“In the Flesh”
Written by Nick Sagan
Directed by David Livingston
Season 5, Episode 4
Production episode 198
Original air date: November 4, 1998
Captain’s log. We open at what appears to be Starfleet Headquarters, though everyone is back in the old uniforms. Admiral Bullock is giving out assignments, and Chakotay is taking holographic images.
Chakotay encounters Boothby, who walks him toward Logistical Support. Chakotay claims to be an officer named Jason Hayek who just transferred to HQ from the Intrepid, which was patrolling the Romulan Neutral Zone.
Later, Chakotay goes to the Quantum Café, where he chats up a Commander Valerie Archer. While they talk, Ensign O’Halloran’s body starts to morph and change. He’s taken away, and Archer asks if Chakotay has ever “reverted.” He says he hasn’t, and Archer says that O’Halloran will be taken out of training if it happens to him again. Archer also talks about how weird things like sleeping and inhaling oxygen are.
Chakotay makes a date to take a tour of HQ with Archer later, then goes off with Tuvok. As they approach the prearranged transporter coordinates, and once they’re out of Archer’s hearing, Chakotay says he’s gained some valuable information. Before they can beam out, Ensign David Gentry stops them and says they’re in a restricted area. Tuvok drops him with a Vulcan nerve pinch, and Paris beams the three of them back to the Delta Flyer, which then leaves orbit around, not a planet, but rather a space station.
Gentry wakes up in sickbay, and provides his name, rank, and serial number, even though Janeway knows full well that he isn’t really human and isn’t really from Earth. When the EMH tries to get a cellular sample, Gentry backs off and tries to call Bullock, to no avail. He finally commits suicide rather than say anything. The EMH is able to get him to revert to his true form, and he turns out to be a member of Species 8472.
Based on Chakotay’s images and Seven’s astrometric scans, 8472 has created a big-ass holodeck that has meticulously re-created Starfleet Command and Starfleet Academy. 8472 said when they first met back in “Scorpion” that they intended to purge all life from the galaxy, so they have to assume that the training that Archer referred to is for an invasion of Earth.
Janeway orders Tuvok to continue scanning the station for weaknesses and for Seven and the EMH to create more nanoprobes to be used in their weapons systems. Chakotay, meanwhile, will have his date with Archer. Before that, however, Janeway has the EMH scan Chakotay and Tuvok, to make sure they aren’t also 8472s in disguises, then he does the same for the rest of the crew, to make sure that they didn’t get their information on Starfleet’s facilities from an imposter on board.
Seven and the EMH create more nanoprobes, which Seven has improved the efficiency and effectiveness of. She also expresses concern that 8472 may have developed a defense against them some time in the last year.
Paris and Kim fly Chakotay back to the station on the Delta Flyer. Chakotay meets Archer at the Quantum Café to see her sitting with Boothby. After Boothby excuses himself, they go off to dance, and later wind up back at her quarters, where Archer says she has to give herself an isomorphic injection to keep her human form. Chakotay takes advantage of her being out of the room to download stuff off her computer terminal.
Chakotay excuses himself after confirming that 8472 thinks humans are a massive threat, though Archer insists on concluding the human dating ritual properly, with a kiss goodnight.
After he leaves, Archer contacts Boothby and makes it clear that Chakotay’s cover is seriously blown. Boothby changes the simulation from night time to day time and sends various Starfleet personnel to capture Chakotay.
On Voyager, Janeway and Seven discuss the possibility of diplomacy, with Seven continuing to insist that it isn’t possible with 8472. But Janeway doesn’t feel right about going straight into battle.
Tuvok informs her that they’ve lost contact with Chakotay. Janeway goes to red alert and has Voyager head to the station.
Boothby and Archer interrogate Chakotay, who insists that the Federation is not planning to make war on 8472. Boothby is skeptical of this claim, more so when Bullock comes in and informs them that Voyager is headed toward them, weapons hot. Chakotay insists that Janeway isn’t there to fight, but to retrieve him.
There are some exchanges of weapons fire, and then Boothby contacts Voyager, demanding they depart. Janeway refuses to go without her first officer. Janeway hasn’t fired her nanoprobe-enhanced weapons, and she doesn’t want to unless she has to.
Boothby agrees to beam aboard with Chakotay and talk. They meet in the conference room. Janeway insists that not only is the Federation not planning an invasion of fluidic space, Voyager is the only part of the Federation that’s even ever heard of 8472. Voyager isn’t a scout for an invasion force that has allied with the Borg, as Boothby accuses them of being. They’re a lone ship stranded far from home, who engaged in an alliance of convenience with the Borg because they didn’t know that the Borg were the aggressors in their war. The alliance with the Borg is long done. And for now at least, 8472 is only interested in learning more about humans in case they’re a threat.
Bullock doesn’t trust them, but Archer does—she’s spent enough time as a human, and with Chakotay, that she thinks they’re sincere. Janeway then orders Seven to disarm the nanoprobe weapons, as a gesture of good faith.
Boothby is willing to show Voyager’s crew around the simulation and also convince their fellow 8472s to not go through with any kind of military action against the Federation in exchange for getting to see the specs of the nanoprobe weapons.
Eventually, Voyager goes on their way. Boothby promises to speak on their behalf, and also gives Janeway a simulated rose. Chakotay and Archer exchange another kiss.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Seven has improved her nanoprobes to make them better, faster, stronger.
There’s coffee in that nebula! When Janeway was a cadet, Boothby used to bring her fresh roses for her quarters.
Forever an ensign. Kim expresses serious concerns about Chakotay’s date with Archer, given that his own first encounter with 8472 led to his being infected with a brutal virus, and he was only saved from a painful, awful death by Seven’s nanoprobes.
Resistance is futile. Seven is quite sure that diplomacy will never work with 8472. Meanwhile, 8472 is convinced that Seven is a Borg delegate on Voyager and that they’re still working together. They’re both wrong, as diplomacy does work, and Seven, of course, really is independent of the Collective now.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH points out to Seven that diplomacy did work with the Borg, up to a point, at least, so it might work with 8472.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Archer and Chakotay suck face on two separate occasions, though they only really mean it the second time, as both of them were full of shit the first time they smooched.
“There are no secrets except the secrets that keep themselves.”
–George Bernard Shaw in Back to Methuselah, quoted by Chakotay.
Welcome aboard. The great Ray Walston reprises his role as Boothby after a fashion by playing the 8472 disguised as him. He played the real Boothby in TNG’s “The First Duty,” and will return to play an image of Boothby in “The Fight.”
Tucker Smallwood plays the 8472 disguised as Admiral Bullock. He’ll return on Enterprise in the recurring role of the Xindi-Primate councillor in that show’s third season.
And we’ve got two Robert Knepper moments! I totally forgot that former Gremlins star Zach Galligan and future Battlestar Galactica star Kate Vernon were both in this as the 8472s disguised as, respectively, Ensign David Gentry and Commander Valerie Archer.
Trivial matters: Boothby is the only 8472 who is disguised as a character we know has a real-world analogue. He was established as the groundskeeper at Starfleet Academy in TNG’s “Samaritan Snare” (and described by Picard as the wisest person he’d ever known), and mentioned in TNG’s “Final Mission” and “The Game” before finally being seen in TNG’s “The First Duty.”
8472’s simulation of Starfleet HQ has everyone wearing the TNG-era uniforms that pre-date First Contact and DS9’s “Rapture.” They also show some Ferengi in Starfleet uniforms, which is odd, as the first Ferengi in Starfleet was Nog, who by this point in the timeline had gotten a field promotion from cadet to ensign.
Writer Nick Sagan, the son of the great astronomer Carl Sagan, had written two episodes of TNG prior to this (“Attached” and “Bloodlines“), and was brought in as story editor for the fifth season of Voyager. This is the first of five episodes he’s involved in the writing of this season, after which he would leave the show to work for SPACE.com.
Sagan’s original pitch was that Voyager would learn that 8472 had been spying on Earth for millennia, and they were the root of a lot of mythology about demons and monsters. In addition, Sagan was inspired by the Soviet Union’s “sleeper villages” where KGB agents practiced living life like Americans in order to better infiltrate the U.S. (Paris cites those villages in the episode.)
According to an interview on Trek Today, Sagan chose the surname Archer for Kate Vernon’s character as a combined tribute to the characters of David Bowman from 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ellie Arroway from Sagan’s father’s Contact. (Bow + Arrow = Archer.) The surname would later be used for the lead character played by Scott Bakula on Enterprise.
The Starfleet Headquarters exterior scenes were filmed at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant, which has been the outdoor location used for both Starfleet Academy and Starfleet Headquarters in numerous episodes of TNG, DS9, and Enterprise.
Tucker Smallwood was suffering from Bell’s Palsy during the filming of the episode, which explains why Bullock looked so stern the entire time—it was the only expression he could do on both sides of his face.
This is the first mention of Directive 010, dictating that diplomacy should be attempted before any military solution is engaged. This is the first time this has been spelled out as a directive, though it has been a hallmark of Starfleet since the very beginning of the original series. The directive will be mentioned by Cadet Sidhu in the Short Treks episode “Ask Not.”
Janeway and Chakotay discuss Admiral Nimembeh; in Pathways by Jeri Taylor, there was a Commander Nimembeh who was a mentor to Chakotay and also a teacher to Kim.
Voyager is an Intrepid-class ship, so Chakotay saying he transferred from the Intrepid is a minor in-joke.
The EMH says, after scanning Tuvok and Chakotay to make sure they aren’t 8472 in disguise, “two down, 125 to go!” This implies that the crew complement is now 128—the 127 he needs to scan, plus the EMH himself. They left the Ocampa homeworld with 155 people, based on dialogue in “The 37’s,” and the two who departed (Seska, Kes) have been replaced (Seven, Naomi Wildman). There are nineteen established deaths, which would bring the ship’s complement down to 136, but it’s unknown how many died during the hostilities between Voyager and the Hirogen in “The Killing Game, Part II“—this episode now indicates that eight people died in that conflict.
Set a course for home. “I’ve always wondered what it would be like to date an alien.” This is one of those episodes that I enjoy in the moment but which drives me crazy once it’s over and I think about it for more than a second and a half.
It’s always a joy to see Ray Walston, of course. After three years of buildup, TNG absolutely nailed it by casting the great Walston in the role, and one of the reasons why this episode works at all is because of Walston’s sardonic charm.
Also every scene between Robert Beltran and Kate Vernon sparkles. As ever, Beltran can bring it when given decent material, and he and Vernon also have an easy chemistry that is fun to watch.
And the solution is so very Star Trek. Directive 010 is there for good reason, after all, and it’s the heart of what Trek has always been all about: compassion over violence, mercy over cruelty, talking over shooting. The day isn’t won because Voyager has nanoprobe weapons, it’s won because people sit down across from each other at a table and talk in good faith.
But man, does the episode not actually make any sense. Where did 8472 learn so much about Starfleet? If they got it from the Borg, why aren’t the uniforms up to date? (The Borg’s latest intelligence on the Alpha Quadrant would come from the events of First Contact.) If they got it from Voyager, why don’t they realize that Voyager is trapped tens of thousands of light-years from home, with only one brief direct contact with the Alpha Quadrant? It’s detailed enough to have the complete works of George Bernard Shaw on Archer’s shelf and to re-create entire locations and food and drink and such, but not enough to tell them that Voyager’s been missing from home for four years?
And holy crap, this does more than even “Hope and Fear” did to make Janeway’s decision in the “Scorpion” two-parter to ally with the Borg incredibly awful. Not only weren’t 8472 the aggressors, they aren’t even the warlike species everyone assumed them to be, based on the ones who invaded our galaxy after the Borg tried to penetrate fluidic space. Sure, they said they wanted to exterminate all life in the galaxy, but they were also pissed off at the cyborgs who came and invaded them from another realm. And as with “Hope and Fear,” I wish there had been some manner of regret or recrimination or something. Allying with the Borg has not proven to be particularly efficacious, and may well have done more harm than good. Certainly, Arturis would say so…
This episode’s heart is in the right place; if only its brain had taken up residence there as well.
Warp factor rating: 6
Keith R.A. DeCandido wrote a short story for the forthcoming charity anthology Turning the Tied, which features stories about existing characters in the public domain by some of the best tie-in writers in the business, including fellow Trek scribes Greg Cox, Robert Greenberger, Jeff Mariotte, David McIntee, Robert Vardeman, Aaron Rosenberg, Scott Pearson, Kelli Fitzpatrick, Derek Tyler Attico, and Rigel Ailur. Keith’s story is about Ayesha, the title character in She by H. Rider Haggard. You can preorder the book now from Amazon.