In the yesteryears of the mid 90s, Paramount Pictures looked to continue the Star Trek boom begun by Star Trek: The Next Generation (which had recently ended) and expanded by Star Trek: Deep Space 9. Wishing to both return the series to its adventurous roots while breaking new social boundaries, they premiered the first episode of Star Trek: Voyager on January 16th, 1995. Featuring a female captain and a surprisingly diverse helping of crew members (by the end of this episode, at least), Star Trek: Voyager would continue on for six years and offer the setting to one of the best Star Trek games ever released (Editor’s Note: This was not a part of the agreed introduction, Tim.) (Tim Response: Don’t care, my phasers are set to frag!).
Every Monday we share a roundtable discussion about a Voyager episode featuring experts pulled from the close group of friends we could easily bribe. This week’s group consists of Seth, film/tv critic Ryan and yours truly. Naturally, spoilers are a matter of course with this territory, and portions of our conversation drew on our knowledge of other episodes of both Voyager and other Star Trek shows. You have been warned.
This week covers the eighth episode of Season 1, “Ex Post Facto.” Tim jumps up the conversation by flexing his Kurosawa trivia…
Tim – So! First things first, I was kind of interested by the whole Rashomon in space deal. Would have been more interested had we seen the actual trial, though.
Seth – Yeah, one wonders if he even had a defense advocate, given that apparently everyone missed the height differential.
Ryan – Indeed! It doesn’t sound like there was ever much of one, given the fact that they merely needed to play back the tampered memory footage to witness the crime taking place. I have to ask my obligatory newbie question: have either of the warring races in this episode shown up in other episodes of Star Trek or – given the fact that Voyager takes place in the far off Delta Quadrant – have we never seen them before?
Seth – This is their first appearance.
Ryan – It was interesting to note that Star Trek’s general anti-violence mentality seeps into even alien cultures. Despite the psychological damage, Paris was treating surprisingly gently for an alien visitor who evidently murders an important military scientist.
Tim – That is true. Although part of that gentleness did stem from the Doctor wanting to get him captured by the enemy. I don’t know if they would have been as “concerned” or free-handed with him otherwise.
Seth – Though, on the flip side, there’s the fact that they effectively tried and punished a foreign national without so much as allowing a phone call to the “embassy.” And it was implied that they intended to hold Paris in custody in addition to his cyclical punishment.
Tim – Indeed. And they made it clear that if, because of his physiology the standard punishment didn’t work, they’d be more than happy to kill him.
Ryan – That last bit was implied only, wasn’t it? It had been mentioned lethal injection was only their previous punishment for the crime.
Seth – True, but it is at least believable that, presented with an unprecedented situation, their courts might fall back on a previously established punishment rather than improvise some new arrangement.
Tim – Okay, so, it wasn’t explicit I suppose, although they do say “I am not sure you’ll find an alternative sentence to your liking.”
Ryan – This episode certainly had some noir-ish influence, what with the alien femme fatale and the shadowy, rain soaked flashback.
Tim – Absolutely. According to the wiki, the writer was very influenced by noir as well as Pulp Fiction.
Seth – Yeah, it’s a bit of a mish-mash. Tim pointed out the influences from Rashomon, and then in addition to the noir thing it’s pretty clearly a detective story.
Ryan – I actually applauded the effort. It was refreshing to see Voyager try to break into utilize some other modes of storytelling. A detective story for the Vulcan no less! Who we haven’t had much of a chance to see in action yet.
Tim – Yeah, despite the fact that a lot of the reception I’ve read concerns Paris’ character, it’s interesting that Tuvok is the most developed. In my opinion, at least.
Seth – I can’t help but observe that, despite the reputation of Vulcans being insufferable/arrogant, Tuvok is considerably less of an ass than most great detectives in fiction. So how well do we think this episode works from the standpoint of the detective genre?
Tim – From the standpoint of the Detective genre? It’s an interesting combination of the inverted detective story and the whodunit, in my opinion.
Ryan – As a detective story? A bit weak… the stakes felt fairly low. No one was really standing in Tuvok’s way and ultimately it didn’t seem like there was much stopping the Voyager from just absconding with Paris as a last resort.
Tim – Beyond the implants killing him.
Ryan – But as a Star Trek detective mystery. I was a fan.
Seth – Did anyone guess the culprit before he was revealed by Tuvok? Do you think the audience had a reasonable chance to do so?
Ryan – That’s a negative. I think it was pretty clear that the scientist’s wife was involved somehow… but as to who the actual murderer was? I didn’t really have a good idea.
Tim – I didn’t guess until right before the reveal (and I guessed right), but I’m not convinced that was because they didn’t have the clues there. I actually thought the whole “hiding the secret data” in the stream of characters we saw was a pretty clever narrative trick. Since we saw them and dismissed them, although it would have been fancier if we had access to some of the same evidence Tuvok did in that case.
Ryan – Yeah, that was a nice touch. It was in front of the audience’s face the whole time. I assumed the same as Paris that it was an effect of the procedure.
Tim – Same here. In that sense, I don’t think it necessarily gave us the breadcrumbs to figure out the crime ourselves, since that was really one of the major clues.
Seth – Like the equivalent of a timestamp or something running across the bottom. One could potentially have surmised something was up with the strange way the Numiri were acting, but the writing so far in the series has been weak enough that it was plausible that the Numiri were just a way to fill time and not actually relevant.
Ryan – Yeah, I missed their connection as well.
Seth – At least up until the decoy shuttlecraft bit.
Tim – Indeed, and even our benchmark for shouting “hey, these people are weird!” is, by me at least, felt to be a bit unreliable as a source of information.
Ryan – On a somewhat more cynical note, do we think any of the Voyager crew believed Paris might have been guilty?
Seth – It doesn’t appear so. Tuvok had to entertain the possibility in order to properly investigate, but neither Kim nor Janeway appeared to take the possibility of his guilt seriously.
Tim – It is rather surprising he got such a benefit of the doubt, though. Do we know exactly what he did to land him in Prison on Earth?
Seth – He joined up with the Maquis and was later captured.
Ryan – Yeah, I thought I remember him telling Kim about the circumstances regarding his capture.
Tim – Ah, that’s right. Nevermind, then!
Seth – And he was discharged from Starfleet before that for trying to conceal a piloting error that killed some of his fellow officers. So on the one hand, a history of trying to cover up past mistakes, but on the other hand, no real history of murder or personal violence.
On the next page, we’ll talk about LeVar Burton, Tom Paris, and DRUGS!