In which Voyager attempts to tackle clinical depression and self-harm behaviors. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/
Torres appears to be in some sort of shielded exosuit, in a shuttle, doing a suborbital jump in a holodeck with the safety protocols off. Presumably this means that whatever hellish environment she’s about to subject herself to, it will be fully simulated (and contained) by the holodeck. This turns out to be the heat of re-entry, but she’s called to Engineering in mid-jump and the computer brings her to a dead, inertialess stop so she can right herself.
The exo-suit was real, apparently, and Seven bothers Torres as they walk down the corridor discussing an upcoming probe launch. B’Elanna begs off due to a vague illness she doesn’t want to talk to the Doctor about.
Their probe has been sucked up by a Malon freighter. Janeway orders them to let it go, but the Malon don’t listen, so they trigger a remote polaron burst. The probe is equipped with a deflector, apparently. Janeway orders the probe to evade in a gas giant, hoping that the borg shielding they’ve outfitted it with protects it. And in fact, it looks like the Malon ship has fallen to its own destruction chasing a Voyager probe. Why, exactly, are they so suicidal?
The probe is now trapped in the gas giant, and Voyager is going to go rescue it. They can’t transport it out, so Tom takes the opportunity to push his idea for a new shuttle. The one he’s already trying to build, which will have more movable nacelles, advanced shielding, borg weapons, and classic ’50 Chevy curves. Even Seven is impressed with his design job. Everyone’s on board, and they’re going to build it inside a week and test it in a gas giant. But nobody fails to notice Torres’ detached demeanor.
For one of the rare few times in the franchise, we get to see a holodeck being used on-screen for work-related projects – in this case, prototyping the hull design. Again, Torres’ detachment is noted when she calmly accepts Seven’s criticism of her design spec. When Torres drops by Tom’s late at night to give him her design specs for the thrusters, he asks what’s up. She’s not ready to talk about it yet, and heads back to the holodeck with the safeties off. This program is sparring with a Cardassian, likely because of the Maquis connection. Correction, several Cardassians.
The probe is still intact. Voyager is in-system hovering over it when some Malon show up to blame Janeway for the loss of their ship. They want the probe. Janeway’s a lot more blase about making enemies these days, but at least she asks the question we all have – what’s so important about this probe (It’s the prototype shielding).
B’Elanna has ‘borrowed’ a dermal regenerator to take care of herself after her holodeck sessions, is engaging in self-harm behaviors, and may be having a breakdown. After an incident with her mirror, she wanders down to the mess hall to ‘catch up’ with Neelix. He notices the off behavior, and she asks for banana pancakes, – something grandma used to make. He orders them for her from the replicator – truly an inspired chef.
The Malon are hanging out next to Voyager, waiting for something. Seven, scanning the Malon ship with Astrometrics, finds that they are also building a ship that could retrieve the probe as well. What’s the opposite of a space race? Whatever it is, the Malon are about to win by 36 hours.
The Delta Flier is coming along nicely, in a shuttlebay that appears to have been cleaned out for the purposes. They need to fix up the structural integrity of the ship before running it, and Paris has even outfitted the ship with analog buttons, levers and panels. While he and Tuvok argue about it, Torres heads into the holodeck to run the tests to see whether microfractures will become megafractures, and also turns off the safety features again.
It’s about now that the Malon make their move – venting antimatter waste As Janeway works though the the diplomatic channels, the Malon controller puts on airs and brags about how much sooner they’ll be done. This prompts Janeway to ask about Torres, who’s passed out in the holodeck-shuttle. Chakotay rescues her and sends her to sick bay.
The first thing she tries to do when she wakes up is get back to work, but Janeway told him to keep her there because she’s got all the evidence of her dangerous activities, including internal hemorrhaging and cracked vertibrae. She has an excuse this time – turning off the safeties would be the only way to get an accurate simulation, but Janeway doesn’t buy it at all and puts her on medical leave.
The Flier is almost done, it just has a continuing microfracture problem. After this meeting, Janeway talks about Torres with Chakotay and Tom – Chakotay because he’s her XO and Tom because he might have useful perspective as her boyfriend, but she’s been pulling away from him. As uncomfortable as it is to dig through someone’s personal holodeck programs (and it does seem to be something of a taboo) they do it anyway, after which Chakotay comes to talk to her in private. Torres admits the Doctor has diagnosed her with clinical depression. Chakotay wants to get the ground view of what she’s been up to, and goads her into coming to the holodeck to ‘show him there’s nothing to worry about.’ This is obviously a ruse, as he selects one that makes her actually react. It’s a live battle simulation that has all their Maquis friends dead. She created it the day after they found out about the Dominion massacre, ran it for 47 seconds, and then started trying to hurt herself so that the pain will make her feel alive. Instead of the survivor’s guilt, Torres says she’s felt nothing since running the program.
Much like DS9 recently discovered, this ship really needs areal, trained counselor. Torres has, in her life, lost every family she’s ever had, and has turned off her feelings to avoid that pain again.
A digression, because sincerity is scary – if two people are in the holodeck and give it conflicting orders, how does it decide who to listen to? By rank? By who picked the program? It’s not by authorship, because Chakotay overrode Torres command to freeze program. Possibly just by whichever command came last, but I’d hope there’s a better system than that.
The Malon have started attacking, throwing chaff while they launch their new shuttle. The Delta Flier is behind in development. Janeway orders launch, despite the microfracture problem that could kill the crew. Aside from a brief reference to experimental shields, it’s still not explained why anyone is willing to die for this probe. If all Janeway wanted to do is keep the tech out of the hands of the Malon, because by now they know the shields hold up for days against the atmosphere of a gas giant, they could just self-destruct it.
Chakotay’s going to help out with the microfracture problem, but Torres wants to go instead. She’s the best person for the job. Plus it’s risky and could kill her for real. Plus, if the Flier goes down with Tom aboard, it’ll be another loss she’d have to live with. They launch, and the Malon capital ship doesn’t even bother to interfere. The Malon shuttle that they’re rapidly catching, however, does.
Their structural integrity is rapidly dissolving, and they start developing microfractures. They grab the probe, the hull starts buckling, and Torres goes to work shoring up the weakened segment with a patch job that will hold long enough for her to rig a phaser and a power cell to… create a force field. I didn’t know they could do that. Also, it’s a damn good thing they just happened to have the part that adapts a phaser to run on EPS power cells and also turns that phaser into a force field. I can see that being a handy piece of bracing.
After the crisis is averted, Torres seems to be if not fully recovered, then at least on the mend, feelings-wise. She even manages to threaten Chakotay all friendly-like and enjoy some pancakes. Do not take psychological advice from a TV show.