It’s a violation of alien space and a loss of self in the episode that originally aired on September 25, 1996. This is THE SWARM!!!
Captain’s Log Stardate 50252.3 The Swarm
As Voyager finds itself under attack by a SWARM of ships, The Doctor begins to malfunction…
Paris and B’Elanna are attacked by a strange pair of aliens rendering the two unconscious.
The Doctor is pulled from his own holodeck downtime, an opera by Puccini, with an emergency in med-bay. Oddly, he was having trouble remembering the lyrics just before leaving.
With Paris still unconscious, Torres explains the events of what happened to them. For some reason, as he works on them, The Doctor has trouble remembering simple procedures, including how to save Paris.
Captain Janeway discusses the matter with her staff attempting to understand what these aliens want from them. Neelix admits that he will be no help in this situation as all he has heard is rumors and legends concerning this race. Apparently, this sector of space is akin to the Bermuda triangle, ships go in but rarely leave…intact. Realizing that going around this sector would add another fifteen months to their trip, Janeway decides their best course of action is to keep going forward…despite the fact that encroaching on another species space is against Starfleet protocol. She makes it clear, that they are far from Starfleet and will not give up 15 months.
HOLD UP HERE! Really? REALLY? okay sorry. carry on…
Realizing that he is having difficulty with simple procedures, The Doctor asks Kes for her assistance. As it becomes clear that this is not getting better, he contacts Torres who discovers that the safety buffers in his system are breaking down. Should they reinitialize him, he will lose the last two years of his memories, effectively erasing his personality in the process. Taking the matter to Janeway, the Captain agrees that they should do all they can to save the Doctor, as he is a sick crewman who needs to get better.
Running the Jupiter Station Diagnostic Program, Torres encounters a hologram of The Doctor’s creator Lewis Zimmerman who has even less of a bedside manner than The EMH. In fact, Zimmerman doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of the Doctor. The first thing Zimmerman notes is that the EMH should not have been on for two years let alone 2 days. Zimmerman explains that there is no way to save the Doctor without a full system re-initialization or The Doctor will simply not be able to function. Torres, not accepting this as an answer, demands that Zimmerman find a solution, no matter what.
Soon, Zimmerman meets Kes and is not pleased that she is partially to blame for filling the EMH with so much ‘useless’ information. She tries to explain that the EMH has become more than just a tool for the ship, he has become a person. Despite her claims that the EMH is her friend, she soon discovers that The Doctor no longer remembers who she is.
Reporting to Engineering, Torres reconfigures the shields in order for them to get through the alien space safely. Detecting a literal SWARM of ships ahead, the crew of Voyager realize that they have a huge task ahead of them. Soon they find a damaged ship that is not like the swarm ships. Investigating, Janeway orders the lone survivor beamed aboard Voyager and learn more about the threat they have entered. Chardis, the lone survivor, dies of his wounds as The Doctor is unable to help him and Kes is not quite skilled enough to fill in. Although it is clear that The EMH is failing, Janeway makes it clear that she can not spare her chief engineer at the moment but will prioritize The Doctor as soon as she can. In the mean time, Kes tries to keep her friend aware by keeping him occupied and thinking. Soon, however, The EMH begins to remember past events out of order concerning Kes that his system is failing. When the EMH begins to forget he is a hologram she desperately tries to help him, only for his program to begin flickering in and out.
Soon one of the Swarm ships finds Voyager and sends the ship a threat indicating that they should not have entered their space. With Voyager now very apparent to the Swarm, Janeway takes the ship into high warp while Torres tries to get the ship back up to full speed. It is too late, however, when the Swarm arrives in full force.
With no help from engineering, Kes realizes that she might be able to use the Zimmerman Hologram as a new base for The Doctor. Working with the diagnostic tool, Kes and Zimmerman choose to The Doctor and Zimmerman together although it is likely that The Doctor would still lose much of his memory.
In the final moments, after some of the Swarm aliens manages to get aboard, Kim realizes that each of the swarm ships are interconnected via a lattice pattern. Turning the pulses back onto them they cause a chain reaction destroying many of the Swarm ships, thus allowing Voyager to escape. Reaching the end of Swarm Space, Voyager manages to leave without further damage or pursuit.
Back in Sickbay, Torres finds Kes awaiting the transfer to complete. Calling on the EMH, they are both saddened when The Doctor does not recognize either of them. However, as the Doctor goes about his business…he begins to sing opera…
Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:
Yes and no. To me the EMH plot was a solid story and one that finally seemed to establish that The Doctor was indeed a sentient being, especially with the fact that his memories seem to still be there despite being reset. The Swarm threat story…well that just seemed completely unnecessary and frankly reckless on Janeway’s behalf. Lets start with that shall we?
For much of this series Janeway has made it clear time and again that, even though they are far from Star Fleet, Voyager was a Federation ship that would follow Federation protocol at all times. Even in the season premier she makes a HUGE statement regarding their survival of the Kazon invasion, indicating that this only reinforced her sentiment that Voyager will do all it can to remain in compliance with Federation standards. Well It seems that this only pertains to the crew and not Janeway since…when challenged by Tuvok that entering someone else’s space without permission is a violation of protocol, her answer was ‘we’re a long way from Star Fleet’.
I have a HUGE problem with this as it is very out of character for Janeway, especially after the recent events on the show. Sure, I get that she ‘doesn’t like Bullies’ but the Swarm Aliens are not being the bullies in this matter. In fact, they literally warned Voyager to not come in or things would get bad. They could have easily killed Paris and Torres…but they didn’t. I mean, even TUVOK, her most trusted adviser warns her that this is not a good idea but does she listen? No.
So, here comes Voyager intruding on someone else’s space despite being warned to stay away all because it will add just over a year to their journey. A FREAKIN YEAR! So, Janeway is okay taking the ship completely off course to find a baby (that wasn’t even Chakotay’s!) yet adding on a year to their journey in order to avoid risking her crew’s lives is not acceptable? Besides, did she really think that they were NOT going to have to course correct along the way? I mean, really…Sheer effing hubris much? This sill not be the last time Janeway shows a blatant disregard for Star Fleet protocol despite her insistence everyone else follow it. Maybe she was just having a bad day…regardless, this was a totally unnecessary endangerment to the crew and she should be ashamed of herself.
That aside, I absolutely love the main story with The Doctor. I have made it clear how much I love Picardo’s work as The EMH and, having met Robert Picardo in person, I have to say he is very much the kind hearted person he portrays on the screen. Personally, I find the Doctor-centric episodes to be some of my favorite as Picardo has a way to really pull the emotion from the story and even those around him.
This episode is no different. Whether he was playing the slowly degrading EMH or the Zimmerman program, Picardo had a demeanor to him that really just kept this episode on track. Honestly, if it were not for his part in this episode, I really think that ‘The Swarm’ would have gone down as one of the worst episodes in the series, but his story was there and was amazing.
The Doctor’s story is one about just how fragile we all are as people, yet how there are still those who will lift us up. Much like that of Alzheimers, the Doctor found himself losing the very essence of who he was much to the fear of those who cared about him and to the fear of himself. Picardo captured that uncertainty of self perfectly playing off of the incredibly talented Jennifer Lien as Kes. The two make such an incredible pair playing off of each other in what can only be described as a flawless dance. It’s a shame that Lien’s character only has a short time left in the series as she really gets fleshed out this season and becomes more than the short lived waifish elf that she seemed to be at the start.
All in all, If you ignore the Swarm part of The Swarm, you have yourself a great story about losing oneself and those that are there to help you find yourself again. Picardo and Lien own this episode, sadly it is marred by a mediocre and unnecessary ‘A’ story.
Gleanings and Cool Bits:
- 0 photon torpedoes fired, 29 remaining.
- 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, 5 remaining.
- Although Chardin asks Janeway to tell his people of his death, we never find out if she actually did or not. Nor do we learn what happened to his body…wait a minute, does Voyager have a morgue filled with random alien bodies? Oh Man…
- Once again Neelix shows his ignorance of the space they are in…thankfully he owns up to it this time. Seems like he is actually starting to grow a bit. Maybe his time as Tuvix actually rubbed off on him a bit.
- We never learn who or what the Swarm actually are. So they were really just a throw away species of the week afterall.
- This is not the last we see of Doctor Zimmerman…
Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review, I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday! Next Review: False Profits
more reviews I have a weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.
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Late To The Game 7/15/2020
Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available. Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.
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