From left to right: Crewmen Mortimer Harren, William Telfer and Tal Celes, all hand-picked for Janeway's latest away mission. And don't they look just thrilled.
A Lower-Deck Episode
featuring three crewpeople who are apparently close to the top of Seven's list of problem crew! Crewman Mortimer Harren in the Engineering department seems to be a slacker though he has five degrees, William Telfer, in sciences, is a hypochondriac; and Tal Celes, a Bajoran analyst in Astrometrics, is consistently error-prone. But they've never been on an away mission... Janeway takes it upon herself, as is her duty, to help these three who have slipped through the cracks.
This episode provides examples of:
- Appeal to Pity: Tal believes that she got into Starfleet despite being barely competent because they bent the rules and let her slide through out of pity for what the Bajorans suffered during the Cardassian Occupation.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Janeway hits Harren with one when she gets fed up with his superiority complex:
Janeway: Isn't there any part of you that feels a bond with the rest of us? When we escape from the Borg or discover a new type of star, don't you feel some pride of accomplishment? When you're in the mess hall, alone at your table in the corner, don't you see the friendships around you and wish, even for a microsecond, you were part of them?
- Armor-Piercing Response: Telfer gets in a few good responses to Harren's condescending attitude.
Harren: Nothing disagrees with me more than having to put theories into practical use, but there's no choice, so pay attention to what we're doing here. You can check yourself into Sickbay when we get back.
Telfer: And you can go back to Deck 15!
Harren: That's right, where I don't have to rely on you or your intellectually deficient friend.
Telfer: At least I have a friend.
- Body Horror: A large centipede-like alien takes up residence inside Telfer's body. We even see it slithering under his skin while he cries out in pain.
- Book Dumb: Maybe a little harsh, but Tal's issue has a bit to do with this; she's deathly afraid of math and anything technology-related, leading to constant and repeated mistakes.
- Break the Haughty: Harren's character arc in the episode; he's forced to confront the fact that many of his 'brilliant' theories on Dark Matter are wrong, and to face the realities of space exploration head on.
- Brick Joke: The first time we see Harren, he responds to a power-transfer request by saying that he's too busy disproving Schlezholt's Theory of Multiple Big Bangs, which apparently involves demolishing Wang's Second Postulate (whatever all that means). When Janeway comes to recruit him for the mission, he tries to invoke Schlezholt's Theory again, only for Janeway to warn him about Wang's Second Postulate popping up again.
- Brilliant, but Lazy: Harren's biggest problem, according to B'Elanna.
Torres: When I give him more responsibility he doesn't do the work. Harren wants to be down on deck fifteen. It gives him more time to repostulate the origins of the universe.
- The Cameo: Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello cameos as Crewman Mitchell.
- Character Development: For all the misfits—Telfer gets over his hypochondria, Tal grows a spine, and Harren learns how to deal with weirdness head-on.
- Chekhov's Gunman: Tal has a cameo in "The Haunting of Deck Twelve".
- Delegation Relay: The episode starts by showing how a simple decision by Janeway on the bridge runs down the chain of command until it reaches Harren on Deck 15.
- Do Not Call Me "Paul": Harren mentions that not even his mother called him "Mortimer." So then what did she call him?
- Everybody Hates Mathematics: Tal Celes.
"In my nightmares, I am chased by algorithms. My brain just wasn't built to understand this."
- Exact Time to Failure: The typical case of predicting when the shock-wave will hit. Unfortunately, Tal (who can't do math) is put in charge of calculating it:
"Shockwave impact in three, two, one. (Beat as nothing happens)
More or less."
- Exact Words: When Neelix accuses Tom of not having said two words to Harren, Tom claims otherwise. He said the two words, "Excuse me" after bumping into Harren in the corridor.
- Explosive Instrumentation: Harren sees it coming and calls for Telfer to cut the power, but Telfer's too wrapped up in another self-diagnosis.
- Fun with Acronyms: Z.G.I.F. - "Zero G Is Fun" - a mnemonic most likely from the Academy days, which translates to Techno Babble.
Janeway: Zeta particle derivation. Gamma wave frequency. Ion distribution. Flow rate of positrons.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Harren tries to pull one, distracting the Dark-Matter creatures with his escape pod so the Flyer can escape. Considering the Delta Flyer had time enough to save him and escape, it probably would have been a Senseless Sacrifice.
- Hypochondriac: Telfer. Amazingly, his encounter with the alien bug cures it.
- Insufferable Genius: Why Harren is just fine secluded at the ass end of the ship (literally, Deck 15); he's about to disprove Schlezolt's Theory of Multiple Big Bangs, and he hates putting theories to practical use. He is a lazy thinker and always talks down to everyone. The only reason he's on Voyager in the first place is because his career path required a year of starship duty and he just happened to get assigned to the worst possible one.
- Lower-Deck Episode: Deck 15 is as low as it gets on Voyager.
- More Expendable Than You: Harren steals an escape pod, intent on sacrificing himself to give the Delta Flyer time to escape, because he figures no one would care about his death. Averted when Janeway rescues him.
- A Mother to Her Men: Janeway goes out of her way to help the crewmen overcome their personal issues, treating them as people and not just cogs in the lower decks.
- Mythology Gag: It's said that "Wang's Second Postulate has more lives than a cat." Given that Garrett Wang plays Harry Kim who's famous for being repeatedly killed off in this series...
- Negative Space Wedgie: An invisible one, but one powerful enough to rip a section of hull plating off.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: When Harren kills the Dark Matter alien in the cockpit, Janeway berates him for killing an innocent being and ruining their chance for a peaceful first contact.
- The Nicknamer: B'Elanna refers to Seven as the "Borg Queen".
- Nothing Is Scarier: Where was Telfer taken? And what was chasing the Flyer?
- Obliviously Evil: The dark matter alien attempts to take over the Delta Flyer and reconfigure the life support systems to keep itself alive, so Harren shoots it to save the crew. Janeway berates him for killing an alien that may not have meant them any intentional harm.
- Oh, Crap!: Telfer's finally got a bug; a BIG one!
- Our Dark Matter Is Mysterious: Voyager encounters a species of dark matter lifeforms that take over Telfer's body and try to communicate. Harren panics and kills one of them, and the aliens attack the ship.
- Platonic Life-Partners: Tal and Telfer are clearly pretty good friends, but there's no indication of anything romantic.
- Puppeteer Parasite: The creature briefly takes control of Telfer's body.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: These three are just ill fits for the kind of mission Voyager has turned out to be on.
- Surrounded by Idiots: Harren's opinion of the Voyager crew, and especially his shipmates on the Delta Flyer mission. He even talks down to Captain Janeway herself.
- Title Drop: Janeway will be playing the Good Shepherd to these three.
- What the Hell, Hero?: Janeway tears into Harren for shooting the alien bug against her orders.