Memory Alpha
Memory Alpha
Real world article
(written from a Production point of view)

B'Elanna Torres 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. Neelix and Tom Paris meet in the transporter room as Paris is returning and Neelix is preparing to head to the planet to visit Talli, a woman he's interested in. He solicits advice from Paris on wooing the Mari woman. Paris advises him to be himself and use less Talchok musk.

Down on the planet, Lieutenant 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, Lieutenant 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.

Act One[]

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.

Act Two[]

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' 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 criminal investigation 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.

Act Three[]

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' 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. Guill is initially skeptical, but sends off his buyer and goes with Tuvok.

Act Four[]

Since Tuvok has no intention of really going through with this, he first engages Guill by accepting some violent images from him under the pretense that he wants them. When Guill finishes, Tuvok feigns fatigue while he questions Guill on his operations. It appears there are many willing to buy, sell, or simply exchange, including unwitting alien visitors. Tuvok turns to Torres' thought, and Guill claims he doesn't have it. When Tuvok presses the issue, citing the evidence, Guill gets impatient and wants to go on with getting Tuvok's thoughts. Tuvok finally gives it up and starts to take him to see Nimira. He doesn't get very far before they run into Guill's associates to subdue Tuvok by force.

Because Tuvok has not returned to Voyager, Janeway has no evidence to stop Nimira. Further, she won't permit a search team. Nimira promises Janeway she will begin the procedure, over Paris' objections, and ends the communication. Nimira and her security then take Torres to begin the engramatic purge, sedating her and strapping her to a chair.

Act Five[]

With Guill's helpers holding Tuvok down, Guill touches his forehead to see his violent thoughts. While pleased by what he finds, he believes that Tuvok is still holding back "the best" of it; the Vulcan agrees and convinces Guill to come closer. When the Mari obliges, Tuvok locks him in a mind meld to show him the full force of his Vulcan emotions; which nearly destroyed the race before they learned to suppress them in the Time of Awakening. Unprepared for such intensity, Guill is overwhelmed by the violence and savagery of Tuvok's deepest, darkest thoughts.

Tuvok returns to Voyager with Guill during B'Elanna's procedure, prompting Janeway to contact Nimira again with this new evidence. 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 nonetheless aborts 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.

Log entries[]

  • "Captain's log, stardate 51367.2. We've spent the last three days on the Mari homeworld. It's been a while since we've had the opportunity to make new friends and the crew seems to be making the most of our stay."
  • "Captain's log, supplemental. Chief Examiner Nimira has taken custody of Mister Guill. Whether his arrest will lead to reforms in the Mari justice system is anyone's guess. In the meantime, The Doctor is treating Lieutenant Torres and Commander Tuvok."

Memorable quotes[]

"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."
"I see."
"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. I'm sure you can understand how that's necessary for a race of telepaths."

- 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

Background information[]

Production history[]

Story development[]

  • 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)
  • 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[]

  • 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)


  • 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: First Contact]," 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)

Sets and props[]

Visual effects[]

Mari homeworld surface

The matte painting depicting the Mari homeworld surface


  • 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 bears several striking similarities to the first-season episode "Ex Post Facto". In both episodes, a member of the crew is accused of a crime on an alien planet; Tuvok assists in investigating that crime, and performs a mind-meld as part of his investigations; the crewmember is found to be innocent; and the true culprit is discovered to be one of the native aliens. In addition, in the closing scenes of each episode, the crew member has a terse conversation with Tuvok in which Tuvok states he was simply "pursuing the truth" and not necessarily attempting to exonerate the crew member.
  • 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). However, the latter episode took place in an alternate timeline that did not come to pass, allowing the events of this episode, as well as the following episode "Concerning Flight" (stardate 51386.4), to take place instead of the events seen in the "Year of Hell" duology.
  • In this episode Neelix says that he never liked telepaths and that they were "bad for relationships." His longest relationship on screen was with a telepath named Kes. He could be hinting that their relationship ended due to her telepathy, but he's never mentioned not liking Kes's telepathic powers before thus leaving this vague continuity error. Either way, this is the first on screen reference to Kes since her departure from the series.
  • Neelix is given the task of lodging a diplomatic complaint in this episode, in a reference to his new role as ship's ambassador, first hinted at in "Macrocosm" and confirmed in "Revulsion".
  • Tuvok points out that the events of this episode are "not the first time that Lieutenant Torres' violent proclivities have caused problems", perhaps referring to the events of "Blood Fever".
  • Janeway's lucky teacup, which was first seen in "Year of Hell, Part II" and which broke in the alternate timeline of that episode, is seen again in the closing scene of this episode.


  • 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. [3](X)
  • Cinefantastique rated this episode 2 and a half out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 30, No. 9/10, p. 89)
  • Star Trek Magazine 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 releases[]

Links and references[]


Also starring[]

Guest stars[]


Uncredited co-stars[]

Stunt doubles[]



23rd century; accusation; aggravated violent thought resulting in grave bodily harm; Alpha Quadrant; assimilation; Bank of America; black market; blood; bodily harm; brig; cerebral cortex; chief engineer; Chief Examiner; chief of security (aka chief security officer); city square; cologne; crime prevention method; culpable; diplomatic protest; Doberman; dozen; dread; Earth; engramatic purge; friend; generation; Guill's children; homicide; interrogation; interrogation room; Kes; Klingon; ladies' man; law enforcement officer; legal system; lobotomy; logic; manacles; Mari; Mari beating victim; Mari Constabulary; Mari homeworld; Mari sun; marketplace; memory engram; mouth; multiphasic bioscan; murder; musky (musk); neurogenic restructuring; nightmare; pacifist; path; pie; preserves; produce; R&R; renn; Reptohumanoid; resonator coil; supper; talchok musk; telepathy; telepathic ability; vendor; Vulcan; Vulcan; mind meld; waterplum; whisker; witness statement

External links[]

Previous episode:
"Year of Hell, Part II"
Star Trek: Voyager
Season 4
Next episode:
"Concerning Flight"