VOY: S5E11: “Latent Image”

In which the Doctor uncovers a conspiracy, kills a woman, and discovers he has a soul to wound. 

Canonically now, Haeey has a scar on his skull and no genitals.

Today, the Doctor is taking pictures of the whole crew, including not being able to adjust the tripod to get Naomi in the frame. This is part of a new medical maintenance program where he’s adusted his holo-imager to take pictures through subspace, effectively transforming it into a PET scanner. After some annoyingness with Naomi, it’s Harry who gets the Good Patients Get To Look Inside Their Bodies treatment. During this can, the Doctor finds some scarring on the base of Harry’s skull indicating some neurosurgery that Harry had, and which was done by the doctor. And since neither of them remember the operation, we’ve got a mystery on our hands.

Like her predecesors, Janeway hates getting her physical. Also he definitely buries the lead about Harry’s surgery, but gets around to it eventually. Next he goes to Seven for some help, but she’s busy in astrometrics and he has to guilt-trip her. Amazingly, showing her progress humanizing, it works, and she shows up in an hour to find him deactivated.

When she shows up in sick bay, he doesn’t recall asking for her help, and the holoscans of Harry have been deleted. His short-term memory was cleared, and it’s becoming clear that someone’s trying to delete the record of that surgery. But since he used to take a lot of pictures, there’s apparently no reason why that person wouldn’t have also cleared out his photo album, so they go to the holodeck to review the album, which has indeed been mostly deleted. Seven’s able to undelete five images showing an ensign that the Doctor has no memory of, a shuttle mission, and being attacked by aliens.

Seven has find some of the missing memory files, which were locked instead of deleted. Seven successfully unlocks them and he starts accessing them out of sequence, and we get some flashes of the party, her bloody violent death in the shuttlebay, his attempt to stabilize her, and the alien shooting all three of him, Harry, and Ensign Nameless at once with a special three-barreled rifle that either has auto-aim or was built with remarkable foresight.

Nobody remembers this Ensign Jetal, and the Doctor formulates a whole conspiracy theory about the possibility of an intruder on board keeping this secret. The Doctor wants to lead an investigation, but Janeway denies him, orders him to turn himself off, and lock himself away to protect himself from tampering. Before doing so, though, he makes a backup and sets the computer to load in the differential if he’s altered without his personal authorization. He also sets up one of those computer locks that takes the picture of whoever puts in the wrong password. Sure enough, someone comes in to delete his memories, and he goes to check the log. It’s Janeway.

Janeway and Chakotay are debating some old sumo game when the Doctor comes in with deep minor cello backing, as one might do if one’s commanding officer had violated their mind. Along with the rest of the crew. Having been caught out, Janeway takes him to her ready room to explain. The attack apparently caused a fatal systems error that they couldn’t patch, so they had to remove the memories as the trigger for the conflict. That conflict is something Janeway refuses to explain to him on the grounds that it might re-trigger that conflict.

“AM I BEING DETAINED? AM I FREE TO GO?”

Chakotay shows up with some thugs to make sure things get done properly this time. Evidently, Seven is on Janeway’s side now, as is Torres. Paris is here to take care of any of the Doctor’s tests while he’s offline. To be fair, now that Seven is on board with this, the Doctor might be able to speculate that whatever happened actually merits this behavior. Although on the other hand, since they’re about to take his memories out they could just as easily tell him, then record the gibbering blubbering mess he becomes when the conflict reintroduces itself, to show him in case he finds out about this later as proof that whatever it is was so bad he was unable to function. If you’re going to treat him like a computer program instead of a person, at least take advantage of the great thing about computer programs – the same input produces the same output, and they can do a hard-reboot again if they need to.

Seven is having some trouble with what it means to be an individual, in the context of this whole debacle, and goes to Janeway to discuss the Implications, and call out her mentor. Janeway orders some coffee, which comes out lukewarm despite repeated instructions to the replicator. Are replicators capable of spiteful obedience in solidarity for holograms? Oh no wait, this is Janeway making a point because she’s a scientist and not a legal historian. Seven makes a lot of good points, particularly about how she, as a presence somewhere between a full human that Janeway would recognize the rights of, and a replicator, suddenly isn’t all that sure that Janeway will respect her rights. This finally seems to hit home – when Janeway realizes she’s being a Pulaski and a Maddox, and grants the Doctor the right to know.

There are 144 people on this ship, and the entire senior staff is attending a birthday party for an ensign we’ve never met before. How does anything get done on this ship?

The full memories start with the party, where the Doctor gets his away team assignment with Jetal and Harry. The Doctor harasses them with some more pictures on the shuttle, just before the attack, which ends with the Doctor beaming the intruder presumably into space, calling for help, and attempting to stabilize the shuttle crew. Of the two, only Harry is responsive, so the Doctor sets to work. Oh, the Doctor only beamed the alien back home because he doesn’t kill people. When Voyager shows up to rescue them, he beams them directly to sickbay as whatever alien weapon causes progressive nervous system decay.

The alien weapon was designed to leave a lingering energy trace and destabilize the targets nervous systems. Also, minor note on the visual effect – when a person is lying down, the ‘vertical’ sparks go horizontally along their long axis, whereas on the Enterprise the vertical lines always remained vertical, just with a wider field. I wonder what function accounts for the change? The Doctor comes up with a spinal shunt, to dam their spines off from their brains until the energy dissipates, but he can only save one of them in the time given. With all factors being equal, he saves Harry. And the use of props here does a very bad job of explaining why this is too complex for Paris to do on Jetal in parallel. Maybe they only had one of those tools? She flatlines during Harry’s procedure, just moments after they stabilize him.

We come out of the flashback, and the Doctor is confused – he’s programmed to accept the loss of a patient, as he should be. So why did he go catatonic before? Janeway authorizes another memory unlock – in the aftermath, the Doctor has to make some minor choices about unimportant supply requisitions, and when asked to make that decision he goes back to that moment of triage in sick bay. He didn’t lock up at the time, which allowed him to save anyone, but now after the fact his adaptive programming is dwelling on it. In this case, it appears he’s aware of all the factors that go into that triage – he doesn’t have a subconscious tabulating a whole bunch of hidden variables, and in the aftermath he’s decided that Harry and Jetal were functionally identical in their prognosis. Even such a small thing has ‘Harry’s best friend was present and might have been a less effective assistant if he lets Harry die’ might have been significant, I would think. But it wasn’t enough to pull the Doctor out of his feedback loop.

Once the crux of his malfunction is made plain, the Doctor finally agrees with the treatment, but for the wrong reason. He’s gone crazy again, because he chose his friend. If Jetal wasn’t his friend, why was he at her party?

Now Janeway’s second-guessing her decision to not let the Doctor work through his ethical dilemma. Time for part 2 of that discussion with Seven. She asks if Seven thinks being freed from the Collective was worth it, and if the Seven that exists now would choose to undo the timeline where she became an individual. Seven would not choose to have remained Seven of Nine, if given the choice. So Janeway is going to give the Doctor a chance to work through his issues with a 24-hour crew attendant to discuss these ethical matters with him. Counseling a holoporogram as it becomes more human.

After two weeks, the Doctor decides there’s nothing he could have done differently because the universe is deterministic and has no meaning. Janeway, meanwhile, is reading La Vita Nuova, more or less atthe Doctor, although not to him. And then falls asleep. In fact, she has a fever, which at least prompts the Doctor into action – his main program still won’t let someone suffer if he can avoid it. I would love if they ran with this for a while, honestly. If he became a raving lunatic that snapped into decisive action anytime someone came in with a head-cold but was otherwise raving. But that would be both too light-hearted and continuity-focused for this format.

Janway does leave him with the poetry, though. It might be helping.

Did we miss something awesome?