Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast September 10th, 1995
By Christina Luckings
Tom Paris is giving Kes a lesson in shuttle-craft operations on the holodeck, and he is not making life easy for her. As the simulated shuttle is shaken around, she tries to work out what malfunction he has programmed to cause this. It terms out that he has clogged the plasma injectors, which she considers a dirty trick. Suddenly the craft lurches and Kes, who was standing up, is thrown into Tom’s lap. After a long moment staring into each others eyes, she extricates herself and he points out that he never said that the simulation was finished. Kes tells the computer to initiate evasive manoeuvres. When the lesson is finally over, the pair walk down the corridor laughing. Their mirth is observed by some one who does not like what he is seeing. Neelix.
Chakotay enters the Captain’s Ready Room, but not necessarily with the good news she wants to hear. Food reserves are down to 30% and they need to find a planet where they can re-supply soon. He tells her that the good news is that there is an M-class planet with promising readings only one day out of their way. The bad news is that it is shrouded in vapours and the atmosphere is full of EM disturbances. Sensors cannot confirm that there is any actual plant life on the surface. Stellar Cartography have already nick-named it ‘Planet Hell’. As this is their first chance to re-supply in weeks and as they have no idea when the next opportunity will turn up, Captain Janeway orders the Commander to set a course for Planet Hell.
In his quarters, off-duty, Harry Kim is practising with his newly replicated clarinet. After hearing his mother’s voice telling him to practice, he ate Neelix’s meals for a week and used the saved replicator rations to make the instrument. Tom Paris stops by and is impressed with what he hears. He asks Harry to play something for him, but the young man demurs, protesting that he has only had it for a few days, then gives in and starts a light happy piece. Tom asks him for something less cheerful and finally explains to his young friend what is bothering him. They sit on the settee together as Tom finally admits that he has fallen in love with Kes. The one woman on board Voyager who he cannot have, and he has to fall for her. Harry suggests that Tom enjoys setting himself up for rejection and cites an old Chinese expression – stay out of harm’s way. But Tom is feeling very blue. The whole thing might not be so bad if Kes and he weren’t going to be stuck on the same spaceship for the rest other lives. So just to be annoying, Harry plays for Tom, another light cheerful upbeat tune.
Neelix and Kes are having a private dinner for two. She is cheerfully and enthusiastically telling him about her flying lesson with Tom while he tries hard not to get upset about what he imagines is the situation between her and the young man.
On the bridge next day Captain Janeway and Commander Chakotay are looking at the analysis of Planet Hell’s atmosphere. The first officer says that it should still support humanoid life despite the high levels of trigemic vapours. They are interrupted by the voice of the EMH asking them to turn to his monitor channel. He has been eavesdropping on their conversation and wishes to inform them that trigemic vapours at such levels can cause severe skin irritation. Chakotay asks if he can provide some sort of skin protection, and the EMH replies that he is making a batch of dermal osmotic sealant at that very moment. Janeway asks the Doctor how often he eavesdrops and the EMH defends himself by telling her that the program automatically establishes comm.-links with all key areas if the ship. He is simply trying to monitor issues concerning the crews health. After all, he is a Doctor, not a voyeur. The Captain, however, is not pleased about this little revelation by the EMH, and curtly instructs him to stop listening in. Commander Chakotay will discuss protocols with him at the earliest opportunity. Lt. Torres adds another problem to their list. Planet Hell’s EM disturbances will stop them using the transporters and will cause problems with communications too. Chakotay says he will get Ensign Kim to look at the problem. Meanwhile, Harry is trying to find a way to cheer Tom up. As they enter the mess hall he suggests they see a Moliere comedy on the holodeck later. The idea doesn’t appeal to Tom. Then he spots Kes sitting with her back to the serving counter and decides that they will pretend that they have to discuss bridge operations as an excuse not to sit with her. Neelix recommends that they have the Alfarian hair pasta, which is apparently made with shed hair and very high in protein. Just as they are about to sit down with their lunch, Chakotay summons Harry to the bridge. Tom sits with his back to Kes’s back, and she looks around, sees him, then gets up and leaves the room. Neelix is watching this and finally has had enough. He goes over to Tom and challenges him, saying that sitting back to back isn’t fooling him. Tom denies that there is anything to need to fool Neelix about, but Neelix calls him a liar and tips the bowl of pasta and sauce over the front of Tom’s uniform. Tom retaliates by throwing Harry’s abandoned meal over Neelix. The pair fight, trading insults, when they are interrupted by Captain Janeway’s voice summoning them both to her ready room immediately. And she does mean right now.
The Captain stares at her Morale Officer and Helm Officer, with food on their clothes and generally looking a mess. Lt. Paris declines to explain on the grounds that it might take too long so instead she outlines the upcoming mission she has in mind for the two of them. They are going to take a shuttle down onto Planet Hell and scout for food sources. Paris because he is their best pilot and Neelix because he is their expert on edible plant species in the Delta quadrant. The pair are very uncomfortable with the situation and Paris suggests that maybe Ensign Baytart would be a suitable choice. Neelix confesses that they have a personal problem that could cause problems with the mission but the Captain curtly tells them to solve it. They leave at 1400 hours.
In the briefing room, Lt. Torres reports that so far they have not managed to modify the transporters to work through the atmosphere. However, adds Ensign Kim, there may be occasional windows of opportunity every thirty hours or so. They would only last for a few minutes at a time and they aren’t sure about them yet. Janeway feels that is good enough to beam up whatever food supplies Paris and Neelix manage to collect while waiting for the atmospheric window to open.
Meanwhile, Kes has heard about the fight in the mess hall and is waiting for the briefing to finish so that she can speak to Neelix. He does not want to talk about it now and cuts her off by just getting in the turbolift telling her to wait until he gets back. She is furious when she storms back into sickbay, slamming things around. The EMH asks her if she could run an analysis for him and she tells him that she did it during lunch. Recognising that something is wrong, his program searches for a medical reason and he comments on the results of a low blood sugar level due to missing meals but stops when he sees the look she is giving him. Kes tells him that Tom and Neelix have had a fight over her and he surprises her by saying that she should take it as a compliment. Men have fought duels over women for centuries and he can cite autopsy reports going back to 1538. Kes does not find that amusing, despite her interest in autopsys. Are all Talaxians so jealous, she asks him. He wouldn’t know, comes the reply, he has only met one. Kes cannot understand why they fought. She loves Neelix and Tom is just a friend. When the EMH describes how Paris’s respiration increases and his pupils dilate and his ears turn orange whenever she walks into the room, Kes is genuinely surprised. Such things are not within her experience. Ocampans choose a mate for life. There is no jealousy or envy, she tells the EMH, who comments that their literature must be very dry then. He reassures her that she has done nothing to cause this state of affairs, and most likely there is nothing she can do to resolve it either.
The shuttlecraft is entering the planet’s atmosphere and they have lost communication with Voyager. Paris continues to record the flight record verbally while Neelix tells him that he does not need to impress him with the technobabble. Tom asks if he can make a suggestion to which Neelix retorts that he can even make it an order, which he would have to obey. The suggestion is that they put their personal problems aside until after the mission. Neelix asserts that he left his personal problems back on Voyager and all Paris has to do is get them down in one piece so that he can do his part of the mission. That proves to be somewhat difficult as the anomalies in the atmosphere interfere with their engines and they have to dump their fuel. Paris sends out an EMS pulse which he hopes Voyager will pick up and understand as a distress signal as they head rapidly for the surface.
Tuvok does pick up their signal, but Torres still cannot get the transporters to work through the interference. Janeway tells her to use as many crew as she needs to solve the problem. This is now a search and rescue operation. The shuttle craft is on the ground and its two occupants are alive. They extricate themselves from their crash positions and Neelix starts scratching. There must be leaks in the hull for the irritating atmosphere to be seeping into the craft. They use the EMH’s spray to minimise the effects then Paris decides that they will have to leave the shuttle and look for other shelter. Neelix disagrees. They don’t know if their pulse signal got through, the vapours will be worse outside, and Voyager will looking for the shuttle. Paris makes it an order and the pair head out onto the surface of Planet Hell.
The vapours make their skin worse, and there are no signs of edible vegetation in the area. Paris points out that their rations won’t last long and Neelix rises to the challenge. He will find them something to eat even f it doesn’t come up to Tom’s personal culinary standards. Tom tells him not to worry. He has learnt to lower his standards since Neelix became ship’s cook. Then they head off to some caves his tricorder is detecting a kilometre to the west.
Harry visits Kes in her quarters to see how she is coping. She is deeply upset and feeling guilty because just a few hours ago she was very angry with both Neelix and Tom, and now they might be dead. Harry tries to reassure her that if anyone could land the shuttle safely Tom could. And Neelix has very strong survival skills, adds Kes. They will be fine, they are both professionals, says Harry. Unless they kill each other, says Kes, but they had better be all right so that when she sees them next she can tell them that she will never speak to either of them again. Then the ship is rocked by weapons fire. Over the ship’s comm. system, Commander Chakotay calls battle stations.
Tom and Neelix have made it to a cave where the vapour levels are low, and used a phaser to bring down rocks to seal the entrance. Neelix finds a type of rock that they can use to create a source of heat and light so they can conserve the beacon cells. He asks Tom about Starfleet survival strategies and Paris ruefully admits that his father had been teaching the course that year, and had only given him a B minus grade. Tom asks about Talaxian survival protocols. Neelix says that he wrote his own book. After all, his life before Voyager was no bed of roses. More like a bed of junk, Tom nearly says and Neelix gets annoyed. Not worthy of a woman like Kes perhaps? Then they hear a noise deeper in the cave and make a worrying discovery. There are now life signs present that were not there before they sealed themselves in.
Voyager has been joined in orbit by another vessel who do not want to talk to them, and which is taking up a defensive posture below them. Captain Janeway is baffled. What could they be defending? The entire planet? How about something on the planet, suggests Chakotay.
Paris and Neelix go searching for the source of the new lifesigns, and on their travels they discover a boot print on the tunnel floor. Maybe they chose the wrong cave to shelter in. Finally they come across a clutch of three very large eggs, and one is hatching.
On the bridge, Kim announces that he thinks they will have a transporter window in less than one hour provided they stay within an area of reduced electromagnetic activity. However, because they do not know where the shuttle landed, Voyager will have to go through the window closer to the planets surface to have the best chance for a successful beam-out. Kim thinks he can warn them before the window closes again, which is not good enough for Captain Janeway. He tells her that he will try to get her a better answer. Tuvok has been studying the other ship in anticipation of the Captain’s request to find a way to get by them with minimal force. He believes their weapons are equal to Voyagers, but he has come up with an ingenious plan to neutralise them based on a vulnerability in their shield configuration. Chakotay spells out his plan for him. A phaser pulse to disable their weapons array. Tuvok grudgingly acknowledges that the Commander is correct. Captain Janeway orders red alert, Kim to enter the co-ordinates of the up-coming window and Chakotay to take the helm.
Down in the cave, Paris is giving an assessment of their new hatchling and concludes that this is a sentient reptilian species. Although many reptiles leave their young to hatch and fend for themselves, they suspect that may not be the case this time, and neither relished being there when the mother returns. Neelix points out that they have blocked the cave entrance. The mother may be outside. She might also smell Tom’s aftershave and abandon the nest because it has been tampered with. Paris objects to Neelix’s assertion that they have a responsibility towards the new creature, maybe even to having to adopt it. If the mother returns and accepts it, everything will be fine, but if she does not, they cannot abandon it to its fate. The infant finally stops making its mewling noise and Paris designates him its godfather. Then it shivers in it’s half-shell so Neelix picks it up and wraps it in his jacket. Finally it falls asleep. Neelix isn’t its godfather, he’s its godmother, says Paris.
The atmospheric window is beginning to form, so Janeway orders Voyager within ten kilometres of the alien ship to try and use Tuvok’s plan to disable it. This time there is no sign of the vulnerability in their shields as the aliens fire at Voyager, so Captain Janeway orders Tuvok to arm photon torpedoes. Then Tuvok finds the hole in their shields and disables their weapons with a phaser shot. Janeway orders Chakotay to head into the atmospheric window which is now just a few minutes away from its maximum.
Adoptive uncles Tom and Neelix are trying to get the little reptile to eat, but it is not keen on Starfleet rations. Instead it keeps sucking on Neelix’s jacket. Paris realises it is trying to get at the trigemic vapours which they have blocked out of the cave. Voyagers sensors had detected high levels of proteins and amino acids, which was what brought them to Planet Hell in the first place. The vapours leave a concentrated residue of nutrition on whatever they touch. Now they must unblock the cave entrance so that the youngster can feed.
As Chakotay pilots Voyager through the atmospheric window, the alien vessel passes them and heads for the surface. They follow it down. Outside the cave, Neelix and Paris are concerned for their weakening hatchling. Neelix is in a state of panic and rummages through the medical kit looking for anything they could use. Finding the hypospray, Neelix suggests giving it a shot of cordrazine, but the sight of the hypospray reminds Tom of how he gave water to a baby bird that fell out of its nest when he was a child. He fills the spray with vapours and squirts them into the infant’s beak. It responds to the improvised feeding and its vital signs get stronger.
Torres cannot find any trace of the shuttle on her instruments. Either they are not close enough or the shuttle burnt up in the atmosphere. Captain Janeway is not willing to accept the second option yet. They have lost the alien ship but only have just over nine minutes before this atmospheric window begins to close. Janeway tells Chakotay to extend the search area but if they do not find Paris and Neelix in five minutes they will have to head back to the atmospheric window.
Neelix decides that he owes Tom an apology. He had no right to push the pasta in his lap. Well, replies Tom defensively, it saved me from eating it. He tells Neelix that he does not like hair in his food. Neelix persists, more conciliatory. He has heard people saying that Tom used to be a coward, untrustworthy. Just the sort of person Kes would befriend and he was wrong to get jealous of him. Tom returns the honesty by admitting his attraction to Kes, and tells Neelix that if he wasn’t around, he would be doing something about it. But Kes loves Neelix, and being lost on the wrong side of the galaxy has given Tom the chance to change himself from who he was to who he wants to be. Nobody would stand a chance trying to take Kes from Neelix but Tom would like to be her friend, if that’s all right with him. Neelix tells him that he does not choose Kes’s friends for her, but he does choose his own. Then Tom’s communicator crackles with static and Captain Janeway answers his hail. He tells her that they have encountered an alien, but that it is very young. Janeway tells him that the alien ship is less than one kilometre from their position, and that they are going to try and transport the pair now. Neelix objects. They cannot leave the hatchling alone now. He needs to be sure the mother will accept it before they can leave the surface. Janeway tells them there is an adult alien very close to them and the window will close in less than six minutes with the next one not due for days. Paris explains the situation and Kim says that they can have no more than one minute ten seconds before they must leave. They accept that and hide behind a nearby rock, asking that Voyager take muffled screams as a request for a beam out. The large reptilian adult finds the infant and picks it up.
Kes is waiting for them in the transporter room and Neelix greets her with a kiss. Jealousy put behind them, Neelix suggests that this is a suitable occasion to open a bottle of Potak cold fowl that he has been saving. Tom hopes that is just an expression, but Neelix explains that this very rare drink really is made from the glandular secretions of a dunghill bird. It has a smoky flavour and he likes sipping it in the company of good friends.
This theme of jealousy in a closed environment was first introduced in the birthday scene in ‘Twisted’, and is now brought to a head. The only problem with the writers deciding to tackle the issue is that there is always a happy ending to the situation. In this case the solution is to put the two protagonists into a dangerous situation then give them something else to get concerned about. Whilst they are thrashing out their differences they voice their opinions freely and come to a new understanding.
It is not a perfect episode, far from it. It looks as good as it can, and the hatchling is not too awful although I found that curved beak that never actually closes something of an irritant. Kes gets to run through a range of emotions from angry, frustrated and grief-stricken to great joy. The EMH gets a telling off for trying to do something about not being kept informed about what is going on which gives us another of those McCoy homage ‘I’m a doctor, not..’ lines. In it’s favour is the plot point that they cannot instantly resolve their dilemma with a quick tweak of some portion of the ship or other. Instead they have to find ways to work around the problem.
Finally, on a fashion note, I see that Janeway is sporting a new, chin-length hair cut in this episode. I like it. It suits her far better than that bun thing she has carried on the back of her head up to now.