VOY S02E19 Lifesigns (1 out of 5 stars). For reasons which pass understanding, the Doctor creates a holo-puppet of a patient before trying to cure her. Most people on this ship end up simply announcing facts which relate to their job. Now, Kes is reduced to a bland Nurse Chapel which seems an odd use of a character who looks on paper to be so unusual and exotic. The patient is the latest guest on board to be suffering from the phage. The Doc and his new patient wander around and pass the time of day until he decides to fall in love with her. It’s criminally uninteresting. Even worse is the dire management training film enacted by Paris and Chakotay, which is so boring that even Janeway refuses to participate – and then the writers bail on it too, as it isn’t resolved. I almost didn’t make it to the end of this one. Dr McCoy gets a shout-out. Seska is wasted again.

VOY S02E20 Investigations (2.5 out of 5 stars). Oh god, Neelix has a podcast now. His disreputable Talaxian friend is legitimate now and has come to pick up Tom Paris. Although this storyline has been brewing for a few episodes, it’s frustrating that we have to hear about his reaction to being stood down, his decision to leave, Janeway’s response and so on – all second hand. It makes for a strong(-ish) out of the teaser, but I’m not sure it’s a price worth paying. Making Paris’s story all about Neelix is not the way I would have gone. And nor is making Neelix’s reaction to Tom’s departure all about the Doctor’s sudden and mysterious desire to be television star.

Similarly, Janeway’s plan to get Tom kicked off Voyager and thus unmask the spy makes a certain amount of sense, but denying us access to all of this decision-making in the hope of catching us unawares means we trade understanding of our characters for surprise. Sound familiar? And of course, if it isn’t even that much of a surprise, then that’s simply weakening the fabric of the story, with no upside, especially given that the surprise is that Tom Paris is on a less interesting journey than we were briefly led to believe. On the other hand, Neelix’s laborious detective work plods its way towards a conclusion which we’ve known about for many episodes now. In fact, almost nothing that Neelix does really impacts the outcome – he’s just a mechanism to dole out the actual story slowly enough that it last 45 minutes. And why was Jonas so keen to give up Voyager to Seska and the Kazon anyway? Does he think he’ll get home quicker on a Kazon ship? Why?

During these shenanigans, the warp drive is out of action and once again Voyager needs supplies in order to make repairs. Visiting a nearby star system on impulse power seems to present no problems which makes interstellar distances seem very small (or impulse speeds very fast). Torres waits for Jonas’s console to explode in his face before giving the computer verbal instructions. It’s been almost a year since The Caretaker. Martha Hackett is wasted yet again.

For anyone keeping score, Jonas’s death means that Voyager is now down eight crew from the 154 they started with in the Delta Quadrant, counting the psychopath in the brig and the turncoat Seska as both no longer active members, even though they’re still alive.

VOY S02E21 Deadlock (3.5 out of 5 stars). After all this time heading out of the Delta Quadrant, we’re still in Vidian space. I understand the show’s reluctance to give us any clear idea of how far we’ve gone or how far through our journey we are, but c’mon. When they take a detour, suddenly photon blasts start taking the ship apart. It’s all fairly bewildering, but it is at least dramatic, culminating in the death of Wildman’s new-born. That’s clue number one that a big ol’ timeywimey reset button is marching in the direction of this story – and that suspicion becomes a racing certainty when Harry Kim is sucked out into space.

Suddenly we’re on a different version of Voyager. Essentially this is adventure-series-as-video-game. If you get killed on this attempt, switch to another saved game and have another go. Hurrah! We get to blow up the ship. Boo! Nothing really matters anymore. Once again, the characters are reduced to cardboard cut-outs who just announce facts at each other. What if the Voyager that solved the problem correctly the first time was more like the Mirror Universe, where their success was due to selfish decision-making which prioritised only their own safety. Now which ship do you want to survive? Better, isn’t it? Instead we get drenched in technobabble during which the two ships “merge” (complete with profoundly weak double-exposure visual effects) and then the Vidians storm on board the “good” ship, but by that time, it doesn’t matter who lives or dies – we can restore anyone we lose from the backup. Still, it is at least fun and exciting and it’s always cool to have two versions of this (or any) captain sharing the screen, even if the effects work isn’t always 100% convincing.

Ludicrously, the Doctor’s solution to Ensign Wildman’s excruciating labour is to use the transporters to beam the horny-foreheaded infant out of her only after she’s pushed for several hours. Moments later, when engineering is hit, all casualties have to walk themselves over to sickbay.

DS9 S04E18 Rules of Engagement (3.5 out of 5 stars). Further isolated from the Klingon Empire, Worf is now up on charges and facing extradition. During a battle which we have yet to see, Worf commanded the Defiant and destroyed a Klingon transport. Far from saluting this zeal for warlike glory, Worf is accused of negligence, even though the event occurred in the heat of battle. Unable to dispute the facts, the Klingon prosecutor effectively puts his own people’s battle-happy mind-set on trial.

As director, LeVar Burton includes some flourishes, especially having witness give testimony to camera during flashbacks in a way which recalls Ray Liotta leaving the stand at the end of Goodfellas. The trial stuff is the usual nonsense, resembling no known trial procedures, and the killer evidence-giving at the end barely makes a particle of sense, but Avery Brooks has fun chewing the scenery. The best material in the whole episode is the final conversation between Worf and Sisko.

Those bonkers admirals’ uniforms are back. T’Lara’s tailor got bored making the sleeves and added pointless black bands and extra gold braid to the cuffs. Everyone else is in their standard dress togs.

VOY S02E22 Innocence (2.5 out of 5 stars). We might be in a hurry to make it home, but there’s always time to stop and smell the flowers, even if such olfactory investigations cost the life of a crewmember. Having failed to protect his comrade, Tuvok now has three moppets to keep alive. This is basically a rerun of The Galileo Seven, but with kids, and once again Tuvok’s – sadly never seen – family life turns out to be the most interesting thing about him. His Vulcan approach to life is regarded as odd by the very human-seeming moppets, who contrast strongly with their isolationist, philosophical parents. They also bear no resemblance whatsoever to long-lived pensioners with juvenile bodies, which renders the would-be clever twist completely ridiculous. Voyager can run for four years without refuelling. No sign of the absolute paddywacking which the ship received last week. Everything looks as good as new. (“That’ll buff right out.”) Lucky that, as a tour party of drab locals are being shown around and sneering at most things.

DS9 S04E19 Hard Time (4.5 out of 5 stars). The brilliance of The Inner Light is that it’s the reset button that isn’t. Picard is returned to exactly where and when he was, but he carries (at least some of) the memory of those decades he lived as Galen, and they contribute to who he is when he returns to his life as a starship captain. I’ve always thought of it as something a bit less than a real lived experience, but something a bit more than a dream. Something similar happens to O’Brien here – he’s been given memories of twenty years of incarceration in mere minutes – but as punishment, rather than as commemoration of a doomed society. And the emphasis is mainly on rehabilitation and recovery rather than the experience.

Unsurprisingly, he takes a while to adjust to life back onboard the station, even seeing glimpses of his cell mate, about whom he is being oddly secretive. The script even finds something for Jake to do – quizzing O’Brien on which tool is which. You go, Jake. Colm Meaney is better than ever here and this manages the excellent trick of being an episode of a science fiction adventure television series where the jeopardy is principally whether or not one of the characters will recover from trauma – without it ever becoming maudlin, low-stakes or boring. Whether the final revelation makes sense or not is open to debate – presumably the Argrathans could have given O’Brien memories of him doing any appalling thing they wished – but the impact is hard to argue with.

We’ve seen Starfleet doctors selectively erase memories before and so while Sisko’s observation that these implanted experiences can’t be removed by Bashir isn’t particularly convincing, it’s nice that Keiko even brings it up.

DS9 S04E20 Shattered Mirror (3 out of 5 stars). Just as Jake is beginning to make sense of Nog’s absence from his life, he pops home to find his dead mom sitting on the couch. She’s popped over from the Mirror Universe in what seems like it’s going to become an annual event. It’s a neat way of distracting us from any thoughts we might have about O’Brien’s trauma last week having long-term effects. By spending most of the episode “over there”, we can keep Colm Meaney in front of the camera and not have to examine “our” Chief too carefully.

Jennifer’s visit turns out to be a ruse to lure Sisko to “her” station. The Terrans have taken back Terok Nor and have ripped off the blueprints of the Defiant, but can’t get it to work. Once again, the Defiant appears to be simultaneously a super-ship which would be the envy of any force in the galaxy, and a hopelessly over-gunned, over-powered failed prototype which is still not ready for prime time. Because Worf is in the cast now, Worf is in the Mirror Universe too. And it’s the first time we’ve seen Garak in absolutely ages as he sucks up to his Klingon captors, in some of the episode’s best scenes.

Captured by the Terrans, Kira’s “Intendant’ is a tiny bit less fun than usual, and Alexander Siddig never really convinces as a hard-bitten rebel, but elsewhere it’s still exciting to see the regulars adopting goatee beards and sarcastic sneers. Alas, since we know the set-up quite well now, we can’t be quite so thrilled at the reinventions of those characters, and since being able to bump off the regulars is part of the point of these stories, we can’t be all that shocked when Kira kills Nog either. There’s a pretty nifty space battle at the end though, where the Defiant manages to knock out an entire enemy fleet. Tough little ship that. Last appearance by Felecia M Bell as Jennifer.

Oscars 2023: Tár, All Quiet on the Western Front, Women Talking
Trekaday #072: The Muse, The Thaw, For the Cause, Tuvix, To the Death