Star Trek: Voyager – 3×18 – “The Darkling”

Star Trek: Voyager
“The Darkling”
Originally Broadcast February 19th, 1997
Reviewed by Chakoteya

The Story

Stardate: 50693.2

‘Captain’s log, stardate 50693.2. We’ve been in orbit above an outpost of the Mikhal Travellers. This loosely governed race of explorers has extensive knowledge of the territory ahead of us, which they are willing to share.’

Kathryn Janeway is listening to Nakahn, the owner of the tavern, tell a story of landing on a moon that turned out to be a living creature, when they are interrupted by Kes and Zahir. Zahir gently reprimands his host for his fantastic tale, and has a clash of egos with him. The Mikhal are not particularly sociable people, but the area Nakahn was telling her about is rich in vorilium, a mineral that engineering is always short of. It could be worth the detour after all.

On the holodeck, the EMH is listening to the Mahatma Ghandi dispute with Lord Byron about the purpose of passion in the lives of people. Kes comes in to discover that he is interviewing a great number of historical figures in order to integrate their most admirable traits into his own program. She would like him to meet Zahir, but the EMH is not taken with this race of ‘risk-taking thrill-seekers’ and believes that her infatuation is merely because she is on the rebound from Neelix.

Personality traits integrated, the first person to get the benefit of the new EMH is Torres, who ignored his recommendation to not eat the vegetables and is suffering the consequences. She is not pleased at his ‘casual’ addition of unpredictable behavioural subroutines, gazing pointedly at her leg where the EMH is gently squeezing her thigh without realising it. Aghast, he deactivates himself as she leaves sickbay.

Zahir takes Kes for a night time walk along an ancient mountain path to see some old stone carvings left behind by a previous race. She suggests that they might be able to work out some middle ground between his nomadic lifestyle and her social one, and they kiss. It is 0300 hours when Tuvok meets Kes floating blissfully along the corridor, and he reminds her that she has a report due in a few hours. In sickbay, the EMH is finishing a summary that she was supposed to have been doing. He is concerned about her unpredictability and mood swings, but she ripostes that she is three years old now, and no longer a child. She appreciates that he cares for her, but she does have her own life to lead.

An exhausted Kes brings her report to the Captain, who recognises the signs of an all-nighter instantly. She was a past master of the last minute task at the Academy. Kes wants to discuss Zahir’s offer to take her to explore the Sylleran Rift with him. They could meet up with Voyager again later, as his ship is fast enough. Kes isn’t sure that she wants to spend the rest of her life on Voyager. She is looking for some complication, and Zahir could be the means to find it. Kathryn says that as they will be there for a few more days, she should take time to think it over carefully.

Zahir is showing Tuvok a map of the area ahead, and telling him how to avoid the Tarkan, who would have no hesitation on putting the crew on a moon and taking Voyager as a trophy. He assures the Vulcan that he would never take Kes anywhere so dangerous. Kes comes in and tells her boyfriend about her talk with the Captain. He invites her for another walk, but she declines, She needs to catch up with both her work and her sleep. So Zahir goes alone along the path to another outpost, and in the dark there is a blur of motion as he is pushed off a cliff. Nakahn has closed the tavern for the night when a sinister version of the EMH comes in and thrusts his hand into the fire for trying to turn him away. Then he says that the tavern owner is going to arrange a ship and passage of this planet for him.

Kes dashes into sickbay and activates the EMH to tell him about the attack on Zahir. He is alive but has many broken bones. As the pair are putting together a med-kit Torres dashes in to say that she has to run checks on the EMH’s program immediately, while he is running. During the checks, she explains that all the people that he used as templates for the personality additions have dark traits – ruthlessness, selfishness, violence. Horrified, he insists that she remove them. That is the plan, she tells him, but he will need to be deactivated while the search and destroy algorithm is running. As he turns his program off, something happens that has Torres’ eyes widening in amazement.

Tuvok is telling the Captain that there is no evidence of the attacker on Zahir, no skin cells, nothing, as they come to sickbay and see Torres collapsed on the floor. They activate the EMH who diagnoses delayed anaphylactic shock from the salad she had eaten the previous day. Tuvok leaves his tricorder readings from the crime scene with the EMH and the pair leave. Once alone, the evil EMH emerges to revive Torres and explain that he had to prevent her from deleting him, so he has paralysed her. He wants her to tell him how to delete the Doctor, but she insists that if the Doctor goes, he will go too. Threats of pain are no use, so he knocks her out again and downloads himself into the mobile emitter then heads off to the holodeck to consult with his progenitors, the characters whose dark sides have gone into creating him. In the turbolift, he leers briefly at a female Ensign, but then Paris comes in and interrupts him.

Tuvok is interrogating Nakahn about his disagreement with Zahir when Captain Janeway was present. Nakahn dismisses the accusation, then Zahir comes in, assisted by Chakotay, and the three head off for the exact place of the attack. Perhaps they will find some evidence there.

Kes finds Torres in sickbay, and discovers that the EMH is in holodeck one. Once there she sees the historical figures taken apart, and the EMH muttering about them being lifeless automatons. When she asks what he is doing, he snatches her comm. badge and drags her off to a transporter room, where he stuns the operator and sets up a scattering field with his tricorder so no one can track their destination. Kes tries to talk him out of his actions, but he claims to beyond right and wrong. He will do what he must to survive, regardless of who gets hurt. The Evil EMH is repulsed by the mere thought of the Doctor, then sets his phaser to kill to rebut Kes’s assertion that he would not harm her.

The unauthorised transport is detected by Ensign Kim, as is the scattering field. Captain Janeway contacts Chakotay on the surface to tell him that Kes and the Doctor have left Voyager, and Tuvok tells her that his scans of the crime scenes reveal residual holographic signatures exactly like those of the EMH. Realising the danger, she takes to the engineering station to try and break through the scattering field, while ordering security down to sickbay to check on Torres.

In Nakahn’s tavern, the evil EMH is getting angry with the mobile emitter as he attempts to delete the Doctor’s program. Kes gets him to talk about his motivations, his belief that evil more deserving of existence because it came first, before good. She counters by pointing out that civilisation and technology could not have developed without co-operation, just as the cells of the living body co-operate within each person. Nakahn comes into tell him that Voyager is blockading the port, but he expects to be paid anyway for arranging passage. The evil EMH responds by attacking Nakahn, but then his matrix flickers, and he drags Kes outside and along the path to the docking port. From there they can take a ship to another continent and then escape.

Tuvok and Chakotay find infrared traces of where Kes has rested against a rock, and Janeway has got a fix on their location, although she cannot beam them up yet. Two hundred metres further on, Tuvok uses his phaser to create a rock fall and block their path. While Chakotay tries to persuade the evil twin that they can give him a separate life, Kes puts forward her theory that all his actions have been aimed at protecting her, keeping her with him instead of leaving with Zahir. Angry at the idea that there might be good in him after all, he jumps off the cliff, taking Kes with him.

Kim reports that they have successfully beamed Kes and the normal, sarcastic EMH safely on board. He gazes at the phasers pointed at him and tells them to put them down before someone gets hurt and he has to clean up the mess.

Whilst the EMH giving Torres a final check-up in Sickbay, she tells him that all the extra personality subroutines have been deleted. Kes has decided to stay on Voyager, and he awkwardly admits that, had she left, he would have missed her. She goes to get on with her work, and he takes the time to reaffirm his Hippocratic Oath. ‘I swear this oath by Apollo Physician, by Aesculpius, by Health, and by all the gods and goddesses. In whatsoever place that I enter, I will enter to help the sick and heal the injured, and I will do no harm.’

Review

It’s the old story of the good and bad in all of us that is told again in a different way here. Instead of Captain Kirk split by a transporter accident it’s the good old holographic Doctor, messing with his subroutines again and ending up in a right old pickle. How many times do we have to sit through ‘hologram goes bad/disintegrates/decompiles’ stories on Voyager? It’s a computer program for goodness sake. You might as well tell stories about the main computer behaving badly. (Yes, the original series did that too.)

Frankly, there is nothing new here. Data spent holodeck time with famous people in order to learn from them. Everyone has done the ‘beamed up while plummeting to your death’ last minute rescue. If you enjoy EMH stories, fine, have fun while Bob Picardo does some good acting as the Evil Twin, and wince while Tuvok is a pathetic detective who can’t find the obvious with both hands.

The plus point is Kes and Zahir. It’s nice to see the young woman looking beyond the status quo of her life to new possibilities. After all, she is one-third the way through her lifespan now, and doesn’t strike me as the type to live in the same village all her life. She did run away from home to discover what was on the forbidden planet surface, and meet up with Neelix before she was even one year old! The Travellers are also a nice concept, explorers who enjoy telling tales of what they have seen just for the fun of it. A pleasant change.

On balance, taking all in all, miss this and you’ve missed nothing.

Grade: 3/10

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