"Nothing Human"

[Disclaimer]

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.

[Summary]

Doc gets chummy with a holographic Cardassian; Torres gets bugged.

Jump straight to the Analysis

[Breakdown]

On the Starship Voyager, the reputation of the E.M.H. is larger than life.

And now, thanks to the miracle of 24th-century holographic slide show technology, he has a face to match. Smiling, ever-so-proud of himself, forty-seven feet tall, posing for posterity in front of an alien landscape, this is the way Doc pictures himself in his solitary moments.

Then Doc appears before his own image, looking almost as smug. Imagine Patton standing before the American flag in that famous film scene, swap Patton with Doc and the screen-filling flag with...well, Doc, and you've got the idea.

Doc is going on at length about something like, this is the time I saved the ship by beaming into an environment none of you mere biological organisms could have, and rescuing the much-needed alpha quadrant space wedgie.

Two rows of chairs are set up in the Holodeck. Twelve chairs, ten bodies. Those nameless crewmen in the back row are falling asleep. Those in the front row-Janeway, Paris and Torres, Tuvok and two other nameless crew, are alternately fidgeting, freebasing coffee, or setting themselves on fire.

Slide show...boring...losing...consciousness....

Things pick up slightly when Doc shows a monstrous slide of Tom Paris covered in brownish muck. Doc giddily reminds his audience of the time that our Helm Boy took an unexpected half-gainer into the fetid fart swamps of Disgusticon VII. In his seat, Paris seethes while those still sporting active brain stems manage a chuckle or two. Doc's overwrought recreations of his own heroics may be impossible to stay awake for, but the gratuitous humiliation of a fellow crewman is something else entirely.

(As you recall from "Drone," Doc's picked up a new hobby this season-amateur sightseeing photography. Of all the possible nods to continuity, they had to pick this one?)

But soon the humiliation ends, and we return to the main topic of conversation-Doc.

Janeway, or Tom, suggests softly to the other now would be a good time for a ship-wide crisis...

*

On the bridge, Chakotay is in charge. Harry is at Ops. Everything looks pretty sedate.

"2100 hours, Commander," Ensign Kim reports. "All systems reporting normal."

"Acknowledged," Chakotay says, not looking up from his PADD.

That's not the answer Kim was expecting. "Like I said, it's 2100 hours," Harry reminds him pointedly.

"I heard you the first time, Harry."

Harry's voice drops to a conspiratorial semi-whisper. "They've been in there over an hour..."

"I'm aware of that."

Harry looks both confused and a bit worried. "Didn't the captain ask you to rescue them after thirty minutes?"

Chakotay finally turns around. His face is deadpan as he speaks with absolute sincerity. "Harry, you and I were lucky enough to enjoy the doctor's scintillating exhibition for two full hours. Would it really be fair of us to deny our friends the same unforgettable experience?"

An evil smile takes possession of Harry's face as understanding dawns. "Of course not, sir."

Chakotay's return grin is filled with awful mischief. It would seem that after more than four years as first officer, he's begun in earnest to tap into his Inner Redhead.

*

The Holodeck door slides open. The captain, practically heaving her coffee mug at Doc, leads the charge to the exits.

For his part, Doc is oblivious to the mood of his audience. "Thank you, thank you for coming! We'll do it again soon. We've still got thousands of light years to while away! This could be a weekly event."

That's what frightens them.

Janeway and Paris, Tuvok and Torres, head right. None looks very happy.

"What happened to going to yellow alert after half an hour?" Torres mumbles.

"Commander Chakotay appears to have disobeyed a direct order," Tuvok says, eyebrows furrowed.

"Definitely grounds for court-martial," Janeway says, waving an angry finger.

*

In the mess hall, Torres and Paris head for the counter. Neelix is here. He shakes his head; he's seen this look before. "Coffee?" he offers. Tom and B'Elanna each order a quart. "Let me guess. The Doctor's photographic essay?" he asks knowingly.

"Ha! One mind-numbing image after the next," Tom says. "Oh, I don't know. I thought some of those pictures were pretty funny," Torres says. Neelix chuckles and asks if she means the mud pit shot. "You're famous," Torres laughs as Tom flushes.

"Then, of course, there's the one depicting a certain chief engineer with her foot stuck in a plasma injector..." Neelix teases.

Instantly the tables are turned. Torres flashes with anger; Tom with amusement. "Really? Why, I seem to have missed that one...." He says he can't wait to get his hands on it. "Maybe I can distribute it to everyone's personal database."

Torres has never been one for subtlety. "Try it, and I'll kill you...Right after I finish deleting the Doctor's program."

Man...talk about your Foreshadowing.

But before B'Elanna's plans for mayhem get too far underway, the ship begins to rattle. "What'd you put in this coffee, Neelix?" Tom asks. But the vibrations get stronger, the coffee begins to slosh out of cups, and they realize this is not a drill. All hands leave for their duty stations, anticipating the order. We're left with the image of food being shaken from shelves.

*

On the bridge, the lights are dimmed and the crew bustles with activity.

"I'm reading a massive energy wave 900,000 kilometers off the starboard bow, heading right for us," Kim shouts over the din. Source: Unknown. At Janeway's command, shields go up and evasive (heh) maneuvers begin.

Kim reports that the wave has changed course. "It seems to be tracking us!" Janeway orders a jump to warp eight. "Too late!" Chakotay booms. "Engines are down."

Janeway shouts the order: "Everybody hang on..."

The ship is rocked as a huge wave of...something hits them. But it doesn't hit them. It's like a stiff wind, most of which blows like Voyager isn't even there. Unlike some massive waves, this one doesn't send them careening anyplace in particular, just gives them a buff and polish they won't soon forget.

* * *

When the wave finishes blowing by Voyager, Janeway calls for All Stop. As unexpected crises go, this one was relatively benign. Minor damage only, no injuries.

Why couldn't this happen during the slide show?

Kim reports something odd. "Captain, when the wave hit our communications array received a download." What sort of download, Chakotay asks. "I'm not sure. Lots of information. I can't decipher it, but there's an audio component." Janeway orders it played.

Have you ever played a CD-ROM for your computer in your audio CD player? It kinda sounded like that.

Chakotay suggests trying to decrypt it. Janeway walks over to Harry's station while he works. "It's strange. The wave followed us but it didn't cause any damage. Instead, we get a download to our database. I'd say it's a pretty good bet somebody's trying to tell us something." She likes the thought of that. Strange new worlds, and all that.

"The wave left a residual ion trail," Paris reports. "We might be able to locate its point of origin." Set a course, the captain orders.

*

Dropping out of warp, Voyager soon locates the source: an alien starship. "Looks like it's taken quite a beating," Janeway says.

"Life signs?" Chakotay asks. "One," Kim reports.." Non-humanoid. It's very faint. Probably injured." Janeway doesn't hesitate; "Beam it to sickbay." Tuvok asks if she's sure that's wise-as if that's ever stopped her before. "I'm betting that message we received was some sort of distress call," Janeway says, "and if we're going to help, I'd rather do it on Voyager."

*

An alien creature is stretched out on one of the beds in Sickbay. If it were smaller, you'd squash it. But at nearly five feet long from nose to tapered tail, that would make an awful mess--and it would take a flying body-slam from a presidential contender like Hollywood Hulk Hogan to do the job right. It's not moving much, and you don't need to be a doctor to know it's seen better days. Basic description: pinkish all over with greenish skull and thorax plating. Four multi-segmented limbs up top with three-digit "hands," two intelligent-looking eyes with big irises in the front of the head, a long forked nose-like thing, and two semi-antennae-like things protruding out the nostrils like we saw on Species 6339 last week. All in all, it looks like a brain with eyes, attached to a larger brain with four legs, attached to a really long tail with spines.

It's actually sort of cute in an alien kinda way. I wouldn't be surprised if we see it in stores.

"The physiology is so unusual the tricorder can't make heads or tails of it," Doc says to the captain, frustrated. "The creature's obviously injured but I haven't a clue how to treat it or even diagnose it!" He walks through the forcefield separating the creature from the humans.

Lt. Torres enters Sickbay. "My scans came up with something interesting, Captain. The interfaces on the alien's vessel can only be activated chemically. I'm guessing that this life-form somehow interfaces directly with the ship's systems using biochemical secretions to give commands." Sweat! I mean, sweet! Torres gives the creature a lingering, some might say appraising, look.

The creature preens a little.

"That would explain how it can fly a ship," says the captain.

Torres approaches the force field, then turns around to taking some tricorder readings. "I'm hoping this can also help us figure out..."

The alien, screeching "hey, baby!" surges with new life, lunges through the forcefield like it's not even there, and latches on to B'Elanna like a groupie with a backstage pass at anything carrying an instrument. The two tumble to the ground and commence to full-contact wrasslin'.

But is it violence? Survival instinct? Or perhaps just a case of puppy love?

Regardless, Torres doesn't take kindly to the aggressive advance. Just ask Vorik. Or for that matter, Seven of Nine.

But this time, B'Elanna is losing the battle. "Janeway! Stop this crazy thing!"

A security type whips out a phaser, but Doc blocks the shot. "No! You'll hurt B'Elanna!"

"Get it off of meeeee!"

Janeway hails the bridge and tells Harry to beam the alien back to its ship, pronto. But Harry says he's having trouble getting a lock.

"It's piercing her neck!" Doc shouts.

Torres' resistance weakens. Her screams are reduced to gasps, which collapse into pants for breath, and finally dwindle into the slackness of unconsciousness, as the alien attaches itself to her completely.

*

The alien is once again still stretched out on the diagnostic bed. But now, it's stretched out on top of B'Elanna, who's on the diagnostic bed, unconscious. Two of its arms wrap around Torres' shoulders; the other two arms, just under her armpits. Its face nuzzles her neck. Its long body tapers down her torso and down her right leg, where the end of its tail wraps around her ankle.

The creature is purring--well, hard to blame it for that. Lucky bugger.

Doc explains the situation to Janeway and Tom Paris, who looks downright frantic. "Her heart and lungs are seriously compromised, and her kidneys are failing," Doc tells them. "The creature's secreting some kind of paralyzing agent into her bloodstream."

"How do we get it off her?" Paris asks. "I can't remove it surgically! Not without doing irreparable harm to B'Elanna's organs," Doc says. "Can we get a lock on the creature; transport it off?" Janeway asks. "Not unless we want to beam B'Elanna's cardiopulmonary system along with it," Doc says.

"We have to do something!" Tom yells, staring down helplessly at B'Elanna.

"No one is disputing that, Mr. Paris! The question is 'what'? If I'm to have any hope of devising a treatment I'll need to brush up on my exobiology." Doc strides to his office.

"What do you mean, 'brush up?" Paris demands. "Don't you have all this information in your database?"

"I may be a walking medical encyclopedia, but even I don't know everything. My matrix simply isn't large enough!" He punches up the data he needs.

"Maybe we can do better than giving you a crash course in exobiology," Janeway suggests, getting That Look in her eye. "Maybe we can provide you with a consultant." Doc likes the idea, but wonders how she'll pull it off. "By isolating the computer's exobiology data files and merging them into a an interactive matrix," Janeway says.

Paris jumps into the frame. "A hologram!" Exactly, Janeway says, pleased with herself.

Doc frowns. "That may not be as simple as it sounds. It would need to be nearly as sophisticated as I am--tactile interfaces, personality subroutines..." But Paris confidently volunteers Harry.

Janeway nods; it's settled. "Search the databases for leading exobiologists. If you want to add a personality it may as well be based on a real person. I'll have Harry meet you on Holodeck two." (Note, for the record: it's her idea.)

Doc finally agrees. He hands Paris a tricorder. "Stay with her and monitor her vital signs. Call me if there's any change."

Paris nods gratefully, and checks on his very special patient.

*

Harry and Doc walk through the corridors. "I still have my doubts about this, Doc," Harry says. "It's one thing to create a hologram, but you're trying to merge an extensive database with an interactive matrix."

"Don't be a pessimist, Mr. Kim! Together we'll create a masterpiece of holographic art."

Kim smirks teasingly. "A subject for your next slide show?"

Doc's eyes brighten at the thought. "Perhaps."

Kim shakes his head. "Can't wait." They reach the Holodeck, and enter. "What's the name of that exobiologist you chose?" Harry asks. "Crell Moset," Doc says. First, Doc calls for the physical look of the new hologram. Harry talks to the computer, and a few seconds later, a hologram is born.

Harry does a double-take. Uh, Doc? "Have you mentioned to anyone else that this guy's a Cardassian?" Harry asks uncomfortably. "What difference does it make?" Doc asks, annoyed. "Maybe you haven't heard. They're not the friendliest folks in the galaxy," Harry explains.

Especially on a ship that's got a bunch of Maquis on it, to whom Cardassians are mortal enemies-their last news from home brought word that Cardassians had wiped out the Maquis. And Starfleet itself battled Cardassians for years, and was now locked in a fight to the death with the Dominion. Janeway's father was away from the family for years because of them, Janeway herself was tortured by them when she was a junior officer, and Paris' father was never the same again after his torture at Cardassian hands. Just a look at one of the scaly spoon-heads is enough to send most freedom-minded Bajorans into a frothing tizzy.

But Doc doesn't have that problem; the only person who drives him that crazy is Tom Paris. "I don't care if he's the nastiest man who ever lived! As long as he can help us save B'Elanna."

Harry doesn't press the issue. Besides, it's just a hologram. "Good point. Computer, transfer all reference medical files to the simulation." The computer reports a few seconds later that it's done. Next, Kim installs the personality and voice, which is done, but not debugged. The hologram still just stands there.

Doc launches into his question prematurely. "Dr. Moset, I'd like to consult with you about an alien life-form."

"I am Crell Moset, chief exobiology specialist Cardassia Prime certified to perform all surgical procedures," the hologram says, barely audible. He flashes in and out of existence a time or two.

Doc scrunches his face with frustration. "This is going well," he grumbles. He whirls on Harry. "What's wrong?" he demands.

Something technical. Harry applies a technical solution to the technical problem. (If you must know, he installed a recursive algorithm.) But whatever you call it, it worked. The change is immediate; the hologram whips its neck around to work out the kinks, the first true sign of life it's shown. "Try it again," Harry says.

"Dr. Moset?" Doc asks tentatively, turning around.

The hologram smiles broadly. He raises his arms in welcome. "My friends call me Crell," he says, approaching Doc. Doc throws an Attaboy in Kim's direction.

Moset also stares cordially at Harry, who gives an awkward nod of welcome. The last Cardie he saw in the neighborhood was Seska, and she was a total pain in the neck. (Just ask Chakotay.)

* * *

"It's a pleasure to meet you, Crell," Doc says warmly, and they shake hands. Crell amiably asks Doc's name, which results in an awkward moment: Doc still hasn't picked out a name for himself after all these years. He says he's an emergency medical hologram, which intrigues Moset.

"But his friends call him Doc," Kim offers helpfully. For some reason, Doc winces at this.

Crell looks at Doc: "Aha. May I presume?" Doc, pleased to be treated with such cordiality, beams. "Certainly!"

"So, Doc, how can an old surgeon like me help a technological marvel such as yourself?" Doc explains the situation with B'Elanna and the overly affectionate insectoid. Crell smiles. "Non-humanoid exobiology happens to be one of my specialties!" Doc says that's why they made him--and explains that Moset is also a hologram.

If it were me, I'd have a whole lot of questions and not much patience. But Harry's programming must be fairly sophisticated; Crell blinks twice, then accepts this paradigm shift in his persona virtually without comment. Within seconds is ready to see the patient.

Doc, thrilled that the programming project went so well, asks Harry to "do the honors" and send Crell to Sickbay. Harry tells Doc that if the program starts to destabilize again, give him a call.

And with that, Crell leaves the Holodeck in a puff of displaced data.

*

Tom is bent over the diagnostic bed, face close to B'Elanna's, when Doc and Crell approach. "Lieutenant: may I present Crell Moset?" Doc says formally.

Paris doesn't even bother to look up. "She's been drifting in and out of consciousness."

"Don't be rude, Lieutenant!" Doc says sternly. Paris looks up at that, notes the newcomer. "To him? No offense, Doc, but he's just a--"

"A brilliant scientist who's here to help us," Doc interrupts, his mood spoiled. "This way, Crell."

The Cardassian circles the bed. "Hmm...I can see why you're having difficulty." "Its physiology doesn't match any of the standard templates in our database," Doc explains. "My guess would be a cytoplasmic life-form," Crell says. "I agree. And from what I can tell it has co-opted her vital systems," Doc says.

Crell's eyes move from the truly alien to the relatively familiar. "She's Klingon...No. The cranial ridges are less pronounced. Klingon-human hybrid." Doc smiles. "Exactly! Let's hope your instincts about the creature are equally insightful."

Crell says he'll need more than just his eyes before saying more. "You have an iso-molecular scanner?" No, Doc says, just the "standard issue Starfleet tricorder." Crell harrumphs. "No wonder you're having problems making an accurate diagnosis! I suggested an upgrade to the Starfleet people at a joint medical conference, but they assumed I was just an arrogant Cardassian trying to prove his superiority...Or maybe they thought I was a spy."

"I hope you weren't too offended," says Doc, apologetically on behalf of Federation doctors everywhere.

"It's an unfortunate reality," Crell says sadly. "Sometimes even enlightened races can't find common ground."

Crell is like most of the better (or worse, depending on your perspective) Cardies: self-confident to the point of arrogance, but also charming as all get-out. He adopts just the right tone with Doc, and if this were a cartoon, you'd see little animated hearts floating upward from Doc's head, borne up on gossamer wings. And the mutual-admiration society is just getting started.

Crell takes one of the standard tricorders, and starts adjusting its settings. "I may be able to recalibrate this thing. There. That should help." He hands it to Doc, who scans the creature. Within seconds, Doc's eyes widen. "Amazing!" He breathes, and looks to Crell with even more appreciation.

"Well, someone from Starfleet appreciates me," Crell says with a grateful smile.

*

Meanwhile...

Janeway and Chakotay review the alien's transmission.

"I've instructed the computer to assign symbols to all the tones received in the transmission," the captain says, and shows Chakotay the visual representation. It looks somewhat like a DNA strand.

"Looks like there were over 10,000 separate sounds used in this section of the message," Chakotay says, whistling. "It's going to be a tough code to crack," Janeway agrees. "Maybe we can get a little help from the alien vessel's data banks," he suggests.

"Good idea." The captain taps her combadge. "Janeway to Seven of Nine. Any chance of downloading the alien's data banks? We're looking for anything that might help us understand their language. We don't know how much time B'Elanna has left."

*

In Engineering, Seven takes the lift from Upper Engineering to Lower. She's walking before the lift is finished. "We must move quickly. The vessel is on the verge of a complete systems failure." She works at one station, then moves to another where a young Bajoran we haven't seen before (to my knowledge) looks like he's working underneath a thundercloud of attitude.

"Prepare to download the data," Seven tells him.

"I heard the Captain," the young Bajoran growls. Seven picks up on his body language, which practically screams Animosity. "Is there a problem?" He responds with the same low, gravelly attitude-filled voice. "No. No problem."

"You seem uncomfortable taking orders from me," Seven notes.

"It's just that I'm used to taking orders from B'Elanna, that's all," the Bajoran says. "And to tell you the truth, she doesn't..."

"Doesn't like me. Yes, I am aware of that. However, the Captain left me in charge during Lieutenant Torres' absence. Her feelings about me are irrelevant." The Bajoran looks at her with surprise; Seven doesn't seem to care one way or another what B'Elanna thinks of her. Seven's already back to work without another word about Torres. "Activate the transceiver interface. Begin the download."

The Bajoran gets to work himself. Unfortunately, his attitude is not the most unstable thing in the neighborhood; the alien ship is. Before they can get any meaningful data from it, the vessel's power source spikes, and within seconds of Seven triggering Red Alert, Ensign Kim on the bridge tells Janeway the ship will explode.

Seconds later, that's exactly what happens. Thanks to the miracle of modern entertainment technology, ships blowing up look cooler than ever, and this is no exception.

Oh well. So much for translating the alien message...

*

In Sickbay, Crell and Doc consult in his office while Paris continues his more-devoted-than-usual medical assistance.

"What do we know so far?" Crell asks.

"The life-form has taken control of her body at the autonomic level--drawing proteins from her tissues, white blood cells from her arteries," Doc says.

"Which can be interpreted in several ways," Crell says.

"A form of attack," says Doc, throwing out the firs interpretation, but Crell shoots that one down without much trouble. "I find it odd that a species would evolve an attack mechanism that would leave it so vulnerable. Why not do its damage and retreat?"

Doc takes the point. "A parasite, perhaps?" Crell thinks this is closer, "but not any ordinary variety. It's unlikely it could sustain itself like this over the long term." Doc picks up the thought. "Its own systems are damaged. It's doing this as a stopgap measure to keep itself alive." Crell agrees. "So the patient's heart, lungs, kidneys--they're all augmenting the alien's damaged system."

"It's using B'Elanna as a life preserver!" Doc sums up for the layman.

"But if it needs her to survive it's not about to let go without a fight," Crell says.

"I'd like to think that's a fight you and I can win," Doc says with a confident smile.

"We do work well together," Crell agrees, and Doc beams. (Want a breath mint?) "I just wish we had access to my laboratory. It has all the instrumentation we would need." Crell sighs, picks up one of the instruments with obvious disappointment. "Well, we'll just have to improvise."

Doc, hating to disappoint, gives the situation some thought, and in short order comes up with a suggestion. "We may be able to create a reasonable facsimile of your laboratory in our Holodeck--providing, of course, you can give an accurate description."

While the holograms talk shop, Torres' eyes flutter open. She breathes Tom's name when she sees him. Paris leans close to her.

"Hey, there," he says, his eyes filled with affection, his voice so gentle that fan reaction actually contributed to global warming.

"I can't move," Torres says after a moment, still slightly dazed, apparently trying to block out the sight of the big-eyed bug putting the paralytic power-hug on her.

"I know, but don't worry. We'll get this thing off you." He smiles. "Just think. I could force you to listen to rock 'n' roll all day and you wouldn't be able to do a thing about it." (Yeah, but the bug might. I imagine it would prefer Barry White to the Beach Boys.)

Torres' mouth crinkles a bit at Tom's quiet humor. Then she notices Doc--and the guy he's talking to. "Who is that?" she asks, her voice a tad colder than before.

"Relax," says Tom, picking up on her change in mood. "He's just a hologram--a specialist in exobiology. The Doc thinks he might be able to help you."

"Can't he find somebody else?" Torres asks.

"Apparently, this guy's the best. Besides, he's just a walking database."

"Hologram or not, he's Cardassian," Torres says. The room gets even chillier. "As far as I'm concerned they're all cold-blooded killers." Spoken like a true Maquis, though few on board would disagree.

"I understand how you feel," Tom assures her. "Unfortunately, that cold-blooded killer may be the only one who can save your life."

Torres continues to stare at the Cardassian. Her eyes begin to smolder.

* * *

In the Holodeck, Crell Moset has been doing some redecorating. The Delta Quadrant now sports a little bit of Cardassia.

"Impressive," Doc says. Crell is satisfied.

"Is this where you did your work on the fostossa virus?" Doc asks.

"No," Crell says. "Actually, I was on Bajor at the time, during the Occupation. A sad chapter in Cardassian history. We had no business being there, but try telling that to the politicians. When I think of the resources that were squandered, the lives that were lost..."

"From what I understand, you saved thousands of lives," Doc says.

"In retrospect, I don't know how. The military had everything they needed--but the civilian hospitals? No staff, the crudest equipment..."

"Don't tell me. You were forced to improvise," says Doc sympathetically; he's done his share of that the past four years.

"I didn't have the resources to try traditional methods, so I experimented with procedures that..." Crell, a careful man with words, stops himself in mid-sentence. Warning bells go off for everyone but Doc. "...that...never would have occurred to me under ordinary circumstances. The discovery of the cure was almost accidental, really."

"You're being modest, Crell," Doc says. Crell denies it. "You made medical history! You won the Legate's Crest of Valor!" Doc reminds him. "Awards aren't important, Doc," Crell tells him; "it's the work that matters."

Doc backs down a little. "Of course. Still, the recognition of your peers, your government, must be very satisfying."

Crell changes the subject. "I'm sure you've made your share of breakthroughs," he says.

"Naturally," Doc says. "Unfortunately, no one from Starfleet ever hears about them. I toil in obscurity." This truly seems to bother him. Recognition matters to him, but as we saw from the reaction to his slide show, the crew's appreciation has its limits. Doc needs the recognition of his peers, and for the first time in a while, he's got it.

"Why don't you show me your patient records? At least I'll know about your accomplishments," Crell suggests. Deeply touched, Doc agrees.

"Everything seems to be in order," Crell says. "Shall we get to work?" They stand by a Cardassian version of a bio-bed. Doc calls up a holographic recreation of the sickbay alien, without the holo-B'Elanna. Crell begins, by asking for a cortical stimulator...

which looks less like a medical instrument than a cattle prod.

*

Captain's log, supplemental: While the Doctor seems to be making progress, Commander Chakotay and I have hit a wall in our attempt to decipher the alien message.

Janeway believes the message the alien sent them was a distress signal. She suggests to Chakotay that if they replayed the message as a broadcast, they might be able to attract some of the Hugger Bugger's buddies. Who might even be able to coax him away from the mammalian biped and start paying attention to a girl more in his league.

Chakotay suggests the other bugs might not be all that friendly, but Janeway gives them the benefit of the doubt. "The Doctor's pretty sure the alien is simply trying to survive. I agree. It'll be a difficult first contact but we might find a way to communicate."

And that, in sum, is why Starfleet vessels are Out Here in the first place. Chakotay smiles. "It's worth a shot."

*

Janeway and Chakotay take their places on the bridge. "Tuvok," the captain orders, "reroute auxiliary power to the deflector dish. Retransmit the alien's message on all subspace bands."

"Aye, Captain." A few moments later, Tuvok announces, "Deflector at full capacity."

Janeway looks at her first officer. "Chakotay."

He does the honors. A blue pulse, like a stone dropped into a lake, fans out from the epicenter of Voyager's deflector dish. It only spreads out as a circle, not a sphere, but I assume the two-dimensional coverage is sufficient.)

*

Doc hums while he works, a habit we've often seen in action. It's from an opera, I believe.

Crell is also humming. It's the same melody. Wagner, I believe. (Ba dum boom.) When they realize they're doing a duet, they stop, slightly embarrassed.

"I'm sorry. My wife tells me I'm tone deaf," Crell says. But he actually sounded pretty good.

"Not at all. You were right on key," Doc assures him. (Let's hear it for holographic improvements.) He offers to take him on an opera holoprogram after they've solved their current medical case, and Crell agrees.

Crell announces they're ready to peek inside the creature. And asks for a scalpel.

Cardassian scalpels...let's just say I've seen less intimidating bat'telhs. Doc looks at it with apprehension. "Forgive me for saying so, but this appears to be a rather crude instrument, especially when we have such advanced equipment at our disposal."

Crell frowns. "I often find the simplest tool is the most effective. All of our elaborate scanners and laser scalpels--they remove us from our subjects. Actually feeling the anatomy, the consistency of the internal organs...it can be very instructive." (Paging Dr. Mengele...) "Why don't you do the honors?"

Doc holds the instrument queasily, but allows Crell to guide him through the first incision.

The creature squeals in pain. Doc winces. "We're hurting it!"

"Doctor," the Xenobiology Specialist Hologram tells the Emergency Medical Hologram, "it's a hologram." (Ah, irony. Human, Cardassian, Muppet: all look different, but every character in this scene comes from the same source: Voyager's computers. These three are more like each other than anyone else on board.)

Doc gathers his wits. "Of course. I guess as a hologram myself, I have a certain empathy." Crell urges him to continue. The scalpel continues to slice through the alien's flesh.

When the incision is complete, Crell grabs a pair of spanners and separates the folds of skin, revealing the alien's insides. Functionally, the creature resembles a bell pepper: outer skin, seeds on the inside, but a whole lot of empty space between the two.

"Extraordinary. Look at that series of nodes," Crell says, pointing out the "seed" part of the alien's skull. "They appear to be clustered along the primary nerve," Doc says. "Multiple neocortices, I'd say," Crell agrees.

"Suggesting a highly intelligent species!" Doc surmises. "Yes, but also presenting us with a point of attack," Crell says.

Uh oh. "Attack?" Doc asks, incredulous. Crell explains. "If we induce a neurostatic shock in one of these nodes I believe it will travel to the others...the creature will lose motor function and we'll be able to remove it."

Ouch. Sounds unpleasant. "The procedure will probably kill the creature," Doc points out, not liking the sound of that. Probably, Crell agrees, not all that concerned. "I'd like to find a way to save them both," Doc says. So would I," says Crell offhandedly, "in an ideal situation. but we have to set priorities--which, in this case, is your crew mate."

Well, he does have a point there. Sing along, kids! "Let 'em all go to Hell / Except Cave Seventy-Six!"

Doc doesn't like the sound of that. "This is a sentient life-form! For all we know it could be this species' Einstein. Its Picasso!" (Somehow, this creature doesn't strike me as a Cubist....the Hello Dali type, perhaps.)

Crell waves off that line of thinking. "Or he could be a psychotic criminal." (I dunno about that, but given the condition of its vessel, it could well have been Chakotay's classmate in Driver's Ed.) "The point is, we don't know--and we have choices to make."

Speaking of choices...

Crell's program begins to fade in and out again. This argument will have to wait for later. Doc assures Crell that he'll have him up and running again in no time, then tells the Computer to take Crell's program offline. Next, he calls Ensign Kim for some debugging.

Harry agrees to meet Doc in Sickbay. And as luck would have it, he asks Tabor, the disgruntled Bajoran, to help him out.

For those newcomers to Voyager, DS9 and TNG, of all the people who dislike the Cardassians, the Bajorans typically top the list. Cardassia was to Bajor what...well, pick an imperialist. Any imperialist. Just about every country on the planet has either controlled or been controlled by at least one other country. The foreign colonizers are usually looked on the way Jamie Lee Curtis regards Michael Meyers in HALLOWEEN. Whatever face they might put on for the public and the history books, they still got blood on their hands. And as TNG and DS9 so amply demonstrated, Cardassians were particularly devastating to Bajor.

*

In Sickbay, Paris looks on anxiously while Harry and Tabor work the computer controls. Initial efforts are not promising. Paris suggests reducing the hologram's memory load, but Harry wants to keep that as a last resort.

While the techies work on the computer end, Doc checks on his patient. B'Elanna is awake. "What's going on?" she asks Doc.

"My consultant's gone off-line," he tells her. "The Cardassian?" she asks. "You can leave him off." Her tone, though soft, still has enough bitterness for Doc to pick up on.

"I'm surprised by your attitude, Lieutenant. I never took you for someone who would make generalizations based on race."

"When it comes to Cardassians, I'm guilty as charged," she says, not the least bit repentant.

"I understand your experience with them was...unpleasant," Doc says, not elaborating (PATHWAYS contains some of the story). "But if you give Crell a chance, I think you'll find that he's a friendly, compassionate man--not to mention a genius who's trying to save your life." Crell is certainly friendly--but as for compassion, at the very least it's selective.

"I'll skip the introductions if it's all the same to you," Torres says softly butt with an iron firmness.

"Suit yourself," Doc says. "But you should know, I plan on asking the Captain to keep him on as a permanent consultant." (A full-time Cardassian member of the crew? Well, they've been missing that since Seska left...)

Torres doesn't show anger; she's too weak for that. But she fixes her gaze on the Doc. "I'm not the only one who's going to have a problem with that."

Doc, not wanting to pursue the matter with his patient in her current condition, moves over to the techies. "How's it coming?"

Kim says they're close. Tabor says they're more than close. Kim, satisfied, fires it up.

Crell returns. "Hello again," he says pleasantly.

Tabor freaks out when he gets a good look at the hologram's face. "My god...That's Crell Moset!"

"Yes," Crell says pleasantly, walking toward the young Bajoran. "Do I know you?"

"He killed my brother, my grandfather--hundreds of people!" Tabor gasps, face ashen. "He's a mass murderer!"

And he thought Seven of Nine was a pain to work with....

* * *

"You must be mistaken," Doc insists. If he was irritated with Paris for ignoring Crell, Tabor's accusations send his blood pressure algorithms into stack overflow.

But Tabor, trembling with rage, does not back down. "It's no mistake! Moset performed experiments on living people. Thousands of Bajorans were killed in his so-called hospital!" Doc asks Crell if it's true, but Crell denies it. (This could be plausible deniability-this Crell is a hologram, not the actual guy, whose "memories" are only as accurate as the database.)

But try telling that to Tabor. He lunges at the Cardassian. It takes both Tom and Harry to restrain him. "Take it easy, Tabor!" Paris yells, standing between the Bajoran and the Cardassian. "Whoa! He's just a hologram!"

Crell, taken aback by the intensity of Tabor's rage, tells Doc he should probably leave. Doc apologizes to Crell and sends him to Holodeck Two.

Harry Kim has the good sense not to say I Told You So.

*

In Chakotay's office, Tabor and Doc discuss the matter. Tabor dominates the dialog.

"I can still remember the sounds his instruments made...the screams of his patients...the smell...of chemicals and dead flesh. He operated on my grandfather...Exposed his internal organs to nadion radiation. It took six days for him to die.

Voice trembling with rage, Tabor continues. "He blinded people so he could study how they adapted. Exposed them to polytrinic acid just to see how long it would take for their skin to heal!"

"Ensign," Doc counters, "the man you're accusing cured the fostossa virus. He stopped an epidemic that killed thousands of Bajorans!"

"By infecting hundreds of people! So that he could experiment with different treatments--old, helpless people...like my grandfather...because he considered their lives worthless."

"How do you know this?" Doc demands.

"Everybody knew!"

Chakotay breaks in. "I remember some of the Maquis under my command talking about an infamous Cardassian doctor."

"Could these simply have been rumors spread by Bajorans who hated the Cardassians?"

"I was there!" Tabor shouts.

"I don't understand why this isn't in our database," Doc says plaintively.

"The Cardassians didn't exactly publicize their wartime medical practices. I wouldn't be surprised if the real Moset went on to live a normal life," Chakotay says.

"He's the Chairman of Exobiology at the University of Culat," Doc says.

Tabor begs Chakotay to intercede. "We may not be able to do anything about the real Moset, Commander...but the program should be destroyed. Every trace of that man's research should be deleted from the database."

*

Paris and Torres are nose-to-nose-to-snout (the creature's still attached). B'Elanna's voice is weak and watery. "I had a bad feeling about that hologram the second I saw him."

"Looks like your instinct was right," Tom soothes.

"I won't let him near me."

Tom frowns. "You're kidding, right?" Her eyes bore into his. "No, I am dead serious." Tom doesn't want to hear this, but she continues. "If I let that pig operate on me...I'll be benefitting from other people's suffering."

"You're not being rational!" Tom says.

"I won't do it." Torres' breaths become labored. A diagnostic alarm goes off. Paris rushes over to see what it says.

Doc enters the room, demanding to know what's happening. "Her cytotoxin levels are going through the roof. Pulse is rapid and irregular," Tom reports.

"No doubt you've said something to upset her," Doc says sharply. Tom's retort is even sharper. "What she's upset about, Doc, is your Cardassian buddy." Doc winces, then goes to Torres' side.

"Tell him," Torres whispers, looking at Tom. Doc also looks to Tom, asking the question. " She refuses to let him treat her," Tom says.

Doc's look is plaintive. "B'Elanna, we're very close to a solution!"

"Do it," she gasps, "without him."

"I don't know that I can," Doc admits.

"Find...another...way." With a final gasp, B'Elanna's eyes flutter shut

"She's going into cytotoxic shock!" Tom reports. Doc asks for two milligrams of inoprovaline and shoots the hypo into her neck.

*

Chief Medical Officer's Log, supplemental. I've managed to stabilize Lieutenant Torres for the time being, but the matter of how to proceed with her treatment remains unresolved.

Seven of Nine and Harry Kim are studying databases when Doc enters. "Ensign. You wanted to see me?"

"We've been looking for evidence that might support Tabor's accusations," Harry says. Anything? Doc asks. "Actually, that's why we called you here. It's not looking good." Doc wants to see what they've got.

"We've been reviewing data on the Cardassian occupation of Bajor," Seven of Nine says. "The alleged site of Moset's crimes."

"Strategic information, log entries kept in battle, sensor scans from Starfleet vessels," Harry adds. "This, for example. Requisition records from one of Crell Moset's hospitals."

"He was purchasing biochemical agents, including every known strain of the fostossa virus."

Doc shakes his head. "Of course he needed samples of the virus! That's how vaccines are developed."

"Take a look at the requisition orders," Harry says.

Doc frowns after a few seconds of reading. "Moset didn't ask for any of the enzymes normally required for synthesizing a vaccine."

"It gets worse," Harry says. "Four days after he received the virus samples there was a minor outbreak of fostossa in the vicinity of his hospital."

"Prior to that date there had not been a single case in the entire province," Seven adds. Doc is speechless.

Harry grabs a PADD sitting on top of the console. "I have to report these findings to Commander Chakotay," he says, and leaves.

Doc, mind reeling, starts to follow Harry out of Engineering. But Seven of Nine stops him. "It is curious. The Borg are accused of assimilating information with no regard for life. This Cardassian did the same--and yet, his behavior is tolerated."

Doc has no reply.

*

Doc enters Crell's Cardassian Holo-lab. Crell is busily preparing for surgery. Doc tells him Torres doesn't want his bloody Cardassian hands anywhere near her. Crell blows off Tabor's accusations, but Doc tells him about the corroborating evidence. "That's absurd!" Crell insists. "And even if it were true, I'm only a hologram, and I have no memory of those events. They're not part of my programming."

"But you are the holographic representation of Crell Moset," Doc says, ignoring the fact that it was his idea to choose Crell's personality for his consultant. "Your program, despite all its brilliance, is based on his work. He infected patients, exposed them to polytrinic acid, mutilated their living bodies! And now we're reaping the benefits of those experiments. Medically, ethically, it's wrong!"

"What do you suggest we do about it?" Crell asks.

"I'm not sure," Doc admits. "We may have to delete your program."

"Delete me? What about our patient?"

"I suppose I'd have to try and treat her on my own," Doc says. His voice doesn't sound confident at all.

"No offense, but you need me." Doc admits he does. "You're a physician. You know there's always a price to pay for the advancement of medical science."

"Sometimes that price is too high," Doc says emphatically. "Torture!?"

"Your word, not mine. I cured the fostossa virus, didn't I? So these experiments you say I conducted obviously helped me devise a treatment. Imagine how many lives would have been lost if I hadn't eliminated this disease."

"That doesn't justify using people in laboratory experiments!"

"As I explained to you, during the Occupation I was forced to improvise. I used what resources I had." (Is this supposition, or actual memory?)

"And ethical considerations, they mean nothing to you?"

"Ethics are arbitrary," Crell says. "How do you suppose your own database was developed? Hmm? My God, half the medical knowledge acquired on Earth came through experiments on lower animals!"

Doc shakes his head. "But not people." (I'd be willing to dispute that...)

"It's convenient to draw a line between higher and lower species, isn't it?" Crell clucks.

"This is the 24th century, Crell. Your kind of barbarism ended a long time ago--or, at least, it should have!"

"What difference does it make how long ago the research occurred? What matters is that we can use it to help patients today. Now, are you going to delete my program and all of the research it contains? Or are we going to use it to save B'Elanna's life?"

There's the rub, isn't it?

*

Chakotay's quarters. Chakotay is reviewing a PADD when the door chimes. Tabor enters. Chakotay tells him that his request to resign his commission (he's one of the Maquis officers, if that weren't obvious by now.) Tabor says it's his right to do so. When Chakotay asks the reason, Tabor says "moral objections to this ship's medical policy."

Chakotay sighs. "I understand how difficult this is for you. But you've got to let go of the past. Focus on today--and today, B'Elanna's life is in danger. Everything else should be put aside."

"You don't have the right to violate the memory of my family!" Tabor fumes. "As long as that Cardassian hologram is online that's exactly what you're doing."

"It's not that simple-"

"It is to me. Crell Moset killed thousands of people in his hospitals. As long as we're willing to benefit from his research we're no better than he is."

Despite his concern for B'Elanna, Chakotay can't help but listen.

*

Staff meeting. Most of the senior officers are here. Torres is an obvious exception.

Doc is selling his position. "If I had weeks, or even days, maybe I could come up with an alternative. But time is of the essence, and Moset's idea will work."

"Then you've got to use it," Paris says.

Chakotay, however, is now playing Bajorans' advocate. "Even if the Doctor could perform the surgery without Moset's help he'd still be using the man's research. That would be going against B'Elanna's wishes."

Paris takes a hard stance. "We're talking about a woman who has alien tendrils sapping the life out of her! She's obviously not thinking straight."

"On the contrary," Tuvok pipes in. "Her concerns are based in logic."

Tom whirls on the Vulcan. "Logic?!"

"If the Doctor uses knowledge that Moset gained through his experiments, we would be validating his methods, inviting further unethical research."

Chakotay agrees (with Tuvok? Wow). "We'd be setting a terrible precedent."

"We're in the middle of the Delta Quadrant!" Paris yells. "Who would know?"

"We would know," Tuvok says.

"Fine," Paris spits. "Let's just deactivate the evil hologram and let B'Elanna die. At least, we'd have our morals intact!"

"Tom," Chakotay warns.

"And you, Chakotay! Since when do you care what Starfleet thinks?"

"This isn't about rules and regulations. This is about doing what's right!"

"Spoken like a true Maquis," Paris says in a harsh whisper, causing Janeway to look up, then rub at her throbbing temples. "Well, if you'd just set aside your hatred of the Cardassians for one second..."

"Enough, Lieutenant!"

(For the record, let me just say-this is a GREAT argument, and I'd love to see more debates like this in the future.)

Janeway stands. "All right, all right! The arguments have been made and we're running out of time. The fact is, you're both right," she says, standing between Paris and Chakotay, patting each on the chest. "But when it comes down to it, the only issue I'm concerned about is the well-being of that crew member lying in Sickbay. We'll wrestle with the morality of this situation later--after B'Elanna is back on her feet."

The captain's eyes lock onto Doc's. "Doctor, you have my authorization to proceed with Moset's assistance." Doc acknowledges softly.

Janeway's gaze sweeps the room to make sure she has their attention. "Any consequences of this decision will be my responsibility. Dismissed."

Most file out without another word. Tom does stop long enough to whisper a soft, heartfelt Thanks. Janeway's reaction, a tensing of her shoulders and a lift of her head, is telling.

*

We see Doc and Crell standing over B'Elanna and the creature.

"Scalpel," Crell Moset says. Doc stares at the wicked Cardassian scythe longer than necessary before handing it over, knowing that this is the point of no return.

* * *

On the bridge, Tuvok's ears perk up. "Ensign Kim, do you hear something?" he asks. Harry doesn't. "A series of high frequencies. They are getting louder," he says. "Must be those Vulcan ears of yours," Harry says dismissively.

But soon it's loud enough for the captain to hear as well. It sounds like a few trillion insect reporters clamoring for attention at a White House press briefing. Janeway asks Tuvok to check the sensors.

And it gets still louder.

"It appears to be an alien comm signal--triaxilating wavelengths," Tuvok says.

And louder. Ears start to bleed.

"Origin?" Chakotay shouts.

"Unknown!" Tuvok yells.

Still yet louder. An ensign's head explodes messily off screen.

Harry breaks out a megaphone. "Captain, a vessel just dropped out of warp! Approaching fast off the port bow!"

"ON SCREEN!" Janeway says.

The noise seems to be at maximum. Chakotay asks Tuvok if they can lower the volume, but Tuvok says no.

Fortunately, it soon stops on its own.

"Harry, tell me that was just their way of saying hello," Janeway says, yawning to clear the ringing in her ears.

"I wish I could. The universal translator doesn't have a clue."

"Perhaps they are waiting for our response," Tuvok suggests.

"Well, then, let's give them one. Open a channel, all subspace bands." Harry nods when the chapel is open. "This is Captain Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. We cannot interpret your message, but please try to understand--we are on a peaceful mission and we intend you no harm. We have one of your kind on board our ship. It's injured and we're attempting to provide treatment. If you can understand..."

Another burst of alien screeching is the only reply.

*

Doc and Crell have the creature's shell cracked. The inside is a bit different from the holographic versions-the part we can see resembles a pulsing octopus tentacle.

"I'm ready to stimulate the primary neural pathways," Crell says, asking for a cortical probe. "I'm applying it to the primary neocortex." He plunges a cattle-prod looking thing inside the bug and flicks a switch.

The alien screams. Doc winces sympathetically.

"Its motor control is weakening but not enough to release the patient," Crell says. "Our little friend needs a bigger jolt. I'm increasing the pulse frequency..." He adjusts the probe; you can practically hear it getting more painful even before he puts it to use.

When he inserts it into the alien and flicks the switch, the screaming is even more intense.

"The synapses are degenerating. You're killing it!" Doc yells over the din.

"Don't lose your nerve, Doctor--not when we're this close."

"Lower the pulse frequency," Doc orders.

"If I do that, the creature will regain control." The probe continues its work, as do the shrieks.

"I don't care. Lower the pulse!"

"Doctor.."

"Lower the pulse frequency or I'll take your program off-line!"

That works. Crell removes the probe. He gives Doc a sour look. "You realize you're reducing our chances of saving her?"

"Not necessarily. Give me the probe." He seems to have an idea. "The probe, Doctor." Crell reluctantly hands it over, and Doc adjusts the setting. "If we apply the pulse to the secondary neocortex we should be able to achieve the same results at a lower frequency." He does so, and this time the creature's noises sound more like complaints than death throes.

"Not particularly efficient," Crell grumbles. "But it might prove interesting...."

*

The alien ship smacks Voyager hard with an energy burst. Tuvok reports it seconds before the worst of it hits them. "Shields!" Chakotay shouts.

*

In the Holodeck, Crell's lab, and Crell, begin to fade. Doc hits his combadge. "Doctor to bridge. The Holodeck's going off-line. What's happening up there?"

*

"Stand by, Doctor," Janeway says.

"They've locked on to us with some sort of tractor beam. It's draining our power," Tuvok reports.

"Reroute emergency power to the Holodeck," Chakotay orders. "Send an antimatter surge through the shield's matrix. See if that'll loosen their grip."

"No effect," Tuvok says. And after some hesitation, adds, "we do have weapons."

Janeway shakes her head. "No. If they wanted to destroy us they wouldn't be using a tractor beam. They're trying to rescue their crew member." She ignores Tuvok's warning tone. "This isn't about logic, Tuvok, it's about instinct. Now, I may not speak their language, but I have a gut feeling they don't want an armed conflict any more than we do."

She hails the Holodeck. "Bridge to Doctor. What's your status?"

*

"The procedure's working," Crell says, impressed.

"Almost there, Captain," Doc reports.

"It's losing motor control. The tendrils are withdrawing from lungs, liver, kidneys..." Soon, Torres is out of immediate danger.

But the alien is not, as the monitor's warning alarms declare. "The alien's life signs are failing!" Crell says. Like he cares.

"We need a substitute for the metabolic energy it was taking from B'Elanna," Doc says urgently.

"Could we restore its own metabolism?"

"Perhaps. Give it 40 milligrams of stenophyl." (Why the hell didn't they do that to begin with?!?)

"It's going into anaphylactic shock," Doc reports while Crell prepares the hypo. Crell bumps the dosage to 60mg and pumps it into the alien's...um, neck. I think.

*

"We've lost power on Decks 7 through 12," Chakotay says. (Those decks always seem to take the brunt of it, don't they?)

"Shields are failing, Captain."

"Doctor?" Janeway calls out urgently.

*

"Stand by, Captain!"

"Anaphylaxia is subsiding," Crell reports.

"Its electrolytic reactions are increasing. Its metabolism is stabilizing on its own," Doc notes with relief. "Bridge, beam the life-form to its ship."

They watch it shimmer into nothingness.

*

On the bridge, Kim reports that the transport is complete. (Through the shields?)

"The alien ship is withdrawing, Captain," says Tuvok.

The air fills with a few seconds of alien screeches. As always, the crew has no idea what they're saying.

But Janeway can guess. "You're welcome," she says to the ceiling.

*

"I've released B'Elanna to her quarters," Doc reports to Janeway in her ready room.

"Her condition?"

"Stable, but her nervous system has suffered extreme trauma. She'll need time to recover--several days, at least." (Everything's extreme with B'Elanna, have you noticed?)

"Good work," Janeway says with a tired smile.

Doc's facial lines triple. "I should caution you, Captain--when I told her that we'd used Moset's program she was...unhappy, to put it mildly. I nearly had to sedate her."

"It sounds like her Klingon temper has fully recovered."

"It practically qualifies as a chronic condition," Doc mumbles.

Janeway sighs. "I'll speak to her."

Doc hesitates before proceeding. "There's one more topic of concern. Should we delete the program or keep Moset in our database for future emergencies?"

"I'm inclined to leave this up to you, Doctor. You are the chief medical officer on this ship. As far as I'm concerned, there's no one more qualified than you to make that decision." Janeway gives Doc the sort of smile that speaks the volumes of confidence she feels in her chief medical officer.

"Thank you, Captain," Doc says. You can tell he'd rather it be her decision, but he takes comfort in her faith in him.

"But please make it quickly," Janeway says. "I'm eager to resolve this matter. There's been enough moral controversy on this ship for one day."

*

Torres, keeping alive the season five tradition of the Year of the Tank top, reclines in her quarters. We rarely see her recline. Incense burns. When the door chimes, she gives the Open Sesame.

She starts to rise when she sees it's the captain, but Janeway waves her back down. She keeps her distance. "Interesting fragrance," Janeway says, pointing to the clouds of smoke. "I'm surprised it hasn't set off the environmental alarms."

"It's a combination of mental relaxant and expeller of demons. It's an ancient Klingon remedy," Torres explains.

Their voices are low. Their eyes are chilly. The incense actually begins to crystallize and fall softly as pungent snowflakes.

The way these two are looking at each other, if you were to get caught in the crossfire, your head would shatter like crystal goblets at Pavarotti's house on singalong night.

"Feeling any better?"

"I'm alive." Not that I want to be. Not that way.

Janeway cuts to the chase. "I hope you can understand why I went against your wishes, B'Elanna. Losing you was unacceptable." In Mama Kate's Collective, death is irrelevant. You don't die without her permission. Just ask Neelix. Or Tuvix. Or Seven of Nine.

Torres says nothing. She continues to give Janeway a passable Death Glare.

"I know you're angry, but we need to put this behind us. Understood?" Janeway's soft voice is also That Which Must Be Obeyed.

"Is that an order?" Torres asks, equally softly, with equal intensity.

"Yes."

Janeway wins the Great Delta Quadrant Freeze-Off. B'Elanna's eyes flash with anger. "You can't order someone to get rid of an emotion, Captain!"

"And what emotion is that?"

"You had no right to make that decision for me!"

Janeway bores in with both barrels. "I'm the Captain. You're my crewman. I did what I thought best."

Janeway turns to go. She gestures at the incense. "And I get the feeling there are still a few demons in the air. Let's hope this does the trick, hmm?"

Torres watches her go, still brooding, still alive to brood.

*

In his Cardassian lab, Crell hums a merry tune. Doc enters. But he keeps his distance.

"Doc...How's our patient?" Crell asks amiably. "Recuperating," Doc tells him. Crell sighs with satisfaction. "We did it."

"Yes...we did," Doc says softly.

"A celebration is in order! How about listening to that opera you promised me?"

It takes some seconds before Crell notes Doc's somber mood. "Oh, you're, uh...still wrestling with your ethical subroutines." He smiles-pleasantly, or so he believes. "Take my advice. It's a waste of time. What's important is that we saved two lives today." Technically, Crell did help save B'Elanna. But the creature is alive only because of Doc, and despite Crell's best efforts.

"I'm not concerned with today," Doc says. "It's tomorrow I'm worried about."

Crell gives Doc a questioning look.

Doc continues. "Captain Janeway has left your future in my hands. She believes that, as Voyager's chief medical officer, it's up to me to decide whether your program remains in our database."

Crell smiles. "Personally, I predict a long and fruitful collaboration between us."

Doc allows himself some surprise. "Oh?"

"Think about what we accomplished in the last 24 hours! Our first case was a triumph. Both patients are thriving," (an overstatement, at the very least) "and we advanced the frontiers of medical science. I've already outlined a paper that you and I will one day present to the Federation Medical Academy: 'Total Systemic Invasion of a Klingon-Human Hybrid by a Cytoplasmic Pseudoparasite.' Has a nice ring to it, don't you think?"

He does know how to flatter Doc in all the right ways, I'll give him that. "Are we also going to tell them where you honed your surgical techniques? A footnote, perhaps: 'for further details, see Cardassian death camps.'"

Crell frowns. "Those techniques were crucial this morning. Where was your sarcasm then?" (Set aside while Doc wrenched the prod from your bloody hands, you barbaric twink.)

"I didn't come here to debate the issue with you, Crell. I came here to inform you of my decision." Doc reads from his PADD. "'It is my judgment that the Medical Consultant Program and all the algorithms contained therein shall be deleted from the database. In light of recent evidence I cannot in good conscience utilize research that was derived from such inhuman practices.'" (Recent evidence?)

"'in good conscience'? What about the well-being of your crew?" Crell demands. "You're confronted by new forms of life every day--many of them dangerous. You need me! Delete my program and you violate the first oath you took as a physician: 'Do no harm.'"

Doc takes great offense. "'Do no harm...' You have no right to say those words." Doc stands at attention. "Computer..."

Crell interrupts. "You can erase my program, Doctor, but you can never change the fact that you've already used some of my research. Where was your conscience when B'Elanna was dying on that table?"

Crell snorts derisively. "Ethics? Morality? Conscience? Funny how they all go out the airlock when we need something. Are you and I really so different?" They stand nose to nose now.

Doc looks Crell square in the eyes. "Computer, delete medical consultant program and all related files."

Crell's eyes go wide. He opens his mouth to protest. But he's gone, along with the rest of the Cardassian medical lab, before any sound can escape his lips.

Doc turns on his heels and marches out of the Holodeck without looking back.

[Analysis]

Michelle Green's review of this episode suggests that it's brilliant, but belonged on Deep Space Nine. I'm inclined to agree; this would have been a phenomenal DS9 episode. There, we could have encountered the REAL Crell Moset, respected xenobiologist at the University of Culot, and unmasked his dirty past.

But it's not too bad as a Voyager episode, either. The situation is unique because the character is not the real Moset, but the sum of his research. The data itself is on trial, because of how it was obtained.

There are a lot of gray areas in this episode, and Jeri Taylor (turning in her first script for the fifth season) does well introducing them. She could have gone farther, though. Seven of Nine remarked on the irony of all the crap the Borg take for their methods, but Doc is treating the Cardassian like a respected dignitary. But the true irony is that while people give Seven grief for the Borg's assimilative practices, they have no problem at all using Borg-assimilated technological improvements to Voyager's systems, including the contributions it made to the much-ballyhooed Delta Flyer.

Sure, it's okay to make use of Species 4747's engineering marvels or Species 911's unique security innovations or Species 666's ability to conjure up demons to scare off the more annoying but superstitious aliens. Astrometrics would not exist without Borg expertise. Neelix would be frolicking in the Great Forest with the ghosts of Trevis and Flotter without some Borg medical marvels (and I'd say poor Neelix suffered more than the insect ever did at Crell's hands). Janeway looks to Seven for information about nearly every new species or technology they encounter, just in case the Collective got a piece of it at one time or another.

This is what's at issue here. Crell, the holographic personality, I have no problem with deleting. But Crell, the actual Cardassian, and his research, were good enough for the Federation when they constructed Voyager's databases-immensely valuable data from "the best" in his field, whatever breed of monster he was. They now have reason to discredit Crell the man. Fine; shred Crell's personality matrix. But "to make use of his research is to validate his methods"?

Poppycock. Keep the data. Add a note saying "Crell's scum. We found out after publishing this that decent people died because Crell is a cold-hearted monster. But it works, so if you use this data, remember the victims, shout Never Again to the horrid methods employed-and save that patient."

History has a few names well known in the medical field, good and bad. Hippocrates, the ancient Greek whose medical oath is still recited millennia later, particularly the famous line, "first, do no harm," though some of the specifics seem to be glossed over in this more "enlightened" age. Dr. Mengele, the Nazi doctor who is probably the nearest analog to Crell Moset, who performed horrible experiments on Holocaust victims. Dr. Spock, who screwed up an entire generation of Boomers through their anxious book-reading parents. Dr. Seuss, who introduced me to the joy of rhyming. "Dr." Kevorkian, who seems more obsessed with death than Quentin Tarantino. Dr. Ruth, who...well, you get the idea.

Man's quest for knowledge is often a bumpy one. Mistakes are made. Paradigm shifts are common, particularly in this MTV age. Medical barbarism is sometimes in the eye of the beholder. It was played for comedy in Star Trek IV, when Dr. McCoy, stuck in a 20th-century hospital, shudders when he meets an old woman on kidney dialysis, snorts with disgust when hearing various cancer treatments, refers to the "Spanish Inquisition" at the thought of such cruel and unusual punishments which three centuries "earlier" we called state-of-the-art treatment. Just as we shudder at the thought of 19th-century medical practices like getting people liquored-up for anaesthesia and then breaking out the band-saw for major surgery. Getting rid of "bad blood" by opening up a vein isn't as common as it used to be, thank goodness. (Though at the rate HMOs are moving to cut costs, you never know...)

Ironically, some of the symbols of "ancient barbaric methods," like leeches and carrion-eating maggots, are actually making a comeback of sorts.

But I digress.

The point is, data is morally neutral. How it is obtained is not, and you shouldn't encourage such practices-on that score, Tuvok is correct. However, if it's already there and Federation-approved, do you delete it merely because it was paid for dearly by innocent blood? If not, why not? What's the "grace period" that needs to expire before it's safe to call upon that well-documented, incredibly valuable, but obtained by inhuman means? Must we wait until the third and fourth generations are dead before the sting of the source is removed?

I'm not proposing I know the answer. I'm just asking the question. I think it's fine to deplore (even ban) the methods and punish the practitioners when data, no matter how valuable, is obtained through improper means. But if the data is there, which is the worse insult to the memory of the victims? To use that data to save lives (and thereby "validate" the methods, or give credit to scientists unworthy of praise), or to squelch that data, and ensure that those victims died for nothing?

The answer, as we see in this episode, may well depend on whether the people you love were the original victims, or those who could be saved by that information. We have two extremes here. Tabor, the young Bajoran Maquis with a chip on his shoulder and a horrifying memory of slaughtered family, sacrificed on the altar of Ends Justify The Means. He feels it an insult to the memory of his family and his species that Crell's atrocities would continue to exist, much less be used, and would rather be dropped off on the nearest habitable planet than continue to serve on a ship that would preserve such data. This side also has B'Elanna Torres, who would rather die than be treated by a Cardassian, particularly this Cardassian. Tuvok takes the logical argument against using the product of illegitimate methods.

On the other hand we have Tom Paris, who cares only about the life of B'Elanna Torres. He'd rather have her alive and furious with him than dead sticking to her guns. He's got the attitude that most closely matches mine: Crell is little more than a walking interactive database. If the name is offensive, change it-it's just a program. If the interface (the physical appearance of Crell) is offensive, reprogram it so he looks human or Vulcan or Bolian or a Victoria's Secret model or Mr. Rogers. If the personality (the most offensive component, as I saw it) offend thee, edit it out. Paris doesn't see a war-criminal Cardassian when he looks at Crell Moset; he sees a walking CD-ROM. The packaging is meaningless to him; all he knows is that the data "Crell" holds might save B'Elanna. THAT matters to him.

Cutting to the chase, if B'Elanna dies because she or Tabor or Chakotay or Tuvok refused to allow the treatment, he would, with justification, see THEM as the monsters who withheld treatment and needlessly sacrificed a life dear to him in the name of medical integrity. He consents to the use of "dirty data" because right here, right now, it can save a life that's important to him.

We have Captain Janeway, who cannot afford to lose her chief engineer this far from home, who has a history of assuming responsibility for the lives and deaths of her crew even in controversial decisions. She approved a Q's right to die in "Death Wish." She killed a hybrid called "Tuvix" to rescue Tuvok and Neelix, even though at the time the entire viewing audience far preferred Tuvix-she even threw the switch herself because Doc could not do so in good conscience. She stripped Seven of Nine for parts despite Seven's vehement objections, in the name of Tough Love. She ordered Neelix brought back from the dead. Those last two, in particular, are highly questionable ethical decisions.

In short, Kathryn Janeway doesn't shy away from the Tough Decisions. She takes responsibility, and it's a biggie-and truly, only she can take the burden for this. Every Maquis and Bajoran on board, everyone who has ever been tortured by the Cardassians (and she's in that unfortunate club), now has a focal point for their anger: the occupant of the Big Chair. The buck stops there.

The final scene between Janeway and Torres is instructive. Torres' willingness to die on principle is noble in its way, but given their circumstances it may well have doomed the crew sometime down the road, if they didn't have the best chief engineer at their disposal. That makes it a selfish act. Meanwhile, Janeway's refusal to let Torres take that route is also in its way selfish, but it serves a larger end: the other 150 members on board. Like Sisko in "In the Pale Moonlight," she dirties her hands a little to serve a larger end. Is it the right decision? Will she have to answer for it when they get home?

Janeway puts her finger on it when she puts her hands on Chakotay's and Paris' chests to end the argument in the conference room. "You're both right." It's not a black and white issue.

*

Doc, of course, is the instigator. Some of his actions are easier to defend than others.

He draws the line in the sand when Harry questions his choice of personalities. "I don't care if he's the nastiest man who ever lived! As long as he can help us save B'Elanna." Crell might not be the nastiest man who ever lived, but he's bad enough, and Doc discovers by episode's end that his reckless pronouncement was put to the test. He did mean what he said-he shook hands with the devil long enough to save Torres-but he also learned enough to know he would not jump into the abyss so heedlessly again.

The whole episode relies on a conceit. If the doctor were not named Crell Moset, if the doctor did not look Cardassian, we wouldn't be having this episode. What we'd have would be another TNG episode where Worf breaks his back and a pleasant human doctor with a good reputation comes in and turns Worf into her personal science lab. She succeeds, but Beverly Crusher is deeply offended by the woman's medical ethics, and dresses her down afterwards. That doctor's approach wasn't quite so heinous-she meant well, and sometimes her methods bore fruit, and she wasn't torturing or unleashing biological warfare-but her approach did directly lead to at least one death on the Enterprise because she did things her way rather than following established methods.

Divorce the hologram from the data, and we wouldn't have had this conversation. Torres wouldn't have hated the hologram on sight. Tabor wouldn't have threatened to resign his commission. The data would have been treated as perfectly legitimate, even if its source had been discovered accidentally. It happens, and we take the episode as given, but essentially, Doc causes an ethical firestorm and loses a large chunk of Federation-approved xenobiological research, because he was too stubborn to listen to Harry's concerns about the hologram's appearance. He knew his patient. In fact, he knows all his patients, and how many of them had unfortunate run-ins with the Cardassians. He chides Torres for her narrow-mindedness at disliking Crell, but his own high-mindedness forces the issue on her. He makes his own job more difficult by turning his patient against him over a purely aesthetic issue.

The data was the important thing. Yes, Crell's personality helps to make use of it, but just as Doc is an amalgam of 47 different doctors (yes, really, 47), there's no reason why the xeno consultant cannot also be an amalgam of multiple doctors' research, and given any face or personality he desires. He could have put his own face on his assistant, and really given his ego something to chew on.

So-big, big goof, an innocent but tragic error, easily avoidable.

Crell flatters Doc shamelessly, and for a long while the appreciation-starved Doc eats it up. Cardassians are charming individuals-and I do mean individuals. Particularly the evil ones. I love Garak, but he's one of the shining stars of the Obsidian Order. I liked Dukat, but he's as big a monster as ever Cardassia produced. Tain, Garak's father and head of the Obsidian Order, was also a charmer. The Gul who interrogated Picard was someone you might like at a party, but wouldn't want to be strung up naked by and asked how many lights you see. Cardassians are "enlightened" to a fault, cultured and well-spoken and every bit as emotionally textured as humans. Unlike the honor-bound Klingons or logic-obsessed Vulcans or the resistance-is-futile Borg or the full-on-profit-chubby-packing Ferengi, Cardassians are every bit as complex as humans. They are the smoke-filled-rooms versions of Us, the 20th-century Us with 24th-century toys. Even more than the Borg, the Cardassians are the greatest challenge to the Federation, because you never know what they're going to do next. They know how to play rope-a-dope as well as we do. They're ambitious, but patient. They play chess and poker and fizzbin with equal skill as humans.

Crell, like Garak, like Dukat, is a charming guy. He's also dangerous, and his holographic doppelganger is just as much so. He has a talent for justifying his actions, and for a while Doc buys into it.

The turning point comes when Doc, who to this point was suffering from delusions of inadequacy, determines that he actually can do it without Crell, who seems determined to win only half the battle (save Torres, but not the creature). Doc finally stops thinking "I could never do this," and looks at what Crell is doing wrong-and finds his own solution that saves both patients. In fact, when he takes the lead, Crell does assist in saving the creature. When Doc's ego takes the reins and becomes the teacher, Crell becomes the skeptical student who learns a thing or two.

And that adds to the murkiness of this episode's morality. Crell isn't bad; he's just programmed that way. So reprogram him. Keep what works, tweak what doesn't. Crell says a couple times, "I made do with what I had." What would a Crell have grown up to become with a Federation-style mentor rather than his Cardassian culture? We saw one possibility in this season's "Drone"-a Borg, the ultimate amoral conformist, chose the Better Path. Crell was clearly a brilliant scientist, well respected for his results if not for his then-unknown tactics. Why not "redeem" Crell by making him good where his meat-based template was not?

Janeway's got a habit of "personal reclamation projects." She's rehabilitated Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres and most of the Maquis, is making decent progress with Seven of Nine, and though Kes deserves most of the credit for the early work, allowed the EMH to evolve into a full-fledged member of her crew. Why not take a Mengele and make a Schweitzer out of him?

He's a program. He is what you make him to be. He's a monster to Tabor and Torres. He's a life-saver to Tom Paris. He's not perfect by any means, but he's a work in progress (like most people). He's the perfect candidate for the Mama Kate treatment.

*

I'm kinda bouncing around this week. It was a terrific episode to watch, but I have been dreading the review. Too many complicated, controversial issues, of the sort that really polarize people (as they did on the ship). I didn't even touch on animal testing, referred to in passing in the episode. I eat meat, I'd wear leather or fur without guilt, I've had fish so fresh it's still breathing while they're carving into it--though I had nightmares over that. I get queasy over some animal testing, but I do have a human-first attitude in general.

If you disagree-please don't hurt me.

*

I occasionally refer to Mike Resnick, one of my favorite authors. I recently read one of his books, A Hunger in the Soul, that might be relevant here. A journalist in the future contracts out a safari to a distant world, in search of one of the great Good People of human medicine. The man had cured a disease that had killed millions. Well, the disease is back, in an even worse form, and this doctor has disappeared. The journalist is determined to find him, to bring him back with the cure, and to thereby become darned famous by breaking the story.

Long story short. The journalist is a world-class jerk, the consummate Ugly American. He runs roughshod through this alien planet, screwing up the ecosystem, beating the "wogs" (native aliens who handle the drudge work of the safari's supplies) for the slightest infractions, killing and threatening and leaving to die and generally being the sort of person you hope a just space-time-continuum will eventually deal with. He represents the worst qualities of humanity, though he can turn in a story that will make you weep with pride that you're a human. He's very good at what he does, but his methods are reprehensible.

He finds who he's looking for. The good doctor has indeed found the cure. But he refuses to give it up, largely because Humans like the journalist are such jerks that he feels they deserve to die. The disease, the Doc feels, is the hand of Justice wielded by the space-time-continuum, and he's more than happy to live in tranquility with the natives and the ecosystem and do good for those species that actually deserve him. The journalist, though, promised the galaxy a hero. He kills the doctor, brings the cure back with him, rewrites the story so the Doc is still the hero everyone believed him to be, and saves the lives of billions of Men.

At this point, who is worse? The journalist, who is Man at his worst in the way he lives his life, who will probably be banned for life from the planet he was on-but who gives hope and life to humanity via a fabrication? Or the doctor, who lived a good and decent life in harmony with his environment, who decided that Man is scum and deserves to die, and withheld a cure that would have DOOMED those billions?

The story is told from the perspective of someone who accompanied the Journalist on his quest, who considered him a total jerk, whom he considered killing himself more than once. He could have blown open the story, exposed the fraud, revealed the Journalist as a multiple murderer and all-around bad guy-but is that the right thing to do? If it means saving billions, is that worth the murder of even one innocent? If so, what about two? Dozens? Hundreds? Where do you draw the line? Does the doctor's previous accomplishment in saving millions give him the right to judge the entire species, and decide to withhold the cure from an even greater plague?

Big, hard questions. If you can answer them in an hour, you're not trying hard enough. I think Janeway, as written by Taylor, realizes that. Sometimes you just have to say, do it this way, I'll take the heat if there is any. And she does take some. Tabor will no doubt be incorrigible for a while, as will others who have reason to really hate Crell. Torres is allowed to resent Janeway all he wants, but Janeway let it be known she will not tolerate having to hear about it. All is not better between them at episode's end, but Janeway set the terms. Torres was her responsibility.

But Crell was Doc's, and Janeway actually did double-duty with Doc by giving him the choice. She boosted his ego. She left the decision up to him. But she also taught him a lesson in decision-making. Sometimes it is arbitrary. Sometimes "because I said so" has to be enough. If it can go either way, pick a path without apologizing for being the one to make it.

*

I liked the way the episode began and ended. It began with the Doc on a Pedestal, Doc singing his own praises in front of a gigantic image of himself while the crew stifled yawns and begged for a yellow alert. It ends with him emptying the same room, a much humbled character, and leaving it behind. He gave up a lot by deleting Crell and all his research. Data that could pose the difference between life and death in a future crisis. But he did it by his choice, and by entering the "real world" with his mobile emitter in place, he leaves the pure-data realm of the Holodeck, and into the flesh-and-blood corridors of Voyager, to mix and mingle with people who look to him as their healer. The Doc who didn't see what difference a name or a face could mean at the beginning, knows it all too well now. And though he has no name other than Doc, the name he's made for himself matters to him, and he has chosen to regain the trust of those crew who resented the very existence of Crell.

*

There was a fascinating concept introduced here with the aliens. They interact with their ships chemically, rather than verbally or via telepathy. On one of the mailing lists someone suggested a species like this (though their direction differed) so my ears perked up when they mentioned it. Very cool.

Speaking of these aliens, I liked it that they didn't decipher the alien tongue. It's nice to know the universal translator isn't always the Babel Fish we kind of expect it to be. The times the UT has not been up to the task have been few in Trek. One famous example is "Darmok," where Picard succeeded the hard way (by experience) where Data and Deanna Troi failed using the old-fashioned Trek method (searching the databases). Janeway employs something similar here; she may not be able to translate the intense squeaking noises, but she is able to interpret it by instinct. When an alien is screeching at you and locks on with a tractor beam, it wants something. When it's screeching at you while it's flying away, it's saying goodbye. It may not be eloquent, but it is efficient.

As for why it would attack Torres-aside from commendable taste, it's probably mostly that Torres got close enough to sense and/or reach. Or it could be her Klingon physiology, with its redundant systems.

*

Performances were outstanding all around. For those who have been dying for some decent Paris/Torres moments, this episode had its fair share. The way Tom said "Hey there" was worth the price of admission all by itself. Harry Kim had some good lines, the whole ensemble got at least a few seconds of quality time on screen (Neelix was shortchanged the most, but his time in the teaser was nice), the argument in the conference room was excellent, and the character interactions felt honest. Tabor as a character bothered me a little-after four years, he still acts and sounds like a season-one Maquis, the type I'd have voted Most Likely to Side with Seska. I liked the issues presented, and I liked that it wasn't all cut and dried, but that they left some raw nerves dangling at the end. Incidents like this aren't going to end in a group hug. I'd like to see more like this, opening up honest disagreements within the crew, and on subjects that might make for strange bedfellows. DS9 does this really well, and this episode shows that Voyager can as well.

All in all, I'll give it (* * * ).

P>Next Week: a planet made mostly of water, the Delta Floater, and THE DELANEY SISTERS!!!

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Copyright © 1998 Jim Wright

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Last Updated: December 13, 1998
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