In which Harry adds two tallies the list of bad romantic pursuits.
A shuttle of alien design tries to escape from another ship of alien design. Its alien occupant aims carefully and fires, disabling her purser, then says something about Voyager. She opens a channel, in fact. The transmission appears on a console closest to the new Borg girl Misati. During what passes for small talk, our alien says that her species is a ‘complicated question’ but knows Janeway by name. Misati tries to patch the comm through to Janeway but hangs up instead, and the channel won’t re-open. She gets in trouble from Tuvok, then Seven for not waiting in the cargo bay.
Seven has some stuff to learn about childcare. For example, she’s dressed the twins in photo-negative overall sets. Misati takes this opportunity to mention the comm, and when they reestablish communication, their mysterious caller recognizes Tuvok’s voice and that he’s been promoted. In fact, she recognizes everyone, and nobody recognizes her until she introduces herself as Ensign Lyndsay Ballard, former crewmember and also late human. Lyndsay is fully willing to cooperate with all the security protocols you’d expect to erect if a dead crewmember wearing alien skin showed up.
Harry is personnaly invested in this, as the two of them were close the last time she was alive, and he’d know if it’s her. She’s able to recount the events of her death at the hands of a Hirogen hunting party and death on the shuttle back. They buried her in space, and when she woke up she was in a stasis pod surrounded by aliens who reanimated her. The Kobali brought her back in one of their bodies – it’s their method of procreation.
Now the question is, did this species ever have biological reproduction, or are they possibly an entirely ‘created’ species – starting with one person who discovered clinical resurrection and genetic tinkering and build themselves a whole new species? Whatever the method, Lyndsay was placed with a family to adapt and kept away from comms – their culture considers the former life over-with, similar to the Trill mentality.
Lyndsay, however, believes in the idea that the first duty of a captured Starfleet officer is to escape. The Doctor corroborates as much of her story as he can. Janeway is skeptical and cautious, but welcomes her back provisionally. Next, Harry needs to welcome her back too. They were apparently a lot closer than we ever heard about and this might go some way to explaining why Harry always chases unattainable women.
She gets a welcome-back staff meeting in which the threat is established – the Kobali are out their and want their new daughter back. But now that Ballard is back, she starts trying to scratch items off her un-bucket list – the things she made up to do if and when she ever got back. Hearing Harry play music, showing up to duty shifts on time, et cetera.
Typically of Seven, she’s course-correcting a momentary error in judgement of human nature by tacking hard in the other direction. In this case, it’s by strictly regimenting an hour of ‘recreational activities’ for the new kids with Naomi which includes ‘no time for irrelevant small talk.’ The twins, who can communicate nonverbally, start cheating at the game and are told to go stand in the corner, cuing the breakup of the whole game and a general mutiny.
Harry saved all of Ballard’s possessions, including her ice skates. She promptly gives her quarters that good old lived-in look. The two of them were in Academy together, which is how they’re so close despite us never hearing about her at the time. Harry even gave the euology, and in return she confides that the main reason she made it back is to see Harry again. This awkward moment ends when the Doctor calls her in to tell her that he’s finished analyzing her scans. She’s been inhabited by a genetic pathogen that rewrote her entire body to Kobali, and there’s not enough original DNA to return her to human. Of course, that’s gotta be only until he reverse-engineers it, right? It’s not like she had enough Kobali DNA to start with to make the changeover. The good news is, Federation cosmetic surgery has been pretty advanced for quite a while, and he can make her look human even though her entire circulatory system and brain structure have been altered. This he can accomplish with a single hypospray that just morphs her face most of the way back to human.
Neelix fixed her up a berry salad, one which she’s been looking forward to for a while since all the Kobali eat is grey nutrient paste. Sadly, she doesn’t taste it the way she remembers it tasting, even though Harry can detect nothing off about it. Kobali taste buds, I guess. She heads off to her duty shift in engineering, where she immediately diagnoses an engine problem, but with a Kobali word for the phenomenon, and then with Kobali jargon and idioms for, at a guess, ‘reconfigure’,’ manifold’ and ‘voila.’ These somewhat kill the moment of triumph.
Seven’s asking for reassignment from being Borg Babysitter on the grounds that she’s terrible at forcing them to adhere to a rigid complex schedule. Chakotay explains as best he can where she went wrong, then just flat-out denies her.
Since that’s the B-plot, we skate right into Harry prepping for a date with Lyndsay while Tom makes fun of his abysmal record with women. He and Lyndsay never dated before, but now that she’s literally been dead, he’s all for it. I feel like someone in the science division should be keeping track of who Harry falls in love with so they know when they’re in an Episode and from which direction the terrible twist is going to befall everyone. And speaking of which, she has hair now and has been invited to the Captain’s quarters for dinner. Harry’s jealous but when you think of what she had to go through to get it… actually, Harry might still have her beat when you consider he’s been digested, infected, assimilated, and also dead.
Janeway somehow managed to bollocks a replicated roast. I can only infer from this that replicators have some kind of cooking minigame in them where you tell the Replicator what steps you want it to perform on the base ingredients and it simulates an outcome. This has to be a special ‘manual’ mode, as distinct from the mode where it gives you textured and flavored nutrient paste that simulates what you wanted. Fortunately, Janeway had PB&J fixings ready to go, just in case.
In this informal setting, Ballard finally gets to ask why Janeway sent Ballard on that fateful away mission, when other crew members (namely Tuvok and Torres) had more skill in the required task. The answer is, of course, that Ballard had enough and (precedent notwithstanding) it’s bad doctrine to send your most-skilled and highest-ranked officers out to do every little thing. But that’s not while Ballard is asking, and she gets defensive when Janeway suspects she might be accusing her of getting her kiled. After all, that’s not the Kobali way.
She dreams that night of a farewell party for her, and goes right to Harry’s bed. Not like that, though Harry is afforded the chance to mention he always had a crush on her, to which she was oblivious, because he never said anything because he’s always been suuuuuper shy. Six years on Voyager have partially cured him of this.
Borg Child Sculpture Time is next, with the three boys creating orderly geometric shapes and Misati making a bust of Seven. This was not the assignment, but Seven has had a lesson in letting kids be kids.
Ballard can sense the Kobali coming for her. There was a throwaway line earlier about Tuvok having a good idea for countermeasures to their weapons, but Voyager still goes to red alert when they arrive. The Kobali that came for her doesn’t threaten, though, only ask. Ballard agrees. Her ‘father,’ Q’ret, is honestly confused as to why she would want to return to the people who she spent all but two years being part of, just because they ‘abandoned her in space’ after she died. Apparnetly the transformation usually doesn’t retain as much memory as Lyndsay did, so it goes over much more smoothly. You’d hope, though, that if this is their main MO they might be better versed in letting their new un-orphans go if they don’t get consent. It’s not like they probably lose a lot of members of the species to morbidity rates.
He’d make a good point about using her raw materials to make a daughter – nobody was using those handfull of kilograms of organic matter before he came along – except that she objects, which ought to be something of a dealbreaker. Q’ret indicates that this won’t end without a fight, and that he’ll come back with reinforcements. And Lyndsay left to brood in the mess hall and eat Kobali nutrient sludge. And when Harry goes to reassure her that she’s still Ballard, he probes up against the edges of that memory loss we only just learned about last scene. Moreover, her Kobali phenotypes start to reassert themselves as the pathogen starts to reassert itself – to the point where to upkeep her human appearance she’ll need twice-daily treatments.
The Kobali shuttle is the next brooding-nest. Harry wants her to stop the treatments if that’s what makes her happy, but there’s enough pulling her away that without that anchor she wouldn’t feel like fitting in. So when the Kobali arrive to attack Voyager, Ballard decides to go back. Harry figures out a way to destroy one of the ships, and so when presented with that choice, Janeway lets her go, over Harry’s objections and requests to kill. Harry gets some closure on a wound he’d thought was already closed, gives her hairbrush to Misati, and takes the little borg girl on the date to go mess with Tuvok’s meditation program instead. Damn it Harry – always after those women you should not pursue.