(written from a Production point of view)
B'Elanna is imprisoned for having violent thoughts on a planet of peaceful telepaths.
The USS Voyager is in orbit around a planet of telepathic lifeforms called the Mari. Down on the planet, Lieutenant jg B'Elanna Torres and Captain Kathryn Janeway are doing business with a man called Guill. The captain is attempting to negotiate a reasonable price for what she wants to buy. Just as they reach an agreement, a man bumps into Torres. She gets angry for a second as the man apologizes but she accepts his apology. Guill comes over and asks if she is all right. She says yes and Janeway finishes her transaction. A short while later, they hear screaming in the streets. They run over to find the man who bumped into Torres beating another man bloody. The beaten man is severely injured as Janeway stops the aggressor. The aggressor seems surprised at himself and says he does not know why he did that.
While all of this is happening, Lt. Commander Tuvok and the city's Chief Examiner, Nimira, talk of security and maintaining order. Nimira says there has been no violence in their society for years. She is one of the last security officers among the Mari. Tuvok offers to transport her aboard Voyager to demonstrate their ways of security enforcement.
On Voyager, Tuvok and Nimira walk out of the brig while Nimira comments on what an odd concept the brig is: keeping a person in confinement as a punishment. Tuvok explains more on how their security system works. When they hear of the incident on the street however, they both beam back to the surface to investigate.
Back on the planet, Nimira asks Janeway, Neelix and Torres routine questions about the incident because they were all witnesses. While asking questions, she telepathically observes their minds. As she is interrogating Torres, the incident where the man bumped into her comes up. Torres admits that she was angry at him and felt like hitting him back for a split second. Upon hearing that comment, Nimira puts Torres under arrest for having violent thoughts.
Nimira justifies her decision by stating that Torres' images were transferred to the man earlier that day in the split-second when she had her violent thoughts. Because of this transfer, it was Torres' fault that the crime took place. Janeway tries to defend Torres, saying that the Mari could not possibly incarcerate Torres for her "thoughts" because the man who committed the act ought to be held responsible for his own actions. However, Nimira refuses to accept Janeway's argument and schedules an engramatic purge of Torres's memory to remove those images. Janeway tries to stop Nimira but she refuses and apologizes, stating that this practice is necessary and part of the Mari legal and law-enforcement system.
Janeway and Tuvok begin their own investigation of the crime to find a way to stop the engramatic purge which could cause Torres serious brain injury. They cannot seem to find any convincing evidence except that the man, Frane, had been charged numerous times with possessing violent thoughts. Nimira says that this information is irrelevant.
Later that day, while Neelix and Seven of Nine are on the planet's surface talking, they hear a scream. They rush over to the source. They find an old woman with a bloody knife standing over Talli, a woman with whom Neelix had become friends. Talli is dead. Neelix is deeply upset that Talli was killed and, on Voyager, asks Tuvok to do everything in his power to find who was responsible for this act and bring him to justice.
Tuvok and Nimira have no doubt that the murder and the beating have a connection. Nimira is still certain that it is Torres's fault but Tuvok decides to interrogate Torres for himself and decides to do a mind meld with her. The meld is not very deep but Torres starts to remember exactly what she was thinking when the man bumped into her. She suddenly remembers something very disturbing about Guill that day, when he asked her if she was alright right after that man had bumped into.
Tuvok later decides to interview Guill. The way Guill answers him makes Tuvok suspicious so that when Guill leaves to supposedly have dinner with his family, Tuvok follows him. He finds him and another man, Malin, talking. Malin hands him a case of what appears to be money and Tuvok confronts them. Based on the conversation he had earlier with Guill, he realizes that Guill is in the business of sharing and collecting violent images between people. Tuvok offers to share his violent images with him but, having no intention of really going through with this, he attempts to take Guill to Nimira for investigation before the sharing of his thoughts can happen. Before Tuvok and Guill go to Nimira, Guill's helpers take Tuvok by force and make him expose his violent thoughts. Tuvok locks Guill in a mind meld and gives him what he wants. However, Vulcan emotions, which nearly destroyed the race before they'd learned to suppress them in the Time of Awakening, are extremely intense compared to many other humanoids and Guill is overwhelmed by the violence and savagery of Tuvok's deepest, darkest thoughts.
The next day, Nimira takes Torres to begin the engramatic purge. Because Tuvok has not returned to Voyager, Janeway has no evidence to stop Nimira. Nimira begins the purge just as Tuvok returns to Voyager with Guill. Janeway says it is extremely important to stop the engramatic purge immediately. Nimira is reluctant but agrees to stop the purge while presented with the findings of Tuvok's investigation. Tuvok explains to Nimira that it was in fact Guill who caused all the incidents the previous day. He explains that Guill is a big merchant in a black market in which the Mari sell violent thoughts to each other. Apparently, the Mari are not as enlightened as initially thought. Their attempt to outlaw violent thoughts has not made violence go away – all it has done is force people to share it in back alleys. Tuvok tells Nimira that it appears as if the Mari have a somewhat more serious problem than the random thoughts of a single alien. Nimira is extremely surprised and has difficulty believing what she hears but she completely stops the engramatic purge of Torres.
After leaving orbit, The Doctor reverses the effects that the partial engramatic purge had on Torres. In the corridor, Tuvok explains to Torres that investigating this case has given him a new respect for her inner struggle: burdened as she is by her primitive Klingon psyche. Tuvok explains that it is a wonder she is able to keep her violent thoughts under control as much as she does. Torres seems amused, questioning whether Tuvok complimented her and thanks him for his help.
Later, in the captain's ready room, Seven complains to Janeway that this crew's philosophy of exploration and First Contact exposes Voyager to constant risk. She suggests that they avoid all extraneous contact with outsiders and maintain a direct course for home in order to increase their chances of getting there in a timely manner and in one piece. However, Janeway explains that they seek out new races because they want to, not because they follow protocols. Their experiences with the Mari, for example, gave them insights into a culture they have never encountered. Even though Seven finds that irrelevant Janeway explains that this is how they gain knowledge. She tells Seven their mission is not going to change. Somewhat confused, Seven accepts the captain's explanation, even though she disagrees.
Memorable quotes Edit
"Your brig, it's a puzzling concept. Shutting someone away as punishment. Do you find that it rehabilitates the prisoner?"
"The brig is primarily used as a means of ensuring the safety of others."
"In what sense?"
"For example, if we find ourselves with a hostile alien in our custody we may need to confine the individual until we can locate the proper authorities."
"And on rare occasions we have been forced to incarcerate a crew member who has committed a serious infraction."
"I'm surprised that one of your people could be capable of doing something serious enough to warrant imprisonment."
"It's extremely rare. In any case, the brig has been occupied for less than one percent of our journey."
"Forgive me, Tuvok, but it seems barbaric."
"If all species were as enlightened as yours and mine, there would be no need for prisons." (telepathically)
- - Chief Examiner Nimira and Tuvok
"B'Elanna, please try to relax."
"Oh, you've got to be kidding!"
- - Nimiria tries to calm Torres before she undergoes the engramatic purge
"You don't understand the truth of violence. Its darkness...its power!"
- - Tuvok, when sharing his violent thoughts.
"Where we come from, people are responsible for their own actions."
"And here, people are responsible for their own thoughts."
- - Torres and Chief Examiner Nimira
"Tom - I may have let you sit in the captain's chair, but remember - she's still the boss."
- - Chakotay
- The initial spark that started the development of both this episode and the Mari specifically was writer Kenneth Biller's interest in the topical subject of broadcast violence. He explained, "I'm very interested in the debate that goes on about violence in the media, and whether or not violence on television causes people to commit acts of violence. Thinking about that, a natural extension seemed to be this society in which people were responsible for their thoughts. Taking it even a step further, if you had a violent thought, you were responsible for the outcome, no matter who committed that. Naturally that would lead to one's having to create a telepathic society in order for that to even be an operative consideration." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 91)
- Confronting the roguish character of B'Elanna Torres with the laws of such a society made sense to Ken Biller. He said, "B'Elanna seemed like the natural person to put into that predicament, somebody who is not in control of her thoughts, but struggles to control her behavior. In this society, though, just controlling her behavior simply wasn't enough." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 91)
- Another element whose inclusion (like that of B'Elanna Torres in the story) attracted Ken Biller and (in common with both the episode and Mari society in general) had its roots in somewhat controversial issues was the Mari's underground culture of violent thoughts. "I [...] thought it was an interesting element to bring in this underground, red-light district," Biller stated. "Like drug addicts, they traded in illicit thoughts and illicit material. It was a way to get into a lot of different issues in our society now, where I think that people are often considered not responsible for their own actions. We make lots of excuses for people's behavior. Also, I think that the more we criminalize and make things that may be natural for people illicit, the more people will do to get them, like in Prohibition." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 91)
- The script of this episode was repeatedly rewritten, with changes still being made to the teleplay during the episode's production period. Nimira actress Gwynyth Walsh recalled, "The script underwent quite a few revisions. The plot didn't really change a lot, however, as the changes were mainly to the dialogue. There was some more explicit dialogue in the first draft of the script, and [the producers] probably thought that it was hitting the nail on the head a little too hard, so they backed off a little. Rather than telling the audience what they should think, the finished episode presents the situation and allows viewers to come to their own conclusions." (Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 63)
- This episode's final draft script was submitted on 26 August 1997. 
- Ken Biller generally liked the process of writing this episode. He noted, "I enjoyed writing about those ideas and trying to make a relevant show." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 91)
Cast and characters Edit
- Prior to appearing as Nimira in this episode, Gwynyth Walsh previously played B'Etor in three TNG episodes, DS9: "Past Prologue" and Star Trek Generations. Walsh was relieved that, unlike with her character of B'Etor, she did not have to don makeup here. "It was so nice to do a Star Trek episode without having to spend three hours in make-up every day," the actress remarked. "There had been a few attempts to have me do a little guest spot, and I always said, 'Yes, I'll come back, but I don't want to be a yukky person! I want to be someone vaguely Human!' 'Random Thoughts' just happened to be the one that finally worked." (Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 62)
- Gwynyth Walsh was also attracted to the thought-provoking nature of the episode. Shortly after working on the installment, she related, "From my perspective, the episode certainly seemed to be dealing with the censorship issue, which is especially prevalent in the United States right now. The American Far Right [lobby] has a lot of control over what is on television these days, and I think the script attempts to explore the potential negatives of that kind of censorship. So 'Random Thoughts' is a frightful look at a controversial topic. I found the whole subject matter very interesting myself, and was happy to be involved with the episode in that respect." Walsh also approved of the changes that the episode's script underwent, preferring that – instead of outrightly telling the audience what to think – the episode allows the audience to form their own views of the subjects explored in the installment. "I think that's better writing. Besides," a grinning Walsh added, "it's always better to be a little subtle when you're dealing with possibly inflammatory topics." (Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 63)
- The fact that the episode portrays Nimira not as a two-dimensional villain but as an individual who is simply driven to determining a just solution was evident to Gwynyth Walsh. "I think Nimira quite honestly thought that she was just doing the right thing," the actress commented. "She didn't realize that what she was doing was wrong. I certainly didn't consider her to be a fascist in any way." (Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 63)
- Gwynyth Walsh enjoyed appearing alongside the regular actors of Star Trek: Voyager in this outing. "I hadn't had the opportunity to work with any of those actors before, and they were all great," Walsh enthused. She especially liked performing with Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew (who Walsh respectfully described as "a consummate professional") and Tuvok actor Tim Russ (of whom Walsh said, "[He] is, for lack of a better phrase, just a big goof [....] He's just the complete antithesis of Tuvok"). Recalling the experience of collaborating with Russ, Walsh noted, "Almost all of my scenes were with Tim, and I found him to be so much fun." (Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 63)
- Tim Russ himself listed this episode, midway through the fourth season, as one of five episodes that he characterized as "the defining moments for Tuvok." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17) In common with Gwynyth Walsh, Russ was drawn to this episode's thematic content, referring to the installment as "very interesting." He continued, "I thought it was pretty cool, dealing with what's in people's minds, and using this stuff ['thought crimes'] as a drug, as it were." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 101)
- Torres actress Roxann Dawson felt similarly about the episode. She opined, "It's interesting, this whole discussion of thought police and what we are allowed to think and not think, and the kind of trouble that you could get in. It's actually kind of contemporary [....] I think it brings up a lot of interesting issues." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 93)
- Neelix actor Ethan Phillips was partly pleased with how the writing staff developed his character here. "Well, they had me flirting with that girl in 'Random Thoughts,'" Phillips laughed, referencing Talli when asked about highlights of the fourth season, "but then she was killed!" (Star Trek Monthly issue 40, p. 31)
Production reuses and continuity Edit
- One of the buildings of the Mari city is a reuse of the Chronowerx Industries' headquarters from "Future's End" and "Future's End, Part II".
- According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 212), the neurogenic restructuring machine was a reused apparatus that had previously been included in the sickbay of the USS Enterprise-D.
- The doors in the medical lab seem to have a sound that combines the familiar door sound from Star Trek: The Original Series as well as the door opening sound of DS9's security office.
- The communicators used by the Mari security officers are very similar to the communicators used by the terrorists who attempt to steal trilithium resin from the USS Enterprise-D in the episode TNG: "Starship Mine", which coincidentally guest stars Tim Russ.
- The uniforms worn by the Mari security officers are also very similar to those worn by the Rutian police officers in TNG: "The High Ground". In addition, the Mari uniform includes a patch reused from the uniforms of the guards of Sanctuary District A from DS9: "Past Tense, Part I" and "Past Tense, Part II", including the conspicuous letter "A." The only difference is that the Mari patch has been dyed red.
- Tuvok's violent thoughts include scenes from Star Trek Generations (the scene of Veridian III exploding and of the Nexus in that planet's upper atmosphere), Star Trek: First Contact (a view of a Borg pursuing USS Enterprise-E crew members), footage of the Kradin from VOY: "Nemesis" and the mother creature from "Parturition", though not in footage that was used in those particular episodes. Also utilized is the 1997 film Event Horizon, a Paramount Pictures production that was released to theaters on August 17th, only three months before this episode aired.
- This is the first time that the Star Trek: First Contact-style uniforms were seen on Voyager, albeit in footage only. This creates a continuity error: Voyager doesn't make contact with the Alpha Quadrant until "Message in a Bottle", hence Tuvok (or anyone else on board, except perhaps Seven of Nine) has no knowledge of those uniforms during this episode.
- This episode has some similarities to the second season installment "Meld". Tim Russ stated that both episodes "explored suppressed and deep, violent thoughts and the problems those things created for Tuvok." However, Russ also thought this episode gives more of an insight into "how Tuvok worked with others." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #17)
- The stardate given in this episode, 51367.2, would put it in between the previous two-parter episodes, "Year of Hell" (stardate 51268.4) and "Year of Hell, Part II" (stardate 51425.4). Due to the fact that the timeline after "Year of Hell, Part II" is restored to the beginning of the episode "Year of Hell" Part I, it can be assumed that this episode, as well as the following ("Concerning Flight" (stardate 51386.4)), took place instead of the events seen in "Year of Hell" at the dates given.
Other production notes Edit
- Having appeared in previous Star Trek productions, Gwynyth Walsh felt at ease with the filming crew that worked on this episode. "A lot of the behind the scenes crew were the same people I had worked with on Star Trek: The Next Generation and the film [Star Trek Generations]," Walsh recounted, "so in that sense, it sort of felt like going home, because there were a lot of familiar faces on the set." (Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 63)
- The script revisions during this episode's production period were such that, one night, Gwynyth Walsh received new dialogue at 8:30 pm, while preparing for her 6 am start the next morning. (Star Trek Monthly issue 41, p. 63)
- A similar sudden change to the episode affected director Alexander Singer, as he arrived on the Paramount lot one day to find that an extensive new series of corridors had been erected overnight. "I had seen diagrams but I could not have imagined the possibilities until I saw it," he remarked. "While the crew was lighting another scene, I walked through the basic concept of everything I wanted to do. It happened on the spot." (Star Trek: Communicator issue 119, p. 64)
- The surface of the Mari homeworld features the Delmar T. Oviatt Library from California State University, Northridge.
- Ken Biller was dissatisfied with this episode's production, especially the Mari marketplace set. "That's a show that production-wise was really a big failure. That was our production design at its worst," Biller complained. "It was one of those sets that really looked like a set. We have a really hard time trying to do marketplace sets. I wasn't really happy with the episode the way that it came out, in terms of the production." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 91)
- Shortly prior to the first airing of this episode, executive producer Jeri Taylor was uncertain how successful the installment would be. She admitted of the episode, "I don't know how that is going to turn out, frankly." However, she simultaneously thought the episode's premise, exploring censorship essentially through a society that inhibits thoughts, was "an interesting idea". (Star Trek Monthly issue 36, p. 12)
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 4.4 million homes, and a 7% share. 
- Cinefantastique rated this episode 2 and a half out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 89)
- Star Trek Monthly scored this episode 3 out of 5 stars. (Star Trek Monthly issue 40, p. 59)
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 213) gives the installment a rating of 7 out of 10.
Video and DVD releasesEdit
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 4.5, catalog number VHR 4626, 1 June 1998
- As part of the VOY Season 4 DVD collection
Links and referencesEdit
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Commander Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
Guest stars Edit
Uncredited co-stars Edit
- Richard Bishop as an operations division officer
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Mark Major as alien in Tuvok's memory
- Lou Simon a Mari criminal
- Joey Spagnola as Mari spectator
- Michael Wajacs as Mari spectator
- Unknown performers as
Stunt doubles Edit
Alpha Quadrant; assimilation; brig; cerebral cortex cologne; Earth; engramatic purge; Kes; Klingon; lobotomy; logic; Mari; Mari Constabulary; Mari homeworld; memory engram; multiphasic bioscan; neurogenic restructuring; preserves; rada plum; renn; resonator coil; talchok; talchok musk; telepathy; Vulcans; Vulcan; Vulcan mind meld
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