the story: Devastated by the fate of the Maquis, B'Elanna becomes suicidal.
what it's all about: A funny thing happened along the way to the Maquis. Created in separate adventures across Next Generation and Deep Space Nine with the express purpose of helping set up Voyager, these Federation rebels eventually collapsed into a contentious existence among fans when that setup resulted in...an integrated Starfleet crew that forsook the "Maquis way." Though wearing different insignia, the former Maquis in Voyager, including Chakotay and B'Elanna Torres, became more or less standard officers aboard Janeway's ship. It was in Deep Space Nine where a more epic fate awaited the Maquis when Michael Eddington effected one last dramatic betrayal and launched one last great crusade in "For the Uniform" and "Blaze of Glory."
It's these two final adventures that "Extreme Risk" draws from, thus making it a sort of Maquis coda. Regardless of whether or not Voyager mishandled the Maquis concept, by this episode it was a moot point. Communications with the Alpha Quadrant had opened in the previous season, and the crew learned of what had become of the Maquis thanks to the new Cardassian involvement in the emerging Dominion War. The character most likely to be dramatically affected by the news, was. That's what this episode is all about.
In a lot of ways, it's the completion of a character arc begun in "Parallax," the first regular episode of the series following the pilot ("Caretaker"), in which B'Elanna struggles to integrate with the crew, putting her Maquis differences aside in order to win the position of chief engineer. In effect, it illustrated that B'Elanna and not Chakotay most represented the so-called "Maquis way," the idea that these were people who didn't handle conflict as well as Starfleet officers. As I said above, the news about the Maquis severely affects B'Elanna, and it's one of her best episodes, which is saying something for a character perennially responsible for some of the series' best material.
"Extreme Risk" also follows "Night" as an early fifth season episode acknowledging the evolution of the characters in this series. Janeway underwent a personal crisis in "Night," and obviously B'Elanna to a much greater extent in "Risk," both of them struggling to come to terms with their pasts, things fans had actually seen, which is rare in the franchise.
The episode also sees the debut of a signature shuttlecraft for Voyager, the Delta Flyer, finally something to settle all the criticism of the seemingly endless supply of such mission craft the series routinely faced from fans. It also helps settle the romantic future of B'Elanna and Tom Paris.
- franchise - The last word on the fate of the Maquis.
- series - Settles a key point of the original premise (see the above) and how it had evolved elsewhere.
- character - One of the definitive B'Elanna Torres spotlights.
- essential - Anyone still clinging to the notion that this was a totally clueless series owes it to themselves to watch this one.
Alexander Enberg (Vorik)