Boldly Going: “Extreme Risk”

Content Warning: “Extreme Risk” deals with depression, self-harm, and mentions suicide.

“Extreme Risk” begins with B’Elanna Torres’ orbital skydiving on the holodeck. She pushes the shuttle even higher and disables the safety protocols, despite the warning of the computer. When she’s called to work, the chief engineer asks Seven of Nine to oversee the probe launch on her behalf. The liberated Borg drone, who joined the crew at the beginning of Season four, is surprised, as she and B’Elanna did not get along initially.

It doesn’t take long for a Delta Quadrant alien to find Voyager’s probe. This time it’s the Malon, introduced during the premiere of Season five as a species with a garbage problem. Captain Janeway sends the probe to a gas giant to avoid recapture by the Malon, but it becomes stuck in the atmosphere and out of range of transporters. Tom Paris proposes they construct a new type of shuttle, one outfitted specifically for the Delta Quadrant. He calls it the Delta Flyer. The Captain is on board with the idea and wants it built in under a week.

Tuvok nixes Paris's idea of tail fins on the Delta Flyer
Tuvok nixes Paris’s idea of tail fins on the Delta Flyer

Despite everyone’s enthusiasm, B’Elanna doesn’t share the feeling. She hardly reacts at all, even when Seven of Nine calls her design for the hull flawed. Usually, B’Elanna has a temper and would at the very least argue with the Borg crewmember. Instead she simply shrugs and goes to work on the thrusters, baffling her friends Tom and Harry Kim. Later that night Tom offers to make dinner for the two of them, but she refuses. He tries to figure out what’s wrong but B’Elanna shuts him out. She’s off to the holodeck again, this time to fight Cardassians without any safety protocols.

The Malon remain interested in Voyager’s probe. Another freighter arrives at the gas giant and tries to intimidate the Starfleet crew. Janeway stares him down. Seven spies on them and reveals the Malon are also building a shuttle to reach the probe. Meanwhile B’Elanna returns from her holodeck fight session from which she has several new bruises and cuts. Instead of going to Sickbay, she heads to her quarters, where she has a hidden dermal regenerator and can heal herself.

B'Elanna trying to hide the damage from one of her extreme holodeck sessions.
B’Elanna trying to hide the damage from one of her holodeck sessions.

The shuttle project is coming along, but there’s a problem with the hull developing microfractures. The crew is pressed for time, in a dead heat with the Malon, so B’Elanna creates a holodeck simulation of the Delta Flyer to try to solve it. She turns off the safety protocols and is knocked unconscious by the turbulence. When Chakotay finds her, he brings her to Sickbay. B’Elanna’s past injuries are discovered and the captain takes her off duty when she refuses to reveal what’s wrong. B’Elanna is so depressed that being kicked off the project doesn’t phase her.

Since B’Elanna won’t talk, Chakotay looks through her holodeck logs. He discovers a violent program depicting the slaughter of the Maquis in the Alpha Quadrant. He swings by her quarters as a friend and asks about the programs she’s been using. B’Elanna claims they’re nothing she can’t handle. So Chakotay offers to look them over and try to convince the captain there’s nothing to worry about. But he forces her to confront the slaughter. Trapped in the holodeck with her friend, B’Elanna finally admits she’s felt numb ever since they received word of the slaughter back home. She sought out dangerous holodeck programs because then at least she would feel something, even if it was pain.

B'Elanna jury rigs a forcefield just in time.
B’Elanna jury rigs a forcefield just in time.

B’Elanna is so worried about losing the people she cares about she would rather just shut them out as a way to protect herself. Chakotay’s offer to help is interrupted by a Malon attack. They wanted to distract Voyager while they launched their shuttle. Janeway orders the Delta Flyer to be launched right away in response, despite the microfracture problem, which is still unresolved. B’Elanna asks Chakotay to let her go on the shuttle, since she is the ship’s best engineer. Her passion convinces Chakotay and he allows it. They’re able to catch up to the Malon and snag their probe.  A microfracture develops but B’Elanna is able to make a forcefield on the fly. They’re able to return the probe to Voyager without a hull fracture. The episode ends with B’Elanna admitting to Chakotay she’s not back to normal just yet, but she’s starting to recover.

For those following Boldly Going, I jumped back in the Star Trek timeline, but only three episodes earlier than “Timeless.”  I wanted to feature a B’Elanna Torres episode, since she’s my favorite character. I considered writing about “Barge of the Dead” from Season six, or “Lineage” from Season seven, but “Extreme Risk” has resonated with me since my initial viewing. Star Trek doesn’t handle mental illness that often. I love how “Extreme Risk” portrays it. It felt very believable for B’Elanna to be able to fake it and skate by for so long before her friends finally figure it out. Perhaps my one complaint is that the writers rarely reference her struggles after this. It’s the one downside to the episodic nature of Star Trek; that despite the continuity references from Seasons four and five B’Elanna is back to normal by the next episode.

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