This week on STAR TREK: VOYAGER… what the fuck?
We open on a black-and-white shot of women’s shoes, and a voice asking “What do you see, Mr. Paris?” Paris, who is still insufferable, says that he sees shoes, muddy shoes, and then as the camera pans up, “the dog.” Cut to a color close-up of Paris’s eyes, and the voice saying: “Good. That’s exactly what you should see.” I would be more interested in the off-balance opening if I wasn’t confident that the explanation is going to be hella boring, but I’m going to be an optimist and wait and see.
Now we’re shaki-camming around something that looks like a 40s-era pad, maybe an LA mansion, in a sort of noir style, with alien subtitles hovering near the bottom of the screen. In the garden, in the rain, Tom is necking with an alien babe, à la J.T. Kirk stardate whothefuckknows, what does time even mean when time travel is practically de rigeur. (Now I’m wondering if Paris was intended to be a sort of proto-Kirk, a Kirk-that-took-a-wrong-turn, a there-but-for-Spock-goes-Kirk character. I hope I’m wrong, because if I’m right it’s a mediocre idea badly executed.)
“That isn’t possible,” says Paris about the necking, and 400 million women agree, but the voice thinks he’s talking about the disorientation of seeing himself through another man’s eyes. The wife sees the camera and says “Tolen!” Another voice confronts Paris and the alien woman, accusing Tom of stealing his wife. Because Tom is a ladies’ man, and we know this because the writers insist upon it, despite all evidence to the contrary.
Both present-tense Paris and false-memory Paris insist that this isn’t the way it happened, but the first voice says the trial is over, there’s no sense in denying anything now. The husband whines about Tom having been in prison and then threatens to report him to the captain. Black-and-white Paris says he can’t let him do that, and stabs him more or less in cold blood while the wife protests.
“Let the record show that the sentence of the court has been carried out,” says the first voice, and things better get less confusing soon or this recap is never going to end. The sentence, apparently, is that every 14 hours Paris is going to relive the last moments of his victim’s life. Back in color, Tom is all sweaty and vulnerable–Wrongly Accused is a good look for him, actually. He’s in a room that could be on Voyager, with two aliens. One of them leads Paris from the room while the other watches.
End teaser, roll opening credits.
In sick bay, the Doctor is quizzing Kes on her medical studies. Kes is an excellent student. While they run through a tutorial on WebMD, Kes asks the Doctor if he’s chosen a name yet. He says he asked the Captain for one, but when Kes asks him why he doesn’t choose one himself, he gets uptight and says that holograms don’t make choices. She asks how diagnosis and treatment decisions are different from making choices, and he gradually sees her logic. She asks him about the names he has programmed into him, and he runs through some–including Dr. Spock–but says none of them quite fit.
Before anything can be resolved, because that is the nature of plot momentum, Janeway radios to the Doctor to prepare sick bay for either Paris or Harry, who are returning on a shuttle. Tuvok says there’s only one life sign on board. It’s Harry, and he’s severely dehydrated. “They made me leave without him,” he says at least twice, then tells them that the Baneans convicted Paris of murder, after which we go into a flashback.
Honest to god, and I say this with frustration but not malice, this is already the worst structured piece of shit I have ever watched. I feel like throwing a hardbound copy of Samuel Delany’s essay on chronological storytelling and false flashbacks at everyone involved.
So. False flashback. Harry and Paris meet the physicist Tolen Ren, who is going to help them repair some of the damage to Voyager. The Baneans appear to have large heads wrapped with different-colored cloths, or else the worst prosthetics ever on this show, which is saying something. Maybe they are feathers, except that Tolen has a beard, and it’s all so distracting, y’all.
ANYWAYS after that worthless scene Harry and Paris have dinner that evening at the professor’s home that night, while Harry gives the most listless voice-over I’ve ever heard outside of the stage directions at a table read where everyone is hungover. Are they trying to remind us that Harry is dehydrated? But why? ARGH. Harry ends his intro with “If we hadn’t gone with him that night, none of this would have happened,” but since we already know at least one version of what happened, this intonation carries little of the intended dramatic weight.
The physicist no shit has a little yappy dog, possibly a long-haired Chihuaha, which is the most apathetic example of unexplained convergent evolution ever on a Trek show, but also possibly a reference to Ren Hoëk? Maybe I’m giving the writers too much credit there for a change. Tolen Ren calls for his wife and basically acts like he’s hot shit, but then realizes he forgot to call ahead, and laments his terrible manners. His wife, Lidell, appears wearing what looks like a waist-length nightgown with tights and manages to say put-upon things without sounding put-upon. She’s quite lovely in spite of the bumpy forehead, and we’re meant to read into the looks she and Paris exchange. She feeds a scrap of meat to the dog, saying he wouldn’t eat it if it was spoiled.
At the dinner table, Tolen does that asshole disarming thing where he lists off his faults to his wife so that he doesn’t have to actually take responsibility for them. He’s rude, he’s antisocial, his wife is bored because he brings his work home. “Thanks for reminding me, honey, that I haven’t told you yet today what a condescending asshole you are!” she somehow manages not to say. Tolen says that it’s because they’re at war–with the Numiri, apparently–and asks how they got past the patrols, which is how it comes up that Paris is a hotshot pilot. It also explains why these two are here on a shuttlecraft while Voyager is off elsewhere; apparently Janeway didn’t want to involve Voyager in the conflict by orbiting the planet, so they sent the shuttlecraft. Paris brags a bit about how he managed it, and Tolen is impressed, but Lidell ends dinner awkwardly by saying the meat doesn’t taste right. OK?
Harry, Paris, and Tolen go to work, but we don’t see any more of it; Harry exposits that Tom got bored with the work and left the room, and that he thinks he spent some time with Lidell. He knows they saw each other the next day, and that night the professor was murdered. They interrogated him, thinking they were Numiri spies, and he never saw Tom after he was detained. Janeway decides they need to go to the Banean home world, and tells Chakotay to lay in a course. That’s all Chakotay ever gets to do, man. Him and Tuvok, coursifying and analyzing and theorizing. I bet they talk shit about the rest of the crew all the fucking time.
After the break, Neelix shows up at Janeway’s office. She picks his brain about the Numiri. Neelix says whenever he’s seen the Numiri, he left before their intimidation began, but that they have weapons similar to Voyager’s, and shields. The Numiri are also very covert, Neelix says, but can’t tell her more before Chakotay calls her to the bridge. They’ve encountered the Numiri already. It’s one patrol ship, which Neelix finds odd.
Janeway hails the ship, and a guy who looks a little browner than a Black Lectroid from Buckaroo Banzai asks them what their business is in the system. Janeway explains, and the Numirian gives her official notice that they’re entering a war zone and any attempt to give aid to the Baneans will be considered an act of war. Then he tells her to go on ahead, so obviously the Numiri are involved in all of this pretty directly, somehow.
Neelix is concerned, and thankfully Janeway takes those concerns seriously, putting the security teams on full alert and ordering continuing scans for patrols. Voyager moves into orbit, and on the surface Janeway and Tuvok are met by an official with a scaly beaver on his head. He tells her that Paris has already been convicted and punished, which we already knew, I’m just saying. Janeway is pissed and asks for the details and gets them. By the end of this conversation, Tuvok and Janeway look like they’re not sure what to believe.
They visit Paris in lockup, which, if the sentence is to relive the murder twice a day, why does he need to be locked up? Are we living in such a penitentiary-acclimated society that life in prison is just assumed, here? Fuck rehabilitation, let’s just make these fuckers eternally miserable. Anyway, Tom says he didn’t kill the guy, that the marriage was over, and nothing happened between him and Lidell–almost nothing.
The night before the murder, Tom wanders out of the science-ing and tries to flirt with Lidell, who is smoking. Tom tells us that Earth gave up smoking centuries ago, which is a pretty fucking utopian conceit, even for Star Trek. She says she’s smoking because she doesn’t have the guts to kill herself quickly. She’s got a chip on her shoulder about why she married the old guy. “He’s a good man,” she says. “I would never do anything to hurt him.” Paris, who is insufferable, takes this as an opportunity to make a move in on her. She turns away from him, though, and before we can see what else happened, Paris has his regularly scheduled flashback. Janeway gets some medical help, because Paris is in bad shape. Turns out they had some trouble integrating Banean engrams into Paris’s brain, but they went ahead and did it anyway because of reasons.
Janeway wants to take Paris back to Voyager so the Doctor can check him out. The justice minister reluctantly allows this after the Banean doctor recommends it. The minister tells them not to leave orbit, and Janeway tells him they aren’t leaving until they prove Paris’s innocence. Oh. Snap?
Commercial. Hey kids, want to look like a terrible Star Trek alien this Halloween? Drape some soggy spinach or fish scales over your head, paint glue over it, and then look miserable! Congratulations, you’re a Banean!
Back on Voyager the Doctor says that this advanced medicine has damaged Paris’s neural pathways, and the damage is progressive. Darned advanced medicine is always causing brain damage. Tuvok wants a copy of the Doctor’s analysis. Janeway and Tuvok discuss an appeal, but Tuvok already knows that the Banean punishment for murder before lethal brain damage used to be lethal injection, so maybe they need to concentrate on innocence first. The Doctor says Paris will regain consciousness, but his brain will be further damaged every time he relives the memory. Tuvok wants an autonomic response analysis next time Tom wakes up, and asks Janeway for permission to go back to the surface to investigate. Tuvok, P.I.! I hope he wears a Hawaiian shirt to blend in.
No such luck, but he does go to visit Lidell and her dog. Here’s where it becomes clear that the noir thing isn’t accidental; they’re trying to play her as the femme fatale, an approach that is stifled by her awful gray wardrobe, her prosthetics, and the awkward way she reclines onto the sofa. Tuvok reads her as dispassionate, and she smiles a black widow smile and says she thinks Tom Paris would say otherwise, which is so clearly a ploy that Tuvok doesn’t even bother calling it out. She pours herself a drink and explains what it’s like to end a marriage, which is how we find out that Tuvok has been married for 67 years.
Anyways Lidell says that ending a marriage is a quiet thing; the arguments are long over and there’s really nothing much left to say. Tuvok wants to know why now, and Lidell says she was attracted to another man, Paris. Tuvok says this seems odd, since Paris wasn’t going to stay. Tuvok establishes that she saw Tom at the Engineering Institute the day of the murder, and that they walked home in the rain, getting soaked. We transition to her version, in which she helps him take off his boots and they start getting squishy. (Their clothes are wet. What did you think I meant?) Tom has second thoughts, but she says her marriage is over, and mentions that her husband hasn’t treated her like a woman since the eclipse four years ago, which seems significant. Tom still isn’t sure, though, so she offers to make him some warm tea.
She tells Tuvok that she made tea, they talked, and then they went out to watch the storm, followed by the events from Toren’s memories. He asks her if she left the room at any time during the fight, and she says she saw Paris murder “my husband.” How odd that she would refer to him as that.
Chakotay calls Tuvok to tell him that Paris is conscious. As Tuvok leaves, Lidell tells him to tell Paris that she forgives him.
Paris confirms Lidell’s version, except he doesn’t remember anything after the tea. The Doctor confirms that he’s telling the truth, and that he hasn’t been drugged. Shaki-cam! The Numiri are attacking Voyager! Janeway and Chakotay treat this as pretty standard stuff, and Neelix feels smug about being right, even though he says otherwise. Neelix, we’re not stupid. Chakotay and Torres pull an old Maquis trick on the Numiri that involves making Voyager look distressed, then taking advantage of the Numiri approach to disable both their ships. Neelix promises that more ships will come, though.
Tuvok tells Janeway he has no evidence yet. He proposes a mind-meld with Paris. The Doctor hates this idea, but Tuvok believes it’s an acceptable risk. He convinces Janeway, and goes ahead, with Paris’s permission. Tuvok relives the murder. We don’t see anything different, but Tuvok thinks he’s figured something out; he needs to look at Ren’s research. He thinks something there will reveal why Paris was accused and convicted, and why the Numiri attacked Voyager. when he’ll depart, that he’ll be traveling by shuttle, etc.–make it clear that this is a setup intended to flush out a spy.
Harry and Tom are on the shuttle. Tom tells Harry it’s his fault for not being conscience-y enough. Sure enough, the Numiri patrols show up on scans, and both the shuttle and Voyager are ready. The Numiri lock a tractor beam on the shuttle, and Janeway orders Harry not to resist, which coincidentally is the title of my favorite erotic fanfic: JANEWAY ORDERS HARRY NOT TO RESIST.
The Numiri board the shuttle, but Voyager beams Harry and Tom back. Janeway tells the captain that the shuttle is loaded with enough explosives to blow up the Numiri ship, so he gives it up. What has this accomplished? Tuvok is going to tell us all at the scene of the murder, with all interested parties attending.
Tuvok tells us that the engrams were altered, and that Lidell was lying and probably drugged the tea. When Lidell protests, he has her stand next to Paris, and points out that the man in the memory was equal in height to Lidell, while Paris is several centimeters taller. Also, whoever killed the professor was a Numiri agent. Tuvok knows this because–remember those alien subtitles? Those were equations from Professor Ren’s research, intended to be delivered via Paris, to the Numiri. So, the Banean doctor did it, which is… boring. He’s the same height as Lidell, and the dog knows him, so I guess that’s proof? Anyway the minister believes it, so that’s it.
At mealtime Paris thanks Tuvok for helping him. Tuvok is like “I work for justice.” Paris asks him why he always eats alone, and Tuvok says he would rather read than chat, which I am fully on board with when it comes to workplace meals. Paris says “You don’t make many friends that way” and then says that like it or not, Tuvok has made one today, and this is so boring, you guys, thank god it’s the end.
Honestly, the only good things about this episode were the parts where Tuvok and Chakotay Did Stuff; the rest was a waste of my time and goodwill.
NEXT WEEK: Get better, show. Please, please, please, get better.