Written by Rick Berman & Brannon Braga and Michael Taylor
Directed by Terrence O’Hara
Season 5, Episode 20
Production episode 214
Original air date: March 31, 1999
Captain’s log. An alien named Saowin visits a ship containing a Think Tank that has helped Saowin’s people by creating a containment field that saved their planet from destruction. Saowin claims that they are unable to pay the agreed-upon fee of a shipment of ore due to a mining accident, but the leader of the Think Tank, Kurros, knows that they staged the accident and hid the ore. Saowin tries to insist that they need the ore, but he capitulates when Kurros threatens to take down the containment field.
On Voyager, Seven informs Janeway that they’ve located a planet rich in dilithium crystals. However, when they arrive, the planet destabilizes and explodes, covering Voyager in a field of metreon gas. They are then approached by a Hazari ship, who created the trap that they just sprung. The Hazari are bounty hunters, who are dogged, determined, and rarely fail. Janeway orders shields reinforced and has Tuvok fire phasers into the gas cloud, which ignites it, sending Voyager careening out of the field. The Hazari don’t give chase—because they don’t have to. They have ships all over the sector waiting for them.
Janeway goes over the sensor data, but the only possible avenues of escape not covered by the Hazari are pretty likely to be Hazari traps.
Kurros shows up in the mess hall as an isomorphic projection, having also cut off all communications in the mess hall. He offers his Think Tank’s assistance, providing a preliminary study of the Hazari ships as a make-good. Janeway agrees to at least have a conversation, but she insists it be in person. Kurros gives her coordinates to go to and says she can only bring one other person, and no scanning equipment.
They arrive to find nothing at the coordinates—until the Think Tank vessel decloaks. Janeway and Seven beam over and meet the rest of the gang: Fennim, whose spoken language is too complex for the universal translator; Bevvox, a bioplasmic life form that we never get a good look at, and who founded the team; an AI; and a being that looks like a jellyfish in a tank. They are able to communicate with each other telepathically.
Kurros mentions some of their past work, including curing the Vidiians of the Phage, and that sometimes their payment is quite modest. They helped keep one species safe from the Borg and all they asked in return was a soup recipe. Speaking of the Borg, Kurros is also surprised by Seven—none of them have ever seen an ex-Borg before.
Janeway provides an inventory of what they might have to pay. When she returns to Voyager, Chakotay reports that they’re stuck. Every possible route out of this area of space is blocked by the Hazari.
Kurros returns in isomorphic form with his invoice: the quantum slipstream drive (Janeway warns him that they couldn’t make it work right), Neelix’s recipe for chadre’kab, one of Chakotay’s figurines, and Seven.
Janeway isn’t thrilled at the notion of using a member of her crew as payment, but, at Kurros’ urging, she also puts it to Seven to make the final decision. Janeway advises her to make the decision based on what’s best for herself, not what’s best for Voyager. They’ll figure out a way past the Hazari with or without the Think Tank.
Seven speaks with Kurros, who tells her that she’d be the first new member of the Think Tank in seventeen years. Kurros himself was faced with a similar choice and he has never regretted it. As someone with the collective knowledge of the Borg (at least up until she was severed from the Collective), plus her own innate intelligence and humility, she’d be a fantastic addition to the team.
After giving it considerable thought, Seven declines the offer. Kurros is disappointed. Two Hazari ships then attack Voyager. Kurros gives Janeway some free tactical advice, which helps them drive off the Hazari ships. He hopes that that will get Seven to change her mind, but it doesn’t—and then Janeway orders the shields remodulated, which then blocks Kurros’ isomorphic projection.
Back on the Think Tank ship, which has re-cloaked, Kurros tells the others that Seven declined their offer, but they’re not giving up just yet.
Voyager sets a trap for the Hazari, leaving debris and biomatter residue for them to think that Voyager is destroyed. That fake debris is also mined, and the spatial charges do damage to the Hazari ship, which Voyager then tows into their shuttlebay. The Hazari leader, Y’Sek, isn’t talking. However, they determine that the person who hired them is Kurros—disguised as a Malon.
Janeway convinces Y’Sek to work together, as the Think Tank is using both of them for their own ends. Y’Sek is willing, since the bounty on the Think Tank is even higher than what was being offered for Voyager. After several plans are proposed and rejected, Janeway hits on a course of action that would use Seven as bait: let her go on board the Think Tank ship and then disrupt their communications network.
Y’Sek then contacts Kurros and says that he knows that Kurros hired him and demands triple the bounty for Voyager. Kurros agrees.
Voyager is getting the shit kicked out of it by the Hazari. Seven leaves in a shuttlecraft against orders to join the Think Tank. Kurros tells the Hazari to call off their attack, but Y’Sek demands immediate payment or he’ll destroy Voyager. The Hazari’s urgency makes Kurros suspicious, and he worries that this is a trap. So he has Seven link to the AI member of the team—which is exactly what they were hoping. When Seven’s neural transceiver is activated, Tuvok sends a disruption along the carrier wave and knocks out the Think Tank’s communications network. They can no longer talk to each other. The Hazari fire on the Think Tank’s ship, which decloaks them. Voyager beams Seven out. Kurros sends one last isomorphic projection trying to convince Seven to return, but she refuses. Hazari weapons fire kills the transmission, and Voyager buggers off, leaving the Think Tank to defend themselves against the Hazari alone.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? There’s a puzzle game that’s making its rounds through the ship. It looks like a high-tech version of a Rubik’s Cube where you have to get rid of all the lights, er, somehow. Seven solves it by scanning it to determine the right sequence, which everyone tells her is cheating, but it also gives Janeway the idea on how to stop the Think Tank.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is the one who first refers to the Think Tank by that name, but Kurros really likes it and takes to it.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. When Janeway is working on trying to figure out if they can escape the Hazari, Neelix pointedly asks if he should just put the coffee into a hypospray by way of telling her that she’s drinking too much of the stuff.
Resistance is futile. At the end of the episode, Seven points out to Kurros that, while the intellectual pursuits of the Think Tank are worthy in the abstract, “its pursuit has obviously not elevated you.” Burn!
“Seven, how’d you do that?”
“I scanned the device. Its mechanism operates on a simple fractal regression.”
“You scanned it? That’s cheating.”
“Cheating is often more efficient.”
–Janeway expressing disbelief, Seven explaining herself, Paris rebuking her, and Seven with a very blunt rejoinder.
Welcome aboard. The big guest is Jason Alexander, fresh off his famous run as George Costanza on Seinfeld, who plays Kurros. The non-famous members of the Think Tank are not credited: Steve Dennis plays Fennim, Phil Crowley provides the voice of the AI, and the jellyfish-like alien is voiced by an unknown actor.
Christopher Shea plays Saowin; he twice played the slimy Vorta Keevan on DS9 (“Rocks and Shoals” and “The Magnificent Ferengi“), and will appear twice on Enterprise, as a Suliban in “Detained” and an Andorian in “Cease Fire.”
Christopher Darga plays Y’Sek; he has also twice played Klingons, on DS9’s “The Way of the Warrior” as the ill-fated Commander Kaybok and on Enterprise’s “Unexpected” as Captain Vorok.
Trivial matters: This is the only onscreen appearance of the Hazari. They also appear in the short story “The Secret Heart of Zolaluz” by Robert T. Jeschonek in the Distant Shores anthology, and they are part of Star Trek Online’s Delta Quadrant missions.
Apparently, any time Jason Alexander struggled with his lines, he would cry out, “Jerry!” à la George Costanza.
Chakotay speculates as to who might have hired the Hazari, mentioning both the Malon (encountered in “Night” and “Extreme Risk“) and the Devore (“Counterpoint“). As it happens, Kurros pretends to be a Malon when he hires the Hazari.
The Vidiians were first encountered in “Phage,” where their suffering from the titular disease was established. Voyager encountered them several times throughout the first two seasons. Apparently, they came across the Think Tank some time in the two-and-a-half or so years since “Resolutions.”
Chadre’kab was one of the first things Neelix made for Seven when she started eating in “The Raven.”
Set a course for home. “All we have to do now is out-think the Think Tank.” There is a lot to like about this episode. For starters, the Think Tank is a nifty little notion. I like the idea of a cooperative of really smart sentient beings banding together to solve problems. While the script treats their being so mercenary about it with disdain, there’s nothing inherently horrible about the basic concept. I mean, if all they asked for was information (soup recipes, for example) instead of things their clients need (the ore required by Saowin’s people), it wouldn’t be so bad.
But there’s a line between being compensated for your work and being greedy little bastards, and the Think Tank is established as crossing it before the opening credits roll. Which is fine, they’re the antagonist after all, though it makes it hard to take Voyager’s trusting them particularly seriously.
Especially that they don’t see the overwhelmingly predictable twist that the Think Tank hired the Hazari coming. I mean, it was the first thing I thought of, that they would create the problem and then swoop in to fix it, so the fact that the crew was surprised to find out that the “Malon” who hired the Hazari was really Kurros didn’t speak particularly well of them. Heck, they encountered an extremely similar situation just two seasons ago in “Rise.”
This was made up for a bit by Y’Sek contacting Kurros followed by the Hazari firing on Voyager, and you think that maybe—maybe—there’s a double-cross in the offing here, but no, it was all part of the sting operation. Which is fun to watch in and of itself.
As is the big guest star. Jason Alexander has made a career out of playing short, obnoxious, loud fellas, even before his most famous role on Seinfeld, so to see him so perfectly portray a quiet, manipulative intellectual is a real joy to watch. Kurros has none of the smarm that Alexander traditionally brings to his roles (I’m thinking, not just George Costanza, but also his role in Pretty Woman), and it makes him a particularly compelling character. Though it might have been better if they hadn’t revealed the Think Tank’s nasty side in the very beginning. It’s the same mistake that the show made in “Revulsion” (and TNG made in “Violations“): letting us know from jump that a character is the bad guy, which drains all the suspense out of it. Alexander’s friendly calm could have easily lulled the viewer into a false sense of security, and have viewer and characters learn of their duplicity at the same time. Instead, because we already know how nasty they are from the treatment of Saowin in the teaser, we’re waiting around for our heroes to catch up.
Having said that, it’s still an enjoyable tale, with a particularly strong guest star, and some good bits with both Janeway and Seven.
Warp factor rating: 6