(written from a Production point of view)
Harry Kim breaks Starfleet regulations when he falls in love with an alien woman.
On board a very long starship made up of a series of segments, a door opens. Harry Kim stumbles through the door, locked passionately in the arms of an unknown alien woman. They stumble into a chair where the woman removes his combadge and tosses it aside. They kiss passionately and the woman's skin glows briefly. Kim protests as they move to the bed. The woman lifts Kim's shirt, and both of their skins glow.
USS Voyager has stopped to help repair an alien ship's warp drive. The Varro are very xenophobic and often avoid alien encounters. In the Varro ship's central control, Captain Kathryn Janeway requests access to their warp assembly. At first she is not allowed access, as the Varro are wary of outsiders. She eventually gains permission by showing their leader the progress they've made on the antimatter injectors.
Janeway tells the Varro leader, Jippeq, how she believes their two ships are very similar. Both have long journeys ahead of them, and have had some bad experiences in the Delta Quadrant. Despite the fact that the Varro ignored Voyager's initial hails, their crews have made considerable progress together. Four hundred years prior, the Varro began with a small starship and crew, and grew into a generational ship carrying hundreds. Janeway says this could be the future of Voyager.
Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris enter and inform the captain that the antimatter transfer is ready. Janeway stated earlier that this would be the final step in the repairs on the Varro ship. Additionally, Chakotay reports that Voyager is ready for the transfer. The captain shows Jippeq how to cross his fingers for luck as the transfer begins.
Meanwhile, in the Varro woman's cabin, Kim is staring out of the viewport thoughtfully. The woman, Derran Tal, awakes and greets him. Kim is obviously nervous; he has ignored many Starfleet regulations by becoming intimate with an alien without clearance from a medical officer and a commanding officer. Furthermore, he has directly disobeyed Janeway's order to refrain from personal interaction with the Varro. Suddenly, the warp engines can be heard activating – they are late, and the transfer has already begun. Kim frantically tries to dress himself, first with Tal's uniform and then his own.
Back in the ship's central control, Paris and Torres are monitoring the transfer. Ensign Kim enters and claims he was checking the manifold in Section 22. Tal enters the room as the ship begins to jolt. Jippeq observes that the warp reaction is destabilizing. When no one can identify the problem, Janeway orders the transfer to be aborted. Torres informs the captain that there are microfractures on the ship's hull. It is decided that it is necessary to check each segment of the generational ship for microfractures, even though it could take days.
Later on Voyager, Paris and Kim have just returned; they discuss their impressions of the Varro. Paris implies that Kim's "first contact" has gone well. Kim repeats his story about plasma conduits, but Paris sees through his story. Once he reaches his quarters Kim opens a comm channel to the Varro ship, Tal's cabin. She has been waiting for his call. They decide that they want to see each other again, though they agree that they are surprised by the differences between their species' mating techniques.
Back on the bridge, Tuvok detects the transmission and reports it to Chakotay, who orders him to trace its destination. Meanwhile, Kim and Tal are having a romantic conversation, unaware of the danger of being discovered. When Paris realizes that the transmission is probably from Kim, he destabilizes the trace while claiming he was searching for the transmission. He says it was probably just a glitch in the comm system. Later on, in the cargo bay, Chakotay briefs the crew on their plans and it is decided they will be split into pairs. In the back, Paris subtly informs Kim that his transmission was detected last night, and tries to convince him that the relationship is not a good idea. Seven of Nine tells Ensign Kim that they have been paired up, and will be surveying the generational ship from astrometrics. Once they arrive, they begin to work when Kim asks Seven of her thoughts on love. She compares it to a disease, "a series of biochemical responses that trigger an emotional cascade." Suddenly, Kim's skin glows as it did before; when he begins to experience discomfort, Seven takes him to sickbay.
In sickbay, The Doctor interrogates Kim on his experiences aboard the Varro ship, but Harry isn't forthcoming with any information. However, since there is apparently no known cause of Kim's sickness, The Doctor is ready to quarantine him and initiate a full medical alert in case it is an unknown alien virus. Caught between a rock and a hard place, Kim is forced to tell The Doctor that he had sex with Tal. Protocol dictates full bioscans of both parties, and The Doctor tells Kim that he needs to report him to Captain Janeway.
It isn't long before Harry is summoned to Janeway's ready room, where she makes clear her disappointment in Kim, and he demonstrates that he is indeed aware of the regulations by reciting the appropriate ones at this moment. Although Harry's condition isn't life-threatening, she informs him that she is required to tell Jippeq in case Harry has introduced a biological threat into their environment, and she fears this will strain their trust too much as well as destroying any chance Janeway had for an exchange of information or supplies. Kim claims he has developed true feelings for Tal; however, Janeway reminds him that, feelings or not, he still chose to disobey Starfleet regulations and enters a reprimand into his service file as well as ordering him to break off the relationship.
Neelix emerges from a turbolift and wants to review security risks with Tuvok. He has been noticing some supplies disappearing from the mess hall, only unimportant items such as emergency rations. After some investigation, Neelix discovered that there had been unauthorized access of environmental controls. Life support was activated in a normally uninhabited Jefferies tube. Neelix and Tuvok go to the affected area to investigate. They discover evidence of an intruder, including a Varro scanning device. When they force a hatch open they discover a Varro stowaway.
Back in Tal's quarters, she is viewing a distant pulsar field. When Kim enters, he asks about what she is watching. She says she is dreaming about going there; she would like to, but the ship won't. It is too close to an inhabited planet, and the Varro avoid other species at all costs. Tal expresses the desire to explore, instead of fleeing from any other ship. She claims this will change. Kim then informs her of the events on Voyager, and she is surprised by her effect on him. She says it shouldn't have happened; it is called "olan'vora, the shared heart," a lasting biological connection between two Varro. The process can be reversed, but they would have to separate themselves from each other. Before he leaves, he changes his mind and returns to kiss Tal.
In the conference room, Chakotay is interrogating the intruder along with Tuvok. Apparently the Varro was able to circumvent Voyager's systems and enter through a docking port. He says he came aboard to get away from the Varro generation ship. It turns out there is a movement among the Varro to leave the ship, to branch out and meet new species or settle down on a planet. They feel like prisoners on board, willing to take violent action to escape. The intruder becomes suspicious that Tuvok and Chakotay are attempting to gather information on the movement, though in reality they haven't informed the Varro of the intruder yet. Chakotay orders the intruder to the brig, and prepares to contact the Varro authorities. Before he is removed, the intruder informs Chakotay that there are hundreds more who share his views.
Janeway and Chakotay are having dinner. Janeway tells Chakotay that, because of the incident between Kim and Tal, Jippeq is insisting that the Starfleet and Varro crews are kept separate at all times; a position Janeway supports. Chakotay then brings up the subject of Kim's reprimand, and Janeway explains that she came down so hard on him because she wanted to leave a lasting impression on him for what happens when he violates regulations. Chakotay asks Janeway to reconsider the reprimand, saying he thinks she is more upset that Kim let her down then with what he did, but Janeway refuses to consider this.
Later in a corridor, Janeway is attempting to salvage relations with Jippeq after telling him of the incident between Kim and Tal. Jippeq is outraged because now that Tal and Kim have had sex, there will most likely be a biochemical bond between them that, when the two are separated, will cause Tal to become ill, and perhaps even die. They enter main engineering where Torres and Seven are working.
Torres has discovered microfractures in Voyager's hull as well. After a closer look, the problem is identified: Seven discovers silicon-based parasites which feed on duranium. Furthermore, the parasites are synthetic and were probably created by a Varro. Jippeq refuses to believe this, and Seven remarks that there may be those on his ship that don't want to be there.
In her quarters, Tal looks over the plans for the parasites, then she is contacted by Kim. Suddenly, she is transported out of her cabin. She rematerializes in a Class 2 shuttle with Kim inside. He says he is off duty, and wanted some time with her despite the fact he is not only continuing to disregard protocols (including unauthorized use of a shuttlecraft) but has now disobeyed Captain Janeway's direct order. They monitor a Class 3 nebula; Tal is very excited by a break from the isolationist routine aboard the generational ship. Kim tells Tal of his distress; he feels very pressured to be a model officer, but he can't deny the feelings he has for her. She responds by envying his freedom and the nobility of Voyager's mission. Their moment is halted by a hail from Tuvok on the Delta Flyer. Tal is wanted by the Varro authorities for sabotage.
In Voyager's conference room, Jippeq orders Tal to confess and deactivate the parasites. She reaffirms Kim's innocence and repeats the intruder's argument of a prison-like feeling. They did not release the parasites to destroy the ship, only to split it up so that each segment could choose its destination and not be forced to avoid contact. Captain Janeway attempts to mediate by arguing that there could be casualties and they must try to avoid that. Tal agrees to slow down the parasites to facilitate evacuation.
Janeway and Kim are left alone and discuss his relationship and actions. The Doctor's report revealed that there is indeed a chemical link that might have impaired Kim's judgment. She sternly orders him to report to sickbay and be confined there, but when she walks to the bridge he follows her and he yells a refusal for treatment. They then move to her ready room, where she demands an explanation. He claims his actions were caused by love, not chemicals. He tries to make his case for why he shouldn't be forced to stop, but Janeway tells him that love must sometimes be lost, she mentions her experiences with Mark Johnson. Kim asks if she would have taken a hypospray to end her pain over the end of her relationship. Before she can answer, the ship jolts, red alert is initiated, and Chakotay calls the captain to the bridge.
The Varro ship is experiencing structural breaches, Janeway orders Kim to his station. On the viewscreen, portions of the ship's structure are exploding and being blown away. Each explosion causes collateral damage to Voyager. Paris reports that he is unable to release the docking clamps.
Tuvok informs the captain that the superstructure will collapse in less than three minutes. Jippeq reports that the parasites were slowed with a polaron surge, but junctions are still destabilizing. Tal says they still need at least two minutes to evacuate the affected areas. Meanwhile, Paris has regained docking clamp control. Kim proposes the plan to extend Voyager's structural integrity field around the Varro ship to buy some time. However, this would put Voyager in extreme danger. Despite the risk, Janeway enacts Kim's plan and relays it to Torres in engineering.
On board the Varro ship, Tal uses this action as evidence that some aliens are not hostile. After the junctions are evacuated Jippeq attempts to initiate another polaron burst, but Tal makes him accept the generation ship's fate and contact Voyager to retract their structural integrity field. The Varro ship's structure finally completely collapses and all of the individual segments launch.
On board the dissident group's segment Kim enters Tal's cabin. She has decided to go to a binary star system and explore. Kim tells her to think of him next time she runs across a Class 3 nebula. Later in sickbay, The Doctor tries to get Kim to take medication, but he wants to allow the effects to run their course. The captain permits this, but she does expect him to not allow his condition to affect his duties since he willingly refused treatment and also tells him that his formal reprimand will still remain on his record. Janeway admits that she has been wondering if her reaction to Kim's relationship would differ if it was another crewman, such as Paris, and while she would still have been angry and disappointed she wouldn't have been as surprised. She also tells him that, although she cares deeply about each member of her crew, she always felt more protective about Harry since he came aboard Voyager straight out of Starfleet Academy. Kim reminds her that nearly five years have passed, and he's changed since then, and Janeway agrees that he may not be the perfect officer anymore he will have become a better man thanks to his experience.
In the mess hall late at night, Neelix closes up and Kim is the only one remaining. As Neelix leaves, Seven of Nine enters to speak to Kim. She thanks him for completing some of her work, he says it was to distract himself. She observes that she had believed Human love to be a weakness; however, as Kim is willing to suffer because of it, then it has shown her that it can sometimes be a strength. She has concluded that despite her earlier declaration, love is not a disease. She then leaves, but not before telling Harry to "get well soon."
"Captain's log, supplemental. After two weeks, we're close to repairing the Varro's warp drive. Then there's the Varro crew – I'm starting to think they'd rather give up warp travel than accept help from strangers."
"Captain's log, supplemental. Most of the Varro have opted to stay together, traveling in separate ships. But the dissident group has been granted permission to break away and find their own path. We wish them luck."
"You've got thirty seconds before I have Tuvok drag you to sickbay!"
- - Captain Janeway, to Harry Kim
"Last night I had to sabotage the comm system to cover your tracks. You called her, didn't you?"
"Guilty as charged."
"How long has this been going on? The truth."
"From the moment we first saw each other. It was like touching an open plasma relay."
"Maybe it is."
"Has it occurred to you that you're breaking a few dozen protocols?"
"We know what we're getting into."
- - Tom Paris and Harry Kim
"I have served on this ship for five years and said, 'yes, ma'am' to every one of your orders. But not this time."
- - Harry Kim, to Captain Janeway
"I'm violating about half a dozen regulations by just being in this room. And what we did earlier… (ironic chuckle) I don't know if Starfleet even has a regulation for that."
- - Harry Kim
- - Tom Paris, to Harry Kim
"You are such a lousy liar! Haven't you learned anything from me after five years?"
- - Tom Paris, to Harry Kim
"I assumed that romantic love was a Human weakness, but clearly it can also be a source of strength. Perhaps my analogy was flawed. Love is not a disease. Get well soon."
- - Seven of Nine
"Beg your pardon?"
"Your epidermis luminesced."
- - Seven of Nine and Harry Kim
"A little taste of home in the Delta Quadrant? Think about it. Springtime on the shores of Lake Yuron."
"I require a desk and a bed, nothing more."
- - Tom Paris and Tuvok
"I give up."
"After only two minutes? Tuvok, how do you do it?"
"I wait until his own illogic overwhelms him."
- - Tom Paris, Chakotay, and Tuvok, after Paris loses an argument
"Last night, I had an… encounter with one of the Varro."
"A… personal encounter."
"Sex. We had sex."
"You had intimate contact with an alien species without medical clearance?"
"It was in the heat of the moment."
- - Harry Kim and The Doctor
"Sometimes I think everyone on this ship has been possessed by alien hormones…"
- - The Doctor
"Condition? You make it sound like a disease."
"Physiologically it bears a striking similarity to disease. A series of biochemical responses that trigger an emotional cascade, impairing normal functioning."
"Are you in love?"
- - Harry Kim and Seven of Nine (discussing romantic love)
"Have you ever been in love, captain?"
"Did your skin ever flush when you were near another person? Did your stomach ever feel like someone hollowed it out with a knife when you were apart? Did your throat ever swell when you realized it was over? Seven of Nine, Seven of Nine told me love's like a disease! Well, maybe it is pheromones, endorphins, chemicals in our blood, changing our responses, physical discomfort but any way you look at it, it's still love."
- - Harry Kim and Captain Janeway
"You are beautiful when you're scanning."
- - Harry Kim to Tal
- This episode originated with Kenneth Biller inventing the storyline about Harry Kim's relationship with Tal. "I wanted to explore the notion that people will stay in relationships that they know are unhealthy for them, because they feel an almost physical need or compulsion to be with that other person," explained Biller. "The idea was that in the science fiction world you could explore that as a reality. A love affair with an alien literally could make you sick, and yet you felt the compulsion to go through with it." The B-story, regarding the aliens who want to separate from the rest of their people, was later added to the plot. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 47)
- Ken Biller was pleased with Kim actor Garrett Wang's work on this episode, noting, "I thought that Garrett was really great." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 47-49)
- According to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 294), the Varro control room was a redress of the Borg Queen's lair from "Dark Frontier"; however, it is most likely the other way around, as "The Disease" was produced before "Dark Frontier".
- Most of the episode's opening shot was created with CGI by Foundation Imaging. Visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore commented, "I got a call from Foundation that it was going to take something like four or five hours per frame [to render, even though] it was a 20 or 30 second shot […] That was the most complex model that Foundation had ever made for TV. We had the roll, and that ship had all the little pieces to it that had to be able to separate. Mojo [at Foundation] went in and worked with the animator. We would never have made it at five hours a frame. They pulled off the stuff that you didn't see, like the backside of the ship, and just pulled all that out of the render. It only rendered what actually showed on the screen, and was able to knock it back down into reason. The shot connects up on the interior, and up to the point of the connect-up it was all CGI. We come through the window and see that room in CGI. It made the change just as the door opens." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50) Although the workload involved in creating the effect was lessened, Foundation staffer David Morton – who digitally built the interior room for the shot – still felt that the length of the effect itself was extreme, describing it as "one of the longest shots I've ever had to do." (Star Trek Monthly issue 80, p. 75)
- David Morton noted that "most people don't really realize" that the interior in the episode's opening shot is at first actually a digital set. Robert Bonchune also found the sequence to be very convincing. "That's […] one where [even] they [the Paramount Pictures VFX people] were fooled. You watch that shot and when they cut to the door, you can't tell that they've switched from the CG set to the live-action set," Bonchune observed. "And there's one other technical thing that David did that I thought was really cool. Right before the camera goes into the window, you saw a flash of light reflecting off the glass. To me, it looked exactly like a real window. It had little scratches in it, and that added an extra touch of realism. Those are the little things that make the producers say, 'Hey, that's cool!' They're not complaining when we add little touches like that, which aren't specifically spelled out on the effects sheet." (Star Trek Monthly issue 80, pp. 75-76) Morton enjoyed working on the sequence, stating, "That was a lot of fun." (Star Trek Monthly issue 80, p. 75) Ronald B. Moore was also highly pleased with the effect, saying he was "extremely proud of" it. Additionally, he remarked, "It was huge, and it was worth it […] I think that was one of the better ones we did." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50)
- Ken Biller appreciated the aspect of the episode about Kim experiencing actual illness, due to his affair with Tal, but continuing with the relationship, regardless. "I liked those parts of the episode, that exploration of love," Biller noted. "I thought that the scenes between Kim and Janeway were [also] great. That was really good character stuff that [script writer] Mike Taylor did a great job with." Biller did not like the subplot concerning the Varro revolution, however, remembering that he had "objected to [it] strenuously." He also remarked, "The whole subplot […] just felt really clichéd and tacked on. The story that I wrote was a much more intimate story about these two people. I was more interested in the relationship and the repercussions that it has in Kim's life, and the way that it affects his relationship with the Captain, and other people." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 47)
- A script for this episode was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. 
- Tom Paris references Harry Kim's previous romantic encounters when he says "a hologram, an ex-Borg, the wrong twin." These reference the events of "Alter Ego", "Waking Moments", and "Thirty Days" respectively.
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.9, 6 September 1999
- As part of the VOY Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Harry Kim
- Michelle Artigas as Voyager operations officer
- Ivory Broome as Voyager operations officer
- Gavin Chase as command division officer
- Marvin De Baca as Patrick Gibson
- Andrew English as Voyager operations officer
- Mike Fujimoto as Voyager operations officer
- Tom Gianelli as Voyager operations ensign
- Caroline Gibson as Voyager operations officer
- Patricia Gillum as Varro worker
- Linda Harcharic as Voyager command officer
- Grace Harrell as Voyager operations officer
- Sunny Hawks as Voyager sciences officer
- Nathalie Huot as Voyager command officer
- Crystal LaPrie as Voyager operations officer
- Pete Leinbach as Voyager command officer
- Alicia Lewis as Voyager sciences officer
- Arthur Murray as Voyager command officer
- James Do Pearson as Varro worker
- Erin Price as Renlay Sharr
- Heather Rattray as Voyager operations officer
- Linnea Soohoo as Voyager sciences officer
- Pablo Soriano as Voyager operations ensign
- Jerry Starkand as Varro official
- Deborah Stiles as Voyager command lieutenant jg
- Simon Stotler as Voyager operations ensign
- Talon Tears as Voyager command officer
- Joan Valentine as Voyager operations officer
- John Austin – stand-in for Charles Rocket
- Tom Gianelli – stand-in for Ethan Phillips
- Sue Henley – stand-in for Kate Mulgrew and Musetta Vander
- Susan Lewis – stand-in for Roxann Dawson and Musetta Vander
- Brita Nowak – stand-in for Jeri Ryan and Musetta Vander
- Lemuel Perry – stand-in for Tim Russ and utility stand-in
- J.R. Quinonez – stand-in for Robert Picardo
- Keith Rayve – stand-in for Robert Duncan McNeill
- Joey Sakata – stand-in for Ethan Phillips
- Richard Sarstedt – stand-in for Robert Beltran
- Pablo Soriano – stand-in for Robert Beltran
- Stan Tamashoro – stand-in for Christopher Liam Moore
- Stuart Wong – stand-in for Garrett Wang
- Unknown performers as
- Hand double for Charles Rocket
- Hand double for Garrett Wang
alloy; analogy; antimatter injector; assimilation; assumption; Astrometrics; bee; beta-endorphin; biological agent; bioscan; bird; Borg; brig; captain (sports); career; centimeter; cerebral cortex; Chopin, Frédéric; Class 2 shuttle (unnamed); Class 3 nebula (unnamed); cuddle (cuddling); day; Delta Flyer; Delta Quadrant; dissident; dissident group; dozen; duranium; duty assignment; duty shift; electron; endorphin; emergency ration; engagement; environmental control; epidermis; ex-Borg; felony; flush; formal reprimand; freedom; fugitive; gastroenteritis; generation; generational ship; hatch; heart; hull fracture; in love; interspecies protocol; intimate relationship; intruder alert; Jefferies tube; Johnson, Mark; kilometer; Lake Yuron; last call; leader; liquid nutriment; logic; love; luminesce; manifold; mess hall; microfracture; Milky Way Galaxy; molecular scan; Natori system; olan'vora; oxygen; parsec; path; plasma conduit; plasma coupling; plasma relay; polaron; procreation; pulsar; red alert; romantic; romantic love; security code; semester; sex (aka intimate contact, "making love"); sexual desire; short range scan; silicon; silicon-based lifeform; Starfleet Academy; Starfleet Handbook on Personal Relationships; structural integrity field; subspace vacuole; survey; Varro; Varro generational ship; Velocity; Vulcan (planet); warp assembly; warp injector; work detail; xenophobic
- "The Disease" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "The Disease" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "The Disease" at Wikipedia
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