Friendship OneBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:25 PM GMT
See Also: 'Friendship One' Episode Guide
A Starfleet admiral contacts Janeway from Earth, telling her she's made more first contacts than any captain since Kirk and asking her to track down Friendship One -- a missing Earth probe that vanished four years after Zephran Cochrane's warp flight, before Starfleet was created. In an effort to get his overdue promotion, Kim stays up all night doing research and figures out where the probe probably landed. Voyager heads to a planet with lots of radiation in the atmosphere and sends down an away team, which includes Joe Carey because Paris won't let his pregnant wife risk their baby while she's breathing for two.
The planet has many active warheads in silos, but they're not the source of the antimatter-based radiation. Though the crew reads no life signs on the planet, Paris, Neelix and Carey are taken hostage in a cave while Chakotay and Kim are attacked on the Flyer. The latter two escape, bringing an unconscious attacker back to Voyager with them. The Doctor realizes the alien is suffering from radiation poisoning, as are the people on the planet below; they all suffer from skin lesions, and Paris meets a woman who has given birth to three stillborn children. Their leader believes humans sent Friendship One not in the spirit of exploration, but to expose aliens to antimatter in the hope that they would obliterate themselves. They demand transport to a new planet in exchange for the hostages.
The captain searches for a suitable M-class planet, but the nearest one is so far away that it would take three years to transfer all the inhabitants there. Since Seven has discovered that her nanoprobes can treat the radiation damage, Janeway offers instead to exchange one of the hostages for food and treatment. The alien leader shoots Joe Carey to death instead to show her he won't settle for anything short of evacuation. Furious, Janeway sends down Tuvok and the Doctor in disguise to rescue Paris and Neelix. She plans to leave the planet as soon as she has recovered her crewmembers, and is surprised when Paris beams up with an alien baby suffering from radiation poisoning. He helped deliver the child to the woman who already lost three, and wants the captain to help the aliens despite their leader's intransigence.
The alien scientist works with Seven to develop a plan to disperse the radiation on the surface. Janeway takes Voyager into the atmosphere to deploy charges that should clear the atmosphere, but could damage the ship. Distrustful, the alien leader prepares to launch warheads at the ship. The new mother pulls a weapon, refusing to let her leader destroy their best chance for survival. Voyager succeeds, and the aliens see the sunlight for the first time in generations. Janeway leaves with Friendship One, but laments to Chakotay that the loss of life makes her wonder whether exploration is always worthwhile.
Voyager has a knack for establishing just enough continuity from season to season that the show can pretend to have an ongoing storyline, when in reality the writers make token references to the past and warp everything to fit their current half-baked plans. In "Friendship One," they bring back Joe Carey for the first time in years...and kill him! Paris sits around talking about his impending fatherhood with Neelix and a strange alien, but not with Carey, who leaves behind a widow and two sons I'm sure the writers have long since forgotten. Instead Paris delivers his second baby of the series (the first, also with Neelix in attendance, was in "Parturition" -- anyone remember that one at all, with the Janeway Hair Continuity Disaster?).
Neelix tries to win over the aliens by talking about his own devastating loss from the Metreon Cascade (first season!) but no one feels sorry enough to free him even though he's clearly not from Earth like the others. It's a nice moment for the Talaxian anyway; too bad Paris is slated to be the hero here. Though he beams the alien baby to Voyager for salvation after delivery, Paris is too insensitive to offer to bring the mother as well, just as he's too insensitive to allow his own wife to make her own choices about whether to go on a potentially risky away missions. They don't bother to let the Doctor decide. The simpering lox formerly known as chief engineer B'Elanna Torres doesn't even put up a real argument about staying behind, since Tommy's kisses make up for everything she's given up to become his little woman. Like I said, there's token continuity with current canon; I just wish there weren't.
Maybe I'd feel more enthusiastic about "Friendship One" if I didn't suspect we were going to see it again on its launch day during Series V, currently rumored to be called Enterprise and set in pre-Starfleet days of human space travel. I also can't help but gag when an admiral compares Janeway to Kirk, particularly two weeks after the comparisons in "Q2" between the captains. At least Janeway is in "uphold our principles and save the day" mode instead of Psycho Selfish Dictator mode, though she nearly has a lapse until Paris brings her around. The captain's upset about Carey, and who can blame her? There is absolutely no excuse for Seven's nanoprobes not having saved him, after they brought Neelix back from the dead and saved thousands of aliens from ailments and singlehandedly made it possible for Voyager to survive this long in the Delta Quadrant. While the nanoprobe gimmick is getting (over)used in an episode, one really has to wonder why the buggers can't be used for something simple like resuscitating a popular minor character whose storyline the writers have decided to resolve via obliteration.
There are plot similarities to "Blink of an Eye" (and all the original series episodes THAT episode resembled), while the new aliens look like a combination of Malons from "Juggernaut" and Son'a from Insurrection. For one brief moment, it sounds like Janeway might cite the Prime Directive as a reason for not meddling further in the mess an Earth probe has made of an alien species -- an overdue speech but perhaps necessary now that they're in contact with Starfleet. For some reason, she restrains herself, though Seven has already tried to convince an alien scientist to overthrow his leader and take over the reins of power -- surely a PD violation if ever there was one. Oddly enough, I'd be happier with the captain taking responsibility for such a momentous event. But in the waning days of Voyager, principles and consistency don't seem to matter a whit. "Friendship One," like "Author, Author," is a time-waster masquerading as an issue story by making people look bad, then using the gimmick of one of Voyager's miracle characters to redeem them all.
Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.