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Pathfinder (episode)

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VOY, Episode 6x10
Production number: 230
First aired: 1 December 1999
128th of 168 produced in VOY
128th of 168 released in VOY
  {{{nNthReleasedInSeries_Remastered}}}th of 0 released in VOY Remastered  
588th of 728 released in all
Starfleet communications research center sol sector
Teleplay By
David Zabel and Kenneth Biller

Story By
David Zabel

Directed By
Mike Vejar
Unknown (2376)
  Arc: The Pathfinder Project (1 of 4)
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Pathfinder redirects here; for the Starfleet Communications project, please see Pathfinder Project.

When the Enterprise-E returns home to Earth, Lieutenant Barclay seeks Counselor Deanna Troi's help when he worries that he has become obsessed with the crew of Voyager.



In an apartment on Earth, there's a knock at the door and Lieutenant Reginald Barclay gets up from a couch to answer it. When he opens the door, Deanna Troi is standing there. Barclay is delighted to see her and offers her some chocolate ice cream, which she accepts. He seems nervous, and when she comments on the mess in the apartment, he tells her that, although he moved in two years previously, he hasn't had a chance to unpack yet. Troi asks if he's okay – he seems a little on edge. Barclay assures her he's fine, and that since the Enterprise is in orbit, he just wants to spend some time with her. He's been working on the Pathfinder Project until recently, and he was under a lot of pressure. The project involves trying to establish communication with the stranded USS Voyager. His cat, Neelix, jumps up on the table, as he tells Troi that the real reason he asked her there: he has become obsessed with Voyager.

Act OneEdit

Barclay apologizes to Troi for having lured her into a counseling session. She dismisses his concerns, and asks him to start from the beginning. He tells her that he had the idea of directing a tachyon beam at a class B itinerant pulsar, with enough gravimetric energy to create an artificial wormhole. However, his superiors thought it would be an abuse of the MIDAS array. Troi is lost by all this, and tells him to go back to the beginning. He reveals that the real beginning was in the holodeck.

The scene flashes back to Barclay in the holodeck, running simulations on the bridge of Voyager, trying to establish a method of communications. Commander Peter Harkins enters, and asks him what he's doing. Barclay says he's just running a simulation. Harkins reminds him about some transmitter diagnostics that he has forgotten to do. Barclay claims that he's almost finished them. Harkins reminds him that Admiral Owen Paris is coming first thing in the morning, a fact Barclay had also forgotten. Barclay wants to brief Admiral Paris on his theory about using a pulsar passing within four billion kilometers to create an artificial wormhole and then using it to communicate with Voyager. Harkins rejects the idea, recalling that six months were wasted on trying to develop a transwarp probe based on Barclay's simulations. He tells Barclay that while the admiral is visiting, he'll do the talking.

In a voiceover, Barclay says he was so sure his plan would work, he couldn't give it up. Harkins comes into the lab late at night and finds Barclay working. Barclay tells him he's finished the diagnostics. Harkins knows this, expresses satisfaction with the work, but suggests that Barclay call it a day. However, Barclay says he has something to clear up first. Harkins invites Barclay over to his house for coffee, and to meet his sister-in-law from Boston. Barclay declines, and after Harkins leaves, he says in voiceover that he couldn't leave until he had strengthened his case for accessing the MIDAS array. With Admiral Paris' visit just fourteen hours away, he hadn't come up with anything, so he decided he needed some inspiration. He activates the holodeck program of Voyager's mess hall, and enters the holodeck. Here, everyone aboard Voyager knows and likes him. He sits down to play poker with Chakotay, B'Elanna Torres, Harry Kim, and Tom Paris, calling them his best friends. In this world of his own creation, Barclay is an expert poker player.

Barclay had hoped that the poker game would calm his nerves, but when he gets home he can't sleep. He heads back to the holodeck for a massage from The Doctor. The Doctor tells Barclay that to cure his insomnia, the root cause of his sleeplessness needs to be found. Barclay tells him that when he tries to sleep his mind races and he worries about the project, and whether he's doing all he can. When he leaves The Doctor, he goes to sleep in his holographic quarters, saying in voiceover that he felt more at home there than his own apartment.

Act TwoEdit

The next morning at the briefing, Commander Harkins tells Admiral Paris that when The Doctor's program was transferred to Starfleet two years ago, Voyager's position was Delta Quadrant sector 41751, grid 9. A range of likely trajectories has been extrapolated, and Voyager is now assumed to be in one of three sectors. Harkins says that they have been working with the Vulcans on the deployment of the MIDAS array, which can send signals at hyper-subspace speeds. Transmission times can be cut from years to days, although Voyager won't be able to respond.

Then Barclay, who had impatiently but until now obediently remained silent, finally speaks up. Stuttering and inarticulate, Barclay tells the admiral that there might be a way to establish two-way communication with Voyager, and attemots to describe his plan, which involves creating a wormhole. The admiral asks Harkins if there is any merit in the plan, Harkins says that Barclay has a tendency to get ahead of himself, and that the plan is beyond their abilities. Barclay gets excited at this, and shouts that they've got nothing to lose by trying, and that they're forgetting that there are 150 people stranded. Admiral Paris coldly replies that he has a son on that ship – he hasn't forgotten them for a moment. After Barclay apologizes, Harkins tells him to take the rest of the day off.

In the present, Troi asks Barclay how he dealt with his feelings. Barclay is evasive, and says he needed someone to bounce ideas off, so he went back to the holodeck, claiming that they are the only people he can talk to. Troi thinks he's having a relapse of his holo-addiction, (TNG: "Hollow Pursuits") and asks him how the holodeck helped his work.

Flashback to Barclay in the briefing room on Voyager. He is explaining the problem to the crew: how to produce enough power to form the singularity. He hits on the idea of compressing the data stream so a micro-wormhole can be used. He then goes down to engineering, where he talks through what he needs with Chakotay. Harkins walks in and asks him what's going on. Barclay tells him he's working. Harkins is surprised that he has created holograms of the crew. It turns out that Barclay has been in the holodeck for the last ten hours, ever since he was dismissed from the briefing with the admiral.

Barclay tells Harkins (who he usually refers to as "Pete") that the plan has been scaled down, but Harkins doesn't want to hear it. Barclay's been spending about twenty or thirty hours a week in the holodeck, and Harkins feels he's having a relapse of his holo-addiction. Barclay denies this, but Harkins tells him he needs counseling. He thought he was being a friend, giving him some leeway, but he didn't realize how involved in Voyager Barclay had become. Harkin removes Barclay from the project until the latter gets some help, and the lab and hologrid are off limits.

Act ThreeEdit

Barclay has been waiting outside Admiral Paris' office for a while, refusing to leave, so eventually the admiral agrees to see him. The admiral gives him five minutes to explain himself, and his theories. Barclay apologizes for his behavior at the briefing. Paris says he heard about the hologram of the Voyager crew, including his son, and he finds it rather disturbing. Barclay gives him his new plan, telling him he just wants to try, that he could give him the chance to talk with Tom. The admiral says he trusts Harkins' judgment in removing him from the project, and is not going to let personal concerns interfere with the proper chain of command. Barclay agrees, but says Voyager shouldn't be punished for what he did. Paris finally promises to order a review of Barclay's findings.

The present. Troi supposes the meeting went well, but Barclay disagrees. He claims Admiral Paris was just trying to get rid of him, and he wants Troi to call Paris and tell him that he (Barclay) is psychologically fit for duty. Troi tells him she can't do that and to relax, he's done all he could. Barclay shouts that there's nothing wrong with him. Troi reminds him that by his own admission, he's become obsessed with Voyager. Barclay, still excited to the point of desperation, says his own well-being is a sacrifice he's willing to make to help Voyager. He breaks down and starts to sob. Voyager is all he has left. When he left Enterprise he felt as if he lost his family. The only way to cope was to create a new family on the holodeck. Troi says she'll ask Captain Picard for a leave of absence to spend some time with him, to get him through this personal difficulty.

That night, Barclay can't sleep, so he gets up and goes to the lab. His authorization codes are unsuccessful, but his engineering skills are easily sufficient enough to override the lockout, getting him into the holodeck, where he interfaces with the MIDAS array.

Act FourEdit

Barclay activates the array, and turns it up to full power. He then directs a sixty terawatt tachyon beam at the itinerant pulsar. The micro-wormhole forms and Barclay directs its trajectory towards the Delta Quadrant and the first possible location of Voyager. He sends a message to Voyager, but there's no response. Then Harkins comes in with a security team, and tells him to step away from the controls. Barclay appears as if he was going to obey, but instead suddenly transfers the controls to the holodeck, and runs in to the Voyager program. The security team follows, while Harkins tries to shut down the program.

With the help of the holographic Voyager crew, Barclay erects force fields around the team trying to apprehend him. Harkins can't shut down the program, so he calls for reinforcements. Meanwhile, Barclay redirects the wormhole, and retransmits the message. Again, there's no answer. Another security team appears, and Barclay escapes into a Jefferies tube. Harkins goes to engineering and initiates a warp core breach. Barclay gets to the bridge, and redirects and re-sends the message. Harkins arrives and tells him to shut down the program, which he does, rather than see Voyager destroyed.

On the real Voyager, Seven of Nine is telling Neelix that she has decided not to teach him to sing as his voice is totally incapable of holding a tone... however the trivial subject is quickly forgotten when Seven detects the micro-wormhole.

Act FiveEdit

Only part of the message is received, but Janeway responds straight away, as the wormhole is collapsing. Back on Earth, Barclay is being led away when Admiral Paris enters and tells Harkins that, as promised, he reviewed Barclay's plan and believes it is worth an attempt. Harkins tells him that Barclay already tried, without authorization and without success. Barclay apologizes for it not working, and is prepared to accept the consequences. Suddenly a beeping noise is heard, and a garbled transmission pokes through a mess of static. Barclay is vindicated on the spot. He replies with some help from Harkins cleaning up the transmission, and Janeway says she's been waiting a long time for this. Barclay tells her the feeling is mutual, but the wormhole is collapsing. He sends her information on the hyper-subspace technology, and Janeway transmits the ship's logs, crew reports, and navigational records.

Then Admiral Paris speaks. He asks her how the crew is holding up. Janeway replies that the crew has been exemplary, Tom included. The admiral says he misses him, and that he's proud of him. Tom listens in silence and shock aboard Voyager. Janeway assures the admiral that his son heard him, and the admiral assures her that Starfleet is doing everything it can, but just then the wormhole collapses and the communication is ended. Harkins says he's sorry he doubted Barclay, and Admiral Paris tells him that thanks to him, Project Voyager is just beginning.

In the mess hall on Voyager, the crew are having a party. The Doctor comments that Barclay has a rather unusual medical history. Janeway is just glad that he came through for them. Seven then tells everyone that with the hyper-subspace technology they received from Earth, the crew can look forward to regular contact with Starfleet. Tom makes a toast:

"To my Dad – it's nice to know he's still there; and to the newest honorary member of the Voyager crew; Reginald Barclay, whoever you are."

A private toast to celebrate Barclay's success

Back on Earth, Troi congratulates Barclay. He tells her he couldn't have done it without her help. Commander Harkins was pleased, although he is a bit wary that Barclay is dating his sister-in-law. Troi is surprised and amused to learn the name of the lady in question: Hope.

Memorable quotesEdit

"After all, you are my best friends."

- Barclay, to the holographic Voyager crew

"And to the newest honorary member of the Voyager crew, Reginald Barclay. Whoever you are."

- Tom Paris

"Has it ever occurred to you... that a tachyon beam directed at a class-B itinerant pulsar could produce enough gravimetric energy to create an artificial singularity?"
"I can't say it has."

- Reginald Barclay and Deanna Troi

"We've waited a long time for this moment."

- Kathryn Janeway to Reginald Barclay after finally establishing a com link between Voyager and Starfleet Command

"Why the long face, Mr. Barclay?"
"Because... because, it's over, sir."
"No, lieutenant. I'd say that Project Voyager is just beginning. Thanks to you."

- Admiral Paris and Barclay

"You know what I am always saying: If you can't stand the heat..."
"Get out of the warp core!"

- Barclay and Ensign Kim hologram

"This is Admiral Paris."
"Hello, sir."
"How are your people holding up?"
"Very well. They're an exemplary crew, your son included."
"Tell him... Tell him I miss him. And I'm proud of him."
"He heard you, admiral."
"The wormhole is collapsing."
"I want you all to know we're doing everything we can to bring you home."
"We appreciate it, sir. Keep a docking bay open for us. We hope to see you..."

- Admiral Paris, Janeway, and Barclay

Background informationEdit

  • This was the last episode of Star Trek to air in the 1990s.
  • The actual Voyager crew was not seen until approximately 36 minutes into the episode.
  • The episode's trailer splices together bits of dialogue to make it seem like Counselor Troi says "I've decided to ask Captain Picard for help."
  • This episode makes mention of all three of the live-action Star Trek spinoffs that existed at the time: Troi mentions the Enterprise being in orbit, Barclay mentions receiving information from Deep Space 9, and Pathfinder tries to contact Voyager.
  • This is the last chronological mention of Deep Space 9 in Star Trek. DS9 was mentioned again in a later Voyager episode, "Fury", but the reference to the station was made in the past, in 2371.
  • On Barclay's holographic version of Voyager, the Maquis crewmembers do not wear uniforms but instead have continued wearing casual clothes. This may be a reference to an original notion for the show (which was championed by Michael Piller who was overruled) where the Maquis crewmembers would not wear Starfleet uniforms while serving on the ship.

Continuity and Trivia Edit

  • This was the first time Starfleet Headquarters was seen after the Breen attack on Earth during the final weeks of the Dominion War in 2375. Most of the city, including the Golden Gate Bridge, had been restored at this time.
  • The holographic Voyager crew are all dressed in their season 1 attires, including Janeway's hair-bun, Paris' Lieutenant pips, and Chakotay and Torres in Maquis fatigues.
  • The photo of Tom Paris on Admiral Paris' desk is actually a shot of Robert Duncan McNeill as Nicholas Locarno from TNG: "The First Duty". Interestingly, it is initially a reversed shot of him (showing the com badge on the wrong side) but during a close up, the image is still reversed but the comm badge has been moved to the other side.
  • Harkins' briefing for Admiral Paris mentions that Pathfinder's projection of Voyager's location takes into account the information that The Doctor brought to Starfleet from the episode "Message in a Bottle".
  • In the Pathfinder holodeck, the holographic Torres shoots two (real) Starfleet security officers with a holographic phaser and it has no effect. This marks one of the very rare occasions that holodeck safety protocols are seen functioning correctly.
  • Harkins' projection of Voyager's location, which assumed an average speed of warp 6.2, did not take into account the many shortcuts and technologies Voyager had used, including the graviton catapult from the previous episode "The Voyager Conspiracy", which hurtled it across 30 sectors of space and the Borg transwarp coil from season 5's "Dark Frontier" which propelled it an additional 20,000 light years. However, somehow Barclay was still able to direct his message close enough be picked up by Voyager. That Voyager was considerably closer to the alpha quadrant than Starfleet expected is never mentioned.
  • Although The Doctor fails to mention it at the ending celebration, he did meet a holo-recreation of Reginald Barclay in "Projections" where he learned that Barclay was a part of the creation project of the EMH, testing the EMH's interpersonal skills. However, this may be due to The Doctor's personal memories being lost after those events, in "The Swarm".
  • In Starfleet's Communications Research Center where Reginald Barclay activates the MIDAS array a "blinking machine" can be seen at work. A very similar looking device is present in Noonien Soong's work area on Omicron Theta TNG: "Datalore".
  • Barclay has worked with another communications array in TNG: "The Nth Degree". The USS Enterprise-D had to fix the Argus Array.
  • Although Starfleet has adopted their new-style uniform for three years during the time, people can be seen outside Starfleet Headquarters wearing the late-2360s style uniforms. This is due to the fact that it's actually a recycled shot from DS9: "Homefront".

Video and DVD releasesEdit

Links and referencesEdit

Starring Edit

Also starring Edit

Special guest starEdit

Guest starsEdit

Special guest appearance byEdit


Uncredited co-starsEdit

Stand-ins Edit


artificial wormhole; Boston; "burning the midnight oil"; cheese omelet; chocolate ice cream, class B itinerant pulsar; coffee; Communications Research Center; Data; data stream; Deep Space 9; Delta Quadrant; doctor-patient confidentiality; Earth; Enterprise-D, USS; Enterprise-E, USS; Harkins, Angie; holo-addiction; holodeck; Hope; hoverball; hyper-subspace communications; intruder alert; Jefferies tube; kilohertz; La Forge, Geordi; logic; medical ethics; micro-wormhole; MIDAS array; milk; Neelix (cat); obsession; Pathfinder Project; Picard, Jean-Luc; poker; Project Voyager; pulsar; San Francisco; Sector 3658; Sector 41751; Sector 41752; Sector 41753; Sector 64238; shark; sonic shower; Spot; Starfleet Command; tachyon; tea; teradyne; terawatt; toast; transporter phobia; transwarp probe; type 6 shuttlecraft; velocity; vocal cords; Vulcan

Previous episode:
"The Voyager Conspiracy"
Star Trek: Voyager
Season 6
Next episode:
"Fair Haven"

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