The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
This is not just a review; it's a retelling of the episode from start to finish, limited only by my ability to remember the details. I do this for my friends in uniform and those living overseas or who otherwise do not have access to the episodes as they are aired.
The Love Bug bites Chakotay and Janeway, and Ensign Kim gets uppity when newly-promoted Captain Tuvok won't help them find a cure. Oh, and there's monkeys.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Captain Janeway awakes inside a tube not unlike the stasis canisters in "The Thaw." We see that she is not alone (well, alone in the tube--just not the only one in a tube of their own), and that she's in unfamiliar territory. She and Chakotay are on the surface of a pleasant-looking planet, with a whole lotta Federation-looking stuff around.
Janeway hails the ship and gets Holodoc. Apparently they were under for about 17 days, and they woke up on a planet they had been to before. It seems they have both been infected with a virus from some sort of insect, and all attempts to cure them have failed. They've been put on the planet since it seems to counteract the effects of the virus, but if they were to stay on the ship they would have to stay in stasis or die. They're stuck here until and unless they can find a cure.
Janeway, a former science officer, believes she can do just that.
The ship plans to orbit the planet for a couple more days, and will be in communications range for a day or so longer, just in case Janeway comes up with a cure fast enough (though considering that Holodoc, the embodiment of all known Federation medical science, failed to do so after 17 days of trying, you gotta wonder about it). Chakotay looks at the huge pile of 24th-century camping supplies and sighs. It ain't exactly roughing it, he says.
Since there's no bathtub, Janeway replies, it ain't exactly home. Janeway is every inch the 24th century woman. Her pioneer forebears are more than welcome to stay in the past with their manual labors and natural fibers, thank you very much. But she likes her long, hot, luxuriating baths, and despite all the modern conveniences they've been left, they have only a sonic shower (imagine getting clean by standing in front of your stereo and cranking it up to 11 while Spinal Tap plays--them's Good Vibrations).
On the ship, Captain Tuvok (still with two pips, though) is coordinating the last bit of business with Janeway and Chakotay. They've done all they can, but that isn't enough for everyone, particularly Harry Kim (who, as you recall from The Thaw, sees in Janeway a mother-goddess figure, larger than life and twice as heroic). Tuvok, while nominally in charge, must still answer to Janeway. They have shelter, food, replicators, medical supplies, scientific equipment, and a shuttlecraft with Warp 4 capabilities--not enough to make it home in less than 2700 years, but fast enough to play some sort of catchup if they find a cure quickly enough. At the rate the ship tends to get disabled, the shuttle might even beat them home....
When their time is clearly up, Janeway contacts Tuvok and asks to speak to the crew. She gives a heartfelt farewell and expresses her hope that they'll make it home safely. (I thought it was pretty dang cheesy that Chakotay wasn't allowed to say anything, BTW. He was first officer, and half the crew used to be under his exclusive command. I bet he would have given a decent farewell, but what do we get? bupkis. Harrumph.)
Janeway passes the baton to Tuvok, giving him only two general orders. Get the ship and crew home safely...and don't contact the Vidiians, even though they have superior medical technology and may have a cure since this planet is near enough for them to have explored.
For those of you who don't know about the Vidiians, they're these coyote-ugly aliens, nearly all of whom we've seen have been afflicted with a Phage--an illness that attacks the entire body. They've made great medical strides over the years, but their most effective means of staying alive when the Phage hits is to harvest and adapt the organs of non-infected beings, usually unsuspecting strangers. They took Neelix's lungs in "Phage," Durst's whole body for parts (if you say "who?" you know why they picked him) and split Torres into full-human and full-Klingon parts ('Cuz Klingons are hardy little buggers, and the full-Klingon B'Elanna body actually conquered the Phage, so of course they'd really love to get their hands on her) in "Faces," and in "Deadlock" took over the ship (one particular phased instance of it, anyway) and harvested everybody until Voyager blew up, taking the Vidiian ship with it.
Needless to say, there is little love lost between the Voyager crew and the Vidiians. Except between Holodoc and Denara Pel ("Lifesigns"), a Vidiian Florence Nightengale who calls him Schmullis. Those two do virtually love each other.
Everyone caught up? Good.
The loss of Captain and First Officer is keenly felt. Janeway, though often too Starfleet for some former-Maquis crew tastes, had saved their collective butts often enough to have earned their grudging respect and loyalty (and most who felt otherwise are either dead or defected or in the brig). Chakotay, who earned command in both Starfleet and the Maquis--the latter through brute competence and trust-building--had also done much to endear himself to both crews and had done more than any other to bridge the gaps of misunderstanding and make theirs a single crew.
Left behind to lead? Tuvok--security chief, former spy on the Maquis, and a Vulcan to boot. Vulcans tend not to warm up to their new crews very quickly, and vice-versa--see Spock's first command assignment in "Galileo Seven". And from his age, rank and interpersonal skills, you have to think maybe he rode the short bus as a Vulcan schoolchild.
Then there's Torres. Remember the nose-breaking rebel fireball from the first few episodes of season 1? She's long gone. The New Torres has caught the Starfleet bug, and is nearly as devoted to Janeway as Kim--and perhaps more devoted to Janeway's work ethic, as we soon discover when Kim approaches her shortly after she dresses down a crewman with sloppy reporting habits. Harry has been lobbying for Janeway's return, has felt the Starfleet pulse, and wonders if she has the ear of the Maquis (as the now-senior Maquis on board). From the look on her face, you can tell those days are behind her. After the last few times she's shut down Maquis underground activities when she's been let in on the secret, I think they took away her decoder ring. Kim wants her help convincing Tuvok to contact the Vidiians. Torres basically tells him, "hey, we broke our backs trying the last three weeks, and failed. You want me to do more? Come up with a plan, then we'll talk."
On the planet, Janeway has her assignment--catch the critter that bit them so she can conduct her experiments (you mean that in the previous 17 days when they were in stasis nobody thought to catch one?) and cure them of this terminal virus before Voyager gets too far ahead of them. Chakotay has his assignment, too...
Assignment: Love. (Insert bad jazz music here.)
Janeway wants a base of operations. Chakotay wants to homestead. Like any real man in the virgin forest he straps on the tool belt, kills a few trees, and starts Buildin'. First the pre-fab shelter, Starfleet sterile, then the little niceties. Headboards. A Home Sweet Home sign and hand-woven welcome mat. Bathtubs. You get the picture.
Aboard Voyager, the homebound ship detects a Vidiian convoy. Harry announces the fact, and other crew look expectantly at Captain Tuvok. Mindful of the orders to steer clear of them, Tuvok orders a course change and no contact. Harry respectfully requests Tuvok rethink his position. Tuvok repeats the reasons not to, including the reminder of the events ("Deadlock") that killed this ship's original Harry Kim, in which an entire ship of over 300 Vidiians were killed--they can't be happy about that. Harry switches to a disrespectful request. Tuvok relieves him of duty. Harry tries to rally the bridge crew, but we've all seen how well that works ("Tuvix"). Even Paris is out-Starfleeting Harry now; chain of command may be unpopular, but try running a ship without it. Harry finally cuts and runs before the brig becomes his only option.
After a long day of looking for the bug in her little tree-suspended traps (for a burrowing bug?) Janeway is soaking in a Chakotay Original bathtub under a starlit sky, as Chakotay does something indoors. She hears a noise. And discovers she is not alone. She sees monkeys. (Well, maybe according to Janeway they're intelligent beings just waiting to communicate. But I'm calling them monkeys.) Her first instinct is fear, but that gradually morphs to curiosity. Chakotay comes out, they look at the monkey, apparently oblivious to the concept that she's nekkid in the tub and all between Chakotay, Janeway and the monkey is a towel and her stunningly long Godiva hair.
Are the writers now getting script ideas from rec.arts.erotica.startrek?
Harry's outburst on the bridge has made him a folk hero among the "outcasts." Which apparently include Hogan, he whom Janeway verbally gelded way back in "Alliances". They look to him as their mouthpiece, and they look for some new way to convince Tuvok to reach out to the Vidiians. They approach Kim in the mess hall and offer him their support.
Soon they all approach Torres. "You said to come when I had an idea...I think I've got one," harry says. "I'm listening," says Torres. Neelix soon joins the discussion as Morale Officer.
Ever wonder what Vulcan nightware looks like? Kim gets to find out when he visits Tuvok's quarters. It's after hours; Tuvok is meditating in his darkened and mood-enhanced room when Kim appears. Kim apologizes for his earlier outburst, then presents their thoughts for reaching out to the Vidiians at minimum risk. They can provide a trade: some samples of Torres' DNA, which has already been proven successful in treating the Phage, in exchange for an antiviral for that bug--if it exists. They can go through Denara Pel, Holodoc's former love interest and to date the only Vidiian worth knowing.
Tuvok considers it, but doesn't relent. They get into another argument. Harry is really bent out of shape about losing Janeway; she is his first and favorite commander, and he won't give her up without a hellacious fight. He trounces Tuvok's Vulcanness, impugns his loyalty to Janeway, and disparages his choice of bedwear, but leaves before getting neck-pinched into dreamland.
It must be remembered that Tuvok is also very fond of Janeway, has served with her for years, and is reticent as hell about disobeying her direct order to not contact the Vidiians--in "Prime Factors" he followed his logic and Vulcan-analog conscience to do something behind her back that she couldn't do for herself, and which it turns out she didn't approve anyone doing. The incident hurt their relationship, and from his comments at that time you know he's since redoubled his efforts to follow the letter and spirit of her directives, and would probably rather die than disobey and disappoint.
We see in Harry Kim some of the young Ensign Chekov from the original series--brash, impulsive, headstrong, fiercely loyal, but tunnel-visioned. Harry is better-spoken and doesn't look like a Monkee (come on, you've seen the Davey Jones / Walter Koenig separated-at-birth body-double resemblance, admit it) but he's an Ensign, and no Wesley Crusher--if his name weren't in the opening credit's he'd be phaser fodder. Brilliant, but inexperienced and unpolished.
I may be giving Kim a hard time, but I do admit it's entirely within his character. Harry is loyal to his friends--he was similarly, though to a lesser extent, outspoken about Tom Paris in "Investigations." He tries to keep his nose clean, but he won't keep quiet in the face of a perceived injustice. He may be awkward when placed in unfamiliar territory, but it's not for want of trying, or of raw ability. I'm not doing the scene justice, but the confrontation between Kim and Tuvok in Tuvok's quarters is one of the strongest scenes this season. Kudos to Russ and Wang for a fine job.
Janeway goes collecting more samples, basket in hand, refusing to give up. She and Chakotay have discussed this--he is more than happy to give up trying to find a cure and make the most of their new life here, but she can't give up trying as long as there's hope. Chakotay knows what it's like to be a captain without a ship--he lost his back in Episode 1. But he's ready to don the loincloth, call her Jane, and get the local monkeys to respond to the moniker Cheetah. Let's face it--stranded on a green, untainted-by-corporate-jackals planet with a beautiful woman, a bathtub and a replicator...that's a Penthouse Letter for some guys. (Not that I'd know what that means.) It's Blue Lagoon with a library and laboratory.
Janeway, on the other hand, hasn't given up on Earth yet. She's got a man back home who loves her. She's got a home, and dogs, and a quadrant filled with people who appreciate what it means to be Captain of a Federation starship. She's just not the Better Home and Gardens type, she insists. As long as there's a chance of making it back, she's got to take it, or she's letting everyone down, not just herself.
Still, she does have feelings for Chakotay, and she knows he has feelings for her, though he hadn't said as much. It's more that Princess Bride "as you wish" variety. When they finally have "the talk", Chakotay tells her the story of a warrior, alienated from his tribe, who ultimately finds a beautiful goddess to serve, and she gives him peace. Flattered, she calls him on it and he admits it's not an ancient fable, but rather the only way he could tell her his feelings. it's a tender scene, and you gotta feel for these two star-crossed lovers.
The great Bug Hunt proceeds, and finally pays off--a burrowing bug has been trapped in her airborn roach motel. She sees monkeys again--the little fella is pointing skyward, as if to say...she strains to understand...
If delta quadrant capuchins could talk, this one would have said, "run for cover, lady." She finally follows his upward pointing, sees the sky turn unpleasant, and catches a clue.
She runs for cover as a bone-jarring storm makes loud noises and shakes the ground. She loses her footing, and Chakotay rushes out and helps her to safety. The storm gets worse, pounding their Starfleet-issue equipment and shelter into so much driftwood and scrap metal. Under the table, Chakotay protects Janeway, but she's in anguish--the hope of their salvation is being wrenched away, one plasma burst at a time. Having a bug means little if you have no equipment to analyze it with.
Back on Voyager, Kes visits Tuvok in the ready room, asking to speak. She is his student, and he respects her for her dedication, talents, and insight. She gives him a lecture about a captain's responsibilities for the well-being of the crew, and that includes emotional considerations. Basically, she says, the crew won't give up trying until there's no further reason to hope, and hope seems to rest with the Vidiians. Tuvok apparently takes her advice; he speaks to the crew, tells them why he hasn't acceded to their wishes, than announces that he's now going to allow it. (Who didn't see this coming?) The great Antivirus Hunt begins.
Denara Pel responds to the query, and says that they know the planet and the bug, and yes they do have a cure. She says they are willing to provide some. She calls Holodoc Schmullis, the only name that has been used in more than one episode. Maybe it'll stick. I wouldn't mind if it did. Though Holodoc is easier to type.
The storm passes. The equipment is mostly useless and the shelter is in need of repair. No phone, no lights, no motor car...not a single luxury. Janeway's earlier admission that she couldn't call this place home until she had no choice is now upon her; there's no way to come up with a cure. It's just her, Chakotay, and the monkey. It's a painful realization, but when she accepts it, she doesn't slouch. The next thing you know she's gardening. The warrior and the queen have closed escrow and crossed the threshold.
Voyager waits for Denara Pel. They get three Vidiian battle cruisers, armed for bear. Tuvok, being the security type, had anticipated this, but it doesn't help much when you don't know if the antidote is on one of the ships. A battle ensues, with Voyager taking a mostly defensive position. Denara Pel contacts Holodoc, her voice filled with horror at her people's treachery and her unwitting role in it. She says she has the medicine and wants to give it to them, despite her people's wishes. Holodoc relays the news to Tuvok. Tuvok tells everyone what to do, and when. In short order the shields drop, Holodoc transports the stuff, the shields raise, antimatter is detonated near the three ships--enough to disable them, but not destroy anyone--and Voyager warps its way back to the Planet O' Love.
The Happy couple are interrupted by a staticky message from a far-distant but fast-approaching Tuvok. We have an antidote, he says; we'll be there tomorrow. Oh, and be packed and ready to go when we get there, because Smokey's on our tail.
The next day. The stuff is stacked neatly, but the shelter still stands. The monkey arrives to wish them a bon voyage, and Janeway (who believes the creature to be sentient) tells him he can have the house. (Gee, a couple weeks of R&R and Janeway's drop-kicking the Prime Directive like a Nerf football....do you really want to leave 24th century Federation technology behind? Never mind the locals--other groups will no doubt visit the planet one day, Vidiians or Kazon or other space monkeys.) When Janeway and Chakotay beam up, none of the other stuff follows. (You HOPE they cleaned up after themselves. What would Al Gore say?)
Uniformed, ready to resume action aboard the Best Damn Starship in the Delta Quadrant, Janeway and Chakotay enter the bridge, accept the welcome-backs, give Tuvok a smirking hard time for his almost-emotional recent actions, and proceed as if their little excursion "never happened." They're all business.
Only time will tell about their pleasure.
Uh...if this review sucks, it's because, frankly, the episode bored me. I tried watching it live both nights, and ultimately gave up. I ended up doing a lot of fast forwarding.
It's a shame, too. This one had potential. Beltran and Mulgrew are two very attractive people. There's enormous chemistry potential there; they'd make a great couple (more than Chakotay and Torres, methinks). The problem is, Chakotay seemed a little too eager to settle down (he seems to react to the terminal virus and the thought of permanent exile with a Seinfeldian "eh, that's a shame."), and Janeway seemed to fight it a little too hard, for the wrong reasons. What would be some right reasons? Mark, her man back home. Home in general. Her people. Her ship. Her identity.
(Let me say that some of this may have been covered. But if it did I was too anesthetized by the way it was presented to catch it. I also hear that an early cut of the episode was much steamier than what we got--too hot for broadcast?) The bathtub device seemed a gratuitous attempt to get Janeway naked, for obvious plot-forwarding reasons. The Aristocratic Lady and the Lusty Woodsman seems more the stuff of holonovels.
The Tuvok/Kim interaction was explosive at times, but on the whole it bugs me that Harry went so over the top. Though he has been impulsive before, and I don't mind him speaking up, the judgment lapses are a bit out of character. Harry's a problem solver, not a rebel. Instead of undermining his position with Tuvok, he should have been doing more with Holodoc, or researching on his own, or considering ways that they could ask the questions and get the stuff from the Vidiians in a way that made everyone happy--a drop-off to a neutral or uninhabited planet, for example. It shows a lack of trust, but it also shows discretion. Denara's a resourceful gal; she should be able to arrange something with Vidiians with less of an attitude problem. Harry was too busy feeling to think clearly.
Trek Ensigns tend to put their captains on a pedestel; Chekov would fight anyone who dared disparage his beloved Kirk, and Wesley Crusher would (and did) defend Picard to the death. Kim is normally so unflappable that his Greenie side rarely shows through. He butted heads with people who care every bit as much for Janeway, perhaps more--Tuvok and Paris and Torres have more reason to feel gratitude to Janeway, for personal debts of trust and salvation. Tuvok's known her for decades, and she was likely the closest he has on board to a friend (with Kes a close second).
You can't blame Harry for feeling as he does. But I'd have tossed him in the brig until he cooled down.
Torres continues to surprise me. She's becoming Janeway's philosophical protege. Whatever Maquis remains is clearly tempered by her rapidly-developing confidence and discipline. In this episode, it's clear that she's now more Starfleet than Kim, whom she nicknamed Starfleet at their first meeting ("Caretaker"). So, it would seem, is Tom Paris.
Tuvok had some good scenes, particularly the night scene with Kim, but again his decision making processes were...most illogical. Going from against to for the idea came too rapidly and didn't feel honest to me from a dramatic standpoint. And you'd expect a Vulcan--particularly a paranoid security type Vulcan--to come up with a better plan for obtaining the antivirus. He expected trouble as it was, and he got it, and nobody should be surprised, but as it was the reaction is "duh!" Try a little finesse, Robocop. From the battle scene it's obvious Tuvok is a decent tactition, but he's no strategist. The best battles are those you never fought, because they didn't need to be.
It was nice seeing Denara Pel again. I remember saying, after "Phage," that I was happy they had at least made the effort to create an alien species that is pathetic but honorable--you deplore their actions, but you grieve for their circumstances. The two Vidiians we met then were scarred Renaissance men, scavengers who bogarted body parts for their own survival. They did it, but they hated themselves for being reduced to this level. In "Faces" we saw a much seedier batch of Vidiians, slave-drivers and Nazi doctors who generated almost no compassion; their monstrous acts seemed to come from a soulless people. In "Deadlock" this was even more true--they were reduced to little more than cardboard villains, armed with harvesting tools and bent on carving up everyone. Since "Phage," only Denara has given me any reason to like their people. And she doesn't much like her people either. I really wanted to like this episode. I like both Chakotay and Janeway very much, and I would have loved to have seen more (compelling) interaction between them. What there was, was due mostly to Robert Beltran. the problem is, the show didn't keep my attention. Too much rang false for me, and not enough was there to lure me back. This was warm flat root beer that was a chore to digest, and I didn't entirely succeed.
And what were the monkeys doing there? They served no useful purpose. (Here's a thought--let one of the burrowing insects BURROW INTO THE MONKEY, and Janeway gets a needed insect sample that way. Cheetah pointing at storm doesn't justify the waste of screen time that could have gone into, say, character development.
On a scale of 0-10, I'd give this one a 6.00. It makes me mad that they could let Janeway's hair down and drop her nekkid into a tub on a moonlit night, and still make it boring.
Next week: Voyager changes hands, and Janeway and Crew get some planet time.