Thoughts on “Family Ties”

Written by  on February 10, 2000 

Thoughts by Thomas Lee

By Thomas Lee

There seems to be a pattern here—"Prodigal Daughter" was a direct sequel to "Getting Home," but the next story, "Homecoming," was also very much a sequel to the prequel of "Getting Home," "Quentin." Now, the story after "Homecoming," "Family Ties," in turn, addresses issues brought up in the prequel of "Quentin"—"Liaisons."

"Liaisons" was the story that first introduced us to Danielle Marcus. Back then, we learned that she was the granddaughter of James Tiberius Kirk—and that she never had the opportunity to meet him. Now that she has returned to the Alpha Quadrant, she has encountered those who have met her famous grandfather—and learned about what had actually happened to him on that fateful day in the Enterprise-B engine room.

Since "Liaisons," we have heard fairly little about Marcus and her famous ancestry—but now, she has made up for her absence in spades. Kirk had a good point about how Danielle Marcus took after him. The single-minded way in which Dr. Marcus pursued her self-imposed mission to retrieve her grandfather, heedless of the possible consequences to herself and her career, was reminiscent of how James Kirk went about his own self-imposed mission to retrieve Spock in "Star Trek III." That she could even bring herself to remember why she had entered the Nexus in the first place speaks very highly of her willpower and sense of duty (previously, the only people ever to deliberately leave the Nexus were Picard and Kirk). We even got to briefly meet Dr. Marcus’s mother—though I do wish that we could have learned a little more about her beyond the revelation that she is deceased.

Jeffrey’s revival of James T. Kirk, like Kes’s visit in "Prodigal Daughter," was a redress of a character departure/death that many feel was mishandled by TPTB (Kirk’s death in "Generations" to many symbolized how little respect TPTB had for the fans of TOS). As such, there was considerable symbolism in Dr. Marcus’s use of the Kes (as opposed to the Delta Flyer or the Jules Verne) in order to retrieve her grandfather.

Kirk’s practical immortality in the Nexus does raise some interesting possibilities. One that readily comes to mind is that, whenever the Federation is in trouble, someone can go into the Nexus to bring back Kirk (and Picard for that matter). Then again, maybe not—given how hazardous it is to enter the Nexus from a ship in the first place, not to mention the effect it has on those who do succeed in entering it, the retriever would have to be extremely lucky and heroic to pull it off in the first place.

Kirk’s "welcome home" party at Deep Space 9 was well-done. It’s good to see that Dr. McCoy is still alive (RIP, DeForest Kelley), and that nothing unfortunate has befallen Spock or Scotty since we last saw them in the TNG series. Jeffrey even took care to mention what became of Carol Marcus, as well as how Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov fared after Kirk’s disappearance. It is notable, though, that Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov were not described as being deceased—but, at the most, "retired"—and that we didn’t learn of what became of them after their starship service. Perhaps, as William Shatner speculated in "The Return," Chekov became the Starfleet Commander-in-Chief, Sulu the President of the Federation, and Uhura a very distinguished scientist.

The other major story in "Family Ties" was the birth of Thomas Magnus Kim. In "Liaisons," we learned that Seven strongly desired to have a child in order to fill the void that One’s death had left behind. Now, about a year and a half later, we see the fulfillment of that desire. Of course, Tommy is not, and never will be, the equal of One in terms of technology and capabilities. But that is now irrelevant to Annika—she unreservedly loves Tommy as her child, regardless of whether or not he was even a "technological being" in the first place.

As for Tommy’s specialized neurotransceiver—that’s something One never shared with Seven, and it’s certainly going to remove a lot of the guesswork in raising Tommy, as we saw shortly after his birth. From Annika’s descriptions of its effects, it is more akin to a private telepathic link than a hive mind. Unlike what we saw between Two, Three, and Four of Nine in "Survival Instinct," Annika is able to differentiate which sensations belong to her, and which come from Tommy. Their thoughts and actions remain their own—it is telling that the link only permits thoughts deliberately sent, making it more akin to speech than true thought-reading (with all of the later’s similarities to eavesdropping). These differences are important, as they mean (I hope) that Tommy’s link with Annika will not threaten to halt or reverse the progress Annika has made towards becoming an individual human being. In any case, the fascination—and, perhaps more notably, the almost complete lack of reflexive panic—surrounding the discovery of Tommy’s neurotransceiver is likely a benefit of his mother’s new identity. I have little doubt that the Federation finds it far easier to accept Tommy’s link with "Annika Kim, a human" than "Seven of Nine, Tertiary Adjunct to the Unimatrix 01, a Borg."

The invisible nature of Tommy’s cybernetics contrasts with what Harry saw in his dream during "Liaisons." However, the seamless merging of Tommy’s organics and cybernetics means that Tommy is not so much a cybernetically-enhanced human as a new version of Homo Sapiens—one that is even more different (even if not visibly so) from a standard human than the genetically-enhanced humans we’ve seen on Star Trek (such as Khan Noonien Singh and Dr. Julian Bashir). How Tommy (and his future siblings, if any) will fit into Federation society is a question that "Family Ties" has left unanswered for the time being. But if Dr. Julian Bashir’s experiences have been any indication, they will experience few, if any, difficulties from Federation society so long as their humanity remains at least a match for their enhanced abilities—and I think that it is safe to say that Harry and Annika will do their best to ensure just that.

One of the issues raised in "Liaisons" was the potential hazards of having sexual relations with an ex-Borg who still has nanoprobes in her body. As such, the nanoprobes would be, as the then-EMH put it, "The Borg equivalent of an STD." In "Family Ties," we heard some of the details of how Dr. Kenneth Zimmerman addressed this. In addition, by describing the use of condoms as "an added precaution" instead of "crucial," Jeffrey made it possible for Annika to become pregnant naturally without getting Harry, in the Doc’s words, "assimilated in the heat of the moment."

As for the effectiveness of "archaic technology" against the Borg—it wouldn’t be for the first time. In "First Contact," Borg shields and body armor proved utterly irrelevant against a 1920s submachine gun and an edged melee weapon.

As it turns out, congratulations were indeed in order for Tom and B’Elanna. Along with Harry and Annika, they’ve been having the time of their lives. Considering how good life has been for the four of them since "Homecoming," maybe Admiral Paris even reconciled with Tom and B’Elanna and attended their wedding. I hope.

It’s good to see that Chakotay and the new senior staff of Voyager are finally comfortable with themselves in their new positions. Taking over the positions of people as good as Harry, Annika, Tom, and B’Elanna has got to be an intimidating prospect, but after four months, the new senior staff no longer feels as if their predecessors are looking over their shoulders, even during their less successful moments.

Regarding the Kes and the technologies Harry, Annika, Tom, and B’Elanna have been introducing the Federation to, it’s good to see that the technological advances made over Voyager‘s journey haven’t been forgotten. With the tentative start on a new ship design utilizing propulsion advances gained in the Delta Quadrant, I think that we’ve just seen the beginning of the Federation’s transformation into a galactic superpower. As such, with the role she played in delaying Voyager‘s return home, Janeway may be prominently vilified in future historical accounts of the Federation.

After the events of "Homecoming," one might have thought that "Family Ties" was going to be a relatively mild "aftermath" story. Instead, Jeffrey has used it to drop two bombshells on us—the discoveries about Thomas Magnus Kim and the return of James Tiberius Kirk. Unlike TPTB, Jeffrey has gone out of his way to bring the Starfleets of the 23rd and 24th centuries together—and the result has been as interesting as any of the human/alien interactions that we’ve seen on Star Trek.

Some people have objected to a return of Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant on the grounds that it would undercut what makes the show special (as if that deterred Braga & company from making Voyager, as Moore politely put it, "TNG Lite"). But as Jeffrey has shown with "Family Ties," if done right, there will be plenty of unique and interesting stories to tell about what happened to the crew of Voyager after they’ve returned home.

Memorable Quotes from "Family Ties":

  • "I am hungry. Wait, no, I am not hungry. I just ate."
    —Annika Kim
  • "Just don’t tell me you’re here because you need me to save the universe."
    —James Kirk to Danielle Marcus
  • "Carol was right."
    "Right about what?"
    "She said David was a lot like me. I guess she was more right than either of us knew."
    —James Kirk and Danielle Marcus
  • "It seems David isn’t the only one who took after me."
    —James Kirk about Danielle Marcus
  • "Why is it I’m the only one of this group who looks like he’s aged a damned bit?"
    "Doctor, aside from myself, you are the only one in this group who has aged."
    —Dr. McCoy and Spock

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