VOY: S1E12: “Cathexis”

In which Janeway reads a book and it gets a little too real. 

Cathexis: Noun: Merriam-Webster’s defines Cathexis as the investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea. Google’s online lookup adds that there is an implication of unhealthy fixation. Given Voyager’s premise of a crew fixated on homewardness, what could possibly make this episode stand out? Voyager is just cruising along at sublight again, and rather than being around a planet or anomaly that requires attention, things are so uneventful that Janeway is just using the holodeck. She’s started a new novel about Ancient England. Back when they used brass chandeliers. You know – ancient.

"I can tell you're going to be a problem."

“I can tell you’re going to be a problem.”

On the other hand, I think that this is finally a ‘new’ novel. Sure, it’s Victorian lit-fic, but at least it’s new Victorian lit-fic. There have been some authors since the Eugenics Wars, apparently. For now, Janeway is indulging a little power surrender fantasy roleplaying. The problem with starting an episode this way, of course, is that there’s nothing at stake yet, so until the holodeck breaks I’m just sitting here waiting for it to do so. In the meantime, we just have to suffer through Lord Burleigh’s pity party. Oh also the Fourth Floor is off limits.

Good news – Chakotay and Tuvok’s shuttle has been damaged and they’re not responding to hails. Both of them are out with energy blasts to the head, and Chakotay’s brain has been ‘drained of energy’ which isn’t how brains work but whatever. Chakotay is braindead, and let’s all let the obvious joke sail silently past. Tuvok is fine, though. Apparently, 70,000 light-years from home, Vulcans are still protected against things that would kill a human. The two of them had finished a trading mission, encountered a dark matter nebula when a ship came out, attacked them with no word, and flew away after having drained Chakotay’s brain-juice. The Doctor wants to examine the weapon, so Voyager’s going to go hunt for Chakotay’s soul, since there’s no shuttlecraft logs.

The nebula is swamping the local region with EM noise that will take Science Genius Janeway at least three minutes to compensate for. But while she’s doing that, the nebula disappears, the ship’s come about, and Paris swears he didn’t do it. Sounds eerily familiar to me. Only this time nobody’s actually experienced a discontinuity.

"No, this is all wrong. You're sending his soul to the Antelope Women."

“No, this is all wrong. You’re sending his soul to the Antelope Women.”

Torres is doing a tribal ritual Chakotay once showed her. One might expect The Doctor to go onto a rant about superstition, but apparently at least one of the doctors he was programmed with was familiar with tribal medicine and they weren’t low on disk space.

Also, Kes, who is this show’s psychic barometer, senses a Presence and goes to tell Neelix about it. He’s immediately jealous. And this time, when Voyager changes course, it also locks out the helm. The lockout came from Navigation Control, where Torres says Paris just was and he swears he wasn’t. Janeway follows a ‘trust but verify’ model. The Doctor finds no problem, and Tuvok has found traces of Paris-residue on the console in question, so now we’ve got a problem.

Another problem, in fact, as the warp core shuts down, and Torres has no idea how, or even that it happened. Once again, anyone who’d bothered to read over old mission logs would know immediately. Creepy Victorian Gothic Romance plots equals ghosts that posses people. Duh. The Doctor has also found evidence of that possession – covering Paris’ memory when the course changes happened and Torres for the Warp Core shutdown. The good news is that the Doctor appears immune, which means Janeway has to give him command overrides if he believes any of the senior staff are compromised. Somehow, Kes has already heard, too. News travels fast on a small ship, and so she and Tuvok will train her telepathic abilities up a little. Or they’ll get knocked out in a turbolift. Six of one, half a dozen of the other. Oh, and it gave her a hickey and put her in a coma.

Tuvok has now been at ground zero for two comatizations, but nobody’s particularly suspicious. What they are suspicious of is Harry zoning out during a meeting. Neelix is informing on his customers. Everyone is catching McCarthy Fever. Interestingly, Kes’ injuries aren’t the Brain Drain Chakotay experienced, but rather wounds sustained during a physical struggle, almost like she was caught in an elevator with someone who has a strength advantage and touch-telepathic attacks. At least Tuvok figures it out, but I don’t have high hopes for the Doctor if he can’t figure out what an overpowered nerve pinch looks like.

"All I wanted was to be in a creepy poorly-lit-house with ill-defined power dynamics and a possible haunting. Instead I have to be on a creepy poorly-lit spaceship with ill-defined power dynamics and a possible haunting."

“All I wanted was to be in a creepy poorly-lit-house with ill-defined power dynamics and a possible haunting. Instead I have to be on a creepy poorly-lit spaceship with ill-defined power dynamics and a possible haunting.”

Ooor maybe he did and the alien had Tuvok disable the Doctor. The alien doing all this is not only pretty tactically savvy, but also has a keen sense of irony, forcing Janeway to split up the command codes into two groups so that if the alien takes over someone it can’t get the whole ship. This at least forces it to act openly, but this then forces Tuvok to stun the whole bridge. Well, the ship’s gone now, again unless Tuvok somehow gained immunity between beating up Kes and now.

Okay, here’s a fun tidbit. With six layers of encryption locking out the Doctor’s program, it will take Harry Kim an estimated 3 hours to burn through them all. Meaning he can burn through a layer of presumably fairly advanced encryption in about half an hour – or that he has access to sufficient metadata as to be able to come up with a decryption method to smash them all at once. Either way, it seems like in the Star Trek universe, somehow decryption is about a dozen orders of magnitude better than it is in this one.

Torres has been working on the shuttle logs and found something disturbing – there was no other ship that attacked Chakoray and Tuvok. Tuvok told a little fib about what happened, probably while under the influence of possession. Voyager having finally arrived at the nebula, Janeway asks Tuvok to trace the fictional ship. At this point, Paris comes up with the findings about the Neck Pinch assault on Kes, and I can’t tell if Janeway is pissed that she has to melodramatically confront Tuvok to maintain her cover or if she thinks this is a good time to spring whatever trap she’s got up her sleeves.

I really have no idea what the agenda here is. Tuvok is now trying to make sure they go into the nebula, going so far as to try to take command of Harry Kim away from Janeway (he fails). Signs point to him being the Presence and he’s probably got some sort of weird Vulcan telepathic allergy, so what’s his fixation… his cathexis, if you will, actually about? I’m sure we’ll find out. Either way, he claims to ahve set his phaser to kill everyone in a wide beam now, which seems like a really useful feature the next time they’re in a firefight.

Okay, so the now Tuvok, as ‘the alien’, calles his people the Komar, but at the same time something makes Torres eject the warp core. Which is going to greatly decrease their chances of getting home. I guess the show’s over, then?

Oh hey, cool. Torres used Chakotay’s command codes, because his ‘spirit’ found its way back onto Voyager but not to Sick Bay. Everywhere but, by the looks of it. Chakotay has been trying to prevent the ship from going into the nebula, where they will all be in danger of having their brains eaten. That stunning scan they set up winds up being useful after all, and identifies the aliens as being ‘trionic.’ I’d like to point out that the USS Hera used experimental trionic power, while the Devidians, a ‘triolic‘ life form, sucked people’s ‘life energy’ out. I would like to think these concepts are related intentionally.

Either way, Voyager now has to make her escape, and Neelix has just been taken over by… I can’t keep track at this point. Probably Chakotay, since it rearranged the Medicine Wheel stones. But I really hope it was one of the aliens just totally buying into Chakotay’s tribal beliefs. “That meddling prey animal. This’ll show him. I’m going to send him to the valley of the Lobster People.”

I can't. Just... no.

I can’t. Just… no.

Ehh, naw, he just made the stones into a map. Even though some stones don’t correlate with local objects and some local objects don’t correlate with stones, it’s apparently sufficient. This is another in a growing litany of times I want to box the VFX department about the ears. I’d also like it for Janeway to figure out that it’s a map but completely misread the clue, but somehow Chakotay’s disembodied soul has better sensors than a deep-space exploration vessel. They go pick up their warp core, and the Doctor stuffs Chakotay’s soul back into his body. ‘How’ I hear you ask. ‘Bite me’ is basically the answer. I don’t mind the whole ‘we loaded his mind from the computer into his brain by computer. After all, that’s still a thing. I just want to know how they distilled him out of the air in the first place.

Did we miss something awesome?