Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Investigations"

**

Air date: 3/13/1996
Teleplay by Jeri Taylor
Story by Jeff Schnaufer & Ed Bond
Directed by Les Landau

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"I'd like to apologize to anyone that I might have offended, especially Commander Chakotay; I gave him a pretty hard time...not that it wasn't a certain amount of fun, mind you." — Paris

Nutshell: The wrap-up of the Michael Jonas plot arc proves disappointingly mundane. Plus we get the added demerit of Neelix playing journalist. Not good, folks.

Rogue-of-recent Paris requests to be put off the ship with the intention of joining the Talaxian military because of his troubles of self-identity and getting along with the Voyager crew. Meanwhile, Morale Officer Neelix, who has given himself the new job of ship's talk show host with his daily program A Briefing with Neelix, suspects a traitor on board Voyager and hopes to expose it just like any worthy journalist would.

For simplicity's sake, let me announce it up front: Paris' belligerent behavior is all an undercover act that Janeway and Tuvok have manufactured in an attempt to uncover a spy whose suspicious actions were first noticed because of some log inconsistencies (and no, Chakotay doesn't know about it).

The spy, as we all know, is Michael Jonas (Raphael Sbarge), the guy who conspires with Seska and the Kazon Nistrim by feeding them information and even, as seen in "Lifesigns," made the agreement to sabotage Voyager so the Kazon can gain the advantage in a surprise attack. The way "Lifesigns" played out, it seemed obvious that the Paris and Jonas situations were going to merge (or collide) somehow. The only question was how. The answer is "Investigations," an action/intrigue episode that does indeed merge and resolve these two plot developments that have been brewing for over a month, and now throws in the added bonus (demerit would be a better word) of bringing Neelix into the picture.

Within hours of Paris' departure from the Voyager (which is marked with a nicely done segment where Neelix gives a tribute to Paris on his show), the Kazon attack the Talaxian fleet and kidnap Paris. Seska, supplied with Jonas' information on Paris' decision to leave Voyager, offers him a chance to join them. Paris stalls on the issue long enough to achieve his real mission, which is to search the Kazon's logs and find out who the spy is and what the Kazon are planning.

Meanwhile, Neelix pursues his own mission of tracking down the traitor on his end, by poking around in engineering, much to the ire of Michael Jonas, who sabotages the Voyager's warp engines and makes it look like an accident.

"Investigations" has a punchy-looking ending, but it also has a very lackluster resolution of two subplots which seemed to be headed for a major revelation. The more I think about this show, the more I'm disappointed, because it could have been so much more, particularly with all the build-up we've had over the last month and a half. The story, which should have been a lot bigger in canvas and consequence, is instead anticlimactic and can't really bear much scrutiny if examined for more than ten or so seconds.

For starters, I find it a little hard to believe that Janeway could predict with such certainty the Kazon's reaction to Paris leaving the Voyager, or even if they did decide to chase after him, that he would be able to cake walk through their computer systems for the necessary information. (If you think about it, Seska and the Kazon security seem pretty stupid for just leaving Paris in a room unguarded, with a computer console at his disposal.)

Granted, this is partially successful in that the writers come up with a way of keeping the audience in the dark about Janeway and Tuvok's undercover plan that's been going on all along, while still advancing the plot on Paris' end. But it's still just fabricated storytelling: it feels too much like "magical plotting"—events that, if you think about them, prove far too neat and tidy to have actually happened, or for Paris to have planned and acted on given the variables.

Then there's Jonas, who under Neelix's persistent badgering sweats too much and looks guilty as hell—hardly appropriate for someone who has been supposedly deceiving Tuvok's security for months now, and especially under the pressure of Neelix's hardly-intimidating persona. Sbarge should have put more subtlety in the character instead of going completely over-the-top with painfully evident looks of impatience and anxiety. The scene where he's about to kill Neelix with a laser-welder is an attention-getter, but if you think about it, how is he going to avoid blowing his cover if he kills someone in the middle of engineering? It's just a cheap thrill with little logic behind it.

Then again, this show isn't much about logic as it is about overblown spectacle. From Paris' escape of the Kazon ship to Neelix's big fight with Jonas once he's found out, "Investigations" puts action ahead of storyline more times than not—unfortunately, with limited success. Paris' escape from the Kazon is a derivative, lackluster exchange of fists and phaser-fire. Neelix's fight with Jonas, on the other hand, has a certain intensity you wouldn't expect to find in a plot involving Neelix. In fact, it seems almost excessive at times, with the ship shaking and rocking under Kazon phaser fire, and the warp intermix chamber leaking deadly plasma (or something) while Neelix and Jonas struggle above it on the second level of engineering.

This, of course, is an all-too-obvious setup for Jonas to take a predictable fall and vaporize in the inferno, which seems both too obvious and too easy—I think it would've been more interesting if the writers had dealt with the aftermath of a detected spy, rather than just erasing the problem by killing him off.

As an action show, I suppose "Investigations" is watchable, but as a caper show it's a failure. I found Neelix's investigation "in search of exposing the truth!" to be genuinely annoying. (Maybe that's the real reason Jonas couldn't handle the pressure.) Countless scenes where the Doctor asks to be put on Neelix's show and Neelix replies that he has a more important agenda sure aren't of any help. And the notion that Neelix helps to solve this case—when, rather, his actions always seem to be simply counterproductive to Tuvok's efforts—left me with mixed feelings of dumbfoundedness and Neelix-induced aggravation.

I really would have preferred more of an impacting payoff considering how long this situation with Jonas has been brewing. Unfortunately, what comes out of "Investigations,"—which is virtually nothing (plus non-stop Neelix fun)—is not at all what I was looking for.

Nevertheless, I'm still glad the series at least tried doing a continuing storyline in the first place (and I look forward to the creators trying it again, hopefully with more success). The best thing about "Investigations" is how it takes all those scenes from the previous episodes featuring Paris' irrational behavior ("Meld," "Dreadnought," "Lifesigns")—something which seemed completely out of character at the time—and makes some sense out of them.

Paris' "redemption" here follows somewhat from "Threshold," where he finally came to terms with his second chance in life. Could it be that after that experience, Janeway decided to enlist Paris for this undercover operation? That would be reassuring, and it stands to reason. It could be the only vaguely good thing to arise out of the disastrous "Threshold."

Previous episode: Lifesigns
Next episode: Deadlock

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14 comments on this review

mlk - Mon, Dec 17, 2007 - 10:12am (USA Central)
wow Morale Officer seems more and more like a job you give to mentally retarded people just so they can feel good about themselves
Dirk Hartmann - Sun, Mar 30, 2008 - 4:57am (USA Central)
That one wasn't so bad if seen as a single episode. Sure it somewhat depends on whether one does rather like the Neelix character or is annoyed by him, which is a quite subjective issue. (Even though I can't understand why, some people I know are majorly annoyed by the doc!!!)
The real letdown of this episode is how the story arc resolves - unexciting for such a long buildup.
Tim - Wed, Jun 4, 2008 - 10:09pm (USA Central)
One thing has always really bothered me about this episode. Janeway's plan depended on the Kazon attacking the Talaxians and kidnapping Tom. Lucky for the Talaxians, all the Kazon did was kidnap Tom...But they could have just as easily butchered all the Talaxians and took their ship to a Kazon chop shop. So Janeway basically puts these people in grave danger because she can't find a spy on her own ship? Yikes! I don't know...Maybe the Talaxians were willing participants in Janeway's plan. But I sure don't know why...Unless Janeway threatened to send Neelix to the Talaxian ship.
impronen - Mon, Jul 28, 2008 - 7:57am (USA Central)
I actually liked this episode quite a bit.

Perhaps that is becouse I never really got into the "everybody hates Neelix" -thing. Oh, sure he's annoying at times but when it goes right, he acts as a pleasant cataclyst to spice things up in Voyager's otherwise rather dry atmosphere.

I was disapointed at the decicion of killing off Jonas, as opposed to having a more challenging approach to dealing with the aftermatch. But then again, we could have been out for another of Janeway's speeches about not having the luxury of throwing someone to the brig for the rest of the trip.

Another thing: What about the Kazon? The end of the battle seemed to end in Voyager disabling the bad guys' engines. But none of it was adressed after that. Agreed, that getting rid of Seska would make the show in lack of a proper villain but I still found it bit magical how nothing really happened. Explanation would have been in order.
Mike - Mon, Sep 29, 2008 - 9:15am (USA Central)
This episode has everything I hate about Voyager.

Most egregious is the Paris escape:
1) As Jammer notes, Seska leaves Paris alone with a computer terminal - completely silly.
2) Paris, although he's presumably never used a Kazon terminal before, gets the necessary information.
3) Seska tries to capture Paris with only 2 guards, whom Paris easily overcomes.
4) Paris, who has never been on a Kazon ship before, quickly finds the shuttle (a shuttle he has never flown before, of course) and escapes.
5) Paris sees no other crew on the Kazon ship except for Seska and the 2 guards - apparently no one else is alerted to Paris letting off a bomb and phasering two guards.

And then there's fun on Voyager:
1) They know there's a spy on board, but never connect the spy to the disabled warp engines.
2) Again, despite knowing there's a spy onboard, they never think he might be in engineering.
3) They effectively let Jonas take over the ship at the end; without Neelix, Voyager is done. No one - Janeway, Tuvok, Torres - can lock out Jonas' disabling of the ship. Tuvok can't even unlock the door!

While I love some of the actors and characters on the show, it's this kind of silly, lazy plotting that really ruins episodes for me.
Bob - Sat, Jan 3, 2009 - 2:17am (USA Central)
Perhaps I missed something, but why didn't they just beam a security team into engineering if the door is stuck?
Jhoh - Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - 5:51pm (USA Central)
I watched the SF Debris review of this on youtube, and in the comments, someone mentions that a blue shirt that Harry was talking to in a scene was Prince Abdullah of Jordan (who is now King Abdullah II of Jordan), who I guess was a fan and wanted to get a cameo, unfortunately on crappy Voyager instead of the much superior DS9, but I understand his enthusiasm.

It reminds me of a delightful story of when Yassir Arafat was meeting with Bill Clinton in the 90s for the such and such whatever, and Yassir said that he was a beeg fan of Amereecan TV show Star Trek and how there were many ethnic backgrounds working together in the future, but he was concerned about the lack of Arabs, and asked Bill why there are no Arabs in Star Trek. Bill Clinton laughed that delightful Bill Clinton laugh(?) and, as Filbert did in the final episode of Rocko's Modern Life, said

BECAUSE

IT'S

THE FUTURE!

THANK YOU FOR STOPPIN BY 8)
Jeffrey - Fri, Jan 8, 2010 - 7:03am (USA Central)
Definitely a lackluster ending to VOY's only real multi-episode arc of the series. Everything else was two-part episodes. Anyways, I did like Neelix's farewell message to Paris. It felt genuine and honest and made Neelix's change of opinion in Tom heartfelt and realistic.

Kes's expression to Tom as he beamed off Voyager also felt genuine. I had suspected that at some point she and Tom would get together. I think that's a more realistic pairing than Tom and B'Elanna. I found it interesting that it was Tom whom Kes married in "Before and After."

But the resolution to the Jonas arc can only be disappointing. Neelix's involvement aside, we never get to find out why Jonas was doing what he was doing. We saw him attempt to contact Seska over the course of a few episodes, and then we see him successfully sabotage Voyager. But his motivations are unclear. It would have been more interesting and more dramatically satisfying if they had saved the resolution of the arc for "Basics." There's Janeway and company stranded on the planet and just before Culluh and Seska take Voyager off into the great blue yonder, suddenly Jonas steps away from the rest of the crew and joins them.

It really would have been a better ending.

Also, I think it's so goofy how Neelix suddenly views himself as a journalist and a talk show host. If I was a crewmember on Voyager, Neelix's guaranteed promise of uplifting, good news on a daily basis would certainly bring down my morale. :)

Finally, I did like Mulgrew's delivery of the line "Get him up here." I just wished it had been followed up by a genuine tongue lashing.
Destructor - Thu, Mar 24, 2011 - 8:14pm (USA Central)
I didn't mind this one- yes it would have been nice if they could have incorporated the attack and spy elements into the takeover plotline for 'Basics', but as a prelude to Basics and a continuation of the ongoing story I thought it was quite good. I also don't really mind Neelix.

Although to Jeffrey, above, are you not forgetting the six-part 'Hirogen' arc in Season 4?
Matthias - Sat, Aug 20, 2011 - 9:05am (USA Central)
Sooo all they had to do to find their mole was look at the comm logs, which were butchered so badly they immediately made Neelix suspicious? Shouldn't someone have done that BEFORE setting up a convoluted sting operation involving handing a senior officer over to the knockoff Klingons?
Nathan - Sun, Oct 30, 2011 - 2:57pm (USA Central)
I found this to be a flawed but welcome change from the mediocrity of most of this season. The biggest flaw was certainly Tuvok's incompetence, but I didn't mind Neelix in this episode.

It would have made more sense if Paris had been an apparent double agent, pretending to defect to the Kazon (and using the Talaxians as an intermediary, since the Voyager crew wouldn't publicly know about this). Then the Kazon's sparing of the Talaxians' cargo would be more likely, as would their trust of him.
Michael - Tue, Jun 11, 2013 - 9:00am (USA Central)
Ordinarily I can't abide Neelix but his determination in fighting the errant crewman at the end seemed really genuine. He put his whole little heart into that wrestling bout, and that really endeared him to me...

This was a nice, decent episode, instances of its illogic detailed by others notwithstanding.
Lt. Yarko - Thu, Jun 13, 2013 - 12:14am (USA Central)
As has been mentioned - tons of trek-flavored flaws in this one. And, yeah. I wanted something more epic than this resolution. And, please. The guy basically throwing himself into the big green fountain with a little nudge from Neelix was just plain silly. My eyes would have rolled out of my head if I hadn’t seen it coming from a mile away.

I am really pissed about one thing that no one has yet mentioned. I had to go back to earlier in the episode to make sure I had heard Tuvok correctly. "We would keep an open comlink to you at all hours. My security team could act immediately if anything were to happen." So how the hell did they not act immediately when hearing Neelix say "What did you do?! What is this force field for?!" and hearing the bad guy shout "Please Neelix! Stay out of this!" Did the writers forget that they had Tuvok preparing to be more cautious with Neelix's life than he ended up being? What strange writing. I don't know what to make of it. I guess it's just piss-poor. Maybe they planned on having a less spectacular ending in which the security team does show up soon after they hear the bad guy give himself away, but then someone decided that they needed a Neelix fight and a bad guy vaporization but forgot to take out the sensible caution that Tuvok promised. Too weird.

Neelix didn't annoy me so much in this. I like his attempts at being uplifting. I was mostly annoyed by his fits of jealousy in previous episodes. Hopefully they will keep him more toned down in future episodes.
Paul - Tue, Oct 29, 2013 - 11:57am (USA Central)
Season 2 of Voyager is really frustrating. It's the only season where the creators tried a sustained plot line -- the stuff with the Kazon, Jonas, Seska, etc. -- and they abandoned any hope of continuity when it didn't work.

But it's not as if it didn't work BECAUSE of the continuity. It was just badly done. A few examples in this episode.

1) The Paris-is-a-jerk stuff started happening right after 'Threshold'. Now, I'm sure that that's an episode we'd all like to forget, but why didn't they use the experience as part of the reason Paris went all mean? Even a line of dialog from Chakotay -- "You haven't been the same since your incident with the Warp 10 tests" -- would have been helpful.

2) Resolving the Jonas thread with a Neelix-plays-reporter bit was such a misfire. As Neelix performances go, this isn't terrible. But there were so many better ways to do this. Maybe have Torres make the discovery, forcing her to confront another Maquis? Or, maybe, have Chakotay do it -- and play up the part about how he's tired of spies on his ships?

3) The Kazon continue to be such morons. Paris is left alone with a working computer? Really? And, then, it's easy for him to steal a shuttle?

4) Most importantly. the idea of letting Paris leave Voyager in hopes that the Kazon would capture him on a Talaxian ship is just a ridiculous idea. Did Janeway not care if the Kazons just happened to kill some innocent Talaxians along the way? Did she know, for sure, that the Nistrim would be able to capture Tom before Voyager was too far away to help him?

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