The SwarmBy Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 2:26 PM GMT
See Also: 'The Swarm' Episode Guide
The Doctor has been experimenting with his programming, singing opera in his spare time on the holodeck, but when he returns to Sickbay, his memory is faulty. Kes warns Torres, who informs the Doctor that he's added too many subroutines to his matrix and they're all on the verge of cascade failure. Torres informs Janeway, who wants to consider reinitializing the Doctor's program, but doing so would destroy his personality; he doesn't want to consider it. In desperation, Torres goes to the holodeck herself and calls up the EMH programming facility, where Dr. Louis Zimmerman tells her that the program has been overtaxed and may be irrepairable.
Meanwhile, a shuttle is attacked by vicious aliens who shoot before talking, and when Neelix hears their transmissions, he warns Janeway that it's bad news: they're about to enter the space of The Swarm, a completely vicious species. Janeway refuses to waste weeks going around the territory and heads in, but the ship is surrounded by small pods and boarded by the aliens.
While the crew figures out that the aliens are linked and uses an energy pulse to destroy one of their ships, thereby setting off a chain reaction that destroys all of them, Torres figures out that by merging the EMH diagnostic program with the Doctor's program, she may be able to save the Doctor, though much of his programming may be lost. When the Doctor comes back online, he speaks as he did two years previously, which upsets Kes until he begins to hum the opera he'd been singing earlier. Apparently he's going to be all right.
On this series, the B plots frequently concern character development while the A plots are about some science fiction device, so it's no wonder that the B plots are frequently stronger than the A plots. "The Swarm" was typical: cheesy alien menace to which the crew responded with phasers and technobabble, wonderful story about a character on the verge of collapse in the midst of the crisis.
The Doctor's plight is much like Data's - he can be turned on and off, nobody's ever legally determined whether he's sentient and has the right to make his own choices, and nobody's sure how to fix him when something goes wrong. His suffering, and that of Kes and Torres as they struggled to help him, was a lot more interesting than the aliens, whom we'll probably never see again even though Voyager should presumably be in their space for the duration of a few more episodes.
I liked Janeway better here than I have so far this season, but she still seemed rather cold-hearted in her response to the Doctor's potentially terminal illness (as well as to Kes' concerns about what would happen to sickbay if they lost him). Once again, her biggest dramatic moment was picking up a weapon. Torres came across as much more multidimensional, and I particularly enjoyed her sparring with Dr. Zimmerman. We also got to see the Doctor arguing with his programmer about things like why a romantic subroutine was necessary, which was humorous and poignant.
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.