Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast October 2nd, 1995
Reviewed by Christina Luckings
Kes is walking down the corridor to Holodeck Two. Once there, she enters a darkened Sandrine’s, with just a fire flickering in the grate and candles on the tables. She walks around a little and calls out if anyone is there. Suddenly the lights go on and everyone present calls ‘Surprise!’. It is Kes’ 2nd birthday and a party has been organised Chez Sandrine. She is given presents, then Neelix leads her to the bar to get a drink. There is a new bartender, the EMH, serving punch from a large bowl while Sandrine is draping herself across his shoulders and gazing lovingly at him. He explains his presence as a medical precaution, since surprises can cause hyperventilation, throat spasms and even heart attacks. Kes is delighted he is there.
On the bridge, Ensign Kim is reporting to the officer in charge, Lt Tuvok, that he has completed the tasks assigned him. Although his shift does not end for another thirty-four minutes, Tuvok understands that he is eager to get to the party at Sandrine’s, and suggests that the power conduits would benefit from a routine inspection. Harry jumps at the opportunity to leave early, but as he is on his way to the turbolift, Tuvok calls a halt. An anomaly has appeared on the viewscreen in front of them which will have to take precedence over fun.
Back in Sandrine’s however, the party continues, with Neelix bringing out a large blue coloured cake with two candles on it. It is made from seven layers of Jibalian fudge, Neelix tells everyone, and the icing is made from pureed K’moti nuts which are Kes’s favourite. Captain Janeway suggests that Kes makes a wish and blows out the candle. This is a new idea for the young woman, and wonders what she should wish for. Sandrine observes that whatever it is, with her figure she’ll probably get it. Kes begins to wish out loud, but Torres tells her it has to be a secret. She thinks for a moment, then blows the candles out to applause. Party formalities over, Gary sidles over to Tom Paris and suggests a game of pool, but Tom has one more birthday duty to perform. He hands Kes a box which she opens to discover a large golden locket on a chain. She pronounces it beautiful and guesses that it cost a weeks replicator rations. Two, actually, replies Tom, but he’s not counting. Neelix is not delighted at the gift and walks away from the group, hands tightly clasped together. Captain Janeway examines the locket and explains to Kes that it is for keeping a small picture of your loved on in it, close to your heart. Neelix has gone over to the bar, where Chakotay is getting a glass of punch. The Commander hasn’t witnessed the gift-giving, and Neelix is trying hard not to get angry about it. Then Tuvok’s voice comes over the comm channel, announcing that they have encountered an unusual phenomenon… phenomenon… phenomenon…phenomenon… phenom… The word continues to reverberate around the holodeck while Torres works at a holodeck control panel in the wall. Suddenly there is peace again, and Captain Janeway tries to contact the bridge. Getting no reply, she orders Torres down to engineering and everyone else to their duty stations. When Neelix asks what he should do with the cake, she asks him to save her a slice, before disappearing out of the door.
Meanwhile, on the bridge, Harry Kim is analysing the sensor readings of the whatever-it-is ahead of them. His best guess is that it is a type of spatial distortion wave, which is generating intense E-M radiation that is causing the comm system malfunction, and it will intercept Voyager in less than ten minutes. Tuvok orders the female ensign at the helm to reverse course, but Kim tells him that the distortion is surrounding them now. In which case they may as well attempt to go through it, and Tuvok orders warp three. Engines go offline as the distortion ring collapses the warp field and Tuvok orders Kim to find the Captain and tell her what is happening.
In a corridor, Lt Baxter meets Ensign Kim, and tells him that the environmental controls in the gym are malfunctioning and that the temperature there is less than ten degrees Celsius. On being told what has happened, Baxter says that he will round up his security team and report to his duty station.
The Captain, Chakotay and Tom Paris are in the turbolift on the way to the bridge. Janeway says that she want to get a communications link established with engineering as the first priority. The lift stops and the doors open, but this is not the bridge, it is deck four. Perhaps the computer is misreading voice commands, suggests the First Officer, so the Captain sets the destination controls manually instead.
Neelix and Kes are walking along a corridor, discussing the party. He wants to know what her favourite moment was, the cake, the presents? She replies that it was that all her friends were there. But Neelix continues to pursue his train of thought by commenting on the necklace Tom had given her, and declaring that he is not at all jealous. Kes is glad to hear that, and then Neelix points out that Tom did only replicate that locket, while he baked the cake from scratch. They come to a door and Kes is bemused. They should be at her quarters, but they aren’t. Did they take a wrong turn? Neelix doesn’t know. He was just following her.
Torres strides into the mess hall and stops, bemused. A crewman asks her if everything is all right, but she just stares around, states that this isn’t Engineering and leaves again.
Meanwhile the Captain’s turbolift has arrived at Engineering instead of the bridge, and it is beginning to dawn that this is more than just a communications system malfunction.
Torres walks along another corridor, examining the various intersections as if she has never seen them before. She decides to take a left hand junction into is a transporter room, which leads to a sharp right turn and a transporter room where Lt Baxter is standing by the controls. He doesn’t know what he is doing there either, as he is trying to get to the cargo bay, and locate his security team. This comforts Torres slightly. At least she is not the only one who cannot get to where she wants to be. Baxter tells her about his encounter with Ensign Kim, and the encounter with a spatial distortion, then they leave the transporter room, going in opposite directions.
The staff at Sandrine’s continue with their programmed roles. The accordion player walks by, playing a typical French tune, while Sandrine leans on the bar, sad. The EMH is trying to return to sickbay, but keeps ending up back in Sandrine’s. The bar’s holographic owner is delighted to see him return, convinced that she is the reason he cannot bear to leave, but he vehemently denies any such attraction. ‘I am a doctor, not a bartender,’ he tells her as she drapes herself over him again. He removes his coat while she continues to smile and embrace him, before removing his beret and attempting to kiss him against his will. Ensign Kim walks in on the pair just as she succeeds and looks embarrassed to see them ‘playing doctor’ as Sandrine describes it. The EMH informs him that the Captain and the others have gone to investigate the phenomenon, while he himself has been trying to return to sickbay but keeps reappearing here. He finds the situation extremely irritating, and to add to his annoyance, the programme will not shut down either. Harry calls for the arch, to no avail, then tells the EMH that he hasn’t time to help him as they are in the middle of a crisis. All the more reason, the holographic doctor points out, for him to be safely back in sickbay. Kim acquiesces and goes to check out the holo-controls.
Neelix and Kes are still exploring the corridors in search of her quarters. He is reading off the names on the doors. Kyoto, Nicoletti, Hargrove, Ayala. Kes knows something is very wrong, as these people have their quarters on different decks. Neelix is suddenly suspicious. How can she know where all these people have their quarters? Has she been in them? Kes denies such a thing, and insists that Hargrove is on deck seven, while they thought they were on deck eight. How can she be so sure about where Hargrove’s quarters are, persists Neelix, why is he special? He is not special, she replies, she just remembers where everyone’s quarters are, and leads him off in what she believes should be the right direction. Harry meets up with B’Elanna as he leaves holodeck two. She has been trying to get to Engineering for twenty minutes now and has ended up going in a circle. Then Neelix and Kes arrive asking for the way to Kes’s quarters and finally the Captain and her party step out of the turbolift. Tom Paris innocently asks if anyone knows the way to the Bridge.
The group go inside Sandrine’s to discuss the situation around an improvised briefing room table. The distortion ring has immobilised them, and seems to be forcing them back to the centre of the ship, deck 6, holodeck two. Torres protests that they are not just being led back here, rooms are in the wrong place. Is the ring changing the layout of the ship? The EMH suggests that they are hallucinating, but without his equipment he has no way to tell for sure. Janeway decides that they need more information about the phenomenon. They need sensor reading and therefore need to get to the bridge. Torres suggests that as walking and using the turbolifts has failed, maybe they should try a site to site transport. Chakotay points out that to do that they would need a transporter room. Or Engineering, says the Chief Engineer. Paris tells her that Engineering was one of the places the Captain and he arrived at when they tried to get to the bridge. Perhaps repeating that journey would get them there. Kim suggests using an emergency access conduit that leads up from deck six to behind the bridge on deck one. Chakotay says that he will get a tricorder and rig it to emit a photo-plasmic trail, then continue to try and reach the bridge on foot. Janeway takes up part of his plan and suggests that they all get tricorders and gather as much information as they can. The EMH asks for Kes’s assistance in helping find a way back to sickbay – and help stave off Sandrine’s predatory advances. Neelix volunteers to accompany Chakotay and give him the benefit of his legendary tracking skills. The Captain assigns herself to Harry’s Jefferies tube safari and sends them off. Kes tells Neelix to be careful.
In the turbolift, Torres is sceptical about the route Paris is taking, but he is confident they are on the right track and lo and behold – Engineering! The Chief Engineer quickly gives her orders to the crew. No one is to leave their post, even if their shift is finished, during the current emergency. Then she starts arranging the site to site transport. Going to reset the pattern buffer controls, the doors open to reveal a crewman in his underwear. Momentarily surprised, Torres manages to gather her wits and order him to stay where his is until the emergency is over, before backing away and allowing the doors to close again. She leans against a bulkhead briefly, and Paris congratulates her on her handling of the situation.
On their tour of the corridors, Neelix is trying to start up a conversation on a personal matter with Commander Chakotay. He begins by asking him about his experience with women, and tries to flatter him into some kind of response, but the very private man is not going to reveal anything about that side of his life, and asks Neelix what this is all about. Neelix comes to the point, and asks Chakotay if he has ever been jealous. Yes, he has, the Commander admits. He imagines most people who have been in love have been jealous. This reassures Neelix that jealousy is a normal thing to feel, but he wonders why it is such an unpleasant emotion. Chakotay tells him that it is about the fear of losing someone that you love, then asks if the Talaxian is afraid of losing Kes to someone else. Neelix denies it, then qualifies it to hoping that he isn’t going to lose her. Chakotay tells him that he has always believed that what you get when you love someone is greater than what you risk. Just then they meet Lt Baxter, still searching for the cargo bay. Chakotay asks him if he has met any more of the crew. Some roaming around, Baxter tells him, and more in the Mess Hall. Go back to the mess hall, gathering up anyone you come across on your way, orders the Commander, then all stay there until we contact you. Tuvok then joins the pair of ramblers, under the impression that he is on deck three, when the others are sure they are on deck six. He informs Chakotay that he has left Lt Ayala in command, and that the ring has penetrated the shields and is in direct contact with the hull. Then the distortions are somehow reconfiguring the ship, muses Chakotay, and Tuvok agrees with him. Chakotay turns to speak to Neelix, but he has walked off down the corridor and vanished.
Captain Janeway and Ensign Kim are crawling along a Jefferies tube. Harry is concerned that they should have reached the bridge ten minutes ago, but the tricorder says they are not going in circles. It is also picking up faint electromagnetic readings, jumping from place to place. The Captain decides that this is the right time to tell Harry that he has been one of the bright spots of the mission for her. He has exceeded all her expectations of him. Flattered, he doesn’t know what to say, but fortunately he spots the hatch they have been searching for, which should bring them out into the cargo hold behind the bridge. However, the hatch is stuck, so Janeway forces it open manually and suddenly her arm is sucked into – something. Everything is wavy and fluctuating beyond the hatchway and Harry has to pull hard to help her get her arm back and close the hatch again. The tricorder shows an intense electromagnetic charge, with fluctuations that match the distortion ring. Janeway decides that they are going to have to regroup and come up with a plan, and then collapses against the bulkhead.
In Sandrine’s, Gaunt Gary is living up to his programming as a pool hustler by trying to get the EMH to play a game with him. He is not programmed to play games, the EMH insists. Sandrine is getting fed up with her reluctant paramour. He won’t make love to her, and he won’t play pool with Gary, then as far as she is concerned he can mop the floor. He has surgeon’s hands, the EMH tells her. They do not mop floors. Sandrine fires him from his post as bartender as Kes returns to the bar having finished doing as the EMH had told her. However, the reinitialisation of the holo emitters has made no difference to his situation. Harry comes into the holodeck half dragging, half carrying Captain Janeway. He explains that she came into contact with the spatial distortions, and has been fading in and out of consciousness since. Tuvok and Chakotay have reached a fork in the corridor and are disagreeing about which path to take. Tuvok wishes to continue making a series of right turn until they are certain that this path is not the proper one. Chakotay points out that there is no evidence of any logical pattern to the maze they are in, and even if there is one, by the time they have worked it out, it may be too late. As the important thing is for one of them to make it to the bridge, they split up, Tuvok taking the right hand corridor and Chakotay going straight ahead. Just a few metres later, Tuvok rejoins Chakotay from a right hand corridor. How do you logically navigate a maze that is constantly changing shape, asks Chakotay.
Paris and Torres have got the site to site transport set up in engineering, and energise.
Gary has given up trying to find an opponent and is keeping himself amused practicing pool. Unfortunately Tom Paris’ foot materialises to block his shot. Chakotay and Tuvok are already there, and hoping that the pair did make it to the bridge and have returned with a status report. Torres has to disappoint them. It did not work. The rest of the crew are presumed trapped in other parts of the ship and unable to find their way out. With the Captain unconscious, Chakotay is now in command, and decides that they need to try and reverse this reconfiguration of the ship. Torres doesn’t see how they can reverse something they do not understand, and Tuvok expresses a desire for an accurate picture of what the ship currently looks like. Kim suggests putting all their tricorder data into the central database and letting the computer extrapolate a schematic.
They view the results on a wall screen outside the holodeck. It is recognisable as Voyager, but somewhat distorted, and Torres suggests that Voyager is slowly being crushed by a spatial implosion. At present deck six is unaffected, but at present speed, the ring will get here in sixty-eight minutes, estimates Tuvok. Back inside Sandrine’s the remaining senior officers discuss their options around the pool table. Chakotay decides that their choices are either to get out of the implosion or reverse it into an explosion outwards. Torres has an idea how to do that. By raising the pressure in the warp core she could generate a shock pulse. However, there are dangers, as Kim and Tuvok point out. It would create a subatomic particle shower throughout the ship which could set off a chain reaction that would result in Voyager exploding along with the distortion ring. Torres is sure she can tune the shock wave to avoid that, and anyway, she would rather go down fighting than just get crushed eventually. Tuvok has his own suggestion, which is to go to the navigational array and try to get the thrusters working to steer themselves out of the ring. They cannot try both, as it would be too dangerous to have someone working at the navigational array during a shock pulse, and Tom Paris points out that with Voyager so contorted, there is no reason to expect they would have any control anyway. Chakotay makes his command decision, and orders B’Elanna to try her plan. Tuvok is not pleased with this, and begins to point out to the First Officer that Captain Janeway tends to follow his suggestions. Captain Janeway is not making decisions at the moment, Chakotay reminds the Vulcan, and therefore he is in command. Then he sends Harry with B’Elanna down to engineering, with orders to evacuate whoever is currently down there, then initiate the shock pulse.
Kim and Torres make it to engineering, and are implementing the plan. They are raising the pressure in the warp core gradually up to fifty three mega-pascals to trigger the shock pulse. There is a small moment when a micro fracture forms in the dilithium matrix, but it is compensated for. As the pressure approaches fifty mega pascals they leave engineering for the safety of the corridor. Up in the holodeck they feel the ship beginning to shake and take cover. The shock pulse happens without blowing the ship up, but as Kim and Torres pick themselves up from the deck and are about to return to engineering, the tricorder detects a massive distortion. At the main entrance to engineering they see the door billowing in and out. The ring has taken engineering.
Chakotay is trying to communicate with a delirious Captain Janeway when Kim and Torres return with the bad news that the shock pulse seems to have made the implosion get faster, and that it will be there in a few minutes time. There is no longer any time to try Tuvok’s plan with the navigational array as the distortion reaches the holodeck doors and they realise they are now trapped in Sandrine’s. Tom Paris wonders if it is possible to create a stable holographic force field, but the ring takes no notice of their attempt and the unaffected area gets smaller. There is only one logical course of action to take now, says Tuvok, and that is to do nothing. There is no evidence that contact with the ring is fatal, whereas their efforts to reverse the effect have made it worse. Captain Janeway tries to say something, but her words are meaningless. Chakotay admits to the reality of their situation and accepts Tuvok’s recommendation. Torres is not happy but she has nothing more to suggest.
As the distortion moves closer to the group, they use the remaining time to make peace with each other. Chakotay tells Tuvok that although he is arrogant and irritating, he is also one hell of an officer. Tuvok in return admits that having Chakotay made first officer instead of himself did put him into a position he was unaccustomed to. Paris and Kim admit to each other that they are afraid of what might happen, while the EMH reassures Kes that while Neelix can be annoying, he is extremely resourceful and will survive this calamity, if it is survivable. They hug one another. Chakotay sits down at a table and closes his eyes. Torres goes over to him to ask what he is doing. He is trying to contact his spirit guide, he tells her. They might be in for another long journey in a few moments. She asks if she can join him and he welcomes her. As the ring reaches the group, she holds his hand for comfort. Watching the figures of Chakotay and Torres begin to shimmer, Tuvok stands at the back of the room, next to the lounger occupied by his unconscious Captain, his hand almost touching her shoulder. He looks down at her for a moment, then everything shimmers and distorts for a while and then..
It passes through them all safely and Captain Janeway regains her senses to announce that the spatial distortion was trying to communicate with them.
With the ship back in its normal configuration, Captain Janeway is on the bridge ordering full reports and all recorded information about the phenomenon. The crew are all present and there is no damage to the hull or ship’s systems, but incredibly there is twenty million gigaquads of new information in the ships computers, and their database has been copied and downloaded into someone else’s system. They have to come to the conclusion that the distortion ring was the only way someone had of communicating with them. Neelix comes onto the bridge with Kes, carrying her birthday cake, which Tom takes off him before he puts in on a console. It’s time to finish the party, he announces, and Kes tells him that she wants a picture of him for her locket, so that even when they are separated, she can have him where she can keep her eye on him. Delighted with the idea, he embraces her and they kiss.
The premise may sound bizarre, but the story works, on the whole. The ship and crew encounter something unique which they cannot understand, and all their technology cannot help them. Perhaps if it had been called a distortion sphere instead of a ring, we might have had a better impression of what was supposed to be happening to the ship, but in the end that is fairly unimportant. What is important is the way everyone reacts when confronted with something they do not understand and eventually learn are powerless to affect. Tuvok pursues his logic until all that is left is to do nothing. The Maquis try to fight on, even when hopelessly outmatched, just as the group did during the holodeck simulation in Learning Curve. Captain Janeway wants information, data, anything which she can study in order to put a label on it, but is removed from the chain of command so that Tuvok and Chakotay can clash over who should be in charge. It was an important moment, especially when Tuvok admitted that Chakotay’s being made first officer put him into a strange situation.
Most of the characters get a chance to interact with the others at some point, rather than staying in the same pairing throughout the story. This does help to move things along and give us a chance to watch the different attitudes to the situation in progress. It is a good ensemble piece, with everyone playing a constructive part. I was pleased to hear that Ayala, one of Chakotay’s Maquis crew, is now a Lt and trusted with taking charge on the bridge. That makes three Maquis officers at least now and demonstrates that Janeway is granting rank on merit, not just Starfleet seniority and casting convenience.
The final scene with the masses of extra information in the computers is weak, and almost a disappointment. There is a part of me that would have preferred the whole encounter to have remained a mystery. I wonder what that new data contains, and whether it will be referred to again.