Written by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Kim Friedman
Season 1, Episode 12
Production episode 113
Original air date: May 1, 1995
Captain’s log. Janeway play-acting on the holodeck is interrupted by Kim, who reports that Chakotay and Tuvok’s shuttle is on course for Voyager, but neither are responding to hails. Janeway has them beamed to sickbay, where they’re both unconscious. The EMH treats them, but while Tuvok just has an easily treated concussion, Chakotay is in a coma and shows no neural or brain activity whatsoever. He can be kept breathing indefinitely, but there’s every indication that he’s completely brain-dead.
Tuvok reports that, while returning from their trading mission, they encountered another ship in a dark-matter nebula. It fired on the shuttle and an energy surge took both Chakotay and Tuvok out. Tuvok then offers to check the sensor logs, as he has no memory of what happened after that, but those logs were destroyed when they were fired upon.
Janeway sets course for the nebula to investigate what happened.
Torres sets up a medicine wheel in sickbay and uses it to help Chakotay find his way back. She expects the EMH to bitch about it, but he knows all about the medicine wheel—indeed, he corrects something Torres does wrong—and his only complaint is that she didn’t ask first.
They approach the nebula, but then they change course unexpectedly away from the nebula. Kim reports that the course change came from the conn. Paris denies this. Janeway has Torres and Paris check helm control and other systems to see what’s happening, and transfers navigation to Kim’s station.
They change course again away from the nebula, and now Kim is locked out of helm control. They trace the change to navigation control on deck 12, and Torres says she saw Paris there. Paris denies ever going in there, but Tuvok examines the console, and finds that Paris’s DNA is on the console. Paris reports to sickbay to be checked for memory loss.
Tuvok has found the ion trail of the ship that attacked the shuttle. As they’re about to enter the nebula to follow the trail, the warp core shuts completely down. Records show that Torres did it, but she has no memory of doing so.
The EMH scans the memory engrams of both Torres and Paris, and discovers that they both have different memory patterns in their brains during the times that they sabotaged the ship. The theory is that there’s an alien temporarily possessing members of the crew to try to keep them out of the nebula.
Since the EMH is immune to such takeover, Janeway transfers command codes to him. He’s not in charge, but he’s a backstop in case Janeway is compromised.
Kes has been sensing a presence on the ship, and Tuvok offers to mind-meld with her to try to focus her nascent telepathy to trace the presence. However, while checking systems, Kim and Lieutenant Durst find both Tuvok and Kes unconscious in a turbolift.
Tuvok regains consciousness first and says they were subject to an energy discharge similar to that of what hit him and Chakotay on the shuttle. The EMH notes that Kes doesn’t show any signs of being hit with such a discharge, but does have nerve damage in her trapezius.
Paris suggests they do a magneton scan, and they start to set that up. Tuvok reports to Janeway that Kes was physically assaulted, and Janeway is concerned that the alien possessed Tuvok and had him attack Kes. She calls sickbay, but the EMH doesn’t answer. Someone has shut the EMH off and locked him down with a complex encryption. The good news is that the command codes automatically reverted to Janeway when that happened, but she’s worried that they have no cover, so she splits the command codes between herself and Tuvok. They go to the bridge to start the magneton scan, but then the alien seems to jump from person to person, attacking Tuvok. Finally, Tuvok has to stun everyone on the bridge with a wide-angle phaser blast.
After everyone is treated, Torres calls Janeway to engineering—she checked over the shuttle logs, and they weren’t damaged, they were deliberately erased and then covered up with fake damage. There was an energy discharge, but no sign of a ship. Janeway doesn’t understand why Tuvok would lie.
Janeway points out that Tuvok lied about there being a ship. Tuvok insists there was, and shows her the ion trail, which, based on her observations, could not possibly have had an engine. Tuvok then insists that Janeway is possessed by the alien, but the jig is pretty much up, and Tuvok then holds the entire bridge hostage. He has been possessed this whole time by a member of the Komar, a species that lives in the nebula and feeds on neural energy.
While Tuvok tries to head into the nebula, Torres is possessed and ejects the warp core, and everyone realizes that there are two entities possessing people on board—one trying to get them into the nebula (the Komar possessing Tuvok) and another trying to keep them away. Janeway also realizes that only two people on board have the authority to eject the warp core: herself and Chakotay. Sure enough, Chakotay’s command codes were used by Torres to eject the core.
Angrily, the Komar in Tuvok use thrusters to head into the nebula. Janeway manages to start the magneton scan—which causes dizziness and disorientation, thus allowing them to overpower the Komar. Unfortunately, the Komar erased their navigation data as they went.
Down in sickbay, where Neelix is checking on Kes, Chakotay possesses him and manipulates the stones on the medicine wheel to indicate a course they should take through the nebula to get out safely. The EMH is able to cure Chakotay and Tuvok both and Chakotay explains that the Komar attacked the shuttle, and he felt himself floating above everything. But he found himself able to share consciousness with people, so he did that to try to keep the ship safe. He apologizes to Tuvok for knocking him around so much.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Hey look, it’s another dark-matter nebula, because it was the 1990s and “dark matter” sounded really really cool!
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway tries very hard to keep the ship safe, putting the command codes in the EMH’s hands as a backstop, and then when he’s taken out, splitting the codes between two people for checks and balances, which is what finally tips the Komar’s hand.
Half and half. Torres once promised Chakotay to use the medicine wheel on him if he was ever in a coma, and does so. Apparently the script originally called for Torres to paint the wheel on the bulkhead in sickbay, which would’ve been so much cooler, but the production staff overruled both scripter Brannon Braga and director Kim Friedman, and had it just be an animal skin hanging from a stand.
Mr. Vulcan. The Komar possess Tuvok throughout the episode, and assimilate his knowledge and personality quite thoroughly, as Tuvok doesn’t act out of character at all until Janeway catches him out in his lies.
Forever an ensign. At one point, Kim’s mind wanders and the rest of the crew assumes he’s been possessed, which is when Janeway realizes that their paranoia is on overdrive.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Even though he’s programmed with all the medical knowledge the Federation has access to, up to and including Chakotay’s medicine wheel, and even though he’s standing next to a Vulcan as he diagnoses Kes, the EMH somehow doesn’t recognize the symptoms of the Vulcan neck pinch.
Everyone comes to Neelix’s. Neelix is beside himself over Kes being unconscious, and starts accusing half the crew of being possessed, based on such minor details as changing a drinks order.
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Janeway’s holonovel is never given a title, and takes place in England some time in either the nineteenth or early twentieth century. It has Janeway as Lucille Davenport, who has been hired by Lord Burleigh to become governess to his two children after the death of his wife. She butts heads with the housekeeper Mrs. Templeton, and Burleigh warns her never to go to the fourth floor, which is likely important to the plot.
“How did you manage to reintegrate his consciousness?”
“It involved three neural transceivers, two cortical stimulators, and fifty gigaquads of computer memory. I would be happy to take you through the process, but it would take at least ten hours to explain it all to you. Needless to say, it was a remarkable procedure. I would consider writing a paper about it, if there were a convenient forum in which to publish it…”
–Torres asking a simple question and the EMH making her sorry she asked.
Welcome aboard. Brian Markinson makes the first of two appearances as Durst. He’ll be back in the next episode, “Faces.” Markinson has also appeared on TNG‘s “Homeward” as a Boralaan and DS9‘s “In the Cards” as the eccentric scientist Giger.
In addition, Michael Cumptsy and Carolyn Seymour debut their roles as part of Janeway’s Gothic holonovel, the former as Lord Burleigh, the latter as the housekeeper Mrs. Templeton. It’s Seymour’s fourth role on Trek, the other three being two different Romulan ship commanders in “Contagion” and “Face of the Enemy” and Mirasta Yale in “First Contact,” all on TNG. Both will return in “Persistence of Vision.”
Trivial matters: Janeway’s holonovel program will be seen twice more, in “Learning Curve” and “Persistence of Vision.” It was originally written and filmed for “Eye of the Needle,” but was cut for time. That sequence was directed by Winrich Kolbe, and inserted into the top of this episode, with a captain’s log voiceover and a new end-of-scene transition inserted.
Carolyn Seymour’s role in this (and the character’s return in “Persistence of Vision”) is the only one of her four Trek roles where she isn’t wearing facial prosthetics.
Chakotay’s medicine wheel is a kitbash of other medicine wheels usually found in tribes from the plains of North America, contrary to the later establishment of Chakotay’s tribe (not named here) as being Central American.
The Komar have the same ability to possess people that the disembodied energy beings did in TNG‘s “Power Play,” and Chakotay gets it for a while, too.
Chakotay and Tuvok’s trading mission was with the Ilidarians, whom Neelix mentioned as a potential trading partner back in “Parallax.”
Set a course for home. “You might have asked before adorning sickbay with animal remains.” This is a decent little science fictional mystery, but where last time had a bog-standard plot that was elevated by the uniquely Voyager aspects (in that case, the EMH), this time we have it done in by not embracing the uniquely Voyager aspects.
One of the frustrating notions of Voyager’s first season is that Paramount spent the second half of 1994 promoting their upcoming new show as being all about a Starfleet and a Maquis crew being forced to work together to get home. The promised conflict between antagonistic crews never really materialized on the show, though, even when it would have made sense.
The first two people who are possessed by Chakotay and conscripted to do odd things are Paris—a criminal—and Torres—one of the Maquis. This is a perfect opportunity to sow seeds of dissent, to tease the possibility of a Maquis plot to take over the ship, or some damn thing. Instead, Janeway gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, never suspects anything other than weird outside forces, and it’s just maddening.
Chakotay’s medicine wheel is also unfortunate, as it feels like they decided, “Hey, we need an Indian thing here” without really thinking it through. (This is likely an artifact of Voyager hiring a fake Native, “Jamake Highwater,” a.k.a. Jackie Marks, to be their consultant on Indigenous matters.) And it is kind of hilarious that Robert Beltran spends 90% of the episode in a coma.
Having said that, it is a decent mystery. In particular, you don’t realize that Tuvok’s the bad guy for most of the episode, and yet all the hints are there. It comes together very well, and there are some nice touches, from the bruising on Kes’s shoulder in the turbolift, hinting at the real reason for her being unconscious, to Kim being lost in thought during the meeting and everyone thinking he’s been posssessed.
It should’ve been so much more than it was, though.
Warp factor rating: 5
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