the story: Tuvok suffers visions that lead him and Janeway to his experiences aboard Sulu's Excelsior.
what it's all about: As celebrations of the franchise's 30th anniversary go, Deep Space Nine's "Trials and Tribble-ations" usually steals the thunder. "Tribble-ations" incorporates actual footage from the classic "Trouble with Tribbles." It's really hard to beat. But "Flashback" is a more than worthy contender. Like "Tribble-ations" it draws direct inspiration from previous material; in this case it's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, which in 1996 was a mere five years ago. (Enterprise's "Judgment" later drew from the Klingon penal customs as seen in the movie, by the way.) George Takei and his admirers had been vocal about a Sulu TV series; they would have to settle for one last TV appearance, the same most of his original series colleagues (except for Nichelle Nichols, who unlike Walter Koenig didn't even get a plush cameo in something like Star Trek Generations) enjoyed in years previous.
The episode, as suggested in my brief summary, draws on Sulu's scenes aboard the Excelsior in Undiscovered Country, when the ship monitors the destruction of Praxis. We get to spend a little more time with familiar faces glimpsed in the movie, plus Takei and Grace Lee Whitney (Rand), as well as a bonus from Michael Ansara's Kang, last seen in Deep Space Nine's "Crossover," retroactively his first chronological appearance in full Klingon prosthetics.
But putting all that aside, it's a fascinating glimpse at Tuvok's backstory. Apparently he'd left a previous term of service in Starfleet before returning many decades later in an era that better suited him (ironically). It's also, after "Meld," his best chance to exhibit the classic Vulcan mind-bridging technique, which seems appropriate for the occasion.
If there's a sour note in the episode, it's the rough child performance that's kind of at the heart of the story, which recurs horribly at the end. Still, easy to sidestep given the rich window dressing.
- franchise - Casual fans will appreciate the look back at Sulu's command.
- series - A rare look into the past of a main character.
- character - Which is of course Tuvok.
- essential - Like its better-known counterpart, "Trials and Tribble-ations," "Flashback" is a wonderful nod at the history of the franchise.
George Takei (Sulu)
Grace Lee Whitney (Rand)
Michael Ansara (Kang)