In the twenty-second episode of the fifth season of Voyager, ouch, my heart. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.
I truly was not expecting this, y’all. TRULY.
Let’s start with something more light-hearted, if you will. As a whole, “Someone to Watch Over Me” deals with the often brutally confusing complications that come from social interaction. While the bulk of this episode addresses romance and Seven of Nine, I still got a lot of value out of Ambassador Tomin’s story, too. First of all, SCOTT THOMPSON IS PERFECT FOR THIS ROLE. Watching him let go of his inhibitions while portraying Tomin was a treat, especially since every bit of information we’d gotten about the Kadi told us that they were a rigid, puritanical society. Thus, it was immediately hilarious to see him flout the very rules that the ship had set in place to accommodate him. On another level, though, it was satisfying to watch because Tomin increasingly lose control because he clearly was desperate to experience anything that wasn’t as bland and regulated as his whole world. He wanted spices. Flavors. Danger. Risk. It’s so fun to watch! Even better: after completely turning everything into a nightmare, Tomin realizes he pushed things too far. Yet that’s not the sole meaning of this story. It’s about moderation. Tomin’s superior reveals that he was never supposed to maintain his culture’s strictness while aboard Voyager. As long as he didn’t develop any bad habits, what’s the harm in trying new things?
YES. I LOVE THIS. Maybe don’t get that drunk ever, but you know what I mean.
Someone to Watch Over Me
See, this is why you need to give time to develop romance on an episodic show. Granted, Voyager is more serialized than I expected going into it, and this particular romance has been building for a while AND I AM PRETTY SURE I NEVER NOTICED IT AT ALL. I don’t necessarily think the writers were planning this the entire time, but instead built off the existing relationship between Seven and the Doctor. That working friendship became something VERY DIFFERENT through the events in “Someone to Watch Over Me,” which borrows from Pygmalion by setting up a bet between the Doctor and Tom about whether or not Seven of Nine can be “civilized” enough to bring a date to Tomin’s guest of honor reception. It’s a crude bet made out of pettiness, and thankfully, the script addresses that. I’m thankful for that because I didn’t want that element of the plot to outshine the incredible strides that Seven did make through her training with the Doctor.
That was important to me because the beginning of this episode established that Seven was interested in dating and human mating rituals entirely of her own accord. No one forced her into it, nor did anyone say she had to date, either. (Though this episode’s causal reliance on heterosexuality being the norm was kind of aggravating. You couldn’t even contain one reference to the fact that people are allowed to date any gender they want? Blah.) So I didn’t want her pursuit of knowledge and experience to be negated because the Doctor and Tom were being selfish and insensitive.
Instead, though, Seven gains crucial insight into how confusing and complicating “dating” is. Now, I wouldn’t presume that all of you have been through it, nor that all of you would want to date for romantic purposes. Even my history with dating is ridiculously complicated; it’s not easy to do so within the gay/queer communities if you don’t fit certain roles or stereotypes well. It’s compounded by race; culture; body size and shape; wealth; etc. Obviously, that plays a part in dating in a number of societies and cultures, and there’s a reason much of the details of Seven’s dating felt so familiar. The aspects that make our identities or the social groups we belong to make dating seem like an impossible task. Indeed, once you deconstruct dating like the Doctor does here, it comes across as inherently absurd. Why do we have to make small talk? Why dance around romantic attraction? Why is it considered sinful or unacceptable to engage with an immediate sexual attraction? How many dates is proper before you ask someone to take it to the next level? WHAT’S THE NEXT LEVEL? WHY AREN’T WE GIVEN A GUIDE TO THIS WHEN WE’RE IN SCHOOL?
These details vary based on the sort of place you live and the values you hold, and the version of “dating” we see here seems super American and incredibly proper. Like, I’ll be honest with you: Baize and I skipped any traditional form of “dating” altogether. We had been friends, he needed a job, and I actually saw a lot of value in having an assistant who had no fucking clue who I was. By virtue of us spending a lot of time together, we got to know each other, and it’s how romance happened. But we didn’t go on our first date together until after he had moved in. Like, at least our first intentional date! It just never worked out that way, and y’all, IT WAS SO REFRESHING. I’ve mostly found dating to be an anxiety-inducing nightmare, and getting to skip it was THE BEST THING EVER.
But there’s a context to Seven going through this process: she has no knowledge of it beyond the clinical or the analytical, and it’s why the Doctor basically runs her through role-playing scenarios in the holodeck. Knowledge is one thing, but applying that knowledge in real-world situations is a lot harder. It’s through this, though, that the Doctor realizes that he has accidentally coached himself into an infatuation with Seven. I call it that only because the end of this episode confirms that this is a one-sided affair. Seven does not see him the way he sees her. It’s heartbreaking, and I’ll bet it’s something a number of you can relate to on some level. And despite that Tom does tell the Doctor that being honest about love is a risk, despite that the Doctor even says that he doesn’t expect reciprocation, I got the sense that he really did expect to hear Seven mirror his own emotions. It’s one of the most difficult things to deal with when it comes to these kind of interactions! Our expectations can actually doom us further, and it was clear to me that the Doctor had not truly anticipated that Seven would want to keep their relationship platonic. Don’t get me wrong, this sucks a LOT. I dealt with this a great deal in the first half of my twenties, and I would not want to re-visit that time EVER AGAIN. But one thing I learned from that period is that being realistic about one’s expectations is not necessarily an act of cynicism. It’s a form of protection, a way to steel one’s self against the (very real) chance that someone doesn’t feel as you do about them.
The video for “Someone to Watch Over Me” can be downloaded here for $0.99.
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