VOY: S1E02: “Parallax”

In which we deal with crew conflicts, the EMH is a Meeseeks, and Janeway fits a big object through a tight opening.

Previously, on The West Wing...

Previously, on The West Wing…

Well, it’s like a day into Voyager‘s trip back to Earth and someone who survived the Caretaker is already wounded. He got punched in the face for not letting B’Elanna take over the engine room. Tuvok wants to file charges based on striking a fellow officer, where Chakotay points out that she’s used to a command structure that lets you punch people if they’re wrong. Tuvok argues favoritism, and Chakotay pulls rank. It’s gonna be a rough seven-and-a-half decades. Rumor spreads fast on a little ship, and some of the other former-Maquis are already thinking about mutiny. Because nothing says ‘the captain is totally unjustified in treating us all like criminals’ like declaring your loyalties for a mutiny. Chakotay is, to his great credit, not at all amused.

It appears that the former Maquis crew have provisionary pips. Janeway made Chakotay her first officer, but it’s questionable as to whether she made him a commander yet. in a situation like this, you can’t take any particulars for granted, but Chakotay already has enough power or influence to offer B’Elanna the position of chief engineer if she can make nice. A moments thought makes this obvious, of course – he and Janeway each have half a crew and neither side has the resources to either run the ship by themselves or keep anyone locked up for sufficiently long periods. Therefore, particularly in the early days, any face-saving compromise that ends with the ship running better is worth its weight in antimatter.

Voyager‘s routine maintenance is a little harsher than usual, given that they don’t have the time or the starbase at which to dock to fully scrub everything down. Engine efficiency is dropping steadily, and alternative energy sources aren’t working, although it’s worth noting that apparently the holodecks have their own power reactors, which are somehow incompatible with everything else in the Intrepid-class systems. Just as they’re dealing with these problems, Neelix comes rushing in, half-carrying Kes due to her dead-eyed stare. Paris offers her a seat once Janeway lets them stay, and you can see Neelix get affronted that anyone would dare to be polite to his girlfriend. Then again, Paris did rather deliberately and immediately establish himself as the resident poonhound, so there’s that.

I was going to give you a picture of Kes staring vacantly into space but it started to creep me out, so here's Janway questioning Chakotay's judgement instead.

I was going to give you a picture of Kes staring vacantly into space but it started to creep me out, so here’s Janway questioning Chakotay’s judgement instead.

Kes has some plans to convert a room into a hydroponics bay, which seems to go over well, and Neelix wants to become the cook. Which segues us into the crew roster. Chakotay has some insight into which of his Maquis will be likely to do well as Starfleet officers, but I think he thought he was gonna slip B’Elanna right past Janeway. So that’s a discussion that’s got to happen, as does the appointing of a CMO since anyone with medical training is already dead. Because Neelix isn’t familiar with Federation technology, he gets to be our proxy and get explained to that the EMH is only built for short-term activation. Fortunately, Tom Paris took two semesters of biochem at the Academy so he can train under the EMH. Good thinking, you’ll never need a pilot and a nurse at the same time.

Oh look, we’ve run into the Anomaly of the Week. Voyager has found some sort of spatial distortion by ramming into it instead of with the sensors. Did Paris just hit cruise control before they went into their meeting or something? Anyway, it’s a Type IV Quantum Singularity, which is evidently not the same thing as a black hole because they’re receiving a transmission from inside it. Then again, subspace transmissions travel at superluminal speeds and exceed the light cone of the object creating them, so it’s conceivable that an object with a subspace radio could report outward from inside a black hole, assuming it could survive the event horizon.

Harry is able to resolve an image of the ship, which appears trapped in the event horizon. While Neelix gives the wrong definition of ‘singularity’ to Kes, B’Elanna has already figured out how to juice up Voyager‘s tractor beams  to overcome the problem, which means this is going to be that kind of show. Janeway goes over Chakotay’s head (where she belongs) and puts her Starfleet guy in charge, then drags Chakotay by the ear into her ready room to chew him out for providing a solution. The problem that most of the Maquis have never seen the inside of the Academy, much less graduated and have proven duty records, means that none of them get to do anything of note, which is obviously going to lead to a mutiny in 10… 9… 8…

"Yeah well you're also a douche so shut it and hand over the dirt."

“Yeah well you’re also a douche so shut it and hand over the dirt.”

Kes goes to Sick Bay to get some nitrogenated soil samples for the hydroponics bay, and the Doctor gets to go off on a rant about how he now has to be brought into existence  for every little bitty thing, when he’s the very embodiment of modern major-medicine, with information vegetable and animal, but not mineral because he’s a doctor not a geologist. Kes starts psychoanalyzing him, and then tells him he’s shrinking. He can’t get repaired right away, and we find out he doesn’t have a name, which is a little sad.

The tractor beam has been successfully modified, and it seems to work except that it’s not being powered properly. Also, Voyager is being pulled into the singularity suddenly for no adequately explained reason, because despite not being able to successfully tether two objects together it seems to be solid enough to pull Voyager in. The Starfleet engineer Carey goes into a maintenance tube to manually shut off the tractor beam, and once the crisis of the moment is averted they divert to a nearby civilization to borrow some help.

Janeway takes the time on the journey to follow Chakotay’s advice and evaluate Torres on a personal level to evaluate her readiness for the job. Even if she’s capable of the technical aspects of the job, there’s the managerial aspects of the job. Geordi was pretty good at that, Barclay notwithstanding. Torres had a rough time at the academy and is having a rough time being told she might have to now. She leaves in a huff, and Janeway next fields a call from the Doctor. The Doctor is now significantly squished, but more importantly the rest of the crew is complaining of various ailments, and also about how he should be in the loop when Voyager is near big scary space holes.

Even here, on their way to that other planet, they’re running into singularities – they’ve just found one identical to the first one. And with the usual caveat that I might be remembering the plot of the episode instead of guessing, I’d just like to point out that when you’re dealing with something that distorts spacetime you should always consider the possibility that you’re in a time loop. In fact, Voyager seems to be in a space loop instead – after traveling 1.4 light years, they’re back at the same anomaly. To her absolute credit, Janeway’s first response is a careful empirical test of which of her systems are broken and exactly how much so. Since all the systems seem to be working when carefully observed, a closed spatial loop is the only option, assuming that all the systems diagnostics check out properly.

The is the smarmy smirk of a man who's about to going to get written out of the show real quick.

The is the smarmy smirk of a man who’s about to going to get written out of the show real quick.

Okay, with all consideration due to graduating the academy and whatnot, it’s becoming abundantly clear that Lt. Carey absolutely deserved to get punched in the face. I don’t know if he’s worse at the managerial skills than Torres would be, but he’s definitely not much better, and Unnamed Bajoran Former Maquis #1 agrees.

The Doctor continues to shrink, and the crew continue to suffer from phantom ailments, and nobody knows what’s going on with the singularity because the ship doesn’t have a chief science officer. If they did, that crew member is dead. Well, B’Elanna seems to have an idea, but Lt. Carey told her to sit there and look pretty, and she managed to not punch him out this time. After ignoring him, Torres and Janeway seem to operate on the same wavelength, thus proving that B’Elanna is the best person to give ideas at staff meetings. Now that one mystery is about to be solved, it’s basically impossible not to be able to tell that the incoming transmission is in Janeway’s voice even before they start fixing the transmission. In fact, the transmission is the one that Janeway made to the ship in the singularity, which is actually kind of a nice touch.

Torres has an explanation, which is an overly simplified metaphor. Like looking at your reflection from inside a pond, or putting too much air into a balloon. In this case, Voyager is looking at the afterimage of itself caused by light that’s been delayed by the singularity, and totally ignoring the fact that the earlier Voyager saw an image of itself in the future. Paris picks up on the problem with this explanation, and Janeway pats him in the head and calls him cute. Now, I’m fine with calling this event a Novikov loop in which the effect of a future action precipitates the chain of events leading to its proximate cause, but that’s not the phenomenon Torres described.

Yes, this is Janeway and Torres excitedly screaming the same thing at each other. No, it's not any better in context.

Yes, this is Janeway and Torres excitedly screaming the same thing at each other. No, it’s not any better in context.

Anyway, Voyager is sinking deeper into the singularity, so obviously the solution is to perfectly backtrack their path and find how they got in by filling the spatial bubble (which you’ll remember has an interior radius of about .7 light-years, or half the distanced they traveled to get back to the Singularity) with ‘warp particles.’ They implement the plan, and the rupture is too small, so they have to widen it by projecting a dekyon beam… from a shuttle… piloted by Janeway… who in addition to being an expert in temporal mechanics and warp manifold engineering is also an ultra-skilled pilot. B’Elanna is going too.

The shuttles are able to emit Dekyon beams. I suppose they’ve got to have some form of deflector, since they seem capable of warp by this point. The fact that they also have sufficient versatility to reconfigure mid-flight is a little surprising, though. On the shuttle, Torres and Janeway have a chance to talk about career prospects, and we’re told that Torres had at least one supporter at the Academy. Then they bring the beam online.

Now here’s the thing. The breach was about 10 meters wide, which is way too small to fit an Intrepid-class ship through. The beam widens it by 35% (to 13.5 meters) but Paris says they’ll ‘have to widen it by twice that much’ before Voyager will fit. Being as generous as possible and assuming he means that they have to widen it by another 27 meters to fit Voyager through means that the ship is 40.5 meters in its slimmest dimension. Voyager was stated to be 15 decks which… actually is pretty close to right, assuming that Paris has a terrible method of conveying proportional increase and the decks are really short. Although on the shuttle, Janeway thinks that 65-70% should be enough, which would only be 17 meters, which would mean that each deck of Voyager would have to be about five feet tall rather than 8 or 9. Or nobody knows how percentages work, because at 120 meters wide Voyager has four meters of clearance total.

Keeping track of numbers on this show is going to be painful.

Problem: The shuttle’s comms are down and they’re seeing the light-echoes of another Voyager, and therefore don’t know where to land. They have to guess, and Janeway’s knowledge of temporal dynamics and ability to remember what happened twenty minutes ago comes in handy. Plus, B’Elanna has learned to let someone else be right.

"Bite the pillow, Mr. Paris. We're going in dry."

“Bite the pillow, Mr. Paris. We’re going in dry.”

As the rupture collapses, Janway chooses to make a speech about starship maneuvers and refusing to use lube rather than, say, order them to fire another dekyon beam as they approach the rupture. After all, what’s the worst that could happen? She shears off the wings of her ship a galaxy away from the nearest starbase? The whole ship rebounds as its torn apart by the very fabric of spacetime itself? They relive the destruction of Voyager over and over again for eternity?

So Voyager has escaped and Torres has been given command of the engine room. And she even makes overtures towards Lt. Carey, who’s not too bitter to be professional about the whole thing. Sadly, nobody has yet been able to fix the Doctor’s holo-emitters.

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