By Thomas Lee
Upon finishing parts 1 and 2 of "The Hierarchy of Needs," I thought, "This is how Voyager OUGHT to be written."
IMHO, if Mr. Braga and company could write Voyager episodes as well as Mike has written "I Only Have Eyes For You" and "The Hierarchy of Needs," Trek fans everywhere would be demanding SEVENTEEN seasons of Voyager instead of just looking forward to the end of Season Seven (or hoping it ends with Season Six). Mike’s K/7 masterpieces make the canon Voyager episodes look downright amateurish and shallow by comparison—especially when Mike does his take on a canon episode. The "Before and After" image of a slug of crystallized carbon next to a cut and faceted diamond comes to mind.
Now, onto my remarks about "The Hierarchy of Needs," Parts 1 and 2 (Spoilers for "The Hierarchy of Needs," "I Only Have Eyes For You," and various Voyager episodes below):
Mr. Braga has stated that he doesn’t want minor things like continuity to get in the way of telling a story. Unfortunately, this has become an excuse for telling the SAME stories over and over again. If recent postings regarding future episodes are any indication, even this list has grown tired of Seven-oriented episodes, as they repeatedly cover the same ground.
In contrast to TPTB, Mike has paid close attention to continuity. The opening scene of THoN addresses and expands upon a major development in Seven’s biology that came about during IOHEFY (the ability to sleep). Furthermore, in contrast to the "two steps forward, one-and-three-quarters steps back" development of Seven’s character TPTB have presented us, Mike has written Seven as having unambiguously advanced, with no regression, since we last saw her in IOHEFY. She is attempting to understand and use the concept of "pet names" (this brought to mind the Doctor’s less successful attempt to use pet names for Seven in Lesa’s "Scents and Sensibility"). She holds hands with Harry in public. She even glances and smiles at Harry during her bridge duty. Most noticeable is Seven’s overriding concern to avoid making another "error" that would cause Harry more emotional pain—no doubt as a result of what had happened in IOHEFY.
Of course, seven weeks wasn’t long enough for Harry’s influence to do much more than two years of instruction by Tuvok and the Doctor have. Seven’s social skills still need work (though B’Elanna admits there has been a definite improvement). Seven’s approach to… um… enhancing the enjoyability of her relationship with Harry Kim is still very much in line with how Seven approached dating in "Someone to Watch Over Me." But in THoN, it is clear that this is motivated by a desire to please Harry instead of merely going through the motions for reasons she could not understand as in StWoM. Her "research" shows that, in her own way, Seven is just as dedicated to making Harry happy as Harry is dedicated to make her happy. (If THoN had been an actual Voyager episode, I think that Garrett Wang would no longer have to worry about "elbow remarks"—he’d have to put up with "Mr. 298 Positions" instead <g>) By this point, there isn’t any question that the relationship is doing well.
At least on the surface. But, as Janeway mused in IOHEFY, "The finest sexual techniques in the entire universe couldnt hold a candle to the one thing that made sex truly great—love." Given how uncertain Seven is of the strength and nature her feelings for Harry at the start of THoN, it makes sense that she is attempting to compensate by the "brute force" method. But, as B’Elanna admonished Seven in the mess hall scene, it ultimately won’t be enough by itself.
One of the more notable aspects of Mike’s K/7 stories is that they do a very good job of including and characterizing the rest of the Voyager Senior Staff—far better than the stories TPTB put on TV. The Doctor is a character who IMHO epitomizes Mike’s commitment to giving proper attention to the rest of Voyager‘s Senior Staff. Given Mike’s unflattering opinion on what EMH/7 represents (a triumph of power over decency), it would have been very easy for him to portray the Doctor as a "demented Pygmalion." (after all, look at what happens to characters not in favor with TPTB in aired episodes) Instead, Mike has written the Doctor as a far better and more sympathetic character than TPTB have written him.
In IOHEFY, Mike wrote the Doc as a basically decent individual who has been made vulnerable by his love for Seven. Ultimately, the Doc emerged as an unsung hero of IOHEFY, as it was his advice that pushes Seven into admitting her feelings for Harry to Harry—and it is his resolve to see this advice through that enables Seven to proceed when her own courage fails her. Thus, I find it very appropriate that Mike has selected "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" to adapt as his IOHEFY sequel. Given the Doctor’s desire at the end of IOHEFY to keep his feelings for Seven a secret, TTDS represents a means for getting them out in the open without the Doctor changing his mind. In addition, TTDS was about the Doctor’s desire for recognition—perhaps Harry and Seven will come to recognize just what it took for the Doctor to give Seven a push towards Harry. (In some ways, the last EMH & 7 scene in IOHEFY was a milder version of his B’Elanna & Tom daydream).
Nonetheless, Mike also made some non-K/7 additions to TTDS to fit with his more flattering portrayal of the Doctor. In TTDS, the Doctor’s daydreams were presented as what he actually wished could happen. Thus, their revelation to the crew came with a sense of poetic justice. In contrast, the revelation of the Doc’s daydreams in THoN brought a sense of sorrow and embarrassment. In no small degree was this due to Mike’s revelation of the Doctor’s thoughts on watching Harry and Seven together. That the Doctor is happy at seeing Seven with Harry underscores that the specific details of his fantasies are less a product of what he truly desires and more that of malfunctioning subroutines.
Tom’s post-daydream conversation with Harry served two important purposes. Not only was it an opportunity for Harry to reveal his fears and insecurities regarding his relationship with Seven, but the Doctor could also be defended at a time when neither he nor his credibility were in any condition to do so, and Mike exploited both opportunities to the fullest. Through Tom, the Doctor’s daydreams were given a very credible and sympathetic explanation that put them in a far better light than what we saw in TTDS.
The Doc’s post-daydream scene with Janeway was deftly handled. Janeway’s patience, perception, and understanding was just what the Doc needed after the horrifying events of the previous day. (Given her advice to Seven in IOHEFY, perhaps Janeway should consider declaring herself as the ship’s temporary Counselor.) The Doctor truly shined in this scene, even in his despair. The Doc was finally given the chance to publicly acknowledge his love for Seven (though he realizes now that it was never was really romantic—rather remnicient of how Luke Skywalker’s emotional bond with Princess Leia was dealt with in "Return of the Jedi.")
When Seven spoke about the Doctor near the end of Part 2, she stated that, "…all that he has accomplished on this ship has been essentially at the sufferance of Captain Janeway. Had circumstances been different, he might never have grown to become what he is today." I could not help but think of how those words could just as easily have applied to Seven herself. Perhaps that has contributed as to why Seven is so receptive to the Doctor’s need to be more than he currently is.
Another strength of Mike’s K/7 stories is his powerful portrayal of Harry’s friendship with Tom and B’Elanna. They enjoy teasing each other, but when one is hurting, the other two immediately close ranks to lend support, even to the point of confronting Seven and/or risking the wrath of Janeway. We saw this in IOHEFY, and again in THoN. The mess hall scene between Seven, Tom, and B’Elanna was powerfully written. It deals with an important matter that was briefly addressed in IOHEFY—Seven’s past behavior on Voyager.
In many ways, Janeway cares for Seven as a foster daughter. Unfortunately, Janeway has expressed this caring by spoiling Seven. I suppose Seasons 4-6 of Voyager could be nicknamed "Seven Behaving Badly." <g> In "Prey," we learned why Seven has been consistently allowed to behave the way she has—Janeway has ordered that the crew tolerate whatever Seven does. In effect, Seven has been granted diplomatic immunity—and Seven has abused it. Jim Wright remarked in his review of "Prey" that Seven’s resentment of Janeway’s punishment for "crossing the line" is understandable—Janeway had gone out of her way to give no indication to Seven that there WAS a "line to be crossed" in the first place.
Similarly, Harry has gone out of his way to avoid allowing Seven’s behavior to impact how he interacts with her. When he tells Seven, "You always were a good friend to me, in your own way," to me, that says far more about Harry’s capacity for forgiveness and understanding than about Seven, given what I remember about "Concerning Flight," "Waking Moments," and "The Omega Directive."
The end result of all of this is that Seven has not learned one of the most important concepts for any member of a society—that one’s actions have consequences to others, and ultimately to oneself. She has been led to believe that how she treats others will have no bearing on how she will be treated or regarded. (In the "Bragaverse," as Mike put it, as of "Pathfinder," Seven still has not realized otherwise.) Unless Seven can change this, I think that Seven will discover that the primary obstacle to her acceptance on Earth won’t be her past as a Borg—it will be how she behaves NOW as an individual. (If "Equinox" is any indication, Seven can’t expect to walk all over the rest of Starfleet the way she does over the Voyager crew.) In IOHEFY, Seven is aware of how she is regarded, but she is ignorant of how her own behavior was responsible for her reputation. Her "end-of-date" behavior in that story is a merciless illustration of how careless she was about the ramifications of her behavior on others. Even at the end of IOHEFY, though Seven explained her behavior, she had never really apologized for it.
This is what makes B’Elanna’s harsh words to Seven in the mess hall so important. Given that TPTB try to use Seven as a means of expressing what is REALLY going on, unrestrained by the burdens of societal niceties, I find it fitting that a member of the Senior staff is allowed to express to Seven observations of her behavior, unrestrained by TPTB’s affection for Seven. We got a preview of this in the opening scene when B’Elanna berates Seven for not being grateful for her assistance in setting up the regenerative chair in the first place. In the mess hall, B’Elanna confronts Seven with how her past behavior and words had affected Harry emotionally, and how it continues to affect him. Seven is forced to realize just how badly she has treated Harry—and the mortifying extent to which B’Elanna’s casual accusation that Seven is unworthy of Harry is true. It also shows that even those who are the most determined to forgive and forget Seven’s repeated social infractions are incapable of doing so entirely—let alone those not sympathetic to Seven in the first place.
In particular, Seven’s infamous words to Harry, "You are not one of the candidates," is given the unflinching attention it deserves in THoN. This matter was addressed in IOHEFY, but in a rather clinical fashion, and from Seven’s perspective only. Here, B’Elanna mercilessly points out to Seven just how casually cruel Seven had been—and the true extent to which Harry had been good to someone who had done very little to deserve it. B’Elanna seemed to speak for the RiF mailing list when she mocked Seven’s previously held belief in the Doctor’s superiority over Harry. Nonetheless, B’Elanna’s words to Seven would not have had a fraction of the impact that they did if Harry’s emotional well-being was not already so important to Seven. This was demonstrated further when Mike also allows Seven to fulfill her aforementioned dramatic role—to "tell it as it is." Only in this case, instead of putting down some aspect of humanity, she expresses her amazement at Harry’s inability to recognize his own excellence. This does more to convince Tom and B’Elanna of Seven’s caring for Harry than anything else so far.
That Seven thanks B’Elanna for her candor is also a very good sign. It shows that Seven is ready to accept that what B’Elanna said was true—and that Seven acknowledges the need to hear others tell her that she is wrong when she is wrong. After all, one can’t correct one’s own mistakes without knowing it was a mistake in the first place.
One of the minor problems of IOHEFY is that to advance the development of the K/7 relationship, it relied on coincidence as much as a Star Wars movie or novel. Several coincidences had to happen in order for Harry to gain the opportunity to date Seven (starting with how Jenny Delaney happened to flirt with William Chapman while Tom, B’Elanna, Harry, and Seven were present to witness and remark on it). While this does explain indirectly why Harry hadn’t succeeded in getting anywhere with Seven prior to IOHEFY, it also left Harry with the fear that his long-sought-after relationship with Seven came about more by chance than by who he was and the incredible effort he put into his first date with Seven.
One of the points raised in THoN is Harry’s insecurity. With the revelation of his fears that Seven might prefer the Doctor over him if the Doctor was "available," one can only wonder how much of his inability to address Seven’s past treatment of him is due to his fear of driving her away into the Doctor’s arms. Certainly his feelings of inferiority is an ironic counterpart to Seven’s feelings of unworthiness of Harry’s love in IOHEFY.
But in regard to his lack of confidence in general, Tom states that this went back as far as when Voyager first landed in the Delta Quadrant, but from what I remember of "Favorite Son," it went even farther. Harry was the only son of a couple who had given up on ever having children, and they lavished love and effort on him. As a result, he has done his darnedest to prove himself worthy of them. By the standards of the Federation, he had certainly succeeded. Editor of the Academy Newspaper. Field Reporter on the Maquis’ first acts against the Cardassians. ("Investigations") Captain of the Academy Velocity Team. Graduated at the top of his class. Immediately assigned as a bridge officer and department head on a major starship. ("The Disease") Was one of the developers of the Federation’s first working Transwarp drive. ("Threshold")
Unfortunately, Harry’s sense of accomplishment has also taken a beating during Voyager‘s cruise through the Delta Quadrant. In his review of "The Disease," Jim Wright points out that Ensigns who do a good job are almost always promoted inside of a year. Prior to that episode, for four years, Harry has had a perfect, even exemplary, record, but he has had nothing to show for it. Tuvok defied Janeway’s orders in "Prime Factors" regarding the Prime Directive, and he was later promoted. After the integration of the crews, many non-Starfleeters were granted brevet ranks higher than Harry’s—as was a convicted criminal (Tom Paris) and a dropout from Starfleet Academy (B’Elanna Torres). Then, as B’Elanna pointed out to Seven in the mess hall scene, his interaction with Seven (and Seven’s with the Doc) didn’t help matters. Last, but not least, in a number of more recent episodes (such as Prey, Bliss, and Equinox), Harry’s primary role has been to fail as Chief of Operations in order that those who seek to commandeer Voyager‘s systems can succeed for the sake of the plot. Is it any wonder that Harry is a little unsure of himself at this point?
Some time ago, Mike referred to K/7 as a "character-building romance" for Harry. In "Hierarchy Part 2," we see the payoff of Seven’s observation in IOHEFY that "He (Harry) lacked only the necessary experience and an unwavering confidence in his abilities before he could live up to his full potential." Seven’s influence of Harry to boost his self-confidence and assertiveness represents, as she pointed out to Harry, a perfect counterpoint to his influence of her to control her own.
The final scene of Part 2 in Harry’s quarters with Seven is a moving example of why Mike is one of the best K/7 writers. In this scene, Seven’s expected straightforwardness and assertiveness become assets instead of liabilities, and her interaction with Tom and B’Elanna in the mess hall pays off spectacularly as she addresses each and every one of Harry’s fears and insecurities regarding his relationship with her, and her interaction with the Doctor. (It even explained why Seven’s interaction with Harry declined after that smile she gave him in "Hope and Fear.") In stark contrast to Seven’s overriding concern to protect her self-image in the end-of-date holodeck scene in IOHEFY, Seven is thorough in admitting and apologizing for her faults and errors to Harry, even as Harry gives her numerous opportunities to avoid having to do so. As a result of Seven’s efforts, Harry is on his way to accepting that his relationship with her is truly one between equals, and it will become much stronger as a result.
Mike has expressed his concern that THoN is "writing itself," but I wouldn’t have any objections to there being a Part 4. Not when the story is of this high a quality. In either case, Part 3 is definitely something to look forward to.
When I reviewed Lesa’s "One Giant Leap" a few weeks ago, I had stated that Mike had a heck of an act to follow. IMHO, "Hierarchy of Needs" has exceeded all expectations—and is shaping up to be a worthy sequel to IOHEFY. Some time ago, on this list, there was a brief discussion on whether K/7 authors should concentrate on quality or quantity. With works like THoN, "One Giant Leap," "Web of Pain," etc., I’d say that we’ve gotten both.
Memorable Quotes from "Hierarchy of Needs":
- "Look who’s so sensitive? And just how many times did you and Tom make kissy-faces at each other while I had to watch?"
—Harry to B’Elanna
- "Mr. Paris. Do try to keep your mind on the mission. Or does Lt. Torres have to exert any more ‘authority’ over you?"
—Janeway to Tom
- "…Make sure the Doctor is restored to mint condition. No ‘creative alterations,’ understand?"
—Janeway to B’Elanna
- ‘Maybe I’ll be lucky, and she’ll delete me by accident.’
—The Doctor’s thoughts when B’Elanna begins repairs on his program.
- ‘Why do I bother to go to my quarters alone when I’m upset? It never cheers me up.’
‘Why do I bother to go to his quarters to help when he gets like this? It never cheers him up.’
—Harry’s and Tom’s thoughts
- "What Im trying to say is that theres nothing wrong with a little fantasy, now and then. As long as it stays up here. [points to his own head] I guess thats probably why the ancient Vulcans were so violent. One too many mind melds, I suppose."
—Tom to Harry
- "Har, youre making it sound like child-molestation or something. The Doctor isnt her real father. And despite her inexperience, she’s definitely not a child. Otherwise, youd have a lot more to answer for than he would, Mr. Two Hundred and Ninety Eight Positions."
—Tom to Harry
- "For thousands of years nobody understood how gravity worked, but people still knew it was a bad idea to jump off a cliff!"
—B’Elanna to Seven
- "I ask you then, how is it that an individual who so readily recognizes the excellence in others can fail to acknowledge it within himself?"
—Seven to B’Elanna and Tom about Harry
- "Perhaps the significance of friendship is similar to our earlier discussions of pet names. I recognize now that a friendship, like a romantic affiliation, must be continuously maintained and reciprocated, otherwise it will atrophy and cease to be."
—Seven to Harry