(written from a Production point of view)
While the USS Voyager is without power for several hours, Neelix tells the children a ghost story of the events that lead up to it... or is it more than just a story? (Season penultimate)
In the empty mess hall, Neelix shuts off the burners on the kitchen stove, straightens chairs and has the computer extinguish the lights. Seeming unsettled, he walks to the doors to leave. They open and he walks into Seven of Nine as she is about to enter. He jumps in fright. Seven apologizes but he says it is okay; he is just a bit jumpy, especially considering "what happened the last time." Seven asks him to supervise the Borg children during the imminent ship-wide shutdown of main power, a task he is glad to perform. (VOY: "Collective")
On the bridge, Captain Kathryn Janeway, Chakotay, and the duty officers watch the viewscreen, looking at a class J nebula the USS Voyager is approaching. Ensigns Harry Kim and Tom Paris comment on its unsettling appearance, but Lieutenant Commander Tuvok is unimpressed. Captain Janeway gives the order to shut down main power.
Across the ship, panels and lights shut down. In sickbay, The Doctor enters one final note into a PADD before turning himself off. In astrometrics, Seven of Nine is present as power is cut and the room goes dark. In Cargo Bay 2, power to the Borg alcoves cuts out, curtailing the four children's regeneration cycle.
The children wake up, alarmed, their alarm increasing when the lights go out. Neelix, there with a lantern, tries to calm them down. In engineering, Lieutenant B'Elanna Torres works with her staff to safely shut down the warp core. All over the ship, the only light comes from portable lanterns. On the bridge, Kim reports that shutdown has been completed on all decks. Janeway hails Seven of Nine and tells her they are "ready". Seven acknowledges.
Voyager, now moving only on inertia, glides into the nebula.
In Cargo Bay 2, Neelix tries to soothe the still-alarmed children with an explanation as to why main power was cut. He tells them that it is to prevent EM emissions from entering the ship from the nebula they were going through; a poor excuse since, as Icheb, the oldest, points out, the ship's deflector shields provide sufficient protection against any nebula discharge.
The children continue to press Neelix with questions, until Mezoti, the only girl in the group, asks if the shutdown has anything to do with Deck 12, which Naomi Wildman, had told her was haunted. Icheb amplifies the mystery by informing them that Section 42 of that deck is closed to all but senior officers with level 6 security clearance. Neelix tells them there's no such thing as ghosts. But they press him for an answer as to what is there, if not a ghost. He finally caves in and agrees to tell them the real story of Deck 12.
Several months earlier, he begins, before they had come aboard, the ship was in another J-class nebula gathering deuterium, the "matter" in the matter/antimatter reaction that powers the ship's warp drive and other systems. In the mess hall, Neelix was startled as the ship jolted from turbulence within the nebula. When Tuvok walked in, Neelix sat down with him, and, attempting to hide his unease, he asked Tuvok how long they would be in the nebula.
However, Tuvok's answer of several days made Neelix's fear evident. He explained that the nebula was bringing back a horrid childhood memory of a huge plasma drift that passed through the Talaxian system. For months, the stars and moons in the Talaxian sky were blotted out by the fearsome-looking cloud.
On the bridge, Captain Janeway, Chakotay, and the duty officers also felt the jolt. Kim reported that nadion emissions from the ship's Bussard collector (Icheb points out to Neelix that the Bussard collector did not produce nadion emissions) were destabilizing the nebula. Chakotay suggested to Janeway that they be satisfied with having collected 80% of the amount of deuterium they wanted, and leave. Janeway concurred, ordered engineering to stop the collection and then ordered Paris to take the ship out of the nebula. But just as Paris was about to engage the impulse engines to do so, the ship was shaken again.
In the mess hall, those present saw an energy discharge spread over the ship in a spiderweb-like pattern for an instant, then disappear. On the bridge, sparks flew. Chakotay read aloud the report on the command console between his and the captain's seat; an EM discharge had penetrated the hull. Damage appeared to be minor: power outages on three decks and the loss of the auxiliary subprocessors, no casualties. Janeway ordered repairs and the ship's course be resumed.
Voyager moves away from the nebula, but, as she passes, an entity, looking like an energy discharge, can be seen crawling on the back of the saucer section, just above the 'scruff of the neck' (the junction between the saucer section and the stardrive). Neelix tells the children that everything seemed fine, but they now had a stowaway on board.
The children try to guess the species of the lifeform, suggesting different possibilities. Neelix gives them the choice of continuing their attempts or listening to him. They ask him to continue, and he does, recounting the malfunctions that had begun to plague the ship after they had left the nebula.
Chakotay went to Janeway's ready room and presented the repair teams' report; damage had proven to be greater than initially thought: one of the ship's two personnel transporters was out, half the sonic showers were off-line, and in deck five had lost artificial gravity and Ensign Mulchaey hit his head on the ceiling. Janeway listened and sipped her coffee, but found it tasted terrible.
She instructed the computer to replicate another cup... and watched as it replicated the coffee without the cup, in a cup shape (of course on completion, it collapsed into a spill), and then replicated the empty cup. Replicators were added to the list of damages. Chagrined, she walked to her windows and stood, looking out. As she looked, she saw a meteoroid cluster and drew Chakotay's attention to it. Chakotay saw nothing odd about it, but Janeway did; they had passed that same cluster an hour before. The ship was going in circles.
Immediately they went onto the bridge to find out why. Paris told them the navigational sensors appeared to be functioning normally, but, on Chakotay's order, Tuvok ran a diagnostic which revealed that they were indeed malfunctioning and the ship was going back from whence it had come. Janeway ordered all stop and reinitialization of the sensors.
Paris obeyed, then turned around in the pilot's chair to speak to her.
He had just finished when suddenly the warp drive engaged, seemingly of its own accord, and the ship surged forward at warp six. Attempts to shut it down failed. Janeway tried to call Torres in engineering, but got no answer. Then, as suddenly as it had engaged, the warp drive shut down, and the ship came to all stop again. Janeway again tried to contact engineering, and again got no response. Chakotay instructed the computer to locate her. She was indeed in engineering; but then the computer began to recite a litany of crew member locations that it had not been instructed to give, reporting that the Ensign Trumari was on deck four, section 30; the Lieutenant Commander Tuvok was on bridge; the crewman U'Lanai was in the mess hall and the Ensign Vorik was in main engineering, level two. Increasingly annoyed, Janeway ordered Chakotay to go to engineering and find out what was happening
Chakotay boarded the turbolift and tried to get to engineering. But when the lift stopped and he exited, he found that he was not on engineering's deck, but that of the mess hall. He re-boarded the turbolift, but the doors would not close. Making up his mind to walk, he tried to get off, but the doors suddenly shut, trapping him inside.
Then, the descent stabilizers failed and the turbolift car plunged eleven decks down the shaft at very high speed, pinning Chakotay to the ceiling. Had the stabilizers not suddenly reactivated at the last moment, the car would have crashed into the bottom of the shaft, killing him instantly and possibly damaging the hull. Finally arriving at engineering, he conferred with Torres, who was working to trace the source of the problems with her staff. The source appeared to be a series of bio-neural gel packs on Deck 13.
In another part of the ship, Crewman Tal Celes was just about to run a diagnostic on a circuit panel when Seven of Nine stopped her. She moved aside as Seven began to run her own diagnostic to find a fault which she thought Tal had caused, and which had cut power to astrometrics. She was surprised when Tal told her she had not even started as yet, thus the fault could not have been hers.
On Deck 13, Chakotay and Torres examined the suspect bio-neural gel packs. They appeared to be in good condition, but Torres noticed on her tricorder an EM discharge which seemed to be moving from system to system through the bio-neural circuitry. She traced it as it moved to a series of gel packs interfacing with the environmental control systems of Cargo Bay 2, located just outside that cargo bay. The two officers hurried to get there before it moved again.
In Cargo Bay 2, Seven was at a terminal running diagnostics in an attempt to find the source of the systems malfunctions as Chakotay and Torres were doing. Absorbed in the task, she was unaware that the EM discharge Chakotay and Torres were tracking had entered the room. Behind her back it exited from a circuit panel, silently snaked across the floor and up into her alcove.
She only realized something was wrong when the alcove's lights began to flicker. When that happened she looked up, picked up her tricorder and began scanning; this was yet another system malfunction, and she could perhaps find pertinent data here which would help her. But then she heard a hiss from the ventilation duct. She looked up toward the duct to see gas from the nebula pouring in. She tried to hail the bridge, but got no response. She walked briskly to the doors to leave, but they would not open.
She looked back with mounting alarm as the deadly advancing cloud filled more and more of the room behind her, crackling with sparks of EM energy. She tried to open the doors from the control panel, but the panel beeped in denial. Her only hope was the emergency manual override built into a hatch in the floor. She opened it and pulled the switch, opening the doors. She quickly exited, but, on turning to go down the corridor, walked straight into a force field. She turned to go in the other direction. but found a force field blocking that escape as well. Trapped, she could do nothing as the gas, having filled the cargo bay, poured forth from the open doors and filled the space contained between the force fields. She collapsed, the life being asphyxiated out of her.
As Neelix continues to regale the four enthralled children, the lantern goes out. He changes the power cell, inadvertently scaring them when they suddenly see his face in the harsh light. He continues.
Chakotay and Torres reached the cargo bay deck after crawling through a series of Jefferies tubes, eschewing the turbolift after Chakotay's earlier experience. Rounding the last corner before the bay, they found Seven lying unconscious behind one of the force fields used to trap her. When attempts to have the computer drop the force field failed, Chakotay destroyed the control panel with a phaser shot, cutting power to the field generators, dropping the field. They quickly took Seven to sickbay.
In the mess hall, Neelix was cooking in the kitchen while crew members, including Ops Manager Kim, sat, ate and talked. Then the lights began flickering. Kim tried to call engineering; Neelix tried the bridge; both failed. Kim, the only officer in the room, ordered everyone to return to their stations. Neelix offered to go with Kim, but Kim told him to stay there, since the mess hall was his station. Kim then left, leaving Neelix in the mess hall alone. The lights went out, leaving the room in darkness. Neelix whimpered with unease.
Neelix recounts that systems were failing all over, including environmental control. Neither that warp drive nor impulse engines were responding; the ship was dead in space. On the bridge, according to Lt. Paris, the temperature was very uncomfortably hot for all except Tuvok, whose home planet of Vulcan is a desert planet.
The conn console began beeping. Paris checked it on Janeway's orders and found helm control working again. He sat down to try to get the engines back on line, but Janeway saw from a readout at the auxiliary tactical station that an EM surge was building in the conn console. She warned Paris, but before he could move away, he was struck in the face by an EM discharge and severely burned. Janeway and a duty officer rushed to his aid. She tried to call sickbay; no answer. She asked Tuvok if the transporters were working, to transport Paris to sickbay, but they were also off-line. Then the computer began warning of oxygen depletion; air was being removed from the bridge. Attempts to reroute emergency power to restore the air failed, and Janeway ordered everyone to evacuate, coughing and gasping for breath.
In sickbay, The Doctor treated Seven of Nine as well as other injured crew members. Once it was ascertained that Seven of Nine suffered no serious injury, and she had recovered consciousness, she got up, intending to help Torres with repairs. Then Janeway and Tuvok brought Paris in, groaning in intense pain from his burns. He was laid on a bed and The Doctor rushed over to him, along with the Seven, Chakotay and Torres. The group began comparing notes: Paris was burned by an EM discharge and Seven was almost killed when she was trapped in an enclosed space that filled with lethal nebula gases. Chakotay informed them of two other crew members who had been brought in as patients; they had tried to vent nebula gas from Deck 7 and had been struck by EM discharges as well.
It was beginning to look as if an intelligence was at work; they realized that the EM discharge that had entered the ship was actually a lifeform that had come from the nebula. It was apparently trying to make the ship more like its native environment and attacking anyone who tried to interfere. Just then, The Doctor's holomatrix began to destabilize. They quickly transferred him to his mobile emitter to save him. Then power began to fail in sickbay. Janeway ordered everyone to evacuate to engineering. Deck by deck, Neelix tells the children, the crew was losing the ship. Crew members were scattered all over, with no idea what was going on.
Through the darkened corridors, lit intermittently by blood-red emergency lighting, Kim walked, with a wrist-borne light, looking for other crewmembers. As he rounded a corner, a frightened Crewman Tal Celes hit him in the stomach, thinking he was an alien invader. He angrily assured her that the ship had not been invaded by aliens and the two proceeded together to engineering.
Neelix recounts that for over four hours, he was alone in the darkened mess hall, with no idea what was happening. Then he began to hear noises from outside the mess hall. Armed with a phaser, which he always keeps hidden in the kitchen for emergencies, and with a wrist-borne light, he slowly and nervously walked to the doors, calling, "Hello? Is anyone there?" He stepped outside, following the sound of the noise, and found it was the turbolift doors opening and slamming shut repeatedly. He suddenly sensed someone behind him. He turned and came face to face with Tuvok, who had come to get him. Tuvok was wearing an oxygen mask and looked very much like a hostile alien in the dark. Neelix screamed and nearly shot him. The Vulcan told him to calm down, explained the situation as far as he knew, and they two, like Tal and Kim, set off for engineering.
Neelix goes on with his story. He and Tuvok made their way toward engineering through the Jefferies tubes. To pass the time, and to counteract his fear, he attempted to make conversation with the Vulcan, but Tuvok, in the way of Vulcans, preferred to silently focus on the task at hand. They were making progress, but then found their way cut off by an inflow of nebula gas into a tube that was behind a closed hatch. Tuvok began trying to access environmental controls from a circuit panel to try to vent the tube.
Janeway and the others from sickbay had gathered in engineering, now one of the few places left with light or any kind of working computer access. Chakotay told her that ninety other crew members were accounted for, in other areas of the ship. Seven of Nine worked with Torres to try to wrest system control back from the alien, but to no avail. Then, suddenly, the computer began reporting Janeway's location: in main engineering. It sounded like another computer malfunction, but Janeway had a hunch that it was the alien trying to communicate. She had Torres call up the system's syntax subroutines to show the alien how to respond to her words as she spoke. Her hunch proved correct. When Janeway asked why it had come aboard, it told her to go to astrometrics. She went, taking Seven with her, hoping to negotiate with it to get control of the ship back.
In the Jefferies tubes, Tuvok attempted to teach his companion a Vulcan meditation technique to try to calm his fear. At first it seems to work; Neelix casts his mind back to a happy moment when the crew held a party for him and cooked his favorite foods. But so great was his fear that he envisioned nebula gas with a demonic face flying up at him when he uncovered the plate. Thus the attempted meditation failed.
Janeway and Seven arrived in astrometrics, where the alien called up the navigational logs to show them the nebula they had been collecting deuterium from. Janeway realized that the alien wanted to return to the nebula, its home, and the alien confirmed this, verbally using the computer system's syntax, and by returning helm control. It told Janeway to go to the bridge, but it instituted a level 10 security clearance to enter the bridge, which only Janeway had as captain. This meant that Seven could not go with her; she had to go alone, which she did.
The captain, Neelix tells the children, had developed a fragile rapport with the alien. On the bridge, she engaged the warp drive and piloted the ship back to the nebula. But when the ship arrived at the nebula's coordinates, and she cut the warp engines, the viewscreen showed only stars; the destabilization of the nebula had continued after the ship's departure, and now it was completely gone. At this, the alien became furious, though still communicating through the emotionless computer voice. It cut life support on all decks and, through the computer, sent a ship-wide message to abandon ship. An eye for an eye. Voyager had destroyed its home. It intended to deprive the crew of theirs and take Voyager for itself.
The captain's only hope of keeping the ship, Neelix tells the children, was to try to reason with the livid alien. On the bridge, she tried to convince it to let her find it a new home, in another nebula. But the alien rejected her overtures. It overloaded the helm control circuits, destroying the ability to pilot the ship, and refused to even allow her to use the comm system to warn the crew to abandon ship; its warning using the computer was all the notice they would get. Janeway hurriedly left the bridge to return to engineering to tell the crew members there that the warning was no computer malfunction; they had to abandon the ship.
In the Jefferies tube, Tuvok was still attempting to vent the gas from the sealed tube that he and Neelix needed to go through. The alien, however, attacked him with an EM discharge as it had done to Paris and others, and released nebula gas into the tube where the two men were. Tuvok ordered Neelix to go on without him, but Neelix refused, picking him up and helping him continue forward.
On her way back to engineering, Neelix recounts, Janeway tried to make the alien reconsider what it was doing. She told it that without a crew to maintain them, the ship's systems would eventually fail. This meant that it would drift through space, a wreck, until destroyed by some cosmic phenomenon such as an asteroid shower without shields to protect it or propulsion to get it out of the way, leaving the creature without a home, without which it could not survive. But the creature seemed bent on its course of action. Janeway, Neelix tells the children, could not afford to wait any longer. She returned to engineering and ordered everyone to get to the escape pods and shuttles. Neelix and the injured Tuvok climbed out of a Jefferies tube hatch just in time to join them. All shuttles and pods were launched but one, on which Chakotay was to leave with Janeway. Chakotay went first, but as Janeway was about to go through the door to get to the pod, it shut.
The creature had, in fact, listened to what she had said about the ship needing to be maintained, and it intended to keep one crew member aboard to do just that; Janeway herself. It told her to go to engineering. Outraged, she flatly refused, telling it she would not be its prisoner; it would have to kill her. It attempted to force her by trapping her between two force fields and filling the space between with nebula gas. But she remained steadfast as she sank to the floor, coughing and asphyxiating, telling the creature that they would die together; within two minutes of exposure to the gas, she would be dead and it would be on its own, with nobody to maintain the ship. Seeing that it was simply not going to get her to acquiesce, no matter what it did, even threatening her with death, the creature finally relented. It withdrew the gas, dropped the force fields and restored all the systems, giving her back the ship; it would accept her proposal of a new home in another nebula.
It took nearly two days, Neelix says, for the entire crew to return. An isolated environment was created - on deck 12 - to contain the creature until another suitable nebula was found for it. The creature has been there ever since, Neelix concludes. Suddenly the ship is shaken. Then, a few seconds later, main power is restored. The lights come back on and the Borg alcoves power up again. Neelix tells them that it was probably the alien leaving the ship to take up residence in the nebula they are going though; the new home the captain found for it. He has them return to the alcoves (the equivalent of Human children being sent to bed). As they are about go back onto the platforms, another child, Azan, asks him what if the jolt they felt was the creature coming to take revenge. Neelix then tells them that he made the whole thing up. Mildly chagrined, they mount, turn around, and close their eyes as their regeneration cycles kick in, the Borg equivalent of going to sleep. Neelix turns off the lantern and wishes them pleasant dreams.
Neelix then goes to the bridge, where all is back to normal. Seated in their respective command chairs, Janeway and Chakotay ask him how the children handled the blackout. Neelix says he kept them occupied with a story. Paris asks him if it was a Mother Goose story, to which he responds:
- "Certainly not, some of those fairy tales can be frightening. Ogres and child eating monsters. Speaking of which, is everything okay?"
Janeway answers that they were just taking some final readings before resuming course. She has Kim show him a final viewscreen image of the nebula. A tiny bright flash light is seen within it (is it the creature making itself at home?) Neelix looks at the image, pleased, and says:
- "Well! I hope it lives happily ever after."
Voyager cruises away at impulse, then engages warp drive, resuming course for Earth.
"Gather round, but I'm warning you: this is not a tale for the faint of heart."
"We're not faint of heart."
"Our cardiopulmonary systems are reinforced."
- - Neelix, Mezoti, and Icheb
"Did I ever tell you about the Salvoxia?"
"If I say yes, will it prevent you from telling the story?"
- - Neelix and Tuvok, while crawling through Jefferies tubes
"Now, there's a creepy image; reminds me of something out of Edgar Allan Poe."
"Looks like a vampire bat. You can make out the wings, even the ears. What do you see, Tuvok?"
"Two Starfleet officers with juvenile imaginations."
- - Tom Paris, Harry Kim, and Tuvok
"I won't be your prisoner. You'll have to kill me!"
- - Janeway and the computer, under control of the class-J nebula lifeform, prior to it releasing gas into the corridor
"The turbolift started to fall faster and faster...! Anybody hungry?"
"Well, you haven't touched your snacks..."
"Snacks are irrelevant! Continue the story!"
- - Neelix and Mezoti
"I wonder what the crew of the Salvoxia did for food after their emergency rations were gone."
"Maybe they ate each other."
"All right, uhh, that's enough!"
- - Icheb, Mezoti, and Neelix
"I am giving you an order."
"And I'm disobeying it! You're coming with me if I have to drag you by your pointy little ears!"
- - Tuvok and Neelix
"If I didn't know better I'd swear this ship's trying to kill me."
- - Chakotay, to Torres after the turbolift malfunctions
"Captain Janeway, report to engineering."
"I TOLD YOU... THE ONLY WAY I'M HELPING, IS IF YOU... RETURN... CONTROL... OF MY... SHIP!"
- - The computer under control of the class-J nebula lifeform, and Janeway's last stand
- The final draft script for this episode was issued on 6 March 2000. Revised pages were added through 30 March of that year.
- Zoe McLellan reprises her role as Tal Celes from "Good Shepherd".
Continuity and trivia Edit
- In this episode, Neelix claims intent to install curtains, and even carries the fabric at one point. He has claimed this intent several times, but he never followed through.
- Some visual effects include looking out the viewscreen as the ship jumps to warp and the replicator replicating the coffee before replicating the mug. The effect of the ship jumping to warp was evidently reused from "The Child".
- The special effects used to illustrate the 'ghost' on Deck Twelve are the same graphics used in "Macrocosm" when Janeway throws the antidote bomb in the holodeck after luring the macro viruses there. The smoke is colored orange here instead of the green color used in the season 3 episode.
- This episode is notable for showing some detail of how the turbolift shafts have horizontal junctions.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for a Series.
Video and DVD releasesEdit
- UK VHS release (two-episode tapes, Paramount Home Entertainment): Volume 6.13, 22 January 2001
- As part of the VOY Season 6 DVD collection
Links and referencesEdit
Also starring Edit
- 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
Uncredited co-stars Edit
- Andrew English as an operations division officer
- Susan Lewis as a Transporter technician
- Keith Rayve as a command division officer
- Richard Sarstedt as William McKenzie
- Unknown actor as command division officer
The Adventures of Flotter; artificial gravity; asphyxiation; assimilation; auxiliary subprocessor; bio-neural circuitry; blackout; bluff; Bussard collector; cardiopulmonary system; chadre'kab; class J nebula; class M; coffee; curtains; dark nebula; decomposition; Delta Flyer; descent stabilizer; deuterium; electromagnetic lifeform; emergency power; EPS diagnostic; escape pod; fairy tale; field generator; Galactic Cluster 8; ghost; Gibson; hive mind; hyperventilation; Jefferies tube; kelvin; interphasic species; lung; McMinn; Maquis; meteorite; micro-nebula; Mother Goose; Mulchaey; multispectrum particle lifeform; nadion; navigational array; navigational sensor; neural transceiver; non-corporeal lifeform; ogre; plasma drift; Poe, Edgar Allan; Salvoxia; security clearance; sextant; SIMs beacon; singalong; sonic shower; space-dwelling lifeform; Species 5973; syntax subroutine; Talaxian; Talaxian freighter; Talaxian system; Tarkanian desert; tera nut soufflé; Trumari; U'Lanai; Val Jean; vampire bat; Vorik; Vulcan; Weiss; Wildman, Naomi; xenobiology
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