"The Swarm"


The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.


An enigmatic new race turns Janeway and Voyager into galactic trespassers. Holodoc's love for opera results in memory loss.

Jump straight to the Analysis


Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres are investigating sensor readings in a shuttlecraft while Voyager picks up supplies (from where, we don't hear). Torres complains that it's been five hours and they've seen nothing, but Paris wants to keep looking. Torres complains of leg cramps, so Paris naturally turns the conversation to her love life. He throws out the name of Ensign Bristo, who has been hanging out in Engineering a lot. "Freddie Bristo...is a child," she says with girlish contempt (anyone else hear the unspoken "as IF!" in her expression?) Paris suggests he's nothing of the sort, and that he's even alleged to be pretty good at Parisees Squares (a 24th-century game of athletic skill that I can't remember ever being played on screen); she says she played Freddie once and whupped him. She finally admits Bristo's got a crush on her, but it's nothing she can't handle. She gives Tom an enigmatic look, which he apparently takes as encouragement.

Tractors locked. Set Phasers on "Woo." But he's got an alignment problem. Come-on lines involving playful references to a monastic lifestyle--offering one's self as an alternative to vows of celibacy--rarely work. In my experience, at least. She gives him a hard stare in mid-sentence, all sense of repartee gone now. "Lieutenant, that is none of your business."

Score one for the monk.

Paris alters course and tries for a direct approach. "If you have a free evening I have a holodeck program you might enjoy--sailing on lake Komo?"

She laughs softly but not kindly. "I'd rather take my chances with Freddie Bristo."

If they were at Sandrines, the holographic owner would be turning a fire extinguisher on Tom's charred ego about now. We haven't seen a shoulder this cold since Major Kira's stony reaction to the hormonal Doctor Bashir in the first season of DS9. Ouch.

But we're talking Tom Paris here--Bad Boy of the Delta, Warp 10 Romeo, the smile that launched a thousand seductions. (And let us not forget how well "Bashir" and "Kira" have hit it off in the years since.) At least B'Elanna's smack-down here was less brutal than in "The Cloud" when she called him a pig in the Captain's presence. I guess that's progress.

This seems like a good time to run across those sensor readings that brought them out here in the first place. The shuttle lurches to a stop and they learn a ship has somehow latched itself onto them. Then a violet flash, and two of the butt-ugliest aliens this side of the Vidiians appear in the rear of the shuggle, clicking and croaking like the unholy union of mutant crickets and those Budweiser frogs. Tom stands to introduce himself, but they want to date him even less than B'Elanna. A flash of light later, and Tom and B'Elanna are sleeping together. Too bad Tom is too unconscious to appreciate that. The creatures wink out of existence.

B'Elanna starts to stir, but Paris is slumped against the shuttle controls.

Thus begins the episode. Moral: Ask B'Elanna out on a date, and someone's bound to get hurt.

* * *

The holodeck is host to a new woman, dressed for opera. Or so we aassume--we hear opera. And who's the tenor? Why, it's Holodoc! And he's not too bad. The woman, bedecked in black Shirley Temple curls and Adriatic skin tone, approaches the bardic doc and soon (too soon) joins him. He of course notices. They sing together (sorta) briefly, until Doc shuts off playback, and an argument ensues between Doc and Diva. He's been studying his opera, but she's as attitudinal as he is. In a mix of bad English and good (?) Italian, the Diva cops a 'tude, but Doc parries like a pro. She complains that it's like "singing with a computer." He finally restarts the song...but after a few words he stops. She carps at him, but he says he's forgotten the words. (This is unusual for a computer program, no?) He complains that she's thrown off his concentration, but we sense something is wrong. When Janeway hails him with a medical emergency, Holodoc gets to do what I imagine male opera stars have wanted to do for centuries:

"Computer...delete the Diva." She fades into bits in a flurry of Italian put-downs.

In sickbay, Doc diagnoses Torres and a still-unconscious Paris. He says the weapon must have been painful; Torres affirms this testily. Janeway and Tuvok, after getting the status report of the injured crew, leave to ask Neelix about the species. Kes tells Doc that Paris isn't responding to treatment; he goes to look at him, but he is missing something. First it's a medical instrument, but ultimately it seems what he's missing is...his mind. Kes begins to catch on that something is wrong.

In a senior staff meeting, Tuvok plays the bits of alien transmission received in response to their hails--it's the same cricket/bullfrog gibberish, which apparently is too weird for the universal translators. Janeway tells Kim to work on the deciphering, then asks Neelix if he's heard of them. "If they are who I think they are, we're in deep leola root," he says. (How would he know about them? I thought we were out of Kazon/etc space, which should mean we're out of Neelix's field of expertise. If I see another Kazon this season that ain't in repeats, I'm gonna do something unpleasant. And you thought I ranted LAST season.....) Apparently, Neelix says, this is one of those "here there be dragons" parts of space; the beings are very protective of their turf (which encompasses a huge area of space) and anyone who ventures into their territory is either never heard from again or found dead and drifting.

Harry points out that if they have to go around this thing, they could be adding months to their journey. Chakotay gives a more definite figure: 15 months, at maximum warp. There's a narrow stretch of this species' space right in front of them that would take four days or less at maximum warp to go through...but it would likely be taken as an invitation for a buttkicking by the aliens.

Janeway says "Heck with that. We're going through." Tuvok is uncomfortable with the idea. "Would it affect your decision if I pointed out that encroachment on the territory of an alien species is prohibited by Starfleet regulations?" "No, it wouldn't," Janeway says drily. "Captain...you have manged to surprise me." "We're a long way from Starfleet, Lieutenant. I'm not about to waste 15 months because we've run into a bunch of bullies."

Yes, kids, it's time again for The Action Kate Hour. I think she's channeling for Jim Kirk this season. "Out here, mister...I am Starfleet." Those four pips on the colla mean you'd better back off, 'cuz da Captain has spoken. (Some might argue that the change from last season is overcompensation, but frankly I don't mind; Boldly Going in the original series frequently meant you could get in serious trouble...unless you were successful. Janeway calling these enigmatic aliens "bullies" and her proposal to blast through their territory is a bit of a pot/kettle thing, but the important thing is, she's finally writing her own rules. She's been seduced to the Dark Side of the Prime Directive by Chakotay, just as I begged the Powers Dat Be for most of last season (I always figured Chakotay would be a better advisor in their current situation than Tuvok, and I think "Basics 2" helped turn the balance of influence a little. Tuvok is still her friend, but Chakotay's survival instincts seem a bit better.

Holodoc calls to update the captain of Paris' condition--he needs a neural overhaul. Nothign to be concerned about--a good doctor like him will have no trouble with the procedure.

Holodoc is scrubbing up (?) and singing opera when Kes arrives. She asks him about it and he says it's a Puccini opera (La Boheme?) He complains about the inability to find a good holographic partner. "All the soprani have the most irritating personalities. They're arrogant, superior condescending--I can't imagine anyone behaving that way." Kes smiles conspiratorially, and even the unconscious Paris winces a bit at this ironic pronouncement.

Holodoc is about to perform the operation on Paris...but he admits to her he can't remember how to do it.

Uh oh.

* * *

Kes talks him through the operation, but it's becoming increasingly clear that she knows more about the procedure than he does. Within moments, Kes is the doctor, and Holodoc is the bumbling and nervous assistant. Kes, of course, is supportive at all times, but he is clearly disturbed. Fortunately, Kes has been trained well. "You did it," she says finally, as she wraps up the operation. Paris will be okay.

Doc, we're not so sure about.

Captain, Torres, Kes and Doc consult on his condition. Apparently there's a "cascade failure" of his memory buffers. Janeway asked why something wasn't done about this sooner. Torres said this was anticipated and acted on months before, but he's still managed to overflow the memory capacity. Doc says that in cases like this he's just supposed to be reinitialized. Torres says that would fix things...but he'd be as he was when he was first turned on two years before. His two years of developing personality would be lost. (What happened to frequent backups? I'm surprised there isn't a Starfleet protocol for that.)

Kes doesn't like this news at all. Janeway asks Doc how he feels about this. "I can't say I'd like it. But my primary responsibility is the health and welfare of the crew." His programming takes over; he tells the Captain he thinks Torres should reinitialize him ASAP.

Kes, of course, interjects. She was the one who got him to think beyond his programming from the beginning. She reminds him of all he's experienced the last few years--friendships, a romance, opera, their brief psychotic-incident marriage, and something approaching bedside manner. "I can't put personal concerns over those of the crew." he protests.

But Kes isn't done; she tells Torres that if they don't know what caused it in the first place there's no way to know that it won't happen again. She says she can handle the medical caseload for a while. She doesn't want to lose her friend. Her passion sways Janeway, who tells Doc that if anyone else of the crew were in danger, Doc would do everything in his power to fix him. "We will do no less for you," Janeway says kindly, then smiles and leaves him. Torres says she'll get on the problem. Kes kisses Holodoc and tells him things will be okay. He looks worried all the same.

On the bridge, Janeway asks Kim and Chakotay for a status report. They say they've found a way to tweak their shields so they can slip under the aliens' fence undetected, and by setting a course through a narrow strip of territory, they can buzz through in four days or so, likely without incident. Janeway approves, then orders a "run for the border." (I'm not making this up.) Meanwhile, Tuvok looks on and scowls. Well, his eyebrows scowl. He clearly disapproves of this action. And the director wants to make dang sure we know that. It's almost as if they're saying, "See? We're listening, people! The Tuvok Protocol Trap from last year is history! He's losing the battle for Janeway's soul! Look, he KNOWS he's no longer in the inner circle! Even Kim is getting preferential treatment! Yeehaw!!!"

Okay, perhaps I'm reading too much into this. But if Tuvok is bummed, I'm happy. Color me evil. If you haven't already.

Torres slaves away at a hot console while Holodoc plays the difficult patient. She makes him blind, and he freaks out. "That's extremely disconcerting; please don't do it again!" he says. The tables are finally turned, and she shuts down his complaining by saying, "you're questioning MY bedside manner?" She tells him to wait a few minutes while she transfers him to the holodeck.

She activates "Jupiter Station 1" program on Holodeck 2. It's a mockup of the place where Holodoc was created, a sophisticated diagnostic system specifically for the EMH program. Torres transfers Holodoc, who says this place looks familiar. She gives him (and us) the infodump on this program and its uses as he wanders around in a mixture of awe and relief.

"Don't touch that!" a familiar voice shouts at Torres, who is touching one of the stations. From behind another large piece of equipment wheels someone looking a lot like Holodoc, only his tunic is yellow- rather than blue- tinged, and his hair is slightly shaggier in back--or at least less groomed. But he has the trademark Holodoc scowl and long-suffering eyes. Torres looks on in horror.

Oh $$%!@%$#. There's two of them.

* * *

"Who are you?" she asks. He says he's a holographic recreation of Dr. Lewis Zimmerman, the creator of the EMH program. "So you're the diagnostic matrix," she says. "You might say that."

Holodoc tries to get a word in edgewise. Yeah, right. Not when there's a non-buggy version of himself in the room, referring to him as "it" and speaking only to Torres, cutting everyone off as he sees fit. And yanking Torres away from the console; "I can do it faster," he says without apology. (Well, he is a program, too. And he was just turned on, so he lacks Holodoc's two years of sensitivity training.) "I can see where you get your charming personality," Torres whispers to Holodoc in sotto voice. (I have a feeling we'll be speaking fluent Italian by the end of this episode....) "Not to mention my hairline," responds Doc.

After examining the EMH program in a debugger, Zimmerman discovers the problem: a level four memory fragmentation. And Voyager didn't come with Norton Utilities.... "How long has the program been active?" Zimmerman asks, ignoring Doc's queries yet again.

Doc has had all he can stands, he can't stands no more. He grabs Zimmerman's shoulder, whips him around. "I have been active for...for..." the anger dissipates, the hand leaves the shoulder, the fear shows on his face.

"For almost two years," Torres finishes gently. "Two years?! There's your problem. The EMH was designed to last maybe 1500 hours, tops." Torres says they know that, but circumstances necessitated the extra use. She describes the modifications she's made; Zimmerman yells at her for tinkering with code she can't possibly understand. (It's just a hologram; she should have kicked his butt, methinks. I could tell she wanted to. Full-contact engineering is a lost art, I'm sad to say....) Torres tries to get other options out of Zimmerman, but he basically gives her two choices: reinitialize the EMH from the ground up, or end up with a holodoc with "the IQ of a parsnip."

Janeway calls Torres; they are approaching the border and she's needed in engineering. Torres acknowledges, then tells Zimmerman that she needs him to tell her why Holodoc's program is doing what it's doing; they already know the What. They need reasons, so they can come up with workarounds. She tells Holodoc she'll be back as soon as she can, and turns to leave, but he stops her with a hand on the shoulder. "I...I wish you didn't have to go," he says, his voice a plea. She sees his fear and puts a hand on his arm, a friendly and comforting gesture. "I'll hurry, I promise." She leaves, leaving the two holograms to regard each other. Zimmerman rolls his eyes; Holodoc raises his eyebrows, but seems too confused to take offense.

As Voyager prepares to enter the alien space, a huge ship is detected. As they look, they correct the assessment: billions and billions of really tiny ships instead of one really big one. But they're not powered up, and they seem to be oblivious to Voyager. They go on through, and get past the border lights without apparent incident. Paris hits Warp 9.75...but it lasts only a few seconds. Something inside the alien space is dragging their speed down, reducing warp efficiency. Harry figures out what it is, and Janeway orders him to come up with a workaround.

In "Jupiter Station," Holodoc grudgingly stares at fractals while Zimmerman checks out his directories, complaining about the clutter therein--friendships with the crew, love interests, opera, the things Kes was so eager to keep. The "personality subroutine" he says, has grown to over 15,000 gigaquads. (So...what's a quad? But it does sound like a lot--15 teraquads? Criminy.) "Relationships with...women?" (Pause, a curious look.) "Do they find you attractive?" he asks, his programming no doubt aware of the similarity in their appearance.

The diagnostic hologram scolds Holodoc, clearly beside himself (ba da boom). "You've filled your memory with nonsense!"

"It was only during my off hours," Doc meekly responds.

"You're supposed to be off during your off hours!"

Kes appears. Zimmerman asks her who's been feeding useless information into the EMH database. She asks what he means. Zimmerman Gives her an example: he chooses a file and executes; Holodoc starts spontaneously singing opera. "What's wrong with that?" Kes asks, smiling at her friend.

"It wasn't programmed to be a tenor, it was programmed to be a physician!" huffs Zimmerman, providing the latest spin on the old McCoy trademark.

Kes defends his extracurricular activities. Zimmerman rages that he has the same matrix, the same memory pathways, the same (insert Treknobabble here) as Holodoc--remember this for later, kids, it's the only important plot-forwarding thing said here--and you don't see HIM filling his programming with irrelevancies! The EMH should be happy in the knowledge that he's a fine physician, and not try to go beyond the parameters of his programming! he says.

Kes, of course, defends his actions, and says it's made him a better physician. She says he's also her best friend. Zimmerman rolls his eyes. "You can't tell me this program is your friend!" She says Dang Straight. But by this time Holodoc's continued to slip, and he can't even remember who she is. Kes blanches.

Janeway asks Tuvok about the ships; he says the ships don't appear to be aware of them. Janeway muses that this feels a bit like when she'd sneak out of the house in high school, tiptoeing past her parents' beadroom late at night. Paris asks mischievously where she might have been going. Janeway smiles enigmatically and says she'll have to leave that to his imagination. "Can I take a few guesses?" he asks, pushing his luck; but before Janeway can sic Torres on him, they detect a ship. Paris notes it looks like the ship has been pounded on for days. They detect only one life sign, and it's in bad shape. Apparently this is what the Swarm (as Tuvok calls the aliens here) is capable of.

* * *

Kes diagnoses the alien while Holodoc tries (and fails miserably) to look useful. Kes gives the captain a competent and thorough diagnosis of the alien. "He's a sick man, and this is where sick people come," Holodoc offers gamely. Kes hands him a tricorder to hold. Janeway notes his condition with concern.

Kes awakens the alien, a long-orange-haired Ted Danson looking guy who can only whisper his answers. He describes the attack from the Swarm. The attack was unprovoked--thousands of little ships swarmed around the freighter, latching on to the ship, draining energy, ugly dudes zapping them with painful weapons. He asks if any others of his crew survived; Janeway says no. He tells her where he came from, then asks her to tell his people what happened to him. Then he dies. "He's a very sick man," Holodoc says. Janeway frowns and says nothing.

Kes asks Janeway to have Torres reinitialize Holodoc--his condition has worsened severely and since he no longer remembers her...--but Janeway says the current situation requires Torres in Engineering. Janeway also seems upset by the degredation of the doctor, but there are more pressing matters. She tells Kes to keep the doctor occupied, force him to concentrate on tasks or memories, give him something constructive to focus on until Torres can break away. Kes understands, but her heart is clearly troubled by the loss of her mentor and friend. (According to several reviews on this episode, the depiction of the doctor is an all-too-accurate demonstration of the effects of Alzheimers disease, both on the person and on those around them.) Kes goes to the doctor, who is muddled but who seems to recognize some things--vaguely. She asks him not to touch certain instruments, then gives him something benign to play with. "Shall I use this on the sick person?" he asks. She pauses, then says yes.

Janeway appears on the bridge, announces the death of the alien, and orders them to get out of there. But before she can finish, Tuvok announces the appearance of a Swarm ship, which had been attached to the alien vessel. It scans them, and then starts croaking at them. Janeway hails them, and says they just want to go in peace. It croaks back. Janeway asks Harry if he's had any luck with translation. "As far as I can tell, the gist of it is...'too late.'"

The ship shoots something at Voyager, then--in Paris' words--"hightails it out of there." The effect of the shot is that the ship's shields are "lit up like a Christmas tree" (another subtle Hallmark Ornament plug.) This means the Swarm ships have a bright and shiny target to bear down on. Janeway orders them to get out of there, and tells Torres to get warp back on line. Torres mentions the problems--Janeway says "do it anyway." Torres adopts a Scottish brogue, so you know some miracle workin' is gonna happen.

Holodoc orders Kes to get out of his way; he doesn't like being confined to sickbay and wants to leave. He doesn't even know he's a hologram anymore. Kes does what she can to comfort him, but he's dazed and confused. He remembers her name, then he remembers the incidents in "Caretaker" as if it were last week. Then he remembers rubbing a girl's feet. "That was me," Kes says. "How can that be? I've never seen you before." He then starts raging again because she won't tell him his name, not believing that he doesn't have one. Kes tries valiantly to calm him.

But what catches his attention is the near fade-out. "What's happening to me?" he asks, truly frightened. So is Kes.

On the bridge, Janeway calls for battlestations as the Swarm ships bear down on them.

* * *

The aliens power their weapons and Janeway powers weapons. Kes appears asking for Harry's help since B'Elanna is busy, but Janeway says they can't spare anyone at the moment. The view screen and the thousands of green-eyed hornets approaching rapidly would seem to back her up. Kes enters the turbolift, calls to sickbay, hears that Doc is still losing cohesion. Frustrated, she bangs the back of her head against the turbolift walls, forcing an answer to appear.

One comes.

She tells the turbolift to take her to holodeck 2 instead of sickbay, where she enters the Jupiter Station program. She tells the diagnostic Zimmerman she wants answers and she wants them now. Zimmerman blows her off. Kes shows her steel. "I'm a diagnostic tool, not an engineer." He says he can't exceed the limits of his programming. "Doc did, so can you. I'm not leaving here until we accomplish something." Her voice drops an octave, and her eyes make him blink. "It...he...means a great deal to you." Zimmerman says, finally referring to Doc as more than just a program. "Yes, HE does, and you'd better start thinking about his memory, his program, his matrix, his..." she gives him a funny look.

"Why are you looking at me that way?" Zimmerman asks.

"You're both Windows compatible, right?" Kes asks. He says yes, their "adaptive heuristic matrixes" are the same.

She asks if their matrixes could be merged. He says maybe...but the same corruption could be there. "What about a graft?" she asks. "What's a graft?" (He's an engineer, not a doctor.) She explains, and he thinks through the analogous procedures for the holograft. He thinks it might work, but there are no guarantees--and if it works there won't be a diagnostic program anymore. "If it doesn't work there won't be an EMH," she replies. "Good point."

Kes goes to sickbay where Zimmerman tells her to transfer his program in.

On the bridge, shield strength is reduce to zero because of the Swarm ships weapons (Harry says the Swarm is "canceling out" the shield harmonics, or something--does that mean they're gone, or that they're there but utterly ineffective? This will be an important question in a moment). Janeway orders a warning phaser shot that gets bounced back at them, causing no permanent damage (good thing it was a warning shot--without shields they'd have sliced themselves up in a hurry). Chakotay asks about photon torpedoes; Tuvok says that's a stupid idea if self-preservation is the goal. Janeway orders Kim to check on the "interferometric pulses" being fired by the Swarm ships to see if there's a weakness to exploit. "I'm on it," he says.

In Sickbay, Zimmerman says the EMH program is so hosed at this point that it may not be worth trying. Kes won't let him give up. Holodoc is a parsnip at this point, hugging himself and nearly oblivious to his surroundings, and fading in and out of oblivion. Zimmerman says "we're as ready as we'll ever be." He tells Kes what will be done and what needs to be done by her. "This is our only chance....well, it's been a brief existence, but apparently a noble one," Zimmerman says, smiling. He catches on fast as a sentient being. He activates the program, and he and Holodoc fade out.

On the bridge, we see that the Swarm has caught up with them. They begin clamping onto the hull. Harry tells Janeway that he's figured out what the pulses are "it's a lattice". Janeway says that killing one of the ships should cause a chain reaction. Tuvok notes that firing phasers will come back on them. Janeway orders shield frequency polarization reversed (WHAT shields? Are they there or aren't they?) so the ship will not get nailed in the process.

Swarm aliens start beaming in and firing their Spank Rays. For once, the Starfleeters fire back (Tuvok and Janeway and Chakotay), do flying tackles (Paris learned that move from Kirk, I bet), two-fisted backhands (Chakotay) and generally fighting to keep control of their own bridge (thank freakin' GOODNESS!!! It's about time. No "self-destruct" calls, even! This is more like it.) When the aliens get hit, they either disintigrate or beam back out. (Don't want to leave bodies to be autopsied or learned from, do we?)

The bridge secured, Janeway slams back into her seat, orders the fire. Phasers blow up one Swarm ship, and like wood ticks in a bonfire, the other Swarm ships get hosed like gasoline-drenched popcorn in a blast furnace. The ship gets pounded all to hell, too, and Janeway's hair falls out of the bun. (This indicates a hard fought battle.) But it worked, and Harry annoucnes that shields are back to full strength and Tuvok says the remaining swarm ships are backing away.

In Sickbay, Kes frets--the grafting procedure is taking a long time. Torres says she'll be happy to have the Doctor back no matter what condition he appears in. The computer says the procedure is complete, and Kes calls for the EMH program. "Please state the nature of the medical emergency," Holodoc says dispassoinately. Kes smiles. "Thank goodness you're back!" She moves to hug him, but his coldly startled reaction scales it back to a hand on the forearm.

"Are you ill, young woman?" he asks Kes. She says no; she wanted to make sure he was okay. He scolds her for inappropriate use of the EMH and asks for the chief medical officer. "We don't have one," she says, downcast at the loss of her friend but holding up bravely enough since he's at least here.

Torres says, "I got a headache," giving Holodoc something medical to do. "Nurse, tricorder," he orders. Kes hands him one. "You're the nurse?" "In a way."

He diagnoses Torres, and tells Kes to do something while he checks on something in his office. While he checks data, he starts softly singing hits from La Boheme. Kes and Torres share a small smile; so there's something of the old Holodoc there after all.


Not since "The Cloud" has an episode been so inappropriately named. The real story was the character development (or devolvement) of the EMH program, and a discussion of the nature (and value) of his existence. Compared to the pounce of this plot, the title plot of "the swarm" was given far too little time.

The aliens were kinda cool, but the real story was the doctor's battle with memory loss. But, they couldn't use the title "Remember," because that's being used later this season. Harrumph.

Let's take this a plot at a time.

The namesake plot, concerning the aliens with the very different language and the jealous protection of its huge borders and the hornets-nest approach to dealing with invaders, had a lot of potential. I wouldn't even mind seeing them in the future. Seeing as how the Swarm species covers a vast territory, there's every chance we will see them again. The consensus among most people I've talked to about this episode was, "we didn't see nearly enough of the new creatures."

What makes the Swarm interesting--as opposed to, say, the Kazon? One, they don't talk much. The only translation Harry managed was "Too late." Brrrr. I like them already.

They seem to keep to themselves, but if you step on their lawn, look out. The problem is, they've pulled a Clinton and named a buttload of space as protected territory. That's fine for them, but along comes a group of people who wanna pass through, and you got trouble in River City.

Janeway called them Bullies--just because they talk different, look different, and annihilate everyone and everything that tries to take a shortcut across their property. Considering they live in space Neelix has at least heard of, that means they're also in the same general area as the Vidiians and the Kazon and the Trabe and the Aquitirians and who knows how many other unpleasant species. Considering the crappy neighbors, I don't much blame the Swarm for putting up the No Trespassing tachyon fence.

The Swarm ships are also cool--day-glo green scarabs, likely two-seaters. They look menacing, particularly when there's a million of them coming at you. New technology, (but they have transporters, I noticed), new approaches to defense and offense. They're coyote ugly, too, and they talk funny. They disappear when you phaser them. And they can be whupped in hand-to-hand.

My only real complaint about the Swarm is that they gave up too easily. Kim did figure out how to hose the Swarm network, but it didn't kill them all. Unless this is their first defeat in a while (or ever) in which case the shock of defeat and loss could account for them turning tail. If we see them again, I hope they have new tricks up their sleeve. They're the most promising candidate for recurring Delta Quadrant nemesis we've seen so far.

Finishing off the A Plot. This is not the Janeway we've been used to seeing the past two years. This Janeway has a "damn the prime directive, full speed ahead" gung-ho recklessness that earned the original Enterprise crew a lot of accolades...and a lot of dead extras. I can't entirely blame her in this instance--four days versus 15 months would be tempting to anyone. But she could have taken a few extra days and gotten the translator stuff working so they had some communication first. (From a dramatic standpoint I'm glad she didn't--the untranslated Swarm speech was cool to me the viewer.) In other words, she could have deliberated more before rushing in to places the (more intelligent) locals studiously avoid.

I like seeing the more take-charge Janeway. I think she needs to feel like she's got some latitude, like Kirk in the days when "the universe must have seemed a whole lot bigger." They do have a huge galaxy in front of them, a vast undiscovered country all to themselves. It's dangerous, but it's also a challenge and an adventure. From a strategic standpoint, I probably would have sided with Tuvok, at least in the short term until all options were exhausted. But from a dramatic standpoint, the New Janeway means the crew is more likely to be given goals they can accomplish, which should perk up the morale of the crew--and the audience--a lot.

Here's what I mean. Past episodes have focused on efforts to get home that (naturally) failed. This is a downer. We're used to seeing Starfleet succeed. By changing the goal to something shorter-range ("why did the starship cross the road?") you are less likely to suffer defeat. You can move take big steps forward without shortening the series. Cross Swarm space, save a 15 month (or more) detour. That's a victory, that's a pat on the back, a mission accomplished, a Jump to the Next Level rather than a Game Over. No more Lost in Space, we're back to Star Trek. Even the more proactive Janeway reminds viewers more of Kirk than of Picard. Picard was well suited to the crowded and sophisticated Alpha Quadrant. Kirk was well suited to the wild and wooly Alpha Quadrant. Neither would have done well in each other's century. (Picard can't even win a fistfight with a 300 year-old Sting wannabe, fercryinoutloud.) In their situation, Janeway needs to get in touch with her Inner Kirk. Or Inner Sulu, at least.

Last season, I yelled loud and often that Tuvok was the wrong person to be in Janeway's Inner Circle, or at least to be the only one janeway really trusted. She needed the counsel of her first officer, Chakotay, if nothing more than as a counterbalance to Tuvok. Others have said the same thing, and it seems that since "Basics, Part II" we may be seeing that transition. In "BII" Tuvok wanted to dabble in a little ethnic cleansing, whereas Chakotay and Janeway wanted to make peace with the neighbors. And here, Chakotay's all for her idea of taking the Panama Canal route rather than sailing all the way around Tiera del Fuego to get to the other side, Tuvok's dead-set against it, and Janeway goes with instinct rather than regulation. It was nice to see some consternation in him for being on the losing side of the discussion for a change.

One glaring inconsistency I noted was in the climax, with Janeway remodulating shields that we were never told had come back online until after the battle. They'd been knocked down to 0, and there was no mention of partial shields restored. Since Swarm ships were landing on every square inch of the hull, I'm guessing the shields were still down when Janeway ordered the Swarm Jiffy-Pop called into action. If shields were down, Janeway's "reverse polarity whatsits" shouldn't have worked, and they should have been hurt worse than they were. I'll call that an OOPS. Dramatically, I enjoyed this scene. Full of action, and for once the crew fought off the invaders rather than huddling up into lemming squadrons or signaling for auto-destruct. I think that having once lost their ship, they're not about to give it up again without a serious fight.

Good, sez I.

Okay, onto the B plot, "Holodoc loses his memory." As opposed to the comic-book capers of the A plot, this part of the story had some real meat to it. Kes really got to show her "inner steel" as she plays hardball with Torres, Janeway, and the Zimmerman hologram to protect her friend. The student surpassed her teacher when Holodoc needed her the most. And Robert Picardo turned in a bravura dual performance as the ailing Doc and the newly-activated Zimmerman diagnostic program. He played them just different enough in demeanor and vocal inflection and the like to be familiar yet disconcerting. And in his usual Holodoc persona, he takes him down the path of Alzheimers in a very moving and disturbing performance. Holodoc is my favorite character on the show, and to see him ailing with a debilitating illness, and a mixed-bag cure, was hard to take. Well done, but heart-wrenching all the same.

The other item of note was Tom Paris' first overt attempt to cozy up to B'Elanna, and her reaction, at the beginning of the episode. There are rumors that these two may start dating this season, so it will no doubt be a multi-story arc like last season's Rogue Paris and Michael Jonas plot threads, or the Neelix Jealousy thing. If handled right I won't mind it so much, but I must say that Paris didn't exactly distinguish himself here. I know he's capable of more. Perhaps they're going to make him "vulnerable" and therefore a bit bumbling (which I suppose is meant to be charming) in the face of an actual romantic interest rather than a simple "I haven't dated HER yet" and easy conquest. B'Elanna is meant to be a challenge. I hope she can keep him at bay for a while. Maybe let Kim convince her to be nice to him or something.

Overall, I liked this episode. I wanted to see more of The Swarm, and I wouldn't mind seeing more of them in the future, provided they don't become a permanent fixture like the Kazon. I'd give this part of the show 3 or 3.5 stars, though, because the ending seemed a bit too easy, and there were some holes in the Treknobabble. I think the show was made special by the B Plot and by the phenomenal performances of Robert Picardo; I'd give this part of the episode 4 stars with room to spare. And he's got a great singing voice. So overall...

On a scale of 0-10, I'd give this one a 7.5 (3.5 stars). In my book, Season 3 is batting a thousand.

NEXT WEEK: Those two Ferengi from "The Price" (an old and not very good TNG episode) are found exploiting some locals. (This is a season 2 holdover, so some of what we saw this week will likely not be addressed, such as the behavior of the Doc.)

Copyright © 1996 Jim Wright

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Last Updated: October 3, 1996
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