VOY: S3E18: “Darkling”

In which the Doctor works through some personal issues that he downloaded just for the occasion. 

This is the tavern that every campaign of Spelljammer starts in.

This is the tavern that every campaign of Spelljammer starts in.

Today’s planet is an outpost of the Mikhal Travelers, who like to explore stuff and, because that verb was not ‘conquer’ are friendly to aliens. Janeway’s sitting at a bar listening to a very dramatic retelling of one of those old sailor’s stories where they land on a giant turtle, but updated for space. Janeway’s found a teller of tall tales, and he has a grudge against the young up-and-comer calling him out. But this is an interesting and all-too-rare show-don’t-tell look at this new culture. They appear to have a hierarchy or honor system based on distance traveled, or new things seen, or some other exploratory-centric meritocracy which grants explorers a high degree of social status. And people who live in one place maintaining waystations as somewhat less-than. Oh, also Kes is friendly enough with this guy that Neelix is going to have Issues.

On the polynesian spa holodeck program that everyone seems to like more than Tom Paris’ French pub, the Doctor is interviewing Ghandi and some guy in a waistcote who’s probably Byron. Whee, I guessed right. Ghandi and Byron argue about the proper place of physical pleasure in life. This is part of the Doctor’s efforts to improve his personality by merging the best aspects of great historical figures into his own personality. Kes hasn’t been available to help him because she’s been checking out the Mikhal travelers, who travel aimlessly in two-person ships. Oh, and apparently she and Neelix broke up. I’d complain that we never got to see how that happened, but I’m sure the aftermath will be just as needlessly dramatic.

By the way, remember when the pre-credits Teaser had to throw us directly into the action? I can’t tell if it’s better or worse that now all they have to do is show us ‘something on the ship’ and we’re expected to anticipate all the ways it’s going to go terribly wrong.

"Factory reset would be murder... and that would be bad... breathe and count to ten..."

“Factory reset would be murder… and that would be bad… breathe and count to ten…”

Torres is in sick bay with Horrific Gastrointestinal Nightmare after having a salad planetside. This will be so that she gets to witness the Doctor’s Cronenbergian gestalt personality nearly destroy him. Today he’s probing her small intestine with the… interest… of Lord Byron. It’s super creepy, and B’Elanna warns him that an amateur like him tinkering around with his own behavioral subroutines will probably go horribly wrong. Or she’ll delete him.

Kes’ new friend Zahir takes her to check out a path from an earlier set of space travelers. He definitely wants to bang, but first he’s showing her some relic left by the Ones who Came Before. Then they get Ominously Watched while making out, and after a discretion fade, Kes beams back up to the ship at 3AMto receive an… admonishment… for it being so late while she still has homework to do. Similarly, the Doctor pointedly mentions some work that she’s letting fall by the wayside. Janeway also notices Kes’ last-minute report turn-in and rumpled I-just-pulled-an-all-nighter look. So they have some talk about Kes going with Zahir and not necessarily staying with Voyager for the rest of her very short life. Janeway’s willing to help council, and Kes has a couple of days to decide.

Mikhal star charts, when ‘printed out’, are cylindrical. I’m not quite sure how that works, really, but then again there are always going to be problems mapping a 3-dimensional space into anything that isn’t a free-floating hologram. Zahir suggests Voyager navigate around the Tarkan holdings. The Tarkan are powerful and deadly and like to turn ships into trophies. Tuvok and Zahir share one of those shotgun-cleaning moments over Kes’ safety. Later, walking on his own, Zahir feels he’s being followed, and gets punched off a cliff by a mysterious robed figure with The Doctor’s voice. And face. But not his dedication to the Hippocratic Oath. Surprising nobody, The Doctor has gone insane with the new additions to his program.

Next day, Kes activates the Doctor to tell him that Zahir was found unconscious and is in emergency care. The Doctor appears to not know about this, and prepares a medkit to go assist immediately. Torres stops him, though, since there’s ‘something’ wrong with his program. He offers Kes his advice and goes with B’elanna for diagnostics. Turns out he’s made a hash of his subroutines by not anticipating emergent interactions between all the different ones. Since he apparently picked a lot of really intense, whackaloon geniuses, they’re spinning off into nutbar territory. Fortunately, Torres has a cure, but unfortunately it doesn’t work.

Tuvok’s forensic analysis of Zahir’s wounds shows not a single trace of forensic evidence, almost as if he was hit by a sterile force field. When he and Janeway make it into Sick Bay, Torres is there and the Doctor has apparently no knowledge of his obvious attack against her. But his analysis shows delayed anaphylaxis rather than however he actually attacked her. Well, I take it back, maybe that was him being sincere. He seems to fuzz and glitch into his Doctor Hyde personality.

Doctor Hyde is capable of planning sufficiently well to fool his good side. He’a also evidently capable of overpowering or tricking Torres long enough to inject her with something to simulate anaphylaxis. He’s paralyzed Torres to force her to help stabilize his evil program and get rid of the Good Doctor. She won’t, obviously, and even a brilliant evil doctor can’t torture her fast enough to make her fix him before he glitches out permanetly. So instead he goes to meet with all his personality sources, with a brief stop along the way to nearly attack a young ensign and try to hide his personality shift from a chance encounter with Paris.

While Tuvok and Chakotay confront the innkeeper and go to check out the spot where Zahir was attacked, Kes comes into sick bay to find Torres passed out and the Doctor running and elsewhere. She goes to find him in the holodeck, with all the characters he drew from hollowed out and glitching, and the Doctor muttering insanely over their models. When Kes interrupts him, he kidnaps her to go exploring space.

Remember kids - the Evil template always gives you weird-looking eyes.

Remember kids – the Evil template always gives you weird-looking eyes.

So, apparently, the captain gets alerted any time the transporter is used. This could be a good precaution in theory, but I just imagine it becoming one of those alerts that you just permanently hide after one shore-leave planet and forget to turn back on. However, a common hand tricorder is easily capable of fouling a transporter signal. Starfleet equipment, what can I say. After some psychoanalysis, they beam away.

True to words, Harry is immediately informed of the unscheduled transport, and the tricorder does indeed scatter the transport. It’s about now that Tuvok reports evidence of the Doctor’s holographic presence at the site Zahir was attacked.

Back at the inn, the Doctor gets frustrated trying to fix the mobile emitter and soliloquizes about how the Darkness is waaaay cooler than the light, while Kes attempts to counterargue by pointing out the way that communities form, and even the cooperation between the cells of the body. It seems to be working before Doctor Hyde gets triggered again by the jerkface innkeeper and Janeway’s blockade. Next begins a more-or-less action sequence, where Kes is able to leave a trail for the others by just leaning against rocks for long enough.

During the showdown at the edge of a cliff (because of course it is) Kes fails to take advantage of a glitch period to move far enough away to not be captured again just so that we can have a talky resolution to this, too. Kes finally gets to the root of Doctor Hyde’s motivation – that he’s got a creepy kidnapper stalker love for Kes. He does his best to prove her wrong by jumping off a cliff. Voyager is able to get through the scattering field (screw you, that’s how) and beam them back in midair, conveniently supressing Doctor Hyde (screw you, that’s how) long enough for Torres to delete all the personality traits that created him.

Kes is going to stick around on Voyager some more, much to the relief of the Doctor. He ends the episode by reaffirming the Hippocratic Oath. Reaffirming, I suppose, after all the breaking of it he’s done today.

Did we miss something awesome?