Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Scientific Method”

“Scientific Method”
Written by Sherry Klein & Harry Doc. Kloor and Lisa Klink
Directed by David Livingston
Season 4, Episode 7
Production episode 175
Original air date: October 29, 1997
Stardate: 51244.3

Captain’s log. Torres is in the Jefferies Tube to track down a power issue, only to find Seven working on a junction. Seven decided to do some work to improve astrometrics, but did it without checking with Torres first. Seven’s work messed up a project Torres was working on in engineering.

Torres rips Seven a new one, saying that there are procedures to follow so they can all work smoothly as a team. And if Torres—a crankypants ex-Maquis—can get used to Starfleet procedures, then surely Seven can. Seven actually apologizes.

Paris tells the EMH that he needs to knock off early from his shift to deliver a conn report to Chakotay. That’s a ruse to sneak off and make out with Torres.

The EMH is giving Janeway a massage. The captain has been sleeping poorly and is even more stressed than usual. Chakotay calls her to the bridge to show her the source of the energy readings they’ve been tracking: binary pulsars. They’re exerting a massive gravitational field, but Paris assures them that they’re far enough back. Janeway is too tired to even get excited about this, and leaves the study of the pulsars to Chakotay.

Paris and Torres have another sneak-off, makeout session, which is interrupted by Tuvok. They hadn’t wanted their relationship to be public, but that cat may be out of the bag—which is confirmed when Janeway asks them to stay after the staff meeting about the pulsars. To the couple’s surprise, Tuvok didn’t rat them out—because he didn’t need to, the entire ship is gossiping about their adolescent behavior. Janeway calls them on the carpet and instructs them to act like grownups instead of teenagers.

Chakotay finds himself with tremors and notices that his hair is falling out. He reports to sickbay, and ages considerably. The EMH determines that his metabolism is being stimulated at the genetic level, causing rapid aging, but he has no idea why.

Neelix collapses in the mess hall, and when he comes to sickbay, his complexion has changed. He has Mylean in his ancestry, and now his genetic makeup has been altered to make him more Mylean than Talaxian.

Star Trek: Voyager "Scientific Method"

Screenshot: CBS

More patients come into sickbay with similar genetic alterations. Torres and the EMH examine Chakotay and Neelix’s DNA with a special scanner that Torres has built to the EMH’s specs in a lab. They discover that both of them have strange marks on the base pairs that look kinda like barcodes. The marks are emitting a signal, and it’s one that slightly out of phase.

However, when they move to alter sensors to scan at that same phase variance, the EMH’s mobile emitter begins to futz out—his program is being deleted. He moves to transfer himself back to sickbay, while Torres collapses.

Torres is brought to sickbay by Paris, who responded to the EMH’s emergency call: her lungs have stopped processing oxygen. She’s under sedation and being respirated artificially. Meanwhile, there’s no sign of the EMH, and the scanner they were using appears to have malfunctioned.

The EMH communicates with Seven via a frequency only she can hear. He tells her not to say anything to any of the crew out loud, but to come to see him on the holodeck.

The EMH is in the da Vinci workshop, hiding. Whatever is happening, it seems to be a deliberate attack on the crew, and as soon as the doctor and Torres moved to deal with it, they were attacked directly. The EMH is able to adjust Seven’s ocular implant so she can see at the phase variance Torres detected. Sure enough, as she walks around the ship, she sees aliens who are out of phase, and also devices that have been placed on various crewmembers, as well as probes and injections that they give to assorted crew. The EMH urges her to report to the captain.

Tuvok receives a lengthy rant from Janeway on the subject of the poor discipline on board the ship. Seven then arrives to tell Janeway what’s going on, only to see that she has several spikes sticking out of her head, and two more of the aliens pushing them in deeper. Since she can’t reveal herself to the aliens yet, she covers by saying she needs assistance to fix the genetic scanner.

Returning to the holodeck, Seven and the EMH formulate a plan: they can modify phasers to bring the aliens into phase with the ship. However, that may result in retaliation from the aliens, so they need to also remove the markers from the crew’s DNA. Seven can set up a neuroleptic shock to the entire crew.

Unfortunately, Seven’s setting up of the shock is noticed by Tuvok who does not believe that she is performing routine maintenance. Even as Tuvok is ordering her away from the console, she sees several aliens congregate to watch their confrontation. Seven phasers one alien, who becomes in phase.

Star Trek: Voyager "Scientific Method"

Screenshot: CBS

At this point, the aliens know that they’ve been made. Tuvok puts the alien in the brig, and Seven reveals all. (The EMH can finally also leave the holodeck now.) Janeway questions the prisoner, whose name is Alzen. She and her fellow Srivani are performing experiments on the Voyager crew in order to further their own medical research. Despite being captured, Alzen indicates that there will be no alterations to the experiments. She assures Janeway that fatalities will be minimal, though there may be some deformities. Janeway herself is having her dopamine levels artificially increased, which is why she’s been stressed and sleep deprived. There is some discussion among the Srivani as to how much she can take before she snaps.

The Srivani have altered the EPS relays so that they can’t administer the neuroleptic shock, and sensors have been unable to detect the Srivani. Then Ensign Roberta Luke on the bridge convulses and collapses. The EMH tries to save her, but her entire circulatory system has collapsed.

Luke’s death is the final straw for Janeway. She relieves the conn officer, sets a course, calls for red alert, and then locks out the helm controls to anyone but her. Voyager is heading right for the pulsars.

A Srivani comes into phase and asks what Janeway is doing. Janeway says she’s doing exactly what someone whose dopamine levels have been artificially increased, hasn’t slept for four days, and has absolute control over the ship would do

Realizing that Janeway is not bluffing, the Srivani abandon Voyager. However, the ship is past the point of no return for the pulsars, and their only hope of survival is to power through to the other side.

Star Trek: Voyager "Scientific Method"

Screenshot: CBS

They make it, barely. The EMH is able to neutralize the genetic tags, and everyone starts to go back to normal. (Except poor Luke. And it’s never made clear how long it takes Chakotay’s hair to grow back…)

Paris and Torres have a dinner date in the former’s quarters, with occasional brief interruptions, and with both of them wondering if their relationship is due to the Srivani experimenting. Their subsequent smooching indicates that it has nothing to do with the Srivani…

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? The Srivani are able to exist slightly out of phase in order to conduct their experiments. They are able to affect matter that is in phase without them knowing it, er, somehow, including altering DNA, adding various devices to people’s bodies, and operating equipment on the ship from the EPS relays to the mobile emitter.

There’s coffee in that nebula! The Srivani’s biggest mistake is stressing Janeway out, as it makes her particularly reckless. Do not stress Janeway out. She will own your ass.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok has the best line of the episode. After Janeway goes on at some length about the poor discipline on board lately, and how he should do something about it as security chief, Tuvok dryly asks, “Shall I flog them as well?” at which point Janeway realizes she’s gone a bit over the deep end.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. The second best lines of the episode are when Neelix and Chakotay start comparing their respective ailments and one-upping each other like a couple of codgers.

Star Trek: Voyager "Scientific Method"

Screenshot: CBS

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH hides in da Vinci’s workshop by posing as an art instructor. He looks very fetching in his poofy shirt, tights, and cunning hat.

Resistance is futile. Seven’s Borg implants save the day, as it’s the only way the EMH can communicate outside the holodeck when he’s hiding there, and her ocular implants can be adjusted to see the Srivani.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Paris and Torres think they’re being discreet when they sneak off to suck face. They are hilariously incorrect.

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. The EMH hides on the holodeck until the Srivani are revealed.

Do it.

“You’re not behaving very rationally.”

“That’s what you are trying to accomplish, wasn’t it? Hm? Pumping up my dopamine levels to push me to the edge? Keeping me awake for four days straight with the constant pain of your devices drilling into my skull? Well, this is the culmination of your work. And guess what? You’re going to be right here to collect the final data!”

–The Srivani trying to call Janeway’s bluff and Janeway showing quite firmly that she is not bluffing.

Welcome aboard. The only guests are the two Srivani who are played by Rosemary Forsyth and Annette Helde. Helde has also played a Romulan in DS9’s “Visionary,” a security officer in First Contact, a character in the Star Trek: Klingon video game, and Lieutenant Larkin in DS9’s “The Siege of AR-558.”

Trivial matters: A real binary pulsar, PSR J0737-3039, was discovered in 2003, six years after this episode aired.

The aliens are never named out loud; Srivani and Alzen both come from the script.

Despite there being at least two examples of fast aging suffered by Starfleet crews—the original series’ “The Deadly Years” and TNG’s “Unnatural Selection”—the EMH doesn’t mention either case when he diagnoses Chakotay.

In the novel Section 31: Shadow by Dean Wesley Smith & Kristine Kathryn Rusch, it’s revealed that the crewmember on the bridge who died was Ensign Roberta Luke (which is where the name in the “Captain’s log” section came from), an undercover Section 31 agent assigned to Voyager to report on Maquis activities. After Seven was brought on board, Luke—who thought Janeway was insane to let an ex-Borg on board and “make a pet of it”—set a trap for Seven in one of the bio-neural gelpacks, but she was killed in this episode before she could spring it. The trap does get sprung in the novel, which takes place toward the end of the fifth season.

Luke’s death brings the crew complement to 141 (though the crew complement given in “Distant Origin” and “Displaced” would put it at 147). Janeway stated there were 152 on board in “The 37s,” though that wouldn’t have included the EMH, so it was truly 153. Since then, thirteen crewmembers have died and Kes has left, but the Wildman baby was born and Seven joined the crew, so a net loss of eleven.

Star Trek: Voyager "Scientific Method"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “These lab rats are fighting back.” Even if the rest of the episode was terrible, it would be worth it for the borscht-belt schtick that Chakotay and Neelix indulge in. Seriously, it’s like they stepped out of a resort in the Catskills in the 1950s—or a Billy Crystal/Christopher Guest routine from Saturday Night Live in the 1980s. Just a beautiful escalating-complaint bit that Robert Beltran and Ethan Phillips perform stupendously.

And, even better, the rest of the episode is also pretty awesome. There’s a real horror-movie vibe to the whole thing, with both Lisa Klink’s script and David Livingston’s direction keeping the tension building. It’s evocative of Invasion of the Body Snatchers and The Thing from Another World, and it’s delightful. I especially liked the Srivani-eye view of the bioscans of Chakotay and of Torres and Paris.

Speaking of the latter, we also get some really nice character development with those two, as their relationship goes from private and furtive to public and embarrassing. I love the fact that they were so worried about Tuvok tattling on them that it doesn’t occur to them that Tuvok doesn’t need to say anything. To quote M*A*S*H‘s Dr. Sidney Freedman, “Hard to keep a secret here in Macy’s window, east, isn’t it?” The hilarious part is that Torres and Paris actually believed that nobody knew they were sneaking off to make smoochy faces at each other regularly.

And speaking of Tuvok, his interactions with Janeway are magnificent, from the flogging line to his calm recitation of how fucked they are if Janeway insists on flying them into the pulsars. As always, Tim Russ nails the Vulcan dry wit.

Not to be outdone, Roxann Dawson is quietly superb here. We get her bitching out Seven for not following procedure; her moment of major self-awareness as she realizes she’s giving the same be-a-good-Starfleet-officer speech to Seven that Janeway gave to Torres herself four years previous; her trying to keep the relationship with Paris under wraps while taking advantage of every opportunity possible to make mad passionate nookie-nookie with him; and finally her very obvious disappointment and shame when Janeway chews her out.

Plus, we get the always-brilliant Robert Picardo and the proving-to-also-always-be-brilliant Jeri Ryan saving the day.

Warp factor rating: 8

Keith R.A. DeCandido urges all and sundry to subscribe to “KRAD COVID readings,” his YouTube channel where he reads his writings. This week is the landmark 75th episode, which is a three-part reading of his 2001 Kira Nerys-focused novella “Horn and Ivory” from Star Trek: What Lay Beyond. He’s also read “Letting Go” from the Voyager: Distant Shores anthology, as well as his stories from the Trek anthologies Deep Space Nine: Prophecy and Change, New Frontier: No Limits, The Next Generation: The Sky’s the Limit, Seven Deadly Sins, Tales from the Captain’s Table, and Tales of the Dominion War, plus a ton of other fiction that isn’t Star Trek!

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