The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
This is not just a review; it's a retelling of the episode from start to finish, limited only by my ability to remember the details. I do this for my friends in uniform and those living overseas or who otherwise do not have access to the episodes as they are aired.
Janeway strips down, bulks up, and kicks some viral hiney.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
Neelix is known for acting strangely, but we've never seen him like this. He's speaking with a creature...who's also acting strangely. Janeway, standing behind Neelix, tries to speak, but Neelix and the alien do their best to pretend she is invisible. Neelix is apologizing profusely for Janeway's abominable lack of manners, and finally the alien is mollified.
On the shuttle trip back from the planet, we learn that the species is the Tak Tak, and their culture apparently includes gestures in equal parts with speech to communicate--and that Janeway's habit of placing her hands on her hips is the most grievous insult imaginable in their culture. ("I seem to be having this terrible problem with my lifestyle." Oops.) Imagine a society whose language was developed by an Impressionist dance troupe with an NEA grant. (Shudder) Neelix, ever the adaptable Talaxian, picked up on the Tak Tak customs fairly quickly, and saved the negotiations for the ship. Janeway says she's studied body language, sign language, nonverbal communication of all forms... "But I just couldn't get the knack of Tak Tak."
Janeway compliments Neelix on his handling of the situation; she says he has a genuine talent for negotiation. She tells him she's thinking of changing his title from Morale Officer to Ambassador; he may be their best diplomatic asset in the Delta Quadrant. (As long as Kes isn't in danger, I'd agree. And in the episodes since Warlord, we haven't seen them together at all. Perhaps separating him from Kes emotionally is a good dramatic move.) Neelix likes the sound of it.
For the rest of the episode, just call him Ambassador.
They arrive near the expected coordinates of Voyager, but it ain't there. They find it nearby, orbiting a planetary body, but it's not answering hails. Weirder still, they can't detect life signs; there's bioelectric interference. (Look out! Chakotay's Soul is on the loose again!
(Insert scary music here.)
They board the ship, but there's nobody to greet them. The ship is also dark, and the computers are down, including comm systems. A gel pack in the Mess Hall is not functioning, but other systems there seem to be active. Using Neelix's new title, Janeway has the diplomatic critter follow her around the parts of the ship they can get to, looking for any clues they can. One clue is an open access panel and tools; a job begun but not finished. Another: a functioning computer in one of the crew quarters.
They arrive in Ensign Wildman's quarters, where Neelix's smiling face greets them from the monitor. "Ensign Wildman is a huge Good Morning Voyager fan," Neelix explains. "Never misses a program." She and the baby are gone, but they're able to determine that the Breakfast with Neelix program, which Wildman set up for continuous loop until manually turned off, was turned on 11 hours before. Food was also replicated around that time. This gives them some idea of when things went south.
As they move through the darkened corridors, they hear a buzzing sound. (Beehives are not common on Starships, but keep that noise in mind.) The sound seems just off the edge of perception, just behind the next corner. Is that a shadow? They move to investigate. They hear a crash. They go through a door into a transporter room, where a gaping hole and the tell-tale dripping ooze of fresh slimy nose jelly on one of the transporter pads gives Janeway and Neelix some idea of what it is they're looking for.
Though why they'd want to find it, I have no idea.
The ship's systems are shutting down while they move; an answer needs to be found soon, and implemented. They try to get to the bridge. A turbolift seems to be working, so they take it. Neelix notes that it's heating up. Janeway says that because the engines are idling, the warp plasma can't vent properly, so the ship will likely be a sauna very soon. Neelix says it reminds him of his life on Rynax, where its three suns and six centimeter-long lava flies kept the suntan lotion and bug insect repellent industries booming. "Sounds like Indiana," says Janeway, reminded of her own childhood (just one sun, but the 'skeeters are big as hang gliders). While they discuss the weather ("It's not the heat, it's the humidity,") the turbolift blessedly stops working so they'll change the subject. The inhuman buzz also resumes.
"Uh oh," says Janeway, trying desperately to restart the turbolift manually.
"Ick," says Neelix. Something alien and computer-generated punches a hole in the turbolift wall and gives Neelix a long-tongued, wet sloppy smack on the chest--like a French kiss from the Phlegm Fairy. A tentacle reaches through the whole and waves around threateningly, until Janeway manages to zap it into flaccidity with her phaser, which has been drawn and ready the whole episode for this moment. Oddly, as soon as Neelix is slimed, the noise stops. Perhaps the little booger is just playing Tag.
Janeway and the newly-lubricated Neelix escape through the top of the turbolift and start taking Jeffries Tubes to move around. Neelix also feels suddenly unwell (heck, I'd be hurling at this point). They detect life signs far above them, and though the signs are faint, they're alive. At one point during their crawl through the capillaries of the ship, Neelix feels he cannot go on. She says it's only three more decks, but she understands; in this heat, her lungs are burning as well. "Lung," Neelix corrects; he had his stolen and had to borrow one of Kes' a while back. Janeway leaves him to grab a medic-kit from three decks above. But before she can return, Neelix is stalked by the RaimiCam that ate Hogan in "Basics, Part II". We see his face, and then we see Janeway's as she hears him scream.
By the time Janeway reaches Neelix's resting place, the screams have faded and all that remains of the tickle-me Talaxian is a trail of slime leading down a Jeffries Tube.
* * *
Now alone, Janeway makes it to Engineering. The night was...sultry. Janeway grabs some supplies--a knapsack, some repair equipment (I assume), and a big-ass phaser rifle. To make her Linda Hamilton Terminator 2 transformation complete, she strips off her uniform jacket and tunic to reveal her already sweat-drenched Federation tanktop and Body By Jake.
Next stop: Bridge. Janeway manages to send an all-channels distress call, heedless of the RaimiCam behind her. We hear "The Flight of the Bumblebee" for a few seconds, as the camera buzzes around the room and lands on her arm. She yelps, and finds a nasty welt and a bit of mucous.
Janeway heads to the mess hall, where she finds a large group of her crew, including Harry Kim, breathing in gasps and coated in slime but totally oblivious to her. Janeway sees Chakotay, and rushes to him. She notices that his neck has a nasty looking welt, and an opening--through which appear three tiny buzzing things.
Snot maggots. I hate them things.
Janeway must be feeling the same thing, because she's too busy being revolted by tiny buzzing things to notice the humongous buzzing thing behind her until it's almost too late. Janeway stops, drops, rolls, avoids some thrusts and parries from the beastie, and sets her DeathMaster 3000 Spank Ray on puree. Where the previous special effect simply went limp on her under the hand-held phaser barrage, this three-pronged flying acorn with a stiletto heel (if you're a Babylon 5 fan, imagine a sporty Vorlon coupe) flies apart in a satisfying "goosh." Parts fly apart, float to the ground, and rain cottage cheese and post nasal drip down on our intrepid sweaty captain.
The battle takes its toll. Janeway is injured. She drags herself, grabbing her side, to sickbay. The door is locked; she whips out a trusty manual door opener and manages to pry it open a few inches.
A phaser is jammed into her throat. Doc looks apologetic when he realizes he's just threatened a superior officer who could reprogram him with a limp if she so desired. "I thought you were something else," he says.
* * *
Whoah. Halfway through the episode in barely three pages. Is this the same Jim Wright we've come to know, love, and develop necessary speed-reading skills for? Let's just say that before I wrote this, I put the VCR on speed search through the entire episode. Dialog was minimal, especially once Neelix was dragged off. I watch subtitled foreign films the same way; either way, I don't miss much. This is not one of the "cerebral" episodes TV Guide says Voyager is famous for. However, at this point, we will get some back story. Thank goodness Holodoc is the moderator.
* * *
Doc treats Janeway and fills her in on why the ship has gone to Hell (big H - hot, humid, filled with toxic snot and flying things with pointy tails) in her absence.
While Janeway was off offending the Tak Tak, the ship answered a distress call from a mining colony. The miners, a species called the Garrens (Sounds like an Improv group I know) were experiencing a viral outbreak of some sort. Holodoc figured it was nothing he and his handy-dandy portable holo-emitter couldn't handle. After a quick debrief from Tuvok and Chakotay about away-team protocols, Doc (the only one who can beam down and avoid Outbreak onboard) finds himself in the mining colony. It's a dark, dirty place, and Doc cheerily volunteers way too much information on the open-at-all-times comm channel, until Chakotay tells him to stick with the relevant stuff, like sick people.
As timing would have it, a Garren comes along, and he's sick. Doc examines him, and sees some flying things come out of its neck. He's fascinated, and so reports. The Garren is simply frightened. We hear an angry buzzing down a tunnel. "Don't leave me here," the man pleads. Doc is moved, and asks to beam the man to sickbay. Chakotay refuses--against protocol. Doc insists. Chakotay makes it an order--stand down. Doc acknowledges, promises the Garren he'll do all he can for them, and with his scans of the virus in his tricorder he beams up by himself.
So he thinks.
After beaming up, Doc goes to the transporter control pad. Some of the virus beamed up with him, but the filters caught it. "Purge it," Chakotay orders, and a few seconds later Doc announces that it's done. But in that few seconds, Doc tells Janeway, the virus migrated into the transporter buffer...and from there, to other places....
Chakotay visits Doc in sickbay for a report on the virus in the mining colony. Doc says the virus has an amazing ability to suck up the growth hormone of humanoids, and go from a microscopic bundle of virulent DNA into a macroscopic (big enough to be seen with the naked eye--or drag away Talaxians?) Form that can escape from its host. Doc had only seen the tiny ones coming out of the Garren's neck. Chakotay asks about his recommendation. Doc says he thinks he can come up with an antiviral formula for the virus. For the macrovirus, he suggests (I swear) a flyswatter.
Doc proceeds to apologize to Chakotay for his outburst on the planet. Chakotay says he understands; the regulations often demand hard choices. He gives Doc an official Attaboy for a job well done.
Meanwhile, Torres shows up to a Mess Hall in turmoil--lots of hungry Starfleeters milling about, grumbling, and giving nasty looks to a relieved-looking Tom Paris. He has apparently been placed in charge of the mess hall in Neelix's absence (if for no other reason than for scenes like this) and of course it's on HIS watch that the temperature controls turn a perfectly tasty twenty pound buttsteak into an instant charcoal briquet, and the replicators aren't working. Folks is hungry. Torres tells him she'd discovered a malfunction in the mess hall gel pack anyway, and suggests it may be the root of the problem.
Paris breathes a sigh of relief...then decides that nothing says "I love you" like passing the buck of blame. "Well, heck, if Engineering had been doing their jobs, my meal might have turned out okay," he coos. (I'm assuming this is a Klingon courtship ritual; he's practically begging her to pull his lower lip over his forehead and give his chin a Wedgie.)
She banters along. "You want me to saw WHAT off?" she purrs.
Before their flirtations get bloody, Torres has the panel off and is looking at a gel pack partially filled with...a gel of another kind. She reaches her hand in to replace the defective pack, when it bursts or spews or something, covering her hand in goop.
In short order, she isn't feeling well, and neither are a lot of folks. Doc is called in to investigate, and as soon as he realizes what it is he gets worried and calls the bridge for an immediate lock-down quarantine. Chakotay does so, and informs the ship: Deck 2 is now sealed. Doc takes a sample of the virus from the slime that attacked Torres (not Paris, silly) and returns to Sickbay to do what he does best.
No, not more one-liners. I'm talking about medical wizardry. Sheesh; where do you guys get these ideas, anyway? (He said, smiling innocently) he has Kes look at the virus -- a roundish beastie with three spiked flagellating appendages--through a microscope while he works on the antivirus. She reports what she sees...then she sees nothing. Then she sees it--buzzing around the microscope. Doc calls for a quarantine field around the microscope, which appears--and lights up wherever the macrovirus comes in contact.
The illness is spreading. The Mess Hall is now a sickbay annex. Paris and Torres continue their delicate dance-o-love by comparing symptoms. "In retrospect I'm glad the meal got nuked; I don't think I could have kept it down," Paris says. "I know what you mean," says Torres. "I'm feeling very queasy."
"I thought you didn't get sick--redundant stomachs and all that." "Right now, they're both doing the Macarena."
The courtship is proceeding nicely. This is exactly how Kelli and Mark spent their Thanksgiving on Beverly Hills 90210. Torres lolls her head seductively back and to the side, baring her right ear to him shamelessly. (Am I reading too much into this scene? Naah.) But as Paris moves in for the nibble...he notices a big hole there. From which flies are escaping.
Ewww. Talk about a mood breaker.
Paris calls Doc with the bad news. Doc is way ahead of him. The macrovirus is now the size of a minivan. (Well, maybe a Medicine Ball.) But he's got an antivirus. He tells Kes to get ready to lower the containment field. When she does, the thing makes a beeline (to my earlier descriptions, add this: you know those huge black bumblebees with the stinger big as knitting needles? The virus also kinda looks -- and sounds -- like a flying bumblebee abdomen.) Right at Holodoc. He grabs it and injects the hypospray.
The buzzing stops. The macrovirus deflates like an abandoned bagpipe. The macrovirus works.
Doc breathes a sigh of holo-relief. "One down...ten billion to go."
Doc heads to the mess hall, trusty hypospray in hand. He finds the entire room of crewmen unconscious. But the bees is a buzzin' and he's the only biped in the room. He's immediately the center of attention. They attack him, but he's holographic so it doesn't matter much...until one of the stingers connects with his holo-emitter, causing him to fade out briefly. (Good thing 29th century technology is so durable.) Doc beats a hasty retreat, and tells Chakotay what to expect.
It didn't help. The ship is soon overrun and stung into slimy submission.
* * *
Doc has more or less patched up the Captain from her mess hall injuries, but she is still a bit woozy from the heat. Doc notes that part of it may be from the infection; pointing to her arm, he tells her she's been infected by the macrovirus. He has the treatment, but it's not been used on a human yet. Janeway says the time to do so is now. Doc complies, and she survives the treatment. The macrovirii are buzzing outside the door, though; they are attracted to anything that hasn't been affected, and seem to have a highly developed sense of where such beings might be. Doc says he's been locked in sickbay to avoid them, but they are persistent.
Janeway asks if the antivirus can be delivered through the ship's circulation systems. Doc says yes, but environmental control is inaccessible from sickbay. The mountains must come to Muhammad. Janeway tells Doc to grab his stuff, they're going on a Jeffries Tube field trip.
Once in the tubes (last seen by Ensign Suder), they decide to split up and double their chances. Doc asks how to get there from here--he's been studying the ship's schematic, but he's still not completely sure of the back roads. Janeway gives him the first twenty steps, and he fills in the remainder. "Who designed this ship, anyway?" Doc asks in parting.
Armed, rested and ready, Janeway takes half the antivirus and starts moving. Within moments, she gets a call from Holodoc. He's in a shuttlecraft; the macrovirii had found him and "almost destroyed" his holoemitter (how true this is is anyone's guess--he's mighty protective of that thing) so it's up to her. Janeway makes it to a place where environmental controls can be accessed, but before she can do anything about it, the ship is rocked.
Dang, they really DO grow them big.
No, turns out not to be the macrovirus. Janeway's near a working computer panel, and she finds that the ship is being fired on. She hails the ship.
Oh crap. A Tak Tak.
Conscious of the position of her arms (no hands on hips this time) Janeway asks what the photon he's doing. "We're helping," Tak Tak Two says, making a lovely pirouette. "You call this helping?" Janeway demands. "Yup, like we helped the mining colony below." His head bows, his hands flutter like a shadow puppet master.
"Well, could you stop helping long enough for me to save my ship? I've got a virus to kill."
"There's no cure for the virus." The Tak Tak has improbably managed to insert his right pinkie toe into his left nostril for emphasis. He's evidently serious.
Janeway explains that she has a cure for the virus, but she can't use it (or share it with the Tak Tak) if he blows them into space dust. "I need time," she says, and threatens to put her hands on her hips.
The Tak Tak gets the message. Anything but that. "You have an hour," he says, and tap dances with sparklers in each hand. The conversation is over.
Janeway notes that the attack on the ship has left the environmental controls unavailable. She calls Holodoc for options. They discuss the dilemma. Janeway shoots three huge macrovirii into gloppy oblivion just to keep her trigger in shape. They note that they're the only two targets for the beasties at the moment. All that's functioning at the moment are the things with independent power supplies: shuttlecraft, holodecks....
Janeway gets an idea. Make more targets. Lure the viruses into a central location and get medieval on their abdomen.
The Holodeck Beach Party, complete with a full cast of vacationing holo-extras, is activated.
Their revelries are interrupted by an invasion of flying toxic beach-balls. Within moments, there is festive holo-carnage. (Now come on, admit it--you cheered during this scene, didn't you?)
Janeway arrives with an Antivirus Bomb--a canister of the antivirus duct-taped to a phaser set on overload with a count-down timer. She's about to throw the thing into the holodeck, when she's beset by the mother of all viruses, who knocks her hand-held phaser cannon down, and wrestles her to the ground, aiming its glop-oozing stinger at her toned but tender flesh.
Was Sigmund Freud a consultant for this episode? Or is my slip showing again?
Needless to say, the clock is ticking. Good thing Janeway gave herself ample time to toss in the makeshift biological weapon. She manages to evade its grasp, twist away so the thing bends its stinger into the unyielding floor plating, and get to her feet.
She unsheathes her Rambo knife, grabs one of its three appendages, and stabs it to the nucleus, plunging that puppy halfway up to the elbow. The flying thing struggles, stiffens, and slumps to the ground.
Score another one for Action Kate.
She grabs the bomb, with mere seconds to go, and tosses it into the holodeck. She runs down a corridor mere seconds before a belching gust of greenish flaming plasma fills the spot where she had been struggling.
Holodoc hails her. "The viral threat is gone...Captain? Answer me!"
Janeway recovers her wits and answers. The holodeck is toast, but there were no hull breaches from the explosion. The ship is safe.
From the virus, anyway.
* * *
She gets back to the comm panel and hails the Tak Tak. "The viral threat is gone," she says. "The antivirus works, and if you'd be kind enough not to destroy my ship, I'll give you some of it."
The Tak Tak does the Macarena. "O frabjous day! Calloh! Callay!" He chortled in his joy. When the Tak Tak launches into the Achy Breaky, she shuts off the channel before the urge to blow the Tak Tak into Tic Tacs becomes overwhelming. She puts her hands on her hips, luxuriating in the sheer foulness of the gesture.
* * *
Needless to say, the ship and crew is soon slime-free, ship-shape, fully-conscious, and relaxing from its recent bout with the Bug.
Janeway is in her quarters, painting in watercolor as cheery jazz that even the Tak Tak couldn't dance to wafts subtly through the room. Chakotay rings her bell. He tells her things are moving along nicely, and Janeway says to give everyone an extra bit of Me Time before they head off again for home. Chakotay says some of the crew is going skiing on the Holodeck. "Interested?"
Janeway demurs. Chakotay asks if skiing isn't her style. "No, I love skiing. But I think I've had
enough of a workout to last me a while," she says with a knowing smile. Chakotay grins in
acknowledgment, leaving her to her relaxing music and her relaxing hobby.
Taken for what it is, this one's kinda fun. If you've seen Alien, the plot should be fairly familiar. Nobody dies in this one (except the Garrens, but that's done offscreen by the Tak Tak), but there's a whole lotta TCOB on a malevolent creature that strikes with little warning (only that noticeable buzz) and plants its young inside a human host, which escape when they're big enough to survive in the cold, cruel world. They get big enough to shoot, stab and beat upside the head, and they are by no means cute. Add to this an entire incapacitated crew, and Janeway gets to go hunting with no bag limit.
I think it's a captain's rite of passage--single-handedly saving ship and/or crew from a deadly invader--and Janeway does it with Indiana gusto. Janeway gets physical in a big way, gets to shoot her favorite toy (I'm serious--she's a major fan of heavy artillery...she could be a poster girl for Soldier of Fortune), and gets to strip down to the sweaty Muscle Tee. Look out, Linda Hamilton. It's her show--hers and the computer effects department's.
The scientific basis for this episode should be chalked into the "maybe nobody will notice" column. Think too much about what you're being asked to believe, and it falls apart. I don't know if this is "Threshold" level science friction, but there ya go. All I can say is, it's mighty versatile for a one-celled organism, no matter what size it is. But then, I just got done watching Seinfeld, where Kramer goes Canine. Some parts of space is just plain goofy.
The structure of the episode was kinda odd. The first thirty minutes was just Janeway and Neelix running around an empty ship, until Neelix gets dragged away, then just Janeway running around an empty ship. Then you have 20 minutes of backstory told by the ever-capable Holodoc, and a mere 10 minutes in which to counter several threats, change plans a time or two, resolve everything, and start painting in a well-lighted room to the music of soft jazz.
A guy could get whiplash. After the neck-breaking pace of the resolution in "The Q and the Grey," this puppy comes darn close to smashing even that land-speed record for YAATE (Yet Another Abrupt Trek Ending).
It's Janeway's show, and Kate Mulgrew seems to have a lot of fun in the role. She's been working out, too. Remember that scene in Terminator 2 where you see someone doing pull-ups and they pan back and it's Sarah Connor, the poor waif from the original show who was to be the mother of mankind's champion against the forces of mechanized evil? When Janeway stripped down and grabbed her favorite weapon of mass destruction, I got chills.
She's Tom Cruise to my Rosie O'Donnell. (Heavy sigh)
But word of honor, Kate: I won't stalk. I promise to admire only from a distance.
The Doc has a few good one-liners ("Who designed this ship, anyway?" and "Well...one down, ten billion to go..." are my favorites), but the standout minor performances came from Paris and Torres. I feel for Tom, though; for some reason, he's not at his flirtatious best around B'Elanna. He hesitates, overcompensates, stumbles about like a puppy not quite sure of its legs whenever he deals with her "socially." He's fine when Torres first enters the mess hall, explaining the problem. But as soon as she knows what the job requires, he tries to be cute...and stumbles. She must know; he's asked her out haltingly before, and she stomped him like a Napa Valley grape. But perhaps she's flattered, or even warming up to the idea. There is a rumor (unconfirmed) that their characters may get chummier over time. They make a cute couple, but Paris needs to loosen up around her. Eventually. In a way, it's comforting to know that even the Bad Boy of the Quadrant can get stumble tongued with the right woman.
Neelix may be up for a promotion after this episode. I don't know if they're yet out of his sphere of known space, but Janeway's decided (and he has occasionally shown, here and elsewhere) he has the makings of a nice diplomatic liaison.
Some nice continuity touches: we saw indications that Neelix's recurring ship-wide broadcast, "Good Morning Voyager," is still on the air. (It was premiered on "Investigations," as "A Briefing with Neelix.") I thought it was a nice idea at the time, and though we haven't seen actual broadcasts of his daily show, I'm glad it's been portrayed as a concept that stuck. And that he's got fans. The other comment I liked was when Neelix reminded Janeway that he has only one lung--referring to an incident way back in the first season's "Phage." It's a welcome nod to the past, validating the events. (In contrast, Janeway refused to acknowledge her three offspring with Paris, conceived and delivered and left on an alien planet in the much-maligned "Threshold," to Q in "The Q and the Grey," nor did she divulge any details of her relationship with Chakotay to Q...or for that matter, to us. Grrr.)
Some other nice continuity and background touches: Neelix and Janeway comparing Back Home Life. Neelix on Rynax, the moon of Talax that got hosed by Jetrel in "Jetrel"; Janeway mentioning her own hot and sticky bug-infested summers in Indiana.
This episode was quite fun, but not very good. More film cliches than you can shake a shtick at, "scary" boogers that never scared me, more "mucilaginous substance" than should be allowed on any show not airing on Nickelodeon, viruses acting with a purpose never explored or discovered or explained, defying gravity (and several other laws of nature) and existing only to sting and explode. You can watch it once, watch it again in fast-forward mode, and get pretty much the same entertainment value either way.
On a 0-10 scale, I'm giving this one a 6.5, or ( * * 1/2 ) [note: an earlier posting showed this as * *; the "1/2" got disappeared when I saved the review in Web format). Better than "False Profits"...but for a native third-season episode, a bit below my expectations. To paraphrase Harry Kim in "Investigations," cake is fine, but you need some meat to balance out the meal. And this episode was noticeably short on substance.
Next week: A repeat of "The Swarm."