I’ve written previously at FANGRRLS about why B’Elanna Torres is one of my favorite characters in the Star Trek franchise. I’m not going to rehash all the reasons here, but basically, as an Indian-American kid, I saw a lot of my own internal struggles in the character. As a half-Klingon, half-human, B’Elanna constantly was fighting to balance the dueling natures within her, something I sympathized with as a person caught between two cultures.
This list of episodes is a guide to the character and her development over the course of Star Trek: Voyager. If you’ve never seen the show, you can probably still follow the bulk of the story from these episodes (especially because we start with the first episode, which sets the premise for the entire series), but the priority is B’Elanna’s character, rather than story arcs. It doesn't feature every B'Elanna episode, but this is what you need to watch if you're interested in exploring the character.
“Caretaker” (Season 1, Episode 1)
On larger ensemble shows, like Star Trek, it’s not always necessary to watch the pilot if you’re just trying to focus on the arc of a character (who isn’t the captain). But B’Elanna’s arc really starts in Voyager’s pilot — she’s a member of the Maquis crew that Voyager is sent to find when it’s thrown into the Delta Quadrant, and she’s kidnapped by the Ocampa along with Ensign Harry Kim (that’s a mouthful that will make a lot more sense if you’ve actually watched the episode). This episode establishes a lot of B’Elanna’s personality — she’s quick to anger and slow to trust, but she’s also smart and resourceful.
“Parallax” (Season 1, Episode 2)
If you’re not interested in laying the groundwork for B’Elanna by watching “Caretaker,” then you can start with “Parallax.” As the Maquis crew tries to integrate aboard Voyager, Chakotay puts B’Elanna’s name forward for chief engineer. It’s not exactly a smooth path for her — and we discover why she left Starfleet Academy — and it does a few things incredibly well. It shows that B’Elanna desperately wants to fit in and find the people she can be herself with. Her immediate reaction when she doesn’t fit in? Anger. It also establishes a beautiful relationship between Captain Janeway and B’Elanna that I wish had been explored more throughout the series.
“Faces” (Season 1, Episode 13)
This episode is a gut punch for B’Elanna fans in the best of ways. The Vidiians capture B’Elanna Torres, Tom Paris, and Ensign Durst, and they split B’Elanna into two people: one full Klingon and one human. This episode focuses on the perspective of human B’Elanna, who is frightened of everything. She realizes her Klingon side gives her bravery, but she also finds a peace she never knew within herself as a full human. It’s so good at demonstrating the fight B’Elanna is always having within herself, but also we get some great scenes between Tom Paris and B’Elanna, which will become important later.
“Prototype” and “Dreadnought” (Season 2, Episodes 13 and 17)
B’Elanna puts a lot of herself in her work. She takes pride in being an excellent engineer, and nowhere is that clearer than in these two episodes. In “Prototype,” B’Elanna helps out an almost-extinct race of artificial beings, while in “Dreadnought” she has to reprogram a missile that made its way to the Delta Quadrant — one that she stole from the Cardassians as a Maquis. B’Elanna’s dedication in both these episodes is pretty great.
“Lifesigns” (Season 2, Episode 19)
A lot of B’Elanna’s character development happens in episodes where she isn’t the main focus, which can make a character guide like this difficult. But in “Lifesigns,” the Doctor needs B’Elanna’s Klingon blood to save a Vidiian woman he’s come to care about. After her treatment at their hands (in the episode “Faces”) she’s reluctant to help. Forgiveness isn’t a strong suit for B’Elanna — anger is a lot easier — so this is a rewarding episode for the character.
“Blood Fever” (Season 3, Episode 16)
This is a surprisingly sensual episode, in which the Vulcan Ensign Vorik passes pon farr (basically, Vulcans in heat) onto B’Elanna. It’s rare that Star Trek sexualizes a woman in a way that’s not just low-cut, tight clothes and male gaze, and of course this does that to a certain extent, but it also shows a strong woman unapologetic about having a sex drive. This episode also establishes the fact that Tom Paris has unresolved feelings for B’Elanna.
“Day of Honor” (Season 4, Episode 3)
Some of my favorite episodes of Star Trek: Voyager are when B’Elanna interacts with Klingon culture, and we see her contempt for it (that stems from an undercurrent of, once again, just wanting to belong). That’s what happens in this episode, which features B’Elanna trying to avoid Day of Honor, which is when Klingons are supposed to reflect on themselves and their deeds. It quickly devolves into the worst day of her life and then gets worse when she and Tom are stranded in spacesuits with limited air. It forces B’Elanna to admit her true feelings for Tom.
“Scientific Method” (Season 4, Episode 7)
This episode has a larger (and interesting) plotline, but it’s really worth watching for the adorable Tom and B’Elanna scenes. Their relationship is new and exciting, and clearly they can’t get enough of one another.
“Extreme Risk” (Season 5, Episode 3)
This episode sees the crew building a new spacecraft, the Delta Flyer, a project that B’Elanna would normally love to work on with Tom. But she’s been withdrawn and unenthusiastic, and Chakotay’s on the case to find out why. It’s a great B’Elanna and Chakotay episode — we get to see less and less of their friendship as the series progresses — but also delves into some dark aspects of B’Elanna’s mental state.
“Barge of the Dead” (Season 6, Episode 2)
This might be my favorite Star Trek: Voyager episode, period. B’Elanna is killed in an incident where her shuttle is caught in an ion storm and is revived by the ship’s Doctor. During her brief death, B’Elanna found herself on the Klingon Barge of the Dead, along with her mother. She comes to believe that her mother has died, and B’Elanna’s dishonor (her choice to not live the life of a warrior) has doomed her mother to the Klingon version of hell. B’Elanna doesn’t subscribe to Klingon customs, culture, and beliefs, so it’s so interesting to watch how seriously she takes this and how far she’ll go to save her mother.
“Drive” (Season 7, Episode 3)
This is a Tom Paris-centered episode, but between this one and “Extreme Risk,” it’s nice to see a relationship on the show where things don’t always go smoothly. Tom’s consumed by a space race, leaving him little time to spend with B’Elanna, and she begins wondering if they really are meant to be together. But he surprises her at the end of the episode by proposing to her.
“Lineage” (Season 7, Episode 12)
This episode is pretty gut-wrenching, as the viewer watches B’Elanna break down in the face of finding out she’s pregnant. It’s not the baby that has her out of sorts — it’s the fact that she’ll have the forehead ridges of a Klingon. We are treated to painful glimpses into B’Elanna’s past, and the reason she thinks her father left her and her mother — he couldn’t deal with two Klingon women. B’Elanna becomes determined to eliminate her daughter’s Klingon DNA so she won’t suffer the same fate. It’s a rare moment of devastation and vulnerability for her, and it makes clear that the best thing Tom Paris does in this series is be a good husband to B’Elanna.
“Author, Author” (Season 7, Episode 19)
The main storyline of this episode focuses on the Doctor and hologram rights, but there’s a key scene in this episode that’s important to B’Elanna’s storyline as well. The ship’s crew has the chance to speak with their loved ones back home, giving B’Elanna the opportunity to speak with her estranged father. Their encounter is brief, but you can tell how much it means to B’Elanna (and see her conflicted emotions all over her face). It’s a lovely scene.
”Endgame” (Season 7, Episodes 25 and 26)
The focus “Endgame” is on Voyager’s journey back to the Alpha Quadrant (and the war it declares on the Borg Queen in the process). However, it’s got an important moment for B’Elanna and Tom as well: the birth of their daughter, Miral, in the final moments of the episode.