Written by Michael Taylor & Bryan Fuller
Directed by Mike Vejar
Season 7, Episode 21
Production episode 267
Original air date: April 25, 2001
Captain’s log. A probe called Friendship 1, which launched from Earth in the twenty-first century, arrives at a planet in the Delta Quadrant.
Cut to Voyager, an indeterminate amount of time later, where Janeway is talking with Admiral Hendricks, a former professor of hers at the Academy. He has an assignment for her: to find Friendship 1.
It takes them a bit off course, but Janeway is grateful to have an actual assignment from Starfleet. The resident space-flight nerds, Chaktoay, Paris, and Kim, are all intimately familiar with the story of Friendship 1, and they’re thrilled at the notion of retrieving a bit of history.
They eventually find it on a radiation-choked planet with no lifesigns. There’s too much radiation to use the transporter, so Chakotay leads an away team on the Delta Flyer that includes Paris, Neelix, Kim, and Carey—Torres wants to go, but the radiation is too dangerous for her and Paris’ unborn child.
The away team finds the probe and also a bunch of missile silos, though the missiles themselves are unfired. Paris, Neelix, and Carey are ambushed by humanoids who are covered in lesions. They take the trio hostage and demand restitution from Voyager for the damage done by Friendship 1. They constructed an antimatter generator based on the technology they found on the probe, and that generator exploded, resulting in the nuclear winter they now suffer under.
Two aliens invade the Flyer, but Chakotay and Kim are able to fight back. One escapes, but the other is stunned. Chakotay returns to Voyager, bringing the alien—whose name is Otrin—to sickbay. The EMH examines him and determines that they are so suffused with radiation that their lifesigns are masked by being in the atmosphere.
The leader of the aliens, Verin, demands that Voyager evacuate all of them to another planet. Tuvok and Seven determine that it would take three years for Voyager to get the entire population to the new world. Tuvok suggests an away team extract the hostages, but Janeway doesn’t want to reinforce the notion that humans are assholes.
Otrin explains that his people assumed Friendship 1 to be a prelude to an invasion: provide a world with dangerous technology that they would misuse and then destroy themselves, thus leaving them open for attack. Janeway tries to explain that the notion is absurd, but while Otrin is willing to listen to reason—especially after the EMH, with help from Seven’s nanoprobes, is able to reverse Otrin’s radiation poisoning—but Verin is not.
On the surface, Paris does his best to treat Carey for a concussion given that they won’t let him use his medikit. He talks with a woman named Brin, who is pregnant. Paris tries to bond with her over his own impending fatherhood, and also says that the best doctor in the quadrant is on their ship.
Janeway offers an alternative to Verin: to cure them, and try to fix the atmosphere, just as they’re curing Otrin. In the short term, she will beam down food and medical supplies in exchange for one hostage. Verin agrees to beam Carey back, but shoots him just as he transports. The EMH declares him dead.
Janeway claims to agree to evacuate Verin’s people, but says she needs an hour. She then sends Tuvok and the EMH down to perform the extraction, as after Carey was murdered, her interest in not being perceived poorly is pretty much gone.
Brin starts to have contractions. Paris is able to help her give birth, and also revive the stillborn baby. When Tuvok and the EMH successfully exfiltrate the team, Paris begs Brin to let him bring the baby back to Voyager. She agrees.
The same cure that worked on Otrin works on the baby. Janeway wants to beam the baby down with Otrin and some medical supplies and go on their way, but Paris and Neelix convince her to stay and help them. Janeway is reluctant to help murderers, but she is persuaded eventually: Carey’s murder was the act of one person, and the entire planet is suffering so badly. And if Voyager still helps them without being coerced, it might finally change their perception of humanity.
Otrin has come up with a way to get rid of the radiation in the atmosphere, but they have to use photon torpedoes to deliver it. Voyager does so, though they have to go into the atmosphere to do it, for reasons the script doesn’t adequately explain. Verin, who has gone completely ’round the bend, orders the missiles to be fired on Voyager, thinking that this is an attack. But Brin pulls a gun on Verin and orders him to stop. Voyager saved her child, and she won’t let Verin hurt them. The rest of the people are on her side, and Verin is livid that they’ve betrayed him after he’s kept them alive this long.
But then the sky clears and they all see the sun for the first time.
Voyager retrieves Friendship 1 and continues homeward, having left the planet in much better shape. Chakotay and Janeway mourn Carey’s death over a Voyager-in-a-bottle he was constructing—he’d done all of it save for one nacelle.
Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Friendship 1’s design is an entertaining kitbash of two other bits of twenty-first-century Trek tech: the nacelles look like that of the Phoenix, Zefram Cochrane’s warp ship from First Contact, and the head looks like the Nomad probe from the original series’ “The Changeling.”
There’s coffee in that nebula! Janeway has to be convinced to still help the aliens after they killed Carey. She also sensibly keeps her options open, investigating the possibility of evacuating the aliens to another planet and also keeping a rescue in her hip pocket.
Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok seems to be totally incompetent during the exfiltration, easily being captured, but it turns out that he was “captured” by the EMH in disguise, and the two of them rescue the away team with little difficulty.
Half and half. Torres has to be convinced by Paris not to go on an away mission to a radiation-choked planet while pregnant. This also indirectly leads to her deputy chief engineer being killed.
Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix, in his role as ship’s ambassador, tries to reason with Verin, telling him about the war Talax fought against the Haakonians, and pretending that he thinks humans are arrogant, but still generally okay. This fails rather spectacularly, with Verin tartly informing Neelix that he shouldn’t compare his life to Verin’s.
Resistance is futile. When Otrin asks Seven about her nanoprobes, she says that she is unique as the only person on board who has them, having apparently forgotten that Icheb exists.
“From the first time you spoke up in my classroom, I knew you’d go far.”
“A little farther than I expected, Professor.”
–Hendricks and Janeway having a little bonding moment.
Welcome aboard. The various aliens are played by Ken Land (Verin), John Prosky (Otrin), Bari Hochwald (Brin), and Ashley Edner (Yun). Hochwald previously appeared as Dr. Lense in DS9’s “Explorers” and will be in Enterprise’s “Marauders” as E’lis. Prosky previously played a Bolian in DS9’s “For the Cause.” Edner will play an alien woman Chekov chats up in Star Trek Beyond.
Peter Dennis plays Admiral Hendricks. He previously played Sir Isaac Newton in “Death Wish.”
And finally recurring regular Josh Clark makes his final appearance as Carey.
Trivial matters: Friendship 1 was launched after first contact with the Vulcans, which was chronicled in First Contact.
Neelix tells Varin about the Metreon Cascade that destroyed his homeworld and killed his family, as chronicled in “Jetrel.”
When Friendship 1 arrives, part of its message is a bit from Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.” The away team also finds an abandoned toy on the planet that plays the opening of the Vivaldi piece.
Carey’s death is either the twenty-second or twenty-third confirmed fatality on Voyager, depending on how many people died in “Equinox, Part II,” plus however many might have died in “The Killing Game, Part II.” Ignoring everything since and going back to the notion that there were 155 people on board at the end of “Caretaker” (the 152 Janeway cited in “The 37’s,” plus the departed Seska, the deceased Durst, and the EMH, whom Janeway would not have counted at that point), that would make the current complement at no more than 139 (again, depending on “The Killing Game”). While they’ve lost at least twenty-two, they’ve also added five Equinox crew and Icheb.
Set a course for home. “We, the people of Earth, greet you in the spirit of peace and humility.” This could have been a strong episode; this could’ve been a good episode. Instead, it’s an episode that just makes me incredibly angry.
The big thing that irks me is the spectacularly gratuitous and awful killing of Carey. Having already botched the character by setting him up as a possible foil for Torres, the show proceeded to forget all about him once he was cleared of being the traitor on board in “State of Flux,” reduced to only appearing in flashbacks after that. Then, to bring him back like this, as if he’s been there all along, and to then just kill him off like that is simply horrible. It’s even worse now because (a) Voyager is in touch with the Alpha Quadrant, which means that Carey has been in regular contact with his wife and children, and (b) the show is ending in four episodes and getting the ship home. If the show had any history or notion of dealing with consequences of actions, and of actually caring about the welfare of anyone not in the opening credits, this could be played for pathos, but it totally isn’t. Carey will go back to being so completely forgotten that when Admiral Janeway goes back in time in “Endgame,” it’s so very important to save Seven, yet she can’t be arsed to go back a few weeks earlier and save Carey.
I’ll get to that more when we discuss “Endgame” in a couple weeks, but in the meantime, the episode is trying so desperately to make Carey’s death meaningful, but it’s too little, too late. And it just is so damn gratuitous.
I hated this episode in 2001, and I hate it more twenty years later, because I’ve learned that show-runner Kenneth Biller apparently specifically told scripters Michael Taylor and Bryan Fuller that it was okay to kill off a recurring character in this one. First off, Voyager has so few recurring characters that this seems silly. The others they considered were Wildman and Tal, and I really wish in some ways they had gone with Wildman, because then, goddammit, there would have been consequences, as Wildman’s daughter Naomi is one of the few characters who’s actually had character development, and her mother’s death might have had an impact beyond the scope of this episode.
On top of that, the death is just so badly handled. We’ve seen twenty-fourth-century medicine perform all kinds of things, yet the EMH just stands there with his thumb up his ass when Carey is beamed aboard and declares him dead. Paris made more of an effort in this episode to save Brin’s child, yet no heroic efforts are made to even try to save Carey. (We won’t even get into the fact that Seven’s nanoprobes—which are being used right here in this episode to cure the aliens—aren’t used to try to revive him the way they were for Neelix in “Mortal Coil.”)
The rest of the episode is just maddeningly dumb. The aliens—whom Taylor and Fuller couldn’t even summon up the energy to provide a name for—have convinced themselves that this probe launched centuries ago was a prelude to an invasion that Voyager is just getting around to now. I’m not saying it isn’t realistic for people to be that delusional, but realistic doesn’t always make for good drama, and it’s hard to feel sorry for people who go to that much trouble to blame other people for their own screwups. It’s even harder to feel sorry for them when they go around killing hostages.
In the end, compassion does win the day, and Janeway does help them despite Verin’s actions, which is as it should be. I like the scene where Paris and Neelix advocate for the people on the surface, who shouldn’t be held responsible for the depraved actions of one murderer. But it’s not enough to save this incredibly maddening episode.
Warp factor rating: 4
Keith R.A. DeCandido contributed to each of the first two volumes of The Subterranean Blue Grotto Essays on Batman ’66, published by Crazy 8 Press. For the season one book, entitled ZLONK! ZOK! ZOWIE!, he wrote about “Fine Feathered Finks”/”The Penguin’s a Jinx,” the debut of Burgess Meredith’s interpretation of the Penguin. His piece for the season two book, BIFF! BAM! EEE-YOW!, is also Penguin-related, as he writes about “Hizzoner the Penguin”/”Dizzoner the Penguin.” He plans to contribute to the season three book, which should be out next year, though he probably won’t do another Penguin episode.