The following is a SPOILER Review for "Caretaker." If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright, who watches the episode no more than twice before preparing the review. This gives me the opportunity to review and recap with a combination of memory and creativity (when memory fails). The result is an experience that is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the actual episode. Consider it a revival of the ancient oral traditions passed on through the generations. I make no claims as to accuracy, but I hope I got enough of it right to keep your attention.
Two ships take an unexpected 70,000 lightyear detour, boldly going where nobody had gone before: UPN.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Words roll across the scene to dramatic orchestral music like the opening sequence of Star Wars. The Maquis, a renegade band of Federation colonists, are carrying on the fight that the Federation itself has halted due to a recent treaty with Cardassia. This irritates both Cardassians and the Federation.
As the words disappear, disruptors fire in the noisy vacuum of space. A large Cardassia vessel fires on a much smaller Maquis vessel. Inside of the smaller vessel we see a half dozen people or so, but only three are talking: a black Vulcan named Tuvok manning the weapons and scanners; a young woman named B'Elanna, the engineer, who looks mostly human but bears the forehead ridges of a Klingon; and an unnamed captain with a triangular tattoo covering the left half of his forehead. As they get pounded by the Cardassian vessel, commanded by Gul Evek (introduced previously on Star Trek: The Next Generation), they yell commands, complaints, curses and compromises over the ruckus of their hounded vessel. Gul Evek hails the ship and orders their surrender; the captain ignores him and demands options. B'Elanna gives him one; stop firing back at the Cardassians, and they might have enough extra power to reach the Badlands, an area of space where plasma storms make maneuvering dangerous. In the Badlands, the Maquis will have the advantage of their better maneuverability to elude their pursuers.
Miraculously, they do survive long enough to reach the badlands, and Gul Evek follows. But he does not have a chance in the plasma storms of the Badlands, and is soon hobbled by an intense plasma burst, hailing for assistance. The little Maquis ship has escaped.
From the Cardassians, anyway. While plotting a course to their home base, they run into a coherent tetrion beam of unknown origin. Within seconds, a massive displacement wave (also of unknown origin) is pursuing them, and this puppy is not deterred by plasma storms. As Tuvok counts down the seconds, the ragtag crew does its best to evade it.
They don't succeed.
* * *
In the late 20th century, New Zealand was the home to the twin pillars of American entertainment, "Hercules: The Legendary Journeys," and "Xena: Warrior Princess." By the 24th century, New Zealand is a Federation penal settlement, where the incorrigibles do time in attractive environs. They would look like any day laborers were it not for the locator anklets the prisoners wear. One of them--a twentysomething white male human with close-cropped, sandy blond hair--is crouched down on a raised platform, zapping a metal dome-looking thingie on a control panel with a device that goes Crackle when you flick the switch. He flicks it a lot, intent on his work. He is decked out in a loose-fitting prison-issue tunic, which is open enough to see his bare, mostly hairless chest. He's sweating a little in the tropical climate of a New Zealand Summer day.
"Tom Paris?" The young man looks up, and the camera follows his line of sight over the machinery to reveal the slender, commanding presence of a thirtysomething woman wearing the Command-red shouldered uniform of Starfleet. Her hands are on her hips. "Katherine Janeway. I served with your father on the Al Batani. I was wondering if we could go somewhere and talk."
She tells him the Rehab Commission is very pleased with his work, and have given approval for a proposal she has for him--an assignment he may be able to help her with. He smirks a little; "I guess I'm yours," he says. She frowns; she's also heard this about him. The roguish charm.
As they talk, they walk through the woods. She tells him when she served with his father. "You must be good," Tom Paris says; "my father only accepts the best and the brightest." She tells him she's going to search for a Maquis ship that disappeared into the Badlands the week before. Paris advises against it; "I've never seen a Federation Starship that can maneuver through the plasma storms."
"You've never seen Voyager," Janeway says with a touch of pride. "We'd like you to come along." Paris adds, "You'd like me to lead you to my former colleagues." He tells her he was only with the Maquis for a few weeks before his capture, and is clueless about most of their hideouts. Janeway tells him he's still the resident expert. She tells him her chief of security was onboard, and he hasn't checked in. The Maquis ship was also commanded by another former Starfleet officer named Chakotay--"you knew him." Paris nods. "And you didn't get along."
Paris sighs. Chakotay, he says, left Starfleet out of principle--to defend his home colony from the Cardassians. Paris, on the other hand, was forced to resign from Starfleet and was seen as a mercenary rather than a patriot, who had joined the Maquis as a way of paying his bar tab. Or so Chakotay claimed. But, Paris admits, Chakotay was right. He says he's willing to help Janeway track down his friends--he spits the word--in the Maquis, but he wants to know..."What's in it for me?" All things considered, New Zealand doesn't look all that bad a place to do time, and he's been "doing good work."
Janeway tells him that if he helps them find the ship, they'd put in a good word for him at his Outmate (parole?) Review. He'd be onboard as an observer, she says...and for the first time, Paris registers an emotion other than amusement. "Observer?! Hell, I'd be the best pilot you could have!" Ah ha. What he wants there to be in it for him is a chance to pilot this Starship that can maneuver through the Badlands. But Janeway doesn't bite; "you'll be an observer,"she says, ending the discussion. "When it's over, you're cut loose," she says. Paris frowns, and some of the humor drains from his eyes. "Story of my life," he says.
A lone Federation shuttlecraft flies through space, destination: Deep Space Nine. It contains two passengers: the pilot, a pretty young officer named Stadi; and Tom Paris, now decked out in a Starfleet uniform. Paris hovers over her shoulder. "You're changing my mind about Betazoids," he says throatily. "Good," she says, never looking at him. "Oh, that wasn't a compliment; until today I always considered your people warm and sensual." His words, teasing though they are, trip from his tongue like warm water from a polished-brass faucet into a nice aromatic bubble bath.
"I can be warm and sensual," Stadi says with just a hint of encouragement. "Just not with me," he chides. "Do you always fly at women at warp speed, Mr. Paris?" "Only when they're in visual range," he coos.
Stadi changes the subject as something else comes into visual range. "That's Voyager," she announces, pointing to a ship on one of DS9's upper pylons; it somewhat resembles a, inverted plastic tablespoon with warp nacelles attached. She begins rattling off pertinent information: "Intrepid class, sustainable warp factor of 9.975, 15 decks, crew complement of 141, bioneural circuitry." She explains that traditional circuitry has been replaced by gel packs consisting of bioneural cells, which dramatically speed up response time. She takes the shuttle past the shuttle bay and flies over the saucer section. USS Voyager, registry code NCC 74656, the newest ship in the venerable Federation lineup. Savor the view.
On DS9, we move directly to Quark's Bar, where we get a glimpse of an open-mouth drunk Morn eclipsing the view. Quark is speaking expansively, welcoming the crew of Voyager to his humble establishment, paying particular attention to the very young Asian guy with a single pip on his collar--an ensign on his first mission out of the academy. The young man respectfully declines whatever the Ferengi is selling. Lobi crystals is what he's selling-exotic items from an exotic creature called--a Morn. The ensign makes the mistake of saying, "we were warned about Ferengi at the Academy," which sends our pious Quark into a dramatic tizzy fit, raving about besmirched honor and actionable slander. Paris takes this in, nursing a drink. Quark demands to know the young ensign's name: "Kim...Harry Kim," the young man stammers, now offering to buy a memento for his parents. But the outraged Ferengi will have none of it; this is a matter of honor, he screams. Tom Paris looks on, shaking his head. Harry offers to buy the whole box of Lodi crystals, which seems to mollify the bartender, ready to sell the whole kit and caboodle...until Paris steps in. He promptly rescues the young ensign from everyone's favorite DS9 Ferengi (well, okay, I like Rom better too.) As they walk away, Paris asks Kim, "Didn't they warn you about Ferengi at the academy?" They share a laugh, and Paris seems to have found his first friend.
Our first view of the interior of Voyager is the sickbay, where Paris and Kim enter to check in with the chief medical officer. "Tom Paris, reporting aboard," he says. The doctor's demeanor turns icy. "Ah yes...the observer," he says. The doctor looks a bit like Kevin Nealon from Saturday Night Live, but his voice is different...and he's a little funnier. The doctor says nothing further, moving to an operating table where his Vulcan medical assistant is hovering over what looks like another Vulcan.
Paris acknowledges his role onboard. "And I seem to be observing a problem right now...Doctor," he says with a challenging half-smirk, but eyes devoid of humor.
"I was serving in a hospital on Caldek Prime about the same time you were stationed there," the Doctor says, and Paris' jaw sets. "We never actually met," the doctor continues; he doesn't elaborate, but volumes of unspoken communication pass between them. Whatever battle has just been fought, Paris came away the loser. The doctor walks over and looks evenly at Paris, almost close enough to kiss...or spit. "The captain asked if you'd come aboard; I suggest you check in with her," the doctor states, not adding now get out of my sickbay.
Harry speaks for the first time; "I haven't checked in with her yet either," he offers, hoping to break the tension between the two men. It seems to work; the doctor looks at him, addresses him by name (which Harry never offered) and says it would be a good thing for the new operations officer to do. Paris leaves with a hard expression; Kim just looks confused.
As they walk through the corridors, Harry asks what that was all about. "It's a long story and I'm tired of telling it," Paris says, voice devoid of humor, walking briskly. "I'm sure someone will fill you in before long."
The captain is in her quarters, talking with someone over a comm channel. She's got a cup of hot coffee in her hand. The manly voice says he's just heard from the doctor (uh oh, poor Paris) but no, it's something else. "She's pregnant?" she says, her voice cheerful. "Puppies are due in seven weeks," the voice says. We get to see who she's talking to--on a small view screen, a handsome man with greying hair and what I'd guess is civilian attire--a tan suede jacket?
"Oh, Mark, you've got to take her home with you," Janeway purrs. "Hey, I just got my rugs cleaned," he protests. She begs some more, with the hint of a pout in her voice, and Mark holds up a hand. "Is this one of those love-me, love-my-dogs demands?" "Yes," she says in a voice and with a look that cannot be denied. "How could I ever refuse you," he sighs, admitting defeat. "Thanks, honey," she says. She has work to do, and Mark says he won't bother her further.
She drops everything and sinks to her knees on the floor, her face almost touching the view screen. "You're never a bother," she insists sincerely, "except the way I like to be bothered." She smiles at the shared boudoir secret, a smile of feminine perfection. (I'm in love with this woman.) She says she'll see him in a few weeks, and asks him to pick up the doggie bed at her house. "I did it an hour ago," he says, and she melts. She kisses her fingers and presses them to the screen. This is a far different Janeway from the Captain who introduced herself to Tom Paris. She's all captain, and all woman. No compromises. None are needed.
Her bell chimes, and in come Paris and Kim. "Welcome aboard Voyager," she tells them both warmly. Kim, at attention, says crisply, "thank you sir." Paris looks at him. Oops.
Janeway's smile fades. "Mr. Kim--at ease before you sprain something," she says, striding to stand directly before him. Paris is off a ways, enjoying the show despite himself. Janeway tells the young Ensign that despite Starfleet tradition, she doesn't like to be called Sir. Harry tries again: "Yes...ma'am?" "Ma'am will do in a crunch. But I prefer Captain." She escorts the young men to the bridge, and asks Paris if he had any difficulty arriving; "not at all...Captain," he says, some of his old humor restored. Harry looks around the bridge, amazed.
Janeway introduces the two to her first officer, Lt. Commander Cabot--a friendly looking white man with a full head of mostly-grey hair. He warmly shakes the hand of Ensign Kim, welcoming him aboard--but only grudgingly accepts Paris' outstretched hand with a grim smile. Paris puts on his best face, but when Cabot's back is turned, Paris' disappointment shows. This isn't going to be as easy as he'd hoped. At least the Captain is being moderately cordial.
Janeway shows Kim to his Ops station and asks if it's satisfactory. "Yes, Ma'am," Kim says exuberantly. "It's not crunch time yet, Mr. Kim. I'll let you know when." To his credit, Ensign Kim does not vomit all over his new station from anxiety-induced nausea. He does spring into action, finally able to do something constructive rather than stumbling over his tongue or gawking at the ceiling.
Unfortunately, standing around on the bridge doing nothing but observe is all Mr. Paris has the authority to do. He looks enviously at the helm, where Lieutenant Stadi works the controls. Commander Cabot does most of the supervisory work preparing the ship for departure, as Janeway nods approvingly, but she gives the order to Engage.
The ship lights up and moves out, clearing Deep Space Nine majestically.
* * *
[I'm being thorough early on, since this is the pilot episode and elements shown here will most likely crop up in future episodes. I may summarize more as the episode proceeds.]
Through the vast emptiness of space, Voyager travels to the Badlands. Paris arrives in the officer's galley and orders tomato soup from the Replicator; while he navigates the tortuous first-time order (fourteen varieties of tomato soup before temperature and other factors are considered) he notices Ensign Kim talking with the doctor and the first officer at a nearby table. He gives a hard smile, knowing what they're discussing. By the time he gets his hot, plain tomato soup, Paris is a tad agitated, and some eyes raise at his raised voice.
Paris takes his soup to Harry's table; the senior officers leave before he sits down. "I told you it wouldn't take long."
"Is it true?" Kim asks, his face hard.
"Was the accident my fault? Yes. Pilot error. But it took me a while to admit it." He tastes his soup and grimaces.
"They said you falsified reports." Paris nods. "Why?" "What's the difference? I lied." "Then you came forward and admitted it was your fault?" Kim is incredulous.
"I'm going to tell you the truth, Harry. All I had to do was keep my mouth shut and I was home free. But I couldn't. The ghosts of those three dead officers came to me in the middle of the night and taught me the true meaning of Christmas. So I confessed; worst mistake I ever made, but not my last. After they cashiered me out of Starfleet I went out looking for a fight and found the Maquis. And on my first assignment...I was caught."
"Must have been especially tough on you, being the son of an admiral," Harry says, his voice several degrees warmer now.
Tom looks at the Ensign. "Frankly, I think it was tougher on my father than it was on me." He says the word father the way a doctor says ebola. Paris gets up. "Look; I know those guys told you to stay away from me, and you know what? You ought to listen them. I'm not exactly a good luck charm." He seems to be trying to scare the younger man away--not because he wants to, but because he's genuinely concerned about harming Harry's career before it's had a chance to begin.
Kim turns and looks at him, having absorbed all the data he seems to need for his decision. "I don't need anyone to choose my friends for me." Paris considers the younger man, his face expressionless, his eyes softening a bit at the unexpected words.
Janeway hails Paris; they're approaching the badlands. Paris acknowledges immediately; finally he has something constructive to do. He leaves the galley, and Kim follows.
On the bridge, Paris joins in a small conference with Janeway, Cabot and another officer over a view screen depiction of the badlands. Paris points to a cluster of M-class planets on the other side, near the Moriah system. They plot a projected course based on the plasma storms and the data forwarded by Gul Evek (who said the Maquis ship was destroyed--Paris suggests it might indeed have been, but Janeway says they haven't found any such indications, which even a plasma storm wouldn't entirely wipe out) and move into the Badlands.
Ensign Kim reports that they're being scanned by a coherent tetrion beam of unknown origin, and are being pursued by a displacement wave. Janeway orders it shown on screen, and we see what looks like leftover footage of the Nexus from ST:Generations. The wave is made up of some sort of polarized magnetic variation (?). Cabot suggests they try to disperse it with a graviton particle field; Janeway says Do it. It has no effect. They move at full impulse, but can't go to warp inside the plasma storms.
The wave catches up with them. Janeway yells to brace for impact. Most do, but Cabot is caught in mid-stride when a brilliant flash of light engulfs the bridge.
The good ship Voyager is tossed about mercilessly by the waves of displacement; the hull lights up like a Christmas ornament, tossed like so much space flotsam.
When the wave breaks, the formerly bright and shiny bridge of Voyager is a tangled, smoky mess strewn with fresh corpses. Tom Paris claws his way to a console. Janeway struggles into her command center, her normally iron-bunned helmet of reddish hair now akimbo. Stadi is down, as is Cabot. Harry looks unscathed when Janeway shouts for a report. Kim reports a hull breach on deck fourteen. Janeway dispatches a repair crew. More damage reports come in, as well as the first announced casualties. Sickbay is not responding. The captain hails the doctor, with no response.
The captain looks at Paris, hovering over Stadi, and asks how she is. "She's dead," he whispers, his voice thready.
Kim reports, "there's something out there."
"I need a better description than that, Mr. Kim," Janeway barks, as Paris check's Stadi's helm console.
Kim does his best. "I--I'm not sure what I'm reading," he stammers. Janeway asks for a visual, and after a few brief, tense seconds, he's able to comply. The static on the forward view screen solidifies into the image of a very large space station, from which is emanating, every few seconds, a shooting globe of brilliant light. It is unlike anything Janeway has ever seen. She and Paris gape at it.
Kim has more news. "If my sensors are correct, Captain, we're over 70,000 light years from our last position...We're on the other side of the galaxy." Paris casts a shocked look at the captain; she stares at the screen, unmoving.
[Insert dramatic music here.]
* * *
Voyager hovers near the Array, which dwarfs it as Voyager dwarfs the tiny Maquis ship floating nearby. On the bridge, the initial shock has given way to kinetic activity. Everyone's hair is mussed, in deference to the Captain, whose tresses have that just-survived-a-70,000-lightyear look. Damage reports are piling in, even as Ensign Kim reports on the Array and the Maquis vessel. No lifesigns on the latter. The former is shielded against their scans.
Engineering calls in with dire news: the chief engineer is dead, and a warp core breach is imminent. No word from Sickbay. Janeway orders Kim to head to sickbay, while she takes care of Engineering. Paris, manning the controls at Helm without objection from anyone, notes their position as stable for the moment, then rushes to follow Harry into the turbolift.
Sickbay is burning.
Harry and Tom, the first to arrive, assess the damage rapidly; Paris looks for survivors (none--doctor and nurse are dead) as Harry extinguishes the flames from the console that killed them.
Janeway's hair is back in the Power Bun by the time she arrives in Engineering. Micro-fractures are allowing warp plasma to hiss dangerously. Janeway assesses the situation and recommends a course of action. Lt. Carey, the senior engineer at the moment, protests, but Janeway is firm.
The injured are flooding into Sickbay now, some on their own, some only with assistance. The lights are starting to come on now. Ensign Kim activates the Emergency Medical Holographic program, one of Voyager's innovations the new bio-neural circuitry makes possible. A tall, grouchy-looking, balding man in his mid-forties, wearing the aqua-shouldered jumpsuit of the Medical division but without rank insignia, materializes and barks, "please state the nature of the medical emergency."
"Multiple percussive injuries," reports Ensign Kim.
"Status of your doctor?" The EMH demands. "He's dead," Kim responds crisply. The first patient is already on the table, and the holo-doctor (Holodoc, or Doc for short) holds up his hand, expecting it to be immediately filled with a hypospray of Trianaline. It doesn't appear. Harry gives him a quizzical look. Paris, helping another patient, offers quickly that the nurse was also killed. The Doc's Annoyance subroutine kicks in; he says nothing, but with smooth precision retrieves the necessary hypospray and injects it into the bleeding crewman.
Doc asks with mechanical evenness when a replacement doctor can be expected; Harry answers that this could be a problem, as they're rather far from home. Doc moves swiftly to the next bed, requesting a Tricorder, hand outstretched to receive it as before. Harry quickly finds and hands him one, and is rewarded with a scowl. "Medical tricorder," Doc clarifies, as if to a half-trained monkey. It's Harry's turn to scowl; he walks briskly to Paris, who hands him the appropriate device, which he brings to the Doc.
This Holodoc multitasks. As he examines the next patient, his fingers moving rapidly over the controls of the tricorder and staring intently at the patient, he states automatically: "you will need to get a replacement here as soon as possible. I am programmed only as a short-term emergency supplement to the medical team." Paris, working quickly to restore sickbay systems and assist with triage, tells Doc he's likely to be it for a while. Doc notes that for the moment, he shouldn't have any problem handling the workload. He throws a backward glance to the first patient he examined. "This one has no concussion; help him out." As he moves on, Harry and Tom share a quizzical look concerning their new chief medical officer (For Paris, Holodoc is an improvement -- he has no pre-existing biases against the young man) before jumping back into the fray.
Engineering is bustling with activity as Janeway barks orders in an effort to bring the warp-core micro-fractures under control. Her hands-on approach works wonders: within seconds, the danger is past, and everyone breathes a sigh of relief.
It is short-lived. Barely a second passes before the bridge hails Janeway to report that the Array is scanning them. Before Janeway can find out what kind of scan, people around her start disappearing. She begins an order to the computer, but soon she is also gone.
In sickbay, Paris and Kim help a man onto a biobed. Holodoc gives a quick once-over to a female crewman and says, almost chides, "you're not seriously injured; you may return to your station." She nods wearily, moves into a sitting position...and disappears, her departure marked by a wisp of multicolored fog and an unearthly swirling noise. Doc blinks, unused even in his brief existence to having his orders obeyed so quickly.
The noise repeats itself all over sickbay, and when Doc looks up...sickbay is empty but for himself and the smoke. Irritated, he hails the bridge, then makes an all-hands call, but there is nobody left to respond. He frowns; they forgot to turn him off before they left.
Kim, Paris, and others find themselves...in an Iowa cornfield. They are soon joined by the Captain and others, as they leave the fields onto the front yard of a country farmhouse, complete with a bespectacled, friendly old woman bearing cookies. Kim is confused; Janeway tells him that according to her readings, they're in the Array.
A spontaneous hoe-down ensues, as the Voyager crew finds itself surrounded by a pickin' and a grinnin' collection of gingham-clad Delta Quadrant yokels dancing to banjo music, old wives tellin' tales and pressing tall glasses of lemonade into Starfleet hands, and pretty farmers' daughters giving Paris dewy looks.
This is disconcerting enough in Iowa. On a space station 70,000 light years away, it's downright frightening.
* * *
There's nothing like down-home hospitality to set one's nerves on Red Alert. Paris returns and reports to Janeway that all of the crew are accounted for, scattered throughout the "farm." Janeway tells him and Kim to search for a holo-generator before the corn on the cob arrives, carried by the pleasant old woman who met them here first, apologizing to all for the inconvenience, urging the crew to make themselves at home. Janeway asks questions, but is put off with a pleasant, "just wait," and little else. The rest of the crew seems similarly unwilling to join the festivities; the bodies of too many colleagues are still fresh in their minds.
Paris and Kim move along, chased after by a friendly ranch dog, and by one of the aforementioned dewy-eyed farmer's daughters. She coyly invites them down to the Root Cellar--it's nice and (wink wink) private, she promises. Kim whips out his trusty tricorder and starts scanning in that direction. Paris has his tractors locked on the girl-next-door, and she returns the attention. Kim warns Paris that she's only a hologram; "That's no reason to be rude," he says, smiling into those Trans-Lux eyes of hers.
Kim's readings get interesting when he points his tricorder at a big red barn, and he starts moving toward it. Paris quickly follows, his priorities clearly choosing duty over booty. The girl locks arms with both men, suggesting they check out the duck pond instead--the barn has nothing of interest to them, she assures them, which doesn't in fact assure them at all. They are drawn to it like OJ to ugly-ass shoes; Kim's picked up a "Sporocystian life-form" inside. The girl blocks the doorway; Paris grabs her and draws her in for a blocking hug to let Kim pass, then he spins her aside so he can enter. She quickly follows them in, doing her best to get them away from here with all her holographic feminine wiles.
But nothing, and I mean nothing, gets between a geek and his toys--particularly when the stakes are this high, and the readouts so worthwhile. Kim picks up not only life forms, but signs of a Hologenerator, and more--Vulcan and human life form readings behind the far wall of the barn.
As they approach it, the girl rushes to block their way. "I'm not ready for you yet!" she says loudly, her voice and face different now. Angry. Behind them, the happy mutt now growls like an attack dog. Paris signals for the captain, but the girl backhands him--a mighty blow that sends him crashing through a wooden stable door.
Janeway gets the message, and orders her people to follow her to the barn. The locals beat her there, appearing with pitchforks in hand in the same swirling fog and scraping noise that snatched the crew from their ship. They aren't so friendly looking now. As Janeway and the rest of her people arrive, the old woman says, "since you won't have our corn on the cob, we'll proceed ahead of schedule." The back wall disappears, revealing a long blue-lighted corridor, a honeycomb of stasis-chambers holding nude, immobile Maquis. We recognize Tuvok, Chakotay and B'Elanna Torres.
Seconds later, the Voyager crew is similarly naked and prostrate, covered in only a thin blanket, as big hypodermics are plunged into their chests. Janeway gurgles a bit, biting back her angry protests. Kim screams in agony, as any heir to the Chekov role can be expected to.
The crew finds itself awakening back on board Voyager, left on the very spots where they had been taken. As those in Engineering rise, Janeway hails the bridge demanding a status report. A gold-shouldered crewman looking suspiciously not unlike Quentin Tarantino responds. They were detained or unconscious for three days, he says. He also reports that the Maquis ship is powering its engines; Janeway orders a tractor beam.
In Sickbay, Paris looks around while Holodoc follows him, demanding answers. Paris ignores him, his mind on a single point. He hails Janeway, informing her that Ensign Kim wasn't returned. Doc never gets a response from Paris before he blows out the door on his way back to the bridge.
Janeway, emerging from the turbolift to the bridge, gets a report from the computer on missing crew; Harry is the only one, she is told. She hails the Maquis ship, hoping maybe he got transported there by mistake. She calls Commander Chakotay by name (he asks how she knows him, and she explains she was sent to find his ship when he disappeared) and asks if one of her crew ended up with them. He says no, but one of his people is also missing--B'Elanna Torres.
Janeway tells him they have the same problem, and suggests it makes sense for them to work together on the solution. Chakotay looks to Tuvok, who nods. Chakotay says three of them will beam over shortly. His image is replaced by the Maquis ship, which immediately drops its shields.
Paris arrives on the bridge just in time to see three armed, back-to-back Maquis materialize: Chakotay, Tuvok, and someone without a name. (I guess he won't last long.) Ensign Tarantino draws his phaser and announces the obvious--they're armed--but Janeway orders her people to lower their weapons, and assures the Maquis that they won't need theirs. Chakotay and his men put their phasers away.
Janeway then faces the Vulcan. "It's good to have you back, Mr. Tuvok." Chakotay's jaw drops as Tuvok stands at attention and regretfully informs the Commander that he was in fact Janeway's chief of security on a mission to infiltrate the Maquis. Chakotay asked if his mission was to deliver his people into Starfleet's waiting hands; Tuvok corrects him: first he was to gather information...then to deliver them into their waiting hands.
Chakotay is not pleased by this news, but he is even less pleased by the presence of one Tom Paris. "Good to see you too, Chakotay," Paris says mock-amiably, approaching the Maquis leader from his position several meters behind Tuvok. Paris' earlier comments about his rocky relationship with the Amerind patriot were understated--Chakotay practically spits antimatter at Paris' feet. "At least Tuvok was performing his duty as a Starfleet officer," he growls. "What was your reward: freedom from prison? Latinum? What was your price this time?!"
Them's fighting words, delivered with a fighting tongue and clenched fists. The normally good-natured Paris advances on Chakotay, eyes blazing, his mouth a thin colorless line. Janeway steps between them, a serious violation of Chakotay's personal space. Going nose-to-chin with the bearish Maquis, Janeway tells him that Paris is a member of her crew, and he will treat him with the same deference he would have her treat a member of his. Chakotay blinks, considers her words, and his anger silently recedes; he turns his head and takes a step back.
Paris does the same, and his own anger is replaced by something resembling shame. Did Chakotay's words cut a little too close to the bone? What was Paris' true purpose in joining the search mission? Latinum? Surely not; he was never offered payment. Early release from prison? It seemed he was well on his way to that anyway, for good behavior. All the venal motivations ring false here; could it be the Bad Boy was looking for redemption, or a second chance to prove himself? Despite the animosity shown him, Paris has comported himself with admirable skill and determination, even initiative, since putting on the uniform. That he looks so contrite suggests his own remorse processors are functioning at peak efficiency, and that's a good sign. But time will tell.
Janeway reminds all that their purpose is to find their lost crewmen, and wants opinions. Tuvok's is that the holo-representation was designed to make them feel comfortable before their impalement--a waiting room, if you will. Paris asks if what they endured was an experiment, and the rest seem to agree that is the likeliest conclusion. So why were they all sent back? They wonder. Not all, Paris reminds them. Janeway orders the use of compression phaser rifles, and suggests that she and Chakotay look for the missing people on the Array (I'm writing this well into the third season--does this count as their first date?), while Tuvok is to learn as much about the Array as he can. Chakotay hesitates, then nods.
As they move toward the turbolift, Paris stews, arms folded, then makes his decision. He rushes toward the Captain and requests permission to come along. "If this is about Chakotay--" Janeway warns, but Paris stops her cold. "It doesn't!" he protests with absolute sincerity, then his voice softens. "It's just that--I'd hate to see anything happen to Harry." She considers Paris, looks him up and down for any sign of deception, but finds none. "Come on," she says at last. Mr. Rollins (Tarantino) has the Conn.
Janeway and Chakotay stride across the farmhouse lawn, while Paris walks behind them with the biggest, baddest weapon ever shown in the hands of a Starfleet officer: it looks like a nuclear-tipped fluglehorn, and Paris is wielding it like he means it.
They find no life-signs, holographic or otherwise, and soon Tuvok and the nameless Maquis join them with a similar report. Then they notice the geezer with the banjo, sitting in a white wooden chair underneath a shade tree. They converge on him in seconds.
The man is unhappy to see them. "What are you doing back? You don't have what I need," he whines. Janeway tells him she doesn't give a flying photon what he needs, but he sure as hell better care what SHE needs--the return of their people and a first-class ticket back home.
The old fart laughs cruelly. "Aren't you contentious for a minor bipedal species?" he mocks.
Janeway puts her hands on her hips, a dangerous looking gesture. "This minor bipedal species doesn't take kindly to being abducted," she says coldly, the angles of her body sharp enough to slice zucchini.
"You don't have what I need," the fogy repeats, "but they might. You'll have to go." He waves his hand dismissively. They repeat their demand for the people, but he says they aren't here, and again urges them to be on their way.
Janeway lectures him about responsibility, and how hers and Chakotay's is for the safety of their people, a concept which he's obviously unfamiliar with. This seems to strike a chord with him. "No, I do understand that," he mutters. "But I have no choice; there's just not enough time left."
"Time for what?" Janeway demands. "I must honor a debt that can never be repaid," he says cryptically. She offers to help, with all the Federation resources at their disposal, if he'll tell her the problem. He laughs without humor, amused at their feeble offer. "I've tried things your puny comprehension would choke on. You couldn't help."
Janeway insists once more that he send them back home, with their crewmen. He repeats that there's not enough time--sending them back is terribly complicated, he says (he should have thought of that before dragging them out here....) "I don't have enough time," he says again in exasperation, and waves his hand in a dismissal that will not be countered by words; the Away team disappears from the field, only to find themselves back aboard Voyager, to the astonishment of the crew. Janeway finds herself staring at the screen, where the Array fills the view, occasionally shooting balls of light to a nearby planet.
Harry Kim awakens in a sterile-white room, surrounded by white-robed, hooded attendants. He hears them talking without speaking, telling him he's ill; he protests he's not ill, but then ne notes lumpy outgrowths on his arm and chest.
He's not alone. A dark-haired woman we know as B'Elanna Torres yells No! And rises from her bio-bed, kicking serious hiney on her way to the locked door. She stops only momentarily as her eyes lock with Kim's. A nurse signals an alert, and when the door opens, she's met by several more white-robed attendants. Despite her furious resistance, her eyes show panicked fear as well; she is soon sedated and led back to the bed, as Kim watches wordlessly, still in shock.
Captain's Log, stardate 48315.6. We've traced the energy pulses from the Array to the fifth planet in the neighboring system, and believe they may have been used in some fashion to transport Kim and Torres to the planet's surface.
Janeway's sitting in her darkened quarters, eyes closed, nursing a galactic migraine, when Tuvok appears, dressed once more in his Starfleet uniform. Tuvok notes that the pulses are increasing in frequency, though he has no explanation. Janeway has a mystery of her own--the planet is completely devoid of water, and "nucleogenic particles" in the atmosphere, without which water cannot be produced. She posits an environmental catastrophe must have occurred.
Tuvok notes that Janeway needs to get some sleep. Janeway recounts a conversation with Harry's mom after they'd left earth. Delightful woman; he's her only son. She wanted to know if she could send Harry's clarinet, but she'd had to say no. Harry had played clarinet in the Julliard youth symphony, Janeway says. Tuvok admits he never had the chance to meet Kim. "I barely knew him," Janeway says. She considers that she rarely has the chance to get to know any of the people who serve under her. She wants to change that. 'It's a fine crew; I've got to get them home."
"The crew will not benefit from the leadership of an exhausted captain," Tuvok notes. "You're right, as usual," Janeway admits. "I've missed your counsel." "I'm gratified that you came after me so I can offer it once again," he says.
Janeway says she spoke with his family before she left. "They're worried about you," she says.
That would be inaccurate, he says; Vulcans do not worry. "They miss you," she amends. I miss
them too, he confesses. She promises to get him home to them.
I prefer to hold off on the analysis until the full review is complete. Mainly, the first hour does a whole lot of setting up. We've met most of the major players for the series in this hour, but not all. We've also killed a whole lot of Starfleet people we never got a chance to meet, and a few we did--most of whom didn't much like Tom Paris, so their loss is his gain. Janeway's also retrieved Tuvok, her Vulcan chief of security who had infiltrated Chakotay's Maquis ship. They're stuck 70,000 light years away, missing a crewman (as are the Maquis), and the creature who brought them there is being highly uncooperative.
There's more to come in Caretaker, Part II.
On a 0-10 scale, I'd give Part I a 7.25.
Next week: "We're a long way from home...now what?"
(Think I'm out of my ever-lovin' mind with this review? Sometimes you need a second opinion...and Julia's got one.)