599. Good Shepherd
FORMULA: Lower Decks + Learning Curve + Nothing Human
WHY WE LIKE IT: The misfits.
WHY WE DON'T: Dark matter aliens, eh?
REVIEW: Voyager pulls a Lower Decks by having Janeway take an interest in three misfit crewmen who have "slipped through the cracks". Not the Learning Curve Maquis (not Maquis at all, actually) and not the Equinox crew (never seen again), but three new characters who probably wouldn't have made it in Starfleet had transfers been possible. Since we spend a good amount of time with them, it's good that they're an interesting and likable lot.
They are. Tal Celes is Seven's error-prone astrometrics assistant who knows she's in over her head. Her best friend is William Telfer, a hypochondriac who always has a note from the Doctor when assigned to an away mission, but who nonetheless knows what he's doing if we go by the two's all-night cramming sessions. Even Mortimer Harren, inveterate jackass and math genius, is likable. He's irrepressibly cocky, which is what gives him his charm. Each one does have redeeming qualities beyond likability: Celes thinks outside the box, Telfer is obviously a team player and Harren is a brilliant theoretician (though Janeway can certainly stand up to him if not necessarily run circles around him).
Predictably, they'll encounter a threat that'll turn their careers around, make them show their true potential, cures what ails them. And that happens (a touch easily in Telfer's case, but reasonably with the others). The episode lacks a proper epilogue that checks in with each character, so see where they'd be going next. And of course, all but Celes are never heard from again, which is really too bad. The less said about the dark matter aliens plot the better, probably. It's not like we ever get any real answers.
As usual, the effects are very good, especially the approach to Voyager with people actually walking around in the windows. A PADD gets handed off from section to section until it ends up on the submarine-like Deck 15. Interesting to see the bowels of the ship, even if they are different from those shown before. Maybe that's why Janeway gets lost down there. I thought she knew the ship like the back of her hand. (Actually, this shows how she's ignored some crew members.) Also note a cameo by Rage Against the Machine guitarist and Trekkie Tom Morello. He's down there.
LESSON: Some people just don't want to be noticed.
REWATCHABILITY - Medium: The plot is nothing great, but it features some interesting characters in Lower Decks fashion and makes the ship seem more real.