The following is a SPOILER Review. I tell you pretty much everything that happened in the episode, so if you want to be surprised when you finally see it, leave now. Otherwise, welcome aboard, pull up some shuttle debris and enjoy the ride.
I rate each episode based on how much I enjoyed it. I don't claim to be accurate or objective. But with luck, you'll enjoy yourself along the way.
So kick back and roast up a s'more. Fatherly Uncle Jim's got a story for ya, which may or may not resemble the episode that actually aired.
In the Halloween episode, we see the horrifying result of clandestine alien experimentation: a hyper-caffeinated Janeway.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
On hands and knees, PADD in one hand and a toolbox in the other, a frowning B'Elanna Torres crawls through a Jefferies tube. On arrival at her destination, she is unpleasantly surprised to see a seated Seven of Nine already there, making adjustments to an energy conduit. Torres doesn't like the former Borg, but she swallows back her first instinct, to assume the worst.
"Sorry," Torres says. "I didn't realize that you'd been assigned here today."
"I wasn't," Seven says. "This space was unoccupied so I came here to work."
Uh-oh. Not following protocol. Just doing something because it needed to be done. That's the Maquis Way ("Learning Curve"), but the Maquis have all been assimilated into the Starfleet Collective by now.
It turns out Seven has been diverting energy from other non-key systems to the Astrometrics lab, the project she and Kim have been assigned to. Unfortunately, this has disrupted the warp core diagnostic Torres and Engineering have been working on all morning.
Torres gives Seven grief. But Seven doesn't realize it, and her response doesn't appease Torres.
"What? 'Sorry' isn't in the Borg vocabulary?" Torres says at one point.
"I am unaccustomed to working in a hierarchy," Seven admits. "In the Collective there was no need to ask permission." (She is a Maquis!)
Torres dresses Seven down in grand style. "If you're going to be a member of this crew, get used to it. Procedures exist for a reason. We've got to work together. We follow the same set of rules..."
Torres stops. It's deja vu all over again. Her face registers shock and a bit of nausea as the realization kicks in.
"Lieutenant?" Seven asks, concerned.
"I was given that lecture once by Captain Janeway when I first joined this crew," Torres says, voice hollow.
She turns to Seven. All her anger is gone, understanding in its place. "If I could adjust to Starfleet life...so can you."
"Of course," says Seven. "I am...sorry for the inconvenience."
They aren't yet friends...but in this moment they find a few patches of common ground. It's not a bad beginning.
Paris approaches Doc and says he needs to "run a few errands." Doc asks if they can't wait until his shift is over; an embarrassed Paris says it's his conn report, which Chakotay gives him a hard time for if it's late. Doc asks why he didn't think of it earlier; "We've been so busy that I guess it just slipped my mind." Doc scans the empty sickbay (do I hear crickets?) and regards Paris with suspicion. It's an obvious lie, but this is the post-"Revulsion" Doc who is willing to cut Paris some slack; Tom has given his second tour of Sickbay far better effort than his first. "Well," Doc says with a smirk, "since it's an emergency, don't let me stand in your way." Paris thanks him and rushes away.
After skulking through the corridors, Paris finds a wall panel away from his shipmates, and starts punching up a search on the You Are Here map of Voyager. He finds what he's looking for and asks for a site-to-site transport--but not before punching up another request from the central replicators. He grins like a teenager.
B'Elanna is slaving away at a hot control panel when she hears the familiar transporter whine. She looks up, and notices a disembodied hand in the portal above her, holding a bouquet of flowers.
"Are those supposed to make up for canceling on me last night?" she asks.
"I got stuck with an extra shift on the bridge," Tom says, climbing down. "What could I say--'Sorry, Captain, I've got a date with B'Elanna'?"
She smirks. "And what about right now? Aren't you supposed to be working in Sickbay?"
"I said I had to go deliver a conn report," he says.
"Not bad. But he'll be expecting you back."
"He can wait," Paris says. But Tom cannot, and neither can B'Elanna. Their lips meet hungrily, the bad jazz music swells, and you can tell they've been practicing since "Revulsion." On the surface, at least, the relationship is progressing nicely.
But what about under the surface? a lone reviewer queries. What's going on inside these two young, passionate characters?
The scene shifts. And while they kiss, we get a glimpse beneath the surface.
Literally. Right down to the skeleton. We're talking Gray's Anatomy, folks.
When I asked for an inside look, that's not exactly what I meant....[blecch!]
There's also some alien characters on the edge of the screen. Apparently there are P/Ters in the Delta Quadrant, as well....
As quickly as the X-Ray Cam activates, it disengages.
Torres breaks away from the kiss with a cold shudder. Tom, his mouth smeared with lipstick, asks what's wrong. "I just had the feeling that somebody was watching us," Torres says.
Aside from the millions of squealing P/T'ers, I assume...
"I must be completely paranoid about getting caught in a compromising position," she adds, giggling.
Paris smirks. "Kind of exciting, isn't it?"
Her only answer is to resume the kiss.
* * *
Captain Janeway's status as the nakedest captain in Starfleet continues. This time, she's lying face-down on a massage table in her quarters while Holodoc puts his portable emitter to good use. Our view is from under-the-table, observing the captain's tortured face as Doc demonstrates that as a masseur, he's an exceptional interrogator.
We get a good view of the impressively-detailed tattoo of Mr. Coffee on her right shoulder.
"Your trapezius is hard as a rock," Doc says, digging his elbow into the small of her back, eliciting a groan of agony. "You haven't followed the relaxation regimen I prescribed," he scolds.
"I've been too busy," Janeway insists.
"Have you been getting enough sleep?" he asks, kneading her shoulders like naughty bread dough.
"More or [groan] less. Mostly less."
"And have your headaches been getting any worse?" he asks, giving her the full-back chop-socky treatment.
"No, but they're not getting any better either. They're like hot needles driving into my skull."
"These symptoms are hardly surprising, Captain. You work absurdly long hours under constant stress. Eating on the run, without sufficient exercise or rest. Your body is crying out for mercy." He begins pushing a two-ton steamroller over her spine, which crackles like a newly-poured bowl of Rice Krispies.
"It certainly is right now," Janeway groans. "There must be some easier way to do this, Doctor. A hypospray, maybe?"
"Always looking for the simple fix," Doc chides, breaking out the hydraulic jackhammer and applying it to the base of her neck, eliciting a silent scream. "Sometimes there's no substitute for intensive osteopathic pressure therapy. You're fortunate to have a masseur who can work all day without tiring."
Janeway's horrified eyes triple in size when she sees him pull out the Iron Maiden, even after he assures her it's the latest advance in chiropractic science.
Chakotay hails Janeway from the bridge. "Unless this is an emergency," Doc answers for her, shaking her neck so hard her lips flap, "my patient Is unavailable."
Janeway decides that whatever Chakotay called about, it's emergency enough for her. She shoves Doc's hands away and props up on her elbows. "I'm here, Chakotay. What is it?"
"We've reached the source Of those energy readings. I thought you'd like to see what we've found."
Yep, that's pretty severe. "On my way." She hops off the table and practically sprints to the door of her quarters, trying her best to secure the towel around her.
"Captain..." Doc calls after her.
"I know what you're going to say, but I can't neglect my responsibilities," Janeway insists.
"I was going to suggest a change of outfit," Doc says.
Janeway actually seems annoyed that he'd consider it necessary, and half considers going anyway. But then cooler heads prevail, and she re-enters her quarters and closes the door to change.
Chakotay and Janeway peer out at the two brilliant stars on the forward bridge viewscreen, encircled by a dense ring of matter being drawn inexorably toward it. The captain is fully clothed, but she and Chakotay are standing really close together (wahoo!). Her hands are at her sides, and she is listing slightly to starboard. She looks like hell.
"Binary pulsars," Chakotay explains. "The gravitational forces between them are so intense that everything within 50 million kilometers Is getting pulled in."
"Don't worry," Paris assures them from the Helm. "We're well out of range."
"Gamma radiation levels are high, but as long as we're careful I think we can collect some invaluable data," Chakotay continues...then notices something more disquieting than the elemental forces of binary pulsars--Janeway with an Excedrin headache. One fist is clenched, The other rubs at her skull in a futile effort to wipe the pain from her face.
"Captain, Am I boring you?" Chakotay asks. Janeway apologizes, says she's feeling too tired to concentrate, and hands the whole project to his "capable hands." (You know, he gave her the mother of all neck rubs back in "Resolutions....") She leaves the bridge to him; he watches her leave, his eyes filled with concern, before returning his attention to the stellar phenomenon.
Paris arrives in Engineering. "You wanted to see me, Lieutenant?" he asks Torres.
"Yes," Torres says with painful, awkward formality. "I'm trying to...increase the efficiency of the impulse drive. But I wanted to make sure that I wasn't...compromising helm control."
Uh huh. Sure. This seems more for the benefit of the other engineers within earshot.
"Sensible precaution," Paris responds, playing along. "I'd be glad to help."
"Good. All of the specs are at my upper workstation." He follows the path of her eyes upward...to an unoccupied upper deck of Engineering. His eyes dance.
"Then let's get started."
Alone upstairs, Paris and Torres do their best to display passionate physical affection without getting in trouble with the censors. They wrestle all over the engineering controls, kiss, hug, etc. Some of the controls beep and twitter when they roll over it. Torres' fingers alternate between the control panel, and Paris' chest.
Torres asks if Tom heard anything. "You always think you hear something," Paris says.
Then a door opens, and Tuvok enters. The two junior officers snap to attention. Tuvok hands Torres a PADD, notes her rambling, nothing's-wrong-here response, and exits without comment.
Tom and B'Elanna look at each other and exhale sharply. B'Elanna withers Tom with her "this is all your fault look #4."
Paris runs after Tuvok, who is walking through the corridor. He throws an arm around the Vulcan, a serious breach of the telepathic race's privacy.
"Guess that was kind of embarrassing," Paris laughs weakly, matching Tuvok's stride.
"I don't experience embarrassment," Tuvok notes without slowing his step.
"Right...Well, then I guess there's no harm done. It's not like it was a security violation or anything."
"None that I am aware of."
Paris sighs with relief. "So, I guess there's nothing that would have to go on any kind of report."
Tuvok stops and looks at him. "You want me to conceal what I've observed of your relationship with Lieutenant Torres."
"Well, I'd certainly never ask you to be dishonest" Paris backpedals.
"Certainly not." Tuvok continues walking. Paris does not.
That went well....
Paris and Torres wait for a turbolift, on their way to a senior staff meeting. They look worried--about whether Tuvok will tell the Captain, about whether they should go into the meeting together or apart, about "acting like criminals when we haven't done anything wrong" and keeping their relationship to themselves.
"I don't think that it's anybody else's business how we feel about each other," says Torres.
"Neither do I."
"Then we're agreed. If we're just a little more careful in public. And we don't say anything to anybody," says Torres, who wants to keep things completely private.
"At least for now," says Paris, who may want to make it public eventually.
"Now?" asks Torres, a challenging look in her eye. "Sounds like you see a future in this." Ooh, she's evil.
Tom chuckles. "I would never be so presumptuous."
"Smooth recovery, Lieutenant," Torres says, not looking at him, but giving a Cheshire-cat grin all the same.
"I thought so," smirks Paris.
She leaves the turbolift first. Paris watches her go...with his eyes anchored around booty level.
Chakotay stands at one end of the conference table while Janeway sits at the other. She still looks terrible. Paris and Torres sit opposite one another, failing miserably in their efforts to avoid looking at each other. Kim and Tuvok try not to notice Paris and Torres looking silly.
Chakotay recommends circling the two pulsars at a minimum distance of 80 million kilometers. Kim suggests that they increase it because of danger of proton bursts, and Chakotay tells Paris to make it 90. Paris acknowledges. He accidentally meets Torres' eyes, and they scratch their noses in unison, looking even more obvious.
Chakotay tells Tuvok to raise shields to maximum and to be on the lookout for anything odd. "Report problems immediately, no matter how small."
The staff is dismissed. But Janeway holds back Paris and Torres. Paris, near the door when the call comes, watches Tuvok walk past him. "Thanks," he mutters coldly.
Paris and Torres stand at attention at the opposite end of the table from Janeway, who remains seated. Her voice is low, her face is strained. She's in a butt-chewing mood.
"I don't usually pry into the personal lives of my crew, but in this case I have to question your recent conduct."
Ouch. And this from the woman I expect has been the biggest cheerleader onboard for this relationship.
Paris shuffles his feet. "I guess Tuvok..."
"Tuvok? I haven't heard from Tuvok. But you two have been making enough of a public display that half the ship is gossiping about it." The way she says it, she clearly doesn't approve.
"That wasn't our intention..." Torres begins--
Janeway's voice rises. "You are senior officers. I expect you to maintain the standard for the rest of the crew. But this adolescent behavior makes me question my faith in you both."
That remark draws blood. These two owe everything they are now to the captain's faith in them, and they would do anything for her up to the sacrifice of their lives. They cringe.
"If you choose to pursue a relationship that's your business. But you consider yourselves under orders to use better judgment about it. Is that understood?" She's pointing the Mama Janeway Finger at them, stabbing it at them like a knife in their hearts.
"Yes, ma'am," whispers Paris.
"Yes, Captain," mumbles Torres.
Afraid to look at each other, Paris and Torres exit through different doors, as the captain buries her head in her hands, screaming for Tylenol.
To make matters worse, Doc had told her it would be in her best interests to switch to (blasphemy!) Decaf.
In his quarters, Chakotay stares at his computer terminal, surfing The Continuum web site, but finds his concentration elsewhere. Sleep beckons, but he still has work to do. He asks the replicator for hot coffee, black. (Janeway's drug of choice is catching on....)
Growing old before his time, Chakotay groans his way to his feet from his comfy chair (decorated in tribal patterns) and makes his way to the replicator. He smells the earthy richness of Replicator's Finest, feels the warmth of the cup, inhales the pungent steam, tastes the hot bitterness as it glide down his throat.
I wonder what he's feeling inside as he takes in that first, luxuriant sip...
Yep, the EndoCam is back. We see Chakotay's beating lungs, his writhing digestive tract; we watch the coffee make its way down to his stomach and begin to eat away at the lining with gusto.
Eww. Tell Bill Nye to drop the Amazing Camera of Science, please.
The internal view of Chakotay ends. But unlike when Torres simply felt the presence of someone watching them, Chakotay notices something more. His hands are shaking so badly that he can no longer hold the cup; it clatters to the floor. He looks at them like they're part of another body entirely, he has so little control over them.
Of course, a really good Zappaccino will do that to you. He must have borrowed Janeway's private recipe.
Chakotay heads to the bathroom and runs his hands under the warm stream of sink water. He pats the water to his face, letting the shock pass.
Then he notices the hair in the sink.
With shock, Chakotay looks in the mirror. He raises his hands to his face...rubs them through his hair.
The follicles come away from his scalp as though his fingers are fine razors, leaving baby-smooth skin behind.
And you thought Janeway was stressed....
* * *
When we next see Chakotay, he's lying on a diagnostic bed, bald and wrinkled, looking far older than his years. (One interesting trivia bit--there's a large part of his tattoo that goes over his ear, which his hair obscures completely. But we see it now.) Doc's diagnosis confirms that he is indeed getting older: "Bone decalcification, tissue necrosis, decreased visual acuity--all classic signs of aging--but they've developed within hours." Janeway asks for theories; Doc mentions progeria, "a rare genetic disorder which causes children to age prematurely, but there's never been an adult case, and it was supposedly eradicated two centuries ago." He has discovered, however, that Chakotay's DNA segments which regulate metabolism have been hyper-stimulated.
Janeway asks for a prognosis, but Doc says it's too soon to tell; he's barely found the cause. Chakotay suggests they run scans of everywhere he's been recently, and suggests their proximity to the pulsars as one possible root cause. He rises to leave, but Doc tells him he's not done with him yet. Chakotay insists his mind is still running at full speed, but Doc says there's still much they don't know about his condition. Janeway agrees, patting his knee.
"The Commander's DNA is working at a sub-molecular level," Doc tells the Captain. "I'd like to set up an electron resonance scanner in the science lab to get a closer look." Janeway agrees, and turns to go. Doc notices she's holding her head a still, and asks how her condition is. She tells him angrily to stuff his lectures about working too hard, and Doc doesn't press.
Though after what they saw with Chakotay, why he didn't bother to scan the captain is beyond me.
"'Under orders to use better judgment'? That's pretty harsh," Kim says with a grin, his tone suggesting Paris not worry too much about it. They're in the mess hall.
"I hope I can manage it," Paris confesses.
"Well, she does have a point. You could have been more discreet."
"Oh. I forgot I was talking to the most upstanding Ensign in Starfleet." They laugh.
Neelix arrives with a bowl of eggs and a scrambling whisk. They order their breakfast in a light mood. Harry even orders leftover Pleeka rind casserole. Paris looks at him funny; Kim says he likes it. They shrug, and Neelix--thrilled that one of his meals has found a fan--rushes to comply.
"So, I guess your relationship isn't exactly a secret anymore," Harry says with a big ole smile.
"You think anybody on this ship can keep a secret?" Paris jokes.
The banter is interrupted by a crash in the kitchen. Paris and Kim rush back to find Neelix on the ground, curled in a ball in obvious pain, barely able to speak. His eyes are large black marbles, far from the usual yellow-speckled color. Paris hails Sickbay, saying he's bringing in Neelix; "It's an emergency!"
Neelix, apparently, has his own hyper-stimulated DNA troubles. But unlike Chakotay's rapid aging, Neelix is becoming a Mylean--the race of his great-grandfather. Doc and Paris work well together, investigating Neelix's genes while Neelix views himself in a hand-held mirror.
"Too bad my great-grandfather wasn't a little better-looking," Neelix mumbles, his eyes and spots a little blacker and more in number (spots, not eyes) but looking otherwise pretty much the same.
Doc leaves Paris in charge of Sickbay for the moment, while he and Torres work together on the heavy-duty genetic analysis in the science lab. Paris says he'll run a cellular scan on everyone who comes in. "What else I can do?" he asks.
"Do your best to keep them comfortable. Until we have more information that's the best either of us can do."
Neelix shuffles over to where Chakotay sits, and hands him a glass of water. Chakotay complains about the smell; Neelix admits he is the source; those pesky Mylean sweat glands are asserting themselves. Neelix manages to drag himself onto Chakotay's bed, where they kvetch about their respective aches, pains, etc. ("You think you've got problems; my prostate's the size of a leola root!" That sorta thing.)
Two crewmen enter Sickbay, looking ill and/or injured. Neelix offers to help, but Paris says he's releasing both himself and Chakotay to their quarters; reports are pouring in, and Sickbay is about to get crowded.
In the Science lab, Doc and Torres use a high-powered scanner on slides of Chakotay's cells. As they increase the magnification to near-maximum, Doc sees some black marks on one of the DNA base pair sequences. He asks for full magnification...and finds an alien bar code. (The closed captioning translated it as "Microsoft Visual DNA++ v2.47".)
(Okay. For those who keep asking about the significance of 47, look here. Or here.)
"I'm no microbiologist," says Torres, "But that doesn't look like it belongs there."
"Believe me, it doesn't. I've never seen this. This level of sub-molecular technology is beyond anything Starfleet has developed."
Neelix's DNA shows the same marks.
"Is this causing the mutations?" Torres asks.
"A good scientist never jumps to conclusions, Lieutenant. But I'd say it's a distinct possibility."
Is it just me, or is Doc working well with others? He and Torres, he and Paris are working without the traditional air of smug superiority from Doc. I almost miss that. But this is pretty nice to see as well.
Torres tries to get a reading on another piece of equipment, but discovers that the readings are slightly out of phase; "That must be why my initial scans didn't reveal it. I'm compensating for the phase variance."
Ah, that pesky phase variance.
For those non-science majors, here's an explanation from a humanities major. Which means it is probably completely wrong.
Think of phase like those 3-d stereo images that look like static at first glance, but if you focus your eyes just so, a picture is plainly visible--dinosaurs, penguins, even the Starship Enterprise. It's there the whole time, but you have to look at it the right way. A similar principle is using ultraviolet goggles or infrared cameras to see in the dark, or X-rays or MRI's to see below the surface of the body.
Now imagine something being physically so "out of focus" you could walk through it and not even know it. Atoms are mostly empty space. Stuff passes through us all the time--photons, X-rays, gamma rays, tanning rays, neutrinos, bran muffins--like we aren't even there.
It's not inconceivable to believe that something larger--a puppy, or Geordi LaForge, or the USS Pegasus--could do the same thing.
In Trek, it happens all the time.
Anyway...where was I?
Oh yes; Torres finds that Chakotay's DNA is now a phased, low-power pirate radio station.
No, I'm not kidding.
"You won't believe this...but I'm picking up an energy signature. This thing is transmitting some kind of a signal....it's too weak to travel very far." She and Doc figure out the variance--0.15--and attempt to search using the ship's internal sensors.
But Doc begins to do some phasing of his own. Torres checks his holoemitter and discovers that his program is being deleted. She begins transferring him back to Sickbay--but before she can, she screams and collapses from something we now suspect may be not only intelligent--but malevolent as well. She lands face-up in such a way that her hair halos around her.
Doc manages to hail Sickbay before he himself leaves the science lab--and just in time. His holo-emitter, with nothing holding it in the air, clatters to the ground.
Something bad is happening. And it's Halloween week, too....
* * *
The empty Sickbay of the teaser is long gone; every bed is filled. Janeway and Paris, Kim and Seven of Nine view their fallen shipmates. Doc, however, is nowhere in sight.
Paris says the mutations are starting to become life-threatening. In Torres' case, her lungs suddenly stopped processing oxygen. "I've got her on respiratory support. She almost died," he adds, voice hollow.
Janeway herself looks like death warmed over. Her hair is severely frazzled, and the bags under her eyes are too bulky to be admitted as carry-ons. "What about the Doctor?" she asks.
Kim reports that the computer logs in the science lab show that he was trying to transfer himself to Sickbay, but something must have gone wrong while he was in transit.
As Harry explains that they don't know where Doc is, Seven receives a clue.
"Seven of Nine, this is the Doctor. I've tapped into your audio implants so only you can hear me. It's imperative that you tell no one. Make any excuse to get out of there and report to Holodeck Two. I'm hiding in the Da Vinci simulation. I'll explain everything when you get here."
Seven listens to Doc, but to Janeway (who is in no mood for anything unexpected these days) it looks like she's daydreaming. She calls Seven's name until she responds, then asks about Doc's research.
"I examined their work area. There was no record of any findings. The electron resonance scanner appeared to be malfunctioning."
So whatever attacked Torres and Doc, it covered its tracks. No act of nature, this.
"I... could return to the science lab and attempt to repair it," Seven says, seeing her opportunity to flee. Janeway assents, and she exits.
The Da Vinci simulation is heavily populated with holograms today. Doc is dressed like the Maestro, sketch pad in hand as he leads a class of budding artists in sketching a blonde model named Carlotta. It's a decent cover, and necessary given the recent attack on his program.
He tells Seven that he's concluded someone has been causing the crew's genetic mutations deliberately, though at Seven's query admits he doesn't know why--but he does know that they don't want the crew learning the answer. "When Lieutenant Torres and I started making progress in our investigation we were both incapacitated. Call me paranoid but I don't think that is a coincidence."
Seven guesses that their communications may be monitored, and Doc agrees. He's already isolated one particular comm channel for their use. Seven says they should gather more information, and Doc says she can help by letting him modify her Borg eye to do a visual scan on the phased frequency. Seven agrees. Doc asks the computer to replicate a type-four micro-inducer. The computer complies--and drops it into a tin bucket near the Doc, where it lands with a clank. "Hmm," Doc notes cheerfully.
We see through the BorgCam as Doc modifies her field of vision. She can see everything she normally does, but there's an odd color scheme now. Wavy gravy.
Doc tells her to look around the room and report anything unusual she may see. She sees nothing out of the ordinary. (I was half-expecting the holograms to appear differently from flesh-and-blood people, but they didn't.)
"That's one room down, 256 to go," Doc says (there's one for the home game). He suggests she take her scans one deck at a time, and to report to him on com frequency Epsilon-two. "And be careful. Someone out there could be watching."
Seven strides through the corridors, looking around as she goes. It's sparsely populated at the moment, and at first she sees nothing unusual.
But then a door opens with a whoosh, and Seven turns back to see a blue-shouldered crewman enter the corridor.
Her eyes widen.
To her human eye, he looks like anyone else. But her BorgCam sees that the happily walking crewman is wearing some large headgear, and tubes are stuck into both nostrils.
You'd think he'd notice something like that.
Seven watches him walk by; he nods pleasantly to her, oblivious to what he looks like or what is being done to him.
But Seven next sees someone who is aware. A brown-robed alien her human eye can't see, doing a brief scan on the crewman with the headgear before moving toward an empty turbolift.
Seven heads in that direction as well, following the invisible-to-most alien with the similar-colored outfit and the Batman bangs, avoiding the pitfall of indicating her awareness of the creature.
Seven enters the turbolift when it arrives. The alien steps on as well. Seven says nothing, only darts her eyes around a bit. The alien takes a large metal probe and plunges it into her chest, looking like a dentist with bad aim. Seven does a remarkable job of not reacting; even if she can't feel anything (which is likely), just the sight of it would freak me out; I'd be screaming like Jamie Lee Curtis in HALLOWEEN.
When the turbolift doors open again, the alien retracts the device, and Seven walks out the door as if nothing has just happened.
She walks along the corridor of the new deck, seeing crewmen with these devices on their bodies, and others unmodified. She finds the bulk of them in the mess hall; those with the devices have one or more brown-clad aliens hovering around them, taking readings from their scanners or performing adjustments on the equipment manually. Various body parts are affected; most have stuff on their heads, but some have stuff on their chests, backs, legs, etc.
I'm hoping they don't give us a BorgCam view of Paris or Torres. That could be embarrassing.
All of the crew are chatting and eating and acting as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening. They have no clue.
But now we do. And it's making my skin crawl. I want my apartment inspected...now.
Seven, who is still far from Miss Popularity on board, isn't bothered by shipmates wanting to talk or eat with her. She walks over and grabs the coffeepot behind the counter, and hails Doc on the secure channel while she pours a cup (Janeway Java Fever is everywhere!). She says she can see the aliens, and can see how the crew are being affected. Doc tells her to go warn the captain.
In her ready room, Janeway fidgets. She looks ready to chew furniture and spit nails. She's in a serious bad-hair day, and she knows it, but she doesn't know why, and that makes it worse. She slams her fist on her computer terminal, gets up from her chair and moves over to the couch by the window, pacing like a caged tigress.
The door chimes. Janeway says Yes...then yells it.
Tuvok enters, phaser set to Please Don't Hurt Me.
"Good morning, Captain," he says.
"That's a matter of opinion," she growls, not looking at him. "What is it?"
"Internal scans haven't revealed anything about the genetic mutations," he reports.
"Still off-line. We are investigating The possibility--"
"Inform me of any progress," Janeway barks, interrupting him. Tuvok acknowledges and turns to leave.
Janeway holds him back with a word. "There's one more thing. The incident with Tom and B'Elanna started me thinking about ship's protocol...or lack thereof....It seems to me that people have been getting a little too comfortable around here lately. They're late for their duty shifts, taking mess hall privileges during non-designated hours, and a lot of people are spending more time on the Holodeck than they are at their posts."
Uh-oh. Hell hath no fury like Janeway on WAY too much coffee.
She stares hard at Tuvok. "You are security chief. Don't 13 department heads report to you every day?"
"Yes," says Tuvok neutrally.
"Well, straighten them out."
After a pause, Tuvok asks, "Shall I flog them as well?"
Perfect response, that. I was on the floor with this line, but it also showed how well Tuvok is being treated this season. Every episode he's gotten at least one good line in, and he's being written a heck of a lot more sympathetically as well. What's more, I'm disliking him less.
Anyway. Great line, perfect timing, desired result. Janeway sags visibly, leaning a heavy hand against the bulkhead, her head drooping as though made of lead. "Maybe the Doctor was right. I think I do need a vacation."
"You do seem unsettled," says Tuvok, the longtime friend
"Crazed is more like it. I haven't felt this anxious since my first day of command."
Heaven help that poor crew. I bet at least three of them are still in therapy.
The door chimes, and Janeway winces. "Remind me to lower the volume on that door. Come in."
Seven enters, saying she wishes to speak with--
She stops in mid-sentence. She once said "I fear nothing." Apparently, that's no longer true.
We get the BorgCam view of the captain, and understand what I've suspected since Chakotay dropped his coffee mug.
Remember when the naked, kneaded Janeway complained about hot needles being driven into her skull?
Remember Pinhead from HELLRAISER?
Yep, the questions are related.
Seven sees Janeway with a half-dozen metal spikes driven into her head. And she's flanked by two aliens who are twisting and plunging them deeper into her skull.
I suspect this explains why most redheads are so feisty.
Seven is shocked to speechlessness by the sight of it.
Janeway prompts her to speak, and Seven tells her first lie--that her attempts to fix the Doc's resonance scanner failed. (She didn't even try, so I guess that's sorta true, but still...) She asks for help. Janeway assigns Kim to her (naturally).
Seven is still looking in wide-eyed horror at Janeway and her two tormentors when Janeway reminds her (politely) to get the hell out. Seven leaves a dust trail.
Janeway stares at the door after Seven's departure, as if even looking elsewhere will bring more pain. She speaks with a weariness that is painful merely to hear. "When this mutation crisis is over I think I'll spend a few days in Renaissance Tuscany. There's a little inn outside Sienna I've been wanting to try." She speaks as a damned soul who doubts that day will ever come.
Tuvok joins her on the couch. "I will join you for a glass of wine." (Do you get the impression that Tuvok and Spock don't have a lot in common? I just can't see Spock wolfing down burritos and Big Gulps, or knocking back a snifter of hooch. But that's cool; it adds to Tuvok's character. He's never struck me as the plomeek soup type anyway.)
Janeway grabs his hands, a token of friendship--but also a grasp at an anchor which at the moment she needs more desperately than air. Her skull cries out to her, and she rubs it with both hands, her face unable to hide the agony whose source we now know.
* * *
Back in the Da Vinci program, Seven reports that she's seen 56 aliens so far. Doc asks why they're here; Seven says her guess is that they're conducting experiments on the crew and monitoring the results.
"As if Voyager were one big petri dish," Doc mutters. Seven says she may be among the lab rats, and explains what happened in the turbolift. Doc doesn't like anyone messing with his patients, and considers ways to stop them. Seven suggests using a modulated phaser beam to expose them, but Doc shoots that down (sorry); the aliens could mutate the crew to an early grave long before they got them all. "It's too risky."
Seven has no ego to bruise, so she accepts the rejection of her proposal without argument, and asks for his recommendation. Doc says the genetic tags seem to be the key, and suggests they make a ship-wide neuroleptic shock to knock out the funky DNA sequences. "Unfortunately, it would be rather... painful." Not fatal, though; the hard part, he says, will be to knock everyone out at the same time. Seven suggests tweaking the power relays.
"I assume you know how to do that?"
"You assume correctly. But I will have to bypass several safeguards. It will take time."
Seven enters Engineering, notes the presence of the aliens here. She begins working on the modifications to the power relays. Naturally, Tuvok notices, and hails her, asking what she's doing. Not satisfied with her answer, he tells her to stop. When she continues working, he leaves the bridge in a hurry; when Seven makes unauthorized changes, she's usually trying to escape.
Seven is just about ready to flick the switch when Tuvok orders her to stop...in person. His phaser is in obvious view, so you know the script is going to call for its use. Seven tries to assure him that she's not doing anything wrong, but Benefit of the Doubt is not working in her favor.
While she and Tuvok disagree, three invisible aliens take note, and approach. Seven notices. BTW, Tuvok has been viewed through the BorgCam, and is not affected by any implants that I could see.
"You're attempting to deceive me," says Tuvok, aware that this is unusual behavior for her.
The aliens realize that Seven knows that they're there, and they begin to move.
Seven grabs Tuvok's phaser, reconfigures it, and fires at one of the aliens.
Tuvok sees her firing at nothing in particular...until nothing resolves into something.
For the moment, he seems to have his answer about Seven's actions, and lets her lead in this rather dangerous dance.
Seven grabs the now-visible alien as the Engineering crew realizes that something odd is going on. She points the phaser at the other two (still-invisible) aliens and declares that she will kill the visible one if they don't back off pronto.
"What do you intend to do now?" the visible alien asks. The alien is a woman, with close-cropped dark hair styled not unlike Bob's Big Boy, and a shadow on her cheekbones that suggests sideburns. Imagine a cross between kd lang and Neelix.
"You will come with me to speak to the Captain. I am certain she will have questions for you."
Seven knows full well that Janeway will be downright eager to beat the answers out of this intruder, especially after Seven explains the source of her headache.
We see a very large security dude guarding the rather petite prisoner. Because of their advanced capabilities, it seems obvious that she's still visible and in a holding cell only because she chooses to be.
The door opens. Janeway, followed by Tuvok and Seven, stare in at the prisoner. Janeway looks ready to beat something to death, and even the mountainous security guy flinches at the sight of her.
She gives them orders, then dismisses them. The next scene is hers. She marches to the cell, but leaves the forcefield up.
"Who are you? And what the hell are you doing to my crew?"
So much for pleasantries.
"My team has been observing you and conducting tests." The alien is cool, confident of speech, and addresses Janeway like she would a Starship captain. Or a lab rat.
"Tests? I'd call them mutilations." Janeway suggests she has a test or two of her own she'd like to conduct right now. Sparks are flying from her eyes. One sets the poor security guy on fire. He remains at attention even as he burns. He fears the alternative--attracting the captain's attention.
"I can understand why you're angry," the nameless alien says. "I don't like causing people to suffer. But sometimes it's a necessary part of my work....Medical research. We're scientists, like you."
"From where I stand you're a hostile invasion force. I want to know how long you've been here and exactly what you've been doing to us."
The alien looks at her condescendingly. "I can't answer those questions. It's a breach of protocol for me to be speaking to you at all."
"Oh, how convenient. That way you never have to face your victims."
"Captain, please. You're exaggerating the situation. Our techniques are as benign as we can make them."
Dr. Mengele said the same thing, I recall....
Janeway doubts the benign nature of the tests; the past few days she's been through hell. And she got off lucky with mere jacking up of her dopamine levels and sleep deprivation; B'Elanna can't breathe on her own, Chakotay is dying of old age, and Neelix's taste buds are gone--imagine the food he'll cook up now, sweating like a stinky Mylean.
The alien insists that there's a purpose to their tests; their findings will help them treat millions. "Isn't that worth some discomfort?"
"I'm sure you'd see things differently if your people were the ones being subjected to these experiments," snarls Janeway.
"Just as your perspective would change if your people were the ones to live longer and healthier lives as a result." (Touche.) "Don't forget, we've been observing you, Captain. I know the most important thing to you is the welfare of your crew. You'd even kill to protect them."
The alien is certainly no dummy. What she says makes some sense...but then again, I think we should stop using animals as test subjects--and start using members of PETA.
Just kidding; folks.
"You take care of your own, just as we do. We're really more similar than you care to admit," says the alien.
Janeway drops the forcefield and enters the cell.
"That's where you're wrong," Janeway says dangerously. "What you're doing isn't self-defense. It's the exploitation of another species for your own benefit. My people decided a long time ago that that was unacceptable, even in the name of scientific progress."
Dang. Apparently, the future belongs to PETA.
"You're a remarkably strong-willed individual," the alien says. "I've been very impressed by your self-control over the past several weeks. We've been increasing your dopamine levels, stimulating various aggressive impulses to test your behavioral restraints."
(This could explain her actions in "Scorpion"....)
"There's been a great difference of opinion about how much more strain you can bear." It's a taunt; my guess is this alien's entry in the betting pool is coming up soon.
Janeway slams the alien against the bulkhead.
"Not much," she says through gritted teeth.
As quickly as Janeway's temper flares, it subsides; apparently even that bit of physical hostility took the edge off, buying her a few more minutes of sanity.
The alien says she'd hoped Janeway would be more cooperative once the importance of the aliens' work was revealed.
That she'd think this, after admitting they'd been spending weeks pushing the limits of Janeway's tolerance, is idiotic. But since they're used to not even talking to their subjects/victims, perhaps this isn't surprising. She's new at talking to the ebola monkeys.
"Sorry. These lab rats are fighting back," Janeway says, offering a truly dreadful tag-line to the episode. (Like the aliens even know what lab rats are.)
The alien doesn't laugh or mock; the detachment is even more disquieting. She treats Janeway like a shampoo-blinded lab rabbit, though her tone is at least superficially respectful. She simply states that the crew's attempt to leave the petri dish will fail. Janeway's bluster about resisting to their last breath rings hollow.
"Consider what's in the best interests of your crew," the alien says. "We will be continuing our research. If you make no further attempts to interfere, I assure you that the fatality rate will be minimal, though there may be some deformities. And I would be willing to share our final data with you."
"You know where you can put your final data," spits Janeway.
"If you don't, then the entire experiment--and its subjects--will be terminated." Any alien claims to moral superiority are extinguished right here. The gauntlet is cracked across Janeway's face; the line is drawn in the sand.
At this point, you know the climax is going to be bloody.
* * *
In Janeway's ready room, the news is not good. Tuvok, Seven and Doc all report failures in their attempts to overcome the aliens, who now seem to have access to key ship's systems.
To a control freak like Janeway, this is (to use another of her favorite words) unacceptable. Doc says any answer will have to come soon; Sickbay is overflowing with new casualties, with increasingly severe maladies.
"If we could modify enough sensors, we could resist them," Seven says.
"They are capable of manipulating our DNA," Doc points out. "A direct conflict would be inadvisable."
The bridge hails Doc with a medical emergency. Everyone leaves the ready room and heads for the fallen crew woman, whose face is scarred by lightning bolts of ruptured arteries. "She's in hypertensive shock," Doc says. Medical efforts fail, and within seconds he's declaring brain death.
Janeway doesn't give up so easily. She administers CPR, gives mouth-to-mouth, essentially providing more public display of same-gender physicality than the episode of ELLEN it aired against.
But I'm sure that was unintentional.
"There was nothing more we could have done," Doc tries to assure Janeway.
But she's well beyond that now. Her eyes burn with a heat that would make magma reach for a Slurpee.
"This ends right now," she declares, and you know something bad is about to happen.
Action Kate takes no prisoners.
"You're relieved," Janeway tells the woman at helm control, and takes her place. She begins laying in a course.
Tuvok asks what she's doing. "I'm running a little experiment of my own," she says, then utters her two favorite words: "Red Alert!"
Voyager heads for the twin pulsars at a high rate of speed.
"One of the aliens has entered the bridge," Seven of Nine reports. Janeway's mouth twitches at the news.
"We're less than a million kilometers from the pulsars," Tuvok reports. "We must change course to avoid being caught in their gravity."
"No! Keep going," Janeway commands, her eyes fire, her face glowing white in the face of the rapidly-nearing stellar bodies.
"This is a far more reckless course of action than I've come to expect from you, Captain," Tuvok says with deceptive coolness. His eyebrows are so knitted his nose now has a cozy.
"It certainly is," Janeway says, taking it as a compliment.
Tuvok reports the hull stress; Kim says he's beefing up the structural integrity field. But against the gravitational clout of the pulsars, it don't mean squat.
"What do you hope to accomplish by this?" a second female alien demands, coming visible and spitting nails.
Janeway's grin is terrifying, feral."Flying into a binary pulsar? It seems like I'm trying to crush this ship like a tin can." (I guess they never did fix that self-destruct sequence. Fine with me; this is far more interesting.)
"It's more likely that you're trying to intimidate us," sneers the alien, used to being the primary cocky jerk in the room.
"You're welcome to stick around and find out," Janeway says, reveling in the moment of stress release that comes from charging into the maw of death, her way.
Which is the only way she will ever accept death.
The alien tries to change course, but fails. "Our course is locked in," Janeway gloats. "Only my authorization can release it."
"You're not behaving very rationally," the alien accuses.
"Well, duh!" says Janeway. "That's what you were trying to accomplish, wasn't it? Hmm? Pumping up my dopamine levels to push me to the edge? Keeping me awake for four days straight with the constant pain of your devices drilling into my skull? Well, this is the culmination of your work, and guess what? You're going to be right here to collect the final data."
Sure, it's petty...but dangit, it feels good.
Tuvok announces the death of the shields.
"Enter the authorization code and change course immediately!" orders the alien.
"I don't think you realize that you are not in control here anymore," cackles Janeway, for whom being in control of every situation is more important than life itself.
"I can kill you and your crew in an instant," threatens the alien.
"Go ahead. Without us, you won't be able to prevent this ship from being torn apart by the pulsars. And even with my crew working together, I'd say the odds of us getting through this are...Tuvok, what? One in ten?"
"One in 20, at best, Captain," says Tuvok.
"I'm willing to take that chance. Are you?" Janeway says, double-dog daring the alien to stick around.
The alien blinks. Then she winks out.
As Voyager's hull heats up to 9000 (units of measure are notoriously absent this hour, as are the names of the aliens--who is it that nicknamed such as BAAOTW [bad-ass aliens of the week]?) and the hull begins to do the same shimmy shimmy shake that it did when Kes gifted them out of Borg space, Janeway hears that two alien vessels are disengaging themselves from Voyager's exterior.
Two vessels phase into view, and leave Voyager's hull. One of them is torn apart within seconds. The other, likely, didn't last much longer.
Eat hot death, you butchers.
Okay. So the aliens are all gone. But now there's the little problem of two pulsars and an overheated hull. Seven of Nine reports that decks 4, 7, and others are in deep dookie.
"I can't break us free of the gravitational forces!" Janeway says. Harry suggests beefing up the (non-existent) shields. Janeway has a better idea.
Pedal to the metal.
Kick it into overdrive.
Pull out all the stops.
Janeway's face reflects a manic glee--weeks of heightened dopamine levels burn white-hot inside her, and like an engine pumped-up with nitrous oxide, she's almost high enough on adrenaline to get out and push the ship even faster.
"We go in full throttle. Assuming we survive we'll need all the momentum we can get to reach escape velocity on the other side. Everyone, hang on. I hope you were exaggerating about those odds, Tuvok."
"I was not," admits Tuvok.
The ship begins to come apart.
Janeway loses helm control.
Main power goes off-line!
"Well, let's hope we've got enough speed," says Janeway, her eyes glowing brighter than the pulsars. She stares into them, daring them to mess with her.
Voyager's hull glows red. It's hauling serious hiney at this point, threading the needle at warp 47.
Voyager rockets out the other side, and begins to cool down.
Kim sighs. "I don't believe it. We're alive."
Janeway's demeanor has cooled off almost as much as the hull. She throws a grin over her shoulder. "I never realized you thought of me as 'reckless,' Tuvok."
Tuvok stiffens. "A poor choice of words. It was clearly an understatement."
Janeway laughs heartily. It is only after several phaser blasts to her right temple that she is persuaded to not go back through for another run.
Captain's log, Stardate 51244.3. With the aliens gone the Doctor has been able to remove their devices from the crew and neutralize the genetic tags.
"It was nice you could get the night off," Torres tells Paris. They're in his quarters, and they're in their off-duty outfits. Paris in a red shirt and vest; Torres in a sleeveless blue gown. They're eating salad and red wine.
"Huh. 'Nice' had nothing to do with it. I switched shifts with Ensign Wildman...which means tomorrow I'll pull a double-duty on the bridge and with the Doc."
Ah, the gallant martyr.
"Well, I appreciate the sacrifice," she says sincerely. "Tell me about the wine."
"Ktarian Merlot. 2282." (Now where did he get that? You can't replicate that stuff, and it's not something one normally takes along on one's first trip out of prison....) "You might want to let it breathe first." He sniffs at it.
"We've got all night to let it breathe," she whispers huskily.
Then Engineering hails her with a problem with the plasma manifold. "I thought you'd want to take a look." Paris blanches.
"I don't. Lock it down for now. I'll deal with it in the morning. Torres out."
Whoah. Talk about your firsts....
"Sometimes it's nice to be the chief engineer," she says, settling into the couch with her wine glass.
"Try the salad, Chief," Paris says, relieved that she chose to be with him, knowing how strong the call of the wee bairns are to a chief Engineer--and to this chief engineer in particular.
"This is really delicious," Torres announces after her first bite.
"Well, thanks. I replicated it myself."
"Mm, you're too good for me."
You know, I was thinking--this could be their first official on-screen date.
The door chimes. Torres tells him to ignore it. He does.
It chimes again.
"I'll get rid of them."
Paris finds Harry at the door, returning a PADD, not even bothering to pretend that that's why he's here, the little weasel.
"Smells good." Harry says after saying Hi to B'Elanna. But the door is already closing on him. His look as the door slams is priceless.
"That's it. No more interruptions," Paris promises. To prove it, he removes his combadge--a symbolic gesture; they'll always find you. But still, it's a good move. Torres follows by palming her own combadge.
Back on the couch, Torres clears her throat. "You know, I've been thinking about what the Captain said...."
"Thinking maybe she was right? Me, too."
"We have been a little out of control lately." They both laugh.
"Do you think we really were?" Tom asks.
"Out of control? Those aliens could have just been messing around with our hormones just to see what would happen." (You know, we never did see whether B'Elanna or Tom had been infected. It's been left ambiguous. Though if they'd had them, Doc would have removed them.)
"You're right. They could have. And we don't know how long they were on board. They could have been tampering with us for months!"
You don't think they'd press the Reset button on the whole Tom/B'Elanna romance thread, would they?
Naah. They've been building it up for a whole year....
"Well, when you think about it you did have a pretty abrupt change of heart a couple of weeks ago. What made you realize that you love me all of a sudden?"
Have you noticed that Tom has never--not once--said he loves her, even after she's said it to him?
I've got a bad feeling about this....
"Just a feeling. So, our whole relationship might be based on some...alien experiment."
Oh, no, Lisa Klink, you treacherous vixen...don't do this!!!
"You never know," agrees Tom.
"Well, I think that explains it," Torres says.
"I guess we should just call it off, then."
"I think so."
"Thank God we found out in time." Paris says.
"Thank God," Torres agrees.
Oh...I should mention that while all this horribly-depressing-to-P/Ter dialog is going on, the two are sucking face like plungers with tongues.
Man, I love Trick or Treat. Happy Halloween!
They disengage long enough to come up for air.
"I don't know about you," gasps Tom, "but...I'm curious to see how this experiment turns out."
Curious don't begin to describe it, Helm Boy.
Janeway was naked.
Chakotay's tattoo is even bigger than we realized.
Paris and Torres made out repeatedly.
Tuvok used the word "flog."
Multiple "47" references.
Everyone got some screen time.
Evil aliens got blowed up real good.
Doc gave a killer massage, drew a lousy portrait, and did some first-rate sleuthing.
The "big social message" wasn't ham-handed.
I think we've got ourselves a five-star hour of television here.
I think I mentioned in "Revulsion" that there are some episodes that work better when you don't think about them too much. Trek is a show about ideas, and characters, and stories...and, on occasion, it's also a show about nothing.
Shocking, ain't it? Before there was SEINFELD, there was "Trouble with Tribbles" and "I, Mudd"...and "Catspaw."
Ah, "Catspaw." The original Trek Halloween episode.
This episode travels familiar ground--the "Crewmen as lab rats" plot, the "phase-shifted people" plot, the "everyone's acting goofy for some strange reason" plot, the "captain goes postal" plot, the "natural phenomenon as plot complication" plot.
The key isn't whether you've seen this piece or that before. It's whether the pieces fit together. For me, they did.
If you have been rooting for Tom/B'Elanna to get together, this episode had plenty for you. The two got a little juvenile with their choice of make-out locations, but they got caught and chewed out for that--and they blamed the aliens for their lack of decorum.
Whether they were actually alien-modified isn't an issue, but it was fun to see them tweak the audience with the possibility. For those who got a sneak peak at the script and screamed all over the Internet that they were going to screw with the P/T romance...you got got, and got good.
In the Internet age, surprising the audience is going to get even tougher. I wonder if we'll see misinformation campaigns employed to help keep things secret, or at least keep us pointed in the wrong directions.
The science is goofy, but I don't care. This isn't a for-credit course; Voyager is competing with the Drew Carey show and Party of Five for market share. If Harry Mudd can have androids that blow up when you employ bad logic ("a pretty flower that smells bad"?) Then aliens so out of phase that they don't show up on any scanners can place out-of-phase instruments on peoples' heads and make them stay. As for the DNA stuff...geneticists may laugh, but for history majors like me, it's close enough for jazz. Or mock horror.
Especially creepy was Janeway under too much stress. She could frighten Jason, Freddy and Chucky into hanging up their sharp objects permanently. Captain Starbucks is a formidable presence on an average week; under severe stress, she's downright frightening. And when she's pissed and she has a plan, the very forces of hell and nature tremble.
Everyone got a moment in the sun here. Chakotay got to head up a project, show ALL of his tattoo (who knew the hair hid half of it?), and get some nice personal-space invasions with Janeway (she touched his inner thigh) and gripe sessions with Neelix. Tuvok got some good lines, got to do his job well, had nice scenes with Janeway and Seven of Nine. Seven got to work with Janeway, Tuvok, and Doc to good effect. Harry got to be the pain-in-the-butt buddy to Paris and be comic relief for once. Paris and Torres were all over this episode, as was Janeway. Doc's massage scene with Janeway was an absolute hoot, he had good scenes with Paris and Torres separately, had good interactions with Neelix and Chakotay. And there were quite a few scenes with the "supporting cast" of nameless crewmen.
The aliens were poorly drawn, really--the least you can do is give them a name, but the species and the individuals were anonymous. I guess they're supposed to be the Everywoman (since they were all women) Evil Medical Researcher, the ones who usually end up getting bitten by the Ebola Monkeys and are the first to die in the biological apocalypse movies. They bear some similarities to the Vidiians--both do terrible things in the name of medical science--but at least the Vidiians have an excuse; they need body parts because the ones they've got are clearly atrophying. The aliens here seem more like utterly detached researchers who use the "millions could be saved or helped" excuse to keep justifying their work, which is what they really care about anyway.
They were smart, they were stealthy, they were more than a match for the crew. But they had no motivation that made me feel for them. There was no urgency or passion in their actions; they were clinical and smug and annoying, just crying out to have their butts kicked.
So, naturally, their butts were kicked. This was no surprise at all. This was the weak part of the show for me. Though Janeway's manic expression as she ran her ship through the steam bath o' death was kinda cool. Playing the smart boogeymen is fine, but I wished they could have been more interesting.
The special effects were kinda cool, though. And the solution wasn't technobabbly at all; it came down to a good old-fashioned game of Chicken. I respect that.
As for the Social Message aspect of this week ("using other species for medical experiments is bad")...we're probably a few decades from the day when we won't need to. Computers will no doubt go a long way toward this end--autopsies on real dead frogs and cats and fetal pigs like I had in high school can be switched to the Internet, where digital corpses can be employed just as easily. In fact, i believe a complete human corpse is available online for in-depth study.
Now that is cool.
The big news is Paris/Torres. In "Revulsion" they finally crossed the threshold and became a couple. They're still not open about it, but they are a poorly-kept secret, which is close enough. They display the classic Stupid Phase of their relationship, making up for lost time and getting as much kissing in the shortest time possible. They're giddy with new love, and it's affecting their judgment.
Whether that's the aliens' fault or not, it doesn't matter. It's in character for them. They've been repressed for so long that they're bound to overcompensate. And they're young enough to think that rolling around on a computer keyboard is more romantic than painful. I'm sure they'll calm down; by episode's end they have already taken the captain's advice and gotten a room.
Short take: this episode was a lot of fun. Funny in parts, creepy in parts, a nice mix of action and sleuthing.
On a 0-10 scale, I'm giving this an 8.00, or (* * * *).
Next week: The Year of Hell begins. "A Briefing with Neelix" begins airing Billy Ray Cyrus videos 24/7.
If you want a second opinion, check out Julia's, or head on over to the lounge where Kris and some of her pals offers their musings from the Rec Room O' Reviews.