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Star Trek: Voyager

"Latent Image"

by David E. Sluss

23 January 1999

 
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THE BOTTOM LINE
: A decent premise, buried by errors in continuity and logic, and a bizarre and over-the-top final act.

CYNICS CORNER RATING: 6.0 (D-)

RETROCHARACTERIZATION OF THE WEEK: So The Doctor has been a shutterbug for 18 months? Bull. That character quirk is an "innovation" that began this season. There's no evidence in the third or fourth season that the doctor had any interest in holophotography, certainly not to the extent where he was taking pictures "every day," as he states here. But what the hell; consistent characterization has to be sacrificed at the altar of plot, I suppose.

RETROCHARACTER OF THE WEEK: Well, a brand new Ensign Expendable has been retroactively plugged into Voyager's history. Unfortunately the writers don't seem to have thought about how incredibly difficult it would be to hide the circumstances of her death, and indeed her very existence, from The Doctor. First, the crew would have to have been censored; Janeway must have forbade anyone from talking about Ensign Jetal. It seems like that wouldn't have sat well with some people, such as her friends. Second, everyone must have been ordered to dissemble in the event The Doctor stumbled across any evidence, as Kim did. That doesn't come naturally to everyone; I find it hard to believe, for instance, that the sap Harry Kim is that good a liar. Third, I suppose that all log entries, duty rosters, etc. containing any evidence of Jetal's existence would have to have been destroyed, altered, or encrypted. Fourth, and most improbably, every single memory of Jetal would have to be removed from Doc's program, and not just the memories of party, the attack, and Jetal's death. That seems to me to be an impossible task. Even if it could be done, the result would inevitably be time gaps in The Doctor's memory that he would notice, and investigate, ultimately undoing the erasure. This doesn't seem very plausible to me. And it doesn't seem necessary; Janeway should have simply erased the memories, told Doc that the aliens weapon did <tech>, <tech>, and <tech> to his matrix and erased some of his memory, and then given him a slightly altered version of the events, in which Jetal was there, but had been injured far more severely than Kim, so that saving Kim in a triage situation was the proper thing for The Doctor to have done. That would have been a lot easier for Janeway to do, and a lot harder for The Doctor to un-do.

RETRO-NON-CHARACTER OF THE WEEK: Given the timeframe of the events shown in this episode, shouldn't Kes have been around? I guess nobody thought of that either...

RACISM OF THE WEEK: Janeway's comments to Seven about The Doctor were shockingly mean-spirited at best, and racist at worst. "The Doctor is more like that replicator than he is like us." Gee, replace a couple of words in that sentence, and it could something be spoken at a KKK rally. Respect for all sentient life, including artificial life, is one of Starfleet's most important principals. Janeway nagged The Doctor early in the series to exceed his programming, saying that he couldn't be just an emergency supplement any longer. And now that he has achieved a level of apparent sentience, she dismisses it (and him) out of hand. Granted, in the end, she did the "right thing" by letting the Doctor cope with his issues, but that doesn't change her attitude, nor the fact that she did violate his rights with the first erasure. Considering the cavalier way in which holograms are permitted to become sentient in Star Trek's 24th century (c.f. Deep Space Nine's Vic "the Holosap" Fontaine and Next Generation's Moriarty), prejudice against sentient holograms should be a major issue. But again, the ST Powers That Be never think about such consequences.

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK: Doc sets up the sting in sickbay, ordering the computer to reactivate him if someone tampers with his program. I guess the computer knew that it should wait until the intruder left the room in order to turn him back on.

BREAKDOWN OF THE WEEK: No, not Doc's, but the fact that this episode really fell apart in its last act. I found Doc's crack-up in the mess hall to be over-the-top and utterly unconvincing, unusual coming from Picardo. And the closing holodeck scene with Doc and Janeway sitting in those ugly chairs was simply bizarre, for a couple of reasons. First, it seemed like a stupid way to be helping The Doctor (B'Elanna talked in this episode of giving The Doctor "personality subroutines"; why not write a "coping subroutine"?). Second, it seemed like one of those dream sequences from Twin Peaks; I half-expected Janeway to start dancing...

RESET BUTTON OF THE WEEK: I guess Doc doesn't need a coping subroutine, after all. All he has to do is read one sappy poem and he's All Better for next week.
 

Previous: "Counterpoint"
Next: "Bride of Chaotica!"
NEXT WEEK: Finally, a Voyager episode that is intended to be schlock.

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This review is copyright 1999 David E. Sluss
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