The following is a SPOILER Review for "Eye of the Needle." If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright, who watches the episode no more than twice before preparing the review. This gives me the opportunity to review and recap with a combination of memory and creativity (when memory fails). The result is an experience that is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the actual episode. Consider it a revival of the ancient oral traditions passed on through the generations. I make no claims as to accuracy, but I hope I got enough of it right to keep your attention.
Voyager finds a very tiny wormhole that connects to the Alpha Quadrant (where they came from), and manage to establish contact with a Romulan science vessel, steadily improving the link until transport is possible, meaning they might be able to get home. Meanwhile, Kes proves herself to be a fast learner, an adept medical assistant, and the means by which the question of the Holodoc's status on the ship is upgraded from obnoxious PITA to official crew member.
Jump straight to the Analysis
A nameless crewman with a penchant for in-cabin exercise sprains something and is in sickbay to have it looked at. Kes assists Holodoc, but the crewman speaks of the doctor in the third person and displays an unconcealed distate towards him. The doctor accepts this snub but dishes out some abuse of his own. He later tells Kes that he's used to being treated like a hypospray, but he clearly has a few resentments. Kes vows to change things.
Meanwhile, Ensign Harry Kim has found signs of a wormhole, and since wormholes are a potential way home, they make a detour to investigate. Paris suggests they name the wormhole after Harry, and there are no objections. When they get there, they find that it's the smallest wormhole they've ever encountered, far too small for the ship to fly into. They conclude that it's ancient and probably not too far from extinction, but they still wonder where it leads and whether they can send a message or something. They launch a probe, which gets stuck in the gravitational well.
Despair turns to hope, however, when the probe is scanned by a ship in the alpha quadrant. Kim and Torres work on the problem, and figure out a way to open an audio channel using the probe as a relay. The other side responds, and it's a Romulan ship. The nameless-by-choice captain is suspicious and almost immediately cuts off contact because he finds it hard to believe that a Federation vessel could possibly be in the Delta Quadrant (which, for those just joining us, is 70,000 lightyears away and 70 years away as the starship flies at maximum speeds, which the Voyager isn't doing because it's low on fuel and other supplies, so home is something they won't see anytime soon without a shortcut...such as a wormhole). Janeway tells the crew to continue hailing until the Romulans respond.
Harry Kim is desperate to establish contact; he's the type who has never been out of contact with his family for any extended length of time; even in deep space he wrote home once a week. Torres, we learn, doesn't really give a rat's patoot whether they get home or not; she's estranged from both her parents, she doesn't have any friends who aren't in the Maquis, and all the Maquis she considers friends are onboard Voyager with her. So she's already home, as far as she's concerned; the Alpha Quadrant likely would mean arrest and imprisonment for her and her Maquis associates, even though they seem fairly well integrated into the crew while in the Delta Quadrant. Nevertheless, she's taking her job seriously, and she pulls off engineering miracles that Scotty on the original Enterprise would be proud to call his own.
We find out what Janeway wears to bed--an ankle-length silk number that she wears quite well. Functional, feminine, but not TOO sexy. (Star Trek: The Next Generation was quite fond of showing us crew member sleepwear, from the Captain on down. So far we've seen Harry Kim, Kes, and Captain Janeway while sleeping, and their nightwear matched their characters. I'm betting that Paris wears leopard-skin Speedos....)
Janeway is awakened to the news that the Romulan is back on line, and she has the line patched into her. It's an excellent scene, I thought; the lights out, her hair down, dressed in silk, Janeway looks vulnerable and excruciatingly lonely as she speaks through the void to the Romulan captain and begs him to believe her and to help them by passing along messages from their crew to their families in the Federation. The Romulan captain is gruff, still a little skeptical, but at least willing to listen to her. At times I thought the scene was cheesy, with all the tact of a late-night 1-900 number chatline commercial, but on the whole I think the scene worked. So close, yet so far away, Janeway (or anyone) would be in a very shaky state, but she never sacrificed her dignity. I frankly believe that Captain Picard could not have pulled off such a scene in the first season of ST:TNG, though he was doing so repeatedly towards the end of the series. This much character maturity so early on is a very, very encouraging sign. The Romulan indicates through the darkness that they may have found a way to establish a visual link, but that it would take some time.
In the meantime, Kes comes to Janeway and asks her about a crew problem. "Would you want to know if a crewman's needs were not being met?" she asks. Janeway says Of Course, then asks, "are you or Neelix not being treated well?" Kes insists they are being treated very well, and says that the crewman she is concerned about is the ship's doctor. Janeway's face clouds up and the temperature in the room drops several degrees; she tells Kes that she's heard the other side of this issue, and that they are seriously considering a thorough reprogramming of the "mergency medical hologram." Kes and Janeway argue civilly but intensely about the "sentience quotient" of the doctor, and whether it is appropriate to treat the holodoc as nothing more than a program. The argument is largely superficial, but Janeway agrees to consider the request.
Up to this point, the captain has never been to sickbay and has only had communications links with the doctor; she has treated him, not entirely without reason, as equipment rather than as a person, and uppity equipment at that. His bedside manner is atrocious, and she's received numerous complaints about "its" demeanor. The holodoc is not technically alive, but there is ample precedent in TNG to show that holodeck technology has the capacity to create vividly fleshed out characters with distinct and sentient personalities (Minuet with Riker, Professor Moriarty with Data/Picard, Geordi with "Dr. Brahms") and the capabilities of Voyager suggest that a sentient hologram is well within reach. He's got artificial intelligence, but the biological nature of the computers means he's also got a measure of actual intelligence and personality.
Soon Janeway is in sickbay activating the holodoc for the first time, apparently determined to think of him as a member of the crew and to treat him as Kes asks. She soon discovers that, when she allows herself to listen to his complaints as if they were coming from a "real" person, he isn't asking for all that much--he wants the courtesy from the crew of being deactivated when they're done with him, but not to deactivate him while he's in the middle of something. He is either ignored, or imposed upon, and he has no way to defend himself. Janeway says she thinks it's possible to give holodoc some control over his own programming, to deactivate himself or prevent himself from being deactivated by someone else. It's not much to ask, but it is something that's bugged the doctor since the pilot episode, and as a first gesture of acceptance it's significant. There was no onscreen dressing-down of the doctor by the captain, but it can be assumed that as a "fully-integrated member of the crew" he was told to work on his bedside manner a bit. Janeway's interaction with the doctor was well handled, and showed the captain as realizing that her past judgments of her chief medical officer had been ill-considered. She displayed penitence as well as reconciliation.
Back on the bridge, Kim is ready to try to establish visual communication with the Romulans. After a few seconds, they succeed, and find themselves looking at a stern but somewhat shaken captain. He expresses surprise at the level of expertise the Voyager crew has shown, and suggests (aloud) that the Romulan intelligence network has room for improvement. He is not dressed like the Romulans of TNG fame; his dress is closer to that of the Original Series Romulans, with some variation.
The inevitable haggling ensues. The Romulans and the Federation are not friends, and their truce is shaky at best. Suspicion abounds on both sides, though Janeway and her crew are more willing to trust because they haven't got much choice in the matter. Janeway appeals to the Romulan captain's... humanity, for want of a better term. The captain has been in space for over a year, and has a child that was born after he left, and he won't see her for at least another year. Janeway states that the Voyager crew is looking at a 70 year journey home, and that their request to have their personal letters passed along would do much for their morale. The captain's resolve crumbles a bit, his voice cracks, and he agrees to do what he can to expedite the process of clearing the messages through the Romulan red tape and getting them into the hands of the Voyager crews' loved ones.
The channel cut, Janeway tells Chakotay to pass the word along that people should start drafting messages in the expectation that the transfer will take place. Torres flies onto the bridge asking to speak with Janeway in private; she informs the captain that she thinks they can piggyback a transporter signal onto the visual link, theoretically giving the crew the chance to return home through the wormhole. The ship will have to be left behind, but the crew can be home in days instead of decades. Janeway tells Torres to get right on it, and not to worry about keeping it a secret, because it would likely be impossible to keep under wraps for long. The scene ends with Janeway staring intently at a picture of her boyfriend and her dog, whom we met in CARETAKER, the pilot.
Kes returns to sickbay with the homework Holodoc gave her; she is proving to be an ideal student, and she says that when they get home she wants to explore a career in medicine. Holodoc says that at the rate she's going she'll have the equivalent of a medical degree before they get back. She says, "haven't you heard? We might be gone within hours!" Holodoc stiffens and states flatly that he's usually the last to hear anything, and that he might as well say goodbye because he won't be going back with them. She says, "we can download you." He says that isn't possible, that he's fully integrated into the ship and sickbay and cannot be downloaded "at this time." Kes looks crestfallen, and the joy at going to the Alpha quadrant is gone when she considers him stranded all by himself, so soon after being "fully integrated" into the crew. It seems he is, after all, quite different. He asks her as a personal favor to make sure he's deactivated before she leaves, and she agrees. She kisses him on the cheek, perilously close to the mouth, and appears almost in tears before she leaves sickbay. To her, he's a real person in every sense of the word, and she's the best friend he has. He is an incredibly lucky man.
Sample transports work successfully, thugh not without difficulty; there's a lot of adjustment required to bring the signal through the wormhole. Finally, the captain of the Romulan vessel beams over, because nobody from Voyager is allowed to beam to his ship. When he does so, he is met by most of the major cast members, including Tuvok, who has had precious little to do so far other than make observations, remind Janeway of things she will do regardless of his advice, and make Ensign Kim self-conscious. Tuvok steps forward and scans the captain, and states that nobody from Voyager can beam back to the alpha quadrant.
Tuvok asks the Romulan captain what year it is. He responds "by your reckoning, the year 2371 B.C.E." Which is twenty years earlier than the answer most of the Voyager crew would have given. (plot complication!)
In other words (preparing two-by-four), they've been talking with someone who exists in an Alpha Quadrant of twenty ears ago. The wormhole is not only a rift in space, but of time. They can't go back, because it would "cause irreparable harm" to the timestream they know, and they can't have the Romulan send a message to the Federaton saying "don't send Voyager after the Maquis in 2391 because they'll get sucked into a Plot Complication 70,000 lightyears away and won't make it back for seven decades or so" because they've already affected many lives in the Delta Quadrant and they think they've done some good they'd hate to see undone. So they decide to send the Romulan captain back with their original idea, a package of messages to give to the Federation, after a 20 year wait. He promises to do so, and beams back after giving them his name (which he refused to give before), and asks them to look him up when they get back.
At least, Janeway thinks, they got a message to their family. Unfortunately, they can't be sure of that, because according to the ship's computer (which seems to know an awful lot of relevant trivia), this obscure scientist died four years before they left. He MAY have made a will and made arrangements; he did have a daughter, after all. They can't know for certain, though, and Janeway looks crushed by the revelation. She orders the senior bridge crew to not let on this particular bit of potentially bad news, and they go forward, but the wind has been clearly knocked out of her sails. So close....
Finally, the same crewman who was in sickbay at the beginning of the episode is BACK in sickbay, with another exercise-related injury. He again speaks mostly to Kes, until Holodoc tells the crewman to address him as the chief medical officer, and that if the guy doesn't stop overexerting himself he will report the man to his superior. Instead of sniping at each other as before, this time he speaks TO the crewman as a man who can negatively affect his performance record, and it prompts him to treat Holodoc with much greater respect and deference. Small victory, well earned.
Kes looks on with satisfaction, glad to see the crewman treat her boss and her friend with the respect due him, and she tells the doc so. She has performed a minor miracle in integrating holodoc into the crew, or at least beginning the process, and holodoc gratefully acknowledges her efforts. He asks her to be his liaison with Janeway in ordering supplies and fixes for sickbay, and asks her one final favor.
"Will you give me a name?" he asks. It seems appropriate, since she was the one who asked him
his name several episodes before, a question he had no answer for. The man he is modeled after is
Zimmerman, so it's likely he will be called Doc Zimmerman. We'll have to wait till next week to
This episode was better, I thought, than last week's, and would rank behind "The Phage" as the second best show of the season in my opinion. The main story is interesting, challenging, and well-handled. The character interactions are well done, particularly between Janeway and the Romulan captain, Kes and Holodoc, and Janeway and Holodoc. Strong Kim and Torres moments as well, and Tuvok gets to look useful and competent. Paris doesn't have a lot to do, and neither does Chakotay. I don't even remember seeing Neelix. The Romulan captain was played with much greater depth than the mostly two-dimensional treatment they got in Next Generation episoded. And the time-warp paradox surprised me, though I did catch some of the clues early on; they didn't cheat, though technically they should have caught the time difference during the test runs. A small nitpick at best.
On a 1-10 scale, I'd give this a 7.75.
(Hey, don't take my word for it...just ask Julia.)