The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot (and everything else) given away, stop reading now. (But you probably know that by now.)
I reserve the right to be wrong, and to change my mind later. The following is my opinion at the moment I wrote it. Think of it as a tall tale told around a campfire. So snuggle close and perk them ears, 'cuz Uncle Jim's got a story for you. "A long time from now, in a quadrant far, far away...."
The crew of Voyager find just how easily they can be replaced. Meanwhile, Tom and B'Elanna explore the dark side of their relationship.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
The doors to Holodeck Two slide open, and Paris and Torres are spat into the corridor. Torres, holding her bat'telh like so much dirty laundry, is sweating profusely in a crimson workout tunic with a jazzy flowing outer robe. Paris, clad in a dull green low-cut exercise tunic, is either sweating less, or conceals it a lot better.
They are arguing. Heatedly.
B'Elanna's foray into Klingon romance novels notwithstanding, she's really never been all that fond of her nonhuman side. She resents it because it made her different from the other kids. She fears it because she feels like a different person when that side of her asserts itself, and knows others see that as well. She tries desperately to rein in her Klingon side, and assert that famously even Latina temper. (Who frightens you more? K'eyhler, or Rosie Perez?)
Tom seems determined to have her revel in her Klingonness.
Remember that bet he and B'Elanna had going on in "Distant Origins?" Paris won, so she had to try out his Klingon workout program. Apparently, this is the payoff...and she's none too happy about it. Paris complains that she was in perfect position to deliver the death blow on the holographic adversary. Torres just doesn't see the appeal. Actually, part of her does, but she doesn't want to admit it.
Other Klingons have the battle. And mates. And passion, expressed without hesitation; Klingons let it all hang out. Torres doesn't; her blood boils, but she has no outlet she trusts. And she resents Paris' efforts to "help." To him, the Klingon martial arts are something very cool, a fascinating peek into the mind and heart of another culture. To B'Elanna, it's just "Klingon stuff" that she has more interest in fleeing than exploring. Even 70,000 lightyears away, she can't escape her past.
I'm watching A Walk in the Clouds at the moment. The scene where Zorba says "Men think; women feel." This could be Tom & B'Ellana's problem--a failure to communicate. She screams, she waves the bat'telh around heedless of its deadly potential, eager more than anything else to have it out of her hands.
And in all her efforts to stay in control, Paris has the nerve to say she gets hostile. Whoops.
"I am not hostile!" she growls dangerously, and for an instant I expect her to bite his cheek.
Their rapidly escalating adrenaline contest is interrupted by the sudden appearance of a confused-looking character actor a few meters away from them. "Where am I?" he asks, bewildered.
For the first time since the episode began, Tom and B'Elanna are speechless.
* * *
Both seem grateful for the topic change. Paris hails the bridge with the news of an unexpected guest, and Torres tries her best to placate the skittish arrival, unaware that she's still brandishing a huge sharp weapon. The guy finally stammers out that he's from Nyria Three, was walking home, when he found himself here. He's scared...but that's not the only reason he's shivering. He's also freezing, and squinting. Nyria 3 is apparently a lot warmer and darker than the corridors of a starship. (Too bad he didn't arrive earlier; there was a lot more heat than light being generated by Tom & B'Elanna's squabbling.) They take him to sickbay.
Doc lowers the lights and raises the temperature to 45 Celsius (that's 113 Fahrenheit--but it's a dry heat). The Nyrian thanks him for the consideration; Doc beams at the rare compliment.
Janeway and Tuvok are here as well, asking the usual questions. Where's he from, does his people have this kind of transportation technology, etc. He answers the questions haltingly, but sincerely. He claims to be a simple guy, and the blank stare and Merle Haggard concert tickets in his breast pocket seem to bear that up. (Gosh, I'm evil. Sorry, all you Merle fans out there.) All in all, this seems like an unusual but benign First Contact situation.
Doc hands Tuvok a medical scanner. Tuvok asks where Kes is. Doc, irked, says he doesn't know; she was late for her duty shift. (Why wasn't this noticed before now?) They ask the computer where she is; "Off the ship." They ask when that happened. "1132 hours." Janeway's ears perk up. "When did Sling Blade arrive?" "1132 hours."
Ah hah. The Old Cultural Exchange Long Distance Transportation Trick.
In Engineering, Kim and Torres work on the questions posed by the Nyrian's sudden appearance, and Kes' equally sudden leave of absence. I won't bore you with the details, because they're simply lead-in to the following exchange. Kim and Torres are buddies, after all, so she feels she can confide in him.
"You don't think I'm hostile, do you?"
The way she asks it, Harry has to look to see if she's got a compression phaser rifle trained on him. He can practically here the Safety being clicked off.
"Uh...no?" He can tell something's on her mind. He inches away from her ever-so-slightly, difficult since they're working at the same control panel.
She's thinking aloud more than anything, but Harry can tell his life is on the line.
"I speak my mind, I'm forthright, but that's different from hostile."
"Very different." Don't hurt me, please.
"I'm forthright, I speak my mind, but that shouldn't be construed. As. Hostile." Her words are clipped, as if shot from her mouth.
"I think Neelix wanted me to help him peel the leola roots for tonight's--"
"And if someone were to SAY I was hostile, they'd be way off base. RIGHT!?!?!!" She's gathered herself to her full height and leaning over him, teeth bared, looking ready to gnaw on his carotid artery.
Harry backs away, makes the sign of the cross, and throws garlic cloves at her. "Oh, absolutely," he says.
Torres looks at her pal and realizes that his face is contorted in terror like Ace Ventura right after the shark announced itself in the aquarium. Her face falls a bit. "Then how come you look like you're afraid for your life?"
He has no answer, but you can see his lips move. You hear a slight tapping sound around floor level.
A console beeps, and Torres rushes to it. Apparently a space-time whatsit monitor is registering something odd. She turns back to Harry, asking him to look at it.
But he's gone.
Later review of the engineering security cameras show Harry clicking his heels together and muttering softly, "there's no place like home..."
Torres hails the bridge. "Ensign Kim just disappeared," she says. Janeway replies, "and we just got another visitor." A short, coffee-skinned woman is standing on the bride, looking very disoriented.
A grey-haired Starfleet officer exits a turbolift, nods to some fellow crewmen...and steps into oblivion. Meanwhile, a young robed Nyrian male finds himself the recipient of the Holodeck welcome wagon, complete with leering bikini-clad Holo-babes. He promptly jump-starts into puberty.
Janeway asks if they've made any progress, but Tuvok says that shields aren't making a lick of diff--
Tuvok disappears in mid-sentence. Meanwhile, another confused Nyrian appears in Engineering, prompting an Engineer to tap his combadge. It's happening so frequently now that the gesture is more of annoyance than alarm.
Some security types escort several Nyrians into an increasingly crowded sickbay. "Welcome to sickbay," Doc says with ill-concealed irritation. "Take a number."
Janeway and Chakotay and Torres and Paris, as the only senior officers left, form a sort of impromptu business meeting/double date. Chakotay reports that in the past 3 hours, 22 of their people have essentially swapped places with the Nyrians. Those arriving say they've seen the Voyager crew on their planet, arriving safely but confused. Paris reports that the Nyrians haven't been much help pointing out their planet of origin. He walks toward the large wall panel in the conference room.
Chakotay asks Torres for some clues about the phenomenon--she saw a polaron field wrap around Harry just before he was yanked off the ship, but it went away as soon as he did. She walks to the same panel, which Paris is leaning against; as she starts entering commands, Paris turns away from her, looking awkward. He folds his arms, so he has something to do with them.
Torres, finished with her report, faces Janeway and Chakotay much as Paris is. Tom asks if it could be some sort of spatial anomaly. Torres says it could have been anything--and she crosses her arms, standing much as he had been. Paris, not wanting to stand the same way, unfolds his arms and lets them hang at his side, looking and feeling like a complete dork.
Janeway and Chakotay, standing close enough together to be wearing the same uniform, look at the younger officers and try not to laugh out loud at the spectacle. Were the situation not so grim, they probably would.
Janeway orders them back to their stations and keep at it. Chakotay suggests that the Nyrians haven't been overtly threatening in any way, but Janeway doesn't give a rat's patoot--however they look, they are slowly replacing her crew, and at the current rate--one swap every 9 minutes and 20 seconds--they'll be completely replaced by Nyrians. "That's had a knot in my stomach since the first Nyrian arrived," she says.
Kate loves a mystery....
* * *
Captain's log, stardate 50912.4. 12 hours since the exchanges began, we still don't know the cause. Half my crew is gone now.
Janeway and Chakotay head for engineering. Chakotay reports that the cargo bays are filling up. Janeway says to convert something else to tempoary quarters; she wants the Nyrians where she can keep an eye on them. Chakotay says they'll also need to convert some crew to security. Janeway orders that, as well as to start shutting down everything but the essential systems. She's planning ahead.
When they arrive in Engineering, Torres tells them of her theory, helped along by a Nyrian astrophysicist. Baby wormhole. "We must have gotten snagged on it somehow." She says she'd like to talk further with the scientist, and Janeway approves. She hails Neelix, who is tending to some of the newer arrivals. She tells him to escort--
And Janeway disappears. Chakotay is now in command. Of a rapidly dwindling personnel roster. He completes Janeway's order to have Dr. Ritalin, the scientist, brought to Engineering. He closes the channel and tells Torres to get the answers, stat. He exits.
WHAT?!?!?! No grieving Chakotay? No weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth over the loss of his one and only truest bestest love?!?!? How can this be!?? The writers have betrayed us yet again! They're spitting in the fajita of our fantasy about the great and immortal J/C romance thread!!! AAAUUUURRRRAAAAGGGHGHHHGHHHHH!!!!! Fire them all! Stake them to anthills! How can they do this to us, their loyal and loving fan base?!?!?!? WRITE PARAMOUNT!!!!! START THE TATTOOED AUBURN RIBBON CAMPAIGN!!! THE FIENDS MUST BE STOPPED BEFORE OUR DREAMS ARE CRUSHED F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!!! WAAAAAAH!!!!
[Dang, I'm in a mean mood today.]
Neelix wends his way through a crowded cargo bay and finds Dr. Ritalin. As scientists go, this one is a real whiner. I'm cold, it's too bright in here, your cooking sucks, me me me. Neelix suggests he take a pill for that attitude, and asks him to go to Engineering.
A pretty brunette Ensign mans (persons?) The security console, reporting status to Chakotay. He tells her they don't have the staffing for one of her needs. The camera goes to wide angle, showing that she and Chakotay are the only two creatures on the bridge.
"So, how do you like your first day as chief of security, Ensign?"
"It's everything I dreamed it would be, sir."
"Who said there's no room for advancement on this ship?"
WHAT? Janeway's been gone for less than a few hours and already Chakotay is making the moves on someone ELSE? Why, they can't DO that to us! Write your congressman! Boycot all things made by Paramount! Stop dying your hair red and getting cool facial tattoos! Make them
Thanks. I needed that.
Oh, while I was ranting, Neelix disappeared. That leaves 40 crew, and over 100 Nyrians. Chakotay orders the systematic command-authorization lockout of vital ship's functions, force fields around sensitive areas, shutting off life support to unused decks, etc. "Let's hope I'm just being paranoid," he says.
Dr. Ritalin whines as much in Engineering as he did in the cargo bay. He's of no help whatsoever to Torres, except as a naysayer to her speculations. But she, slowly and surely, is narrowing down the possibilities. A single security dweeb (who was probably recruited for the spot from Stellar Cartography when personnel got low) does his job as well as you might expect him to do under the circumstances--sloppily. He doesn't maintain his distance, he's at parade rest, and he is looking around just waiting to be the next to take the fast train to Nyria.
Torres makes a breakthrough; it's not a natural phenomenon after all. Dr. Ritalin, realizing that she's made a significant discovery, reacts immediately. He beats the security guy senseless, grabs his phaser, and "moves Torres to the head of the line." He says he doesn't want to hurt her, unless she forces him to. He doesn't seem comfortable with the gun. He'd much rather insult her into submission.
What we see next is the B'ElannaCam. She sees the doctor messing with a control panel. We see a field of red fly at her face; when it connects, we see Tom Paris in broad daylight, in what looks like an upscale outdoor patio. (Now that's what I call a transporter.) He doesn't look all that happy to see her.
She still looks pretty disoriented. She's surrounded by her colleagues, most of whom are milling about, enjoying the rare taste of sunshine, despite their circumstances.
Janeway approaches and asks if Torres is okay, giving Paris the skunk eye for not doing so sooner. Torres does what she can to report her new finding, that the Nyrians are responsible.
Janeway quiets her with a glance, and nods toward Paris; behind him, two armed Nyrians descend a staircase.
It's gonna be one of those days....
* * *
The armed Nyrians grab Torres' communicator, and leave as quickly as they arrived. So far, they have refused to answer any questions. They've been given water, food, blankets and other supplies, but no information.
The crew is scattered around the "woods," in a number of settlements like this one, Janeway says. Tuvok is on an intelligence-gathering mission. They have no idea where they are; the one oddity is that it's too bright and cold to be the Nyrian homeworld. For now, all they can do is scout their environment and cool their heels.
On the bridge, Chakotay and the ensign update each other on the status of their security shutdown of Voyager. They're down to 13 people, Chakotay notes. Twelve, the ensign corrects him.
Another ensign hails the bridge, saying they found Ensign Doofus in engineering unconscious but alive. No sign of Dr. Ritalin. Chakotay orders a high-priority search for the guy, and he takes off on a personal mission, leaving Voyager's conn to the Ensign. We hear her mutter, "Calgon, take me away," but we don't get to see how quickly her request is granted.
Chakotay storms the halls, phaser drawn. He enters Cargo Bay 2, and finds it completely empty. Discarded clothes are everywhere. He calls an all hands (all 24 hands) emergency.
Time to do things the Maquis way. Sabotage everything you can get your hands on. Get to Bridge and Engineering, and make your stands there.
The first Nyrian to arrive crawls through a Jefferies tube. Gone is the vacant look of before. It's got a harder edge to it now. More cunning. He leads Second Team, and instructs them to get to Weapons.
On the bridge, the Ensign looks relieved as the backup arrives. She begins barking orders, though she doesn't quite have the Command Voice down yet. She quavers a bit (can't say I blame her). As the crew take their positions, the Nyrians arrive in force. She takes a couple our with stun blasts, but is soon overwhelmed, and finds herself stunned into dreamland. She is helped to the ground by a pretty but clueless redhead. (Sorry, but my first instinct would be to fight back, THEN tend to fallen comrades. But again, things have been pretty goofy lately, so you can't completely blame them for not being the Conquering Heroes we expect of the folks with their names in the credits.
In Engineering, a security guy shoots his phaser, but is soon out of action. The nyrians arrive in force, and we look down to see a whole lot of fallen Starfleeters. My hope is that they were merely stunned and not killed; it would be more the Nyrians' style. Why kill what you can simply beam out of your hair? They seem to take pride in their passive nature, even when they act aggressively.
Chakotay and a large gold-shouldered hunk of blond beefcake (Ensign Larson) stride through the darkened, too-hot corridors of Voyager, phasers at the ready (reminds me a lot of First Contact, for some reason). Chakotay checks out an access panel, and notes that the Nyrians are not only everywhere, they're undoing a lot of the damage he's done so far to the ship's systems. "They've obviously been planning for this," he says, to nobody in particular--Larson's gone now.
He taps his combadge. "Anyone out there?" Genarro responds. Nobody else does. He tells Genarro to go for the guts of the ship, the things that will really make Voyager hard to use. "We won't win this by ourselves, but we have to slow them down as much as we can."
The Nyrians take over the bridge, dim the lights, crank up the thermostat. They are in complete control.
Dr. Ritalin notes that navigational controls are offline. The first guy to arrive orders the two remaining officers found. His tone isn't kind. He sits in the captain's chair like he was born to it.
Chakotay opens a panel and starts yanking wires. His hair nearly catches on fire from the sparks. He moves on. He runs into a patrol of Nyrians, fires, and jumps into a Jefferies tube.
In Engineering, the engines shut down. The Nyrians aren't happy.
Chakotay continues on his way, flicking switches.
The lights in Engineering go real bright. The Nyrians scamper for cover.
Chakotay reaches a panel and hoses the EPS relays. He notes that the Nyrians are trying to delete Doc's program. He hails Genarro to get down there and save Doc if he can. No response. The computer says he left 7:20 earlier. Chakotay heads for sickbay himself.
The Nyrians on the bridge locate Chakotay. The leader orders a patrol sent to stop him. "Already done."
Chakotay reaches sickbay through the Suder Tube and activates Doc. He quickly tells Doc what's happening, and tells him he's got just a few seconds to get the program into the portable holoemitter before he's deleted completely. Doc urges him to hurry.
Chakotay works fast, and Doc is safely transferred. Chakotay palms the holoemitter just as the Nyrians arrive.
Chakotay raises his hands. "I know when I'm beat," he says.
Then he winks out.
For the second time this season, and the third time this series, Voyager and its crew are separated.
This can only mean one thing: someone's gonna pay. Action Kate will see to that.
Armed Nyrians are joined by an unarmed woman. Julie, their cruise director, no doubt. She begins grandly. "Now that you've all arrived safely, I'd like to welcome you to your new home."
If she was expecting gratitude, she is disappointed. What she calls home, Janeway and Chakotay call prison. She is offended by their lack of cooperation, and her tone turns nasty. "We could have sent you to far worse places. We're trying to be nice here. We're not a cruel people." The Nyrians have found their method of swapping places with crews of starships, space stations, planetary colonies, etc., an excellent way of expanding their holdings with minimal conflict.
Janeway and crew are still less than gracious in defeat. This really miffs the woman, who finally says, "like it or hate it, I really don't care. It's your home now, get used to it. Enjoy the food, and the other stuff we downloaded from your computers for your enjoyment. For now, we're outta here." She and the thugs beam out.
Tuvok arrives from his scouting party and reports. All 148 crewmen are accounted for, and none are much worse for wear. There are 10 encampments, and there is wilderness all around them--mountains, rivers, other impassable stuff. They're stuck here, it seems.
Nothing is as it seems, Janeway says. She suspects it's an artificial environment. It's a little TOO perfect.
As if on cue, they notice a blurry spot in the holopicture. Through it steps an alien unfamiliar to them, timid but gregarious. "Hi, neighbors!" he calls with apprehensive good cheer. He is dressed in white robes, and has a lizardlike appearance. (A Voth? Doubtful.) He introduces himself as Jarlath.
The crew look at him with curious smiles on their faces. He has no idea why.
* * *
Naturally, Janeway and Tuvok have plenty of questions for him. He answers as best he can, but he's not the sharpest knife in the drawer. His is a desert-dwelling race; he's not used to all the greenery surrounding him here. "But I'm sure the Nyrians had a good look at your databanks when they prepared your accommodations." His people were from a colony the Nyrians took over; they didn't catch on until it was too late to stop them. "Hey, is that food?" he asks. He makes a beeline for a basket of dried fruit. Or something.
Janeway asks if he knows where "here" is. Jarlath does not. He takes a bite of something, and takes an immediate liking to it. "Would you be interested in trading? The previous residents didn't really catch on to the concept of a barter system. You strike me as a much more...sophisticated group," he says.
Janeway takes it as a compliment. A smirk finds its way to her face, and her eyes light up as an idea forms. If nothing else, this guy amuses her and her crew. (Better update that resume, Neelix.) She takes him by the arm and leads him to the center of the group, asking how the prior group managed to escape.
Jarlath admits that they may not like that species' method--they all died of a plague. (So the Nyrians aren't so benign captors after all.) Harry says he can't find any portal; Jarlath admits that it took him nine years to do so. Janeway asks how he managed. "I have my ways," Jarlath admits coyly, picking at a new basket of food.
Janeway grabs the basket and holds it in such a way that there is no questioning her intent. "I would consider such information," she coos seductively, "a valuable commodity." Her eyes blaze with an intensity us mere non-redheaded mortals can only imagine.
Jarlath gets the point. "Sure, that could work...but my device would only get you to my environment...." he eyes the basket hungrily.
Janeway grabs a second basket and holds it in parallel with the first. The evil side of me immediately thinks, "bribery is the mother's milk of cooperation," and envies those baskets. (Oh, would that I were a glove to touch that cheek, yada yada) Jarlath, eager to begin this new era of neighborly kindness, grabs hungrily at the baskets, while Janeway smiles.
It's night on the new prison colony. Torres tinkers with Doc's visual thingies. Doc notes with fascination that everything is now glowing, even the plants. "It's really quite lovely," Doc says. Torres isn't so interested with the aesthetics as with the image clarity.
Paris arrives and rather formally says the captain ordered him to come here for a status report on Doc's eyesight. Torres said he'll soon be reconfigured to spot the microwave signature of the portals. "Then I can begin my new career as a Tricorder," Doc says sardonically.
While Torres reconfigures the settings on the portable holoemitter, she stammers out an apology to Paris about the Klingon workout program. "I might have been a bit--oversensitive."
Don't worry about it, Paris says.
Torres finishes the modifications; Doc is now ready to scan, Torres says. "I'll tell the captain," Paris says. He then adds, haltingly, an apology of his own for pushing the holoprogram on her. She apologizes again, this time more freely, about her rather intense reaction to it. Things are going well.
"A typical defensive reaction," says Holodoc, in full lecture mode, "using an aggressive outburst as a shield against a perceived emotional threat." Torres seethes.
That says it all right, laughs Paris in agreement. (WHOOPS!!!)
"Oh," says Torres, coldly. "That's very funny coming from you."
"What's that supposed to mean?" asks Paris. On the defensive.
"You're hardly one to talk about being defensive.
"And why is that exactly?" Paris asks, irked now.
"You just pretend that nothing bothers you and then you turn everything into a joke."
Doc agrees with Torres. "Defense mechanisms come in many forms."
"That's ridiculous!" says Paris. "I'm an easy-going person--"
Torres barks a laugh.
who's just trying to be friendly to someone who's obviously terrified of having a friend!
Doc, in full swing, oblivious to the fact that he's Not Helping, continues. "Fear of intimacy is a common indication of low self-esteem. Perhaps if you stopped to analyze the root cause, you might--"
In frustration, Torres flicks a switch on Doc's portable holo-emitter. It's the mute button. He keeps talking, but there's no volume. (This had me ROTFL the first time I saw it.) When he realizes what's just happened, he looks at Torres in horror.
Torres leans in at Tom. "If you find it so hard to be my friend, then why do you keep trying?"
Paris blinks twice before responding. "Good question," he says. An instant later, he has his answer. "I think I'll stop wasting my time." He storms off. Torres seethes as he leaves, but as soon as it's apparent that he won't be turning back and apologizing, she takes a shuddering breath. "What just happened?" she doesn't say. "What have I done?" she doesn't say. "The make-up sex had better be incredible," she doesn't say. In fact, she's as speechless as the Doc.
Doc, who doesn't at all like being speechless, thrusts his arm at her, his meaning clear: pump up the volume.
Elsewhere, Chakotay and Tuvok are building something out of coconut halves and duct tape. Tuvok, of the house of MacGuyver, has a family reputation to live up to. Neelix appears with both hands full of parts he "acquired" from food dispensers and the like. Tuvok nods his approval, and pointing to a piece, says that if Neelix can find another, they can construct a second phaser. "Assuming the first one works," Chakotay remarks. "Yes," says Tuvok, too wrapped up in his project for either annoyance or sarcasm. Neelix returns to the foraging expedition.
Chakotay congratulates Tuvok on his skills. "I never pegged Vulcans as the improvisational type." He remarks on a shared experience, the Starfleet Academy survival course. Tuvok says the Vulcan ritual of Tal'oth, conducted before he attended the academy, forced him to live in the Vulcan desert for four months with a ritual blade his only possession. "After that, the Starfleet course wasn't much of a challenge." Suitably abashed, Chakotay merely smiles. Tuvok finishes the work on the weapon, and says when Neelix returns, "I shall improvise another." It's a nice bonding moment for these two, despite the subtle digs at each other.
Doc and Torres walk around the perimeter of the complex. "I'm getting tired of this," Doc grumbles finally.
"Holograms don't get tired," Torres says, grabbing his head and pointing it back where it belongs. "Keep looking."
Janeway and Jarlath discuss the predicament. Jarlath, as usual, is eating. He sounds fairly pessimistic about their chances for escape. He even says they might come to enjoy it once they accept their fate.
Janeway's not the type to accept any fate but the one she chooses.
As if on cue, Torres and Doc call her over. They've found a portal. Naturally, only Doc can see it. But Jarlath clicks his handy-dandy remote control, and soon they can all see the fuzzy zone that marked the open portal Jarlath walked through. Huzzah!
"If my scanning duties are no longer required, I'll go back to my medical skills." He goes off in a huff.
And away we go.
Janeway, Tuvok, Torres, Paris and Jarlath go once more into the breach.
WHAT? SHE DIDN'T TAKE CHAKOTAY?!?! IT'S A CONSPIRACY, I TELL YOU!
They find themselves in what looks like a corridor. It's dark and hot and dry, just as the Nyrians like it. Janeway says they should split up. She and Tuvok will go one way. "You three, thataway. We'll meet back up in 20 minutes." Paris and Torres share a look. (So this is the downside of office romances....) Jarlath doesn't look at all happy to be here, and says as much.
Paris finds a control panel and calls the others over. After doing the official Starfleet "eenie, meenie, miney, moe" he picks the button on the bottom, and the door slides open.
And they find themselves looking out on a rain forest. Curiouser and curiouser....
Torres finds another one. This is a red-skied alien encampment built atop a sheer cliff. "Self-contained biospheres," Torres breathes.
Tuvok walks patrol while Janeway works at a control panel. She can pull up data, but she can't read it. Tuvok suggests, since the Nyrians downloaded the ship's databanks, that she might find the translation algorithm and run it in reverse. Janeway does this, and voila. Windows Everywhere.
"The Federation habitat," Janeway reads. "Population 148. At least they haven't detected that anyone's missing." The data are accompanied by apparently live images from the habitat, showing Federation folks milling about. She finds another habitat, with similar text and images. And another. "How many are there?" she wonders aloud.
Tuvok says "there is data here for 94 different environments."
"With thousands of prisoners," Janeway whispers, awed.
She tries to learn more, but runs into a security lockout. Tuvok says he'll try to bypass it. And in less time than you can say "Michelangelo Virus," he's in. They get a full schematic of the complex--and find that they are, in fact, on a ship. A big one, to be sure. They don't see a bridge, but they do find a more extensive control center a few decks up. She tries to access it remotely, but she gets more security blocks. "We may have to crash that whole security subroutine," Tuvok says.
The universal Red Alert claxons go off, indicating they'd better vamoose, and soon. Off they go. The situation may be grim, but Lady Fate is now securely back in Action Kate's pocket. Knowledge is power, and she's getting more by the minute.
* * *
Julie, the cruise director, hails Voyager and reports that some of the monkeys have left the cage and are mucking about with the control systems. "Find them and put them back," the leader says. The woman asks, on the off chance that the aliens resist, what to do. She knows what answer she's hoping for.
"If they leave you with no other alternative," the leader says, "you're authorized to use force." It's a distasteful concept to him, but he is a pragmatist.
The woman's mouth curls up at the corners into an unpleasant smile before the transmission ends.
Fearless Leader demands to know how soon they can get warp engines back online. "Soon," he is told.
Jarlath is becoming a real liability. He wants to go back. He doesn't feel comfortable here. Paris says they need to find the Captain and Tuvok. Jarlath whines some more. Torres says he's free to stay where he is and wait for the Nyrians to show up and take him back to his cage.
He decides that's not such a bad idea. Torres and Paris disappear as Jarlath grabs a pocketful of trail mix and waits for someone to surrender to.
He doesn't have to wait long; a half-dozen armed Nyrians find him. He gives up immediately, and rats on Paris and Torres before they even asked. The little weenie. The guards take off in pursuit.
At the main control center, a lone Nyrian learns a new term: Vulcan Nerve Pinch. He takes a siesta to ponder the implications of his discovery. Tuvok and Janeway immediately begin learning the ins and outs of their new toy. Tuvok reports the recent use of the translocation device, from the tunnels to the environment next to the Federations. "Must have been Jarlath," Janeway guesses, correctly. This leads them to the translocation control panel. They know they can use it to retake their ship...assuming they can learn how in time.
Voyager is in Warp. The Nyrians receive an audio transmission from "the biosphere vessel." Julie is actually Taleen, and the head honcho is Dammar. She updates their status--the aliens have weapons, and main system access. They need reinforcements, now. Dammar orders maximum warp.
Tom and B'Elanna are under heavy fire from the Nyrians. There's nothing like a life-or-death struggle to put petty concerns like lovers' quarrels on the back burner. Tom's makeshift weapon isn't exactly Starfleet issue, and it packs all the punch of a really good batch of salsa. Running away is apparently their best course. Torres finds a habitat they can hide in.
An arctic wilderness. Torres and Paris are shivering even before they enter. But they recall how sensitive the Nyrians are to light and cold, and this habitat has both in spades. As soon as they hear Taleen yell STOP, they go.
The five members of the security detail stop at the door, not at all eager to go inside. "Follow them," Taleen says. "That's an order." I note she didn't volunteer to go herself. But I'm sure she justifies it by the fact that Janeway and Tuvok are also still on the loose.
Speaking of Janeway and Tuvok, their crash course in Nyrian transporter technology is coming along quite nicely, thank you very much. The thing will extend as much as ten lightyears (wow), but at longer ranges it will only allow two simultaneous transfers--one in, one out. "That does have the added advantage of making it look innocent--at least at first." Janeway still hasn't gained control of the transporters, but she's getting there.
In the subzero habitat, Torres shivers. Paris isn't so bad off, yet. They are shot at from above by Nyrians. Paris is about to fire, when Torres tells him it may only have a shot or two left. Paris takes aim at the top of the cave above the Nyrians and fires. They scatter, giving the two Federations a chance to escape into the icy caverns below.
Torres is really shivering now when they find a place to sit. She asks to see the phaser, but her hands are completely numb; she drops the weapon. Paris grabs her hands, rubs them vigorously, and blows into them repeatedly. "What happened to all that hot Klingon blood?" Paris teases.
Torres manages to laugh. "Shows how much you know; Klingons are lousy with cold weather."
"I thought that was Cardassians."
"No, they just complain more." They share their first laugh of the hour. Paris finishes warming Torres up, and she manages to reconfigure the phaser. One more shot, she says. They're both breathing heavily--loud enough to be heard.
They hear footsteps. They turn to see a Nyrian collapse and freeze to death in front of them. Another Nyrian is behind them, still walking, but with reflexes slowed way down. While he raises his weapon at Instant Replay speeds, Torres manages to do a slow roll and land a perfect phaser strike on the young Nyrian's chest. Soon he, too, is a corpsicle.
"Nice shot," says Paris. "Now let's get out of here before we freeze to death." They take off, and commit one of my pet peeves: they leave without taking the Nyrian weapons. I can practically hear people yelling at their televisions nationwide. "Pick up the damn guns!!!"
(I've been yelling a lot this week, haven't I? I think it has something to do with the NBA playoffs. BTW, if you want to be on my good side, tell me you're rooting for the Utah Jazz to go all the way.)
Janeway and Tuvok are still a step or two away from total control, but they can now scan for life forms, and when they have a lock, beam them out. They find two human lifesigns in the Argala habitat, and they guess correctly that it's Paris and Torres. The temperature is -20 Celsius, and Janeway decides this is as good a time as any to test their hacking skills, before the chilly relations between her chief engineer and her helm boy get any chillier. Tuvok also notes that Voyager is coming in at high warp.
Torres is suffering from Hypothermia. "I'm sleepy," she says. Paris knows that if she naps, she dies. He whips out the Tough Love handbook and threatens, cajoles, pleads, promises, bribes, pulls rank ("we're the same rank!" "I'm a bridge officer, and I have seniority." "Yeah, by two days!"), offers to let her take a swing at him, and is about two seconds away from throwing her over his shoulder. He hugs her tight, to conserve body heat, and is encouraged when she struggles. To struggle is to live.
Red shift. New surroundings. A cast of extras points and laughs delightedly (theirs must be the worst-kept secret on board) as Paris and Torres blow smoke and rub their hands for warmth in the midst of Southern California splendor. They should be okay in a few minutes. For now, the danger is past, and all that's hurt is their pride.
Dr. Ritalin and Dammar are flying home as fast as Voyager will take them, when they red-shift right off the bridge--
--and into the Argala Habitat. They know where they are, and they know how much they don't want to be here for very long.
They are soon joined by a gun-toting Starfleet Captain. Her hair melts the ice around her. Her eyes cause a nearby sasquatch to keel over from coronary failure. Her toothy smirk blinds them.
Gentlemen...you've messed with the wrong redhead.
She dictates terms. She wants her ship back. "Unacceptable," they say, shivering. "Fine," she says. "Get ready for company--every Nyrian within range of your translocation device will soon be joining you." She hands them a copy of Alive, with the annotated recipe section.
"And if we submit?" Dammar asks.
"I'll send you all to a nice, warm habitat. We'll contact the species you've abducted so they can pick up their people. And when everyone is safely back home...we'll use this station for spare parts. Starting with your translocator. Then, and only then, you'll be free to go."
They don't like the sound of that. She turns to go, contacting Tuvok. They submit.
When you got 'em by the lobes....
Captain's log, stardate 50929.6. The Nyrians have surrendered Voyager, and my crew is safely back on board. The captives have contacted their native worlds are waiting to be taken home.
Torres enters the Holodeck Lounge. It's a nice sunny day, as always. She sees Tom Paris lounging in the comfy chair, and strolls anxiously toward him.
Nice day, she says.
Beautiful, he agrees.
Things were...pretty chilly there for a while.
I...guess they were.
Torres nestles into the big puffy cushions. They are on the same loveseat, but are still sitting rather far apart. Close enough, though, for the moment.
Feels good to be warm again, she says, closing her eyes.
Yeah, Tom says, looking at her kindly. Sure does. He closes his eyes.
Torres opens hers and turns her head to look at him. Paris senses it, because he breaks out into his trademark smile.
Torres considers the past few days. The ups and downs. The episode that began with a shouting match, and ends with a--
A what? She takes a shuddering exhalation of breath. Of relief, surely. This whole episode has been about temperature. Hot heads. Cold hands. Warm hearts. Two people struggling mightily to figure each other out well enough to enjoy moments like this, lounging in the sun in silence, simply basking in each others' company.
For the first time in a long time, Torres smiles. A from-the-diaphragm smile that beams brighter than the sun itself. A smile that melts away the chill of a thousand arguments.
It ain't Warrior Women at the River of Blood, but it's a pretty darn good way to end a chapter.
On a scale of 0 to 10, this one goes up to eleven.
I'm easily amused. And nothing amuses me more than watching folks in Starfleet uniforms kick butt on lesser life forms. "Good...bad...I'm the one with the gun."
It's not so much the firing of weapons or the blowing up of stuff. Though that's fun too. For me, it's the thrill of the days of Shatner, when someone would intrude on his convenience, and for their crimes he would disrupt their millennia-old culture and force them to do things the Federation Way, Dangit.
This episode seems to most closely parallel "A Taste of Armageddon." The Enterprise is declared a casualty of a computer-controlled "war," and its occupants are expected to surrender themselves eagerly and jump into a vaporization chamber, to prevent a REAL war, with blood and guts and horror and the like. They'd civilized the heck out of war. Kirk blew up the gaming computers and the link between the warring planets, so they had to face the very real possibility of that barbaric and cataclysmic manner of fighting. They called Kirk a barbarian. He took the title on himself gladly. Then he introduced the barbarian's twelve-step program: "I'm a barbarian, but today--just for today--I won't kill." He set the pattern. What's the good of being the captain of a starship if you can't unilaterally disrupt entire cultures if they piss you off?
In the politically correct 1990s, you need a better reason than that. But if a malevolent alien species takes your ship and strands you somewhere, that's plenty of justification for consigning the whole lot of them to a deep-frozen genocide.
Or at least, leading them to believe you would.
Janeway is a warrior. She may not want to be, but she is. We've seen her in action; when she wants to be, she can be a stone cold killer. It's the eyes; they bespeak ultimate judgment. In Get Shorty, they were called "You're Mine" eyes. As a captain, she has the power of life and death every day. Like Kirk before her, she has a lot of leeway in the way she exercises it. The chain of command is too far away to hold them immediately accountable. They're on their own, and their actions must speak for themselves. Their ultimate judge will be history itself.
This is not, however, a story about Janeway. She is the deus ex machina, the one who controls the means of their salvation, yes. She is the one whose gunboat negotiations free not only themselves, but all the other Nyrian captives, and reduce the former bullies to pauper status. Not only is their technology gone now, but their bad habits are now well known throughout the 10-lightyear radius. Janeway's just changed the balance of power in the system.
But it's not about her.
It's about Tom and B'Elanna. Everything that happens in the A Plot is pretty much the backdrop for the ups and downs of their relationship.
Up to now, their interaction has been peripheral at best. This episode begins with their first fight, and it's a doozy. It begins with an argument over exercise preferences, and "Klingon stuff." Thanks to the catalyst of Holodoc's big mouth, the real truth comes out: they are both very insecure people.
All together now: WELL, DUH.
Paris uses humor to cover his insecurities. Torres uses emotional distance and aggressive defensive responses, triple-dog daring anyone to get closer to her. She's afraid to let anyone get close. He's afraid of being anything less than charming. Both are afraid of being Found Out. Whatever there is to find. Given their childhoods, perhaps they're afraid that whoever looks won't find anything worth loving or liking or respecting. Better to keep others at a distance than to let them walk away of their own accord.
Yes, these are two very vulnerable people. Both are trying to get closer, but neither is very good at it. It's new territory for both. Paris tries to reach out by doing Klingon Stuff, but she hates that stuff. She uses the Klingon part of her to keep people away. It scares her that it doesn't scare him. She seems attracted by Paris' ability to laugh off adversity, something she can't do. Opposites attract. Mars and Venus, Earth and Klingon.
The metaphor in this episode is not very subtle, but it is effective. Temperature. Heat and light. The Nyrians prefer it Hot and Dark, the little devils. In the deep chill of the Argala habitat, Paris and Torres finally start to warm to each other again. They start out with a heated argument, and they end in warm, comfortable silence.
Frankly, I was glad to see them argue. You learn the most interesting things about people that way. People complained about how boring Paris and Kes were in "Before and After." This relationship is, or should be, anything but boring. This was an encouraging episode in that regard.
Other scenes were quite nice. Chakotay and Tuvok building the phasers. Torres scaring the hell out of Harry. Doc saying "Welcome to Sickbay. Take a number." Torres hitting the mute button on Holodoc after he'd done enough damage, and him wordlessly demanding to have his voice restored when she was suffering. (Always the humanitarian, our Doc.)
The Nyrians were pretty cool, actually. It was a unique method of taking over something, and they were nicely innocuous until it was too late. You like to see folks that are an INTELLECTUAL match for the crew; space battles have their place, but it's always been the battles of wits that made some of my favorite Trek episodes memorable. Most recently, Sisko playing a planetary game of chess with Eddington, using entire biospheres as battlegrounds. The scale was epic, but the interesting part was a simple mano a mano battle of wills.
This was a good episode for extras. Several crewmen got to speak, fire weapons, take out the enemy, sabotage key systems, look good in their uniforms, and generally have personalities. It's nice to see that. You don't have to be one of the Big Seven to be a nice, familiar face; Chief O'Brien didn't start out that way. But he grew on us, and he was too darned talented to leave in the background.
The obsequious alien Jarlath was nice comic relief, and also a philosophical counterpoint. The habitat, he says, isn't bad. They treat you fairly well when you play along, he says. He's adapted. He's not the kind of being Starfleeters like to hang out with, but even Starsky and Hutch needed a Huggy Bear.
The episode was fast-paced, action-packed, full of nice character development and growing teamwork, even among old combatants. The bad guys got their butts kicked, and Voyager flew away with its saucer section held high. Last season I complained about the lack of resolutions like this. We like our Federation crews to survive, thrive and succeed, to not just win but to win big. This episode was a big, big win for them. And humanitarian to boot. They're starting to get the confidence to not only save themselves, but to do good deeds for other species they encounter. And that, more than anything, is what will endear Voyager to the civilizations it encounters on the way home, and will make the Federation's welcome that much warmer when the Delta Quadrant becomes open to exploration in the next century or so.
Oh...sorry about the shouted rants. I guess I should be more sensitive to the feelings of those who care so much for these characters, and want to see the captain and first officer engage in sweaty snugglebunnies right there on the bridge (if the fanfic is any indication).
On a 0 to 10 scale, I'm giving this one an 11, or 300 stars. I can do whatever I want.
But I guess I'd better be consistent.
Call it an even 10, or (5 Stars!). (Three in a season--wow. You'd think Keri Strugg was directing these things.)
Anyway. I loved this one. It more than made up for that lame "na na na na hey hey hey goodbye" commercial.
Next week: Paris gets demoted, Janeway gets vaporized, and Chakotay and Seska (!) get laid. They don't call it "Worst Case Scenario" for nothing.