|DELTA BLUES @ Reviewboy.com - Jim Reviews...|
Paramount pretty much owns everything you're about to read. It's their dialog, their characters, their franchise. For whatever reason, they've chosen to leave me alone to poke fun at all they do and are, and I thank them for it from the bottom of my silly little heart.
This is all meant in good fun, as though I were reciting the episode to you around the water cooler at work when the pointy-haired boss ain't looking. You'll find in the following few dozen pages the closest thing online to watching the actual episode. Although I do sometimes take liberties when I think it will help the narrative, the dialog is generally sacrosant. Any errors in fact or interpretation are my responsibility alone--as are the jokes, aside from those I stole from my literary betters.
In a nutshell: this is by the fans, of the fans, for the fans. If I say something serious or meaningful along the way, chalk it up to dumb luck. So pull up some shuttle debris, check your common sense at the door, and settle in for happy hour.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]
Admiral Janeway is now on board the USS Voyager, with the intent to bring the crew home. But will she and Captain Janeway work together--or catfight until the cows come home?
Jump straight to the Analysis
[Continued directly from Part One...]
The rift has closed. The shuttle from the future is safely under Voyager's wing.
Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay and Commander Tuvok stand at attention in the transporter room. At Janeway's command, the transporter officer activates the beam-in.
The Admiral appears. She smiles at her two former junior officers--both of whom, by her time, have reaped the whirlwind of tragedy.
For their part, Chakotay and Tuvok look uncomfortable from the Admiral's attention.
"Welcome aboard," Captain Janeway says warily.
Admiral Janeway smiles warmly. "It's good to be back."
Next stop: Janeway's ready room.
First things first, the Captain decides. "Fresh coffee." She lunges for the coffee pot. "Would you like a cup?"
"No," says the Admiral. "I gave it up years ago. I only drink tea now."
The Captain is now thoroughly convinced that the Admiral is an imposter.
The Admiral walks over to the window by the couch. She sighs. "I told the curator at the museum that if he wanted to make the ready room more authentic, he should always keep a steaming pot of coffee on the desk."
The Captain rolls her eyes. "Voyager's in a museum?"
The Admiral grins. "Voyager is a museum. On the grounds of the Presidio." She points out the window. "On a clear morning, you can see Alcatraz from here."
The Captain can't help but smile at what that means. "You made it back to Earth." Mission accomplished...one day.
The Admiral looks back at the Captain, and notices the cup she's holding. "Unfortunately, our favorite cup took a bit of a beating along the way. It was damaged during a battle with the Fen Domar." She plucks the coffee mug from the Captain's hands and inhales deeply, savoring the aroma of the coffee she says she's given up. Old habits die hard, I suppose.
The Admiral waves her hand. "You'll run into them in a few years."
The Captain starts to get a prickly sensation on the back of her neck. She can just imagine Captain Braxton coming back for one more round, and she'd rather not get on that nutcase's bad side again. "You know what? I shouldn't be listening to details about the future."
The Admiral lifts her eyes to the heavens, the universal Spare Me gesture. "Oh, the Almighty Temporal Prime Directive...take my advice. It's less of a headache if you just ignore it."
The Captain's eyes are cold. "You've obviously decided to, or you wouldn't be here."
"A lot's happened to me since I was you."
"Well, I'm still me, and this is still my ship. So no more talk about what's going to happen until I decide otherwise." The Captain ratches up the skunk eye to lethal levels. "Understood?"
The Admiral is unfazed, but she knows herself well enough to change tactics for now. "All right. Let's talk about the past." She hands the cup back to the Captain and strolls back upstairs. "Three days ago, you detected elevated neutrino emissions in a nebula in grid 986. You thought it might be a way home. You were right. I've come to tell you to take Voyager back to that nebula." She leans against the railing, staring down at The Captain--a familiar gesture if ever there was one.
The Captain blinks. "It was crawling with Borg!"
The Admiral stares. "I've brought technology that'll get us past them."
The Captain rolls eyes. You can hear the unspoken oh, please in every gesture.
"Oh, I don't blame you for being skeptical--but if you can't trust yourself, who can you trust?" The Admiral smiles innocently--another classic Janeway gesture.
The Captain begins to pace. "For the sake of argument, let's say I believe everything you're telling me. The future you come from sounds pretty good! Voyager's home, I'm an admiral. There are ways to defend against the Borg." she waves her hands and twirls in place. "My ready room even gets preserved for posterity--"
"So, why would you want to tamper with such a rosy timeline?" the Admiral asks knowingly. "To answer that I'd have to tell you more than you want to know." She walks back downstairs and comes to a stop mere inches from her former self. "But...suffice it to say, if you don't do what I'm suggesting, it's going to take you another sixteen years to get this ship home." Her face grows sad. "And there are going to be casualties along the way."
The Captain says nothing.
"I know exactly what you're thinking," the Admiral says.
"You've also become a telepath?" the Captain asks coldly.
"I used to be you, remember? You're asking yourself, 'Is she really who she says she is? Or is this some sort of deception?'" Once again, the Admiral strolls upstairs. She drapes herself elegantly upon the sofa under the window, and drawls her next line. "For all you know, I could be a member of Species 8472 in disguise."
The Captain purses her lips. That's exactly what she was thinking just then. Damn the woman and her smug superiority!
Oh, wait. Right.
The Admiral anticipates the Captain's objections. "Have your people examine my shuttle. Tell them to take a close look at the weapons systems and the armor technology. In the meantime, the Doctor can confirm my identity."
The Admiral is volunteering to submit herself to a medical exam? Just when the Captain is on the verge of accepting this woman's claims, she goes and does something like that. First tea, now wanting to go to Sickbay.
The game's afoot.
In Sickbay, we get a rare peek inside Janeway's brain.
In 3D, yet.
"My scans of the Admiral's cerebral cortex turned up something interesting," Doc tells the Captain.
"What is it?"
"I'm not sure--I've never seen this kind of implant before." He pulls in a closeup of what looks like a microchip.
"Alien technology?" the Captain asks.
Doc shakes his head. "The microcircuitry has a Starfleet signature."
It should be pointed out at this point that the Doctor and the Captain have been whispering the whole time, on the opposite end of the room from where the patient sits.
Reclines. I mean reclines. The Admiral, kicking her legs lazily over and under the diagnostic bed, seems to make any perch resemble a throne. "Of course it does," she says dryly.
The Doctor and the Captain look up and turn to the Admiral in shock. She heard that? "Admiral?" Doc says.
"You invented it--twleve years ago from my perspective," she tells the Doctor.
"I'm sorry, Admiral, I didn't realize..."
"What? That I was eavesdropping? I may be old, but my hearing's still excellent--thanks to your exemplary care over the years." She darn near flirts with the man.
It has the desired effect--ego stroking. Like Pavlov's dog, Doc is instantly on her side. He walks over to the Admiral eagerly. "So, this...implant I'm going to invent--what does it do?"
"It's a synaptic transceiver. It allows me to pilot a vessel equipped with a neural interface." (Yo, Alice!)
Doc beams. "Fascinating!" His curiosity gets the better of him. "Tell me, what other extraordinary breakthroughs am I going to make?"
"Doctor!" the Captain hisses.
Doc is sheepish, but still eager to hear more. "Sorry, Captain--but you can't blame a hologram for being curious."
"Just finish your report."
Now sheepish finally wins out. "Yes, ma'am." Doc walks back over to the display console to continue his report. "My scans indicate that the two of you are genetically identical. The admiral is you, approximately 26 years from now."
Well, that's one major hurdle leaped. Not conclusive, but a good start for the Admiral.
At this moment, Admiral Janeway's composure slips for the first time as Seven of Nine enters. She stands, and looks ready to cry. "Hello, Seven."
Seven of Nine is uncomfortable with the Admiral's scrutiny, and does her best to ignore it and address her comments to the Captain. "The technology aboard the Admiral's ship is impressive. Much of it appears to have been designed to defend against the Borg."
"Could we install these systems on Voyager?" Captain Janeway asks.
"The stealth technology is incompatible. But I believe we can adapt the armor and weapons."
"Well, Captain?" Admiral Janeway asks.
The ball is in her court. And it's a fat, juicy target. With all eyes on her, Janeway makes her decision. "Do it."
Captain's Personal Log, Stardate 54973.4: we've begun outfitting Voyager with Admiral Janeway's upgrades. As soon as the major modifications are complete we'll reverse course and head back to the nebula. Though I've certainly had some strange experiences in my career, nothing quite compares to the sight of my future self briefing my officers on technology that hasn't been invented yet.
We see the crew hard at work. For those who complain that all Torres gets to do this week is Be Pregnant, we also see her running things in Engineering, PADD in hand, overseeing the modifications to her wee bairns.
We also see Admiral Janeway getting cozy with those crewmen whose company, we can only assume, she misses most.
At the end of a long, hard day, Seven of Nine steps into her regeneration alcove for a good night's rest. "Computer, begin regeneration cycle."
But some nights just don't work out the way you'd hope.
"Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One."
If you recall from Unimatrix Zero, Seven of Nine can be linked to the Collective, in some form or another, when she's regenerating--it's when her drone nature is most prominent.
Unimatrix Zero may be gone, but the Collective memory lives on.
The Borg Queen smiles at Seven in the virtual realm of the Hive. "It's been too long."
"What do you want?" Seven asks hotly.
"Do I need a reason to visit a friend?"
"We're not friends."
"No," the Queen agrees. "We're more than that. We're family."
Oh, boy. First Janeway, now the Queen.
"And while we're on the subject of old friends," the Queen says, "I see that Voyager has just got a visitor--and she's come from the future. Tell me why." This Queen is slithery like a snake, sultry with evil.
"You may be able to communicate with me while I'm regenerating but I'm no longer a drone--I don't answer to you!"
The Queen closes her eyes, slowly. When she opens them again, the room has changed, and Voyager appears on a screen near Seven's head. "I've extrapolated Voyager's trajectory. I know that you're returning to the nebula. I suggest you alter course."
"Why should we comply?" Seven demands.
Like a cobra, the Queen strikes; she launches herself at Seven of Nine--but not in anger. This Queen prefers the old-fashioned approach to assimilation--heart and soul. And she's willing to take the time to tease away one's self-control.
"You've always been my favorite, Seven," purrs the Queen, as she caresses Seven's cheek, then both cheeks--then runs her hands over Seven's arms and other parts as she whispers evil nothings into her ears. "In spite of your obvious imperfections. I know how much you care for the Voyager crew, so I've left them alone." Aw, isn't that sweet of her!
Then the Queen's tone grows sad, almost apologetic. "Imagine...how you'd feel if I were forced to assimilate them."
Seven doesn't like the "Voyager is no threat to the Collective. We simply want to return to the Alpha Quadrant!"
"I've no objection to that. But if you try to enter my nebula again...I'll destroy you."
The Borg Queen is nose to nose with Seven of Nine at this point. But then she turns away, and SWOOSH! is gone.
The speed of her departure seems to overload Seven's alcove. It begins to crackle with energy discharge in the cyberspace of Seven's unconscious mind.
But then Seven wakes up--and finds her alcove in Cargo Bay Two is also short-circuiting. With a look of mute horror, Seven spasms a few times, goes stiff with a gasp, and collapses to the floor.
"Warning," says the computer. "Regeneration cycle incomplete."
That's putting it mildly.
* * *
The Doctor treats Seven of Nine in Sickbay. The two Janeways are here as well, both quite concerned for their favorite former drone.
"Her cortical node was exposed to a low-energy EM surge," Doc explains. "It could have been much worse."
"It was the Borg Queen," Seven says. "She wanted to make sure I'd be able to deliver a message. She said she'd assimilate Voyager if we attempted to reenter the nebula."
"Why is it so important to her?" the Captain asks. Nebulae aren't exactly garden spots, though the wormholes do present an intriguing enticement.
"That doesn't matter," says Admiral Janeway with boundless confidence. "She's not going to be able to make good on her threat."
Captain Janeway glares. "I wish I shared your confidence."
"You would, if you'd had as much experience with the Queen as I've had." It's not as though Captain Janeway is a novice when it comes to the Borg Queen--and she's had her moments of arrogance regarding the Borg. But not even the Janeway we've come to know and (pick your emotion) is this smug when it comes to the Collective.
Admiral Janeway doesn't even seem worried. Despite Voyager's successes to date, nobody else shares the sentiment.
Captain Janeway speaks for them all. "It was one thing to attempt this when we thought it was a secret--but if the Borg are monitoring us...!"
"There's no guarantee they won't try to assimilate Voyager even if we don't go back into the nebula," the Admiral counters. True enough; the Borg rarely need an excuse. Just opportunity.
Doc whispers to the Captain, "Is that supposed to be reassuring?"
The Admiral ignores him. "I'm not saying the Borg aren't dangerous. But from my perspective, they're 30 years behind the times."
"We shouldn't push our luck," says the Captain. (Hold on a second--who's the imposter now?)
"Luck's not going to have anything to do with it," says the Admiral. She looks around the room. "I know, you don't want to hear too much about the future. But let's just say I ran into the Borg a few more times before I made it home. If I hadn't developed technology and tactics that could defeat them, I wouldn't be standing here today."
If you can back it up, I suppose, it's not bragging.
All eyes regard the captain. At least they all recognize that it's her decision to make.
A moment later, Captain Janeway makes it. "We'll maintain course for the nebula. But we'll stay at red alert, and I want continuous scans for Borg activity."
That's kinda like putting on your seatbelt before driving off a cliff...but what the hey. It works in the cartoons.
Chakotay enters Astrometrics. Seven of Nine is here, working alone. As usual.
"I heard what happened," he says. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine," she assures him. Now that you're here, stud boy.
Chakotay smiles and holds up a PADD. "Because if you need time to rest...I am in charge of the duty roster."
Seven grins. "It would be inappropriate to allow our personal relationship to affect your command decisions," she teases.
Chakotay catches on fast. "You're right--this is a time to keep things professional." He stands to attention. "Report!"
Seven of Nine pouts. "I am unprepared to report at this time."
They soon launch into a rousing game of Who's Your Captain--
Wait. That can't be right.
Seven of Nine smirks. "There's no sign of Borg activity within a ten light-year radius."
"That's good news, Crewman."
They're still smirking like schoolkids, but that's a bit more plausible.
"Yes, Sir." Seven's tone turns a bit more serious. "But we shouldn't underestimate the Collective."
"The Admiral seems confident we can make it past them," Chakotay says.
"Captain Janeway is more cautious," Seven counters.
Two Janeways. Heaven help the Delta Quadrant.
Chakotay looks on the bright side. "Our chances would be good with one Kathryn Janeway on the bridge." He smiles. "But with two...I'd bet on this ship any day."
Seven allows herself to share Chakotay's optimism. They bask in the glow of possibility--Earth! Home!
However, the thought of Home brings other questions. There's a pause in Astrometrics. "If we do make it back to Earth, what are your plans?" Chakotay asks. All kidding has been set aside.
Seven considers the question. It's not a comfortable subject. "I assume Starfleet will want to debrief me." (Chakotay's expression is a bit too transparent--"oh, hey, me too." But the look on her face prevents him from saying it aloud.)
Seven continues after a brief pause. "And then, I suppose, I'll attempt to find a useful position somewhere." Wow--talk about romantic. The discomfort in Seven's voice causes Chakotay's expression to fall.
Seven looks away. It's a moment before her next word. "You?"
These are Big Questions. Chakotay also takes his time. "I don't know yet, either," he says at last.
Then he leans closer to Seven. "But wherever I end up, I'm going to make sure it's in transporter range of you."
Chakotay smiles. Seven of Nine soon joins her.
The future's looking brighter for both of them.
Until they talk to the Admiral, that is.
Engineering is hopping. Getting home will be as much up to them as anything.
And B'Elanna knows it. "I don't want this whole system crashing because of one faulty relay--install new ones!" she yells, marching through the lower level as the engineers respond in double-time.
"Yes, ma'am!" several of them say.
For taking the time to speak, they earn Torres' wrath. "And I need an update on the inductor capacitance." This time, they Just Do It.
Tom Paris chooses now to show up. "B'Elanna!"
"Shouldn't you be on the bridge?" she says, rushing to put out yet another fire.
Tom pouts and chases after her. "Is there something wrong with a pilot requesting a systems report from the chief engineer?"
"The last report I got said the com system was working perfectly," she says, more playful than grumpy.
Tom chuckles. "Okay, you caught me. I'm checking up on you."
"I'm fine." She keeps running, solving problems, staying one step ahead of Tom.
"Your back?" Tom calls out.
"I'm ignoring it."
Tom takes a deep breath and sprints again. "Well, I would offer to give you a massage--but then, everybody would want one."
B'Elanna stops long enough to smirk at him. "You know, for a Starfleet flyboy...you're pretty sweet."
Tom beams from the compliment. "So, how's it going?"
"This armor technology that the admiral brought--it's incredible! I hate to sound like Harry, but we might actually make it this time."
Tom notes somethingi n her tone. "Well, you don't seem too happy about that...."
She turns to look at her husband. "Oh, I'm happy," she insists. "It's just that...I'd actually gotten used to the idea of raising our daughter on Voyager." She sighs. "And now, I might end up delivering her at Starfleet Medical instead of Sickbay."
Tom leans against the railing. "That wouldn't be so bad, would it?"
"Not as long as you're with me," she says softly, with surprising intimacy given that they're in the middle of the busiest room on the ship. Then, louder and with more passion, "And I want The Doctor! I don't want some stranger." Makes sense--nice as it might be to have Tom there to scream at, he don't know nothin' bout birthin' no babies.
Well, okay--he does. He helped hatch an egg in "Parturition" and he delivered and saved a baby in "Friendship One." But still, the Doctor's the expert--Tom would be there as the father, not a doctor.
No worries about that, though. Tom laughs. "You would have to take him off-line to keep him away."
True enough; B'Elanna smiles. Because the prospects look so good, B'Elanna has to ask the next logical question. "If we do make it home...where do you think we'll live?"
There are a whole lot of questions associated with that query. What will they do with their lives once this mother-of-all away missions ends? Stay in Starfleet? Make Admiral Dad proud? Or perhaps what we saw in the other future--Tom Paris, Holonovel Author and B'Elanna Torres, Federation Liaison? What will the two new parents choose to do with themselves, and where will they raise their child?
The possibilities aren't ENDLESS, but they are wide open. The fact of this, given that mere days before they had only the one, is a bit scary.
Tom smiles. "Well, we could always stay with my parents for a while."
B'Elanna just looks at him.
"You're right, bad idea," he says hastily.
"Of course, it probably doesn't matter to you, anyway," B'Elanna teases. "You flyboys are all the same. You'll probably take the first piloting assignment that comes along and leave me home to change the diapers."
"Not a chance," Tom says. He means it.
Their kiss is slow and deep, an island of bliss in a sea of activity. When they separate, Torres' look is of sheer contentment.
Whatever happens, they'll be all right. As long as they're together.
The time has come. Captain Janeway sits in the Big Chair. Admiral Janeway stands a few paces away. Tom is at the helm, Harry's at Ops, Tuvok's at Tactical, Torres is in Engineering, Chakotay's to the captain's left...and all is right with the galaxy.
Or soon will be.
"Bridge to engineering."
"Go ahead, Captain," B'Elanna responds.
We see the exterior view as slowly, meter by meter, Voyager gets a brand new skin--the ablative hull armor is some piece of work. And Voyager is now one well-protected Borg-fightin' machine.
Now prepared, Voyager enters the nebula.
The Borg Queen watches this new development. She is not happy.
With an inclination of her head, several cubes move to intercept.
The first cube engages the tiny starship. Green fire lances out and strikes Voyager's new armor.
And promptly dissipates.
Inside Voyager, there's a bit of rumbling, nothing more. Admiral Janeway doesn't even need to grab onto the railing to stay upright.
"Armor integrity at 97 percent," Tuvok reports.
Another cube joins the assault.
The armor doesn't even ripple.
"Tuvok?" Captain Janeway asks. It can't be this easy, can it?
"Integrity holding at 90 percent."
Admiral Janeway isn't even sweating. Captain Janeway can't see any reason not to proceed. "Maintain course."
As more Borg vessels approach, Admiral Janeway makes note of the obvious. "They're looking for ways to adapt."
And they're looking hard. Multiple beams of energy lash out at Voyager. Another cube arrives, and starts lobbing energy torpedoes. None have any obvious effect. Green tractor beams from three cubes latch onto Voyager at once--but it slips through like a greased pig.
Inside, though, it is starting to get a bit charged. "Port armor integrity down to 50 percent," Tuvok says.
Okay, enough Good Starship Lollipop. Janeway looks to the helm. "Mr. Paris, attack pattern Alpha One." Then, over her shoulder to Tuvok, "target the lead cube and fire transphasic torpedoes."
An opening appears at the back of the neck of the Voyager saucer section. Two torpedoes spit out at one of the cubes.
The effect is immediate. We're not just talking disabling--the Cube goes FOOM faster than you can say Species 8472.
Species 8472. Hmmm...
So far so good. "Target the second cube," Janeway orders.
Just to show it wasn't dumb luck, a single torpedo lashes out, and connects solidly with the second cube. It too disintegrates spectacularly.
The Borg Queen's eyes go wide. The Collective hasn't been spanked this hard since...Species 8472.
Resistance is...really starting to piss her off.
The Queen nods again.
The Captain is surprised to see the remaining cubes veer away, avoiding any further conflict.
"Distance to the center?" Chakotay asks.
Seven of Nine checks the board. "Less than 100,000 kilometers."
They may actually do this...
A few seconds later, Voyager clears the thickness of the nebula to find themselves within spitting distance of a massive, planet-sized ball of glowing red and blue energy.
On what might be considered an island in the northern hemisphere, the bridge crew sees what looks like a fractal complex of some sort.
Captain Janeway speaks for us all when she says, "What the hell is it?"
Admiral Janeway, though, is not surprised one bit. "Mr. Paris," she orders. "Alter course to enter the aperture at coordinates 346 by 42."
Before Tom can recover from the shock of what lies ahead, Captain Janeway speaks up. "Belay that." Janeway rises from her chair and addresses the Admiral. "I asked you a question. What is it?"
"The road home," the Admiral says without elaboration.
Seven of Nine, though, knows. "It's more than that. It's a transwarp hub."
This catches the captain's attention. "You once told me there were only six of them in the galaxy!"
Well, whaddya know. The Collective's own Grand Central Station.
The Captain storms over to the Admiral. "You knew this was here, but you didn't tell me about it. Why?"
For the first time, Admiral Janeway looks nervous. "I'll answer all your questions once we're back in the alpha quadrant."
A staring contest begins. Janeway never loses a staring contest.
But she's never faced off against herself before.
Without taking her eyes off the Admiral, the Captain tells Tom, "take us out of the nebula."
"Captain?" Tom asks.
"You heard me."
"I gave you an order, Lieutenant," snarls the Admiral. "Proceed to the aperture."
"This is my bridge, Admiral," sneers Janeway right back. "And I'll have you removed, if necessary."
Janeway repeats the order to the helm. "Take us out!"
Decision time for Tommy. Admiral, or Captain?
Well, what the heck. His dad's an admiral, and he rarely listened to him, either. "Aye, Captain."
The Captain continues to glare. The Admiral can only shake her head.
* * *
The senior staff is assembled as Seven of Nine explains exactly what the hell that transwarp hub is, and why it's important.
"This hub connects with thousands of transwarp conduits--with end points in all four quadrants. It allows the Collective to deploy vessels almost anywhere in the galaxy within minutes."
This speech comes with a pretty little graphic of the galaxy, not necessarily a scale model, but which shows all four quadrants and an infinitely small sign showing "you are here."
It is on this map that the transwarp hubs are superimposed--and we are shown the rank horror of the Borg's actual galactic reach, spreading throughout every sector like a spider web.
Tuvok whistles. "Of all the Borg's tactical advantages, this could be the most significant."
"It's no wonder the Queen didn't want us in that nebula," says Chakotay.
Captain Janeway changes the direction of the discussiion. "So, how do we destroy it?"
This surprises almost everyone. Admiral Janeway is just angry.
Seven of Nine responds first. "Structure is supported by a series of interspatial manifolds." She pulls up an interior view of one of the conduits. "If we could disable enough of them, theoretically the hub would collapse."
The Admiral loses patience. "This is a waste of time! The shielding for those manifolds is regulated from the central plexus by the Queen herself. You might be able to damage one of them, maybe two. But by the time you moved onto the third, she'd adapt."
Captain Janeway isn't so easily dissuaded. She may be risk averse at some things, but when it comes to Blowing Stuff Up Real Good, she'll move heaven and earth. "There may be a way to bring them down simultaneously!" she says, her excitement growing. This target's too rich for her to ignore.
The Admiral rolls her eyes. "From where, inside the hub? Voyager would be crushed like a bug."
"What about taking the conduit back to the alpha quadrant and then destroying the structure from the other side?" Chakotay asks.
"This hub is here. There's nothing in the Alpha Quadrant but exit apertures."
The Admiral is in full rant mode now. "While you're all standing around, dreaming up fantasy tactical scenarios, the Queen is studying her scans of our armor and weapons--and she's probably got the entire Collective working on a way to counter them!"
Admiral glares at Captain. "So, take the ship back into that nebula, and go home--before it's too late."
Captain glares at admiral. Then she speaks to the crew. "Find a way to destroy that hub." Then she glares back at the Admiral. "Let's take a walk."
Time for another stroll through the Corridor of Communication.
"I want to know why you didn't tell me about this!" the Captain demands.
"Because I remember how stubborn and self-righteous I used to be." This comment draws blood, and they both know it. "I figured you might try to do something stupid."
The Captain--naturally--doesn't agree. "We have an opportunity to deal a crippling blow to the Borg. It could save millions of lives!"
"I didn't spend the last ten years looking for a way to get this crew home earlier so you could throw it all away on some intergalactic goodwill mission!"
Captain Janeway gives the Admiral a good thorough looking over. "Maybe we should go back to Sickbay."
"Why, so you can have me sedated?"
"So I can have the Doctor reconfirm your identity." The Captain throws up her hands. "I refuse to believe I'll ever become as cynical as you."
The Admiral is no less exasperated. "Am I the only one experiencing déjà vu here?"
"What are you talking about?"
"Seven years ago, you had the chance to use the Caretaker's array to get Voyager home. Instead, you destroyed it."
The Captain bristles. "I did what I knew was right."
"You chose to put the lives of strangers ahead of the lives of your crew. You can't make the same mistake again."
The Captain doesn't accept that conclusion. "You got Voyager home--which means I will, too. If it takes a few more years then that's--"
"Seven of Nine is going to die."
In a word: BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM.
The Captain stops in her tracks. "What?"
"Three years from now. She'll be injured on an away mission. She'll make it back to Voyager, and die in the arms of her husband."
Hey, now waitaminit..."Husband?"
"Chakotay." Hey, now waitaminit...Chakotay and Seven? What kinda bizarro alternate universe is this admiral coming from, anyway?
A strange and unpleasant land where conventional rules of logic and taste don't apply, I suppose.
In any case, the Admiral has the Captain's number. And that number is Seven. Captain Janeway is all ears now.
"He'll never be the same after Seven's death--and neither will you."
Hoo boy. This has Relationshipper Buffet written all over it. Draw your own conclusions. Trust me--there's plenty to draw.
Captain Janeway's teeth grind. That's not a future she's willing to accept. "If I know what's going to happen...I can avoid it," she says, not quite convincingly. It's always something, after all--if they don't get you one way, it's another.
"Seven isn't the only one," the Admiral says. "Between this day, and the day I got Voyager home, I lost 22 crew members." Sorry, Joe Carey, you missed the deadline for that particular memorial. But perhaps, Admiral Kate figures, the recent loss of Joe will still be fresh enough in her mind to make the idea of 22 more FAMILY MEMBERS taking the big dirt nap on her watch to spur the Captain to her way of thinking.
Captain Janeway mulls this new information.
"And then, of course, there's Tuvok."
Chakotay, Seven, AND Tuvok? "What about him?"
"You're forgetting the temporal prime directive, Captain," Admiral Janeway clucks.
"The hell with it!" Now that's the Janeway we know so well...
The Admiral smiles victoriously. She's making headway. "Fine. Tuvok has a degenerative neurological condition that he hasn't told you about."
Today really sucks for Captain Janeway--It's been one shock after another. Janeway's being second guessed by herself, she's learning all sorts of stuff about the crew she thought she knew better than they knew themselves, and to top it all off, she's got the Borg as next door neighbors--and she just ran over a couple of their dogs of assimilation.
Admiral Janeway smiles. First the stick, now the carrot. "There's a cure in the Alpha Quadrant--but if he doesn't get it in time..." she lets the thought hover. "Even if you alter Voyager's route, limit your contact with alien species, you're going to lose people." She lets that sink in as well. "But I'm offering you a chance to get all of them home, safe and sound, today. Are you really going to walk away from that?"
That is the question, isn't it?
Then again, she's turned down such an offer more than once. Q (twice), the Caretaker, the Barzan wormhole where the Ferengi got dropped off in TNG--if it wasn't technical difficulties that prevented them from getting home, it was Janeway's ethical compass.
Admiral Janeway has had 33 years to think and rethink and agonize over every one of those decisions, and plenty more that the Captain has yet to experience.
At the very least, it's given Captain Janeway some leads to verify.
Some very personal leads.
"Your concern is appreciated, Captain, but premature," says Tuvok. He's been invited into Captain Janeway's ready room. "It will be several years before the symptoms become serious. Until then, the Doctor can manage my condition with medication."
"Is it true what the Admiral said? That there's a cure in the Alpha Quadrant?" The Admiral is not here; the Captain is consulting with her Vulcan friend alone.
Tuvok nods. "It is called a fal-tor-voh, and it requires a mind meld with another Vulcan."
"What about the other Vulcans on Voyager?" Janeway asks.
Tuvok shakes his head. "None of them are compatible."
Janeway begins to understand. "But members of your family are." Tuvok confirms this.
Oh boy. This makes the decision a lot tougher. Although Admiral Janeway seems more fanatical about The Family than does the Captain, it's not that much more so. Captain Janeway's been plenty extreme in the past to preserve her flock.
Janeway is confused. "If you knew that returning to the Alpha Quadrant was your only chance for recovery...why didn't you object when I asked you to help find a way to destroy the hub?"
"My sense of logic isn't impaired yet. If we succeed, millions of lives will be saved." Good man, Tuvok. Duty first.
"What about your life?" Janeway asks.
"To quote Ambassador Spock: 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.'"
I suspect Janeway wouldn't hesitate to quote the James T. Kirk corollary that turns this maxim on its head.
"I appreciate your candor, Admiral," Seven of Nine says. "But Captain Janeway is my commanding officer. I won't disobey her." Seven is clearly disturbed by what she's heard about her future.
It's fitting that Admiral Janeway has confronted Seven in Cargo Bay Two. The Admiral is backdropped by the Borg alcoves, in much the same way that the Borg Queen was.
Both the Queen and the Admiral, after all, are making the "Family" appeal.
"I'm not asking you to. I simply want you to tell her that, in your opinion, destroying the hub is too risky--the cost too high."
Seven seems to watn to, but something's holding her back. "I can't do that."
"Even if it means avoiding the consequences I mentioned?" Admiral Janeway is regarding Seven with a disquieting intensity.
"Now that I know about those consequences, they are no longer a certainty. But even if they were, my death would be a small price to pay for the destruction of the transwarp network." Still, Seven's got a panicky look. She knows more about the time and place of her own death than she'd care to admit.
And there's more than that, one suspects--Admiral Janeway, already proven to be willing to play emotional blackmail, no doubt told her about Chakotay as well.
"I have known you for a long time, Seven--longer than you've known yourself. You are thinking that collapsing the network is an opportunity to atone for atrocities you participated in while you were a drone."
Seven says nothing.
It's time to let go of the past--and start thinking about your future."
"My future is insignificant compared to the lives of the people we'd be saving!"
Admiral Janeway glares at her. "You're being selfish."
"Selfish? I'm talking about helping others!"
"Strangers...In a hypothetical scenario. I'm talking about real life--your colleagues, your friends...people who love you!" Janeway's voice begins to crack at this point, her own years of anguish forced to the surface in a desperate effort to save Seven of Nine from the fate the Admiral remembers as history.
Janeway calms herself. Her voice is an intense whisper. "Imagine the impact your death would have on them." On me, she doesn't say. On Chakotay.
It's too much for Seven to handle in one sitting. "Excuse me, Admiral. I have work to complete."
Admiral Janeway sighs. She must have forgotten how stubborn her crew could be.
It would seem the crew has come up with what may be a workable solution to Operation Nuke That Hub. They gather in the conference room.
Admiral Janeway stands apart, letting (as if it's her choice) the captain and her senior officers decide.
"Once inside, we'd fire a spread of transphasic torpedoes," Tuvok explains, as a video clip illustrates.
"They'd be programmed to detonate simultaneously," Seven adds.
"If the torpedoes penetrate the shielding, the conduits should begin to collapse in a cascade reaction. In order to avoid the shock wave, we'd have less than ten seconds to exit the hub."
Darn near everyone in attendance is holding a coffee cup. Solidarity with Captain Janeway, perhaps? Or maybe just a whole lotta folks pulling all-nighters.
Ten seconds to travel 30,000 light years. No mean feat. The senior staff mull this over.
Everyone, including Admiral Janeway, turn to the Captain to see what she'll say.
At last, she speaks. "A long time ago, I made a decision that stranded this crew in the Delta Quadrant. I don't regret that decision." She is looking straight at the Admiral when she says this. "But I didn't know all of you then--and Voyager was just a Starship."
She looks around the room. "It's much more than that now. It's become our home." She stares at each officer in turn, driving the point home. Her eyes particularly linger on Tuvok.
"I know I could order you to carry out this plan, and none of you would hesitate for a second. But I'm not going to do that. You know the crewmen who work under you, and you know what your own hearts are telling you. So we're not going to attempt this unless everyone in this room agrees."
Janeway looks over at Harry, then to the rest of her staff. "No one will think less of you if you don't."
"Captain." Harry Kim is first to speak.
The Captain can't bear to look. "Go ahead, Harry," she says, addressing the floor.
Harry takes a deep breath. "I think it's safe to say that no one on this crew has been more...obsessed with getting home than I have." He's got that right.
Then Harry puts down his coffee mug and walks toward Chakotay. "But...when I think about everything we've been through together," he says, putting a hand on Chakotay's shoulder, and sharing a smile with the Commander, "maybe it's not the destination that matters. Maybe it's the journey."
To the Journey. Where have we heard that before?
Harry's on a roll. He looks at each of the others in the room. "And if that journey takes a little longer so we can do something we all believe in, I can't think of anyplace I'd rather be, or any people I'd rather be with."
Heck, if even Harry's willing to put his homecoming on hold, what are the rest going to say?
Tom, who already considers Voyager home, adds his voice to the chorus. "To the journey."
"Here, here," says Chakotay.
Everyone raises their coffee mugs high. "To the journey!" they say in unison.
Admiral Janeway, standing by the window, looks on in amazement, her arms crossed.
Captain and Admiral meet alone in the ready room afterward. The Captain is seated, slamming back a lavaccino.
The Admiral walks over to the replicator. "Coffee. Black."
The Captain smirks. "I thought you'd gave it up."
The Admiral grasps the cup with both hands. "I've decided to revive a few of my old habits." She takes a healthy swig.
"Oh? What else, besides the coffee?"
"Oh, well..." The Admiral sighs. "I used to be much more idealistic. I took a lot of risks." She says this affectionately.
"I'd been so determined to get this crew home for so many years...That I think I forgot how much they loved being together--and how loyal they were to you."
Janeway gratefully accepts the compliment from her older self.
"It's taken me a few days to realize it...this is your ship, your crew--not mine." Another sip. "I was wrong to lie to you. To think I could talk you out of something you'd set your mind to."
Now that they're not actively butting heads, it's easier for each Janeway to appreciate the other. "You were only trying to do what you thought was right for all of us," the Captain says.
"Well, you've changed my mind about that," the Admiral says. "And I'd like to help you carry out your mission. Maybe together we can increase our odds."
"Maybe we can do more than that," the Captain says. "There's got to be a way to have our cake and eat it, too!"
The Admiral looks sad. "We can't destroy the hub and get Voyager home."
Captain Janeway, though, leans forward, and her eyes penetrate her older self's skull. "Are you absolutely sure about that?" She seems to have an idea already in the process of forming.
The Admiral smiles; they both know each other too well. She smiles. "There might be a way. I considered it once, but it seemed...too risky."
Ooh. Perfect opening. Captain Janeway takes it. "That was before you decided to revive your old habits."
The Admiral takes a deliberately long sip of her coffee. Her eyes close. Eternity opens to her. When her eyes open again, she says, "I don't know why I ever gave this up."
For those playing the home game, she's not just talking about the coffee.
But what could this plan be?
One hint: this is Kamikaze Kate we're talking about.
A short time later, Admiral Janeway is finishing her preparations within her very special shuttle.
Captain Janeway arrives.
"It's about time," says the Admiral. "I'm not getting any younger, you know."
The Captain is holding a hypospray. "You're sure you want to do this?"
"No," the Admiral admits. "But Voyager isn't big enough for both of us."
Yup--whenever there's a spare Janeway, ONE of them inevitably finds a way to off herself. she must have been born with a silver cyanide capsule in her mouth.
The Captain spritzes the Admiral with the hypospray. "Good luck, Admiral."
"You, too." The captain nods, and takes her leave.
The Admiral stops her. "Captain...I'm glad I got to know you again."
Admiral Janeway can't be that bad, if she succeeds in getting Captain Janeway to make THAT smile--the sweetest smile in the galaxy, the smile that launches a thousand wholesome fantasies in the heart of a certain Review Boy.
However the series ends, that's an image to cherish.
The Admiral's shuttle flies through the nebula and into one of the hub's transwarp portals. And disappears.
And so the Endgame begins.
Chakotay enters Astrometrics--this is becoming a habit. Seven is here. "Any word from the Admiral?" he asks.
"We lost contact as soon as she entered the hub," Seven says crisply. She's not as happy to see him as she's been previously this week.
"Did the Borg give her any trouble?"
"Her vessel was scanned by several cubes, but none approached her...Sir," she adds, when she notices Chakotay getting a little too close for comfort.
Chakotay smirks. "Are we keeping things 'professional' again today?"
"Yes, Commander." No irony in that delivery.
A long silence ensues. Chakotay waiting for the other shoe to drop. Seven looking increasingly uncomfortable.
"You're not joking, are you?" Chakotay says at last.
"No." Seven walks away, and continues to work, trying very hard to ignore him.
Chakotay follows. "What's wrong?" he asks to the side of her face, since she studiously avoids looking at him.
"Nothing. I'm just...busy."
Chakotay begins to lose patience. "I think I've gotten to know you a little better than that!"
Seven's voice breaks. "I'd prefer it if you didn't speak to me as though we're on intimate terms."
"We are on intimate terms!"
"Not anymore." Is Seven DUMPING him?!? Yowsa. She walks away, again.
Chakotay follows again. "What the hell is going on?" he asks, thoroughly confused.
Seven still can't face him. "I've decided to alter the parameters of our relationship."
"You mind telling me why?"
Seven's heart is near breaking. This is difficult for her, but she believes in the long run it will be for the best. "We both have dangerous occupations. It's possible one of us could be seriously injured, or worse. I believe it's best to avoid emotional attachments."
Funny thing is, Admiral Janeway might call this selfish as well.
Chakotay's irritation boils over. "Maybe you can just flip some Borg switch and shut down your emotions, but I can't!" The vehemence of his response compels Seven to look at him--but she can't maintain it. Too difficult.
"I suggest you try. It will make things less difficult for you, if any harm should come to me."
That was unexpected. "Why are you suddenly so concerned about that?" Chakotay asks softly. "Is there something I should know?"
"The Admiral suggested...that your feelings for me will cause you pain in the future." Tears come. "I can't allow that to happen." She tries to run away again.
Chakotay catches her by the arm. "Seven...any relationship involves risk. And nobody can guarantee what's going to happen tomorrow...Not even an admiral from the future."
Chakotay spins he around, holds on for dear life. "The only certainty is how we feel about each other here and now. If you think I'm going to let you end this because of what might happen...Then you need to get to know me a little better." He touches her cheek.
Seven takes his hand. Their foreheads touch.
I guess sometimes you simply can't fight the future.
Speaking of fighting the future...
Torres is grinding her teeth and growling like a cougar over a fresh kill.
"Relax!" Doc orders.
Wrong thing to say. B'Elanna's pounding out a daughter, and she's in no mood for Yanni. "Oh," she spits. "If you tell me to relax one more time I'm going to rip your holographic head off!"
Doc takes it all in with his usual good humor (heh). "I hope you don't intend to kiss your baby with that mouth."
A fresh wave of pain smacks into B'Elanna, and she bellows once more.
Tom Paris enters a moment later, sweating from the sprint. "Tell me this isn't another false alarm!" he says.
"This isn't another false alarm!" Doc shouts back.
Tom stands by his wife, and he looks thrilled. "I can't believe it!"
"AAAAAUUUUUGGGHH!!!!! Oh, believe it!!!" Torres says.
"I might actually win!" Tom says, staring at his wife's tummy.
Well, that was unexpected.
"What?!?" B'Elanna demands.
"The baby pool. I picked today, 1500 hours!"
B'Elanna's expression is disgust mixed with anticipated revenge. "EEERRRRUOOUUUGHHH!!!! I'm so glad I could accommodate you!"
Tom takes a self-preserving step backwards, allowing the Doctor to step in.
"Don't celebrate yet," Doc says. "Klingon labor sometimes lasts several days."
B'Elana grabs Doc's lower lip and gives him a skull wedgie. She then shrieks an entire verse of Klingon opera into his chin.
Yow. That's gotta hurt.
When Doc frees himself and resets his lip parameters, he reminds himself to maintain a safe distance from the expectant Klingon. "Of course, I'm sure that won't be the case here!" he promises, hoping like hell she won't remember this when his next holographic matrix maintenance audit comes due.
As Doc runs to prepare the 24th-century epidural, Tom fills the gap. It's his intention to stay by his wife's side until their daughter is born.
Yeah, right. As if.
The com system chirps. Janeway's calling. "Lieutenant Paris: we're ready to get underway."
Oh, crap, not now..."Captain, I'm afraid--"
"Go." B'Elanna said that.
Tom protests. "But--"
Torres grabs his tunic. "No 'buts,' Flyboy. If this mission is going to succeed we need our best pilot at the helm." In short: please, for the love of Kahless, don't let Chakotay drive at a time like this.
Tom is desperate to stay, but Torres is adamant, and reassuring. She won't hate him forever if h e goes. "Don't worry...The Doctor will be here with me."
Chirp. "Is there a problem, Mr. Paris?"
Tom is torn, but duty eventually wins out. He's becoming more responsible by the day. He sets his teeth, offers all the silent apologies he can with his look, and answers. "On my way, Captain."
He kisses B'Elanna passionately. His hands roam from her cheeks to her belly, the last chance he's likely to get to do that and find their child there. Their eyes meet, and remain there as long as possible.
Before another wave of pain can hit, Doc squirts B'Elanna with a hypospray. She visibly relaxes.
"Let's get this show on the road," B'Elanna says, almost giddy. she's still breathing hard, but she looks peaceful.
It will soon be over. It will be all right.
Flyboy is at the helm, Doc is in his Sickbay, and all is right with the galaxy.
"Voyager has altered course. Current position, spatial grid 362. Trajectory, 112 mark five."
The Borg Queen monitors all. She looks worried.
Admiral Janeway is here. From the Queen's expression, it's unexpected. "I don't know how you do it. All those voices talking at once. You must get terrible headaches."
Holy cow--Admiral Janeway is really getting cocky in her old age. She's not only in the belly of the beast, she's kicking the bile duct with a steel-toed boot.
The Queen calls some drones over. Admiral Janeway just smirks. "If you're calling drones to assimilate me, don't bother." She seems to be enjoying this.
The Queen takes the bait. "I don't need drones to assimilate you." She strolls over. She extends her hand. Twin tubules plunge into Janeway's neck.
The Admiral smiles. "I'm not actually here, Your Majesty." Her voice drops to a cruel whisper. "I'm in your mind."
The Queen is not used to this degree of impertinence. She's downright snickpiddled.
"I'm using a synaptic interface," Janeway explains. Noticing that the Queen is sending an order, she adds insult upon insult. "If I were you, I wouldn't waste my time trying to trace the signal. For the moment, it's beyond your abilities."
We see Janeway inside her shuttlecraft, speaking to the Queen from a safe distance. Hidden, no doubt.
An interesting bit of blocking is going on here. The Admiral and the Queen, both doing the same power play--ducking and weaving, feinting and attacking, slinking and purring. It's a dance of seduction as much as of power. Here are two ageless Alpha Babes vying for dominance, with the stakes being the fate of the entire bloody galaxy.
This is the ultimate Sci Fi catfight.
The Queen gives up trying to outmaneuver Janeway--for now. "What do you want?" she asks.
"To make a deal. Captain Janeway thinks I'm here to help her destroy your transwarp network."
Whoa--hold the phone! Admiral Janeway is doing a double-cross? Inconceivable!
Destroy the network? As if. "That's beyond your abilities," the Queen says confidently.
"Oh, I know that," the Admiral says, no less sure of her opinion. "And I tried to explain it to my naive younger self, but she wouldn't listen. She's determined to bring down that hub." Kids--what are you gonna do?
The poor Queen. The Admiral has not only had 33 years of technical experience, she's also had 33 years to practice her psychological warfare with the Borg. She's enjoying the heck out of this. It's not often the Queen gets out-Queened.
In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if the woman who wrote the book on the Borg, with her boundless self-confidence, might think she's ready to take over the Big Chair of Borgdom.
Hmmm. Queen Janeway of Borg. That could make quite a story...
First things first. Janeway's smile is even more smug. "But she has weapons that I brought from the future. I believe you're familiar with them."
"Transphasic torpedoes." The Queen remembers. Bitterly. "We will adapt."
"Eventually," Janeway agrees. "But not before Voyager does a great deal of damage." Janeway slinks around to a position behind the Queen, and whispers in her ear. "I'm willing to tell you how to adapt to those weapons now." Then she moves away, prolonging the dance.
The Queen closes the distance again. But this time, she comes straight at Janeway. Nose to nose. Among other things. "In exchange...for what?" the Queen purrs.
The Admiral smiles. "To send a cube. To tractor Voyager...and drag them back to the Alpha Quadrant."
I guess arguing with Captain Janeway didn't work so well, so she's going to once more shake hands with the devil to get what she wants.
Captain Janeway might not approve, but it's about as in-character as you could ask for.
However insane it might be. The Admiral is willing to force the crew home, towed by a Cube, AND give the Borg a thirty-year leap ahead in technology?
What is she, NUTS?!?!
* * *
Not even the Borg Queen buys it. "You're asking me to believe that the incorruptible Kathryn Janeway would betray her own crew?"
"Not betray them. Save them, from themselves." Well, granted, that does sound like Captain Janeway. Right, wrong or suicidal, Mama Kate always did know best.
"I brought technology to help Voyager get home. But the Captain's arrogant...self-righteous. And her officers are so blinded by loyalty that they're prepared to sacrifice their lives--just to deal a crippling blow to the Borg."
Yeah, them Starfleet types are funny that way.
Janeway's voice is mocking, but seductive; she continues to circle the Queen in close orbit.
The Queen smiles at this. "But you'd never try to harm us." Not quite mocking. This Janeway has been quite a surprise, after all.
"I've become a pragmatist in my old age. All I want is to get that crew back to their families." Family...there's a concept that resonates with the Queen.
The Queen smiles. "You wish to ensure the well-being of your Collective. I can appreciate that." It's the Queen's turn to orbit Janeway. "I'll help you. But it'll cost more than you're offering."
"What do you want?"
"Your vessel and its database." The Queen's tone is blunt. No more games. It's time for some hard-core negotiating.
Resistance may be futile, but haggling is relevant.
Janeway frowns. She tries to maintain the Dance. "I told you, I'll show you how to adapt to their torpedoes."
"Insufficient." Uh oh. Borgspeak.
Janeway shakes her head. "If I let you assimilate technology from the future, there's no telling how events would be altered."
"You're willing to alter the future by getting Voyager home now," the Queen counters.
"Oh, yes--but there's a difference."
The Queen returns to seduction. "Do what all good pragmatists do, Admiral. Compromise."
Janeway considers this. "All right. I'll give you the shuttle...after Voyager arrives safely in the Alpha Quadrant."
The Queen looks Janeway up and down. "You've already lied to your younger self. How do I know you're not lying to me?" she purrs.
"I guess you'll just have to trust me," Janeway coos.
The Queen's expression hardens. "That won't be necessary."
Janeway's eyes go wide.
The Queen smiles, feeling for the first time in a while that she's got the upper hand. "You underestimate me, Admiral. While we've been talking, my drones have triangulated your signal."
Janeway's eyes REALLY go wide.
In her shuttle, Janeway rips the eyepiece off. "Computer, deactivate the interface." It is done. "Deploy armor."
Too late. A Borg beam lances out at the shuttle, and a second later Janeway is beamed away.
Janeway materializes in the Queen's chamber. For real, this time.
"Very clever," says the Queen. "Hiding right on my doorstep. Were you planning to attack us from inside the unicomplex?"
Janeway isn't so chatty now. She glares at the Queen now that her physical person is within arm's reach of assimilation tubules.
The Queen pouts. "Not feeling talkative?" She strolls over to Janeway, and extends her hand.
The assimilators leap into Janeway's throat. This time, something happens--Janeway groans and falls to the ground. We see her face begin to mottle and turn the familiar black-and-gray of dronedom.
The Queen looks down on her in triumph. "You and I don't need words to understand each other."
Meanwhile, Voyager has emerged into the clear, not too far from the Hub.
Cubes and Spheres and other geometric Borg vessels are everywhere, flitting in and out of the impossibly large Grand Central Station.
Janeway's jaw is set. "Take us in."
Tom swallows hard. All things being equal, he'd rather be in Sickbay. "Aye, Captain."
In she goes.
No turning back.
The Queen is smug. Janeway is utterly defeated. Voyager is next.
The voice of the Collective tracks the vessel. "Voyager has entered Aperture 823. Access Transwarp Corridor Zero-Nine. Redirect vessels to intercept--"
But then something unexpected happens.
The Queen staggers as though she's got one of them Alien hatchlings in her gut, and it's baby time.
The room begins to fill with smoke as conduits, panels and other sundries explode without warning.
The voice of the Collective is stuttering like Reg Barclay on a first date with Admiral Necheyev.
And it doesn't happen just once. The Queen's spasms grows steadily worse, and the whole Unicomplex reels in response to her agony. Se eventually has to grab onto poles to remain upright--barely.
Admiral Janeway is still in a world of hurt, but she isn't surprised by the new development. "Must be something you assimilated," she drawls.
More explosions. More suffering Queen. More stuttering Borg-speak.
"What--have you--done?" the Queen gasps.
Janeway just stares at her. "I thought we didn't need words to understand each other."
Booom. a-a-a-ass-sim---mmmllltttt..... Ow.
One suspects the Torres delivery is a walk in the part compared to this. Though the Doctor might beg to differ, having to reset his bottom lip every few minutes.
The Queen, with great effort, conducts a diagnostic, and is horrified. "You've infected us...with an neurolytic pathogen."
Janeway smiles. With her fresh implants and the face coloring to match her hair, Janeway looks like a Batman villain, and she's got the dialog to boot. "Just enough...to bring chaos to order."
No doubt about it--the Queen screwed with the wrong woman.
I don't know how many times I gotta say this...
Never. Assimilate. A redhead.
It ain't worth the trouble.
While the Unicomplex is in the middle of a raging meltdown, Voyager speeds through the Transwarp Autobahn.
"The Admiral succeeded, Captain," Seven of Nine reports. "The conduit's shielding is destabilizing."
Janeway smiles. "Now, Mr. Tuvok."
Tuvok lets fly with a half dozen torpedoes.
Each one does extreme damage.
The Queen feels every explosion. She also sees that Voyager is now racing against one very large fireball. "Voyager will be destroyed," she says, taking what comfort she can.
But the Admiral ruins even that for her. "They're ahead of the shock wave. They'll survive. Captain Janeway and I made sure of that."
The Queen is too busy dying in Collective agony to respond in an impressive way. She's barely able to stand.
Calamity Janeway, on the other hand, stands up. (Borg falls, Janeway rises. Get it? METAPHOR!) She's enjoying the hell out of this. "It's you who underestimated us!"
BOOOOOOOM. More stuff in the room explodes. The Queen is suffering in earnest.
To offer further evidence of the decline in the Queen's power as the Collective disintegrates around her, her arm shrivels up. she grabs it, rips it off her body, and tosses it as far from her as she can.
Which is to say, not very.
However, the Borg Queen is not about to give up. She thinks furiously, and finds what she needs. "Sphere six-three-four. They can still hear my thoughts."
The sphere changes course. No doubt pursuing Voyager.
"I may have assimilated your pathogen...but I also assimilated your armor technology." This could be bad for Voyager.
From Hell's heart I stab at thee...
But the Queen hasn't got a leg to stand on.
Literally. Just as she whirls to make some snide comment, her leg twists off and drops like a rotten twig. The Queen forces herself to her foot and hops over to Janeway, but even at her full height she still has to look UP to the Admiral, who sneers downward at her longtime adversary.
Remember that "Black Knight always triumphs!" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail? The one where Arthur keeps lopping off the Black Knight's limbs?
Someone at Paramount's one sick puppy. And I for one applaud it.
The Queen can't stay upright for long; another explosion represents her physical state, and she screams and goes down--hard, flopping about like a fish out of water.
Janeway's still feeling darned proud of herself; she looks down on the Queen, face down on the floor as the Hive collapses around her.
But the smile is wiped off her face with the Queen's dying comment. "Captain Janeway is about to die. If she has no future, you will never exist--and nothing that you've done here today will happen."
Before the Admiral can respond, the Queen breathes her last.
And then she melts like the Wicked Witch of the West after getting splashed with a bucket of water.
Janeway rises yet again, determined to face oblivion on her feet.
The unicomplex begins to explode in earnest. Whole sections ignite like roman candles. Thus deprived of structural integrity, the gravity from that mighty ball of whatever that the Hub is orbiting begins to exert its irresistible pull.
Meanwhile, back in the Alpha Quadrant...
Starfleet Command is on high alert.
"What the hell is it?" Admiral Paris demands.
"A transwarp aperture," Reg Barclay reports. "It's less than a light-year from Earth."
"How many Borg vessels?" another officer asks.
"We can't get a clear reading," Barclay says. "But the graviton emissions are off the scale."
Admiral Paris wastes no time. "I want every ship in range to converge on those coordinates. Now."
What Admiral Paris wants, Admiral Paris gets.
The Unicomplex is now toast. It's getting sucked into whatever it was orbiting, disintegrating explosively, in one mother of a special effect.
Imagine Australia being folded up like a Japanese fan in five seconds or less.
Now that's what I call Blowed Up Real Good.
Meanwhile, back in what's left of the Autobahn...
The Sphere is smacking Voyager around like a killer whale prepping a baby seal for dinner.
"Aft armor is down to six percent," Tuvok reports.
"Hull breaches on decks six through 12!" Harry shouts.
The sphere opens a portal large enough to swallow Voyager. Its mouth glows a nasty shade of green, and the doors look like the teeth of a starving shark.
"I can't stay ahead of them, Captain!" Tom says.
"The armor is failing," Tuvok reports.
"Where's the nearest aperture?" Chakotay asks, stumbling from Tuvok's station to Seven of Nine's between BOOOMs. He stands shoulder to shoulder with her.
Seven checks. "Approximately 30 seconds ahead--but it leads back to the Delta Quadrant."
Janeway thinks fast. She makes the call. "Mr. Paris, prepare to adjust your heading."
Tom's jaw clenches, trying to hold on between explosions. "Yes, ma'am."
Meanwhile, close to two-dozen ships, armed for Borg, scream toward the open aperture. We've got Galaxy class, Defiant class, a few classes I've never seen before, and the brand-spankin' new Whupass-class quadruple-nacelled floating cannon, large and ugly enough to make even a Borg Cube shrivel with envy.
At least Starfleet's learning. When the Borg come a'courtin', release the hounds.
"We've got 18 ships in position," reports an admiral to Admiral Paris. "Nine more on the way."
"Open a channel," Admiral Paris barks.
"This is Admiral Paris. Use all necessary force. I repeat--all necessary force."
Barclay, handling the scans, reports a new development. "Sir, there's a vessel coming through!"
And sure enough, it's Borg.
The Sphere emerges from the aperture, and we get a cool borg's-eye view of what it sees waiting for it...
A sky filled with ships already firing at it.
At my signal, unleash hell.
At least Voyager seems to be having a smoother ride now, wherever they are. It's quiet. Damned quiet.
"Mr. Paris, what's our position?" Janeway asks.
"Right where we expect it to be," Tom says.
"The transwarp network has been obliterated, Captain," Seven reports. Well, they always knew it would be a one-way trip.
"We'll celebrate later," Janeway says. She looks over her shoulder. "Mr. Tuvok?"
Tuvok looks down at his board. He taps in a couple of commands.
A burst of yellow light streaks through a long, dark-green tunnel.
A second later, we see a large chunk of the Borg sphere disintegrate--from the inside.
A second after that, other explosions turn the sphere into so much tritanium confetti.
Admiral Paris is impressed--it's not often a Borg ship goes up in flames that easily. "Cease fire!"
They all watch on the screen as the sphere is converted from matter to energy. With a little statistical margin for error, of course.
And then...a lone starship screams out from within that expanding cloud of death like a Batmobile out of hell.
Now it's Voyager's turn to see the wall of Starfleet warships.
Fortunately, they've ceased firing.
There's a moment of eerie silence.
"We did it," Captain Janeway whispers--but in this room, at this moment, the sound resonates througout the bridge.
It all depends on what the meaning of it is, I suppose, but it really doesn't matter--today, they did it all.
The Borg Queen is toast.
The hub is toast.
They struck a major blow against the Collective.
Oh, and by the way, they're now less than a light-year from Earth. Hours, maybe minutes away--not decades.
Not a bad day's work.
A beeping noise breaks the silence. "We're being hailed," Harry reports. His voice is shaking.
Janeway nods without looking at him. "On screen."
It's Admiral Paris and Reg Barclay, standing side by side.
"Sorry to surprise you," Janeway says. "Next time, we'll call ahead."
Admiral Paris risks a quick look at Tom, who looks away. Hmmm.
He then addresses Janeway. "Welcome back."
"It's good to be here," Janeway says. Gee, ya think?
Admiral Paris can't help but ask. "How did you--?"
"It'll all be in my report, sir."
The Admiral looks at Tom again, who studiously avoids his gaze. Then he turns back to Janeway. Time enough for everything now. "I look forward to it."
The signal ends. Tom looks a little misty.
"Thanks for your help, Admiral Janeway," whispers Captain Janeway.
All's well that ends well...except, aren't we forgetting something?
Oh yeah, right.
Janeway's prayer to herself ends when the comm system chirps. Her eyes pop out wide when she hears "Sickbay to the bridge" from the Doctor, and some big-lunged yelling by someone else.
Captain! There be wails here!
We see the reactions from Janeway, Harry, and of course Tom as the first noises of Miral Paris waft through the bridge.
Tom looks up at Janeway expectantly. She's grinning from ear to ear. Tom is in so much shock, he forgets to see what time it is, and whether he won the baby pool.
The Doctor hands the swaddled baby, forehead ridges and all, to B'Elanna. She looks exhausted and exhilerated and sweaty and weepy and laughing all at once as she holds her new baby.
Doc smiles wide. "Doctor to Lieutenant Paris. There's someone here who'd like to say hello."
Janeway beams that perfect Janeway smile. "You'd better get down there, Tom."
Tom is beaming as well. "Yes, ma'am." He sprints toward the turbolift, bathed in the glow of well-wishing crewmates.
Janeway looks up at Tuvok, Seven of Nine, and Chakotay--the three lives who will now unfold much differently from those in Admiral Janeway's timeline.
Speaking of which, Janeway notices how close Chakotay and Seven are standing to each other. Well, she's got the answer to that.
"Mr. Chakotay?" She waves toward the empty seat. "The helm."
Chakotay looks at Seven. Seven looks at Chakotay.
Seven and Chakotay look at Janeway.
Who's your captain?
With a crisp Aye, Captain, Chakotay takes the wheel.
Janeway takes the Big Chair for the last leg of their journey. "Set a course...for home."
Buckle up, kids, it's gonna be a rough ride.
But for now, there's nothing but open air and friendly skies, and fleets of starships to lead them to their rest.
We see what Voyager sees as the credits roll--a slow, leisurely jaunt toward the rapidly-expanding big blue marble of Earth.
You wanna talk about YAATE, this puppy takes the cake.
But it works.
Yes, Janeway kicks the reset button until it bleeds, and yes, there is more than a passing resemblance to "Timeless" and a few other episodes. And I know that there are howls of outrage among many camps for what did or didn't happen to their various favorite characters.
This is not an ending that is everything to everyone, though I'd like to think there is something for everyone here, if they'll give it a chance.
It may even seem like too much at times. I know my head's still swimming. But all in all, it's Voyager's seven-year run in microcosm. A lot of action, quite a bit of characterization, no lack of philosophy, some outrage, some Relationshipper Chow, time travel, Borg, overlapping levels of meaning, a celebration of the Journey, and a happy--if abrupt--ending.
Not bad for two hours--give or take an hour for commercial breaks.
I hope they'll consider submitting this to the Emmy folks, because Kate Mulgrew turns in two amazing performances here, both as the young Captain and the older Admiral. It's not easy to play opposite yourself, but Mulgrew succeeds spectacularly. The similarities, and the differences, between the two Janeways are consistently excellent.
Mulgrew's interactions with the rest of the cast also works well. Particularly the Admiral / Seven of Nine and Admiral / Borg Queen scenes. These scenes give us a lot of insight into just how different Admiral Janeway turned out to be, and why she's willing to go as far as she does to get her people home early.
Jeri Ryan also turns in a terrific performance. Her restrained enthusiasm while Seven stll has her emotional failsafe clamp in place; her more expansive emotions afterward. We can see that Seven of Nine has been practicing, but that she's still on the learning curve of intimacy and socializing; it wasn't over-the-top. Her scenes with Beltran do have a bit of spark and chemistry to them, though it wasn't 100% convincing. More on this later.
Tim Russ...wow. His Old Tuvok scenes were hard to watch, they were so good. It was agonizing to see what his character had been reduced to because of illness. (Why wasn't he on Vulcan with his family?) It was very well acted, and Tuvok's condition allowed him to rant about red herrings in a way that furthered the plot and cast doubts on the motives of Admiral Janeway. Nice touch.
Dawson got to be both an Engineer and an expectant mom this week. She was hilarious in her delivery scenes, screaming and threatening and groaning and manhandling everyone around her. She was also warm and adorable in her intimate scenes with Tom and with her scene with the newborn Miral. And she was the Chief Engineer, barking orders and tending to her domain. To use the parlance of the episode, she got to have her cake and eat it, too--wife, mother, and professional. Not a bad day's work.
Robbie McNeill also had a range to play--the clueless, sleep-deprived male stumbling about in the dark like an idiot trying to get ready to go to the doctor (the classic pre-delivery scene); the suave Flyboy who managed to make intimate moments in the unlikeliest circumstances; and the responsible guy who was able to show, in word and deed, that he's not the same narcissistic foxhound with a chip on his shoulder that first stepped onto Voyager's bridge seven years earlier. He's got his priorities straight. He's growing up.
Garrett Wang was the other major player this week. We see that in at least one future, Harry Kim achieves his dream--captain of his own starshiop. He still may be Ensign Eager, but he's also growing up, and was willing to put aside his obsession with home--for the moment--in favor of a greater cause. Garrett didn't get many chances to make speeches like his "to the journey" monologue, but he pulled it off. His scenes as Captain Kim also showed a maturity and a depth of intimacy with Admiral Janeway that filled in many of the gaps left unspoken in the future timeline.
My early digs at Beltran's acting in the cemetary scene aside, I thought he did awfully well this week. Beltran's dissatisfaction with some elements of science fiction television are well known; he's an actor who likes characters with feeling, and he injects some feeling here. I know, I know, he was projecting those feelings at Seven of Nine, but those were the lines he was dealt. And he made the most of them. He was playful, serious, and in a pivotal scene with Jeri Ryan, he argued passionately for the Journey of relationships--certainly the Undiscovered Country for most people.
I have a feeling Beltran would have been a better fit on DS9 or the original series, where characterization and passion and conflict were a much larger portion of each script. Good science fiction is also good drama--and I do tend to agree with Beltran that there was often an over-reliance on things that go Boom, and with technobabble solutions, than with more traditional dramatic conflict and resolution. He was always at his best when he was challenging Janeway over something epic, rescuing B'Elanna from herself, or quietly working his charms.
Picardo, of course, was his usual ebullient self. His scenes with Dawson were particularly amusing, but he also did a fine job with Dwight Schultz in the first part, dragging the truth out of him.
For guest performances, we got treated to the reliably wonderful Dwight Schultz as Barclay (I'm serious--I love this guy); Alice Krige as the Borg Queen, reprising her role from STAR TREK: FIRST CONTACT, performing marvelously opposite Mulgrew and Ryan; Lisa Locicero as Miral Paris, who in two very short scenes brought the adult Paris/Torres child to life in a big way; Vaughn Armstrong as Korath, suitably grouchy as a dishonest Klingon politician and merchant; Manu Intiraymi as Icheb (it was fun watching him beat Tuvok at kal-toh); and the rest. The whole performance tapestry held together awfully well, and was a joy to watch.
Yes, it's a reset button episode.
Yes, we've seen its like before.
It still works.
We saw this a few times this year; Ken Biller seems to like to give us the "fan-friendly" scene, only to show us later that that's not exactly how it turned out. It was a holodeck program, or an alternate timeline. Think of the Paris/Torres wedding--we got a nice one in Course: Oblivion, so why reinvent the wheel? (Yes, I can think of reasons why, but that's not the point.) Then think of the Torres baby shower--we got a pretty good one, but in reality it was Seven's fantasy version where she was a welcome part of the crowd. She ended up skipping the real thing.
It's the same here. We get the Voyager Homecoming scene to end all scenes--fireworks, huge crowds, a daring fly-by over the Golden Gate Bridge. We get a peek into the future--Tom's a holonovelist, Doc is married, Harry's a captain. Not everyone's story turns out happy, but we hear how they turned out. And we know how long it took them. They did it the Janeway way.
But it's not good enough. Not everyone made it home in one piece. Particularly not the three people that mattered most to Kathryn Janeway--her first officer, recently buried; her trusted advisor, now out of his Vulcan mind; and her favorite ex-drone, long dead. She plots a future where none of that happens, much as Harry Kim--tormented for 15 years with guilt--is determined to undo the mistake that cost everyone but himself and Chakotay their lives and bring them home sooner and with her favorite people still alive and relatively well.
I'll get into the meaning of this decision later. For now, we're just going to look at the mechanics of the story.
It's well crafted. Much of it kept me guessing right up to the end, and that's not easy to find these days.
We get a detailed look at a possible future--not too bad, for many people. Why would Harry Kim, for example, want to undo this future? Well, perhaps because in a different one, he might get promoted sooner. He could be an admiral 26 years later instead of a mere captain. And, he'll have a lot more time with his folks. Maybe Seven will pick him instead of Chakotay.
Funny how this episode turned into a giant case of Everybody Loves Seven of Nine. Harry had a thing for her early on; Doc had proclaimed his undying love for here the week before; Chakotay is chasing her this week; the Borg Queen and Janeway both have intense feelings for her that are at least familial, and perhaps more. And the Doctor, I noticed, married a buxom blonde--she seemed nice enough, and her easy smile was reminiscent of all the grinning we saw Seven of Nine do this week.
Michelle Green disagrees with me about this, that the Doctor "got over Seven" when he married someone else--that he's with a buxom blonde because that's what most middle-aged men (well, okay--most men, period) want. Hey, don't look at me--I prefer redheads. And voluptuousness is optional; at my age, gravity is a harsh mistress indeed.
Anyway, I maintain that Doc's marriage to Lana is a deliberate example of transference--he finally found a Seven of Nine to call his own, regardless of whether he'd admit it. When he first entered the reunion party, we were intended to believe that it WAS Seven on his arm.
So we get a future where Voyager is a museum, the Borg are no big whoop, and Janeway is a living legend. Barclay finally finds a home among the Voyager alumni. Tom and B'Elanna are aging well, though Tom's hairline is receding, and they seem to be at peace. Nobody is in jail, unless you count the prison of Tuvok's diseased mind. They made it home, in one-third the expected time at maximum warp, and they sure as frell earned it. They made a mark on the Delta Quadrant, and likely on the Beta and Alpha quadrants as well. They brought with them a permanent station among the Talaxians, a raft of new and powerful technologies, and at least a couple of kids born en route.
But they also brought with them a disillusioned captain, a crazy Vulcan, a shell of a first officer, and a few dozen body bags.
Janeway isn't the type to take any sort of compromise with destiny. She figures she could do better--and is determined to prove it.
This leads to another running theme in this episode: the concept of the extended family. Admiral Janeway considers the needs of the Voyager family above all else, even her Starfleet ideals, something Captain Janeway has certainly shown a willingness to do, though to a more limited extent. The Borg Queen thinks of her Collective in Family terms, as we hear during her Seven of Nine scene. The Baby Pool is another manifestation of the family atmosphere on Voyager--even though it's Tom and B'Elanna's baby, the whole ship is anticipating the blessed event. This leads to some iffy ethical moments--Admiral Janeway calling in one favor after another to set out on her mission, in the process potentially compromising many careers in that future timeline; Tuvok refusing to divulge his disease before it begins to compromise his work, sacrificing himself for the long-term good of the Family; Seven of Nine trying to break up with Chakotay because she's afraid that someone will miss her terribly when she ultimately dies; Admiral Janeway arguing that Seven and Captain Janeway are SELFISH for wanting to help anonymous millions rather than the intimate few.
Admiral Janeway, in particular, has a bit of cult figure character to her. All the adulation and isolation appear to have gone to her head. Her Voyager family is all that matters to her; the rest of the galaxy can go to hell for all she cares. It's not that I'm not sympathetic to her stance; I'm sure anyone with a favorite sports team has yearned for a time machine and the means to change the results of a Big Game or two. But if we DID have such means, we'd be playing the same bloody games from decades ago over and over and over like some hellish cross between ESPN Sportscenter and Bill Murray's GROUNDHOG DAY.
Even so, what we end up with is not Admiral Janeway's Plan B, but an even better (maybe) Plan C. Captain Janeway wouldn't have known about the hub until it was far too late to use it; that was the track 1 that resulted in Admiral Janeway. Admiral Janeway just wanted to flit back for a quick Plan B, Voyager hopping into a conduit and buzzing home, and hoping that her knowledge of the Borg would let the Alpha Quadrant survive the inevitable wave of cubes and spheres that would follow. Instead, we get Plan C - the admiral makes the Captain aware of the Hub's existence, and the Captain--still idealistic as well as cocky--wants to destroy it. Getting home is priority two for the captain, but priority one for the admiral. It takes most of the second hour to get them on the same page. The result, though, looks pretty good on paper--the destruction of the hub, the death of the Queen, AND a return to Earth in time for Tuvok to get treated and for everyone on board to get on with their lives. Perhaps not as THE FAMILY that Admiral Janeway had, forged over 23 years, but as a close-knit community forged over seven. Miral will have a different life, certainly--she won't grow to adolescence in the Delta Quadrant on Voyager. She won't be The Kid to an extended family of nearly 150 people. she'll grow up differently. Maybe better, maybe worse, maybe about the same. But it won't BE the same.
It was particularly fitting that in the ending, we got several things. Voyager emerging like a phoenix from the ashes of the Borg sphere, or like a chick from an easter egg. And in the silent shock of the journey's completion, a baby's cry fills the bridge. One, it's a family moment, one shared by the bridge crew (and, knowing the Doctor, every deck). Two, it's a symbol of new beginnings. The child's got its whole life ahead of it, and there's no guarantee what it's life will be like. We saw one possible Miral, and it was a good life she had, but we just don't know. The fun part will be the process of finding out.
The other fun part was watching Tom leave the bridge behind to be with his family. And Chakotay leaving Seven behind to drive them the rest of the way home. Voyager needed its best pilot to get them this far; Chakotay in the driver's seat, given his shuttle history, suggests that they really are home, and home safely.
Another story element that I quite liked was all the games going on. "Endgame" was the title, and there was a ton of that happening. Some were obvious--kadis-kot, kal-toh. Some were more subtle--Admiral Janeway's plotting to return Voyager home early, the Seven/Chakotay dance of love, the manipulations of the borg Queen and the subsequent mental chess match between Janeway and the Queen, and so on. Even the hub itself was representative of all the myriad possible futures open to the crew--this one leads to the delta quadrant. this one to Earth's doorstep. This one to fluidic space. Here there be dragons. It's moves and countermoves, checks and mates. Janeway presenting herself to the queen, taunting her, only to be caught and assimilated--and that's exactly what the crew relied on. The sphere has Voyager dead to rights--so they allow themselves to be sucked in so the sphere will carry them safely to their destination, where they can then crack that sucker open like an easter egg.
As Mulgrew promised, they kept us guessing right up to the very end. Many people didn't get what happened with Voyager once the sphere caught up with them. Getting swallowed seems like the last thing they'd want--which is exactly why they did it.
The kal-toh game is particularly relevant here. Just when you think you're toast, you pull victory out of nowhere. Order out of chaos; chaos out of order. Whatever it takes. Like the Captain Kirk of old, sometimes you gotta change the rules of the game if you want to get what matters to you. (But even Kirk learned you can't avoid every consequence; because of his choices with Khan, he eventually lost his son and the original Enterprise).
Meaning - the Reset Button
About the only thing they didn't do is involve the 29th century. One wonders what might have happened with this story if it could have turned out that they were MEANT to end up the way they ultimately did, getting home after seven years through the transwarp autobahn, rather than the long-way home version.
Think Peter David's IMZADI and Riker's use of the Guardian of Forever--he thinks he's changing a bad history, but it turns out he's actually restoring the right one. One last laugh from Braxton set right in the end--perhaps this would have calmed some of the angrier hearts about this week. That would have made this episode more like the Year of Hell--setting things right--rather than Timeless, where Harry Kim pulled the ultimate Mulligan.
I've often quoted Denis Leary: "Life sucks; wear a helmet." Life doesn't always work out the way you want, and you can't demand a bloody refund. Some putts don't sink; some buses leave without you; some people get sick or hurt or sad; most kids just grow up to be regular people and not the Klingon Messiah.
Voyager often missed out on the happy ending. Sometimes they cheated fate and broke the rules to grasp joy out of the hands of misery. Sometimes it worked, but there are legitimate concerns about them even making the attempt. The Temporal Prime Directive certainly has its uses, just as the regular Prime Directive does. As Annorax learned to his horror in Year of Hell, when you muck about with the timestream there are unintended consequences. Yes, Voyager gets home "early" after seven years, and Tuvok will get treated, and Chakotay and Seven can pursue their relationship without her dying in the Delta Quadrant, and Harry can eat key lime pie until it's coming out his ears and Tom and B'Elanna can raise their baby within the relative safety of Federation space, and--
But what if they got home like this after a mere one to three years? Seven would never have been rescued. Species 8472 may well have overrun the entire galaxy, or obliterated the Borg--and left someone even nastier to fill the void. Neelix could have poisoned thousands in his first restaurant, but would never have seen his kind again. He and Kes might still be together, and she wouldn't be the evil shrew she was forced to turn into. The whole Voyager crew might have been conscripted into the Dominion war, and wiped out any number of times. After only a couple of years, the Maquis crew would still be prime targets for prosecution and not hailed as returning heroes.
The future is not guaranteed, especially if you try to fine-tune the past. They could get home, only to have some massive probe arrive that's just dying to talk to yet another extinct species, and is going to flatten the planet unless it gets a Conference Call with a spotted owl pronto. Maybe the Borg wanted them to make it home early because they were carrying a Drone Virus that would assimilate the alpha quadrant.
You just never know.
But as with TNG's "All Good Things" and DS9's "The Visitor" the episode is intended to close some doors, and open others. We got a glimpse of possible future in the TNG finale--Picard old and diseased of mind, married to and then divorced from Beverly Crusher; Georgi with the happy Fanfic ending, wedded to Leah Brahms and sporting new eyes; Deanna dead and Worf and Riker no longer on speaking terms; the Federation and the Klingons no longer on speaking terms. It's a POSSIBLE future, but Q uses it as a way to give Picard a chance to explore "the infinite possibilities of existence." His past, present and future collide, and he has to think outside the box. When all's said and done, he's back in the present, and after discussing his experiences, we see the future already beginning to change.
Admiral Janeway's effort, in a way, is much like Jake Sisko's. She's got a very personal reason for changing the past. Take away everything else, and Janeway would likely still have done it all if it would have saved Seven of Nine, just as Jake Sisko changed his lifetime--and the galaxy around him for all those intervening decades--to bring his father back. As with Picard (thrice!), and as with Jake Sisko, Janeway laid down her life to "set things right." Yes, Picard was saving all of humanity from the judgment of the Continuum. And because of Jake's actions, Ben Sisko lived--and the Dominion War happened with its billions of casualties, and Jadzia died young rather than live to a ripe old age, and Nog lost his leg, and his dad ended up unstuck in time anyway a few years later. Did Jake care? Perhaps--but he got his dad back for a few more formative years. Would he do it again? Almost certainly.
We've come a long way from "City on the Edge of Forever," where Captain Kirk let a woman he loved die to save the future. it was wrenching, and heartbreaking, and powerful. In that episode, actions have consequences. they're told the consequences so they know why they MUST take the specified actions. In another episode, they are accidentally thrown back in time and rescue an air force pilot who of himself is unimportant, but whose as-yet unconceived son will be a key participant in the US space program. He must be sent back, or the future might not happen.
We don't get many episodes like that anymore. We want, so it seems, stories where we can have our cake, and eat it too. We want to eat the cheesecake and not get fat. Get our tax cuts and lots of free government money. Party like Vikings all semester and still make the honor roll.
The concept of accepting the consequences of our actions is no longer tolerable. Funny how it's only in Hollywood where this particular dream seems to come true. But as many fans will tell you, it doesn't always happen even then. Not everyone got the Voyager they wanted--and if they had, there would most certainly be those who are now happy with the series, who would consequently have given up on it in disgust.
It's not necessarily a zero-sum game. It could always be even worse, as Annorax discovered time and time again. You take what you get, and you try your best to learn from the past and act in the present to improve the future.
As Sisko learned in "Emissary," he couldn't really get on with the future until he learned to acknowledge and then let go of the past. How many of us, if we were deposited in the wormhole, would find ourselves brought back time and time again to a horrible event in our lives, and be told "you exist here"? I can think of any number of episodes that certain fans point to as the last of the "real" Voyager, before it was perverted/corrupted/sold out by some new and ill-considered series direction. Heck, I know some people who are convinced that Voyager went wrong the moment actor X was cast in role Y, or producer A took over in season B.
Anyway. I could go on forever with this; it's one of my sore spots.
I know some folks were angry at the ending. I must admit, I wasn't super-thrilled with it myself the first time around. But as I mentioned earlier, there are benefits to the Biller method of giving us what we want early so he doesn't have to give us what we want later, since it would be redundant.
There was something incredibly jarring about the ending, that somehow makes it fitting for Voyager. They tended to make the most progress in huge leaps forward. Most of those came through good fortune or supernatural intervention. Bringing them the last 30,000 light years in a single act is pretty much the Voyager style.
After seven years, the journey ends abruptly--as abruptly for the crew as for the audience. "That's it? We're here? Dang." There's no way to tie up every loose end (and who in their right mind would WANT to? Leave them wanting more; leave room for novels and possible film appearances and so on), so why try? Get them back. End the journey as abruptly as it began, with one giant leap across the quadrants. Leave the future wide open.
Yeah, they could have given us 23 years of Voyager. Some folks, I'm sure, would be all for that. It's not out of the question--there are soap operas that literally span decades, and feature actors who have literally gone from adolescence to retirement age on screen.
As the writer of the longest damn reviews on the Internet, I'm happy they're not doing that. I like Voyager, but I don't want to LIVE with these people for the rest of my natural-born life.
All in all, this was one keeper of an episode for me. It wasn't the ultimate wish-fulfillment episode, but it represents Voyager as well as any episode ever could--its strengths and its weaknesses, its bows to continuity and its reset-button mentality, its love-hate relationship with the audience, its characters and relationships, both ill-conceived and well-received, and its fulfillment of its original mission to get us home. They did it--twice.
I'm giving this series-ender 47 stars. That's 4 stars out of four, plus another for the fun factor, and an additional 42 in honor of Douglas Adams--without whom I wouldn't have had nearly as much good material to swipe for the reviews these past seven years.
That's all, folks.
Next week: Jim goes on his first date in seven years--and he's not going to review it.
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