Voyager has a vacancy for a new Chief Engineer. Janeway has to choose between the Starfleet orthodoxy of Joe Carey, and the creative brilliance of B'Elanna Torres, whose idea of motivating personnel is to break their noses.



Plot Synopsis

Lieutenant Carey is in sickbay, and he is not happy. As the holographic Doctor treats his broken nose, he explains to Tuvok and Chakotay how it happened. He and B'Elanna Torres had an engineering disagreement which turned into a pushing match, followed by Torres knocking him to the floor. Chakotay assures Carey that he'll take care of the matter.

The First Officer and the Chief of Security then have a disagreement over procedure. Chakotay has temporarily confined Torres to her quarters, but Tuvok wants her moved to the brig. Chakotay points out that the nearest court is a long way off, but Tuvok wants to see her tried by Captain Janeway. He believes that leniency would set a bad example to the rest of the crew, and additionally suggest that Chakotay is showing favouritism towards the Maquis. Both are convinced they are right, neither is willing to budge in his opinion, and Chakotay is forced to pull rank to end the argument. Tuvok yields to his authority, but only grudgingly.

On leaving Tuvok, Chakotay is intercepted by two of his fellow ex-Maquis, Jarvin and Seska. Rumours are already flying about the incident, and their version has Janeway putting Torres in the brig for two months and restricting all off-duty Maquis to quarters. Chakotay flatly denies the story, but they nevertheless let him know that if things get out of hand they (and by implication the rest of the Maquis) are ready to back him in taking control of the ship. It doesn't get quite the reaction they had hoped for; far from being grateful for their support, he threatens to personally throw them in the brig for mutiny if they ever raise the subject again.

Consequently Chakotay is pretty angry when he eventually visits Torres. He cuts off her protests of wounded self-justification, tells her how close she came to fatally injuring Carey, and points out the difficult position she has put him in. He threatens her with what Tuvok wanted - spending the rest of the trip home confined to quarters - but what he really wants is for her to apologise to Carey and patch things up. B'Elanna's attitude suggests that she'd much prefer the first option to having to grapple with her own pride and intolerance, but she is stopped short when Chakotay tells her she will need to win the support of Carey and his fellows if she's to be Voyager's Chief Engineer. It's a new and startling thought for her. Like Chakotay, she rates her own engineering abilities higher than Carey's, but the Starfleet lieutenant is next in line for the job, and she has obviously assumed that seniority will prevail. Chakotay thinks otherwise, but then he hasn't told the captain yet.

Janeway holds a meeting of her senior officers. Paris is flippant with his report, but that doesn't disguise his bad news. Engine efficiency is decreasing because the warp drive is low on power. Kim reports that the holodeck reactors are incompatible, and can't be linked in to boost the main power systems. Chakotay proposes shutting down an entire deck and rerouting the power saved to propulsion. With Voyager short enough on power for every little saving to be a worthwhile one, his plan even gets a grudging endorsement from Tuvok. At this point the meeting is gatecrashed by Neelix and Kes, who argue their case for being there sufficiently well for an amused Janeway to grant them permission to stay, just this once. They immediately prove their worth when Kes suggests the setting up of a hydroponics area to grow their own food as a supplement to the emergency rations and the currently offline replicators. Janeway approves, and assigns her the project.

Resource deficiencies dealt with, Janeway moves on to finding replacements for dead key personnel. Chakotay submits her a list of Maquis crew members whom he feels would be officer material. She glances at it and spots Torres's name immediately, apparently recalling the half-Klingon's run in with Carey only too clearly. She questions what job Chakotay had in mind for her, and is obviously startled when he says Chief Engineer, although she chooses not to pursue it but to move on to consider replacement medical personnel instead. Neelix suggests the "electronic man", but Tuvok immediately points out the Emergency Medical Hologram's limitations and Paris (who is enjoying the undercurrents in this meeting far too much) comments on its "lousy bedside manner". Chakotay then suggests assigning someone to train with the EMH as a field medic and Janeway, with malice aforethought, tells Paris that he's just volunteered for the job.

Both the meeting and Paris's horrified protests are terminated as Voyager shudders and shakes. Everybody runs for their front row seats on the bridge in order to find out what is going on. It turns out that they've run across a Type 4 quantum singularity, a spatial distortion caused by a collapsed star. It is interfering with their external sensors, but that doesn't prevent them from picking up a distorted transmission from within it. Their hail goes unanswered, but the ship is obviously trapped, so they consider rescue options. Neelix suggests heading for nearby Ilidaria for assistance, but Janeway decides against it; it looks like the other ship may not have time for them to fetch reinforcements. Looking for suggestions, Chakotay contacts B'Elanna Torres directly in Engineering and asks her opinion. Approving her suggestion of remodulating a tractor beam to try to match the subspace interference, he tells her to work on it, only to be checked by a quietly furious Janeway, who asks Carey's opinion on B'Elanna's solution. When he gives it qualified approval she puts him in charge of the project, and tells Chakotay that she wants to see him in private.

Chakotay begins by trying to reassure Janeway about Torres's abilities, but she interrupts him and tells him that B'Elanna isn't the problem: he is. He has just committed a breach of command etiquette in calling Torres when Carey is the officer with seniority. He protests that if seniority is all that counts, none of the Maquis will ever hold rank, and she points out that they aren't his crew any more. He declares that he is trying to integrate them with the Starfleet crew but Janeway isn't making it easy, and she says that she can't, because they don't have the Starfleet discipline or training, and she can't therefore ask career officers to accept an unqualified Maquis in command just because circumstances have forced the crews together. She has no similar problem with asking them to accept Chakotay himself, since he has both Starfleet training and command experience, but he declares with some heat that he has no intention of being her token Maquis officer. She counters by inviting him to show him a qualified Maquis, and he offers B'Elanna again. Deadlock. Janeway considers B'Elanna's record suspect, no matter how much Chakotay lauds her engineering skills. He tells her that he feels he must look out for the interests of the Maquis aboard the ship because no one else will, and that she will need to give them more authority in order to command their loyalty. He ends by recommending that she at least get to know Torres before choosing her new Chief Engineer.

Kes, in search of nitrogenated soil samples for her hydroponics project, activates the Emergency Medical Hologram. He grumbles about the trivial nature of the task, but obtains them for her, at which point she observes that he seems to be shrinking. Having run a diagnostic on his holo-projectors, he discovers a malfunction, and calls Kim to request a repair crew.

Engineering try their modified tractor beam, but when it fails to work Voyager is pulled towards the singularity. Carey has to cut the main power feed to the beam in order to shut it down. After Paris moves the ship to a safe distance, it is decided to take Neelix's earlier advice and lay in a course towards the Ilidarian system to seek help.

Despite their earlier heated exchange, Janeway takes a little of Chakotay's advice and asks to see B'Elanna Torres. The half-Klingon engineer is defensive and apologetic about the tractor beam, but Janeway tells her that no one blames her, and that Chakotay has recommended her for the job of Chief Engineer. Reassured, Torres relaxes a little and the two of them weigh each other up. Janeway asks Torres whether she believes she is ready for the responsibility, and whether she thinks she can cope with the inevitable hard feelings on the part of Starfleet officers passed over for the job. Torres is a little defensive in her answers, but she remains calm and polite until Janeway tells her that she has studied B'Elanna's Starfleet Academy records, with their tell tale history of disciplinary hearings and suspensions. Janeway only asks, with compassionate curiosity, what the problem was, but Torres feels threatened by her knowledge and lets her temper flare up once more. Declaring that she wants nothing to do with Starfleet, she exits.

Janeway is contacted by the Doctor, who requests that she activate her EMH channel to put him on visual. Janeway experiences what she assumes to be a distorted transmission, but the Doctor confirms that the squashed appearance she sees is how he currently looks, and that he is shrinking. He reports nine crew members with headaches, dizziness or muscle spasms for no apparent reason, but Janeway connects their symptoms with the effects of the spatial distortions caused by the singularity. Indignant, the Doctor demands to know why he was not informed of the existence of this, and Janeway acknowledges that he should have been, and that she will look into linking his program into the ship's data.

At this point the ship takes another buffeting, and Janeway checks with the bridge. What seems to be another singularity identical to the first is quickly confirmed to be the same singularity. Kim's navigational logs show that they have travelled 1.4 light years, but Paris's readings tell him that they have returned to their previous co-ordinates. Janeway orders Paris to head away from the singularity at maximum warp, while Kim keeps a sensor lock on the singularity to verify its position relative to theirs. Briefly all appears normal, and then they are back at the same co-ordinates yet again. Perplexed, Janeway orders Chakotay to get all departments to run complete system diagnostics, then have the senior officers report their findings to her. Chakotay asks who should represent Engineering at the meeting, and the exasperated Janeway tells him Carey. Pushing the point into dangerous territory, he suggests that she should also invite Torres unless she has been completely removed from consideration for the vacant post. Janeway, eager to get to her ready room and do her own analysis of the data, refrains from argument and gives him a curt approval, but she is definitely not pleased by his persistence.

Carey informs Torres that she's invited to the meeting, and takes great delight in correcting her misapprehension that she is the sole representative of Engineering. He reminds her, somewhat smugly, that he is the senior officer and speaks for Engineering, and that she should try not to speak unless spoken to. After he is out of earshot Seska observes to her friend that she should have broken more than his nose, and Torres smiles at the thought.

Meanwhile, word of the personality clashes in Engineering has been getting around. Harry Kim talks to Tuvok about the rumour that the entire department is at each other's throats. Ever a stickler for accuracy, Tuvok is taking pains to correct him when Harry's sudden searing headache puts an end to their conversation. Tuvok takes him to sickbay, where the Doctor is failing to find anything wrong with any of those reporting symptoms. He continues to shrink, and requests yet again that the holo-projectors be fixed before he becomes too short to reach his patients.

At the staff meeting, there is no good news. The shipwide diagnostics show nothing out of the ordinary, but their readings are inescapably confused and contradictory. Carey reports that he tried sending out a tachyon signal to scan the singularity, but only got back static. Chakotay, with one eye on Torres who has kept her silence while fidgeting and looking unconvinced, asks whether she and Carey could work together to clean up the static. A little hesitantly, Torres says yes... but that it won't work. Having burned her boats, she tries to explain her thinking: she suspects the spatial distortion is causing the holo-projector problem, and that a localised damping field could screen them out. Carey asks, a little scornfully, if the Doctor is really a high priority, but Torres counters by stating that they could try a similar approach with the external sensors to communicate with the other ship. Janeway tells her to try it, and dismisses the meeting. Chakotay hangs back a little, waiting for the approving nod from Janeway that tells him she now sees the same in Torres as he does.

With Torres in charge and the damping field in place, Voyager opens a channel to the other ship, and finds itself listening to Janeway's opening hail from earlier. Applying the field to the visual sensors gives them a non-distorted image of the other ship... and it is Voyager. Harry wonders whether they could have travelled back in time and met themselves, but Torres disagrees. Walking purposefully up to Janeway, talking scientist to scientist, she tells the captain that she thinks she has an explanation.

The senior officers return to Janeway's ready room, but this time there is no Carey. Torres presents her theory, which is quickly seized upon by Janeway, thinking along the same lines: staring at the surface of the event horizon, they are seeing a time delayed reflection of themselves, and have been trapped inside the singularity since the first jolt. Torres estimates that as they slide deeper into the singularity the distortions are increasing, and that they may have no more than nine hours before the ship is crushed. Janeway and Torres bounce ideas off each other, and the rest of the senior officers might as well not be there. They need a crack in the singularity to escape through, and decide to use warp particles to highlight their original entry point.

They release the warp particles and Paris spots the slight irregularity which marks a rupture in the event horizon, but their entry point has collapsed since they were pulled into the singularity and is now too small for Voyager to pass through. Janeway and Torres consider how they might force it wider, and decide upon the use of a dekyon beam. Paris cautions against taking Voyager too close since the warp engines might collapse the rupture further, and volunteers his services to pilot the necessary shuttlecraft. Janeway declines his offer: she wants a temporal mechanic, Torres, instead.

In the privacy of the shuttlecraft, as they approach the rupture, Torres apologises for having lost her temper in Janeway's ready room, saying that Janeway's probing of her motives was a little too close to home. She states that she quit the Academy because she felt she couldn't make it in Starfleet, and nobody was sorry to see her go. Janeway contradicts her, and tells her of the good things that her tutors had to say about her. Torres is surprised, but Janeway tells her that some teachers like students who challenge their assumptions... and that so do some captains.

They successfully widen the rupture, but the increasing distortions jolt the shuttle and it returns damaged, with comms offline. This presents a dilemma since they can see two Voyagers, both giving off identical readings - the real one and its temporal reflection - and have no time to waste on wrong guesses. Torres opts for the Voyager moving towards the rupture, but Janeway correctly reasons that the ship holding position and turned to give easy access to its shuttle bay is the correct one. Torres gives in gracefully, and Janeway doesn't hold her wrong guess against her.

The rupture is collapsing again by the time they get aboard, and is already fractionally too small for Voyager. So Janeway orders Paris to go to full impulse power and ram the gap. Shields are down, hull integrity is suspect, but they make it back to normal space... and Janeway requests that they take Voyager a safe distance from the singularity before they begin repairs.

Some time later, Chakotay takes the new Chief Engineer down to meet her team. She promises to try not to break any of their noses, and gets right on down to organising repairs to the warp drive... adding the odd "please" as she goes. Repairs under way, Torres takes the time to speak to Carey and ask for his help in getting her up to date with Starfleet protocols and the quirks of the warp engine. He assures her that she'll never get less than his best, and offers her his congratulations.

Up on the observation gallery, Chakotay finds Janeway observing the more amicable state of affairs in Engineering. Two crew members have apparently filed complaints about Torres's promotion, and she expects a tough period of adjustment, but states that she thinks B'Elanna will make a fine addition to their crew. Chakotay asks, off the record, whether she would have served under him if their positions had been reversed, but Janeway declines to answer.

Meanwhile in sickbay, about a foot tall and obliged to stand on his chair to access his PADD, the Doctor is still waiting for somebody to come and fix his holo-projectors...


Random Reflections

The disapproving glare that Janeway turns upon Chakotay when he has the temerity to consult B'Elanna about rescue possibilities in preference to the ranking Starfleet officer in Engineering is enough to make anybody's toes curl. Fortunately for Chakotay, she still has some way to go in refining it before The Look reaches its full potential and potency - when any crew member in possession of their senses would throw themselves out of the nearest airlock sooner than meet that disappointed gaze and its implied message that they have Let Her Down - but in its earliest recorded appearance it's certainly intense enough for Neelix to step out of her way with an expression on his face that clearly says that he wouldn't want to be in Chakotay's shoes for anything.

Despite the fact that its inclusion is primarily designed to drive the plot here by bringing forward B'Elanna's name yet again, Chakotay's list of Maquis personnel who are officer material makes a certain amount of sense. He has worked with them and commanded them for some time, and is by far the best qualified to judge their individual abilities and personalities, and where they might best and most usefully fit into a Starfleet crew. And, as someone who has command experience with both Starfleet and the Maquis, he knows the styles and practices of both, and probably has a shrewd idea who will and won't make the adjustment well. Actually, the thing that surprises me most isn't that he has compiled such a list... it's that it only gets presented to the Captain in an open meeting. He and Janeway should already have sat down together in private consultation and gone through every name on it... and then gone on to identify the potential troublemakers in the Starfleet crew who might have equal difficulty accepting the changed circumstances. It is, however, very symptomatic of the wary and distant relationship between the Captain and her First Officer that remains for much of the first two seasons.

Once again, the opening credits do their best not to give the game away. B'Elanna Torres's rank is not given, although those of Chakotay, Tuvok, Paris and Kim are now given in addition to Janeway. Perhaps it's a fairly minor point since Torres is already a lieutenant junior grade at the start of this episode... and since Carey isn't among the crew members listed in the opening credits it's fairly easy to guess who will get the Chief Engineer's job! But it's a nice touch, nevertheless.

This episode takes the opportunity to establish early the problems faced by a Federation ship which is out of touch with its supply bases. Voyager is not just short on crew; it is also badly in need of power and supplies. This is a theme which will be touched upon again and again, albeit largely through the imposition of replicator rationing and the numerous plots initiated by the search for the resource of the week, but it is a priority for the crew that must be of at least equal importance with getting home. Energy and crewmembers are already a concern; shortly the irreplaceable nature of the photon torpedoes, shuttlecraft, and even the bio-neural gel packs will be also.

And those revolutionary bio-neural gel packs are probably responsible for the one exception to Voyager's general energy crisis: its holo-imaging systems are run off a separate and incompatible power supply, which is apparently not subject to any shortages at present. This is an important distinction on a ship where one of the vital crewmembers is, in fact, a hologram. Without that plentiful power supply to keep the Doctor running, Voyager's medical expertise would consist entirely of Tom Paris's first aid course.

And of course it doesn't hurt that this also means that the holodecks are available for use. But I'll say more about that in my review of The Cloud.



Relations between Chakotay and Tuvok must have been strained from the first. Chakotay wouldn't be human if he didn't feel some bitterness about the way Tuvok infiltrated and spied on his Maquis crew, while Tuvok must have viewed Chakotay as a renegade. And, while it's not terribly Vulcan of him, he does seem to feel some resentment about the way that Janeway made Chakotay her second in command when, presumably, Tuvok was next in line of Voyager's surviving Starfleet officers. Because he is Vulcan however, he can only ever permit this to show as a general disapproval of Chakotay's methodology and command style, and the dispute over the Torres-Carey incident is the first in a long running series of clashes between the two.

Chakotay is still very much the Maquis at this point, defending the part of the crew that he still thinks of as his own with a passion. He gets impatient with protocol, and dispenses with it if there seems like a quicker and easier way to achieve his aims. The sole Maquis officer, yet to establish any real trust or friendship with the Starfleet part of the crew, he's in an uncomfortable position. This probably explains why he champions the cause of Torres so energetically. He believes that she deserves the position of Chief Engineer, but there's no denying that it would make his job a lot easier if she got it - since it would both give him someone else to help defend the Maquis if it became necessary, and would pacify the more rebellious elements within it by giving proof that they weren't being discriminated against.

Curiously however, in his instant rejection of their suggestions of mutiny, he's practically Starfleet orthodox in his viewpoint. The conflicting claims of his Maquis and Starfleet loyalties are both pulling at him, but as a result of the satisfactory outcome to his sponsorship of Torres - where he made a recommendation and Janeway ultimately listened to it - relations between himself and Janeway are much improved by the end of this episode.

B'Elanna Torres has already shown a tendency towards temper tantrums, and here she confirms it. It's interesting that when she has her interview with Janeway she claims that she doesn't care what people think of her, since all the evidence seems to indicate quite the reverse. She flares up when she is impatient, but it's often an impatience born out of the frustration of not being able to communicate her ideas to others, or make people agree with her. When things don't run smoothly, she hits out, because it's easier than trying to argue her point with words, and that reaction is at the root of her problems both in Engineering and at Starfleet Academy. I find it interesting that she apologises so profusely to Janeway when her tractor beam idea goes wrong. She's a good engineer, but feels she ought to be perfect, and because she isn't she undervalues her own abilities. She's not arrogant, she's insecure. And, given a secure position from which to argue, you see a different B'Elanna: one who can be quietly rational and evaluate dispassionately. She gets the Chief Engineer's job because, eventually, that's the B'Elanna that Janeway saw.

The Doctor is still "it" to most of the crew, a joke with no bedside manner, but he demonstrably has a degree of sentience here. It's one thing to have been programmed with an irascible temperament; quite another to feel resentment at being treated as a mere tool by the rest of the crew. What the Doctor wants is to be treated as a person rather than an object, although he doesn't understand what is lacking until Kes, in sharp contrast to the crew members who turn him on and off at will, does just that. She apologises for bothering him, wants to know his name, and turns off his program as requested before leaving sickbay... and he visibly softens in response to her considerate treatment.

Seska makes her first appearance in this episode, wearing the blue uniform of science although in subsequent episodes she will wear the gold of engineering. But, as she is seen working both on the bridge and in Engineering, she obviously has qualifications and experience relevant to either, and it's entirely possible that her friend B'Elanna requested her full time transfer to Engineering to replace one of the Starfleet officers who asked to transfer out when Torres was appointed Chief Engineer. Well, either that or it's a continuity glitch!



One of the things that initially attracted me to Voyager was the potential for conflict within its crew. Both Starfleet and Maquis have a common goal: to get home. Since on the whole both camps are Federation in allegiance and outlook, they aren't entirely enemies - whatever their differences on foreign policy with regard to the Cardassians - but you can't expect half the crew to easily forget or forgive that the other half came after them with a view to throwing them in jail. Sadly, the dramatic possibilities inherent in the gradual merging of the two crews were somewhat wasted, as Starfleet and Maquis became one big and largely happy family with only minimal friction.

But this is one of the rare episodes where the differences between Starfleet and Maquis are really emphasised, and it's pretty well done. It largely concentrates on the difficulties of Chakotay's position, caught between the two camps, and B'Elanna's unwillingness to trust to her own ability to bridge the gap, but there are some nice moments where the general sentiments of the crew are revealed as well - such as Seska and Jarvin's proposed mutiny, and Harry's conversation with Tuvok about events in Engineering, both of which demonstrate how dangerous rumours can be when they escalate out of control. And, importantly, in the course of the episode Captain Janeway learns to stop thinking of the Maquis aboard her ship as an impersonal, unknown group of criminals, and learns to appreciate that they can be individuals as worthy of her trust and sponsorship as any of her Starfleet crew, which at least gives some credence to the possibility that the crews could merge without insurmountable difficulties.

The secondary plot - that of the quantum singularity and Voyager's unwitting attempts to rescue itself - is fairly pedestrian, but then it is really only there to provide B'Elanna Torres and Joe Carey with a testing ground in which to show off their respective engineering skills. One can hardly fault it for knowing its place and lowly importance in the scheme of things! Although, like Paris, I'm still a little confused and wary about the revelation that effect can now precede cause - in the Star Trek universe at any rate. That way lies danger, not to mention sloppy plot resolution.

On the whole though, I give this one the thumbs up.