“The Voyager Conspiracy”
Written by Joe Menosky
Directed by Terry Windell
Season 6, Episode 9
Production episode 229
Original air date: November 24, 1999
Captain’s log. Naomi goes to Cargo Bay 2 to fetch Seven for their weekly kadis-kot game, but Seven is too busy upgrading. She’s putting a cortical processing unit into her alcove, which will enable her to download data from Voyager’s computer directly into her brain meats. Naomi wants to watch, but Seven kicks her out because she’s a big stinky.
Over dinner, Chakotay convinces Janeway to divert to study a nebula because they are explorers. Janeway then goes to the replicator to get the entrée, which is a recipe she hasn’t tried—but they are explorers…
After her first regeneration cycle with the cortical processing unit, Seven summons Torres (waking her up) and reports to Janeway that there’s an infestation of photonic fleas in the sensor grid. Both Janeway and Torres are skeptical, but Seven has put together details from several different reports to come to this conclusion. When they check, sure enough, photonic fleas. Janeway has Torres find a new home for them.
Voyager detects some graviton disturbances, and so they head toward that and find a scientist named Tash. He is constructing a catapult that will send him back home—he was investigating a wormhole and accidentally fell through it. It would take ten years to get home under his own power, so he decided to build a catapult instead. But he’s having some trouble with it, and Janeway offers Voyager’s help in getting it in working order. In exchange, Tash says they are welcome to use it—it’ll only get them a few hundred light-years closer, but every little bit helps. Tash, however, doesn’t allow any Voyager personnel onto the catapult itself, as he says it’s too dangerous.
After another regeneration cycle, Seven comes to Janeway to inform her that the catapult is using the same technology the Caretaker used to bring Voyager to the Delta Quadrant. When confronted, Tash admits that he was hiding the tetryon reactor the catapult uses because that technology is very valuable and he fears thieves.
While Janeway says she’s satisfied with that answer to Tash, she confides to Seven that she’s not a hundred percent sure and asks her to check the sensor logs from when they destroyed the Caretaker’s array.
Seven does so, but Voyager was under fire from the Kazon and badly damaged from both their arrival in the Delta Quadrant and subsequent firefights against First Maje Jabin, so sensor readings are incomplete. However, Seven detects an anomaly near the tetryon reactor that could be a tractor beam, though its source is unknown. Seven goes to Neelix, who offers the sensor logs from his own ship, which was in the area. Seven studies them.
She then summons Chakotay to astrometrics and completely seals the room. She has studied the evidence from both Voyager and Baxial, and has come to the conclusion that Voyager deliberately was sent to the Delta Quadrant by Starfleet as part of a joint operation with the Cardassians. The Baxial detected more than fifty ships that the Caretaker brought through including a Cardassian ship that then disappeared off sensors. The presumption was that the Caretaker sent it back. Seven has theorized that the tractor beam she detected was a cloaked Cardassian ship that was then daisy-chained through the Delta Quadrant along Voyager’s course to eventually rendezvous with Tash here to get them closer to home. Tuvok’s infiltration of Chakotay’s cell was specifically done to navigate Chakotay’s ship to the right spot in the Badlands to be taken to the Delta Quadrant so the Federation could establish a foothold there.
Chakotay is skeptical, but Seven has a lot of circumstantial evidence, and he starts to at least consider the possibility that Seven is right. He tells Torres to sabotage one of the repairs to delay Tash’s test of the catapult. Torres thinks the whole idea is crazy, but Chakotay is keeping an open mind.
After another regeneration cycle, Seven summons Janeway to astrometrics and seals the room, and concocts another theory, this time that Chakotay went to the Delta Quadrant deliberately after attacking the Cardassian ship Neelix detected when it was sent back to the Badlands. Furthermore, Tuvok is still working with Chakotay and worked to get the tetryon reactor to them at a later date after Janeway forced Tuvok’s hand in destroying the array before the Maquis could retrieve the reactor.
Janeway and Chakotay both bump into each other in Cargo Bay 2 to investigate Seven’s claims, and after about four seconds of comparing stories, realize that Seven’s gone completely binky-bonkers. They ask the EMH to look over Seven’s cortical processing unit.
Seven confronts Naomi, asking which side she’s on, since Ktarians are Federation members, but sympathized with the Maquis. Naomi has no idea what the hell she’s on about. Seven then steals the Delta Flyer, now on her third theory: that Voyager’s whole intention was to kidnap a Borg drone and separate it from the Collective, thus providing the Federation with something to dissect and give them a tactical advantage against a brutal enemy.
The EMH reports that the unit has overloaded Seven’s brain. Without the Collective to backstop her, her single human brain is overwhelmed with too much information and is making her irrational trying desperately to concoct order out of all the chaos she’s had core-dumped into her cranium.
While Seven has protected the Flyer against a tractor beam and herself from being transported, Kim is able to transport Janeway onto the ship. She convinces Seven that she’s gone ’round the bend, and Seven eventually comes around. Janeway then asks Voyager to beam them both back to the ship, making you wonder how they’re going to put the Flyer back in the shuttle bay…
Tash has successfully used the catapult to get himself back home. Voyager then uses it to bounce three years’ journey ahead.
Seven removes the cortical processing unit from her alcove and tells Naomi to set up the kadis-kot game in the mess hall. Meanwhile, Janeway and Chakotay have dinner and reaffirm their trust in each other.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? We never do find out what the tractor beam was that Seven detected…
There’s coffee in that nebula! After Seven has spent half the episode citing examples from Voyager’s time in the Delta Quadrant to support her various crazy-ass theories, Janeway uses the same rhetorical technique of listing events by stardate to convince her that the theories are, well, crazy-ass.
Mr. Vulcan. Seven’s version of Tuvok is pretty danged devious: he either infiltrated the Maquis specifically to bring them to the Delta Quadrant or had turned while infiltrating the Maquis and is secretly working with Chakotay to further the Maquis agenda.
Half and half. Torres thinks that Seven’s playing a Borg practical joke on Chakotay, and I don’t even know what that would look like…
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix mentions that Kes always suspected there was more to the Caretaker than just taking care (ahem) of the Ocampa, and that only fuels Seven’s crazy-ass theories. He also lets her have his ship’s sensor logs.
Resistance is futile. Seven gets the ship’s entire computer core-dumped into her brain and as a result she goes all cluck-cluck-gibber-gibber-my-old-man’s-a-mushroom, etc.
No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. We twice see Janeway and Chakotay having dinner together, and they are acting exactly like a couple in a long-term relationship in those scenes. Outside those dinners, though, they’re a captain and first officer, and both are a little too easily swayed by Seven’s crazy-ass theories.
“You didn’t poison the coffee, did you?”
“Not any more than I usually do.”
–Chakotay and Janeway bantering at dinner at the end of the episode.
Trivial matters: Multiple past episodes are referenced here, most notably “Caretaker,” as the circumstances of Voyager being trapped in the Delta Quadrant are hyperexamined by Seven.
Other incidents mentioned by Seven include Janeway allowing Kes to leave the ship in “The Gift,” allegedly because she was starting to suspect Janeway’s plot; the EMH’s meeting with Starfleet Command after taking charge of the Prometheus in “Message in a Bottle“; the alliance with the Borg in the “Scorpion” two-parter; the cease-fire with the Hirogen at the end of “The Killing Game, Part II“; Seska’s being revealed as a spy and leaving the ship in “State of Flux” and her claiming to impregnate herself with Chakotay’s DNA in “Maneuvers“; the Hansens chasing stories of the Borg, as seen in “The Raven” and “Dark Frontier“; the EMH’s removal of Seven’s Borg implants, also in “The Gift.”
Janeway counters with her own references to events, including some of the same ones Seven mentioned, as well as Seven reading her parents’ journals in “Dark Frontier” and the first time Seven thanked Janeway in “The Raven.”
It should be noted that the stardates cited by Seven and Janeway only occasionally match those of the episodes in question.
Some off-screen events are mentioned as well: a non-aggression pact with the Terkellians and establishing trade relations with the Kolhari. Those species have never been mentioned before or since.
Naomi and Seven first started playing kadis-kot in “Infinite Regress.”
Set a course for home. “Let’s keep this one out of our logs, huh?” On the one hand, this episode is a helluva lot of fun. It’s a delightful romp, and it’s hilarious to watch Seven spin all kinds of crazypants notions that seem like maybe they could actually all tie together into a coherent conspiracy plot. Plus there are some wonderful bits in the episode, from Janeway and Chakotay’s two dinner scenes to every interaction between Seven and Naomi.
On the other hand, this is a dumbshit conspiracy plot that doesn’t hold up to even the slightest scrutiny. The problem isn’t that Seven concocts three separate, disparate, incompatible ideas, it’s that both Janeway and Chakotay actually believe them for more than a nanosecond. Having said that, the moment when the two of them realize that they’re both investigating contradictory bits of craziness is magnificently and hilariously played by Kate Mulgrew and Robert Beltran, who are suitably abashed at going along with this idiocy.
Looking back, it seriously feels like the producers noticed that The X-Files was really popular (it had just started its seventh season), and decided they wanted in on that batshit conspiracy action.
Here’s the thing—the batshit conspiracies were, in your humble rewatcher’s opinion, the absolute weak link of The X-Files, and became more so as the series went on and they got more and more absurd. Especially since, like most conspiracies, they depend on far too many people and factors outside folks’ control to actually keep secret.
There are many many many many many many holes in Seven’s various theories, but one I particularly want to point out is the notion that there was only a week between when Tuvok was sent by Janeway to infiltrate the Maquis and when they fell down the Caretaker’s rabbit hole, and I’m sorry but undercover covert ops to infiltrate rebel terrorist groups do not happen that fast. It would’ve been weeks, if not months, before Tuvok was in a position to be the navigator on Chakotay’s ship. (And yes, I’m hypersensitive about this because I wrote the story that chronicled Tuvok’s infiltration of the Maquis, but still…) Plus, how could they possibly have arranged to be at Tash’s location at this particular time given the number of unexpected jumps they’ve taken, most of which could not possibly have been planned for? Also, if Neelix has sensor records of so many ships that the Caretaker snagged, why is there no mention of the Equinox? For that matter, why was there no mention of Neelix detecting a Federation starship kidnapped by the array in the “Equinox” two-parter or elsewhere? Oh, and while Seska claimed that she used Chakotay’s DNA to impregnate herself, it was established in “Basics, Part II” that Seska’s kid’s father was actually Maje Culluh, so that bit of “evidence” doesn’t work, either.
On top of that, there are some legitimate anomalies Seven uncovers that are never explained, like the tractor beam and why Voyager has tricobalt devices on board. (I’m willing to believe the latter is because they were going after terrorists whose introduction to the Alpha Quadrant was to blow up a ship docked at a space station, but somebody should’ve said that…)
It’s a fun romp while watching it, but the moment you actually think about it, it falls apart like the very house of cards that Janeway accused Seven of constructing before she inexplicably decided to believe every word she said. And it proves that, if you’re a show that doesn’t really care that much about continuity and consistency, to do an episode that relies on what happened in multiple previous episodes in order to hold together is risky as hell…
Warp factor rating: 5
Keith R.A. DeCandido will be helping inaugurate the monthly Rooftop Readings at the Ample Hills Creamery on Nevins Street in Brooklyn on Tuesday the 18th of May from 7-9pm. Keith will be joined by fellow scribes Mary Fan and Alex Shvartsman. Tickets are $10 and for that, you don’t just get three authors reading their work, you also get one free ice cream! Such a deal! Details (and lineups for future readings) here.