VOY: S5E05: “Once Upon a Time”


Sadly, I don’t think 38 seconds in is a record for disliking an episode.

Naomi Wildman is walking around a pastel-colored forest wonderland and throwing rocks at pond creatures. Or elementals with jazz hands. This thing’s name is Flotter T. Watter III, and he is a consummate children’s book character. Today they’re out to catch a tree monster, whose name is Treevis. Somebody put these lines on a page for grown-ups to read. In front of cameras. This was someone’s payday. Think about that. Anyway, this holoprogram is about teraching conflict resolution and command skills. Just picture the grumpy parent groups when people started publishing holonovels for kids.

Once she solves the main quest of the story, Neelix calls her to tell her that screen time is over, and that her mom is calling to say goodnight. She’s on an away mission that will take some more days. Once Naomi leaves, Sam Wildman tells Neelix of the real trouble that they’re in – stranded by ion storms. But when the comms drop out, we cut to the shuttle to see that Ensign Wildman is with Tuvok and Tom on the brand new Delta Flier, so clearly they’ll get back to Voyager eventually, fade-to-white notwithstanding.

The next thing we hear is Janeway listening to the Flier’s mayday call, detailing their plans to find an emergency landing site.  Voyager‘s going to the rescue, but Neelix brings up the problem of Naomi’s morale. As morale officer, this is going to be his job. Speaking of which, she wants to be a bridge officer. While they’re hanging out in the mess hall, we find out that Naomi is terrified of Seven.

Voyager is running low on emergency medkits, but Neelix has been stockpiling them. Why? How? Does he make his own, or has he just been scamming them to save for a rainy day because he didn’t think the rest of the crew was rationing them properly? While this discussion goes on, Seven asks if Naomi is using that other seat, and the kid panics. Then it’s off to sick bay to learn some botany and be bored to death by the Doctor.

You know how you can never really relax with a new car until you scratch the paint?

The Flier is still running for its life, heading for the rumors of a planetoid they can touch down on, and fleeing from an accelerating ion storm. They get a fix on it, and it has a Class-M atmosphere but a really soft crust and no suitable landing sites. They’re going to have to make do regardless, but the landing is rough, Tom buries the Flier, and Samantha Wildman is not in good shape. They seem to have landed 3km down, and on the way Samantha got a concussion, several fractures, internal bleeding and a punctured kidney. Worse, the rock was soft enough to let them this far in but too dense to allow comms out. Even the atmosphere is against them – despite the M-class atmosphere, the cavern is flooded with fluorine.

The rescue operation proceed with all due deliberate speed – Voyagerhas found the impact site, but no sign of shuttle debris, so as far as they know it’s intact underground or it vaporized on impact, and they’re betting on the former. Meanwhile, the Doctor proceed with tutoring Naomi Wildman about basic biology, repeating the only thing you remember about cellular anatomy. She’s getting a little harder to distract, but good old holonovels will distract her.

On the way to the holonovel, Naomi asks all sorts of questions about Neelix’s sisters. You know, the dead ones. Also, it turns out that holonovel narration doesn’t come with a voice actor apart from the primary computer. I guess that’s why the narration block is so short. Also, in this chapter Naomi gets to watch her friends forest get burned to the ground, and Flotter evaporated. They don’t put content warnings on these things. To set it right, Neelix goes to Harry to try to recreate Flotter – in this case, as a replicated action figure. And Neelix breaks down with his inability to do better for Naomi. She’s not a fan of the doll, either. It’s not the same.

That said, the adventure seems to be doing its job, as it’s driven Naomi to research the water cycle to get Flotter to condense back down again. This is also, however, not stopping her from thinking about how her mom is missing. She also knows the regulations well enough to know something’s wrong by now. Once the kid goes to sleep, Neelix does a little talking to his dead sister, and does not have good dreams.

Seven is using astrometrics to map the caverns to try and find the Flier. Neelix stops in ask her about whether she misses her family, and Seven assures him that Naomi will adapt. Things are so bad that Janeway is turning down coffee, and telling Neelix to get prepared for breaking the big news to Naomi. He doesn’t want to tell her anything until they know something for sure, and this is his berserk button.

On the Flier, Tom and Tuvok are attempting repairs, and it’s not going well. At this point, the only thing they’re even attempting is to use the hull as a beacon. Tuvok is, once he actually gets to that point, not a complete failure at giving pep-talks. Sam Wildman is reassured, but Naomi has woken up in the middle of the night as is about to sneak onto the bridge. She hides in the transporter room when a rescue operation comes by, and surely she can hear everyone’s urgency as they beam down to their drill site. Once she makes it to the bridge, she certainly sees the problem, and it’s not going to help that Neelix was coming around to telling her in the morning.

“I would never have thought of that.”

Now she’s hiding somewhere on the ship, and once again, the wisdom of putting the only lo-jack that the Computer tracks people with in an easily-removable badge is shown to be suspect. Unsurprisingly, Naomi is running back to the holodeck.

The away team has located the shuttle. They can’t detect life-signs to beam out, but theywill instead try to dig the shuttle out enough to beam it out wholesale. While this is happening, Tom is recording a last message to B’Elanna, over the computer warnings about life support. Tuvok is writing his, so now it’s Samantha’s turn.

Neelix found Naomi in the holodeck, after she’s told the characters to keep Neelix away and reprogrammed the holodeck not to let Neelix through. But then she gives in pretty quickly, because she needs to know.

An incoming ion storm, this one strong enough to threaten the cavern they’re digging through, is approaching. Fun fact about phaser drills – they operate in pulses. This could be for heat dissipation, or to recharge, or to allow debris they’re melting through to clear. I have to assume there’s a good reason for it, though, because we’ve seen phasers being used to drill through rock using a continuous beam. Hand-phasers, no less. Maybe this is so they don’t puncture the hull of the shuttle? Whatever the reason, they’re going to be awfully surprised when fluorine gas starts flooding into that cavern. The dig team has only six minutes to finish digging before the iron storm approaches and buries them.

Of course, that doesn’t matter much because the Flier will be out of oxygen in two. Fortunately, the diggers make it just in time. Voyager manages to beam the whole shuttle aboard, and Samantha Wildman is, in fact, alive. In the epilogue, she goes into the program, and Flotter recognizes her from her childhood. Did Sam Wildman really save her childrens books from when she was a kid? I’ll buy that if she had them, she’d bring them what with being pregnant, but the fact that she kept them is telling. Data storage being what it is in the Federation (effectively infinite) doesn’t account for her still having that particular save file. Maybe every Federation user has a cloud storage box, and it just comes with you wherever you go, until you delete it.

If you want a picture of the future , imagine finding a notebook of your old highschool poetry… forever.


Did we miss something awesome?