"The Darkling"


The following is a SPOILER Review. If you have not seen the episode yet and do not want to have the plot given away, stop reading now.

This is a long, detailed retelling of the actual episode, with running commentary. I reserve the right to be wrong. The following is my opinion at the moment I wrote it.


We have a new winner in the "Spock's Brain" sweepstakes: Doc's Brain.

Jump straight to the Analysis


Captain's Log, stardate 50693.2. We've been in orbit above an outpost of a group called the Nickall Travelers. They have extensive knowledge of the area we're about to move into, and they're willing to share what they know.

Janeway sits in a tavern inn by a roaring fire as a roughly-dressed humanoid (who could be human except for the sanded-down Bajoran nose ridges) keeps her semi-entertained with a tall tale of a planet that just turned out to be just this really amazingly fat guy. You know the joke: he's so fat he's got his own ecosystem; women are attracted to him--he has a strong gravitational pull; barroom folklore can be so cruel.

He wraps up his tale, only to have it discounted by a fellow Traveler named Zahir, who is accompanied by a starry-eyed and newly-outfitted Kes. Gone is the girlish Elf outfit she's been seen so often in the past 2+ seasons. She's now into a sleek two-toned blue Speedo number somewhat reminiscent of her "Warlord" attire. (Our little girl done blossomed into womanhood.) Zahir and the tale-spinner get into a bit of a tussle; Zahir, despite his travels, is the pragmatic type, given more to providing useful information to Janeway. The Starfleet crew will be trading needed supplies for information about the space ahead. The other guy--the owner of the lodge and tavern, looking like David Cassidy's evil twin--pulls out a weapon, and Janeway frowns--a frown that causes the aggressive liar to burst spontaneously into flames.

Whoops. My mind was wandering...Rewind.

The other guy, looking like David Cassidy's evil twin, pulls out a weapon, inviting Zahir to leave and take his pragmatic mood-killing attitude with him. Janeway frowns, but does nothing. Zahir, looking like a ridged-nose Daniel Day-Lewis in Last of the Mohicans, leans in to whisper into Tavern Boy's ear. "I've traveled to the edges of known space and beyond. I've earned the right to come and go where I please, where, when and how I please. Do you challenge that right?" In whatever passes for a cultural standard among the Nickall Travelers, Tavern Boy puts the gun away and whispers a soft "no." Thus shamed, he leaves the table and ceases to be a threat.

Zahir takes the vacated seat at the table, and Kes joins him and Janeway. Zahir apologizes for his display, and explains that outposts like this are a "necessary evil," since you need a place to refuel, grab a bite to eat, run your ship through the brushless wash, and leave as soon as possible. (Kinda like Stuckeys). He has effusive praise for Kes, and it seems to go beyond the professional; she glows. He says her positive attributes seem to be shared by the entire crew. (Whaddya know? Kindred spirits, and they even have pit stops in space....things could be looking up for Voyager in the short-term.)


In the Holo-resort, Holodoc has assembled a historical smorgasbord of Great Figures. Lord Byron and Gandhi debate carnality versus spirituality, as Doc takes notes. T'Pau and Socrates play that "Vulcan Chess" thing. DaVinci and Madam Curie are playing Twister off-camera. Einstein, Confucius, and Marylin Monroe are playing pantomime with Station, that most excellent of Martian scientists. Jim Wright and Tim Lynch are playing Dabo with Dr. Bashir and Jadzia Dax on the Lido deck, arguing the relative merits of Voyager. All that's missing is Steve Allen to moderate this Meeting of the Minds.

Kes appears and asks what he's doing. Doc says he's working on a Personality Improvement Program--to improve his bedside manner, expand his mind, etc. He has assembled some of the most important, memorable and impressive historical figures in the Holodeck Databanks so he can pick and choose the traits he desires, then do a cut-and-paste of those subroutines into his own program. While he and Kes discuss his project, Gandhi starts hitting on a Holobabe in a Lycra bikini while Byron smirks at him; only minutes before, Gandhi was suggesting he take a cold bath to douse his flaming passions.

Doc meanwhile gives Kes a bit of a scolding for her fascination--infatuation, even--with Zahir and the Travelers. She thinks they do wonderful things--their ships are small two-seaters, they often pick a direction on a whim and see where it takes them, and they travel for the pure joy of it. Doc deems this wanderlust to be "bad news." If one didn't know any better, one would think Doc is jealous. Since he has monopolized her time the past two-plus years even more than Neelix--he notes her "recent breakup" here, a short and long-overdue acknowledgment of the fact--her newfound freedom from Sickbay (and her attraction to Zahir) is a trifle worrisome to the good Doctor. He suggests she follow Gandhi's advice and "take a cold bath--simplistic, but no doubt effective." He leaves her alone with her thoughts, as Gandhi plays peekaboo with Lycra Girl.

This is gonna be a looooong hour....

* * *

Doc is examining Torres, who had a salad on the planet. He'd warned her before she left not to eat anything--her Klingon metabolism can't handle the local produce. However, Doc is acting very strangely--if one didn't know any better, one could say he's using his examination as an opportunity to fondle her. He whispers sweet nothings, and asks "does that feel...good?" as he prods her.

The last time Torres was prodded on a medical table while sweet nothings were purred in her ear, it was in "Faces," and she was a full-blooded Klingon. And if one recalls, the doctor in that episode got a nasty groin-pull for his troubles. Torres suggests Doc may not get away so easily; she can reprogram him to look like Neelix. He recoils in horror, and promptly tells the computer to deactivate the recent modifications for later debugging.

Torres is the wrong person to hear this; she has primary responsibility for his program. "You've been meddling with your own program?" she asks. He tells her that he's making personality improvements--taking admirable qualities from philosophers, scientists, poets and saints, and incorporating them into his program. She tells him this is a bad idea; "behavioral subroutines can react unpredictably," she says. His research was fine, but direct incorporations of program code is potentially quite dangerous. She concludes, "you've got to be careful...or someone might hurt you." She leaves no doubt as to who that someone will be.

She leaves, telling him she'll clean up the code after she fixes something in engineering, and that he'll be better than new. He thanks her and after a few dramatic frowns, deactivates himself.


Zahir takes Kes on a moonlit walk. He talks a bit about his people, his lifestyle, his attitude toward life. He shows her a rock with some glowing engravings, inscribed 10,000 years earlier. "My course is as elusive as a shadow across the sky," he reads, and a few breathy words later, they're kissing.

While a hooded figure watches from the shadows of darkness.

* * *

Around 3am ship time, a pretty transporter officer beams up a deliriously tranquil Kes. She floats a few centimeters above the ground as she bids her fellow blonde goodnight. In the corridor, Tuvok walks briskly, reviewing notes on a padd, when he sees Kes and reminds her that it's 3am and that she's got a meeting at 8am. Kes knows, but when you're three and in love time has no meaning. But adult supervision is starting to grate on her.

She arrives in sickbay to find Doc also working--on her assignment, which she neglected to finish. He gives her a mini-counseling session about her New Attitude, which is impacting her duties. "I'm three years old now," she says, "I'm not a child. If I'm attracted to someone it's my business, not the whole ship's." Doc reacts as if stung. She touches his arm kindly and says she appreciates his concern. He changes the subject before things get too mooshy. "You have a report to finish," he says, and she begins working on it immediately.


At 8am Kes rings Janeway's office door and staggers in with the completed report. Janeway looks at her, then looks at her coffee, and recalls fondly the days when she looked like the younger woman--before she discovered coffee. "An all-nighter, Kes?" Janeway asks with a smirk. The term is new to Kes, though her puffy half-closed eyes, unkempt (even for her) hair and inside-out bright-orange uniform do give her away. Janeway explains the term--the fine art of putting something off until the last minute, then rushing through it. "In my Academy days, I was the acknowledged master," Janeway concludes, smiling. Kes laughs a little, embarrassed, then changes the subject. "Can we talk?" she asks. Janeway's door is always open to the young Ocampa, of course.

Kes says she and Zahir are getting along swimmingly, and she's considering taking a Road Trip with him to a part of space, then rendezvousing with Voyager before they're too far away. Janeway smiles.

Or not, says Kes. Janeway's smile fades.

Kes is hitting a sort of mid-life crisis. A third of her life is gone, and she's rethinking the direction she's on. Voyager's her extended family, but she's starting to get antsy--she's not being challenged here, and she's at a crossroads. "Maybe there's more," she says. She wants complication in her life. Janeway says she'd hate to lose Kes, she's an invaluable part of the crew, but it's certainly Kes' decision to make. "Take your time," she says; we've got a few more days here. As Kes leaves, Janeway gets teary-eyed. Our little girl is growing up.


Tuvok and Zahir look at a Traveler map. Zahir recommends a slight detour--the Tarkin, an acquisitive and powerful race, lie in the direct path to the Alpha Quadrant, and though it adds a few months to the journey, at least they're more likely to make it if they avoid the Tarkin altogether. Tuvok, another of Kes' self-appointed guardians, grills Zahir about his intentions toward the Ocampa and his ability and willingness to safeguard her--something the Travelers aren't known for valuing. Zahir says he's in love with Kes and would be more responsible were she in his care. Tuvok seems satisfied with his sincerity.

Kes arrives and Tuvok excuses himself. She relates what Janeway said, and Zahir urges her to fly away with him tonight for a quickie trip to a nearby outpost. She bows out graciously; she's got to catch up on her work and get some sleep. He's disappointed, but not tragically so. Kes talks about Janeway's Crossroads reference, and wonders aloud if they'll look back later on this moment as the most important of their lives. They share a tender moment.


Zahir walks home on a beautiful, three-moonlit evening. He stops when he hears a noise, but continues when he hears nothing further. As he walks by the edge of a large pit, he's struck from behind by someone in a hooded cloak, and tumbles into the inky abyss.


The hooded figure enters the lodge, where David Cassidy's evil twin is closing up for the night. "We're closed," he grumbles. The figure removes the hood, revealing--Doc! Whose face is scrunched up like Don Rickles after a Preparation H facial. Doc grabs the guy's hand and sticks it in the fire, offering some casual medical advice when the charred and blistered appendage is finally removed. He wants assistance, he wants a ship. He wants what he wants.

* * *

Kes enters Sickbay and activates the EMH. He gives his usual greeting: "Please state the nature of the medical emergency." She gives him a quick rundown--Zahir was found at the bottom of a ravine, with broken bones and cuts and bruises, and some nerve damage. It's believed he was attacked. She wants him to come down and see to the young man's wounds. Doc agrees, grabs his portable holoemitter and informs the captain, acting the very image of his usual program.

They are about to step on the transporter platform when Torres arrives, telling Doc he can't go; there are some bugs to work out with the changes he made to his program. He nods, gives Kes some instructions on what to do for Zahir, and follows Torres.


While Torres runs diagnostics, Doc asks how badly he mucked up his programming. She assures him it's not his fault--in theory, "what could be wrong with adding a little personality?" Doc harrumphs; "what indeed?" She says the various personality subroutines have been linking together in unexpected ways. She gives two examples: Lord Byron--the poet and romantic--was also intense and emotionally unstable. He wouldn't be Byron otherwise, she says, but still...and T'Pau, the Vulcan high priestess, despite her diplomatic skills, was also "ruthless in her application of logic." Torres notes that many of the characters he chose had "dark threads running through their personalities." (He must have gotten his sardonic wit and obsession with alien sexual behavior from one of those Dabo-playing trek reviewers.)

This is something the Doc hadn't forseen. "And now those dark threads are in me...well, get them out, Lieutenant!" he says urgently. She assures him this is her intent. She tells him she's going to introduce a personality-eating virus into his program that will chomp the dark threads like Pac Man, but that he'll need to deactivate himself while it runs. He calls for the computer to do so...but the deactivator is on the fritz. His look is one of surprise.

We see Torres look on the malfunctioning (and now offscreen) Doc with surprise, consternation...then horror.


Tuvok reports on his investigation into the attack on Zahir. He notes the disturbing lack of evidence. He says that any contact, no matter how short in duration, should have left some residue--DNA, hair, sweat, skin fragments, morning breath. There is none whatsoever. Most puzzling. Zahir's condition is improving, though Kes is concerned and attending him.

They enter sickbay to find an unconscious Lt. Torres slumped on the ground. Tuvok calls for the EMH, and Janeway summons him to Torres before he can finish saying "nature". He reports that he'd deactivated himself so Torres could work on his program, and must have collapsed at the console. He gives a quick once-over with the medical tricorder and pronounces her suffering from anaphylactic shock--resulting from eating that alien salad. He carries her to the bed, complaining about how frequently his pre-away-mission precautions are ignored; "I may as well stop issuing them." He starts to order 10cc's of Alazine, but Janeway has already handed him what he needs and finishes his sentence for him; she remembers it from her Academy days. A course in Klingon physiology, taken from a visiting Klingon professor (Hoek) who demanded excellent recall.

Tuvok hands Doc the forensics reports on the Zahir assault and suggests the medical instruments are more precise. "As if I weren't busy enough," Doc grouses, but accepts them dutifully. Janeway and Tuvok leave Sickbay.

They miss a heck of a show. Within seconds of their departure, Doc's imaging system starts to flicker, and he collapses against a medical control panel. He soon flickers completely out of sight -- only to reappear a moment later. Sorta. He now has a major underbite, a nasty furrowed brow, a hunched back and clenched fist. This Doc radiates darkness (hey, cool--oxymoron). He is not the grumpy but professional Doc we're comfortable with. This is Evil Doc. To make sure we understand this, he angrily swipes a tricorder off the control panel and hunkers over to the hypospray rack, where he mixes up a Jungle Juice death cocktail for the supine Lt. Torres. He looks over at her with a vicious glimmer and a facial tic or two, his face hinting at future acts of mayhem, debauchery and other large and daunting words.

There ain't this much ham at a slaugterhouse.

* * *

Torres is awakened with a hypospray. Torres bolts up at the waist and asks what happened. Evil Doc rubs his hands (if only he'd grown a long, pencil-thin mustache to twirl) as he describes what he did to her--faked anaphylactic shock with a dose of something so he could cover his tracks, especially from Good Doc. Evil Doc slurs his words, furrows his brows, musses his hair and noisily emits a foul stench with every step. He's got facial stubble. He has eye-boogers just hanging there on his lashes. He's practically oozing object-oriented evil.

Torres reaches for her combadge, but it's no longer there. He tells her he's already thought about that. She tries to get up, but finds she can't move her legs. He tells her he couldn't let her run away, either. He's paralyzed her from the waist down. She lunges at him, but that's harder than you might expect when you're paralyzed from the waist down; Evil Doc easily subdues her, then throws her torso back onto the biobed. As he tells her what he's done to her, and what he can do to her, he traces his finger salaciously up her leg.

Torres can only endure for now. She asks what he wants. He wants the obvious: complete control of the EMH program. He wants Good Doc purged from the system. Torres tells him he can't exist without the other, and she notes that the evil parts are already starting to fall apart. Doc gives her a hypospray to the neck, and now she's paralyzed all the way, and she slurs worse than he (she now sounds like her full-Klingon half in "Faces"). "Watch your tongue...or I'll remove it," slurs Evil Doc.

Evil Doc ruminates on his nature, and of the Holodoc's "hollow" existence. Naturally, he believe he has the stronger claim to survival, and wants his servile, empty-purposed half disposed of. Torres says it can't happen, and if it could she still wouldn't help. Evil Doc advances on her, hypospray in hand, telling her that by blocking the biochemical doohickies that help the body put a cap on the amount of pain one can endure, the amount of pain he can inflict increases exponentially. He'll torture her in ways she didn't know existed.

But before he can do anything about it, he encounters a flickerpiss nosecum, and fades momentarily. The Evil Doc parts are getting worse rapidly. Torres laughs feebly at him.

Evil Doc then mentions "my progenitors" and suspects they'll have the answers. He makes a beeline for the Holodeck, which he can do because he has the holoemitter on. He walks down the corridor towards the turbolift, skulking like Jack the Ripper but without the cape, the shadows, etc. It's awe-inspiring only because of the music. He is passed by a female redhead Ensign, who acknowledges him cordially. He does not respond. He follows her into the turbolift. She's going to deck 10, he's going to deck 14. He manages a "How are you" to give the appearance of normality, but stands behind her so he can make faces with the ecstatic possibilities of mayhem. You can practically read the terrible things he plans to do with her.

The turbolift stops to admit Tom Paris. (Curses, foiled again!) He's also going to Deck 10, so the ensign's got an unwitting chaperone and savior, and doesn't even know it. Paris tries to strike up friendly conversation, but Evil Doc's not up to it. Paris comments on the "mixed blessing" of the portable holoemitter--now that he can rove, he's gotten busier. Doc grunts something intelligible, and Paris says "O...kay...." and seems not at all unhappy about cutting the conversation short when Deck 10 arrives and he and Ensign Redhead exit, leaving Evil Doc alone to mug for the camera.

By the time he reaches the Holodeck, he's practically a Pakled--or those cavedolts from the Miller commercials who get bonked with beer bottles. He orders up the Resort Simulation 3, and asks for his pre-saved characters to pop in, and enters. He finds Gandhi and Byron arguing, Socrates and T'Pau playing Vulcan Chess. His expression changes to determination.


Tuvok is discussing the assault on Zahir with David Cassidy's evil twin at the lodge. He's grilling Tavern Boy like fresh catfish, practically shows photos of the man wearing Bruno Magli shoes. He of course denies everything, and says anyone who disputes his story are liars. (I think Charles Grodin replayed this scene on CNBC.) When accusing him of committing the assault gets him nowhere, Tuvok accuses him of hiring someone to do the job. Tavern Boy, naturally, denies it. (And he's being truthful, for once--he had nothing to do with the assault, directly or indirectly. But of course nobody else knows this yet.)

Zahir comes limping into the tavern, assisted by Chakotay. He's a little worse for wear, but not permanently damaged. There's no love lost between Traveler and Tavern Boy. They're going to go check out the crime scene. "Pray to the stars that we find nothing," Zahir tells Tavern Boy.


Kes enters sickbay and finds Torres unconscious on the bed. She calls for EMH, but is told he's already running. She gets his location: the holodeck. She arrives at the Holodeck, and is horrified by what she sees.

Gandhi's vibrating out of control, like Beavis in full Cornholio mode. T'Pau is stuck in an endless loop, just about to place a single piece in the Vulcan Chess game. Socrates is lying on the ground, unmoving; his bottom half completely missing, chopped off at the waist. We can see inside the father of Greek Philosophy, and he's completely hollow. (I gotta admit, that was pretty cool.) Then she finds Lord Byron, laid out like a sacrificial lamb on a raised platform, eyes open but unmoving, as Evil Doc complains loudly and bitterly that they have no secrets to reveal. He punches some keys on his tricorder and Byron's face warps and twists, becomes briefly Holodocs, then returns to its handsome, if smug, former appearance.

Evil Doc notices Kes. He says his Personality Enhancement Project has taken an unexpected turn and could use her help. He snags her combadge. She asks who he is; "the new master of the EMH." She asks where the Doc is; "Inside." She asks what he wants: "what everybody wants; just a little...excitement." He grabs her hand and tells her to come with him; "it's for your own good."

They rush out of the Holodeck and into the Transporter Room, where Doc promptly phasers an Asian ensign we've seen before (hopefully just stunned--they've got to be running out of Expendable Crewmen by now) and starts manipulating the transporter controls. "Flesh is weak, Kes; don't ever forget that," he says as he tosses the unconscious officer aside. She asks where they're going; "whereever the winds of space carry us," he says. He notes that she wanted to leave the ship and spread her wings a little; "it looks like our travel plans have conveniently coincided."

Kes notes that once they transport, Janeway will just lock on and beam them back up. Evil Doc leans in close to her. "That's where you underestimated me, Kes," he whispers; "never do that." What, is he threatening her, or is he simply dispensing banal advice through Tough Love? He's got a tricorder, which he tweaks so it can muck up transporter signals. Kes says what he's doing is wrong; Doc says "it's working perfectly." Kes doesn't get the joke. Doc grabs her throat and gives a whispered speech Raskolnikov would have admired, about how the strength of unfettered will can cast aside all obstacles. It's the logic of the insane, those whose moral center is about a foot and a half to the left of regular folks'.

"Let's move," he says. "I'm not going, Doctor," she says. He gets pissed. "Don't call me that," he growls, and drags her to the transporter pad. She asks why this bothers him. He says it's because Doc is just like the puny, biomechanical machines known as lifeforms--he is oblivious to the superiority of the holographic form, Evil Doc says; "he is detestable." He points a phaser at Kes, and tells her it's set to kill. She says he won't fire; he asks if she's so certain of that. The Transporter Countdown starts beeping, and he grabs her close. "Things are about to get interesting," he says.

Please, in the name of all that's holy, let him be right....

* * *

Harry notes an unscheduled transport has just taken place. Janeway asks for answers, and learns that Kes and the Doc have just beamed down, but that a scattering field is preventing beamback. She hails Chakotay and Tuvok, and tells them what just happened. Tuvok reports that they've found "holographic residue" at the crime scene, which matches the Doc's signature. He's now the prime suspect. Janeway posits that Kes is in danger, and sends Chakotay and Tuvok after her and the Doc. She also sends a security person to sickbay to look after Torres.


In the tavern, Evil Doc works on the portable holoemitter, trying desperately and futilely to reprogram the original Holodoc into oblivion. His best laid plans aren't working so well, and in frustration he starts pounding on the emitter Patch. Kes stops him, telling him that if he damages it both he and the Doc could be lost for good. "I deserve to exist, more than your doctor does." Kes asks why; "I'm one of the Hidden," he says; he's the dark threads in all those characters, the part that everyone suppresses. "Darkness is more fundamental than light; evil more primary than good." he says, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. ("Skin of Evil," anyone?)

Kes decides to counsel Doc on a philosophic level. She talks about how cooperation is civilization, and therefore more deserving of existence. Organs in the body cooperate or the body would die. Individuals form society; those that don't fit in are left in the fringes of history.

Doc listens for a while, but then the Survival Imperative takes over when Tavern Boy enters. He has bad news; Janeway's blockaded the entire planet, accosting anyone who tries to leave the planet. Tavern Boy still wants to get paid, though. (He reminds me of a certain Ferengi....) Evil Doc slugs him and threatens to kill him. "If someone's going to die today, it won't be me!" Tavern Boy says, slithering off into the night. He's a survivor. A cockroach. He'll live.

Doc's imager goes on the fritz again. Kes notices. He's immobile while the Fritz Effect is happening, but once it subsides he grabs the phaser, grabs Kes, and heads for the door.


Tuvok, Chakotay, and the mostly self-propelled Zahir follow Evil Doc and Kes through the woods. Kes gives the standard "you'll never get away with this," but he insists he knows best. He even says he'll be a better protector to her than the others. "You make bad decisions," he chides; "you need me to guide you." (You call this Evil? Drill sergeants do worse. It's called Character Building.)

Janeway hails Tuvok; she's punched through the scattering field enough to lock onto Kes' coordinates so they can trakck them. They're fairly close by, and they double-time toward their prey, while Janeway redoubles her efforts to establish a transporter lock.

Doc and Kes are skirting along a narrow path toward a cave, when a phaser blast closes that route of escape. Chakotay yells It's Over, and doc says there's still one option: straight down. Unfortunately, he keeps going on the fritz. Tuvok suggests the degradation of Evil Doc is accelerating, so Chakotay recommends a delaying tactic.

Chakotay says they'll do whatever he wants--make a whole new Evil Doc matrix on the Holodeck, whatever he wants. "You're trying to trick me!" he growls and wails simultaneously, a pathetic noise. He tries to throw himself and Kes over the ledge. Kes talks fast; "You don't want to kill me, you've been trying to protect me!" He asks what she's talking about; she points out that one of his obsessions the past few days has been to keep her from making wrong decisions. However Evil he may believe himself to be, his efforts toward her have been well-intentioned. He's seen her making what he considers mistakes, growing up too fast, seeking to move in directions he doesn't approve of, and this is his attempt to set her on the straight and narrow. Even attacking Zahir was an effort to help her. He tries to deny everything, because he doesn't believe it.

He throws them off the cliff.

Mid-plummet, they beam into invisibility.

They land in the transporter room, manned by Harry and the blonde ensign who beamed Kes up at 3am a few nights before. Doc is back to normal, but with no memory of recent events. He asks what he's doing there, and in those goofy clothes. (Them transporters is magical....)


Torres tells him she's purged the errant code from his system. "Next time I want a personality enhancement, I'll download a good book," he says, and Torres seconds that thought. She seems to have no hard feelings about what he recently put her through, but she's not exactly able to look at him without cringing either. He thanks her for helping him, and she says You're Welcome.

Kes enters. Doc says he's pleased she will be staying aboard; he's busy enough with her to help him. Kes accepts the compliment. She says that Captain Janeway gave her some good advice; if she is going through changes and reaching crossroads, she can do worse than to be surrounded by those who care about her and are rooting for her success. Doc comes perilously close to sentiment when he says he cares for her, though he says it in a third-personish sort of way.

She catches it. "I would have missed you too, Doctor," she says, and leaves him to himself.

The last words of the episode are spoken by Holodoc, the Hippocratic Oath. "...I will do no harm."


Woof. "Skin of Evil" meets "Spock's Brain."

I saw this on the same night as DS9's "By Inferno's Light." It was like watching a Double Feature of Schindler's List and Showgirls.

I really don't even have much to say about this episode. Like Holodoc and his Personality Enhancement Project, this episode must have seemed like a good idea at the time. But it utterly failed to move me. It had some good acting moments by Bob Picardo (his Good Doc and Evil Doc portrayals were quite distinct, and I did get the occasional chill from his performance) but for the most part, this episode was an ordeal rather than entertainment.

So Kes is 3 now. She's dressing more Adult now. Her breakup with Neelix is now official. Apparently it happened in "Warlord," but since she was under the influence of a killer alien at the time, I didn't think it counted. They could have cleared this up at the end of "Warlord," but they didn't. This seemed an awkward place to do it. But I'm glad they finally did. Kes is also getting Cabin Fever, and is questioning the direction of her life. In Ocampa Years she's a third done with her life, and what does she have to show for it? A ship full of friends, an ex-boyfriend, a steady job, a garden to call her own--and no appreciable challenge. She has extraordinary mental powers, remember; she can melt flesh and incinerate a room full of foliage with a mere thought. There isn't much call for such skills on a Federation vessel.

The Travelers are, I think, a nice introduction; I've had an idea for a while that they should hit a part of space that's well-traveled, well-mapped, and filled with travelin' types. This will give them some pit stops along the way, and ease some of those niggling questions about how they get the parts for all those disposable shuttles, and why "replicator rations" and food needs don't seem as pressing as they were last season. I also sorta liked the Zahir character; he had some semblance of reality to him.

We saw a number of ancillary characters aboard Voyager this week, which is nice--though given the predilection for giving extended scenes to Extras only to kill them a few weeks later, perhaps it's not great for them that we've seen their faces up close and heard them talk. But the view of another cute redhead aboard was a welcome sight to this hair-obsessed reviewer.

The "Meeting of Minds" concept is not unique. Data did it in "Descent," playing poker with Einstein, Hawking and Newton just before he went nuts. Steve Allen had a few seasons of engaging PBS entertainment with a show of that name (imagine bringing Cleopatra and Thomas Paine together, along with Socrates and Thomas Aquinas. We're talking fireworks, folks.) It's an idea as old as Plato, and it can be a good one. I'm sure someone had fun matching Gandhi with a bikini babe and Lord Byron.

The "dark threads," though, "the hidden," has been done to death, even in Trek, and not very well. "Skin of Evil" was all about a race of beings that shed all their evil before becoming benevolent gods, or whatever--leaving the accumulated evil to become a malevolent oil slick that terrorized Troi, killed Tasha Yar, and slimed Riker. (Yes, in Trek even petroleum-based products can act badly.) This episode gave Picardo a chance to expand his range, and at times his malevolent side was interesting, but on the whole it was just cookie-cutter scenery chewing.

The scene in the Holodeck with the mucked-up Great Minds was pretty intriguing, though.

Doc's scenes with Torres could have been more interesting, but the chemistry between the two was off. I can't put my finger on it, but the scenes just didn't work for me. Compared to, say, "The Swarm," where I thought Picardo and Dawson had a nice onscreen synergy.

The climactic scene, where Doc and Kes go over the cliff and are beamed to safety, is almost a cliche now; it's been done in Sliders, Crossworlds, that Denzel Washington movie with the virtual mass-murderer, and there was a similar shot in Highlander a couple weeks ago with a flying Quickening...by now it's a cliche, a literal deus ex machina. You knew they would be saved, so there wasn't much drama to it.

As to the transporter somehow magically resetting Holodoc's programming--or was it a revived Torres completing the job, but he had to be aboard ship to implement it? The mind reels, but in the wrong direction. Instead of "how did they do that?" I was wondering "what were they thinking?"

The whole concept of evil was a bit misplaced as well. He was as evil as those two Kids in the Hall characters who'd yell "Evil!" at the drop of a hat. There's a difference between malevolent and cheeky, or merely grumpy. The whole philosophical rant business also fell flat for me. Byron and Gandhi talking about sex and cold showers...blegh. And Kes/Evil Doc discussing the nature and power of evil...ho hum.

As to Tuvok being a big meany to the tavern owner...pretty stupid, and utterly lacking in finesse. Even in the not-that-great "Ex Post Facto," Tuvok did a better job grilling witnesses and suspects.

Needless to say, I didn't like this one. I know I'm the only person on the planet that has anything good to say about "Threshold" and I'm still getting flack for hating "Projections," but for me this is the weakest episode of the season, and ranks down there with Cathexis for Voyager's answer to "Spock's Brain."

On a 0-10 scale, I'm giving this one a 5.00, or (*). It could be that I'm just mad when they mess around so badly with Holodoc, and it had the misfortune of appearing right before the incredible "By Inferno's Light." If it's any consolation--if you're going to blow chunks, do it in the Prime Minister's lap. Be memorably bad. This one is to me what "Threshold" is to everyone else--the one episode I'll point to (for now) when I want to point out Bad Voyager. Which is simply an episode that really, really didn't work. For me, that means that I didn't give a rat's hindquarters what happened to anyone in this episode. It didn't relate to anything in real life. It was just there, and despite some good acting from Picardo, it was an emotionally bankrupt piece.

Next Week: UPN steals NBC's "ASTEROID!!!" concept to turn Neelix and Tuvok into the Odd Couple.

Copyright © 1997 Jim Wright

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Last Updated: February 23, 1997
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