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The Inner Blight: an away team brings back more than they bargained for.
Jump straight to the Analysis
It's been a while since we've seen the Delta Flyer. But there she is, gliding through empty space, destination as yet unknown.
Inside, we see four of the men of Voyager; it's clear from the outset that they've seen better days. Even the pine-scented Prixin tree dangling from the rear-view mirror could not hope to prevail against the fetid clouds of man-funk this unwashed quartet appears to be enduring.
Tom Paris grimly pilots; a fatigued Chakotay also sits up front, but the controls at his station have been disabled in case he gets the urge to take the wheel, and thus endanger them all. Toward the aft of the Flyer, Neelix wallows gleefully in his own filth, happy just to be invited on this little galactic mosh pit of an away mission.
Harry Kim, to nobody's surprise, is the lone voice of discontent. "Who left their dirty plate in the replicator?" he demands, presumably to his three shipmates, though his eyes fall squarely on the prime suspect. "Tom?"
Paris scoffs. "It wasn't me."
"It's a biohazard!" Harry rages.
"Take it easy!" Tom says, the strain in his voice clear. "We'll decontaminate you when we get back home."
Harry begins to pace. "If I ever volunteer for a two-week away mission again, would somebody please confine me to Sickbay?"
Tom rubs his eyes; Chakotay winces, but responds with his trademark arid wit intact. "Too much togetherness for you, Harry?"
Harry pipes down immediately. "Nothing personal, Commander," he says.
Neelix throws in his two cents. "To tell you the truth, I've enjoyed our little junket together. It's given the four of us a chance to bond." The looks on his three companions' faces says it all--the feeling isn't mutual.
"The bonding stopped when the sonic shower went offline," Harry says. Ah. Talk about a biohazard. Good thing they didn't bring any Bolians along for the ride.
But Neelix is unfazed. "That's all part of the experience--the adventure! Think of the great explorers that came before us! They survived without creature comforts--"
"I wouldn't want to bunk with them, either," Harry grumbles.
But the bunking days are about to end. "Now there's a sight for sore eyes . . ." Tom says, inclining his head to starboard.
The four men look out the front window, and fall silent. Voyager, within visual range, a beacon welcoming weary travelers home.
"Delta Flyer to Voyager," Chakotay hails. "We're on our approach."
"We've kept a candle burning in the window for you," Janeway replies. Awww . . . shades of "The Gift," perhaps? Foreshadowing . . .
"Forget the candles--break out the champagne!" Tom says. Harry shakes his head; boy, he is grumpy today.
"I take it the mission was a success."
"Fifteen planets scanned in 14 days," Tom brags for the team. "We've got a cargo hold overflowing with dilithium ore."
"That's the kind of news I like to hear."
And with that, we see the Delta Flyer smoothly fly into the waiting shuttle bay at the back of the mothership.
The Doctor is waiting in the corridor when the four men arrive. "The explorers return!" Doc says happily.
He's not alone. B'Elanna Torres leaps into the scene and ambushes Tom Paris, jumping into his arms for a good old-fashioned Oklahoma Hello. "Welcome home," B'Elanna says when she finally comes up for air.
"I should go away more often," Tom says, smiling. He extends his elbow for her to clutch as the last leg of their journey commences--the long walk to their quarters.
Harry just rolls his eyes. "I'm not going away for a long, long time," he says, clutching something far less attractive than the chief engineer--his travel bag.
"Homesick, Harry?" B'Elanna asks, as she rubs Tom's arm with her other hand, casting giddy looks at her man. We've rarely seen her so publicly affectionate; she has this look on her face like she's got some plans for her helm boy.
"Let's just say I'm looking forward to a hot shower and a comfortable bed."
"Don't forget to stop by Sickbay for your checkup!" Doc says. Four sets of baggy eyes widen.
"Checkup? For what?" Tom asks.
"Away team protocol," Doc reminds him. "Crew members are required to submit to a physical if the mission lasts more than a few weeks. Now, who's first?"
I've seen the Blue Angels fly, and even their breathtaking velocity is nothing compared to the speed at which the five officers break away from the Doctor. They leave dust clouds.
Well, clouds of something, anyway. Must have been a looong two weeks without a sonic shower.
"I'll let you know in the morning, Doctor," we hear Chakotay's voice echo in the halls.
"Doc why put off till tomorrow what you can do today?" the poor Doctor asks, calling after the fleeing heroes. "Commander? Mr. Paris?"
Tom and B'Elanna successfully ditch the Doc and head back to his place. Torres still clings to her Tommy, and still has that look in her eyes. "I've been working on a little surprise for you," she says.
"Oh?" Tom, intrigued, asks. "Naughty, or nice?"
Torres whacks him on the arm, but doesn't lose the smile. They reach the door to his quarters. "Close your eyes," she commands.
Paris does so. "I like it already," he says, which earns him a giggle from his gal pal.
The door opens. B'Elanna leads her blindfolded beau across the threshold. The door closes.
We haven't seen Tom's quarters that often. So it's probably not that surprising that what we see has plenty of nods to his fascination with the 20th century, right down to the lamps--with electric cords!--and chairs, and wall art.
And that over there, it's--
Naw, it couldn't be that.
"So…what do you think?" Torres asks.
Tom opens his eyes. Looks around, not sure what he's supposed to be seeing. But then he sees it. And sure enough, it is.
"Ha!" Tom yelps. "A television set!" He eyes it hungrily as he sets down his duffel bag and falls into the couch--which is a perfect viewing distance from the old wood-grain set. We see the coffee table, on which rests a bowl full of popcorn.
The woman is an angel . . .
"Circa 1956," B'Elanna says. "I replicated the components, but I assembled it myself." She even made a 70s-era remote control for him. Tom objects a little on authenticity grounds--character, nit-pick thyself--but Torres calls it poetic license. (Dang--they beat us to it.) In any case, Tom doesn't mind--the remote is the perfect touch.
Tom expresses his gratitude with his lips. Time evaporates as two bodies merge, the heat of their combined passion rising to a crescendo of--
"Cartoon!" Tom's attentions are wrenched away from the pint-sized pepperpot of pulchritude by the crudely-drawn, two-dimensional sight of an animated dinosaur with a bone in its mouth, loping through the rain forests of the Jurassic age like Fido fetching a stick.
Guys. You gotta love 'em.
Two seconds later--been there, watched that--the clicker gets used again. This time, Tom is perplexed by the sights and sounds of Commercial America.
I won't bore you with the details. It was just some monkey in a tee shirt hopping on a garbage can to the tune of "La Cucaracha."
Just kidding. No 21st-century Super Bowl dot-com marketing blitzes are worthy of this 1956 Peephole into Paradise. Only the best in public domain obsolescence will do. It's a commercial for a mop. "Mop mop [ding ding] don't stop [ding ding] . . ." the sprightly jingle pleads as a perfectly-coifed woman runs the mop across the floor, picking up the dirt with patented Vacuum Action.
Odd that Starfleet's database administers would deem mid-20th-century advertisements worthy of a starship's precious storage space. One wonders under what bizarre set of circumstances such a clip might come in handy.
"Captain, the aft nacelles are flooded with deuterium!"
"Hmmm. Consult the database, Crewman Neilsen."
"Working . . . Got one, sir! 'It's An Easy Day When You Clean With An Easy Day Mop'."
"Look at that, Scotty--it's got Vacuum Action!"
"And speaking of savings, the price is so reasonable . . ."
What's that? Tom asks. "Now that is called a 'jingle,'" B'Elanna explains, quite proud of herself. "According to the research I did, they inserted them into the entertainment programs."
Tom looks at her blankly, his baby blues as empty as the photons oozing from the ancient phosphor screen.
B'Elanna shrugs. "I know, it's confusing. But I kept them in for authenticity." BWAHAHAHA!!! Get it? Did you see what they just did there?
Ah, Irony. A valid dramatic technique.
Anyway. She hands him the replicated popcorn, and Tom is one happy dude. Just one thing is missing . . . "You forgot the beer."
"I can fix that," Torres assures him. She rises from the couch and heads for the replicator, while Tom becomes one with his environment. One hand gets a couch-pilot's feel for the remote; the other establishes a protective perimeter around the popcorn. And the eyes mind-meld seamlessly with the boob tube.
On screen, the dinosaur drops the bone on the caveman. I love this cartoon. (No, I'm not kidding. It may be public domain, but I was raised on this stuff.)
"You didn't miss much while you were away. The Doctor gave a lecture on insects indigenous to the Delta Quadrant."
"Uh huh," Tom grunts.
Torres returns with the beer; Tom, using the Force, plucks it out of her hand without missing a nanosecond of screen time.
"It was pretty boring, until Ensign Farley started snoring," B'Elanna says, getting comfortable; she drapes herself over Tom's back, latching onto his right arm just below the shoulder, resting her chin over his left collarbone. "And then no one could keep a straight face. Of course, the Doctor wasn't at all amused--"
"Ooh! Hockey!" Tom says, mesmerized.
B'Elanna realizes that she's losing her audience. "It was a shame that we had to cut the lecture short," she says airily, "but the warp core overloaded and then the Borg invaded and we were all assimilated."
"Mm hmm," Tom mutters between fists full of popcorn.
B'Elanna sighs. "You haven't heard a single thing I've said, have you?"
"Uh! Look at that!" Tom shouts, outraged by a 400+ year-old high stick that sends some long-dead lummox to the penalty box.
"Maybe this was a bad idea," B'Elanna groans.
When Tom's hand slips down into his pants for some much-needed scratchin', her fears are confirmed--she's created a couch potato. You can actually hear his butt begin to spread.
Time passes. B'Elanna is fast asleep on the couch. Tom now sits on the floor, where we see the old-fashioned motor cars on display. His eyes are still glued to the television, now showing an old G-man drama. Ness versus Capone. Tommy guns (apropos, non?) rat-a-tat; windows shatter.
Good old fashioned violence-by-proxy. We see by his expression that B'Elanna's gift gets a major thumbs-up from Barcalounger Butt.
But then the action shifts. The 20th-century projectile weapons are replaced by energy weapons. The audio becomes a bit more realistic. Tom makes a face and changes the channel.
But the same show is on. After another attempt, he puts down the remote and tries to change the knob by hand.
Whipping out that prized male instinct for handling delicate electronic equipment, he gives the set a few whacks with his palm. But the screen battle rages on.
And then Tom sees himself in the midst of the action--carrying one of the energy rifles, bracing himself before wading once more into the battle.
And what a battle it is--the Standards and Practices boards of the mid-20th century would never have allowed such blood-flowing carnage on the air. Who would have sponsored it?
Well, okay, aside from the mop people.
Tom stares at the screen in disbelief as he sees himself run and fire while his comrades fragment under fire.
Something is very, very wrong.
And on that somber note . . . it's time for a jingle!
La Cucaracha . . .
* * *
Tom's nausea grows as the images on the screen become more and more realistic. He looks back to see if he's dreaming, or if this is some sort of bizarre retribution from B'Elanna for paying more attention to the television than to her. But she's still snoozing. He looks back to the tube. He sees himself running and firing through dense woods, ducking and covering, firing and being fired upon, the sound of his weapon just one note in a vast symphony of death in the thick of night.
The room begins to flash an ugly shade of Battlestations red. Faster and faster as Tom looks around in confused anxiety.
The next thing Tom knows, it's more real than ever.
The black and white action is now in living--and dying--color. The weapon in his hand spits out electric death. The screams around him are as vivid as they are inescapable. But for Tom, this is reality, and there's no time to think--just to react.
Fire. Step, drop, roll, fire again. Leap for cover. Mourn the loss of fallen comrades. Exact retribution with each squeeze of the trigger.
Then, a searing heat, a blinding flash of pain, the stench of charred flesh. Tom falls to the ground, writhing in agony, clutching his wounded arm.
B'Elanna shakes Tom awake. He's on the floor, clutching his arm.
He looks around in panic. Sees the G-men on TV. No sign of the other battle.
"Must have been one hell of a dream," B'Elanna says.
Tom, breathless, tells her about it. The battle, the wound. It was real enough to him.
He lets out a shuddering sigh. "They always said television was a bad influence."
B'Elanna suggests a nice cartoon to chase away the nightmares. Tom stops her. "No!" he says intensely. Then, more softly, "I think I've had enough." He reaches over and hits the Off button.
Harry works alone in a Jefferies tube.
He begins to hear voices. Screaming. Weapons fire.
He looks down toward the door, and it seems to warp away, going all fuzzy, as the narrow tube starts to look impossibly long.
Harry grows weak and dizzy, and soon drops his tool, crashing to the grating on his hands and knees. Hyperventilating, he crawls toward the airlock, which mocks him by fleeing from his approach. His breath becomes ever more labored as he goes down to his elbows and writhes like a snake, too weak to move any faster. As the volume rises, so does his anxiety.
Finally, he reaches the door. He claws at the controls. The doors open, and Harry Kim crawls out of the tube and into what may be safety, because the sounds stop as soon as they began. Even so, he collapses against a wall to catch his breath.
Guess Doc will get to begin his checkups sooner than expected. Harry wastes no time getting to Sickbay.
"It sounds like you had an anxiety attack," Doc says. It seems to have passed; Harry is calmer now.
"I've never been claustrophobic before," Harry says.
"There's a first time for everything."
"Do you know what could have caused it?"
Doc accesses his sarcasm subroutines. "Let's see . . . you spend two weeks on an away mission, working 18 hour days, then as soon as you return to Voyager you become Ensign Eager--back on duty and rarin' to go."
"I had work to do," Harry explains. "There was a plasma leak on Deck 5."
"Plasma leak or no plasma leak, you're suffering from exhaustion. I'm recommending you take the next two days off."
"I can always make it three."
Harry shrugs; he doesn't put up much of a fight. "You win. I guess I am pretty tired."
Harry's not the only one who wasted little time getting back to work. Neither is he the only one who should have stayed in bed.
Neelix has a haunted look as he chops up the latest crop of leola root--well, who wouldn't? That big knife he's wielding may be as much for protection from the crew; Leola Root Night is hardly a culinary highlight.
Already perspiring, Neelix jumps a few inches when he hears a high-pitched wail; the chopping knife is raised in defense. But it's just the whistle of a teapot coming to a boil. Grumbling angrily, Neelix takes it off the flame and gets back to cutting.
Naomi Wildman approaches. "Welcome back," she says.
Neelix jumps again. "Ah! Oh, hello," he says distractedly, then returns to his chopping.
It's an unusually unenthusiastic greeting from her favorite godfather. "Did you have a good trip?"
"Wonderful! Thank you." Chop, chop . . .
"You look tired." Not to mention creepy.
"Oh, boy," Neelix whispers. "Just a little shuttle lag." He braces himself, then tries to put on a semblance of his old self. "Don't you have a geometry lesson? You don't want to keep your teacher waiting." Go away, please . . .
"Seven of Nine assigned me a special project," Naomi says. "I'm supposed to build a tetragon. But I have to use everyday things. I'm not allowed to use a replicator."
Neelix keeps chopping, with a disquieting intensity.
"I was thinking about using some vegetables from the airponics bay." Chop, chop . . . "Carrots and celery?"
Chop, chop . . .
This shakes him out of his trance--a little. "Carrots and celery. A-a good idea," he whispers. Chop, chop . . .
She asks for his help. He says he doesn't have time today. How about tomorrow? Nope, not then either. "Lot of work to do," Neelix says, silently begging her to go away.
Naomi offers to help. "What's cooking?" she asks, lifting a metal lid without a pot holder. "Ouch!" she yelps, dropping the lid.
Neelix is on her like a shot. "Let me see your hand!"
"I'm okay," Naomi insists.
"Your hand!!!" Neelix screams--which I don't think he's ever done before to her. He looks at Naomi's burned hand, and declares, "We've got to get you to Sickbay!"
"Sickbay!!!" That's twice.
And the third member of the away team to act weird, for those playing the home game. You don't need to be James Burke to see the connections.
The door to the mess hall slides open and the sound of laughter assaults Neelix's ears. Three crewman, chuckling over "The best joke I ever heard." Of course, they didn't share this gem with us, but I have it on good authority that it involved a monkey in a tee shirt.
This burst of unexpected noise, however, puts Neelix even more on edge. "Get down; stay behind me!" he orders Naomi, crouching down to avoid the attention of the newcomers.
What? Naomi asks, her own worry rising.
"I said, stay behind me!"
We get a first-person view of battle. The night forest is alight with fire and energy discharges as the desperate struggle continues.
It's fairly one-sided. Men in uniform blast away. Civilians mostly run away, or fail to. The ground is littered with mounting casualties--nearly all of them civilian.
We see one man, late-forties, take a blast full in the chest; he goes down.
We see Chakotay move toward him, carrying a weapon. He kneels beside the bleeding man. "Try not to move," he urges.
But his presence is not welcome. "Get away from me!" the dying man rages.
"I can help you!"
"I don't want your help!"
The dying man raises his hand high, a final act of--what? Defiance?
Whatever the reason, Chakotay takes the hand. Like it or not, the man will not die alone.
In his quarters, Chakotay sleeps fitfully.
Four members of the away team. Four separate visions of hell.
Chakotay falls back to a position where men carrying weapons similar to his continue to fire into the darkness.
"Hold your fire!" he orders. The firing continues. "I said, hold your fire!" he bellows.
"We're under attack, sir!" a grizzled alien soldier shouts back, taking aim once more.
Chakotay knows he'll make no headway here. "Saavdra, where is he?"
"I think he's at base," a younger soldier says.
Chakotay sprints through the woods towards this Saavdra. Lucky for him, the bulk of the killing is being done by those on his side, and he arrives safely at base.
Eventually, the Commander finds the man--an imposing figure. The kind of man you don't want to mess with.
"We were supposed to evacuate the colony, not destroy it!" Chakotay shouts over the gunfire. Saavdra, like the other soldiers, is armed to the teeth and looking for targets.
"That was before the Nakan started shooting," Saavdra says, moving to a new location and setting up his weapon.
"Civilians with particle weapons."
Chakotay can only look on helplessly as the killing continues unabated.
It requires several attempts, but Tuvok eventually wakes Chakotay--drenched in sweat, hyperventilating, clutching his throbbing forehead--from his nightmare. But it's small comfort. "We have a security breach in the mess hall."
"I'm on my way," Chakotay says when he gains control of his breath.
The mess hall is now a war zone. Security surround Neelix, who is holding Naomi Wildman hostage with a phaser.
Or is he?
"Tell him to call off the attack!" Neelix bellows.
"Put down your weapon, Neelix. Let us help you!" Tuvok says.
"Stay away! I won't let you hurt her!" He fires the phaser, keeping the security at bay. "Get back!"
Chakotay enters just as Neelix says that, and hits the ground. He crawls his way over to Tuvok.
"He appears to be hallucinating," Tuvok reports.
Chakotay frowns. "Neelix! This is Commander Chakotay. Let Naomi go! No one's going to hurt her."
Neelix clutches the frightened Naomi close and says nothing.
"That's an order!" Chakotay says.
"No! Not until Saavdra calls off his attack!"
[click] Hey, we've heard that name before . . . Chakotay's eyes go wide at the name.
"There's a back entrance to the galley," Tuvok says quietly. "If you can distract him, perhaps--"
But Chakotay cuts him off. "I want to try something first." He moves closer. "Neelix! Listen to me--it's okay! Saavdra ordered a cease-fire. The colony's secure--the battle's over."
Neelix is not convinced. "Why do I still hear weapons fire?"
"It' just a few soldiers--they're celebrating. The battle's over."
Tuvok frowns; he's not certain what's happening, but it has his security-oriented mind on high alert, and it doesn't take a Vulcan to connect the dots here. Something happened on that away mission.
"Neelix, please," Naomi begs.
"I'll protect Naomi," Chakotay promises.
"How do I know you won't trick me?" Neelix asks.
"Because I'm on your side. I want to end this conflict as much as you do. Let her go; it's safe now. The killing's over."
Chakotay's calming voice is at last enough. Neelix helps Naomi up, and leads her around the corner--staying out of sight himself--and into Chakotay's arms. He hands her off to Tuvok, who shepherds her to safety.
Chakotay approaches. Neelix faces him down, the phaser in his hand and fear in his eyes.
The commander looks back. Extends his hand, not unlike the way the colonist did. Moves closer. Takes hold of the weapon.
Reluctantly, Neelix lets go. Chakotay sets the weapon aside--and extends his hand again.
Neelix sees the look in Chakotay's eyes. Whatever he sees there, it's familiar.
As did the colonist, Neelix thrusts his hand outward. As before, Chakotay grabs hold of it.
Neelix, with nothing left to lose, treats the commander like a lifeline; he leaps toward Chakotay's bearish chest and holds on as though his life depends on it.
Tellingly, Chakotay clings back.
The two men, their expressions haunted, move slowly toward the door, arm in arm, looking every which way on alert for danger.
* * *
In Sickbay, Neelix sleeps as Janeway, Chakotay and the Doctor discuss his condition.
"Neurochemically speaking, he's suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder," the Doctor explains.
"I dreamed I was fighting in an alien war," Chakotay says. "The same war Neelix seemed to be reliving."
Doc frowns. "Harry Kim was in earlier; he seemed to be having an anxiety attack." He hasn't seen Tom Paris yet--but doubtless will soon.
Janeway asks if they ran into any problems on the away mission, but Chakotay shakes his head. "The mission was by the book," he says.
But the Doctor waves his tricorder over the commander, and contradicts him. "These are real memories, not mere dreams or hallucinations," he explains.
Janeway wonders aloud if they could have been abducted, brainwashed. "Our memories have been tampered with before." She makes a decision; "we're going to retrace your mission." Janeway orders Chakotay to review the Delta Flyer's sensor logs, look for anything unusual.
The captain then asks the Doctor when Neelix can be revived; now, if you like, the Doctor says.
While he sees to his patient, Janeway looks at Chakotay. "Each of you seems to hold a piece of the puzzle. Let's see if we can start putting them together."
All the pieces are in the same room. Tom and Harry, Neelix and Chakotay, with the Doctor and Janeway there to help fit the elements into, they hope, a cohesive whole.
It is not a happy away team reunion. The four men would rather not have to relive these memories.
Tom Paris is pacing. "I don't remember much, just . . . bits and pieces. I dreamt I was on a planet--in the middle of a battle. I have no idea how I got there--I can't remember."
"When I was in the Jefferies tube I heard weapons fire, screams--people were screaming," Harry says. "I got so frightened." Of what? Janeway asks. "I…I don't know."
"I remember getting shot," Tom says. Doc points out there's no evidence of a wound, but Chakotay counters that if their memories were tampered with, their physical injuries could also have been covered up.
"Do any of you recall who you were fighting?" Janeway asks.
Neelix starts. "It was dark; I couldn't see them very well." They were firing at us, Tom adds. Harry and Neelix, together, manage to recall the name of the species: the Nakan (pronounced nuh-Khan).
"Right," Tom says. "Right . . . they--they lived in a remote colony. We were trying to evacuate them."
"But they were fighting us," Neelix says, his voice tense.
"Why couldn't they just do what they were told?" Harry says, reliving the panic.
"We had no right to be there!" Neelix rages.
"It was for their own good!" Harry counters.
Janeway rises from her chair at the head of the conference table, separating the two before a new battle can begin. "Gentlemen, stay focused. You said you were trying to evacuate their colony; why?"
"Those were our orders," Tom says.
"Who gave those orders?" Doc asks.
The men look at each other. Then Chakotay remembers. "Saavdra--"
"Commander Saavdra!" Tom says.
"He was in charge of our unit; we were part of an attack force," Harry says, a bit calmer.
Janeway's eyes alight. "You were coerced."
"No," Tom says, almost surprised by his answer. "No, I volunteered. We all did." Doc has a hard time believing this, but Neelix backs up Tom. "No. No, no, no, no, I remember now. We held a briefing to plan the evacuation. You were there, Commander--Mr. Paris."
"The command post, that's right," Kim says. "It was night, 0200 hours."
"We'd been awake for days. We were exhausted," Chakotay says.
The memories coalesce. We see this command post, filled with men in uniform. The four from Voyager are here as well.
Saavdra enters, and all eyes focus on him. "What do our spotters report?"
"The Nakan are unarmed; they won't put up a fight," Harry says.
"Once we've disabled their shield generators we'll deploy units 5 and 6. They may be unarmed, but they won't be happy to see us; don't provoke them. I want to come out of this with zero casualties on both sides." Understood, one of the troops says.
Tom Paris gives his report. "The perimeter is weakest in Sector 14; the terrain's very flat."
"An ideal landing spot for transports," Neelix suggests.
Saavdra nods. "Once we've secured the village, take the colonists there, get them aboard. Do your best to reassure them. Make them understand that this is a temporary relocation; that they're going to be back there in a few weeks." The troops all offer crisp variations on Yes Sir, and file out of the command post.
All except Commander Chakotay. We've seen that First Officer look before.
"Problem?" Saavdra asks.
"Just one; this unit could use a little sleep. I suggest we wait until daybreak." That's our Chakotay, all right.
"I promised Command we'd have this colony secured today."
"It can wait a few hours." Sounds like good advice to me.
"I'm sorry," Saavdra says, ending the debate. Then he gives Chakotay a grim smile. "But when this mission's over, how does a week on Toranius Prime sound?"
Chakotay shrugs. "Never been there."
Saavdra's eyes go hollow. Eyes that have seen too much action over the years. "Compared to this place--it's paradise."
"The mission proceeded as planned; we disabled their shield generators and entered the colony," Chakotay says.
"We were rounding up the Nakan," Harry says. "To be honest, I expected them to give us a little more trouble."
"But then we came to the last enclosure--do you remember the last enclosure?" Neelix asks. "It was empty. Where were they? They were supposed to be there!"
Paris is seated. "24 colonists unaccounted for. We thought the spotters had made a mistake. We should have known something was wrong; we should have gotten out then."
We see the armed soldiers, the Voyager men among them, herding Nakan colonists toward the transports. It's not pleasant work, and the looks the colonists give the attack force are hard to bear. But they do their duty.
Chakotay calls into Base. "We're ready for transport," he says.
Then the first shots are fired. It only takes a couple, and the already fatigued and anxious soldiers begin to panic.
"We're under attack!" Chakotay shouts.
Paris rises from his chair. "Those missing colonists, they were armed. They fired the first shots, it wasn't our fault!"
Chakotay steps right up into Paris' face. "We can't be sure of that. It could have been one of our own people; fatigue, a phaser malfunction, we just don't know!"
Neelix sounds exasperate. "Either way, it doesn't justify what we did!"
"What did you do?" Janeway demands. "What happened down there?"
Chaos. Bloody, stupid chaos.
Chakotay tries to order his troops to hold their fire. But with colonists running away, and the sound of gunfire adding to the confusion, the soldiers begin firing at anything that moves.
Civilian colonists are mowed down. Men, women, children.
Not all the soldiers fire. Neelix, for the most part, doesn't, but his own attempts to save the children are frustrated, and that frustration leads, at time, to rage. No hands go unbloodied this dark and terrible night.
Harry Kim, screaming, fires again and again, seeing assassins at every turn and defending himself with extreme prejudice.
"We didn’t have any other choice!" Harry screams.
"Like hell, we didn't!" Chakotay bellows right back.
"They were wiping us out!" Harry cries.
"That didn't give us the right to murder civilians!"
"I tried to protect the children but I couldn't stop them from running away," Neelix whispers desolately.
"I ran too," Harry confesses. "Sounds of phaser fire, people shouting, I had to get out of there--"
We see Harry crawling through impossibly cramped spaces, through dark and twisting passages of rock. He barely has the room to move his flashlight around to move further into the crevice, and away from the pandemonium.
Then the crawlspace opens up into a cavern. Harry sees a light--a cooking-stove with a teapot resting on it. The stove glows red--Harry may not be alone.
Waving his rifle around, Harry looks for signs of life. The darkness has plenty of nooks and crannies, places his light cannot reach.
Then he hears a gasp, a woman's voice. With a shout, Harry knocks over a bunch of storage containers--and finds two people, a young woman and an older man, cowering nearby.
Neither are armed. "Please don't hurt us," the woman begs.
Harry orders them around. Demands directions for getting the hell out of this place. He promises to let them live if they'll just tell him how to get out of here.
The woman tells him. Back the way you came, then take a left before the end. Simple enough. Harry heads back.
The old man reaches for something on the ground--foolhardy at least, threatening at the worst.
Harry is paranoid enough to expect the worst. And with a wail of fear for his own safety, he whirls on the two colonists and fires until the batteries in his weapon have nothing left to give.
Harry looks at his hands as though they are dripping with the blood of innocents. Perspiring, trembling, past the edge of panic. "He was gonna kill me!"
Paris leaves his seat and hurries over to his friend. "Easy, Harry--"
"They wouldn't listen!" Harry wails. "Why? Why wouldn't they listen?!?" Chakotay and Tom restrain Harry, giving the Doctor the opportunity to grab on and help Paris lead the young man to Sickbay.
Chakotay and Janeway watch them go. Chakotay, regret overflowing, tells the captain the rest of the story, to her horror. "We killed 82 civilians that night. No one was left alive."
* * *
Captain's Log, supplemental. We've entered the system where he away team completed its recent survey, hoping to find an explanation for their memories of the Nakan massacre.
Dark is the rule of the day. Tom rests--if you can call it that--on his couch in his quarters. The television is turned off; it's done enough damage. His eyes are open, a particularly gray shade of blue, the inner light as dim as the room's own illumination.
The door chimes. "Yeah," he mutters. It chimes again. "Yeah," he says again, still not loud enough for the computer to respond. The third time the doorbell rings, he shouts irritably.
Torres enters. "Missed you at breakfast," she says guardedly.
"I wasn't hungry."
"Sleep a little?"
"Five, six minutes," he says, grunting out a humorless laugh.
Torres comes closer, holds up a red datachip. "I found another episode of The Untouchables. Elliot Ness captures somebody named Al Cay-pone."
"Capone," Tom corrects. "Maybe later."
B'Elanna tries to tease him--gently--into a response. "Well, you've got to eat something. Pizza?"
Tom gets a pained expression. "Look, I appreciate what you're trying to do. But I'd rather just be alone."
Paris gets up from the couch and walks past B'Elanna, keeping his back to her. "No! I don't want to be comforted right now." He has trouble being in the same room with her, unable to come to terms with his memories. Of the horrors on his conscience.
"I know the last few days have been difficult--"
Tom snorts. "'Difficult' . . . 'Difficult' doesn't quite cover it. I helped murder 82 innocent people."
"You don't know that--"
"I know what I remember!" Tom says, his voice strangled.
"The Doctor said your memories could have been altered--"
Tom finally looks at her--and no doubt will regret it later. "I was there!!!" he screams. "When I close my eyes, I can see the bodies. I-I can hear the weapons fire--I can feel where I was shot!"
"Then why isn't there evidence of--"
"I don't know!!!" Rage, shame and fear combine in a roar that takes B'Elanna's breath away.
B'Elanna does her best to stay calm. "All I'm asking is that you consider the possibility that this didn't happen!" she pleads. "We'll keep investigating; there are sensor readings on the Delta Flyer that we haven't even analyzed yet--"
"I can't concentrate on sensor readings right now!" Tom says desperately.
"I can't! Stop pushing me!! I don't want your help!!!"
What these two have is failure to communicate. Paris sees his experiences as absolutely real, and can't consider any other possibility; Torres can't possibly believe Tom capable of such a thing, and is desperately looking for any other explanation. Never the twain shall meet, not under these conditions.
It's a common scene between these two. One is hurting, and pushes the other away. The other tries to close the distance, but is just pushed harder. Finally, the only thing to do in self-defense is to leave.
If you wonder why these two aren't married yet, this is one good reason. They still need neutral corners to run to when their lives get unhinged. They're improving; they stay in the arena longer than they used to, and they're quicker to forgive once the firestorm burns out. But they're still learning how to be a couple, to act like a couple, and as long as they resort to the back-off-and-let-me-work-this-out defense, they'll remain a long way from the altar.
But the drama is in the journey, right?
Speaking of journeys, B'Elanna silently makes one for the door out of Tom's quarters.
Paris can't bear to look at her. One more victim of the Nakan Massacre. "I'm sorry," he calls after her.
"You know where to find me," she says.
The doors, and Tom's eyes, shut at the same moment.
Meanwhile, in Astrometrics, the captain and Seven of Nine help Chakotay run through the recent away mission.
Seven calls up the first stop--a class M world with one natural satellite. Nothing special, Chakotay says; an hour in orbit, a few snapshots for the Doctor, and they were off.
Seven next calls up an image of a large vessel that the Flyer encountered between stops one and two. She next puts up a snapshot of a happy looking reptiloid. "Captain Bathar of Hodos," Chakotay says.
Janeway smirks at the smiling alien. "Photogenic," she observes wryly.
"He's a merchant. Claimed to have a formula that stops the aging process," Chakotay explains.
"Oh? You didn't happen to buy any, did you?" she coos. Chakotay says it was merely a tripolymer compound--Makes a nice shoe polish, he says. Janeway giggles, and waves her hand regally at Seven. "Moving on . . ."
Janeway and Chakotay stand close to each other, comfortable in each others' presence. Despite my comments--written under the influence of raging influenza--in "Fair Haven," I do enjoy watching these two together, especially when they're allowed to flirt a little; I like seeing them exhibit a personal as well as professional relationship.
It is an odd moment, though, for such ease. Chakotay's got some fresh and horrifying memories floating through his head right now. Janeway might have four mass-murderers among her most trusted senior staff. And that's not even counting the resident Borg.
Seven moves on. "Your second stop." A planet appears on screen.
Janeway's no longer laughing.
She gets a brief flash of violent imagery, an unwelcome epiphany of carnage.
"Tarakis--" Janeway whispers.
Another, slightly longer flashback. More people dying.
"The planet--it's called Tarakis. I've been here."
The dead are piled upon the dead.
The shooting has stopped. The soldiers fan out, looking for stragglers. A few, like Janeway and Chakotay, look in vain for any signs of life among the fallen.
Janeway hears more weapons fire; raising her rifle, she rushes toward the sound.
And is horrified by what she sees. One of the soldiers--Saavdra?--is shooting at the dead, disintegrating the remains.
"What the hell are you doing!" Janeway screams, roughly pushing aside one of the gunman.
"Stand aside," Saavdra orders.
"They're already dead!"
"They were never here. We disabled their shield generators, entered the colony--and they were gone," Saavdra insists.
Janeway turns white. "No one's going to believe that!"
"They will if we all keep to the same story!"
Janeway shakes her head. "I won't lie about what happened here."
"Then you say nothing!"
"We murdered these people!" Janeway screams, the rage and shame in her voice causing some of the soldiers to blanch.
But not Saavdra. "In self defense!"
"If that were true, we wouldn't be vaporizing the evidence!" Janeway turns to a young soldier. "You don't have to listen to him! We've got to let people know! We panicked; they'll understand!"
"No, they won't!" Saavdra bellows. "Move away!"
"I said, move away!"
Weapons are leveled at Janeway. Clearly, she's lost this round. Swallowing her disgust, Janeway backs off.
The suppression of evidence continues, one vaporized corpse at a time.
Janeway wakes up, gasping, in the mess hall. "How long have I been here?"
The Doctor and Tuvok are here to greet her. But they are not alone--the room, dark as a morgue, is littered with crewmen in various states of shell shock, and with others trying to treat or comfort them.
"Three hours. You started hallucinating in Astrometrics," Doc says. "I'm afraid I had to sedate you."
"I was there . . . I was on the colony with Saavdra."
"You're not the only one. 39 crew members have begun to experience the same memories," Doc says sadly, motioning to the others in the room.
"It appears the entire crew has been affected," Tuvok says.
"Affected" is too simple a word. Plagued may be closer to the truth. A shared vision of a hell Janeway can't believe could be of their own making.
* * *
Janeway, the Doctor, and Tuvok walk among the traumatized crew. Some lie in bed, curled into fetal balls. Some sit in their bunks, rocking in numbed rhythm. A few whimper uncontrollably. Even some of those who tend to the worst off carry expressions of desolation, a burden which slows their movements.
"Their symptoms are identical," the Doctor says. "Increased engrammatic activity, nightmares."
Janeway looks around, her own face strained. "I can imagine the away team being pulled into an alien conflict. But these people weren't anywhere near this system."
"We've analyzed Voyager's sensor records," Tuvok says. "If we did participate in a war, all evidence of it has been erased."
"The dream was so vivid--as real as anything I've experienced," Janeway whispers. "But I refuse to believe that we could--"
"Real or not, the memories are having a deleterious effect on the crew," the Doctor cautions. "The syndrome began to spread once we entered this system; I suggest we reverse course before it gets worse."
Janeway shakes her head. "No. If this massacre really happened, someone is to blame. I want to be certain that it wasn't us."
"With all due respect," Tuvok says, "your judgment may be clouded by feelings of guilt about an incident that never occurred. The danger to our crew here and now is indisputable."
The captain, though, ignores Tuvok for the moment. She sits beside a member of her crew, a gold-shouldered Ensign from the lower decks. His dark skin is clammy, his eyes vacant. Whatever the explanation behind the memories, Janeway refuses to deny their impact.
"I've seen you looking better, Ensign," Janeway says softly.
"Yes, ma'am," the man whispers back.
"I've felt better myself," the Captain says. The Ensign lets out a shuddering sigh; Janeway places a hand on the man's back. "But were going to get through this," she promises. Weakly, he nods.
Janeway stands. Heads back toward the door. "The massacre took place on Tarakis. Go to red alert and set a course." Tuvok, recognizing the tone, does not argue. "Aye, Captain."
The Doctor presses a hypospray to the captain's neck. "A neural suppressant; it will help keep the memories from resurfacing."
With one final look at her stricken crew, Janeway exits. The Doctor stays behind; his work is here.
Neelix is one of the mess hall's casualties. His yellow eyes are wide, unblinking, warning beacons of self-loathing.
Seven of Nine helps tend to the suffering. She brings Neelix a plate of food. "Your favorites. Talaxian stew and terra nut soufflé," she says. "The soufflé has collapsed slightly but its nutritional content is intact."
"Thank you. Looks delicious." But Neelix pays no attention to the plate.
Seven tries again. "When Naomi Wildman is sad, she consumes desserts; she claims it improves her emotional state. Perhaps you should try it."
Neelix winces at the mention of his goddaughter. "Naomi must be terrified of me after what happened in the galley."
"She's concerned about you," Seven says. "She told me she wants to visit you."
"No. Not like this. I might do something to scare her again."
Seven nods sadly. "I'll give her your regards." She walks away to assist another patient.
Neelix calls after her. "Seven? When you were a Borg, you were involved in some . . . unpleasant activities."
"I helped to assimilate millions," Seven corrects, not shying away from her past.
"I don't mean to be insensitive. But . . . do you ever feel shame about what you did?"
Seven stiffens a little. "Frequently."
"How to you manage to keep . . . going?" Neelix begs, his voice catching on the last word, "knowing you've done such horrible things?"
"I have no choice," Seven says.
Neelix gives a tight-lipped smile. "Guilt is irrelevant?" if so, it's not advice he can use; it's relevant to him.
Seven sits beside Neelix. "On the contrary. My feelings of remorse help me remember what I did, and prevent me from taking similar actions in the future." She swallows hard. "Guilt can be a . . . difficult, but useful emotion." Though we aren't told, it's quite possible that Seven has her own memories of the Tarakis massacre, but she has the skills to cope with them as few on board could. Likewise Tuvok, who seems unaffected--but he's spent a lifetime learning to control his often volcanic Vulcan emotions.
"It's certainly difficult," Neelix admits, turning away.
But Seven's comments do have some effect. He takes a look at the plate. "Is that chocolate mixed in there with the terra nuts?"
"I altered the recipe slightly. I hope you don't object."
"Not at all," Neelix says. Still haunted by his memories, Neelix nonetheless takes a handful of food. An encouraging sign.
Voyager flies toward a planet.
"Tarakis, dead ahead," Tom Paris announces. No doubt the doctor provided suppressants for most if not all of the bridge crew so they could function.
"Shields," Janeway orders. "Stand by weapons. On screen." The planet appears on the forward viewscreen; it looks pretty benign. "Scan for vessels."
"There are none," Tuvok reports a moment later.
"Take us into orbit," Janeway tells the helm. Ma'am? Tom asks.
"Do it, Mr. Paris."
Voyager establishes an orbit around Tarakis. The investigation begins.
"Life signs?" Chakotay asks. Tuvok reports that the planet appears to be uninhabited.
"Looks the same as it did a few days ago when we scanned for dilithium deposits," Harry reports from Ops.
"Signs of weapons fire or phaser residue?" Chakotay asks. Negative, Tuvok says.
"Run a full spectral scan," Janeway orders. "Look for anything unusual."
"Nothing on geometric sensors," Tuvok says.
"Hold on--I'm picking up a power signature," Harry says. Source? Chakotay asks. "I can't tell; signal's erratic. But it's coming from the northernmost continent, coordinates 172 mark 5."
Janeway glares at the viewscreen. That's all the evidence she needs to take the next step.
The crew in the corridors make way for Janeway and Chakotay, Paris and Kim, Tuvok and an unidentified security guard, as they march toward the transporter room. Surprisingly, the only one not carrying a heavy, double-barreled phaser rifle is the captain whose gun-toting heroics have made Betsy a household name in 24th-century armaments. Janeway carries a mere hand phaser.
Another twist of irony--three of the four men who were originally affected by memories of their part in the Tarakis massacre are part of the away team . . . armed to the teeth, and hardly in the healthiest mental state. One suspects Tuvok and the other security guard may be on hand to take out Chakotay, Paris and Kim if they get any funny ideas.
Which may also explain why Janeway gets a little gun; when she gets funny ideas, she tends to act on them.
The officers stand on the transporter platform. They wisely take their positions in a semicircle, so when they beam down they'll already be in position. Funny how rarely we see that, but it makes perfect sense.
Janeway stands in the center. "Phasers." We see the crew lock and load, determination on their faces.
The captain then nods to the transporter officer, who returns the gesture. Then, the transporter locks on, and the team beams away into the unknown.
It's a beautiful day. The sun is shining, the clouds are fluffy but not so numerous as to obscure the crystal blue sky. The grass is green and lush, and the mountains and trees in the background offer a pleasant setting.
The arrival of six heavily armed warriors ruins the mood. Whatever they were expecting, this wasn't on the list.
"Call it an educated guess, but I don't think this looks like a war zone," Chakotay says.
Janeway looks around. "There's something familiar about it though. I recognize those mountains."
"Those trees weren't here," Harry adds. Trees? Interesting.
"Search the area," Janeway orders. Tuvok leads a team in one direction; Janeway and Chakotay go the other.
A bird squawks in the distance. Chakotay, instantly on his guard, raises his weapon. Janeway's warning look holds him off from further action.
They don't want to be too hasty about anything they do here. Their memories are clear about that--and they don't want to repeat the tragedy.
Tuvok and Kim take the lead through a cluster of trees. Tuvok marches as guard with a hand phaser; Harry's got his weapon slung over his back, scanning the area with his tricorder. Paris still holds the big gun.
Harry stops, puts away his tricorder. He looks around tentatively.
"Ensign?" Tuvok asks.
"The tunnel; it's nearby. The one where I, uh . . . "
Tom approaches. "How did you get into it?"
"There was a--rock formation. It hid the opening."
The search begins.
Janeway and Chakotay find their own set of trees to walk through. Janeway scans; Chakotay keeps his rifle ready for action at a moment's notice.
The captain finds something. "A faint energy signature." She stops. Sweeps the area. "This way."
Team Tuvok heads through the trees.
"Over here," Harry says. A couple of tall rocks stand like pillars a few meters away.
Harry walks up to one. We can see the faint outline of a humanoid form--or what's left of it. A shadow from a dark and dreary past.
Harry begins to hyperventilate.
"There's your physical evidence," Tom tells Tuvok.
Tuvok nods. "I suggest we proceed with caution." He tells the unnamed crewman and Paris to stand guard; he and Harry head toward the cave.
Janeway and Chakotay walk through the uneven terrain, letting the tricorder be their guide. Chakotay's weapon is extended now; his finger is on the trigger.
The audience waits for the other shoe to drop.
Harry leads the way through the cramped crawlspace. It's dusty, and dark, and slow going.
Harry stops; his breath grows short, panicky. "I--I can't!"
Tuvok is right behind him. "Remain calm. Slow, deep breaths." Harry complies, and after a few forced inhales and slow exhales, he is able to resume crawling.
They emerge into the familiar cavern. The teapot is still here, still resting on the stove. But it's covered with far more cobwebs than one would expect
They make it into the cave. We see the teapot where it was left. But it's covered in dust and cobwebs, and the stove is no longer burning.
Everything is as it was in the memories we saw. But there are differences. The canisters Harry knocked over, the relics of humanoid presence, are all weathered by time.
But Harry Kim is more concerned with the fact that he recognizes the stuff at all. "They were over there," Harry says bleakly, gesturing with his flashlight.
Tuvok scans. Finds two skeletal fragments. Dusty.
"I found the remains of two humanoids. But you were not responsible for their deaths," Tuvok tells Harry. "They died over three hundred years ago."
Harry's is not to question why. Just to let loose with a shuddering sigh.
The captain and Chakotay find the source of their energy signature. In the center of a clearing, a tall monument stands. Shaped somewhat like a cross between the Washington Monument and Seattle's Space Needle, the stone obelisk fills the screen and pierces the sky like a medieval lance. Atop the towering monument is a small yellow globe, pulsing sickly with too little energy.
The two officers walk toward the base of the structure. It is covered with writing.
Janeway scans the thing, and looks at Chakotay. "I think we've found our war."
* * *
Seven, Chakotay and Janeway examine the monument in greater detail from Astrometrics. Once they know where to point the scanners, few of the monument's secrets remain.
"The structure contains a synaptic transmitter. I believe it was designed to send neurogenic pulses throughout this system," Seven says.
"So anyone passing through would experience the Nakan massacre, like we did," Janeway concludes. Precisely, Seven says.
Chakotay looks at the glyph characters on one of the screens. "Try running those symbols inscribed on the base through the translation matrix."
Handy tool, that translation matrix. Within seconds, the inscription is rewritten in English.
Words alone cannot convey the suffering
Words alone cannot prevent what happened here from happening again.
Beyond words lies experience.
Beyond experience lies truth
Make this truth your own.
Janeway gasps. "It's a memorial! We weren't victims of a conspiracy; we were witnesses to a massacre!"
"More than witnesses," Chakotay says bitterly. "By being forced to relive those events, half the crew has been traumatized."
"Maybe that was the point; I certainly won't forget what happened here."
Fascinating how these two tend to respond sometimes. You can smell the argument begin to brew like a bad cup of coffee.
"Anything in that database that might tell us who built this thing?" Chakotay asks Seven.
"No. The technology has been neglected for more than two centuries. Its power cells are deteriorating."
"That could explain why our memories were so fragmented," Janeway says. "It was probably designed to transmit the experience in sequence."
"Fascinating," Chakotay says with a snort. "Now let's try to shut it down so nobody else has to go through this."
The captain doesn't react the way he expects. "Kathryn?" he prompts.
"Yes," Janeway says distractedly. "Of course."
The conference room holds most of the senior staff, although Torres and Seven of Nine are not present.
"Even if we do shut down the transmitter," the Doctor says, pointing to the monument on the display, "I'm afraid your memories of the massacre are permanent."
"But we'll prevent this from happening to other passing ships," Tuvok says.
Surprisingly, Neelix seems troubled by this. "If we do that, all record of what happened here would be lost."
"The monument will still be here," Chakotay counters.
"But that doesn't really tell the story! Someone put a lot of time and care into building that transmitter. We can't just deactivate it; we don't have the right!"
"Did they have the right to force us to relive all that?" Harry demands, his voice breaking under the strain of his imposed memories.
"They wanted others to know what it was like in the hopes that nothing like it would happen again," Neelix says.
"Why should anyone have to experience an atrocity they didn't commit?" Chakotay insists.
"Because that's how you learn not to make the same mistake! If we destroy the evidence, we're no better than Saavdra."
"Maybe he had a point," Tom suggests.
"It wasn't our fault!" Harry shouts.
"Given the danger involved, it's only logical--"
"This isn't about logic!" Neelix shouts. "It's about remembering!"
"Some things are best forgotten," Chakotay says.
Janeway, standing by the window, has allowed this debate to go on for a while. But now she speaks. "Not this." She walks over to her suffering crew. "I stood by once before and did nothing. Not again."
"Captain?" the Doctor asks.
"I watched while Saavdra vaporized the bodies."
"No offense, but--those were other peoples' memories," Tom Paris points out.
"The obelisk at Khitomer? The fields of Gettysburg? Those are other peoples' memories too, and we don't honor them any less," Janeway says. "The 82 colonists who died here--they deserve their memorial."
Janeway cuts Chakotay off. "We're not going to shut down the transmitter. Is that clear?"
Nobody speaks. But the reluctance in the faces of her men are clear. Only Neelix seems to support this decision.
"Is that clear?" she repeats. Her voice isn't raised; the captain does not make an emotional appeal. But she's made her decision, and slowly, all the heads in the room nod.
"Are you suggesting we leave it intact?" Tuvok asks.
"I'm suggesting that we prepare it. [Look, people, I know it should have been "repair". Even the closed captioning said "repair." But Janeway SAID "prepare." Live with it.] Recharge the power cells. I want that monument to function properly for another 300 years." She notes the continued hesitation. "We'll place a warning buoy in orbit; anyone who enters this system will know what to expect."
The captain looks each of her people in the eye. "Dismissed."
Chakotay and Neelix, Paris and Kim each take a wall. They place their personal stamp on a memorial that, through no choice of their own, has become a part of them.
Four walls. Four power cells.
Janeway watches her crew work in silence until all is done.
"We're ready, Captain," Chakotay says. It's a somber duty, performed solemnly. The four men walk away from the monument and stand in a line in front of Janeway.
"I know this was hardest on the four of you," Janeway says, looking at each man in turn. "But if you hadn't stopped at this planet, all the people who died here would have been forgotten. And if they could, I know they'd thank you."
Janeway then turns around. The five face the monument. "Janeway to Voyager. Stand by to initiate power transfer. Five to beam up."
The transporter locks on, and soon the planet is uninhabited once again.
Then the whine of rising energy fills the killing field, and the globe atop the monument glows bright, like an eternal flame.
Voyager has examined this subject before. "Remember" featured B'Elanna Torres as the unwitting recipient of the memories of an alien holocaust, given to her by an elderly woman who could no longer remain silent about her role in it. B'Elanna became a vicarious participant in the atrocity, and--just as that survivor hoped--refused to shut up about it until the truth came out.
Here, the situation is somewhat different. Those who committed the atrocity are so determined to not forget that they've been broadcasting and sharing their shame with anyone who gets within transmission range of the place where it happened.
It's a powerful story, flawed but forceful, with excellent and disturbing performances all around.
Mankind has long commemorated its accomplishments, both good and bad. Theater presents comedy and tragedy alike. Oral history hands down those lessons deemed most important to remember, and often the best teacher is tragedy. In modern times, we have been able to immortalize some history's most notable outrages through word of mouth, the printed word, cinema, museums, and monuments.
I'm sure you can think of some of the blacker landmarks of Earth's history. Auschwitz. The Killing Fields of Cambodia. The rape of Nanking. Calley and My Lai. Waco. Tiananmen Square. The names are burned into our collective memories, even for those born long after the events. Millennia later, we still remember the tale of the Trojan Horse, and beware lest we be likewise tricked and taken by our enemies, as was that devastated city.
Many methods have been devised to help us remember such events. A visit to the Holocaust museum is a life-changing experience. Films like Schindler's List, based on the powerful book by Thomas Keneally, drove home the horrors of the Holocaust. As technology improves, no doubt each new step forward in realism will be used to further imprint the lessons of history by those who will be determined that such shall not be forgotten.
But have we remembered every atrocity? There are too many to count, let alone comprehend. Mankind has found ways to massacre on such massive scales that a mere 82 casualties, as mentioned in "Memorial," would barely register a blip on the radar. Americans kill more than that on the highways on an average three-day weekend.
At the same time, a smaller but significant number of casualties can sometimes gather momentum for remembrance. A mere handful were killed in the Boston Massacre--and the British soldiers who fired on the crowd were later acquitted, defended by no less a patriot than John Adams--but it was one of the rallying cries that helped spark the American Revolution.
It's easy for us to remember the Alamo, or Pearl Harbor, or Culloden, Masada or Thermopylae--"we" were the doomed heroes, fighting and losing against impossible odds. The fallen were used as motivation to later fight back and conquer against the evil foe. But what about when "we" were on the side of evil? How do we reconcile ourselves to the times when Our Guys were the ones with blood on their hands?
Some don't. There are still those who deny the Holocaust ever happened, in the face of all evidence. What would it do to such a person to be mind melded with an actual participant?
Another question is, should such a person be forced to relive those events, just to persuade them?
There was an episode of the Twilight Zone movie that does this on an individual level. A cruel bigot finds himself unstuck in time, walking--and running--in the shoes of those he denigrates: a black man being chased by a lynch mob, a Jew pursued by Nazis, a Vietnamese hunted by American soldiers. In each case, he found himself in the victim's shoes. "Memorial," though, puts our heroes in the shoes of the guilty.
This indiscriminate imposition of traumatic memory, though perhaps well meaning, is not the best approach--and may in fact be counterproductive. If the recipient is not chosen wisely, might not some of those who relive these memories actually approve of the slaughter? How would you expect a Hirogen to react, for example? They might simply be disappointed that the prey were so easy to hunt. Another species, as ignorant of homicide as last week's aliens were to music, could decide they like the sensation and look for someone else to kill for an encore.
As for the Voyager characters, they generally respond true to type. Chakotay fills the role of the trusted lieutenant, the voice of moderation in the command post. Neelix tries to protect the children. Tom gets wounded. Harry cracks under the incredible strain and kills everything in sight. Janeway tries to halt Saavdra's coverup, outraged by the thought of the lie carrying the day.
Beyond that, consider whether any of the Voyager crew really needed to learn this harsh lesson, particularly after more than five years in the Delta Quadrant. Chakotay, a former Maquis, lost most of his family, friends, and home world to Cardassian atrocities. Neelix' homeworld was obliterated by his species' enemies when they used a terrifying new weapon. Paris and Kim have been falsely accused and jailed for acts of terrorism, and Tom has other deaths on his conscience. As for Janeway, she's got a body count that Cecil B. DeMille would envy; she doesn't need any alien hijacking her brain for an object lesson in guilt.
The folks who built this obelisk may have meant well, but it's the height of arrogance for them to assume that they hold a monopoly on regret, that nobody else could possibly understand the horror of a guilty conscience until they convey it.
One must wonder just how accurate the incident is, anyway. The reason for the evacuation is never explained. Displacing people from their homes is always an extreme act. Doing so in the dead of night is certainly suspicious. Toss in the fatigue of the soldiers and the resistance of the colonists, and the tragedy practically writes itself.
The question remains: is such a monument, the equivalent of a cross between Being John Malkovich and Casualties of War, really a moral thing? Must some lessons really be learned first-hand, even if only vicariously?
Consider where else we've seen this method used in Trek. Tom Paris was condemned to relive a murder he didn't commit through his "victim's" eyes, and it almost killed him. Chief O'Brien was sentenced to twenty years in prison in "Hard Time," which was carried out mentally in a matter of hours. In that mental state, he lived a lifetime in an afternoon, and was scarred for life. Should such a powerful teaching tool, which is used more often as punishment than as an "Inner Light" appreciation for an alien race, be used merely as a warning?
It's an interesting dilemma, and Neelix and Chakotay/Kim make strong opposites. Chakotay is loath to lose control over his own mind for any reason--Borg, disease, alien hijacking. Neelix is focused on the victims; they may remind him of his own family, his young sister included, victims of the metreon cascade. Harry feels personally violated; Janeway focuses on the duty to expose the truth.
Personally, I think Janeway had it right. Fix the monument, so the fragments of memory will be replaced by a full experience. And then post warning buoys to prevent anyone from wandering in accidentally. Had the original builders of the monument done so--and with the passage of 300 years, it's possible they did, but the satellites they placed have long since fallen, just as the monument is in disrepair.
Just ask Ozymandius. Sometimes you just don't know how your mighty works will be interpreted by generations to come--or in what shape they will be found.
There are many ways to learn certain lessons. Some may know instinctively. Others may learn by watching others. Some may gain wisdom through words on a page; others might require the genius of a Spielberg and the sensory intensity of Dolby THX and 70mm celluloid to drive the point home. But some will simply never learn until they've experienced it themselves--and some, not even then.
The Nakan massacre is not something everyone needs to experience. In fact, some most definitely should not. Naomi certainly shouldn't. There's a reason Schindler's List and Saving Private Ryan are rated R; the stark depictions on screen are so visceral that it could almost be considered a form of child abuse to subject someone so young and impressionable to such a thing.
The original atrocities are bad enough. To subject the innocent to such horrors before they're prepared to handle it--in my opinion, that's perpetuating violence, not combating it. There are those who might find the memorial valuable. They who go in knowing what to expect, that's fine.
What Janeway offers is a choice. Perhaps not a fully informed choice--no warning can adequately prepare those who experience them for what is to come--but a choice that the crew of Voyager was not given.
In a sense, it's a job that Starfleet does best--makes the path smoother for those who follow. Sometimes you can clear the path. Sometimes, though, all they can do is post warning signs and hope those who come after will be paying attention.
There was some interesting use of foreshadowing in this episode. It begins with the four men of Voyager under adverse circumstances--two weeks in a shuttle, working long days in cramped quarters, and their nerves are starting to fray. It's a bit tense at times, but it's mostly just banter. Contrast this with the condition of the soldiers at the Nakan massacre, where fatigue led to tragedy.
Tom Paris becomes engrossed in B'Elanna's gift--a television. What he sees at first--cartoons, commercials, hockey--is relatively mindless and relatively harmless. It seems a cute moment of winking at the audience, a commentary on what TV is capable of. And yet, conveying messages is also a potential strength of the medium--it's a valuable means of communication. The crew could have learned the truth about the massacre by watching it on television--and we, by watching the Voyager crew's experiences, do precisely that.
Ah, the Paris/Torres dynamic . . .
I sometimes wonder what it is B'Elanna sees in Tom. She goes to all the trouble of replicating him a television and hand-picking the content, and after two weeks apart, he's more interested in beer, popcorn and 400 year old hockey than he is in the World's Greatest Girlfriend (she handed him the remote control, for heck's sake) draped over his shoulder. He can be a real schmuck sometimes.
This, too, foreshadows Tom's later tirade when he's suffering through his memories of the massacre. B'Elanna tries to reach out, and he slaps her away, screams at her, begs to be left alone.
In the months leading up to Day of Honor, B'Elanna was the one doing most of the running. Tom would pursue, but get frustrated when she would push him away. She had her major breakthrough…and now he's the one whose tough shell is getting cracked. The intensity of Tom's outbursts, we've seen before--Alice, most recently. It's almost a compliment to B'Elanna that she's managed to work her way past the wisecracking shell and into the tender, raw nerves of Tom's inner child.
Robbie McNeill does a terrific job in this episode. He did more than just yell a lot--he conveyed some serious fear and shame in his outbursts. Torres was trying to tell him that his memories might not be real, that the guilt might not be his to bear. Ironically, she was correct--but it was also irrelevant. The memories, however they got there, are now his, and he'll live with them the rest of his life.
It's almost too bad there wasn't more time. And I know it'll never happen, but it would have been an ideal opportunity for Torres to share her own experiences in "Remember" with him--or for us to know how that flood of memories from the planet might have affected Torres herself. This common ground, this common sense of shame, could have brought them closer together. The two really need to have a serious cry together, a cathartic moment.
This episode serves two purposes for P/T folks. First, it shows the couple in an average moment--he comes back from an away mission, and she kisses him and walks arm in arm with him in the presence of others--that suggests a lot about their relationship. The casual cuddling we saw Torres do, the effort she put into her gift--also, a promising sign. The fact that she didn't rip his face off for ignoring her, but rather sighing and holding onto him anyway while he enjoys her gift . . . major strides from a few years ago. Even the tense scene when he chased her away, shows they stay in the struggle far longer than they used do.
But they have a long way to go. They're nowhere near ready for marriage just yet. They need the neutral corners to retreat to when they uncover yet another unresolved issue.
But that's okay. That's how it works. After all this time, after all their experiences, they're still at it. And the kiss in the corridor suggests they're having more good days than bad. And that they're not running away so fast on the bad days.
There were a number of wonderful moments in this episode. The soft moment of encouragement between Seven of Nine and Neelix; Seven's display of sensitivity by making his favorite meal, by checking in on Naomi and telling Neelix that she doesn't hold his actions against him, by sharing her own experiences as a Borg and how it helps her cope. The performances of Jeri Ryan and Ethan Phillips in this scene were very moving.
Likewise, Mulgrew and Wang were compelling in their "memory" scenes. I still get chills hearing Janeway's blood-curdling wail, "we murdered these people!" Janeway's quiet resolve and tender moment with the grieving Ensign were also powerful moments, and her light flirtations with Chakotay in Astrometrics is a side of her I almost always enjoy seeing.
Even the guest cast was pretty good this week. Action's a bit easier to play than comedy; if nothing else, there's more to distract the viewer's attention. Even so, I found the massacre scenes well acted. The commander, the few civilians allowed a line or two besides "aaauuughh!" <thwump>, even the other soldiers, were convincing in their roles. And Naomi Wildman was well used this time.
This was a challenging hour of television. I enjoyed it, but the subject matter was such that I'm not likely to pull it off the shelf every week, just as I don't often watch Schindler's List. It's like music--some is "easy listening", but some types you're almost required to dress up for--to prepare yourself to receive.
There's an old saw in the entertainment industry: if you want to send a message, call Western Union. Trek, however, is very nearly the antithesis of that way of thinking--we prefer messages and meaning in our Trek plots, and are disappointed when we don't find any. But we're also disappointed when we're beat over the head with the message--which, in essence, is what the memorial did to the crew. The efforts of those builders were to convey a message, and they chose the bluntest instrument imaginable.
But even then, as we observed the crew, we saw that the message intended was not uniformly received. There is simply no way to ensure that everyone will draw the same conclusions.
Let's call this one (* * * 1/2).
Next week: Finally . . . the Rock . . . has returned . . . to the Delta Quadrant. Time to layeth the smacketh down.