Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Workforce, Part II”

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“Workforce, Part II”
Written by Kenneth Biller & Bryan Fuller & Michael Taylor
Directed by Roxann Dawson
Season 7, Episode 17
Production episode 263
Original air date: February 28, 2001
Stardate: 54622.4

Captain’s log. After a summary of Part I, we see Chakotay using his mad Maquis skillz to trick the cops into thinking he’s jumped over a fence and then taking them out, though he’s wounded in the process.

In orbit, the ECH uses his mad tactical skillz to escape the two Quarren ships firing on Voyager. When Kim asks what he’s going to do, the ECH smugly says, “Watch and learn.” Unfortunately, while his photonic burst to escape the two ships works, there are five more ships closing in on them, so they have to retreat.

Chakotay goes to the bar, hiding his shoulder wound. Janeway apologizes to him for Jaffen’s rudeness, but says it was for a good reason: she’s moving in with him! Chakotay pretends to congratulate her.

An investigator named Yerid arrives in the bar. Neelix and Torres are missing and “Amal Kotay” is wanted for questioning. Paris is livid that Torres is missing—the city is supposed to be safe!—and he says that Kotay is right here in the bar. But when he looks to Chakotay’s table, he’s gone.

After Voyager settles in the crater of a moon, the ECH gets to go back to being a doctor to treat Torres. Her memories have been very selectively altered. Neelix confirms this from his experiences, mentioning also that Paris still remembered being named Tom Paris and being from Earth, but also believing that he gets space sick. The EMH says the treatment will take some time, and he and Neelix agree to have the latter take her around the ship between treatments to help jog her memory.

Screenshot: CBS

Sure enough, Torres starts to remember bits and pieces of her previous life, though she is surprised by the picture of her and Paris where they’re obviously a romantic couple, though it serves to explain to her why he was so interested in her well being. She also remembers that he likes old cartoons. Neelix later cooks her her favorite breakfast.

Kadan and a novice doctor, Ravoc, are examining Tuvok, who is sedated. Kadan asks leading questions of Ravoc by way of seeing how much he’s learned, and they conclude that his Dysphoria Syndrome—for which he’s already been treated once before—has recurred and he needs engrammatic resequencing.

Hansen is talking to the supervisor about Tuvok. She claims that the workers are concerned that his condition is contagious, but she’s really worried about herself: her mind-meld-induced flashes are worrying her. The supervisor assures her that it’s not contagious. Yerid then arrives to question them about Neelix, Torres, and Kotay, with Hansen confirming that none of the three of them have reported to work today.

Janeway is moving her stuff into Jaffen’s place. When Janeway goes to get more things, she finds Chakotay, who hid there thinking that, since she was moving out, it’d be a good hiding place. He tries to convince her that several of his crewmates have been brainwashed. She’s not entirely convinced (his holding a weapon on her doesn’t help, though he does lower it when she points that out), but she’s willing to swipe a dermal regenerator from the plant to heal his wounds. Hansen catches her doing that, but she buys Janeway’s cover story that Jaffen got hurt during the move and is too stubborn to go to the hospital.

Screenshot: CBS

After Janeway leaves, we learn that Hansen is at the plant in order to learn more about Tuvok. She’s stunned to realize that there’s no information about his species in the database. Tuvok also has been accessing information about several of the newest hires.

While Janeway heals Chakotay’s wounds, Kim contacts him through the subcutaneous transponder. Voyager can’t beam him to safety, as they’re too far away—they’ve only been able to contact him using some technobabble trickery. Janeway is shocked when Chakotay identifies her as their captain. After the communication ends, Chakotay uses the dermal regenerator to remove his alien disguise, hoping that his real face (and that he and Janeway are the same species) might convince her that he’s legit. It doesn’t, entirely, and when she tells Jaffen about what’s going on, Jaffen is aghast and convinced that he’s lying, and that they should call security.

Chakotay is arrested in Janeway’s apartment and taken to a hospital. Yerid questions him there, and Chakotay decides to confide in him, particularly when some officers show up to take him to Division 6—neuropathology. Yerid insists on keeping him, but the orders are from his supervisor. Yerid is not happy, especially given Chakotay’s claims of kidnapping his entire crew.

After being taken to Division 6, Chakotay has been given the memory-altering treatment, and at Kadan and the supervisor’s direction, he contacts Voyager and tells them that he’ll bring the shield grid down. Kim and the ECH believe him and leave the safety of the moon.

Ravoc is concerned that two people in the plant are now suffering Dysphoria Syndrome, and there might be an outbreak, but Kadan assures him that measures are being taken to assure the workers’ safety.

Screenshot: CBS

Hansen speaks to Yerid, as she’s concerned. One hundred and thirty-eight people—including Hansen herself, as well as Tuvok—were all hired on the same day, all processed through Division 6. Yerid, unfortunately, has been relieved of duty, so he has no standing but he wants to figure out what’s going on here. So Hansen goes to the hospital instead, and tells Ravoc that she’s been having strange thoughts and dreams. Ravoc says it sounds like symptoms of Dysphoria Syndrome, but they have the leading expert on that disease in the hospital. Hansen badgers Ravoc into fetching Kadan directly, and once he’s gone, she uses her mad Borg skillz to break into the hospital database.

Yerid, meanwhile, questions Janeway and Jaffen. They try to deny even knowing Chakotay, but Yerid pierces those lies pretty quickly.

Ravoc and Kadan find that Hansen has left the hospital—she was a voluntary patient, so nobody stopped her—and they discover that she accessed sixty-four hospital records, all cases of Dysphoria Syndrome. Ravoc is stunned that there have been so many cases of what is supposed to be a rare disease. It isn’t long before Ravoc puts it all together and realizes that the ravings of Tuvok and “Amal Kotay” are completely accurate. Kadan admits it, secure in the knowledge that there’s no one for Ravoc to report it to, as Kadan has several powerful people on his side.

Security goes to the bar and asks if Paris has seen Hansen. He says no, then when they leave, we see that Hansen, Jaffen, Janeway, and Yerid are all hiding at the bar. The evidence Hansen uncovered at the hospital proves something hinky is happening. Janeway is one of the patients she found, also. Janeway recalls that Chakotay said there was proof of who she really is on Voyager, and also recalls the technobabble they used to contact him. There’s a subspace transceiver in the plant, so she, Paris, and Jaffen decide to go there and contact Voyager while Yerid and Hansen go to the hospital.

Janeway tells Jaffen he doesn’t have to help her—Hansen didn’t find his name in the database—but he cares too much about Janeway to let her go it alone.

Screenshot: CBS

Yerid brings Hansen in as a patient, knowing that Division 6 wants to get their hands on her in any case. Once they’re inside, Hansen “wakes up” and they threaten Kadan at phaserpoint. They find Chakotay, Tuvok, and Ravoc all sedated.

Janeway contacts Voyager, and is shocked to see Torres in her Starfleet uniform, confirming everything Chakotay said. However, security has found them, and Voyager is also being ambushed by Quarren ships. While Paris and Jaffen fight off security, Janeway does the same thing on purpose that she did by accident her first day and makes the computer think there’s a core overload, which shuts down power—including to the shield grid.

Meanwhile, Kim comes up with a plan. When the ECH asks what it is, Kim smugly says, “Watch and learn.” He launches three escape pods, then leaves the ECH alone on the bridge to make the Quarren think Kim, Neelix, and Torres abandoned ship. Then, once the Quarren tractor the escape pods, they explode, taking the Quarren ships out. Then Torres is able to beam all of Voyager’s people back onto the ship.

It soon becomes clear that this is a widespread conspiracy—Voyager’s crew aren’t the only ones who’ve been kidnapped and memory wiped. Jaffen beams on board—he, at least, was a legitimate person who came to Quarra to find work—and he and Janeway say their goodbyes. The good news is that Jaffen has been promoted to shift supervisor. The bad news is they’ll never see each other again, though Janeway did consider asking Jaffen to join the crew.

On the bridge, Janeway admits that Quarra really did feel like home, but she has absolutely no regrets about Chakotay coming to rescue them.

Can’t we just reverse the polarity? Apparently a triaxillating frequency on a covariant subspace band allows you to communicate over long distances without being eavesdropped on. Cha cha cha.

There’s coffee in that nebula! The memory-altered version of Janeway is apparently a pack rat, as she’s acquired a ton of stuff after only living there a few weeks.

Mr. Vulcan. Tuvok mind-melds with Seven to get her to realize that they are not who they think they are, which gets the entire ball rolling.

Screenshot: CBS

Half and half. Torres slowly starts to remember what happened. At the end, she kisses Paris for trying to help her out even though he didn’t remember they were married, and then smacks him for all the flirting he did as a waiter.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The doctor gets to be both ECH—coming up with nifty ways to avoid being destroyed and bluffing the Quarren coyote—and the EMH—coming up with a treatment to reverse Kadan’s brainwashing.

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix helps jog Torres’s memories through tours of the ship and cooking.

Resistance is futile. Seven’s hallucinations of her previous life allow her to pick up where Tuvok left off, her access as efficiency monitor proving very useful

Do it.

“I’m not here to hurt anyone. You have to trust me.”

“You’re pointing a weapon at me.”

–Chakotay saying he comes in peace, and Janeway expressing skepticism.

Welcome aboard. Back from Part I are James Read as Jaffen, Don Most as Kadan, Tom Virtue as the supervisor, Michael Behrens as the coyote, and John Aniston as the Quarren official. In addition, Jay Harrington plays Ravoc, while this week’s Robert Knepper moment is Robert Joy, probably best known as Dr. Sid Hammerback on CSI: NY, as Yerid.

Trivial matters: Neelix helps jog Torres’s memory by showing her things in her quarters like the television she got for Paris in “Memorial” and the bat’leth she was gifted at the end of “Prophecy.”

This only Roxann Dawson’s second time directing a Voyager episode, following “Riddles.” She has gone on to become a major television director, including ten episodes of Enterprise.

The toy ships on the mobile over the crib in Torres and Paris’ cabin are all Hallmark tree ornaments.

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “I’ve got a good job.” One of the things I particularly like about this two-parter is that it’s a particularly strong criticism of the work-is-everything dynamic that we particularly see in the United States. One of the common questions asked when getting to know someone is “what do you do for a living?” People’s lives are almost entirely defined by how they make their money, even if that isn’t the most important thing in their lives. Worse, it often is the most important thing in their lives. I clearly recall my ex-wife’s co-workers at an investment bank, who regularly spent ten-to-twelve hours a day at their jobs, and their apartments had no decorations, sparse furniture, and very little food in the refrigerator.

Tellingly, when Chakotay asks Janeway if she’s happy on Quarra, her response is, “I’ve got a good job.” That shouldn’t answer the question, but obviously the culture on Quarra is such that work is all-important—and also that there’s a labor shortage. Which makes people desperate to find workers. A ship full of people they could alter the memories of must have seemed a godsend.

What I particularly like about this two-parter is especially true of this second half: it’s a good procedural storyline. I like how the solving of what’s going on unfolds. I particularly like that no one person is responsible for saving everyone—it’s a team effort. Tuvok’s resistance to the reconditioning and his mind-meld of Seven starts one ball rolling, and Chakotay stirring shit starts another ball rolling. Plus, his and Neelix’s “kidnapping” of Torres gets Yerid involved.

Yerid is an excellent character, and a character type I’m particularly fond of: the dogged workaday investigator who just wants to learn the truth. His insistence on finding out the truth even after he’s been relieved of duty is a very large part of why Voyager’s crew gets out of this, particularly since he is able to put Seven and Janeway together.

I was relieved that Jaffen turned out not to be one of the bad guys, as every cliché in the book dictates that he would turn out to be in on it and would betray Janeway. But thankfully, he doesn’t. Which is nice. James Read plays him as a genuinely pleasant person, and his chemistry with Kate Mulgrew is completely convincing. They make a superb couple, and their parting at the end is very bittersweet.

This isn’t a great two-parter by any stretch, but it’s a good one, doing what Star Trek does best: comment on humanity, in this case the obsession over work, plus also providing a fun adventure. Roxann Dawson also does a superb job directing, from the action scenes—both Chakotay escaping from the cops at the top of the episode and the shootouts in the plant at the climax—to the emotional journey that Torres goes on as she remembers her past life. And then there’s the impressively effective visual of Torres entering the field of view when Janeway contacts Voyager, the first time in the two-parter that we see Torres in uniform. It’s beautifully played: Janeway’s ice-water-in-the-face expression as for the first time she realizes that everything she’s been told is really true. She also gets strong performances out of Garrett Wang and Robert Picardo, who could very easily have overplayed the dueling “watch and learn” sequences of alternating battle strategies, but it has just the right tone, with a lovely coda at the end when the pair do the after-you-no-after-you dance when they leave the briefing room, finally smiling and walking out together.

One thing I meant to mention last time, as it was more evident in Part I, is that whatever else one may say about Voyager, it looked amazing. It’s been over two decades, but the show’s visuals have remained spectacular, whether it’s Voyager trapped in ice, the war-torn Vaadwaur homeworld, or the magnificently complex power plant seen at the top of Part I.

Warp factor rating: 9

Keith R.A. DeCandido will be one of the guests at the inaugural Suncoast Fan Fest at the Bradenton Area Convention Center in Palmetto, Florida. Among the other guests are Voyager’s Manu Intiraymi (Icheb), as well as actors Alaina Huffman, Corin Nemec, Casper Van Dien, Travis Wester, AJ Buckley, and Eddie McClintock, as well as several voice actors. More information can be found here.

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