In which Voyager is ironically its most watchable when Neelix has a television show. Must be the Stockholm Syndrome talking.
Neelix has a cooking show now. The ship has entered hell. This is his ‘morale officer update,’ but it also implies that Talaxians do television. Most briefings in the Federation are conducted via memorandum or in person, and it appears that interactive entertainment has largely replaced television – whether in the form of playing music along with the computer, or of course holodeck programs. And right away, Neelix starts padding out the time format with garbage, gossip, and juggling. Neelix is also pitching a health segment to the Doctor, and asking why Harry doesn’t like the show. harry hates it because there’s no content, just fluff pieces. This is because Harry wrote a political editorial for the Academy newspaper once.
Neelix also has an incoming call from an old friend of his, an ex-smuggler and current comms officer of a Talaxian convoy that Voyager is going to be meeting. They’re going to be picking up someone who wants to leave the ship, which is news to Neelix. The obvious choices would be between Jonas (who may have decided it’s time to get out) and Paris, who was recently relieved of duty and arrested for striking a superior officer. So Neelix takes this information immediately to Janeway. Yup, it’s Paris. Tom asked to leave the ship, and Janeway acceded, eventually.
Neelix is going to Solve the Problem, and goes to check in on Paris as he’s packing up. This is because Neelix thinks it’s at least partially his fault, but Tom is ever so willing to relieve the guilt. After all this, Neelix is brought back down by the Doctor. Thus, he must push the Doctor’s segment down the list in what promises to be a running joke this episode. Instead, he gives a stirring defense of Paris that’s keeping everyone from making sure the warp core doesn’t blow up or whatever. And just like that, Tom Paris is no longer part of the crew.
Harry continues on with getting the dumbest lines in the show. Lines like “hey, how about not appointing a new helmsman to cover Tom’s shifts. I’m sure we won’t run into any problems without a pilot.” Torres is called out of this briefing by Jonas, reporting a problem with the engine that he almost certainly caused. Also fun to note that the warp engine can run in the realm of three million degrees Kelvin. They have to vent plasma, which is going to blow out the warp coils. Jonas also gets caught in an exploding console, which really sells the performance. And now they have to rely on Neelix’s local knowledge to acquire the materials to rebuild the warp nacelles. Sadly, they also have to deal with some new bad news – Paris was kidnapped off the Talaxian convoy by Kazons.
Seska is now a month away from carrying her child to term, which begs an important question – Just how long is the gestation period for babies of the species Samantha Wildman is married to, anyway? Just before Seska got pregnant (or at least, pregnant enough to feel confident in lying to Chakotay about stealing his swimmers) we were told that Voyager had been in the Delta Quadrant for ten months. Samantha wildman got knocked up by her husband back aboard Deep Space Nine, or prior. It’s been at least 14 months since that happened. That poor woman.
Oh anyway, Seska is trying to recruit Tom. The Carrot is letting him be a pilot, and the stick is the Kazon unimaginatively torturing him. Tom may believe he’s not Starfleet, but he’s Starfleet enough not to want to betray Voyager, or his friends, and to start working on an escape. Voyager, on the other hand, has washed their hands of him, except for Neelix, who’s still focused on how the Kazon could have known to grab Tom so quickly. The keen mind of an investigative journalist is born. He starts checking into the subspace Comm logs, with Torres’ help, and with Jonas eavesdropping. He also asks Jonas for advice on how to conceal subspace transmissions. Because this kind of thing always happens.
Jonas does give us some insight into how access to the subspace antenna is controlled. Occasionally, Neelix shows a surprising degree of competence giving his relative unfamiliarity with Federation technology. I mean, he was an officer in the Talaxian navy, but I’d honestly expect him to twig to Jonas being shifty more than being tipped off by the tech. He’s saved from getting his neck welded open in the worst-concealed attempted murder in history by the Doctor complaining about not getting a segment again.
Tuvok confirms Jonas’ story about the plasma overload, almost as if the nature of the accident was chosen specifically because it leaves this sort of fragmentation… except this time it didn’t. And for a head of security, Tuvok is the most trusting person in history. Much as I hate to admit it, he might be giving Neelix a bit short shrift here. He grudgingly takes the case. And makes a big deal about how grudging it is. Neelix goes behind his back anyway to try to undelete the messages. They were sent by modulating the ship’s waste energy, and they manage to isolate the source to one particular ship section.
Neelix’s snooping takes him to Tom Paris’ quarters, where he hacks into Paris’ computer by the simple expedient of repeating a security clearance password repeated to him earlier, because apparently that’s all it takes. No voiceprint crossmatched with authorized users, for example. He has found the transmissions on Paris’ computer, though, and this goes immediately to broadcast.
But because Tuvok had already run an investigation and found none of the clues that Neelix eventually followed, either Tuvok is really bad at his job or someone planted evidence to point at Tom, since he’s a safe target who can no longer be, say, mind-melted to prove his innocence. Or no wait. The entire episode has been a ruse (idiot!). Weeks ago, they discovered evidence of a spy, so Tom agreed to go undercover. He was the perfect plausible defector – his morale problems would be the most believable. And they left Chakotay out of it for the performance. They’re going to use Neelix to keep flushing out the traitor, and keep him on open comms so they can save him from anything less immediately fatal than, again, getting his neck cut open with a laser welder.
Tom, meanwhile, has finally broken into the transmission from the Kazon side, and caught Seska giving orders to Jonas to complete the taking of Voyager. The Kazon come in because Tom was under surveilance, but of course he escapes in a running battle and dramatic hallway fight in which he has to shoot and possibly kill someone.
Jonas is not looking forward to more of Neelix’s investigations, and luckily is given a pretext to send the other watchstander away. At that very moment, Janeway orders more power to the transporters to try to rescue Tom from his escape shuttle. He delivers the news about the Kazon ambush, and then Jonas starts acting so suspiciously even Neelix notices. Something about not fixing the transporters and then isolating Engineering in a forcefield. Janeway has to order Tuvok to Engineering when Tom delivers that particular tidbit because apparently nobody was monitoring Neelix’ comm for that little conversation.
With a force field up, it’s just Neelix and Jonas – there’s no way Tuvok will get around it in time to save Tom, because of Dramatic Tension. Thus, it’s up to Neelix to John McClane Up. In fact, they do manage to beam Paris aboard shortly before his shuttle explodes. They try to beam Jonas out and into custody, but they only get his commbadge because apparently internal sensors aren’t a thing.
Oh, also the console must have a sensor for not activating any buttons when bodies are tossed all over them. Neelix trows Jonas into a convenient warp plasma leak. The next day’s Briefing with Neelix is an interview with Paris, explaining his story and apologizing for his behavior. And bumping the Doctor once again.