In which Voyager finds a wormhole, Janeway tries to brainwash a crewmember, and Torres is the worst flight attendant ever.
Most of the time, Voyager ought to be cruising at the maximum speed she can maintain. This may be somewhat less than theoretical cruising speed, as it won’t have regular access to Starfleet-level maintenance facilities. We already know there’s going to be a problem with baryon particle buildup in a few years, unless they can build handheld neutralizers and sweep the ship on foot. Regardless, whenever you see the ship against a static starfield, you know some stuff’s about to go down. Right now they’re all scanning for anomalies, because space has been full of them and it doesn’t hurt to hope. Harry Kim has found something in that vein – it’s emanating vertiron particles, which makes it look a lot like a wormhole.
Tuvok points out it probably doesn’t lead to the Alpha quadrant, Janeway mentions it might, and neither one of them seems to entertain the possibility that it could lead outside of the galaxy altogether. We’ve never seen a wormhole that does, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible. Maybe wormholes, when they’re forming, can’t escape the gravity well of the galaxy? Of course, if that’s the case, then given their position at the outer edge of the Delta quadrant, pretty much anywhere the wormhole leads has got to be an improvement, distance-wise. Voyager changes course to find it, it’s not like a couple of days’ detour is going to make much of a difference.
The wormhole is still there by the time they reach it, but it’s tiny. 30cm wide. This suddenly makes Paris look like a dick for suggesting they name it after Harry. However, they can still try to communicate through it if it leads where they want. They send a micro-probe, which is a thing they have, and the wormhole is weird enough that Janeway decides it must be ancient and decaying. Lots of weird stuff with this, wormhole, and their probe gets stuck, but then scanned by something at the other end.
The Doctor is teaching Kes to do non-emergency medicine, and she’s picking it up very quickly. Meanwhile, Lt. Moron reveals his anti-computer prejudice, since he’s asking the civilian, untrained, non-Federation student whether the purpose-built medical emergency robot knows how to doctor. The casual vitalism doesn’t really bother the Doctor as much as it bothers Kes. I guess he wasn’t programmed to be bothered.
Whatever’s on the other end of the wormhole is still interested in the probe, and will be for another 72 hours before the collapse of the wormhole crushes it, so the Voyager crew will try to use it as a comms relay. What’s really impressive is that the probe has long-range sensors worthy of the name, given it’s less than a foot wide. That’s some quality miniaturization tech. A society a little less humanist and a little more transhumanist would do stuff like loading copies of people’s transporter patterns into these and firing them off into the wide galaxy for exploration.
Kim and Torres chat about family while they modify the probe, but there’s no immediate response once they send their test signal. They leave it on until they get an acknowledgement, and they do appear to be speaking with the Alpha quadrant. Next steop – turning this basic TCP handshake into VoIP.
Kes goes to Janeway about the disrespect for the Doctor. Janeway has the other side – the Doctor is rude to people and has terrible bedside manner, and she was considering reprogramming him. Janway is in what you might call the Maddox–Pulaski camp. But she’s willing to consider the other side of the equation without a trial or lengthy holodeck mishap.
Janeway tries sending out their first voice message, and it takes a few passes before they establish passable data transmission. The captain at the other end doesn’t believe them and cuts off communication. Post-call analysis reveals that the other end of the call is Romulans doing secret research. They’re going to keep calling.
Janeway’s next task is to go down to Sick bay and talk to the Doctor about his change in role, and to facilitate his needs. His first ask is ‘people need to turn the lights off when they leave and not turn me off when I’m in the middle of stuff,’ which seems incredibly reasonable. This newfound reach for self-actualization is quickly dashed when Janway doesn’t ask whether she should turn him off before leaving.
Next development is Kim waking Janeway up in the middle of the night to report that the Romulans are back on the line. He’s still very suspicious and hostile, but the Romulans have always been insular. They even sent an agent to babysit the Defiant‘s cloak until she suddenly disappeared forever. Anyway, she asks the Romulan captain to deliver some messages for them, and welcomes them to read all the messages first. He asks to verify using the visual link he’s trying to develop, and then they’ll talk. Oh and incidentally Harry was on for the day shift and is now also on the night shift. What gives?
The atypical variances in the wirmhole are still causing problems, but the visual link is eventually established. His first comment is about the ship class she runs, and she makes tacit reference to how good the Romulan intelligence operation is. Which I think is the primary difference between the Obsidian Order and the Tal’Shiar – most of the Order’s operations seem to be inwardly-focused, whereas the Tal’Shiar has a bit better reputation for external ops. They each do both, of course, but the Romulans make a better showing of being run with input from the citizenry and need a slightly less domestic agenda. He’s willing to admit that he’s just been spaceborne for too long and no doubt central command has the specs.
His problem is that the Romulan government hasn’t yet made up its mind about whether to relay the messages, and he doesn’t have the kind of autonomy or job security to do it himself. Janeway tries a more personal tack, which absolutely hits home. He’s going to go to bat for them, so Janeway has everyone start recording messages, but Torres has a problem. Or even a solution.
Since they can now transmit data through the link, they’re super close to the level of data throughput it would take to send a transporter link through. Which is kind of terrifying, because either the amount of data they use to send visual signals is staggeringly high, or they have some sort of compression algorithm for the humanoid body. Janeway jumps on board with this.
Kes has already burned through all the advanced anatomy textbooks the Doctor gave her. Bear in mind it’s been about 24 hours. This is probably that legendary mental acuity of the ancient Ocampa before the Caretaker showed up and nearly wiped out her people before turning them into hamsters. Kes is really excited to study medicine when the crew beam back, which means they’d be leaving the doctor behind. His program is too integrated with the ship.
The Romulan is surprised to hear that Voyager has the capability, as it’s not only well beyond their estimates of Federation technology but also well beyond their forays into experimental subspace field mechanics. They send over a test cylinder, which we’ve seen before and which apparnetly simulate the complexity of biological and technological systems that you don’t want to get wrong. After some dicey moments, it shows up at the other end. He won’t let them beam to his ship, but if they can transport a person successfully he’ll arrange a troop transport ship for them.
His beam-in is successful, and Torres immediately regales him with a ‘wow we though you were doing to disappear in the matter stream and die,’ Nobody on this ship has any kind of bedside manner, but now that they’ve got the Romulan on board, Tuvok has finally figured out what the variance is. The Romulan is from 20 years ago, which explains a lot of little asides, and also puts him at a point in time slightly after the Romulans tried to incite a war between the Klingons and the Federation.
Obviously they can’t risk disrupting the timeline, but their captain offers to send a message to Starfleet to not launch the mission. He won’t risk the timeline of the Romulan empire, but he’s fine with causing a paradox as long as its epicenter is the Federation. That won’t work either, because of paradox. But he is willing to hold on to a time capsule from them and send them in 20 years Romulan subjective. It’s not ideal, but it’ll do. Sadly, Tuvok found the Romulan’s obituary in the database and it’s from four years ago, Voyager-subjective, so the messages probably never got sent. Unless he did any of the sensible things like leaving a will or scheduling the data for automatic release.
Lt. Moron is back in sick bay, but the Doctor’s new directive to think of himself as a member of the crew convinces him to give the guy an attitude adjustment. He’s going to work on equipping Sick Bay a little more fully, and he wants a name.