I'm playing around in Paramount's sandbox; the story, characters, etc. belong to them. Except for the stuff I begged/borrowed/stole from elsewhere. Opinions, digressions, rants, errors, etc., though, are mine, and I take full responsibility for them, unless you're feeling litigious.
The purpose of this summary/satire/review is to entertain, first and foremost. Accuracy is secondary; to those who wish it were primary--tough. I present the Water Cooler version, as the cast of CHEERS might recount it--with a cynical eye, an acid tongue, and a sympathetic heart. Call it Delta Quadrant Theater 2000.
Voyager's got babies, weddings, a slick new top speed...and a serious problem.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Even in the 24th century, it would appear that some things never change. Wedding cakes still look like wedding cakes--white, lacy, and obscenely decorative. The only nod to futurama is that the familiar-looking bride and groom figurines, ankle-deep in frosting, are wearing Starfleet uniforms. We see a red-shouldered groom and a gold-shouldered bride. Unnamed Crewman wheels the cakes, laid out on the cart like an edible, three-dimensional chessboard, across the Mess Hall room.
Harry Kim and his Julliard-certified clarinet lead a trio of musicians in an elevator rendition of "Heart and Soul" (no, not the one by T'Pau). An acoustic guitar and stand-up bass complete the ensemble.
Officers and crew mill about, their myriad whispered conversations combining into white noise. Champagne flows like a stuffed-up nose after a hearty jalapeño chili. We catch a brief glimpse of Captain Janeway in her formal uniform before the camera settles on The Doctor, fussing with his camera and schmoozing with Seven of Nine, decked out in her "Dark Frontier" burgundy unitard.
Neelix, carrying a tray filled with little bags of white rice wrapped up in lace, asks the Doctor why the Uncle Ben's is being served raw. The Doctor, bemused, explains. "The idea is to shower the couple with a symbol of good fortune--not garnish them like a roast chicken." He raises the camera just as Neelix offers up a rice bomb to Seven of Nine. "Smile." Seven manages to look less perturbed than usual, and Neelix breaks away to continue dispensing the matrimonial dandruff.
The door slides open and Chakotay enters, B'Elanna Torres on his arm. Both are in their best formal uniforms. Chakotay smiles broadly; B'Elanna looks a bit queasy, but in a good way. Her hair, once as black as obsidian, now has the shape and color of Jennifer Aniston's on Friends. However you prefer her hair, though, the girl looks good.
Neelix frowns, then sidles up to Ensign Kim and whispers, red alert. Taking his cue, Harry nods to the band, stops on a dime, and a heartbeat later they've got "Here Comes the Bride" in full swing. Chakotay gives B'Elanna the look--they're playing our song--and they share a broad smile before resuming their march to the other side of the room, near the star-filled windows.
On that other side, Janeway has her vice-like maternal grip on the forearm of Thomas Eugene Paris. Both are dressed to the seven-of-nines.
Janeway regards her junior officer fondly. "This is it, Tom. Your bachelor days are over." It's less a statement than an order. We catch a glimpse of the sniper in the corner with the GruntMaster 9000 trained on Helm Boy's temple. If he makes a run for it, he's toast. Lava trenches block all exits. Helm Boy is wearing a combination LoJack, cattle prod, and chastity belt--whipped up courtesy of Crell Moset for just such an occasion.
It's a safe bet this wedding will proceed as scheduled.
It isn't as though the groom is thinking of backing out. He has that hungry look of a man who's just crossed a very long desert only to find himself in a very short buffet line. He licks his lips with anticipation as he stares at the approaching Torres. "Not a moment too soon."
"Second thoughts?" the captain grins. Paris' eyes never leave his prey. "Second...third...fourth..." Tom's toothy smile is downright carnivorous.
Perhaps I was wrong. Maybe the sniper's there in case anyone decides to speak now rather than forever hold their peace.
Um...Question--why is that second, black-centered pip on Tom's shoulder?
As Chakotay and B'Elanna take their places, the Doctor takes a quick snapshot. "I never thought I'd see the day," Doc says, beaming. Seven of Nine, though, hands clasped behind her back, has a different take. "Given the volatile nature of their relationship one might have predicted homicide rather than matrimony." (If she offers the toast, I think she's got her tag line...) Tuvok whispers in response, "When it comes to affairs of the human heart, it is wise to look beyond logic."
There's a lot of love in this room, isn't there?
As Chakotay stands behind Tom and Harry behind B'Elanna and Tom and B'Elanna before Captain Janeway, we get a glimpse of the crowded room. Torres' body double stands in the background holding the bouquet. The Doctor does the paparazzo thing like a pro.
And so, the long-anticipated event begins. Janeway's rich alto voice fills the room.
"We're gathered here today, not as Starfleet officers, but as friends and family, to celebrate the marriage of two of Voyager's finest. B'Elanna has asked me to forego the rigors of Klingon pain sticks in favor of a more traditional ceremony." Naturally, Harry Kim cannot resist the opportunity. "They're saving the pain sticks for the honeymoon," he shouts; laughter fills the room, and even the bride and groom join in.
Janeway, smiling, waits for silence. "As Captain, the honor of joining these two people has fallen to me. But before I declare them husband and wife, Tom and B'Elanna have prepared their own vows."
Tom turns toward B'Elanna. B'Elanna turns toward Tom. All eyes turn toward the two as they clasp hands.
Tom Paris goes first. His voice is low and brimming with devotion. His blue-gray eyes are moist with affection. His words come slowly, maddeningly slowly. That red alert can come at any time, dude--hurry up!
But he will not be hurried. In this moment, the galaxy itself is contained wholly within B'Elanna's eyes, and he takes in the entirety of it. Time stops. "I still don't know what I've done to deserve you. But--but whatever it is, I'll try to keep doing it. And I promise to stand by you, to honor you, till death do us part."
Captain Janeway looks dang-near weepy. "Ensign," she says softly. Harry, grinning like a puppy chasing a butterfly, grunts a semi-acknowledgement of the captain. "The ring," she whispers, a little louder. Harry wakes up as the crew starts to giggle. "Oh," he says, chortling, and hands the ring to Tom. He slides that golden bad boy onto the fourth finger of B'Elanna's left hand--the unbroken gilded band a symbol of the chains of patriarchal oppression.
Tom's eyes gleam. "Yer now the main filly in mah herd. Pull mah finger and fetch me an Old Milwaukie, girly-girl."
No, wait, that isn't it.
Tom's eyes gleam. "May this ring be the symbol of our eternal love."
Yeah, that's better.
B'Elanna looks up, eyes unwavering. "You stood by me...when most people would have run for the nearest airlock." Tom smiles shyly. "You were willing to see past my shortcomings, and to take all the bumps and bruises that came along with it." Wink wink, nudge nudge... "You made me a better person. Even though I put up one hell of a fight." Tom smiles again, a smile of unfettered affection. "I look forward to our journey together," she concludes.
"Commander," Janeway says to Chakotay, who unlike Ensign Kim doesn't need to be told twice; B'Elanna takes the ring and slides it onto Tom's finger, then whips out an engineering tool and spot-welds the puppy into place. "May this ring be a symbol of our eternal love."
Tom and B'Elanna stare, falling into the ecstatic abyss of each others' eyes. Tom lunges at his bride; his hands clutch her shoulders, and his mouth opens wide enough to swallow her whole.
"Not so fast," Janeway says, holding up a warning hand. Tom and B'Elanna turn their heads toward the captain fast enough to blow out three candles. A feral growl escapes someone's lips. Torres' eyes are twin bonfires.
Proceed quickly, Captain, or pain sticks might play a role after all.
Janeway wastes no time. "Lieutenant Thomas Eugene Paris. Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres. With the power vested in my by Starfleet Command, and the United Federation of Planets, I now pronounce you husband and wife."
Oops. Forgot that part. Yeah, that was kinda important.
Wait...did she just call Tom "Lieutenant"?
Torres turns her impatient glare from Janeway to Paris. Paris, though, looks at Janeway expectantly, like he's got a biscuit on his nose, just waiting for the word.
Janeway smirks. "Now, Tom."
Good dog. Biscuit time.
As the crowd snickers, Tom nods gratefully and wastes no time lip-melding with his half-Klingon honey, who returns the passion tenfold. (If this took less than a half-dozen takes, I'd be disappointed. Moments like this don't come along every day.)
Applause erupts. A few lighters are waved in the air. A beach ball bounces. An Ensign near the back holds up a "John 3:16" sign. Bravo, says the applauding Janeway, getting all misty.
The stunt double hands B'Elanna the bouquet. With an evil grin, Torres tosses it over her shoulder--to a part of the room where there's only one woman with even a fighting shot at it. Not like she needs to fight; it comes right at her. An exoskeletal hand intercepts the floral missile with ease.
Seven of Nine has no idea what just happened. She stares at the bouquet, not sure whether to throw it back or spike it.
"Congratulations," says the Doctor, amused. "For what?" Seven demands. "You may not want to know," Tuvok tells her. Narf.
The bouquet toss complete, Tom and B'Elanna resume their face-sucking endeavors with gusto. The heat of the smooch causes a crewman standing too close to burst into flames. Naturally, the whole crew laughs at the classic Mentos moment.
Harry marches toward the band; his clarinet is tossed to him, which he twirls like a majorette before resuming the music, a Dixieland variation on the Wedding March.
Tom and B'Elanna, fingers locked, stroll toward the door, suddenly find themselves in the midst of a rice storm.
The view goes ritardando. Everything slows down in that creepy "Timeless" way that lets you know things are about to go horribly, horribly wrong. But the happy couple endures the slo-mo pelting, chuckling as they go.
The rice hits the floor--and like most of Neelix's cooking, has an almost immediate adverse effect. The ground begins to buckle.
More slowing. The applause resounds like cannon fire. Each footstep is a thunderclap.
And the gelatinous floor absorbs the rice kernels until none remain.
The rice falls through the cracks, landing inside a Jefferies tube which undulates like that famous bridge that got stuck in a terminal case of harmonic resonance.
That, or it's providing a preview of the Paris Family waterbed. Kind of like the animated appliances in Beauty and the Beast.
Speaking of whom, the happy couple are now scurrying out the door under a rain of rice.
Hmm. A wedding, an off-camera promotion, and wavy-gravy rice.
Thewe's something scwewy awound hewe...
Looks like a good time for a commercial break.
* * *
Captain's log, Stardate 52586.3: We've had a lot to celebrate lately--Tom and B'Elanna's wedding, Ensign Harper's new baby, and the continued health of our warp core drive which has taken us within striking distance of home.
"In this case the shortest path is a straight line," Chakotay says. "We'll pass right through the center of the Milky Way." Janeway smiles. "And be in sector 001 within two years," she says. "More or less," he agrees. The nutshell: at their current speed, they'll be home in two years, 11 days, six hours. Assuming they don't top for sightseeing--which, naturally, they're too darn curious not to. But even the inevitable nods to exploration will only add two or three months to their journey, which can now be measured in months rather than decades. Dang--that's big news.
"Everyone'll jump at the chance for some last-minute exploration," Chakotay assures her. "Everyone...Except Seven," Janeway mutters, offering some hope for conflict--one can only hope that's a Shaq-sized Other Shoe ready to drop. But Chakotay tells her not to fret her pretty little head over such things. "Let your first officer deal with the personnel problems."
Whoa. Babies, weddings, super-fast warp drive, Seven under control? An angst-free Voyager?
That's just too much good news. There's gotta be some sort of karmic backlash, and soon.
In the mess hall, Neelix sniggers like a dirty old man as he offers suggestions to Tom Paris for his honeymoon. Neelix whips out the Talaxian travel brochures--complete with a lecherous explanation of the auditory aphrodisiac that is Cytraxian crickets.
"Well," says Tom in a stage whisper, "between you and me--B'Elanna and I don't need aphrodisiacs." Neelix grunts knowingly. Say no more, squire.
Neelix then hands him a PADD extolling the virtues of "the beaches of Ahmedeen--windsurfing on a sea of liquid argon." Sounds nice, actually.
But even that doesn't tempt Tom, who was hoping for someplace a little more down-to-earth. Well, it's your honeymoon, Neelix says. "Just how down-to-earth did you mean?"
"Earth." (bah-dum boom.) "I was thinking Chicago in the Roaring '20s--Speakeasies, flappers, the Charleston." Neelix is clearly disappointed that Tom's plans are so mundane--it's not often that the Morale Officer gets to whip up a honeymoon. Tom asks if that's a problem. No, Neelix says, but "we're so close to Earth I thought you might want to try something a little more exotic." What, a honeymoon set 450 years in the past isn't exotic? Some planets base their entire culture on 1920s Chicago...
Paris leans forward. "Let me let you in on a little secret, Neelix. Earth has the best vacation spots in the galaxy. It's got the cultures, the climates, the history, the people. It has everything you ever want in a planet!"
Sheesh--since when did Tom get so Hooked on Terra? His last vacation spot on that planet was a prison colony...
"You sound like a travel brochure," Neelix says, teasing him a little.
Tom laughs. "No. No. Just a native."
Ah, sweet irony...
In main Engineering, B'Elanna--is she Paris now, or still Torres?--prepares to hand her pride-and-joy engines over to Seven of Nine. (Perhaps Joe Carey is still under house arrest.) B'Elanna's final notes are typical "nobody knows these babies like I know them, so don't even try" stuff, perfectly understandable behavior from a dedicated chief engineer.
For her part, Seven of Nine looks annoyed; she thinks she can do the job just fine without this bit of final-word nonsense. "There is no point in providing me with knowledge I already possess."
B'Elanna backs off a little. "I guess I am being a little overcautious. I've just, uh, never been away from Engineering for more than a couple of days...Certainly never a week." Och; her wee bairns...
"My engineering abilities are more than sufficient," Seven assures her. "Enjoy your 'honeymoon'." Seven's tone makes honeymoon sound like root canal.
For some reason, this gets B'Elanna back in Engineer mode again, looking for reasons to stay. "You may understand the iso-dynamics of this engine, but I don't think you understand its personality."
"Personality," Seven repeats. "It is a propulsion device."
"That's my point! It's not just a device. It-it has its own quirks, its own...Its own moods!" Spoken like a true engineer.
Speaking of moods...something in Engineering is feeling uppity at the moment--an alarm blares. Seven's initial diagnosis: "It's just a minor fluctuation in a subsidiary injector port." Seven says she can handle it alone, but B'Elanna insists on coming along--her shift doesn't end for another twenty minutes.
The notorious ButtCam gets a workout as B'Elanna and Seven crawl through the Jefferies tubes. (Believe it or not, I didn't even notice until another reviewer pointed it out. Silly me, I was focusing on dialog.)
"So, who's the lucky guy?" B'Elanna asks. "You caught the bouquet. That means you're next in line for the altar." (Hmmm. I don't remember seeing an altar in the teaser...) But Seven isn't impressed. "The Doctor informed me of that archaic human superstition."
"How about Harry Kim?" B'Elanna asks. (Oh, come on--giga-warp I can buy. A P/T wedding, certainly within the realm of possibility. But B'Elanna actually encouraging Seven of Nine and Harry Kim to get together? Something freaky is going on.) But Seven doesn't seem interested in Harry. Well, not just Harry. "I fail to see the benefit of monogamous relationships."
Why, you little corseted hoochie!
"So you want to stay single?" asks B'Elanna, with the incredulity of the newly-married who can't imagine anyone not wanting to follow their example. Seven, crawling behind B'Elanna, says, "If you mean remain open to social situations with a wide variety of individuals, then yes." My ears! My ears! They burn! Skinsuited strumpet!
B'Elanna takes umbrage. "I'm married--I'm not going into stasis for the rest of my life! No, I plan to have--"
But Seven isn't done. "I do not wish to be dependent on anyone. By marrying, one limits one's romantic interactions to a single individual--a circumstance which implies extreme monogamy."
Extreme monogamy. Hmmm....The Mountain Dew of committed long-term relationships. I like the sound of that!
My goodness. This is not the shadowy, lurking loner we've come to know and love (or love to hate), though. This Seven of Nine sounds like she's itchin' to sow more wild oats than General Mills. And generally speaking (oy, what a pun), B'Elanna and Seven are getting along better than we're used to, as well. No major arguments. No bloodletting. No catfighting.
Where were we? Oh, yes, the anomaly. They reach the Jefferies tube and find the controls not functioning. Breaking out the manual-release paddles, they pry the doors apart.
Wavy Gravy, anyone?
B'Elanna, seasick at the sight of the undulating interior of the tube, casts Seven a baleful look. "I thought you said it was a minor fluctuation."
"This entire Jefferies tube is losing molecular cohesion," a frowning Seven says after consulting her tricorder.
"I guess the honeymoon's off," B'Elanna says.
Somehow, I doubt Rosie in Terre Haute took this news well.
B'Elanna briefs the señor staff in the conference room. "It's our warp field. The enhanced drive is emitting some form of subspace radiation that's affecting Voyager's infrastructure," B'Elanna says.
"It's beginning to break down the molecular bonds in all surrounding sections," Tuvok adds.
"We're seeing early stages of the effect in the warp core. Reaction chamber, injector ports--they're all showing signs of de-cohesion." Harry protests that they checked all this stuff out repeatedly in simulations before they brought the new drive on-line, but considering his quality control in "Timeless" it's not exactly encouraging to see his "inspected by No. 47" sticker on the warp core.
Janeway asks if they tried taking the core offline; B'Elanna says it didn't stop the decaying. Janeway assigns her to isolate the cause and lock down the affected sections. The captain then dismisses the crew, and continues to work on the problem in private with Commander Chakotay. They stare into each other's eyes across the throbbing computer display of the souped-up warp core.
As the conference room doors close, we hear the distinctive sound of saxophones playing bad jazz.
Is it something in the water? Compared to the crew this week, bunny rabbits engage in extreme monogamy...
B'Elanna's jacket is half off before the doors close behind her in the new Paris Family quarters (I assume). B'Elanna tosses the coat aside; the full view of her Starfleet-issue tanktop perpetuates (say it with me, people) the Season of the T-Shirt.
"Computer. Begin Chief Engineer's Log, Supplemental. I've spent the last four hours analyzing the warp field schematics but I'm still no closer to finding out what's going wrong."
Just as B'Elanna gets out the word wrong, she sits down at a chair--and promptly gasps, hugging herself tightly. "Computer, did it just get colder in here?" (Klingons are notoriously averse to cold--"Displaced".) Nope, says the computer. Even so, B'Elanna orders the heat turned up a few degrees.
Any bets on what the First Fight of the Paris family will be about?
B'Elanna, shivering a little, heads for the bathroom. In the better light, we see her flesh has no lasting scars from her "Extreme Risk" days.
But as B'Elanna looks into the mirror, and pushes her hair aside, we do see something rather unexpected. She wasn't expecting it either, and her eyes widen in horror when she notices it.
Her cheek is liquefying like Odo just before bedtime.
Mr. Shaq, if you please?
Harry Kim and Tom Paris stroll through the corridors. Harry asks Tom if he's hungry, but Tom reminds him he's got a wife to go home to. Harry chuckles. "Married one day and you're already domesticated." Tom laughs. "Jealous? Good night, Harry."
Tom enters his quarters, and instantly feels the heat--it's like walking into a blast furnace. His combadge actually changes color under the thermal barrage. "B'Elanna? If we're going to live together we're going to have to compromise on the temperature. Computer, reset environmental controls to standard."
As soon as the room temperature reaches--well, room temperature, we hear a gasp from the bathroom. Tom runs in to find B'Elanna underneath the mirror in a fetal position, hugging herself, hanging on for dear life. Her forehead is clammy with perspiration. She's hyperventilating too much to speak. Her face is still melting.
Tom, eyes wide with sudden panic, does his best to soothe his bride.
Seconds later, he's half-carrying B'Elanna, still shivering uncontrollably, into Sickbay.
They're not alone. Crewmen with disfigured faces, under heavy blankets, are already occupying nearly all the beds. "Bring her in, quickly," The Doctor says when he sees Tom. "It looks like we've got an epidemic on our hands." He helps Tom drag B'Elanna out of camera range.
Yowsa. Whoever catered the reception is going to be scrubbing Bolian lavatories for the next two years, eleven days and six hours...
* * *
As B'Elanna Paris lies still, Tom Paris runs his hand up from her navel to her neck. Unfortunately, she's unconscious and his hand holds a medical tricorder. His expression is pained as he looks down on his stricken bride.
The Doctor and Captain Janeway talk in his office, observing Tom and B'Elanna on the other side of the glass. "Acute cellular degradation?" Janeway asks.
"Their chromosomes are breaking down at the molecular level." Ouch. "Proximity to the warp field," Janeway surmises, and The Doctor seems to agree. He pulls out his own tricorder and scans the captain as he speaks. "B'Elanna and my other three patients all work in Engineering. They've been subjected to the heaviest exposure. But preliminary scans suggest the rest of the crew has been affected as well..." he examines the readings and sighs. "Including the Captain. It's only a matter of time before you begin showing the same symptoms."
"We've shut down the warp drive . . . but the ship is still deteriorating and so are we." Janeway furrows her brow. "Why?"
In the mess hall, Neelix and Chakotay and Tuvok approach the dilemma from another angle.
"Every bulkhead and conduit from Deck One to 15 show signs of molecular de-cohesion," Tuvok reports, and Neelix adds that anything replicated, even food, shows similar signs of decay. Chakotay suggests that Voyager's atmosphere might have something to do with it.
But Neelix points to a table full of stuff. Fresh vegetables, for instance. "They weren't replicated. I harvested them on an away mission last week. The same goes for these particle accelerators the trilithium ore samples, the keg of Hazari ale. All of them were brought aboard over the last few months and none of them is disintegrating." Good sleuthing, Neelix! Tuvok says they've narrowed the time frame to about 30-40 weeks ago.
A mystery is afoot. "Something happened to the ship months ago that's causing this decay," Chakotay says. A logical conclusion, Tuvok says approvingly.
To the batcave!
Or Astrometrics. Same difference. Tuvok and Chakotay discuss a couple of missions (the Kmada, who tried to sabotage their life support; the n'kree, who tried to conscript Voyager into their battle fleet) that we've never heard of nor seen. The big Astrometrics screen gives us a rough idea of where in space they occurred. Neither event seems a likely reason for the ship to get goofy.
They keep looking.
In Sickbay, Tom begins a slow, anguished walk toward B'Elanna's bed. He's carrying something.
B'Elanna is awake. "Hey," he says tenderly. "Hey," she returns weakly, with a delicate smile. "How's my old lady?" he asks with a twinkle in his eye. "Well enough...to break your nose if you call me that again," she whispers. Atta girl. She's got spunk.
Tom laughs softly, fervently hoping she'll get the chance; nose breaking on the honeymoon is an auspicious omen. He holds up a thin, transparent yellow strip that looks like a high-tech fuse. "There it is," he says, pressing the chip into her leprous hand. The heart breaks to see her skin in such terminal condition. What is it, she whispers. Our honeymoon, he says. Tell me, she says.
With all the love he can muster, Tom locks eyes with his bride. This monologue is all the honeymoon they're likely to get, and he's determined to make it memorable.
"Six days and seven nights..." (Nooooh! That movie suuuucked!) "--in the historic Graystone Hotel in beautiful downtown Chicago, circa 1928. Uh, wait till you see it--crystal chandeliers, wall-to-wall Italian marble. We'll take a drive up Michigan Avenue in a vintage Duesenberg, hobnob with the stars of the silver screen, dance the Charleston at a genuine speakeasy called the Green Mill."
B'Elanna's eyes, barely open and discolored, are nonetheless dreamy, as she imagines the scene. "What do I wear?"
"That's already taken care of," he assures her, as his eyes mist up. "Our bags are packed and waiting for us at the hotel."
B'Elanna gives a rattling, blissful sigh. "Champagne?" she asks. He smiles down on her. "It's on ice...in a silver bucket...right next to our canopy bed." I'll build you a rainbow...
And on that image, B'Elanna Paris' eyes flutter shut for the last time, as flights of angels guide her to her rest.
Tom's eyes go wide in horror as an alarm blares. He calls the Doctor over. They make a valiant, but futile, effort. Finally, the Doctor, face ashen, makes it official. "We've lost her."
Tom's anguish yields to determination. He continues his efforts to bring her back. The Doctor sympathizes, but knows that letting this go on too long will only hurt Tom. "There's nothing more we can do," he says gently.
"Uh, maybe we can try a direct neural resequencing," Tom says, ignoring the Doctor, thinking furiously--refusing to give up, stabbing at the bed's controls like a man possessed.
"Lieutenant..." The Doctor warns softly, reaching for Paris' shoulder.
But he brushes Doc aside. "We can't just let her die!" he shouts, his panic rising.
"Return to your quarters," The Doctor pleads.
"No!" Tom screams, slapping away Doc's hand. His fury dissolves; he leans against the bed and clutches B'Elanna's lifeless hands, as primal emotion obstructs his throat. "I don't want to leave her," he whispers, his voice desolate. The Doctor finally convinces him to step away so he can begin the post-mortem.
Tom steps back, his eyes never leaving his wife's. Till Death Do Us Part isn't nearly enough for him now.
In Astrometrics, Chakotay and Tuvok continue their stroll down memory lane. They finally reach "Ten months, 11 days ago. Voyager was forced to land on a Class-Y planetoid in the Vaskan sector." (11, of course, is 4+7...)
Chakotay gives us the mostly vomit-free recap of "Demon": "The Demon-Class planet...one of our more interesting missions." (Oh, gag me.) "We set down looking for deuterium and ended up helping a new form of life to be born." (Well, that's one way of looking at it....)
"The planet possessed a bio-mimetic compound," Tuvok says for the record.
"The 'silver blood,'" Chakotay seconds. "It sampled our DNA and created duplicates of the entire crew."
"I've often wondered what happened to them," Tuvok says, voice all dreamy, as if this were a good memory. "Are they flourishing? Have they continued to evolve?"
I've got one. Why the heck did they allow themselves to be cloned in the first place?
Ahem. Excuse me.
"Do they still resemble us?" Chakotay adds.
Two shakes of a lamb's tail later, Chakotay and Tuvok enter Sickbay. The Doctor is performing the post-mortem. B'Elanna's condition has worsened. (Yeah, I know, she's dead, but she's even deader now. She looks like an X File.)
"Is she...?" Chakotay asks, and The Doctor confirms it. Chakotay gives himself a second to grieve before proceeding. "Scan for traces of deuterium hydrogen sulfate and dichromates." Dichromates? The Doctor asks. "Just do it," Chakotay orders, earning him a hefty royalty from Nike. What's this about? The Doctor asks. "We have a disturbing theory," Tuvok says cryptically.
Sure enough, "I'm detecting all of those compounds," The Doctor says, surprised.
Chakotay frowns; he didn't want to be right about this. "I want you to inject her with a dichromate catalyst." The Doctor balks, but he insists. "We've got to be sure."
The Doctor injects Torres with the catalyst. Within seconds, she turns into a metallic puddle.
By the light (by the light, by the light)
Of the silvery goo . . .
The Doctor is horrified. "I don't understand!"
"That wasn't B'Elanna," Chakotay explains. "It was a duplicate...a bio-mimetic copy."
"Copy?" The Doctor asks.
"We are all duplicates," Tuvok says. "None of us are real."
These are the Demon clones? How did they get a ship? How did they leave the planet? Why would they want to? Demon Harry and Demon Tom loved that little Class Y monstrosity, saw beauty in it completely alien to the human crew, and above all couldn't live in the conditions under which Voyager flew. In fact, Voyager could not reproduce the conditions under which Demon clones could survive.
The only good thing about "Demon" is that it ended. And now they bring that pustulent freak of cinema back for a sequel?!?!? What's next, Mortal Coil II? Another Threshold? My Three Favorite Sons?
But that's just one reviewer's opinion, of course.
* * *
Janeway and Chakotay, The Doctor and Tuvok, stand around the remains of B'Elanna Torres-Paris. At present, she resides in a transparent Super Big Gulp cup.
"Behold the primordial soup," The Doctor announces.
Janeway, the lines of her jaw just beginning to show the same degradation that killed B'Elanna, looks at the puddle of former chief engineer with a mix of fascination and contempt. "That's what created us?" Not just us, Chakotay tells her; "The entire ship is composed of the same material."
"It's a bio-mimetic compound that duplicated the crew's molecular structure so precisely that I would never have detected it if I hadn't known what to look for," the Doctor explains. How conveeeenient.
Wouldn't you know it, Janeway--mud-puppy or not--is still Janeway. "I was born on Earth...in Indiana. I remember growing up there. I remember graduating from the Academy. I have no memory of being a copy." Yeah, yeah; she experimented with the Demon planet but didn't break the laws of the Federation (they were in the Delta Quadrant at the time), and besides she didn't inhale and didn't enjoy it.
The Doctor has an answer for Janeway: "Apparently, the original Kathryn Janeway's memories were duplicated as well. Somehow, after the real Voyager left we began to forget we were duplicates." Now, that would have been useful information to remember. I might have written something like that down.
"Eventually, we assumed their lives and set a course for Earth," Chakotay says.
"And now the warp core is breaking down our cellular structure. We didn't think the radiation would hurt us because it isn't harmful to humanoids." The captain grumbles loudly.
"Each and every one of you will disintegrate just as B'Elanna did," the Doctor says, delivering the bad news. "I'm not immune, either. The holo-emitters, like everything else, are copies. It's only a matter of time before my program begins to degrade."
How can we stop the process, Janeway asks. Go back to the Demon planet, Chakotay says, and Tuvok concurs. They were created to survive there, after all. But Janeway says that's the wrong direction, thousands of light years back into the heart of the Delta Quadrant.
But I guess it depends on your perspective. Direction is an element of destination. Demon planet isn't the wrong way if that's where you're headed.
But Janeway is adamant. "Duplicate or not, I'm still the same person I was yesterday--" (though not the same as last year, she doesn't add) "--and so are all of you...and that means we're going to do everything possible to complete our mission, which is to reach Earth. Is that clear?"
Clone or not, she is She Who Must Be Obeyed. Eyes shift to the floor. "Yes, ma'am," Chakotay says, speaking for the class.
Janeway orders the environmental controls to simulate a Class-Y planet. (I thought that wasn't possible...) "That should slow the rate of degradation," she says. Tuvok, though, points out that the environmental control systems, as part of the mud-based Voyager clone, will ultimately fail as well.
"I realize that," Janeway says. "That's why we're going to try and find a safe harbor till we can figure out a way to stop the degradation. Scan for the nearest Class 'Y' planet and set a course. In the meantime...I'll explain our situation to the crew."
Oh, this should be fun. "First: you aren't who you think you are. We're actually Demon-class clones, for whom the climate and atmosphere of Earth is lethally uninhabitable. Second: we're going to Earth anyway..."
Suffice to say, it's not the smashing success the captain may have anticipated. The looks she gets from some of the nameless extras--and one high-ranking helm boy--are downright toxic.
"There's still a great deal we don't know about this phenomenon," Janeway concludes, "and I have every confidence we'll find a way to reverse it."
Harry Kim looks devastated. "So you're saying all our experiences before we were duplicated--none of it's real?"
Janeway smiles grimly. "I don't pretend to understand it myself, Harry...but the way I choose to look at it is this--if everything about us was duplicated, that includes our memory engrams--the emotional centers of our brain. So, if you feel something... remember something... believe something... I'm not about to tell you it's not real."
Neelix stammers out the words. "But there is another crew out there, right? The real Voyager."
Janeway shrugs. "I suppose there is, but I don't want that thought to distract any of you from our mission."
Tom Paris, arms folded, defiance oozing from every pore, asks, "What mission is that?"
Captain Janeway notes his tone, but ignores it, cutting him some slack--B'Elanna's loss affected her as well. "The same as it's always been, Tom -- to reach the Alpha Quadrant safe and sound. But to do that we're going to have to beat this problem...and for now, that means conserving energy. Running the ship in Grey Mode, cutting crew shifts in half. The less you exert yourselves, the slower the cellular decay."
Janeway locks eyes with everyone in the room. "Duplicates or not...you're still my crew. Dismissed."
After Janeway leaves, Tom also stalks off. Harry calls after him. "Tom..."
Tom stops and turns around. His glare is corrosive. "There's no one here by that name."
"I just wanted to say...I'm sorry about B'Elanna."
Demon Clone Tom knows how to project defensive disinterest. You can practically hear the shields go up. "Sorry? What for?"
This confuses Harry. "She was your wife!"
"She was a duplicate...just like you are--Harry." He seems to be clinging to this new discovery--if none of them are real, then B'Elanna may not be dead. That uncertainty beats the sure knowledge that he could take his newlywed bride on their honeymoon in a Thermos.
Rough position for Tom. Regardless, his B'Elanna is gone for good. The idea of joining his bride in liquid oblivion probably sounds better at the moment than a lifetime alone. What's the point of going on?
Well, Janeway has her ideas on that.
Harry's face grows hard. "You heard the Captain. If we're going to survive this we've got to believe in ourselves."
Tom laughs bitterly. "You can drop the good soldier routine. You don't have to do everything the Captain says anymore. Hell, she's not even the Captain."
"She is to me," Harry says, digging in his heels.
Tom shakes his head at his friend. "Okay. Well, let's suppose she does get us back to Earth--what then? You really think your family is going to welcome you with open arms?" Harry, who is utterly devoted to his family, hadn't thought about how they'd treat his duplicate. (I guess we could ask the Rikers how they cope...perhaps they could be brothers. What's Harry's middle name?)
Tom doesn't let up. "For all you know, the real Harry Kim is having Sunday dinner with them right now! And you come strolling through the door they're going to see you for exactly what you are--an impostor."
Harry gets angry. "So what are we going to do, huh? Wait around till we all disintegrate?"
Tom frowns and walks away. His look suggests he wouldn't mind that one bit. He heads to Sickbay to reserve his spot on the beaker next to B'Elanna's.
Voyager ripples as it flies through space, like a giant gummi starship in a wind tunnel.
Inside, a large meeting hall has been converted into an extension of Sickbay. Crewmen fill the beds, in various stages of molecular decay.
The Doctor tells Janeway that none of his efforts have yielded success so far. But he does have an idea--track down the real Voyager and grab some more DNA to use as genetic duct tape.
Janeway is looking pretty droopy these days. Her right eye is partially closed. The number of facial blemishes has tripled. Her voice is slightly slurred. But her resolve is as strong as ever. "Doctor, we have no way of knowing where they are. They could be behind us, ahead of us, back on Earth...destroyed! Besides, even if we could find the real Janeway, how do we know she'd help?"
The Doctor gives her the obvious answer. "She's you." How can Janeway not know what Janeway is thinking? Or maybe she knows exactly what the real Janeway would think--and would set phasers on Liquefy.
The Doctor begins to fizzle. Janeway orders him back to Sickbay. A moment later, Tuvok calls her to the bridge--they're within breathing distance of a Class-Y planet.
Harry walks over to Helm and gives the good news: 500+ degrees Kelvin, thermionic radiation, cloning pools of silver blood--home sweet home.
"Just what the Doctor ordered," Janeway sighs, standing over Tom Paris' shoulder. "Safe harbor?" She looks over her shoulder at Chakotay.
"There's no guarantee this is going to work," Chakotay warns, urging caution.
But they have little choice. Janeway gets the ball rolling. "Harry, vent all plasma from the nacelles. Transfer available power to atmospheric thrusters and stand by to commence landing sequence." She orders a red alert (which should have been Blue alert if they're planning to land, but oh well) and the crew springs to action. Tom's at the helm, and he does his job admirably. But he does look irritated to be taking orders from Janeway.
*warning this is a plot complication *warning this is a plot complication *warning...
"Captain, a vessel is approaching from the planet surface," Tuvok reports. Janeway orders it onscreen. The ship looks big, well-armed, and distinctly unfriendly. "They're hailing," Harry reports.
An unpleasant alien is heard but not seen. "You're in direct violation of the Ord'Mirit Mining Treaty. Leave orbit or you will be destroyed."
"They are firing weapons," Tuvok says before Janeway even has a chance to respond. Weapons fire rocks the ship, which gurgles from the barrage.
Janeway collapses into her chair. It's gonna be one of those days.
Where's that big, shiny, candy-like reset button again?
* * *
The alien ship fires some more. The energy blasts are absorbed by the exterior, causing liquid ripples throughout the hull.
But inside, things explode the way nature intended it when you take incoming weapons fire.
Janeway tries to assure the aliens that they're friendly, but after a few more blasts Chakotay remarks, "They seem to disagree."
"We're not interested in your mining operation," Janeway persists. "Our ship is badly damaged. We need to set down on the surface to make repairs."
"We repeat: leave or be destroyed," says the alien, punctuating his demands with a few more potshots. Chakotay points out that they canna take much more of this. Their first few return shots do little damage.
Tuvok reports hull breaches. Harry adds that those sections are returning to their native muddy state. Janeway orders those decks evaluated. I mean evacuated.
Tuvok has a suggestion: with a polaron burst, they could take down the alien shields and do a direct shot on their warp core. In a nutshell: instant kill shot. If it was a Borg she wouldn't think twice.
But Janeway refuses. "We're not going to destroy them over a misunderstanding." Either that or retreat, Tuvok points out, as more stuff ignites around them. But Janeway is adamant. "We're Starfleet officers." Or Memorex. Or Beatlemania. "We can't forget that."
She makes her decision. "Break orbit." Paris protests. She repeats the order. Tom, to himself but loudly enough for the whole bridge to hear, mutters, "I'm not sure why we're still taking orders from you."
"Lieutenant, follow orders or leave the bridge!" Chakotay snaps. Paris takes longer than expected to make his decision; he complies, and they break orbit. The alien does not pursue.
Janeway stands. "Begin scanning for other Class-Y planets. Harry, transmit a distress call on all subspace bands. If the real Voyager is out there I want to find them."
"In the meantime," Tom says loudly, "which direction do you want me to go?"
Captain Janeway glares at him. "Resume course for the Alpha Quadrant, Mr. Paris." He glares back, but does as he's told when he sees the way Chakotay looks at him.
Janeway heads for her ready room.
As soon as the door shuts, Janeway whirls on her first officer. "I know what you're going to say and I don't want to hear it!"
"Too bad!" Dang; this is not the Chakotay we're used to. Of course, the gelatinous cheeks are a dead giveaway.
Janeway glares through her one good eye. "I'm willing to take a little insolence from Tom," she slurs drunkenly, "but I shouldn't have to remind you that I'm still the Captain."
"You're not," he reminds her harshly. "You're a bio-mimetic life-form created in her image!"
"Are you saying you're not taking orders from me anymore?" she slurs.
"I'm saying you need to step back and look at our situation objectively."
Yo, Tattoo Boy--cloned or not, this is Janeway you're talking to. Detachment? Objectivity? Wrong captain, akoona mutata dude.
Janeway, outraged, thinks he's talking about blowing up that alien ship. No, he says, he agreed with her on that. "But how long can we adhere to Starfleet principles before we start making compromises?" As long as it takes, Janeway says. "Our ship may be deteriorating but our humanity is intact."
Umm, mud girl? Your humanity came courtesy of Xerox.
"Belief alone won't hold this ship together," Chakotay tells her. "It's gotten us this far," Janeway says. "Not far enough," he argues.
Chakotay sighs as he takes the heat down a notch. "Tom and I aren't the only ones who question your decisions. Now that the truth is known, a lot of people think we should turn around and head for the Class-Y planet. They're starting to remember their existence before Voyager!"
Janeway's drunken drawl is almost unintelligible. "What? What existence? Pools of bio-mimetic fluid? We didn't even experience sentience until Voyager came along."
"What good is sentience if we're not alive to experience it?" Chakotay counters. "Kathryn, we've got to go back!"
"I promised the crew I'd get them home!"
Chakotay fires the polaron burst, takes the kill shot. "Home. Isn't. Earth."
He punctuates his assertion with a truly gruesome display of live-action decomposition. Bio-emetic fluid. Blecch.
The argument ends as friendship and loyalty take over. "Janeway to Sickbay: medical emergency."
Another bio bed. Another painfully tender moment. Janeway, hair a mess, face melting, looks on with anguish as the Doctor's futile efforts to save the commander proceed...until there's nothing left to do.
As Heather pointed out: the Season of Pain streak is running neck and neck with the Season of the T-Shirt. We are spared the final look at the commander; at the rate he was going in her ready room, it's a good bet it wasn't pretty.
Janeway enters the bridge on unsteady legs. She pauses at Tactical to give a lingering look at Tuvok. Her face, when we see it, is a mask of pain as she addresses the bridge crew.
"We've lost Commander Chakotay. Duplicate or not, he was real to me...and he was a fine Starfleet officer. And..."
SAY IT!!! It's an alternate Voyager where anything can happen, and hormones run rampant, and silver blood runs hot in your veins! Babies and weddings and horny polyandrous ex-Borg declaring the ship a target-rich environment! Who knows what the Captain/First Officer relationship is on Demon Voyager? Even Mulder and Scully can lock lips on that Bermuda Triangle vessel...
"He was a friend..."
(twelve throat lozenges, three bullets, a police report, and a replacement television later...)
"...who...wasn't afraid to let me know when I am wrong." Janeway turns to Harry. "Mr. Kim, bring the enhanced warp drive on-line." She turns her half-lidded gaze to Tom Paris. "Turn Voyager around. We're going home."
Tom turns around and looks at her to make sure he's hearing what he thinks he's hearing. Janeway changing her mind is a rare thing. "Captain..."
"Set a course...for the Demon Planet."
Janeway slumps into her seat. The look on her face is one of utter defeat. Darn that Chakotay for dying on her anyway. He got the last word.
* * *
Captain's Log, Supplemental. We've lost 63 crewmen, and our systems are continuing to fail. Though we're still five weeks away from the Demon Planet we haven't given up hope.
Voyager's rippling liquid hull sections are increasing. Inside, what remains of the senior staff are looking decomposed enough to make a Vidiian wince. Janeway's right eye is almost completely melted shut. Her face writhes.
"The holographic projectors in Sickbay went off-line at 0300," Harry reports. "We've lost the Doctor."
"What's Tom's condition?" the captain asks. No change, says Harry. Janeway says they need a new medical officer, looks around the room, and picks Neelix. Seven of Nine would be a better choice--but she's the chief engineer these days. Neelix points out that he has other duties, but as Janeway notes, "at this point...morale is a luxury."
Janeway asks Seven of Nine about the warp core. Seven of Nine says she assimilated the engine room with modified nanoprobes, which has helped somewhat. "It should remain functioning until we reach the Demon Planet. However, there is less than a 20% probability that Voyager will remain intact that long."
The way they look, I'm not surprised. At this point, B'Elanna looks healthier.
But Janeway is nothing if not resilient. "Well...It won't be the first time this crew has been...Up against..." she seems to doze off, as the writhing on her face accelerates. Harry, worried, calls her name.
Her eye flutters open. "It's all right. I'm just...a little tired. Now...there is another matter. I want to download the ship's database...and our personal logs into a signal beacon. In the event we don't survive, there should be some record of our accomplishments."
"A time capsule..." Harry whispers. Good idea. Late, but good.
"This crew's existence may have been brief...but it's been distinguished," Janeway rasps. "None of you...deserves to be forgotten." Seven of Nine says she'll take care of it, using unaffected components picked up on away missions to construct a beacon.
The ship begins to rumble. They all trudge to the door separating the conference room from the bridge.
It's a spare crew; Harry is now first officer, taking the seat next to the Captain; Neelix takes Ops; and Seven of Nine handles Tactical and Engineering.
"The deflector's off-line," Harry drawls. "Interstellar dust is contaminating the warp field." It sounds it, too; I've had cars that made this noise.
"Purge it," says Janeway at one-third speed. But there's a complication, Seven of Nine says--the exhaust manifolds have disintegrated.
Janeway finally makes it to her chair. She sloshes when she sits. "We've come too far to be stopped by dust. Reroute auxiliary power to the deflector." Seven counts down to warp field failure as Harry works feverishly (at a blazing 75% efficiency) with his disintegrating fingers to get the deflector online.
At three seconds to go, Harry succeeds. The rumbling stops. The warp field stabilizes.
Neelix sighs. "I may not be morale officer anymore but I think this is a cause for celebration. What do you say, Captain?"
But Janeway isn't moving. Her face is now almost totally liquid. Neelix rushes over (as fast as his wobbly legs will take him) and performs his first medical diagnosis. Ashen, Doctor Neelix gives his diagnosis.
She's dead, Kim.
Well, Seven--if you wanted to play the field, I'd say you'd better hurry. Soon, there won't be enough options left for anything but extreme monogamy.
The ship looks darn near totally liquid now as it ripples through space. Inside looks, if anything, worse--entire rooms are melting. (Very cool special effect, BTW.)
Harry Kim: Acting Captain's log, Stardate 52597.4. Our situation's getting worse every day. More than 80% of the ship is uninhabitable. Most of the crew is gone. It seems less and less likely that the few of us left will reach our destination.
There's only about four people left standing these days--Neelix, trudging from one deathbed to the next. Seven of Nine, face almost gone but body still perfectly proportioned (that is one heck of a prescription unitard), manages to stride around Engineering with most of her usual vigor, though her speech is slowed. On the bridge, it's pretty much just Captain Kim, looking like his action figure after a few minutes in the microwave.
Cargo Bay Two decompresses. Seven is now homeless. Harry orders the deck sealed off. Hull integrity is now under 50%.
He looks over his shoulder in time to see the entire bridge interior begin to melt. He calls down to Seven and orders a level-ten force field. Reroute whatever it takes. She gives him the last of their power reserves, which returns the bridge to something approaching normal.
"That's better," Harry says. "How's life support?"
"Degrading. We have approximately ten hours of air remaining."
"What about the time capsule?" Ready for launch, she tells him. "Do it," he says.
Long story short: the launch fails, and the probe is destroyed.
So it goes.
Harry collapses in the chair. His stint as captain has not been auspicious. He mutters like a damned soul. "Personal logs...mission logs...all our history...gone."
There's not much left to go wrong.
Harry notices a console beeping. He calls down to Seven. "I'm detecting a vessel...22 light-years away," Seven reports. We see it onscreen--fuzzy as all get-out, but unmistakably Voyager.
The real one.
And wouldn't you know it, the com system's down. "If they move out of range, they won't see us," says Harry desperately. He runs another diagnostic. "We still have one active com circuit but we'll have to go to impulse to use it. Seven, drop out of warp."
"The engine controls are fused," Seven says a moment later. "Then unfuse them," he orders. "Without an isolitic converter, I cannot comply," she says.
Harry thinks furiously. Then he gets an idea. "Dump the core." Seven looks horrified (not to mention horrifying--Freddy Krueger would puke after one good look at her). "Ensign, dropping out of warp at this velocity could tear the ship apart."
"We're already falling apart," Harry reminds her. "We're not going to make it to the Class-Y planet in one piece, which means that ship is our only hope. Think about it! What would Captain Janeway have done?"
Grabbed a pot of Yuban, found someone to demote, and blown a few things up, I suspect.
But Harry's pep talk does the trick. Seven orders the core dump. "Authorization: Seven of Nine, omega phi nine three." The computer, static-warped and stuttering, announces that the ejection system is enabled.
"Eject the core."
The ejection didn't go well. Stuff explodes all over the place. "We've lost attitude control and shields," Seven shouts. "Hull integrity at 19%!"
"Reroute life support! Hell, reroute everything we've got left to the containment fields!"
The melting accelerates, inside and out. Seven reports even more hull breaches. There aren't many intact decks left.
On the bridge, Harry stands alone. "Seven. Seven!" he shouts, but gets no response. "Computer...How long until we're within hailing range of that ship?"
Max Headroom responds. "f-f-f-five minutes...And th-thir...Th-thirty..."
The real Voyager hauls nacelles at emergency warp.
In the bright and shiny bridge, all the familiar faces are here, and they're all nicely intact. "Range?" Captain Janeway asks Ensign Paris. Five million kilometers, he reports. Janeway orders Tuvok to repeat the hail, but they get no response.
"Captain," Ensign Kim reports, "I've found the source of the distress call. It's coming from a vessel." "Can you identify it?" Chakotay asks. "No. The readings are erratic. Looks like they've taken heavy damage."
"400,000 kilometers," Tom Paris announces. Janeway orders a drop to impulse. Rescue teams are ready to go. Sickbay is prepared for casualties.
"In visual range," Tuvok says. "Onscreen," Janeway orders.
In space, they find a very large, very spread-out puddle. They don't recognize it for what it was. Why should they?
"Where's the ship?" Janeway asks. No sign of it, Harry says.
Chakotay shakes his head. "That debris...that couldn't be all that's left."
"I'm detecting residual deuterium, anti-neutrons, traces of dichromates," Tuvok says. "If it was a vessel, it isn't anymore." Janeway orders a scan for any life signs, escape pods, etc. None, Tuvok answers.
"Make a note in the ship's record--we received a distress call at 0900 hours, arrived at the vessel's last known coordinates at 2120. The ship was destroyed. Cause unknown. No survivors."
Well, it's not exactly a time capsule, but it'll have to do.
"Mr. Paris, resume course," Janeway says. "Aye, sir," Tom responds.
And off they go.
Considering how much I disliked "Demon," I was not looking at all forward to the sequel.
But I must confess, I was pleasantly surprised.
Like "Living Witness," this episode gives a few subtle (and not-so-subtle) clues early on that things are not as they seem. Lieutenant Tom Paris, for example, as Janeway declared him in the wedding scene. Tom's fondness for Earth, for another--while hardly conclusive, his past reticence about getting home and hearing from home makes his enthusiasm a bit suspicious. Seven of Nine's unprecedented level of social voraciousness.
Then of course, there's the liquid Jefferies tubes. The real Voyager hasn't had that problem since "Twisted."
I know some folks wished they'd prolonged the suspense, but for me the interesting part (the wedding aside) came after they discovered who and what they really were. The clash of identity--who they are, what they were, what they choose to be in the brief time they have to make that choice.
For me, choices seems a dominant theme in this episode.
Assuming that the Demon crew was an exact duplicate at the time, then we can see the result of a year's worth of different choices. Which course they took. Which planets they stopped off at for supplies. Which phenomena they chose to stop and investigate. Those choices inevitably lead to different experiences.
This Demon crew (which, it should be obvious, is NOT the crew we've been watching the last year) is a lot happier than Our Crew. Tom is still a Lieutenant; this means they never met the Moneans, he never got a case of Greenpeace Fever, and Janeway never yanked that black pip off his collar and chucked his freakishly unbalanced man-boobs into the brig for a month. (For the record, Tom's chest is fine. Oh, sure, he's no Chakotay, but still...) The Demon Harry Kim never encountered the glowing girlfriend Tal; his record (as far as we know) is still unblemished by official reprimand, and his body isn't racked by the effects of Alien Lust. This crew managed to avoid the mind-numbing two months inside DarkSpace, which may well mean there was no such thing as Captain Proton on Demon Voyager (it was created when Tom was bored out of his skull).
And consider: time not spent with Captain Proton could well mean time spent with B'Elanna. The events of "Night" and "Extreme Risk" also never occurred--no doubt Tom and B'Elanna worked through her anguish months ago, and they grew ever closer as a result. Hence the wedding.
What else--no vinculum, so no near-death experience for Seven. No transporter mishap, so no 29th-century Demon Superborg offspring, so no death, so no near-assimilation, so no angst for Seven there. No "Dark Frontier" so Seven can still happily ignore her painful childhood memories. No "Nothing Human" so there was no Crell Moset on board, so the Bajoran crewman's problems are still simmering below the surface and not bothering anyone, and the senior staff never had to deal with the issue. No heated arguments, no unilateral Janeway decisions, no complex moral dilemmas.
In short--no Season of Pain. Demon Voyager took the road less traveled. And though they had their own adventures and their own close calls, with good species donating a few kegs of ale to crew morale and evil species giving them hard times, this crew clearly has far less emotional baggage the Real Crew does at this point. Over time, that can't help but add up.
Of course, as Janeway tells Seven at the end of "Random Thoughts," that would make a dull ride home. Adversity is interesting. On-screen happiness is best in small doses. The Demon crew had a year of high-grade happiness. Right down to the fanfic-quality wedding of Tom and B'Elanna.
And for that--they deserve to die.
Once Chakotay discovered the truth, the crew had more choices. They could continue to be who they were "yesterday" as Janeway wants to, or they can go back further, return to the Great Link of bio-memetic fluid on the Demon planet.
Everyone reacts differently. Tom, reeling from the loss of B'Elanna, doesn't have a lot of motivation to stay human. Oblivion for him is a release from torment. Janeway, whose sense of mission and of self is indomitable, sees anything less than a return to Earth as a denial of self. She eventually does change course, honoring Chakotay's wish--and her condition promptly deteriorates.
I liked how the reactions differed once the news was known. Tom Paris, reeling from the loss of B'Elanna, chose a path of anger and denial. Part of him may indeed have been glad that he wasn't the real Tom--that meant that somewhere, the real B'Elanna might still be alive. For him, returning to the mud from which he sprang would be a release from his anguish. Death was just as good. But Janeway's insistence on continuing their mission now made little sense. Earth was death for this Voyager crew. He wanted none of it.
Neither did Chakotay. A knowledge of their nature told him that HOME was the Demon Planet. He did his part as first officer, supporting her on the bridge, acting as liaison for the crew to the Captain. He sealed his plea with his mud--I mean, blood.
But though some reacted that way, there were those whose memory engrams, formed from their originals, continued to press on. Janeway. Seven of Nine. Harry Kim. They did their duty to the end. Janeway remained true to the Janeway character, even sharing her obsession with Earth, even when it made no sense to. Harry continued to be loyal to the captain. Seven remained very much herself. I don't want to give a self=survival formula here because I don't think that's intended, but it does seem the more complex characters went earlier, and the more straightforward characters held on longer.
Or maybe they wanted to make sure that Harry Kim was the last man on Voyager, just so Seven's monogamy crack could come back to haunt her.
Emotionally, this episode worked for me.
The wedding scene was quite touching. There was humor, sentiment, music, cake, rings, an exchange of vows, a bouquet, rice. Everything a wedding should have. And this being a Trek wedding, someone died before the episode ended.
The scenes between Tom and B'Elanna were truly touching. I really felt for Tom when Torres died. He didn't give up, had to be kicked out of Sickbay. He continued to hurt afterward, and it affected his performance and his attitude--as well we would expect it to. His reaction was both reminiscent of Tom--and not. The differences were significant, and I think deliberate, and I approved.
Another common pitfall of this type of episode is the "what does it matter" question. In the end, the ship and crew died before contacting the Real Voyager. Our Voyager crew knows nothing of what was done in their name for the past year. The two ships took different paths. They used different means to move around. The Demon crew might actually have made it home first because of something they figured out, that Our Crew would have clearly benefited from. (Home in two years? Who wouldn't want that? It could have overwhelmingly changed Starfleet's reach in the cosmos.)
Is it a bad thing that all that knowledge, all those logs, all those memories were lost? It's bad for that lost crew. But what keeps me from screaming is that they did their damnedest to preserve them. They knew that was important, they tried to launch the records. But their ship was careening toward oblivion, jellifying by the moment, and the attempt failed. It happens.
They weren't completely forgotten. Their existence (unidentified though it was) was recorded by the real Voyager. And in the planets and cultures the other Voyager visited, we have some assurance that they behaved more or less exactly like we'd expect our Voyager crew to--whether that's a comfort or not depends on what you think of the crew. Since this Demon Voyager was well ahead of Our Voyager at least for a while, it's a good bet they could run into one or more of those planets or peoples the Demon Crew ran into along the way. I've already seen several fanfics to that effect.
Anyway. This was a crew I would have wanted to know more about--though in truth I'm glad we didn't see too much more of them than we did. The differences were intriguing. The real Voyager would have appreciated this, as they did to learn of the other crew in "Deadlock." But by the time they discovered who they were, it was too late; the bodies were already cooling.
Yeah, there are plenty of questions. First, did a clone Voyager spring up on the Demon planet out of whole cloth? If so, how? Would Janeway ever have permitted that?
Remember, a key part about "Demon" was that Paris and Kim were desperate to remain on the planet. The whole cloned crew, we expected, would stay on the planet, happy to be there--in fact, would die if they left. But according to this, the clones eventually forgot that they were clones, boarded the cloned Voyager, somehow acquired the gift of breathing earth-normal air (which they couldn't do in "Demon"), and took off like it was just another away mission. Didn't quite buy that--but then, I didn't quite buy "Demon."
There was a decent amount of internal consistency here. I didn't have to turn my brain off too much. It engaged my heart as well; I was emotionally involved. I cared what happened to the crew, and when they were lost, I mourned. It doesn't matter that the Real Crew is still around; this crew suffered, and I thought they suffered in a compelling way.
As for that new drive system--assuming the ships were more or less identical, there's nothing stopping the REAL Voyager from making such adaptations, eventually, once they come to mind. So there could be some foreshadowing here.
As to how the two ships could intercept, after nearly a year and thirty thousand or so light years following slightly different paths--with this new drive system, the claymation Voyager could easily have caught up, even with those three big jumps Our Voyager had, and even been ahead. They're both headed in the same direction, so their flight paths wouldn't be a great deal different, though some variations are not hard to believe.
The special effects were quite cool. It reminded me a bit of "Twisted," only more so. The rippling corridors, the melting controls, the oozing faces--nasty, but not too cheesy. Janeway's progressive degeneration was noticeable; her speech became increasingly slurred, from a mild impediment to a severely slowed, impaired sloshy drawl. She sounded like a melting candle, if such could talk. Impressive.
All in all, i enjoyed this. More than I expected to. The wedding, and deaths, of Tom and B'Elanna gave this an extra poignancy. The loss of all they'd accomplished is a loss keenly felt by the audience, though the Voyager crew doesn't know what they missed. Well, there's a lot they don't know what they're missing--such is the nature of the universe.
Call it (* * *). Yeah, I had to turn my brain off--but needing to forget the details of "Demon" isn't exactly a curse. Emotionally, this one drew me in, and kept me there through to the end.
Next week: Repeat of "Extreme Risk". Tom builds a new shuttle. B'Elanna builds up callouses.