“Live Fast and Prosper”
Written by Robin Burger
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 6, Episode 21
Production episode 242
Original air date: April 19, 2000
Captain’s log. Two miners on Telsius Prime meet with Captain Kathryn Janeway and Commander Tuvok from the Federation Starship Voyager—except we see that it most definitely is not Janeway and Tuvok. The combadges and rank pips are comically large, they have forehead ridges, and the faces and voices are completely wrong.
They are, in fact, grifters named Dala and Mobar, posing as Voyager’s crew, claiming their small ship is the Delta Flyer. They know a surprising amount of detail about Janeway and Tuvok. They promise to exchange some bolomite for an equal amount of dilithium—an unfair trade for Voyager, but Dala says that they need the bolomite for some orphans.
Once they beam back to their ship with the bolomite, they claim a neutron storm is hitting them, interfering with transport, and they’ll come back later with the dilithium. They then bugger off, intending never to get near Telsius Prime again.
On the real Voyager, Janeway is grumpy about her sonic shower not working—it’s so loud when it activates that it shatters her bathroom mirror. She goes to engineering where Torres reports that there’s a ton of malfunctions that she can’t track. The next malfunction is the food replication system, which has added a contaminant. They discover that all the malfunctions are coming from a substandard heating coil that Neelix installed. He got it from Sister Dala when they did a trade in the Wyanti System. The sister was trying to help some orphans.
Chakotay interrupts, saying Janeway’s needed on the bridge right away. The two miners’ boss, Orek, has tracked down Voyager and demands the dilithium they promised. Janeway has no clue what he’s talking about.
Orek beams aboard and shows the garbled transmission from the fake Delta Flyer. Janeway insists it wasn’t her. Orek mentions that “Janeway” talked about using the bolomite to help orphans, and a switch flicks in Janeway’s head.
She goes to Neelix, who tells the full story of how Neelix and Paris went to the Wyanti System to find a spore for the EMH, and stumbled across Sister Dala and Brother Mobar—the same two grifters, dressed as monks. They got themselves invited to the Delta Flyer, talked extensively to Neelix about the ship and captain and crew, and performed a “cleansing ritual” before departing to help their orphans, cough cough.
Janeway checks the Flyer and sees that the ship’s entire database was downloaded around the time of the cleansing ritual. They’ve been had.
Orek is skeptical that Neelix and Paris could be that stupid (he obviously hasn’t met them), but Janeway convinces him to share his sensor data on the “Delta Flyer.”
Meanwhile, Dala, Mobar, and their other partner, Zar (who is posing as Chakotay, complete with fake tattoo) are trying to convince Varn to join the Federation. They say it’s normally a long process, but Janeway knows some people on the Federation Council who can expedite their application. But Varn would have to invest significant resources…
Neelix and Paris lament how easily they fell for the grift. They think they’ve gone soft, and to prove that they still have some rogue left in them, they try to pull a shell game on the EMH. This is a spectacularly bad idea, as the EMH has greater visual acuity than an organic lifeform, and he sees that Neelix hid the nut in his hand instead of under one of the cups.
Tuvok tracks down the warp signature of the grifters’ ship. They find them confronting Varn, who is complaining that (a) the “photon torpedoes” they provided don’t work and (b) they also let their deadliest enemy into the Federation! When Voyager arrives, Dala tries to scare Varn off by saying her mothership has arrived, but Varn keeps attacking, doing damage to Voyager.
Seven manages to beam Dala off the ship before the grifters’ ship breaks out of the tractor beam and escapes. Voyager runs away also.
Janeway confronts Dala, who is unrepentant, and not interested in providing any information to Janeway. Janeway threatens to turn them over to the Telsians, and she and Tuvok weave a pretty tale about how awful Telsian prisons are. But Dala doesn’t give in.
Later, Neelix brings her food and tries to convince her of the error of her ways. She pretends to go along with it, but then ambushes Neelix, and uses his phaser to zap the guard. She then steals the Delta Flyer—
—which has a couple of “stowaways” in Paris and the EMH’s mobile emitter. Dala rendezvouses with Zar and Mobar at their stash planet. Paris activates the emitter and then the EMH changes his appearance to look like Dala while Paris keeps Dala prisoner on the ship. The EMH fools Zar and Mobar long enough to reveal their stash, though it’s buried too deeply for transport to work, so Tuvok beams down to take Zar and Mobar (who is gobsmacked to meet the real Tuvok) into custody.
Voyager returns the stolen items to their rightful owners. (It’s not clear what they’ve done with the trio of grifters.) Neelix and Paris take another shot at the shell game, and manage to fool the EMH with a sleight of hand.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway obviously is getting a mild kick out of confronting her doppelgänger, and gets an even bigger one out of grifting her right back.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok is surprised by Janeway’s sudden desire for him to make up a nasty prison system on Telsius Prime. He does mostly okay, though his mention of the prisoners dying of psoriasis gets a snotty comment from Janeway later.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH saves the day with his mobile emitter’s ability to alter his appearance to look like Dala. Also, it’s really hard to fool him with the shell game.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix blithely gives all kinds of personal information about Janeway to a perfect stranger. You wonder how, exactly, he survived before running into Voyager.
What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. Paris and Kim have been altering Tuvok’s Oracle of K’Tal program so that the oracle appears in pajamas. They deny this to Tuvok’s face, though later contemplate giving the oracle a sombrero.
“I have transmission logs, transport records, scans of your shuttlecraft…”
“I have never been to your planet, Mr. Orek, aboard Voyager or any other vessel.”
“Our ship’s logs will confirm what the captain’s been telling you.”
“And how do I know they’re authentic records?”
“How do we know your records are authentic?”
“You think I falsified data? Why would I do that?”
“Perhaps to extort dilithium from us.”
–Orek refusing to believe Janeway and Chakotay and Tuvok being a good security chief.
Welcome aboard. Kaitlin Hopkins, last seen as a Vorta in DS9’s “The Ship,” plays Dala; Francis Guinan, last seen as Minister Kray in “Ex Post Facto,” plays Zar; Gregg Daniel plays Mobar. Ted Rooney plays Varn, Timothy McNeil and Scott Lincoln play the two miners, and Dennis Cockrum, last seen as a freighter captain in TNG’s “Face of the Enemy,” plays Orek. Both Guinan and Cockrum will appear in Enterprise’s “The Communicator.”
Trivial matters: Kim had already planned practical jokes on Tuvok’s Temple of T’Panit holodeck program in “Ashes to Ashes.” It’s unclear if the Oracle of K’Tal is part of that program or a different one.
In a deleted scene, Dala also posed as Seven of Nine.
This is the final Trek writing credit for Robin Burger, who left the production staff after this season.
Set a course for home. “Gentlemen, I believe you’ve been had.” This episode just charmed the shit out of me, from the beginning with the hilariously inaccurate uniforms all the way to the end when Tuvok saved the day by shining a flashlight in Mobar’s face to distract him.
But what really got me to love this episode was Dala’s escape from the brig, because it so beautifully plays on our expectations. People in Star Trek stories escape far too easily from places they shouldn’t be able to escape from, and they steal support craft way way way more easily than they should be able to. Seeing it happen here, the viewer is conditioned to think, “Oy, they’re doing it again.”
Except they aren’t! The whole thing was a setup, beautifully executed by Janeway.
Janeway’s actions here are wonderful, because she plays Dala at her own game, starting with her and Tuvok trying to scam her into thinking that the Telsians are nastier than they are, then by letting her escape and lead them to her stash.
I especially love Mobar, who so completely throws himself into the part of Tuvok, sometimes to the detriment of the grift. Even when he’s just with Dala and Zar, he’s still inhabiting the role of Tuvok. And then the wide-eyed fangoobering he does when he meets the real McCoy is hilarious.
I also absolutely adore that it’s Neelix and Paris—the two guys on the ship who should be least likely to fall for a grift, given that their histories—are the ones who fell for Dala and Mobar’s con, hook, line, and fake chants. But then, they have gone soft, as they say: they’ve been living a life of luxury on a ship that, despite being tens of thousands of light-years from home, isn’t really suffering any significant hardship. Hell, from the speech Neelix gives to Dala (for all that it was part of Janeway’s con) shows that he’s happier being a good person on Voyager than he was being a scrounger on his own. I would think that softness would be a small price to pay. At least when not being conned…
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido urges folks to check out his Patreon—which includes TV and movie reviews (he recently covered In the Heights, Sports Night, Moonstruck, Suspects, London Kills, and more), excerpts from his works in progress, vignettes featuring his original characters, and cat pictures—and his YouTube channel, “KRAD COVID readings“—which for 2021 has Keith reading his Star Trek: Starfleet Corps of Engineers stories.