(written from a Production point of view)
|VOY, Episode 5x20|
Production number: 214
First aired: 31 March 1999
|←||112th of 168 produced in VOY||→|
|←||112th of 168 released in VOY||→|
|←||563rd of 728 released in all||→|
| Teleplay By|
Rick Berman & Brannon Braga
A group of extremely intelligent aliens offers to help Voyager escape from a race of bounty hunters known as the Hazari, in exchange for Seven of Nine.
Saowin meets with an alien named Kurros, a member of a group of aliens which seeks out challenges and problems faced by others, and then solves them. Saowin thanks Kurros for solving a problem his world was facing – finding the precise harmonic for a planetary containment field – but says that, unfortunately, the bernicium mines were destroyed in a series of earthquakes, and the ore that had been promised as payment is lost. He hopes that Kurros will accept a rubidium geode, which is priceless. Kurros refuses, as his group detected the transport of the ore before the quakes. Saowin begs him to let his people keep the ore, as they need it for their replicator systems, without which they won't be able to feed their people. Kurros insists upon payment, threatening to deactivate the containment field, causing a large earthquake. Saowin accepts this and promises immediate transport of the ore.
Meanwhile, on USS Voyager, Captain Janeway is working on a difficult puzzle in her ready room. Seven of Nine enters and, after indicating she could solve the puzzle (which Janeway refuses as she wants to solve it herself), reports that long range scans have revealed a planetoid with high concentrations of dilithium crystals. She and Janeway head out to the bridge. As they approach the planetoid, they conduct more detailed scans, but a resonance wave suddenly builds up in the planetoid's core. Janeway orders that they back away from the planetoid, but within seconds the planetoid destabilizes and explodes. Voyager is trapped in a cloud of metreon gas, which has disabled warp and impulse engines. Suddenly, a heavily-armed Hazari vessel drops out of warp nearby. Seven explains that the Hazari are often hired as bounty hunters. They hail Voyager, demanding an immediate surrender. Janeway asks who hired them, but the Hazari refuse to answer. They move closer and lock a tractor beam onto Voyager, ignoring Janeway's threat that she will give the order to fire phasers, which could ignite the gas cloud. Janeway orders that warp energy be diverted to the shields, then orders Tuvok to fire the phasers into the gas cloud. The metreon ignites, and the blast throws Voyager clear and they are able to go to warp and escape. Janeway is concerned; the Hazari weren't that heavily damaged, so why aren't they following Voyager?
The answer is found in astrometrics: scans performed by Tuvok and Kim reveal the Hazari have reinforcements all throughout the sector, and they are converging on Voyager. Janeway wants to examine the data and see if she can develop a plan, although she spends several hours late at night in the deserted mess hall without much success. Neelix, who has been providing her with cup after cup of coffee, offers to act as a sounding board. Janeway explains the situation to him: the Hazari have anticipated almost every course of action, and Janeway is convinced that the few avenues of escape she has found are traps. Neelix leaves, but seconds later, Kurros appears in the mess hall. He tells Janeway that he is the solution to her problem.
Janeway calls for security, but Kurros has deactivated communications. He tells her that he's not an intruder, he's only an isomorphic projection, and that he is a member of a small group of beings who seek out problems to solve. Janeway calls the group a "think tank", a name which Kurros finds quite appropriate. He has come to offer their help to solve the Hazari problem. The price for the Think Tank's help is whatever Voyager has that is unique, sometimes it is not even something the people who are helped find valuable. Janeway suggests that Kurros might himself be a Hazari trap. Kurros gives Janeway a preliminary study of the tactical situation with the Hazari, which gets her attention. Janeway says she'll talk, but only in person. Kurros agrees, but asks Janeway to bring only one other person with her, and no scanning equipment. Janeway agrees, and Kurros leaves.
Voyager arrives at the coordinates specified by Kurros, and the Think Tank's ship decloaks. Their ship has technology more advanced than even the Borg. Janeway and Seven beam on board, where Kurros introduces them to the rest of the Think Tank; a humanoid alien whose language is too complex for the universal translator to translate, a lifeform that appears as a floating marine creature suspended in a fluid-filled tank, a bioplasmic lifeform and an artificial intelligence. They are able to communicate by means of a device which allows them to communicate telepathically. They have been able to help hundreds of clients, including the Vidiians, for whom they cured the Phage. Kurros also mentions the price they asked for to help the inhabitants of Rivos V resist the Borg - the recipe for their zoth-nut soup. Janeway introduces Seven, who Kurros quickly identifies as an ex-Borg. The artificial member of the Think Tank communicates with Seven regarding her Borg implants. Kurros says he believes that the Think Tank can solve the Hazari problem, thus the only question remaining is the payment. Janeway provides Kurros with Voyager's specifications, recommending the replicators as being very popular.
Back on Voyager, Chakotay delivers Janeway some bad news. Every possible escape route is a trap, and more Hazari vessels are joining the search for them. Janeway decides to put their own plans on hold and let the Think Tank develop a solution.
Shortly afterward, Kurros returns to Voyager in isomorphic form. He has compiled a short list of items he would like as payment, including the quantum slipstream drive, Neelix's recipe for chadre'kab, an ancient Olmec figurine belonging to Chakotay, and Seven of Nine.
Janeway speaks with Seven, asking for her opinion. Seven is willing to be used as payment if it will provide a solution to Voyager's problem, but Janeway is less than eager to surrender her. Going with the Think Tank would be a great opportunity for Seven, but Janeway doesn't like the idea of crew members being used as payment. Nevertheless, she says that it's not her place to decide - Seven has to make the choice. Seven decides to talk to Kurros about it before making a choice.
Meeting with Kurros, he explains to Seven why she was chosen as part of the payment. Seven has the collective knowledge of the Borg contained within a single mind, humility, high intelligence and enhancements afforded her by her Borg implants, and the Think Tank considers her an ideal candidate to join them. If so, she will be the first new member in seventeen years. Kurros tells her that with the Think Tank, she could become one of the greatest intellects in the galaxy. Seven is reluctant to leave Voyager, a position which Kurros understands, as he was recruited to the Think Tank in the same way and was faced with the same choice. Seven decides to remain on Voyager, but Kurros asks her to take more time to think about it. He says the Think Tank will remain nearby. At that moment, Voyager goes to red alert, and Tuvok calls Seven to the bridge. Kurros asks if he can accompany her, and Seven agrees.
When they arrive on the bridge, Janeway tells them that two Hazari ships have found Voyager and are closing in. Seven says she has declined the Think Tank's request. The Hazari drop out of warp and open fire. Voyager is unable to evade them, and their weapons are not damaging the Hazari shields. Kurros offers some free tactical advice, which enables Voyager to defeat the Hazari ships and escape. Janeway thanks Kurros for his help, and he responds that it was a gesture of goodwill in the hopes that Seven would change her mind. When Seven replies that she hasn't, Kurros tells her she is making a fatal mistake; the Think Tank has concluded that Voyager will not survive without their help. Janeway order the shields to be remodulated, which blocks Kurros' projection, and he vanishes from the ship. The Think Tank's ship vanishes as well.
Kurros informs the other members of the Think Tank that Seven has refused to join them. They decide that they will wait and let things play out for a little while longer. Sooner or later, they have concluded, Seven will join them.
A small Hazari ship enters a field of debris which has been created to make it appear that Voyager has been destroyed. Janeway orders spatial charges hidden in the debris field to be detonated, which heavily damages the Hazari vessel. Voyager emerges from hiding and uses the tractor beam to bring the Hazari ship into the shuttlebay. The two Hazari on board are beamed aboard. The crew has little luck getting information from the Hazari, and the vessel's database is difficult to access, but Chakotay is able to recover a series of transmissions that detailed information about Voyager. Whoever put out the bounty on Voyager knew a lot about the ship. Also found are some bioreadings, but they are scrambled. The Doctor is able to unscramble the readings and discovers that the bounty was placed by the Malon. Janeway is suspicious, however; they haven't encountered the Malon for months, and she doesn't think they'd hold such a grudge against Voyager. There's no profit in revenge. Janeway discovers an isomorphic signature embedded in the readings - it's a disguise. Restoring the original parameters gives the true appearance of the individual who placed the bounty on Voyager - it was Kurros.
Janeway speaks with the Hazari they captured, explaining that they are both being manipulated by the Think Tank. Janeway suggests that they work together - the Hazari are the best hunters in the quadrant, and Voyager has Seven, the perfect lure. The Hazari agree for the Think Tank had made numerous enemies and the bounty on them is more valuable. However, the Voyager crew working with the Hazari find it difficult to formulate a plan. They could try using the multispatial probe but it would take weeks to scout the area. Subspatial charges could force the Think Tank's vessel into the open, but they'd need to find the ship first, which is almost impossible with their advanced technology. After three hours, they have still made no progress. Janeway, fed up with the lack of answers, asks Seven to show her the answer to the puzzle that had her stumped earlier. Seven solves the puzzle in seconds by simply scanning it to see how it works instead of using trial and error to determine the operating principle. Janeway realizes that they shouldn't be trying to play by the Think Tank's rules; trying to out-think the Think Tank won't work. Instead, Janeway realizes that if Seven gets back on board the Think Tank's ship and interfaces with the device that allows for the Think Tank members to communicate telepathically, then Seven might be able to disrupt their communication, making them unable to function as a group. Seven will have to accept the Think Tank's offer in order to get on board.
The Think Tank receives a message from the Hazari vessel; they have discovered that the Think Tank hired them and are demanding that their bounty be tripled, or they will release Voyager. The Think Tank agrees to triple the bounty, provided that the Hazari deliver Voyager immediately. The Hazari agree to seize Voyager as planned.
Voyager is under heavy attack by the Hazari and their weapons are ineffective against them. Kurros appears in isomorphic form, and encourages Janeway to agree to release Seven. Chakotay reports that Seven has left Voyager on board a shuttlecraft, which is promptly pulled into subspace by the Think Tank. Kurros wishes Voyager a safe journey home, and vanishes.
On the Think Tank's vessel, Seven is welcomed by Kurros, but Seven says she is there because it was the only way to save Voyager. Kurros hails the Hazari, telling them to call off their attack on Voyager as they have what they want. The Hazari refuse, they want their compensation immediately or they will destroy Voyager. Kurros is suspicious. The Hazari seem to be in a hurry to get what they want. Seven demands that Kurros complies with the Hazari request, but Kurros realizes that if they decloak, they'll be vulnerable. He thinks it is a trap created by Janeway. If they call the Hazari's bluff, they might destroy Voyager, and the Think Tank would lose Seven. If they revealed themselves, they could be destroyed. However, Kurros has a way to determine the truth - link Seven to the Think Tank's communications system, and allow the robotic member of the Think Tank to probe her mind as it did before. But as soon as the connection is made, it activates Seven's neural transceiver, and Tuvok transmits a carrier wave which disrupts the Think Tank's communications device. Robbed of the ability to communicate, the Think Tank is unable to function. The Hazari fire spatial charges, and the Think Tank's vessel is pulled out of subspace. Seven is beamed back to Voyager. Kurros appears again, urging Janeway to reconsider. Finding her unreceptive to his pleas, he turns to Seven, telling her that she'll never be satisfied on Voyager, but she refuses by saying "acquiring knowledge is a worthy objective, but its pursuit has obviously not elevated you". The Think Tank has its own problem with the Hazari, but Janeway says she is confident they'll be able to find a solution - if they give it some thought.
The Hazari launch continuous torpedoes at the Think Tank destroying their communications array thus causing Kurros' hologram projection on Voyager to vanish. Parts of the Think Tank's vessel show higher than normal temperatures, an indication that a hull breach is unavoidable. The Think Tank's vessel fires back at the Hazari with multiple beam weapons. Voyager warps away, leaving the Hazari and the Think Tank to fight it out.
"Looks like they're calling your bluff, captain. It was a bluff, wasn't it?"
- - Tom Paris, to Kathryn Janeway
"There is nothing like a good problem to spark the synapses, is there?"
- - Kurros
"The size of the bounty is immaterial. According to Seven of Nine, the Hazari pride themselves on honoring their agreements."
"Great. Bounty hunters with a work ethic."
- - Tuvok and Harry Kim
"You have a problem, Captain... and I am the solution."
- - Kurros
"Should I have the Doctor prepare a hypospray?"
"So you can absorb the caffeine more directly. Save time."
- - Neelix and Janeway, regarding her coffee
"I thought we were onto something with B'Elanna's plan..."
"Forget it. I was wrong."
- - Neelix and B'Elanna Torres
"We have an old expression, Kurros. 'Don't call us; we'll call you.' "
- - Janeway
"Cheating is often more efficient."
- - Seven of Nine
"All we have to do now is … out-think the think tank."
- - Janeway, to Y'Sek
"Oh, I'm sure you'll find a solution. Just give it some … thought."
- - Janeway, to Kurros
- Although this episode's story is credited to Executive Producers Rick Berman and Brannon Braga, Supervising Producer Joe Menosky referred to it as having proceeded from a concept devised by only Braga. "That was an idea Brannon came up with," Menosky stated. He added, "[Michael] Taylor did a really wonderful first draft." Taylor himself said of the episode, "This is an intellectual puzzle, a game, which I hope we carry off well." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 51)
- Kurros actor Jason Alexander was previously a main cast member of Seinfeld, a series that Alexander comically referenced upon struggling with some of his dialogue. Michael Taylor offered, "At one point, he had trouble with some of the technical dialogue, and he started screaming, 'Jerry!'" (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 51)
- Michael Taylor was pleased with Jason Alexander's appearance as Kurros, believing it to be fortunately quite different from the actor's usual work. Laughing, Taylor said, "I think Jason did a very interesting turn as my lead villain in that show [....] For Jason Alexander's fans, it will be a chance to see him in a very different kind of role." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 51)
- Christopher Darga and Christopher Shea both appeared on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. They played Kaybok (in "The Way of the Warrior") and Keevan (in "Rocks and Shoals" and "The Magnificent Ferengi"), respectively.
- This episode was filmed from 7 to 15 January 1999. 
- When first approached by the Hazari ships, Chakotay wonders who it was that sent the Hazari after Voyager, referencing both the Malon and the Devore.
- The quantum slipstream drive from "Timeless" is one of the items demanded by the Think Tank.
- Kurros claims that the Think Tank eliminated the phage, a few months prior to this episode.
- The sounds that Paris' hand-held puzzle device Sheer lunacy play, when winning or losing, are similar to the sounds played by the gambling device from DS9: "Rivals".
- Joe Menosky was delighted with this episode, describing it as "very quirky, very great, really interesting characters." He also imagined it would appeal to children of about nine years old and fit "the perfection of a really good, stand-alone episode." "'Think Tank' is very much in that realm," Menosky declared, "this idea of a quirky group of extremely talented aliens who hire themselves out to people for strange payments in order to solve their problems. If I was nine or ten years old I would think, that's really cool, and I wish I was on that ship." (Cinefantastique, Vol. 31, No. 11, p. 51)
- Jason Alexander's costume was sold off on the It's A Wrap! sale and auction on eBay and the trousers were later re-used by background actor Patrick Barnitt in the Star Trek: Enterprise episode "Stigma". 
- The puzzle shown repeated in the episode is in the form of a truncated octahedron.
- When asked what he thought of this episode in a 2011 interview, Jason Alexander commented; "I thought it was really smart and dramatic and they used my best moments. I was thrilled with it." 
Video and DVD releases
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, CIC Video): Volume 5.10, 4 October 1999.
- As part of the VOY Season 5 DVD collection.
Links and references
- Robert Beltran as Commander Chakotay
- Roxann Dawson as Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres
- Robert Duncan McNeill as Ensign Tom Paris
- Ethan Phillips as Neelix
- Robert Picardo as The Doctor
- Tim Russ as Lieutenant Commander Tuvok
- Jeri Ryan as Seven of Nine
- Garrett Wang as Ensign Harry Kim
Special guest star
- Steven Dennis as Fennim
- Tarik Ergin as Ayala
- Unknown performers as:
2358; Alkian; Alkian confection; assimilation; Bara Plenum; bernicium; bionetic implant; bioplasmic lifeform; bluff; Borg; Borg sphere; bounty hunter; carrier wave; caffeine; chadre'kab; cortical implant; deflector array; Delta Quadrant; Devore; dilithium; dome; duranium; economics; exosociology; forensics; fractal regression; fractal sculpture; geode; geo-stability; gigaton; gigawatt; Hazari; Hazari shuttle; Hazari vessel; hypo; intruder alert; isomorphic projection; jackal; level-12 seismic event; Lyridian; Malon; metreon gas; Milky Way Galaxy; Motali; Motali Empire; multispatial probe; neural transceiver; neutronium; non-interference protocol; Olmec; paradox; phage; phase-variant frequency; phaser; phaser bank; planetary containment field; planetoid; Prime Directive; psychology; quantum mechanics; quantum slipstream technology; red alert; red alert; red giant; replicator systems; resonance wave; Rivos V; rubidium; Saowin's shuttle; sheer lunacy; shield generator; shield harmonics; spatial charge; subspace cloaking device; subspace flux; subspace mesomorph; subspatial charge; temporal physics; Think Tank; Think Tank vessel; transgalactic star chart; universal translator; Vidiian; Vulcan mind meld; yo-yo; Zai Cluster; zoth-nut soup
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