Thoughts on “The Hierarchy of Needs,” Part III

Written by  on January 12, 2000 

Thoughts by Thomas Lee

By Thomas Lee

When I reviewed Parts 1 and 2 of Mike’s "The Hierarchy of Needs," I had started by remarking:

"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.

IMHO, Part 3 of "The Hierarchy of Needs" lived up to the expectations set by Parts 1 and 2. Mike, I think I speak for the RiF list when I state that THoN does justice to IOHEFY—and then quite a bit too. IMHO, we’ve got a sparkler in THoN that Mike has made much bigger than the original stone TPTB have given us (THoN is more than twice as large as Jim Wright’s full-spoiler, line-by-line synopsis of "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy"). Superior quality AND quantity.

As for Mike’s frets about the flaws found in THoN, well, what I told Lesa in response to the errors in the original "One Giant Leap" bears repeating:

As for the errors in the original version, I’d like to apply a quote of L. Sprague de Camp (editor of the original Conan stories by Robert E. Howard) to the enjoyability of a story—if the story has that quality, "…we can forgive many other faults; if not, no other virtues can make up for this lack, any more than gleaming paint and shiny brass fittings on a boat can make up for the fact that it cannot float."

And IMHO, THoN is definitely among the most "seaworthy" of all Voyager fanfics.

"He had never looked so…human before."

This thought of Harry Kim upon watching the Doctor be congratulated by the bridge crew nicely sums up how Mike has presented the Doctor in THoN. It is amazing how shallow and restrained the Doctor was in TTDS by comparison—and how little TTDS did to advance the Doctor as a character compared to the turning-point significance that THoN has in the Doctor’s development.

For all the talk about the Doc’s inflated ego in THoN, it’s interesting how little of it we actually saw from the Doc himself in THoN. Instead, we saw an individual weighted down with guilt and self-doubt, and it was very easy to root for his success and for Harry to forgive him—and feel his disappointment when Harry couldn’t do so before the confrontation with the Hierarchy. Unlike TTDS, the Doc couldn’t bring himself on his own to truly act out his "Emergency Command Hologram" fantasy on the bridge in THoN—and this came across as a true sign of his humility and rejection of his ego-inflating fantasies.

The conversation between the Doctor and Harry was, IMHO, among the best writing ever done in a work of Voyager fiction. Not only did it clear the air between the Doc and Harry, it eloquently explained, through the Doctor, why Harry is so well suited for Seven as a romantic partner—and why the Doctor isn’t despite all that he has in common with Seven. We even saw the Doctor go to considerable lengths to squelch any remaining doubts Harry might have about his (Harry’s) own relationship with Seven. Last Thanksgiving, Mike promised us that the IOHEFY sequel would be "the perfect antidote" to a certain EMH/7 site—and he delivered (and just in time too—that site has just announced a second story along with a site refurbishment). He even did so in a way that was flattering to the Doctor in the process.

A trend that I’ve noticed in Mike’s stories is the diminishment of the Doctor’s role in Seven’s life. In IOHEFY, he relinquished his hopes of having a romantic relationship with Seven. In THoN, he not only gave up those desires for good, but he also began the ending of his role as Seven’s mentor as well. But this hasn’t diminished the Doctor as a character—far from it. Instead, the effect is one of liberation—freedom from the ill-suited roles TPTB have forced upon his character, and the liberty to explore the nature of his own sentience once again. It is a tantalizing promise of a truly fascinating development of his character that may await us in future sequels to THoN—and that we may never see in future Voyager episodes. TTDS has been described as a inconsequential "fluff piece." That description definitely does not apply to THoN—not when it has brought about such a major milestone in the Doctor’s development as a sentient individual.

THoN is easily one of the best Doctor stories I have ever read—or watched. Even "Living Witness" has difficulty competing with THoN as a Doctor story. I find it somewhat ironic that a K/7 version of TTDS was a far better Doctor story than TTDS itself (which TPTB intended as a Doctor feature).

An important reason why THoN was a much more powerful Doctor story than TTDS is that Mike went to the trouble of writing the "background extras" as actual characters in THoN instead of human props. In TTDS’s Hierarchy confrontation scene, they carried out their duties oblivious to the Doc’s stint as the ECH (who Jim Wright jokingly called "Captain Photon."). But in THoN, we saw their horror at his inauspicious start as the ECH, their despair at the Doc’s clumsily improvised lines, their renewed confidence when he truly gets into the role of the ECH—and their heartfelt congratulations upon the retreat of the Hierarchy. Their reactions magnified the state of the Doctor’s situation, be it humiliation or triumph—and as a result, THoN benefited greatly from what TPTB had denied TTDS.

It’s interesting that, with the exception of B’Elanna and Harry, the Voyager crew treated the Doc much more kindly in THoN than in TTDS—and their words to him took on less hurtful connotations, even when the words themselves remained unchanged. Janeway didn’t feel the need to remind the "ECH" that she was "still the Captain." Mr. Paris delivered his lines as jokes to benefit the Doctor instead of taunts to ridicule him. Seven’s "platonic gesture" became sincere and her words after it much less cutting (especially if the Doc’s reaction is any indication).

The briefing room scene at the start of Part 3 nicely righted a major plot hole with TTDS—Janeway’s unilateral decision to rely on the ECH’s performance in the Hierarchy confrontation. While "in character" (if you can call it that) with how TPTB have presented Janeway, it was also rather reckless. The search for alternatives before committing to the Doctor’s suggestion made Janeway’s decision thought-out and reasoned (and allowed Mike to slip in a statement about how much Janeway trusted Tuvok as well). It also was an opportunity to show the depths of Harry’s bad feelings towards the Doctor.

Harry’s inability to forgive the Doctor, even after his heart-to-heart with Seven, emphasizes an important revelation of THoN—namely that his forgiveness isn’t automatic. As with the Doctor, however, this limitation of Harry’s capacity to forgive enhanced instead of diminished him as a character. By showing Harry in a situation in which he was unable to immediately forgive a friend, even right before and during a crisis, THoN emphasizes just how valuable—and underappreciated—Harry’s forgiving nature truly is.

In Part 2 and the start of Part 3, it is clear that Janeway and Seven expected Harry to forgive the Doctor when it was needed for the sake of the Doctor’s performance as the ECH (in contrast, B’Elanna forgiving the Doctor was apparently considered a lost cause). After all, he had always forgiven far worse from Seven, right? However, a major reason why Harry’s ability to repeatedly forgive Seven was so vast was because he loved her. That same love can undermine his ability to forgive someone who posed a threat to that love, however unintentional that threat can be.

This is what makes his "Buster Kincaid" act on the bridge so important. Not only did it nudge the Doc to truly get into the role of the ECH and thus save Voyager, but it carried an underlying message of forgiveness since, except for the "artist" fantasy, the ECH fantasy was the most offensive one to Harry (due to the faux-Seven’s "damsel in distress" behavior in it).

As we saw at the "EMH award" scene, the end result of this is that Seven gains a greater appreciation of Harry’s ability to forgive. Prior to THoN, Seven probably assumed that forgiveness was something one could simply expect from Harry, regardless of circumstance (understandable, since Harry did his best to maintain this façade). But now, thanks to B’Elanna’s lecture and her witnessing of Harry having difficulty forgiving, she now understands—and appreciates—his forgiveness as the special gift that it is.

Harry’s desire not to interrupt the Doctor’s moment of glory immediately after the Hierarchy retreat ties in well with his acute awareness of the role other people played in his triumph over (or perhaps "with" is a better word) the intelligent warhead. Having been uncomfortable with receiving sole credit for that, he is thus content to, in turn, allow the Doctor sole credit for handling the Hierarchy incident despite the brief, yet critical, role he played in getting the Doc fully into the ECH act.

There is, however, another aspect of "Warhead" that I saw in THoN. Just before the Hierarchy arrived, Harry was brooding,

But part of him wanted to see the hologram fail, fail miserably, to puncture that arrogant façade he showed so smugly to everyone on board, making him seem so superior.

He stared up in shock, startled by his hostile thoughts. Where did that come from?

Those "hostile thoughts" may very well describe how a number of Voyager crewmembers regarded Seven’s disastrous attempt to disable the intelligent warhead with her nanoprobes (her own technological ace-in-the-hole). Seven didn’t just fail to damage the warhead at all, she was seriously injured due to the warhead’s prompt retaliation through her own assimilation tubules, and all she accomplished was to make the warhead even more hostile and determined to carry out its original mission of mass destruction. I wonder, just how many times did Harry hear (or overhear) those "hostile thoughts" about Seven while receiving the avalanche of congratulations that were hinted at by Ensign Jenkins? It would certainly add to his discomfort about discussing the incident with Seven, never mind Seven’s own admiration of how he had handled himself during it.

Seven’s role in Part 3 was limited, yet important. Through her "platonic gesture" to the Doctor and her "not a platonic gesture" to Harry, she demonstrated with public action what she had assured Harry with her words and heart in private—that her romantic feelings were reserved for Harry alone. Just as importantly, her "platonic gesture" gave Harry the opportunity to show to Seven that he had truly forgiven the Doc—and the "not a platonic gesture" cemented his newfound belief that he was truly worthy of Seven.

The ending conversation between Harry and Seven not only ties in with their discussion about Harry’s dad in Part 2, it permitted Seven the opportunity to reemphasize the difference between how Seven feels towards the Doctor and Harry, and her acknowledgment of his forgiveness of the Doctor. Given that Harry is quite fond of Seven’s Borg hardware, I think that if Janeway were ever to come across the portraits sketched by Harry, she would remark, "He does the implants very well." <g>

Even by the end of THoN, however, Seven still can’t bring herself to tell Harry a certain three-word phrase. Her inability to follow B’Elanna’s advice on this brings to mind what Q stated in the epilogue of Jim Wright’s fan fiction "The Best of Both Girls"—"Humanity’s potential is staggering–but the only way to reach it is by letting go of what you know, and reaching into the unknown. It’s easy to master what you do know–but it’s so limiting if you stop there." Seven is still learning to "let go of what she knows." But she has come a long way from what she was at the start of IOHEFY, and she is certainly doing her best to keep moving ahead. Her newfound understanding of the need for public touching is definite evidence of her progress.

And when she can say those magical words to Harry—there won’t be any doubt that Seven will mean them.

As with Mike’s other works, all of the Voyager senior staff got writing time. Even though Neelix’s and Tuvok’s involvement was very limited, it was definitely more than what they got in TTDS, and certainly more respectful. In Part 3, it was Chakotay’s turn to give "parental" advice, and his scenes with Harry were well done.

B’Elanna’s newfound approval of Harry’s relationship with Seven, however mild it may be, is a reassuring sign that the K/7 relationship is now on relatively solid ground, especially given how critical she was about it to begin with. As for Tom, his remarks about finding amusing the Doctor’s fantasies involving B’Elanna and himself speaks volumes about how secure he is about himself and his relationship with B’Elanna. This is a marked change from the insecure individual we were introduced to in "Caretaker," and this self-assurance was vital for him to be able to be the "older brother" for Harry when he needed it.

Maslow’s "The Hierarchy of Needs" is quite appropriate for the journey that Mike has taken Harry, Seven, and the Doctor on (if in different ways). Throw in his selection of TTDS as the story to adapt, and one is left with the feeling that Mike sure knows how to title his masterpieces. (Harry’s preference for an optimistic theory of human nature is definitely in character).

Like IOHEFY, THoN represents a major step forward in the evolution of Harry, Seven, K/7, and the Doctor. As with IOHEFY, their stories didn’t come to an end with the finis of THoN—instead, we saw the end of a new beginning (as Mike quoted Star Trek III, "and the adventure continues…"). That Mike is committed to continuing his K/7 saga is very welcome news (Mike, do you have any plans yet to cut and facet another Season Six episode for your K/7 gem exhibit?). The THoN sequel in which Seven can say to Harry, "I love you" for the first time is definitely something to look forward to—and all of his stories before and after that as well.

Memorable Quotes from "The Hierarchy of Needs" Part 3 (sans TTDS quotes):

  • ‘…unemployment in the Hierarchy was a pretty dismal fate if this poor slob was willing to place his life in the hands of unknown aliens.’
    —Harry’s thoughts about the Hierarchy sensor operator
  • "…I think the Doc’s the first hologram in Federation history to achieve the ability to sweat."
    —Tom to Chakotay
  • ‘This is our savior? We’re screwed!’
    —What the Doc guesses the bridge crew is thinking after the ECH’s inauspicious start
  • "This is the Doctor’s moment. Let him have it."
    —Harry to Chakotay as the Doc is being congratulated
  • "I guess that deep down I’m just a bundle of pre-programmed neuroses just trying to get through the day."
    "You know, Doc, you may have just summed up the human condition in one simple sentence."
    —The Doctor and Harry
  • "This, however, is not a platonic gesture."
    —Seven to Harry before she kisses him in the mess hall
  • "Perhaps you would care to sketch my portrait?"
    —Seven to Harry

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