DELTA BLUES @ Reviewboy.com - Jim Reviews...

"Friendship One"

[Disclaimer]

Paramount pretty much owns everything you're about to read. It's their dialog, their characters, their franchise. For whatever reason, they've chosen to left me alone, and I thank them for it.

This is all meant in good fun, as though I were reciting the episode to you around the water cooler at work. You'll find the closest thing online to watching the actual episode, though I do sometimes take liberties when I think it will help the narrative. Any errors in fact or interpretation are my responsibility alone.

[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]

[Summary]

A goodwill probe from the 21st century reaches its new home...with unintended consequences.

Jump straight to the Analysis

[Breakdown]

A large, ugly vessel of some sort drifts toward a pristine, crystal-blue world. We have trouble seeing all the markings on the hull, but the style looks familiar--kinda Starfleety.

A closer look (you guys owe me big time) reveals a vessel awfully similar to the original design of Zefram Cochrane's Phoenix, with a satellite dish on the nose cone.

The name on the blackened hull, bordered top and bottom in red stripes, reads FRIENDSHIP-1.

After a brief burst of static, the vessel seems to come alive, and begins talking. It's not the clearest signal, but it's close enough.

"We the people of Earth greet you in a spirit of peace and humility...."

*

"As we venture out of our solar system, we hope to earn the trust and friendship of other worlds..."

This part is picked up on audio, while a target lights up on what looks like a WWII-era radar screen.

"Can we reduce the interference?" asks a young male.

"I'm trying," replies his young female colleague.

All of a sudden, cheerful and familiar music begins to play. (In the hope of avoiding a repeat of the interminable "Virtuoso" brouhaha, the song in question is from Vivaldi's Concerto No. 1 in E major, "Spring" from The Four Seasons. If you want any more detail than this...you're on your own.)

The woman is intrigued. "What is it?"

"I don't know."

"Distance?" the woman asks.

The man checks the radar. He looks up. "It just entered the atmosphere."

Houston, FRIENDSHIP ONE has landed.

* * *

As established in "Author, Author," Voyager and the Alpha Quadrant now have a stable two-way line of communication. It's not a 24/7 kinda thing, but it's the most they've ever had.

Janeway takes advantage of the time to catch up with an old Academy professor, an admiral named Hendricks.

"They evolved from dinosaurs?"

"Hadrosaurs, to be precise," Janeway says with a smile. "Their ancestors settled in the Delta Quadrant 20 million years ago."

Hendricks whistles. "The Voth, the Kobali, the Vaadwaur--you've made first contact with more species than any captain since James Kirk."

That's right, people. Sit back and be impressed. Captain Kate done made the history books.

Janeway takes it in stride--plenty of time later to list accomplishments--at her courtmartial, ferinstance. (KIDDING!!! From scenes like this, it's safe to assume that the Folks Back Home will be cutting her a whole lot of slack. As Star Trek IV proved, a little heroism covers a multitude of sins.) "It helps being the only Starfleet ship within 30,000 light-years."

"You are being too humble. From the first time you spoke up in my classroom I knew you'd go far."

Janeway can't help but wince at that. "A little farther than I expected, Professor."

Hendricks' voice changes slightly. "I have my Admiral hat on today, Kathryn--and I didn't call just to catch up. Starfleet has a mission for you."

*

Voyager's senior staff are assembled, and we hear the voice we heard in the teaser--much clearer this time.

"We, the people of Earth, greet you in the spirit of peace and humility. As we venture out of our solar system, we hope to earn the trust and friendship of other worlds." The audio ends. No Vivaldi this time.

Harry smiles knowingly. "Friendship One. I had to memorize that recording in third grade."

"Me, too," says Tom. Many heads around the table are nodding as well. "I even built a model of the probe."

Janeway approves of her crew's enthusiasm. "Then this should look familiar." She leaves her chair and pulls up an image on a wall monitor, a wire-frame of the probe. "It was launched in 2067."

"Just four years after Zefram Cochrane tested his first warp engine," Paris says.

Neelix, the only non-Federation person in the room, asks the questions the audience is most likely to echo. "What was it designed to do?"

"Reach out to other species," Chakotay says. "Pave the way for all the manned missions that would follow."

Harry continues. "They packed it with information--translation matrices, scientific and cultural databases--"

"Computer chip designs, instructions for building transceivers," Torres concludes. "It's practically a how-to manual."

Seven of Nine can't help but comment. "If the Borg had intercepted this probe, humanity would have been assimilated centuries ago." The moral: Friendship One was well intentioned, but not very farsighted.

"Our ancestors had no idea what was out here," Chakotay says, almost defensively.

Neelix understands Seven's point, though. "This must have been before your Prime Directive."

"It was before Starfleet existed," Tuvok says.

Enough with the infodump, already. Janeway takes the reins again. "In any case, we lost contact with the probe 130 years ago. But its last known coordinates--"

"Let me guess," Torres says. She's smiling. "We're in the neighborhood."

Janeway nods. "Starfleet's mapped out a search grid. It'll take us a little off course, but if the probe is still intact--and we're lucky enough to find it--we'll be retrieving a little piece of history."

And you thought "One Small Step" was exciting...

*

Captain's Log: Stardate 54775.4. We've been searching for five days without any sign of the probe, but we're not about to disappoint Starfleet on our first official assignment in seven years.

*

Whaddya mean "we," white girl?

While Janeway cavorts with her Holodeck himbo, Tuvok takes the Big Chair to lead the search.

"Nothing in grid two-nine-five," Harry reports.

Tuvok nods, and gives the implicit order. "Mr. Paris."

Tom knows the drill. "Moving on." He plots the course to their next destination.

Harry, though, has an idea. "We should try skipping ahead a little to grid 310." This gets Tuvok's attention, and Harry explains. "I stayed up all night re-extrapolating the probe's trajectory. I've compensated for solar winds, ionic interference and a few local anomalies Starfleet wouldn't know about."

Tuvok considers the suggestion, and deems it good. He amends his order to Lt. Paris: "Alter course to grid 310."

Tom does so. But not without a little over-the-shoulder swipe at his pal. "Trying to impress the Starfleet brass?"

Harry flips him off. "Just doing my job."

Tom just laughs.

*

Time marches on...

"I'm detecting a titanium signature that matches the probe's parameters," Harry announces. Kewl.

"Location?" Tuvok asks.

Harry zeroes in. "A planet two light years away."

Tom does his own analysis. "Confirmed."

He looks over his shoulder again. "Good job, Harry!"

It's Harry's turn to laugh. Say what you will about Ensign Eager, he is good at his job.

After seven years in a job few have for more than two...he ought to be.

* Janeway and Chakotay are in Astrometrics. Seven of Nine does the really detailed scans from here.

"The readings are coming from the northern subcontinent," she reports.

One comment--the planet on the big screen looks nothing like the big blue marble that Friendship One met however long ago.

"Can you localize them?" Janeway asks.

"There are high levels of antimatter radiation in the atmosphere. It's scattering the probe's signature." This doesn't sound good.

"Any life signs?" Chakotay asks.

Seven checks. "None."

Janeway would have preferred more chipper news, but she'll take what she can get. "Assemble an away team and take the Flyer down for a closer look."

*

In Sickbay, the away team gets prepped for the away mission. They get their vitamins, antiradiation shots, and so on.

There's Tom, and Chakotay, and Neelix, and ...

Dude, is that Joe Carey? We haven't seen him in, like, years.

Doc whistles while he works. (If anyone asks WHAT he's whistling, I'm gonna get medieval on 'em. I don't know, and I don't care.) He injects Joe Carey with something.

"You seem to be in a good mood, Doctor."

"Just excited to be doing my part for our first official mission, Mr. Carey."

Tom assists with the shots. "An inoculation a day keeps the radiation away," he tells Neelix as the hypospray hisses its dose of medical goodness into his neck. He moves on to Commander Chakotay.

Tom speaks softly to the commander. "I took a look at those atmospheric readings. Thermal eddies, gravimetric sheer. You're going to need your best pilot." In short--ain't no way in heck I'm letting you take the wheel of MY shuttlecraft, Commander Splashdown.

Chakotay takes the hint. "Are you volunteering?"

Tom thought he'd never ask. "If the Doc can spare me," he says loudly enough for Doc to hear.

Doc just smirks. "I'll muddle through."

Torres enters Sickbay a moment later.

"If you're here for your fetal resonance scan you're a day early," Doc says.

"I'm here for my inoculation," Torres says instead. She's got that nobody-get-in-my-way look in her eyes.

Tom catches on immediately, and he moves to intercept. "You are not going on this mission!"

B'Elanna doesn't back down. She keeps her good mood, though. As chief engineer, she'd love to get her hands on the legendary probe. "Chakotay said he needed an engineer."

"He's already got one," Tom says.

B'Elanna's demeanor remains cheery; she figures she'll win this one easily. "Now he's got two."

Tom looks at his colleagues, and decides this isn't the place to argue. "Will you excuse us?" He pulls his very pregnant wife aside.

Everyone watches them walk away.

Neelix, sitting back-to-back with the Commander, whispers to Chakotay, "Any bets on this one?"

Chakotay whispers back, "My money's on B'Elanna."

*

"It's been months since I've been on an away mission," B'Elanna points out.

"Then try the Holodeck. The Flyer is full."

"You can make room." She looks at the away team. "Neelix doesn't have to go."

"He's not six months pregnant!" Ay, there's the rub.

This irks B'Elanna. "Being pregnant doesn't make me an invalid!"

Careful, Tommy me boy... "No...It doesn't," he admits. "But. There's a toxic atmosphere down there--and you're breathing for two."

Checkmate.

"All right, you win," Torres says after a long sigh. She steps right into Tom's personal space. "But if we have another baby, you carry it, and I'll go on the away missions." She pokes Tom's chest while she says it, but her mouth--and more importantly, her eyes--are smiling.

Tom snickers. "It's a deal." Crisis averted, the two mash lips convincingly.

*

Soon afterward, the Flyer is on its way down toward the planet.

It's not smooth sailing.

"Sorry for the bumpy ride," Tom says over the turbulence. "We'll be clearing the stratosphere in about a minute."

Neelix looks about two seconds away from filling his trusty barf bag. "I had a cousin who used to transport disulfides from a gas giant. He claimed to love the turbulence."

The Flyer hits an air pocket, and drops like a stone for a few seconds. Once Neelix manages to swallow his spleen, he adds, "Of course, disulfides are known to cause (*urp*) delusions."

Tom hears Neelix, but doesn't comment. He's got higher priorities. "Hang on."

The Flyer clears the cloud layer, and can now see the planet's surface through drifting flakes of snow.

Carey is the first to comment. "I thought it was uninhabited." There is clear evidence of civilization--buildings, roads, billboards advertising alien soft drinks. (Darn that Nagus! Sluggo Cola has broader distribution rights than I realized...)

Harry checks his scanners. "There's nothing alive down there now. Radiation levels are at 6,000 isorems." For those playing the home game, this is a lot. If someone were to open a window now, they'd all be deep-fried in a New York Minute.

Despite the nuclear winter.

Joe Carey zeroes in on the probe. "I've localized the signature to a three-kilometer radius."

"Transfer the coordinates to the helm," Chakotay orders. "When we find the probe, we'll beam it to the cargo hold."

"That may not be easy with all this radiation," Harry points out.

"We'd better bring transport enhancers," Chakotay agrees. "Set us down, Tom."

Tom's all business. "Yes, sir."

Neelix, who is in bad enough shape from the trip, is even more disquieted by the radiaiton warning. "Gently, please."

You don't need to tell Tom twice.

*

The Delta Flyer makes a clean landing.

We see someone on the planet's surface who watches them do so.

So much for that No Life Signs assertion. Maybe it's an evolved cockroach.

Plot complication, here we come.

* * *

The snow continues to fall as the away team, in two separate groups, scans the area. They're all in their heaviest environmental suits, and have to communicate by radio.

Tom, Neelix and Carey take one route, scanning with their tricorders with every step.

"I should have brought a holo-camera so I could show B'Elanna she's not missing anything," Tom says. "Can you believe she actually wanted to come with us?"

Joe Carey laughs. "When my wife was pregnant she didn't want to be coddled, either."

"But she's not half Klingon." Tom sighs as he climbs over more twisted wreckage. "Maybe it's us. [our womens' pregnancies] seems to regress the male psyche a few thousand years."

Tom's tricorder picks up an energy signature. He moves a few steps to his right, sweeps aside some debris and comes up with a small spherical device.

"Tom, be careful," Neelix says. He sees Tom about to turn the thing on, whatever it is.

Tom does so anyway. What we hear is a cutesy rendition of Vivaldi's SPRING.

"It's a toy," Tom says. "Like a music box."

"Vivaldi," Carey notes. (Cultured guy, that Joe Carey. Married, with at least one child. What's not to like?) Carey continues his own scans. "I'm getting something. 90 meters this way."

Tom shuts the music box off. But he doesn't put it back. "Souvenir," he explains.

*

Harry and Chakotay head in a different direction. They're climbing a rise, and Har3ry seems to be onto something. "Commander, I'm detecting an antimatter signature ahead."

Bingo.

The two officers find themselves overlooking a barren plain, littered with large manhole cover-looking things.

"Looks like missile silos," Chakotay says, his voice hoarse. Given the condition of the planet, it's a natural conclusion--here's a people that most likely nuked their own world.

"Paris to Chakotay."

"Go ahead."

"We've got a reading that could be the probe. It's inside a cave."

"Keep us posted," Chakotay says. He still can't take his eyes off of the Garden of Armageddon.

*

Chakotay and Harry reach the closest of the silos. The work the portal open and scan the insides.

"The warhead is still active," Chakotay says.

"It wouldn't have taken many of these to trigger a nuclear winter," Harry observes.

The two officers don't speak much. Apocalypse has a way of putting a damper on conversation.

*

Paris, Neelix and Carey enter the cave. Their readings aren't quite so insane here.

"People must have taken shelter here," Neelix says as they shine their flashlights around.

"That makes sense," Cary agrees. "The magnesite in these caves would have provided partial shielding from the radiation."

Tom has broken off a little to scout ahead, and soon his voice rings out over the intercom. "Over here!"

"What'd you find?" Carey asks.

"Some kind of control room...or laboratory."

"Laboratory?" Carey asks.

Tom continues his scans. "Lots of diagnostic equipment. Looks like it was salvaged from a junk heap."

"Or scavenged from the ruins," Neelix says.

Carey is the engineer of the team. He refines his search. "Particle scanners, circuit analyzers...most of it's still functional." This is big news. "They were working on something."

Tom's scans lead him to a pile of debris. He moves some parts aside, and finds something promising. He brushes away enough dirt to reveal the red-bordered English text. "This is what we came for," Tom says.

"Whoever lived here must have been studying it," Carey says.

Neelix does his part. "The datacore's still intact."

Mission...accomplished. So far.

"Start setting up the transport enhancers," Tom says. "Paris to Chakotay."

*

Chakotay answers. "Go ahead."

"We found the probe. Well, pieces of it, anyway."

*

"We're getting ready to beam it back up to the Flyer," Tom says in the cave.

"We'll meet you there."

Team Tommy begins the work of clearing a path for their pattern enhancers, when they hear some unexpected noise.

"Hello?" Neelix asks. "Is someone there?"

Carey scans. "The tricorder isn't reading any life signs."

Sometimes, though, tricorders just aren't enough.

Within seconds, the cave is teeming with life. Or with the undead, depending on your perspective.

They're covered in their own versions of radiation suits, and they move fast.

The lights go on. While some of the strangers light up their energy weapons, others engage the away team in hand-to-hand combat.

The away team, caught unprepared, is at first too shocked to defend themselves.

*

Chakotay and Kim arrive at the DF and begin unsuiting. Chakotay notices that a panel on the Flyer has been tampered with.

Meanwhile, Harry has moved to the aft section, and reaches inside an outfit locker to hang up his helmet.

He completely missed the alien hiding in that outfit locker, who slides the door right into Harry, knocking him to the ground.

The alien jumps out and closes on Harry.

Chakotay, though, warned by the the tampered-with access panel, appears just now, his weapon at the ready.

"Don't move."

The alien moves.

Chakotay gets medieval on him. The attacker goes down, and doesn't get back up.

Chakotay helps Harry up. "Are you okay?" Harry nods, though he's still dazed.

Chakotay hails the remainder of the away team. "Delta Flyer to Paris." Nothing. "Chakotay to away team. Respond!" Still nothing.

Then...BOOOOOOM

Chakotay and Harry sprint to their stations in the fore of the Flyer.

*

The ship is rocked some more.

"They're antimatter weapons!" Harry says.

BOOM

"Shields are off-line!"

Chakotay curses, takes the wheel, and begins powering up the Flyer's engines.

"What are you doing?" Harry demands.

"Getting us out of here." Oh, damn--Chakotay's driving.

"What about the others?"

"We can't do them any good if we're dead. We'll come back for them."

*

The attackers are in firm control.

"Look, you're making a mistake..." Carey says.

The aliens make another one--all upside Carey's face with the butt of hiw weapon. Carey's lip bleeds.

Tom leaps to Carey's defense. For a second, he actually succeeds. But then the butt of the rifle slams into Tom's chest, and it looks like his face will be next.

"Leave them alone!" a voice shouts. Tom turns to see who saved him a fat lip.

Let's just say that it's probably a good thing that the other aliens still have their masks on. This dude has been hit repeatedly with an antimatter ugly stick. "Who are you?" the alien demands. (His name, we will soon learn, is Verin, and he's the leader of this motley, pissed-off band of radioactive natives.)

"I'm Lieutenant Tom Paris. We're from the Federation Starship Voyager."

Verin looks at the strange, shiny technology at Tom's feet. "What are these?" he demands.

"They're transport enhancers," Tom says, assuring Verin that they aren't weapons. "We were going to use them to retrieve our probe."

This makes a bad situation much, much worse. "Your probe?" Tom nods. "Too bad you didn't come for it sooner. It would have saved us a lot of suffering."

Oh, krunk. So much for the happy ending.

*

Chakotay and Harry are safely back aboard Voyager. No word yet on the ultimate fate of the guy who attacked them, who supposedly returned with them to the mothership.

"We still can't contact the others or get a fix on their life signs," Chakotay tells the captain as they walk.

"Why didn't we detect the aliens?" Janeway asks.

"I don't know. Whoever they are, they have antimatter weapons."

"Antimatter?" This is not good.

"Bridge to Captain Janeway." It's Tuvok.

"Go ahead."

"We're being hailed from the surface."

"The away team?" Janeway asks hopefully.

A pause. "No."

*

Janeway takes the call on the bridge. "This is Captain Kathryn Janeway. Who am I speaking with?"

"My name is Verin. Your crewmen are my prisoners."

Uh oh. "Why? We haven't done anything to harm you."

"You committed genocide!"

Them's fightin' words. "I think there's been a misunderstanding. We arrived here--"

"You're from Earth?"

A pause. "Yes."

"Then you're going to pay for what your people did to us."

This is not going well.

"I'm sorry, I don't know what you're talking about," Janeway says.

"We're not as naive as you seem to think we are, Captain...Not anymore."

Janeway tries to change the course of the conversation. "What is it you want?"

"I want you to get us off this planet. Find us a new home."

Seems simple enough, in theory anyway. But first things first. "Release my crewmen and we can talk about it."

"No more talking. Your people won't be safe until mine are."

Verin is walking on very thin ice. Chakotay notes the vein throbbing on Janeway's forehead.

"Listen," Janeway says dangerously. "I don't respond well to threats."

"And I don't want to kill anyone. But I will if you don't cooperate. You have three hours to begin evacuating us."

Thanks a ton for the mission, Admiral Hendricks, you sawed-off rear-echelon...

* * *

Janeway may not respond well to threats, but she does bow to reality from time to time. One way or another, the hostage crisis will end, and the task of helping this people will begin. "Start scanning for the nearest M-Class planet," she tells Tuvok.

"You intend to meet his demands?" Tuvok asks, eyebrows raised.

Janeway's eyes blaze. "I'm just keeping my options open."

She next turns to Chakotay. "You're with me."

As J/C moments go, this is pretty skimpy, but it'll have to do.

*

In Sickbay, we discover what happened with the alien who invaded the Delta Flyer.

Doc picks up the outfit the alien was wearing, and shows it to the captain. "I've analyzed his garment. It's lined with magnesite."

"A makeshift environmental suit," she says.

"Unfortunately, the protection it offers is limited. His tissues are saturated with antimatter radiation. It explains why we couldn't detect his life signs; they're virtually indistinguishable from the environment."

"Now that we know that maybe we can adjust our sensors to detect them," Chakotay suggests.

Janeway agrees. On to the next step. "Let's wake him." The three walk over to the bio-bed, where the horribly disfigured alien lies, unconscious. His face looks like a Horta sat on it.

Doc spritzes with the hypospray, and a moment later the alien awakens.

"What were you doing aboard our shuttle?" Janeway demands.

He is defiant. "Trying to undo the damage you caused!"

Janeway is getting tired of taking the blame. "If you're referring to what's happened on your planet, we had nothing to do with it."

"Your people sent the probe, didn't they?" Well, he's got her there.

"Our ancestors sent it 300 years ago to make contact with other species," Chakotay counters.

The alien laughs mirthlessly. "They did a little more than that." He turns to Janeway. He notes that he's under restraints on the surgical bed. "Am I your prisoner?"

The Doctor answers. "No. You're suffering from prolonged radiation exposure. I can treat you."

For the first time, the alien is at a loss for words. "You can?" he asks, hardly able to believe his blistered ears.

"I believe I can."

The suspicion slams down again. "In exchange for what?"

Doc shrugs as though not understanding the question. "Nothing."

Now hope begins to glimmer. "I have a wife, friends--"

This is where Janeway likes to be.

"We might be able to help them, too--but not while our crewmen are being held hostage," she tells the stowaway. "You said you were trying to undo the damage we caused. What did you mean by that?"

He considers not answering, but decides there's little reason not to share. "I was aboard your shuttle looking for technology that might help us neutralize the radiation."

"We saw missiles on the surface," Chakotay says. "Was the destruction caused by war?"

The patient is offended. "Those missiles were built for defense. They were never launched." Well, that's a comfort.

"Then what accounts for the devastation?" Doc asks.

"A containment failure in our power grid. Once the antimatter was released it destroyed everything." Ah. Weapons weren't the problem--shoddy quality control standards were to blame.

Janeway feels the same way, and puts the blame right back on the patient. "I'm sorry. But I still don't see how we're responsible."

This guy is more than happy to enlighten her. "Before the probe, my people never conceived of anything like antimatter!"

Ah. Well, hard to argue with that. Doesn't excuse whoever built the dang power grid, though.

But it's a little late for that now. The patient quotes the famous words. "'We offer this information freely with the hope that one day we will stand on your soil and extend our hands in friendship.' I'm sure you recognize those words."

"The recording from the probe," Janeway says. To her credit, she's starting to see things from the aliens' point of view. In the Prime Directive era, such a probe would obviously never have been launched; a few hundred years of sad experience taught them this.

Even so, these aliens are blaming not just the probe, but have found evil intent behind FRIENDSHIP ONE. "Your people sent us technology that they knew would destroy us," he says accusingly.

"I don't understand," Janeway says again.

"We didn't either--at first. But we had decades to think about it, and now it seems so obvious. You send us new technology, encourage us to use it, and then you wait for us to obliterate ourselves!"

It would be easy to dismiss this accusation as mere paranoia, if the planet below weren't celebrating the golden anniversary of Nuclear Winter.

"Why would we do that?" Chakotay asks.

The tone is bitter. "Because it's easier than invading us."

Janeway thinks he's full of more than just radiation. "Do you really believe we'd contaminate a world we intended to conquer?"

"I'm a scientist. I believe what I see. And today, I saw your people standing on our soil--just as you promised!--and they were wearing equipment that protected them from the radiation because they knew exactly what to expect."

The man gives Janeway one mother of a hard look. "If you were in my position, what would you believe?"

For the moment, Janeway has no response. The man's logic may be faulty, but the passion behind them is all too sincere.

And there are three members of her crew on the planet below, being detained by someone just as passionate in his belief that Earth People Suck.

* Meanwhile, back in the cave of the bear clan...

Tom treats Joe Carey, who's got a nasty, bleeding bump on his head. "He might have a concussion." He asks a woman for his medikit.

She brings him a rag and a bowl of water instead. "I was told not to let you use your equipment."

Tom takes what he can get. He notices that the woman is expecting. "When's your baby due?" he asks conversationally.

The woman refuses even to look at him.

"My wife's pregnant, too. We're expecting a little girl in a couple of months."

The woman is surprised by this. "How do you know it's a girl?"

"We have technology that allows us to examine the fetus. She has my eyes and her mother's cranial ridges." He says it with obvious love and affection. "Is this your first?"

The woman turns taciturn again. "No."

Tom keeps trying to break the ice. "Oh? Boys? Girls?"

She refuses to look at him. "Two boys and a girl," she says evenly.

"What are their names?"

The woman's voice catches. "They were all stillborn."

Tom's cordial demeanor evaporates. "I'm sorry," he says softly.

But he has somehow managed to crack some of her armor. She looks at him uncertainly. "You're...a Doctor?"

Tom shakes his head. "No, I'm just a medic. But we have the best Doctor in the quadrant back on Voyager. He might be able to help--"

This is too much at once. "I shouldn't be talking to you." The woman distances herself from the prisoners.

Tom shakes his head sadly, then returns to his patient as Neelix looks on silently.

*

Torres, Kim and Tuvok have taken over Astrometrics. They've found a promising planet to show the captain.

But there's a downside.

"Our current coordinates and the nearest M-Class planet--132 light-years away."

"At maximum warp that's about two months round trip," B'Elanna says.

Janeway frowns. "How many people are we talking about?"

"If these sensor modifications are correct, about 5,500," Harry reports.

"It would take at least 17 trips--almost three years to complete the relocation," Tuvok says.

There's a moment of silence.

"We've made sacrifices to help people before," Harry says. Yeah, but three years? What does Starfleet have to say about this?

"What about Tom and the others?" Torres demands. "Are they supposed to rot down there until this relocation's finished?"

"I don't think Verin's going to let go of his only bargaining chips<" Janeway says.

Tuvok says what someone had to. "Then we may have to use force."

But as the bearer of bad tidings, Janeway uses him as her whipping boy. "Not until we've exhausted every other option. These people believe that we're violent; I'm not going to do anything to reinforce that belief."

But then her features turn hard. "Unless it becomes absolutely necessary."

*

Seven of Nine enters Sickbay and hands something to Doc. "I've extracted the nanoprobes."

"I'll begin reprogramming them." Doc moves to another room.

"Nanoprobes?" the alien asks.

"Microscopic machines. Hopefully they'll help us repair your damaged tissue."

This catches the scientist's attention. "You said you extracted them. From where?"

"My bloodstream. They maintain my cybernetic implants."

"Nanoprobes, cybernetic implants...." the alien is awestruck by the new concepts. "Are others on your crew like you?"

Seven gets self-conscious. "No, I'm...unique."

"You certainly are," he says appreciatively. (Um, hey, bebe. Once you go mutant, you never go back...)

Janeway enters, looking determiend. "I need a word with your patient." Seven nods, and finds another place to work.

Janeway walks over to the patient. "You told me you'd been looking for ways to neutralize the radiation."

He nods. "All my life."

Janeway smiles. "Tell me about your work."

*

A moment after Tom Paris sits down to rest, Joe Carey begins to stir.

"Lieutenant?" Neelix asks.

"I'm okay. My stomach's just a little queasy."

Tom sighs. "Our inoculations must be wearing off."

This worries Neelix. "I thought these caves were naturally shielded."

"They're no substitute for an environmental suit," Tom reminds him.

Carey gets a disturbing thought as he looks at the natives with their faces only a Vidiian could love. "These people have lived here all their lives without environmental suits." The longer the hostage crisis lasts, the more alike they're gonna start to look.

B'Elanna's first born may end up being an only child.

glow, little glow-worm, brighter, brighter...

Neelix, ever the compassionate type, looks at the aliens with less distress than empathy. "These people have lived here without much of anything."

The three Voyagerites hear a noise. They look up to see a little girl behind Neelix. "Hello," she says timidly.

"Hello," Tom says with a smile, doing his best to charm her. "It's all right. We're not going to hurt you. What's your name?"

She hesitates. "Yun."

"Mine's Tom. This is Joe, and Neelix."

Yun comes closer, slowly, cautiously. "You're not like them," she tells Neelix.

"We're different species. But they're my friends."

Yun opens up a bit more, apparently deciding to trust them. "They say you're going to take us on your ship and find us a new home."

The three men look at each other.

"I'm sure our Captain is trying to help you," Neelix promises.

Tom gets an idea. "Neelix...Where's our souvenir?"

Neelix catches on fast. "In my pack."

Tom asks the pregnant woman to help. "Excuse me. Um, we'd like to give her something. It's in the equipment bag."

There is no response.

"It's a toy," Tom assures her.

The woman complies. Tom takes it with a grateful expression. Moving slowly so as not to scare anyone, he extends it toward the girl Yun, and activates it.

Ironic for a planet in perpetual winter, Vivaldi's Spring tinkles merrily away.

Verin hears the noise and stomps over. He grabs the toy from Yun. "That could be a weapon!"

The woman deactivates the toy; the music stops. "It's harmless," she tells him. (Do I detect dissension in the ranks?)

Verin, though, will have none of that. Earth is NOT harmless. It's not even mostly harmless. (Fare thee well, Douglas Adams...) "These men are dangerous! I want you to stay away from them. Understood?" He drags the woman and the girl away from their prisoners.

Tom sighs. "So much for making friends."

Neelix gets an idea. He stands and calls out, "Mr. Verin?"

"What are you doing?" Tom whispers.

"My job. I'm Voyager's ambassador, remember?" He turns his attention back to Verin. "Can I have a word with you?"

Verin says nothing, but doesn't prevent Neelix from coming over. The two walk to a quiet place.

"Just between us," Neelix says, "I understand why you don't trust humans."

Verin's eyes narrow with suspicion. "Then why are you with them?"

He shrugs casually. "They're not so bad once you get to know them. When I first met them I thought they were arrogant, self-righteous."

"I suppose you're going to tell me you've changed your mind."

Since the humans aren't within earshot, he can be candid. "Well, not completely." TRAITOR!!!

"I still think they take themselves far too seriously for my taste," he continues. Well, no arguing with that.

"But one thing they don't do is harm other people." Well, not on purpose, anyway.

This statement doesn't mesh with Verin's worldview, and he goes batdookie. "Are you blind?" he roars.

Neelix hastens to smooth things over. "No, I see very clearly what's happened to you. And I'd like to help."

"How?"

"My Captain listens to me. I can speak to her on your behalf--help her understand your situation."

Again Verin's eyes narrow. "What do you know about our 'situation'?"

"I know what you've been through," Neelix says gravely. "My planet was destroyed by a weapon called a metreon cascade. Hundreds of thousands of people were killed...including my family."

"How did you survive?"

"I was on a neighboring planet when the weapon was detonated. I went back with a rescue team, but there was no one left."

Verin considers this. "I'm sorry about what happened to your family..." his expression hardens. "But don't compare your life to mine." He gestures, and one of his mutant thugs drags Neelix back to his companions.

*

Janeway hails Verin again. "The nearest suitable planet is simply too far away, so I'd like to propose an alternative."

Verin is in no mood for any deviation from his plans. "There is no alternative."

"Please, hear me out." She takes a deep breath. "We have one of your people aboard, a Mr. Otrin. He has some interesting ideas about counteracting the radiation."

Verin's voice is bitter. "Otrin has too many ideas."

Janeway sides with Otrin. "I think his theories have merit. What he's lacked until now is the means to carry them out." She pauses for effect. "If you release the hostages, we can work together. There's a good chance we could undo some of the damage to your environment."

Verin doesn't like where this is headed. "This isn't a negotiation!"

"You don't seem to understand," Janeway reminds him. "It would take years to evacuate the entire planet."

"So instead, you once again offer us the benefits of your technology." Oh, no sarcasm there...

Janeway's tone turns dangerous. "What I'm offering you is a realistic alternative."

Verin hesitates. "If I release the hostages, what's to prevent you from leaving or attacking us?"

Janeway is growing exasperated. "Look, I know you've suffered, and I know you don't trust us."

"You haven't given me any reason to!"

"Then why don't we start with one small step?" she asks. (Ah, nothing satisfies like title flashback.) "You return one of the hostages and I'll send you a supply of food and medicine."

*

Verin is agitated. He's not getting his way, and Janeway is not cooperating the way he'd like.

He handles the pattern enhancers, and gets an idea.

"You..." he says, pointing to Carey. "What's your name?"

Joe silently points to himself, the universal you talking to me? gesture. Verin nods. Joe answers: "Joe Carey."

Verin holds up the strange devices. "Set up your...Transport enhancers."

The away team seems encouraged. Maybe Verin is starting to see reason.

Carey gets up, and slowly sets up the enhancers in a triangular pattern. He turns them on, and there's a soft blue glow between the three points.

Verin gestures for Carey to get inside the enhanced area. Carey does so.

At this point, the look on Verin's face is not encouraging. neither is the automatic weapon in Verin's hand.

Verin looks at the Lieutenant. "I'm sorry...Mr. Carey." He cocks the weapon one handed, like Bruce Campbell chambering a round in a twelve-gauge shotgun in Army of Darkness.

CAREY "Sorry?" Carey asks, not quite catching on.

"Your Crewman's ready, Captain," Verin says.

*

Janeway sounds relieved. "Transport him to Sickbay."

Verin then aims his weapon.

Tom jumps up. "Hey, what the hell are you doing?!"

Verin fires just before the transporter kicks in.

The smell of barbecue permeates the cave.

*

Janeway can't see what's happening. "Tom?"

She is hailed by the doctor. "Sickbay to bridge."

Doc looks down. We follow his gaze to Joe Carey, now lying flat on his back, with a smoking hole in his chest.

"They've killed Lieutenant Carey," he says flatly.

Oh, frell, they killed Carey! You BASTARDS!

But wait--Carey's in Sickbay. He's been dead for just a few seconds. And Seven's got nanoprobes to burn. Surely she could give him the Neelix of Borg treatment like she did in "Mortal Coil," right?

Perhaps. But we haven't seen Carey, really, since the first season. (flashbacks don't count.) They bring him back right before the end of the series, and they give him a ton of lines to remind us that he's got personality as well as rank and assignment.

Sometimes, they prefer to let sleeping redshirts die.

Alas, poor Joe, we hardly knew ye...

* * *

If he had been within Janeway's line of sight, there's little question--not only would her look kill, there would be nothing left of Verin to identify. "If you think murdering one of my crewmen is going to make me more receptive to your demands you're mistaken."

Verin, unable to see just how lucky he is not to see what he can't see, is defiant. "Don't force me to kill anyone else."

Janeway exhales her fury. "All right. I'll evacuate your people," she says in a voice that clearly suggests otherwise. "But our transporters aren't designed to accommodate large groups. We'll need time to modify them." This is, of course, a lie. She's up to something.

Verin, though, is an idiot, and doesn't see anything he doesn't want to. He thinks he's won. "We'll be ready within the hour." His voice turns dangerous. "If you're not..."

Janeway cuts him off. "I understand." She ends the signal.

Her eyes blaze in Chakotay's direction. "My ready room."

*

The pregnant woman offers something to Paris and Neelix, who are starting to look a little haggard. "You have radiation poisoning. This will make you feel better."

"Thank you," Neelix says.

"Why are you helping us?" asks Paris.

The woman smiles with something unexpected--warmth. "Your child's going to need a father, isn't she?"

After the horror of Carey's death, this is the first glimmer of hope Tom and Neelix have had to cling to. Tom smiles gratefully.

*

Otrin's on Motrin, and Seven is exhibiting some remarkable bedside manner.

He's looking a good deal better today. She pulls back the restraints. "The first phase of your therapy is complete."

Otrin, surprised, rises from the bed--and is even more surprised by how easily he is able to do so.

"How do you feel?"

Otrin is amazed. "I can breathe more easily!" His voice is quite strong right now. We can even tell that he isn't so bad looking a guy, once you suck out all the radiation poisoning.

"Your lungs were damaged by the radiation. The nanoprobes are repairing them."

Otrin is one happy boy. "It's incredible! If we could manufacture more of these we might be able to treat everyone!"

"Unfortunately, Mr. Verin has refused our help," Seven says.

Uh oh. Down come the iron walls of suspicion. "Did you expect him to cooperate?"

"His behavior is irrational," Seven says flatly.

"To you, maybe. But you haven't lived like we have."

"No, but that doesn't mean that we're responsible for what's happened here."

This is the lovely thing. Janeway might have to be diplomatic. Seven of Nine does not. She can tell it like it is whenever she feels like it.

Otrin's about to get an earful.

"You can't deny your people sent the probe!" he says.

"They made an error in judgment. They failed to anticipate the consequences of their actions," she says, not bothering to argue the very obvious point. "But they never meant to destroy your world."

Otrin's not quite to the point where he can believe that. It is so much easier to believe that the cataclysm was part of some evil master plan, rather than a highway to Hell paved with good intentions. And the fact is, these people screwed up too--it was they who built the weapons, and the poorly-designed power plants.

"Human culture has evolved learned from its mistakes," Seven says. "So can yours."

Otrin grudgingly concedes the point. Sort of. "Even if I believed you, Verin never would."

Verin, in case it's not crystal clear by now, is a complete idiot. He's had a hard life, but he's the wrong guy to have in charge at a moment like this. No flexibility whatsoever.

Seven says as much. "Then your people may need a change of leadership--someone more open to new ideas."

Otrin, who we already know has had his share of run-ins with Verin, and didn't come out on top, isn't keen on this idea. "I'm not a leader," he mutters.

"But you're a scientist--someone who can see a problem and envision a solution. The same definition could apply to a leader."

Yeah, science. That never steers you wrong.

Right?

*

Tom and Neelix have little to do but wait, and simmer in their own juices. Tom seems sympathetic to the plight of their captors. Aside from Verin, they haven't been that bad. He seems particularly concerned about the pregnant woman and the little girl, who have shown them kindness. "Doesn't seem fair, does it? My daughter...She'll have food medical care, everything she needs."

Speaking of the woman...she gasps in sudden pain.

Break out the boiling water, it's baby time.

The midwives converge, but it's not looking good.

The woman looks at Tom. "Let him help me."

Verin is suspicious, but his concern for the woman wins out. he looks at Tom. "Can you?"

Tom doesn't hesitate. "I think so, but I'll need my med kit."

*

There are guards outside the entrance to the cave. One of them points skyward.

The Delta Flyer is back for more.

"Inform Verin."

*

The birth is difficult. "I'm losing the heartbeat," Tom says after running a scan. The woman begins weeping with something other than pain. After three stillbirths, her own heart may not survive another.

Tom acts fast. Neelix asks what he's doing. "Speeding up the contractions," Tom says.

While the woman screams, the guards enter and speak in hushed whispers to Verin.

Verin is angry. "Their ship's returned. Send out patrols. Double the guard at the entrance."

*

He's a little late.

The guards at the door are dropped by phaser fire. Chakotay and Tuvok wordlessly plan the next steps.

*

With a final scream from the mother, the baby comes. "I've got him!" Tom says.

Unfortunately, the baby isn't responding. "He's not breathing," Tom says. The woman begins to panic, but Tom's not giving up. "Cardio-stimulator! Three millijoules. Now!"

*

Tuvok gets caught out in the open. "Don't move!" a guard yells. he's soon surrounded.

One of the outfitted alien raises his hand. "I'll take him to Verin. Find the others."

Nobody argues. They head off to search.

"This way," the guard says, leveling the barrel at Tuvok, making him lead the way into the cave.

*

The fight to save the newborn continues.

"Increase the charge to five millijoules." The stimulator chirps,and the baby's chest rises. "Again!"

At last, Tom has good news. "I'm reading a heartbeat!"

The baby begins to cry. The tears flow in earnest, but this time with joy.

Tom bundles up the baby--badly disfigured by radiation--and hands it to the mother. "You have a son."

An advance guard enters. "One of the patrols took another prisoner!"

Verin smiles cruelly. "Put him with the others."

Tom begs Verin to let the baby go. "We need to get him to Voyager."

Verin is adamant. "He stays here."

The other guard appears, his gun trained on Tuvok.

Neelix recognizes him immediately. "Mr. Tuvok...!"

Verin addresses Tom and Neelix. "Your Captain was foolish enough to think she could rescue you. Instead, she's given me another hostage."

Think again, pus boy.

The guard fires--and takes out one of his own people. Then he shoots another. Tuvok grabs a weapon from a fallen guard, and within seconds it's all over--Starfleet now has the upper hand.

The traitorous guard drops his headcovering.

Tom's jaw drops. "DOC?!?"

Doc smiles. "When you need to infiltrate a toxic environment it helps to be a hologram."

Tuvok wastes little time with pleasantries. "Prepare the transport enhancers." He taps his commbadge. "Tuvok to Chakotay. We secured the hostages."

"Good work. Chakotay to Delta Flyer. Two to beam out." Chakotay and Harry, the designated decoys, disappear before Verin's guards can close on them.

*

The Starfleeters assemble inside the pattern buffer.

The woman is grateful to Tom for his help. This reminds Tom of his thoughts a moment before. He steps out of the triangle.

"Now, Mr. Paris," Tuvok says sternly.

Tom reaches out to the woman. "Your baby won't survive without treatment. I promise we'll bring him back."

The woman hesitates, but she now has good reason to trust him. She hands the child over. "Take good care of him."

Tom has never been so reassuring. "I will." He steps back into the enhanced area, cradling the newborn.

Looks annoyed--but not THAT annoyed. It's hard to be too cross where babies are concerned. "Tuvok to Voyager. Five to beam up."

* * *

Sickbay is hopping right now. The away team, being treated for radiation poisoning.

And Otrin and the infant, who are being treated for a whole lot of radiation poisoning.

Everyone is coming along nicely. The baby, in fact, now looks very healthy.

"Cute little fellow, isn't he?" Doc asks, as he and Janeway make goo-goo eyes at the newborn. "He's already responding to treatment."

Janeway is pleased. "Once he's stabilized we'll transport him to the surface, and send along some food and medical supplies."

Neelix's ears perk up. "We're leaving?!?"

Janeway nods crisply. "As soon as I report to Starfleet." She's not looking forward to the report--it's not the good news everyone had hoped for, and there's a senseless casualty to boot.

Neelix, worried, looks at Paris, on the bunk opposite. The two agree--they can't let it end like this.

But Janeway is well into the corridor. The two rush to catch her.

*

The two plead with Janeway on the baby's behalf. If they don't do something, he'll just get sick again.

"I'm sorry," Janeway says. "We can't keep him from his mother."

"I'm not suggesting that," Tom says. "You told those people that we might be able to neutralize the radiation. Was that true?"

"Yes," Janeway says, a bit irritably. "But they didn't want our help. I can't force it on them."

"Maybe you should!" Neelix says. "If we help them without asking anything in return it'll prove they're wrong about us."

Janeway sighs. "You're forgetting something. They killed Mr. Carey. I'm not about to risk anymore lives to help murderers!"

"Captain, it was one man who killed Carey!" Tom says. "If you saw how they were living, how desperate they are..."

Janeway is unswayed.

Tom sighs. "I'm not saying we should ignore what happened. But humans did play a part in their suffering."

Neelix agrees. "Intentional or not, that probe had a terrible impact on these people. If there's anything we can do to make up for that now we at least have to try."

The double-team appears to be working.

*

In Engineering, we see Otrin showing off his experiment. His treatments are really, really coming along nicely--and he's starting to look downright photogenic. Nice leadership material, at least on the surface.

Otrin explains the experiment. "I've adjusted the radiation levels to match the conditions on the surface." There's a cylinder filled with toxic cloud. "Watch--an isolitic chain reaction."

We watch as the dark, skanky cloud lights up--turns orange, then red...then disappears completely.

Having thus cleared the air, Otrin smiles. "It recombines the nucleonic particles in the atmosphere."

Janeway is suitably impressed. "How do we apply your methods on a planetary scale?"

Seven offers an option. "Atmospheric processors are one possibility."

Janeway shakes her head. "Too bad we don't have a corps of engineers to build them."

Even so, Janeway gets an idea. She goes to a processing console and taps in a few variables. She's pleased by the results. "What if we encased the catalytic agent in photon torpedoes--used the concussive force to start the reaction?"

Seven considers this. "It would require multiple detonations at a low altitude...but I believe it could work."

Otrin is pleased, but has a concern. "Captain, an isolitic reaction of that magnitude would expand exponentially. Your ship might not survive."

Janeway is surprisingly--to Otrin, anyway--nonplused by that idea. "We'll have to modify our shields, reinforce structural integrity. Well, let's get started."

Janeway is always happiest when her life is on the line.

*

Otrin beams down with the infant. Both look about as healthy as though they had never been nuked in the first place.

The mother is ecstatic. "He's beautiful!"

"And they can give us enough medicine to treat everyone!" Otrin adds.

Verin can feel the crusade slipping away. "Can they rebuild our cities? Bring back the people who died?"

Otrin may agree, but he isn't about to kill the future just to continue wallowing in the past. "They're offering to help! And this time, no one's coercing them!" he levels an accusing look at Verin.

Verin isn't done raging. "We can't trust these people! They just sent armed men to attack us!"

Otrin stands up for the humans this time. "They only wanted to rescue the hostages."

Verin doesn't accept that. "Who knows what they wanted?"

"You're being irrational!" Otrin says.

"What's irrational is cooperating with the enemy!!!"

The new mother holds up her now-healthy non-dead infant. "Look at my child! They said that they would treat him...and they kept their word."

This last comment causes the room to quiet.

*

"Shield modifications online," Tuvok announces.

"Torpedoes?" Chakotay asks.

Seven of Nine, also on the bridge, reports: "ready."

Janeway takes her seat. Her eyes are hotter than the planet's surface. "Hail them."

*

Verin is in mid-rant. "Listen to me!--"

"Otrin, we're ready to begin," Janeway says over the comm system. She doesn't bother addressing Verin.

Otrin responds. "Understood. Good luck."

*

"Tom, take us down."

Down they go. Deep, deep into the pea soup of death.

"We're 10,000 meters into the troposphere," Paris reports. He's starting to sweat.

Well, they never said it would be easy...

"Fire the first sequence."

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM....

The cave shakes. Radioactive dust rains down on the aliens.

"They're attacking us!" Verin bellows.

Otrin does what he can to calm the people. "It's only the shock wave from the detonations."

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM....

*

It's an impressive sight. Voyager fires a torpedo, which detonates, which glows orange/yellow, and smacks them around like a rubber ducky in a force-twelve hurricane.

Then they do it again.

"Shields?" Janeway asks.

"Holding at 18%," Tuvok reports.

Once more into the breach...

*

"Are you going to stand there while he helps them destroy us?" Verin screams. He runs over to a console and begins entering commands.

The familiarity of the equipment is disturbing. Remember, if you introduce an antimatter missile silo in Act One, you had better have them use it before Act Five ends.

"What are you doing?" Otrin demands.

Verin's lips are a thin, white, pustulent line. "Fighting back."

*

the doors open, revealing the missiles. Verin's playing for keeps.

Verin's a dangerous idiot, but he's certainly not lacking for dedication to his cause.

*

Harry starts to freak. "Captain, they're opening missile silos. They're targeting Voyager!"

Chakotay, the other visitor to the silos, is no less worried. "At 18%, our shields won't withstand an antimatter explosion."

"We should return to orbit," Tuvok says.

But Janeway's still in mid-death wish. "Not yet. Fire the next sequence."

BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM....

*

Otrin is horrified. "You can't launch those missiles!"

"Hold him!" Verin orders. A couple of guards latch on to the scientist.

"Stop!" Yells the new mother. She's handed her baby over to a midwife. Now, the mama bear is cradling a weapon Janeway would be proud to own.

She's got it aimed at Verin's head.

Verin is horrified. "What are you doing?"

"I won't let you ruin our only chance for survival."

"You'd kill me?"

"To save my child..." "Yes."

Verin is furious. "Get that weapon away from her."

The guards raise their weapons.

But the now-healthy Otrin, and the mother of the living, breathing, non-irradiated baby make a potent argument. They aim their guns at Verin.

"No...Sir."

Verin senses the tide has turned, and he's rapidly becoming an army of one. "I've kept you alive...all of you!"

"And we're grateful for that," Otrin says. "But survival isn't enough anymore!"

Verin levels his gaze at Otrin. "Are you in command now?" He scoffs.

Otrin feels all eyes upon him. It's decision time. "If I have to be."

And it's over. Verin has lost.

Oh, remember Yun, the cute kid? She runs into the cave. "Everyone, come...come outside! Hurry!"

All eyes turn to Otrin. It's his call now.

Otrin nods toward Verin. "Bring him."

*

"Look! up at the sky!"

"Something's happening."

Otrin smiles. "It's working." Sure enough, the pea soup of death is beginning to dissipate. First orange, then red, then...

"I can see the sun!"

"It's beautiful," Yun says.

Mission accomplished.

*

Captain's Log, Supplemental: we've retrieved Friendship One and resumed our course to the Alpha Quadrant, but the success of our mission had a very high price.

So this is Joe Carey's quarters...

Janeway is sitting at a table. She is viewing a ship in a bottle. In this case, the ship is Voyager.

Chakotay enters, and sees what Janeway's looking at. "Impressive, isn't it?"

"The detail's amazing," Janeway agrees.

"Carey spent months working on it. He used to joke that he wouldn't be finished by the time we got back to Earth."

Janeway picks up a stray piece on the table. "He only had one nacelle to go." she holds it idly.

A moment of silence ensues.

"We were able to download the probe's memory core," Chakotay reports. "We'll transmit the telemetry in the next data stream."

Janeway nods, but her mind is elsewhere. "I think about our ancestors...thousands of years wondering if they were alone in the universe, finally discovering they weren't. You can't blame them for wanting to reach out, see how many other species were out there asking the same questions."

FRIENDSHIP ONE. An idea that seemed to make such good sense at the time. Reach out and touch someone. Offer all the collected wisdom of the ages of Earth, and hope it'll be appreciated.

This is the sort of thing that often comes back to haunt. No good deed ever goes unpunished.

"The urge to explore is pretty powerful," Chakotay says.

Janeway shakes her head sadly. "But it can't justify the loss of lives...whether it's millions..." she touches the bottle containing the almost-completed model ship. "Or just one."

[Analysis]

You know, until the last scene, this wasn't a bad episode.

But that last line is such an abomination I'm knocking a full star off the score. Words cannot do justice to the rage I feel at this renunciation of the very heart of Trek philosophy.

Perhaps this sounds overly harsh. But reread that final line of Janeway's. Here is the captain of a starship, the Voice of Federation Ideology, saying that the loss of EVEN ONE LIFE doesn't justify the urge to explore.

This is so offensive I don't know where to begin. I'm normally very forgiving when it comes to Voyager, but this is such a philosophical atrocity, and it's presented so close to the end of Voyager's run, that this statement cannot be allowed to go unanswered.

Remember "One Small Step"? One guy orbiting Mars gets sucked up by some unexplained phenomenon. he ends up dying. That episode was presented--along with a special message from Robert Picardo on behalf of the Planetary Society of which he is a part--as a way of getting the viewers excited about the idea of sending manned missions to Mars. The episode ended with a funeral for the man whose life was celebrated, even as his last days were replayed. Here was a true hero who did his duty to his very last breath.

Was the urge to explore our solar system worth the life of this astronaut? Where would we be were it not?

Let me be blunt. The last line of this episode is an insult to the memory of everyone who has ever died in the effort to see what was over the next hill, beyond the horizon, or over the rainbow.

Clearly, we should look before we leap. But if we stop leaping entirely, we are damned.

Given the events of the following week's "Natural Law," where Voyager goes out of its way to lock an indigenous tribe behind an electric bubble to "save" them from the big bad galaxy, this is a one-two punch--Voyager's way of saying, "why risk the treacherous unknown when you could be home watching UPN?"

Screw that.

For that matter, screw the shuttle they flew in on. Whatever happened to "boldly go where no one has gone before"?

*

Okay, now that THAT is out of my system...

The lesser outrage is the gratuitous death of Joe Carey.

No offense to Joe Carey.

Frankly, it didn't bother me that they brought back Carey (played by the very likeable Josh Clark) just to kill him. I would have preferred that they give him at least a cameo in an episode a week or so before, just to show that he's still around, alive and kicking. That was the season one pattern--give an extra a few lines in an episode, then kill them NEXT week.

Carey began as an interesting second-tier cast member. We saw him with a bloody nose and a reason to dislike B'Elanna Torres, the one who bloodied it. They were competitors for the chief engineer's spot. He was Starfleet, she Maquis, but she was the more gifted engineer. Later, Carey helped acquire technology against Janeway's wishes which might have gotten them home...and the next week was a prime suspect in a plot to offer technology to the Kazon.

We hadn't heard from him since, with the exception of a flashback scene in "Relativity" and a reference to his death in "Before and After". It's a shame--he could have been more. But I guess they didn't want to have too much conflict between him and Torres.

Killing Carey was shocking and senseless--which was clearly the point. They wanted to off someone we had SOME emotional attachment to, but they didn't want to kill a marquee character. That's a short list these days. Naomi Wildman, Samantha Wildman, Ensign Vorik, maybe a Delaney sister. They've already killed Seska plenty of times. Carey was a dark horse candidate, but he fit the bill.

He had a family. he had a ship in a bottle. He had something to live for. he had personality.

He was doomed from the start. Did he deserve to die? No. Was he a good choice? Given the logic of the situation, yes. Better him than some no-name extra. This senseless death was meant to piss people off.

I suspect it succeeded.

*

Those two complaints aside, it wasn't a bad episode. It was well paced, it fit in with the evolving Pathfinder arc, and the inherent message--in Earth's early days after First Contact, they made some very big mistakes, which we have since learned from--isn't wrong. There have been plenty of Prime Directive episodes where a ship is called on to correct an error of the past. Kirk did this often. Picard, occasionally. Sisko even found himself stuck in a Mirror Universe mess of Kirk's making. We've had within Voyager's run a few future episodes showing Voyager's own long-term reputation.

As good as Starfleet's ideals are, its personnel haven't been perfect in practice.

Friendship One was a bad idea, but we only know this in hindsight. In those heady early days of the Earth Warp Era, the planet was rising from the ashes of war and despair, and wanted to share the best of their planet with everyone in the galaxy--it was a beacon of hope. "Trust us, you can make it. We did." It's a noble sentiment.

But three hundred years later, with a Federation and Starfleet in place, with volumes of protocols, we know better. Good ideas gone bad is how most protocols get written. The universe is a big, scary place, filled with deep cold and vacuum and radiation and asteroids and all sorts of malevolent entitities only too happy to kill you.

Kill off enough redshirts, and you get a pretty good idea of how to stay alive. That is how the West Was Won. That's how Manifest Destiny was carried out. That's how the moon got its first taste of Old Glory and the footsteps for man and leaps for mankind.

The trail is lined with graves. Some were most likely avoidable. Some, perhaps, were not.

We learn. We mourn. We move on.

If we don't follow those who blazed the trails, then their deaths count for nothing. Monuments have meaning only when we know they are there.

These are large themes. Trek has covered this territory many times, with mixed results. The truth is, had they not had Janeway utter that last line, I would have felt a lot better about it.

But it was said, and I refuse to forget.

*

We saw Voyager do a good deed. They didn't undo all the damage from the probe, but they cleaned the atmosphere, which will hopefully give the aliens a new start. The kindness of the crew in healing Otrin and the baby (and who knows how many others) will give Earth a better reputation than they had before Voyager showed up. It doesn't undo the past, but it may pave the way for a new future.

It's not a happy happy ending, but sometimes that's the best you can hope for. The lessons of "Friendship One" were learned long ago, though through other means. For the Federation, this is an instance where ignorance was bliss, but it's better that they knew.

The use of Vivaldi was nice and obvious. Nuclear winter mixed with Spring from "The Four Seasons." When the clouds clear, it's a clear sign that winter has ended, and life is breaking out anew. The live birth and wondrous healing of the natives is also evocative of New Life, and the rise to prominence of Otrin and the fall from grace of the cold-blooded, white-haired Verin could be seen as a passage from Old Man Winter to the rising, hopeful generation.

If only they'd ended on that optimistic note.

*

All in all, call it three stars on the four-star scale. A thoughtless ending robs it of the fourth star it would otherwise have deserved.

Next week: Seven seasons come to an end...but with a bang, or a whimper?

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Last Updated: May 16, 2001
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