The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot (and everything else) given away, stop reading now. (But you probably know that by now.)
The "Voyager Drinking Game" is a joke. Don't try this at home.
I reserve the right to be wrong, and to change my mind later. The following is my opinion at the moment I wrote it. And boy, do I have opinions. Kick back, roast up a s'more, because Fatherly Uncle Jim's got a story for ya, which may or may not resemble the episode that actually aired.
The truth is revealed: even the crew of Voyager write fanfic.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
Torres is walking through the corridors of Voyager. (I think it's a law--every episode has to begin this way.) She's looking around; the corridors are unusually empty. She finally sees something, and she breaks into a smile. She changes direction and keeps walking.
Chakotay is soon walking by her side. They exchange pleasantries, and unpleasantries. Torres is concerned by the latter; the First Officer is making some rather pointed comments about Tuvok being a pain in the hiney. They enter a turbolift.
Chakotay's comments get even more sinister--not only is the entire Maquis crew and 25 Starfleet officers fed up with Mr. Vulky, "Captain Janeway isn't winning any popularity contests either." He asks for her opinion. She doesn't answer. He asks again, more pointedly.
<p tone="sarcasm">WHAT!?!!? Chakotay is making scurrilous remarks about his beloved Kathryn!?!? Two !#%!@$^$&& weeks in a row we are subjected to this infamy?!? AAUGH!!!</p>
Torres is thunderstruck. She stops the turbolift and asks what the photon is going on. He states that in the theoretical event of a mutiny, he needs to know whose side she's on.
Torres' jaw drops so low you could swing by her uvula and never touch her tongue.
* * *
The bridge. Torres is at a station I'm not used to seeing her at. She looks around--most of the regular players are here. Kim, Tuvok, Chakotay. We get a nice wraparound look at the bridge from the rear, so we see the forward viewscreen. If we've seen it before, I wasn't paying attention, but it's kinda cool now. Though it induces a touch of vertigo.
Janeway appears, though something is different about her. Her hair's back in the Season One power bun! No WONDER she's not winning any popularity contests! She's much more genial when she's sporting the ponytail. That bun affects her judgment. Makes her listen to Tuvok more than Our Man Chakotay. Gives her goofy ideas about blowing up the ship and doing the Nekkid Catfish Tango with Paris. Ooh, this is bad.
Janeway grandly tells Chakotay that the ship is his for a little while. "There's a first time for everything, I guess," Chakotay says with a smile. She and Paris are going off in a shuttlecraft for a 24 hour away mission to the Rukani. Paris hails her with the news that the shuttle is ready for takeoff. Torres listens attentively to everything.
Chakotay asks the captain if it wouldn't be a good idea to take Tuvok along. Tuvok says that he's already taken all the necessary measures to assure Janeway's safety on the mission, and since Chakotay is still learning how to be a Starfleet commander, his advisory (not to say supervisory) and tactical/security skills would be better used here, so he can help Chakotay "merit the trust the Captain has placed in you." Sheesh, Tuvok, would you like to rub a little lemon juice into that stab wound while you're at it?
Janeway, naturally (it's the bun, I tell ya) sides with Tuvok. She smiles nice, but she's clearly not entirely comfortable with the thought of placing her ship into Chakotay's hands unchaperoned. Chakotay smiles gamely as she leaves. He tells Tuvok to pay special attention to the captain's shuttle, just to ensure that nothing untoward happens to her. Tuvok gives a firm Aye Sir.
Chakotay moves over to Ops and tells Kim (who from the side looks like his head is twice its normal size--is that a stand-in? He looks normal a second later from the front) to shut down the transporters for cleaning. Harry asks if they shouldn't wait for the Captain's return. Tuvok reminds him loudly and publicly that he's just been given "a direct order from a superior officer." Kim, abashed, promptly complies. (Oh, sure, it's okay for TUVOK to be insubordinate...)
Chakotay then walks over to Torres and asks if she's finished upgrading the internal sensors. He also calls her Ensign. (NITPICK!!!!) "I'm...working on it, sir." Chakotay says, "I hope so."
Two gold-shouldered guys arrive with a datapad. Chakotay gives the newly-demoted Ensign Torres a deliberate look, then walks over and grabs the padd, and walks down towards the captain's chair, his brow furrowed. Tuvok asks if anything's wrong. "Nope, just the duty roster for tomorrow," he says, grabbing a seat, studying the padd.
Tuvok announces that Janeway's shuttle has gone to warp. Thanking the Vulcan, Chakotay speaks to the ship. "Chakotay to all hands...let's do it!" He reaches under the seat.
"Sir?" asks Tuvok.
Chakotay explains, with a phaser set on stun. Tuvok takes it in the chest and collapses against the back wall.
One of the crewmen who just entered the bridge, a tall, craggy fella, whips out a phaser of his own and shoots the helmsman. The other aims for Kim, but misses.
Kim yells Red Alert, and calls security to the bridge. The bridge descends into red-tinted darkness. He's suddenly very, very alone. Torres is shocked out of her wits.
Chakotay tells Harry, now cowering behind his Ops station with phaser drawn and adrenaline pouring down his face, that he hasn't a hope in hell of carrying the day all by his lonesome. His teams control security, Engineering, and other key systems. "People will fight back!" Harry yells. Chakotay says all the off-duty personnel are locked inside their quarters. Harry takes a couple of deep breaths, puts on his war face, spring up and aims at the captain of the Mutineers.
And promptly collapses from a phaser blast to the midsection. We follow the shot to its source.
Chakotay smiles. "I guess you've made your choice," he says, striding toward her.
"Jonas to Chakotay," the comm system chirps. (Jonas? Isn't he dead?) "We're hitting resistance on deck two."
Carlson and O'Donnell (the two messenger Maquis), and Ayala (a swarthy, silent fellow we've seen throughout Voyager's three-year run), are given new assignments. They start rounding up the defeated Starfleeters and herding them toward the brig, as Chakotay and Torres hit the turbolift. Chakotay thanks her for watching his back on the bridge. She admits that she's a little rattled after shooting Harry, one of her best friends onboard. Chakotay reminds her that he was only stunned, and "nobody will die today unless it's absolutely necessary." Torres is still shaking.
They exit the turbolift, and encounter sizzling resistance as soon as they round the corner. They fall back. Torres says they're pinned down. Chakotay says they'll have to shoot their way through. And, like the old Maquis days, they lay down a coordinated field of fire, felling two Starfleet crewmen. A third appears from behind a doorway--and is promptly slammed into a bulkhead by a wicked pulse of energy that makes Torres' weapon go positively flaccid with phaser envy. She and Chakotay look behind them.
And see Seska--long-dead, Bajoran-nosed, Starfleet-uniformed Seska, a sight we haven't seen since Season One--wielding Janeway's favorite DeathMaster compression-phaser boomstick. "Just like old times," she drawls. She says there's a group of Janeway loyalists massing in the mess hall. She feels like cracking open a case of Napa Valley whupass. Seska and Chakotay take off for the mess hall, leaving a slack-jawed Torres to follow behind, barely keeping her wits intact at this surreal turn of events. Is this a dream? A time warp? The mind reels.
Neelix organizes the resistance effort, huddled behind overturned tables.
The door disappears in a flash of blinding White. In march the three Maquis of the Apocalypse. (Aren't there supposed to be four?) Nobody fires, but Seska's trigger finger itches audibly. "This baby's set on wide-beam. I can take you all out with one shot," she says.
Neelix has had enough of this. He leaps up...
And defects. "Don't look so surprised, Commander," he says. "I know a winner when I see one."
Seska looks at the Talaxian. "Do you want me to shoot him?" she asks, her eyes begging Chakotay to say Yes. Chakotay says they still need a cook.
"Does he qualify?" asks Seska. "Barely," says Chakotay.
The Commander begins demanding status reports from the teams in Voyager's departments. Each reports success.
"We did it," says Seska when all is confirmed secure. "Just like old times," says Chakotay. He says he'll guard the prisoners in the mess hall, and orders Seska and Torres to round up the crew currently locked down in their quarters.
Torres and Seska stroll down the corridors, phasers at the ready.
"You did a good job today," Seska says.
"Just make sure you keep it up."
"What do you mean?" Torres asks, confused. She and Seska were good friends, once. And here, it seems, they still should be. But so far, she hasn't been treated as we might have expected her to, from Seska OR Chakotay.
"I mean I'm not as easily won over as Chakotay," Seska says. "I've got my eye on you."
But her other eye is clearly on the door before them. It slides open at Torres' command, and the Tall Blonde and Mute guy who was one of the last to leave Chakotay's side in "Displaced" finds himself being herded off to Cargo Bay One without so much as a hesitation. Iraqi soldiers put up more of a fight just before surrendering to Italian photojournalists during the Gulf War.
Bimbo Man is halted long enough for Seska to pick up another prisoner: Kes, who is more talkative, wants to know what's going on. Seska has to do a bit of .45 caliber convincing before Kes joins the procession.
Soon, a whole herd of prisoners are led to the cargo bay, walking haphazardly (Bimbo Man is walking BEHIND Seska, and could easily have taken the weapon away from the much smaller if pissier Maquis if he weren't such a wuss) where others are already being detained. Kes asks again what's going on. Seska shoves Kes around with the butt of the rifle.
Torres intervenes, telling Seska to take it down a notch or two.
As Chakotay enters, Seska complains that he shouldn't have let Starfleet folks in on the mutiny. (But Torres isn't Starfleet! Something fishy is going on here....) Chakotay tells her to back off. He's got a speech to deliver.
Everyone in the cargo bay, captives and captors, stand at attention. The only difference: the captors are armed.
Chakotay announces that he's taken over the ship, and that the senior officers are in the brig. They'll be put on a planet somewhere and left there. All but Janeway and Paris, who are on a shuttle somewhere; he doesn't specify their fate. He tells the junior crew that they have a choice: join their superiors on the next nearby planet, or follow Neelix's shining example and wrap their hearts around the New and Improved Voyager Charter. (If you haven't recently, go back to the end of the Caretaker Part II review and read Janeway's Mission Statement about what they'll do to get home, and what they'll do along the way.) I quote in part.
"If you join us, you'll be part of a crew that's going to do whatever it takes to get home as fast as possible. Under my command, we won't let Almighty Federation Principles get in the way of opportunities, the way Janeway did when she destroyed the array that could have gotten us home. And we won't be wasting precious time investigating every insignificant anomaly that we come across!" (The Delaney sisters from Stellar Cartography break into tears at this news.) "What we will do is use any means necessary acquiring technology that can shorten our journey."
"To Hell with Starfleet regulations!" he concludes with a flourish. "You have fifteen minutes to make up your minds."
A dramatic silence is interrupted by the first use of Torres' name this episode. "B'Elanna!" a familiar voice calls. All heads turn to the doorway.
"What's going on here?" Tom Paris demands to know, bemused by the scene before him.
Torres yells for a Freeze Program and marches toward him, demanding to know if he makes a habit of barging in on the "private Holodeck time" of others. (Ah ha! The mystery is solved.)
"Hey, it's not like I caught you dancing the rumba with a naked Bolian!" He offers by way of defense. "We had a lunch date, remember?"
She says she didn't realize that much time had passed. Paris says he expected her to be shooting pool at Sandrine's (nice to know that program is still in use), not hanging out with -- he circles the frozen Bajoran and shudders at the memory -- Seska. "What is this anyway?" he asks.
Torres lights up, brimming with excitement. She says she found it while doing a routine purge of the ship's databanks, tossing unused files. "It's some sort of Holo-novel," she says. "All about a Maquis mutiny. It's so real, and compelling--it's all about us."
Paris asks who wrote it. "That," she says, "is the big mystery."
* * *
The author is anonymous, Torres explains; the data was encrypted when she found it. "You take on the role of a Starfleet security officer who's approached by Chakotay about taking part in a mutiny to take over the ship!" We rarely see Torres this animated. It suits her. "It is kind of inflammatory..." she adds conspiratorially.
Tom asks if they should inform the captain. B'Elanna's face falls a little. "Probably." Tom, seeing her reaction, suggests that they can't provide a full report until they've gathered further details (read: keep playing and see how it ends.) B'Elanna's smile returns. "You have a point," she drawls conspiratorially as a roomful of frozen holocharacters look on.
"Great," Tom says, his voice louder. "Can you reset it for me?" They bicker briefly about him barging in on her fun, but he wins out in the end by asking, "isn't half the fun of a holonovel having someone to talk it over with afterwards?" He gives his best Helm Boy smile.
She smiles, unable to resist the roguish charms of Tom Paris, pan-galactic Stud Boy. "You owe me one," she says.
Tom Paris, wearing a gold-shouldered Security uniform rather than his usual Command Red, strides through the corridors of Voyager, waiting for something to happen.
Something does. Chakotay is soon striding along with him, holding his elbow and asking where he's headed. "The bridge," Paris says. "Mind if I walk with you?" Chakotay asks. "I was hoping you would," Paris says, amused.
Chakotay asks the same questions, makes the same small talk, with Paris as he did with B'Elanna. Paris responds a bit differently, but Chakotay's words don't vary much. You can tell the slight pauses as the computer adjusts the Commander's reactions.
"Tuvok still giving you a hard time?"
"Doesn't he always?" Paris smirks.
Chakotay says the thought of spending seventy years on the same ship with the uppity Vulcan gives him a headache. "Not to mention an upset stomach," agrees Paris, enjoying himself thoroughly, as they enter the turbolift.
There are a few seconds of silence, which Paris breaks. "I hear you're planning a mutiny," he mutters. Chakotay halts the turbolift.
"Who told you that?"
"Let's just say there are rumors."
Chakotay laughs. "Yeah, well, don't believe everything you hear."
Paris laughs along. "You got that right. But--whatever happens, I'm with you."
Chakotay doesn't respond. He just faces away from Paris and tells the turbolift to resume.
Paris goofed. He seems too eager, and Chakotay is suspicious. Paris tries again.
"I'm serious," he says. "Just tell me what you want me to do."
Chakotay considers, then finally exhales deeply. "Okay, Ensign. Once the captain leaves on her mission to the Rukani, I want you to lock down all the crew quarters. If I ask you if you're done upgrading the internal sensors and you say yes, I'll know we're ready to go."
Even Holo-Chakotay seems suspicious of Paris, even though he's playing someone else. "I'm watching you; no tricks." Paris only smiles.
The turbolift stops, they enter the bridge, and the Teaser plays out much as it had before. Tom takes notice when Lt. Paris hails Janeway from the shuttle bay, but otherwise does as Chakotay told him to, inconspicuously, taking in as much of the scene as he can. When Chakotay asks him if the upgrades to the internal sensors are complete, he gives a firm Yes Sir. "I hope so," Chakotay says.
The Maquis messengers arrive, Chakotay gets his gun, Tuvok announces that Janeway's shuttle has gone to warp. Chakotay tells the crew, "Let's do it." He takes aim at Tuvok.
"Tuvok, get down!" Paris yells. A brief firefight ensues, where a few of the Maquis get stunned along with Kim and Tuvok, who do a little bit better this time. But the result is more or less the same. Only Paris finds himself on the business end of several phasers, and even deadlier looks. "I see you made your choice," says Chakotay in a bit of deja vu. "Take them all to the brig." Paris is escorted with the rest of the fallen Starfleet officers into the turbolift, under heavy guard.
In the brig, senior officers mill about. Paris and Tuvok are two of them. Paris is impatient. He asks Tuvok when they're going to do something. Tuvok gives him a few standard lectures about his lack of proper training, and the chapter and verse of starfleet protocols for prison breaks and mutiny squelching.
"How long is this supposed to take?" Paris asks. "It's been an hour already; I'm getting bored!"
"I'm not interested in your amusement, Ensign. We are in a crisis situation and we will follow procedure. Whether it takes an hour...or a week."
"A week!" Paris bleats. "Who wrote this stuff," he adds, muttering under his breath.
Chakotay enters the brig and orders the forcefield lowered. "Leave Kim and Tuvok here. Escort the rest to the cargo bay," he orders. The officers file out. Paris lags behind--on the other side of the forcefield. "Enjoy the wait," Paris says by way of farewell.
Chakotay repeats his New Mission Statement, and ends with "you have fifteen minutes." Paris immediately steps forward. "I don't need fifteen minutes; I'm ready right now."
Over lunch, Paris tells Torres that by the time he rejoined the mutiny, Chakotay was so suspicious of the young Ensign that he was assigned to scrub toilets in the Bolian bathrooms. Torres tells him it's much more exciting to go along from the very beginning. "Next time I will," says Paris.
Neelix comes over to the table. "I couldn't help overhearing." He mentions the "new holonovel" and Torres gives Paris a near Janeway-quality skunk eye. Paris merely shrugs. He didn't tell anyone, he mouths. Neelix said he'd tried to send a warning message to Janeway, and Chakotay had phasered him personally. "Next time, I plan to go along, then launch a counterstrike."
Torres and Paris wonder aloud who leaked. Neelix said the Doc told him. Torres goes Oops; she let it slip while fine-tuning Doc's "I'm a doctor, not a [insert occupation here]" subroutine. Paris asks who else knows about it; Torres and Neelix both swear to secrecy.
Kim approaches. "So what's this Ayala tells me about a new holonovel?" he asks. Paris and Torres look at each other helplessly, then laugh. "Get in line, Harry," Paris says.
Lt. Paris' personal log, stardate 50953.4. I've decided to play along as a full-fledged mutineer. I hope it's more fun this time.
Ensign Paris is now chief of security. Under enlightened Maquis leadership, every day is Casual Friday; the colorful faux-leather vests and cutoff sleeves of the Maquis is apparently de riguer. Unfortunately, as with any management shuffle, there are some leftover kinks in the system. The engines aren't working at peak. Paris asks if there could be saboteur on board. A strong possibility, Chakotay admits.
Seska announces that a ship is fast approaching--it's Janeway's shuttle, and it's hailing them.
Chakotay smiles at the captain and the holo-Paris. "Hey, Kathryn," he says. "How was your visit with the Rukani?" he asks pleasantly.
"You're out of uniform, Commander," Janeway says evenly.
"There have been some changes in your absence," he admits.
"So I've heard."
A brief exchange ensues. She expresses disappointment that he wasn't a man of his word after all. He tells her the crew took a vote, and he was voted most likely to get them home soon. He tries to be nice about it, plays the gracious winner, offers to beam them extra provisions, but says they will fire on the shuttle if necessary.
"You've just threatened the wrong woman, Chakotay," she says, and cuts the channel.
The shuttle fires. It packs a wallop, too. Seska urges Chakotay to blow the shuttle out of the sky. "Not until I say so," he says.
Paris reports that they've somehow managed to lower Voyager's shields. "We're completely vulnerable," he reports, his voice panicky.
Chakotay swallows and orders Paris to nuke the puppy. Paris does so. The shuttle goes Nova.
"I always said Janeway was a fool," Seska murmurs angrily.
Paris reports two intruders. Janeway and Paris.
Chakotay smiles. "Janeway's no fool. She lowered our shields so she could beam aboard."
"She's trying to free the prisoners!" Seska wails. Chakotay and Paris head for the brig.
Janeway is packing her favorite weapon, lowering the forcefield with one hand, caressing her phaser rifle in the other. Betsy's making a bootie call; there's Maquis to flame-broil. Paris waits to arm Tuvok and Kim as soon as they're free.
Chakotay and Paris enter. Janeway and Chakotay exchange shots. Both connect. Their groans of agony are almost lascivious.
Paris and Paris train their weapons on each other. Maquis Paris shudders at the realization that either way, Tom Paris is toast. Holo-Tom, who doesn't realize that it's Real Tom he's in a Sonora Standoff with, looks much more composed and confident.
The program ends. Real Tom finds himself alone in an empty holochamber. His adrenaline is pumping, and he has no outlet. He yells at the computer to resume. "There's nothing to resume. Game over. Play again?"
"That's it!!?" he shouts. "Make something up then!" He points his phaser just as he had been earlier.
"This SUCKS!" he shouts. The computer asks him to restate the question.
Paris, in the throes of literatus holographicus interruptis, orders up a cold shower.
* * *
Paris and Torres slave over a hot control panel to crack the encryption on the "Insurrection Alpha" program, to no avail. Author is unknown. Parameter files are off-limits. "Whoever wrote this was good," Torres sighs. "Not to mention sadistic," Paris grumbles. "I can't believe we've been left hanging like this."
Neelix enters, asking if they've had any luck. They haven't. Neither has he. He's been making discreet inquiries of all the people he thinks he can trust, but "either nobody knows or nobody's talking."
Paris sighs wistfully. "Remember the good old days when it was impossible to keep a secret on a ship this small?"
Staff meeting. Attending are the captain, first officer and chief of security Tuvok, as well as Paris, Kim, Torres and Neelix. The latter four, we know, know about the holonovel. The Troika, we're not so sure about.
Janeway, her hair back in the ponytail the way nature intended it, is relaxing in the Big Chair. "Now that official business is concluded, I've got another item on the agenda. I understand there's a new...holonovel?" Her voice is dripping with sarcasm. Everyone in the room, including Tuvok, share uncomfortable looks.
Chakotay smirks despite his best effort to sound stern. He says it's been accessed 47 times (The Magic Number! If you're playing the Voyager Drinking Game, now's the time to polish off that case of Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill) by 33 different crewmen.
Janeway asks about it. Torres, reluctantly, admits she found it in one of the auxiliary databanks. Paris also admits having played it. "Anyone else?" Chakotay prompts. Neelix and Kim hesitate, but finally raise their hands, sure they're about to be Skunk-eyed into oblivion.
Janeway settles back. "I understand that the author of this little...opus has chosen to remain anonymous. Perhaps given the controversial subject matter which has our first officer in the role of the leader of a Maquis mutiny. So..now that the cat's out of the bag," she says, never letting on whether she's played the home game herself, but suspecting she may well have, "talk with your people and see if you can find out who our anonymous author is." She's smiling conspiratorially now.
Tuvok says that won't be necessary; he wrote it. Every jaw in the room drops.
"I never knew you had literary aspirations," Janeway teases.
"Not to mention talent!" Raves Neelix. "What a story!"
Tuvok hastens to correct the collective misconception. It's not a holonovel, but a training simulation for his security officers. He'd written it shortly after the merging of the two crews, suspecting that a Maquis mutiny was a very real possibility. However, he says, as the crews began to merge into a single cohesive whole, the need for such a program decreased to the point that its very existence might have become more harmful than the situation it was written to address. So he deleted it. He thought.
"I guess you didn't count on our chief engineer's computer skills," Janeway says, smiling.
"Nor her excessive curiousity," Tuvok adds with a touch of discomfort at all the fuss. He apologizes for the misunderstanding.
Paris says what Tuvok should really be apologizing for is leaving them hanging in mid-simulation. Everyone in the room smiles in agreement. "You've got to finish the story!" he says.
Tuvok says he feels it must be permanently deleted, and he is certain the captain agrees.
"With all due respect, Tuvok...loosen up," Janeway says.
Tuvok's eyebrows burst into flames. He does his best to ignore them.
Janeway continues. "It seems like harmless fun to me, however the program began."
"As captain of this starship--" Tuvok begins to protest.
"I'm more than that now; I'm the leader of a community," Janeway says (it's about dang time she said this aloud so it's official!) "And this community needs its leisure pursuits. We aren't exactly a click away from the Federation websites. We're not wired for Shockwave or RealAudio, we can't just download the latest books, music, Jim's Voyager Reviews, and box scores like we used to. Our people need entertainment, culture, creative outlets! And since we're a long way from home, it's high time we started creating our own."
"Besides, Tuvok," Chakotay adds, "if the crew doesn't get an ending soon you may end up with a real mutiny on your hands." The room erupts in chuckles.
Paris offers to finish it, if Tuvok won't. Torres turns toward him; "you?" she asks. Paris shrugs. "I've always wanted to write a holonovel. I think I could make it plenty exciting."
Janeway slaps the table. "Good! It's all settled. I know I can hardly wait to find out how Captain Janeway manages to outwit the conspirators." And with a conspiratorial grin, she rises from her seat and practically skips out the door, leaving her senior officers to laugh and roll their eyes, while Tuvok does his best to look unemotional.
Has Doc been prescribing the Wacky Weed again?
Tuvok enters the mess hall with a padd in hand, and makes a beeline for Paris' table; Helm Boy is working feverishly at his own padd. Tuvok says that since Janeway insists on allowing this "frivolous exercise" to continue, he has brought Paris his "probability studies" from the original simulation. Paris says he doesn't need it; he's making it up as he goes along. Tuvok can't wait to hear what comes next.
"Paris and Janeway take over the ship. They execute all the conspirators, fly back for their 'Warp 10 Slug Babies,' and--"
Tuvok declares this completely implausible. "Janeway would never do anything so inhumane," he insists. A brief struggle over creative license ensues. Tuvok follows the rigid Dictates of Poetics narrative structure method by T'Hain of Vulcan; Paris prefers the Breasts, Beasts, Blood and chop-socky method espoused by Joe Bob of Grapevine, Texas.
"If you think I'm going to let you turn this into a parody, you are sorely mistaken," says Tuvok.
"Bite me," suggests Paris.
Torres arrives, asking if the collaboration has hit a snag over "artistic differences."
"Only if you would consider calling Paris' ideas 'artistic,'" deadpans Tuvok. Paris says Tuvok's concerned that he's not marching Goose Step with the Dictates of Poetics.
Torres, naturally, has some suggestions of her own. "It's been all action so far, which is fine, but what we need is some passion--some heart."
"We will not turn this into a romance novel," Tuvok insists.
"We?" asks Paris.
"I've decided to make this a collaboration. You are not writing this without my help, you commercial-sellout hack."
Torres says she doesn't care who writes it, as long as it has something for the ladies on board. "Every good story has room to inject a little passion," she urges.
Paris says, smirking, that he could add a steamy love scene between the randy Maquis chief engineer and the lusty, roguish Starfleet Helm Boy.
"Oh, that's realistic," Torres says, rolling her eyes.
Neelix arrives, asking if anyone would like a fresh cup of coffee. Janeway beams into the mess hall with the second largest coffee mug in the Delta Quadrant, pops the top off Neelix's dispenser, empties a whole gallon of Jamaican Blend into her "Galaxy's Best Captain" mug, and beams back out to heaven-knows-where, laughing like the cat who ate the double-espresso canary. Neelix, Tuvok, Paris and Torres look at each other, shrug, and return to bickering.
Paris asks if Neelix has a comment about the story. Neelix says he wouldn't presume to barge in on the creative process. But, he does have a comment about the Neelix character.
"How surprising," says Tuvok, looking more dejected with each passing moment.
Neelix is concerned that his character is portrayed as joining the Maquis; "I would never do that!" he says earnestly. "I don't think you've got the proper handle on my character!"
Paris looks at Tuvok in mock horror. "Tuvok! Did you forget to follow T'Hain's dictates of poetics?"
Tuvok suggests they find a quiet place to collaborate. Paris agrees, adding that it's the first intelligent suggestion he's heard so far (no offense to Torres or Neelix, of course....) They head for the Holodeck, arguing over creative differences and writing habits (the eternal question: detailed plot outline, or seat-of-the-pants literary improvisation?) Paris isn't keen on the idea of Tuvok joining him in the effort. Tuvok isn't keen on letting Paris rewrite his baby. They continue to bicker at the Holodeck entryway, until they enter.
And find Holodoc waiting for them. With a padd in hand.
"Ah, there you are!" Holodoc says, beaming with the glow of creative energy, speaking at light speed, gesticulating like a third base coach with bases loaded and one out. "I have several brilliant ideas for upcoming chapters of your holonovel, as well as a list of revisions and dialog changes that I believe will improve the earlier installments." He hands the padd to Paris.
"I don't believe this," sighs Paris.
"No thanks are necessary. In addition, I'm prepared to offer my expertise in the creation of holographic mise-en-scene." He smiles with the confidence of an irreplaceable resource.
Tuvok overrides Doc's autonomous controls and ships his holographic keister back to Sickbay. For once, he and Paris agree on something.
Paris says he can take it from here. Tuvok says that will be difficult, since only he has the security code to unlock the encryption. Paris chuckles, admits defeat, and welcomes Tuvok to the writing staff.
Tuvok opens the file "Insurrection Alpha," security code Tuvok 4774. (There's that 47 number again, in a PALINDROME, no less! Yippee! If you're playing the drinking game, start the half-hour Jack Daniels IV drip, now.)
"The first thing we're changing is the title," Paris declares.
We get to see how one programs a Holodeck. I won't bore you with the details; suffice to say it's much easier than programmers today have it. It's heavily object-oriented, for one thing.
"Reopen narrative parameters file," Tuvok declares, finally ready to start writing.
The Holodeck walls go all blurry.
A lot of things happen at once, inside and outside of the Holodeck. Transporters go down. Comm systems go down. Holodeck controls are completely scrambled.
Janeway doesn't like the sound of that.
In the Holodeck, Paris and Tuvok find themselves in the brig.
They also find they are not alone. Seska joins them, phaser in hand.
Apparently our Cardassian spy disguised as a Bajoran Maquis wearing a Starfleet uniform found Tuvok's security simulation long before Torres did--and had the same idea Paris did.
Finish the "holonovel". Her way.
Seska thought that Tuvok, who had served briefly if clandestinely as a Maquis, might have some compassion for his former comrades. But after seeing his tactical training simulation, she realized that he was a Starfleet weenie. So her revisions would reflect her mood at the time.
Now, Paris wanted a little dramatic cheese. Tuvok wanted to follow T'Hain's rigid Dictates of Poetics. Torres wanted passion. Neelix wanted character integrity.
Seska, on the other hand, wants revenge. She reprogrammed the thing so that her revisions would kick in when Tuvok reopened the narrative parameter file. It also cut the Holodeck off from the rest of the ship, disabled the safety protocols "so when I shoot you--and I will shoot you--you'll die," and turned Voyager into a veritable House of Horrors.
She lowers the Brig's forcefield and points her phaser. "You've got ten seconds to run," she says.
Paris and Tuvok look at each other. Suddenly, their creative differences don't mean much. Instead of writers, they're now characters. And the story is pretty much out of their hands.
* * *
Seska begins her countdown. Tuvok tries to end program, freeze program, rewrite program. No change. He orders an emergency beamout. This doesn't work either; Seska's program is much more comprehensive, and better thought-out, than Paris' was likely to be. She may well have gotten her literary pretentions from Garak's Dictates of Interrogation.
Somewhere between four and seven (47? Break out the Everclear Jell-O Shots!) Paris decides that discretion is the better part of saving one's butt, so he drags Tuvok out the door before Seska can count down to zero and start firing.
Paris remarks while they run, "that's our Seska..." Tuvok notes that Seska has been dead for over a year, and that she was still a member of the crew--albeit an untrustworthy one, since she was already urging Mutiny on Chakotay way back in "Parallax"--at the time she wrote the thing. He had no way of anticipating this sudden turn of events. Particularly since he deleted the program long beforehand. (Odd, because Tuvok's Mutiny concerns seemed justified until well into Season 2, but according to him the crews seemed to be integrating nicely well before "Prime Factors." Makes you go, Hmmmmm, doesn't it?)
As they run down the corridors, Janeway -- the one with the Power Bun -- calls them into Storage area 3. She's got Betsy (her pet name for the pearl-handled planet-killing hand-rifle she seems to have been born with) locked and loaded, but she could use some help. Paris and Tuvok follow. Paris thinks they should go with her. Tuvok points out that Seska reprogrammed the whole thing, and even allies could be enemies. He suggests they simply observe, but do not participate.
Seska and Chakotay appear while Janeway prepares a transport. Janeway aims Betsy their way. Seska triple-dog dares Janeway to shoot.
Action Kate fires at will.
But Will isn't in the room.
So Betsy turns on Kate. With a screech of agony, Holo-Kate disappears in a conflagration of disintegrating DNA.
"Whoopsie! Did I forget to tell Kathryn that the weapons in bin #3 were malfunctioning?" Seska asks.
"You're an incredible woman, Seska," Chakotay says, pulling her to him for a big sloppy kiss.
J/C Hormone Patrol, you may now shriek in unison.
Chakotay continues to hold Seska as if they'd been Crazy Glued to each other in all the right places. Seska may look blissful, but her voice and eyes drip with malice. She tells Tom and Tuvok to keep moving; her little funhouse is just warming up.
Tuvok says they're not going to play her reindeer games. Paris says none of it's real, not even the programmed-for-lovin' version of Chakotay. This irks Holo-Seska, who gives Holo-Chakotay a bit of wish fulfillment.
"I've waited a long time for this," holo-Chakotay says. He phasers Paris in the arm.
Either Chakotay's ide of "long time" doesn't rouse much passion, or Paris is (excuse me, was) too sexy for his elbows.
Seska tells them they have five seconds before she pan-fries their buttocks. This time, they don't need a long lead in. They take their leave, pronto.
Tuvok has an idea. He drags the injured Paris to sickbay. He hopes to be able to adapt the holographic medical equipment to treat Paris' wounds.
Holodoc is already there. And as patient with his patients as ever. He looks at Paris' second degree phaser burns, and rubs nitric acid in the wound. Paris screams. Tuvok rushes to his aid. Doc backhands the Vulcan, slapping his eyebrows clear across the room. The eyebrows recover quickly and begin a flanking action, while the Gephardt-ized Tuvok keeps Doc occupied. Paris simply writhes in agony, which you can't entirely blame him for. Doc grabs Tuvok and throws him onto a biobed by the throat, examines him cursorily, and says "you're looking well." He seems almost disappointed.
Paris takes a swing at Doc. But they don't call him Holo-doc for nothing. Paris' swing goes right through him. He lands on the ground, on his bad arm. He screams again.
Doc manhandles both men out the door. "Thank you," he says. "Drive through." He tosses them into the bulkhead across from sickbay, and actually claps his hands together like Bugs Bunny used to after tossing Elmer Fudd out the door.
Paris is shaken, but his wits are intact. "Perhaps we can go to the mess hall and Neelix can burn my arm with a frying pan."
Okay, I was half right.
"Your feeble attempts at humor notwithstanding," Tuvok says by way of comfort," I suggest we avoid meeting any more crewmen. The next one might explode." Seska hails them and says, "you can run, but you can't hide."
Harry and B'Elanna tell Janeway what happened. About a month before Seska left the ship she did the reprogramming. And she did a thorough job; the Holodeck is effectively sealed off for the time being. Seska not only finished the program (designed to end with Tuvok's death), but she also rewrote the characters to lead to that end. Janeway wonders aloud if it's possible to rewrite Seska's revisions.
Paris and Tuvok crawl through a Jefferies tube. Paris asks if the Dictates of Poetics include a section on how to escape from a ship full of insane holograms. "Your feeble attempts at humor notwithstanding," says Tuvok, proving yet again that this collaboration was doomed before it even started. He opens the hatch, and sees a large green ball of angry plasma advancing on them.
And the doors are jammed.
Paris hears a familiar Holodeck matter-formation buzz, and turns to see a cool looking handgun hanging over the railing. He picks it up and shoots the ball of plasma. It goes out. Apparently it's a newfangled fire extinguisher.
Paris asks if this is one of Seska's tricks--to take them to the brink of death, give them a breath of hope, just so she can torture them some more. Tuvok offers a more optimistic alternative (a first for him, I'd gather; usually he's Mr. Gloomy-Pants.) He suggests that Janeway and their comrades in the real world may be giving them a little bit of holo-support when they need it.
"Well, if you want to look on the bright side," Paris says, smirking despite the danger, "I'm not gonna argue." They continue their journey.
Paris asks why they're not getting lots of help, like ending the program or beaming them out. He's grateful for the timely plasma extinguisher, but a little more assistance wouldn't bother him. Tuvok says it's likely Seska's program prevents major intervention, for now.
They reach the bottom of the stairs and note a blinking access panel. "Go to the weapons locker," it says. "We're trying to help." Tuvok gets the message.
They head for the door. And run straight into Chakotay. "Gotcha," he says.
Janeway asks what's going on; things were going so well for a second there. Torres says Seska's program is a doozy; it's writing countermeasures as fast as they can implement changes. Janeway says she needs direct access to the narrative parameters. Torres says that may take a while.
Janeway says Tom and Tuvok don't have that long. They could be dead quite soon, at the rate Seska's program is adapting.
* * *
As Tuvok and Tom are escorted to the cargo bay, Harry reports that the transporters are still well and truly hosed thanks to Seska's programming. Janeway sighs and realizes she'll have to keep writing. Her muse begins screaming in her ear.
Seska appears in the cargo bay about the time Chakotay begins his Big Speech about how this is now a Maquis ship. She demands Tuvok and Paris, and has them moved aside from the rest of the Starfleet prisoners. Chakotay asks what she's doing. "I'm going to execute them, you idiot!" she yells, her Inner Redhead asserting itself freely now.
Janeway tells Torres she needs access to the Character Algorithms. Now.
Just before Seska yells Fire, Chakotay puts a halt to the firing squad. Tuvok immediately guesses that Janeway is pulling the First Officer's strings. (He doesn't say "again.") Chakotay and Seska argue.
Torres notes that the program continues to rewrite itself, keeping the simulation on its determined course to see Tuvok dead.
Just as Chakotay says, "I'm in charge of this operation," the Seska program regains complete control. "Operate this," she says, and blasts a smoking hole in Chakotay's chest.
Despite himself, Tuvok smiles.
Janeway says through gritted teeth, "I'm not out of ideas yet."
Seska asks if anyone else would care to challenge her authority. Nobody raises their hand. "Isn't their loyalty inspiring?" Seska asks with a wink. "Set phasers to Stir-fry and prepare to fire," she says, her voice turning ugly.
Janeway continues to write.
The ship is rocked, hard, by something. And rocked again. The ground refuses to stay still. While the characters flail around, Paris and Tuvok grab some big guns. It's the Rukani, Paris says, probably improvising. The folks Janeway and Paris had gone to visit earlier. Janeway had apparently made arrangements for some backup, knowing about the mutiny.
"I'll swallow your soul for this!" Seska rages.
"I don't know if you noticed," Tuvok says, "but I've got the boomstick, babe."
Seska orders the self-destruct.
Janeway seethes; that's her job.
Tuvok orders an override, "authorization Tuvok 4774" (47! Go watch Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master II" and drink whatever he drinks. Butt-kicking optional.) Unfortunately, his codes aren't recognized on Bizarro Voyager. Seska says the whole ship will go Foom in 60 seconds if he doesn't hand over Betsy.
Seska lied. Torres reports that only the Holodeck is Foomable. The ship as a whole is safe. But Tuvok and Paris won't survive.
Janeway asks Harry about the transporters. "Not yet," he says.
Seska repeats her demand: give me the big gun, or Voyager is space toast. Tuvok plays around with phaser controls. "It's set to kill," he informs her. She questions his logic: "if you kill me, who will turn off the self-destruct?" Once again, Paris and Tuvok find themselves staring at a non-negotiable countdown. Tuvok hands Betsy over to Seska.
She aims it at Paris. "Call off the Rukani," she orders. Tuvok tells Paris to do so. Paris objects. Tuvok insists. Paris sighs and thanks them for their assistance. "Everything's under control," he says by way of dismissal.
"Yes, it is, isn't it?" Seksa says, in full Gloat Mode. "I guess if you want something done right, you gotta do it yourself."
She pulls the trigger.
And screams in agony as Betsy goes bulimic, barfing death all over Seska. Her last gasp is one of incomprehension, before her molecules become so much air pollution and bile incense.
"Not bad," Paris notes.
"Seska's not the only one who knows how to make a phaser malfunction," Tuvok smirks. (Its a smirk! I swear!)
The program ends, and Paris and Tuvok find themselves in an empty Holodeck. "Game over. Play again?" the computer says. Paris and Tuvok consider it, then shake their heads in unison.
Janeway and Torres breathe a sigh of relief. Harry hails them to say he might be able to give them transporters now. "No rush, Mr. Kim," Janeway says, as Torres allows herself the luxury of a laugh.
"To happy endings," Janeway says as a toast in the observation lounge. Six glasses raise in agreement. Tuvok compliments Janeway on her use of the Rukani as a plot twist.
"Who said deus ex machina is an outdated literary device?" Janeway asks, her voice a playful challenge. (Oh, hey, not me.)
Torres compliments Paris and Tuvok on one heck of a story, [What, they don't give credit to Janeway for some of her last-minute saves? Outrage, I tell ya!] and asks about the sequel. Western? Detective novel? Chakotay says he doesn't care, as long as he's not the bad guy this time. Everyone laughs.
Neelix suggests that the next story be all about the exploits of a brave explorer who becomes a cook on a starship, and--
Janeway's eyes roll into the back of her head. "Pitch...boring....losing consciousness...." she mutters, facing the greatest danger of the hour.
Tuvok interrupts the happy Talaxian. "The next project will not be nearly so close to home," he says.
They all drink to that.
They could have subtitled this one "Trek Writing 101."
Sit down, class. Professor Jimster is going to lecture briefly on the Seven Point Plot.
4. Attempt to resolve conflict
5a. Fail to resolve conflict (back to step 4, repeat as needed).
5b. Succeed, but advance to next level of conflict or entirely new conflict (back to step 4, repeat as needed).
6. Climax (last chance at 4, for all the marbles)
With all due apology to T'Hain of Vulcan, this is the basic structure of nearly every story ever written, from "In the Beginning" to the present, to Infinity and Beyond.
Let's take a look at "Worst Case Scenario." Torres (character) finds herself on Voyager (setting) listening to Chakotay think aloud about a possible mutiny (conflict). When the time comes, she makes her choice (try) and finds herself on the winning side (succeed, but now she's an official Mutineer).
The story's just getting started when Paris interrupts her, and we learn that this is in fact just a Holodeck simulation (setting), the authorship of which is unknown (conflict). He and Torres also try to keep it a secret (try). Paris tries the program (try) and gets a different result (fail). He and Torres discuss it over lunch (succeed, move to next level of danger) only to learn that their little secret has gotten out (fail). Paris tries the simulation again and finally wins the holo-Maquis' trust (succeed, move to next level) but finds himself battling Janeway, and himself, for control of the ship (climax)...but the simulation ends during the good part (fail).
Paris and Torres (try) to solve the mystery of the program so they can finish the game, but get nowhere (fail). Neelix, who's also played the simulation, has been asking around (try) and coming up blank (fail). Finally, Janeway steps into the act and blows the lid off the worst-kept secret on board, and makes the search for the author official. (Try). Tuvok owns up, divulges the secret, and Janeway approves it as "harmless fun". (succeed, move to next level) But it's not finished (fail) and Paris offers to finish it himself (try).
Every would-be writer on board comes out of the woodworks to offer their suggestions (conflict, with a whole slew of try/fail sequences). Paris and Tuvok bicker about collaboration (conflict, try/fail) but Tuvok points out that only he has the passwords to edit the thing (succeed, next level). They proceed to write--and find themselves stuck in someone else's program entirely. (Fail--thrown to Last Level for all the marbles).
Seska's trying to kill Tuvok. Tuvok and Paris try not to be killed. Janeway tries to help them. Each succeeds, only to be thwarted, until the final confrontation, where Seska holds all the cards (Climax)...and has them blow up in her face. (Real Climax) Victory, Starfleet. The crew laugh over their adventures, discuss Seska's failed plot (confirm the Real Climax), and plan the next one (standard Cheesy Trek Ending, aka the dubious Point 8).
And there you have it. Structure is rampant, steps are interwoven, etc. T'Hain would no doubt approve.
So, if you want to write a Trek story, watch this episode. And take detailed notes.
While you're noting the seven points, be sure to notice characterization. If you've been watching Voyager for a while now, you may have noticed early on the subtle and not-so-subtle clues that what Torres was encountering was not the real crew. That people like Kim and Chakotay and Neelix were not acting quite as you would expect them to. That Janeway's hair was not quite right. That people long-dead are suddenly back on active duty. That sort of thing. The only character acting "normal" was Torres, so when the secret is revealed, it's not a big surprise.
What was fun about this episode--and it was fun, one of my favorites in an outstanding season--is how the crew is able to take a look at itself. Unlike "Hollow Pursuits," where the crew is seen through the tortured mind of Reg Barclay as a way of escaping reality, this Holodeck simulation was conjured from the paranoid-but-observant mind of Tuvok as a way of facing reality--the events may not have occurred as projected, but the threat at several times in the first season was quite real. (Ironically, I wonder if finding Tuvok's holoprogram is what made Seska decide that she'd have better luck with the Kazon--she said as much when the Seska Revisions kicked in.)
What we see is a crew that looked awfully familiar back in season one. Janeway and Chakotay had some fondness for each other, but the trust they have now is still in its embryonic stage then. We're seeing this all through Tuvok's eyes, so it's curious to see how he depicts everyone. All the Maquis. Twenty-five Starfleeters (who are, no doubt, chosen specifically because Tuvok believes them capable of bolting.) Neelix (who wasn't the Janeway Loyalist he is now, and whose first act with the crew was to lie to them so he could save Kes--never mind that he and Tuvok didn't get along well). Paris shows up firmly in the Janeway camp, probably by default--the Maquis have a reason to hate him (Maquis traitor) as much as Tuvok (another Maquis traitor) and Janeway (the archetype "The Man" that keeps the masses down). Kim, shown as a loyalist, but still as a green, clueless doofus who needs to be instructed at every turn by the paternalistic Tuvok. Kes, whose loyalty has been more consistent than Neelix's, is lumped with the Janeway-ites. (And Neelix never bargains for her release? Inconceivable!)
It's all from the mind (and little black Security Book) of Tuvok, and though we have to think back a bit to remember how things were back then, we have to admit he got things mostly right. He even guessed that one of the chief instigators would be Seska, though until she left the ship, she was just another loud-mouthed Maquis engineer. Most of them were back then, before they died or went Starfleet.
So. Tuvok, in constructing a realistic training simulation, had to design, in essence, a way-cool holonovel. We even get to see two runs of the first scene, played by Paris and Torres (two very different players) and see how the simulation adapts to them (some better than others, I noticed). If you've ever played ST:Klingon or ST:Borg, you get a decent idea of how this might work, a first-person simulation, interacting with other characters, and occasionally getting constructive criticism and lectures from Tuvok about where your mind should be. (It was designed for security personnel, remember.)
The best simulations, though, can often be quite entertaining. Microsoft Flight simulator, for example, or SimCity, just to name two. The crew, not knowing its purpose, only pick out the fact that it's a rush to play.
The part that had me in stitches was all the people clamoring to help finish the thing, and the wildly different approaches. Tuvok's strict plot outlines and Dictates of Poetics (anyone else think of that scene in DEAD POETS SOCIETY where Robin Williams has the kids rip out and trash the introduction to Poetic Deconstructionalism by R. Emmet Pritchett, Ph.D, or whoever the heck it was, the guy with the graph-paper approach to the Worth of Poetry?) Versus Paris' "We don't need no steenking outline" preference for improvisation, over-the-top action, and lots and lots of nekkid flesh, the heir to Andy Sidaris and Russ Meyer. Torres wants passion, but not necessarily Paris' idea of same (Paris: "steamy love scene between helmsman and chief engineer?" Torres: "Oh, that's realistic."). Neelix wants realism, at least for his character (I Want to Tell You). Holodoc speaks in pompous French (Jerry Lewis?) The long-dead Seska uses the simulation as an agent of social change--listerally (rather than literarily) killing Tuvok, striking a blow for the Maquis. (Ironic, given that she was as much a spy as he was, and a Cardassian to boot--the Maquis' worst enemies.) Janeway, of course, got in the last word; she's a sucker for the (as an old Argentine roommate liked to call them) Typical American Happy Ending.
This story had it all: sex (and even more sexual innuendo), violence, betrayal, strategy, humor, vengeance, redemption, plot twists, drama, passion, senseless violence, the standard post-murder wisecracks....it's everything a show should be. Best of all, the cast is laughing at, and with, itself, and tweaking our noses in the process.
You a member of the J/C Terrorist Task Force? You see them working together, and at each other's throats, sure to send you into fits of hyperactive paristalsis. (Chakotay is kissing another woman? And Janeway's worst enemy at that? And he SHOOTS Janeway? And she SHOOTS him? The Horror, the horror....)
You a PT4EVR fanatic? You get to see them play along well, and Torres telling Paris his dreams of a "steamy love scene" are wishful thinking.
You like Action Kate? She's here in a big way. You dislike Action Kate? She gets her butt kicked, and a more level-headed Janeway solves problems by quick wits, a mature attitude, a Speed Racer muse, the programming skills of a young Bill Gates, and a keen sense of humor.
Every major character got at least a few words, though Kes' only came in the Holodeck simulation. We got to see and hear some old favorite Supporting Actors, such as Ayala and Jonas and Hanson (the tall, dark and mute Stud Boy we first saw prominently in "Displaced.") We got to see Seska return in all her holographic glory, and if I may say so, I liked this Final Confrontation with the Great Evil Inner Redhead a lot better than the way Seska met her end in "Basics II." Her passing there was more or less collateral damage. She wasn't specifically targeted. Yes, we saw her die, but her killer was a booby-trapped circuit. Not quite as satisfying as letting her think she's outwitted all her enemies, only to be hoist on her own Picard. We get to see her shocked look, anguished cry, and agonizing death spasms as her enemies look down on her smirking...the way nature intended it. This was the Final Battle with Seska we deserved, and though it was a long time coming, it was good to see. It came in a nicely designed package, to boot.
Janeway--the real one--calls herself more than a captain in this episode. She's a philosopher queen, the mayor of her own self-contained community. And she wants the crew to start acting like more than a crew. She wants to sponsor the arts. She wants music (Harry plays clarinet, Doc sings opera) and literature (everyone on board's a closet holo-novelist--you know the genres will be diverse) and art (Janeway paints). This last year they've had a lot more fun, and they seem to have made a lot more progress towards home. Ironically, the more they get along, the less Home seems to be mentioned (though it makes a nice convenient excuse to plow through any obstacle that gets in their way, such as Swarm Space and natural phenomenon they'd normally steer clear of or spend time investigating). Autonomy has its advantages, after all; ever since that encounter with Sulu in Tuvok's head, Janeway's resembled those 23rd-century Captains more than she may realize.
It's interesting, though, the timing. Just when it seems the crew is thinking less about home than about the Journey, they find themselves increasingly in situations where Home is thrown in their faces. The dinosaur Voth. The "earth habitat" in Displaced. And here, a whole holonovel dedicated to the proposition of casting aside Federation claptrap in the name of expediency--getting home by Any Means Necessary.
Do the crew really want to get home that badly? Maybe in the first season. But after three years, they're getting along fine now; all the traitors and malcontents seem to be dead, they're Embracing the Adventure, Janeway's not threatening to blow up the ship every other week, etc. Is Home really a priority anymore? The Maquis never had much of a reason to get home. They did have comrades in the Maquis, but they started sleeping with the enemy and decided they could make new friends. IF they get home, they're no longer part of a single, cohesive family, but captured renegades again. The Maquis stand to lose everything in the Alpha Quadrant, despite their Delta Quadrant heroics.
So does Tom Paris. Home means all the baggage waiting there. Sometimes, 70,000 lightyears doesn't seem far enough away. What does Home mean for the Holodoc? We saw in "Eye of the Needle" that Doc's purpose in life is tied closely to the crew's. He does have that portable emitter now so he could go with them, but what then? What would Starfleet do with him? We saw what they wanted to do with Data; it took a Picard to save his positronic hiney. Would they run him through a debugger and purge out everything that makes him so interesting? Will he find himself staring at a legion of holo-Bashirs, and learn he's expendable, obsolete?
And what about the rest? Three years later, do we really expect Libby or Mark to have waited for their respective fiancees? They'll have gotten on with their lives, surely, and that can only mean heartbreak. Tuvok's wife may not have remarried, but I suspect his will be the least disruptive homecoming.
Home, in other words, may have been their highest priority once. But it no longer is, for most of the crew. Homeward is as good a direction as any to fly, but Home is where the heart is, and for many that means they're already there.
The question is, does anyone aboard still care about getting home? If so, who? And is there any conflict potential there?
I understand we may learn some of these answers in next week's finale.
The acting here was superb all the way around. Martha Hackett practically dripped evil as Seska. Beltran and Mulgrew and McNeill did nicely in dual versions of their characters, doing a little dramatic Time Warp ("it's just a jump to the left....") But more than individual performances, I was taken by the interaction between characters, a situation many have found lacking. In this episode, they interact like nobody's business. Arguing, and teasing, and laughing, and winking, and flirting, and slam-dunking. Interacting. Shooting the shinola. Paris and Tuvok playing off each other brilliantly. Tuvok's eyebrows vibrate at Warp 5 when he's stuck in close quarters with Paris for any length of time. They can needle each other without it getting too nasty, as it gets with Tuvok/Chakotay or Tuvok/Neelix. As bickering partners, Tuvok and Paris are in the same weight class, and it makes the whole exchange more fun.
A few words about sarcasm, since some of my comments in "Displaced" was apparently not as absurdly obvious as I'd hoped.
I like the thought of J/C. I know many don't, and many do. I'm not rabid about it; I simply think Janeway needs a good confidante, and Tuvok frankly wasn't filling the bill. I was frequently angry the first two seasons that Janeway handled her First Officer at arms' length, treating him with all the suspicion that Tuvok's simulation does. It wasn't until "Resolutions" that she finally saw him in a different light.
I don't give a flying flip whether they slept together in "Resolutions." Sacrilege, I know, but there you have it. What I did care about was that Janeway realized that her First Officer cared for her very much, was intensely loyal to her, and put her needs before his (good thing, because up to that point, so did she). The very next episode (the Basics Cycle) we see Janeway and Chakotay working more closely together than ever before, to the point of displacing Tuvok as her chief advisor.
And from that point, I submit, the crew's luck improved.
It doesn't matter to me whether their relationship is sexual. I'd like them to have a relationship, but what we've seen onscreen so far works for me--it's intimate, yet professional, just as both characters are.
Oh, sure--it's fun to look for clues onscreen, to guess at the extent of their relationship. Their meaningful glances and invasions of each others' personal space in her ready room AND in public places like the holo-resort suggest that they Are. Janeway disavowing all knowledge of "chuckles" in the presence of an omniscient being like Q, and not throwing Chakotay in the brig after he came back with the long-haired Yellow Borg of Texas, suggest that they May Not Be After All. These are the obvious points of differing interpretation.
In "Displaced," I took incidents that were perfectly harmless, and screamed bloody murder about the J/C implications. I was joking. I was teasing. I was making light-hearted fun of those who screamed bloody murder during similar scenes in "Before and After." They knew who they were. And most of them told me they thought it was hilarious.
But not everyone got it.
Some accused me of getting all worked up over nothing. (Precisely.) Some congratulated me on finally jumping with both feet onto the J/C bandwagon. Some yelled at me for precisely the same thing.
Gads, I love the Internet.
I wrote this to several people who asked, but I'll say it here to make it official.
1. If I use more than one exclamation point at a time, I'm probably joking.
2. If I write an entire sentence in all caps, I'm almost certainly joking.
3. If I end a paragraph with WAAAAA!!!! and you've been agreeing with me throughout the rant...I'm poking fun at you.
I know, I'm a great big meanie. But I thought I should make that clear.
Another aside. The Great 47 made several appearances, including the tricky palindrome (4774). There is no Voyager Drinking Game that I know of, but I warn you...don't try this at home. I don't drink, so I could have gotten the serving sizes wrong. I'm told on good authority that an "IV drip of Jack Daniels" is not good for you. You have been warned. (Though I do highly recommend Jackie Chan's Drunken Master II.)
This review has everything but the kitchen sink. I'm half-tempted to find a link to one. But since your tastes may vary, go here and find one you like.
The season's almost over, and it's been a heck of a ride. Last year, "Resolutions" immediately preceded "Basics," and though it disappointed me as an episode, it set the stage for this season. Too many episodes, it seems, are self-contained, and serious changes in characters are never followed up on. "Resolutions," however, isn't one of them. Its consequences are still being felt, and Worst Case Scenario gives us a clear distinction between the attitudes before and after the episode, because the Holodeck scenario of Tuvok's rested on the premise that Janeway didn't entirely trust Chakotay. And the fact is, before "Resolutions," Tuvok was her primary advisor. Afterwards, that duty fell on Chakotay. You could see Tuvok sense his influence slipping away, episode by episode, as she ignored his advice time and time again. It's fitting that it occurred in this episode--the one right before the end of the third season, essentially one year later. And it does my heart good that "Worst Case Scenario" was such a joy to watch.
Nitpicks: not many. I wondered how Seska could be so prominently a part of the mutiny. I remembered that Tuvok served aboard the Maquis ship, and likely knew about Chakotay and Seska's relationship there. He also no doubt knew about Seska's inflammatory nature, which was exerting itself from the first regular season episode, "Parallax." Given hindsight, Tuvok's guesses were pretty good. He was wrong about Neelix--but he still doesn't seem to realize this.
On a 0 to 10 scale, I'm giving this one a 10. I know I've used it an awful lot this season, after not using it at all the previous two. I may have to tighten the curve next year. But in terms of entertainment value, this one was a scream. As a frustrated writer, I can relate all too well. This was an episode the fanfic writers and teleplay hopefuls will either love or hate, because it seems to be written especially for us. And it shows how to do it very, very well.
Next week: Ugly new aliens. Exploding cubes. The Borg get their butts kicked. Smells like a cliffhanger to me.