The usual. It's Paramount's playground; I'm just borrowing the equipment. Any resemblance to products, productions, novels, television shows, films, characters, public figures, celebrities, bodily fluids, et al., is purely intended for entertainment purposes.
These reviews are long, highly opinionated, and prone to digressions. They retell each episode from beginning to end in excruciating but dubiously accurate detail. If you haven't seen the episode yet and want to be surprised, run away.
But some people seem to like them, and if you don't mind your Trek with some tongue-in-cheek running commentary, hop on the fun bus and join the crowd, because Fatherly Uncle Jim's in a storytellin' mood.
Chakotay leaves his DNA in San Francisco.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Even in the Delta Quadrant, there's occasionally time to stop and smell the flowers. Just ask that old guy with the floppy hat and the garden shears; he's got hyacinths halfway up to his septum.
Wait a minute...I know that old dude...and these gardens are awfully familiar.
The camera pans back to a Norman Rockwell depiction of Starfleet Command, exterior view. The Academy grounds, the Quad, the stunning view of the Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge. Blue skies with just enough clouds for emphasis. Shiny happy people in well-pressed Starfleet uniforms converse, stroll, and generally bask in the rare Bay area sunshine.
And look at that guy! Straight out of Space: Above and Beyond. Commodore something. "Welcome to Earth," he tells a group of-well, looks like humans. "I am Admiral Bullock, and I will be your commanding officer for the next six months. Questions, comments, bring them to me. Problems, talk to Lieutenant Kinis." He refers to the at-attention Vulcan with the Iggy Pop face, who nods.
He gives the three Starfleet personnel their orders. Their names and assignments are unimportant; we'll never see them again. But someone is watching them from a distance. And taking pictures.
We finally see the man behind the camera. Commander Chakotay-who looks more like he's on an intelligence-gathering mission than a homecoming. He's alone. He continues to point and click, grabbing images. Smile for daddy. Say "Queso." Click. He takes pictures of buildings, but mostly of people, of multiple species-Bolians, Vulcans, Ferengi. And human. Lots of humans. But it is Earth, so that's expected Chakotay snaps away like Charlie Sheen at a pep rally. Then he shoulders his camera and walks through the crowd, trying not to look conspicuous.
* * *
Chakotay is scanning some bamboo when the old guy shows up, looking inquisitive. "I can save you some time there, son," the old guy says. "They're bamboo."
Chakotay smiles. "I know that. Unfortunately, my tricorder is reading them as maple trees." A brief technical discussion commences; the old guy suggests he get his tricorder replaced at Logistical Support. They walk there together.
As they head for the main buildings, the old guy chats amiably with Chakotay. But his questions are probing. Chakotay has the feeling he's being tested. He gives specific answers at first, but soon backtracks into safer generalities. The old guy isn't menacing, but he does seem to know more than he's letting on.
Chakotay finally turns the tables."What about yourself? How long have you been posted here, Mister...?"
"Boothby," says the old guy. "Boothby is the name."
Chakotay smiles broadly as the name sinks in. "Boothby--I've heard of you!"
"I should hope so! I've been tending these grounds for 54 years. Give or take a few months." Boothby is being modest. Plants aren't all he's tended to over the decades.
"And beautiful grounds they are," Chakotay says with genuine appreciation.
They arrive at the doors of Headquarters. Boothby gives Chakotay directions to Logistical Support, then calls him back. "Logistics is a secure area, and they won't let you in with that holo-imaging device." He points to the Polaroid. "Fresh from the Neutral Zone...you're not a Romulan double agent, are you, son?" he asks, half-joking.
Chakotay smiles. "Actually, I was just recording a few images for my friends back home. Would you mind posing for a shot?"
Boothby is amused. "You want a picture of me?"
"The one and only Boothby," says Chakotay with his winning smile. "My friends would be impressed." How can he resist? He calls over a redheaded cadet to take their picture. "Don't cut off our heads," Boothby says, as both men smile warmly. (Naturally, we see the heads partially out of frame, and the cadet has her finger in front of the crystalline lens. But 24th-century cameras assume people are idiots, and compensate brilliantly.)
Chakotay retrieves the camera from the cadet. Boothby pats Chakotay on the shoulder. "I expect a copy of that, young man." And he walks away, leaving Chakotay with his camera still in his possession. He sighs heavily before entering the building.
Chakotay enters an area that looks like an officers' club lounge. Bartender, stools, beer nuts, the whole shebang. Morn's even there, leaving his unique impression on one of the chairs.
Chakotay finds an empty seat and rests. He notices a book, which he picks up and thumbs through.
Then a woman shows up, drink in hand, looking moderately annoyed but immodestly interested. She clears her throat, places one hand behind her back, parade-rest style. "You're in my seat," she says. Chakotay turns around. "And you're reading my book!" she says, doubly annoyed. She approaches him, decides he's cute, changes her tactics. "Do you want my drink, too?" She extends it toward him.
Chakotay looks embarrassed-though his eyebrows raise when he gets a good look at her. Female. Human. Piles of auburn hair. Full lips. Pouty nostrils. Lobes to drive a Ferengi to distraction. Tall. Smoky eyes. Nice alto voice.
In short: Schwing.
Chakotay asks what she's drinking. "Klingon martini: vermouth, gin, with a dash of bloodwine." Chakotay shakes his head. "Bloodwine--never touch the stuff."
"What do you like?" she asks, leaning in, invading his personal space, her delivery guaranteeing the episode a TV-14 rating.
Chakotay, fearing the wrath of rabid "J/C Liberation Front" forces, springs out of the chair and excuses himself. But she doesn't let him leave. "Valerie Archer," she says, extending her hand.
"Hayek," says Chakotay. " Jason Hayek." (The reviewer is distracted by the name, and spends the next two hours watching Desperado. Ah, Salma...)
"Nice tattoo," Archer says. "I bet there's a story behind it."
Chakotay laughs lasciviously. "A long one," Chakotay says, leering at her. (Shameful.) He picks up the book. "A Cave Beyond Logic: Vulcan Perspectives on Platonic Thought. Sounds...fascinating." Uh oh. Chakster's warming up to the new babe. She offers to let him borrow it. He demurs. "I can only take small doses of Vulcan philosophy."
The smiles are flying fast and furious now. Her body language is pure pay-per-view. Chakotay's grin forces the climate control to kick in to cool things off. "Unforgettable," this ain't. This pairing actually has chemistry, and they've only just met.
She asks what a beefcake like him is doing in a place like this. Chakotay puts his stuff on the counter and invites her to go first. "Everywhere," she says. He jokingly calls her a Starfleet brat. "Bratty as they come," she says, batting her eyelashes at him.
The ice in all the drinks within a 20-meter radius melt in unison. A White Russian spontaneously combusts. ("Keptin!")
The flirtations end when a guy in the corner starts to change color, grabbing desperately at his collar, making sickly gagging noises. He's quickly helped out of the room by several officers. (He must be a JetC...) Oddly, though everyone notices, few do anything. This apparently has happened before. Archer's voice drops to a whisper. "Can I ask you a question? Have you ever reverted?" Chakotay, not understanding, sticks with an evasive "Not yet."
"Ensign O'Halloran--this is his third time this week. If it happens again, they'll pull him out of training." Chakotay's eyes light up at the unexpected bit of data. Chakotay asks if she's had any trouble. "Oh, I can keep my human form," she says. "It's the little things that bother me. Breathing oxygen, bipedal locomotion, and sleeping--the concept of being unconscious for eight hours a night. It's so...alien." She smiles. So does he-he's swimming in useful new facts.
Whatever Archer (and presumably everyone else here) really is, she's not bipedal, breathes something other than oxygen, and never sleeps. And she's frisky as heck. "That's why I started reading their books. For some reason it helps me relax." (And she's a reader! She's every nerd's dream.) She leans in conspiratorially. "But we shouldn't be talking about this. 'Think human. Talk human. Be human.' Remember?" She learns Chakotay has just arrived, and hasn't been shown around yet. She offers to be his guide, and doesn't give him much of a choice in the matter.
Tuvok arrives, the first truly familiar face other than Chakotay's. He tells Chakotay they need to go, and his phaser is set on wide-beam Wet Blanket. Chakotay rises to leave. Archer asks him if they're still on for tonight, and pointedly calls it a "date." She wishes Tuvok goodbye with a perfectly executed split-fingered salute.
"A 'date'?" Tuvok asks when they're a safe distance apart.
"Relax, Tuvok. I plan on standing her up." The cad! Tuvok reminds him that they were just going to observe, but Chakotay says he scored some major data from the local. "She talked about training. These are some kind of aliens learning to pose as humans." For what purpose? Tuvok asks. "I don't know. I didn't get that far."
You got far enough, tattoo boy. Yowsa.
While walking to the transporter coordinates, they apparently cross a path they shouldn't. An earnest young ensign, armed and nervous, says they've entered a restricted area, and they need to come with him. Chakotay tries to talk their way out of it, but Ensign Mall Cop won't take no for an answer. So they agree to come with him.
Chakotay in front, the Ensign right behind him. Followed by Tuvok. Human or not, the Ensign doesn't know his Vulcans very well-within seconds he's nerve-pinched and counting sheep.
Chakotay taps his commbadge. "Chakotay to Paris, three to beam up."
"Three?" Paris asks.
"I'll explain later."
Tom and Harry are manning the Delta Flyer when Chakotay, Tuvok and their unconscious, unexpected guest are beamed up."Who's that?" Paris asks, nodding toward the newcomer.
"One of Starfleet's finest," Chakotay cracks. "Take us to Voyager."
"What did you find down there?" Harry asks.
Tuvok answers. "Earth."
Paris and Kim do a double-take. Then the Delta Flyer does a 180 and heads for home.
Leaving behind a large alien station in space. No planet in sight.
These folks didn't leave their hearts in San Francisco. They brought San Francisco with them...
* * *
The Ensign wakes up in Voyager's Sickbay. He's got company. Large beefy security types with weapons straight out of Mortal Kombat. Not to mention a diminutive redhead with eyes like twin breeder reactors. "Welcome aboard," Janeway says with a voice of steel.
The Ensign bolts upright on the bio-bed. "Where am I?"
"On a starship."
"What starship? Why have you brought me here? I'll report this incident to the admiral!" He talks tough, but fear textures his every word. He views the Voyager crew like a pack of Gremlins-wet, wild, and snacking after midnight.
"Drop the charade. We know you're not human," Chakotay tells him.
"Who are you?" Janeway says, boring holes into him with her eyes.
The Ensign stares straight ahead. His voice takes on the robotic tones of the recently captured. "Gentry, David. Rank: Ensign. Starfleet service number 9-9-Beta-3-2-7-8. Planet of origin: Earth."
Janeway regards him coldly. "We're not interested in your knowledge of human culture. We're not part of your re-creation. I'm Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. I'm from Earth. You're not." The Ensign, petrified, repeats his name, rank, and serial number like a mantra. Janeway sics the Doc on him, to retrieve a genetic sample. Doc's bedside manner is as compassionate as I've seen, but the kid's fear escalates exponentially.
Janeway's so tough in this scene, I started looking for the telltale signs that this might be "Living Witness II." Black gloves, black shirt, black heart. But no, this is apparently the genuine article. Brrr.
Everything the boy does-tap his commbadge, call for security, plead for the intercession of Landrou-fails. But the whole time, he stays in character. As far as he's concerned he's Ensign Dave, human. But it can't last forever, and when Doc approaches with the DNA scraper he leaps off the bed and backs into a corner-tough to do in the rounded contours of that part of Sickbay. "No! Don't touch me. Disease! Humans!" His head snaps back, he makes a series of pained, unhealthy noises, and collapses to the floor.
Doc examines him. "It appears he's released a cellular toxin into his bloodstream." Doc looks grim. "He's dead."
Everyone looks at the dead pseudo-ensign, and wonders just what the heck is going on.
Captain's log, supplemental: until we know exactly what's going on I'm keeping Voyager concealed behind a class-three moon.
In Astrometrics, Chakotay and Tuvok put on a slide show for Janeway and Seven. The pictures they took pass by on the screen. Chakotay handles voice-overs. "Federation Council, Astrophysics, Starfleet Medical complex. They even re-created the officers' club-- the Quantum Café."
It should be noted that Seven of Nine finally got a change of outfit. Gone is the brown catsuit. In its place: a power-babe business suit with an incredibly short miniskirt. Seven looks like she's lost about 80 pounds, too. In a Jenny Craig ad, Kate Moss would be the before shot compared to this.
Ladies, gentlemen, YAMs: meet Ally McBorg.
Just kidding. It's a deep blue with blue-gray sleeves, and still basically a well-stuffed catsuit. But a relatively modest one compared to outfits past. It looks good, if you ask me. I'll say no more.
Janeway saw one picture that really caught her attention. "Computer, return to time index 4228." The picture with Chakotay and Boothby appears. She recognizes the latter immediately. "That's Boothby! The head groundskeeper at Starfleet Academy. When I was a cadet he used to give me fresh roses for my quarters."
"It's safe to assume this individual is not Boothby," Tuvok points out.
"Whoever they are, they've gathered incredibly accurate information about Starfleet headquarters," Janeway says.
"Perhaps they had access to a Federation database," suggests Seven.
"Or they've been to San Francisco," adds Chakotay, a thought that worries them all.
"The habitat's population consists of Humans, Vulcans, Bolian, Ferengi," says Tuvok. "All Alpha Quadrant species."
Janeway asks Seven about the habitat itself. It's essentially a huge, heavily-armed, floating Holodeck, she says. Doc calls Janeway about the alien autopsy; before she leaves Astrometrics, the captain gives orders to investigate the tactical vulnerabilities of the alien habitat.
"He may look human, he may sound human, he may even smell human--but there's no question. He's alien." Doc shows Janeway a visual of the corpse's bloodstream.
"Was he genetically altered?" Janeway asks.
"On a highly sophisticated level. If it weren't for micro-cellular scans I wouldn't be able to distinguish him from the genuine article. I've managed to isolate the alien DNA. Fortunately, most of his cells are still chemically active. If I use a cytokinetic injection I should be able to trigger a genetic reversion." Janeway consents, and Doc injects the body.
Which begins to change color. Not unlike O'Halloran in the Quantum Café when Chakotay was with Archer. But this time there's nothing to stop the change. His skin begins to darken. His body starts to reshape itself. And to grow. A lot.
When Janeway and Doc recognize what it's turning into, they leap backward to avoid coming in contact with it in any way.
Tripedal. Face like a preying mantis. Three meters tall. Its lifeless body spills over the diagnostic bed.
When they're sure the thing is dead enough, they advance. "Talk about a wolf in sheep's clothing," Doc mutters.
The corpse is frighteningly familiar. Janeway's got this alien's number. In the bad luck lotto, she hit the jackpot.
"Species 8472," Janeway tells the assembled senior officers. "The question is: why are they training to pose as human beings?"
Tom Paris is the first to speak. "Back in the 20th century the Soviets used to build American towns to train their agents to infiltrate the United States. Species 8472 could be doing the same thing."
"They're going to infiltrate the Alpha Quadrant," Harry murmurs.
"Maybe they already have," Tom suggests, hoping they'll start with his Dad. Speculation rises about how the 47s got their information, but Janeway says the How of it doesn't matter. "We need to find out what they intend to do with it."
"If our previous experience is any indication they will try to destroy Earth," Seven says. They've seen that kind of power in action-just ten 8472 ships acting in unison can hose an entire planet before you can say Death Star.
"A logical assumption," Tuvok says. "They did threaten to purge our galaxy of all life." Yeah, but that could have just been trash talk. Like Worf saying "Death to the opposition" during a friendly game of baseball-just inspirational infield chatter. What's a little bumper-sticker sloganeering between friends or potential adversaries?
Janeway tells Tuvok to continue looking at the tactical situation. She tells Seven of Nine to start whipping up more nanoprobe warheads, which were surprisingly effective in "Scorpion".Seven complies without argument.
Chakotay lightens the tone of the meeting somewhat by bringing up his "date" with Commander Archer. "Maybe I can capitalize on the relationship--get a better idea of what they're planning." Janeway approves, and has Paris and Kim chaperone in the Delta Flyer.
She ends the meeting on an ominous note. "If Species 8472 attacks Earth...The Federation won't have any defenses against them and I don't need to remind you that we have no way to warn Starfleet Command. Voyager may be the last defense against an all-out invasion of Earth."
These words hang over the officers like the sword of Damocles.
* * *
Chakotay, alone in Astrometrics, reviews the layout of the "Starfleet Headquarters" habitat once more.
He doesn't notice the arrival of Captain Janeway, also alone. She regards her first officer. Her eyes linger over him, performing a level-one visual scan without aid of instruments, a skill handed down from drill sergeants and mothers-in-law. Then she approaches. "Last minute preparations?" she asks cordially.
"Just planning my big night out," Chakotay says, smirking.
Janeway smiles. "I can recommend a nice Japanese replimat on the Embarcadero."
"I was never very good with chopsticks."
Janeway's tone grows wistful. "Starfleet headquarters. Brings back memories, even if it is just a re-creation. I remember my last visit there. I was given my general orders for Voyager's first mission: proceed to the Badlands, and find the Maquis." Chakotay nods. "The orders that brought us together," he says. She asks when he was there last. "Before today? March 3, 2368--the day I resigned my commission. I can still remember the look on the admiral's face."
"Which one?" Janeway asks.
"Namimby." (I believe he's mentioned in the novel Pathways.) Janeway thinks. "He taught at the Academy, didn't he?"
"That's right," says Chakotay, noticing the Twenty Questions.
"Interspecies Ethics, wasn't it?"
Chakotay looks at her like she's been smoking her coffee rather than roasting it. "Tactical analysis," he corrects her, knowing she should have known that. He sighs. "Kathryn, you think I might be one of them? You're testing me."
Caught in the act, Janeway cops to it immediately. "You and Tuvok were in the alien habitat for nearly three hours. Anything could have happened down there."
"True. [pause] Why don't you have Tuvok meet us in Sickbay? The Doctor can perform a microcellular analysis."
That Chakotay offered the suggestion relaxes the captain somewhat. "Tuvok's already there."
Chakotay frowns. "You could've just asked me to report to Sickbay."
"Given Ensign Gentry's reaction I thought I'd be a little more tactful." Well, she does have a point there.
In the corridor, Chakotay notices the gaggle of security brutes with big guns. "Not taking any chances, are you?"
"Don't feel singled out," Janeway says. "I've asked the Doctor to examine the entire crew. There's no telling how 8472 got their information about Starfleet--from the Borg, Earth. For all we know there's been an impostor on board."
Doc pronounces Chakotay clean and human. "That's a relief. And Tuvok?" Chakotay asks.
"Green-blooded Vulcan through and through. Well, two down, 125 to go." Yow. Just last season the crew complement was given as 148. Now they're at 128 (127+Doc)? That's a lot of dead people.
Janeway, confident that Chakotay is who he says he is, ships him off for an evening of romance. "Just be home before midnight," she warns him.
"Yes, ma'am," he smirks. Off he goes.
Janeway frowns...then reserves a copy of Titanic from the ship's video library. It's a Chunky Monkey kinda night.
Inside the Delta Flyer (or as known in off-duty hours, the Shuttle o' Love) Paris flies while Harry prepares Chakotay for his date. Tricorder, Borg-enhanced phaser, the usual. Paris can't help but comment. "Do you always arm yourself before a first date?" Harry smirks. "You've never had a date with species 8472."
Paris sighs. "Personally, I don't go out with girls from other galaxies." And, as happens whenever he's behind the wheel of his favorite ride, Tom Paris breaks into song. (Beach Boys, anyone?)
Oh, right. Chakotay. Date night. Flesh-eating mantis babe in the human skinsuit. "You're a true explorer, Chakotay," says Harry.
"Is she cute?" asks Paris, who's done his share of ill-conceived dating in this quadrant already.
"In her human form, anyway," Chakotay admits.
"I've always wondered what it would be like to date an alien," says Harry, whose definition of "alien" must be narrow indeed, given his own social history. The more you see, the weirder it's got to be to be truly alien.
Chakotay takes the ribbing in good humor. "I'll take notes."
But when they arrive at the habitat, they're all business. "All stop. Shields up," Chakotay orders.
Doc and Seven stare at a crowded pack of bustling Borg assimilation nanoprobes. "Feisty little fellows," Doc notes with approval. "You've increased their cellular motility by over 200%." Seven said it seemed prudent to maximize their efficiency. "Seven, the last time we used nanoprobes we sent 8472 scurrying back to fluidic space. You can't get more efficient than that."
"The species is highly adaptive," says Seven, living proof that Species 8472 was more than a match for the mighty Borg. "It's been over a year since our first encounter. They may have developed a defense against our technology."
"There's one way to find out," says Doc. He beams in the corpse of Ensign Dave, now in his true form. (We non-telepathic beings can't pronounce his real name, so let's just call him-what else?--Kenny.)
The '47 appears, larger than life and twice as ugly, on the bio-bed. It's still in Bedrock (twitch, twitch). Ewww.
"Initiate a bio-scan, full spectrum," says Doc. He notices Seven blanching as the creature moves. "Don't worry. It's an autonomic reflex. The creature still has residual bio-electric activity in its nervous system."
"Something's wrong. The nanoprobes should have taken effect by now." This is not good. Doc investigates. "The creature's nucleotides are still intact. It looks like your concerns were warranted. We'll have to inform the Captain. We may have to..."
The dead mutant fake ensign turns green, desiccates, and stops twitching. He goes from mostly dead to all dead; Doc quickly retrieves 47 cents in loose change from its pockets.. Seven says she'll whip another batch of nanoprobes.
"I don't mind telling you, Seven. I'm still holding out for a diplomatic solution," says Doc.
"Improbable. Species 8472 will not respond to diplomacy." Particularly not Borg diplomacy.
"Funny. We used to say the same thing about the Borg." He wiggles his eyebrows at her, conveniently ignoring the fact that of all the Borg they've known, they've only gotten along with a handful. The rest still want to assimilate them. But Seven's presence is also a reminder that for one brief, shining moment, the Borg needed Voyager enough to save it from attack; Seven is the sole survivor of that sacrificial Cube.
So...anything's possible. But it's still very, very improbable. Getting along with 8472, that's almost as likely as a pro wrestler with a predilection for feather boas getting elected governor of a mid-western state.
Shyeah. Like THAT'S ever gonna happen.
"My point is," says Doc, "anything's possible if you keep an open mind. Optimism, Seven! Try to look on the bright side. Have you ever heard the phrase 'the best defense is a good offense'? Throughout human history weapons of mass destruction were often designed in the hopes that they'd never be used."
Seven stares at the Doctor. "And yet, in Earth's Third World War, nuclear weapons accounted for 600 million casualties. Were they 'looking on the bright side'?"
Doc's smile collapses. "An unfortunate exception."
Chakotay arrives at night on the steps of the Quantum Café. He notices Boothby chatting away with Commander Archer.
"We were just talking about you," she says.
"She didn't think you were going to show up," Boothby teases, which causes her to shriek in protest. "I've known Archer since she was a first-year cadet. She's not easily impressed." He winks. "I didn't think you were her type." They all laugh.
Archer gives Boothby a fair impression of Janeway's skunk eye; he takes the hint. "If you'll excuse me, I've got some midnight orchids that need my attention. Think about what I said, young lady, and you'll be fine." She thanks him as he goes.
"Problems?" Chakotay asks. Archer smiles. "I was offered a field commission this morning. First officer of the starship hor-cha." He congratulates her. "It's a Klingon vessel." He adds his condolences and asks what Boothby's advice was.
"du cha mee gagh roch. 'Smile when you eat the gagh,'" she translates, smiling demurely.
Chakotay laughs. "Wise words. Do you always seek advice from the groundskeeper?" Archer looks at him, surprised. "Half the Captains in Starfleet wouldn't be where they are today if it weren't for Boothby. Lopez, Picard, Richardson...just to name a few." Picard often spoke highly of Boothby. Saved his bacon a time or two as a cadet, and helped him with Wesley Crusher years later.
As the officers' club closes, Chakotay asks where their next stop is. "Can you dance?" she asks. "I've been accused of trying," he replies. She tells him it's 'pon farr night' at the Vulcan nightclub. Leave it to Earthlings to take one of the most sacred, private, embarrassingly biological rituals in Vulcan culture, and turn it into a reason to discount drinks and let customers smack each other around in the lirpa ring. "It's just around the corner," she says.
Inside the Shuttle o' Love, Harry Kim paces nervously. Paris laughs at him. "Take it easy, Harry! We didn't build the Delta Flyer to withstand such extensive pacing." But Harry's worried-it's been four hours now.
"It's a date. These things can't be rushed. They probably just finished dinner, a couple of drinks, and now they are moving past the Polite stage." Tom wiggles his eyebrows meaningfully.
Kim glares at him. "'Polite stage.' The last 8472 I met tried to dissolve me from the inside out!"
"It was only trying to get to know you better, Harry! You can't fault a person for that." Harry shoots Tom a sour look, but since he's alive and well and only mildly post-traumatic about that Ebola love tap, he doesn't press the point.
"Look," says Tom, "Chakotay can take care of himself--and if he can't, who better than us to come to the rescue?"
Chakotay and Commander Archer are laughing as they enter her private quarters. "Turns out the transporter malfunctioned," Chakotay is saying, recalling a funny old story. "My uniform ended up in the pattern buffer."
"You're kidding. You were naked?" she asks, enjoying the imagery.
"Not entirely. I had my commbadge."
"I hope it was well-placed."
Just a guess: if they're swapping Naked stories, the date's going well. Archer may be an alien, but she's flirting like a pro.
"So this is where they're putting up officers nowadays. Not bad." It's a spacious place, lots of wood furnishings, and a gorgeous view of San Francisco Bay. She offers him a drink; he asks for water. "I'm beginning to think you're a teetotaler," she says, as though that's a bad thing. "I like to stay in control," he says.
"Always at yellow alert, huh?" Archer says, smiling coyly. "Something like that," he agrees.
Chakotay is drawn over to the bookshelf; it has actual books-and a live computer terminal.
Archer notices. "Find anything interesting?" she asks. He picks out one of the bigger books. "Beyond the Galactic Edge: Humanity's Quest for Infinity. This is a 21st century edition of Hesterman, isn't it?"
She's a reader, all right. "Human beings--they're quite a paradox." Chakotay, curious to hear how she sees his species, urges her to continue. "At first glance...They're so primitive--genetic impurities, no telepathy, violent--and yet they've created so many beautiful ways to communicate their ideas--literature, art, music. At times, I've actually enjoyed being in this form." She notices the way he looks at her. "You must think I'm crazy."
"Not at all."
"I wonder what they think about us?" she says. "I'll tell you what I think. They despise us. They'll attack any species that's not a part of their Federation..."
Who, us? Naah. We just play good defense. And the best defense is a good offense. Peace through superior firepower. Better to die on our feet than live on our knees. Don't tread on me. Kickin' ass for cheaper gas. Just ask the Hitchhiker's Guide. We're "Mostly harmless."
Chakotay says nothing. Archer starts to swoon a bit. "Hmm. Speaking of being in human form--I could use an isomorphic injection. You need one?" This is apparently Species 8472 codeword for "let me slip into something more comfortable."
She leaves the room. Chakotay makes a beeline for the computer terminal, and sets his tricorder for Full Data Download.
Archer gets naked. We see her silhouette. She looks awfully human to me...
Chakotay's info-gathering continues as she puts on a robe, sits down, and injects her bare, beautiful thigh. For a brief moment, the thigh ripples, reverts to its native form. She could run down a gazelle with gams like that. But then, back to creamy human perfection.
Chakotay finishes his scans and walks over to the window.
"Commander," Archer calls after him. He turns around, notices her leaning against a the railing, wearing something long and silky. "How do you like the view?"
"Lovely," he says, as soon as he can reel in his tongue.
She descends the stairs gracefully. "Looks like a full moon. You can see the entire bay on a night like this."
"I should have brought my holo-imager," Chakotay agrees. "You make a pretty picture." They walk out onto the balcony.
"Mmmm, feel that?" Archer says, soaking in the moment with all five borrowed senses. "Salinated oxygen molecules stimulating the epidermal neural receptors. Non-fluidic space has its charms." Oh, man...her voice would make a mint on 1-900-HOT-8472. "Planet Earth. The simulation will be real soon enough."
This gets Chakotay's attention. "How soon do you think?"
"Weeks, days. As soon as they think we're ready."
Chakotay thinks furiously-how best to proceed? "Can I be honest with you?"
"Please," she says. Chakotay paces, circles her like a panther. "I'm starting to wonder if all this is worth the effort. This simulation, our mission--are we certain the humans pose a threat?"
Her smile fades. "They were allies with the Borg. They invaded our realm."
"That was one incident. Doesn't mean the entire Federation is planning a war against us."
She frowns. "We can't trust them. We have to prepare for the worst."
"I'm not so sure."
Her eyes flare with the full fury of an unmodified '47. "I think you've been human a little too long," she says dangerously.
Uh oh. Too far. Think fast! Chakotay gives his most disarming smile. "Before you know it I'll be sending my resume to the real Starfleet." His eyes twinkle in the full moon.
This brings a smile to her face. She begins smoothing his tunic with her fingers, a slow caress. " 'Alien from distant galaxy seeks employment. References available upon request.' " They share a wicked smile. Is it hot out here, or is it just them? Whoa, mama.
Chakotay, feeling the heat, noticing the hungry look on Archer's face, realizes the date's about to ignite. He thinks about baseball. Doesn't work. He thinks about the stock market. But that closed down centuries ago when Earth went off the money standard. He remembers that mantis women bite the heads off the males after mating. He thinks about Harry with his face consumed by 8472 DNA.
That worked. "Well, it's getting late. I'd better go...I have a tactical report to finish before morning."
Archer catches him just outside the door. "Aren't we forgetting something? I'm no expert at human dating rituals but I think it's customary to kiss good night."
Chakotay's eyes go wide. She's a maneater! "Ummm..."
"You've never done this before," she says, laughing.
"Me, neither. Just...Think of it as part of our training."
She advances on him. Chakotay backs up...up...up...back against the wall. Nowhere to go. His eyes go wide with terror.
Archer advances, gets up on her tippie-toes, and just kinda lets their lips connect. Not what I'd call a great kiss, but she certainly gets an A for effort.
Chakotay grabs her arms, pushes her away. She looks slightly hurt.
Chakotay gets invaded by the ghost of Bruce Campbell. "Gimme some sugar, baby."
He grabs her, pushes her against the wall, and devours her. Fire alarms go off. Archer's toenails burst into flame. Her palms sweat. Flowers bloom. Obelisks rise, causing jungle monkeys to invent the wheel. For several moments, she's home again-no oxygen breathing here.
Chakotay breaks the kiss, settles her against the wall, and takes off. Her knees go wobbly and she slumps downward in gooshy paralysis. She loses the power of speech. It takes her a while to remember how to breathe again.
Now that's what I call a Starfleet Aloha! Jim Kirk would be proud. Tom Paris should be taking notes.
When Archer finally breaks out of her sensory overload, she looks at her hand-the hand that touched the fevered face of her first date. Holding up and staring at her hand like it might go somewhere, she enters her apartment.
She moves to a desk, removes a scanning device, which glows green. She frowns.
She turns on her computer, where Boothby's gruff voice greets her. "Report."
"I analyzed his DNA. Your suspicions were correct." Her voice is colder now.
"How much does he know?" Boothby asks.
"It's difficult to say. He'll have to be interrogated. By now, he should be in the main quad. I recommend we go to daylight. He'll be easier to track." Her eyes glow with anger and frustration.
Yow. She is a maneater..
Up on the Delta Flyer, Harry Kim shivers.
Chakotay walks along the outdoor walkway next to the lake. It's dark.
Then it's not.
He notices he's being followed. Nobody's running after him; they're just walking.
But that's scary enough. It's like Children of the Corn or Invasion of the Body Snatchers or a Pepsi commercial or something. Wherever he goes, there's more people in Starfleet uniforms, of many races, advancing on him at a marching pace.
There's a lot of cement paths in the Starfleet quad. But every one is filling with people, all closing in on Chakotay.
He calls Paris for beam out, but gets no response. He takes a couple of potshots, knocking the power-walking intruders off their feet.
But there's too many of them, and nowhere left to run.
Lesson, dude: if you're gonna kiss and run, steer clear of the kinfolk....
* * *
Janeway's in her ready room. Her new coif is like a redheaded Darth Vader helmet. I like it. But her demeanor is downright deadly.
Seven of Nine enters. "Borg modifications are complete. 19 standard photon torpedoes and three class tens armed with high-yield warheads."
"More," says Janeway brusquely. Had Oliver Twist used this tone of voice, he would have gotten seconds.
Seven looks nervous. "We've depleted our supply of nanoprobes."
"Replicate a new supply."
Seven's jaw drops. "That is not possible."
Janeway's glare could melt duranium. "Have the Doctor extract them from your bloodstream. Grow them in a petri dish. Whatever. It. Takes. If we do engage 8472 I don't intend to run out of firepower mid-battle. You of all people should understand that. They killed, what--four million drones?" Janeway paces furiously. The floor shakes under the pounding.
Janeway starts ranting at nobody in particular. "Directive Zero-One-Zero: 'Before engaging alien species in battle, any and all attempts to make First Contact and achieve nonmilitary resolution must be made.' In this case, we made first contact a year ago and we barely got out of it alive. It seems to me a battle is inevitable. Maybe even war." She looks at Seven. "So why can't I get that directive out of my mind?" (Heck, without a decent segue, I'm wondering how that directive got into the script.)
Seven brings up an old argument. "This species intends to purge our galaxy of all life. It's time you resisted your Starfleet philosophy." Janeway's glare is of such intensity that stars would go nova to avoid it.
But the conversation, such as it is, is short-lived. Tuvok calls them to the bridge.
"Chakotay's in trouble," says Paris from the Delta Flyer. "He tried to contact us but his signal was cut off. A force field went up around the habitat. We can't get a lock on him." So far the habitat hasn't paid any attention to the shuttle, though.
Action Kate wastes no time. "Bring those Borg weapons on-line. Red alert. All hands to battle stations. Take us out of orbit." batten down the hatches. Raise the mizzenmast. Ramming speed.
"I thought you had a tactical report to finish," says Archer, um, archly as Chakotay is brought under guard to the Quantum Café.
Boothby is also here, behind the bar, chatting amiably. Decanter in hand. "What'll you have, son? I'm a single malt man, myself. Aged 200 years. Been saving it for a special occasion. And I'd say this is special enough, mm-hmm." He pours himself a finger full. "A toast...To Earth." He tosses it back. Being a creature of fluidic space, he knows a good fluid when he tastes one. He's smart enough not to transform fluidic space into single-malt, though-or a human invasion by the USS Glasgow would be unavoidable.
Boothby, alien but folksy, turns his steady gaze to the first officer. "Chakotay. Rank: Commander. Starfleet service number: 4-7-alpha-6-1-2." (They're just making it too easy for us, aren't they?) "First officer, USS Voyager."
Chakotay stares right back. "Species 8472. Origin: fluidic space." I'd say that in the Intel department, Species 8472 has the edge....
"Well," says Boothby, "now that we've been formally introduced--how many ships?" Chakotay is stunned by the question. "Cat got your tongue? I asked you a question. How many vessels do you have in the Delta Quadrant?"
Chakotay almost smiles. The enemy just fell a notch. He holds up a single finger. "One."
Boothby and Archer share a surprised look. "How did you find us?" Archer asks.
"We detected what looked like a Federation subspace transmission," says Chakotay. "It took us weeks to track it here."
Boothby frowns. "We wanted this simulation to be accurate to the last detail. We obviously went a little too far." He and Archer share a concerned look.
"Now that you know about our re-creation you've no doubt alerted the Federation. Your fleet will be on its way," Boothby accuses.
Chakotay shakes his head sadly. "You've got it wrong. We're not planning a war against you."
"Is that why you were here--to spy on us because you're curious?" Archer asks dubiously.
They're interrupted by Admiral Bullock, who reports deferentially to Boothby. "Sir? A starship is approaching. It's Voyager."
"Raise our shields. Stand by, all weapons," Boothby orders. Bullock nods and leaves.
"Captain Janeway is not here to launch an attack," Chakotay assures them. "She's here to find me."
Boothby ignores him. "We've got the real McCoy here," he tells Archer. "We might as well take advantage of it. Perform a genetic extraction. It may help us find a better way to maintain these human forms." Chakotay rolls his eyes; oh, no, not again. First Seska, now this. His dates usually end up with a genetic extraction at some point. (Usually from the neck, with a sharp object. He's dating the wrong women...)
Archer looks at Chakotay with an alien coldness. "Yes, sir."
Voyager approaches the habitat. Action Kate's all business. "Shields to maximum. Charge weapons. All hands, this is the bridge. Tactical alert. Report to your posts and stand by to engage the enemy."
Tuvok reports they're being scanned. "Let them take a look," Janeway says, her gaze never wavering from the forward view screen. Paris calls in, says their shields are down from a few potshots, asks to return to the mother ship. No word from Chakotay yet.
Janeway looks to the helmsman. "Bring us within range." To Seven, she orders, "Target their weapons array."
Seven balks. "Captain, we should target their power systems as well."
Janeway, not turning around, furrows her brow. "I don't want to risk shutting down their life support. If we can end this without casualties, so much the better."
"This species does not deserve our compassion," Seven insists.
Last season, this would be a five-minute discussion. Not this year. So much the better. "You picked a lousy time for an ethical debate," says Janeway, voice freezing. "The weapons array. Now." Seven complies, and Voyager approaches the alien habitat.
Chakotay and Commander Archer are essentially alone. The security types are a discreet distance away. "Valerie-" Chakotay says, trying to rekindle some old affection.
"That's not my name," she says with some annoyance. Now that she knows he's one of the hated, fearsome, diseased humans, she's not very chatty.
"Then what is it?" She doesn't respond; she just prepares her genetic extraction equipment.
"You're afraid of us, aren't you?" Chakotay says. "You think we're violent. That we're planning to destroy your species. But none of that's true!" She takes her sample, causing far less pain than Seska did. "If you would take the time to speak to us directly, we could prove it to you," he says. She just stares at him. "'There are no secrets except the secrets that keep themselves,'" he quotes at last.
This catches the little bookworm's attention. "Shaw..." she whispers, and he nods. "George Bernard Shaw. I saw a copy of his collected works on your bookshelf."
"He had a complex mind...For a human," she says. "And he had a point!" Chakotay says. "As long as we keep spying on each other--making assumptions--we probably will go to war."
The klaxon sounds. Archer shivers. "Voyager." She says it the way a child says"monster in the closet," the way an adult says "audit." Brrrr.
Paris and Kim arrive on the bridge and immediately take their stations.
"They're charging weapons," Seven reports.
Janeway is now seated in the Big Chair. "Do the same."
A hail arrives and is placed on screen. "Mr. Boothby," Janeway says to the familiar face of the guy who until now was the source of only fond memories.
"Captain Janeway," says Boothby cordially.
"Good to see you after all these years," Janeway says with transparent cordiality. "Enjoying the Delta Quadrant?"
"Don't get sassy with me, young lady," Boothby snaps. "This re-creation may be Starfleet but our weapons are far more sophisticated. I can destroy your vessel with a single command. Run along, now." He makes a shooing gesture with his hands.
"I'm not going anywhere," says Action Kate. "Not until you return my first officer and give me a damn good explanation for what you're doing in our galaxy." Boothby doesn't look worried. "I've targeted your re-creation--with Borg nanoprobes. And we're willing to use them if you force us to."
Now he looks worried. "Don't try to rattle my cage. I'll disable your tactical systems before you-"
"The last time our species engaged in battle," she interrupts coolly, "you suffered heavy casualties. Are you willing to take that chance again?" Boothby doesn't respond. Janeway moves toward the screen. "An armed conflict isn't going to solve our problems. We could go on making threats. Spying on each other. Risking a war between our species. Or we could try a more direct approach."
Boothby swallows hard. "What do you have in mind?" Janeway smiles cryptically. "How about a class reunion?"
Boothby looks at her like she's nuts. So does Tom Paris.
* * *
The class reunion takes place on Voyager. Boothby is there, along with Archer and Admiral Bullock for Team 8472. For Team Starfleet we have Janeway and Chakotay and Tuvok and Seven of Nine. Boothby isn't in a good mood. "Targ manure! United Federation of Planets...'Tolerance' for all species... The Prime Directive... Targ manure, every word of it!" Tuvok's eyebrows do the Macarena. "Your metaphor is colorful, but inaccurate." Boothby snorts with disgust. "Vulcan logic... Add that to the list." (More Vulcan bashing! This may be a single-episode record...)
Janeway stares at Boothby. "Obviously, you've studied a Starfleet database. You must've learned something about our history. We adhere to our directives."
Admiral Bullock's look is flinty. "High-minded ideals are one thing, but your actions tell a very different story. You infiltrated our re-creation, captured and killed one of our people." (Archer winces. Oh my gosh; they killed Kenny!)
Janeway sighs. "I told you, he took his own life." But Bullock interrupts. "You created biological weapons to infect our species! You are allies with the Borg!" Janeway denies it. "There's a drone sitting at this very table," Boothby snorts. "Look at her--all gussied up to look like a human being."
"I am no longer part of the Collective," says Seven. "Once a Borg, always a Borg!" Boothby grumbles. Janeway stands up for Seven. "Seven of Nine is a member of this crew."
Bullock shakes his head. "The Borg are irrelevant. It's the humans that pose a threat." (Take that, Collective!)
"They think the Federation is a hostile invasion force out to destroy their species," Chakotay explains to Janeway, who frowns."I see. So you're planning a preemptive strike against Earth." Boothby sputters. "Maybe I am!" Janeway shakes her head. "You realize I can't let that happen."
Boothby shows the courage of a cornered animal. "Go ahead! Fire your damn nanoprobes! Blow our re-creation to high heavens. There are a dozen more scattered throughout the quadrant. You'll never find them all!" (This is the same species that freaked Kes out, munched Harry, and whomped the Borg? Janeway must have scared them spitless in "Scorpion.")
Janeway sighs. "What if I told you that Starfleet isn't planning an invasion--that no one on Earth has even heard of you?"
"I'd say you're lying."
"Have another look at that Federation database of yours," Janeway says. "You'll see there's no mention of your realm." (Hopefully, Doc didn't mention them when he reported to Starfleet Command in "Message in a Bottle.")
Bullock shakes his head angrily. "Immaterial. Any information regarding our species has no doubt been classified by Starfleet intelligence." Janeway nods. "Good point. You know, we could keep this paranoid debate going all day. You have no reason to trust us and we have no reason to trust you."
Boothby practically shouts at her. "Hear, hear! I knew this reunion would be a fiasco. Admiral..." he rises to leave.
"Seven...disarm the warheads," Janeway orders. Well, that was unexpected. Seven is shocked, but when Janeway says "Do it," she must comply. Seven reluctantly moves to a wall panel and starts entering the commands.
Boothby glares at the captain. "What are you trying to prove, young lady?"
"One of us has to take our finger off the trigger. It might as well be me."
Seven completes her work at the wall. Archer moves over and confirms. "Their weapons are off-line."
"It's a trick!" Bullock shouts.
Janeway stares at Boothby, the obvious leader despite his attire. . "Our defenses are down. What will you do now? Blow Voyager to high heavens? Or, do we keep talking?" Take that, garden weasel.
Boothby grumbles, but there's a new respect in his eyes. "Humans...You've got a flair for the dramatic, I'll give you that. You want to keep talking? Fine by me, but no more beating around the bush." (Sheesh. And I thought I was the heir to the Billy Ocean Chair of Literary Cliché...) "Now what do you want from us!? The truth, Captain." Nice and direct-and the words of someone clearly spooked by the Little Starship that Could.
Janeway takes the opportunity. "Voyager is alone in the Delta Quadrant. We haven't been in contact with Earth for over four years." Not completely true ("Message in a Bottle," "Hunters"), but why quibble?
Boothby accepts that, moves on. "Explain why you attacked our realm, hand in hand with the Borg!"
"At the time, we didn't realize the Borg had started the war against you. We forged a temporary alliance with them because we thought you were the threat." Again, not entirely true. They made the alliance before they knew that the Borg had started it, but they didn't start blowing up 47s until after the truth was out. Granted, it was self-defense, and without that sobering moment the 47s might still be annihilating everything in their path.
Seven of Nine stares at Boothby. " 'Your galaxy will be purged.' Sound familiar?"
"We were only trying to defend ourselves," Bullock says defensively.
"If that's true, why are you still in our galaxy? Your conflict with the Borg ended over a year ago." Tuvok asks. Janeway adds, "Why re-create Starfleet, masquerade as humans? It looks to me like you're the ones planning an invasion. The truth."
"Don't answer her," says Bullock. "She's manipulating us." But the frank dialogue has claimed its first casualty. "If you won't answer, I will," Archer says, ignoring Bullock's warnings. "Our mission is to infiltrate your home world, to place operatives in the highest levels of Starfleet, monitor your military installations. It's a reconnaissance mission, nothing more!" (Ironic, isn't it? They might infiltrate Starfleet Command, and run into all the OTHER species that have infiltrated Starfleet command. Founders, those icky bug creatures from the early TNG days, paranoid admirals, sneaky fans...)
Chakotay chimes in. "We should listen to her, Captain. They're being driven by fear--just like we are..." he looks at Archer. "Unless everything you said on our date was just part of an act." (They do like pointing out The Date, don't they? "Look! Chakotay's getting on with his life!") "It wasn't," Archer assures him, pursing her lips.
Bullock stands up. "Enough! We must not negotiate with these...creatures."
"Sit down, Admiral," Boothby says. Bullock is caught off guard. "Sir?" Boothby stares him down. "I said sit down or I'll knock you right on your human butt." (If Species 8472 had been this colloquial back in "Scorpion," all this could have been avoided.) Bullock rages that they've been seduced, but Archer stands her ground. "I've had a chance to see through human eyes," she says, "and I'm beginning to wonder...Are they really so violent? What if we're wrong?" They're not-we are, at our worst, or when our backs are against Darwin's wall. They just need to expand their scans into the Alpha Quadrant and note the progress of the Dominion war to know that. But we're trying to be better. Even in the 24th century.
"We can't risk trusting them!" Bullock pleads.
"You'd rather risk another war?" Archer counters.
Boothby's demeanor change. He nods warmly at Chakotay. "Keep talking, son.".
"Archer's right," Chakotay says. "We've got to set aside our preconceptions about each other. Granted, our species didn't meet under the best of circumstances, but maybe we can make First Contact again. Maybe this time we'll get it right."
Boothby looks at Archer. "You believe in this fellow?"
"Yes," she says with conviction.
Boothby turns to Janeway. "There would have to be a few ground rules." Janeway nods. "First off, I want to take a look at that nanoprobe technology. It scares the hell out of me."
"All right...But I'll need some tactical information in return--your genetic alteration techniques for a start." (How about a shortcut home through fluidic space, Cap'n? Nah-that would make too much sense...)
Boothby smiles. "I'm sure something can be arranged."
Boothby looks at Bullock. "You on board, Admiral?" Bullock says nothing, stews but doesn't protest. "Good enough for me," Boothby says.
Captain's log, Stardate 52136.4: We've managed to avoid a military conflict with Species 8472...at least for now. In an effort to strengthen the truce we're exchanging technology.
Seven of Nine hands Janeway a PADD as they walk through the corridors on Voyager. "The design schematic for our nanoprobe weapons, as requested."
"This could go a long way toward allaying their fears," Janeway says, smiling confidently.
"Have a little faith, Seven!"
"It is difficult to have faith in an idea which may prove tactically unsound."
"Tactically unsound? Perhaps," Janeway says. "It could also be the first step toward peace. It's a risk I'm willing to take. Are you sure you won't join us? It would be your first chance to see Earth."
"I prefer to remain aboard Voyager. If problems arise while you're in the habitat..."
"There won't be any problems--nothing tactical, at any rate. We're entering a stage of diplomacy where most of the problems will be cultural." She smiles broadly. "How do you shake hands with an 8472?" (Very carefully.) "We'll be fine."
Seven looks distracted. "When you ordered me to disarm the warhead during the negotiation I anticipated an immediate attack. I believed they would take advantage of your human weakness. I was wrong. If I had been in your position we would most likely be engaged in a battle with 8472 at this moment. How did you know?"
"I didn't," Janeway admits. "Like I said..."
The doors to the transporter room slide open. Janeway enters it alone.
"Faith," Seven says to Janeway's back. Janeway holds up her PADD in affirmation.
We end the episode as we began it. Beautiful day in San Francisco, Admiral Bullock and Lieutenant Kinis welcoming newcomers aboard. Only this time, the newcomers are Tuvok and Neelix. "Welcome to Terrasphere Eight, Earthfleet Command re-creation. I am Admiral Bullock and I'll be acquainting you with our facility. Questions, comments--bring them to me. Problems--talk to Lieutenant Kinis." He nods to Iggy. "Commander Tuvok, you wanted to examine our thermionic generators."
"Yes," Tuvok responds. "I'll take you there personally," Bullock says. "Ambassador...Nellix?"
"It's Neelix, sir."
"Neelix. You'll be joining the Lieutenant. He'll familiarize you with our environmental control technology."
Neelix smiles happily. "Wonderful!" He grabs the Lieutenant by the arm. "I look forward to hearing your perspective on Vulcans...." they walk away, leaving Tuvok to watch them go, intensely worried by what that conversation might yield.
Janeway and Boothby walk along the garden path. Their mood has lightened considerably.
"You didn't happen to re-create a little coffee shop on Market Street, the Night Owl?" Janeway asks, coffee on the brain.
"Afraid not," Boothby says. "You're welcome to stay; put your feet up. We won't be returning to fluidic space for another day or two."
Janeway thanks him for the offer, "but the real Earth is a long way from here. I'd like to get back on the road." She looks at Boothby intently. "What are the chances they'll listen to you?"
"I can't promise you the moon, Captain. My superiors aren't as forward-thinking. Peace? With Hew-mons? Wow...They're going to hit the roof! But I'll tell them what happened here today and with a pinch of luck a few of them might see the light." (Man-who the heck did Species 8472 learn their English from--Wilford Brimley?)
"Well, you've got Voyager's comm frequency. You know how to contact us. I hope we can keep this process alive."
"Don't call us, we'll call you." Uh oh. Attack of the Killer Agents.
Boothby has a lovely parting gift for her. A flower. "Genetically synthesized... But they smell just as lovely."
Replicant or not, Boothby's still an old charmer after all these years. Janeway melts, and for one happy moment she's a cadet again, wandering through the well-tended gardens of the Academy back home.
One last date for Chakotay and Valerie Archer. They stroll the grounds of Starfleet Command.
"Looking forward to going home?" Chakotay asks.
"At least I can finally get out of this form."
"No more insomnia," Chakotay says, smiling.
"No more sleeping, period." Perhaps that fluid in fluidic space is pure mocha.
"For what it's worth," Chakotay says, "you made a terrific human."
They walk a while in silence.
"Shame," Archer says. "It's too bad our species are so different. Otherwise I'd ask you for a second date." Chakotay asks her to be his tour guide the next time they're in fluidic space. She readily agrees.
Then she gets a funny look in her eyes. "I'll never get a chance to do this again." She wraps her arms around him and delivers a goodbye kiss for the ages. "Any better this time?"
Chakotay gets his second wind. "You're a quick study."
And Voyager continues on its way home.
I could go a lot of ways with this episode-and I still might. But the bottom line is, I enjoyed it immensely.
There's a question. What does this do to Species 8472? In "Scorpion" they were the ultimate evil, stronger even than the Borg, with an attitude to match. Communication was difficult-telepathy only, and then only with Kes, who was convinced they were out to destroy the entire galaxy. Their actions spoke louder than words, anyway-and their actions were clearly destructive.
This episode has a real TOS feel to it; if they hadn't used an existing species, we wouldn't have thought twice about accepting it as is. But because it's Species 8472, it makes the plot a bit more controversial. Do we really want to "humanize" yet another Ultimate Alien Threat?
I guess you'll have to answer that for yourselves. For me, the answer is a resounding Yes.
I recall, during the summer break between halves of "Scorpion," discussing Species 8472 with another reviewer, Julia Houston. She wanted to know more about the creatures-their motivations, their history, their hopes and fears. Me, I didn't expect to see them again after the season premiere. I saw them primarily as a moving target. They were too devastating (not to mention expensive) to face frequently. For a mere two-part episode, all I cared was that they stay interesting and challenging until Voyager got the upper hand.
Had it ended there, I wouldn't have minded. But as we know, it didn't. In "Prey," we got to know an individual 8472, yearning for home and chased to death by the Hirogen. This episode isn't mentioned here, but I have a feeling that's the source of Doc's and Janeway's second thoughts about simply lobbing bio-weapons at them.
Paris mentions the parallel to Soviet "training towns" for infiltration agents, which sounds almost as "historical" to us as it does to Paris. The Cold War was going strong until the 80s, and during much of it, though that decade finally saw its rapid decline. The old guard of Brezhnev, Andropov, Chernenkov gave way to Gorbachev and glasnost, and "Berlin when the walls fell" ushered in a new age as songs like Sting's "Russians (love their children too)" bid a final farewell to the era of the Evil Empire. But there was a lot of tension in the pre-Gorbachev era. Kruschev banging his shoe on a table and declaring "We will bury you." The Space Race. Concepts like Mutual Assured Destruction. Domino theories that led to the ugliness in Korea and Vietnam. Each side saw the other as the Ultimate Enemy, and the propaganda and hysteria naturally followed.
I had a couple of contacts with Communists in the 1980s. My first was in Korea, in the "truce village"of PanMunJom. The Communists there were the stuff of my childhood nightmares-cold stares, cold steel, cold warriors in a very hot zone. You could taste the bitterness of tension; I was nauseous for days afterward. A country had been divided by white lines across entire towns, and within buildings along the floors and tables, like quarreling siblings staking their territory. And guarding them with automatic weapons. I'd arrived a few months before a Korean airliner was shot down by Russians. Before I left the country a couple of months later, another Russian defected to the South in a deadly firefight, mere meters from where I'd stood. Much as I loved Korea, I stepped off the plane in Los Angeles with relief.
Four years later, in Washington, DC, I met another. This guy was a Russian-about my age, a diplomatic attache attached to the consulate. Cheap suit, short hair, smoked a lot-like many interns I worked with. The Cold War was winding down. He was cautiously optimistic about the future for his country, and for relations with the United States. I remember well the feelings I'd had-wanting desperately to believe, but running into brick walls of skepticism.
Hope finally won out. Years later, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country became one of my favorite films.
In the first instance, I saw the Evil Empire in all its malevolence. I didn't get to talk with them, and would have regretted the attempt--so the tour guide, a massive US Army sergeant, said. In the second, I did--fortunately, the Russian spoke excellent English--and we found we had stuff in common. We fought the same Beltway traffic. We both enjoyed the food at Hunan's on the Hill. We weren't impressed with Cats.
It's difficult to hate someone who makes fun of the same bad musicals.
But the short of it was, we found common ground. The U.S.S.R. was no longer a mere colossus. Inside it was a junior-level dignitary named Sergei with a thing for Kung Pao.
The problem with Species 8472 in "Scorpion" was that communication was not an option. They were the bad guys. They wanted to destroy everything. They told Kes as much. The piles of dismembered Borg, wrecked Cubes and debris of former planets was strong supporting argument. Compared to them, the Borg were downright cuddly. They looked way different. Their DNA could kill with casual contact.
Any way you slice it, Species 8472 was not to be trifled with.
Voyager trifled anyway. Veni, vidi, squishy: they came, they saw, they stomped its guts out. A few modified nanoprobe warheads later, and there were dozens fewer 8472. They'd even launched a few biological warheads in fluidic space itself-no telling what damage that wrought in the long run. Voyager was just happy to get out of there alive.
Later, in "Prey," Janeway got a tad attached to an individual 8472. This time, the creature invaded the ship, but didn't really hurt any of Janeway's crew. It saved its wrath for the Hirogen. For Janeway, it let its hair down, let her see it in its weakened, dying state, and communicated to Tuvok that it merely wanted to return home. Unlike their previous encounter, this creature had no breath for bluster. Its needs were not only basic, they were comprehensible. Janeway felt compassion.
Here in "In the Flesh," we see a bit of both worlds. Species 8472 is training itself to fit into San Francisco undetected, even impersonating people she knows. This is about as provocative an act of espionage as one can comprehend, particularly from a species that had vowed to purge your galaxy of all life.
And yet-Species 8472, by making the effort to blend in (regardless of their motives), opened the door to communication in a way their true form makes very, very difficult. Let's face it: it's far easier to chat with Ray Walston or Kate Vernon than with an eight foot tall, mucus-breathing, telepathic mantis.
Speaking only for myself, of course.
Julia wanted to know more about Species 8472. This week, for the first time, so did I. Why would they go to the effort? Why would a species with planet-hosing ships bother to give up its genetic advantages, learn to walk on only two feet, sleep away a third of their lives, stop and smell the roses, and get library cards?
Another question: why would a species with the ability to get information so detailed that they can create a passable replica of Boothby and San Francisco, have such lousy tactical data about the Delta Quadrant that they have to ask Chakotay how many ships are in the neighborhood? How could they act so human, yet understand so little about humanity? How did they get their data? How long would it take them to reach Earth? What is the heirarchy of Species 8472? What do they call themselves as a race? What's an individual's name? (Names often tell us a lot about cultures.)
We learn almost nothing about Species 8472's true existence-nothing further about life in fluidic space, other than the creatures don't sleep, ever, and that there is some form of heirarchy in their society. That they fear humanity because Janeway created a modified nanoprobe weapon that destroyed a few of them-is 8472 normally impossible to kill? Are they immortals? Does their telepathy give them a sort of Great Link like the Founders, or more like a Borg-style hive mind, or something more like Vulcans or Betazoids, or like the Vorlons, or the Taelon? All telepathy is not created equal.
Too many questions. Not many answers. We learn little about what makes them different. What we see is the essence of 8472-we peek into their hopes and fears by seeing them as we see ourselves. They walk, talk, love, fear, bluster and pucker up just like humans here. We find common ground. We communicate. We put aside misunderstandings.
We lose an enemy in the process-if, as Boothby suggests, not all of their colleagues will be as amenable to peace, we will still never look at Species 8472 the same way again. We've peered into their souls. The next time we see them, even in their original shape, we'll remember Boothby, and Archer, and the terrified Ensign. It will be hard to see Species 8472 in the same room with Chakotay and not wonder if they'll start dancing cheek to cheek. It will be more difficult to see them as the Ultimate Threat they were originally.
In Trek terms, this is a Darn Good Thing. Turning enemies into friends--even into neutrals--is the Starfleet Way. Kicking hiney should, in Trek, not be something to cheer. I remember the brief battles between the Klingons and the Federation, after decades of alliance. What was once the enemy we loved to hate, was now the estranged ally we hated to fight. This turned the combat into something truly poignant.
It's tough to come up with good enemies and sustain them for any length of time. The more you know about them, the harder it is to despise them. The Jem'Hadar, the Vorta, even the Founders aren't entirely unsympathetic, especially after this week. The hope is, eventually we will run out of reasons to hate or fear them. That they will no longer be the dreaded Other bent on our utter destruction.
This week, 8472 ended its reign of terror once and for all. We know their fears. We allayed some of them. They might still be aggressive in the future, but what will they be then? No longer the 8472, but a bad-tempered subgroup that haven't yet seen the light of mutual understanding or felt the furnace of tattooed passion.
So anyway. It seemed odd that Janeway would suddenly feel the need to figure out the dreaded species, though it is in the finest tradition of Starfleet. It's unlikely this would have been possible until they made the first move, by making true communication possible. They not only spoke our language, they'd read our books, learned our customs (some of them, anyway). They learned to think like us. They could argue and not have to go through a translator, which allows them to pick up the pace of the script.
It's a common Trek device. How many times in TOS and TNG did aliens take on human form, by one means or another? Possessing existing bodies, taking over holodeck characters, hijacking the ship's computers and speaking through the comm system? In many cases, these aliens, by taking on human form, acquired the whole package-passions, tastes, jealousies. To act human is to err like humans-Kirk and Picard frequently exploited the weakness of the novice humans.
Our bodies-our rules.
We see something similar here. Boothby, by playing a grizzled but charming old fart, gets into the role in a big way. He finds a fondness for scotch, takes joy in horticulture. Archer finds other sensual pleasures of the flesh, and of the mind. Admiral Bullock seems to have few pleasures...but he's an admiral. You can't expect much from them.
They played us, but they couldn't quite believe what they learned about us. They knew we (Voyager) had discovered the means to destroy them, but they couldn't comprehend that, having such knowledge, we wouldn't actively seek opportunities to do so. (Given their only other contact with our galaxy-the relentless Borg-and their own all-out approach to warfare, it's understandable that they'd judge other species by that standard. The prospect of Borg tenacity melded with human ingenuity would be very frightening indeed.) They had to hear it from our own mouths, witness Janeway voluntarily drop her defenses as a gesture of trust, before they could believe that Federation ideals were more than mere targ manure.
Anyway. As some have said, and as with many of the episodes so far this season, this could easily have been a two-parter. We just skimmed the surface. There is much more I would have loved to see and hear about Species 8472-their society, their daily lives, etc. Who is Archer, really? I really wanted to know, because I liked her as a human. Another Trekkish concept is learning to appreciate the differences as well as finding the commonalities. Even the "ugliest creature in the universe," the Medusans, had their charming side.
Janeway's security precautions were welcome. She also showed a nice mix of past experience paranoia and principled hope for a fresh start. It was sorely misplaced in "Prey," but it works effectively here. Seven of Nine states her objections, but in the end admits, "if I'd had my way, we'd be trading shots right now. Not trading shots is better." This is, I'm sure, what many hoped "Prey" would be-Janeway being proven right, Seven learning her lesson. But I think there's room in the canon for both episodes.
Chakotay gets to sow some wild oats this season. And he delivers. He and Kate Vernon have some very nice chemistry here. I know it's a crime against humanity to let him get chummy with some other woman, but if loving is wrong, he don't wanna be right.
Paris and Kim banter effectively this week. It's more like the good old days this week. Nice work.
Too many Vulcan jokes, but I'll forgive them. This was a lighter-toned episode, so it wasn't intrusive. "Pon farr night" did crack me up.
Performances were excellent overall. Ray Walston in particular was a joy to watch. Zach Galligan's screen time was too short, but I enjoyed what little we saw of him. He died well, too. We didn't see much of Torres, but after last week she deserves the break. Neelix's scene was brief, but cute.
I liked the view of Starfleet Headquarters a lot. I'd forgotten how cool it looked. Fake or not.
All in all, one of those episodes I watched repeatedly. That puts it in "Drone" territory for me. So call it a (* * * *).
Next week: Tom Paris gets breathless.