By 2371, Captain Rudolph Ransom assumed command of the vessel. The Equinox was a limited role starship, designed for short-term planetary research and boasted a top speed of only warp 8; however, it was one of the first vessels to be equipped with an Emergency Medical Hologram. As a Nova-class science vessel, it was much smaller and thus not as well armed or provisioned as larger starships, such as the Intrepid-class had been, while Captain Ransom himself was primarily a scientist, and with arguably little command experience; he showed tendencies towards misdirection and overall avoidance of direct combat.
In early 2371, the Equinox was pulled into the Delta Quadrant by the entity known as the Caretaker. During the vessel's first week in the region, 39 crew members – roughly half the crew – were killed in a conflict with the Krowtonan Guard. The Krowtonan Guard claimed that the Equinox had violated their borders, but Captain Ransom gave the order to continue through their space. The decision would haunt Ransom for the rest of his life.
As years passed struggling to survive in the Delta Quadrant, the crew of the Equinox believed that the principles of the Federation and the regulations of Starfleet would not be effective in their situation (in a direct contrast to the similar situation of USS Voyager and Kathryn Janeway who insistently clung to the rules). The few members of the now small crew came close together often neglecting protocol. Addressing each other by first name was an example of this.
On their way back to the Alpha Quadrant, the ship made first contact with several hostile species, and few friendly ones, such as the Ponea and the Ankari. Ransom also mentioned a wormhole that shortened their trip home. (VOY: "Equinox")
The "Spirits of Good Fortune"
At some point, the Equinox limped to an M-class planet. The Equinox was severely damaged with the dilithium exhausted, only thrusters functioning and the power remaining only allowing them to enter into orbit around the planet. The crew had not eaten in 16 days. They were fortunate to find that the natives were friendly, and after providing the crew with some food, a few dilithium crystals and medical assistance, the Ankari had their "Spirits of Good Fortune" bless their journey. The Equinox crew was intrigued with these "spirits," who turned out to be nucleogenic lifeforms. After acquiring one of the summoning devices, the crew accidentally killed one of the lifeforms. An analysis revealed that the aliens' remains could be used to enhance the Equinox's warp drive.
The results were dramatic for the Equinox crew; the aliens' remains had allowed the vessel to travel over 10,000 light years in only two weeks. The crew believed they had found their salvation, and they initiated a mass-murder of the aliens to shorten their journey towards home.
Unfortunately for the Equinox crew, the aliens were not willing to stand by and allow themselves to be murdered. They began viciously attacking the Equinox crew in retaliation, killing or injuring several crew members during their brief assaults. The aliens also managed to inflict a substantial amount of damage to the Equinox herself, the constant attacks making repairs nearly impossible. (VOY: "Equinox")
A call for help
After an alien attack in late-2375, Captain Ransom managed to send a distress call. The message was picked up by none other than the USS Voyager, another Federation starship stranded in the Delta Quadrant. Voyager managed to extend its shields around the heavily-damaged Equinox and send damage control and medical teams to the vessel to assess the situation and secure the crippled starship.
Captain Ransom immediately began lying to Captain Kathryn Janeway about the Equinox's predicament, claiming he had no idea as to the aliens' identity nor their reasons for attacking both his ship and crew, and that he was unable to communicate with them. Additionally, the crew had flooded their science lab with radiation to prevent any Voyager personnel from learning of the experiments. It was this sabotage that attracted the attention of Lieutenant Commander Tuvok, Voyager's security chief. Not wanting to expose her suspicions, Janeway sent her doctor, a hologram immune to radiation poisoning, over to investigate.
The Doctor's findings exposed the truth behind the alien attacks. All Equinox personnel were confined to quarters on Voyager while Janeway began looking for a way to communicate with the aliens and find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. Unfortunately, the Equinox's EMH, operating without its ethical subroutines and posing as The Doctor, managed to free his crew and help them escape to their own vessel. Ransom stole one of Voyager's field generators and left his fellow captain and her crew under attack from the aliens. (VOY: "Equinox")
The hunt for Ransom
Janeway became infuriated with Ransom's betrayal of Starfleet's ethics, and although she was officially pursuing the Equinox to rescue Seven of Nine, who had been kidnapped during the Equinox crew's escape, her real interest was bringing Ransom to justice, by any means necessary. Commander Chakotay understood Janeway's true motivations and this led to a buildup of tensions between the captain and first officer, with Chakotay eventually being relieved of duty, and subsequently considering mutiny against the captain.
The Equinox continued to flee from Voyager, eventually finding a planet where the crew could resupply the ship. The vessel's damage had limited her top speed to only warp 6, allowing Voyager to easily catch up and capture two crew members. An interrogation of Crewman Noah Lessing allowed the Voyager crew to locate a group of Ankari, who agreed to communicate with their "Spirits of Good Fortune" and arrange a cease fire in exchange for Janeway's deliverance of the Equinox and her crew to them.
By the time Voyager again located the Equinox, Ransom was already considering surrendering to Janeway. Disgruntled with this course of action, first officer Maxwell Burke mutinied against his captain and fired on Voyager. The Equinox was outgunned and quickly disabled, however. Ensign Marla Gilmore, who had been ordered to escort Ransom to the brig, instead brought him to engineering and pledged her support to him. Ransom and Gilmore managed to gain control of the Equinox and beam three crew members to Voyager (including Gilmore herself), along with Seven of Nine. The Doctor was also transferred back to Voyager, after which he deleted the Equinox EMH that had taken his place before the Equinox EMH was able to detonate the charges on the holographic emitters. Burke and the remaining bridge crew tried to make their way to the shuttlebay to escape, but were killed en route.
During the final battle with Voyager, Ransom and Gilmore allowed the aliens access to the Equinox's vital systems, including the ship's warp core. With a breach only seconds away, Ransom piloted the doomed Equinox to a safe distance away from Voyager. After receiving Janeway's word that she would get the two crews home, the Equinox exploded, ending her disastrous five-year stay in the Delta Quadrant.
Satisfied with the Equinox's destruction, the aliens ceased their attacks on Voyager. The five surviving Equinox crew members, Marla Gilmore, Noah Lessing, James Morrow, Angelo Tassoni, and Brian Sofin, were stripped of rank and ordered to serve as crewmen on Voyager, with extensive supervision and limited privileges. (VOY: "Equinox, Part II")
(As of 2376)
- Captain Rudolph Ransom – commanding officer (CO)
- Lieutenant Maxwell Burke – executive officer (XO)
- Ensign Marla Gilmore – chief engineer
- Crewman Noah Lessing – sciences division
- Emergency Medical Hologram – chief medical officer (CMO)
See also: List of USS Equinox personnel
|USS Equinox • USS Rhode Island • Unnamed|
In a documentary included in the DVD release of Star Trek: Voyager's fifth season, Rick Sternbach revealed how the Equinox was designed: "I was searching through piles of drawings for little ships just to get some inspiration and I came across a sketch that I had done for the Deep Space Nine Tech Manual of the original design for the USS Defiant before… [it] was given all of its armor and upgraded weapons, what we call the Pathfinder vehicle… and I thought, 'Well, we haven't seen this one yet, so maybe this design could turn into the Equinox and the drawing was approved and we fleshed out the Equinox for the two-parter."
The designation "Nova class" was mentioned in the Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual as being a new class of ship under design by Starfleet. There was consideration of the Enterprise-E being built as a member of this class. The Nova-class mentioned in the technical manual was to be a long-range scout/tactical vessel (much like the Enterprise-D or the USS Voyager), and not a planetary research vessel, of which type the Equinox was a member.
Apart from a minor appearance on an astrometrics display in VOY: "The Voyager Conspiracy", the Equinox and the issues presented in its two-parter were never revisited in any later episode. A refitted Nova-class, however, appeared in VOY: "Endgame" as the USS Rhode Island, under the command of a future version of Harry Kim.