I have always been fascinated with the character of B’Elanna Torres on Voyager. Her inner conflict is something many can identify with. Her Klingon half has been a source of her insecurity from a young age; throughout Voyager this becomes apparent as she tries to distance herself from this side of her personality – though of course, like many individuals trying to hide a part of themselves away, she never truly escapes it.
Her battle between the two ‘sides’ of herself was first examined in the Season 1 episode ‘Faces’, where she is split into two ‘people’ by a Vidiian doctor; her Klingon half and her Human half. It was a very literal look at the struggle she confronts every day. I found this episode interesting in terms of examining the inner conflict: as the Klingon B’Elanna and the Human B’Elanna were arguing, the viewer realises – as the Human B’Elanna does – “do you realise we are arguing with our self”. They argue about Human B’Elanna’s weakness “Were you too frightened to act”, and Klingon B’Elanna’s aggression; “that’s the way you respond to every situation, isn’t it”.
Many people can associate with wanting to hide away a part of themselves. In a physical sense, this is harder for B’Elanna as her Klingon half is a constant visual reminder as well as dealing with the emotional aspects. In the episode , she tells Tom Paris that she tried to cover up her Klingon forehead ridges as a child as it was something which made her different from everyone else, and, she believes, her Klingon nature was also the reason that her Human father left her and her Klingon mother.
However, in this episode she also realises the strength and bravery that her Klingon side has given her, and that it is what makes her who she is. The episode is significant as, once the two B’Elanna’s work together, they make an effective team. Despite feeling more at peace with herself as a Human, she acknowledges that her Klingon side is what makes her whole; “I’m incomplete. It doesn’t feel like me. I guess I’ve had someone living inside me for too long to feel right without her” and she must accept that she will always have the inner conflict “I guess I just have to accept the fact that I’ll spend the rest of my life fighting with her”
This inner conflict is not resolved in one episode and it becomes more evident as she embarks upon her journey as an officer on Voyager. B’Elanna continually distances herself from her Klingon side; despite Tom doing what he can to encourage her to embrace her Klingon heritage “It matters because it’s a part of who you are. You’ve been running away from that your whole life”. Not only does B’Elanna detach herself from her Klingon side, she also detached herself emotionally, pushing away anyone who gets too close. This is apparent in her relationship with Tom “I care about you, but if you’re going to keep pushing me away then there’s no point in my staying around.” I believe that the rejection of her Klingon side is integral in her rejection of her emotions: both leave her feeling vulnerable and in fear of getting hurt.
An interesting point to note is, that in the episodes in which she is confronted by her Klingon nature, her relationship with Tom also evolves and develops.
The conflict comes to a head in the episode ‘Lineage’: again the unresolved issues with her father’s leaving are examined when she finds out that she herself is to become a mother. Her child will be three quarters human and one quarter Klingon, so she is unprepared for the Klingon features her child possesses in the Doctors holographic image of her baby. B’Elanna believes that her child will go through what she went through as a child, despite Tom saying that she should be proud of her mixed heritage. To make matters worse, she thinks that Tom will not be able to cope with having two Klingons to ‘deal’ with.
What makes B’Elanna finally accept who she is? I think it is the love of Tom. Only when B’Elanna says to Tom: “Think about how hard it is to live with one Klingon. Pretty soon it’ll be two” and he replies “Someday I hope it’s three or four. I mean it, and I hope that every one of them is just like you”, does she understand that both sides of her make her who she is, make her whole, and Tom loves her for all she is.
B’Elanna had gone through her life blaming her Klingon side for her violent temper and aggression. In the end she comes to terms with herself; with the help of Tom’s love and the friendship and support of the Voyager crew, and she realises what strength and determination this side has given her – essential throughout her Voyager journey, where she grows from a conflicted and angry girl to a brave and loyal friend, and loving wife and mother.