I do this for fun. I don't check my work. I am a fan of the Trek universe but am by no means an expert. I do, however, have strong opinions which I do not hesitate to share. The purpose of these reviews and episode recaps are primarily entertainment, and are written more for the purpose of amusement-- chiefly my own--than for accuracy. I usually only watch the episode once or twice before writing the review. What I don't remember, I make up; if my review varies from what you remember seeing, don't worry about it.
Jump straight to the Analysis
This episode has to be seen to be even partially believed. I have a feeling it defies explication. Therefore, I will try mainly to hit on what I saw as the main points and leave the details alone.
Kes walks alone through the corridors of Voyager and into the holodeck, where the darkened outlines of the notoriously familiar holodeck program Paris 3 (a seedy Marsailles tavern and pool hall) are seen. Kes calls out for someone to respond, when the lights come on and a chorus of "Surprise!" is shouted from the familiar faces of the crew. It is Kes' second birthday, and she's going to celebrate it Starfleet style whether she wants to or not.
The usual inanities are exchanged: "You don't look a day over one," "This must have cost you a week's worth of replicator rations!" "Two, actually, but who's counting?" ad stupidum. But it's a birthday party, where IQs are traditionally checked at the door.
Paris gives Kes a beautiful locket necklace, and Neelix responds predictably: the green-eyed slime toad of jealousy rears its ugly head. But instead of speaking out there, he discretely approaches Chakotay to complain.
Meanwhile, on the bridge an antsy Harry Kim provides reports in rapid-fire fashion to Tuvok, who has the bridge, in a futile hope of getting off his shift a few minutes early so he can join the party. Tuvok lets him suffer a bit before telling him to "check out the holodeck for routine maintenance with the Vulcan equivalent of a twinkle in his eye. Kim gives an exuberant "Aye, sir!" and scurries to the turbolift, but before he can leave, Tuvok calls him back.
On the screen, a large, nebulous cloud-like thingie looking decidedly unpleasant hangs before them, churning the very space-time continuum like so much homemade ice cream.
The captain, helping kes on with the locket and explaining its purpose, is hailed by Tuvok. As Tuvok speaks, the communications system gets all funky, like when Wing Commander crashes but your Sound Blaster doesn't feel like stopping. It was an eerie, funky sound that put a decided damper on the festivities, more so than Paris' unexpected gift.
On the bridge, the nasty cloud thingie has enveloped the ship before the bridge crew can act. Tuvok therefore commands that the ship plow into the phenomenon, with the hope that so doing will get them out faster. They attempt Warp 3, but the cloud collapses the warp field and the shields. They are well and truly stuck, and with communications down Tuvok orders Kim to the holodeck to relay their status to the captain.
Meanwhile, the captain--unaware of the circumstances, but aware that something isn't right, orders the partygoers to split into twos and head to the strategic areas of the ship: Torres to Engineering, Janeway and Paris to the bridge, Chakotay and Neelix to...I forget. Holodoc stays in the Holodeck, doing his best to ward off the ardors of the lusty hologram bar owner who has her eyes on him.
Then things get weird.
The turbolift that should have taken Janeway to the bridge takes her to Engineering instead. Torres, marching to Engineering, ends up everywhere but. Everybody eventually ends up back in the holodeck, including Holodoc, whose every attempt to return to sickbay deposits him back where he started, insisting to the lusty barkeep that "I'm a doctor, not a bartender." Eventually Harry Kim also ends up at the holodeck, where he tries unsuccessfully to help the holodoc.
Kes and Neelix try to return to her quarters, but her quarters aren't where she left them. On the deck they think they're on they see quarters side-by-side that to Kes's memory are on several different decks. Of course, Neelix wonders how she knows, with such certainty--the ugly IRS-audit notification of jealousy rears its ugly summons once again, and Kes is ever-decreasingly amused by it. I must admit, though, that the bickering over "are you sure you know where you're going?" marks one of the few times in this series when I've seen these two as a convincing couple.
Once back in the holodeck, they split up again, this time with different groupings. Harry Kim offers an idea: take tricorders with them so they can keep track of where they're going and where they've been, and maybe communicate with each other. Janeway and Kim try the Jeffries tubes. Paris and Torres go to Engineering, using the turbolift which took them there the last time.
This time, expectations actually prove reliable and soon Paris and Torres make it to Engineering, determined to beam to the bridge. After Torres opens a door to find a half-naked crewman strutting and flexing in his quarters where his quarters shouldn't have been, she curtly gives him instructions to stay put before closing the door and exhaling loudly. "I thought you handled that very well," Tom Paris smirked. They make careful coordinates, and beam out...and onto the pool table of the Holodeck bar, blocking the shot of the scumball pool shark.
Chakotay and Neelix head off towards the bridge, leaving Kes with Holodoc in the Holodeck, to protect him from the increasingly amorous barkeep. While they work, Neelix opens up to Chakotay, asking him about jealousy and feelings and relationships and stuff. Chakotay explains that love is the greatest thing in the world, and to lose a loved one is the greatest pain in the world, so jealousy is natural, but ... Well, you get the idea. It seems to help Neelix out, though.
Soon Chakotay and Neelix run into Tuvok. Shortly thereafter, Neelix disappears, and Chakotay and Tuvok pair up. Instinct and Logic make for strange bedfellows, as Kirk and Spock often demonstrated, but our intrepid former Maquis (genuine patriot and Federation spy) do their best. However, they end up bickering more than Kes and Neelix, with about as much success.
Kim and Janeway, crawling for what seems like hours through Jeffries tubes, see all sorts of weirdness in their tricorder readings. Electromagnetic activity first to port, then to starboard, then right in front. They share a quiet bonding moment when Janeway tells Kim he has routinely exceeded her expectations and has been one of the bright spots of their tour of duty together. (The Lieutenant promotion mentioned in last week's "Non Sequitor" just might happen this season; he's about due anyway.) They open the access hatch to what should be the bridge, and instead see a seriously warped Jeffries tube in front of them. Janeway's arm gets caught in the muck, and is stretched longer than Bob Packwood's at a social gathering. With great effort, Kim helps Janeway escape from the distortion, but more than her arm has been affected. Before Janeway succumbs completely to the effects, they make it back to the holodeck, about the only part of the ship that everyone (who appears in the opening credits) seems to be able to find.
Soon, everyone (except Neelix) is back in the Holodeck, and the barkeep has lost her affections for Holodoc, who refuses to (1) mop the floors, (2) serve drinks, or (3) sleep with the barkeep. He's fired, but unlike most holodeck simulations the program Paris 3 doesn't end and Holodoc is stuck in a bar with hostile French people. Kes, needing someone to comfort her, confesses her concerns to Holodoc, who somehow manages to conjure a compliment for Neelix: resourceful, tenacious, and fiercely loyal.
It seems this is the "Very Special Voyager" episode. I half expected a spontaneous chorus of Kumbaya before show's end.
When all else seems to be failing, Harry Kim comes up with the bright idea to make a map of the ship; they've traveled through much of it trying to get back to the bridge, with tricorders blazing. The others concur, and soon they're looking at a Voyager under severe influence of the space thingie. Let's just say M.C. Escher would have been proud.
Theories about possible courses of action are tossed around. Janeway is at this point completely out of it, uncomprehending her surroundings even when conscious, which isn't often. Chakotay is thus in charge, and when Tuvok suggests--a tad too strongly for Chakotay's tastes--he lays down the chain of command in no uncertain terms, invokes the prerogative of temporary command, and orders Torres and Kim to use the engines to perform a pulse of some sort, in the hopes of disrupting the thingie. Tuvok wisely stays silent, acknowledging Chakotay's right to take charge even though he disagrees with the decision.
Kim and Torres work quickly, and soon the engines are ready to pulse. They run out of the engine room as the ship rocks like San Francisco during the 1992 (?) World Series, shaking the holodeck as well. They avoid being killed in the shockwave, and at first thing look good...
But then the walls start warping like the upstairs painting in The Seventh Guest.
They run back to the holodeck, looking for new options. Tuvok again offers his suggestion, and this time gets to finish: "let's do nothing." This runs against the instincts of everyone conscious, but as the very walls of the holodeck begin warping, Tuvok argues that when all else fails, what else can you do? Nothing seems a good way to go, he suggests. He believes doing nothing may even result in no harm; they have no proof--other than the captain--that the thingie is dangerous, and that they could in fact come through this just fine. There is initial protest, but when it's obvious that their time has run out, they succomb to the inevitable.
Here the Kumbaya moment grows truly nauseous. Tuvok and Chakotay bury the hatchet: Chakotay acknoledges that it must have been difficult for Tuvok to be passed over in the chain of command when he was made first officer, and Tuvok admits that perhaps he felt some resentment and subsequently made things a tad rougher in their relationship (the fact that Tuvok was a spy on Chakotay's ship wasn't mentioned). Hands are placed on shoulders. Hugs are exchanged. Chakotay attempts to contact his spirit guide with Torres holding his hand.
I mentioned Prozac in a prior review. In this review, LSD seems to be the cinematographic drug of choice. When the thingie effect hits Chakotay and Torres first, they start doing a serious reality wave. They make no noise, their expression does not change, but the sight disturbs. The others tense a bit. Soon the room is engulfed, and everyone's doing the wave. (Arthur Dent and Ford Prefect first safely inside the Heart of Gold, turning into perfectly safe penguins with detachable limbs, comes to mind here.)
Then it's over.
The holodeck is back to solid form. Everyone's still conscious. Captain Janeway is fully conscious, and able to communicate. She describes her experience as some form of communication.
Soon they're back on the bridge, with Janeway asking for a status report. The reports stream in: no damage, no casualties...but all of their computer banks have been downloaded by another system. And they've had 20 gigaquads of new data uploaded to their systems. Apparently Janeway's suggestion was correct: it was an attempt at communiction. Ultimately a successful one, I gather. It will be interesting to see if they provide any details in future episodes. It's not unreasonable to believe that the space thingie has been around the Delta quadrant, sucked up and spit out other ships, and knows what the Voyager is looking for and gave it what it needed.
Neelix finally shows up on the bridge, bearing the fudge cake he introduced at episode's
beginning, insisting the party continue. Kes asks Neelix for a picture, so she can "keep an eye on
you" even when he's not around.
The summary kinda sums up my feelings on this. "You are in a maze of twisty passages, all alike." (Zork 1) This was a lot like the Next Generation episode where they ran into a cosmic string or something (another space thingie) and the different characters were separated into different parts of the ship, each with a challenge to overcome. This episode pales in comparison to that episode, but the Enterprise crew could not have done that episode as well in their second season, either. A lot of groundwork had been laid in the seasons prior, so we knew all about Picard's discomfort with children, Troi's lack of command experience, O'Brien's character and competence, and Ensign Ro's (to a lesser extent, though she established herself quickly) hotheadedness and competence. Even so, not everyone fared well in that episode; Geordi and Dr. Crusher's dilemma didn't do much for me, and Riker and Data's didn't teach me much about their characters (except Data's head can operate independently from his body).
Similarly, this episode was primarily about character and relationship development. As such, the nature of the outer-space thingie doesn't matter a whole lot; what really matters here is what we learn about people. How does it work on that count? First, we learn that Janeway is thrilled with Harry Kim's performance and progress, and I'm glad he finally got some ego-reinforcement. I'd like to see him made a lieutenant j.g. sometime this season; this was a good setup for that.
Second, we get a couple of good looks at Torres. When she saw the unclad crewman, it was fun to see her squirm. It's a small thing, but it does give us a bit of insight. I'd like to see her run into that crewman again sometime, and see how both react. Second was her moment at the end with Chakotay. Torres doesn't often let her vulnarabilities rise to the surface. She's opened up to Chakotay (expected, since she served on his Maquis ship), and to a lesser extent to Harry Kim, with whom she does work well. Paris she's never warmed to, Tuvok she seems openly hostile toward (him being a Starfleet spy and all) and Janeway intimidates the heck out of her but she'll go to the wall for the captain for putting her trust in Torres--and for Torres' mistake in "Prime Factors" when she tried to install the alien transporter device against Janeway's wishes.
Tuvok opened up a bit; we've learned a lot of trivia about him over the episodes, and noticed a lot of hostility towards him (and some anti-Vulcan prejudice, I think), but to now he usually only admits confusion over unusual situations. Here he is forced to admit that he's not as Vulcan as he lets on, that he got a bit irritable at times with Chakotay, and that he had at times felt like he was more deserving for first officer. But in the healing moment, he told Chakotay that Janeway's decision had proven to be a wise one. Not an easy thing for anyone to admit.
Paris we don't learn much about. Big surprise. He gets to smirk, he manages some successful orienteering to retrace their steps to Engineering with Torres, and he gets to put his hand on Harry's shoulder before their world goes wavy. But no real surprises here. (That comes next week, apparently). Well, perhaps the birthday gift he gives Kes, and some of their past "friendly" encounters, has been a progressing indication that will lead to next week's "Joanie Loves Chachi" episode where Paris realizes he has feelings for Kes and Janeway tells him and Neelix to go to Hell.
Holodock--we learn that he is more likely to kiss a Viking woman ("Heroes and Demons") than a French girl. We get yet another permutation of the Bones McCoy tag line, "I'm a doctor, not a _____." He was amusing when he was supposed to be, he was the father figure (Damn!) to Kes when she needed comfort during Neelix's absence, and he was his regular crotchety self when he couldn't get his program to sickbay. And we learn the good things Holodoc (I really wish they'd officially name him already) thinks about Neelix.
Kes--it was her birthday, but we didn't get a whole lot of new info about her. She did have her big episode a few weeks ago with "Elogium," but it seems kind of a cheat to not give her more to do on her birthday. Especially now that she's reached her Terrible Twos. It was cute seeing her and Neelix bicker over matters of jealousy and knowing where they were, and her vulnerable moment with the doctor and her kissy-face reunion with Neelix at show's end.
Neelix got a good Male Bonding moment with Chakotay and some good Honeymooners moments with Kes. His jealousy does bug me, if I can be so bold; I hope he gets over it eventually, one way or another.
Janeway's chief purpose in this episode is to pat Kim on the back and to get hammered by the wavy effect. And to Help Kes on with her necklace. I thought both were pivotal scenes in terms of the series, though. Janeway has been Kes' parent-figure for several episodes now, either subtly or explicitly. And Janeway's relationship with Ensign Kim is reminiscent of Picard's with Wesley Crusher, so it was nice to see her give Harry an unexpected bit of high praise.
All in all, this wasn't quite up to the level of "Disaster," and the goofy layout of Voyager was a bit too Brownian for my tastes while simultaneously non-suspenseful--we didn't see the scary effects of the space thingie until well into the episode; mostly it turned the Voyager into a frustrating maze, where all roads lead back to the holodeck Marsailles tavern. But like "Disaster," it gave us some peeks into characters and character interactions, and for that I can't complain too much.
On a scale of 0-10, I'd give this one a 7.25.
Next week: Tom Paris realizes he loves Kes. Neelix reacts badly. Janeway consigns both of them to Hell. Gilgamesh would have been proud.