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The Trek Nation - Warhead

Warhead

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:08 PM GMT

See Also: 'Warhead' Episode Guide

While Paris begs Neelix to loan him replicator rations because he forgot to get Torres an anniversary present, Kim breezes through to announce that he's on late bridge duty, which his friend teases him about enjoying overmuch. On duty, the conn officer tells Harry to relax, but an automated distress call leads the ensign to make a command decision to alter course. He wakes Chakotay, who invites him to lead the away mission to track down the source of the signal. On the planet with the Doctor, Kim discovers a moderate-sized piece of technology with bioneural circuitry. The Doctor recognizes its signals as duotronic algorithms and concludes that the machine is speaking to them...and that it is injured, and terrified, in need of their help.

The machine is unaware that it is artificial, and has lost much of its memory. The Doctor wants to beam it aboard, but Kim insists on checking with the captain, who lets him make the call. Harry mentions some security precautions and the object is beamed to engineering, where the Doctor explains his holographic matrix to it and suggests to the captain that its artificial intelligence might be transferable to a form like his own while they repair its circuits. But Janeway and Seven find traces of an identical object which impacted the surface of the planet, leaving a huge crater with traces of radioactive debris. "A weapon of mass destruction," Janeway realizes with horror...and now she has its companion on her ship.

Seven suggests destroying the device at once, but the Doctor says that it has not shown hostility, so it might be possible to salvage its intelligence while destroying its weaponry. Janeway agrees. In sickbay, Torres and Kim begin to work on the transfer. But the machine announces that it cannot allow them to shut it down, taking over the Doctor's matrix through the interlink and arming itself as it shuts down the comm and transporter systems which would allow the crew to beam it into space. "You didn't tell me I was a weapon!" says the Doctor, now possessed by the intelligence of the bomb. "I must reach my target." He insists that he must resume his mission - his people are depending on him. On a monitor, the Doctor tells a confused Janeway that he will blow up the ship if she doesn't alter course and obey his orders.

As Janeway convenes a staff meeting on the bridge, Neelix rushes in with a replicator part he traded for recently with an alien named Anquani. Its bioneural programming is similar to the bomb's, so they send a secret message to the alien. In sickbay, Kim tells Torres he blames himself for getting the ship into this situation and encourages the bomb to think beyond its narrow destructive programming as the Doctor thought beyond his holographic limits, but the bomb only wants to destroy the ruthless, violent race threatening his people. Kim shows the artificial intelligence that it will be murdering hundreds of people if it blows up the military installation for which they are headed, but it is unimpressed.

Anquani answers Janeway's hail, bringing his cloaked ship alongside Voyager and beaming aboard with a proposal: he will use his transporters to beam the bomb off the ship if Voyager will let him keep its technology. Janeway wonders what a salvager like Anquani would want with such a weapon, and insists that Voyager should keep its energy matrix to stop it from being misused. The alien leaves and opens fire on Voyager, trying to beam the bomb off the ship when the shields are weakened, but the Doctor initiates an antimatter surge through the transporter and destroys Anquani's vessel.

Seven has a plan to use her nanoprobes to reprogam the bomb, but in order to do so, she must have access to the device. Janeway suggests that Voyager fake encountering mines in a minefield of which the bomb has warned them, enabling Tuvok to destabilize the Doctor's matrix which Seven feigns an injury which requires that she enter sickbay. Paris bumps the ship around while Neelix helps Seven recreate plasma burn marks on her skin, but when she begins to tamper with the bomb, it shoots energy into her body, badly injuring her. Meanwhile Torres and Kim help the bomb access its memory files from just before the crash and discover that it had received an order to break off its attack, but the bomb is certain that it's a hoax. Kim discovers that the message went on to say that the missile's launch was a mistake; it was one of a group of 34 mistakenly sent out after the war ended. "You're deceiving me with your pacifist philosophy!" the Doctor cries.

The artificial intelligence warns Janeway that it will blow up and kill her crew, but she retorts that she can live with that: at least it won't hit its target and kill anyone else. Then 32 vessels drop out of warp alongside Voyager. It's the rest of the accidentally-launched bombs, which want to escort this one to the target. Kim begs it to check its memory logs for confirmation of its abort orders, which Janeway insists that it must do before she'll permit her crew to reintegrate its circuits: after all, if it blows itself up now to punish her crew, it will destroy all the rest of the missiles as well.

The Doctor looks up the confirmation and finds it, but refuses to accept it until Kim makes the intelligence inside him look at the injured Seven so it will understand what destruction it will cause. The bomb contacts the other missiles and discovers that they received the same abort orders, but too late: once they pass the target threshold, nothing can divert them. Traumatized, the intelligence asks to be returned to the others so that it can stop them. Janeway obeys Kim's directive to beam the weapon out into space, where it travels to a safe distance, then destroys itself and all the other bombs. Janeway notifies Kim that he made the right call.

On another late bridge shift, the pretty ensign at conn congratulates Kim on outsmarting the smart bomb. Kim smiles and requests no more distress calls on his watch.

Analysis:

Let's play "Plagiarism Association," shall we? "Warhead." Wargames. Voyager. V'ger. Nomad. "Prototype." Mudd's androids. Data's exocomps. "Dreadnought." "Drone." "Darkling." Dark Star. Smart Bomb. Maxwell Smart. Terminator 2. I could go on and on and on, but what would be the point? Suffice to say that anyone who couldn't figure out exactly where "Warhead" was going after the first fifteen minutes has obviously never sat through a Trek "we must try to preserve EVERY life-form no matter how evil it seems!" episode, nor a science fiction "our technology is killing us!" movie. As if that weren't boring and predictable enough, the Voyager crew tried out the really novel "let's get Seven's nanoprobes to save the day!" approach to the problem, then reverted to the just-as-novel "since the captain's willing to let her ship and crew be destroyed in the name of the Prime Directive, let's have a junior officer come up with a better plan!" solution.

In other words...I thought this episode was BAD. Even Robert Picardo couldn't do a thing with it: he played a variation of the Evil Possessed Doctor from "Darkling," torturing hostages and all, but it came across as over the top and poorly rationalized. If the point was that an artificial intelligence doesn't have to act like a bomb just because it's built into a bomb, how come this one still had an explosive (yukyukyuk) temper? I liked the bomb best at the beginning, before it could talk, when it played R2-D2 to the Doc's C-3PO. That sequence was truly inspired and highly amusing, with Picardo answering questions we could only hear as a series of beeps and whistles, using his wonderful vocal inflections to get laughs out of lines like "I'm sure you'll be quite handsome [as a hologram]."

Kudos to Garrett Wang, who made Kim the redeemable feature of this episode. He was charming as a bouncy kid on the bridge, and sympathetic believing he'd screwed up. Janeway joked to Chakotay that the eager ensign may be after his job - what a great idea! There appeared to be two captains in this episode, and I don't mean Kathryn and Harry - I mean the one with a rather short bob in engineering and a two-inches-longer, straighter hairdo on the bridge. I realize it's ridiculous to focus on the captain's hair, but sheesh, it's hard not to notice when it starts acting like an alien shapeshifter - can't they keep it consistent within a single episode?

I got rather lost on the logic of why the 32 missiles which had passed the target threshold came all the way back to pick up one straggler instead of going on to wreak havoc on their destination. Seems like it would be lousy planning for a war to have your soldiers stop to do a head count, then go back for Private Ryan even before they could land on D-Day. But what do I know? I learned all my military strategy from shows like this one, which give a whole new meaning to "artificial intelligence."

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.