|DELTA BLUES @ Reviewboy.com - Jim Reviews...|
Paramount pretty much owns everything you're about to read. It's their dialog, their characters, their franchise. For whatever reason, they've chosen to leave me alone, and I thank them for it.
This is all meant in good fun, as though I were reciting the episode to you around the water cooler at work. You'll find the closest thing online to watching the actual episode, though I do sometimes take liberties when I think it will help the narrative...or when I feel like it. Any errors in fact or interpretation are my responsibility alone.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television, United Paramount Network, and dot-cc at www.enic.cc. For the web address you really want, get dot-cc at www.enic.cc.]
The crew of the U.S.S. Voyager rescue the crew and passengers aboard a critically damaged vessel transporting convicts scheduled for execution. When the Doctor and Seven of Nine make a discovery that changes the ground rules, Captain Janeway and the crew have to walk the gray area between the Prime Directive and justice, with the ship's safety hanging in the balance.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Captain is on the bridge. So is most of the senior staff. On the forward viewscreen, there's a ship on fire.
"This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Starship Voyager. We're responding to your distress call."
"A ruptured conduit is flooding my ship with plasma radiation. We request immediate transport."
"I'm detecting eleven life signs," Harry Kim reports. "Two are weak."
"Transport the injured to Sickbay and the rest to cargo bay one," Janeway orders. She looks over her shoulder at Tuvok. "I want security teams at both locations." Tuvok nods and heads quickly to the turbolift.
Nine aliens beam into Cargo Bay One.
One of them, named Yediq, is the leader. At least, he's the loudest. "Our weapons!" he shouts when he realizes that something got lost in transit.
Tuvok arrives a moment later with a security detail. "They'll be returned to you when you leave," he explains.
Yediq isn't happy. "These are dangerous criminals. They have to be secured."
The Starfleet folks tense a little. "We'll do our best to accommodate you," Tuvok assures him.
Yediq does a quick head count. "I had eight men in custody. Where are the other two?"
In sickbay, one of the aliens is on the floor, too hurt to move.
The other is not.
"We're not going to hurt you," the Doctor says to the alien holding the sharp thing to Seven of Nine's throat.
The guy with the sharp thing, we'll eventually learn, is named Iko, and he's one bad muthah (shut yo mouth!). "Stay away or I'll kill her!" Iko shouts, his eyes gleaming like a wounded puma.
For her own part, Seven doesn't look all that intimidated.
Once again, Voyager proves the old adage. No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.
* * *
"I'm sure we can resolve this without resorting to violence," Doc says. "What is it you want?"
"A ship. Some food."
"I might be able to arrange that," Doc says. "But you'll have to release her first."
Iko holds Seven even tighter. "I'm not a fool." (Obvious joke omitted.)
Tuvok and Yediq enter, guns drawn.
Iko pushes the sharp thing closer to Seven's jugular. "You know I'll do it! Tell them."
"You're not getting off this ship," Yediq growls.
Tuvok plays Good Cop. "If you release her, I promise you won't be harmed."
Iko doesn't budge. "Not until I get a ship."
"We don't negotiate with criminals," Yediq sneers.
Doc isn't impressed by the Javert routine. "Who are you?" he asks the stranger who doesn't negotiate with criminals.
"Warden Yediq of the Nygean Detention Force. This man is my prisoner."
Doc rolls his eyes. "If that were true, he wouldn't be holding my friend hostage."
Iko is momentarily distracted by the Doctor's wit. Seven takes advantage of the situation--she elbows Iko in the gut, and scurries away. Iko recovers quickly, and grabs the Doctor. "Get back!" he yells.
Doc just smirks. "I'm a hologram. I can't be harmed."
Tuvok shoots the Doctor. The beam goes through him--turning him briefly translucent--and hits Iko, who falls stunned to the floor.
Doc looks at Tuvok with a grin. "I think you proved my point."
In the captain's ready room, Chakotay and Tuvok join with Janeway and Yediq in the upper area, near the spacious window.
"We're lucky you came along, Captain," Yediq says gratefully. "Ten more minutes and none of use would have survived the plasma leak."
"Your vessel was equipped with escape pods," Tuvok says. "Why didn't you use them?"
"I couldn't risk letting any of the prisoners get away. As you've seen, they're extremely dangerous." Nobody objects.
"Where are you taking them?" Chakotay asks.
"Back to our homeworld. They're due to be executed."
24th-century Federation folks aren't real fond of the death penalty. Killing them in battle is cool, and the occasional blood feud is tolerated. But state-sponsored executions? Yediq couldn't have shocked them more if he said he was a Soylent Green farmer.
The sudden chill in the room is palpable.
"What were their crimes?" Tuvok asks.
"All eight are murderers. Three are multiple offenders." Well, if you've got to die for something, that's up there. Of course, this being Trek, you just know it ain't gonna be that simple.
"We're just 13 light-years from our system. I'd appreciate it if you'd take us back there."
Janeway gets up from the couch. "Actually, we were headed in the opposite direction." She says this a little too enthusiastically. Clearly, the Green Lightyear is not a trip she's eager to make.
"I could arrange for one of our ships to rendezvous with Voyager," Yediq says quickly. "It'll take several days. My prisoners will have to be strictly monitored."
Janeway considers this, then nods. "Commander Tuvok will help you make arrangements."
Tuvok acknowledges. He and Yediq leave together.
Chakotay stays behind. "Some of the crew may not be comfortable helping to deliver eight men to their deaths."
"I can't say I like it, either," Janeway admits. "But...we have a Prime Directive to follow."
Sickbay is more peaceful now. Iko paces around the surgical bay, behind a force field, but without a hostage he's no longer making demands. The Doctor is pacing while Seven observes him with a wry smile.
"Thirty more seconds and I could have resolved the situation peacefully. Instead, you and 'Tuvok the Kid' had to take matters into your own hands." Doc then sizzles a bit, which causes him to forget his mini-rant.
Doc sighs. "Commander Tuvok's friendly fire must have caused a feedback surge in my emitters."
"I'll help you repair it," Seven says.
The sickbay door opens and the captain enters. "How are you?" she asks Seven.
Iko calls out to Janeway. "You! This your ship?"
Janeway gives him an amused stare. "Yes."
"Then let me out."
Janeway's eyes widen at his impertinence. "I'm afraid I can't do that."
Iko pulls a G. Gordon Liddy, holding his hand to the force field for an extended period. The smell of burning flesh fills the room. After a few seconds, enough to prove his willpower and lack of common sense, he lets his hand drop. He stares hard at the captain. "If you don't, I'll kill you all."
Janeway isn't impressed. She slaps her chest. "Janeway to Tuvok. Are the prisoners' accommodations ready?"
"Then by all means, initiate transport."
Cargo Bay One is now Cell Block Number Nine. Iko and the other prisoner find themselves in cells of their own.
"You're sure these will hold them?" Yediq asks.
Tuvok seems to think so. "The force fields are impenetrable, as are the tritanium bulkheads. In addition to your staff, two Voyager security officers will remain here at all times. Two more will be posted at the entrance of the cargo bay."
"What about our weapons?" Yediq asks.
"You'll be allowed to carry them in this area only. When you leave the cargo bay you'll be asked to surrender them."
Yediq notices Neelix wheeling in a big stew pot. "What's this?" he demands.
"Dinner," Neelix says cheerfully. "Since you can't bring the prisoners to the mess hall, I brought the mess hall to them."
Yediq takes a sniff. "What is it?"
"Talaxian spice stew served over leola rice pilaf. It's an old family recipe."
Yediq's nose scrunches up. "Take it back."
Neelix looks at Tuvok. "Too spicy?" he asks.
Yediq shakes his head. "These men don't deserve such an elaborate meal." His voice goes hard. "Take it back," he repeats.
"Federation guidelines are quite clear about the treatment of prisoners," Neelix says.
"He is correct," Tuvok says.
"I can quote the protocols if you like." Neelix's voice stays cordial, but he stands his ground.
Yediq considers his options, and realizes he has none. He grabs the sporks in a clenched fist. "My men will assist you."
Neelix starts ladling out bowls for prisoners. One, a youngish, friendly looking death row type, accepts it gratefully. "Thanks for standing up to Yediq," he says.
"Just doing my job."
"Still, it was kind."
Hey, wait--he's not your typical hardened killer. Neelix notices it too.
I sense a plot complication.
Doc paces irritably while Seven does her level best to stabilize his matrix.
"This would be easier if you would remain stationary," she tells him.
"It doesn't feel right!" Doc says.
"You may experience unusual sensations while your matrix realigns."
[Warning: ethical debate ahead...]
Doc frowns at her. "I was referring to the 'arrangement' the Captain's made with the Nygeans. No matter how terrible the crimes these men committed, it seems wrong to hand them over to be executed. This is a Federation Starship, not the Barge of the Dead."
"Would you have preferred the Captain release them?"
"Of course not. They're dangerous men."
Seven shrugs. "Executing them ensures they'll never pose a threat to anyone again."
"So would life sentences...the operative word being life."
"Confining them for life requires significant resources. The Nygeans may not think it worthwhile."
"What about rehabilitation? Given the chance, some of these men might become productive members of society one day!"
"Their victims won't have the same opportunity," Seven counters.
"And that justifies taking their lives? 'An eye for an eye?' It's not justice, it's revenge! Quite frankly, I'm surprised you're not troubled by such a barbaric system."
"I'm simply being objective," Seven says. "You often encourage me to see both sides of an argument."
"Well...This is one occasion when my programming won't allow me to be objective. Killing is wrong no matter who's doing it."
As one might suspect from his actions in Sickbay, Iko is not a model prisoner. He scrapes the bottom of the bowl like he's digging for buried treasure.
The prisoner who thanked Neelix for his kindness, Joleg, is in more of a taunting mood now. "Still hungry?" he asks. "I can hear your stomach from here. This must be the first time in a month you couldn't steal poor Egrid's meal." He takes another bite from his own bowl. "Good, isn't it?"
"Mmm..." Iko says. He grabs the bowl, and tosses it--hard--at the force field.
Yediq is there in seconds. "Is there a problem?"
"Iko was just telling me he didn't get enough to eat," says Joleg with a grin.
"I see," he says. He glares at Iko. "Cause another disturbance and I'll see to it you're not fed the rest of this journey. Do you understand?"
Iko starts doing pull-ups off the chain ceiling. "Boche and Ledara..." he says.
Yediq goes cold. "What did you say?"
Iko smiles. His eyes are blank. "Your children," he says.
"How did you know that?" Yediq demands.
Iko smirks. "Are you sure they're safe?"
Yediq's face becomes a mask. He calls over his other guards. "Some people don't understand why we deal so harshly with men like you. It's because you never learn."
He drops the force field, and he and his men enter Iko's cell. They proceed to get medieval on Iko's ass. They whup him like a government mule. They open several cans of whupass on him. And when they're done with that, they Rodney King him for a while.
By the time the Starfleet guards arrive on scene, Iko's face looks like cherry Jell-O. "Stand down!" they yell. And again, "Stand down!"
Yediq lands another steel-toed boot into Iko's forehead. "He needs to be disciplined."
The Starfleet guard raises his phaser. "Lower your weapons and step away."
One by one, the guards exit the cell. One gives Iko a final kick in the ribs for good measure.
Iko is too unconscious to react.
* * *
If Yediq was looked down on by Chakotay for being pro-execution, you should see the look Tattoo Boy is giving him now that he's also revealed as a proud prisoner-stomper.
"Our response was justified!" Yediq rages.
Janeway is furious. "How do you justify beating a defenseless man?"
"Violence is the only thing he understands."
"You seem to have a pretty good grasp of it yourself," she says bluntly, giving him a skunk eye that would cave in the skull of a lesser man.
Yediq merely bristles. "Do not presume to tell me how to handle my prisoners, Captain. You don't know Iko like I do. He killed a young father for no reason. Before that, he committed dozens of violent crimes. He spent his entire life hurting people." It's not a stretch to believe this, given what we've seen of Iko so far.
But Janeway doesn't care. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, beats a prisoner on her ship. Illegal mind melds, maybe. Letting them escape so you can blow them to bits, sure. But while they're in your custody, they're your best friend. "That doesn't excuse what you did to him. Until your transport vessel gets here, you and your men won't be allowed in the cargo bay." She looks over to Tuvok. "You're in charge of the prisoners."
Yediq is furious. "They're my responsibility."
"Not as long as you're aboard my ship. I won't risk any more violence."
Yediq tries to bluster his way back into control. "The only risk will be to your crew. Commander Tuvok isn't qualified to guard prisoners this dangerous."
Janeway practically jumps down his throat. "Tuvok has been a Starfleet security officer for a very long time. Believe me, he's qualified."
Yediq ends on a weak note. "I hope you're right."
The Doctor has his work cut out for him; Iko is one well-stomped patient.
Seven of Nine enters. Doc welcomes her. "You remember Mr. Iko."
"The Nygeans decided to make an example of him," Doc says sourly.
Seven takes a look. "Did you call me here to make a point about Nygean barbarity?"
Doc doesn't rise to the bait. "I called you here because I need your help to save his life." He guides Seven over to a console where he pulls up a scan of Iko's brain. "He sustained a severe blow to the head which has caused severe edema in his parietal lobe. It's blocking vital neurotransmitters. I'd like to program some of your nanoprobes to bypass the edema."
Seven hesitates, but only briefly. "I'll comply."
"I sense a 'but' coming," Doc says.
He senses right. "It seems inefficient to save the life of someone who's about to be executed."
"If the Nygeans insist on killing him, there isn't much I can do about it," Doc says. "But I won't let them do it on Voyager."
Joleg is surprised when the meal cart comes by. "I didn't expect to see you back so soon. Ordinarily, we're lucky to get one meal a day."
Neelix is shocked by this news. "That's terrible!"
Joleg shrugs. "Yediq likes to keep us hungry."
A prisoner down the row slams his hand against his cage. "Less talk. We're hungry!"
Joleg notices Neelix looking at him. "You're wondering why I'm here."
"You're wondering what I did to end up with men like them."
Neelix shrugs. "You killed someone?"
Joleg gives an innocent puppy look. "Because I'm Benkaran."
Neelix doesn't get it. "What does that have to do with it?"
Joleg's tone is sarcastic. "It's common knowledge that all Benkarans are criminals, so when I was found in the vicinity of a murder I was immediately arrested."
"Are you saying you didn't do it?" Neelix asks.
Joleg doesn't answer directly. "I told you, I'm Benkaran. What I say doesn't matter."
Neelix considers this.
Iko awakens in Sickbay. Doc is nearby. "You suffered severe neurological trauma," Doc explains, "but I believe we've repaired the damage."
Iko nods weakly. "Thank you."
"Don't thank me. Thank Seven of Nine." He nods in Seven's direction. "She donated the nanoprobes that saved your life."
Iko groans. "Oh, my head!"
"The pain is normal," Doc assures him. "I'll prepare an analgesic." He leaves Iko's side, passing through the force field.
Iko looks over at Seven, who is working at a console nearby. "You're not afraid of me," he says.
"There's no reason to fear someone in your condition."
"You were never afraid of me. Not even when I tried to kill you." His eyes moisten slightly. "It's nice to look into someone's eyes and not see fear."
For whatever reason, Seven says nothing. She just turns around and heads for the exit.
In the kitchen, Neelix pores over a padd. The windows to the rest of the mess hall are closed. But there's someone behind it.
"You have to be a criminal to get something to eat around here?" Tom Paris asks.
"Sorry," Neelix says. "Dinner will be ready in 15 minutes."
The windows slide open. Tom is there. So is B'Elanna. "You said that 15 minutes ago," B'Elanna says.
Neelix ignores their pleas for food. "Did you know the Nygeans govern a sector of space occupied by several different humanoid species?"
"If we say yes, will you feed us?" Tom asks.
"One of those species is the Benkarans. They occupy just ten percent of Nygean space, but take up nearly 80% of the space in Nygean prisons."
Which reminds me of a joke. Do you know why Benkaran shuttles have such small control panels? So they can pilot them with their cuffs on...
But I regress.
"Maybe they commit more crimes," Tom offers.
Neelix shakes his head. "Not according to Joleg, one of the prisoners."
"You think he was given a harsher sentence because of his species?" asks Torres, who is certainly the justice-minded type.
Neelix waves the padd. "According to this, Benkarans are ten times more likely to be executed for their crimes than Nygeans."
"Where'd you get that?" Torres asks.
"I contacted the Nygean government. Told them I was interested in a cultural exchange. Among other things, they let me access data on their criminal justice system. It all supports what Joleg told me."
"Neelix..." Tom warns.
Neelix raises his hands. "I know what you're thinking."
"That you're the softest touch in the Delta Quadrant!"
Neelix waves the padd again. "These are the transcripts from Joleg's trial. He was convicted on circumstantial evidence!"
"Let me guess," Tom says. "He was in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Tom smiles. "Neelix, when I was in the Federation penal colony, everybody had a story. I never put much stock in them, and neither should you."
Neelix gives Tom a level stare. "How many of those people were sentenced to die?"
The smile leaves Tom's face.
Iko stares at the Doctor from his bed. "I still don't understand. Why weren't you hurt?"
"Because my matrix is photonic." Iko still doesn't get it. "I'm made of light," Doc explains.
Seven appears again. "You wanted to see me?"
Doc nods. "I'll be with you in just a moment."
Iko looks up at Doc. "You don't feel pain?"
"Well," Doc says, thinking it over. "I suppose my pride has been wounded on occasion."
"I wish I was made of light," Iko says with a quiet intensity that surprises the doctor.
"Try to rest." Doc passes through the force field, and walks over to Seven.
"Mr. Iko responded so well to the first dose of nanoprobes, I thought a second might improve his condition further. It will only take a moment to extract them."
Seven sighs, but complies.
While Doc prepares, she makes small talk. "You and Mr. Iko seem to be getting along well."
"It's the strangest thing," Doc says. "When he first arrived he was crude, abusive. Now he's a model patient--grateful, considerate."
Seven frowns. "He's obviously an unstable individual. Inconsistent behavior is hardly surprising."
"Still, if it weren't for the security detail I'd forget he was a criminal."
"It's possible he's trying to manipulate you," Seven says.
"Doctor!" Iko shouts. The two look over at the prisoner, who is curling up in obvious anguish.
They rush over. "What's the matter?"
"My stomach." He groans some more.
Doc scans him. "I'm not detecting anything."
"What's wrong?" Doc asks.
"I-I...I can't stop thinking about...The man I killed."
Seven is not exactly compassionate. "That's not surprising. You're experiencing guilt."
"Is that why I'm feeling sick?"
Doc considers it. "Nausea could be a symptom of guilt."
Iko doesn't like the sound of that. "I never felt guilty before."
"You've committed many crimes," Seven says.
"None of them made me feel like--" he groans again. "This. Why did you do this to me?"
"We're not responsible for your guilt," Seven insists.
"I didn't feel this way until you put those--ugh!--nanoprobes in me. You knew this would happen, didn't you? This is some kind of punishment!" He pleads with them to remove the nanoprobes.
"You could die," Doc protests.
Iko gasps. "Please?" His voice is hollow as the grave. "I don't want to feel this way anymore."
* * *
"You don't honestly believe we're responsible for his condition," Seven says.
"We applied the Borg technology," Doc says. "It's possible there were some unforeseen side effects."
"Guilt, for example." Seven isn't convinced.
But the Doctor doesn't dismiss it so easily. He pulls up an image of Iko's brain on a monitor. The results surprise him. "Look at this!"
"What?" Seven asks.
"It's my most recent scan. The neurotransmitters have established new pathways throughout his cortex."
"Wasn't that your intention?"
"No. I was simply trying to bypass the edema."
"Then how did this happen?"
"I don't know. It's possible this is normal Nygean brain activity, but I have no basis for comparison."
"You should ask Mr. Yediq to contact a Nygean medical official," Seven says. "Maybe they could provide some relevant information." She heads to the door.
Iko calls out to her. "Seven of Nine. Stay? Talk to me."
"I'm extremely busy."
"Please. I'm scared."
Seven returns. "What did you want to discuss?" But Iko has nothing to say.
Seven gives him about five seconds before impatience wins out. "I'm due in Astrometrics, so if there's nothing..."
"Astrometrics? What's that?"
"A laboratory where we observe stellar phenomena."
This catches his interest. "When I was a child I'd lie under the stars for hours. I'd stare at them until I could see the shapes."
Iko nods. "Faces and animals. Made out of stars."
Seven understands. "You're referring to constellations."
"I named them. There was Paedos the warrior, and Gezid the beast." He gets a faraway look. "No matter how hard he tried Paedos could never catch Gezid."
Seven nods. "Because the distance between them always remained the same."
Iko brightens a little. "You've seen them?"
"Possibly. I've cataloged approximately six billion stars."
"Then you must have seen Onella, too--the Mother."
Seven seems interested. "Describe her."
"She was surrounded by 16 smaller stars--her daughters. If I try, I think I can remember all their names."
There seems to be little question that Iko is very different from the angry, threatening man they met earlier.
Meanwhile, back in the brig, Neelix and Joleg play kadis-kot. The other prisoners grumble that they're trying to sleep, or bet on the outcome. Rumor has it that Paris has three weeks' rations bet on Neelix...to lose.
"That's kadis-kot. Congratulations," Neelix says.
While he sets up the next game, Neelix says, "I've been doing some research on the Nygean legal system. You were right about the Benkarans receiving harsher sentences. I saw the statistics."
Joleg shrugs. "Statistics won't save me."
"I noticed some people convicted of murder--even terrible, premeditated murders--weren't executed. Some aren't punished at all, but you were sentenced to death."
Joleg shrugs again. "That's what the family wants."
"The family?" Neelix asks, confused.
"After you're convicted, the family of the victim sentences you."
"Well, shouldn't you be sentenced by someone less partial, like a judge?"
Joleg smiles. "vekto valek k'vadim. It's ancient Nygean. It means, 'Favor the victims.'" He explains. "What if I stole your game board? What right would a judge have to assign value to your loss? To him, it's just a game board. But to you, it might be a priceless family possession."
Neelix considers this.
"And what if I murdered your child?"
Neelix nods somberly. "I think I get your point."
"vekto valek k'vadim. It's the basis for the Nygean legal system."
"What about the criminals that didn't serve any sentence at all?" Neelix asks.
"Some people prefer restitution to revenge. If a defendant is wealthy enough, he can negotiate a settlement with the victim's family."
"Oh, that doesn't seem fair," Neelix says.
"It's perfectly fair...unless you're destitute."
Neelix seems even more determined to help. "Maybe I can talk to the Captain about finding a way to compensate your victims."
Joleg "I'm grateful...but it would imply I'm guilty. I wouldn't want that."
"There must be something I can do!"
Joleg thinks. "You can transmit a letter to my brother. I'd like to let him know what's happened to me."
Neelix beams. "I'll get a padd."
Seven of Nine enters Sickbay, shuts down the force field, and hands a padd to Iko. "I thought you might find this interesting."
"What is it?"
"It's an Astrometrics log. It contains data on various star formations."
Iko looks at the padd. "It's just words and numbers. I'd rather look at the stars."
Seven is a little disappointed that her gift didn't do much for him. "I'll bring you a star chart after my next shift."
Iko rises from his bed. He points at her forehead. "What's the metal above your eye?"
"It's a cybernetic implant."
"Where did you get it?"
Seven stiffens. "It was installed by the Borg."
"It must have hurt."
"I don't recall," Seven lies.
Iko looks miserable. "I...hurt people. I deserve to die." He seems to really mean it.
Just then, Doc calls her over. "Seven? I found something."
Doc has also invited the captain to view his findings. "This is a scan depicting a healthy Nygean brain. This node is analogous to the human pineal gland. In addition to controlling behavioral impulses, it regulates decision making. You might say it's the physiological equivalent of a conscience."
"Normally," Seven adds, "the node connects to the rest of the brain through a series of neuro-pathways."
"Now...look at this scan of Iko's node, before we applied the nanoprobes. It's detached."
"Did that happen when he was assaulted?" Janeway asks.
Doc shakes his head. "No. I believe it's congenital--a birth defect."
"Without the node," Sevens says, "Iko would have been prone to violence and sociopathic behavior all his life."
Doc nods, and continues. "When I used Seven's nanoprobes to treat the injuries from the assault, it seems they inadvertently repaired the defect as well."
Janeway is intrigued. "You've activated his conscience. Well, that would explain why he's suddenly experiencing guilt."
"There's more to it than that," Doc says. "I believe he's become capable of controlling his violent impulses."
Janeway holds up a hand. "Capable, maybe--but how do you know he will?"
"Even the thought of violence makes him ill now," Doc says. "In my opinion, he's no longer a threat to anyone."
Even Seven, the execution hard-liner, seems to agree. "By some definitions, Captain, he's not the same man who committed the murder."
This gives Janeway plenty of food for thought.
* * *
"Are you suggesting we release him?" Yediq demands. Janeway has invited him to the conference room to discuss Doc and Seven's findings.
"Of course not," Doc says, "but at the very least his case should be reexamined."
"Because he's sorry," Yediq scoffs.
"There's new medical evidence to be considered," Seven says.
"None of it changes the fact that he killed a man!"
"He was suffering from a neurological defect," Seven insists. "He couldn't control his behavior."
"If Iko had been diagnosed and treated," Doc says, "he never would have committed that crime. In a matter of speaking, he's a victim of his own biology."
Yediq snorts derisively. "So Iko is the victim now?"
Janeway jumps in. "No one's denying that he committed a terrible crime. But as a result of the Doctor's treatments he's undergone a fundamental change. Killing him won't accomplish anything."
"That's not your decision to make," Yediq reminds her.
"Nor is it yours," Seven reminds him. Good point.
Yediq is disgusted by these naive bleeding-heart aliens. "He's obviously deceiving you somehow."
Janeway, who has been deceived by the best two quadrants have to offer, is having none of that. "Listen, we could debate this all day. But the fact is, our personal opinions are irrelevant. All that matters is Nygean law."
"Does Iko have a legal means of appeal at his disposal?" Tuvok asks.
Yediq reluctantly admits that he does. "In accordance with Nygean penal code, a capital defendant has a right to appeal his sentence to the family of his victims."
Janeway sits back regally in her chair. "Then I'd like you to help Commander Tuvok draft an appeal and submit it to the proper authorities."
Yediq isn't at all happy about it, but he knows when he's beat. Unlike Iko, it doesn't take a kick to the skull to get his attention.
"Take back the appeal," Iko pleads.
Seven isn't about to do so. "You'd rather die because you think it will relieve your pain?"
Iko paces behind the force field. "Death is what I deserve. You say I've changed, but I look at these hands every day and I see them squeezing that man's throat and I hear the sounds he made. I'm disgusting."
Seven decides to help him put things in perspective. "Do you think I'm disgusting?" she asks.
Iko answers honestly. "You've been nothing but kind to me." Except when she elbowed him in the gut when he had a knife to her throat...
"You asked me earlier if it hurt when my occipital implant was installed. I told you I didn't remember. But the truth is...it was one of the most painful experiences of my life."
Iko considers this. "Why did you lie?" he asks.
Seven hesitates. "It's difficult for me to talk about...because I forced others to undergo the same procedure."
"I was compelled to do so by the Borg Collective. I wasn't in control of my actions." Her eyes bore into him. "Just as you weren't in control when you took a life."
Seven's tone is urgent. "My nanoprobes have given you control. You're a different person now. You don't deserve to be executed."
Iko repeats his little stunt, the G. Gordon Liddy hand-on-the-force-field trick. But this time, he doesn't last so long, and he's sweating and hurting when he pulls his hand away. "I want to go back to my cell."
Seven is surprised. "You're free to remain here."
"Am I still sick?"
"Then I don't want special treatment."
Seven, who also knows a thing or two about a guilty conscience, isn't happy about it, but she accedes to his wishes.
It's meal time again. Neelix stops by Iko's cell. "I'm glad to see you're feeling better. You must be hungry."
Iko notices a hungry prisoner across the hall--the same one whose food he used to steal before they arrived on Voyager.
Neelix nods to the guard, who opens up an oblong hole in the forcefield, enough for a bowl of food to pass through. "Here you go," Neelix says.
Iko is tempted, but he nods over to his fellow prisoner. "Give it to him."
Neelix follows Iko's gaze. "He's already had his dinner."
Neelix senses that it's important to him. He smiles kindly. "All right." The force field returns, and Neelix takes it to the hungry guy. At first, the young man is surprised. But then, nodding gratefully to Iko, he takes it.
Seven enters Janeway's ready room. Yediq is here too.
"You wanted to see me."
Janeway nods. "We just received a response from the Nygeans. The family has refused to consider the appeal."
Seven is surprised. "But the medical evidence..."
"They won't look at it."
Yediq is angry. "The family found the request insulting."
Seven is insistent. "Your government could insist that they review it."
Yediq shakes his head. "We have laws that protect victims from emotional distress."
"In that case," Seven says, "we should grant Iko asylum aboard Voyager."
Yediq glares at Janeway. "You agreed to work within the confines of our legal system."
"Your system is flawed," Seven says, her voice rising.
"That's enough, Seven," Janeway barks. She turns to Yediq. "I assure you, we'll abide by the family's decision. Now, I need a moment alone with Seven, if you don't mind?" The armed guards in the room help him decide quickly; he leaves.
"We did everything we could to help him," Janeway says.
"We have to do more."
Janeway gives Seven a long look. "You barely know this man. Why are you so passionate about helping him?"
Seven hesitates. "I want to give him the same opportunity you gave me."
This catches Janeway off guard.
Seven continues. "When you severed my link to the Collective, you changed who I was. You made it possible for me to reclaim my humanity. Because of my nanoprobes, Iko has undergone a similar change. He should be given the chance to atone for his crimes."
"Atonement? Is that what this is about?"
"Yes," Seven says.
"For him...Or for you?"
Seven is caught short. "I don't know what you mean."
"I think part of you still feels responsible for the violent acts you committed when you were a Borg."
Seven bristles. "You're mistaken."
"Am I? Maybe you believe if Iko is found not guilty, somehow you won't be guilty, either. You said it yourself. You've reclaimed your humanity. It's time you stopped blaming yourself for the crimes of the Collective."
I guess it's about time for a plot complication.
That will do nicely.
Seven and Janeway sprint toward the door that leads to the bridge.
"Report," Janeway says.
"An alien vessel just dropped out of warp and opened fire," Chakotay reports.
Meanwhile, the blasts are disrupting power throughout the ship. As the lights go out--and with them, the force fields--there's a riot going on down in Cell Block Number Nine.
"We've lost power on decks eight through ten," Harry reports after another hard jolt from alien fire.
Janeway gets a bad feeling. "The cargo bay!"
Tuvok runs to the turbolift.
The poor Starfleet guards don't stand a chance against a half dozen men with nothing to lose. Within seconds, the prisoners have plenty of heavy-duty weapons to play with. Everyone flees.
Except, that is, for Iko, who notices the commotion, but stays put in his cell.
* * *
"Shields down to 60%," Chakotay reports.
"Still no response to hails," Harry reports.
Janeway starts to get irritated. "Evasive maneuvers. Target their weapons."
There are condemned murderers roaming the corridors.
Some are luckier than others. The unlucky ones run into Tuvok, and the big-ass Betsy he's got aimed at them. He and his team begin mop-up operations.
"Tuvok to bridge. The attacking ship is attempting to transport one of the prisoners."
"They're trying to lock on to all five Benkaran life signs," Harry confirms.
Oh, no, they don't. "Target their transporter array," Janeway orders.
Shh-Boom. Shh-Boom. na na na, na na na, na na na, na na na...
"Direct hit," Chakotay reports. "They're retreating."
"Pursuit course?" Tom asks.
"No, we have more immediate problems. Bridge to Tuvok. What's your status?"
"We've neutralized two of the prisoners," Tuvok reports.
Harry's console beeps. "Someone's trying to get into the shuttle bay."
Janeway whirls toward Ops. "Lock them out."
Joleg and another prisoner are firing at the shuttle bay doors with their hijacked weapons. "Again," Joleg says.
Yediq shows up about that time, carrying his own weapon. "Stand back!"
It gets a little confusing after that, as another prisoner puts a rifle muzzle up against Yediq's neck, and disarms him. Then Tuvok's team shows up, armed for bear, but Joleg takes Yediq hostage.
"Don't move!" Joleg shouts. "You have five minutes to get us a shuttle." He drags Yediq along as they back up all the way to Cargo Bay One.
"Tuvok to bridge. Lock on to Yediq's signature and beam him to--"
Janeway cuts him off. "Transporters are off-line. We need at least ten minutes to get them up and running."
The prisoners throw Yediq to the floor.
"Seal it," Joleg orders. The others use their weapons to weld the door shut.
"You're not getting off this ship," Yediq spits at them.
Joleg points his phaser at his head. "Then I suppose I should kill you right now."
"Don't!" Iko yells. He exits his cell and walks toward Joleg. "He's mine. You saw how they beat me." He holds out his hand. Joleg hesitates, then hands him the phaser.
Iko aims it at his persecutor.
Yediq snarls at him. "I knew it was a trick. I knew you hadn't changed."
Joleg chuckles; Yediq is in for it now.
Iko glares at Yediq. Then he lets him have it.
The gun, I mean.
Nobody is more surprised than Yediq, but he recovers more quickly than the others. Before they have a chance to fire back, Yediq stuns them all into submission.
He saves Iko for last. But for whatever reason, he can't bring himself to pull the trigger. Iko makes no move to stop him, apparently resigned to whatever fate will bring him.
Yediq sees Iko in a whole new light. He drops his weapon.
Captain's log, stardate 54474.6: Warden Yediq has used his influence to convince the Nygean family to hear Iko's appeal for leniency.
Iko has been allowed on the bridge. Flanked by Seven and Janeway and Yediq, Iko addresses the family of the man he killed, who are on the forward viewscreen.
Iko is contrite. "I won't beg for my life. It belongs to you. I only want you to understand what's happened to me. I'm a different person now...a better person. This crew...has helped me to see that." He looks at Seven, drawing strength from her. "If my death helps you find peace I can accept it. But if you let me live I will never hurt anyone again. Whatever you decide, please know how sorry I am for what I took from you."
Neelix passes down the row of cells, dragging along the meal cart.
"Are we playing kadis-kot later?" Joleg asks.
"Sorry," Neelix says.
"Afraid I'll beat you again?"
Neelix gives him a wounded look. "I tried to help you. And you took advantage of me!"
"What do you mean?"
"The note we sent your brother. He traced the transmission to Voyager. He's the one who attacked us."
"Neelix, I swear I had no idea he would do that. You have to believe me!"
Neelix is not convinced. "I read Yediq's security report. You threatened to kill him."
Joleg catches on--his innocence routine isn't working anymore. So he tries a different tactic. "I can't eat this," he says.
"I'm...sick." Yeah, that's the ticket.
"You look fine to me," Neelix says, suspicious.
"No...I must have the same condition Iko had." He smiles hopefully. "If your Doctor cures me, I can make an appeal for my life, too."
Neelix's look is a fresh condemnation. With a sigh of disgust, Neelix walks away.
"I've isolated the stellar perspective you've requested," Seven tells Iko in Astrometrics.
Iko beams. "She's beautiful, isn't she?"
"Onella, the mother?"
Iko nods. "And there's Paedos...still watching over her." He gives Seven a warm smile. "It was kind of Captain Janeway to let you bring me here."
"If your appeal is successful you'll be able to go wherever you want."
"I hope you're right."
"If I am, where will you go?"
Iko considers this. "I don't know," he says at last.
"If you like, I could ask Captain Janeway to consider letting you stay here."
Iko laughs--that may be too much to hope for. "I'm not a scientist. I don't think I'd be much help to anyone."
"There are other ways to be useful," Seven says. "I'm sure we could think of something."
Iko gives her a look of pure gratitude. "I'd like that."
Janeway and Yediq enter at that moment. Seven and Iko look hopefully at them...but the hope fades almost instantly. These are not bearers of glad tidings.
"I'm sorry," Janeway says. "The family has denied your appeal."
Even Yediq seems saddened by the news. "We're due to rendezvous with a transport ship in a few hours. I need to return you to your cell." He's almost apologetic.
Iko nods. He looks at Seven--but she's got her back turned. He speaks to her back. "You were the first person who wasn't afraid to look me in the eye. That's how I'd like to remember you."
Eventually, Seven musters the will. She turns and looks him square in the eye. He offers a silent acknowledgement, then follows Yediq out the door.
A short time later, Seven is alone in Astrometrics, busy as usual.
It is here that Janeway finds her. "I just finished looking over your warp core analysis."
"And?" Seven asks, continuing her work.
"I'm impressed. It usually takes a few days to finish one of these. B'Elanna tells me you did it in 22 hours."
"I haven't felt the need to regenerate."
Janeway nods. "Everyone grieves in their own way. If you want to talk you know where to find me." She moves to leave.
Seven stops working. "It's unfair."
"I think so, too, Seven. But we have to try not to judge their system."
"That's not what I meant." Seven searches for the word. "Iko was executed for taking a single life. As a drone, I took thousands, but I was never punished."
Janeway takes a long time framing her reply. "You lost 20 years of your life to the Borg." She puts hand on Seven's shoulder. "I'd say that's punishment enough." With that, the captain leaves Seven alone with the thought.
This episode was about as subtle as Iko's prison beating.
From the all-too-familiar statistics--substitute "black" for "Benkaran" and you've got a common statement on the American penal system--to the sledgehammer dialogue, this episode screams "MESSAGE!"
The problem is, it can't seem to make up its mind about the message it wants to convey.
The Federation, of course, is a century or so beyond the desire to impose the death penalty. (The last known reference was in the TOS episode, "The Menagerie.") Picard's Enterprise did run into the occasional society where capital punishment was inflicted, and several non-Federation societies were shown to practice it in TNG, DS9 and Voyager--including some relatively advanced species like the Metrons and the Q Continuum.
The Nygean system is, at first glance, pretty darned subjective. We only see the penalty for a single category of crime, murder. But we're told that the sentencing procedures are determined by the family of the victim--those who are most personally affected by the death. Consider this possibility--you kill someone whose entire family hates him. Chances are, you'll get off easy. Heck, it might even be their idea. How would Nygean law deal with THAT?
The racial issue further complicates matters. If a particular species bears the brunt of convictions, this system would tend to exacerbate the problem. There's an old and painful joke that Driving While Black in certain neighborhoods is Probable Cause for a crime. (See "racial profiling".) Joleg makes a similar statement to Neelix; he was in the neighborhood when a murder was committed, and he's Bekaran, so obviously he's the guilty one.
This episode throws all this into the pot, and more. With Iko, we've got a guy who unquestionably killed a man. In a few short minutes he threatened the lives of Seven, the Doctor, Janeway, everyone on board, and the children of the warden. Clearly, Iko was one bad mofo. But when Doc's treatment has unexpected consequences, it's learned that Iko was not in his right mind when he committed his crimes; he was born with a disconnected conscience. Once it was attached, he became a changed man. Had it been caught earlier, he might never have killed.
The question is, does it matter? Does it matter to Iko? Does it matter to Nygean society? Most importantly, does it matter to the family of the victim, who ultimately decide his fate? In Iko's case, it doesn't. He picked a victim whose family would be satisfied by nothing less than his death. With his new conscience, Iko can't really blame them.
If there's a silver lining, it's twofold. Iko's last days are good ones. And the warden, Yediq, learned a valuable lesson by Iko's transformation. Of everyone involved, Yediq--a prison warden--has significant opportunity to implement change.
Of course, there was also Joleg. He's a smooth talker. He plays the system, and Neelix, like a finely tuned instrument. He knows what to reveal, and what not to, for maximum effect. Unlike Iko, Joleg seems more like a professional criminal. When his escape attempt fails, Neelix sees him for what he really is, and Joleg's efforts to smooth-talk him fall on unsympathetic ears.
Does that mean Neelix now wants Joleg to die? Who knows. I suspect Neelix is as opposed to capital punishment as the others on board, though in the case of Jetrel all those years ago, he could make the occasional exception. In terms of simple self-preservation, one can sympathize with Neelix for taking Joleg's betrayal personally; he ended up putting the entire crew in jeopardy. If he felt sorry for Joleg before, or thought that the guy's conviction was unjust, he can be forgiven for revising his opinion in light of later events. Neelix in effect switches places with Yediq--just as the warden comes to regret Iko's execution, Neelix becomes less sympathetic to Joleg's fate, based on new information learned during the journey. Iko became a new man; Joleg showed his true colors.
The odd thing is how Iko's fate got tied into Seven of Nine's.
Seven's initial impression of Iko is hardly positive--he takes a knife to her throat. She has long seen the world in stark blacks and whites, and after twenty years of the Borg her outlook can be downright Darwinian.
"Repentance" is the title, and Janeway suggests that Seven's efforts this week are as much about Seven's own quest for atonement as it is for Iko's. Interesting choice of words, 'atonement'. I don't want to belabor the religious symbolism, but there is some parallel. The nanoprobes, contained in Seven's blood, causes Iko to be reborn in a very real sense--the murderer without conscience is not only healed from his physical wounds, but from a birth defect that prevented him from distinguishing right from wrong. The price, however, is high--for the first time, he feels the weight of his guilt, and just as he has the potential for a good life, it's cut short because of his earlier actions.
As Seven says, it isn't fair. Life often isn't. Tragedies, large and small, happen every day. The sun shines on the just and the unjust; the rain falls on good and evil alike. Earthquakes and floods and traffic accidents and disease claim people whose lives fall across the entire spectrum of human experience. Crime sometimes pays; innocents sometimes suffer.
An additional aspect of this unfairness is Seven's understanding that Iko is executed for a single murder, while she--who assimilated and destroyed thousands--was saved by Janeway. She didn't choose her fate; Seven was forcibly assimilated as a child, and for twenty years her actions were not her own. Resistance was futile. By the time she was severed from the Collective, Seven's memory held a personal body count a mile long.
At first, she was unapologetic. The Borg life was all she ever knew. As a True Believer, Seven considered assimilation a path to perfection. It wasn't until after she'd sufficiently regained her humanity that she began to feel the weight of her actions as a drone.
The same nanoprobes that stole her free will, are here modified by the Doctor to save a life...and inadvertently awaken a soul. Neither, it seems, comes without pain.
I must admit, when I saw the promos for this episode, I wasn't looking forward to it...but it exceeded my expectations. "Repentance" does continue the somewhat odd pattern of Janeway working against expectations, though. You never quite know when Janeway will be a Prime Directive strict constructionist, and when she'll decide to write her own rules as she goes. This week was NOT an example of "Janeway or the Highway," and I suspect there are many who would have preferred that Captain. Janeway did stand her ground in some ways--limiting the warden's liberties as he abused his authority in the cargo bay, making requests and/or demands within the bounds of Nygean law (if not necessarily Nygean tradition). She just drew the line short of taking the law into her own hands.
As for the other characters...the Doctor has been consistent in his Life Beats Death programming, and he's never been shy about promoting his views both by speech and by object lessons. Seven was also consistent--staking out a philosophical position, but amending it when an individual gives her something new to think about. Chakotay's (very) limited screen time showed him, as is often the case, as the conscience of the crew. Tom Paris, the ex-con, had a cynical view of the condemneds' tales of woe--he's been there, bunked with that. Neelix, the morale officer, did his best to treat the prisoners like people, did his homework, and proved that no good deed goes unpunished, but he showed in the end that even his own gullibility has its limits.
In sum: the violent scenes were a bit hard to take--even DS9 rarely got as visceral as the prison beating given to Iko--and the sermonizing was often transparent. But all in all, I found it fairly watchable, even moving, thanks to some strong character moments with the Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Iko. The episode succeeded for me on a personal level. Call it three stars.
Next week: Klingons come out of nowhere to declare B'Elanna's baby the Golden Child.
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Original material © Copyright 1995-2001, Jim Wright. All rights reserved.