Inside ManBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:16 PM GMT
See Also: 'Inside Man' Episode Guide
Last month's data stream from Starfleet never arrived, and this month's is so large that it has jammed the transceiver. Seven of Nine realizes that's because there's a hologram in matrix. It's a recreation of Reg Barclay, who has a plan to get Voyager to the Alpha Quadrant when Starfleet opens a geodesic fold near a red giant star that will trigger a similar fold near a star Voyager will pass in a few days. Borrowing the Doctor's mobile emitter, the Barclay hologram helps the crew make adjustments to the shields.
Seven of Nine is afraid she will be despised on Earth, but Reg assures her that as a Borg survivor, she's actually a heroine. The Doctor gets nervous about how they will protect themselves from the dangerous geodesic radiation that has thus far prevented Janeway from trying to create a similar fold to get back home, and a bit suspicious when the hologram won't return his emitter to let the Doctor leave Sickbay. But tests prove the Barclay program is working perfectly. The crew has no way of knowing that back at Pathfinder headquarters, the real Barclay is near-hysterical because his hologram has gone missing in a failed transmission to Voyager. Nor does anyone on the ship suspect that the Barclay hologram has been stolen and altered by a group of Ferengi who want to extract and sell Seven of Nine's nanoprobes.
Barclay visits Deanna Troi, who's on vacation waiting for Will Riker to arrive. She wants to know what happened to his girlfriend Leosa; Barclay admits that she left him over his obsession with work, though he had thought she was a wonderful listener because she was so attentive when he discussed his hologram. Now he believes the Borg have stolen the hologram and ruined his life. But the counselor senses that Barclay is suspicious about the timing of Leosa's departure, and convinces him to tell his superiors that his former girlfriend might have compromised security, even if he'll be humiliated.
Leosa, who turns out to be a Dabo girl working on a Ferengi casino ship, admits that she shared information about Pathfinder with her employer, who is now on a ship near a red giant star. Admiral Paris summons the starship Carolina to intercept and arrest the Ferengi. When Reg asks Leosa how much his broken heart was worth to her, she says she was going to get ten percent of the profits from selling nanoprobes. Barclay realizes the Ferengi must have some plan for capturing Seven of Nine, but is afraid his superiors will think he is paranoid if he tells them so.
The Barclay hologram becomes very popular among Janeway's crew for doing impressions of the officers. But when the geodesic fold begins to open, emitting hazardous radiation, he knocks Seven of Nine out and mimics her voice to convince the captain to keep moving toward it. Meanwhile, Admiral Paris and Commander Harkins see the fold opening on Pathfinder monitors and realize the Carolina won't get to the Ferengi in time to stop Voyager from trying to come through. The real Barclay uses the Midas array to contact the Ferengi, pretending to be the hologram, claiming that Janeway figured out their scheme and will use Hirogen hunting sensors, Vidiian phase torpedos, and other Delta Quadrant technology to destroy them. The Ferengi allow the fold to close.
The Barclay hologram abducts the unconscious Seven of Nine and launches an escape pod, but Voyager beams them back and deactivates the phony Barclay until they can figure out what went wrong with the program. Paris and Torres tease Kim about his gullibility for believing in get-home-quick schemes. Back at the Pathfinder lab, Troi visits Barclay to invite him to dinner with herself, Riker, and a nice girl Will is bringing for Reg to meet.
I'm not sure whether to give this episode points for continuity or to roll my eyes at the careless misses. It starts strongly, with an apparently earnest Barclay double introducing himself as "a walking, talking, problem-solving interactive hologram," and offering one of those get-out-of-the-Delta Quadrant-free cards that Paris rightly points out have never worked before. Paris mentions Arcturus and his quantum slipstream from "Hope and Fear," plus the giant ship-devouring creature that gave them all hallucinations in "Bliss" -- but as in that episode, the crew is unfailingly optimistic, which nearly brings about their demise. As in previous episodes, the newlyweds seem the least troubled by the prospect of staying in the Delta Quadrant, while Janeway is willing to take a lot on faith for the possibility of coming home in triumph.
As he points out, the Doctor knows the real Barclay, so it's clever that the hologram snatches his emitter and then tries to avoid him as much as possible. No one else on the crew notices rudeness and carelessness on the part of the doppelganger, but I'm surprised the Doc doesn't also pick up on the hologram's phony suave behavior and popularity -- the duplicate's speech patterns are smoother than those of the real Reg, the walk more confident. We get to see a nice performance from Dwight Schultz as both Barclays, as we have often seen Robert Picardo play two Doctors -- I'm sorry they never played the planned golf game, because I expected the Doc to pinpoint the deception before Starfleet. The red herring diagnostic, in which we learn Voyager's crew can't detect holographic alterations, makes Torres look a little silly and leads to the letdown in which Voyager must be saved from outside.
There's also a letdown in the scene in which Barclay tells Seven that she's famous on Earth. He explains that she is the only Borg to have escaped and regained her humanity, despite incredible odds, which gives hope to everyone who ever lost someone to the Borg. What about Picard? Barclay was on the Enterprise when it happened, and all the Borg know of Locutus. I hoped Seven would explore this idea, jolt with the realization that she may hold the key to saving thousands of Federation citizens assimilated by the Borg -- but it gets dropped to rush the plot along and makes her, too, look silly as a dupe of the hologram.
As in "Bliss," the writers play their hand too early, revealing the hologram has been hijacked by the Ferengi -- yet another disappointment, to find the stakes so low, a crisis caused by a species largely used for comic relief rather than a serious threat to Starfleet. The suspense would have been magnified had we not learned for whom the hologram was working until the very end, and it would have been a more dramatic episode if it were indeed the Romulans, as Barclay suspects, and it would tie in nicely with the never-resolved events of "Message in a Bottle." How did the Ferengi find out about Seven of Nine, anyway? Probably they were selected so they could say, "I bet she gives great oo-mox." Ha. Ha. Ha. Reg is funnier doing impressions of Janeway and Tuvok, though it's a little weird that everyone laughed when he threatened Paris with an unwanted mind-meld.
It's always delightful to see Deanna Troi, who has a better sense of humor and reacts more like a real person in these guest appearances than she usually did on The Next Generation. It's also nice to see Harkins and Paris, who will presumably be around when Voyager finally does get home -- at least, they'd better, or it will be a really annoying point of discontinuity. I'm starting to get aggravated about Harkins' lack of respect for Barclay, which ends up causing more problems than it solves. There's obviously a lot of incompetence at Pathfinder if a Bajoran fanatic could attach a message for Tuvok to one data stream, and the Ferengi could intercept two more.
If Voyager can get the hang of this geodesic folding technology and solve the radiation problem, they can go home. It's not nearly as exciting as diving into a Borg transwarp conduit or having some form of the Caretaker reappear. Does "Inside Man" mean anything in the larger arc? It might be awhile before we know.
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.