The Voyager ConspiracyBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 10:20 PM GMT
See Also: 'The Voyager Conspiracy' Episode Guide
Naomi Wildman finds Seven of Nine modifying her Borg alcove to include a cortical processing sub-unit, which will allow her to download and assimilate the ship's entire database. While Seven regenerates, Janeway replicates dinner for Chakotay, and the two discuss a rumor started by Tom Paris about a rash of pregnancies on the ship. Chakotay wants to explore a nebula, which Janeway initially resists, but gives in to his enthusiasm.
Waking, Seven summons Torres. The two tell the captain - Seven earnestly, Torres disgustedly - that the ex-Borg believes there are photonic fleas messing up the sensor grid, since Seven saw evidence in the downloaded database suggesting that Neelix brought infested spices on board. Sure enough, there are photonic fleas flying around in engineering. Then the ship comes out of warp near a strange-looking device which an alien warns them to shield themselves against. His name is Cash, and he is trying to fix the device - a null space catapult which could send them thousands of light years in a second. Janeway eagerly offers to help him repair it so Voyager can use it after he does, but Cash requests that they not send an engineering team aboard since the device's energy core is unstable. Torres suggests using a graviton pulse to help stabilize it.
Seven downloads information about the catapult as she regenerates, then wakes and summons Janeway. The alien, she claims, is trying to trick them: his technology is virtually identical to that of the Caretaker's array. Seven found evidence of epsilon radiation, which made her realize there was a tetryon reactor on the device. The Doctor finds no evidence of Caretaker DNA in Cash, but Janeway demands to know how he got the reactor. Cash claims that it was so expensive, he feared telling the Voyager crew about it lest they should steal it. Seven wonders whether it could be from the Caretaker's array if Voyager did not completely destroy that equipment years before. Examining the sensor records from the explosion, she sees evidence of a tractor beam in the area of the array's tetryon reactor at the moment of the explosion.
Confronting Tuvok and Paris about those long-ago events, Seven is puzzled to learn that the Vulcan produced a much more thorough explosion than necessary until she is told that Janeway wanted total obliteration of the array. She asks Neelix for his own sensor logs, still stored on his little ship, and is unsurprised when he reveals that Kes always thought there was more to the conflict with the Kazon than Janeway let on.
After assimilating the Talaxian's records, Seven summons Chakotay to astrometrics. She does not believe Voyager's journey through the Delta Quadrant was an accident: she believes the captain was in cahoots with both the Caretaker and the Cardassians, on the basis of an image of a Cardassian ship from Neelix's data. Despite various peace accords - many of which worked against the Maquis, Seven points out - Janeway was on a mission to infiltrate the Delta Quadrant in order to bring an invasion force. The captain destroyed the array to keep them all there, and used a powerful explosive to tear subspace and push the tetryon reactor through. Chakotay calls Seven's interpretation farfetched, but when Seven recites a litany of questionable decisions made by Janeway, he responds to Seven's order not to let Janeway control the catapult, lest she should bring the invading fleet through.
Cash tests the catapult, then sends through his data. Janeway wants to get ready to try it immediately, but Chakotay goes to engineering to ask Torres to stall. "This is a Borg practical joke," insists the chief engineer, but Chakotay is worried enough to want to check out Seven's accusations and jokes that he can't just ask the captain: "Good morning, Kathryn, all systems are functional, is it true you've lied to us for five years?" When Harry Kim arrives to help with modifications, the former Maquis dismiss him rudely.
Meanwhile, Seven summons Janeway to tell her she has evidence that Chakotay and the other Maquis plan to use Voyager to attack the Cardassians via the catapult. She shows the captain the same data she showed the first officer, theorizing that the Maquis wanted to use the array as a weapon all along and hid the tetryon reactor in subspace when Janeway destroyed the Caretaker's base. Tuvok was in on the plan from the beginning. Janeway ignores this accusation, and says there's no one on the ship she trusts more than Chakotay.
But apparently that's not quite true: faced with reminders about Seska, the baby, etc., Janeway shows up wearing a phaser when she goes to check out a power surge in Seven's alcove. Chakotay is there too, also armed. The two are cordial but ultimately accuse one another of having ulterior motives. Then they realize that Seven has fed them two competing conspiracy theories, and the embarrassed senior officers promise to keep their confrontation out of their logs.
Meanwhile, Seven refuses to speak to Naomi Wildman because her Ktarian father might have been a Maquis sympathizer, then steals the Delta Flyer to flee Voyager. Janeway has herself beamed over after some token protest from Chakotay. But Seven has a force field in place and says she won't listen to a captain who deceived her: she has concluded that the Federation sent her parents to the Delta Quadrant so that they would all be assimilated, then sent Janeway to retrieve her so Starfleet could dissect her. Janeway tells her protegee of the Doctor's theory that Seven overloaded her human brain trying to download too much information at once, and reminds Seven of all the lovely humanizing things the captain herself has done for the drone since bringing her aboard.
The prodigal daughter elects to believe her captain, returning to the ship to play games with Naomi Wildman while Voyager uses the catapult to cut three years from the journey. Janeway and Chakotay settle in for another dinner together, noting that they've built up too much trust to throw it all away.
I've seen worse episodes than "The Voyager Conspiracy," but none as repugnant for long-time fans. In this installment, the writers took "Caretaker," the episode that made me care about the series, and threw it in the Seven of Nine Blender - the device which tosses Seven of Nine into Voyager's past, present, and future as the focus of and mirror through which everything must be seen, so we can get another moment of mediocre emotional bonding between two women whose bras are stuffed so amply that one fears they may bounce off each other if they try to hug, thus causing a hull breach.
We didn't learn the truth behind the conspiracy - whether the tetryon device did come from the Caretaker's array, where the mysterious tractor beam in the log came from, whether Neelix really saw a Cardassian ship and why he never showed the crew his logs before (although perhaps that was to disguise the fact that he was apparently dating Kes when she was only a month old). The characters were cavalierly discarded for Seven's benefit, giving dimension only to the one character on the ship who absolutely, positively cannot afford to get any more rounded out. Janeway and Chakotay were behaving so ludicrously that I was certain we were in for an "it was all a dream" ending. The very first lines had Chakotay begging Janeway to be an explorer for a change. Huh? Then Torres reverted to being Chak's passive puppy, Tuvok couldn't do more than raise an eyebrow while security was being violated, Neelix invoked Kes for the first time in months yet showed no feeling toward her whatsoever. Who are these people?
I'm not sure which universe this episode was supposed to be set in - the Caretaker was looking for compatible DNA to create a descendant to care for the Ocampa, but never said anything about a mate. Moreover, there was not one sole Kazon ship bearing down on Voyager; there was one massive warship and lots of little vessels which had already done plenty of damage, so that Chakotay had to sacrifice his vessel to deter the biggest of the bunch. Still, given the use of footage from "Caretaker" and several other early episodes - in which we were tormented by memories of the ship while Kes was still aboard, before Torpedo Top arrived and became the center of the captain's universe - it was hard to pretend that "The Voyager Conspiracy" was anything other than a canonical sixth season episode of a series that should have ended years ago. It doesn't only ruin this season for me. It ruins my fond memories of the first season, too.
Thing is, this would have been a great plot during the first or second season, when one could believe that Chakotay would give credence to a crewmember's conspiracy theories. But now we're expected that he would believe ten minutes of nonsense from Seven as a reason to distrust Janeway? I knew he had gotten dense, but I had no idea Riley Frasier's Borg had removed his center of reason. Convenient that Chakotay and Janeway were too stupid to recall the dozens of events, from Kes' evolution and advancement of the ship to the abortive hyperdrive experiments, that could never have been factored into a plot to reach the catapult within any given ten-year period.
Sadly, I can believe that current-canon Janeway would come to distrust her first officer in a heartbeat if her adoptive daughter for whom she seems to harbor secret erotic feelings suggested that she should. But to carry a phaser and accuse him of mutiny? A month after they got past Ransom and the Equinox? On the basis of concern that he was still working for the Maquis, which they both know doesn't exist any longer in the Alpha Quadrant? This would have been a great parody episode like "Worst Case Scenario" if we weren't being asked to take it seriously.
Maybe it was supposed to be a grand joke like X-Files's excellent self-parodies where people see conspiracies everywhere, but "The Voyager Conspiracy" had no humor whatsoever...other than the end where Janeway leaned over as if she were going to give Seven a passionate kiss, then stopped herself at the last minute and settled for crouching beside her. Ironic that Janeway and Chakotay - who were once forced apart by the writers because they appeared to be too intimate - are now apparently being paired in intimate dinner scenes to heterosexualize the captain, so we know she doesn't spend every waking moment obsessing over her protegee.
Kate Mulgrew could do herself and all of us a favor by asking directors please not to shoot her from overhead when she's wearing an overstuffed t-shirt and Seven's wearing a catsuit. It puts their bustlines on a par, but it makes the captain look much shorter and dowdier than necessary. And that makes Janeway seem whatever the opposite of "captainly" might be, sad as it is that image counts for so much. Riker was several inches taller than Picard, but the directors never shot Jean-Luc to look diminished and stodgy next to his subordinates.
Next week, we get a reminder of that classy former series, when Troi and Barclay search for Voyager. My only real worry about "Pathfinder" is that they might actually bring it back. The only part of the Voyager conspiracy I give credence to is the belief that they were stranded in the Delta Quadrant for a reason; please, let's leave them there before they muck up Picard and Sisko's quadrant. I'm sorry, but this is worthless - not clever, not witty, not directed well (I was cross-eyed from those fisheye lenses on the flashback sequences), wreaking havoc with canon, and not even fun unless you watch the show only for poor little Seven and her poor little Borg implants.
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.