In which we watch a radio play.
We open on another Captain Proton adventure, only there’s a fun new twist – the holoprgram has inaccurate ‘last time on Captain Proton’ recaps for the full authentic flavor. Having finished watching the recap, they dive in, to rescue the Screaming Secretary Constance Goodheart from Chaotica and his plans to sacrifrice her to Queen Arachnia. Harry’s also getting way too into the acting here. Like, he knows how to behave on a ship that’s being shot at. Mugging for the camera isn’t it, unless the two of them are making recordings to screen for other people later. Are there holodeck youtubers?
I hope not. Harry seems way to excited about the ‘seraglio’ part of the program. In some ultimate irony, Harr and Tom comment on set reuse. And that’s when they find a blue-white object floating in the holodeck in a lot higher-fidelity than they’re used to. It also coincides with a locking of the holodeck controls and a locking of the comms.
In order to find a manual override, they have to go back to the rocketship. Given the size of the holodeck, and that we know it must have a treadmill effect, that manual override is probably right next to the, but doesn’t coincide with a setpiece that lets them access it.
Meanwhile, on the rest of Voyager, the ship has dropped out of warp and is in the middle of some gravametric flows that are disabling most functions. Cut back to Harry and Tom, who have to contend with Chaotica’s guards as obstacles to solving the real-life ship problem. Tuvok has found that the ship has entered a layer of subspace, and that’s even keeping them moored in place despite impulse power. And not only is Voyager stuck, but new rifts are opening up in the holodeck, and Harry has to beam them out.
Now that the whole gang’s back together again, Seven’s done enough analysis to determine that space and subspace in this region aren’t well-separated. How you just blunder into a situation like that seems difficult, but the current status is that Voyager is aground and can’t move. And the holodecks are full of rifts that Seven has decided are basically harmless.
Janeway was trapped once back when she was a science officer, and that time the solution was ‘easy does it.’ But this may prove a problem – the rigts have disgorged two people in suits and fedoras, who are immediately captured by Chaotica’s guards. Great first-contact situation. And the whole ‘visitors from another dimension’ thing plays pretty well into the retrofuture pulp aesthetic. The Visitors are here to make contact with other photonic life-forms, which I would personally expect to operate on an entirely different timescale from humans. Then again, I would also expect them either to be wearing clothing pulled from the Chaotica simulation or completely alien, if any at all, and not suits of the era but not from within the simulation. Chaotica orders his brute to kill one of the photonics, to the screaming of Constance, and the detriment of carbon-photonic relations for years to come.
Janeway uses up dwindling replicator power feeding her coffee addiction. Also, the ship’s toilets are shutting down – they only have four working ones left. Lines are beginning to form because apparently toilets take up too much power, and also bolians have really messy extreta. Nobody has yet suggested buckets and an airlock, for some reason. Plus, all the sonic showers are offline except 3. Janeway leaves the details of handling this to Neelix, because she doesn’t want to deal with it, because she’s a great captain delegator.
Moving very slowly seems to be working, and Voyagager has successfully approached the subspace boundary before slowing again. Torres also sees weapons signatures from within holodeck 2. Captain Proton. Time for an expedition.
Tuvok and Tom enter the simulation to see Chaotica’s city and guards in ruins. Constance is dead. The evil robot is in a bad way too, but intact enough to get some information. Tom explains resistors and vacuum tubes to Tuvok, who just looks disgusted with Tom’s obsession with useless technology. He does get it repaired enough to explain the invasion through its useless-robot-holoprogramming. Tom goes to his rocketship to train its sensors on the rifts.
Astrometrics gets a feed up to the holodeck, where Harry and Seven watch the battle play out between the Fifth Dimensional Photonic Visitors and Chaotica. Apparently, Chaotica repaired his fortress, or else this episode is even cheaper than I thought. But the plot matches on – Chaotica is calling on Arachnea to help fight the invaders and people sat down in a room and got paid to write this.
The really fun thing here is Satan’s Robot – is it programmed to be helpful to people in a Starfleet uniform, and be antagonistic to people in Captain Proton uniforms? Because we still can’t access the holodeck controls, so this is part of its pre-existing story programming as a holodeck character. I doubt we’ll get answers to that, since one of the visitors shows up on Captain Proton’s ship, but it does get sullen when Tom tells it to shut up.
Unfortunately, although the holodeck is a simulation, the casualties to the photonic life forms, who can be hurt by holodeck weaponry, are real. They’re as confused about biochemical life as we would be about photonic life if this were the first time Starfleet had encountered energy beings. Unfortunately, things don’t go well, and the photonic beings can only sense the planet, and not the carbon-based life.
Tom suggests they help the aliens defeat Chaotica. To do that, they’ll need to disable the Death Ray. To do that, someone will need to disable Chaotica’s Lightning Shield, using Arachnea as a trojan horse. Janeway clearly is about to Volunteer Seven. Janeway doesn’t want to go, despite this being a clear-cut First Contact situation. Plus they’re sending the Doctor in as President of Earth to talk to the aliens. Paris coaches Janeway in 1930s villainy, and this includes the terrible dialogue and the fact that there will be a love potion present that Janeway can use as an ace in the hole.
Janeway arrives at Chaotica’s fortress just in time to stop him from ordering full-power tot he death ray again. And she can certainly put on a performance when motivated. She gets him to show her around, strokes his death ray, and sits in his throne, and tries to get him to lower the shield. He’ll do it on condition of marriage. It’s hard to determine whether she’s overdoing her part or not – it’s not like anyone involved in this plotline is big on subtlety.
Meanwhile, the Doctor gets to flex his own dramatic chops and gets the Visitors to stop firing long enough for Tom to get the ship operational. Tom seems pretty fed up with this whole simulation at this point. All of these parts go off without a hitch, but Janeway is, in fact, being too ubsubtle for a ’30s-era radio play-turned-holoprogram. In the end, she has to take more direct action, reveal her betrayal, and get captured in his trapdoor. Good thing she has those phreomones. But before the plot is solved using the things we alreay know about, we have to be told that Voyager is in further danger of being pulled into subspace.
When Janeway uncorks the pheromones, they hit Chaotica’s henchthug instead. She gets free, gets a gun again, and executes the rest of the plan. They take out the death ray and Chaotica to boot, and Voyager is able to move again once the distortions holding them in place are closed. And Janeway’s a little into the holodeck now. She’s enjoying being the Queen, but Chaotica promises revenge from beyond the grave.