In which the pen is mightier than the sword.
Some monks appear to be reciting a log for a rapt audience. It is, in fact, a passion play, filtered through the understanding of a bronze-age culture. Harry and Torres were in the Delta Flyer, they were hit by an anomaly, and she put Harry in the escape pod and crash-landed on this planet. This is as recited by Kellas the Poet, and it seems to have gone over well. The local patron likes the play, and demands more, and pays for it. Kellas has to write another one fast, though, so he runs back to the Delta Flyer, lit only by candles, and stabs B’Elanna awake. This is less a nurse-her-back-to-health situation and more a Misery sort of deal.
He’s claiming to be Torres’ servant, but he’s not untying her hands. Also, the cutting is not malicious, he’s bleeding her to release the excess heat like any good bronze-age medic. He is, however, willing to get her medkit and medical devices, and wastes the opportunity on a dermal regenerator, rather than having him hand her a phaser to stun him. And explains how he’s been using her logs for the last 8 days to write his epics. So there’s the Prime Directive shot to hell, although she’s trying to keep it as intact as possible, and only bargains away the details for freedom. At which point she does grab a phaser and chase him off, then spends all night trying to repair the Delta Flyer.
It has no power, and when it runs down, Kellas is back with food and a new bargain, but now that she’s awake Torres can filter her story though a filter he can understand, and shows him a diagram of dilithium, which they locals know as Winters Tears, and which are found only in the patron’s hunting grounds. Feudalism sucks. One lucky storm later, and Kellas is back with the dilithium and tells him the story about how she’s going to get rescued.
On Shining Voyager, however, the search has been going for eight or nine days, and is now over, pending any new signal. Tom’s not happy, Steady-Handed Tom on the tiller is troubled. Kellas is having some trouble with the direction, getting his actors to betray Shy Harry, Aloof Seven, Emotionless Tuvok. But the good news is that Torres has restored enough power that she might be able to replicate any parts she might need to repair everything else, as long as the power junctions don’t explode. It’s just a good thing that the antimatter containment was still running. Kellas doesn’t know how much trouble he’s in, and Torres doesn’t seem inclined to tell him, just asking instead of a bronze plate with gold on one side for containment.
Tuvok’s been awake for ten days, running perilously close to the Vulcan limit of two weeks, which isn’t much more than the recorded human maximum and seems to run into similar diminishing returns on cognitive function. If there is anything to be gained from study and analysis, it seems illogical to waste time doing said analysis in an impaired state and risking missing something. But Tuvok isn’t all that good at logic. Incidentally, Harry is also missing.
Kellas is insisting on verisimilitude from his actors, including getting pissed off that the actor playing Logical Tuvok is able to cry on cue in his otherwise sedate monologue. He’d know his patron better than I would, I suppose, but there’s a little thing called audience relatability. But a wrinkle has appeared – their patron has been insulted and declared war, and Kellas goes to Torres for help. Not weapons, but the right play to stop a war. And since the metal piece he got for her is garbage, she won’t be able to leave before the scouting parties find the shuttle. So he takes Torres back to his actors as a scholar of the Voyager Eternals which really pisses off his girlfriend.
Torres is still writing the rescue attempt as she wants it to happen, where Kellas needs a plot device. An elder poet critiques Kellas’ reliance on tropes, and oh cripes if this isn’t just the writers enjoying themselves by yelling at their fans by proxy.
Chakotay has some news – some aliens have picked up Torres’ last distress call, and with Harry in an escape pod that lasts for less than 10 days, and Torres heading for an L-class planet, there’s not a whole lot of hope left over. Escape pods have fewer than ten days of life support.
Kellas has filled his play with kissing because his culture really believes in the power of performance – their auditorium used to be a sacrificial temple, until sacrifice was replaced with plays. As such, he tries from another angle, and fixates on the borg as a vast and terrifying enemy that Janeway would neverteless try to make peace with. There’s a play that could stop a war.
Kellas’ actress girlfriend has found the Delta Flyer and figured it out, and threatens Torres to stay away because she really doesn’t want to lose Kellas. Also, Harry’s alive and on-planet. He followed her ion trail – escape pods evidently have a drive, controls, and sensors sufficient to follow an ion trail of a damaged shuttle. That’s not necessarily a lot of those, since it took him ten days and such a trail isn’t necessarily quiet, but it’s starting to stretch the definition of ‘pod.’ He’s also got a transmitter, the one piece she doesn’t have. Harry Kim was useful – the Sudden Reversal.
Kellas is still missing the ending, while Torres and Kim finally have the transmitter up. By night, Kellas has forced a garbage ending and sends a runner with a last desperate message. Voyager is trundling along, Tuvok’s fallen asleep in the Big Chair so evidently they haven’t gotten the update quite yet. They do just as Tuvok gets jolted awake and lay in a course, even as the play ends.
The play gets a Shyamalan twist when Seven turns out to be the Borg Queen, laying in wait to take revenge on Voyager, even as it seems Janeway already knew. Kellas’ note says that he can’t figure out a better ending than to kill off the Torres character, and by now, with all the other stakes of the episode resolved, B’Elanna cares enough about the play to power up the transporter and beam over to have Torres rescued. The lead actress throws the whole play to the wolves and everyone has to invent audience-participation improv so that B’Elanna can beam back to Voyager in full view of everyone.