(written from a Production point of view)
A sentient alien missile takes over The Doctor's program and tries to carry out its mission of mass destruction.
In the mess hall of Voyager, Neelix assists Tom Paris. Paris is trying to use the replicator to create gifts for B'Elanna Torres. He sends a food requisition to her quarters and replicates a bottle of wine and some flowers to carry with him. At this point, Kim enters to order a pot of coffee.
Harry has bridge duty for the fourth night in a row. He has been working the night shift as acting commander of the USS Voyager. He says this will build valuable command experience that will assist him later in his Starfleet career.
On the bridge, everything is progressing as usual and Kim asks Ensign Jenkins, the helmsman, for an update. All of a sudden, Voyager receives an automated distress signal. Kim orders the necessary course alteration to investigate. The distress call is originating from a class M planet. Kim attempts to hail the originator of the signal, but they receive no response. They cannot detect any life signs.
Chakotay is informed of the distress signal, and places Harry in charge of the away team. He is accompanied by The Doctor and crewman Timothy Lang. When they beam down to the coordinates they find no evidence of any life. Kim orders the team to split up to cover more ground. The Doctor soon discovers a large metallic object protruding from a rock outcrop. As Kim scans it with a tricorder, its lights begin to blink and it makes some computerized sounds. They discover that it contains bio-neural circuitry. The object reactivates and proceeds to communicate using duotronic algorithms. Fortunately, The Doctor translates, saying that, oddly, it's frightened, wondering why it can't see nor feel its arms and legs.
The object says many of its internal memory cores are damaged and it cannot remember its name. The Doctor establishes a rapport with the intelligence and makes an appeal to Harry to try to help the intelligence regain its lost memory fragments. After a bit of debate, and with The Doctor's insistence, the device is beamed aboard Voyager to salvage the device's artificial intelligence. It appears that the being is fully sentient. However, it is housed in the body of some sort of device. The Doctor recommends that they not inform the device of its nature so as to spare it psychological harm. When Voyager's day shift arrives on duty, Captain Janeway agrees with Kim's decision to beam the device to an engineering bay for analysis.
There, the device states that it had a companion, but lost track of it on the planet. Janeway goes to astrometrics to attempt to locate it. Meanwhile, The Doctor continues to get to know the alien intelligence. He takes this time to inform the device of its nature. It is startled to know that it is not a humanoid but a metallic cylinder, but The Doctor comforts it, noting they have something in common.
In astrometrics, Seven of Nine is assisting the Captain in her search. They make a startling discovery on the planet's surface: a similar device that has caused an explosion. It is determined that the device is a warhead of mass destruction.
In the briefing room there is a debate as to what should be done with the device, to still continue to salvage the intelligence, or to simply destroy the weapon. It is decided to try to salvage the intelligence, after The Doctor pleads passionately for its right to live. They must perform the complicated procedure of removing the intelligence from the warhead components. The Doctor suggests they download it into a holographic matrix like himself. After this procedure, they would attempt to contact the people who manufactured the warhead.
Ensign Kim and B'Elanna Torres begin the procedure to separate the intelligence. However, during the procedure, the device insists on knowing exactly what they're doing. When Kim mentions that they are about to shut it down temporarily, its auto-defense programming kicks in and the device arms itself. Quickly, B'Elanna Torres makes an attempt, under Captain Janeway's orders, to disable the device by sending an EM pulse to shut it down. The device interprets this as an act of hostility, and, unknown to Torres and Kim, the device's intelligence takes over The Doctor's holomatrix during the interlink operation. The Doctor's holomatrix is now controlled by the warhead.
The warhead intelligence then begins to take steps to protect itself from the crew, and makes its intentions known. It barricades itself along with Torres and Kim inside sickbay. It was a dormant warhead sent on a mission to destroy a military base, and it demands to resume that mission. The warhead intelligence threatens Voyager with destruction if the Captain doesn't comply with transporting the warhead to its destination.
The warhead intelligence demands that Voyager alter course, taking them to its intended target, a military installation on Salina Prime, approximately 2.3 light years away from their current position. The captain refuses to comply with an alien warhead; getting involved in this species' affairs would be a violation of the Prime Directive. However, with the only other option being destruction of Voyager, she must play along. The warhead's programming makes anything that stands in the way of its target an enemy. That includes Voyager and her crew. Janeway reluctantly sets course.
As the bridge crew attempts to formulate a plan to disarm the weapon, Neelix enters with a possible option. He acquired a power node from a merchant named Onquanii recently. It has a similar configuration to the warhead, it could have been made by the same species. Chakotay orders scans of the area for his starship and an encoded message sent if he is located.
Meanwhile, the prisoners try to come up with their own plan to disarm the warhead. Kim is depressed because he feels that his actions directly caused the current situation. Kim goes to The Doctor/weapon to try to get him to change his mind. He cites the progress made by The Doctor as proof that AI can overcome initial programming boundaries, but it responds that, despite all that, it's still a weapon, just like The Doctor is still a doctor.
Back on the bridge, a cloaked vessel that could be Onquanii arrives. It is him, and he says the weapon was created by the Druoda. He has studied them and their designs and wishes to come aboard. Later, in Main Engineering, the Captain negotiates with Onquanii. He informs them that he would be able to transport the warhead off of Voyager using his sophisticated dampening field. However, in return he requires the warhead, to sell or salvage the parts. The Captain agrees on the condition that he does not get the energy matrix. That way, it could not be used as a weapon again. Onquanii refuses, saying the energy matrix is the most valuable component. Neelix tries to offer him more items, but he has made up his mind.
Onquanii beams back to his ship, and proceeds to open fire on Voyager. In the first volley, weapons and shields are disabled. The Doctor/weapon demands a report from the bridge. Onquanii tries to transport the warhead to his ship as he offered before, but it sends an antimatter surge back through the transporter beam. The attacking merchant vessel is destroyed.
Before the plan is enacted they must get Seven into sickbay. To do this they will lead the warhead to believe that Voyager has entered a minefield. Using inertial dampeners, Paris will simulate the damage, while sickbay is fed false sensor readings. They will make it look as if Seven was injured in a plasma explosion. Then, Tuvok will disrupt the holographic controls to give Seven time to complete her task.
The warhead intelligence then insists that Kim and Torres attempt to reconstruct some memory fragments just before its crash landing. Some of the memory fragments reveal the accidental launch of the device, along with 33 other similar warheads. Despite this evidence, the intelligence is convinced that it must destroy its target. It believes the order to cease attack was faked by the enemy. During the reconstruction, they determine that the warhead was sent a command by its creators, the Druoda, to disengage. Apparently their war ended about three years prior, and the command to terminate was received. The warhead intelligence doubts the reconstructed memory, citing possible meddling by Kim and Torres and not seeing a confirmation code. Kim retorts that the algorithm used to encode the command would be extremely difficult to tamper with, and there's still missing memory which could contain the code. This seeds the warhead intelligence with some doubt.
The attempt by the bridge begins well, but is ultimately unsuccessful – Seven's direct contact with a defensive measure for the bio-neural circuitry on the warhead injures her, putting her in neural shock. The intelligence informs Janeway it was unsuccessful and demands everyone abandon ship. Janeway flat-out refuses, surprising the intelligence. Just then, the thirty-two other functioning warheads that were also accidentally launched approach Voyager.
The other warheads contact the remaining warhead aboard Voyager. The warhead's intelligence, with Kim's help in reasoning with it, deduces that the command to rescind the mission is in fact legitimate, and attempts to corroborate with the other warheads. Since all the warheads have reached a two light year target threshold, at which point the mission cannot be canceled, they ignore the command sent by the warhead on Voyager. The warhead intelligence then realizes what must be done: as a weapon of mass destruction, it can use itself to stop the others. Kim sadly says "I'm sorry," but the AI simply states that its mission to protect its people has not changed, only the target.
At the other warheads' request, the warhead aboard Voyager is transported alongside the fleet and a tractor beam carries the warhead into warp alongside the others to complete their mission. After the warp jump, the warhead from Voyager self-destructs. Voyager detects a series of antimatter explosions, destroying all of the wayward warheads and eliminating the threat; the AI has succeeded in its mission.
As the night watch gets ready to begin their shift, Jenkins thanks Kim on behalf of the junior staff for saving the ship from the Druoda warhead. Kim asks her to do him a favor: no more distress calls tonight.
"Assemble the staff. We're going to find a way to outsmart a smart bomb."
- - Captain Janeway, to Chakotay
"Do well on this mission, Neelix, and maybe the captain will promote you to Senior Beautician."
- - Tom Paris
"I have no intention of proceeding to my target. I will stop them."
"I am a weapon of mass destruction."
- - The Doctor/Warhead and Harry Kim
"Do me a favor."
"Of course, sir."
"No more distress calls. At least not tonight."
- - Harry Kim and Ensign Jenkins
"I AM PROGRAMMED TO DESTROY MY TARGET, I WILL COMPLETE MY MISSION!"
- - The Doctor/Warhead
"I have a duty to protect my people, I will not betray them. Now GET OUT before I'm forced to harm you!"
- -The Doctor/Warhead becoming incredibly angry to Harry Kim after Kim told him if he really wanted to make those soldiers suffer.
- Real weapons inspired Executive Producer Brannon Braga to think up this episode's plot. "It's a post-Cold War analogy in some ways," he remarked. "I was watching Frontline on PBS, and they did this story on the Russian arsenal of nuclear warheads, and how they are basically up for grabs. Anything could happen to these damn things. They could be launched accidentally, they could be sold on the black market, and that's what spawned the idea." (Cinefantastique, Vol. No. 11, p. 55)
- The episode's final draft script was submitted on 25 February 1999.
- The script specifies that the set for the surface of the planet where the warhead is found was to actually be on Paramount Stage 16.
- Brannon Braga believed this episode was a powerful one for actor Robert Picardo. "It's a tour de force for Bob Picardo," Braga observed, "because he gets to play the bomb." (Cinefantastique, Vol. No. 11, p. 55)
- The same panel where Tuvok accesses sickbay's holomatrix in this episode also features in the previous one, "Relativity", as the location where Captain Braxton hid a temporal disruptor. (Delta Quadrant, p. 315)
- Some of the footage of the planet, as seen from space, consists of stock optical shots that have been used in many past episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.
- The Doctor (and the warhead personality occupying his body) wears his mobile emitter during the whole episode. Despite this fact, he's affected when the holographic emitters in sickbay are being destabilized.
- This episode bears some similarity to the second-season episode "Dreadnought". In both episodes, members of the Voyager crew attempt to convince an AI-controlled weapon to stand down.
Video and DVD releases
- The first Voyager volume distributed by PHE.
- As part of the VOY Season 5 DVD collection
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Ensign Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Commander Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
- Sue Henley – stand-in for Kate Mulgrew
- Susan Lewis – stand-in for Roxann Dawson
- Brita Nowak – stand-in for Jeri Ryan
- J.R. Quinonez – stand-in for Robert Picardo
- Joey Sakata
- Stuart Wong – stand-in for Garrett Wang
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- "Warhead" at StarTrek.com, the official Star Trek website
- "Warhead" at Memory Beta, the wiki for licensed Star Trek works
- "Warhead" at Wikipedia
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