In which I would pursue a vendetta against this writer if IMDB hadn’t assured me that this is the last episode he wrote, and with good reason.
We’re planetside, because Tuvok has crashed a shuttle and paralyzed the ensign he was using as a meatshield. It’s okay, though. He won’t live long enough to regret it. Tuvok puts up a stasis field around the poor kid’s corpse because apparently Vulcans have learned of the importance humans attach to corpses. Then he spots a little girl watching him and accosts her. After some brief struggles, he establishes a rapport with Tressa, whose ship also crashed and whose parents are dead. There are a few other children also on this moon but no one else, so Tuvok, being a Morally Forthright Person (TM) offers to see that they get home safely.
Voyager is looking at mineral deposits on the moons around Drayan II. The Drayans are a private people, and Janeway has some wisdom to share about first contact situations. She and Chakotay have always looked forward to first-contact situations – some more successfully than others. The Drayans wear veils and have been drawn out by the stories of Voyager crossing the galaxy, and they’re definitely the same species as the kids on that moon. That’ll make finding their home a bit easier, at least. Janeway’s tour of Voyager starts the warp engines, and the Drayan ambassador asks whether, if this is the thing they’re most proud of, the Federation worships technology as their highest achievement. Janeway’s response is that their really cool tech is just a means for them to go out and meet new people and learn new things. The Drayans have been burned by an obsession with tech, and they’ve stayed stagnant and isolated since then.
Tuvok is trying to take care of the kids, and will have to fix the shuttle and also figure out a way to get through the turbulence that took him down. And he’s also got to find a way to reconcile his personal babysitting style with a bunch of lost seven-year-olds. They’re also terrified of what might be a local predator or might be a boogeyman called the Morock. It’s invisible until it’s about to attack, and then it’s too late. But it took some other children, and they fear it will be back tonight. Good thing there’s a strong metal box built to survive some quantity of directed-energy attacks right there that they can hide in.
Next on the tour is Sick Bay, because Janeway has forgotten that the Doctor was not programmed with bedside manner or tact. That’s fine, though, because Janeway is still stuck in ‘hey look how cool our tech is’ despite having been told point-blank that that’s something the Drayans are wary of. The ambassador gets a call and abruptly has to go, and wishes Voyager ‘safe journey and go away.’ Thus, Voyager will go and find the rare mineral they’re looking for somewhere else.
Tuvok couldn’t be annoyed with the kids, because that would be an emotional reaction, which is beneath him. He will, however, try to teach the kids some Vulcan mental disciplines so that they’ll stop whining cease verbally distracting him from accomplishing critical-path survival tasks. The basics are some visualization exercises, which he thinks is going to stop the kids from playing with all the equipment. This is because he’s only ever raised Vulcan kids, on Vulcan, surrounded by Vulcans. No wonder he’s never had any success with Neelix.
So one of the kids does wind up asking an interesting question – if Vulcans hold themselves apart from emotion, does Tuvok love his children. His answer, which I think goes a long way to underscoring the Vulcan self-delusion of Total Emotional Control is that the way he thinks of his children is not with emotional tint, but as part of his identity. Given the failure of human poets to adequately describe familial love thusfar, this seems as good a description as any. The meditation is interrupted by a ship passing overhead, but it’s not Voyager, it’s a Drayan ship. The children are terrified, because they children believe they were sent here to die.
So this might be some kind of Andromeda situation, where the kids are being sacrificed to the Morok. Either way, Tuvok agrees and they hide from the search party, which has neither scannes that can pierce a tricorder interference pattern or the ability to look behind a bush. See, this is what happens when you fail to properly fetishize technology. Children are brought to this moon to be fed to the Morlock so that their energy can be freed or whatever. Tuvok doesn’t really believe in the Vulcan idea of a Katra either, now that the kids come to ask.
Voyager is now expecting Tuvok’s shuttle to have reported in, and their failure to do so is getting them ready to go searching. They’ve met up with the other Drayan ship, which the ambassador is on and is really pissed about Voyager being neir their sacred moon. Would’ve been nice if anyone had told them. Behold the price of isolationism. And of course the transporters can’t lock on to Tuvok’s signal. Torres suggests… surprise! Sending down another shuttle. Apart from being a diplomatic impossibility, I think this is just another datapoint that proves that if you can’t use transporters, the shuttles will always crash anyway.
So now it’s nighttime at Tanagra… I mean, on Drayan IIcm and the Morok is probably coming to eat the kids. Tuvok’s scans show no life signs, and since he can also go for a few days without sleep, this is his best chance to get some actual repair work done, while the kids are asleep. Theoretically. Once he tells them some classic Vulcan bedtime stories. Or sing them classic Vulcan bedtime eddas. Come morning, two of the kids are gone, leaving only Tressa.
Torres has found signs of both shuttles, and Kim has located two lifesigns where there used to be four. Leaning closer and closer to those kids being dead. At this point, Tuvok is going to explore the cave, locking Tressa inside the shuttle like he didn’t do with the other kids overnight. Inside the cave, he finds the abandoned clothing of one of the children, like they were just Raptured out of it. Tuvok returns to the shuttle with another piece of the puzzle.
The Drayans have sent shuttles down to search, Tuvok also gets a hold of a break in the turbulence cover, enough to convey just a bit of information and give Janeway some leverage in conversing with the Drayan ambassador and force the issue. Harry has figured out what’s protecting the Drayan ships from the storm, and they might barely be able to manage it while leaving enough room for drama. Janeway and Paris rush through pre-flight and are immediately intercepted by a Drayan shuttle.
I’d like to point out at this time that Tuvok’s crashed shuttle and Janeway’s are completely different models. Tuvok crashed one of the boxy TNG-era craft, while Paris and Janeway are piloting a much sleeker, longer, and more aerodynamic-looking model. Presumably, these craft are designed for different specialized duty, or else Voyager should not have the two different kinds on board (because that would needlessly increase maintenance overhead).
Tuvok is ready to lift off, and he has also figured out the special field that will protect his shuttle from the turbulence. If it wasn’t for the fact that his thrusters aren’t working, Janeways mission would be basically pointless. And in fact, Tuvok is able to lift off by showering the passenger cabin with sparks.
Oh hey it’s the ambassador calling adain – she tries to convince Tressa to go back to the surface, then threatens to blow the shuttle out of the sky rather than let Tressa go with the Federation. Makes it really hard to argue the ‘childs best interest’ case. Tuvok has to land, but Janeway is on the way ready to rescue them. The Drayans get there first, though, so maybe we’ll finally get the skinny on just what the heck is going on.
I just have to again express my deep frustration with the writing here. Yes, Drayan Ambassador, neither Janeway nor Tuvok understand ‘the harm they’re doing’ because all of you refuse to tell them, or have any contact with outsiders so that there’s any knowledge of your taboos, or even tell your own children what’s going on. I’m starting to suspect this is some sort of puberty metamorphosis ritual, but there’s really nothing hinting at that aside from some basic pattern recognition. Or wait, no. Apparently Tressa is 96 years old and nearing the end of her life, because this is the planet of people with Benjamin Button Disease. These people age into children, get corresponding dementia, then transsubstantiate because heck why not. Oh, and these people all ahve a salmon-spawning instinct to go into the cave. Of the moon. The moon that’s not their main planet. Next time I hear anyone rag on JJ Abrams for writing mysteries just for the sake of writing mysteries and pointing at them and going ‘oooh look at this mystery’ but it winds up being stupid, and therefore he wasn’t a ‘real’ Star Trek writer, I’ll point them at this episode. You can be a ‘real’ Star Trek writer while also being super dumb and annoying.
Some of Tuvok’s character work was good, though.