Paris is accused of the murder of Professor Ren, a brilliant scientist on the home world of a people known as the Baneans. They try, convict and sentence him before the Voyager crew knows anything about the incident. His punishment is a brain implant that forces him to live out the last moments of his victim's life from the victim's perspective once every 14 hours.
I guess it's inevitable that a murder-mystery works itself into the opening leg of any new Star Trek series (Deep Space Nine did it on the third outing). But something co-creator and executive producer Jeri Taylor said in a magazine article before this series premiered still hangs in my mind. The premise of being stranded in the Delta Quadrant is supposed to be a catalyst for telling some new types of stories, she said. No Starfleet Command, no Klingons, no Cardassians, nothing we're used seeing on TNG and DS9.
But the stories so far have hardly been original. Only the pilot has come close to non-standard Trek storytelling. Most (even better outings, such as "The Cloud") have been derivative devices that play second fiddle to character development. We haven't met any new races that really impact the series—only the pilot's Kazon show the slightest hint of future encounters.
So now we fall back on the dependable murder-mystery. "Ex Post Facto" works okay for four acts, with well-written characters and dialog. The plot, unfortunately and not surprisingly, is ludicrous, with a final act that manages to blow everything before it out of the water.
The teaser proves eerie and atypical, as we enter the story as the Baneans carry out Paris' sentence. He sees himself stabbing the victim, apparently feeling the victim's pain and mortal fear.
Voyager returns to pick up Paris and Kim, who shuttled to the Baneans' planet alone to avoid provoking the Baneans' neighboring enemies, the Numuri. Voyager arrives to find Kim in the shuttlecraft alone, with no knowledge of Paris' whereabouts. All Kim knows is that Paris has been charged with murder. Shortly afterwards, the Baneans contact Janeway and agree to turn Paris back over to her with his sentence already carried out. The implant turns out to have some compatibility problems with human biology and will likely kill Paris if left in for too long. The Baneans agree to remove the implant and offer another sentence, but Janeway wants to clear Paris of an apparently unjust conviction.
This leads Lt. Tuvok to investigate the crime. Paris' alleged motive for murder appears to be Professor Ren's beautiful, young wife Lidell (Robin McKee). When Ren discovers the two embracing, an argument ensues, and Ren is stabbed. Tuvok's investigation takes him back to Lidell, who explains the events of the night in question. Lidell's sultry persona and a series of flashback narration offer some enticing film noir elements into a less than stellar story. Meanwhile, Tim Russ nails the role of Tuvok perfectly by delivering a classic Vulcan performance. Indeed, Vulcans have reentered the Trek universe through this character. And though the plot is simply an exercise in mediocrity, the performances keep it enduringly tolerable.
Unfortunately, the plot wraps up with the most standard of revelations, in which Tuvok shows that Paris has been set up by Lidell and the Numuri for "bigger reasons"—to get their hands on top-secret information they hope to obtain via Paris' brain implant. (Anyone who couldn't predict Lidell's involvement in this plot needs to take Basic Plots 101.) But Tuvok's "witness" of the murder—a damn dog, for crying out loud—manages to sabotage any remaining potential for the plot, with one of the hokiest, insipid conclusions imaginable.
Tell you what. Watch this episode to see Tim Russ in action for some good development of Tuvok. Don't watch it for a satisfying murder mystery.