Out of Fuel

Story: Demon
Written By: Kenneth Biller
Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Year: 1998

I was all set to go with “Demon”. It’s initial premise sounded like fun to me, Voyager is running low on some sort of fuel source on its long journey home, and has to conserve energy unless it finds some. It makes sense to me, Voyager hasn’t had a proper Starfleet pit stop in 4 years! Then Seven finds a planet that has the very source they need, but its a Class Y planet, commonly called a “Demon Class” planet by the folks in Starfleet. But Harry has recently realized he isn’t the inexperienced Ensign he was when the journey began and has taken the initiative to volunteer to find this fuel source on this planet that is one of worst atmospheres possible for a humanoid.
I liked it, it seemed like an episode ripe for storytelling. But then Tom and Harry get down to the planet and before you can say commercial break they are running out of air. The plot has changed! No its about Voyager having to land on the planet’s surface. Then its about Tom and Harry being able to breath the planet’s atmosphere suddenly! Wait! Another Twist they are duplicate Tom and Harrys!

This is what I call the “Voyager ADD Script”. This is a common occurrence in this series, scripts that keep shifting their attention and focus onto other things like they are changing the channel. The writer comes up with good idea for an episode, but when he/she begins to actually write it, they get bored and move on. This is like what happened with the whole Maquis premise from the show itself! The problem with this script is that by the time you get to the Tom and Harry are duplicates plot, you’ve completely lost track of the actual legitimate plot of Voyager needing fuel. Whether the ship got enough fuel or not in the end isn’t even mentioned.

If I could’ve written this episode with more focus, the plot would have involved Harry realizing he isn’t inexperienced anymore and volunteering to take the risk on this difficult planet. The story would’ve been about a guy conquering the elements. Harry would’ve struggled on the planet, almost lost hope that he’d ever find the fuel or even make it back to Voyager, but he would be able to carry on and get it there. Tom could still be there to push Harry on or something. But this would be the A-story, two men on a quest and battling very harsh elements.

That’s another thing...they acted like the Demon class planet was such a rough atmosphere and horrible terrain, but it was just air they couldn’t breath. Big deal, lots of planets have air you can’t breath.

Anyhow my B-story would be on Voyager, showing the crew struggling and attempting to adapt to their lack of energy and the measures that have had to be taken in order to conserve energy. This would be an expanded version of the small B-plot that sort of ran through the actual episode.

I just get sick of this crap. Voyager is always filled with potential and yet its constantly squandering it. The writers feel like they’ve gotta have some twist or hook at every commercial break in order to keep the audience watching, but this is STAR TREK, it has a pretty loyal audience, and you do not need cheap tricks to keep them on board. This could have been a fun, interesting, and character building adventure...but instead it squandered all of its potential by constantly changing its mind as to what kind of story it wanted to be.

NEXT TIME: Radiation on the Ship