Written by Jeri Taylor
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 2, Episode 25
Production episode 141
Original air date: May 13, 1996
Captain’s log. We open on a planet where Janeway and Chakotay are in two stasis pods. They’re awakened and are immediately contacted by the EMH. We soon learn that the two were bitten by insects that gave them a virus, and a month of research by the doctor has turned up bupkus.
The planet they’re on—which is presumably where the bug came from—has stuff in the atmosphere that suppresses the virus, but that’s the only place they’re safe. Tuvok beams down a shuttle filled with various bits of equipment—shelters, replicators, supplies, and also a lab so Janeway can continue to work on a cure—and then Janeway leaves him in permanent command of Voyager and orders him to continue on course for the Alpha Quadrant.
The EMH raises the notion of approaching the Vidiians, but Janeway and Chakotay both reject it, as the Vidiians have proven too hostile, and it’s not worth risking the ship to save the two of them. Janeway directly orders Tuvok not to contact the Vidiians.
Once Voyager is at the periphery of communication range, Janeway gives a benediction to the crew that focuses on the positives (fun times they’ve had, adventures on the holodeck, and such) rather than the negatives (being stuck 70,000 light-years from home, the seven crewmembers who’ve died), and then they go off.
Janeway devotes every waking moment to studying the virus trying to find a cure. Chakotay, meanwhile, keeps himself busy with various exploration and construction projects, including putting together a bath for Janeway to use, as she loves baths. He also creates artwork for the shelter. Meanwhile, Janeway captures various insects hoping to find one of the same type that bit them.
Morale on Voyager is pretty much in the toilet. Kim, Paris, Torres, and Neelix are particularly upset about having to leave Janeway and Chakotay behind, and they’re also frustrated by Tuvok’s not being upset, having apparently forgotten that he’s Vulcan.
The crew’s performance is awful—Torres has to upbraid Ensign Swinn for a badly written report. Kim talks to the various Starfleet crew, and Torres likewise to the Maquis crew, and they all agree that the situation sucks. But Torres doesn’t see what can be done about it.
A brutal plasma storm that the tricorders don’t pick up on destroys most of Janeway’s research. She’s forced to accept that they’re going to be stuck there for a very long time. She also tries to make friends with a primate, whom she thinks may have tried to warn her about the storm.
Six weeks after they left Janeway and Chakotay behind, Kim detects a Vidiian convoy nearby. Tuvok tells Paris to avoid them. Kim wants to contact them—yes, they were ordered not to seek them out, but they’re right there. Tuvok refuses and Kim has a complete meltdown on the bridge, forcing Tuvok to relieve him of duty.
Kim gets support from Hogan and Swinn in the mess hall, as he’s expressing how they all feel. With Torres and Neelix, they come up with a proposal for Tuvok, which Kim gives to the captain that night. They can specifically approach Dr. Pel, who is actually friendly to the Voyager crew, who owes the EMH her life, and also make an offer of some of Torres’s part-Klingon DNA to help combat the Phage.
Tuvok still refuses and when Kim pushes further, Tuvok threatens to throw him in the brig. However, Kes then goes to Tuvok and makes a much more mature, dispassionate, and logical plea to him. Just because he can’t feel emotions doesn’t mean he should ignore the feelings of the people under him.
Then Tuvok goes to the bridge and orders Kim to contact the Vidiians. They speak to Pel, who immediately recognizes the virus in question and she has an antidote that she’d be happy to share. They set a rendezvous.
Chakotay talks about extending the shelter using wood from the forest—an actual log cabin. He also massages Janeway’s sore neck, which leads to A Big Moment of Awkwardness, which ends with her going to bed and saying goodnight formally.
The next day, he tells a story that he claims is from his people about a proud male warrior who is invited by a female warrior to join her tribe and to put her needs first. Unlike all the other bullshit Indigenous nonsense Chakotay has spouted over the past two seasons, this one really is bullshit, and Chakotay admits to it, just saying it was easier to say. They then hold hands and stare at each other meaningfully.
Voyager meets up with the Vidiians, but it’s an ambush. In the midst of the firefight, Pel secretly contacts the EMH. She had no idea they were going to attack, and she wants to get the antidote to Voyager. But they can’t beam it over while the shields are up. The EMH contacts the bridge to inform Tuvok, and he executes a very nifty plan whereby they drop the shields long enough for transport, Torres ejects a bottle of antimatter, which Kim detonates with a torpedo. The Vidiians are badly damaged, and Voyager heads back to the planet.
Six weeks later, as Janeway and Chakotay are admiring the garden they’ve started, they hear something from the combadges, which are in the shelter, long abandoned. It’s Tuvok, saying they’re coming to get them with a cure.
They leave the shelter for the primate and beam back. Tuvok accepts full responsibility for disobeying orders, which Janeway forgives him for. Janeway and Chakotay go right back to being captain and first officer.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is determined to find a cure, and never focuses on, well, anything else until after the storm destroys her research. She tries and fails to make friends with a primate. She also hated going camping as a kid, and generally finds roughing it to be icky.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok does quite well in command. He is initially baffled by the emotionalism of the crew, but—unlike, say, Spock in “The Galileo Seven“—it doesn’t take much for him to figure out that he needs to see to the crew’s emotional needs, even if he himself doesn’t have any.
He refers to himself as “acting captain” soon after they leave Janeway and Chakotay behind, but six weeks later, he’s referring to himself as “captain,” and the crew is addressing him as such. For some reason, he remains in his gold uniform.
Also his battle strategy against the Vidiians is superb.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH spent a month trying and failing to cure the virus, not shutting his program down at any point.
Pel calls him “Shmullus,” the nickname she gave him in “Lifesigns.”
Half and half. I suspect that early-first-season Torres would be appalled at late-second-season Torres upbraiding Swinn for writing a shitty report.
She is also surprisingly willing to donate DNA to the Vidiians, though to be fair, that dam already got a crack in it in “Lifesigns.” It’s also a sign of how much Torres wants Janeway and Chakotay back.
Forever an ensign. Kim is the most emotionally upset over the situation, being consistently insubordinate to Tuvok and having a meltdown on the bridge. But he does come up with a way to contact the Vidiians, and while he doesn’t sell it to Tuvok (that’s left to Kes, the youngest person on the ship and yet also arguably the most mature), it is his idea.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. When this episode first aired, the woman I was married to at the time said that you could put a match between Janeway and Chakotay in this episode and it would light on its own. We see them holding hands and giving each other significant looks, and then next time we see them it’s six weeks later, and you just know they were fucking like bunnies the whole time…
“I’m not certain what it is you expect me to do, Lieutenant.”
“I guess clearly something you can’t do, which is to feel as rotten about this as we do.”
“You are correct that I am unable to experience that emotion. And frankly, I fail to see what the benefit would be.”
–Tuvok being a Vulcan, and Paris doing a spectacular job of not getting that.
Welcome aboard. Susan Diol returns as Pel, following “Lifesigns,” and Bhani Turpin plays Swinn—she was previously part of the gaggle of crew who were trying and failing to cook in the mess hall in “Tuvix.” Simon Billig is also back as Hogan.
Trivial matters: Kim’s argument to Tuvok is that Pel can help them, based on their helping her in “Lifesigns,” and that the Vidiians once kidnapped Torres to make use of her Klingon DNA in “Faces,” and they can bargain with that (especially since it was her DNA that saved Pel’s life). Tuvok counters with the ship full of Vidiians they destroyed in “Deadlock,” which would likely make the Vidiians not want to be nice to them.
The plot of this episode covers sixteen weeks, twelve of which are seen onscreen: four weeks prior to the start of the episode, during which the EMH was trying and failing to find a cure, then six weeks of Voyager heading away from the world before encountering the Vidiians, then six weeks back to fetch the captain and first officer.
For the three months that Janeway and Chakotay are in exile, the working crew complement of Voyager is down to 143. It is not made at all clear who Tuvok’s first officer is, even though he would definitely need one.
Set a course for home. “It has been an honor serving with you—live long and prosper.” For those of you who think that the notion of fans loudly and passionately discussing their favorite shows among fellow viewers, and in particular the notion of “shipping”—to wit, wishing two people would wind up in a relationship—are new to the 21st century, allow me to disabuse you of this idea.
In the mid-1990s, we may not have had the Internet as we know it today, but we did have online forums—GEnie, CompuServe, America Online, Usenet—and folks discussed their passions just as much then via their slow dial-up connections as they do now on the world wide web using their wifi.
And there was a vocal subset of Voyager fans who wanted to see Janeway and Chakotay get together. It is to Jeri Taylor’s credit that she found a way to fulfill that wish by creating a situation that allowed that possibility to play out while still being true to the dictates of Rick Berman and UPN to keep the show standalone—and also to avoid having to deal with such a difficult relationship on the ship itself.
She strands them on a planet for three months thinking they’ll be stuck there forever. I thought it was a nifty idea twenty-five years ago, and watching it again now, I realize something that didn’t really occur to me then: as I said above in the “No sex, please, we’re Starfleet” section they were totally having all the sex for those last six weeks.
Robert Beltran has said in interviews (for the Captains’ Logs: Supplemental unauthorized book back in 1996 and for TrekMovie.com in 2017) that he didn’t think much of the romance, that they just held hands and it was supposed to be thrilling, and that Janeway was more interested in the primate than in Chakotay. And I’m wondering if he was actually paying attention while they were filming. Yes, they hold hands and stare at each other, and then next time we see them it’s six weeks later, and their body language has completely changed. In prior scenes, they’re being respectful of each other’s personal space, and even though their conversations are more casual than they were on Voyager, there’s still a bit of distance. But when we jump ahead to them planting a garden and Chakotay showing her plans for the boat he wants to build, they’re all in each other’s personal space, they’re both smiling a lot more, and they’re just more relaxed around each other.
I maintain: they were fucking like bunnies for those six weeks.
Kate Mulgrew has also discussed the episode in interviews, and in one in Cinefantastique she talked about how disappointed she was that the events of “Resolutions” were never followed up on. While I don’t blame her for being disappointed, Voyager was what it was at that point. While this episode did a nice job of building on stuff from the previous encounters with the Vidiians, in general episode-to-episode continuity was avoided like the plague. (Hell, it was actively contradicted at times, from the EMH forgetting in “Tattoo” that he’d felt pain before in “Projections” and in “Lifesigns” that he’d had a romance before in “Heroes and Demons,” and everyone in “Learning Curve” forgetting that Tuvok was part of Chakotay’s Maquis cell for a time.) They were never going to pursue this long-term.
On the one hand, that’s as it should be. The deeper relationship only works when they’re removed from the captain-first officer dynamic. Once they’re back in those positions at the end of the episode, a relationship would be disastrous, and make it much more difficult for either of them to do their jobs.
On the other hand, I really like the way things developed on the planet. Initially, Janeway is completely focused on finding a cure to the exclusion of all else, and she actually criticizes Chakotay for doing so many projects designed for long-term use. This is incredibly self-centered of her for two reasons: 1) it’s perfectly reasonable to at least prepare for being there forever, and 2) Chakotay’s got to have something to do or he’ll go binky-bonkers. He’s of no use in the science stuff, but he knows how to survive in a place like the planet. It takes the storm to make Janeway realized that she needs to think of this place in terms of being home rather than a temporary post while she finds a cure.
I haven’t even gotten to my personal favorite part of the episode, which is Tuvok being incredibly brilliant as captain. True, it takes him a bit of time to come around to the notion of approaching the Vidiians, but he does come around. He remains true to his Vulcan heritage, and unlike a previous case of a person of Vulcan heritage sticking to his logic guns while surrounded by emotional assholes, Tuvok does see both sides of the equation.
And his response to the Vidiian ambush is perfect. He’d been doing battle drills because the Vidiians betraying them was eminently predictable, and he adjusts his plan on the fly when the EMH informs him that Pel still is trying to help them. Throughout, he keeps his cool, implements his battle plan meticulously (“Here is the sequence of events”), and wins the day, getting the antidote in the bargain.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido encourages folks to check out “KRAD COVID readings,” in which he has been doing readings of his various writings, mostly short stories—including the Voyager story “Letting Go” from the Distant Shores anthology. In addition, his reading of a chapter from the Star Trek: Klingon Empire novel A Burning House, originally done for KAG Kon 2020: Home Invasion last weekend, is now available on the channel as well.