VOY: S4E11: “Concerning Flight”

In which Voyager is attacked by pirates, harry strikes out again, and the student becomes the master.

"Something feels amiss..."

“Something feels amiss…”

Today, nothing is too important to keep Janeway from hanging out with Leonardo da Vinci as his flying machine fails and he gets ridiculed by the masses. Janeway’s role in this simulation is to remind Leonardo that all he ever does is give up, when the ship is shaken by an attack. Holodeck characters can feel it when the ship shakes like that, which was an interesting feature for someone to build in. Fairly obviously, Janeway’s vacation is cut short. The attackers are uncommunicative, full of escort-class vessels, and beaming away Voyager‘s equipment and stores. What jumps out at me here is that the warp core diagnostic assembly is apparently wireless. We don’t see the whole railing when it disappears, but it looks a whole lot like it wasn’t plugged in to anything. The aliens have also stolen the Mobile Emitter, a whole biobed, the list goes on. They’ve also stolen parts of the main computer necessary to auto-target, and have to return fire manually, which is apparently something they can do.

I don’t want to quibble (okay, who am I kidding?) but I feel like counting ’emergency rations’ as part of the manifest of high-tech items is overselling them somewhat, unless they contain, like, single-use replicators that create potable water from out of the air. It’s slightly more likely that the crew does not yet fully understand what the aliens wanted.

"What? Africa has brown people, why shouldn't America have green people?"

“What? Africa has brown people, why shouldn’t America have green people?”

Harry is still flustered around Seven, and utterly fails to impress on her the general desirability of ‘please’ over ‘now.’ Or the importance of his place in the formal rank structure. However, they’re able to track the alien ships to their hub, which appears to be some sort of multi-species trade hub. Tuvok verifies that even the city is built of various types of tech and materials. However, the first piece of Starfleet technology they find is the mobile emitter… attached to Leonardo da Vinci. Leonardo believes that this is America, the New World and land of opportunity and wonders. Leonardo is in service to the prince of the city, and has demanded that Leonardo build something for him. Just what, I’m sure we’ll find out. I do notice, however, than Leonardo comments on Tuvok’s appearance, but not the locals. Evidently this program was designed to notice strange appearances, just not to be bigoted about them. Contrast with many holodeck characters in the past who have completely ignored things like Geordi’s VISOR.

Whoever beamed the loot off of Voyager understands Federation technology well enough to be able to recognize a holodeck program as an autonomous AI, recognize the mobile emitter for what it is, put those two things together, and task it with hunting down other Federation technology to build some new, fourth thing. This is incredibly impresive. Any bets on whether Janeway will attempt to leverage this into a boost home, or instead just get mad?

It’s also worth noting that da Vinci’s genius extends to the technological, even as he describes them in the florid, Florentine terms of his native setting. While this is going on, the team sent to the other continent found a guy with a satchel full of Starfleet technology, and also wearing a salvaged uniform. This trader gives them the name of the next guy up in his supply chain, Tau, and in return Chakotay lets him keep a phaser rifle and a tricorder.

"Hmm, do aliens respond to the same romantic-signalling body language that humans do? Only one way to find out!"

“Hmm, do aliens respond to the same romantic-signalling body language that humans do? Only one way to find out!”

Probably-Tau is known around town as the man who has everything, with prices to match. Largely, a strong-arm arms dealer. Janeway and Tuvok go to meet him as Leonardo’s patron, and Tuvok is tasked with distracting Leo while Janeway goes to talk with the ‘patron,’ all flirty-like. She zeroes in on the computer system by asking for a colony-level system, which takes them right to the Lwaxana-voiced computer core, which has some pretty impressive specs. ‘Transluminal processing at five hundred seventy five trillion calculations per nanosecond.’ Is it just me, or did the writers just verify that this computer processes data faster than light-speed? Actually, I have been informed that this may also refer to cell organelles, tying back in with the bioneural gel-packs. Either way, it’s too expensive for Janeway to buy. So they’ll have to steal it.

Tuvok, not much one for exaggeration, establishes that Leonardo is just as good at mapping the area as Voyager‘s topographical computer would be. Anyone else might be glossing, but if we discount the hypothesis that Tuvok is the Dumb Jock of Vulcan and he actually meant it, I take this as establishing that they could, in a pinch, offload some tasks to da Vinci in a fundamental misunderstanding of the capabilities of hardware vs software.

Uh… the mobile emitter has a hardware pause button. With the limited user interface space on that thing, it seems kind of a waste. It’s not like the writers couldn’t have thought of voice interface.

In the continuing B-plot about Seven’s introduction to social nicities, the Doctor confounds her with small talk during a routine checkup, since he can’t go out anymore. Seven is not picking up what he’s putting down. Still. Anyway, her eye broke again. Seven and Torres have also been arguing. Again. Marking another milestone in the Doctor’s development, he can no longer stand being cooped up. Seven then takes Tuvok to task for his familiar use of standard applicable pronouns when applied to a hologram. The two of them locate the best bet for the location of the computer, and start planning for a heist. Sadly, in informing Janeway about the location, Chakotay accidentally gives Janeway away and gets her captured.

When Janeway was in whatever land/ Let my captain go.

When Janeway was in whatever land/
Let my captain go.

That doesn’t last very long, because while discussing her new status as a hostage, Tau turns his back on Leonardo and the big heavy fire extinguisher. Janeway’s free, but Leonardo refuses to go with her, as this New World is way better than the backwards Europe he was programmed for. Eventually, though, he capitulates for his favorite student.

Voyager can’t track Janeway’s commbadge, it’s apparently broken. They were able to find the mobile emitter, but rather than beam her down some reinforcements or even another commbadge, they just sit back and bite their nails while Janeway tries to convince Leonardo to help her get into the storehouse in 16th-century terms. They do manage to break in eventually and find the computer, initiate the Macguffin Task, and signal Voyager to rescue them. There’s some drame in how long it’s going to take to punch through the shields, and in fact Janeway and Leonardo get separated from the computer just at the critical moment, so all Voyager gets back is the computer. She and Leonardo have to escape, but he’s gotten an existential crisis after he notices he’s been shot and didn’t die. Pretty sure he thinks he’s a ghost now.

Now that Voyager has their computer back, the surface scrambles some ships to get them back. Leo’s existential crisis continues, and now that they’ve escaped using a site-to-site transport, he refuses to go anywhere until he gets some kind of explanation. Janeway handwaves at him with some really anti-humanist garbage. Seriously, just skip this scene and go watch Picard explain things to the Mintakans again, it’ll make you feel better.

Torres has gotten the computer plugged back in, but they’ve got to get within 500 km of the surface to beam her back based only on the trace of the mobile emitter. Tom gets to pilot, although really that’s five times above the Karman limit commonly denoting the ‘edge of space’ so it’s not like he’s flying the eye of a needle or something here.

I still say the MacGyver episode where this happened was more exciting.

I still say the MacGyver episode where this happened was more exciting.

Leonardo has dragged Janeway up a hill to their escape – what possible escape route could they possibly have, except this contraption that’s been on the wall since the stinger? His flying machine has been rebuilt using modern materials science, a wider wingspan, and they take a leap of faith. Or science. And he has, in the end, made a working glider. Voyager beams the whole thing into a cargo bay, and they make good their escape.

There’s an epilogue with Leonardo to bookend the not-giving-up-on-your-dreams thing, too, but since it’s Janeway giving and not receiving the lesson, and this isn’t going to alter the timeline by giving the real, historical da Vinci ideas, so it doesn’t really matter.

Did we miss something awesome?