VOY: S5E17: “Course: Oblivion”

In which Voyager flirts with nihilism again, and doesn’t use protection. 

“God I hate them. Meet me in the coat closet in three minutes.”

There appears to be a wedding aboard. Harry’s stuck playing clarinet an goldshirts are stuck passing out drinks. We’ve discussed this before, but imagine being stuck on-duty, or getting off-duty to have to do catering for someone else’s party on a ship of 143. And remember, it’s not supposed to have that few people. An in the era of indoor weddings where there are no birds to explode, rice has made a comeback. This wedding is for Torres, with Chakotay giving away the bride, with Seven and Tuvok good-naturedly sniping from the sidelines.

As a brief look back at where we’ve come from, the first shipboard wedding we saw didn’t end well. In this case, Harry still needs reminding not to be a comic screwup. But so does Tom, they’re all a bit excted. Seven catches the bouquet, unsurprisingly, and everything slows down into creepy echoing slow motion as the newlyweds run out of the mess hall amid a shower of rice and spacetime begins to warp and the rice falls through the deck plating.

It doesn’t seem to have affected much yet, however. The ship seems to be proceeding, a crewman had a baby, an they’re geared up to pass right through the center of the galaxy on their way home, thanks to their new warp drive. In fact, they’re two years from home by current calculations. They’re so close to home that Janeway’s really pulling for more detours to check out weird space stuff. And this is really recent – Tom and B’Elanna haven’t even picked a honeymoon spot yet, nor has Torres fully mothered her staff and Seven over the new warp core. She’s even putting off the end of her duty shift to go check out an injector port, and also to rib Seven about catching the bouquet. Seven is also not all about human cultural monogamy. However, Seven is saved from having to give a lecture on poly relationships by their discovery of the way the jeffries tubes are falling apart.

This is, of course, due to the new warp core. The Warp Field is emitting subspace radiation that’s melting the ship, and shutting off the field doesn’t seem to be fixing it. Honeymoon’s off, and after several hours of research, Torres has started exhibiting physiological symptoms. Her face is melting, as are several other crewmembers. They’re breaking down at the chromosomal level – engineering techs first, and the rest of the crew is on their way out too.

I want to put it on the record now that it’s somewhat shoddy storytelling that we never find out what this new warp drive was developed or reverse-engineered from. We can guess it’s the borg transwarp engine they just got, but that burned out after jumping them 20,000 light-years and they haven’t made mention of its borg technology. You would generally expect them to – Borg technology is like crossfit  or what someone gave up for lent.

What’s freaky is that only stuff that came from Voyageris decaying. Vegetables Neelix has harvested are fine, but all the other food and materials that have been replicated onboard are breaking down as soon as they’re built. The cutoff point appears to be 30-40 weeks ago. Anything brought on board since then is fine. Everything else is breaking. Tuvok and Chakotay cycle through Significant Events.

Tom brings his decision for their honeymoon to Torres in sick bay, as her molecules fall apart. It’ll be a vintage Chicago hotel in the prohibition era. She gets to hear about it before she dies. Tom won’t accept it, but the Doctor needs to go into analytics mode.

When we get back to Chakotay and Tuvok, they’ve finally picked an episode that we’ve actually seen on-air – the Demon-class planet Voyager had to land on for deuterium. When the silver pool sampled sentience and duplicated the entire crew of Voyagerby engulfing them. Also, when it tried to eat the ship. Thus inspired, Chakotay and Tuvok tell the Doctor to scan for the silver-blood compounds, which Torres’ corpse is full of. When injected with a test, she dissolves into the Silver Blood. This is the crew of the DemonVoyager.

Janeway rejects this hypothesis, because the Demon-blood forgot it was a duplicate. Sadly, the warp core, which isn’t harmful to humans, is harmful to the silver blood. Their best chance is heading back to the demon-class planet. Janeway doesn’t relish the idea, because it’s traveling in the wrong direction. Updating her priors based on a radically different understanding of her existence is not in her remit, apparently. Since these are pretty faithful copies of the originals, that’s not a very flattering characterization of Real Janeway.

Also note that unless they send records of their travels and the warp technology they got to Real Voyager, this episode doesn’t matter. Instead of going back, Janeway has them start to look out for a Class-Y planet on the way.

I also want to briefly mention an element of the Changeling Problem. As with changelings, there’s some nontrivial element of dualism involved in the Silver Blood Demon Crew. One has to ask what Odo thinks with, when he’s shaped like a rock, if he’s reading to all instruments as a rock. Similarly, one has to ask – if the Demon crew was molecularly identical to the Voyager crew, then on what level were they different enough to be affected by the radiation? You can also call it the Cylon problem – if their spines glow when they bone, there ought to be a way to determine whether they’re robots or not – just MRI them and look for LEDs. There wind up being interesting questions of dualism like this that force us to at least contemplate the difference between being human and being made of human.

Yikes, she looks like she’s spent the last seven months as Trump’s chief strategist.

Although Tom, having just lost his wife, is more into nihilism than dualism. Meanwhie, Janway is dead-set on the course to oblivion (title drop!) by citing destiny and that they might be all that’s left of Starfleet out here. The good news is that they’ve found a planet that might offer them some stability, and not before time.

Sadly, this planet is claimed, and by people who don’t want to talk. Janeway is forced to try to open fire, but to no effect. Tuvok offers a lethal force option, which Janeway retreats rather than taking – shes holding fast to Starfleet ideals. They start up a distress call to see if real-Voyager is nearby for an infusion of DNA, but otherwise set course for Earth.

Janeway and Chakotay have an argument about what it means to be human, or a mimickry of human, and whether command structures still exist, before he denatures. With that as a wakeup call, Janeway orders Harry to turn on the turbocharger and Paris to sprint them back home to their planet of origin. They’re five weeks out when the ship is degenerated enough that the holographic projectors go offline. They’re pouring everything into sick bay and the warp core. They might wind up as a protomorphic blob smacking into the surface at transluminal momentum, though.

It’s about now that Janeway decides to download everything important into a signal beacon to preserve their memories and distinguishing events before heading off to deal with the next crisis – the deflector dish is now offline, and the interstellar medium starts messing with the warp field, shaking the field apart and threatening to drop them out of warp. Harry barely manages to purge it in time, and the strain of this last crisis proves to be the end of Duplicate Janeway. Harry is acting captain now, although the ship is 80% gone so it’s hard to be definitive about what this means for his place in the line of succession.

They manage to get the time capsule ready, but the launch controls are malfunctioning and the probe is lost, like tears in the rain. Time to die, or maybe not. Here comes Voyager, but they can’t even call for help while at warp. The ship is so broken they have to eject the warp core as a last-ditch brake attempt just so they can call for help. Seven dies in the attempt.

Real Voyager is deliberately charging to the rescue, but are no longer getting a response. By the time they get there, the Demon is a mere cloud of dispersed mercury dichromate. All that’s left of them is an anonymous log entry.

Did we miss something awesome?