In which Tom Paris gets Freaky Friday’d.
Paris is in the holodeck, getting assaulted by the Doctor while he works on his Camero. Paris has been neglecting his Sick Bay training, at the moment in favor of modifying a fictional car. Don’t judge, we’ve all done worse things with our time. They’ve had no serious emergencies, which would be a great time for training, but Paris has been busy replacing the shocks on his Chevy. He’s only just managed to get the Doctor off his case when he’s called to the bridge.
He’s in his mechanic jumpsuit when he heads up, just in time to see an alien ship fall out of a spacial fold, using a warp drive that Starfleet has theorized should be possible but never managed to built. He calls it a Coaxial Warp Drive, but you can just call it a Tesseract drive, if you remember your L’Engle. It’s also appropriately more destructive if it collapses, ripping apart local space-time instead of ‘merely’ resulting in a matter/antimatter annihalation reaction. Looks like Tom playing mechanic was ideal. He has enough know-how for warp field theoretics (makes sense, if he’s as crack a pilot as it says on the tin) to have a chance at stabilizing the ship.
The alien pilot is appreciative of the help and the offer for repairs, and the Universal Translator is immediately up to the task of translating the term that Janeway’s heard once into whatever he uses in his own mind to label this experimental drive. He’s a test pilot from a system 20ly away, and Tom would get along great with him if he were allowed to go. Chakotay accuses him of skating by on the bare minimum, a sign of backsliding into the guy who went to prison. As the reward for listening to this paternal advice, Tom gets to go play with the new guy.
Who is also a woman, due to some weird shapeshifty thing that may or may not be under his full control. He manages to shift back and avoid the awkward questions. He also invites Tom along, but Tom has to go meet B’Elanna for their lunch date that he missed. As a hint, when your girlfriend asks you to help her recalibrate her plasma manifolds, it’s not about the plasma manifolds. In fact, Tom is now dead-set on ruining his relationship with B’Elanna by saying precisely the wrong things and overreacting to everything. This is surely the same personality trait that ruined his life last time, and it’s nice to see that backstory actually matter. Remember, the Enterprise had only the cream of the crop, whereas Voyager is, more or less, half cream, half ragtag bunch of scrappy rebels with grit and determination.
Okay, the shapechanging thing is definitely not Steth’s idea. His DNA is unstable, and he’s set to have his DNA ‘revert’ in about three hours. So he’s clearly in a hurry and about to get desperate. When Tom meets up with him some time later (Presumably less than three hours) he’s had an idea – using space-carburetion to smooth out the special space-folding part of the warp engine. He spends some time showing off his Camero to Steth. Steth is a little jealous of Tom’s station on Voyager, focusing on the creature comforts and all the women around, and using Test Pilot Speak to nudge Tom towards dissatisfaction with his life. Maybe I’m reading into it too much. Also, when he shapechanges, his voice doesn’t change.
Later, Steth sneaks into Cargo Bay 2 and hacks his way into Tom Paris’ personnel files, to be caught by Seven, one of the few people he can’t charm his way past. Or no, I lied. He skates past on symathy based on Voayger‘s ‘complex hierarchy, and manages to make it to the end of repairs without further incident. Except at the very end, when it turns out Steth stole a wrench from Tom’s toolkit.
He stole the wrench to get Tom’s DNA, so they can switch faces. He steals Tom’s face and somehow manages to give Tom his old face, and shoots Tom. He wants the settled life, and sends the spacefold ship out on autopilot.
Some time later, Chakotay sits down with Tom/Steth to chat about implementing the Coaxial Drive and send him to Sick Bay to continue Tom’s training. The good news is, Steth didn’t pick up all of Tom’s knowledge, so he still has to study the deck layout and avoid social faux pas’s, or whatever the plural of that is. Like having to bluff his way though a conversation about replicating golf clubs for Harry, because apparently polyduranide is ‘tough’ to replicate. First person to explain to me where there’s room for skill in the replication process wins a pointless prize.
Steth, as Tom, finally makes it to Sick Bay, and immediately proceeds to fail how to do everything, and make the worst possible excuse. And then manages to skate past on charm by playing to The Doctor’s narcissism. From here, he faces his next challenge – B’Elanna. Tom has a lot for Steth to apologize for, but he manages it, in the creepiest way imaginable.
On the test ship, Tom finally wakes up, in the wrong body. Steth locked down the drive and jumped him into the space of the people who were chasing him, but ‘fortunately’ he gets rescued by the real Steth, the woman he switched with who’s actually the man whose body Tom is in now, and we’ve just discovered we have no idea what the thief’s name is.
So just to clarify here. Steth is (supposed to be) the dude with the nostrils on his forehead. The female body Steth lives in now is almost certainly a transfer from the theif’s last victim as well.
Back to the thief in Tom’s body, where he tries to get into B’Elanna’s good graces with a picnic lunch, but as it turns out he’s not really capable of fitting in with the responsibilities of the Ship of Luxury, and also gets close to violent with B’Elanna. Then he forgets to go help Seven with some task in the shuttle bay, due to being drunk. He can’t charm his way past her this time, and gets mad and physical again. Burning bridges erryday.
Next, he is called into Janeway’s office to account for his behavior, which he can’t do. Janeway takes the generous approach and orders him to Sick Bay for tests, at which point he again gets violent and tries to choke her to death. Not one for long-term planning, is our thief.
Tom, in the stolen body, seems to have managed to convince the real Steth of his honest intentions. Steth being one of the few people in the universe who would possibly believe him. Together, they repaired the ship, knocked out the lockouts, and go hunting for Voyager.
Now that he’s been knocked out and scanned, The Doctor has found evidence of the body switch, but hasn’t properly interpreted it yet. He’s going to be helped out by Paris and Steth coming back to explain things. Janeway keeps them on hold to consider things, then goes to sneak up on Seven because the alien theif stole Janeway’s body and needs to get out fast, now that the jig is up. The alien steals the shuttle Thief!Tom and Seven were working on and tries to escape with the Coax drive. Paris manages to convince Chakotay to let him free, and chase after the thief. During the pursuit, we get the whole It’s A Wonderful Life Be Happy With What You Have speech before it tries to warp out, but Paris manages to precision-disable the drive.
The whole issue gets fixed in the space of a voiceover – the alien is back in the form of its last victim, the female, but everyone whose personality was available for revision has been successfully reverted. Plus, Voyager now ought to have access to the drive, and Steth winds up being a really cool dude and goes off to fix all the bodies of all the victims. At least, that’s what he tells Janeway. Tom’s back to his life, trying to fix up everything he broke even before the alien stole his life. Starting with inviting Torres into his garage, and his Camero. And yes, that is also a euphamism.