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 about as close as you can get to seeing the episode. The dialog is pulled straight from the closed captioning. 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, strap in and get comfy--it's going to be a long, wild ride.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]
Tom gets a new toy.
Jump straight to the Analysis
It's a slow day on the bridge. Janeway and Chakotay are in the captain's ready room. Tuvok is sitting in the Big Chair, conducting ships business, frowning on occasion as Tom Paris and Harry Kim enter the latest round of that shipboard party game, "Just how old is that Vulcan, anyway?"
"All right, all right, hold on," Tom says from the helm. "If you were married in 2304 and you're daughter was conceived in your 11th pon farr, that would make you...162 years old."
"Incorrect," Tuvok says gruffly.
"Come on, Tom," Harry says. "The man's not a day over 140." He looks from Tom to Tuvok. "We know you were at least a hundred when you joined Starfleet the second time, so I'm guessing you're around . . . 133?"
Surprisingly, Tuvok Janeway and Chakotay are in the captain's ready room
"Also incorrect. I'm afraid you both lack sufficient data to reach a logical conclusion," Tuvok says.
What, Tuvok's bantering? Tom and Harry are mentioning pon farr--which Tuvok and Vorik were so reluctant to discuss in "Blood Fever"--and other aspects of his personal life while he's in command, and he allows it?
Dang. Maybe we're on the Demon Voyager again.
"Come on, Tuvok, tell us," Paris begs. Hey--he's medical assistant. He could look it up if he wanted. But I guess the teasin' is the reason.
"I see no reason to enlighten you," Tuvok says as he signs yet another PADD.
Harry laughs. "Don't tell me Vulcans are embarrassed about their age."
"On the contrary; we value the wisdom that comes with advancing years."
Paris turns around and leans toward the captain's chair to leer at Tuvok. "In that case . . . how wise are you?"
Tuvok's eyebrows fly off his face and whap the helm boy around like he owed them money. "Wise enough to end this inquiry," Tuvok says.
Conveniently, an alarm sounds. "Saved by the bell," Tom notes dryly, returning his attention to his helm boards.
"I've got a fleet of ships. 200,000 kilometers, dead ahead," Harry reports. Can you identify them? Tuvok asks. "Negative," Harry says.
"I'm reading multiple hull configurations," Tom says, his voice all business now.
"Raise shields. Red alert." The lights go out.
Seconds later, Janeway and Chakotay emerge from the ready room. "Report," the captain orders
"We detected a large group of vessels directly ahead," says Tuvok as he smoothly vacates the Big Chair and takes his station at Tactical. Hostile? Chakotay asks, taking his own seat. "Possibly. I'm charging weapons."
"On screen," Janeway orders.
We see a field of--something--on the forward viewscreen. It does look menacing . . . to local property values, anyway.
"I'm counting 62 ships--and a few hundred pieces of ships--all dead in space," Harry says.
Tom snorts. "It's a junkyard!" He turns toward Tactical and lets fly, his voice an open taunt. "Congratulations, Tuvok. You just saved us from a flotilla of hostile trash!"
Harry looks at his board when it beeps. "We're being hailed."
Janeway's eyebrows rise. "Let's see what they want."
The screen shifts to the interior. We see a room full of rusty trinkets of dubious value--and an alien with a face that's half leather, half endoderm. Endearingly repulsive in a GWAR kinda way--he looks like his face was constructed of scraps from Morn's outfit and whatever else was in Westmore's recycle bin. He's got a toothy smile that makes you instinctively reach for the garlic and crucifix, and a voice that screams FM "Morning Zoo!" deejay.
"Welcome to Abaddon's Repository of Lost Treasures," the oily alien purrs, standing way too close to the screen, like that nerdy kid in Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" video. "Whether you're in the mood to buy or simply browse, we're always open! Take a look! You may find something you never knew you wanted."
The crew looks at each other. Janeway smiles.
What the heck, it's Saturday. Perfect day for a yard sale.
We also see the look on Tom Paris' face. A field of debris, ships and parts of ships, flicks that impish switch on his face that speaks louder than words . . .
Crank up the Dick Dale and clear some garage space, it's Tool Time!
* * *
Having been sufficiently chastened by Fatherly Uncle Jim the previous week, the writers learn their lesson early, and give us this very strange alien's name right off the bat.
The creature beams aboard Voyager. Chakotay and Neelix are there to greet him. "Mr. Abaddon," Chakotay says cordially.
Mr. Abaddon, decked out in a full-length coat with fur collar--they're far enough away from the alpha quadrant that nobody from PETA's had a chance to stain it with red paint--looking a little like a Delta Quadrant Huggy Bear, bows deferentially from transporter pad. "The name was passed down from my father and his father before him. Not a very imaginative lot, but I'll answer to it just the same," Abaddon says, his oily self-deprecation a verbal cue to raise shields around the crews' wallets.
Chakotay introduces himself and Neelix, with the clear intent of letting the "ambassador" handle their whupped-with-an-ugly-stick guest.
Neelix, no slouch in the Mirror-Crack'd department himself, puts on his best used-car sales demeanor. "Welcome to Voyager!"
Abaddon (break out your Hebrew dictionaries, folks, the name means something; for the Hebraically challenged, I'll explain in the Analysis), returns schmooze for schmooze, stepping off the platform and waving a leather-gloved finger for emphasis. "Neelix, is it? You wouldn't be a fellow trader, would you?" he asks Neelix knowingly.
"What makes you say that?" Neelix asks.
"Cheerful demeanor, furtive eyes--it's obvious you're a man of commerce," Abaddon says, driving the compliment home.
About those shields--better make 'em multiphasic. This guy is good.
"You're very perceptive, Mr. Abaddon," Chakotay says. "A useful skill in my line of work," Abaddon says.
Neelix beams. "I'll admit there was a time when I dabbled in commerce. But these days, I focus my efforts on food and diplomacy."
Abaddon smiles. "Well, whether you're interested in a new iso-convective oven or a slightly dated translation matrix, you've come to the right place." He hands a handheld computer to Chakotay. "My inventory. Give or take a few items--after 20 years, it's hard to keep up!"
Chakotay smirks as he looks over the list. There's no questioning the newcomer's enthusiasm. "Looks like you have an item or two we might be interested in," he says neutrally.
"The question is," Neelix asks, "what are you looking for in return?"
What, indeed. The alien begins taking the fine-toothed comb tour of the transporter room; if it had tires, he'd have kicked them. "Artificial gravity plating. Plasma-based power induction--impressive," he says, taking a mental inventory of Voyager's technological niceties.
"Those are integrated systems," Chakotay says. "Unfortunately, we couldn't trade them to you without dismantling our whole ship."
Neelix plays Good Trader to Chakotay's Bad Trader. "Commander," he asks in a whisper loud enough to reach the cheap seats, "don't we have some spare duranium sheeting in cargo bay one? With a few modifications it could be converted into gravity plating," he offers helpfully.
Chakotay smiles. "Good idea. Why don't you show Mr. Abaddon our inventory? Report back when you're done." Neelix is happy to do so, and escorts the stranger out into the corridor.
There's no place like Astrometrics for kicking the tires on the larger of Abaddon's offerings. It's got the wide screen, state-of-the-art scanning technology, and of course the guaranteed presence of Seven of Nine. Naturally, she stands between Tom and Harry, the Neve Campbell to Tom's Dylan McDermott and Harry's Matthew Perry.
"This guy's collected more technology than the Borg!" Harry says, whistling.
"And almost all of it is useless," Seven of Nine huffs, unimpressed.
But Tom Paris has an eye for exotic ships, and today is no exception. "Wait. What's that?" he asks, pointing.
"Ensign?" Seven asks.
"Grid 49 alpha." Seven calls up that square, and a tiny shuttlecraft gets its close-up.
"She's beautiful!" Tom gasps, his voice husky.
Seven of Nine and Harry Kim look at Tom with disbelief. "It's just an old rust bucket!" Harry says.
Tom's eyes glaze over. "Are you kidding? Look at those lines. It's a work of art. That ship wasn't assembled, it was sculpted . . ."
Harry puts his hands on his hips, mimicking Janeway's oh-that-boy look. Seven of Nine ponders the logical dubiousness of boys and their toys.
Tom continues to gaze, transfixed, at the rusty little shuttlecraft listing to starboard. "I think I'm in love . . . "
Seven rolls her eyes. Harry slaps his forehead.
Here we go again . . .
The inventory and analysis concluded, Neelix--backed up by Tom and Harry--report their recommendations to Chakotay in the conference room.
"That makes 15 power regulators in fair condition, and three more we could salvage with a little work," Neelix says as Chakotay reads over the executive summary on the PADD. "Seven has some doubts about the ion exchange rods--"
"We'll take a chance," Chakotay says; it would seem Janeway's given him the corporate VISA card this week. "Add them to the list. What about these--cultural artifacts?"
Neelix allows himself a slyly guilty look. "Oh, just a few items I thought might have some historical value. They don't cost much."
Neelix knows his stuff. It's exactly the right approach--Chakotay's big on souvenirs. "Looks like a good haul. If that's it..."
Tom sets his phaser on "remind" and blasts the Talaxian square on the hiney. Neelix jumps a bit, then speaks. "Oh, yes, there is--cough, ahem--one other item. Uh…A small, er, um, vessel that--oop, ack--could be an -- ow! -- asset."
Wow. It's hard to argue with that. Tom looks ready to jump out of his skin. Harry's body language has a clear case of leave-me-out-of-this.
Chakotay gives Tom a hard look. "We've already got a full complement of shuttles--"
Dang, that's funny.
Apparently, the doctor's attempt to crossbreed shuttles with hamsters was successful. How else do we explain how Voyager, the leading scrap-metal producer in the sector, could leave a trail of shuttle debris from Kazon space to the Beta Quadrant and still have a "full complement" of shuttles?
Well, I guess that explains where all those Equinox crew went. They're down in the Kathie Lee deck, working the bellows in the blacksmith shop 24/7. Maintaining a "full complement" of shuttles would be a priority for Chakotay, since he goes through shuttles like Kirk went through redshirts.
Hoo, boy, my eyes are waterin'. Someone at Paramount has a sense of humor, that's for dang sure.
Where were we?
"--not to mention the Delta Flyer. What do we need with this derelict ship?"
Tom reacts as if slapped. That's his BABY Chakotay's bad-mouthing. He leaps out of the chair and begins pacing. "Chakotay, this ship is a diamond in the rough! Sure, it's got some scrapes and scratches, but--here, take a look at these systems." He pulls up the schematics on a wall terminal, and wipes the drool from the corner of his mouth at the sight of it. "It has a neurogenic interface that allows it to react directly to the pilot's thoughts! That gives it the potential of being quicker and more maneuverable than anything we've got--including the Delta Flyer."
Gasp! You know, we haven't seen the Delta Flyer in quite a while now. Is Tom ready to throw her over for another shuttle? The cad . . .
But Neelix seems to warm to the subject. "Add to that an optronic weapons array, which--"
Chakotay holds up his hand to cut Neelix off--but mostly to hide his growing, knowing smirk. "I get the picture." He tries his best to glare at Tom. "Are you sure you're not just looking for a new toy?"
"No! Absolutely not!" Tom protests too much. "Even B'Elanna thinks restoring this ship is worthwhile."
Wow. They consulted the chief engineer about a piece of alien technology. Off screen of course. Why waste valuable screen time showing B'Elanna doing her job when she could be growling, making snarky comments about/to Seven of Nine, or stripping down for a shower?
But I digress.
Chakotay seems inclined to grant the request, but decides to torture Helm Boy a little longer. "Maybe if we had the manpower to restore it . . . "
Tom cuts him off. "No. I'll do all the work myself--on my own time." He smiles knowingly. "And if I need a hand, Harry's offered to help."
Harry wakes up when he hears his name used in vain. "I have?"
Chakotay almost loses it at that point, but reins it in to a sharp exhale and a smile. "What will it cost us?" he asks when it's safe to talk.
"Abaddon's agreed to give it to us for three used power cells and Tom's interactive record collection," Neelix says.
"My jukebox," Tom explains. Vinyl is making a comeback in this part of space . . . it'll go nicely with Abaddon's 70's street pimp attire.
Chakotay relents, and keys in his signature one more time. "All right. One slightly used alien ship." He gives Tom a passable approximation of the Janeway Glare-o-Doom. "Don't make me regret this."
Tom, giddy as a Tex Avery cartoon in the heady presence of Betty Boop, is too giddy to protest much. "Ah…You won't."
Wow--almost ten minutes into the episode before we get a brisk walk through the corridor. Neelix and Tom escort Abaddon--actually, Abaddon is practically sprinting; Tom huffs and puffs to keep up--to the transporter room. Abaddon is rattling off the last few instructions about the shuttlecraft.
"Remember, just one seat. Not much storage. She was designed for speed, not hauling," says Abaddon, talking as quickly as he walks, his tongue as adept as an auctioneer's. Understood, Tom says merrily.
"Make sure you go easy on the thrusters. She doesn't like being manhandled," Abaddon continues.
"Temperamental?" Neelix asks with a twinkle in his eye. "Sensitive," Abaddon corrects. "She demands respect--like any fine piece of machinery."
"Sounds like you're sorry to let her go," Tom observes.
"Well, in some ways she's like the daughter I couldn't marry off," Abaddon says carefully--hmmm, interesting choice of words. "That doesn't mean I'd trade her to just anyone. I've got a feeling you're the kind of pilot that she needs. Someone that will give her the proper care and attention." He says it lightly, but just for the record . . .
Foreshadowing. A valid literary technique.
"I'm your man," Tom promises.
"Don't worry, Mr. Abaddon, she's in good hands," Neelix assures the alien trader as they reach the transporter room.
Abaddon leaps onto the transporter pad. "Well, this has been a very productive exchange. Oh, just one more thing..."
Neelix smiles. "Let me guess. All trades are final." Tom and Neelix share a look and break out into soft chuckles.
Abaddon laughs, points his finger at Neelix for emphasis, nods--and disappears.
Though the tiny shuttle bay is fully self-enclosed, with no open doors or windows, it practically screams Burning the Midnight Oil. The half-lit shuttlebay and the pizza boxes littering the floor are the first clue.
We get our first good look at Tom's newest acquisition. It's up on blocks. Harry's initial reaction seems the more accurate one--this little ship is little more than rust and primer.
Tom Paris sits inside the near-darkness of the shuttle's interior. "I still can't get an active readout," he says, frustrated.
Harry peeks out from under the hood in the shuttle's rear. "Here's the reason," he says, yanking something out of the shuttle's innards. "Another damaged power cell!" he says, holding it up like the severed head of a mortal enemy, waving it in the open doorway for Tom to see.
Paris begins to plead. "Aw, come on, Alice, how about it? Give us a break!"
Harry, reaching for a tool to wave over something, looks up. Tom's getting goofy--must be time for bed. The bags under Harry's eyes are another clue--they're too big to check in as carry-ons. "'Alice'?"
"Well, I've got to call her something," Tom says.
Harry snorts. "How about The Lost Cause?" Uh oh--Harry's getting surly. And you know what Ben Franklin said about that . . . "Surly to bed, and surly to rise, makes a man--"
But I digress.
"Alice Battisti was the Lost Cause," Tom says, reminiscing. "I knew her back in the Academy. She was smart, sexy...but she wouldn't give me the time of day." Ah, the one that got away . . .
"All right," Harry says, smiling as he waves the tool over the thing, "Alice it is." The waving complete, Harry tells Tom to "try it again."
The magic wand did something--after a few sputters, we see the lights go on, the way a fluorescent light does--flicker, flicker, faster flicker, then there was light.
"I've got a pulse!" Tom says happily, and Harry, pleased, hops in.
"A little snug," Harry observes. He has to crouch; Tom's got the only seat.
Tom doesn't even look up--he's too engrossed in the new readouts. "As Seven would say, an efficient design."
Tom manages to do something--soon we see an image of the small ship on a grime-encrusted screen. "The main computer's coming on-line--"
"There's not much in it," Harry notes. "Just a few schematics. Looks like somebody tried to wipe the database."
"Probably rolled the odometer back, too," Tom says, falling into his now well-established habit of using 20th-century automotive jargon. Harry, unused to this terminology, gives Tom a strange look.
"Let's see what this neurogenic interface can do," Tom says.
Now. For those playing the home game, a neurogenic interface means that the ship and the pilot essentially merge. The pilot's brain becomes one of the ship's central processing units. The ship becomes an extension of the pilot's senses.
It's a little like the Vulcan marital bond--hence the pon farr references in the teaser; Tom, and Alice are about to get jiggy in a major way. Only more the union is more cybernetic--like the Borg, or the Six Million-Dollar Man.
Cyborg nature. City-based names. Major Steve Austin. Ensign Tom Paris. Both pilots.
Coincidence? I think not.
But I digress.
Well, okay, one more digression. If Harry got his butt chewed for putting certain body parts where they didn't belong without a note from the Doctor, what do you think ol' Doc would say about Tom putting one of HIS sensitive body parts in the hands of an uncleared alien computer?
Heck, even Wesley Crusher knew better than that. Granted, he had Ashley Judd helping him, and Harry Kim is no Ashley Judd, but still . . .
Tom activates the interface. A circular headband curves around, covering that ever-growing forehead of his.
We get an exterior view. The pale lights that the shuttle had on before were nothing compared to the illumination that appears now.
You light up my life . . .
So much for that dumb blonde reputation. If Tom's brains were batteries, apparently he COULD power a shuttlecraft.
"Whoa," Tom says, his expression suggesting he's as turned on as "Alice."
"What's it like?" Harry asks.
Tom looks around, his eyes wide. "It's--kind of hard to describe. I'm tapped into all the primary systems: ops, tactical, sensors..."
Then as quickly as it had lit up, the shuttle goes dark.
Elapsed time: about thirty seconds. Hmmm--apparently THAT part of his reputation has some merit . . .
"What happened?" Tom asks anxiously inside the now pitch-black shuttle.
Harry breaks out a tricorder. "We just blew out two more power cells," he says a moment later.
Tom groans with frustration, then begins running his fingers over the black, grimy screen. "See if you can reconfigure the power distribution grid--"
But Harry is having none of it. "Look, we're both tired. Why don't we call it a night? Come back fresh tomorrow?" It's the same voice we heard in "Barge of the Dead"--3am Harry, the Ensign Grumpy who doesn't even fear the wrath of B'Elanna Torres in her worst mood.
Tom isn't ready to quit just yet. "Oh, come on! We can still get a couple more hours in!"
"You can get a couple more hours in," Harry says, laughing, already halfway out the door. "I'm going to bed!" No compromise there--Harry's history. He actually left dust trails--which is not exactly an accomplishment--Alice is in dire need of detailing.
But Tom knows when he's licked. "All right, you win . . . " Reluctantly, he leaves the ship. Looking back before he leaves the shuttle bay, he smiles at his latest obsession. "Good night, Alice. See you in the morning."
With that, the shuttle bay doors close, and Tom sprints to catch up with Harry on the way back to their respective quarters.
But the camera lingers on the shuttle, silhouetted in the darkness. After a moment, the thing lights up--all by itself.
Inside, the small computer monitor also activates. We see a three-dimensional, rotating image of Tom Paris' head.
"See you in the morning," we hear in Tom's voice.
Then we look inside Tom's head. Off go the layers of skin, revealing the skull underneath.
"See you in the morning," we hear again, a little less clearly this time. Some alien characters appear on the periphery of the screen.
Then the skull is also peeled away, revealing the throbbing gray matter that is Tom Paris' brain. Or an amazing digital recreation.
szz y0% I# t&e m&rn*ng
The computer begins a scan, and gradually the voice of Tom Paris is lost completely--but the computer has clearly learned all it wants to. Alice didn't need much time at all to read Helm Boy like a book.
"See you in the morning . . ." Alice purrs.
The voice is now clear, distinct. It's also decidedly female. More than female--it's aural sex. Talk about an eargasm--if the real Alice sounded anything like this, no wonder Tom still thinks about her after all these years. This is a voice that could read the phone book and charge $3.99 per minute. Yowsa.
Whatever time it is, it's late. But Tom's still up, no doubt planning his next round of repairs.
Tom looks up, confused. "B'Elanna?"
No answer. Tom gets up, goes to his door. Opens it. Nobody's there. He peeks into the corridor--and sees the unmistakable contours of a woman dressed in the kind outfit only Seven of Nine would love, and wearing it well. We catch the last glimpse of her as she rounds a corner.
Tom follows. The corridors are empty. He keeps looking.
He finds himself outside the doors of the shuttle bay.
Tom opens the door--and his eyes widen. "Who are you?" he asks.
"It's me--Alice," we hear. It's the "see you in the morning" voice.
We don't see what Tom sees. We just see his eyes do a lingering floor-to-face scan of whatever it is he's looking at.
Then he enters the shuttle bay, and the doors close behind him.
* * *
It's a new day. Tom shows up in the dimly lit shuttle bay looking well rested and ready to work. "Good morning, Alice!" he says cheerfully. The music begins; think "Taking Care of Business" by Bachman Turner Overdrive.
Apparently Harry decided to sleep in this morning. No matter--Tom seems to be having the time of his life all by himself--just him and his Alice.
Alice is clearly high maintenance, but when Tom puts his mind to something he goes for it with his whole soul.
System by system. Component by component. Teasing a panel to life. Breaking out a rag and doing the old Wax On, Wax Off routine on the windows, just like Mr. Miyagi taught, that circular caress that lays bare Alice's innermost secrets.
Tom lies face up on the floor underneath his new possession, sweat pouring from his fevered brow, using his hands and various tools to coax Alice to life--his legs partially obscured by the long, steely, mushroom-tipped rod of the starboard phaser array which begins to throb with renewed potential.
Tom works Alice from up top, straddling her hull as he probes deeper, deeper into Alice's systems, bringing her inch by supple inch from neglected ugly duckling to the belle of the ball under his tender ministrations.
At one point Tom changes clothing, transferring his dusty combadge--with a few expert puffs of cleansing breath--from his duty uniform to a silvery leather one-piece jumpsuit. As for how it looks . . . let's just say it must be love, because no sane man would ever be caught dead wearing something like that on his own. It's not flattering. Tom looks like Spaceman Spiff..
But you wouldn't know it to look at Tom's blissful expression; he thinks he's the bee's knees. The transformation complete, Tom returns to his darling shuttle, already beckoning to him for more attention.
Leaving his Starfleet uniform hanging haphazardly, rumpled and unappreciated, from a hook in the shuttle bay.
Ah, imagery. e.e. cummings would love this scene.
Harry Kim enters engineering wearing his Buster Kinkaid outfit, looking for someone. We hear but do not see Tom Paris talking to someone, or something. Harry heads in that direction.
"I'm sorry, you're going to have to trust me on this," Tom coos. "You'll be a lot happier if we can bypass the EPS relays." We see Tom, wearing the Silver Surfer dork-boy outfit, fixated on a panel that shows Alice in all her vehicular glory.
Harry, after several attempts, finally manages to capture Tom's attention. Well, part of it. "Who were you talking to?" he asks.
"Alice," Tom says, not looking up as he keys in command after command. "She's being very stubborn today. No matter what I do, I can't get her to bring her propulsion systems on-line."
Harry shakes his head. "Next question: what are you wearing?" The amusement in his voice causes Tom to look up. He laughs self-consciously. "Oh. This is a flight suit design I found in Alice's database. Something her last pilot used to wear." Then, the readout beckons again, and Tom returns to his work.
Harry chuckles. "For a minute, I thought you were changing Captain Proton's look," he says meaningfully.
Tom doesn't catch on.
"Chapter 37?" Harry reminds him pointedly.
Paris appears to wake up momentarily, wincing as he realizes he blew off his Proton Time with Harry. "Oh, 'The Web of Pain!' I completely forgot." Less than a second later, Tom seems to have forgotten that Harry is still there. Alice is a demanding mistress.
"No problem," Harry says, smiling gamely. "I've got another hour on the holodeck." Hint, hint.
"Now is not a great time," Tom says, focused utterly on Alice. "How about tomorrow?"
Harry's disappointment is plain. "That's what you said yesterday."
"Sorry, Harry. Alice needs me."
"So does Arachnia!"
"Give the queen my regards," Tom says dismissively. The rude little puke.
Whoa, wait. Did Harry say Arachnia? Tom's blowing off valuable Janeway Time? The fiend! (Yeah, I know, Janeway's Command Performance was likely just a one-shot deal, but a review boy can dream, can't he?)
Harry, crestfallen, finally gives up, turning and leaving Tom to his not-so-magnificent obsession without another word.
Yes, folks, these are the Toms that try men's souls.
Seven of Nine shows up in the mess hall. It's kind of busy, but it's help-yourself hour. Neelix is busy with other things at one of the tables.
Neelix looks up, seeing Seven holding one of the Abaddon acquisitions. "Seven!" he says warmly. "Can I get you something?"
"A refund," she says, extending the hand with the PADD. "The star charts we obtained from Abaddon are inaccurate."
Neelix's voice registers disappointment but not surprise. "Really?"
"The computations are based on obsolete data," Seven says.
Neelix groans. "It's not the only item that didn't live up to its advertising," he says, waving his hands over the table. It looks like he's been doing his best to clean up his own recent acquisitions. They do look awfully ordinary.
"Cultural artifacts?" Seven asks.
"According to Abaddon they're 'lost treasures of the Delta Quadrant.' If you ask me, they're worthless trinkets."
Seven picks up an opaque rectangular block of crystal. Quartz, maybe, but there's something darker and reddish inside it. "Perhaps not," Seven says with some interest. "This crystal is beryllium."
Neelix looks up. "Valuable?" he asks, skeptically.
"Beryllium is the standard currency in spatial grid five three nine," Seven says, rubbing the red part, allowing some of its gleam to shine through. "There are species that would trade an entire fleet of starships for this 'trinket.'"
Dang. Talk about your diamond in the rough.
Neelix takes the proffered item, handling it gingerly. "If Abaddon knew about this he'd never have traded it for a few plasma couplings." Ever the honorable, nice guy, Neelix frets. "Maybe I should return it!"
Seven leans close, as though to whisper a secret to her furry friend. "Need I remind you? All trades are final." Seven's parting smile is priceless, and Neelix chortles--traders live for scores like this.
Tom arrives in a hurry, still wearing his new duds. "Neelix! I need one bottle of champagne, if you don't mind," he says, heading for the replicator.
"Another anniversary?" Neelix asks, in a good mood.
"No. I'm christening Alice."
Neelix beams. "Congratulations! I'll whip up some hors d'oeuvres for the crew," he says, getting up from his chair.
"Oh, no, don't bother," Tom says as the Chateau Christine '58 materializes. "This is a private ceremony. Just me and B'Elanna."
"And Alice, of course," Neelix sniggers, and Tom joins in. "Oh, yes, of course," Tom agrees.
Human and Talaxian do some old-fashioned male bonding over that one universal constant: the freedom of "the road."
"There's nothing like having your own ship," Neelix says dreamily over the Sickbay counter. "I remember when I first laid eyes on my little freighter, Baxial."
Tom smiles knowingly. "No, don't tell me...love at first sight?"
Neelix leans in to tell Tom a secret. "Actually, I thought she was the ugliest thing I ever saw," he whispers in confidence, and the two chortle.
Having seen Baxial, I can't help but agree. But some of my favorite cars were like that. All-primer land-manatees that cost fifty bucks to buy but a hundred a month to keep running, got three miles a gallon on a good day, drank oil like Janeway mainlines coffee, had duct-tape on the seat cushions to keep the springs from goosing you . . . and had a "heater" that was essentially a Sterno(TM)-capable drink holder. If you made your right turns fast enough, you could drive and get bikini waxed at the same time.
"But--she grew on me. Eventually, I couldn't imagine being without her." Neelix smiles. "You know, she's still down at the shuttlebay. Why don't we get her and Alice together and go on a double date!"
Tom beams. "You pack the picnic basket; I'll bring the deuterium!"
Tom carries the bottle. B'Elanna is just along for the ride, but she looks happy as heck to be here. "So, I finally get to meet the other woman," she teases, showing more teeth than we're used to seeing from her. Dang, she's got a pretty smile.
"Don't be too critical," Tom pleads. "She's a long way from finished."
What B'Elanna does do is skip to the shuttle bay doors, pouting for effect. "When have you ever known me to be critical?" Wow--this is an uncharacteristically good mood for her. I guess, having seen her options in the Doctor's mind, she realizes she could have done worse.
Or, maybe it's that Tom's finally making himself available again.
"Is that a trick question?" Tom asks. To her credit, she doesn't pull his bottom lip over his face. She doesn't even glare. "Okay, you ready?" he asks.
Deep breath. Doors open. They enter. Torres gets a few steps into the shuttle bay, then stops.
"Well?" Tom asks as B'Elanna gapes.
The dipped-in-hog-wallow look is long gone. The ship gleams. The running boards look brand new. The hull gleams with a two-tone electric aquamarine blue.
Delta Flyer, eat your heart out. This baby's an eight-cow shuttle if she's worth a hoof.
"It's beautiful," B'Elanna says. "I can hardly believe it's the same ship!"
"Well…Most of it isn't," Tom admits. "I've replaced the impulse reactor, navigation array, uh, plasma manifold...the list goes on and on." He caresses the port running board. "Just a few more repairs, and she'll be space-worthy. Care to do the honors?"
B'Elanna looks at the bottle of bubbly, then looks up with her big brown eyes. "It's almost a shame to break this over the hull . . . " she says, fluttering her eyelashes for emphasis.
Tom smiles as comprehension dawns. "You have a point . . . "
Torres sits in the pilot's chair that is Tom's birthright (love means sacrifice, right, kids?). The champagne flows like warm root beer as B'Elanna fills her glass to overflowing, getting some on the seat back.
"Oh, be careful!" Tom says, hurriedly wiping it up. "The upholstery--"
Torres gives Tom a sour look that's softened a little by the twinkle in her eye. "I'll send an Engineering team down to clean it up," she says, setting the bottle aside.
Tom laughs nervously--point made. Maybe.
"To Alice," B'Elanna says, raising her glass. "To Alice," Tom agrees. They drink -- then Tom gives the seat another wipe.
"So when's her first flight?" B'Elanna asks.
"Well, a couple of days--if I can round up all the parts I need. You want to come with me?" he asks, his eyes locked with hers.
"Are you sure there's room?"
"It'll be a tight squeeze," Tom agrees, his voice growing throaty.
"We'll manage," B'Elanna says.
The distance between their lips closes.
Then one of the consoles chirps an alarm. "Hold on," Tom says, his attention instantly drawn there--leaving Torres hanging mid-pucker.
"Something wrong?" B'Elanna asks, hiding her disappointment.
"It's these environmental controls," Tom says, not looking up. "They need recalibrating." Torres slips easily into Engineer mode. "It is kind of warm in here, isn't it?" She agrees.
"Alice, lower the ambient temperature," Tom says.
Please specify, Tom, Alice purrs.
B'Elanna's eyes go wide.
"Five degrees should do it," Tom says. Temperature modification complete, Alice says a moment later.
"That's some voice," B'Elanna says evenly.
"It came with the ship."
Eventually, Tom notices the silence. He looks at Torres. "You jealous?" he asks, surprised, teasing her a little.
B'Elanna decides to play along. "Maybe I should be." She taunts him with her smile. "I hear you've been sleeping here."
Danger past, Tom returns to the controls. He snorts. "When Alice lets me sleep."
"Sounds like a real slave-driver," B'Elanna coos, rubbing up against his back.
Tom ignores her, devoting all his attentions to Alice. The fool.
Torres, feeling frozen out, decides to try to help. Do something together, like she failed to do with the Delta Flyer because of those minor personal issues in "Extreme Risk." "Well, if you're trying to make improvements you might want to start with these reactant injectors. The deuterium mix is too high."
"That's how Alice likes it," Tom says, not looking up.
B'Elanna's ardor cools still further. But she doesn't give up. She reaches for one of the controls on the control panel Tom is working on.
That gets his attention. "No!" he shouts, slapping her hand away, and keeping it raised in case she tries again. "Don't touch that!"
"I was just trying to help," she says, justifiably defensive.
"Well, thanks, but we're fine," Tom says--keeping the hand at the ready.
Torres blinks. "We? It's. A. Ship. Tom."
"Yeah, but she's my ship," Tom says, using both hands to work after sensing that Alice is now safe from Torres' grubby mitts.
Uh oh. Houston, we have a problem.
"Well, then," B'Elanna says, clearly hurt, "maybe I'll leave the two of you alone."
"Okay. I'll see you later." Ooh. Wrong answer, dude. B'Elanna's outta here. Deck Nine, Section Twelve will be a quiet place tonight.
"Thanks for the champagne," Torres says, heading for the door. But when she reaches for the handle, she gets a nasty jolt of static. "Ow!"
"Oh, sorry," Tom says. "I need to fix that--" Next time, he'll know better than to install shag carpeting and brass doorknobs.
Fuming, B'Elanna exits.
As though Tom really notices. Alice has his full attention.
Chakotay's a busy man this week. Tom, still wearing his Spaceman Spiff outfit, now sporting several days' growth of beard, has a list of requests. Just a few things lying around the ship. No big whoop.
Chakotay reads the list. "30 meters of EPS conduit. A broadband sensor matrix. A tactical data module?" He looks up at the pacing Paris. "Tom, I appreciate your enthusiasm, but I can't spare these parts right now."
Tom can't believe his ears. "They're just lying around cargo bay two!" he yells as respectfully as he can.
"Those are emergency supplies--and this isn't an emergency."
Denied. "Okay . . . what if I just replicated some?"
"That takes energy--which isn't exactly in abundance at the moment. Maybe in a few weeks if we can replenish our power reserve."
They mentioned power issues obliquely last week as well. Hmmm. Do I sense an upcoming crisis a few weeks from now? Have they learned the Demon lesson?
But Tom wants to hear nothing that isn't a firm "anything you want." His helter-skelter eyes go even wilder. "A few weeks? Shyah! What am I supposed to do until then?"
Chakotay sighs. The easy way, or the hard way? He finally decides to go for the official dressing down for the dressing-wrong Helmster. "Your duties--which you've been neglecting."
That wakes Tom up. Big time.
"You've been late for two shifts in Sickbay, and you've been distracted on the bridge. Maybe it's time you gave this project a rest."
Tom begins to protest--then decides against it. He becomes almost too accommodating. "You're right. I guess I have been overdoing it," he says.
"You look run down," Chakotay says, stating the obvious--the bags under Tom's eyes are being held up by antrigrav units. "Maybe you should stop by Sickbay and have the Doctor take a look at you."
"No. I'm fine," Tom insists. "I just haven't been getting enough sleep." He sounds it.
Tom's cooperation prompts Chakotay to go a little easy on him. "Well, your next shift isn't till 0700. Why don't you do yourself a favor and turn in early?"
Tom's laughter is a sure sign of how exhausted he really is. "Yeah. Good idea." He sounds convincing enough. B'Elanna wasn't kidding--Alice really is a slave driver. Freed from the burden of further work on Alice by a direct order, Tom trudges to the door of Chakotay's office.
Chakotay stops him. "One more thing. I'd appreciate it if you'd shave and change back into your uniform. We do have protocols." The amazing thing is that Janeway would have let Tom on her bridge looking like this.
"Yes, sir," Tom promises, sounding almost relieved.
"We'll get your Alice flying," Chakotay promises. "Just give it some time."
Tom nods, and heads for his quarters.
But not before a quick trip to the shuttle bay.
"Sorry, Alice, we have to put the test flight on hold," Tom says, sounding slightly more rebellious here than in Chakotay's office. He snorts with bitter frustration. "All we need is a few lousy spare parts! But to listen to Chakotay you'd think Voyager would grind to a halt without them."
"But we're so close." Whoa--that voice. It's back.
More than that--there's a woman here--leaning against Alice. Wearing a silver suit similar to Toms--but far better tailored. Shoulder length brunette hair. Eyes straight out of Anime. Shoulders permanently thrown back.
Haughtiness, thy name is Alice.
"Well, he gave me a direct order," Tom says.
"Since when do you care so much about orders?" Alice pouts.
Tom laughs. "I'm already an Ensign--you want to see me busted down to cadet?" Tom begins stripping out of the Outfit that Fashion Forgot.
"Don't take that off!" Alice orders, her voice rising.
Tom looks at her. "I'm afraid I have to get back into uniform. Protocol," he scoffs. But he continues to take it off.
Alice stops him by running her hands over his chest. "Forget about protocol. Once my repairs are complete, we can go somewhere together."
"Leave Voyager?" Tom asks, skeptical.
"It's been a long time since I've met a pilot I've been compatible with." The way she says it sends the ambient temperature into triple digits. "We can go anywhere you want."
"It's very tempting, Alice--but I can't just take off!"
"What's holding you back?" Alice pouts.
"My job, for one thing. My friends...and B'Elanna . . . "
Alice scoffs. "She doesn't understand you the way I do. None of them do."
Alice doesn't live here anymore. Tom should have named her Yoko.
Tom shakes his head, trying to remember why he came here. "Look, maybe we can make the test flight in a few weeks. And if it goes well, I'm sure the Captain will assign us on missions together. But I can't leave Voyager." He makes a beeline to the door while he still has some capacity to resist.
Alice is right there to intercept him. "All right. I'm sure you know what's best for us."
"Yeah, I think I do," Tom says.
Alice caresses his cheek. "You look a little tired. How about some rest?"
But 'his quarters' is not what Alice has in mind. She eases Tom Paris into the lone seat in the craft. "Sit back. Relax," she says, then begins buttoning up his silver suit again. "Let me help you with this."
The uniform is now slightly different. "What are these?" he asks, his voice groggy, pointing to the trio of small black sockets, positioned close to his heart.
"Just some modifications I made to your flight suit," Alice coos. "They'll help us work together more closely. I'll show you. Activate the interface."
Rosie from Terre Haute aims her compression phaser rifle at Alice's temple. Don't do it! She screams at the television set.
Tom hesitates. Rosie takes full credit.
Alice glares at the screen, then returns her seductive attentions to Tom. "Just for a minute. You won't regret it." Oh, that voice . . .
Don't doooooo iiiiiitttt . . .
Tom does it. The headband curves around. The brain link activates. Tom starts to breathe hard and shallow. His eyes dilate.
"What do you say we continue with those repairs?" Alice purrs, licking the lower lobe of Tom's right ear.
In Terre Haute, nobody can hear you scream. They're all too busy tipping cows and avoiding the gang from the 47 thousand Columbia House record, tape, book, video and other clubs . . .
Even so--they hear Rosie. After that scream, some of the cows tip themselves.
* * *
Tom crawls through Voyager's innards. He stops between decks in the Jefferies tube to reveal an active power cell. He begins extracting it.
"How's it coming?" Alice asks, seriously invading his personal space.
"This is the last power cell. Then we'll just need the data module from section beta 12." But he looks hesitant.
Alice picks up on it. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, these relays are just tricky, that's all," Tom says.
"You're not being honest with me," Alice says, and her seductive voice carries an undercurrent of menace. "I thought we agreed to tell each other everything."
This girl has Tom's number, but good. "Oh, it's just...we're compromising vital systems!"
"If there's an emergency, Voyager's going to need them!" How often does Voyager run into an emergency, anyway?
"If your friends had been more understanding, we wouldn't have to be sneaking around like this!" Yeesh. Talk about high maintenance.
Tom doesn't like Alice badmouthing his crew. "I've spent the last six years with these people. They're like my family!" Which isn't saying much--from the past five-plus years of bits and morsels, I thought Tom's family life left much to be desired . . . but the point is made.
"Sometimes you have to leave your family behind. They're not like us. They're trapped by rules and regulations." Sounds a bit like the speech Steth gave in "Vis a Vis," don't it? "Velocity, freedom--they'll never understand these things the way we do."
Pay attention folks--this argument works. Which tells us much about the Tomster. "Yeah, maybe you're right."
"Of course I am. You don't belong here. You belong with me." She snuggles up next to Tom as he works, making sure he realizes that this is a good thing.
Tom's mind begins to wander.
"You're thinking about your first flight, aren't you?" Alice asks, approvingly. "Tell me."
"Dad took me up in an old S-Class shuttle." What do you know? A pleasant father/son memory. Tom laughs softly. "Two seats. No warp drive. Manual helm controls. I was eight years old. I was scared out of my wits!"
Alice reads his mind. "You couldn't keep the ship level."
"No, not at first. But then...came this moment of clarity when suddenly, everything made sense!"
"The clouds parted--"
"I was flying!" Tom shakes his head. "No matter how many starships I've piloted since then . . . I'm still chasing that feeling."
"Tomorrow you'll catch it," Alice promises. "Only this time, there won't be any clumsy controls to get in the way. Just you...me...and the stars."
This thought leaves Tom speechless. And breathless.
He gets back to work removing the power cell.
Seven of Nine catches Tom Paris in Astrometrics, plotting a course on the big screen.
"Hey!" Tom says, looking awfully guilty.
"I wasn't aware you were assigned to Astrometrics," Seven observes wryly.
"I was just, um, passing by. I guess curiosity got the best of me."
"Are you planning an away mission? You were charting a course."
"Oh, that," Tom says, laughing nervously. "Um, no. I was just taking a peek at what's ahead of us." He switches the display back to the big "you are here" image of the galaxy. "All yours."
"You've modified your garment," Seven of Nine says. Nothing slips by the former Borg's attention.
"Adapted, actually. I made a few tweaks to enhance Alice's neurogenic interface." He smiles--he hopes--amiably. "You know, the 'merging of man and machine.'" Just between us drones, right, Seven?
Seven doesn't like it. "Perhaps you should learn more about this interface before you attempt to use it."
Alice is right there to coach Tom along. "Convince her it's safe," she hisses.
"I ran diagnostics of every system onboard that ship. There's nothing to worry about," Tom says--with a hint of menace in his voice.
"Perhaps I should examine it."
"Make an excuse and leave," Alice orders.
"It's nice of you to offer but it's really not necessary," Tom says, not at all convincingly. "I have to get back to work."
Harry and B'Elanna work together in Engineering. "Power fluctuation's down to 4.7%. Looks like Abaddon's regulators might work out after all!"
"Keep at it," B'Elanna says. "The last thing we need is a temperamental power supply."
Harry picks up on Torres' mood. "Bad day at the office?"
"Bad night with Tom Paris." Torres looks at Harry and makes a decision. "You're his best friend, right?"
Harry laughs without humor--it's a touchy subject with him too these days. "So he tells me," Harry says.
"So--" Torres says. "Maybe you can explain why every time he finds a new hobby I go right out the airlock."
"I wouldn't take it personally," Harry says. "The Ferengi call it the Five Stages of Acquisition: Infatuation, Justification, Appropriation, Obsession, and Resale. Seems like you only got one stage left before he loses interest in that ship and he's all yours again." He smiles reassuringly.
"Until the next infatuation." It's happened often enough that even she notices the pattern, and it's clear she's getting downright tired of it.
Suffice to say, she's not alone.
Something on the readout catches B'Elanna's attention. "We've got a .003 drop in the warp field output."
"That's within parameters," Harry says, unconcerned.
"Not on my watch." Whoa--onscreen B'Elanna Torres Chief Engineering action! Be still my murmuring heart!
Torres looks at display. "Somebody's removed four power cells from the secondary warp assembly without authorization." She frowns.
So does Harry. "Whoever it was tried to cover his tracks by rerouting power from adjacent cells. Should we tell Tuvok?"
B'Elanna looks furious. "Don't bother. This is an open-and-shut case. She bolts out of Engineering.
Harry doesn't bother to ask where she's going. He already knows.
B'Elanna storms into the shuttle bay. "Tom Paris!"
There's no answer. Tom isn't here.
B'Elanna regards the ship that has displaced her. She notices a few "missing" parts on a tool tray and grabs one of them, waving it at the ship. "Well, Alice...looks like you've been borrowing my things without permission."
She notices that the door to the shuttle is open. Tentatively, she enters. She looks over the controls, and touches something.
The shuttle lights up like Times Square on New Year's Eve. B'Elanna gasps.
Then she really gasps when the doors close.
"Hey! Computer, open the hatch."
Unable to comply, Alice says cattily. Then the ship beeps. Warning: life support failure.
This is not good.
Torres slaps her combadge. "Torres to the bridge. Torres to Chakotay! Anybody!"
There's no answer. And the air is running out. Fast.
Tom arrives just in time to see B'Elanna pounding against the window of the shuttle with her last grams of strength, before slumping down to the floor. He rushes over and opens the shuttle doors.
"B'Elanna, what are you doing here?" he demands.
When B'Elanna gets enough of her breath back, she slaps Tom's hands away. "Let me out of here!" She shouts, scrambling to her feet and stumbling out the door of the shuttle--and out the door of the shuttle bay and into the corridor, gasping like a fish out of water.
Tom is close behind--but not before checking to make sure she didn't touch anything. The creep.
"What the hell happened in there?" he asks, looming over her, coming off as aggressive rather than protective of the diminutive Klingon.
B'Elanna shakes Tom off of her as she struggles to get her breath back. "Your ship tried to kill me."
"That's ridiculous!" Tom yells.
"It sealed the . . . the hatch, vented the atmosphere!"
"You must have accidentally tripped the environmental controls!" Tom insists.
Torres glares, her eyes blazing. "Don't you try to tell me this was an accident!"
"What else could it have been?" Tom yells right back, his eyes wild.
"How about 'pilot error'?!?" Torres breaks free again, but only manages to lurch to the other side of the corridor, a mere few feet, before collapsing again.
Tom's on her in no time. "Are you saying that this was my fault?"
"What's gotten into you? You've been stealing components, Tom.
Busted! "Oh, sh--"
"I found the power cells!" Torres rages, moving clear of Tom.
"A few spare parts? You're overreacting!"
"Am I?" Torres demands. She begins to march away.
"Where are you going?" Tom says, running after her. "Wait."
"To talk to the Captain. There's something wrong with you."
Tom intercepts her. Grabs her bodily. Throws her against a bulkhead. "Listen to me!" he bellows, his face inches from hers, his eyes pure Helter Skelter.
"Are you out of your mind?"
Once again, I'm amused by the knowledge that this five-foot half-Klingon hellcat could shred the six-foot helm boy like a Bass-o-Matic if she put her mind to it. She stomps Vulcans, fercryinoutloud. And yet, whenever Tom gets into his alien-possession mode, he's always shown as the one to be afraid of.
Once--just once--I'd like to see her get Xena on Tom's hiney when he gets like this. Just one Jackie Chan stiff-arm to the chest that sends him flying over furniture and into something collapsible. I want the boy to catch air and end up in Sickbay with a bruise the size of Emanuel Lewis.
Is that so much to ask?
"Stay out of this, B'Elanna!" Tom shouts.
"Or what? You'll sic Alice on me again?" Torres breaks free yet again and this time she makes some serious tracks.
Tom tries to follow--but Alice is here to block his progress. "Let her go." Alice is in a foul mood.
Tom needs to abuse someone, so he picks the nearest target. He slams Alice against the wall. "What were you thinking?!" he says, his voice softer but no less dangerous. "You could have killed her!"
"She broke into my database," Alice says without apology. "She was going to discover our flight plan. Not that it matters now."
This catches Tom off-guard. "What is that supposed to mean?"
Two crewmen walk by. Since Alice is just in Tom's head, they see him, dressed funny and in dire need of a hygienic refresher course, ranting at the walls. They keep their distance on the way past.
"Keep your voice down," Alice hisses. "Once your girlfriend talks to the Captain they'll drag you straight to Sickbay. One neural scan and they'll know all about us."
Tom is almost relieved to hear it. "Well, maybe it's time they did." Setting his jaw, Tom marches toward the nearest turbolift.
Alice follows. "Think you can just walk away?!"
"Watch me." He walks away from her.
And then walks into her. "So, I guess this is the real Tom Paris. Life throws up a few roadblocks and he heads for the nearest exit!"
"Get away from me!" Tom pushes her away, and continues his rush to the turbolift.
"I need you!"
"You should've thought of that before trying to kill B'Elanna!" Tom says over his shoulder.
Into the turbolift.
Alice is there.
"Remember how you felt when you first saw me? You knew we were meant to be together."
"I was wrong," Tom says, hyperventilating, struggling to wrest his mind back from this psycho she-wytch on wheels.
"Think of how it feels when you're sitting at the helm and the interface is active," the foul temptress purrs.
"It's over, Alice!" Tom shouts. "One way or the other, I'm getting the hell away from you." He moves to the other side of the lift.
Alice gets her own Helter Skelter look. "I'm sorry you feel that way . . ."
She gives Tom the kind of skunk eye Janeway is famous for. And unlike the legendary Janeway glares-o-pain, Alice's actually does some serious physical damage. Tom's massive forehead becomes a spider's web of overtaxed blood vessels. His scream of agony would give Jamie Lee Curtis a run for her money.
Everyone on Voyager has a purpose, and a unique talent. Tom's is to sound utterly convincing when he's being folded, spindled and mutiltated. Nobody--and I mean nobody--screams like Helm Boy.
The spiderweb fades. "What are you doing to me?" Tom pleads, still laboring for breath.
"Convincing you to do the right thing. Take us the shuttlebay. We're leaving Voyager."
"No!" Ooh, wrong answer. The spiderwebs return. Tom's scream is ripped straight from the diaphragm.
"Please, Tom. I don't want to hurt you." Liar. "The shuttlebay. Now." She threatens to break out the skunk eye again.
If Alice ever wants to star in the next SCANNERS movie, I bet she'd be a shoo-in.
Tom swallows hard. "Deck ten. Shuttlebay." It's not what he wants--but it is the answer Alice wants to hear.
The pain stops. The pleasure begins. Alice smiles.
Dang, this girl's good when she's bad.
We haven't seen the captain much this week. Perhaps she's under alien influence herself--though her alien seems more interested in junk food and Ultimate Frisbee than in sabotage and torture.
"This isn't the first time you and Tom have had an argument about how he spends his free time," Janeway says between sips of something fruity and decaffeinated.
"This wasn't a lovers' quarrel. Captain, he practically assaulted me!" B'Elanna says.
Janeway doesn't believe a word of it. "Well, that doesn't sound like Tom." (sip)
"It wasn't Tom; it was Alice!"
Janeway makes a face. "Now you've lost me."
I think I like the captain better when she's intense. Maybe Steth is back.
Watch your back, Seven. Janeway's got great aim and a phaser with your name on it.
"That's the name that he's calling this new ship," Torres explains--though why she'd have to is beyond me. Is Janeway on vacation this week? Has she not noticed Tom wearing the Liberace eveningwear and the Don Johnson scruff? Has Chakotay--who we KNOW has noticed it--not bothered to bring it up? "Ever since he started working on it, he hasn't slept. He's become irritable, irrational..."
Janeway looks bored.
"It's not just me; Chakotay and Harry have noticed the same thing!"
Janeway tries to look interested, and almost succeeds. "This new ship--it has some kind of neurogenic interface."
"Exactly. It must be having some kind of an effect on him."
Janeway waves. "All right. I'll have the Doctor take a look at him. In the meantime--"
Chakotay breaks in on the intercom. Captain, we have an unauthorized launch in progress.
That woke her up.
Welcome to the party, pal.
"Seal the shuttlebay doors!" Chakotay orders as Janeway and Torres take their stations.
"Too late. He's out," Harry says. A moment later, he has more bad news. " His shields are up. I can't get a transporter lock."
Janeway's all business now. "Tractor beam."
Tom is well and fully strapped into his chair. Alice the girl stands real close, whispering into his ear.
"They're trying to tractor us," Tom says. "Stop them," she orders. I can't, Tom says.
"You'll be able to maneuver much better if you complete the interface," Alice says, drawing him still further into her web. How? Tom asks. "Activate the connector sequence.
Tom does not want to do this. But when Alice's eyes begin to sparkle, he knows it's a question of Comply, or Pain Cave. He finishes the linkups.
Four multicolored wires fly out from the chair into his chest, plugging into the ports. It's like the Borg, only more festive. Tom gasps.
"We're one now, Tom. Think of what you want me to do, and I'll do it."
After the initial disorientation and hormonal rush subsides, Tom begins to think. But he's still not all that much under his own control.
"We can disrupt their tractor beam...with an optronic pulse."
"Good," Alice says. "You have access to our weapons. Use them."
"He's charging weapons," Tuvok reports.
"Full power to the shields!" Chakotay says.
"He's disrupting our tractor beam."
Janeway's eyes blaze. "Increase power to the emitters. We'll drag him in by his heels if we have to." You go, captain.
But it's not enough. The ship lurches a little. "He's broken free, Captain," Tuvok says.
Janeway opens hailing frequencies. "Janeway to Paris. Stand down and return to Voyager immediately."
I'm with Alice now, Captain. Let us go.
"You know I can't do that, Tom," Janeway says.
Alice bends Tom's ear. "She'll do anything to get you back. I don't blame her for that," she says, sending J/P fans into a fit of ecstasy but sending the P/T Liberation Front into an uproar, "but we have to stop her."
"How?" Tom asks weakly.
And he does know. He doesn't like it--but he knows.
And he obeys.
"He's coming about," Harry says.
"He's charging weapons again," Tuvok reports. The large Boom backs him up. "Direct hit."
Janeway ain't playing now. "Return fire."
But there's nothing to fire at. "He's gone to warp," Harry says.
"He masked his warp signature. He's gone," Torres says.
Tom--if you can hear me, KEEP RUNNING. When Janeway catches you, you'll long for the brain-melting mercies of Alice . . .
* * *
The good ship Alice plows through space, using some kind of drive system that turns space into smoke rings. It's kinda funky looking, but also disquieting. I wouldn't want to fly that way.
Whether Tom does or not, he doesn't have much of a choice.
Alice tries to cheer him up with old flying stories. "' . . . And Daedalus fashioned wings from wax and feathers and used them to escape his prison.'"
"That's one of my favorite myths," Tom says. I know, says Alice. Tom, not looking his best by any means, still manages a bit of his old humor. "But you left out the part where Icarus flew too close to the sun and his wings melted." I'm sure Tom's dad pointed that part often enough--Dad gives Tom his first taste of flight at age eight, and he's had flying in his blood ever since, but some of Tom's biggest screwups and traumas in his life have come when he was sitting in the pilot's chair.
And now he's flying towards a sun of a different color, on the run from his current "family." Talk about a vicious circle.
Alice laughs softly. "Poetic license. Besides, if we get too close to a star we have mulitphasic shielding to protect us."
She notices that Tom seems…preoccupied. Which is, of course, unacceptable. "What is it?"
"My arms," Tom says. He holds his hands out, with effort. "They feel numb."
Alice locks eyes with Tom. "Who need arms when you have wings? You're becoming a part of me now. Our potential is unlimited."
Alice leans in close. "Forget the old Tom Paris. He doesn't exist anymore."
I got news for you, Alice--the new Tom Paris ain't lookin' so good.
Voyager is back at Abaddon's House of Debris.
But Leatherface isn't in a mood to talk. "You know my policy," he growls.
"We're not looking for a refund--just some information," Janeway says pleasantly.
"That's one commodity I don't keep in stock. I suggest you look elsewhere."
"Not until we get some answers," Janeway says, less pleasantly.
Abaddon doesn't back down. "You'll find I'm prepared to deal with disgruntled customers."
"Captain, I'm reading active weapons signatures on three of the derelict ships. They are targeting Voyager."
Well, at least he didn't put her on hold with the Michael Bolton music. Once "when a man loves a woman" gets brought into the fray, someone simply has to die.
Janeway notes the hostile act, but decides to change tactics. "Before we take actions we both might regret, Mr. Neelix has something to show you."
Neelix begins fondling the now polished, gorgeous, valuable-looking crystal as he addresses Abaddon. "I wanted to say, uh...thank you for this lost treasure," he says with a cruelly innocent smile.
Abaddon's foul mood changes as greed takes center stage. "A beryllium crystal!" he gasps.
Neelix breathes on it and wipes away a nonexistent bit of dust, just to taunt the poor guy. "I'm surprised a trader of your distinction would let this slip through his fingers. I could say, 'all trades are final . . .'
Abaddon begins to whimper like a puppy. Wealth beyond the dreams of avarice, and he gave it away for a song.
Well, okay, a jukebox.
Neelix puts the alien out of his misery. "--But we'd be willing to give it back . . . in exchange for some cooperation."
As the 94th Rule of Acquisition says, "when you've got 'em by the money sack, their hearts and their minds will follow." Now that's what I call hardball.
Abaddon is now aboard, explaining what he knows to the senior officers.
Who aren't exactly buying his story.
"Haunted?" Tuvok asks.
"That's what the Harkonian told me when he traded her. I blamed his wild stories on isolation sickness and then took the ship off his hands."
"Did you ever notice anything odd about the ship?" Chakotay asks.
"Odd? You could say that. I tried turning her into a towing vessel. She was cooperative at first--but then she began to require constant . . . "
I hope you haven't forgotten me. I'd know that voice anywhere. Alice.
But this doesn't look like Tom's Alice. She looks like Abaddon. Poor girl.
Of course, nobody else can see her. "Mr. Abaddon?" Neelix asks.
"Where was I?" Abaddon asks, recovering as smoothly as he can--which is to say, not very.
"Constant repairs," Chakotay reminds him. "Right," Abaddon says, averting his gaze--
Alice is there. She glares.
"Please..." Abaddon begs her. "I wasn't going to tell them anything!"
"Who were you speaking to?" Tuvok asks.
Abaddon is toast no matter what. Everywhere he looks, there she is. He fears Alice more than he wants the Beryllium, and that's saying something. "No one. I-I... I have to leave now. I'll return the items you traded for the ship--"
Alice is in a foul mood. Abaddon's head begins to throb painfully.
"Leave me alone! I did what you told me! I found you a pilot!"
"What is it?" Janeway demands. "What are you seeing?"
"It's her!" Abaddon wails. "She's right in front of me!
"There's no one there," Chakotay says.
"Transport me back now--ah!" The glare-o-pain kicks into overdrive. Grabbing his melting skull, Abaddon gasps and collapses on the ground.
The captain is the first to reach him, checking his pulse. "Janeway to Sickbay--medical emergency."
"He suffered a cerebral hemorrhage," Doc says in Sickbay. Abaddon is there, unconscious, but breathing. "Fortunately, I was able to repair the damage in time."
"What caused it?" Janeway asks.
"It appears his neural pathways were recently restructured. I detected a--neurogenic signature," he adds pointedly.
"Looks like Alice got to him, too," Janeway says dryly. "Wake him."
Abaddon wakes up scared. "She was here!"
"The woman you saw was an hallucination created by the derelict ship's neurogenic interface," Doc explains. "I've given you a cortical suppressant. She won't be bothering you anymore." Abaddon breathes a sigh of relief.
"Tell me, what does this ship want with our Crewman?" Janeway asks.
Abaddon is freer with his information now. "She can't fly herself. She needs a pilot--a biological entity to work in tandem with her programming."
"Well, if all she needed was a pilot, why didn't she just recruit you?"
Abaddon laughs bitterly. "I--wasn't compatible. She (snorts) said my reflexes were too slow. That I was as useless as the junk that I traded." Despite the ordeal she put him through, he still seems relieved not to have lived up to Alice's expectations.
Abaddon shrugs. "That I couldn't get her to where she needed to go. Don't ask me for the coordinates. She never told me. Just insisted that I get her a real pilot." Another bitter exhalation of breath.
He turns to Janeway. "I'm sorry I--didn't warn you before. I--couldn't resist her . . . " He has trouble meeting the captain's gaze. All they've been to him is nice, and all he's brought them is pain.
This bit of data is about the only thing that stands between Tom Paris and a permanent reassignment to Waste Extraction.
But the wrath of Kate is the least of Tom's worries right now. First, they've got to get him back. But they don't know where to go--
Seven of Nine to Captain Janeway. Please report to Astrometrics.
Ah, coincidence. You gotta love this show.
"I've managed to reconstruct the data Ensign Paris was working on. My suspicion was correct. It is a course trajectory," Seven explains to the captain. Janeway nods; "Let's see it."
The detail appears on the big screen. It's a fairly long and twisted path. "It terminates in spatial grid 867," Seven says. "Looks uninhabited," Janeway says. "It's empty space," Seven agrees--"with the exception of a small anomaly."
Seven calls the anomaly up--and gasps. It's an impressive looking sight--a geyser in space. "A particle fountain! The Federation lost more than a dozen ships examining a similar phenomenon in the Alpha Quadrant."
Janeway sets her jaw. "Relay the coordinates to the bridge."
"Take us out of warp," Alice orders. Her wish is his command.
"Can you see it now?"
Tom's eyes, glazed over as they are, blink in amazement. "Yes." Particle fountain, dead ahead. It's even more impressive up close and personal. "What is it?" Tom asks.
Alice's eyes go impossibly wide. "Home."
* * *
Voyager flies in under Red Alert.
"Distance?" Janeway asks. Six million kilometers, Harry reports. "Decrease speed to one-quarter impulse. Full power to shields," she orders.
"I'm detecting a vessel off our starboard bow," Tuvok says. "It's Tom," Harry adds; "he's headed right for the anomaly."
"Can you get a transporter lock?" Janeway asks. "No, ma'am. Not with those multiphasic shields in place," Harry says.
"Are we in hailing range?" Janeway asks. Tuvok opens the channel--and Tom answers.
Tom doesn't look so good. Wired like Busta Rhymes in that "I am Sci Fi" commercial, Tom's teeth are gritted, his face is seriously bearded, and he's sweating like Link Hogthrob on the Griddle of Torment.
"Keep your distance, Captain, or we'll open fire." It's more a plea than a threat.
"Tom, listen to me. The neurogenic interface is affecting your judgment. Drop your shields and let us beam you aboard."
Alice is right there, whispering in Tom's ear. "Ignore them. Keep going." Tom, awfully busy just trying to navigate around this seriously nasty spatial anomaly, holds his tongue. Fortunately, unlike in Threshold, he doesn't pull his tongue out of his head and show it to the Doctor.
"He's not responding," Harry says.
"Target his propulsion systems and fire," Janeway orders.
Tuvok shoots--and he scores.
Tom screams. He and the ship are fully linked now, so what the ship feels, Tom feels.
Doc hails the bridge. "Cease fire. Ensign Paris' neural readings are fluctuating. His synaptic functions have become linked to the ship. If we keep firing we could injure him severely!"
"Acknowledged," Janeway says. "Tuvok, stand down," she orders, before Tuvok can get off another volley.
Darn. Just when the Gratuitous Paris Abuse was really getting interesting. Ah well--the episode ain't over yet.
The shuttle is a mere ten minutes away from the particle fountain. And they're running out of options.
"Is there any way to disable their shields without firing weapons?" Chakotay asks.
"If I could access their main computer and transmit a shutdown sequence--" Tuvok begins.
"Problem is, Tom and Alice would detect it," Harry says. "They'd compensate."
"Unless we find a way to distract them," Janeway says, getting an idea. "Bridge to the Doctor."
"Any progress on your analysis of the neurogenic interface?"
Not yet, Captain.
"Would it be possible to tap into the interface using a com signal?"
In Sickbay, Doc frowns. "I believe so--but I don't know what that would accomplish."
"You've got five minutes. Do it," Janeway says. "And tell B'Elanna to prepare for an 'away mission.'"
Torres, standing next to the Doctor, doesn't like the sound of that. "Captain?"
Six minutes pass.
"We're four minutes away," Harry says.
"Bridge to Sickbay. Status?" Janeway says.
Stand by, Captain. I'm making the final adjustments. We see Doc putting a neural hookup thingy on B'Elanna's forehead.
B'Elanna doesn't look all that enthused. "I'm not sure how I feel about getting inside Tom's head."
Doc, ever the comedian, has a few suggestions. "Maybe you'll be able to explain a few things when you get back."
B'Elanna doesn't laugh.
Alice seems happy. They're getting closer. The fountain looms in all its apocalyptic glory, like a gigantic galactic pilot light.
"I knew you were the one!" Alice gushes into Tom's ear, her wild-eyed passion pretty much lost on the heavily occupied Paris. "No one's ever gotten me this close before."
"I'll have you home in just a few minutes," Tom promises, though he doesn't look all that eager to enter the fountain himself.
"I promise you won't be disappointed," she reassures him. We hear Alice, but we no longer see her. The camera is too close up on Tom.
"Don't believe her." A new voice. Also familiar. Urgent, concerned--B'Elanna's.
Now it's Torres who whispers into Tom's ear. Alice is nowhere to be found.
"Where's Alice?" Tom asks, panicked. She was the one telling him where to go. Without Alice, he's just flying into an inferno.
"Alice doesn't live here anymore. She's a pile of circuits in this ship's computer core. You're letting a program delude you."
Not exactly what Tom wants to hear. His life is complicated enough at the moment.
Doctor to bridge. She's in. We see Doc monitoring Torres, who is here in body, but her eyes are closed.
"Now," Janeway orders.
"Accessing their main computer," Tuvok says.
"You don't understand. This is what I've always dreamed of!" Tom yells.
"You're still dreaming. And when you wake up, you're in for a big surprise!" B'Elanna says.
"Alice needs me!"
"So do I."
Alice shows up now, standing between Tom and the big view of the particle fountain. "Nice sentiment," Alice says, eyes blazing, "but it's a lie. Your family wants to keep us apart. Don't listen to them!"
"Tom, it's me--B'Elanna. Alice is an illusion!"
"I'm giving you what you always wanted--something they can never do! Does that sound like an illusion?"
Uh-oh. In-brain catfight. That's gotta hurt. "I can't think. Leave me alone--both of you!" Tom pleads.
Rosie screams at the television. "No! Tom doesn't mean that! It's just that evil Alice talking! The important thing is--they're together now! Two parts of the same soul! They complete one another! Two hearts beating as one! This is the bestest, most romanticest episode EVER FILMED OF ANY SHOW EVER!!!!"
The sighs emanating from Terre Haute are profound enough to align the planets, avert planet-killing asteroids from their trajectories, stun Atlantic-based hurricanes into stillness . . . and win a much-deserved Grammy for Weird Al Yankovic.
Just about then, the ship's power begins to fluctuate. Alice isn't at all happy about it. "They've accessed our systems. They're trying to disable my shields. Stop them!" It's not a request.
"Focus on me. Listen to me!" Torres begs, her heart and her voice breaking.
Alice, backlit by the raging fountain, looks downright evil. "My shields are failing. Do something!"
Torres keeps whispering, pleading. "It's time to come home."
"Tom!" Alice demands.
"No!" Tom yells, urging both of them to just back off. But as the shields drop, the effects of the neighborhood begin to assault Tom. This close to the fountain, that's got to hurt.
"Hang on!" B'Elanna says. "We're going to get you out of here."
"Tom!" Alice orders. She breaks out the bad mojo glare of pain to drive her request home.
"Nooooooo!" Tom's forehead begins to spiderweb.
The shields fail. Tom screams as only he can.
So does Alice.
"I've got it, Captain," Tuvok says. "Their shields are down."
"Beam him to Sickbay," Janeway orders. But Harry can't comply; "There's too much interference from the particle fountain."
"I'm boosting the confinement beam," Chakotay says, making a few adjustments from his station. "Try it now."
"We've got him!" Harry says a moment later. Everyone breathes easier.
"Alice is losing helm control," Tuvok says--and it's clear he wants to watch. Janeway does too.
Presumably, so do we--because that's where the camera goes. We see Alice tumbling through the churning madness of the fountain, swimming upstream.
But Alice doesn't last long without a pilot to maneuver for her--and blows way the hell up, just as anything that gets on Janeway's bad side is supposed to. There's nobody there to hear her scream.
Janeway watches until there's nothing left--then shrugs. "Resume course to the alpha quadrant."
Brrrr. Even the particle fountain shivers from that cold wave emanating from Janeway's shoulders.
Tom is subdued as Doc runs his scans. B'Elanna is there--no doubt to make sure he doesn't run away.
Tom is back in uniform. His face is clean-shaven. He still has a pip on his collar.
All's well that ends well. Even in a gravity well.
"You'll need a few days to fully recover," Doc says cheerfully. "Think you can manage to stay off your feet for that long?"
"If he doesn't, I'll break his legs," B'Elanna offers helpfully.
Doc takes that as his cue to exit. "Well, then, I'll leave you to B'Elanna's tender mercies." Exit, stage left.
But B'Elanna doesn't look all that mad. She looks downright compassionate, even. "I've got something for you. It's a get well card from Naomi Wildman." Appropriate to the time of year, it's pumpkin orange. Inside, Tom sees a crayon rendition of Tom and B'Elanna standing side by side. "It's a pretty good likeness of you," Torres says with a smile, "but I don't think she quite captured my eyes."
The card seems to be the final straw--Tom begins to lose it. "I'm sorry...for everything," he whispers.
"It wasn't your fault," B'Elanna assures him.
"But I remember all of it. Everything I said...everything I did." He moves his head slowly--no doubt moving it all is painful. "It was like I was sleepwalking."
"The important thing is you woke up," B'Elanna says softly.
"Yeah," Tom says, then finally manages to look B'Elanna in the eye. The memory of that encounter in the corridor no doubt haunts him, but he sees no recrimination in her eyes. "Thanks for being my alarm clock."
"Anytime," B'Elanna says. She comes closer, and they wrap each other in a big ole hug.
Still locked in the comforting embrace (stop sighing, Rosie, you're throwing off my concentration!), Tom makes a solemn vow. "From now on...I promise--no more affairs with strange ships." It's a little joke, but it's an important one--he'll be okay eventually.
B'Elanna takes it for what it is. "What about the Delta Flyer?" she asks.
Tom sniffles a little, and they break the hug. But their noses are mere inches apart.
"We're just friends," he says.
And with that, they start kissing. Not your passionate, hungry, Scientific Method sort of devouring selfish throbbing kiss. But it's heartfelt, and it's sweet.
And the longest lasting--heck, the only--bona fide Voyager romance clears yet another hurdle.
One partially rusted Delta Quadrant kitchen colander: five dollars.
One set of wildly inaccurate star charts: zero dollars.
One Beryllium crystal: forty-seven trillion dollars.
One brain-sucking slut-shuttle from another dimension: . . .
Well, priceless it ain't. But "Alice" does have its moments, and its upsides. I was disappointed, but not completely.
Let's start with the good stuff.
The first, and best, thing to say about this episode is the acting. The characters really came to life for the most part. With one small exception, Janeway's "yeah, whatever" reaction to Torres' complaint, the performances all struck me as believable. John Fleck, as the ugly, oily Abaddon, is no stranger to Trek, with DS9 and TNG credits under his belt--he did a great job with his role, giving his smooth-talking junk dealer a surprising level of dignity and poignancy. Claire Rankin was also very good as the mental avatar of the alien ship--it's not hard to see how "Alice" could smooth-talk Tom down the yellow-brick road to servitude, and that she was not above a little old-fashioned brutality to achieve her ends. She had a creepy Celine Dion quality that fits well into the Halloween season and the horrific turns this episode takes.
The key players here--McNeill, Dawson, and Rankin--set up a strong and generally believable Love Triangle. Personifying the ship was a good move overall. In some ways, this was as much Dawson's episode as McNeill's.
One thing--I mocked the "full complement of shuttles" comment by Chakotay in the breakdown, but the truth is, I'd expect shuttles to be fairly easily constructed from standard interchangeable (and replicatable) parts. They're simply too useful to a ship designed for deep-space duty. It didn't take that long to construct the Delta Flyer--just a few days--and that was a custom job. Using a more traditional blueprint and enough replicator energy and raw materials, and a new shuttle is probably easier to assemble than your average Model T.
The problem may well be a lack of communication--things they told us in the first season, many of us took as "truth for all time." The ship was running through Kazon space in a state of severe rationing--where even the contents of a bowl of soup were too precious to squander. Back then, putting a new shuttle together might have been fairly unrealistic, just as photon torpedoes--of which they had a very limited supply at first--could over time be replaced with some in-house ingenuity. After five years, they've learned to make, beg, borrow or steal (from the Borg) what they need. They might still go through feast-or-famine periods, but generally they've been pretty good at planning ahead. (Full disclosure: I didn't come up with this on my own. I ran across this page on Mike Jonas' site. When I read it, it made perfect sense.)
Abaddon--what a guy. As I understand it, his name is a Hebrew word meaning "to lead astray." Seems accurate enough.
The cosmic Fountain--beautiful effect. I just wish more had been done with it.
And I guess that's as good a place as any to get into what disappointed me. They threw a lot into this that was never adequately explained.
Who, exactly, is Tom Paris? What does he really want? Is he happy here?
How many bloody times have they asked this question? This theme is rehashed more often than "will Seven return to the Borg"? There was an opportunity to go a bit deeper, and they introduced some of that--but not nearly enough. They had an unprecedented opportunity--someone hooked into Tom's brain, using his memories to manipulate him, and they stick to generalizations. Voyager's his "family"--but as far as we know, Tom is estranged from his family. We get the "Daedalus and Icarus" story--which might be a fine allegory for the Tom Paris mystique--but it's never really tied together very well.
In short--we're given the Paris Tease. This isn't "Being John Malkovich" by any means.
The first flight at eight years old--I appreciated that. It was a rare positive memory Tom has of his father. But what did they add to it? How has that shaped his life? Had they tied that "chasing the original rush" into, say, his fatal experience at Caldik Prime, that would have been something. Had Tom learned something new about himself, that might have been something. But all we got was a few disconnected stories and anecdotes and a vague promise not to fall for any more ships.
I was hoping for something closer to what B'Elanna got in "Barge of the Dead"--an in-brain flashback to Icarus and Daedalus Paris, that first flight, the memories, where and when Dad later became the source of unpleasant memories. ANYTHING. Or if not Papa Paris, following up on the theme of Voyager As Family. We saw Tom having second thoughts about what he was doing when he was ripping off components, but Alice countering with "I understand you better than they ever will."
They hinted, they promised--but they didn't follow through. That was quite frustrating.
Now, maybe it's me--but would you hook YOUR brain up to something you didn't fully understand? How many anecdotal examples do they need from Trek lore before that basic lesson is driven home? Even Wesley freakin' Crusher was smart enough to (1) date Ashley Judd, and (2) check out "the game" on a brain simulator before hooking it up to his own skull. The Doctor should have been all over that puppy like white on rice long before Tom had the chance to log in, turn on, and freak out. You'd think that with Trek's track record, protocol would be such that if anyone starts acting even SLIGHTLY loopy, they'd be taken down to Sickbay under armed guard and given the full physical. ESPECIALLY if they've had any alien contact. The universe is just too loopy not to--THAT'S why the book on interspecies contact protocol is so dang thick. There are simply too dang many ways to die when you're flying around in a self-contained environment.
I dunno about you, but I thought there were plenty of warning signs with Tom, long before things came to the crisis level they did.
There were many nice moments to this--but there wasn't enough connective tissue. One moment, it's Tom and Harry and Tuvok. Then it's just Tom and Harry. The next, it's Tom and B'Elanna. It basically ends with Tom and B'Elanna, but it might have helped to have her involved from the beginning. See them unreservedly happy at episode start, then happy with some bumps, then mostly bumps, then the climax in the shuttle near the fountain, then the epilogue. It was an episode that was largely there, and had some good pieces--but the overall effect was disappointing.
If you're a relationshipper, you probably don't care. There was P/T here, and it ended well in that respect. I could hear the squeals from here when Torres uploaded herself into Tom's brain. Since fanfic is largely about taking what the canon gives you and running with it, this episode provided plenty to work with. Fanfic folk almost seem to REVEL in incomplete details--more for them to fill in. "Alice" was definitely prime fodder for fanfic.
But for a general audience…there's enough holes and "huh?" bits to make it, in my mind, the weakest story of the season, partly but not wholly redeemed by the strong performances.
So…call it (* * 1/2) out of 4. Not terrible by any means. I didn't hate it. I didn't loathe it. I did swear at it, and it did disappoint me, but mostly because it promised more than it delivered. With a little bit of reworking, this could have been a contender. As it is, this is a stumble from last week, and the weakest of the season.
The good news is, if this is as bad as Voyager gets in season six, I won't mind a bit.
Next Week: Repeat of DARK FRONTIER, the movie.