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."
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