In which Janeway forgets what warp drive looks like, is seduced by the manbun, and is betrayed for her own good.
Usually, when we open with a shot of Voyager with its nacelles flattened and not at warp, it’s because they’ve found something. What is it today, I wonder? Instead of finding out, we see a nameless blueshirt getting his meal. At least they’ve started showing up outside of Medical at all. Also, I think Torres has a crush on this Ensign Murphey, who was going out with one of the Delaney sisters, because it’s a small ship. Happily, Harry’s romantic misadventures provide inter-factional bonding. Next up, the emergency!
The ship has received a distress call, which effectively puts to rest my hopes that anyone would bother explaining why Voyager wasn’t at warp. Either way, the approaching vessel alters course, so Janeway orders them to slow to impulse, clearly unaware that the stars weren’t streaking. The incoming ship’s captain is very calm, and seems a little smug about his ability to help Voyager out. His culture seems to do distress calls differently.
Gathhorel, as he is called, welcomes Voyager to his system and intends to make them an offer they can’t refuse. Neelix recognizes the planet of origin, and it seems “Gath’s” people have a reputation for hospitality. And Gath’s people know about Voyager, and he’s offering them some vacation time. Indeed, his people do seem to be all about hospitality and aesthetic achievement – even their weather control devices are musical. All we can do is wait for the other shoe to drop. Possibly at the celebration.
Harry has hit it off with a local, who wants all of his stories, so she teleports him to the Woods of Alastria so he can tell her the stories. Into a forest with aphrodesiac sunrises, on a different planet in a different system. Interplanetary teleportation on the scale of about 2.5 billion local AU – or approximately 39,500 light-years. assiming the Sikari homeworld and its star are comparable to the Earth-Sol system. Which they are. This is so exciting Harry can’t swallow his scientific inquiry for a night. Even Janeway was about to get it on when he clamjams her.
Unfortunately, this planet Alastria is as far as they can go, but in theory there’s no reason they couldn’t send Voyager as there’s no mass limitation. Gath is apologietic, but the Sikarans don’t share their technology with less advanced civilizations. Sucks to be on the receiving end of the Prime Directive, right? Back aboard Voyager, the options are being discussed. Here, Janeway broods (and Paris agrees) that the Prime Directive must seem like a cruel joke to the aliens on the other end. Tuvok mentions that maybe “no” doesn’t necessarily mean “no” when it comes to these aliens. The desperation here is creepy, but Harry hits on a trade good Voyager could offer: stories.
Of course, everyone is also overlooking the possibility of just seeing if these Sikarans have an industrial tesseract machine that they could modify to move Voyager without actually giving them the technology. At least Janeway has the wherewithal to stop Torres from trying to reverse-engineer the platform and alienate the locals before negotiations can continue. Torres is not at all happy about this.
Janeway and Gath attempt to seduce each other over coffee and pecan pie. The offer of the Federation Lending Library is interesting enough for him to take the deal to his peers, at least. Score half a point for diplomacy. However, back in engineering, Seska is spacing out and Torres is sympathetic enough to start scanning for traces of the tech. I’d consider that fair game, though. If you use a technology and someone else can reverse engineer it just from the residual traces it leaves in the fabric of space, they deserve to have it. Oh hey, the derpy Starfleet engineer Torres replaced is on board with them.
Harry’s girlfriend is taking him to a clandestine meeting, but sadly not the one Harry desperately needs. Instead, it appears to be a black market deal for the stories with someone who may not represent the interests of the planet at large and this is either a Secret Test of Character or a horribly mismanaged allegory. Harry adjourns to Voyager to discuss it in hushed tones in the mess hall. It’s Tom Paris that makes the suggestion to keep everything above-board. Federation rehabilitation techniques really work! Torres and Seska are still very displeased, and Seska suggests mutiny. Which is to say she points out that Janeway had previously told everyone that it was their job to get people home safe and buying this tech on the black market will do it.
Tuvok appears to be somthing of Janeway’s official council and walks her through… well… nothing of consequence really. Two minutes later his advice is forgettable and forgotten. It’s basically “hey, be honest and forthright.” But sadly Gath takes offense at even the most innocuous of dialogue trees, and tells Janeway and her crew to go screw. However, Janeway still disapproves of the under-the-table offer despite having burned that bridge.
Seska and Engineer Forgettable convince Torres to help them get the new star drive on the down-low, but Tuvok was expecting this. He’s not mad, just disappointed. Or possibly neither, because he’s a Vulcan and would never admit to either. But as it turns out Tuvok was going to make the exchange anyway and noticed the last-downloaded date was recent. I like this side of Tuvok, it’s a little edgy and more of what you would expect from someone who can pass as a covert operative in the Maquis for years.
He’s back with the device, and warns B’Elanna not to activate it until he talks to the captain. Seska’s extremely eager to get started and tries a simulation, during which they figure out that the Sikaran tesseract device uses the planet’s mantle to power it. So they can’t use it once they leave orbit, so instead of waiting for Tuvok to talk to Janeway about circling back, they just panic and hit the button. And of course it breaks catastrophically so Torres has to unplug the device. With a phaser.
In the aftermath, Torres takes full responsibility, as does Tuvok. Coming from him, the under-the-table deal has to hurt Janeway more as a blow to her judgement. She puts Torres on working probation and then just completely loses it with Tuvok. Where his explanation is “I did it to protect you, m’lady.” He acted under the radar to preserve the plausible deniability and ethical unimpeachability of the captain, and in so doing informs us that the Federation has those within it who believe that ideals are nice, but you occasionally need a discreet agent with a dagger and some poisons to keep them intact. Janeway is flattered and tells him to never do it again, and Voyager sails off again, still at frikkin’ impulse power.