While trying to repair their ship, the crew of the USS Voyager gets caught up in the deadly politics and ethical conundrums of a diseased alien race. After being catapulted 70,000 light years from Earth, Captain Kathryn Janeway and the crew of the USS Voyager are desperate to get home. Unfortunately, they're critically low on the dilithium needed to fuel their warp drive. Their only hope to fix the ship is an earth-like planet full of tall, slim, birdlike aliens with gold eyes called the Sardalians. Janeway has her crew get to work on repairs, and also take some well-deserved shore leave.
Ensign Harry Kim, a scientist and clarinet player, visits Sardalia to test the soil and hear the local music. His best friend, Lieutenant Tom Paris, wants to tour the bars, gamble, and meet exotic women. Reluctantly, Harry tags along with Tom. They meet a woman named Marima who takes them to the ocean and a ship called the Fair Wind. Tom and Harry see the darra: beautiful bronze, dolphin-like creatures with orange eyes and too many teeth to count. To their horror, Marima and the other Sardalians start killing the fish. A second ship comes to stop the "harvest." Their boat is destroyed and Tom, Harry, and a very ill Marima are shipwrecked and struggling to survive.
Meanwhile, back on Voyager, Janeway has assembled a search party to find Tom and Harry. She, her first officer Chakotay, security officer Tuvok and chief engineer B'Elanna Torres also meet with Sardalian diplomats and scientists. Everything about the first contact goes smoothly until technology goes missing from Sickbay and Engineering. Janeway discovers that an alien named Borizus is the thief - a thief with a good reason for his crimes. The Sardalians - Marima included - are all dying from the "gray plague." They're desperate for a cure.
Back on the planet, Tom, Harry, and Marima are picked up by a Micaszian ship - the same ship that destroyed theirs. They meet the captain, Assurna, who explains that the Micaszians want to protect the darra. The fish are being killed because of an enzyme that helps control the symptoms of the gray plague. Inevitably there will be a civil war between those who want to kill the fish and those who want to protect them. While feeding and playing with the darra, Tom and Harry realize that they're sentient. One even rescues Harry when he falls overboard. But it's Chakotay who manages to find and rescue Tom and Harry from the ocean. He transports them back to Voyager right before a gigantic wave kills them all.
Voyager's doctor manages to synthesize an enzyme similar to the darra's. It not only manages the symptoms of the gray plague but cures it. Captain Janeway and Lord Kolias - who is revealed to be Marima's father - make a trade: the Sardalians get the cure to the plague and Janeway gets the materials to repair Voyager. Voyager continues on its journey home.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked this story because it had everything I look for in a science fiction novel: adventure in outer space, fascinating aliens with a complicated culture, and characters struggling to survive and find their friends.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Voyager's doctor cured Marima. There was a satisfactory balance of drama (Marima dying) and humor (the holographic doctor's dreadful bedside manner).
Opinion about the main character:
Star Trek: Voyager features an ensemble cast, but the captain and (arguably) protagonist is Kathryn Janeway. Janeway is a likable and admirable character because of her courage, intelligence and wit.