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Vanishing characters in Trek

August 8, 2013

Episodes: Q Who, The Enemy, The Defector, Enterprise Season 1, a little bit of Voyager, a little bit of DS9

There are recurring characters and then there are characters who introduce themselves in one episode before disappearing completely out of Trek existence.

I’ll start with the strangest one: Ensign Gomez in ‘Q Who’

She wasn’t the strongest character ever, but she was one of the few Engineering munchkins who got any kind of screen-time/dialogue. In fact at the start of the episode, it seems like she’s being set up as either a Geordi sex doll or a tragic loss during the up-coming Borg attack [just like the groom in Original Trek series episode ‘Balance of Terror’].

Look:

Geordi: Relax, Gomez. You’ll get used to things around here.

Ensign Gomez: No, I don’t know. I’m just worried that I’ll say the wrong thing or, y’know, generally fuck things up somehow.

Geordi: No, no…it’ll be fine. Why don’t we meet in Ten Forward later?

Ensign Gomez: A 2nd scene? In my first ep.?

Geordi: Sure. I’ll introduce you to the twat in the hat.

Ensign Gomez: Huh?

Geordi: Guinan. She tends bar.

Ensign Gomez: Oh, I think I met her already. She was wearing a purple…thing…she met me in the transporter room when I first beamed on board…said she liked meeting new friends then started rubbing my thigh…

Geordi: Err…

Picard enters and seems like an extra in the Ensign Gomez show.

Ensign Gomez: Patrick Stewart!

Picard: Ensign.

It seems strange that an episode that’s primarily about Q and the introduction of a new enemy, the Borg, would spend so much time on a character who a] isn’t going to die tragically in the episode, and b] will never be seen again in later episodes.

There are seven reasons I can think of for her inclusion:

i] She’s the cousin of one of the producers and begged for a speaking role.

ii] She won a competition for a cameo on TNG and turned out to be an okay actress.

iii] She’s a thematic character – the way Geordi has to calm her down and educate her about things is thematically parallel to the way Q educates Picard and the Enterprise on how dangerous the galaxy can be.

I’m leaning towards the third choice, but it doesn’t make much sense. The episode doesn’t need thematics, the central story is strong enough as it is. Did they just put it in to prove they understand how two separate plots can be similar and lined up against each other to show the differences/similarities?

This is complete TV writing wank. You know what else happens when you try to draw too many parallels between the plot and the subplot? You lose the idea that this thing is real. You make choices based on continuing the theme instead of thinking what’s best for the main story or what the characters would realistically do. You show your damn hand.

I sound angry, but I’m not. Done well, the coupling of plot and subplot can work without any sacrifices. Can’t think of any examples right now, but I know it happened a lot on DS9, good and bad.

But let’s not lose focus of the main point – Ensign Gomez.

Where the hell did she go after this episode? Why bother giving someone in Engineering a personality [albeit an annoying one] if you weren’t gonna use her again?

I don’t know, and truthfully I don’t really care.

Let’s Tomalok!

Probably the most recognisable Romulan this side of DS9, Commander Tomalok was a devious little prick. Or big prick. It’s hard to be sure, he was always sitting down [height reference, not sex]. Remember ‘The Defector’? The smug look on his face when he told Picard he was gonna dismantle the Paramount sets and take them back to Romulus?

Bastardo.

But what happened to him after that? He was in two episodes in quick succession in Season 3…two very good episodes…then he was only ever seen once again, in the Season Four episode where Riker bonds with a white beard and grows a fake son…but he wasn’t real in that one, he was a projection of the alien boy who, I guess, also liked those two Romulan episodes in Season 3…

Why didn’t they bring him back?

The answer that stands at the front of the crowd and slaps me in the face is…it would mess with the realism of the Trek Universe if Tomalok were the only Romulan commander the Enterprise ever ran into.

This makes a lot of sense. The Romulan Star Empire is not just one man and his boat; it’s almost as big as the Klingon Empire and the Federation.

Just having Tomalok pop up twice in the same season is a bit of a stretch, but they get away with it as Andreas Kutsalas is such a good actor.

Another possibility is…Tomalok was demoted after failing to capture the Enterprise in ‘The Defector’. It’s true that Tomalok probably had enough zeal on his own to run the whole Romulan Empire, but zeal paired with failure is not something the Romulans tolerated in other commanders.

Remember Tasha Yar the Romulan? She disappeared after the failed invasion of Vulcan…

Remember Senator Kretak? Actually, she was set up, but the Romulans didn’t give her a chance to claw her way out of it…

What about Sarek the Romulan commander in the Original Series? He thought it’d be a better idea to blow himself up rather than go back to Romulus with excuses [and all the body parts of his bridge crew]…

The point is: Tomalok was probably shot by an execution squad sometime during Season 3.

Shame.

Actually, the more I think about it, it really is a shame…more of a shame than simply passing it off with one small use of ‘shame’.

The Klingons were integrated into TNG and DS9 quite easily. Gowron was a recurring nutjob for…8 seasons in total, I think. Martok was introduced successfully too…

Is there a way they could have done the same with the Romulans?

Let me think…

Okay, the Klingons were allies with the Federation whereas the Romulans were cold war enemies until the Dominion War in Season 6 of DS9. This means it was easier for the Klingons to be woven into the show’s plot as there was a very clear reason why Picard/Sisko would be talking to them in the first place.

The Romulans…it was almost impossible for them to be on a Federation ship. Look how strange it was to see ‘Tomalok’ walking down the Enterprise corridors in the ‘Riker future son white beard why the fuck are you calling me dad green blob’ episode…it just wasn’t right for them to be there.

Yup, I think the writers did the right thing with Tomalok. The only way they could have convincingly brought him back was as a delusion or a defector, and there’s no way Tomalok would ever be one of those.

Who else?

Let’s shift to a sadder case. During the first season of Enterprise, there’s a female lieutenant or ensign who helps Phlox in sickbay and gradually develops feelings for him despite the fact he looks like a dead toad.

She was quite charming as an actress and a character and it was nice to see a sub-character given something to work with [even if it was at the expense of one the main crew, you know who].

Then suddenly, just when Phlox was on the verge of getting some human snatch, she disappeared. Season 2? Nothing. Nowhere to be seen.

It was so jarring to see sickbay without her that I checked online for the actress to see if she’d got another, bigger role on another show.

She hadn’t.

The reality was…she was dead. The actress, not the character. It’s always sad to see someone so young die early, especially when you’re watching some of their final work on screen. I had a similar feeling watching ‘Fearless Vampire Killers’ with Sharon Tate in the bathtub, looking like the most beautiful woman in a bathtub I’d ever seen…then later finding out that she’d been murdered while 8 months pregnant.

So…in this case, it’s just really, really sad.

Any others…

What about DS9?

I can’t think of any, really. There were lots of recurring characters, but they always had something to do, and if they departed it was always down to the plot, not anything else.

No, there’s no-one. I can’t think of one character they built up and then made disappear…

Good for them. What a quality show.

Then there’s Voyager…

Let’s do a checklist:

Carey in Engineering

Kes

Sociopath

Vidiians

Kazon

The aliens who liked hunting prey

I suppose Voyager has a built in excuse for a lot of these disappearances – they were constantly moving through the Delta Quadrant, leaving aliens and planets far behind. There’s no good reason why they should run into Kazon or Vidiians beyond Season 3…

But still…it’s not that they left them behind, it’s the way they were rarely used when Voyager was in their space. The Kazon got quite a lot of episodes, but the Vidiians were in and out despite being the more interesting race.

Really, some of those ‘character’ episodes should’ve been sacrificed in favour of the Vidiians who were a dominant culture in that area in Seasons 1 and 2. As Voyager didn’t have much time to explore them, it would’ve made more sense to devote more episodes to that, instead of Harry Kim fake-dying on a planet with a one-note culture that no-one gives a shit about.

What else?

There are loads of other characters/races that could or should’ve been brought back for another run, but weren’t.

Cannot think of a single one right now.

The Irish gypsies from ‘TNG Season 2’?

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