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DISEASE



PLOT: Voyager has docked with a Varro generational ship, a huge vessel which is not only a closed eco-system but a closed society which avoids all contact with outsiders. However, not all of the Varro have been sticking to their xenophobic ways and not every member of Voyager's crew has been observing Starfleet protocols about engaging in intimate relations with alien species. Harry has fallen for Varro engineer Derran Tal and even when unforseen biological side-effects expose their relationship to both ships' crews, they continue to see each other, no matter whose orders they defy. What Harry doesn't know is that Tal represents a serious threat to her own people - a splinter faction that wants to explore other worlds and cultures instead of shunning them. Without realising it, Harry may have set in motion the downfall of the Varro civilisation, as its people know it.

REVIEW: All week long I was bracing for an outrageously bad episode. Between the story line I read on the "Universe" web site and the episode's trailer (even as notoriously unreliable as Voyager trailers are) it looked for all the galaxy like just another case of Harry Kim's libido getting him and the rest of the crew into trouble. Fortunately I was wrong - the episode actually turned out quite well! For one thing, I was relieved that Kim didn't spend two-thirds of the show in bed with Tal, as both the trailer and the web site suggested. What really sold me on this episode, though, is its exploration of the relationship between Kim and Capt. Janeway - something I've felt was long overdue (although this isn't quite the kind of exploration I had in mind). They've never really had a whole episode together until now but various scenes throughout the series have implied something tantamount to a mother-son relationship between Janeway and Kim. This episode (and in particular their scene together in Sickbay at show's end) seems to confirm that but understandably leaves the door wide open as to where that relationship will go from here?

During her conversation with the Varo leader early in the show, Janeway says that Voyager still has such a long journey ahead of her that she may eventually become something of a "generation ship". Either she's just bootlicking or she hasn't done the math. They've been cutting across the galaxy for well over four years and they've had four shortcuts along the way, for a total of about 35 years. That's almost 40 years off a journey that was originally estimated to take 75. Assuming no more shortcuts, that leaves about 35 years to go - a short enough trip so that even Janeway and Chakotay (the oldest humans among the crew, as far as we know) would stand a good chance of getting home within their own lifetimes.

At one point Kim brings Tal aboard his shuttle and they set course for a nearby nebula. Kim explains that he's not due back aboard Voyager for some time, so no one will notice his absence. Sure enough, a few minutes later Tuvok arrives in the Delta Flyer to retrieve them. What was Kim thinking? The shuttle was supposed to be making repairs to the Varo ship, not traipsing off into some nebula. Even if he had finished his repairs, how could he have expected his little side trip not to attract Voyager's attention?

Speaking of Kim's unauthorised use of the shuttle, he got no punishment beyond the reprimand Janeway had already given him. Paris, on the other hand, got 30 days in the brig and a demotion for doing basically the same thing earlier this season. Indeed, following the incident in this episode, Janeway tells Kim that the only reason she hasn't thrown him in the brig too is because the Doctor believes Kim is acting out of a "biochemical addiction" to Tal. In other words, she's willing to excuse Kim's transgression because it is "just about sex"! Sound familiar, boys and girls?

Another complaint arises from Kim's "biochemical addiction" to Tal. Doc has essentially reduced Kim's feelings for Tal to a biochemical response to a set of emotional (not to mention other) stimuli. Earlier in the show, during her discussion with Kim, Seven of Nine says that the Borg have found that in virtually every species they've assimilated, the concept of romantic love amounts to the same thing: a biochemical response to a set of stimuli. Wouldn't this mean that, aside from the glowing skin, Kim's so-called "addiction" to Tal is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill, garden-variety case of lovesickness? If Doc can treat Kim's condition as easily as he claims, couldn't the same treatment therefore be applied to anyone who is lovesick? Since Doc doesn't seem to think his treatment is any major medical breakthrough, Federation medical science must have known how to treat lovesickness for at least the past four or so years (ie. before Doc and his existing medical database were brought into Delta Quadrant). So Federation medicine has cured not only the common cold but now lovesickness as well? This is nothing short of amazing - not to mention convenient.