It's Paramount's playground. They own the characters, the ships, species, planets, quadrants, and the dialog, plots, etc. My summaries and reviews are for the purpose of entertainment and analysis only. The reviews are full-spoiler, which means that it's as close as you can get to seeing the episode without actually seeing the episode. All that's missing are commercials and pictures. If you want to be surprised and haven't seen the episode yet, read no further. But if you've already seen it, or you don't mind finding out the details in advance, sit back and let Fatherly Uncle Jim spin the tale for you...Review Boy Style.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television, United Paramount Network, and the Kellogg Company]
"Captain Janeway reminisces about her ancestor Shannon O'Donnell, the first of her family's long line of explorers and one who helped build the Millennium Gate on Earth. As Janeway relates the story, the episode revisits the town of Portage Creek on New Year's Eve: December 31, 2000. Shannon O'Donnell (played by Kate Mulgrew) nears the deadline to convince the town's last holdout, local bookstore owner Henry Janeway, to approve the building of massive, half a mile high Millennium Gate, a model for the first colony on Mars." [from www.startrek.com]
Captain Janeway is disappointed to discover her favorite Larger Than Life Ancestor™ turns out to be merely human.
Jump straight to the Analysis
It's a beautiful day in the corridor. The environmental control systems are humming gaily, harmonizing with the reassuring bass of the warp drive. The lights are a bit brighter than usual.
And all those smiles on the faces of the crewmen? Contagious.
Neelix catches up with Captain Janeway in the corridor offering a pleasant Good morning and a PADD with the week's requisition reports. Medical supplies and furniture orders are on the rise in the Paris and Torres accounts, and earplug orders are rampant on Deck Nine, Section Twelve. Seven of Nine has been ordering up Cherry Garcia and renting films starring Sean Connery, Yul Brynner and Ben Kingsley--there is hope for the Doctor yet. Harry Kim's rocket-pack and leather jacket requisition ensures that Captain Proton will live on--and the Delaney Sisters' recent requests guarantee he will have his work cut out for him.
You know. The usual. It's Casual Friday.
As they walk, Janeway holding the PADD in front of her with both hands, Neelix with his hands clasped over his belly, the Talaxian begins quizzing the captain like a contestant on a game show. "What can you tell me about the Great Wall of China?"
Pardon? Janeway asks, perplexed. "The Great Wall of China, on Earth," Neelix repeats. "Who built it?"
Janeway humors him. "The Chinese." Ding ding!
Now we go into the lightning round. "What for?" Neelix asks.
If there's a reason for this line of questioning, Janeway hasn't figured it out yet. "Why does anybody build a wall? To keep people out." They reach the turbolift, enter. "Deck one," Janeway orders, and the ride begins.
"In fact," Neelix says like a wired Alex Trebek, about to impress the socks off the captain, "it was the first Q'in emperor--who connected the walls built by a previous dynasty. He did it to prevent an invasion by nomads to the north!"
Next, he asks the captain how big it is. Janeway can't hide her delighted smile, or keep the mirth from her voice. "I have a feeling you're going to tell me." She folds her arms and awaits the dissertation she knows is coming.
Neelix doesn't disappoint. "2,400 kilometers long, median width 3.8 meters. Before the 22nd century it was one of the only manmade objects that could be seen from Earth's orbit with the naked eye."
"Very impressive, Neelix!" Janeway says. "I had no idea you knew so much about my homeworld."
The turbolift opens on bridge. "Status?" she asks Chakotay, her mood still cheerful.
Rising from his seat, Chakotay reports. "We're on a course for the Class-Y cluster. We should be there in about three days."
Janeway keeps walking, heading for her ready room. "That gives us some time to relax. Carry on." She turns to Neelix. "Why this sudden interest in the Great Wall?" she asks, continuing the conversation as they go.
"I've been studying Earth landmarks. Mr. Paris and I have been exchanging a little cross-cultural trivia. He's become quite an expert on Talaxian geography." It warms my heart to hear it. Neelix needs someone who can appreciate his appreciation for his home world, especially as their journey takes them farther and farther from it.
Janeway tosses the PADD on the long stretch of couch by the window and takes a lounging seat herself. Neelix remains standing for some reason.
"All right," Janeway says, "here's one for you. What can you tell me about the Millennium Gate?"
Neelix doesn't disappoint. He doesn't have it down as cold as his Great Wall data, but he manages. "The Millennium Gate--constructed in the 21st century in the United States of America. It was another one of the objects that could be seen from orbit. Uh, 3.2 kilometers at the base. One kilometer in height. Surface covered with highly reflective solar panels. A self-contained ecosystem." Janeway almost laughs with delight, patting the padded couch like a good friend's knee.
Info dumps. A valid literary technique.
"It became a model for the first colony on Mars," she tells Neelix. "Did you know that one of my ancestors built it?"
"Really?" Neelix asks, taking a seat, eager to hear more.
Janeway leans toward him. "Not with a hammer and nails, but with words and a lot of courage. Shannon O'Donnell, one of the first woman astronauts--she was the driving force behind the project."
"That's something to be proud of."
Janeway rises from her seat, reaches for the nice teapot on the coffee table. Or is it coffeepot. It looks like whatever she's pouring is going into her lucky teacup. But maybe what makes it lucky is that it holds coffee--
Irrelevant. Right. My bad.
Janeway pours herself a cup of whatever and sits back down, enjoying the moment. "We were always told stories about her at family gatherings--'the first of a long line of Janeway explorers,' " she recites.
"Tell me more," Neelix says, with more sincerity than politeness requires--he's genuinely interested. "I want something to stump Mr. Paris with."
"Where to begin?"
"The Millennium Gate," Neelix suggests. "How did she get involved with that?"
Janeway thinks. "Well, at that time, she was still in the space program, but she'd also become something of an entrepreneur. I believe she was asked to join the project by the governor of Indiana. He wanted her expertise on recyclic life-support systems."
Janeway smiles as her mind drifts back to relive the memory. "The way my aunt Martha tells it they flew her in on a private aircraft."
This may confuse some people.
This isn't Janeway's memory.
This is history. As it really happened.
At least for the purposes of this episode.
Unless the good folks in Indiana are hiding something. (Any thoughts, Rosie from Terre Haute, IN?) Perhaps Indiana got the project when President Quayle was elected in November 2000.
The view of the bridge fades, refocusing onto a night scene. We see a woman, bundled up for winter in what look like thrift-store bargain khakis and a blue scarf; she looks an awful lot like Kathryn Janeway, only with redder hair. (Would I lie?)
She sits behind the wheel of a car that just might be older than she is; the windows are fogged, the heater is obviously not doing the job on its own. The coffee steaming from a blue plastic thermos cup and the gloved hands are another clue. A model of the old Apollo (don't hurt me if I'm wrong, please) moon lander hangs from the rear view mirror. Quite possibly, it came new with the car.
The woman presses the Record button on an old, hardcover-sized cassette recorder. She's alone in the vehicle, and from her blurry, half-lidded eyes I'd say she's talking as much to keep awake as anything.
"5:00 a.m., December 27, 2000. I'm in the great state of...Indiana, I think," she says, making a face. "I saw the world's largest ball of string this morning, and the world's largest beefsteak tomato this afternoon. It was the size of a Volkswagen--the string, not the tomato."
She takes another swig of coffee. Her tone is decidedly wistful. "At least Christmas is over." One suspects the tape recorder, the road, and the cashiers at Piggly Wiggly were her only companions that day.
The car chooses that moment to insert an editorial comment. It sputters, jostling the driver and her motley pile of stuff in the front seat. "Oh, no," the woman groans.
Fortunately, there's a town not too far ahead. "Portage Creek, Indiana," the billboard reads proudly, advertising itself as the "future home of the Millennium Gate."
* * *
It's light--more or less. The sky is a dull gray, exactly the color that a certain helmsman's eyes are not. We see a Christmas wreath speared by a giant Styrofoam candy cane, hanging next to a big white sign with red lettering, "Future Home of the Millennium Gate".
But as the camera pans down, we see little other than piles of snow and slush, a few cars, and the odd unlucky pedestrian trying not to slip on the sidewalk.
All things considered, the dawn of the third millennium looks pretty much the way it always does in the middle of winter. Bleak. It's days like this that Spring was invented to make up for. Even the banner looks dingy.
In the year 2000, we were once told, mankind would break free from the constraints of gravity and travel in personal air cars that would hover above the Earth. But here, in Indiana on the eve of the new Millennium, we see that most of the cars of the year 2000 were also the cars of the year 1980. Some even earlier. The only vehicles defying gravity are those driven by teenagers--and then only until their parents catch them at it.
Take that sputtering station wagon over there, making a left turn onto Main Street. It's got wood paneling, even. This is the redhead's car.
We move inside the vehicle, watch as she rolls down the window--by hand, none of that fancy-schmancy powered window stuff in this car--and looks for help. She sees an older man walking along the street and calls out to him.
"Excuse me. I think I made a wrong turn. Is there a Millennium Gate around here?"
"You're looking at it," the man in the blue jacket says, his voice like gravel.
"The sign said 'gas, food, lodging.' I need all three." Car and pedestrian pass sign after storefront sign, all with the same message: going out of business.
"You won't find any of that here. Get back on the Interstate and go to Exit Nine."
The woman checks her gas gauge. "I don't think I'm gong to make it."
"Good luck," the man says, turning the corner and waving goodbye.
"Tell me," she calls after him, "are people a little friendlier off Exit Nine?" (She must have got off at Exit Seven of Nine. That'll learn her.)
Not watching where she's going, she soon jolts forward as though she's struck something.
She has. An overripe-banana-yellow Datsun 240Z, circa 1979, complete with the aerodynamic grill over the rear window like black Levelor blinds.
Oh, no. Putting her sputtering car into Park right there in the middle of the road, she gets out. The guy she hits is brusque but not too rude--it's winter, accidents happen, it's cold out here, let's just get this over with and get back on the road.
"You stopped," the woman (whose hair is REALLY red in the light--yippee!) sighs. "You didn't," the man, in his mid-forties, replies off-handedly. "You got a pen?"
Ah. The exchange of information.
"I...I just didn't see you. I'm sorry. Are you okay?"
"Insurance?" he asks, not wanting to turn this into a relationship.
"Not really," she admits. Wrong answer. " 'Not really?" the man says, finally looking at her. "It ran out," she tells him, embarrassed.
The man sighs, checks out the rear bumper. It had been a very slow collision, five mph or less. "Oh, it's not too bad. 200 bucks ought to cover it," he says.
It might as well be a million. "200 bucks?"
"Let me guess--the money ran out, too." The woman's pitiable look says it all. He sighs, hands her back her pen, and takes off without another word, leaving the poor woman shivering from the cold . . . and from the cold shoulder.
She returns to her car.
It won't start.
She slaps the steering wheel with her hands, and her forehead soon follows.
Walking through the streets of this dead part of town, passing the posters extolling the virtues of the Millennium Gate ("Tomorrow's Metropolis Today!"), she finally finds one of the only still-open businesses. Alexandria Books. I like the sound of that.
Whatever street it's on, its address is 221, as we see in the window far above the woman's head as she enters the musty, decidedly non-corporate bookstore. Unlike the cookie-cutter mall-spawn bookstores where if you've been in one you've been in them all, this place is massive, several stories tall, made mostly of wood (and good wood at that), and reeking of bibliophilia.
This is the sort of bookstore one would expect to find Marion the Librarian, poring over scandalous books like Balzac to take with her back to Iowa to shock the knickers off the River City township. It's the sort of place you'd expect to find my parents, searching for first editions and Harold Bell Wright novels.
Forget 2000. This place could fit right in on New Years Eve 1900.
The woman pulls her gloves off, looks around. Business isn't exactly booming; even the bookworms are elsewhere. She finally looks up and sees an older gentleman, hair shock-white, cradling a mug of something steaming, and a boy in his late teens, on the second-floor balcony. Hi, she says. Hi, the boy says back; the older man says nothing.
"The sign said open?"
"Yes, that's right. Till 6:00," the man says formally, his voice a pleasant baritone. "Can we be of assistance?"
She looks like she could desperately use a friend. "It's cold outside, and I-I wondered if I could wait here."
"For what?" the man asks guardedly.
"For the tow truck. My car broke down. I'm trying to get to Florida." She smiles, doing her best to radiate the message, I won't be a bother, I promise.
The boy looks at her, then to the man. "She doesn't look like a corporate hit man."
"I assure you I'm not...at least not anymore," the woman replies neutrally. (Hmmm. Interesting response.)
The man makes his decision. "Well, in any case, she's unarmed and chilled to the bone." He chuckles, and heads for the spiral staircase, moving with relaxed confidence. The boy follows. "I think we can handle her. Zeus himself watched over the travelers. We should follow his example." Yup, he sounds like a guy who lives with books. Or Xena episodes. "Make yourself at home," he says, his tone far friendlier now.
The woman thanks him, removes her satchel and scarf, grateful for the chance to lighten her load and get warm. She even puts on a pair of horn-rimmed glasses to check out some of the books.
The man walks behind the counter. Sure enough, even the cash register is a pre-electric antique. "Where's your car?" He asks.
"Down the street, next to the coffee shop--or what used to be the coffee shop. It looks like this whole town is closed down!"
A cloud passes over the man's face. "It is." We see a poster hanging on a post, much smaller and less detailed than the ones on the street, also bearing the Millennium Gate's image--but with a different message: "Save Our Downtown."
"Except for you, huh?" the woman asks.
The boy smiles. "This ship will never sink. Right, Dad?"
Not a name, but a step in the right direction. The dad nods, and fills a white mug from a clear pot. There's no mistaking that liquid. "Decaf," he says apologetically, offering it to her. "Not exactly the nectar of the gods."
"It'll do. Thank you," she says gratefully, accepting the proffered cup.
She asks about the poster. "Preserving the past," says the man, who clearly loves the past.
Sesterces, dinars, and drachmas for money
Deseret's what they called bees who make honey
Gods on Olympus who complicate things--
These are a few of my favorite things
Plautus and Plato and Sappho were writers
Sulla and Caesar were furious fighters
There's no dispute what antiquity brings
History's one of my favorite things
When the phone rings
When the Web loads
Zeus gets really sad
I simply fall back on my favorite things
And life doesn't seem so bad
The young man breaks the ice. "I'm Jason, by the way." An Argonaut--nice touch.
The woman takes his outstretched hand. "Shannon O'Donnell," she says.
"I'm Henry...Henry Janeway." (No way--what's a Janeway doing serving decaf?) They also shake hands.
Now that all the names are in place…
"Hi," Shannon says. So, you're trying to get them to stop building this Millennium whatever-it-is?"
Jason speaks up. "The Millennium Gate--'the world's first self-sustaining civic environment.'" He sounds fascinated by the idea. But only as far as his dad will allow.
"That's what the propaganda calls it," Henry snorts. "But it's nothing but hype. It's actually a glorified shopping mall. They've talked all of my neighbors into selling their businesses. Only one thing stands in their way."
"You're the last holdout?" Shannon says, not finding it hard to guess.
"This time, Rome withstands the barbarians." And you know, he bears a striking resemblance to a Roman senator--classic attire, snow-white hair, boyish face, patrician bearing. He's old enough to be Shannon's older brother--a May/July romance as it were.
Shannon senses an opportunity. "I may be able to help you if you'd be willing to hire me."
"Believe me," Jason says, smirking, "you don't want to be licking stamps for the next three days." Shannon says it'd be a piece of cake on a computer. "Yeah, but my dad doesn't believe in computers. We don't even have one." He's a remarkably cheerful kid; one gets the clear sense that Jason is more rooted in the present and future than his father.
Shannon--she who owns little more than a car that's old enough to vote and a map of the United States--has a laptop computer in that thick leather bag of hers. She and Jason walk back over to the counter, and she unzips the satchel. "We can e-mail every computer within a hundred miles. It'll just take a few hours. It's easy." For his part, Jason seems glad to have the help, and the company.
But Henry Janeway is standing still, half a room away--and this is a large room. There is sadness and resolve in his voice. "I'm not hiring anybody right now. Besides, you're going to Florida."
There's something in his voice that chills the room. Shannon gets seriously timid; she zips her satchel back up, and the light that had been briefly in her eyes flickers out. "Uh...maybe the tow truck is waiting. Thanks for the coffee." You're welcome, Henry says, not unkindly but not exactly begging her to stay. Jason frowns with disappointment.
But Shannon doesn't make it all the way to the door. She has a choice--keep walking or risk further rejection.
She takes the risk. Shannon stops, turns around, takes a few tentative steps back inside the store. "I wouldn't ask you for a lot; just enough to fix the car. I really...I kind of need a job right now."
Jason looks at his dad. Can we keep her?
Henry Janeway doesn't put out the welcome mat, but he does open the door. "I suppose we could use some help." Jason beams, and Shannon sighs with relief and gratitude.
Shannon unzips the satchel again, pulls out the plug (what, not grounded?) She gives Henry a by-your-leave expression. "You do believe in electricity, don't you?" She asks.
Henry shakes his head, wondering what he's got himself into--then smiles.
Steve Young, good ol' Number 8, scrambles downfield for a nice pickup on the television screen. The guys in the bar high five each other and clank their beer mugs noisily between fistfuls of peanuts.
A waitress brings two frothy mugs of cold beer to the table beneath the "Buck's on Tap" sign and a Millennium Gate poster. On the table itself, the laptop glows, the image of the Save Our Downtown poster ready to email.
Henry Janeway, however, sticks with his trusty pad and pencil. I'm surprised he's not using quill pen and papyrus.
"So, who are these barbarians, anyway?" Shannon asks, after a heroic swig from her tankard of ale.
"It's a company down in Texas," Henry explains. (Radio Shack: the Future is Now.) Why here? Shannon asks. "The city fathers made it easy for them--free building permits, deferred taxes, new roads--so the invaders, they return the favor. They have offered us 20% above the market price for our properties. You know what the catch is? We've all got to sell."
Shannon smirks. "Everybody must love you."
Henry takes a drink. "Hmm, yeah. The people I knew when I was growing up--family, friends--it seems like they've all just turned against me. If this were Roman times, they'd feed me to the lions." This guy likes Rome a lot, I noticed. So why mention Zeus instead of Jupiter? Ah well, no big whoop.
"To the good old days," Shannon says, toasting him. Why not? He's picking up the tab.
"You know, I was born in the wrong millennium," Henry says. "I'll stick with the modern age," Shannon declares. Henry takes up the challenge. "The classical age--greatest literature mankind ever produced." Homer, Virgil, Cicero, Plautus, Aristophanes, Martial, Horace--
"No antibiotics," Shannon counters. But they weren't too shabby with herbal remedies.
"Families who'd take care of one another." The Roman paterfamilias had the legal right to kill or have killed anyone in his family who pissed him off, and daughters were often little more than barter to be used for marriages of convenience.
"No cars." But roads that probably rode smoother than half the interstates I've driven on in the summer--and no red construction cones.
"Air you can breathe." (Rome in the Summer was like New York City in the summer. There's nothing quite like the smell of hot urine in a crowded metropolis. Toss in the wood-burning stoves, open sewers, and horse-based transportation . . . I'll take carbon monoxide over methane any day.)
"No telephones," Shannon tries. "What a pleasure," Henry drawls.
"Shorter life spans." "Lives that were worth living." (Unless you were a slave, female, or poor.)
"No cold beer," Shannon declares, holding up her mug.
Henry smiles. "There, you got me." They toast. (Egyptians knew how to make beer and ice, though . . .)
Tastes great. Less filling.
"Speaking of the modern age," Henry says, "Do you have any plans for the Millennium Eve?"
"No different than last year's Millennium Eve. I plan to be asleep."
A darn shame. "Life of the party," Henry notes dryly.
"Oh, don't tell me you've bought into all that hype again?" There had been a Happy New Year banner inside the store, too large not to notice. "Oh, maybe just a little," Henry admits. Caesar invented what eventually became the modern calendar.
Here's where we put the fiction in science fiction. "Last year, when 2000 arrived? Everyone was convinced it was the dawn of a new era. But when the world didn't end and the flying saucers didn't land and the Y2K bug didn't turn off a single light bulb, you'd think everybody would have realized it was a number on a calendar." (I guess we'll know for sure about that Y2K bug in seven months or so. Not a single light bulb? I'll have to see that to believe it.)
Shannon continues after another quaff. "But, oh, no, they had to listen to all those hucksters who told them the real millennium was 2001." (Which it is. But 2000 is more exciting because the odometer rolls over. All those zeros are cool. And the Romans call it year MM, which makes those hard-shelled candies happy.)
"So this New Year's Eve will be as boring as last year." (One guess, though--she wasn’t unemployed last New Years Eve. Something in 2000 has been less than kind to Shannon O'Donnell.) Henry, realizing he's hit on a sore spot with her, says, "Come to think about it, I have sold an awful lot of doomsday books." (I'm sure Connie Willis is happy to hear it.) He smiles.
"So, what's in Florida?" he asks. "I have a cousin down there. I'll stay with her for a while until I can get back on my feet," she says.
"If you don't mind my asking, did you lose your job?"
"I'm in a transitional period," she says evasively. From what to what? he asks. "From what I was doing to what I'm going to do," she says, dancing around the issue.
She sips at her beer, eager to change the subject. "Your son tells me that your bookstore's belonged in your family for generations--that you've never done anything else." That's right, he says proudly. You know, she says, "I'm just the opposite. I love to see places I've never been, try new things...I'm kind of an explorer." We see a bit of that twinkle in her eyes return.
"Really? Hmm. That station wagon of yours doesn't exactly look like a sailing ship," he says. "It's a rocket ship," she tells him, smiling. He smiles in return. "My mistake."
The ground rumbles. The bar shakes like the end of the world is here. The sound of doom echoes loud in every ear. Henry and Shannon rush to the doorway, along with most of the patrons.
From Henry's perspective, it is the end of the world. Or the barbarians at the gate. Heavy equipment rolls through downtown, big, yellow, loud. Bulldozers, wrecking ball machines, industrial-grade dump trucks. They roll past the bar like the four Tonkas of the Apocalypse, the exhaust from their massive engines billowing into the already choking fog of winter's night, pierced only by the halogen headlights.
* * *
The next day. The fog has lifted. The lines across the screen and the text superimposed ("Live" in the upper left, "3 Action News" in the lower right, "News at Noon" in the lower-left) tell us we're watching a television broadcast.
A female reporter is outside, interviewing (thanks to the caption) "Gerald Moss, Millennium Gate Spokesman" as they walk past the wrecking balls and bulldozers and dump trucks and scaffolding of the soon-to-be-razed downtown. Each new civilization builds upon the ashes of that which came before.
Moss speaks. "We have every intention of breaking ground on Monday--Day One of the next millennium. The people of this town have given us their full cooperation."
"That's not true!" shouts a voice off camera. Moss takes it in stride--no doubt from long practice. "If you'll let me finish, Mr. Janeway. With the exception of Mr. Janeway here," he says, waving toward the source of the voice.
The reporter runs over, and the camera follows. "Mr. Janeway, would you like to comment?"
"Yes. Yes, I would. You--you just can't...you can't bulldoze this town away. This-this is our heritage! This is our past!"
"We're trying to give Portage Creek a future," Moss says off-screen. "Can't you see that?"
"Yeah, yeah," Janeway says, bringing both men in camera for a moment. "Your future! Your future! Not ours!"
The reporter gives a follow-up question. "Mr. Moss, we've heard you're considering moving the project to an alternate site. Can you shed any light on that rumor?"
"That's more than a rumor," Moss says with some regret--clearly he'd prefer to build here. "If we can't work out an arrangement in Portage Creek we must select another location."
"What city?" The reporter asks. No comment, Moss says. "Is it true that Canton, Ohio has been chosen for the alter--"
"Thank you for your time," Moss says, cutting her off.
Janeway reacts to this news. "That's that. All we have to do is stand firm till New Year's." He grins, his silvery hair reflecting the sunlight, basking in his moment of impending triumph.
"Easy for you to say," Jason says, pointing to a crowd milling beneath the scaffolding, glaring at the Janeways. "I have to go to school with their kids."
"Your school is one of the first places they're going to tear down," Henry reminds him. "They said they'd build a new one--a better one," Jason says, and he sounds like he'd like that.
Henry's good humor fades. "Whose side are you on?" Shannon stays out of the exchange, but she looks uncomfortable. Jason also reacts badly, going silent but with hurt in his eyes. Henry apologizes. "I'm sorry. We're all in this together. Come on. Let's head back to civilization." He claps his son on the shoulder and they walk back to the store.
Shannon stays behind, looking at Mr. Moss. He looks back.
Something passes between them. Awareness of each other. Recognition. Perhaps something more.
The library is dark. Real dark. But not in an ominous, madman-stalking-the-shelves kinda dark. More a cozy, timeless darkness that suits a well-stocked library.
In the darkness, Henry Janeway asks, "Where shall we dine tonight? How does Paris sound?" He opens a coffee table book, turns to a page filled with Parisians dressed for a night out, circa 1890. He places it on a cozy table for two, lit by two can-sized candles.
Shannon, wearing a thick woolen Irish turtleneck, beams. "It's Friday night. Can we get a reservation?"
"Well, I think I can arrange it. I know the maitre d'," Henry smiles.
"Too bad I don't speak French." "Well, we'll keep it to ourselves."
Henry pours the champagne. "There. To new friends."
"And a gracious host."
"Bon apetit," he says. They clink glasses.
"I wouldn't mind visiting Paris one day," Shannon admits. "Yes, it would be nice," Henry says. Shannon is surprised; "You haven't been?"
"I haven't been outside Indiana." He gestures to his books. "These are my traveling companions. They'll take me anywhere, anytime."
"It's not such a bad idea to experience the real thing every now and then."
"I prefer my books."
"Maybe you just never had the right guide."
Henry's eyes twinkle. "Is that an offer?"
Shannon's eyes shoot up, filled with surprise--and interest. Tellingly, she doesn't often look at Henry Janeway--but when she does, yowsa.
"I could make a similar argument," Henry continues. "Not such a bad idea to settle down every now and then."
Shannon's eyes sparkle. "Is that an offer?" Janeway does not react with shock; he only nods and smiles. But is he smiling because of her snappy comeback, or because she's hit the mark and it really is an offer?
Either way, she finds this silver-haired fox quite charming. She breaks off a piece of crusty bread, and leans back against a shelf filled with used tomes. "You're a peculiar man, Mr. Janeway--cloistered away with all your books...Shutting out the world..." She breaks off a finger full of bread and takes a teasing bite.
"Any more peculiar than exploring the Midwest in an ailing station wagon?" Smiling, he takes a bite of bread himself.
Shannon laughs--a genuine giggle that one suspects comes too rarely to her. "Only slightly." Time for a segue. "Any word on my car?" she asks, her eyes averted.
"It's got a brand-new oil pan," he says. She's good to go.
Shannon exudes a touch of apprehension. "You forgot to tell me that," she says quietly, not looking at him.
Henry smiles warmly. "Well, we were busy today. It's parked behind the garage--whenever you're ready."
"First thing in the morning," she promises. Eyes still down.
"Not so fast," Henry says, pouring on the charm. "Jason told me you promised to show him a few tricks on the computer."
Is Shannon hesistant because she doesn't want to overstay her welcome, or because she really does want to leave? Maybe both. But this offer is accepted gratefully. "I could use another day of rest," she admits.
"Great. Jason will be pleased."
Shannon looks up at Henry Janeway. Just Jason? She doesn't dare ask.
She doesn't need to. There is something in her eyes that is all Henry needs to continue. "And when you're done with him perhaps we'll take a stroll along the Boulevard St. Germain."
Shannon smiles guardedly. "You're making it difficult to say good-bye."
Henry gazes at her, exuding fondness. "Maybe that's the idea."
Shannon looks up in shocked for a second time. Then looks away. Then looks up with somewhat more warmth. Then she smiles--softly at first, but that soon gives way to a grin that lights up her face.
Just in case you arrived late and were wondering if Kate Mulgrew was starring in the Thursday Movie of the Week again, we cut to the present. I mean the future.
Whatever. We see the Millennium Gate on the big screen in Astrometrics. An aerial view from a date unknown, but it's the real thing, as built in Portage Creek, Indiana. An inset screen gives the technical specifications of the thing. It's an impressive construct, smack down in the middle of prime farmland. The base is laid out like an octagonal pizza, with what look like eight tunnels leading into a massive complex which pierces the heavens like a miles-high Cross Pen. The tip is even gold. A modern colossus whose shadow extends for miles--from orbit, it must appear as the ultimate planetary sundial.
The truly impressive thing is, this is not a static image. Janeway pans and scans, zooms, performs virtual flybys. The polished-mirror surface of the gate even changes as the camera moves, the reflection altering appropriately. Terrific effect. One might almost be tempted to invest in the Texas company responsible for it.
Captain Kathryn Janeway stares at it, going in for a more detailed look than she's probably had in years, if ever.
Seven of Nine enters Astrometrics. "You wished to see me, Captain?"
"I need your help with this--the Millennium Gate."
"Impressive," says the not-easily-impressed Seven.
"It was built by one of my ancestors over 300 years ago. I've been digging through the historical database but a lot of the information from that era has been lost or damaged. I thought you might be able to help me reconstruct some of it."
Seven hesitates a little. "Is this relevant to our present mission?"
"It's relevant to me," Janeway says.
Seven is still confused. "This ancestor of yours is 15 generations removed. You only possess a small fraction of her genetic material. Insignificant."
Janeway smiles patiently. "This isn't about chromosomes, Seven. It's about character." Explain, Seven asks. Janeway does. "Shannon O'Donnell inspired me when I was a girl. She had a...an influence on my imagination...on my goals."
Seven considers this. "I never realized genealogy could have such an impact."
Janeway stares at the big screen. "I wouldn't have become a Starfleet Captain if it wasn't for her."
That's a big if. It also raises some questions.
What if her digging reveals that Shannon isn't who Aunt Martha believes her to be? What if the historical Shannon O'Donnell didn’t live the sort of life that normally influences goals or imagination? What if Captain Janeway discovers that what brought Shannon to Portage Creek was not an airplane paid for by the governor, but a half-dead Chevy station wagon with a leaky oil pan?
Foreshadowing . . .
(Thanks to Marianne, my Canadian source, for making this available and for her effort transcribing this. Any errors in visual interpretation are my own.)
Paris and Neelix enter the mess hall, clearly in another cultural exchange session. "The temple of Artemis at Ephesus..." Neelix says.
"That's four," Tom says.
[Ding! I'll take Seven Wonders of the World for $500, Alex . . . ]
They pass Seven of Nine, who is seated. "The colossus at Rhodes..." Neelix guesses next.
"No. No. In chronological order."
"Right. Uuuuuuh, the mausoleum of Halicarnassus. The
colossus at Rhodes."
Paris pours himself some coffee. "That leaves just one more."
Neelix scrunches up his face. "The seventh wonder of the ancient world is . . ."
The clock ticks. The audience fidgets, warned not to shout out the answer. Or the question. Whichever.
Time's up. Neelix grows slightly agitated. "I can't remember."
Tom takes a sip of the brew. Bitter.
Seven looks like she wants to play.
"Oh, it's right on the tip of my tongue!" Neelix says. "It...uh…Forget it, I give up!"
Tom looks smug. "Ha! I got you. It's the--" Now it's his turn to scrunch up his face. "Uh…"
"You can't remember?" Neelix asks.
Seven can't stay silent a second longer. "The lighthouse at Alexandria. Built
by Ptolemy the Second in 280 BC."
Neelix and Paris whirl on her. Not fair. Paris grumbles. "Behold the wonder of the modern world. Borg photographic memory." He rolls his eyes, and suggest to Neelix that they call it a draw.
Tom heads off, but Neelix sticks around to talk with Seven.
"Brushing up on Earth's history?" Neelix asks.
"Captain Janeway requested that I research one of her ancestors."
Neelix leans in, checks out the name on her terminal screen. "Shannon O'Donnell!"
"You've heard of her?"
"Who hasn't?" Neelix says. "You mind if I lend a hand?" If you wish, Seven says.
Neelix takes a seat next to Seven and picks up one of the PADDS. But there is no Janeway reference here. "Sven 'Buttercup' Hanson," he reads.
"He was one of my progenitors," Seven explains. "A 22nd-century prizefighter. The
captain encouraged me to investigate my genealogy as well."
"Well, your ancestors can tell you a lot about yourself."
"Somehow, I doubt 'Buttercup' has much relevance to me." Neelix disagrees. "The connection could be deeper than you think." He gives one example. "Sven / Seven."
"A coincidence," Seven says.
"The point is there's some of him in you. Just as there'll be some of you in your descendants."
Seven lets that sink in. "If I choose to procreate," she corrects him.
"Well, I wouldn't dismiss it so lightly. Someday you may enjoy a little 7 of 9.5 running around." Neelix laughs at his own joke . . . but it dies when he absorbs the full impact of her Borgish glare. "Or not. Or not."
Seven looks discouraged. "My research has failed. I have found no reference to this individual." She has that let's-get-medieval-on-the-computer look on her face.
Neelix tries to encourage her to continue. "Well, genealogy's a lot like fishing. You've ... You've got to cast a wide net. Uh, Computer, expand record search for subject Shannon O'Donnell to include non-Federation databases, personal archives and
photographic indexes as well."
Fortunately, Voyager has some major storage space. Even without the storage capacity of the Federation's vast memory complexes to rely on, Voyager's own copies have data storage out the nacelles.
Sure enough, a few seconds later, the computer chirps. Reference found.
"Take a look at this," Neelix says to Seven.
"Shannon Janeway," Neelix says with a flourish, pulling up "Database 2197" It's a family portrait, early 21st century, showing an elderly woman surrounded by her happy family on a beautiful outdoor day.
Janeway gasps with delight. "Where in the world did you find this?"
"A Ferengi database," Neelix says. Ferengi? Janeway repeats, amazed. Neelix elaborates. "11 years ago, one of their historians collected massive amounts of data about the origin of space travel in the Federation. He wanted to market it as a nostalgic gift item."
Janeway beams, still gazing wonderingly at the photo. "I would have been his first customer."
"It's a handsome family, Captain," Neelix says.
"These must be her sons and daughters...Grandchildren...Great-grandchildren," Janeway breathes. The family resemblance is uncanny, in both the O'Donnell and Janeway lines.
"I've also discovered journalistic accounts in the historical archives--mostly articles concerning resistance to the Millennium Gate," Seven of Nine reports.
"The whole town was against her," Janeway says, repeating the history as handed down from mother to daughter and aunt to niece, as yet unreminded of the truism that ignorance is bliss.
"Download this image for me, will you, Neelix? I'm going to frame it."
As we hop back into the Wayback Machine . . .
The television is on again at the sports bar, and it's news hour. "The citizens of Canton, Ohio greeted Millennium Gate representatives with a small parade today. Canton is one of three alternate sites now being considered by Gate officials. Vowing not to bow to pressure, Henry Janeway, owner of Portage Creek's Alexandria Books, says he has no intention of closing down. [I'm] Marcy Collins, Channel Three News."
The scene shifts from the television to one of the tables away from the bar, where Shannon O'Donnell pores over a map of the continental United States, plotting the next leg of her journey.
Mr. Moss enters, coming down the steps and stopping at Shannon's table. He waves his hand with a flourish. "Next stop, Mars!"
It gets her attention.
"I used to be in media relations with NASA," he explains. "As I recall, your class came up with that slogan." Shannon nods. (So she was an astronaut . . . or came close.)
"Do you mind?" he asks, pointing to a chair at her table. She says nothing but shakes her head, so he takes the adjoining seat.
"It's a shame you didn't make the cut," Moss says sympathetically. "Not good enough, I guess," Shannon says, unable to keep the pain from her voice. "Do you still keep in touch with any of the others?" he asks. No, she admits.
"I do. In fact, I made a few calls last night. Remember Lieutenant McMillan?" How's she doing, Shannon asks. "Copilot on a joint mission with the Europeans--scheduled for '03. Four months on the space station."
Shannon gets a wistful look. "Not bad for a girl with claustrophobia."
"She got over it," Moss says pointedly. "Sorry to hear about your last job. All this downsizing in aerospace...engineers aren't given the respect they deserve."
Shannon's temper flares. "Who told you I lost my job?
"I made a few calls. You don't have to live like this--borrowing money, sleeping in your car..."
"You've got no business checking up on me." Like her eventual descendant, the shorter Shannon O'Donnell's fuse, the quieter her voice gets.
"Actually, I do. We run a history on all our . . . candidates."
Shannon blinks. "Are you trying to make me some kind of an offer?"
Moss cuts to the chase. "We know you've been working closely with Henry Janeway. He'll listen to you."
Shannon looks disappointed. She'd hoped to be offered a job on her own merits, not as leverage against the last holdout. "Oh. You want me to talk to him--get him to change his mind."
"If you can."
"And in return?"
"We'd give you a job--make you a consulting engineer on the project. You certainly have the credentials."
Shannon doesn't answer right away. "Well?" Moss prompts.
"I'll think about it," she says at last.
Moss rises to leave. "Think quickly. We can't wait another thousand years."
He leaves her with the thought. It's almost like Doc Hollywood. Or a reverse Odyssey--the Fates are aligning to keep Shannon O'Donnell "home" in Portage Creek.
Put that way, Henry Janeway might even approve.
* * *
Mission Control: Roger that--and go ahead.
Neil Armstrong: That's one small step for man...one giant leap for mankind.
The historic footage of the first moon landing is the last thing Shannon O'Donnell remembers as she awakens, neck-deep in hand-made Midwest comforter. The would-be explorer dreams of the stars, but awakens in the same bed for the third straight day, in the house of a man who has never left the confines of his own state--and quite possibly the county.
She looks haunted. Haunted by a dream growing ever further from her reach. By a life that didn't turn out the way she expected. By a journey that once seemed headed for the stars, but now consists of nursing a four-wheeled condo from one gas station to the next.
And haunted by the alternative: meaningful work and companionship in the same place, year after year, perhaps for the rest of her life.
Dressed, Shannon hears the sound of keys clicking. She reaches the head of the stairs to find Jason sitting in a comfy chair with her laptop. "Morning," Jason says, noticing her. "I didn't think you'd mind. You have some great games on this."
She asks if he tried the Matrix of Doom, and gives him the key to making it past level six. "Cool," he says, and offers to get her some coffee.
"Where is your father?" Bloomington, Jason says. "The suppliers in town are boycotting us so he went up there to place some orders." Shannon is surprised that Henry Janeway would leave the store in his son's charge, but Jason doesn't seem to mind. He even handles the books, because Dad's better at history and literature than accounting.
"You have any kids?" Jason asks. He seems to suspect that if all goes well, he might be calling this woman Mom any day now. Nope, Shannon says. Jason frowns slightly. "Not a priority?"
"I wouldn't say that. I just never got around to it." As long as we're on personal subjects, "If you don't mind me asking...where's your mom?" She died, Jason says. "I was really young. I don't remember her much." He puts his best face on. "Dad says none of the great heroes grew up in a nuclear family. Hercules, Achilles, Odysseus...they all grew up with single parents."
"You're in good company," Shannon says, smiling with understanding.
They discuss the Millennium Gate a little. Jason thinks it'd be "pretty cool." She tells him about the defining moment of her childhood: the moon landing, "one small step for man," and all that. The whole world watched it, she says. One gets the feeling she grew up with that dream, to be watched by the whole world.
"Do you have any heroes?" Shannon asks. Jason smirks. " 'We are not living in a heroic age.' That's what my dad says." But at Shannon's prompting, he does come up with a name. "Dad. I mean, he's a pain sometimes, but...he's pretty cool."
Sound like anyone we know?
The phone rings, and just Jason answers. "Alexandria books. May I help you?" A pause. "That's all right." He hangs up, then shrugs helplessly. "First call in three days and it's a wrong number."
Shannon and Jason share a bit of gallows humor.
The Action 3 News has a camera stationed outside Alexandria Books. This is the place where the future--for Portage Creek, anyway--will rise or fall based on what is decided behind this establishment door. It captures Henry Janeway entering at 12:10:50 to go before the new millennium begins.
Henry enters the bookstore with a cardboard box in hand. "Glorious Hector, son of Priam, slips past the Greek front lines bringing much-needed supplies to the embattled city of Troy."
Jason grabs the newspaper off the top. "Hey, Dad--you're famous." Shannon reads the headline. " 'Local Business Owner Topples Gate.' "
"Let it fall," Henry says. "Any customers this morning?"
"No one here but us galliforms," Jason says. "That's chickens for the nonscientists in the crowd," Shannon adds.
"You two are dangerous together," says Henry Janeway, who has no idea how true that is. "Portage Creek will thank us one day. You don't sacrifice history for a shopping mall."
"It's a little more than that, Henry," Shannon says. I beg your pardon? Henry asks. "I said it's not just a mall." Henry Scoffs; "Have you read the promotional literature? 'Over 600 retail spaces available. Franchise potential.' " Mallenium [sic] Gate--coolness.
"There's a commercial dimension to the project," Shannon concedes, "but that's not its only function." What's your point? Henry demands. "I've learned a few details about the Millennium Gate. It's a self-sustaining city, an experimental biosphere. It's never been done before!"
"What's wrong with the biosphere we're living in now?" Henry asks. Nothing, Shannon says. Exactly, Henry says. (What, no "Earth in the Balance"? I guess Gore didn't win in 2000. Better luck next time, Ozone dude.)
"But this project will help scientists learn more about our environment--possibly even recreate it on other worlds," Shannon points out.
"Other worlds--don't we have enough problems on the one we're on?" (Hmm. Maybe Gore did win.)
"Yeah. Which is why I'd like to get the hell off it one day." (Yup. Definitely. Definitely Gore.)
"I think you're taking this exploring a little too far," Henry teases.
"And you're so afraid of change you can barely walk out that front door!"
Henry glares, grabs a handful of books, and moves to the shelves.
Shannon follows. "The Millennium Gate has a lot of potential, Henry. You just can't see it. All you can see are these books. You're livin' in the past!"
"Sounds like you've been sleeping with the enemy," Henry accuses half-jokingly across the Penguin Classical library.
Shannon shrugs. "Having a beer, anyway."
His face darkens. "Moss."
Shannon nods. "He offered me a job."
"On the Millennium Gate," Henry guesses.
"I said I'd think about it."
Henry's voice rises. "And he said, 'get Janeway to sign on the dotted line and you're hired'?" Shannon folds her arms defensively. "That's...one way of looking at it."
"And when I say No, then what? You're going to go with them, right? To Canton, Ohio, or the Third Circle of Hell, or wherever it is they decide to build this damn thing!" He moves off to the far end of the store, nestled in the bosom of his books, putting maximum distance between himself and Shannon O'Donnel.
"I can't keep living out of my car," Shannon whispers, voice choked, her back to Henry.
"You don't have to. Stay here." Not exactly a proposal for the ages, and Shannon expectedly says No. Why not, he demands; because I can't, she says. That's not a reason, he says.
"Because I don't want to!" It finally comes out. She didn't mean for it to happen, but it's out.
She turns to him, closing the distance. "You've been really nice to me, Henry--but I can't get stuck here."
" 'Stuck'? Like me?" Shannon shakes her head. "I didn't say that. You can live however you want to."
Oh, man, you poor woman. You just messed with the wrong man. "And so can you," Henry says, handing her the empty satchel, the symbol of their relationship--the fuller and more closed it is, the closer she is to leaving.
It was pretty much barren until now.
But it doesn't stay that way for long. By the time Jason enters the room to find out what all the loudness is about, the satchel is well on its way to reaching capacity.
"What's going on?"
"We're helping our guest resume her journey," Henry says.
"But I thought you were staying here for a while."
"Something came up," Shannon says softly, unable to look at either Janeway as she puts the last of her things into the bag while Janeway holds it.
"And we can manage by ourselves," Henry assures his son. He casts a mocking glance at Shannon. "I guess saying good-bye isn't that difficult after all."
Ooooh. So that's where Kathryn Janeway got her skunk eye. The original O'Donnell Glare o' Pain is a beaut. Shannon holds the gaze long enough to burn J-E-R-K on Henry's forehead, then exits without another word. Apparently saying goodbye was harder than he thought.
Jason, furious, follows her out the door.
"Jason," Henry calls after him. "Jason, where you going?" Aunt Pat's, Jason says coldly. "Happy New Year."
The Countdown to Midnight catches Shannon, then Jason exiting in a hurry, followed by Henry Janeway, who shouts after them.
At 12:07:47 to midnight, The Lone Holdout is more alone than ever.
The crew is still in Vacation Mode. It's apparently ship's night, because most of the senior staff is here. Chakotay and Torres and Doc are the exceptions. But Neelix, Paris, Kim, and Seven are here to keep Janeway company.
They're in a good mood.
Harry's speaking. "It was around 2210. My uncle Jack was on a deep space mission to Beta Capricus."
"That's when 'deep space' meant the next star over," Tom jokes, provoking mild laughter.
"And that was when they still had to go into stasis." (Some might dispute this--Zefram Cochrane discovered warp in 2060 or so, right?) "So Jack put his crew under as soon as they left orbit and piloted the ship by himself for six months."
"No contact with anybody along the way?" Neelix gasps.
"There wasn't anybody along the way. Not back then. The transmitter wasn't even subspace. It took weeks to get a message back to Earth."
"I would prefer stasis," Seven confesses. (Well, perhaps that's why they did it, even in the post-warp, pre-subspace age.) Paris agrees. "That long alone, I'd probably go a little batty."
Kim continues. "So, six months to Beta Capricus--and when they finally arrive...there's nothing there." No planets? Neelix asks. "No. No star, no nothing. It turns out Beta Capricus was just an E.M. echo of a distant galaxy." SNAFU.
"What was his course of action?" Seven asks.
"What else could he do? He turned the ship around and headed home."
Janeway is fascinated. "And the crew?"
"He figured there was no reason to bother them. There's nothing to see, nothing to do. So, six months later he gets back to Earth, brings everybody out of stasis, and they wake up wondering why they haven't left orbit." The ready room erupts in laughter. Even Seven smirks.
The reverie is interrupted when the door chimes. The Doctor enters. "Oh. I didn't realize you were in a briefing," he says apologetically.
"Not at all. We're talking about our family histories," Janeway says.
"Oh. This can wait," he says, waving the PADD. Doc hesitates. "May I...join you?"
"Please," says Janeway, sitting up from her power-lean position on the couch. Tellingly, he takes the cushion next to Janeway, opposite Seven of Nine. I note some definite tension on that front--the awkward looks, etc. Maybe there's hope for them yet.
"I, too, come from a distinguished line," Doc says. Paris can't help himself; "His cousin's an electric shaver." Everyone laughs.
Except Seven of Nine, who launches herself at the romance-busting helm boy. "You ruined my life!" she yells, smashing his head again and again against--
Wait. Sorry. Typo. My bad.
Doc sniffs. "Hardly. My program was compiled from the most advanced holo-matrices in the Federation. My cousin was a prize-winning chess program." And with the combined medical knowledge of the Federation, he's got quite a medical pedigree.
"Ensign Paris," Seven says, "you have yet to elaborate on your family origins." Imagine that. Tom thinks. "Well, they were a pretty ordinary bunch, salt-of-the-earth type people. Farmers, mostly. Some planetary colonists..." Then his face lights up. "But there was one--he was a pilot. He flew the first orbital glider over the lower Martian plateau."
Neelix perks up over the Mars reference. "Your ancestor must have known the Captain's!"
Janeway leans toward Tom. "She did work on all the early Mars projects. Looks like we go way back, Mr. Paris," she says, beaming.
Paris takes a swig of coffee. "What was her name?" Shannon O'Donnell, she says. Tom thinks. "O'Donnell . . . Um--I don't think so."
"What do you mean?" the captain asks, blinking.
"Well, I know all the Mars projects from the 1970s on--unmanned, manned, who's who...there were no O'Donnells in any of them."
Janeway's face is a mask. But it's not hard to figure out what she's thinking.
* * *
Hello, I'm Robert Picardo, challenging you to design your own colony on Mars. If you're between kindergarten and twelfth grade, you can join the Mars Millennium project. Your mission: to imagine how 100 people would live, work and play on Mars in the year 2030. To find out how to participate, go to this website. www.mars2030.net. tell your teacher. Tell your friends. And start thinking about your colony on mars.
For more information, call the Planetary Society. 1-800-WOW-MARS
* * *
Chakotay enters the captain's ready room to find Janeway reading an old article about Henry Janeway, the Last Holdout of Portage Creek.
"Ship's status report," he says, handing Janeway the PADD.
"Let me guess. The holographic engineer is having problems with her program; Neelix, the Cardassian cook, is low on supplies; Seven of Twelve is regenerating and Captain Chakotay is doing just fine."
Chakotay laughs softly, and Janeway smiles, though wearily. "Just wondering how they'll piece together our lives a few hundred years from now," she explains.
"Depends on how big the pieces are," he says reasonably. I'm sure Doc would agree--700 or so years from now, on a planet they left behind over a year ago.
"A PADD here, a Captain's Log there, maybe a couple of holodeck programs." Oh, heaven help them -- Captain Proton could be the standard by which the 24th century is judged. "It won't be as much to go on as we might think," she says.
The captain points to her terminal. "I've gone through dozens of histories written about 21st century Earth. All of them biased in one way or another. The Vulcans describe First Contact with a 'savagely illogical' race. Ferengi talk about Wall Street as if it were holy ground." I suspected as much. "The Bolians express dismay at the low quality of human plumbing." (Too funny.) "And human historians--exact same story. Every culture saw it a different way."
Well, what with the Big Wars and Bell Riots and sudden entry into the galactic community and all, I can sorta see why.
Janeway continues. "So I go back to the raw material--birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates, census surveys, voter registration forms, housing records, medical, employment...court records. It's all fragmented and incomplete."
"So...did she exist?" Chakotay asks.
Janeway sighs. "Her name was Shannon O'Donnell. She did train to be an astronaut...but she didn't finish. She was an engineer...but never worked on the Mars missions."
"Did she work on the Millennium Gate?"
Janeway's disappointment is palpable. "Only as a consultant."
"What about all the opposition you spoke of? You said she fought to get the project underway."
"There was no opposition. In fact, the Millennium Gate was greeted with open arms by the local population...Except for one man." She turns the terminal around for Chakotay to read, which he does. "Henry Janeway."
Janeway smiles weakly. "She married him...and changed her name, but she certainly never changed history." Maybe not the way she thought, anyway.
Chakotay smiles kindly. "Don't be too hard on her. She may not have known she was supposed to live up to your expectations."
The captain waves. "Oh, I'll get over it. But the question is: when we get back to Earth, how will I break the news to Aunt Martha?" She makes a face to make it seem like not that big a deal.
On cue, Chakotay laughs, ever the dutiful first officer.
But he's not convinced.
With less than three hours to go, Henry Janeway still refuses to cooperate with Millennium Gate representatives. I'll return with live updates as midnight approaches. Marcy Collins, Channel Three News.
And now back to our regularly scheduled program, the television screen reads, before switching to a basketball game.
Shannon and Moss sit at the bar. "I don't suppose there's any chance he'll change his mind," Moss asks. "By midnight? Doubtful," Shannon says, resting her chin on her left hand, which is resting on the bar.
Moss sighs sadly. "Then it looks like we'll have to scrub the launch. At least where Portage Creek is concerned." He shakes his head. "It's a shame how one ignorant man can stand in the way of progress."
"It's not that simple," Shannon says, defending Henry Janeway with more vigor than either of them expected.
"Henry's a very likable guy," Moss agrees, "but he's playing for the wrong team. He's looking back. This town needs people who look towards the future."
"Well, while you're looking forward, I'll be driving to Florida," Shannon says. She hops off the barstool and grabs her coat and satchel.
"Wait a minute. I'm not about to turn a fellow explorer out into the cold."
"I didn't hold up my end of the bargain."
"If we didn't think you had something to add to this project we never would have made the offer in the first place." Shannon looks at him, grateful for that. "Henry Janeway's pigheadedness doesn't change that. We could still use your help--just not here."
Moss stands up as well, searches his pockets, and then hands her a card. "My associate in Canton. I'll tell him you're on the way. He'll find a place for you." Shannon takes it noncommittally.
Jason appears, shouting Shannon's name. "It's Dad."
"See you in Ohio?" Moss says, then leaves. He's got press to talk to, bad news to relate.
Shannon focuses on Jason. "He won't leave the shop," Jason says. "There's all these people outside. The police are there!"
"Your father can take care of himself," Shannon says, not looking at him.
"Please, won't you talk to him? He'll listen to you!"
"No, he doesn't, Jason." She heads for the door, putting on her scarf.
"Where are you going? And what's this about 'I'll see you in Ohio'?"
"Ohio...Florida..." Shannon's still not sure.
Jason stops her. "What's wrong with this place?"
"It didn't work out."
Jason stops her again. "I thought you liked us." I do, Shannon says. "Then why are you leaving?" he pleads.
"I'm sorry." With that, Shannon leaves.
On the road again . . .
I'm going places that I've never been
"December 31, 2000. 11:15 p.m. I've got 95 miles of interstate before I have to decide whether I head east or south--but those 95 miles won't be uneventful. My guidebook tells me I'm not too far from Leonardo da Vinci's last supper...recreated entirely in corn."
Oh, come on, woman--how could you leave that behind?
She passes the billboard: Now leaving Portage Creek. [Don't forget to set your watch forward 20 years.]
"The last few days have been memorable, to say the least," Shannon tells her tape recorder. "I met Henry Janeway. Interesting man. Liked to talk. Unfortunately, he doesn't listen to anybody but himself."
Shannon's tone changes. Softens. Grows wistful. "He gave me a place to stay, though...and we had dinner...in Paris, no less. He has a son. Good kid. Bright, like his father."
Shannon stops recording. She reaches into her satchel and pulls out a large chocolate-chip cookie and takes a healthy bite.
The next thing we see, the Rocket Ship station wagon is pulling up to the street outside Alexandria Books. There is a large crowd there. Some of the mob is restless. The police are there to maintain order.
The sign, "Future Home of the Millennium Gate," is still up.
The media is there as well, interviewing Mr. Moss. Midnight is fast approaching.
"I personally don't regret a single day I've spent in this lovely town," Moss tells the reporter, "and I want to thank you all for the encouragement and support."
"Would you consider extending your deadline?" the reporter asks.
"I'm afraid that's not possible. We'd like to express our deepest regrets to the town of Portage Creek and on behalf of…"
Moss notices Shannon, who is at the yellow tape but being held back by a young officer. "Excuse me." He walks over to the line. The reporter orders the camera to follow, as Moss orders the officer to let Shannon O'Donnell through.
Well, she wanted the world focused on her at the dawn of a new age. This may not be global, but all eyes in Portage Creek are certainly trained on her as she wades through the falling snow and the milling crowd, past Moss and Jason Janeway who pump a whole lot of support at her, and into the door.
Of course, she also hoped to spend New Years Eve alone in bed, asleep. I guess you can't have everything, can you?
Sometimes you just have to choose.
Shannon O'Donnell hesitates for only a moment. Then, with a deep breath, she prepares to cross the threshold from the future into the past.
Because the question of the past or the future depends on the present. Of which there's only about ten minutes remaining. Either way, when the clock strikes midnight, Portage Creek's destiny is set.
* * *
Henry Janeway sorts books on the upstairs shelves by candlelight, an old romantic to the end.
He hears the knocking at the door. "We're closed," he shouts.
"It's me!" Shannon shouts back.
"I said, we're closed."
"That's not what the sign says."
Tentatively, Henry Janeway descends the spiral staircase.
"Damn it, Henry, it's cold out here!"
"Who's with you?" he asks. "Nobody but us galliforms," she shoots back.
"Thought you'd be in Ohio by now," he says, opening the door. Shannon shoots across the threshold and lunges for the nearest source of heat. "Car break down again?" He turns on the lights.
And notices Shannon reaching for his overcoat. "What the hell are you doing?"
"Get your things. We're leaving," Shannon says, with a rare steel in her voice. Dealing with Henry Janeway must have that effect on people. Get mad, get lost, or get tough. She thrusts the coat into Henry's arms.
Henry throws the coat on the ground. "I'm not going anywhere."
"Do I have to drag you out the front door?"
"You can try. I won't leave."
"Then I'll have to ask you to leave." The lights go out. They argue by candlelight.
"Half the town is out there! You're on the news. Maybe you'll go down in history! You have made your point."
"Obviously, I haven't, because if I had you wouldn't ask me to sign my life away!"
"Maybe If you'd looked up from your books once in a while you'd see what's in front of you!"
Henry runs further into the store with each rejoinder, but Shannon matches him step by step, argument by counterargument.
"Oh, please, no more speeches about the future."
"As long as I don't have to hear you pontificate about the past."
"It's a deal. Glad we had this chat. Good-bye."
"It's almost midnight, Henry!"
"Exactly. I've won."
"What have you won? The right to hide behind these shelves for the rest of your life?"
"It's worked so far."
Shannon goes for the death blow. "Well, it isn't working for your son...or this town...or me."
Henry tries one last time to hide in his books. "Look, I know you've got a job to do--" This isn't about the job, Shannon insists. "Then why are you here?"
One gets the impression that they're arguing past each other. Someone needs to find a breakthrough. Common ground. Other than candlelight, the only illumination is the flashing red of the police lights. Not unlike Red Alert.
"It was the cookies."
Shannon does what she can to explain. "I was on the interstate...I stopped for gas, and I bought a bag of chocolate chip cookies at a convenience store. It's a little ritual of mine. Whenever I get back on the highway I like to treat myself."
"I see. Well, uh...what does this have to do with--anything?"
"They didn't taste good, Henry. It wasn't the same. I just kept thinking about you and how I wish you'd been there."
"Actually, I prefer oatmeal cookies," Henry says. "I'm allergic to chocolate." But he's smiling--she came back for him. Maybe.
"Oh, you don't know what you're missing," Shannon says. "It's been a long time...but I'm starting to feel like maybe I found a place where..."
The words aren't coming out the way she'd like. So she just says it. "I'd like to stick around for a while with you and Jason."
"And we'd like to have you."
Whew. That's the hard part. They've gotten past the shouting.
Shannon continues. "But I can't work in a bookstore for the rest of my life! I've been given a second chance, Henry, and I can't lose that. I'm stuck in the future. You're stuck in the past."
She smiles gamely. "But maybe we could...get unstuck in the present."
Henry stammers. She did the unthinkable--offered to meet him halfway. "I...I don't see how with-without sacrificing my..."
"You know, Mr. Moss offered me a job in Canton, even though I failed to keep up my end of the bargain." Shannon smiles. "I guess he felt sorry for me. But I'm prepared to turn him down...if you want me to stay with you."
Henry's mouth goes dry. "I suppose I could...reopen my shop in that monstrosity you want to build."
"Well, I have a few connections. I could probably get you a nice remote location so nobody would bother you." She smiles.
Henry smiles too. "Not much profit in that. You sure you won't drive away again?"
"No," Shannon confesses. "But if I do, we'll make the trip together."
Not much shouting anymore. The two grin like teenagers.
Their future is set.
Then they remember. "What time is it?" Henry asks.
Shannon checks her watch. "A minute to midnight!"
"Then we're not too late."
Channel 3 Action News catches it all live. The pretty redhead exits the bookstore, followed shortly by the Last Holdout. He reaches for the Open sign and pointedly, flips it over. CLOSED.
The crowd breaks out into cheers, a united community once again.
The new millennium, and the Millennium Gate, begin on a joyful note.
They're too cheerful to worry about the traditional New Years anthem.
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
We'll drink a cup of kindness then
For auld lang syne
Alone in her quarters, Janeway, jacket off, in her gray long-sleeved shirt, sits in a darkness that is matched by the darkness in her mood. Her discoveries about Shannon O'Donnell clearly bother her more than she has let on.
Neelix to Captain Janeway.
"Yes?" The voice says it all. She's in a seriously deep blue funk.
Captain, would you mind coming to the mess hall?
"Is there a problem?"
No, no emergency but I need to speak with you. A personal matter.
Janeway has a brief internal debate. "Give me a minute," she says at last.
The captain enters the mess hall to the sound of laughter.
"Happy Ancestor's Eve!" Neelix shouts.
Chakotay and Tuvok, Tom and B'Elanna, Harry and Seven and Doc, all join in. Happy Ancestor's Eve! They raise glasses in a toast. Even Seven of Nine. (Looks like she and Doc are going to be As One again.)
"What's all this?" Janeway asks, not sure what to make of it.
"It's April 22, Ancestor's Eve," Neelix explains. "It's a holiday first established...well, uh, today, actually." The crew laugh. "With the Captain's permission." He walks toward her with champagne glass extended.
"Neelix..." Janeway warns.
"I think he's onto something, Captain," Chakotay says. "An evening of reflection in honor of those who came before."
"Here, here," Harry Kim says. "Uncle Jack would approve."
"It got me out from under a warp conduit. I'm all for it," B'Elanna says.
Janeway's face grows a smile in spite of her best efforts. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, but..."
"Neelix, the gift," Tom whispers. What gift, Janeway asks.
Neelix presents her with a framed photo. "Shannon O'Donnell Janeway, circa 2050. We did a little more research. This photograph was taken in a small park near Portage Creek, 38 years after the dedication of the Millennium Gate. I thought it would look nice in your ready room on the shelf next to your desk."
"Thank you," Janeway says, with a touch of sadness. "But I'm not so sure she has a place there anymore."
"You are mistaken, Captain." Seven, naturally. Oh? Janeway asks, rolling her eyes. "Her life captured your imagination. Historical details are irrelevant." Tuvok concurs.
So does Chakotay. "If it weren't for O'Donnell, you never would have joined Starfleet."
Janeway begins to accept the logic of it. Some of her good humor returns. "Yeah, and I would have never have got you all stuck here in the Delta Quadrant."
"It gave us all time to get to know each other," B'Elanna says, looking on the bright side of that. She and Tom are standing nice and close together. At last, Janeway smiles and takes a sip of her drink.
"Time for a family portrait of our own," Doc (who else?) says. "Everyone gather around the Captain, please. Face the camera." He sets the camera on the counter so he can join the shot.
Doc stands next to Harry, who stands next to Chakotay, who puts his hand on Harry's shoulder. Tom hugs B'Elanna from behind, and she smiles adorably, hugging back as best she can. Tuvok stands next to them, left. Seven of Nine stands behind Janeway's left shoulder, between Tuvok and Tom and B'Elanna. Neelix sits on the chair next to Janeway, holding the champagne bottle; the captain holds her champagne flute in a raised toast.
"To family," she says.
"To family," they say in unison.
The picture taken, Doc suggests another for posterity--and everyone tells him, each in their own way, to not even think about it--and they run away before he gets a chance to snap one spontaneously.
The 24th-century snapshot is mirrored by a similar scene in 2050. In a park near the Millennium Gate, a family gathers for a group photo. In the center sits Shannon O'Donnell Janeway, the clan matriarch. A stunning redhead sits to her left, holding her hand. A teenage girl sits to her right. Behind them, five adults and a little boy with mayhem written all over his face. As soon as the photo is shot, the boy flips up the two-fingered bunny-ear gesture (the "half-Vulcan") over what must be his sister's head.
"Knock it off, Kieran. That's an order." Apparently, a half century of life with Henry Janeway has turned Shannon O. Janeway's backbone into solid titanium. She gestures for the boy to come around and sit with her, and the camera fades, leaving us with the image of a life well lived, and a mark made on the ages.
Shannon O'Donnell reached for the stars.
Nearly 400 years ago, three of my ancestors came to America on the Mayflower.
I must confess, I don't know much about them; I'm not the genealogist in the family. I couldn't even tell you their names without asking my dad. But there's still something about the word Mayflower that connects me, however distantly, to a defining moment in history.
There is a desire--and in some, a need--to find meaning in the past. Who we came from may tell us something about who we are, or who we can be. We know about famous people in history, and may hope to find a connection between them and ourselves.
In Classical times, genealogy was often destiny. Julius Caesar claimed as ancestors Aeneas and Julia and the goddess Venus, which gave him literal political clout (and political enemies) throughout his career. He had kings and gods in his family tree to live up to. When Zechariah returned from the Babylonian captivity to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem, those who couldn't prove their genealogy back to the house of Levi were not allowed to perform the priestly rituals. Many surnames are derived from the names of ancestors (O'Connor, for example - "of Connor"), usually someone important enough to be remembered. You could also point to towns, planets, stars, diseases, and other scientific discoveries named for someone who did something worth remembering.
We're not that different. Most of us would love to find a Caesar in our family tree. Or a Joan of Arc. Or a Lao Tzu or a Cleopatra, or a Moses or a Marie Curie or a King Sejong or . . . you get the idea. Nobody wants to find that their most famous ancestor was a janitor at Stratford-on-Avon or hawked peanuts at the Circus Maximus.
For some, it just might be a connection to greatness, something to whip out at parties as an ice-breaker. For others, it might be a motivation to follow in those heroic footsteps.
Kathryn Janeway had such an ancestor--straight out of legend, one of the early heroes of the dawn of America's space age. According to this episode (which itself contradicts earlier episodes about who her early influences were--itself a lovely irony about the selective nature of history) she was motivated into her captaincy by Shannon O'Donnell.
I'm sure her father the Starfleet officer and eventual admiral had something to do with it. But consider that for a young girl in Indiana considering careers, growing up near the eight manmade wonder of the world and being regaled with heroic stories about the ancestor who built it, I can certainly see the profound influence that would have on her.
What were the qualities of this ancestor? Courageous. Rhetorically gifted. Stubborn as all getout--she took on an entire town and won. Words. "The first of a long line of Janeway explorers." An entrepreneur, an astronaut, a driving force behind the Millennium Gate and a founder of the Mars program. A human hero in an era sorely lacking in them.
Aunt Martha can't be wrong, can she?
Of course, some of the details got massaged and sculpted and embellished over time. For example, I imagine that by the time my great-great-grandkids come of age, my reviews will be remembered as hundred-page epics in impeccable iambic pentameter. Cranked out while I slept, entire scenes transcribed from my dreams via a neural interface I designed myself on the back of a Carl's Jr. Quintuple Western Bacon Cheeseburger wrapper.
A hundred years after that, and I'll be the Father of the Internet.
As we saw, the Shannon O'Donnell legacy is not as Aunt Martha described it. But it's more than the dry reading of history those "sketchy records" available to Voyager suggest. Her inclusion among the Ferengi documents was no accident. The Shannon O'Donnell of history is someone Kathryn Janeway can still be justly proud of.
"First in long line of Janeway explorers"? Absolutely. Shannon explored the final frontier of Portage Creek, Indiana, and without her, the Millennium Gate would have been built elsewhere. The Gate itself would have been built, with or without Shannon O'Donnell. But a strong argument can be made that Kathryn Janeway would not have existed without Shannon O'Donnell--and Henry Janeway.
Yes, Henry "Livin' in the Past" Janeway. Who else could transform the station wagon into a rocket ship? Take the NASA candidate and spin the first-generation heroic tales of "your mother the astronaut"? The whole town was against Henry, Shannon wore him down to make possible the Millennium Gate--it's not hard to imagine how those two stories merged over time. She worked on the Gate--that was no small achievement, testament to her skills.
As for her courage--it took courage to commit herself to Henry Janeway. He was a likeable guy, but stubborn as all get-out. I imagine a half-decade with him turned Shannon Janeway into a truly heroic figure indeed, someone whose photo Kathryn Janeway would be proud to add to her shelfspace.
What was this episode about? What was the point? These are questions many are asking. I'll try to provide some of what I got out of it.
I saw this episode as Janeway's "Inner Light" or "The Visitor," and a companion to "Living Witness." And an analogue of "Tomorrow is Yesterday" (remember Captain Christopher?)
There are differences. There were no temporal anomalies, dream sequences, alien brain abductions, etc. This was simply history, and the digging through of same a long time afterwards. Genealogy as intimate archaeology.
In "Tomorrow is Yesterday," the Enterprise finds itself in the mid-1960s. They are forced to beam up a US Air Force pilot whose fighter jet couldn't handle a tractor beam. The first thing the crew does is check his life history in the databanks, to see if he is crucial to the timeline. As it turns out, he is not--he's just a guy, and his life seems destined to be lived out in the 23rd century. However, a little more digging shows that one of his descendants will (his not-as-yet-conceived son, as I recall, who went on one of the pioneering earth space program missions (manned mission to Saturn?)--it's a history long since obviated by the actual passage of time). Captain Christopher must be returned to his own time so he can become the father of someone who WAS historically relevant.
Christopher wanted to go back anyway. He had a little more incentive once he heard he had a child to produce. I'm sure it bothered him that his life was declared non-crucial, but all that was subsumed in the joy that came from knowing that he was gonna be a dad. I'm sure that son's future accomplishment registered somewhere. But for a man with no son, that news alone is pretty mind-blowing.
A similar case could be made with Shannon and Kathryn Janeway. It's a good chance that Kathryn would have entered Starfleet even if Shannon wasn't a mythic hero. But if Shannon had by whatever series of events not been there, Kathryn wouldn't have been born at all.
A series of coincidences. The car that got uppity in the very place where past and future were colliding. Taking the wrong exit. A resume that put her in a position to influence the course of events. The accident and subsequent breakdown within walking distance of Alexandria Books. She could have walked out and kept walking when Henry Janeway first invited her to leave. She could have kept driving to Canton or to Florida and lived a Janeway-free life. She could have arrived a minute too late. She could have bought something other than cookies, and failed to ultimately persuade Henry for lack of a good story. Or she could have persuaded him to sign, but not married him.
History converged on that moment. In their own ways, Henry and Shannon were ordinary people, with some extraordinary traits. Keen minds. Talents and interests that both conflicted, and complemented. Together, they were better off than as separate individuals, and they forged a local dynasty of Indiana Explorers.
If Shannon never set foot outside city limits again, she still took the first steps toward the future. Janeways learned that there were occupations beyond bookstores, but no doubt spent the early parts of their lives immersed in the epic tales, emerging from the bookstore cocoon to live out their own heroic lives.
And let it be said--a life need not be chronicled by the great historians or shouted from the rooftops to the ages, to be heroic. Although Janeway earned his place in history by standing firm against the Gate, and his change of heart became newsworthy, everyone else in the community who supported the effort share in the glory.
Or like with PBS, where the major sponsors get mentioned by name, but they still need help from Viewers Like You.
Kate Mulgrew has a dual role here. There is more time devoted to her role as Shannon O'Donnell, which in this episode is a much more intriguing role.
This is not Kathryn Janeway. Shannon doesn't have Janeway's fire, at least when we first meet her. And Mulgrew plays her that way. We watch Shannon transform from a fairly timid person on hard times into one who can actually stand toe-to-toe with Henry Janeway (played with a nice balance of sympathy and stubbornness by special guest star Kevin Tighe). Shannon smiles, frowns, averts her eyes from whoever she's talking to, mumbles a lot, gets charmed, gets disappointed, briefly flirts--and underneath it all, has a dream. Mulgrew gives Shannon a quiet dignity and a textured three-dimensionality that does not put her on a pedestal--not all of Shannon O'Donnell's traits are admirable. She seems like the type who quits easily, and avoids confrontation like the plague. This particular incident in her life is pivotal, because in the end she overcomes some of her fears. Which in its own way is the essence of heroism.
The other performances were also fine. In an episode focused mostly off the ship, there weren't many scenes for them to work in. But Beltran, Phillips and Ryan worked well in their individual scenes, and the group scenes used everyone fairly well. Doc's penchant for photography fits in well, as we get a nice shot of Janeway and her "Family," to parallel the family portrait celebrating the matriarch Shannon Janeway. For you Paris/Torres fans, that "hug for posterity" no doubt made your season.
All in all, it was a quiet, reflective episode. The ship was in no danger. Janeway's existence wasn’t in danger. But her identity was thrown into crisis. Mild by some epic standards, perhaps, but meaningful to her. We didn't learn a tremendous amount about Janeway herself, but the look into her family's past was intriguing.
About the Millennium Gate itself. I included the commercial with Robert Picardo for a reason. This episode in some ways seemed like an infomercial for the Planetary Society--and I mean that in a good way. I imagine most of the people reading this will still be alive in 2030. The goal of the Planetary Society is to have a human colony on Mars within the next three decades--and they are looking for ideas from the rising generation. Like Shannon O'Donnell, I remember the moon landing--it's one of my earliest memories. I would love to see Mars colonized in my lifetime.
So, kids--get crackin'. Submit those ideas. Who knows--four hundred years from now, your starship-captain descendant might reminisce with his or her staff on a lull between star systems about how you changed the world before the age of twenty.
This episode was fairly low-key, but it had heart and soul. I enjoyed it. A lot.
I'm giving it (* * * *).
Next week: Seven goes Starfleet, meets herself.