Barge of the Dead

I just watched “Barge of the Dead,” which is an episode of Star Trek: Voyager. You know, there are some episodes of shows that I like to watch more than once, since they speak to something within me. This is one such episode.

In “Barge of the Dead,” B’Elanna Torres goes to Klingon hell. As Star Trek: Voyager viewers know, B’Elanna is an interesting character. Her mother was a Klingon (and an obsessive one at that), while her father was a human. She dropped out of the Star Fleet Academy and joined the Maquis, a renegade group that resisted Cardassian tyranny. When the Maquis encountered Voyager in the far-out Delta Quadrant, the two groups teamed up to find their way home. On Voyager, B’Elanna is a Star Fleet engineer.

She is often very moody, yet she displays a lovable, vulnerable side every now and then. On this particular episode, we get to know her a little better. Essentially, B’Elanna has problems fitting in anywhere. She doesn’t care for her Klingon heritage, for her mother tried to shove it down her and her dad’s throats. In the process, she drove B’Elanna’s father away. B’Elanna also doesn’t like humans because she sees them as weak, and her Klingon heritage leads her to admire tough warriors. Yet, ironically, she is engaged to Tom Paris, a human on Voyager.

In Klingon hell, she decides to take the place of her mother, yet (for some reason) that is not enough. In despair, she cries out to her mother, “What do you want from me?” Her mother tells her that she must decide that for herself, yet B’Elanna continues to plead for guidance.

She encounters images of her Voyager crewmates, which means that she views her service on the ship as hell. They say that her anger has dragged them down along with herself. The vulcan, Tuvok, tells her to defend herself, as he throws her a Klingon weapon. B’Elanna then complains that she has tried to fulfill all of these roles: Star Fleet officer, Maquis, lover, and daughter. She asks what all of them want from her. Neelix, the cook, responds that they only want her. B’Elanna’s mother tells her to embrace life, and B’Elanna finally reaches a point of resignation. “I’m just tired of fighting,” she says, as she tosses her weapon into the air.

One reason I identify with B’Elanna is that she lacks inner peace. She is always fighting with someone because her main fight is with herself. She doesn’t know who she is and where she is going. She is lost. I feel that way a lot of times.

Yet, she seeks answers. She wants someone to tell her what to do. I cried during this part of the show because I was thinking about that very thing this morning, before I even saw the episode. I thought about how I stumble through this life feeling lost. I don’t know what people want from me, or even if I can give them what they want. And virtually everyone has advice. “You need to be the life of the party–a super extrovert. People aren’t attracted to those who are reclusive!” “You need to be yourself–be at peace, then people will be attracted to you.” “You need to speak out more at events.” “No, just listen, then you can hear something that can help you out.” “Do this, do that!” “No, do them when you’re truly ready!”

I realize that I’ve probably confused my readers, but I hear all of this advice, and I don’t know who’s right. I recognize that certain approaches work for me better than others. For example, beating myself up because I’m not the life of the party has never produced good fruit in my life. So should I only follow advice that I like? The problem there is that I don’t fully trust myself, for I’ve made a lot of mistakes in the past.

When The Passion of the Christ was coming out, Mel Gibson gave an interview to Diane Sawyer. Mel was telling the story of his commitment to Christ. He said that he once stood out on a ledge, and he found himself in a dilemma: he didn’t want to live, and he didn’t want to die. He realized that someone higher than him had to have the answers for life.

I need guidance, yet I also should do what works for me. I can only be me, not someone else. I want to be attractive, yet that will be hard if it requires me to have something witty to say on every occasion. Maybe, like B’Elanna, I’ll eventually reach the point where I’m just plain tired of fighting, as I embrace all of the good things that life has to offer.

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
This entry was posted in Asperger's, Autism, Mel Gibson, Religion, Star Trek: Voyager, Television. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Barge of the Dead

  1. janice says:

    Many times people tell people to be the way they, themselves, would like to be. Ignore them. Be who you are. And remember: we all make up life as we go along, even those who seem so sure of themselves. Sometimes things work, sometimes they don’t. But, advice from those who want to feel better about their own shortcomings by trying to remove the “splinter” from another’s eye is really worth nothing.

    Like

  2. James Pate says:

    Thanks, Janice. 🙂 I see you’ve started a blog. Looks like a potential success. 😉

    Like

  3. Nathan K. says:

    Hi, James.

    It’s neat that you’re a fan of Star Trek. If you get me started, I could go on at great length about all of the various series and what I like about them.

    : )

    “Barge of the Dead” is one of the more deep and thoughtful episodes of Voyager, I think. I feel sorry for the character of B’Elanna in this episode because of how much she’s put through the wringer, and I can certainly identify with wishing that someone would just tell me what I’m supposed to do!

    I always found the end of the episode slightly unsatisfying because it didn’t seem like B’Elanna really got an answer to her questions; she got was a crisis experience that brought with it the feeling of a breakthrough. I think the writers may not have known how to end the episode otherwise.

    There can be crisis and breakthrough moments like that, but peace can also come gradually and quietly, sometimes without realizing it.

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  4. James Pate says:

    That’s a good point, Nathan, because, on a later episode, Belanna was insecure because her daughter would have Klingon characteristics, and she didn’t want her to endure what she did as a child. She still hadn’t come to terms with her past.

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  5. Bamboo_bends says:

    I found that harshest criticism I got as a youth wasn’t because people were concerned about my development and future, rather they were jealous of my energy and enthusiasm. “To feel envy is human, to savour schadenfreude is devilish.”

    One of these people even had a bumper sticker that read “The old and tricky will conquer youth and intelligence”.

    Take the criticism with a grain of salt. Enjoy your youth while you have it.

    Like

  6. James Pate says:

    Thanks Bamboo. While I still have it is right!

    Like

  7. RDF says:

    You answered your own question James — you need to learn to trust yourself ~ to trust YOUR judgement, YOUR advice, YOUR guidance, and your decisions and skills; to trust your instincts and insight; and learn to love, value and honour yourself, and then you won’t need anyone to tell you what to do or how to be — you’ll be able to be your own best friend. Like B’Elanna – like me – you’ll never be quite alright until you do; and once you do, you’ll realise that the person you’ve been the most combative with, was yourself, and then your seemingly never-ending battle will end just that easily.

    Regards,

    Liked by 1 person

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