Star Trek: Voyager – 1×05 – “Phage”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Phage”
Originally Broadcast February 6th, 1995
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Stardate: 48532.4

Voyager is on route to a rogue asteroid that Neelix says is a rich source of raw dilithium. Chakotay informs the Captain that Lt. Torres has already asked permission to convert the auxiliary impulse reactor into a refinery. Janeway comments on B’Elanna’s way of going against regulations to find a solution to problems, but gives her agreement and says that she wants regular reports on her progress. Their stroll brings them to the Captains dining room, where she is thinking of having Eggs Benedict, asparagus and strawberries and cream – for breakfast. But only thinking about it. The reality will be ration pack 5 – stewed tomatoes and dehydrated eggs. Chakotay has already had his vacuum-packed oatmeal, and heads off for the bridge. The Captain enters her dining room to discover Neelix has decided to treat the senior officers to breakfast made with the vegetables growing in hydroponics. He tells her that he has rerouted messhall power and scrounged a lot of stuff from all over the ship but give it a couple of days and it will seem there has been a galley there for ever. Then he hands a plate of something to a crewmember with the words ‘Careful, that one’s a little spicy.’

Janeway is not pleased. Neelix admits that he didn’t seek permission for the conversion, and she curtly informs him that Cabin 125a deck 2 is designated on the ships directory as the Captains Private Dining Room. Just as he realises his mistake, Chakotay calls from the bridge to tell the Captain that they are approaching the planetoid. Janeway tells Neelix they will discuss the matter later, and Ensign Parsons is summoned by the erstwhile ships chef to rotate the darvuk fritters every ten minutes until they turn a deep chartreuse, and generally keep an eye on things till he gets back.

On the bridge, Harry reports that the strongest dilithium signatures are ten to twenty kilometers inside the planetoid, and B’Elanna says there are subterranean caves with a class M environment. That will make mining easier. Torres estimates five hundred to one thousand metric tons of dilithium could be present. Neelix is very pleased with himself for finding this planetoid and Janeway orders Chakotay to put together a team for a preliminary survey while B’Elanna had better get her refinery working. The Commander tells Harry to go with him and Neelix butts in. He’s been preparing for the mission all week and is very keen to go along. The Captain gives her permission.

The away team beam down into an area with several large deposits, and split up to take scans. Stay within 50 meters of this position, warns Chakotay, as they head off in different directions. Neelix heads off, tricorder beeping, past a narrow passage that gently turns into a corridor with a shadowy figure in it.

Chakotay contacts Kim. He’s getting readings with no actual dilithium to show for it and asks if the Ensign is doing any better. But Harry is getting the same response. Neelix reports a large cavern twenty metres from his position with a huge formation in it, but Chakotay tells him to not go any further and stay within the search radius. Disregarding his orders, Neelix enters the cavern to find nothing. Chakotay orders them back to the beam site while Neelix reports a bio-electrical signature from a rock face. He goes closer to investigate what might be something alive two metres into the rock face, then turns away. Behind him the rock face turns into a corridor and someone comes out and zapps the Talaxian. Kim and Chakotay hear his cries over the comm link and rush to the scene to find Neelix on the ground gasping. They beam directly to sickbay and the EMH orders Chakotay to get the blood gas infuser from equipment storage unit two, second shelf on the left as Neelix goes into a coma. The device will keep him alive for an hour or so but after that he will die, says the EMH. Neelix’s lungs have been removed.

As the EMH and his assistant, Tom Paris, set up equipment, Chakotay briefs the Captain on events so far. Kes arrives and Janeway breaks the news to her that Neelix’s attacker somehow surgically removed his lungs. While Kes goes to Neelix’s side, Kim tells the two senior officers that Neelix’s tricorder recorded one class 3 humanoid. The EMH tells Kes that he can keep him alive another 43 minutes this way. Captain Janeway suggests artificial lungs, but it turns out that the Talaxian respiratory system has linkages to the spinal column which make it too difficult to replicate. If they had the original lungs he could probably reattach them, but in the mean time he needs other options.

Janeway announces that she will lead an away team back to the planetoid with three armed security detachments issued with type three phasers. As she heads out of sickbay issuing her orders, the EMH quizzes Tom on whether he knows how to run a respiritory series. On learning that it wasn’t covered in his two semesters of biochemistry, he announces he will do it himself and sends Tom to get a pulminory scanner. Kes is standing by Neelix and refuses to leave so the EMH simply asks her to keep out of the way.

On the planetoid, Kim locates the site of the attack. Janeway comments that Neelix’s tricorder picked up a life sign two metres into the wall while hers says it is solid rock for fifty metres. Harry realises that the tricorders might be being fooled by some other technology. They find a piece of wall warmer than the rest and fire their phasers at it, revealing the corridor. Tuvok announces that there was a sophisticated force field in place. The three officers march down the corridor.

In sickbay, Tom announces a cellular toxicity level rise. Thirty two percent, comments the EMH and orders a cytoplastic stimulator to stablise the levels. But they haven’t got one. The design is in the medical data base, the EMH tells Tom, so go replicate one. Then he muses to no one in particular that just because he drives a starship, someone thinks Paris would make a good medic. Kes offers to donate one of her own lungs to Neelix, but he turns down the suggestion. No one on board is a compatible donor match for a Talaxian, he tells her. They need a new way to oxygenate his blood supply and relay neural impulses. Pacing around he thinks aloud. The replicators can’t make the new organs, but is there a way to mimic their functions. Struck by a sudden idea, he calls up the transporter log to get the specifications for Neelix’s lungs then announces to Kes and Tom that if he can reconfigure sickbay’s holo-emitters, he might be able to create holographic lungs for him instead. Tom protests the procedure. A hologram is just a projection of light inside a forcefield, he says. There’s no real matter involved. In answer, the EMH slaps Tom, then suggests he hit him in return. He taps a few controls and Tom’s hand passes through the EMH. The magnetic containment field can be adjusted to allow matter to pass through or not, the hologram explains. He might be able to modulate the lungs to allow gasses to pass into and out of the bloodstream. Kes insists on a full explanation of this procedure or she will not allow him to proceed. So she gets the brutal facts. Neelix will die without the holographic lungs, and the procedure might fail and he will die anyway. If it succeeds, he can never move again as the computer must keep the lungs perfectly aligned to his other internal organs, and he will have to stay that way until he dies of old age or new lungs are obtained. Kes thinks this over, and Tom points out that at least he will be alive for the time they get a better solution. She isn’t sure what Neelix would want in this situation, but she does know that she wants him to live, so she gives her consent.

Exploring the artificial corridors on the planetoid, Tuvok, Kim, Janeway and security come to a door. Opening it they find that the room beyond is the source of the dilithium signature, but it contains jars with organs in it. The planetoid does not contain any dilithium at all, but it does contain spare body parts. Neelix’s lungs are not in evidence but plenty of similar stuff, and Janeway’s tricorder says someone was there less than ten minutes ago. Harry opens another door and they get a line on someone twenty metres away. They catch up with the alien and Tuvok fires. The alien drops something but he gets away from them and sets up another forcefield to block their path. Chakotay contacts the Captain to report a ship leaving the planet, but it went into warp too quickly put a tractor beam on them. The away team beams up and they head off in pursuit.

In sickbay, the surgical team, that is, the EMH and Tom Paris, with Kes watching, get on with installing Neelix’s holographic lungs. As the lungs form inside him, Neelix takes a breath, and Kes smiles. He’s going to live.

‘Captain’s log supplemental. We are pursuing the alien ship from the moon. They are not responding to hails and it appears our two ships are evenly matched for speed.’
Neelix is awake and being told of his situation. The idea of not being able to move is not appealing to Neelix, but he restricts himself to telling the EMH that his ceiling is hideous. ‘I didn’t design the room, I just work here’ comes the reply. ‘I’m a doctor, not a decorator.’ Captain Janeway summons Paris to the bridge and he gives a friendly goodbye to Kes. This elicits a jealous reaction from the prostrate Neelix, which Kes tries to allay, but cannot. The EMH calls an end to visiting hours, and says she can return at 1700 hours,but not before. Kes kisses Neelix on the cheek and leaves.

Lt Torres has been studing the device the alien dropped. The double pronged item apparently stuns the victim, does a microcellular analysis of the body which puts a tricorder to shame, and if required remove organs. Meanwhile the alien ship has dodged into an asteroid which they cannot scan. Kim thinks that it is is artificial. No defences but an open crater where the ship went inside. Tuvok urges caution. Four years of observing Kathryn Janeway lead him to believe that she is about to take Voyager inside the asteroid. He is right of course. She orders Red Alert and in they go, phasers ready. It is a narrow passage, barely wider than Voyager, and they take it slowly.

In a decorated sickbay, Neelix is calling for the EMH. He has an itch above his eyebrow that needs scratching. Neelix feels alone and technically he is, the EMH points out. But Neelix wants to be released from the restraint, and is getting very agitated. He starts to hyperventilate and the EMH ends up sedating him.

Voyager enters a large chamber in the asteroid, with myriad images of the two ships reflecting off the walls. With deflectors at maximum they follow the ion trail further into the chamber.

The EMH has called Kes to sickbay to reassure his patient once Neelix wakes up. While she is waiting, the EMH pours out his woes to her. He has to be on call twenty four hours a day, he has no nurse assigned to help him. Tom Paris does not count. And now he has a patient with long term emotional difficulties and there is no counsellor on board. He is designed to supplement and he feels out of his depth. Kes is supportive. Is he capable of learning like real doctors do? Yes he is. Then he’ll have to learn like the rest of us. ‘Have you ever considered a career in medicine,’ he asks the young woman but before she can reply the buzzer signals Neelix’s return to consciousness.

In engineering, Seska tells Torres of a fluctuation in the warp core. She orders the Bajoran ex-Maquis to compensate but it gets worse. Kim says there is a dampening field in the chamber bleeding their energy directly so Janeway orders the warp core shut down. They locate the source of the field, but Tuvok says that firing a phaser would result in ricochets which might end up damaging Voyager, so Janeway dismisses the idea. But Chakotay is interested. What if they sent out a low level continuous beam? It would continue to reflect until it encountered a non-reflective material. Like the enemy ship. Janeway approves the idea and they put up a laser display that stops at the other ship. There are two lifesigns on board which the Captain orders beamed to transporter room 3. Tuvok follows her off the bridge after ordering security to meet them.

Janeway, Tuvok, two guards and an armed transporter officer greet two very unpleasant looking aliens. They take them to the brig to begin the interrogation. The lead alien introduces himself as Dereth of the Vidiian Sodality and tells her that collecting biomatter is their only way of fighting the Phage, a DNA destroying disease that they have lived with for over two thousand years. With thousands dying each day, and the disease resisting attempts to destroy it, replacing damaged body parts is the only way they have of staying alive. This touches Janeway deeply, but she still wants Neelix’s lungs back. Dereth tells her that is not possible. They have already been adapted and transplanted into Motura, his companion. That is Dereth’s job, to keep him supplied with organs. They try to use ones from the dead, but sometimes needs must and they have to get them from the living instead. This presents Janeway with a dilemma. Can she stoop to their level and kill one of them in order to save Neelix? Motura is willing to give up the lungs. At least it will put an end to his suffering. Janeway cannot do it, and she can’t keep them on board as prisoners, so she lets them go with the warning that any aggressive actions against her crew will be met with deadly force. Motura wants to see Neelix, as he thinks they might be able to help with their superior medical techniques.

In sickbay, they scan Neelix and say it is amazing he is still alive. Then they scan those present, detecting that the EMH is not a person, and declare that all are healthy and suitable for organ transplant. When the EMH protests about tissue rejection, they say it is not a problem to them, and ask for a volunteer. Kes insists on being the donor and as they prepare, Janeway tells Neelix she looks forward to sampling his cooking. He can keep his kitchen until the replicators are back on line. ‘I’ll see you at breakfast,’
he tells her.

‘Captain’s log, supplemental. The aliens have successfully transplanted one of Kes’ lungs into Neelix, the dampening field has been deactivated and I have allowed them to beam back to their vessel. We are resuming a course home.’
In sickbay, Kes awakens to a gently smiling EMH who tells her that the operation was a success, and that the Captain has agreed to allow him to train her as a medical assistant. A back up for Mr Paris, or a replacement for him, if she’s interested. Kes is interested and wants to start her lessons as soon as possible.

Analysis

Welcome the Vidiians, an interesting race of gentle educators, explorers, and above all artists (Motura is a sculptor) who, after two thousand years of fighting the Phage have reached the heights of medical sophistication and the depths of amoral behaviour.

Yet individuals still have consciences, as shown by Motura’s offer to return the lungs to their original owner. A welcome also to a better role for Kes than just the Cargo bay gardener and Neelix’s girlfriend. The mental abilities displayed in ‘Time and Again’ might make her a reasonable ship’s counsellor. She and the EMH make an interesting pair.

The moral dimension to this story made it interesting. The different attitudes of the various people involved were well presented – Neelix’s claustrophobia, Kes’s need to keep him alive somehow regardless of what he might want, the EMH confronting his new expanded role on the ship, Janeway hanging on to Federation morals in the face of Vidiian amorality.

Another good story that continues to grow the characters.

Grade: 8/10

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