With 75-year mission to get back home, Janeway & Chakotay are looking to do what’s best for the greater good of the crew and that means giving senior positions to whoever is best fit to hold those positions. Chakotay has a certain half-Klingon in mind for the role of Chief Engineer and the conclusion is predictable, but they handled that predictability with grace even as they struck a nerve that any Klingon would agree is dishonorable.
B’Elanna Torres (whose name will always be autocorrected in my brain as “banana” thanks to too many years working as a babysitter/nanny) has a temper that is difficult to control. Challenging those around you is a way of asserting strength and intelligence in Klingon culture, you would think that a young Klingon might then be accustomed to elders wanting to beat them down, mold them into the perfect warrior. Yet B’Elanna quit Starfleet Academy because they did it too much?
That doesn’t make sense to me.
By the time of TNG, DS9, and VOY within the Star Trek universe, great strides had been made to bring Klingons peacefully into the fold of the Federation a key part of which was undoubtedly the Federation have a keener understanding of Klingon culture. Any sentient being is going to be — to a certain extent — rather centrist with regards to their species versus other species. Consider how often we hear “humanoid” used to describe species across the vast majority of science fiction in general.
More current science fiction has started to employ the term “bipedal”, yet “humanoid” might still be a rather comparable translation of any Klingon word that would translate more literally as “Klingonoid” or Vulcan word as “Vulcanoid” if only to illustrate how we all tend to put our own respective species first. B’Elanna may hold on to such a centrist view as a creature of mixed species who — like Spock, or an individual of mixed race — is part of two very different cultures and as such made to feel their separateness from those same cultures very keenly.
That is what trips me up about her leaving the academy. Quitting — to her mind with its limited information at the time — should be an act of separating herself entirely from both cultures to be her own self entirely and forego any possibility of making a home in either culture.
She quit the Academy because she believed wasn’t cut out to live in Academy culture. Yet Klingons, by culture as well as nature, are not quitters, and choosing to throw your hands up in the air in the face of a culture viewed as subpar (an inherent part of having a centrist view of her culture) would mark her as being twice less than even that weakest of Klingons who manages to die nobly in his first ever battle.
The fact that — SPOILER — it turns out that there are several professors who were willing to vouch for her should she ever wish to return to the Academy, makes her quitting even more nonsensical. Yes, it is good to know that those who you thought disliked you did in fact admire you, but such a reveal should have put her Klingon sensibilities into a tailspin.
This episode’s character reveal may have proven B’Elanna has what it takes to be a part of Starfleet, but I can’t believe she’d ever find acceptance among the Klingons now.