VOY: S7E08: “Nightingale”

In which Harry demonstrates why he’s still an ensign.

At last, the true purpose of the variable-geometry nacelles – maintenance in a gravity well.

Today Voyager has landed for a major maintenance overhaul.  Shuttles are out to look for supplies to fuel all the repairs, and they’ll have to be down for a week at least. Apparently, Voyager has been held together with spit and wire for quite some time. The good news is that Icheb has shown himself a talent in engineering. Meanwhile, the Delta Flyer is out, and Harry is teamed up with Neelix and Seven, on the hunt for dilithium. They’re re-scanning a nebula for the fourth time because Harry has a hunch. However, nstead Neelix has found weaponsfire, as a ship behind them opens up on a cloaked ship in front of them.

Harry moves to disengage, but they receive a distress call from the target, claiming that they’re delivering humanitarian supplies. Harry continues to order withdrawal, citing the directive not to interfere with foreign internal conflicts. This isn’t the prime directive, however, because the aliens are spacefaring and have specifically asked for help. Neelix and Seven both argue, so Harry opens a channel to try to negotiate with the aggressors, who are not hearing it. In response to being hit with a warning shot, Harry has them use the deflector array to overload the aggressor’s weapons. Having successfully rendered aid, he takes Neelix over to the crippled ship to aid its mostly-dead crew.

One of the surviving passengers of the ship is Shepard Book. The crew is down to half-strength at best, and Harry offers to help bring the engines back online, which is the work of just a few moments. Book asks for help with the cloak first, on the basis that the Anari have more powerful weapons and they need to hide. Not that the cloak helped five minutes ago – the Anari clearly have sensors that can penetrate it, although that may be restricted to following an engine signal.  The shipwrecked have a lot of questions about Harry’s technical prowess, and although he’s definitely bitter about still being an ensign after six years, the fact that he’s the lowliest officer on the ship has to impress the people he’s helping, He and the kid bond over having terrible first-weeks-on-the-job, though.

Icheb is working alone in the cargo bay. Torres comes by to thank him, show him his new duty schedule, and encourage him to learn the utility of relaxation. Her time working with Seven and getting used to the rough Borg edges has paid off, and she’s a lot better now about recognizing talent – particularly when said talent doesn’t challenge her mastery of the engine room.

Harry and Seven have the cloak back up, the engines working, and the ship repaired. Harry wants to depart, but Shepard Book asks Harry if he can fly it since none of the crew have any experience flying a full-sized ship. They also point out that since he’s pissed off the Anari, their cloak will protect his shuttle – and they can’t afford to fail their mission. Eventually, he admits to their mission – carrying vaccines, and on a flight plan that takes them near enough to Voyager for a drop-off. However, when they get there, there are three Anari warships in orbit, moving into position over Voyager.

“The great thing about being a guest in a late-series episode is you’ve done all the tropes already so you have no way of knowing if I’m gonna be evil or not.”

Contact has already been made, and the Anari leader is taking a tour. He seems genial, leaving it hard to determine if he’s the friendly face of a despotic regieme, or if Harry’s accidentally thrown in with terrorists. Or, possibly, both. However, the Anari captain comes from a culture that seems to like talking to outsider and is willing to trade. When he hears Harry checking in audio-only, he even offers dilithium. Book warns Harry – the Anari operate by insidious imperialism – offering friendship, winning trust, and then declaring new vassals of the empire. Which, honestly, sounds a whole lot like how a Maquis or, heck, Quark, would describe the Federation.

Once the Anari move off, Harry decloaks with the medical team to explain the situation, and Janeway has to think about it. Book’s actual name is Lokin, by the way, and while Janeway kindly tells Harry how he screwed up, he argues back that a) she would have done the same thing, b) she has done the same thing in the past, and c) come on they’re cool. Once she relents, he asks to keep the mission to help the Krailor. He really wants to fly solo and rack up some promotion points for if they ever get home. He gets the mission, a curfew, and Seven as backup.

Icheb has been sent to repair one of the Doctor’s holo-emitters, and while there asks the Doctor how to tell when someone’s crushing on you. Because he thinks Torres might be crushing on him. If I don’t finish this entry, it’s because Icheb misconstrues her advances, gets rebuffed, gets mad at her for being friendly and whines about how hard it is to be a Nice Guy(tm). Fair warning. That said, Icheb’s first clarifying question is that couldn’t most of the signs the doctor mentions just be signs of friendliness. The Doctor rattles off some physiological signs, which Icheb seems to find helpful, probably because some Borg implant remnant lets him observe such things.

“Yes, I have made good decisions today.”

Harry rebuffs Tom asking to join the mission and gets some Decisiveness advice from Neelix, and when he steps onto the bridge it’s to some crisp Starfleet protocol from the Krailor newbie. He also names the ship Nightingale after good old Florence, and gets the ship underway, then spends his first free moments as Captain arranging his desk and setting up the saxophone he just started learning. He’s also demanding hourly status reports, and micromanaging Terek’s course correction work.

Icheb is working in close proximity with B’elanna, who is positively radiating friendship and being just a tad touchy and dismissive of Tom. He also takes a moment when she’s looking the other way to scan her for all those signs the Doctor mentioned and then become panicked.

The Nightingale has developed a power fluctuation that takes out the cloak, so they stop to repair. But Harry decides there’s not enough time for a full diagnostic and gets really brusque when he gets suggestions, so between that and not being able to delgate, he’s really not ready to have jumped from Ensign-executor to upper management. Seven points out the problem and it seems to hit home, but before much else happens the cloak goes down again and six Anari ships swarm them and he has to delegate the rescue attempt and multitask. They start outstripping his orders, and Lokin gives some specific orders that suggest he might have areas of competence other than medicine.

Harry’s gotten some of the Krailor killed, and Harry also confirms that Lokin’s areas of competence are, in fact, not medicine. In fact, their mission is to develop cloaking devices, and the Nightingale is a prototype for their fleet. The Anari are not keen on letting it get home to slip through the Anari blockade. He claims it’s still a humanitarian mission, as the blockade is starving his people, but it’s a little hard to believe. Harry tries to order a course reversal, but at this point he has no backup and has just shown himself to be hostile to the homeworld of his crew. He has vastly overestimated how much the Krailor newbie respects the Federation GI with the chocolate bar when the chips are down.

Poor Icheb runs into Paris, whi ribs him about the time he’s spending with Torres and challenges him to a race. Given the priming he’s gotten from the doctor, he has to assume at this point that the two of them are interviewing him for a possible guest spot. He decides to let Torres down easy, at which point the doubles down, and Torres has enough experience with former drones at this point to know that pretending he won the argument they were never having is the only sane move.

Harry’s depressed because his crew mutinied and Seven berates him for giving up Captaining. It’s not a particularly uplifting pep talk, but it seems to be enough. When the Nightingale gets back to the Krailor homeworld, which is being bombarded with scans, he emerges from his sulk and orders them to finish the job. In the meantime, the Anari show up to escort Voyager out of Anari space, after the captain was appraised of the Flyer’s involvement in the episode stinger. Harry’s ruined everything, and Voyager will have to lift off with the repairs not complete, and then double back to save Harry and Seven.

Heavily outclassed and starting to spark, Harry offers a surrender to the Anari, on conditions. He orders the specialists into escape pods and down to the surface so that if he goofs the knowledge on how to build more will have made it – The Anari are clearly banking on being able to detect it if they have the prototype to study. Harry’s plan is to bounce off the Anari tractor beam using technobabble, because in this world polarities can have frequencies. They barely make it inside the planetary shield, stranding Harry and Seven on-planet until they can build another cloaked ship to get them off-planet or until Voyager can negotiate with their new enemies to get their people back after aiding the rebellion in a vassal state. In fact, it was the former – they made new cloaking devices fast, and Harry should feel proud of having destabilized the cosmopolitics of an entire region.

Did we miss something awesome?