Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch

Star Trek: Voyager Rewatch: “Ex Post Facto”

“Ex Post Facto”
Written by Evan Carlos Somers and Michael Piller
Directed by LeVar Burton
Season 1, Episode 7
Production episode 108
Original air date: February 27, 1995
Stardate: unknown

Captain’s log. Paris is on a couch on an alien world, being asked what he sees. He is reliving a person with a ridiculous hairdo being murdered, apparently by Paris himself after being caught with his wife, whose hairdo is even more ridiculous. He has been punished for killing Tolen Ren by reliving his death from Ren’s own point of view.

Kes and the EMH’s discussions of the latter’s attempts to decide on a name are interrupted by Kim arriving in a shuttlecraft and being beamed directly to sickbay, as he’s barely conscious. The EMH treats him, and Kim explains that Paris was arrested. Kim has no idea why.

Paris and Kim went to Banea at Neelix’s suggestion, as they need help with a repair that the Baneans should be able to provide. Because Banea is at war with Numiria, they went in a shuttle, which could sneak past Numirian patrols more easily than a big-ass starship.

After meeting Ren to discuss the repair, they return to his home, where his wife Lidell is waiting, and is unhappy at him bringing home unexpected guests. Kim and Ren discuss the repair while Paris goes off on his own, apparently to talk with Lidell. The next thing Kim knew, Ren was murdered, Kim was questioned for two days (trying to determine if he was a Numirian spy) and then sent off on the shuttle. He was not allowed to visit Paris.

Voyager sets a course for Banea, at which point they’re confronted by Numirian ships who give them one warning to go about their business and leave and to not do anything to aid the Baneans. Janeway assures the Numirians that she only wishes to clear the name of one of her crew.

Neelix is surprised at the comparative calm of the Numirians’ response. Janeway and Tuvok beam down and meet with Minister Kray, as well as the doctor who performed the memory engram transfer. Janeway and Tuvok are allowed to see Paris. Kray explains that Paris has already been found guilty, as the Baneans are able to read the memory engrams of murder victims. This enables them to not only find the guilty party, but also place those engrams in the perpetrators’ minds as their punishment. Every fourteen hours, Paris relives Ren’s death.

But Paris insists on his innocence. He says that he went to talk to Lidell when Ren and Kim started burying themselves in technobabble. She talked to him about how she wished to leave her husband, even though he’d always been kind to her.

While in the middle of telling his side of the story, Paris again relives the murder and falls unconscious. This is not normal behavior, and Janeway requests that they bring Paris to Voyager to be examined. Kray agrees as long as they don’t leave orbit, and Janeway assures him that they aren’t going anywhere until they prove Paris’s innocence.

Tuvok visits the crime scene, and talks to Lidell (and also meets their dog, who reacts badly to Tuvok—Lidell explains that the pooch doesn’t like strangers). Lidell tells Tuvok of her and Paris walking to see the eclipse and then getting drenched by a rainstorm. She made him tea, and then Ren showed up, and Paris killed him. (Paris mentioned none of this stuff.) Lidell says that her affair with Paris gave her the strength to finally leave her husband. She also asks Tuvok to tell Paris that she forgives him for killing her husband.

Tuvok requests that Paris be hooked up to an autonomic response analysis device to measure if he’s telling the truth. After interrogating him further, Tuvok determines that Paris believes that he didn’t kill Ren, but he also can’t account for his whereabouts during the murder. The EMH says that the doctors on Banea found no drugs in his system, but any such drugs would have been out of his system by the time Paris arrived on Voyager.

Two Numirian ships attack Voyager. Chakotay does some nifty piloting based on some Maquis moves to get rid of them.

Tuvok suggests that he perform a mind-meld with Paris during his next reliving of the murder. The EMH thinks it’s a terrible idea, but Tuvok goes ahead with it. He sees what Paris sees, including some text running across the bottom and Paris standing next to Lidell at the same height as her.

Once the EMH examines Tuvok and finds no brain damage, the security chief says he thinks he knows the truth. However, he needs to confer with Kim on something and then use Paris as bait.

Screenshot: CBS

Janeway contacts the surface and talks to Kray and the Banean doctor. Paris is suffering neurological damage from the punishment, which is not normal—but his brain chemistry is different than Baneans. Kray is willing to consider removing the engrams, but that may mean employing the sentence that would’ve been carried out before the engram technology was developed, to wit, the death penalty.

Expressing concern that the transporter will further complicate Paris’s medical issues, Janeway says Paris will head to Banea on a shuttle.

Said shuttle is immediately attacked and boarded by Numirians. Janeway then beams Paris and Kim off the shuttle and informs the Numirians that if they don’t withdraw, she’ll set off a mess of explosives on the shuttle. The Numirians back off.

Tuvok then pulls a Hercule Poirot and gathers everyone with a speaking part at the Ren home. First, he queries Paris about the writing along the bottom of his visions. Paris had just assumed them to be part of the process, but Kray doesn’t know anything about it, and Tuvok has confirmed with Kim that the writing in question is Ren’s weapons research.

In addition, Paris and Lidell are the same height in Ren’s memories, but Paris is half a head taller than her in real life. Also the murderer knew precisely where to stab Ren to cause near-instant death, whereas Paris has no clue about Banean anatomy.

The Numirians attacked Voyager when they knew they could get at Paris there. Tuvok believes that someone altered Ren’s memory engrams to frame Paris for Ren’s murder and then told the Numirians when Paris would be in orbit and available to be taken, so the Numirians could suck out the memory engrams and get the weapons specs.

The doctor (who is never given a name for some reason) is the same height as Lidell (and has the most ridiculous hairdo out of all of them), he knew when Paris was beaming to Voyager—indeed, he encouraged Kray to agree to send Paris there for better medical treatment than he could get on Banea—and he has the skill to change the engrams and insert Ren’s research text.

The final proof: the dog knows him, belying his claim that he’s never been in the Ren home before. He’s arrested, and Paris is exonerated.

Later in the mess hall, Paris tells Tuvok that he’s made a friend today. For his part, Tuvok insists that, had he found evidence that Paris was guilty, he would have been just as thorough. Paris thanks him anyhow.

There’s coffee in that nebula! It’s not clear whether or not Janeway is bluffing with regards to the explosives on the shuttle, but she was convincing enough for the Numirians, even if she was pulling a corbomite maneuver

Mr. Vulcan. While “Caretaker” established only that Tuvok had a family, this episode specifies that he’s married, and that the marriage has lasted for sixty-seven years (and counting).

Tuvok (Tim Russ) in Star Trek: Voyager

Screenshot: CBS

Please state the nature of the medical emergency. The EMH is considering several possible names, including those of various physicians throughout history:  Galen of Pergamon, Jonas Salk, and Benjamin Spock (that last name being a total coincidence, ahem).

Forever an ensign. Kim is the one who is mainly supposed to go to Banea, as he was the one consulting with Ren on fixing the broken piece (probably something damaged in “Caretaker”).

Everybody comes to Neelix’s. Neelix advises Janeway about the expected behavior of the Baneans and the Numirians. He is surprised at the fact that the Numirians aren’t openly violent on first meeting, but the later revelation that they were lying in wait to capture Paris explains that handily.

No sex, please, we’re Starfleet. Paris is bored within two seconds of Kim and Ren neeping at each other, so he goes and hits on Ren’s wife, because of course he does. It’s not like that will end badly…

Do it.

“That’s one trick you won’t be able to use again when we get back.”

“I have more.”

–Janeway tweaking Chakotay about his using Maquis tricks in front of Janeway and Chakotay tweaking her right back.

Welcome aboard. Francis Guinan plays the first of three Trek roles as Kray. He’ll be back in “Live Fast and Prosper” as Zar and Enterprise’s “The Communicator” as Gosis. Robin McKee plays Lidell, soap actor Aaron Lustig appears as the never-named doctor (he’ll be back in Enterprise‘s “The Catwalk” as Guri), and Ray Reinhardt returns to Trek as Ren, having previously played Admiral Aaron in TNG’s “Conspiracy.”

Trivial matters: This episode was the subject of a bit of controversy, as Daniel Keys Moran and Lynn Barker pitched a similar story to Robert Hewitt Wolfe and Evan Carlos Somers for DS9 called “Injustice.” After “Ex Post Facto” aired with Somers having a co-writing credit, Moran considered suing, but then Wolfe bought “Injustice” for DS9, which was retitled “Hard Time.” (See the rewatch entry for that episode for more on that.)

This is the first of eight episodes of Voyager to be directed by LeVar Burton, who played Geordi La Forge on TNG (and will appear in the fifth season’s “Timeless” in that role, an episode which is also one of those eight times in the director’s chair). Burton had previously directed two episodes of TNG, and would go on to also direct ten of DS9, and nine of Enterprise.

Paris declares that humans have given up smoking as dangerous, a declaration that was just last week belied by the Picard episode “The End is the Beginning.” (I prefer Paris’s notion, myself, especially given that I have no memory of my paternal grandmother who chain-smoked and died when I was two.)

The autonomic response analysis that the EMH does on Paris while Tuvok questions him is likely the same technology that was used on the original series’ “Wolf in the Fold” when various people were questioned about the murders committed by Redjac.

Screenshot: CBS

Set a course for home. “That rehab colony in New Zealand doesn’t seem so bad right now.” I both love and hate this episode in equal measure.

As a police procedure junkie in general, and also a fan of the character of Tuvok, I love the episode. It’s a good use of twenty-fourth-century technology as part of an investigation, from the insertion of memory engrams as punishment to the ARA analysis (which, of course, only proves that Paris believes he’s telling the truth). I also like that the main reason why the doctor (and why the hell wasn’t he given a name?) was almost able to get away with it is because he could not possibly have known that there was someone on Voyager who was telepathic. Only Paris saw the images, and he assumed the text was part of the process (hell, I assumed it was some kind of status update or other when we first saw it in the teaser), and most people don’t notice relative heights. (Points to director LeVar Burton, who avoided showing Paris and Lidell standing straight next to each other until the climactic gather-the-suspects scene.) Only Tuvok’s hyper-observational nature saved the day.

On top of that, there’s two lovely old-school tributes: besides the very Agatha Christie-esque gathering of suspects at the climax, the final proof that the doctor is guilty is that the dog knows him, which is right out of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes story “Silver Blaze.”

But that’s also a big part of the problem: it’s a dog. An Earth dog with no explanation. Here we are on an alien planet in another frikkin’ quadrant, and the “aliens” are almost completely indistinguishable from Americans in the 1940s (the only sop to their alienness being those absurd feathery hairdos).

They’re also indistinguishable from the characters in TNG’s “A Matter of Perspective,” and it’s never a good thing when you do a callback to one of the franchise’s absolute worst episodes. The suspicious death of an elderly scientist married to the pretty young thing whom our horndog crewmember flirts with. She even smokes, in case it wasn’t 1940s enough, and there’s absolutely nothing about the Baneans that indicates that they’re an alien species beyond where Ren was stabbed and their hilarious hairdos.

This episode is, at least, better than “A Matter of Perspective,” partly because Tuvok does an excellent job leading the investigation, doing what a security chief is actually supposed to be doing. But it’s frustrating that it does so well on the science fictional aspects of the technology (and Tuvok’s telepathy), but so completely drops the ball on the science fictional aspects of the guest aliens.

Warp factor rating: 6

 

Note: Because of the President’s Day Holiday, the rewatch of “Emanations” will go up on Tuesday the 18th of February.

Keith R.A. DeCandido is the author of many science fiction/fantasy tales that involve police procedure of some sort, including the series that started with Dragon Precinct (the most recent of which is Mermaid Precinct), as well as the Spider-Man novels Venom’s Wrath and Down These Mean Streets, the Supernatural novel Nevermore, the Buffy the Vampire Slayer novel Blackout, and various tales in his Super City Cops setting.

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