My reviews are highly opinionated, longer than your average Costner film, and highly susceptible 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 if you don't get Voyager in your area, this may be the next best thing to being there. And if you don't mind an irreverent but generally sympathetic recounting of the episode's events, a blow-by-blow account of Star Trek narrated by a pale shadow of a Dennis Miller wannabe, this may be the place for you. Agree or disagree with the rants and raves, I hope you'll have fun along the way. So pull up some shuttle debris and settle in for yet another adventure with Fatherly Uncle Jim.
That Starfleet message from "Hunters" finally gets decoded with the help of an alien egghead
with an agenda. Voyager picks up a new toy. Janeway kicks Seven's butt in Phaser Dodge Ball, calls her a 'fraidycat and reprograms her nanoprobes. Harry gets a smile out of Seven. Neelix whips up some seafood. The Utah Jazz sweep Laker hiney and advance to the NBA Finals.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
Janeway and Seven aim phasers in each other's direction. They fire.
But their target is not each other, but a free-floating disc with a mind of its own. It seems to be a game of full-contact, three-dimensional pinball, with the walls, floor and ceiling as boundaries and the phaser-wielding combatants as the bumpers. They take turns shooting the thing, which appears to change direction on contact.
If the disk hits you, you lose. I'm not sure of more rules than this, since we catch the tail end of the match.
Both women are sweating profusely, and you can tell they're both playing for pride. Their hair reflects their exertion in a way that can only be described as flattering. Particularly Seven's, whose sculpted power-coif is nowhere in evidence; it's pinned up, but strands are escaping with abandon. Seven is in a sleek black sleeveless Lycra number with flattering blue pinstripes, exposing a previously-unseen Borg implant on her right forearm. Janeway's in a sleeveless command-red flare-bottom outfit that would be scandalously short even by TOS standards, modesty preserved by skin-tight black leggings.
In a word: Yowsa.
As a counterbalance, both wear combat boots--a fact with which their offsprings' more creative classmates will no doubt torment them.
But enough from the House of Style.
Seven's running Janeway ragged, but you don't get to be captain without knowing a little something about strategy and intuition. And Janeway's just crazy enough to let her ego write checks her body may or may not be able to cash, relying on Doc's medical wizardry for overdraft protection. So when Seven's phaser sends the disk ricocheting, sending Janeway reeling, she is absolutely stunned when Janeway snatches victory from the jaws of humiliation, and the disk smacks Seven.
The computer chirps, and announces that Janeway won the final round, and the match.
"Good game," gasps Janeway, reaching for a towel.
"For you," Seven grumps.
"Oh, come on, Seven," Janeway soothes between gulps of air. "You won four out of ten rounds. Nothing to be ashamed of."
"On the contrary," Seven says, not even breathing hard. "I have superior visual acuity and stamina. I should have won every round."
"'Velocity' is more than a test of stamina," says Janeway, reaching for an oxygen tank. "It's a game of wits."
"You are a frustrating opponent," Seven whines. "During the final round after you dropped your phaser you did not even look at the disk, and yet you were able to acquire the target."
"Intuition," types Janeway's disembodied ghost, while Doc administers CPR.
"Intuition is a human fallacy--the belief you can predict random events."
"Belief had nothing to do with it," brags Janeway, fogging up the mirror over her iron lung. "At some level, conscious or otherwise, [gasp] I was aware of several factors: [gulp] the trajectory of the disk after I hit the wall, [gasp] the sound it made on its return, and the shadow [gasp] it cast on the [gulp] Holo-grid. [wheeze]"
[Okay, okay...perhaps I exaggerate a tad.]
Seven doesn't look remotely convinced. "Intriguing, but implausible."
"I won, didn't I?" Janeway asks, breathing back to normal, slapping Seven playfully with the towel. "Thanks for the match." She walks toward the door.
Seven wants to play again; Janeway says they're done for today. "You are fatigued and concerned that I will defeat you.," Seven says, trying to goad her. Janeway turns and smirks. "Tired, yes; concerned, no."
"Computer, begin first round," Seven says, trying to force her hand.
Janeway whirls around, marches two steps into the Holodeck, and tells the computer to not even think about proceeding; the acknowledging beep is downright servile. She gives Seven one of those back-off-I'm-a-redhead looks. "Seven, try to be a sport," she says with velvet steel. "Game's over." She exits, leaving Seven to stew.
* * *
Captain's log, Stardate 51978.2. It's been five months since we received the encoded message
from the alpha quadrant. We know that the transmission was from Starfleet command but we still
can't decrypt it. B'Elanna thinks it's a lost cause that too much of the data stream has been
destroyed, but I haven't given up. I keep hoping inspiration will strike...Somehow.
In the empty darkness of the mess hall, Janeway pores over a computer terminal as symbols and alphanumerics flow across the screen. Her only other companion is coffee, and lots of it.
Chakotay enters, and frowns slightly before approaching her. "Good morning," he says pleasantly. This surprises the captain, who asks what time it is. 0500, he tells her. "Oh! Well, then, good morning," she says...then returns her attention to the terminal.
Acknowledged Master of the All Nighter strikes again.
Chakotay presses on. "I just heard from Tom and Neelix. They're about to leave the trading colony....Tom says the shuttle's so loaded down with supplies he won't make half impulse." This gets a laugh from Janeway. "Neelix is asking permission to bring one of the locals on board. He's been very helpful, and Neelix wants to repay him by giving him passage to the next system."
"Permission granted," Janeway says, still not looking at her first officer.
Chakotay launches into that other first officer duty, Mother Mode. "You might want to grab some sleep. We've got a big day ahead." Naturally, she blows him off. "Still hunting for buried treasure?" he asks.
Janeway looks up. "We've found the treasure. I just can't pick the lock!" She sighs with frustration. "I've tried over 50 decryption algorithms. Every time I piece together a data block, ten more come unraveled. What did Starfleet send us? A map? The location of a wormhole?"
Janeway's voice drops to a whisper. "If I could decode this today, Chakotay, we could be home tomorrow!" She chuckles. "Then again, it could be Admiral Chapman's recipe for the perfect pound cake. I've been pinning our hopes on this message but I'm starting to wonder."
"One way or another, we've got to find out," Chakotay agrees. "I'll talk to B'Elanna. You could enlist Seven of Nine...."
"Hmm...She should have a few Borg algorithms up her sleeve...if she's in the mood."
Chakotay doesn't seem surprised. "Problems?"
Janeway sighs again. "I don't know if she's restless or if it's just me, but we're butting heads more than usual lately. She seems to challenge everything I say."
"She's learned a lot from you over the last year," Chakotay says. "Maybe the pupil thinks she's outgrowing the mentor."
"Maybe." She perks up at a new thought. "Well, this mentor would like another cup of coffee. Will you join me?" she asks, eyes pouty.
Chakotay smiles broadly, unable to resist, and says three words that sound real close to the three some folks would love to hear him tell her....
"I'd love to."
A shuttlecraft does something unexpected. It returns safely to Voyager.
In the bay, Paris coordinates the effort to unload the supplies. "This goes to Engineering," he tells a crewman. "...Sickbay...Storage...."
Chakotay stops another crewman who's carrying a jellyfish-looking creature. "I hope that's not going to the mess hall," he says, grimacing.
Paris overhears, and takes the thing from the female crewman. "I don't remember what this is. Neelix!"
Neelix is introducing an alien to Janeway. The alien has a HUGE head, and less ears than Van Gogh after a particularly bad date. "Captain, this man is a genius," Neelix gushes. "I was trying to negotiate with a Xenon-based life-form when the universal translator went off-line. Arturis here stepped in and acted as a perfect go-between--and he'd never heard either of our languages!"
(Whoah, man. The first time we see an alien and his name gets mentioned right away? I have high hopes for this episode....)
"Oh, they were simple," Arturis says, then checks himself. "No insult intended."
Neelix hears Paris yelling for him, and takes off, leaving Janeway and Arturis alone. "Well, welcome to Voyager. We may be a linguistically simple folk," she says with an ingratiating smile, "but we're happy to give you a ride. Let's see if we can find you some quarters."
As they stroll the corridors, Arturis speaks warmly of the ship and its crew. "Voyager is a welcoming place," he says grandly.
"Well, we do our best," Janeway says, blushing with pride and the rare Delta Quadrant compliment. "I can't say I've ever met a living universal translator."
"Oh, my people have a way with languages. I, myself, know over 4,000."
"And to think I still struggle with basic Klingon," notes Janeway. "You couldn't have heard Neelix say more than a few phrases."
"It was all I needed," Arturis assures her. "It was enough to grasp the grammar and syntax." Impressive, Janeway notes. "Oh, not really. It's a natural ability. Some species are born with great physical prowess. Others, like yours, with a generosity of spirit. My people can see patterns where others see only confusion."
Janeway's look changes. She's got an idea. Arturis notes the change and asks if anything's wrong. "No," she assures him. "Tell me...How are you at computational languages? Algorithms? Trinary syntax?"
He shrugs. "It's all the same to me," he says, smiling humbly.
Ka-chinng! "I was wondering if you might do us another favor...."
In Astrometrics, the data flies by, much faster than when Janeway was looking at it alone. Seven is here now, as is Arturis. Seven's driving the controls.
"You weren't exaggerating, Captain," Arturis says as the file reaches its end. "This data stream is badly damaged. I'd like to see the entire transmission again." Seven resets the file and it begins scrolling again.
Arturis looks at Seven. "Are you...Borg?" he asks. She says Yup. "You're much more attractive than the average drone," he notes--but keeps a respectful distance, probably assuring his nose won't be broken anytime soon.
"I am no longer part of the Collective," Seven says. Janeway crosses her fingers and hopes like heck that an interstellar incident isn't about to erupt.
But the moment passes. Arturis looks intently at the screen and says Ereka. He asks politely for permission to run the controls; he believes he sees the problem. Janeway consents, and Seven steps away. Arturis smoothly takes over and begins manipulating the controls expertly.
"Have you encountered his people before?" Janeway asks Seven. "Species 1-1-6," Seven replies.
"Is that what you call us?" Arturis says, neutrally. His eyes cloud over only briefly.
"Yes," Seven says. "The Borg has never been able to assimilate them. Not yet."
"Seven..." Janeway says harshly.
"Oh, it's all right, Captain," Arturis says. "The Borg Collective is like a force of nature. You don't feel anger toward a storm on the horizon. You just avoid it." Interesting outlook...his voice is fairly carefree, though the large black eyes are without humor.
"Ah. Here it is," Arturis says, continuing his decryption efforts. "It's a simple matter of extracting the iconometric elements and triaxilating a recursion matrix."
"Now, why didn't I think of that?" Janeway asks rhetorically, smirking.
"There's a great deal of information here, Captain. I think it might be useful to utilize the other monitors," Arturis says. Janeway leads the way--Seven lags behind, lost in thought--and they begin programming the Big Screen. The results are impressive. A couch potato's dream, a baker's dozen of simultaneous multimedia windows, appears. Some look like a database of planets. Some look like bar graphs. Others look like gee-whiz technology unknown to the crew as yet. One looks like a static-riddled message from a man in a DS9-style Starfleet uniform.
"You've done it," Janeway whispers.
"Almost. I've reconstructed over 68 kiloquads of information but a lot of it is still garbled."
Janeway points to the Starfleet guy in the lower-right corner. "What about that data block?" Arturis says that part of the message is unrecoverable.
Seven pipes up. "Captain, I've found a spatial grid."
Janeway and Arturis walk closer to the screen. A section of space lights up, with a bunch of numbers indicating reference points. "They've marked a set of coordinates," Janeway notes. "It's less than ten light-years from here."
"Maybe Starfleet wants us to proceed to that location," Seven suggests.
"Maybe," says Janeway, grinning broadly. "There's only one way to find out." She leads the way to the bridge.
"We're approaching the coordinates," Paris reports.
"Take us out of warp, scan the vicinity," Janeway orders.
"I am picking up a vessel," Tuvok announces. On screen, Janeway says.
A large, squid-shaped ship looms before them. It's got a bumper sticker that reads "Need 4 Speed."
And it bears a striking resemblance to Starfleet design.
Janeway asks for an ID. Tuvok responds. "Unless I'm mistaken, Captain, the warp signature...is Starfleet."
All eyes on the bridge go wide.
* * *
There was a time when the sight of a Starfleet vessel would have caused the bridge crew to break out into spontaneous cheering. But after four years of setbacks, betrayals, and near-misses, the mood is a good deal more subdued.
"I'll be damned," says Paris, smiling slightly, breaking the silence. "They came through."
Janeway doesn't even indulge in a smile. She simply continues to stare at the funky vessel looming before them, large and inviting. "Tuvok?" she asks. No response to hails, he reports. "Life signs?" she asks. Seven responds, "There is no organic matter of any kind."
The scans continue. The hull looks pristine, the primary systems are all online, life support is fully functional.
"The answer is somewhere in that Starfleet transmission," Janeway muses aloud. "We need to finish decoding it." She turns to Arturis and asks for his assistance again; he agrees. Janeway then commissions Chakotay to check the ship out; he picks Tuvok and Paris, his standard A Team, and they exit.
Arturis approaches Janeway, whose eyes are glued to the viewscreen. "Captain, I won't pretend to know you well, but I am surprised you're not more...encouraged by this discovery," he says.
Janeway sighs. "I've learned to walk the line between hope and caution," she tells him. "We've had other opportunities that didn't work out. But I will admit, I'm leaning toward hope this time." She gives the alien a warm over-the-shoulder smile.
A shiny new ship's interior welcomes the materializing forms of Paris, Chakotay and Tuvok. They look around at four years' advancements in Starfleet design.
"Wow," says Paris.
"'Wow,' indeed," agrees Tuvok. (If I'm lyin', I'm dyin'.)
"I've never seen this kind of hull geometry," notes Chakotay, examining a display panel. "Looks like they're taking a whole new approach to Starship design."
Tuvok finds the ship's identification. "The U.S.S. Dauntless. Registry: NX Zero One-A. Launch date: 51472." Chakotay whistles. "60,000 light years in three months...."
Tuvok says he doesn't see any crew logs. Paris says it looks like the ship got here on auto-pilot, and no crew came along.
"It appears that Starfleet has provided us with a new ship," Tuvok surmises.
"Let's not pack our bags just yet," Chakotay warns. "I'd still like to know how they..." His words are cut off when the ship begins to come to life. Paris says that the engines appear to be firing up--assuming those are engines down there. It's unlike anything he's ever seen before. Chakotay suggests they exit, stage Engineering.
This ship is apparently powered by a moderately-sized Van de Graaff machine. The huge, multi-story warp core of Voyager has been replaced by a power source the size of a beach ball.
The "Engineering Prodigy" element of the Paris character continues to be explored; the commanders turn to Tom for the initial report. Not antimatter, he reports; the Dauntless computer refers to it as a "quantum slipstream drive." That term stumps the band.
But whatever you call it, it's powering up, and autopilot is kicking in. This time, with three passengers on board.
Naturally, it happens on Harry Kim's watch. The second time in history he's given leave to occupy the Big Chair, and their big chance to get home is running away with a third of the cast. He hails the captain, who gives orders to pursue.
Paris, Tuvok and Chakotay are unable to shut down the engines. "Hang on!" Paris yells.
The ship shimmers blue...then jumps out of normal space. Instead of the standard warp trail, a blue straw-like cylinder points the path of their departure. Kim reports the bad news: "They're gone."
The Dauntless careens through "slipstream" space at ludicrous speed. Inside, the three amigos gather all the data they can. At least it seems to be a smooth ride.
"Look at this," Paris says. "Energy from the quantum drive is being routed through the main deflector." The logical question is, can he make it stop. Paris says he'll try.
A few seconds later, Dauntless drops out of the slipstream. But whether it was Paris' doing is anyone's guess. He reports the change in their status. Chakotay asks for a scan of Voyager; Tuvok reports that there's no sign of them.
But, he adds with a touch of wonder, "We have traveled over 15 light years."
Whatever mysteries the ship contains, one thing is certain: this ship can move. If they can figure out how to use it, the crew could be home in a matter of months.
Captain's log, supplemental: After two days at high warp we've rendezvoused with the Dauntless. Arturis has helped us reconstruct most of the Starfleet message. The pieces of this puzzle are finally coming together.
The senior staff looks on in the briefing room as the man in the Starfleet uniform, as seen earlier in Astrometrics, speaks.
"Slipstream technology is experimental and high risk, but it's come a long way in the past year. We have conducted 47 [sic] trial runs, all of them successful--but each flight lasted only five days. In order to reach Earth you'd have to remain at slipstream velocity for a full three months. Can your crew survive that long? We believe they can...and we encourage you to try. Everything you'll need is on the Dauntless--power cells, supplies living quarters. Safe journey. We hope to see you soon."
The transmission ends. Janeway turns to her staff. "Admiral Hayes," she says, indicating the speaker. "Good man. Fine officer. Bit of a windbag." The crew laughs heartily--aside from Tuvok, Mr. Protocol, who silently notes the insubordinate remark in her permanent record.
The mood turns serious. Janeway asks Doc about the risk. "I've examined the away team for signs of cell damage or physiological stress--nothing. That little joyride didn't harm them in the slightest." She asks about long-term effects, and Doc says things look good so far. The trip shouldn't turn anyone into frisky amphibians.
Janeway turns to Chakotay. "And the Dauntless itself?" Chakotay shrugs. "I'd say it's in pretty good shape, considering." Torres adds, "I've been looking over the primary systems: Helm, Ops, Tactical. They're comparable to Voyager's, but it's a lean ship. No shuttlecraft, only one transporter, no Holodecks, no replicators..." Janeway tells Neelix he can be expected to be busy; Neelix's chest puffs out as he accepts the challenge.
"So, what are we waiting for?" Harry asks, unable to hold his tongue any longer. This time, the optimism seems well justified.
But not to everyone. "Your enthusiasm is premature," Seven says. "Voyager is a proven vessel. It would be reckless to abandon it so quickly."
Harry snorts. "Come on--where's that Borg spirit?" he says, tone almost mocking. "We'll adapt."
"My Borg spirit gives me an objectivity you lack," Seven says, bristling. Tuvok agrees; taking the Dauntless would mean leaving Voyager behind Chakotay asks if they can tweak Voyager to generate a slipstream--and Paris responds. (Since "Vis-a-Vis, " they've been determined to establish Paris' knack for engine systems, particularly those with unfamiliar technology.) "In theory, but I don't think the ship would hold up very long under the quantum stresses."
Janeway approves the effort. "Try to make the modifications. If there's a way we can bring Voyager along for the ride I'm all for it. Harry, B'Elanna, I want you to take an engineering team down to the Dauntless. Start working on a way to shut down the slipstream drive at a moment's notice....Once we have that safeguard in place we'll start making the test flights. I want this entire crew to familiarize themselves with that ship." Her voice goes soft, and she looks lost in thought. "See to it. Dismissed."
The crew files out of the conference room, but Janeway holds Tuvok back. "Big day," she says at last, standing way too close to him, looking unexpectedly subdued. Tuvok agrees. "A way home. We've been waiting for this moment for years," Janeway says. "Why don't I feel more enthusiastic?"
Tuvok sways to the right, then to the left, looking for the best response. "Perhaps my mental discipline is rubbing off on you," he says at last.
As has happened many times this season, his dry wit has the desired effect. Janeway bursts into a much-needed smile. "Perhaps," she agrees. She grabs his shoulder and leads him toward the window.
"What do you think about this little miracle of ours?" she asks, continuing to violate his personal space (getting touchy with a Vulcan is a breach of etiquette as you may know; telepathic species, aside from the ever-amorous Betazoids, prefer not to be touched to avoid the incidental mental links...But perhaps it's a conscious move on Janeway's part; as her trusted advisor, it is a bit of a conversational shortcut.)
Tuvok says nothing, allowing her to guide him to the view of the stars. "I share your concern about the crew's safety. We must take every precaution."
"Somehow, I don't think standard diagnostics and security protocols are going to make me feel any better," Janeway says, which throws Tuvok a bit. "All of this is just a little too perfect. The alien genius with the answers to all of our problems; the message from Starfleet telling us everything we want to hear; a Starship delivered to our doorstep--what more could we ask for? They even turned down the beds. The only thing missing was chocolates on the pillows."
"It does seem convenient," Tuvok agrees.
Janeway sighs. "I can't put my finger on it, but from the moment this all started I sensed something was wrong." Tuvok points out that Arturis' arrival started the ball rolling. "Exactly," Janeway agrees. "We'll proceed as planned, but I want you to investigate that ship from stem to stern--and keep an eye on our guest. See if you can find out more about him."
"Understood," says Tuvok.
Janeway smiles. "Let's hope we're just suffering from some good old-fashioned paranoia. Keep me posted."
* * *
Captain's log, supplemental: So far, the crew hasn't found any evidence to support my doubts about Arturis. Nevertheless, I've told them to keep looking, and to keep their optimism in check. But that's one order I don't expect them to follow to the letter.
Daily log, Seven of Nine: Stardate 51981.6. I've analyzed the quantum slipstream technology of the Dauntless. It's similar to the transwarp drive used by the Borg. As a result, my expertise will be crucial to the mission's success. Voyager's crew is counting on that success, but I find myself ambivalent. So I am carrying out my assignment, nothing more.
[Captain's Log, continued] Despite my apprehension, I can't help but wonder what I'll be doing in three months' time--still guiding Voyager through the Delta Quadrant, searching for a way home...or looking up old friends in Indiana?
[Seven of Nine Daily Log, continued] If we do return to Sector 001, will I adapt to human civilization...a single Borg among billions of individuals?
Hmmm. Looks like not everyone is enthusiastic about the prospect of getting "home." And with good reason.
Torres, Kim and Seven are in the engine room of the Dauntless. Torres coordinates the effort. They need to be able to get the "quantum field strength" below 50% in order to shut down the slipstream drive. Using a variety of methods, all irrelevant, they manage to do so.
"We did it!" Torres says, grinning broadly. "We've got our safety net."
"One step closer to home," Harry agrees, smiling from ear to ear.
Seven looks disappointed. "Tuvok wants us to run a metallurgical analysis of the bulkheads to look for anything unusual," she says, spoiling the mood.
"Thank you," says Torres, smile fading. "You two run the analysis. I'll be on the bridge with Arturis. Our resident genius said he'd help me figure out how to use the control sequencers."
While Torres finishes typing up a round of commands on one of the Dauntless' controls, Seven of Nine approaches her uncertainly. "Lieutenant. You seem...eager to return to Earth."
Torres still seems to shudder instinctively whenever dealing with Seven of Nine, though they've been far more cordial the last few weeks. Her mood darkens a little bit more now. "'Eager,'" she repeats. "I wouldn't go that far."
Seven wonders at this. "You were a member of the Maquis. Starfleet command will no doubt hold you responsible for a multitude of crimes. You will find nothing on earth but adversity."
Torres smiles without humor. "Well, that's looking on the bright side." She faces Seven. "Let's put it this way: I'd rather face the music at home then spend the rest of my life in the Delta Quadrant." (This is actually a change from previous episodes, when "home" for her was probably more true of Voyager itself than anyplace else in the galaxy.) "What about you? Looking forward to seeing Earth?"
"No," Seven admits.
"I'm not surprised. You think people are going to resent an ex-Maquis? What about an ex-drone? We'll be outcasts together."
It must be said that Torres' sense of humor has an edge on it that could slice through transparent aluminum like butter. Her eyes look more challenging than mirthful, her mouth's quirk looks more cruel than kind. (Granted, it depends on the joke. But her needling of Seven here is much like her needling of Harry about Seven--not very funny, and more than a little uncomfortable.) And given Seven's state of mind, it's the sort of comment that is more likely to frighten than amuse. Seven's eyes go wide, and her lips start to tremble, ever so slightly.
"I'm kidding, Seven," Torres says, not kindly, her eyes still devoid of humor. "It's a joke. Work on that sense of humor. It'll help you make friends on Earth." All this does is further feed Seven's panic at the prospect of being around billions of B'Elanna's, all contemptuously pointing out that she Doesn't Fit In.
Don't get me wrong--I like B'Elanna. But if that's her idea of a joke, they won't be booking her at the Chuckle Chapel anytime soon. Torres leaves a deer-in-the-headlights Seven behind as she heads for the bridge.
Harry asks for Seven's help down below. Seven takes a few deep breaths to compose herself, then descends the stairs to a lower section of the engine room.
"I'm picking up an anomalous energy surge," Kim says.
Seven scans, but finds no power conduits in the section. She climbs back upstairs, and seems eager to leave the engine room quickly. Harry follows.
"Believe me, Seven," Kim says, enthusiasm bubbling over, "one look at that big, blue marble and you'll fall in love. It's got just about every ecosystem you can think of! And hundreds of different humanoid species live there: Vulcans, Bolians, Ktarians...If you...like...Ktarians," he says, floundering a bit. Well, be honest--who does like Ktarians? You know how many it takes to change an EPS relay circuit? Three. One to make the change, and two to pry his horns out of the Jefferies tube.
But, Ensign Wildman married one, so they can't be all bad.
Seven still doesn't seem enthused about heading Earthward. Harry tries again. "And there are several other planets to choose from." (Yep, the Alpha Quadrant consists of Earth and...well, a bunch of other planets.)
Seven excuses herself. Harry calls after her; she stops and turns her head around to face him. Harry seems at a loss for words, but he proceeds gamely. "For what it's worth--it won't be the same without you."
Just as Torres couldn't have picked a less encouraging thing to say to Seven, Harry couldn't have said anything better. For the first time in forever, Seven of Nine smiles. And it's a good one; the whole face gets involved, right down to the eyes...and it lasts a good couple of seconds. It's a fleeting moment, but in a season of discouragement for Harry, that moment counts for a lot.
Harry will be walking on sunshine the rest of the episode. He watches her go, grinning like Captain Kirk at the Miss Universe pageant.
Then his tricorder catches his attention. He traces the source to a control panel. He sticks the tricorder in...and the panel sparks. Then it shimmers.
Then all returns to normal.
It's good to know that within seconds of Seven's Smile, the good Ensign is still capable of paying attention to his duties. He hails Tuvok. "I'm on the Dauntless, in the engine room--and I found something that qualifies as unusual."
Tuvok says he'll be right over.
Janeway is in Astrometrics, puzzling over the Starfleet Message. She asks to see the block Arturis had written off as a lost cause.
Seven enters. Janeway asks for her help. "I'm trying to reconstruct the last fragment of the Starfleet message." Seven points out that the formidable Arturis said it was damaged beyond repair. "I know," says Janeway, "but I think he gave up too easily."
"Intuition?" Seven asks.
"It's intuition if I'm right," Janeway says. "I've designed a new decryption algorithm. Let's give it a try."
Seven finally gets out what she'd come to say, dreading the argument she knows will come. "I will not be going with you to the Alpha Quadrant."
Janeway stops what she's doing. "I can understand your reluctance. It's been hard enough dealing with a crew of 150 individual humans," she says softly. "The prospect of an entire planet must be overwhelming."
"I am not overwhelmed," Seven insists. "I simply do not wish to live among humans."
Janeway stands nose to nose with Seven (well, nose to chin). "Whether you like it or not, you're one of us," she says, words soft but clipped, eyes intent. "You've come a long way from that drone who stepped out of a Borg alcove nine months ago. Don't turn your back on humanity now--not when you're about to take your biggest step. Earth. Your home."
Why this is an issue is beyond me. The Alpha Quadrant is a lot more than just Earth. You don't want to live among humans? There are plenty of alternatives. You don't mind humans so much but find the thought of billions overwhelming? There are colony worlds galore where the populations measure in the mere thousands, perhaps even hundreds. Or merchant, mining, exploration, and other ships with crews you can count on the fingers of one hand. This "Earth or Bust" approach seems simplistic. It may be the finish line for the "getting home" mission, but it's not the ultimate destination for everyone onboard. The Bolians, Vulcans, Bajorans, etc. will no doubt have their own transfers in mind once Earth is reached.
And for Borg rehab, there's always Hugh.
The AQ is still a scary place, what with the Dominion War and all, but the human-centric focus seems a quaint 20th-century conceit. DS9 may be a boy's club, but it's definitely in touch with the idea that the galaxy isn't just for humans anymore.
Seven's voice rises a bit. "I may have come a long way--but not in the direction you think. You've attempted to influence my development. You exposed me to your culture, your ideals. You hoped to shape me in your own image. But you have failed."
Seven likes saying that, doesn't she?
"You may have noticed our tendency to disagree," Seven continues. "Oh, I've noticed," says Janeway, eyes cold, locked and loaded for the next Skunk Eye from Heck. "You must also recognize I do not share your values," Seven says. "Your desire to explore space is inefficient. Your need for familial connections is a weakness. Your infatuation with this planet"--she points to the screen-filling shot of Earth--"is irrational."
Well, now she's just being argumentative.
Janeway's eyes drop in sadness. "I won't argue that you've turned out differently that I expected, and that we often have conflicting points of view," she says softly. "But right now, the stakes are higher. This crew needs your expertise. Abandon them, and you diminish their chances of getting home." It's not a plea, but Janeway is clearly playing the Guilt Card.
"Irrelevant," Seven blusters.
"No, it's not," Janeway says sharply, switching to Command mode, eyes boring into Seven. "We've given you a lot, Seven. It's time you gave something in return."
"I have. On many occasions. Now I refuse."
Well, there you have it. The gauntlet has been cracked across Janeway's jaw. The captain goes silent for a moment, then walks away. She leans against a railing. "What would you do, go back to the Collective?" she asks, letting it sink in with Seven that the decision has consequences, the What Happens Next. "I don't know," Seven says. "Then what do you have in mind?" Janeway presses. "I don't know," Seven repeats, louder, voice cracking a little.
"That's my point," Janeway says, voice soft but piercing. "You're asking me to cast you adrift in the Delta Quadrant, alone and without support. I wouldn't grant that request to any member of this crew. Because it's too dangerous."
"I will survive!" Seven insists, convincing nobody.
"On what, Borg perfection?" Janeway asks, voice not quite mocking, still leaning casually against the railing.
"Precisely!" Seven yells, desperate to believe it.
"I don't buy it," Janeway says, walking toward her, voice dropping steadily to a harsh whisper. "This isn't about your independence your superiority. This is about your fear. You're not making this choice because you've outgrown humanity."
"I think you're afraid to go back to Earth," Janeway whispers, and despite her best efforts, Seven blanches. The muscles in her jaw throb. Her chest heaves. Her eyes glisten with unshed tears. Seven may never admit fear, but neither can she hide it.
In the past, Janeway has argued less than effectively with Seven of Nine. But this week, there's no doubt of it: Advantage Janeway. Be it in a sweaty game of Velocity or a debate over Seven's long-term plans or an eyes-open approach to the latest siren song of Home, this week the good captain is In The Zone.
The computer beeps its approval, ending the discussion for now. Janeway goes over, and notes with approval that her latest decryption algorithm is doing the job. She puts it on one of the smaller screens. While Janeway works, Seven averts her eyes, lost in thought.
Janeway's ministrations yield a good harvest. But she's surprised; it's Admiral Hayes again. "That's strange. I thought we already recovered this part of the message," Janeway says.
Seven comes over. "Perhaps it is an addendum from the Admiral." Her expression changes as she attempts to lighten the mood. "You did designate him a windbag." ([Snicker] good line.)
"Oh, I don't think so," Janeway says with growing excitement. "The data index doesn't match. This is a completely different message."
As the algorithm completes its reconstructive magic, the video is joined by audio. But Janeway's expression turns bleak as the Admiral's faraway voice speaks, and the background music emphasizes the string section--a lonely, heartbreaking refrain.
"Apologies from everyone at Starfleet Command. We've had our best people working around the clock trying to find a wormhole, a new means of propulsion--anything to get you back home. But despite our best efforts...I know it's not what you were hoping, but we have sent you all the data we've collected on the Delta Quadrant. With any luck, you'll find at least some part of it useful. Maybe enough to shave a few years off your trip. Safe journey. We hope to see you soon."
Janeway's eyes glance upward, then squeeze shut.
Seven doesn't take the news well, either. Whatever her personal feelings about Earth, she knows her shipmates want their journey to end as soon as possible. "Your intuition was correct," she says softly. "Unfortunately," Janeway agrees.
"Arturis must have created a false message," Seven posits. "It sure as hell looks that way," says Janeway, voice growing hard. She slaps her combadge. "Janeway to Tuvok. My suspicions have been confirmed. Arturis tampered with Starfleet's message. The Dauntless isn't what it appears to be."
Tuvok, kneeling in front of the suspicious console with Ensign Kim, agrees. We see what's behind the Starfleet surface. "We've discovered alien technology behind a bulkhead in engineering. I can't identify it."
Janeway, marching through the corridors with Seven, asks where Arturis is now; on the bridge with Torres on Dauntless, he replies. "Go to the bridge, but don't tip our hand. I'll be there with a full security team within minutes," Janeway says, and cuts off the signal when Tuvok acknowledges.
Janeway picks up the pace. "Let's get weapons," she tells Seven. Seven doesn't argue.
Please, please...let it be Betsies....
Arturis...you just messed with the wrong woman.
* * *
On the bridge of Dauntless, a half dozen Voyager folk pore over the various systems and controls of the new ship. Arturis, unnoticed, walks around. He approaches a console, and when it appears the coast is clear, his fingers hover over a couple of command buttons.
Torres notices. "Don't touch that!" His hands fly upward. "You almost kicked us into slipstream drive," Torres tells him.
Arturis smiles apologetically. "Oh. I wouldn't want to do that. Ku cha mee-roch," he says as a peace offering.
Torres stares at him, confused at first. "No problem. You speak Klingon," she says, half amused, half irritated.
"I do now. Your Captain was kind enough to let me review your linguistic database."
"I only speak a few phrases myself," Torres admits. (So much for that great debate over what language Warrior Women at the River of Blood was written in...Pay up, Julia.)
"Oh, shame," says Arturis pleasantly. "It's a robust language."
"A little too robust for me," Torres admits.
The banter ends when the whine of transporter activity catches their attention. They whirl around to find Janeway and Seven and Tuvok and a couple of security extras, armed with hand phasers. (Darn.) Janeway is assaulting Arturis with one muthah of a Death Glare. "Evacuate the repair teams," she tells Torres, fury only marginally contained.
"Captain?" Torres asks, confused.
There isn't a sentient being in existence that can withstand the Janeway "Do it." Torres triple-times it without another word.
Janeway's eyes bore into Arturis. "Explain yourself." Arturis pleads ignorance, but his demeanor has changed to one of near-panic. "You fabricated the message from Starfleet," Janeway accuses. "I recovered the real transmission--the one you said was irreparably damaged." Arturis denies it: "That's absurd..."
"Starfleet didn't send us this vessel and you're not here to help," Janeway sums up crisply.
"Please, I...Stay calm," Arturis says, smiling that disarming smile of his to little effect. "There must be an explanation."
"I tried to ignore my gut feelings because I got carried away with the excitement of getting home," Janeway says, "but you preyed on that. You took advantage of our hopes. And now I want to know why."
Arturis has no choice but to change tactics. "I...believe that there is a threat here, Captain, but not from me. I didn't feel it was my place to make accusations. But I saw her!" he shouts, pointing the accusing finger at Seven, "reconfigure several key algorithms two days ago in the Astrometrics lab, and it seemed obvious she must have been tampering with the Starfleet message."
"You are lying," Seven says. Janeway doesn't even bother to dignify the accusation with a denial. She continues to glare at Arturis, watch him crumble into a babbling weenie.
"She's been sabotaging your every effort to reach Earth," Arturis pleads. "You don't have to believe me, Captain. You can find all the evidence you need in her personal database."
"Evidence you undoubtedly put there yourself in case you got caught," Janeway says, knowing that whatever else Seven is, she's not a saboteur; Miss Of Nine has always been up front in her dissensions. "Take him to Voyager," she tells the security types. "Throw him in the brig."
Unfortunately, the security folks she brought along aren't the mountainous black guy or his standard brunette partner, either of whom could drop-kick Godzilla halfway to New Jersey. The male/female team this time out is lighter of hair, lighter of weight, and not nearly as daunting. Before they can reach him, Arturis has already flipped the lid off of one helm control panel, exposing a shiny chrome lever, just begging to be yanked on. As the security folks try to stop him, Arturis the egghead dispatches both with little difficulty.
Janeway nods to Tuvok, who blasts Arturis in the chest. It staggers him, but not enough to stop him. He lunges for the lever. The two security guys double-team him, but even with a smoking chest wound, Arturis manages to yank down on the lever before he's thrown ten feet backward, sending all three of them crashing to the deck.
But the job is done. All the Starfleet stuff...disappears. That alien technology just underneath the surface now asserts itself in all its burgundy glory. Even the furniture changes color and shape. Within seconds, Janeway and company find themselves on an unquestionably alien vessel.
While Janeway and the others gape, Arturis recovers quickly enough to erect a force field between himself and them.
Janeway is brought back to the here and now. "Janeway to Voyager. Beam us out of here."
Arturis continues entering commands into the console.
On Voyager, Harry does the same. "He's trying to deflect our transporters. Stand by."
You can practically hear the dueling banjos. We see Harry, then Arturis, then Harry, then Arturis, tapping furiously.
On Dauntless, Arturis watches as Tuvok, then the ineffectual security types, disappear in blue sparkles. Then Janeway and Seven begin to fade away, but Arturis redoubles his efforts. Janeway and Seven never disappear entirely, and soon find themselves right where they left off.
"I've got everyone but Seven and the Captain," Harry reports at last. "He's blocked their transport."
"The ship's going into slipstream mode," Paris reports. Chakotay orders a pursuit course.
But slipstream mode beats warp anyday. Dauntless leaves them in the dust.
But Chakotay isn't one to give up so easily. "Tom, bring the warp core modifications on-line. We're going after them."
Paris is incredulous. "Sir, we haven't even had a trial run yet," he protests.
Chakotay gives him a hard stare. "There's no time like the present."
Paris doesn't argue. But he does cross his fingers as he enters the commands, exhaling sharply.
Dauntless careens through the silly straw of slipstream space.
Arturis, who had been so cool and collected before this, seems to be a good deal more distraught at the moment. Seven stands still, looking at him. Janeway keeps her weapon trained on him, just in case the force field fails.
"Where are you taking us?" Seven demands.
"Home," Arturis wails, as though that word will never again have the desired meaning.
Janeway asks how he made the ship look Starfleet. "Particle synthesis," Arturis says, voice a bit steadier. "Beyond your understanding."
"Is this what your people do? Prey on innocent ships?"
Arturis chuckles. "'Innocent.' Typical of Captain Janeway--self-righteous."
Janeway is taken aback. She glances at Seven of Nine, who shrugs. Don't look at me, Seven need not say aloud.
"If I've offended you or your people in some way please tell me," Janeway says.
Arturis' veneer cracks. "Diplomacy, Captain? Your diplomacy destroyed my world!"
We don't see Janeway's reaction, but her voice is clear enough. "What? What are you saying?" It's news to her.
My dilemma was wondering which one. "Ship o' Death" has been busy the last four years.
Arturis walks toward her. His voice is steadier now. "You negotiated an agreement with the Borg Collective: safe passage through their space, and in return you helped them defeat one of their enemies."
"Species 8472," Seven clarifies.
Arturis mocks the former drone, but with a good deal less venom than he seems to have for Janeway. "In your colorful language, yes--species eight four seven two."
He whirls on Janeway. "Did it occur to you there were those of us in the Delta Quadrant with a vested interest in that war? Victory would have meant annihilation of the Borg! But you couldn't see beyond the bow of your ship!"
Uh oh. Second-guessing Janeway's decisions is never a good idea. You might as well try arguing with an earthquake. "In my estimation," Janeway says, fury bubbling just underneath the surface, "Species 8472 posed a greater threat than the Borg."
"Who were you to make that decision?!?" Arturis shouts, weeping. "A stranger to this quadrant!"
"There wasn't exactly time to take a poll," Janeway rasps. "I had to act quickly."
Arturis gives her the Rest of the Story, hyperventilating, unable to halt the flow of unpleasant memory. "My people managed to elude the Borg for centuries! Outwitting them, always one step ahead! But in recent years, the Borg began to weaken our defenses. They were closing in, and Species 8472 was our last hope to defeat them. You took that away from us! The outer colonies were the first to fall--23 in a matter of hours. Our sentry vessels tossed aside, no defense against the storm."
His voice drops to a whisper. He looks away from the captain, staring into space, into the past. "And by the time they had surrounded our star system--hundreds of cubes--we had already surrendered to our own...terror."
"A few of us managed to survive--ten, twenty thousand. I was fortunate. I escaped with a vessel. Alone...but alive." His voice swells with the torment of ultimate loss.
Chakotay's argument with Janeway. "We'd be giving an advantage to a race guilty of murdering billions," Chakotay said. "We'd be helping the Borg assimilate yet another species just to get ourselves back home! It's wrong!"
Arturis glances at Seven. "I don't blame them. They were just drones acting with their Collective instinct." He points his finger at Janeway, the anguish of a lost world resting on his shoulders, which he now hands to her. "You!" he wails. "You had a choice!"
Just call her Captain Shiva from now on. Whip out the black leather and the appointment book at Supercuts, because the Kyrians have company. Fair or not, Captain Janeway is once again the Lone Redhead of the Apocalypse.
Janeway tries to be compassionate. "I am sorry for what happened to your people. But try to understand; I couldn't have known."
But Arturis is well beyond the point where Janeway could argue over culpability. He's already judged her guilty. All he cares about now is her sentence. "It took me months to find you. I watched and waited for my opportunity to make you pay for what you'd done. Then the Starfleet message--and I knew that your selfish desire to get home would surface again. That I could lure you to this vessel! That I could see to it that you'd all be assimilated and spend the rest of eternity as Borg!" Poetic justice, certainly.
"I was hoping to get your entire crew...but I'll settle for the two of you." Seven seems to have mixed feelings; Janeway's already planning her escape...or her takeover of the Collective. She ain't the drone type. "In a matter of hours this ship will return to my...home world...inside Borg space!" The guy sounds exhausted from carrying around all that emotional baggage.
Seven points out the obvious. "When that happens, you will be assimilated as well."
"That's irrelevant!" he whispers. Then he smiles at Seven. "This is what you wanted all along, isn't it? To go back to your Collective? You should thank me."
He returns to the controls. Janeway looks at Seven, who doesn't spare a look at Janeway--she appears lost in thought. Janeway stares at Arturis again, not content to let his plans work out.
Not while she has anything at all to say about it.
* * *
Voyager's hull glows a dull blue as it flies through normal space. Report, Chakotay says. Paris says they're at full impulse, but not breaking through the quantum barrier. Tuvok reports his needs, which Chakotay calls down to engineering to get. Torres is already on it; with practiced ease she commands her engineering crew, who work at peak efficiency.
The ship lurches a bit, then the ride gets a lot smoother. Tuvok says the deflector is at maximum, and he's focusing the quantum field. "Make it quick," Harry says. "Hull temperatures are critical."
Chakotay looks forward as the forward viewscrean starts to change. Space begins to coalesce...and then they find themselves in the now-familiar tunnel.
"We're at slipstream velocity," Paris reports. Kim reports that the ship canna take much more o' this; they'll have an hour at most in slipstream. Paris wastes no time plotting a pursuit course, matching slipstreams with Dauntless.
"We're right behind them," he announces after a few seconds. How far, Chakotay asks. "Just a few minutes," he says, and answers Tuvok's query about more speed by saying they're at maximum.
"Maintain course," says Chakotay. "If I know the Captain she's already got a plan."
"Any ideas?" Janeway asks Seven, after testing the forcefield they're stuck behind. They're somewhere else now--the brig?--but I wonder how they got there. Arturis must have beamed them there.
"Not presently," Seven admits.
"We'd better think of something. We come face-to-face with your former family in less than an hour and that's one reunion I'd like to miss--unless you're looking forward to rejoining the Collective," she says, circling Seven like a cougar around a wounded deer.
"I do not believe I am," Seven confesses a few seconds later.
Janeway half-smirks as she walks toward the forcefield again. "Not the ringing opposition I was hoping for, but I'll take it." She considers the barrier. "A drone could walk through this force field like it was thin air...is there enough Borg technology left in your body to let it adapt?"
[Question: since when? Hugh was stuck behind a forcefield, and that post-Hugh Borg that tempted Data with emotions was also stuck in the brig. But oh well.]
"If I activate the appropriate nanoprobes I could alter my bioelectric field," Seven says. "However, I would need to adjust my cranial implant." Janeway asks if a microfilament would work; Seven thinks so.
"Then let's get you one," Janeway says, removing her combadge and cracking it open. "Once you get outside, access that control panel and disable the force field. Then we'll try to reach the engine room."
"And employ the emergency shutdown procedure," Seven says, following the plan. Janeway holds up a thin wire from her combadge. "Sufficient," Seven says. "You will need to cross-link the third and sixth nodules."
Janeway adjusts Seven's position slightly and reaches toward the metallic eyebrow. Seven flinches a bit--shades of "Retrospect," perhaps?--and Janeway backs off until Seven steels herself for the procedure. Janeway takes Seven's left shoulder comfortingly with one hand while she makes the adjustments with the other.
She smiles a bit as she works. "Deja vu," she says distractedly.
"Captain?" Seven asks, confused.
"If I recall this is where our relationship began--in a brig, nine months ago. I severed you from the Collective. And you weren't exactly happy about it."
"No, I was not," Seven agrees, letting the understatement pass.
"In case I never get a chance to say this...I realize that I've been hard on you at times, but it was never out of anger, or regret that I brought you on board. I'm your Captain. That means I can't always be a friend. Understand?"
Seven frowns slightly. "No. However, if we are assimilated our thoughts will become one and I'm sure I will understand perfectly."
Janeway takes a step back and gapes at Seven, horrified.
"A joke, Captain," Seven assures her. "You yourself have encouraged me to use my sense of humor." Yeah, but did you have to learn your technique from Torres? Ouch.
Actually, it was pretty darn funny. A little assimilation humor. "You know how many assimilated Kazon drones it takes to change a lightbulb? None; they are unworthy of assimilation." Now that's comedy.
However you slice it, Janeway takes it as a welcome step forward. She smiles sweetly and bats her eyes. "Well, it's nice to know you've taken some of my advice to heart." She resumes her manipulation of the ocular implant.
"You were correct, Captain," Seven says a moment later, very softly. "My desire to remain in the Delta Quadrant was based on fear. I am no longer Borg...but the prospect of becoming human is--unsettling. I don't know where I belong."
"You belong with us," Janeway assures her.
The tender moment complete, the nanoprobe modifications now have leave to kick in. Seven says she's ready; Janeway steps aside as Seven puts forward her hand, touches the forcefield, and walks through it.
Despite everything, Janeway still holds her breath, unsure of what could happen next. Seven could say Hah Hah and join Arturis in his efforts to get them back to the Collective, something she'd pleaded for many times in "The Gift." But she steps toward the console, though, and drops the force field.
"We're in business," Janeway says, breathing a sigh of relief.
On the bridge of Dauntless, Arturis notes the change in status in the brig. He begins to enter more commands.
In the engine room, Seven and Janeway begin the shutdown sequence. But it doesn't work. "I can't initiate the emergency shutdown," Seven reports.
"Our commands are being blocked from the bridge. He's detected us."
The ship rumbles a bit. "The ship's velocity has just increased," Seven says. "At our present speed we will enter Borg space in less than 12 minutes."
Janeway asks if they have access to the power distribution grid. They do. "If we can't throw on the brakes, let's swerve the wheel," Janeway orders. Seven points out that the ship could shred from the extra stress.
"It's either that or join the hive. Do it. If we're still in one piece try to gain control of navigation. I'll be on the bridge."
Janeway heads for the door, then stops. "We have a game of velocity scheduled for tomorrow, Holodeck One. I expect you to keep the appointment."
Seven meets her gaze. "Aye, Captain."
Holy cow, the times they are a changin'...
The ship takes a nose dive. Arturis clings for dear life to the helm console, finally managing to palm the controls and move them back to normal. He slumps in the chair, breathing a little easier.
Janeway arrives a second later. "Sorry about the bumpy ride."
Arturis grimaces. "You can slow this ship down but you can't stop it! In four minutes, Captain Janeway will be gone, and a new drone will be born."
"Don't count on it," Janeway says. The ship shudders. "Seven of Nine has accessed your navigational systems. You taught us how to use this ship a little too well."
Janeway gives him a look filled with compassion. "I can't begin to imagine your loss. But try to see beyond your desire for revenge."
"Revenge is all I have left!" Arturis wails.
"No, no. As long as you're alive, there's hope! Your people's accomplishments, their knowledge, their dignity can survive in you. End this!"
Arturis gives her a hopeless look. He then makes his decision, and taps a few controls.
Seven watches as the engineering console explodes in a shower of sparks.
"I've just destroyed the navigational controls," Arturis tells Janeway. "No one can stop this ship now, not even me. Two minutes to Borg space."
The ship shudders again.
Four photon torpedoes fly at Dauntless. One connects.
Apparently the Kate and Seven show was enough to allow Voyager to catch up. The two ships are very close together now.
As Janeway and Arturis are tossed around the bridge of Dauntless like rag dolls, Tuvok announces that its shields are down and transporters are ready.
Chakotay wastes no time in ordering the beamout.
Arturis claws his way to a wall computer, where he reads the external sensors. "Voyager," he rasps, as though speaking the secret name of the devil itself.
"Come with me," Janeway pleads. "It's not too late."
"It is for you!" Arturis wails, reaching for a weapon and aiming it at her chest.
But by the time he can fire, the transporter has already carried her to safety. Arturis' eyes go wide as he realizes what comes next. All alone, on a one-way ticket to his homeworld.
But he already knows...you can't go home again.
When the word comes that the captain and Seven are aboard, Chakotay tells Paris to pull a 180 and high-tail it for home.
The Dauntless comes out of slipstream. It is immediately surrounded by at least four cubes.
We are the Borg. You will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.
In the Big Chair, Arturis meets his fate with all the dignity he has left.
Captain's Log, Supplemental: We remained in the quantum slipstream for an hour before it finally collapsed. Our diagnostics have concluded that we can't risk using this technology again--but we did manage to get 300 light years closer to home.
Well, at least they got something out of it. That's a good three months or so.
We're back on the Holodeck, where Janeway and Seven are locked in a game of full-contact Skeet. As before, Janeway grabs the victory. "Nice play," Janeway pants. "You almost had me."
"Almost," murmurs Seven.
"Go again?" Janeway asks.
"I must report to the Astrometrics lab. There is work to be done."
"Work? I gave the crew strict orders to take some R&R over the next few days, and that includes you."
"There are more pressing needs. I am attempting to design another method of traveling at slipstream velocities without damaging Voyager."
Janeway stares at her. "I thought that was impossible."
"'Impossible' is a word that humans use far too often." (Not on Kirk's ship, dangit.) "I wish to continue my efforts."
"A few days ago you were ready to abandon ship. And here you are, practically laying in a course to Earth." Janeway smiles like a proud mama.
"As we approached Borg space I began to reevaluate my future. The prospect of becoming a drone...was unappealing," Seven admits.
"Sometimes you've got to look back in order to move forward," Janeway whispers compassionately. "Sounds to me like you're starting to embrace your humanity."
"No," protests Seven a little too much, "but as I said, nothing is impossible." She smiles ever-so-slightly.
Janeway takes that as an encouraging gesture. "Computer," she calls out, readying her stance, phaser at the ready, "One more game."
Seven accepts the challenge. Soon, the glowing, floating disk materializes between them, and Seven takes the first shot.
What? No cliffhanger?
Actually, I don't mind. The way it was set up, it felt like a good bookend to the Scorpion arc.
They covered a lot of ground. Still more speed bumps on the road to Seven's recovery. She finally answers her own question, asked long ago in Voyager's brig: if the time comes when I'm deemed fully human, and I decide to return to the Collective, will you let me go?" Janeway never gives anything up easily, but she did pose the question. Seven chose to fight actively for her individuality, when doing nothing would have meant re-assimilation. It's a question she's had to answer for herself many times the past year--who are you, what do you want. She hasn't always answered it the same way. But this may have been her last best chance to rejoin the Collective...and she didn't take it.
Whatever other disappointments she's given Janeway over the year, that one victory should give the captain a real reason to cheer.
Janeway also showed some maturity this time around. Rather than react instinctively to Seven's attacks, Janeway sees beyond the bluster and gets to the heart of Seven's anxiety. Oh, sure, they butt heads "more than usual," but it could actually be a good sign. Seven's growing up, but she's still just an adolescent emotionally. But having and expressing emotions at all is a big step for her. Seven getting bratty over a game of dodge ball is, technically, an improvement.
It was inevitable that someone would be rooting for Species 8472 in the War To End All Life, and blame Janeway and Voyager for tilting the balance in favor of the Enemy We Know. Chakotay argued last season that helping the Borg would mean giving them license to assimilate again, and this story relies on exactly that situation happening. Seven reports the Arturis species as one the Borg hadn't assimilated...yet. Apparently, shortly after her disconnection from the Collective, that's exactly what happened.
The interesting note here is that Arturis doesn't blame the Borg themselves--they're simply a "force of nature." Rather, he blames Janeway for not letting the Borg get wiped out completely.
There is some debate about what Species 8472 would have done once the Borg were out of the picture. According to Kes, they wanted to wipe out everything in our galaxy--they were the real threat. I hate to say it, but I don't think it would have mattered to Janeway either way; it served her interest more to side with the Borg. But in this case, self-interest and the greater good coincided. Assimilation beats annihilation.
I guess it depends on which one you see as the more immediate threat. To Arturis and his people, the more immediate threat was the Borg, and whatever's bad for the Borg was good to him. "The enemy of my enemy is my friend."
And the ally of my enemy is my enemy. Janeway, by siding with the Borg (manipulating them, even), becomes Public Enemy #1. Not that she and the Borg were all buddy-buddy, but the end result was the same: Species 8472 went away, and resistance was futile once more.
From a logical standpoint, the Dauntless is a bit of a stretch. Not the propulsion system, but the thought that in a few months' time, Arturis could concoct a plan, then execute it to the extent he had. A whole ship made up to look--and WORK--like a Federation vessel, which passes even the most superficial scans, is a bit too ambitious to believe. We must also assume that Arturis has been tailing them, undetected, at least since Hunters. Reading their personal logs, decoding the Starfleet message (perhaps, if he's got a more sophisticated communications device than they, getting a whole copy of the message before they did) and preparing to use it to his own purposes.
But oh well; consider it an impossibility, accept it as a given, and move from there. It didn't get in the way of my enjoyment while watching, and didn't come to mind until afterward.
The ship itself was pretty cool. They didn't get too bogged down in the babble; it was incidental to the plot. The solution was more a matter of human will and teamwork, which I love to see.
The new drive system works. And though as it is it won't work for them without the ship falling apart, the fact that they chose to have Seven take it on as a task next year suggests we'll see it again. Though they have so many other drive technologies sitting on the shelf at the moment that they could be home again before they get around to exploring them. Homegrown Transwarp, Borg Transwarp, coaxial warp, and now slipstream. (I understand the reasons for not wanting to incorporate them fully, but a compromise, it seems, could be reached, allowing them to shorten their trip by a decade or two by using a hybrid system.) But this could be the sign of change next season: I sincerely hope we see at least one episode where modified slipstream is attempted again.
From a character standpoint, this was a standout. Paris got to show off some more of his fancy engineering skills. Tuvok got to show off some more of his dry humor. Chakotay got to show some command creativity--he's usually at his best in a rescue operation. Torres got to be a talented chief engineer, if a snappish joke-teller. Harry got to find crucial evidence to save the crew's hide, show off his new attitude, and make Seven smile. Seven gets some wrenching character growth. Janeway got to be engineer, scientist, cryptographer, diplomat...and warrior. She even got to best Seven on several fronts, and be gracious in victory. She also showed some refreshing restraint, listening to her anxieties, looking the gift horse in the mouth, playing it safe, not acting until facts were in. Good for her; give me much, much more of that next year.
As for Arturis...he got a little bit overemotional at times near the end, but for the most part I liked him. His perspective is hard to fault, given that only a few thousand of his people remain unassimilated.
Janeway's victory was a Pyrrhic one; we knew that even as far back as Scorpion. Their chief victory was in living to continue their journey. The battle between the Borg and Species 8472 appeared to have galactic consequence, so action was merited. What happened next wasn't much in their power; not even Voyager could withstand the "hundreds of cubes" that converged on Arturis' home world.
As a rough parallel, consider this. The allies fought the Axis in WWII. Ending that war was a good thing. But in the aftermath of that war, two superpowers emerged, the Cold War began, bloody battles for independence were waged in countries around the world, and nations were split and lives were lost in wars over ideology. That's bad...but the alternative, an Axis victory, was worse.
That is little comfort to those who suffered in the aftermath.
I can sympathize with Arturis. But his cheerleading for Species 8472 would have lasted only long enough to enjoy the Borg's destruction, right before his own people got lined up in the new aliens' sights. He may even have chosen such a fate--better to be destroyed by the Borg's enemy, just to deprive the Borg of the pleasure of doing it themselves.
If Janeway seemed a bit cavalier, "didn't have time to take a poll" and all that...well, I can't entirely blame her. Chakotay and Seven have been giving her crap all year over her decisions in that period. The 10k-20k survivors of Arturis' people are 10-20 thousand more than she thinks would have been left after a Species 8472 victory. But Arturis wasn't in a mood to listen.
Here's an irony, though. After a year (some might say more) of portraying Janeway as Captain Ahab...this week she gets to be the great white whale, with Arturis taking the Pequod's reins.
As for the message...
It was a bit anticlimactic. I know that in "Hunters" the idea was that when all the personal messages were extracted the underlying message would be a piece of cake to read. I can understand the encryption--there is no doubt a lot of classified stuff in there--not merely the data, but also what it might suggest about Starfleet's data-gathering capabilities. Not something you want to make totally public.
The anticlimactic part is that it took us half a season to get a message that says, in effect, So Sorry. Hopefully we'll get some specifics next season on what they got. Anything they can provide about sources of fuel, food, friendly aliens, or "here there be dragons," could conceivably be both a boon, and a warning buoy. Good intel about what lies ahead is vital to their survival, and could be as useful in the long run as a quick ride home.
In the end, Arturis did do them a favor. he decrypted the message, and added a few nice algorithms into the crew's cryptographic arsenal. You never know when extracting the iconometric elements and triaxilating a recursion matrix will come in handy.
I enjoyed this one. The performances were good, nobody came off looking particularly bad, the special effects and the music were terrific, the story was relatively compelling, and it tied in nicely with the first couple episodes of the season. And by avoiding the cliffhanger, Voyager now has the opportunity for a fresh start next season. Cliffhangers are often a mixed bag; Trek isn't known for a high "stellar second part" percentage, though Part Ones are often terrific.
There's a big question about next season, with Brannon Braga taking over. Personally, I'm looking forward to it, and hoping for the best. I will miss Jeri Taylor and Lisa Klink, though.
On the four star scale, I'm giving this episode (* * * *). Plus something suspiciously starlike hovering nearby. A compelling end to an often (for me) frustrating season.
And if anyone's listening, a personal plea. I know some are calling this the Season of Fun, but for me the tone felt almost unrelentingly bleak. If I have one hope for next season, it's that the stories will lighten up a little. I don't necessarily mean humor. I mean finding at least a few species that are worth knowing, treating the crew as sane and competent individuals more often than not (a particular weakness this season), etc. Voyager's got a great cast, and some interesting characters.
I know it's not easy, writing good stories that are also "good Trek," and still get good ratings. I also know that my opinion is often out of march with the mainstream, so What Jim Likes might be the worst thing the wider audience could imagine. (Just to put your minds at ease, my ideas for Voyager have nothing to do with Seven of Nine running in slow motion in form-fitting swimwear, Delaney Sisters Bikini Volleyball Invitationals on the old resort holoprogram, or Janeway getting a compression phaser rifle installed in place of one of her arms.)
As I look at my ratings for the past season, I'd say that the quality generally rose this season. But the likeability frequently fell. Time and time again, the crew was forced into situations where they couldn't help but look a little harder, meaner, crazier, or dumber than I was comfortable with. (Some of this was addressed toward season's end. Harry finally woke up and grew up in "Demon," for example, and it's a change they appear determined to maintain--and I'm glad of it. The rehabilitation of Tuvok and Neelix was also welcome, and for better or worse I think the addition of Seven of Nine was a generally positive move.
My personal opinion is that Paris, Chakotay, and Janeway were not as well served this season, that these characters I've traditionally liked came out of the season less sympathetic than they entered it. The news wasn't all bad for these characters, but there were many moments for each that left me seething. That's bad, given that these are three of the more visible characters.
Anyway. Just my two cents. This is more a seasonal issue than an episodic one. As far as "Hope and Fear" is concerned, I have no complaints about these characters, and this gives me hope for next year.
Next week: Repeat of Year of Hell, Part One. No new episodes until sometime in September, most likely.