Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast March 13th, 1996
Reviewed by Christina Luckings
There is a horrifying sight on the sickbay monitor – Neelix, Voyager’s self appointed Morale Officer, has created a daily programme called ‘Briefing With Neelix’. He promises that it will always give a positive, upbeat view to life on board, with previews of up-coming meals, crew commendations and so on. Today’s star is Ensign Pablo Baytart with his juggling act. The EMH is not impressed, and not keen on doing a health segment until the word ‘celebrity’ is used. Neelix leaves him to think about it.
In the corridor, Ensign Kim is just parting from (the then) Crown Prince Abdullah of Jordan, when Neelix asks if he saw the ‘Briefing’ that morning. In the turbolift, the former editor of the Starfleet Academy newspaper says that he thought it was too light, and that pretty soon people would be wanting real news not just entertainment. Harry tells how his editorial broke the news of the first Maquis/Cardassian skirmishes and polarised opinion on the issue. ‘It is the job of a journalist to be independent,’ he explains to Neelix, which is why his tutors weren’t forewarned of his actions. As Harry leaves on deck 4, Neelix is advised of an incoming transmission. He goes to take it in his quarters.
It is an old friend, Laxeth, currently communications master of a Talaxian convoy. After some pleasantries, Laxeth tells him that they will be rendezvousing in a few days to pick up a passenger. Someone wants to leave Voyager and go work for them instead.
Captain Janeway is not pleased to discover that Neelix has acquired this piece of information, and summons Tuvok to join them in her ready room. When he comes in, she asks him if there are any security issues here, and Tuvok replies that the information does not need to be withheld any longer. The person who is leaving Voyager is Tom Paris, and it is at his own request. Neelix is astounded at this news, and goes to visit Tom in his quarters. The former Lieutenant is packing a bag ready for his departure, and explains that he thought there was more scope for advancement on a Talaxian convoy than the only Starfleet ship in the quadrant. A few more months in the rehab colony in New Zealand would have been better than trying to fit in here. Neelix is concerned that something he might have said or done has contributed to Tom’s decision, but he is reassured that this is all down to Paris’s innate ability to wreck his own life, and nothing else.
Back in the mess hall, the EMH is waiting on a monitor to discuss the details of his part in ‘A Briefing with Neelix’. He has prepared the topic already – How to Keep Your Nostrils Happy’, but Neelix puts him off, assuring him that when he sees the broadcast he will understand. So the EMH insists on having two topics for tomorrow. Fame beckons and he will not be denied. Settling down at a table in front of the recorder, Neelix begins a fond farewell speech to Thomas Eugene Paris. Chakotay watches it with mixed emotions, Janeway and Tuvok exchange looks in her ready room, and the engineering team look on with concern. Kes hugs Tom goodbye in the transporter room, followed by Harry, who then takes custody of his comm. badge. Touched by these shows of affection, Paris beams off Voyager without a word.
At the daily briefing, Torres reports that she has a team working on the problem with the magnetic constrictors, then the Captain congratulates Neelix on his programme, especially his tribute to Tom Paris. Chakotay wants to know who will replace him at helm, and she has several people in mind but Kim thinks that they shouldn’t rush this. Tom might change his mind and want to come back. Janeway is quite clear that she doesn’t think this is going to happen. The briefing is interrupted by Jonas in engineering calling Torres to tell her the problem with the constrictors is getting worse. Janeway dismisses the meeting, and ace reporter Neelix asks if he can accompany Torres. This engineering problem sounds like a news item to him.
Down in engineering things are going from bad to worse as the core temperature rockets and they face either an unsafe plasma venting or a core breach. The console Jonas is working on explodes as the venting begins. Neelix moves into Starfleet mode, arranging emergency medical treatment for the various injured engineers. Voyager streams super-hot plasma behind it and the core temperature drops back below safety levels.
The three injured crew are treated for their burns and then Neelix returns to reporter mode, wanting to interview one of them. The EMH cannot understand this, believing that his narrative of the triage procedure is the only thing anyone can possibly be interested in, but Neelix manages to get to Jonas – the man who risked his life to save the ship – for a few words. Jonas suggests he talks to Torres, then Janeway calls Neelix to the bridge. The plasma venting has wrecked the warp coils. They need to rebuild the nacelles and to do that they need a source of verterium cortenide, a composite made up of polysilicate verterium and monocrystal cortenum. Neelix knows of a planet call Hemikek nearby which is a good source of all sorts of minerals. The consortium which run it are non-aggressive and should be willing to sell them what they need. Kim announces a message from the Talaxian convoy. On the viewscreen Laxeth informs the officers that they have been attacked by the Kazon Nistrim, but they have taken no casualties and their cargo is intact. However, their newest crewmember is now aboard a Kazon vessel.
Tom is pacing around when Seska comes in, one month away from giving birth, and looking radiant. She knows all about Tom’s problems on Voyager, and considers them rather sudden. She does not trust him, not when she first knew him, and not now. The feeling is mutual, he promises her. Seska goes on to suggest that he co-operate with her, or discover just how excessive the Kazon use of force can be. His piloting skills could be useful, as could his in-depth knowledge of Voyager. Tom retorts that she’s getting a lot of information about Voyager already without him. She leaves him to think about where he wants to be when the Nistrim take Voyager and then the whole Quadrant, sector by sector. Tom doesn’t need to think, he goes straight to a console in the corner and begins tapping at it, then gets a gizmo out of his rolled up sleeve and places it on the computer interface.
‘Captain’s Log, Stardate 49485.2. In spite of the fact that Tom Paris has been abducted by the Kazon, we must continue on course for the Hemikek system.’
In the mess hall, Neelix confides his concern about Tom’s kidnapping to Kes. He hadn’t been gone a day, yet the Kazon knew he was there. No on one the convoy would have told them, that would be like committing suicide for a Talaxian, so the information must have come from somewhere else. It couldn’t have been chance, because they never touched the cargo and it was a quick strike. It must have been someone on Voyager. Kes cannot believe it, but Neelix the investigative journalist is determined to find out the truth.
Neelix finds Torres working the night shift in engineering, and asks her to show him how to access the sub-space communications logs. She gets him into the record for the last month, then takes the other female engineer with her to check the constrictors, leaving Jonas in charge. He goes over to Neelix to try and find out what he is up to. The Talaxian asks him how someone would make a secret subspace transmission and Jonas plays ignorant, saying that there are just so many security routines in place. Neelix spots a gap in the record, but Jonas dismisses is as a data fragmentation caused by the plasma overload. There’ll be glitches like that all over the system, he assures him. But Neelix won’t leave it alone. Jonas picks up a laser torch from a console and is sneaking up behind him when the EMH comes on the monitor to complain about not appearing on ‘Briefing’ again today. He has a new idea about a feature on the Klingon glottis – friend or foe. Wishing that he had never asked the EMH to take part, Neelix fobs him off again and leaves engineering.
He reports his discovery of gaps in the transmissions logs to Tuvok, who also mentions that the plasma overload could be the cause. Neelix is ready for this, and informs him that only the communications logs have gaps in them. All other ship’s logs – sensors, environmental controls et al – are gap-free. Then he makes his accusation that someone on Voyager has been contacting the Kazon and then erasing the evidence. Tuvok agrees to investigate further and tells Neelix that he must stop his investigative journalism at once in the interests of his own safety. Neelix agrees and leaves the security chief’s office, but once out in the corridor resolves to continue digging and get to the answer before Tuvok does.
Back in engineering, Torres ask Hogan to help Neelix in his quest to try and recover deleted logs. He sees something strange in the file and gets the computer to run a signal modulation analysis (engineering authorisation omega 4-7). It turns out that the messages were sent without using any of the antenna arrays but the power grid instead, and are therefore unrecoverable. Jonas overhears all this as Hogan traces a comm. link signal to the power grid from deck four section three-c. As Neelix dashes out, Hogan suggests he looks for deletions and runs a recovery programme. The search goes room by room until he comes across one that is dark, unoccupied. The computer monitor is locked for use by Tom Paris only, so Neelix uses the engineering authorisation to override it and view the files. What he sees is unbelievable.
Yet not so unbelievable that he cannot make it the topic of the next ‘Briefing With Neelix’. He announces to the entire ship that he has discovered secret communications with the Kazon on Paris’s console, whereupon Janeway immediately orders Tuvok to pull the plug on the broadcast. Neelix is hauled into the Captain’s ready room to explain his sources. It appears that the signal correlation traces that Hogan found were placed there after Tuvok had searched for them in his initial investigation. What initial investigation, asks Chakotay. Janeway drops the bombshell on him. They had known there was a spy on board for some time, but it was not Tom Paris. When Tuvok detected the transmissions some weeks ago, Janeway and Tuvok thought up a plan to find the spy and recruited Tom while he was in sickbay recovering from fathering Janeway’s alien offspring. As Tuvok suspected the spy to be a Maquis, he recommended that Chakotay was not told. Janeway admits that they needed a ‘good performance’ from him and Tom made sure they got it. ‘You didn’t trust me’ summarises the aggrieved first officer. Neelix’s investigation has made the real spy nervous enough to start planting fake evidence. Now Janeway wants to keep him nervous, and asks Neelix to carry on digging while letting people know that he has doubts about Pans’ guilt. Tuvok promises that his security team will monitor an open comm. link to him at all times. Neelix agrees.
On the Kazon ship, Tom taps into their communications logs to discover evidence of Jonas’ treachery in arranging Voyagers trip to Hemikek. Seska walks in with two armed guards, pleased that her instincts were right again, and tells him that there are already ground troops waiting for Voyager with more ships on the way. As she gloats, Tom’s gizmo makes the console explode. He grabs a weapon and makes his escape from the room, has a bit of a fight then steals a small ship and makes a run for Voyager with Seska’s ship in hot pursuit, firing it’s weapons.
Jonas is sending a couple of crew on an errand to find Torres when Neelix comes in asking for help again. He wants to know how signal correlation traces could be added to a file later. The implication startles Hogan, who found them in the first place. Jonas explains that they are very busy preparing to rebuild the engines, so Neelix asks if he can use a diagnostic terminal on his own. Then Torres calls through for another PADD of specifications, and Jonas orders Hogan to take them to her. Next, Janeway calls down ordering all available power to transporter room 2. They need extra range to save the human occupant of an incoming shuttle.
Tom’s little ship is still under constant weapons barrage from Seska’s vessel as he frantically tries to get in touch with his Captain. Finally they have voice contact and he warns Janeway about the ambush at Hemikek. The Captain refuses to change course until he is safely on board. A big jolt finally knocks Tom out, and Janeway demands the extra transporter power now. Jonas tells her he is having trouble with resetting some systems, but Neelix is watching him and he doesn’t believe he is working on the transporters at all. Then a forcefield is set up by the main bridge doors and Neelix becomes very suspicious indeed. Paris wakes up and tells Janeway that the spy and saboteur is Michael Jonas. She relays the information to Tuvok. Meanwhile, Paris’s shuttle hull begins to breach while he is less than a minute from normal transporter range.
Jonas is into the weapons systems, and when Neelix challenges him, he is knocked down and Jonas takes both their comm. badges off before going to the upper engineering level. Neelix gives chase, armed with a large spanner. Voyager beams an unconscious Tom aboard as they come within weapons range of the main Kazon ship. Tuvok is not in engineering yet, and all the transporter chief can get is Jonas’s comm. badge. Then Kim announces that they have lost weapons – the phasers have been disabled from engineering. Neelix grabs Jonas and they have a hard fight. Neelix’s spanner gets dropped into the plasma stream, and then, as he makes a desperate lunge to finish the job, Neelix jinks to one side and Jonas follows it to oblivion. Quickly, Neelix puts the phasers back on line then dashes down the stairs to lower the forcefield and inform Tuvok of the fate of the spy.
The next morning’s ‘Briefing with Neelix’ features Tom Paris giving his version of events and apologising for his behaviour over the past couple of months, especially towards Chakotay. Not that it wasn’t fun, he adds. Neelix closes the broadcast with a promise that tomorrow’s show will include the EMH and lots of information about the Bolian digestive system.
Now it is Neelix’s turn to show us what he is made of, and there is a lot to admire about the annoying little Talaxian. He’s a survivor, resourceful, adaptable, and always manages to do the right thing in a crisis. After all, before he came on board Voyager he was a one-man salvage operation on a vessel with no transporters or replicators. His talents might not always be needed on a Federation ship, but when they are he comes through with flying colours. Of course he has his flaws. When he gets an idea in his head he is an unstoppable juggernaut, obsessed and determined. And that permanent display of public cheerfulness is a tad grating at times, but at least here is a character with extremes of temperament to offset the reasonableness of the rest of the crew.
This story wraps up the Kazon-spy-on-Voyager theme which has been running for a few shows now, and frees up a crew cabin, saving a little energy on life support. It also leaves Voyager with no warp drive, something they will have to resolve shortly if the journey is to continue. I’m glad that not everything is resolved and back to normal by the close of the show. It makes it feel right, more believable and encourages one to return next week to see how they get on.
Just one little niggle – if they could beam Jonas’s comm. badge out of engineering, why couldn’t the security team beam in? Is it because Tuvok is not the brightest example of famed Vulcan intellect or, and this is the real reason, because Neelix was the star and no one was going to stop his moment of glory, saving the ship single-handed.
Speaking of Tuvok – once again the Janeway/Tuvok axis is working against their first officer, keeping him out of their plot to catch the spy with the help of Paris, someone else who has bad history with the former Maquis Captain. It may have helped their little subterfuge to work all the better but it did nothing for the first officer’s standing in the upper echelons of the ship. He’s not completely trusted by the Federation establishment on board and they have proved it to his face once again. Will the quiet, private man just simmer over this insult and then forget it, or will he explode at some future point? We’ll just have to wait and see.