VOY: S5E04: “In the Flesh”

In which Chakotay scouts Starfleet, snogs an alien, and drinks scotch. 

Boothby is cutting flowers on the Starfleet campus. Admiral Bullock gives out a few assignments, while someone looks on via field glasses. Something’s off, though. Well, two things. First, there are rather a lot of Ferengi in the service, given that Nog was the first one to join up only a few years ago and only just made full ensign recently. The second is that the person spying appears to be Chakotay, and the show would be over if they’d made it back to Earth.

“Spy – I mean, Hi, it’s nice to meet you.”

He’s doing some scans when Boothby shows up, and Chakotay scrambles for a cover. And apparently, Chakotay never met Boothby in his day. Chakotay navigates the fraught perils of whatever is going on here, and winds up flirting with Commander Valerie Archer and her Klingon martini. But as they flirt and Chakotay tries to get a little information on just what’s going on here, a Sciences Ensign gets all bloated and chokey in the corner. Commander Archer calls it ‘Reverting’ and it’s a candidate for being pulled out of training. Archer can ‘maintain her human form’ easily enough, but finds the little things like ‘breathing oxygen’ troublesome. So that’s one question answered, and dozens more opened.

Tuvok comes by to rescue Chakotay, and once pulled aside they confirm that they have no idea what this is, other than an alien training camp. On their way back to the transport site, they get stopped by a security guard and have to knock him out and abduct him back to the Flier. They zoom rapidly away from the hab-dome space station, and the young ensign wakes up in sick bay. He only gives his name-rank-serial number, and doesn’t cop to being an alien in human form. Nor will he consent to having a sample taken. Instead, he poisons himself rather than being touched by diseased humans.

Janeway is impressed that the aliens recreated Boothby. The accuracy is stunning, and suggests either access  to a Starfleet database or to San Francisco itself. It’s also a stunningly advanced holographic facility. And to pile on, the Doctor has completed his analysis, but nobody ever gives the bad news over the comms. He needs Janeway to be there in person when he does the experiment to trigger reversion to his natural form. That form winds up being Species 8472.

Tom suggest that this is a space version of the old American Training Towns that show up on Soviet-era spy movies. They may be training to infiltrate the Alpha quadrant, and see Starfleet as either their biggest threat or at least the foothold they have the most information about. Janeway orders the crew to gear up for war. And it takes exactly zero scenes before Janeway uses this as an excuse to get maudlin about the Academy… or maybe this is just an excuse to make sure Chakotay is who he claims he is. In fact, Janeway is taking crew-wide precautions.

The Voyager crew’s current numbers are pegged at 127, not including the Doctor, and ambiguously including Janeway. On their way back to the habitat, Harry, Tom, and Chakotay all discuss Chakotay’s upcoming date. Seven has enhanced her nanoprobe weapons, but during testing, it seems that the nanoprobes are a little less effective than they used to be. It takes a while for them to take hold, and then she and the Doctor spend enough time with the dead alien off-camera to make your spine itchy while they talk about diplomacy, deterrence, and Earth’s World War Three that resulted in 600,000,000 dead thanks to nuclear war.

Chakotay didn’t stand up Commander Archer after all, and finds her chatting with Boothby in the Officer’s Club and getting some paternal advice. Potentially regarding her upcoming transfer to a Klingon vessel, no doubt including a shapeshift to Klingon. I guess one oxygen-breather is pretty much the same as another when you’re a transdimensional tripod-centaur on a crusade of extermination. The Species 8472 all know about Boothby’s influence in shaping the great captains, too, which seems like the kind of tribal knowledge that would deliberately not be in any database. With the officer’s club closed, they head off to Ponn Farr night at the local Vulcan nightclub, which conforms to none of the stereotypes we might expect.

Don’t ask what her place looks like on the other side of the vortex.

Tom and Harry stand on the really-rather-remarkably-spacious Delta Flier while Tom asserts that four hours is perfectly reasonable as a time frame for a date and Harry worries that Chakotay is being dissolved from the inside out. In fact, Chakotay has just made it back to Valerie’s quarters, and covers his snooping about a piece of tech with snooping out her books. Valerie finds herself in admiration of all the ways a non-telepathic species has had to come up with to express itself, while condemning their xenophobic attacks on anyone not in the Federation. While she excuses herself to go re-up her enzymes, Chakotay goes back to snooping on the console. It is a library with data about 8472. Also, they’re probably gonna bone soon.

In fact, Valerie says that the invasion is coming soon. A matter of weeks or even days. This is Chakotay’s cue to feel her out for the chances of a diplomatic solution. Sounds unlikely, and so Chakotay tries to escape, but gets a little kiss goodnight on his way out the door. The DNA trace he leaves with her goes onto a scan, and it turns out Boothby suspected something about him, and this was all to confirm those suspicions. Looks like Boothby is the head honcho here, and switches the whole hab to daylight so they can chase down Chakotay and interrogate him.

Seven gives her battle-readiness report to Seven. They’re out of nanoprobes, but Janeway demands more. And yet, she still has the instinct that maybe there’s a diplomatic solution. However, this is quickly pushed to the side when the away team reports that Chakotay is in trouble.

“In the 21st century, a bottle 30% this old once sold for a half-million money-things. Nowadays, we have replicators.”

In the lead-up to the interrogation, Boothby claims to like 200-year-old single malt scotch, which I might actually, literally kill for. Once they establish that they know who the others are, Chakotay explains that they found Species 8472 by their Federation transmissions, but assures them that the Federation has no invasion planned. He doesn’t tell them that they have literally no way to contact the Federation to warn them, and no way for the cavalry to arrive if they could. The infiltrators don’t believe him anyway, and grab some genetic material to perfect their disguises.

When Voyager charges onto the scene, Janeway orders crippling fire, not destructive fire, in a last-ditch attempt to keep negotiations on the table. On his end, Chakotay tries as well, including the quotations of poetry that ‘Valerie Archer’ has on her shelf. It seems to help, as Boothby hails Janeway so they can chat. Her approach is ‘I kicked your ass once, are you willing to talk this time without getting all genocidal?’ and it works.

That said, Boothby doesn’t believe the propaganda, and Seven’s presence isn’t helping matters. The war between the Borg and Species 8472 is a pretty hefty obstacle, and it’s really, really hard to prove the negative that Starfleet doesn’t have an invasion plan. Therefore, as a gesture of good faith, Janeway disarms the borg torpedoes in order to keep the negotiations going. On further discussion, they claim that the “Your Galaxy Will Be Purged” talk was bluster to try to get the Borg and their allies to back off, and that this whole rigamarole is a reconnaissance mission to gauge the true intent of the Federation.

They come to an agreement in principle, and over the next few days they do a technology exchange with 8472, giving them the nanoprobe technology and getting a tour of Terrasphere 8 for cultural exchange for their power generation stuff, before they head back to Fluidic Space. A lasting peace is going to be a stretch – Boothby has his own superiors, but they’ve exchanged numbers, and it’s a good start. Too bad Chakotay’s not going to get a second date.

Did we miss something awesome?