Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Dreadnought”

“Dreadnought”
Written by Gary Holland
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 2, Episode 17
Production episode 135
Original air date: February 12, 1996
Stardate: 49447.0

Captain’s log. Wildman is in for her weekly prenatal, and everything is fine. She, Kes, and the EMH have a lengthy discussion about what to name the child, though they only discuss male names. (The child will be female, and she’s been pregnant for over ten months at this point, so they should know the kid’s sex, shouldn’t they?) She’s reluctant to follow her husband’s Ktarian tradition and give the child the father’s name, which is Greskrendtregk.

Voyager encounters the wreckage of an automated vessel that was destroyed by a powerful weapon—the vessel is made of duritanium, which isn’t easily damaged this badly. They beam the wreckage on board, and Torres and Chakotay recognize the energy signature of the weapon used to destroy it: it belongs to Dreadnought.

Dreadnought was a prototype missile the Cardassians developed to use on the Maquis with incredibly sophisticated tracking, weapons, and navigation systems, with an explosive payload that could destroy an entire moon. But the detonator itself was subpar, and when it was fired at Chakotay’s cell, it didn’t go off. Torres boarded it and reprogrammed it to work for them. She even replaced the computer’s AI, giving it her voice.

However, after she fired it toward the Cardassian planet Aschelan V, it was lost in the Badlands. They assumed it was destroyed by a plasma storm, but the area where it was lost is near where both Chakotay’s ship and Voyager were snatched by the Caretaker. They’ll need to adjust the sensors to be able to find the thing, as it was designed to be difficult to detect.

Torres admits to Paris—who was late and disheveled for the initial briefing, for which he was rebuked by Chakotay—that she didn’t tell the whole truth in the briefing, and is grateful to Chakotay for not ratting her out. Chakotay said that his cell shot the missile at the Cardassians, but in fact Torres did that on her own without consulting anyone. Chakotay had been disappointed in her at the time, and she was grateful that it never made it out of the Badlands. Paris also admits that he envies Torres in how well she’s fit in to Voyager, and Paris wishes he could say the same.

When they find it, Torres is concerned. It’s taking an evasive course, which means it’s noticed that Voyager is tracking it. But of more concern is that the targeting scanners have been activated, which makes no sense, as it shouldn’t do that until it’s on approach to Aschelan V, which is now 70,000 light-years away.

Jonas contacts the Kazon-Nistrim, talking to his new handler, Lorrum. Jonas, however, only wants to talk to Seska. The conversation is cut short by an alert that someone else wants to use a subspace channel. It’s Janeway contacting the world of Rakosa V, which is where Dreadnought is heading. An inhabited planet that has already detected Dreadnought, Rakosa is similar enough to Aschelan that the computer on board has obviously mistaken it for the Cardassian world. Janeway assures First Minister Kellan that their intentions are not hostile and they will do everything they can to stop the missile from striking his world. Kellan is skeptical, and also assembles his own defenses.

Torres is able to beam over to Dreadnought using her access codes—which only makes sense, as she created those codes when she reprogrammed it. After considerable work, she convinces Dreadnought that they’re in the Delta Quadrant now, and that the target world is not Aschelan V. The missile stands down.

After beaming back, Torres, Chakotay, and Janeway discuss the many possibilities of how Dreadnought can be used for spare parts. That is interrupted by Paris announcing that the missile has powered back up and is headed for Rakosa V once again. It will arrive in 51 hours. And Torres’s access codes don’t work anymore.

Kellan sends a fleet to intercept the missile, though neither he nor Janeway are sanguine about the fleet’s chances. Meanwhile, he’s organizing an evacuation.

Torres and Kim work to get her back on board the missile, and after numerous attempts, finally get her on. Dreadnought makes it clear to Torres once she beams aboard that it believes that Torres has been suborned by the Cardassians and is working against them. Dreadnought also thinks the whole notion of being in the Delta Quadrant is a silly goose. Torres keeps working to take over the systems, Dreadnought fighting her the entire time. She detects damage to navigation systems—probably endured when the Caretaker snatched it—which explains why it won’t accept that it’s in a new quadrant. Dreadnought also shuts down life support, so Torres must get her work done before she runs out of air.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

The Rakosan fleet does not fare well against Dreadnought, and retreats. Janeway’s final gambit is to set Voyager to self-destruct and intercept Dreadnought before it strikes Rakosa. Kellan is touched by the self-sacrifice, but Janeway says they have no other choice. All hands save Janeway and Tuvok (and the EMH, who can’t go anywhere) abandon ship, the security chief doing so only after insisting that he be there in case something happens to Janeway.

Torres manages to activate a Cardassian backup program that tries to take over the missile, which at the very least distracts Dreadnought enough for Torres to try to access the weapons systems and blow it up.

Dreadnought once again examines the facts, and this time comes to the conclusion that Torres hasn’t been suborned by the Cardassians due to her willingness to self-sacrifice. Torres manages to breach the containment field. Tuvok is able to beam her off the missile before it’s destroyed, and Janeway stops Voyager’s self-destruct with a minute to go. The EMH beams Torres to sickbay and Janeway and Tuvok work to bring all the escape pods back to Voyager.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Firmly believing that the captain goes down with the sinking ship, Janeway refuses to disembark from Voyager, insisting on piloting her to her destruction in order to save the lives of the Rakosans. Before leaving his post, Paris tells her the starboard thrusters are a little sluggish, and then thanks her for everything.

Half and half. Torres gets to spend most of the episode talking to herself, as Dreadnought speaks with her voice as well. She feels tremendous guilt for unleashing the missile on the Delta Quadrant, and, like Janeway, is willing to sacrifice herself to save the Rakosans.

Mr. Vulcan. While Chakotay’s attempt to stay behind falls on deaf ears, Janeway does allow Tuvok to stay behind. One wonders if he preferred to go down with his captain rather than be stuck on Rakosa with Chakotay in charge….

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is still trying to find a name that suits him, and he and Wildman and Kes talk at length on the subject. Kes is surprised to realize that he’s open to non-human names.

Janeway also totally forgot about him when she gave the order to abandon ship, which annoys him (not without reason).

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Forever an ensign. Kim is a voice of encouragement to Torres when she’s trying to beam herself back onto Dreadnought.

Do it.

“They made this missile adaptable, evasive, armed with its own defensive weaponry—in other words, unstoppable.”

“So how did you stop it?”

“We didn’t. It got through all our defenses, worked like it was supposed to—except for one minor detail: it didn’t go off.”

“Leave it to the Cardassians to build such an incredibly advanced tactical weapon and then arm the warhead with an old kinetic detonator.”

–Torres, Neelix, and Chakotay discussing the history of Dreadnought

Welcome aboard. Dan Kern lends a cautious dignity to the role of Kellan; he previously appeared as Picard’s fencing partner in TNG’s “We’ll Always Have Paris.” We also have two old recurring regulars—Nancy Hower as Wildman and Raphael Sbarge as Jonas—and one new one—Michael Spound as Lorrum, taking over from Mirron E. Willis’s Rettik as Jonas’s Kazon contact.

Roxann Dawson also doubles as Dreadnought’s computer voice. The Cardassian computer is voiced by an uncredited male voice rather than Judi Durand—who voiced Cardassian-built computers seen on DS9—to distinguish it from Dawson’s. And, as usual, Majel Barrett does Voyager’s computer voice…

Trivial matters: This episode establishes that Wildman’s husband is Ktarian, the half-alien nature of the pregnancy explaining why it’s gone on for more than ten months now. Wildman’s next appearance will be four episodes hence in “Deadlock,” when she at last gives birth.

Her husband is given the name of Greskrendtregk, and he will be mentioned several times over the course of the show. He is seen in your humble rewatcher’s short story “Letting Go” in the anthology Distant Shores, which is about the people left behind in the Alpha Quadrant. Greskrendtregk organizes annual gatherings for the families of Voyager’s crew to memorialize their going missing. (At the end of the story, when Voyager has made contact with the Alpha Quadrant, he changes those parties to being on the anniversary of the day Voyager made contact, so they have something to celebrate. Greskrendtregk is also thrilled to learn that he has a daughter now.)

Rollins, the tactical officer from “Caretaker,” is mentioned as having been in a fight with Paris, the first mention of the character since the pilot.

Dreadnought is the first thing besides Chakotay’s ship and crew that Voyager has found that was also brought to the Delta Quadrant by the Caretaker.

While Gary Holland, who was the executive director of Paramount’s advertising and promotions department at the time, got sole credit for writing the episode, it got an uncredited page-one rewrite by Lisa Klink.

The control panels on Dreadnought all have the same shatterframe design as the Cardassian-designed consoles on Deep Space 9 on Voyager’s sister show.

Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “Authorized entry detected.” Everything comes together perfectly in this taut, intense thriller of an episode. Large amounts of credit go to Lisa Klink’s final version of the script over Gary Holland’s draft and to LeVar Burton, whose directorial work is always superlative.

So many little touches make this episode work, starting with the opening—which actually has nothing to do with the rest of the episode, but it’s nice to look in on Wildman and see how she’s doing with her pregnancy, and how the EMH is progressing with his endless search for a name. Indeed, it’s one of three multiepisode plot strands that are just in the episode enough to remind us they’re there without overstaying their welcome or getting in the way of the plot. Jonas’s contact with the Kazon is actually plot-relevant, as Dreadnought is something the Kazon in general and Seska in particular would want to know about. And Paris is getting more and more insubordinate.

The heart of the episode, though, belongs jointly to Roxann Dawson and Kate Mulgrew. Janeway’s conversations with Kellan are excellent, putting a human face (well, sentient face, anyhow) on the threat to Rakosa. A bond quickly develops between the two, and we once again see that Janeway’s superpower is to develop a rapport with someone she’s just met in about half a second—we’ve seen it before with Telek R’Mor, with Labin, with Jetrel, with Amelia Earhart, with Caylem, and with Mabus. Throughout, Janeway makes sure that she’s dedicated to saving the lives of the Rakosans no matter what, which is what heroes are supposed to do. Credit to Dan Kern for making Kellan a real person whose fate the viewer becomes invested in.

And Dawson’s dual performance as Torres and the Dreadnought computer is simply amazing. What I particularly like is that the computer talks like a computer, repeating certain key phrases, and engaging in the circular logic of a machine. The exchanges between Torres and the computer are a much more clever version of all those original series episodes where Kirk managed to somehow talk a computer into putting up its little feet and go “urk!” The scenes in “Dreadnought” are written by people with a much better understanding of the binary nature of computers, and it’s fun to watch. I especially loved when both computers were competing with each other for dominance, both using the same key phrases to try to assert that dominance.

As with “Prototype,” this is an episode where Torres must science the shit out of something to save lives, and it’s once again a winner, Torres’s passion and unwillingness to give in serving her well as she saves the day once again.

Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido has a bunch of new content up on his Patreon, including reviews of the movies Hobbs & Shaw, Willow, GoodFellas, Casino, Raging Bull, and the 2010 Macbeth starring Sir Patrick Stewart; reviews of the TV shows Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, Ms. Fisher’s Modern Mysteries, and Chef!, with more to come over the next week; new vignettes featuring characters from his Dragon Precinct, Super City Cops, and Cassie Zukav series; excerpts from works in progress; and cat pictures. Please consider supporting Keith!

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