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Recap / Star Trek: Voyager S5 E17: "Course: Oblivion"

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Yeah, they're not gonna be able to buff that out this time.
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The story starts with Lt. Tom Paris and Lt. B'elanna Torres marrying each other, which turns out to be a happy moment for the crew...although they do not notice beneath their feet how the floors and the Jeffries tube below them are starting to ominously distort. (And wait, didn't Tom get demoted?) B'elanna and Seven of Nine soon find out, though, with Seven discovering that the distorting section of the ship is losing molecular cohesion and B'elanna saying that it's radiation from the warp core that's causing the demolecularization. Then B'elanna herself starts to develop signs of the same problem, as do a few other crew members who worked in Engineering. She eventually dies despite Tom Paris and the Doctor's best efforts to save her.

Realizing that things brought on board the ship over the past several months are immune to demolecularization, Commander Chakotay and Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok investigate the path of Voyager's journey and indicate one particular event — their landing on a Demon-class planet where they discovered the "silver blood" — that may be the cause of the problem. Through an injection of a dichromate catalyst into the corpse of B'elanna Torres, Chakotay and Tuvok get their answer — the whole ship as well as its crew are biomimetic copies of the original Voyager, and the warp core radiation, though harmless to humanoids, is killing them. Despite this, Captain Janeway orders her crew to continue on their journey to the Alpha Quadrant while they try to find another Demon-class planet where they could make repairs.

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As the ship continues to lose molecular cohesion and the crew continues to die, Voyager does find another Demon-class planet, only to end up in an altercation with a mining treaty defense ship that wards them off with phaser fire. After getting into an argument with Chakotay which results in him dying from demolecularization, Janeway orders the ship to turn around and head home for the original Demon-class planet that they came from while sending out a distress call for the real Voyager.

Near the end of the story, with Ensign Kim, Seven of Nine, and Neelix as the only main crew still living with most of the ship being held together by force fields, they soon spot the real Voyager, but are unable to hail them or come out of warp. Ensign Kim orders the warp core to be dumped, causing the ship to be violently torn apart. By the time the real Voyager comes into contact with the ship's last known coordinates, they are too late — all that is left of the biomimetic copy of Voyager and its crew is just formless particles of debris from which no investigations can be made.

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This episode provides examples of:

  • Apocalyptic Log: The Captain's Log becomes this as the episode goes on, as shown by Harry Kim's final entry.
    "Acting Captain's log, stardate 52597.4. Our situation's getting worse every day. More than eighty percent of the ship is uninhabitable. Most of the crew are gone. It seems less and less likely that the few of us left will reach our destination."
  • Artistic License – Astronomy: Janeway and Chakotay are giddy at the idea of flying right through the center of the Milky Way galaxy, even though all the exploding stars and black holes would make it a navigational nightmarish impossibility. (Not to mention the superbeing living out there, waiting for a starship.)
  • Artistic License – Physics:
    • Biomimetic Neelix suggests for their honeymoon, Tom and B'Elanna take a cruise on a sea of liquid argon. Argon is only a liquid between -189 and -185 degrees Celsius! Granted, this takes place on the holodeck, but given how often the safety protocols decide to break...
    • Janeway orders that the environmental systems be set to simulate a Class Y planet, in an effort to slow their decay. As mentioned in "Demon," such a planet has a temperature of 500 kelvin (or roughly 230 Celsius, which is hotter than most baking ovens). The interior of the ship and all its inhabitants, who are now used to a Class M environment, would not be able to survive.
  • Asteroid Miners: The biomimetic duplicates find a "Demon" planet, but it's already been claimed by a mining group. Duplicate!Janeway backs down rather than destroy the miners.
  • As You Know:
    • Seven lampshades this when B'Elanna tells her how to operate the warp core, something she already has extensive knowledge of.
    • Played straight when Chakotay and Tuvok recap the events of "Demon" to each other.
  • Becoming the Mask: The biomimetic crew of Voyager really believed that they were the original crew, even to the point where they almost forgot that they were the copies.
  • Big "NO!": Biomimetic Tom Paris to The Doctor when he is told to return to his quarters after they fail to resuscitate B'Elanna.
  • Book-Ends: Harry Kim is one of the first silver-blood clones in "Demon," and one of the last to survive in this episode.
  • Bottle Episode: Most of the episode happens entirely on the biomimetic Voyager, while the real Voyager only appears near the end.
  • Bouquet Toss: B'Elanna Torres tosses the bouquet, and Seven of Nine catches it, which leads to this conversation.
    The Doctor: Congratulations.
    Seven: For what?
  • Cake Toppers: The episode opens with a P/T bride-and-groom cake topper close-up shot.
  • Call-Back: To "Demon".
    • Cerebus Call Back: Whereas "Demon" had a relatively positive, classically Trek solve-it-with-diplomacy ending, "Course: Oblivion" takes the same concepts and creates a story with an absolutely brutal Downer Ending.
    • At the end of the episode, even though it was post-emergency, Tom calls Janeway "sir", a title that she rejected for casual use at the beginning of the show.
    • At one point Janeway says, "We've come too far to be stopped by dust." This is a call back to Year of Hell.
  • Chirping Crickets: On the fifth moon of Cytrax, a suggested location for Tom and B'Elanna's honeymoon. Neelix says that their song is reported to be an auditory aphrodisiac.
  • Closest Thing We Got: Later on in the episode, with the crew drastically reduced, the Doctor offline, and Tom Paris suffering decay, Neelix gets promoted to Chief Medical Officer despite having only a field training as a medic.
  • Contrived Coincidence: Despite trillion to one odds, the biomimetic Voyager comes across the real Voyager, though they fall apart before contact is made. This is lampshaded earlier, when the Doctor tells Janeway that they should find the real Voyager, but she dismisses this as impossible due to the fact that they have no idea where the ship is, if they've been destroyed, or returned to Earth.
  • Destructo-Nookie: Joked about at the wedding when Janeway mentions how Tom and B'Elanna aren't using painsticks at the ceremony.
    Harry: They're saving the painsticks for the honeymoon.
  • Doctor's Orders: With biomimetic Neelix being made Chief Medical Officer after losing The Doctor, he warns Captain Janeway not to have him call this if she doesn't let Ensign Kim take command of the ship for a while, given how close she was to total demolecularization.
  • Do Not Go Gentle: Biomimetic Kim and Seven throw everything the melting ship is still capable of into their effort to survive.
  • Downer Ending: For a show that depended so heavily on the Reset Button, this is easily one of the darkest VOY endings, if not the darkest. All the biomimetic Voyager crew die and their attempts to ensure that they are remembered fail. What makes it even more heartbreaking is that Ensign Harper of the biomimetic crew just had a baby born before the demolecularization started.
  • Due to the Dead: Biomimetic Janeway gives Chakotay this immediately after his passing, saying that he was a fine Starfleet officer and a good friend who wasn't afraid to tell her where she went wrong.
  • Electronic Speech Impediment: As the biomimetic Voyager degrades, all audio including speech deteriorates with pitch warp and static.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: Chakotay and Tuvok retrace their route and come across the Demon-planet, recalling the events of that episode. Tuvok looks extremely uneasy when they start to come to the same conclusion.
    Tuvok: I've often wondered what happened to them. Are they flourishing? Have they continued to evolve?
    Chakotay: Do they still resemble us?
  • Failure Is the Only Option: The biomimetic Voyager developed a warp drive that would get them home in two years. You didn't really think they'd pass the details of that warp drive on to the real Voyager, did you? Not that they didn't try to near the end.
  • Fake Memories: Everything the biomimetic Voyager crew remembered about themselves were all copied from the original crew's memories.
  • Faster-Than-Light Travel: With its enhanced warp drive, biomimetic Voyager could reach the Alpha Quadrant in two years, beating the original Voyager's longer journey cruising at its top speed. Unfortunately, the Toxic Phlebotinum ruins their chance of doing so.
  • Faux Empowered Person: The Janeway duplicate believes herself to be the real Janeway, and does things as the real captain would. Some members of the crew, such as biomimetic Harry, continue to put their faith in her. This leads to some bad command decisions which results in the destruction of the ship.
  • Give Away the Bride: Biomimetic Chakotay does the honors of giving away B'Elanna at the wedding.
  • Hand Wave: The biomimetic crew just 'forgot' their origins, and were also able to survive in Earth-like environments whereas in "Demon" the biomimetic copies were restricted to the environment of the Demon-class planet they came from.
  • Hope Spot:
    • The ship finding a Demon planet, which they hope will stop the degradation. Unfortunately, the planet has already been claimed by a mining group and Janeway backs down rather than destroy them.
    • Biomimetic Kim spotting the real Voyager. Brutally crushed when the only way they can reach it ends in the ship's destruction. Their whole existence amounts to little more than a footnote in the real Janeway's log.
  • Idiot Ball: Even after realizing her entire crew is biomimetic, Janeway insists on maintaining their course for the Alpha Quadrant, instead of going all out for a nearby planet in an effort to save their lives. In addition, she orders the enhanced warp drive brought online to go back to the "Demon" planet, which drastically accelerates their disintegration.
  • I'm Cold... So Cold...: The first symptom for B'Elanna is feeling very cold and asking the computer to turn the heat up.
  • I'm Melting!: Biomimetic B'Elanna's body instantly reverts to a blob of "silver blood" when the Doctor injects it with a dichromate catalyst. The biomimetic Voyager itself disintegrates into formless particles when force fields holding the dissolving ship together fail.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Janeway's reasoning for why they should keep heading for Earth, which even Chakotay says is a terrible idea?
    "How do you know where we belong? For all we know, the real Voyager's been destroyed and we're all that's left. For all we know, we're supposed to be living their lives."
  • Kill ’Em All: Everyone dies or is already dead when the duplicate ship is destroyed. Harry Kim, Seven, and Neelix survive the longest.
  • Know When to Fold 'Em: Chakotay's death convinces Duplicate!Janeway to turn the ship around.
  • Lohengrin and Mendelssohn: Both are used in the episode, played by Harry Kim, with the latter song being played during the Overcrank sequence where the rice is tossed on the newlywed couple.
  • Magical Defibrillator: The cortical stimulator was used here as one, though it was unable to bring B'Elanna back from the dead.
  • Male Gaze: We have a nice shot of Seven's behind in her Sensual Spandex as she crawls down a Jeffries tube.
  • Married In Space: Tom Paris and B'elanna are joined together by Captain Janeway as per Starfleet tradition.
  • Message in a Bottle: The crew of the biomimetic copy of Voyager try to send one in the form of a probe to the real Voyager in the case that they don't survive their journey home to the Demon-class planet, but unfortunately it's destroyed before it can be launched.
    SF Debris: And that's all she wrote for...all they wrote.
  • Meta Twist: An odd case, as the show's notoriously lax continuity and lazy writing makes it quite easy to be surprised by the twist, with Tom and B'Elanna's sudden marriage and the references to things we never saw naturally taken as just more of the writers not caring about their work.
  • Moment Killer: Tom moves to kiss B'Elanna after putting on her ring, but Janeway interrupts as she has to marry them first before he can kiss the bride.
  • Noodle Incident: An early clue that this Voyager isn't the real one is the mention of several past incidents, like an alien race that sabotaged their life support system and a battle fleet that tried to conscript them.
  • Notice This: When Janeway asks Tom if he's having second thoughts about marrying B'Elanna, the camera slowly zooms in to show that he is still wearing his lieutenant insignia, even though the real Tom was demoted in "Thirty Days" to ensign (and wouldn't get his rank back until the end of Season 6). This is the first clue for the audience that things are not right.
  • Phlebotinum Breakdown: As the systems fail, the biomimetic Voyager finds itself unable to drop out of warp at a critical moment when it's within hailing distance of the real Voyager.
  • Polyamory: Biomimetic Seven of Nine prefers this type of relationship over being married to a single person, which she sees as extreme monotony.
  • Principles Zealot: Biomimetic Janeway is so adamant with the crew sticking to Starfleet principles, despite the fact that she and the crew are not the originals, that she has her Voyager back away from a Demon-class planet protected by asteroid miners rather than risk getting into a fight with the miners and destroying their ship. Chakotay calls her out on this, which makes her eventually realize that turning back home to the original Demon-class planet that they came from is the only sound option they have left.
  • Public Domain Soundtrack: Harry is playing a jazzy rendition of that old classic "Heart and Soul". Too bad they couldn't have done the T'Pau version.
  • The Roaring '20s: Biomimetic Tom Paris' planned honeymoon in the holodeck with his wife would take place in this kind of setting.
  • Shipper on Deck: Torres suggests to Seven, who'd earlier caught the wedding bouquet, that she give Harry Kim a shot.
  • Shoot the Shaggy Dog: Not only does the entire biomimetic crew die, no one will even remember that they existed because their time capsule fails to launch and is destroyed.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Lampshaded re Tom and B'Elanna:
    Seven: Given the volatile nature of their relationship, one might have predicted homicide rather than matrimony.
    • Also in B'Elanna's marital vow to Tom Paris:
    B'Elanna: You stood by me when most people would have run for the nearest airlock. You were willing to see past my shortcomings...and to take all the bumps and bruises that came along with it. You made me a better person...even though I put up one hell of a fight.
  • Slow Motion: Biomimetic Tom Paris and B'Elanna's departure at the end of the wedding ceremony as they are showered with rice is done in slow-motion as we see what happens to the rice when it falls to the floor.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich:
    • Biomimetic Janeway prepares chicken paprikash for her dinner with Chakotay, but it never gets eaten as the two of them talk about the current situation.
    • In-Universe when Neelix doesn't understand the point of throwing rice over a married couple in a wedding instead of eating it. He also thinks it should at least be cooked.
      Doctor: The idea is to shower the couple with a symbol of good fortune, not garnish them like a roast chicken.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: With the surprise twist coming in the middle of the episode instead of the end.
  • Toxic Phlebotinum: Warp core radiation is harmless to normal living beings, but dangerous to beings and substances made of "silver blood", causing them to demolecularize.
  • Wham Shot: The real Voyager calls up the source of the distress signal on the viewscreen... and it's a bunch of space spatter.
  • What Would X Do?: When biomimetic Harry Kim orders Seven of Nine to dump the warp core and Seven warns that dumping it while still traveling at warp would tear the ship apart, Harry tries to reason with Seven by saying, "What would Captain Janeway have done?"
  • What You Are in the Dark: Writers commented that part of they liked about this episode was exploring how the characters would react when faced with certain death, including Tom Paris denying his own reality to avoid facing his pain while Janeway falls back on her own goals to avoid acknowledging the scale of the problem.
  • Widowed at the Wedding: Biomimetic B'elanna dies before she and Tom Paris get to enjoy their honeymoon together.
  • With This Ring: Biomimetic Harry Kim needed a little prompting from the Captain to give Tom Paris the ring to put on B'Elanna's finger.
  • You Are in Command Now: Near the end of the episode, with the higher-ups succumbed to demolecularization, biomimetic Harry Kim is the only officer in charge of the ship, with Seven of Nine as Chief Engineer and Neelix as Chief Medical Officer.
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