VOY: S4E16: “Prey”

In which the hunter becomes the prey and Janeway becomes Captain Bligh again. 

"I'll take the little gun today."

“I’ll take the little gun today.”

Some more Hirojen are running after an alien ship, hunting it down.. The prey hares off into an asteroid field, and the Hirogen crew discuss prey behaviors and try to decide which gratuitously large gun to take. There’s only two of them going on this hunt, suggesting either that Hirogen ships are very small craft, that they’re mostly automated, or that only a precious few get to actually go out hunting.

The hirogen have an intricate system of helmet-painting. So far we’ve seen two white stripes when the hunt is about half-over, spread red stripes when hunting in person as opposed to ship-to-ship, and black stripes on the face of a trophy you’re about to gut. This time, though, the Hirogen’s prey is a tripod-centaur from Speices 8472, and it alone is no match for their weapons.

Back to Voyager, however, Seven is studying some of the Doctor’s Bedside Manner exercises in order to learn to Human better. Since the exercises were created by Kes, clearly to stop the Doctor from being an insufferable jackass, Seven finds them absurd, but eventually comes around.

Voyager next encounters a Hirogen ship, which does not communicate and has only one, erratic lifesign. Janeway decides to board the ship, against Seven’s objections, and sends Chakotay, Tuvok, and Paris over. At least they beam in armed this time. The Hirogen ship is in shambles, and even more full of trophies of all kinds than the first look we got. They have a tank for cleaning bones, which is a little surprising in the context of a hundred-thousand-year-old subspace relay system. Either they never came up with (or lost) matter editation technology, or they spurn it for ritual, trophy-collecting purposes.  In fact, just try to reconcile a culture obsessed with claiming trophies with ubiquitous replicator technology. Very quickly it becomes hard to tell which trophies are real, and which are the product of fabricated hunts. Replicator technology appears to be the primary domain of the Federation and its trading partners.

Oh, also, the Hirojen aboard are very dead- Paris finds a disembodied head, with no weapon traces. The other one is barely alive, so Chakotay orders him rescued. They get the ship’s log, as well, to get some background information on the Hirogen culture – nomadic, small pack hunters with no home planet. Evidently the relay helps them keep in touch. Janeway can’t help but take the opportunity to I-told-you-so Seven now that they have more information, and speculate idly about what could have taken out this Hirogen team.

"There's Klingons on the starboard bow, scrape 'em off, Jim!"

“There’s Klingons on the starboard bow, scrape ’em off, Jim!”

Meanwhile, Voyager has picked up a hitchhiker. Species 8472 can hang out in space for a stroll. The Hirogen has also woken up, and is too hardy to be tranquilized properly. The 8472 they had captured broke free of the Hirogen restraints, and really this should be clue number 43 or so that Voyager does not want to get involved. Sadly, six more Hirogen ships are on the way, and will be there in less than four hours, and it’s about now that the 8472 makes its entry by burrowing through the hull. And bulkheads. Of course, our heroes don’t know who it is yet, so Tuvok and Harry go to check it out and find the hole ripped in the hull and the remains of a Ridleyian Acid.

Intruder protocol does, at least, provide for arming everyone in mission-critical areas and locking all the consoles, but not for making sure everyone actually looks at the whole room. It was hiding on the warp core and attacked everyone in Engineering before leaving. Seven has some information about 8472 boarding tactics, but apparently ‘seeking the most efficient means of destroying the ship’ didn’t include just punching a hole in the antimatter reaction chamber. Maybe it’s going for the antimatter storage, or just planning to blow up all the torpedoes in their storage bays? It didn’t even bother to infect Torres with its flesh-eating spit infection.

The Voyager crew engages in an impromptu cultural exchange with the Hirogen, and eventually determine that the only weapon they have which will work on the 8472 is nanoprobes, so Seven will modify phaser rifles to fire them. Since we know that phasers file subatomic particles at relativistic speeds, we know that there’s literally no way that can work to fire a stream of robots made of whole molecules. Instead, they should rig up high-tech squirt guns, which would at least make sense. And Janeway, still riding high on how much they learned from the Hirogen ship, is willing to put her entire crew at risk to bring down the 8472 alive.

The 8472, meanwhile, has turned off life support and artificial gravity on Deck 11, marking the first time we’ve ever seen this system fail on-screen. Janeway orders the entire deck abandoned and for the Hirogen Alpha to join the hunt. They all suit up into environment suits to start hunting with their nanoprobe charges. Chakotay and Alpha have a brief scuffle about who gets to take point, and Seven’s jumpy enough to fire at a floating PADD and miss.

In a bit of a HFY moment, Seven admits to being jumpy and agitated because Species 8472 is the only species to offer true resistance to the Borg, destroying ships and even worlds. The Federation, meanwhile, is so often outclassed is almost any given area that they live in that discomfort and have learned to deal with it and work around it. For example, letting a Hirogen walk around the ship with a gun as tall as Tom Paris. They track the 8472 towards Deflector Control, which seems a really roundabout ‘most direct means possible’ for destroying the ship.

They find it floating in the corridor, the Hirogen tries to kill it, and Tuvok shoots him in the back after he turns on Chakotay and Tom. Later, while Tuvok deputizes Neelix, he gets a telepathic flash from the alien that they have cordoned off behind multiple force fields in the corridors. Tom and Seven find that it was trying to use Deflector Control to open one of the singularities, either to get home or to initiate another invasion. The former, it seems – it was left behind when the rest of its invasion force retreated to fluidic space. Janeway agrees to help.

"'I am tactically unsound in an incongruous voice.' That is the sound you are making, Captain."

“‘I am tactically unsound in an incongruous voice.’ That is the sound you are making, Captain.”

Of course, this violates her agreement with the Hirogen Alpha, to spare Voyager in return for giving the 8472 over to hunt. And to push Seven into helping as an object lesson in compassion. Her anecdote is about one time during a Cardassian skirmish when she was ordered to save the life of an enemy combatant. Seven’s not buying it and they argue about the ethics of the situation, to the point where Seven refuses to participate and is confined to quarters.

When we come back from commercial, the Hirogen have opened fire and have Voyager on the run. Green stripes seem to indicate a… rescue mission? The 8472 has woken up and is getting agitated, Torres has gotten Voyager the capability to scan for and transport members of Species 8472, and a Hirogen attack has just knocked out all the force fields. The Hirogen is loose and on the hunt. A few more attacks take out the warp nacelles, and Seven shows down against the Alpha before the force fields go down again. The Hirogen and Alpha fight long enough for Seven to beam them both off to one of the Hirogen attack ships, saving Voyager and dooming Seven to a strongly worded lecture and some consequences.

Seven is restricted from primary systems, but fires back with a question of her own. How much does Janeway really believe in the individuality she’s trying to teach?

Did we miss something awesome?