Click Your Heels Three Times
"Eye of the Needle" Plot Summary:
Harry Kim discovers a wormhole which leads to the Alpha Quadrant, but it is collapsing; Janeway hypothesizes that it's a very old wormhole. Torres manages to send a transmitter through, and the crew makes contact with a Romulan ship on the other side. The lone occupant is highly skeptical of the Starfleet crew's claim to be lost in the Delta Quadrant, but reluctantly agrees to see whether he can help them.
The crew begins to record messages to send to their families back home, but Torres realizes that if she can send a carrier wave through the wormhole, she can probably direct a transporter signal - they could beam the entire crew to the Alpha Quadrant. This news distresses the Doctor, who would be stranded with the ship, but everyone else is very excited. Initial test transports prove successful, but the Romulan refuses to permit the crew to beam to his vessel without permission from his government; instead, he agrees to come on board Voyager.
Once he arrives, however, readings indicate temporal displacement, and the crew realizes that this Romulan comes from twenty years in their past. Janeway realizes that the effect on the timeline could be devastating if they returned to the Alpha Quadrant or asked him to alter history. She sends the Romulan back with only their messages, which he promises to deliver at the appropriate time. But once he is gone, Tuvok reveals that he checked the computer and the Romulan died four years before Voyager's launch. They have no way of knowing whether their messages will ever reach Starfleet and their families.
It was a little early in the series for an episode such as this, since I really hope this crew begins to grow and explore the Delta Quadrant rather than spending every week being failures at getting home, but I enjoyed the episode very much. Mostly, I enjoyed Janeway. Her infectious enthusiasm when they wormhole was discovered, followed by her passion in trying to convince her adversary to help them and her strength in the face of major disappointment at the end, made her a very strong character here.
My favorite parts were the scenes where the captain negotiated with the Romulan. In one, she was awakened by an incoming message and out of bed in her nightgown to plead with him on behalf of her crew; she was lovely and feminine, and also forceful and persuasive, a combination we've never seen in a starship captain on this series before. In another scene, she used a domestic argument to persuade the Romulan to help her. Instead of appealing to him as a fellow commander, a fellow warrior, a fellow scientist, she asked him about his wife and the daughter he has never seen, appealing to him as a family man.
This struck me as both clever and distinctly Janeway - I cannot imagine it would have occurred to Kirk or Picard to make that particular argument. And it worked. For all the lip service on TNG about how everyone's a big happy family in the Federation, this is the first time we've had a captain take so-called "feminine values" seriously enough to realize that they might have value in other cultures.
The episode did plod a little - it needed a B plot stronger than the Doc's search for identity, something comic like "The Cloud" to make us see that, even though they're not getting home any time soon, this crew is going to grow closer. But Kate Mulgrew commanded the screen whenever she was on it, which was nearly every scene.