Star Trek: Voyager – 2×19 – “Lifesigns”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Lifesigns”
Originally Broadcast by February 26th, 1996
Reviewed by Christina Luckings

The Story

Stardate: 49504.3

Tom Paris is late again for his bridge duty, and has an array of excuses all ready for Commander Chakotay when Tuvok picks up a subspace distress call. It is coming from a small Vidiian ship with weak life signs on board. Bio sensors identify the occupant as a female Vidiian. There is no response to their hails, and with no other vessels in the sector, Janeway decides to beam the occupant to sickbay.

Kes and the EMH stabilise her body, but they discover an implant which is designed to supplement her higher brain functions. Unfortunately it is attached to mostly dead nerve cells and she is dying. With no time left to try and stimulate cell regeneration, the EMH decides to transfer her synaptic patterns into the holo-buffer, the only thing capable of holding such huge amounts of data, then creates a holographic body so they can communicate with her. This procedure will have the added benefit of creating a representation of a healthy Vidiian body so they have an accurate model to help them treat the real patient.

Chakotay reports the findings of the Vidiian shuttle’s navigational logs to the Captain in her ready room. The woman was en route to a colony 10 light years away which they will reach in 22 days. He also wants to discuss Paris’s recent behaviour, as he is her personal reclamation project, but she tells him that she trusts him to handle crew discipline in what ever way he sees fit.

‘Chief Medical Officer’s Log, supplemental. Test results indicate that the holographic body is functioning normally. The patient’s synaptic patterns appear to be stable, so I’m now ready to begin transferring her cognitive and motor processes.’

Danara Pel wakes in Sickbay, looks at herself in a mirror and bursts into tears. The EMH is baffled at her reaction and she has to explain she has had the phage since she was seven years old. He proudly explains that what she is seeing is a holographic representation extrapolated from DNA in her cerebellum, and that he too is a hologram. She explains that she is a haematologist, and that she was returning home from helping to treat an outbreak of the phage on Fina Prime. As she is a fellow medical practitioner, the EMH suggests that she assist him in finding a way to treat her real body, so that she can be transferred back into it. The sight of her phage ravaged body revolts her now that she has seen what she ought to look like. However, Danara manages to hide it from the EMH and agrees to discuss treatments.

B’Elanna Torres is summoned to the Doctor’s office to be told that he wants to take one gram of brain tissue from her parietal lobe and graft it into Danara. Torres is resistant to the idea. The memories of Sulan’s laboratory and what he did to her are still fresh in her mind. Danara comes in and assures her that she only wants her help if B’Elanna is willing to give it, and she will answer any questions she might have about the procedure. Torres goes and gets changed into a hospital gown.

The EMH completes the graft under Danara’s admiring gaze, explaining that this procedure was actually developed by Leonard McCoy in 2253. In two or three days they will know if the graft will hold, and in the meantime he recommends deactivating her programme to slow the synaptic degradation. Danara would like to take a walk, but that is not possible. However, there is somewhere else on the ship a pair of holograms can go.

In Sandrine’s, Danara is greeted by Neelix on behalf of the rest of the ship, and the resident gigolo asks her for a dance. The EMH shoos them away and apologises. Danara doesn’t mind. She isn’t used to such attention and is enjoying it. Vidiians are not allowed to gather in groups, for health reasons. She is also tired of talking about herself and wants to learn about the EMH instead, so he gives her a potted history – ‘My program was developed by Dr. Louis Zimmerman in a lab on Jupiter Station. I was activated on stardate 48308. Since that time I’ve performed 347 medical exams, healed 11 compound fractures, performed 3 appendectomies, and in my greatest feat of medical prowess I once cured Mr. Neelix of an acute case of the hiccups.’ He does not have a name, however, and dancing is not part of his programming. She resolves the first by calling him Shmullus, after an uncle who made him laugh. Back in sickbay, the two part like teenagers after a first date, as he finally gets to deactivate her programme for 8 hours.

In the mess hall, Chakotay asks Paris if he has got a problem which would account for his recent behaviour, and Tom tells him that he is his problem. He didn’t agree with his suggestion to go through the nebula last week, doesn’t trust his judgment or let him use his initiative. Chakotay points out that he isn’t always going to agree with him, but making decisions is part of being a leader. Paris continues his attack, claiming that other members of the crew have problems with Chakotay’s leadership style too, then asks to be excused. Taken aback, Chakotay lets him go. Jonas has witnessed this altercation and reports it to his Kazon handler. Lorrum orders him to create an accident that will damage Voyager’s warp coils. Jonas refuses, and insists that Seska contact him.

Kes discovers the EMH running a self-diagnostic programme. He is having difficulty concentrating and handling objects, ever since Danara came on board. The young woman immediately diagnoses that he is suffering from love, pointing out that his programme is adaptive, and that he has all the classic symptoms. She suggests that he tell Danara how he feels, otherwise he may never find out if she feels the same way. Later, with his usual impeccable timing, he does, while stimulating neural pathways in her real body. Surprised, Danara suggest that they keep the relationship professional.

So the EMH seeks out someone who he assumes has had a lot of experience of being rejected by women, and finds Tom Paris in Sandrine’s. Tom assures him that the pain does eventually go away, until a scent, a melody, brings it all flooding back again. Then he offers to help.

Kes finds Danara online and waiting for the EMH to return to sickbay. She realises that the Vidiian really does like the EMH and asks why she didn’t tell him so. It was the way he blurted it out that startled her, and she isn’t very good at taking compliments anyway. Kes recommends that Danara tries to spend some time alone with the EMH, while Paris suggests he try romancing her.

‘Doctor’s Personal Log, Stardate 49504.3. Inaugural entry. Kes and Mr. Paris have conspired to get Danara and me alone together in a place Paris considers romantic. I’ve never felt more uneasy.’

The place is a 1957 Chevy parked on Mars. The EMH gives Danara flowers, chocolates and a cuddly toy, on Paris’ recommendation, then they sit and gaze at the constellations while he points out some astronomical highlights until finally they kiss to the strains of ‘I only have eyes for you’ on the car radio.

On the bridge, Paris is once again late for his duty, and Chakotay tells him that he isn’t required today. He can come back when he decides to take his job seriously again. The commander takes Paris’s arm and begins steers him back to the steps when Tom gets angry and shoves his superior officer to the floor. Tuvok escorts Paris from the bridge to the brig.

Seska herself contacts Mike Jonas, to thank him for his assistance so far and give him instructions on how to disable Voyager’s warp coils. She is not planning an attack, but she does not intend to raise her child on a Kazon vessel. He can either help her, or suffer with Janeway. Seeing his reaction, she tells him that it is all carefully planned, and that they will be waiting for the ship at Hemikek IV once the deed is done.

‘Doctor’s Personal Log, Stardate 49507.2. The more time I spend with Danara, the more my programming continues to adapt. I look forward to perfecting my romantic skills once we’ve completed the synaptic transfer.’

Something is going wrong with the transfer. The graft is being rejected and the EMH is detecting high levels of the wrong drug in Danara’s system. He concludes that someone with a grudge against Vidiians is trying to kill her, but as he goes to call Lt. Tuvok, Danara stops him and confesses that she is the one trying to kill herself. She would rather live just two more days as a hologram than go on wasting away a piece at a time, ugly and ill. The EMH assures her that he will not feel differently about her once her mind is back in her own body. He tells her that before he met her he was just a collection of photons and forcefields, but now his programming has adapted and he feels that he is finally living, not just working. He begs her not to die. Danara points out that once in her own body, she will be obliged to return to her people and try to help them. That time is still two weeks away. They have that much time to spend together.

In Sandrine’s, the EMH tells the computer to play some music, then he takes the fully Vidiian Danara in his arms and dances with her.

Review

The Lifesigns referred to in the title are those of the EMH, as he moves from computer programme to a living being. Now I personally find this whole business frankly annoying, but this is after all a work of total fiction so I will attempt to set that aside for the purposes of this review. As an exploration of first love, and persuading someone that beauty is more than skin deep, this story works. I suppose it helps when the object of your affections is an attractive woman, and the fatal disease she is carrying cannot affect you because you are a computer generated projection of photons and forcefields……sorry.

But the love story isn’t the only one going on in this show. This is a very busy little episode. Tom Paris is deliberately setting out to annoy Chakotay in public, for reasons which only he knows at the moment. A part of me wishes that the Commander would resort to the Maquis way like he did in Learning Curve and deck our Warp 10 hero to teach him some manners, but instead it’s Chakotay who ends up on the deck this time and Paris in the brig. Tune in next week to find out what is going on, because we also have Seska wanting to acquire Voyager for use as her personal nursery. Will Jonas do the dirty deed, and when?

All in all, a fair offering, with good performances from the main protagonists. The effects of the creation of Danara’s holographic body were excellent, although why a hologram would need such internal details as a skeleton and organs is beyond me. We got references back to season one, with Phage and Faces (hence Torres’s involvement in Danara’s treatment) as well as reminders about Wildman and Seska’s pregnancies and evidence that Paris isn’t the only person capable of flying the ship after all. Someone called Grimes can do it too.

For the trivia buffs out there, this episode was filmed AFTER Investigations, but screened BEFORE it so that the continuity could make some sense. I’d love to know why.

Grade: 6/10

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