Star Trek: Voyager – 2×17 – “Dreadnought”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Dreadnought”
Originally Broadcast February 12th, 1996
Reviewed by Christina Luckings

The Story

Stardate: 49447

It is time for Ensign Wildman’s weekly pre-natal check up and she is discussing possible names with the EMH and Kes. Unfortunately, the research the EMH has been doing to find a name of his own, means that he has found less than nice connotations and associations for all of Samantha’s suggestions for her son’s name. Despite a tradition in her Ktarian husband’s family for one particular name, she’d rather have something simpler. Kes suggests Benaran, her father’s name, which meets with approval. Once Samantha has gone, however, the EMH complains that Kes never suggested her fathers name to him. She defends herself by saying she thought he was only considering human names, and gives a few more Ocampan ones to try and mollify him.

The bridge crew are gazing at the debris of an unmanned, shuttle-craft sized ship floating in space ahead of them. They beam a piece to Engineering for analysis. Later, Janeway arrives to get Torres and Chakotay’s conclusions of the analysis. The weapon that destroyed this very strong hull material was Cardassian, but it has nothing to do with Seska. Torres claims responsibility instead.

Paris arrives late for Torres’ briefing on the weapon. It is a self guided tactical missile with a warhead of 1000 kilos of matter and anti-matter and a computer system that is adaptive, evasive and armed with it’s own defence weapons. It’s original mission was to destroy a Maquis munitions base, but fortunately it had been fitted with a kinetic detonator which failed to go off. Torres got inside it, reprogrammed it completely and they sent it to destroy a Cardassian fuel depot instead. Now it appears that the Caretaker’s net caught it, just like he caught Chakotay’s Maquis ship and Voyager. Janeway orders the sensors to be adjusted to track this missile, which Torres had named Dreadnought, and dismisses the meeting. Chakotay confronts Paris about his lateness, and for a moment Tom considers a ‘clever’ remark, before simply saying ‘Yes, sir’ and leaving the room.

As they work on the sensors, Torres confesses to Paris that Chakotay had been defending her by saying that Dreadnought was a Maquis project. Actually she had done it all by herself, without telling him, because she had been afraid that he would say no. When he found out, all he did say was that he was disappointed because he thought he had earned her trust. Tom reassures her, and says how envious he is of how well she has learnt to fit in on Voyager. Torres challenges him about his recent attitude and asks if it is true that he had a fight with Lt. Rollins. Yes, it is true that Tom’s helm reports weren’t punctuated properly and that he got into trouble for it.

With the sensors adjusted, they go after Dreadnought, but the missile has detected them and is being evasive. With Torres’ information they finally catch up to it and discover that the missile has locked onto a target – a populated class M planet over 10 light years away.

Jonas has acquired a new Kazon controller, who is being difficult over passing on information about Dreadnought without more details. Someone is about to send a sub-space message, and Jonas terminates his secret link. That someone is Captain Janeway, who wants to warn the First Minister of Rakosa of the approaching missile. He assumes that she is threatening his world, having heard the mis-information about Voyager being put out by the Kazon. Janeway tries to assure him that they are trying to disarm it, and that they have no hostile intent against his planet, but he remains sceptical, placing his armed forces on alert.

It is 0840, and Torres beams over to Dreadnought, who greets her in her own voice. She was last on board on 47582, and was not expected to return during the mission. Torres does something to the navigational sensors then asks Dreadnought to confirm it’s position. The missile admits that it is in the delta quadrant and that it can no longer verify it’s target, so it shuts down it’s engines, goes to stage 5 and the ‘power save’ programme. Torres leaves the sleeping weapon.

In Janeway’s ready room, Chakotay and Torres are discussing how to divide up Dreadnought for their own use – spare parts and so on – when Paris informs the Captain that the missile just set off for Rakosa at warp 9. It’ll get there in 51 hours. When they catch up to it, Dreadnought refuses to allow Torres back on board. Tuvok fires a pair of type 6 photon torpedoes at the missile to try and slow it down, but they have no effect. Then Dreadnought hails them to warn them against interfering in it’s mission. It is an eerie moment, hearing Torres’ voice coming over the conn while she is standing there on the bridge. B’Elanna asks Dreadnought to explain itself, and it calmly explains that it has decided that she is being coerced by the Cardassians, under the terms of the Cardassian-Federation treaty of 2367, into putting false data in the navigational sensors. This was scenario number 7 of 39 that Torres programmed into it, and there is no way it will be persuaded that it is 75000 light years away from it’s target. Communications are ended, and everyone stares at B’Elanna. Thinking hard, she comes up with an idea that if they can get Dreadnought to fire it’s thoron shock emitter at full power, the reactor core will destabilise for thirty seconds. A tachyon beam might then penetrate the core and destroy it. Three photons are fired at the missile, which responds as expected. The tachyon beam starts an over load, but then Dreadnought sends a plasma surge back along the beam, burning out systems all over the ship. The missile carries on to Rakosa while Voyager hangs dead in space.

Janeway keeps the Rakosan First Minister informed of the situation. A few crew members sustained broken limbs, she tells him, to which he retorts that they are projecting casualties in the millions when Dreadnought completes its mission. The Rakosa space fleet are mobilising to intercept the missile. A futile gesture but they cannot sit there and do nothing. After his initial suspicion, Kellan is starting to trust Janeway, and asks her to call him by name, not title.

Harry and B’Elanna finally manage to get past Dreadnought’s shields and beam the chief engineer back in to do the job properly this time – 1931 hours to be precise. Her entry is unauthorised so Dreadnought denies access to the interfaces and circuit pathways, giving an electric shock as an additional warning not to try and interfere with the mission. B’Elanna finds away around it, however, and gets to the navigational sensors just as before, disappointed that Dreadnought isn’t putting up more of a fight. Then the missile detects the fifteen ships of the Rakosan fleet, and arms its weapons. Janeway tries to warn off the ships, then contacts B’Elanna, who tells her that the fleet has created a diversion, and that she is making progress. Voyager moves into weapons range to assist the fleet. Meanwhile, Dreadnought reroutes her command functions to stop B’Elanna shutting her down. The fleet attacks, but they are no match for the missiles defences and have to withdraw. Dreadnought is 1 hour 9 minutes from it’s target.

B’Elanna is giving a quick report to Janeway when Dreadnought terminates the communications link and transporter lock, because it is no longer tactically useful to her. B’Elanna starts to work in another panel, and Dreadnought announces that she is trying to detonate the explosive before she reaches her target. Why would she sacrifice herself if she was being coerced by the Cardassians? B’Elanna challenges the computer to explain it’s logic. It cannot, and reassesses the probabilities. Sensing an opportunity, B’Elanna suggests that they reassess the probabilities together, as a hypothetical game. She tells it to assume everything it has been told is true, that it is in the delta quadrant heading for the wrong target. How could that happen? If key sensor programmes were damaged or deleted, comes the answer, so B’Elanna gets her to display those files, and she spots a Cardassian file which Dreadnought cannot identify. Then the missile reaches it’s new conclusion – that B’Elanna is now actively cooperating with the Cardassians. Life support on board is terminated.

With forty one minutes to doomsday, Janeway tells Kellan that she is prepared to use Voyager to ram Dreadnought, to try and destroy it. This deeply impresses the Rakosan who tells her Voyager has made a friend here. Meanwhile, B’Elanna is trying to get the old Cardassian file online, while Dreadnought reminds her that life support has been terminated and she should return to her ship.

Janeway tells Tuvok and Chakotay that she plans to set off a large explosion close to Dreadnought, and Tuvok realises that she means a warp core breach. She orders Chakotay to get the crew to the escape pods and safely away, while she claims the prerogative of staying on board. As the crew leave the bridge, Janeway sets the self destruct sequence for twenty minutes countdown.

B’Elanna gets the Cardassian version of Dreadnought back on line and the two computer systems begin a battle for control of the missile. As they argue back and forth, B’Elanna gets the door to the central core open and climbs inside with her phaser. With eleven minutes to go to self destruct, Kim gets communications and a transporter lock back. Torres reports that she is burning though the magnetic constrictor casing even as they speak. Janeway lets her get on with it, and orders the remaining senior officers to report to their escape pods. She takes over Paris’s position at the helm. They exchange a long look, and he thanks her for everything. The countdown reaches seven minutes and Tuvok refuses to go, pointing out that it would be logical for her to have a second in command in case she is incapable of completing the mission. She grants him permission to remain.

On Dreadnought, the Cardassian programme is defeated by the Maquis, and she turns her attention to B’Elanna. Life support will be restored if she stops trying to breach the containment field, the computer offers in a last ditch attempt to prevent it’s mission from being disrupted. With three minutes to warp core breach, Janeway offers Torres a last chance to come back and get in an escape pod. She turns it down and Dreadnought offers to reconsider the delta quadrant hypothesis as the containment field drops to twenty percent. Two years ago, muses B’Elanna, the thought that they would end up trying to kill each other never crossed her mind. Tuvok notices that Dreadnought’s containment field is collapsing and Janeway orders him to beam Torres back now as she veers Voyager away from the missile, which explodes as their own computer reminds the Captain that the warp core will overload in one minute. Rapidly, Janeway orders the sequence terminated then tries to contact Torres, only to be answered by a terse EMH who had been completely forgotten in all the excitement, and had taken the liberty of beaming B’Elanna to sickbay, where she is ‘singed around the edges’ but will make a full recovery. Mission accomplished, Tuvok and Janeway begin to retrieve the escape pods.

Review

After the Tuvok and Paris showcase episodes, we have one for Torres, in which her past actions catch up with her in a very big way. The wilful, occasionally reckless Maquis has matured in to a good solid Starfleet officer with the ability to sacrifice herself for the greater good if need be. Or is that commit suicide rather than face the consequences of her past deeds. I have to wonder how she could spend weeks reprogramming a captured Cardassian missile then send if off on a new mission without Chakotay at least questioning what she was up to, but the Maquis can be a devious lot so I’ll have to let that one pass. This is a good, tense story with last minute resolution based on character, not fancy technobabble, which pleases me.

Roxanne Dawson does a good job with her character here, and also has the dubious privilege of voicing the ‘villain’ too, although I suspect that Dreadnought was ‘looped’ after filming and she didn’t really spend days talking to herself on set. Tom Paris has me a little baffled though. In one scene he is discontented and envious of the way Torres has settled into this way of life, then later he is genuinely thanking Janeway for everything she has done for him. Something not quite right there. Chakotay’s offer to stay with Janeway while she makes the run to stop Dreadnought is turned down flat in favour of Tuvok. This to me is a clear indication that Chakotay’s position as first officer is a political one, and if she really had had a choice in the matter, it would be Tuvok at her side instead. The rest of the cast are just padding for this story, and the teaser with Wildman and the banter over the EMH’s name simply a light reminder of the two main ongoing threads to the series.

Grade: 7/10

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