Voyager’s “Weakness” Led To Dropped B’Elanna Klingon Storyline, Says Star Trek Writer

Star Trek: Voyager had many strengths, but writer Bryan Fuller explained how one of its weaknesses led to a dropped storyline for B’Elanna Torres.

Collage of B'Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) with the Star Trek: Voyager cast in the background.

Summary

  • B’Elanna Torres’ religious storyline in Star Trek: Voyager season 6 was dropped due to the show’s anti-serialization approach.
  • Voyager writer Bryan Fuller points out that the show could have benefitted from embracing serialized storytelling like DS9.
  • Voyager’s missed opportunity for more serialized storytelling may have impacted the show’s overall quality.

Bryan Fuller explained how Star Trek: Voyager‘s biggest “weakness” led to a great Klingon storyline for B’Elanna Torres (Roxann Dawson) being dropped. Voyager was a dynamic addition to the Star Trek timeline with a diverse cast of interesting characters, including more female characters and characters of color than any other Star Trek series that had come before it. Included in both these categories was B’Elanna, whose main storyline revolved around the duality of her Klingon-Human heritage.

B’Elanna was the first half-Kligon main character to act as a lead for a Star Trek series, and this played a major role in her storylines throughout Voyager‘s run. Every main character in Star Trek: Voyager‘s cast underwent dramatic changes during the show’s seven seasons, but a particular storytelling weakness sometimes ended up stunting their growth. This, unfortunately, was also something that happened to B’Elanna in a season 6 episode.

Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine and the Star Trek Voyager cast

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Voyager’s “Weakness” Led To A Great B’Elanna Storyline Being Dropped

The show’s anti-serialization caused B’Elanna’s religious conversion to be ignored

B’Elanna’s character development during Voyager season 6, episode 3, “Barge of the Dead” was forgotten thanks to episodic storytelling. During the episode, B’Elanna underwent the equivalent of a religious conversion when she experienced an encounter with the Klingon afterlife. In The Fifty-Year Mission: The Next 25 Years: From The Next Generation to J. J. Abrams: The Complete, Uncensored, and Unauthorized Oral History of Star Trek by Mark A. Altman and Edward Gross, Bryan Fuller, the episode’s writer, discussed how B’Elanna’s epiphany was dropped and Voyager‘s “anti-serialization” when compared with shows like Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Read Fuller’s quote below:

“The strength of DS9 was its serialization. Its ability to say this is an ongoing story and we have to see our characters evolve and change and grow. On Voyager, I remember we had an episode where B’Elanna Torres had kind of a religious reawakening and it was going to be a huge deal that this person, who was essentially a recovering Catholic, had turned her back on the Church and had no interest in being a part of it anymore, then has this fantastic experience where she sees the afterlife. She has a religious epiphany. To me, that was something so fascinating for this character to go through, because she is essentially having a confirmation of things that she had previously denied to herself and to everyone who would listen. Now she has to deal with religion becoming fact in her heart. But the storyline was just dropped. It was, like, here we have a character who can rediscover things and yet it was “No, you’re holding on to storylines from previous episodes and we have to move forward.” The weakness of Voyager in its anti-serialization was the strength of DS9. And when Voyager did embrace its serialized nature or a serialized nature it was more rich in its storytelling for it.”

Although episodic storytelling was the norm of the Star Trek franchise at the time, Voyager could have truly benefitted from taking a page out of Deep Space Nine‘s book. “Barge of the Dead” should have been the culmination of B’Elanna’s storyline on Voyager, seeing as it was the most in-depth exploration of her heritage to date. The episode even included a conclusion to B’Elanna’s complicated relationship with her mother, Miral (Karen Austin). Instead, B’Elanna’s old frustration with her Klingon side continued to be explored in future episodes, essentially negating what she went through in “Barge of the Dead.”

Deep Space Nine’s Serialization Forshadowed Star Trek’s Future

DS9 was the first Star Trek show to be serialized, and it wouldn’t be the last

Bryan Fuller is correct in saying that Star Trek: DS9‘s greatest strength was its serialization, which foreshadowed the approach the franchise would take to storytelling in the future. Nearly all of Star Trek‘s modern shows utilize serialized storytelling to varying degrees, although the shows that blend serialization and episodic storytelling, like Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, have been proven to be the most successful. The Star Trek franchise embracing serialization is partially thanks to the fact that most modern shows are serialized. However, DS9 paved the way for Star Trek to fully adopt this form of storytelling.

It is unfortunate that Voyager couldn’t use serialized storylines more than it did, since Fuller is also correct that when the show embraced this storytelling style, its episodes were richer for it. One of the main strengths of Voyager‘s overall plot was the main cast’s progression from wary strangers to a close-knit family. This aspect of the show was more serialized and helped keep Voyager on track even when individual episodes were hit or miss. If Star Trek: Voyager had been able to embrace serialized storytelling fully, there’s no telling how much more popular the show might have become.

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