Ex Post Facto

WARNING: Spoilers for VOY's "Ex Post Facto" lurk within this article. Anyone not wishing to relive those spoilers again and again had best turn away now.

In brief: "Voyager"'s first episode to fall pretty firmly flat.

Brief summary: While the Voyager crew works to clear the name of Tom Paris, Paris himself is forced to relive the murder he's accused of committing -- from his victim's point of view.

This makes the fourth time, by my reckoning, that Trek has tried to do a detective story in the past decade or so: DS9 had "Necessary Evil", which was tremendous, and TNG had "Suspicions" and "A Matter of Perspective", which weren't. Unfortunately, "Ex Post Facto" has a lot more in common with the latter two, "A Matter of Perspective" in particular, and the show as a whole didn't come off particularly well.

One of the parallels between the two is that Paris, like Riker, stood accused not only of murder, but of murder due to lust for the victim's wife. While this is a tried and true literary technique, when done poorly it ends up as nothing more than really soppy melodrama. "Twin Peaks" had probably the *most* dreadful example I've seen of this a few years ago with its "James-and-the-blonde" subplot -- and unfortunately, the vast majority of the dialogue during the various flashbacks in "Ex Post Facto" reminded me of that plot, in spades. Phrases like "Don't ... don't get involved" and "Good can get very ... [breath] ... very ... [breath] ... boring" are so overboard as to be almost cartoon-like, I think; and any sense of credibility the episode had was lost when it appeared that all the flashbacks were taken directly from old daytime soap footage. No, thank you.

Scripting aside, the story had at least one saving grace: the mystery was not a simple case of "wife kills husband and frames another for it", as I'd feared as of about a quarter of the way in (right after Kim's flashback). While I'm not sure I buy into the idea that this elaborate frame was the only real way to get Tolin's information off the planet to the Numiri, I can buy it just enough to make the conclusion somewhat convincing. Tuvok's detective work was fairly methodical and workable, if not always particularly interesting to watch (particularly his interview with Lidell; the "sultry goddess" role was so overwritten that all her poses were rather embarrassingly forced and blatant), and the somewhat-hyped use of the mind meld also worked, if somewhat less ritualistic in its beginnings than I'd have expected.

Good use was made of some of the regulars, as well. While Paris was trapped in a godawful script, Neelix got to actually be useful to the crew -- his advice and observations were, for once, fairly on-target and effective in getting *us* to wonder what was going on [particularly his "In Numiri terms, that greeting was downright _friendly_" line, I think]. As for Chakotay, his exchanges with Janeway during the first Numiri attack made for one of the few really entertaining moments of the show -- while I'd still prefer to see the tension that must exist between the two crews dealt with from time to time, at least we had an acknowledgment of different styles here -- and jokingly or not, we also saw some evidence that all may not be well if the crew ever *does* get home. [I particularly liked the exchange right after their feint works: "That's one trick you won't be able to use when we get back." "I have more." Grin.]

Once Tuvok had figured out what was going on, the double resolution was a half-and-half affair. The trap to lure in the Numiri was well done (except for the one intense close-up on Janeway, which I found very off-putting and forced), with some apt dialogue. The "get all the suspects in one room and reveal everything" scene on the planet, however, didn't work at all -- particularly the surprise [?] use of the dog as witness. This makes twice we've seen dogs as central to Trek mysteries; the other was "Aquiel", which combined with this suggests that they're viciously bad luck.

All in all, then, while the story of "Ex Post Facto" was a bit on the cliched side, it would have been okay if not for the Execution From Hell [tm]. The awful dialogue given to Paris and Lidell throughout the show, combined with directing far weaker than what LeVar Burton's done in the past ["Second Chances" and "The Pegasus" were both well done], undercuts almost any strength the show had, to the point that one really just wanted to get it over with.

Given that, I've really not much else to say about the show. So, a few short takes:

-- Starting the show in the middle of things was a good idea, but I almost wonder if it wouldn't have been even stronger to have us see Harry's return *before* we know anything about Paris. There might have been a real sense of "whoa, what the heck's going on?" about it.

-- The "find a name" scene for the doctor was cute so far as it went, but I hope it doesn't last more than about another episode. Let's get it done. ["Doctor ... Spock", however, was priceless.]

-- The show was written (primarily, anyway) by Evan Carlos Somers, who was also responsible for DS9's "Melora". This does not seem a promising track record, alas. (Then again, Peter Allan Fields's first Trek work was "Cost of Living", and *he* certainly improved quite a bit!)

-- Tolin was a somewhat stereotypical scientist, but I've been around enough of them that are like him that I'm prepared to call him semi- realistic. :-) [For those wondering where they've seen the actor before, by the way, Ray Reinhardt appeared ages ago as Admiral Aaron back in TNG's "Conspiracy".]

-- I have a somewhat hard time believing that Tuvok's been married 67 years. That would make him 74 (assuming he means since the betrothal) -- and even though Vulcans are long-lived, Tuvok looks too young to be *that* old.

-- The effects during the initial Numiri attack are quite good, particularly their "regenerative shields". Nicely done.

-- The final scene between Paris and Tuvok seemed good. While Paris's dialogue was nothing to speak of, Tim Russ definitely has Vulcan mannerisms down; the last shot of him sitting and reading struck me as one of the few true notes the show struck.

That about covers it; this was really VOY's first full-fledged flop (how's THAT for alliteration? :-) ), and it's a shame it's the last one before a rerun break. Ah, well.

So, wrapping up:

OVERALL: Call it a 3.5. Not a total bomb, but not a pleasant prospect either.

NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Time and Again". [Gee, from one T&A show to another ... so to speak. :-) ]

Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.)
"Not to belittle Maquis tactics, Commander, but this is a very old
"It worked against those Starfleet runabouts."
"You're lucky I wasn't commanding one of them."
			-- Janeway and Chakotay
Copyright 1995, Timothy W. Lynch.  All rights reserved, but feel free to ask...
This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net
compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the
author*.  Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.


Hans-Wolfgang Loidl <hwloidl@dcs.glasgow.ac.uk>
Last modified: Sat Aug 19 17:15:44 1995 Stardate: [-31]6158.38