Eye of the Needle
Overall Ep :
First Aired :
20 Feb 1995
Season Ep :
When considering whether everybody can beam themselves home through the wormhole, Kes asks the EMH if his program can be downloaded and he says no. Yet he was downloaded to Starling's office in "Future's End", and across the galaxy in "Message in a Bottle" and "Lifeline", and is frequently downloaded into his mobile emitter in later seasons.
Great Moment :
The EMH's request for a name.
Body Count :
Voyager's crew are excited to discover a wormhole, hoping it might lead to the Alpha Quadrant. On investigation they find that the wormhole is ancient, and is in an advanced state of decay; what remains is only thirty centimetres across. Although it's far too small for Voyager to fit through, the crew are able to launch a micro probe into it. However, the probe becomes lodged half way through, further dashing everyone's hopes... until they realise that somebody on the other side is scanning the probe.
In sickbay, Kes observes the EMH at work and is concerned by how rudely some of the crew are treating him. She asks the doctor to teach her about medicine, and he offers her some books on anatomy.
In a meeting the crew decide to reconfigure the probe to send some energy pulses through the wormhole, attempting to attract the attention of whoever is on the other side. Torres makes it clear that they are working to a deadline; the wormhole is collapsing and their probe will be crushed within 72 hours. As they signal the other side of the wormhole Kes comes to see Janeway to tell her about how the crew are treating the EMH. Janeway points out the the EMH himself is becoming known for being rather rude and lacking in a bedside manner, and that they are thinking of reprogramming his personality. Kes argues that the EMH is a sentient personality and that reprogramming him would essentially be an act of murder. Janway agrees to consider it.
Working on the probe, Kim wonders if they could use it to relay a voice signal to the other end of the wormhole. They try a basic hail, and with some tweaks they get a reply - from a Romulan cargo ship in the Alpha Quadrant. At first the man refuses to believe that Voyager is a Federation ship in the Delta Quadrant, pointing out that no such ship could have gone so far across the galaxy. He cuts communication, and Tuvok points out that there are no shipping lanes in his vicinity and he is more likely a science vessel on some covert mission. Janeway orders them to continue hailing whilst she goes to talk to the EMH. They discuss his issues with the crew; he points out that people often deactivate him when they are finished with him, even though he is often in the middle of working. He says that all he really wants is a little consideration, and Janeway suggests that they could give him the ability to deactivate and reactivate himself. She asks if there is anything else he wants, and the EMH says he will think about it.
That night the Romulan responds again, and Janeway is woken to talk to him. He admits that he has tracked their signal to the Delta Quadrant, and half-believes Janeway's explanation of how they got there. He offers to use a signal booster on his ship to establish a video link, and Voyager's crew work to comply, noticing a strange phase variance in the signal which they don't understand but are able to compensate for. When the Romulan sees the bridge he remarks that he's never seen such a ship before, and Janeway points out that it is brand new, though not classified. When the Romulan says he has a year old daughter who he has not yet seen, Janeway says that they too have families who are worried about them, and that if he would pass on some letters it would mean a lot to the crew. He says he will consider it and Janeway orders everyone to prepare letters. Torres rushes to the bridge and asks to see the Captain privately; clearly agitated, she points out that the communications link they are using is almost up to transporter specifications; with a little more tweaking they may be able to beam things through the wormhole!
Kes returns the books to the Doctor and asks for more; he's amazed that she has assimilated the material so quickly and comments that she could become a doctor in short order at that rate. When Kes points out that they might be able to beam the crew off Voyager and back home, the EMH is astonished - and points out that he would have to be left behind if they did. He asks Kes to make sure that somebody remembers to make sure his program is shut down if the crew do leave, lest he be left active on a deserted ghost ship.
The transporter test is successful, despite the continuing problem of the phase variance, and the Romulan - who is called R'Mor - gets hold of their test object and comments on how small and sophisticated it is. He agrees to beam to Voyager next; if successful he will return and call for a troop ship to accommodate Voyager's crew. A happy Janeway orders the crew to prepare to leave - but Tuvok stops her and asks R'Mor the date. Confused, he replies that it is 2351; the phase variance they have been dealing with is a temporal transition, and they have beamed the Romulan from twenty years in the past. It's clear that they cannot return and alter their own history; R'Mor offers to tell Starfleet not to send Voyager on the mission to find Tuvok in the first place, but they equally can't change the present by altering the impact they've had on the Delta Quadrant. Finally they agree to give their letters home to R'Mor; he can wait until after Voyager vanishes and then send them to Starfleet. He beams away, and only then does Tuvok reveal that he looked the man up in their database; he died in 2367, four years before Voyager left. Although there is some possibility that he might have arranged for the messages to be delivered by others, the crew must face the strong possibility that they will never be delivered.
In sickbay the EMH begins to stand up for himself a little more with the crew, insisting on some recognition and respect. He also gives Kes a list of things he would like the Captain to add to sickbay to assist him in his work. A pleased Kes agrees, and the EMH makes a final, more personal request; he would like a name.
A good story with a nice twist. This is the first Voyager episode that really works on all levels. There is technobabble in the form of the wormhole and the various talk about eddies and variances and all that, but it's done the way technobabble should be; we get the idea of the wormhole as a tunnel from Voyager to the alpha quadrant, and more importantly we get a clear and simple goal in what they are doing; fiddling with the tech to attract attention, to get a voice through, to get a visual signal through, to get a transporter through. At each stage there's a clear and simple goal and the babble is there merely to support it, not as an end or plot point in itself.
The idea of beaming somebody through a wormhole is also an interesting one; it's one of those things you hear and think "well yeah, why not?" If a ship can fly through the thing, why not send a signal, why not use a transporter to beam through it. A slightly novel application of ideas we're already familiar with.
The time displacement thing is also a nice twist, which I didn't see coming though the clues are a bit obvious in retrospect. And the crew's reaction works; hopes dashed, but they still try to do what they can, only to have that hope dashed too.
The B plot also works; the first real step on the EMH's long evolution towards a fully developed character. It's a poingant moment when he asks for a name at the end. It makes absolutely no sense that he never did get one, but then that's not the fault of this episode.