The Sound of Her Voice
Production no.: 549
Teleplay by: Ronald D. Moore
Story by: Pam Pietroforte
Directed by: Winrich Kolbe
First satellite airdate: June 6, 1998
Debra Wilson .......
Penny Johnson .....
Voice of Lisa Cusak
Odo is hassling Quark about his new, "unsafe" backless barstools, as Jake watches. When Kira comes in, however, Odo's entire demeanor changes, and he happily leaves to accompany her to lunch. This gives Quark food for thought. "Love's a distraction," he comments to Jake. "And a distracted policeman is an opportunity."
The other senior officers (except Dax) are on the Defiant, which is now on the way back from convoy duty. Kasidy is on board as well, serving as convoy liaison officer. Everyone is tired and not particularly jolly or talkative, even Bashir, of whom Kasidy notes to Sisko, "There was a time when you couldn't get him to shut up." Then Worf calls with the news that they've received a distress call. Reluctantly, Sisko goes to the bridge. The signal is coming from the Rutharian sector; they have as yet been unable to establish two-way contact.
It's a woman, the sole survivor of a Starfleet ship that was destroyed. Her escape pod is now on the surface of a harsh, class-L world with a barely breathable atmosphere. "This is a general distress call. I am a citizen of the United Federation of Planets, and a Starfleet officer. If you can hear me, please respond. My government will reward you for any assistance you can offer. And most of all, you will be my personal heroes." She is six days away at maximum warp; there are no ships closer. So Sisko has Worf set course for the Rutharian sector, and tells O'Brien to establish a two-way com link. "And when you do, tell her -- tell her her heroes are on the way."
The woman's name is Captain Lisa Cusak, commanding officer of the USS Olympia until its destruction, and she continues to transmit her monologue, seemingly as a means of keeping herself distracted from her dire situation. O'Brien listens to it as he works in the engine room, telling Bashir it seems like the least he can do. "I know you're out there," Lisa pleads into the void. "I know you can hear me. So just answer me. Tell me you're on your way. Tell me I'm going to be rescued. Tell me I'm not going to die alone."
Back at the station, Quark goes to work on Odo, innocently asking if he's picked out Kira's gift yet. After all, this Saturday is their one-month anniversary as a couple. Odo scoffs at first, thinking Quark must be trying to sell him something, but Quark declares he's not getting involved; there are plenty of shopkeepers out there. "Did you ever hear of anything so ridiculous?" Odo asks Jake, who nods slowly. So when Odo leaves, Jake and Quark both watch him start to examine the wares at one of the shops.
Jake asks Quark what he's up to; the Ferengi isn't about to tell him and have his plans end up published. But Jake manages to persuade him that he's only doing some research for a crime novel, and wants to learn how to create a real, flesh-and-blood "nefarious" character. "Lesson number one: no one involved in an extralegal activity thinks of himself as nefarious," Quark tells him. He makes Jake promise not to put anything he sees or hears of this into print.
O'Brien still has Lisa's voice going on in the background while he works. Kasidy, hanging out in engineering, asks if he's uncomfortable having her, a civilian, aboard the Defiant; O'Brien honestly answers no. "I was afraid you were going to say that," she replies. Suddenly Lisa breaks off. "What was that? I can hear you! Hello?" Contact has been made. Lisa is overjoyed. "Thank God!! Whoever you are, I love you!"
Lisa explains to Sisko a few minutes later that the Olympia was just returning from an 8-year exploratory mission in the Beta Quadrant when she decided to investigate some strange energy readings coming from the planet she is now on. They found an energy barrier, and scanned it, which triggered a quantum reaction. The resulting surge of metrion radiation disabled their engines. Now, here she is. Bashir advises her to ration her supply of triox, an injectable drug which helps her breathe in the planet's atmosphere. Even so, she'll be suffering from hypoxia by the time the Defiant can get to her. Sisko tells her he'll have one of his officers stay on the com channel with her at all times, starting with himself.
Sisko tells Lisa about the war, but she finds the thought of the Federation at war depressing, and changes the subject. "Tell me there's still something to look forward to when I get home. Tell me people still fall in love and get married and raise families." She asks if he's seeing anyone. But just from his voice as he tells her about Kasidy, she divines that there are problems. "There's no joy in that voice of yours, Ben. In fact, the tension level went up when you said her name. You sounded more relaxed when you were telling me about the war." This catches Sisko off guard, so Lisa begins relating a funny story about the Andorian civilian she dated once.
Odo comes into the bar to show Quark the beautiful necklace he just bought Kira; Quark approves, and asks what sort of plans he's made to give it to her. Of course, Odo hadn't thought of that. So Quark hands him a tray of holosuite programs to choose from, though Odo is dubious until Quark points out, "Of course, if it were me, and I had found true love after a lifetime of searching, every month would be worth celebrating." While Odo is perusing the programs, a satisfied Quark confides to Jake that this means that on Saturday night, the constable will be out of the way for what Quark has in mind.
Bashir works in sickbay while he takes his turn with Lisa, who soon realizes he's not really paying attention. Suddenly she starts verbally reacting to something coming into the cave with her, and screams dramatically. Bashir is horrified. Then a deeper voice starts speaking. "I have eaten her...What difference does it make to you? You weren't even listening to her." Realizing he's been had, Bashir apologizes, and Lisa returns to her normal voice. After all, she's a patient, and deserves some bedside manner. She coughs, admitting that she feels dizzy when she stands up, but insists that he tell her about himself, things like how he decided to become a doctor.
Quark talks to his customer, and sets up a meeting for Saturday night in a cargo bay, switching off just as Odo comes down, having made his choice: Paris 1928. However, he makes the reservation for Sunday night, not Saturday. After all, his first date with Kira ended badly, so he would rather commemorate the one-month anniversary of their first kiss, which took place the next day. Once he's gone, Quark frantically tries to raise the customer again, but it's too late: the Nausicaan, a wanted man who has to be careful with subspace transmissions, has already changed his com system protocols. Now Quark has no way of contacting him before Saturday. If the Nausicaan sets foot on the station with Odo on duty, he and Quark will both end up in a holding cell. "I think my best option is to, um, panic."
In his quarters, O'Brien unburdens himself to Lisa about a growing sense of isolation he's been feeling since the beginning of this war. "I see people, I talk to them, I laugh with them, but some part of me is always saying, 'They may not be here tomorrow. Don't get too close.'" Lisa is sympathetic; obviously he's been needing to talk to someone about this for a while. She agrees with O'Brien that ship's counselors aren't always the best people to talk to about one's problems. "Sometimes all you need are good friends....Where are your friends, Miles? Why aren't they helping you through this?" "I haven't spoken to them about any of this," he admits. "It's not the kind of thing you talk about." "Well, if you can't talk to your friends, and you can't talk to your wife, you know who that leaves?" she asks. "A ship's counselor," they both chorus.
Bashir takes over at that point, having learned his lesson and cleared his paperwork first. Lisa admits that she's not feeling as well as she sounds. The last injection didn't work; she's finding it harder to breathe. Bashir consults with Sisko, telling him that she's beginning to feel the effects of carbon dioxide poisoning. It seems the last vial of triox was tainted, probably in the crash. Lisa has no more than two days to live -- and the Defiant is three days away.
Discussing the problem with his officers, Sisko decides to let O'Brien drain power from the phaser reserves to increase velocity without tearing the ship apart, although Worf advises against it, in case they run into a Dominion ship. That, however, doesn't seem likely in this region. Kasidy pays a brief visit to the bridge just then, and Sisko can't help tensing up.
He talks about it later to Lisa, who is happy to listen to anyone's problems but hers right now. Sisko is feeling guilty about the fact that he doesn't want Kasidy on the Defiant. But Lisa's analysis is that Kasidy simply doesn't belong in that part of his life. It's nothing against her; it's the effect her presence has on Sisko that's the problem. "Don't take it so hard. So you can't mix your personal life and your professional life? Most people can't." As an example, she recalls once serving on a starbase with her sister, which didn't go well. "I look forward to meeting you, Lisa," Sisko tells her. "I'm sure I'm not the only one around here who feels the same way." "If you ask me," Lisa replies between coughs, "everyone on that ship could use some R and R."
In the cargo bay, a depressed Quark shows Jake what he was going to sell the Nausicaan: a crate of Denevan crystals. He would have gotten almost 200 bars for them. Trying to cheer him up, Jake says there's still a chance Odo won't find out. "No, he'll find out," Quark sighs. "Odo would love nothing better than to see me in jail. And after all I did for him...Like helping him find true love. That's right -- if it wasn't for me, he and Major Kira would never have gotten together in the first place. I was there for him during all the heartache and the lonely nights. He was wallowing in misery because she was still seeing Shakaar. I told him to make his move. I told him not to give up. I was there for him. And what did I get out of it? Nothing. He still spies on me, he still bothers me about minor infractions of the law, and he still can't wait for the opportunity to send me to prison. I should've remembered the 285th Rule of Acquisition: 'No good deed ever goes unpunished.'" After Quark and Jake leave, a nearby cargo container morphs. It's Odo, who has heard the entire conversation, and now looks quite thoughtful. Quark may have overstated the case somewhat, but he does have a point.
The next day, Jake is commiserating with Quark in the bar, when, wonder of wonders, Odo walks in with Kira. They're wearing a 1920's style tuxedo and evening gown, respectively. "Quark, I'd like that holosuite now after all...Turns out Nerys agrees with you. She wants to celebrate the anniversary of our first date, not our first kiss. So here we are." Dazed by this totally unexpected turn of events, Quark has to be prompted to give him the program. As Odo and Kira head upstairs, the Ferengi turns jubilantly to Jake. "I'm going to win this one, Jake. You know what the best part is? I beat Odo. I finally beat him."
Meanwhile, Kira remarks on how happy Quark looks. "You sure you want to let him get away with smuggling Denevan crystals?" "I owe him one," Odo replies. "So he'll get this one -- but just this one." She smiles, putting her arms around him. "Why is it every time I think I have you figured out, you do something to surprise me? Like tonight -- where did you get the idea to celebrate our one month anniversary in Paris?" Odo gives her an enigmatic smile. "Well, some mysteries are better left unsolved."
Finally, the Defiant reaches the planet where Lisa is marooned, and scans it (passively, so as not to trigger any quantum reactions). Bashir reports that Lisa has just lost consciousness; he has to get her to sickbay within the next 45 minutes. But O'Brien says the Defiant can't penetrate the barrier, due to the subspace metrion radiation in the barrier, which will collapse the dilithium matrix in their warp core. After discussing options, Sisko decides to take a shuttlepod down with Bashir and O'Brien.
It's a rough ride, but they manage to penetrate the barrier and make it through intact, settling on a thoroughly inhospitable landscape. Bashir can't find any lifesigns, and there are twenty minutes to go. Searching through a cave, they find a Starfleet-uniformed skeleton -- a human female, age 51 at time of death; cause of death: carbon dioxide poisoning. It's unquestionably Lisa Cusak, yet this body has been dead for three years and two months.
O'Brien guesses that Lisa's subspace signal timeshifted three years into the future when it passed through the energy barrier, and the Defiant's signals passed back through in the same way. They have been talking to a dead woman. Sisko decides that they will take her back with them. "Give her a proper burial, among friends."
In due course, Lisa's body rests in a torpedo-casing casket while the Defiant's officers hold an Irish wake (joined by Dax). Sisko tells Kasidy he has something he wants to talk to her about afterwards -- he wants to explain his behavior over the last few days. They decide to do it over dinner, which he will cook.
Bashir addresses the group. "I just wanted to say that, um, although I only talked with her for a very short time, I really admired Lisa Cusak. I cared about her, and I'm going to miss her. And another thing. Contrary to public opinion, I am not the arrogant, self-absorbed, god-like doctor that I appear to be on occasion. Why don't I hear anybody objecting to that statement?" O'Brien obligingly does so, for which Bashir thanks him. "I have a heart. And I really care about all of you, even though sometimes it would appear that I care more about my work. To the woman who taught me that it is sometimes necessary to say these things." They toast.
Then O'Brien steps up. "I never shook her hand, and I never saw her face. But she made me laugh, and she made me weep. She was all by herself, and I was surrounded by my friends. Yet I felt more alone than she did. We've grown apart, the lot of us. We didn't mean for it to happen -- but it did. The war changed us, pulled us apart. Lisa Cusak was my friend. But you are also my friends, and I want my friends in my life. Because some day we're going to wake up and we're going to find that someone is missing from this circle. And on that day we're going to mourn. But we shouldn't have to mourn alone." He lifts his glass. "To Lisa, and the sweet sound of her voice."
The original title of this episode was "Voice in the Darkness". It involved Sisko having a subspace correspondence via temporal anomaly, with a woman in 1940's America, and falling in love. Debra Wilson (of Mad TV) had also provided the voice of the Starfleet officer who speaks to tourists at the Star Trek Experience amusement ride in Las Vegas. The reason Dax only appears at the end is that Terry Farrell, who was leaving the show, was off doing auditions for other work.