In which Janeway turns a good friend of mine into a sex doll, and it ruins everything.
There are trains and steamer trunks and a sign welcoming the weary traveler to Cuan Someanta – Fair Haven. Tom Paris appears to have made a new holodeck program of idyllic drinking and cultural pastiche. He’s also included some unattainable women for Harry to pursue. And he refuses to alter it, for any reason. The Doctor has taken up the role of town priest, too. It lets him harangue people. He is also a good and proper irish priest, in that he officiates arm-wrestling competitions and gambling on them.
It’s about now that Janeway wanders by to witness Harry’s come-from-behind miracle, and to criticize Paris’ logo design. Also, to call the staff back to the bridge to help the ship survive an anomaly and to make eyes at the bartender. The anomaly is from a neutron-star collision and will hit in 15 hours, causing neutron radiation that disrupts their warp field. It’ll fill the crew with radiation and they can’t outrun it, so it’s time to batten down. Janeway’s up late, contemplating bad weather. Neelix points out that the crew isn’t really used to sitting still, so they might want to keep the holodeck with Fairhaven open during the storm. Janeway agrees. Once again, the holodeck being on an entirely separate power grid from the rest of the ship makes it eminently useful.
To distract herself from work, she heads down there to get some tea with the landlord and proprietor of the main pub. He challenges her to a game of ring toss, and loses handily, then they arm wrestle and flirt, and are interrupted at daybreak by, uh oh, the bartender Michael’s wife Frannie.
Everyone has to pass through Sick Bay to get inocculated against radiation, with one crew member getting hers mere minutes before the wavefront hits. The leading edge is strong enough to throw up turbulence and sparks, and a rupture some plasma, but after that, not much. They have 3 days of being mired in the storm – plenty of time for Janeway to get creative with Michael Sullivan’s parameters. She gives him an extensive enough education to be an intellectual conversationalist, more challenging, and also taller, less scruffy, and single.
Tuvok is apparently somewhat affected by the nebula, but refuses to go to sick bay to get it checked out. This is not the time for Harry and Tom to pitch it to him but that’s never stopped them before. Seven has progressed in her interpersonal skills sufficiently to be amused by Tuvok’s discomfort. When Neelix starts talking about the problems with making replicated Blood Pudding, Tuvok overcomes his reticence to leave.
Now that Janeway has adjusted the character of Mike Sullivan to be . more to her liking, she’s dressed up and invested in finding him, and he’s no longer at the pub where he works. He’s at the train station, reading and being that annoying Lit major whose only entry point into conversation is throwing names of poets at you. This also has chilling implications. Since Janeway specified this personality, she either wants the computer to teach her about poetry in the form of an attractive scruffy irishman, or she’s pretending to be more ignorant than she is on the subject to draw him in because humanity has still socialized people to pretend to be dumb in order to attract other people.
Chakotay drops by to silently judge Janeway, but he knows when he’s not wanted. So later, when he brings news about how the trailing edge of the wavefront is probably worse than the leading one, he makes a bit of comment about the irish poetry she’s brought up to the bridge – in an authentic-looking weathered book no less. Did she replicate the book to be heavily used? Chakotay has an eye for height and sufficient deduction to know what it means that Janeway’s hanging out with him after he’s gotten taller. We can make a lot of inferences about the relative stigmas of romantic associations with holograms. Some, but not enough to stop Janeway from getting real close. Inferences about Barclay aside, this is conclusive proof that holograms of people, which we’ve established have to be force fields in order to be animate (as opposed to inanimate objects that can be replicated and recycled) feel enough like flesh to be, um, intimate with.
Indeed, Janeway did replicate those books to be second-hand, and is now done with them. Major props for captain hit-it-and-quit-it. Apparently, getting to at least first base with a hologram has caused her to do some serious soul-searching just as even Seven is getting into the simulation to get hit on by the town drunk. At the gathering, Michael Sullivan is getting drunk over his heartache, despite being programmed not to get high on his own supply. Since he’s so bitter, the story comes out in front of Paris, who tries to sort out the situation, but becomes the object of a pub brawl. When Janeway hears about the injuries (safeties turned down sufficiently that the crew have some black eyes and minor cuts and bruises) she comes by to taunt them, in an extremely backfire-prone way. The Doctor’s going to try to handle this delicately.
The Doctor approaches this as a mental health issue, possibly using all that psychiatric progamming. He offers her an ear, in his guise as a priest, and gets the whole story – she modified him to be exactly her type and now it’s too perfect. And when she found out he snores, and she can change it instantly, she came to her senses. This appears to be the 24th century version of the feeling one gets when closing out of Incognito mode mid-stream. Of course, while all of this is true, the Doctor makes a good point – she can’t bone any of the crew and humans do need a certain degree of intimate socialization (if not actual carnal relations) to be mentally stable, and therefore for the good of the ship and crew Janeway shouldn’t feel guilty about going out and getting some. Also, her dismissal of holographic people is kind of insulting to the Doctor. The real unhealthy bit is her insistence on controlling everything, which should be an entirely different simulation.
The wavefront is as rough as Janeway’s love life, but at least it offers a welcome distraction. As their warp field anchor collapses just a kilometer from the end of the wavefront and they start being carried along with it, the best plan they have is to present the bow to the wave, cut through it with deflectors, and shut down everything else. Apparently, the holodeck is now sufficiently compatible to shunt power, but much like pulling the plug on a running computer, they’ll lose all their unsaved data. It’s that or die, though, so it’s not like there’s a real choice here. It takes everything they’ve got, but they sucessfully cut through the storm.
Fairhaven is devastated, and Paris has a new project. He’s going to try to save what he can for the reconstruction, and asks Janeway, pointedly, if there’s anything or anyone in particular she wants to save. She just drops by to say goodbye to Sullivan… or maybe just farewell. And to lock herself out of his behavior subroutines just in case.