Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Ex Post Facto"


Air date: 2/27/1995
Teleplay by Evan Carlos Somers and Michael Piller
Story by Carlos Somers
Directed by LeVar Burton

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"My wife and I have been married for 67 years."
"I'm sure she's a fine, dispassionate woman."

— Tuvok and Lidell

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.

Previous episode: Eye of the Needle
Next episode: Emanations

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25 comments on this review

AJ Koravkrian
Sat, Nov 17, 2007, 10:11pm (UTC -6)
A murder mystery, involving a starfleet officer and a beautiful woman, who is the wife of a brilliant scientist. Is it just me, or is there a scent of TNG's 'A Matter of Perspective' here ?
Sun, Dec 2, 2007, 4:02pm (UTC -6)
Horrible episode, if it wasn't for Tuvok and the doctors character developement it would be pure manure.

A predictable murder story with the standard alien of the week with the standard ridges on the fore head
Christopher Alexander
Sat, Jan 26, 2008, 12:43pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed Tuvok's handling of the murder mystery, but the ending was terrible. The smuggling idea was just ludicrous, and the dog was indeed painfully hokey.
Tue, Sep 22, 2009, 10:50am (UTC -6)
Jeri Taylor's comment did end up being true in the long run. However, you can't expect them to meet "many new races that really impact the series" because they are travelling. No, I think Voyager made the right choice to concentrate on character-building story arcs and leave the main plot of each episode as a stand-alone. It is what makes the most sense in this context. Unfortunately, the Kazon were around for way too long than is plausible, even when you take into account the detours Voyager made in the first two seasons (going back to Neelix's planet in "Jetrel"; returning to pick of Janeway and Chakotay in "Resolutions").
Fri, Apr 16, 2010, 12:44pm (UTC -6)
"No Starfleet Command, no Klingons, no Cardassians..."

Yeh, none of those came true... Well, unless you count Starfleet in at least one ep a season from as early as season 4(?), the Klingons in Prophecy and B'ellanas human-parent Worfcomplex, Seska being a Cardassian. Oh, and not forget the Ferengi showing up... twice, the Borg becoming the major enemy and all the Vulcan misticism. Granted, it is not all bad, but the show didn't really set itself apart like BSG for example did.
While viewing the whole show again, this time on DVD, for the first time in 10 years, I feel cheated on when I see the 'lost' ship communicate with the Alpha Quadrant in only the 6th episode. Too bad, because it really had a nice premise.
Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 8:15pm (UTC -6)
I like how in TNG era Trek every shot of an alien city is precisely the same. they all have the same buildings, antenna arrays, etc.


re-watching some of this show now.

it's better than I remember; not great or anything, but whatever.

it's too bad TNG took most of 2 seasons to fully realize the universe it inhabited, with some truly shitty episodes.

woulda been cool if the Voyager had actually gotten in touch with the stupid, fat idiot aliens that captured and tortured La Forge in that one TNG episode. or Armus. yeah...Armus.
Sun, Mar 27, 2011, 8:15pm (UTC -6)
oops, meant this for the previous episode.
Wed, Apr 6, 2011, 10:12pm (UTC -6)
@AJ YES! That was all I could focus on the entire episode! This was just "A matter of perspective" with a different crew!

I enjoyed Tuvok and some of the other character moments in this episode. But, not enough to keep this episode from being a total suck fest. One star from me!
Wed, Aug 10, 2011, 8:52am (UTC -6)
Apparently Kirk's reputation is now of such proportions that even inhabitants of the delta quadrant see a starfleet ship turn up and immediately get to work on a scheme hinging on one of its crew members banging a green chick.
Thu, Oct 27, 2011, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
"woulda been cool if the Voyager had actually gotten in touch with the stupid, fat idiot aliens that captured and tortured La Forge in that one TNG episode."

Every fourth DS9 episode from the first 4-5 seasons has Pakleds in the background :)
Wed, Jun 20, 2012, 1:08pm (UTC -6)
The thing that made me do a double take when watching this video, was the fact that the writers actually were stupid enough to write a dog into the episode, without any explanation for why an earth animal just happens to have evolved on a Delta quadrant planet. There's no attempt at even a dumb explanation for it (i.e "it's a Tazolean wolfhound"), they just put a normal earth dog as a key point in the plot.

It's times like this that really demonstrate how the writers often seem like they have no idea what sci-fi is.
Tue, Jul 17, 2012, 10:45am (UTC -6)
It is interesting to see that some people are re-watching Star Trek after in 2012, after all this time. From this time point, Voyager seems worse than I remembered it, and much worse than Enterprise, which I have also re-watched recently.
Although Jammer seems to dislike Enterprise the most, his reviews for that series are much more insightful and wittier. This is not a criticism, I understand that the VOY reviews were written 6 years before those ENT ones. I guess it takes time to mature and experience. I enjoy reading all of them.
Tue, Apr 23, 2013, 4:19pm (UTC -6)
I guess I'll be the voice of dissent here - I liked this episode. And I liked "A Matter of Perspective" too. I will grant the method of transferring the important data silly - we will put in Tom's mind, what we could just transmit encrypted to Numarri ships that are apparently in orbit?

But I enjoyed Tuvok's investigation, and the dog was NOT the only evidence that Tuvok presented. I also enjoyed the little stand-off they had between the Numarii and Voyager when they tried to capture Tom.

Nevertheless, having said all this, I agree that the episode is just acceptable, and not more than that. This is certainly not on the par of "Sacrifice of Angels" - so I have to agree with Jammer's overall rating.
Mon, Jul 29, 2013, 1:51am (UTC -6)
I don't see the Tuvok development that Jammer says happens in this episode. To me he was just another boring Vulcan doing his job well. Maybe if the Tuvok and Paris conversation happened earlier than the end. Tim Russ is a great Vulcsn though.

Other than that, this episode doesn't add to this Franchise at all - clearly just a writer having a bit of fun... But come on, it's still season One!
Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 4:38pm (UTC -6)
I don't think this episode has a lot going for it, but I will say that Lidell is pretty hot. And does the stereotypical "femme fatale" character pretty well.

Otherwise it's pretty weak, as only nondescript early Voyager can be.
Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 5:00pm (UTC -6)
As others have mentioned already, this epsiode was quite clearly a "remake" of "A matter of perspective" - and that stuck in my mind all through the episode.

I do think, however, that this episode was a BETTER version of this story. I enjoy a good "whodunnit" murder mystery, and the way teh story is told fom different perspectives to give us a chance to spot inconsistencies and other clues is fun!

Sure, there are some things that don't really make much sense (a normal dog on an alien planet - seriously?!), but that's all secondary to watching Tuvok Holmes play the detective game. Fun!
Thu, Jan 16, 2014, 7:45pm (UTC -6)
I didn't mind this episode as much as you guys. Some nice character work with Kes and the Doctor made it interesting, though I agree it is otherwise simply a reheated version of TNG's "Perspective".
Andrew T
Sat, Jul 12, 2014, 1:03am (UTC -6)
This was a fairly poor episode to me. 'A matter of perspective' was 10 times more interesting than this episode to me because the holodeck made it fun. On the plus side Tuvok was pretty cool in this episode.
Mon, Aug 18, 2014, 8:10pm (UTC -6)
Not as bad as I remember it, but not good either. Let's call it the slower brother of TNG's "A Matter of Perspective". Bonus points for having an interesting idea for criminal punishment. Zero points for the dog. Minus points for being pedestrian.

Tuvok's handling of the case was a highlight.

2 stars.
Sun, Oct 19, 2014, 9:01pm (UTC -6)
If we're going to rip off A Matter of Perspective, could we at least have included Tom shouting "You're a dead man Ren! A dead man!"?

Yes, this is a bad episode. It's a mess. I'm surprised to see LeVar Burton's name associated with this, because part of it seems to be bad direction. His two credits in TNG were Second Chances and Pegasus, both pretty good outings, so what happened? We had boring narration and multiple flashbacks, all of which plodded along. Some of which was very repetitive. Most of it was either boring or cheesy. The scene with the wife lazing in the garden smoking a cigarette was so cheesy, such a lame ripoff of film noir, that I have no idea who thought it would work well. Were they going for a sendoff of film noir? If so, it didn't work. Maybe Burton just didn't have anything to work with here.

Oh, and the dramatic reveal scene? With everyone gathered in the Den while Inspector Tuvok revealed the culprit? Is it possible to get any more cliched than that? I fully expected the revelation to be that the butler did it, even though there was no butler. That's how bad of a setup this was.

Meanwhile, the resolution made no sense. So the Doctor was a spy for the bad guys or something. And his unique method of getting data to the bad guys was this plot? How would that even work? How would he deliver Paris to the bad guys? After all, it was heavily implied that the aliens here were not going to let Paris off the planet. They only agreed to because of the bad reaction he was having. Surely a smarter plan would work?

Also, why was Kim dehydrated in the first place?

The episode also failed to give the viewers a fair chance to solve the mystery. Tuvok presented four pieces of evidence: 1) The Paris in the memory was too short, 2) The Paris in the memory knew exactly where to stab when the real Paris wouldn't know, 3) The symbols at the bottom was the secret code, and 4) The dog was fond of the killer. Now, a good mystery gives the reader/viewer enough information to solve the mystery as well. But here? The only one of those four that we could have caught was the height issue. We didn't even see where the knife struck, so we couldn't notice that it looks like an unnatural place for a human to stab. We had no knowledge that the symbols were anything but the normal course of events. And we didn't see the dog in the memory. In other words, the mystery cheated us. We were given no chance of deducing the mystery ourselves, and thus the episode presented Tuvok as a genius detective without giving any reason for us to believe it.

One final problem with the episode: nobody yells at Paris. We have no idea how far Riker went, but it's possible he was just being friendly in Perspective. But here? We know Paris went too far with the wife. Maybe not all the way, and he may have done nothing wrong illegally, but he was highly unprofessional. I don't care that it was a loveless marriage that just ended. If I'm on a business trip and I cause the divorce of a potential client and then hook up with the client's ex-wife, I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up fired. It would paint my company in a very bad image, just as Paris painted Voyager in a terrible light here. Paris should have been banned from any other away missions for that breach of protocol.

It also feels wrong for the character. While he is a felon, we're supposed to feel that he deserves another chance. That, deep down, he's a good guy. If he can't keep his hormones in check, then that's an image of the character that is going to have to change. Perhaps he really is an unlikeable, irredeemable jerk. So why is he here?

Far better to just assume this episode was a bad fluke and move on.
Fri, Jun 26, 2015, 6:17pm (UTC -6)
I didn't have a problem with Tuvok using the actions of the dog to cement his case as much as I had a problem with a no-shit "dog" in the DQ. WTF??? Jesus, Tolen even called it a dog! (slaps forehead) I even paused for a second and tried to use some universal translator techobabble crap to justify it :-)

I enjoy Tim Russ' Tuvok. Outstanding character in my book. I also enjoy who-dun-it eps in trek. They are kind of fun.

I also don't think that this method of getting info to the bad guys is a bad one. Seems legit to me. Encrypted transmissions in wartime are cracked" more often than you think. Had they got Paris, it would have worked. I wonder how many other times they did this?

I enjoyed this one. Not a great episode, but not bad. I did not that Tuvok didn't say the standard "my mind to your mind" crap during the meld.

2.5 stars for me.
Diamond Dave
Wed, Dec 9, 2015, 2:02pm (UTC -6)
First major misfire of the series. Leaden direction, poor performances, stultifying pacing and Tuvok having a Columbo moment at the end where we basically get the conclusion explained to us without actually seeing any of it. At some points I wondered if it was drifting off into parody but it seems that the intent was deadly serious.

On the plus side, a good Tuvok story. But not much else to commend it. 1.5 stars.
Thu, Dec 17, 2015, 12:56am (UTC -6)
One of the first eps where we got to see the acting chops of Tim Russ. Clearly he was able to hold his own for the entire ep investigating the murder that Paris had allegedly committed. Didn't come off quite as cookie-cutter as I expected. That final witness was something different.

And Paris was right about one thing with cant-get-a-lock kim: One day it WAS him. Twice. Remember The Disease? Alter Ego?

This ep was compared to TNG's A Matter of Perspective. But in that ep they were attempting to piece together what had happened thru the (slanted) stories of others. In this ep we already know what happened. But there was a technological slight-of-hand with the memory superimposed in Paris' head, which would be exposed in the investigation.

I don't remember being appalled with the episode. Not like I was with Threshold, anyway. A good mystery will hold my attention every time. Even tho I already knew the ending I still get immersed in the resolution scene and watching it unfold. In today's society with cams everywhere mysteries are becoming few and far between. Wonder how Doyle would have fared writing Sherlock in the 2010's...

2-2.5 stars works for me.
Fri, Dec 18, 2015, 5:35pm (UTC -6)
Yeh terrible episode. But the thing that really gets me is these aliens are meant to be birds, with feathers and stuff on their heads, like Hawk from Buck Rogers or something. Not only does it look ridiculous, even worse than the Kazon, but we get the stupid name "Dr. Ren" Wren, get it!? Even worse than that is that the females of this avian inspired race, such as Linell, have breats. What possible use could breasts be to a bird species!? Yeh shame the dog didn't have wings...
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 7:04pm (UTC -6)
This episode is a retread of "Matter of Perspective" as everyone has mentioned. Despite that however, I found the cinematography to be adept. The concept of reliving the events of the murder in a flashback was inventive. I also did rather enjoy the film noir elements involving the wife. Is it original? No. But it's competently filmed and moves along at a decent pace. The earth dog was out of place. The aliens were also absurd looking with those feather looking cloths glued to their heads. Otherwise it's a passable hour of entertainment.

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