Workforce, Part OneBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:22 PM GMT
See Also: 'Workforce, Part One' Episode Guide
In a vast, unknown city, Janeway hurries to a new job at a power distribution facility and tries to impress her supervisor. Though she makes a few mistakes that almost cause a core overload, she says she likes this better than her last job. She also meets a flirtatious co-worker named Jaffen. When Annika Hansen, the new efficiency monitor, introduces herself and tells them to stop fraternizing, Janeway explains that she and Jaffen were just collaborating. Privately, Jaffen admits he was trying to fraternize and invites Janeway to dinner.
In the same city, Tom Paris is in a bar, looking for a job since the new efficiency monitor fired him from his old one. He gets hired and starts cleaning for the evening shift. That evening, Jaffen comes to drink and tell jokes, though a strange guy named Tuvok laughs too loudly and overanalyzes the punchlines. When Jaffen spots Janeway studying her work, he joins her -- to help, he claims. When he walks her home later, she says she's from a planet called Earth that's overpopulated and violent. Here, she's happy to see so many different species getting along. The next morning all workers receive their obligatory shots to protect them from radiation. When Tuvok receives his, he has flashbacks of getting an injection against his will.
On the Delta Flyer, Chakotay calls Neelix and Kim when he discovers that Voyager isn't at the coordinates he expected. They search for the ship, which is drifting in a nebula as the Doctor frantically tries to fix multiple malfunctions, including life support. When he discovers intruders on the bridge, the EMH -- now dressed as the ECH, the emergency command hologram -- finds Chakotay and Kim on the bridge in environmental suits. The Doctor explains that the ship hit a radioactive mine, and the crew had to abandon ship in the hope that he could purge the deadly radiation. Janeway activated the ECH before leaving in an escape pod with the others. When an attacker using the same radioactive weapons tried to take Voyager, the Doctor hid in the nebula, unable to find the crew.
Tuvok remembers the captain and himself being brought to an alien hospital, where he watched as she was given medications Tuvok didn't recognize. He resisted treatment and demanded that Janeway be released, but he was injected with the same drugs. When he sees Janeway at work, he insists that they know one another, but she doesn't remember any hospital and doesn't remember him. When Tuvok grabs Janeway, Jaffen interrupts to ask if anything is wrong. After Janeway assures him it's only a misunderstanding and Tuvok leaves, she and Jaffen agree to have dinner together. Janeway burns the food, but Jaffen says he's not really hungry anyway, and they end up making love. Afterwards she makes him coffee and tells him she can't remember ever being so comfortable in her life.
Back on Voyager, Kim tracks down the crew on a planet three days away, but when they arrive, the Quarren supervisor insists that none of the people on Voyager's crew manifest and remember serving on the ship. Moreover, the supervisor warns, they like their jobs, so Chakotay had better find his own work force or risk being fired upon. Because the transporter won't work through the Quarren shields, Chakotay orders Kim to turn the ship around and make the Quarren believe they've given up. Neelix learns that there is a labor shortage in the system, which explains the Quarren's defensiveness and also gives Chakotay the idea to pose as job applicants at the power distribution facility where Janeway and many of the others work. So he won't be recognized, he has reconstructive surgery to give him a bumpy forehead and chin. Once Neelix has acquired a transponder so the Doctor can beam them out, they take the Talaxian's ship and leave the Doctor and Kim quarreling over who's the senior officer left on the ship.
At the bar, Paris meets Torres, who keeps to herself. He suggests that they take a walk together, then retracts it when he learns of her pregnancy and assumes she's married. Torres assures him that she is not, and leaves. Realizing she's lonely, he offers to introduce her to a couple he knows who are also expecting a baby; he thinks she might need a friend. At the power plant, Annika Hansen warns Tuvok that he has missed three injections and must report to the infirmary. Tuvok calls her Seven of Nine and tries to force her to mind meld, giving her an image of her Borg regeneration chamber before her calls for help bring security. In the same facility, Chakotay reports for work, approaching Janeway as soon as the supervisor leaves. She acknowledges him when he says "Kathryn," but doesn't recognize him or his name. Chakotay pretends he was just looking for job advice.
Neelix meets Paris at the bar, where the Talaxian brags about having his own cargo vessel and the former pilot says he gets spacesick. Chakotay comes to meet Neelix, spotting Torres and some other crewmembers at nearby tables. When Janeway arrives with Jaffen, she invites Chakotay to join her, but Jaffen says he wants to be alone with her. Though Janeway chastises him for his rudeness, she agrees to move in with Jaffen, and they seal their toast with a kiss. When Torres leaves, Chakotay and Neelix follow her out, grabbing her and beaming her back to Voyager for deprogramming. But Harry can't rescue Chakotay from the guards because Voyager immediately comes under fire. As the episode ends, he is trapped between guards and force fields.
"Workforce" seems like an elaborate remake of The Next Generation's "Conundrum," in which Picard's crew was brainwashed into believing they had a critical mission to fight another species' war. The Quarren goals are more benign -- a happy labor force, not a massacre -- but that doesn't make it any easier to swallow Janeway's utter bliss at not being a starship captain. Seven's comfort in her role as efficiency monitor makes a lot of sense, as does Paris' carefree contentment as a bartender. In fact, he goes back to being the appealing rebel of the first season. But the ease with which Janeway takes orders from Annika Hansen and giggles over Jaffen's cheesy jokes turns my stomach as badly as the parasites Harry Kim digests at the start of the episode.
When Picard was brainwashed in "Conundrum," he still acted like a captain, which caused some friction with Worf. When his memories were wiped out in "The Inner Light," he gazed with longing at the stars, despite his happy family life. Kirk maintained enough ego to start fistfights when he had amnesia in "The Paradise Syndrome" (whose schmaltzy romantic music is echoed when Janeway and Jaffen bond in the bar). Sisko flaked out pretty badly in "Dramatis Personae," but that was during his first few months on Deep Space Nine after losing his wife to the Borg, and anyway he never stopped being the captain. Perhaps if Janeway did not divide herself so thoroughly between the captain and the human being, she might be able to maintain something of the captain when she unleashes her sexual desires. But she's been all business and nothing else for seven years. Freed from those constraints, all of her authority dissipates; she's deferential to supervisors, she lets Tuvok push her around, she takes orders from Seven of Nine.
It's almost worse because the aliens allow the crew to keep their names and some portion of their memories. One would think first names and home planets could serve as triggers to interfere with the brainwashing, but apparently the Quarren are pretty thorough about making memories of home unpleasant. On the other hand, Tom's still attracted to B'Elanna -- well, Tom's attracted to every woman in the bar, but once upon a time that was part of his personality. Tuvok, on the other hand, tries to become a comedian when he's not logically toiling away, so I'm not clear on how the Quarren decide what to keep and what to rewire. It might make more sense to give Paris a little less libido if they need power plant workers who can concentrate.
Then again, they get Janeway lock, stock and barrel, with her libido contributing to her passivity. She is so desperate for a relationship that she moves in with a man she barely knows. We can't even rationalize that this is the first great sex she's had in seven years because one of the first things we learn about Jaffen is that his species don't have fathers, leading Tuvok to remark on how differently they procreate from most -- for all we know, Janeway's not even having sex in the traditional sense. She probably craves companionship more than anything, but companionship is something else she chooses to deny herself on Voyager, not something her position makes impossible. Picard had brunch with Beverly, Sisko drank with Dax. If Chakotay as a friend isn't enough for Janeway, there's no reason she can't invite Torres or Seven to come over and listen to jazz in the evening. No reason, that is, except her own sense that she's above it.
The Quarren sets are wonderful, particularly the establishing shot at the beginning with the alien trains and river (looks a little like Ocampa on a cloudy day but what the heck). The costumes are efficiently ugly, especially Jeri Ryan's butch businesswoman look, while Kate Mulgrew wears her newfound big hair and big smile so well that one actually believes Janeway dreams of being a faux redhead. It's not quite as lovely as Occupied France from "The Killing Game," another similar not-real episode, but it's certainly one of Voyager's best-done big budget planets.
And Robert Picardo is delightful as the ECH, for whom more power than he's ever had before still isn't quite enough. I wondered why Seven couldn't stay on board through the radiation as she did in "One," but I'm sure this was different radiation, and it's worth having the Doctor alone on the ship just to hear him complain that the computer's more annoying than he's supposed to be. Though Chakotay does reasonably well in the lurch, I wouldn't mind if the Doc stayed in charge to get Voyager home.
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.