(written from a Production point of view)
As Voyager crewmembers begin dying, they make a startling discovery about their true identities.
- 1 Summary
- 2 Log entries
- 3 Memorable quotes
- 4 Background information
- 5 Links and references
In USS Voyager's function room, a formal and happy occasion is occurring: Lieutenants B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris are holding their wedding. Captain Janeway is the master of ceremonies, Commander Chakotay is giving Torres away while The Doctor takes pictures of the occasion. Harry Kim plays the clarinet along with a bassist and a guitarist. Torres and Paris exchange their own vows, taking rings from Kim and Chakotay, and then Janeway proudly declares them husband and wife. Seven of Nine has the honor (unbeknownst to her) of catching the bouquet that Torres tosses over her shoulder. The rest of the crew happily toss rice over the couple to shower them with blessings as they depart from the mess hall.
Life is good for the crew aboard Voyager. In addition to the wedding, a newly enhanced warp drive has been built that will get the crew back home in two years. In her ready room, Janeway and Chakotay are busy deciding on whether to stop along the way to study an anomalous gradient in the curvature of space that their ship will pass by in six months. Meanwhile, Neelix is busy helping the newlywed Tom Paris decide on where he and his new wife would want to spend their honeymoon. While Neelix offers holoprograms of exotic places in the universe, such as a mountain resort on the fifth moon of Cytrax with its reputed "auditory aphrodisiac" cricket songs and the beaches of Ahmedeen with its seas of liquid argon, Paris is hoping for his honeymoon to be a little more "down to earth", as in being on Earth during the 1920s in Chicago. Neelix thinks he isn't thinking exotic enough, but Paris doesn't think so.
In main engineering, Torres prepares Seven to take care of things while she is on her honeymoon when a strange reading is picked up in a Jefferies tube underneath. They investigate what's supposedly a minor fluctuation, on the way discussing Seven's willingness to pursue a relationship. However, a serious situation develops as a tricorder scan of that section reveals that it is losing molecular cohesion. The crew suspect that their new enhanced warp drive is causing subspace radiation that is somehow breaking down the molecular bonds in all surrounding sections. What's confusing is that, as Kim notes, they ran many simulations and were confident there was no problem. Even taking the warp core offline doesn't stop the problem. Janeway orders Torres to try isolating the cause of this problem and to stabilize the affected areas.
After examining the warp field's schematics and finding no solution to the problem, Torres goes back to her quarters. Oddly, she finds herself shivering, even though the room temperature hasn't changed. She goes checking herself in the bathroom mirror when she notices an erupting blotch on her face. By the time Paris arrives at their quarters for dinner, he finds that Torres has become violently ill and takes her to sickbay, where Ensign Ashmore and Lieutenant Nicoletti are already being treated for the same conditions. They have an epidemic.
The Doctor discovers that she is dying of acute cellular degradation, another effect of the radiation. The engineering crew is showing the first signs of this degradation, but The Doctor soon discovers that the rest of the crew is also affected, including the captain.
The crew begins investigating and find that anything replicated, including food, instantly starts degrading. However Neelix has discovered several items on the ship are showing no signs of degradation, the common factor being that they were brought aboard Voyager over the last few months. Chakotay and Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok backtrack Voyager's course over the past year to try and find out what happened to the ship and crew to cause the degradation.
In sickbay, Paris comforts an ailing B'Elanna and tells her about his plans for their honeymoon at the Graystone Hotel, but she dies moments later, despite all attempts of reviving her.
In Astrometrics, Chakotay and Tuvok are going over past missions and eventually come upon their encounter with the biomimetic lifeforms created by the "Silver Blood" on the Demon Class planet in the Vaskan sector, which they naturally assumed they had left behind on the planet after their encounter with them. They come to a disturbing hypothesis and go back to sickbay, asking The Doctor to perform a test where Torres' body is injected with a dichromate catalyst. Torres' body disintegrates and transforms into biomimetic fluid. This confirms Chakotay and Tuvok's theory; she was nothing more than a copy of the real B'Elanna Torres. In fact, every member of the crew and even Voyager itself are biomimetic duplicates.
All the crew have memories which have been copied from the originals – part of why the crew doesn't remember being copies – but for some reason they soon forgot they were duplicates. They realize they didn't think the warp drive radiation was harmful to them because it isn't to humanoids. Even The Doctor isn't immune, as he points out, as all of the holoemitters including the mobile one are copies, and so will also eventually degrade. Janeway decides that, despite their perilous state, their goal is still to return to Earth instead of going back to the Demon planet, which Tuvok believes would stop the degradation. She orders that they find the nearest Y-class planet and simulate the same atmosphere on the ship as soon as they can.
Janeway informs the crew in the mess hall. They can't believe it, and start to wonder about themselves and the real Voyager. Janeway orders crew shifts to be cut in half so they don't exert themselves. Some, especially Paris, disagree with keeping to the original Voyager's mission, but the crew follows their captain's orders. Chakotay disagrees as well, and, during their weekly dinner in private, voices his strong belief that they should go back to their planet, but Janeway disagrees, saying she's been on their mission for five years.
Later, The Doctor suggests to the mimetic Janeway to find the real Voyager so that the duplicate crew could copy the original crew's genetic patterns to prevent further degradation, but Janeway dismisses the idea as impractical as they are completely unaware of Voyager's position in relation to their own. Just then, a class-Y planet is located. Upon arriving, Voyager commences landing procedures, but, unfortunately, a mining starship arrives and states that the planet resides under the Ord'mirit Mining Treaty and threatens to destroy Voyager unless they leave.
Janeway tries to explain their situation, but they will not listen. After Voyager's weapons prove ineffective, Tuvok suggests a way to destroy the mining vessel, but Janeway orders the landing canceled, reminding the crew they are still Starfleet officers. She has them send a distress signal on all bands in the hopes that the real Voyager will find them while also maintaining their course to the Alpha Quadrant. Chakotay feels that their journey has gone far enough and bravely confronts Janeway in her ready room to express his and the remaining crew's desire of returning to their real home of the Demon planet. In the midst of the heated conversation, Chakotay's degeneration becomes critical and he is admitted to sickbay, only to die moments later.
Realizing her error in judgment, Janeway decides then to follow her first officer's advice and turns the ship around, bringing back online the hazardous new warp drive and setting a course for the Demon planet.
Over time, Voyager continues to fall apart and the crew continue dying as the ship suffers further degradation. A severely deteriorated Janeway holds a meeting with the only surviving senior officers; Kim, Neelix and Seven of Nine. Kim reports that the holo-emitters have gone offline and The Doctor's program has been lost. With Paris' condition not improving, Neelix is now chosen to be the new chief medical officer despite having only basic medical training. Seven of Nine's modified nanoprobes are keeping the warp field stable, hopefully long enough for the ship to reach the Demon planet. Janeway orders the creation of a time capsule out of non-biomimetic materials to preserve the memory and record of the duplicate Voyager crew and what they have discovered and experienced on their journey. Suddenly the main deflector fails, and interstellar dust begins to contaminate the warp field. Harry Kim reinitializes the deflector in time to preserve the warp field, but as Neelix begins calls for celebration, the bridge crew discover that Janeway has died.
Continuing on, Kim takes command of Voyager, assisted by Seven, with Neelix tending to the dying crew remaining. The degradation has become so severe that life support begins to fail with less than ten hours left of air. Kim orders the time capsule launched, but because nearly all systems have failed, the launch fails, destroying the capsule and taking with it all record of the crew's adventures and existence. Suddenly, a vessel is detected, 22 light-years away; the real Voyager. Kim attempts to hail them, but communications are out. They must drop to impulse to contact them, but the warp drive does not respond to controls. Kim orders the core ejected, causing the ship to spin out of control and tear itself apart.
Meanwhile, the original Voyager has detected the distress signal and is proceeding to its location. Upon arrival, the crew finds only formless debris. With no traces upon which to make further investigations, Janeway makes a note of the encounter in the ship's log, and the crew continue on their way home.
- "Captain's log, stardate 52586.3. We've had a lot to celebrate lately – Tom and B'Elanna's wedding, Ensign Harper's new baby, and the continued health of our enhanced warp drive, which has taken us within striking distance of home."
- "Computer, begin chief engineer's log, supplemental. I've spent the last four hours analyzing the warp field schematics. But I'm still no closer to finding out what's going wrong."
- "Captain's log, supplemental. We've lost 63 crewmen and our systems are continuing to fail. Though we're still five weeks away from the demon planet, we haven't given up hope."
- (Log entry made by Harry Kim) "Acting Captain's log, stardate 52597.4. Our situation's getting worse every day. More than 80% of the ship is uninhabitable. Most of the crew are gone. It seems less and less likely that the few of us left will reach our destination."
- (Captain Kathryn Janeway's note in Voyager's record) "We received a distress call at 0900 hours… arrived at the vessel's last known coordinates at 2120. The ship was destroyed. Cause unknown. No survivors."
- Other than the final quote, all quotes are made by the biomimetic copies of the USS Voyager crew.
"The idea is to shower the couple with a symbol of good fortune, not garnish them like a roast chicken."
- - The Doctor, to Neelix on the ritual of tossing rice on a newlywed couple
"Given the volatile nature of their relationship, one might have predicted homicide rather than matrimony."
"When it comes to affairs of the Human heart, it is wise to look beyond logic."
- - Seven of Nine and Tuvok, on Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres
"B'Elanna has asked me to forgo the rigors of Klingon painstiks in favor of a more traditional ceremony."
"They're saving the painstiks for the honeymoon.'"
- - Captain Janeway and Harry Kim
"You may not want to know."
- - The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Tuvok, after Seven catches B'Elanna Torres's bouquet
"You stood by me when most people would have run for the nearest airlock. You were willing to see past my shortcomings, and take all the bumps and bruises that come along with it. You made me a better person, even though I put up one hell of a fight. I look forward to our journey together."
- - B'Elanna Torres, speaking her wedding vows to Tom Paris
"Just you, B'Elanna, and the crickets."
"Cytraxian crickets." (His voice gets very sly) "Their song is reputed to be an auditory aphrodisiac."
"Ah…well, between you and me, B'Elanna and I don't need aphrodisiacs."
- - Neelix, showing Tom Paris a holoprogram of a mountain resort on the fifth moon of Cytrax
"So, who's the lucky guy? You caught the bouquet that means you're next in line for the altar."
"Yes,. The Doctor informed me of that archaic Human superstition."
"How about Harry Kim?"
"I fail to see the benefit of monogamous relationships."
"So you want to stay single?"
"If you mean remain open to social situations with a wide variety of individuals, then yes."
"I'm married. I'm not going into stasis for the rest of my life."
"I do not wish to be dependent on anyone. By marrying one limits one's romantic interactions to a single individual, a circumstance which implies extreme monotony."
"I'm glad we had this little talk."
- - B'Elanna Torres and Seven of Nine
"How's my old lady?"
"Well enough… to break your nose if you call me that again."
- - Paris and Torres, in sickbay as she undergoes cellular decay
"The holographic projectors in sickbay went offline at 0300. We've lost The Doctor."
- - Ensign Kim
"We've lost Commander Chakotay. Duplicate or not, he was real to me and he was a fine Starfleet officer, and he was a friend who wasn't afraid to let me know when I am wrong."
- - Captain Janeway, informing the crew that Chakotay is dead
"We received a distress call at 0900 hours… arrived at the vessel's last known coordinates at 2120. The ship was destroyed. Cause unknown. No survivors."
- - The original Captain Janeway
Story and production
- This episode is a sequel to the fourth season outing "Demon", which ends with the biomimetic duplicates of Voyager's crew being left – by the real Voyager – on the "demon class" planet referenced and seen here. Supervising Producer Joe Menosky reflected, "Bryan Fuller came up with the idea, what if we followed the adventures of those people that we left on the Demon planet?" The idea for the mimetic aliens had originally been the subject of a proposed two-parter that had an entirely different storyline (in which the crew of doppelgängers reached Earth), was often considered but was ultimately never produced. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 49)
- After Bryan Fuller thought up the story idea for this installment, Brannon Braga forwarded the plot. Supervising Producer Kenneth Biller recalled, "Brannon wanted to do a tragedy about these people who are struggling to come to terms with who they were, and what home meant, and trying to embody the impossible images of these people who they've been created to resemble." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50) Teleplay co-writer Nick Sagan – despite not being a particularly big fan of the episode "Demon" – was, like Braga, enthusiastic about revisiting the deceptively alien characters and believed that this was generally also true of the other members of Star Trek: Voyager's writing staff. "In terms of how it got started […] we sort of liked the idea of picking up the mimetic crew, and finding out whatever happened to them," Sagan remarked. Earlier in the fifth season, Fuller and Sagan had worked in unison on the episode "Gravity", an experience which influenced their decision to collaborate again. Sagan explained, "Because Bryan and I had […] started writing together, I was brought in to work on ['Course: Oblivion']."  Fuller enjoyed this writing partnership, once describing it as "a great collaboration." (Star Trek Magazine issue 114, p. 34)
- Settling upon a conclusion for the episode involved some debate. "There was some discussion about whether it was too bleak at the end," said Ken Biller. "I had written a version where they actually get that time capsule out. The real Voyager does come along, and the [duplicate] ship is gone, but they find the time capsule." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50) Nick Sagan, a supporter of ending some episodes tragically, offered, "There was some resistance [to the final version of this episode's conclusion]. One of the original things we talked about was that our Voyager would originally make contact with them. It would be a moment that would lead it a little bit more towards conventional Trek, like encountering aliens, and then, oh my gosh, there's a moment of understanding. I was adamant about the importance of the near miss, that they don't actually meet, sort of 'There but for the grace of God go I.'" 
- The writers also wanted to leave certain issues unresolved. "We didn't want to answer a lot of questions," Ken Biller stated, "like, how long has that ship been out there? Some of the episodes that we saw earlier in the season, was it that crew? Or was it the real crew? It's kind of intriguing to think about." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50)
- Nick Sagan enjoyed writing for a group of characters that were extremely similar to but not the same as the regular Voyager crew. He reminisced, "One of the great things about 'Course: Oblivion' [was] that you could do whatever you wanted to do, because they're not the real crew." 
- Paris actor Robert Duncan McNeill liked that this episode apparently begins with the wedding of his character and B'Elanna Torres before revealing their true alien nature. McNeill described this deception as "a classic sci-fi thing" and opined that the installment also has "a real tragic ending." He concluded by saying of the episode, "It's an interesting way to deal with the relationship, and refer to it but not have to live with it forever." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 52)
- Anson Williams directed this episode with prior experience of having worked on visualizing biomimetic lifeforms, as "Demon" was also directed by him.
Continuity and trivia
- This episode is a sequel to the fourth season episode "Demon".
- At some point between "Demon" and this episode, the mimetic beings were able to adapt to a different atmosphere than the one found on a class Y planet. While in "Demon" they suffocated in a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, in this episode it is said that Neelix harvested vegetables on another planet, which they would presumably have identified as being suitable for the humans and other crew of Voyager.
- In reviewing Voyager's recent encounters, Tuvok notes that the Class Y planet is in the Vaskan sector, a reference to "Living Witness", which immediately preceded "Demon".
- The mimetic copy of Paris carries the rank of lieutenant, having not experienced the events of "Thirty Days" in which the real Paris is demoted to ensign.
- The mimetic copies of Tuvok and Chakotay mention encounters with the Kmada and the N'Kree, neither of which were ever met by the real Voyager crew, at least on-screen.
- This is one of the rare episodes of the entire Star Trek franchise which does not feature any credited guest stars, with the credits proceeding straight into the production staff after the opening titles.
- This is also one of the rare episodes where the story is not about any of the main characters, since the main characters only appear in the last minute of the episode.
- This is the first of two consecutive episodes to feature no scenes with the real Neelix but only an alternate version of him: the biomimetic copy of him in this episode and the illusory version of him in Chakotay's mind in "The Fight".
- This episode features the fourth of five times that the destruction of Voyager is depicted on the series, previous occasions being "Deadlock", "Year of Hell, Part II", and "Timeless". On this occasion, a biomimetic copy of Voyager disintegrates.
- This episode features the seventh of 9 times that Kathryn Janeway's death is depicted over the course of the series. Previous episodes that depict this include "Time and Again", "Deadlock", "Before and After", "Worst Case Scenario", "Year of Hell, Part II", and "Timeless". On this occasion, the version of Janeway that succumbs to death is her biomimetic copy, and the cause of death is radiation from the enhanced warp drive.
- Preparing to land Voyager, the mimetic Janeway orders red alert instead of the condition blue established in previous landings, though this could be due to the more heightened danger present in this landing.
- In the final lines of dialogue of the episode, the real Janeway orders Paris to resume course, to which he responds "Aye Sir". In the show's pilot, "Caretaker", Janeway informed Paris and Kim that, protocol aside, she didn't like being addressed as "sir". Since then, Paris referred to Janeway as "Captain", while Kim has preferred the use of "ma'am". This episode contains one of the few examples of Janeway being addressed as "sir" by a senior officer.
Reception and aftermath
- This episode is somewhat controversial, particularly its relevance or lack thereof. "I think it's an episode people either love or hate," observed Nick Sagan. "The 'hate' category seems to say, 'Why do we follow a crew that isn't even our regular crew?' and they feel cheated. But it really is the story about the poignancy of Voyager's journey. There's something about trying really hard and not being quite able to achieve it, which is a reality to a lot of people […] [The episode's] about a need to be remembered, a need to be recorded, and that's the special tragedy about making a log, a kind of capsule – we know that the 'Demon' crew dies. It's about loss and remembering, death and grief." Sagan was personally very pleased with this installment. "It's one of those wonderful 'What if?' episodes," he enthused. "And one of the things that I liked about the episode is that here's a couple [namely, Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres] and they've been trying to get together for the longest time and they're not able to achieve it – but the mimetics are able to achieve it. There's something about that crew that I like in many ways more than the real crew. They're trying to be the best that they can possibly be, and it's just unfortunate that they're very good at what they are, but they're not real […] The scene where [the mimetic Torres] dies I find is a very moving scene […] It's great to see [her wedding to the Tom Paris duplicate], because it adds something to the chronology, even if it isn't real." Sagan also remarked that he considers the death of the mimetic Torres on a par with a scene from the earlier Season 5 outing "Drone", in which the Borg drone designated One dies. 
- Bryan Fuller was also satisfied with this episode, remarking that he "loved" it. (Star Trek Magazine issue 114, p. 34)
- Another writing staffer who, like Nick Sagan, was particularly appreciative of some parts of the installment was Ken Biller. "There were a few scenes where I thought it was really emotionally powerful," he said, "like when Chakotay died, and Janeway decides that she's going to take his advice." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 49-50)
- Although she hated "Demon", Star Trek author Kirsten Beyer highly approved of this outing. She commented, "I thought [it] was a really interesting follow-up to ['Demon'] […] Even though our crew never learned of it, it was a story worth telling. It has always kind of haunted me, like a lot of Bryan Fuller's work." 
- A script from this episode was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.9, 6 September 1999
- As part of the VOY Season 5 DVD collection
- As part of the Star Trek: Fan Collective - Alternate Realities collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Harry Kim
- David Keith Anderson as Ashmore (biomimetic copy)
- Michelle Artigas as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Robert Beltran as Chakotay (Silver Blood)
- Richard Bishop as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Clifton Brown as operations division musician (biomimetic copy)
- Gavin Chase as command division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Gelbert Coloma as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres (Silver Blood)
- Marvin De Baca as Patrick Gibson (biomimetic copy)
- Christine Delgado as Susan Nicoletti (biomimetic copy)
- Brian Donofrio as science division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Keith Estelle as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Brendan Fleming as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Caroline Gibson as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Peter Harmyk as Thompson (biomimetic copy)
- Sunny Hawks as a sciences officer (biomimetic copy)
- Kerry Hoyt as Fitzpatrick (biomimetic copy)
- Dino Juico as command division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Tina Kotrich as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Alicia Lewis as sciences officer (biomimetic copy)
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris (Silver Blood)
- Kate Mulgrew as Kathryn Janeway (Silver Blood)
- Louis Ortiz as Culhane (biomimetic copy)
- Joel Pelletier as science division musician (biomimetic copy)
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix (Silver Blood)
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor (Silver Blood)
- Erin Price as Renlay Sharr (also biomimetic copy)
- Jackie Rainey as command division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Guy Richardson as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Jerome Robertson as science division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Tim Russ as Tuvok (Silver Blood)
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine (Silver Blood)
- Christina Rydell as command division ensign (biomimetic copy)
- Joey Sakata as science division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Linnea Soohoo as science division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Pablo Soriano as operations division ensign (biomimetic copy)
- Steve Stella as command division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Simon Stotler as operations division ensign (biomimetic copy)
- Noriko Suzuki as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Loran Taylor as science division ensign (biomimetic copy)
- Talon Tears as command division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Michele Triviso as command division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Joan Valentine as operations division officer (biomimetic copy)
- Garrett Wang as Harry Kim (Silver Blood)
- Unknown performers as
- Ivory Broome – stand-in for Tim Russ
- Mike Fujimoto – stand-in for Garrett Wang
- Sue Henley – stand-in for Kate Mulgrew
- Kerry Hoyt – stand-in for Robert Duncan McNeill
- Susan Lewis – stand-in and photo double for Roxann Dawson
- Brita Nowak – stand-in for Jeri Ryan
- Lemuel Perry – stand-in for Tim Russ
- J.R. Quinonez – stand-in for Robert Picardo
- Keith Rayve – stand-in for Robert Duncan McNeill
- Joey Sakata – stand-in for Ethan Phillips
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Robert Beltran
- Pablo Soriano – stand-in for Robert Beltran
- Stuart Wong – stand-in for Garrett Wang
- Unknown performers as
- Hand double for Roxann Dawson
- Hand double for Robert Duncan McNeill
- Hand double for Kate Mulgrew
- Hand double for Robert Picardo
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- "Course: Oblivion" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Course: Oblivion" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Course: Oblivion" at Wikipedia
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