology or be (short-term, surely!) allies. Her contention that they are spiritual cousins and that Voyager might become a generational ship has little weight considering that it can't have much more than 30 years to go, what with all its recent jumps. The Varro's xenophobia is really only to make Harry's affair more problematic.
Janeway's reaction to it is disproportionate in any case (even Chakotay says so). The Starfleet regulation requiring you to get permission from both your CO and CMO before engaging in relations with an alien makes sense (diplomatically and medically), but would have more weight if it had ever been referenced before. Sure, Kirk was probably his own CO, but did he get a lot of permissions from Bones? Did Picard and Sisko require their officers to conform to this as well? Even so, Janeway's attitude leaves a lot to be desired, and in fact, she pushes Harry to violate orders even more. Her warmer demeanor at the end of the episode manages to get the same points across without turning her into a fascist we can no longer agree with. Why can't she be more like that? The scene does reveal, perhaps, why Harry is stuck as an ensign over the course of the entire series: She sees him as her best and youngest son, and so, always as a child. Has she stalled his career with her motherly ways?
Harry's girlfriend Tal is appropriately exotic, with an odd accent (I don't know if it's part of Musetta Vander's native South African accent) and striking looks. Unfortunately, Charles Rocket is as white bread as they come, killing any real sense of the Varro's alienness. Tal is also part of a group of separatists aboard the generational ship, an interesting enough subplot that leads to some really cool effects sequences at the end. If she had such a wanderlust, I wonder why she never considered following Harry to Earth?
LESSON: Alien sex may require more than your basic condom.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: There have been lots of Star Trek romances where a character has been willing to jeopardize his or her career, but this is probably the most sensible and credible one. Shame about the Iron Maiden's reaction.