Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Workforce, Part I”

“Workforce” (Part 1)
Written by Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller
Directed by Allan Kroeker
Season 7, Episode 16
Production episode 262
Original air date: February 21, 2001
Stardate: 54584.3

Captain’s log. We open on Quarra in a large industrial complex, where we see Janeway reporting for her first day at a new job, monitoring the primary reactor coils. She was also late, as she boarded the wrong transport. Her new supervisor is understanding—it’s easy for newcomers to get lost—and sets her up at her work station.

She soon meets a coworker named Jaffen, who helps her fix a mistake she made that would have resulted in a core overload. Once that’s done, they start flirting like whoa until Seven interrupts, telling them that fraternizing is not permitted on the job. She introduces herself as Annika Hansen, the new efficiency monitor. Janeway insists that Jaffen was helping her with her console, as it’s her first day, which placates Hansen. Then Janeway turns down Jaffen’s request for a date, as she says she’s too busy with her new job to socialize.

Meanwhile, Paris is trying to convince Umali, the manager of a bar, to hire him as a waiter. He apparently got fired from the plant after only half a day (he didn’t get along with the new efficiency monitor), which Umali thinks is a neat trick during a labor shortage, and hardly a testimonial to the quality of his work. However, he charms his way into a job anyhow.

Star Trek: Voyager "Workforce, Part I"

Screenshot: CBS

Later that day, after the shift in the plant is over, Jaffen is having a drink in the bar with a bunch of workers, including Tuvok. He tells a joke, and then Tuvok laughs his ass off, and then proceeds to overanalyze the joke, thus draining all the humor from it, though Tuvok is still grinning over it.

Janeway enters the bar, and Jaffen gives her shit about her saying she didn’t have time to socialize. She says she isn’t socializing, she’s eating dinner and going over manuals. Jaffen offers to go over them with her.

Hours later, Jaffen walks Janeway home, but she declines his offer of a nightcap. She also describes her homeworld of Earth as being overpopulated, polluted, and short on jobs.

The next day, an alarm goes off. Janeway insists it wasn’t her screwing up this time, but Jaffen says it’s just time for their inoculations. When it’s his turn, Tuvok demurs, saying he’s afraid of needles. When he’s told that injection is the only way to get the inoculation, Tuvok accedes, but has a brief flashback to himself and Janeway in a hospital, both covered in lesions, and wearing their Starfleet uniforms. But then it fades, and he takes his medicine.

The Delta Flyer, crewed by Chakotay, Kim, and Neelix, are returning from a very successful supply run. Voyager, however, is not at the rendezvous point. They eventually find the ship in a nebula, where the EMH—or, rather, the ECH, as the Emergency Command Hologram subroutine has been activated—is alone, trying to make repairs. Chakotay and Kim beam aboard in EVA suits—restoring life support wasn’t a priority for the ECH when he was the only one on board—and he fills them in.

Star Trek: Voyager "Workforce, Part I"

Screenshot: CBS

Shortly after the Flyer took off, Voyager hit a subspace mine, which flooded the ship with lethal radiation. Janeway was forced to abandon ship, leaving the EMH in ECH mode behind to take care of the ship. As the ECH effected repairs, a Quarren ship locked a tractor beam on, thinking the ship to be abandoned and wishing to claim it as salvage. The ECH defends Voyager, and manages to escape into the nebula. But every time he’s tried to venture out, there’ve been Quarren ships waiting. And the Quarren ship’s weapons and tractor beam are the same type of technology as the mine they hit. The ECH is fairly certain they were set up, and he has no idea where the rest of the crew even is.

On Quarra, Tuvok sees Janeway and flashes back again to the hospital, where a doctor is treating Janeway for what he claims is “Dysphoria Syndrome.” Tuvok then approaches Janeway, saying they know each other, but Janeway says she first time she met him was at the shift briefing the previous week. Tuvok apologizes lamely and moves away.

Jaffen approaches, and we discover that they’ve been having dinner together regularly. He’s been cooking for her, but she doesn’t much like his cooking and offers to cook for him instead. The resultant meal is burned and inedible, and she suggests they go out to eat. Instead, they stay in and smooch.

Paris sees Torres in the bar, and chats her up, though her pregnancy brings him up short. He assumes she’s married and apologizes for flirting, but she says she isn’t married and then leaves the bar.

Repairs proceed very slowly on Voyager, though at least the ships that were pursuing them seem to have given up. Kim has continued to scan for Alpha Quadrant life forms for days and finally finds them on Quarra, which is three days away.

Upon arrival, however, they are stonewalled. The people Chakotay has asked after all have been questioned and know nothing of Chakotay or Voyager. They’re all quite happy in their jobs on Quarra and the official they speak to accuses them of making up a story to try to poach workers during a labor shortage. Chakotay ends the communication and leaves orbit. Plan B is to approach Quarra in Neelix’s ship, posing as two people looking for work. The ECH also does some facial surgery on Chakotay, since he would be recognized by planetary authorities. After they are given subcutaneous transponders, they depart in Neelix’s ship.

Hansen approaches Tuvok, asking why he hasn’t reported for his last three inoculations. Tuvok, who looks quite ill, refers to Hansen as “Seven of Nine,” and briefly initiates a mind-meld with her. Hansen has flashes to her time on board Voyager. Tuvok is taken away to the infirmary, ranting and raving about how they aren’t who they think they are.

Star Trek: Voyager "Workforce, Part I"

Screenshot: CBS

Chakotay, using the name “Amal Kotay,” and Neelix start their first day at the plant, the former unwittingly replacing Tuvok in thermionics. Chakotay sees Janeway, and starts to talk to her, but it quickly becomes clear that she has no idea who he is. He quickly changes conversational course and says it’s his first day and he’s just trying to get to know people.

Doctor Kadan treats Tuvok, saying his Dysphoria Syndrome has resurfaced. He sedates Tuvok and injects him.

Neelix is chatting with Paris (who doesn’t recognize him) in the bar. Paris talks about how great it was to be fired from the plant as he loves working in the bar. Too many rules and regulations in the plant. Neelix learns that Paris claims to have never worked on a starship, as space travel makes him queasy.

Chakotay enters, and is “introduced” to Paris. When they’re alone, it’s clear that they’ve both met several other crew members, none of whom recognized either of them, and who are all happy here with their shiny new jobs.

Janeway and Jaffen enter the bar, and she invites Chakotay to join them for dinner, but then Jaffen rescinds the invite, rather rudely. Turns out he has something important to discuss: he wants them to move in together. She says yes.

Torres—who has been chatting with a pair of expectant parents that Paris introduced her to—is about to walk home. Paris offers to walk her to the transport, but she insists she’ll be fine.

Chakotay and Neelix accost Torres on the street—she thinks she’s being mugged. Neelix and Torres beam back to Voyager, where the ECH is forced to sedate her. Two cops try to detain Chakotay and chase him. Unfortunately, the Quarren are now firing on Voyager, so they can’t beam Chakotay up. The cops corner him at a dead end…

To be continued…

There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway’s poor luck with preparing meals continues into her life on Quarra, as she burns the meal she cooks.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok’s telepathy allows him to resist the Quarren reprogramming to a certain degree, or at least enough the point that he deliberately avoids the “inoculations” in order to clear his head.

Half and half. Torres is a single mom on Quarra.

Forever an ensign. Kim drank something that made him incredibly ill on the away mission. Neelix had encouraged him to drink it, but not Chakotay, who Neelix says is a vegetarian, which is when Kim discovers that what he drank was meat juice.

Star Trek: Voyager "Workforce, Part I"

Screenshot: CBS

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH gets to be the ECH once again, to the point where he neglects his medical duties, as Kim’s tummy still hurts from the meat juice after several days.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix’s ship is used for the first time since “The Chute.”

Resistance is futile. Seven is made efficiency monitor, which is the best use of the ex-Borg, truly.

Do it.

“Maybe all those command subroutines are compromising your medical abilities.”

“Maybe all that sarcasm is compromising your natural charm.”

–Kim and the ECH bitching at each other.

Welcome aboard. James Read plays Jaffen, John Aniston plays the Quarren official, Tom Virtue plays the supervisor, Iona Morris plays Umali, and Michael Behrens plays the “coyote” who kidnaps the crew. Virtue previously played Baxter in “Eye of the Needle” and “Twisted,” while Morris previously was one of the children in the original series’ “Miri.”

And then we have this week’s Robert Knepper moment, as Kadan is played by none other than Ralph Malph his own self, Don Most!

Read, Aniston, Virtue, Behrens, and Most will all return for Part 2.

Trivial matters: Iona Morris is the sister of Phil Morris, and the daughter of Greg Morris. Iona and Phil both played background children in “Miri,” who were mostly played by children of actors. Phil would go on to appear in The Search for Spock, two DS9 episodes, and “One Small Step.”

Among the background aliens seen are Kraylor (“Nightingale,” “The Void”), Benkarans (“Repentance”), and Brunali (Icheb’s people, “Child’s Play”).

This the second appearance of the ECH, following “Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy.”

Neelix mentions both Celes and Mulchaey, though they are not seen. Mulchaey appeared in “One,” and was mentioned several other times, while Celes appeared in “Good Shepherd” and “The Haunting of Deck Twelve.”

Star Trek: Voyager "Workforce, Part I"

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “A sick worker is not an efficient worker.” The plot of this one isn’t exactly bursting with originality, as it’s the crew-gets-amnesia story that we’ve seen dozens of times, from TNG’s “Conundrum” to Stargate SG-1’s “Beneath the Surface,” with a hefty dose of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis for good measure.

But it’s a very effective use of that storyline. The truth is revealed slowly, as when we first see Janeway we’re not sure if she’s legitimately working for this plant or if she’s on an undercover mission. But ever so slowly, we discover that something is off. With the appearance of “Annika Hansen” we know that things are bad. When we see Tuvok laughing and overexplaining a joke, we know that things are really bad.

It’s not until Act 2 that the other shoe drops, as the Delta Flyer comes across Voyager run by the ECH, and we see how things have gone to hell in a handbasket.

What’s fun about this first part is seeing the different ways that Janeway, Tuvok, Torres, and Paris are affected by the Quarren mind control. Janeway’s personality is mostly intact (and she still can’t cook, apparently), as is her scientific skill, but her passion for the latter is missing. The Janeway who geebles over new discoveries and fiddling with stuff in engineering is nowhere to be seen here.

Torres and Paris are mostly the same—Paris is a rebel without a clue and Torres is surly and hard to talk to—while Seven is both completely changed (going by her real name) and not changed at all (being a humorless efficiency nut).

But the biggest change is to Tuvok, who is still biologically Vulcan (which is handy, as his telepathy helps break through Kadan’s drugs), but who has had his Vulcan culture completely stripped from him. The single most disturbing moment in the episode is seeing Tuvok laughing hysterically (followed by his hilarious deconstruction of the joke).

On top of that, the plot back on Voyager is comedy gold, as watching the ECH fight with the computer when he’s on his own and then banter with Kim as the episode progresses is hysterical. Having said that, one of the biggest flaws in the episode is when Chakotay and Neelix go off-ship. The ECH thinks he should be in charge, since he’s programmed with over two million tactical subroutines. Kim thinks he should since it would take him half a second to delete those subroutines. This is the point where Chakotay’s duty as commanding officer is to assign one of them to take command in his absence. Instead, he says, “Work it out,” which is lunacy. Even though there’s just the two of them on board—in fact, especially since there’s just the two of them on board—there needs to be a clear chain of command. That bit was an utter failure of writing.

The acting, however, remains excellent. I must also make mention of the great performance by Don Most (which will be on display even more in Part 2). The erstwhile Ralph Malph is magnificently slimy as Kadan.

The plot moves along nicely, ending on a cliffhanger that’s a bit more of a curb-hanger, but still an effective stopping point.

Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be one of the guests at the inaugural Suncoast Fan Fest at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto, Florida. Among the other guests are Voyager’s Manu Intiraymi (Icheb), as well as actors Alaina Huffman, Corin Nemec, Casper Van Dien, Travis Wester, AJ Buckley, and Eddie McClintock, as well as several voice actors. More information can be found here.

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