“The Sound of Her Voice”
Written by Pam Pietroforte and Ronald D. Moore
Directed by Winrich Kolbe
Season 6, Episode 25
Production episode 40510-549
Original air date: June 10, 1998
Station log: Odo is dinging Quark with tons of minor regulations violations—and then is interrupted by Kira, who wants to have lunch. Without even pausing, Odo drops his harassment of Quark and leaves with the first officer. Quark sees Odo’s being so easily distracted as a great opportunity for him.
The Defiant has just finished escorting a supply run. Yates is on board as well, as she agreed to be supply liaison officer—but that was before she found out how much paperwork was involved. Bashir wanders into the mess hall and tersely agrees with Yates’s feelings on paperwork, prompting Yates to say she misses when Bashir was talkative; Sisko says that he likes him better this way, and Yates calls him on the fact that he isn’t joking and what he said was really mean.
They’re interrupted by a distress call from a Starfleet officer named Captain Lisa Cusak, CO of the U.S.S. Olympia, who survived a ship crash on a Class-L planet in the Rutharian Sector while heading home from an eight-year deep-space exploration mission. Sisko changes course immediately while O’Brien tries to establish a two-way comlink.
Quark reminds Odo that this upcoming Saturday is the one-month anniversary of his and Kira’s first date, and he should really buy a gift. Jake confirms to Odo that this is actually a thing, and after the constable goes off to buy a gift, Jake then asks Quark what he’s up to. Quark only agrees after Jake says that it’s not for journalistic purposes, but fictional ones: he needs character research for his in-progress crime novel.
O’Brien has been listening to Cusak’s rambling monologues, eventually establishing the link, wherein Cusak reports what happened to Sisko. The Olympia investigated a planet that was surrounded by some kind of barrier. But they got too close and an active sensor scan made the field go wonky and damage the ship, which crashed on the inhospitable world with no other survivors. Bashir walks Cusak through rationing her tri-ox injections until they can arrive. She also asks that someone talk to her until they get there (it’s a six-day trip), as she’s been alone for two days and it’s driving her crazy. Sisko says that can be arranged, and Cusak adds, “And order them to enjoy it!”
Sisko takes the first shift, filling her in on the war that broke out since she took the Olympia out of the Federation eight years ago. When Cusak gets sick of hearing about the war, she asks Sisko about his love life, and seeing that Sisko is feeling tense about his relationship with Yates, she distracts him with the tale of the Andorian she dated when she was a junior officer.
Odo has found what he thinks is a perfect gift for Kira, and Quark then talks him into a holosuite program for the date where he presents the present. (Ahem.) All is set for Quark’s deal to go down on Saturday night while Odo’s distracted in the holosuite. (Jake reminds Quark that Odo has deputies, but Quark scoffs that he can handle deputies.) But then Odo puts a spanner in the works by reserving the holosuite for Sunday. The first date ended badly, so he’d rather celebrate the anniversary of their first kiss. Unfortunately, Quark can’t reach his Nausicaan contact, who’s a wanted man, and changes his comm protocols to keep from being traced. But that means he’ll be tossed in a holding cell by Odo the microsecond he sets foot on the station.
Bashir and O’Brien each take their turns with Cusak, the former barely paying attention until Cusak upbraids him, the latter going on at great length about how much the war is affecting him. Unfortunately, one of her tri-ox vials was tainted, so she’s run out sooner than expected. They can make the ship go faster, but only if they use the phaser power to strengthen the structural integrity field—which means no phasers if they encounter a Dominion ship. Sisko thinks it’s worth the risk—she’ll die otherwise.
Sisko opens up to Cusak about how uncomfortable he is having Yates on the Defiant. She gets him to realize that she’s a distraction on the ship. It’s a mixing of his personal and professional life, and he’s not handling it well—it’s messing up his relationship and his command.
Quark is resigned to the fact that his deal won’t go through, and laments to Jake that after all he did to goose Odo along in his pursuit of Kira, Odo still treats him like a common criminal. When he leaves, we discover that Odo was a crate in the cargo bay the whole time and heard every word. So he re-sets the date to Saturday night, saying that Kira agrees with Quark that the date is what should be celebrated, not the kiss. Quark is thrilled, and Kira is impressed with Odo’s magnanimity in letting him get away with this particular smuggling job. Odo says he owes Quark one, and will get him next time.
The Defiant arrives at the planet just as Cusak loses consciousness, but there’s no way the transporter can get through the barrier that destroyed the Olympia, and neither can the ship itself. But a shuttle pod might make it through, and Sisko takes Bashir and O’Brien to do so. But when they arrive, they find the remains of a human who’s been dead for three years—it’s Cusak, but the barrier caused a time-delay in the subspace signal.
They bring her remains back to DS9 and hold an Irish wake. Sisko promises to talk to Yates about what a doofus he’s been, Bashir and O’Brien each memorialize her and take the lessons she taught them to heart, and they all toast her memory.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The barrier that destroyed the Olympia and time-displaced Cusak’s communications is an exogenic field made of subspace metreon radiation, which is just like regular metreon radiation only subspacier!
The Sisko is of Bajor: Sisko doesn’t like having Yates on the Defiant because he’s uncomfortable with the mix of personal and professional. He had no such problems having his wife on board the Saratoga, though Jennifer’s eventual fate on the Saratoga may have something to do with his feelings now. Would’ve been nice if that was mentioned, though…
There is no honor in being pummeled: Worf thinks it’s a spectacularly irresponsible idea to drain phasers of power because they might need them, apparently forgetting that the ship also has torpedoes. It restores Worf to his time-honored role of making a recommendation that is flat-out rejected by his commanding officers.
Worf also describes an Irish wake as being almost Klingon.
Preservation of mass and energy is for wimps: Odo shows that being in love with Kira isn’t even slowing him down in terms of making Quark’s life a living hell. But Quark has done enough for him—including suggesting he celebrate his and Kira’s one-month anniversary—that he lets his smuggling gig pass this once. What’s especially amusing is that Quark was right—Odo totally would’ve nailed his ass.
The slug in your belly: Dax doesn’t appear until the final scene, as the producers had given Terry Farrell—who had already decided not to return for the seventh season—the opportunity to audition for pilots. (She’d eventually wind up on a show called Becker with Ted Danson for its first four seasons.) After O’Brien mentions that one of them may die in the war and they should mourn together, the camera goes to Dax, who will, in fact, die in the next episode.
Rules of Acquisition: We get the 285th (and final) Rule: “No good deed ever goes unpunished.”
Tough little ship: The Defiant still has problems with being overpowered—when it goes above warp nine, the ship shakes itself apart. O’Brien can only prevent that by dumping phaser power into the structural integrity field.
What happens on the holosuite stays on the holosuite: Odo picks Paris in 1928 for his and Kira’s one-month anniversary date, with him in a tux and her in a flapper dress and appropriate hairstyle. (They both look fantastic, by the way.) Why two Bajorans (okay, a Bajoran and a pile of goo raised on Bajor) decide to go to an Earth city from 450 years earlier remains a mystery, though Quark does make an amusing comment about how Earth of the past is very romantic.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet: When Sisko makes it obvious that he’s having issues with Yates, Cusak tells him about the time she dated an Andorian civilian when she was assigned to the embassy there. Meanwhile, Kira and Odo seem to be doing fine, having lunch dates at the Klingon restaurant and going on anniversary excursions to the holosuite.
Keep your ears open: “Contrary to public opinion, I am not the arrogant self-absorbed godlike doctor that I appear to be on occasion. Why don’t I hear anybody objecting to that statement?”
“Well, I will if you insist.”
“Then I object!”
Bashir trying to be humble and failing, and O’Brien helping him along.
Welcome aboard: Debra Wilson was cast as Cusak solely on the basis of her voice—the producers only listened to audio auditions. Wilson, best known for her lengthy stint on MADtv, is a veteran voiceover actor as well. We also get Penny Johnson back as Yates.
Trivial matters: Director Winrich Kolbe deliberately kept Debra Wilson from meeting the rest of the cast until after filming was done to preserve the verisimilitude of the story.
Pam Pietroforte’s original story had Sisko communicating with someone from 1940 and developing a relationship with her over the gulf of time. I can see why they changed this—Sisko already had a relationship with Yates, plus this calls back a bit too much to both “Far Beyond the Stars” and TNG’s “Pen Pals.”
This episode takes place one month after “His Way,” as Odo and Quark reference the impending one-month anniversary of their first date (on the holosuite, with Odo thinking Kira was a hologram) and their first kiss (the next day on the Promenade at the end of the episode).
Sisko mentions failed attempts to retake Betazed, which fell to the Dominion in “In the Pale Moonlight.” Betazed will be retaken by the Federation in the novel The Battle of Betazed by Susan Kearny & Charlotte Douglas, which takes place between the sixth and seventh seasons of DS9.
Metreons were previously referenced in Voyager’s “Jetrel,” where the title character created a megaweapon called “the metreon cascade.” We’ll see metreons again as an all-purpose nasty thing in Star Trek Insurrection, Voyager’s “Think Tank,” and Enterprise’s “First Flight” and “E2.”
Walk with the Prophets: “Tell her her heroes are on the way.” There’s a lot to like about this episode. Cusak is a most engaging character, magnificently voiced by Debra Wilson and imbued both by Wilson and Ronald D. Moore’s script with verve and charm and wit. I could see how people would be willing to serve under her for an eight-year mission far from home. On the one hand, I can see why they limited her interactions to Sisko, Bashir, and O’Brien, as it allowed for a greater focus, in particular her conversations building on each other, though I’m still disappointed we didn’t get to hear her talk to Yates, Dax, or Worf.
The B-plot also works rather nicely, showing how Odo has evolved, yet not really changed at all. He’s developed a sentimental streak—shown in the care with which he picks out Kira’s gift as well as how he lets Quark off the hook—but it’s not so strong that it interferes with his job in the slightest. It’s also a good use of Jake, as it gives him something to do that actually makes sense (research) and gives Quark someone to talk to.
Unfortunately, for all the episode’s charms—and they are considerable—it ultimately all falls apart at the end. The revelation that Cusak died three years ago makes the whole story completely absurd and nonsensical.
First of all, Starfleet keeps very meticulous records. In case we’ve forgotten how meticulous those records are, the teaser reminds us in a lengthy conversation among Sisko, Yates, and Bashir on the subject of the metric craptons of paperwork that Starfleet requires.
So how is it possible that Sisko and the others don’t know that the Olympia went missing three years earlier? True, they were far enough from Federation space that real-time communication wasn’t possible, but they still would be sending updates. If those updates stopped happening, the ship would’ve been declared missing, or at the very least been investigated. Even if they hadn’t found them, it was three years ago, which was before the Dominion War started, so you don’t even have that excuse for maybe why nobody was looking for them.
For that matter, it was an eight-year mission that they were coming to the end of. Did it never occur to anyone to check the service record of the Olympia and then see that it went out on its eight-year mission eleven years earlier?
Plus, they were talking to her constantly for six days. Didn’t anyone at any point mention the date? Didn’t Cusak ask Sisko or someone to look up her family (one of her siblings, say, whom she mentioned several times)? At which point, somebody might have noticed the discrepancy.
Basically, there’s absolutely no credible way, none, unless everyone involved was dumber than a box of hammers and forgot how to use the ship’s computer, that they could have gone the entire episode without knowing that Cusak had been dead—or at least missing—for three years.
What’s more, the episode would’ve been more poignant if they did realize it right away. Have someone look up the Olympia’s service record (which would’ve taken about half a second) and discover that they launched eleven years ago, and have Cusak realize that she’s talking from the past and Bashir be forced to tell everyone that it’s impossible for her to still be alive. But they go anyhow, to retrieve her remains if nothing else. That would’ve been a poignant story with emotional weight, as Cusak is talking to people who are alive after she’s long dead. Instead, they pull a sci-fi trick out of their asses at the last minute without giving any thought to what it actually means to the rest of the story.
Also O’Brien’s whole we’ve-grown-apart speech doesn’t really feel right. He just was reunited with his family in the previous episode (honestly, flipping this and “Time’s Orphan” would’ve worked beautifully, with O’Brien’s resolve to bring Keiko, Molly, and Yoshi back to the station growing out of his talks with Cusak), Odo and Kira are planning playdates in the holosuite in this episode, the whole gang was taking excursions to Vic’s Place on the holosuite only a month ago, and we saw O’Brien, Odo, and Worf hanging out in Quark’s like old buddies just three episodes ago. They haven’t been growing apart, the script just says they are, and I don’t buy it.
There’s a good story in here, and it’s honestly worth watching for Wilson’s voice-only performance alone, creating a superb character whom I wish we could’ve gotten to know better. But the story doesn’t actually work…
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido has a bunch of new things out, including the short stories “Time Keeps on Slippin’” (in the Stargate SG-1/Atlantis anthology Far Horizons), “Stone Cold Whodunit” (in the superhero anthology With Great Power), “Fish Out of Water” (in Out of Tune, a Jonathan Maberry-edited anthology of stories based on sea ballads), and “Undine the Boardwalk” (in the Bad-Ass Faeries anthology It’s Elemental); the essays “Embracing the Entire Universe: The WildStorm Era” (in New Life and New Civilizations, a history of Star Trek in comics form) and “Gaming the Novel” (in Kobold Guide to Combat); and the Sleepy Hollow novel Children of the Revolution (reviewed on this very site).