It's Paramount's playground. They own the characters, the ships, species, planets, quadrants, and the dialog, plots, etc. My summaries and reviews are for the purpose of entertainment and analysis only. The reviews are full-spoiler, which means that it's about as close as you can get to seeing the episode. All that's missing are commercials and pictures. If you want to be surprised and haven't seen the episode yet, read no further. But if you've already seen it, or you don't mind finding out the details in advance, sit back and let Fatherly Uncle Jim spin the tale for you...Review Boy Style.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network and the Kellogg Company. "Missing" Canadian scenes transcribed with my thanks by Marianne.]
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television, United Paramount Network, and the Kellogg Company]
The U.S.S. Voyager finds another Federation starship lost in the Delta Quadrant, the science vessel U.S.S. Equinox, and helps it stave off an attack by creatures from another spatial realm. Captain Janeway now has a kindred spirit in its commander, Captain John Ransom, and helps him salvage his war-torn vessel so they can journey home together. But when The Doctor retrieves data from the U.S.S. Equinox research lab, Janeway learns the hard truth that Captain Ransom has seriously violated the Starfleet oath by committing mass murder in the Delta Quadrant. When she strips him of his command and confines him to quarters, he and his crew manage to escape with the U.S.S. Voyager's advanced technology - and The Doctor and Seven of Nine as hostages aboard their ship. [from http://www.startrek.com]
Jump straight to the Analysis
There's nothing like a season finale to bring out the unexpected opening scene.
In this case, we see what is clearly a Starfleet vessel, but it sure as heck ain't Voyager. Shaped more like a gardening trowel than the measuring-spoon Voyager, this vessel is the first of its kind that we've seen. I think.
But it does have the same Starfleet look. Blues and reds and whites, twin cigar-shaped nacelles, the distinct saucer section. Its shields are buckling--which seems to be another Starfleet trademark.
We don't see an attacker, but we do see points of attack, where the shields glow especially bright.
Inside the unfamiliar vessel, all is chaos. Voyager in its direst hours rarely looked as bad as this hellhole of a bridge. Fresh smoke and fire illuminate the detritus of battles too numerous to count and too frequent to bother cleaning up from afterwards. Through the haze we see the grim visages of a crew too accustomed to crisis to imagine, let alone remember, life without it.
"Stay the course!" A gaunt male shouts from the center chair, his sonorous voice piercing the clamor around him, the strength of it a stark contrast to his lean, wild-eyed look. Crewmen dark hither and yon, ducking to avoid the small explosions that erupt anew at a rate of several per second.
As the camera pans back to show us the entire bridge, the situation looks even more grave.
"Shields are down to 29%," says a younger officer hunched over one of the few functioning stations. His hands fly over those still-lit controls. "They're breaking through."
The man in the big chair stands. "Let them!"
"Sir?" The younger man yelps, horrified.
"Take the shields off-line and recharge the emitters. That'll bring them up to full power."
"The charging cycle takes 45 seconds. We'll be vulnerable!"
"We'll be dead if we don't get the shields back up." The man, face disfigured by a massive bruise covering much of the left half of his face, grabs a phaser rifle as large as he is, locks and loads. "Arm yourselves!" he bellows theatrically.
Apparently this isn't the first time. Hand-cannons by the score are within reaching distance of every station. They drop from the ceilings like oxygen masks from airplanes in times of heavy turbulence or secondhand Marlboro smoke. Within seconds, this beseiged bridge is armed enough to take out a small warship.
"Drop . . . shields!" the man in the Big Chair commands. The hunched-over man complies.
We hear a noise like that machine that James Gregory used to torment Captain Kirk on Tantalus V, in "Dagger of the Mind." An electric whine of foreboding. Rifle barrels track the noise to its source--anywhere, and everywhere.
"Recharge cycle?" the leader asks after a few moments of tension. 30 seconds, the man at the controls reports.
Suddenly a light appears near the ceiling, as space opens up inside the bridge. A tiny blue wormhole near one of the windows. The sound increases there.
"There!" the leader shouts, pumping in a fiery orange volley of phaser fire into the distortion. It closes a moment later.
But the whirring screech does not abate.
"Time!" Ten seconds. Almost there.
Then several more holes in space appear, each about the size of the first. More phaser fire, and some of the holes close.
But one does not, and a creature looking like a cross between a bat and a barracuda, swims through the air toward a hapless male (resembling Harry Kim) in a gold-shouldered jacket who is looking the other way, firing at one of the other wormholes. He turns toward the skreeching too late.
We get a CreatureCam view of what happens next. Washed out by a golden glow, the distance closes rapidly. Three streaks of light slash across the man's chest. They leave no slash marks, though.
He doesn't even have time to scream. The creature barely touches the young man, but he glows a sickly yellow, and he begins do dessicate before our very eyes. He is a dried-out corpse before he hits the chair, and slumps dowwhere he reclines in death.
The battle takes a dire turn. Everyone ducks and covers, firing almost at random.
There's plenty to take aim at.
The last shot before the cut to black and the opening credits is too more of the creatures, teeth bared, human-like arms extended, eyes blazing with hate, swimming toward the camera like a cross between destroying angels and disgruntled dolphins.
* * *
In Voyager's Astrometrics lab, Captain Janeway views a disturbing transmission with Commander Chakotay and Seven of Nine. The image resolves from static into the sight of a Starfleet Captain, mere phaser in hand (not the rifle we'd last seen him with), firing at some unseen adversary on the bridge of his vessel.
This is Captain Ransom of the Federation Starship Equinox. We're under attack. We need assistance.
The image fades in static. Then it repeats.
This is Captain Ransom of the Federation Starship Equinox. We're under attack. We need assis...
Seeing all there is to see, Janeway nods; Chakotay ends the recorded distress call. "Ransom," Janeway says to herself, dredging up a memory from the time when the Alpha Quadrant was home and not a destination. "He was in command of a science vessel, the Equinox." He still is, it would seem.
"The distress call was transmitted approximately 14 hours ago," Seven reports. Distance? Chakotay asks. 3.2 light-years, Seven responds. Close enough, Janeway thinks, asking for a fix on their location.
"What's it doing in the Delta Quadrant?" Chakotay wonders aloud. Perhaps it's searching for Voyager, Seven suggests, but Janeway shakes her head. "The Equinox is a Nova-class ship. It was designed for planetary research, not long-range tactical missions." Whatever brought it here, whatever it's doing here, it's a long way from home--as Voyager's crew knows all too well.
There is a silver lining: misery loves company. Voyager could always use a traveling companion. And Janeway could certainly use a colleague to commiserate with at those times when none but a fellow Starfleet Captain will do.
Seven pinpoints the current location of the Equinox: "Heading 258-mark-12." Janeway tells Chakotay to do the honors: maximum warp, red alert. Chakotay exits, as Janeway stares at the screen. Hang on, Captain, she mutters, then turns off the Astrometrics screen.
Seven follows Janeway into the corridor, and they walk together. "Do you know this individual?" Seven asks. "Only by reputation," Janeway says. "He was an exo-biologist, promoted to Captain after he made first contact with the Yridians."
Seven is surprised. "Species 6291. The Collective determined that they were extinct."
"So did the Federation," Janeway says, smiling. "Ransom proved otherwise. I always wanted to meet him. Too bad it won't be under better circumstances."
Uh oh. It's the ones "I always wanted to meet" who almost always prompt the most disappointment. But for the moment, Janeway seems eager to unite with another vessel, and provide any assistance necessary.
Seven also anticipates the rendezvous. "I look forward to meeting him as well and his crew. I wish to--expand my knowledge of humanity." Janeway does her best not to be insulted that she and her crew aren't mind-expanding enough for Seven. "Let's hope you get the chance," Janeway says at last, as they continue their leisurely stroll.
Why not run? Well, at 3+ light years away, they have a few hours to kill before the Equinox is within range.
A few hours later, Ensign Paris announces their arrival. "Take us out of warp," Janeway orders. Harry Kim has the Equinox pinpointed a moment later, moving at low impulse a couple thousand kilometers away.
The image is both confusing and discouraging. The shields are lit up like a bug zapper in the rain forest. The vessel itself is listing, hobbling through space.
"They are heavily damaged. Multiple hull breaches. Warp drive is off-line," Tuvok reports.
"What's happening to their shields?" Neelix asks. Torres provides the answer a moment later: "They're being disrupted by some kind of energy surges." Weapons fire? Tom asks, but Tuvok says there are no other ships nearby.
"We're in hailing range," Kim says, and Janeway orders him to open a channel. "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. We're responding to your--"
The voice of Captain Ransom cuts her off. "Voyager! You've got to extend your shields around our ship! Match the emitter frequency!" Janeway asks if he's under attack, but he repeats, "Shields! Quickly!"
You hear the man. "Do it," Janeway orders.
We see Voyager move into position, and for the first time appreciate the relative sizes of the vessels. The Equinox is maybe a quarter Voyager's size, at best. Paris aligns Voyager's flight path, and Tuvok works on matching the emitter frequencies.
While they wait, we hear a whine. Doc catches it first. But then Seven of Nine reports that "interspatial fissures" are opening up on decks ten, six and one. They don't know what they're in for--but we do.
Fortunately, Tuvok gets the shields working before any pissed-off death dolphins have a chance to invade Voyager. A large shield surrounds Voyager and Equinox, and then goes invisible--a sure sign of shield health.
As soon as the shields are in place, the whining tone fades, and at Chakotay's query Seven announces that the fissures are gone.
Janeway hails Ransom. But gets nothing but static for a response. She hands Chakotay the duty of assembling rescue teams and securing Equinox. "Tuvok," she says, heading for the turbolift, "you're with me."
The Equinox looks even worse than it did in the teaser, if you can believe it.
Chakotay, Tom and B'Elanna beam into what may be the engineering section. Nobody is around.
Nobody living, anyway.
Chakotay tells Torres to get power back up; Torres, swallowing down her sense of Juggernaut déjà vu, gets to work.
Meanwhile, Tom finds their first Equinox crewman, who has been quick-dried like a Nazi in one of those Indiana Jones movies after getting on the bad side of the Ark of the Covenant. It doesn't look like a happy way to die.
"Some kind of thermalytic reaction. It's desiccated every cell in that body," Tom says after consulting his tricorder.
Torres has a quick update for Chakotay. "I can't make heads or tails of this injector manifold--and it looks like the dilithium matrix has been completely redesigned." Nitrous Oxide injector ports, a coal-burning furnace, and an intake valve for Flubber™ are just a few of the modifications we see. Do what you can, Chakotay says, and we'll try to rustle up a non-dehydrated Engineer.
The team goes its separate ways. Chakotay is the first to find a living crewman--an attractive but scared-witless blonde cowering behind several hundred kilos of heavy debris, falls under the harsh glare of his wrist-worn flashlight.
"Hang on," he tells the crewman. After casting aside enough of the debris to reach her, he holds out his hand. "I'm Commander Chakotay, U.S.S. Voyager."
She stares at him, confusion warring with the more familiar shock. "But...But we're the only humans in the Delta Quadrant!"
"That's what we used to think," Chakotay says kindly. His hand reaches again. "Come on."
Meanwhile, Harry Kim finds another crewman, a tall, dark fellow in a world of hurt--and under a ton or two of heavy metal.
"Hang on. We're getting you out of here," Harry assures him.
"I don't believe we've met," the fallen man mutters, weakly but not ungratefully.
"Ensign Kim...And this is Seven of Nine," Harry says, indicating the burgundy-attired Borg.
Putting his hand on Seven of Nine's shoulder (Harry, are you sure that's her shoulder?), Harry instructs Seven to talk to the fallen man while he gets the equipment needed to cut the man free. Keep him calm, Harry instructs.
Seven crouches down beside the man's face. "State your name," she orders cordially. "Lessing. Noah," Lessing says. "What are you doing on this side of the galaxy?"
"The answer is…complicated," Seven says.
"Do me a favor? See if my legs are still there. I haven't felt them in two days." Sympathetically, Seven complies, looking over to where Harry is working on the pinioning bulkhead with a plasma torch. She sees two legs on the other side. They're not pointed in freakish Joe Theisman directions, so she tells the man that (I apologize in advance) Lessing is more. He thanks her for that.
"Seven, give me hand," Harry says. Seven nods. "Do not be frightened," she tells Noah Lessing.
"Too late for that," he admits.
Neelix and his team aren't as lucky as Chakotay and Harry; the Equinox survivor he encounters in the eerie darkness is whacked out of his head, seeing any movement as a threat. Wild-eyed, hair askew, firing at nothing in particular with a hand phaser, the poor guy looks like Howlin' Mad Murdock in one of his madder moments, until sent into a blissful stun nap by a phaser blow to the chest.
Neelix hails Sickbay. "We've found another survivor. His wounds are not serious but he's suffering from psychological distress." Acknowledged, Doc says.
The last two crewmen to be found are on the bridge, by Janeway and Tuvok. After meeting the crewman we saw desiccated in the teaser, they encounter the still-breathing but too-weak-to-move officer at the control panel. The honor of rescuing the captain falls to…who else?
Janeway moves over to the Big Chair. Ransom is slumped in it, unconscious, bleeding profusely from a cut on his forehead. She wakes him with a gentle cupping of his cheek.
He speaks before opening his eyes. "My crew," he whispers groggily.
"You took heavy casualties. We're treating the survivors. Who attacked you?"
"We don't know. We can't communicate with them. They've been attacking us for weeks." His breath rattles in his chest; Janeway urges him to stay calm.
"I've got to secure the ship," Ransom protests. "Leave that to us," Janeway urges soothingly, putting a cortical stimulator (or something) on his neck. He rips it off weakly. "No. Treat me here. I'm not leaving my bridge." When he's not yelling, Ransom sounds a lot like Martin Sheen.
Janeway's voice gets appropriately stern. "I can't pull rank on you, Captain, but you're in no condition to put up a fight." We see the tension leave Ransom's shoulders ever so slightly.
"So...How's Earth?" he whispers. Janeway smiles mirthlessly. "I wish I could say." Ransom is surprised. "You weren't sent here to find us?"
"I'm afraid not. We've been stranded in the Delta Quadrant for five years. We were pulled here against our will by an alien called--"
"The Caretaker," they say in unison, and their eyes widen together as understanding dawns for both.
"We'll compare notes later on," Janeway says. "Let's get you to Voyager."
* * *
Voyager and Equinox travel together. Their shields are invisible, which we can assumes mean they're working.
The Mess Hall is crowded. All chairs are put away. On one side of the room stand a half dozen members of the Equinox crew. On the other, a much larger contingent of Voyager crew.
Captain Ransom is speaking with that measured, throaty rasp that Martin Sheen made famous. "We're here to commemorate our honored dead--Lieutenant William Yates, Lieutenant John Bowler, Ensign Dorothy Chang, Ensign Edward Regis, Ensign 'Oh my gosh, they killed' Kenny, and Crewman David Amantes--who all served with distinction. Their bravery and sacrifice will not be forgotten. They will be missed."
Ransom gives a tired smile. "But now there is cause for optimism. Captain Janeway, Voyager...on behalf of my crew...Thank you."
Janeway gives Ransom and his crew (hell, it's hardly a carpool, let alone a crew) a warm return smile. "We'll have time to give the newest members of our family a proper welcome in the days ahead. But right now, we've got our hands full."
Mayor Janeway handles the duty assignments. "The Equinox is secure, but its primary systems are still badly damaged. Harry, B'Elanna, make it your priority." They nod. "Captain Ransom has provided us with data regarding the alien attacks. Tuvok, Seven, you'll be working with first officer Maxwell Burke." The guy who'd been working the controls in the teaser, now looking a good deal healthier--and cockier--waves for the fans back home.
Captain Janeway looks around the room. "To kindred spirits...may our journey home together be swift. Dismissed."
The two groups begin to mingle. Tuvok and Seven approach First Officer Burke. "We should begin by familiarizing you with Voyager's defenses," Tuvok says.
Burke's attention, however, is elsewhere. (WARNING THIS IS A PLOT COMPLICATION WARNING THIS IS A PLOT COMPLICATION) "Can you give me a minute?" he asks, putting up a hand. "There's someone I'd like to say hello to first."
"We'll be in the Astrometrics lab--Deck eight, Section 29," Seven tells him. See you there, he promises.
Burke makes a beeline for the trio of Harry Kim, B'Elanna Torres, and Tom Paris. "B.L.T.," he says warmly.
B'Elanna--whose hair, it must be said, is now a lot darker than it's been most of the season, and a good deal wavier--grins playfully, causing Tom Paris to cross his arms in a fit of passive-aggressive jealousy. Harry just smiles wickedly, happy for the opportunity to be on hand for the first bit of juicy new gossip.
"Max..." Torres says, beaming. "I tried to say hello in Sickbay but you were sedated."
"I remember. I thought I was dreaming." Oh, you smooth-talker. They hug, as Tom rolls his eyes. "So," Max says mock-accusingly, "Where's my sweater? The blue one? Class insignia on the back?" Each new hint turns Tom Paris one more shade of red.
B'Elanna explains to Tom that she and "Max" went to the Academy together. This is clearly an understatement.
"Ah," says Tom.
Maxwell Burke introduces himself and shakes hands first with Tom, then with Harry. "Welcome aboard," Harry says, and Tom (pointedly) doesn't.
B'Elanna licks her lips tauntingly. "First officer--impressive. The last time we talked you were about to drop out of Starfleet." Ooh--a story might be there somewhere.
Of course, we might have to wait until next season to hear it . . .
"I heard you beat me to it--the Maquis?"
"For a while." Then she laughs awkwardly. "Until I ran into these two." She pats Tom and Harry on the shoulder.
Tom Paris laughs with melodramatic exaggeration. "Ha HAAaaaAAAAaaaand it's been hell ever since," Tom says. B'Elanna seems to be in such a good mood that she doesn't even glare at Tom before tossing puppy eyes back at Max.
(Down, Rosie! Bad Parisite! Put that cruise missile away!)
Surprisingly, Burke doesn't react the way most traditional Starfleet types do at the accursed name of Tom "Caldik Prime" Paris. In fact, he asks for Helm Boy's autograph. Hmm.
Feeling the love in the room, Burke nevertheless has to see a Vulcan about a Borg. "Well, I told your resident Vulcan I'd be right with him. Are you free later? I'd love to catch up." Tom does a smart-aleck seethe. Torres has an idea: "Why don't we all have dinner together?" Burke likes the sound of that, and exits.
Tom looks at B'Elanna with that Goldfish Gape he has made famous, the "if I say what I'm thinking, I'll be dating the Holodeck for a month" look. So he settles for an arms-crossed question. "'B.L.T.'?"
Torres revels in the ancient, private joke. "'Bacon, Lettuce and Tomato'--it was a nickname." Nickname? Tom asks. "My initials." (What does the L stand for? Luuuuvvvv...)
Tom snorts. "Oh...How romantic." Torres is in too good a mood. She shares a smirk with Harry, who also seems to be enjoying Tom's discomfiture. "We broke up over ten years ago," she reminds him. "No need to go to red alert."
"How about yellow alert?"
B'Elanna just smiles. "You're cute when you're jealous."
"Who's jealous?" Tom demands unconvincingly. See you on the Equinox, she says, and leaves Tom gaping like a guppy.
Harry's eyes dance. "Well, Turkey Platter, what do you say we go to work?" Uh oh--food names. I might not be able to resist the temptation . . .
Clapping Tom on the elbow (sick, Harry!) in a sympathetic "sucks to be you" gesture, Hot Kimchi leaves Turkey Platter to simmer in his own juices.
"Who's jealous?!" Tom repeats too loudly, to nobody in particular.
Chipotle--Chakotay--strides through the corridor. He is joined by the blonde he rescued--the credits list her as Gilmore, though they haven't told us that yet, and won't for a while.
"Commander? Um...I've been assigned to one of the repair crews on the Equinox...And I was wondering if I could join a different team...Maybe one on Voyager." She has a haunted look. Problem? He asks. "Just a little post-traumatic stress syndrome," she confesses.
"Bad memories," he says, sympathetically. A few, she admits.
"Actually, I could use someone with your engineering abilities." Yeah; it's not like he's got a knockout former Borg not even in the chain of command or a helmsman/medic/engineering prodigy Ensign to upstage his half-Klingon chief engineer. He needs a leggy blonde with hair down to Antarctica to go with her engineering expertise to give Torres yet one more reason to hate the entire universe.
On the other hand, it'll free B'Elanna up to make goo-goo eyes at her old flame. Sometimes you have to make compromises.
But I digress.
Chakotay says Sure, Why Not. Gilmore thanks him, and praises Voyager's state of non-destroyedness. "Such a clean ship. I'm used to falling bulkheads and missing deck plates." Chakotay promises her that their vessel will be spit-shined and good as new within weeks, thanks to the miracle of weekly television and a few off-camera Q Continuum makeovers. (Janeway still baby-sits her Q Godchild from time to time.) "You'll be happy to go back," he assures her.
"Unless I stay," Gilmore suggests timidly. Chakotay looks at her, and she shrugs. "You said you could use someone with my engineering abilities."
It's easy to sympathize with her, but I'm sure Chakotay knows the potential pitfalls here. He was in a similar situation himself--of course, he made the question moot by smashing his Maquis ship into a Kazon vessel. "I don't think your Captain would appreciate that. He's got a skeleton crew as it is."
They reach a turbolift, and Chakotay enters. Gilmore does not, looking at it warily.
Chakotay can't help but notice. "Engineering's five decks down. It's a long crawl through the Jefferies tubes." Eventually, she steps in, sure it will be the death of her. Deck 11, Chakotay calls out, and the descent begins.
"I haven't set foot in a turbolift in over three months," she confesses, still looking around uncertainly. Claustrophobia? He asks. She shakes her head. "If one of those fissures opened up in here where would we take cover?"
She hears a mechanical whine and gasps. "It's only a graviton relay--nothing to worry about," he assures her. But that sound will haunt her dreams and every waking moment--the harbinger of danger.
Finally, she can stand it no longer. "Emergency stop!" Gilmore calls out, and sprints from the turbolift before the doors have finished opening. Not even three steps, and she's hyperventilating. Chakotay follows, concern lining his forehead.
"Um, if you don't mind I think I'd rather take the Jefferies tube," she says.
"I could use the exercise," he says, understanding.
In Astrometrics, we see Tamale (Tuvok), Side of Noodles (Seven of Nine), Kava Java (Kathryn Janeway), Milk Bone (Max Burke, the lucky dog), and Captain Ransom (food to be named later). They are staring at the big screen, which shows Voyager's shields.
It glows in spots. Uh oh.
"I've run a thermographic analysis of our shields. It revealed multiple stress points," Seven says. "We believe they're the result of alien attempts to infiltrate our vessels."
"Each time a fissure opens within a meter of our shields it weakens them by 0.3%." Janeway says they have less than two days to find a way to defend themselves against the encroachment.
"According to your bio-scans," Seven says, "the aliens can survive in our realm for only several seconds."
"They're like fish out of water," Ransom says, and from what we've seen so far, that seems an appropriate description, "but they can do a lot of damage in those seconds."
"Nevertheless, it is a tactical weakness. Perhaps we can exploit it," Tuvok says.
"What have you got in mind?" Burke asks, arms folded. Seven explains. "If we can show them we have the ability to hold them here they'll think twice before launching another attack."
"But the question is, how do we catch these fish?" Janeway asks Seven.
Ransom says nothing. Burke looks at his captain, who silently suggests he keep quiet, but Burke speaks up anyway. (Hmmm…) "You build a net," Burke volunteers. Janeway and Seven look at him questioningly, so he continues. "A multiphasic force field to be exact. We wanted to see what we were up against so we built a small chamber that could keep one of them trapped for several minutes."
Janeway's eyes light up. "If we could expand on that technology, we might be able to create a lattice work of multiphasic force fields around both ships." With a quintet of such devices, they could call it Babble-on Five . . .
Burke looks to Captain Ransom. "Rudy?" (Rudy Ransom? There's a comic book waiting to happen . . .Call him Rocky Road.) Not looking thrilled with the idea, Ransom leaves it up to Janeway.
As if it's even a question. "We'll need to examine that stasis chamber," Janeway says. Burke is about to speak, but Ransom cuts him off. "I'm afraid that won't be possible. It's in our research lab. That whole section was flooded with thermionic radiation during the last attack. It'll be days before anyone can go in there."
Burke bites his lip, then adds, "The design schematics are in our auxiliary datacore."
"I'll see if I can download them," Ransom says. "Give me a hand?" he asks.
With a coquettish smile, Janeway inclines her head at her fellow captain, and leads the way out the door, as Burke, Seven and Tuvok continue their work.
The Equinox is swarming with activity. The smoke has cleared, and there is actual cleanup going on all about them. The healing of the Equinox has begun.
Inevitably, the two long-alone captains begin to compare notes.
"I couldn't help but notice your crew calls you by your first name," Kathy (doesn't sound quite right, does it?) says to Rudy.
Ransom's lips tighten. "When you've been in the trenches as long as we have, rank and protocol are luxuries. Besides, we're a long way from Starfleet Command." I know the feeling, Janeway confesses.
"You seem to run a pretty tight ship," Ransom notes. Janeway chuckles in her own defense. "We've been known to let our hair down from time to time. But I find that maintaining protocol reminds us of where we came from--and hopefully, where we're going."
"It seems to work quite well for you," Ransom says with more than a trace of admiration, and perhaps some envy. Whatever the past five years have been to both crews, it's clear that Voyager is in far better shape at the moment.
Janeway says it hasn't all been Guns and Rosies [sic]. "Oh, we've overcome our share of obstacles--warp core breaches, ion storms, a few rounds with the Borg--"
"The Borg?" Ransom says, impressed, and not quite as envious as he had been. "We haven't seen so much as a cube since the day we arrived."
"Consider yourself lucky," Janeway says.
Ransom's face clouds. "Have you ever run into the Krowtonan guard?" Never heard of them, Janeway admits. "That's how we spent our first week in the Delta Quadrant. They claimed we violated their territory. I gave the order to keep going. I lost 39. Half my crew." At this point, there aren't very many left. I think the whole Equinox crew could fit inside a Plymouth Voyager with room to spare.
Janeway doesn't mention her own first two years with the Kazon, Vidiians, et al. This is no time for one-upsmanship. "I'm sorry," she says simply.
"We never recovered from that loss. It changed everything," Ransom confesses. What do you mean? Janeway asks.
"When I first realized that we'd be traveling across the Delta Quadrant for the rest of our lives I told my crew that we had a duty as Starfleet officers to expand our knowledge and uphold our principles." His lips are tight, bloodless. "After a couple of years, we started to forget that we were explorers…and there were times when we nearly forgot that we were human beings." The horror . . . the horror . . .
Ransom's body language screams I've Got a Secret, but Janeway does not press. Instead, Janeway does her best to buck up her less fortunate colleague. "This is a Nova-class science vessel designed for short-term research missions--minimal weapons. It can't even go faster than warp eight! Frankly, I don't know how you've done it. You've obviously traveled as far as we have with much fewer resources."
Ransom smiles now, but there are clouds behind that pewter lining. "I wish that I could take all the credit, but we stumbled across a wormhole--and made a few enhancements on our warp engines."
Ransom hesitates, doesn't look at Janeway. "I'd like to ask you something, Captain to Captain." Janeway suspects she knows: Mm-hmm, she says, turning away herself.
"The Prime Directive--how often have you broken it for the sake of protecting your crew?" Interesting choice of words, that.
"Broken it?" Janeway asks. "Never. Bent it on occasion." The enormity of the lie causes the captain's nose to grow, her pants to blaze…and her approval ratings to inexplicably skyrocket. (For those playing the home game, Janeway is the freakin' M.C. Escher of the Prime Directive.) And until now, she hasn't had any admirals, commodores or fellow captains to say different.
But if Janeway wants to float down the river Denial, that's her prerogative. "And even then, it was a difficult choice," she concludes. "What about you?" she asks, finally meeting his gaze again.
Ransom smiles gamely. "I've walked the line once or twice...but nothing serious." Abruptly ending the subject, he casts his eyes floorward, and something catches his eye. He picks up the item and dusts it off. "There you are . . ." It is the bronze wall plaque, tarnished but not irreparably so, declaring the vessel as the USS Equinox.
Janeway smiles. "It's a good omen. Let's put it back where it belongs." Ransom smiles as well.
In the Mess Hall, the seats and tables are back, but it's serve-yourself hour, and there aren't that many around. Captain Ransom enters, sees his first officer dining alone, and heads over. "I thought I'd find you here," he says, leaning in close so only Burke can hear, not bothering to sit down.
"How could I resist after two years on emergency rations?" Burke asks between mouthfuls of chow. Neelix is busily whipping up another batch of waffles with Leola Root compote, thrilled that some Alpha Quadrant people appreciate traditional Talaxian cuisine.
"Don't get too comfortable," Ransom says sadly. He emits a soft sigh. "If Janeway's any indication, these people will never understand."
"They're going to find out eventually," Burke whispers.
Ransom's tone is decidedly conspiratorial. "Not if we keep them out of the research lab, and away from the warp core injectors. And be careful what you say around their crew--and that includes old girlfriends."
"Understood," Burke says, regretfully but without hesitation.
Ransom grabs a bite off of Burke's plate, pops it in his mouth. "Mm...Not bad." And with that, Ransom leaves Burke to his meal.
It no longer tastes so good.
* * *
The last time we saw Noah Lessing, he was fretting about his legs. We now see him walking into Astrometrics under his own power. "How's my angel of mercy?" he asks Seven of Nine.
"Crewman Lessing," says Seven, surprised. Tall, dark and handsome, he's almost enough to make her forget the operatic, bald and snappish E.M.H. "I didn't expect you to recover so quickly." Apparently Lessing won't be forgetting Doc anytime soon, either. "You have an outstanding E.M.H. Ours can barely hold a laser scalpel."
"The Doctor is efficient," Seven says wistfully. Damn that gambling helmsman for ruining a good thing!
"I've been assigned to help you sort through our biodata," Lessing tells her, pouring on the not-inconsiderable charm. "You saved my life. The least I can do is save you a little time."
Their work is cut short when a now-familiar whine pierces the standard ship noise.
Ooh, Barracuda . . .
Tuvok, Chakotay and Kim are together on the bridge when they hear the interspatial klaxon. "Lateral shields are off-line," Tuvok says.
"How's that possible?" Chakotay demands.
"Fissures are opening on decks one, eight and eleven!" Harry barks. Reroute power! Chakotay orders.
That did the trick. The noise subsides; the danger passes. For now.
"What happened?" Harry asks.
"Apparently, the aliens began to focus their attacks on a single shield vector," Tuvok says after a cursory analysis. "It collapsed before the auxiliary emitters could respond."
"It looks like they've changed their tactics," Chakotay mutters. "We may have less time than we thought."
A short while later, Seven and Tuvok present their findings to Janeway and Chakotay, and Gilmore and Ransom and Burke, in Janeway's ready room.
"We've examined the schematics of your multiphasic chamber. It can be adapted," Seven says. "We intend to create an auto-initiating security grid."
"The moment an alien invades either ship a force field will surround it," Tuvok adds. Seven concludes: "Once we modify our field generators to emit multiphasic frequencies it will power the security grids on both ships."
In short, this wonder-device, vaguely weapon-shaped, will spell the difference between a fatal-flounder-free existence and a world of hurt. Janeway asks how long until they'll have it ready. Fourteen hours, Tuvok says.
"We don't know when they'll break through again," says the ever-skittish Gilmore. "We may not last that long."
A brief battle of wills ensues. Chakotay suggests they all congregate on a single ship; it'll cut their prep time in half. But Ransom and his people rebel against any thought of leaving their ship behind. There are practical reasons--two ships can cover a good deal more area, which would increase their chances of getting home, and could come in handy (once Equinox is put back together) if they're ever confronted by more Delta Quadrant do-badders. It was hard enough to merge in Chakotay and the Maquis; after five years by themselves, the Equinox crew is likely not housebroken anymore.
And Ransom seems a bit more hardheaded than Chakotay. We know the drill: when it comes to dealing with Janeway, you either conform or you die. Even the Borg have a healthy appreciation for the auburn java-powered force of nature.
Ransom doesn't know it yet. But it's not hard to see the showdown coming, and soon. He doesn't want to give up his ship. He tries to argue the "who's really in charge?" line, but Janeway has already consulted the rulebooks, and has memorized the one that says "I win." (It's a Darwinian protocol: in war, the ship that can kick the most hiney is in charge. This would explain how Captain Picard got to take over when Enterprise-E charged in against the Borg during First Contact. When you're flying Brute Force One, you call the shots.)
When the law doesn't favor you, decides Ransom, argue the law. "it wasn't written for the Delta Quadrant," he suggests. Janeway just stares back--the protocol stands. Whether it's the rule of law, or the law of the jungle, Janeway's ship still wins.
If they really wanted to let push come to shove, they're all on Voyager now. A few phone calls, a couple of well-pressed buttons, and Equinox is carved up for spare parts. Ransom smiles with effort. "Who am I to dispute protocol? Give Captain Janeway your full cooperation," he tells Max Burke.
Burke, arms folded, doesn't like it. "Rudy..."
"Max, that's an order." Burke does his best not to laugh; he likely hasn't heard Ransom give a Starfleet-style order in years. "We'll get through this," Ransom tells him.
Ransom gives Janeway an ingratiating smile. "If that's all, Captain I'd like to return to my quarters and collect a few mementos." Look out, Kathryn--he's got The Freshmaker! (do do do DOO do doo--hoo-waaaaah…)
Janeway is magnanimous in crushing victory. "By all means," she says.
Max Burke heads to Engineering. Finding it unforgivably empty, he proceeds to give them a lesson in security mindedness by robbing Voyager blind. Particularly, he steals the schematics for Seven's latest flounder-foiling invention. He types up the data he wants, enters the commands into a tricorder, and begins an unauthorized download.
B'Elanna chooses that moment to walk in. Far from being angry, she looks ready to flirt. "Intruder alert. Same old Max, going through my things. That is a command station. It's off-limits without my direct authorization."
You'd think she'd be upset about such an intrusion. But she still owes him a sweater. It's only fair, I suppose.
Burke pleads ignorance. "I didn't realize. You going to throw me in the brig?"
B'Elanna just smiles. "I think we can overlook this infraction. Can I help you with something?"
"Just doing some homework, studying your propulsion system," Max lies. "If there's a chance I'm going to be stuck on Voyager I figured I better learn my way around." He gives her a wolfish grin. "Maybe you could tutor me--over dinner?"
B'Elanna cleans her teeth with her tongue in slow motion. The vixen. "The problem is, you were never really interested in the work...or the meal." I'm sure Tom would love to hear that. "Something tells me you haven't changed."
"You'd be surprised. I'm not the...What did you once call me?"
B'Elanna blushes. "P'tak," she says, using the Klingon pejorative. He does strike me as the Tesh-loving type, the fiend.
"'P'tak,'" he repeats. "I'm not the p'tak I used to be. Let me prove it to you."
The chemistry between old lovers is palpable--lead is being turned into gold, water is transformed into Very Berry Kool-Aid as though by magic, and suddenly everybody does love Raymond.
Even so . . . "Look, Max...don't get me wrong. It's good to see you again, but--ten years..."
Burke doesn't need three guesses to know what's coming. "Tom Paris."
"Tom Paris," she confirms.
Burke smiles gamely. "You could do worse." But if he felt guilty about stealing Torres' secrets before, he has no such compunctions now. He grabs his tricorder and clicks off the display to show what he downloaded.
Nevertheless, Burke makes a parting offer. "So we're still on for dinner? Just the two of us?"
Surprisingly mellow this week--she must have switched to a hemp-based shampoo--B'Elanna doesn't bother to hide her pleasure at being flirted with like this. "Get going... Or I will throw you in the brig." She smiles to let him know she's joking.
And so, First officer Max Burke makes a clean getaway. Torres doesn't even know she's been robbed.
Chakotay pours himself an extra-chunky mug of Neelix's House Blend (for want of a better word) coffee. He and Harry are discussing particulars with Ensign Gilmore. "Before we abandon the Equinox we should try to salvage any useful components. Let's start with your dilithium crystals."
"What we have left of them. I'm afraid we only have a few isograms," Gilmore says.
Harry shivers, not wanting to think about living under such conditions. "That's barely enough to power the sonic showers." They didn't call it the Equinoxious for nothing.
"Can I make a suggestion?" Gilmore asks, and Chakotay has no objection. "Let's forget about the primary systems," she says; "they're too badly damaged. Let's focus on supplies. We picked up a few items I think might come in handy--uh, two kilotons of kemacyte ore, a dozen canisters of mercurium." The latter is especially useful for maintaining that mercurial captainly attitude. Chakotay nods and tells Harry to work with Neelix on clearing out Cargo Bay One.
Gilmore next mentions the synaptic stimulator--a "poor-man's Holodeck," she calls it, a jewel you attach to your neck to see "alien vistas." It sounds more like a drug than a diversion, and is one more reason to both pity and be wary of the Equinox crew. She explains that the Ponea--another species Voyager's crew never met--who throw a party every time they meet someone new.
Gilmore expresses regret that more species in the Delta Quadrant aren't more like the Ponea. I doubt she'll get much argument from Voyager's crew on that point. "You're the first friendly faces we've seen in months. I'm glad we found you," she tells Chakotay and Harry sincerely.
"The feeling's mutual," Chakotay says.
Chakotay asks about Equinox's modified plasma injectors; Gilmore does her best to change the subject, discouraging them from even considering a look at their engine stuff with a dismissive "it doesn't work."
At this point, Naomi Wildman appears for the express purpose of looking and acting cute and giving Gilmore yet another reason to like Voyager more than Equinox. As official Captain's Assistant, Naomi welcomes Gilmore aboard Voyager. She is genuinely touched, and Harry and Chakotay smile warmly at the precocious Official One-and-Only Voyager Youngster. (yep, five years later, there's still only one kid--conceived BEFORE the events of "Caretaker." I find that--pardon the expression--inconceivable.) Gilmore is reminded of her nephew back on Earth, which gets her thinking hard about home, which is still a good 35,000 light years away (the new official total).
Her reverie is interrupted by a call from Captain Ransom. She has been summoned. She takes off, leaving Chakotay and Harry to get ready to absorb whatever's worth taking from Equinox.
The crew of Equinox--all of them?--assemble on their own bridge. It's looking a tad more presentable at the moment, but not much. But the computers seem to be working.
We see the seven of Nine All-porpoise Alternate Universe Shark Repellent device. "Once we take their field generator we'll part company," Commander Burke explains.
"What happens to Voyager?" Ensign Gilmore asks.
"They have weapons, shields, a full crew. They'll survive," Burke says.
Lessing, like Gilmore, seems averse to this underhanded move. "Maybe we should abandon ship--try to forget everything that's happened here."
Though Ransom has not impressed us much as a captain so far, he does show a remarkable capacity to lead as a cult figure or gang leader. "A shower and a hot meal. I guess that's all it takes for some of us to forget what's at stake here." His words shame his crew.
"We're. Going. Home," Ransom says deliberately. "We can't let Voyager stop us now--not when we're this close." The thought of getting home--sooner rather than later--seems to trump all other arguments. "Now, we're proceeding as planned. Are there any other objections? I need each and every one of you to give me your very best...As you always have."
First the fiery lightning--then the velvet fog. (Rest in Peace, Mel Torme. I'll miss you.)
All hands seem to concur. They're with Rudy Ransom all the way, whatever their reservations.
That decided, Rudy hands off to Max. "This won't be easy. The generator is located on Deck 11, next to the warp plasma manifold. We can't get a clean lock without boosting the signal. Marla," he says to Gilmore, "we need you to set aside your claustrophobia and crawl through the access port and set up the transport enhancers." Gilmore swallows hard, but doesn't object. Understood, she says.
"We'll have to take the internal sensors in that section off-line. Noah, you're elected," Burke says. Lessing hesitates, then nods. "You can count on me, sir." Burke says he will disengage the power couplings from Engineering.
Practically sneering, Ransom looks at his crew. "You'll all have time for one last shower. Make the most of it."
At this point, we know the Equinox crew is hiding something. But we don't know what it is.
We're about to find out.
In Astrometrics, Seven of Nine reports a minor fluctuation in the security grid. Tuvok says it's within tolerance, and his tone indicates his clear disinterest.
But Seven is dedicated to perfection. "I believe I can correct it." A moment later, she has her answer. "The discrepancy is in the Equinox research lab." Ah, the heart of darkness, the one Ransom and crew have been diverting Team Janeway away from since their first contact. "If we can determine the exact frequency of their multiphasic chamber I will tune our field generator to match it."
Tuvok scolds her out of long habit. "There are times when perfection hinders efficiency," he notes dryly.
Seven ignores him and continues her analysis. "This is odd. The lab is still permeated with high levels of thermionic radiation."
This catches Tuvok's attention. "It should have dissipated by now."
Seven doesn't gloat. "I believe I have an explanation--three E.P.S. conduits have been rerouted to the lab. It appears they are emitting the radiation."
Time to consult with the captain. Kate loves a mystery . . .
[What can I say? It's season's end, and I've got a huge inventory of clichés to clear out.]
"The lab was contaminated intentionally," Tuvok concludes in Janeway's ready room. Seven is the only other person in the room.
"Any theories?" Janeway asks, not liking the ones that come to her mind.
"Only one--Ransom doesn't want us to enter the research lab," Tuvok says.
Janeway frowns. "He has been adamant about protecting his ship. I thought it was simply a Captain's pride." She sets her jaw. "I want to take a closer look at that lab. If we close off those E.P.S. conduits, how long will it take to vent the radiation?"
Several hours, Seven says; Janeway's not that patient. "Send the Doctor. He'll be immune to its effects. Tell him to look for anything out of the ordinary. Monitor his progress from Astrometrics."
"Shall I notify Captain Ransom?" Tuvok asks.
"Not yet," Janeway says softly. "I want to wait until we test your theory."
Seven and Tuvok leave the ready room; alone, Janeway looks pensive.
Five years it takes her to find another Starfleet captain; just her luck to run into one she finds less trustworthy by the moment.
The lab is dark, with the low flickering of Sickbay-like wall panels the only, intermittent illumination.
Doc beams in, and his wrist flashlight is instantly on. "I'm in," he reports.
Sweeping the room, Doc soon finds something interesting and walks over to investigate.
It's interesting, all right. Or horrifying, depending on your perspective.
One of those death-touch barracuda creatures, thoroughly dead, is strapped into a device.
However it died, it wasn't pretty.
The revealed crimes of the Equinox continue to mount.
Perhaps they should have named the character after the actor. Captain Savage has an appropriate ring to it.
* * *
Doc gives Tuvok and Seven a live update. As he tours the inside of this interspatial alien charnel house, his revulsion grows.
The upshot: the crew of Equinox figured out a way to take those wormhole-opening death dolphins and hook them up to the engines like Duracell Sushi. Doc finds the remains of several of the alien creatures in various stages of decomposition, or as Ransom's Boys might prefer to call it, "matter conversion."
From an engineering standpoint, you gotta give them credit for ingenuity. Those flying electric eels From a medical standpoint, you half expect the Equinox to be awarded the Crell Moset Memorial prize for ethical triangulation. If one could invent an engine that got 800 miles per dose of fuel, but that fuel happens to be live puppies, I imagine most folks would have a problem with that.
You just don't go around rendering Lassie into premium unleaded for a few extra miles per gallon. (Yorkies are another matter, but they are the exception that proves the rule.) Just a guess, but once Doc's report reaches the captain, the Equinox crew will be high on her Dookie List.
Burke and Ransom stroll through Voyager's corridors. An attractive, tall brunette walks by, giving Burke an appraising--and approving--glance.
Burke returns it. "I'm going to miss this ship," he confesses.
"Once we get back to Earth, there'll be plenty of women," Ransom reminds him. "Status?"
"Ready on all fronts," Max Burke says quietly. "The transport enhancers are in place and Noah's created a subroutine to mask Voyager's internal sensors."
"Power couplings?" Ransom asks. Burke smiles. "Bypass controls have been routed to our bridge. All you need to do is say 'energize.'" Their escape route is now in place.
"Janeway wants to bring on the security grid at 1900 hours. We'll have to act before then," Ransom instructs. "Tell the others to be prepared to--"
The turbolift the two were heading for opens up, and two burly security officers emerge, looking at Ransom and Burke like the enemy.
"Max. The transporter room's not far from here. Keep moving," Ransom orders.
They turn around--and run smack into Tuvok and more "gimme an excuse to render your sorry butts into stereo components" security drones.
Weapon leveled, Tuvok greets them cordially. "Captain Janeway wishes to speak with you."
Well, If you put it that way . . .
If Ransom thought the alien creatures were hard-core, he's never seen Janeway in a bad mood. One suspects he'd prefer the creatures.
"The alien compound. Ten isograms," Janeway says with a voice chilly enough to hang meat in the ready room. (Memo to Neelix . . .) "If I understand your calculations, that's enough to increase your warp factor by what? .03% for one month?" That's it? Yeesh; that's not much. Surely not enough to cut the distance they have in the time they've been in this part of space.
"Unfortunately," Janeway continues, "that boost wouldn't get you very far. So you'd need to replenish the supply...and that means killing another life-form...and then another. How many lives would it take to get you back to the Alpha Quadrant?"
Janeway glares at Captain Ransom. "I think you know the reason we're under attack. These aliens are trying to protect themselves--from you."
The deception discovered, Ransom doesn't bother to lie any more. "63. That's how many more it will take." He bites his lower lip, extends his closed-palm thumb in supplication. "Every time I sacrificed one of those lives, a part of me is lost as well." Small tense-reconciliation issue, but I guess it's legally accurate.
Janeway's gaze chills the briefing room still further. "I might believe that if I hadn't examined your research. These experiments were meticulous and they were brutal." Her contempt for Ransom and his people is evident. "If you'd felt any remorse, you'd never have continued."
Lose the moral ground, defend your actions on the rulebook. "Starfleet regulation Three, Paragraph 12," Ransom quotes: "'In the event of imminent destruction, a Captain is authorized to preserve the lives of his crew by any justifiable means.'"
"I doubt that protocol covers mass murder," Janeway remarks stonily.
"In my judgment," Ransom shoots back, "it did."
"UNackSEPTable," Janeway says as only she can.
But Ransom doesn't back down. "We had nothing. My ship was in pieces. Our dilithium was gone. We were running on thrusters. We hadn't eaten in sixteen days." That's downright Donner Party conditions, he argues. "We had just enough power to enter orbit of an M-class planet. And lucky for us, the inhabitants were generous."
Flashback time. Ransom's voice takes on a voiceover quality. We see a campfire, with very alien creatures roasting up some s'mores and telling scary Y2K stories about COBOL code with two-digit year hooks for dates. (Gasp!)
"They were called the Ankari," Ransom explains. "They provided us with a meal, a few supplies, some dilithium crystals. They even performed one of their sacred rituals to invoke spirits of good fortune from another realm to bless our journey."
We see what looks like a miniature pipe organ that glows. When used, a wormhole opens in the skies. An alien, looking pretty darned peaceful, frolicking in midair, posing for the ground-dwelling yokels before swimming back through the mini-wormhole.
Max Burke, being the inquisitive type, whips out his tricorder while the fishlike creature performs for the adoring Ankari and their human guests. His eyes widen when he sees what the alien is made of.
"But these weren't spirits," Ransom continues in voiceover. "They were nucleogenic life-forms. Our scans revealed that they were emitting high levels of antimatter." (And they're good eatin' if you cook 'em right. I can easily picture Neelix whipping up a batch of Rodeo Red's Rootin' Tootin' Napalm Pootin' Antimatter Chili with fillet of spatial-rift scrod. Hook the Bolian lavatories up to the dilithium matrix after a meal like that, and Voyager would leave skid marks in space on their way back to Earth.)
I guess the question is, are these aliens dolphins--or tuna? If dolphins, Janeway's concern is well placed. But if they're tuna, screw 'em--tuna's tasty. Break out the nets and the marinade.
But, knowing Star Trek, they're doubtless dolphins who it would be wrong to kill and strip for parts.
But I digress.
Ransom continues. "Later the same night we managed to obtain one of the summoning devices in exchange for a Starfleet widget." (Trading technology? Shocking. Janeway would never do that . . .) "We constructed a containment field that would prevent the life-form from vanishing so quickly. But something went wrong."
We get another flashback, and see what goes wrong. The alien doesn't at all like being contained, and it begins to throw itself against the force field like a moth to a flame. It has little room to maneuver, and it ricochets around the force field walls like a CGI pinball. Within seconds, the sacred antimatter angel is a corpse.
"We tried to send it back," Ransom assures Janeway, and what we see seems to bear that out--assuming he's telling her the truth. "But it was too late. We examined the remains and discovered it could be converted to enhance our propulsion systems." We see the regret on the faces of Ransom and Burke in that long-ago flashback. Ransom, who rediscovered the legendary Yridians, an exo-biologist tasked to seek out new life, instead begins a long, addictive habit of hunting that new life for his own use.
"It was already dead," Ransom says passionately. "What would you have done? We traveled over 10,000 light-years in less than two weeks. We'd found our salvation. How could we ignore it?" (a ship that can't go faster than warp 8, with a 0.03% increase in warp speed, can suddenly move at the sort of clip it normally takes Borg Transwarp to accomplish? I suspect some techno-fudging here . . .)
Janeway is unmoved. "By adhering to the oath you took as Starfleet officers--to seek out life...not destroy it." Janeway's own tone is that of judge, jury, and executioner. It is a role she rarely shies away from.
Ransom gets defensive. "It's easy to cling to principles when you're standing on a vessel with its bulkheads intact, manned by a crew that's not starving."
Janeway has seen her share of privation, even starvation. "It's never easy, but, if we turn our backs on our principles, we stop being human." Janeway's next statement is the very judgment of the Almighty. "I'm putting an end to your experiments and you are hereby relieved of your command. You and your crew will be confined to quarters."
"Please, show them leniency," Ransom asks (it wouldn't do to beg). "They were only following my orders."
"Their mistake." Her every syllable is a bludgeon, her decision without hope for appeal.
Two guards flank Ransom. He gets the picture. Rising, he heads for the door. Then he stops and looks around. "It's a long way home, Captain." With that barely-veiled threat left hanging, Ransom exits under guard.
Shaking her head sadly, Janeway goes out the other door, onto the bridge.
"Doctor," she says to Doc, standing next to Seven of Nine, "return to their research lab and retrieve all the data you can locate on the aliens. I want to find a way to communicate with them." Aye, Captain, Doc says.
"Go to their engine room," she tells Seven. "Take those warp core modifications off-line." Seven nods and heads for the turbolift.
"Captain?" Chakotay asks.
"Let's try to make first contact the right way," Janeway explains to nobody in particular.
[Removed Scene: Usual Disclaimers Apply]
Ensign Marla Gilmore is given an "honor" guard to her confinement quarters. Commander Chakotay accompanies her as well.
"What's gonna happen to us?" Gilmore asks.
"That's up to Captain Janeway," Chakotay says. "You'll be confined to quarters until we can find a way to make peace with these life forms you've been killing. If it's not too late."
Gilmore gives a pained look. "To be honest, I'm glad you stopped us. Living the rest of my life knowing what we've done--"
"You could have stopped yourself! Why didn't you?"
"I don' t know," Gilmore says. "When the Captain ordered me to modify the warp core, I concentrated on the work. I tried not to think about how it was going to be used."
"Well, think about it now," Chakotay says, "because we need your help."
They make a slight detour. Astrometrics. Gilmore is confused when the door slides open. "Commander?" she asks. "After you," he says--and doesn't take No for an answer.
"We're having trouble making sense of all this," he tells Gilmore. Even Seven seems flummoxed by the Equinox security measures. "The schematics are encrypted. I can't access them," Seven says.
"Do you know the decryption codes?" Chakotay asks. Gilmore doesn't respond. Her loyalties are clearly torn. Chakotay presses on. "Your captain's been relieved of command. You take orders from me now! Do you have the codes?" The Commander's harshness takes Gilmore aback; he's been one of the nicest to her so far. "Yes," she admits at last.
Seven steps aside to let Marla Gibson perform her task. Chakotay offers a thin smile. "Think of it this way Ensign, you might live with yourself a little easier." Gilmore finally, reluctantly, complies.
"You said you want to know more about humanity," Gilmore tells Seven. "I guess we're not exactly prized examples." The scene on the Big Screen changes. "I'm sorry," shes says.
"On the contrary," Seven responds. "You've taught me a great deal." Decrypted files in hand, Seven has a lot more work to do. Gilmore and Chakotay head back to her wartime fate.
Doc's frustration grows on the Equinox. "Computer, I decrypted this data file! Why can't I access it?"
"E.M.H. authorization is required," the computer explains.
"Is your E.M.H. still functional?" Doc asks. (I thought it was brand-new with Voyager . . . how did Equinox get one?) Affirmative, the computer replies. Doc practically shouts: Activate him!
A doctor, visually identical to Doc himself, and not the Andy Dick Mark II model EMH. It's an EMH pair o' docs. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," EquiDoc says expressionlessly.
"I require your assistance," Doc says. Who are you? EquiDoc says.
"Your counterpart from the Starship Voyager," Our Doc says.
"Where's Captain Ransom? My crew?" EquiDoc asks. In custody, Doc answers.
"How were you able to leave your Sickbay?" EquiDoc asks. Doc shows off his 29th-century portable emitter. "This device allows me to go anywhere I please." But that's another topic. "In case you weren't aware, your crew has been running criminal experiments here!"
EquiDoc is unfazed. "I know. I designed them."
"You? That's a violation of your programming!" Doc protests.
EquiDoc doesn't have nearly the personality Our Doc does. "They deleted my ethical subroutines," he says, then quickly whips around and whaps Doc on the emitter shoulder. The 29th-century device deactivates, and Doc--our Doc--deactivates.
EquiDoc picks it up, deep in thought. He's got a lot to consider. His crew taken. His mandate now contradicted by new orders. An interloper clone dares to challenge him.
Examining the holoemitter, EquiDoc's eyes sparkle with a sudden flash of insight.
And of evil.
This EMH probably digs his Darkling side. He's got HMO written all over him.
* * *
As Voyager and Equinox move, their shields are extremely visible. This can only mean one thing.
"I'm picking up spatial fissures--hundreds of them," Harry shouts. Voyager is at Red Alert. The Equinox is still within Voyager's protection, if only because Seven of Nine is over there mining its secrets.
"They've stepped up their attacks," Tom says from Helm. Janeway orders all available power redirected to the shields. Chakotay is the shields monitor, and he is not the bearer of glad tidings. "They're holding--but at this rate, it won't be long before the aliens break through."
"Bridge to Tuvok--we need that security grid," Janeway orders.
In Astrometrics, Tuvok and Torres work side-by-side, their fingers moving at incredible speed over the control panels. "We're preparing to bring it on-line," Tuvok replies, telling Torres to charge the emitters.
Janeway hails Sickbay; Doc is back from the Equinox. But from the way he's looking around, it's doubtful it's our Doc. "Sickbay here," Doc says uncertainly.
Did you find anything?
Uh oh. "Could you be...More specific?" EquiDoc asks carefully.
On the bridge, Janeway frowns; she doesn't have time for this. "Neural patterns, cortical scans--anything that could help us program the universal translator."
EquiDoc does his best under the circumstances. "Negative. I couldn't access the Equinox data files. They were--encrypted." Yeah, that's the ticket.
It works. Keep studying the information we have. See what you can come up with. Acknowledged, EquiDoc says, and Janeway signs off. Breathing a sigh of relief, he asks the computer for Captain Ransom's location.
Captain Ransom is in crew quarters, Deck Nine, Section 22.
EquiDoc considers his next move, then begins packing up a House Call bag of hyposprays.
Chakotay hails Seven of Nine. "What's your status?"
In the dark and dreary Equinox engine room, Seven of Nine performs her labors without complaint. "I've dismantled the antimatter injectors but I'll need several minutes to neutralize the dilithium matrix."
We don't have much time, Chakotay warns.
They're cutting things close, but it's nothing Voyager hasn't been through before. They seem to be on top of things. The bad guys are locked up.
Together. All in one room.
What could happen?
EquiDoc approaches the guarded crew quarters. "The Equinox crew has been infected with a multigenic virus. It may be contagious. I've been authorized to inoculate them." He has the voice of authority, and the guards don't stand in his way. Dolts.
The Equinox crew doesn't pay him much mind when he enters. "You've all contracted a virus. I'll need to treat you."
Ransom stands, suspicious. "A virus?"
"Doctor's orders," EquiDoc says, breaking out a hypospray.
When he applies it to Ransom's neck, he whispers. "It's me." Ransom's look to his crew is a silent smile.
Things are looking up.
All is in readiness. "Activate the grid," Tuvok orders.
Nothing happens. Nothing good, anyway.
"I don't understand," Torres says with consternation, looking at the control panel. "This should be working. I'm running a system-wide diagnostic."
The guards hear a commotion inside the quarters, and the door opens. They rush in.
More phaser volleys.
Equinox crewmen rush out.
Harry reports the phaser fight in the crew quarters on Deck Nine.
Janeway's eyes flash crimson. "Security, seal off Deck Nine!"
"Shields are weakening; they're down to 84%," Chakotay announces.
Tuvok to bridge. The field generator is off-line. Its power couplings were disengaged.
Someone reconfigured the sensors so we couldn't detect it, Torres adds.
"Whatever it takes, get that grid on line," Janeway orders.
Ransom and his crew, now armed, run through the corridors. EquiDoc gives him a brief update. "I rerouted transporter control to a panel in the next junction. We can..."
A firefight ensues. While Ransom and crew fight off the Voyager security team, EquiDoc finds a convenient corner, and deciding that discretion is the better part of valor, deactivates the portable emitter. He evaporates, and the emitter clatters to the ground.
The split up members of Equinox meet at the planned junction. Ransom is already working on the beam-out when Burke arrives. "They've sealed off the deck!" Burke shouts.
"Don't worry. We're getting out of here."
"Shields down to fifty-two percent!" Chakotay shouts.
Harry grows alarmed at a new light on his Ops board. "Captain, unauthorized transport in progress. It's the Equinox crew!"
"Block it!" Janeway orders furiously.
"They've bypassed ops control," Harry says, fingers flying but not fast enough.
"They're on their bridge," he says a moment later.
Janeway leaves her seat. "Janeway to Seven of Nine."
We see Seven of Nine. Unconscious. A heavily-armed Marla Gilmore, the anti-Seven, steps over her unmoving form. Dang.
Doc against Doc. Blonde on Blonde. Former lovers square off in a battle of wills. Rogue Captain against control-freak Captain.
And a minute to go in the season finale.
"Damn!" Burke rages.
Ransom rushes over. "What is it?"
"B'Elanna's erected a force field. I can't get a lock on the generator!" Not just Voyager--B'Elanna. It's personal.
"Try overriding the command codes," Ransom says.
Max Burke's fingers fly.
"Someone's disrupting the force field," Torres says to Tuvok. A moment later, she has a name for that someone. "It's Max! He's using one of his triquadric algorithms. I taught him how to do that ten years ago..."
Shields are failing. We've got less than one minute!
Janeway orders a channel to Equinox. "If you don't stop what you're doing we'll both be destroyed," she seethes.
Ransom gives her a flinty look. "What's my alternative--thirty years in your brig?"
"I'll open fire if I have to."
Ransom shrugs. "We've been through worse." The transmission ends. The gauntlet has been thrown.
"Target their power systems," Janeway says. "Fire."
The whining alarm of impending doom is ignored for the moment.
Equinox ignites. The whining continues.
"Max!" Ransom shouts over the din.
"Stand by!" Burke mutters under his breath as he enters his next commands. "Okay, B.L.T., let's see if you remember this trick."
Remember the MacGuffin, the technobabble shark repellant device Seven invented? The one Max Burke downloaded all that info about?
Burke wants it.
Torres' eyes go wide. "Bridge, they've got the field generator!"
What do you mean, they've got it? Janeway demands.
"I don't know how, but they beamed it off Voyager."
The whining noise grows louder.
Ransom gives a feral grin. "Get us out of here."
"I can't," Lessing shouts. "Warp drive is down!"
"Bridge to Marla. Report!"
"One of their crew tried to dismantle the antimatter injectors," Marla Gilmore says, kicking the still-unconscious Seven a few times in the ribs just to make the next episode more interesting. "Repairs are underway."
"What about the field generator?" Ransom asks.
"I'm integrating it now," Burke says. Better hurry, ex-boyfriend-from-hell--that whining is getting almost painfully loud.
We get an exterior view as the bright-white shields disappear completely.
Shields are down! Chakotay shouts.
It gets so loud that Janeway echoes Ransom in the teaser. "Arm yourselves!" she shouts. Out come the weapons.
Time for a little Phaser Phishin'.
"It's now or never!" Ransom bellows.
Burke hits the last few keys, and breathes a sigh of relief. "Generator's in place. I'm bringing the grid on-line."
But they are armed to the teeth as well.
Harry screams out the alert. "Fissures are opening, all decks!" The bridge of Voyager is a frantic search for the first of the tiny wormholes, which none of the Voyager crew has yet seen.
On Equinox, a fissure opens, and a flying fickle flounder of fate barrels through onto the bridge. "Hold your fire!" Ransom shouts. Sure enough, the field generator is in place, and soon the poor antimatter angel is bouncing around between force fields like a rubber biscuit. It lights up like a pinball machine every time it strikes energy.
Soon, the lights go out. "Take it to the lab," Ransom says, waving at the thing like trash to be taken out.
Or a new battery to be plugged in.
"Sir, engines are up and running," Lessing reports.
Ransom gets a facial-tic of a smile, like Clouseau's boss in the Pink Panther movies. "Set a course for the Alpha Quadrant," he says, happier than he's been in days. "Maximum warp. Engage."
Equinox breaks away from Voyager and flies away, leaving Voyager alone. Taking with it the safety-ensuring field generator, a Borg, and a good doctor.
Leaving behind a bad doctor whose true identity nobody knows yet.
Meanwhile, the bridge of Voyager is nothing but wormholes and phaser fire.
While Janeway fires into one wormhole, another opens behind her.
"Captain!" Chakotay shouts.
Janeway whirls, phaser aimed, and seems to lose her balance.
Just as the CreatureCam closes in on her.
Remember: one touch . . . goodbye.
[To Be Continued . . .]
Wouldn't you know it--Voyager's first contact with another Starfleet vessel in five years, and it turns out to be a bad one. Rudy Ransom isn't so much a Starfleet Captain anymore, as he is Lord of the Flies.
You could call this episode a bookend to "Night," much as "Scorpion" got some closure with "Hope and Fear" last season. In case you don't remember, in "Night" Janeway had too much time on her hands, and spent most of it second-guessing her own decisions way back in "Caretaker," when she and Voyager were first yanked into the Delta Quadrant.
What we have here is a glimpse at the road not taken.
Rudy Ransom. Celebrated exo-biologist, someone you'd expect to have a heightened appreciation for other species. Another scientist awarded his own captaincy by sheer competence. Another captain forced to be a law unto himself when cut off from every traditional support.
He started out, it seems, much like Janeway. But with even fewer resources to draw on, with perhaps less adaptability up front, Ransom soured early on Starfleet protocol. With no less drive to get home than Janeway's own, Ransom is also unfettered by such inhibiting factors as conscience.
That may have taken time to devolve, but five years after the Caretaker made Voyager and Equinox very much alike, time and different encounters has made them more different than alike.
There is also a touch of "Course: Oblivion" here. That episode also had a lot to say about the power of cumulative choice. Make a right turn instead of a left, fly through Krenim space instead of that detour through the Nirvana Nebula, and you can see a happy crew become a grim crew, or a grim crew become barely human.
As Ransom says with more truth than Janeway knew at the time, "After a couple of years, we started to forget that we were explorers…and there were times when we nearly forgot that we were human beings." We saw in episodes like "Year of Hell" and "Basics" and Killing Game" that in times of extreme duress, Janeway and her people could fit a similar description.
Similar, but not exact.
For a terrific analysis of "Equinox" from the perspective of the moral dilemma, I recommend "A Tale of Two Captains" by Heather Jarman in the June 1999 Starfleet Journal.
Nobody is harder on Janeway than Janeway. (Unless you count Michelle Green.) Of course, Janeway is hard on everyone who does something she considers "UNackSEPTable". She has a firm idea of what's right and what's wrong, and though there is frequent and vehement disagreement with her choices (including from me), there is no question that she puts principle above expedience at all times. She wants to get her people home, but she refuses to cut any corners she doesn't feel she can justify when they (inevitably) get home.
That's the difference between Janeway and Ransom. She's not just thinking about getting home. She's thinking about what happens once they arrive. She wants to return Voyager home and still have a job waiting for her, and not a courtmartial. She doesn't worry about her crew getting their stories straight. She's not saving up her latinum to hire the descendants of Samuel T. Cogley and Melvin Belli and Johnnie Cochrane for her defense Dream Team.
I have no doubt that when the fanfare settles, Janeway will have plenty to answer for. Being a captain requires hard choices, and nobody is perfect. But she will likely emerge firmly in control of her captaincy. Or, if they feel like punishing her, they'll make Janeway an admiral. Janeway sees beyond the homecoming to the aftermath, and that guides her actions as much as the destination itself.
We've seen her turn down several opportunities to get home because the opportunity cost was too great. Her chances came with strings attached--to the sword of Damocles. Sure, they'd get home (maybe), but what they leave behind would still be there, just waiting for the Federation to discover. Remember what many episodes of the original Star Trek were about: Enterprise coming back a century or two after the first Federation contact with a culture, and seeing the hideous damage even simple corruptions wrought over time. Chicago gangs. Nazis. Romans with television and machine guns. A corrupted worship of the U.S. Constitution. Private little wars escalated by the introduction of flintlocks and barrel rifling. Even the most benign bits of cultural interference became object lessons in the Prime Directive. Janeway seems keenly aware that time reveals all. Getting home isn't enough--she wants history to be kind to her as someone who always tried to do the right thing.
Ransom, though, has home in mind--by any means necessary. It's easy to sympathize with the general sentiment--Janeway has frustrated the heck out of us from time to time with her damnable principles--but it's the details that make one wince. History in the long run tends to look on the Ransoms of the world, those who place expedience above principle, as the villains.
It's not just the hunting and trapping and rendering of the antimatter creatures. I suspect we'll learn more about them in the next season opener, but there's a pragmatic part of me that could excuse that, if the creatures are more tuna than dolphin.
I'm an omnivore; I believe in the food chain. I also believe in the hunt. I think you get a greater appreciation for the animals you have to kill and prepare yourself. If it fits on a bun, you're too far removed from the source, and owe it to yourself to see at least once in your life the transition from living creature to main course. It's not pretty; it isn't meant to be.
This brings us back to the Tuna/Dolphin question about the creatures Equinox discovers. What we've seen of them so far is ambiguous. I've seen bees and hornets act the same way--relatively benign until you stir them up. But in the few moments when the beasties flew more slowly, there were hints at intelligence beyond mere instinct.
They seemed more like animals than aliens to me, but I do expect that to change. If they are animals, are they livestock, or predators, or Man's Best Friend? Given what we've seen so far, I'd say the latter--animals that are noble in their own right, who can be your best friend if you treat them right, but who can turn deadly on the bad master or the threatening stranger if pushed too far.
One thing is certain. The crew of Equinox has made itself a sufficient danger to the creatures that they go out of their way to fight back.
That is one of the big differences between Voyager and Equinox.
In "Heroes and Demons," Janeway grabbed some material from a nebula. It turns out whey picked up something sentient, and one of its buddies came after them. Once they realized what happened, Janeway tried to make amends. She forgot about the energy potential and focused on repairing damage.
In "The Cloud," they did something similar--dove into a nebula, discovered it was more like a creature than a mere phenomenon, damaged it in their attempt to escape--and later dove back in to heal it to say Sorry for the Inconvenience. She put the creature before her own needs--and at the time, her needs included a decent replicated cup of coffee.
In short, Janeway can change direction when she feels the need to. If action A is made with a given set of data, and she learns something new along the way that would have made her decide something different in the first place, she will back off. (Sometimes, as in "Bride of Chaotica!", where the imperiled alien species is a bit too alien, mass murder can sometimes be played for broad comedy. Just put it in black and white, include a film noir robot and a ditzy secretary and an evil genius with a Death Ray, and tragedy can rise above the maudlin. If only Roberto Benigni had been cast as Ransom--"I looofe the flying crittures! I hug them with my matter-conversion devices! They send us home faster because they love us so much!" A pratfall or two, a few of the alien creatures Riverdancing, and we'd all have a good chuckle.)
What would Janeway have done in Ransom's place? We'll no doubt find out next season. But I imagine it would be something like this. They catch one. Perhaps it dies. Maybe they use its corpse for fuel. Then its friends come looking for revenge. At that point she'd find a way to say Sorry. Or, in the case of Species 8472, they would find a way to communicate, they'd exchange harsh words, then they'd exchange non-harsh words and part as friends or at least as noncombatants. Sometimes that's all you can hope for.
But Ransom, when he discovered that the creatures held a grudge, kept collecting, kept killing, kept using alien corpses for fuel. This is where he and Janeway part company. Ransom put his own needs first.
Beyond the creatures, we know that the path Ransom and his people have chosen is the wrong one because of the EMH. He removed its ethical subroutines. This was a conscious act, and a necessary step to get his doctor to follow these new orders. We also saw how he treated his crew. He relied not on regulations, but on intimidation, peer pressure, taunts, guilt (nice touch of irony there), and the promise of a rapid trek home.
We see the crew torn, to greater or lesser extent, between the bright and relatively prosperous Voyager and their by-the-book crew, and the knowledge that their closet features skeletons that would make them unwelcome here. Voyager thus become, not a refuge, but a threat. To travel with them is to have their crimes revealed. To leave them behind seems unconscionable, but they need the head start so they can get home, be feted for surviving, and then disappear before Voyager can arrive and rat them out.
Equinox hopes to be home in a matter of years, expecting it will take Voyager decades. They try to assure themselves that Voyager will survive--any crew that can survive the Borg has more luck than we do, they say, and if anyone can survive these creatures, they can. And if they don't, well, everyone's luck runs out eventually. Serves them right for having a better five years than we've had.
Hey, we're the victims here. We're just trying to play the hand fate dealt us as best we can with what little we have left. We deserve a little understanding--a little proportionality. Not harsh judgment from a bunch of regulation-obsessed puritans. Who do they think they are, anyway?
Equinox is on a very slippery slope, as you can see. Whatever other crimes against nature or other species they've committed, they've also stolen from Voyager, kidnapped some of her crew, resisted arrest, escaped incarceration, committed sabotage, abandoned a fellow starship in distress, violated direct orders . . .
When Burke tells Torres "you could do worse" than Paris, he wasn't kidding. Burke himself has a resume that makes Tommy Boy look like an Eagle Scout, Caldik Prime and all. Even being Maquis doesn't have much stigma on the career-suicide food chain compared to the crimes of the Equinox.
This was a cliffhanger. So what can we look forward to next season?
When we broke for the summer, Seven of Nine and Our Doctor were on board the Equinox. There are parallels to "Basics," where only Doc and Ensign Suder were left behind to help retake Voyager from Seska and the Kazon.
What could happen to them? Anything, I suppose. I imagine Seven of Nine will survive and return to Voyager. Doc, however, might not--our Doc, anyway. The portable holoemitter is aboard voyager, along with the ethically-challenged EMH. Adding those ethical subroutines back in might not be that difficult. And it would still be played by Picardo. Unlike the "Dax is dead; long live Dax" scenario of DS9, we could see something more like the Alternate Iolous of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys. Kill off Our Doc; keep Evil Doc. Janeway loves rehabilitating Problem Child crew, doesn't she? The downside of this is, we've seen more than our share of "This isn't Equinox, Bucko; get with the Janeway program or suffer the agonies of Redhead Hell" episodes.
Could we see new additions to the crew next year? Lessing didn't seem so bad; Gilmore had her sympathetic moments. Burke and Ransom are a bit too culpable to be allowed to live; I suspect they'll be desiccated husks by closing credits in September, and knowing Tom Paris he'll probably smoke Burke's ashes. That would be the obvious finish; I actually hope they end up getting back to Earth, whereupon Our Doc provides the evidence for their eventual court-martial. That would be less expected, but I'd love to see a situation where getting on Janeway's bad side doesn't inevitably lead to a body bag.
Sometimes evil succeeds, for a season. Sometimes crime DOES pay, after a fashion. But the pendulum must eventually swing back. I want poetic justice, where the Equinox rush to get home at any cost actually can work--but the end of the journey does not end the ordeal. End the episode with Ransom in a jail cell--or in a palatial hideaway, enjoying a meal with legions of pretty women at his beck and call. The celebratory homecoming. The giddy "we got away with it and nobody's the wiser."
And then end we hear the familiar whine of arriving aliens.
As season finales go, this one didn't blow me away. I thought it modestly intriguing, but I won't be sitting on pins and needles wondering what's in store for us when the next season resumes. There is no likelihood of Voyager following Equinox's footsteps. They may find a way to communicate with the creatures. They will find a way to get the aliens to stop attacking them. They will catch up with Equinox, somehow, and get Seven and/or Doc back. Janeway will not die. (That would be a surprise.) Voyager might, somehow, get closer to home, but not that way. (perhaps they'll enter the alien realm and find that they can exit at a different point.) Perhaps Tuvok will (carefully) mind meld with one after one of the creature etches NO KILL I onto a wall panel. Something will happen to the Equinox; I don't expect to see them often, if at all, after "Equinox, Part II."
There are a number of possibilities. None of which, sad to say, I'm dying to see. Patience for the new season won't be a struggle.
Not that this was a bad episode. There were some interesting, if underdeveloped characters. Burke and Torres had genuine chemistry in their scenes together, and Burke's "personal competition" with Torres in the Equinox's escape does suggest the possibility of more of this in the conclusion, and I won't mind. We will root for Torres to beat the ex-boyfriend in the end. We wonder whether Lessing or Gilmore can break free of Ransom's cult of personality and Do the Right Thing in the end. We wonder if Ransom's fate will be dramatically correct.
The performances were okay, but I sensed some fatigue. I think we can all use the break. I also hope that the beginning of Voyager repeats from early season could help reinvigorate interest in the show, and I have high hopes for the writing with the addition of Ron Moore from DS9.
On a 4 star scale, I'll call this one (* * *). I did enjoy it, but as cliffhangers go I would have preferred more uncertainty, more variables--and more on the line.
Since this is the season finale, let me say that on the whole, I give this season above-average marks. Season 3 was my sentimental favorite, but I think this season may have been one of its creative best. They took more chances, some pretty controversial, and though not every one paid off I appreciated the effort, and when it paid off it paid off big.
I also enjoyed the greater focus on the ensemble this year, and the attention paid to minor characters like Naomi Wildman. I give a lot of credit to Brannon Braga, who--and I say this with all the intensity of a fan who damn near left Voyager completely in season 4--made me a fan again. Thank you.
I wish the ship and crew and actors and staff all success in season six. The addition of Ron Moore is very welcome, and I hope he can bring to Voyager the same enthusiasm and passion and genius he lavished on DS9.
See you in the fall, folks.
Next Week: The first in a long series of reruns.