In which the new holoprogram is revealed, Janeway is cranky, and the Malon are all about energy independence.
For some reason, we’re opening with a black-and-white Universal Studios production stamp. Or I guess an establishing shot of Earth in black-and-white. Someone clearly intended to bring Ming the merciless to mind is broadcasting a message of doom to the people of Earth, while Harry and what I assume is a holo-damsel are tied up nearby. The villain is Chaotica, and Harry is about to be saved by Tom Paris, AKA Captain Proton, a thinly veiled Flash Gordon. However, at his climactic moment, The Doctor steps in because Paris is going over time and they have a serious discussion about art anthropology. The two of them fighting over changing the channel broke the holodeck.
This is especially problematic because Voyager is in a region of literally no stars, which is causing deep psychological strain on the whole crew, since they can’t even tell they’re at warp apart from sensors – no familiar star streaks. Becalmed in the void, and no stars within 2,500 light years which, if I recall, is on the order of a year without resupply.
All departments are stockpiling energy to try and Joseph the Prophet their inevitable shortfall. Chakotay is holding briefings without Janeway, even though there’s nothing to even report. Engines are running very efficiently, potentially due to a striking lack of any kind of interference to knock them off balance, or just a lack of anything else for the maintenance staff to do. Tuvok found a theta radiation flash, and it’s the most interesting thing they’ve found. Neelix’s suggestion for keeping morale up is for people to rotate crew assignments. This would be a good time for it, since nothing exciting is going to happen. Also, installing more hol0-emitters in a cargo bay. I can’t help but feel this is at odds with the rest of the power requirements. Then again, they have gone out of their way to establish that the holodecks don’t use the same kind of electricity that everything else does. Also, nobody’s seen the captain in days. Perhaps even weeks.
Neelix is waking up with panic attacks, staring out into the void. I imagine seeing the void instead of the usual star-streaks would be pretty unsettling, especially knowing that they should be seeing stars (or galaxies) from a lot further away than 2,500 light-years if not for the weird creepy field they’re traveling through. Tom and B’Elanna are playing Quarto because they couldn’t get enough people together for Twilight Imperium or Shadowrun. They have an argument and break it up, when Neelix shows up and tries to defuse it. However, even Neelix is reaching the theoretical Chipper Limit. On the other hand, his panic attack does break up the argument. The Doctor has diagnosed him with nihilophobia.
It’s even getting to Tuvok, who’s going to Astrometrics to meditate, when Seven detects high levels of theta radiation, dangerous levels. Chakotay tells this to the captain, who’s standing in the dark staring at nothingness. He’s trying to coax her out of her quarters, but that’s clearly just not happening. Of course, what’s really bothering her is that she made the choice to sacrifice Voyager‘s ability to get home to save the ocampa, and without the constant distractions, that’s really weighing on her, and she will not be joining them
Things have gotten lax on the bridge to the point where Harry’s practicing clarinet while standing watch. He’s actually composed a decent piece. Meanwhile, Seven’s been pulled into Tom’s Captain protonfantasy, as the Damsel. She’s really not good at being a damsel. However, about now, Voyager‘s gotten hit by presumably one of those theta bursts, and the lights go out all over, leaving the ship in total and complete darkness until someone finds the flashlights. At least Janeway’s interested now. And Neelix is panicking, thanks to his newfound character trait. Holodeck’s still up, though… but all the lights in it are off. I’m not sure why it continues to surprise me that most holomatter is persistent, but it does. I guess it’s probably that nobody ever bothers to take useful tools out of what is essentially a room-sized replicator. The holodeck power failure is at least significant in that the hologrid is frozen, so they can’t manufacture whatever they might need until it’s repaired.
The cause of the power drain is a dampening field off the port bow. Obviously, there’s nothing on screen, but Tuvok’s going to reconfigure the torpedo to be a sustained flare instead of an explosive burst. Meanwhile, as Tom and Seven explore the holodeck trying to get out, they spot a horifying creature that doesn’t like the light and reminds me of Geordi for some reason. It’s also very violent. Seven shoots it with Captain proton’s blaster. These dudes are all over the ship, and Janeway chooses this moment to get badass with a phaser. They get an emergency power cell in place in time to defend Voyager from the sudden squadron of alien ships, and the battle is fight.
The power is flickering, but the aliens break off when another ship shows up to… rescue them? For a price, anyway. Their captain seems friendly enough, apart from that. They beam him over to talk. Emck warns Janeway about the creatures of the expanse, but also offers to let Voyager tag along into a spatial vortex that will let them skip the rest of it and let them skip two years of their journey home. He’s on a quote transport unquote mission that’s probably really shady, especially since he demands the creature they’ce stunned in exchange for passage and refuses to explain. Pro tip: If you’re ever engaged in something super sketchy and you make first contact with the Federation, act like it’s totally normal in your culture, not like you know it’s wrong. That way, they’ll have to let you keep your ‘cultural practices.’
Since Emck is so cagey, Janeway goes to meet the alien, who’s dying of theta radiation poisoning and who’s not a fan of anyone who’s allied with the Malon, Emck’s civilization. The Night Aliens are being slowly poisoned by the Malon, and the one they captured is apologetic on the assumption that Janeway’s telling the truth about not being allied with the Malon.
Chakotay and Tuvok discuss what’s up with Janeway, which seems really out of place now that she’s got a puzzle to sink her teeth into. Tuvok discusses Janeway’s tendancy to let her guilt get the best of her and put herself in danger, and Chakotay asks for Tuvok’s support in countermanding her if necessary.
They approach the domain of the Night Aliens, and their guest gets comms access to send out the shibboleth. He claims they’ve been living in the expanse for milliosn of years. There’s no external power and no resupply. Therefore, whatever they use for power generation and to condense into food is probably, if you’ll forgive the pun, pretty stellar. All the Night People are suffering theta radiation poisoning, and the Malon keep belching it into space. Janeway gets the idea of closing the vortex, but the Night People don’t know how. Anyone see the parallels to the Ocampa situation that Janeway’s been brooding about for two months?
Voyager returns to the Malon ship, and they now see that Emck’s ship is loaded down with ‘contaminated antimatter’ which somehow isn’t exploding against the interstellar medium or the hull of the ship, for the deliberate purpose of poisoning the Night People. Or at least, of doing something which is incidentally poisoning the night People. In fact, they’re just dumping waste. In service of a pceaful solution, Janeway offers a process that can decontaminate the antimatter and reduce their anticarbon footprint.
However, Emck isn’t a fan, since his job depends on there being waste to haul. If they institute clean renewables and an antimatter cap and trade system, Emck and the other members of the traditional fuels secondary marketspace will be out of a job – a dangerous job that’s killing them slowly due to the unavoidable side effects of low-tech energy solutions. Do you think their civilization has Single Payer?
Emck is the only one of his civilization who knows about the vortex, which means if they deal with him, they can walk away. But Emck’s ship is a little powerful for Voyager to take on. Also, Janeway doesn’t trust the Malon government to take the data either, based on Emck. And in a raise-your-hand-if-you-saw-this-coming moment, the vortex can only be collapsed from this end. Condemning them to missing out on a shortcut if they do the Right Thing.
Janeway’s come up with a Third Option. because the 24th century has forgotten about timed detonations of things, Janeway has asked if Chakotay is ready to be the captain, because she’s going to stay behind in a shuttle to destroy the vortex. Nobody is willing to let her go, though. Turns out that although Janeway’s unwilling to ask for the crew to sacrifice for her determination to do the right thing, they’re not willing to leave her to die. D’awww. Hard to get too mad about mutiny in this case, although apparently hanging is still in the public consciousness as a canonical punishment.
Again, no such thing as fuses, so they’re going to time the launch perfectly and then warp through a passage of attenuated and strained space-time. what could go wrong? And why not arm the Night People and let them take out the
Keystone Pipeline Spatial Vortex themselves?
Nitpicks on a good, if depressing, allegorical episode aside, let’s talk about how Chakotay just totally organized a mutiny. As far as political power plays go, it’s a pretty ballsy one. Granted it was a show of support for the captain, but it’s also an explicit statement by the crew that they’re willing to completely disregard Starfleet discipline. That’s the kind of thing that Starfleet ought to train its people to do if, and only if, they feel that the orders they’re being given are unlawful.
Voyager goes to battle against the Malon ship, targeting the weak spot but giving Emck a last chance to surrender. He doesn’t answer and knocks out both engines instead, ruining their plan to fire and flee. Instead, they’re going to surf the shockwave. Emck also tries to block Voyager, but the Night People show up to distract him long enough for Janeway to kill his ship and detonate the vortex. They’re just shy of the border of the void, but 200,000 kilometers is hardly any distance at all. And it means they get to see the starlight slowly reassert itself and give everyone the warm fuzzies. So off they head, without bothering to load up a probe with Antimatter Recycling technology and fire it off towards the Malon homeworld.