My reviews are highly opinionated, longer than your average Costner film, and prone to digressions. They retell each episode from beginning to end in excruciating detail, so if you haven't seen the episode yet and want to be surprised, run away.
But if you don't get Voyager in your area, this may be the next best thing to being there. That's my hope, anyway. Agree or disagree with the rants and raves, I hope you'll have fun along the way.
Voyager runs out of gas, and fills up in a really, really bad neighborhood. Harry feels better about himself.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Jump straight to the Analysis
As Voyager flies through space, we notice that the lights on the hull are winking out, one by one.
All around the ship, the sounds of energy conservation are heard. It's either Earth Day in the Delta Quadrant, or Tom Paris' latest practical joke has gotten out of hand.
Inside the ship, we see the lights are extinguished in room after corridor after room. In Engineering, Torres (she's back! Still in a smock, but we see more of her than in the last months of the pre-delivery IgnoreCam) and Vorik watch as the warp core gets put on a dimmer. Finally, on a darkened bridge, Harry Kim reports.
"The ship is gray, Captain," Kim says. "We've cut power to decks four through nine. Replicators, Holodecks and all other nonessentials are offline. Remaining systems are operating at 20% capacity."
A lone nitpicker raises his hand to ask if the "Parallax" precedent-that the Holodecks are tied to a completely separate and incompatible energy system, and therefore can run even if the rest of the ship is cold as a tomb-is no longer the case. The phaser rifle leveled in his direction is encouragement enough to withdraw the query.
The mood, like the lighting, is dark. Janeway stands and walks towards the helm. "Tom, how long can you keep us flying?"
"With the deuterium supply this low, even at one-quarter impulse we'll be out of gas inside a week."
Now this is a crisis. Aliens of the week are nothing next to running out of gas in the middle of nowhere. Especially when the vacuum of space keeps you from walking to the next town.
"Everyone redouble your efforts," Janeway tells the bridge crew. "Keep your eyes open for new sources of deuterium. Tuvok, Chakotay, I want recommendations for further methods of conservation. Harry, you and I will give them a hand in geophysics--see if we can't synthesize a substitute fuel. In the meantime, we stay in Gray Mode."
Then she makes her mistake. "If anybody's got any other ideas, I'm listening."
A lone Helm Boy raises his hand. "We could set up a bicycle in the mess hall, attach a generator, pedal home."
Ah, gallows humor.
Janeway smirks at him. "Now why didn't I think of that?"
Encouraged, Paris continues. "And I volunteer Harry to take the first shift." He looks meaningfully at his pal, and the rest of the crew snickers. Ensign Kim takes the ribbing with infinite patience and rolled eyes.
In the corridors, Tuvok leads a gaggle of crewmen. "Living space will be extremely limited. Take only those personal items which are absolutely essential," he tells them.
And promptly bumps into Neelix, who enters the corridor like Kramer enters Jerry's apartment. Arm loads of stuff tumble to the ground-pillow, blankets, and reading material. "Hello, there!" says Neelix cheerfully, bending down to gather his stuff.
Tuvok helps, reaching first for the book-a weathered, hardbound tome with unfamiliar lettering. "What, may I ask, is this?"
"That, Mr. Vulcan, is the selected works of Jurex."
Tuvok frowns. "Only essential items, Mr. Neelix."
"Oh, Jurex is essential!" says Neelix. "He's the greatest writer in the Talaxian canon. I never go to sleep without reading at least one of his parables." (Who can forget his touching classics, A Tree Grows on Rynax? Great Forrest Gump? Fried Green Leola Root?)
But Tuvok's being particularly hard-nosed today. "A habit you'll have to break until we restore power to crew quarters." Neelix is disappointed, but agrees. Tuvok presses his advantage and next nixes the pillow. Neelix protests that he gets all achy if he sleeps without them. Tuvok tells him to tell it to the Doc and get an anti-inflammatory. Neelix puts on a brave face and says, "Oh, fine. I don't mind roughing it."
Then Tuvok puts the kibosh on the blankets. Neelix gets irked. "No. No, that's where I draw the line! My mother knitted these herself. I've slept with them since I was a child!"
Shudder. Gotta side with Tuvok on this one. "You'll have to make do with standard-issue bedding," Tuvok says. "Starfleet blankets give me a rash," Neelix says, but Tuvok holds firm. "I suggest you ask the Doctor--"
"For some anti-itch cream," Neelix grumbles. "I might as well sleep in Sickbay...." His eyes suddenly go bright. "Thank you, Mr. Vulcan! You've just given me an idea."
Chakotay enters Astrometrics to find Seven of Nine slaving over a bunch of hot controls. "What's going on here?" he demands. "You were ordered to shut down Astrometrics an hour ago. We can't afford the power." She ignores him. "Seven, it's inefficient!" he says, trying to put it in terms she can appreciate.
"Efficiency is relative, Commander. If I shut down Astrometrics I won't be able to scan for new fuel sources." Chakotay tries to protest-"I appreciate your efforts but we'll have to use conventional scanners until-" but naturally, things are about to go Seven's way. A console starts beeping in a come-hither manner, and when Chakotay asks, Seven says, "Conventional scanners would not have found this."
"What?" he asks. "Highly concentrated deuterium,' she explains. "Where?" he asks, establishing the setting. Seven obliges, pulling up a planet on visual. "A planetoid 0.4 light-years from our present position. There are dense pockets of deuterium just beneath the surface."
Chakotay provides the conflict. "Maybe so, but that's a Demon class planet....That's what Starfleet calls it. Also known as Class Y. It's got a toxic atmosphere filled with thermionic radiation. Surface temperatures are in excess of 500 Kelvins. Just entering a standard orbit would be suicide."
Naturally. A quick trip to the Texaco system would have been so conventional. The only danger there is out-of-date Slim Jims at the snacketeria. "Our situation is desperate," Seven says, and Chakotay reluctantly agrees. "When faced with desperate circumstances, we must adapt."
Hard to argue with that.
* * *
Captain's log, supplemental: I've ordered adaptations to our shields to repel the thermionic discharges. Hoping that the benefits will outweigh the risks we're now trying to beam deuterium from beneath the planet's surface.
Seven of Nine is in the transporter room with someone nameless and smart enough to keep his mouth shut. "Narrow the annular confinement beam to 0.47 terahertz," she tells him, then hails the captain to say they're ready.
Janeway coordinates from the bridge. The planet below is so inhospitable that even a low orbit is a danger, so she has Harry and Tuvok on their toes. Good thing; the ship rocks from a planetary power belch. "The shields are holding," Tuvok semi-assures the captain. "Let's get this over with before you tell me otherwise," Janeway says, and tells Seven to go for it.
They begin the transport-and just as it looks like it might work, sparks fly, and the transport officer goes down. Overload in the pattern buffers, Seven reports. Janeway tells her to abort the transport, but it's too late. Janeway tells her to get out-which Seven does, crewman in tow, just before the transport completes and the jar of Demon deuterium goes Boom, taking most of the transporter room with it.
"Computer, seal off the transporter room and erect a level-ten containment field!" Seven shouts, refusing to collapse against the corridor wall until the computer complies. She looks hurt.
But you should see the other guy.
Chakotay speaks before some of the senior staff in the aftermath of the Little Transporter That Couldn't.
"The good news is Nozawa and Seven of Nine have both been treated and released from Sickbay. The planetary gases have been expelled from the transporter room."
"And the bad news?" Janeway asks, also standing, clearly unhappy with the current state of affairs.
"The transporters are offline. It'll take days before they're back."
They discuss options, none of which are likely to work. Janeway throws up her hands and says Oh Well, then orders Tom to resume their original course.
Harry, who rarely pipes up in staff meetings, pipes up. "Captain, maybe I can help."
Tom jumps in. "Harry, the bicycle thing was just a joke!" He is universally, and justly, ignored.
"I've been thinking," Harry continues. "With Tuvok's shield modifications and a few tweaks to an environmental suit I'd take a shuttle to the surface and mine the deuterium from there."
"Need I remind you, Ensign," Tuvok says, "that there is no environment less hospitable to humanoid life than a Class Y."
Kim matches Tuvok's level gaze. "Actually, Tuvok, no, you needn't remind me." Zinnng! Everyone takes notice; it's unlike Harry to talk back to Eyebrow Boy. " What's the alternative? Resume course? Creep along at quarter-impulse hoping we find fuel before we end up dead in the water? We've got deuterium within arm's reach. We can't let the opportunity slip away without at least trying." Harry has rarely been so passionate, so confident-or so right.
"He's got a point," Chakotay says. Janeway and Tuvok point out problems with the plan, but Harry stands firm; what choice have they got? "Even if I agreed, I'd never let you go alone," Janeway says.
Harry smiles. "Of course not. That's why I'm volunteering my good buddy Tom here to go with me." He reaches behind him and slaps Paris playfully on the chest.
Everyone in the room-except for the stung Tuvok and the stunned Paris-chuckles. Ensign Harry appears to have carried the day.
Yow-who put the Wheaties in Harry's cereal bowl this morning?
"You were pretty forceful in there," Tom says, stating the obvious as they walk through the corridor.
"'So'? I don't think I've ever seen you that assertive in a staff meeting before. You must be bucking for a promotion."
"I had an idea and I spoke up, that's all."
"No, no, no. It was more than that. You put Tuvok in his place right in front of everybody."
"He was stating the obvious again--talking down to me like I didn't know anything about Demon Class planets." Harry, of course, is the acknowledged shipboard expert on them. His last clarinet recital in the mess hall was the "Demon Planet Suite."
You can be forgiven for forgetting that. I blame Kellin and those Milk of Amnesia pheromones of hers.
"I am not criticizing you," Paris says. "Believe me, nobody enjoys seeing the Vulcan Master put down a peg more than I do. I was just surprised, that's all." Why? asks Harry. "It didn't seem like you," Paris says.
"Good," says Harry. They enter the turbolift and head for cargo bay two.
"You trying to change your squeaky-clean image or something?" Paris asks, arms folded.
"Not exactly," Says Harry, arms folded.
"How do I explain this? When I first came on board Voyager I was pretty green, right?"
Paris sorta smirks. "A deep, almost fluorescent green if I remember correctly."
Harry doesn't argue. "I was young, inexperienced, and I acted like it--nervous about giving my opinion, hesitant to make suggestions--so I usually just kept my mouth shut. And I behaved that way for so long it became a habit. But, in the last four years, a lot has happened. I fought the Borg; been transformed into an alien; helped defeat the Hirogen. Hell, I've even come back from the dead!"
Paris chuckles to himself. "It's been a wild ride."
"I woke up the other morning and it suddenly hit me-- I've got a lot of experience now. So why should I be afraid to take the initiative or voice my ideas?"
He does have a point. This has been a long time coming, too. Of course, I'll believe it the next time he talks to Seven.
The turbolift slows to a halt. Paris finally speaks. "Good for you, Harry." They exit. "But...Do me a favor. The next time you try to assert yourself leave me out of it. I hate hot weather."
"Don't worry," Harry says. "We'll cut holes in the environmental suits, get some ventilation going-"
"Harry, while you're busy improving yourself you might try working on your sense of humor."
"My sense of humor? What about that stupid gag about the bicycle?"
"Oh that was funny."
"No, that was not funny. You think that's humor?"
They argue about who's funnier as their voices fade away down the corridor.
If this is the sort of repartee we can look forward to tonight...those environment suits can't malfunction fast enough.
The shuttle makes its descent into hell. (Don't worry-no shuttlecraft were harmed in the making of this episode.) It's not a smooth ride.
Paris pilots, while Harry acts as backseat driver.
"I can't thank you enough for getting me in on this mission, Harry," says Paris, muttering unutterable things under his breath. "Remind me to volunteer you to help the next time I have to clean the warp plasma manifolds."
"Really, Tom, you don't owe me anything," says Harry cheerfully.
"Oh, but I do...." Paris vows through gritted teeth.
The ship lurches again. "We've lost attitude control," he says.
"Time to show off your piloting skills," teases Harry. "Think you can handle it?"
"Oh, I'll be watching you, all right." Harry-we get it. Shut up now. "Switching to manual control."
"Just sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride," Paris says. Harry says they're getting close. "All right. I'm going to set us down. On my mark..."
The shuttle lands with a splud. Luckily, Harry keeps his feathers numbered for just such an emergency. Paris, protected by his extra pudding padding, pretends not to notice. With a flourish, chins still jiggling from the touchdown, he touches the last key on the controls. "Mark."
Harry glares at him. "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Paris just chuckles.
Oh, will the madcap antics never end...?
We see an aerial view of the shuttle after touchdown. Demon Planet looks inhospitable in a Mars Rover sort of way.
Paris and Kim are decked out in environment suits, tromping through some caves near the landing site. "It's almost 500 degrees Kelvin," Paris notes, tricorder in hand.
"Don't worry. The suits can handle it," Harry assures him.
"If not, we'll be human barbecue," Paris says.
Now that's comedy.
"I'm picking up traces of deuterium," Harry says. "50 meters...That way. Let's move."
"No sweat," says Paris.
"Lame," groans Harry, leading the way. Paris chuckles.
The two approach a pool of lead-colored mud. "It's coming from inside here," Harry says.
"What is it?" Paris says.
"Some kind of metallic compound...Highly viscous...And if these readings are right, its temperature is only--12 degrees?" Given the surroundings, that's downright frigid.
I guess a snowball's chance in hell is better than we imagined.
"In this environment?" Tom asks, incredulous.
"Whatever this stuff is it's packed with liquefied deuterium," Harry observes, noting the tricorder readings.
"Jackpot!" Tom shouts.
"There's another pool 20 meters that way," Harry says. "Why don't you go check it out while I collect a few samples here."
Tom obeys, letting his newly-assertive little buddy take the lead for a change. "I don't know, Harry," he says into his suit's communicator as he walks through the infernal caves, kicking aside bits of brimstone and the flaming remains of record promoters. "A couple of lounge chairs, a big beach umbrella, maybe some dermal-plast to counteract the chemical burns and I think we've found ourselves a new vacation spot." Harry says nothing. "Oh, come on. That was a little funny! Let me hear you do better."
Still nothing from Ensign Happy. The Teleplay Gods have finally smiled on this poor review boy, and applied a little Heaven's Gate Applesauce to the witty banter. Paris calls after Harry again, and at the continued silence walks over to check on his friend. He sees the pool of deuterium-rich gunk, but no Harry. He notices the pool is swirling in a recently-fed way, and there's a gurgling of air bubbles near Harry's last known position.
Tom reaches into the muck, breathing heavily-and seems to grasp onto something familiar. He yanks with all his might, and slowly but surely, he retrieves Harry from the pool of stuff, which makes a giant sucking sound when the Ensign is pulled free. The two collapse on the ground.
"I know it's hot out, Harry, but you picked a lousy time to go for a swim."
Oh, hell, here we go again.
"I don't know what happened," says Harry, disoriented. "I leaned over to collect a sample and it was like I was pulled in." They scramble to their feet.
Harry's suit computer chirps a warning. "Warning, Ensign Kim: an environmental seal has been compromised. Oxygen depletion in 30 seconds."
Paris throws an arm around his friend. "Hang in there, buddy. I'll get you back to the shuttle."
They make slow progress toward the shuttle. "Have you put on weight?" Tom asks.
"You're just out of shape," Harry says as the computer announces he's now got 15 seconds.
"I'll make you a deal," Tom says. "You hold your breath till we get back to the shuttle and I promise I'll start exercising every day."
"Maybe you should start with the bicycle," Harry says.
"I thought I told you to hold your breath."
Harry collapses on the superheated ground of Demon. "Ten seconds," says the computer. "Five seconds." Paris tries to reassure his friend that they'll make it.
We notice that a droplet of that deuterium pool has latched itself onto Paris' suit. Then it disappears.
"Warning, Lieutenant Paris: an environmental seal has been compromised. Oxygen depletion in 30 seconds."
Harry's got no oxygen left to joke around-and Paris is half a minute away from the same fate. "You're right," Paris admits, as he collapses groundward himself. "I definitely have to get back in shape."
The beeping in the environment suits gives way to a solid, flat-line tone, and our intrepid jokesters stop moving entirely, face down in planetary purgatory.
But fear not, folks. After that dialog, death's too good for them.
* * *
Doc is agitated. So is Neelix, and the four silent crewfolk who stand behind him. Doc is declaring No Vacancy in Sickbay. Neelix, following in Harry Kim's oxygen-depleted footsteps, is taking a rare stand, urging Doc to be reasonable. Doc says Chakotay will be arriving soon, with the unspoken threat that the Commander will no doubt side with him in the argument. "This is a sick bay, not a dormitory," Doc insists.
"But you have four empty beds," Neelix points out.
"Bio-beds, reserved for patients."
"You don't have any patients."
"I may have one in a moment if you and your fellow squatters don't go elsewhere."
Chakotay arrives just in time to settle things. "You wanted to see me, Doctor?"
"Mr. Neelix is attempting to turn my Sickbay into a flophouse."
Chakotay appears to side with Neelix, much to Doc's chagrin.
"But...This isn't just Sickbay. It's my residence," Doc protests.
"And we promise to be the most perfect houseguests," Neelix assures him.
Chakotay smiles. "What more can you ask for?"
Doc grows almost panicked. "But...I have a routine. I'm a night owl. What if one of them should snore while I'm listening to Puccini?"
"Well, if you feel that strongly about it, Doc, we'll have to consider other options," says Chakotay.
"Thank you, Commander," says Doc, relieved.
"For example, we could shut down your program until you're needed. The Captain asked me to look for ways to conserve power and it would spare you from having to listen to them snore." Doc's eyes go wide.
Janeway summons Chakotay to the bridge, and he takes off, ending the argument. Doc rolls his eyes in resignation. "Make yourselves at home." Neelix smiles happily and enters, followed closely by the four crewmen.
Chakotay arrives on the bridge as Janeway and Tuvok discuss the Tom and Harry situation. They fill him in.
"You want me to take another shuttle down and look for them?" Chakotay asks. "And risk losing you, too?" Janeway asks in turn. Their alternatives are fast running out, so Janeway makes a unilateral decision. "We land the ship." Tuvok reminds her that landing the ship is an energy-intensive activity, and provided they make it down at all, taking off again would be impossible without fuel.
"What's the alternative? We're up here, the deuterium's down there, and we're stuck without it. We've come this far." Janeway makes a shipboard announcement. "Janeway to engineering: vent all plasma from the nacelles. Transfer any available power to atmospheric thrusters and stand by to commence landing sequence."
Tom, the usual Code Blue helm boy, is absent, so Janeway gives the piloting job to her second best pilot--the guy who's #1 in lost shuttlecraft, Commander "Crash" Chakotay.
"Tom's going to be sorry he missed this," Chakotay says as he takes the conn.
The crew works swiftly. Tuvok coordinates the crew assignments as Chakotay does the piloting. Janeway stands there in the middle of the bridge looking confident. "Let us down easy, Commander," she says.
We get some cool visuals as Voyager makes her descent. The planet takes the landing personally, though, and fights back with some Demon-Class El Niño Fu. The consoles spark as the shield strength weakens.
"I think we're through the worst of it," says Chakotay as Janeway's voice rises. They're smacked with another bit of planetary rage. "Almost."
They descend...the landing gear comes out...and Voyager lands even less gently than Paris' shuttlecraft had. Janeway looks to Tuvok for a status report.
"I could give you a litany of damaged systems, Captain," says Tuvok, with his typical crisis-mode smart-aleck tone, "but suffice it to say, now that we're down we won't go up again soon."
Janeway lets slip the dogs of repair, then pats Chakotay on the shoulder. "Well, that was very good, Commander," she says, and they both smirk at her deservedly faint praise. "Take an away team and find Harry and Tom."
Torres catches up to Chakotay in the corridors. She asks to go with him to search for Harry and the other guy. Chakotay says she's needed here on the repair teams, but she says she's already delegated the assignments.
"Look, I know you're concerned about them," Chakotay says. "We all are. I'll have them back safe in no time."
"Don't patronize me!" B'Elanna says. "We both know how dangerous it is. They could be in serious trouble," she says. Besides, she's a Klingon; she loves hot weather.
"You're right. I don't know what we're going to find. That's why I need cool heads."
"You think I can't control myself?!?" she says, teeth bared, rearing her clawed hand back to tear out his throat.
"I think you're too close to this."
"You're damn right I am. If someone you loved was missing you'd be the first one out that door, and you know it!"
"B'Elanna, the clock is ticking," says Chakotay. "Go back to engineering, do your job--and let me do mine."
Torres relents, but asks a favor. "Take Seven of Nine with you."
Chakotay can't believe his ears. "You're recommending her?"
"You said you needed cool heads, didn't you? Nobody's head is cooler than hers." Tuvok might take exception to this, but hey-if Harry can change this week, why not Torres? Chakotay relents, nods, and heads for the Environmental Suit changing room.
"And bring them back safe," Torres calls after him, her expression promising all manner of discomfort for him if he fails.
Doc's got five occupied beds. It's clearly night time, and the crew are trying to get some shut-eye. But Doc is making more noise than usual, and it's blatantly intentional.
Neelix politely asks for some quiet, but Doc's in a pissy mood, and his exaggerated humming and singing and clattering instrument collection (on a noisy-wheeled metal pushcart) show no signs of abating.
To his credit, Neelix doesn't let Doc steamroller him. He continues his gentle protests despite Doc's demon-class hospitality.
"I've got a very, very busy day tomorrow and my next shift is just four hours away," Neelix begs.
"Perhaps you should have thought of that when choosing your accommodations," Doc says evilly.
Neelix changes tactics. "Well, if we can't sleep I guess we'll just have to find some other way to pass the time. How about a sing-along?" he urges his fellow annoyed bed mates. "I could teach you all some Talaxian rondos and I know a Vulcan funeral dirge, not to mention the classics of Klingon opera." He inhales deep and gives a one-lunged screech that makes Doc's holomatrix waver.
"Very well, Mr. Neelix--you win. Pleasant dreams," Doc says, voice low.
Neelix's smile makes the scene. So does Doc's frown, shadowed by the dimmed lights that signal the morale officer's moral victory.
The men got all the one-size-fits-all suits, so Seven is relegated to the skin-tight, Barbie's Dream Blouse environment suit. (Sorry, Chakotay fans.) They're out wandering the surface of the planet, looking for their lost crewmen.
El Diablo's Old Faithful spits up a bunch of angry steam, causing Seven to do a double-take.
"A little jumpy, aren't you?" Chakotay says.
"I thought I heard something."
"Now you know why they call it Demon Class."
"Demon implies a presence," Seven says, regaining her wits. "This planetoid is unoccupied."
They pick up the shuttlecraft, which they find empty. "Nobody home," Chakotay notes.
"It's unlikely their environmental suits were able to survive the elements for this long."
"I hope you're wrong."
The brimstone at night
Glows red and bright
[clap clap clap clap]
Deep in the heart of Demon...
Chakotay and Seven have their flashlights on, searching the familiar molten caves. "Looks like they went this way," says Chakotay at last.
"My tricorder isn't picking up any life signs. How did you reach that conclusion?" Seven asks.
"Footprints." Chakotay points his flashlight to the ground. Seven notes several Starfleet-issue footprints. She looks embarrassed at such an obvious oversight. "I guess you never assimilated any Indian scouts," smirks Chakotay, leading the way.
They reach a place we've seen before-a hot tub-sized pool of deuterium mud. Seven points it out, unpacks a kit, and opens up a sample jar (#758, for you trivia buffs). "I'll collect a sample," she says.
But just as her hand is about to dip into the muck, Chakotay stops her. "Let's find Tom and Harry first. We'll collect the deuterium later." She doesn't argue.
"Maybe they found some shelter inside," Chakotay says, and they head in deeper into the bowels of hell.
His foot slips on some crumbly rock, and he takes a dive downward towards a massive pool of the deuterium. Seven grabs his arm just in time, but even her Borg strength can't do more than keep a firm grip. She cannot pull him up by herself.
Then she gets a hand. From a most unlikely source.
Tom Paris-alive, well, and no longer wearing his environment suit-grabs Chakotay's other hand.
"Good to see you guys," he says, as he helps Seven pull Chakotay back to solid ground.
Seven and Chakotay look at Paris in disbelief.
"Welcome to the demon planet," Paris says cheerfully, oblivious to their slack-jawed amazement.
* * *
Paris tries to explain his present condition. "Our suits were corroding, our lungs were burning--we were suffocating! You know what they say about your life passing before your eyes? Well, it's true. I was finally getting past puberty" [mercy laugh] "when suddenly, I lost consciousness. I don't know how long I was out, but...The next thing I knew, I was awake and...And I was breathing normally. And I looked over at Harry...He was breathing normally, too...With his helmet off. And-and we just looked at each other...And we just started laughing! I-I know it sounds crazy but...It was an exhilarating experience!"
All caught up now? Good.
Seven scans him. "His vital signs are normal. Apparently he has adapted."
"Just the same, we'd better let the Doctor take a look at you," says Chakotay. He hits his combadge, but gets nothing. Paris says he's already tried that. "The com signal can't get out of the caves."
"I'm telling you, Chakotay it was an amazing experience. It-it's like when you're a kid who's afraid of the water and you suddenly realize that you can swim. Go ahead! Take your helmets off. Try it." Oy.
Chakotay rolls his eyes. "I'm glad you're feeling all right but none of us will be taking any risks until we know exactly what's going on."
Paris tries to inject a little humor into the situation. "Don't tell me a big, tough guy like you is afraid of a poisoned atmosphere." Chakotay ignores him and asks where Harry is. "He's further inside the cave. We found a huge cache of deuterium."
"Let's find him and get you two back to the ship."
"Whatever you say, boss, but I'm telling you--we can breathe this air forever."
In Engineering, Ensign Vorik, the puppylike Vulcan whose misguided crush on Lt. Torres launched a fanfic empire, approaches the chief engineer with good news: "We should have transporters back online within the hour."
Torres doesn't turn her gaze from the padds in her hands, but does shake her head in almost amused annoyance. "Well, that's great, but right now I'm more concerned with little things like, oh, I don't know...say, life support."
"Indeed," says Vorik. "According to my calculations, environmental systems will cease to function in two hours."
Torres chuckles. "You say that like you're giving me the weather report."
"I agree the situation is dire, but losing our cool will not help matters."
This grabs Torres' attention. She stands up and faces him. "'Losing our cool'? Where did you pick up that expression?"
Good call, dude. Torres smiles and smacks him on the shoulder with a padd. "Well, there's hope for you yet. Now, how about giving me a hand?" She hands him the padd, and he follows, a befuddled expression on his face.
Tom leads Chakotay and Seven to where Kim is standing, also out of his suit and looking like he hasn't got a care in the world. He's standing near a massive deuterium deposit.
"Are you feeling okay, Harry?" Chakotay asks.
"Never better," Harry says. "If we could get transporters down here we could mine enough deuterium to get us to the alpha quadrant and back." No more energy troubles, no more replicator rationing...
You know that ain't gonna happen.
"Tom tells me you've already picked up 20 kilos," Chakotay says. "That should be enough to get the main systems back online. Let's get back to the ship. Have the Doctor look at you."
"I'd rather keep working if it's all the same," Harry says.
"It's not," Chakotay says flatly.
"Really, Commander, I'm fine," Harry says. "You should send some more personnel out to help. They won't even need environmental suits."
I know, I know-the "Danger Will Robinson" alerts are screaming in my head, too. But this is the Voyager crew, remember. Weird is part of the job. Especially where "oh my gosh, they killed" Harry and "folded, spindled and mutilated" Tom Paris are concerned. If anyone could walk around in convection ovens with poisoned atmospheres and still have the breath for lame jokes, it's these two.
Chakotay's voice goes into Command Mode. "I appreciate your enthusiasm but we're going back to Voyager-- now."
"It's all right, Harry," says Tom. "Once the Doc takes a look at us and sees we're fine we'll get right back to work."
On the bridge, Janeway and Tuvok go about the task of finding even more stuff to power down. Tuvok's found a way to get them another hour of breathable air on the two decks still functioning.
Chakotay calls in with news about Tom and Harry, and the deuterium. They're a couple of kilometers away, and they're walking back. Tuvok says the transporters are almost on line, and Janeway says she'll save them the trip.
"Have the Doctor standing by," says Chakotay. "I think he's going to want to look at Tom and Harry."
All news is good news to somebody.
Doc, for one, is thrilled.
The darkened, snore-filled sanctuary of Sickbay is interrupted by lights and the giddy eviction notice from Doc.
"Everybody up! Rise and shine, Mr. Neelix. It's checkout time," he says with a too-cheerful tone.
"It's the middle of the night!" Neelix says groggily, wincing at the too-bright lights.
"Medicine knows no time clock," says Doc. "I've got patients on the way and there's no more room at the inn."
Neelix gets inquisitive, but Doc's just thrilled to be booting them out. He finally say Kim and Paris are on their way for an examination.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Neelix asks.
"Yes. You and your friends can vacate the premises," says Doc.
Neelix, true to his word, rouses the crew and sends them scurrying out the door. But Neelix stays behind, and tells the Doc sincerely, "Thanks for your hospitality. And if you ever need a place to stay, my door's always open." He leaves, and Doc looks after him, knowing that Neelix has won yet again.
Neelix, the gracious guest, has made Doc, the ungracious host, feel guilty, merely by being his usual grateful self.
Janeway enters the transporter room and handles the beam-in herself. All goes as expected; soon all four of her away team are safely back aboard.
But perhaps I typed too soon.
The two inside the environment suits, Chakotay and Seven, watch as the two not inside the environment suits, Tom and Harry, collapse on the transporter pads, gasping for breath.
The two are beamed to Sickbay.
They're still gasping, clinging to bio beds 1 and 2 as doc scrambles to give whatever aid and comfort might work.
"As soon as we beamed aboard they started suffocating," Janeway tells Doc shortly after arriving.
Doc erects a force field around the beds. "[I'm] filling the area inside the force field with the atmospheric gases from the planet," he says when Janeway asks what he's doing. He walks into the shielded area and encourages the two crewmen to slow their breathing, and gradually Harry and Tom are able to breathe normally.
As Janeway and Chakotay look on with concern etched on their faces.
Captain's log, supplemental: the Doctor continues to investigate Tom and Harry, whose condition seems as serious as it is strange.
Doc holds out a vial of lead-looking liquid.
"That stuff is in our blood?" Tom asks.
"I'm afraid so. From what I can tell, you've been--bioformed," says Doc.
"Bioformed?" repeats Harry.
"Think of it as the opposite of terraforming. In the same way we adapt the environment of a planet to suit our needs, this planet...Has adapted you.
"How is that possible?" Tom asks.
"This fluid somehow entered your bloodstream and began altering your physiology at the cellular level. I haven't had time to analyze this substance but I hope to have answers soon."
"I'd like to run a few tests of my own, if you don't mind," Janeway says, and Doc says Of course.
"So, what's our prognosis, Doc?" Tom asks.
Well... You'll be fine. As long as you keep breathing the planet's gases."
"You mean we have to stay inside this force field?" Harry asks.
"I'm afraid it's worse than that. The atmosphere of this planet can't be replicated safely."
"Which means... If we leave... We'll have nothing to breathe," Tom concludes.
"Exactly. Either we find a way to treat your condition... Or you'll have to be left behind."
Nobody takes this news well.
* * *
[After a commercial for the new UPN series, The Virtual Ed Sullivan Show (let's face it, the world's suffering from a severe Topo Gigio deficiency these days)...]
"As it stands I don't know enough about the phenomenon to undo [the bioforming process]," says Doc.
"I'll send Chakotay and Seven back to the surface," says Janeway (never mind that they're already ON the surface...) They'll go to gather further info, while Janeway and B'Elanna run some of their own tests.
"Let me go with the away team, Captain. I know the terrain. I can help," says Harry. Doc says they'd be better off on the planet than onboard, but he asks for one of them to stay aboard for monitoring. The Newly Assertive Harry (TM) cheerfully volunteers his good buddy Tom to stay behind, further beating the dead horse of that running gag.
"Each square kilometer of this planetoid is less appealing than the last," says Seven, back in the environment suit, along with the similarly-attired Chakotay and leisure-suit Harry.
"I think it's breathtaking," says Harry, voice filled with awe.
"Perhaps your recent experience has impaired your perceptions," says Seven drily.
"No, I don't think so," says Harry, oblivious to her mockery. "I wasn't really seeing it before." Seeing what? Asks Chakotay. "The beauty," Harry says.
"Would you care to point out an example?" Seven asks.
"Look over there. What do you see?"
"I see monochromatic geological formations, dust, haze," Seven says.
"What do you see, Harry?" Chakotay asks a bit more kindly.
"To me, those geological formations are a dozen shades of red and gold. That dust--it's glowing! And the haze...It seems to intensify the colors. I'm sorry. I know it's weird, but I feel connected to this place."
"Connected how?" asks Chakotay.
The conversation is interrupted by a beeping tricorder. "I'm picking up humanoid life signs," Seven reports. "100 meters. This way."
Janeway and Torres work away at a microscope, or whatever they'd call it in that century.
"Magnify: factor ten," says Janeway. The screen changes from a grayish lava lamp to a slightly more organized looking Los Angeles Traffic-cam view of the Bioformed Harry's bloodwork. "Deuterium, hydrogen sulfate, dichromates--"
"Add a little sodium chloride and it would probably taste a lot like Neelix's soup," says Torres.
"We should be so lucky," says Janeway confidentially, and they snicker. She sees something, and asks for a 20x magnification. She puts her hands on her hips, and nods for Torres to take a look.
"That's a protein molecule," Torres says.
"This fluid has organic properties," Janeway agrees. "Let me see the sample that's been treated with reagents."
Torres reaches for the slim disc on which rests a globule of the stuff. When she picks it up, the mercury-looking glob moves on its own, and spreads itself out over Torres' thumb.
Under other conditions, this would be adorable. Pet sludge.
Janeway says they'd better get her to sickbay, but Torres tries something. She sets the disc down, and the globule obediently exits her thumb.
And promptly grows a thumb of its own.
Didn't they do this on TNG once? I seem to recall a petri dish of something growing into an elegant replica of Beverly Crusher's hand at some point. A full hand and partial arm looked pretty darn cool...but a severed thumb in a rippling pool of liquid metal is kind of disturbing.
Does this mean that the deuterium hot tub Harry fell into was a Gene Pool?
Harry leads the way through the Meat Loaf album cover that is the caves of the planet Demon. His tricorder leads the way. He loses his cool a bit when he finds two life signs-face down in environment suits. He calls to Chakotay, and together they flip over one of the bodies.
Harry stares into his own face. A look the other Harry is too unconscious to return.
Who didn't see this coming?
Those deuterium pools are everywhere on the planet, but apparently they can translocate at will. One of them now begins to form underneath the landing struts of Voyager itself. It begins to sink.
Janeway hails the bridge for a report. Tuvok responds. "A large pool of the metallic compound is forming beneath the ship. We are sinking, Captain."
"On my way. Get thrusters online. We're getting off this planet."
By some (cough) miracle, Harry and Tom-the ones in the suits-are still alive.
Tuvok hails them with news that Janeway's high-tailing it out of there. One can only assume that the few kilos of deuterium they brought back with them have already been processed, refined, and put to good use.
"Understood. I've got five to beam back," says Chakotay. This surprises Tuvok. "We found another Paris and Kim. I can't explain it."
Janeway enters the bridge. "I think I can. Prepare for transport."
"Beam us directly to Sickbay," says Chakotay, but Harry-the one not in the suit-demurs. He doesn't want to go back to the ship with the air he can't breathe and the two-digit room temperature. Janeway says she's going to have to beam them in as a group, which gives Harry the excuse he needs. He runs away, and Chakotay is powerless to stop him-he, Seven, Harry and Tom are caught up in the transporter lock.
For her part, Seven looks at Harry-both of them-with indifference. There's no impressing this woman.
"Four of the away team are in Sickbay, Captain," Tuvok reports. "I'm trying to get a lock on the fifth. It is Ensign Kim--or rather, one of the ensigns Kim." (Ah, the tricky grammar necessitated by cloning.) "The ship is continuing to sink," he adds just to keep things interesting.
"Then there's no time," Janeway mutters. "We've got to get back into orbit. We'll worry about Harry or whoever once we're up." She takes the helm herself.
But the planet doesn't seem to want to let them go. Despite her best efforts, the ship continues to sink.
* * *
"Report," says Janeway.
"Thrusters are offline," says Tuvok. "Decks 13 through 15 are submerged. If we don't lift off soon, the hull will begin to corrode."
Janeway calls down to Engineering; Vorik responds. "I need thrusters online," she says.
"Lieutenant Torres has sent a team to thruster control," Vorik says. It'll be at least a half hour, he informs her.
"Even if thrusters are repaired, they won't be of much use if we sink any deeper," Tuvok says. Janeway offers some suggestions for dispersing the wonder muck, then leaves the bridge to check on her boys in sickbay, leaving Tuvok in charge.
Tom Paris-the Demonized one-is pacing around the bed in Sickbay that Neelix had been crashing on. Beds 1 and 2 are now occupied by the real Tom and Harry, who are still unconscious. Doc tends to them.
"How are they?" asks Janeway, entering.
"Lucky. The backup systems in their environmental suits kept their vital functions going. It'll take time, but they'll recover."
"And him?" Janeway asks, pointing to the other Tom.
"Aside from his ability to breathe the rarified air on this planet he's the exact duplicate of Mr. Paris. He even seems to share his memories--not to mention his winning personality."
It just wouldn't be an episode without a little gratuitous Paris abuse.
Janeway fills the Doc in on her findings. "B'Elanna and I discovered that the fluid has mimetic properties. Somehow, it reads the DNA of whatever it comes in contact with and re-creates it." Doc is fascinated.
Janeway moves to Paris. "Can you tell me who you are?" she demands, speaking to him like a stranger.
"Please...Just let me go back," Tom pleads.
"Not until I find out why two of my crew have been duplicated."
"Captain, you have to believe me. I don't know any more than you do about this. Until he showed up, I thought I was Tom Paris. A little changed by my experience on the planet, maybe--but now I don't know who or what I am. All I know is that I have to get off this ship and go back down to the surface." He seems sincere, and mostly harmless.
Tuvok pages Janeway. "We're ready to try the nadion burst," he reports.
"Do it," says Janeway.
Something happens. Tom Paris doubles over in obvious discomfort. "What are you doing?"
Apparently Tom's not the only one. "We're receiving an urgent hail," says Tuvok. "It's from Ensign Kim--the one on the surface."
"Captain, please, stop what you're doing!" Harry begs.
"If you really do have Harry Kim's memories you know that I'm going to do whatever it takes to get this ship back in orbit," Janeway says.
"You can't do that!" Harry pleads.
"I...I'm not sure I understand it myself."
"Well, then, you're going to have to help me figure it out," Janeway tells him. "Mr. Tuvok, I'm on my way to transporter room one. Erect a level seven force field around the platform. Fill it with atmosphere from the planet and then beam Mr. Kim, or rather his duplicate, aboard."
Janeway enters the transporter room, with an armed security guard. A transporter officer is already there.
"Energize," Janeway orders. Harry arrives soon after.
"Release my vessel," she tells him.
"We can't do that," Harry says earnestly.
Harry struggles for words. "The planet and I, we're connected somehow. I can't explain it, Captain. I only know that you've got to stop."
"And I'm willing to stop," says Janeway. "But I'll say it again, release the ship."
"No. We need you."
"Janeway to Tuvok. Fire."
The ship rocks a bit as something happens outside. Harry falls to his knees. Janeway notes that he begins to change color-a metallic, brownish-gray color. She looks down on the copy of Harry. "What are you?"
"Stop. No," Harry begs.
"I'll fire again," says Janeway.
"You're killing us!"
"You leave me no choice."
"It's not fair. It's wrong!"
"Janeway to Tuvok..."
"No! No, no, no. Please...No more."
Janeway apparently decides he's suffered enough. "Hold your fire, Tuvok." Tuvok protests, but Janeway repeats the order in Command Voice, and he acknowledges.
"I want some answers," Janeway tells Harry.
"I'm trying to understand. This is hard for me as well."
"You said you have a connection to this planet. You talk about it like it's alive."
"Alive? Yes... But not the planet." He thinks about it, trying to understand himself. "The silver blood."
"The compound that sampled Harry's DNA...And created you..."
"Yes...But it's never been conscious, never sentient before now...Before me and the other."
"Tom Paris," Janeway reminds him.
"We're the first. Don't you see? You came here. You showed us. When the compound came in contact with Tom and Harry it experienced awareness for the first time. Before, it was only instinct, sound and light and heat. But those two...showed us thought!"
I know, I know. Hardly the two you'd want to learn thought from on show and tell day. But you make do with what you've got.
Janeway's eyes go wide a little. "I'm beginning to understand. This silver blood...experienced sentience. And now you want more. You want to duplicate the rest of this crew and populate this planet."
"You're trying so hard to reach home. But this can be home!"
"Not for me and not for my people. Do you understand why we can't stay here?"
Harry hesitates. "I think so."
"Well, then release us."
"We'd rather die than be alone. We deserve life."
But Janeway has other ideas. "This silver blood that created you...It duplicated Harry without killing him. So you don't need our bodies...only samples of DNA. Release Voyager...and I'll speak to my crew. And if they're willing I'll let you duplicate the rest of us."
Tuvok hails Janeway. "We've stopped, Captain. We're no longer submerging."
"Understood. We're getting out of here, Tuvok. But first assemble the crew in cargo bay one and have the Doctor meet me there."
"I'll explain later."
Janeway looks at Harry. "It's time to meet your new family."
Voyager powers up. Apparently they got the deuterium they needed.
On the bridge, all is bright and blue and glowing with life. Stations report in, and all seems ready to go. Janeway gives the word, and Tom Paris complies without hesitation.
As Voyager takes off, a valley filled with people in Starfleet uniforms (and if you want to play Where's Waldo, I believe I do see Neelix's unique garb in that milling crowd) waves goodbye.
As a Voyager partisan, I rarely allow myself to consider using the word "sucks" in a review. I feel bad even using terms like "disappointed."
This week, however, tests the limits of that policy. I'll settle for "aggressively unenjoyable."
The humor was forced, and to use Harry's words, "lame." The characterizations were stereotypical, and/or inexplicable. The mood was all wrong for a situation that was as dire as it was preventable.
As I type this, Hudson Hawk is airing on the Superstation. The first time I watched "Demon," (I swear I'm not making this up) this movie is what came to mind. There's no gratuitous Sandra Bernhard closeups (thank goodness), but the same "how the heck could things go this wrong" vibe applies to both. There's a lot of elements that normally I enjoy seeing in a Voyager episode-humor, character growth, character interaction, certain character pairings (Neelix/Doc, Tuvok/Neelix, Chakotay/Seven, Janeway/Torres), First Contact with new life, even the Voyager-centric "challenges of being so far from home" stuff.
But perhaps that was part of the problem. There was too much, and what was there was largely forced. Tries Too Hard. And as a result, all the situations, all the twists, felt fake. Last week's "Evil Voyager" simulation felt more authentic.
Let's start with the story itself.
"Crewmen get Xeroxed by clueless oil slick" isn't necessarily terrible. But suspension of disbelief is important, and I just couldn't muster it this week. Even under ideal circumstances, you wonder why the crewmates don't notice the "subtle" differences in the characters. In the impossible setting of the Demon planet, Tom and Harry walking around in superheated, corrosively toxic environs is just plain nutty. And their encouragement to everyone else to do the same just confirms that things is Just Plain Not Right.
Harry and Tom were also acting less like themselves than usual. We've heard Paris and Kim banter before. "Worst Case Scenario" was a perfect case in point-that dialog crackled with humor, and the characters were darned believable. Around Tom, that confident, no-longer-green Harry shone through just fine. Here, Harry gives one zinger back to Tuvok and Paris is acting like he's no longer the reigning King of Comedy on board. There were a few decent moments between them in the shuttle, but for the most part the back-and-forth between them felt stilted and forced.
And the jokes were just plain painful-which, coming from Tom and Harry, who are normally quite amusing together, is a crying shame. They were trying too hard to impress each other, and it just didn't work for me.
Ditto Doc. Here we have a shipboard emergency-energy is critically low, only two decks are still getting any energy at all-and Doc is getting pissy because he has to share space with members of the crew. Now it's fine to feel put out, but just the basic medical imperative to First Do No Harm should have kept him from disrupting the sleep patterns of his guests. It's not healthy.
Doc and Neelix's battle of wills wasn't entirely unamusing, but it was out of place. Why Doc would be so darn petty when (as Chakotay rightly pointed out) his program takes up more energy than they can afford? If things were that dire, they should have shut him down anyway.
Or used that backup module.
Oh, right. Never mind.
Anyway. These scenes, while not that bad in themselves, might have been a lot more enjoyable in another episode. Here, they just added to the overall sense that I couldn't take their little crisis seriously.
Here's the thing. I've run out of gas before. I've also come close and sweated out those last few miles until the next gas station. (There's little excuse for running out of gas within city limits, where gas stations are more numerous than Starbucks. But on my frequent trips between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, distance between gas stations was often measured in tanks, depending on the car and the load it was carrying. Sometimes, an extra suitcase spelled the difference between rolling into the Vegas ARCO under one's own power, and hitchhiking there.) I'll even admit that in my roaring twenties, it was fun to see how low the needle could go before the passengers mutinied and forced me to stop at the next available station. (Hey, you don't drink, don't smoke-what do you do?)
At my age, it never dips into the red zone. Even if I've got a half tank on a level road, if I see the gas light go on during a steep upgrade, I pull the heck over at the next available opportunity. And if I'm in between towns, stuck in the middle of a national forest or desert wasteland, my palms sweat and I do mental recalculations every mile until I know I'm good until the next fill up. The point is, by the time you get to command a starship, you'd think that Next Town syndrome would be part of the past. When you're down to a week's worth of fuel at quarter impulse, after shutting the ship down, you know you've screwed up big time.
And...the demeanor of the crew seems completely at odds with the crisis. Without fuel, they're hosed. Totally. No life support, nada. They're vacuum-sucking crewsicles. And how do they react? Like it's just another day at the beach. To contrast with the furnace of the planet, half the crew uses the word "cool." as in, cool heads, don't lose your cool, etc. Tom and Harry crack (strained) jokes, more to one-up each other than to relieve the stress of the situation. Doc and Neelix are less concerned about the overall crisis than to the impact on their own convenience (cheap treatment of deeper characters). Vorik's transporters-now, life-support-later priorities-how can we take this episode seriously? If they didn't seem to care, how could I? I sensed no urgency.
The pacing was slow. The middle dragged in a big way. When Voyager started getting sucked into the muck, we'd already seen that Paris and Kim had somehow survived. So how could we be sure that, were Voyager consumed completely, they wouldn't all be all right afterwards? I sensed no danger. No crisis.
No sir, I don't like it.
The "first contact" between Janeway and Kim was moderately interesting, but this Janeway merited the black gloves and the Pain Cave. Here Harry's saying the planet is lonely and needs a hug and a little companionship, and she zaps it with a cattle prod.
The crew leaving clones behind brings up all sorts of questions of its own. If the deuterium sludge is indeed alive, there's some major Prime Directive issues here. Leaving behind a whole cloned crew on a planet that makes the one in Basics look like Honolulu opens up all sorts of ethical questions.
Not to mention fanfic. Now that the claymation Janeway and Chakotay are planetbound and happy about it, who knows?
But the consequences do bring up questions. They landed on a planet that's lousy with deuterium, the material that's apparently so hard to find they flew around for so long without getting more of it that they almost ran out. So when they take off--just how much did they take? Did they solve their energy problems forever? They don't say. The "Deal" is not clear. We leave, we leave a bit of ourselves behind--in exchange, what? Do they get away with just those few kilos? Or do they feel good enough about themselves to demand more for their DNA? I'd like to think the crew is savvy enough to solve their power problems permanently. But they're at the mercy of the storylines, so I don't have that hope.
An episode has to appeal to either the logical, or the emotional, or both. With one, an episode can be pretty good. With both, it can be great. With neither, it's an ordeal. Speaking for myself, "Demon" was an ordeal. I'd watch "Favorite Son" again before this.
I just made the mistake of checking my email before posting the review. Jammer's review of the episode is in, and I notice that he's got a fairly grim opinion of "Demon" as well. It's amusing, if cruel; I recommend it highly.
I just have a hard time saying anything nice about "Demon." The early returns were running against me, though; quite a few people liked it. And I believe in the Thumper school of diplomacy: if you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all.
There were some nice moments, the occasional good line, the random amusing scene. Chakotay crash-landing the ship, Tuvok's snide comments and Janeway's deliberately feeble Attaboy. Some of Paris/Kim's lines during their banter. A few moments between Doc and Neelix. Chakotay shutting Doc up. Just SEEING Torres again. Chakotay's crack about assimilating Indian guides. Some bits of earnest emoting by the duplicate Harry Kim and Tom Paris. The hope that maybe Harry's newfound sense of self worth will stick.
If I had liked the overall episode, I'd probably be raving about these scenes. They would have been icing on the cake. As it is, with my low opinion of the overall episode, they're icing on the tofu.
On a four star scale, I'm giving this bad boy a (*). Blecch. The only real enjoyment I got out of this puppy in two full viewings and two aborted attempts was from making fun of it.
Next week: Seven goes nuts trying to run the ship all by her lonesome.