Star Trek: Voyager: Demon   Rewatch 
November 13, 2017 7:49 AM - Season 4, Episode 24 - Subscribe

Voyager is about to run out of gas, and locates a planet with a fuel supply, but it's an incredibly hostile environment. However, Harry Kim has a plan that may get them the deuterium that they need. Will his plan succeed, and if so, will he finally get that long-overdue promotion? (Ha! As if. But, seriously though.)

Memory Alpha is composed of a mimetic polyalloy:

- The evolution of this installment took place after the conception of an undeveloped episode of Star Trek: Voyager, involving the "Silver Blood" duplicates of Voyager's crew being welcomed back to the Alpha Quadrant as if they were the starship's crew.

- Garrett Wang has claimed that the scene in this episode where Tom Paris asks Harry Kim if he has put on weight was a slight against the male actors on Voyager, as they all had put on weight during the fourth season. Wang claimed that he asked executive producer Brannon Braga why this issue was brought up on the show and Braga allegedly responded "Well, if you and McNeill continue on your eating ways, we'll have to change the name of the show to "Star Trek: Voyager - Pigs in Space"."

- Kim mentions that he has fought the Borg ("Scorpion" and "Scorpion, Part II"), helped to defeat the Hirogen ("The Killing Game" and "The Killing Game, Part II"), been transformed into an alien ("Favorite Son") and come back from the dead ("Emanations").

"Anybody's got any other ideas, I'm listening."
"We could set up a bicycle in the Mess Hall, attach a generator; pedal home?"
"Now why didn't I think of that?"
"...and I volunteer Harry to take the first shift!"

- Janeway, Kim and Paris

"Looks like they went this way."
"My tricorder isn't picking up any life signs. How did you reach that conclusion?"
"Footprints. -- I guess you never assimilated any Indian scouts..."

- Chakotay and Seven of Nine searching for Tom and Harry in the caves

Poster's Log:

An episode with a solid SF concept, and one that even throws a bone to the idea that the ship can't necessarily assume that they've got all their resource management problems completely sorted. Heck, they even shut down the holodeck (which I thought they'd previously handwaved away by its having a separate power supply, but whatever). There are some minor quibbles, as there always are, such as this planet supposedly having such a corrosive atmosphere, but the door to the shuttle is left wide open, and whichever section of sickbay that duplicate-Harry and duplicate-Tom are in are likewise exposed to the atmosphere. (A little more attention to the tech manuals might have saved them that; the DS9 one, and I'm pretty sure the TNG one as well, talk about how some of the living quarters are or can be adapted to non-M-class environments for either crew or guests--the E-D even has quarters set aside for cetacean crew.) The concept that the "Silver Blood" didn't even have a sense of sentience until it made contact with the crew dovetails neatly with the origin of Odo, who was sentient but didn't know that he could shapeshift until Dr. Mora started experimenting on him. The duplicates start out thinking that they're the people that they're duplicating, then start to develop a separate sense of self as it becomes more obvious that they're quite different. (Another parallel that is implicit in the story--although it's oddly not mentioned in the MA article--is with the T-1000 from Terminator 2, which is likewise a silvery liquid in its natural form, and can assume a new form when it touches the corresponding object or person. However, the T-1000 always knew what it was and what it should be doing.)

This episode really reaches its full fruition with its sequel, though, which I'm reluctant to discuss here, because even though this is a rewatch, some people may be going through the series for the first time. You can delve into the MA entry to find out what I'm talking about and even go ahead and watch the sequel episode, which has quite a bit of poignance to it.

Poster's Log, supplemental: The idea that the Silver Blood gained information and even sentience through physical contact is echoed in this deleted scene from Terminator 2, in which the T-1000 searches John Connor's bedroom by running his hands over everything.
posted by Halloween Jack (9 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I thought the b-plot was silly. Neelix intruding on the Doctor's domain. It's like a M*A*S*H plot-recycle.

Also, Memory Alpha says the silver pools were 'packed with deuterium' and the silver blood is also a soon-to-be-sentient life form...Isn't Voyager harvesting living creatures to use as energy?

I liked this episode overall. Mostly for its setup for the future sequel, which is one of my favorite episodes.
posted by hot_monster at 9:13 AM on November 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, Memory Alpha says the silver pools were 'packed with deuterium' and the silver blood is also a soon-to-be-sentient life form...Isn't Voyager harvesting living creatures to use as energy?

They never really make that clear, as in the duplicates saying, "Please don't take any more deuterium, it's killing us." For all we know, deuterium is their excrement. (We'll get into that murder-powered ship thing in "Equinox.")
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:56 AM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

heh heh hm heh

The duplicates start out thinking that they're the people that they're duplicating, then start to develop a separate sense of self as it becomes more obvious that they're quite different.

I always compare these "crew member becoming something else and wanting to leave the ship as a result" episodes to TNG: "Identity Crisis," which is miles better than any of the others. If I was challenged to defend my contention that no Trek series did Creepy and Spooky as well as TNG, "Identity Crisis" would be my Exhibit A.

That said, I too like this episode for what it is; the silver-blood-duplicate thing is an interesting twist, and it pays off big time later. Without spoiling it, I'll say that, on my first run through VOY, I recall going "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT?!" at the end of that follow-up episode. I wanted to re-watch this one immediately thereafter.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:58 PM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

Murder-powered ships. Lol.
posted by hot_monster at 2:41 PM on November 13, 2017

I don't understand why they don't send the Doctor on stuff like this. They can coat his mobile emitter with a corrosion-resistant ceramic. His mobile emitter is far-future tech anyway. I'm sure it would last. They send him, no crewperson aka, bag of water will get hurt and everyone is happy.

But, I guess, away-team orders are issued by Captain Plot-way.

On further reflection, I guess they wouldn't want to risk the one-of-a-kind mobile emitter.
posted by hot_monster at 5:04 PM on November 13, 2017 [3 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Deuterium.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: Most of the name-checking reminded me of Tholian stuff: thermionic radiation is a key component of Tholian torpedoes, and the only Class-Y environment I recall going to in Star Trek Online was the Tholian battlezone, (where an EV suit is mandatory).

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 17.
* Shuttles: Down 8.
* Crew: 136.
* Other: 46 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* As happens sometimes, the technobabble drove me a bit nuts.

Making the problem deuterium instead of something genuinely rare made me facepalm. IIRC, any system with ice or water should have some for them. Like, I would've suggested mining comets. Some of the details of the planet were too silly too - even if they could breathe there, it was only about five degrees shy of human hair burning on its own.

And as ever, I don't mean to sound like Comic Book Guy - I'm all about the willing suspension of disbelief. I'd be happier with fewer details, more plausible ones or entirely fantastic ones.

* The B-plot was a bizarre choice.

It's like a M*A*S*H plot-recycle.

Agreed. The ending was an especially weird note. I believe Neelix would aggressively pretend everything was just fine and invite the Doctor to stay with him next time, but it's still just a weird payoff there.

* The high concept stuff is fun.

I liked the notion of 'bio-forming' versus 'terraforming.' It's a neat idea that would've been fun to explore. I liked the notion articulated. (I wish they'd talked about something like that during Threshold, actually - in retrospect, it occurs to me that they could've posited Paris was evolving to survive in the post-Threshold world, and that he turned into a non-sapient lizard because human sapience was actually counterproductive when you could see everywhere at once.)

Also, I laughed at the suggestion they might have to leave Paris and Kim behind because it reminded me of Resolutions - the Demon Planet was almost their ambiguous bathtub planet, the very idea of which is hilarious.

Also, this:

The concept that the "Silver Blood" didn't even have a sense of sentience until it made contact with the crew dovetails neatly with the origin of Odo, who was sentient but didn't know that he could shapeshift until Dr. Mora started experimenting on him.

That was interesting. I appreciate plots that generate tension without a clear villain, and this definitely was on that list.

Another thought I had: giving the silver blood their memories and biological templates is a clear violation of the Prime Directive. I can appreciate why they did that, but I feel like the sequel is a good Fantastic Whale Aesop about why it was still a bad thing to do, even if it was less wrong than just nuking the place with nadion bursts.

Anyway, this is an interesting episode with an interesting followup.
posted by mordax at 5:36 PM on November 13, 2017 [2 favorites]

I like this episode, though with some reservations. The inconsistencies in the danger of the planet atmosphere and the threat it posed being the most notable example of the "science" elements distracting a bit from the story as they didn't maintain their claims about its dangers from the start to the end in how it worked and was treated. No sense in going over all the examples of this since the danger posed by the atmosphere wasn't really needed at the level they tried to set it at to justify the "Demon" moniker. Better to have dialed it back a bit to make the rest of the plot elements fit than to oversell the premise.

Some of the dialogue wasn't quite as natural seeming as they wanted it to be, with some of Tom and Harry's banter feeling a bit forced, and too that between Neelix and the doctor, but taking note and trying to work with the relationships was still appreciated. The doctor and Neelix bit would have worked better if it was Chakotay that had placed them together instead of it being Neelix forcing his way in. Neelix could have suggested the idea, but absent it being a command decision it takes away from the sort of message about Neelix's and the doctor's characters they were trying to send, as limited in value that might be. The scene with Tuvok and Neelix also didn't quite work right since there was obviously no sense to Neelix not being able to take some of those items as the space concern was pretty much nothing.

Ignoring all that and the episode is quite good, another conflict without a enemy involved and the ideas intriguing enough to be interesting on their own. It's made more interesting by the continuation of the demon crew story in the sequel episode, but this one is good on its own and could have gone in a number of equally interesting directions to the one they did use later. In fact, I'm not sure that was the best story route they could have chosen so much as the one that screws with the viewer the most while providing some connection to the real Voyager. That isn't a complaint about it, it's just noting that this episode opened up many possibilities that could have been as profitably explored were they interested and able to do so without losing focus on the real Voyager.

I count this as a Harry episode, and a good one, so that raises it a wee bit in my esteem as well since he needed some time and the rest of the crew was handled pretty well too other than some moments of dialogue. The general attitude of the episode carried this one more than did specific detail overall.
posted by gusottertrout at 2:31 AM on November 14, 2017 [3 favorites]

I'll defend the Neelix-Doctor B-plot stuff weakly as follows: it pays off in an episode next season (I can't recall which) in a tiny moment where the Doctor has occasion to say, as Neelix enters sickbay, "Mr. Neelix, am I glad to see you," and Ethan Phillip's nonverbal reaction to it is…just a great moment of subtle, solid acting.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:23 AM on November 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

Yeah, the whole thing about the "Demon planet"'s conditions doesn't make much sense, especially with what we know about real planets. You think that Demon is bad? Well, how about one where the average surface temp is 735 K, the air pressure is 92 Earth atmospheres, and the clouds are saturated with sulfuric acid? That would be Venus, the closest planet to Earth, and even though it's not really on anyone's short list of planets for people to visit, in Trek it's being terraformed, and Chakotay did a couple of months of pilot training there. I also recently saw a video that compared different volcanic eruptions in size and effect on global climate; they were all dwarfed by the regular eruptions on Io, which can produce plumes 500 km high.

Bioforming is still a neat idea, although I'm not sure how much mileage it would get in Trek, with the Federation's prohibitions on elective genetic engineering. (This is actually turning out to be an important plot point in DSC.) MeFi's Own jscalzi had a bit in one of the Old Man's War books in which there were soldiers who were bioengineered to survive in vacuum for long periods of time.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:24 AM on November 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

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