(written from a Production point of view)
|VOY, Episode 3x12|
Production number: 154
First aired: 11 December 1996
|←||53rd of 168 produced in VOY||→|
|←||53rd of 168 released in VOY||→|
|←||444th of 728 released in all||→|
| Written By|
When viruses grow to a meter in length and begin attacking the crew of Voyager, Captain Janeway and The Doctor must retake the ship.
- "Captain's log, stardate 50425.1. Mr. Neelix and I have completed our three day trade mission with the Tak Tak, one of the more... unusual species we've encountered in the Delta Quadrant. We are en route back to USS Voyager."
After returning from a difficult first contact and trade mission with the Tak Tak, Captain Janeway and Neelix return to Voyager on a shuttle. The captain had unintentionally insulted the Tak Tak out of her habit of putting her hands on her hips, which happens to be one of the worst insults in Tak Tak culture. Fortunately, Neelix was able to resolve the situation. Janeway says that she might have to promote Neelix from morale officer to ambassador, while Neelix is thrilled at the idea of being an ambassador. The shuttle arrives at the rendezvous coordinates, but Voyager is nowhere to be seen. Long-range sensors indicates that Voyager is over a light-year away and the ship appears to be adrift in space. After the shuttle arrives at Voyager's position while hailing the ship a number of times to no avail, they land the shuttle, and attempt to investigate the problem.
Moving around the ship, they discover that the crew are nowhere to be seen and still no one is responding on the communication systems. They are also disturbed to find tools where a crewmember was performing maintenance, meaning that he or she simply dropped what they were doing and ran. They find Samantha Wildman's quarters deserted and hear a buzz in the corridor. They emerge just in time to see the shadow of something. They hear a loud crash and find a hole punched in a transporter pad, a hole with slime in it.
Now armed with phasers, they both head in the direction of the bridge. However, while traveling in a turbolift, a tendril suddenly bursts through the bulkhead and squirts Neelix with some kind of fluid. The two abandon the turbolift and attempt to reach the bridge through a Jefferies tubes and Neelix begins to feel very ill. Janeway turns her back for a few seconds and something begins to approach the Talaxian. Janeway hears a scream and when she returns to the place she left Neelix, she is horrified to find him gone.
Now alone, Janeway heads to the weapons locker in engineering, removes her uniform jacket, and equips herself with a phaser rifle, a knife, and other tools. She heads for the bridge and is able to access internal sensors and determines the crew is being kept in the mess hall and the cargo bays. While she is checking the sensors, however, the camera takes the point-of-view of something small that buzzes towards her unnoticed and stings her left upper arm. Janeway slaps at the sting on reflex, finding she has crushed a small organism about the size of a house fly. She decides to head to the mess hall.
In the mess hall, Janeway finds a large number of the crew all grouped together, including Commander Chakotay and Ensign Harry Kim. Janeway notices some sort of growth on the side of Chakotay's neck, from which more organisms exit. Suddenly, Janeway is attacked by a large, multi-tendriled creature. She is able to destroy it, but is now beginning to feel the same symptoms that Neelix felt earlier. Janeway heads for sickbay. When she finally pries the doors open, The Doctor sticks a phaser at her chin before realizing who it is.
While performing minor surgery on Janeway's cracked ribs (sustained while destroying the creature in the mess hall), The Doctor explains what happened while she and Neelix were away. Voyager received a distress call from a Garan mining colony located on a planet three hours away. The aliens had suffered some sort of disease that had incapacitated almost their entire population. Eager to try out his mobile emitter on his first away mission, The Doctor beamed down to the planet's surface and attempted to heal the aliens. Once with the aliens, he discovered that they were being attacked by a unique form of virus that could use its victim's own tissues to grow so large they could be seen with the naked eye – something totally new and very dangerous.
Having discovered that there was nothing he could do for them without his lab, The Doctor returned to the ship with only his medical tricorder data – as Chakotay refused to have a viral sample brought on board – and purged a few of the viruses that were captured in the transporter's bio-filter on his beam up, not realizing that one of the macroviruses had enough time between the beam up and the purge to escape the transporter system into an ajacent system. While The Doctor was working on the antigen, Lieutenant jg B'Elanna Torres discovered that one of the bio-neural gel packs in the mess hall had become infected and it subsequently burst all over her hand, releasing the virus.
The Doctor finishes surgery on Janeway before confirming that she, too, has been infected by the macrovirus, using his newly-completed (but untested on live subjects) antigen on her. He then continues explaining what happened after Torres was exposed to the virus. It wasn't long before the crewmembers in the mess hall were seriously ill, sparking a Level 4 quarantine on deck 2. The Doctor took a specimen for examination and testing of the antigen. Even though he had now completed the antidote, The Doctor was unable to leave sickbay as the virus was attracted to the infrared signature his holographic body gave off, continually attacking his mobile emitter. Before long, the macroviruses broke out of deck 2 and overwhelmed the ship.
As The Doctor finishes his explanation, several macroviruses attempt to break through the door to sickbay.
The antigen is a success – Janeway has now been cured of the virus. They decide to distribute the antidote in gaseous form using the environmental systems. Janeway and The Doctor take separate routes to the environmental controls. However, the virus attacks The Doctor's emitter again and he is forced to take refuge in a shuttlecraft in the shuttlebay.
Suddenly, the ship is rocked by fire from an approaching starship. The Tak Tak consul Janeway had been speaking to recently begins to fire on Voyager. Janeway hails the Tak Tak vessel and demands to know why he had attacked Voyager. He explains that he had discovered that Voyager was infected with the macrovirus and he has orders to "purify" them at all costs. He also tells her that he has already "purified" the Garan mining colony by destroying them. He then explains that the Tak Tak has had problems with this virus before, but never found a cure, and that they have to destroy Voyager to prevent the virus from spreading.
Janeway pleads with the Tak Tak to stop firing on her ship, mentioning that a cure has been developed and she is willing to share it with them after the crew is cured. He agrees, skeptically, but gives her only one hour to administer the cure. However, main power is off all over the ship and with the Tak Tak weapons fire having disabled the environmental systems, the only things working are items with independent power systems like the shuttlecraft, life support and holodecks. Janeway remembers that the virus is attracted to infrared signatures and lures all the viruses to the holodeck where Janeway has programmed the holo-characters in the Paxau Resort holoprogram to react to the virus infection. With the way clear, The Doctor rushes off to administer the antigen to the crew. Janeway then throws an antigen bomb into the holodeck, destroying it and the virus. The Tak Tak are appeased by her solution and end their attack as Janeway promises to share the antidote with them.
The crew is swiftly returned to full health and Voyager resumes on her course. Janeway is working on a painting in her ready room while Chakotay is updating her on the ship's repair status. Chakotay invited her to join him and a few of the crew members to go skiing on holodeck. Janeway declines, saying that she has had enough of a workout for the time being.
"I may never put my hands on my hips again."
"You had no way of knowing you were making one of the worst insults possible."
- - Captain Janeway and Neelix, on her habit of putting her hands on her hips
"Grab a phaser, Ambassador. We're going to get some answers."
- - Janeway, to Neelix when they come across Voyager adrift
"You've got a high fever, fluid in your lungs."
- - Captain Janeway, with Neelix as he starts to feel the effect of the virus' attack.
"As for the larger versions of the virus – what I have termed the macrovirus - I would suggest a flyswatter."
- - The Doctor on one possible means of defense
"Well... one down, ten billion to go."
- - The Doctor
"The heating array overloaded. It incinerated a twelve-kilo pot roast and all the food replicators went offline."
"Hmm, looks delicious."
- - Tom Paris explaining galley difficulties with B'Elanna Torres
"You don't want to know..."
- - Tom Paris and The Doctor, in the mess hall hearing macroviruses at the door
"We'll be right with you..."
- - Captain Janeway, with The Doctor, to the viruses pounding on the door of sickbay as the two prepare to leave
"I've been studying the ship's infrastructure and I'm familiar with most of it, but how do I get there from here?"
"Jefferies tube 11, take a left to section 31 and straight down past the tractor beam emitter until you hit deck 10. Get out of section 3 and follow the corridor all the way around until..."
"...until I hit the shuttle bay. Then I crawl through access port 9, go past three air locks and then two decks down. Environmental control is at the end of the hall. Now I remember! ...who designed this ship anyway?!?"
- - The Doctor and Captain Janeway
(after terminating communication) "Good health."
- - Tak Tak consul and Janeway, with her hands on her hips
Story, script, and cast
- The inspiration for the Tak Tak's unique form of body language was the fact that Kate Mulgrew, as Janeway, had a habit of placing her hands on her hips. (A Vision of the Future - Star Trek: Voyager) Thus, it is an inside joke in this episode when Janeway and Neelix refer to the gesture as a gross insult to the Tak Tak.
- Concerning the circumstances involving the writers' inspiration for Janeway's energized activity here, Kate Mulgrew deadpanned, "Well, they saw my muscles... and knew they couldn't live without them." Laughing, she admitted, "Hardly! Hardly!" (VOY Season 3 DVD special features) The episode actually came about as an effort to avoid any heavy-handed dialogue. Episode writer Brannon Braga commented, "Sometimes Star Trek can be a little high-and-mighty, talky, moralistic. Sometimes it's just time to have fun. The intention actually began, on my part, to do an episode with no dialogue. I wanted to just do a purely cinematic episode with Janeway and a bunch of weird creatures, these macroviruses, viruses as life-sized creatures. Unfortunately it was impossible to do, and I ended up having to put a couple of acts of dialogue in. I just wanted to do something that felt and looked and smelled differently than most shows." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 100)
- The episode's final script draft was submitted on 19 September 1996. 
- The action in this episode is so prominent that executive producer Jeri Taylor noted, "The story is basically Janeway as Rambo." (Star Trek Monthly issue 23) The episode's depiction of Janeway has also been compared to the character of Ripley from the Alien film series. Kate Mulgrew joked, "It was Sigourney Weaver time." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 84) However, Brannon Braga clarified, "It was not an attempt to make Janeway look like Ripley." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 100)
- Kate Mulgrew was reluctant to play such an action-oriented Janeway as this episode required. Remembering this issue, she said of the writers, "They pushed that at me. 'Macrocosm', or whatever.... 'C'mon, let's get Janeway on the bridge, let's get those [viruses], let's give her a gun', and I said [in an unenthusiastic voice], 'Well, alright!' And it worked, and everybody loved it. I'm rather agile, and I look athletic, although I'm not in the least, and they loved it. However, that's not my.... those are not my favorite episodes." (VOY Season 3 DVD special features) Nevertheless, she did enjoy the filming of this installment. "It was a lot of fun to shoot," she recalled. "I'm very strong and I'm very physical. To run and jump and do my own stunts was great fun." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 84) Mulgrew also liked the way that Janeway is portrayed, herein. "It was a fresh start for Janeway," the actress related. "I think it showed her capacity for robustness, and I had a ball with that. She often doesn't get to exercise that part of herself." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 86)
- Due to delays and scheduling problems, the production of this episode was allocated only six days rather than the typical seven. On the first day of the episode's production period, eight scenes were scheduled to be shot, involving six members of the cast and including the last-filmed scene of the previous episode, "The Q and the Grey". (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 61)
- The cast and crew filmed all of the installment's bridge scenes on Paramount Stage 8 on that first shooting day. During this time, the Paramount Pictures lot was extremely busy and work was proceeding at a swift pace. Star Trek Monthly reporter James Swallow arrived on Stage 8, moments before one of the bridge scenes finished filming; the scene involved script supervisor Cosmo Genovese reading several technobabble-laden lines of dialogue to Chakotay actor Robert Beltran in lieu of The Doctor's comm voice, and both Genovese as well as Beltran somewhat struggled with the dialogue before director Alexander Singer called, "Cut!" The camera was then repositioned to shoot another angle on the bridge, while Beltran took a snack from the craft services table, teasingly sang, "I've got the Tabasco sauce!" and was closely followed over to the table by Neelix actor Ethan Phillips. (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 61-62)
- At one point, Tuvok actor Tim Russ stepped outside the confines of the stage for a breather, snacked on an apple and was interviewed by James Swallow. (Star Trek Monthly issue 25, p. 11)
- Once the next shot was satisfactorily filmed, Kim actor Garrett Wang headed away to another appointment. While Tim Russ and Paris actor Robert Duncan McNeill joked about and not only McNeill but also Torres actress Roxann Dawson took an interest in the directing of the episode, the camera and lighting equipment were shifted over to the mess hall set (also on Stage 8), in preparation for filming Neelix's "Good Morning, Voyager" monologue and Kate Mulgrew arrived, ready for a costume fitting, and chatted about the week's work ahead of her. As the bridge scenes were complete, Beltran, Russ, and McNeill departed from the lot. (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 62)
- The production then proceeded with filming of the Neelix speech, for which actor Ethan Phillips delivered his lines alone in the mess hall. Despite some of the monologue being tech-heavy, the Neelix footage was completed after a few takes. (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 62)
- Subsequently, the production crew, Kate Mulgrew, Ethan Phillips, and James Swallow relocated to the adjacent Paramount Stage 9, where the first scene of the episode's first act was to be filmed. Swallow found that the unused sickbay set was doubling as a temporary storage room for lighting equipment while the warp core in the Engineering set was unlit, with a bicycle – belonging to one of the production staffers – hidden in a nearby alcove. By now, Kate Mulgrew was in uniform and a small electric fan was cooling Ethan Phillips down. They rehearsed their lines in the shuttlebay set as Mulgrew checked two props she had been equipped with; a phaser and a tricorder. With each of the two performers armed with a phaser prop, they began filming the scene. An optical effects shot was due to be filmed in Stage 9's transporter room set, later that day. (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 62)
- The macroviruses in this episode were based on real algae. Visual effects producer Dan Curry explained, "When we were coming up with the design of those, I was inspired by the design of diatoms, which is a microscopic organism on Earth that is used as part of a swimming pool filter system, diatomaceous earth. And to make them look nasty and threatening, instead of having the normal rigid exoskeleton that a real diatom has, we changed the prongs on its tetrahedral shape to grasping tentacles." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- The macroviruses were generated entirely by CGI, employing the same technique used to create the Hanonian land eel in the second season finale "Basics, Part I" and the third season opener "Basics, Part II". However, the CG designs here are more prominent than in those earlier installments. Prior to the original airing of this episode (at a point when she had only seen sketches of the macroviruses and did not yet firmly know how their ultimate form would look), Jeri Taylor commented, "'Macrocosm' is our first foray into a heavily CGI alien story. In other words, we have non-humanoid aliens invading the ship, and they have all been done with computer generation, so this is kind of an experiment for us." The test, specifically, was seeing how a mixture of traditional live-action alien designs, such as that of the Tak Tak, and CGI alien creations might turn out. Regarding the macroviruses, Taylor explained, "It's enormously expensive to get computer forms like this of a quality that we find acceptable, which is why we haven't really done it before, but in this episode everybody's budget went to opticals. So if we're pleased with the result, then, yes, I imagine you will see more [CGI aliens]." Taylor also stated that, to afford the expense of showing non-humanoid aliens, "we have to have a story that doesn't require set construction, heavy cast, heavy hair and makeup, that sort of thing." She added, "We had to use every cent for these opticals." (Star Trek Monthly issue 23) Visual effects supervisor Ronald B. Moore remarked, "The biggest thing was that we were going into CG and just try to make these things act in places where we couldn't do it with anything that was real, which happened more often than not [....] This one was a little easier [than a lot of CGI] because they weren't people, they weren't talking and that kind of stuff, but they were floating around." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 3 DVD special features) CGI Effects Director Ron Thornton said of the macroviruses, "It's nice to be asked to do something that hasn't been seen before, because that's what you want to do when you're in FX. That was a step forward." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #16)
- The small, fly-like version of the viruses was created by Harry animator Greg Rainoff at Digital Magic. Rainoff also added shadows to make the CGI look more real. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 98)
- To stand-in for the CGI viruses during production, Styrofoam mock-ups of the creatures were sculpted by Dick Brownfield. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 98)
- This episode is one of several that were originally budgeted for far less hours of visual effects work than was ultimately needed; in this case, every visual effects shot in the episode was budgeted for two hours but actually took six hours. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 98)
- To capture certain shots of the macroviruses being splatted, the crew spent time exploding some of the alien mock-ups. Ron Moore recalled, "[We] filled them up with goo, disgusting goo, out on the back lot here one day, and filled them all up with explosives. I had them hose down the blue screen so it was wet. Goo went everywhere." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 98) Moore also remembered, "I really enjoyed it, going outside; just out on the back lot, one time. We took a blue screen and we hung it up, and we got to take these creatures and fill them up with slime and explosives. And we just spent the day blowing them up. It was terrific. I mean, we had guts and stuff, slime... everywhere. We shot them inside of a Jefferies tube we had made, and we just hung them up on the wall. There were people all over the lot coming and watching as we'd blow these things up; it was just terrific fun." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- When one of the small viruses is viewed under a microscope, a magnified view of the virus incorporates not only the CGI virus but also graphics that were done by Michael Okuda. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 98)
- The scene near the end of this episode where one of the macroviruses pins Janeway to the deck, as she struggles to protect herself from it, is one of the sequences that – although involving the CGI macrovirus – was filmed with on-set elements that stood-in for the alien. Dan Curry noted, "In order to enable us to have an animated virus moving around and threatening her, we planned to do that with a computer-generated virus." One of the on-set elements used was a full-scale stinger mock-up that the effects team constructed. Curry recalled, "Just out of frame, I was standing with [the mock-up], making sure I didn't hit her in the face, but poking near her so Kate could avoid [...] it. When [the scene] was all done, we had a lot of laughs because [the mock-up is] certainly bizarre and very unpleasant-looking." The same scene continues with Janeway stabbing the attacking macrovirus. Regarding the filming of this moment, Curry explained, "So Kate could have something to stab and let go of the knife, what we did was mounted a Styrofoam ball painted blue, on a stick. So I stood there holding the ball on a stick and then Kate could stab the ball and let go of the knife, so we could have the real knife in Kate's hand sticking inside a computer-generated virus." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 3 DVD special features) Kate Mulgrew herself appreciated that Dan Curry went to such efforts. After praising him as "one of the best special effects guys in the business", Mulgrew continued, "When he directs me, for instance, wrestling with a macrocosm, we do it on a big board. He draws it for me, because there is nothing there. Or he'll make a big blue ball for me to pretend is the virus." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 86) Ron Thorton enjoyed the process of completing the effects for the fight sequence. He noted, "It was fun doing the match-move of the creature that grabs hold of Janeway [...] because it was very difficult making sure that the creature was absolutely matched with her motion." (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #16)
- Also according to Ron Thornton, the effects personnel were dissatisfied with the effects of this episode in general. He stated, "I don't think any of us were really that pleased with 'Macrocosm.'" (The Official Star Trek: Voyager Magazine, issue #16) The producers felt differently, however. At the end of the third season, Brannon Braga noted about the macroviruses, "I thought they were cool; our effects are steadily getting better and better." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 100) Ron Moore was also ultimately pleased with the effects work on this episode and discovered that Jeri Taylor was, too. Moore noted of the installment, "Ron Thornton did a really good job on this one." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 98) Regarding the macrovirus design, Moore remarked, "I think it worked out pretty well [....] The important thing is, when the show was all done and we got it, it's like anything else – you get done with it, and you see all the things we could have done better. But Jeri Taylor came up to me one day and said, 'It worked. We've got it. This is a much better creature than we've seen before.'" (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 3 DVD special features) Taylor also stated, "I thought 'Macrocosm' looked smashing." (Star Trek Monthly issue 31, p. 12)
- Despite this episode's major use of CGI, Dan Curry once noted that even this installment could have been done a few years beforehand, using only traditional effects methods. (Star Trek Monthly issue 31, p. 21)
Continuity and trivia
- Neelix's "Good Morning, Voyager" show in this episode appears to be the same program as A Briefing with Neelix, which appears in the second season Voyager episode "Investigations". According to "Macrocosm"'s shooting script, Neelix talks, in the program here, about some "interesting space anomalies in the coming weeks," mentioning an inversion nebula. (Star Trek: Voyager Companion) Voyager encounters such a nebula in the next Voyager episode to be produced, "Alter Ego".
- Some continuity points in this episode include a reference to "Neelix's missing lung" (referencing events of VOY: "Phage") and that holodecks run on a separate power source (as is established in VOY: "Parallax").
- This episode features the first appearance of (non-compression) phaser rifles in Star Trek: Voyager.
Reception and aftermath
- This episode achieved a Nielsen rating of 4.9 million homes, and an 8% share. 
- Cinefantastique rated this episode 3 out of 4 stars. (Cinefantastique, Vol. 29, No. 6/7, p. 98)
- Star Trek Monthly scored this episode 3 out of 5 stars, defined as "Warp Speed". (Star Trek Monthly issue 27, p. 60)
- The unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 159) gives this installment a rating of 7 out of 10.
- The success of this episode and, in particular, its CGI macroviruses paved the way for Species 8472 at the end of the third season in "Scorpion". Ron Moore said of the macrovirus design herein, "It gave [Jeri Taylor] the confidence to write some scripts that I think.... I think it was the basis of 8472 [....] So, I look back.... 'Macrocosm' had given us the chance to do stuff like 8472." (Red Alert: Amazing Visual Effects, VOY Season 3 DVD special features)
- Among the costumes and items from this episode which were sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay was the costume of Albie Selznick (as the unnamed Tak Tak consul). 
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 3.6, 5 May 1997
- As part of the VOY Season 3 DVD collection
Links and references
- Carl David Burks as Lieutenant Russell
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Eric Hunter as a command division officer
- Louis Ortiz as Ensign Culhane
- Unknown performers as
ambassador; American Sign Language; amino acid; antigen bomb; biocontainment field; bioelectric interference; biofilter; dispersal node; dizziness; chromolinguistics; Delta Quadrant; dermal regenerator; extensor muscle; Federation; Gallagher; Garan; Good Morning, Voyager; granite; guinea pig; holodeck; Indiana; infrared radiation; Jefferies tube; Kaplan, Marie; Klingons; Ktarian; lavafly; level-3 force field; level 4 quarantine; Leyron; macrovirus; mess hall; micron; mucilaginous compound; myelin regenerator; pneumatic conduit; pot roast; protein; pyroclastic; red alert; replicator; Rinax marshlands; Rinax; Sector 38; skiing; synthetic antigen; Tak Tak; Tak Tak homeworld; Tak Tak starship; transporter buffer; tricorder; turbolift; turboshaft; warning buoy; Wildman, Naomi; Wildman, Samantha
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