(written from a Production point of view)
A sentient robot enlists Torres' help to make it possible for it to construct new members of its race.
In a transporter room aboard Voyager, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres is next to an unidentified officer. She approaches and says that "it" is extraordinary. Lieutenant Tuvok joins her and reminds Torres that it also poses a potential security risk. Captain Janeway looks on curiously as Torres observes that it is losing power. Although Tuvok suggests that they let the power source run out and observe it while it is incapacitated, Torres insists that they may not be able to get it to work again and will have lost a valuable opportunity to study it. Erring on the side of exploration, Janeway agrees with Torres.
In main engineering, Torres announces "The power's surging," and uses some sort of tool. Meanwhile, Ensign Harry Kim waves a wand-like tool to the side. He asks her if an interface with an EPS power conduit would work. While she says the energy signatures are incompatible, Torres notes that the interface might buy them some time. Kim retrieves a cord and they plug it in. Torres tells Kim to produce a two-second burst at 5% of maximum output but the energy transference is unsuccessful and the screen begins to fade more often. "We're losing it," observes Torres, ordering a burst with less power. As Kim and Torres perform the operations in question their subject, a metallic humanoid, can only lie there.
As Torres and Kim continue to work on the mechanical man, she estimates that they will be able to keep it running for another eighteen hours despite the large amount of damage it has suffered. They attempt to establish what it is and determine that it is not a cyborg as it is completely robotic and has no internal organs. Because it has arms, legs, and a head, they establish that it was designed to perform motor functions, but Kim is unable to detect any pathways similar to those in an android by which information is transmitted. Torres discovers that it runs not on EPS flow but on a foreign type of superconducting tripolymer plasma. The robot emits a series of sporadic sounds and its head jerks back and forth, but they are unable to tell what, if anything, it is trying to say. While Torres is convinced that the robot is trying to speak and attempts to discern what "Pra..." means, Kim reminds her that they do not know for sure whether the robot is even aware of them. Waving his arms and hands in front of the robot's "face," he receives no response. He notes that they have been working on it for hours and Torres tells him she could use some time alone to think. At this, he jokingly insists that he can stay up as long as she can. However, when the lieutenant threatens to pull rank on him and order him to leave, he concedes the point. However, he reminds Torres to tell him if she discovers anything new.
- "Chief engineer's log, supplemental. I've tried thirteen different methods of reinitializing the robot's power source, and I'm still having no luck, so I've decided to go to the mess hall to recharge my own declining energy reserves."
It is early morning and Torres sits in the deserted mess hall, which is dark save for the light emanating from the adjacent kitchen. Neelix stands at a counter in the kitchen, cooking the crew's breakfast. Torres sips her coffee and requests another pot from Neelix, who cordially reminds her that breakfast is not served for another hour and a half; however, he offers her a glass of traggle nectar instead. He even offers to make his special Jibalian omelette. She stubbornly insists on coffee, but Neelix reminds her that two pots of Landras blend is the absolute limit. "You're cutting me off?" Torres asks incredulously. Neelix simply shrugs his shoulders as if to say, "I don't make the rules." Joining Torres at the table, he asks about the status of their mechanized guest. She has only been able to postpone the inevitable thus far, and she compares the situation to a bleeding artery with no tourniquet available. The predicament reminds Neelix of a time when he was unable to find the right blend of spices for his Jibalian omelette, and while Torres is patient, she does not appear enthusiastic about the prospect of hearing Neelix's story. He describes how he tried more Spith basil, less prishic, and so on until he eventually fell asleep. The answer came to him in a dream: He was using six spices, but the recipe called for seven. Sarcastically, Torres guesses the missing ingredient leola root. After giving her an equally sarcastic look, he tells her the spice was Nimian sea salt – the most common spice in the galaxy – yet he had been too tired to realize it. Neelix's analogy is not lost on Torres, but she chooses to ignore his less-than-subtle hint and repeats her request for coffee. Neelix orders Torres to bed in a stern but affectionate tone, so she reluctantly agrees.
However, she does not return to her quarters. In main engineering once more, an exhausted Torres stands over the robot and knocks on its metallic head as if to ask if anyone is home. She pretends to hear the robot tell her to go to bed. "Well, I guess I'm outnumbered," she sarcastically admits to herself, and she walks off. Once in her bedroom, Torres turns out the lights and gets in bed only to have a sudden inspiration much as Neelix did in his story. She immediately hurries to sickbay.
As Torres activates the Emergency Medical Holographic program, The Doctor appears and starts to make his usual statement: "Please state the nature ...." He looks Torres over; she did not take the time to change into her uniform and wears a pair of red pajamas. The Doctor dryly inquires if there has been a change in the official dress code, as no one informed him of such a change. Torres impatiently explains that her current attire is what she sleeps in. The hologram assumes that her haste is due to a medical emergency, but it is actually an engineering problem. After he pretends to think for a moment, The Doctor begins to say, "I'm a doctor, not..." but Torres cuts him off and finishes the statement with "...not an engineer." She explains that it is not a typical engineering problem, and as Kes has told The Doctor about the "mechanical man," he is aware of the situation and does not require a full explanation. Due to a leak in the robot's power supply, Torres says he will "die" unless she can find a way to fix it. The problem is that the plasma from which the robot derives its energy is contaminated and it has begun to decay.
Using a medical analogy for the situation, The Doctor compares the contaminated plasma to diseased blood and suggests a transfusion from Voyager's warp plasma. The suggestion gives Torres reason to pause as she considers how different the two types of plasma are, and she reasons that the warp plasma is too highly charged for the robot's systems. In medical terms, the transfusion would be comparable to giving a Bolian a transfusion using Vulcan blood, which The Doctor notes would normally kill the unfortunate Bolian. However, he adds that in rare instances where artificial blood was unavailable, existing blood cells have been genetically altered to make such transfusions possible. As Torres thinks, she slowly begins to formulate a plan using an anodyne relay, but rather than explain the technobabble to The Doctor, she runs toward main engineering. "That's exactly what I was going to suggest," he tells himself sarcastically.
Kim and Janeway join a now-dressed Torres in engineering, where Janeway asserts that it is Torres' "show" and they will proceed when Torres is ready. Torres confidently activates the relays and instructs Kim to start the plasma transfer from the warp core to the robot, but as they proceed, they find that the energy levels are still too high. They manage to stabilize the flow and the plasma successfully begins to circulate through the robot's systems, but the three of them appear too nervous to say anything yet. Shortly thereafter, the robot's hand unexpectedly reaches up and grabs Torres' forearm. Although she is shocked and unsure of how to respond, the robot politely asks her to identify herself. When she does so, the robot states that it is automated unit 3947 and thanks her for reactivating it.
- "Chief Engineer's log, supplemental. The robot's power module is continuing to function normally using plasma from our warp engines. Repairing its systems has taught me more about robotics than I ever could have learned at Starfleet Academy."
Torres stands in front of a seated 3947 as she scans him with a tricorder, optimistic that they are past the critical stage. 3947 concurs and reports that his self-diagnostic systems estimate he is running at 68% of optimal efficiency. Matching the Automated Personnel Unit's matter-of-fact voice, Torres calls him an extremely well-designed machine, to which he calls her an extremely proficient humanoid. Despite the fact that 3947 is a robot, it is obvious that Torres is growing fond of him. He reveals that he was operating an asteroid mining pod when it exploded, which is why Voyager found him adrift and so badly damaged, although he is unable to access information pertaining to why the pod exploded. He is able to tell her that he was stationed aboard a Pralor starship. Torres hopes that they will be able to return 3947 to his people soon and assures him that the new plasma should bring him up to "optimal." When she mentions the new plasma, it seems to pique the robot's interest, and he asks if she is a "Builder." As an engineer, she supposes the word builder could apply to her, but the Builders were the humanoids who built 3947. He has sat idly until this point, but now he rises and faces Torres, suggesting that she could create a new chromodynamic power module. As 3947's power module is working fine, Torres sees no need for a new one; however, he intends the new module to be for a new automated unit like himself. Torres asks why the Builders cannot do so, but 3947 reveals that the Builders "no longer exist." Torres suddenly sees the issue in a new light.
In Janeway's ready room, Torres explains 3947's situation. The Builders constructed thousands of automated personnel units decades ago, but were later killed off during a war. Now the units are wearing out, and while they have learned to make many repairs to themselves, they have been unsuccessful in creating new power modules. Torres believes she may be able to help 3947 do so, although she admits it will be an incredibly complex job. Janeway points out that Torres' suggestion is a clear violation of the Prime Directive. While Janeway admits that the robots are entitled to the same rights as organic life forms, she points out to Torres that they never had the ability to reproduce in the first place. Torres sees her suggestion as correcting a flaw, but Janeway argues that they don't know enough about the robots or the Builders, and there is no way to tell what the repercussions of their actions will be if they help 3947, and as such, it is not their place to play god. Despite Torres' repeated objections, Janeway forbids her to help 3947.
Back in engineering, Torres attempts to explain and defend Janeway's logic. 3947 notes that, while the Prime Directive prohibits interference in the evolution of other species, he and the other automated personnel units were built and therefore Torres should be free to help them build more. Torres insists that Captain Janeway does not agree with his interpretation, but 3947 observes Torres' visible disagreement. Unsure of what to think, Torres concedes that she wants to try to help the robots, turning away from 3947 as she speaks. In his calm, manner-of-fact voice, he states that the robots will not survive without Torres' help, which makes the decision even more difficult for her. "I thought Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres was a Builder," the robot says. After a moment, she responds, "So did I." Torres begins to walk away but stops to adds that Voyager has located 3947's ship and will be within communications range in an hour. The robot thanks her and she pauses before she leaves, the situation weighing heavily on her mind.
When the alien ship is within visual range, Janeway puts the ship on yellow alert, has it slowed to one quarter impulse and tells Tom Paris to put the vessel on the viewscreen. It appears to consist of a central hub with four extensions in a star-like formation, and as the crew is entirely automated, there are no life signs aboard. As the ship scans Voyager, Janeway opens a channel with it. A Pralor automated personnel unit 6263 appears on screen, identical to 3947, and requests that Janeway identify herself. She does so, informing him that Voyager would like to return 3947 to the Pralor ship. 6263 thanks her for the assistance. Paris jokingly comments on how polite the automated units are, to which Janeway smirks.
Torres and 3947 stand in transporter room 2 as she holds a canister out to him. She explains that it is filled with warp plasma in case the robot's plasma begins to degrade again. Thanking her, he takes the canister, but when she reminds him to adjust the anodyne relay periodically, he reminds her that she has told him already. The two shake hands, but 3947 does not let go of Torres' hand and shoots a burst of blue electricity through her body, rendering her unconscious. He catches her as she falls and fires a discharge across the room at the transporter technician.
On the bridge, Kim announces that he has detected a chromodynamic energy discharge in the transporter room. Janeway motions for a security officer to investigate as she attempts to contact Torres or the technician, but there is no response.
Waving his hand over the transporter controls, 3947 interfaces with the computer. Meanwhile, Chakotay announces that someone is initiating a transport of Torres and the robot. Kim attempts to block the transport, but it is too late as their signals are already in the transporter buffer. 3947 disappears from the transporter room with Torres in his arms.
Voyager immediately goes to red alert and attempts to beam Torres back aboard, but the vessel erects an unknown type of subspace defense field around it, preventing a beam out. When they do not respond to hails, Janeway orders Kim to open a channel on wide-band subspace. She informs the ship that Torres' abduction is an act of aggression and threatens to respond in kind. There is a brief pause before Kim informs Janeway that the robots received the communication and simply chose not to respond. She confidently orders Tuvok to power the forward phaser banks.
Meanwhile, Torres awakens in a sterile room on some kind of mechanical operating table, which adjusts from a horizontal to a vertical position as she becomes aware of her surroundings. Various robotic parts surround her and 3947 stands next to her. She demands to know what is happening, and in his ever-calm voice, the robot informs her that the room is where she will build a prototype. While she insists that he return her to Voyager, 3947 claims it is not possible and informs Torres that her communicator has been deactivated. She instinctively heads toward the nearest exit, but 3947 grabs her by the arms and restrains her. Struggling, Torres does not understand why he is behaving this way. 3947 repeats the necessity for additional automated units, but reassures Torres that he does not wish to harm her; when she reminds him of Janeway's orders, he calls it "inadvisable" for Janeway to provoke the units.
While Torres and 3947 talk, Kim informs Janeway that there has been no indication of a response from the Pralor ship and Tuvok adds that he is unable to penetrate the defense field. Janeway asks Chakotay if there is any indication that the ship intends to attack, but due to the deflector shielding, he is unable to say what the weapons capabilities are, let alone whether the robots plan to use them. Still optimistic that they may be able to avoid a direct confrontation, she tells Tuvok to open a hole in the ship's shields wide enough for a transporter signal but without hitting the ship, and instructs Kim to match the targeting coordinates of the transporter with those of the phaser fire. Once the phasers are aligned, Voyager fires on the ship, reducing its shield capacity to 80%. Janeway tells Tuvok to continue, but it responds with a type of quantum resonance charge similar in appearance to disruptor fire. Tom Paris initiates evasive maneuvers, but the charges quickly reduce Voyager's aft shields to just over half strength. Although Kim reroutes spare power to the shields, they are soon at less than a quarter as Paris attempts to throw the attacker off by switching evasive patterns. Janeway orders Tuvok to load the photon torpedo bays.
As the battle rages on, Torres is able to see Voyager from the Pralor viewscreen, and it is evident that her crewmates are fighting a losing battle. 3947 stands next to her and observes that Voyager's shields are failing and its weapons pose no threat to the automated personnel units.
Smoke comes from one of the consoles on the wall as Tuvok announces that the Pralor have penetrated Voyager's aft shields, and Chakotay points out that the ship must retreat. Janeway agrees, but Paris announces that Voyager's propulsion systems are off-line and the ship is currently dead in the water. A hull breach soon occurs, although an emergency containment field seals it temporarily. The environmental control systems begin to fail and deck eight loses artificial gravity, while injury reports come in from all decks and Janeway looks at the viewscreen, determined but helpless.
An equally helpless Torres urges 3947 to stop the attack on Voyager, which poses no threat to the robots. 3947 reminds her that they are programmed to defend themselves, and although Voyager may be helpless for the moment, their enemies must be destroyed. Turning to 3947, Torres insists that she and her crewmates are not his enemies; he agrees that Torres is not, but observes that Janeway and the crew who follow Janeway's orders are. She reminds him that Janeway favored reactivating 3947 over the objections of the Chief of Security, but he simply looks at the viewscreen; both of them know what the robot wants. With no alternatives, Torres gives in and offers to help build the prototype.
Chakotay announces that the life support system is failing, but suddenly, Voyager stops shaking as the Pralor ship ceases firing. Tuvok informs the crew that the enemy has powered down its weapons systems and there is an incoming hail. Janeway rises and approaches the viewscreen, as Torres appears to ask if everyone is okay. Reassuring her they will be fine, Janeway asks what has happened. When she hears that Torres plans to build a prototype, Janeway begins to remind the lieutenant of her orders, but Torres reassures the captain she does not like it either. As Torres talks, she looks off-screen nervously and helplessly asks what other choice she has; as if to emphasize the point, 3947 adjusts the camera to focus on his cold, metallic face.
Aboard the Pralor starship, miscellaneous mechanical components such as arms and skulls can be seen as 3947 explains that Torres will have all the materials necessary to complete a prototype unit. He will remain to supervise her and allow her access to databases and schematics, but she will not have access to critical systems or be allowed to contact Voyager or leave the room. With that, he tells her to proceed. Torres inquires about the robots' previous attempts to create a new power module and finds that, although they duplicated an existing module exactly, its power supply was insufficient to power a new unit. 3947 even shows her a schematic from each of the power modules, which are identical in every way. As he does so, 6263 enters the room.
The unit asks 3947 what he has to report, but Torres sarcastically observes that she has been working for less than five minutes and has little progress to report. Ignoring Torres' comment, 6263 tells 3947 that Voyager will require about 140 hours for repairs and that they must finish the prototype by then. Torres wonders why he is concerned when the Pralor ship is clearly a match for Voyager, but 6263 claims that statistical probabilities indicate a high likelihood that the crew will make a rescue attempt and Voyager's engines are superior to those of the Pralor at optimal efficiency. 3947 further adds that humanoids' cognitive thought processes are "unpredictable" and they do not necessarily make decisions based on tactical probabilities. When 6263 suggests that Torres might intentionally delay progress on the prototype, she takes offense and indignantly informs him that she follows through on her word and will do her best. In her defense, 3947 adds that she is operating at "optimal efficiency." However, while she promises to do her best, Torres tells 6263 that there are no guarantees. He states that if she fails, she will die, and with that he exits. Once he is gone, 3947 tries to comfort Torres by explaining that 6263 is a designated command unit who is only following his programming. She reiterates that she will do her best and reminds him that she does not need to be threatened; 3947 believes her, but adds that 6263 doesn't know her the way he does. Hearing this once again stirs up Torres' ambivalence about the project as she realizes how much she wants to help 3947, and she asks to see one of the power modules.
Janeway meets with Kim, Tuvok, and Chakotay to discuss the status of the ship and Chakotay enters the data from the other officers' reports into a PADD as they speak. Kim reports that the hull has been sealed but there is no power on decks three through seven, while Tuvok reports that aft shields are completely nonfunctional, and Kim adds that the dilithium matrix is destabilized, rendering warp speed impossible. Chakotay estimates at least six days of repairs based on this feedback, but Janeway finds this unacceptable and demands a plan to get Torres off the Pralor ship before she is able to finish a prototype. In order to facilitate such a plan, Tuvok suggests that they make the warp drive their top priority, as any escape attempt will require a quick getaway. Kim asks how 72 hours sounds for repairing the dilithium matrix, but Janeway thinks it is 24 hours too long. Rather than spend more time reviewing the data, she dismisses them to work on their respective areas.
Torres works diligently on the would-be Automated Personnel Unit, adjusting part of a power module while 3947 acts as her assistant, handing her various tools such as a sub-micron scanner and a phase coil resonator as she requests them. After a few seconds, she tells him that she thinks she knows why the previous prototypes failed, but does not know what to do about it yet. Rather than explain the problem outright, she begins with the fact that the units' parts are interchangeable, so if 3947 loses an arm, it can be replaced easily. Since the parts are identical, the existing units have been able to produce new parts because they are able to duplicate what they see; however, each power module's energy signature is slightly different, so even an exact copy of an existing power module will not work on a new unit because each unit has a unique signature. However, she does not think that she can make the signatures interchangeable. 3947 concludes that Torres has failed and informs her that he will tell 6263. "Do all you automated units give up the minute you hit a bump in the road?" Torres asks. She thinks the matter over for a second and tells him they need to make a standardized module with a uniform energy code to power any unit, at which point 3947 concludes there is "reason for greater optimism." Smiling, Torres replies, "You took the words right out of my mouth."
Meanwhile, Tuvok, Kim, Chakotay, Janeway, and Paris are gathered around the Vulcan's post on Voyager's bridge, where he displays a computer diagram to demonstrate that between Voyager's power shortage and the complexity of the Pralor defense field, they are unable to beam Torres from the other ship. However, Chaotay and Kim note that they would be able to transport Torres out if they were able to get inside the field. Paris believes that a shuttlecraft would be able to do so, but as Voyager was virtually rendered defenseless by the Pralor weapons, such a plan would require a diversion in Tuvok's opinion. Chakotay suggests another attack, but Janeway does not want to risk another direct confrontation. While Paris is confident enough in his piloting skills that he would not need a diversion, Chakotay sarcastically notes that he does not want to lose another shuttlecraft. Paris sarcastically thanks Chakotay for the "heartwarming" concern over his well-being. Janeway announces that the warp engines will be back online in twelve hours. By that time, she wants a diversion ready for the Pralor ship.
Torres work on the prototype unit, as she is receiving feedback from the motor circuits on what is to be the prototype's arm. She lightly asks 3947 if he will be the ship's new obstetrician, but he seems confused and asks her to rephrase the question. Putting it more directly, she asks if he will be in charge of assembling the new unit. Such thoughts seem beyond his scope as he informs her that he was made to be a maintenance unit and neither he nor any of the other units on the ship have any knowledge of design. In that case, she informs him that he has just volunteered for new duty. She tells him to be sure to watch closely, which he does, although he seems somewhat frustrated as he explains that he lacks her improvisational skills. However, Torres reassures 3947 that once she has finished, he will only need to replicate what he sees. There is a pause while 3947 observes Torres' work closely, and as she begins to speak, she asks if she can call him 39. The concept of a nickname seems lost on the robot; he bluntly states that he is Automated Personnel Unit Three-Nine-Four-Seven. She remembers that she is speaking to a robot and goes along with it, asking 3947 how long he has been "alive" and whether he woke up on a bench similar to the one on which the prototype currently rests. He has been in service 1,314,807 hours and 33 minutes (150 years), he reports, which gives Torres reason to pause. The two seem to reach more common ground as he tells her that he was activated by a Builder from the Pralor homeworld and Torres asks if the Builders were like her and her crewmates.
Unfortunately, he is not familiar enough with her culture to make a comparison and asks for additional information. 3947 asks if her culture includes artificial lifeforms, which Torres acknowledges it does, describing the various shapes and sizes and noting that most lack 3947's cognitive abilities. He wonders if they are servants, causing Torres to consider the matter for a moment. Hesitantly, she acknowledges that one could call them servants, but she clarifies that most are not sentient as he is. When Torres describes Data, the only sentient artificial lifeform where she comes from, 3947 expresses interest in becoming acquainted with Data, especially intrigued by the fact that he has equal status to a Builder. As he talks, Torres observes that the power module is functioning well, and 3947 assures her she will succeed. "Don't send me flowers just yet," she warns him in a friendly manner, since they do not know if it will power an actual unit. 3947 confidently states that he believes it will and Torres smiles.
Chakotay enters Janeway's ready room to report that the dilithium matrix will be stable and they will be able to reinitialize the warp core in six hours. As for the diversion, Chakotay describes a time when Torres used a holoemitter and a deflector array to create the illusion of another starship out in space. Janeway likes the idea, but before the two can discuss the matter further, Tuvok announces over the comm that long-range sensors have detected an unidentified alien ship heading toward them. She and Chakotay head for the bridge.
Finally installing the power module in the prototype unit, Torres announces that it fits properly and optimistically tells 3947 to cross his fingers. He literally does so, although he must use the opposite hand to position his fingers. When she turns the power module, the unit begins to sit up but shuts down after a few seconds, at which point 3947 states the obvious fact that it does not function correctly. Torres remarks that the Builders should have programmed him with more patience and adjusts the power module more. The prototype suddenly seems to come alive as it sits up and looks around as if disoriented. "Prototype unit 0001 is ready to accept programming," it states. Torres looks at it with disbelief and realizes that they have done it, although 3947 corrects her: She has done it. 3947 reaffirms his faith in Torres' abilities as the prototype repeats its request for input. Torres shakes 3947's hand and congratulates him on becoming a father. However, the celebratory atmosphere is interrupted when the ship shakes violently.
From the viewscreen, Janeway and the crew watch a tan-colored vessel nearly identical to the Pralor ship swoop in as it and the Pralor ship exchange fire. Kim reports that there are no signs of life aboard the second ship, just as with the first, and Tuvok adds that nearly identical automated units are operating the second ship as well. Janeway is baffled as she realizes that they may have stumbled into the midst of a robotic war.
While the Pralor and Cravic starships exchange fire, Chakotay tells Janeway that they need to retrieve Torres immediately. Although Janeway agrees, she first orders Paris to back Voyager away slowly from the two vessels in order to demonstrate their neutrality. As Paris does so, the second vessel hails Voyager and Cravic Automated Commander 122, a tan version of 3947 and 6263, requests they identify themselves. When Janeway does so, the Cravic unit orders her to withdraw from the area, but she informs him of Torres' presence aboard the Pralor ship and refuses to leave without her. The Cravic unit instructs Janeway to stand by and warns her that she will be fired upon if she attempts to intervene in the conflict. Once the transmission ends, the crew realizes they have been given a diversion and Janeway asks Kim for the status of the warp drive. Although it is an hour away from being fully repaired, Janeway sends him to engineering with orders to prepare to produce as much warp power as possible, as it is unlikely they will have an hour. She then tells Paris to head for the shuttlebay and Chakotay takes Paris' place at the conn.
While the battle rages on around them, 3947 explains to Torres that the attackers are Automated Personnel Units from the Cravic homeworld. The other units were programmed by their Builders to attack the Pralor units. Torres begins to put the pieces of the puzzle together in her mind as the prototype unit interrupts them to state once again that it is ready to accept programming. Torres realizes that the Pralor and Cravic were enemies, and as the Pralor are extinct, she suggests that Captain Janeway might be able to contact the Cravic in order to stop the fighting. However, 3947 reveals that the Cravic are also extinct.
Paris pilots a shuttlecraft between the two robotic ships as they continue to slug it out, keeping a subspace channel open with Voyager and informing them that he is near the perimeter of the Pralor defense field. Tuvok instructs Paris to rotate the shuttlecraft's shield harmonics, which should allow it to pass through the shield. A few seconds later, the shuttlecraft is deflected roughly, as it attempts to pass through the barrier. Tuvok obviously has a backup plan in mind as he gives Paris a set of coordinates and instructs him to head there; however, Tom points out in a confused tone that the coordinates are in a direct line of fire between the two ships. As Tuvok speaks, Janeway looks at him pensively. He explains that the Cravic fire has opened a hole in the Pralor shields, which Paris might be able to get through – if he can dodge the disruptor blasts.
Torres does not understand (or perhaps does not want to believe) what 3947 has told her. The robot explains that all automated units were programmed to achieve victory. The prototype unit once again requests input, and as it speaks, 3947 seems to be receiving information of some sort. He informs Torres that the Cravic ship has breached their defense shield; however, she is more concerned with why the Pralor and Cravic never called a truce. The robot informs her that they did so and later attempted to stop the automated personnel units from fighting. Torres still does not understand. The camera zooms in on 3947's face as he informs her that the robots terminated their Builders.
Meanwhile, Paris approaches the rift in the field and Tuvok guides him toward it.
3947 explains with terrifyingly accurate logic that that the automated personnel units were designed to destroy the enemy, and when the Builders no longer had need for the units and attempted to terminate them, the Builders became the enemy. Now he is confident that the Pralor units will be victorious, as they have the ability to produce a new supply of automated units. The ship continues to shake as he speaks and a fire erupts in another part of the room; he calmly uses a communications device to order a fire unit to the reconstruction bay where he and Torres are located. Suddenly, Torres realizes that the individual energy codes were intended to prevent the robots from creating new units to stop them from overpowering their creators. Now fully understanding why Janeway forbade her from helping the robots, she frantically looks around and grabs a knife-like tool as she looks at the prototype unit. The prototype innocently looks up at her and states its request for programming, but she stabs it, causing it to short circuit. 3947 immediately fires a burst of electricity at Torres, knocking her to the ground. He pauses for a second as he approaches; doing a robotic version of a double take, he realizes what Torres has done, and informs Torres that she will make another unit. When she refuses, he reminds her that he thought she was not an enemy. "I never wanted to be," Torres says before Paris' transporter beam picks her up and beams her out.
Torres materializes aboard the shuttlecraft unconscious from the effects of the shock she received from 3947. Paris contacts Voyager to inform Janeway that he has rescued Torres, who will have to be beamed aboard once he clears the defense field. Tuvok confirms that the automated ships continue to fight one another, taking an interest in neither Voyager nor the shuttle. Now more confident than before, Janeway informs Kim that they will leave as soon as Paris returns.
Janeway and Torres sit in the mess hall as Voyager travels at warp speed and Kes pours them each a cup of coffee, "compliments of the chef." Torres is relieved as she claims that Neelix's coffee has never tasted so good, sentiments Kes assures her she will pass on to him. Once Kes is gone, Torres tries to apologize for going against the Captain's orders and nearly breaching the Prime Directive, but Janeway understands that Torres did what she had to do for the safety of the crew. After a momentary pause, Janeway adds that it must have been difficult for Torres to destroy something she created. Although Torres attempts to act as if she is okay with the situation, Janeway has read the report, and she knows what a significant achievement the prototype unit was. Torres describes how amazing it was for the prototype to look up at her and ask her for programming. "It must have been difficult," Janeway repeats quietly. "It was necessary," Torres replies.
"... I'm a doctor, not..."
"...not an engineer."
- - The Doctor and B'Elanna Torres
"Automated personnel unit 3947 is an extremely well-designed machine."
"Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres is an extremely proficient humanoid."
- - Torres and 3947
"I feel for the robots' plight, but what you're proposing is exactly the kind of tampering the Prime Directive prohibits. We know almost nothing about these creatures, or the race that built them. What would be the consequences of increasing their population, both to their own civilization and others in this quadrant? Who are we to swoop in, play god, and then continue on our way without the slightest consideration of the long-term effects of our actions?"
- - Kathryn Janeway
"Very polite, these... automated units."
- - Tom Paris
"Without your help, we will not survive."
- - 3947, to Torres
"Is it possible that we've stumbled into the middle of some kind of – robotic war?"
- - Janeway
"Prototype unit 0001 is ready to accept programming."
- - 0001
"Wait a minute. If both sides called a truce, then why didn't they stop you from fighting?"
"They attempted to do so."
"We terminated the Builders."
- - Torres and 3947
"All right, if that's what it'll take to stop this, I'll do it. I'll build your damned prototype!"
- - Torres agreeing to 3947's demands so the Pralor's attack on Voyager will cease
"When it was anticipated that the war would end, the Builders no longer required our services, and they attempted to terminate us. In doing so, they became the enemy. We are programmed to destroy the enemy. It is necessary for our survival. Now that you have constructed a prototype, we will soon outnumber the Cravic units. We will achieve victory."
- - 3947
"Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, I told 6263 you were not our enemy."
"I never wanted to be your enemy. (beaming out) I'm sorry."
- - 3947 and Torres
"You don't mind if the rest of us give you a little help, do you, Paris? I'd hate to lose another shuttlecraft."
"Your concern for my welfare is heartwarming."
- - Chakotay and Tom Paris
"You should have seen it, Captain. It was incredible. I installed that module, and the prototype looked up at me and asked me for programming."
"As I said, it must have been difficult."
"It was necessary."
- - Torres and Janeway, regarding Torres's decision to destroy her creation
Story and script
- The development of this episode began with a story pitch from freelance writer Nicholas Corea, a plot concept that executive producer Michael Piller favored. Piller recalled, "Nick Corea came in and pitched a story that had us wandering into a war between robots, which seemed to be a pretty corny idea, but I liked it because it gave us a new adversary that was not humanoid. I just think it's terribly important for us to challenge ourselves to come up with new kinds of aliens, and we have never done a robot like this." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 161)
- Michael Piller subsequently purchased the pitch but the other members of Star Trek: Voyager's writing team were extremely worried about the idea. Executive story editor Kenneth Biller explained, "That was [a] situation where Michael Piller bought a story about robots, and while I think there was something to recommend that, we were all concerned about robots being a kind of hokey '50s sci-fi premise. How were the robots going to look? We were all very worried about it. Nick Corea was a writer he had a lot of faith in, so Michael bought the episode." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 92)
- Michael Piller had to oppose the series' other executive producers to maintain that the episode and its robots were created. He recalled, "Frankly, Jeri [Taylor] was not enamored with this story, and both she and Rick [Berman] were very concerned that we were not going to be able to pull off a robot, so I ended up as the one saying, 'Guys, this is Star Trek! You're going to tell me we can't do robots? They can do robots on Outer Limits, but the top science-fiction franchise on television can't do robots?' So finally they sort of grumbled and went along with me on this." (Captains' Logs Supplemental - The Unauthorized Guide to the New Trek Voyages, p. 161)
- The first draft of this episode's script was issued on 19 September 1995.
- The task of rewriting the episode's script fell to Ken Biller. He noted, "Just because of the luck of the draw and scheduling, when the script came in and had to go into production, I was the one available for the rewrite [....] I tried to explore B'Elanna's relationship with this thing – this metaphor for motherhood – with B'Elanna kind of giving birth and then having to kill her own baby." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 92)
- The episode's final script draft was submitted on 29 September 1995. 
Cast and characters
- This is one of two episodes (the other being "Dreadnought") that Torres actress Roxann Dawson cited as installments which initially scared her, as she immediately realized they would be "difficult to pull off," but which she ultimately regarded as episodes where "we found some interesting themes I didn't know were there in the beginning." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 103)
- The mothering aspect of B'Elanna Torres' relationship with Prototype Unit 0001 was evident to Roxann Dawson. She said, "So much of 'Prototype' was the only way B'Elanna could deal with her own mothering instincts and creation [instincts]. At this point in her development, probably the only way that she can confront her feelings and herself, is through the creation and adoption of a mechanical being, of a robot, and to be as excited about that as some people [are] about children or other kinds of creation." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 104)
- Even though none of the automated personnel units are specifically assigned a sex, their voices sound distinctly male, as they were voiced by the same two actors – namely, Rick Worthy (who played both 3947 and 122) and Hugh Hodgin (who played both 6263 and Prototype Unit 0001). Rick Worthy found this episode to be "a lot of fun, but really hard too." 
- The ships and costumes of the Pralor and Cravic are the same but different colors (silver and gold respectively) (Delta Quadrant, p. 90), which not only has symbolic meaning for plot reasons but was also economical for the show's production. The robot costumes were manufactured out of separate vacu-formed components which were fitted over the actors to allow them full flexibility and movement. (Star Trek: Aliens & Artifacts, p. 169) Ken Biller said of the challenge involved in creating the robots, "That was an almost impossible task given what our budgetary constraints are and given the time that is allotted. We couldn't afford to do body makeup so suddenly he's in costume." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 92)
- Even though the robot costumes were flexible, wearing the suits involved several other problems. Rick Worthy recalled that the reason he found difficulty with his performance in this episode was "because I couldn't see anything inside the robot suit." He further explained, "They put two little slits where I could barely see out. I had to practice where my marks were on the floor and when the cameras rolled I had to force myself not to look down."  "Imagine trying to fit inside a mannequin, because that's what it felt like," remarked Worthy. "Although the outfit allowed me to move about fairly easily, it was restrictive in terms of being able to breathe properly. There were always at least two costume assistants around to help me fit into the outfit and it took probably 15 minutes for me to get everything on. Just before the cameras began to roll I'd take a really deep breath and they'd put the mask on," Worthy remembered, laughing. "The hardest part was that I couldn't see! There were very tiny slits in the mask that I could look through but it was [still] tricky [....] My greatest challenge was just being able to hit my mark so that I'd be standing in the right place," an amused Worthy recalled. (TV Zone, issue 126, p. 28)
- This was the last Star Trek episode directed by Jonathan Frakes until Star Trek: Discovery. The small eye-holes in the robot costumes dictated the kinds of shots that Frakes could use. Rick Worthy explained, "Jonathan had to set up each shot in such a way that made the slits unnoticeable to viewers." (TV Zone, issue 126, p. 28) Regarding Frakes' work on this episode in general, Roxann Dawson opined, "Jonathan did a great job directing 'Prototype.'" (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine issue 12)
- Owing to the robot suits, an unusual amount of post-production time had to be invested in re-recording the voices of the actors playing the automated units. "When it was over I had to voice over the whole thing," Rick Worthy remembered, "because I was speaking from inside of a mask and the sound wasn't recorded very well." 
- UPN's episode feed had a message prior to air stating that the visual distortion in the first two minutes are special effects to assure affiliates that their feed was in fact correct. 
Continuity and trivia
- Chakotay states in this episode that Voyager "can't afford to lose another shuttle", referring to the three shuttles lost so far in "Initiations", "Non Sequitur", and "Parturition".
- 3947 describes itself as being in service for 1,314,807 hours, 33 minutes. This translates to 149 years, 361 days, 9 hours, and 33 minutes. (Taking into account leap years, averaging each year to 365.25 days; assuming it was it speaking of Earth hours.)
- At one point in this episode, B'Elanna Torres mockingly refers to Harry Kim as "Starfleet", a recurring nickname that originated in the Voyager series premiere, "Caretaker".
- During a later encounter with the Kazon in "Basics, Part I", the crew uses Chakotay's plan of utilizing a holoemitter to produce the illusion of another starship.
- Torres identifies Data as the singular example of a "sentient artificial lifeform" within Starfleet who is "treated the same as any human". This seems to ignore The Doctor, who at this point is considered by Voyager's crew to be a sentient artificial lifeform in his own right, one generally treated the same as other senior officers. It's possible she's referring to the only one recognized by Starfleet at large.
- As TNG: "Realm of Fear" does with the transport sequence of the USS Enterprise-D, this episode establishes how the Voyager transport sequence appears from the point-of-view of the transportee.
- The intro to each of the Easter egg files on the Star Trek: Voyager DVDs came from the teaser of this episode.
- Kim mentions "flux capacitance" (at the beginning of this installment) as does Torres (while later activating the prototype). This terminology is a reference to the flux capacitor from Back to the Future. (Delta Quadrant, p. 89)
- One of the robotic arms, seen on the table in the reconstruction bay, is that of Johnny Five from the movie Short Circuit.
- When 3947 calls for fire units, the sound used for the Pralor internal comm is the same stock sound used in Blizzard Entertainment's Starcraft, specifically the sound of the Terran campaign briefing.
- This installment is the second of three Torres-centric episodes, in the first two seasons of Voyager, that feature Roxann Dawson communicating with someone or something that is not another Human. The other two such episodes are "Faces", in which Dawson essentially played opposite herself, and "Dreadnought", in which her co-star was the automated Dreadnought missile which she voiced.
- Ken Biller had a mixed opinion of how this episode turned out. "I think there was some good stuff in it [such as Torres' metaphorically mothering relationship with Prototype Unit 0001]. But it was a real disappointing episode in the sense that exactly what we feared happened: the robot looked like the guy in the suit. It just looked really, really hokey and cheesy [....] If he is a mechanical man, why is he wearing a suit? He looked like the tin woodsman and it was unfortunate and disappointing." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 92)
- Prior to this episode's first airing, Jonathan Frakes told a convention audience that he wasn't keen on this installment. (Beyond the Final Frontier, p. 288) In particular, Frakes (like Ken Biller) considered the design of the Pralor and the Cravic to be "corny." 
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 5.9 million homes, and a 9% share.
- Cinefantastique rated this episode 2 and a half out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 28, No. 4/5, p. 92)
- Star Trek Magazine scored this episode 2 out of 5 stars, defined as "Impulse Power only". (Star Trek Monthly issue 15, p. 60)
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 91) gives this installment a rating of 3 out of 10.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 2.5, 13 May 1996
- As part of the VOY Season 2 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Biggs-Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Jennifer Lien as Kes
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Lieutenant Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Tuvok
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
2222; 3497's builder; 47; ability; anodyne relay; artery; artificial gravity; artificial lifeform; asteroid mining pod; Automated Personnel Unit; Bolians; Builders; chief security officer; chromodynamic energy; chromodynamic power module; cognitive ability; counter; Cravic; Cravic homeworld; Cravic starship; cyborg; Data; deflector shields; Delta Quadrant; design flaw; dilithium matrix; disruptor; Engineer; engineering; environmental control systems; Federation; fire unit; flux capacitance; genetic structure; holodeck; holoemitter; hull breach; impulse drive; Jibalian seven-spice omelette; Landras blend; Leola root; limb; line of fire; Maquis; Milky Way Galaxy; motor circuit; motor functions; navigational thruster; Nimian sea salt; obstetrician; organic life; oxygen; pattern buffer; phase coil resonator; photon torpedo; Pralor; Pralor homeworld; Pralor starship; Prime Directive; prishic; procreation; prototype; quantum resonance charge; reconstruction bay; red alert; reproduction; robot; salt; sentient (sentient artificial lifeform); shape; shield harmonics; ship of exploration; size; species; Spith basil; Starfleet Academy; sterility; sub-micron scanner; subspace defense field; superconducting plasma; tactical alert; targeting scanners; tourniquet; Traggle nectar; transfusion; transporter lock; Transporter Room 2; tricorder; tripolymer plasma; Type 8 shuttlecraft (unnamed); Vulcans; warp plasma; yellow alert
- "Prototype" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Prototype" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Prototype" at Wikipedia
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