Wow. Episodes like Flashback make Star Trek what it is: a fantastic universe full of intriguing stories and characters. It’s a joy to dive into it! This second episode of the third season of Star Trek: Voyager is absolutely splendid in its ability to pay homage to the original series and, in particular, to the best film of the six with the crew commanded by James T. Kirk: Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991). The absolute protagonist of this episode is Tim Russ who’s increasingly convincing in the role of the Vulcan Tuvok, certainly among the best characters of the entire series, and there are also George Takei as Hikaru Sulu and Grace Lee Whitney from the Original Series playing Commander Janice Rand (she started as Kirk’s aide in various episodes of the first season of TOS such as The Corbomite Maneuver). So, here’s how the plot gets going.
Tuvok experiences health problems that leave him disoriented and in which he relives episodes from his childhood (flashbacks, as the title suggests). The Doctor explains that the frequency and intensity of such attacks could endanger the life of the Vulcan and he cannot do much to help him other than advising him to seek the root of the problem, perhaps a repressed memory, through a mind meld. Tuvok proposes to Captain Janeway to do it with him, since she’s the person with whom he has the most confidence aboard the USS Voyager. During the various mind melds we follow Tuvok when he was science officer aboard the USS Excelsior commanded by Hikaru Sulu when Praxis exploded, which started the adventures narrated in Star Trek VI.
I don’t want to write anything else so as not to spoil the surprise for those who haven’t seen the episode. What I can say is that Flashback is amazing. The budget had been adjusted to make it even more memorable because the Studios wanted to celebrate Star Trek’s 30th anniversary. Flashback aired on September 11, 1996, exactly thirty years and three days after the airing of The Man Trap, the first TOS episode. Mission accomplished, I would say! The episode manages to blend seamlessly with the events of Star Trek VI by including small details such as Sulu’s teacup breaking when Praxis’s shockwave hits the Excelsior. And we also find out what happened to this ship whose captain decided to disobey direct orders from Starfleet to help his former captain (and Spock, of course) defeat the Klingons and General Chang’s machinations.
As if that weren’t enough, even Tuvok’s personal story makes sense: disappointed by Captain Sulu’s behavior in this mission, he decided to leave Starfleet and only re-joined it many years later, which explains the relatively low rank of the Vulcan aboard the USS Voyager. Ok, ok, I’ll stop incensing this episode and admit that not everything works perfectly in it: for example, the explanation of why the mind melds always bring back the moments lived on the Excelsior is a bit forced. But I’m ready to overlook it if in return there are memorable scenes, amazing special guests, and even some character development (apparently, Tim Russ himself provided a lot of inputs to the script)! In short, if you hadn’t got it already, this is one of my favorite episodes of Voyager (and Star Trek in general)! Ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: the episode dedicated to Flashback is undoubtedly one of the funniest so far! I laughed a lot listening to the anecdotes about the gaseous anomalies becoming a recurrent joke on the set of the series!
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