The following is a SPOILER Review for "Ex Post Facto." If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.
The SASR [Short Attention Span Review] is the creation of Jim Wright, who watches the episode no more than twice before preparing the review. This gives me the opportunity to review and recap with a combination of memory and creativity (when memory fails). The result is an experience that is similar to, but not exactly the same as, the actual episode. Consider it a revival of the ancient oral traditions passed on through the generations. I make no claims as to accuracy, but I hope I got enough of it right to keep your attention.
Tom Paris is convicted of murdering a scientist, and has to relive the last moments of the victim's life for the rest of his own life, while on an away mission to a planet at war. Tuvok investigates, and has his first major appearance of the season. Pretty standard murder mystery with some Trek twists, and a Vulcan playing the Columbo role.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Tom Paris sees everything in black and white, with subtitles. A barking dog in the doorway. His wife in a passionate embrace with...Tom Paris. An argument, a scuffle, and a knife plunges into his torso, and Tom Paris knows what it's like to be killed. He has been accused, tried, and convicted of murdering a Benari scientist by the witness of the man's wife and by the dead man's own memories. By Benari law, he has been implanted with the "engrams" of the man he has been convicted of stabbing to death, and will be forced to relive those last moments from his viewpoint every fourteen hours for the rest of his life. Paris, even as he sees himself thrust the blade into--himself--claims to be innocent. He says he has no memory of any of this, and the whole thing seems very, very wrong.
[Quite an opening scene, eh?]
Holodoc and Kes are in sickbay, furthering Kes' training as a medical assistant. She is proving herself a very quick learner. Kes asks Holodoc if he's given any thought to picking a name for himself. A brief discussion ensues, in which the doctor claims that as a computer he doesn't have the capacity to make decisions for himself, and Kes argues that people do the same thing, that programs calling programs calling programs is little different from memories and prior decisions affecting future decisions. Holodoc thinks of possible names of people whom he admires, including "Dr. Spock." But no final decision was made. (Chances are very good that he will ultimately pick "Doc Zimmerman" because that's who he looks like, and that's who did most of his designs. He has been mentioned before, though he wasn't mentioned in this episode.)
Kes seems determined to make Doc a fully self-aware people-type person. In other series we've had Spock coming to grips with his half-human, half-Vulcan heritage; Data yearning to be human and seeking out ways of approaching that elusive goal; Odo on Deep Space Nine trying to work amongst humans while maintaining a roughly--though by no means completely--human appearance; and now we have Doc, who knows what he is and who is being dragged kicking and screaming into a new self-image by Kes.
While playing "Name that Holodoc," a distress call comes to sickbay from the bridge; apparently a shuttle has been attacked and there's no response. It turns out to be a seriously dehydrated Harry Kim, who had been forced to leave the planet without Paris, and with a tale of grief. He had been interrogated for several days and wasn't in much condition to talk.
Harry Kim and Tom Paris had gone to a nearby planet to ask for help with some technical stuff from a race of people advanced enough to (1) allow contact under the restrictions of the Prime Directive and (2) likely have answers to be of help to the Voyager folks. They are a planet at war with a species that used to share the planet with them, called the Numeri (I'm guessing on spelling throughout this episode). I think the people they visit are called the Benari (I'm working without notes), a species that look a lot like us, dress like the cast of 90210 and the only difference is feathers on the head instead of hair. The Numeri are a covert, espionage-oriented folk; the Benari are a bit more peaceful, but still have a wartime mentality and as well are also familiar with such earth-normal traditions as infidelity and crime.
Harry's the scientist; on this trip, Tom Paris' duties are mainly to slip through the Numeri defenses undetected. (He is, after all, the best Federation flyer in the Delta quadrant.) They make it safely to the planet's surface, where they meet with the planet's leader (minister of somethingorother) and their chief scientist who helped create their warships for the present conflict with the Numeri. He seems like a nice guy--gregarious, outspoken, eager to assist these Starfleet types with their current problems. An older man with apparently a great deal of respect among his people. He invites them to dinner at his home.
Aside from the feathered heads, this is your average dysfunctional American upper-class family residence, right down to the yapping scruffy ghetto dog that greets them at the door. The wife is a long-haired blonde, easily twenty years younger than her husband, and obviously irritated about something. Typical lonely housewife, a trophy bride to a kind but distant scientist type who doesn't give her the proper marital attention, if you know what I mean and I think you will if you don't already. She slinks, she sulks, she smokes, she talks like a woman right out of Body Heat. Ensign Kim notices Paris in full close-range sensor sweep of the missus and warns him to give her a wide berth. Paris listens...sorta.
As the wife leaves the table in a snit, and the dinner talk gets increasingly esoteric, Paris leaves the eggheads to talk shop while he takes a stroll through the homestead. He finds Wren (the wife) in the atrium, staring at the sky and smoking an unfiltered something. More Sam Spade dialog that no self-respecting dimestore novelist would use anymore, such as "if you know what's good for you you'll walk away now," and "I'm trouble," and similar Cheez-whiz. The lady's a tramp, and Tom Paris is nothing if not hormonally gifted. Soon they're embracing under a moonlit sky, with the promise of more steamy stuff to come.
Kim says he knows they met once after that, and the next thing he knew the doctor was murdered and they were under interrogation. Janeway assigns Tuvok, as chief of security, to investigate the case.
Janeway takes Voyager in to the planet. After consulting with Neelix, who knows the combatants, they encounter a Numeri scout vessel, which treats them officiously but--according to Neelix--"for the Numeri, downright friendly." They are told they will be watched closely and will be dealt with severely if they try to "give aid or comfort to the enemy."
Janeway and Tuvok beam down and meet with the Minister and with the doctor who helped crack the case. They explain their side of things, how their trials work, and that by their standards there is no question of Paris' guilt. They meet with Paris, who tells what he knows--"I was bored...their marriage was over, but we didn't do anything...much," before collapsing and going unconscious under another recurrence of the "death memories." This is unusual, and everyone is concerned; the Minister gives permission to have Paris beamed to their ship when the doctor urges him to do so.
Tuvok listens as HoloDoc explains that the engrammed memories are causing progressive damage to Paris' brain. They could remove them, but the Benari's other sentence for murder is ... Lethal Injection. Paris is in dire straits indeed. Tuvok asks for detailed information on Paris' condition and the Benari procedures from the doctor, who says that it's way too technical for "the layman." (This is the first time we really get to see Tuvok acting like a Vulcan; he seems to think he is smarter than the average bear, and as a Vulcan he most likely is. This is his first chance to recall the glory of the old Spock days, when Ear Boy was usually even better than the computers.)
Tuvok requests permission to interview Wren, the bereaved widow. When he arrives she looks more like Tori Spelling on a bad feather day, dressed to kill and pouting up a storm for a guy who -- we learn -- has been married for "67 years." We don't know how old Tuvok is, but even if he was bonded from birth he looks VERY young for a 67 year-old Vulcan. Despite the 200+ year life span of the average Vulcan, versus 110+ for the average 24th century human, the aging process in Vulcans has to now looked pretty much like humans (probably because we have human actors playing them). It also seems very unlikely that an octogenarian Vulcan, particularly one as smart as Tuvok and one who is pampered like an only child by Janeway (who would thus be several decades her senior) would only be a lieutenant in Starfleet. (Another nitpick: Tuvok wears three pips on his collar, two white and one black. That makes him a lieutenant commander, and such are normally called "commander", as in "Commander LaForge," rather than "Lieutenant." It could be a battlefield promotion similar to Paris' and the Maquis people, but even then they should be referred to by the rank they're wearing.)
Sorry, I digress.
Wren tells her side of the story--she spent a rainy day with Tom, and they kissed and embraced and talked and she told Paris that her husband was like a friend, that he hadn't made her feel like a woman since that eclipse four years before--apparently eclipses are very sexy for your average Benari scientist--and she has needs that aren't being met. Wren freely acknowledges that she and Tom were seeing each other, that he had awakened in her the determination to leave her husband, but that the seeds of that discomfiture had existed for years. They've been married for ten years, and she's been unhappy for most of them. We see a flashback of their rainy day encounter in the Atrium, and Paris seems torn between eagerness and respect for the sanctity of marriage--it's good to see he has some lines he won't cross, at least without second thoughts. Tuvok listens respectfully, asks a few pertinent questions, gets yapped at by the dog (who doesn't take kindly to strangers), and leaves when Paris awakens.
Back in sickbay, Paris is questioned further by Tuvok while hooked up to a high-tech lie detector, and at the very least he is shown to be fully convinced that what he's saying is true. He confirms everything Wren said, up to the point where she offered him tea...after that, he remembered nothing until he woke up in a jail cell.
Suddenly, they are under attack from two Numeri ships. (Chakotay screws up and calls them Muneri, but we won't hold it against them.) Numeri ships and Voyager are roughly equal in terms of arms and shielding, and there's two of them against Voyager. The phaser shots are kinda cool; Numeri shots light up the Voyager shields, and Voyagers' blasts cause fireballs on the Numeri hulls. (Huh huh..fire is .. Huh huh .. Cool.) Neelix states that they're attempting a standard Numeri boarding procedure; blast away for a while, lock on tractors, and then board.
Janeway will have none of that. She orders a particular evasive maneuver. Chakotay asks permission to do an old Maquis trick, and Janeway agrees. They make themselves look more injured then they actually are. Janeway remarks that this is a very OLD trick, and Chakotay said, "it fooled the federation scoutships we used it on," and Janeway says "you're lucky I wasn't there." She's clearly not all that impressed, but Chakotay assures her, "even the old tricks are new out here." It's a specious assumption, but in this case it pays off; the Numeri fall for it, get too close, and Voyager phasers the two ships a new airlock. They speed away to safety while the Numeri limp back home.
Tuvok has puzzled whole things through, and feels that the only way he can draw this case to a close is to perform a mind meld with Paris when he has his next encounter with the death memories. HoloDoc protests, stating that "I know more about mind melds than you do, and I don't know what will happen if you try this!" It's not quite the same as old Doc McCoy barking at Spock--HoloDoc does indeed have access to the collected body of research and opinion on most medical topics--but Tuvok has read the doc's report and feels he can do so safely. When Paris relapses, Tuvok mindmelds and sees/feels/experiences--
The dog. The caught lovers. The argument. The struggle. The knife plunged and extruding from his body. And the whole time, the subtitles in some alien script.
When the episode ends, Tuvok breaks the meld, obviously shaken. When he recovers, he states categorically that he knows that Paris didn't commit the murder, and that the behavior of the Numeri is likely connected.
Janeway calls the minister, who is with the doctor/aide. She tells the men that they have evidence that Paris is innocent, and would like to return to present it. The doctor is adamant that the memories of the dead man are indisputable, and the minister protests as well, but is willing to listen. Janeway says "we're worried that our transporters will be dangerous to Paris, so we'll be taking a shuttle. We'll leave in an hour."
An hour later, a shuttle takes off with Kim and Paris on board. Janeway and Tuvok remain on Voyager, expecting something to happen. Sure enough, the Numeri appear almost immediately and take off after the shuttle. They lock on tractors and pull the shuttle inside their ship, and several Numeri enter the shuttle looking for Paris. When they see him, Janeway beams Tom and Harry back to Voyager and Janeway opens a channel to the Numeri vessel.
"You have illegally seized our property and have committed an act of war. If you'll scan the shuttle you'll see that it contains forty tons of very potent explosives, which we will detonate in thirty seconds if you don't return it to us." She cuts transmission, counts to three, and gets her shuttle back. The Numeri now have lost two battles to the Voyager.
We have seen Janeway in attack mode before, but this episode gives us several glimpses into her character--the "Maquis maneuver" and this little ploy in particular. Janeway is a full-fledged warrior, and at least in terms of the Trek universe we haven't seen her like since Captain Kirk. She's a butt-kicker, and when she swings into action she takes no prisoners. As someone who still enjoys the action-oriented, two-fisted diplomacy episodes, I'm encouraged by this side of her.
The shuttle invasion tells Tuvok his theory is correct. Voyager returns to the planet and beams down Janeway, Tuvok, and Paris and Kim, and they meet at the scene of the crime.
Like a master gumshoe, Tuvok lays out his case. First, he states, any form of electronic information, including memories, can be tampered with. Second, he has Paris stand next to Wren; according to his mind-meld memories, the two are the same height, but Paris is obviously much taller when he has them stand together. Therefore, Tuvok asserts, the implanted memories are false. Second, the knife was plunged into the precise part of the body that contains the Benari heart, something Paris could not have known.
Third, Tuvok mentions the subtitles in the memories. Paris knows what he means, but he thought it was just part of the engram. Tuvok says that there is no record of similar occurrence among other sentenced criminals, and that this is therefore a unique occurrence with a specific intention in mind (pardon the pun). Tuvok has studied the memories and learned that they are in fact some of the dead doctor's research and plans for Benari weapons and spaceship technology. Because the Benari and Numeri were at war, travel off planet was highly restricted, but Paris as an offworlder made an ideal message carrier. Therefore, a spy on the planet was using Paris' brain as the medium by which the secrets of the Benari were transferred to the enemy.
Ridiculous, exclaims the doctor. This is all just an elaborate scheme to get Paris off the hook for a murder the widow admits she saw. Tuvok asks the doctor to stand next to Wren; they're the same height. Tuvok then states that the doctor had both the opportunity to commit the murder, and the knowledge necessary to pin it on Paris -- AND to transport state secrets off world.
Still, the Benari don't seem all that convinced, so Tuvok asks the doctor to bring in the other witness to the murder -- the little mutt that yaps suspiciously at strangers. The doctor lets the dog in, and it treats him like the motherlode of Snausages, yipping happily and jumping up asking to be played with. Of course, at this point the doctor's caught dead to rights, the "distraught widow" runs tearfully to his side, and Tuvok enjoys a Matlock Moment. Paris' name is cleared, he gets the implanted memories yanked before he gets enough brain damage to assert that a starship is like a box of chocolates, the Benari have a traitor rooted out from their midst, and the Numeri have three strikes and they're out.
Just another day on Planet Voyager.
At the end, Paris finds Tuvok in the dining area, alone, reading. Paris tries to strike up a
conversation, thanks Tuvok for saving his bacon, but Tuvok insists that had Paris been guilty he
would have nailed his white trash hiney to the bulkhead. Nevertheless, Paris says, you earned a
When I say this is a boilerplate murder mystery, I mean it could have come straight out of Perry Mason, Sam Spade or Murder She Wrote. Espionage, murder, a little sex, and a smart cookie detective--it was shoehorned into the Trek universe, but it could have happened in Washington, DC or Anytown, USA or anywhere else, anytime else, with very little change. In fact, if you haven't seen a story like this before, I'd be very surprised.
That doesn't necessarily make it a bad episode. The Maquis/Starfleet differences of opinion, Janeway's battlefield tactics, the return of the Mind Meld, and the first episode in which Tuvok figures prominently all make this show interesting. It was nice to see Paris get into serious trouble, and be blamed for something that he didn't do, but for which he made himself an easy target. The wife was an obvious stereotype, and though she played it for all it was worth, it was still more than slightly irritating that they didn't try to flesh her out a bit. So to speak. The dialog was cheesy in the extreme when Paris and Wren talked about the incident, and during the flashbacks; I'm not joking when I say that this stuff sounds like it was lifted straight from a 1940s B movie.
Neelix was basically wasted here. If he's supposed to be the comic relief, it ain't working; he tried too hard here, and he was simply annoying. The insights into Tuvok were welcome, though the quibbles about the rank insignia and how long he's been married irked me somewhat. The proofreaders need to be a bit more careful. Harry Kim didn't have much to do, but his scenes were pretty good. Paris handled his emotions well; he got smacked around quite a bit here, and he wasn't quite so cocky but he didn't lose all of his smirk. If Janeway has inherited James T. Kirk's captaincy, Paris has inherited his libido, and he doesn't yet have the maturity to know when to rein it in.
Paris is still, as far as I'm concerned, a greater liability than an asset to Voyager (the ship), but less so to Voyager (the series) than before. In other words, I'm starting to warm up to him. He's the wild card on the crew, having been vilified by both Starfleet AND the Maquis before this voyage, he's even more an outsider than the Holodoc. Holodoc has Kes as his friend and champion, and she'd go to the wall for him. Paris has Kim as his friend, but he's definitely high maintenance, and Kim has enough to worry about as a wet-behind-the-ears Ensign to be Paris' conscience. (In this episode, Paris tells Kim, "this is partly your fault, you know; you're my conscience. You're supposed to keep me from jumping into trouble like this.") Kim has to feel at least a little bit of resentment towards Paris, who is so unlike him in so many ways. Harry's a good guy who could use some loosening up, and Paris is basically a good guy with a lousy track record who needs some major-league attitude adjustments and a cargo bay load of TLC. Both have their strengths, though, and both have come through in a pinch in this series. They have room to grow, and that's encouraging. I was always a bit disconcerted by the people who seemed TOO perfect; the cast of Next Generation was a lot like Osmonds in Space. I want someone I can relate to, and though I hate to admit it I relate very well to Paris. (I ain't no ladykiller, but I am a hopeless flirt and I know what it's like to live under the shadow of a strong-willed and well-known father I disagreed with a lot as a kid.)
On a 1-10 scale, I'd give this a 7.50.
(Yeesh...what would Julia say?)