It's Paramount's playground. They own the characters, the ships, species, planets, quadrants, and the dialog, plots, etc. The dialog is pulled straight from the closed captioning. My summaries and reviews are for the purpose of entertainment and analysis only. The reviews are full-spoiler, which means that it's about as close as you can get to seeing the episode. All that's missing are commercials and pictures--and sometimes, even the commercials get reviewed. If you want to be surprised when you see the episode, leave now. Otherwise--come on in, get comfortable, and enjoy the ride.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]
Time flies--I mean, really flies--when you're knee-deep in tachyons.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Voyager flies in under impulse toward a massive, rapidly-spinning ball in space. Imagine a cotton candy machine run through a particle accelerator. Or Jupiter stuck on the world's fastest pottery wheel.
On Voyager's bridge, half the crew stares open-mouthed at the viewscreen, and at the very unusual planet.
"That's one planet that never showed up on the multiple choice exam," Tom Paris says from Helm.
"Its gravimetric readings are similar to that of a collapsed dwarf star," Tuvok reports. "It also resembles a quasar, in that it has a high rate of rotation--approximately 58 revolutions per minute."
In other words, every second on Voyager is about the same as a single day on the planet. A month every 30 seconds. A year every six minutes. Ten years every hour. 240 years per day…
Pay attention to those numbers. There will be a short quiz at the end.
Janeway wipes the drool from her science-loving mouth. "Shall we take a closer look?"
Chakotay pushes his pounding heart back into his anthropology-addicted chest. "That's what we're here for."
Well, that was easy enough.
Janeway tells Tom to establish a high orbit. But as Voyager heads closer to the planet, the ship begins to tremble.
Worse, as Tuvok reports a moment later, warp drive goes off line. Still worse, after Janeway orders Tom to back them off, impulse engines also go on the fritz.
For the moment, though, the auxiliary thrusters seem to be doing something, though "working" may be too generous a description.
"We're in some kind of gravimetric gradient," Harry reports, anxiety in his voice. "It's pulling us toward the planet."
As the planet draws the ship closer, Voyager's shields begin to glow.
From the surface of this very unusual planet, the sky looks much as it does on most worlds. The stars at night are clear and bright.
Stop that clapping, y'all.
We see circular thatched-roof huts in a valley down by a winding river. We also see a single-story timber structure on a hill, with lit torches offering some illumination. Guards walk lazily across the roof.
Further up the hill, at the top of a winding switchback trail, a small rock altar stands. It is this altar that a lone figure approaches, carrying a basket filled with fruits and vegetables. We see the dark-skinned man, clad in priestly robes of primitive design, reverently place the items in the basket upon the altar, arranging them just so.
Finally, he lifts the last item, a plump red chili pepper, cupped in his hands, and places it on the pile. This is the foodstuff of honor.
But just as the fruit is laid upon the altar, the ground shakes. Hard. The priest loses his balance, dropping to his hands and knees.
When he looks up, something attracts his attention. There, brighter than all the other lights in the sky, is a brilliant new star.
The priest's mouth is open so wide, you could park a shuttle in it.
* * *
Apparently, the earthquake didn't do any serious damage. The huts and the wooden building are still standing. No unexpected fires light up the night.
But the tremor does not pass unnoticed.
A new figure stands near the altar. His headdress is more ornate than the priest's, so we can only conclude that he's the high priest. Or the Shaman, as startrek.com calls him.
"The new one is brighter than Tahal or any of his brothers in the sky," the Shaman says, pointing to the new star.
"What does he want from us?" the priest asks.
"To answer that, we must learn the nature of this God. We must understand the reason for his arrival."
The shaman comes closer to the altar. "You were making an offering to Tahal."
"I placed the fire-fruit on his altar. Then the ground shook," the priest says. "I looked up...and the new one was there."
Sounds like a causal relationship to me . . .
"The fire-fruit--where is it?" the Shaman demands.
The priest looks on the altar, but doesn't find it. Where he does find it is in the tall grass at the base of the altar. Gingerly, he cups it in his hands.
To his surprise, the Shaman grabs the fruit with one hand, and holds it high. "The New One doesn't want Tahal to have the fire-fruit!" the Shaman declares to the small crowd of bystanders.
"Make an altar for Him...as big as Tahal's," the Shaman tells the priest. "The fire-fruit is only for the New One. No more for the people! It is His alone."
The Shaman then holds the plump red fire fruit in both hands, and raises them skyward in supplication. His voice rises to reach the heavens. "Ground Shaker! Light Bringer! Take this today, and every day! Accept our offering! Do not harm us."
Easier prayed than done.
The view from just outside Voyager is chaotic. The shields continue to glow azure, straining against the technobabble forces that pummel the Intrepid-class vessel.
But then, as soon as it began, the trembling onboard Voyager ends. Tuvok reports that they've achieved a synchronous orbit 57,000 kilometers above the planet's equator. Chakotay congratulates Tom for his fancy piloting skills, but Tom interrupts and said it wasn't his doing. "Our thrusters went off-line halfway through our descent and then we just…stopped. Like we were caught in something."
"I'm picking up a strong tachyon field along the hull," Tuvok says. "It could be what's holding us."
Just then, Seven of Nine hails the bridge. " Please report to Astrometrics. There's something you must see." Hey, she said Please! I guess she's learned not to summon the captain anymore.
Even so, there's never a bad excuse to head to the high-tech Hi Fi home theater that is Astrometrics. "On my way," Janeway says, summoning Chakotay to follow.
The Big Screen shows the planet radiating waves of something from its north and south poles.
But we also see Voyager, several rings out, radiating some waves of its own.
"The planet has a tachyon core. It's produced a subspace particle field, which runs between the poles. Voyager's arrival disrupted that field."
Ah. So that's what we're looking at.
"It looks like the ship's been caught in an eddy of some kind," Chakotay says.
"It's worse than that. Voyager seems to have become the planet's third pole," Janeway says. I suppose that might be a bad thing. Time will tell.
"The imbalance is affecting the outer crust," Seven says. "I've picked up indications of high-frequency seismic activity." Caused by our presence? Chakotay asks. "Possibly," Seven says.
"Does anybody live down there?" Janeway asks. Seven says the sensors aren't working too well at the moment--the atmosphere is doing something technical to the sensors.
"Is that vegetation?" Chakotay asks. According to sensors, yes, Seven says. Apparently the sensors aren't totally useless…
Janeway notices something else goofy going on. "The tachyon core has created a space-time differential between the planet and the surrounding space. We're watching the seasons change in a matter of seconds."
"For each second that passes on Voyager, nearly a day goes by on the planet," Seven says.
This seems to gibe with what I suggested in the teaser. However, I wonder if this was true BEFORE Voyager got here, or if it is doing this now ONLY because Voyager has become "the third pole." The dialog seems to suggest this.
I don't know if I'm making sense. Think of it this way. Voyager sees this planet, where the people live within the eye of a whirlpool. The speed of the planet's inhabitants development is generally the same as the rest of the galaxy. Then Voyager comes too close, and knocks the planet into the whirlpool itself--suddenly, they're whipping around fast, and evolving at a quick pace. When/if Voyager goes away, would the planet return to the calm center? Or, would it have developed at high speed even if Voyager wasn't around?
Janeway orders a scan for inhabitants. Seven says that "it'll take time to correct for the space-time differential" before she can scan for individual lifeforms.
[WARNING this is a plot complication . . . WARNING this is a plot complication . . . ]
"A couple of hundred years, maybe?" Chakotay asks, half-jokingly. "If our orbit starts to decay, Voyager will begin to feel the effects of the differential--and we'll begin aging hundreds of times faster than we would in normal space."
That sobers the room. Janeway provides the title. "Unless we want to live our lives in the blink of an eye, I suggest we find a way out of here."
B'Elanna Torres leads the effort in Engineering when Commander Chakotay arrives. "How's our warp core?" he asks.
"The matter-antimatter reaction is still active, but this field we're stuck in is raising hell with the nacelles," a frustrated Torres says. "Until we break orbit, warp drive is off-line."
"And without warp drive, we'll never leave orbit," Chakotay says, sighing. Catch-47.
"It does pose a bit of a problem, doesn't it?" Torres says, smiling without humor.
"Maybe the key is to learn more about this planet--in case we're missing something," Chakotay suggests. B'Elanna points out that the sensors aren't having an easy time of it, either. But Chakotay's got an idea about that. "Then let's modify a class-five probe for low orbit--see what we can pick up. Configure the program to scan along all subspace bands, and set it for visual images every ten milliseconds."
"Snapshots…" Torres gets a conspiratorial look, and smirks at the first officer. "Why do I get the feeling you're not just interested in tachyon fields?"
"This could be the greatest anthropological find of my career. If there's an intelligent species down there, we'll be able to track their development--not just for days or weeks, but for centuries."
Some have asked, "since when was Chakotay interested in anthropology?" It depends on who you ask. Chakotay says he's dreamed about stuff like this since he was six years old; he said this in "One Small Step," which aired a few months ago. And though not every episode has showcased this interest, evidence of it can be seen as far back as the first season "Emanations."
But even if he'd never shown interest before, I'd have been shocked if SOMEONE on board hadn't thought of it. It's simply too obvious an opportunity to pass up.
Torres likes the idea, but she can't help letting her grumpy side show. "Watch them discover new and better ways of beating each other over the head?"
Chakotay smirks. "They won't necessarily follow the Klingon model."
Torres smirks back. "As opposed to the human model?" Chakotay snorts, and nods: touché.
B'Elanna begins preparing the probe. "It'll take a few hours to make the adjustments," she says.
"A few hours. We might miss the rise and fall of a civilization," Chakotay says, lamenting the lost time.
Torres gives him a game smile. "So we'll watch the next one."
The little village has undergone some changes since last we saw it.
For one thing, the clothing has changed. The peasants now look like medieval serfs. The old guy carrying the big leather briefcase is dressed like Friar Tuck. And though there are still some thatched roofs in the valley below the twin altars of Sacrifice Hill, the one-story fort has given way to a mighty stone fortress, and other stone battlements are also in evidence.
Oh, and some of the simply-dressed folks are working on a hot air balloon. Sure, it's made of animal pelts and weighs as much as a chubby wolverine, but the fire down below is sufficient to give it a fighting chance of becoming airborne.
The Cleric climbs the hill, his creaky bones protesting loudly with each step. He looks up, and sees a young, haughty male in officious robes who looks a lot like Tiger Woods, except for the slender spoon-shaped indentation extending from the bridge of his nose to mid-forehead. The Cleric has a similar indentation, but it's obscured in a forest of wrinkles.
The Cleric offers the younger man due deference. "Oh. Oh, Protector!"
"Well, the hill is steep, and I... I'm not as young as I used to be."
The Protector tells the men tending to the balloon to add more heat, then returns his attentions to the elderly Cleric. "There are grave matters of state here that cannot be delayed."
The Cleric nods toward the balloon. "Protector, what exactly are you doing?"
The Protector poses for posterity. He looks skyward like he's posing for GQ magazine. "I'm sending him a letter." S-sending who a letter? The cleric asks, confused. "The Ground Shaker. The Light Bringer." Even in the fullness of daylight, the brightest star still shines enough to be seen clearly.
The Cleric, who might suck up to the powerful younger guy, also acts familiar enough to tease him a little. "Well, had you been more attentive to my lessons when you were a boy, you would not be so gullible as a man." He smiles with merry humor.
"On the contrary, you taught me well. Our ignorant ancestors believed every star was a deity. You taught me how foolish that was. 'Superstition,' you called it." And that's exactly what it is, the Cleric assures him.
The Protector has a lesson of his own. He pulls a plump red fire fruit from a bush and extends it to his teacher. "Hungry?"
The older man shies away. "Well, it's, uh, bad fortune to eat the fire-fruit."
"According to whom? Our ancestors? Don't tell me you believe that old superstition." The Cleric sighs with relief when the cleric stops offering the fruit to him. "Perhaps we shouldn't completely ignore the old beliefs, no matter how strange they may seem today." The Protector looks up at the light. "Ground Shaker...ground...shaker. Isn't it possible the name was not given arbitrarily? That this star is indeed responsible for knocking down our walls and making us stumble as we walk?"
The Cleric makes an unfortunate faux pas. He laughs. "Oh, yes, I heard about that--my condolences."
The Protector glares. "You heard what?"
The Cleric begins to realize his mistake, but too late; he's already dug himself in deeper. "Well, that you stumbled in front of several important people uh, d-d-during the last ground shake. Uh, very embarrassing, I'm sure." He laughs self-consciously.
"I did nothing of the sort," the Protector says dangerously.
The Cleric does what he does best--play Old. "Well, my, uh...Uh, uh...My hearing is not as good as it used to be, nor my memory, either. Now, uh...uh, what were we talking about?"
The Protector decides to let him live for now. "We were talking about ancient superstitions. Now, I don't believe for a moment that the stars are gods--but then, what are they?"
"A great mystery to which there is no answer," the Cleric says reverently.
"I believe the sky is full of people just like ourselves," the Protector says haughtily. The Cleric gasps, then tries to laugh such talk away as nonsense. But the Protector is nothing if not full of self-confidence. "Prove me wrong. I say each star encompasses a city--and the Ground Shaker rules one of these cities. A fellow Protector. If I'm correct, then he'll listen to me...one Protector to another."
And thus we see that this people has not been standing still over the years. That light in the sky, and the unsteady ground, hasn't really let them stay complacent. Necessity is the mother of invention, and curiosity the father of philosophy. In a short period of time, this primitive society has sprinted into the Middle Ages, and is already flirting with the Renaissance.
"Your pen," the Protector orders. The Cleric opens his large case on one of the altars--a symbolic choice, since offerings on an altar were a form of communication with the divine. And it's just the right height. The old guy whips out a piece of parchment and an inkwell and quill pen. Soon, he's ready. "Good," the Protector declares, then begins to dictate. "I, Kelemane..."
"'Kelemane...'" the Cleric repeats, writing quickly.
"…Son of Kelemane, ruler of the good people of the land below you, demand that you stop what you're--"
"'demand'?" The Cleric's repetition of the word is one of amused caution. Do you really want to make demands of Ground Shaker? The one who can make even you stumble, o mighty one?
The Protector takes the hint. "'would hope'?" He suggests. The Cleric approves. Ah, better. Much better. "--would hope that you might consider putting an end to whatever it is you're doing that shakes our ground. If this causes you inconvenience I'm willing to offer a recompense." [Now that's what I call solicitous. "Hello up there, I'll give you cash money if you'll turn your stereo down while my Yorkie still has some fur and bladder control left…"]
It takes the Cleric a moment to catch up, but finally we hear, "'...a re-com-pense.'"
"I await your reply," the Protector concludes. We see the Cleric put the last touches on the note, which is in shaky but legible English. Dang, but that Universal Translator is versatile.
The note complete, the Protector walks it down to the balloon, where he rolls it into a scroll and stuffs it into a waiting tube-shaped pouch. He nods to the assistants, who cut the ropes.
Slowly, the balloon begins to rise. The Cleric watches it go, concern on his face--the world's changing faster than he likes.
Don't worry, old dude. Not to be a Gloomy Gus, but I suspect this isn't gonna work…
* * *
We see a probe over the planet, a bit closer to the surface than Voyager itself.
Time is relative. We don't know how long Voyager's been above the planet, but it must have been a while. Hours, at least; maybe a day or more.
"The next series of scans is coming through. I'm downloading them into the display buffer," Torres says. With Chakotay looking over her shoulder, Torres enters the commands.
Pictures begin parading across the screen.
"No doubt about it. There's a city down there," Chakotay says, impressed.
"Elevated levels of carbon monoxide, ammonium--that's progress, all right," Torres says dryly.
Chakotay ignores the sarcasm. "They've developed internal combustion technology since the last few scans. Look at those radio lines. It looks like a system of roads." Sure enough, the grid lines look a lot like something straight out of Thomas Guides.
"Well, one thing hasn't changed. The geological disturbances that Voyager seems to be causing. The probe recorded half a dozen each month. Still no way to tell how severe they are."
"Look at the amount of iron being used in that city," Chakotay says, pointing to one readout. "That's ten times what you'd expect to see in a culture at this stage of development."
"Do you think they're using it to support their buildings?" Torres asks.
Chakotay looks at the engineer. "If you lived on a planet that wouldn't stop shaking, you might be doing the same thing. If they've reached this stage of industrial development they must be observing us."
One of the consoles beeps. B'Elanna investigates, and frowns. "The probe's impulse thrusters are starting to fail. At its present altitude, it's been operating for over 200 years. Its orbit is becoming decayed." (This invites the question--how variant is the time around here? Is the probe in sync with the planet, or acting as a halfway point?) Chakotay orders the probe destroyed, and Torres takes care of it, saying that if anyone noticed, it'd just look like a shooting star.
The planet keeps on changing.
Now the castles and fortresses are the foundation for the equivalent of a 20th-century observatory. The valley below is now a bustling city that would be at home anywhere on Earth, though most likely in Southern California, since that's where all the earthquakes are. Electric lights, skyscrapers, digital watches--all the comforts of home.
But the switchback path to Sacrifice Hill and the twin altars remain standing, though left unattended.
Inside the observatory, we see that one thing is a universal constant--scientists dress like geeks.
A guy in a vest, looking not unlike Mandy Patinkin from Chicago Hope, peers through the big telescope at the biggest light in the sky. Only now they've got eyes to see, and what they see is quite clearly a ship of some sort.
"Any response to our transmission?" Mandy asks his assistant, who looks like David Schwimmer from Friends, only more so. He could out-Ross Ross.
"Nothing," Ross says.
"No visual change either," says Mandy.
"Surprised?" Ross drawls.
"Send it again," Mandy says.
"The entire sequence? How about just the prime numbers?" Ross pleads, bored. You're tired, says Mandy. So are you, says Ross. Mandy counters by suggesting just the prime numbers and the elemental constants. An acceptable compromise, says Ross. "It's not as if they're going anywhere--if they even exist in the first place."
"Do you doubt that?" Mandy asks. I doubt everything, Ross says.
You'd think that a planet that quakes every few days would have a little more nervous energy. These two act like poster boys for Valium.
Come to think of it, the amusing old Cleric aside, I haven't seen a memorable planetside performance yet. Everyone else has been sleepwalking their way through their lines.
"So you weren't one of those children that had the entire series of Sky Ship Friends™, hmm?"
"Actually, I had them all, even the duplicates," Ross says, smiling, finally showing something approaching emotion. "You couldn't walk into my home without tripping over a Friend™ or two."
Mandy sighs with ancient regret as he reviews blueprints for what could be a rough exterior design of Voyager--distorted, but recognizable. "Not in our home. My grandfather wouldn't allow it. He told us that the Sky Ship was a palace where an Evil Protector lived. He said that bad children were sent there to be punished." (Well, grampa wasn't too far off, now, was he?)
The astronomer plops down heavily in his chair by the telescope. "At this point, I'd be happy to see anything...evil or not." Amen to that, Ross seems to be thinking.
"Can you boost the signal?" Mandy asks.
"We're already at maximum. Maybe if we switched to a different carrier wave to..."
Just then, the ground begins to shake. We notice one feature of the lab that might have been obvious before, but which now makes perfect sense--there are hand rails strategically placed throughout the room, and everything in the room is well and truly anchored.
Most societies really start to move when they discover fire and the wheel. I suspect this people advanced in earnest with the discovery of the reliable paperweight and bookmark.
"If there is somebody up there, they don't like us very much!" Ross gripes, just before the shaking subsides.
But Mandy disagrees. "Any beings capable of building that sky ship could have destroyed our world long ago. They're not causing the tremors on purpose."
"What if they're all dead?" Ross asks.
Mandy regards the pessimistic Ross sadly. "If you truly believe that, why did you join this project?"
"Well, I doubt everything, remember? Even my own doubts." Smart-aleck. "I hope someone is up there." So do I, Mandy says.
Then Ross gets an idea. Returning to his station, he picks up a large microphone. "If they won't respond to mathematics, perhaps we should try a more personal approach. Here. Say hello."
"How could they possibly speak our language?" Mandy asks. Well, says Ross, there's only one way to find out. "What...what should I say?" he asks.
Ross takes a page from the Review Boy phrasebook. "Oh, 'glad to meet you.' 'Where are you from?' 'Please stop shaking our planet…'" Smart-aleck.
Even so, Mandy steps up to the mike.
If we're lucky, maybe he'll sing.
Chakotay and Seven of Nine are working together in Astrometrics when an alarm sounds.
"An ultrahigh frequency signal is being transmitted from the surface," Seven says. That's UHF for the layman--the same frequencies used for the really low-power TV stations that show the Speed Racer reruns. She puts it on audio, and it sounds high pitched and painful--not unlike early Mariah Carey songs. "The modulation is unfamiliar. Its Doppler component is, uh..."
Chakotay points out the very obvious. "Any signal from the surface will be accelerated. When it reached our time frame the frequency would be thousands of times higher than normal." Seven, looking a bit embarrassed for not realizing that on her own, says she'll try to slow it down.
The signal drops a bit in pitch, but is still painful--closer to Yoko Ono now. "Again," Chakotay says quickly before it can do too much damage.
Ah. Lauryn Hill range. Much better. "Amplitude modulation (AM). It's a radio transmission!" Chakotay says.
"It's a numerical sequence," Seven says, catching the pattern first.
"Prime numbers. They're sending a list of prime numbers!" Chakotay says.
"Followed by a sequence of mathematical constants," Seven says. Then her eyes go wide. "And what appears to be a vocal modulation."
"Slow it down again," Chakotay orders. The noise comes closer to discernable, but not quite. Like Alvin and the Chipmunks. "A little more."
And then they have it. "Good friends in the Sky Ship--I call you that, hoping at least you're not enemies…"
Chakotay and Seven share a startled look.
Which they share with the entire senior staff.
Ironic, I thought, that the conference room table has a spoonlike pattern in the center that bears a striking resemblance to the spoonlike indentation in the foreheads of the aliens below.
Coincidence? Not the way the camera seems to be beating us over the head with the imagery.
Anyway. The crew listens as the voice from the dust calls to the light above in supplication, the secular prayer of a scientist to a scientific conundrum, borne on an altar of sound.
"…There's nothing on our world that resembles your technology, so we assume you came here from a nearby planet or a distant star. Our ancient mythology describes your arrival centuries ago--coinciding with the tremors that continually shake our planet and destroy so many of our accomplishments. I hope that was never your intention. But the result is the same. Respond if you can--or, if you wish, come down from your sky ship and visit us."
The crew is somber. Janeway rubs at her throbbing temples. This won't look good in the logs.
"Well," says Tom, "we've got to let them know we're not doing it on purpose."
"Inadvisable," says Tuvok. "The Prime Directive still applies. This transmission was made with primitive radio technology. They are not a warp-capable civilization."
"To hell with the Prime Directive!" says Tom, who can usually be counted on to feel that way when people are hurting; it's not very Starfleet, but it is most definitely human. "That man deserves an answer."
"Don't forget the temporal differential," Torres says. "That man has been dead for a long time."
"Nearly a century by now." So, what, it took twelve hours to call this meeting?
"Okay, so we send a message to his great grandchildren," Tom says. "I'll gladly do the honors."
Chakotay seems to agree with Tom. "Ancient mythology--that means we've already insinuated ourselves into their culture. Why not take the next step?"
Janeway, though, seems too disturbed by the idea. "First contact with a pre-warp society…."
"We've already made first contact!" Tom says, unable to keep the passion out of his voice. "They know we're up here."
"Well, they've known for hundreds of years--which means our presence has been tempered by time," Janeway counters, rising from her chair and walking around the table, standing near Tom. "We've gradually become part of their mythos. Meeting us could throw that belief system into chaos."
Paris seems to be readying himself for another brig vacation… "But we're destroying their planet. You heard him!"
Chakotay presses the point, taking some of the heat off of Tom, and adds a more self-interested twist. "A first contact, face-to-face, might give us information we could use to leave orbit. That would stop the damage. It's worth the risk!"
Janeway leans against the table. "We don't even know if an away team could survive the transition to their time frame." She looks at the Doctor. "Doctor, correct me if I'm wrong--but the physiological stress could be fatal."
Doc shrugs. "For one of you, perhaps--but not for me. My holomatrix would be unaffected."
DING DING DING DING!!!
Janeway walks over. Leans forward until she and the seated Doctor are nose to nose. "You'd be going only as an observer. You're not to make contact." The implication is clear--if he does, she'll reprogram him.
On the bridge, Chakotay and Harry look for a good place to deposit the Doctor.
"I localized the source of the transmission to a subcontinent in the southern hemisphere," Harry says.
"The Central Protectorate," Chakotay confirms.
Harry looks up, surprised. "How do you know that?"
"I've been looking at the data from Astrometrics. Seven's picked up a few of their local transmissions." Chakotay smiles. "I can tell you the names of all 26 states on the planet."
Harry chuckles. "And all the best places to eat?"
"Just about," Chakotay says, returning the laugh.
"So, is this Central Protectorate a good place to send the Doctor?"
Chakotay lets out his breath sharply. He's the expert; it's his call. "Probably. Judging from the transmissions they seem to have a tolerant society."
"Hmm. Well, just to be on the safe side, I'll find him an isolated spot."
In the transporter room, Janeway prepares the controls while Torres makes the final tweaks to Doc's portable holoemitter.
"I'm giving you access to your facial and epidermal parameters," B'Elanna says. "You should be able to mimic the appearance of whoever is down there in a matter of seconds."
Doc looks worried. "What if they're big, purple blobs of protoplasm?"
"Then you'll be the best looking blob on the planet," Janeway says, her eyes twinkling. Apparently she's becoming more comfortable with the idea of flirting with holograms. "I'm keeping you down there for three seconds, Doctor. That will be almost two days in their time frame." Grrr. I'd have guessed three days. Where's Einstein when you need him?
"Gather whatever data you can--seismic charts, meteorological records--anything that might give us a clue about how to break orbit," Janeway says. Doc nods, understanding his orders.
"This will speed up the scanning rate of your program...allow you to make the transition," Torres says, making one last adjustment to his emitter.
When she steps away and joins Janeway behind the transporter controls, Doc sighs. "See you soon."
Janeway nods, offering silent support. "Energizing."
Doc sizzles out of existence.
Torres does the honors. "One...two...three." You know, with all those fancy computers around, you'd think they'd have a more accurate way of measuring the passage of time than One Mississippi Two Mississippi…
Janeway energizes again…but Doc doesn't appear. "The confinement beam is destabilizing," she mutters.
"It's the temporal field. We'll have to recalibrate," Torres says.
"Every second he's down there he's in danger of being discovered!" Janeway says, her concern rising.
"Locking on again," B'Elanna says.
The transporter pad remains empty.
Janeway's voice is hollow. "We've lost him."
The two women, standing shoulder to shoulder, stare wide-eyed at the empty platform.
This is not good.
* * *
Time Trek III: The Search for Doc begins in earnest.
On the bridge, Harry and Chakotay work together. B'Elanna and Janeway remain in the transporter room. I suspect 15-18 minutes have passed.
"I'm scanning within a 100-kilometer radius of where we sent him--nothing!" Harry says.
"He could've moved across the continent by now--or to the other side of the planet," Chakotay frets.
"Increasing radius to 1,000 kilometers," Harry says.
Chakotay, sighing, hails Seven of Nine in Astrometrics. "Have you picked up any information regarding opera houses or concert halls?"
"The cultural center of the state runs along the shore of the eastern lake," Seven reports.
Chakotay nods to Harry, who shakes his head, but follows orders. He looks very surprised when he sees the big red target blinking along the shoreline. "Got him!" he whispers, disbelieving. "B'Elanna, stand by for the coordinates."
As Torres acknowledges, Chakotay merely grins. He knows his crew very well indeed. Where there's a concert hall, Doc cannot help but be nearby.
This time, the transport succeeds.
Doc appears on the platform--a little tan, his forehead indented, and wearing an outfit right off the rack in Wardrobe.
He's also wearing the happiest smile we've seen on him in a long time. "Captain! Lieutenant!" He leaps off the platform, and envelops Janeway in a crushing bear hug.
"Oof!" says Janeway, gasping for breath.
"I thought I'd never see you again!" Doc says, thrilled to be proven wrong. Torres laughs, glad it's not her who got caught up in the hug.
Janeway pries herself loose. "Are you all right?"
"Oh, I-I've had a few close calls over the years, but all in all--"
Torres blinks. "Years?"
"It's been over three...but at least I knew you hadn't left me behind." Doc's eyes fill with almost religious fervor. "All I had to do was look up, and there you were--the Brightest Star in the Sky!" He clasps his hands on Janeway's elbows, still overjoyed to see her again, and to be back.
Yup--the boy's definitely been spending some time at the theater.
"Well, what do they know about us?" Janeway asks.
"Only that we arrived here centuries ago. They blame us for the seismic tremors, but everything else is pure speculation--" Doc gets a wistful look, his mind returning to his home the last three years, speaking in that shorthand that his earthbound neighbors may have understood, but which is baffling to his Sky Ship Friends™. "And let, me, tell, you, they like nothing better than to speculate about Voyager." He laughs merrily at the memory. "Doric would go on and on--'Sky Ship this'...'Sky Ship that.'"
Torres shakes her head to clear it. "'Doric'?"
"The owner of the building I lived in--" he frowns. "Until the war started."
"There was a war?" Janeway asks, barely able to keep up, leading the way as she and Doc sit on the transporter platform.
Doc waves his hand dismissively. "Oh...the neighboring state decided to lob a few cannon shells at us. Our Tactical Air Command responded," he says proudly, "and a new treaty was signed--" he snaps his fingers "--in a matter of weeks." Then his face darkens. "But not before my apartment was in ruins."
Janeway tries to glean the practical data from Doc's impassioned walk down memory lane. "Oh, so, they have aviation technology?"
Doc looks hurt. "They're hardly savages, Captain. In fact, they're making great strides technologically--thanks, in part, to Voyager."
"What do you mean?" Torres asks.
Doc explains. "From the moment our ship arrived in the sky they've been trying to make contact. Our presence...has encouraged invention, religion, science, art--even children's toys. They're all variations on a single theme--Voyager! Mariza even composed an aria based on the Sky Ship. I sang the lyric."
Janeway blinks at this. "'Mariza'?" she asks, her voice the very embodiment of curiosity.
"She was my--" Doc stops himself. "Roommate."
Torres' eyes bulge out. More information than she really wanted to hear, I suppose. Janeway also seems stunned speechless.
Doc sighs, stands, begins to pace. "Three years is a long time Captain. One needs...companionship."
Janeway raises her hand in surrender. "You'll get no argument from me." Given last week's episode, I suspect this line will either be received with great amusement, or howls of protest. Given my review of last week's episode, I'm already on almost as many Dookie Lists as Brannon Braga. So I'll not comment further.
"But did you learn anything that might help us break orbit?" Janeway asks, rising from her seat.
Doc smiles, and taps his forehead. "It's all in here." He leads the way into the corridor, followed by Janeway.
Followed by Torres, who seems to be remembering Janeway's long-ago comment to Harry Kim, "We're Starfleet--weird is part of the job."
"Meteorological records for the last 300 years--I've committed them all to memory. Some are inaccurate almanacs but the more recent ones include detailed seismic analyses," Doc says as they walk through the corridors.
"Get that information to Astrometrics," Janeway tells Torres. "See if you can find any pattern to the quakes. Might help us figure a way out of here."
"See you in Sickbay," Torres says. "I'll download the data from your program--and we'll do a little cosmetic surgery, too." Torres heads off.
Doc looks at her. "Lieutenant?" he asks, confused.
Torres turns around. "Unless you prefer looking like that," she says. Then pivots and continues walking.
Doc's still confused. Then Janeway, her eyes playful, pokes her finger into his spoony forehead.
"Of course--I completely forgot!" Doc says. Janeway laughs.
Doc continues his report. "If some of the people on the planet had their way, those weapons would be pointed at Voyager. Luckily, the ship is still out of range--for now."
Janeway frowns. "I guess I can't blame them."
"There's something of a space race going on between the various states. Who can get to the Starship first with a rocket?"
Janeway stops walking. "Are we talking about a capsule with an astronaut or a missile with a warhead?" It's not an idle query.
But Doc shrugs sadly. "I can't answer that. But at their present rate of development, we won't have to wait very long to find out."
The words hang like storm clouds over them both.
Speaking of temporal anomalies, Naomi Wildman is looking older than usual. Maybe she's in the middle of another Ktarian growth spurt. A bit taller, her voice somewhat deeper than before, ignoring the whistles from passing crewmen, Naomi enters Astrometrics.
Fortunately, she is not yet ready to borrow anything from Seven of Nine's wardrobe.
"How does this sound? 'The Weird Planet Where Time Moved Very Fast And So Did The People Who Lived There, by Naomi Wildman.' That's what I'm calling my report for astronomy class. Neelix said I should choose a planet to write about. So, I picked this one."
Seven regards her diminutive but spunky pal. "Your title is...verbose. I suggest you try to condense it."
Naomi is used to translating Drone to English. She isn't bothered by the officious tone or the verbose response. Gamely, Naomi tries again. "'The Weird Planet.'"
Seven smiles slightly as she continues her main work. "Better, but it lacks precision. 'The Weird Planet Displaced in Time,'" she suggests. Naomi beams; she thinks it's the perfect title.
"Seven of Nine to the bridge. I'm transmitting my calculations directly to the helm."
"Acknowledged," Janeway says.
"What's happening?" Naomi asks.
"The Doctor brought back data regarding the planet's graviton field. We're using it to realign our thrusters."
Naomi smiles. "That'll be great for my report."
The comm station beeps, and Janeway's voice is heard shipwide. "All hands, this is the Captain. Secure your stations and prepare to break orbit."
"Brace yourself," Seven says. She and Naomi find something to hold onto.
Slowly, the ship moves upward--and rumbles as it rises. "Our altitude is increasing--50 meters...60..." Seven says.
But then an alarm sounds. Seven looks at one of the readouts, and notices that a fault line on one of the coasts of the planet is acting up.
"Seven of Nine to the bridge. Our attempt to leave orbit is increasing the seismic activity. We must abort."
"Agreed." Within seconds, the shaking stops.
"Is the planet okay?" Naomi asks.
"Minimal damage along the equatorial coastline--nothing serious," Seven says.
Naomi asks one of the Hard Questions. "Seven...do you think we'll ever be able to leave?"
"Eventually," says Seven, with more hope than confidence.
"I hope so," Naomi says. "I need a way to end my report."
Oy. I could have done without that line.
The planet keeps on changing.
We see a small ship, looking not at all unlike the great glass Wonkavator or the bottle Jeannie lived in when she wasn't giving Major Nelson a hard time, heading toward the starry blackness of space.
"Orbital One to launch control," says the pilot, who on Earth would be described as an Asian male. "We're ready to ignite second-stage propellants."
The pilot flips a switch, and he and the other astronaut are pressed back into their ships with new acceleration. A moment later, the pilot says, "Second-stage propellants depleted."
"Final stage--ready," says the other astronaut, a Caucasian-like female who bears a striking resemblance to Camille Paglia.
"Ready to ignite final-stage propellants," the pilot says. "Launch Control, we're awaiting your commands to proceed."
The response is a too-fast screech that sounds like Micky Mouse on fast forward.
"What was that?" the pilot asks.
"There's nothing wrong with the transponder," Camille says, shrugging.
"Orbital One to launch control. We are not receiving your orders." But there's no further response--none they can understand, anyway.
"Everything else is working perfectly," Camille says. "Ignite the final stage. We have to proceed with the mission." The pilot seems anxious about acting without explicit clearance, but he follows orders. Pressing another button, the two are pressed into their seats again.
Long story short, since the dialog drags on for a species that lives so fast. They approach Voyager, the shining beacon in the sky. But their sensors won't penetrate the hull. Camille decides that they should dock with the Sky Ship and go inside. The pilot doesn't like that idea at all--storming Heaven isn't everyone's idea of a good time. We'll pick up there.
"Our orders were to learn as much as possible about the Sky Ship. That's my intention," Camille the Astronaut says. "I saw something that looks like a transfer port. It might be a place we can dock. Move in closer."
The pilot stops objecting, and starts flying.
Apparently, they don't have much trouble slipping through Voyager's shields.
The two soon find themselves inside a Jefferies tube. And find it hard to breathe.
Why they'd take their helmets off inside the Greatest Mystery in their Planet's History is beyond me. They carry no scanning equipment, no cameras, nothing.
Queasy but determined, the two press on.
Prying open a set of doors, they find themselves encountering the first of the Sky Ship Friends™, in Engineering.
Everyone they see is frozen in place, like wax museum figures. But not in zombie positions; some are in mid-walk, some are in mid-conversation. B'Elanna is there--but they wouldn't know her from anyone else.
"I don't understand," the pilot says, looking at the still-lifes.
Camille reaches out and touches B'Elanna's hand. "Her skin feels warm."
Curiouser and curiouser…
The two aliens head through the corridors. "It might be some sort of metabolic stasis...but then, why does it look like they're just going about their business?" Camille asks, posing the right questions.
"This isn't right. We shouldn't be here. We were never meant to be here," the pilot says, sighing anxiously.
"Try and stay calm," Camille says.
"We've seen enough. Please, we have to leave."
"You're the best pilot we have. That's why you're on this mission. This is no different than flying your favorite--"
"Oh, it's different," the pilot says.
Camille smiles slightly. "I can't argue with that." She nods. "Another few minutes, then we'll go back." She finds a computer display, and finds the map of Voyager. "This looks like their command center."
The two force their way through the doors and onto the bridge.
Their jaws drop. Everyone they see is frozen in place. But what catches their attention is the sight of Neelix pouring Janeway a cup of coffee. The liquid itself is frozen in mid-pour.
Now, if there had to be a moment stuck in time, this is the one Janeway would no doubt appreciate.
"This is not metabolic stasis," the pilot says.
"Could the laws of physics be different here?" Camille asks.
"Maybe they're just a little slower." Maybe they're a lot slower.
But that's the least of their problems. The queasiness yields to agony as the astronaut, and then the pilot, groan and collapse.
As they collapse, the perspective shifts from Planet Time, or something in between, to Voyager Time. The coffee flows freely now.
And within seconds, all eyes are focused on the two unconscious aliens.
Tuvok calls for Intruder Alert. Harry detects the ship docked at Port One that appeared out of nowhere.
And Janeway, only a beat or two behind Chakotay and Neelix and Tom, who rush to the aliens' aid, calls Sickbay with a medical emergency.
* * *
Sickbay is where we find ourselves next. There is no sign of the female astronaut. But the male is visible in the background, on the main bed, unconscious.
Janeway and the doctor discuss the situation.
"The transition to our time frame was a little rough for them. I'm afraid his colleague didn't make it," Doc says. Janeway asks about the male. "Recovering. Lucky for him, I'm as good as his family doctor. After three years of poring over their medical journals, I know as much about their physiology as I do yours." Doc heads over to the bed, and uses a hypospray to awaken the pilot.
He takes his time waking up. Can't say I blame him there. He lifts up his head before he opens his eyes. Doc encourages him to take it easy.
The young man looks around, anxiety in his eyes as he sees the unfamiliar face of the Doctor--and the more familiar face of the frozen woman with the coffee cup. "Where's Trina?" he asks.
Janeway gives him a compassionate look. "She didn't survive the transition. I'm very sorry."
The pilot appears a bit calmer now as reality sets in. "Transition? To your time frame?"
The boy catches on fast.
"You understand what's happened to you?" Janeway asks, a little surprised.
"I'm beginning to," the pilot says.
"Voyager exists in the same space-time as the rest of the galaxy. Your planet is different," Janeway explains.
"So you really haven't been watching us for centuries," the pilot says. Smart fella.
"Actually, we just got here," Janeway says, the corners of her mouth quirked up. "And we're hoping you can help us find a way to leave."
The captain's ready room is a friendly place. Its large windows give a great view of the planet below, and the infinite vastness of the sky. An explorer like this pilot can't help but appreciate such a view.
Inside, the captain serves tea for two on the couch by the window. No need to speed the poor kid up even more with a first taste of coffee. Spontaneous humanoid combustion is a bear to clean up.
"So, if what you're saying is true, everyone I know...I--everyone I knew--is gone."
"Captain, I'm an accomplished pilot. That's why they chose me for this mission. I don't have the courage of the others. They made a mistake choosing me."
"Well, I have to disagree. For someone whose life has just been turned upside down I think you're doing fine."
The pilot smiles his thanks. "When I was a young child the toys hanging above my crib depicted the Sky Ship. It's the first thing I ever remember seeing, even before my mother's face...and now I'm the only one that knows its name--Voyager. I suppose it'll be the last thing I see as well."
"Well, that's up to you. I have no intention of keeping you here against your will," Janeway assures him. "The Doctor spent some time on your planet collecting data that we hoped would help us find a way to leave orbit. We need you to assist us in interpreting that information."
Janeway sighs. "However...the longer you stay on board, the more difficult it will be for you to go home. Your culture is changing every second you're here. By the time you go back, you might find it more alien than ours."
The pilot looks off into space, his expression sad. Then, he begins to sing.
Star of the night,
Star of the day
Come to take
My tears away
Make my life
He looks almost embarrassed. "It's a child's prayer," he explains.
Janeway practically melts. "To Voyager?" Yes, the young, handsome, flesh and blood alien hotshot pilot says.
The hologram-loving captain gets a momentary burst of Paris Envy. If this guy stays on board, I suspect Michael Sullivan would get kicked to the curb. This guy's adorable, and innocent, and charming. And he's got his own ship. "I hope you're not disappointed," Janeway says.
The pilot smiles. "How often does your very first dream come true?"
Janeway puddles. She's putty in the pilot's hands. Her smile is sweeter than a taffy factory.
"Of course I'll help you," the pilot says.
The Doctor escorts the pilot to Astrometrics. One suspects he volunteered, as much to catch up on old planet news as anything.
"The information I brought back is in Voyager's database. Seven of Nine has been trying to make sense of it. She'll welcome your assistance."
The pilot nods, then asks a question only a planet-bound person would know. "Mountain or Lakeside?"
Doc smiles. "Mountain, of course." He gets a fierce look on his face. "Don't tell me you're a Lakeside supporter."
The pilot only smiles. "You really were on the surface." This must be some rivalry.
"How are they doing this season?" Doc asks. Not good, the pilot says--5 wins, 12 losses. Doc is furious. "I don't believe it! Who's guarding for them?"
"Any relation to the Torelius?" Doc demands. His grandson, the pilot says. "I saw the original defend for Mountain in the playoffs against Red River." The pilot shakes his head, amused but awed. That was before I was born, he points out.
Doc, though, remembers it like it were only yesterday. Or sooner. "He would have gone into voluntary exile after a 5-12 season!" Doc rages, as the pilot laughs.
Geez, chill out, Doc, it's only a game…get a life, willya?
Sheesh. Sports fans. What a bunch of geeks…
[Note to the ironically challenged--I was just turning the tables a little, and I suspect the scene was written with the same thing in mind. I'm often amused how people who have their own borderline-psychotic fan pastimes--wrestling, music, sports, soaps, politics, biochemistry, anything with celebrity-worship at its core--looking down on us Trekkies. (If any of you try to get uppity on me and insist on being called a 'Trekker,' I'll smack ya.) This was actually a very, very funny scene; Picardo was appropriately manic.]
Seven of Nine, who seems to be chained to Astromentrics this week, is visited this time by the alien pilot. They work to update the data Doc brought back.
While they work, the pilot asks the obvious question. "Does every planet look like ours?"
"None that I've seen," Seven admits. "Your world appears to be unique."
He looks sad. "If we're so out of step with everything else, we'll never be able to explore space the way you have."
"You're a highly adaptable species," Seven assures him. "Your scientists will find a way to compensate for the temporal differential."
"They'd better do it before you leave. Without the Sky Ship up above them, my people might lose interest in progress. There wouldn't be anything left to reach for."
Seven offers the pilot the hint of a smile. "Perhaps they'll miss Voyager so much they'll do everything they can to follow us." He smiles with gratitude; maybe so, he says.
Something happens down on the planet. A beep, a flash of light, and a big boom. "What was that?" the pilot asks.
Seven checks. "An antimatter implosion. Your world is experimenting with warp technology. The sensors detected an early test." Beep. Flash. Big bang boom. "Another test--six weeks later." (Now here's where the whole time thing seems to get truly goofy. If one second equals one day, then six weeks should have taken almost a minute; this second explosion took place less than five seconds later.)
Beep-- "And a third--more controlled each time. They're learning quickly.
BOOM. The ship shudders.
Seven frowns. "Too quickly."
"What was that?" Tom asks as the ship rumbles.
"Unknown. But our shields are down to 82%," Tuvok says.
The ship rocks again. "64%," Tuvok says.
"I don't know what's causing it--there's nothing on sensors," Harry says.
"Janeway to Seven of Nine," the captain says.
"Go ahead, Captain."
"Are you picking up anything in Astrometrics?"
"The inhabitants appear to have developed antimatter torpedo technology. I believe we're under attack."
That's putting it mildly. The camera shifts to an exterior view, where the shields light up under a steady barrage of antimatter snowballs.
* * *
"Another direct hit. Shields at 49%," Tuvok says when the ship jolts yet again, even harder.
The pilot arrives on the bridge with a security escort. "I apologize for this attack. They have no right!"
"Unfortunately, they've got every right," Janeway says.
"Let me talk to them!"
"We've already tried to hail them," Chakotay says. "It doesn't look like they're able to receive our transmissions."
"They still don't know about the time differential!" the pilot says.
"A logical assumption."
Yes, but Voyager does, and should know how to compensate. They've already decoded one message.
But that would be too easy, wouldn't it?
Another explosion. "Shields down to 34%."
"The torpedoes are being fired at three-day intervals. They're making refinements each time, increasing the detonation yield," Harry reports.
"Captain, isn't it time we've done enough damage we returned fire?" Tom asks.
"We've done enough damage to these people over the last thousand years," Chakotay insists. Tom doesn't look happy, but doesn't press the issue.
Janeway looks at the pilot. "You've got to go back. It's the only way. Make them understand who we are. You have the specifications of this ship. Your scientists might be able to use them to help free us. At the very least, get them to hold their fire."
"Captain, the transporters are off-line," Harry says.
"Is his vessel still intact?" Janeway asks.
Harry checks his board. "The docking port hasn't been hit yet."
Janeway clasps hands with the pilot. "Good luck."
Doc escorts the young pilot to his ship. "This will accelerate your metabolic functions--help you make the transition," he says, spraying the guy's neck with a hypo.
"Thank you for everything, Doctor," the pilot says.
"It was a pleasure to treat a fellow citizen," Doc says.
Then he stops in his tracks, places his hand on the young man's shoulder. "Would you do me a favor?"
Doc struggles to find the right words. "Find out what happened to a boy named Jason Tabreez. He lived in the Central Protectorate."
"Jason? An unusual name."
"Yes. He was my...son."
This throws the pilot for a loop. "But you're a hologram!"
Doc frowns. "It's a--long story. He's dead by now, but perhaps you could discover what happened to him. Maybe he had children or grandchildren. You could tell them about me."
"I will," he promises.
The Wonkavator begins its descent. The pilot wastes no time hailing the home front. "Orbiter One to launch control. Please respond. Launch control, please respond."
Finally, someone does. "Who is this?" a grumpy young woman whose hairdo you can practically hear (blonde, poofy, too much hairspray, bangs high enough to require a building permit) demands.
"Pilot First Rank, Gotana-Retz." I knew they'd give us a name eventually…
"Clear the channel or I'm going to report you to the command center." Yeesh, what a grump.
"Is this Launch Control?" the pilot asks.
"I'm the weather coordinator for Station 004. You're in violation of transmission regulations." Oh, great; he calls NASA, and gets the weather babe for Good Morning Islington on BBC4.
"Please, listen to me! I'm trying to reach Launch Control."
"Let me guess. You finally decided to come home. You're Gotana-Retz?" She doesn't sound convinced.
"Gotana-Retz! Yes! Now, please transfer me to Launch Control."
"Launch Control became the Tactical Command Center 50 years ago. You're dead."
"I've been inside the Sky Ship."
"Then it's a good thing you decided to leave. They're going to shoot it down."
"I've got to speak with them!"
"Tactical Command frequencies are classified. Now get off this channel!"
The pilot loses his temper. Then he changes tactics. "If you ever wanted to report more than the weather, now is your chance. Tell them to clear Central Lake of all traffic. Orbiter One is coming in for a landing."
[insert heroic music here]
Meanwhile, back on Voyager, things aren't looking good. Tuvok's shield readings continue to head downward, until they finally collapse completely in the biggest BOOM of all.
"What was that last one?" Tom asks.
"A tricobalt device," Harry says.
Paris whistles. "What will they think of next?" But it's clear he'd rather not find out.
"Damage reports coming in--imminent hull breeches on decks eight, nine and ten. Life support is failing," Tuvok reports.
"Our astronaut should have made it by now," Janeway says. Tellingly, the attacks have stopped.
"Based on his descent velocity, he landed about ten minutes ago," Harry says. That's a year and a half, Chakotay says. Janeway's face falls; Then he must have failed.
But the silence for a few moments should have been taken as a good sign.
But then, bad news. The proximity alarms blare. "I'm picking up another launch--two massive energy signatures," Tuvok says.
"Tricobalt devices?" Chakotay asks. Unknown, Tuvok says.
Janeway and Chakotay head for their seats. "Brace yourselves," the captain orders.
The alien technology has a tendency to look the same over the centuries--the balloon, the orbiting Wonkavator. What we see next differs only in a matter of scale.
Two massive ships, as large as Voyager, decloak--or sizzle into Voyager's time/space frequency--on opposite sides of the starship. The two instantly lock on with blue tractor beams, and begin to carry Voyager upward.
The ship rumbles.
"We're in some kind of tractor beam," Tuvok says.
"Captain...if I alternate thrusters I might be able to break us free," Tom says.
But Janeway decides to hold off for the moment. "No. Let's give our friends the benefit of the doubt."
Good call. "They're pulling us away from the planet!" Harry says, smiling broadly.
"We've broken orbit," Tuvok says.
Within moments, the mighty starship is free from the tachyon clutches of the planet. The Third Pole has left the building. The Sky Ship has moved to a new location. The--
Okay, okay. Enough's enough.
"Try hailing them," Janeway says. But before Harry can comply, the bridge sizzles with an arriving burst of light.
It's Gotana-Retz! He's older; grey flecks his hair. But he's looking good, and bears the proud mien of command. "It's good to see you all again," Gotana-Retz says, melting Janeway with his gaze.
"Looks like somebody down there listened to you," Chakotay says.
"I'm sorry it took so long."
"Now we can make first contact the proper way," Janeway says happily.
"Unfortunately, that won't be possible," Captain Gotana-Retz says. He points to his arm. "A temporal compensator. It allows me to exist in your time frame without actually leaving my own--but only for a few minutes. I'm afraid it'll be a while before my people actually join the rest of the galaxy."
Too darn bad. Janeway's disappointment is clear. Now, he's old enough for her. Ah well. Back to photons and force fields.
"Captain, we'll be able to bring the warp drive back on-line in approximately two hours," Tuvok says. In planet years, that's…
"Very good," Janeway says to Tuvok. She extends her hand to the alien. "Thank you."
The pilot accepts it, and shakes warmly. "I feel like I'm saying good-bye to an old friend."
And as soon as he arrived, Gotana-Retz and the alien spacecraft are gone.
Decades pass. The planet looks about as futuristic as any planet has a right to. The valley is choked with buildings, skyscrapers, stadia, concert halls, ballparks, drive-ins, etc.
Sacrifice Hill has a huge domed structure where that ancient fort used to be.
But the two altars are just as we remember them, a thousand years before.
A lone figure is here. Gotana-Retz, now ancient of days. He looks up at the sky, as the Sky Ship--and his Sky Ship Friends™--makes its final glow in the sky before winking out.
Leaving behind a legacy of innovation, and an infrastructure that could well stand the test of time.
Their own--and the galaxy's.
This was an intriguing premise, which--in spite of a few inconsistencies and some wooden performances--generally works. Overall, I enjoyed "Blink of an Eye."
Regarding the science of this episode. I took only one college-level class in physics--and I took it twice. Steven Hawking isn't exactly quaking in his boots at the sound of my name.
I got this message from a physics major. I'm posting the comments essentially verbatim. I'll add my comments afterwards.
Keep an eye on the time conversions between Voyager and the planet. They state early on that 1 sec on Voyager = 1 day on the planet. This is pretty extreme for time dilation (if you were trying to accomplish it by accelerating to near lightspeed, which is the only non-treknobabble way I know), but not as extreme as dialogue seems to suggest. If 1 sec = 1 day, [then] 60 sec = 60 days, 6 min ~= 1 earth year, 1 hr ~= 10
years, 1 day ~= 240 years. I'm counting Earth years, because unless this planet is circling its star at some extraordinary rate, it takes tens of thousands of Earth years (their time) to make an orbit. Which brings me to the first problem - why are they seeing seasonal climate changes from Voyager? Does this system have some sort of wobble (frequency on the order of 2 min) which causes seasons? This is never addressed.
I won't go into every time they convert time between Voyager and the planet, but they could have saved themselves a lot of stupid mistakes with a pocket calculator. I'm going to point out the most obvious ones. First, when they first receive a transmission from the planet, they claim that over a century has passed since the transmission was sent. So, it took them 100 yrs = 10 hrs to get from receiving a neat transmission and holding the meeting. Hello? Later, they make a similar mistake, telling the astronaut guy that his world might be "more alien than we are" by the time he returns to the surface. Just how long do they intend to keep him there? Another 10 hrs? 20? I would have thought they would have needed him for an hour, which is a decade - guess I'm not the captain.
Another thing that bothered me was the treknobabble setup. I thought that the idea of a planet existing at accelerated speed was pretty cool, even if it took a "tachyon field" to create it. It's fiction, okay, but why do they break their own premise? I don't understand why the astronauts lose contact with "Houston" because of the time dilation, but then are on fast time compared to the starship. It was an excuse for some kewl photographic effects, but otherwise - it makes no sense. It's the Gulliver principle - if time on the ship is running at one rate, and they're in an inertial frame - oh screw that - how the hell do they breath the "slow" air??? Cool effects are just not worth making my brain hurt (in my book).
One last MST3K moment - when the ship is being assaulted with a/m missiles (launched once a week?) the astronaut says his people probably can't understand Voyager's missives because "they haven't figured out the time differential yet". THEY haven't figured it out? Can't a 24th century starship send a signal at 10,000x ?
You get the idea. Some of this I caught, some I didn't. I know time is relative, but it seemed a little TOO relative at times, speeding up and slowing down to suit the plot. I wasn't looking for technical oddities, but some were fairly impossible to ignore.
It didn't ruin the episode for me, but it did feel like a bit of a cheat at times.
I rarely comment about performances unless I'm saying something nice, but I do have to say that, with very few exceptions, this was an off week for guest performances, most of which felt like they were acted under anesthesia.
The regular cast was generally okay, Janeway had some very nice moments with the Doctor and with the native pilot, Paris and Chakotay were passionate about their respective causes, and Doc was the bundle of energy we've come to know and love. Of the natives, I enjoyed the brief but pleasant performance by Olaf Pooley as the elderly, quick-witted cleric, and the turn by Daniel Dae-Kim as the young / old / elderly and charming pilot. Kat Sawyer-Young wasn't too bad as the other astronaut, but not consistent. And the uncredited turn by the annoying weather girl amused me. I don't think Neelix had a single line, but he stayed in character in his one scene, pouring the coffee and rushing to the aid of the fallen aliens.
But the remainder? Bleh. Even Naomi seemed a bit off this week. Her scene struck me as a bit of a throwaway. "I hope we leave soon--I need to finish my report" was simply lame. There were other moments where it seemed Voyager's crew wasn't taking its predicament all that seriously, and the astronauts coming so unprepared to their mission--helmets off, no handheld recording equipment whatsoever--didn't ring at all true.
Where the writing was good, the performances were often off; and where the performances were good, the writing was often off. But several moments worked pretty well, and a few were terrific.
Janeway and the pilot in her ready room was very moving, and the simple child's prayer, sung by Kim, worked well. The decision to not show any of the Doctor's planetary adventures struck me as a good one, and it was fun to simply hear and see him reminisce about his time dirtside. Taking sides in some sporting match, living in the cultural district, making a life for himself--it fits Doc's character pretty much to a T.
I'm sure most of what he refers to in passing, we'll have to fill in through fan fiction. But the speculation should be fun; he gave us plenty to work with--a brief war, Mariza the "roommate," Jason, performing an aria to the Sky Ship, and what he did with himself generally in those three years.
Strange New Worlds IV awaits. Start your word processing engines.
One comment seems to be prevalent. I got several variations on the following question.
"How could the Doctor have a kid?"
I'm sure many of you came up with your own answers, but for those who seem hung up on the issue, let me address it.
I mean, please, people, use your heads. The Doctor can be a dad the same way many infertile men--and a few lesbian folk-rockers with David Crosby's home phone number--can. Doc has no DNA of his own--but he can borrow some. Maybe Doc made a withdrawal at the sperm bank and laid siege to Fortress Ovum in a test tube. He is a doctor, after all.
That's just one possible method. We don't know anything about this "roommate" of his, but I can think of several plausible scenarios. Perhaps she was pregnant when he met her--maybe she was a war widow, or suppose her loser ex-boyfriend left after knocking her up. Either way, Doc steps in, assumes responsibility, and names the child. Or, maybe after Doc and Mariza got together, they adopted. After the war, there may have been plenty of orphans to go around.
I don't mean to harp on this. But I'm surprised this was even an issue. Wondering the details of how he came to have a son, that's legitimate. But asking, "How can a HOLOGRAM have a kid?" is not. This doesn't require a 24th-century explanation; effective methods of surrogate parenthood are as old as the Bible. Where there's a will, there's a way.
The important thing isn't who contributed the chromosomes--it's that Doc assumed the duties of fatherhood, and took it seriously--he named the child, and treated Jason as his own. Dramatically, THAT is what intrigues me. Well, that, and what Jason CALLED his dad. I assume it wasn't "Doctor." The EMH must have taken a name.
As to whether Janeway will follow Mariza's lead, and have the Doctor give Michael Sullivan a tip or two--don't burn that bridge unless we come to it. I consider it highly unlikely.
Besides, Janeway had her litter in "Threshold." One unorthodox batch of progeny is enough for one captain's career.
Someone brought up the question, since when did Chakotay become anthropologist? One answer is, "One Small Step," where Chakotay said he's been interested in it since he was six years old. But we see evidence of his interest as far back as "Emanations," and it was also touched on briefly in this season's "Barge of the Dead." Though it's a side of him we don't frequently see, I wasn't all that surprised.
But even if he'd never expressed an interest before, SOMEONE had to think, "hey, this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and someone's going to make a name for themselves--and that someone might as well be me." Chakotay was as good a choice as any.
Torres, OTOH, should have been working on the dang engines.
There's plenty to nitpick, but the truth is, I enjoyed this episode. I liked the many and changing views of the planet from the same vantage point. I liked how the society progressed based on their twin desires to understand the nature of the light in the sky, and solve their ground shaking problems. I liked how the mythology built, bit by bit, as superstitions evolved to fit the time, and how the culture was affected in ways large and small by the arrival of Voyager. You'd expect that to happen.
So though the details don't always hold up, the overall tale met my needs. It was a pleasant, light hour of TV with a sf premise.
Call it (* * *).
Next week: The Doctor is bigger than Elvis.