VOY: S2E19: “Lifesigns”

In which the Doctor learns to dance. 

Voyager is actually at warp this time, and Paris is late for his appointment. But he has the excuse that Sam Wildman went into labor. It is a lie, and not even a particularly good one, as it can be easily verified. Tom’s chronic lateness is overshadowed by the detection of a small unarmed ship emanating minimal lifesigns of a Vidiian female. As always, we must suspect a trap, but there’s no other signs of one, so aid must be rendered.

"What does this button do?"

“What does this button do?”

In sick bay, we find out her internal organs are on the verge of collapse, but she has some sort of implant in her brain which is currently preventing her brain from shutting down. Sadly, all of the pieces it’s connected to are dying, so the Doctor comes up with a plan – transfer her brain patterns into the holobuffer. The Doctor is also really bad at logic, because just because a container is big enough to hold his program doesn’t mean it’s big enough to hold his program plus another sentient being. He’s trying to save lives, though, so let’s not judge. Maybe he can shut off the French billiards bar for the duration. The Doctor constructs a holographic anatomy model layer by layer, and then the credits roll.

They’ve salvaged the navigation logs – the woman was going to a colony ten light-years away, and Voyager will be passing by in 22 days. Janeway also gives Chakotay carte blanche to handle the Tom Paris discipline problem. And the Doctor is now ready to spin up the Vidiian woman’s brain into the holobody. She’s kind of a deep sleeper, but who wouldn’t be. He also gives her a moment of false hope when she sees her undamaaged body. She’s been sick and getting replacement parts since she was seven, so she’s literally never seen her adult, healthy form. He explains to Denara Pell the existential issues as a hologram, and it turns out she’s a doctor too, and was helping to treat an outbreak.

The first treament the Doctor thinks of is extracting some brain matter from Torres, based on the Klingon resistance to the Phage. B’elanna is not remotely interested in undergoing this procedure. Klingons aren’t very forgiving. However, Denara has that a soft manner and compassion that might just crack that fierce demeanor, and the procedure proceeds.

The Doctor is deeply enjoying the chance to show off to his new patient, both his programming, and his… medical database. Also that French tavern. The Vidiian’s don’t really have public gatherings – they’re a health risk. Thus, the Italian-accented Forehead Alien in the tavern reaching for her hands is off-putting. Also, nobody ever programmed the Doctor to dance. One suspects his micro-scale dexterity might translate upwards, and that he ought to be programmed to lean in order to adapt to, you know, emergency situations.

Not pictured: Kes, sitting on a biobed, theatrically cleaning a shotgun and making pointed remarks about curfew.

Not pictured: Kes, sitting on a biobed, theatrically cleaning a shotgun and making pointed remarks about curfew.

Oh, also he’s got a name again. Shmalis, Denara’s uncle’s name. Assuming this one also fails to stick for emotional reasons, he’s going to want to start staying away from S-names. Doc Shmalis prescribes 8 hours of shutdown and tries really, really hard not to be Emotionally Invested in his patient. Who’s just named him after her uncle. ‘Cause that’s not sketchy as heck.

Back to Paris, who is about to get a lecture in ship’s discipline from Chakotay. Starts out with the soft-sell. Chakotay’s offering to help Tom out with whatever it is he’s upset about, but it turns out that what Tom’s upset about is Chakotay not allowing the job to be the kind of fulfilling and rewarding experience one might expect. Lt. Jonas was there at the time, and the Kazon are pleased to hear the report that ship’s discipline is falling apart, but Jonas is also growing a backbone and refusing to actually sabotage Voyager as ordered until he gets to talk to Seska. Ask yourself whether Jonas is doing this because he’s running from Voyager or to Seska.

Doc Shmalis is running a diagnostic because he’s unfamiliar with the distraction of love. Or because the increased pattern storage us degrading his functioning. He hasn’t even reactivated her program yet because he’s afraid of what she does to him. And now he’s getting romantic advice from a three-year-old. Adjusted lifespan is all well and good, but remember she’s not even supposed to have hit sexual maturity yet. Which may be why she fails to consider the Doctor’s rather straightforward interpretation of her advice. This awkward moment is expertly broken by him stimulating her lifeless body’s ass while Kes and Denara-hologram look on in mute social horror.

"Something about how dispassionate and awkward he is really revs my motor."

“Something about how dispassionate and awkward he is really revs my motor.”

The Doctor now seeks Paris’ romatic advice, since he’s likely very familiar with being rejected by women. The prognosis isn’t that great, and the only real treatment is time, with sporadic acute relapses. Meanwhile, Kes is trying to fix the situation, because Denara is obviously also interested in Doc Shmalis, despite his terminal bluntness. She’s also not really practiced at accepting intimacy. There are hints here that the Phage, while widespread, isn’t at 100% saturation even after thousands of years. Denara keeps referring to how she’s isolated because of the disease, which would really only matter if there’s a healthy population to isolate her from. Once you’re living in the leper colony, there’s not a whole lot of point to maintaining interpersonal quarantine.

Kes and Paris both give their charges roughly the same advice. They’re clearly perfect for each other. I mean Paris and Kes, of course. They set up the Doctor and Denara at Makeout Point overlooking a Mars colony, in a sky-blue ’57 Chevrolet convertible. They listen to the radio, they Earthgaze, and then they surrender to the natural influence of the Chevy.

Paris is late for duty again, but this time, Chakotay has replaced him at conn. After all, if an autopilot could do Tom’s job, why bother to rely on him? This, finally, gets Tom’s attention. He’s going to spend some time in the brig because Chakotay’s really good at taking a dive to make a point.

Mike Jonas finally gets in contact with Seska. She wants him to sabotage the ship so that she doesn’t have to raise a child on a Kazon ship without access to replicators, basic sanitation, and probably a lot of hidden commands that would let her seize power from the morons that run Kazon society. She’s got an ambush planned.

The Doctor’s medical procedure isn’t working, because there’s a buildup of toxins in Denara’s brain. Turns out she administered it, deliberately, to kill the cadaver on the table so that Holo-Denara could be the one to continue. She really, really doesn’t want to go back, preferring to live a full life for two days than a piecemeal life as she falls apart a piece at a time. The whole Quality of Life argument, which conflicts with the Doctor’s programming to prolong life. And also his ability to love.

The Doctor waits for Denara in the tavern. She walks in, in her own body, diseased and terrified of rejection. They waltz, which she knows how to do, and we’re left with more actual plot threads that might be resolved at a later date. Could this be continuity?

Did we miss something awesome?