Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Nightingale”

“Nightingale”
Written by Robert Ledreman & Dave Long and André Bormanis
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 7, Episode 8
Production episode 256
Original air date: November 22, 2000
Stardate: 54274.7

Captain’s log. Voyager is doing a long-overdue maintenance overhaul, having landed on a planet so Torres can fix, basically, everything. When Icheb tracks down a malfunction in half a second while delivering a padd from Tuvok, Janeway assigns Icheb to help Torres in the hopes that everything will get done quicker.

Kim, Seven, and Neelix are searching for dilithium in the Delta Flyer when they find themselves stumbling into a firefight between a couple of ships, one of which is cloaked. The cloaked ship, which belongs to the Kraylor, and which claims to be delivering medical supplies, is being fired on by the Annari. Kim offers humanitarian aid to the Kraylor, but the Annari don’t go for that. Kim disables the Annari weapons, at which point they retreat.

Kim and Neelix beam over. Most of the crew is dead, with the highest-ranking officer left a young man named Terek on his first deep-space assignment. He assumes Kim is a captain, a misapprehension Kim corrects in fairly short order.

The ship is a mess, and all the people whose job it is to fix it are dead. The passengers, Dr. Loken and Dayla, are of little help, and they and Terek all ask if Kim can take command of the ship to get them home. They say they have a critical vaccine to deliver. The planet where Voyager landed is en route to their homeworld, and Kim agrees to take them at least that far, with the Flyer docked in their shuttlebay.

Star Trek: Voyager "Nightingale"

Screenshot: CBS

Once the cloak is fixed, the Kraylor vessel gets underway. However, when they arrive at the planet where Voyager has landed, they see three Annari warships in orbit. Loken thinks they’ve been betrayed, but Kim assures him that it’s standard for Starfleet to be nice to people they first meet. Loken also says that the Annari tend to approach people as friends first and then subsume them into their empire.

Janeway and Chakotay are discussing trade terms with the Annari—acquiring new deuterium injectors in exchange for some zeolitic ore—and then Kim calls, acting as if he’s checking in from the Flyer.

Once the Annari leave, Kim contacts Janeway again and tells the truth about what’s happening. Loken joins Kim on Voyager to plead the Kraylor case to Janeway. She then discusses it with Kim in private. She’s not happy about getting in the middle of an interplanetary war, but she’s willing to help the Kraylor get home. She’s going to assign Chakotay or Tuvok, but Kim pleads the case for him to lead the mission. The Kraylor know and trust him, and he wants a shot at his own command. Janeway is convinced, but tells him to take Seven with him—since she’s not part of Starfleet, there will be no chain-of-command issues.

Icheb is continuing to help Torres out. Torres appreciates that help greatly. She also notices that Icheb eats boring nutritional supplements, and does so while working. When she asks about what he does for recreation, he says he doesn’t really have time, and Torres invites him to go rock-climbing, as leisure time is important, too. However, Icheb is worried about the propriety of going rock-climbing with someone else’s wife. Knowing that the EMH has helped Seven with social interactions, Icheb queries the doctor, though he doesn’t specify that it’s Torres he’s speaking of. Everything she’s done is, based on what the EMH says, indicative of her pursuing a romantic relationship with him.

Star Trek: Voyager "Nightingale"

Screenshot: CBS

Kim christens the Kraylor ship the Nightingale after the famous nurse (its previous designation was “Medical Transport 136,” which Kim felt lacked poetry), and takes her out. Kim then micromanages everything, to the point where Seven has to lecture him on the subject of being a bit more hands-off.

The cloak fails. Almost immediately, two Annari vessels close in on them and attack. An explosion renders Seven unconscious in the engine room. Kim is about to go down himself to finish repairs on the cloak, but he’s needed on the bridge, so Dayla goes. Kim promises to relay instructions—but then Dayla performs repairs on her own initiative, with Loken giving her additional instructions. That works, and the Nightingale is safe for now. Dayla, however, is dead, as life support in engineering had failed, and she wasn’t able to evacuate in time.

Kim confronts Loken. He and Dayla obviously know more about ship’s operations than they’re saying, and the Annari were right there waiting when the cloak failed. Loken finally admits that they’re not carrying vaccines. The cloak itself is their cargo: the Nightingale is a prototype for a defense that the Kraylor desperately need against the Annari.

Paris talks to Icheb about the rock-climbing excursion he and Torres are taking, joking if he has anything to worry about, which just makes Icheb more apprehensive—but Paris then invites Icheb to a holodeck excursion of his own, racing cars.

Kim tries to reverse course back to Voyager, at which point Terek mutinies, and the remaining crew refuse to follow his orders. Kim discusses abandoning ship with Seven, though Seven questions if he’s only doing this because being captain isn’t all he thought it would be, and does he really care about the crew? Because he’s their only hope of survival.

Star Trek: Voyager "Nightingale"

Screenshot: CBS

To accentuate the point, they arrive at the Kraylor homeworld to find Annari ships waiting with scanning pulses to detect cloaked ships. Kim retakes command, promising to get them home safe.

The Annari return to Voyager with orders to escort them out of Annari space as soon as their propulsion systems are back online. They know that the Flyer aided their enemy.

Kim contacts the Annari and promises to surrender, but only if the passengers are allowed to go to the surface in escape pods. Otherwise, Kim will destroy the ship and its cloak, which the Annari don’t want—they want the cloak for themselves. Loken agrees to leave in the pods, agreeing with Kim’s notion that, worst case, the scientist who developed the cloak will still be alive.

The Annari get the Nightingale in a tractor beam, which Kim is able to technobabble his way out of, damaging the Annari and allowing the Nighingale to get through the defense perimeter to safety.

Voyager later picks up Kim and Seven, where Kim admits that he may not be ready for command quite yet. Meanwhile, Icheb pulls out of the rock-climbing date, because it wouldn’t be appropriate. Torres thinks he’s an idiot, but goes along with it rather than try to explain reality to him.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? When the Nightingale is stuck in the Annari tractor beam, Kim orders Terek to reverse the shield polarity. It’s awesome.

Star Trek: Voyager "Nightingale"

Screenshot: CBS

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is reluctant to let Kim command the mission until he unconvincingly talks her into it. She’s also impatient with how long Torres’ repairs are going to take.

Half and half. Torres is obviously happy as a pig in shit when given a chance to do the major repair overhaul they can do while landed on a planet and not moving. She also likes rock-climbing, apparently.

Forever an ensign. Kim points out that, if they were back home, Kim would be a lieutenant by now, but he understands that their needs are different in the Delta Quadrant. Why Kim can’t be promoted while both Paris (after being demoted) and Tuvok can be is left as an exercise for the viewer.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. One of the holoemitters in sickbay is out. When the EMH goes to the far corner of the surgical bay, his legs disappear. That is probably pretty awkward.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix is the one who talks Kim into helping the Kraylor out. As usual, things might have been much better for everyone if Neelix had just kept his mouth shut…

Resistance is futile. Seven, who has absolutely no command experience whatsoever, lectures Kim repeatedly about how to be a better commander. Maybe she stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Icheb mistakes Torres being friendly with Torres hitting on him. For some reason, he doesn’t mistake Paris acting exactly the same way toward him as flirting. 

Star Trek: Voyager "Nightingale"

Screenshot: CBS

What happens on the holodeck stays on the holodeck. We don’t actually see the rock climbing or the race-car driving that Torres and Paris talk about, which is kinda too bad.

Do it.

“I’ve discovered a serious flaw in one of the ship’s systems.”

“Which one?”

“The captain.”

–Seven with the vicious burn on Kim.

Welcome aboard. Scott Miles plays Terek, Beverley Leech plays Dayla, and the various Annari are played by Alan Brooks, Paul F. O’Brien, and Bob Rudd. Manu Intiraymi is back as Icheb as well.

But this week’s Robert Knepper moment is the late, great Ron Glass as Loken. Best known in genre circles as Shepherd Book on Firefly and its followup movie Serenity, to me he will always be Detective Harris, his Emmy-nominated role on Barney Miller, which has always been one of your humble rewatcher’s favorite shows.

Trivial matters: Kim describes the events of “Caretaker” to Terek, saying that they lost “over a dozen crew members,” which is the closest they’ve come in all this time to saying how many people were lost during the initial fall down the Caretaker’s rabbit hole.

When told that they don’t take sides by Janeway, Kim responds with two occasions when they did take sides, in the “Unimatrix Zerotwo-parter with the Borg resistance, and “Dragon’s Teeth” with the Vaadwaur.

Star Trek: Voyager "Nightingale"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I should have stuck to playing Buster Kincaid.” As with “Repression,” this is another storyline that feels like it’s about five years too late. Having said that, it’s in keeping with the producers periodically deciding they should do a Harry-Kim-learns-a-valuable-lesson episode, but then do so while not making any acknowledgment that any of the other Harry-Kim-learns-a-valuable-lesson episodes ever happened. So we get pretty much the same beats over and over again, with Kim never really learning anything or moving forward. (At least in “Timeless” they made that a plot point, as Kim learned a hugely valuable lesson, and then changed history so he didn’t have to learn it.)

This is the second time they’ve hung a lantern on the fact that Kim is still an ensign, which wouldn’t be so bad in and of itself. After all, they’re all pretty much stuck in the same positions until they get home. The only way someone’s job changes on this ship is if someone dies. Unfortunately, they don’t really acknowledge that, because the show is written as if the opening-credits regulars are the only ones who actually do anything and aside from Kes they never go anywhere. And yet, somehow, it’s important that Tuvok be promoted, that Paris be demoted and then re-promoted, but Kim has to be stuck as an ensign. Even though he sometimes commands the ship during gamma shift, even though he’s considered “senior staff.” This makes absolutely no sense, and it makes even less sense when the characters come out and talk about it like this.

To make matters worse, Kim’s story is sabotaged by the need to make Seven be important as often as humanly possible, so we have the bizarreness of the one person in the main cast who knows even less about how to be a commanding officer than Kim lecturing Kim on what he’s doing wrong. Not that she’s saying anything useful, she’s just taking up a contrary position to whatever it is Kim is doing so she can berate him and pretend to know what she’s talking about so he can then pretend to learn something and be better at his job. Bleah.

The story itself is just kind of there. No real surprises, no real suspense, no real anything. It’s disappointing to see Ron Glass in the guest credits, only to have him play Generic Alien #4 with none of the mysterious subtleties he brought to Shepherd Book or the gleeful snottiness he brought to Detective Harris.

Though at least it’s not actively awful like the B-plot. Icheb thinking that Torres is flirting with him has the potential for some sitcom-level hijinks, but this story can’t even manage that much. When Paris invited Icheb to also join him on the holodeck, that was the perfect opportunity for Icheb to realize that sometimes people just want to be friendly, and they totally screwed that up. (I wouldn’t even expect Icheb to think that Paris is also flirting with him, as that’s something that would never happen in this heteronormative era of Trek television, though that would’ve been delightful.) They don’t even let Icheb learn from the experience! Torres just throws her hands up and says, “Fine, whatever,” and lets Icheb think that his misapprehension was legit.

Warp factor rating: 2

Keith R.A. DeCandido was the Guest of Honor at the virtual Bubonicon 52: Take Two this past weekend. Check out his reading and the panel he moderated, as well as all the other nifty bits of programming at the virtual con.

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