This one was a bad love story done poorly and with so many flaws as to render it not recommended for the sane. Which is amazing, because the EMH program is one of the few bright spots on this show regarding character development and the biggest problem with this episode is the way he's written. Let's break down how this episode basically went:
- EMH rescues Vidian woman through Frankenstein-like mind into computer graft made possible by the bullshit contraption of the week. Fine...I'll play along, even though the time limit is bogus (why would the EMH's personality NOT degrade and the Vidian chick's personality be crumbling in the holo-buffer? That doesn't make any sense?) and the medical science seems difficult to swallow.
- Vidian chick is so pleased to be back in her old body that she instantly befriends the EMH...umm...OK...still willing to play along...
- EMH and Vidian chick go on a date in the Holodeck. Whereupon they instantly hit it off.
- EMH complains to Kes that he's not functioning correctly because a Doctor would have no idea at all about the symptoms of romantic attraction. Kes tells him to go for it with the lady from the race enjoys harvesting healthy organs...that's gonna work out real well.
- EMH takes this to mean that he should basically say, "So...we're both doctors...wanna fuck?"
- Indescribably, Vidian chick turns him down at first but goes for it thereafter even though they both know it's a TERRIBLE idea and their attraction is based on knowing each other for a grand total of ONE day.
- Vidian chick doesn't wan't want to go back into her body, but has no choice...EMH takes her on a date after they reintegrate her mind to prove he's cool with her disease-ravaged visage. Uuuhh...huh.
This is why the concept of an EMH needed to be in better hands than Kenneth Biller. I'm sorry, Kenny, but you are a TERRIBLE writer. You have no feel for characterization, no sense of comic timing, no understanding of basic science (so why are you writing sci fi?), and no ability to write plots that make sense within a larger canon arc. In every other episode, the Vidians are portrayed as f***ing scary!! They're ghouls who will murder us all to stay alive and don't even understand why that might bother us. You can feel bad for their plight, but you can't treat them like innocents. Two episodes from now, they're going to take over Voyager and murder 2/3 of the crew before the survivors can self-destruct. But here, we have a Vidian INGENUE! There is only EW! for that. I'm sorry...maybe Rene Echevarria could pull that off, but Kenneth Biller doesn't get away with it because Kenneth Biller doesn't write convincing characters with motivations that we can get behind.
But let's go with the creepy idea of the Vidian holo-love-toy for Dr. Strangelove. How could this have been written that wouldn't have jolted me so much and that wouldn't have provoked such a negative response? They had two choices. The happy choice, and the EVIL choice. Let's go with the happy story first. Step one, this Vidian chick needs to actually be a heroin. She needs to be a member of an underground resistance that's fighting the Vidian hierarchy and trying to save lives WITHOUT murdering others. That is the only way the "conflict" scene between EMH and Torres will ever make sense. As is, Vidian chick needs Torres' brain tissue, Torres rightfully objects, EMH insists, and Vidian Chick says "I'm sorry my people are evil, but I'm totally cool" and Torres just accepts this. Step two, their attraction should evolve AFTER she is re-integrated, not while she's a holo-slave. EMH is not programmed to be into looks, he's a logical doctor and he can see past her illness. You can do the rest of the story with REAL her asking him to put her BACK into holographic form and him refusing on the grounds that what he wants isn't as important as what her people need. That would be cool.
Now for the EVIL option. EMH falls for holo-Vidian, makes an impassioned plea to Torres to help him save her life, they get her back in her body and...she grabs her gear and kills one of the Voyager red shirts for his/her body parts, then fleas...mwaahahahaaaa!!! Let EMH wonder how love could have blinded him to the monster brought out by the phage. Janeway makes a new rule...we don't help Vidians...they haven't earned our generosity. Either way, you get to explore the danger of chemical attraction, the need for it to be more than skin deep, and the dangerous nature of the Vidians in a more serious way and the show fits in with the larger timeline. And either way you make us feel a little bad for this Vidian chick and pull us into the story more. Which message you would prefer to send, I leave it up to you, but this episode sends no message other than "EMH gotta have it!" and "see...it's what's on the INSIDE that counts!" (ow that 2X4 hurts)
2:20 - Investigations - Overall Rating: 8.0
Hey Jeri! You're a good writer - episodes like this prove that you are talented. If you didn't have such an insane Mary Sue crush on Janeway, you would be easily my favorite regular Voyager writer (heck, you still are my favorite regular Voyager writer...it just means less than you would probably prefer) - you kick Biller's ASS...especially when it comes to canon consistency and originality. I bet it was your idea to make Paris act like a dick for five episodes as part of a plot to flush out a spy on Voyager - you love serial-format mysteries, as your crazy holodeck fantasy series have shown us. This is what happens when you direct your creative talents toward creating REAL-WORLD canon story arcs. I actually ENJOY it! I know, for example, that you wanted to do "The Year of Hell" as an actual year of hell...a full season of drama culminating in multiple deaths from the regular cast and then a resurrection of them all only after a spectacular climax. It's too bad Rick Berman and Brannon Braga have no testicles, because that would have been AWESOME.
But back to this episode. You know that annoying younger kid who worships a group of older boys and wants to be like them when he gets older? Who tries so desperately to fit in that they think he's really REALLY annoying, but they let him hang around anyway, because his fanatical enthusiasm is infectious and they like the compliment? Who says he can be useful and always fails to live up to his own hype, but you let him keep trying because, hey, he's gotta learn somehow, and in the meantime, he's loyal and he really does try hard. That's Neelix as he should ALWAYS have been written. The underdog with a heart of gold and a fierce sense of loyalty...albeit not much else to offer. The kid trying to impress the older boys. And THAT is the Neelix on display in this episode. SFDebris *hates* Neelix...he hates the whole idea of Neelix on a Starfleet ship risking people's lives with his unfortunate ineptitude. But I see him as no different than Alexander Roshenko - the Rotarran's good luck charm from DS9. He fucks stuff up, but he's got a warrior's heart, and he'll never stop trying to make you happy. I like that kind of person in my life - perhaps I'm just less jaded than SFDebris.
My point is...I *love* what this episode does for Neelix. I love his timid introduction to journalism, his decision that he wants to be taken seriously, his dogged (and sometimes inappropriate) determination, his refusal to give up on Paris and the stirring speech he rendered in Tom's honor on his way off the ship. I loved how bravely he fought Jonas at the right moment, and how certain he was that Voyager was his calling when asked to help the crew flush out the spy. Everything about this episode, from Neelix' perspective, is wonderful to watch. It's the Paris angle that needed a bit of fine tuning. I can't believe Seska would be dumb enough to say she does not trust Paris and then to leave him alone in their control room with access to their computer for long enough for him to figure out who the spy was. And anyway, why should Paris get to blow Jonas' cover? This is Neelix's story! Let Paris overhear something from his actual prison cell, escape and warn Voyager of the trap, but let Neelix figure out who the spy is. That's all I ask. Because otherwise, the story works very well. Bravo, Ms. Taylor.