Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Bliss”

“Bliss”
Written by Bill Prady and Robert J. Doherty
Directed by Cliff Bole
Season 5, Episode 14
Production episode 209
Original air date: February 10, 1999
Stardate: 52542.3

Captain’s log. A small one-person ship, commanded by an alien named Qatai, flies straight into a maelstrom, with Qatai taunting the maelstrom.

Tuvok and Kim report that sensors have picked up a wormhole, one that leads directly to Sector 001. Janeway is skeptical to say the least, but she orders a probe sent in.

Seven, Paris, and Naomi return to Voyager from a mission on the Delta Flyer in search of deuterium because this writer’s room still labors under the delusion that deuterium is some rare element. Sigh.

When they return to Voyager, Seven is surprised to learn about the wormhole, especially since, given its proximity, they should have detected it sooner. However, the crew is completely giddy about the prospect of returning home, as the probe has shown that it really does go right to Earth, and they’ve received communiqués from Starfleet and everything.

Seven is concerned that it showed up on sensors so late, and so runs a diagnostic—however, sensors are functioning fine. She scans the wormhole and finds neutrino fluctuations. She reports this to Janeway, but the captain dismisses the concerns, as Starfleet Command has informed them that the fluctuations are nothing to be concerned about. Janeway postulates that Seven is frightened about the prospect of going to Earth.

What Seven is more concerned about is the crew’s total lack of concern regarding this gift horse that they insist on shoving their heads into the mouth of. She hacks into the computer to read Janeway’s logs, and sees that she went from a healthy and sensible skepticism about the convenience of the wormhole to complete and total unquestioning acceptance of it.

Star Trek: Voyager "Bliss"

Screenshot: CBS

The crew has been receiving letters from the wormhole. Janeway has been informed that Mark Johnson has ended his relationship, Chakotay has been told that he’s been pardoned and will be offered an anthropology position at Starfleet Academy, Paris has been offered a position as a test pilot, and even Neelix has been offered a diplomatic post. Seven herself has a letter from a Claudia Hansen, who says she is Annika Hansen’s father’s sister.

Seven finds the complete acceptance of all this good news disquieting, and she goes to sickbay and activates the EMH—who, it turns out, hasn’t even been informed of the wormhole. He promises to check on the crew under the guise of routine medical exams.

Seven is summoned to the bridge to see the probe’s first images from the other side of the wormhole: Earth. The crew is goofily giddy over this notion.

Returning to astrometrics, Seven runs several scans, but they all read the wormhole as a standard class-one phenomenon. However, she sees a ship in the scanning field, though sensors aren’t reading it. She contacts the ship, and Qatai appears on the screen, urging Voyager to turn around. “You’re being deceived.” However, the communication then cuts off, after which power to astrometrics is shut down. Tuvok arrives to inform Seven that they’re depowering astrometrics in order to divert more power to the navigational deflector to help get through the wormhole. Seven tries to appeal to Tuvok’s sense of logic that this is all too good to be true. Unfortunately, Tuvok doesn’t believe that she spoke to Qatai, since there is no record of any such communication.

Returning to Cargo Bay 2, Seven finds Naomi hiding behind a cargo container, clutching her Flotter stuffie for dear life. She says that everyone’s acting weird, including her mother. Seven realizes that she and Naomi are the only two people on board who are not excited about the notion of returning to the Alpha Quadrant—Seven because of the fear of how she’d be received as a former Borg, Naomi because Voyager is the only home she’s ever known.

Seven tells Naomi to stay in the cargo bay. She goes to sickbay only to find that the EMH has been taken offline because the wormhole will interfere with his holographic matrix. Chakotay then approaches Seven to inform her that they will need to put her in stasis while they go through the wormhole because it will pass through a subspace region that the Borg monitor, and they can’t risk them picking up Seven’s neural transceiver.

Star Trek: Voyager "Bliss"

Screenshot: CBS

Pretending to agree to being put in stasis, Seven leads Chakotay and the security detail he brought with him to Cargo Bay 2. Under the cover of adjusting her alcove’s settings, she instead imprisons Chakotay and the security detail in a force field. Leaving instructions with Naomi on how to keep Tuvok from shutting the force field down, Seven beams to engineering, stunning the officers on duty (including Torres), erects a force field around engineering, and tries to take control of the ship. Janeway sends an EM burst through the console she’s using, rendering her unconscious.

Voyager goes into what they think is the wormhole, but is, in fact, the maelstrom we saw in the teaser, which is the outer portion of a massive living being that swallows the ship.

The crew is now entirely unconscious, thinking they’re on Earth; Neelix meets with some Starfleet admirals, while Tuvok is reunited with T’Pel. The only conscious one is Naomi, who somehow knows to go to engineering, where she yells at Seven to wake up and turn off the force field.

Seven wants Naomi to go to her quarters and wait, but she doesn’t want to be alone. So she accompanies Seven to astrometrics, pausing to freak out over Neelix being unconscious.

According to scans, the hull’s being demolecularized. Seven is able to find Qatai’s ship and contact him. He eventually agrees to be beamed over, and when he arrives he explains that they’re in the belly of a massive living creature that lures ships in by telepathically fooling them into thinking that flying down its gullet will be the road to their greatest desire. The demolecularization Seven detected is the creature beginning the digestion process. Qatai has been hunting this thing for forty years, and he still sometimes succumbs to the creature’s telepathic manipulations. Qatai was on a colony ship that was lured into the creature’s maw; they were all wiped out, with only Qatai remaining, and dedicating his life to destroying it.

They go to sickbay and activate the EMH. While the doctor runs scans of the crew to figure out how to block the creature’s telepathy, Qatai examines Voyager’s weaponry. The EMH’s attempts to block the creature’s illusions with a cortical stimulator fail.

Qatai wants to blow it up with a photon torpedo, but the EMH would rather not commit murder. (That whole “do no harm” thing.) He recommends making the creature suffer from some manner of indigestion so that it will expel both ships back out into space.

Star Trek: Voyager "Bliss"

Screenshot: CBS

Yes, the EMH recommends making the creature puke the ships out.

(Or maybe belch them out. But puke is funnier.)

Qatai’s weapons are tetryon-based. If he fires at a burst of antimatter, it would cause an electrolytic discharge that should give the creature a tummyache.

The first attempt seems to succeed, but it soon becomes clear that the creature is making Seven think it worked. However, the EMH is immune, and Qatai is partly immune, so they convince her that it didn’t work.

They try again, and this time the creature barfs Voyager and Qatai’s ship out into space.

The crew wakes up, incredibly confused. Seven says that the EMH will explain everything, she’s going to take a nap. (Well, regenerate, but whatever.)

Later, Seven finds Naomi in astrometrics. Her mother sent her there to learn more about Earth, but Naomi doesn’t see what the big deal is. Neither does Seven, but they figure they should probably learn more just in case they do get to the Alpha Quadrant.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Voyager is still searching for deuterium because they’re apparently all too dumb to know how to find an isotope of the most common element in the universe.

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway’s initial skepticism about the wormhole includes some truly magnificent sarcasm. So when she accepts the wormhole after Act 1 with a vapid smile, it gives the viewer the heebie-jeebies.

Mr. Vulcan. Seven tries really really hard to appeal to Tuvok’s sense of logic, going so far as to make him realize that he’s actually feeling enthusiasm regarding seeing T’Pel again, but it still doesn’t help him break out of the creature’s telepathic hold.

Star Trek: Voyager "Bliss"

Screenshot: CBS

Half and half. The EMH tests the cortical stimulator as a method of breaking the telepathic hold on Torres, but it totally doesn’t work, as Torres wakes up in sickbay and sees, not the EMH and Qatai, but her fellow Maquis alive and well contrary to what she was told in “Hunters.”

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix believes he is going to be made ambassador to the Lan’tuana sector, which is apparently inhabited by quadrupeds.

Resistance is futile. Seven has completely morphed into Naomi’s weird aunt. It’s kind of adorable. They’re also the only two on board who have no interest in going to the Alpha Quadrant.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. At one point, Qatai—impressed with the range of capabilities the EMH has—offers him a place on his ship. The EMH politely declines the notion of being Ishmael to Qatai’s Ahab, a reference the alien totally doesn’t get.

Do it.

“My scans indicate that your shields will fail in approximately fifteen minutes. Join us, or you can remain on your vessel secure in the knowledge that you were not deceived. But that knowledge will do you little good when you are dead. Decide now.”

–Seven being incredibly blunt even by her standards with Qatai.

Star Trek: Voyager "Bliss"

Screenshot: CBS

Welcome aboard. The big guest is the late great W. Morgan Sheppard in his third of four roles on Trek as Qatai. He also played Ira Graves in TNG’s “The Schizoid Man,” the head of Rura Penthe in The Undiscovered Country, and a Vulcan science minister in the 2009 Star Trek.

Uncredited extra Kimber Lee Renay plays T’Pel. The role was previously played by Marva Hicks in “Persistence of Vision,” and Hicks will play the role again in “Body and Soul.”

Plus we have recurring regular Scarlett Pomers as Naomi.

Trivial matters: Bill Prady’s original pitch was that Voyager was lured in by a giant pitcher plant. That particular plant type was kept in as a metaphor for the creature in the final product.

One of the false letters that the crew is fooled into thinking they’re sent from Earth is from Claudia Hansen, Seven’s paternal aunt. It will be revealed in “Author, Author” in season seven that Seven’s father did indeed have a sister, though she is named Irene.

Janeway found out that Mark Johnson married another woman in “Hunters,” the same episode in which Chakotay and Torres found out that the Maquis were wiped out. (Janeway’s fake letter says that Mark’s engagement is off, but Mark was established as having been married, not engaged.)

Samantha Wildman is mentioned several times, but Nancy Hower does not appear in the episode.

Naomi still has the Flotter stuffie that Kim replicated for her in “Once Upon a Time.”

Set a course for home. “And who might you be, the local monster expert?” This episode was very obviously an excuse to give the spotlight to Seven and the EMH, with some Naomi Wildman adorableness thrown in for good measure.

Still the episode feels bizarrely inconsequential. Seeing the Stepford crew of Voyager gleefully barreling toward this fake wormhole is cute for about a minute, but it drags on far too long. By so totally falling for the creature’s deception, it makes the crew look incredibly ineffectual. It would’ve been nice to see some confusion or resistance—from Tuvok, if nothing else, given his Vulcan suppression of his emotions and his Vulcan telepathy.

There are several head-scratching moments. Seven says that Qatai’s shields will fail in fifteen minutes. He’s then on Voyager for way more than fifteen minutes (the EMH has time to find Torres, bring her to sickbay, work out a treatment, and test that treatment, all after Seven, Qatai, and Naomi spent several minutes bantering in astrometrics, walking to sickbay, and activating and filling in the EMH; no way all that was less than a quarter of an hour), but his ship is still intact. Naomi wakes up in Cargo Bay 2 and then wanders to engineering, somehow magically knowing that Seven is there. And then there’s the EMH and Qatai having to convince Seven that they didn’t really get puked out by the creature, but the EMH is (a) the ranking officer and (b) capable of shooting out the antimatter himself. Why doesn’t he just go ahead do it without taking the time to convince Seven that she’s hallucinating?

Biggest of all, though, is that Naomi’s father is back home in the Alpha Quadrant. Not on Earth (the focus on Earth as someplace everyone wants to go to makes very little sense, as not everyone on board is even from that planet, but whatever), but the point is, the subject of finally getting to finally meet her father never even comes up. Seems to me that that’s something that should, at the very least, be discussed.

The episode is fun to watch, especially the second half with Robert Picardo, Jeri Ryan, Scarlett Pomers, and W. Morgan Sheppard babbling at each other to try to figure out how to escape, and I approve of any solution that involves making the bad guy puke. But the episode ultimately is kind of nowhere.

Warp factor rating: 6

Keith R.A. DeCandido has written several works of Voyager fiction, the vast majority of which doesn’t take place in the Delta Quadrant. The Voyager portion of his two-book series The Brave and the Bold takes place prior to “Caretaker.” His short story “Letting Go” in the Distant Shores anthology focuses on the family and friends of the crew left behind in the Alpha Quadrant. He’s also written two alternate universe versions of Voyager, one in the Mirror Universe (the short novel The Mirror-Scaled Serpent in the Obsidian Alliances trade paperback, which involves the Terran Rebellion against the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance), the other in a timeline where the Maquis were never formed and so Voyager remains in the Alpha Quadrant (the short novel A Gutted World in the Myriad Universes: Echoes and Refractions trade paperback). He’s also written Janeway after Voyager returned home in Q & A and Articles of the Federation(the EMH also appeared in the latter).

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