(Mar 19, 1996) I don't have cable yet, and the channel that shows Voyager late Saturday night doesn't come in very well. If I missed something important with this episode, I can make legitimate claim to technical difficulties. Cable should be installed this week, though, so here's hoping for clear sailing soon. (This doesn't include my technical difficulties accessing my ISP from my new location; I'm still ironing out those kinks as well.)
The following is a SPOILER Review for the Star Trek: Voyager episode, "Investigations." If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright. I usually watch an episode no more than twice before preparing its review. What the recap lacks in accuracy, I hope to compensate with creativity. The result is as much a retelling as a review.
Note: The past few reviews I've been a bit more, er, meticulous, using the pause button on the VCR while writing the review. That wasn't the original intent of the reviews; I wanted to go by what I remembered, knowing I was missing a lot of things but figuring the important parts would linger. I'm going back to that method with this review.
Neelix turns Voyager into the set of the Today show. Tom Paris' recent insubordination is finally explained. Michael Jonas is hoist on his own Picard, and Seska doesn't win a Holodoc delivery.
Jump straight to the Analysis
"Live from the Delta Quadrant, it's A Briefing With Neelix!" The only way this could have been more annoying would have been for Neelix to gush endlessly about the latest antics of his son Cody. All fluff, no stuff. Exactly what I would have expected from Neelix, the ship's mess sergeant and morale officer. Heart in the right place, mind slightly askew.
His first episode in the can, Neelix approaches Holodoc about a potential recurring health segment. The obligatory "I'm a doctor, not a performer" dispensed with, Holodoc soon warms to the idea at the prospect of increased crew health awareness and the perks of celebrity.
Neelix then asks for the input of a reluctant Harry Kim. Did he see it? Uh, yes. What did he think? "A little light." Nothing wrong with light, Kim hastens to add, but "all dessert gets old quick." We learn that Cadet Kim was editor of a Starfleet Academy journal and that he took the job seriously, monitoring subspace communications, and breaking the story of the Maquis rebellion. "Opinions were polarized, debate was sparked, people got passionate, we learned and we communicated," Kim said in a rare burst of enthusiasm. The Fourth Estate now fully instilled in our fluff reporter, Neelix is on the verge of becoming a first-class news hound. Which, considering his facial characteristics, is more than slightly appropriate.
Neelix receives a hail over the intercom; a friend of his with a Talaxian commercial fleet is paging him. Off he skips to his quarters, where Neelix learns that a member of Voyager's crew is jumping ship. As morale officer, he's a tad miffed that he hadn't heard this before. He requests an audience with Janeway, who consults with Tuvok before telling him that the departing crewman is none other than Thomas Eugene Paris, pan-galactic PITA and insubordination poster-boy.
Neelix doesn't understand; "it seemed he was so eager to improve his reputation..." he protests. Janeway and Tuvok share a glance, then report what is common knowledge--in recent weeks Paris has been increasingly prone to tardiness, brooding, holodeck gambling, '57 Chevy rendezvouses on Mars for Holodoc, needling Chakotay, shoving Chakotay, poor grammar and bad hair days. He has become a disruptive influence with the crew, and when he landed in the brig for altercating with Chakotay on the bridge he asked Janeway to find him other work.
Neelix is still upset at the news, and asks if he can see Paris. Janeway sees nothing wrong with this. He enters Paris' quarters to find him out of uniform and packing his few belongings. Neelix is partly concerned that Paris' decision to leave might be a result of their past squabbles, that he has had something to do with Tom's self-destructive behavior. Tom assures him that this is not the case, that he knew he didn't belong on Voyager almost from the moment he stepped on board--that despite his best efforts to fit in, he would always be a loner and may as well accept it. He expresses his regret that he ever left the penal colony, and wishes to leave the only Starfleet vessel within 70,000 light years while one or two people still have any shreds of respect for him.
Paris has a talent for being smirkily melancholy, a trait that makes it hard to empathize with him; he is almost pathologically devoid of passion, as if caring for something--or being seen to care--is a fate worse than death. I'm not sufficiently moved, but Neelix is--he gives Tom an affectionate embrace, which Paris reluctantly returns.
Neelix returns to the mess hall, where Holodoc's smug face greets him--he has graciously decided to be a regular feature on "A Briefing With Neelix" and has his first installment ready to go: "How to keep your nostrils happy." (I'm not making this up.) Neelix seems glad to have the Doctor's assent, but he is preoccupied, and asks that today's segment be postponed. Showing his other emotion--irritation--Holodoc agrees, but asks Neelix to promise he can do two segments tomorrow.
Neelix begins his next episode of the infotainment show with a heartfelt tribute to Tom Paris, speaking with surprisingly understated eloquence about the enigmatic helmsman. I wasn't able to tape the episode and was actually too caught up in the words to write them down, so I know I can't do it justice. Suffice to say that Neelix brilliantly encapsulated the character of Tom Paris, the hardest working Slacker in the Delta Quadrant.
[5/7/2000 Update. Thanks to Rachel S. for providing the text of the speech. Here it is.]
"Good morning, Voyager. I want to tell you about a friend of mine. I first met this man almost a year ago and, to tell you the truth, I didn't like him much. He seemed a little too cocky, a little too sure of himself. A lot of people had questions about him. He'd proven he'd pretty much sell himself out to the highest bidder, go wherever the wind blew him so people wondered, could you trust this person when things got tough? Would he stand side by side with you or would he let you down when you needed him most? But the fact of the matter is he proved himself right from the beginning. I wouldn't be alive right now if it weren't for him and the same goes for many of you. It took me a while to realize it. Like a lot of people, I was too caught up in first impressions to see the truth that was right in front of me. I overlooked his bravery because I was focusing on his brashness. I ignored his courage because I saw it as arrogance and I resented his friendliness because I mistook it for licentiousness. So while this man was giving us his best every minute of every day I was busy judging him. And now he's leaving. I'm proud to say that in spite of my narrow-mindedness Thomas Eugene Paris became my friend. I'm going to miss him. No more laughs over a game of pool. No more sitting up into the wee hours swapping stories. No more complaints about my cooking. (chuckling) Goodbye, Tom. I think I speak for more of us than you might imagine when I say you're going to leave an empty space when you go. I hope you find what you're looking for."
Janeway gets a tad misty; Tuvok contemplates the speech with brows furrowed. Chakotay, never a fan of Paris but particularly not recently, listens with mixed emotions clouding his face. Even Torres seems touched. As Neelix's plea for a better understanding and appreciation for Voyager's departing comrade fades into subspace, we see a grimly determined Paris bidding a last farewell to his three closest friends on board--Neelix, Kes, and Harry Kim, none of whom settle for less than an embrace--before beaming off the ship.
At the next briefing of the senior staff, Janeway asks Torres about the ship's engines, which have shown a recent anomaly. We're investigating it, she replies, confident that it's nothing too serious but will be resolved with all speed. Janeway then compliments Neelix on his tribute to Tom Paris before asking for recommendations for a replacement. Harry Kim asks if this is perhaps premature--Paris may change his mind. Janeway answers that Paris was quite adamant in his desire to leave, and she sees no reason to believe he will change his mind.
Michael Jonas calls from Engineering. Apparently the anomaly has turned into a full-blown plot complication, and the engines are overheating. Torres asks to be excused, and our intrepid news hound asks if he can follow along--he smells a story. Torres assents, provided Neelix doesn't get in the way. When they arrive in Engineering, it's crisis mode; the ship will blow up in seconds if they don't vent the plasma through the warp nacelles. Torres doesn't like this option--it means hosing their warp capabilities. But the situation worsens, and soon it's the only solution. Michael Jonas handles the dirty work, before an explosion causes him and two other crewmen to lose consciousness. Neelix, forgetting his journalistic responsibility, instead acts like a real crewman and helps gather the wounded and call for an emergency beam-out to sickbay.
When it comes to disaster, the Emergency Medical Holographic Program (nee Holodoc) is right at home. Within minutes the injured are attended to and all is proclaimed under control. Neelix asks if he can interview the wounded; Holodoc's smugness switches to wounded irritation; "I would expect you'd rather interview me," he sniffs.
After a few cursory questions, Neelix wiggles out of Holodoc's monologues and asks Michael Jonas what it feels like to be a hero. Jonas is uncomfortable with the designation. "Just doing my job," he mutters.
Voyager is free from danger for the moment, but she's going nowhere fast. Neelix is called upon to wear yet another hat this episode: his original assignment, Delta Quadrant native guide. He is told what they need to repair the warp thingies, and he is uncharacteristically competent (as episodes go, Neelix is bowling a near 300 game for usefulness); he declares that they are actually quite close to a source of the needed material--a planet called Hemakkek (a name we have heard before....and so has Michael Jonas).
As Janeway orders a course change, the Talaxian transport convoy hails them. They have just been attacked by the Kazon, who uncharacteristically only took one thing: a former crewman of Janeway's. Cargo unmolested, Talaxians generally unharmed, the normal raiding party techniques abandoned, the Kazon merely left whistling, "We'll always have Paris...."
Paris is soon seen wandering around the Kazon vessel. Naturally he meets Seska, the former Bajoran Maquis who was later revealed to be a Cardassian infiltrator who escaped to the Kazon, later kidnaped Chakotay and swiped some of his DNA to impregnate herself with his child, which in a bit of old-fashioned sentimentality she neglected to Ultrasound to see if it's a boy or a girl (a little character depth to show that even Cardassian spies have their warm and fuzzy side) and the delivery of said offspring is merely a month away; Paris notes that she is "radiantly maternal" in visage. Seska tells Paris she never liked him much, nor trusted him (they once served under Chakotay as Maquis, where he failed to distinguish himself, and she failed to disclose her heritage), and sees little reason to trust him now--but she acknowledges he is a first-rate pilot and would be well rewarded for shifting his loyalties. Something she pointedly notes he has shown a talent for. Paris doesn't try to look interested--something else for which he has shown a singular talent. She asks him to provide information; he replies that someone else on Voyager seems to be filling that position already.
Seska leaves him, and Paris begins hacking on a local Kazon data terminal.
Neelix is perturbed by Paris' abduction; he discusses his concerns with Kes. It seems more than coincidental that he was taken so soon after his departure. Neelix's transformation from Regis to Geraldo is continuing; he is determined to reach the heart of the matter, and seeks out Torres for access to the ship's communications logs. She complies, but is caught up in the work of repairing the ship. As Neelix studies the logs, Michael Jonas takes notice. The hero of the moment, our Kazon spy tries to dissuade the news hound from his investigations, but our cub reporter is sticking doggedly to the search, sniffing out clues and...
Sorry. Enough with the dog-eared canine metaphors.
Seeing Neelix's perserverence, Jonas decides to take a more direct route. He's already compromised ship's security, disabled its warp drives and left it vulnerable to Kazon attack; what's a little extra physical harm? Wielding a plasma torch, Neelix is mere meters from doom when...Holodoc calls asking about his next segment for "A Briefing With Neelix". Serendipitously, Neelix is saved by the relative merits of Klingon dental floss, even though the segment doesn't air for the benefit of the crew.
Neelix finds enough clues that he takes his concerns to the security chief, Tuvok. Tuvok is disinclined to pursue the matter, but Neelix's determination is either contagious or a concern; he finally agrees to pursue the matter, on the condition that Neelix stop snooping around.
Yeah, right. Geraldo is evolving into Walter Cronkite; journalistic integrity is blossoming in the heart of our noble Talaxian. The seeds sown by Harry Kim are bearing rare fruit indeed. There's no stopping the journalistic juggernaut now.
Returning to Engineering, Neelix again asks for help. Torres assigns Hogan to the case, and he and Neelix are soon waist-deep in subspace logs. They've definitely found something...not enough for conclusive proof, but a lead. Somewhere on Deck 4. Neelix commences his search, which takes him to the terminal of the traitor....
...in the quarters of the recently detained, departed, and abducted Tom Paris.
Today's episode of "A Briefing With Neelix" smacks of "Dateline NBC." We have rooted out the conspirator in our midst, Neelix proclaims with undisguised rancor. The man he eulogized days earlier has been revealed as a Kazon spy. A man he called friend, now shown to undeserving of such praise. The worst kind of weenie....
"Pull the plug on 'A Briefing With Neelix,'" Janeway orders Tuvok.
Soon Neelix finds himself in the captain's quarters, presenting his irrefutable evidence. Which Tuvok promptly refutes. The information leading to Paris was not there the last time they checked the evidence, he reveals. Neelix is now thoroughly confused, staring into Al Capone's vault and seeing little more than an old beer bottle where moments before he found all sorts of ill gotten gain. Janeway and Tuvok share a glance, and the words I've been waiting weeks for are finally uttered: "I guess it's time we let someone in on this," Janeway states. She summons Chakotay for an impromptu briefing.
Several weeks ago, she says, Tuvok found evidence of a traitor in their midst. Nothing conclusive, no name to connect with the illicit transmissions. Janeway and Tuvok felt it necessary to flush out the weasel, and found a willing accomplice in Thomas Eugene Paris, who at the time was convalescing with Janeway following their whirlwind Warp Ten romance, and deep into self-reevaluation. He seemed a likely candidate--despite his efforts to fit in and recent heroic efforts, he was still not widely trusted or respected; many still saw him as "Captain Janeway's personal reclamation project," as Chakotay put it. Janeway encouraged Paris to become his worst reputation, to be seen as reverting to his Alpha Quadrant ways, the irredeemable lout that those who still disliked him knew he had to be. The goal was to get him off the ship, in disgrace, both to give the spy something to write the bad guys about and to give Paris a good alibi for infiltrating the Kazon.
This news irritates Chakotay, who bore the brunt of Paris' antics in recent weeks. "And why wasn't I let in on this?" he asks. Because, says Tuvok, it was believed the traitor was one of the Maquis crewmen. They didn't want to put him in an awkward position. "In other words you didn't trust me," he says, clearly upset.
You have to feel for Chakotay; he's caught in the middle of the Starfleet/Maquis muddle, eminently qualified to lead both crews, but seen by his former Maquis as a sellout to Starfleet and by the Starfleet regulars as The Officer Formerly Known as Starfleet who defected to become the enemy of the uniforms they wore. Add to that the relationship between Janeway and Tuvok, who worked together to spy on him while a Maquis captain; Janeway and Paris, a former washout in both Starfleet and the Maquis who is now seemingly more in the captain's favor and trust than her own first officer; and his former crew who seem to be defecting to or collaborating with the enemy in droves. Chakotay is a man of honor who is getting very little of the respect he deserves, and I can't blame him for feeling put out by all the machinations around him.
Janeway tries to reassure him that his being kept out of the loop was an important part of the plan; Paris had to be treated the way Chakotay had treated him, for authenticity's sake and because anyone on her ship acting that way SHOULD get reprimanded, placed on report or tossed in the brig. She saw Chakotay doing his job, and doing it as she expected him to. It's clear he still wasn't too happy about the whole thing.
But, finally, the plot is revealed. After weeks of pissing me off, they finally give the explanation, and it's as I guessed after the previous episode that it must be. But now I feel bad for conjecturing; I apologize if I spoiled it for anyone. ST:V is doing something no prior series has tried before--extending the B plot over several episodes, taking more than the standard one or two (in the case of a two-parter) episodes to resolve everything. I must admit, I still don't like it. Trek will occasionally change the universe, but the changes are almost always known by episode's end. Whether it's a wrap-up of a loose end, a cliffhanger that promises to be resolved at a later date, or a new wrinkle that changes the landscape from that point on, we always knew by the time the final credits rolled what had just taken place, and generally we knew why. Each episode was remarkably self-contained, and the unanswered questions were almost never of the "What the hell's going on with _____?" variety. You always knew, or were given a good idea.
Star Trek has always had more in common with The Love Boat than with The Young and the Restless. You want to do something like the Paris Subplot, you do it on a daily serial, not on a weekly offering where even the voluminous capacities of Trekker brains are taxed for that level of detail. The pace isn't nearly quick enough for that sort of plot device. Besides, they're messing with a character I'm starting to like.
In a way, I am glad that ST:V is taking this sort of chance. Crew interaction doesn't come from nowhere; we see the buildup, episode by episode. But the writers are taking the concept a bit too far, I think; when it gets to the point where you find yourself pleading, "resolve this, already!" and still it goes unresolved, it changes from an attraction to a distraction. I ranted about this during the episodes leading up to "Parturition," when Neelix's jealousy became overly intrusive. Yes, the episode where it was finally resolved was generally satisfying, but it was more of a relief that we could move on. The same occurred here.
(Cough) And speaking of irritating repetition, I apologize yet again for ranting in mid-description. On with the episode.
Neelix is clearly relieved that Tom Paris is not the suspected traitor after all, and is pleased that he is in fact an active participant in the effort to rid the ship of this menace. He pledges his full cooperation in the effort to return Paris safely to the ship. Normally, this would be seen as mere bravado, but this is clearly a Neelix episode, and for once he's "in the zone" and worthy of the opportunity for heroism.
Meanwhile, aboard the Kazon vessel, Paris is caught hacking, but not before he learns the identity of Seska's contact and their plans to take Voyager. Seska promises pain, but Paris provides it; data terminals spark, lights go out, and Tommy Boy gets the chance to kick butt and take names; he muscles his way past legions of Kazon to a getaway shuttle, and the Best Starfleet Pilot In These Here Parts makes a beeline for Home.
Asked by Janeway to undo some of the damage his latest broadcast may have done to the investigation, Neelix returns to Engineering to admit that his findings were premature. He ends up down there alone with Michael Jonas, hero and traitor, as the latter ostensibly tries to get things working but in fact he's making Voyager even more vulnerable to attack. Neelix is bound to notice, but at first he is only curious. One does not easily consider a hero's actions questionable.
Paris, followed closely and under fire by his former captors, signals Janeway and reveals the plot, and the saboteur. By now, however, Jonas is in control of Engineering and has set up safeguards. Paris' flying is ultimately no match for the faster and weapons-laden cruiser, and it takes a while for Voyager to beam him to safety--which is soon short lived as the Kazon turn their attentions to her. Vital ship's functions are disabled by Jonas as Neelix begins to catch on.
Soon, it's a battle of wits and of wills, as Neelix struggles to preserve the ship against the unmasked traitor. Jonas, originally a whining loser, has become outright violent, and Neelix must ultimately kill or be killed. And since traitors aren't welcome aboard Starfleet vessels and Neelix appears in the opening credits, Michael Jonas is soon sucking plasma.
Neelix--talk show host, native guide, loyal friend, hard-hitting investigative journalist, morale officer, master chef and defender of the faith, soon displays his prowess as engineering marvel; within seconds the phasers are back online, Engineering is accessible to Security, and Seska's marauders are soon nursing a severely charred hiney as Voyager sends it scurrying.
When you're good, you're good.
Ending as it began, with "A Briefing With Neelix," we find a jovial Talaxian interviewing his
Terran pal, Tom Paris, now free to explain his recent behavior. He apologizes to any he may
have offended, particularly Chakotay, in the course of his subterfuge. "Not that it wasn't
sometimes a lot of fun," he adds with a conspiratorial wink and a knowing chuckle. The episode
("A Briefing With Neelix" and "Investigations") ends with Neelix apologizing yet again to
Holodoc, who will be on next time--We promise!--with a stimulating discussion of various fungi.
Or some such.
At last, Paris' actions revealed. As mentioned before, I apologize for ruining it (for anyone who wasn't expecting this), and for taking so long to get it myself (for those of you who had it figured out weeks ago). It was a good episode for Paris; his character development was a central aspect of this show. Neelix's tribute was particularly moving.
This was primarily Neelix's episode, though; too often he's either under used or misused, but he got to play to his strengths this time around. I found it a welcome change, and hope he gets some more episodes like this in the future.
We got some Harry Kim character background; I would never have pegged him as the reporter type. But I'll think of that when seeing him. The hug he gave Paris at the transporter pad and his speaking up at the briefing for his friend were also nice touches.
For her straight-arrow Regulations ways, we may forget that Janeway is also used to doing undercover operations, as is Tuvok. This episode confirmed she's still capable of subtlety and forward thinking. It took me a long time to even suspect Paris' behavior might be a plan connected to the Michael Jonas plot. She is a force to be reckoned with. I like Janeway's steel.
After all the abuse Chakotay gave Tuvok last season, he's getting his share of it this year. Even the rehabilitated Paris seemed to have little affection for Chakotay, and vice-versa. He's caught in an unenviable position between the world he left (Starfleet) and the world he had taken from him (Maquis) and he's getting less respect from both camps than I think he deserves. I wouldn't be surprised if a future episode deals with Chakotay's growing disenchantment, and he and the captain have an acrimonious heart-to-heart chat. Or Janeway somehow gets knocked out of commission for an extended period and Chakotay must galvanize the crews behind him, address the dissenters, and kick some righteous butt in a good cause. He personifies the struggle between the crews to integrate, so perhaps he'll continue to suffer for a while yet, but I hope he gets some kudos soon. He deserves a break.
I expect we'll see Seska again. And I have a feeling she'll be in a lousy mood. As nemeses go, I like her. She's no Lore (Data's evil twin) but she's as close to three-dimensional villainy as we're likely to see. She's an abused spouse who's capable of more menace than the Kazon; I wouldn't be averse to seeing her kick the Mahzh's teeth in the next time he crosses the domestic violence line.
No offense to Rafael Sbarge, but I'm glad to see Michael Jonas gone. And I'm glad he didn't get to defect to the Kazon; he died like the scheming weasel he was, vaporized by his own sabotaged engines while trying to commit high treason against his comrades.
On a 0-10 scale, I'd give this one a 7.75. The good guys are showcased, the bad guys fry, the annoying subplots are wrapped up, and new possibilities and complications are raised. And the only shuttle craft to go Boom belonged to the Kazon.
Copyright © 1996 Jim Wright