Written by Raf Green & Kenneth Biller & James Kahn
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 7, Episode 15
Production episode 261
Original air date: February 14, 2001
Captain’s log. Seven is cooking a meal for Janeway, Chakotay, Paris, and Torres, but it’s interrupted by Voyager being sucked into an anomaly. Unable to break out of it, Voyager finds itself in a starless void—and is immediately fired on by a ship of unfamiliar design, albeit with Vaadwaur weapons.
The ship disables Voyager’s shields, and then steals most of their food stores, as well as their deuterium reserves.
It soon becomes clear that there are no planets, no stars, no nothin’—just a bunch of ships that are firing on each other and stealing resources. Janeway has an enlightening conversation with an Annari general named Valen, who has been stuck in the void for five years. He makes it clear that it’s every ship for itself and that there’s no escape. He’s also willing to trade supplies for some of Voyager’s photon torpedoes. Janeway refuses to trade weapons; Valen assures her that she’ll change her mind once her crew starts starving.
They try to escape, but while the plan is good in theory, it fails in practice, and Voyager is now losing power—the void is draining power from the warp core. Before they can try again, they need more power, which means they need their deuterium back.
However, when they track down the ship that attacked them, they find it dead in space, with no life signs on board—and no trace of their stuff. Or of anything else useful—mostly. Seven detects that the casing of their warp core is made of tricesium, which they can convert to a power source. They beam the casing over, while Tuvok traces the ion trail of the ship that attacked.
Seven and Torres find a mute humanoid life form in the casing, that was somehow missed. They send him to sickbay, where the EMH determines that he can survive without oxygen for long periods of time, and later learns that his species can hide their lifesigns.
Meantime, they discover that Valen is the one who raided the ship. Janeway asks for her stuff back, but he refuses. So they fight, and Voyager takes out Valen’s shields. Janeway beams their stuff back—it’s only about half of what was taken—and refuses to take anything else from Valen.
Janeway decides that she’s going to get out of this by forming an alliance. Nobody’s escaped because nobody’s worked together. As Starfleet officers, they represent the Federation, and they need to start a federation here.
The EMH has christened the stowaway “Fantome,” as he seems to respond well to music. Eventually, the EMH is able to communicate with Fantome through music, creating a language out of musical notes.
Janeway approaches several ships, offering them food and non-defensive technology as gifts even for those who refuse. A Nygean captain named Garon is intrigued, and says he’ll think about it. Janeway gifts him Seven’s favorite phase compensator. (Seven is less than thrilled with this.)
A Hierarchy ship is sucked into the void, and Valen fires on it, along with another ship. Voyager defends the Hierarchy vessel—which has no weapons—and are aided by Garon. Valen and his ally are driven off, and now Janeway’s alliance has three ships.
This leads to more ships joining up, including a Kraylor vessel. We see Janeway trying to recruit Bosaal, a member of an unfamiliar alien species. He is intrigued, and he also speaks ill of Fantome when he encounters the alien, describing his species as vermin who infest their ships. While the EMH is (justifiably) outraged, Janeway takes advantage of Bosaal’s disgust to offer to take the beings off his hands. He agrees, and Janeway takes in refugees who give Fantome others of his kind to hang out with.
Torres is trying to build a polaron modulator, which will allow them to escape the void. Garon helps her try to build one, but they’re struggling. Janeway tries to find one on one of the other ships, but then Bosaal gives them one. However, when Janeway discovers that he destroyed a ship and salvaged it off there, Janeway refuses to accept it and kicks Bosaal out of the alliance. This has the unfortunate side effect of the Jelinians and the Kraylor also leaving the alliance.
Bosaal then forms an alliance with Valen. The Hierarchy are able to eavesdrop on the conversation between the two and share it with Janeway, who is so glad that she taught them the value of cooperation. However, Torres and Garon are able to construct a working modulator. The remaining alliance members move to escape the void. Valen and Bosaal fire on them, but the EMH beams Fantome and his new friends—who are native to the void and don’t wish to leave—to the engine rooms of Valen and Bosaal’s ships. They shut down the engines (Paris comments, “Who says gremlins in the engine are a myth?”) by way of thanking Voyager for saving their lives.
The alliance ships make it safely into normal space, and everyone goes their separate ways.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Paris is confused as to why their deuterium is stolen, as it’s incredibly common and can be found anywhere. He says this is a “duh” tone of voice, as if it should be obvious to anyone. This is the show’s way of apologizing for the abject stupidity of “Demon” with Voyager struggling to find deuterium, which is an isotope of hydrogen, the most common element in the universe.
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway is determined to form a mini-Federation inside the void, as she is convinced that cooperation is the key to escape.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok, along with Chakotay, tries to talk Janeway into being ruthless and practical (or should that be piratical?) while in the void, which is an understandable position for both the guerrilla fighter and the ruthlessly logical dude to take. Janeway tells them to go jump in a lake.
Half and half. Torres manages to build a polaron modulator, with Garon’s help. Because she’s just that awesome.
Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH, with Seven’s help, manages to create an entire language out of musical notes for Fantome to use. He learns it very quickly, and even more quickly teaches it to his fellows.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. In order to help sell Garon on the alliance, Neelix very cleverly positions himself as Janeway’s first recruit, even though it was six years and 40,000 light-years ago.
Resistance is futile. Seven has learned how to cook. She is apparently better at it than Neelix, though that is a low bar to clear. She also takes criticism really really poorly.
“Is there any salt?”
“Additional seasoning is not required.”
“I’m sorry, I just—”
“If the quail hasn’t been prepared to your satisfaction, I could replicate something more to your liking—a peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwich, perhaps…”
“Actually, it’s delicious just the way it is.”
–Paris wanting more salt and Seven getting her back up.
Welcome aboard. Paul Willson plays Loquar, Scott Lawrence plays Garon, and Michael Shamus Wiles plays Bosaal. Jonathan del Arco, who had the recurring role of Hugh the Borg on two episodes of TNG and three episodes of Picard, plays Fantome.
And then we have this week’s Robert Knepper moment, as the late, great Robin Sachs—best known in genre circles as Ethan Rayne on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and as Sarris in Galaxy Quest—plays Valen.
Trivial matters: The Nygeans were last seen in “Repentance.” The Hierarchy were last seen (and their skill with surveillance displayed) in “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy.” The Annari and the Kraylor were last seen in “Nightingale.” The Vaadwaur were last seen in “Dragon’s Teeth.”
Musical cues from the original Star Trek theme can be heard both when Fantome and his friends are communicating musically and when Janeway talks about forming a mini-Federation.
This episode was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Makeup for a Series. It lost to The Sopranos.
Set a course for home. “It was almost like being part of the Federation again.” I watch this episode and I get a feeling I’ve gotten a few times in this rewatch—notably after viewing “Counterpoint” and “Year of Hell” and even “Demon,” for all that it’s dreadful—to wit, that this is the sort of thing they should’ve been doing all the friggin time. Dealing with supply issues and horse trading and forming alliances and defending those who can’t defend themselves and all that good stuff.
The episode is very much reminiscent of two other Trek stories, one from twenty-seven years prior to its release, the other from seven years after it: “The Time Trap” episode of the animated series and the alternate-history novel Places of Exile in Myriad Universe: Infinity’s Prism, written by regular commenter Christopher L. Bennett.
In the former, the Enterprise and Klothos both find themselves trapped in a strange region of space from which there is no escape. But while the animated episode had the victims of the “Delta Triangle” forming their own government long before Kirk and Kor arrived, it’s our heroes who have to form a coalition in the Voyager episode.
And in the latter, Voyager is badly damaged and forced to curtail their journey home and build a life in the Delta Quadrant by making friends and forging an alliance known as the Delta Coalition.
What I like best about this episode is that it is, at heart, a perfect Star Trek episode. The underlying theme of the entire franchise has always been a future where people cooperate instead of fight. Sure, fighting happens, but ultimately it’s compassion that wins the day, from Kirk helping Balok even after he nearly killed them all to the Dominion War ending due to Odo offering to help the Great Link to the Burn being solved by Saru helping a hundred-year-old child.
And here, it’s working together instead of constant fighting that enables at least some of the exiled ships to escape. Plus it’s likely that others might follow their example—we already saw it with Valen and Bosaal, even if it was a much less compassionate alliance, and Bosaal was aware of how they planned to escape.
I especially love that Janeway never wavers from her position, which is entirely the right one for a Starfleet captain to have, even one stuck thousands of light-years from home. Not even when Bosaal packs his toys and goes home, taking two alliance members with him. And it’s not just because it’s easier and safer and with more short-term benefits to be just as mendacious as Valen—but because long-term, cooperation is better for everyone.
Warp factor rating: 9
Keith R.A. DeCandido is thrilled to be part of the upcoming anthology Three Time Travelers Walk Into…, which was just successfully crowdfunded on Kickstarter. The anthology is now open to submissions—you can find the guidelines here.