Star Trek: Voyager


3.5 stars.

Air date: 2/26/1996
Written by Kenneth Biller
Directed by Cliff Bole

"We might as well put this ship on autopilot for all the freedom you give me to do my job." — Paris to Chakotay

Review Text

Nutshell: A winner. A very pleasant, quiet sleeper episode with a true sense of charm.

When a dying Vidiian medic is beamed aboard Voyager, the Doctor saves her life by transferring her brain patterns into the computer and creating a holographic body for her to temporarily use, until a way can be found to repair her brain and transfer the patterns back. There is only a matter of days to do this, however, as the patterns will degrade if not restored to the biological brain.

The Vidiian's name is Dinara Pel (Susan Diol), and she wakes up as a hologram to find herself in a strong, healthy body for the first time since acquiring the deadly Vidiian disease known as the phage, which has slowly destroyed and weakened her body since she was a child. Before long, Dinara and the Doctor realize their relationship is more than that of a doctor and a patient. They are both medics with a lot in common, and they are falling in love with one another—a unique position that neither one is accustomed to.

With "Lifesigns," Voyager shows just that: some evident signs of life and brightness. After a frustrating first half, it seems the second half of Voyager's season is beginning to look up—featuring a more promising trend of solid stories (aside from the preposterous "Threshold"). Hopefully the trend will continue.

"Lifesigns" has one "sci-fi" idea—that of a person's consciousness being transferred completely into a holographic simulation—but is otherwise a completely simple and straightforward character show. It's basically about the Doctor's discovery of his feelings for Dinara, which he first thinks is a malfunction of his program, but finally accepts it as an "adaptation" to human situations after some discussion with the always-well-intentioned Kes.

Trek romances are notorious for self-destructing (DS9's "Second Sight" and "Meridian" come to mind), but it seems this season is an upturn for romance stories; like DS9's "Rejoined" earlier this season, "Lifesigns" gets mostly everything just right.

One reason this all works is because of the performances. Romances ride on whether or not the characters involved have a believable chemistry, and I'm pleased to report that chemistry is something present in nearly every scene. Robert Picardo and Susan Diol are in sync just about every step of the way with some noteworthy acting.

Another reason this works is because the writing doesn't sell the situation short. The reason the aforementioned "Second Sight" and "Meridian" failed is because the romance was always at the mercy of contrived technobabble events. "Lifesigns" has none of that nonsense; this is a story based on human decisions (or, I guess, hologram decisions), not forced melodrama.

But what ultimately captured me here was the episode's undeniable sense of charm. It's, well, cute at times. Watching the usually-sharp-edged Doctor turn into a romantic softie is lightly comical and endearing. Picardo has some subtle, innocent expressions that forced a silly grin onto my face. Every scene comes together under Cliff Bole's calm direction—from Doc's and Paris' discussion of relationships, to the "parking" scene in the '57 Chevy—and what could've been schmaltzy is simply pleasant instead.

The episode's underlying message also works extremely well. At one point near the end, Dinara tells Doc she would rather live out the few limited days as a beautiful hologram than return to her life in her ugly, sickened body. This goes a long way toward making the Vidiians characters we can sympathize with again (after the downright cruelty they displayed in "Faces"), and shows how low the Vidiians' self-morale has fallen. What I especially like is the reassuring finale, where the Doctor proves his love is more than skin deep; the fact that he's not bound by the superficialities of Dinara's appearance is genuinely moving and optimistic.

"Lifesigns" also has a B-story and C-story, which take a somewhat different format from the usual subplot advancements. One involves Paris' continued insubordinate and unprofessional behavior. In retrospect, the unfocused subplots involving Paris in "Meld" and particularly "Dreadnought" seem to make more sense now, or at the very least have a reason for existing. Paris keeps showing up late for his shifts, and when Chakotay tries to ask him what's wrong, Paris bluntly retorts, "My problem is you." The subplot ends completely unresolved, in which Paris shoves Chakotay to the ground in front of the entire bridge crew, consequently landing him in the brig.

Meanwhile, Jonas keeps feeding Seska information, and this time he even gets to talk to her. Seska tells him to sabotage Voyager's warp coils (what that will do to the ship I'm not sure, but it can't be good) so the Kazon can launch a surprise attack on the Voyager.

How these two subplots will be resolved, or whether they're connected (I can't see how they wouldn't be), only time will tell. While the incomplete plotting surrounding both Jonas and Paris was annoying me a few episodes ago, it now shows the obvious intention of having a notable payoff sometime soon. As a result, the method of not resolving specifics set up by an episode is something which proves intriguing this time around, rather than frustrating. (Could it be Voyager finally decided overarching stories are interesting?) It's strange to think that as this episode ends, Paris is still locked up in the brig. Hopefully the resolution will be worthwhile.

I'm thoroughly pleased with "Lifesigns." It seems to indicate that the series is finding direction.

Previous episode: Death Wish
Next episode: Investiagtions

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Comment Section

65 comments on this post

    Maybe this is a small point, but it is annoying to me nonetheless. If I'm not mistaken, the Maquis formed to protest the Federation/Cardassian alliance. The Maquis was largely made up of people who were forced to abandon their homes due to the Cardassians. Therefore, while they distrust the Federation, their main enemies are the Cardassians; this is particularly true because of how many Maquis are Bajorans.

    And yet, when Seska proves to be a Cardassian spy, Jonas is willing to overlook that and betray Voyager. Not only that, but Jonas is aware that the Kazon are (unfortunately cliche) 'bad guys' - exactly the type of people the Maquis should be against. He gives us no reason for this other than a vague distrust of Janeway and the Federation - but why does he trust Seska more?

    I feel like the whole Kazon/Seska/Jonas plot - the main continuing plotline of the entire first two years of Voyager - was a mistake. Or at least poorly done. The Kazon were weak and unconvincing Klingon clones. Seska continued to manipulate Voyager long after they should have changed every code and protocol on the ship. And Jonas gets no characterization or motivation to show why he would betray Voyager.

    Well, I'd have to beg to differ. I really dislike episodes that make the Doctor human in every way, with emotion, with ego, with the capacity to love and hate, except when it's convenient to make him a hologram, and have him accomplishing all sorts of technobabbly quests because he's a photonic projection.

    I could buy Data in TNG partaking in similar "human" behavior, because he was programmed by the cybernetics equivalent of Einstein, and he was purposely designed as a learning machine.

    The EMH, on the other hand, was designed to be an emergency supplement, functioning for brief periods of time. There's no suspension of disbelief. If he can go on dates, understand humor, be annoyed by human idiosyncracies, that would mean that the EMH's designers accidentally created sentience. To me, that's just lazy writing, and a gaffe on par with making Cyrus Redblock briefly self-aware in "The Big Goodbye."

    She had the hots for the Doctor so she decides to start calling him after her uncle?

    One of the more freaky-deaky moments in Trek.

    Dinara named the Doctor after her uncle because her uncle made her laugh and gave her joy...unlike the life she has been living where other Viidian children avoid her like the plaque since she suffers from the sickness of the Phage. I thought this was an very emotionally heartfelt and excellent show of season 2 of Voyager when many other episodes here were just sub-par. The Doctor fell in love with Dinara because they were partly both doctors and liked each others company. The ending--where the Doctor dances with the real, terribly scarred flesh and blood Dinara--was excellent and not the holographically perfect version of her really suited the theme of this show. That Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder.

    I loved this episode when I first saw it, and I loved it even more on second watching. While it does fly in the face of the much-later episode 'Latent Image', where the Doctor 'gets a soul' (this episode certainly implies he already has one), its so funny, charming, romantic and well-intentioned I can't help but love it. I'd give it 4 stars and easily one of the best of the season- and perhaps one of my top ten faves of the show overall.

    I agree with EP that the doctor has been way too sentient from the start, meaning a lot of the Data-ish 'what makes a man' stuff fell flat because there simply wasn't enough ambiguity there.

    That said I'm more annoyed by the episodes where they try to play that angle than the ones where he exhibits blatantly self-aware behavior so this one was fine by me.

    Chakotay sure goes down like a sack of potatoes down a flight of stairs if you so much as brush up against him. I guess the guy just has a lot of experience doing the dramatic exploding console/sparks shooting across the screen leap by this point in VOY's run.

    My problem is that Doc shouldn't have been programmed with human responses to falling in love (or with falling in love at all). At the very least he'd have to activate a new romance subroutine like Data did.

    One of the top episodes of Star Trek, vastly underrated. The beautiful characterisation comes straight out of the perfectly constructed premise! Two doctors, alone and less-than half living save themselves in each other! ...and then to title it "lifesigns"... so charmingly understated.

    In the first half of the episode I couldn't forgive the doctor for the ethical quagmire he created when he put Dinara in the holographic body. Of course it would be wrenching to be forced back into that diseased shell which has haunted you your whole life. To give someone what they never thought possible, and then to abruptly take it away... very cruel. To then fall in love with them, giving them love, something denied to them their whole life because society sees them as a disease and not as a person... of course Dinara tried to sabotage her own treatment.

    The story is a statement of humanity in the face of disability and stigma. Dinara learns that she is alive in-spite of her disease. The doctor learns that he is alive in-spite of his own short comings. In fact, their shortcomings lends a particular poignancy to their existence as people.

    I find this episode particularly touching as a gay man. I've always felt that the Phage was an allegory for HIV. In the same way that Dinara was stigmatised for her disease, isolated and alienated from a core aspect of herself--her love and sexuality--society does the same to people infected with HIV. We fail to see them as romantic and sexual people, and only see them as a threat, a disease.

    And for a hologram to see her "humanity" where Vidian society could not... well, all the more poignant.

    This episode has all the charm of Annie Hall. Top rate programming!

    Don't get me wrong, I loved the episode, but again I have major tech problems. Maybe I've been reading too much smart SF (Greg Egan, Ted Chiang, Ken McLeod) but it seems that if one's consciousness can be loaded into a holo-program and then downloaded back into body later, then the Vidians either should upload themselves into computers and live in a virtual reality (with nanotech manipulators for connection to the 'real world' or they should upload themselves, create non-phage-infected bodies that are resistant or in some other part of the universe without the Phage, and then download back down. The whole ST universe seems to be too tied to physical bodies with the tech they have. Of course, the upload is only done here to give the Doctor a love interest, and it is done well.

    Not sure what to think about the whole Doctor emotions vs. programming issue - hadn't though of it before, but I will now.

    I liked the scene between Paris and the doc regarding getting over someone, it contained truth.

    I feel like I should say something to adress the concerns of one or two of the posters above. They are claiming that since the EMH is designed for medical practice it should not be capable of things like falling in love and displaying humor, etc. However the series makes it very clear that the Doctor's holomatrix wasn't just designed by Lewis Zimmerman, it was based on his personality. Thus, Lewis Zimmerman is a hotheaded, arrogant, and utterly brilliant man with more than a healthy eye for the ladies and a bitingly ironic sense of humor, and so is the Doctor. Zimmerman is capable of affection and romance, therefore the doctor, made in his image, is as well (Just as the Moriarty in Data's Sherlock Holmes program is design by Ge

    let's face it. The Doctor is more human than most people. We're asked to suspend an incredible amount of disbelief in Star Trek and a holographic doctor that is in every sense a fellow human is a huge stretch. However sometimes Star Trek makes it worth our while and this is definitely one of those times. I found the notion of the Doc mechanically working his way through dating rituals in a '57 Chevy parked on Mars utterly charming and funny. Jammer is right. Romance rarely works in Star Trek. This time they got it right. And what makes it "right" is the irony that the holographic doctor is more human than the humans.

    I love Robert Picardo. He is such a wonderful actor. I just can't get enough of him.

    About the doctor and whether or not he should be able to fall in love: There was a point in the series where it was said that the he is an adaptive learning program. So, it seems to me that he has an even more complex program than data had, since data could really only pick up new memories, and his ability to develop new algorithms was limited. His program couldn't adapt emotions, for example. He needed additional hardware for that. The question I have, however, is WHY an EMH would have an adaptive learning program, that is, adaptive beyond picking up additional medical information and algorithms. Obviously he was just written that way for the show so that we could have episodes like this one. But I doubt that the developers of a real EMH would want his program distracted at times by figuring out things like romantic attraction.

    Also, I have always hated the Degrading Memory Patterns (TM) thing. It's just another ticking clock plot device and a way to keep characters from having the option of choosing to become immortal through the use of computer processors, holographic bodies, and lots and lots of digital memory. Obviously, if a personality can be stored in a computer, it is still just a collection of 1s and 0s that last as long as the hardware storing them lasts. Hardware degrades, not data and programs. Being a computer programmer makes it difficult to watch trek sometimes. :)

    Like so many others I really like both The Doctor and the actor portraying him (Picardo).

    An episode like this really makes it evident that The Doctor on Voyager played the same role on his show that Data did on Next Gen: the non-human looking in on the complicated behaviour of humanoids from the outside - making it possible to really ask (and maybe answer)questions about what it means to be human ... you know, some of the big questions. That, to me, is at the heart of good sci-fi. When it works, anyway - and both The Doctor and Data really work for me!

    On the question on The Doctor and emotions:
    I haven't watched further than this episode of Voyager yet, but so far I'm thinking that The Doctor is IMITATING human behaviour and emotions without ACTUALLY feeling them. Since he has no real physiological fraim of refference, he actually believes himself to BE feeling emotions - just like we see any holodeck character in any Trek show believing (within the confines of the holodeck program) that they are, in fact, alive, breathing and experiencing emotions.

    Well, if The Doctor BELIEVES he is experiencing emotions, what distinguishes HIS experience from the humanoid experience of emotions? To me, THAT is the real question. Though The Doctor does not experience emotions as we understand them - he just believes he does - who's to say his perception of having feelings is any more or less valid than our way of experiencing the sensation?

    I hope there'll be an episode exploring along these lines at some point.

    There is precedent for sentient holograms in Moriarty. In fact Jeri Taylor's notes for Voyager called the Doctor a Moriarty-style hologram. So I think it's okay for him to be very human. It's also ironic that the short-lived Ocampa is giving relationship advice to an immortal hologram.

    Great episode and also a spot-on review.

    Oh and I have to point out that Red Dwarf stole the sentient hologram from TNG before Voyager did. Fortunately Trek never stole the sentient cat.

    @Patrick D
    Thank you! I stand corrected (by about 10 months) - well spotted. Blame the then 10yrs old me at the time!

    Voyager's adaptive and ever-growing EMH is falling for a dying Vidiian woman (temporarily as a hologram) in the latter stages of the Phage. Knowing the track record of ST romantic bottle episodes are spotty at best, this seems like a setup for failure. Fortunately it is anything but.

    This is the way to do a quiet sleeper love story on Star Trek without being a purely fluff piece. Some very touching and poignant characterizations, genuinely human lighthearted moments without being cloying, and a nice take on the subject involving the unfortunate treatment of people with illness.

    The subplots involving Paris and Judas, er, Jonas are interesting enough and neither add nor detract from the overall quality.

    Up to this point, we have four quality showings of Voyager out of the last six. This proves my theory that the writers had the ability to, not only match the potential that was always there, but to be fairly consistent as well.

    3.5 stars.

    Guess I'm in the minority here. I've been ok with the Doctor's progression over the course of the show so far. The fact that he really doesn't seem to want to adapt and grow more human is a fresh change of pace from the story of Data. And it seems like when he's just another character in the show, he is very believable in that role. The minor growth and adaptation of his character over time is well paced and well written. But then you have a show like this that just seems to mess it all up.

    I mean, so far the Doctor has been shown to have two semi-personal relationships with crewmembers. He has a negative relationship with Tom Paris, his former part time medic who essentially failed in that task, and a positive relationship with his current nurse/medic Kes. However, neither of these relationships extends much past the professional, although glimpses of it are seen with Kes. And now he wants to date someone?

    Where does that come from? The Doctor has no hormones, no reason to be physically attracted to anyone (at least they agreed that physical appearance was unimportant for him. And yet, Doc started showing physical signs of distraction: shaking hands, lapses in concentration, etc. It was specifically interfering with his job as a doctor, so how does that come about? Surely a program who's primary function is to be a Doctor would not allow its learning adaptation ability to mess up the primary purpose, right? Meanwhile, everyone is convinced that he has romantic feelings, but why would he? Why would someone's first non-professional relationship be a romantic one rather than platonic?

    Even Data's two romantic relationships (Tasha and Jenna) were both initiated by the other party; Data simply never thought about romance. Do we really want to claim that the Doctor's programming (which was designed for a relatively simple task relative to Data) is really that much more advanced that he would start to become capable of getting his artificial hormones raging?

    Would the story have been in any way, shape, or form been less realistic if the Doctor, who has close to zero experience, ended up feeling platonic feelings for his patient instead? No hormones needed, so it would make far more sense for him to feel that way towards her. And it would still be bold new ground for the Doctor to realize he cares about someone beyond simply his role in sickbay. Oh sure, we wouldn't get that cutesy little scene on Mars, but since I didn't buy the general premise of the episode I didn't enjoy that part.

    The only way this would have worked for me is if the Doctor felt something for his patient, didn't know what it was, and completely misinterpreted it as a romantic feeling given his complete inexperience with any type. Of course, there was no indication that anyone would think of that, despite it being more realistic than a hologram feeling romantic.

    It just seems to me that some writers really don't get the Doctor's character. They want to do the "machine learning what it means to be human" story that TNG used so well, forgetting that there were plenty of good stories to tell without this crutch. It doesn't fit the Doctor's storyline, and frankly it wasn't that interesting to watch anyways.

    I had the pleasure of watching this one again last night.

    Wonderful Star Trek episode.

    Picardo is just awesome in this role.

    Interesting how a 2 year old Kes is giving all the "romantic/relationship" advice to the EMH and even Danara.

    I would also like to commend Susan Diol in her role as Dr. Danara Pel. Wonderful, tender, heartwarming performance. She brought a tear to my eye a couple times.

    Every time the Vidians are focused on, it just makes me think. What would I do in their shoes? This episode illustrated wonderfully what they all probably go through when they are diagnosed the disease. Danara was only 7 when she was infected. Esssh, can you imagine? Did her parents push her away? Her perspective is further enhanced by the fact she is a doctor of course. Not only can't she cure herself, but she seemingly only can provide comfort to those that are sick like her. This isn't Mayberry folks.

    The scene was also interesting with B'Elanna. A different perspective presented to Torres than she had so vividly experienced. Danara also brings up a interesting point about politicians and scientists... for hundreds of years they have failed, I wonder what the campaign speeches were? How much pressure to find a cure? ... becoming "numb" to the folks that provide the necessary organs for them to survive? All very realistic and plausible IMO.

    The Doctors programming is "adaptive" so I don't have a problem with his development. He's been running for what, about 1.5 years straight?

    Couple of Doc's line just had me laughing out loud.

    "I'm romantically attracted to you and wanted to know if you felt the same way. (stunned silence) Is something wrong?" (loved Kes' facial expressions here :-) )

    "Mister Paris, I assume you've had a great deal of experience being rejected by women."

    ...and of course, as only Doc can do, he injects his normal gloating quips during a very touching conversation with Danara.

    "EMH: ...A computerized physician doing a job, doing it exceptionally well, of course, ...

    :-) :-) :-)

    Can you imagine anyone but Picardo playing this part?

    I guess I'm just blabbing here...

    The best trek episode are the ones that relate to humanity and make you think. This one does both in spades.

    Easy 4 star episode for me.

    I enjoyed your review. For what it's worth I'd give this one a HIGH 4 stars. Possibly the best one to date.

    "Lifesigns" is a wonderful love story. It's one of my favorite Star Trek episodes.

    Crying? Seriously? The Doctor programmed the woman's holographic body to shed tears? That's.......interesting.

    A story with a simmering subplot, tho at the time we had no clue where it was going. Next episode deals with that.

    As for the main story I didn't realize just how awesome an actress Susan Diol is. The chemistry between she and the Doctor was natural, unrushed and flowed perfectly. And the good doc still had time for quips (both intended and unintended).

    I had seen her before, but prior to this ep I didn't make the connection. Admittedly I wouldn't until I googled her.

    Not sure if anyone would know this but she was in two particular episodes of Quantum Leap. She was Rear Admiral "Al" Calavicci's first wife, Beth. There was in fact an episode that dealt (indirectly) with that. I remembered it because I thought she was adorable then, too. (well, that and after he returned from Vietnam he would be plagued by failed marriages and alimony, bit of a running gag on the series. But it was clear Beth remained the only one he loved unconditionally). And the final leap for Dr Beckett was in fact, to her to give her some good news. Nice touch to give at least Al a happy ending if not Sam.

    And she was in one TNG episode briefly. Anyone care to take a guess which one? I'll let you good folks know later if you don't already know...

    Which brings us to this awesome ep. Whod've thunk that she would be as charming as she was? I might have to watch other films/shows she's done. She has screen presence no doubt. It's subtle but its there. She seemed to establish a rapport with practically everyone. Too bad she didn't become a regular on the show. It would have been a perfect addition to what Jennifer Lien was as Kes. This is what I miss about the earlier seasons.
    They flowed more organically and not so by the numbers as the last few seasons would become far too often.

    Maybe this was another changing of the guard. Later seasons felt as if the writers' attention spans began to narrow in pursuit of multitasking and cramming too much into an ep. And here we are, some 20 years later. Multitasking has become par for the course in life. Doesn't seem like life is getting any better for most of us. Is it any surprise the earlier seasons stand the test of time better than the later seasons? (Ok, S4's Witness is classic trek in any ST mythos, let alone any season. I liked it more than even S5's Timeless.)

    Sometimes it's just better to let things flow naturally instead of rushing it. I know we all have a limited amount of time on this earth but cutting corners just to get a product out doesn't make for a quality product.

    This ep was near perfect because it didn't rush itself. Indeed it paced itself quite well. Yet at the same time those 45 minutes went by wayyyyyy too fast for me! That's how immersed I was in this ep.

    It kind of felt as it could have been some kind of romantic comedy with just the right touch of drama. Which is a testament to the acting chops of both Picardo and the lovely Ms. Diol.

    It also showed that the Vidiians were capable of humanity and great acts of kindness. And yet their condition had forced them to take draconian measures just to survive. We've seen them at their best-and worst. Deadlock clearly juxtaposes what we see here.

    I almost forgot about S5's Think Tank, which I have not watched yet. I think it was mentioned a cure was found for the phage in that ep. Nice, but we already knew Klingon DNA was resistant to the phage. It would have been better to actually show an ep showing the steps it took to create a cure rather than just write it off. It would have been even more awesome to have seen it involve B'elanna one more time too.

    Another reason I can't understand why she hated her Klingon side so much. It clearly gave her advantages a normal human would not have. Like oh, say, immunity to a disease that has killed millions of a race for how long? 2 centuries? Can't remember the exact timeframe. I just hate the way they make her sidestep that fact in that scene with Dinara. She is literally a cure for the phage but they never pursued her again? Talk about missed opportunity. In S6's Fury all they needed was to kidnap B'elanna and BAM! instant cure. And at this point in time they must have known about her Klingon DNA being the cure since it was discovered back in S1. Shame on you writers...

    I know Klingons don't honor being a lab rat per se but a savior is a savior. How in the world did they develop any kind of technology given their mindsets, let alone space travel? Voyager's writers treated them like intellectually challenged primitives who barely discovered fire. Which is practically a slap in the face to the pains TNG took to show them to be more than that. Much more.

    In the midst of all this Dinara remained strong and resolute without losing any of her easy charm. She even seemed to allay B'elanna's fears and suspicions with her calm but reassuring demeanor. It never once felt forced.

    The writers should have had her be the one to create the cure for the phage rather than the lip service we got in Think Tank. By then the show was too rough around the edges. Her appearance would have been much appreciated.

    The rating jammer gave it speaks for itself. Why, we even got to see Seska ever so briefly. Icing on the cake! It ended just as it was beginning. A heartfelt episode with a developing sinister subplot.

    Ah, doomed love. Two superb performances from the leads, some nicely understated writing, room for it all to breathe. Boom! Not that difficult to do a Trek romance episode, is it? With the Paris and Jonas arc plots bubbling along underneath, this all adds up to a winning hour.

    I liked the hopeful note the score ends on too in the final scene, and love the camera work there. 3.5 stars.

    One of the things I appreciated the most about this episode is the lack of technobabble transferring dinaras consciousness to the computer. It just happened. Which was great - how it happened or its implications elsewhere wasn't important to the actual story, and the writers really nailed that.

    So many times plot points are mired down in technobabble and incomplete explanations, which invite all sorts of distracting overanalysis. Here, we were spared distraction and allowed to focus on the story at hand and the meanings behind it.

    So many episodes in so many Trek series could benefit from this modest level of storytelling sanity.

    This episode completely ruins the Vidiian story. According to prior episodes, all Vidiians were facing this sickness so the race as a whole was facing extinction unless they continued to harvest organs. But if we take the information in this episode as true, then the Vidiians are for the most part completely free of the Phage and only a small number of Vidiians are actually affected by the Phage. This removes all moral justification for the Vidiians allowing them to take organs in order to keep their species from dying off as most of the Vidiians are fairly healthy and the race as a whole is not facing extinction.

    The only real problem the Vidiians have apparently is a refusal to quarantine and kill the few Vidiians who actually get the Phage according to this episode. It makes absolutely no sense for the entirety of Vidiian culture for the last several hundred years to base itself around the effects of a disease that only affects a few Vidiians. This would be like us basing our entire culture around AIDS even though it only affects a small percent of the population and we could rid ourselves of it if we were truly concerned simply by quarantining and killing those with the disease.

    Saying that there are healthy Vidiians who look down on the diseased Vidiians and treat them as second class citizens tells us that the diseased Vidiians make up a minority of the total population, especially the way that she described how she was ostracized by all her peers and did not have any friends. One would think that if the disease was so common then she would have been able to make friends easily with other diseased Vidiians who were also being shunned for the same reason. The fact that she describes a lonely life suggests that there were not other Vidiians in her neighborhood who were diseased like her. Thus the we can assume that the disease is no more of a threat to the Vidiian people than any other disease is to us. Some may be injured but the majority of people are not under threat. That explains why the Vidiians only ostracize the diseased instead of quarantining and killing them.

    If we want to look at the larger implications, then we really have to ask why the Vidiians don't clue healthy tissue from those Vidiians who aren't diseased. At least we now know how the species continues to reproduce, most Vidiians don't have the disease so go through their entire lives completely unaffected by it. This disease is not a huge issue and Vidiian society would not be structured around the disease. Thus those Vidiians who do harvest organs only harvest organs from unwilling subjects because they like to kill people and not because they have to. Maybe the should talk to Souter, they'd probably get along famously and maybe he could talk them out of killing more people.

    George Monet,

    I don't agree at all.

    "Saying that there are healthy Vidiians who look down on the diseased Vidiians and treat them as second class citizens tells us that the diseased Vidiians make up a minority of the total population"

    Just not true. That action in no way reflects numbers here. For all we know, and it makes more sense, the few adults that don't get sick are the ones that remain in power.

    "suggests that there were not other Vidiians in her neighborhood who were diseased like her. Thus the we can assume that the disease is no more of a threat to the Vidiian people than any other disease is to us. Some may be injured but the majority of people are not under threat. That explains why the Vidiians only ostracize the diseased instead of quarantining and killing them."

    You are defining what it means to "assume".

    "The only real problem the Vidiians have apparently is a refusal to quarantine and kill the few Vidiians who actually get the Phage"

    lol ... good thing we didn't do that to the HIV folks, or any other number of diseases/genetic disorders...

    The only "Revelation" in this episode is that we now know the entire Vidiian population isn't infected. Vidiian's are far superior to us in medical science so it's safe to deduce that they have "taken samples from those not infected". Eeeesh, that would be the first thing WE would do.

    We do know that this disease has affected them for a long time. Leaving those that aren't infected in power seems very plausible.

    Nice episode overall. Never did like Chekotay. I think he purposely escalated a tense situation. How long was Paris in the brig I wonder. All he did was push a guy off him who shouldn't have touched him in the first place.

    "Chakotay sure goes down like a sack of potatoes down a flight of stairs if you so much as brush up against him."

    I think Chakotay was caught off guard, but went with it, and put on a show for Janeway - "see what I have to deal with Captain??"

    "Never did like Chekotay. I think he purposely escalated a tense situation."

    He did. There's animosity towards Paris, he's little respect for him.

    I enjoyed this episode a lot for the lack of a ship-destroying threat alone. Voyager needed more of these types of quieter episodes.

    So the doc can just transfer any consciousness into a hologram? Anytime anyone comes into the sickbay with a life threatening injury or illness or even just a broken arm, transfer then into a hologram and have all the time you need (or a week at least) to cure them. They won't feel any pain and heck, they can even help you cure themselves!

    Or set up holotransmitters near dangerous areas and if something goes wrong, transfer Torres into a hologram and send her in to fix it! Easy peasy. Or have holo emitters on shuttles and transfer Paris and Janeway or whoever into holograms and use them to do dangerous space missions. They won't even need food or life support or anything and they can't get hurt! Easy peasy

    One of the greatest advancements of all time!

    But no, it's just another made-up Voyager gimmick, that is never ever used again, or even mentioned, only used this one time to set up a sappy love story. Lame.

    2 stars

    I agree with some of the criticisms levied by, e.g., Skeptical above. Why does the Doctor fall in *romantic* love? The episode gestures to this vaguely by the Doctor's saying it's not in his program, but then Kes says his program is adapting and that's that. His program being able to adapt doesn't really justify him suddenly taking on human(oid) traits any more than its being adaptive would justify him suddenly getting a third arm. The main justification I can think of is that we do get the impression that the Doctor's programming is strongly based off Zimmerman, and various (humanoid) medical doctors, and that in the process of creating this programming they included (possibly even unintentionally) enough human(oid) structure that the Doctor could "grow" into it. Certainly the Doc does have a human-ish personality which seems to be a deliberate design choice, probably for a combination of ability to communicate with and help the crew and maybe because giving him a human-ish way of behaving somehow helped in allowing the program to better adapt to deal with new medical needs. And yet there are lots of reasons why romantic attraction would specifically *not* be programmed into an emergency doctor; the only people he will ever interact with are his patients. If things had had a bit more time to grow, platonically speaking, between the Doctor and Danara, and after she developed feelings for him, he decided he wanted to try to be able to reciprocate (and maybe make some modifications to his program there), that might have worked better.

    To be clear: My objection here isn't actually to the question of the Doctor's sentience. When I say that it doesn't make sense for the Doctor to be programmed to feel romantic love, what I'm partly saying is that "romantic love," as we know it, really does depend in a pretty fundamental way on our [biological] programming -- hormones, chemical responses, etc. evolved as a system. People can grow and change and are not limited by their biological programming, but it's important to note that a certain amount of biological programming is there, and it's a very big leap to believe that romantic love as such would be "felt" without it. With Data on TNG, there was a lot of speculation (and sometimes no unambiguous answers) about exactly what his experience was and what its relationship was to human experience. With the Doctor here, there seems a kind of...uncuriosity on the part of the show about how exactly this development happened. In some ways, that's maybe okay. It's just the way they chose to go about the character; the Doctor it seems is mostly human in his reactions to things, and he just doesn't know it initially because he was only "supposed to" have a specific task. I just wish that there were a bit of a clearer articulation of why he has analogues to some human "programming" that seems unnecessary or counterproductive in his case.

    I guess the other thing I think the episode skirted over a little to get to the romance: Danara is the most sympathetic Vidiian we ever meet, and the one we spend the most time with. She's justifiably treated in a sympathetic light, as someone suffering from a horrible illness, whose life has been ravaged and shortened by it, and who has not been able to get away with it in a very long time. And she's someone who seems to have managed to hold onto her "humanity," i.e. she seems not to have started to view others as things (walking sacks of organs), which marks the difference between her and the previous ones we've met. What makes her different? And, more importantly, *is* she different? She mentions having gotten organs earlier in her life, and the question of where those organs came from seems like one that maybe someone (Torres? Neelix?) could have been tempted to press, even if the Doctor understandably didn't want to. I feel like this was the last and best opportunity to dig into what is interesting about the concept of the Vidiians, and they dug into some of it but not quite what I was hoping for.

    Anyway! Putting that aside, this is a pretty nice episode and there are good scenes between the Doctor and Danara. The episode manages to balance the Doctor's growth as a result of Danara with the story of Danara's brief sense of excitement at finally being free of her personal curse. While maybe a bit more could have been done with what it actually means to be a holographic being, I like that Danara gets to actually "be" a hologram for a short time, and for the bleeding between real and hologram there is part of what allows her to so totally see the Doctor as a person, and for the Doctor to see her as one. Part of the episode's sadness is the recognition that, ultimately, the Doctor has to let her go back to her humanoid existence which is more painful, physically and emotionally, because it's "real" (and can last longer); it might have been stronger to have made the choice more explicit by having it be an option for Danara to live out the rest of her life as a hologram (and with the Doctor), but with the loss of all that one's physical body entails. But anyway, the mutual acceptance between the two of them as the core of their love really does come through and is paid off in that beautiful last scene. He's still a hologram and she no longer is, but she still loves him; she is no longer beautiful, but diseased and "ugly," and he still loves her. It is a very romantic episode, which is relatively rare in Trek (at least for one-episode romances).

    Not that interested in the Jonas thing. As for Paris, well, I guess onto Investigations to discuss how that worked out. A moderate 3 stars for the resulting episode.

    @Skooble you are spot-on about these devices appearing only once and never to be seen again. There were the tricobalt missles in the pilot that were never used again. Not to mention the phaser's wide-area dispersal setting that was used all but once also in the S1 ep Cathexis.

    Let's not get started on aliens. Yes, I realize the crew was headed back to the Alpha Quadrant so it was unlikely we'd run across them twice. But that doesn't explain S2's Alliances regarding the Trabe and how we never heard from them again even though they remained a constant thorn in the Ka-zon's side. And the crew obviously hadn't successfully cleared Ka-zon airspace until S3.

    It was always things like that that rankled at me throughout the years. Things just unresolved and forgotten. I know some people preferred standalones but I actually preferred continuity and not having the reset button pushed every week.
    Seems like the writers took the easy way out.

    Charming episode -- nice to see a romance build up the right way for Doc. Many Trek romances are clunky but here Doc keeps evolving and he's adding more subroutines to be able to do more stuff. He is turning into the star of the show. Good performance from the Dinara character -- truly did have chemistry with Doc. But obviously there is no long term potential, so it has to end. At least it does so in a dignified and rational way.

    Voyager's definitely doing some things right -- making use of the phage-infected race time and again for interesting stories. Nice ending scene with Doc dancing with the real Dinara.

    I liked the technobabble here to create a holographic body for Dinara with her brain patterns. This is good sci-fi. The common profession make it easier for her and Doc to hit it off. Plenty of good scenes between the 2, not to mention Kes/Dinara and Doc/Paris as they prepare for their holodate.

    I agree with Jammer about the B and C plots -- whereas they were out of place in prior episodes, here they start to get fleshed out and point to becoming the main plot in a future episode. The Paris B plot throws up more questions than answers. The Jonas/Seska C plot points to a quite an interesting and menacing arc.

    The Jonas/Seska plot is hard to figure out -- I assume that he'd become a high-ranking officer if Seska is successful in taking over the ship. What else could be in it for him? He's not getting to the AQ any sooner. And he'd have to work with the Kazon, presumably some of whom won't take kindly to working with him. But the Kazon and Seska seem to be the biggest threat to Voyager here.

    Paris ends the episode in the brig -- deservedly so. He was doing really well in Season 1 and had a ton of responsibility as a senior officer. But it also sounds like Paris is not the only one who doesn't like working with Chakotay.

    3 stars for "Lifesigns" -- another good Doc episode with now decent subplots developing for the series. Doc's basically human with his share of awkward moments, including his subtle predilection for saying how good he is at doing medical things! Things are looking bright for VOY as a series here as we get more interested in the characters and story arcs. The series can do some great standalone episodes but also benefits from groundwork put in re. Vidiians and the Kazon.

    I see a lot of discussion about an AI falling in love, but what about a doctor being romantically involved with his patient? I was disappointed that at no point did any of the two(!) doctors thought it might be an issue. And from what I can tell it wasn’t discussed here as well!

    The last scene was beautifully understated. Props to Kenneth Biller for understanding that powerful scenes don't require histrionics and deathbed speeches. Respect.


    "So the doc can just transfer any consciousness into a hologram? "

    No. Danara was wearing some kind of gadget that was keeping her synaptic patterns (to what end, I have no idea). Because the synaptic patterns were thus already in computer-readable format, the Doctor was able to upload them to the holographic buffer. Or something like that.

    Nice how Vidiian technology was compatible with Starfleet's.

    One nit: How did they return Danara to her colony without getting nailed by the Vidiians?

    Jammer I love your reviews, but I notice you always mention the directors name. In this one you talk about Cliff Bole’s ‘calm direction’. How do you know that? How do you know he’s calm? It just feels like name-dropping... Sorry if I’m being rude, I really value your reviews.

    The "calm" refers to the tone of the scenes, and is not saying the director himself was necessarily calm. That said, I don't single out writers or directors nearly as much anymore with TV episodes (this review was written 22 years ago). The process of making a TV series is so collaborative and so much a product of a whole lot of people operating in almost an assembly-line fashion that attributing individual qualities to individual people (aside from actors) is likely to be guesswork at best, and frequently wrong.

    Some goods points, Jammer. Although there are exceptions, and in particular I think that in TNG Cliff Bole's episodes had a unique flavor that definitely came from his direction. In Voyager I think the directoral tone was much more homogenized, especially compared to S1-3 TNG where the directoral styles were all over the place. By the end of DS9 I agree that the separate directors didn't seem to impact the tone of the episodes that much any more.

    It's sad to consider that in an effort to create a uniform product, both in tone and even in soundtrack, Berman's legacy is for the directors to almost become camera technicians who didn't have creative input any more. The trend over the years seems to be that every adventure should feel the same as the last, but with a different story, and I'm not sure I like that.

    I understand the sentiments behind this episode, but I didn't like it very much. I know not everyone is a Christian on this forum, but I look forward to the bible's promise that under God's Kingdom, "No resident will say, 'I'm sick'" Isa 33:24 and that The blind will see, the deaf will hear, the lame will walk! and as Job 33:25 "flesh will be fresher than in youth" I can only imagine how that will be for those who are old, infirm, or have long suffered serious illness. This is what I thought of when Dinara cried when she saw herself in a mirror.

    Beyond that though, the episode's romance doesn't really do much for me.

    And as for the traitor onboard, I agree with an earlier commentor about it being a bit unbelievable. If he just said, "I'll give you guys a replicator on the sly if you promise to leave us alone", I can kind of see that, but he's been giving the Kazon minutiae of Voyager life, and also trusting Seska (always asking to speak to her) after it was revealed that she was a Cardassian (a race the Marquis hates) and was a plant on their ship anyway

    Sean Hagins -

    I believe you previously said you were a preacher of sorts, but do you not understand that the reason no one will say they are sick is because under God's Kingdom the "I" that sees itself as "sick" will cease to identify itself with the body and mind? It doesn't mean no one will physically get sick. "God's Kingdom" is not something that will fall upon the world in time, it's already here and always has been for those who understand the truth (as Jesus did).

    @ Andre:

    We believe as it says in Mt 5:5, "The meek will inherit the earth" The vast majority of righteous mankind will live forever here on the earth in perfect fleshly bodies that do not age, get sick, or die.

    Have a look at this:

    Sean -

    Sorry buddy, but that's pure speculation and wishful thinking. Bodies die - that's what they do. But we aren't bodies, are we? Our whole fall from grace and "heaven" is to take the body as "me", so it's not surprising all these quotes were misinterpreted.

    "Whoever finds the interpretation of these sayings will not experience death" - Thomas 1.

    More importantly is this one:
    "If a blind man leads a blind man, both will fall into a pit" - Thomas 34.

    Don't listen to what the religious have to say about religion. They are blind.


    Think about this then. If people really were in heaven, why did Jesus resurrect Lazarus, and the young girl who died (among others). Do you think pulling them from heaven back to a body on earth was a reward?

    Well done ep when it comes to writing, performances, etc . . . yet Dinara being Vidiian is hard to get around, for me. Not only does she have the phage, and has accepted the involuntarily-given organs of others, but since she's a doctor, I assume she been involved in transplanting them in others, and indirectly involved in their procurement. Yikes. That's a lot to overlook.

    Jonas! I think the underlying suggestion is that he's all about Seska. He doesn't care about the fact that she's Cardassian (ha! I almost wrote Canadian!) or she's working for the nasty Kazon. Because he's all about Seska. All he ever does is plead to see her and talk to her and seems to desperately want to please her. His obsession isn't explained (mommy issues, overwhelming infatuation . . .) but it doesn't really have to be. It's there and it is his priority, all he ever thinks about - just like the Doc with Dinara, and I'd suggest the parallel is deliberate.

    I like how the Doc and Dinara don't spend too much time crying about the fact that they only have two weeks together, but go ahead and enjoy.

    Once again, as in every ep worth the Vidiians, I am astounded at the lack of concern for the ucontagion. No quarantine. No nothing. We learn that only Klingons seem to be resistant, but no one but the Vidiians has to worry about catching it? Maybe I missed some kind of explanation early on.

    @Sean Hagins

    We should be wary about taking stories like Lazarus as genuine eyewitness accounts. Matthew, Luke and John were written 40-70 years after Jesus' death by authors who were not original witnesses nor living in Roman Palestine. Many (possibly most, or all) of these accounts of miracles were composed for doctrinal purposes and most signs indicate John did not really understand Jesus' teachings at all - he was obsessed with Jesus' death and "resurrection" rather than the teachings themselves (like the later church became) leading to a spiritualized interpretation of Jesus' significance. It is safe to say that very few of Jesus' inner circle really understood his teachings - among these were Thomas, Peter and Mary; which is why those gospels were omitted from the New Testament by the early church, because they did not support their agenda or claim to authority. The remaining gospels which were included were heavily reinterpreted to fit propagandic purposes, and scholars generally agree that of all the gospels, John (of whom is said to be an illiterate in Acts 4:13) is the least trustworthy. D. Moody Smith says "of this fourth gospel, whatever body of Jesus' sayings as has existed, has been subjected to thorough-going reinterpretation". Norman Perrin says of John: "It is generally recognized that it represents a reinterpretation of the ministry and teachings of Jesus along markedly theological lines". And not forgetting that in the 2nd century CE it was fashion to alter and forge authoritative texts, it would not at all be surprising that, given John's obsession with the death/crucifixion/resurrection of Jesus and that the account of Lazarus is found only in John, that the story of Lazarus was sheer invention. We cannot know for sure but given what we do know about its authorship and why such accounts would have been composed, and how they relate to what Jesus actually taught and the misunderstanding of his teachings, there are good reasons for casting strong doubt on its historical accuracy. Again from Perrin: "the gospel form was created to serve the purpose of the early Church, but historical reminiscence was not one of those purposes".


    I'm sorry but I have to disagree with this. If the accounts of the miracles were erroneous, it would not be in inspired scripture. 2 Tim 3 16-17

    @Sean Hagins

    Fair enough. So can we then assume you believe in the miraculous accounts of Rama, Krishna, Shiva and Kali in the puranic Hindu texts? Since they would not be there if they were erroneous.

    2 stars

    I wasn’t very interested in the doctor finding romance. Denara was a nice character but everything else left me cold. The 57 Chevy scene was too cute for me

    Far more interesting was the Jonas and seska plot

    Teaser : ***, 5%

    Paris arrives late and disheveled, complete with an absurd story about helping the Doctor deliver the extremely gestated Wildman baby. I've seen people earnestly criticise this moment for being unbelievable—as though Paris were actually trying to convince Chakotay that his hair is messy because he got afterbirth in it or something, and not that he's intentionally showing as little respect for his job as possible. Chakotay isn't amused and remarks that this lateness is becoming a bad habit. The Voyager encounters a Vidiian vessel emitting a distress call with a single occupant onboard. With no obvious signs of deception, Janeway consents to beam her to the Sickbay for treatment.

    The EMH and Kes do their best with the very phaged body in their midst. They discover that the Vidiians have equipped the woman with a tech tech thingy which is attached to her brain. While Kes' suggestion shows she is quickly becoming at least as competent as the tousle-haired flyboy liar at the helm, the Doc needs something a bit more novel to help save this woman. Novel treatments are a given when it comes to Vidiians (holo-lungs in “Phage” and species-splitting cloning in “Faces”); in this case the Doctor takes advantage of the tech thingy on her head to extract her brain-patterns and download them into the computer. But more than that, he's going to recreate her body (phage-free) using the holographic tech in the Sickbay.

    KES: Is there enough storage capacity in the holo-matrix for such complex data patterns?
    EMH: There's enough capacity for my programme, isn't there? And my programme contains over fifty million gigaquads of data, which I don't have to tell you is considerably more than most highly developed humanoid brains.

    This will be important later. For now, the CGI tricks used in the creation of the holo-body are nifty, as is the Doctor's expression of pride at his success. I already like this better than “The Schizoid Man.”

    Act 1 : ***, 17%

    There's a brief conversation between Chakotay and Janeway in which he gives her the opportunity to intervene on Paris' behalf before he starts disciplining him. For the moment, this is an important development in their relationship; Chakotay is demonstrating that, in the wake of his machismo in “Manœuvres,” he wants to show her deference, that even his personal grudge with Paris won't cause him to act without her blessing; Janeway on the other hand seems to want to empower Chakotay to be as professionally Starfleet as possible, rather than the token Maquis he complained about in “Parallax.” There may be a couple of other things going on here, too, which we'll get to later in the season.

    Meanwhile, the doctor completes construction on his Vidiian RealDoll, I mean patient. The woman, Denara, awakens in holographic form, overwhelmed by the physical transformation she appears to have undergone. He doesn't quite realise the gift he has given her. Considering the utilitarian existence we have witnessed the Vidiians living so far, it's not surprising that even the illusion of health would be a profound emotional experience. Before long, we meander into the topic of the Doctor's name, something we briefly touched on in “Projections,” but which went most fully explored in “Heroes and Demons.” And there's another pretty holographic lady in his company...I think we know where this is going. Give that man a sword! Denara, it turns out, is a hæmatologist, so she'll be assisting with her own treatment. many organs has she pilfered from other species? Is she like a Vidiian vampire?

    Act 2 : ***, 17%

    We pick up said treatment bringing Torres into the Doctor's office, where he asks for a piece of her brain tissue. This is vaguely reminiscent of the scenario between Worf and the Romulan captive in “The Enemy.” Torres' trauma is more personal and far more recent than Worf's, but the Doctor also has far less empathy and patience with stubborn Klingons than Beverly. What makes all the difference is Denara herself:

    DENARA: Please understand this disease has been killing my people for hundreds of years. Trying to stop it has become an obsession, and many of our politicians and scientists have never developed compassion for the people who keep us alive. As much as I want to go on living, I've accepted the fact that I will die soon. I only want your help if you are willing to give it.

    I have always thought that Worf may have been tempted to give over his ribosomes or whatever to the Romulan out of *spite,* since the Romulan himself would have considered the life-saving gift a pollutant to his body. Only Worf's understanding of what Honour and Paternity meant to him kept him stubbornly on the side of “then he will die.”

    While they graft Torres' brain onto Denara's, the Doctor starts to babble and brag a bit, much as we saw in “Heroes and Demons.” It makes a difference when someone sees the things you do as an accomplishment of your own instead of the product of a programme functioning properly. Holo-Denara is anxious to keep enjoying her new body, and it doesn't take long before the Doctor realises they can take a trip to the Chez Sandrines.

    Therein, Kenneth Biller manages to create a holographic French alien so fucking annoying, that Neelix' introduction to the episode seems absolutely charming by comparison. Interesting technique.

    EMH: I apologise.
    DENARA: No. They were just being nice.
    EMH: Irritating, isn't it?

    ha. The conversation continues, and Picardo strikes the right balance between being somewhat clueless, droll, sarcastic, kind and generally hilarious. Anyway, it turns out the Doctor doesn't know how to dance, as this was obviously not part of his programming, magnificent though it is. And there's that pesky lack of name issue, too. Denara decides she may as well give him one, “Schmullus,” I assume because “Zoidberg” is under copyright. Actually, the name refers to an uncle who made her laugh. The Doctor's names so far say a lot about who he is/will become: Schweitzer was a medical doctor who had an especial affinity for solitude, cats and music. As Jammer mentioned in his review, the interaction between these two can best be described as “cute.”

    Act 3 : **.5, 17%

    Back to the B plot, and we find Chakotay in the Mess Hall holding a cup of coffee, sauntering up to Paris and striking his best tough-love-dad pose. We all know from “Learning Curve” that Chakotay's first instinct is to deck him right there, but he holds back for now. Instead, he takes the Dr Phil approach and asks Tom what's been troubling him. Paris responds by making a big scene, accusing Chakotay of being...erm, Jellico-ish, maybe? It's all a little vague, and Tom seems more than a little unhinged. We take a moment to note that Jonas is still relaying the goings-on to Seska's aide: “So that guy who went so fast he broke space time, turned into a newt and impregnated the captain, well you're not going to believe this but he TALKED BACK to Chakotay! Crazy...” Anyway, the aide finally has some instructions of his own, as he wants Jonas to perform a specific sabotage, but Jonas isn't going to play ball until he gets to talk to Seska directly. He's paying for premium content on his Pregnant Cardassian Hotties OnlyFans account, damn it.

    Meanwhile, Dr Schmollusc or whatever is performing a self-diagnostic, in the vein of our favourite android. It seems his interactions with Denara are causing malfunctions of a sort, symptoms of his obvious attraction to her. So here's the thing about the EMH v. Data: Data's limitations—his appearance, difficulty with human behaviour, lack of emotion, etc.--make it easier for humanoids to discriminate against him (“Pinocchio's strings are cut”). The EMH on the other hand appears fully human and his programming allows him to pick up human(oid) behaviours and additional skills so easily that he quickly surpasses his peers, and yet he *still* is a victim of discrimination. Why? While Data's journey is more interesting on a sci-fi level, learning what it is to be human without the ability to feel victories or defeats, the Doctor's is more interesting on a sociological level. It doesn't matter if he can learn to sing and dance and perform brain surgery, everyone *knows* that he isn't human, and so they can treat him as sub-human. This is a topic which we will obviously revisit, especially in the late seasons of the series, but for now, I think it's important to recognise why an emergency medical programme would allow for romantic feelings to cause such distractions that they impede his ability to perform medicine (he's dropping things, etc). Remember that the Doctor noted to Kes that his programme was more complex and sophisticated than the average humanoid brain pattern, which is why Denara's mind is able to be housed in a holographic body. The Doctor expresses pride, frustration, envy, ennui, curiosity...all products of the complexity which allow him to behave “as if he were” a real person. The only thing which separates him from us in this sense is the knowledge that he “isn't” one. Why shouldn't romantic feelings be a part of that collection of human adaptations?

    EMH: Because I don't like what's happening to me. I'm used to being in control of my faculties, confident of my decisions...Why would people seek out situations which induce such unpleasant symptoms?
    KES: Because when the other person feels the same way you do, it's the most wonderful thing in life.

    Kes determines that the only course of action is to behave, again, as “if he were” a real person. So, while the trio are performing more brain surgery, he drops the bomb on Denara ungraciously. Given his, what shall we call it...autistic approach to this reveal, Denara rebukes him and they carry on with the delicate procedure.

    Well, this requires a visit to the l-o-v-e doctor, Lieutenant Flyboy McChlamydia himself, who's enjoying a beer at Sandrines, conveniently.

    EMH: Mister Paris, I assume you've had a great deal of experience being rejected by women.

    This would explain a few things. Paris' advice is...fine. It's kind of trite and predictable without a lot of insight into his own character or anything particularly interesting to say. It's just rote romcom dialogue.

    Speaking of romcom, we get the female side of things (TROPE, take a drink) as Kes confronts Denara over her own feelings. What works a little better here is the fact that we tie Denara's own attraction to the Doctor into her history of ostracisation, and the camera pans over to the sickly body still rotting away on the surgical bed. Kes and Paris both encourage their counterparts to have a date, you know, that thing people did in the 90s, or so I've read. Romcom tropes away!

    Act 4 : ***, 17%

    The Doctor makes a personal log, the inaugural entry in fact. He reports that Paris and Kes have conspired to provide them an appropriate setting for their date. They're goin' to Mars, dude. Actually, I think getting stoned would do these two a world of good. In lieu of that, the Doctor showers Denara with an armful of clichéd gifts, puts on the music and reports that he's made a large addition to his programme...if you know what I mean...he can dance now [wink]. The actors manage to elevate the somewhat unimaginative plot elements and portray a charmingly convincing mood overall.

    The Love Doctor meanwhile arrives late on the bridge to find that Chakotay has taken him out of the crew rotations. Well, this leads to Paris actually shoving Chakotay to the floor in frustration, landing him in the brig. Eek. Jonas eagerly reports this on his webcam, finally being allowed to communicate directly with Seska. And off come the pants...things quickly go from sexy to ominous, however:

    SESKA : I have no intention of raising my child on a Kazon ship. One way or another, I'm going to take the Voyager. You can either help me, or you can suffer along with Janeway and the others!

    She repeats the instructions about how to sabotage the ship, name drops a planet called, um, Hæmorrhoid IV or something. Then I assume she starts unzipping her bra...

    The Doctor voice-overs that he's pleased with how his relationship is progressing and that he's looking forward to continuing this experiment after Denara's brain is put back into her body. But the process doesn't seem to be working properly. Uh oh.

    Act 5 : ***.5, 17%

    Further examination suggests that someone sabotaged the procedure.

    EMH: I can only conclude that someone is deliberately trying to kill Denara.
    KES: Who would want to kill her?
    EMH: Perhaps someone who bears ill will towards Vidiians. Whoever it is, I intend to find out.

    Well, the assassination mystery ends abruptly as Denara confesses to having administered the sabotaging drug herself. We quickly learn that Denara has her own death wish; that's two guests of the week in a row! I told you this was a dark show.

    While the EMH may have adapted to have the same feelings and desires as human beings, one advantage afforded to him by virtue of being a holographic doctor is that he isn't limited by natural superficial tendencies that govern human sexuality. He feels no disgust towards Denara because he has no instinctive drive to fuck. We humans have to develop deep, complex empathy for our partners before we're able to act above our carnal desires, but the Doctor is already there.

    EMH: Denara, I was never afraid to touch you.
    DENARA: Why? Because you're a doctor?
    EMH: Because I love you.

    He realises that the experience has been as radically transformative for him as her holo-body was for her, and pleads that she not throw her life away. We end with the heartfelt image of the two (Denara back in her real body) dancing in firelight of Sandrines.

    Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%

    This is an episode that is more than the sum of its parts. Those parts are all very adequate; the development of the Doctor is sensible; the POV with the Vidiians is sort of interesting; the continuity with Torres and Paris and Chakotay is logical; the plot is very subdued but with a reasonable arc; the music is a touch more inventive that the usual wallpaper; and the romance is handled with enough restraint to be believable. What really sells it are the performances which manage to convert occasional triteness into cuteness and usually manage to sidestep the trappings of the tropes they're exploring to be genuinely touching or amusing as the moment demands. As will become a pattern on Voyager, this story is something that probably would have worked better as a plot thread sprinkled throughout the season instead of condensed into a single episode. In TOS and often on TNG, the hyper focus of the episodic format meant we explored an issue to its core. If this story had taken that approach with the sociological factors and human questions for the Doctor, we wouldn't have had any time for the humour that makes the show entertaining. So it's a trade, and the end result is a charming little story that gently taps open several doors but never completely takes off.

    Final Score : ***

    "... Pregnant Cardassian Hotties OnlyFans account, damn it".

    Elliot, you just brightened my day 100% with that comment.

    A pretty weak episode. First the conflict between Paris and Chakotay was cheesey and contrived. For it to be believable we need to see what Paris is doing that is causing him to be late. We need to see legit reasons for Paris to be upset with Chakotay...not just because he's "a rebel without a cause".

    Then there is the horrid relationship. Relationships just don't work on Star Trek and I wish the producers would ban them. They are boring, slow-paced and ego-centric. In this case we're supposed to believe an EMH that constantly tells us he can't do X because he's not programmed, but will romantically fall in love? The plot itself is static and simplistic. It's basically girl is sick and can choose between a shorter life without the disease or a longer life with a disease. That's pretty much it...for almost the ENTIRE episode with no significant twists or turns. What a snoozer.

    The romance is insufferable...the doctor and Vidiian like each other...just because. They work to make each other feel special which brings tone down and makes the episode feel one-dimensional and formulaic.

    Per chance i just rewatched this episode and somehow i was thinking about our current pandemic.

    The scene in the "Bistro" where the vidian women talks about how their society avoids social gatherings to not spread the disease that is threathening her people.

    Very scary, to think about how bad it would be if this would be a permanent thing.

    John said:

    "Crying? Seriously? The Doctor programmed the woman's holographic body to shed tears? That's.......interesting. "

    As the initial creation scene demonstrated, Denara's hologram physiology was literally built from from the onside out.


    I just rewatched this episode after listening to the Delta Flyers podcast rewatch, and they also mentioned the relevance to our times of the line about avoiding public gatherings due to it being a threat to public health.

    But rewatching the episode, the exchange between Denara and the Doctor continued. The Doctor acknowledges that this is a reasonable policy (nevermind that this disease has continued for hundreds of years; imagine if we were still isolating large amounts of the population due to a disease around since the 1600s), but Denara seems to disagree! That in the Vidiians' laser-like focus on remaining alive, perhaps they have forgotten how to live.

    I believe this line is also relevant, as if she can wonder that, even when dealing with a disease that causes horrible disfiguration and requires constant skin grafts and organ transplants, shouldn't we also wonder that in our day, dealing with diseases far less virulent and deadly? (Cough, cough, COVID.)

    One does have to suspend a great deal of disbelief to even accept The Doctor as so human but this is one of those times where Voyager makes it worth our while.

    Star Trek has a tendency to do romance with characters who never escape their technobabble (Geordi) and pair them with people with whom they have no chemistry (anybody with Geordi). Inevitably you don’t care.

    The Doctor and Denora are a believable match and the what could be more low tech and relatable than fumbling through an awkward date in a parked car —- on Mars. It’s perfect!

    I agree with Jammer and most other commenters; this is a very strong, often charming episode.

    I think only two things mar it: the Kazon subplot (the Kazon mar everything), and a failure to explain why the Doctor has developed these "romantic" or "sexual" feelings. A simple line of dialogue would have explained this ("Oh no, I inadvertently posses all the longings, preferences and desires of the doctor whose personality my own was based on!"), and its absence leaves the episode rather stupid.

    We haven't established whether or not the Doc is sentient, has a holographic version of biology, has subjective experiences, a sense of self, sexual drives etc, and already we're being asked to accept him as a guy in love? It's too implausible, especially this early in the show.

    Note that even when Data was banging fellow crewmen, the guy remained almost psychotic; he had a lack of interest in the opposite sex, even when intimately attuned to their needs. Those Data episodes were as charming and cutesy as Voyager's "Lifesigns", but also very dark and rather scary, Data like an empty black hole who robotically bounces from one love algorithm to another.

    Indeed, watching Data was like watching a guy suffering depersonalization disorder (or rather freed from the delusions of the ego and personal selfhood, as some neuroscientists would argue). He was like a machine trapped in the Chinese Room dilemma - a machine who doesn't understand the content of what it does or says, and yet is adept at convincingly doing or saying - if the Room applied exclusively to emotion.

    So "Lifesigns" is biting off big themes, probably the biggest themes which humans have ever wrestled with, and doesn't really go anywhere with them. It remains trapped on the level of light romance, which is fine - because the Doc is cute, and the guest actress is one of Trek's best love interests - just a bit superficial.

    DENARA: All this talk about me. There's still so much I'd like to know about you.
    EMH: There's not much to tell, really. My program was developed by Doctor Louis Zimmerman in a lab on Jupiter Station. I was activated on stardate 48308. Since that time I've performed three hundred and forty-seven medical exams, healed eleven compound fractures, performed three appendectomies, and in my greatest feat of medical prowess, I once cured Mister Neelix of an acute case of the hiccups.

    Three appendectomies? That seems like a lot in a few months on a starship manned by ~150.

    Maybe Nelix's food really is that dangerous.

    I really didn't like this episode. What is it with Star Trek trying to give the Doctor romantic feelings?

    That said, I like Denara's character-it makes her race something more than baddies.

    I do find the doctor's medical prowess a little suspect here though. It has been established that the Vidians have better medical tech than Starfleet, and with Denara actually being a doctor, she should have been the one to operate on herself. (The doctor's converting her brain to a holograms is ok, but have her do the procedures, and teach the doctor a thing or two. This actually might help his character growth as he is arrogant

    @Cody Haha-I didn't catch that.
    @Trent Romantic feelings doesn't always mean sexual. I don't know how you guys court, but I don't think it is supposed to be implied that the doctor was fornicating with Denara
    @Jaxon The crying makes sense to me. The Doctor didn't specifically add tears, but he did copy her DNA. If I suspend my disbelief that this kind of thing is even possible, it would make sense that all of the girl's biology would be automatically included.

    Like I said before, I watch these shows every few years, and I forget about most episodes within maybe a month of watching them. I was shocked that I commented on this episode earlier! I don't remember much (if any) of it.

    I do remember the traitor contacting Seska, but I have no idea where the Tom Paris story arc is going (unless the Capt, Chakotay and Paris are doing this to catch the traitor)

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