It's Paramount's playground. They own the characters, the ships, species, planets, quadrants, and the dialog, plots, etc. 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. The dialog is pulled straight from the closed captioning. All that's missing are commercials and pictures. If you want to be surprised and haven't seen the episode yet, read no further. But if you've already seen it, or you don't mind finding out the details in advance, strap in and get comfy--it's going to be a long, wild ride.
[Captioning sponsored by Paramount Television and United Paramount Network.]
Doc gets in touch with his inner Reg Barclay.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Our story begins with a screen filled with stars and the melodious voice of The Doctor at his most softly emotive. "Somewhere in that totality known as the universe is a galaxy called the Milky Way."
Doc appears now from the left of the screen, his face in softly-lit profile. "Tucked into the corner of that galaxy is a planet named Earth. On that planet is a city called Mantua."
Doc faces the screen. "Go straight ahead past the fountain; turn right, then left, then right again."
The camera pans back to reveal that the Doctor is in the mess hall, performing for a few dozen members of the crew.
Something is clearly amiss--they're paying attention. I mean, really paying attention. As though they're actually happy to be here.
Doc has the audience spellbound as he paints the image in their minds. "You'll find yourself walking along the water, listening, as a man sings of his beloved's unfaithful heart. And even the fish begin to weep. 'Quando la donna e mobile.'" (The Babel Fish says this is Italian for "The woman and the piece of furniture." It could be wrong, or I might simply be hard of herring.) In any case, Doc begins singing, with that operatic voice of his, a lovely Italian aria. There is a funky piece of furniture that Doc stands on when posing dramatically, so maybe the translation isn't so far off after all...
La donne e mobile / qual piumaal a vento / muta d'accento / e di pensiero
sempre un a mabile / leggiadro viso / in pianto, o inriso / e menzo gnero
la donna e mobile / qual piumaal vento / muta d'accento
e di pensier / e di pensier...
Since I seem to get a couple messages a week about this, I figure I should point out that this is not an ACCURATE translation of "la donna e mobile". It's not even close. I'm one of those who loves playing with words--or hadn't you noticed by now?--and the often wildly inaccurate results of machine-based translation is like chocolate-covered love to a guy like me. (Example: the pronunciation of "Coca Cola" in Chinese means "Bite the wax tadpole." If you can't find the humor in that, you're in the wrong dang place.)
DELTA BLUES veterans should know by now that when I say something so transparently incorrect, which I do often, it's almost certainly ON PURPOSE and with the intent to amuse.
Then again, Some of these bits are like a tree falling in a forest when I'm the only one around to hear it.
As Doc sings, accompanied by an unseen orchestra, the scene shifts to the crowd. Everyone listens with a raptness that transcends mere politeness--drifts perilously close to downright enjoyment, in fact. Chakotay darn near sheds a tear. Janeway looks ready to promote him on the spot. Seven of Nine's wolfish grin suggests somewhat baser desires. B'Elanna Torres undresses Doc with her eyes. Tom Paris' silvery eyes glisten like those on a wiener dog watching Who Wants to be a Millionaire.
Ironically, only Harry Kim--the Juilliard-trained clarinetist--looks less than enthused by the performance. Everyone's a critic.
Whoa, wait--here's a surprise. Tuvok, the stoic tactical chief, is bobbing his head to the music, and tears stain his cheeks. We see the muscles working in his jaw as he struggles valiantly--but in vain--to retain emotional control.
Damn, Doc's good.
But as Tuvok's sniffles catch Tom's attention, his mood changes. Tuvok begins to chortle--loudly. "Tuvok . . ." Tom whispers--
Then Tuvok grunts once, and collapses on the floor. Tom Paris is immediately at his side as the audience realizes something is very wrong.
But Tuvok gets up under his own power--and tosses Tom across the room like a rag doll.
Janeway stands and hits her combadge. "Janeway to security. Get a team to the mess hall right away." Chakotay and several other crewmen launch themselves at Tuvok, but he bats them away like so many autograph hounds.
"Stand back," Doc commands. "He's been seized by the pon farr. A neurochemical imbalance is driving him to mate. We won't be able to reason with him." To demonstrate, Tuvok grabs an unfortunately raised phaser out of a crewman's hands and holds the whole room hostage, grunting and sweating like a man in dire need of tuna casserole. Or kun-ut-kalifee. Whichever.
Everybody was pon farr fighting . . .
Doc, thinking quickly, applies the maxim: music hath charms to sooth the savage beast. He sings the same tune, but with new lyrics, as he does his best to pacify the hormonally-charged Vulcan.
[I swear I am not making this up. This came straight from the script. And yes, to those who have already asked--I did laugh myself nekkid.]
Tuvok, I understand
You are a Vulcan man
You have just gone without
For seven years--about.
Paris, please find a way
To load a hypospray
I will give you the sign
Just aim for his behind
Tom Paris gets the hint and begins a quick search for a medikit as Doc continues singing.
Hormones are raging
It's all so veeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee . . .
Doc holds the high note for an inhumanly long time, giving Tom time to prepare the hypospray and lob it across the room. It spirals in midair, to musical accompaniment, like that bone in 2001, as the entire crew (Tuvok aside) gapes.
Doc, still holding the high note, nabs it on the downward arc, and then concludes:
...rrry . . . illogical
To punctuate the end of the phrase, Doc empties the hypospray's contents into Tuvok's derriere. The Vulcan's eyes roll back into his head, and he drops like a sack of leola roots. Fittingly, he fell in beat with the music. Wouldn't want to disrupt the diva, now, would we?
Doc holds the hypospray at arm's length, regarding the still-conscious members of the audience, and repeats the last word.
Doc drops the hypospray for emphasis, and it hits the ground on the downbeat as well. He marches back to the front of the room in step with the music--and we catch Captain Janeway's nekkid appreciation for her EMH--Extremely Manly Hologram.
Doc sits down on the chair with a flourish for the finale--
Doc mugs for the crowd and awaits the response.
He doesn't have long to wait. The room erupts into applause. Shouts of Bravo! Come from every corner of the room. Janeway blows kisses at him. Flowers fall from the ceiling. Doc, arms cast out wide, catches a yellow carnation amid the rain of flora and sniffs it appreciatively. [I swear, I'm not making this up.]
The women in the room--Janeway, Torres, Seven, and the unnamed female crew--seem particularly appreciative as the applause threatens to go on forever . . .
"Doctor!" B'Elanna Torres says with mounting impatience.
Doc is sitting at his desk in Sickbay, hands behind his head, a beatific smile on his face.
If he weren't a hologram, I'd say he was daydreaming.
B'Elanna stands in front of his desk and waves a PADD. "Helloooo . . ."
This catches Doc's attention. He sits up, slightly embarrassed.
"Maybe I'd better run a diagnostic on your hearing subroutines," Torres says, half-joking, half-snappish.
"My hearing's fine," Doc insists. "I was just--letting my mind wander, that's all."
B'Elanna gives Doc a strange look. He's a hologram; a wandering mind isn't in his programming.
But she doesn't press--and the Doctor, pointedly, volunteers nothing.
* * *
Torres hands the PADD to the Doctor and heads for the door. "If you're not working on anything you should deactivate yourself. Save us the energy."
Ouch! Torres doesn't seem in a bad mood, but it was still not a nice thing to say. Unless there's an energy shortage on board we're not aware of.
Doc reads the PADD--and leaps out of his chair. "Wait a second! I thought I was scheduled to go on the away team."
Torres sighs. She speaks almost too quickly. "Well, the planet looks safe on the long-range sensors. Any medical problems, and we can use the transporter. But--take a look at those scans and see if there's anything we might have missed." Again, she tries to make her escape from Sickbay.
But Doc will have none of it. "Lieutenant, I wanted to go on the away team. There's a canyon on that planet I'd like to investigate!" He holds up his holoimager for emphasis--he wants to sightsee.
"I've already handed out assignments." Doc starts to protests, but she holds up a hand. "Next time," she promises.
Doc continues to sulk, so Torres offers a concession. "If you'd like, I'll snap a few images for you."
Not that she seems all that thrilled about it. Doc picks up on it. "Don't bother," he says grumpily.
Torres takes mild offense. "Suit yourself," she says, and leaves.
Doc watches her go. "I'll just . . . use my imagination," he declares.
If the teaser is any indication, the Doctor has a heck of an active imagination. I heartily approve.
The turbolift stops at bridge level, and Chakotay steps off, bearing a PADD. He sees the captain in the Big Chair and heads for her--but pauses when he sees the large reddish nebula on the forward view screen. He gazes at it appreciatively for a moment, then takes his seat. "Where did that come from?" he asks the captain.
"Good question. Didn't show up on sensors until a few minutes ago."
Chakotay looks at the terminal by his chair. "T-Class nebula. 1,000 kilometer diameter. Hydrogen, helium...argon."
"Nothing too dramatic," Janeway says, resting her chin in her right hand, her elbow on the armrest, looking slightly bored.
"If you want some drama, take a look at this," Chakotay says, handing the PADD to Janeway.
Janeway reads aloud. "'To: Captain Kathryn Janeway, Starship Voyager. From: Emergency Medical Hologram, Starship Voyager. Topic: Status of Emergency Medical Hologram, Starship Voyager.'" Janeway's eyebrows rise; she smirks involuntarily.
"He's filing a formal grievance."
Janeway sighs. "Regarding?"
"His treatment by the crew. There's also a paragraph about his future on Voyager, and a proposal for his advancement."
Oh brother, Janeway's look says. But she continues to read. "'Failure to acknowledge sentience. Rude behavior,'" she reads, and casts a withering look at Tom Paris, who knows instinctively--though his back is to the captain--that this last remark was directed at him. That hairless part of Tom's neck, just between the blue-gray shirt collar and the bottom of his hairline, begins to sizzle where Janeway glares at it. He turns around--carefully.
"What's this? 'A request to be made Captain in the event of a catastrophic emergency'? He's serious."
Chakotay nods. "Dead serious--and he wants a formal response...for the record."
Tuvok speaks up. "Protocol allows for Commander Chakotay or myself to address his . . . demands. If the Captain would prefer."
Janeway stands up and walks toward the fore. "No, I'll take care of it. I don't want anybody to be uncomfortable on this ship." She looks down on her favorite helm boy. "I guess we should all try to be more considerate of his feelings?" she says pointedly.
Paris looks up innocently. "Captain, he does it to himself. He's chief medical officer. Is it our fault that's not enough for him?"
Janeway sighs. "Resume course toward the planet. Chakotay, you have the bridge. I've got a formal response to draft." One hand on hip, the other waving the PADD overhead, Janeway walks toward her ready room.
In his chair, Chakotay smirks. Better you than me . . .
As Voyager flies by the crimson nebula, the camera zooms in. Unnoticed by the Federation vessel, a small ship lurks.
Inside that ship, we see a crew of aliens, who resemble . . .
Well, I guess that's up for interpretation. Some say it's the Anakin Skywalker People. Some say it's a Mr. Potato Head species. Others, slugs or Vogons. Still others, descendents of Zippy the Pinhead. One suggested Weebles in Space, because they look like they'd wobble but not fall down. Some insensitive types insist it's a malevolent chapter of their high school math club, or the unholy spawn of that dork-boy comic book store owner on The Simpsons.
However you slice 'em, though, they're roly-poly pudgy, with high-pitched, nerdy voices, no necks, no hair, lumpy skulls, snoutlike nostrils, bad complexions and snotty attitudes. They wear chain-mail outfits with open necks almost wide enough to accommodate a second head. Which, given their heads, is saying something. They're like smart cousins of the Pakleds--kinda hard to take seriously.
We see Voyager on one of the alien computer screens. One of the aliens appears to be monitoring it. He enters some data onto a colored slide-rule looking thing, then inserts it into a slot by the monitor.
Then his boss, the Overlooker, comes along. "What category did I assign that vessel?" he demands.
Busted! The monitoring alien--let's call him Chester, since they never bother to give him a name or a title on screen--faces his supervisor. "'Unacceptable risk,'" he confesses.
"Correct. And what was my justification for that decision?"
Chester sighs. "The ship appears in none of our databases. Initial attempts to scan the interior failed." This tells us something of their technological level compared to Voyager's.
The Overlooker looks annoyed. "Then why are you wasting our resources?"
Chester, on the spot, begins to stammer. "I think I can penetrate the hull... Using a micro-tunneling sensor..."
"And observe the interior one molecule at a time? There are other potential targets that must be surveyed."
But Chester is proud of his hacking skills. "If I could tap into a data transfer conduit I'd be able to reach their main computer core. That should tell me all we need to know about their tactical systems . . . in theory."
The Overlooker doesn't look at all convinced. "We could be detected. They may not like being spied upon."
"I think I've been very careful; but I'll take every precaution--I promise!"
"Unacceptable risk," says the Overseer. The way he says it, estimating risk is a big part of this species' motivation.
But Chester allows himself a smug response. "I've already transmitted my proposal to the hierarchy. They should be responding momentarily."
The Overlooker doesn't like this at all. When a dweeb from the next cubicle--let's call him Wally--appears to be paying attention to the exchange, the Overlooker turns on him. "Do you have something you'd like to say?"
"No!" Wally squeals, and skitters back to his cube to resume his game of Freecell.
"The hierarchy cannot be bothered with every ill-conceived notion that you--" the Overlooker sputters, but at that moment Chester's terminal begins to squawk. A multi-colored bar code scrolls across the display.
Chester preens. "They've approved. I'd better get started." The Overlooker fumes, but leaves without another word. The Hierarchy has spoken . . . whoever they are.
When the boss is out of earshot, Wally peeks over into Chester's station. "You're too confrontational! He'll report you."
Chester just snorts. Turning back to his Voyager studies, he revels in his minor victory. "AcCEPTable risk!"
The gang's all here, assembled in the briefing room to discuss the upcoming away mission. Janeway sits at the head of the table, near the window, as always. Doc sits between Paris and Torres, and across from Seven of Nine.
"The layer of antonium runs right along the edge of the canyon," Torres explains.
"My scans show geological instability within 100 meters of the target location," Seven of Nine adds.
Doc's eyes raise as something underneath the table draws his attention. Peeking under the table, he finds Torres stroking his leg--with her nekkid foot! The hussy! And with Tom In the room! But Doc seems to enjoy the attention . . . and, really, who can blame him?
"I could put the flyer down just outside of that," Tom adds, oblivious to his significant other's flirtations.
"I don't know, Tom," Neelix says cautiously. "That might be a little too far."
Doc hears his PADD beeping and picks it up. In large bold letters, he reads, "Dinner Tonite?" He looks up to see Seven of Nine looking at him--and she winks! And winks quite well, I must say. Lips pursed, undressing Doc with her eyes . . . shameless. Doc preens.
"What's the matter, Neelix? Afraid of a little exercise?" Tom asks, oblivious to the sexual energy permeating the room.
"Well, I think we could handle a 100-meter stroll," Torres says, looking suspiciously at Seven.
"I have to agree," says Tom, who frowns when he sees the look on Janeway's face. She's also looking at Doc . . . like she's a kitten and he's catnip.
I know I often say "insert bad jazz music here," an aural clue that some BOWM-chikka-BOWM low-budget Showtime After Dark sweaty snugglebunnies are imminent. Well, this time . . . it happens onscreen. For real. Greasy saxophone music oozes through the speaker, promising all manner of carnal delights.
At moments like this, I wonder if I'm daydreaming. Scenes like this don't even need the Review Boy treatment. They've already been parodized for your enjoyment . . .
"Maybe getting there," Neelix says. "It's coming back I'm worried about. We'll be loaded down with ore. If the ground is unstable--"
Torres and Seven both notice Janeway leaving her seat and walking over to a terminal behind Doc. The Klingon and the Borg start to look disturbingly territorial.
But then Seven is all business. "I suggest limiting the team members to 20 kilograms. Preliminary scans indicate the crust is dense enough to support that weight."
"You might try carrying a transport enhancer to the site," Tom suggests, as Janeway walks by the Doctor, caressing the back of his neck with a finger, then palming the back of his head with her hand.
Seven of Nine seethes.
"That's not a bad idea," Neelix tells Tom. "We'll beam the ore back to the Delta Flyer--and we won't have to carry anything."
Torres notes Janeway and Seven, and realizes she has the power to shift the balance back to herself. "You know, this mission is starting to look a little more dangerous than we thought. Maybe we do need the doctor to come."
Seven of Nine, seeing what Torres is planning, furiously types something into her PADD. Doc's PADD changes from "Dinner Tonite?" to a big red blinking "RESIST!"
"If one of us fell through the crust there could be injuries," Torres concludes, casting a neener-neener look at Seven.
"I require his assistance in Astrometrics," Seven insists.
"What for?" Torres demands.
Seven hesitates. "That's none of your business," she declares, spitting on the table for emphasis.
"I think it is!" B'Elanna demands, her eyes flaring with catfighting intensity.
Janeway sees her chance. "Oh!" she shouts, collapsing against the table, well positioned between Doc and Torres. "What's wrong!" Neelix asks.
The saxophone music intensifies. Janeway's expression is downright yummy. "It's nothing, really. An old Academy injury. Flares up every now and then. I've learned to live with it but maybe you should stay here and have a look," she tells Doc, looking over her shoulder.
Janeway takes Doc's hand and places it on her back.
"Right..." she says, sliding his hand southward--
" . . . Theeere," she groans, her voice dropping three octaves as the hand stops right around the spot where Doc gave Tuvok the hypospray. Janeway's expression knocks the episode's rating up to TV-14.
Tom Paris' "ewww" expression knocks it back to TV-PG.
Doc's expression suggests it's all in a day's work. Pinch her, he must be dreaming!
B'Elanna bolts from her chair. "Get away from him!" B'Elanna growls.
Janeway glares imperiously at Torres. "You..." she drawls in her best Off With Her Head voice, "Are disMISSED."
Doc keeps his hand in place, noting with clinical appreciation the way the captain's muscles contract when she tosses someone out on her ear.
Doc just sighs over all the attention.
Ladies and Gentlemen, this is Mambo number forty-seven.
One, two, three-four-five, everybody's in the shuttle so come on let's ride
To the planetoid across the sector
The guys say they want some holovids but I'd hate another lecture--
Slide show like I had last week.
I got in deep; crew fell asleep.
I like Annika, Kathryn, B'Elanna, and Freya,
And as I daydream, you know they're getting sweeter.
So what can I do? I really ask you, Harry
To me flirting ain't supposed to be scary
Everything's fine, it's all good, let me take a breather
Please send in the funky diva
A little bit of Annika in my life
A little bit of Kathryn by my side
A little bit Denara's all I need
A little bit of Kes is all I see
A little bit of Torres in the Sun
A little bit of Freya all night long
A couple of Delaneys, here I am
The women of the crew make me your man.
"Doctor?" Janeway says silkily.
"Doctor?" Janeway asks crisply.
The Doctor breaks out of his reverie, and coughs, embarrassed. "Yes... Captain."
"Let's talk about these demands of yours, hmm?" she says, waving a PADD at him, gesturing him to follow her to her ready room.
Interesting the difference a little perspective can make.
In the conference room, Doc was the Alpha Hologram, the master of all he surveyed. In the captain's ready room, Janeway stands tall--and Doc looks a little on the shrunken side. She stands on the raised platform of the room, near the window; Doc, by the door, is a good six inches lower to the ground.
Reality can be a splash of cold water sometimes . . .
Janeway is holding the PADD with Doc's demands. She's not looking happy. "I've given you a great deal of freedom on this ship," she says, her voice low. "I'm not disputing that," the Doctor says. "But you're not satisfied, either," she notes.
"I should be allowed to participate and advance according to my abilities like any other member of this crew," Doc says. "You should also know your limits," Janeway says. "My program can be expanded indefinitely. I don't have limits," Doc counters.
"Maybe. But we all have primary responsibilities. Yours is sick bay."
"I'm a computer program. Multiple tasking is second nature to me," Doc points out.
Janeway begins pacing, reading from the PADD. "This proposal of yours...to be made a--what? What did you call it?"
"E.C.H." Doc says proudly. "Emergency Command Hologram."
Janeway smiles slightly. "In principle, it's an interesting idea. A backup captain in case I'm incapacitated and the command structure breaks down. But expanding your program would take months of work."
"The lives of the crew may depend on it someday," Doc suggests.
Janeway gives the Doctor a sympathetic look. "I'm afraid the answer is No, Doctor. However, as part of my formal response I have recommended that Starfleet assign a team of engineers to consider your proposal. When we get back to the Alpha Quadrant I'll pass it along." She hands the PADD back to him.
The Doctor looks disappointed: "Thank you, Captain," he offers weakly, and exits.
Janeway watches him go. "Thank you, Doctor," she says sincerely.
Doc, holding the PADD distractedly, walks toward what I expected to be Sickbay--but it looks like he made a wrong turn--it's Cargo Bay Two.
And it's filled with people. And a large sign reading, "Congratulations!"
Doc looks at the PADD--but instead finds a champagne glass in his hand.
"Ladies and gentlemen," Janeway says, raising her own glass, "I'd like to introduce the Emergency Command Hologram." The crowd erupts into applause.
Doc appears confused at first, but it doesn't take long for him to warm up to the scene--Seven of Nine, embracing him from the side, one hand on his belly and the other on the small of his back, kisses him on the cheek. And lingers.
B'Elanna approaches from the other side, grabbing his arm affectionately.
It's good to be the king . . .
"I've tried to access their internal sensors," Chester explains proudly, "but I couldn't get past the security encryption. So I found something even better--a holographic crewman. I've tapped into his cognitive subroutines. We can now monitor everything he's experiencing!" We see the monitor--and on it, Doc's ECH congratulations party.
"It's like having an agent on board!" Wally says.
"To the E.C.H.," Janeway says on screen, raising her glass high, as the Doctor beams, soaking in the adulation.
"Captain, this is such an honor--but if you don't mind my saying, hardly a surprise." The crew laughs.
As Wally and Chester watch, smiling with satisfaction. They've breached Voyager's defenses.
Acceptable risk, indeed.
* * *
Chester reports his findings to the Overlooker.
"Allow me to introduce...The Doctor. He's a computer program--a sentient piece of holographic technology--and he is Voyager's medical officer." The Overlooker repeats the name, questioningly. Chester explains. "That's the name of the ship. I've only been observing the doctor for a matter of hours, and I've already learned more about this vessel than I did in three days of sensor sweeps."
The Overlooker looks over his subordinate sternly; it's almost an accusation about established Dork Squad protocol. "Elaborate."
Chester does. "The reason Voyager is not in our database is because they are not from this quadrant. They're...lost...alone."
This catches the Overlooker's attention. "No backup vessel?" Uh-uh, Chester says cheerfully. "No one to contact for help?" Precisely, Chester says. "Another few hours of observation and I will know all we need to know about them--defenses, weapons, crew complement--everything."
The Overlooker is dubious. "From monitoring one individual? Unlikely."
Chester smirks. "Actually...it is very likely. The social structure on Voyager is-is much different than ours," he stammers excitedly. How so? The overlooker asks.
Chester waves to his station. "This is my observation post. I have a single function, but the Doctor...does much more than just practice medicine. He has access to the entire ship...and he seems to be an expert on...everything!"
Chester gestures wildly at the monitor. "In fact, the Captain just gave him authorization to command the bridge! It was a very...Exciting moment." He seems genuinely moved by the remembered scene.
The Overlooker doesn't press him further. But he does ask a new question. "Why aren't you monitoring him now?"
Chester sighs. "The link drops out--intermittently--but it should be reestablished in a few minutes."
The Overlooker considers what he's just heard. After a tense moment, he finally breaks the silence. "Maintain your surveillance."
Chester smiles. His career is looking up.
The Doctor puts a hypospray to Neelix's neck in Sickbay. "This'll take care of any potential allergens in the planet's atmosphere. I'll monitor your medical status from the bridge but I don't anticipate any problems." Neelix nods, and hops off the table.
The business done, Doc turns to personal concerns. He picks up his camera. "Since I'm not going I wonder if you'd mind--snapping a few holo-images for me while you're down there." Gladly, Neelix says, taking the imager.
"Tell me something, Mr. Neelix. Do you...daydream?"
Neelix gives Doc an odd look, then smiles. "On Talaxia, we have a saying--'The dream dreams the dreamer.'" Care to translate? Doc asks; Neelix obliges. "We like to think that fantasies and daydreams come from someplace else--another land. They slip into our minds and whisper about things we never imagined." A strange notion, Doc says offhandedly.
Foreshadowing . . .
"Do you daydream, Doctor?"
Doc scoffs. "No, of course not. I'm a computer program. I prefer wide shots, Mr. Neelix. If you're feeling creative, throw in a little ultraviolet." Will do, Neelix says on his way out the door.
For the moment, Doc seems happy with real life. He tosses the hypo in the air, catching it with the other hand.
Later, Doc reports for rather routine monitoring duty on the bridge. Janeway and Chakotay and Tuvok are here, as are Kim and Seven of Nine. Doc monitors the life signs of the away team. Voyager orbits the planet.
Not scintillating work. Plenty of opportunity to daydream.
But not on the job, right? Wouldn't be prudent.
"Voyager to Delta Flyer," Harry Kim says. "Report."
We're approaching the canyon. Whew! What a view! Tom says over the comlink.
"I'm sure it is," Doc huffs to himself.
"Put us in a synchronous orbit above their landing coordinates," Janeway says, and the fill-in helmsman complies.
Voyager, mayday! Paris shouts.
"What's wrong?" Janeway demands, shooting out of her chair.
We've been hit. I'm taking us-- The signal cuts out.
Janeway looks to Harry for answers. "I don't know what happened to them," Harry says after checking his sensors.
"I am picking up a vessel, Captain," Tuvok says. "It's Borg." Uh oh.
"Red Alert. On screen," Janeway orders. A Borg sphere flies in fast. "Battle stations," she orders.
Tuvok runs his hands over his controls--then one of his wrists starts to pucker. Then a Borg implant erupts onto the back of his hand. Alarmed, he raises his hand to show the bridge. "Captain...You must relieve me of duty at once!"
Seven of nine runs an internal scan. "An assimilation virus has penetrated our defenses!"
Chakotay doubles over. We see the back of his neck already spidering with metallic growth. "We're becoming drones!" he screams.
Janeway's eyes blaze. "Hard to starboard! Reinforce the shields!" she barks.
"Incoming fire!" Harry shouts, but it's too late. The bridge explodes. Janeway goes down. Hard. So does just about everyone else.
"Doctor!" Harry screams, already in the beginning throes of assimilation.
The only ones left standing and still free from the Collective's grasp: Seven of Nine. And the Doctor.
The Doctor springs into action. "Computer," he says dramatically, "activate the E.C.H."
Seven of Nine's eyes go wide.
The background music grows heroic. Heavy on the trumpets.
Doc's uniform shoulder color changes from Medical Blue to Command Red.
We get an extreme close-up as four pips, one after the other, appear with a zzzzt! On his collar.
Seven of Nine purses her lips. Ooh, me likey . . .
Transferring all systems to your command. You have the bridge, the computer reports as the orchestra crescendos.
"Indeed," Doc says, his voice commanding. He marches to the fore. "Shields to maximum. Photon torpedoes full volley," he says, as though born to the job. Chin jutted out. Eyes ablaze. The very picture of command. "Fire!"
Chester watches this scene with his jaw dangling somewhere around his pudgy alien ankles. The other Dork Squad drones head over to Chester's station to check out the action.
"Computer, report!" Enemy shields are intact, the computer replies.
WE ARE THE BORG
Doc just waves his hand dismissively. "I know very well who you are. Stand down your weapons," he says commandingly.
STATE YOUR DESIGNATION
Doc preens commandingly. "Emergency Command Hologram, at your service."
Doc just smirks commandingly. (He does everything commandingly--the programming was very thorough.) "Not for long," Doc drawls--
You're way ahead of me.
Seven of Nine gasps. "Doctor--"
Tuvok, under Borg control, advances on the Doctor. Chakotay, looking very assimilated, stands as well, and lurches toward Seven. She squeals.
Doc calmly grabs two hyposprays, one for each hand. He aims one at Chakotay, who blocks the attempt--but who completely misses the other hypo, which empties into his neck. Chakotay goes down.
Seven screams again as Tuvok swings for the Doc--who blocks the blow with his own mighty, commanding fist. A brief arm-wrestle ensues, but the battle ends swiftly when Doc delivers a beautiful Vulcan nerve pinch. With a mechanical whir, Tuvok collapses.
Warning: Primary shields are failing, the computer announces. Doc moves swiftly on to address that problem, while Seven of Nine gives him the sort of look that belongs on a Harlequin novel cover. Yowsa.
Doc addresses the Borg again, reveling in his commanding presence. "This is the last time I'm going to ask you. Stand down your weapons. Turn back . . . while you still can."
YOU WILL BE ASSIMILATED
Oh well. It's not like he didn't warn them. "Over my dead program," Doc drawls for the Emmy. BTW, we see the unconscious helmsman--who looks an awful lot like Tom Paris, who was supposed to be on the Delta Flyer.
"Computer: activate the--" drumroll, please . . . "--Photonic Cannon."
The photonic cannon is online, the Computer says obligingly.
Doc grins. "Fire."
Twin lightning bolts lash out from Voyager and embrace the Sphere. It disintegrates most nicely.
Chester, Wally, and the rest of the Dork Squad gasp as they watch the mighty Borg vessel go Boom. This Voyager and its mighty Doctor are clearly not to be trifled with.
The signal disrupts into static just as Harry Kim asks, "Doctor, can you confirm?"
"Doctor, can you confirm?"
Doc is standing at his station with his head cocked to one side, clearly daydreaming. Until he realizes everyone on the bridge is looking at him.
"The readings, Doctor?" Harry asks yet again.
Doc's recovery isn't at all smooth. "Th...um, the uh...uh...Readings, uh...confirm, of course. Uh, the away team's physiologies are within acceptable parameters. All life signs are stable."
All eyes stay on Doc. Chakotay looks particularly concerned.
"You're okay to proceed, Tom," Harry says.
Understood. We'll contact you again when we reach the site.
The mission proceeds, but Doc looks ashen. Daydreaming on his own time was one thing, but on the job, when folks start to notice . . . not good at all.
Chester reports to the Overlooker. He and his assignment are clearly the stars of the moment. "Voyager will not be an easy target. It is armed with something called a photonic cannon. I watched them destroy a Borg sphere with a single volley!"
The Overlooker is skeptical. "There are no reports of Borg in this region!"
"I saw it with my own eyes!" Chester insists, and Wally nods his head in agreement.
"Did you check for debris?" The Overlooker demands, but Chester waves him off. "The ship was annihilated. There was nothing left for the sensors to pick up!" He says this with the assurance of someone who didn't actually check, so covers by claiming there's no need to.
But the Overlooker lets it pass for now.
Chester continues. "Their captain was disabled in the attack. The hologram is now in command! He's...an impressive individual--a physician, an engineer...a warrior--" Chester wiggles what would be his eyebrows, if he had any, "and very attractive to the females."
Chester draws up his courage as he makes his recommendation. "We must at all cost try to avoid a direct confrontation with him. I recommend a type-three stealth assault."
The Overlooker prepares the recommendation and slides it into the terminal slot. A moment later, the answer arrives.
The Overlooker simply nods. "The hierarchy approves," he says, a bit surprised. "Prepare for a stealth assault--type three."
But he makes a parting shot, clearly aimed in Chester's direction. "Scan for Borg. We don't want any last-minute surprises...or mistakes."
Chester merely smiles. He's all over this target. What could go wrong?
Doc heads through the corridor for Sickbay, eager to not talk to anyone. He's still smarting from getting caught daydreaming.
Chakotay catches up with him. Uh oh. "Doctor...can I have a word with you?"
Doc is immediately apologetic. "I know I let my attention drift a little on the bridge, but I assure you--"
Chakotay smiles broadly. "Are you kidding? That was incredible! I just wanted to congratulate you."
Doc is now confused. "For what, exactly?"
"The Borg will have to think twice about attacking Voyager again. Nice work!" Chakotay claps Doc on the shoulder manfully.
This just ain't right. Doc taps his combadge. "Computer, locate Commander Chakotay."
Commander Chakotay is in his quarters.
Doc looks at Chakotay in the corridor.
Chakotay is oblivious. "Something wrong?"
Mmmmmyyyyyeaaaahhhh, COULD be . . .
* * *
Doc confesses all in Engineering to Torres, Seven and Harry Kim--the three most likely to be able to help him.
"What were you trying to do?" B'Elanna asks.
"I've been experimenting with introducing a new function into my program--cognitive projections...daydreaming," Doc says. "I wanted to be able to daydream."
"An inefficient activity," Seven observes.
Harry smirks. "We all do it now and then, Seven. Why not the Doctor?" My thought exactly, Doc says.
"So, what's the problem?" B'Elanna asks.
Here goes . . . admitting imperfection. "The algorithms are malfunctioning. I'm starting to daydream...Whether I want to or not."
Torres lets an evil little smile creep onto her face. "They say a doctor who operates on himself has a p'taQ for a patient." Oh, now, is there any need to add insult to injury?
Seven thinks not. She grabs Doc by the elbow. "I can help him."
Now B'Elanna gets territorial--she grabs his other elbow. "I'm sure you can!"
"The Doctor and i are going to Sickbay," Seven insists.
"Any excuse to be alone with him, eh, Seven?" Torres accuses.
Seven glowers. "Assimilation is an unpleasant fate!" Is that a threat? B'Elanna seethes.
Doc's caught in the middle, looking not at all happy to be fought over this time.
Then an alarm goes off. B'Elanna and Seven are too busy fighting over Doc, so Harry checks the controls. "This is impossible. The warp containment field is failing!"
Warp core breach in 30 seconds, the computer reports. The core indeed looks that way; smoke is billowing, and crewmen are rushing willy-nilly all about.
Torres and Seven set aside their differences long enough to rush over to the core monitoring terminal. "Try stabilizing the antimatter flow," Torres says. "The control linkage is down!" Seven shouts over the din.
Warning--warp core breach a lot sooner than you think, the computer says unnecessarily, but amusingly.
"We've got to get someone inside the warp core...try to eject it manually," B'Elanna says.
"No one could survive the current level of plasma radiation," Seven counters.
The two look at each other. The idea strikes both at once. "The Doctor!" They look over their shoulders at the EMH.
The camera does a quick zoom up to the Doc, a nice Raimi-eqsque touch. "This isn't real...Is it?" he asks.
"Doc, you're the only one who can help us!" Harry yells in a panic.
Warning--last chance to be a hero, Doctor. Get going!
Man, that computer's developed a major attitude lately.
"Here's the problem," Harry says, showing the results on his PADD to Seven and Torres. "The new algorithms weren't isolated properly. They've branched into his perceptual subroutines. Doc, why don't we take a closer look at the matrix and--"
They look up to find the Doctor heading for the warp core. "What are you doing?" Harry asks.
"I have to eject the core," Doc says earnestly.
"What?!" Harry yelps, and rushes over to stop him.
Seven and Torres aren't far behind. "Deactivate his program," Seven says. "No, it will damage his matrix," Torres says.
Doc is halfway over the railing when he's accosted by his three colleagues, who drag him to Sickbay, protesting all the way. "I have to... I have to save the ship! I have to save the ship! I have to save the ship!"
Physician, heal thyself.
Doc stands in an isolated section of Sickbay, talking to people only he can see.
You look lovely tonight, Seven. Where shall we go? That sounds wonderful.
"The new algorithms have completely taken over his program," Torres tells Janeway, as they watch him babble.
Ambassador! Doc says, reaching out his hand.
"So, now he's daydreaming constantly?" Janeway asks.
It's a photonic cannon. I designed it myself.
"He seems to be randomly jumping from one to the next," Torres explains.
Pardon me, Miss, Doc says politely, after bumping into the forcefield confining him to the circular operating area.
"I routed his subroutines to Holodeck One so Harry and Seven could monitor his fantasies."
Janeway does a double-take. "Do you think that's appropriate?" she whispers. "They're his fantasies, and I promised him we'd show a little more consideration."
Torres seems surprised it's even an issue. "It'll give us a better idea of what's going on--help us fix him."
Mr. Neelix, how thoughtful! You baked me a cake--it won't get you out of your checkup.
Harry's voice breaks in over the comline. Kim to Sickbay.
"Go ahead, Harry," Janeway says.
You might want to have a look at this.
"We're on our way," Janeway says, casting one final concerned look at the EMH before exiting with B'Elanna.
Doc, holding a cake only he can see, blows out the candles.
The Holodeck now bears a striking resemblance to Cargo Bay Two.
And Seven of Nine bears a striking resemblance to a very naked woman lying on a couch. We get a rear view, the derriere tastefully draped, but that's about it.
If you're a back lover, this shot probably put you on cloud Seven of Nine. Yowsa.
Doc has an audience. Harry Kim--and the real Seven of Nine, fully dressed in her plum-colored unitard. Seven looks at herself with clinical detachment.
Janeway and Torres enter--and look. (Like I said--how could they help but look?) Janeway walks over to see what Doc's been drawing.
Doc is standing behind an easel, wearing a smock and a beret, looking every inch the artist. "Keep still, please," Doc says smoothly.
"Anything you say, Doctor," Seven says huskily.
Harry looks like he's turned to stone. Well, part of him, anyway. He's ogling that area where any red-blooded human would be inclined to look, given the opportunity. This is Seven of Nine, after all. That catsuit's like a Scotsman's kilt--we've ALL been curious what's been lurking underneath it these past three years . . .
Janeway stares at the charcoal etchings. She knows she should say something; she feels Seven of Nine's eyes upon her. "He does the hands very well," the Captain finally says with a wry detachment.
Seven rolls her eyes. "Apparently, he's had a great deal of practice," she says, moderately--but only moderately--annoyed. "Look at these," she urges.
And--surprise!--we see the drawings. They're a bit short on detail--sketchy enough to keep the ratings family-friendly--but the outlines are clearly there . . . and most <cough> generous.
"I see," Janeway says--and casts Doc a baleful sideways glance.
And sends another one straight at a certain Review Boy, who has spent much of the scene bouncing off the walls and furniture in defiance of all Newtonian laws of gravity, and making exuberant Hoo! Hoo! noises a la Daffy Duck. (Simple minds, simple pleasures . . .)
Ahem. Moving on.
The scene changes. Gone is the art studio date. Now Doc's on the bridge, standing over the lifeless body of Captain Janeway.
Doc glares at the forward viewscreen, head cocked dramatically, chin jutted out. "Computer...activate the Emergency Command Hologram."
The orchestra swells . . .
Harry mutters to B'Elanna, "This is the part I like." At least Harry's having fun.
The four watch as Doc's shoulder pads change from blue to red. They get the Extreme Close Up of the four pips forming on his collar.
And now, it's time for . . . the Continuing Adventures of . . . CAPTAIN PHOTON!!!
"Nice touch," Janeway observes wryly.
"Bring the photonic cannon on-line," Captain Doc says, enunciating for the cheap seats.
"Photonic cannon?" Janeway asks in sotto voice.
"A weapon of mass destruction--invented by the Doctor, of course," Harry says, smirking.
"Of course," Janeway says, smiling in return.
"In many of his fantasies he takes command and saves the ship," Seven observes. She doesn't mention her own common appearance as Captain Photon's sidekick.
Harry has an idea. "Which means that particular algorithm is more easily accessible than the others!"
B'Elanna catches onto that. "So, if we can isolate it we might be able to stabilize his program--"
The scene changes yet again--now they're in a near-empty mess hall. Just Doc and B'Elanna, in a clearly emotional moment.
"Why do you torment me like this?!" B'Elanna demands, voice choked with emotion, seated across from Doc.
Then the perspective changes again--perhaps this is just a blocking nitpick. Janeway, Torres, Seven, Harry--they moved from one side of the room to the other in the blink of an eye.
"That was never my intention," Doc says gently.
"It wasn't?" B'Elanna says, unable to keep the hurt from her voice.
The real Torres begins to fume.
"I want you to be happy, B'Elanna," Doc assures her.
The real Torres advances angrily. "What?!" But Janeway shushes her, and there's no mistaking the order in that shush. Torres backs down.
"I'll always be...fond of you," Doc says tenderly. "That will never change."
B'Elanna leans over the table, grabs his chin possessively. "You can't just leave me. I couldn't bear to be alone."
"Aren't you forgetting someone?" Doc asks. He points to a nearby table. Poor Tom Paris, looking so sad and lonely, like a neglected pound puppy, sits there. He waves meekly, the classic "remember me?" gesture.
"He needs you, B'Elanna, now more than ever!" Doc tells B'Elanna.
"Forget him. He's not half the man you are," B'Elanna says, thrusting her chest at him.
Doc shrugs--hard to argue with that.
The real Torres seethes. "I've seen enough of this!" and storms out of the Holodeck.
Harry laughs. "All right; let's go back to Sickbay and try to isolate that algorithm." Harry, Torres and Seven exit, with Janeway not far behind.
But before Janeway makes it out the door, the scene changes again.
IT's the "Congratulations ECH" scene, only quieter. Just Janeway and the Doctor. "Congratulations," Janeway tells the Doctor proudly.
Doc beams. "Thank you for this opportunity, Captain. All I ever wanted was to live up to my full potential...to hone my skills...expand my abilities...to help the people I love."
She wasn't meant to see it. But she did. And Captain Janeway--the real Janeway--can't help but be moved by the scene. Her eyes grow large as Speed Racer's, and just as moist, as she sees the fondest, truest desires of the EMH's heart played out in living color.
From the Dork Squad vessel, Chester stares at the screen, looking very, very nervous.
Something is not at all right with this picture.
"What's the status?" the Overlooker demands.
"I--lost the signal again," Chester says, cutting the signal. "I don't know what happened."
The Overlooker just huffs. "Two assault vessels are on course to join us. Accurate information is essential!" He taps the communication chip impatiently against his fist.
Chester thinks fast--well, sorta. "The more I learn about Voyager the more I wonder...if it's worth the trouble." Clarify, the boss demands. "Launching an attack against such a heavily armed vessel carries a great risk--and for what? A little antimatter, some dilithium..."
The Overlooker cuts him off. "Your survey indicated large quantities of both. We've already committed substantial resources to mounting this assault." He leans forward menacingly. "Were you mistaken?"
Being mistaken would be a very bad career move. "No!" Chester insists. "Not at all. I'm just...sounding a note of caution." He laughs nervously.
The Overlooker throws down the gauntlet. "If our boarding party doesn't find Voyager exactly as you've described it...the Hierarchy will be informed." Oh, no, not a bad evaluation! Horrors!
But Chester stands his ground. "I . . . understand. There has been no mistake."
The Overlooker nods. "Then we'll proceed."
As soon as the boss is gone, Wally wheels over.
"I've made a terrible mistake!" Chester wails softly.
"How...terrible?" Wally asks. Amazing that Chester trusts this information to Wally; what's to stop him from ratting on him to the Overlooker?
But confide he does, and Wally doesn't seem inclined to squeal.
"The doctor was appearing in a different location every few seconds," Chester explains. "It didn't seem possible! So, I investigated a little further and...
Chester gives Wally a helpless look. "I haven't been monitoring his perceptions. I've been watching his dreams...or his...his imaginings. I'm not sure which...but none of this is real."
Chester collapses into his chair. "What am I going to do?"
* * *
Doc does his best to focus on his work, but he looks pretty darned despondant.
Janeway enters. "I came to check on your patient," she says softly.
"He's doing just fine, Captain," Doc says, his voice glum. "It took Lieutenant Torres half the night to stabilize my matrix--but I haven't had a single flight of fancy since." He looks at the Captain. "I apologize for altering my program without permission."
"Well, at least there wasn't any permanent damage," she says, no hint of chastisement in her voice.
"I'm afraid there was," Doc says sadly. "I've been exposed...humiliated...turned inside out for all the world to see." He casts a sad look at Janeway. "If I've lost your respect--"
"That will never happen...certainly not because we've seen a few random fantasies," Janeway assures him. "We all daydream, Doctor. It helps us imagine other possibilities in life." She smiles kindly. "Just hold off until we've figured out a way for you to do it without damaging yourself, all right?"
Doc doesn't protest. He seems to have had his fill of daydreaming for the time being.
Janeway answers the door chime, and Chakotay enters the ready room. "Ship's status report." He notices what's on Janeway's terminal screen. "Federation law. Thinking about a career change?"
Janeway smiles. "In a way. Not for me, though. I've been going over the legal precedents for granting command positions to holograms. There aren't any."
Chakotay frowns. "Captain, this ship needs its Doctor. And he should focus on what he was programmed for--medical care."
But Janeway seems to have caught the spirit of Doc's command enthusiasm. "I think we've underestimated him because of our own human limitations. His full potential's unknown, Chakotay." (Hmmm. I guess those limitations he ran into during "the swarm" have since been transcended. That 29th-century emitter may have something to do with it--it could no doubt handle something far more complex than his original programming.)
Chakotay asks the Big Question: "Would you be comfortable handing over your ship to a computer program?"
Janeway recoils in mock horror. "Well, I don't know if I'd take it that far."
"You might have to. He probably won't settle for less." Chakotay's eyes twinkle when he says it, and Janeway joins him with a smile of her own. If there's one thing they know is without limits of any kind . . . it's the Doc's ego.
Doc examines a blood sample. Runs a scan over it. Places it in a tray. Reaches for another sample--
And finds a champagne flute. Party sounds begin to fill Sickbay. "Oh, no--" he says.
And sooner than you can say "Congratulations, Doctor," he's back in the Cargo Bay, wearing his medal, being congratulated by Neelix for his new assignment.
But someone new is here. Chester. "Doctor, may I please have a word with you?"
Doc looks at him with disinterest. "I don't recall dreaming you up."
"You didn't. I'm transmitting a simulation of myself into your program, but I am real."
Doc rolls his eyes and slaps his combadge. "Doctor to the bridge. I'm daydreaming again; somebody deactivate me," he says, eager to be turned off.
"Voyager is about to be attacked!" Chester tells him urgently.
"Of course it is--unless the valiant doctor swings into action, right?" Doc says, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"Yes, Yes. Pr-pr-precisely."
"A common theme in all my fantasies," Doc says, eager to be left alone.
"I reactivated your cognitive algorithms," Chester says.
Seven of Nine has arrived. She nibbles Doc's earlobe. "I'm ready to pose again tonight," Seven whispers. Despite himself, Doc lets himself revel in that little fantasy for a few nanoseconds.
"I put you back into this fiction!" Chester insists.
Doc hands his champagne glass to Seven and--reluctantly--shoos her away. "Here," he asks Chester. "Why?"
"It was the only way for me to communicate with you!"
Doc considers this, then nods, a gesture for Chester to follow. They find a quiet corner of the cargo bay to talk. "I'm listening," Doc says.
Okay, Chester, this is it . . . "I'm a long-range observer on an assault-class vessel. I scan passing ships for technology and raw materials. When I find an acceptable target, we raid it."
"You've been spying on us!" Doc says indignantly, when the words sink in.
"More to the point--on you. For several days I've been using a long-range tunneling sensor to tap into your program. You were supposed to be our eyes and ears on Voyager. Instead, I got--" Chester waves his arms weakly, "this."
Doc doesn't take the news well. "My daydreams?! You tapped into my daydreams?! That's why my algorithms have been destabilizing!"
Well, at least it wasn't his error that caused it.
"My fault. I'm sorry," Chester says, freely accepting the blame.
Doc seems convinced. "Tell me about this attack."
"My ship is less than an hour away. I can help you avoid a confrontation but you must do exactly what I say."
"Why should you want to help us?" Doc asks skeptically.
"You don't understand! The hierarchy does not tolerate mistakes, or . . . misinformation. If they learn of my error . . . I'll lose my livelihood!" Vague, but not incomprehensible. Be perfect, or never work in this sector again. The Dork Squad sets high standards.
"Well, that's what you get for being a peeping Tom," Doc huffs.
"But I also care about what happens to you. I feel like I've gotten to know you over the past few days."
Doc rounds on Chester. "You've been spying on my fantasies, not me. You don't know me at all!"
"But I do," Chester insists. "I know how your mind works...what your hopes are. You created all these...possibilities. My species, we're...very different. Our thinking is confined, but...I can't help...but admire you. I don't want you to be harmed."
The absolute sincerity with which Chester makes this declaration, the admiration and affection the alien clearly holds for the Doctor, is enough to convince Doc of his intentions.
Doc smiles gamely. "Then I suppose we should . . . swing into action."
Doc enters the bridge from the turbolift. He's holding a PADD. "Captain, we're about to be attacked. Alien vessels are approaching."
Tom Paris checks his board. "There's nothing on the sensors, Doc."
"The vessels are cloaked," Doc responds.
"How do you know this?" Chakotay asks.
"One of the aliens contacted me."
"I've detected no transmissions," Tuvok says. Janeway begins to shake her head, a Skunk Eye already beginning to form.
"He spoke to me in a daydream!"
"I don't want to hear it!" Janeway growls. "However, I would like to know why you've disobeyed my direct order."
Not his fault, Captain. But Doc doesn't waste time defending himself. First things first. "I can prove it to you! The alien told me how to reconfigure our sensors to compensate for their cloaking field." He hands the PADD to Harry.
Harry, a bit bored, waves the thing in the air for the captain to see, silently asking for permission--or denial. Janeway holds off her anger for the moment and grants permission. Harry does the math--
"He's right!" Harry says, surprised. "I'm picking up three ships out there--distance, 600 million kilometers, headed right for us."
Janeway stands. "On screen," she orders.
Three vessels, small but detectable, appear in the distance.
"Maximum magnification," Janeway orders.
The three vessels are now clearly visible--translucent against the background of stars, but flying in close formation and looking ready for action.
Janeway glares. Life just got more complicated.
* * *
"The alien won't help us unless we help him," The Doctor explains on the bridge.
"What if this is all part of their attack--a ruse?" Paris asks.
"He's already helped us compensate for their cloak," Chakotay says. "I'm inclined to believe him."
"So am I, but I'd just as soon set a course away from here at maximum warp," Janeway says.
"That will only delay a confrontation," Doc says. "They have vessels hidden throughout the entire sector."
Janeway frowns. "Did your friend have a plan?"
"He said they're running what's called a Type-Three Stealth Assault. They won't decloak until they're right on top of us, at which point they'll fire a warning shot across our bow. Then come the demands for supplies and technology; if we don't comply, they'll destroy us. Fortunately the alien promised to transmit the resonance frequencies of their phasers."
"And in return?" Tuvok asks.
Doc sighs. "In return..."
Spit it out, Doc.
"He mistakenly informed his superiors that I was in command of Voyager. To keep himself from being demoted, he wants us...to maintain that fiction."
Janeway's eyes go wide. Her hands go to her hips. Tak Tak sector-wide quail in horror. Her eyes ignite. Death is imminent.
Doc continues. "When they open the channel, I have to be sitting in the captain's chair. I'm sorry, Captain! But he insisted."
Janeway walks over until they're practically wearing the same uniform. IF looks could disassemble, Doc would disappear in a puff of logic.
Then she smirks. "Well . . . I guess it's time to turn fantasy into reality."
As most people can attest, turning fantasy into reality is rarely everything it's cracked up to be. For one thing, you rarely come down with a case of nerves in your fantasies.
In Sickbay, Harry helps with the reprogramming effort as Doc frets. "I'm in over my head! What if I fail?"
Harry continues to work, but he smirks. "You sound like I did when the Captain put me in command of the night shift. That chair looked so big I thought I'd sink so far into it that nobody would be able to see me . . . "
"But you had your Academy training to fall back on!" Doc protests.
"Yeah, well, sounds like you've had plenty of practice," Harry says.
"That wasn't real!"
Harry gives Doc a sympathetic look. "Listen, Doc. The whole reason you wanted to be able to daydream was to test out possibilities, right?"
Doc reluctantly nods.
Harry smiles. "Hmm, well--consider this a field test."
The final preparations begin for the assault on Voyager.
"Why isn't there any hull damage from the Borg attack?" the Overlooker demands, getting a close-up look at Voyager's exterior.
"They...repaired it," Chester suggests.
"So quickly? Hmmm."
The Overlooker makes a decision. Prepare for Type Four Assault.
Chester blanches. "Type Four? That would . . . cause a huge drain on our energy core--a-a-a waste of resources," he smiles sheepishly. "Do you really think that's necessary?"
"What I think doesn't matter. Your long-range surveilance indicated an attack by Borg. On closer inspection that appears to be doubtful. Your report on this vessel could be mistaken. I think caution is in order."
I hate to say it, but Dork Boss is no dummy. Cautious, suspicious--Janeway could use some more of that . . .
The Overlooker submits the recommendation. A moment later, the computer beeps. "The heirarchy agrees," Overlooker says with a smug look. "Proceed to Type Four." Off he goes.
Chester does his best to avoid hyperventilating.
It's not quite as dramatic as in the daydream.
No instant shoulderpad color change.
No jutted chin.
Doc appears from the turbolift in his new outfit, looking very self-conscious.
"Captain on the bridge!" Tom Paris announces.
Harry exits the turbolift with Doc. He pats the Doctor on the shoulder encouragingly.
If Doc had skin, he would have jumped out of it right there.
Chakotay stands by silently, measuring the Doctor with his eyes. Doc steps hesitantly to the Big Chair . . . and halts. He looks at it. Sink in and swallow me whole . . .
"It won't bite," Chakotay assures him. Doc doesn't quite believe him.
"What I wouldn't give right now for a whoopie cushion," Paris says with a smile. Harry hears the remark, but doesn't get it. "A what?" Tom laughs. "Hmmm. Ancient technology."
Finally, the Doctor works up the courage to sit. Just as he's about to get comfortable, he rests his arm on the armrest--and the computer terminal buzzes at him with the current duty roster.
He bolts out of the chair just in case it decides to bite after all. Chakotay maintains his patience, and lets Doc sit back down in his own good time. Then Chakotay takes his own seat.
"Captain, we're ready to proceed," he says.
If Doc had sweat glands, he'd look like Albert Brooks in Broadcast News about now . . .
Janeway acknowledges Chakotay's announcement from Astrometrics.
"The internal com-link is active. No one will be able to hear you but the Doctor," Seven tells Janeway.
Janeway nods. "Doctor, are you ready?"
"No, but do I have a choice?" Doc says.
I'll be with you every step of the way. Just remember, I'm still the captain.
"Understood," Doc mutters.
And so it begins.
"I'm receiving a transmission on a secure channel. Audio only," Tuvok reports.
"Must be the Doctor's friend. Let's hear what he has to say," Chakotay says. "Doctor?"
Doc coughs. "Hello? Voyager here," Doc says nervously. "It's me!"
It's Chester. "Doctor! Something terrible has happened. They've ordered a Type Four assault! Our phaser frequencies will be rotated continuously. I won't be able to help you!"
At this point, I'm not sure why Janeway doesn't high-tail it to the bridge and take over.
"Evasive maneuvers!" Chakotay orders.
Too late. "Three vessels are decloaking off the port bow," Tuvok reports.
"That didn't feel like a warning shot," Paris says.
"Direct hit. Shields are holding," Tuvok says.
"They're hailing us," Harry reports.
Doc blanches. Chakotay sets his jaw. "This is it, Doctor. On screen."
We see Chester and the Overlooker on the viewscreen. Chester whispers into his boss' ear. "See? There he is. Uh...Be careful--he-he's dangerous!"
But King Dork is playing this by the book. "The Hierarchy controls this region of space," he says formally. "Your ship has supplies and technology that we require."
Tell him we'll defend ourselves; they won't get what they're after, Janeway instructs.
Doc, with that hamster-on-a-hotplate look in his eyes, blurts, "We'll defend ourselves; they won't get what they're after."
"Huh?" the Overlooker says.
"I mean you!" Doc recovers. "Won't--get--what you're after. Not in a million years. Not if I have anything to say about it!" he blusters at the end.
Don't improvise, Doctor, Janeway orders.
"Sorry," Doc says, loud enough for the Overlooker to hear--and be totally confused by.
But King Dork recovers soon enough. "An exchange of fire would damage both of our ships. But we have support nearby; you are alone. Take your weapons offline and prepare to be boa--"
Tuvok cuts the channel abruptly. "Excuse the interruption, Commander. I've found a potential weakness in their shields. But I'll need time to reconfigure our phasers."
"Keep him occupied, Doctor," Chakotay commands. "Onscreen," he tells Harry, on his way to Tactical to help Tuvok.
"This is my final warning," the Overlooker says officiously.
"Don't--rush me," Doc begs.
"Take your weapons off-line. Immediately. I won't ask again."
Doc reverts to type. "You...appear to be suffering from a physio-motive disorder. You're impatient, quick to anger--do you have any idea what that does to your vascular pressure? You may want to see a physician."
In Astrometrics, Janeway rolls her eyes and begins massaging her temples.
Tuvok, looking nauseous, looks at Chakotay. "Firing phasers," he says.
The Dork Squad ship rumbles from the assault.
"Direct hit," Harry says.
Doc slaps his hands together. "Ha!" he shouts at the screen. "How do you like that, huh? A taste of your own medicine!"
Tone it down, Doctor, Janeway orders. Sorry, Doc says, a bit more discreetly this time.
The Overlooker slaps a control on his ship.
Stuff blows up on the bridge, but nobody appears to be hurt.
"Our phasers are off-line," Tuvok reports irritably.
"Prepare to be boarded!" the Overlooker says.
Janeway tells Doc it's time to negotiate--
But Doc cuts her off. "Tuvok!" he barks, rising imperiously from the Big Chair.
Is that French horns I hear?
Is that a heroic pose Doc is making? Chin--jutted. Check. Shoulders perpendicular to screen. Check. Eyes blazing--check.
"Activate...the photonic cannon," Doc orders grandly.
Harry smirks. Nobody else knows what the hell he's talking about.
"Tuvok, that was an order!" Doc says, his arm raised as though to strike, but his eyes never leaving the Overlooker's.
Tuvok looks at Chakotay. Chakotay reluctantly nods.
Tuvok rolls his eyes. "Activating the photonic cannon...Sir." (I wonder which buttons he pressed for that?)
The Doctor glares at his adversary. "I'd rather not give the order to fire," he rasps, with the Voice of Impending Doom.
The Overlooker frowns. "My sensors are showing no activation sequence!" he says skeptically.
"Of course not! The photonic cannon is impervious to sensors."
Chester bends the Overlooker's ear. "The Borg couldn't detect it either--that's why they were destroyed!" he says helpfully.
The Doctor leans forward until his grave face fills the screen. "The Borg, the Hierarchy, it's all the same to me. Just another bully who didn't know when to back off!"
"We'll be vaporized!" Chester wails.
The Overlooker cuts the channel.
A quick query is fired off to the Hierarchy.
A rapid response is received.
The Overlooker, Chester, Wally . . . all breathe a sigh of relief.
"The Heirarchy suggests retreat," the Overlooker says, and moves off.
Chester raises his fists in silent victory.
"They're moving away at maximum impulse," Harry Kim reports.
Doc staggers backward. It worked. It worked!
He finds himself staring at the captain's chair. But now that the crisis is past, it's no longer his to occupy. The need for the fiction is no more.
"Go ahead, Doctor," Chakotay tells him. "You've earned it."
And for some reason, it seems to fit a bit better now. After a moment, he settles in, with a photon-eating grin.
Time passes. Doc's back in Sickbay, back in blue, working on things medical without distraction.
Then a distraction comes. "Seven of Nine to the Doctor."
"I require your assistance in the mess hall."
"I'll be right there," Doc says. He grabs his portable emitter and heads for the door.
The door opens to reveal a room full of crewmates, all in dress uniform.
"Surprise!" they shout, and applaud--
Whoa. Déjà vu. Doc looks like he's going to be ill.
Harry laughs. "Don't worry Doc, you're not dreaming!"
Janeway leads the applause. "Captain?" Doc asks, confused.
Janeway takes something from Harry's hands and walks toward the Doc. "For your--imaginative defense of this ship and her crew, I'm awarding you the Starfleet Medal of Commendation." She pins a silver medal, about twice the diameter of a standard pip, on his chest. Then she steps back and leads a fresh round of applause. "Congratulations!"
Doc is genuinely touched--and almost speechless. Almost. "Thank you!" he says to the crowd.
Janeway beams. "I've also reconsidered your request. I'm going to authorize a research project to explore your command abilities." She pats Docs' chest. "You're a natural." The applause resumes anew.
Seven of Nine approaches. "Congratulations, Doctor," she says with a smile, and then kisses him on the check.
They know his fantasies! They're making his fantasies come true! Think of the possibil--
Seven walks behind Doc and speaks softly enough for only him to hear. "That was a platonic gesture. Don't expect me to pose for you."
Seven returns to the crowd to mingle. "Noted," Doc says, then coughs nervously.
Ah well. Can't win 'em all, right?
All in all, Doc can't complain. He ends the episode as he began it--smiling serenely. He's appreciated--that's one fantasy that clearly came true.
What do you get when you combine the writing of Joe Menosky at his most inspired, the vast acting range of Robert Picardo, the main cast allowed to play against type and ham it up for a change, and a director with an Oscar under his belt?
Picardo is the perfect actor, and the Doctor the perfect character, for this role. As a hologram, Doc is one of the most fully fleshed-out people on board. As a performer, Picardo raises the standard for everyone in the scenes they share. Add the freeing force of fantasy to the mix, and the hour simply sparkles. It doesn't hurt that he has a voice and stage presence for opera.
Leave it to Picardo to bring out the passion in Mulgrew, Dawson and Ryan. I don't merely refer to the catfight in the conference room, terrific though that scene was. The "breakup" scene between Doc and Daydream Torres was at once amusing and touching. Most of the scenes with Mulgrew and Picardo were quite touching, and had actual character significance. Picardo and Ryan always work well together, but this week was a cut above with the addition of "daydream Seven," and the interaction of Seven of Nine with, and her response to, her fantasy self. Robbie McNeill didn't say much this week, but his best moments were nonverbal--the wave in the mess hall, the hypospray toss to subdue Tuvok, and so on. All the performances were excellent this week.
The beauty of this episode is how so many elements combined to play up the Walter Mitty moments. The music, appropriately over-the-top heroic during the Captain Photon scenes, operatic and parodic in the teaser, etc. The CGI, seamlessly changing the Doctor's uniform color and popping up the pips on his collar, and the brief Borg scene. The use of Trek history--the "assimilation virus" concept and the Borg sphere from "Dark Frontier," the Vulcan pon farr and nerve pinch from TOS--to add context to several scenes. The reactions we got from Seven and Torres and Janeway as they saw their fantasy counterparts--B'Elanna's irritation, Seven's ability to take it in stride and rib the Doctor about it afterward, the captain's compassion (though it's good she caught the scene she did, and not the hiney-rubbing scene in the conference room earlier in the show . . . )
Beyond the humor, there is the serious issue of the Doctor's existence--he has several qualities that make him unique--as a software-based lifeform, he is highly adaptable. This is both a blessing and a curse, as we saw; his holographic nature got hacked into, and as a result Voyager--which originally hadn't been a target of the aliens of the week--became one. Though played for laughs here, we saw a more serious security breach of the Doctor's programming in "Equinox." I liked that the resolution of this episode was more balanced than a mere yes/no to the Doctor's request--I doubt we'll see Janeway handing command over to the Doctor again anytime soon. But the effort could be folded in gradually; we could see the Doctor's programming change a bit at a time.
The beefing up of the doctor's internal security would be a good place to start.
But beyond the issue of whether Doc could do the job, there's also the question of whether he should. Chakotay's role as first officer here was well handled--he raised the appropriate concerns, supported the decisions Janeway made, assisted "Captain EMH" in a believable way. It's his place in the chain of command that the Doctor is attempting to usurp, and we could see some justifiable jealousy there--that there was more than professional concern.
The aliens of the week weren't that well defined--unnamed major guest characters is a serious pet peeve of mine--but I did like the development of the "Chester" alien, from smug status-seeker to concerned fan of the Doctor's. He imperiled Voyager--which is his job--but he redeemed himself by episode's end. The alien society wasn't what I'd call inept, but the highly centralized nature of their culture was set up well--it helped make the rather ridiculous "Corbomite Maneuver" bluff not only possible, but plausible. These weren't Pakleds fooled by a Red Cloud of Doom weapon. As stealthy robber/raiders, I wouldn't call them good guys. But their bureaucratic organization gave them the quality of a spacefaring Internal Revenue Service rather than pirates. They claim the space, they charge toll. It's a heavy price, but they do strike me more as businessmen. The alien's great fear was a bad evaluation and the loss of his livelihood and position.
For someone in such a dull job, the fantasy life of the Doctor stands in stark contrast. It's easy to see why the Doctor so fascinated him--fantasy life or no.
Yes, there are some nitpicks. But I choose not to dwell on them here. I mentioned a few in the summary--Tom Paris in the Delta Flyer AND unconscious at the helm, a position jump when Doc's memory is jumping around on the Holodeck. Nothing too severe.
All in all, this has my vote for most entertaining episode of the season to date, and a Voyager classic. It made me laugh--a lot. But it didn't do just that, and that's what I really liked. The humor didn't come at the expense of characterization or consistency.
Four stars. Check it out.
Next week: some serious Gratuitous Paris Abuse, and a possible Other Woman between Tom and B'Elanna.