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The Light Bulb Series: “Illumination” (Voyager)

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Captain’s Log, Stardate 49213.4. As more and more time passes here in the Delta Quadrant, I worry that the crew is beginning to feel a deepening sense of isolation. In the beginning, we entered into this journey with the high spirit of adventure, but now the realization is beginning to sink in that we are all alone, and opportunities to return home are proving quite elusive.

Scene: A Victorian Drawing Room

Janeway
...and I heard strange noises coming from the room above.
Lord Burleigh
Well, it wasn’t my dead wife, that’s for sure.
Chakotay
(over communicator) Bridge to Captain Janeway.
Janeway
Freeze program. Go ahead, Chakotay.
Chakotay
We’ve finished restocking our supplies, but there may be a complication.
Janeway
I’m on my way.

Scene: The Bridge

Chakotay
Still the same?
Kim
Aye, sir. No change.
Janeway
(entering) What’s this about a complication?
Kim
We picked up an anomaly on the other side of the planet.
Janeway
What is it?
Kim
Uh, it’s something emitting energy at a constant frequency.
Janeway
I need a little deeper analysis than that. Tuvok?
Tuvok
While the frequency has remained constant since we began our observation, we have no guarantee that it has always been so or will remain so in future.
Chakotay
If you want, I can ask my Animal Guide, but there’s really nothing else to go on.
Janeway
(peering at a readout) True, except for the fact that it’s the characteristic diffraction pattern that would result from a Kazon warship shielding itself behind the magnetic core. Red Alert, shields up!
Paris
They must have been monitoring us, they’re coming in for an attack run!
Neelix
(over communicator) Neelix here, Captain. I’m just going to make some daiquiris. Would you prefer mirkleberry or pongo fruit?
Janeway
We’re in the middle of a Red Alert, Mr. Neelix.
Neelix
So that would mean... mirkleberry?
Kim
We’re being hailed, Captain.
Janeway
On screen.
Culluh
I wish to talk. We have discovered a newly-formed wormhole leading to your Alpha Quadrant. You will never be able to locate it on your own before it closes. Despite the fact that you are a woman and therefore weak and stupid, I will reveal its location in exchange for... what was it I wanted?
Seska
(slapping him) Federation technology, fool!
Janeway
(placing hands on hips) Now, I don’t suspect your motives despite the last 23 times you’ve broken bad on us, but your offer is just not feasible. I’m sure that when you stop and reflect on the legal and ethical implications such an exchange would—
Kim
They’ve closed the channel and powered up weapons. Wait! There’s a shield malfunction! Uh, no, it’s okay. I think. On the other hand, maybe not.
Janeway
Mr. Kim, are the shields working? I need an answer now!
Kim
Uh... my guess would be...

The ship is rocked by a blast.

Kim
...no.
Janeway
Damage report!
Tuvok
The last blast appears to have caused a power surge which overloaded our replicators. Other than that, the ship sustained only minor damage.
Kim
Shields back online! They are continuing fire!

Ship is repeatedly pounded.

Janeway
(to herself) 18... (ship is hit by a blast) 19... (another hit) Okay, that’s 20. Return fire!
Chakotay
Direct hit! She’s crippled and moving away.
Janeway
And we can backtrack her ion trail straight to the wormhole. Tom, follow that trail. (folds arms and smirks) We’re heading home.
Paris
Uh, Captain? The engines appear to be offline.
Janeway
(tapping communicator) Engineering! What’s going on down there?!
Torres
The power surge knocked out a light bulb. You see, I did a little rewiring down here and put all the bulbs in series with the warp core instead of in parallel; it’s an old Maquis trick to reduce energy consumption. The only drawback is, if a light bulb burns out, it breaks the circuit and the warp engines won’t work.
Tuvok
Such design is in flagrant disregard of Starfleet Utilities Code.
Janeway
I’m afraid you’re in serious trouble, Lieutenant.
Torres
I use the energy we save to replicate your morning coffee.
Janeway
Obviously, the person at fault is not B’Elanna, but whoever was responsible for the shield malfunction. Tuvok, I want a full investigation. Lt. Torres, change the light bulb.
Kim
Oooh! Oooh! Captain! Can I go down there? I took a course in light bulb changing at the Academy.
Janeway
(arching an eyebrow) I hardly think she requires any assistance, but maybe you can pick up some experience. Very well.

Scene: Engineering

Torres is working at a panel with Kim peering over her shoulder.

Torres
Well, here’s the broken bulb.
Kim
Let me do it. Uh oh!
Torres
What’s wrong?
Kim
These are those new experimental 100-watt bulbs. The course at the Academy only talked about the LaForge-standard 75-watt.
Torres
It’s the same thing!
Kim
Hunh-unh. ‘Step 1: Find a replacement marked 75-watts.’ I think we’d better look this up in the technical manual.

Scene: The Bridge

Janeway is pacing impatiently.

Janeway
Janeway to Engineering. Have you changed the bulb yet?
Torres
(Loud smash) No, damn it! The new bulbs aren’t working! (Another loud smash)
Janeway
I’m on my way! Don’t touch anything until I get there.

Scene: Engineering

The floor is littered with broken bulbs. Torres smashes another light bulb as Janeway enters.

Janeway
Get a hold of yourself, Lieutenant!
Torres
(angrily) Stupid Starfleet equipment! Arrrgh! These stupid Starfleet replacements won’t work!
Janeway
(examining the wall) No, they won’t work. Not until you flip the switch to the ‘on’ position. Now, hand me another bulb.
Torres
I can’t! I smashed them all. I’m sorry, Captain. (choking back emotion) I really try to control my Klingon side, but it’s so it’s so—

Torres collapses into a sobbing fit. Kim enters carrying a PADD.

Janeway
Harry, would you—
Kim
Almost there, Captain. I’m looking up light bulbs now.
Janeway
(sighing) All right, everybody to the conference room.

Scene: The Conference Room

All officers are present.

Janeway
Tuvok, have you completed your investigation?
Tuvok
Yes. After extensive analysis—

Neelix suddenly enters with a tray of drinks.

Neelix
The daiquiris are ready! I’ll pass them out while you go on with your little meeting thingy. You won’t even notice I’m here.
Tuvok
After extensive analysis, it seems that someone—
Neelix
You know, Mr. Vulcan, you really should drink it while it’s still nice and frothy.
Tuvok
(perturbed) After extensive analysis, it seems that someone briefly unplugged the shield focusing generator. (He glares at Neelix.)
Neelix
Oh, was that what that was? It didn’t look important and I needed a place for the blender. Really, Captain, there’s a shocking lack of outlets on this ship. May I suggest you—
Janeway
(holds up her palm) One problem at a time, Neelix. For now we’re stuck here until we can replace the light bulb.
Paris
Excuse me, Captain, I’m a little confused. What’s a light bulb?
Janeway
Well, Tom, when a conductor is heated above 525 degrees, it begins to emit energy in the form of light. If you run electric current through a thin tungsten filament, it makes a serviceable light source.
Paris
Wouldn’t it react with the surrounding atmosphere?
Torres
Not if you enclose the filament in a glass bubble to keep it in a vacuum or mixture of inert gases.
Paris
Ah, I see: a sort of bulb of light!
Janeway
Exactly. And we need another of these bulbs to replace the one that burned out. Now, where can we find a light bulb in this part of the galaxy?
Neelix
Oh, you want to go to Galara.
Janeway
Galara?
Neelix
Oh yes. The Galarans are friendly and make the best bulbs in the quadrant.
Kim
But how do we get to Galara without warp engines?
Chakotay
I could take a shuttle without permission and charge in blindly.
Janeway
No, we can’t risk losing another shuttle; at the rate we’re going we’ll be down to our last dozen any day now. There must be something...

Janeway and Torres look at each other.

Janeway and Torres
(simultaneously) The output projectors!
Kim
Hunh?
Torres
The holographic output projectors.
Janeway
They emit light—
Torres
—in a similar manner and we could modify them—
Janeway
—to fit in the circuit. It would only be temporary—
Torres
—but should get us to Galara. The ones in Sickbay—
Janeway
—should be easiest to adapt.

Scene: Sickbay

Doctor
I must protest. How do you expect me to operate under these conditions?
Kes
It really does seem uncalled for.
Kim
Come on, he still has the other leg. We need this to get to Galara.
Kes
Excuse me, but if you can get the engines going again, shouldn’t you look for the wormhole instead of chasing after light bulbs?
Kim
Probably, but we’re all going to overlook that to make things more interesting.

Scene: Orbiting Galara

Janeway
Open a communications channel.
Kim
Captain, sensors detect incoming photon torpedoes!
Janeway
Evasive maneuvers! (Ship is hit.) Damage report!
Tuvok
No damage. Correction, I detect minor damage in Engineering.
Janeway
Janeway to Engineering. What’s your status down there?
Torres
We’ve lost another bulb.
Janeway
Well, go over to Sickbay and take an arm or something.

Neelix enters the Bridge. He is furious.

Neelix
Captain, do you realize that last blast completely collapsed my soufflé?! Your dinner’s going to be late because I have to start all over from scratch!
Janeway
(rubbing her temples) Those were your friendly Galarans. They fired on us as soon as we opened a communications channel.
Neelix
Well, er... they have become a bit touchy lately. Probably due to that new communicable strain of phage that the last visitors brought in.
Janeway
Do you mean we’d have been infected if we’d beamed down?!
Neelix
Well, if you don’t have enough sense to use isolation fields in a plague zone, you certainly would be! Honestly, I don’t know how you people survived before you got me for a guide! Now about the soufflé; I need some more herbs and the closest source for wild juna is Larpon Prime.
Janeway
I think light bulbs are our primary concern at the moment.
Neelix
Well, as long as we have to stop there for juna, I suppose we could pick up some light bulbs too.
Janeway
Very well. Mr. Paris, lay in a course for Larpon Prime.

EXTERNAL SHOT: Voyager traveling in space.

Paris
Approaching Larpon Prime now, Captain.
Doctor
(over communicator) Please turn to your Emergency Medical Holographic Channel. If you don’t get the Emergency Medical Holographic Channel, call your cable company.
Janeway
Yes, Doctor?
Doctor
According to my calculations we are arriving at our destination. Now I don’t want to be pushy but, well... could I have my limbs back?!?!
Janeway
I’m sorry, Doctor. I’ve checked through Starfleet records; no ship has ever before successfully changed two light bulbs. All of our resources must be devoted to this problem.

Scene: A Modern Hardware Store

Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok, Kim and Torres beam in. The clerk looks up.

Clerk
Can I help you?
Janeway
I am Captain Kathryn Janeway of the Federation Starship Voyager. The Federation is a democratic consortium of planets located in the Alpha Quadrant. We believe in peaceful coexistence and noninterference with other civilizations. Our mission is to explore new frontiers and contact new forms of life.
Clerk
(shrugging) I am Assistant Manager Mark Helmer of the Build-Rite Hardware Emporium. Build-Rite is a privately-owned corporate franchise located in the Delta Quadrant. We believe in buying merchandise in bulk and offering discount prices. Our mission is to sell hardware, appliances and basic gardening supplies.
Torres
This is it, Captain! We must make a purchase here!
Kim
She’s right, Captain! This could be our only chance!
Tuvok
I would advise caution. We do not yet have an accurate means to assess the quality of the merchandise.
Janeway
Hmm... perhaps you’re right. Maybe we should purchase one bulb and if it seems to work we could
Chakotay
Damn it, Captain! It’s time to abandon Federation protocol and act like a Maquis. Mr. Helmer, we’ll take two light bulbs!
Clerk
(putting bulbs in bag) Okay, that’ll be one twenty-nine.
Janeway
Do you take gold-pressed latinum?
Clerk
Sorry; no latinum or no out-of-quadrant checks.
Janeway
(dismayed) There goes another chance to return to the Alpha Quadrant! Oh well; we’re bound to make it back one of these days especially if the ratings don’t improve.
Clerk
Uh, look, if you really need them that bad, just take them.
Janeway
(warmly) Thank you; we won’t forget your generosity.

Enter Neelix and Kes.

Neelix
We’ve got the juna. Let’s go, people!

Scene: The Bridge

Janeway, Chakotay, Tuvok and Kim enter.

Paris
Captain! I’m glad you’re back; I’ve been picking up strange readings from the other side of the planet, but I can’t tell what it is.
Kim
(peering at a readout) Interesting.
Janeway
What is it?
Kim
It’s something emitting energy at a constant—
Janeway
(shoving him aside and peering at the readout) It’s the wormhole back to the Alpha Quadrant! Bring us in close, Mr. Paris.

Torres rushes in.

Torres
Captain!
Janeway
Are the new bulbs in place?
Torres
Even better; the replicators are finally fixed. While we were down on the planet my staff completed repairs and used them to replace the missing bulbs.
Kim
I thought events on DS9 had established that replicators couldn’t make light bulbs.
Torres
Uh, um... Voyager is equipped with the new type-6 replicators. Anyway, since we made our own bulbs, we don’t need these after all! (holds out the bag from the hardware store)

The wormhole swings into view.

Chakotay
There it is!
Paris
Let’s head on home!
Janeway
No! We can’t go back until we return those light bulbs.
Paris
(alarmed) It’s starting to close! Captain, now’s the time—
Neelix
(from doorway) for dinner! (He enters carrying a tray and accompanied by Kes.) You’d better stop whatever you’re doing, because the soufflé has to be eaten fresh from the oven.
Janeway
Mr. Paris, resume standard orbit of Larpon Prime. (sharply) That was an order, Lieutenant!
Paris
Are you crazy, Captain?!
Janeway
Mark Helmer gave us those bulbs, probably out of his own salary, because he thought we needed them. It turns out that we don’t. Can’t you see that our honor as Starfleet officers demands that we return them before we go? Those two bulbs, small though they are, embody all the values that we stand for, all that the Federation represents. Ask yourself this, Tom: Is returning home worth the price of betraying that man’s trust?
Paris
Yes.
Tuvok
That is the logical conclusion.
Neelix
You’re not eating your soufflé!
Chakotay
I’d give an arm and a leg to be back home right now.
Doctor
(on screen) Try it sometime; see how you like it. And now that the new bulbs are in place, do you think one of you could come down here and reinstall— (Janeway closes the channel)
Torres
Sure, it’s worth it. Heck, I thought we should have let the Kazon toast those stupid little elves back on Ocampa. (to Kes) Er, no offense.
Kes
I’m not an elf.
Kim
I certainly think it’s worth two little bulbs to get home.
Kes
I mean, just because someone happens to be slim and fair-haired and has delicate features, pointed ears, a lively spirit, an affinity for nature and a few supernatural abilities, that doesn’t necessarily—
Paris
The wormhole’s almost closed!
Crew
(in unison) Go through now!
Janeway
I want all of you to listen very carefully. I feel that as your captain, it’s my responsibility to train you in a manner becoming to Starfleet officers. I think if you look deep in your hearts, you’ll realize that your behavior just now was wrong.
Paris
Oh, great! The wormhole just closed and now the captain’s mad at us again.
Janeway
Now, Tom; I’m not mad at any of you, but I am disappointed. You should all know that whatever happens, your captain loves you very much, and there is nothing you could say or do that would ever change that. But there are times when it’s necessary for your own good for me to take disciplinary action. This is always the toughest part of being a captain, and I hope you realize that it hurts me a lot more than it hurts you. Right now, I think all of you should have the opportunity to reflect on what you said and how it made me feel. (takes the soufflé from Neelix) That’s why I’m confining you to your quarters without any supper.

The End

This page was last modified on Wednesday, July 04, 2012.