A group of aliens comes aboard Voyager and, unseen, use crew as 'lab rats' for experiments.
USS Voyager's Chief Engineer, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres, climbs through a Jeffries tube. Something is taking power away from a warp core diagnostic she was running in engineering, and she is trying to find the source of the problem. She comes upon the former Borg drone Seven of Nine, working at an energy conduit. She finds that Seven is causing the power drain; she is diverting power away from non-key areas to the under-construction astrometrics lab. Commissioned by Captain Janeway, this lab, using both Starfleet and Borg technology, will vastly improve Voyager's stellar cartography and sensor capabilities. Seven of Nine will be in charge of it, in effect becoming the ship's chief astrometrician.
But her power diversion is disrupting Torres' work, and Torres is not pleased. She begins rebuking Seven, telling her she should have had the power diversion cleared first. She remonstrates with her about following procedure, but then stops as she realizes that she sounds like Captain Janeway. She adopts a more understanding tone and tells Seven that if she, a hot-tempered Starfleet Academy dropout and former Maquis can adapt to Starfleet life and procedure, Seven can as well. Seven apologizes, something that, as a recently freed former lifelong Borg drone, is new to her.
In the sickbay, Voyager's flight controller, Lt. (J.G) Thomas Paris, functioning as a medical assistant, begs The Doctor, the ship's holographic Chief Medical Officer, for time off, telling him he as a conn report to finish. The Doctor sees plainly that he is lying, but, perhaps sensing the real reason Paris wants to leave, agrees, with a grin.
Paris thanks him and leaves. He goes to a corridor console, calls up a plan of the ship, makes sure nobody is around, and initiates a site-to-site transport. He materializes in engineering, there to meet Lt. Torres. They kiss. But, as they do so, a strange effect is seen: they are anatomically scanned, right down to their skeletons. Torres suddenly gets the feeling that they are being watched, but brushes it off and they return to kissing.
In her quarters, Captain Janeway is being given a vigorous osteopathic massage by The Doctor. He complains that she is over-stressing herself, mentioning the nagging headache she has been complaining of. It has been plaguing her for the last several days, and is getting worse, feeling "like hot needles" in her skull. First Officer Lieutenant Commander Chakotay hails her from the bridge with some news about some energy readings they had been tracking; they have found the source. Janeway ends the massage, to The Doctor's annoyance, and heads for the bridge.
She arrives and sees on the viewscreen what Chakotay called her to see: two binary pulsars; glowing in the intense, white light of their luminescence. Chakotay informs her of the extent of the stars' powerful gravitational pull: anything within 50 million kilometers is getting pulled in and destroyed. Of course, Voyager is well out of range. Chakotay comments that they can still collect some invaluable data if they are careful, but notices that the Captain is not paying attention; the strain on her face from her headache is evident. She apologizes, puts the project in his hands, and leaves.
Paris again goes to engineering to meet Torres. She makes an excuse for them to go to the area's upper level, where they will be alone. Once there, they they again engage each other amorously, even more intensely than before. However, this time they are caught. Lt. Commander Tuvok, the Vulcan chief tactical officer and head of security, walks in and finds them. Embarrassed, they snap to, and Torres rambles awkwardly that "nothing is going on". Tuvok leaves without comment. Paris rushes out after him and tries to secure from him an assurance that he will say nothing or make any report of what he saw. He gets none.Paris and Torres attend a senior officers' meeting, called to discuss plans to collect data about the pulsars. The two try their best not to look embarrassed by what happened in Engineering. Chakotay conducts the meeting, while Janeway sits quietly, looking as ill as before. When it is done, she dismisses the staff, all except Paris and Torres. Alone with them, she harshly chews them out for their "adolescent behavior" for senior officers, setting a very poor conduct example. Paris mentions Tuvok, assuming he told her, but she sharply lets them know that he did not; it is their own behavior that has been making such a display that the entire crew is gossiping. She angrily orders them to act with better judgment and dismisses them. They scurry out, and she holds her badly aching head in her hands.
Chakotay is in his quarters, working on the planned data collection operation. But he cannot concentrate. He replicates some coffee. But as he sips it, the same anatomical scan seen done on Paris and Torres is seen done on him. His hands begin to shake so much he drops the cup. He goes to the bathroom, runs water into the sink, and washes his face, passing his hand through his hair.
Then he notices some of his hair in the sink. In shock, he begins raking hair off his scalp.
Chakotay is in the sickbay, on a biobed. He now looks extremely elderly. Janeway, despite her own misery, is there, getting a report on his condition from the Doctor. He confirms that Chakotay has is indeed rapidly aging. His DNA segments that regulate metabolism have been hyper-stimulated, causing the effect. But he cannot guess as to what is causing this hyper-stimulation. Chakotay insists his mind is still at his chronological age and wants to get back to work, but the Doctor insists he stay put, with Janeway's agreement. The Doctor asks her permission to set up an electron resonance scanner in the science lab to look at his DNA more closely. Janeway agrees.
In the mess hall, Paris sits with Operations Manager Ensign Harry Kim, ruefully discussing the stern chewing-out that Captain Janeway gave him and Torres. Neelix, the Talaxian ship's chef, among other things, takes their breakfast order and goes into the kitchen to prepare it. Suddenly the loud crash of pots and pans hitting the floor is heard. The two officers rush in, alarmed, and find Neelix on the floor, in great pain. They urgently hail the sickbay.
In the sickbay, Neelix' appearance has changed drastically. His entire head is now covered with spots as opposed to just his temples, spots much larger than what he had, and his whiskers are gone. The Doctor, after examining him, finds that, like Chakotay, his genes, too, have been tweaked. But instead of aging, he is actually changing species, becoming a Mylean, the race of his great-grandfather. The Doctor leaves Paris in charge and goes to the science lab to work on their genetic analyses. Lt. Torres is assisting him. But, soon after he is gone, two more crewmembers come in ill, and calls notifying of impending new arrivals start coming in. With nothing else that can be done for them, and some of the reports being emergencies, Paris releases Chakotay and Neelix to their quarters; their two biobeds will be needed.
The Doctor and Torres scan Chakotay's DNA. They notice something very odd: black marks on the base pairs sequences. Full magnification shows them to be tags, like 20th century bar codes. Neelix' DNA is tagged as well. It is a logical hypothesis that these tags are causing their condition. Moreover, they find that the tags are actually emitting a very weak signal. They begin to run a scan for possible receptors using the ship's internal scanners.
But then the Doctor begins to fritz. Torres checks his mobile emitter and discovers with great alarm that he is being deleted. She immediately begins transferring him back to the sickbay, but then screams and collapses. The Doctor urgently hails the sicbkay to inform Lt. Paris of the emergency, before he himself disappears.
Captain Janeway, Paris, Ensign Kim and Seven of Nine are in the sickbay, around Lt. Torres' biobed. The Doctor is absent. The sickbay is now full of patients. Paris reports that Torres' lungs suddenly ceased to process oxygen, nearly killing her. Captain Janeway looks disheveled and sleepless; her headaches have increased in intensity. She asks about The Doctor. Kim explains that the computer logs show he was trying to transfer himself to the sickbay. Something must have gone wrong with the transfer, he muses.
But then Seven of Nine hears an urgent hail that none of the others hear. It is The Doctor. He urgently tells her he has tapped into her Borg audio implants. He is hiding in the Captain's Leonardo Da Vinci simulation in one of the ship's two holodecks, Holodeck Two. He asks her to join him at once, cautioning her not to tell anyone. Seven listens, but her attention is called back by Janeway sharply calling her name; to the others it looks as if she was daydreaming. Responding to a question about The Doctor's research, she responds that the she examined the lab, but the electron resonance scanner apparently malfunctioned. She offers to go and repair it, using that as excuse to leave for Holodeck 2. Janeway agrees and she quickly exits.
She arrives at the holodeck and enters the Da Vinci simulation. The Doctor has disguised himself as a painter teaching a bunch of holographically-created art students. He urgently informs Seven of a conclusion he has arrived at: someone aboard is deliberately causing the genetic alterations that are afflicting the crew. Why this is being done, he cannot say. But he and Torres were getting close to finding the culprit, and were dealt with. Seven surmises that communications may be monitored, if this is true. He agrees, and, to gather more information, he modifies her ocular implant to scan visually on the frequency the genetic tags are transmitting on. After this is done, she looks around the simulation, but sees nothing out of the ordinary. She leaves to search the rest of the ship, intending on reporting back to the Doctor using the isolated com frequency with which he has tapped into her audio implants.
Seven walks through the corridors, ignoring sight in her organic eye and focusing her attention on her ocular implant. At first, she sees nothing unusual. Then she sees a crewmember walking briskly. She switches attention to her organic eye; all looks normal. But with her ocular implant, she sees a grotesque-looking device on the crewmember's head, with tubes going up both his nostrils. He nods at her pleasantly, apparently completely oblivious to the device. And she sees something else with her implant: a brown-robed humanoid alien, who passes and monitors the crewman.
Seven shows absolutely no indication of awareness of the alien, her previous existence as a Borg drone serving her well. She boards the turbolift. The alien boards with her, and sticks a large metal probe into her chest. She continues acting as if nothing is happening, and, when the doors open again, the alien removes the device. She steps off and continues down the corridor of another deck.Crewmen go hither and thither, some with devices on them, others without, each completely unaware of what is happening. She enters the mess hall, and finds most of those present have devices on them. Brown-robed aliens attend to the devices, taking readings and adjusting them. The devices are attached to various body parts; head, shoulders, necks, backs, legs etc. Seven, again giving no indication that she is seeing anything out of the ordinary, pretends to pour herself a cup of coffee. She contacts The Doctor using her audio implants and tells him what is seeing. He tells her to go and inform the captain immediately.
Captain Janeway is in her ready room, looking extremely agitated and irritable. Tuvok comes to see her, and notes her condition. Then Seven comes to see her. And, sure, enough, she sees that Janeway also has one of the alien devices on her. Metal spikes are sticking into her head. Two aliens flank her, adjusting the devices to drive them in even deeper. Of course, Seven can no longer inform her of what is going on. She tells her instead that her attempts to fix the scanner in the science lab failed, and asks for help. Janeway assigns Ensign Kim to assist her, and then all but shouts at her to leave. She quickly does so.
Returning to the Da Vinci simulation, Seven informs The Doctor that she counted 56 aliens, and surmises that they are performing experiments on the crew. The next course of action is obvious; as the only one aboard who know what is happening, the onus is on them to stop it. And stop it they must, quickly, before these induced genetic mutations, growing ever more serious, start becoming fatal. The Doctor recalls his earlier hypothesis that the genetic tags are the key, and suggests causing a ship-wide neuroleptic shock to disable them. Seven suggests modifying the ship's EPS relays to deliver the shock. The Doctor agrees.
Seven goes to engineering to make the modifications. Here, too, the aliens are present, with their devices on crewmembers. She begins, but Tuvok, on the bridge, notices at his tactical console. He hails and asks what is going on. Seven responds and makes up an explanation. Unsatisfied, and remembering the last time Seven began fiddling with the ship's systems, he goes to engineering himself, armed with a phaser and orders her to stop. (VOY: "The Gift", "The Raven") Three aliens, unseen by him, take notice and approach them curiously.
Seven plays a gambit. She grabs his phaser, quickly changes the setting, and fires at one of the aliens. She becomes visible, and Seven grabs her. Tuvok looks on as Seven warns the others, still unseen, that she will kill the visible one if they do not back off. Tuvok does not ask questions; the scene is clear: hostile aliens are aboard, using cloaking technology to remain unseen, and Seven has exposed and caught one. He sternly informs the alien that the captain will certainly have questions for her.
The alien, whose name is Alzen, and whose race is called the Srivani, sits quietly in a cell in the brig. Captain Janeway enters with Tuvok and Seven. She looks extremely angry. She dismisses Seven and Tuvok.
Barely containing her rage, she demands the alien identify herself and explain what she and her fellows are doing to her and her crew. The alien calmly responds that they are scientists, and are performing medical research on them. She insists that their techniques are "as benign as we can make them", and proudly states that their research benefits millions of their people, who live longer and healthier because of it. she asks Janeway. Janeway angrily tells her what they are doing is barbaric and wrong, but Alzen is unmoved.
Janeway drops the force field barring the cell's doorway and enters, struggling to control herself. She responds angrily that that is self-defense; what they are doing is viciously exploiting another species for their own benefit. Alzen merely observes that Janeway's restraint has been remarkable, considering that they have been steadily raising her dopamine levels and hyper-stimulating her aggressive impulses to test her behavioral restraints. She remarks that there is much difference in opinion about how much strain she can bear.
At this, Janeway nearly snaps. She seizes her and slams her against the bulkhead. "Not much," she hisses through gritted teeth, before barely regaining control of herself and releasing her. Alzen, still calmly, but now with an edge of sternness, warns her not to interfere. The research, she says, will continue. There will be minimal fatalities, she assures Janeway, though, she adds, there may be some deformities But any interference, she warns, and the entire experiment, and its subjects, will be terminated.
Janeway calls an emergency meeting in the ready room. She, Tuvok, Seven and The Doctor try to come up with ideas to get rid of the Srivani, but none will work without giving them the opportunity to kill at least some of the crew first, which The Doctor informs them they are fully capable of doing, and will do, as the one they had captured warned Janeway.
Then a hail comes from the bridge: another medical emergency. They rush out to find a crewwoman lying on the floor, convulsing. Her face is horribly crisscrossed by ruptured blood vessels. The Doctor desperately tries to save her, but fails. The Srivani have raised her blood pressure to far beyond fatal levels; every vessel in her entire circulatory system has burst. Janeway manically tries to revive her, but cannot.
Janeway looks at the body, and decides that this must end, now. She storms to the conn console, angrily relieving the officer on duty there, who immediately vacates the seat. She sits and angrily punches in a course and initiates red alert. The ship heads for the pulsars.
Seven informs her that a Srivani has come onto the bridge. Tuvok warns her that they have to change course at once or be caught in the stars' gravitational pull. She refuses. At operations, Ensign Kim reinforces the ship's structural integrity field as much as possible, not that it will help against the pulsars' crushing gravity.
The Srivani intruders' leader, Takar, makes herself visible and sternly asks Janeway what she hopes to accomplish. With a feral grin, Janeway responds that she is trying to crush she ship like a tin can. The Srivani sneers that it is more likely she is trying to intimidate them. Janeway sneers back that she is welcome to stay and find out.
Takar tries to lay a course change, but Janeway informs her that the course is locked in and only the captain's authorization can unlock it. Takar tells her that she is not behaving rationally. Janeway nearly laughs, and responds that this is what they wanted; to see how much she could take before going over the edge, raising her dopamine levels to the point of madness, depriving her of sleep for four consecutive days with the constant, maddening pain of their devices in her skull. Well, she sneers, they are seeing the result, and they will be right there to collect the final data. Takar grows frantic. She orders Janeway to change course, reminding her that they can kill the crew in an instant. Janeway tells her that without the crew, they will never be able to prevent the ship from being crushed by the pulsars. And even with the crew, the chances of survival are one in ten (Tuvok corrects her: one in twenty).
Takar's face flushes with fear. She backs away and vanishes. At the auxiliary tactical console, Seven informs Janeway that two alien vessels are disengaging from Voyager's hull. The top of the saucer section is seen, engulfed by the fire of the stars' aura. Two small ships become visible, attached to the hull. They detach and pull away. One explodes.
Back on the bridge, Seven reports hull breaches on three decks. Janeway replies that their best chance of survival is to attempt to race between the stars at maximum impulse. She keeps the ship on course and cranks the impulse engines up to maximum. Helm control fails. Main power goes off-line. Janeway stares at the pulsars on the viewscreen, the brightness of their light washing over the bridge. Voyager glows red...
And passes between the stars, coming through on the other side.
The hull cools down. Janeway, Seven, the Doctor and Ensign Kim sigh with relief. A film of sweat is on Janeway's brow. She comments jocularly to Tuvok that she did not know he considered her reckless. Tuvok responds that that was, clearly and understatement. Janeway snickers
Lts. Paris and Torres have dinner in Paris' quarters. The menu is salad and red wine; Ktarian merlot, 2282. A hail comes from engineering, informing Torres of a problem with the warp core's plasma manifold. She orders it locked down; she will deal with it in the 'morning'. They begin to eat, but are interrupted by the door chime. It is Ensign Kim, come to return a PADD. He tries to make conversation, but Paris shuts the door on him in mid-sentence. They remove their combadges, to prevent further interruption. As they move to kiss each other, they joke that their attraction to each other must be a residual effect part of the Srivani experiments. They kiss.
"Shall I flog them as well?"
- - Tuvok
"Sorry, these lab rats are fighting back"
- - Captain Janeway to the leader of the Srivani, Takar
"Those pulsars will crush this ship and everything else in. You are welcome to stay and collect that final data"
- - Captain Janeway to Takar
"This is what you wanted. You raised my dopamine levels, kept me awake for four days straight with this constant pain, all to see how far you could push before I broke. Here it is: The fruit of your experiments."
- - Captain Janeway to Takar
"I never knew you thought of me as reckless, Tuvok."
"A poor choice of words...It was clearly an understatement"
- - Tuvok and Captain Janeway
- Annette Helde previously played Karina in the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Visionary".
- In this episode we see the full extent of Chakotay's tattoo.
- Shortly before discovering that he is losing his hair, Commander Chakotay reviews the USS Excelsior logs seen in "Flashback".
- Kate Mulgrew quit smoking during this episode. (citation needed • edit)
- The crewman who is killed by the genetic tags and has CPR preformed on her by Janeway, is, along with this episode, referenced in a novel in the Star Trek: Section 31 book series, Shadow. Her name is Roberta Luke, and she is a Section 31 operative assigned to Voyager to analyze the Maquis threat to Federation Security, but was unable to when the ship was stranded in the Delta Quadrant. In the book, after her death she has programmed the computer with subroutines that would kill Seven, but make them seem like accidents.
Links and References
alveoli; audio implant; cardiac arrest; Carlotta; coffee; compositional analysis; da Vinci simulation; DNA; dopamine; dyne; electron resonance scanner; EPS relay; gamma radiation; genetic tag; headache; hypertensive shock; Template:ShipClass; internal sensor; Ktarian Merlot; lectrazine; micro-inducer; mutant; Mylean; neuroleptic shock; osteopathic pressure therapy; Petri dish; phase variance; phaser; plasma manifold; pleeka rind casserole; power coupling; progeria; proton; pulsar; salad; scrambled eggs; sensory node; Siena; spinal column; Talax; trapezius; Tuscany
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"Year of Hell"