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Overview – The crew prepares the ship for a total powering down as it is about to enter a J-class nebula. Neelix, after securing the mess hall, is asked by Seven to supervise the Borg children during the power outage. As the power goes out, the children awaken in their alcoves to be greeted by Neelix. As they press Neelix with questions about what is transpiring, Mezoti asks if Deck 12 is related to any of it. Neelix proceeds to tell them about an incident that occurred several months earlier, before the Borg children came aboard Voyager. While collecting deuterium from another J-class nebula, a mysterious, alien entity comes aboard. When Voyager leaves the nebula, the ship begins to experience malfunctions, as if the ship was haunted. Neelix continues the story, recalling the events of how the lifeform tried to take over the ship before Janeway agreed to take it back to its home nebula. When they reach the nebula’s coordinates, they discover the nebula has dissipated. After more threats to Janeway, which results in the rest of the crew abandoning ship, Janeway works out an arrangement to get the lifeform to another nebula.
Score: 7/10 – This is an entertaining tale that gives us a “ghost story” experience and showcases Neelix’s child care skills. The fun part of this story is to try to decipher how much of it is real, and how much is Neelix’s story-telling exaggerations. There is enough suspense and mystery to give us some intrigue, although this is somewhat negated by our knowing that all turns out OK due to the facts that the ship is still in one piece and Neelix is telling the tale. While this episode may not be striking any strong chords with the audience, it is pleasant enough with some cool makeup effects for various injuries, some interesting visual effects, and a few nice Neelix moments. The Borg kids do a great job of mixing child-like wonder at a scary story with Borg-like attitudes. Overall, worth the watch.
Relevance – 1 point. I suppose I could score a point for seeing Tal Celes for the last time. We saw her in “The Good Shepherd” and this is the only one of Janeway’s special projects from that episode to make a second appearance. Interestingly enough, the events of the story occurred before “The Good Shepherd”, so we are seeing Celes for the “first” time, before Janeway took special interest in her, and yet this is the “last” time we see her. That, sadly, is the only thing that is relevant to anything else in the franchise or the series. It would have been interesting if the writers, knowing that this story was coming down pipe, could have written in little tidbits about the mystery around Deck 12 for several episodes leading up to this one. A missed opportunity for Voyager, especially considering that they had done similar things in the past, such as the Crewman Jonas storyline from Season 2.
Continuity - 3 points. Character continuity works. I like how Neelix is the one sent to tend to the children, although it might have been nice to have included Naomi Wildman in the mix. If the characters had displayed anything that might have been slightly off from the usual, it could be explained through the reasoning that the inconsistencies are a result of Neelix’s storytelling. Story continuity is also good, and again, anything that might be amiss could be explained away with the fact that this is a retelling of a story. Universe continuity also remains intact, so we score full marks in this category.
Character Development – 1 point. Telling the story does not really develop Neelix’s character. It gives him some good moments, but we really don’t see anything that moves his character along. Likewise, there are some good moments for other members of the crew, especially Janeway when she is fighting with the lifeform over control of the ship. While seeing the good Captain put her own life on the line in the ultimate game of chicken, we must also remember that this was a story being told, so it is difficult to know how much of it was the truth and how much was Neelix’s embellishment.
Social Commentary – 0 points. As fun as this episode may be, it teaches us nothing. That is often the nature of ghost stories. They frighten us, startle us, and yet have little of a message. That is what such stories are supposed to do, so while this does not weaken the episode, it does not score the bonus points for this episode.
Cool Stuff – 2 points. The injury makeup of Tom Paris and Tuvok, as well as other injured crewmembers, is very impressive and noteworthy. I quite enjoyed it, so it gets a point here. I will also score a point for the hallucinations of the nebula that Neelix had seeing the nebular gases.
Rank – Lieutenant (14 points). A spooky campfire story (ok, power cell story) that gives us another episode with the Borg kids and serves as a nice distraction. While it is not a stellar episode and for many it could be considered filler, it is enjoyable and amusing enough to be worth a viewing as you go through the series.
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