Star Trek: Voyager – 2×01 – “The 37’s”

Star Trek: Voyager
“The 37’s”
Originally Broadcast August 28th, 1995
Reviewed by Christina Luckings

The Story

Stardate: 48975.1

Captain Janeway cannot believe the sensor report Ensign Kim is giving her. Rust in space? How is that possible? She orders Lt. Paris to alter course to investigate this strange phenomenon. As they move closer to the source of the rust, Harry reports traces of complex hydrocarbons mixed in with the rust, a mixture which Tom identifies as gasoline, a liquid fuel used centuries ago on earth to drive internal combustion engines. Tuvok’s panel indicates a small object ahead which appears to be the source of the rust and hydrocarbons. Magnifying the image they see – an old red truck floating in space.

The truck is brought into the cargo bay for close inspection by all the senior staff except Chakotay, who is presumably left in charge of the bridge. There are also two security guards present, Lt. Ayala and a woman. They cluster around with their tricorders while Tom Paris easily identifies it as a 1936 Ford. Antique vehicles are a hobby of his, he tells his impressed Captain as he walks around the truck, opens the hood and enthuses over the engine block with it’s reciprocating piston design. Harry plays straight man for him and asks if this is an early hover car. Tom scoffs and classifies it as just one step ahead of the horse-drawn carriage. Leaving the men to the mechanical bits, Captain Janeway and Lt. Torres are getting data on the contents of the rear of the truck. B’Elanna lists the chemical components while country girl Kathryn takes a deep sniff and proclaims it horse manure, then continues her detective work around the back of the truck. The alfalfa seedlings in the frame and the mud on the wheels lead her to deduct that the vehicle’s owner was a farmer, or at least a country dweller. Tuvok looks impressed at her reasoning. The big question is how did it get here, however, and Tuvok informs his Captain that the sensors have not detected any wormholes or temporal anomalies in this region. The Captain decides to run a metallurgical analysis, so she and B’Elanna go to a console at the front of the truck.

Tom and Harry still have their heads under the hood. There is oil in the crankcase and water in the radiator, so could there be a charge in the battery? Tom decides the best way to find out is to start the engine so he gets into the driving seat and starts searching for the key. Harry opens the passenger door and leans in to watch the historical cars expert at work. Finding the key in the ignition where it belongs, Tom carries on talking himself through the sequence of actions until he finally steps on the starter and – the engine growls, there are two loud bangs from the rear and a big cloud of fumes blasts out of the exhaust pipe. Janeway and Torres duck down behind the console while Harry leaps away from the door, the two security guards dive for cover behind a couple of barrels and Tuvok whirls around, phaser drawn, looking for their attacker. Tom apologises as Tuvok puts his phaser away and Captain Janeway tells him to give them some warning next time. The truck continues to pump out thick clouds of fumes and Tuvok suggests the ventilation be increased before they all suffocate. Now that he is sure all is safe, Harry is back inside the truck looking around the dashboard, and he spots a round dial with a needle and a set of numbers. Tom tells him it is an AM radio, and switches it on and begins turning the dial although he doubts they will be able to pick up anything out there. He is wrong. A strong, regular series of long and short beeps comes through loud and clear. Torres runs it through the ships database and identifies it as an ancient Earth distress call known as an SOS.

Back on the bridge, Kim has found the source of the SOS signal, a planet in a system bearing 340 mark 215. As a course is laid in, Kim explains to his Captain that they don’t usually monitor the AM channels as the signal only travels at the speed of light, which makes them too slow for interstellar communications. They head off at warp six.

Arriving in the system, they come out of warp and Kim tracks the signal down to the third planet. It is class –L, with an oxygen-argon atmosphere and a lot of trinimbic interference in the atmosphere. He cannot tell if there are life signs but the signal is coming from a northern continent. Chakotay points out that the interference means they won’t be able to use the transporters, and volunteers to take an away team in a shuttle craft. Tuvok tells him that the turbulence in the atmosphere would be too great for a shuttle to cope with. Janeway has a third option. They can land Voyager on the planet. Is that necessary, asks her first officer, as the pilot also turns around and stares at her. Someone is sending a distress call, she reasons, and even if it is an automated one and the original sender is long dead, still something brought the truck here from Earth. That something might still be on the planet. Chakotay finishes her reasoning for her. If it brought the truck here, it might be able to send them back. Janeway gives Paris the order to land Voyager. He tells her he has never actually landed a starship before, to which she replies that neither has she, before contacting Torres in Engineering to tell her the plan and issue the orders needed to get Voyager on to the planet. Tuvok taps his communicator badge and makes an announcement to all decks, telling the crew to go to blue alert and report to code blue stations. Janeway tells Paris to land no closer than two kilometres from the distress beacon. With all decks reporting condition blue, Voyager heads down into the atmosphere. It is not a smooth ride, with EM discharges blowing out the lateral relays. Twenty kilometres from their touchdown site, the landing struts are lowered and the ships gravity adjusted to match that of the planet. With just a slight jolt, Voyager lands on solid ground at the foot of a valley with the sun peaking over a ridge behind them. Not bad for a beginner, Captain Janeway tells Lt. Paris, who gives a grin of relief.

It is full daylight when Captain Janeway, Commander Chakotay, Ensign Kim, Lt. Tuvok and a science office venture onto the planet to go look for the source of the SOS. Kim announces that it is 1.5 kilometres away on a bearing of 246, while Chakotay is picking up trianium particles on bearing 225 just over a kilometre away. It could be a power source. They divide into two teams, with Janeway, Tuvok and Kim going to the SOS while Chakotay and the science officer go to check out the possible power source. After a little walking, the trio come over a ridge and heading down a slope suddenly come across a twin engined airplane sitting on the valley floor. Tuvok announces that it is made of aluminium alloy and appears to be an ancient Earth aircraft. This is the source of the SOS call, and Kim follows his tricorder signal as he walks up the inside of the fuselage to the airplane’s cockpit. There he finds the transmitter sending out its automated signal. Captain Janeway wants to know about the power source. She cannot believe the battery on this plane has kept going for four hundred years. It hasn’t. There is an alien fusion-based generator pulsing away keeping the transmitter running.
A little way away, Chakotay and his companion have found a cave or mine opening which leads to the power source, and he reports this to the Captain. He suggests getting another security detachment out before going underground and Janeway agrees. She leaves Tuvok and Kim at the plane to analyse the alien generator and see what they can find out about the SOS call while she goes to join Chakotay. Her departure is watched by a figure on the hillside above, clad in a dark blue suit and helmet.

Reinforced with the two security personnel from the cargo bay and Chief Engineer Torres, the group enters an underground tunnel. They follow Torres and her tricorder signals as they track down a fusion based power source. Turning a corner they walk into a very well-lit room containing what look like computer banks and eight glass fronted cubicles, four on the left and four facing them on the right. Torres decides this is a bio-stasis chamber. All eight cubicles have occupants and the machinery is still working. Captain Janeway goes to the first cubicle on the left and wipes the grime off the glass with her hand to reveal the face of an oriental human male in some kind of uniform. She assumes from his clothes that he is from the same era as the truck. Torres tells her Captain that his man is alive, then goes to the set of cubicles opposite. Chakotay has been setting his scans further afield. There are five other similar chambers nearby, but there are no life signs in any of them. This is the only occupied set. Torres has revealed the face of another man, a negro in dungarees and a jacket. Janeway moves to the next cubicle. This one is a woman in a leather jacket with a gold wings badge and a name tag. A Earhart. As she reads it out loud realisation dawns that she is gazing on the face of missing aviator Amelia Earhart.

The briefing room is lit with natural sunlight for this senior officers briefing. Ensign Kim displays his ignorance and asks who is Amelia Earhart, so that Captain Janeway can walk around the room, waving a PADD and giving a potted biography of one of her personal heroines who suddenly and mysteriously disappeared with her navigator Fred Noonan on July 2nd 1937. With no wreckage ever found various theories were put forward, the most ridiculed of which was that they had been abducted by aliens. Now it seems that really is what happened. All eight in the chamber seem to be from the 1930s but there are no signs of any aliens at the moment. Janeway tells Tuvok to continue scanning. Once someone notices Voyager has arrived, they make come to find out what they want. Tuvok tells the Captain that they are having difficulty decoding the operating system of the cryo-chamber computers. Paris suggests that one way to find out what happened to these people is to wake them up and ask them. Torres urges caution. There is no telling how they will react to waking up four hundred years in their future. Captain Janeway does not want to leave them there for another four hundred years, and she is keen to try and find out how they got there in case she can use it to get Voyager home again. Since her mind is already made up, Chakotay recommends that only human crew members be present when the eight are revived, to minimise the shock. Janeway tells Kim to find a way to deactivate the stasis tubes safely, then tells Chakotay to get the EMH to instruct Kes in how to revive someone from cryo-stasis. The young Ocampan can easily be made to look human. And all of them should get ready to meet a part of their history.

In the underground chamber, Tom Paris puts a device on the wall by a stasis tube and announces that they are ready. As all the tubes share one power source they are going to wake everyone at the same time. They turn the power off and unlock the tube doors. As they are raised, cold air swirls out and across the floor of the chamber. Kes, with her hair brushed forward to cover her ears, hands hyposprays to Paris and Kim and they go over to the pale figures. Paris notices the oriental man has a gun in a holster, and disarms him before injecting him. Kim injects Earhart as Kes treats the a big man in a jacket and tie, and the farmer. Quickly the people awake, colour returning to their skins. They stagger slightly against the side of their tubes before stepping out into the chamber to meet their rescuers. Janeway steps forward to meet Earhart with a smile.

Kes walks briskly behind the line with her medical tricorder, which now includes a redheaded woman in a knee length blue dress, a young man in a flat cap, a woman in a sari and a man in brown overalls and a woollen cap. The big man in the jacket interrupts Captain Janeway’s opening remarks by demanding to know who they are and what is going on. The oriental soldier insists that he be released immediately. As Janeway tries to explain, the soldier exclaims that they are all speaking Japanese, while the farmer tells him that it sounds like he is speaking English. Janeway gestures to her comm. badge and tells them that it is because of a Universal Translator, which allows people with different languages to talk to each other. Apparently satisfied with this explanation, the farmer tells them that if they let them go, they won’t tell anyone. The big man does not agree. He assures Janeway that the whole world will be told how she has kidnapped Amelia Earhart, and that he is her navigator, Fred Noonan. However, Earhart wants to hear the rest of what Janeway has to say, and tells him to let her talk.

Captain Janeway tells the group her theory about their abduction from Earth four hundred years ago. Earhart does not believe a word of it so Janeway asks her to recount her last memories before waking up here. She tells of a light that made the plane stop in midair and then move backwards. The farmer agrees. A light lifted his truck off the ground as he was journeying into town one day. Noonan does not believe any of this alien abduction story and pulls a gun on Captain Janeway, demanding real answers. Janeway gestures to Kim and Paris to put their phasers down as she assures him she is telling the truth. Noonan tells the farmer to get the ‘funny looking guns’ and then orders Kes to stand with the three Starfleet officers. Earhart takes her medical tricorder and asks what it is. Kes tells her that she is just trying to make sure everyone is all right. Earhart opens it and her eyes widen slightly in wonder as it begins to beep and flash. Then a voice from nowhere grabs their attention. Chakotay is calling the away team to tell them that he has detected energy displacements with the ships sensors. It may be aliens using a sort of deflection system to fool them. Noonan demands to know who that is, and Janeway tells him that Commander Chakotay is on their ship. He nods. Commander is a rank he understands, and announces to Chakotay that he has a gun pointed at Janeway’s head. He wants to speak to J Edgar Hoover in person before he’ll release his hostages. Chakotay has one hour to arrange it. The communications channel is closed and Tuvok orders all security personnel to report to the cargo bay.

Earhart is confused. Her compass isn’t working. Janeway persists in trying to persuade the group to believe her, using Earhart’s flight across the Atlantic as an example of something people used to believe was impossible. Now they can travel between the stars and meet new species. She brushes Kes’ hair back to show her ears as proof that she is not human. Earhart points out that on Earth she has seen the strange things some people do to decorate their own bodies, but that doesn’t prove Martians have invaded Earth. Kim tells her that it was the other way around. Earth colonised Mars in 2103. That makes her hesitate for a moment. Noonan is still having none of it and orders them to sit down and keep quiet. Janeway gazes steadily into the eyes of Amelia Earhart.

In Voyager’s Cargo bay, Tuvok is handing out phaser rifles. Chakotay briefs the group. They cannot use transporters because the targeting scanners are affected by the trinimbic interference, so they will be going into the caves on foot to block off all exits from the chamber.

Noonan is taking nips from a flask. Earhart disapproves, but he calls it a little pick-me-up. Paris has noticed, and thinks they could rush him and get the gun off him. Captain Janeway wants to continue talking to Earhart. She believes that she can get through to her, and goes over to a console and calls her over to talk. Kathryn begins by telling her what an inspiration Earhart has been to her, and to generations of women who became pilots. Amelia asks what Kathryn is Captain of, but finds it hard to believe that space ships can exist outside of H G Wells or Jules Verne books. Perhaps if she saw it, Kathryn suggests, it’s only 100 metres above them on the surface. Amelia scents a possible trap, with hundreds of reinforcements waiting up there and Kathryn tries to assure her that they took them out of stasis to help them, not harm them. She agrees that if she were Earhart she might not believe her story, but then tells her some of what happened after her disappearance, including the idea that maybe her flight was part of a US intelligence gathering operations. This hits home and Amelia demands to know where she heard that. It was supposed to be secret. Maybe in 1937, Kathryn tells her, but after Pearl Harbour things took on a different cast. Noonan is getting drunk, and suggests putting the Starfleet group into the stasis tubes. He grabs Janeway’s arm and tells her to show him how to work the controls. Earhart grabs his gun arm and points it at the ceiling. He works for her, she reminds him. Then she takes the gun off him and suggests that they go and see if there really is a space ship sitting on the ground. The farmer says he’d like to go look, and Noonan refuses to left behind. Paris and Kes stay behind with the remainder as the group begin their ten minute journey to the surface.

The rescue team have left Voyager, and Tuvok is detecting energy displacements 200 metres ahead. They set off. Tuvok announces that they may be on the slope opposite when energy shots are fired at them and the group dives for cover behind a convenient outcrop of rock near the cavern entrance. They are pinned down there as Janeway leads the revived humans out into the open air. Weapons fire comes in their direction and Noonan is hit as the group scatters for shelter. Kim goes to drag him to safety. From her position, Janeway can see both where her officers are pinned down and where the firing is coming from on the slope. She contacts Chakotay to tell him to lay down cover while she circles around and tries to approach their attackers from the rear. Chakotay calls Torres on Voyager but with the targeting scanners inoperative she is not willing to lay down weapons fire. The crack of a breaking twig alerts on of the three attackers to Janeway’s presence behind them, and she shoots him then orders the other two to lay down their weapons. They look at her and announce that she is not Briori. No, she tells them, she is human. So are we, they tell her, and open their helmets to reveal their faces. You must be working for the Briori, the man insists. You have a ship like theirs. Janeway tells them that she will answer their questions after they have taken care of their wounded. She introduces herself, and the man tells her that he is John Evansville and his colleague is Karen Berlin.

The EMH is assessing Noonan’s condition. He has severe trauma to the thoracic cavity and a lacerated carotid artery. Earhart assumes he is going to die, but the EMH tells her not to be so sure. Kes hands him a vascular regenerator and he begins work, but the high levels of alcohol in Noonan’s system interferes with the device. As he adjusts it to try again Amelia tells Fred that she always said his drinking would kill him. Believing that his time is at hand, Fred confesses to Amelia that he loves her, but could never tell her because she is, or rather was, married. The EMH interrupts the tender moment to announce that Noonan will have nothing more than a hangover to show for his experience. Now that he is going to live, Fred wants Amelia to forget his confession. She assures him that she already has.

Meanwhile, in the sunlit briefing room, Evansville is furious with Janeway and Chakotay. They went into the shrine and stole the 37s from the sacred altars, and disturbed the radio signal they had been preserving. Chakotay realises that he is talking about Earhart and the others, and Janeway asks Evansville if he is also a 37. He is one of their descendants, he tells her. Over 15 generations ago the Briori brought over 300 people from Earth to be their slaves on this world. The slaves revolted and overthrew their masters, took their technology, drove them off the planet and built themselves a new world. The Briori have never returned. Now there are over 100,000 humans living here. Janeway explains that the remaining 37s in the shrine were not dead, as he believed, but in stasis, and that they woke them up. She asks him about the ship that brought the 37s to this planet and he tells her that it was destroyed in the slave revolt. Janeway and Chakotay look at each other, deeply disappointed. Evansville tells them about three cities not 50 miles away where the human population lives, and invites all the Voyager crew and the 37s to come and look around.

Earhart is sitting at the helm asking Paris how fast Voyager can go. Four billion miles a second, he tells her and her eyes widen at the huge numbers. Could I take her out for a spin, she asks mischievously. Janeway, Chakotay and Evansville come onto the bridge and the Captain tells everyone about the offer of a tour of the cities for the entire crew, and the 37s she says, gesturing towards Earhart. Evansville is awed to meet her. He shakes her hand and tells her it would be an honour to show her their cities.

“Captain’s log, stardate 48975.1. Evansville wasn’t exaggerating when he said they have a lot to be proud of here. It was an amazing experience, but it’s left me a little disturbed. ”

In her ready room, Captain Janeway is gazing out of the window when Chakotay brings her the damage report she asked for. Walking around the cities was like being on Earth and she is impressed with their thriving culture. She is wondering what to do about Evansville’s offer to allow any one of the crew to stay on the planet. Should this be a decision that the Captain has to make for the whole crew? Is she the only one who wants to get back to Earth? Is she leading the crew on a hopeless mission with no hope of success? Chakotay assures her that not a day goes by when he doesn’t hear someone mention Earth, and that despite what this planet has to offer, when he thinks of home, he thinks of Earth too. She is not the only one. They could have problems if too many of the 152 crew do decide to stay. Voyager could not be run with a crew of less than 100 in his opinion. If too many want to stay, they will all have to stay. Janeway tells him that there will be an announcement to the crew at 1400 hours. They will get to make their own choices.

Neelix is serving twentieth century meals to their eight guests in the mess hall. He gives pot roast with green beans to Noonan, with Jell-O for afters. He is very impressed. Farmer Hayes has already decided to stay on the planet. There is plenty of good land and he can have the sort of farm he has always dreamt of. Nogami the Japanese soldier is served rice with fish, and ginger for seasoning. He agrees with Noonan that life here is better than it was on Earth. Paradise in fact in comparison. He could be very happy with the other Japanese here. Earhart isn’t sure yet and asks Neelix what he’ll be doing. Neelix is staying with Captain Janeway as she cannot possibly cope without him. As for the rest of the crew, he has absolutely no idea.

At another table, Torres is astonished that Kim is thinking about staying. That’s not what he said, he tells her, he could understand why people would want to. But he is Starfleet, he has always wanted a life in space, she insists. Yes, but not every day for the rest of his life. She has heard a lot of people talking like this and cannot deny that she has some of those feelings.

Earhart comes looking for Janeway on the planet to tell her all eight of the group will be staying. She was tempted by the thought of possibly learning to fly Voyager but as the group had talked it over she had realised that the people here are part of her and made her feel close to them. Kathryn had been looking forward to getting to know Amelia better, but understands and tells her how similar the civilisation here is to how things are now back on Earth. One where war and poverty simply do not exist. In half an hours time she will find out if any of her crew have also decided that they want to be a part of this civilisation too.

It is 1500 hours, the deadline for the decision, and anyone who wants to stay will be in the cargo bay. Janeway and Chakotay make the walk along the corridor, discussing who they might see there. Chakotay thinks Jarvin might, as he hasn’t really taken to being on a Starfleet ship as well as the other Maquis. He has also developed a relationship with a young woman in Quantum Mechanics and they might want to start a family. Janeway expects to see Walter Baxter. He’s a risk-taker. She thinks the challenge of starting a new life on a new planet would appeal to him. Neither wants to loose these crewmen however. At the cargo bay door they stop. Janeway doesn’t want to loose anyone. After all they have been through together it wouldn’t seem right. Chakotay puts a reassuring hand on her shoulder. No matter what happens, we’ll make it, he tells her. The doors open to reveal – absolutely no one.

Captain and First Officer step onto the bridge and Tuvok formally calls everyone to attention. Kathryn Janeway looks at her senior officers one by one, meeting their gaze with pride and gratitude at their loyalty, then gives the order to go to condition blue and take Voyager up. Noonan, Earhart and Evansville watch as the spaceship lifts off to continue it’s long journey home.

Review

This story was originally going to be the finale to season one, but in the end four episodes were held over to give season two a kickstart. It would have made a great finale, but sits somewhat uneasily as a season opener. (the original end to season one would have been Projections, Elogium, Twisted and then 37s which is the order they were released on the region 2 videos.)

You either love or hate the underlying idea of aliens abducting Amelia Earhart, and I admit it is a hard one to swallow, but once you accept if for the story device that it is, the whole thing works. A crew facing a 75 year journey are given the chance to stop and settle down, with fellow humans, in an established civilisation. That’s a tempting offer that deserves serious consideration, and it does get it, from all the people we hear from. Tuvok we assume is not tempted, as he is longlived enough to stand a chance of still being alive at the end of the journey. Kes will of course go wherever Neelix goes, and he has found a real purpose on Voyager. He is a valued and versatile member of the crew who no longer has to scrounge and scavenge to make a living. The EMH has no choice to make. He is part of the ships systems as he told us in ‘Eye of the Needle’. He could well have become a community doctor who just doesn’t make housecalls. Kim is quite right when he says that even wide-eyed Starfleet explorers don’t expect to spend every day of their lives on a ship in deep space. Even they get shore leave and R&R and chances to visit their parents once in a while. And send and recieve weekly subspace letters. No one on Voyager has that chance any more.

In the end, no one is jumping ship just yet. Not even an unnamed and previously unseen couple in love who might want to start a family.

Sharon Lawrence does a lovely job as down to earth, sceptical Earhart, and David Graf makes a good heavy foil for her. On Startrek.com, one of the picture captions gives the Japanese soldier the name of Nogami, despite it not being in the credits, so I’ve given it him too. I prefer speaking characters to have names, not just descriptions.

Grade: 8/10

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