Star Trek: Voyager – 1×03 – “Parallax”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Parallax”
Originally Broadcast January 23rd, 1995
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Starate: 48439.7

In sickbay, the EMH is treating Lt. Carey for a broken nose while Tuvok and Chakotay are getting the full story from him. Carey, as senior StarFleet in Engineering, is acting Chief Engineer Pro Tem, but B’Elanna Torres, Maquis engineer is also there and wanting to do things her way. They disagreed about a procedure and she hit him. Chakotay deals with it by confining her to her quarters. Tuvok would rather have her in the brig until she could be formally charged with striking a fellow officer. Captain Janeway could hold the courtmartial on the ship rather than having to wait 75 years until they get back. Chakotay tries to explain that the Maquis do it differently, but Tuvok is immovable. They are all StarFleet now and must behave as such. Finally Chakotay pulls rank and orders him to drop the matter. Tuvok has no option but to obey, but will make a full report in his security log.

Chakotay then meets up with some of his old crew, who are already hearing wild rumours about all Maquis being restricted to quarters off duty, and they offer him their full support when he wants to take over the ship. ‘If I ever hear you talk that way again,’ their former Captain tells them, ‘I’ll personally throw you in the brig for mutiny.’

In her quarters, Torres is throwing things to try and work off her rage. Chakotay walks in to inform her of the situation. Either she sits out the rest of the trip on her own, or she apologises to Carey, personally, and bonds with the man. After all, she’ll need his support if she’s to be Chief Engineer of Voyager. Torres is disbelieving, but Chakotay is determined.

At the senior officers daily briefing, Tom Paris is reporting that engine efficiency is still dropping. They need more power to the warp drive or they’ll have to get out and push, he tells them. Ensign Kim has tried using power from the holodeck reactors but it wasn’t compatible. Chakotay suggests moving security off deck 9 to deck 7 so they could shut down power there. Tuvok accepts the recommendation. Just then Neelix and Kes burst in, apologising for being late. When Captain Janeway tries to explain that the meeting is for senior officers only, the ebulliant Talaxian points out that he is the senior representative of his race on board, and Kes is the senior Ocampa. He also reminds them that he is the most knowledgeable person aboard when it comes to this region of space. Janeway gives in and asks them to join the discussion, this time. Kes suggests creating a hydroponics area to grow food as the replicators are down and the rations are getting low. Captain Janeway gives her the project and Cargo Bay 2 as the most suitable location. Neelix promptly volunteers to turn those vegetables into wonderful meals. The discussion moves on to replacement personnel for the crew killed in the journey to the Delta Quadrant, and the fight with the Kazon. They still need someone for Astrogation, Chief Engineer and medical support. Chakotay hands over a list of Maquis he believes would make good officers. Janeway is surprised to see Torres name there with his recommendation that she be Chief Engineer, but doesn’t argue with him in front of the others. Instead she moves on to the issue of a Doctor. Tuvok points out that the EMH is limited to sickbay. Chakotay suggests training someone as a field medic and Janeway asks Paris about his biochemistry studies at the Academy. To Tom’s chagrin, his two semesters more than qualify him for the role and the meeting is ended.

On the bridge, Seska reports a spatial distortion ahead. It turns out to be a type-4 quantum singularity and a ship on its event horizon is broadcasting a message. They try hailing it, while Neelix explains to Kes that a singularity is a star that has collapsed on itself and has a very powerful energy field surrounding it. There is no response to the hail and the interference is too great to use the tractor beam to pull the ship out. Chakotay contacts Torres in engineering for suggestions. She recommends remodulating the tractor beam to match the interference. Do it, says he. Captain Janeway asks Lt Carey for his opinion. He says it might work and she puts him in charge of the project. Then Janeway summons her first officer to the ready room.

Captain Janeway has a problem with Chakotay’s attitude towards his former crew. He’s treating them like they are still his crew, not part of hers. Chakotay defends himself, telling her he’s trying to integrate them but the ‘seniority’ and ‘starfleet training’ issues are making it hard. None of them will ever hold senior positions on board at this rate, despite their ability to do the jobs. He will not be her token Maquis officer. If she wants the Maquis’ loyalty, she’ll have to give them more authority. That sounds like a threat to the Captain. The discussion is ended.

Kes activates the EMH and asks for some soil samples to start off her hydroponics bay. He is not impressed and tells her that he has the information from 2000 medical reference sources and the experience of 47 individual medical officers. How much dirt does she need? He hands her 4 globes of soil and she comments that he seems to be getting shorter. The EMH runs a diagnostic and contacts Ensign Kim to demand a repair crew for his holographic imager.Sadly, Operations are too busy to deal with it straight away, so Kes kindly turns of the EMH and leaves.

The modifications to the tractor beam are finished, and they try grabbing the other ship. The power is not enough however and they start to get pulled in themselves. Then the beam won’t disengage and Carey has to go in and do it manually. The Captain decides they will need help with this rescue mission and they set course for the nearby Ilidaria system that Neelix had told them about earlier.

Captain Janeway summons B’Elanna Torres to her ready room for a little talk. She asks her if she’s ready to be the Chief Engineer on a starship, with all it’s protocols and StarFleet methodologies. B’Elanna defends herself. If the Captain doesn’t think she’s right for the job, just say so. The Captain has been studying Torres’ StarFleet record, thanks to Tuvok’s spying they have information on all of Chakotay’s crew. A turbulent two years at StarFleet and then she quit the Academy because she couldn’t take the discipline. The same discipline that will have to prevail on this ship. The EMH hails the Captain and asks her to activate monitor input 47. His image is somewhat distorted and he tells her that he is shrinking by 5 centimetres per hour. However that is not the main subject of his call. He reports that 9 crewmembers have reported headaches, dizziness and muscle spasms. Janeway comments that it could be related to the quantum singularity. The EMH is not best pleased that he wasn’t told about their position and the Captain tells him she’ll see about linking his programme into the ship’s data.

On the bridge, sensors are showing another type-4 quantum singularity ahead. Or rather, not another one, but the same one. Despite travelling in a straight line away from it, they appear instead to have gone in a circle. They try again and still return to where they started. Captain Janeway orders the data to be transferred to her ready room for her to examine personally, and a senior officers meeting at 1500h. Lt Carey will represent Engineering. Chakotay recommends inviting B’Elanna as well and she agrees.

At the briefing, the EMH reports another 27 crewmembers with symptoms but no cause for them, and could someone repair him before he is too short to reach his patients. Captain Janeway has studied the distortions and found no anwswers. Carey has tried sending out a tachyon signal to scan the singularity but all he got back was static. Torres can help clean it up but she doesn’t think it’s worth the effort. Instead she’s thinking about the EMH’s problem and wondering if she can screen out the distortions with a dampening field. If that works they could use the technique on the sensors to clean up the data and communicate with the other ship. The Captain likes the idea and gives it the okay.

A little while later on the bridge, they open a channel and after a little tweaking hear – their earlier hail coming back to them. And sensors say that the other ship is Voyager too. They adjourn to the briefing room for Torres to give her theory. She uses the analogy of a frozen pond to try and explain their situation. They need to find a ‘crack’ in the event horizon in order to escape being crushed. How? By spraying the area with the warp particles. The two women agree that they might find the hole they made when they first passed through it by watching for where the particles are escaping from the influence of the singularity.

They put the plan into action and discover a crack but it is too small to get through. It will have to be made bigger somehow but Voyager’s warp engines could make it shrink even more it if they get too close. Janeway decides to take a shuttlecraft and Paris volunteers to pilot it, but she turns him down in favour of Torres and her knowledge of the finer points of temporal mechanics. En route to the crack Janeway tells Torres that Professor Chapman at the Academy was sorry to see her go. Many of her teachers had gone on record to say that they thought she had potential to be an outstanding officer. Then they charge up the dekyon bean to widen the crack for Voyager to get through. Once it is 120 metres wide they head back to Voyager, only to find there are two ships waiting for them. The real one and a reflection. Which to choose? Torres favours the one nearest the rupture, Janeway the one with it’s stern towards them on the grounds that they are giving them easy access to the shuttlebay. They land safely on what feels like a real ship and head for the bridge.

With the rupture closing again, Voyager squeezes through the gap into normal space and puts a safe distance between themselves and the singularity before beginning repairs.

In engineering, Chakotay gives Chief Engineer Lt Torres her first order – get the warp drive online by 1300h. Turning to her new staff she starts giving instructions then goes to Lt Carey. She tells him that she’ll be counting on him to help her get up to date on the lastest protocols, and he assures her that she’ll never get less than his best. On the catwalk Chakotay joins Captain Janeway who is observing her new officer at work, and asks her if things had turned out differently, would she have served under her? ‘One of the nice things about being Captain is that you can keep some things to yourself,’ comes the reply.

And in sickbay, a tiny EMH is still asking for his projectors to be repaired, while his putative patient and medical assistant, Tom Paris, admits that it is only a scratch after all and he can take care of it himself.

Review

Well, on the character side this is a good first proper episode. We get to hear and see the differences in approach between the strictly heirarchical StarFleet and the relaxed meritocratic Maquis. B’Elanna Torres gets a proper job and title, and now two of the four classic Trek roles (Captain, Science Officer, Engineer, Doctor) are filled by women for the first time on screen. Or should that be three, as Janeway seems to be taking on Science Officer in addition to Captain. (Sorry, I don’t count that one-off woman Chief Engineer on TNG’s first season.) Chakotay is being a very good first officer, keeping the peace between the two crews and doing it by sheer force of personality, while Neelix and Kes are beginning to find their places too. The EMH is still the comedy turn, and doing it rather well.

However, the science is awful. A crack in the event horizon of a quantum singularity. Oh please! But then, we don’t watch science fiction shows to learn about physics or astronomy, do we. The line about the holodeck energy being incompatable with the rest of the ship was somewhat strange too, but needed to move the plot forward I suppose and emphasise the energy crisis.
Overall, a good story, nice development. This series is moving into its stride rather nicely already.

Grade: 7/10

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