Part 1 of 2: The Summary

The show opens yet again with lots of smiles and happy faces, and all the trappings of a wedding. Harry is lost in his music, and the doors open onto an almost smiling B’Elanna being escorted by a glowing paternalistic Chakotay. Captain Janeway teases a nervous Tom Paris and T/Pers all over the universe are fainting with ecstasy.

Everyone is in their full "dress" uniforms, which look like they have been freshly purchased from the second hand shop on DS9. Seven is back in her "formal" wear also... her wine-colored spandex layer. (Question: who helps her change clothes? Surely the woman needs help getting stuffed into this attire.) Clad in her catsuit, she proceeds with a catty remark about the attraction between the happy couple. Tuvok just as kindly points out that "When it comes to affairs of the heart, it is best to look beyond logic." (Say, Tuvok --- isn’t that what TPTB have been doing for 5 years?)

After an Earth-type double ring ceremony, in which both Tom and B’Elanna pledge eternal love to each other and Seven catches the bridal bouquet, we go into slo-mo rice showers, and see the metal floors of Voyager doing their own version of the wave. Uh, oh. Like... hearing Tom finally pledge his eternal love wasn’t enough of a hint that something was amiss? Things ain’t quite right on our happy ship...

We gather that Tom and B’Elanna haven’t exactly waited until the wedding to try out marital calisthenics, either, when Tom tells Neelix, who is hustling his favorite holodeck honeymoon programs, that he and the engineer lady don’t exactly need any aphrodisiacs.

In the best J/C scene in a long time, Janeway and Chakotay retire to her ready room to discuss their good fortune of having enhanced the warp core, and how they are only 2 years from Earth. Janeway teases him that there are interesting stops along the way, and of course everyone will want to explore some more. Tease, flirt; tease, flirt --- *great* scene!

B’Elanna is giving Seven last minute pointers on how to fine-tune the enhanced warp core when there is a teensy-tiny jolt. Seven passes it off as a "minor fluctuation" (right --- like she knows this engine better than B’Elanna! Does this woman’s arrogance *ever* end?) B. knows better --- they locate the source and go to check it out. The writers use the long trek through the Jeffries tube to reach the problem as a time for a little bit of girl talk, when Seven revels that monogamy is not for her --- she’s a regular party girl! (Hmmm... haven’t we said that all along, that she’s just there for the guys?) The pair reaches a stuck door. B’Elanna tells Seven to use the manual override, and we don’t need eerie music to tell us that there is Evil Beyond the Door. Yep, sure enough the gal pals find the freaky floor.

Fade to a staff meeting in Janeway’s ready room. An examination of the ship reveals that it is loosing its molecular cohesion, that the infrastructure and molecular bonds are breaking down.

We then follow Mrs. Paris to her lovely new double person quarters, where she promptly becomes frigid... er... cold. A quick trip to the mirror shows us that marriage hasn’t been good for her, as her face looks like a very bad case of razor burn. Tom the happy husband enters to find her in a heap on the floor, and quickly gets her to sick bay. There, they are greeted by a half dozen other crewfolks, looking similar. The doc informs Tom that all of then are suffering from "acute cellular degradation."

We find out that the entire ship is falling apart. Everything that is except items brought aboard since about 8-9 months earlier. Chakotay and Tuvok make a search though datalogs and astrometric records and pinpoint the defining event: their arrival on the Y-class planet previously dubbed the Demon planet, where an entire Voyager crew was cloned from the "silver blood" on the planet.

Meantime, B’Elanna has deteriorated rapidly. She’s still spunky in her retorts with Tom, who is describing to her their "ideal" honeymoon, but we can tell that this is not going to be a happily-ever-after scene. Tom nearly goes into hysterics when she dies and cannot be resuscitated. The scene is worthy of any counterpart on "All My Children" or "General Hospital". Her death is not for naught, however. An examination proves that she is loaded with deuterium, hydrogen sulfide and dichromates --- the comprising substances of "silver blood"!

Chakotay orders the doc to "give" B’Elanna a catalyst substance. He complies, and we see the woman morph immediately into a silver blob. She registers as being a "bioemitic" structure. Tuvok matter-of-factly says "Then we are all copies; none of us are real." Even all of their memories have been copied, so much to the point where they have forgotten their "roots", and like their real-life counterparts, are headed back to Earth. The doc analyzes the crew, and Tuvok’s statement proves to be true.

Chakotay and Tuvok suggest to Janeway that they head back to the Demon planet, but she reneges. We notice for the first time that she is showing signs of degradation, too. She explains the situation to the crew, but we sense some hostility already. She has said that "duplicate or not, you’re still my crew." Tom, still smarting from B’Elanna’s death, mutters that she’s not the real captain; why should he listen to her? Harry obediently says that she’s still his captain.

The ship is really starting to show damage now; systems and decks as well as people are failing. The doc suggests that if they could find the "real" Voyager, perhaps he could incorporate their "real" DNA into the clones and they could make it. But, Janeway makes an executive decision: let’s find a Y-class planet and stake a claim and make it home.

There is further degradation of ship and crew when they find just such a place. But, it seems that it’s occupied, and it’s inhabitants don’t want to share; they fire on the disintegrating clone ship. Janeway doesn’t want to destroy the other ship, stating that "we are Starfleet officers; we can’t forget that." She tells Harry to send out a distress call, and then orders Tom to set course --- for the Alpha Quadrant. Tom badmouths her order, and is reminded by Chakotay that "as long as you are on this bridge, she’s the captain and you follow her orders." But KJ senses that her words are chaffing her first officer, and promptly leaves that bridge where she is in control. Chakotay follows her into her ready room, and they once more have a discussion of their differences. Suddenly, he starts disintegrating in front of her eyes and collapses.

Chakotay is taken to sick bay, but doesn’t last much longer, as the good doc tells her that her exec officer is dead. No words are necessary to say what we see in Janeway’s body language. She stumbles out of sickbay and back to the bridge, where, with a glazed, paralyzed look, she announces that Chakotay is dead. Obviously distraught, she mumbles the "company line" words: "Duplicate or not, he was real to me. He was a fine Starfleet officer. And he was... a friend... who wasn’t afraid to let me know when I was wrong." The real lines are those that she doesn’t speak, and those remaining on the bridge seem to know what those silent words were. She then looks up, and as if in tribute to her friend’s final words, she orders a course for the Demon planet.

Days go by, and we are in Janeway’s ready room, with only herself and Kim, Neelix and Seven in attendance, all very slimy faced and obviously not doing well. We learn that the doc is gone and Tom is in bad shape; less than 20% of the crew remains. Janeway wants to download all of their logs, including personal logs, and to send them in a probe --- time capsule, Harry says --- so that they will all be remembered: "None of you deserve to be forgotten." They return to the bridge. Kim is now in the XO chair, Seven in ops and Neelix in tactical. Janeway practically crawls to her captain’s chair. She orders that they try to go to warp drive. It doesn’t work at first, but finally succeeds. Small steps, and Neelix calls for a happy time. Only, it isn’t. In the midst of the activity, Janeway has quietly died, seated in her captain’s chair. Neelix runs to her side only to collapse in grief. Kim isn’t much better off, and now he knows everything is up to him. Even through the gloppy make-up, we can see this pained expression. We next see Harry alone on the bridge, as the bridge structure starts to do strange things.

Seven prepares the probe with all the datalogs. After several false starts, the blonde genius tries once more --- and fails, losing everything in the process. Harry sags as much as his face. "All of our history --- gone."

Grasping at last straws, Harry notes the signature of a ship 22 light years away, and hopes to get within range to communicate. He realizes that in order to get a message through, all energy must be put into communications, and they will have to dump the warp core. Decisions, decisions! "What would Capt. Janeway have done?" The core is ejected, as the ship trembles in terminal agony.

Meanwhile, the ship they are trying to contact is, of course, the real Voyager. The real KJ tries to hone in on this distant ship, and they make haste to find this unknown vessel. By the time they come within view of the ship, all they find is flotsam of debris. No life signs, no escape pods, no tachyon traces... just globs of matter that appears to consist of deuterium, anti-neutrons and dichromate.

Janeway states matter of factly, "Make a note in the log that the ship we found was destroyed, cause unknown. There were no survivors." And she looks into the space of her bridge, as if she feels footprints across her grave.

"This is how the world will end;
this is how the world will end.
Not with a bang, but with a whimper."

Part 2 of 2: The Review

Okay. Wow. I went into this with very little in the way of high expectations, based on the spoilers making the rounds. Maybe that was good, because I came out absolutely blown away.

The great stuff first --- performances. Again, an A-1 showing by Garrett Wang, who seems to be making up for lost time. Equally strong was the ever-strong Kate Mulgrew --- or maybe it’s because we finally saw a glimpse of our favorite Janeway --- a strong but compassionate and caring Janeway.

Good J/C moments: Lots of warm, loving, lingering touches from KJ to Chakotay. In opening sequence, lots of flirting with eyes and body language. You could hear the sexual static zapping between them. Her reaction to his death was too much to be put into words, and her motions conveyed this perfectly. "He was... my good friend." (Reminds me of memorial service for Spock in "The Wrath of Khan". But Kate Mulgrew does it *so* much better actor than William Shatner! )

From a technical standpoint, the make-up was hideously wonderful. Janeway looked like the phantom of the opera, wit her one-side deformities and drooping eye. And for once, we saw the Borg Babe au natural. With her lack of make-up and ever-increasing bad hair, she almost looked like anyone else. Question: if there was a degeneration of all tissues , why on earth (or the galaxy) didn’t the boobs every get affected? Weren’t they made of the silver crap, too? The tech crew morphing fun galore with the ship and disintegrating faces and bodies.

But why were we treated to the great big ass view of Barbie Buttcrack, when she’s squiggling along in the Jeffries tube at the beginning? Gee, that’s something I could live without ever having seen.

And who the hell is Ens. Harper, and who’s the father of her baby? Has there been another wedding aboard the ship, or does the captain need to have a little talk with someone?

There were a lot of nice little nuances in this. Janeway dying with her boots on, so to speak... at least, in the captain’s chair. And then seeing Harry in the Captain’s seat again. Is this foreshadowing of things yet to come? Actually, I thought Harry did a pretty darn good job in command.

Disturbing bits, however. Why didn’t we see a Janeway farewell to Tuvok? Or, for that matter, a Tuvok death scene? Hey, we’ve seen Janeway die *lots* of times before, but I can’t remember when Tim Russ was allowed this great dramatic moment. And why weren’t he and Tom ever shown disintegrating? (Low make-up budget?)

Also --- didn’t the real Voyager have occasional long range scanners on? Why was the demon Voyager so close before it was detected?

The chain of command in engineering.... Seven second to B’Elanna? I think not! Where’s Carey? Vorik? Wouldn’t they have seniority? *Anybody* but bouncy borg!

We were told that the demon folks were cloned perfectly, right down to all their emotions and memories. But... were their souls cloned? (Yes, Cilla can get serious every once in a while...) Were their any katras to share? Any symbionts left in the lurch? Or di they go off and join Kes in her house in the heavens? Did those silber blood fragments contain any record of their existance? Eternal questions, never to be answered.

All in all, though, even for its flaws, this was a much better episode than I had expected. The stellar performances by Mulgrew and Wang make up for the persistence of pouty plastic in most cases. One little gripe --- we didn’t see enough of the good doctor. As much as it pains me to say this, this one gets a (all together, now!) seven of nine.

And now we go into a re-run sequence. Next week: A repeat of "Extreme Risk" and all those cute Maelons...