The Light Bulb Series: “Illumination” (Voyager)
Written by Peter Anspach
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?
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.