Star Trek: Voyager


1.5 stars

Air date: 2/19/1997
Teleplay by Joe Menosky
Story by Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Alex Singer

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Everyone seems to be treating me like I'm still a child. I'm three years old now. If I'm attracted to someone it's my business, not the whole ship's." — Kes

Nutshell: Sparsely amusing but mostly just rambling and pointless. Near-zero substance.

"Darkling" is about as superficial as they come, but unlike the also-shallow "Blood Fever," there's no reason for any of the events here to happen, nor the possibility of consequences to emerge from any of the characters' actions. Things simply happen because the writers apparently thought they would be "fun." Whether that's intended fun for them, for us, or for the actors I'm not really sure, but I am sure about one thing: You can't base an entire episode on one silly (and I do mean silly) concept lacking all dramatic relevance and expect it to sustain an hour.

There's not really a story here—it's simply a premise that can be explained in a single sentence, which is then used for wackily glib characterization: Doc tries to expand his personality by using data from holodeck characters, but when his program malfunctions, an "evil" personality emerges and terrorizes Kes.

Mired in here is a theme about Kes reaching a "crossroads" in her life (she has fallen in love with this week's friendly, all-too-human alien and considers leaving the ship to pursue a relationship)—a storyline that doesn't have nearly the genuine emotional sense or time devoted to it that it demands. There's also a "mystery investigation" plot angle when Kes' new boyfriend (Lee Smith) is injured after being pushed off a cliff by a shady character in a hood.

Well, no points for guessing that it was Evil Doc that assaulted him—if, for no other reason, because the previews gave away that Doc was going to be a bad guy this week. (Although, more amusing is the hypothetical situation that this hooded character is really a jealous Neelix stalking his ex-girlfriend.)

Speaking of Neelix and Kes, "Darkling" finally confirms that the confusing "breakup" in "Warlord" was actually not a side effect of the alien possession of Kes' body. In retrospect, the handling of the whole idea is poor; then again, I really don't care, because it also means I don't have to sit through any more silly scenes between the two characters.

The episode follows by-the-numbers plotting as Doc switches between Jekyll and Hyde while his program malfunctions for reasons Torres can naturally explain with her technical prowess. (The Hyde, if I may say so, is Doctor Hyde—quite handy with the hypo-spray, to which Torres can later attest.) There are some surprisingly amusing, mildly macabre moments within the confines of the script's banality, as Evil Doc cripples Torres with some creative uses of sickbay drugs. And the episode's best scene features Evil Doc's trek from the sickbay to the holodeck—simply allowing us to watch his quiet, repressed insanity in the everyday situations of walking down the corridor and riding in the turbolift. Paul Baillargeon's ominous score sets the mood wonderfully.

Unfortunately, this idea doesn't have far to go. It doesn't take long before the mild amusement of Evil Doc's unstable mindset begins to run out of steam, and we're then treated to the standard plot device of his kidnapping Kes. Evil Doc beams himself and Kes down to the planet surface to await transport off the world for motives that are never clear. There are indications that Evil Doc feels compelled to "protect" Kes from something, but Menosky's script never bothers to explain why.

I don't have as much problem with the pedestrian plot as I do with the fact that every idea within it contains virtually zero substance. Just about everything Evil Doc does and says is meaningless. None of the dialog reveals any relevant character insight or theme. And don't even try to label the scene in Byron's bar where Kes and the Doctor discuss the benefits of "good" as decent writing or character depth. It's not. It's a pretentious smattering of false positive emphasis, as if a pile of "Roddenberry values" were stacked next to a barrel of TNT and left to explode onto the television screen. (One of my friends sarcastically commented that, by coincidence, his next psychology paper was concentrating on the exact topics Kes was discussing. I wished him good luck.)

Likewise, if we're supposed to take Kes' character arc seriously, then there needs to be a point to it. We all know she won't leave the ship anyway, so unless the writers devote some time to analyzing what Kes' options are and the relevant benefits and regrets each would bring, there's really no reason to bring it up. Unfortunately, this story is ultimately not about Kes. Once the writers introduce the topic of her dilemma, it's quickly abandoned in favor of the "crew member behaves erratically" paradigm. Kes' problem is short-changed to the point we don't care; all that remains are its uses in the plot machinations and a standard tack-on in the episode's coda explaining "why" she has decided to remain on board Voyager. Not good, folks.

The ending contains a nifty special effect: when Doc throws himself and Kes off a cliff, Voyager beams them up as they're falling to their doom. Unfortunately, this fresh visual hardly justifies the rest of the hour. The implications of Evil Doc's final actions sums up just how unfocused the entire show is. It tries to be "fun," yet it contradicts any possible theme of Evil Doc trying to "protect" Kes.

Menosky seems to enjoy episodes where characters act outside the normal range of reality (TNG's "Masks" and DS9's "Dramatis Personae" come to mind). But with "Darkling," Braga and Menosky have nothing substantial upon which to form any fresh ideas. Menosky's use of "evil" as a theme is merely perfunctory. The result is a story that rambles with no discernible direction. Doc's interactions with the crew are limited, missing opportunities that could've been interesting. And the few times his personality does switch between Jekyll and Hyde aren't used for any dramatic effect but simply for the convenience of the plot.

The overall product seems to be little more than an excuse to give Picardo some varied "acting" scenes, some of which work nicely, others which fall flat. Sure, Picardo may have had fun, but that's not much of a rationale for an episode.

"Darkling" is watchable, but nothing more.

Previous episode: Unity
Next episode: Rise

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80 comments on this post

Sun, Dec 23, 2007, 12:56pm (UTC -6)
The Mikal race or whatever they're named look exactly like Bajorans, did they run out of ridged foreheads and had to reuse ridged noses?

Also it's too bad they didn't film Neelix getting heartbroken or something with Kes breaking up.
Fri, Feb 20, 2009, 11:21pm (UTC -6)
Another holographic malfunction?

Brannon Braga is the Adam Dunn of Trek - he either hits a home run or strikes out looking.
Mon, Oct 31, 2011, 4:43pm (UTC -6)
"We all know she won't leave the ship anyway, "


I think you're underestimating this one, Jammer. I see very clearly here the continuing development of Kes into a character who has to leave the ship in "The Gift." She is no longer the child that Doc or the rest of the crew want to see her as--in Ocampa terms, she has aged almost 30 years since "Caretaker"--that's a lot of growth to portray, and Lien does it wonderfully.

You're going out of your way to take every little detail of the scripts and blow them out of proportion as to make them into clichés--Kes doesn't "fall in love with" the traveller character--she's just attracted to him--it's reasonable and understated--as is her overly defensive attitude--she is establishing her adult identity against her mentors as much as she is being swept away with emotional intrigue.

Voyager's multi-episode/season arcs are confined almost exclusively to characterisation. Because of that fact, you've lost, it seems, all faith in the series developing over time. Will we see these aliens again? Nope. Do I care? Nope. The character ramifications will extend through until "Fury" however, 3 years later.

The Doc side of the script was hardly deep, but it was relevant to his ongoing self-improvement and very, very entertaining given Picardo's delivery--the early scene with Torres in the sickbay where he's suggestively asking if she feels "good" is a scream.

Regarding the so-called TNT/"good" debate at which you scoff: you label it "pretentious" without explaining why. Your criticism smacks of classic 20-something hip pessimism which demands one role one's eyes at the very notion of altruism or social evolution. Grit and evil seem to automatically provide one with more compelling characterisations. This is an assumption you frequently take at face value in your reviews without bother to explain why. It's lazy and I don't accept it. I'm not saying that the conversation was extraordinary, but your dismissal seems rooted in personal beliefs about right and wrong rather than an objective review of the dialogue.
Thu, Dec 15, 2011, 12:54am (UTC -6)
Yeah, what Elliott said. This wasn't a classic but 1.5 stars? It's 2 or 2.5 anyway, just for Picardo diving into the evil doctor persona.
Fri, Mar 23, 2012, 11:08pm (UTC -6)
Love Picardo's "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde" performance!
Sun, Apr 1, 2012, 12:35am (UTC -6)
I almost completely agree with this review. This is an awful episode. The Kes story is boring and the "Evil Doc" story is preposterous. The only thing that makes it watchable is Picardo's performance. That, however, is not reason enough to watch. This is one to avoid. Voyager's worst since "Threshold."

@Elliot, virtually all of your posts smack of pedantry, egoism and yes, pretentiousnes. Stop trying to impress everyone with your Trekkier-than-thou analyses.
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 12:51am (UTC -6)
@ Justin :

This is at least the 4th time you've accused me of being pedantic on this site. I think that you mean to imply I only respect an episode of Trek if it glorifies so-called Roddenberrian ideals. Well, this is untrue; if I complain about the subject it's usually because something in the episode challenges those ideals in a stupid and unconvincing way AND is either ignored or praised by the review.

I do not think very much of this episode, but it's not as bad as Jammer makes it out to be. A portion the review concerns itself with a feeling of pessimism and peevishness against admittedly, half-assed arguments about altruism. The alliteration was unintentional.
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 5:01pm (UTC -6)
No Elliott, I mean that you are pedantic in almost every sense of the word. Let's examine it, shall we?

A "pedant" as described by

1. a person who makes an excessive or inappropriate display of learning.

2. a person who overemphasizes rules or minor details.

3. a person who adheres rigidly to book knowledge without regard to common sense.

OK, so we're both clearly guilty of #1, but in regards to #'s 2 and 3:

*You show varying degrees of contempt for any episode of DS9 that even slightly strays from your view of the "Roddenberrian Ideal" (and some that probably don't).

*You counter criticism of VOY when it clearly deserves it. See your above comments.

*You insist on the correct usage of the word, "premise" and refuse to accept popular usage.

*You use umlauts in words that have two vowels in a row like "coöperate" and "coëxist"

Now all that may make it seem like I think you're a total jackass. Not at all. I think you're a good guy, but like Dr. Noonien Soong you are often wrong.
Tue, Apr 24, 2012, 9:47pm (UTC -6)
I show contempt, even hostile contempt for stupidity. Voyager has lots of stupidity as do all the incarnations of Trek. Strangely enough DS9 rarely show as much ineptitude except when it comes to arguing those Roddenberrian ideals and religion, two of the three aspects of the show which set it apart (the other being the serialisation, at which it excelled). That is why my hostile DS9 comments tend to focus on those points. Truly. I think BSG was a wonderfully crafted show which did everything well DS9 attempted including arguing those ideals well. Though the ending was surprisingly utopic... Let me repeat; this was not a good episode, but some of the criticism in the review I think are unwarranted. I don't think that's "overemphasising minor details". Just the opposite in fact. Here's some pedantry for you: they are called umlauts in German (voiced around) but in English, they are called diereses. By the time (as a teen) I learned that this was an old fashioned means of writing prefixes to words beginning with vowels, it was a habit I didn't care to break. I'm certain I'm wrong more often than not, which is a fun little paradox, but I try hopefully more often still not to talk out of my ass. For the record, I'm sure you're a nice guy too and should we ever meet in person I bet we'd enjoy overanalysing an episode of trek together.
Sun, Apr 29, 2012, 3:24pm (UTC -6)
A habit you didn't care to break?

Sorry, but I have to call bullshit.

First, let's get it out of the way that "umlaut" *is* in the English dictionary. It's also more commonly used than "diereses," and a far sight less silly sounding. Don't even get me started on "diphthong."

Now, I could see your point in regards to your own handwriting, but to create an umlaut over a vowel you have to use an Alt-Code in Windows or an Accent Code in Mac (or HTML where appropriate). In other words, a lot of extraneous typing.

Therefore, in order to type "coëxist" on a Windows keyboard you'd have to type the following characters (sans dashes):


That seems more like a habit you STUBBORNLY REFUSE to break...
Mon, Apr 30, 2012, 8:17pm (UTC -6)
@ Justin : I use a mac, meaning creating diereses requires hitting 2 buttons, command + u.

And because I'm sure this is a point worth belabouring, an umlaut in german is about the simultaneous creation of two vowel sounds (open e plus the written letter, also open), diereses in english (and spanish, by the way) are used to denote the separation of vowel sounds (yes, the removal of the diphthong), like in the name Chloë (pronounced CLO - EE, not CLO).
Sun, Jun 24, 2012, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
Very entertaining. I've taught English for 35 years, but I have never heard such an impassioned discussion of diction and punctuation. And to think I found it on a Star Trek fan site.
I thought Jammer got it about right. I laughed several times, but not in a good way.
Wed, Sep 26, 2012, 5:07pm (UTC -6)
This episode isn't bad. Don't see why you all keep harping on it.

Also why oh why is there a big debate of punctuation? Isn't language relative and constantly changing? Why does it matter? There's really no "right" answer when it comes to language, just arbitrary rules of the time and place you're in.
Sun, Feb 3, 2013, 1:48pm (UTC -6)
Another wonderfully smarmy a**hole seduces a woman in the Trek universe. Seriously, how is it that so many Trek writers can think that these characters aren't just disgustingly gross?

Let's review. There's the smarmy administrator dude that Deanna Troi falls for in the genetically engineered society. And the massively smarmy secretly telepathic negotiator who rubs her feet. Ewww.

Then there's the smarmy Trill body-jumper that Doctor Crusher--or should I say Doctor Beverly--falls for. So reliant on smarminess is she, in fact, that she can't stay in love with him when he's in the body of a decent-seeming lady.

There's the super-smarmy Vedic dude, who Kira falls in love with. And a second, slightly less smarmy resistance fighter dude she falls in love with after the smarmy Vedic dies. (Who, remarkably, is the same actor who played ANOTHER smarmy dude that Doctor Crusher fell for. But she was under a sort of cosmic spell, so we won't count that one.)

On Voyager, we see Captain Janeway fall for that smarmy holodeck dude whose children she's governess to. And she even seems to almost fall for the smarmy slicked-back hair dude that won't help Voyager blip themselves home on the we're-just-after-a-good-time planet.

Then there's Riker...who's just smarmy every time he's around a woman. I love the man, I do. But introduce him to a female character, and he's like a walking ad for Drakkar Noir.

Can the writers not imagine that a woman can fall head over heels in love with emotionally normal men? Do they all have to seem like bad romance novel heroes?!
Jo Jo Meastro
Mon, Mar 18, 2013, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
I've been quite enjoying season 3 so far and under the surface I see developments which I find very promising, like the hints at meeting the Borg and just in general enjoying the show even if its nothing especailly deep or ground breaking.

However, when I came to this trilogy of such low rated episodes I feared my enjoyment of the show will come screeching to a halt for a while. I've endured it and thankfully it seems I'll now be rewarded with an above average episode as the light at the end of the tunnel.

On this particular episode, it was a bit flat and revolved around a gimmicky one-note premise which only had a handful of note-worthy moments. I think Picardo made much of the material better than it really should be. I can't say I hate the episode, but most of it is forgettable and stretches its already thin premise to the point of collapse.

Thanks to the before mentioned handful of note-worthy moments and Picardos' touches of humour and charm given meritt to a at-best routine routine story...I'd give it a 2/4.
Fri, Jun 14, 2013, 3:21pm (UTC -6)
By Jove, another instance of the comments being far more entertaining than both the episode and Jammer's review (sorry, Jammer!).

@Elliott: The dieresis is used in French, not Spanish.
Fri, Jun 14, 2013, 3:46pm (UTC -6)
@Michael: in English, the diæresis, in French, la tréma, in Spanish, diéresis. All are functionally and orthographically identical. Sp: vergüenza, güiro, etc.
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 1:31pm (UTC -6)
Haha Kristen!

Although I think Vedik Bareil doesn't deserve to be on that sorry list of supposedly irresistible Star Trek love interests.

In this one I did enjoy evil Doc. Perhaps Hyde would be a good name for him? (And Jekyll for his saner counterpart)
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 1:35pm (UTC -6)
Plus I thought the facial and physical expressions of evil doc were excellently done.
Wed, Sep 11, 2013, 3:12pm (UTC -6)
Finally, I agree with Elliott... I think the so-called pointless Kes plot has to be revised in the light of future episodes.

I believe that in fact VOY is perhaps better than any other incarnation of Trek (at least as good as DS9) as far as character growth over the very long term.

It seems that VOY gets judged before its arcs are over... it receives a sarcastic remark in the middle of its arc, whereas the other series (especially one in particular) would at least receive the benefit of the doubt, or credit or praise, or at least judgement would be reserved until the arc was over.
Wed, Dec 25, 2013, 10:21pm (UTC -6)
This was a bad episode. Picardo's portrayal of the evil Doc was actually quite chilling, but the script just wasn't there to bring it home. This could have been one of Trek's better forays into horror, but the writers just phoned this one in.
Tue, Apr 8, 2014, 2:43am (UTC -6)
I think Jammer is quite fair in this review. This episode is really bad from the beginning to the end. I only think that Jammer put too few attention to the ridiculous Kes and Neelix break up. Ok, I understand that Jammer (and many of us) does not care about this couple, and about Neelix in general.

I myself have always found the couple to be really strange and unfitting. However, one thing is to like or dislike characters. Another is to not address importante issues from an episode or a season/show arc. The confirmation that Kes and Neelix broke up in this very odd and poorly handled way a few episodes ago was really surprising. It does not make sense, and desserves a lot more criticism, to have a couple of characters be developed across episodes, to have their love relationship developed and even become central for their characters portrayal, and then have everything changed and relationship abandoned without more dramatic consideration on screen. Not a dialog? Not a tiny moment when we see Neelix's side on this? Breaking up in a scene out of nowhere, in an episode that makes it looks like Kes was just being controled by an alien?

My gosh, this is what I call handling a show really poorly. It does not matter how much I like or dislike Neelix and Kes. It was so poorly done that when Kes started to show atraction for another guy in this episode, I was thinking for a few minutes whether I have missed something, or changed episodes' order. My mind just couldn't recall that scene from "Warlord" to be something serious.

Bad horrible, with the final point to a horribly handled situation. One and a hald stars is more than enough.
Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 11:19am (UTC -6)
I think this episode instantly encapsulates EVERYTHING that is wrong with Voyager.

1. Continuity kicked to the curb by allowing the Warlord break-up to stick. Check. It would have been more interesting if they broke up in THIS episode because she was attracted to someone else.

2. Phoned In Script - Crew members goes crazy is about as pedestrian as it comes.

3. Reset Button - Kes' dilemma and the Doc's actions are swept away at the episode's end. Nothing really happened.

@T'Paul & Elliott - Kes maturing at light speed and starting to look beyond the bough of her ship, the Doctor maturing (and putting in a good performance)... these are all things that happen in spite of the crappy writing!

The Kes grows up arc IS good (although it crashes and burns in Fury), but it's Jennifer Lien that gives it weight... the writers deserve no credit. Kes' growth is ALWAYS sidelined in favor of what the writer's deem a more interesting story. She's possessed in Warlord (huh, that was another crew member goes nuts episode... how long ago was that?), in this one sidelined for the doc acting crazy, in the one where she time travels it's all showing a future that will never happen (that is more interesting than the one we actually get), and in "The Gift" she's sidelined for Seven.

The little glimpses into Kes maturing are things Lien adds to her very limited showing. It's not the writer's developing a fascinating arc for her, it's her doing what she can with crap.
Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 11:23am (UTC -6)
For a while, when it was on, I actually liked VOY better than anything else. I LOVE the characters/performers. We just tend to have them learn the same lessons over and over, or have to watch the writer's prefer to deal with alternate versions of them, some of them got seriously sidelined (Kim/Chakotay) and others feel like they were possessed and nobody noticed (Janeway). Maybe Tieran possessed Janeway at the end of Warlord and nobody noticed. It'd certainly explain a lot of the later seasons.
Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
Eh, I don't know, Robert.

For me, watching Star Trek is like watching opera; half the plots make no sense and storytelling is more a means to an than and end unto itself. With the exception of DS9, stories tended to be vehicles for other artistic enterprises to manifest onscreen. That's one of the reasons Star Trek is so unique in the genre of Sci-Fi. I watch Trek for deep psychological truths, political allegories and myth-building through performances and visual composition.

Hence, your complaint about the writers v. the actors is, in my view, somewhat overstated. If actors can carry a show and convey something meaningful, that means the script enabled them to do so--or at least did not prevent them from doing so. The scrip on its own may not deserve much praise, but as a vehicle for something else, it does its job. As an opera allegory, this is like the libretto. One would never wish to see an opera performed as a straight play. The whole point of the story is to deliver the music, which can be purely entertaining (as in a Rossini opera) or deeply psychological (like a Britten opera) or profoundly mythical (like a Wagner opera) or a combination of the three (like the best Mozart operas). In every case, the libretto (the words, the story) would be judged an inferior piece of drama if not for its musical marriage.

I think the Voyager ethos was in tune (pardon the pun) with this idea. It is possible for me to note all the scripting flaws you and others point out and be no less moved by the content of the series, just as I can be aware of the writing cleverness and cohesion in DS9 and be utterly numb to it artistically.
Thu, Jun 12, 2014, 8:02pm (UTC -6)
You're comparing Voyager to Wagner or Mozart operas? For Wagner, opera was the highest expression of performance and drama - the story, performances, and production at least as important as the music. He wrote the libretto himself for each and every one of his operas.

I'm not really sure what you're trying to say, in any case - Voyager (and, for the most part, no Trek series) is very much a product of mid-90s television, which implies a visual look and production design that isn't especially sophisticated or "artistic". Breaking Bad or True Detective it is not.

Anyway. Voyager isn't Tristan or Götterdämmerung or Parsifal.
Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 9:12am (UTC -6)
@Elliott - As someone who watched all of Voyager I clearly agree with you that I can be aware of these flaws and still enjoy the series (I probably would say that about 80%-85% of episodes did not end with me "wanting my hour back" so to speak).

Still, my issues with the script is just that... would you rather watch Patrick Stewart do "Lonely Among Us" or "Inner Light". He's still Patrick-freaking-Stewart and he'd be captivating reading the yellow pages in a closet on a stool... but I'd still rather watch the "Inner Light".

Take an AMAZING Voyager script, like "Life Line". Sure the Doctor was captivating in "Darkling" but in "Life Line" he got to be captivating AND have a kick ass script.
Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 10:32am (UTC -6)
@Josh :

Please don't assume to lecture me on Wagner. His libretti are often criticised for their lack of poetic cohesion, but he knew exactly the kind of words he needed to write the music which conveyed his ideas. Voyager certainly isn't anywhere near the artistic potency of a Wagner opera (I don't know any television programme which comes remotely close), but the priorities are similar. I would also ask that you not conflate the stylised format of some modern shows or films with artistic content.

@ Robert :
My original point was that if Lien's performance conveys the arc of her character, or Picardo's performance conveys an engrossing idea of a dark persona, the fact that the script has big holes where literary explanations for these things "ought" to be is not relevant. Of course there are better episodes than this! And a better script provides the opportunity for better performances and emotional resonances.

You said the positive things in episodes like this one happen "in spite of the crappy writing," and I'm saying that if the actors made it happen, the scripts allowed them to do so. The writing certainly can sabotage this endeavour by overloading with technobabble explanations or unnatural dialogue.
Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 10:44am (UTC -6)
@Elliott "You said the positive things in episodes like this one happen "in spite of the crappy writing," and I'm saying that if the actors made it happen, the scripts allowed them to do so."

Are you so sure actors can only do things that scripts let them do? The writer's didn't figure out Odo was in love with Kira until they saw Odo react to Kira being in love with Bareil. Rene did that, and there was nothing in t he script that "let him". Actors can accomplish so much with the right look or movement that just isn't in the script.

I guess I feel like Lien's acting HELPED her arc and the script hurt it (mostly). Her acting sells a longing for more and a sense that Kes has grown up. And then the script SLAMS a brick wall in her way so that this can promptly go nowhere.

I will give the script credit in one place. I LOVED the scene where she and Janeway discussed how an explorer (which Kes has always been at heart) might not want to spend all 9 years of her life on one ship. It's a weighty idea, and it's an AMAZING plot point to go with the premise of a character that lives 9 years.

But the script doesn't pay it off. We get

EMH: I'm glad to hear it. I'm also pleased you've decided to remain on board. I would have had my hands full in sickbay without you.
KES: The Captain suggested I consider all the consequences. If I am going through changes in my life, things that are unpredictable, this is the best place for me.

It's a miserable resolution. The fact that Lien manages to sell this episode is a credit to her, not the episode. And canonizing a possession based breakup with Neelix... this script does more wrong by her arc than it does right.
Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 11:35am (UTC -6)
Check out Lien's performance at the end of Warlord when she's reunited with Neelix. There's no tearful hug, rather she looks at him with something like disgust. Then Tuvok tells Kes that her experiences will change her. In this episode, it is confirmed that this led to a confirmation of the break-up. Did we really need it spelled out more deliberately?

Regarding Odo & Kira--the script absolutely left room for a budding romance as Odo was always painted with a deep loneliness. The fact that the writers did not specifically intend it is not the point: Odo's characterisation informed Auberjonois' performance which in turn informed future writing choices.
Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 1:04pm (UTC -6)
"Check out Lien's performance at the end of Warlord when she's reunited with Neelix. There's no tearful hug, rather she looks at him with something like disgust. Then Tuvok tells Kes that her experiences will change her. In this episode, it is confirmed that this led to a confirmation of the break-up. Did we really need it spelled out more deliberately?"

A two and a half year long relationship ends... ya, I needed to see it happen on screen. I also needed to see Odo and Kira have their heart to heart in "You Are Cordially Invited".

This script, to me, dropped the ball on Kes twice. Once to break her up with Neelix and once to have Kes abandon her plans to leave Voyager and to do them BOTH off screen. All you have are brief moments from Lien to sell these things as things that actually happened. And she does the best she can, but the script short changes her.

If you want to agree to disagree, we can. Lien hits the notes for these things to the point where we can believe them enough... she does well for what she has, but she doesn't have much. The script shortchanged her for a massive personality facelift on the Doctor that was fun to watch but reset buttoned. A LOT of important things happened to Kes and she was the B plot.

What did we learn from the Doc? That he cares enough to improve his bedside manner. Good stuff there, and evil Doc was fun to watch. This wasn't a bad episode to spend an hour with per say, but it short changes Lien BADLY in an episode that should be about her.

If you didn't need to see her to decide to stay or break up with Neelix there's nothing left to say. I mean, it's ok if you liked that they glossed over what you considered unnecessary. I was in 10th grade when this episode aired (back when some sadistic person decided to air DS9 and VOY at the same time slot, anyone remember that?!) and I SWEAR I thought I had missed an episode because my brain wanted to know when Neelix and Kes broke up!
Fri, Jun 13, 2014, 1:09pm (UTC -6)
I threw in the bit about Kira/Odo to level the playing field about this kind of conversation. I know you like VOY and I like DS9, but I hate when important character developments occur off screen.

It would have been more interesting coming off Warlord where Kes feels differently about Neelix for them to breakup in this episode after she kisses Zahir and it finalizes her realization that there's more to life than Neelix has to offer.
Fri, Aug 15, 2014, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
I liked this episode simply because of Picardo's performance, but like most Voyager episodes, they didn't know how to write an ending. Doc attempts to murder a member of a new species they just met and burns another in a fireplace, he more or less tortures B'Elanna and holds her captive, he abducts Kes and then attempts to murder her. And despite all this, at the end everyone's just sort of "Welp, glad that's over with" and everyone moves on. What?
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
Much like this season's "Warlord", the energetic performance that makes things more interesting is hit or miss. The difference here is the Doctor's performance started fantastic and slowly devolved into a bad Batman impression whereas Kes's performance ("Warlords") was random. Another interesting aspect of this episode is the Doctor utilizing computer subroutines of known legendary figures in history in an attempt to better himself. Inadvertently it causes their inherent dark tendencies to overwhelm the Doctor to the point where he nearly completely loses himself in the process.

I for one am intrigued at the notion that he would bring it upon himself to even think of delving into such a project. The fact that he does shows some growth as a character; especially seeing as he's programmed as a physician-of-all-related-trades and not as an engineer or programmer. It seems to make sense that their would be some unforeseen consequences on his part.

As for the rest of the plot, it's nothing to write home about. I like the fact that the crew are finding more friends rather than anomalies and cardboard villains. I also liked the Kes part of this story to an extent, although, having a sound byte several episodes ago and a sound byte in this one does NOT equate to good character growth. The Kes/Neelix breakup deserves more and so do the people that are supposed to care about these characters.

Otherwise, there was some nicely realized dialogue between Janeway/Kes and a few genuinely creepy scenes to boot. Except for a couple of isolated moments, however, the last couple of acts slowly flushed away some of the good will it had built up. Which is rather unfortunate. I believe this could have been a much better episode with some substantial reworking. As it is, I'd say it's got some good ideas but failed execution-wise. Par for the course once again.

I'd prefer this over "Warlord".

2.5 stars.
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 11:10am (UTC -6)
You know, this "Kes dumps Neelix" thing kind of ticks me off.

I never have liked this relationship. As I've stated it makes me feel kind of dirty... but Neelix has done NOTHING but love this gal with every fiber of his being... you'd think the writers would dedicated a couple lines, a moment between Kes and Neelix after Warlord to make the split a little more formal and final. Neelix deserves that. We deserve that too. What are we talking here? ... a 2 minute conversation?

Come on.

Jammer, you're right on the money here. As much as I enjoyed the "evil doc", nothing of any substance was derived from the experience.

The Picardo factor and a good performance by Jennifer and Roxann gets 2 stars from me.
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 11:37am (UTC -6)
@Yanks - Watching the series the first time I was POSITIVE they were still together when Darkling aired. And then she's off with someone else and I'm left wondering if I missed an episode. People jab VOY for continuity and whatnot, but I'll shuttle counts, photon torpedo inconsistencies and fluctuating crew manifests are fun to joke about in a nitpicking circle. The majority of us are not ACTUALLY upset about those things. But being sure you missed an episode because a major storyline had changes to it without notifying the viewer is horrifying.
Mon, Aug 17, 2015, 3:27pm (UTC -6)
Yup... don't know how they (what, 3 writers) could have missed this.
Thu, Nov 12, 2015, 10:03am (UTC -6)
Interestingly enough I found Picardo's performace as the evil doctor completely devoid of any humor. It was his darkest performance in the series. The title certainly fits. But Picardo's talents weren't exactly a secret to anyone. The main premise of the story Jammer pretty much summed up. He wanted to expand his personality subroutines and wound up creating a darker side of himself. Entertaining to say the least!

The rest of the episode doesn't really stick in my mind as much regarding this particular race they came across. I guess I didn't find them all that compelling. Not horrible but this is one race I didn't mind not seeing again since I barely remembered them.

I liked Jennifer Lien. I felt she was a gentle soul that Voyager lost when they axed her character. Honestly she showed more potential and interest for me than Ensign "can't-get-a-lock" Kim. (not sure who coined that phrase but it sure fits.) They could have gotten rid of chuckles as well, even more annoying. Kes clearly was showing development. And she turned out to be a more versatile actress as well. Warlord showed us that.

First they get rid of Martha Hackett (still can't believe they didn't know how to integrate Seska, as charismatic as she was). Then Jennifer Lien. Yeah they did bring in Jeri Ryan, who was sexy yet as cold as a borg drone could be. Geez. These writers hate their mothers or something?

Anyways Darkling was bogged down with a lot of things that I was nonplussed by. So it's difficult to give it a high rating. But Picardo really bought it home this episode as the evil doctor. I sure can't give it an epic fail. Not like Threshold or Natural Law. 2 to a weak 2.5 stars is the range I'll settle for.
Fri, Nov 20, 2015, 4:14am (UTC -6)
Kristen, any chance you can elaborate on this, since your comment seems to me to be both unintelligible and man-hating at the same time. You write:

"Another wonderfully smarmy a**hole seduces a woman in the Trek universe."

Why was he an asshole? He was nothing but kind to Kes. What was wrong with him?

"Seriously, how is it that so many Trek writers can think that these characters aren't just disgustingly gross?"

How was he gross?

"Let's review. There's the smarmy administrator dude that Deanna Troi falls for in the genetically engineered society."

What was your problem with him? He was nothing but kind and decent to Troi.

"And the massively smarmy secretly telepathic negotiator who rubs her feet. Ewww."

Okay, yes, he was a con man. That's one point for you.

"Then there's the smarmy Trill body-jumper that Doctor Crusher--or should I say Doctor Beverly--falls for."

What was your problem with him? He was nothing but kind and decent to Crusher.

"So reliant on smarminess is she, in fact, that she can't stay in love with him when he's in the body of a decent-seeming lady."

Um, know that Dr. Crusher isn't a lesbian, right? You do know that your sexual orientation is something you are born with, right? Do I detect a hint of lesbian resentment here? Just asking.

"There's the super-smarmy Vedic dude, who Kira falls in love with."

What is your problem with him? He was nothing but kind and decent to Kira.

"And a second, slightly less smarmy resistance fighter dude she falls in love with after the smarmy Vedic dies."

What was your problem with him? He was nothing but kind and decent to Kira as well.

"(Who, remarkably, is the same actor who played ANOTHER smarmy dude that Doctor Crusher fell for. But she was under a sort of cosmic spell, so we won't count that one.)"

Yeah, Crusher's ghost rapist was pretty "smarmy." That's a second point in your favor.

"On Voyager, we see Captain Janeway fall for that smarmy holodeck dude whose children she's governess to."

What? No we don't. He kisses her and she stops him. Janeway never fell for him in any way. But yeah, he kept his wife locked in the third floor. Not good. Another point for you.

"And she even seems to almost fall for the smarmy slicked-back hair dude that won't help Voyager blip themselves home on the we're-just-after-a-good-time planet."

Okay, yeah, that was another con man. Four points for you.

"Then there's Riker...who's just smarmy every time he's around a woman. I love the man, I do. But introduce him to a female character, and he's like a walking ad for Drakkar Noir."

What the hell are you talking about? Is there even one female whom Riker ever mistreated in any way?

"Can the writers not imagine that a woman can fall head over heels in love with emotionally normal men? Do they all have to seem like bad romance novel heroes?!"

With four exceptions, all the men you listed above are decent men who treated the women in their lives fairly and justly. I have no idea what you're talking about at all. You seem to have some issues with men in general and some resentment towards Dr. Crusher for not being bisexual. I suggest you work on these issues and come out a better person.

P.S. Is "smarmy" like your favorite word of all time?
Wed, Jan 27, 2016, 10:14pm (UTC -6)
Episodes like Darkling really cheated Voyagers good actors out of good story lines
Diamond Dave
Thu, Jan 28, 2016, 3:34pm (UTC -6)
Well colour me the contrarian but I loved this. For the first half it seemed we were getting what I thought was actually quite an interesting exploration of Kes' character. Yes, we could have done with an on screen resolution of the relationship with Neelix but by setting up the prospect of her taking a voyage and reuniting with Voyager later there actually was a realistic prospect of her leaving (at least for a while) so that was something new.

It then jumped off into left field with the Jekyll and Hyde doctor, and Picardo plays this with such verve and malice that I found it difficult to nitpick even when the plot entered some corny territory. Good conclusion with the beam out too. "It's about to get interesting" indeed. 3.5 stars.
Trek Fan
Sat, Apr 9, 2016, 5:24pm (UTC -6)
Great episode. 4 stars. Sorry Jammer, your constant negative reviews of this show are disgusting. Please do not review any future Star Trek content. Thanks.
Sun, May 22, 2016, 6:17pm (UTC -6)
I like Jammers reviews and agree with him most times. As for Kes, why not make her wear a Starfleet uniform where she would feel more part of the crew rather than her present outfit which I find makes her look goofy and unflattering.
Tue, Aug 23, 2016, 3:11pm (UTC -6)
this made no sense. The holodeck computer took over the holographic doctor and made him evil. really?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Mon, Nov 21, 2016, 7:35am (UTC -6)
Trek Fan - Great episode. 4 stars. Sorry Jammer, your constant negative reviews of this show are disgusting. Please do not review any future Star Trek content. Thanks.

Yea Jammer, go back in time 15 years and don't review all future episodes. Also don't create and maintain this website which contains reviews that I have read in order for me to ask you not to review any Star Trek.

Now you may have been Trolling and I have fallen for it, but I have a feeling Trek Fan, that you are simply an idiot.
dave johnson
Mon, Jan 9, 2017, 1:02am (UTC -6)
@Kristen from way back in 2013 re: trek females always going for the slimy guys...

I would suspect the writers are guys who didn't get a lot of women throughout their life. Guys like that usually do the "Im nice and girls don't like me, they always go for the douchebags".... while there sometimes is truth in that, generally speaking it is a complete cop-out and lack of responsibility for how one interacts with the gender they want to court. This seems to come out in the Trek writing especially into DS9 and Voyager... "hot women love lying womanzing guys".......

I can speak this because when i was younger I did that whole whiney "I am a nice guy and girls don't pick me". It took me a while, until I realized the kicker was just to be a guy who was confident talking to women, open, and most of all bold enough to approach and not fear rejection. The slimey guys approach women after women, getting rejected the majority of th time.. however, when they make a connection the illusion is created that they always do.

Anyways, I digress... however, I suspect the writers come from a certain scope and that is why they write their shows where "nice men don't get the girls" They did write Rom to get the girl, although they still made it like a bumbling accident.
Mon, Jan 9, 2017, 12:01pm (UTC -6)
It is a confidence issue for sure. Jerks tend to be among the most confident people and confidence is sexy. Jerkiness is not sexy, but that's not the bit that is attractive. I learned this because I never got hit on until after I was taken. Took me a little while to figure out what changed. It was me.
dave johnson
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 12:52am (UTC -6)
I guess the viewers were the only ones supposed to notice that the Doc's hair was a little messy and his face was looking unhealthy when he was "evil".

You would think the crew should have noticed that.

And, this evil persona.. why would he bother to change his appearance (which would require changes to the program) just to "look evil"

i found that funny
Mon, Jan 23, 2017, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
This show highlights my love hate relationship with holograms on Star Trek. It is pretty clear that holograms can easily become sentient. Literally all you have to do is add some additional sub routines and boost some of their mental attributes. This is shown in Prof Moroarty, the doctor, the holograms that the Hirogen enhance. And yet they ALL very easily turn evil. As a side note it does beg the question: during the dominion war Or borg battles why doesn't the Federation create a fleet of hologram ships?
Mister P.
Sun, Feb 5, 2017, 4:14pm (UTC -6)
There is an understanding in the Trek universe that characters aren't responsible for their actions when under alien control or other circumstances. The characters still typically feel guilt or remorse afterwards. In this episode, the Doctor seems completely uncaring about everything that happened. But in this case, it was HIS FAULT. He went messing around with something he didn't understand and it had almost deadly consequences. Why didn't Janeway give him a huge lecture at the end? Or set up some sort of holographic confinement/restrictions for a while?
Fri, Jun 9, 2017, 9:11pm (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

One of the things I noticed was, and maybe it was just me, Kes was talking in a somewhat lower, huskier tone in this episode. Not quite to the level of when she was possessed, but lower than the higher-pitched voice she normally used. I thought she must have done that on purpose.

She was with Neelix for 2 1/2 years. For her, that's 25% of her normal lifespan. I believe she had a bit of a mid-life crisis. Also, the writers were hopefully trying to (finally) get her to grow.

Kes wasn't wearing the little dress thingy she wore for most of the first 2 1/2 years. Actually, I didn't understand why she wore the same thing all the time anyway. But, while I didn't really notice until a bit later, she seemed to wear at least two different sets of clothes in this one. I was astonished!

Just some musings and have a great day... RT
Thu, Jul 6, 2017, 3:39pm (UTC -6)

You noted:

"He's still Patrick-freaking-Stewart and he'd be captivating reading the yellow pages in a closet on a stool"

Interestingly, I have the whole Narnia series audiobooks read by different British actors like Kenneth Branagh, Lynn Redgrave, Derk Jacobi, and Patrick Stewart, who reads "The Last Battle." And it's horrible. It sort of reminds me of how Sisko says his lines with deep gravitas for every one. It makes the story really plod, while others' versions soar. I agree he's a great actor--but not so much for the reading.
Fri, Jul 28, 2017, 7:49am (UTC -6)
52 comments in and no-one has mentioned the hilarious false teeth and contact lenses Picardo had in to play the "evil" Doc.

This for me is one of those eps that I thought was fine as a kid but now just doesn't stand up. The whole Kes side of the plot is handled clumsily and the ep is schlocky af, not in a good way. I reluctantly have to agree with 1.5 stars.
William B
Wed, Oct 4, 2017, 9:40pm (UTC -6)
So, I read Jammer's review and many of the comments, in particular Elliott's; while his take on Voyager is sometimes controversial, it is usually illuminating. So I sort of agree with Elliott's points about Kes here. I also went back and rewatched the end of Warlord to see that, yes, indeed Kes looks at Neelix with something like disgust. I feel like I got the gist of Warlord as an episode to force Kes to question her assumptions about herself (especially knowing where her story was going) but I was unconvinced by the ending, but I might have to revisit that. Anyway, I feel sort of similarly here. I agree that Kes' having some wanderlust and wanting to get off the ship makes a lot of sense, and the crew's protectiveness toward her -- refusing to let her change, partly because she is (by pure biology) predisposed to change much faster than they are -- also does. Lien does play Kes as significantly older and a little more jaded, and she seems in the early scenes not to be "in love with" that guy (though he at least claims to be in love with her) as seriously considering if Voyager is all that she wants out of the whole rest of her life. So we know SPOILER that she's leaving soon, and so the ending where Kes decides to stay in some ways doesn't even "have to" lead to Kes providing a fully convincing argument. There's a sense in which it's sort of a patch -- a band-aid placed on an open wound, but which really can't be cured until Kes actually lives her own life. Her relative lack of concern about the guy she was going to run off with (I'm not saying she doesn't care about him, but she's not that broken up) tends to show that he was mostly a means to an end, to try to start actually living separately.

And in that sense, I get the sense that Kes is almost humouring the Doctor at the end. Maybe she does believe that the Doctor is concerned about her, and that others' concerns about her are justified. But the Doctor also basically went berserk over the possibility of her leaving. I can't decide whether it's a deliberate omission or not that no one mentions the most likely explanation for the Alternate Evil Doc to insist on kidnapping Kes to prevent her from leaving: he cares about her, she's the best friend he has, and he doesn't want to lose her. The Doctor imagined Kes as his wife in Projections, after all. And I think *maybe* Kes intuits that on some level (I don't mean using psychic powers, but ordinary psychology) and recognizes that she's needed, and, like the nurse she's trained to be, does triage: the Doc goes mad at her leaving, so she stays, and even finds ways to describe it in terms of satisfying her needs, rather than the Doctor's (and, indirectly, the crew's). But it can't last forever.

That read is consistent with the episode but isn't really what I'd call "put forward" by it, so I'm left sort of on the fence about what we actually see. The goofiness of the Hyde persona is pretty heavy and there are lots of ridiculous elements pretty much throughout. The Doc plot reminds me a bit of some of those Data stories on TNG where Data upgrades himself and then some unexpected impact happens (A Fistful of Datas; Phantasms, though admittedly there the "upgrade" was more natural) and it hits some of the same notes; there is something good but also something dangerous about a person who constructs their whole identity from the ground up. And I do like the idea of showing that there is a kind of balance in many "great figures," and that in trying to become a Great Man the Doc starts to both take on their dark sides and also to develop a kind of Nietzschean Ubermensch complex. It's kind of neat, too, that after all the "great men had dark sides" stuff, Kes manages to find evidence of good within the Hyde persona (it's a sort of yin-yang thing, a part of good in evil and a part of evil in good), though it doesn't really work and they have to get beamed up from the cliff.

Anyway, I agree with Jammer about what the episode seems to be doing and maybe with Elliott in what the episode is maybe suggesting for moving the characters around -- and I can't quite decide how to evaluate it. The larger discussion of how much credit to give to the script versus performances is the type of thing I think about, and it's particularly noticeable with Voyager where there often seems to be "text" and "subtext" at odds and it's very hard to tell how aware the various writers were. Anyway. This isn't a good episode but I guess I like it a bit better than Jammer -- 2 stars.
William B
Wed, Oct 4, 2017, 10:09pm (UTC -6)
Oh yeah, on that "is evil more fundamental than good? is good more fundamental than evil?" discussion -- I think I just forgot it even happened, because it kind of seems to be unrelated to the things the episode does (kind of) well. This episode isn't very good generally but it maybe would have been improved by splitting the different plots into different episodes or providing more focus.

I don't want to armchair teleplay write too much, but I think dropping the whole "historical figures" thing and having the Doctor just do some other upgrades to his program that leads to him attempting to murder the person trying to take Kes away, and realizing that this means that he wants her to stay, might have made the emotional content that kinda-sorta works to shine through in an actually believable package. We could even see the Doctor attempting to make the modifications as a displacement exercise because he wants Kes to stay -- and so imagines that if he can change as fast as she does, she won't get bored being his student. I guess the good-evil stuff works a bit with the overall question of selfish/selfless -- Kes and the Doctor both have to weigh their own needs with the ones of those they care about in the episode -- but most of the Great Figures Of History or good/evil stuff are way too far from being related.
Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 3:57am (UTC -6)
Overall I found this a very good episode. Kess had always a special relationship with the Doctor so it is interesting to see what happens when he injects some human vices into his personality. It changes the balances between them and also gives Picardo the chance to have some fun (That elevator scene was funny as well)

I like the way that this episodes tries to define humanity as a source of both good and malice. All these historical figures clearly had a dark side we sometimes pretend to ignore. Still their contribution to society transcends their personal limitations. So it leads to the point of people being essentially good despite their shortcomings. Which is something to appreciate on any ST show

Also after 60 or something episodes it is obvious that they will resolve everything in 40 minutes especially concerning a basic episode. Which makes everything funny because the reviewer is currently against keeping things "muddled" in discovery, while is also against "keeping everything tidy" here.
Tue, Nov 7, 2017, 3:49am (UTC -6)
Diereses and umlauts and opera for god's

The Doc takes certain character traits from various historical figures, and they somehow all blend together and what comes out? An insane serial killer of course.

And at the very beginning of the episode after he molests Torres, he tells the computer to isolate the subroutines and not use them anymore, so why does he still go all mental?

And why does he keep switching from good to evil? It would seem if his program was corrupted it would stay that way, not go from being normal to being messed up to being normal again.

How does the Doc keep transporting back and forth from Voyager to the planet over and over with no one noticing? He beamed down to spy on Kes, then back up, then back down, to push that guy off a cliff, then back up.

And where does this cloak come from? He has it hidden away on the planet and puts it on whenever he beams down I guess. And like "N" mentioned above, what's up with the eyes and teeth? And the messy hair and 5 o'clock shadow? Why would he look different? He would have to alter his program, and if he did, why would he make himself look like a dimwitted crazy person?

Tuvok interviews Nakahn about the attack on Zahir, accusing him of being involved, and Nakahn doesn't mention the crazy guy that showed up that night and stuck his hand in a fire?

KES: Empathy and kindness are basic to all forms of life.

I dispute that. :D

The Doc keeps glitching out because his subroutines are degrading (sigh) and then he flings himself and Kes off the ledge and they are beamed up to Voyager, and he's totally fine. Good thing his subroutines quit affecting him during that precise second it took to transport them or else he may have started shooting people when he got back. Lucky, huh!?!

And I agree with most of the other posters that they totally glossed over Kes' story which is what was actually important in this episode, instead focusing on what was happening to the Doc which was totally meaningless.

The Doc was totally irresponsible, messing with his own systems, and nearly causing the death of several people, but no one cares. At least take his mobile emitter away for awhile as punishment or something. Another case of someone on Voyager endangering lots of people for no good reason, with absolutely no repercussions whatsoever.

I do not like this one.

1/2 star.
Phallic Metaphor
Tue, Mar 27, 2018, 8:20am (UTC -6)
For me this is one of the worst episodes of the first 3 seasons. It just reads as cartoony. We know the doctor is never going to do anything irredeemable and the his alter ego "I am the hidden dark nature people have been to afraid to embrace" is cringe worthy bad. It is what I would write if I was doing a lazy satire. I think Robert Picardo did a good job with what he was given but the premise is laughibly bad.
Wed, Apr 25, 2018, 8:04pm (UTC -6)
This one descends to the depths of "False Profits" from earlier in the season. Totally pointless, ridiculous and without focus. Until Evil Doc pushes Kes's love interest off a cliff, this episode really seemed to be about Kes and her potential transition. A potentially decent romance started to build up and she has a good conversation about it with Janeway, but then it all goes south quickly.

When you get used to Picardo acting a certain way for Doc, it gets difficult to tolerate him trying to do something completely different. (This is the case with "Warhead" in S5 as well.) Maybe this is a weakness with Picardo as an actor. I think he's one of the better actors on VOY and Doc is one of the series best characters.

So there's something about all these historical figures having a dark side and it showing up in Evil Doc. But what his purpose is -- not clear. He has some kind of feelings for Kes, keeping her as a hostage, but this doesn't really get expressed clearly. Basically, we don't get anything concrete about Doc's character other than some resentment feelings about being on call or something unimportant.

While the plot is razor thin, the ending resolution leaves a ton to be desired: So Evil Doc/Kes get transported as they're falling and then Doc is back to normal! How?? And then Kes just decides to stay with Voyager -- doesn't the episode at least deserve a final scene between her and new boyfriend after the investment made earlier in the episode?

Barely 1.5 stars for "Darkling" -- poorly conceived and executed. I wasn't a fan of the Evil Doc character whose purpose was unclear. Thought Kes was good in this one, but her story wasn't going to be fleshed out here due to a lot of Doc silliness. The good/evil personas has been done far more effectively in Trek. This episode didn't try to make any kind of reasonable statement.
Fri, Sep 7, 2018, 8:45am (UTC -6)
Good performance by Picardo, though the ep was a bit boring.

Disagree that Doc's journey was pointless. He learned a lot about the duality of human nature. It was interesting that he merrily incorporated parts of others into his own personality without realizing it wasn't that simple. This was not coincidentally placed in a ep that was also about Kes's growth as an individual - away from Neelix, away from Doc, away from Tuvok, and ultimately, away from her new found lover.

When we grow, we learn from those around us, we incorporate modes of thought and behavior from others, we sometimes directly imitate them, but we must ultimately become ourselves, unique.

So that parallel is being drawn here.

Voyager doesn't get nearly the credit it deserves in general, IMO. A solid ep, if a bit plodding.
Sean Hagins
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 12:27pm (UTC -6)
I for one loved this episode! It was fun seeing Robert Picardo play the villian. No one mentioned this, but I think the Doctor has some feelings for Kes, and with that pyscho Lord Byron added to the mix, he became posessive.

I don't understand why so many people didn't like Kes' relationship with Neelix. I hoped they would get married in the show. I really don't like the way they changed Kes' character as time went on
Dave in MN
Fri, Oct 12, 2018, 6:31pm (UTC -6)
Lord Byron was "crazy"?

You are literally the first person I've ever heard say that.
Sun, May 26, 2019, 1:49pm (UTC -6)
Excuse me, I do not know this show well. I'm a physics student and an American friend showed it to me thinking that I would like it, but I found this one episode so infuriating that I had to find somewhere to speak about it. At the beginning, the alien man spoke about something "so large" that it generated it's own gravity, with the implication that only something very large exerts gravitational force, but any massive thing has gravity, from an atom to an elephant to a planet! Gravity can be calculated between two objects with Newton's law of universal gravitation in most circumstances inside of a solar system, F = G m1m2/r^2, with G being Newton's constant, m being the masses of either object and r being the distance between them. Try it for yourself and the Earth, the moon or even Mars and you will find that you exert gravity on these objects even though you are small.

Newton's law is not strictly correct, it is an approximation for when space time is only lightly curved, that is situations when objects are extremely massive (or energetic, they are equivalent) or things are moving at relativistic speed. For this you can use the Einstein Field Equation.

What a silly program, children should not watch it, I will never do so either!
Sun, May 26, 2019, 4:38pm (UTC -6)
A rugged pilot is sitting in a bar, telling tall tales about a monster of planetary size, and you find the fact that his story doesn't conform to Newton's laws infuriating?

I'll be the first to admit that Star Trek occasionally makes scientific errors (just like any other sci fi series) but the example you've chosen to complain about is a complete non-issue.
Sun, Nov 10, 2019, 5:58pm (UTC -6)
That was the first time I read all of the comments section. And after umlauts, opera and Newton, all I have to say is: GOOD GOD GIRL GET A GRIP
Wed, Apr 22, 2020, 8:26am (UTC -6)
Some of the discussion earlier in the comments, particularly from Elliott, has helped me realize why I'm enjoying Voyager more on my current re-watch than I have in the past. It's because I appreciate the characters more this time around, and even when we get a weak plot, if a character has a good outing, it makes up for a lot.

Darkling is not a particularly original episode. It's another "main character turns evil" variation. We had "evil Tuvok" back in "Meld", "evil Kes" in "Warlord" and now "evil Doctor" in Darkling. Picardo really goes for it as evil Doc, changing his whole physical performance as well as his voice and persona, and it's a fun performance, if admittedly uncomfortable to watch given that his victims are mainly female members of the crew.

But it's Kes who benefits the most from this episode. She's definitely being allowed to grow up a bit here, both in how she dresses (I feel like Seven of Nine would raid her closet for those form fitting outfits!) and in the way she considers other options beyond Voyager for her life. He friends, her almost parental figures, all offer advice and look out for her (I particularly enjoy the scene where Tuvok questions her love interest about his intentions) but in the end have to admit that the decision is hers. She seems to be about the equivalent of someone college age here, rapidly growing up and looking at the real world and trying to decide how to proceed. It's a good episode for the character, better than I realized, and given that we know she would leave the series soon, it's good to see that Lien got a few strong episodes for Kes before she was gone.
Sarjenka's Brother
Wed, May 6, 2020, 10:49pm (UTC -6)
I found myself squarely in the middle on this one. I enjoyed it better than the detractors. But I can't say I loved it either.

I'm still trying to figure out Gandhi's "dark" side, though.
Top Hat
Thu, May 7, 2020, 8:06am (UTC -6)
Far out of my area of knowledge but has been a case made that Gandhi's legend has far outstripped his reality. Here's a Christopher Hitchens piece on the topic:
Thu, May 7, 2020, 9:10am (UTC -6)
Very educational article - not so much with respect to Gandhi (who I knew was no saint) but in helping me understand why Hitchens is now a poster child of the far right. Using anything remotely un-Western about his culture against him, calling Gandhi a 'fakir' as if all eastern religions were the same, total rejection and ignorance of any form of spirituality as opposed to established (Western) religion, and throwing in surprisingly unsubtle praise of materialism and colonialism wherever possible. If I hadn't known it was written in 2011 I would not have been surprised to be told it was a 1950s piece.
Sun, Jul 19, 2020, 5:08am (UTC -6)
The don't look exactly like Bajorans....
They have silver spray paint on the tops of their lil nose ridges.
Sun, Feb 28, 2021, 10:56am (UTC -6)
I too found this episode inconsequential, but I didn't find it horrible as a stand-alone. It makes no sense that the doctor would wreak this much havoc to an alien species but there were no consequences discussed. No one even raised the notion that he should be blocked from modifying his own program in the future, just that he "shouldn't do it". Torres warns him briskly in the beginning after he is violating her medical boundaries, but he doesn't heed the warning, and there's no further investigation. If a flesh and blood crew member did all that, there would be hell to pay.

Like all of VOY, the writers don't go deep enough into the realities they are creating. Actors are supposed to be embody character roles, which gives them an insider view of that character like a living, breathing being. The writers never seemed to do this. The characters were more about the selfish projections of the writers than any attempt to breathe deep life into them.

That said, this episode wasn't THAT bad. Picardo did a good job as the two-sided doctor. The alien species were interesting in concept. Too bad that, for such a far flung race, we'll never encounter them again in the series. We also never find out exactly just what information they give the Voyager crew. At least with 7of9 and astrometrics, we see illustrations of course plots.

This series had so much potential and episodes like this make me remember why I was ultimately disappointed by it all. They really should've made Ronald Moore the chief producer.
Thu, Mar 25, 2021, 5:38pm (UTC -6)
ugghhhhhh this show

Picardo is wasted on this show. Wish he had been able to be on some TNG. At least he got a DS9 cameo.

Once again its a mess of a show with too many random ideas that only gives surface level attention to all of them
Sun, Oct 10, 2021, 9:17am (UTC -6)
There's a whole subgenre of old science fiction novels in which travellers journey across rustic alien planets, with their Medieval-like taverns, and glittering moons, and romantic, wind-swept fields, and strange beasts with strange names, and homey bars where locals mingle with space pilots, smugglers and star merchants.

Usually the lead character is some woman with burgeoning powers. Usually there's some sexy hunk with his unbuttoned shirt displaying his mighty chest. Usually on the book's cover is some kind of space horse, and a scantily clad, bosomy woman holding its reigns while spaceships in formation zoom overhead.

This episode is crap, but it reminds me of those novels. It's at its best when its just basking in the vibe of its alien planet, and its alien canteens. Best scene? Janeway sitting in a bar, chilled out, listening to a space stud woo a smitten Kes. Felt like old-school space opera; the kind of water-stained, dog-eared books you'd find in the clearing-out garage sale of your dead neighbor.
Tue, Jan 11, 2022, 3:37am (UTC -6)
I read some of the reviews, and expected to find the episode to be utter garbage. And was pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t. It is undistinguished, perhaps, but not garbage, by any means.

Though I was a bit disappointed, after the old trope of the gigantic-seabeast- mistaken- for-land was used, that the beast sank without trace. An episode about its space equivalent might have been a good one.

Robert Picardo was the best element in the episode.
Mon, Mar 28, 2022, 4:40pm (UTC -6)
I don't think anyone mentioned that while the Dr was holding Kes on the cliff, each time he would start blinking out, he had to let go of her, and instead of running away towards Tuvok and Chakotay, she'd just look at the Doc, like "Ok, I'm here waiting, come on and grab my arm again!"
Fri, Jun 17, 2022, 7:47am (UTC -6)
After re-watching this on N yesterday and reading the comments here... as well as searching the internet for VOY-casualties:

What happened to the gay manning the transporter room when Doc wanted to beam to the surface with Kes? The phaser was set to kill?
Or maybe I have missed this?
Fri, Jun 17, 2022, 7:48am (UTC -6)
Sorry, "guy".
"What happened to the guy manning the transporter room..."
Alex (in the UK)
Mon, Aug 29, 2022, 10:04am (UTC -6)
Rewatching the series with my girlfriend currently. We watched it some years ago but she wasn't very into Star Trek at the time so we just rattled through the big episodes like Caretaker, Scorpion, etc. Now we're rewatching the whole series (her idea) and I am rewatching some of these episodes for the first time in 20 years or more. Anyway first thing she said in this episode was "What about Neelix?" when Kes was developing a relationship with the guy on the planet. She definitely assumed that the breakup in Warlord was undone after the revelation that Kes was possessed by the titular warlord. Just an observation that for many viewers the way the Kes and Neelix breakup was handled was confusing.
Sun, Oct 2, 2022, 5:34pm (UTC -6)
This is a poor episode with not much to take away from it.

It just doesn't feel like Star Trek - especially with its music. It could have been better if it was executed differently even with the same script. Even the the story is poor compared to what Menosky and Braga can normally produce.
Wed, Apr 19, 2023, 2:18am (UTC -6)
O dear, I am not sure that the doctor's sub-routines was the greatest problem. Somwhere in VOY Picardo's sub-routines started to get to much. Did it start here? He can act, and he definetly can be funny but I very much got the impression that his ego developed in the same way as the doctor. The idea of exploring AI was fine, but they could not repeat Data.

I also understand why they wanted to develop his character. Contrary to many others I have no beg problem with that some of the main characters sits more in the back seat. Kim, Chakoty, Tuvok mainly. Paris and espesially Belana get mor place. To me the problem with the development of the docktor was his (or perhaps Picardos's) ego. To me it got to much.

This episode was overplayed from his side. Perhaps thet was neccesary.

I liked Jennifer Lien's acting again. Her dialogue with the doctor was theatrical but very consistent.

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