In which Torres and Paris participate in a mutiny, and traitors just won’t stay dead.
Torres is wandering around an empty ship when all of a sudden everyone comes out of the woodwork. That wasn’t creepily-coordinated at all. Chakotay comes out of nowhere to walk with her to the bridge, and seems to be a lot more worked up about Tuvok than he has been for the last… two and a half years. He’s doing the noncommittal-statements-hinting-at-mutiny thing, in fact. Apparently, they have all of the Maquis and 25 of the Starfleet crew lined up.
During some routine watch, where Voyageris once again sitting in the middle of space doing nothing, Janeway hands the bridge off to Chakotay, who can’t keep from doing that thing where you subtly gloat using double entendre before you actually pull off your masterstroke. Tom is about to pilot Janeway to a meeting with some aliens, and Chakotay suggests she take Tuvok along, the better to abandon them both. But something’s weird here – Tuvok insists on staying because Chakotay is still new to first-officering.
In fact, it takes about two seconds after Janeway’s shuttle goes to warp before they trigger the mutiny. The Maquis have been efficient, locking all the off-duty personnel in their quarters, and in the heat of the moment Torres shoots Harry before he can shoot Chakotay. All the weapons are on stun, of course, but it was still a rough decision. And when Chakotay and Torres get pinned down in the hallway, who shows up to rescue them but Seska herself. Torres finds this quite odd.
They go to clear out a burgeoning command center of Janeway loyalists in the mess hall, but when it becomes clear thatthe Maquis are in power, Neelix immediately switches over. So this could maybe be a time distortion, or a simulation, but I’m pretty sure the Neelix we’ve all come to know and… be aware of… wouldn’t switch over like that unless it was a ploy – he’s a big fan of Janeway. Seska also suspects he’s not on the level.
Seska and Torres are now going through the ship escorting people into holding in a cargo bay. Again, in case Seska didn’t tip you off, this is definitely not part of primary continuity, because Kes is back in her pixie cut and complete lack of self-assurance. And since Seska is off-handedly referring to Torres as ‘starfleet people’ to Chakotay, seems like this might be a badly-written holonovel.
Chakotay’s speech is all about getting the ship home as quickly as possible, Starfleet rules and exploration be damned. He offers everyone a choice on whether to join or be put off the ship at the next habitable planet, and then Tom strolls in and asks what’s going on. Holo-program it is. Torres missed lunchtime when she found this program hidden in the database, written by nobody-knows. The author wanted to remain anonymous. Tom suggests they report the program to Janeway… after they find out how it ends. Which means, basically, that most of this episode doesn’t matter at all, at least until the safeties turn off.
Torres resets the program for Tom, and he plays into it 100%. Chakotay’s lines are more or less repeated verbatim, up to a point. On reflection, a lot of his lines are fairly open-ended, telling us a bit about holo-novel authoring. Or, at least, on amateur authoring. In this play-through, however, Paris is double-agenting. His warning doesn’t save Tuvok, but presumably he didn’t lock down the crew quarters, and now has to work with Tuvok to resist the mutiny. In this story branch, however, the player is subjected to over an hour of waiting in the brig. Tom was supposed to be on duty by now, going by previous dialogue. In this branch, Tuvok dictates that they wait for their opportunity, and it’s about now that Chakotay pulls the player and most of the unnamed NPCs to the cargo bay for his speech. Now Tom agrees, loudly and proudly, to join his rebellion again.
Now, here’s where we find out how adaptable this program is. Tom’s already shown that his character will betray the mutineers, so it seems like that should be a tally running in the background that affects how they react to him from here on in. Other concerns: I wonder if the character matrix is programmed to react to, or ignore, incongruous facial expressions on the players, like a shit-eating grin if you’re clearly just trolling the storyline.
In fact they are, and in the endgame of Tom’s game Chakotay had him performing menial and dangerous tasks for the rest of the game. Turns out, Neelix has also played, as well as the Doctor, Harry, pretty much the entire rest of the ship. In Tom’s next run, he goes full-on mutineer, and after a few days and everyone switching back to maquis leathers, they meet up with Janeway, who admits to a saboteur on board and forces Chakotay to destroy the shuttle so that she and NPC Paris can beam over during the shield irising. Chakotay and Janeway take each other out, and when Paris comes face-to-face with his holographic counterpart, the program ends because the author didn’t write any further content. Paris is very disappointed.
It may be worth remembering, at this point, that the simulation provided for at least an hour of idle time if the player betrayed the mutiny. As a writer I might allow for ten or so minutes, but an hour? This may not be for entertainment purposes. That, combined with how the Maquis and Tuvok are portrayed, may provide some clues as to the provenance of this program. Torres goes for a more brute-force approach, trying to decrypt the protections on the program itself. The fact that she can’t bypass them is another big hint.
During a daily staff briefing, it turns out the novel has made its way up the chain to Janeway. She and Chakotay are more amused than anything else, and Tuvok finally admits to being the author. Everyone’s really complimentary, but it turns out the program was written as a tactical training simulation, to train junior security officers on how to handle the possibility of rebellion. Once everyone started to work together, he decided that it was unnecessary and potentially inflamatory, so he (almost) deleted it.
Tuvok still wants to delete it, but Janeway decides that this novel could be important for morale, and probably harmless. There probably was a period where it might have stirred things up, but at this point the crews have been through enough together and normalized Janeway always refusing to make sensical decisions that if they haven’t revolted already, they’re not going to. So Tom volunteers to help finish the novel. Tuvok reluctantly offers Tom his notes, but Tom has a whole lot more interest in sensationalist plot twists. It’s rapidly turning into a too-many-cooks situation, with Torres suggesting a romantic subplot, Neelix suggesting that his character is unrealistic, and a heated (for a Vulcan) argument about authorship controls. Oh, and the Doctor weighs in.
Tuvok re-opens the program in Edit mode, but when he does there’s a malfunction. The transporters fail out and the holodeck scrambles. Dollars to donuts Seska found the program and booby-trapped it, because why waste having the acress back? In fact, I’m super right – Tuvok and Paris appear in the brig, and Seska’s character is gloating at Tuvok, as she wasn’t expecting anyone else to have Edit rights. Her hol0-program is fairly responsive to him, and explains the new rules of the game – the holodeck is sealed, the safeties are off, and she’s going to torture Tuvok with a more ‘realistic’ scenario.
Holo-Janeway pulls Tom and Tuvok into the transporter, but gets killed by phaser backfire/sabotage, and Seska wrote in a little romantic subplot of her own with Chakotay. Tom gets shot a little, and when they go to sickbay to treat him, the Doctor injects Tom with 20cc of nitric acid and then beats the crap out of Tuvok and throws them both out. With the whole crew set against them in an increasingly horrible series of torments, we cut back to the ship proper, where Harry and Torres find Seska’s alterations and try to figure out a way around it. Janeway’s idea is that since the program is open in Edit mode, they may be able to rewrite it from the outside.
It’s working already: when Tom and Tuvok are trapped by a plasma fire, a fire extinguisher appears for their use. The question is – to what extent can they help? They can watch from the outside and add minor items, but Seska’s program is fighting back somehow as well.
Seska brings Tuvok and Paris to the cargo bay to execute them, but Chakotay gets rewritten to be a little more in line with his original programming as a magnanimous and principled mutineer, so Seska kills him. Now to save the players, external Janeway writes in an attack on the ship from the Macguffin Aliens, on the premise of Holo-Tom and Holo-Janeway recruiting some help. Seska’s counter is to self-destruct the ship. That self-destruct will blow out the holodeck and kill the players for real. She holds the ship hostage to force Tuvok to hand over his weapon. If only we’d just seen any way that a phaser rifle can be modified to kill the user…
With Holo-Seska dead from her own tricks and by her own hand, the program ends. Momens later, Harry fixes the transporters. I like to think that the program going down had nothing to do with it, and he was actually just five seconds late on his own merits. Afterwards, they all celebrate Janeway’s literary chops in pulling in a deus ex machina which was, in fact, actually foreshadowed in the plot. Turns out the writers of this show are so bad they can’t even write a bad plot on purpose. The even better news is that apparently there’s going to be some new holo-novels being written.