Chakotay takes up boxing on the holodeck and ends up interacting with aliens. Think "Bride of Chaotica!" without Satan's Robot or Constance Goodheart.
Jump straight to the Analysis
In Sickbay, Chakotay screams. One of those blood-curdling screams that inspires instant sympathy. "No! Make them stop!" Tom Paris struggles with both outstretched hands to keep the commander from sitting up on the bio-bed, but in a battle of 24th-century pectoral groups, it's no contest. If it's any consolation, Tom's hair does look better than the sweat-drenched Chakotay's. The commander has some neural transceiver looking things on his neck and temple--what, is he dating Riley again?
Doc and Seven of Nine watch the monitors carefully, doing their best to stay on their feet--the room rocks every few seconds as though the ship is under some sort of attack. Tom begs Doc to do something for poor agonized Chakotay, but Doc says they can't risk losing contact with "the aliens."
"Get them out!" Chakotay rages, as though he's giving birth to them--which, as far as we know so far, could be exactly what's happening.
Doc runs over and adds his grip to Tom's, pinning Chakotay in place. He leans in close, shouting to Chakotay to break through the walls of agony. "Commander, can you hear me? Focus on the sound of my voice."
"I can't understand them, but they won't stop talking!" Chakotay shouts through gritted teeth. "What are they saying?" Doc demands, but Chakotay shakes his head. He looks terrified as well as in pain. "I don't know! Make them stop! Please!"
The rumblings continue.
Janeway calls down from the bridge. "Any progress, Doctor?" she asks. "It's not going well. Our--'ambassador' is still delusional."
"We're running out of time," Janeway reminds the Doctor.
Cut to the bridge. The jostling is even more severe here. The red alert lights are blinking up a storm.
"The graviton shear is buckling the hull. If we don't find a way out of chaotic space soon we're going to die here," B'Elanna Torres says with surprising calm, working at the console behind Janeway. Probably because she knows there's nothing she can do about it. The crew's fate apparently rests with the ranting, sweaty guy on the operating table.
We see an exterior shot of Voyager. In the middle of space, it nonetheless looks like Voyager is submerged in water.
And not the tranquil kind. More like the washer in those crucial seconds between the "soak" and "churn" cycles.
* * *
Chief Medical Officer's Log, supplemental. Despite my efforts, Chakotay's condition continues to deteriorate.
Doc sits at his desk, trying to ignore the constant rumbling all around him. When Chakotay calls out his name, Doc rushes over. The Commander looks like heck warmed over, face down and gasping for air, like he just woke up to the mother of all hangovers. "I'm tired. I want to sleep!" Chakotay insists, making his case for the Hypospray to Happyland.
But Doc is having none of it. "If you lose consciousness it could sever your link with the aliens." Aliens? Chakotay asks. "The ones who live in this place. We're trapped here. They may know a way out. It's urgent that you speak with them." The ship rumbles again to underscore the point.
"But I don't understand what they're saying!" Chakotay says angrily. He's a reluctant ambassador; few hate having other creatures inside their heads as much as Chakotay. Doc offers to help him understand them, but Chakotay is adamant. "I'm going to end up like my grandfather-- a crazy old man!"
Doc knows that this is one of Chakotay's fears (though it's news to us). "No. You're not crazy," Doc him, standing close and whispering his assurances. "I believe the aliens are reconfiguring your neural pathways so they can communicate with you." (Oh, that's comforting.) "Do you remember the day you were injured on the Holodeck?"
It takes the Commander a few seconds to work through his distress and respond. "In the boxing simulation?"
"Yes," Doc whispers encouragingly. "You were knocked down, remember?"
"I was injured. I came to see you. We had an argument."
"That's right!" Doc says. "Try to remember more about the Holodeck."
Chakotay switches into Hamlet mode. The scenery gets chewed to within an inch of its life. "I was sparring with a Terrellian...And Boothby was there. He used to train me when I was a cadet." (Is that the same Boothby he didn't recognize right away in "In the Flesh"?)
"Keep going. What round was it?" Doc says. Chakotay struggles to remember. "Three. Round three!" Keep that number in mind. "The fight was going badly. I was avoiding my opponent!" Interesting choice of words.
And thus begins the flashback.
You can practically smell the saline in the Holdeck's recreation of Mickey's Gym. The trophy case is full. The scale is set to 184 pounds. Towels litter the bench near the lockers. But the gym bags atop the lockers suggest the presence of more people than we ultimately see: Chakotay and three (whoa) others. Boothby (yup, the very Boothby we've come to know and love from Picard to Present), a tough-looking Terrellian boxer, and another Terrellian, presumably the former's ring coach.
It's the middle of round three (foreshadowing). Chakotay, wearing well-worn brown boxer shorts (duh), a faded butternut T-shirt (the streak continues!) and a grungy tank top, apparently seeks to avoid the same gratuitously unflattering pectoral commentary that's plagued Tom Paris all season. (But maybe that's just my jealousy talking.) He also seeks to avoid getting hit.
The Terrellian, wearing equally grungy boxing shorts and a tank top without the T-shirt to show off his sculpted shoulders and biceps, boxes with a style reminiscent of Carlos Palomino. Like a cat toying with its mousy food with clawless paws before moving in for the kill. Terrellians look like natural-born boxers--their faces already have that smashed-in look. This one also has a trio (dang!) of pencil-thin, foot-long, rope-like braids in a straight vertical row on the back of his skull, the only hair on his head.
Boothby shouts encouragement and advice from the near corner. "Stay away from the ropes, son! That's it, that's it." The boxers continue to dance around each other, taking the occasional experimental swing but not landing very often. Soon the round ends and the boxers take their corners.
Chakotay spits out his mouthpiece for a gulp of spittin' water. "That wasn't so bad," he says. But Boothby has other ideas. "It was terrible!"
"Am I missing something? He barely landed a glove on me," Chakotay says. "Mm-hmm," say Boothby. "Give him time. You're not reading him. You think he's slow and stupid. I know better. In fact, I know his kind in my bones. Literally. I can count the fractures, if you'd like."
Chakotay doesn't Get It. "He's not landing any punches." Boothby shakes his head. "That's the problem. You're not letting him!" Chakotay gives him an odd look. "Have I got this sport all wrong?"
Boothby explains--take notes, there will be a quiz. "Boxing is more about taking the shots than dishing them out. You shouldn't be dancing away from this fella. Let him punch himself out a little. It all comes down to the heart."
Boothby's eyes bore into Chakotay's. "Do you have the heart for this? That's the contest--it's not against him. It's against your own natural human desire not to get hurt. That's the real fight!"
Well, they do call it the Sweet Science. But this is news to me. I thought the idea was to float like a butterfly, sting like a bee, drop your opponent like a bad transmission (thank you, Jeff Altman) and pull in paychecks like Bill Gates.
Round four begins. This round has a bit more action. Chakotay lets the Terrellian get close enough to land a few, but he gives as good as he gets. Boothby's feedback is more encouraging. After a minute or so the Terrellian clenches, and Chakotay pushes him away, sending the boy scurrying back to his corner.
Then things get weird. Chakotay sees the corner behind the Terrellian crinkle as though reality was being projected on a foil wrapper, which is now being balled up. Freaky.
Time slows. Chakotay looks at Boothby. "G l o v e s . . . u p ! ! ! " Boothby yells, and pantomimes the gesture for the slo-mo-hearing impaired. Chakotay looks back at his opponent in time to see a gloved hand redraw that tattoo of his.
Chakotay falls flat on his face in slow motion, down for the count.
Fortunately, Don King promoted the fight; Chakotay comes away with a draw.
The next thing we see is what Chakotay sees. Doc hovering over him in sickbay, holding up a trio of fingers, looking irritated. "How many?"
Chakotay looks around, gathers his bearings, stares idly at the fingers, and says "Three." Creepy. "Good guess," Doc says sardonically as Chakotay sits up. "I've got a good mind to use a needle and thread--add a little authenticity to your fun." Ooh, Doc's in fine form today. Nothing drives Doc's acid wit better than righteous medical indignation over the more visceral pastimes of the crew. "Be my guest," Chakotay says off-handedly. Doc rolls his eyes. "You'd like that-- a manly scar above your eye. "Chakotay--the Maquis Mauler." Pointless violence. That program shouldn't even be in our database."
"There's nothing like a good fight, Doctor. I was there when Pryce-Jones went 23 rounds with Gul Tulet. 'The Knockout in the Neutral Zone.' Best match I ever saw."
"Really? 'Most blood spilled?' Or did Pryce-Jones drive Gul Tulet's nasal bone up into his brain?" Doc suggests with wicked glee.
Chakotay chuckles. "You've got the wrong idea." Doc clucks back at him. "The idea is simple enough. Do enough damage to your opponent to render him unconscious. How's the headache?" It hurts, Chakotay admits. Doc does a quick scan--Edema beneath the anterior fossa of the cranium... Hairline fracture of the septum... ouch.
Chakotay hesitates to interrupt Doc when he's on a roll, but duty takes priority. "I saw something strange." I'll bet you did, Doc grumbles. "No. Before I got hit," he says, and at his tone, Doc turns serious and asks for details. "I looked over at Boothby... He yelled at me... I turned back... Then the ring got distorted."
"An hallucination," Doc suggests. "You probably had some pressure building up along the optic nerves from a previous blow."
"No. I was keeping away from him the whole fight. He never touched me," Chakotay insists, almost as a matter of pride.
Doc does a scan, just in case. "Hmm. A number of the ganglia in your visual cortex are hyperactive. Your opponent wasn't firing on you with an energy weapon, was he?" No more jokes; Doc takes this bit of data very seriously. Chakotay smiles slightly; "Just his gloves." He waves his fist, still wrapped in sweat-stained tape, near the Doctor's face for emphasis.
But before they can pursue the matter further, the ship rocks, and a moment later Janeway calls Red Alert and summons Chakotay to the bridge.
As Chakotay leaves, Doc calls after him. "I want you back in here for some tests...unless you want to be seeing things on a regular basis."
You can almost hear Chakotay's wince. That possibility is more disturbing to Chakotay than Doc knows.
Although Voyager's bridge has often featured an informal dress code, and it's a red alert, Chakotay still takes time to clean up and change into his uniform -- though he is still adjusting it as he steps out of the turbolift.
It would seem that something is playing cat and mouse with Voyager. A large area of distorted space, light-years across, appears here, then appears somewhere else, all around Voyager. When it gets too close, Voyager rumbles, its systems affected by the monstrous phenomenon.
Janeway doesn't look happy. Harry calls out the anomaly's position changes. It's here, it's gone, it's there, it's gone, it's close, it's gone, etc.
"Ion storm?" Chakotay asks, noting the writhing bit of space on the viewscreen when it appears. "Not exactly," Janeway explains. "It's two light years across, emits enough energy for a dozen stars, and doesn't match any profiles in the database--"
She emits a heavy sigh. "And it won't sit still." That's what makes it more annoying than interesting right now.
When the anomaly appears again, almost on top of them, Paris tries to back them off. They raise shields. They floor it. But the thing still overtakes them, and Voyager finds itself inside of an invisible, tumultuous sea. The view from inside is nausea-inducing; the stars swirls about like tea leaves in boiling water.
Janeway has little choice but to call Full stop. "Anybody want to tell me where we are?" Inside the disturbance, Tuvok posits unnecessarily. Kim reports that the raw data is pouring in. "Subspace flux, graviton waves. Sensors must be confused. The readings are shifting around so much I can't make heads or tails of what's out there."
This looks like a job for…
"Captain, this is Seven of Nine," we hear. "Please report to Astrometrics at once."
Whoa--she said Please.
To the batcave!
The Big Screen in Astrometrics shows a large, chaotic amoeba in space. "The Borg have been aware of this phenomenon for many years. It's a zone where the laws of physics are in a state of flux--'chaotic space.'" Janeway wonders why the sensors didn't warn them. "Chaotic space appears randomly and unexpectedly. The Borg have observed it throughout the galaxy." Tuvok asks why no Federation vessel has encountered one. "No doubt some have," Seven says. Chakotay points out that plenty of Starships have done the Bermuda Triangle thing and dropped off the subspace map without a trace. Seven says that of all the Borg vessels to encounter the phenomenon, only one managed to survive the experience.
"Those aren't good odds," says Chakotay, still thinking inside the Ring.
"If the physical constants are shifting our sensors can't function," Tuvok points out.
"The problem is here," Seven says, pointing to what could be the nucleus of the Chaotic region. It's pretty big, well inside the thing. "Changes in the gravitational coefficient will cause sudden shear forces against our hull. Shields will protect us, but only for a time." How much time? Janeway asks. Unknown, Seven responds.
Janeway springs to action. "We've got to recalibrate the sensors--redesign them if necessary. Otherwise, we're flying blind. Let's get to work."
In his quarters, Chakotay works at his computer terminal.
"Begin round one," he hears, the faint, echoing voice of the computer in the boxing simulation. An odd rumble, like applause. He asks the computer if it said something, but the computer denies it.
But the sounds continue. And he sees a pair of boxing gloves on a chair, decorated in Native American design. A summons. He walks over cautiously, but doesn't touch them.
He hears more stuff. He sees boxing gloves on his chair. He walks over. The sounds get louder. He hears Boothby. "Pick 'em up, son. It's the fight you've been waiting for."
Ding ding. "Begin round one," he hears the computer announce in the distance. He reaches for the gloves, almost touching them.
Then he hears another voice--Tuvok's, louder and more distinct, calling him from the bridge, requesting his presence. On my way, Chakotay says, still staring at the gloves.
But when he heads for the door and looks back at the chair, the gloves are gone.
The bridge is hopping, but Janeway, surprisingly, isn't there.
"Graviton wave displacement says we're moving at warp six... Subspace sensors show we're standing still," Harry reports.
"We can't be that far from where we entered," Tom suggests. "Maybe we should just set a course go to impulse and see what happens."
"What would most likely happen is a collision with an asteroid field or a star," Tuvok counters.
"That'd be better than just sitting here--" Tom begins, when Chakotay exits the turbolift, demanding a report. The news is mixed--torsional shear is up, but shields are holding. For now. "Like I was saying--better than just sitting here waiting for our hull to breach," Tom adds for emphasis.
Tuvok suggests dropping beacons like breadcrumbs to help them navigate, and Tom's response, if uppity in tone, is not without approval.
But Chakotay is distracted by the noise of the crowd. Not again. He asks if anyone else heard it. Nope--just him. Begin round one...
"I'll plot a course and we'll take it slow," Paris offers, asking for Chakotay's approval, or input. But Chakotay is hearing voices. "The Challenger... Chakotay!" an announcer yells in the distance. "Don't you hear that?" Chakotay pleads, begging for a second witness.
There are none. You can tell because when Chakotay speaks, the ship appears to be a raft on a raging river, waving up and down and port and starboard in a way that makes you want to reach for the Dramamine. When everyone else speaks, the floor under their feet is rock solid, and the camera doesn't move around at all.
Tom regards the commander with growing concern. (You'd think by now that it would be standard procedure, when stuck inside an anomaly, for any unusual behavior to be immediately acted upon. It's been a staple of Trek plots for decades.)
Chakotay sees the boxing gloves again--this time at Harry's station. "Look!" he yells, pointing. Harry looks like he's ready to bolt.
As Chakotay moves toward Ops, so does Tuvok. "Commander? Are you all right?" Chakotay seems to be pawing at air.
But Chakotay sees gloves, and he feels them. Put on the gloves, son. Boothby's voice is gentle but insistent. "I'm not ready," Chakotay answers. But nobody else on the bridge knows who he's talking to. Tuvok's voice takes on a warning edge, seeing his opportunity for advancement if Chakotay loses it (just kidding).
In this corner, wearing the red trunks... the Announcer says. The computer calls out, begin round one.
Chakotay lurches forward a little, looking weak. Tuvok grabs his bicep, but Chakotay angrily shakes it off. Paris calls Sickbay with a medical emergency; you just don't go getting physical with Vulcans.
Chakotay leads off with a vicious right hook and two quick left jabs, all of which Tuvok avoids easily. He counters with a right-handed neck pinch, which takes the Commander down.
Everybody was pon farr fighting . . .
As Chakotay loses consciousness, the angry roar of the crowd is the last thing he hears.
* * *
An amused Janeway enters Sickbay to the sound of Doc singing notes a capella, as Chakotay raises his hand. She smirks as Doc hits a particularly lofty falsetto note. "Music lessons?" she asks.
"Pretty soon we'll be singing duets," Chakotay shoots back, lying on the bio-bed. Doc says he's checking Chakotay's hearing. It appears normal, as does his sight. "I'm afraid the source of the trouble may be a little...deeper."
"The family curse," Chakotay says without elaborating. Janeway looks to Doc for an explanation. "Chakotay has the genetic marker for a cognitive disorder--sensory tremens. The primary symptoms are visual and auditory hallucinations."
"My family Doctor suppressed the gene before I was even born so I never had to go through what the others did--like my grandfather," Chakotay says with a haunted look. Doc continues. "For some reason, the gene's been switched on. I'm not saying for certain that's why Chakotay thought he was getting ready for a prizefight, but it's a good bet; the Holodeck boxing simulation was fresh in his memory. A few misfiring neurons did the rest."
Janeway asks the obvious question--could Chaotic Space be responsible. Doc gives the scientific answer--we'll know for sure when we're out of here, if he's still seeing things. Smart aleck. "In the meantime, the Commander will have to stay in Sickbay." He exits, leaving the captain and first officer alone.
It would seem that another side effect is that Chakotay is suddenly magnetic, and so are Janeway's hands. She's all over him. "Tuvok tells me you've got a mean left jab," Kathryn whispers conspiratorially, batting her eyes. "Never spar with a Vulcan," Chakotay says, laughing. "How are you doing?" she asks, more seriously.
Chakotay sighs. "I'm all right." His eyes darken, haunted . "When I was a boy...my grandfather started seeing things nobody else could see...hearing what nobody else could hear. A couple of hypo sprays a day--that's all he would have needed, but he was stubborn. He said his spirit was in pain...but that the wound...must be honored."
He tries to laugh it off dismissively, but the words are a double-edged sword. "Crazy old man."
With some nice group effort, Team Janeway soon has partial sensors on line, giving them a million kilometers of range. Not much, but much better than what they had.
Initial scans reveal nothing of consequence--and nothing they could run into if they high-tailed it in any given direction. "Good enough for me," says Paris, and Janeway agrees. Go that way, really fast. If something gets in your way…turn. (Better off Dead) Initial results are favorable, so Janeway tells Tom to increase speed.
Hold it, Harry says. We got a ship on sensors. It turns out to be a derelict, filled with corpses. "Let's take a closer look," Janeway says.
In the conference room, we get to see the alien ship up close, just beyond the window behind Janeway. It looks fairly advanced, nicely streamlined. And dead as a doornail.
"Computer, let's hear that again," Janeway orders. We hear the plaintive male voice of the alien captain.
Why won't you answer? Did you give up on me for being so late? Not my fault. We got lost in here. Why do the stars make such a noise? Let me sleep! I don't understand them. I don't want to talk to them. I just want to go home.
"That was the final distress call," Tuvok says.
"According to the vessel's medical records the Captain and one of his engineers started hallucinating after they entered this space," Doc says. "The physician on board never found a way to treat them." They were stranded in Chaotic Space for nearly a year before their systems gave out and they all died of exposure.
Harry notes that the alien sensors are more advanced, but glumly adds that it didn't help them much. But Janeway isn't above salvage operations, and orders Harry and B'Elanna to add the aliens' technological distinctiveness to their own.
The crew looks worried. Things don't look good. Some of the comments from Harry, Tom and B'Elanna are downright pessimistic. But Janeway figures if anyone can create order in chaos, she can. Keep the crew busy. Stay put, learn more, and act when ready.
Doc has an assignment already--Chakotay. He asks for permission to bring the alien captain's body over for autopsy, since he was a visionary victim. He can't believe the entry in chaotic space and Chakotay's condition are coincidental, and this alien might provide proof. Janeway agrees.
In Sickbay, Doc shows the autopsy results to Janeway and Chakotay. Short version: there is a pattern. The alien was affected in a way both different and the same. Different biological cause. Same symptom--seeing and hearing things nobody else could. "There might be something in chaotic space that reacts with DNA--alters it. But why it targeted him specifically and now you I can't say," Doc tells them.
Janeway asks if there's a treatment. Doc says he can suppress the effects (think Seven in "Infinite Regress") but that the gene is still very active, and he doesn't know how to turn it back off.
Chakotay has another idea. "I need to go on a vision quest." Doc says that's not a very good idea--"a vision quest taps directly into your frontal cortex. It could agitate your mind." Or help me control it, Chakotay counters. He looks plaintively at the captain. Not without hesitation, she grants permission. But Doc attaches a cortical monitor to his neck to keep track of Chakotay's vital signs, just in case things go horribly wrong.
As if that could happen.
In the privacy of Chakotay's quarters, he breaks out the akoona and the meditation bundle. He begins solemnly, as always. "ah-koo-chee-moya. I am far from the sacred places of my grandfathers. I am far from the bones of my people. But perhaps there is a powerful being who will embrace me and give me the answers I seek."
He finds himself sitting in a forest. Alone. At night. Wondering what's going on.
Then he sees an old man, bearish, long white hair, friendly of face. He walks with slow purpose, looking both confused, and not.
"Grandfather! what are you doing here?" Chakotay asks.
"I, uh... Seem to be... Lost. Just a little lost." Grandfather has a kind voice. There's an undercurrent of merriment that is both endearing, and heartbreaking. Crazy old man.
Chakotay's look is pained. "You didn't take your medicine this morning."
"Which medicine are you talking about? There are many medicines," Grandfather says, waving a hand. The one the hospital gave us, Chakotay says; you know what medicine! You can practically hear the youthful anger in Chakotay's voice--the responsibility for Keeping Tabs on Gramps no doubt fell disproportionately on him. Love, frustration, fear all battle for dominance as Chakotay regards his grandfather.
"Oh, that one," Grandfather says, making a face. He walks down the darkened path. Where are you going? Chakotay demands, following.
"My spirit doesn't want that medicine." Chakotay snaps at him. "I don't care what your spirit wants! You're going to take it."
"I don't think so," says Grandfather playfully.
Come with me back to the house, Chakotay pleads, but Grandfather waves him off. "Now why would I want to do that? It's better where I'm going. It... It's more interesting." He smiles.
"Where are you going?" Chakotay asks.
"To the place where my spirit lives." He enters a darkened cave, and fades away.
Hesitantly, Chakotay follows him in. But it's empty when he arrives. He calls out, but gets no answer.
Then he gets an answer.
Begin round one.
Chakotay swallows hard, and takes more steps inside. There's dark, then there's light. He finds himself inside a triangular (imagine that!) ring. It's impossible to see beyond the ring into the darkness of the stands.
Begin round one.
The crowd goes wild.
Chakotay awakens to find himself in Sickbay. (Or is he awake? Food for thought. Check for the moon in a reflective surface…)
"The aliens. They were there, watching me," Chakotay tells Doc. Inside your vision quest? Doc asks, incredulous. They were trying to tell me something, Chakotay says, grabbing at his throbbing skull. What was it? Doc demands. I don't know, Chakotay says, but he's not all that convincing.
Are they with you now? Doc asks. Can you hear them? Yes, Chakotay says after scanning his mind. Let them speak to you, Doc says eagerly.
No!!! Chakotay screams. They'll make me go crazy!
You're not going crazy, Doc assures him. They're doing this for a reason. "You've got to trust them! Stop fighting. Open your mind. Let go. Listen." With each urging, Doc's voice gets softer, more calm. Chakotay draws strength and courage from Doc's measured tone. He agrees to try.
We hear nothing. No crowds, none of that. But Chakotay does appear to be listening, and repeating what he hears. "Chaotic space... Intersects ours... At the 18th dimensional gradient." (which is six times three, or two times the square of three. Too many threes. Freaky. If Data starts dealing poker hands, I'm swearing off the Jolt.) "Voyager entered through... A trimetric fracture."
"Trimetric fracture?" Doc asks. The word is unfamiliar with it. But there's a three in it, so he doesn't object.
"We must escape, or we'll be destroyed," Chakotay channels. But how, Doc asks. We've got to alter our warp field, Chakotay says. In what way? Doc asks.
"Rentrillic trajectory," Chakotay says. ("trillic"? As in trillion? Another three? STOP!!! We get it already!)
"Rentrillic?" Doc asks, not familiar with the term.
But Chakotay's not much help with the translation. "It doesn't make any sense. I can't understand it! I'm scared--I'm losing my mind!" He shouts and runs away, but there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.
"Try to focus!" Doc shouts. No use. "It's too much! I can't! It's too much!" Chakotay rants. He runs across the room.
"Chakotay!" Doc says harshly, trying to break him free from his fear.
"Get them out!" Chakotay wails, on the verge of hysteria, collapsing on the primary bio-bed.
* * *
Chakotay lies silently on his bed in Sickbay as Janeway and Doc discuss his condition.
"First contact?" Janeway asks. Doc confirms it--brief, but definite communication. Janeway shakes her head at the unfamiliar terms. "Unfortunately, they never got around to explaining what that meant," Doc says when Janeway halts on "Rentrillic." She says they'll need more information if they hope to make use of it. The captain asks if Chakotay can jump in for another round of discussions with the aliens. Physically, Doc says, yes. But he's scared out of his mind.
Well, nothing takes a man's mind off his troubles quite like light petting. Janeway paws shamelessly at her prostrate first officer. She even caresses his booted foot. The hussy.
"I realize you're frightened...but you're our only hope out of this place. You think this could risk your sanity, but your sanity won't do you any good if we remain in Chaotic Space. I need you to keep trying, Chakotay. Will you keep trying?" She strokes his chest. She bores into his eyes with hers, and they grow to ten times their normal size, glistening like they were drawn that way by masters of Anime.
Who could say no to that?
This must be part of the vision quest. Wish fulfillment.
Even so, he nods.
But once she hears what she wants, she withdraws her hand. "Keep me posted," she tells Doc, and high-tails it out of Sickbay. The ship's still rumbling, in definite danger.
Doc asks if he's still ready to continue. Chakotay nods weakly, nearly paralyzed with terror. Doc urges him to focus on the alien voices, but Chakotay says he can't hear them anymore. Listen carefully, Doc urges. Still nothing.
Doc tries a different path. "Maybe we can return you to a more receptive frame of mind. Think back to when you first heard them in the vision quest. What were you doing? Where were you?"
"Their boxing ring. A strange ring." A triangle rather than a square. And not even equilateral.
"Was anyone else there?" Doc asks. "Yes. My opponent...Kid Chaos." Figures. Describe him, Doc suggests.
What Chakotay says, we see. He's in the ring, in uniform. We still can't see the crowd, but we can hear them. We see his opponent, wearing a hooded robe that has Chaos written all over it. Literally. LeRoy Nieman would run screaming from the sight of it. Kid Chaos dances around in his corner, back to the screen. He looks tough.
Chakotay acts more like a general than a boxer. "Tuvok...Move into position," he commmands.
Tuvok does, wielding a Betsy-class boomstick as he steps up to the outside of the ring from the shadows. "Thompson and Sharr target the midsection. Ensign MacAlister, you and I will aim for the head."
"Set your phasers to kill," Chakotay orders, never taking his eyes from Kid Chaos.
Boothby appears in Chakotay's corner, looking disappointed. "Not exactly the Marquis of Queensberry rules, now, is it? 'Set to kill'? That's not even Starfleet!" There is no anger in his voice, though--his voice is calm, reassuring. "Put down the weapons, son."
Tuvok scoffs. "Tactical advice from an academy groundskeeper? We fire at your command, sir."
"Give that order and you'll be out for the count--the whole lot of you," Boothby counters authoritatively.
Chakotay, torn, finally makes his decision. "Lower your weapons." Tuvok protests, but Chakotay lays down the law. Tuvok complies.
Instantly, Chakotay finds himself decked out in flashy boxing attire, real prize-fight duds. Bright purple silk robe with yellow trim. The gloves are on.
Tom Paris appears at ringside wearing a red T-shirt (with insignia on) and holding a PADD. "We just heard from Vegas, Mars and Orion Three." (Three!) "The odds are running 33 to 1--" aaugh! "--that he'll outpoint you 11:1" three ones! "That you'll be kayoed by the fifth." Didn't Monty Python's King Arthur often say Five when he meant Three? NOOOOO!!!
But Paris goes on, ignoring the review boy in the corner. "Subspace radio is calling it 'the Disaster in the Delta.' We can still scratch the card. I'll call the Doctor; we'll get you out on a medical."
The single overhead lamp, shining brightly, is moving about in a wide circle, keeping everything off balance. In the light, in the shadows. In the light… it's disorienting.
Boothby pays Paris no mind. "He's trying to hornswoggle us. Double-check those calculations." Chakotay listens to Boothby, holds out a gloved hand to see the PADD. But Tom yanks it away possessively. "No! Fine. Don't want to trust your friends? You're on your own." Off he goes.
Chakotay begins shadowboxing, throwing punches, following the example of the still-hooded adversary. He looks at the guy a couple of times, which throws him off; Chakotay looks full-on spooked.
Neelix appears next, looking furious, entering the ring and shouting to the rafters. "I'm filing a grievance with the Delta Quadrant Boxing Commission! This bout came out of nowhere! There's some scheduling mix-up. You haven't had time to train; you're not ready! If you fight now you'll be destroyed!"
Neelix's adamance gets to Chakotay. The commander goes to his corner. "I can't fight now. I'm not ready for this!" Boothby says nothing, but looks disappointed. Neelix drags chakotay out of the ring. "I can't stay here!" Chakotay says helplessly, as he exits, leaving the stone-faced Boothby.
Chakotay is wearing the workout sweats, pounding the Big Bag furiously--smack dab in the middle of the darkened, red-alert-lit bridge.
The door to the conference room is open. It's much brighter in there. And it's occupied.
Harry is there; he calls out to the first officer, not entering the bridge, for that way lies madness. Chakotay stops his punches to listen. "I follow your example, learn from you, look up to you. I don't want to lose that."
"You'll find another role model. You'll be okay," Chakotay assures him, resuming his assault on the bag. Whap. Whap. Whump. Whoof.
Janeway also appears in the doorway, again interrupting his workout. Her voice is steely. "You're my first officer. Your duty is to this crew. If something happens to me you've got to get Voyager home."
"Tuvok can take command." Whap. Whap. Whappity whap whappity whiff whomp pow. Apparently the cast of STOMP has filled in as foley artists this week.
B'Elanna appears in another entrance to the bridge, the corridor, backlit. Holding back. Distracting him some more. "You're being selfish, Chakotay." Arms folded. Brrr.
"I'm doing this (pow) for you (whomp whap pop pop whappity)...For all of you!" Whap-whippity-whump thud boom.
Doc appears on one of the small bridge monitors. His voice is utterly derisive, orders of magnitude nastier than the lecture he gave Chakotay earlier in the hour, before the anomaly swallowed Voyager whole. "A delusion--dementia puglistica. You're punch-drunk, Commander," Doc sneers, a nice young man in a clean white coat, coming to take him away, ha ha! (Napoleon XXIV)
Chakotay, gloves raised defensively, stops punching.
The Chakster is now nekkid, clad only in a towel from the waist down, face down on a table, getting a world-class post-workout rubdown by Neelix (wouldn't have been my first choice, but oh well).
The massage table is ringside. Doc stands in the ring, still in the Mental Tune-up Masters labcoat (Night Court), taking sadistic glee in detailing the physiological downsides of the Sweet Science. "A hard shot to the head and neck collapses the carotid artery and cuts the flow of blood to the brain! The hook!" he raves, miming the punch. "The head and neck twist laterally, traumatizing the cerebral tissue! And who can forget the upper cut? The head snaps back," he says, demonstrating, "rupturing tissue in the cerebellum and upper spinal cord! Yes!" Arms outstretched, raised skyward like Rocky at the top of those steps in Philly.
Chakotay tries to ignore him, enjoying the massage.
Doc is in fine form, going for the verbal knockout. He leans over the ropes. "And the result of all this poetry in motion? Neurologic dysfunction! Chronic traumatic encephalopathy! loss of balance!" he says, tripping over the rope in an exaggerated gesture, "and coordination! Loss of memory," he whispers cruelly, leaning in close to the kneaded commander.
"Starting to sound...familiar?" Doc asks, taunting him, jabbing a blunt object into the open wound of Chakotay's deepest fear.
Neelix is spooked by Doc's rage. He tries to brush it off. "Chakotay's fine. He just needs a little conditioning, that's all." He pounds Chakotay like a side of beef, working out the last of the knots in his shoulders.
Doc growls. "He needs to listen to his Doctor and not to his fantasies. Step into that arena," he says, using a word that conjures visions of gladiators, Christians and lions, haughty thumbs down and killing blows. "And you'll become what you most fear."
"What are you talking about?" Neelix demands. But Chakotay's face says it all.
"Oh, he knows what I mean--don't you, Chakotay? Hmm?"
Chakotay tenses; you could bounce a quarter off his trapezoids. "What's wrong?" Neelix asks.
Doc cuts to the chase. "Victory? Defeat? Knockout? T.K.O? It's all beside the point." Chakotay, face down on the table, nevertheless looks up at him with his one visible eye. Doc grimaces. "We know how it really ends--'a crazy old man...' Hmm?"
Silently, Chakotay rises, gathers his towel around himself, and walks out the door, Neelix in tow. Doc calls after him, chuckling maliciously. "It's your fate, your destiny. There's no escape!"
We next see Chakotay jogging through Engineering, wearing his workout sweats again.
"You just got to do your best. You can't let yourself get into your fears!" Neelix shouts, urging Chakotay on. I'm not afraid, Chakotay insists. Who said you were? Neelix demands defensively. Sheesh; talk about short-term memory. They jog by B'Elanna, who glares, hands on the railing near the warp core, her diffidence casting waves of ill feeling in his direction. Chakotay looks a tad spooked, and runs toward the door again.
We next see Chakotay running through the forest of his home planet. Wearing what we can only assume he wore before his days at the Academy. Neelix is gone; he's all alone.
And he's out of breath. He finds a stone bench to sit on.
"I'm sorry!" We hear shouted voices on the wind, too far away.
"Please come back!" Chakotay yells.
We see his grandfather enter the picture. "They got away," Grandfather says, tired, taking a seat next to him.
"Grandfather. Where did you go?"
"Some people were shouting at me. They were going for a walk and they wanted me to come along." Oh, Chakotay says. "It's hard to follow them. Oh, God, they go to strange places," Grandfather says, with layered meaning.
"I'm supposed to be watching you. We're going to get in trouble if we don't go back home."
"Be a good boy and go," Grandfather says. "We understand."
"You have to come with me!" Chakotay pleads with a child's urgency. "They say you can come with us," Grandfather counters gently. "There's nobody else here," Chakotay points out. But Grandfather seems to be listening to someone unseen. "They say you're just like we are."
This sets Chakotay off. He jumps off the rock, putting physical distance between himself and Grandfather. "I'm not! I'm not like you!"
"It's not so bad. When you get used to it, they're not so bad," Grandfather says softly.
"Come home," Chakotay pleads.
"Oh...I'm too tired. This is a nice place...a nice place to call home."
Chakotay does not agree. He trembles, seeing one possible future.
In Chakotay's quarters, we see his hand trembling, clutching (barely) his meditation stone. He's on the floor, face up, just coming to. Tom Paris and the Doc hover over him. "You were stuck in the vision quest," Tom tells him.
"I've got to go back!" Chakotay says when he grabs his bearings.
"You're going nowhere but Sickbay," Doc says sharply.
"Let me go!" But Paris restrains him. "Calm down. It's over for you."
"Let me get in the ring!" Chakotay demands. Paris says his name as a warning, but Chakotay is undeterred. "No! Let me back in the ring. Let me..."
Doc shoots him up with the Hypospray to Happyland.
* * *
A beacon, pulsing every few seconds, flies far behind Voyager.
Five per million kilometers, evenly spaced out. Janeway leads the effort, noting when to drop another buoy. Harry reads off changes in external forces on the ship; Tuvok handles the shields. Paris, as usual, is at the wheel, itching to go faster.
They appear to be making good progress. Sensors are going strong, the course remains obstacle-free.
Tom recommends they speed things up a little. Three-quarters impulse. Tuvok says there are too many unknowns to worry about. Tom points out that the longer they're in chaotic space, the longer they're exposed to those unknowns.
Tuvok is impressed. "His logic is undeniable, Captain. We should increase our speed." Finally, Tom says under his breath. Janeway mugs for the camera; "Who am I to dispute logic?"
Oh, don't get me started…
Harry sees something interesting. "Take a look at this."
It's interesting, all right. "It's the first beacon we launched three hours ago." They've been going in circles--to be precise, Tuvok says, one large circle.
Janeway sighs. "Hold our position," she says, irked. Paris doesn't argue. "All stop," he announces.
Janeway enters Astrometrics. "Report."
"I've applied 10,053 algorithms to the energy signatures produced by chaotic space. There is a pattern." (What patterns can you find in 10053? I found a couple…) Order to chaos? Janeway asks, liking the sound of that.
Seven puts it up on the Big Screen. "Observe. An isolinear frequency." We see a rhythmic pulse. A fluidic violet snare drum object ripples to a rhythm all its own.
"Some kind of signal?" Janeway asks. "We haven't located the source. It may be natural--a star or a quasar that's managed to survive in chaotic space," Seven says. Janeway keeps hope alive. "But it could be a transmission." Possibly, Seven concedes. Janeway asks if Seven tried the standard decryptions; all, but with no success, Seven says.
"Success seems to be in short supply lately," Janeway says.
But then she looks at the screen again. Really looks. And recognizes something. "Impossible . . . "
Captain? Seven asks. Janeway just smiles. "And to think...that kept me from getting an 'A.' "
In Sickbay, Janeway lets Doc in on the big clue. "It was the only question I missed in exo-genetics my senior year." Preganglionic fiber? Postganglionic nerve?
Naah. Too easy.
"The nucleotide resonance frequency," Doc says instantly when Janeway shows it to him.
"That signal was designed to activate DNA," Janeway says, justifiably proud to have caught the significance of it.
"It realigned his molecular bonds," Doc concludes.
"Now do you believe me?" Chakotay says, speaking for the first time. "They're the ones who scheduled the fight. They're promoting it. They're putting up the purse!"
"His sensory cortex is hyperactive. He's still hallucinating," Doc says dismissively.
"It's not an hallucination! Not a vision quest! It's a prizefight!"
Janeway rushes over, and has an ideal excuse for rubbing his chest for luck again. "Chakotay...do you know me? Do you know where you are?"
"I know you, Captain--but you stopped the fight. You ruined my career! Nobody will put me on the card after this!" Janeway suggests he rest until they figure out what the deal is.
"They want to contact me," Chakotay says with some lucidity that catches the captain's attention. "Who does?" she asks. "The people who live here!" Chakotay yells.
Doc breaks out another hypospray. "This will sedate him."
Janeway calls off the docs. "Wait a minute. You believe somebody lives here, in chaotic space--and they're trying to communicate with you?"
"Yes! I saw him!"
"Tell me about him," the captain urges. "What does he look like?"
"He's got a couple of kilos on me--a few centimeters in height--but I can take him, Captain! I just have to stay off the ropes."
Doc discounts Chakotay's ranting. "The Holodeck boxing simulation is still strong in his memory. Obviously, it's the primary source of imagery for his hallucinations."
But Janeway sees method to the madness. "What if those hallucinations are being induced--for a purpose? Aliens who exist on some perceptual wavelength that our senses can't detect, and the only way for them to communicate with us is to alter our senses! Chakotay's 'bad gene' gave them the opportunity."
What are you proposing? Doc demands. Janeway is only too happy to reply. "Remember the derelict ship? Two of their crewmembers claimed they were seeing things. Was somebody trying to communicate with them? Was somebody trying to warn them, help them?"
"Or trying to destroy them just as they're trying to destroy us," says Doc, hard-wired into Norman Negative mode this week.
"Why go through all the trouble? We're trapped here anyway," Janeway points out.
"Let me back in the ring!" Chakotay, who has been pacing like a caged tiger throughout the scene when Janeway wasn't petting him, demands.
"Even if this is some kind of alien communication it could harm him permanently," Doc says sullenly. (Do you get the feeling that Chakotay might still be mired in the vision quest? This is more the Doc taking perverse pleasure in goading Chakotay than the one yelling Talk to the Aliens and Save My Program.)
Tuvok hails the captain. The graviton shear has increased again, hull pressure is rising. And so have the stakes. She's on her way.
"Captain...when have we ever turned away from a first contact?" Chakotay asks her, eyes clear, rant-free. It's what's in your heart. Face your fears. See what you can withstand.
Janeway gives Chakotay a hard, long stare. "Send him back in the ring," Janeway says at last, marching out the door, leaving Doc as the reluctant Guy in the Corner.
* * *
Janeway is dumped into her seat on the bridge by a fairly hefty jolt. Report! She demands. Kim reports that a spatial sinkhole just opened underneath them. In layman's terms, that's bad news.
But they manage to sidestep it. Even so, the stress on the hull has (you guessed it) tripled.
Janeway calls Sickbay. "It's now or never."
Chakotay's itching to jump into the ring. "They're about to ring the bell!"
Doc explains the procedure. "I'm going to subject you to a field that will enhance the nucleotide bonds. The gene should become fully activated. Do you understand?" He does.
Doc gives him an encouraging look. "Find us a way out of here." I'll try, Chakotay promises.
Doc injects him with something, walks over to a console, and does a little swift programming. When all's in readiness, Doc nods at Chakotay and hits Go. We see the two numbers on screen.
"14," and "47." Wouldn't you know it. Four minus one is three. Seven minus four is three.
Decompress that shuttlebay, Mr. Data, and say Hello to Frasier Crane.
Chakotay soon finds himself back in the ring. Kid Chaos is there. So is Boothby. And the crowd.
"Good idea. Keep him waiting. Let him sweat it out," Boothby says encouragingly.
In this corner, representing the Alpha Quadrant, Earth and Humanity--the challenger, Chakotay! What happened to the Maquis Mauler? Ah, it's there on the back of his robe. Chakotay lifts his hands to spur on the crowd, and they respond. "Everybody loves an underdog," Boothby says with a smirk.
In this corner, champion of the Delta Quadrant--Kid Chaos! The crowd goes wild.
Chakotay does some last-minute strategy with Boothby. "Looks like he's got a lot of upper-body strength--a real puncher," Chakotay says, fear still on his face, but with determination as well.
"Just keep your elbow low when you throw the right, and don't come in too straight; you'll be okay," Boothby assures him.
But Chakotay's panic rises. "Where's the scouting report? We don't know this guy. I don't know who I'm up against!"
Boothby's voice draws him in. "You're up against yourself. That's all you've got to remember! And don't raise the elbow." You gotta love Boothby.
Begin round one, the computer announces. Chakotay loses the robe, and again is wearing a high-necked T-shirt . . . this one a garish, Prince-worthy purple silk. Sorry, ladies--no unclad Chakotay torso this week. (And what's with the hair? Even George Stephanopoulos gave up on that bang-heavy style. It's too Roman. But maybe that's the idea--gladiators in the Arena.)
Chakotay dances toward the center of the ring. Boothby, where are you? he calls out. "Still here, son. I'm not going anywhere." Chakotay takes courage from that.
Kid Chaos turns around. We see the outline of a face under the hood--but mostly we see a roiling, Brownian motion of stars, a mad universe in silk trousers. It's kind of hard to tell what to aim at. They touch gloves.
Then things get weird. We see a flash of light.
Paris: Far from where--
Grandfather: call home.
Doc (frantically): Do you understand?
Each word or set of words comes from his memory of recent events and images, the vocal equivalent of a ransom note constructed from words and letters clipped out of a magazine. The words are a statement of fact, an effort at communication. Something basic. We know this about you; you should find it familiar. Do you understand?
Mind you, the communication comes, occupying his thoughts, while he's trading punches with the ethereal Kid Chaos.
Chakotay dishes out some of his fresh-opened can of whupass, when he's not taking it on the chin. "Yes. We are. Far. from home. We are. lost." He tries to mimic the cadence of his reply to match what he sees.
Our. Home. Is. here. Our. Home. Is. here. In. chaotic space? Chaotic space. Chaotic space. More words, out of the mouths of his crewmates and his grandfather and Boothby, clipped one at a time from recent memories, to construct the sentence. Like an MTV video editor with ADD, the clips come at a furious pace, the words almost too hard to follow, too fast to process. Seeing what Chakotay has seen, it's easy to see why he's complaining. It's input overload.
Just close your eyes, focus on the punching, and listen.
"Hang in there, son," Boothby calls to Chakotay. "Protect your head!"
"I understand!" Chakotay shouts between body blows.
We. Are. Too. Alien. For you. We. Are. Too. Strange. For you.
Chakotay gives the standard Starfleet Aw Shucks. "Maybe we're the ones who are too alien...too strange!"
If. You. stay. In. Chaotic space? Chaotic space. Chaotic space. You'll. Be destroyed!
"We know that...But we can't navigate," Chakotay tells the aliens. "Our sensors don't work in your space!"
Boothby calls out to him. "20 more seconds! Don't go down!"
Your. Sensors. Must. Be. realigned. "How can I?" Chakotay demands.
Your. Mind. Must. Be. realigned. Realigned. Your. Mind. Must. Be. Realigned.
"I understand," Chakotay says. Though he doesn't look real happy about it.
End round one, the computer announces.
In Sickbay, Chakotay goes to his ring man. Doc. "Get them out!" He clenches painfully (or it would be painful if doc had nerve endings rather than photons) at Doc's tunic. "I can't take any more punches!"
"They aren't hitting you!" Doc reminds him. Oh yeah? You go in there, Doc dude.
Chakotay's stuck in Fight mode. "Duck... Feint... Clinch!" He does each, finally clutching at Doc defensively.
"Stop fighting!" Doc demands, pushing Chakotay away. "I can't! They'll destroy me!" Chakotay rages.
"That's a risk you'll have to take," says Doc. "You take the damn risk!" Chakotay spits furiously.
"They want you!" Why? Chakotay insists on knowing.
"Because you have the gene." It's as simple as that. "The crazy gene," Chakotay grumbles. "Yes, the crazy gene," Doc agrees. "The aliens are trying to speak to you, and the only thing keeping you from understanding them is your own fear--your fear of losing control, your fear of the unknown." Boothby couldn't have said it better.
"The unknown... And I don't want to know!" Chakotay turns his back on Doc and strides away.
"But we have to know!" Doc says, his own self-preservation kicking in, grabbing Chakotay's shoulder and wheeling him around. "Or we're all going to die! Allow yourself to hear them for just a few moments. Do it for us!"
Chakotay speaks his fear. "What will happen to me...when they're done?"
Doc's response is kind. "You'll be on Voyager...surrounded by friends."
Chakotay's fear is strong. He can't understand them, he says; you will, Doc insists. Chakotay complains about the speed of the "transmission." Try to focus on one word at a time, Doc advises.
Too many words, Chakotay repeats, overwhelmed. He and Doc begin talking past and over each other for a few seconds--Chakotay's fear of talking to the aliens, Doc's fear of what will happen if Chakotay doesn't resume communication. Insanity is easier to take when you're dead, Tattoo Dude, so if you're worried about going nuts, you won't have to worry long.
Finally Doc grabs Chakotay by the shoulders and shakes him hard. "They won't hurt you!" Doc shouts, silencing the frantic Commander. "No one will hurt you!" Doc insists, looking like he's ready to head butt the boy.
Chakotay stops fighting the inevitable, and opens his mind.
If you think it, they will come. "18th gradient, trimetric fracture." Keep going, Doc says, encouraged. Chakotay does. "We have to modify our deflector. We have to induce a paralateral rentrillic trajectory."
Doc has no idea how to do that. But Chakotay is beginning to. It all begins to click. But he can't explain it--he can only act on it. He bolts out of Sickbay. "I can make the adjustments myself. I have to get to the bridge. I don't know how much longer I can keep it in my mind!"
Chakotay arrives on the bridge, looking haggard but determined. What happened? Janeway asks. "He's got a right uppercut almost knocked me out," Chakotay says, indulging in a small joke.
He heads immediately to Ops. "Move over, Harry," he orders.
But nobody trusts the Maquis Mauler at the moment, not even Janeway. She wants proof. Chakotay does his best to explain it to her. "They showed me how to get out. Out of the way!" He practically pushes Harry aside.
Janeway sees the determinination in his eyes, seems to come to a decision. "Tell us what to do."
"I can't! It's too difficult to explain," Chakotay says, frustration evident. Harry tries to lock Chakotay out, but Janeway orders him to back off and let Chakotay have the run of the station. For now.
"He's recalibrating the deflector dish and routing it through the sensor array," Tuvok reports. "It must be altered," Chakotay explains.
Things begin to get a little bit worse. Microfractures are forming on the hull.
"Stay and we'll be destroyed. Activate the deflector--maximum amplitude. Bring sensors on-line!" he yells at Tuvok.
Tuvok looks at Janeway questioningly. "Captain..." But Janeway's committed. It's now or never. "Do it."
Harry's amazement grows. "I don't know how, but the sensors have found us a course."
"Maximum impulse...Now!" Chakotay orders Tom Paris.
Paris looks at Janeway. "Captain, if that course is wrong we could breach our hull."
Janeway hesitates only briefly. "Engage." Tom takes a deep breath and enters the commands.
In a pretty visual, Voyager does a little duck and cover, and in short order is flying out of the anomaly and back in normal space.
The Maquis Mauler to the rescue.
Janeway orders a resumption of their course toward the Alpha Quadrant.
Doc appears on the bridge just in time to catch Chakotay before he collapses to the floor. Janeway grabs his other arm at almost the same moment.
A short time later, Janeway notices Chakotay, decked out in his boxing attire, as they walk through the corridor.
"When I said you should take the next day or two off, I thought you'd want to stay in your quarters with a good book," Janeway notes wryly.
"Boxing helps me unwind."
"Well, in that case, report for duty first thing in the morning," Janeway says, smiling.
"See you then," he says, returning the smile. They part. A moment later, he reaches the holodeck. "Computer, run Chakotay training program 15-beta." He enters, and heads for the lockers.
Boothby finds him a moment later. "Ah, come for a little more punishment?" Chakotay smiles. "I thought I'd spar for a few rounds."
Boothby frowns. "Uh-huh. After that last bout? Did you talk to the Doc?"
"I've got a clean bill of health," Chakotay assures him. Good enough for me, Boothby says. He gives Chakotay his scouting report on the Terrellian. Chakotay takes the advice without argument.
"You sure you're ready for this?" Boothby asks. I'm ready, Chakotay says confidently.
Into the ring he goes. The computer announces the start of round one.
They dance around a bit. Then Chakotay leads off with two quick left jabs, and one mother of a right hook, causing the camera to spontaneously fade to black as the sound of the mighty blow rings in our ears.
To be honest, I don't have a lot to say about this one.
I basically liked it. Yeah, you can point to the similarities to "Night Terrors" and "Phantasms" and "Frame of Mind" and "Cause and Effect" (gotta love all those Threes) on TNG and any number of wormhole-prophet-featured episodes on DS9 and a few dozen others from the various series I didn't bother to look up. The plot was simple: The ship is in a bad situation, and the only way out is via the character acting strangely for no apparent reason. The twist here, setting the action in a boxing ring, does make for some interesting, if not always compelling, metaphors. But plot wasn't the point here; character, performance, and mood were. There was a creepy, funky feel to the episode that I enjoyed.
I liked Beltran's intense performance--I hear he does a killer Hamlet, and this tale of encroaching madness lets him break away from the normally stoic first officer's role. I never would have pegged him as the pugilistic type, but with the exception of Tuvok (who would have been strong on the boxing but weak on the scenery chewing) he's the best choice. It's hard to picture Tom, Harry, Neelix or Doc strapping on the pads. (Ironically, I could easily picture B'Elanna, Janeway and Seven of Nine hopping into the ring and kicking a little alien hiney.) Anyway, it's a good role for Chakotay this week, and Beltran makes the most of it. I scored it higher than I might otherwise have because of the performances. Picardo's turn as Doc was likewise excellent, particularly in the Vision Quest scenes. The Doctor is almost always at his best when his wit is employed like a laser scalpel. Janeway was a bit too touchy this time around, but that might all--or largely--have been part of Chakotay's imagination.
I quite enjoyed Ray Walston's appearance as Boothby, holodeck character, vision-quest voice of reason, or whatever. With Chakotay in the Stallone role, it was not hard to look at and listen to Boothby and get some fond Burgess Meredith as Mickey flashbacks. The "Tau of Boxing" didn't really fly with me, but it did fit in well with the theme of the episode, Chakotay's fears. It's not about how much damage you can do, so much as how much damage you can take. A boxer who won't engage, who's afraid to get hit, won't get very far in the sport. Likewise, a First Contact without communication is not likely to produce many results. Only Chakotay can sense the aliens; he's a reluctant ambassador.
The gene that allows the aliens to communicate is the same gene that scares Chakotay senseless--we learn something pretty fundamental about his character. He's scared to death of becoming a Crazy Old Man. Of Losing His Mind. Remember his terror in "Unity"--being controlled by a Borg Collective, by something beyond his conscious power to overrule, horrifies him. Now, anyone would understandably resist becoming a drone. But for Chakotay it is an actual phobia--not merely for the Borg's own sake, but because of his childhood memory of the addled Grandfather--it's a fate he doesn't want to endure himself. He saw what the disease did to someone he loved. He knew that he had the same gene in himself. That's an easy fear to comprehend.
In the end, Chakotay faces his fears (even though Kid Chaos had no face to speak of) and does his duty, leaping into the abyss to obtain the information necessary to get the ship to safety. They spare us the details, other than a few buzzwords. I didn't mind the minimal use of technobabble in the least; the details would have been superfluous.
The excessive use of the number three was never really explained, but it did add an alien quality to the proceedings.
Like I said, I don't have much to comment on. It was an enjoyable episode, rich in mood and in character portrayal.
Call it (* * 1/2).
Next week: Jason Alexander wants Seven of Nine.