VOY: S1E07: “Ex Post Facto”

In which we watch a soap opera, I’ve seen better detective episodes, and more things are sloppily resolved than are set up in the first place. 

"But Tom, we can never be together, don't you see? I'm really your long-lost sister!"

“But Tom, we can never be together, don’t you see? I’m really your long-lost sister!”

We are looking at some shoes. Someone is asking Tom Paris to narrate what appears to be a home video, playing in his brain, that shows someone else’s memories of him getting frisky with said rememberer’s wife. Tom Paris insists that this isn’t the way the events actually occurred, though they vividly show Tom stabbing the dude. This is justice on whatever planet they stumbled onto – once every 14 hours, Tom Paris will relieve the last moments of his victim. My burning question is this: is 14 hours a regular rotational cycle on that planet, or did they deliberately choose something that will drift through various points of his day/night schedule? Beyond that, it seems like an interesting approach to punishment-as-deterrent but unless they can pull it out of your head eventually (hint, I guarantee they can because this show is not edgy enough to make him a gibbering basket case by the end of season 1) it seems unlikely to be a really effective rehabilitation method.

Kes is continuing her medical studies, and the Doctor’s Quest for a Name is off to a rocky start, in that he has no confidence in his ability to make choices that aren’t defined by his programming. Kes asks the question – does that fundamentally differ from how organic brains do things? He does have a database full of names – doctors, researchers, patients, et cetera. During his ruminations, either Kim or Paris are incoming on a shuttle, but Kim (as it turns out) is in no condition to respond until he’s in sick bay.

Harry and Tom had gone to this planet, alone, on a shuttle to try to get a part built. The society doesn’t seem particularly xenophobic, and the engineer, Tolan, is quite the genial-if-bumbling host with the gorgeous put-upon wife. Paris just can’t help himself. Voyager wasn’t present herself to avoid getting the whole ship embroiled in the local interplanetary feud. In Harry’s retelling, things proceed in a distressingly familiar way. Once the scientist was murdered, harry was interrogated for two days on suspicion of being an enemy agent. Voyager itself must now get involved.

Let’s check in on Neelix’s utility as a native guide. There’s patrols by the enemy, the Numiri, running through the area. Neelix always ran away, but he has second-hand knowledge that they have powerful shields and energy weapons. When the Numiri show up, they’re fairly polite, as these things go. There also seems to be just a tad of prosthetic crossover – one of the Baneans had a patch of what looked like the same scales this Numiri guy has. I might be imagining things, or it might be an indication that there’s some biological cross-contamination here.

"Why, what were you expecting? Some sort of revenge-murder?"

“Why, what were you expecting? Some sort of revenge-murder?”

The Banean minister explains the punishment. They use the memories as an eyewitness testimony, Rashomon-style, during the trial, and an artificial life form testifies as to their contents. And as we all know, there’s no ambiguity at all about who’s telling how much of the truth in Rashomon. Paris does admit to crossing a line with the wife, and that the marriage was falling apart, and suchlike, but continues to insist he didn’t kill anyone. What he did do is lecture the wife about smoking. And they do a lot of flirting. During his retelling, he has the memories again, and they do include the pain. Although it turns out that his alien neurology isn’t fully compatible and the procedure might be killing him. They beam him back to the ship, but Janeway promises they won’t leave until they prove him innocent.

I have to wonder how much she really cares. If the Doctor can find a way to remove the memories, there’s no reason to stay. If the planet was closer than half a galaxy from the Federation bordermarches it might be worried about maintaining a reputation, but out here? It’s a very Federation mode of thinking… unless she’s lying and they’re going to scarper if the Doctor figures it out after all. So far, the Doctor is not terribly confident. Tuvok is going to read the report, but is also running down the possibility that Paris is actually guilty, and asks for a futuristic lie detector test. Presumably, one that actually works.

In the meantime, Tuvok asks to interview Mrs. Ren, and she explains the situation at the end of her marriage. She seems as broken up about the situation as if she were in a Christopher Marlowe novel, and relates the story of how she and Paris were caught in a rainstorm and… kanoodled a bit. When he awakes, Tom corroborates everything up to, but not including, going into the atrium and the subsequent murder. Tom honestly believes this, but before the angle can be pursued, the Numiri patrols attack.

Chakotay, B’Elanna, and a nameless probably-Maquis in Engineering decide to screw with the Numiri a little, suckering them with a false show of damage and then blinding and disabling both ships at close range with precision targeting. Once the danger is past, Tuvok volunteers to perform a Mind Meld, which the Doctor immediately denounces as a terrible, risky, terrible, bad, and risky idea. Tuvok goes ahead anyway.

The vision seems to have given Tuvok the clues he needed to solve the puzzle. Harry Kim has the final pieces, and Janeway makes arrangements to have the memories removed. The other punishment for murder on this planet was death, so delaying as long as possible while Tuvok sets up his parlor scene would seem to be in order. As expected, the Numiri show up to steal Paris and Kim’s shuttlecraft. All is going according to plan – The Numerians identify Paris, Harry and Tom beam out, and Janeway delivers an ultimatum. She filled the shuttle with a bomb. We still don’t know why.

"And you, minister, are guiltiest of all... of MANSPREADING."

“And you, minister, are guiltiest of all… of MANSPREADING.”

Tuvok gets his parlor scene. He claims the memories were altered and Tom was drugged. The crux of the argument is that the memories show Tom Paris is the same height as Paris, but in real life Tom is significantly taller than her. Also, Tolen Ren was stabbed in the heart, but that heart is significantly distanced form the human heart, and if Tom Paris reads anatomy books it’s only for the genetalia. Finally, there were some symbols in the memory that Tuvok deduces were the professor’s research, and Paris was being used as an unwitting courier to deliver secret research to the Numiri. This is why the Numiri let Voyager in, but attacked when they thought they could get Tom. Pretty clearly, it’s Mrs. Ren working with someone, but a question remains – what was the original plan before the perfect courier dropped into her lap? Oh, the last piece of evidence is the dog, which hates strangers but really likes the memory implant doctor.

Not exactly a fair mystery, all told. But on the plus side, Tuvok made a friend, which I would care about if there had been any setup about Tuvok being secretly dissatisfied with his status as a loner and looked at as a traitor by half the crew.

Did we miss something awesome?