VOY: S5E14: “Bliss”

In which one could be forgiven for thinking that Star Trek writers have only ever read the one book. 

“Once more unto the breach, dear friends.”

Looks like we’re starting with a space wedgie, as a white-haired pilot battles the implacable maw of the anomaly firing space-lightning back at him. And then he screams defiance as it pulls him in. Roll credits without context, except that those formations look decidedly toothy.

Janeway is pretty pleased, meanwhile, because Voyager has just found a wormhole, right nearby, that seems to lead directly to Sector 001 – Earth, by Federation reckoning. About the same time, Seven, Paris, and Naomi are returning from a survey mission. Paris gives Naomi a shot at the controls, and space is better than a parking lot for that. They get back and Seven finds out the news when everyone is filling up her Astrometrics lab searching for what’s wrong with this one, and Seven has the same thought but they’re way ahead of her. There’s no temporal variance, no instability, it’s basically gift-wrapped from a Q itself. The only weird thing is that it should have shown up  on long-range sensors before they basically tripped over it. And that it’s too perfect.

Seven found an unusal neutrino flux, but Janeway’s already got a communication from Starfleet through the wormhole saying ‘hey don’t worry about the neutrino flux.’ Seven wants to run further scans, but Janeway is too cheery to listen and puts all of Seven’s doubts into the context of being afraid to go integrate with the Alpha Quadrant. Not only that, Janeway just got another letter saying her boyfriend is no longer engaged. Chakotay himself has been offered a full pardon and a professorship.

Seven goes digging into Janeway’s personal logs, getting around the locks with a two-second hardware hack. And this log replay shows a progressive gradient from being completely distrustful of the wormhole as an obvious deception, to being completely suckered in. And Seven’s annoyance only increases when Neelix comes to her with a letter for Annika Hansen. It’s from her aunt Claudia, who wants to meet her. Neelix has been appointed an ambassador to a race of quadropeds. Seven takes her concerns to Paris, but he’s already accepted a position at a test-flight center. There’s only one person left who can help, who won’t be swayed by perfect news.

“As a program, you are dour, unimaginative, and too small-minded to be deceived or worth deceiving. Assist me in shattering the dreams of this crew.”

Seven seeks out the Doctor,  who nobody bothered to tell, and who will examine some of the crew for physiological symptoms. She’s called away to the bridge to view the wormhole, and the visual telemetry is muddy, but they can see Earth, and go in for approach. Seven retreats to Astrometrics, trying hard to detect irregularities, and finds a vessel stuck in the wormhole that the sensors can’t see. She sends a message to it, and gets a response from the berserker in the teaser who charged it guns blazing.

He wards her that they are being deceived, that ‘he knows what you want’ but then Janeway has the power shut down in astrometrics and rerouted to navigation for the trip through. Tuvok drops by to explain that she couldn’t possibly have experienced what she just experienced, and that rather than believing her he’s going to bar her from the astrometrics lab. This is also, basically, where we confirm an unnatural mental influence coming from the wormhole.

Seven also hears sounds coming from the cargo bay, and detects Naomi. She’s hiding from the adults, who are all acting strangely. Naomi doesn’t feel it, which makes her an effective ally. She goes to codify her other ally, but the Doctor has been shut down on Starfleet orders, because the wormhole will damage his program if it’s running. Paris is manning Sick Bay in the Doctor’s place.

Further, in keeping with the obvious trend, Chakotay has come to see Seven with some bad news – the wormhole passes through a layer of subspace that the Borg monitor. Don’t ask how they know, the only two camps are ‘already know it’s a trap’ and ‘too high on telepath-weed to care about logic.’ Because Seven has a beacon in her head, they need to turn her implants off. Wthout the Doctor. Which could kill her.

At 2000km out from the wormhole, Seven is being put into lockdown, and adjusts the cargo bay to put up a force field, then recruits Naomi to help monitor a console to block the bridge from taking down the force field. This can be done with a series of commands that can be performed by an unusually-mature three-year-old. I assume it scrambles the access code or something, and Seven just didn’t have time to write a macro. While Naomi does this, Seven gears up with a phaser rifle and beams to main engineering.

“I am hijacking this vehicle.”

Once this is all over and the chips are down, what do you think the odds are that Torres will forgive Seven for pointing a phaser in her engine room? She shoots everyone, puts up a force field, and starts shutting down the engines. Janeway counters with an EM surge that knocks out Seven, and Voyager enters the anomaly, which is confirmed as catfishing them. The on-screen wormhole, in reality definitely has teeth. The deception continues even as the lightning arcs, and even gets turned up a notch. We see Neelix meeting a group of ambassadors, the bridge crew seeing Earth instead of a monsterous digestive tract, and everyone is unconscious.

I have the Sarlaac problem, of course – what sustainence is this creature getting from Voyager that’s greater than all the space-ligtning its expending to take the ship in? Then again, Voyager is carrying interstellar fuel, so maybe the creature eats that.  We also see Tuvok’s wife for the first time, and he’s so zonked out that he doesn’t seem to feel this is worth questioning. Only Naomi is awake now. She goes to Engineering to yell Seven awake, and they start working. The space kraken is demolecularizing the hull, and Naomi gets to stick around to help Seven figure it out. Now that they’re inside, Seven has the sensors working enough to see the space kraken for what it is, and she goes looking for the other ship, who’s still hanging around. He knows exactly what happened, but we run into a problem in that he doesn’t believe Voyager is real and Seven can help. It’s not exactly subtle. Seven’s abraisve personality might actually help convince him here.

Because the show won’t name him, I looked it up. Qatai has had many years of experience with the telepathic space-kraken. It just eats all matter, and it telepathically ensnares starships. Imagine the ecosystem that would have to exist to bring something like this to fruition – or imagine the god-like energy being that would create it wholecloth. Either is terrifying. Qatai has been hunting this thing for years, and is mostly immune to its powers. However, it tricked him by making him think he’d found a way to kill it. From the inside.

In fact, that might even have been true, but the kraken deceived Qatai into flying the wrong direction. Since Seven and Naomi seem to be immune, though, they might have better luck this time. And since everyone’s knocked out, they can even reactivate the Doctor. He’s been out for long enough that they have to recap for him, and we get a more exact assessment of the kraken’s level of guile.

Despite Qatai’s objection, the Doctor is able to get Torres to wake up, but she’s still definitely being influenced, because who wants to wake up from paradise? Qatai recounts the way it took out his former ship, a colonial ship with his family on it, almost 40 years ago. The Doctor has determined the kraken is around 20,000 years old but mostly a creature of instinct. Qatai disagrees… respectfully. He’s also really excited by the torpedoes. The Doctor dissents, and suggests poisoning themselves to make the creature throw them up. They’ll sour the milk.

 

I have a concern, though. Qatai has spent nearly four decades hating this creature and wanting to kill it. He’s suddenly okay with just being thrown up? I have my doubts. Especially since Qatai even still admits to being fixated on the beast, making the Moby Dick reference I was saving up and devaluing it. Jerk.

The time comes to implement the plan, but to enhance drama there’s an issue wth the targeting sensors. Even odds as to whether it was done to fill fifteen seconds, it’s the kraken trying to save itself, or it’s Qatai setting up an excuse for going over-the-top and murdering the thing. It doesn’t seem to be the latter, because Operation Ipecac works like a charm. So quickly, in fact, that one could almost be suspicious. Qatai hails them to let them know. However, faced with the inescapable logic of her two companions, Seven is, in fact, willing to listen to reason, and once they’re confirmed safe, Qatai goes off on his way to hunt the beast before it gets away.

Everyone waking up is terribly confused as to the events of the night, and one could be forgiven for thinking that Seven is a bit smug about taking a nap before issuing a report. Voyager put up some beacons to warn other ships about the monster, which will work as long as it’s in the area, except it won’t because of all the convincing it takes people to successfully Disbelieve. Maybe Qatai will successfully kill it this time.

Did we miss something awesome?