Known ex-con and ladies’ man Tom Paris is found guilty of murder. But did he do it? Has he been fooling around with a bumpy-headed femme fatale? And can Tuvok get all the suspects in one room and solve the crime before the accidentally-lethal alien punishment finishes Paris off for good?
This is Star Trek – of course he can.
One of the Voyager team’s brighter ideas was to make Tuvok, their resident Vulcan, chief of security. This means it’s Tuvok’s job to investigate crimes – so essentially, we have a detective with (limited) telepathic powers, an obsession with pure logic and no emotions, plus a watertight excuse to do a mind meld story at least once a year. In this case, they combine that with a sultry woman who’s dropped out a noir film and a resolution that’s Poirot with a sci-fi twist, as Tuvok gathers all the suspects in one room.
There’s an interesting science fiction concept behind this murder mystery. The Baneans have the ability to capture a murder victim’s final memories and not only do they use this as evidence in murder trials (logically enough), they also sentence the guilty party to relive the experience every 14 hours for the rest of their life. It’s a sentence that seems to be focused almost entirely on punishment, with the murderer feeling the pain of being stabbed over and over again, and any rehabilitation or protection of potential future victims seems to be fairly incidental. It's certainly one way of making the punishment fit the crime.
More importantly, though, this is Voyager’s first mind meld. The Doctor seems convinced they’re tantamount to playing Russian roulette and freaks out every time they’re mentioned, while Tuvok himself solves most problems with a quick mental poke around, one way or the other. It’s nicely necessary here, for Tuvok to notice the vital Clues that enable him to solve the crime (Paris being too distracted by being accused of murder and hallucinating a fatal stabbing every 14 hours to notice things like his own height being wrong).
I love this episode (and not just because the title is in Latin). It’s a detective story, with a solid science fiction foundation, using memory and technology, featuring Tuvok and Paris. It’s like someone made a list of ‘Juliette’s favourite things’ and made an episode about them. It’s neatly constructed and holds together as well as murder mysteries usually do. The only thing that really lets it down is that the bumpy heads on this week’s aliens are especially ridiculous, which is particularly unfortunate when one of the aliens in question is supposed to be stunningly attractive.
Bits n pieces
- Some more lovely scenes between Kes and the Doctor as she tries to get him to see himself as a person.
- Among the names the Doctor considers for himself are Galen (yay Classics!) and Spock. He doesn’t specify whether he means human-childhood-specialist Dr Spock or Vulcan Science Officer Mr Spock, but it’s a nice touch for the first mind meld episode.
- We’re sufficiently early in the show that Neelix is actually still useful.
- Janeway flirting watch: I swear there’s a little catch in her voice when she says the unidentified injured crewmember might be Paris. Later, impressed at his Maquis moves, she pats Chakotay on the shoulder and flashes him her best ‘oh you terrorists, you so sexy’ smile.
- Paris looks sexy with his hair all messed up.
Lidele (re smoking): Maybe I kill myself slowly because I don’t have the courage to do it quickly.
Tuvok: I am a Vulcan, Mrs Ren. By nature we are a dispassionate people. It is rare to encounter someone as dispassionate as we are.
Janeway: That’s one trick you won’t be able to use again when we get back.
Chakotay: I have more.
Kim: It it had been me, I’d have stayed as far away from her as possible.
Paris: Someday it will be you, Harry.
Tuvok: I prefer to read rather than engage in – what do humans call it? – short talk.
Paris: Close enough. You don’t make many friends that way
Paris: Well, like it or not, you’ve made one today Mr Tuvok.
Sex, murder and a bit with a dog. Four out four femmes fatales.
Juliette Harrisson is a freelance writer, classicist and ancient historian who blogs about Greek and Roman Things in Stuff at Pop Classics.
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