Written by Arnold Rudnick & Rich Hosek and Kenneth Biller
Directed by Kim Friedman
Season 2, Episode 6
Production episode 119
Original air date: October 2, 1995
Captain’s log. Kes goes to the holodeck, which is running the Chez Sandrine program, to find the bar darkened and deserted—but then Janeway, Neelix, Chakotay, Torres, Paris, the EMH (transferred to the holodeck and serving as the bartender), and the various holographic staff and patrons all jump out from hiding and yell “Surprise!”
It’s Kes’s second birthday. Neelix has made a fudge cake from scratch, and Paris gives her a locket that cost him two weeks’ replicator rations. Neelix is less than thrilled about that.
On the bridge, Kim makes it clear to Tuvok, who is the watch officer, that he’s done every possible task. Tuvok points out that he has 34 minutes left on his duty shift, but he gets that Kim wants to go to Kes’s party, and so tells him to inspect the holodeck systems.
However, before a grateful Kim can go party till he pukes, Voyager detects a spatial anomaly, which quickly envelopes Voyager. Tuvok contacts the holodeck, but in mid-report, the comm systems go blooey.
Forced to cut Kes’s party short, Janeway sends everyone to their duty stations. Torres heads to engineering while Janeway, Chakotay, and Paris go to the bridge. Meanwhile, Tuvok sends Kim to find Janeway since communication is down. (Why Kim doesn’t just use internal sensors to find Janeway—or just ask the computer to locate her—is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
Everyone is having trouble getting where they need to go. The turbolift keeps taking Janeway, Chakotay, and Paris everywhere but the bridge. Torres keeps winding up in places like the transporter room and the mess hall. Neelix and Kes find themselves passing crew quarters that all should be on different decks, with Kes’s own cabin nowhere to be found.
Finally, they all converge back on the holodeck, where the EMH is stuck—every time he tries to transfer himself back to sickbay, he instead comes back to Chez Sandrine. All attempts to end the program fail.
One of the places Janeway, Chakotay, and Paris ended up was engineering, so Janeway sends Paris to take Torres with him and re-create the sequence of events that led them there. Janeway and Kim, meanwhile, try to get at the bridge via the Jefferies Tubes, while Chakotay and Neelix try to create a new map of Voyager with tricorders.
Torres and Paris try to get the transporters working, though at one point Torres opens a door, which leads to a crewperson’s quarters as he’s just out of the shower. Janeway and Kim open a hatch to discover the anomaly itself, which is continuing to engulf Voyager, and her arm gets stuck.
Janeway is delirious, and Kim takes her back to the holodeck, since the EMH is there, though he has no medical equipment. (Why it never occurs to anyone to ask for the holodeck to create diagnostic equipment is left as an exercise for the viewer.)
Torres and Paris try to beam to the bridge, and instead beam to the holodeck.
Chakotay and Neelix bump into Tuvok, who left the bridge when he hadn’t heard from anyone. Somewhere along the way, they lose Neelix. They decide to try to cover more ground by going in opposite directions, only to wind up bumping into each other at the next intersection.
They return to the holodeck. The ship seems to be reconfiguring itself. They network all their tricorders to create a map, and Voyager looks all twisted up. (Hey, what a great word for the title!) Tuvok believes the anomaly will crush the ship within an hour. With Janeway now completely out of it, Chakotay is in charge, and he asks for options.
Torres suggests overloading the warp core to emit a shock pulse to knock them out of the anomaly. Tuvok suggests going to navigation to manually operate Voyager’s thrusters. Chakotay chooses Torres’s plan, to Tuvok’s chagrin.
Unfortunately, it has no effect on the anomaly, and Voyager is getting closer and closer to being crushed. On those rare occasions when Janeway is conscious, she’s not coherent. The anomaly has had such an impact on the ship that Tuvok’s plan is no longer viable.
At this point, Tuvok says that their best bet is to do nothing. Torres isn’t thrilled with that notion, but Chakotay agrees. As they wait for the anomaly to crush the ship, Chakotay tries to contact his spirit guide, with Torres subsequently sitting beside him, the EMH comforts Kes, who is worried about Neelix, and Tuvok stands near Janeway.
And then nothing. The ship goes back to normal, and Janeway comes out of her fugue, explaining that she was in contact with the anomaly, which was actually an alien species trying to connect with them. She’d tried to tell them to do nothing, but the distortion made her words sound like gibberish.
On the bridge, which they can now easily get to, Torres reveals that there’s tons of new information in Voyager’s computer and their own computer records were copied and downloaded. It seems it was a first-contact situation.
Neelix then shows up on the bridge with Kes’s birthday cake, which they can finally enjoy.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Nobody says this out loud for some strange reason, but the best argument for doing nothing as Tuvok suggests is that this wholesale rearranging of the ship has come with precisely zero concomitant hull damage, which is the best evidence that it’s a perceptual and/or temporary problem that they’ll come out of okay. If the ship was actually being physically twisted like that, they’d all be dead from being blown out into space by the hull damage.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Amusingly, watching this with captions on gave away the game, because Janeway’s distorted dialogue is supposed to be incomprehensible, but when she wakes up and spouts gibberish, the captions say, “It’s talking to me! Do nothing!” thus verifying that Tuvok’s plan will work. (Not that there’s any real doubt, because this isn’t the series finale, but still…)
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok tries to convince Chakotay that they should go with his plan over Torres’s because Janeway has trusted Tuvok’s judgment for years. Chakotay tells him to screw himself. Later, when they think they might all die, Chakotay and Tuvok both apologize for being dicks to each other.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is frustrated by his inability to leave the holodeck, partly because he can’t really practice medicine in a bar, mainly because Sandrine keeps flirting with him and he doesn’t like it.
Half and half. Torres is surprisingly bland in her frustration at getting lost on her own ship, though she makes up for it later when she’s grumpy about Chakotay choosing to do nothing, as she would prefer to do something.
Forever an ensign. Janeway tells Kim that he’s performed beyond her expectations on this voyage. This probably makes Kim feel better about his idiotic decision to change the timeline back to one where he’s stuck on the ship instead of happy at home with his fiancée.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix’s jealousy is in full bore in this one, directed not only at Paris but at the crewmembers whose quarters Kes recalls the location of. To his credit, he realizes that he’s consumed by jealousy and has a nice talk with Chakotay on the subject.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Let’s see, Sandrine hits all over the EMH, Paris gives Kes a lovely birthday present of a locket, but then tells Neelix she wants a picture of him in it, and Torres accidentally sees one crewperson as he’s getting out of the shower when a door in engineering leads to his cabin. Wah-HEY!
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. A great deal of the action takes place in Chez Sandrine, which can’t be shut off for some reason.
“I’m a doctor, not a bartender.”
–The EMH channeling Leonard McCoy.
Welcome aboard. Judy Geeson and Larry A. Hankin return as the holodeck characters of Sandrine (last seen in “The Cloud“) and Gaunt Gary (last seen in “Jetrel“), respectively, the last appearance of those two characters on the show (though the Chez Sandrine holodeck program will be seen again). Tom Virtue makes his second appearance as Baxter, after “Eye of the Needle,” and also his last as Baxter, though Virtue will return as a Quarren supervisor in the “Workforce” two-parter in the seventh season.
Trivial matters: This is the last of the four episodes filmed for season one that was held back for season two, along with “The 37’s,” “Projections,” and “Elogium.”
Kes mentioned in “Elogium” that she was almost two, and she turns two in this episode.
While the character of Baxter is never seen or mentioned again onscreen, he does appear in the short story “Command Codes” by Robert Greenberger in the anniversary anthology Distant Shores.
Two of the four crew quarters that Neelix and Kes come across are the names given to regular extras on the show, Ayala and Nicoletti. The other two, Hargrove and Kyoto, are names that have been mentioned (and will be mentioned again) as random crew members.
The post-finale novel Protectors by Kirsten Beyer picks up on the alien that contacted Voyager in this episode.
Set a course for home. “I don’t suppose anyone here knows the way to the bridge?” What a tiresome slog of an episode. It’s maddening, because the basic story here has so many possibilities, and we get precisely none of them. The crew approaches the scientifically impossible rearranging of the ship’s innards with absolutely no sense of urgency or concern or confusion. They just sort of wander the corridors and then wander the corridors some more and then go back to the holodeck, because of course, we have to make sure the holodeck is functioning normally.
Or, rather, just abnormally enough so that we can keep amortizing the cost of the bar set. Sigh.
The whole notion of turning Voyager into an Escher drawing is such a great opportunity for surreal craziness, but everything looks the same. There are no seams, no changes in orientation, no damage to the hull, no nothing. Just doors opening to odd places, sometimes, and people bumping into each other.
It would’ve been so much more fun to have people walking on the ceiling or have there be obvious breaks in the walls or something to ameliorate the sheer lethargy of people walking through familiar corridors that look exactly the same as they always do, except for the labels on the door, which we can’t read anyhow. All it does is shine a light on how generic the ship sets are. (And that’s another reason for the holodeck, I guess, to break the monotony.)
The actual interesting part in all this is the first-contact element, but we don’t find out, really, that Janeway’s in touch with them until the very end, and we get no notion of their communication.
Just a bland, dull, boring, pointless episode. The only character beats of any consequence are yet still more of Neelix’s tiresome jealousy of Kes, which only serves to make the character utterly unsympathetic, especially since he continues to take it out on her, and Chakotay and Tuvok’s conversations. The former got so irritating that the very next episode was written specifically to address it. The latter is drained of any interest, since it’s all about differing command styles and doesn’t make use of the characters’ actual backgrounds, the former as someone who led a terrorist cell, the latter both as someone who infiltrated that cell and who also disobeyed Janeway’s orders not that long ago.
Warp factor rating: 1
Keith R.A. DeCandido has started a YouTube channel called “KRAD COVID readings,” where he’s reading his works of short fiction, by way of giving folks some entertainment while they’re at home because of the coronavirus. Episode #6 is his reading of his Voyager short story “Letting Go.” Please do subscribe!