It's Paramount's playground. They own the characters, the ships, species, planets, quadrants, and the dialog, plots, etc. My summaries and reviews are for the purpose of entertainment and analysis only. The reviews are full-spoiler, which means that it's about as close as you can get to seeing the episode. All that's missing are commercials and pictures. If you want to be surprised and haven't seen the episode yet, read no further. But if you've already seen it, or you don't mind finding out the details in advance, sit back and let Fatherly Uncle Jim spin the tale for you...Review Boy Style.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network. "Missing" Canadian scenes transcribed with my thanks by Marianne.]
Harry's first command of an away mission sparks an interstellar incident.
Jump straight to the Analysis
In the mess hall, we encounter a desperate conversation, already in progress.
Tom Paris is in a panic. "Show mercy!" he pleads.
But Neelix is unmoved. "Your people have a saying: 'Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.' In other words, your credit's no good here." Ah. Another saying among Tom's people.
"I'll pay you back double with next month's replicator rations," Tom promises.
"That's what you said when I let you replicate all those pork rinds"--Neelix makes a face--"for your monster movie marathon." (Why am I not surprised?)
Tom sighs dramatically. "Let me put it another way." He shouts at the top of his lungs: "This is a life-and-death situation!"
"Hyperbole won't help." You'd almost think Neelix was enjoying this, saying no to Helm Boy at the worst possible moment. It's after hours; Neelix is cleaning up for the night.
"I'm not exaggerating!" Tom finally spits it out. "This is the anniversary of my first date with B'Elanna."
Neelix gasps. "And you forgot all about it?" This is an emergency.
"Yes--and if I don't come through with some kind of romantic dinner..."
Neelix might enjoy watching Tom suffer, but he couldn't deny B'Elanna Torres anything. "All right, you've made your case."
"Neelix, you're a saint!" Tom says, kissing the Talaxian full on the lips. (No tongue--that would be icky.) Neelix heads for the replicator and keys in the override codes as Tom gives his requisition order. "Okay, that'll be one bottle of Mouton Rothschild--a 2342 if it's in the database--uh, Terrelian pheasant, steamed asparagus, and a single rose."
Neelix begins to regret his moment of kindness. "Where do you want it?" he asks.
"You can send the food requisition to B'Elanna's replicator. The wine and the flower I'll take with me." Neelix gives Tom a sharp look. "I can't show up empty-handed!" Tom explains, and Neelix is satisfied. The wine and rose appear.
Harry Kim chooses that moment to enter. "Neelix, how about a pot of coffee while you're at it?" Coming right up, Neelix says. Harry notices Tom with the handful of gifts. "Flowers and wine?" he asks with a smirk.
"Ah, anniversary," Tom explains. "Coffee?"
"Bridge duty. I've got eight hours ahead of me."
Neelix smiles approvingly. "Sitting in the big chair again?"
"Fourth night in a row, says Captain Kim of the Night Shift, as though it's a drudgery of an assignment.
Tom snorts. "You're not fooling anyone." Harry plays dumb. "You love these night shifts. Your chance to play Captain?"
"I'm not playing," Harry protests. "This is an opportunity to get command experience. You might put in for some yourself."
Tom shakes his head. "Oh, what's the point of trying to compete with an ambitious upstart like you? Just promise me one thing: when you reach the top, you remember all the little people you climbed over to get there? You won't make them work night shifts?" With that, Tom takes his rose and his wine and heads off to save his sorry butt from a fate worse than night shift, leaving Harry to laugh at him.
I think I see the appeal of Night Shift. It's fairly quiet--there's not many staff at all--so it's just Captain Kim of the Night Shift (insert appropriate anthem here) and the gorgeous and effervescent Ensign Jenkins at helm.
Harry reclines regally. "Helm, status?"
Helm Babe tries her best not to laugh out loud. "Same as it was 20 minutes ago," she says indulgently. Short, blonde hair. Alto voice. Eyes that seem inclined to laugh at all times. Attitude to burn. I like her already.
Harry smiles. "Refresh my memory."
Jenkins complies, her every word underscored by youthful mirth. Kids playing grownup. "Current speed: Warp 6.3, Heading 021, Mark two." She sighs. "Permission to speak freely, sir?"
"Granted," Harry says like one of the gods on Olympus.
Jenkins smiles. It's a very nice smile. "We're on the night shift. Relax."
Harry just smiles knowingly. "One of these days you'll get the call to take the bridge. And maybe then you'll understand the burden of command." Jenkins gives him the perfect Yeah Right.
An alarm beeps. Report, Harry says officiously. It's an automated distress call, Helm Babe replies. Origin? He asks. "A Class-M planet. Range: 0.73 light-years, bearing 261, mark 15."
Harry whistles. "That would be a significant course change."
Jenkins smirks. "The burden of command is on your shoulders, sir." Her eyes twinkle; "Of course, we could always wake Commander Chakotay." Brazen vixen!
Harry can't take the triple-dog-dare lying down. "No. Alter course." Sucker.
A short while later, Voyager reaches the M-Class world. It looks pretty barren; if there's life down there, it's not thriving.
"Open a channel," Harry says; Jenkins handles it. When the channel opens, Harry speaks. "This is Ensign Kim of the Starship Voyager. Can we be of assistance?"
"I'm not picking up on any life signs," Jenkins says crisply. Then, with a touch of sympathy, adds, "I guess they didn't make it."
Harry doesn't give up so easily. "There could be any number of reasons why we're not detecting life signs. We'll have to go down there and take a look. I'll inform the Commander." Harry heads for the turbolift.
Then he stops, realizing what this means. "Oh, Jenkins, the bridge is yours."
As the door closes behind him, the Burden of Command rests heavily on Jenkins' shoulders. Her eyes go wide; the air in the room seems to get cut in half; she gasps.
Who's laughing now, Helm Babe?
Chakotay is still getting dressed as they walk through the corridors. His turtleneck is on, but the jacket is still in his hands.
"I hope I made the right decision," Harry says nervously. Even after five years, the Commander still has the unfailing capacity to make Harry nervous.
"About changing course or waking me up?" Chakotay asks gruffly.
"I'm sorry, sir, but I thought--"
Chakotay smiles as he gets his jacket on. "Relax, Harry; you did the right thing on both counts." Harry thanks him, relaxing.
"Hey, why don't you lead the away team?" Chakotay suggests. "I'll monitor your progress from the bridge." Harry looks freaked out at first, but then looks very excited about the idea. "Yes, sir!"
[Missing Scene - Usual Disclaimers]
Harry's away team wouldn't be complete without Doc. They walk through the corridor toward the transporter room.
"The distress call was automated?" Doc asks.
"That's right. I'm hoping whoever sent it is still alive."
"Who's leading the mission?" Harry beams; "You're looking at him."
Doc is scandalized. "Really?" Problem? Harry asks. There is, but Doc doesn't say so. "No. I just thought, given the circumstances--a new planet, unknown hazards--that Commander Chakotay or Tuvok would be in charge."
"I am a senior officer," Harry reminds him, a little heatedly. "I've been on this ship for five years. I think I can handle an away mission."
The transporter room door opens. "I certainly didn't mean any offence," Doc says, backpedaling.
They step up onto the transporter pads. Ensign Lang, the very large security officer we see frequently when Janeway needs an honor guard or wants someone folded, spindled and mutilated. "None taken," Harry says--though it's clear he doesn't mean it. He's clearly taken some offense.
But a leader learns to overlook such things.
"Of course," Doc can't help but add, "having me on the team will certainly compensate for any lack of experience on your part."
For an Ensign, Harry Kim is developing a beautiful White Hot Glare of Death. "Energize," he says through gritted teeth.
The away team materializes on the planet's surface. It's a pretty barren place; little more than rocks, dust and tumbleweeds.
"Are you sure these are the right coordinates?" Doc asks critically.
"Positive," Harry says.
"Apparently, whoever sent the distress call was rescued," Doc offers helpfully. But Harry waves him off. "Maybe, but as long as we're here we should make a thorough search. Spread out." The three team members go in different directions.
Doc finds something first. "Ensign?"
Harry rushes over and breaks out his tricorder. "This is the source of the distress call," he confirms.
Doc wonders what it is. It's long, metallic, and embedded in a rock outcropping, like a nail pounded into drywall. Harry continues his scans, though he's as unfamiliar with it as Doc is. "Para-trinic shielding, a dense energy matrix...Bio-neural circuitry?" This is a particular surprise, and Doc perks up at that.
The device starts to whine, click, whir and squeal. (Henceforth known as "Boop" for short.)
"Whoa, back off," Harry says. Harry and the team take a few steps back. "This could be dangerous."
But Doc gets this odd look on his face. "No, wait." Like C3P0 and R2D2, Doc can understand what this Booping device is saying. "It's speaking to us!"
"Speaking?" Harry asks dubiously.
"In duotronic algorithms. Hold on. My translation matrix is interpreting."
"It says it's injured. It needs our help. It's asking why it can't see...or feel its arms and legs. It's terrified!" Doc's sympathy algorithms kick into overdrive.
And Harry finds his first away mission is a bit more complex than anticipated.
* * *
"Can you identify yourself?" Doc asks.
"It's saying that its memory has been damaged. It doesn't remember its name." Doc speaks to the device. "Don't worry. We're going to help you."
"Crewman Lang will remain with you." Doc and Harry step away to talk in private.
"What do you think?" Harry asks. "An artificial intelligence?"
"One that doesn't seem to realize it's artificial," Doc points out.
"Maybe we should tell it the truth--try to jog its memory." But Doc doesn't want to risk "psychological trauma."
"Psychological trauma?" Harry snorts. "Doc, this is a machine."
"One which is confused and asking for our help!" Doc counters. "We should beam it aboard."
"Not until we know what we're dealing with. Away mission protocols dictate that we--"
"Morality dictates that we help!" Doc says with unexpected passion. "It may not be flesh and blood but it's clearly in distress!"
Poor Harry. Maybe Tom had the right idea. Quiet night in the quarters with a bottle of whine, a red rose, a nice meal and a smirking Helm Babe. Not the fast track to the Big Chair, but it has its benefits.
It's a beautiful morning on Voyager's bridge. Chakotay sits in the Big Chair. Ensign Jenkins is awfully alert for the last moments of her shift.
The turbolift doors open. Janeway followed by an awfully chipper Tom Paris. I'd say it was a heck of an anniversary. "Make way for the day shift!" Tom announces loudly, and Janeway laughs merrily. "How's he doing?" The captain asks Chakotay.
"Well, let's see. I haven't heard from him in almost five minutes so he should be checking in right about--"
"Away team to Voyager."
"Now," he concludes with a smirk.
Janeway takes her seat, chuckling. "That's our Harry. If I were you, I'd watch out for your job." She speaks to the ceiling. "Go ahead, Ensign."
"We found the source of the distress call. It's some kind of artificial intelligence--badly damaged. The Doctor thinks we should beam it aboard."
Janeway smiles at Chakotay. Let's torment the boy, shall we? "You're in charge of the away mission, Ensign. What do you think?"
"Well...I think we should help it if we can--but, as a precaution, I recommend sealing off an Engineering bay with a level ten force field and beaming it directly there."
"Agreed," Janeway says. "Give us a few minutes."
"We're going to transport you back to our ship," Doc explains.
"I'm Voyager's Emergency Medical Hologram," Doc tells it.
"A projection of light and force fields guided by an optronic computer program."
Doc laughs, though a bit sadly. "No...Technically speaking I suppose I'm not a real person." Ah, irony.
The Chinese have a saying. "The pig says to the donkey: big ears!" Westerners have a similar phrase about a pot and a kettle.
In Engineering, Janeway arrives. "How's our patient?"
"Complicated," Torres says. "It uses bio-neural circuitry to mimic humanoid synaptic functions."
"But its memory core is damaged," Harry adds. "It's suffering from a technological form of amnesia."
One thing they don't know: what the thing is. Probe, comm system, something. But who really knows.
"Whoever our friend is, he wasn't alone," Doc says. "He claims to have been traveling with a companion."
Janeway frowns. "If there's another one down there it might give us a few answers. I'll be in Astrometrics scanning the surface." She smiles warmly. "Give our guest my regards."
"Of course, Captain!" Doc says, missing the humor in Janeway's parting words; for him this is serious business. "Lower the containment field." The air sizzles, then Doc walks toward it. (Since this isn't Sickbay, he can't just walk through force fields. His holoemitter couldn't handle it.)
"How are you?" He asks the device.
Ooh--that's a toughie. Doc hesitates. "Well, that's an interesting question. Ensign Kim and Lieutenant Torres are attempting to repair your...damaged circuitry."
"That's...what I wanted to talk to you about. You're not an organic being. You're technological."
Oh boy; poor Doc. "You're an artificial intelligence embedded in a machine of some kind."
"No, there's no mistake. We believe the damage you suffered in the crash is causing your confusion."
BOOP . . .
"Look at it this way--you and I have something in common. Just because we're not organic beings doesn't mean we're in any way inferior."
"Well...you're metallic, over a meter in length...cylindrical."
BOOP BOOP BOOP?
Doc smiles. "Oh, you're quite sleek, actually."
WHOMP BOMP A LOO-BOOP, A WHOMP BAM BOOM
Doc nods at the device cordially. "You're welcome."
Astrometrics. Janeway and Seven of Nine work side by side.
"I'm detecting no further technology on the planet surface," Seven says.
"Maybe the second device was destroyed when it crashed. Scan for metallic particulates consistent with our friend in engineering."
They find something. "There are minute traces scattered across the northern continent," Seven says. Isolate, Janeway orders. The Big Screen homes in on a piece of the planet, which then zooms in--to a very large, very desolate crater.
"An impact crater," Janeway breathes, not liking this news at all.
"It spans a radius of 200 kilometers." Dang.
"And look at this," the captain says. "Heavy concentrations of radiogenic decay in the crater walls...and the fracture gradients are consistent...with a highly focused explosion."
Seven of Nine frowns. "Evidently we've discovered its function."
Janeway isn't at all happy. "A weapon of mass destruction."
One suspects she's got half a mind to reprogram Doc with a red-hot poker about now.
* * *
In the briefing room, as the senior staff discusses the dilemma, Janeway's hot-poker reprogramming thoughts are growing ever more urgent.
They have a weapon of mass destruction on board. And Doc is insisting on adopting the thing.
"I understand your concerns," Doc says, "but the device hasn't shown itself to be hostile!"
"Not yet," Torres counters, "but it's only a matter of time before it puts the pieces together."
"All the more reason we should talk to it; explain our concerns!" Doc says. "Ask for help in defusing its explosive components."
"If it's programmed to detonate there's no telling how it will react," Chakotay warns. Janeway agrees; "We have to neutralize the threat now." She asks for suggestions. Seven of Nine's is to jettison the puppy into space and hose it. Doc is thoroughly offended. "Seven, this is a sentient being we're talking about!" Seven suggests a Plan B - "Return it to the surface and deploy a warning buoy to alert other vessels." Doc calls that abandonment, and he considers that equally cruel.
Torres suggests it might be possible to separate the brains from the bomb. "They're fully integrated," Harry counters; "Where would we store the intelligence once we shut the device down?" Add it to the holographic matrix, Doc says, as though that was obvious. (He and Harry have been butting heads quite a bit this week.)
Then what? Chakotay asks. Doc suggests returning it to its people. Or maybe keeping it as his new buddy.
Seven warns that the device is extremely complex; "One error and we'd risk detonation." Doc whirls on her, his eyes boring into the former drone. "Saving life often entails risk," Doc says earnestly. For some reason, this argument resonates with Janeway. Seven is living proof that she's argued Doc's position herself from time to time. "Harry, B'Elanna, assist the Doctor."
"Thank you, Captain," Doc says gratefully. But Janeway makes herself clear--at the first sign of trouble, the bomb is toast. "Understood?" Understood, Doc assures her.
Doc walks away a happy man. But B'Elanna, Harry and Chakotay share a much grimmer look.
BOOP BOOP BOOP BOOP
The bomb is not happy; it's being lugged out of Engineering by a couple of burly security types. Doc accompanies them, commiserating with the poor apocalyptic device. "I wouldn't like being carried around, either."
"Of course you are. Who wouldn't be?" They speed through the corridors, as gingerly as they can.
"We're taking you to Sickbay," Doc explains.
"Because we're better equipped to help you there." They reach the turbolift. "Deck five," Doc orders, then resumes talking to the bomb. "We're going to transfer your intelligence to a holo-matrix."
"You should be pleased. In a little while, you're going to be walking around just like me."
BOOP BOPPITY BOMP?
"I'm not certain. Ensign Kim's configuring your physical parameters as we speak." The doors to Sickbay open.
Doc beams at the bomb. "I'm sure you'll be quite handsome.
The bomb is laid to rest on a table. "Are we ready to proceed?" Doc asks Torres and Kim, who are already here.
"Whenever you are," Torres says, regarding the device warily. She breaks out an instrument and waves it over the main control panel on the bomb.
"Don't be alarmed," Doc says soothingly. "We have to access some of your systems to enable the transfer."
Doc frowns. "He says he wants to know exactly what you're doing as you do it."
Torres is annoyed. "This is a delicate procedure. I won't be able to concentrate if I have to give a blow-by-blow description."
"You'll have to forgive Lieutenant Torres. She's an excellent engineer," Doc assures the Bomb. "Unfortunately, she doesn't share my bedside manner." Torres glares at him. She then spares a glance at Harry, who explains what's going on as it's done.
"Well, first we're going to be setting up an active interlink between you and the holo-systems. Uh, now, to do that, uh, we're going to take your program off-line while we re-sequence your bio-neural circuitry."
Doc didn't like the sound of that. "He says he can't allow you to shut him down."
"I'm sorry, but there's no other way, Torres says.
WHOOP! WHOOP! WHOOOP!
"It's arming itself!" Torres shouts. "The detonation sequence has begun!"
"Sickbay to bridge!" Kim yells. "The device is going to detonate. Beam it off the ship!"
But Chakotay reports that this is no longer possible. "Talk to it, Doctor," Janeway orders.
"Please, you're going to destroy yourself, and us!" Doc pleads.
"Detonation in 20 seconds," Harry reports.
Still on the bridge, Janeway tells Torres to zap the thing with an E.M. pulse. "Maybe you can short it out." I'm on it, Torres yells.
"15 seconds," Harry calls out.
"Please disarm yourself. We're just trying to help you!" Doc says, trying to keep the panic out of his voice.
"Ten seconds. Nine..."
Torres is ready. "Initiating the pulse!"
"Now!" Torres says, and kicks in the juice.
The weapon shuts down.
Harry and B'Elanna breathe easier. Harry does the honors. "It worked. We've shut it down, Captain."
But Doc doesn't look at all happy. "You shouldn't have done that." His voice is low, angry. Dangerous.
Torres is too relieved to be alive to be offended. "I know you've gotten a little attached to this thing, but..."
"What are you talking about?" Torres asks.
"You said you were trying to transfer my neural patterns but you were really trying to shut me down."
Realization dawns. Torres' eyes go wide. "You're the artificial intelligence."
Harry checks the diagnostic systems on the wall panel. "It used the interlink to commandeer the Doctor's program." Torres tries to report to the captain, but discovers that the bomb has cut off communications--and is taking over other ship's systems as well.
Not only that, but Harry and B'Elanna are locked in.
"You tried to destroy me," Doc/Bomb rasps accusingly. (The bomb is never named. Can I call it La Bomba?)
"We were only trying to disarm you," Harry assures the thing.
This surprises la Bomba. "I'm a weapon." Click. Yes, Harry confirms. "Why didn't you tell me?" It was a precaution, Harry says; "we were afraid you might be dangerous."
"Obviously, we were right," Torres can't help but add.
La Bomba glares at her. "I couldn't let you destroy me. I have to complete my mission!" Uh oh--that doesn't sound good. You remember it now? Harry asks. "Yes. I'm a long-range tactical armor unit. I've been deployed by my people. They're facing a terrible threat--a hostile species. My companion unit was destroyed but I will reach my target. Your ship will take me there."
Harry tries to sound reasonable. "Look, we'll try and contact your people. If you could tell us who they are..."
"I must resume my mission!" La Bomba shouts. He activates some buttons on the device, 1-4-3-3, and the weapon goes live.
"The weapon's been rearmed," Chakotay announces. Uh oh.
"Security?" Janeway asks. Chakotay checks. "They still can't gain access to Sickbay--or any part of deck five, for that matter."
"Get a transporter lock on our people," Janeway orders. "We'll jettison the whole damn section if we have to." Can they do that? Coolness.
The viewscreen activates. We see the Doctor's image. "I wouldn't recommend that, Captain. If you try to stop me again, I'll detonate. Your ship and everyone on it will be destroyed."
Janeway had expected just about anything. But she hadn't expected this.
And she thought Doc was volatile already . . .
* * *
Forget the La Bomba stuff. Too much typing. Since we see Doc and hear Doc, let's just call him Doc. But (if you'll forgive the obvious joke) don't let it be forgot: Doc is Da Bomb until further notice.
Moving on. (*BOOP*)
Doc sends the bridge some new coordinates, with orders to go that way really fast. Failure to comply will set him off. So to speak.
Janeway asks for the Doctor. "He's gone," Doc says.
Tom Paris notes that the coordinates will take them to a system 2.3 light years away -- a relatively short hop, less than a day away at maximum warp. "Is that your home?" Janeway asks. His response chills her: "It's my target. The course I've plotted bypasses enemy minefields. Don't deviate from it. Your ship won't be harmed. Once we've reached the system you'll transport me to my target."
Janeway's features are molten. "We won't help you wage war. This crew has a Prime Directive that forbids us to interfere in the affairs of other species."
"You've already interfered," Doc points out. "We were trying to help you," Janeway counters. "Until you discovered my true nature. Then you tried to deactivate me." Janeway's gaze matches his over the comm system. "Just your explosive components--not you."
"There's no distinction. I am what I am. Now alter course or I'll detonate!"
"If you do that, you'll never reach your target, will you?" Janeway notes. But Doc is prepared for that. "I am programmed to take whatever measures are necessary to obtain my objective. Failing that, I'm to consider anyone who tries to stop me an enemy. Now alter course, and transfer your sensors to me so I can monitor your compliance."
Janeway sets her jaw. "Release my crewmen from Sickbay first."
"I'm not programmed to negotiate. They'll remain were they are."
The bomb and the captain stare coldly at each other for a long moment. Then Janeway backs down. 2.3 light years is far enough away to give her time to think, plan, and respond. "Lay in the course, Mr. Paris. Transfer sensors to Sickbay."
"A sound tactical decision, Captain," Doc says. The comm screen goes black.
Captain Janeway turns to Chakotay. The black depths of her eyes smolder. "Assemble the staff. We're going to find a way to outsmart a smart bomb."
The assembly of senior staff is missing a few regular faces. The absence of Harry Kim and B'Elanna Torres is keenly felt, and makes their safe return all the more urgent.
Tom suggests killing the forcefields around Sickbay and beaming the weapon away; Seven points out that the bomb would detonate before they could get a safe distance away. Chakotay decides that disarming the weapon is their priority. Paris doesn't seem optimistic about their chances of doing so--he even uses the Boom word.
Neelix enters, pitching in with a relevant tangent. (Can tangents be relevant?) He holds up a small device. "Commander, I think you should take a look at this. It's a power node I used to enhance the replicator system. I acquired it last week on a trading mission. It has transkinetic energy regulators and bio-neural control circuitry. Remind you of anything?"
Chakotay frowns as recognition dawns. "Our friend in Sickbay."
"I didn't make the connection at first, but when I overheard a few of the engineers talking about the weapon I went back and I checked the schematics on this. It's the same technology." He picked it up from a trade-happy merchant named Onquanii. He suggests they hop onto E-Bay and transact a little barter. Chakotay agrees.
In Sickbay, Torres and Kim are being largely ignored. The Bomb is too busy checking itself out to pay them much attention. The two officers speak quietly.
"If we could tap into the holo-projectors without his knowing it we might be able to shut him down," B'Elanna suggests. But Harry shakes his head. "He changed all the access codes. The second we try to decrypt them he'll restart the detonation sequence."
Torres glares, but her temper is kept well in check. Those sessions with Tuvok must be helping. "Do you have a better idea?"
"Yeah," Harry says. "Let the Captain handle it. The last thing anyone needs is my opinion." Uh oh. Ensign SNAFU is wallowing. Torres whacks him with an olive loaf she replicated in advance, for just such an occasion. "This is no time to be feeling sorry for yourself," she snaps.
But Harry's got some wallowing left in him. "Chakotay lets me make a command decision--what do I do? I beam a talking bomb on board." With Chakotay's and Janeway's authorization, of course. And it was Doc who pushed so hard for it. I doubt he'll get a commendation for it, but this is hardly a brigworthy offense.
B'Elanna realizes the tough love approach won't work with this wounded pup. So she goes with the everyone-screws-up-sometimes speech. "The first time I commanded an away mission I led my people into a cave that I thought was a Cardassian military installation. Turned out I'd mistaken unstable mineral deposits for weapons signatures. There was a rock slide and we were stuck there for three days."
Harry is captivated. "What'd you do?" We dug ourselves out with our bare hands, she says. Harry ponders this--then stands up and begins to walk away.
Where are you going? B'Elanna asks. Harry looks over his shoulder. "To dig us out." Harry walks over to Doc, who is scanning the device that is himself.
"You don't have to do this, you know," Harry says to the bomb.
Doc doesn't look up. "It's what I was programmed for."
"You're a sentient being. You don't have to be a slave to your programming! Look at the Doctor." Doc is not impressed. "He's a tool--a holographic puppet."
"That puppet saved your life! If it weren't for him you'd still be damaged and alone on that planet. He's the one that convinced me to beam you aboard. And when we discovered what you were, and some people wanted to destroy you, the Doctor defended your right to exist."
This is news to the bomb. But he brushes that aside as irrelevant. "What's your point?"
"Even though he was only programmed to be a Doctor, he's become more than that. He's made friends, he's piloted a Starship, he even sings."
Doc looks up. "Despite all of his achievements, did he ever stop being a Doctor?" Ooh--a Socratic doomsday device. Harry's caught short with that question. "No, but--"
"I can't stop being a weapon." Doc leaves Harry alone with the thought.
Harry soon shakes it off and walks after him. "Look at yourself! You're already much more than that!" His tone, though urgent, is not a shout. "You've got a body now; eyes to see with. The second you detonate, that'll all be over."
"That's the nature of what I am," Doc says. Harry waves that aside; "It doesn't have to be. We can give you your own holo-matrix. You can exist for as long as you want! Accomplish anything you set your mind to!"
Doc seems to be losing patience. "The only thing I want to accomplish is the destruction of my target." Harry decides to explore that. "What is your target?" A military installation on Salinia Prime, Grid 11, vector 9341, Doc says automatically.
"Tell me about it. Who's the enemy?" A ruthless, violent race, says Doc, that is threatening to destroy my people. "What else do you know about them?" Harry counters. "What's their planet like? Are there forests? Wildlife? Schools for the children of this violent race?"
"I'm not programmed with superfluous data," Doc says. Harry snorts. "Well, lucky for you," he scoffs. "You're aboard Voyager now, and you have access to our scanners. Why don't we take a closer look at your target?" He goes over to a wall monitor, and with a bit of fancy fingerwork, the Target is shown in all its nukable glory.
"A military installation, as I told you," Doc says. Or an embassy. One can never tell from this distance. "But it's manned," Harry points out. "By soldiers," Doc reminds him. But Harry insists on continuing the line of thought. "Who are going to suffer because of you. Remember when you were suffering? Blind and paralyzed? Do you really want to make others go through that?" Good, Harry--use sensations and experiences it can relate to. Not bad for an Ensign.
It's clear Harry's striking close to his own target, because Doc no longer feels like talking. "I have a duty to protect my people. I will not betray them. Now get out before I'm forced to harm you!" Realizing it would do no good to push further for now, Harry retreats back to the Doctor's private office.
"Nice try," B'Elanna says half-heartedly.
Meanwhile, Onquanii the traveling merchant has checked his messages and has come calling. He's familiar with the Smart Bomb technology, and he's more than happy to chat about it.
"I received your message. Have you an intelligent weapon in your possession?"
"Actually, we're in its possession," Neelix says with a touch of embarrassment. "We're being held hostage. Do you know anything about this weapon?"
"If I'm correct, it was created by a species named the Druoda." Funny, he doesn't look Druish. "I've studied their technology. Bring me aboard. I can assist you." Onquanii's voice has a nasal-blocked musicality that reminds one of Barney the Dinosaur.
In Engineering, Onquani looks a lot like he sounds. A big nose, but not much in the way of nostrils. He's a sharp-dressed saurian, wearing a silk blue longcoat that is a nice complement to the green of his skin. His voice just begs to be snickered at.
He describes some of the advanced features of the weapon: "This particular series has a Class 11 intelligence factor [but it reads at a Class 13 level]. It's warp-capable, fully armored, self-guiding. It has a maximum range of 80 light-years. It can fly through an ion storm or an armada of hostile ships and still find its target."
Hmm. Sounds a lot like Ken Starr.
"Charming," Janeway says dryly. "How do I get it off my ship?"
Long story short: he'd be more than happy to take the weapon off their hands. He has the technology to keep the bomb from going off until he can strip it for parts. All he wants in payment is the device itself.
Now, keep in mind that this Onquanii character looks and sounds like someone you wouldn't trust to hold your camera for a family vacation photo. Janeway makes her position abundantly clear from the get-go. "I'm not about to hand over a weapon of mass destruction to someone I just met." He assures the captain he's a merchant, not a fighter. The high-yield nuke is not exactly a card to play in the average bartering negotiation. But Chakotay points out that a merchant with a nuke is an arms merchant. And with this genius-level firecracker, "I imagine you'd stand to make quite a profit," he tells Onquanii.
Onquanii protests that he can make far more stripping it for parts and selling the pieces. "The energy matrix alone"--that's the part that goes Boom--"can power a fleet of starships! And its intelligence core, properly reprogrammed, can assist in a variety of things, from terraforming to planetary weather control."
Janeway can accept this explanation. To a point. "All right. You can have the weapon--as long as we keep the energy matrix. That way we can be sure no one ever deploys it." Onquanii refuses; the energy matrix is the most valuable piece. But it's a deal-breaker for Janeway. Neelix offers some dilithium crystals in exchange, but Onquanii says the matrix is worth a thousand dilithium crystals. (He obviously didn't see it. The Matrix was barely worth the four bucks I paid for the matinee ticket.) Neelix offers more--but Onquanii puts his foot down. He wants the whole dang weapon, or no deal; Voyager can evict the unwanted guest all on their own.
Thanks for stopping by, Janeway says. Come again when you can't stay longer. Onquanii licks his lips--no doubt intending it as an insult. "I wish you luck." He touches himself, and soon Onquanii shimmers out of sight.
"Sorry, Captain," Neelix says. "I thought it would help." Janeway doesn't blame him. They gave it their best shot.
Then Onquanii gives Voyager his best shot. The ship trembles.
By now, Janeway has reached the bridge; she takes her seat. Onquanii's vessel is small but potent; his shots draw blood.
The Doc Bomb hails the bridge, demanding an explanation. Janeway tells him to check the sensors. Voyager's weapons are offline; the ship is helpless.
But Onquanii isn't trying to destroy Voyager--he's just trying to knock down the shields around the ship--and more specifically, the force fields around Sickbay. He's determined not to leave without the weapon.
Janeway tries to defend her vessel and the weapon from the bridge.
But Doc is da Bomb, remember. And a smart one at that. When Onquanii locks on with a transport beam, Doc enters a rapid series of commands on the bomb casing. A shimmer causes a ripple in the beam--which backwashes into Onquanii's ship.
Say it with me, people: BOOM.
Not too shabby. I didn't like that guy anyway.
But Janeway is none too happy. She glares at Doc through the comm screen. "That wasn't necessary," she whispers dangerously.
Doc matches her whisper for whisper, glare for glare. "They were an enemy," he says, which for him is all the explanation required. "Maintain course."
On the bridge, Seven of Nine explains her new idea. Assimilate that bad boy. "I've studied the weapon's schematics. My nanoprobes can be adapted to disable its bio-neural circuitry. However, I would need direct access to its primary control port."
The tricky part will be getting her into Sickbay. Chakotay suggests they can temporarily destabilize Doc's holomatrix, which would divert his attention from the weapon long enough for Seven to attack. Tuvok can handle that part.
But how do they get her into Sickbay? Doc's sealed it off. Nobody goes in or out.
Janeway gets an idea. And naturally, it's a dangerous one. Leave it to Action Kate to think that playing Red Rover with a mine field is a dang good way to distract a weapon of mass destruction.
Remember those 34 bombs Doc mentioned? We know what happened to two of them--Doc is channeling one, the other is living out the downside of its half-life inside a crater of its own making. Well, meet the remaining 32. They're just sitting around, waiting for something useful to do. Like blow stuff up real good.
One of them detects something familiar, not too far away. It scans, magnifies. The magnified image is Voyager. And something flashes on the inside of it.
"Hey, they got Joey!" cries the leader of the thwack, and suddenly it's a race into warp to see who can reach their long lost bomb buddy first.
* * *
Chakotay leads the meeting in the briefing room. It's a small group--Paris and Seven and Neelix.
Seven of Nine explains the plan so far. They've analyzed the alien minefield and how Voyager would react to being in one. Paris says that he can make the ship feel like it's flying through a minefield, using the inertial dampers to keep things rocky. "Of course, asking me to give you a bumpy ride is like asking a virtuoso to sing off-key," he says with an impish grin.
Chakotay smiles as well, but then gets back to business. "I'm sure you'll manage. The weapon has access to our sensors. How do we make sure it won't catch on?" Seven explains that the sensor array has been reprogrammed to lie its nacelles off, which should keep the weapon in the dark. "It will believe we're navigating a minefield," Seven assures the commander.
"At least long enough for us to get Seven to Sickbay," Paris amends. How? Chakotay asks. "Medical emergency," Paris says. "I intend to suffer third-degree plasma burns during our encounter with the mines," Seven says.
Neelix adds that he'll be doing the makeup job himself. Chakotay gives him an odd look. "Another hidden talent, Neelix?" The Talaxian tries to look humble. "Well, I know my way around a dermal regenerator. I should be able to simulate a convincing wound."
Chakotay nods. "Okay. We get her inside. Then what?" Seven explains: "Commander Tuvok will be in position to disrupt the Doctor's program. Once that happens, I will inject the nanoprobes and disable the weapon."
Sounds like a plan. I'm sure many will complain that Seven is saving the ship yet again, but oh well. "I'll inform the Captain," Chakotay says. "Get started."
As the meeting breaks up, Tom throws his arm around Neelix. "Do well on this mission, Neelix, and maybe the Captain will promote you to senior beautician." Not letting the jibe get to him, too happy just to be helping, Neelix and Paris exit together, leaving Seven to prepare for her big role as Injured Crewman #3.
Harry and B'Elanna have been exiled to Doc's office again while Doc Bomb works on itself. Nobody's talking much.
Then Doc walks over. "Assist me." He wants to recover the weapon's damaged memory files to see if they can determine why he crashed. That's where Harry and B'Elanna come in. Doc walks back to the bomb, expecting to be obeyed.
B'Elanna's not keen on the idea. "We tried helping it before. Look where that got us," she says sullenly.
But Harry thinks they should. " 'When taken captive by a hostile force, seek out any opportunity to engage the assailant.' Didn't you ever read the officers' manual? Section 126!" (6-2, 6+1 . . .) Torres still doesn't like it. "I don't think Starfleet diplomacy is going to work this time. If we cooperate, we'll be giving it the advantage."
Harry shakes his head. "If there's even a chance that we can convince it to change its mind..." It's a bomb, she reminds him. A sentient bomb, he reminds her back.
Doc shouts menacingly from his position near the bomb. "I said, assist me!"
Harry doesn't let Torres' rank deter him; he stands up and leads the way. Torres reluctantly follows. "Where do we start?" Harry asks.
"There are several disruptions in my memory index, including a three minute, 37 second gap just prior to the crash."
"A recursive search algorithm might retrieve the missing data," Torres offers. She hits a few buttons. "There. You received a subspace transmission--a command to alter course and head toward the planet surface."
Harry whistles. "It looks like your landing wasn't an accident."
"It was an attempt by the enemy to divert me from my target," Doc whispers, unwilling to see what he's seeing. Torres points out that his access codes are encrypted. "They must've developed an infiltration code!" Doc says, desperate to find an answer that will let him continue his mission.
"What if it wasn't the enemy?" Harry asks, forcing him to confront the issue. Who else would it be, Doc asks? "Correct me if I'm wrong," Harry says, "but these are the same duotronic algorithms that you use to communicate with." Doc is horrified. "My own people wouldn't try to stop me!" he insists, but his voice is a whisper. "Maybe they changed their mind," Harry says carefully.
Doc is clearly rebelling against the idea. "The enemy is ruthless. My target is a threat! Why would my people call off the assault?" But there is some doubt in his voice as well.
Harry, sensing an opening, says, "if we clear up some more of these memory files maybe we'll find out." But this new information is too much, too soon. "Your assistance is no longer required," Doc says in a harsh, low voice.
"What's wrong?" Torres asks, her voice a challenge. "You afraid you might find out you're not supposed to destroy that installation?"
"Let us finish the job," Harry urges with a little more diplomacy. "Then you can decide what you want to do with the information." This seems to mollify the bomb. "Proceed."
A moment later, Harry has something. "Does the name strategic command matrix mean anything to you?" That's his control center, Doc says, the folks who ordered his launch. "Well, it looks like your orders were rescinded. See for yourself," Harry says. Doc leans in to read the text. " 'All long-range tactical armor units...terminate mission immediately.' " Keep reading, Harry prompts. "It says...the war is over. It ended nearly three years ago." His voice is dreamy, detached. "My launch was a mistake! There was a malfunction in one of the command sensors. It activated a series of launch sequencers. My people managed to shut most of them down, but 34 weapons were fired . . . including me."
Huzzah! "I guess this means you can disarm yourself now," Harry says, encouraged.
Yup. Like it'd be that easy. "No. There's no confirmation code here." Doc's voice rises angrily. "We avoided the enemy's minefield so they're trying to deceive us!"
"The confirmation could be in one of your damaged memory files," B'Elanna points out.
"Or maybe it was you! Deceiving me to implement your pacifist philosophy!" Doc storms off several steps, turning his back on the Starfleet folks. Harry of course denies it, but Doc reminds him that they lied to him before. "Why should I trust you now?"
"You don't have to trust us," B'Elanna says sternly. "Just access those files!"
"No!" Doc rages. I am programmed to destroy my target. I will complete my mission!!!" For a hologram, he can sure produce a lot of spittle. He's spewing ones and zeroes like a digital sprinkler head.
"If the war is over, you could end up starting another one!" Harry says. "How many of your people will die then?"
His words are accentuated by a resounding Boom. The ship shakes hard.
Doc hails the bridge, demanding an explanation.
"We've run into a subspace mine," Janeway explains. "We had to drop out of warp."
"There shouldn't be mines along this course!" He shouts. "We're detecting thousands of them scattered throughout the region," Chakotay counters. Doc demands to see the sensor data, and is incensed when he sees the course Janeway recommends. "This trajectory will delay us for two days!"
"That'll give you time to confirm that the war is over!" Harry, who knows nothing of the captain's plans, says, grateful for the extra time--who'd have thought a minefield would be a GOOD thing?
But those hopes are quickly dashed when Doc responds. "No! Proceed as planned! I'm programming a shield enhancement that will protect Voyager." He keys in a sequence of commands, and sure enough, the shields are working better than ever. They'll have to remember that little trick.
"I'm still going to have to reduce speed," Janeway says. Doc hesitates. "Agreed--but only until we've cleared the minefield." Janeway acknowledges and tells Paris to move at 1/4 impulse.
The transmission ends. "Think he bought it?" Janeway asks Chakotay. Chakotay thinks so. "Let's give him another good shake just to be sure," Janeway says, patting Tom Paris on the shoulder.
Yes, ma'am, Tom says, enjoying the chance to show off.
"That was another mine!" Harry says nervously.
"The shields will hold," Doc says.
Meanwhile, Tuvok hails from his position above Sickbay. "Tuvok to bridge. I've accessed the holo-matrix."
Janeway acknowledges then switches over to Neelix with a smirk. "Janeway to Neelix--casualty report." Neelix has turned Seven's face into an experiment in Cajun cuisine. "I'm putting the finishing touches on Seven's plasma burn--and it looks pretty authentic if I do say so myself." Seven endures the gory ministrations stoically.
Good work, Janeway says. She turns to the helm. "Time to hit another mine, Tom--a big one. Commander," she tells Chakotay, "blow out the plasma relays on deck six."
BOOM. Yeah, that was a good one. They've certainly had enough practice watching their stuff explode. Satisfied, Janeway hails Sickbay. "We have heavy casualties."
"Maintain heading and speed!" Doc orders.
"That's going to be difficult. Our Astrometrics officer has been injured. She's the one who's been guiding us through the minefield."
"Replace her," Doc says coldly. But Janeway holds her ground. "Seven of Nine's abilities are unique. We're not going to get past these mines without her."
Doc snorts impatiently. "Then treat her injuries and send her back to her post!"
Janeway's voice is low and cold as ice. Even a weapon of mass destruction can't help but shiver a little to hear it. "She has third-degree plasma burns," Janeway says with slow precision. "She needs to go to Sickbay to be treated. If you want to reach your target you're going to have to wait." Every consonant is a razor.
A long pause. "All right, Captain, but I'm warning you...no deceptions."
Janeway sends in Delta Force.
Doc presses in a few unlocking controls, and the door to Sickbay slides open; Neelix does his best to drag in the much taller former Borg. Seven groans appropriately.
"Treat her as quickly as possible," Doc says gruffly, and immediately ignores her. Neelix drags Seven over to one of the bio-beds, where Torres assists.
On the bridge, a console beeps. "They're in," Chakotay says.
"Now, Tuvok," Janeway orders with a voice of frozen nitrogen.
In Sickbay, Doc begins to fizzle. "Bridge, my holo-matrix is destabilizing. Why?" he demands.
"We took damage to our secondary systems," Janeway drawls coldly.
"Repair them. Now! Or I'll activate the detonation sequence."
"Stand by," she says, letting him stew.
While Doc continues to sizzle, Seven rises and heads toward the weapon. Torres asks what the heck is happening. "She's trying to defuse the weapon," Neelix explains.
Doc is too preoccupied to do much of anything. Seven hits some controls on the weapon, then extends her exoskeletal hand. Two assimilation tubules snake out and into the weapon. We see nanoprobes pumped into the thing.
Then something pumps right back. Seven's arm begins to glow with electric agony, and she collapses to the floor, unconscious.
Neelix rushes over to her. "Seven!" He runs a scan. "She's going into neural shock. Help me!" Harry assists, grabbing Seven by the elbow--
Waitaminit . . . that's not an elbow! Shocking.
Anyway, Harry's pathetic grasp of anatomy (or fortuitous grasp of something, depending on your perspective) notwithstanding, they get the unconscious Seven, now truly injured, to the bed.
The effort has failed. Seven didn't save the ship.
Doc resolves into solid form again. He's livid. "Sickbay to bridge. Your attempt to disable me did not succeed. I am designed to repel any assault on my bio-neural circuitry!"
Janeway's rasping, enunciated tone is itself an assault. "We've tried to reason with you. You left me no choice."
"And you leave me no choice!" The bomb thinks furiously. "You and your crew will abandon Voyager immediately." Whoa--that's different. Why not just detonate?
"No deal," Janeway says.
"This is not a negotiation! Comply or I will detonate!"
It's an audio channel, but Janeway rises from her seat anyway. "Go ahead. Do it."
The bomb is horrified. "Everyone on board will be killed!" This is progress--a bomb that's picky about whom it blows up.
Janeway glares at nobody in particular. "But no one else will."
Just as things start to get interesting . . . they get more so. Tom reports the bad news. "Captain, 32 vessels just dropped out of warp off our port bow." It looks like he says another number, but the overdub is quite clear. 32.
"On screen," Janeway says.
Those aren't vessels. Those are La Bomba's cousins.
32 of them. Plus the bomb in Sickbay. Plus the one that's residing in a crater. All 34 smart bombs present and/or accounted for.
* * *
Tuvok reports that the weapons are transmitting--to the bomb in Sickbay.
"Bridge to Sickbay," Janeway says. "We've got company--32 self-guided weapons."
"They detected my presence aboard your vessel," Doc says. "They say--my target is essential. They altered course to ensure that I reach it. They are ordering me to transport off your vessel. They will tractor me to my target."
Janeway seems fine with that. "Mr. Kim, reintegrate its neural matrix, and prepare to beam it off--"
"We can't do that, Captain," Harry says, interrupting. Explain, she orders. "These weapons were fired by accident," Harry reports. "We can't let them reach their targets!"
"Enough!!!" Doc screams, his nose mere inches from Harry's. "Captain, order him to proceed!"
But Janeway isn't paying attention to Doc--she won their staring contest. "Harry, what are you talking about?"
"Captain, I need a minute. You're making a mistake," he tells Doc. "Your own people tried to disarm you!"
"I cannot be certain of that," Doc says, clinging to that uncertainty.
"Yes, you can!" Harry shouts. You can check your memory files. Look for the confirmation code!"
"No more delays," Doc says weakly.
"Check the files," Harry repeats, his vehemence growing.
"Reintegrate my matrix!"
"No!" Harry says, his own glare matching the Doctor's for intensity.
Janeway throws in her two cents. "Do what Harry says or you're not leaving this ship."
"You're in no position to give me orders," Doc growls.
"If you detonate now you'll destroy yourself and your companions. Is that what you want?"
"The confirmation code," Harry repeats.
Finally, the Doctor, browbeaten into submission, checks the files. Looks for the confirmation code.
And finds it.
His voice grows more desolate with each word. His entire worldview crumbles. "Coding intersequence 443, vector 39121. Cessation of hostilities...Confirmed. Unauthorized launch...Confirmed. Order to terminate mission...Confirmed."
Harry doesn't slacken his attack. "You must disarm yourself and tell the others to stand down."
"It's a deception," Doc says, desperately.
"This code of yours uses a modulating algorithm. It would be almost impossible to duplicate!"
"The enemy is ruthless; they are violent!" he argues, running away.
"Have you ever met the enemy?" Kim screams after him. "You're just spouting propaganda! What you've been programmed to believe!"
"I have a directive," he says, more to himself than anyone. It's as though he's reprogramming himself right here, right now.
"It's been countermanded!"
"I am a series five, long-range tactical armor unit designed to traverse enemy space and circumvent all attempts to deter me."
"You're a sentient being!"
Doc is darn near sweating. "I have a duty to protect my people. To destroy my target!" Please, Harry, let me blow something up . . .
"You've been programmed with intelligence so you could make decisions on your own!" Harry's voice is impressively commanding. "Well, it's time to make one! Countless lives are at stake!"
Doc has no answer to this. He's speechless as Harry's comments finally, irresistibly sink in.
Harry presses his advantage, in the zone in a major way. Even B'Elanna looks impressed. "Ever since you took the Doctor's form you've been learning what it's like to be one of us. Now, try to imagine what it's like to be one of your victims!
Doc's expression, already bleak, only deepens its misery when Harry points at Seven of Nine. "Your first victim. You've seen her suffering. Increase that by a factor of one million--ten million!--and that's how much suffering you'll cause if you don't end this."
There is nowhere for the weapon to go. All resistance has crumbled. Harry Kim has won. It's written on the Doctor's face.
Or not written. The change is instantaneous--the wrinkles of the bomb's perpetual scowl have been replaced by an odd sort of inner peace. There is no more conflict. He has finally accepted the cancel orders.
Doc looks at the weapon. "They're asking why I haven't left your ship." Tell them, Harry urges. Doc nods. "I'm transmitting our orders to terminate the mission." Harry breathes a deep sigh of relief.
That BOOP didn't sound encouraging. Doc frowns. "They also received those orders--but they had already crossed the targeting threshold. Once we're within two light-years of our target we cannot be diverted." Oh, boop . . .
"Tell them the war's over," Harry says. "I did," Doc says. "Tell them you got the message before you crossed the threshold when you were on the planet surface!" Harry says, and Doc nods. He sends the message.
Doc looks worried. "They don't believe me."
"It's up to you to make them understand," Harry says.
Doc shakes his head. "They only understand their directive. They won't listen!"
But the Doc's fate lights up. "Reintegrate my neural matrix and return me to the others," he pleads.
"We won't do that!" Harry says, frustrated--he thought they'd moved past that. But Doc assures him that isn't the idea. "I have no intention of proceeding to my target. I will stop them." There is a quiet resolve in his voice that is enormously reassuring.
Harry drops his insistent tone; now he's confused. "How?"
Doc raises an eyebrow, as though the answer were obvious. "I am a weapon of mass destruction."
Harry still doesn't get it. Or maybe he does, but doesn't dare believe it. Is the bomb capable of deception? Did he learn lies from the crew as well?
"You want me to see past my programming...Then you must try to see past your doubts."
Harry believes him. The weapon's sincerity is either genuine, or he's a fast study in the art of deception. "B'Elanna...Give me a hand." Torres, who witnessed the entire exchange, and the last person to take a bomb at its word (remember "Dreadnought"?), doesn't argue. She must be convinced as well.
Harry runs over to a wall panel. He hails the captain. "Bridge, lock onto the weapon; prepare to beam it into space."
Harry, what's going on?
"Captain, no time to explain. Just trust me on this one."
Janeway hears the resolve in Harry's voice. She trusts her crew unless there's a reason not to, and she has no reason not to--especially since Harry was the one who told her to hold on in the first place. "I hear you loud and clear, Ensign." Do it, she orders.
"I've reconfigured the bio-neural matrix," Torres says a moment later.
"Ready?" Harry asks the bomb. Doc nods. I'm sorry, Harry says sincerely.
Doc gives him a slight smile. "I am simply completing my mission. Only the target has changed." It's a nice male bonding moment between a boy and his bomb.
The Doctor's image begins to flicker. A little at first, but then violently. A moment later, the image resolves again. The bomb begins to glow red with intelligence. "Transfer complete," Torres says.
"Please state the nature of the..." It's Doc, all right. His voice is about a half-octave higher than it was when the weapon was in control. "What happened? How long was I off-line?" He asks, concerned.
"We'll explain later," B'Elanna says. "Seven needs your help." She drags the doctor over to Seven of Nine, who is still unconscious.
"Bridge, energize," Harry says.
The weapon disappears. It reappears a moment later in space, just a few hundred meters from Voyager's hull. A bare second elapses before it is caught in a blue tractor beam, and 33 high-yield, high-intelligence weapons of mass destruction sprint away from the Federation vessel.
"They've gone into warp," Chakotay reports. Maintain long-range sensors, Janeway orders.
The Mensa convoy of death, 32 warheads under their own power, one in tow, careens toward the enemy. Their mission is in sight. Their purpose, about to be fulfilled.
Then the crippled, lost sheep, the one that had been found and returned to lead the way to their glorious defense of their homeworld, betrays them. With a yee-hah that Slim Pickens would have admired, the weapon under tow bursts in an orgy of energy release.
Its thirty-two companions, in too close proximity to flee, are soon engulfed. None survive to avenge this treachery.
But by their deaths, they fulfil their purpose. Their detonation is to the greater good of the species that built them.
"I'm detecting a series of antimatter explosions," Tuvok reports.
Chakotay clenches the armrest, deepening the already permanent dent. "In proximity to what?"
A moment passes. "No ships, no planets...Nothing."
Janeway closes her eyes and exhales slowly. The best news she's heard all day. "Bridge to Ensign Kim," she says. "The weapons have been destroyed."
But if there is a reason for celebration or relief, for Harry there is also a reason to grieve. He does not reply. The silence is a tribute to the sentient weapon who knew individuality and freedom of thought for too brief a moment.
The bomb may have had to go off. If only they could have saved the mind of the weapon.
[Missing Scene - Usual Disclaimers]
Voyager cruises at a leisurely speed. After that little adventure, everyone could use a little downtime.
Doc sits at his computer terminal in his office, lost in thought. After a long moment, Harry peeks in around the door. "Anyone home?"
Doc smiles. "Ensign!"
Harry beams as he enters the office, and Doc rises. "Feeling well I hope?"
"Perfect," Harry says. "On my way to the Bridge for another night shift." His tone grows serious. "I came by to check on Seven." You just missed her, Doc says, moving into Sickbay proper. "What's her prognosis?" Harry asks, following.
"She'll need another week of regeneration, but I expect she'll make a full recovery." Doc seems immensely grateful for that. Good news, Harry agrees.
"Considering I was responsible for her injuries, you can imagine my relief," Doc says. At least he got to make sure her elbows were okay . . .
"Well, you weren't exactly yourself at the time," Harry says.
"That's not what I mean," Doc says. "I was the one who asked you to bring that device aboard in the first place. I even argued with the Captain to keep it aboard after we learned what it was."
The tables have turned. Now it's Doc seeing the weapon as a thing, and Harry who sees something more. "It was an artificial intelligence, like you," he says pointedly. "But I have to admit, his personality made you seem like Mr. Congeniality." Ooh, bad move, Harry--impugning a doctor's bedside manner in his own Sickbay. Doc glares, but Harry smiles to lighten the blow. "Look, Doc, the truth is I never would have gotten through to him without you."
Doc sulks a bit. "From what I've heard, I wasn't much help." The rounds complete, Doc finds himself back at his office. He takes his seat. He has a lot to digest, and it's clear he has a way to go. His dejection is clear.
Harry can't let Doc remain like this. "You were! I held you up as an example of how an artificial intelligence could exceed its programming. I didn't realize how true that was...until today." Considering how their mission began, with Doc and Harry glaring at each other, this admission of warm and fuzzy feelings for Doc does do some good. His mood brightens considerably.
"It seems your strategy worked," Doc says. He hesitates. "Thank you."
All right you two, break it up, or get a room. Sheesh.
"I better get to the Bridge," Harry says. "You never know when Ensign Kim will be called upon to take command again." He gives a goofy smile to show he's just kidding, and turns to walk away.
But Doc rises. "Voyager could do worse," he says sincerely. Harry, grateful for the compliment and for the sincerity with which it is delivered, practically floats out of Sickbay.
Captain Kim on the bridge!
"Helm, status, "Harry says, stopping at tactical to grab the PADD with the evening's agenda.
Hey, it's Ensign Jenkins, the blondelicious Helm Babe!
Jenkins smiles warmly. "Current speed: warp five, heading 021, mark 3." Cap'n Harry's lookin' gooooood tonite . . .
"Anything on long-range sensors?"
"Nothing to report." I want you.
"As you were." As usual, Harry Kim is completely clueless when it comes to women.
"Permission to speak freely, sir," Jenkins says, practically jumping out of her uniform.
Harry smiles. "Why would tonight be any different?"
"People have been talking about you." She says it in a way that definitely suggests Compliment. Oh? Harry asks, trying to look nonchalant. Jenkins beams. "Rumor has it you were the one who outsmarted the smart bomb."
"Well...not exactly." Harry slaps the PADD in his hand as he talks. "I made first contact with a sentient being. All I did was help it understand a few things. The rest was up to him." His voice carries a trace of sadness. It's a victory to have survived at all, but now he mourns the loss of the sentient creature.
"Understood," Jenkins says. "Actually, I've been authorized by the junior staff to thank you for keeping us in one piece." She extends her elbows shamelessly.
Is that a tenor sax I hear?
Harry smiles. Maybe some part of him realizes that now would be a good time to ask for her phone number. "You're welcome. Any time."
Harry moves to the big chair. "Do me a favor?" he asks.
"Of course, sir."
"No more distress calls. At least not tonight."
Jenkins allows herself a slight laugh. She makes no promises.
It may be night shift, but with Captain Kim on the bridge, there's no telling what adventures might await.
The first temptation in any review is to say what the episode reminded me of. "Warhead" reminded me of Crimson Tide, the Gene Hackman/Denzel Washington submarine thriller; Wargames, with a very young Matthew Broderick and Dabney Coleman; and Terminator 2.
I enjoyed those films, so the reminder was welcome.
I have heard complaints about this episode being slow and boring, but I thought it nicely suspenseful. Watching a fuse burn down might not be itself all that thrilling, but knowing what happens when there's no more fuse adds the necessary suspense.
This is not an episode that is long on plot. It's a fairly simple but intense situation. A sentient weapon with little need to think beyond its mission, is suddenly forced to. It cannot continue its mission without assistance, and it has the bad luck of stumbling across a group of folks who insist on asking why.
Why do bombs go off? Particularly, why do smart bombs go off when they do?
The smarter you make something, the question must inevitably arise. The decision-making process--when to go off, when to run, when to hide, when to attack without going off--is complex, especially for a weapon designed to hit a target over 80 light years away. Just GETTING there would take an impressive intellect. Throw in the sophistication of the society it's being used against, and the inevitable countermeasures it can use, and we're talking a weapons system that even Dr. Daystrom's vaunted M-5 would struggle to think through. This is less a weapon than a kamikaze pilot, trained and propagandized and convinced that nothing must deter it from its mission.
If something has the ability to think for itself, it is crucial to focus and direct the way it thinks. Advertisers and politicians and the military depend heavily on the ability to do this.
As I said, the plot reminds me of Crimson Tide. In that film, a US Navy nuclear submarine is dispatched in a time of rising tensions. It gets an order to prepare for launch of their nuclear missiles. Then it gets another order to--what? Launch? Prepare for launch? Abort? A sea battle interrupted the message, and the radio is down. The captain and first officer come from very different schools of thought--the Gene Hackman character will not hesitate to launch, but the Denzel Washington character refuses to do so without confirmation of their last orders. The stakes are high; either could be right, but if the person who is wrong gets their way, it will spell disaster on a global scale. A power struggle on board, with multiple mutinies, ensues, before the matter is resolved. Crisis averted--and more importantly, the method by which such decisions are made in time of crisis are changed.
And these were real people, hard-wired into their particular military philosophies. I know I'd rather try to talk down a smart bomb than a determined Gene Hackman.
Harry Kim faces the dilemma. Himself a by-the-book Ensign who plays a by-the-book captain on the night shift, he has to think outside the box to get through to the thinking part of the weapon.
The overtaking of the Doctor by the weapon is crucial. First, nobody emotes like Picardo. Second, as we saw before the takeover, the C3PO/R2D2 exchanges between the Doctor and the Bomb were very one sided. You could follow the conversation through the Doctor's responses, but an entire episode of that would have had me reaching for the remote control. The weapon needed to articulate its positions, and the Doctor was an appropriate and logical choice.
It's a shame the US audience didn't get to see the removed scenes. Clearly, this was intended to be a Doctor/Harry episode throughout. In the initial cut scene, the Doctor openly questions Harry's qualification to lead the mission, and is determined to "take over" if he feels the need. Which he does. Later, when Harry and B'Elanna are stuck in sickbay, Harry wallows in misery, taking Doc's comments to heart. Later, after Harry saves the day, Doc sees Harry with new respect--and Harry performs a leader's duty in bucking up a member of his team. Both come away from the experience with a greater appreciation for each other.
I enjoyed the performances and the teamwork. Everyone had something substantive to do. Everyone contributed, and even if the specific plan failed, it did buy them the time Harry needed to discover the truth and convince the weapon to see beyond its original programming.
I'm glad the nanoprobe effort failed. It's the sort of thing that would normally work, but it would have been a shame had it been successful this time. The story was not about disabling a bomb. It was, as Harry said in the closing scene, about seeing beyond your self--no matter how difficult. The bomb had to undo some serious programming. Harry had to see beyond his rank. He had to go from someone playing at command (night shift is rarely known for its excitement, though I've never really understood how the universe knows what time it is and knows when to keep quiet) to face a genuine command decisions where hundreds--possibly millions--of lives are in his hands.
Both Harry and the weapon are soldiers. They are accustomed to taking orders--the big ones, anyway--rather than giving them. But because of their situation, cut off from their command centers (the bomb from his people, Harry from Janeway), each is forced to make command decisions. Torres outranks Harry, but she seemed unwilling to take charge. She preferred the role of advisor and friend--not exactly encouraging Harry in the decisions he made, but in encouraging him to see his "command" through to the end.
Had this been a Torres episode, I have no doubt she'd have done the job, and done it well. But this was Harry's week. Janeway and Chakotay also deferred to Harry, encouraging his development as an officer, and trusting his judgment even as (early on) they snickered about how by-the-book eager he was.
The arguments between Harry and the weapon were interesting because they gave us a verbal parallel to the physical challenge to the weapon that Janeway and her team orchestrated.
When the bomb was in control, there was little talking, less shouting, and a resolve unburdened by doubt. When there was a challenge, the bomb lit up--and so did the Doctor. His voice rose, as did his rhetoric. The defense mechanisms went right down to the logic chips. When Harry put the bomb's mission in danger, it thought and spoke furiously, and it was the verbal equivalent of watching a desperate aerial dogfight.
The weapon just sat there, blinking and BOOPing on occasion--not a whole lot of excitement there. So the action had to come from elsewhere. The alien merchant who mounted the most direct threat, who was destroyed effortlessly for his effrontery. Janeway's efforts combined with Harry's assault let us see a steady deterioration of the weapon's resolve. In the beginning, he would have gone off and destroyed voyager without hesitation. But the more Harry spoke, the more layers of amnesia were peeled away and the truth about its mission status revealed, the less willing the weapon was to harm its captives. When the weapon finally resolved its inner conflicts and knew what it had to do, the Doctor was able to express through voice and body language that the bomb was at peace with itself. It had a mission it could feel comfortable fulfilling--defending its homeland by taking out the rogue missiles and itself.
Like the Terminator in Terminator 2, the weapon went beyond its original programming. It learned the value and honor of self-sacrifice. Its nature demanded that it destroy. Its sentience, with a little help from Harry, enabled it to choose the appropriate target. And like the Terminator, at that moment of decision it becomes an object of respect, and of sympathy.
It is rare that a weapon of destruction is mourned for its own sake. Few of us will weep for the bomb that drops on civilian, or even military targets. Our grief is best reserved for the loss of human life. We cheer when weapons of mass destruction are themselves destroyed, as we should. But this episode about a weapon is a fit allegory for those who currently have their fingers on the controls of such weapons. In the end of Crimson Tide, Denzel got Gene to sit down and wait long enough to let the radioman do his work and allow the confirmation orders to come through. Patience in the face of urgency--and knowing when to exercise it--is the very nature of true leadership. When to act, when to wait, when to rethink.
It's a challenge the Ensigns and the Weapons are rarely called upon to face. They are the tools, not the craftsmen. But every so often, the opportunity arises.
The only other comment I had was the opening scene--a throwaway, almost, but a nice nod to continuity. This episode coincides with the two-year anniversary of "Worst Case Scenario," which would be about the time Tom and B'Elanna started dating for real. It was a cute scene, and it said a lot in a short time. Tom really is a 20th-century junkie (pork rinds and monster movie marathons? Snicker). Tom is also a 20th-century boyfriend ("Today's our anniversary? Of what? Oh, that . . . B'Elanna's gonna kill me!") who shops at the last minute. Neelix is learning to put his foot down where Tom is concerned--his charm is not universal. And that though Neelix might not be willing to bend over backward for Tom, he IS willing to go out of his way for B'Elanna. McNeill and Phillips had a nice comic delivery here, and the later scene in the briefing room let them continue their banter on a different subject.
One could complain a bit about the fact that Paris didn't seem all that concerned about B'Elanna and Harry being trapped with the bomb. He was a professional throughout, but didn't have that "we've got to get them out of there!" intensity I might have expected. As it was, he seemed too happy about getting to fly weird, and still basking in the glow of his anniversary dinner.
I enjoyed the performances. Janeway wasn't at the center of the action, but her role was important. Harry might have been the key player in Sickbay, but Janeway still commanded the ship. The Borg Maneuver failed, but the effort leading up to it did not, and the delays gave Harry the time to make inroads with the weapons. Mulgrew played her range of emotions nicely, and her confrontations with Picardo crackled.
Garrett Wang rarely gets chances like this. Usually, he's in trouble over something so beyond his control that he can go to any extreme to set things right ("Non Sequitur," "Emanations," "Timeless.") Here, extremism would be the wrong approach. Harry has to stretch a little here, and Wang's performance, though intense, is not over the top. It reminded me of a mirror image of Timeless in a way. There, Harry was obsessed with the past and hell-bent on fixing things. When that failed, he went hysterical, and it took Doc to talk him down. Here, the roles are reversed. Harry is the voice of reason and Doc (or the face and voice of Doc) is the one who can't see the big picture. I like the implications of this; harry is making use of that second chance he got from his older self, and he's developing. This has been a busy year for Harry, and I'm glad--his character has been in serious need of it. The greater confidence and lessened focus on his Ensign Weenie traits that were so common in season four have made this a good year indeed for Harry Kim.
Not that this episode is without flaws. The cardinal sin of this episode is the one that makes the whole thing possible. Clearly, the whole encounter could have been avoided had they discovered the true nature of the device before they beamed it aboard.
This is Star Trek, fercryinoutloud. The Enterprise and Enterprise-D were notorious for bringing dangerous things on board--or creating such things themselves. Voyager is no different. Ironically, Deep Space Nine, a far less secure environment by nature, has had far fewer incidents of this type--as Odo was so happy to explain to Worf when he complained about station security.
Besides, there are some mitigating circumstances here. They scanned it on the planet, and found no obvious clues that it was a bomb. It was smarter than your average bomb, so unless there were other clues it's fair to assume that a device this advanced would not be a weapon. It was in pain, and the Doctor's vehemence and Harry's first away-mission command and the general amusement of captain and first officer meant that they were perhaps less careful than they might otherwise have been.
Yes, it was not a smart thing to do, as they soon learned. But fortune favors the foolish, and in this case Voyager not only survived the bomb scare, they also were in a position to help destroy 33 very nasty relics of a long-concluded war.
The rules don't account for every contingency. They couldn't. If they did, nobody could possibly read and understand them all. Besides, new situations arise all the time. They mutate, like viruses--each similar but not identical to the other. (Take a look at the virus list on the McAfee site to see how computer viruses mutate. The possibilities are endless.)
So, though I agree it was a dumb move to bring the weapon onboard before knowing what it was, it's almost a tradition. As long as they haven't run across exactly this item before, and the usual tests don't set off the sirens, it's hard to hate them for getting snookered. If it don't kill you, it makes you stronger.
On a 4 star scale, I give this (* * * 1/2). I found it compelling, well acted, well paced, not entirely predictable, and with significant character development for Harry and relationship development between Harry and the Doctor.
Next Week: Season finale. Voyager meets Equinox, another Starfleet vessel yanked into the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker, led by a captain who didn't share Janeway's devotion to Starfleet Protocol. Could be an interesting look at the Road Not Taken.