Star Trek: Voyager
“Heroes and Demons”
Original Broadcast April 24th, 1995
Reviewed by Chakoteya
‘Captain’s Log, Stardate 48693.2. We’ve altered course to investigate some unusually intense photonic activity in a nearby protostar. Lieutenant Torres and I are beaming aboard samples for further analysis.’
Down in engineering, the Captain and the Chief Engineer are watching two containers as they transport some matter into them. However, only one is filling due to a problem with the annular confinement beam so they abort and try again. This time they are successful, and Torres gets ready to do an analysis on the photonic matter they have acquired. If it is suitable, it could boost the power converters by fifteen to twenty percent. The preliminary analysis will take at least six hours, but the Captain wants it sooner, and believes she can convince Harry Kim to give up his free time to assist Torres with it. There is no response to her comm-signal, however, and when she asks the computer for his location, it tells her that Ensign Kim is not aboard the ship.
On the bridge, Tuvok and Chakotay are searching for the missing crewmember electronically. There has been no transporter activity, and all the shuttlecraft are on board. Since his shift ended four hours ago, Harry had some Holodeck time booked and no one has seen him since. Tuvok tries scanning the holodeck, but cannot get a clear result because of interference. Since it is not a system malfunction, the Captain sends the two men down to holodeck two to investigate in person.
Outside the holodeck doors, Tuvok and Chakotay discover a programme is running, and that it cannot be shut off. They go in and find themselves in a dense, dark forest. The computer identifies the programme as one based on the Anglo Saxon Epic poem, Beowulf. The tricorder cannot detect any lifesigns, and the interference is still strong. As they move forward, a spear whistles past Chakotay’s ear and thuds into a tree. They are challenged by a shield maiden, Freya, at sword point. Chakotay tells her that they are kinsmen of Beowulf, which is obviously the role Harry has taken in this novel, as Freya then describes him and says that it is right that they should avenge his death, and leads them to the king, where they will learn more about how he died.
They enter a long hall lit by fires, and are introduced to Hrothgar, the king of the Danes. He tells them that Beowulf chose to face Grendel alone and was presumably killed and taken to it’s lair. Chakotay says that they would like to see Grendel for themselves, and Unferth is scathing. Their names mean nothing to him, there are no songs of their deeds and battles, why should he believe they can slay Grendel? Freya scolds him for not showing proper hospitality, and Hrothgar tells them that they may stand sentry that night. Then the court retires and Chakotay reports to Janeway what they have learnt so far. Tuvok says that they must consider the possibility that Harry is dead, as the safety programmes are malfunctioning. They would only know for sure if they could shut the programme down. The Captain orders them to run a diagnostic on the holodeck’s imaging control systems, and if they’re not working, try to repair them. She also instructs them to relay their tricorder scans to the Bridge for her to analyze the readings. Whilst Tuvok locates the primary and auxilliary imaging matrices, he comments on this culture’s preoccupation with monsters. Chakotay explains it as a way of exploring a peoples darkest emotions and cites the example of the Vok’sha of Rakella Prime who believe that hate is a beast which lives inside the stomach. Their greatest mythical hero is a man who ate stones for 23 days to kill the beast and became a saint. Tuvok is cynical and points out that there are no demons in Vulcan literature. ‘That might account for its popularity,’ comments Chakotay sarcastically. Meanwhile Janeway has had the tricorder data analysed, and it has revealed minute quantities of photonic energy. Torres believes it happened when the protostar samples were being beamed aboard and there was a breach in the annular confinement beam. The photonic energy has leaked into several ships systems including the replicators. Tuvok deduces that there is a risk that Kim has been converted into energy. The holodeck is an outgrowth of transporter technology, changing energy to matter and back again, explains the Captain when Chakotay interrupts her. Something is coming – an object about one metre in diameter. Janeway orders Tuvok to examine it then Torres detects matter energy conversion. An emergency transport is initiated, but Torres cannot get a lock. Chakotay and Tuvok are gone.
Examination of a scan of the holodeck prior to their disappearance suggests a malfunction in the holodeck’s matter conversion nodes which can be blamed on the leaking photonic energy. Paris is not ready to give up on his collegues and wants to go into the holodeck to find out what happened, but Torres points out that anyone who goes there will end up like the others. Or maybe not anyone, muses Tom.
A stunned EMH is having the plan explained to him by Paris, Torres and Janeway as Kes listens impassively. As he is already energy, he cannot be converted into energy. He’s the perfect choice, Tom tells him. They will modify his data stream protocols and imaging systems, and give him complete control over his magnetic containment field so he can be solid or not as he pleases. The Captain suggests that he thinks of this as his first away mission and tells him that he has three hours to become familiar with the Beowulf story so that he can interact with the characters, find the photonic energy surge and scan it closely. He goes to his office to begin his research, when Kes comes to tell him that she has finished the last text he gave her to study. She suggests that he is nervous about the mission, and he admits that he does not know what to expect in the holodeck. He has never seen a sky, forest or monster. Kes reassures him that now he is being treated as a member of the crew, and none of them knows exactly what to expect when they go on an away mission. Maybe he should choose one of his three shortlisted names before he goes – it might help him feel more like an officer. He tells her that he will think about it, and she wishes him good luck.
With all the modifications complete, Tom Paris transports a tricorder into the holodeck then transfers the EMH. In the forest, he picks up the device, examines his surroundings, and is challenged by Freya whom he immediately identifies from his research, and impresses her by saying that she is famous where he comes from. When she asks for his name, he replies Doctor Schweitzer. A hero’s name, she says, and leads him to the king’s hall. On the way she picks some mushrooms to make into a broth for drinking before battle. The EMH identifies it as amonita muscaria, a poisonous fungus. Freya is once again impressed and tells him that his people must value him greatly.
In the hall, Hrothgar is even more depressed than before, and Unferth still scathing about unknown warriors come to slay Grendel. He challenges the EMH to a fight. Freya gives him a sword to use, but after one parry, he puts it down. Unferth takes a swing, and the sword passes harmlessly through the EMH jarring his arm as it hits the floor with force. Freya is delighted with the outcome and declares the EMH their new Champion. At dinner Hrothgar offers him a piece of elk to eat and asks him to tell them stories of his prowess in battle, so the EMH begins to explain how he spent seventy four hours developing an inoculation for a form of measles. Unferth is unimpressed, and leaves. Hrothgar shows him the sword he used to when he made his first kill aged eleven, on display on the wall. Unferth returns to tell the king it is time to sleep, then accuses the EMH of deceiving the old man with tricks. The EMH reassured Unferth that once he has dealt with Grendel, he will be leaving. Freya has shed her armour and is stoking the fire. She tells him that she believes that the world will end in a winter like this and that sometimes she thinks she sees the moment of her own death, in battle. Telling him that it is important to keep warm before a battle, then kisses him and suggests that if he wants a different kind of heat, he knows where she sleeps. Once alone, he contacts the bridge to inform them that he is picking up readings of photonic energy. A tendril of the energy wraps around his arm as he calls for them to get him out of there. Paris does the transfer of his matrix back to sickbay, all except the arm.
With the EMH made whole again by Tom Paris, Torres shows the Captain the readings from the EMH’s tricorder at the moment of contact. There is a synaptic pattern in them and B’Elanna wonders if she can produce the patterns in the samples they have in Engineering. Paris volunteers to give her a hand. In Engineering, he initiates a polarisation field and introduces it to the container. A synaptic pattern is produced and a multi-armed entity escapes and cuts through the bulkheads heading for deck fourteen section c-five before Torres can get a containment field in place. Spotting the trap it changes course, and B’Elanna thinks that they might be dealing with a life form. The Captain has noticed the energy mass from the bridge, and when Torres tells her what she thinks it is, and that it is not going through any critical systems, she orders that it be allowed to leave, and the resulting hull breach is sealed with a force field pending repairs. They watch it on the main screen and see a brief surge of light which the entity goes into and then it disappears.
In sickbay, they brief the EMH on what they discovered about the object that the energy form went back to. In the brief few seconds of sensor contact they detected three distinct bio-electrial patterns which don’t match anything else there. Janeway hypothesises that because they had imprisoned the photonic lifeforms in a containment field for experimentation, the other beings had taken Kim, Tuvok and Chakotay hostage in retaliation. The EMH volunteers to take the remaining photonic life form to the holodeck and release it to Grendel as a gesture that they mean well, and in the hope that they might get the missing crewmembers back again.
Back in the forest, Freya is delighted to see Schweitzer again, and rushes into his arms. He calls the container a talisman to destroy Grendel but Unferth is also there and calls him a liar and in league with the monster. He comes at him with his sword and knocks him to the ground as he holds onto the container. Freya comes to the EMH’s defence, and takes the thrust as Unferth lunges forward to kill Schweizer. While the EMH tends Freya, Unferth takes the container and leaves. Freya dies as the EMH holds her hand, with his name on her lips. He takes her sword and goes to the hall. Unferth is giving the container to Hrothgar as the EMH enters. Then he accuses the EMH of killing Freya. Schweizer takes a burning brand and forces Unferth against the table before putting the sword across his throat. Then in front of the whole court, he calls Grendel. The photonic being enters and he opens the container. Then he asks it to return their crew.
On the bridge, Paris detects the lattice again and Torres reports a massive particle surge on the holodeck. The lattice vanishes again and the EMH calls to report the safe return of the three missing men.
‘Captain’s Log, Stardate 48710.5. Since the return of our missing crewmen, we’ve been unable to locate any further traces of the photonic aliens.’
Back on home territory in Sickbay, the EMH is talking with Captain Janeway. She is placing a special commendation in the logs for the CMO and wants to cite him by name. Kes has told her that he has chosen one, but he tells her that he’s not sure that he wants to keep it. It would remind him of the painful memory of the last time he heard it spoken.
That faint whirring sound in the distant background is not your video player, it is the writer of the original Beowulf poem spinning in his grave at the liberties taken with his epic in the name of science fiction entertainment. Nonetheless, this is a good and novel way to get the EMH involved in the adventure more than just as a repairer of injuries and curer of alien maladies. The issue of his name is still unresolved, which is probably for the best at this stage. To have him named after an historical figure might diminish his uniqueness.
Paris’ skills with holoprogramming get used for more than making interesting locations for off duty socialising, which makes him the only other character to get a little extra depth from this story. The big problem with the EMH is that he can only go where there are holo-emitters, so sickbay and the holodeck are the limits of his terrain. Giving him serious screen time and stories could turn out to be something of a challenge in the future.