Written by Jeff Schnaufer & Ed Bond and Jeri Taylor
Directed by Les Landaur
Season 2, Episode 20
Production episode 135
Original air date: March 13, 1996
Captain’s log. Neelix’s latest endeavor as morale officer is to provide a news program for the crew called A Briefing with Neelix. He insists that he will only have good news on the program, which is probably wise, though also a challenge for a ship that’s stuck 70,000 light-years from home, but whatever.
After finishing the day’s recording, Neelix gets a message from a Talaxian buddy who’s now working on a convoy. He says that someone from Voyager is leaving the ship to join his crew, news that stuns Neelix.
He goes straight to Janeway, and she and Tuvok reveal that the crewmember who’s leaving is Paris—last seen being hauled off to the brig after shoving Chakotay on the bridge. Neelix then goes to Paris, concerned that Paris is leaving because of Neelix himself (because it’s always all about Neelix), but Paris says it’s only about Neelix insofar as Paris is better suited to a life like the one Neelix had before he joined Voyager: an itinerant drifter, going from job to job, not the regimented life of Starfleet.
Neelix records a moving tribute to Paris on the next A Briefing with Neelix while Paris himself says his goodbyes to everyone, with Kim, Kes, and Neelix seeing him off in the transporter room.
A staff meeting is interrupted by Jonas, who contacts Torres to inform her that there’s a plasma overload in the warp core. Neelix follows Torres to engineering, thinking there might be a story in it. Torres, Jonas, Hogan, and the rest of the engineering crew stop the overload, but Jonas and two other engineers are badly injured. Their warp coils are also damaged, and they need verterium cortenide to repair them. Neelix says the closest source of such is in the Hemikek system.
As they set course for Hemikek, Voyager receives a distress call from the Talaxian convoy. The Kazon-Nistrim attacked them, kidnapped Paris, but didn’t take their cargo. They knew Paris was on board and only wanted him.
Seska interrogates Paris on the Kazon ship. She wants his help to take over Voyager. He refuses, and she inexplicably leaves him alone in a room with a computer console—and apparently didn’t search him, either, as he pulls a device out of his sleeve that he uses to try to access communications logs.
Neelix talks to Kes about the kidnapping of Paris. The Kazon must have found out that Paris was going to be on that convoy, and Neelix is concerned that there’s a spy on board. With Hogan’s help, he starts to access the communications logs, and he notices some odd gaps. Jonas sees what he’s doing and comes up with a bullshit excuse related to the warp-core overload they had earlier, but Jonas is obviously scared. He even picks up a tool to attack Neelix with, but then Neelix is called away by the EMH.
Taking his concerns to Tuvok, Neelix is surprised that the security chief basically blows him off, and also tells him to cease his inquiries into this matter, as it’s a security concern, not a journalistic one. Never one to take no for an answer, Neelix continues investigating anyhow. He asks Torres for help, but she’s busy, so she fobs him off on Hogan. Hogan thinks it’s a waste of time, but then he sees some more anomalies—communications that were hidden in the power grid. He traces them to Paris’s quarters.
The next A Briefing with Neelix is an exposé of Tom Paris, Evil Kazon Spy. Janeway and Tuvok then summon Neelix and Chakotay to a meeting. Tuvok had already investigated the communications logs before Neelix came to him—the “evidence” that Neelix found was not there then, which means it was planted after Neelix started digging around.
Janeway and Tuvok finally let the other shoe drop: Paris isn’t the spy, he’s been trying to find the spy. Tuvok discovered that covert communications were being sent to Culluh’s ship, but he couldn’t trace them to a specific crewmember. So Janeway and Tuvok got Paris to act out so that it would be convincing that he would leave the ship and then get kidnapped by the Kazon. Chakotay is livid that he was kept out of the loop, but Tuvok was worried that a former Maquis might be the spy, and it would put Chakotay in an awkward position—besides, him not knowing helped sell Paris’s deception.
Paris cleans up the comm logs on the Kazon ship enough to learn that Jonas is the traitor—and also that Voyager’s going to a trap on Hemikek. He manages to escape his captors by turning his widget into a bomb, and stealing a shuttle.
Through a very contrived set of circumstances, Neelix and Jonas wind up alone in engineering, and when Paris’s shuttle approaches, Janeway orders Jonas to boost transporter power. Instead, Jonas sabotages the transporter, and also the tactical systems. Neelix tries to stop him, but Jonas has him trapped behind a force field.
Janeway sends Tuvok to engineering once Paris reveals that Jonas is the traitor. Jonas has knocked Neelix unconscious and removed both his and Neelix’s combadges. (An attempt to beam Jonas out of engineering results in the combadge only being beamed out.)
The Kazon are now firing on Voyager and a plasma conduit ruptures from a weapons hit. Voyager can’t fight back thanks to Jonas’s sabotage. Neelix comes to and attacks Jonas. They grapple and then Jonas falls over the railing into the plasma stream from the ruptured conduit, where he’s incinerated. Neelix gets the weapons back online, and Voyager is able to fight back and get away.
The next A Briefing with Neelix is an interview with Paris explaining what happened and apologizing to everyone.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Jonas is apparently a talented enough engineer that he can sabotage the warp drive in such a way that the ship will need supplies from Hemekik, and nobody notices the sabotage at all for, like, ages.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway thought it was a good idea to keep her first officer in the dark about a spy on board the ship, but it was perfectly okay to tell the ex-con dudebro pilot who should be the first on anyone’s suspect list about it.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is able to find out that there’s a spy on board, but he has to rely on Paris’s ability to get captured by people so stupid they leave a never-searched prisoner in a room with a computer console and no guards, and also on Neelix’s heretofore nonexistent journalistic skills.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. Neelix approaches the EMH about doing a health segment, but then keeps postponing his segment.
Forever an ensign. Kim was apparently a student journalist at the Academy and did a story on the Maquis that was very well received. He thinks Neelix shouldn’t limit himself to just shiny happy stories, but should also do more investigative and opinionated reporting.
Kim insists on not replacing Paris officially in case he comes back, making me wonder who he thinks should be flying the ship during alpha shift, exactly…
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix thinks that having to listen to him talk every morning about how wonderful things are on Voyager will improve morale, which calls into question why Janeway continues to allow him to be morale officer.
“I know that I’ve been acting like a jerk for the last couple of months. Unfortunately, I had to behave that way if the spy was going to believe that I really wanted to leave the ship. So, I’d like to apologize to anyone that I might have offended—especially Commander Chakotay. I gave him a pretty hard time—not that it wasn’t a certain amount of fun, mind you…”
–Paris taking a stab at apologizing, but unable to resist still being a jackass at the end.
Welcome aboard. Jerry Sroka plays Laxeth, while the other guest stars are recurring regulars: Martha Hackett as Seska, Raphael Sbarge as Jonas, and Simon Billig as Hogan. It’s Sbarge’s last appearance as Jonas, though the character’s voice will be heard in “Worst Case Scenario” in season three. Billig will next be in “Deadlock,” while Hackett will return for the season-spanning “Basics” two-parter.
Trivial matters: The original conception of this episode was that it would be entirely from Neelix’s perspective. It was the executives at Paramount who pointed out that this meant we didn’t see any of Paris’s heroic actions, which made the revelation that he’d been faking his insubordination all this time less effective. Let this serve as a reminder that not all studio notes are bad ones.
Janeway mentions Baytart and Hamilton as possible replacements for Paris as alpha-shift conn officer. Baytart is also mentioned during A Briefing with Neelix as a talented juggler, and he was also mentioned in “Parturition” as one of the other pilots on board. Hamilton has never been referenced before or since.
Jonas’s death means that Voyager is now down eight crew from the 154 they started with in the Delta Quadrant. Of the other seven, five have died (Durst, Darwin, Bendera, and two others who are unnamed), one left (Seksa), and one is confined to quarters (Suder).
Neelix’s news show will only be seen one more time, in the third season’s “Macrocosm,” where it’s established that he changed the title to Good Morning, Voyager.
Abdullah bin al-Hussein, at the time prince of Jordan, and now king, has a cameo as a crewmember in the sciences division in the teaser. The appearance was a huge thrill for King Abdullah, who is a huge Star Trek fan, and who only expected to visit the set, not be on camera.
Jonas’s sabotage of the warp core, and the need for Voyager to go to Hemikek, was set up in “Lifesigns,” the previous episode.
Set a course for home. “You never know what might be featured on A Briefing with Neelix!” If you’re going to spend several episodes setting up a storyline, you really need to think through the conclusion a little better than they manage here.
What could have been a promising subplot about Paris’s discontent on the ship, one that could even be established as post-traumatic stress from his experiences in “Threshold,” instead turns out to be a stupid con game that only works due to several phenomenal bits of dumb luck. For starters, what if the spy never bothered to tell the Kazon about Paris’s defection? Or what if the Kazon decided, not to kidnap Paris, but to kill him? Or what if the Kazon searched Paris and found the doodad he had up his sleeve (I mean, seriously, it was literally up his sleeve)? Or what if the Kazon didn’t imprison their valuable kidnap victim in a room with a computer console, or even if they did something that stupid, they put a friggin’ guard on him?
Any of those things happen, and Tuvok and Janeway’s plan is shit out of luck.
Chakotay’s authority as first officer is completely undermined, as two of his subordinates are engaged in a covert mission behind his back, with the full support of his captain. And it makes no sense for it to be Paris who does this anyhow. Think about this for a second. One the one hand, you’ve got a Starfleet commander who left Starfleet of his own accord and became a talented enough Maquis cell leader that an entire ship was sent just after him. On the other hand, you’ve got a Starfleet washout whose history involves getting people killed and getting his sorry ass caught and imprisoned.
Which of those two do you think would make a better stalking horse for the spy on board? I’ll give you a hint: he has a tattoo on his face. But, once again, the show is far too invested in making sure that the white guy gets to do all the cool stuff.
On top of that, the Jonas arc ends with a pathetic whimper, because at no point do we find out why Jonas did what he did. Why does he want to go against his crewmates to help Seska—who betrayed all of them—and the Kazon—who are assholes? Of course, given all the engineering feats he pulled off, maybe he’s pissed that Torres got the chief engineer nod over him. Or maybe he has the hots for Seska. Or maybe the writers were too damn lazy to come up with a good reason and threw him into a plasma leak to save themselves from having to bother.
I haven’t even gotten to the worst element of the episode, which is that it decides to turn Neelix into a journalist. If this was played for laughs, à la the MASH Notes newspaper that Corporal Klinger started in the “Depressing News” episode of M*A*S*H, it might have worked, but we’re supposed to believe that this mediocre-scavenger-turned-mediocre-cook-and-moderately-useful-local-guide is also a journalist? And that he actually breaks the case open where Tuvok couldn’t? Oy.
Thank goodness that the suits at Paramount curbed the idiotic excesses of the writing staff and kept them from doing the entire show from Neelix’s POV, as that would’ve been disastrous. Not that the final version is anything to write home about, either.
Warp factor rating: 4
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be attending KAG Kon 2020: Home Invasion, an online event focusing on Klingon related stuff this coming weekend. Keith will be doing a reading, which will be available throughout the weekend, and also doing panel discussions on his Klingon fiction and Klingon religion. Here’s his schedule.