In which Torres takes anger management classes, fights for Captain Planet, and lobbies for the weekend.
Meanwhile, back in the Delta quadrant, a Malon ship is dumping toxic gasses into space, as they are wont to do. Particularly since Voyager didn’t bother sending tech specs for clean energy across all frequencies. The crew on this ship are shown talking about families and being Just Decent Folk when their ship starts to rupture and break down. They have to eject their tank of toxic matter near the inhabited system they were already dumping next to, but even the ejection is jammed. In the emergency, the captain has to order one of his bridge crew to his probable death.
During all this, Tuvok is meditating on a candle, at B’Elanna. For anger management purposes, because she destroyed the Doctor’s camera. Thus, Chakotay ordered her to meditation. Torres does not immediately take it seriously, and Tuvok threatens to end this exercise that she doesn’t want to do, but eventually they buckle down to relive a time when B’Elanna, in elementary school, used engineering to nearly kill a kid on a space-tire-swing. Back in the day, anger was a source of strength for her, but it’s led to bad coping habits.
Voyager cruises along at sublight, and Tom discusses Tuvok and Torres’ session when they read the Malon distress call and find a field of escape pods, all contaminated with theta radiation. The entire region is contaminated by the Malon leak. Janeway now gets to enjoy the mystery of why the ship exploded. The first one they pick up happens to be the captain, Controller Fezzik, so they get the story out of him. He and his other podmate were, in fact, the only ones still alive when Voyager found them. And even that not for long, if the ship explodes and ignites all the antimatter, destroying everything within three light-years. Now, remember that without a warp field, things can go, at maximum, c. It will take any explosion at least three years to explode out to three light-years, because that’s what the term means. Although for funsies, the radiation is preventing them from creating a warp field, so instead Janeway orders Voyager to try and save the ship so it won’t explode in the first place. And threatens the rescuees with death if they don’t help.
The plan is to beam into an uncontaminated part of the ship and flush the contaminats deck-by-deck. Fezzik wants to run and hide in a nebula instead, but that doesn’t fly with the other ships in the area. Fezzik’s second drops a legend of toxicity-golems that live in the radiation tanks and feed on unwary Malon freighter crew as well. Neelix’s experience on a garbage scow means he’s got some useful advice, and the Doctor can innoculate them against the radition, to within a time limit. Torres also can’t stop antagonizing the Malon over their terrible waste-management practices.
In preparation for going into the garbage ship, Neelix is cooking up anti-radiation paste to fortify his cell membranes. Paris runs to catch Torres on her way out to give her a little pep talk and hopefully lift her mood a bit, and then they beam over to the Malon ship while not even wearing any protective gear. We know they have protective hear. I guess maybe the equipment wouldn’t help even a little against this type of radiation? Still, seems like at least you would want to keep the particles off. As soon as they beam over, though, their tricorder scans start igniting the atmosphere, so they have to proceed without them. As such, they have to split up, so Chakotay sends Torres with Fezzik.
On the way, he explains some of the realities of life on their planet – he’s a sculptor for half the year, but the other half he does waste disposal to keep their home planet clean. They are also not all the monsters that first captain was – they try hard to dump their toxic garbage where it won’t harm anyone – in theory. Character-moment over, we progress to the plot moment – the airlock is jammed so someone has to go up. The other Malon does, and gets attacked, presumably by whatever the toxicity-golem is going to actually turn out to be. It attacks him with chemical burns, and he goes into shock and dies.
Estimates show that the team isn’t going to make it, so Janeway has a backup plan – steer the freighter into a star, carefully so as not to blow it up. On board the freighter, Torres has started to get blistering, indicating a fatal does that needs treatment, so she and Fezzik have to divert to the infirmary. There’s a dead guy in their biobed, a worker whose job had a 70% mortality rate but incredible pay. Something something inelastic demand. Torres gets an injection of alien goop while Seven works through contingencies and briefly discusses the nature of Luck with Tuvok.
On the Malon ship, they’re getting up to speed, but either someone made a mistake or the ship;s broken, and an airlock opening on their deck knocks Chakotay out, and Voyager manages to beam him back in time. At this point we are reminded that there’s a monster on board. I feel like this could have been way more effective as a horror movie if they’d spent more time establishing the monster and never actually proved to us that it existed with the POV show. Ah well. Instead we just see Torres and Fezzik get increasingly angry at each other while a zombie Malon watches them.
It seems like at this point in their journey, Janeway is just fed up with dealing with the quirks of her crew. But it really feels like she’s taking this ‘sink or swim’ thing too far, and more-or-less doing her best to get her crew killed if they can’t shape up. Not actively trying to kill them, but more along the lines of being fine with it if Torres’ outbursts critically distract her and take Neelix with her. Janeway has her justification, and indeed Torres has taken a few minutes to meditate to keep her cool. At this point, they’ve made it to their final destination, where they can shut everything down if needed. Once there, they find what their time constraints are, and work to get everything back online.
When Chakotay wakes up, the Doctor confirms to him that there’s foreign DNA in the dead Malon’s wounds, and the analysis shows that it’s from a life-form that’s fully irradiated but immune to contamination. They get confirmation of this just as the radiation-monster sabotages their containment field and locks them into the control room for the kill. With the room full up with gas, nobody can see when it takes out Neelix. And phasers are out, it’ll ignite the fog. Fezzik gets t in the face next, and finally Torres starts beating the thing with a pipe until she can clear the smoke to see it’s a core laborer who’s really pissed about the lack of unions.
And now I’m rooting for the antagonist. He turns the thrusters back on to try to steer the ship away from the starbound course Voyager set it on, and Torres tries to talk him down with the anger management lessons she just got, then when that doesn’t work, beats him to death with the pipe. They make it out just before the ship blows up in the star, not igniting a massive three-light-year fireball. And it’s been a learning opportunity for Torres, and letting Voyager come withing spitting distance of teaching the Malon literally anything about pollution management, labor relations, or OSHA regulations.