Written by André Bormanis and Kenneth Biller
Directed by Anson Williams
Season 4, Episode 24
Production episode 192
Original air date: May 6, 1998
Captain’s log. Because they’re low on deuterium, Voyager has gone into “gray mode,” which requires that nonessential systems be shut down and power cut off to several decks. This also requires barracks-style sleeping arrangements, though Neelix decides, along with a few other people, to bunk down in sickbay instead.
On the bridge, Janeway orders Chakotay and Tuvok to brainstorm energy conservation methods and Kim to work on an alternative fuel source. (Why she waited until now to request this is left as an exercise for the viewer.) Paris helpfully suggests a bicycle hooked up to the engines, and volunteers Kim to pedal the first shift.
Astrometrics is still active against orders, but when Chakotay goes to tell Seven to shut it down, she reveals that she’s found a source of deuterium.
That’s the good news; the bad news is, it’s a Class-Y planet, colloquially called a “demon” planet, with an atmosphere so toxic and hostile a ship can’t even safely get into orbit. However, they’re out of options, so they set a course, adjusting the shields to defend against the thermionic discharges.
The first attempt to beam up deuterium doesn’t work, as the containment unit fails to hold in the toxic atmosphere, exposing the transporter room, Seven, and Ensign Nozawa to it. They escape and seal off the transporter room, and eventually are able to vent the bad atmosphere, but they’re back to square one.
Kim suggests modifying a shuttle and EVA suits to work in the atmosphere. Janeway agrees and Kim volunteers Paris to accompany him as revenge for the bicycle line.
The landing is a rough one, but then they find a pool of liquid that has a ton of deuterium in it, and is also much cooler than the rest of the planet. However, Kim falls into it. Paris is able to pull him out, but then both their suits fail.
The EMH is not happy about turning his sickbay into a barracks, but the only alternative Chakotay gives him is to shut himself off, which will preserve power in any case.
After Kim and Paris have been dark for ages, Janeway decides a rescue is in order, but isn’t willing to risk another shuttle, so they land the ship. Chakotay and Seven then go out, and find Kim and Paris in an underground cavern where communications won’t reach—and they’re also out of their suits and breathing normally! They’ve also been collecting samples of the silver liquid.
Confused, the four of them return to Voyager but as soon as they’re on board, Paris and Kim stop being able to breathe. The EMH, having kicked out Neelix and the rest because of the medical emergency, puts the pair inside a force field filled with the demon planet’s atmosphere. Their blood is filled with the silver liquid, and it “bioformed” them into people who can survive in a Class-Y environment—but not in Class-M anymore.
Janeway sends Chakotay and Seven back out to investigate further, and Kim volunteers to go with them, while Paris stays behind to be tested by the EMH.
Kim is happy to be back on the planet, as it now feels like home to him. In their travels, they find two unconscious humans: Kim and Paris, still in their EVA suits.
Meanwhile, Janeway and Torres have been examining the samples and at one point, Torres accidentally touches the stuff, and it reforms to mimic the finger that touched it.
The silver liquid forms around Voyager’s landing struts, trapping them on the surface. Janeway orders the away team beamed back and is surprised when Chakotay says “five to beam up,” and even more surprised when it’s only four who do beam up, as the Class-Y-breathing Kim runs away.
Voyager can’t take off. Tuvok converts the weapons to fire nadion pulses, which might damage the silver liquid. The EMH revives Paris and Kim, who are still normal. Janeway realizes that the silver liquid has mimetic qualities, and the Kim and Paris they originally brought back were duplicates.
When Tuvok fires the nadion pulses, it hurts the duplicate Paris. They beam the duplicate Kim back, and we soon learn that the silver liquid does mimic other life forms, but this is the first time they’ve done it with a sentient one—it’s their first time as sentient beings, and they don’t want to give it up.
Janeway makes an offer: the crew will allow themselves to be duplicated so they can have a community, and the silver liquid will let them go. The alternative is to fire their way out with the nadion pulses. They pick door #1, and Voyager is able to take off, leaving more than a hundred duplicates of themselves behind on the planet.
At no point does anyone mention whether or not they got more deuterium…
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Despite running on the annihilation of matter and antimatter, Voyager apparently also needs deuterium to function properly. While deuterium has been part of the engine systems going back to second-season TNG, this is the first time it’s been established as being so critical that a lack of it forces them to go into “gray mode,” which is powering down to bare minimum of power. Gray mode also means no warp drive.
Also Class-Y planets are so uninhabitable and dangerous that it’s risky for ships to enter orbit. Despite this, a low-powered Voyager is able to land, and people wander around in EVA suits without a problem. Oh, and this highly corrosive atmosphere can also be re-created in sickbay without ill effects on the equipment therein.
And we get the latest made-up radiation, thermionic radiation, which I assume was pioneered by the guys from Galaxy Quest…
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is initially conservative about what she’s willing to risk to get the deuterium, but that goes away right quick, to the point where she negotiates with the silver liquid at the muzzle of a gun.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok insists that Neelix not take his blanket, his pillow, or his book with him to the emergency barracks. It’s not clear why he won’t let him do any of these things, since they don’t take up a lot of space, nor require power.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix’s response is to bunk down in sickbay, along with some other crewmembers.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH’s response to these interlopers is to stay up all night singing. This lasts until Neelix decides to lead a singalong.
Forever an ensign. Kim suggests taking a shuttle down and tells Paris that he’s sick of being thought as the green fresh-out-of-the-Academy ensign, since he’s now been at this for four years and actually has accumulated some experience points…
Half and half. Torres is eager to go with Chakotay to rescue Kim and Paris, but Chakotay says she’s needed on the ship, plus she shouldn’t be the one searching for her beau as she can’t be dispassionate on that subject.
Resistance is futile. Torres, however, is the one who suggests Chakotay take Seven, as she’s got the dispassion Chakotay says is needed in spades.
“Need I remind you, Ensign, that there is no environment less hospitable to humanoid life than a Class Y?”
“Actually, Tuvok, no, you needn’t remind me. What’s the alternative? Resume course? Creep along at quarter-impulse hoping we find fuel before we end up dead in the water? We’ve got deuterium within arm’s reach, we can’t let the opportunity slip away without at least trying.”
—Tuvok being pedantic and Kim giving as good as he gets.
Welcome aboard. The only guest in this one is recurring regular Alexander Enberg as Vorik.
Trivial matters: The duplicates of Voyager’s crew will be seen again next season in “Course: Oblivion.” Voyager will again have to go into gray mode in “Counterpoint.”
It was established in “Unforgettable” that Voyager was searching for deuterium.
This is Roxann Dawson’s first episode back from her pregnancy, and the first time she’s been seen from the neck down while in uniform in a very long time. (She was seen in full pregnant form while in World War II costume in “The Killing Game” two-parter.) She is still wearing the nifty jacket with the tool pocket, however.
The transporter chief played by John Tampoya, who has been seen in several episodes in that position, and also as the one Torres walked in on in his underwear in “Twisted,” is given the name Nozawa.
Set a course for home. “Now that we’re down, we won’t be going up again soon.” Let’s see, what’s good about this episode? The Kim-Paris banter is superb, and it’s nice to see the writers finally remember that Kim isn’t a newbie anymore, and he’s been through some shit.
It’s also nice to see Chakotay be the one to land the ship, as the show sometimes forgets that he’s an ace pilot, too.
And there the compliments end, as holy cow, this episode is horrible.
We start with the premise. It would be fine if they made something up. One of the things I loved about the original series is that they created fictional devices and substances that were based on real things, but expanded or amended in some way: dilithium being the obvious one, plus things like quadrotriticale and tricorder.
But no, they had to go with deuterium, which is a real thing. What’s worse, it’s a real thing that is an isotope of hydrogen, which is the single most common element in the entire universe. Yes, folks, we’re back to the idiocy of “Caretaker” where people were having trouble finding water, even though water is, y’know, everywhere. So is deuterium, so the notion that they’d be short on it is patently absurd.
I mean, they could’ve made it something like, I dunno, polydeuterium or quadrodeuterium or mega-deuterium or some damn thing to make it rarer and, y’know, fictional.
The notion of a “demon” planet is a good one, and it’s nice to have them not be on a Class-M planet that either looks like a soundstage or southern California, but after being told that a Class-Y planet is so dangerous you shouldn’t even go into orbit around it, they sure as hell spend a lot of time there. The atmosphere is so corrosive that Kim’s idea of going down in a shuttle is deemed incredibly dangerous—but then the EMH reproduces it in sickbay with no ill effects. Just in general, the “demon” planet pretty much stops being even a concern, as half the crew wanders around in it.
Oh, and if the ship is stuck at one-quarter impulse until they find a source of deuterium, they’d better be pretty close to a planet, because without warp drive, they’re stuck inside whatever solar system they came out of warp in, and limited to those planets. Period.
Because they apparently didn’t have enough story for an hour, we also get the nonsense with the EMH and Neelix when the latter bunks down in sickbay, which looks like it’s going for an Odd Couple vibe and it fails in every possible way. Bog-obvious, unfunny filler to mark time in an episode that doesn’t have enough story for an hour. Hell, it doesn’t have enough story for ten minutes.
And then in the end, the crew just blithely agrees to create duplicates of themselves. Which happens off camera and with no consequences in this episode. (Normally that would mean no consequences ever, but we will, thankfully, get a followup next season.)
The worst part? The rotten cherry on top of this shit sundae? The story is credited to André Bormanis, the show’s science consultant. I get that TV writers don’t always pay attention to their consultants, but this one has his byline on it, for crying out loud. It is, to say the least, not a good look for Bormanis or Voyager.
Just an awful, awful episode, dumb from the ground up and dumb from the roof on down the other side.
Warp factor rating: 1
Keith R.A. DeCandido is very glad that it’s not 2020 anymore and is hoping for a much better 2021.