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Body and Soul: A Stinking Myth

by Shale November 15, 2000

This week, Star Trek: Voyager episode "Body and Soul" had the Emergency Medical Hologram, (Robert Picardo) take up temporary residence in Seven of nine's (Jeri Ryan) electron friendly Borg body. The premise was an interesting one of having a basically non-corporeal life form suddenly find himself experiencing, for the first time, all the sensory perceptions of a corporeal being.

Of course there are the excesses, as HoloDoc overindulges in food and drink to fully experience the new sensations of taste and smell. When the Doctor, in Seven's body returns to the cell where Ensign Harry Kim (Garrett Wang) has been sequestered, s/he immediately starts complaining that there is a terrible odor in the cell, perhaps some noxious chemical to poison them. Harry is perplexed by her statement, sniffs around and says he doesn't smell anything. Then Seven/Doc homes in on the smell as coming from the vicinity of Harry.

Ensign Kim then takes a quick sniff in the direction of his armpit and says defensively, "It's been a busy day. I've done some perspiring."

Doc/Seven says, "Seven's had a busy day too and she came thru it smelling like the proverbial rose."

As one of the few Americans who take a very European approach to underarm odors, here are my nits to pick with this episode. It was, by American standards, a clichéd joke that underarm odors are so offensive to the Human nose that they would register with a non-corporeal entity temporarily inhabiting a Human body and experiencing her olfactory sensations. The fact is, our underarm odor is actually a sexual attractant that evolved along with our nose and our vomeronasal organ. It is only through acculturation that we have learned to equate the odor exuded by our armpits as "stinking." I would assume that a French writer did not write this episode.

Here's the other fallacy of this episode; targeting poor Harry Kim, observably an East Asian, with producing underarm odor. Of the three major racial types on this planet, the East Asians have the least amount of specialized odor producing glands in their armpits. Many do not use underarm deodorants, because it is unnecessary as they don't produce any odor. Studies have shown that many East Asians have no apocrine sweat glands in their pits at all.

So, if it had been a long tense day, Seven, who despite Borg implants is still a Human of European extraction, would have been the likely one producing an underarm odor. And the HoloDoc, upon smelling it for the first time through a Human nose compatible with this natural Human fragrance, would have reacted very positively to the intriguing way we humans smell.

I suppose every writer shows their biases and cultural mythos and this scene was probably found amusing in America. How did it play in Europe?

Body and Soul Director: Robert Duncan McNeil Story by: Michael Taylor Teleplay by: Eric Morris and Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman

Ummm.... what does this have to do with the article itself? Why is this even here? Can we delete this now? --From Andoria with Love 19:32, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

There is no "Article" for this episode and since this was just one scene, of which I did a critical analysis of the writer's bias, I thought it would fit in the "Discussion" section. That is why it is here, to answer your question, to show that there are critical Trekkers who don't always agree with the biases of the writers of Trek. Shale

Ah, well you should know that talk pages (and, likewise, the articles themselves) are not to be used for critiquing a writer's work or intent; they are to discuss the content of the article (in this case, "Body and Soul" -- that's the article). For more information, see this page. Thank you. --From Andoria with Love 21:02, 2 April 2006 (UTC)
Ah, you guys are so uptight. I actually enjoyed reading this article. Granted, it doesn't fit into the purpose of talk pages. However, it isn't completely off topic. It's still about the main article (Body and Soul) and it does point out some interesting points. Keeping the article here wouldn't be harmful I think (tyger 17:09, 5 May 2006 (UTC))
This is...interesting. But I guess I can see where you're coming from. I'd have been one pissed-off pubescent if the powers that be had decided, "Let's give Wesley an affection for spandex bodysuits and Troi an affection for chunky orange sweaters." So I guess for someone who gets off on armpit funk, this scene would certainly be frustrating enough to write a whole essay on.
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