Star Trek: Voyager
Originally Broadcast May 13th, 1996
Reviewed by Christina Luckings
It’s a lovely day. The birds are singing, the grass is green and the trees are in full leaf when Janeway and Chakotay’s alarm clocks go off and they wake up in a pair of stasis pods in the middle of a clearing. The EMH is calling to inform them that after 17 days of trying, he has not been able to find a cure for the virus they picked up on shore leave there. However, something in the planet’s atmosphere is stopping the disease from making them ill, so he has decided that there is the best place for them, rather than in stasis aboard Voyager. His last possible avenue for finding a treatment is to contact the Vidiians, the local medical experts. After conferring with Chakotay, who doesn’t think that it is a good idea to put the crew at that sort of risk either, Janeway calls Tuvok to tell him that he is now Voyager’s Captain, and that he has two standing orders. Get the crew home and do not contact the Vidiians.
The rest of the senior staff don’t want to accept these orders, and Paris actually challenges Tuvok to rescind them now that he is Captain. Kes reminds them that the EMH has been online for a month now trying to find a cure for this ‘insect bite’, and Neelix simply comments that leaving Janeway and Chakotay behind will cause morale to plummet to new depths. Tuvok has made his first major command decision, and the two castaways will be provided with a modular shelter, weapons, tricorders, replicator, even a basic shuttlecraft with a top speed of warp 4, should the scientist Janeway be able to succeed where the EMH has failed. As he points out to Paris, feeling rotten about the situation will not change it, and as a Vulcan, he can’t feel that emotion anyway.
Janeway and Chakotay take delivery of the supplies and check that everything is there for the camping trip of a lifetime. Tuvok will stay in orbit until they confirm that all is in order, and they will continue to have communications for two days after that. Janeway looks over the scientific equipment and pronounces it all present. She is confident that all she has to do is trap one of the insects that bit them in the first place, she can then start to discover what it is about the planet’s environment that is keeping them healthy and replicate it. Chakotay starts to get the shelter put together. He wishes the colour choice was more cheerful than grey or beige. A blue and green pinstripe perhaps? Janeway considers that despite all the equipment at their disposal, they will be ‘roughing it’ for a while. There’s no bath tub, and this child of the twenty-fourth century was never keen on camping trips and the great out doors. She also suggests that he stops calling her Captain for the time being. ‘Give me a few days on that’, he replies with a grin.
In engineering, Torres is dispassionately tearing a strip off Ensign Swinn for sloppy reporting, when Kim comes to ask her, as senior rebel, how the Maquis crew are taking leaving their Captain behind, when the Starfleet crew aren’t taking it too well at all. Harry feels that they ought to do something, anything, but B’Elanna tells him that unless he can come up with something practical, he should just try to accept the situation and move on.
Two days have passed, and Kathryn is trying to catch the insect in a trap so that she can do her research. Chakotay has been hiding out in the woods doing a project of his own, which she will find out about in due course. As Captain, she is used to being fully informed of everything going on, and to have something kept secret from her is driving her crazy with curiosity. Tuvok calls to tell them Voyager is just about to pass out of communications range, and Janeway gives her farewell speech to the crew. Then Tuvok says his farewell to Chakotay, and Voyager is gone.
Chakotay’s project was building a bathtub for Kathryn to soak in outdoors, while she thinks of ways to move her research forwards. On this evening, Chakotay is discreetly inside, doing a sand painting, while she muses that maybe she should research the planet’s biology in general instead. Suddenly there is a rustle in the trees, and she calls for him from the shelter while she grabs her bath towel and gets out of the tub. He dashes out with a flashlight and a phaser to discover – it’s one of the local inhabitants, a small primate. This is the first time they’ve actually managed to see one although Chakotay knew there were some around nearby. Kathryn goes into first contact mode, holding out her hand and talking to it. It climbs the tree, out of sight, and she points out that these creatures must have to contend with insect bites too, so she needs to get hold of one to find out how they cope. Ever the gentleman, Chakotay makes his excuses and leaves her to her thoughts.
Kathryn comes into the shelter a few minutes later, wrapped in her dressing gown and with a fresh impetus to her research. Chakotay isn’t so sure. He points out that she is no further forward now than the EMH was when they were left here, and maybe it is time to accept what life has dealt them and move forward. She is not ready to hear that yet, although maybe, eventually she will be. Chakotay sighs and leaves her to her computer again.
‘Acting Captain’s log, supplemental. After six weeks, the decision to leave Captain Janeway and the first officer behind still seems to weigh heavily on the crew.’
Kim reports to Captain Tuvok (still in a yellow-shouldered uniform) that he is picking up a Vidiian convoy on long range sensors. Tuvok orders Paris to alter course to avoid detection. Kim suggests that they hail them to find out if they do have a cure for Janeway’s illness. After all, this is just an opportunity that presented itself, it’s not as if they sought them out. Tuvok is not convinced by this little nicety, and when Harry persists, trying to appeal to a suddenly deaf and dumb bridge crew, he relieves him of duty and threatens him with a stay in the brig. Beaten, Harry leaves.
Work gets around quickly on such a small ship, and Harry is approached in the mess hall by Hogan and Swinn who tell him that they and lot of other crewmembers agree with what he is proposing. The trio go over to where B’Elanna has just sat down with a mug of drink and a PADD. It is now three weeks since she said she’d listen to any practical suggestion he might come up with, and here it is. Neelix overhears and stops to join the discussion group, for what Harry calls the biggest morale booster yet.
At 0100 hours Tuvok is in his quarters, steadily working his way through reports when Ensign Kim calls to have a word. He wisely opens by apologising for his earlier behaviour, then explains that this idea is the fruit of many people’s input. The points in their favour of contacting the Vidiians are Danara Pel’s friendship with the EMH, and Torres’s phage-resistant Klingon DNA. They could offer some in return for a treatment for Janeway and Chakotay. Tuvok points out that they have also recently killed 300 Vidiians, and the people Harry has talked to have not been charged with the responsibility of safeguarding the lives of the entire crew. Harry makes the mistake of raising his voice when he says that the crew are willing to take the risk, and Tuvok cuts him short, telling him that the next time he questions orders he will be permanently relieved of duty. Knowing he has lost this particular fight, Harry leaves.
On the planet, Chakotay is into his next home improvement project – headboards. Kathryn sits up in bed to read, so she might as well have something comfortable to rest against. She has also appreciated his taking on the cooking, since she hates it. He notes that everything he has done to add personal touches to the shelter or make things more comfortable has made her uneasy. She admits that she feels that he has decided that he is going to be here for the rest of his life, instead of helping her find a cure so they can leave. Yes, that’s true, he is trying to make a home here, because he will not sacrifice the present for a speculative future. Kathryn isn’t ready to make that judgement yet. She’s trying a new bait in the traps, and is optimistic as she heads off into the woods to see if anything has been caught in them today.
One of the traps has caught something, and she is just putting it into a specimen jar when the primate appears again, standing on it’s hind legs and shrieking, gesturing towards the sky. Kathryn is so intent on trying to talk to it that she fails to understand it’s message until the storm clouds are overhead and the wind is whipping up to gale force. Chakotay finds her stumbling about and gets her safely to the shelter, where they take refuge from the storm under the table. As she watches her precious scientific equipment fall and smash around them, Kathryn cries. Nature is destroying her life.
Kes visits Tuvok in his ready room. She wants to talk about her father. If it hadn’t been for him, she would never have asked the questions that led her to exploring the tunnels on Ocampa, meeting Neelix and joining the crew of Voyager. He died when she was one, but working with Tuvok meant that she didn’t miss him so much. He is honoured by the comparison. Then she slides into the real reason for her visit. He is responsible for the crews emotional as well as physical well-being, and this situation is affecting them badly. Tuvok admits that Janeway’s is affecting him as well, despite his lack of emotional response. Kes tells him that a lot of the crew are on the bridge waiting for him to talk to them. Backed into a corner, he cannot refuse. He opens his address by reminding them of the burden of command, Janeway’s direct order and the danger the Vidiians present to the ship. However, he must be open to their sensitivities, and so gives his order that on his responsibility alone, they will contact the Vidiian convoy. A brighter mood lifts the bridge crew as they carry out his commands.
After the storm has past, Kathryn and Chakotay go outside to survey the damage. Broken branches are scattered around and none of the equipment has survived. Finally she admits that now she will have to let go of her belief that they will ever return to Voyager.
‘Captain’s Log, Stardate 49694.2. We have contacted the Vidiian convoy with encouraging results. They have promised to communicate with Dr. Danara Pel and ask if she will help us.’
Voyager is now 70 light years distant from their castaways when Danara Pel appears on the viewscreen to ask about the disease the Captain and first officer contracted. Tuvok explains the circumstances and she says that they do have a cure for it. The co-ordinates for a rendezvous are transmitted, and they can be there in 20 hours. Until then, Tuvok orders a series of battle drills. Danara may be trustworthy, but they cannot assume all the Vidiians will behave themselves.
Kathryn is clearing the fallen brush while Chakotay makes repairs to the roof. He is considering adding to the shelter by building extra rooms, log-cabin style. His father taught him the techniques because he considered such skills important. Kathryn on the other hand hated the family camping trips to keep them connected to their pioneer roots, but life here is better than that. This is the first positive thing she has had to say about their situation, and it pleases Chakotay to hear it. Then the primate turns up. Well, they have the rest of their lives to see if he can be domesticated. That’s a long time, muses Chakotay. At least, he hopes it is!
After a day of unaccustomed physical exertion, Kathryn’s shoulder muscles are tight and sore. Chakotay offers a massage to help relieve the discomfort and it seems to work. He had a lot of practice with his mother, he tells her. Suddenly, she stands up and announces that she is going to bed, The physical contact has made her uneasy and she needs some time to think about the consequences. Through the frosted glass of the sleeping compartments they observe each other for some time. Then Kathryn comes back out and sits opposite Chakotay. They need to talk, she needs to define some parameters and he doesn’t think he can. What he can do is tell a tale of an angry warrior who finally finds peace by helping the queen of another tribe, putting her needs first. She recognises it for the metaphor it really is and holds out her hand to him.
Three Vidiian ships are surrounding Voyager, and none are answering their hails. A fire fight ensues, Voyager’s shields drop to 47 percent and Tuvok orders torpedoes fired. Then he calls engineering with a plan. Meanwhile, sickbay is coping with a steady stream of injured crew when Kes notices an incoming message on the monitor. It is Danara Pel, trying to contact Schmullus secretly to tell him that she knew nothing of the plan to attack, and offer the anti-viral serum as promised. To transport it across would involve lowering the shields, so the EMH contacts the bridge to inform Tuvok of the situation. Tuvok tells him to keep listening for his command to drop shields and then do the transport himself. B’Elanna is all set to eject the anti-matter container as arranged. That will happen as the shields drop and the serum is beamed aboard. The shields then go back up, Kim detonates the antimatter with a photon torpedo and Paris jumps to warp to avoid the consequences of the explosion. The well-oiled starfleet machine performs perfectly, the Vidiians are disabled and Voyager heads back to it’s Captain and first officer at warp 6.
Kathryn has taken up a new hobby – gardening, and her first crop of Talaxian tomatoes are about 2 inches high. Chakotay is also working on a new project and wants her opinion. He is designing a boat so they can explore the river. She likes the idea, but then they are interrupted by a strange staticy noise coming from the top shelf. Tuvok’s voice is coming over their com. badges. Chakotay puts them on the table and Kathryn hesitates before picking one up and answering. The news that he brings medicine and will be in orbit in 30 hours does not have them leaping for joy,
Janeway and Chakotay are back in uniform, and the contents of the shelter are packed and ready to be beamed back up to Voyager. The primate comes to say goodbye, or so Janeway assumes, and she tells it that it can have use of the shelter now. Then with a stern face, she orders their transport.
The bridge crew stands to attention as the Captain and first officer resume their posts. She challenges Tuvok on his decision to contact the Vidiians, saying that it was almost emotional, then orders Paris to go to warp 8. While they make up for lost time on their journey, she orders Chakotay to prepare status reports on ships systems. It is business as usual on the Federation Starship Voyager.
It is this reviewer’s opinion that two important questions were resolved by this episode from co-creator Jeri Taylor. One is that Vulcan officers taking command of a predominately human crew invariably results in disaster that is only averted by an almost emotional outburst. (See original series Galileo Seven for the previous example). The second is that as far as Kathryn Janeway is concerned, the Captain does not get emotionally involved with any member of her crew. The difference in behaviours between the scenes where she has left all that starfleet stuff behind her finally, and relaxed into a relationship with Chakotay on the planet, and back on board Voyager are very marked.
For a lot of J/C ‘shippers the big question to come out of this story is – ‘Did they or didn’t they?’ Well, there is a strong body of fan fiction writers who say they did, and that they continued to after their return. I’m not prepared to go that far, the evidence is purely speculative in my opinion, but I am willing to say that once they had that little talk there was a big change in the relationship that was totally wrecked by Tuvok’s return, and neither was pleased to hear his voice again.
Having said that, as a whole the show lacks a certain oomph. There was no real jeopardy, the outcome was never in doubt and the two main characters, whilst getting a certain amount of mid-story development, end up back where they started again. In it’s favour are the emotional outburst of young Harry, who thinks he has just lost his mother again, Tuvok’s emulation of Spock once he was in command, and Janeway showing she can be totally daft in thinking that planting all those tomatoes so that they are ready to harvest at the same time is good gardening practice. Unless Chakotay was planning to make lots of jars of ketchup with the surplus.
This was the big Kathryn/Chakotay show, supposedly, and it does it’s best. It’s a good one, but not great.