Episode Guide/Review by Charlynn Schmiedt
Season 1, Episode 5
Stardate 48546.2 (2371)
Episode 5 of 168 Released in Star Trek: Voyager
Episode 5 of 168 Produced in Star Trek: Voyager
Production Number: 106
Original airdate: February 13, 1995
Directed by David Livingston
Story by Brannon Braga
Teleplay by Tom Szollosi and Michael Piller
While investigating a nebula for much-needed resources, Voyager finds out the nebula is actually a living being. Voyager injures the creature when making its exit and the crew must find a way to help the being heal its wounds before moving on.
This episode has a lot of commentary on rank and expectations thereof aboard a starship. I’ve never been in the military, but I have a feeling that Starfleet’s “rules” are similar to the way things work among those serving in the armed forces. The opening scene demonstrates the dynamic between captain and crew, both from Janeway’s perspective and from lower-ranking officers (Tom and Harry). Janeway’s “stroll” shows that she wants to break the barrier separating herself from her officers, but it’s uncomfortable because of established protocols. This isn’t something I could see Picard doing in season one of TNG, even if he were the captain stuck 70,000 light years from home. (I’d even go so far as to say that Picard enjoyed the distance between himself and his crew until much later in the series.) After Janeway leaves Paris and Kim in search of coffee, Tom informs Harry that asking the Captain to join them would have gone against the grain; should she have wanted to join them, she would have asked them. Then there’s Tuvok telling Ensign Kim to keep comments like “I’ve never seen anything like it” to himself because they make the junior officers nervous. At the end of the episode, Harry tactfully breaches protocol and invites Janeway to join the senior officers for a game of pool.
Character development is abundant in this episode, all while furthering the story. For instance, we learn about the Doctor’s programmer when B’Elanna seeks his opinion on the sample she took from the nebula. Harry makes Tom face the fact he does miss home behind his carefree exterior. We learn a great deal about Chakotay’s animal guide, and later, Chakotay helps Janeway discover hers. We also learn that Harry sleeps with a blindfold, and fortunately, we also find out why—so it’s not just an unusual trait thrown out there for the heck of it. We also learn that Janeway and Paris have had dogs as pets, and Janeway is quite a pool shark.
I like it when Star Trek makes fun of itself, so I enjoyed it when Neelix humorously channeled the thoughts of many people who critique Star Trek and its typical plot devices that constantly put the ship in trouble. “Let’s see if we can’t find some space anomaly today that might rip [the ship] apart,” he rants. Later on, the Doctor chimes in with his two cents about investigating every little inch of the quadrant. He ponders, “Why pretend we’re going home at all?”
We’re introduced to the first of what will be several of Tom Paris’s holographic programs. This one, Sandrine’s, not only provides an interesting hangout for the crew, but further acknowledges the loneliness that’s setting in among the crew. It gives them a piece of home while also providing a place to relax. As Janeway noted in the opening, the reality of their situation is setting in, and a place like Sandrine’s is a needed diversion.
The Neelix and Kes romance feels forced and is difficult to watch. These two never really worked, in my opinion.
Chakotay tells Janeway that he’s never let anyone else see his medicine bundle before, but later we learn that Chakotay helped Torres find her animal guide as well. Did she acquire a medicine bundle for herself before seeking her spirit guide for the first time? That’s the only way Chakotay could have helped Torres find her animal guide while keeping his medicine bundle a secret, but the dialogue makes this unclear.
Neelix meant well by bringing food up to the bridge, but seriously, the last thing I think about in the middle of a mini-crisis is food. I wouldn’t have been pleased if I were Janeway. She should have shooed him off the bridge.
Janeway’s personal log at the beginning of this episode is the first time she mentions the crew becoming more of a family as the reality of their journey sets in. We’ll see this concept embraced as the series continues.
On the opposite side of officer protocol, we have Neelix, who knows next to nothing about it. That’s why he has no problem calling Janeway out on using a replicator ration just for coffee. It also shows that at this point, he doesn’t know just how much Janeway needs coffee. For her, it’s 95% of her daily intake. Only 5% is actual food.
Watch how Janeway’s eyes light up when she says to Chakotay, “You’ve got a date.” No wonder the Janeway/Chakotay fans were uniting on the Internet, even this early in the series.
It is established that Voyager has 38 photon torpedoes at its disposal—er, 37, since they used one.
Did anyone else find it creepy that Tom broke into Harry’s quarters while Harry was sleeping (with a blindfold on, no less)? It’s almost as creepy as Harry remembering being in his mother’s womb.
Kudos to the director for shooting Janeway’s animal guide scene the way he did. Its intimate feel sweeps us away with her, only to be snapped away as she was when the door chime rang.
As he will many times throughout the series, the Doctor steals the show with his well-executed scenes. Who can’t laugh as the muted Doctor frantically waves his hands for attention?!
“There’s coffee in that nebula!” —Janeway
“I did not come onboard this ship to be a veterinarian, Captain.”
“And I thought you were a man of unlimited talents.”
—Neelix and Janeway
“Dismissed. That’s a Starfleet expression for ‘get out.’”
—Janeway to Neelix
“Paris, did you program this guy?”
“He’s a pig. And so are you.”
—Torres and Paris
“Commander Chakotay, your stick?”
The Doctor’s musings on programming a family. He’ll do this in season three’s “Real Life.”
Sandrine’s. We’ll see the crew hanging out in here several times.
I really enjoy the character development that moves along what would have otherwise been a slow, boring story. This episode is not without its flaws, but it’s a solid installment of the first season.
(8 out of 10)
Angela Dohrmann as Ricky
Judy Geeson as Sandrine
Larry A. Hankin as Gaunt Gary
Luigi Amodeo as The Gigolo