Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast May 15th, 1995
Reviewed by Chakoteya
There is a game of pool being played in Sandrines, between Neelix and Tuvok, with Tom Paris and Gaunt Gary offering advice. Tuvok has left Neelix with no potable shot, so he is advised to play a ‘safety’, thus challenging Tuvok to have to bounce the cue ball off two cushions before it hits the eleven ball. He fails, and promptly blames the miss on the ships stabilisers. Gaunt Gary, the holographic pool hustler, mentions that the table rolls to the east, a fact that Tom has failed to mention to anyone else. Before Neelix can take his next shot, however, Captain Janeway calls him to the bridge.
Once there, she tells him that an approaching vessel has been asking for him by name. As it slows and comes into visual range, Neelix easily recognises it as a Haarkonian shuttle and explains that the Haarkonians conquered Talaxia over fifteen years ago, after a ten year war. The shuttle hails them, and the person on board asks to speak to Neelix privately, then gives his name as Doctor Ma’bor Jetrel. Neelix leaves bridge quickly, looking sick.
In the Captain’s ready room, Neelix is screaming everything he knows about this particular Haarkonian at Captain Janeway. He was the scientist who concieved of and built the Metreon Cascade, a weapon of mass destruction that killed over three hundred thousand people on his home moon of Rinax, including his family. The next day Talax surrendered unconditionally. So only Captain Janeway and Lieutenant Tuvok greet Jetrel when he is beamed aboard. He is not surprised to be told Neelix does not want to meet him, but is facinated by the transporter that he has heard about. As the trio walk down the corridor to his guest quarters, Jetrel explains that he wants to examine Neelix to discover if he has developed an incurable blood disease called metremia. Neelix was exposed to the Metreon isotopes when he went to help the survivors on Rinax after the cascade and Jetrel’s equipment is specifically designed to detect the sub-atomic signature of the disorder. It appears that the Doctor is now determined to find a cure for the disease his weapon has created, and each Talaxian he screens helps him towards that goal.
Neelix is in kitchen with Kes. He’d never told her about the war because he cannot describe his feelings to someone who didn’t experience it. Captain Janeway enters and tells Neelix what Jetrel has told her about metreon poisoning and the proposed screening. Neelix declines the offer and is adamant that he does not want that person within ten parsecs of himself. Kes is concerned that if there is a chance that there is something wrong with Neelix, they should at least find out. But Neelix is also sceptical of Jetrel’s motives, finding it very strange that the creator of such an horrendous weapon should now be concerned with the health of the survivors. Captain Janeway gives Jetrel the benefit of the doubt and says he seems sincere. Kes also points out that if Neelix does have metremia the EMH will not stop until it finds a way to treat it, and if he doesn’t have the disease he will have peace of mind. Outnumbered, Neelix gives in and agrees to listen to what Jetrel has to say before deciding on whether to allow the examination.
In the briefing room Captain Janeway, Neelix and Doctor Jetrel are seated around the table. Jetrel is explaining why it can take years for metremia to develop when Neelix interrupts him, asking him why he is doing this. Is it scientific curiosity or guilt? Jetrel does not regret his past actions. It was what had to be done at the time, but he hadn’t expected any radiation poisoning. He had thought that the victims would all be killed in the inital blast but, unfortunately, they had been wrong. Neelix is furious at this choice of words and Janeway tries to calm them down. Jetrel is calm and impassionate. He developed the weapon but it was the government and the military who decided to use it, not him. He lives with his conscience as everyone involved in a war must, then challenges Neelix over how many people he had killed then too back then. The Talaxian still does not want to help Jetrel with his research until the Haakonian plays his final card. The results of Neelix’s examination may help other victims of metremia. Isn’t that more important than revenging himself on Jetrel?
In Sickbay, the EMH looks on while Doctor Jetrel places a device on Neelix’s chest then scans him with another in his hand. As this is going on, Neelix is explaining his change of heart to Kes with a story about the time he built the ultimate talchok trap. He set it in the garden, and the next day he discovered one of these Talaxian equivalent of the rat in the trap, still alive and squealing. It suddenly didn’t look so nasty anymore, just a poor little animal. He’d been so obsessed with building the trap that he’d never given any thought to what would happen to the creature it was going to catch. The moral of this tale is not lost on Jetrel, who regrets to inform Neelix that he has incipient metremia.
Neelix is in his quarters when Kes rings the doorbell. She has come to find out how she is feeling and he tells her that it is not the first time that he has faced death, then goes into a story about facing down an entire artillery battery. Kes interrupts him and tells him to stop protecting her. They are a couple now and have to face this together. Looking on the bright side, Neelix tells her that when he discovered that Ocampans only live eight or nine years, he had worried about how he would feel after she was gone. Now that he is going to die first, he doesn’t have to worry about that any more! Kes points out that before she met him, she never imagined that anyone could have a longer lifespan. Now she wants to cherish whatever time they have left, be it a day or a decade.
Jetrel visits Captain Janeway in her Ready Room. He tells her that he has been studying the transporters. This surprises her as she thought he should be concerned with Neelix instead, so he explains that he believes that the transporter could be modified to get a sample of the metreon cloud still surrounding Rinax. Then he could isolate the isotope that causes metremia and create an antibody to use as a vaccine to treat victims of the disease. This approach appeals to the Captain and she issues orders to have Jetrel’s shuttle brought on board and a course set for the Talaxian system. The detour will take them away from the Alpha Quadrant, but the life of this crewmember comes first. She also says that she will get permission from Talax to get material from the cloud, and Torres will help Jetrel with the transporter modifications. On his way out of the room, Jetrel staggers and nearly collapses, clutching at his chest. He refuses assistance and the offer of the EMH examining him. There is much to do, and he wants to start right away.
‘Captain’s log, Stardate 48832.1. Kes has prevailed upon Neelix to allow Doctor Jetrel to continue metabolic scans in the hope that it will facilitate treatment once the antibody has been synthesised.’
Neelix has had another examination in sickbay, observed by the EMH. No longer required, the hologram instructs the computer to ‘override command one EMH alpha and end programme.’ As he disappears, Jetrel is impressed at a hologram that can deactivate itself. Neelix is scathing at Jetrel’s preoccupation with science above everything else. Then he takes the topic back to the cascade, saying that he would have chosen a military target or an unoccupied planet, not a civilian world, to demonstrate the power of the weapon. Jetrel defends the sequence of events, saying that the military wanted to show it in all its true horror. He also claims that if he had not discovered the cascade, someone else would have. He did it for science. ‘To know whether or not it could be done. It’s good to know how the world works. It is not possible to be a scientist unless you believe that all the knowledge of the universe and all the power it bestows is of intrinsic value to everyone and one must share that knowledge and allow it to be applied, and then be willing to live with the consequences.’ For Jetrel, the consequence had been that his wife had decided that he had become a monster, and left him taking their three children with her. He has not seen them since. For Neelix the consequence was seeing the survivors of the cascade, horribly burnt yet still living and moving. He stayed by the bedside of a little girl called Palaxia until she finally died a few weeks later. Then he suggests that Jetrel’s wife was right, and hopes that he has to live with that for a very long time. Doctor Jetrel calmly tells Neelix that he will not get his wish because he, Jetrel, will be dead of metremia in a few days.
It is Sandrine’s bar and Neelix playing a game of pool. A figure that looks like Jetrel but sounds like Neelix is calling him a coward, always playing a ‘safety’. Then it takes his turn, telling him he’s lost his chance. Janeway asks him why he left them. Paris tells him he was afraid. Kes comes through the doors, her face burnt, tells him she is Palaxia and wants to know why he wasn’t there to help them. The images are swirling and
Neelix is woken from his nightmare by Captain Janeway calling over the comm-system to tell him that they are approaching Rinax. He goes to the bridge as they enter orbit around the dark globe, and he tells them of the moment when the colony lights viewed from Talax became a blinding flash and then they could no longer see the moon because of the cloud. As Torres prepares to beam aboard samples, Neelix asks to be excused. The memories are too much.
Down in Engineering, Jetrel is concerned that the sample container is too small. Torres is reassuring, as they do this sort of thing all the time. Soon, a piece of the metreon cloud is safely on board and Jetrel takes it to sickbay to begin work. Torres wishes him luck.
Kes is searching the ship for Neelix, who has taken his comm badge off. She finds him hiding behind the counter in the messhall. His conscience has finally got the better of him, and he confesses that he never fought against the Haakonians. He never reported for duty, and was hiding from the authorities on Talax because he thought the war was unjust, and that they were fighting for reasons that weren’t worth killing for. Kes points out that as the punishment for refusing military service was death, he was risking his life for something he believed in. She doesn’t consider him a coward, even though he is a liar. She suggests that his hatred for Jetrel is misplaced anger, and he agrees that she might be right, but he still can’t stop hating Jetrel. Perhaps, suggests Kes, he has to stop hating himself first.
In Sickbay Jetrel is working on the sample with the EMH ready to assist him to synthesis the antibody, when he orders the Computer to deactivate the EMH using the command he had overheard earlier. Then he does something else, and the sample in the container begins to form into a solid shape. Just then Neelix comes in and tells Jetrel that he needs to speak to him. The Doctor tries to put him off, but Neelix notices the thing in the container, and challenges what he is doing. Jetrel takes a hypospray and renders the Talaxian unconscious.
On the bridge, Chakotay tells the Captain that there has been no progress report from Doctor Jetrel yet, and she tries to contact sickbay. Getting no reply, she orders the computer to activate the EMH who informs her that Jetrel deactivated him, and apparently tranquillised Neelix. Tuvok locates Jetrel in transport room one. Leaving Chakotay in command of the bridge, Captain Janeway heads for the transporter room with Tuvok and a security guard.
The three confront Jetrel as he works at the transporter controls, and Neelix joins them. Jetrel explains that for the past fifteen years he’s been working on a way to reverse the way the metreon cascade kills its victims, by causing their atomic structure to undergo fission. The cloud is holding the matter in a state of animated suspension, and with the help of medical records he has identified the genetic coding of an individual victim. The transporter can use the DNA information to target the appropriate fragments and rematerialise the person. Tuvok and Janeway are sceptical about his theory, just as his government was before they called him a Talaxian sympathiser and exiled him. Captain Janeway then challenges him about Neelix’s diagnosis and Jetrel admits that he does not have metremia. It was a pretext to get Voyager to come to Rinax so he could test his theory with the only known transporter system in the Delta Quadrant. Neelix begs Janeway to at least try out Jetrel’s idea. If there is any chance of it working, they have to try. So they do, and a figure begins to form on the platform, but it is only partially there, and soon degrades as the system overloads. They give up.
‘Captains log, Stardate 48840.5. Doctor Jetrel’s metremia is now in it’s final stage. He’s spending his remaining hours in Sickbay.’
Neelix trudges along the corridor into sickbay. Jetrel is lying alone on a biobed, waiting for the end. Just before he dies, Neelix tells him that he forgives him.
This is a powerful story with big messages about war, weapon development and usage, and their psychological effects on the people involved. Questions are raised about morality and pure science, asking if all research is valid and justified, and also who is ultimately responsible for the applications it is eventually put to. Parallels with Hiroshima and Nagasaki are clear. Doctor Jetrel is a deep and complicated character whom it is very difficult to feel sympathy for, even as he attempts to correct the devastation he has caused. His little speech on what he thinks it means to be a scientist does not help his cause at all.
Using Neelix as the main character is a bold but necessary move as he is the only local character with enough years to able to have a past. With this episode, the ships chef and self-appointed morale officer gains a lot more depth and back story. He also gains a reputation for lying and deception which makes him very different to the honest (Federation) characters we normally associate with Trek.
The promise made to the EMH in ‘Eye of the Needle’ to find a way to let him deactivate himself has been kept without any fuss or on-going plot references, although he still does not have a name.
On the downside, the recently published Star Charts put Talax at an equal distance from the Alpha Quadrant as Ocampa, meaning that they have just backtracked in one episode (or 8.4 stardates according to the Captain’s log) all the distance they previously gained on their journey home (516.5 stardates). The technobabble in the transporter room scene is brain-meltingly awful too. Nevertheless, those moments when the figure began to appear in the transporter beam and then dissolved again did bring a tiny tear to this reviewers eye at least.