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The Trek Nation - In the Flesh

In the Flesh

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 3:53 PM GMT

See Also: 'In the Flesh' Episode Guide

Admiral Bullock is leading a tour group around the grounds of Starfleet Headquarters in San Francisco. Chakotay surveys the scene and is warned by Boothby the groundskeeper that he should get a new tricorder. In the officer's lounge, a Starfleet officer named Valerie Archer introduces herself to Chakotay when she catches him reading her book on Vulcan philosophy. Suddenly, an officer begins to morph and is quickly removed. Archer asks Chakotay whether he has ever reverted; he pretends to know what she means, and learns that she dislikes breathing oxygen and sleeping as if she were human. When she offers him a tour at 1900 hours, he agrees, despite a glare from Tuvok who has entered the room. Tuvok suggests that they infiltrate a restricted area, but when the two are arrested, Tuvok neck-pinches the guard. The landing party and their captive beam out.

On the ship, Janeway welcomes the "new ensign" and demands a DNA sample, but he releases a cellular toxin into his blood before they can question him. Janeway studies Chakotay's report, tells him she knew Boothby - he used to give her flowers at the Academy - and concludes that the only reason Delta Quadrant aliens would be imitating Earth would be in preparation to infiltrate and invade. The Doctor examines the body in Sickbay and manufactures a compound to make his DNA revert to its original form. The "ensign" morphs into a member of Species 8472.

Tuvok reminds the crew that the 8472s have threatened to destroy all life in the galaxy, and Chakotay suggests that if he keeps his date, he may be able to get more information. Janeway orders a transporter lock on him, then corners Chakotay in private and suggests places to take dates on Earth, asking him his plans. He realizes she suspects he may be an 8472 replication, and submits to a scan in Sickbay. Once it's established that he's human, she sends Chakotay to the simulated Earth, warning him to be home before midnight. Chakotay jokes with Paris and Kim about dating aliens while Seven and the Doctor replicate Borg nanoprobes to create weapons with which to combat Species 8472.

Chakotay finds Archer with Boothby and discusses Starfleet with her, waiting till she goes to get an isomorphic injection to scan her files. She changes into a robe and gives herself a shot in the thigh, then purrs that non-fluidic space has its charms and it's too bad they're only weeks away from infiltrating Earth. Chakotay says he wonders whether invasion is really necessary, but Archer says the humans allied with the Borg and are dangerous. When Chakotay says he needs to leave, she asks whether they can try a goodnight kiss: it's her first time and she assumes it's his too. Chakotay initially resists, then kisses her back, permitting her to get her hands on his face and neck. Once he leaves, she takes a scan of her hand and contacts Boothby, who suspected all along that Chakotay was actually human.

As Seven gives Janeway the specs on the weapons modification and Janeway frets about possibly having to start a war, the aliens turn on the daylight settings for the simulation so that they can catch Chakotay. Once they have him in custody, they take a DNA sample from his neck, ignoring his insistence that Voyager only wants his safe return and an explanation for the facility. Paris warns the captain that Chakotay is missing, so she brings the ship out of hiding behind a moon and targets the installation. "Boothby" warns Janeway that he has stronger weapons, but she reminds him that nanoprobes devastated them in the past and asks for a meeting.

"Boothby" calls the Prime Directive a load of Targ manure and says that the database proves Starfleet doesn't follow its own rules, but Janeway points out that there's no reference to Species 8472 in anything either of them have read: there is no planned invasion of fluidic space. Boothby informs her that there are a dozen installations like his all over the quadrant, so there's no point in her trying to blow up the one below, while Archer says their own mission is intended to explore Earth, not invade it. Janeway says they're obviously deadlocked and takes her weapons offline as a gesture of goodwill. She agrees to show them the nanoprobe weapons if "Boothby" will teach them how their isomorphic injections work.

Seven expresses confusion that Janeway decided to trust the aliens, but Janeway says she trusts "Boothby"'s promise to talk to his superiors about calling off the infiltration of Earth. She tells him to contact her now that he has her comm frequency, and accepts a replicated rose from him before she goes off in search of a coffeeshop. Chakotay gives Archer a kiss goodbye and tells her she's a quick study.

Analysis:

This was quite an engrossing episode, apart from unfortunate similarities with the excellent Deep Space Nine episode "Homefront," which also took place at Starfleet Command and focused on shapeshifting aliens who were planning to infiltrate Earth. Janeway recited a few too many Starfleet platitudes, but not as many as in her last encounter with an 8472 in "Prey" where she risked the ship to keep it safe from the Hirogen - though that incident seems to be forgotten here by both sides. Harry's recall of his last "date" with an 8472 (which tried to kill him horribly) wasn't quite as vehement as I would have liked, but at least he remembered that it happened. I really enjoyed the disputes among Voyager crewmembers and among the 8472 about what to do about one another - this episode had nice balance and some clever wit, though what's with all the slams at Vulcans these days?

Archer's a witty, intelligent character who reminds me a lot of first-season Janeway in both her appearance and demeanor. She's dangerously charming, even doing gratuitous things like giving herself a shot on the upper thigh; I wouldn't mind seeing her again. Chakotay, however, remains very flat during romantic situations where one would expect some emotion from him. He's been through similar torments with Seska, Riley, etc., yet doesn't seem fazed that every woman he's attracted to turns out to be hiding a horrible secret. I'd expect more overt desire and/or horror in his dealings with Archer, yet he barely blinks when she sticks a needle in his neck Seska-style to steal his DNA - last time that happened, he almost became a father and the results almost destroyed the ship, so one would think he'd freak out at least as much as Harry over his bad luck with alien dates. Also, I don't understand how everyone in Starfleet knew he was a commander when he wears a Maquis rank bar, and I want to know why he didn't recognize Boothby.

I love the idea of Species 8472 being able to impersonate humans, but if killing most life in the galaxy is their aim, as they suggested in "Scorpion," why the elaborate plan to study Earth? Like just about every alien threat ever encountered on Star Trek (Klingons, Romulans, Cardassians, Borg, Kazon, etc.), 8472 got way too tame way too fast. I am holding out hope that we're not through with them - that if Voyager ever does get home, this plot will have consequence, like maybe Janeway will realize the Boothby at Starfleet isn't the real thing - you know, like, an arc. (I don't think 8472 has made it to Earth; everyone was wearing old Starfleet uniforms, a dead giveaway.) My biggest fantasy is that the Chakotay they bring back to the ship at the end will turn out to be a fake, and he'll run around all season doing stupid things until they realize that he's not who he's supposed to be...if anyone notices. Heh heh heh.

Nice directing. Nice dialogue too. The writers did a good job of placating Janeway/Chakotay fans by having a couple of nice scenes between the two of them, including the one where she starts giving him suggestions for dates and they end up swapping confidences about the last time they were in the officer's mess (for Chakotay, it was the day he resigned from Starfleet, while for Janeway it was right before she was sent out to arrest him; one might really wish for elaboration on their feelings about those events. Unfortunately the producers are permitting Janeway so little in the way of sexuality and giving her such awful hairdos from week to week that Archer outshone her - but given Chakotay's level of apathy, it's easy to believe he didn't notice.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


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.