After the rest of the crew is placed in suspended animation to protect them from dangerous radiation, Seven, with only the Doctor for company, is placed in control of the ship.
Seven of Nine stands apprehensively in Voyager's mess hall, watching other crew-members as they sit, eat and interact. She approaches a table, at which Lt. Torres and Ensign Kim are sitting. She begins to engage them in conversation. But all she does is confuse Kim and, as usual, antagonize Torres. Her manner is brusque, her questions interrogatory. In fact, they are not even questions, but demands for personal information.
Suddenly a voice orders: "Computer, freeze program." It is The Doctor. The whole thing is a holographic exercise he developed to teach the former Borg drone social skills. Annoyed, he remonstrates with Seven about her conduct, which, far from making friends, would alienate people en masse. Seven is very uncomfortable with the whole thing and, against his wishes, all but runs for the holodeck doors, demanding that he give her her weekly physical examination, something she has never volunteered for.
On the bridge, Captain Janeway and the bridge officers watch the viewscreen, looking at a Mutara class nebula the ship is approaching. The thing is so large that the long-range sensors cannot see beyond it, and they can see a distance of several light years. Going around it will take far too long. Janeway orders course set through it.
But then officer after officer begins to wince with pain, then convulse in agony. Burns and sores appear on their faces, necks and hands.
Janeway, wracked with pain, orders Lt. j.g. Paris to remove them from the vicinity of the nebula, the presumed cause of the emergency, immediately. Paris tries, but collapses before he can. Lt. Commander Tuvok manages to get to the helm and execute the order.
Janeway calls the sickbay for emergency medical help. The Doctor is there with Seven, dealing with a barrage of crew-members who are in the same state as the bridge officers. Both he, a hologram, and Seven are unaffected. He dispatches Seven to the bridge with dermal regenerators.
Seconds later, as Voyager dashes away from the nebula, the agony suddenly stops. Seven arrives and administers aid with the regenerators. It is too late for one ensign, though. He is seen lying dead, his face burned beyond recognition.
Janeway, after having ordered all stop, meets with Seven in the astrometrics laboratory, where Seven brings up a sensor scan of the nebula, showing Voyager's position outside of it. She reports: the nebula is at least 110 light years wide. Janeway mentally calculates the durations of courses through and around it: over a month and over a year, respectively. The prospect of adding another year to their decades-long journey home is unappealing. But how can they go through? They would all be dead minutes after Voyager enters.
She goes and speaks to The Doctor in the sickbay about the effect the nebula had on them. He has found that it has massive amounts of subnucleonic radiation, which caused the burns and agonizing pain. There is no way to inoculate against the effects. Janeway asks him for a suggestion as to how then they can protect themselves. He gives it: stasis.
Janeway is dumbfounded; stasis? For the entire crew? The Doctor responds that he has looked at all options; this is the only way. But, Janeway asks, who will monitor the ship's systems, make necessary course adjustments? The Doctor volunteers, as he was unaffected. Janeway accepts, but insists he will need a backup in case the radiation finally begins to affect the holographic systems which project him. The Doctor reminds her that only one other crew-member was affected.
Janeway goes to speak to that crew-member. She finds Seven in her Cargo Bay 2 'quarters'. She fills her in, stressing the seriousness of the task; the lives of the crew will be in her hands. Seven assures her she is fully capable of this responsibility. Janeway though, still has doubts; most Humans do not react well to long isolation; as a former Borg drone, this is even more of an issue for her; could she, should The Doctor indeed go offline, really handle weeks alone? Seven does look rather uncertain, but insists she can do it. Janeway accepts this, but stresses that The Doctor will be in command. She leaves to inform the senior staff.
In the briefing room, Janeway outlines the plan to the senior officers. The officers are uneasy. Concerns are expressed about safety and side effects. Janeway gives them The Doctor's assurances that it is quite safe; he and Seven will monitor their vital signs several times every day. They will go in to stasis and when they wake up, they will be on the other side of the nebula. There is, she stresses, no other way. She dismisses them until 1700 hours, at which time the procedure will be done. She herself will announce it to the crew.
The officers leave, except for Lt. Commander Chakotay. The First Officer expresses serious doubts, not about the plan, but about one of those who will be in charge: Seven. This is someone, he reminds her, who has butted horns with her from the moment she came on board, who disregards authority, and does not hesitate to disobey orders she does not agree with. Janeway understands his concerns, but stresses that she really believes that, in spite of her insolence, Seven really wants to do well by them. She trusts her to do this. This is good enough for Chakotay.
And so, at 1700 hours, on Deck 14, one by one, all crew-members are put into stasis chambers. Paris is the most agitated of all, but The Doctor assures him that all will be well. Should an emergency occur in which he revives and needs to get out, Janeway informs him, he can unlock the chamber from the inside. Still very nervous, he goes in. Janeway, as Captain, is the last to go in.
10 days into the nebula. Seven has, as is her nature, created an efficient routine that sees her performing duties of maintenance, monitoring the crew and regenerating at specific times. She is seen entering the dark, empty mess hall, where she has the computer replicate one of her preferred 'meals-in-a-glass', which she sits and drinks. Next, she goes to the bridge and makes a course adjustment. She can do it manually, but, for the sound of its voice as it responds, she has the computer do it.
But then, on her way down a corridor, she finds Lt. Paris on the floor, unconscious. He came out of his stasis chamber. She calls and informs The Doctor, who comes, checks him medically, then they return him to his chamber.
But the isolation is wearing on both of them. They begin to bicker. The Doctor insists they go to the holodeck for another social lesson, but Seven angrily insists she has no time for "frivolous pursuits." They snap at each other about how irritable they have noticed each other getting, before finally indeed storming off to the holodeck.
This time, Seven is much more successful, but, to The Doctor, her approach is no more than a cop-out; instead of mixing and mingling, she engages in a discussion about warp theory, i.e. work, annoying The Doctor yet again. This leads to more bickering.
Then the computer sounds a warning: emergency problem with the antimatter. This could lead to a ship-destroying warp core breach. They rush to Engineering, but find it is a false alarm. The subnucleonic radiation from the nebula has begun to affect the bio-neural gel packs that comprise the computer's processing circuitry. As a result, the computer is detecting false signals; hallucinating, in effect.
They enter the Jefferies tube system and manually trace the affected gel packs, On finding one, they remove it and The Doctor prepares to take it to the sickbay for study. Then, to his horror, he begins to fritz; the radiation is affecting his mobile emitter. He needs to return to the sickbay's holographic projectors at once, or he may be destroyed. He and Seven race back there, and make it in time.
The Doctor is saved. But this brings up the concern Janeway had at the beginning: The mobile emitter is malfunctioning. The Doctor can no longer leave the sickbay. The effect of the radiation on the systems may cause him to go offline. Can Seven continue on alone? She is visibly disturbed by the prospect, but resolutely promises The Doctor she will continue on alone if she must.
29 days into the nebula. Seven, now working by herself, continues her daily routine. But, unlike before, she is clearly showing signs of strain. On the bridge, she tries to have the computer make a course correction. But now even the sound of the computer's voice, which she had depended on for company, seems to be deserting her; it takes several seconds to respond, then, when it does, the voice is very fritzy. It tries to make the correction and fails.
Seven does it manually, then has the computer diagnose itself. Its report: 1/3 of third of the gel pack relays are non-functional. She has it perform a rerouting of processor signals to bypass them. This works, restoring it, for now. She ask it how long until they are through the nebula. The answer: six days, five hours. She takes heart; that is not so long; she can hold out.
But, while on her way to Engineering, she hears anguished cries from Lt. Paris and sees shadows in her vision's periphery. She hurries to Deck 14, but finds all is as it should be. Then the computer alerts her of an approaching ship that is hailing. She answers it. The pilot introduces himself as Trajis Lo-Tarik. He says he is looking for spare parts and asks for a trade. Seven agrees.
Seven meets him in one of the cargo bays. He expresses curiosity about her name; how did she get it? She tells him as she gets out the parts he wanted. He responds that he has never heard of the Borg. He makes small talk, which, despite her professed disdain for such, is glad to respond to. He is alone on his ship. He, like Seven, is resistant to the radiation. The radiation has forced him to rebuild his engines five times to keep going. But he is determined; he will be the first of his kind to get through it. When Seven tells him how long she has been running the ship alone, he complements her.
But then things change. He comes uncomfortably close to her and, with a look and a voice that a 20th century woman would have called sexual harassment, he asks how she is handling the loneliness. When Seven asks what he means, his demeanor becomes even more uncomfortable for Seven: "You know what I mean. No matter what you say. You're all alone here," he purrs.
His next statement shows him to be a liar; "I've heard the drones can't stand being alone. They're too used to the Collective." Seven sternly demands how he knows that, having previously stated that he had never heard of the Borg. "Don't be offended," he soothes with the manner of a sexual predator lulling his intended victim; "I've no grudge with them." Seven has had enough; he has worn out his welcome. She gives him the parts and sternly orders him to depart. He challenges her to make him. Her response is a drawn phaser.
She escorts him at phaser-point, heading for a transporter room. Then she hears Paris again. She looks round, but sees nobody. Then she turns to Lo-Tarik. He is gone. She runs in the direction he may have headed, and sees a shadow moving. She calls The Doctor and informs him about the intruder.
In the Sickbay, The Doctor informs Seven that he has scanned for but found no alien lifeform aboard. He instructs her to arm herself and track Lo-Tarik down, as he still cannot leave the sickbay. Use extreme caution, he advises. She looks uncertain, but when The Doctor asks her compassionately if she is frightened, she grits her teeth and calls upon her Borg heritage. Borg do not know fear.
She moves cautiously through the corridors, armed with a phaser rifle. She hears the echoing voices of crew-members calling for help.
Lo-Tarik calls her over the comm. He taunts her, asking again about her name, When she does not answer, he mockingly makes her race to Engineering by threatening to collapse the structural integrity around the warp coils. He informs her of his location: the bridge, where he can do "just about anything" to her or the ship. She hallucinates, seeing Lt. Paris and Ensign Kim crawling in agony, calling for help. In horror, she sees them burst into flame. But when she rushes to them, they vanish.
Lo-Tarik continues to taunt her. But she turns the tables on him, cutting off oxygen to the bridge. She listens with satisfaction as he gasps for oxygen, then goes silent. She informs The Doctor, who congratulates her. He has fixed his mobile emitter, and is marching briskly to Engineering to join her.
The doors open. But, to her total, shocking surprise, in steps an unharmed Lo-Tarik. She fires at him; the hits him squarely in the chest. He merely steps forward, mocking her as a weak former Borg drone whose days of power are long past; who thought she could be Human but failed at it miserably. The taunts hurt greatly. They are her own secret fears and worries. Raggedly, on the verge of tears, she snaps at him not to come closer or she will kill him.The Doctor enters and asks her who she is talking to. She frantically warns him that the alien is dangerous. This confuses him: what alien? Suddenly Seven can lo longer see him; he has disappeared. She insists that he was there, but The Doctor insists that they are alone; she was hallucinating. He has an explanation from his examination of the radiation-affected gel packs: they degraded the packs synaptic relays; the radiation is doing the same to her Borg implants. The Doctor offers to try to modify her implants to stop the hallucinations. She agrees, remembering a time as a drone when she was cut off from the Borg Collective for several hours, and the fear she had felt; fear she is feeling now.
Fear she suddenly finds herself having to now suddenly face head-on as a panel explodes and The Doctor again begins to fritz. The computer warns that the ship's primary EPS conduits are overloading. The Doctor had tied his emitter into them for power. Thus his emitter is losing power. He will not be damaged, but he will go offline and will remain off until they are out of the nebula. Not only that, but the ship's main power will be affected, including propulsion, life support and power to the stasis chambers.
Seven will be completely alone. She has never, ever, not even after being de-assimilated, had to face this. Terror-stricken, she desperately tries to prevent The Doctor's going offline but fails. His last words before disappearing are an urging to repair the damage and hold on; she is now the only chance the crew has. As he vanishes, she can only cry out in terror and look around the empty area in abject panic.
Days pass. Seven, despite her terror, continues to work, keeping the power on and the ship moving.
Her only company now is hallucinations which echo her fears. As she works in Astrometrics to try to plot a faster course out of the nebula, she is joined by an imagined, radiation-burned Ensign Kim, who mocks her efforts.
She heads for the bridge. But she sees corridors lit Borg-green, and a Borg drone follows her, coldly berating her for leaving the Collective and becoming "weak... pathetic." She keeps telling it, and herself, that she will adapt and become stronger. In a turbolift, Lo-Tarik appears and urges her to go back to the Collective. She sees the doors open, to the inside of a Borg vessel. She hears the echoing, multi-track resonant voice of the Collective, telling her "resistance is futile." She resolutely ignores it all.
On the bridge, she hallucinates Captain Janeway and several senior officers, all burned. They talk among themselves, but their words mock her mercilessly as she attempts to keep things together. She will never hold up, they say; the crew will die because of her failure. Janeway takes the blame sardonically; she trusted her, she says; she should have known better.
The computer warns that propulsion is going offline. Seven concertedly tries rerouting power from every non-essential system. But this does not work. Propulsion fails. The ship goes dead in space. Desperate to get it moving again, she has an idea. The hallucinated officers discuss it in mocking tones: she is going to reroute power from the stasis chambers to the engines. But, they sneer, that will kill some of the crew. But, they opine, she does not care. 'Janeways remark is the most cruel: "She's already killed millions; would a few more matter?"
Seven has the computer reroute power from 10 of the stasis chambers. This works; engines come back on. She orders the computer to resume course.
Then she races to Deck 14. A hallucinated 'Janeway' meets her there, mocking her decision. She sees the 10 affected chambers, smoking, their occupants writhing in death-throes. ‘Janeway’ taunts her to save them, if she can.
Seven makes a decision. She orders the computer to kill life-support and send the power to the affected chambers. The computer acknowledges. 'Janeway' taunts her with the fact that she has now ensured her own death.
Seven does not care. She will have fulfilled her responsibility, saved the crew and shown that Janeway's faith in her was well-placed. That is all that matters to her now. As heat and oxygen rapidly vanish, she sinks down in a corner, defiantly repeating: "I am Seven of Nine. I am alone. But I will adapt."
A flash of white light.
She awakens to find herself surrounded by the Doctor, Janeway and Chakotay; not hallucinations this time. Smiling, they inform her that the was successful; the ship made it through. The Doctor, came back online and found her, restarted life-support and woke the crew. A very pleased Doctor tells her she did well; he is proud of her. She whispers that she is glad she was able to help.
Later, things are back to normal. Seven enters the mess hall and looks around as crem-members sit, eat and interact. Not a simulation; for real this time. She sees Lts. Paris and Torres, and Ensign Kim, sitting together, having soup.
She joins them. Her social lessons with The Doctor bear fruit. She and they conversationally speak about the past month. She tells Kim and Torres about how she The Doctor had to put Paris back in his chamber 4 times after he got out. They laugh and rib him good-naturedly. He responds that he has never liked confined spaces; he does not know why.
Seven gets a faraway look as she remembers her ordeal. "Perhaps", she muses, "you dislike being alone."
- Personal log, Seven of Nine, stardate 51929.3. This is the tenth day of our journey through the Mutara Nebula. I've created an efficient daily routine.
- Personal log, Seven of Nine, stardate 51932.4. The twenty-ninth day in the Mutara Nebula. I believe I'm beginning to feel the effects of this prolonged isolation. My dreams have been... disturbing, but I'm determined to fulfill my responsibilities. With the Doctor confined to sickbay, I have taken on increasing duties. Ship's systems are beginning to require constant maintenance in order to avert disaster. This morning I must... purge the auxiliary plasma vents. End log.
"We’ve come 15,000 light-years. We haven’t been stopped by temporal anomalies, warp core breaches, or hostile aliens. And I’ll been damned if we're going to be stopped by a nebula."
- - Janeway
"The Doctor will be in command. You will follow his instructions just as you would follow mine."
"Follow the orders of a hologram?"
- - Captain Janeway and Seven of Nine
"Look at the fact that here's someone who's butted horns with you from the moment she came on board; who disregards authority and actively disobeys orders when she doesn't agree with them."
"And this is the person I'm giving responsibility for the lives of this entire crew. I suppose you want me to tell you I'm not crazy."
"In a nutshell."
- - Chakotay and Captain Janeway
"Holodecks are a pointless endeavor, fulfilling some human need to fantasize. I have no such need."
"What you need is some editorial skill in your self expression. Between impulse and action there´s a realm of good taste begging for your acquaintance."
"I find your self expression ponderous."
- - The Doctor and Seven of Nine, bickering.
"Come on, Tom. Sleepy time."
"What if we... had to get out in a hurry?"
"You can unlock the unit from inside, Tom."
"Do I detect a hint of claustrophobia, Lieutenant?"
- - Harry Kim, Tom Paris and The Doctor
"Why do they have to design these things like coffins?"
"Should we replicate you a teddy bear?"
- - Tom Paris and Harry Kim
"Seven of Nine to the Doctor."
"Lieutenant Paris has left his stasis unit and is unconscious."
"I'll be right there. Apparently, he's more claustrophobic than I thought."
- - Seven of Nine and The Doctor
"If you had even the slightest sense of humor, you'd realize I was making a small joke."
- - The Doctor and Seven of Nine
"It's not unheard of for people to come out of stasis and start wandering. Leave it to Mr. Paris to be just as much trouble now as when he's awake."
- - The Doctor
"These tubes certainly weren't designed with creature comfort in mind."
- - The Doctor while crawling through Jefferies tube
"I can complain if I want to, It's comforting."
"Well, this journey certainly has not lacked excitement. I can´t complain about being bored."
"Since you find it comforting, you´ll undoubtedly find something else to complain about."
"No doubt, you really should try it."
- - The Doctor and Seven of Nine, more bickering.
"Seven, are you... frightened?"
"I am Borg."
- - The Doctor and Seven of Nine
(Doctor's program flickers, begins to degrade) "I have to get back to sickbay!" (program flickers again) "Hurry!"
"I am hurrying."
"If the mobile emitter goes off-line while I'm out of sickbay my program may be irretrievable!"
"Don't panic. It's counterproductive."
"That's easy for you to say. You're not facing cybernetic oblivion!" (program flickers yet again) "If that happens again, I'm a goner!"
- - The Doctor and Seven of Nine
(The Doctor gives a sigh of relief) "Home, sweet sickbay, I never thought I'd be so happy to see these walls."
- - The Doctor, after reaching sickbay when his mobile emitter started to fail
- - Seven of Nine, after The Doctor goes off-line.
"I am Seven of Nine, I am alone. But I will adapt, I will..."
- - Seven of Nine, before passing out
(The computer's voice slows and deepens, returns to normal, then deepens again) "Warning. Deuterium tank levels are fluctuating beyond acceptable tolerances."
"The computer sounds like it needs a stimulant."
- - The Computer and The Doctor, after Seven neglected to perform her maintenance duties.
"I hope you're not afraid of the dark."
- - Tragis to Seven of Nine
"Neelix, this soup is great. What is it?"
"It's my secret recipe. I've never told anyone what's in it."
"Why does that make me nervous?"
"Oh, come on, Tom. Where's your sense of adventure?"
"Not in my stomach."
- - Harry Kim, Neelix, Tom Paris and B'Ellana Torres
"I... felt the need for companionship."
"Well, after a month with only the Doc for company, I can understand that."
- - Seven of Nine and Tom Paris
- The original pitch for this episode came from James Swallow, being the first British writer to submit a story for Star Trek. In the atlas Star Trek: Star Charts, the Mutara-class nebula has been named the Swallow Nebula in his honor.
- A similar storyline occurred in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Doctor's Orders", when Doctor Phlox was forced to take control of the ship on his own to pilot it through a nebula and began to hallucinate.
- The episode also has many similarities to a previous Voyager episode, "Persistence of Vision", which features The Doctor working closely with Kes while the rest of the crew is incapacitated by hallucinations.
- It is mentioned that the ship has traveled 15,000 light years toward home.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 4.13, catalogue number VHR 4634, 28 December 1998.
- As part of the VOY Season 4 DVD collection.
Links and References
14 Beta 7; anti-psychotic; bio-neural circuitry; bio-neural gel pack; Borg; Borg Collective; Borg drone; cardiopulmonary system; cargo bay; Chi 14; cloaking device; command processor; dermal regenerator; electro-optic modulator; EM stress parameters; EPS conduit; force field; helium; Jefferies tube; Maquis; microfusion chamber; mobile emitter; Mutara class; nanoprobe; nebula; parrises squares; phaser rifle; sensory nodes; South Carolina; stasis; subnucleonic radiation; subspace field matrix; tennis; volleyball; warp core breach; warp field
| Previous episode:|
| Star Trek: Voyager|
| Next episode:|
"Hope and Fear"