In which Barclay is Back.
Barclay’s office, or apartment, is a mess. Hopefully he wasn’t expecting company, but company is here nonetheless. It’s Deanna Troi, who despite the years is still in touch. He was, in fact, expecting company, and still awkward, although not as awkward. The main thing he remembers about her is that she likes chocolate, but other than that he’s just the same old earnest Reg. He’s been working on the Pathfinder project, but isn’t anymore. Part of the reason might be that he named his cat Neelix. Or it might be that he did the typical Reg Barclay thing, and got obsessed with his work regarding Voyager.
They begin the impromptu counseling session, and Reg starts with Jargon. Troi guides them back to something useful as a narrative jumping-off point – Reg was running simulations in the holodeck when he should have been doing diagnostics for Admiral Paris. Instead, he wants to use a a Starfleet array to beam tachyons at a pulsar to try to make a wormhole. Instead of going off on these theories in front of Admiral Paris, his boss tells him to keep quiet. Although Reg goes back to work, he finishes up and goes right back to his pet theory. Even in the face of his boss trying hard to just get him some human connection. He, the Augments, and a highly competent babysitter should work together – instead, he tries to solve his writer’s block with his simulation of the mess hall, which is… not up to date.
Chakotay and B’Elanna are still in maquis uniform in this simulation, and they’re all programmed to lose poker to him, hard. His obsession extends to sleeping better in the Voyager simulation than in his apartment, and considering the simulated crew his best friends, as well as (of course) teaching everyone how to do the most basic functions of their jobs.
In the real world, the Pathfinder project has been estimating likely paths and locations for Voyager at this point, which of course won’t account for the boost our heroes just got from the catapult array. They don’t yet have the MIDAS array operational, though once it is, with the help of the Vulcan science academy, it will be able to send signals at ‘hyper-subspace’ speeds. If functional it would allow them one-way data transmission – at this time Barclay cuts in with his pet theory. Very badly. When he gets shut down for not having the data to back him up, he tells Admiral Paris that they’re all forgetting the personnel behind the engineering problem. Yeah.
Troi knows the answers to the questions she’s asking, but asks them anyway to make a point. Instead of going out and connecting with people, he went to whiteboard on the hoodeck with his Voyager simulations, where he comes up with the idea of a ‘micro-wormhole’ amongst his yes-men simulations. Now, at this point I want to remember that Barclay may still be super-intelligent, or at least not fully ‘recovered’ after the boost from the Cytherans. We don’t know whether these are legitimately good ideas or if he’s just programmed them to agree to anything he says. It’s during this session – ten hours of continuous use after the briefing where he was told to go home, that his boss Pete catches him, and diagnoses this as a holo-addiction relapse, and is ordered off the premesis.
Eventually, Admiral Paris agrees to see Reg if only to get him out of his secretary’s way. Ultimately, Paris isn’t going to let personal feelings negate protocol, although he does agree to review Barclay’s notes so far. Troi, in review, sees this as a win. It’s not, of course, because the project is all Barclay has. He called Troi down here to get him declared Fit For Duty, which he is not. He hasn’t adjusted to not being with the Enterprise crew anymore. Troi decides to stay with him, in a friendly capacity but also in a keeping-track-of-him-so-he-doesn’t-spiral-into-depression capacity.
That bit doesn’t work – he hacks into the MIDAS lab to run practical experiments on the pulsar. Powering up the array does indeed produce a micro-wormhole, which he in theory aligns towards Voyager and opens a channel. When Pete catches him, he flees into this simulation and gets SimTuvok to deploy security against his pursuers while Barclay keeps redirecting the wormhole and trying again as he flees through the ship. To shut him down, Pete initiates a simulated warp-core breach. Reg is cornered in the bridge science station, but eventually has to give up.
Aboard Voyager, Seven is about to renege on singing lessons for Neelix, since he’s a lost cause when they receive Barclay’s signal. Apparently one of their guesses was close enough, despite all the jumps they’ve taken since the last time they were actually in contact. Voyager gets ready to respond.
In the Alpha quadrant, Admiral Paris is up in the middle of the night to go to bat for Barclay’s plan, which has just seemed to fail. However, they receive the response just in time and the Pathfinder team goes to work. They get it cleaned up enough to send data on the new comms, and some personal messages. The moral of the story is that Starfleet will reward just about any protocol-breaking, if it works. He’s even made a whole bunch of new friends he’s never met. And the episode doesn’t end with him saying ‘end program and Troi disappearing, so that’s good news.