“Worst Case Scenario”
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Alexander Singer
Season 3, Episode 25
Production episode 167
Original air date: May 14, 1997
Captain’s log. Torres is walking down a corridor when Chakotay approaches her. He never calls her by name, and is talking about how lots of people are fed up with Tuvok, and also with Janeway, and how there may be a mutiny happening on board.
On the bridge, Janeway and Paris are going off on a rendezvous with the Rukani. Once they’re out of range, Chakotay starts his mutiny, with Torres—whom he calls “Ensign” at one point—assisting, going so far as to stun Kim.
Chakotay sends Torres with Seska—who is alive and back in her Bajoran guise—to round up the off-duty crew who were all trapped in their quarters, including Kes—who has her original hairstyle.
The officers loyal to Janeway are brought to a cargo bay, where Chakotay explains that this is no longer a Starfleet ship and they’ll be focused on getting home as quickly as possible, and screw Federation ideals.
Then Paris walks into the cargo bay, and the other shoe drops: this is a holonovel, called Insurrection Alpha. Torres found it when she was purging the database of old files. She has no idea who wrote it. In the program, you play an ensign in security. Paris says he wants to try it, and he jumps in. He tells Chakotay right off that he wants in on the mutiny, but when the mutiny itself starts, he’s on Janeway’s side, which gets him captured and put in the brig with Tuvok, Kim, and others.
We get further in the program, seeing Janeway and Paris return in their shuttle and boarding the ship to try to take it back. At one point, Paris confronts himself—
—and then the program ends. Turns out it’s incomplete.
Torres had mentioned the program to the EMH, who mentioned it to Neelix, and it becomes the most popular holoprogram on the ship, to the point where it comes up as a point of conversation at the end of a staff meeting.
Over the course of the conversation, Tuvok admits that he is the author of the program, but it’s not a holonovel. It’s a training exercise that he started when Janeway brought Chakotay and his Maquis cell on board, meant to be used by his security personnel in case there was a Maquis mutiny. However, once it became clear that the crews were integrating smoothly, he abandoned the program unfinished, and deleted it. However, while he did press “delete,” he forgot to then empty the trash, and it was still buried in the archives for Torres to find.
Now, though, everyone wants to know how it ends. Paris volunteers to write the ending. He’s working on it in the mess hall, with Tuvok, Neelix, and Torres all kibitzing, and the EMH later doing likewise. Paris says he can do it himself, but Tuvok insists on being part of the process, since he wrote the original program—also, Tuvok himself is the only one authorized to add to the program. Paris gives in at that point.
However, once Tuvok instructs the computer to open the narrative protocols to add to the program, everything changes. The scenario activates with Paris and Tuvok in the brig. On Voyager, transporters have gone down, and the holodeck has been booby trapped, the safety protocols disabled.
On the holodeck, Seska walks into the brig. Apparently, about a month before she buggered off with the Kazon, Seska found Tuvok’s program and added this little coda to it, triggered to go off if he ever decided to add to it. The Seska avatar proceeds to torment Tuvok and Paris, making them run around the ship, and seeing every attempt to gain the upper hand be stymied, from holo-Janeway’s phaser rifle overloading and blowing up to the scenario EMH treating Paris’s wound by trying to inject him with nitric acid, and so on. Janeway and Torres work to rewrite the program on the fly, but there are limits to what they can add. They do occasionally give them bits of help, like providing a plasma extinguisher to save them from a plasma fire and an attack by the Rukani, but that’s the best they can do.
At one point, Tuvok and Paris gain the upper hand, but Seska triggers the self-destruct—while it won’t destroy the real Voyager, it will blow up the holodeck, killing Tuvok and Paris, and doing significant damage to the ship.
Tuvok, therefore, hands over his phaser rifle to Seska, who disables the self-destruct—and then when Seska fires her phaser rifle, it overloads and blows up in the same manner as holo-Janeway’s.
The program finally ends. Everyone gathers in the mess hall for a toast celebrating their conquering of the program, and there is much speculation on what Tuvok and Paris’s next holonovel might be…
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway works fast and furious to add to the scenario to help keep Tuvok and Paris alive until they can bring the program to a close. Meanwhile, holo-Janeway gets to kick ass by tricking holo-Chakotay into blowing up her shuttle, which she uses as cover to beam herself and holo-Paris over to Voyager. But then, in the end, she’s blown up by a sabotaged phaser rifle.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is not happy that his abandoned program has been turned into a game, and he tries to convince everyone to just delete it. Janeway, however, tells him to loosen up, and so he agrees to work on it with Paris, though Paris himself isn’t really looking for a collaborator.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. When the EMH joins Tuvok and Paris on the holodeck to add his own notes on the holonovel, Tuvok disables his self-activation routine and sends him back to sickbay, for which Paris is understandably extremely grateful. Meanwhile, the Seska-enhanced version of the EMH in the program is extremely violent and kicks the crap out of Paris and Tuvok after injecting the former with nitric acid.
Half and half. Torres is the one who found the program and enjoys running it, and her talking about it makes it the hit of the ship.
Forever an ensign. Kim works his ass off to fix the transporters after Seska’s program sabotages them. He gets them up and running two seconds after the program ends. Good timing, there, kid.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. In the original program, Neelix joins Chakotay’s mutineers. The real Neelix, meanwhile, thinks that Tuvok doesn’t really understand his character…
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. In Seska’s addition to the program, she and Chakotay are passionate lovers.
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Most of the episode takes place on the holodeck, and Seska’s coda somehow manages to disable the transporters, booby trap the holodeck, and remove the safeties. I keep saying this—why is it even possible to disengage the safeties on the holodeck? Why isn’t that automatically hardwired?????
“You never should have crossed her, Tuvok.”
“She has been dead for over a year now. There would have been no way to predict this turn of events.”
“I guess we should’ve known Seska wouldn’t let a little thing like death stop her from getting even.”
–Paris and Tuvok discussing the episode’s twist.
Welcome aboard. The only guest in this one is Martha Hackett, last seen in “Basics, Part II,” in which Seska was killed, returning as the image of Seska continuing to torment Voyager’s crew from beyond the grave. She’ll be seen again, this time thanks to time-travel shenanigans, in the seventh season’s “Shattered.”
Trivial matters: The stardate Torres gives for when Seska altered the program is 48671, which she says is one month before Seska departed Voyager, but the episode where that happened, “State of Flux,” has a stardate of 48658. This is why you probably shouldn’t even pay attention to stardates…
It’s not clear whether or not the Rukani are a real species that Voyager encountered during their early days or if Tuvok made them up. They’re never referred to in any other episode.
Tuvok’s initial writing of the program, and his deciding to abandon it, during the timeframe of the early first season is dramatized in Robert Greenberger’s “Command Code” in the anthology Distant Shores.
When the crew is discussing what other kind of holonovel Tuvok and Paris might collaborate on, two possibilities are a Western and a mystery, likely nods to two of TNG’s holodeck scenarios, the “ancient West” program from “A Fistful of Datas” and the Dixon Hill program introduced in “The Big Goodbye.”
Set a course for home. “If you think I will allow you to turn this novel into a parody, you are sorely mistaken.” What an absolute delight of an episode. It makes perfect sense that Tuvok would have written the Insurrection Alpha program in the early days of their Delta Quadrant sojourn due to concerns over whether or not Chakotay and his people would integrate with the crew.
It also makes perfect sense that he’d abandon it unfinished, since the crew integrated pretty dang well. And it makes perfect sense that Seska would find it and booby-trap it.
The result is a very entertaining romp. It’s fun seeing Tuvok’s interpretation of how a Maquis insurrection would go, Robert Beltran is obviously having great fun as a much grouchier Chakotay than the real one, Robert Duncan McNeill and Tim Russ do their entertaining double act that they showed off in “Future’s End,” Robert Picardo kills it as the Seska-altered version of the EMH who still talks like himself while he’s beating the crap out of people and injecting them with acid, and Martha Hackett makes a most triumphant return.
The show didn’t do nearly enough with Seska in the first two seasons, as tethering her to the Kazon didn’t do the character any favors, but this use of her is brilliant. A great way to bring her back effectively, and Hackett does a fantastic job.
I particularly love how the episode starts in the middle of the holodeck scenario without explanation, leaving the viewer to wonder what the heck is going on. The hints are all there—Chakotay’s dialogue sounds very much like Voyager’s situation is new, not three years old, Tuvok refers to Chakotay as a newly installed first officer, Chakotay calls Torres “Ensign,” and then we see Seska as a Bajoran and Kes with her old haircut, and you wonder what’s going on. Is this time travel? A holodeck scenario? An alternate reality?
I also adore the whole middle bit with everyone trying to get in on finishing the storyline, a process every writer (especially every TV writer who works in a writers room like, say the writers of Voyager did at the time…) can nod their heads at and go, “Yup.”
It’s not necessarily the best episode of Voyager, but I’m pretty sure it’s my favorite. Just an absolute joy to watch.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido did a whole mess of programming at the virtual Dragon Con earlier this month. Click here for videos of just about everything he did, including a reading and panels on a wide variety of subjects ranging from the Beatles to movies from 1985 to Sherlock Holmes to Doctor Who to superhero movies in the wake of Batman ’89, plus him reading from his novels Alien: Isolation and To Hell and Regroup.