The usual. It's Paramount's playground; I'm just borrowing the equipment. Any resemblance to products, productions, novels, television shows, films, characters, public figures, celebrities, bodily fluids, et al., is purely intended for entertainment purposes.
These reviews are long, highly opinionated, and prone to digressions. They retell each episode from beginning to end in excruciating but dubiously accurate detail. If you haven't seen the episode yet and want to be surprised, run away.
But some people seem to like them, and if you don't mind your Trek with some tongue-in-cheek running commentary, hop on the fun bus and join the crowd, because Fatherly Uncle Jim's in a storytellin' mood.
Torres has a choice: holodeck danger or banana pancakes.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Lt. Torres is dressed like a walking space shuttle. Two-inch square thermal tiles cover every inch of her outfit. A helmet is in her hand.
She's in a shuttlecraft that's in low orbit of a yellow-brown planet, at which she stares intently through an open shuttle door.
Oh, yeah. It's Mountain Dew: The Next Generation...
"Higher," she tells the pilot, who reminds her that even at this altitude--200 kilometers--she could become free-falling barbecue.
Torres repeats the order. Her voice doesn't rise; her eyes don't flash. Her expression never varies as she stares at the vast planet below her.
The pilot tells her they're now at 300 kilometers, which seems to satisfy her. "Level us off." Her next command is to the computer, "disengage safety protocols," to let us know that this is a Holodeck program (otherwise, how would we know?)
The computer, apparently cutting Torres less slack than it gave Seven of Nine in "Night," responds. "Warning: disengaging safety protocols presents extreme risk of injury."
"Override," Torres says with minimal hesitation, and the computer complies. She tells the pilot to drop the force field on her mark--and...Mark.
The air shimmers in front of her. Wind howls to let us know that absolutely nothing stands between Torres and a very long drop-without a net.
She attaches her helmet, inhales deeply--and takes a walk on the wild side. She drops like a meteor with limbs through thick, sickly yellow clouds, steering herself as desired.
First a sonic shower, now this. B'Elanna Torres is fast becoming the Chuck Yeager of season 5 innovations.
Ironically, she looks about as into this death-defying stunt as a brisk game of Kal'to.
Nevertheless, B'Elanna is annoyed when the comm channel activates and Chakotay orders her to Engineering "on the double." Hesitating for several seconds, she finally calls for End Program.
Now. In some simulations, turning off the program can be a problem if you're not already standing. In this case, Torres is at terminal velocity. Fortunately for her, she's thoroughly debugged her simulation, so the air brakes are applied before the simulation terminates. She lands softly on the deck, on her feet.
Seven of Nine encounters Torres, still wearing her tile suit, in the corridors. "I was not aware that protective attire was required for this mission," Seven notes dryly.
Torres spares barely a glance at Seven. "I was on a Holodeck--orbital skydiving," Torres says, not rising to the bait, not even from her arch-nemesis. No annoyance in her eyes as there usually is.
Not much of anything in her eyes, actually.
"Leaping from a spacecraft at exospheric altitudes. Curious form of recreation," Seven notes. "The probe is ready for launch. However, there is still a problem with the telemetry link. . . . Lieutenant? Is something wrong?"
Torres stops, looks at Seven. Her expression doesn't change. "Actually, I'm not feeling so well. Can you handle the launch without me?"
Seven blinks. "You are putting me in charge." A question.
"Problem?" asks Torres.
Seven hesitates. "No. Just unexpected. Shall I inform the Doctor you are ill?"
Something different finally registers on B'Elanna's face, but she covers it quickly. "No. Don't," she says, and walks briskly off. Seven watches her go, tapping the PADD into her palm unconsciously.
Torres is acting awful funny right now...it's not Day of Honor time again, is it?
(Checking the episode logs) Well, whaddya know...?
* * *
A wicked looking probe with "USS Voyager" stenciled on it is floating through space, minding its own business, when it gets caught in a bluish tractor beam by a familiar-looking vessel.
The appropriation does not go unnoticed by the good ship Voyager. The radiation-leaking Malon are back.
"Open a channel," commands Janeway. "Starship Voyager to the Malon vessel. That probe belongs to us. Release it immediately."
The Malon don't respond. Paris points out that they're at least two hours away-the probe was their scout.
Tuvok suggests they help the probe fend for itself. "If we instruct the probe to emit a polaron burst it could disrupt the tractor beam." Janeway likes the idea.
A few seconds later, Tuvok reports. "Hot damn! It worked." (I'm paraphrasing.) Janeway tells him to change the probe's course. Paris notes that the probe can't outrun the Malon, but Janeway-eyes dancing-says that it can play hide and seek. She steers it into a "class-six gas giant."
"Captain...The atmospheric pressure will crush it," Tuvok warns.
"Not if the Borg shielding does its job," says Janeway confidently. (They're making use of Borg technology? Man-they are making changes this season. Good for them!)
The probe plunges sunward. The Malon follow. Janeway tries again to hail them, but get no response. She warns them off.
"The probe is entering the giant's upper atmosphere--and the Malon vessel is following it in," Tuvok reports.
Staff meeting. The gang's all here, except for Torres and Neelix. Ensign Kim reports. "The probe's stuck in a deep layer of liquid hydrogen and methane about 10,000 kilometers below the outer atmosphere. It's not responding to commands."
"Any good news?" the captain asks sourly.
"It's still intact; it can be repaired," says Seven of Nine. The fact that it survived in such a hostile climate suggests its value to Voyager-and its potential for harm if the Malon get hold of it.
"If we can get it out of there," amends Chakotay.
All eyes turn to the door, where Torres enters. "Sorry I'm late," she says, not looking sorry at all. Everyone notices the dark stormy clouds of funk hanging over her head.
"We were just discussing how to retrieve the probe. Is there any possibility of transporting it out?"
"No," says Torres with stark finality.
Chakotay does a double-take. "Just...no?" he asks.
"I don't see how we could get close enough," says B'Elanna, eager to be done with the matter.
Typically, if you're going to say you can't do something in Starfleet, you have to give reasons why-what you've attempted, researched, and rejected. "Showing your work" is important so you don't endlessly follow the same dead ends. That Chakotay has to draw this data from an engineer like Perry Mason questioning a hostile witness is unusual in the extreme. "Is there any way to boost transporter range?" he asks.
But Torres isn't in a mood to innovate. "Not in that kind of atmosphere."
Tom Paris sees a golden opportunity, and he takes it. "Well, if we can't transport it out we'll just have to fly in and grab it." He smiles like Professor Harold Hill in River City, about to break into an impromptu show tune of slick salesmanship.
Tuvok gives a Vulcan smirk. "Perhaps you weren't paying attention when the Malon freighter imploded." The officers chuckle.
Paris is undeterred. "We won't be going in a Malon freighter, Tuvok. We'll be going in our new shuttlecraft."
Kim groans dramatically. "Oh, here we go again."
"Let's face it!" says Paris, into the spiel. "Class-two shuttles just don't cut it in the Delta Quadrant. We've needed something bigger and better since we got here. It's time we built it!" Chakotay tries to let him down easy-they've had this discussion many times before, if not on screen. "We all appreciate your enthusiasm..."
"Speak for yourself, Commander," says Kim, delivering his official Lame Line of the Week better than usual.
Chakotay ignores him. "Bottom line--we don't have time to design and build a ship from scratch."
Paris practically giggles. "I knew you were going to say that. So I've given us a head start." He touches a few controls, and a cool looking flying saucer. "Behold the Delta Flyer. Ultra-aerodynamic contours, retractable nacelles, parametallic hull plating, unimatrix shielding based on Tuvok's brilliant design for the multi-spatial probe, and a Borg-inspired weapons system."
It slices, it dices...
For a moment everyone's speechless.
"The basic design elements are...Adequate," says Seven, breaking the silence.
Paris winks at her. "High praise," he says smugly.
Harry Kim chimes in. "If we used isomagnetic E.P.S. conduits in the plasma manifold we could maximize the power distribution." "That's the spirit, Harry!" Paris says.
"My shield designs could be successfully applied to a vessel of this size," Tuvok admits.
Paris is magnanimous in victory. "Big of you to admit it, Tuvok."
Chakotay asks the big question. "And you think it'll be able to withstand the gas giant's atmosphere."
"The probe did," Paris points out.
Janeway, impressed, asks how long it would take to build. Tom says it would take a week or so if they pull some all-nighters. Harry instantly volunteers, as does Seven of Nine.
Tom looks to Lt. Torres, who has been silent and brooding during the entire exchange. "What about you, B'Elanna? Building a new vessel from scratch--that's an engineer's dream come true."
Torres, arms folded, nods irritably and gives the sort of smile only possible under duress.
"What do you say, Captain?" Tom asks.
Janeway smirks. "Why are you all standing around?" Tom manages to not give a war whoop as he leads the way to the exit.
Torres is the last to file out. Janeway watches her go, frowning.
(Why does this feel like a mirror-image season two episode? Back then, it was Torres who was filled with enthusiasm, and a stealth Bad Paris coming in late and unenthusiastic to meetings.)
Tom and Harry and Tuvok, Seven of Nine and B'Elanna, turn the Holodeck into their own private auto shop. Hovering in midair: an early, tiny model of the Delta Flyer. It looks pretty cool, but basic.
Paris decides to add some flair. "Computer, add dynametric tail fins to the nacelles." The wings of the shuttle sprout fins. It looks cool.
Tom's cohorts roll their eyes. Tuvok speaks. "Computer, delete dynametric tail fins." The fins shrink back into the wings.
Tom takes umbrage. "What'd you do that for?"
"We are not designing a hot rod, Lieutenant."
Uh oh. I feel a song coming on. A rollicking 50s rock 'n' roll rumble kinda song.
"That is exactly what we're designing--a 24th century, warp-powered ultra-responsive hot rod!"
(If you have your GREASE soundtrack albums, sing along...)
We'll take some dynametric tail fins and polymetric hulls, oh yeah Some unimatrix shielding, And Borg-inspired guns, oh yeah With the Warp 10 engine specs it'll come back-no wrecks! You know that I ain't bragging Cuz this ain't no weenie wagon 'Greased Lightspeed!'
The Holodeck knows a good thing when it sees it. The white shuttle model now glows a shiny, lacquered 47-coat Cherry Red. Lieutenant Paris' uniform has been replaced with a black t-shirt, leather jacket, and greasy pompadour. He jumps up on the shuttle and begins gyrating his hips the way they did it way back in Memphis. He points at Tuvok, who is engulfed in Transporter Faerie Dust until he stands resplendent in James Brown cape and sideburns. Harry Kim's golden shouldered Starfleet tunic is replaced by a gold-lame lounge jacket. Both men start bobbing their heads in rhythm. They belt it out in unison.
Paris: Go Greased Lightspeed You're blowin' through the subspace aisle Chorus: (Greased Lightspeed! Go greased Lightspeed!) Paris: Go Greased Lightspeed You're kickin' it with grace and style Chorus: (Greased Lightspeed! Go greased Lightspeed!) Paris: You are supreme (Unh! Unh!) The Malon scream! (Unh! Unh!) It's Greased Lightspeed!
Seven of Nine's catsuit shimmers and disappears. In its place, pink hot pants, cashmere sweater, and a whole pack of Juicyfruit chewing gum. Apparently the Borg assimilated a few bobbysoxers, because she has no trouble getting into the moment. The shuttle itself has now sprouted not only tail fins, but bristles with unspeakably powerful weaponry, without marring in the least its aerodynamic perfection. The unspeakably impressive result is a rough cross between the Death Star and a Plymouth Prowler. And of course, a dance floor.
It would seem that they teach Taebo and "20th-century Dance: the Kids from FAME" at Starfleet Academy.
But as soon as it begins, the moment ends. Tom, belting out the praises of the Bitchin' Camaro of shuttlecraft, notices B'Elanna, leaning against the far wall, looking as enthusiastic as she has pretty much all day. In other words, not at all. The spell is broken. It was all a dream.
Tom notices Tuvok is talking to him.
"Your embellishments are purely decorative. They serve no practical purpose." Harry chortles. Seven rolls her eyes.
Torres, arms folded, looks like Al Gore on Sudafed.
"I beg to differ," Tom protests. "If we make this thing look mean enough other ships are going to think twice before taking us on."
Tom is outvoted. Not even Harry backs him up. Seven suggests they focus next on structural integrity-and flatly criticizes Lt. Torres' hull design. "We should be using tetraburnium alloys instead of titanium."
Everyone in the room looks ready to duck, knowing what Torres is capable of, particularly when Seven is on the other side. They look at B'Elanna fearfully.
"Sounds fine to me," says Torres. Everyone blinks in disbelief. "I'm going to finish up the thruster specs," she says, and exits.
Tuvok looks accusingly at Tom Paris, who looks back helplessly.
I'm sure some in the audience wish he'd run after her to find out just what in blazes is going on with her.
It's night. Tom Paris is in his quarters, jacket off, feet up on the sofa, reading up on the shuttle's specifications. I'm guessing this is the Year of the Undershirt on Voyager (to compete with Fox's Miniskirt Monday and Cleavage Wednesday, I presume), and Paris shows that the double-chin days of "Demon" are behind him. He's no Chakotay-the observant will note that one of his nipples is higher than the other--but he still manages to set hearts swooning.
To ensure that everyone gets a shot at it, next week Neelix goes skinny-dipping with Species 8472.
B'Elanna comes knocking at his door, carrying a PADD with thruster specs, delivered as promised. And with that, she's ready to leave. Tom looks hurt.
"Stay a while. I'll replicate some dinner, a bottle of burgundy. We deserve a break, don't you think?"
Tom looks at her, yearning to understand. "B'Elanna...What's going on?" No heat in the voice. He knows how well that works with her.
"Nothing," she says. Voice lifeless.
"Well, then how come it's impossible to have a conversation with you?"
"I'm sorry," says B'Elanna. Quietly, but without passion.
Tom's eyes show hurt. "I don't want an apology. I want an explanation." She says she's tired. "Asleep is more like it. You hardly said three words in that last meeting. And then when Seven changed your design you acted like...like you didn't care." He's clearly worried about her, but he's also missing some pretty large hints.
"I guess I didn't," says Torres, whispering, arms folded, eager to leave.
Tom shakes his head sadly. "I don't get it. How many times have we talked about how great it would be to do what we're doing now? To really collaborate--my piloting skills and your engineering expertise. We finally get the chance to create something together from the ground up and you're not the slightest bit enthusiastic?"
"I'm doing my job, aren't I? I delivered the thruster specs on schedule." This is important to her-that she's not slacking on the job.
But it's not what Tom needs to hear. He puts his hands on her shoulders, tries to break through her great wall of apathy. "B'Elanna, I'm not your boss. I'm not questioning your productivity or keeping tabs on how many hours you put in. I just want to know what's going on."
B'Elanna takes his hands, gently lifts them from her shoulders, and holds his hands in front of her. "I have to go," she says, letting go, and walking out.
Tom watches her go, mouth agape. He sighs heavily.
Torres notices everyone around her in the corridor. It's night, so they're mostly empty. Still, she waits until it's completely so.
Then she makes a beeline for the Holodeck. "Computer, activate Holodeck program Torres 216. ... Disengage safety protocols."
"Warning: disengaging safety protocols presents extreme risk of injury."
A pause. "Override."
"Acknowledged. Safety protocols have been deactivated."
Torres enters the Holodeck, which now resembles a dark and unwelcoming cave. She quickly strips down to a tank top (class-B undershirt) and tosses her jacket aside, wound up like a mousetrap.
Whatever she's waiting for, it doesn't take long. A seething, hulking Cardassian male in full battle armor. Their eyes lock.
Torres finally shows a little bit of emotion as she lights into the Cardassian, tackling him like she's Adam Sandler in THE WATERBOY. They trade blows, and Torres receives as much abuse as she dishes out.
A second Cardie makes an appearance. She opens another can of whupass...but it's not enough to keep them from coming after her some more.
The amazing thing-even in the face of a Maquis' worst enemy, her eyes still don't look much different than when she was plunging earthward from 40 miles up.
What will it take to wake this girl up?
* * *
On the bridge, the search for the probe ends successfully. "10,000 kilometers beneath all that methane but still intact."
Unfortunately, it's never that easy. Another Malon freighter, leaking theta-radiation like a sieve, is on its way. And this ship is hailing.
"Well, they're more talkative than the last ones," says Janeway dryly. "Open a channel." Kim, tempting fate, responds, "aye, sir."
A Malon, his ship and his self looking every bit as unpleasant as Emck, scowls at her on the view screen. "Leave orbit of this planet now." Janeway smiles pleasantly and introduces herself, unimpressed by his demand. "I know exactly who you are," he tells her. "You are the person responsible for the destruction of one of our freighters and the deaths of Nine Malon citizens."
Correction, leak boy: two vessels, and probably double the citizens. But why quibble.
"I'm very sorry that lives were lost," coos Janeway, "but you're leaving out an important detail. Your people were trying to steal a probe from us. We warned them to stay away from the gas giant but they didn't listen."
The Malon is even less amiable than Emck was. "I'm taking your probe as compensation for our losses."
Chakotay fields this one. "That's going to be a little difficult. It's stuck beneath the atmosphere of the same gas giant that crushed your other ship."
"My people are expert at salvage operations," says the Malon.
Janeway's eyes harden. "Well, Mister..."
The Malon, who never bothered to introduce himself, takes the hint. "Vrelk. Controller Vrelk."
Janeway smiles. "Vrelk. We have a little expertise of our own. We're a very determined crew. So my suggestion is that you leave orbit--and in the future, if you come across anything that bears the insignia of the U.S.S. Voyager, head in the other direction." Vrelk makes threatening noises, but Janeway shrugs impatiently. "End transmission."
She looks at Chakotay. "Why would people in the business of toxic waste disposal be so anxious to get hold of a probe?"
"It's not just any probe. It's multi-spatial technology. Maybe they think it'll help them find new places to dump their garbage."
B'Elanna winces with each step as she enters her quarters. When the door closes, she secures it. She takes off her jacket, which reveals her sweat-drenched tank top, and numerous and nasty wounds. Since the safeties were off and she's still standing it's a safe guess she won her Holodeck battle, but it didn't come easily.
She heads for the bathroom, where she's got a dermal regenerator and bone-knitter stashed away under a pile of towels. She works on her own injuries, wiping them away with the magical medical wand.
Then she notices herself in the mirror. Sees herself fixing herself up. She's drawn to that image. She walks over to view herself in closeup.
And despite all the bruises and contusions, what draws her in is her eyes. No pain. No passion. No fury. No life.
She lets out a little gasp. She seems not to have the wherewithal for a bigger reaction.
She reaches out to touch the image of her own face-or to wish it away.
Torres enters a dark and unoccupied mess hall. Only Neelix is still there, cleaning up.
"B'Elanna! What a nice surprise. I was just getting ready to close. Business has been slow with so many people busy on the new shuttle." He seems thrilled to see her-it's his gift to make just about everyone feel that way.
"Oh. I-I was just hoping we could catch up."
Neelix is taken aback. "You want to catch up? W-with me?"
"If you have the time."
Neelix breaks into a broad grin. "Are you kidding? Yeah, we--can I get you something?" She nods. He leans in. "Name your poison." He says the last with a grand smile, leaning into the strike zone, waiting for the fastball.
Torres is caught off guard. What do I want? "Oh. Um..."
Neelix's face falls