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.
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Voyager makes more trouble for itself amid the ruins of an ancient civilization.
Jump straight to the Analysis
It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood. Wherever this planet is. Modern skyscrapers clutter the horizon. The sky is blue. The sun is shining--
Whoa. The sun is really shining. And it's getting shinier by the second, apparently doing a sunset speed record--noon to dusk in 4.7 seconds--
Ah. Never mind. It's just a photon torpedo, or one of its distant cousins. Someone is conducting a little orbital urban renewal--the torpedo plows through one of the taller buildings like a bowling ball through balsa wood. In the distance we see the burned-out skeletons of other buildings. In the foreground we see a beautiful city being reduced to rubble in real-time.
Man, that New York senate campaign is really heating up . . .
Beneath the city, a woman runs through dark and dusty caves on unsteady feet. The impact tremors are part of her problem. Running an obstacle course in high heels is another. "Gedrin!" she shrieks, calling out over the din. "Gedrin!" Definitely alien, this woman. Huge head. Chin you could cut diamonds with. Long flowing blonde hair. More forehead than Tom Paris.
Eventually, she finds the guy she's looking for in the Ged-cave. "What happened?" she asks. "I lost you."
Gedrin leads the woman through the cave, coughing a little as more dust kicks up. "37 bio-pods were damaged. I had to disconnect them from the reactor."
The woman blanches. "Were they dead?"
"I had no choice." Ah. Must be Rudy Ransom's cousin.
The two make their way, coughing and running, into another cave opening. Inside, embedded in rock, are some rather sophisticated computers, and bio-pods. Gedrin calls up a quick readout. "The main power's holding. The rest of the bio-pods are secure--and that leaves us."
The woman's eyes go wide. Gedrin eyes her with compassion--and something else. "Don't look so worried. It'll be like a simple night's sleep," he soothes.
The alternative announces itself with a loud rumble. The bombardment is getting closer to them. "We're out of time!" Gedrin says, and helps the woman into the bio-pod.
"Do you think we'll dream?" she asks after she settles in. "I don't know," he confesses. But he cups her face tenderly in his hand. "We'll get through this," he says softly.
"What if there's nothing left?" This possibility seems disconcertingly likely.
"We'll start again," he says a moment later. Then he smiles. "Five years," he says.
Close pod bay door, Hal.
The woman's eyes go wide with initial panic, then flutter closed as the stasis effect overwhelms the woman, and the symphony of destruction fades from her consciousness.
* * *
Voyager is flying through an orange corridor of some sort. Wormhole? Something else? Who knows.
What we do know is this: the spatial corridor has more junk in it than an AOL inbox. Pieces of ships and other large hunks of metal and organic material litter the interior. Tom Paris must be having the time of his life dodging this field of debris--it's like a junkyard luge run.
Chakotay is in command of the bridge, which is at red alert. There's not much talking. There is some sweating. Having seen the road ahead, it's understandable.
Janeway enters. "Report."
"We've entered some kind of a subspace corridor," Harry reports.
"We were cruising at warp six, then, wham," Tom Paris says. "This thing pulled at our warp field like a magnet."
Janeway stares at the forward viewscreen. "Where did that debris come from?"
"Unknown," says Tuvok, "but the corridor is filled with it. Metal fragments, plasma exhaust, organic residue."
"Some of the debris is over 800 years old, Captain," Seven of Nine says.
Janeway frowns. "I'd like to avoid becoming part of this garbage stream. Can you find a way out?" she asks Tom.
"I don't now. There's hundreds of corridors. It's like a maze."
Janeway runs with Tom's choice of words. "Well, be a good rat and find us the cheese, hmm?" she drawls.
"I'll do my best, Captain," Rat Boy responds.
Then, unexpectedly, Voyager rumbles a bit--in a very familiar way. "Tuvok?" Chakotay asks.
A moment later, Tuvok reports. "It was a vessel, sir. They are hailing us." Put it through, Janeway commands.
Skeletor--well, that's what he looks like, dangit--picks up the phone. "Who are you?" the bony, bleached-white alien demands.
"I'm Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. And you are...?"
Skeletor isn't in the mood. "This under-space belongs to us!" he shouts.
Janeway holds up a hand. "We're here by accident. We're trying to find a way out. Can you help us?"
Whatever the alien was expecting, this wasn't one of them. "Help you? Yes. We'll help you . . . "
The ship rattles a little. "They are targeting our shields with a resonance pulse," Tuvok says. "It's altering the harmonics. We're being pushed out of the corridor."
A moment later, a flash, a jolt--and Voyager is back in, er, upper space. "We're clear," Tom says.
The cheese stands alone…
"The vessel has exited the corridor as well," Tuvok says.
Tom looks at his panel--and blinks. "Captain, we're over 200 light years from where we entered the corridor."
Harry Kim gets that look on his face that suggests home is just around the corner. "200 light years in five minutes?"
Janeway gets that look on her face. There's coffee in that underspace. "Hail them."
A moment later, Skeletor is back on the air, not looking all that friendly.
"Thank you for your help," Janeway says a bit more profusely than usual. "There's something I'd like to ask you. We've got a long journey ahead of us. I was wondering if we could negotiate passage through this under-space of yours."
As if. Skeletor glares at Janeway. "Lower your shields. Prepare to be boarded." Boarded? Chakotay asks. For what reason? The alien tells him. "We must purge your computer. Remove all readings you've gathered in our territory."
This doesn't set well with Janeway, who nevertheless tries to stick with diplomacy. "We pose no threat to you. We're simply trying to--"
Skeletor gets really peeved. His voice rises. "We're going to destroy that information, one way or another! Lower your shields!"
"I won't do that."
The alien and Janeway stare each other down. Then he cuts the channel.
Here we go again.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Janeway orders. "Try to disable them," she tells Tuvok. But apparently this alien vessel is faster than a speeding phaser. "Their vessel is highly maneuverable. It's difficult to get a phaser lock," Tuvok says.
As if that weren't enough, Harry reports that two more alien vessels are approaching fast.
BOOM "Direct hit. Our warp drive is off-line," Tom says.
BOOM "Shields down to 82 percent," Tuvok says. BOOM-BOOM "60 percent."
"They're closing!" Tom says.
Chakotay looks over his shoulder at Seven of Nine. "We could use some clever suggestions about now."
Seven of Nine points out that her nanoprobes, grown in protien-rich solution, are excellent exhaust-vent cloggers. Janeway orders it to be done, and incredibly, it works. The alien vessels explode most impressively, and among the debris is a fully intact map of the entire Underspace Interstate system, including an express tunnel to home. They'll be at Starbucks before the end of the hour--
Wait. That can't be right. (REWIND)
Chakotay looks over his shoulder at Seven of Nine. "We could use some clever suggestions about now." Seven suggests a nearby hiding place. (Yes, really. Not much better, granted, but you take what you're given. It's like having your car break down in the woods a mile or so from the spooky house where the Soylent Green flows like warm root beer.) "There's a planet eight million kilometers ahead--uninhabited--but the atmosphere is charged with radiogenic particles."
"How radiogenic?" Chakotay asks. Uh oh. 3,000 isorems," Seven says. Chakotay look at Janeway. "If we route enough power to the shields we can survive in that, but maybe our friends can't."
BOOM. "Shields at 53 percent," Tuvok announces.
Janeway doesn't ask for Plan B. "Do it," she says.
We see Voyager speeding toward a Day-Glo orange planet, with three Skeletor craft in hot pursuit.
"Entering the thermosphere," Tom says.
"Radiation levels at 3,000 isorems and climbing," Harry says.
"The alien ships?" Chakotay asks. "In pursuit and charging weapons," Tuvok says.
"Increase our descent vector," Janeway says. "They're still closing," Tom says.
BOOM "Direct hit to our aft shields," Tuvok reports.
"Find the highest concentration of radiation and take us through it," Janeway tells Tom, who grits his teeth and complies. That level of radiation is bad news indeed. Harry's voice is stressed as he reports. "Proximity radiation at 4,000 isorems...5,000...Six!"
But the BOOMs stop. "Their shields are weakening. They're breaking off," Tuvok says.
Everyone breathes easier. A little, anyway. "Now...all we need is a place to set down and make repairs. Tom?"
"We're clearing the lower stratosphere," Tom says. "On screen," the captain orders.
The clouds part. We see the battered remnants of a once-proud city.
Even from this distance, even from this angle, it looks familiar.
"I thought you said this planet was uninhabited," Chakotay says.
"The radiation must have interfered with my scans," Harry says.
"I doubt it's inhabited anymore. Looks like this planet's in the middle of a nuclear winter," Tom remarks. Tuvok agrees: "Gamma radiation levels are highly toxic. The impact crater suggests an orbital bombardment." How long ago? Janeway asks. Harry checks his readout. "From the rate of radiogenic decay...892 years."
A silence falls over the bridge. "This must have been a city of millions," Janeway whispers.
But it's ancient history, and Voyager has more pressing problems. "Set us down," Janeway says.
In a very cool bit of CGI, Voyager flies through downtown Armageddonville, landing near the coliseum.
The touchdown is fairly smooth--much more so than most previous landings. "Disengaging engines," Tom says as his fingers fly across his console.
Janeway nods curtly. "Stand down red alert. Assign damage repair teams--and Tom, make sure B'Elanna has enough help in engineering. I want those warp engines back on-line."
Yes, ma'am, Tom says, sprinting for the turbolift, always eager to spend a little helpful quality time with the chief engineer.
"Our friends are still in orbit," Tuvok reports. Circling like vultures, Chakotay mutters.
Janeway puts her hands on her hips and snorts. "They're going to go hungry."
But, points out Chakotay, ever the optimist, "Not if they find a way to adapt their shields and come after us."
When it acid rains, it pours. "Captain...I'm detecting faint life signs coming from a chamber several hundred meters beneath the surface," Harry Kim reports.
[Say it with me, people . . . ] Kate loves a mystery. Janeway looks at Harry with a gleam in her eye. "Survivors!" Chakotay is skeptical--"After 900 years?"
Janeway is already on the move. "Oversee the repair teams," she tells him.
"You're going down there," Chakotay says with a deep frown.
"If somebody survived this catastrophe they might need our help." To Harry, she says, "Get a good fix on those coordinates. I don't want to beam into solid rock."
"Seven, Tuvok," Janeway says, almost at the turbolift. "You're with me."
The caves are dark. The away team needs to use their flashlights to see. But there is some dim lighting from still-active equipment.
Janeway, Seven and Tuvok move with slow purpose through the debris. "These walls have been reinforced with tritonium," Janeway observes. "They built this place to last."
Tuvok agrees. "Most of the power relays are still active." Not bad after nine centuries, the captain says.
Seven practically whistles, clearly impressed, as she reads the results of her own scans. "The main reactor is drawing energy from the planet's geothermal core. Efficient." That's Borg for Kickass.
More exploration. More discovery. They enter a room that contains a lot of computers with screens covered in grime and dust and whiteout. And a couple of casket-sized covered beds. "Some kind of stasis pod," Tuvok says. Janeway wipes the grime off of one of the pods and sees the sleeping, non-dead face of a male alien. (It's Gedrin, the guy from the teaser.)
Seven heads for a wall panel. "This display indicates that there are more chambers behind these walls. Some of them have failed."
"It's amazing they survived at all," Janeway says. "Let's see what else we can find." They head through another cave opening that leads out of the room.
But Seven of Nine lingers behind. Then she goes back to the stasis chamber--and activates the Wakeup Call.
Janeway notices that Seven hasn't followed, and looks around. "Seven? What are you doing?" she asks with soft urgency.
"I've activated the reanimation sequence. He may be able to provide us with answers."
Janeway is still too filled with wonder to get too angry, but her eyes do sizzle a little.
"We don't know anything about this species. They could be hostile," Tuvok warns.
Seven just looks at him. "Most humanoid cultures are." True enough.
Janeway seems torn between irritation and anticipation. "Remind me to reacquaint you with away mission protocols," she says without ANY heat.
Of course, if Tom Paris had done it, he'd be dead where he stands. Mom always liked Seven best.
But what's done is done--and Gedrin wakes up with a case of 900 year-old morning breath that could take out the orbiting attackers. "Who?" he asks weakly, noticing the condition of the room, and the strangers.
"It's all right. We're not your enemy," Janeway says softly. "We're from a Starship. We discovered this chamber and revived you."
By the moment, Gedrin's strength and presence of mind returns. "How long was I--?"
"In stasis? Close to 900 years," Janeway says.
In the teaser, he'd told the woman they'd wake up in five years. Horror registers in his eyes. "900?" Then another thought comes. "Jisa. Help her, please." He struggles to get up, but 900 years worth of bedsores has taken its toll.
Seven checks on the woman. But she's a mummy now. All that's left is a dried-out shell, and blonde hair.
Well, that explains the whiteout.
Gedrin sees the expression on Seven's face. "No…" he looks bleakly at Janeway. "Jisa...She was my wife."
* * *
Gedrin--all cleaned up, dusted off, wearing a shiny suit with python boots--wakes up in sickbay. He's understandably disoriented, looking around the empty room while propped up on his elbows.
We get a better look at the man--and by extension, his species--in the cheerful light of Voyager's sickbay. He's got a lot of hair--black--which he keeps bound up in a cross between a bun and a bouffant. Lots of forehead, with a single canoe-shaped skull bump in the center, following the line of his strong but basically human nose. He's got ribbed throat extensions that would look almost Cardassian, but are winged out in a fleshy way that more closely resembles a hooded cobra. Eyes that see all but tell less than they know.
Doc enters from his office a moment later, waving his tricorder. Gedrin looks at it suspiciously, leaning back to avoid Doc's extended hand.
Oh, and add quick reflexes to the list.
"I won't hurt you," Doc assures him.
"I was drifting in and out of consciousness when they brought me here but I thought I saw you appear out of thin air."
"I'm a computer program, a hologram," Doc explains. Gedrin reaches out tentatively to touch the doctor. Doc frowns, but doesn't object.
Janeway and Seven enter. "And the others?" Gedrin asks, gesturing toward the door. "Flesh and blood, like yourself," Doc says.
Gedrin points at Janeway with some recognition. "You're the ones that took me out of stasis. I don't recognize your species." Human, Janeway explains. "Our home planet is halfway across the galaxy."
Gedrin's eyes go wide with respect. "And you've expanded your territory into this space?"
Janeway shakes her head. "Our ship was brought here by accident. We're trying to get home."
Gedrin next points at Seven. "You're Borg!" Ah--a familiar sight, at last.
Seven is surprised. "How do you know that?" After all, he's been out of action for 900 years.
Gedrin's eyes go sad. "Don't you recognize my people, the Vaadwaur?" (pronounced like dogstar)
"The Collective's memory from 900 years ago is fragmentary," Seven admits. (Hey, cool--new Borg backstory data…)
"I've had many encounters with your kind," Gedrin says. Fear isn't the right word. Respect, perhaps. Something about the way he says it that sets both Seven and Janeway on edge. The Doctor breaks the silence. "And lived to tell about them? Impressive."
"How did you find us?" Gedrin asks, full of questions.
"We needed someplace to hide from the Turei after they found us in one of their subspace corridors."
"Their corridors?" Gedrin asks, smirking. "So they claimed," Janeway says. Gedrin grits his teeth. "The corridors were ours. It took centuries to map them. We were the envy of a hundred species--including the Turei."
"Are they responsible for what happened to your planet?" Janeway asks.
"The Turei, and a dozen others. What one couldn't accomplish the others finally did." Gedrin--whose name isn't yet known to the crew--seems to take a perverse pride in the fact that it took so many to level his planet.
But that takes him only so far. The past comes back in a wave of sorrow, the fate of his species echoed in the hollow, long-dead eyes of his wife. "I...would like to look at what's left of my world," Gedrin says.
The windows from the mess hall usually show stars, in real space or warp space. Now, they offer a view of the remains of the Vaadwaur--skeletal, burned-out, radioactive.
"We made our final stand there," Gedrin says, pointing at the outline of a large building.
"I've scanned the caverns. You've got a thousand more stasis pods down there--most of them still active. Hundreds of ships, land vehicles . . . weapons, " Janeway says, stressing the last word, giving her guest a sidelong glance filled with suspicion.
"A single battalion, and their families," Gedrin says. "We had planned to come out of stasis after five years. We believed that by then, the Alliance would have been at each other's throats."
"You were going to rebuild?" Janeway asks, heat in her eyes but not in her voice.
Gedrin shakes his head, as though surprised she'd even consider it. "No, not here; we knew this planet would be poisoned for centuries. We were planning to go to another world--start a colony, hope to find new allies. Learn from them."
Janeway, choosing not to press, changes the subject. "Your power core is still functioning. It was the controls that were damaged in the attack. That's why you never came out of stasis."
"Jisa and I lived there in the old quarter; we had a garden overlooking the street below." Gedrin points to another building, its grandeur still apparent despite all the damage. It towers over the orange skyline. "It's a shame she didn't show more courage at the end," Gedrin says, an edge in his voice.
Janeway is shocked speechless. "Given the circumstances--" she whispers.
"That's no excuse." Dang. That cobra neck is appropriate--this dude's cold blooded.
"Pardon me for saying this--but that seems a bit heartless."
Gedrin gives Janeway a fierce look, matched by the hardness in his voice. "When it rains--do you run from doorway to doorway trying to stay dry, getting wet all the while? Or do you just accept the fact that it's raining--and walk with dignity?" Interesting philosophy, that.
Janeway is still a half-step or so behind. "Rain's one thing. Plasma bombs are something else."
"But the principle is the same!" Gedrin says, his soft voice a searing indictment of his long-dead wife.
Janeway could answer any number of ways. We've seen her do so on many occasions--anger, humor, phasers. She chooses an oddly appropriate response. "I'd bring an umbrella," she says, with just enough Irish in it to intrigue the Vaadwaur.
Gedrin smiles. "Maybe it's not too late to meet a new ally--and learn from her."
He couldn't have picked a better line if he read her mind.
When there's guests in the mess hall, Neelix is bound to be nearby. He arrives with a tray filled with food. "I took the liberty of preparing a large assortment of Delta Quadrant dishes. Hopefully, there's something here that you'll like."
Gedrin smiles with recognition. "You're Talax-ilzay!"
Janeway and Neelix are both surprised--Talax is a long, long way away. "Talaxian," Neelix corrects. "But you're right! My ancestors referred to themselves as Talax-ilzay . . . in the old tongue."
Gedrin smiles without humor. "The old tongue was new when I met your race."
Have you noticed that Gedrin and Seven of Nine have something in common? The only difference is, in her first days on board Seven was more likely to identify species by their Borg designation. Gedrin's introduction seems an exercise in "I know that species."
In their time, it would seem, the Vaadwaur really got around.
"You traveled all the way to Talaxia?" Janeway asks, amazed.
"And farther. Our corridors took us to many worlds," Gedrin says to Janeway, then turns to Neelix. "I'm curious. Have you heard of us, the Vaadwaur?"
Neelix thinks. "I'm afraid there aren't many records from that period," he says, searching his memory. "But Vaadwaur is a word in the old tongue. It means foolish."
Uh oh. Gedrin winces. Janeway does too.
Neelix stutters. "I'm sure that it's just a coincidence, of course. I didn't mean to be rude," he says, genuinely sorry.
Gedrin seethes--but not at Neelix. He turns to face the windows. "Your ancestors were wise. Only fools would let this happen to them." He gestures to the burned out city.
Just in time for a large ball of flame to fall from the sky and blow up some debris. The ground shakes.
Whoa--déjà vu. And great timing.
"Chakotay to Captain Janeway."
"Go ahead," Janeway orders.
"Looks like our friends in orbit have found us."
"We're on our way." Janeway and Gedrin sprint toward the door.
Captain and alien on the bridge. "Report," Janeway barks between tremors.
"Six Turei vessels are in orbit--all firing plasma charges," Chakotay says.
BOOM. "That was 2,000 meters to starboard," Tuvok says.
"Looks like they can't get an exact fix on our position," Ensign Kim says. "The radiogenic atmosphere must be disrupting their targeting."
BOOM. "900 meters," Tuvok says.
While Voyager's crew works, Gedrin gets jolted off his feet--and, fittingly, into the captain's chair. Ignored, Gedrin has the luxury of looking around--getting his first glimpse of Voyager's true potential as he sits in its nerve center. His eyes are wide--with surprise, certainly, but also with a steel-trap mind. These are eyes that don't need a second look.
BOOM. "They're getting closer," Tom says, agitated.
Janeway asks if they can return fire, but Chakotay says the atmospheric interference runs both ways. "Our torpedoes won't lock on."
BOOM. This one is louder, and the ship shakes more. "Direct hit," Tuvok says. "Aft shields down to 18%."
Things aren't looking good.
Gedrin breaks the explosion-punctuated silence. "Captain, can you transmit a signal through this atmosphere?"
Janeway waves over her shoulder dismissively. "We've already tried talking to them."
"I have no intention of speaking with the Turei," Gedrin says; his voice makes it pretty clear he would consider it beneath him. "We put a sentry satellite in orbit directly above the city. You could use its sensors to help guide your torpedoes."
Tuvok checks. "It's there--intact and functional." Tuvok looks at Janeway, awaiting her next order. Janeway looks at Gedrin, then at Tuvok, and nods.
Gedrin runs over to Ops. "Open a channel. I'll give you the activation code." Harry complies--but Gedrin just stares at the computer panel, looking lost. "I'm a few centuries out of date." Harry shows him how. A quick study, Gedrin then has no trouble entering the activation codes.
"It's processing our telemetry," Harry says.
Janeway gets that battle stations look in her eyes. "Triangulate," she orders, just before the ship is hammered again. BOOM. "Fire!"
A torpedo leaps skyward. Tuvok reads the results. "Direct hit. The lead ship has lost shields. Its propulsion is down."
Gedrin's eyes grow fierce. "One more torpedo will finish them!"
Janeway looks to the first officer. "The other ships are retreating," Chakotay reports. That's good enough for Janeway.
Gedrin is unpleasantly surprised. "Captain, why don't you keep firing?"
Janeway glares at him. "We scared them off. That's enough."
"But they'll come back with twice as many ships!"
"With any luck, our warp drive will be back on-line by then," Janeway says.
Gedrin seems to have read Janeway well enough to know when to alter his approach. "The Turei may be cowards, but their technology has become much more advanced than ours. If you leave us, we will be slaughtered again." Good point. And since Voyager, thanks to Seven of Nine, has made the Turei (potentially) aware of surviving Vaadwaur, they have at least some obligation to help.
And they know it. "What do you propose?" Chakotay asks.
Gedrin makes his appeal. "Help us off this planet, and we will show you subspace corridors known to nobody else. You will be free from the Turei, and you will be a thousand light-years closer to your home."
Only a thousand? Talaxia is 35k light years away, and they've been there.
But hey--a year's a year, and it's the perfect carrot for the home-bound crew.
Janeway looks at Chakotay, who doesn't make any vocal objections or offer any cautionary body language. She then faces Gedrin. "Let's wake up your battalion.
In the caves, Gedrin activates the controls that opens into the main cavern. He, Janeway and Chakotay step inside.
The lights begin to come on. The cavern is massive. As the interior is lit, we see dozens of vessels, of all sizes.
You can tell a lot about a species by their ships. Borg cubes are models of efficiency. The Romulan warbird and Klingon bird-of-prey make no secret of their aggressive intent. The clean lines and shiny exterior of Starfleet vessels bespeak a noble, confident, come-hither-galaxy quality to them, though the Defiant's look does say "eat hot death you devils" instead.
The Vaadwaur vessels have their own message that Chakotay has no trouble deciphering. "Dragon's teeth," he whispers, genuine fear in his voice.
"'Dragon's teeth'?" Janeway repeats, not catching the reference. Though Gedrin clearly likes the sound of it.
"An old Greek myth," Chakotay explains bleakly. "After a dragon was killed in a war, its teeth were spread out over the battlefield. They took root--and warriors sprung from the ground to continue the fighting."
The ships may be old--but they seem to have a kinship to the Defiant. These dragons teeth are most definitely molars--those teeth that could grind an enemy to powder.
* * *
Captain's log, supplemental. We've revived nearly 200 of the Vaadwaur and we're moving forward with our unexpected alliance.
In Astrometrics, Janeway and Tuvok and Seven are joined by three Vaadwaur. Gedrin (who still hasn't formally introduced himself to Voyager) is with Morin, an eager learner, and Gaul, who appears to be the alpha male--you can tell by the earth tones he's wearing. Of course, we haven't heard any of their names yet, either.
Pet peeve. Sorry.
The big Astrometrics screen shows a Gordian knot of "underspace" corridors. "Voyager was pulled into the corridor 200 light years from here," Tuvok explains, and we see the path on the map.
"Pulled in?" Morin asks.
"There must have been a break along the radial wall," Gedrin suggests. "Corridors occur naturally, but they're very unstable. They're damaged by use."
"Obviously, the Turei don't have the wisdom to maintain them properly," Gaul says, his voice dripping with contempt. "They'll be very difficult to navigate after centuries of neglect."
"We've only been able to chart a few of the corridors. Can you provide us with a more complete map?" Tuvok asks.
"We've never kept written records for security reasons," Gedrin explains. "Of course, we've committed all the corridors to memory--every multifold, every spatial intersect."
"We'll be happy to plot a course for you. But first, we'll need to get past the Turei," Gaul says, clearly someone used to being in charge. "How many vessels are in orbit?"
Seven says "Eleven." Oh, thank heaven.
Janeway takes charge herself. "Mr. Gaul, Tuvok--start working on a tactical plan." (Okay--Gaul has been named. Wouldn't you know he'd be called after the ancient name of France--one of the barbarian lands whose peoples invaded Rome. And after 900 years in a confined space--
Pierre from Paris hurls a large hunk of stinky cheese at his modem. The Gallic le funk du fromage assaults a certain Review Boy at 56kbps. Taking the hint and in the interest of international goodwill, he wisely ends comparison there.
"If we do manage to escape we'll need to locate a habitable world," Gaul says. (Try Rome. Aqueducts, indoor plumbing, Falernian wine, bread and circuses…)
Janeway's way ahead of him. For now. "Seven, scan the Astrometrics database. See what you can find. Someplace out of the way," she suggests pointedly. Seven acknowledges.
Gedrin seems interested in assisting with the home search; he tells Morin (calling him by name!) to "take charge of reviving the rest of our battalion." Morin nods. "Many of our bio-pods have been damaged. I could use some assistance." Janeway tells him that her chief engineer will be glad to give him a hand. Thank you, Morin says.
Janeway smiles; she loves it when a plan comes together. "Well, let's get started. We've got a civilization to rebuild."
After a long day, Neelix drops by the Wildman quarters to tuck Naomi in for the night. "No story tonight, Naomi. I had to cook for 200 people today." He sounds drained but happy.
Naomi is lying face down on her bed, in darkened quarters. She's not her usual cheerful self. "That's okay. I'm tired, too." (Her name wasn't in the credits. Was it even Scarlett Pomers?)
Neelix picks up on his goddaughter's tone. "Did you get a chance to meet any of the children?"
"I don't like them."
Neelix is surprised. "Why not?" I just don't, she says.
"Well, that's not good enough," Neelix frets. "I'm the ship's ambassador! You're the Captain's assistant. We have to make a good impression on our new friends!"
"They're not my friends," Naomi says. This really isn't like her.
"Well...Not yet," Neelix says, then goes for the encouraging talk. "Listen--first thing tomorrow, you and I will get together with a couple of the children--"
"No." There's no questioning that tone of voice. There's a permanence to the word, a vehemence, that sets off alarm bells.
Neelix sits on the bed. "Naomi, what's wrong?" he asks, his voice soft.
"Nothing. I don't like them and I don't want to play with them."
"That doesn't sound like you. Tell me what happened."
Naomi finally lets out what's bothering her. "They called you names." Names? He asks.
The floodgates are open. She's angry. "They said everybody from your planet was stupid. They said your ears were funny. They said just looking at you made them laugh. They said--"
"I-I get the idea," Neelix says, cutting her off. "Children can be a little cruel sometimes but there's no need to take it personally!" He smiles gamely. "In fact, my ears are kind of funny."
"I don't want to play with them." Neelix, knowing why she doesn't, assures her she doesn't have to. She seems relieved, and allows Neelix to tuck her in for the night. He promises to tell her a story tomorrow.
Story . . . the word gets Neelix thinking. His funny little ears begin to twitch.
Torres and Morin work together. They're not alone, though; Vaadwaur and Voyager work together.
"I'm not happy with these fluctuations. We may be trying to reactivate too many ships at once," Torres says.
"I suggest we focus on the assault fighters," Morin says. Then he smiles, and says with a deliberate enunciation, "Qual tel k'pok." Klingon for, may the blood of your enemy never stain your new outfit.
Torres smirks. "Thanks," she says wryly. "When did you learn Klingon?"
"Just a few phrases," Morin says, eagerness in his voice. "I was studying your database. The Klingons are a noble race." You'd think he was trying to date her. "They have their moments," Torres agrees, smiling with uncharacteristic ease. Chatting with Mom on the death barge must have worked miracles.
"'Today is a good day to die,'" Morin quotes happily. Torres doesn't take this quite as well. Morin quickly explains. "Kahless, your greatest warrior. That was his battle cry!"
Torres laughs. "You seem to have taken an interest in Klingon history."
"There are many parallels between our cultures. The Vaadwaur have also learned to embrace death without fear. As children, we're taught to fall asleep each night imagining a different way to die."
Torres suppresses a shudder. "I prefer curling up with a good book."
Morin doesn't realize at first she's joking. Then he snorts--he hopes appreciatively--and gets back to work.
Neelix reclines in his quarters. The gears are still turning. "Computer, access my personal database."
"Go into the Talaxian linguistic files--Old Tongue dialect. Find and define the word 'Vaadwaur.'"
Vaadwaur: Archaic adjective. Primary meaning: Foolish. Additional meanings: Weak-minded, reckless, blind.
Interesting, Neelix thinks. "What's the first known usage?"
First written example appears in Eldaxon's collected folklore, second edition. Year of publication, 5012, new calendar.
Neelix sighs. "Computer, name the specific folktales that use the word Vaadwaur."
'The Demon with the Golden Voice.' 'The Tale of the Deadly Stranger.' 'The Tale of the Boy who Lost his Head.' 'The Tale of the Bloody Hand.'
"Not exactly Mother Goose!" Neelix mutters to himself. (odd that a Talaxian would be familiar with those, though knowing Naomi he's probably run through half the bedtime stories in the Federation databanks.) Neelix's expression grows grim; oh, brother. "Computer, transfer the text of those stories to my quarters."
Looks like he'll have to make time for a story or two after all.
If Astrometrics could sweat, it has good reason. Gedrin and Seven of Nine are giving the galaxy the fine-tooth-comb treatment looking for a usable planet to call the Vaadwaur's new home.
"That star cluster in grid 1421? Nearly half the planets are inhabitable." Gedrin suggests.
"Unfortunately, they are already occupied by the Borg," Seven says.
"The Borg? In my century, they'd only assimilated a handful of systems. It looks like they've spread through the quadrant like a plague." Too late, he realizes his faux pas. "No offense."
"None taken," Seven says. She seems to agree with him, actually.
Back to work. "We had a colony near the twin star in grid 315," Gedrin says a moment later.
"That planet belongs to the Devore Imperium now," Seven says. Across the ship, you can hear Janeway's heart beat a little faster at the mention of Kashyk's old stomping grounds. (I mention him because as I type, Mark Harelik--Kashyk--is on screen in "The Partridge Family Story." In full early 70s attire. Bandana scarf and everything.
Man, nostalgia can get ugly sometimes . . .)
"And who are they?" Gedrin asks, intrigued. Seven explains. "An authoritarian regime. They claim 11 systems across three sectors," she explains. "I don't suppose they'd be willing to negotiate for a continent or two," he says, already suspecting the answer. "The Devore are intolerant of outsiders," Seven says with classic understatement.
"It doesn't matter," Gedrin says. "We have nothing to negotiate with. Our technology is 900 years out of date."
"Your pessimism is irrelevant. We will find a home for you."
Gedrin stares at the galaxy. All fitting onto a single screen, the billions of stars--too many of them surrounded by the boundaries of empire, Federation, Republic and Collective--don't seem nearly enough for their needs. Space may be big, but free and useful space is something else entirely.
"I hope so," Gedrin mutters, without much hope.
Later, in the briefing room, Tuvok reports to Janeway and Gaul.
"Sixteen Turei vessels are now in orbit. Long-range sensors indicate five more on the way." Not good news.
"I can understand that they want the odds in their favor--but isn't that overkill?" Janeway asks.
What can we say? Voyager's got one heck of a reputation--it's a one-ship apocalypse. Borg in a can. Species 666.
However many ships the Turei are sending, it ain't enough.
Gaul, of course, doesn't know this--he thinks it's about the Vaadwaur. "They may have detected us. If they know their history, they'll come prepared."
"900 years is a long time to hold a grudge," Janeway suggests; from her perspective, it's hard to believe. But it's safe to say even she knows her understanding of Vaadwaur history is . . . incomplete.
"The Turei would like nothing more than to find the rest of our subspace corridors. We can't allow that to happen," Gaul says.
"Then I suggest we use the element of surprise," Tuvok says. Apparently, he has a plan--and it's elaborate. "At 0600, Voyager will leave the surface and engage the Turei ships in orbit. As we draw their fire, the more powerful Vaadwaur vessels will attack from multiple vectors. The rest of the Vaadwaur will break orbit from the opposite side of the planet and proceed to the subspace corridors. We'll rendezvous with them afterwards."
"What if Voyager is disabled?" Gaul asks. "We'll be defenseless. If we armed my ships with your photon torpedoes..."
Uh oh. Janeway's personal Red Alert slams into place, shields on full. You can see it in her demeanor. "I can't authorize that," she says. Gaul demands to know why. "Starfleet protocols are very strict about the transfer of weapons," she explains.
"I'm not used to putting my life in someone else's hands," Gaul says. His tone is as dangerous as Janeway's.
"There are a lot of things you're going to have to get used to," Janeway says. "We've faced enemies worse than the Turei. I'm confident we can handle them."
"I need those weapons," Gaul says, not about to take no for an answer.
Janeway says no.
"If you want access to our corridors--" Gaul says, opting for blackmail.
He doesn't know her very well. "We'll continue home through open space if we have to."
Chakotay whispers into Gaul's ear--a suggestion that they take a stroll through the Janeway trophy room. The one with the heads, hineys and other charred remains of those who crossed Action Kate.
Gaul realizes that a direct confrontation is hopeless. "All right," he sighs. "Our lives are in your hands."
Which, as Janeway doesn't need to explain, is exactly how the galaxy is meant to work.
Gedrin and Gaul gather for a status update in Engineering. "We've found a planet in a nebula near the junction of corridors 39 and 875. We'd be isolated and relatively safe," Gedrin says. As the one who saw their options, he seems relieved they found anything--but not exactly thrilled. But he has Seven of Nine's assurance Ceti Alpha V is habitable . . .
"'Relatively'?" Gaul doesn't seem to be in the mood for "relatively."
Gedrin coughs. "I'm afraid the planet is somewhat harsh. There are no large bodies of water and the vegetation is sparse."
Gaul isn't happy. At all. "This is absurd!" Compared to the relatively genial, smooth-talking Gedrin, there's a gravelly harshness to Gaul that rightly raises warning signs.
The Vaadwaur notice some Voyager crewmen walking by; they take it to a more secluded spot.
"Our plan was to reoccupy one of our former colonies, gain allies, rebuild our forces--take back what was ours!" Gaul seethes.
"Our former colonies are destroyed--or occupied by species that are far more advanced than we are," Gedrin explains.
Gaul's eyes blaze. "Then we'll find a way to take them back."
"With what?" Gedrin scoffs. "A battalion of obsolete ships and outdated weapons?"
"No...with Voyager. I've been studying their technology--the control systems, propulsion, weaponry. We could learn to operate the vessel ourselves."
Oh, man. In "Space Seed," Emperor Tiberius (James T. Kirk) had his ship attacked by a guy named Khan. Now, we've got Gauls messing with Queen Elizabeth. (Kathryn E. Janeway). Talk about history repeating itself.
"What are you saying?"
"After they engage the Turei they'll expect us to assist them. Instead, we'll attack! We'll put as many soldiers as we can onto Voyager and take it into the corridors!" Ah, duplicity.
But Gedrin has become fond of Voyager; they woke him up first, after all. Treated him and his people honorably. Gave him new stuff to learn. "This is a mistake! If we fail, we'll lose everything!"
Gaul gives Gedrin a look that would freeze a warp core. "If you'd like, I can return you to your stasis pod." Gedrin blanches.
"Inform the others."
Plot complication: check.
* * *
Apparently Gedrin has decided to keep trying. He's back in Astrometrics with Seven of Nine, planet shopping.
They find one. "This is an M-Class planet in orbit of a Type-G star. We've located a subcontinent with edible vegetation and an underground water supply. Unfortunately, the region is subject to windstorms."
"Not exactly paradise," Gedrin says. "You will adapt," Seven says.
Gedrin smiles. "Practical and to the point--just like my wife. She had a knack for cutting to the truth." It's nice to hear him saying something nice about her now.
Seven accepts the compliment. "She must have been an efficient individual."
"Ah, to say the least! You would have enjoyed her company." Gedrin smiles with genuine affection. "You are not at all like the Borg I knew."
"As a drone, I helped assimilate many civilizations. Now I have the opportunity to help reconstruct one." Seven stares off into space. "I find the experience...gratifying."
"So do I," Gedrin says, then looks uneasy. "I'm curious--has your crew ever considered finding a planet of their own a place to settle down?"
"Captain Janeway is committed to getting Voyager back to Earth," Seven says.
"That could take decades," Gedrin observes. "And there are many dangers ahead."
"We will adapt," Seven says.
Gedrin smiles. "I suppose you will."
Neelix to Seven of Nine.
"Yes?" Seven says to the disembodied voice.
Could I see you in cargo bay two? It's important.
"Acknowledged," Seven says. She offers to drop him off on the bridge for his meeting with Tuvok.
Neelix rushes over to Seven as soon as the doors to Cargo Bay Two open. "I'm sorry to bother you," he says in hushed tones, "but--I've been doing some research on our new allies...and I have found something very interesting. In dozens of the ancient folktales of my people, there's a common theme. They describe a phantom army that appears out of thin air, destroys entire colonies, then vanishes in the blink of an eye. Sound familiar?"
"The subspace corridors," Seven guesses.
"Exactly! Gedrin claims they've been using them as trade routes--but I'm starting to wonder."
Seven looks at him. "Your source material is folktales, Mr. Neelix."
"But many fables have a basis in reality," Neelix points out. "You've got the collective knowledge of thousands of species. You could cross-reference my findings. It'll only take a few minutes."
Seven accepts the logic, and the assignment. She walks over to one of her Borg computer pylons and begins tapping in the commands.
We get an exterior shot of Voyager in downtown Vaadwaur. Size is, of course, relative, but the view of Voyager--all fifteen decks of her--in the ruined cityscape makes it look about the size of your average minivan parked on Wall Street. Seeing Voyager look so tiny gives the former grandeur of Vaadwaur even starker context.
Inside the captain's ready room, it's dark. Janeway is sipping at her coffee. We can see the steam rising from the mug.
The doorbell rings. "Come in."
It's Gedrin. "You wanted to see me, Captain?" he asks amiably as the doors close behind him.
"Yes. I need a little history lesson," Janeway says, setting down her mug.
Gedrin recovers quickly enough. "Can't it...wait until after we've reached the corridors?"
"I'm afraid not. I've just had a conversation with Mr. Neelix and Seven of Nine." Janeway stands and walks from her desk until she's nose-to-nose with Gedrin. "They've been poring through various databases and they've come up with some surprising findings."
"Surprising?" Gedrin asks.
Janeway walks toward the window, where the ruins of Vaadwaur loom. "You told me the Vaadwaur were a culture of merchants and scientists who expanded their knowledge by using the subspace corridors to travel to other worlds." Janeway, across the room, now turns around and looks at her guest. "You were the envy of hundreds of species--some of whom eventually wanted the corridors for themselves."
Gedrin takes several measured steps toward her, his eyes wary, but trying to maintain the aura of good fellowship he's had so far with Janeway. "Your point?"
Janeway closes the remaining distance between them. But she remains at the top of the steps, while Gedrin stands at the foot of them. This gives Janeway the height advantage. "Let me give you another version of events," she says softly. "The Vaadwaur were an aggressive culture. Who expanded their territory by using the corridors to attack other worlds...until some of those worlds banded together to defend themselves, and put an end to the Vaadwaur threat once and for all. Would you care to set the record straight?"
Gedrin's expression doesn't change. "That was 900 years ago--"
"If we're going to be fighting side-by-side, I have to trust you. I need to be certain you don't have any ulterior motives."
"Our only motive is survival."
Janeway's tone is calm; she speaks matter-of-factly, free from emotion. "If I were to take you at your word, the ancient Talaxians might call me Vaadwaur--'foolish.' That's what they came to call anyone who allowed themselves to be deceived by an enemy. There are hundreds of other references just like it."
Gedrin doesn't lie. But the intensity does enter his voice "Both versions of our history are true. We did use the corridors to explore--and, on occasion, expand our territory . . ."
The fate of the once-proud race stares back at him from the other side of the window--he either stares at the icy gaze of Janeway, or at the reminder of how the mighty have fallen. His voice grows almost as gravelly as Gaul's. "But Captain, we have gone from a population of six billion to 600. Our weapons are archaic. Do you really think that we are prepared to declare war on the Delta Quadrant?"
"Not yet--but right, now it's Voyager I'm worried about. The Turei are going to be firing everything they've got at my ship. You might try to take advantage of that."
Gedrin neither confirms nor denies. But we saw his resistance to Gaul's plan. He seems glad to know that Janeway has anticipated it. His respect for her grows.
As does his anxiety. "What are you going to do--put us all back into stasis?"
"We said we'd try to help you make a new start. And I want to keep that promise," Janeway says with some compassion. "But I can't ignore history, Mr. Gedrin."
Janeway walks toward the door that leads to the bridge; it slides open. Janeway gestures with a tilt of her head--age before beauty. Gedrin leads the way.
"Make yourself comfortable, Mr. Gedrin," Janeway says; Gedrin positions himself behind the rail on upper deck.
The captain whispers softly to Chakotay. "I don't know whether to believe him or not. What I wouldn't give for a Betazoid about now." She must have dropped off Ensign Jurot (see "Counterpoint") with Kashyk.
"If Mr. Neelix is right we should be ready for anything," Chakotay suggests. "Their technology may be outdated but it can still do a lot of damage."
"Agreed. Maintain a full security alert and have Tuvok keep a weapons lock on their primary reactor."
By the way, for those wondering whatever happened to the Equinox Five, it looks like Noah Lessing is working on the bridge, over Janeway's left shoulder. It's hard to be certain--he doesn't say anything, and I didn't exactly memorize what Lessing looked like--but for the sake of argument, say it's him.
Chakotay nods, then asks, "are we still proceeding at 0600 hours?"
"Yes--but with a few modifications." We never learn what they are.
"What's Mr. Gaul's location?" Janeway asks Ensign Kim. "He's in the central chamber," Harry says. "Hail him," Janeway orders.
Gaul appears. "Captain, we've reactivated 73 assault vessels. Our pilots are standing by."
"I need to inform you about a change of plan. I want you to deactivate the particle cannons on all but ten of your assault vessels. Then we'll proceed on schedule."
Gaul doesn't like that one bit. "I don't understand."
"Only ten of your ships are going to engage the Turei. The others will head directly for the subspace corridors. I see no reason for those to be armed."
"Something could go wrong. Why leave them defenseless?" Gaul demands.
"Voyager will defend them," Janeway says with a voice that brooks no argument.
Gaul looks at his fellows, then bores his eyes into the screen. "What prompted this change?"
"You haven't been completely honest about your past--and that makes me a little uncertain about the present," Janeway says, the verbal slap deftly delivered.
Gaul sees the guest on the bridge. "Gedrin," he snarls.
"I suggest you listen to her," Gedrin says.
Gaul's gorge rises. "Request denied, Captain."
The boy's got spunk, I'll give him that. "It's not a request," Janeway says. "You can call it an ultimatum if you like."
Janeway merely shrugs. "I'm going to leave this planet in one hour--with or without you."
Gaul is amazed by Janeway's gall. "We did not spend 900 years in stasis to take orders from you!" He stabs the channel button closed, hanging up on Voyager.
"Contact the battalion," Gaul orders. "Tell them to prepare for the attack."
"I don't know about the rest of you but I'm ready to get moving," Janeway says. She gets no argument. "What's our status?"
"Impulse engines are on-line," Tom says.
"Shields at maximum. Weapons standing by," Tuvok says.
Janeway smiles grimly. "Tom, prepare to initiate the ascent sequence in..."
The Ops panel beeps frantically. "Report!" Chakotay orders.
"Massive energy readings coming from the central chamber," Harry reports.
"It's the Vaadwaur. They're launching the first wave of ships. 17 vessels have broken through the surface. They're at an altitude of 2,000 meters and charging weapons," Tuvok says.
The ground rumbles a bit.
Tom adds one more bit of bad news. "Ma'am, they're not ascending into orbit. They're heading straight for Voyager."
* * *
[Note: there's a whole lot of impressively visual action sequences in this act. There's also a lot of dialog, but it makes sense to summarize. Be warned this isn't line-by-line.]
At Janeway's order, Tom initiates the commands to get Voyager airborne. But even as he does this, Tuvok warns that the Vaadwaur are coming down fast. We see them do so in an impressive Vaadwaur-cam.
Janeway orders phasers. The ship shakes a little as Tom announces that they're airborne.
"What altitude do we need on this planet before we can go to warp?" Chakotay asks.
"We'll have to clear the thermosphere. 280 kilometers at least." That seems a long way away now.
The Vaadwaur are close enough to do some serious damage with their particle weapons. BOOM. "Shields at 92 percent," Tuvok reports. Janeway orders more phasers--shoot to kill.
We see Voyager in a high-speed chase downtown. A bunch of shuttle-sized local ships come after them. Voyager fires--and blows some to hell.
Good news: "We've disabled four of their ships." That's an understatement.
Bad news: "They've launched another 39 vessels," Chakotay says. Evasive maneuvers, Janeway orders.
Paris shakes his head with frustration. "It's no use. They're closing on all sides." BOOM! "Direct hit to the port thrusters! We're losing altitude."
"Reroute emergency power. We need to get into orbit!" Janeway orders.
BOOM! "Targeting sensors off-line. Switching to manual," Tuvok says.
More booms. Janeway tells Harry to contact the Turei. Harry reminds her that they're not on the best of terms with the Skeletor folks, but Janeway is feeling friendly.
"Voyager's shields are weakening but they're gaining altitude again," Morin says. "They're approaching the thermosphere."
Gaul growls. "Launch another squadron."
Paging the maginot line . . .
More impressive CGI as Voyager claws its way upward, chased and harried by Vaadwaur wasps.
"We've got nine more fighters on our tail!" Tom shouts.
BOOM "Aft shields down to 20 percent," Tuvok says.
The Turei finally respond. Janeway tells him she's got a great offer. Skeletor doesn't want to hear it; he trots out the "drop your shields and prepare to be bordered" dookie. Janeway tells her to blow it out his airlock. "Tell me--have you been picking up weapons fire?" she asks sweetly. Caught off guard, the Turei admits they saw something--sorta.
Between BOOMS, Janeway explains that the Vaadwaur bogeymen are still around, and still putting up a fight. Skeletor denies it, but then Gedrin introduces himself. The Turei's eyes go wide.
"They've got over 200 ships," Janeway says, teasing the guy. "They said something about 'wanting their subspace corridors back.'" [BOOM] "I suggest we join forces and try to neutralize the threat here and now. What's more important to you? Deleting the records of a Federation ship that means you no harm, or defending yourselves against hundreds of Vaadwaur fighters who are determined to invade your under-space? I suggest you pick your enemy."
He doesn't take long. But he points out that they're firing blind. "How can we fight an enemy we can't see?"
Chakotay mentions the Vaadwaur satellite and its remarkable targeting assistance.
"If this is a decept--"
Harry cuts him off. "I'm having trouble establishing a link with the satellite. Our sensor array took heavy damage."
Gedrin says he can fix it--but not on Voyager. "I could access it from the underground control chamber. Transport me there." Janeway hesitates. Gedrin smiles assuringly. "Not all of my people are stuck in the past, Captain," Gedrin says.
Janeway takes him at his word--but sends Tuvok along to help.
Morin has good news for Gaul. "We've impacted their hull. There are breaches in progress on two decks."
Gaul smiles grimly. "They'll have to reroute power from their shields to seal them. They'll have no choice but to put down. Have our ground forces ready."
They're pretty tough for a bunch of old farts.
But just as the tide seems to have turned, Tuvok and Gedrin mow down the folks guarding Gedrin's computers. Without a word, they kick the bodies aside and get to work talking to the satellite.
More BOOMs. Each one takes out another vital system--including the much-needed impulse engines and navigation. Right now, Voyager is hang-gliding.
Worse news: they can't get through to Tuvok. So it goes.
Janeway pages the whole crew. "All hands, this is the Captain. Initiate emergency landing procedures--and arm yourselves. If the Vaadwaur board this ship, we'll fight them hand-to-hand if we have to."
Some of the Vaadwaur are talking. "Once we've secured Voyager, execute the crew," Morin says.
Another Vaadwaur has a better idea. "We have hundreds of bio-pods still intact. Put them into stasis. In a few hundred years, maybe someone will be kind enough to revive them." Ooh--nasty sense of irony.
The cobra-necks look at each other. "What is that?!"
More déjà vu. Plasma charges fall from the sky like pennies from heaven. And this time, they seem to be hitting actual targets.
They run inside and check their systems. "It's a plasma charge. It came from orbit. It's the Turei. They've isolated our location," Morin reports.
"How?!" Gaul demands. "A surveillance satellite has been activated," Morin says.
"Shut it down!"
"They're blocking my commands," Gedrin says. "I'm rotating the carrier frequencies."
The tremors on the planet spike--the bombs are falling fast and furious now. Rubble and dust fall from the cave roof. Tuvok says they need to get out, and now.
"Not yet," Gedrin says. "If we're going to succeed, I need to transmit the signatures of our fighters to the Turei. You go."
Tuvok doesn't like it, but go he does.
Unfortunately, they never actually say whether Tuvok made it back on board. So until we hear different, assume he's pushing up boulders on an alien planet.
The battle turns yet again. Chakotay reports the good news. "Six Vaadwaur ships were just destroyed by the Turei. The others are breaking off their attack." Whew.
But Voyager is still hang-gliding.
"Impulse engines?" Janeway asks. Still off-line, Tom says. "How about emergency power?" she asks. "Barely enough for life-support, Captain," Harry says.
Janeway gets an idea. "Harry, the radiogenic particles in the atmosphere--could we use them as a power source?"
Yeah, if you've got a few hours, Harry says.
But Janeway's not done. "What if we drew the particles directly into our plasma manifold?"
"That would give us one hell of a boost," Tom says.
"It could also blow out every power relay on the ship," Harry counters.
Janeway bangs her head a little against the railing, cushioned a bit by her hands. "Damned if we do; damned if we don't." Her choice. Of course, that's just how she likes it.
Janeway doesn't take long. "Open the forward nacelle ports and reverse the pressure gradient. Take in 600 kilograms."
Harry shakes his head, crosses his fingers--and complies.
The Turei are pounding hell out of the Vaadwaur in earnest now. The underground caves are collapsing at a rate that puts every survivor's life in harm's way.
Gaul gives the order. Scramble every ship, and head for the subspace corridors.
Gedrin's job is done. He's swatted the flies from Voyager's tail.
Unfortunately for him, there's a 16 ton slab of rock with his name on it.
He could have used an umbrella. But he goes down with dignity, just as he would have wanted it.
Voyager grabs the magic number of radiogenic particles. And darned if it doesn't work. Voyager's engines kick in, and though half the flammable things on the bridge burst into flames, the engines continue to work.
Up, up, away they go.
"13 power relays just blew out on deck six," Harry reports. Steady, Janeway orders.
They cross the thermosphere.
"Any sign of pursuit?" Janeway asks.
"None. Looks like the Vaadwaur have their hands full," Chakotay says.
They break through. They're in the warp zone. Janeway gives the order--and away they go.
The Vaadwaur also break into orbit. Like a swarm of bees, they streak through the high-orbiting Turei ships, massive planet-hammering beasts of vessels, doing not a lot of damage, losing a few ships to the mighty Turei weapons, but mainly just streaking their way into the subspace corridors.
By the dozen.
Captain's log, Stardate 53167.9: After two days, there's been no sign of the Vaadwaur or the Turei. However, Seven of Nine has made an unsettling discovery.
A cloud hangs over Janeway's ready room as Seven of Nine shows her the results of her Astrometrics scan. "How many ships?" she asks.
"Astrometrics scans detected 52 ion signatures entering the corridors--all Vaadwaur."
Janeway nods bleakly. "The underground chambers?"
"They were destroyed by the Turei bombardment."
The briefing concluded, Seven heads for the door. But she stops and faces Janeway uncertainly. "Captain...I believe I made an error in judgment."
Janeway is surprised--this is a major event. Seven's first "I screwed up." Oh? She asks.
"By awakening Gedrin, I initiated a chain of events that nearly led to our destruction. I wanted to help revive a civilization, not start a war."
Janeway doesn't raise her voice. But the softness seems to make her words sting all the more. "You thought you were acting out of compassion. I might have done the same thing. But that doesn't make it right, Seven. The repercussions of this could be catastrophic."
"Their technology is nine centuries out of date. Their plans for conquest are irrelevant," Seven says--more out of hope than knowledge.
Janeway's not so sure. "They're a resourceful species--determined. They'll adapt."
Janeway frowns, leans back in her high-backed chair. "I doubt we've seen the last of them."
And on that note, we cut to credits.
Alas, poor Tuvok, we hardly knew ye . . .
Oh, I'm sure they beamed him back. But usually they let us know--verbal confirmation from Harry ("Got him!"), seeing Tuvok in the corridors in the aftermath. I got many "what happened to Tuvok?" messages, so I figured I should say something. It's one of those details the audience likes to have spelled out for them, especially given what else was happening on Voyager at the time.
Picky? Sure. But that's what reviews are for, right?
"Dragon's Teeth" is a decent example of a standard Trek tale. Many this week have mentioned the Original Series episode "Space Seed." The more recent "Equinox" also fits. It's a simple formula--find and save/revive a person or group, hear their story, later discover their dark secret, struggle for a bit, endure peril--and the good guys eventually win. That's the meat and potatoes; season with plot complications, identity crises, action sequences and/or humor to taste.
How does this episode stack up? It held my attention through the first several acts, but the ending had an auto-pilot feel to it. It could have used some more twists. I'd have liked to see the "dragon's teeth" put up a better fight--one with more drama than spectacle.
Take "Space Seed." Khan deftly manages to take over Kirk's ship, which Kirk has to work overtime to retake. He loses a crewman in the process--one who chooses Khan over Kirk. The eugenic barbarian, exiled from Earth for the danger he poses, can win hearts even in the enlightened 23rd century through sheer power of charisma. Evil with a voice of rich Corinthian leather--such was Khan, one of the most memorable of Trek villains. Kirk won, but not without cost--and he seemed to sympathize when Khan quoted Milton's Paradise Lost: better to rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.
Now take the cobra-like Vaadwaur. We were promised great and terrible things. A species of whom grim fairy tales were written, 35,000 light years away and 900 years ago. 'The Demon with the Golden Voice.' 'The Tale of the Deadly Stranger.' 'The Tale of the Boy who Lost his Head.' 'The Tale of the Bloody Hand.' We saw glimpses of it--the Vaadwaur do have a Cardassian feel to them, intelligent, ambitious, cunning. They got some good lines, a morbid sense of humor, a thorough understanding of their diminished state. Gul Dukat would love these people. There's something else about these people: their gene pool is probably too shallow to endure a long sunny day--less than a thousand people. They are weak, and they know it. Whatever they were, there is some reason to feel sympathy for them now. We met at least one good guy, Gedrin. They're relatively three dimensional, compared to some species we've seen.
If you knew you were only six hundred people against the galaxy, what would you do?
A frontal assault, sacrificing what few people I've got left, wouldn't be high on my list.
Granted, Janeway forced their hands and changed their plans. But their plans were still a straightforward assault, when the Turei were also attacking Voyager. A more sensible attack would have been to use what few advantages they DO have--an intricate knowledge of the subspace corridors. Using their golden voice to win converts--until the Vaadwaur can rebuild their own species, their best bet is to make alliances, and quick. The Vaadwaur, with their reputation and with their ambition, could make formidable generals. Why not find some disgruntled Equinox characters and other "Janeway is nuts" crew and take the ship over? Or sabotage Voyager so when it hits a certain corridor, the engines stall?
I expect better from cobras. Gaul could take a few lessons from Garak--one conversation with Janeway and he gave pretty much everything away. Vercingetorix, he ain't.
The final act was a bit of a blur. Great action sequences, eye-poppingly impressive. A space battle can be impressive--but try taking the battle against an urban backdrop. The advances in technology the last five years has been mind-boggling. But it was mostly action, with no real tension. They pursue, Voyager flees, blowing away the occasional ship. She's going easy on them, we must assume, because one of her hand phaser rifles should do more damage against those old Vaadwaur ships.
It shouldn't even have been a contest. It might have, had the thousand year old weapons had a unique twist--something the Voyager shields couldn't block. Bulletproof vests don't stop knives, for example. The Vaadwaur just throwing ship after ship at them could work, yes--but it would be far more costly to them. Even a few dozen lives lost is more than they can afford.
The "overkill" number of Turei ships in orbit also raise some questions. The Turei would naturally be eager to blow up as many surviving Vaadwaur as they can get their lock on, but what's the need for the either/or? Why not target both the Vaadwaur and Voyager? If they blow up Voyager "accidentally," who's to know or care? Their reasons for wanting to board Voyager and wipe its databanks are not adequately explained, though there are obvious reasons--knowledge of the "underspace" is a tactical advantage.
The big question: they seemed to set up the Vaadwaur as a potential recurring adversary. Will they be an interesting one?
They showed some potential. An aggressive but diminished species, making up for lost time. Voyager is an inviting target. The Vaadwaur, like Khan, know that a Federation Starship can work wonders--in the right hands. Taking it as their own would jump start their comeback plans in a big way. They also have the corridors, so they could conceivably show up anywhere--and with anything, assuming the "golden-tongue demons" can brush up on their schmoozing skills and beg/borrow/steal themselves some modern technology.
It's also likely, now that Voyager knows the corridors are there--and what they can do to speed their journey home--that Janeway will risk a subspace sprint or two. I like the corridor idea--and the fact that they're still a bit of a mystery. They could end up FARTHER from home if they're not careful. I like the Delta Quadrant Roulette idea. Take a chance.
There is of course, the "original sin" of this episode--Seven of Nine reviving her first Vaadwaur, which made the whole thing possible.
This isn't explored in great detail--Janeway giving Seven a quickie "Remind me to reacquaint you with away mission protocols" at the time, and a brief agreement at the end when Seven acknowledged her lapse in judgment, isn't exactly what we're used to from her. This is a captain who will hunt your hiney down across the galaxy or into alternate universes if you cross her--and Seven's got a long history of crossing Janeway. I'm sure Tom Paris wouldn't mind if Seven were forced to wear unflattering outfits in the brig for a few weeks for unleashing an ancient nightmare from childhood fables on the universe.
It's not like Janeway tried that hard to stop her, either. One phaser set on "reminder" would have prevented the whole thing. Of course, Voyager also would likely have had a tough row to hoe with the Turai, so the triangulation did work to Voyager's advantage.
I'm just very surprised more wasn't made of this between the bookends. We heard a little bit about Seven's motivation--the chance to rebuild a race after destroying so many as a Borg. But that bit of interesting material was underplayed, and I was a bit disappointed by that.
All in all, I did enjoy it. It could have been stronger, and the last act was a bit weak, but the species does have some intriguing qualities. They're several steps up from the Kazon and one or two above the Malon and Hirogen. The potential for interesting follow-up stories is there, on several fronts--the corridors, the Vaadwaur coming after Voyager, Voyager running into people freaked out by the Vaadwaur's return and either blaming Voyager for reviving them, or joining with Voyager to combat them, just to name a few. Complicating Voyager's life is the name of the game, right?
Performances--overall, I was impressed. Gedrin (Jeff Allin) was terrific, offering a nicely nuanced performance. I almost wish he had played the role of Gaul--I think he'd have played the Demon with the Golden Tongue to better effect than the more straightforwardly aggressive Robert Knepper. Well, that's partly true--Knepper's approach to Gaul fit the script we saw. Had the Vaadwaur been more Cardassian, then I'd have preferred Jeff Allin. For other performances, I liked Ethan Phillips and Jeri Ryan in particular, though the "dragon's teeth" scene was great from Beltran, and the brief bits we got from Roxann Dawson I quite liked.
Kate Mulgrew downplayed her Janeway Rage, which allowed her smooth-talking side to assert itself. I can't call the tactics in the last act all that inspired, but Janeway did seem to be on her guard from the beginning, even with the ultimately-friendly Gedrin. We didn't see the scene where Neelix and Seven of Nine presented their evidence to Janeway. We probably didn't need to--I doubt she needed convincing. The scene with Gedrin was more important.
Writing--it felt rushed. I've seen in other reviews that this was originally intended as a two-part episode; that may explain the rushed final act. The early build up I liked. The scene with Naomi and Neelix was good for establishing the kind of people the Vaadwaur were. There were some dings--not explicitly showing/telling that Tuvok was back on board at the end, the offer by Gedrin to throw them a "mere" thousand light years closer to home when the Talaxian corridor is around 30-35k light years away seems a bit skimpy. The Janeway reaction to Seven's actions seemed vastly understated; even Janeway's reference to Seven's learning "compassion"--a reference to "Prey," perhaps?-- needed a lot more than it got. Too much was thrown in but not explored in sufficient detail.
But maybe it's setup for later episodes. We'll see.
Special Effects: phenomenal, as usual, but they didn't maintain my interest. It reminded me of "The Nightmare before Christmas"--impressive for its own sake, but I can't say I thought it furthered the story.
All in all, I'd say I was entertained. But I didn't love it.
Call it (* * *).
Next week: Another Planetary Society infomercial.