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Course: Oblivion (episode)

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"Course: Oblivion"
VOY, Episode 5x18
Production number: 213
First aired: 3 March 1999
111th of 168 produced in VOY
110th of 168 released in VOY
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 168 released in VOY Remastered  
560th of 728 released in all
Silver Blood Voyager
Teleplay By
Bryan Fuller & Nick Sagan

Story By
Bryan Fuller

Directed By
Anson Williams
52586.3 (2375)
Arc: The Silver Blood (2 of 2)  
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As Voyager crewmembers begin dying, they make a startling discovery about their true identities.

Summary

In USS Voyager's mess hall, Lieutenants B'Elanna Torres and Tom Paris are holding their wedding. Captain Janeway is the master of ceremonies and Commander Chakotay is giving B'Elanna away. The Doctor takes pictures of the occasion, and Seven of Nine catches the bouquet that Torres tosses over her shoulder. The rest of the crew happily toss rice over the couple to shower them with blessings as they depart from the mess hall. Below the place of celebration, however, the metallic structure of the decks begin to distort ominously and the thrown grains of rice begin seeping through to the Jefferies tube underneath.

Sometime later, Janeway and Chakotay are busy deciding on whether to stop along the way of their 2-year journey back to the Alpha Quadrant to study an anomalous gradient in the curvature of space that their ship will pass by in six months. Meanwhile, Neelix is busy helping the newlywed Tom Paris decide on where he and his new wife would want to spend their honeymoon. While Neelix offers holoprograms of exotic places in the universe, such as a mountain resort on the fifth moon of Cytrax with its reputed "auditory aphrodisiac" cricket songs and the beaches of Ahmedeen with its seas of liquid argon, Tom is hoping for his honeymoon to be a little more "down to earth", as in being on Earth during the 1920s in Chicago. As B'Elanna prepares Seven to take care of main Engineering while she is on her honeymoon, a strange reading is picked up in a Jefferies tube underneath engineering. A tricorder scan of that section reveals that it is losing molecular cohesion. The crew suspect that their new enhanced warp drive is causing subspace radiation that is somehow breaking down the molecular bonds in all surrounding sections. Even taking the warp core offline doesn't stop the problem. Janeway orders B'Elanna to try isolating the cause of this problem and to stabilize the affected areas.

After examining the warp field's schematics and finding no solution to the problem, B'Elanna finds herself shivering, even though the room temperature hasn't changed. She goes checking herself in the bathroom mirror when she notices an erupting blotch on her face. By the time Tom arrives at their quarters for dinner, he finds that B'Elanna has become violently ill and takes her to sickbay, where some of the crew are being treated for the same conditions. The Doctor finds out that she is dying of acute cellular degradation, another effect of the radiation. The engineering crew is showing the first signs of this degradation, but The Doctor soon discovers that the rest of the crew is also affected, including the captain. Comforting his wife, Paris tells her about his plans for their honeymoon at the Graystone Hotel, but she dies moments later, despite all attempts of reviving her.

After discovering that items brought on board in the past few months are not degrading with the rest of Voyager and her crew, Chakotay and Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok backtrack Voyager's course over the past year to see if there is anything that could be causing the degradation. They come upon the encounter of the biomimetic lifeforms created by the "Silver Blood" on the Demon Class planet in the Vaskan sector, which they naturally assumed they had left behind on the planet after their encounter with them. However, in a test where B'Elanna's body is injected with a dichromate catalyst, the results show that she was a biomimetic copy. In fact, every member of the crew and Voyager itself are biomimetic copies whose memories have been copied from the originals – part of why the crew doesn't remember being copies – and the warp drive radiation, though harmless to humanoids, is killing them.

Janeway decides that despite their perilous state, their goal is still to return to Earth instead of going back to the Demon planet, which Tuvok believes would stop the degradation. Some, especially Paris, disagree with keeping to the original Voyager's mission, but the crew follows their captain's orders to at least locate the closest Class Y planet from their current position to make repairs before resuming their course to the Alpha Quadrant. Environmental controls are adjusted to simulate a Class Y atmosphere. The Doctor, meanwhile, suggests to the mimetic Janeway to find the real Voyager so that the duplicate crew could copy the original crew's genetic patterns to prevent further degradation, but Janeway dismisses the idea as impractical as they are unaware of Voyager's position in relation to their own.

A Class-Y planet is located, and upon arriving, Voyager commences landing procedures. A mining starship, however, arrives and states that the planet resides under the Ord'mirit Mining Treaty and threatens to destroy Voyager unless they leave. After Voyager's weapons prove ineffective, Tuvok suggests a way to destroy the mining vessel, but Janeway orders the landing canceled, reminding the crew they are still Starfleet officers. She has them send a distress signal on all bands in the hopes that the real Voyager will find them while also maintaining their course to the Alpha Quadrant. Chakotay feels that their journey has gone far enough and bravely confronts Janeway in her ready room to express his and the remaining crew's desire of returning to their real home of the Demon planet. In the midst of the heated conversation, Chakotay's degeneration becomes critical and he is admitted to sickbay, only to die moments later. Realizing her error in judgment, Janeway decides then to follow her first officer's advice and turns the ship around, bringing back online the hazardous new warp drive and setting a course for the Demon planet.

Over time, many of the Voyager crew continue to fall apart and die as the ship suffers further degradation. The Doctor is now permanently offline due to the holo emitters no longer working, and with Paris' condition not improving, Neelix is now chosen to be the new Chief Medical Officer. Seven of Nine's modified nanoprobes are keeping the warp field stable, hopefully long enough for the ship to reach the Demon planet. Janeway orders the creation of a time capsule out of non-biomimetic materials to preserve the memory of the duplicate Voyager crew and what they have discovered and experienced on their journey. Then, suddenly the main deflector fails, and space dust begins to impact the hull. Harry Kim reinitializes the deflector in time to preserve the warp field, but as Neelix begins calls for celebration, the bridge crew discover that Janeway has died.

Continuing on, Kim takes command of Voyager, assisted by Seven, with Neelix tending to the dying crew remaining. The degradation has become so severe that life support begins to fail with less than ten hours left of air. Kim orders the time capsule launched, but because nearly all systems have failed, the launch fails, destroying the capsule and taking with it all record of the crew's adventures and existence.

Suddenly, a vessel is detected; it is the real Voyager. Kim attempts to hail them, but communications are out. They must drop to impulse to contact them, but the warp drive does not respond to controls. Kim orders the core ejected, causing the ship to spin out of control and tear itself apart.

Meanwhile, the original Voyager has detected the distress signal and is proceeding to its location. Upon arrival, the crew finds only formless debris. With no traces upon which to make further investigations, Janeway makes a note of the encounter in the ship's log, and the crew continue on their way home.

Log Entries

  • Captain's log, stardate 52586.3. We've had a lot to celebrate lately – Tom and B'Elanna's wedding, Ensign Harper's new baby, and the continued health of our enhanced warp drive, which has taken us within striking distance of home.
  • Computer, begin chief engineer's log, supplemental. I've spent the last four hours analyzing the warp field schematics. But I'm still no closer to finding out what's going wrong.
  • Captain's log, supplemental. We've lost 63 crewmen and our systems are continuing to fail. Though we're still five weeks away from the demon planet, we haven't given up hope.
  • (Log entry made by Harry Kim) Acting Captain's log, stardate 52597.4. Our situation's getting worse every day. More than 80% of the ship is uninhabitable. Most of the crew are gone. It seems less and less likely that the few of us left will reach our destination.
  • (Captain Kathryn Janeway's note in Voyager's record) We received a distress call at 0900 hours...arrived at the vessel's last known coordinates at 2120. The ship was destroyed. Cause unknown. No survivors.

Memorable Quotes

[Other than the last quote, all quotes are made by the biomimetic copies of the USS Voyager crew.]

"The idea is to shower the couple with a symbol of good fortune, not garnish them like a roast chicken."

- The Doctor, to Neelix on the ritual of tossing rice on a newly-wed couple


"Given the volatile nature of their relationship, one might have predicted homicide rather than matrimony."
"When it comes to affairs of the human heart, it is wise to look beyond logic."

- Seven of Nine and Tuvok, on Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres


"B'Elanna has asked me to forgo the rigors of Klingon painstiks in favor of a more traditional ceremony."
"They're saving the painstiks for the honeymoon.'"

- Captain Janeway and Harry Kim


"Congratulations."
"For what?"
"You may not want to know."

- The Doctor, Seven of Nine, and Tuvok, after Seven catches B'Elanna Torres's bouquet


"You stood by me when most people would have run for the nearest airlock. You were willing to see past my shortcomings, and take all the bumps and bruises that come along with it. You made me a better person, even though I put up one hell of a fight. I look forward to our journey together."

- B'Elanna Torres speaking her wedding vows to Tom Paris


"Just you, B'Elanna, and the crickets."
"Crickets?"
"Cytraxian crickets." (His voice gets very sly) "Their song is reputed to be an auditory aphrodisiac."
"Ah...well, between you and me, B'Elanna and I don't need aphrodisiacs."

- Neelix showing Lt. Paris a holoprogram of a mountain resort on the fifth moon of Cytrax.


"How's my old lady?"
"Well enough... to break your nose if you call me that again."

- Lt. Paris and Lt. Torres in sickbay as she undergoes cellular decay


"The holographic projectors in Sickbay went offline at 0300. We've lost the Doctor."

- Ensign Kim


"We've lost Commander Chakotay. Duplicate or not, he was real to me and he was a fine Starfleet officer, and he was a friend who wasn't afraid to let me know when I am wrong."

- Captain Janeway informing the crew that Chakotay is dead.


"We received a distress call at 0900 hours...arrived at the vessel's last known coordinates at 2120. The ship was destroyed. Cause unknown. No survivors."

- The original Captain Janeway

Background Information

Story and Production

  • This episode is a sequel to the fourth season outing "Demon", which ends with the biomimetic duplicates of Voyager's crew being left – by the real Voyager – on the "demon class" planet referenced and seen here. Supervising Producer Joe Menosky reflected, "Bryan Fuller came up with the idea, what if we followed the adventures of those people that we left on the Demon planet?" The idea for the mimetic aliens had originally been the subject of a proposed two-parter that had an entirely different storyline (in which the crew of doppelgängers reached Earth), was often considered but was ultimately never produced. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 49)
  • After Bryan Fuller thought up the story idea for this installment, Brannon Braga forwarded the plot. Supervising Producer Kenneth Biller recalled, "Brannon wanted to do a tragedy about these people who are struggling to come to terms with who they were, and what home meant, and trying to embody the impossible images of these people who they've been created to resemble." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50) Teleplay co-writer Nick Sagan – despite not being a particularly big fan of the episode "Demon" – was, like Braga, enthusiastic about revisiting the deceptively alien characters and believed that this was generally also true of the other members of Star Trek: Voyager's writing staff. "In terms of how it got started [...] we sort of liked the idea of picking up the mimetic crew, and finding out whatever happened to them," Sagan remarked. Earlier in the fifth season, Fuller and Sagan had worked in unison on the episode "Gravity", an experience which influenced their decision to collaborate again. Sagan explained, "Because Bryan and I had [...] started writing together, I was brought in to work on ['Course: Oblivion']." [1] Fuller enjoyed this writing partnership, once describing it as "a great collaboration." (Star Trek Magazine issue 114, p. 34)
  • Settling upon a conclusion for the episode involved some debate. "There was some discussion about whether it was too bleak at the end," said Ken Biller. "I had written a version where they actually get that time capsule out. The real Voyager does come along, and the [duplicate] ship is gone, but they find the time capsule." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50) Nick Sagan, a supporter of ending some episodes tragically, offered, "There was some resistance [to the final version of this episode's conclusion]. One of the original things we talked about was that our Voyager would originally make contact with them. It would be a moment that would lead it a little bit more towards conventional Trek, like encountering aliens, and then, oh my gosh, there's a moment of understanding. I was adamant about the importance of the near miss, that they don't actually meet, sort of 'There before the grace of God go I.'" [2]
  • The writers also wanted to leave certain issues unresolved. "We didn't want to answer a lot of questions," Ken Biller stated, "like, how long has that ship been out there? Some of the episodes that we saw earlier in the season, was it that crew? Or was it the real crew? It's kind of intriguing to think about." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 50)
  • Nick Sagan enjoyed writing for a group of characters that were extremely similar to but not the same as the regular Voyager crew. He reminisced, "One of the great things about 'Course: Oblivion' [was] that you could do whatever you wanted to do, because they're not the real crew." [3]
  • Paris actor Robert Duncan McNeill liked that this episode apparently begins with the wedding of his character and B'Elanna Torres before revealing their true alien nature. McNeill described this deception as "a classic sci-fi thing" and opined that the installment also has "a real tragic ending." He concluded by saying of the episode, "It's an interesting way to deal with the relationship, and refer to it but not have to live with it forever." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 52)
  • Anson Williams directed this episode with prior experience of having worked on visualizing biomimetic lifeforms, as "Demon" was also directed by him.
  • This episode is a "bottle show". (citation needededit)

Continuity and Trivia

  • This is one of the rare episodes of the entire Star Trek franchise which don't feature any credited guest stars, with the credits proceeding straight into the production staff after the opening titles.
  • This is also one of the rare episodes where the story is not about any of the main characters, since the main characters only appear in the last minute of the episode.
  • The mimetic copy of Paris retains his position as Lieutenant, having not experienced the events of "Thirty Days", in which the real Paris is demoted to Ensign.
  • At some point between "Demon" and this episode, the mimetic beings were able to adapt to a different atmosphere than the one found on a Class Y planet. While in "Demon" they suffocated in a nitrogen-oxygen atmosphere, in this episode it is said that Neelix harvested vegetables on another planet.
  • Preparing to land Voyager, the mimetic Janeway orders red alert instead of the condition blue established in previous landings, though this could be due to the more heightened danger present in this landing.
  • This episode features the fourth time Voyager (or, in this case, its exact facsimile) is completely destroyed. "Course: Oblivion" also includes the seventh of many times Janeway "dies" in the series. On this occasion, her biomimetic copy succumbs to the enhanced warp-drive radiation.

Reception and Aftermath

  • This episode is somewhat controversial, particularly its relevance or lack thereof. "I think it's an episode people either love or hate," observed Nick Sagan. "The 'hate' category seems to say, 'Why do we follow a crew that isn't even our regular crew?' and they feel cheated. But it really is the story about the poignancy of Voyager's journey. There's something about trying really hard and not being quite able to achieve it, which is a reality to a lot of people [....] [The episode's] about a need to be remembered, a need to be recorded, and that's the special tragedy about making a log, a kind of capsule – we know that the 'Demon' crew dies. It's about loss and remembering, death and grief." Sagan was personally very pleased with this installment. "It's one of those wonderful 'What if?' episodes," he enthused. "And one of the things that I liked about the episode is that here's a couple [namely, Tom Paris and B'Elanna Torres] and they've been trying to get together for the longest time and they're not able to achieve it – but the mimetics are able to achieve it. There's something about that crew that I like in many ways more than the real crew. They're trying to be the best that they can possibly be, and it's just unfortunate that they're very good at what they are, but they're not real [....] The scene where [the mimetic Torres] dies I find is a very moving scene [....] It's great to see [her wedding to the Tom Paris duplicate], because it adds something to the chronology, even if it isn't real." Sagan also remarked that he considers the death of the mimetic Torres on a par with a scene from the earlier Season 5 outing "Drone", in which the Borg drone designated One dies. [4]
  • Bryan Fuller was also satisfied with this episode, remarking that he "loved" it. (Star Trek Magazine issue 114, p. 34)
  • Another writing staffer who, like Nick Sagan, was particularly appreciative of some parts of the installment was Ken Biller. "There were a few scenes where I thought it was really emotionally powerful," he said, "like when Chakotay died, and Janeway decides that she's going to take his advice." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, pp. 49-50)
  • A script from this episode was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay. [5]

Video and DVD releases

Links and References

Starring

Also starring

Uncredited co-star

References

Alpha Quadrant; aphrodisiac; Ahmedeen; antineutron; argon; biomimetic lifeform; biomolecular enhancer; bouquet; champagne; Charleston; Chicago; chicken paprikash; chromosome; class Y planet; comet; cortical stimulator; Cytrax; Cytraxian cricket; Delta Quadrant; deuterium; deuterium manifold; dichromate; dilithium matrix; direct neural resequencing; Duesenberg; Earth; enhanced warp drive; exhaust manifold; Federation; field medic; Graystone Hotel; Green Mill;Harper; Hazari ale; hydrogen sulfate; Indiana; injector port; iso-synaptic pulse; isolitic converter; Jefferies tube; Klingon; Kmada; launch sequencer; logic; message buoy; micron; Michigan Avenue; Milky Way Galaxy; millijoule; N'Kree; nanoprobe; Ord'mirit Mining Treaty; Ord'mirit mining vessel; particle accelerator; Podaris sector; polaron; reaction chamber; red alert; rescue team; rice; silicate; Silver Blood; Starfleet Academy; subspace radiation; subspace transceiver; theta radiation; trilithium; Vaskan sector; warp core ejection system; warp field; wind surfing


Previous episode:
"The Disease"
Star Trek: Voyager
Season 5
Next episode:
"The Fight"

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