Written by Bryan Fuller & Nick Sagan and Kenneth Biller
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 5, Episode 21
Production episode 215
Original air date: April 26, 1999
Captain’s log. On a Malon vessel, First Crewmember Pelk has made a toy ship for Controller Fesek’s son’s birthday. Their conversation is interrupted by a tank rupturing. Every attempt to get it under control fails.
Torres is in Tuvok’s quarters, being taught how to meditate. This is Chakotay’s anger-management-training-style solution to Torres losing her temper and breaking the EMH’s holocamera. Torres takes to meditation like a duck to atmospheric reentry. Tuvok remains patient and understanding and attempts to be helpful, but for all that, he doesn’t help in the least.
Voyager answers the Malon’s automated distress call. They find a ship heavily contaminated with theta radiation and thirty-seven escape pods, only two of which have lifesigns: it’s Fesek and Pelk. Fesek explains that there’s four trillion isotons of antimatter waste still on the ship, and when the warp core collapses, it’ll explode, taking out everything within three light-years. Paris finds himself unable to obey Janeway’s order to get five light-years away, as the theta radiation is so intense that they can’t form a warp field. So they’re fucked.
Fesek suggests hiding in a nebula and hoping for the best. Janeway instead goes for heading to the ship and trying to fix it so it won’t explode and kill everyone else in a three light-year radius. Fesek hates this idea, but goes along with it reluctantly.
They can’t beam into the control room, as it’s flooded with radiation. They need to go to a deck that isn’t contaminated and vent the deck above it, and keep doing that until they work their way to the control room, where they can then shut down the engines and stop it from exploding. Neelix spent some time serving on a Talaxian garbage scow, so he joins the away team, along with Chakotay and Torres, as well as the two Malon.
Pelk warns them about a superstition: the Vihaar, a story that is told about a monster that lives in the radiation tanks. Fesek decries it as a myth; Pelk counters that several of the evacuees saw a large figure in the tanks; Fesek counters right back that hallucinations are one of the symptoms of theta radiation poisoning.
Torres takes every opportunity to snark off the Malon, which leads to Chakotay taking her aside and telling her to cool it. Right now, she needs to focus on the mission, not on her critiques of Malon society.
The EMH provides them all with inoculations of arithrazine, which should hold off the effects of theta radiation for a few hours. Then they beam over AND THEY’RE NOT WEARING EVA SUITS, WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH THESE MORONS, THEY’RE ON A SHIP CHOKED WITH RADIATION THAT COULD HAVE A HULL BREACH AT ANY MOMENT, WHAT KIND OF IDIOT GOES INTO THAT SITUATION JUST WEARING A REGULAR UNIFORM, JESUS FUCKING CHRIST!
Then they beam over and get to work. Many of the control systems aren’t working, and they need to manually operate them. At one point, Pelk goes off to perform a task and then screams. They find him gravely injured and talking about a strange figure he saw—before he dies. They beam his body back to Voyager for autopsy, and Chakotay says that nobody goes anywhere alone after this.
On Voyager, Janeway wants a contingency plan: to shove the Malon ship into an O-type star, which should absorb the theta radiation. The trick is to tow it there without the ship exploding prematurely. Seven works on a way to do that, and also to protect Voyager in case they’re inundated with theta radiation.
Torres starts to show signs of radiation poisoning. Fesek takes her to the infirmary for treatment while Chakotay and Neelix keep working. Fesek explains that his job is important, as he’s keeping the Malon people safe, and also making a crapton of money to support his family. He only works half the year—the rest of the time he’s a sculptor.
After the away team is back together, an attempted decompression of one deck instead decompresses the deck they’re on. They shut it down, but not before Chakotay is clobbered by debris, and he’s sent back to Voyager. Tuvok offers to beam over to take command of the team, but Janeway trusts Torres. Tuvok is, to say the least, skeptical.
Lots of things have gone wrong, and there’s no way they’ll shut down the ship in time. The EMH’s autopsy of Pelk reveals that he was attacked by a creature who is resistant to theta radiation. Seven adjust sensors and finds the creature. What Pelk thought was the Vihaar is really a core laborer named Dremk who is horribly scarred by theta radiation burns. He sabotages the control room so that gas spills into it. Fesek and Neelix are rendered unconscious. Torres tries to talk Dremk out of his sabotage, which he’s doing to show that the Malon’s waste-disposal methods suck.
When talking doesn’t work, Torres hits him with a pipe. She collects Fesek and Neelix and they beam back to Voyager, which then tosses the ship into the O-type star.
The EMH informs Fesek that the radiation damage he suffered will be fatal before too long. Another Malon ship is en route to pick him up. Meanwhile, Torres takes a desperately needed sonic shower.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway’s first instinct is to get out of Dodge, if for no other reason than to keep them safe for longer. Once that stops being an option, her only decision is to do everything they can to stop the ship from exploding.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok doesn’t automatically condemn Torres’s emotionalism, understanding that her anger is a big part of who she is. What he’s trying to teach her is how to keep it under control.
Half and half. Torres was called “Ms. Turtle Head” when she was a kid. The revenge she took on the child who called her that was pretty epic. She still remembers it fondly as an adult, even though her retaliatory actions were pretty dang horrible.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix has a foul-tasting soup that supposedly helps protect his cellular membranes from theta radiation. Chakotay declines the option of trying it after watching Neelix’s efforts to choke it down.
Resistance is futile. Seven expresses surprise when Tuvok makes an offhand mention of luck. Tuvok explains that serving under Janeway has made him start to believe in luck a bit. Seven dryly replies, “I’ll factor it into my calculations.”
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Paris has to chase Torres down to get her to say goodbye to him before going on the away mission. To his credit, his rebuke is gentle, and when she snarks him off, he responds with encouragement and kindness. He’s turning into a very good boyfriend.
“I lost my temper. No big deal.”
“You destroyed the doctor’s holographic camera.”
“I told him three times to leave engineering, but he kept buzzing around, snapping pictures for some photo essay.”
“‘A Day in the Life of the Warp Core’.”
“I apologized, and I replicated him a new camera.”
“You have a long history of emotional volatility. The point of this exercise is not to atone for past transgressions, but to prevent future ones.”
“You can’t order someone to meditate!”
“Commander Chakotay thinks otherwise.”
—Torres having her first meditation session with Tuvok.
Welcome aboard. A trio of Trek veterans in this one. We’ve got Ron Canada as Fesek. He previously played the recalcitrant security chief in TNG’s “The Masterpiece Society” and a Klingon lawyer in DS9’s “Rules of Engagement.” We’ve got Lee Arenberg as Pelk. He previously played three different Ferengi, in DS9’s “The Nagus” and TNG’s “Force of Nature” and “Bloodlines,” and will go on to play a Tellarite in Enterprise’s “Babel One” and “United.” And we’ve got an uncredited Alexander Enberg as the ill-fated Malon engineer. He has the recurring role of Vorik on Voyager (he’ll next appear in that role in “Renaissance Man”), and also played a reporter in TNG’s “Time’s Arrow, Part II” and Taurik in TNG’s “Lower Decks.”
In addition, Scott Klace plays Dremk; he’ll also appear in Enterprise’s “Precious Cargo” as Goff.
While sonic showers have been a thing in Star Trek since The Motion Picture, this is the first time we’ve seen one in normal use.
Arithrazine was established as an inoculation against theta radiation in “The Omega Directive.”
At no point in this (or the previous) episode does anyone explain how the Malon could even be nearby, considering that, since the last time Voyager encountered them in “Extreme Risk,” they’d made two major jumps that covered tens of thousands of light-years in “Timeless” (using the quantum slipstream drive) and “Dark Frontier” (using the stolen Borg transwarp coil).
The boy who made fun of Torres as a kid is named Daniel Byrd. That’s the same name as the ensign who was assigned to Voyager instead of Kim in the alternate timeline of “Non Sequitur.” It’s not clear if it’s supposed to be the same person.
The “Turtle Head” nickname dates back to early TNG, as that was the nickname the cast gave to Michael Dorn when he was in Klingon makeup.
Set a course for home. “Getting B’Elanna to control her temper is like convincing a Ferengi to leave his estate to charity.” It’s funny, by the time this episode had aired, I had given up watching Voyager on a regular basis. But in 2000, I was contracted to write a DS9 novel that would be part of a crossover called Gateways, in which Iconian gateways would suddenly open up all over the galaxy. One of the things I did was have a Malon tanker dump its antimatter waste into a spatial gateway that had opened up—which led to a human colony in the Alpha Quadrant near Bajor.
To prepare for that novel, Simon & Schuster provided me with VHS tapes (remember those?) of “Night” and “Juggernaut.” (For some reason, they didn’t give me “Extreme Risk.” In those days, the S&S library had only one VHS copy of each episode to lend to authors, who had to give them back, and it was possible that another author had “Extreme Risk” at the time.)
I really liked “Juggernaut” then, and I still mostly like it now, but watching it in 2021 in sequence, I have two major problems with it, one I missed by watching it out of context, one that I just didn’t focus on two decades ago.
The first is one that actually poked its head out last week when Kurros disguised himself as a Malon—what the hell are we doing still anywhere near the Malon? This is even worse than the Kazon somehow still being near Voyager even as it was booking farther and farther from the Ocampa homeworld in the first two seasons, because since the last time we saw the Malon in “Extreme Risk,” Voyager has made two giant leaps forward: in “Timeless” when they tested the quantum slipstream drive and in “Dark Frontier” when they burned through a stolen Borg transwarp coil. They combined to shave twenty-five years off their seventy-year journey home, which means that either Malon space encompasses 25,000 light-years, which seems unlikely given that they have substandard, waste-producing warp drives, or the writers weren’t paying attention and/or can’t do math.
Now we don’t get a stardate in this one, so you could argue that it takes place before “Dark Frontier,” at least. (Paris is an ensign, so it has to be after “Thirty Days,” and thus after “Timeless.”) That mitigates the problem, but still…
Just as big an issue is why the hell they’re transporting over to a radiation-choked ship that’s in danger of hull breaches (and, possibly exploding) while only wearing regular uniforms? (Or less, in Torres’s case, as she spends most of the away mission in just a tank top and pants and boots…) They absolutely should be wearing EVA suits, which would be much more effective in keeping them safe from the radiation than a drug that will wear off at some point and will likely have different levels of effectiveness on each member of the away team (which is represented by four different species). They’ve even got the EVA suits from First Contact (used quite effectively in “Prey” and “Day of Honor“) on the coatrack.
Once you get past those two elephants in the room, this is an enjoyable little action episode. Torres’s anger management issues haven’t really come up much lately, but I like the idea of her trying meditation with Tuvok. Speaking as someone who has tried meditation and failed at it pretty miserably (they keep telling me to empty my mind, and I’ve never been able to do that), I was amused by Torres’s inability to manage it, either. I also liked Tuvok’s patience and encouragement—and snark, deliberately provoking her by calling her “Ms. Turtle Head.”
The plot itself is a straightforward ticking-clock quest story as our heroes work their way to the control room, losing members of the team one by one, though, of course, the only one who dies is the guest star.
I’m still giving this a high rating, because the episode works on its own merits. I understand why they don’t want to put actors in EVA suits for the bulk of an episode, as they’re limiting and difficult to work in. And I really like that this episode makes the effort to show the Malon as something other than nasty greedheads, as they were in their previous two appearances. Fesek and Pelk are just working stiffs trying to support their families by doing a difficult, risky, necessary job, and that serves to make the Malon significantly more interesting.
Even if they should be tens of thousands of light-years behind them…
Warp factor rating: 7
Keith R.A. DeCandido has two recent releases. There’s the short story “In Earth and Sky and Sea Strange Things There Be” featuring Ayesha from H. Rider Haggard’s She in Turning the Tied, a charity anthology from the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers. And then there’s “Transcript of the Mayoral Debate Between Batman and the Penguin” in BIFF! BAM! EEE-YOW!: The Subterranean Blue Grotto Guide to Batman ’66—Season Two, his piece on “Hizzoner the Penguin”/”Dizzoner the Penguin.” Ordering links can be found here.