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The Trek Nation - Nightingale

Nightingale

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:17 PM GMT

See Also: 'Flesh and Blood' Episode Guide

Voyager has landed on an uninhabited planet for major maintenance, sending several away teams in search of supplies. While scanning for deuterium, Harry Kim and the crew of the Delta Flyer witness an alien battle. After receiving a distress call from a damaged Kraylor medical vessel, Kim puts the Flyer in the line of fire, then deflects and disables the attacking Annari's weapons. Kim, Neelix, and Seven help the untrained crew repair their vessel's cloak, then prepare to go back to Voyager. Young crewman Terek and senior doctor Loken beg Kim to command their decimated crew until they reach their homeworld.

Kim asks Janeway for permission to assist the Kraylor, but Voyager has opened trade negotiations with the Annari for needed supplies. The captain tells the ensign that he has put her in a difficult position, though she agrees that she would probably have done the same thing as he did, had she witnessed an alien battle like the one he saw. Kim points out that Janeway has taken sides before in alien struggles, stressing the importance of the humanitarian mission to ferry medical equipment. Since he has never had a chance for such responsibility, he convinces her to let him command the Kraylor vessel. Meanwhile, down in engineering, Torres tries to befriend Icheb, but the young ex-Borg believes she has developed a romantic interest in him and becomes concerned about its inappropriateness.

Janeway sends Kim and Seven back to the Kraylor, where he dubs his ship Nightingale after the famous nurse of the same name. But when the cloak fails and Seven is wounded, Kim realizes that Loken knows nothing about medicine, and a great deal about cloaking technology. Loken admits that he was working to develop a cloaking device, but insists that his mission, though military in nature, is still humanitarian: without a cloak to get past Annari blockades, the people on his planet will die from lack of food and medical supplies. When a furious Kim orders the ship to reverse course, Loken relieves him of command.

Kim tells Seven that they should take an escape pod and leave. She asks whether he wants to abandon the Kraylor because the mission wasn't what he expected, or because being a captain wasn't what he expected. Kim admits concern about his accountability for the crew, prompting Seven to assert that if he really feels responsible, he will help the Kraylor get home. Back on the bridge, Kim convinces the Annari blockade to let the scientists depart in escape pods, offering Nightingale and its cloak in surrender. But when the aliens lock on a tractor, Kim orders changes in the shield polarity that allow him to maneuver Nightingale through the Kraylor defense perimeter, saving the ship.

Voyager is prepared to trade ore for deuterium injectors, but the Annari have discovered Kim's alliance with the Kraylor and insist that Voyager leave their space at once. Once they have left Annari territory, Kim hails from Nightingale, which has escaped and helped other Kraylor vessels install cloaking devices. Kim notes in his log that his mission was a success, but he doesn't feel good about it.

Analysis:

Give Garrett Wang a halfway decent script, and he never fails to come through. "Nightingale" is a somewhat-less-than-halfway-decent script, a drawn-out A-plot with an unsatisfying comic B-plot, yet Wang makes Kim's situation compelling despite the predictability of every plot twist. Poor Harry has been an ensign for seven years. As he points out, he'd likely be a lieutenant or even a lieutenant commander back home. He accepts that he can't have the same opportunities in the Delta Quadrant, but it's easy to understand why he'd complain that even in fantasy Tom always gets to be Captain Proton while he's stuck being the sidekick. Kim's not bitter, but he wants to grow, and Wang does a lovely job capturing both the frustration and the unease of his position. He also sounds like a captain when he needs to.

Unfortunately Kim's got Janeway as his role model. He does a spectacular job putting her in her place when she tries to put him in his -- asking what she would have done in his position, then pointing out that he has seen her in similar positions and she has repeatedly made choices similar to his own. His style is very different from hers: he's more of a thinker and talker, a little too eager to dump advice on the crew but certainly not pushing them unreasonably, as we see from the opening when Janeway nags Torres about how long repairs are taking. Janeway's mocking of Kim's belief that he would have been promoted back home, "You seem awfully sure of yourself," makes her come across very badly. She should be sympathetic, and grateful for his forbearance while Maquis criminals and rebels like Tom Paris get promoted. That line could have been played as a quiet realization, rather than a mother figure condescending to a young crewman who has just demonstrated exactly the reasons he's ready for more responsibility.

We can guess five seconds after seeing the alien vessel that they're not really ferrying medical supplies, and we can guess ten minutes before the final confrontation that Kim will swallow his pride, lead them against the Annari, and save the day. No plot surprises there. The real stunner is Icheb's belief that Torres is sexually harassing him, played as a drawn-out joke, when he takes her friendly overtures as flirting and Paris' male bonding as confrontation. It's mean-spirited, and the Doctor comes across looking like the biggest fool of all for not asking more sensitive questions to get to the root of Icheb's concerns. Here's a kid entering puberty with no clue about what's normal behavior for humanoids and the added complication of having recently been Borg. Torres ends up rolling her eyes and making a joke about Icheb's conflicted feelings, when she should be trying to find the poor kid a mentor, or a friend who won't trigger his hormones. Icheb is one character for whom exploring sexuality on the holodeck wouldn't be such a bad idea.

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.