The following is a SPOILER Review for the Star Trek: Voyager episode, "Dreadnought." If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright. I usually watch an episode no more than twice before preparing its review. What the recap lacks in accuracy, I hope to compensate with creativity. The result is as much a retelling as a review.
Lt. Torres' past comes back to haunt her, Lt. Paris gets an attitude adjustment, and Janeway makes a friend.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Everyone's favorite pregnant ensign is in sickbay for her periodic prenatal checkup. As Holodoc and Kes minister, she discusses possible names for the child. Greskrendrek, the child's Katerian father, is a possible choice (a five-generation family tradition). Holodoc considers the name for himself; he's been scanning databases from the histories of five hundred words, so far without success. The ensign would like something simpler for her child. She suggests Cameron. Holodoc gives the etymology of the name: a Celtic term meaning "one whose nose is bent." Frederick, her next choice? A Bolian obscenity, he replies. How about that fine Vulcan name, "Soral"? Turns out that was also the name of a vicious beheading dictator on some far distant planet. (Holodoc: the Cliff Klaven of the Delta Quadrant.)
Kes suggests her father's name: Benaron (ben Aaron?), which Holodoc has never heard before, and which he seems to like, but sounds hurt that Kes never mentioned it to her before. As he leaves the room in a cheesy huff, Kes tosses off other Ocampan names he might like in an attempt to make it up to him.
Meanwhile on the bridge, Paris reports the debris of a ship, a rather thick-hulled ship that it would take some work to blow up. Analysis of the debris shows the weapon that did it was of ... Cardassian design. Asked if this was Seska's doing, a reluctant Torres says, "no, it's mine."
Later, a disheveled Tom Paris arrives late to a senior staff meeting as Torres describes the situation. Apparently the Cardassians had constructed a guided missile the Maquis had termed "dreadnought", which had been sent to destroy a Maquis installation a few years before. All Maquis efforts to keep it from reaching its destination failed; the sucker was well fortified against tampering. Fortunately for the Maquis, the same attention was not given to the firing mechanism, and the missile reached its target...and bounced off the atmosphere, undetonated. Torres said she breached its defenses and reprogrammed it to go after a Cardassian target instead. However, the missile was lost in the Badlands, the same area where Chakotay's crew and Voyager were later yanked into the Delta Quadrant by Caretaker. Torres and Chakotay had assumed that the missile had been destroyed in the Badlands.
Nobody knows more about the missile than Torres; she spent weeks reprogramming it, giving it a new voice (hers) and providing it with new safeguards against further tampering before lobbing it back at the Cardassians. They decide to go after it and attempt to disable it, because it's headed for a heavily-populated planet.
Meeting adjourned, Paris rises to leave when Chakotay dresses him down for not dressing up and for arriving late. Paris has a smart-aleck response on the tip of his tongue, but settles for an unsubtly-insubordinate "yes sir" as Janeway looks on.
Later, Paris and Torres are in Engineering, recalibrating the sensors to detect the missile. Paris, his hair still disheveled, seems to be acting with calm professionalism, but Torres is clearly agitated and lost in thought. Paris tries to calm her, but she lets out her uncomfortable secret: this missile was not a Maquis idea, as Chakotay had let on--it was her decision alone. She hadn't known Chakotay long when they stumbled across the dreadnought, and she wasn't sure he'd let her do what she did, so she did it behind his back, sure she had done the right thing, and done it as well as she could imagine doing it. But Chakotay had told her, "in that damned soft voice of his, that I'd hurt him, that he thought he'd earned my trust." She had really hoped the dreadnought had been destroyed, and blamed herself for anything that may yet happen.
Paris tries to reassure her, and expresses his envy at her ability to fit into the Voyager crew so well. The topic switches to Paris' problems. People are talking, she said. He had even recently fought with Lt. Rollins over a matter of punctuation. He comes across as defiant at first, but then his voice drops an octave and a few decibles so we know he's being sincere and self-reflective. "Yeah, he was right. I'm the one who's been wrong. Wrong about a lot of things."
Tangent time. Two episodes ago, Paris was desperate for approval, for accomplishment, for a better reputation. As a reult he broke the transwarp barrier, existed everywhere simultaneously, transformed into humanity's evolutionary conclusion, hosed the ship, kidnapped the captain, devolved them both into virile sluglike beings and bore a few offspring, and pretty much makes several names for himself, and ends the episode in a state of apparently genuine humility. In the very next episode, he'd devolved back into the screw-you maverick that flaunts authority and skims replicator credits in an illegal betting pool, with a chip on his shoulder just begging to be flicked off by Chakotay, who finally reins in the madness, and Paris doesn't seem to care.
What's going on here?!?!!?? You'd think a guy who's just pulled off several impossibles would have some freakin' perspective. The Paris of "Meld" and "Dreadnought" is not a logical extension of the Paris we saw at the end of "Threshold." I can only hope they're leading up to something, because his behavior has been jarringly unexpected given the direction his character has been taking this season, from "Parturition" through "Threshold." "Parturition" was a closure episode of sorts, finally putting to rest the who-gets-Kes-for-a-girlfriend question (Holodoc having been eliminated as a contender in "Projections"). It also put to rest Neelix's jealousy which seemed to appear in every episode. It brought up the issue that not everyone sees Paris as a man to be trusted again, but that he does have his defenders. Paris then becomes a genuine hero, the Neil Armstrong and Zefram Cochrane of his time, in "Threshold." It's almost as if the more people try to like him, the harder he works to make them question their admiration. Weird.
My first impressions of Paris the character were not positive. Young, cute and cocky, a great pilot with a debilitating attitude problem, Paris was too 2-dimensional for my tastes. He's had some meaty episodes, with "Threshold" one of my favorites. I can understand the irresponsible side of Paris, and that it will occasionally assert itself--Voyager needs a maverick, someone neither fully Maquis nor Starfleet. But his madness must have method, or it's wasted. Last week's betting pool operation was amusing, but out of character for the Paris of Season 3. Had he done it in the first season, I wouldn't have even blinked, but we've seen too much of the likeable Paris for him to be so needlessly and senselessly reckless.
All this for a subplot. (Grrr) They'd better have a good explanation in an upcoming episode. Maybe next week Paris will become a Q; he has the fickle temperment for it.
(Cough) Sorry. End of rant. Back to the episode.
Paris, after showing the apparent end to his hissy fit, makes an engineering suggestion, and they get back to work. The next time we see him, his hair has been combed and he seems back in Professional Mode.
The adjustments in place, the chase begins. Torres did her original work well--the missile is a bugger to track down, and without her direction they would have failed completely to recognize and see past the misdirections. But soon they have it, and are shortly thereafter seen riding shotgun by the hulking Cardassian behemoth of destruction, powered by the lilting voice of B'elanna 9000. ("Open pod bay door, Torres.")
Meanwhile, the traitorous Jonas submits his now-weekly report to the Kazon, still insisting (and still failing) to get direct access to Seska. He's been assigned a permanent contact, but he's frustrated that they won't let him talk to his old friend. Here's another subplot that's just begging for some sort of resolution; he hasn't defected or been caught yet, but I hope he does soon--just so I don't have to see him anymore. (To the writers' credit, It seems the Kazon feel the same way.)
Janeway contacts the leadership of the endangered planet, Rakosa, to warn them. The reception is cool. "Your reputation precedes you, Captain," he says; the Federation history of threatening Delta Quadrant civilizations is well known, if (Janeway insists, is) exaggerated. First Minister Kellen accuses Voyager of threatening them with the dreadnought, despite Janeway's insistence that they will do all in their power to stop it. It is not a pleasant first contact.
Torres beams over to the dreadnought; she reprogrammed it, so her presence is accepted with scant comment. Her appearance is a traditional login: date and time of last appearance, the gentle query about her health ("I haven't been sleeping well lately," Torres admits), more out of habit than of genuine concern (Cardassian computers aren't known for their sunny personalities, even those reprogrammed with the voice of B'elanna Torres.)
Then begins the diagnostics. Torres queries the computer about its mission, its location, its functionality. The computer insists it's working fine, and all is proceeding as scheduled. With a bit of gentle prodding, though, Torres manages to convince it to come to a stop, cancel the target, and await further instructions. The crisis past, Torres shuts it down and returns to Voyager.
Janeway, Chakotay and Torres discuss the salvage potential of Dreadnought. It's got power supply to burn, and raw materials that could keep the ship functioning for years. Good news, to be sure. For once, their luck seems to be improving.
Then the freshly-groomed Tom Paris beckons them to the bridge; the probe has just taken off at warp 9. Some missiles just don't play fair. Voyager hurries to intercept. Janeway hopes to stop the ship with weapons, but Torres says she was quite thorough in her reprogramming--she designed it to resist all known Federation and Cardassian weapons. Janeway believes that her ship's weapons may work, though--they are of a newer design than Torres could have known about.
Ready: fire the Type 6 torpedoes. Impact.
Result: diddly. Dreadnought hurtles onward, heedless of the raw power that is Voyager. The missile hails the ship, in Torres' voice, warning Voyager to stay away, that it's on a Maquis assignment and will not be deterred. Torres tries to talk to it, but no go. The missile describes its regulatory system, and soon Paris is heard muttering, "when a bomb starts talking about itself in the third person, I get worried." The missile won't listen to Torres, because it believes her to be coerced by Cardassians. Torres insists to Janeway she never taught the thing to lie, but the missile says, "oh yes you did." Torres anticipated 37 possible security breaches, and programmed them all into the computer. The system did the rest, adapting to new situations, and without the steadying influence of Torres, it had gotten a tad psycho since its arrival in the DQ.
This is not good.
Torres thinks hard, and comes up with a possible weakness: when the missile activates its defensive systems, it is vulnerable to a tachyon bombardment. Voyager draws its fire, then throws the tachyon switch. This seems to work, until a plasma burst surfs the tachyon wave and shorts out most of Voyager's propulsion systems. And off goes the missile, mere hours from its incorrect but inexorable target.
Janeway calls First Minister Kellen of the Rakosa and explains the situation. He asks if they received any casualties; Janeway says a few injuries, but nothing permanent. Kellen says, "we're estimating two million deaths." Janeway assures him that they will keep trying, but Kellen sends out their planetary defense force. Janeway warns him that their ships are no match for the dreadnought, but he feels they may just surprise it with the skill of their fighters.
Brave words, and Janeway admits she would likely do the same, however futile the effort.
Meanwhile, Torres and Harry Kim are trying in vain to get her to transport over; the missile is making that difficult. Torres is agitated; she blames herself for everything that's happening, and for the original hurt of disappointing Chakotay over the missile. Harry does his best to reassure her; she feels outclassed by her own creation, but he insists that the one thing the computer doesn't do is second-guess itself. Her determination renewed and the dramatic moment accomplished, the transporter finally works.
This time, the missile isn't nearly as happy to see her. Same basic login, though it is far less cooperative. Every attempt by Torres is countered by the product of her genius and passions of a lifetime ago. Accesses are denied; circuits give her a shock. Torres is undaunted; she refuses to let millions die without a fight. She looks for workarounds, and one seems to be working. "Somehow I expected you to put up more of a fight," she says.
She soon discovers why; a fleet of Rakosan ships are approaching, guns at the ready. Janeway sees them as well, and urges them to withdraw. But the flight leader blows her off (I'd have done the same, frankly) and they continue the attack. Janeway calls Torres and urges her to return, but Torres argues against it--the attack is keeping the computer preoccupied, and she thinks she's onto something. Besides, she says, she doesn't know if she'll be able to make another trip if everything else fails. Janeway succombs to logic, and orders covering fire for the ships.
The missile shows its defensive capabilities. Three of the closest are vaporized in a plasma burst, and though the others advance, they soon realize the futility of it, despite Voyager's help. Torres reports that the computer has been leading her on, rerouting behind her back, redoubling the security even as she thought she was breaching it. Before she can say more, the communications are cut, as are transporter capabilities. She's on her own.
In the original series, Captain Kirk was a master of logical slam-dunking, literally talking computers and androids to death by rhetoric. Torres has the disadvantage of writers who want to see her suffer a bit, but she still puts in a decent game of logic with the computer. "Remember those hypothetical games we used to play?" she asked, and manages to get the system to play along. "Assume that what I've been telling you is true," she says. Computer hedges, but eventually responds, "assumption entered." After a few assumptions, she asks it for a conclusion: what could be the cause of a major navigational snafu? "Damaged or missing files." She orders up a directory, and notices a file she hasn't seen before, of Cardassian origin and a date prior to her first contact with it.
Then the file list disappears. "I've reassessed your presence," it says. "I thought you were coerced by Cardassians. Now I see you are a part of the Federation, which is allied with the cardassians through the treaty of yada yada yada." Torres is reclassified a spy and an enemy, and life support is cut off. They're mere minutes from the planet now; it's slowed to full impulse for the final leg of the death march.
Her death is assured, either by suffocation or a matter-antimatter annihilation, unless she can find a way to stop it. Torres rolls up her sleeves and digs in.
Janeway calls First Minister Kellen once more. He is desperate, and a little irritable. (Understandable, I think.) Janeway insists this isn't over yet; she tells him she's willing to use Voyager to stop the missile as a last resort, which it now is. Kellen considers this, then says, "I see your reputation is undeserved. For what it's worth, you've gained a friend today." (This is the firs time they've heard that; the last words from the Kazon in "Caretaker" was, "you've made an enemy today." For Janeway, it's validation of her commitment to the codes of Starfleet. She'll go down with her ship, but she'll go down secure in the knowledge that she's redeemed the reputation of the Federation, at least with one group of people.)
Torres, running out of air, works feverishly to access the Cardassian file, which she believes to be the original programming for the missile, and her last chance to wrest control of the missile.
Janeway orders Chakotay to lead the Abandon Ship, and will accept no argument. All but essential personnel are evacuated to escape pods. Janeway activates the autodestruct sequence, authorization Janeway Pi one-one-zero." (One thing that irked me: no confirmation? On Kirk's Enterprise, it took three people to blow up the ship, and four steps; on Picard's, it took two--captain and first officer. I can see the need for having the process streamlined a bit, but the computer didn't even ask for a confirmation from Janeway; just a "you wanna blow up the ship? What's the fuse?" Sheesh.)
Torres finally accesses and activates the Cardassian control program. It immediately tries to gain control of the missile, but Torres' modified program resists. Soon a cacophany of virus and countervirus alerts, in male Cardassian and female Maquis voices, is heard in frustratingly measured tones. I got a headache, but I knew it was a good thing. Every victory, however small, is significant. Torres has been battling herself, both literally and metaphorically. Debugging was never so satisfying.
The victory is short-lived. Just after the panel to the engine core is made available and she crawls in, the voice of Torres announces that the "virus has been eradicated." Torres has only one option left--phaser through the shielding and cause a core breach, before it explodes on its own and/or she loses consciousness.
Ensign Kim manages to break through the interference to establish contact with Torres, and a transporter lock. Janeway orders her off the missile, but Torres argues that she's got a real chance of succeeding now. Janeway assents, but chooses not to take any chances.
Janeway orders the remaining crew off the ship and onto the escape pods. Paris rises to protest, but she makes it a direct order. No smart-aleck response this time; Paris looks at her, nods, and thanks her. "For everything." Something has changed in his demeanor since the beginning of the episode; I imagine something was edited out. (If they don't explain this eventually, I'm going to be very upset.) Everyone else complies, except Tuvok, who argues that it is logical to have a backup in case she is unable to complete the mission. She agrees, and he takes the captain's chair as she takes the helm.
In all epic battles, the battle between good and evil comes down to who falls last. Torres, flat on her back and struggling to breathe, fires into the guts of the missile. The voice of Torres tries to reason with her, tries to negotiate its way out of the perceived danger, suggests she will fail, but to no avail; Torres is prepared to fight until there's nothing left of her. As the shielding weakens, so does Torres; it's a tense moment, and I'm rooting for B'elanna even though the outcome is never in question--they can't blow up the ship, because Q's coming next week.
"Who'd have thought, back when we spent all that time together," Torres gasps, "that we'd be out here trying to kill each other?" This is her creation, something she spent weeks on, and was ready to defend to Chakotay; not unlike her situation in "Prototype," when she labored so hard to solve an engineering problem, only to destroy it when she realized the implications.
Torres is, I think, being groomed for leadership. The defiant Maquis, the strong-willed independent type, has suffered greatly over the seasons, learning to see things the Starfleet way, as much out of new awareness as loyalty to Janeway. The Prime Directive, once seen as a nuisance, has now shown its wisdom in catastrophic ways to her, repeatedly. She could become the natural protégé of Janeway, eventually. (But that's just my opinion, I could be wrong.)
The missile finally loses out; as the warp core goes critical, Janeway gets her beamed out; the
missile blows up, but Holodoc reports that B'elanna is singed, but not permanently damaged.
With less than a minute to go, Janeway cancels the autodestruct and orders Tuvok to collect their
crew. Once again, Voyager limps away from the scene of the danger, bent but unbroken, and
with a new friend.
I did most of my complaining in the description. I found the Paris scenes unsettling, because I can't understand where they're going with it. I've finally gotten to the point where I really like and care about him, and seeing him go off half-cocked for no apparent reason when his evolution to date suggested no reason to think he would, and I get worried. They handled his developing affection for Kes well, and they wrapped it up nicely, but we saw where it was going, and knew something would eventually come to a head between him, Kes, and Neelix. We also knew that his self-image is flawed, and that he yearns for respect--his protestations and sometimes flippant manner to the contrary, and that this won't be fixed overnight.
We've seen Jonas several weeks in a row now, passing info to the Kazon and begging to talk to Seska. I thought it was okay the first couple of times, but it's gotten needlessly repetitive. I see no growth, no development, just a lot of information passing and shoddy treatment. Perhaps if they showed a scene from the Kazon end, as the information is passed up the ladder and we see whether Seska is being informed, and how the information is treated and the traitor is perceived.
The essense of this show is Torres. Her past coming to haunt her. The evolution of the too-fiercely-independent Maquis into the dedicated Voyager engineer. A mental exercise forged in the cool logic of youthful passion that turns deadly, and could turn deadlier. Sin, and redemption.
Part of me feels that the original Torres has been forgotten--the half-Klingon with attitude to burn, who now tears up like a cook on onion duty. I'm glad to see her getting in touch with her human side, but I want to see her kick some holobootie every now and then like Worf used to. I know she's got it in her. She and Tuvok ought to spar.
Even so, the evolution of her character is not unwelcome. Torres has always valued her human side more because of her upbringing. And for the "fish out of water" character, Holodoc is far more curious. We've had half-human-half-fillintheblank in nearly every series; it was a novelty in Spock's day, now it's almost routine. More interesting is the absolute alien--Data, Odo, Holodoc--who has everyone wondering how to consider their status, including them. More interesting than Torres' ancestry is her struggle to become "Starfleet," as she calls Harry Kim even three years after their first encounter. Her loyalties, her relations with her former and her present crewmates, her crossroads between very disparate cultures.
This was an excellent episode for that. In a sense, it did counterpoint the senselss rebellion of Paris with the purposeful rebellion of the Maquis-era Torres, and the consequences of disappointing those who have placed trust in them. For Paris, all it takes is punctuality and some hair gel to show his penitent desire to return to the good graces of the chain of command. For Torres, the past sins were far greater, and the effort to redeem herself was near-fatal.
The missile was infuriating for all the right reasons. It was more than a match for Torres, as a direct result of her involvement. It forced her to deal with an old wound. Its successes against efforts to disable it showed the technical genius Torres is capable of. I felt some genuine tension in this episode. Kudos to all concerned for that.
The autodestruct sequence seemed a little too streamlined to me, compared to the other Federation ships. I guess the first few tmes it was done, it was played up for dramatic effect, and here the drama was mostly on board Dreadnought, so they didn't want to detract from it. For consistency, though, it bothered me.
Despite my misgivings, I give this one a 7.75 on the 0-10 scale.
Next week: Voyager welcomes a suicidal Q, the Q we all know and love/hate, Riker, Isaac Newton (same Isaac that Data played cards with Einstein and Hawking?) and some hippie. Buzz suggests that this one is not to be missed.
Copyright © 1996 Jim Wright