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Warhead (episode)

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Real World article
(written from a Production point of view)
"Warhead"
VOY, Episode 5x25
Production number: 219
First aired: 19 May 1999
117th of 168 produced in VOY
117th of 168 released in VOY
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 168 released in VOY Remastered  
574th of 728 released in all
Warhead torpedo
Teleplay By
Michael Taylor & Kenneth Biller

Story By
Brannon Braga

Directed By
John Kretchmer
Unknown (2376)
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A sentient alien missile takes over The Doctor's program and tries to carry out its mission of mass destruction.

Summary

Teaser

In the mess hall of Voyager, Neelix assists Tom Paris. Paris is trying to use the replicator to create gifts for B'Elanna Torres. He sends a food requisition to her quarters and replicates a bottle of wine and some flowers to carry with him. At this point, Kim enters to order a pot of coffee.

Harry has bridge duty for the fourth night in a row, he has been working the night shift as acting commander of the USS Voyager. He says this will build valuable command experience that will assist him later in his Starfleet career.

Jenkins

Helmsman Ensign Jenkins

On the bridge, everything is progressing as usual and Kim asks Ensign Jenkins, the helmsman, for an update. All of a sudden, Voyager receives an automated distress signal. Kim orders the necessary course alteration to investigate. The distress call is originating from a class M planet. Kim attempts to hail the originator of the signal, but they receive no response. They cannot detect any life signs.

Chakotay is informed of the distress signal, and places Harry in charge of the away team. He is accompanied by The Doctor and crewman Timothy Lang. When they beam down to the coordinates they find no evidence of any life. Kim orders the team to split up to cover more ground. The Doctor discovers a large metallic object protruding from a rock outcrop. As Kim scans it with a tricorder, its lights begin to blink and it makes some computerized sounds. They discover that it contains bio-neural circuitry. The object reactivates and proceeds to communicate with The Doctor, noting that many of its internal memory cores are damaged and cannot be accessed without reconstruction. The Doctor establishes a rapport with the intelligence and makes an appeal to Harry to try to help the intelligence regain its lost memory fragments.

Act One

After a bit of debate, and with The Doctor's insistence, the device is beamed aboard Voyager to salvage the device's artificial intelligence. It appears that the being is fully sentient, however it is housed in the body of some sort of device. The Doctor recommends that they not inform the device of its nature so as to spare it the psychological harm. When Voyager's day shift arrives on duty, Captain Janeway agrees with Kim's decision to beam the device to an engineering bay for analysis. The device states that it had a companion, but lost track of it on the planet. Janeway goes to astrometrics to attempt to locate it.

Meanwhile, The Doctor continues to get to know the alien intelligence. He takes this time to inform the device of its nature. It is startled to know that it is not a humanoid, it is a metallic cylinder.

In astrometrics, Seven of Nine is assisting the Captain in her search. They make a startling discovery on the planet's surface of a similar device causing an explosion, it is determined that the device is a warhead of mass destruction.

Act Two

In the briefing room there is a debate as to what should be done with the device, to still continue to salvage the intelligence, or to simply destroy the weapon. It is decided to try to salvage the intelligence, after The Doctor pleads passionately for its right to live. They must perform the complicated procedure of removing the intelligence from the warhead components. The Doctor suggests they download it into a holographic matrix like himself. After this procedure, they would attempt to contact the people who manufactured the warhead.

Ensign Kim and B'Elanna Torres begin the procedure to separate the intelligence. However, during the procedure, the device's auto-defense programming kicks in and the device arms itself. B'Elanna Torres makes an attempt, under Captain Janeway's orders, to disable the device by sending an EM pulse to shut it down. The device interprets this as an act of hostility, and unknown to Torres and the rest of the crew present during The procedure, the device's intelligence takes over The Doctor's holomatrix during the interlink operation. The Doctor's holomatrix is now controlled by the warhead.

The warhead intelligence then begins to take steps to protect itself from the crew, and makes its intentions known. It barricades itself along with Torres and Kim inside sickbay. It was a dormant warhead sent on a mission to destroy a military base, and it has now resumed that mission. The warhead intelligence threatens Voyager with destruction if the Captain doesn't comply with transporting the warhead to its destination. The warhead intelligence demands that Voyager alter course, taking them to its intended target, a military installation on Salina Prime, approximately 2.3 light years away from their current position.

Act Three

The captain refuses to comply with an alien warhead, getting involved in this species' affairs is a violation of the Prime Directive. However, with the only other option being destruction of Voyager, she must play along. The warhead's programming makes anything that stands in the way of its target an enemy. That includes Voyager and her crew.

Onquanii

The merchant known as Onquanii

Onquaniis ship

Onquanii's ship

As the bridge crew attempts to formulate a plan to disarm the weapon, Neelix enters with a possible option. He acquired a power node from a merchant named Onquanii recently. It has a similar configuration to the warhead, it could have been made by the same species. Chakotay orders scans of the area for his starship and an encoded message sent if he is located.

Meanwhile, the prisoners try to come up with their own plan to disarm the warhead. Harry is depressed because he feels that his actions directly caused the current situation. Kim goes to The Doctor/weapon to try to get him to change his mind. He cites the progress made by The Doctor as proof that AI can overcome initial programming boundaries.

Back on the bridge, a cloaked vessel that could be Onquanii arrives. It is him, and he says the weapon was created by the Druoda. He has studied them and their designs and wishes to come aboard. Later, in Main Engineering, the Captain negotiates with Onquanii. He informs them that he would be able to transport the warhead off of Voyager using his sophisticated dampening field. However, in return he requires the warhead, to sell or salvage the parts. The Captain agrees on the condition that he does not get the Energy Matrix, this way it could not be used as a weapon again. Onquanii refuses, saying the Energy Matrix is the most valuable component. Neelix tries to offer him more items, but he has made up his mind.

Onquanii beams back to his ship, and proceeds to open fire on Voyager. In the first volley, weapons and shields are disabled. The Doctor/weapon demands a report from the bridge. Onquanii tries to transport the warhead to his ship as he offered before, but it sends an antimatter surge back through the transporter beam. The attacking merchant vessel is destroyed.

Next, the crew attempts to devise a plan to infuse the warhead's bio-neural circuitry with Seven's Borg nanoprobes to disable it. The Captain orders comprehensive scans of the nearby minefields.

A fleet of similar warheads flies through space as one pulls up an image of Voyager. They all enter warp to intercept.

Act Four

Before the plan is enacted they must get Seven into sickbay, to do this they will lead the warhead to believe that Voyager has entered a minefield. Using inertial dampeners, Paris will simulate the damage, while sickbay is fed false sensor readings. They will make it look as if Seven was injured in a plasma explosion.

The warhead intelligence then insists that Kim and Torres attempt to reconstruct some memory fragments just before its crash landing. Some of the memory fragments reveal the accidental launch of the device, along with 33 other similar warheads. Despite this evidence, the intelligence is convinced that it must destroy its target. It believes the order to cease attack was faked by the enemy. During the reconstruction, they determine that the warhead was sent a command by its creators, the Druoda, to disengage. Apparently their war ended about three years prior, and the command to terminate was received. The warhead intelligence doubts the reconstructed memory, citing possible meddling by Kim and Torres. Harry retorts that the algorithm used to encode the command would be extremely difficult to tamper with, seeding the warhead intelligence with some doubt.

The attempt by the bridge begins well, but is unsuccessful – Seven's direct contact with a defensive measure for the bio-neural circuitry on the warhead injures her.

Act Five

Next, the 32 other functioning warheads that were also accidentally launched contact the remaining warhead aboard Voyager. The warhead's intelligence, with Kim's help in reasoning with it, deduces that the command to rescind the mission is in fact legitimate, and attempts to corroborate with the other warheads. Since all the warheads have reached a two light year target threshold, at which point the mission cannot be canceled, they ignore the command sent by the warhead on Voyager. The warhead intelligence then realizes what must be done. Kim sadly says "I'm sorry," but the AI simply states that it now has a new mission to protect its people.

At the other warheads' request, the warhead aboard Voyager is transported alongside the fleet and a tractor beam carries the warhead into warp alongside the others to complete their mission. The warhead from Voyager self-destructs. Voyager detects a series of antimatter explosions, destroying all of the wayward warheads, eliminating the threat.

Memorable Quotes

"Assemble the staff. We're going to find a way to outsmart a smart bomb."

- Captain Janeway, to Chakotay


"Do well on this mission, Neelix, and maybe the captain will promote you to Senior Beautician."

- Tom Paris


"I have no intention of proceeding to my target. I will stop them."
"How?"
"I am a weapon of mass destruction."

- The Doctor/Warhead and Harry Kim


"Do me a favor."
"Of course, sir."
"No more distress calls."

- Harry Kim and Ensign Jenkins

Background Information

  • Real weapons inspired Executive Producer Brannon Braga to think up this episode's plot. "It's a post-Cold War analogy in some ways," he remarked. "I was watching Frontline on PBS, and they did this story on the Russian arsenal of nuclear warheads, and how they are basically up for grabs. Anything could happen to these damn things. They could be launched accidentally, they could be sold on the black market, and that's what spawned the idea." (Cinefantastique, Vol. No. 11, p. 55)
  • The episode's final draft script was submitted on 25 February 1999.
  • The script specifies that the set for the surface of the planet where the warhead is found was to actually be on Paramount Stage 16.
  • Brannon Braga believed this episode was a powerful one for actor Robert Picardo. "It's a tour de force for Bob Picardo," Braga observed, "because he gets to play the bomb." (Cinefantastique, Vol. No. 11, p. 55)
  • The same panel where Tuvok accesses sickbay's holomatrix in this episode also features in the previous one, "Relativity", as the location where Captain Braxton hid a temporal disruptor. (Delta Quadrant, p. 315)
  • Some of the footage of the planet, as seen from space, consists of stock optical shots that have been used in many past episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.
  • The Doctor (and the warhead personality occupying his body) wears his mobile emitter during the whole episode. Despite this fact, he's affected when the holographic emitters in sickbay are being destabilized.

Video and DVD releases

The first Voyager volume distributed by PHE.

Links and references

Starring

Also starring

Co-stars

Uncredited co-stars

Stand-ins

References

2342; amnesia; antimatter; artificial intelligence; asparagus; bio-neural circuitry; class 11 intelligence factor; class M; cloaking device; coffee; continent; crater; dampening field; dermal regenerator; dilithium; Druoda; duotronic algorithm; electromagnetic pulse; fracture gradient; holomatrix; inertial damper; ion storm; Jefferies tube; junior staff; launch sequencer; minefield; modulating algorithm; monster movie; Mouton Rothschild; nanoprobe; neural pattern; neural shock; night shift; paratrinic shielding; plasma manifold; plasma relay; pork rind; power matrix; power node; radiogenic decay; recursive search algorithm; replicator ration; rose; Salina Prime; Series 5 long-range tactical armor unit; Starfleet Officer's Manual; Strategic Command Matrix; subspace mine; Terellian pheasant; transkinetic energy regulator; translation matrix; tricorder; warning buoy


Previous episode:
"Relativity"
Star Trek: Voyager
Season 5
Next episode:
"Equinox"

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