Inside ManBy Edward James Hines
Posted at November 18, 2000 - 8:51 PM GMT
"Inside Man" **
Written by Robert Doherty
Directed by Allan Kroeker
The Voyager crew is happy to receive the latest data stream from Starfleet — especially since the previous month's transmission never arrived — but it is larger than usual and jams the signal transceiver. Harry Kim and Seven of Nine discover why: Starfleet has sent an interactive hologram in the form of Lieutenant Reginald Barclay (Dwight Schultz), complete with plans to bring Voyager home within three days.
In the Alpha Quadrant, a team of Federation scientists is prepared to direct a verteron beam at the magnetic field of a red giant star. This will create a geodesic fold that will puncture space and create a gateway between this red giant and a similar red giant star in the Delta Quadrant, which Voyager is now approaching. Holo-Barclay is toting schematics for upgraded deflector shields and a formula for radiation inoculations that will protect Voyager and crew, enabling them to survive the dangerous passage. With Janeway's consent, Holo-Barclay is fitted with the Doctor's mobile emitter and meets with the senior staff to distribute their modification assignments.
Unfortunately, no such preparations are taking place at Starfleet Headquarters in the Alpha Quadrant. The real Barclay, who is trying to determine why his last two data streams never reached Voyager, soon discovers that each transmission dissipated in the exact same sector of space. His superior, Commander Pete Harkins (Richard McGonagle), suggests that the complexity of the Barclay hologram may have degraded the data stream. Barclay, however, learns that just before the first transmission was sent a month ago, an unidentified ship passed close to the MIDAS Array (which relays the signal to Voyager) and may have tampered with it.
Distraught, Barclay seeks the counsel of old friend Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), who, after a roundabout conversation, suspects that his ex-girlfriend Leosa (Sharisse Baker-Bernard) may be responsible for leaking information about Barclay's hologram to the Ferengi, who employ her as a Dabo girl. Leosa confirms her complicity and locates the Ferengi ship in orbit of a red giant star, proximate to the MIDAS Array. She also reveals that the Ferengi hope to acquire Borg nanoprobes, which would fetch a tidy profit.
Barclay surmises the rest of the story when he observes the Ferengi ship creating a geodesic fold in the red giant. The Ferengi obviously appropriated and reprogrammed the Barclay hologram to infiltrate Voyager and direct it through the geodesic fold, which, despite the "shield modifications" and "radiation inoculations," will damage the starship and kill the crew. The Ferengi, however, will still be able to extract Seven's nanoprobes. Barclay contacts the Ferengi and pretends to be the hologram, instructing them to close the geodesic fold before an angry Janeway comes marauding through it and kills them. His performance is so convincing that the frightened Ferengi close the fold and retreat. Aboard Voyager, Seven disables Holo-Barclay.
The Dominion War has been over for slightly more than a year, but Federation life in the Alpha Quadrant continues. Continuing the fun tradition that began in the November 1999 episode "Pathfinder" and continued in the May 2000 show "Life Line," "Inside Man" is VGR's latest visit back to familiar territory. Judging from the final scene, in which Barclay is preparing a foolproof version of his hologram, more crossover episodes seem likely before the series finale in Spring 2001.
The Barclay/Troi episodes inevitably draw attention away from Voyager, but far from being a detriment to the series regulars, "Inside Man" shows how Alpha Quadrant denizens are taking interest in what our Delta Quadrant heroes have learned. Nowhere is this better depicted than in the elementary school field trip that Harkins conducts through the Pathfinder laboratories. Janeway's status reports to Starfleet evidently contained references to several Delta Quadrant species, which Harkins' children are already able to name. This is a cute little scene that bespeaks the Federation's united efforts to remember their Voyager comrades and bring them home as soon as possible.
Barclay continues in his role as the lovable yet quintessential science geek, which is epitomized by his rumpled Starfleet uniform. However, it is somewhat baffling that, even now, after having spearheaded Starfleet's efforts to keep in regular contact with Voyager, his theories and ideas are often given short shrift. Granted, someone as hyperactive as Barclay needs a strong authority figure to keep him level. Harkins seems to fulfill this role well enough, but it makes no sense for him to dismiss Barclay's belief (backed up by research) that an unidentified starship is responsible for tampering with the MIDAS Array and hijacking Starfleet's data streams. If it is vital for Starfleet to remain in regular communication with Voyager, then shouldn't any possible threat to the array be enough incentive for Harkins to authorize an investigation? Toward that end, if, in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, a high-profile project like Genesis was assigned its own starship for reconnaissance missions, then shouldn't Pathfinder be accorded a similar advantage?
Most of the trouble with "Inside Man" has to do with the Ferengi's elaborate, convoluted plan to obtain Seven's nanoprobes. Obviously, they did tamper with the MIDAS Array, causing its signal transceiver to either hold all incoming messages or redirect them to the Ferengi ship. If the former, then why wouldn't Starfleet have detected the Ferengi downloading the array's contents? If the latter, then why wouldn't Barclay have detected the signal being rerouted?
Also, how did the Ferengi manage to smuggle the Barclay hologram to Voyager without Starfleet noticing that they were using the MIDAS Array? When Barclay determines that two-months-worth of Starfleet signals stopped in the same sector of space, his readout does not show that the second signal eventually did move on to Voyager — sent by the Ferengi. Ostensibly, they must have used the array to accomplish this, but Barclay is curiously unable to detect this activity.
How about the geodesic fold? Surely the Ferengi did not conjure this idea on their own since, in the entire history of contemporary Star Trek, we have met only one Ferengi scientist (Doctor Reyga from TNG's "Suspicions"). They must have purchased the scientific data elsewhere. This portion is plausible enough.
Even still, the object of the Ferengi game was to fool the Voyager crew — particularly the scientific minds of Janeway, the Doctor and Seven — into believing that they could successfully traverse a geodesic fold. Foolhardy is more like it, especially since Janeway reveals to Holo-Barclay that Voyager had already investigated the possibility and rejected it. The Ferengi couldn't have anticipated this, most likely, but if this particular plot point had been excised, their plan to lure Voyager through the fold might have succeeded. Bereft of prior experience, the Doctor and Seven may have more readily accepted Holo-Barclay's assurances that the shield modifications and radiation inoculations would not only work in concert, but also make up for the deficiencies of the other. Of course, this scenario would never have flown because it would have meant Voyager's destruction. Thus, "Inside Man" delivers a ruse that is bound to fail; it's just a question of when. Thus, it is not terribly exciting.
The ploy also shows that the Ferengi failed to think things through. Their goal was to obtain Borg nanoprobes, but they never seemed to consider that, while Seven was still alive, her vast Borg knowledge (and even Icheb's) would eventually see right through their scheme.
Perhaps the most confusing portion of the plot is Holo-Barclay's supposed "abduction" of Seven and their flight in an escape pod through the rapidly closing geodesic fold. The abduction, of course, never really happens and the scene serves no purpose other than to fill time, apparently. It is also deliberately misleading. Kim notices a site-to-site transport in progress and then confirms that Seven and Holo-Barclay are in an escape pod. The next thing we see is the pod streaking toward the geodesic fold and later bumping into the Ferengi ship. When this business is over, Janeway's log entry only states that Holo-Barclay is deactivated and Seven is recovered from his attack. But what really happened in that escape pod? The synopsis on startrek.com says that Kim transported Seven and Holo-Barclay back to Voyager just in time, but this isn't made clear in the episode. Another scenario might be that Holo-Barclay beamed himself and Seven to the escape pod, but she recovered her wits, ripped off his mobile emitter and exited the pod before it launched.
Clues to the Caper
The first indication of the Ferengi plot is so beautifully subtle that it is easy to miss. Holo-Barclay tells Seven that when Voyager returns to Earth, Starfleet will throw a ticker tape parade down Market Street. Now where else would a Ferengi expect a parade to happen? If Starfleet Headquarters had been located in New York City, the Ferengi would probably have programmed Holo-Barclay to say "Wall Street," but as it happens, there is a Market Street in San Francisco and the reference is aptly chosen.
Of course, the bigger clues are Holo-Barclay's separate assurances to a skeptical Doctor and Seven that the modified shields and radiation inoculations will be enough to protect the ship and crew. The biggest tip-off is Holo-Barclay's menacing reaction to the golf-clad Doctor on the holodeck. Even though we knew the Ferengi were pulling Holo-Barclay's strings long before this scene, it is significant as the first time he really loses it in front of a Voyager crewmember. And he couldn't have chosen a more inappropriate person than the Doctor, who knows the real Barclay ("Life Line") and complains to Janeway that Barclay would never design a hologram to be so rude and careless.
"Inside Man" is not the first time the Voyager crew has enjoyed the possibility of getting home quickly. You would think that after six years of trying, they wouldn't get so excited whenever a new opportunity arose. Janeway, for example, is cautiously optimistic, and when the plan fails, she doesn't seem too surprised. Harry Kim, however, is as excited as can be and eagerly looks forward to his mother's cooking. He is also the most crestfallen in the end (perhaps because of Neelix's pie?), but he is at least noteworthy for his unfailing optimism.
This isn't the case for the pessimistic Tom Paris, probably because the Delta Quadrant is the place where he finally made an honest name for himself, broke a few piloting records and finally settled down with just one woman. Maybe, in his heart of hearts, he really doesn't want to go home. Voyager is his home. It's ironic, but for all his efforts in learning how to work with a community of individuals toward a common goal, it may be that he will ultimately choose to reject that goal. His jadedness with the "fast-track home" scenario is borne of experience, obviously, and he recounts two of Voyager's failed efforts from "Hope and Fear" and "Bliss." His throwaway line to Kim is that even if this latest shortcut works, Voyager will probably end up in the Gamma Quadrant, which, of course, is home to many of DS9's stories.
Seven has expressed a reluctance to return to Earth before ("Hope and Fear"), but "Inside Man" is the first time she tells us why: She anticipates a chilly reaction from Earth's denizens because she was once Borg. If Voyager actually does return to Earth by the end of the series, it will be interesting to see if she is right. Undoubtedly, Starfleet will want to study her. She probably knows this but chooses not to think about it too much, preferring to believe she will be assigned to repair Voyager or tour Indiana with Janeway. But could there be a spark of truth in the Ferengi-programmed Holo-Barclay's assertion that Seven represents a beacon of hope to those humans who have lost friends and family to Borg assimilation? If Seven escaped the Collective, might others have done the same? Episodes like "Unity," "Survival Instinct" and "Unimatrix Zero, Part II" certainly suggested that this is possible.
Critics of Star Trek: Insurrection have theorized that Will Riker and Deanna Troi's rekindled romance may have been solely due to the age-regressing effects of the Ba'ku planet's metaphasic radiation. Removed from it, the couple would probably separate and return to their friendship. "Inside Man" at least implies that their relationship may have continued, since Riker is expected to join Troi on shore leave. This was a nice detail to throw in. We'll see if the tenth Star Trek movie validates it.
For astute DS9 fans, Troi's presence undoubtedly raises questions about the disposition of her home world, Betazed, which was attacked by the Dominion in "In the Pale Moonlight." How is the planet faring now that the war is over? Was Lwaxana Troi there when it happened? Since "Inside Man" continues the Riker story line from Star Trek: Insurrection, it is at least hopeful that future Troi appearances on VGR will answer some of these questions.
Barclay's holodeck inclinations haven't changed since "Pathfinder" and TNG's "Hollow Pursuits." When he is on the holodeck himself, he is the confidant hero, the man in charge and the one to whom everyone looks for guidance. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that his hologram in "Inside Man" is designed to be the "life of the party" — a trait the Ferengi did not change in their tinkering. By the end of the episode, after all his setbacks with Leosa and the stolen hologram, Barclay is back on the holodeck perfecting his latest virtual double. Troi, reiterating her advice from "Hollow Pursuits," reminds him to go out and meet new, real people.
"Inside Man" seems to take place at least two months after "Repression," when Voyager last received a data stream from Starfleet.
The D'Kora-class Ferengi Marauder last appeared way back in TNG's "Force of Nature." Surprisingly, despite all the screen time the Ferengi received on DS9, the Marauder model was never used.
The three Ferengi — Gegis (Frank Corsentino), Nunk (Michael William Rivkin) and Yeggie (Christopher Neiman) — are clad in civilian clothing even though they are on a military vessel. Of course, it's not a stretch to imagine that these crafty fellows were able to purchase their very own warship.
Barclay surmises that the Ferengi are hoping to acquire Borg nanoprobes as a means of slowing the aging process or, as we saw with Neelix in "Mortal Coil," reanimate necrotic tissue. In a nice bit of humor, one of the Ferengi hopes to use his surplus profits to purchase "lobe enhancements" for himself. Hopefully, his surgeons will use saline, not silicone.
Just as the Ferengi were able to tamper with the MIDAS Array, in TNG's "Parallels," one of the timelines depicted that the Cardassians had reconfigured the Federation's subspace radio telescope, the Argus Array, for their own nefarious purposes.
The Federation starship Carolina, which was closest to the Ferengi, takes its name from an older Starfleet vessel that was first mentioned in TOS's "Friday's Child."
"Inside Man" takes a hint from "Drive" and reunites Paris, Torres and Kim for one of the final scenes in which the newlyweds convince the gullible Kim of a new shortcut home. The chemistry among these three works really well. Unfortunately, the bulk of the series didn't capitalize on it. Hopefully, this final season will try to make up for some lost time.
Paris and Torres spin the yarn of an Iconian scientist and his transdimensional gateway that can take Voyager anywhere in the galaxy. Of course, the Iconians and their gateways were introduced in TNG's "Contagion" and used again in DS9's "To the Death."
At the end of "Inside Man," Troi says that she and Riker will be continuing their vacation in Tiburon. Presumably, she means the city in California, not the planet mentioned in TOS's "The Way to Eden" and "The Savage Curtain."
On the beach, Barclay brings Troi a "chocolate passion punch" to drink. In each of her three VGR appearances, Troi has been given a chocolate treat, which is her perennial favorite.
Richard Herd returns for his second appearance as "Admiral Paris" after "Pathfinder." In TNG, he was the Klingon "L'Kor" in "Birthright, Parts I and II."
Richard McGonagle returns for his second appearance as "Commander Pete Harkins" after "Pathfinder." In TNG, he was "Doctor Ja'Dar" in "New Ground."
Frank Corsentino plays his third Ferengi, "Gegis," in "Inside Man." In TNG, he was DaiMon Bok in "The Battle" and DaiMon Tog in "Menage a Troi."
Copyright Edward James Hines
17 November 2000
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.