Nutshell: It's at least worth news coverage...
DELTA QUADRANT, Milky Way Galaxy — A respected ensign on the only known Federation starship in the galaxy's Delta Quadrant has been formally reprimanded by his captain for fraternizing and engaging in sexual activity with an alien woman, according to reports from The Associated Galactic Press.
Ensign Harry Kim, bridge officer on the USS Voyager, had a formal reprimand placed on his permanent record resulting from his unauthorized sexual affair with Tal [Musetta Vander], an engineer on an alien Delta Quadrant vessel that the Voyager had been in contact with last week.
Kim failed to attend a press conference held in the Voyager briefing room Saturday. He also did not return hails made to his ship's quarters on Thursday and Friday.
"I didn't like having to do it," said Capt. Kathryn Janeway, commander of the USS Voyager, in regards to the reprimand. "But he left me no choice. Sex is not a trivial matter on my ship. Especially considering the scandal in America's White House back at the end of the 20th century — I have no wish to have the independent counsel walking through my corridors or subpoenaing my officers. I have a ship to run and a crew to get home."
It was unknown at press time whether Independent Counsel Kenneth Starr would risk the dangers of time travel to prosecute Kim or anyone else on board the USS Voyager.
"He's always falling for the wrong woman," said Ensign Tom Paris, Kim's best friend who frequently provides him with advice concerning women. "Harry's a good guy, but I feel sorry for him. Every time he has the opportunity for female companionship, he somehow gets shafted. It's almost as if he's the victim in some unfair plot being written by writers who like to torture him."
As a fellow ensign, Paris occasionally looks out for his friend.
"I disguised an unauthorized comm [communication] signal to cover for him," he said. "I just hope the captain doesn't find out. She might put me in jail again, and another demotion would make Harry my senior officer. Is this off the record?"
Opinion concerning the captain's decision varied among the Voyager officers.
"I was surprised by the action," said Voyager first officer Cmdr. Chakotay of Janeway's decision to reprimand Kim. "According to something I scribbled down in a written log last year, I had also had an affair with an alien woman. Unfortunately, I don't recall having that affair, or sex for that matter, and the captain apparently didn't take disciplinary action. I really don't remember, which is too bad because my notes say she was unforgettable."
Voyager chief of security Lt. Cmdr. Tuvok agreed with the captain's decision.
"Mr. Kim's behavior was completely illogical," Tuvok said. "Ensign Kim was unable to control his emotions and detoured a shuttle mission to satisfy his own personal desires. I noticed several thousand electrons were out of place and discovered he had finished his assigned task ahead of schedule but had not returned to the ship. Subsequently, we learned he had disobeyed orders and beamed Tal aboard his shuttle."
Tuvok had denied allegations Feb. 3 that he had an unauthorized affair with an alien woman named Noss while stranded on a failed shuttle mission.
"Your course of reasoning is flawed," he said when again asked about the alleged encounter. "The entire incident was recorded, and I assure you no regulations were broken."
Bloomington, Ill., resident Jamahl Epsicokhan is one of many who views the fully edited and assembled "caught on tape" documentary segments of the Voyager crew through a temporal anomaly that transmits the images nearly 400 years back in time and approximately 35,000 light-years to Earth (Sector 001 in the Alpha Quadrant), where he receives the images on his 20th-century television set.
In an interview via temporal-displacement phone on Saturday, he laughed when asked to comment on the Voyager scandal. "That episode was indeed very funny," said Epsicokhan, who views the documentary broadcasts every week. "I don't remember laughing at a show as much as I laughed at 'The Disease.' This show was as dumb as a box of rocks."
Strangely, Epsicokhan, along with millions of viewers on Earth in the 20th century, believes the aired Voyager news segments are actually a series of fictional stories produced at Paramount Studios in Hollywood, Calif.
"I've watched Harry go through a lot in the last few years, and yet he never seems to change," said Epsicokhan. "The whole theme of 'The Disease' was that Harry 'is a man,' and not a kid. But I think I've seen that idea in an episode at least three times now, and it never seems to stick. His character pretends to develop but never really does. After five years in the Delta Quadrant, we still have the captain treating him like he's 20 years old. Did you know that Garrett Wang in real life is 30?"
When reporters tried to inform Epsicokhan that Kim is actually a real person living 400 years in the future, whose documentary stories are transmitted through a temporal anomaly, he dismissed the possibility and accused reporters of "yanking his chain."
But Epsicokhan finally granted the possibility. "Fine then," he said. "Then someone needs to tell them to cover a new beat, or at least a different aspect of Harry's life. If I have to sit through one more 'Harry's not a kid' segment, punctuated by a sabotage plot that can't possibly be cared about in the slightest, I'll write a letter to the editor. By the way, aren't you putting the entire timeline in jeopardy just by talking to me?"
Seven of Nine, Voyager bridge and science officer adjunct, likened love to that of a disease.
"Ensign Kim was acting erratically and emotionally because of romantic feelings," said Nine. "The Borg view love as a disease because of the way it adversely affects the body's biochemistry. In Mr. Kim's case, he felt emotionally distraught when apart from Tal. Also, the alien nature of the bond caused his epidermis to luminesce."
When asked why she thought Kim did not simply resist his feelings and adhere to protocol, Nine paused for a moment and then said, "Resistance is futile."
Nine refused to grant reporters the unique perspective of the youngest member of the crew.
"Naomi Wildman will not comment. She is too young. Her mother has forbidden discussion of the matter," said Nine. When reporters informed Nine they would attempt to contact Naomi Wildman anyway, Nine said simply, "You will fail."
Reporters, however, could not locate Naomi's mother, Samantha Wildman, anywhere on the ship. Sources say Wildman has not been seen since a salvage mission of the Delta Flyer on Nov. 11, leading to speculation by some members of the crew that Nine has "taken care of" Wildman and adopted her daughter. An investigation is pending.
Voyager cook and morale officer Neelix could not comment on the Ensign Kim scandal, saying he did not know enough of the incident's specifics. He did, however, offer reporters a hot bowl of soup with assorted "veggies."
Epsicokhan called the romance angle of the documentary "a travesty" and said it was the perfect example of how not to do romance on Trek. "This show 'The Disease' is the antithesis of DS9's 'Chimera' — an evil twin," he said. "There's not a believable emotion to be found anywhere in the relationship. It claims to be about love, but it's simply about uninteresting lust, with stretches of Harry histrionics."
Epsicokhan criticized Tal as "completely bland," and said that all the guest actors' performances were "exceedingly weak." He also called the dialogue "embarrassingly trite," and said that if he weren't laughing so hard during several of the broadcast's attempted sentimental moments, the degree of the broadcast's clichéd triteness concerning romance would have caused him to "bury [his] head in [his] hands and cry."
However, "This is not a laughing matter," said Voyager chief medical officer Dr. "Doc" Doctor, a hologram who stressed he was "shocked and chagrined" at both Kim's actions and Epsicokhan's casual dismissal of the matter.
"The risk factors of having intimate relations with an alien without medical clearance is a very serious matter," Doctor said. "Anything that can cause someone's skin to emit light cannot be a good thing. Mr. Kim's irresponsibility of getting caught 'in the heat of the moment' is not an excuse. He could have introduced a destructive disease into their population or vice versa."
Epsicokhan was skeptical of Doctor's "grandstanding," as he put it. "Yeah, that's all we need — a ridiculously obvious 24th-century safe-sex allegory," he said. "I'll pass."
When confronted about a sexual affair he had with a Vidiian woman three years ago this week, Doctor said, "Well, that was different. We were both holograms, so there was no risk of infection. Frankly, I'm still amazed we were able to pull off such a feat. The reprogramming of my matrix was an ... interesting experience, if I may say so."
Public opinion of the ensign is supportive. While most disagree with what he did, he still maintains a very high degree of popularity among the American people.
"I disapprove of what the ensign did, but he's still very high in the polls," said 20th-century Washington, D.C., Future Events Analyst Joel Flanagan. "It's only sex! It's not like he betrayed the ship or put the crew in danger! Frankly, I don't think it's a high crime or a misdemeanor! Personally, I think we need to turn our attention to the Microsoft and Disney corporations, which maintain joint ownership of Earth in 2031."
Strangely, no one on board the Voyager could remember the Starfleet protocols on alien romance as being so strict or explicit.
"I think they just made them up for the sake of this episode," said Epsicokhan. "There's never been one bit of evidence of their existence in the past. But then again, we see so little sex on Star Trek that maybe the case is that no one has ever really had 'confirmed' sex until this week."
Federation records, however, indicate that the protocols were put on the books mostly in response to the frequent romantic encounters of the legendary Capt. James T. Kirk a century ago. And although the application of the protocol is granted to the commanding officer's discretion — thereby not specifically affecting Kirk at the time — Starfleet felt it was prudent to have rules that applied to officers.
How these rules apply to Starfleet officers of different species is uncertain, though most speculate that medical clearance among Klingons and humans is approved. Lt. B'Elanna Torres, Voyager's chief engineer, has been in a relationship with Ensign Paris for the past 18 months. Sources are uncertain, however, if the relationship has been consummated, and neither Paris nor Torres would talk to reporters about the matter.
"All of you get out of here or I'm calling security," said Torres when reporters tried to conduct an interview on the Voyager engineering deck. "We're trying to run a level-three spectral analysis on the gravimetric intensity in the warp coil isolation reflux chamber, and with all of you in here, you're affecting the upper-baryon results of the isometric relay variable outtake inhibitor module."
According to Janeway, the harsh-seeming disciplining of Kim did not arise out of an abhorrence of sex, nor from her unresolved feelings of a sketchy incident with her first officer three years ago while isolated with him on an uninhabited world.
Rather, it's simply a matter of maternal instincts.
"I'm very protective of Harry," she said. "He's very much like a son, and Seven is like a daughter. You could say I'm a maternal figure for both of them. Maybe I'm overprotective and over-nurturing at times, but that's just the way I am when it comes to my crew."
Epsicokhan said he respected Janeway's intentions, but did not necessarily agree with the extremes to which she sometimes carries these sentiments for the cameras.
"I can understand Janeway's anger at Harry losing some of that perfect Starfleet officer status, and I understand her maternal attitudes," he said. "But we might as well rename this episode 'Favorite Son, Part II' while we're at it."
Next week: The crew faces a "deadly" epidemic—even though it was this week's episode that was called "The Disease." Go figure.