Star Trek: Voyager
“Eye of the Needle”
Originally Broadcast February 20th, 1995
Reviewed by Chakoteya
‘Captain’s Log, stardate 48579.4. The crew has been scanning constantly for anomalies that might help us shorten our journey home. Ensign Kim has reported an exciting discovery. A subspace disturbance which may be a wormhole.’
Captain Janeway walks onto the bridge to hear the latest information on the discovery. The subspace readings all say wormhole, but is it stable, and does it go where they want it to? As Tuvok points out, there is a seventy five percent chance that it does not go to the Alpha Quadrant. Which means a one in four chance that it does. They change course to find out, and while he is putting in the co-ordinates to the helm, Tom Paris suggests that the wormhole might be called ‘the Harry Kim wormhole’. The young Ensign feels a touch of pride at that suggestion.
At the wormhole’s location, they have to go to maximum magnification to see it. It is only thirty centimetres in diameter, too small to travel through, but it could carry a message. Tuvok suggests a microprobe is sent into the wormhole, and the pictures they get back suggest that it has been collapsing for ages. Kim cannot work out where the exit is, there is a strange variance in the readings. Then the probe gets stuck. While they wait and hope that it will get itself unstuck, Harry announces that it has just been scanned by someone at the other end of the wormhole.
In Sickbay, the EMH has a patient with a sore wrist. He asks Kes what the possible diagnoses are and she correctly lists them all. The tricorder says Lt Baxter has a small stress fracture. While it is being treated, Baxter asks Kes if the EMH can do everything a real doctor can. Yes, replies the EMH, but Baxter persists in addressing only Kes with his questions about the hologram’s competency. After he has left, Kes comments on his rudeness, but the EMH is dismissive. A lot of the crew treat him like that. He offers Kes more study materials on treating burns and she asks if she can move up from first aid to anatomy and physiology. He hands her two padds of more technical medical information.
Janeway, Tuvok, Torres and Kim meet in the briefing room, where Kim reports that there have been four more scans of the microprobe. Tuvok hypothesises a lifeform might be inside the wormhole and curious about the intruder. Possible, but unlikely. Anyway, the probe is still stuck in a gravitational eddy and will be crushed by the shrinking wormhole in about seventy two hours. Captain Janeway suggests that the probe might be used to relay a message to whoever is on the other side, and Harry is enthusiastic about the idea. When Torres and Kim have left, Tuvok adds a note of caution to the project. Kim might be in for a big disappointment if this does not work. But the Captain is also looking at the positive side. She wants this to work just as much as the young man.
Down in engineering, Kim and Torres are modifying the systems. Harry tells her he always called his parents once a week. They must be very worried. Torres tells him she hasn’t seen her father since she was five, and she doesn’t get along with her mother. She might be on the Klingon homeworld but she isn’t sure. The Maquis are her family and they are on board Voyager so there isn’t anyone in the Alpha Quadrant who might be missing her. The link is set up and they contact the bridge. A test signal is set and successfully relayed by the probe. Now they have to wait to see if someone answers. Chakotay points out that it may take some time for the receiver to work out how to reply, so they continue transmitting. Then Tuvok, Paris and Kim all get readings telling them that a response is coming in – from the Alpha Quadrant.
Captain Janeway is in her ready room, working with padds and computer consoles. ‘Captain’s log, supplemental. Encouraged by his success in transmitting a signal to the Alpha Quadrant, Mr Kim is investigating the possibility of establishing a voice link with whoever is at the other end of the wormhole.’
Kes comes to visit her, and accepts a cup of spinach juice with a touch of pear – something Tom Paris introduced her to. The Captain orders a vegetable bouillion for herself and they sit to talk. Kes asks if she would want to know if there was a member of the crew whose needs weren’t being met. Janeway assumes she is talking about herself and Neelix, but Kes reassures her that they are very happy. It is the way others treat the Doctor that is bothering her, talking about him as if he doesn’t exist while he is standing next to them. The Captain has been hearing the other side of the story, his bruqueness, rudeness, total lack of bedside manner. There has been discussion about reprogramming him. Kes is surprised by this, but Janeway points out that the EMH is, after all, only a hologram. Despite the young womans assertion that he is the Medical Officer, and alive, self-aware, communicative and with the ability to learn, Janeway insists that he seems that way because that is how he has been programmed. Ah, replies Kes, so because he is a hologram he doesn’t have to be given any respect at all? The Captain pauses to consider, and then says that she will look into it. That was all Kes wanted to hear, and she leaves her alone.
On the bridge, Kim and Torres tell the Captain that they are ready to try an audio transmission, but they cannot guarantee the clarity of it at the other end. Janeway paces the deck, dictating the message. ‘This is Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. Do you read?’ On the second attempt they get a garbled reply. After asking for repeats, they finally hear the words ‘I am Captain of the Cargo vessel Talbin, location Alpha Quadrant sector 1385. What is your location?’ When Janeway tells him they are in the Delta Quadrant, he does not believe that a Federation vessel could be so far away and terminates the communication. Tuvok informs them that the signal was from a Romulan ship and that it was probably a science vessel not a cargo ship. The Romulan probably thinks they are spies but he is still their best hope to get a message home. Janeway orders them to keep trying to re-establish communications and leaves the bridge.
She goes to visit sickbay, and summons the EMH. He was in the middle of testing a sample for a flu virus when another crew member deactivated him and interrupted the work. The Captain tells him that he is now a full-fledged member of the crew and not an emergency supplement, and asks if there is anything he needs. What he needs, he tells her, is to be switched off if he has nothing to do, but also asked before being switched off in case he is in the middle of something at the time. How would he like to have control over his own deactivation sequence, to switch himself off or not be switched off as circumstances require? The EMH is silent for a moment then admits that he would like that. Janeway tells him that she will have someone look into it, and leaves.
In bed, Kathryn is woken by Harry Kim announcing that the Romulan is back. She has the signal put through to her quarters and goes through to the living room. The Romulan Captain admits that Voyager might really be in the Delta Quadrant but does not want to give his name, and still has doubts that they might really be spies. Janeway tries to reassure him, and asks him if he might relay a message to StarFleet for them. A message made up of short personal messages from the crew to their families over seventy thousand light years away. The Romulan suggests that he might be less sceptical if he could see her and he has been working towards that goal. As they say goodnight Janeway is optimistic that this will work.
Next morning they are ready to try a video link, although the phase variance is causing problems. Torres will be balancing it manually from Engineering. The view screen clears to reveal a Romulan man. He does not recognise Voyager’s layout but as he has been in space for over a year, he is sure their security operatives will have all the information about it. The Romulan Government are considering whether or not to agree to pass on the message, but he does not know when he will get an answer. Meanwhile the probe has about forty-eight hours of active life left. Janeway picks up on his comment about having been in space for over a year, and he tells her that his daughter is seven months old. He has never seen her and will be two years old before he does. She uses those feelings of missing his family to get him to push his superiors into making a quick decision. After they sign off, she tells Chakotay to get the crew to prepare short personal messages on the assumption that he will succeed. Torres bursts onto the bridge, asking to speak to the Captain in private and they go into the ready room. Once there, B’Elanna tells her that the video signal is very close to being capable of carrying a transporter signal. They might be able to beam home. Janeway authorises her to use any personnel she might require to make it possible, then picks up a picture of her fiance, Mark, and looks wistfully at it.
Kes comes into sickbay carrying the two padds she’d been given to study the day before. She’s finished them already so he gives her a quick test and concludes that she must have an idetic memory. He must do a full neural scan on her at some point. Kes says she’d like to go to medical school when they get to the Alpha Quadrant. By that time, he tells her, she might already have the equivalent of a medical degree. He hasn’t heard about the Romulan and being transported through the wormhole, so when Kes tells him, he takes the opportunity to say goodbye there and then. His programme is fully integrated into the sickbay systems and he cannot be downloaded and transported. Saddened by this news, she gives him a quick kiss, and he gets her to promise that she will check to make sure he has been deactivated before everyone has left Voyager.
On the bridge, the Romulan is on the viewscreen being told the news about the transporter. He is surprised at their ability to do such a thing, and also never has heard of a test cylinder that simulates organic and non-organic compounds, although he later covers it up. The cylinder is sent on its way and they watch as the item struggles to materialise on the Romulan ship. After a few adjustments it becomes solid and he picks it up. Eventually they will have to try it with a person, but he refuses to allow a Federation officer on his ship. Instead he proposes visiting Voyager himself. If it works, he will arrange for a troop ship to come and collect the crew.
Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok walk to the transporter room. Torres has done 20 tests with the cylinder but the phase variance is still a problem and having to be balanced manually. Torres and Kim operate the transporter and Janeway greets their Romulan visitor, introducing him to the crew. Tuvok’s tricorder has discovered the cause of the phase variance and he asks the Romulan what year it is. After a quick mental calculation comes the reply, ‘By your calendar, the year is 2351’. ‘But, this is 2371,’ says Chakotay, as the others take in the information.
In the briefing room, they discuss the implications of the time difference. Harry is keen to go, regardless of the fact that he would be only two years old then. Captain Janeway is adamant. She will not sanction such a massive pollution of the time line by sending one hundred and fifty people back twenty years. The Romulan will have to return alone and promise not to tell of this. He does make the offer to contact the Federation in twenty years time and warn them of the consequences of the mission to the Badlands. Chakotay sighs that that wouldn’t be possible either. They’ve had a big effect on this quadrant already. So they are back to the messages and he promises to relay them when the time comes. He also asks that if they should get back within his lifetime, could they contact him? Telek Ramor of the Romulan Astrophysical Academy. Janeway promises that he will hear from them.
In the transporter room Tuvok gives him the file of messages before he beams back to his own time and quadrant. When Captain Janeway says that she will tell the crew that their messages arrived safely, Tuvok breaks the news to her that he checked the ships database earlier and discovered that Telek Ramor died in 2367. The disappointment is tangible, but without knowing whether he left a will, or gave the messages to the Romulan government, they have to assume that their families still do not know their fate.
Lt Baxter is back in sickbay, this time being treated for an injury sustained trying a new hamstring exercise. His workouts are the only things that keep him sane, he tells Kes. The EMH addresses him directly. ‘Lieutenant, I am the Chief Medical Officer of this ship. If you have something to say to me, please, direct the statement to me.’ For the first time, Baxter talks directly to the EMH, who then informs him that if he comes in with another exercise related injury, he’ll report him to his superior officer. After Baxter leaves, the EMH has two requests to ask of Kes. The first is for her to give the Captain a list of items he would like to have added to sickbay, and the second one is – a name.
Well, I suppose we all know that it is far too soon to get a quick way home, so the wormhole could never really amount to much, but the double twist was very nicely done. The EMH continues to develop as a character, both with restrictions – that he can never leave sickbay – and with growth, as the Chief Medical Officer and a fully acknowledged crew member whom everyone will have to deal with on those terms.
Kes appears to be developing off screen friendships, especially with Tom Paris. This could lead to an interesting triangle in due course. We learn more about the backgrounds of Harry and B’Elanna, and wonder just how much effort she will put in to trying to find a quick way home, after her admission that all her friends are on Voyager.
Minor niggle – what is Voyager doing with the biography of a dead minor Romulan astrophysicist in it’s database? But that aside, a good story with minimum technobabble and maximum character use.