Part 1 of 2: The Summary

Stretching out, phallic-like, into the darkness of the Delta Quadrant, we see a winding vermicular metal monster of a ship. With a deliberate movement, our sight is brought closer and closer to one of the rotund segments of the ship, and we are treated to... Harry Kim in the wild throes of lust and passion with a dark haired beauty. Just as the scene seems to be reaching beyond the PG-13 ratings with her sensuously licking his broad, smooth chest, we are thrust into commercial time. Except for a later view of Harry in his Starfleet issue skivvies, and the lovely lady discreetly rolled up in an obviously post-coital sheet wrap, the real fun and games seem to be over.

It appears that Voyager is playing Good Samaritan to a fellow-voyaging group in the Delta Quadrant, the Varo. Seems that they have been on their journey for hundreds of years, living solely on their ever-growing vessel, a "generation ship". They have had problems with their warp system, so the Voyager Grease Monkeys have come to the rescue. Voyager is docked onto the side of the Varo ship, and every Starfleet person we see is grimy with greasy dirt. (Question: do vessels in the 24th century *still* use carbon or petroleum based substances in their mechanical systems? Just a thought.) Work is progressing just fine without the help of junior officers Harry Kim and his Varo playmate, Tal.

A jolt to the huge traveling space enclave brings Harry and Tal back to the real world, and they race to their appointed stations. Only dear old Tom Paris seems to figure out what Harry’s been up to, especially when he later intercepts and breaks off an illegal communication between our two star-fated lovers.

While Harry is working with our favorite borg, he suddenly bombards her with questions about love (oh yeah; like Barbie Borg is the Ann Landers of the galaxy!) Suddenly, he lights up like a neon sign --- well, at least his skin does. Seven suggests he see the doc about the illuminating condition, and Harry decides that maybe that’s what he should do. Seven tags along with uncharacteristic-like curiosity until Doc dismisses her (ah, but if we all could do this!) and in EMH/patient confidentiality, he learns of Harry’s transgressions. Our ever-knowledgeable doctor proceeds to give him Starfleet chapter and verse on "fraternizing with aliens". Seems that any time a Starfleet person wants a little different species hanky-panky, he/she has to have a note from his/her CO. Then comes the real bummer -- doc says that he has to tell Mama Janeway. Harry gulps just like the doc has given him a foul medicine to swallow.

Harry takes her lecture like the good son he is. But, like sons frequently do, he goes against everything she has told him he mustn’t do. He transports Tal onto one of those ever-popular shuttlecraft, and offers to take her cruising around the quadrant. They head off towards a "nearby" nebula.

Meantime, both Voyager and the Varo leader (Charles Rocket, a favorite of Cilla’s from the old "Moonlighting" days... ) have discovered micro-fractures in the structures that are holding all of the sections of the generational ship together. Based on research by B’Elanna, they find out that the fractures are being caused by "silicon-based" parasites which are dining on the metal structures. These hungry little devils have done such a good job that the generational ship will soon be no more... it will break into hundreds of baby pods.

Concurrent with this revelation, Tuvok, with a little snooping from Neelix, finds a Varo stowaway aboard Voyager. With a little coaxing, the cowering visitor reveals that not everything is happy aboard the Varo ship. In fact, "hundreds" of her inhabitants want to break away and find a nice little planet on which to settle. And, yes, this mutinous group is responsible for the voracious parasites.

It comes to no surprise to us now that Harry’s friend, Tal, is a primo participant in this group. Why else would she have gone gaga over Harry’s offer of a ride in the Love Shuttle? (Oh. That’s right. She doesn’t know about the history of mishaps that befall Voyager’s shuttlecraft...) But the course of True Love, especially senior officers and an ABOTW, never runs smooth. Tuvok discovers our AWOL couple, and Mama Janeway tells Favorite Son once more to knock it off. But Harry has had enough, and unwisely backtalks his captain on the bridge. She grabs him by the ear (figuratively speaking) and drags him into her ready room. (In the background, we see Chakotay jump up, wondering if he should referee what is to come. However, he sagely decides that this the captain can handle things on her own. Then again, maybe he was hoping that *he* was the one whom she would call into the ready room for something that looked like it was going to get physical.)

In the Cone of Silence of her ready room, Janeway lets go with both barrels at our now fearless Kim. He takes her words and replays things back to her --- has she ever been in love, *really* in love? Ah ha! He’s found her vulnerable spot! She hesitates, and recounts a little bit about her anguish about being without... [dramatic pause!] her fiancé, and then founding out that she had "lost him for good." But, she doesn’t want Harry to go through this; apparently there are medications that help one overcome the harmful effects of pheromones and endorphins in this timespace. Harry finds out that Janeway hadn’t allowed herself any artificial relief, and neither will he. He stoically rejects any of the neutralizing hypos.

The episode concludes with Harry and Tal saying their bittersweet farewells to each other. She tells him that she’s headed for a binary star system. (Symbolism, anyone?) And he tells her that whenever he sees a nebula, he will think of her. Ah, romance in the 24th century!

Like billions of other victims of unrequited love throughout the history of the universe, Harry then buries himself in his work, even doing tasks for Seven. Barbie Borg finds him in the mess hall, long after the serving lines have closed, to thank him for his efforts. (I thought being a borg never meant having to say you were sorry...) A very haggard-looking Harry tells her that it’s nothing. She tells him to "Get well soon" in her sweet demanding borg way. Camera fades... the end.

Part 2 of 2: The Review

This disease was nearly fatal. Any further recurrences of episodes like this one will surely be the demise of Voyager. Or, maybe it ‘twas the kiss of death; things can’t get much lower than this. And to think that TPTB did it all without the boobs babe saving the day!

There was such hope after last week’s "Dark Frontier", particularly when I saw that David Livingston was in the canvas chair for this episode. Cilla considers Livingston to be probably the best of the "Voyager" directors, and I looked forward to an enjoyable evening. However, after the first ten minutes, it was as if he had turned over his duties to Roseanne; it was all I could do to endure this one to its bitter end.

Harry/Garrett Wang has proven in earlier episodes this year that (1) he’s ready for "grown up roles" and (2) he is talented enough to do a better-than-average, if not great, job. So... what happens for his "I am a man" episode? He gets stuck with one of the worst episodes ever on "Voyager". This one may even surpass "Favorite Son" and "Threshold". Even a pretty good job of acting on his part --- and he really did look hot in those early scenes! --- can’t save the day here. The early scenes, great gasping bodice rippers that they were, turned out to be the best thing about the show. Tal was quite a little seductress, and Harry definitely was a willing paramour. The two steamed up my screen pretty well! But, it went downhill from here.

The biggest faux pas to me was Janeway’s near-hysterical reaming of her youngest officer for his extracurricular alien activities. Hey --- even her favorite lapdog has had his youthful indiscretions and she didn’t chastise him the way she flogged poor Harry! And whose to say that she herself hasn’t put in a little party time along the way? Oh, yeah... there was the Great Scene in which she avers her eternal faithfulness to her fiancé. But, unless Starfleet has taught that 3 cm thick publication in a convent or a monastery, I don’t know how long folks who have been away from their "own kind" for over five years can remain celibate. God knows she doesn’t allow any trysting among the crew! Well, at least she doesn’t allow them to talk about it, or show public affection. Question: why is there a 3 cm thick training book in this day and age? Wouldn’t it all be in a databank somewhere? Also --- we all remember from our college/military days those stories about what "they" put into the mashed potatoes or iced tea, don’t we? Hmmm.... I wonder what Neelix is supposed to put into leola root stew.... I was appalled that the great Captain Janeway comes out of this looking like a cheese ball. Since when does a commanding officer *ever* admit to his/her face that a subordinate is his/her "favorite"?

And our Babe in Blue as an advisor to the lovelorn? Couldn’t anyone else be used in this calling? Well, I guess Tom is out... he doesn’t admit that the word "love" exists. Tuvok or Chakotay would have gone running to Janeway with a prize plum. B’Elanna? Maybe. Even Neelix would have been better suited (ha,ha!) for the confessor job.

The one socially redeeming scene in the episode was our smattering of J/C, showing Janeway and Chakotay in a very comfortable, cozy dinner twosome. There was even that smallest glimmer of chemistry between these two for a change.

Poor Harry! He sort of reminds me of one of the early scenes in "Little Big Man", when the Dustin Hoffman character is remembering the day he was captured.. and his sister scalped. "Poor [sister]", he says. "She never had any luck with men!" Poor Harry... he never has any luck with women.

Ah, me; what to do with this poor episode. It will get one point for Wang’s performance, 0.5 points for the little bit of J/C, and 0.5 points for the absurdity of Seven’s love doctor role. Total: 2 of 9. And that’s being charitable.

Next week: The Delta Quadrant version of the bubonic plague arrives. Don’t see much hope for this one, either. (If it isn’t the ABOW, it’s the ADOW --- alien disease of the week....)