Star Trek: Voyager

"Latent Image"

3 stars

Air date: 1/20/1999
Teleplay by Joe Menosky
Story by Eileen Connors and Brannon Braga & Joe Menosky
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"Our doctor is now our patient." — Janeway's Log

Nutshell: Hmmm...

My feelings on "Latent Image" might best be summed up as above, with the elusive, all-purpose "hmmm..." The question is what kind of vocal inflection goes with that "hmmm." Is it (1) a "hmmm" that starts at a somewhat high pitch and comes down slightly in pitch in a sort of thoughtful, melodic way? Or is it (2) a more disturbed and skeptical "hmmm," which has a lower pitch than the first "hmmm" and sounds more like an annoyed whine—a "hmmm" that, in inflection but not in consonant structure, comes across much the same way as "ehhhh"?

Or something.

As "Latent Image" unfolded, this episode had me mentally tallying both types of "hmmms." Type 1 probably wins out, but not without plenty of Type 2 cropping up along the way.

It's an episode like this one that makes me wonder just who and what the Doctor really is. Is he really sentient, or does he just appear to be so? If his claims of self-awareness are simply programmed "personality subroutine" responses, does that change his status or entitled rights as an individual? Hmmm... (Type 1).

Do the writers know the answers to these questions? I had long thought the Doctor was considered sentient, but after this episode, I'm wondering whether that was the intention. And I'm also wondering if the writers simply changed their minds before writing this episode. Hmmm... (Type 2).

The mystery arises from some gaps in Doc's memory when he discovers that Ensign Kim had been treated with an emergency medical procedure that Doc had obviously performed yet cannot remember. With Seven's help, he uncovers some buried, incomplete memories that had at one point been erased. He goes to the captain to report the mystery, at which point we realize the plot is playing a few tricks on us. These tricks capture attention early on, although the plot comes off a little uneven as a result.

First is the quasi-mystery McGuffin (i.e., no one knows why Doc has these memory lapses), and then the story reveals a dose of paranoia (i.e., they know why—because they did it—but won't tell him) before settling into the "actual plot" (his memory had been erased because the events in question had caused him to malfunction). It's the nature of the "actual plot" where the story's real issues lie.

"Latent Image" has some evident frustrations, one being that it seems to come at a time much later in the series than it should have, and another being that it seems to contradict what we had previously known about the Doctor. The two objections are interrelated to some degree, but I'll focus on the latter objection, as we can find evidence to support it.

My central challenge to this story is this: Hasn't the Doctor already grown past the "pre-programmed" point in question? Isn't this a question that has been asked if not answered long ago, in one way or another? Doc has experienced a lot over the years, whether it was falling in love in "Lifesigns," swapping jokes on cue and battling Romulans in "Message in a Bottle," or moralizing social situations in "Living Witness." You'd think the question of whether he can make choices that go beyond his original programming is something that has been answered affirmatively on many occasions. For that reason, I have my skeptical "hmmms" about whether this story is a daring stretch of past material or a total disregard of it.

BUT ... alleviating somewhat from this problem—which makes "Latent Image" overcome the inconsistencies that one would decide are problem areas—is the following argument: Suppose all of Doc's behavior in the past has managed to avoid the complexity of thought that the central crisis of "Latent Image" brings forward—the idea of sentient growth, of pondering the nature of existence, limitless choices, and an infinitely unpredictable number of possibilities. That's a "hmmm" (Type 1) that really kept my attention as "Latent Image" unfolded.

The central crisis is simple, yet not: A year and a half ago, an alien attack left two patients, both in mortal danger, both (we presume) of equal importance to the ship, with an equal chance of survival ... but there was only enough time for Doc to save one. Which patient did he choose? Harry Kim, a crewmate he is closer to, with a regular working relationship; or Ensign Jetal (Nancy Bell), a crewmate from below decks whom Doc had met once?

Time was short. Doc made a decision: Harry Kim. Jetal died. Later, Doc began trying to figure out why he made the choice that allowed her to die. A conflict arose between his independent thought process and his pre-programmed "first duty" of treating patients with total impartiality. The conflict grew and consumed him. To erase the problem, Janeway erased the memories of those events. Now, the problem has presented itself again.

The big question is, does erasing Doc's memories stagnate his ability to grow as an individual? Should he instead be allowed to work through the crisis and confusion? That's the whole point of the story, and with the cycle repeating itself, Janeway is forced to rethink her original decision.

On a plot level, the specific dilemma that brings the conflict to the surface is pretty contrived. For one, just where did this Ensign Jetal come from? It always amazes me that even though the Voyager crew has a finite number of members, the producers still manage to pluck people at random out of the sea of infinite actors looking for short-term work. Why can't Voyager have some semblance of a consistent guest cast? DS9, which doesn't even have to be as self-sufficient as Voyager in terms of crew, has a dozen or more recurring characters outside the regular cast. Yet Voyager can barely muster Ensign Wildman once or twice a year. (But I'll stop now; I've been down this road many times before.)

The episode will also have us believe that Jetal has never been mentioned in conversation near Doc since her death, and that all records Doc might encounter pertaining to her presence have been either hidden or deleted. That's quite a stretch. I wonder how the captain pulled it off.

But never mind. I said there were some significant problems here, and there are. I also said this episode works, so let's get back to the reasons why. The way Doc's program goes haywire provides Picardo with a great chance to go slightly berserk, with a strong performance that teeters on the edge of distress and insanity. And it isn't merely a trick; it works on story terms, showing a character torn in a conflict that, because of his programming, becomes irreconcilable.

The fragmented thought process is carried into a final scene where Doc's confusion has him ranting in circles, pondering the nature of the formation of the universe 20 billion years ago, which leads him to conclude his decision was inevitable, as was the ultimate formation of "starships, holodecks, and chicken soup." I found the final scene interesting because it's unconventional and borderline-schizophrenic in a way that perfectly conveys Doc's confusion. A lot of people will likely find it weird, but I think I see exactly what Menosky was going for.

Another thing I really liked about this episode was the way it worked as an ensemble piece, even though the focus was generally on Doc. Just about everyone gets some good, well-motivated screen time, most notably Janeway and Seven of Nine, whose arguments on the nature of Doc's individuality supply the episode with many of its tantalizing questions about his rights and needs as an artificial intelligence, sentient or otherwise. (Alas, Chakotay is still getting severely shafted, receiving little screen time and no significant dialog. The writers have got to give this guy a voice, because he has become far and away the show's most underutilized and purposeless character this season.)

Perhaps my biggest dread concerning this episode is that the writers will simply ignore it later—which would be extremely wrong. Given the end of this episode, I would expect Doc has a long way to go in overcoming this challenge, and if we never see it again, I'm going to be angry. The Voyager writers have a knack for disregarding long-term character continuity, especially when it comes to the Doctor—and especially when it involves the Doctor in a situation that demands follow-up consequences. There have been far too many instances where a significant problem Doc has experienced has been simply thrown away. Most notable instances that come to mind are his loss of memory back in "The Swarm" and his life-building scenarios in "Real Life." Both demanded follow-ups, and neither received them. "Latent Image" demands a follow-up even more, yet I have this fear that we'll never get it. As always, judgment will be reserved and temporary optimism maintained.

On the technical side, Mike Vejar's direction was effective. He has never been afraid to use slow-motion when appropriate, and here it brought a surreal edge to some of the flashback scenes.

On the other hand, Paul Baillargeon scored no points with me this week; the completely inappropriate music during the crucial surgery flashback nearly managed to sink the entire scene. He did a great job with the theme for DS9's "The Siege of AR-558," but Baillargeon's tendency to underscore urgent scenes with seemingly random, serene notes (see also DS9's "Valiant") is inexplicable and detrimental. I've been a long-time critic of new-Trek music, and although I've mellowed in recent years, this score was ineffective enough for special mention.

Despite my qualms and fears with "Latent Image," however, I'm going with a marginal recommendation—mostly for the ideas and implications it creates, not always so much for how it goes about doing it. This is an episode that prompted me to ask questions about Doc, and in turn had me pondering the nature of our own existence and the sometimes-arbitrary choices we make. It's in many ways a fascinating thought piece. But with some script tweaking it could've been much more. "Hmmm" indeed.

Next week: Do you THINK you stand a CHANCE against the evil CHAOTICA, ruler of the UNIVERSE?

Previous episode: Counterpoint
Next episode: Bride of Chaotica!

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166 comments on this post

Thu, Mar 27, 2008, 5:03pm (UTC -6)
I have a conceptual problem with one of two things: Either I don't buy the Doc not being programmed with a "tie breaker" protocol, or I don't buy that with the complex mental triage system that they must have built into his program, that Kim and Jetel have the exact equal chance of survival.

While the writers used the Doc "emotional" decision to attempt and analysis of the social dynamic of helping someone you're closer to over a stranger, I don't think he's the right character for this kind of analysis. A more interesting premise might have been having a random-choice algorhythm (50/50 chances) and have doc (or someone) pondering the implications of having the decision come down to pure chance. But maybe that wouldn't have that much impact either. I just don't believe the premise:

If Doc's system is so precise as to calculate these two patients as having the exact same chance of survival and having no idea how to solve the decision, I would expect his programming to also be so precise that he would never ever waste treatment time by stopping to converse during any treatment (which if he's a computer program, he probably shouldn't do anyway, but I give that up to creative license).

I also have a bit of a problem with Doc's program second-guessing his decision. To me it sounds like a computer calculating 1+1 and outputting "1", but then later going into a feedback loop in wonder of whether the user wanted the calculation in decimal or binary. If there was a logical conflict, a computer as powerful as Voyager's should have taken all of that into account (his ethical subroutine should have analyized his decision before he acted on it - not days after, and it shouldn't change its mind later on). But I guess the point of this epiosde is to portray Doc as more human than program, and I suppose that's how humans think. But I don't quite buy that even Doc's expanded program can avoid analyzing his decision in a moment before he makes it, and not after, and if that's the situation, perhaps he should be reprogrammed.
Thu, Mar 27, 2008, 8:51pm (UTC -6)
This was another example of "Artificial Intelligences are people too." TNG and Voyager did this repeatedly. TH is absolutely right. The Doctor/EMH was a computer program. That means he would have calculated all of the factors nearly instantaneously.

This episode, along with Kes always defending the Doctor's rights and the Nothing Human episode, shows that the Voyager crew was incapable of telling the difference between a humanoid and a hologram. They are simply computer programs with holographic bodies. Seven of Nine's claim that Captain Janeway's initial decision to reprogram the Doctor was the same as denying Seven her rights sounded asinine to me.

Finally, wouldn't it have been simpler to add a resolution of the conflict to the Doctor's programming? That way the Doctor wouldn't have had a problem with his decision. Of course that would have gone against the "Doctor is really a person" theme of the episode.
Fri, Dec 5, 2008, 10:45pm (UTC -6)
When yopu say that this episode should have come at an earlier time in the series, you might be missing the point that the original decision by Janeway came 18 months prior to the actual episode.. so maybe now Janeway's thoughts about his sencience has, to use Seven's word evolved.
Fri, Dec 5, 2008, 10:51pm (UTC -6)
By the way, I thought that the major problem with this episode is that it did not spell out two things : 1) The problem was that the Doctor was dealing with the consequences of an ethical decision with only 4-5 years of actual "life", and 2) The issue that the Doctor was dealing with was not his sentience, but his conscience.
And yes I'm aware that I spelled sentience wrong in my last comment.
Bill T
Mon, Dec 8, 2008, 8:51pm (UTC -6)
Man you people complain about EVERYTHING.

The only problem I had with the "equal choice" thing was the fact that Ensign Kim was a bridge officer. Doesn't that count for anything? It's all spitting hairs though. Regardless of how airtight the setup was, it was a valid and interesting story, and well-executed.

I agree with the 3-star rating, though it doesn't seem to match the endless criticism below it...
Mon, Dec 8, 2008, 9:37pm (UTC -6)
Bill T:

You complain about us complaining and then state your own complaint about this episode. Just amazing.
John Pate
Tue, Jan 20, 2009, 11:41am (UTC -6)
This worked well enough, tho only if you went with the flow and relied on Robert Picardo to sell it. Clearly it was crass programming that an EMH - designed to be activated in an emergency! - would fail catastrophically when having to make an essentially arbitrary choice of life and death due to limited resources. Anyhoo, the came was up for this ep with "Renaissance Man" - why didn't the Doctor speed himself up or activate the back-up EMH. It's as if it works on first blush but when you think it thru you have discard the premises you've accepted to justify the artificial situation it relies on for its premise.
Wed, Mar 25, 2009, 9:09am (UTC -6)
I had no problems with this episode, it's one of Voyager's best. The quibbling about programming and priority resolution, etc, wasn't an issue for me, because the characterization (Picardo) and the narrative was of such high calibre. Yes, it's a common Trek theme - AIs are people too, but it's the telling of the story that counts, and this was done very effectively. The scene in the mess hall when the Doc goes into meltdown, alone was worth the price of admission.
Wed, Mar 25, 2009, 9:53pm (UTC -6)
Damien's comment seems to be more about Robert Picardo than this episode. Picardo did an excellent job in this episode and Voyager in general. However, that only improves this episode from unwatchable to poor.
Thu, Mar 26, 2009, 4:45am (UTC -6)
Yes, I praised Picardo's performance, and seeing how he was the focus of the episode, that in no small part contributes to the enjoyment of the episode as a whole. I think some people get too hung up on unimportant detail and fail to appreciate the bigger picture.

For example, if I wanted to be pedantic, I could have taken issue when the Doctor spoke about the primordial atom bursting 20 billion years ago to create the universe. Well, the universe is actually about 13.7 billion years old and it wasn't an 'atom' that burst open.

Those (and other) details weren't important to the overall enjoyment of the story and its telling, which was very well done.
Wed, Jul 22, 2009, 12:42pm (UTC -6)

"unimportant detail" are the "the bigger picture"

"Well, the universe is actually about 13.7 billion years old and it wasn't an 'atom' that burst open."

If i wanted to be pedantic : Voyager doesnt take place today.It takes place in the future,funny thing about the future is that history is older then it is today :S (i.e the age of the universe)
Sun, Jul 26, 2009, 11:30am (UTC -6)
Stefan wrote:
"This episode, along with Kes always defending the Doctor's rights and the Nothing Human episode, shows that the Voyager crew was incapable of telling the difference between a humanoid and a hologram. They are simply computer programs with holographic bodies."

This is not true. The Doctor hologram is not a traditional computer program. It has been given the ability to 'go beyond the programming', basically rewrite parts of itself as it gains knowledge. That makes it indistinguishable from a humanoid intelligence, apart from actually having a lot of benefits such as perfect memory and a lack of an expiration date.

As Data once said: "I *am* better than you."
Tue, Jul 28, 2009, 8:34pm (UTC -6)
Remco wrote:
"It has been given the ability to 'go beyond the programming', basically rewrite parts of itself as it gains knowledge."

That's makes the EMH an adaptive program, not human. Besides, it isn't going beyond its programming if the programming includes the ability to adapt.
Wed, Jul 29, 2009, 5:23am (UTC -6)
Humans are also simply adaptive programs, so the only difference between humans and adaptive holograms is that humans are programmed in DNA and made of carbon, while holograms are programmed in C and made of photons. When we use our cerebral cortex, we're also not really going beyond our programming.
Wed, Jul 29, 2009, 3:46pm (UTC -6)
Scientists have built an android in Asia (this really happened). If they dismantle the android, would they have committed murder?

Based on your preceding comments, I believe you would answer "yes" to that question. Am I mistaken?
Wed, Jul 29, 2009, 7:16pm (UTC -6)
I am assuming that the android is very primitive. I'd say it is some kind of scientific killing, like animal experiments. As long as it is necessary and humanely executed, that's generally accepted and not called 'murder'.

Of course, animal experiments are controversial in their own right. A group like PETA does not approve of animal killings. I would consider a primitive artificial brain of the same class as animals, regardless of whether I approve of those kinds of killings or not.

When the brain becomes more sophisticated, like humans, then it becomes generally unacceptable to dismantle it, yes. So only then it would be murder.

I have a question for you: would you consider killing an extra-terrestrial life-form with humanoid (or above) intelligence murder?

If yes: what if that life-form does not have a quaternary code such as our own DNA, but a binary code? What if its nerves are made of copper? What if its brain is made of silicon? What if its limbs are made of steel?

If no: what if that life-form represents a civilization proposing an interstellar trade agreement? What if it told humanity that the repercussions for killing him would be interstellar war?

Oh, another question: what would you do if an alien with an off-the-charts IQ proved that humans have not evolved from dancing amino acids, but have been artificially created 200,000 years ago by them, and made to look like monkeys? Would you grant him the right to kill humans for scientific purposes?
Wed, Jul 29, 2009, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
Those questions are far-fetched hypotheticals. I asked you about something that is fact. I do believe that as technology improves in this area, all societies will need to decide the status of AIs. I believe androids will either be considered nothing more than human looking machines or will not be widely made. People will not create a large number of androids if those androids are to be considered the legal and/or moral equivalent of humans.
Thu, Jul 30, 2009, 6:01am (UTC -6)
You asked me about something that is fact, but your android is not of human-class intelligence. So that kind of intelligence is still hypothetical. We will eventually create something that equates or surpasses our own intelligence, but we will also at some point discover intelligent life, evolved here on Earth, or on a planet of Alpha Centauri. Those questions are relevant, whether they are hypothetical situations or not.

As for artificial life: if they won't be regarded as equivalents of human beings, you'll have a hard time keeping them enslaved. A fully functional AI will develop a need for survival and a moral system. Just like humans they will think about what it means to exist and what they want to do with their life. The only way to keep them in check is to destroy what makes them a human-class AI: limit or reset their brain if they become troublesome.

So either they will become real-life Cylons, breaking free and starting their own life, or they will be decimated at the first sign of trouble. I would protest against the latter.

What I'd do: Forbid mass-production of human-class androids. Create two androids and try to integrate them in society. Then take 20 years to learn from their lives and consider all aspects of what it means to be an android. After that, use that knowledge to build more, if that is appropriate.
Tue, Sep 22, 2009, 4:20pm (UTC -6)
Funny you should mention "Living Witness", an episode that occurs 700 years after this one. So any development in his character that occurred in this episode could not have an impact on future episodes. Confusing? Reset-button-ish? Maybe, but that would be a fault of "Living Witness" more than a fault of "Latent Image."

In my opinion, one of the best installments of the series, definitely deserved at least four stars.
Sat, Oct 3, 2009, 7:27pm (UTC -6)
The time frame here would have been when Kes was still aboard. This would have been a much better episode for her to guest star in rather than the abysmal Fury.
Thu, Nov 19, 2009, 6:58am (UTC -6)
A.k.a. Red Dwarf's S2 "Thanks For The Memory", only not done as well.

Good (if stolen) idea with real potential... poor execution, IMO (typical Voyager plot-holes and idiocy abounds).
Thu, Jul 1, 2010, 11:01am (UTC -6)
Oh god... Forget continuity and all that. What I kept, increasingly exasperately and vocally, repeating during the entire episode is: He's a H-O-L-O-G-R-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-M!!!!!! I expect technology to advance quite a bit within the next four centuries but the notion of a computer-generated projection being self-aware, self-conscious and sentient is preposterous. Add to that a computer program grappling with an ethical dilemma over the course of several days, and the entire premise is beyond ludicrous. Computers will no doubt become increasingly human-like in terms of their interface and capabilities, but they'll remain just that: Computers. That hologram is no more human than the ship's plasma conduits, and - so far - we did not have counseling for them.

While the episode's beginning was very engaging and provoked curiosity, pretty soon we ended up basically having a HOLOGRAM with a self-confidence crisis throwing a tantrum. Why couldn't they just knock up a virtual Dr. Phil, like they did with the temporary Cardassian sub-doctor a few episodes back? A total abortion of an episode; I'd give it one and a half maximum.
Fri, Jul 23, 2010, 11:05am (UTC -6)
I agree with Michael. The EMH is a hologram. The only medical officer Voyager has. I like Picardo's performance. He's probably the most consistently good actor of the VOY ensemble. And he does stellar work here again. The scene where he breaks down in the mess hall is one of my favorite EMH moments.

I just have problem with all of the EMH "trying to better myself" episodes. He is a computer program, made specifically to assist in emergency medical situation. In "The Swarm" it was shown how all of his recreational add ons were degrading his program.

I agree with Janeway's decision 100%. The EMH is the only doctor they have (I don't buy it, but fine). As a program the moment he starts degrading, medically speaking the crew is in real trouble. Paris is a medic only, Kes is gone and they have no other medical staff. The EMH was breaking down and without it they would have no doctor.

Yes, the EMH is a bit different because he does have personality and adaptive algorithms, etc. But in the end he is a medical tool, and the tool needed to be fixed.

And to leave the EMH pondering the his fate at the end was a bad decision. The possibility exists for this to happen again. A well acted episode, but yet another example of VOY not taking the ship's unique and dangerous situation seriously.
Wed, Aug 11, 2010, 7:24pm (UTC -6)
A minor annoyance: I thought it was lame that the dead woman's name on her birthday cake was "Ensign Jetal." OK, she's a totally disposable character, never seen before and never seen again, but there's no reason not to give her a first name. And in fact she did have a first name, Ahni -- Janeway said it during her memorial service. It would be like John Smith's work colleagues' throwing him a birthday party and having "Mr. Smith" written on the cake.

Otherwise, an enjoyable and affecting episode. I agree with many of the comments above, but that's why they call this science fiction -- sometimes it's more fiction than science.
Sat, Aug 28, 2010, 12:28am (UTC -6)
Okay...this episode IS a followup to real life. What did Paris say? Doc would miss the whole point of having a family if he didn't deal with his daughter's death...

Just because the flipping Grand Nagus keeps showing up does not constitute "development." And conversely, the fact that old plots aren't always revisited doesn't mean the points behind them aren't drawn together: Generally, the Doc's development as a character haven't been at odds with his duties as the CMO--the exception being "The Swarm," which this episode also follows up. So, the crew has had no reason to inhibit his acting sentient as they have no personal motivation to do so. Locking up Paris is one thing, but no one can come close to replacing the Doctor's duties and his dilemma is so easily solved by wiping the slate. Just because the early seasons' issues aren't tiresomely pushed to the surface (DS9) doesn't mean they've vanished.

For the first time, the broader ramifications of the Doctor's development become clear, "We gave him a soul," says Janeway. This is a grave metaphysical issue and there's nothing out-of-place about it here. Not to mention, the Doctor stumbled upon it by accident 18 months after it occurred. Surely the crew had ceased worrying about it by then.

My biggest beef is that Janeway's hair is wrong in the flashbacks :p
Bill T
Wed, Oct 13, 2010, 6:43pm (UTC -6)
I complained about the massive complaining because most of the other complaints are unfair. I could take the best episode of Star Trek and drone on endlessly about minor details. The cake? Janeway's hair? Seriously?

This is at least a 3-star episode. I'd now maybe push it up to 3 1/2. The story was engaging and plausible, the characters were in-character and believable. The topic was unusual and thought-provoking. Where else could we have this kind of morality tale? This is Star Trek at its best, when instead of focusing on "the battle of the week" and the shields being at 29 percent, it tells a real, human story that wouldn't be possible in our real, human world.
Wed, Nov 3, 2010, 8:41pm (UTC -6)
This episode should really have been two episodes. The first should have aired before Seven joined the crew, when the issue of the Doctor's nature was still vague. It would have focused on the 'flashback' portion, but told in real time. Dealing with the issues then and there. Then Janeway erases the memories causing her to feel guilt which can play into many episodes after because it's left unresolved. Then Seven joins the crew then the following season should be the Doctor discovering the past and confronting Janeway and all the drama that follows.

But, alas, this is Voyager we're talking about.
Mon, Jan 24, 2011, 6:28pm (UTC -6)
"If i wanted to be pedantic : Voyager doesnt take place today.It takes place in the future,funny thing about the future is that history is older then it is today :S (i.e the age of the universe)"

Hmmm. By about three hundred years.

Remind me - what IS the result of the sum 13.7 billion + 300

Isn't that 13.7000003 billion years - or rounding to 6 significant figures - 13.7 billion?

Sorry, but if someone's trying to out-pedant someone else, they should say something quite so silly as to suggest that an extra 300 years makes a significant difference to how old the universe is.
Mon, Jan 24, 2011, 9:34pm (UTC -6)
Paul: But I thought the universe was barely 6,000 years old! ;-)
Tue, Aug 2, 2011, 4:37am (UTC -6)
Definitely a 'hmmm' episode. I liked the way it was built up, it was intriguing even though the mystery reminded me a lot of TNG's "Clues". Robert Picardo acts his socks off. It fell apart at the end for me though. I simply didn't buy the Doc's 'breakdown' over Jetal's death. He's been in far worse predicaments and been unaffected. As the key component of the plot, I just didn't quite buy it. I also agree that the way the other characters treat him - especially Janeway, who is coming across very unsympathetic this season - is an inexplicable regression. This story might have worked in the first or even second season but didn't quite fit at this point in the series. It kind of annoys me when the Voyager writers bend characterisation and what little progression there is in the narrative just to fit this week's plot. The episode started off so well - it all just fell apart a bit...
Sat, Sep 3, 2011, 6:08pm (UTC -6)
If they throw surprise birthday parties for everyone on the ship, then with a ship of 150 that amounts to about 3 of them a week. I think I'd get tired of attending them.
Sat, Sep 3, 2011, 6:16pm (UTC -6)
Also, if this is before Seven came on board, then Kes was still around. She had become quite a capable medic - pretty much surgeon - by then...she could have operated simultaneously with the Doctor. In fact, it was right towards the end of Kes's tenure on Voyager...she might have been able to perform the operation just by staring like she did when she dissolved that Borg implant in Seven's brain.
Tue, Nov 8, 2011, 1:12pm (UTC -6)
"Computer, give me four arms."
Sun, Nov 20, 2011, 1:17am (UTC -6)
I'll grant that it would have been fun if there were continuity clues built in to other episodes; like if Jetal had been someone in VOY's real history, or if, as Jay said, Kes had appeared in the flashbacks.

However, the philosophical core of this episode is absolutely rock solid. Built around that is an impeccable piece of character work regarding Doc. Framing that is a truly remarkable combination of acting, directing and scoring (Jammer didn't make note in his review of these latter two which, even among Voyager's usual good production, were standout here).

That's how you build an episode of Star Trek, and that's why this episode is one of the best.

4 stars.
Sat, Dec 3, 2011, 7:55am (UTC -6)
Re: the age of the universe.

I think what the poster meant was that in 300 years, scientific advances would have given a new age for the universe.
Chris Harrison
Sun, Jan 8, 2012, 4:33pm (UTC -6)
To all those incredulous about the EMH having sentience: what do you think is so magical about skin and flesh?
Sun, Jan 29, 2012, 9:37pm (UTC -6)
I love that this episode has got so many comments!

Anyway I'm a huge fan of this one- the mystery at the beginning, and the second half that deals with the Doctor's breakdown. I personally agree more with Janeway's 'he's a toaster' argument, but I think this episode certainly gave a good argument as to why he is not just a hologram anymore, and I'd definitely give it four stars.
Wed, May 2, 2012, 2:10pm (UTC -6)
Jammer: "I have my skeptical "hmmms" about whether this story is a daring stretch of past material or a total disregard of it."

The answer is neither. It's perfectly consistent. I agree with Damien and Elliott on this one. People liken this episode to other episodes of Trek, like "Clues." Sure, but I daresay it's a lot better. Yet Jammer's review and many of the comments above heap a load of irrelevant, unfair criticism on this episode.

From the mysterious teaser opening right down to the poignant literary reference at the end, "Latent Image" is indeed a 4 star episode that gets right to the heart of what Star Trek is all about. This is one of those episodes where the moral dilemma presented in the story, and the character development that results from it are SO compelling that it transcends its own plot contrivances, minor continuity gaffes, and any viewer's attempt at nitpicking. An exploration of the nature of guilt and our relationship with it is always a worthy subject. And yes, the Doctor IS sentient. Whether its synapses or subroutines, guilt is guilt. It is something that is at the root of the human condition and it can consume any person just like it nearly did the Doc.

Also, Jammer's question about whether or not Doc's decision making was adequately explored prior to this episode is immaterial. The events over which his guilty conscience is torturing him took place before Seven came on board, when the nature of Doc's programming/personality was still very much in question. It was season 3 at the latest, possibly earlier.

Jammer, based on some of your S5 ratings and forays into questionable nitpicking I'm wondering if your objectivity regarding Voyager had become more than a bit clouded by this point. It's like you're giving it 3 stars, but you feel have to rationalize why it deserves even that much, despite the worthy subject matter. And honestly, unless it's downright awful who really cares about the music? The music in the flashback scene you mention wasn't great, but it certainly wasn't awful, or even inappropriate. Then there's the fact that you knew that there would never be a followup, yet you don't provide a reason why it needed one, except to say that it really, really did.

It didn't. The ending was meant to be ambiguous and yet convey to the viewer that the issue of Doc's guilt was settled for the most part. At least to the point where it was understood he'd be OK, but he'd be probably be carrying this emotional baggage around for the rest of his life. Just like a human would. If that's not enough, then hey, just use your imagination.

On the same token, if this review is partially the result of prejudice against VOY, it's certainly understandable. VOY had been at best mediocre and at worst terrible through most of the first 4 seasons. However, at this point in the game they were on THE BEST run of quality shows they had ever aired. And the hits will keep on coming. VOY S5 is right up there with TNG S3 and DS9 S4, imo.
Wed, May 2, 2012, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
@Michael, once again your comments illustrate that Star Trek in any of its forms really isn't your thing. If exploring the human condition doesn't hold your interest, try watching Transformers or Clone Wars instead.
Thu, Jul 5, 2012, 8:14am (UTC -6)
In the late-90s, 20 billion was the accepted figure for the age of the universe, which is why that figure is used by the Doctor. It was only several years after this episode was produced that scientists brought down their estimate to 13.7 billion.

I can understand them not bringing back Kes just for one surgery scene where she wasn't really needed, but they could at least have changed Janeway's hair and Tuvok's rank to match the time frame. It also would have been nice for the dead crewwoman to be someone we'd seen before.

Finally, I agree it would also have been nice to see some follow-up, but that is a fault of the series, not the episode. I think DS9's "Hard Time" had a more pressing need for follow-up than this one.
Tue, Jul 31, 2012, 5:05am (UTC -6)
This episode starts out fantastically. Then, I found it just petered out and the ending was such a letdown. I mean, after a neat mystery plot, the resolution is to let him rant until he figures it out on his own? Let's sit in the bare holodeck for hours? I really dislike this episode now.

I agree with another poster how Kes should have been mentioned and Janeway's hair and Tuvok's rank altered to reflect the time period. It's like they didn't even try. And Ensign Jetal comes out of nowhere even though she was so liked that the crew, including the senior staff, throw her a birthday party.

I think what drives me crazy is how this decision that the doctor can't come to terms with is so weak. He's dealt with way worse. Two patients will never be the same and have the exact diagnosis and prognosis. The Doctor goes on and on about the decisions in life yet he's been programmed to make decisions and we've seen him do it before. Every time I see this episode, I say, "Kim is a frickin bridge officer! He's part of the senior staff!" Kim takes priority if both patients are the 'same'.
Tue, Aug 21, 2012, 5:22pm (UTC -6)
Eighteen months before this show, Kim's life really was in jeopardy... in "Scorpion part 2." The tiebreaker was, of course, People magazine. And that's why Doc was ashamed.

I can easily believe that Menosky would spice up an Asimovian robopsychology tale with backstage metahumor.
Cail Corishev
Sun, Sep 23, 2012, 2:43pm (UTC -6)
Very little about the EMH makes sense. Since sickbay is apparently a specialized holodeck, it should be able to produce multiple doctors and nurses. If you say it was only provided with enough memory to hold one doctor for emergency purposes, they should move sickbay to one of the holodecks. Failing that, Doc could at least copy himself into the mobile emitter and have two versions of himself going at once. And he could certain do functions faster than he can tell a human what to do.

(But once you go down that road, you start to realize that the ship itself could navigate, fly, and diagnose itself better and faster than the crew possibly can, so they should all be in the holodecks partying except for the occasional need for an engineer to plug something in.)

Having said all that, I enjoyed the show. Picardo does a great job of making the doctor human. I think instead of having him get "stuck" on the issue of a 50/50 decision, he should have just been affected by being unable to save someone close to him. Normally it wouldn't bother him, but because he's been "expanding his programming," especially by having a family, he's now affected by death and isn't equipped to handle it.

I didn't have a problem with Janeway's solution, though I didn't think it needed to have anything to do with Doc's "rights as an individual." If a human crew member had a mental breakdown because of some trauma and couldn't seem to get over it, and they determined that they could excise that one memory and make the person healthy again, wouldn't they do it? And mightn't it be the kindest thing?
Thu, Nov 29, 2012, 10:33am (UTC -6)
Youre forgetting one thing....

What does God need with a starship?
dale sams
Fri, Dec 28, 2012, 9:34pm (UTC -6)
Two things:

1) I'm surprised no one has mentioned the great job they did to get one to actually care about Ensign Never Seen Before. I guess it was a combo of the actress being so cute and charming and the job make-up did of really effing her and Kim up, as opposed to the usual char mark on the chest.

2)Man I miss Star Trek. Even kinda crappy Voyager.

The new movies are fine for what they are, but it's a dead-end. I feel no emotional connection to those people. I was more moved by Winona Ryder biting it then I ever would be by any of the regulars.
Sat, Dec 29, 2012, 10:50am (UTC -6)
But dale, we have Trek... Unauthorized, but Trek: Cawley's (I love that man!), Russ', Caves', Broughton's, Cook's et.c.
Cawley's New Voyages (or Phase II) episode "World Enough and Time" (with Takei, Majel's voice and beautiful Christina Moses) was Hugo and Nebula Nominee (just like '09).
And - last but not least - "Into Darkness" premiere is planned for next year's May.
Thu, Mar 7, 2013, 3:38pm (UTC -6)
It seems like in military/command terms, Kim would have been the correct patient to save. This is how the real world military works, and most likely it would have been a very simple decision.

But the EMH was a pretty new invention, right? And it wasn't meant to run all the time. It's quite possible the logic to choose between patients based on military value either wasn't yet in the Doctor's programming, or it was flawed.

Even if it worked perfectly and he chose to save Kim for the correct technical reasons, his new personality subroutines and relationship with Kim may have made him suspect his judgment.

Definitely though the episode should have occurred far earlier in the series. Janeway's replicator comparison seemed absolutely ancient.

Despite the issues though it was worth it for a great episode.
Sun, Mar 31, 2013, 1:45am (UTC -6)
I really don't get why so many people don't accept Doctor as human. If we are willing to accept Data as human, why not Doctor? Much like with Moriarty, it doesn't matter how it happened, the point is that it happened. He is a person.
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 6:07pm (UTC -6)
I agree, Mad. Janeway is an artificial life form racist, as are many of the people who have commented here. If DNA can create sentience, why not any other program?
Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 9:16am (UTC -6)
Wow, "racist." I guess the term means nothing anymore when it gets bandied about like this.

DNA *CAN* create sentience, but does it? The watermelon has DNA; does that make it sentient!?

Fact is, the Doctor (who, alongside Tuvok, is by far my most favorite character) is acting and indeed *existing* pursuant to the subroutines programmed into him and not by virtue of -- for want of a better word -- a soul. Does he have self-awareness and, if so, did it evolve or was it programmed?

The E.M.H. is a very advanced computer. What makes resetting his program any different from reinstalling Windows on our workstations? The fact that Windows doesn't (yet) come with a self-awareness .dll? Now THAT is a racist proposition!
Wed, Jul 10, 2013, 9:50pm (UTC -6)
So no one had a problem with the last scene where they're sitting in an empty hollodeck with eons of space between them? Why wouldn't they have replicated a living room or other cozy locale. Have the Captain sit near by maybe even call up his hollodeck family to provide him some comfort. It was almost as if they decided to ditch the ending and came up with this part on the fly.

I also hated the "he's like a toaster" analogy that Janeway uses. I thought it was cruel and not indicative of how she interacts with the Dr. Kinda like her feelings stepped back a couple of years or something. Like they used an old script they'd previously put on the discard pile?

I wasn't much of a fan of this episode but with all of the comments I'll have to watch it again.

Tue, Jul 16, 2013, 2:54am (UTC -6)
The episode was good for what it was, another "what is humanity/individuality,"(TM) episode.
But frankly NOTHING is ever exactly equal in real life...
A real, if rather cold-blooded solution, to the dilemna would be which officer is more useful to the crew? A trained bridge officer like Harry Kim or whatever the other officer did?
Wed, Aug 7, 2013, 4:44pm (UTC -6)
This episode had me emotionally engaged from the get-go. The Doctor is one of my favorite characters in the entire Star Trek canon. I was invested in his memory restoration. The mystery intrigued me. When Janeway compared him to a replicator, it angered me, as did the crew's treatment of him with the exception of Seven. I was relieved when Janeway changed her mind.

The ability for an episode to move me like that is how I gauge it. I can't argue with many of the plot holes pointed out in the comments (although a few are suspect). Like Justin, however, I believe this episode transcends them. I typically notice such things as well, but this episode had me so engaged they didn't occur to me until I came here.

Even the one moment that I thought dragged a bit - the Doctor sitting in a barren holodeck with a bored/sleeping Janeway - was redeemed by the beautiful moment when the Doctor picks up the book to help him understand himself better. As a professor of literature who sometimes has to deal with students majoring in science, math, etc. complaining about such literature courses having no "practical" value, I see in that moment an expression of why i feel they do indeed, and why I chose my career.

Picardo is brilliant, and while this episode isn't perfect, I find it to be evocative at a very deep level. As such, I applaud it regardless of its relatively minor flaws. An excellent episode.
Wed, Aug 7, 2013, 4:55pm (UTC -6)
I want to address a comment made earlier by Cail Corishev that I doubt he'll ever see, but I feel compelled to say something.

To justify the deletion of the doctor's memory, he argues it would be the "kindest" thing to "excise" the memory of a human crew member who'd had a "mental breakdown." We'll, that's something that's been tried before. In the past, mentally ill people were often lobotomized against their will to "cure" them. Their argument was exactly the same a yours: it was "kinder" to have them rendered incapable of higher cognition, since their thoughts were so disturbing to them.

Now medical professionals see how terribly misguided that was. I personally can think of few things more horrifying than someone "excising" bits of your brain to "cure" you of mental illness. One is made better by dealing with trauma, not by operations. Your casual promotion of this outdated philosophy frankly appalls me.
Mon, Aug 19, 2013, 12:31am (UTC -6)
I get what the story's supposed to be about, but I still think that Janeway may have done the right thing for the wrong reason.

Forget rights for a moment, and remember we've seen dilemmas like this KILL AIs before. Remember Rayna Kapec from Requiem for Methuselah? Or any of the other AIs from TOS that Kirk paradoxed to death. Maybe The Doctor would come out of this all right, and maybe it would've destroyed him. They had no way of knowing.

Is it worth letting him die just to "prove" that he's "human?"
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 12:19pm (UTC -6)
This is an ambitious but bad episode; everything about it is contrived. The Doctor's "going crazy" is overwritten and overplayed to a ridiculous and campy extreme, and is unrealistic. The plot specifics - the ensign we've never seen before and the evil alien of the week - are also highly contrived. Moreover, the Doctor could have easily treated both patients at once. There's no reason he must be restricted to humanoid form - he could easily have lengthened his arms, pointed one eye in each direction and treated both Kim and Ensign Redshirt at the same time. After all, we saw that the treatment involved little more than holding a device to the patient's head - so the dialogue about the procedure being too complex for Paris to perform also rings hollow. The ending, with the doctor rambling on and on in the holodeck while the ship's captain "monitors" him (for 16+ hours on end, no less) is terrible.

Seven is superb as usual and her dialogue is brilliantly written and delivered.
The Sisko
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 12:30pm (UTC -6)
I don't get it. Why does everybody keep getting worked up about unimportant details, such as the plausibility of The Doctor being a sentient being? Can't you just enjoy the show for what it is? People have to learn to suspend disbelief when watching a freaking TV show, for god's sakes. Stop complaining already. This episode is clearly one of Voyager's absolute best character pieces. Easy 4 stars from me.
The Sisko
Mon, Aug 26, 2013, 12:58pm (UTC -6)
It makes me sad that so many people do not appreciate this episode fully. As Bill said, it's episodes like this one where Star Trek shines the most. If you can't enjoy this one, then why do you watch VOY at all? It can't be for "The Killing Game", after all.
Thu, Oct 3, 2013, 9:15pm (UTC -6)
Man, Janeway's comparison of the Doctor to a food replicator made me cringe. I thought we got past that after the first season. A fine example of the inconsistent writing that we've all talked about.

Despite this, I found it a good episode the first time I saw it. Unfortunately it doesn't stand up that well to repeated viewings.

Also, regarding Harry Kim's reaction...he could have been playing dumb but perhaps he really didn't remember the surgery? Maybe they never told him? It is indeed a bit of a loose thread.
Fri, Nov 8, 2013, 3:49pm (UTC -6)
This episode covered a lot of ground in a remarkably short amount of time.

Several observations:

- Seven is once again used to defend the rights of individuality, this time of the doctor, to the protestations of the rest of the 'human' crew.

- While captain and crew clearly care for the doctor's well-being, they display a distinct prejudice against the notion a computer program can be least by their initial hasty decision to lobotomize the Doctor, rather than working out the 'bugs' in his programing in a more elegant fashion.

- the Doctor must fight for his right to live with the consequences of his choices, the knowledge of his failure...not unlike the legal battle Data fought to be recognized as an individual in 'The Measure of a Man'. In fact, the fight for survival of the Doctor's 'essence' is much like the replicants fight in Bladerunner.

- the Doctor reacts realistically much like a computer program that has two competing bits of data that must be resolved. He freezes, just like a computer would, and his program goes into an infinite loop, forcing a shut-down and restart. --for once a Voyager episode relies on some actual Sci-fi, and not magic or fantasy! Bravo!

- the ending was innovative, showing the crew coming to terms with their initial mistake to 'erase the pain' of the doctor (echoes of star trek V there!), and shoes them devoting their time to listen to his existential angst in the hope he eventually reaches a catharsis---thereby adding that little extra bit of complexity to his program and becoming a better doctor, a better sentient life-form for it.

A very good episode in the fine tradition of ST:TNG.
Sat, Dec 7, 2013, 12:08pm (UTC -6)
I'd really like all these "he's just a computer program!" people to define what they think sentience is.

The dictionary defines is as such: "responsive to or conscious of sense impressions". Then the doctor is definitely sentient. And if it's "to be aware of one's self", then the doctor is also perfectly sentient.

The fact is, most humans don't like to be reminded they're just animals, and like animals they're "programmed" by their genes. A human will never do something that their genes don't allow them to do. Never. Just like the doctor cannot do something his programming doesn't allow him to do. What is the difference, except that we know how to modulate technology better than we know how to modulate our genes?
Thu, Feb 13, 2014, 10:03pm (UTC -6)
4 stars; brilliant episode.

Picardo ranks this as his favourite incidentally.
Tue, Apr 22, 2014, 12:34am (UTC -6)
Amazingly good episode, terrific questions being raised. Very solid acting and pretty strong dialogues. Picardo is fantastic and the speech Seven gave to the captain is one of the best I've seen in any Trek show.

Sure, it is outrageous that the captain was willing to erase Doc’s memory without him even having the chance of (re)knowing why. Actually, to even consider imposing that to someone who is already taken as a person, is morally absurd. So, in this case, also out of character. Let’s face it: it does not matter how important the Doc is for Voyager because he is the only doctor around. Either he is considered a living being (although non-biological and therefore different just as Data) and should have more rights than a replicator. Or he is as a machine as a replicator and they should stop letting him grow as an individual and develop “a soul”. Within Trek’s moral standard, it cannot be something that varies according to the crew's necessities, like some people here seem to think. It means, it cannot be a matter of mere pragmatic choice. As well as it cannot be a matter of "enough-philosophy-authoritarian-is-in-his-best-interest" decisions.

In fact, the captain once again shows how much she is capable of making wrong, bad decisions. In the beginning it was looking like the episode would be just one more case Voyager bringing good episodes, very good main plots, built over an irritatingly bad initial plot device. However, all of that came full circle in the end, since it was nice to see that at least in this episode the captain was able to address and recognize that she may have done a moral mistake. That was a marvelous touch! Very moving and actually ended making the episode even better. How moving it was to see her taking care of the Doc, her talking with Seven, he assuming to the Doc that she was biased by his nature. What a contradictory (in a good way) episode. What a deep questioning both on Doc's hand and on the captain's hands. What a mature ending. Certainly 4 stars, a score of 10 out of 10. Easily easily. One of the bet episodes the how Trek.
Wed, Apr 30, 2014, 4:48pm (UTC -6)
Comparing the Doctor to a replicator seems to contradict the previous seasons, as they have treated the Doctor as if he is a person; their actions over the course of the series make no sense if they thought he was "just" a machine.

Yes, the Doctor is running on a computer, what about it? If you think that means he's no more a person than a toaster is, then you reject AI, and you have to throw a whole lot of Star Trek out the window to so so. There's nothing wrong with thinking that strong AI is impossible, but that just isn't the way it works in the Star Trek universe. Both Data and the Doctor run on a computer, what their bodies are made of isn't important. Just because the doctor is a person with a mind, doesn't mean that anything that runs on a computer is a person with a mind.

This is one of my favorite episodes. The Doctor wasn't intended to be used over the long term. "Coin flip" decisions wouldn't have been a problem for an EMH that was being used as intended, that is, only for short periods. The key part of this episode is when the Doctor raves about having chosen to save Kim because Kim was his friend. That's an ethical situation which could drive a flesh-and-blood doctor crazy. If the EMH had been used as intended, he wouldn't have any friends, and thus there wouldn't have been the distress over choosing his friend.
The Professor
Tue, May 27, 2014, 10:51am (UTC -6)
Jammer. This episode deserved higher than three stars.
Tue, May 27, 2014, 11:15am (UTC -6)
My 2 cents about "how" the dilemma happened. Those criticizing that the Doctor should have been programmed with tie breaking software/etc... how do you know he wasn't. Perhaps he was designed to toss a mental coin in those cases and instead made a decision to not do so. That explains quite a lot about what happened and is how I choose to see it.

I doubt very much a freshly activated EMH would have any issue resolving this, if a computer program can't pick between A and B because they have equal priority a good programmer would have just let the EMH toss a coin. But OUR EMH doesn't handle problems in that fashion anymore because he's grown. And that's why he started freaking out. Because he made a decision and somebody died. It's easy when you're programming made the decision to sleep at night, but when you decided? Because he was your friend?

I'm not saying there aren't issues, but the concept holds up to me.
Sun, Jun 8, 2014, 7:45am (UTC -6)
Wow, watched this again after having watched it a few months ago. Still 4 stars Jammer! 4 stars! If any Voyager deserves your love, it's this one. Counterpoint, which precedes it, is a wonderful episode as well.
Sun, Aug 24, 2014, 6:20pm (UTC -6)
You know, looking at the Voyager reviews on here and the comments to those reviews it is apparent that you people just *dont* *like* *Voyager*. There are a lot of people on here who right out think the show took an entirely wrong direction and therefore is supposedly not as interesting or deep or sophisticated as TNG or DS9. If that is your sentiment, then I am not surprised that every review on here is just anther way for you people to bash Voyager altogether and show how, based on each episode, this is just a crappy show in your opinions. Knowing this about you, does not make reading the reviews interesting as these are no longer reviews by basically a summary of why it is apparent, once more, what terrible show Voyager is.
Mon, Sep 8, 2014, 9:08am (UTC -6)
@Ellen - agree with your comment. I miss the old style of having a show you didn't have to watch every week, and not miss a thing. These episodic shows are too easy to disengage from.

@Jammer - The end of this episode is over long and pointless. The doc, over and over, talking the same. It would be better if they programmed him to believe that she lived by jumping through a wormhole, then became a borg.
Mon, Nov 3, 2014, 12:24pm (UTC -6)
Love this episode.

Something I was wondering... couldn't the EMH just split itself into two simultaneously running versions of itself? I'm sure there's a technical reason why it can't, but it'd be a handy feature.
Fri, Jan 2, 2015, 8:27am (UTC -6)
I liked the episode because (1) it tackles an interesting dilemma for the Doc and (2) it raises how pre conceived notions influence decision making.

I agree that statistically speaking, it is unlikely that Harry and Jetal had the exact same probability of surviving. They received the same injury but they are different people and I am sure one had a better chance mathematically. However, it probably wasn't significantly different to warrant Doc's choosing Harry over Jetal (in Doc's mind). A human doctor may have had the same dilemma of choosing a friend over an acquaintance but they would have been allowed to work through the problem.

Whether the doc is sentient or not is not the issue for me. On numerous occasions Janeway has said that everyone on board is an important member of the crew and that comes with certain rights and expectations. But she has shown that this isn't really true. Biological crew members are afforded more liberties. Comparing the doc to a toaster or replicator doesn't make sense after calling him a valued member of the crew for 3-4 years.

Janeway's tendencies for bias go back to Season 1 Parallax when she basically placed Chakotay as her first officer because she needed the Maquis but would have relegated all of them to secondary status if Chakotay hadn't called her on it. She did this after stating that they were all one crew that needed to work together. Even after saying that, she had no intention of treating everyone the same. This is a similar situation with the doctor. Janeway would never try an unauthorized procedure on a biological crew member. Even Suder, the sociopath, got better treatment. I'm sure there is a way to surgically remove or alter the part of the brain responsible for violent impulses in the 24th century. However, this wasn't even considered and Suder posed a safety risk to other crew members. After all, he bludgeoned a man to death just for looking at him the wrong way. I know he was confined to quarters but he seemed smart enough to break out if he really wanted to.

I understand that the doc is the only medical officer and needs to be functioning, however, Janeway didn't even explain this viewpoint to him. She just altered him without his knowledge. So, in my view, Janeway either needs to stop pretending she thinks of the doc as legitimate crew or she needs to walk the walk.
Sat, May 2, 2015, 8:00pm (UTC -6)
So, where was Kes? If this happened before Seven joined the crew then that means this was during the time when Kes was the nurse. Yet we see Tom running around as Doc's assistant.
Chronologically incorrect. Whether she would have been able to perform the procedure or not, she should haven been there.
Fri, May 15, 2015, 9:18am (UTC -6)
With all due respect to the Doc, he cannot age and die (in the traditional sense) like the rest of the crew.
Tue, Aug 11, 2015, 3:32pm (UTC -6)
Very nice Episode. The only thing I didn't like was that it was so obvious who was in on the conspiracy.there really was no shock when I saw janeway leaning over the console. Ah well. People go out of their way to bash voyager.
Tue, Aug 18, 2015, 12:11am (UTC -6)
You can always tell the best episodes, as they seem to generate the most commentary on this review site. 74 as of this writing, and I think all of the bantering, debating, and questions being posed are just more proof at how good this episode is... I'd give it 3.5 stars, as I really didn't care about some of the plot contrivances. This story is about the human condition, which is classic Trek, as Janeway realizes that the Doc IS sentient, and therefore needs to learn how to deal with the consequences of the decision that he made... Loved it, great stuff! And Picardo was absolutely brilliant!
Wed, Aug 19, 2015, 12:13am (UTC -6)
I've been struggling through Voyager having not watched it in years, Latent Image was the first episode of season 5 that grabbed my attention, very touching and true for those of us unfortunate enough to battle with not having saved a life.
Mon, Oct 19, 2015, 10:25am (UTC -6)
towering performance from the doc.
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 4:28pm (UTC -6)
Science fiction tends to be at its best when dealing with real-world issues via metaphor. In this case, PTSD caused by guilt. Picardo sells being a sufferer of PTSD wonderfully. That the story has certain scientific problems is trivial to me.
Mon, Nov 2, 2015, 10:49am (UTC -6)
We know that this will not be the last episode to delve into the humanity of the doctor (S7's Author, Author closed the books on that). The program was designed to adapt and to expand. I found myself caught in the middle of the comments. I can see how if it is adaptable how it eventually would develop this feedback loop. Whereas humans can be contradictory by nature and can change minds in a heartbeat it only stands to reason the program would adapt to a degree that it would behave in the same fashion.

On the other hand, that level of adaptation would not serve the crew's interests and perhaps some tweaking of it would be necessary to where it would not need to adapt to where it would cause a conflict as to "I'll choose my favorite to save first." Certainly not to where it would become self destructive behavior.

Of course, this all hinges on whether or not one sees the doctor as sentient. And this argument goes back to TNG's The Measure of a Man. Even though Data was an android he was nonetheless man-made and also designed to adapt to the human condition. It stands to reason those same parameters would be applied to the doctor, who clearly had grown from what he was in Season 1. (Note however in S6's Life Line Dr. Zimmerman said he never overcame the inherent flaws of the Mark I. He remained arrogant, egotistical and a bit of a jerk. All the way thru the series.) Watching S7's Author, Author the phrase "I think, therefore I am" kept coming to mind. He can (and did) fight for his right to publish under his own free will. He could only do that thru experience. He grew into that experience. Not much different from a child growing up to become a man (or woman). They are man-made too. Experience is the best teacher. And in some ways the benchmark of maturity. And hopefully they become a pillar of the community rather than a blight on it.

This is the reason I am caught in the middle. Because I clearly see both sides. It's easy to say "well we programmed him we'll make him into a whistling teapot if we want to, or just decompile it and start all over." Especially if it becomes a potential threat to others. Think also that supercomputer from the Terminator series known as Skynet. There always was (and maybe still is) a deep rooted fear they may develop self awareness and decide in the blink of an eye what's best for humanity. And that choice may be extinction. On the other hand it wouldn't really learn from its mistakes if we stop to reset the clock if you will every time his program did something the crew didn't like. Adaptation is what it was programmed to do. It can only do that thru experiencing and subsequently dealing with conflicts. In that instance think the supercomputer in "War Games". It realized in the end after x amount of Tic Tac Toe attempts the only winning move was not to play.

A solid 3 stars just for the introspective mode this puts me into. 74 reviews deep confirms it really stirred emotions in others as well. Easier to do with episodes like this than "False Prophets" :)
Wed, Nov 4, 2015, 11:36am (UTC -6)
Middle of the road. Fine for Janeway to have initially made and stand by her decision (even though Doctor arguing with Neelix and resisting security officers is actually far from his program almost self-destructing) but it's too much to shortly thereafter have her call him a friend.
Sun, Jan 24, 2016, 7:42pm (UTC -6)
Y'know, if Janeway had just deleted the Doc's memory of that day, then told him that it was due to the alien's beam-o ray, and then said Ensign Plotpoint was already dead. If that had happened, the plot would never have happened. And, of course, it's rather silly that Paris was the medic instead of Kes, but that was just a necessary error since Seven was out of the loop. All things considered, though, I am willing to suspend my disbelief at these issues, since, quite honestly, I think this is the best Voyager episode so far.

All too often, Trek writers don't really treat aliens as aliens, they're humans with a funny hat on, whether it be logic, honor, etc. Same with AI. It's just a human with funny tendencies like not using contractions. What this episode does is actually explore the issue of what a sentient AI would be, and how that AI could deal with its own coding. I was upset at how quickly the EMH seemed to gain sentience in Seasons 1 and 2, but given the way he's written it makes sense for him to be that evolved now. And yet, he's still stuck by a logic bomb. And more importantly, because he's a computer, a tiny flaw expands and takes over his personality. Not in a technobabble way, but in a real way. And the ending takes a bold stance. Instead of programming the problem away, as the crew did last time, the Doctor must think his way through the situation. Just like we, occasionally, have to muddle through our own flaws. If he can pass this test (which the episode suggests he will), then he essentially passes the test of sentience. By being able to simultaneously overcome his programming as well as accepting the limitations of his being. He needs to understand that sometimes we don't understand, or to understand that some things just are. He needs to find his own way of getting an escape hatch in this endless loop he's on.

Philisophical notions of AI aside, the episode is absolutely fantastic, character-wise. The episode is written from the EMH's perspective, and so initially Janeway's actions seem unacceptable to us. And although this is probably an accident, the fact that Janeway's been a fascist dictator this season may have heightened this sense. But then it flips entirely when we see what the result is of this seemingly innocuous event. The EMH really was on a feedback loop. And more importantly, at this point, the EMH actually agrees with Janeway! He himself is seeing himself as a mere program, incapable of handling the logic. He himself is arguing for a reprogramming, when just beforehand he felt as if he was a condemned prisoner. In that instance, Janeway suddenly starts looking more reasonable.

And yet she still wasn't entirely convinced, and changed her mind after her discussion with Seven. That, too, showed a smart side of Janeway. I felt that she wasn't entirely convinced of her arguments to Seven as she made them, as I think there was something in her conscience nagging at her about this situation. It took Seven breaking her own logic to bring it to the forefront, but I think it was there to begin with. Like I said earlier, Janeway's been portrayed very negatively so far this season, so seeing this change of pace of hers was nice.

As was her final conversation with Seven. I think that really helped to sell Janeway's side of things, that she's weighing huge decisions in the realm of AI and Borg sentience, and she's simply muddling through the best she can. We know that Seven's individuality was the big topic of last season, and Janeway was always portrayed as being absolutely firm in her decision. Seeing her asking Seven about it proves that, well, it was all a hunch on her part. She didn't know what the end product would be. She didn't know that Seven would eventually come around to accepting the gift that she was giving her. So asking Seven for reinforcement of that decision, when she is now going to undertake a similar decision with the Doctor, to force a human response on him. I found it quite touching. And I found Seven, the cold abrasive one, giving Janeway that reassurance to be just as touching.

So yeah, I can forgive a few quibbles. This was a masterpiece, making the absolute best uses of the EMH, Janeway, and Seven. The initial mystery was gripping, the way all the characters acted was quite understandable, and the final resolution worked. I even liked the ending. We never see the Doc finish his wanderings, but I think we saw a glimpse of it. He stopped his internal deliberations long enough to tell Janeway to get some rest. While it's a bit silly given that Janeway sent Tuvok off just 2 minutes earlier, it still worked. Why? because the EMH broke out of his logical conundrum to get back to his true personality, aiding others. There was a subtle message there: don't be so over-obsessed with your own self that you ignore others. Perhaps that is how he escapes his conundrum. That he realizes that obsessing over his decision is in fact harmful to others, and harmful to himself. To realize that the universe isn't fair or perfect or whatever, to realize that he himself has limitations, and to accept that. Bravo.

Easily 4 stars to me.

Also, some rebuttals to some of the comments here:

- I think Janeway's initial attitude toward the Doctor is absolutely justified in-universe without calling her racist or anything. We are comfortable around the EMH and Data, because we know this is a sci-fi show and they are placed as main characters who are supposed to gain our sympathy and because we know, deep down, that Spiner and Picardo are real people just playing a game. But to the characters, sentient AI is still brand new. Before the EMH, there was a grand total of one known sentient AI (2 if you count Lore) in existence. Most Starfleet personnel felt awkward and uncomfortable around Data (most notably Pulaski and Hobsen, but even Riker in Encounter at Farpoint). Why should she readily accept the EMH as fully worthy of all rights, even if she comfortably interacted with him for years? It's not an easy thing to wrap one's head around.

Analogy time: I've watched Star Trek as a kid. I've seen characters interacting with the computer for years, and it always seemed natural to me. Despite that, I still think it sounds stupid when people use Siri or Google or whatever. And I hate it when I call someplace and get a recording run by a voice-operated program. It doesn't feel right to me, even though it feels perfectly normal for the characters on Star Trek. Likewise, I can perfectly understand if the characters are not fully vested in AI sentience, even if we the viewers are.

- Janeway's analogy to the replicator was perfectly fine to me. She was making an argument in the extreme, and as such simplified the argument down to its basic part. I can perfectly see someone else use a similar analogy of comparing a human to an animal to make their point.

- Janeway's decision to excise his memory may go against his being sentient with equal rights, but only partly. It's understandable to consider all possible treatments to his condition. Today, we chemically treat psychological problems with drugs. We physically alter our brain chemistry, in other words. Yes, that's less extreme than physically altering memories, but I think it's tangentially related. We often see psychological problems as a technical issue that must be sorted out, so why wouldn't the kings of technobabble see the same thing with AI?

- I think the situation stated - the EMH's own no-win scenario, was perfectly valid. We've never seen him copy himself before like that, so to use that as a solution is patently unfair. His limitations may be a problem with the EMH concept in general, but it's too late to change that now. Also, the absolutely equal chance of survival was set up well. Basically, each person had minutes to live with identical wounds. Presumably, the chance of healing was 100% for both if treated properly. The only problem was that the method of healing took much longer than minutes, hence why treating one would mean the other would necessarily die. I mean, this is a nitpick anyway, but this setup was reasonably plausible. Certainly more plausible than Janeway's solution, but whatever. Like I said, I can forgive that for allowing this awesome setup.
The Man
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 9:23pm (UTC -6)
@Justin Can you please stop whining about Jammer's opinion's about an episode? You act like your feelings are hurt over a TV Show review.
The Man
Sat, Feb 27, 2016, 9:25pm (UTC -6)
Wed, May 2, 2012, 2:11pm (UTC -6)
@Michael, once again your comments illustrate that Star Trek in any of its forms really isn't your thing. If exploring the human condition doesn't hold your interest, try watching Transformers or Clone Wars instead."

Can you post without sounding like you have a stick up your *ss?
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 7:25am (UTC -6)
The real question this episode brings up is why have the Doctor be a hologram at all? Practically all of his behaviors and experiences are equivalent to humans'. Data proved to be different: he had a difficult time understanding a lot of human peculiarities. In Voyager, the Doctor is just a human made up of photons and forcefields. Data is a true artificial lifeform forced to work from the ground up, showing difficulty in understanding human behavior & thought processes while proving to be sapient in his own right.

Sapience =/= being human. There are many species in Star Trek with sapience, all considered "people", many having difficulty understanding each other, and some without human emotions. One could argue the Doctor was designed to be "more human", but Data was too. This is where the continuity is really inconsistent: they can have a hologram experience real emotions but not an android? Even when Data's proven to be faster and more advanced than any other computer in Starfleet?

Don't get me wrong; I like the Doctor. But there was no point in making him anything other than human except to use his holographic "powers" as a deus ex machina on occasion. If the writers really cared that he was a hologram, we'd see something unique in his experiences that almost no human has experienced - something specific to AIs. Instead, we see the Doctor experience common human peculiarities like PTSD.
Diamond Dave
Tue, Mar 1, 2016, 2:04pm (UTC -6)
To me, this is one of those episodes that has a storming set up and then drops the ball with the conclusion. The mystery element is extremely well done, as is the conspiracy element. But while I did gain some satisfaction from the Doctor going off the deep end as soon as it's explained to him why they deleted his memory to stop him going off the deep end, from this point on the episode just went a bit flat. Having the Doc left alone to rant a bit and then come to his own conclusions didn't seem like the most satisfying dramatic conclusion. 2.5 stars.
Wed, Apr 13, 2016, 5:32am (UTC -6)
This review is so old, but I see people still comment, so I will as well.

I have PTSD and to me this episode appears to strongly allude to it. Similarly, the episode with Seven where she freaks out about the doctor evaluating her and has flashbacks... But I was very disappointed with the last half of that episode and that PTSD was not more of an issue for her.
Anyways... I loved this episode and it made me cry. I felt sick and angry for the doctor when it was revealed that Janeway was the one behind it. I thought that it was a view Janeway would have in season one, not now, but I guess that's why she changed her mind. Deleting his memory files is a simile for lobotomy/avoidance/suppressed memories and recovering them like flashbacks or resurfacing. I see people saying that the doctor over reacted and it wasn't realistic, but they are very wrong. Often times I have felt just like the doctor and I felt his anguish like my own.. His acting was really amazing here. I almost wonder if Picardo has PTSD himself. Sometimes I have even felt more desperate, crazy, and alone than he acted in the mess hall. I have wanted to claw my eyes out and scream "WHY DOES'NT ANYONE UNDERSTAND". I have also had insomnia for days and weeks and intruding thoughts about the trauma and guilt trying frantically to make it make sense like the doctor in the holodeck. I likedthe end as well with the book, like it's not going to end soon but there is hope. Really amazing and touching episode.. My favorite of voyager so far.
Wed, May 25, 2016, 1:24pm (UTC -6)
I enjoyed this episode for the performance and the it's thought provoking nature. Very "trek" in that regard.

But man, a couple head scratchers here.

#1. In no way were they "equal". Harry is the "operations officer" (which if you think about it is a joke), a member of the senior staff for gods sake. Not dissing Ensign Jetal here, but there ARE folks more vital to the operation of a star ship than others. Voyager can't pull into a Starbase and get replacements. She hasn't had the training Harry has.

#2. The decision should have been easy for Janeway. He's the ship's only Doctor. Can you really risk him going bat-shit in a crisis in the future? He should have been "fixed". She split Tuvix, she told B'Elanna to "get over it", etc... this should have been a no brainer.

#3, and probably the most important.... to think we could have had Ensign Jetal (Nancy Bell) instead of Kim.... opportunity lost.

Trek never made Data sentient and I doubt they will make a determination concerning the good doctor either.

But like I said, it was an enjoyable mess. 3 of 4 stars.

...and for all you ranting about the epicness of season 5.... so far I've rated season 4 higher.... we'll see how this pans out.
Mon, May 30, 2016, 8:19pm (UTC -6)

Please stop. You are a moron. Everyone pretty much is complaining.


This episode deserves 4 stars in my opinion. Always liked the Doctor and when it comes to the argument about is he a real person or not, well, he is not. But this crew is allowing his program to develop and adapt. End the end, it is still a hologram that is prone to malfunctions. Malfunctions that need to be fixed. I think that the crew took a very humane approach by not completely restoring it to the original EMH software. They did the best they could for it. Very intriguing episode.
Tue, May 31, 2016, 12:37am (UTC -6)
And please stop comparing this series to DS9. We do not want to sit here and read about why you think DS9 was a superior show.
Tue, Sep 6, 2016, 6:52am (UTC -6)
Interesting start, boring ending, no conclusion (*)
Thu, Nov 10, 2016, 8:46am (UTC -6)
Love it. 3.5 stars

At first I had a problem with the doctor not being able to deal with his decision but I actually think it makes perfect sense. He was programmed for emergency use, with the expectation that he wouldn't have to deal with the after effects of situations like this. And if any problems arose it was expected that he would simply have been reset. It would make no sense to programme all the extra detail that he would require to deal with a situation like this.

The only drawback I saw with this episode was janeway suggesting he is more like a replicator than a person. I don't buy that she would think that way at all.

In response to all those people who believe that a computer programme can't be a person, I absolutely disagree. We are simply flesh and blood computers. Our brains operate using electricity. Our DNA is complex code.

In the very near future we will have sentient computer programmes, able to learn and question their existence. How far we allow that sentience to develop is a very difficult question. Science has pretty much always taken the approach that if something can be done, it will be done. I believe we will be tackling the question of what constitutes a person far sooner than most people realize.
Fri, Nov 11, 2016, 6:12am (UTC -6)
Ps: why oh why didn't he save the cute new ensign :(
Sun, Jan 8, 2017, 12:33pm (UTC -6)
Living Witness indicated that the Doctor had a backup. This would have been a good time to activate it. If they lost the backup in the aforementioned LW, they likely would have re-backed the Doc up again after that. So, again, this would have been a good time to activate it.
Mon, Jan 9, 2017, 12:04pm (UTC -6)
@Dave - Lt. Carey was assigned by Torres back in S1 to design a backup for the Doctor. It took him 4 years to do and then it was stolen during the summer between S4 and S5 (for LW). He then spent the rest of his life trying to make another.
Tue, Jan 10, 2017, 12:34pm (UTC -6)

I wonder what LT Carey thought when Harry drummed up another in a day? :-)

I guess we now understand when B'Elanna got picked for Cheif Engineer.
dave johnson
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 6:09am (UTC -6)
I didn't like Janeway's arrogance here.

Look, if any sentient being had this problem... you would not lobotimize them.... you would use counselling, therapy, etc... if they are violent they can be confined to quaters....... you let them work it out.

So, if Doc is self aware, and thus sentient..... it seemed odd that she would essentially lobotimize him.

The end solution was right, let him deal with it however long it takes

Interesting episode. What would a human do... a human would likely treat the person he/she had a relationship with if both patients were "tied in level of severity". That decision alone makes it pretty clear the Doc has evolved beyond just computer programs and instant programmed decisions.
dave johnson
Mon, Jan 16, 2017, 6:10am (UTC -6)
Just something I thought of...

if computer programming could create a hologram with emotions, ethical subroutines, the ability to learn and develop.... why would you have problems with Data and emotion chips... why not create and android body and put the computer program of a hologram into the brain and off you go.....
Wed, Feb 15, 2017, 8:39pm (UTC -6)
One of the best Doctor shows on Voyager, poignant therapy at the end really really good.
Thu, Feb 23, 2017, 3:22am (UTC -6)
Loved it one of Voyager's best and I hear Picardo's favorite ep as well.
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 5:08am (UTC -6)
@Bill T I agree wholeheartedly. all these people are doing is complaining.

not only that. i find it odd that not one person has pointed out the fact that the Doctor's program has degraded once. (the swarm) when the options were to either Reset to factory defaults (basicall) or keep going and they used the EMH's Diagnostic Subroutine program to graft a new HoloMatrix.

So add to that that with this new Holomatrix that the doctor became more human more like the crew, that seeing Kim in this situation and not knowing what to do he would have gone into a loop like that.

It was an okay episode not the best but i did like where this went.

Also i'mjust gonna say this now and i don't give a care what kind of grief i get or if anyone even pays attention to this page or not. But Voyager is way more Interesting than DS9 or TNG could have ever hoped to be. I know just about everyone here probably sucks TNG's ass but whatever Voyager is extremely underrated compared to those other 2 shows.

You're welcome.
Fri, Mar 17, 2017, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
@Jai - I don't usually feed trolls, but I'll assume you aren't one and give you the benefit of the doubt once.

You're on the internet complaining about other people's complaining on a new username that has never posted before. Complaining about complaining is odd to say the least. It makes me question why you're here if this site is making you so angry. But beyond that "Voyager is way more Interesting than DS9 or TNG could have ever hoped to be. I know just about everyone here probably sucks TNG's ass but whatever Voyager is extremely underrated compared to those other 2 shows." is a really, really odd statement.

If you're interested in explaining why you think Voyager is underrated, I'm happy to hear it. I've gone on record multiple times to say that it was the weakest of the three, and I totally stand by that... despite it having some of the strongest episodes in some cases. This actually is one of them (IMHO). In fact despite being down on Voyager in other places on this site I defended this episode above around 3 years ago. That's because I have a nuanced opinion about Trek.

I think Voyager is underrated in places because despite having a number of standout gems and an outstanding cast I judge it more harshly for some of the things I gave TNG a pass on because the crew pumping out 18 years of straight Trek onto TV should have learned some lessons that I gave them some slack for in the TNG years after a decade. Some of it is because TVs landscape was evolving and DS9 evolved with it while VOY didn't. Some of it was because the ensemble was poorly used even though I really loved them. My favorite thing about DS9 is how it uses it's ensemble.

So for me (and I think I speak for many), VOY is a lot of missed opportunity and near hits. And so it colors some talk of VOY and, in many cases, people don't talk about some of the extreme triumphs in VOY (like Eye of the Needle, Jetrel, Prototype, Alliances, Meld, Deadlock, Lifesigns, Remember, Before and After, Distant Origin, Scorpion, Mortal Coil, Message in a Bottle, Muse, Drone, Thirty Days, Counterpoint, Latent Image, Someone to Watch Over Me, Dragon's Teeth, Pathfinder, Blink of an Eye, Child's Play, Critical Care, Shattered, Lineage, The Void, Workforce, Author Author and Homestead).

But that's 30 episodes I'd stick up against the best stuff TNG has to offer and think that they'd hold up. For me VOY (as a series) is less than the sum of it's parts whereas the other two are a bit more. For what it's worth... all 4 of the episodes you defended today are fairly well received and Jammer rated them fairly high (except for Course : Oblivion, which I also enjoyed).

So I wonder... where is the anger coming from dude? Because a few comments are down on them? Because people are nitpicking Trek? (welcome to fandom btw)

If I'm being totally honest, nobody said anything nearly as negative as "Voyager is way more Interesting than DS9 or TNG could have ever hoped to be" or "everyone here probably sucks TNG's ass". In one breath you're screaming "WAAAAH WAAAH WAAAH" and in the next telling Paul Allen he "really needs to cool his jets". I think you need to look in the mirror. The last 2 comments before that Paul Allen made about VOY were positive too. Deep breaths before posting dude! :P
Sun, Apr 2, 2017, 6:09pm (UTC -6)
Never liked this episode. This is the first time I'm watching Voyager back-to-back, though I have seen a few episodes on TV before, this one included. I usually don't have a problem with Janeway when compared to the rest of the Internet/Trek fandom, but in this episode, she just comes across as a grade-A cunt in regards to her treatment of The Doctor prior to the ending. And comparing him to a replicator, really? I too thought we had long-ago come to the conclusion that he was a sentient being.

Without a fulfilling conclusion, this episode ultimately feels like an almost offensive waste of time. What sucks is that this episode had the makings of something great. Would probably give this half a star, just for the solid all-around acting.
Wed, Apr 26, 2017, 9:41am (UTC -6)
Awesome episode, loved the score and the ending.

The therapy scene and the doctor reading about a "new life" we're especially poignant.

I took that to mean he was overcoming his original limitations and finally achieving real sentience.

Picardo's acting is without flaw and Ryan's suppressed anger and disillusionment are shown brilliantly.

Thu, May 11, 2017, 4:42am (UTC -6)
Should have used the two twin sisters for this episode if they are still around.
Thu, May 11, 2017, 9:10am (UTC -6)
"Should have used the two twin sisters for this episode if they are still around. "

The amount of VOY episodes that would have been kicked up a notch with just a splash of continuity... ::sigh::
Fri, May 12, 2017, 8:07am (UTC -6)
Probably weren't prepared to pay/get the actresses (or maybe I am giving them too much credit)... but since this episode really needed twins to work perfectly, it's a real shame.
Sun, Jun 18, 2017, 4:52pm (UTC -6)
JANEWAY: It's as though there's a battle being fought inside him, between his original programming and what he's become. Our solution was to end that battle. What if we were wrong?
TORRES: We've seen what happens to him. In fact, we've seen it twice.
JANEWAY: Still, we allowed him to evolve, and at the first sign of trouble? We gave him a soul, B'Elanna. Do we have the right to take it away now?
TORRES: We gave him personality subroutines. I'd hardly call that a soul.

For me, this episode pretty much hit all the right notes. Doc is one of my favorite characters. But he started out as a hologram, not a sentient being. How and when did he become sentient? When his crewmates recognized him as such. He was created as a program and when that program did not operate as specified, files were deleted. However that solution did not last and another solution was necessary, one which recognized the uniqueness of the situation. My only quibble with the end, Janeway seemed intent on keeping watch over Doc herself. Doc probably would have benefited from interaction with all of the pertinent crew members, each sharing a unique perspective and offering differing coping mechanisms, and friendship.

And yes, Kes should have been present at that point in time (of the original event), but the result would have still been the same: Like Paris, Doc would have known that Kes would not have been able to properly perform the operation. It would have been Kes standing there where Paris had been.
Wed, Sep 27, 2017, 8:07am (UTC -6)
Here again, for the umpteenth time, I find myself agreeing with Seven when she debates/argues about ethics of humanity/individuality with Captain Janeway. At least, this time, the Captain seemed to take her point to heart, at least writers make it so she does. Usually, it's the "Janeway turns out right" or "Janeway proceeds anyway" scenarios..

Great review Jammer.
Sun, Oct 1, 2017, 2:56pm (UTC -6)
I think that this is an excellent episode (3.5 stars). Watching the doctor grapple with his conscience is heartbreaking. Feels like a lot of other comments are very nitpicky.
Prince of Space
Tue, Oct 31, 2017, 2:40am (UTC -6)
I barely made it out of the comments from 2009.

I apologize to all those of you that commented from 2010 on. But seriously, go back and read the 2009ers.

They’re like reading the entries for a contest to see who can be the most pretentious by people that used a stolen credit card to pay the entrance fee.

Yeah, that’s a run-on sentence and now I’m coming across pretentious. Well, at least I’ll never be part of that 2009 crowd. haha

I liked this episode. I didn’t love it. It had a few flaws. So do I. I like me, too.

My next pass through the Voyager library I intend to read all the comments past the 2009 ones. I look forward to them!
Sat, Nov 18, 2017, 2:32am (UTC -6)
It's arrogant for flesh and blood beings to say that, just because AI are programmed, they know how they work, then it means that they are lesser-class lifeforms. There is no mystery involved in their creation, meanwhile, humanoids are a mystery! Our evolution was processed over billions of years! Our brains are impossible to manipulate on such a level! Therefore, we are superior beings that can create life and toss it away just because they're not the same, and that we have the ability to, makes it so.

Going on an extreme end, how do you think the Q see humanoids and other intelligent life? The Q have shown the ability to rewrite, toy with, and utterly erase people like us and our brains, our memories, our function, and yet, despite their superior knowledge, they treat fleshies like actual lifeforms, allowing them to evolve and flourish. And humans call themselves enlightened.

AI prejudice is a pretty tired trope I've seen over the years, but hopefully there will be a nicely written story for their acceptance in society in ST someday!
Fri, Dec 1, 2017, 7:43am (UTC -6)
Decent episode on the face of it, but like a lot of others it suffers from some logical or just annoying errors/annoyances;

Janeway’s plan to sort the Doctor out by deleting all record of Jetal (and presumably ordering everyone never to speak of her) is rather cruel to her memory and surely her friends wouldn’t be happy not being able to talk about her. Aside from how difficult that would be to maintain, Janeway seems to go about it the hard way. Instead of basically covering the incident up (as opposed to any of the many other questionable things she’s done) by deleting the Doctors memories, why couldnt she have just changed his memory of the incident such that Jetal was dead when she returned to Voyager or was more badly injured or something?

Since when did any medical procedure in Star Trek leave visible scars such as the one Kim had that set the whole thing off? Dermal regenerators have been around a while.

I’ll buy that the Doctor couldn’t save both people even with Tom’s help (where was Kes anyway?). Ok so have Tom, holodeck expert he is, quickly conjure up a holodeck sickbay and have a fake Doctor that follows his movements exactly so it’s doing surgery on one person while he’s doing the other. Ok be more complicated than that but they made a fully working Cardassian hologram just to annoy the Maquis crew members, so it should have been doable.

Why another random Ensign? It seems Voyager has an endless supply of Ensigns for being killed off as though no other ranks exist. Would have been nice for her to have been seen before (Voyager doesn’t do continuity though).

Speaking of continuity, Jetal’s death is remarkably similar to how Ensign Ballard died (shuttle mission with Kim, alien attack, killed), so how good would it have been for Jetal to have been Ballard? Doctor develops his crisis because he saved Kim over Ballard, then later Ballard returns having been resurrected by the Kobali and the Doctor has to deal with his feelings over it again especially now she isn’t actually dead! Wouldn’t have needed much, just a bit of thought put into it.
Wed, Dec 6, 2017, 12:20am (UTC -6)
2 stars

I was intrigued about the mystery until the reveal thrn I lost interest. First the reveal was lame. Then the crew come as hateful thrn once you see how whiney the s doctor becomes then the crew is more sympathetic. And that final scene is awfully pretentious and silly in my opinion.
John Harmon
Fri, Dec 22, 2017, 2:47am (UTC -6)
I thought this episode was fantastic. 4 stars. I've been told by many that this episode beautifully illustrates what it's like to live with mental illness and it means a lot to them.

I usually don't get caught up in the technicalities of the story if the drama is good. I mean, it's Star Trek. Yeah it's sci-fi, but it's always mostly been an excuse to tell stories exploring the human condition and make social and political commentary.

This is a great human condition episode.
Sat, Dec 30, 2017, 5:41pm (UTC -6)
You ain't never lied. I had the exact same thought. In fact, I originally went looking for Latent Image after watching Ashes to Ashes, thinking they had to be the same Ensign, but when I watched it I was like dafuq? Why pull a random Ensign out of your anus, when you already have a perfectly good one available? It made absolutely no sense whatsoever.

I didn't even think of that. That would've been absolutely perfect, especially if the other twin blamed the doctor for choosing her. Damn this needed one rewrite to iron out the flaws in the story.

For instance, I was disappointed with the so-called crisis the doctor went through. I thought it was going to be something like The Swarm, were his program was actually degrading and they were about to lose him completely, when in fact all that happened was he through a fit. B'Elanna does that every Tuesday.
Mon, Jan 1, 2018, 11:00am (UTC -6)
EMH: I don't mean to seem unfeeling, but I'm programmed to accept the loss of a patient with professional detachment.

Why would he go insane over it then? Because he had to make a choice? Seems a bit farfetched.

And in 'Darkling' the Doc also goes insane, after adding things to his program, and has no problem altering his program to fix himself, removing the thing that was causing him to go mental. So what's the big deal about altering it now and removing something to avoid going insane yet again?

And when Janeway asks Seven for advice....

JANEWAY: I'm having trouble with the nature of individuality.
SEVEN: You require a philosophical discussion?
JANEWAY: There's a time and a place for it. This is one of them. After I freed you from the Collective, you were transformed. It's been a difficult process. Was it worth it?
SEVEN: I had no choice.
JANEWAY; That's not what I asked you.
SEVEN: If I could change what happened, erase what you did to me, would I? No.

After that, Janeway decides not to interfere with the Doc's program, when she just got the exact opposite advice from Seven. She was asking if Seven regrets being forced to be altered, and Seven says she wouldn't change what happened, in other words saying 'I'm glad you forced me'. So after that, Janeway should have forced the Doc to be altered for his own good. Not the complete opposite. Makes no sense.

And this episode should never have existed anyway, because he could have let one of them die, then use Borg nanoprobes to bring the other back. But Voyager forgot that episode exists I guess. Or how about put one in stasis for a few minutes? There is no reason for one of them to die at all, except to force this insanity on the Doc.

2 1/2 stars.
I Hate Janeway
Fri, Jan 5, 2018, 10:48am (UTC -6)
Robert Picardo episodes are the best.

I have come to accept that he's a sentient being, even though in the real world, we should not believe that about computer programs we create.

Janeway acted like a real bitch to him. Totally out of character? Or who knows what her character really is?

Personally, I don't buy the BS about his computer program "degenerating" or whatever it was doing. But Robert Picardo did a great job with the script.
Fri, May 25, 2018, 1:55pm (UTC -6)
Voyager does "Sophie's Choice"

And did it very well. The best dramas are not the action-packed battles in which we're left wondering whether the crew will DIE (here's a spoiler: they won't) but rather putting the characters where they have to make a decision and usually a question that challenges their complacency and beliefs. This is just that kind of an episode for both the Doctor and Janeway. I'm glad they didn't pull any rabbits out of the hat and for the Doctor to grow beyond his programming, he has to resolve the conflicts that will arise between the rules that govern his medical decisions and those that he built for himself in forming friendships. And those two parts of his programming are going to come into conflict as they did for Meryl Streep's character in Sophie's Choice where she has to make an impossible decision.

So kudos. 4 - stars.

Now they just have to build upon it like Babylon 5 did when they would put their characters through the ringer. The future episodes in which the Doctor finally resolves this issue should be fascinating. Oh wait, this is Voyager ... well, it was good while it lasted.
Tue, Jun 19, 2018, 2:53am (UTC -6)
Hello Everyone!

Boy, after all of these years, I still ponder this one...

My random thoughts...

Doctor (his name, not The Doctor), is simply a fantastic program that has gone so far above and beyond its original programming it is essentially another person on the ship. But I say essentially. It is still a program. Just because it is aware that it can leave the holodeck (Moriarity as well), does not mean it is alive. It must have a soul, that inner spark that leaves upon death and heads out to a higher realm.

When his (I say that only because his image is male) programming came upon the improbable circumstance of both crew members having the unlikely perfect 50.0 percent chance of living, Doctor said he chose the one that he liked the best. But I think it was his programming saying this one is a bridge officer, and this one is not. And... done. Whether Doc knew it or not, that was his game-changer. He doesn't know all of the things that go on with the programming, just that he follows it. If there had been even the slightest indication (.001 or so, for arguments sake), he would have saved Jetal, if she was the .001+.

I love Doctor in Voyager, and in this episode. Always have and always will. But when it comes down to it, he is still a program, and can be edited, deleted or enhanced (as shown here). 7 talks about individuality, but at her base, she is still human, and has been brought back into the fold over time. She has computer parts in her, but the thinking is she is still human at her core. And still has her soul.

At the end of time, when there is no more power for Doctor, he will simply blink out of existence. No Valhalla, no Heaven... just nothingness and done.

End of program...

Regards... RT
Wed, Jul 4, 2018, 9:50pm (UTC -6)
I thought this was a really good episode with Picardo putting on a terrific performance showing how his programming would struggle with the decision of which person to save. That's a good problem to examine for a doctor -- no matter the kind. It's pretty well conceived as we're wondering what could have happened such that Janeway would decide to erase Doc's memory -- and sure enough, it was an event that caused Doc to malfunction (i.e. not some lame payoff). So Janeway kicked the can down the road and now has to deal with the issue -- or really, Doc has to deal with the issue.

Some heavy issues about Doc's sentience here and the extent of his personality subroutines etc. I've gone on the assumption that Doc has some pretty advanced subroutines and his AI has gone to new levels. So I didn't have any hangups as far as the self-questioning of making decisions, the existential questions etc. The fact that he looks at things in a very algorithmic way added some good logic to the struggle he went through. I was impressed with the writing.

The scene where Doc decides to perform surgery on Harry (and let Jetal die) -- the music for this was so inappropriate. What a massive oversight! I'm really glad Jammer also points this out as well. WTF?? Aside from this blunder, I'm again reminded by how shit soundtracks from the later Trek series (TNG, DS9, VOY, ENT) all are compared to the excellent soundtracks from TOS. [I don't think I could bring myself to purchase any TNG, DS9, VOY soundtracks, yet I have purchased many TOS ones.]

Good episode for Janeway too -- nice to see that she doesn't have all the answers and doesn't pretend to. She comes to 7 for a philosophical discussion after 7 had earlier said she was unsettled -- after all Janeway had given her her humanity. It struck me as wrong for Janeway to say Doc was more like a replicator than human -- so maybe that suggests this episode should have come in S1 or S2.

The ending scene with Doc reading Janeway's poetry book and the line "Here begins a new life" was spot on for me. This is a turning point for Doc -- wonder what his AI will learn about this.

Solid 3 stars for "Latent Image" -- good examination of Doc's crisis and Picardo really delivers. His scene with Neelix trying to understand decisions using the fruit and nuts was excellent. Didn't seem to me that there was any excessive suspension of disbelief required -- just decent writing, great acting and a pretty compelling story for a very likeable character.
Tue, Oct 9, 2018, 10:35am (UTC -6)
"What harm can a few photons do?", the Doc asks Naomi, in the beginning, when she's worrying if the imaging procedure will hurt. And then we're off . . . toward finding out just what harm a few photons (Doc!) can do.

The ep is an interesting exploration not just of individuality but of honesty, of the need for honesty to respect the individuality of another.

When, if ever, is it ok to withhold the truth from someone? And if you do it, are you really doing it for them, or for yourself, because it's inconvenient (at 2am!) and unsettling for you to deal with another's breakdown?

Janeway realizes that Doc's photonic existence makes it simpler for her - she can make it easy on herself and the crew by deleting his memories. But Seven's intervention helps her see that he deserves the same respect she'd give any other member of the crew. She'd balk at curing regular crew members, of their angst and guilt and internal conflicts, by deleting their memories, after all.

Lots of eps this season about survivor's guilt, and guilt in general: Janeway's guilt for stranding Voyager, B'Ellana's survivor's guilt when she learns so many Maqui are dead, Harry's guilt when he kills them all during the slip stream attempt, and now this. Seems to be a recurring theme this season, as an aspect, I think, of an overall season theme about individual growth and maturity.

Nice, subtle ending for the ep, with talk of a new beginning for Doc.
Tue, Oct 9, 2018, 5:29pm (UTC -6)
Whoa, boy! I've taken to writing my comment first, then reading the review and comments. I enjoy the surprises this brings.

So, a few more comments, now that I've read the review and most of the comments:

--Ep also asks the question, to what extent are we defined by our memories? Notice that Janeway, Chakotay, and Tuvok are on the bridge, disagreeing about what happened in an event they all witnessed, challenging each other's memory of it. This isn't coincidental in this ep, but meant to get us thinking about where the line is. When is a memory consequential to who you are, to how you define yourself? And how reliable are your memories, anyhow?

What makes you, you, anyhow?

-- I thought Janeway compared the Doc to a replicator as a way to try to justify her decision to herself. Yes, she knows better, but her decision was practical and convenient, and she hated to have to get into the messy, time consuming business of helping Doc actually recover. We see her looking tired a lot in this ep. And she is that: Tired.

Speaking of taking the "easy way out," the way that's easiest on everyone else, I thought the ep was more analogous to the overuse of psychiatric drugs than to lobotomies. Not that the lobotomy thing doesn't work as an analogy, just that that isn't so much what is being abused these days. Janeway made the same decision a tired, overworked mother of many might make, about that one, hyperactive, very unruly child. But then she sees the zombie he's become, then, for various reasons, she is forced to face up to it - and she loves her kid, after all, so, tired and exasperated as she is, she does the right thing.

Adding: I'm not of the Tom Cruise "psychiatric drugs are all bad!!" opinion. Not at all. They can be great. But they are sometimes abused as . . . restraints, for the convenience of everyone else, not to truly help the patient. And this ep speaks to that sort of abuse.

Noticed that Doc shows some concern for Janeway toward the end. He's making a decision, and he's putting her first. A deliberate sign, I'd say, that he's on the road to recovery - he's starting to focus outside himself and his own confusion and pain.

Good ep.
William B
Tue, Oct 23, 2018, 12:40pm (UTC -6)
I was just thinking about this episode again for some reason. So first off, I think that the Doctor's own crisis is played very well. Of course as a doctor he's trained with triage, prioritization, etc., but the point is that here there was no help from his original programming, because both patients were in the exact state. Probably his original program would have defaulted to a random number generator or something. But instead what he's learned since -- including his friendships with the crew -- ended up being the deciding factor. What this does is expose him to the abyss that we actually both all live with, and somehow all manage to live with: the realization that he can appeal to objectivity only imperfectly, and that sometimes this means someone dies who shouldn't. As long as he does everything that is "reasonable" to save people's lives, he's in the clear, but at this point he made an "unreasonable" (irrational) decision of who to prioritize, and this breaks him because he's confronted with not only his own frailty but also the injustice of the whole universe. It all comes crashing down on him at once.

One thing that really just occurred to me now is that this is also a Janeway episode. So okay, Kathryn: you're in the Delta Quadrant, far away from your Starfleet training and rulebook. You're in totally new situations, so have to create your own rules out there. Now you come across a situation where you either choose your crew or a stranger. What do you do? And how do you live with that decision, when it's not entirely based on your "original programming" as Captain? In fact the Doctor makes the opposite choice to the one Janeway made in Caretaker -- he saves Harry, whom he knows better than Jetal -- but it hardly matters; if the Doctor had chosen Jetal, he would beat himself up just as much. Janeway is an adult rather than a newborn babe program, and so it doesn't manifest in the same way. But of course Janeway has also made a number of decisions prioritizing people she cares about over strangers, or even over other members of her own crew (Tuvix). None of them were as stark as the Sophie's Choice the Doctor had, where there was no way to make an "objective" decision according to his programming, but a lot of them were close enough, especially given the time constraints involved. So check out her solution for *the Doctor*: she erases his program.

I think it's *not just* a matter of her not treating him as a full person, though that is part of it. I think it's also that this gives us insight into how Janeway deals with the number of calls she's made over the years, many of which hurt her people and many of which hurt strangers, many of which are really far from clear-cut? She forgets. She focuses on the work. Until she can't forget anymore. This is what Night was about, in part, and what Equinox is arguably about -- in that she deals with Random the way she does because she cannot make herself face what she's done. So in that sense, Janeway is doing to the Doctor in a clean and clinical way what she does to herself in a fuzzier, less efficient way. And then when she decides to try to help the Doctor come to grips with it at the end, it maybe is a sign that she might someday try to face up to what she's done, too.
Sean Hagins
Mon, Nov 26, 2018, 6:43am (UTC -6)
Ok, Jammer-this time I agree with you.

This episode came much later in the series than it should-I agree

The feedback loop the doctor is in seems to negate what we know of him-I agree

The producers pull actors out of thin air-I agree again-In fact, even the extras are different almost each time-and they total more than 150 during the series run!

The most amusing thing in this episode to me was the little girl annoying the doctor and then taking a holoimage of him! It was cute-and fun

The story was ok, but kind of out of place-should have been in season 1
Tue, Jan 29, 2019, 7:09pm (UTC -6)
This episode took episodicness, lack of continuity, way too far. It could have worked at the start of the third season, maybe the end of it (six months after the Doctor go his mobile emitter), not really this far into the series. We did already see broadly similar stories/themes especially "The Swarm" and at the end of "Retrospect", this feels much less credible.

Mulgrew tries her best to make the characterization of Janeway work and it comes close to working but doesn't, Dawson tries but less so for Torres and for her it works even less. There are way too many obvious contrivances (wiping the memory more than turns out to seem needed, the Doctor turning out to not be so bothered by the initial event, wiping the recent memory but not informing Seven). The best part is Seven challenging Janeway, to her Oh, we'll talk about it later, with direct, obvious yet strong response-That will be too late.

Picardo plays the Doctor in distress as way too malevolent and crazy (to make the problem feel like a dilemma, maybe he can't live with the memories, Janeway was at least reasonable, instead it just feels like forced overstatement) and yet the initial dilemma seems way, way too obvious, there wasn't anything wrong with his decision, be it that he had to save one patient, better one than neither, on its own or combined with that yes Kim was more important to Voyager's operations.

The placement of this episode is particularly bad coming after and right after "Nothing Human" where the Doctor did (and Janeway trusted him and authorized him to) deal with ethical dilemmas very reasonably.
Tue, Jan 29, 2019, 7:55pm (UTC -6)
It isn't even directly claimed that the Doctor did choose Kim because they were friends and was bothered by that, just that he chose one and that that meant he murdered Jetal. If the chance of survival really were the same, choosing one for some reason (Kim's position in the crew or personal friendship or just randomness) seems obviously valid and if it involved a lack of randomness, lack of complete impartiality, far from troubling.
Wed, Jul 17, 2019, 6:38am (UTC -6)
This episode has one of my favorite Tuvok quotes:
"There is some logic to your logic."
I swear I heard him or another Vulcan say that somewhere else, but Google only brings up this episode.
Sleeper Agent
Sat, Sep 21, 2019, 9:10pm (UTC -6)
I wholly enjoyed the first third of it. It had an aura of thriller to it, which later turns to a character drama with some intriguing philosophical dialogues. It's all very good, but I can't help wishing that the episode would've been of a more sinister kind.

3 Stars
Mon, Nov 11, 2019, 7:20pm (UTC -6)
Voyager had improved significantly at this point in its run. It may never hold a place in my heart like DS9 but 'Latent Image' and to a lesser extent last week's 'Counterpoint' are worthy episodes that provide a satisfying back-to-back viewing experience on this umpteenth rewatch. Something that was rare in a single episode from seasons 1 - 3. Yes, the over-reliance on three key characters is a major problem (Janeway, Seven and The Doctor remind me of Kirk, Spock and McCoy carrying the whole series in the las season of TOS), but nevertheless the last season and a half has been such an improvement in general. My memory insists this wears thin eventually and seasons six and seven sag in comparison, but considering how much I generally deride Voyager, at this point in season five I'm enjoying it more than I'd expected to on this latest visit.

FWIW I think the young Jammer was a little stingy with this one. I'd definitely give it a solid 3.5. Next week we're back to whocaresville with Chaotica , but I've been pleasantly surprised that a show of which I have so middling an opinion has been so frequently enjoyable over the past thirty-odd episodes.
Sat, Jan 4, 2020, 7:42pm (UTC -6)
This has been an extremely strong run for Voyager and I would absolutely include Latent Image as part of that. An essential chapter in Doc's story that asks the classic Trek questions of the nature of sentience, while challenging our characters' preconceptions with smartly written interactions. 4 stars.
Mon, Jul 13, 2020, 1:08pm (UTC -6)
As a conspiracy episode that becomes a "nature of existence" episode, I really enjoyed the questions that it raised. It's good for the show to occasionally remind us that the Doctor is not in fact a real person, but a simulated person. The question is, has he become such an enormously complex simulation that he is now essentially like Data, an artificial lifeform that is self-aware and as close to being genuinely alive as he can be? Have the Voyager crew, by treating him just like all the living flesh and blood crew members, in fact given him a soul, as Janeway asks? Would they have been right to wipe his memory back when he was first activated, but is is wrong now, after he's grown so much?

It's little wonder the show returned to these questions again and again, particularly in the last season, and it's no wonder "Picard" has been exploring the implications of artificial life forms as advanced as we see on Star Trek. It's fascinating sci-fi material for storytelling.
Sun, Jul 26, 2020, 9:29pm (UTC -6)
Many of the comments above miss the point by saying that the EMH program should be able to flip a coin without flipping out.

Janeway explains that they determined the first time around that his original program (presumably capable of a coin flip) was interacting poorly with his personality subroutines (which presumably picked Kim because of their friendship).

The issue he is stuck with is his later self-assessment that picking Kim for that personal reason is wrong and not consistent with his "training" (i.e. his original coin-flipping programming).

Basically it shows the Doctor has reached so far beyond his original program that he can't keep it together. His new personality is outgrowing his basic functions and purpose.

Jammer misses the point on this, and underrates the episode accordingly.

Sat, Aug 22, 2020, 6:17am (UTC -6)

Indeed! LOL!

At once a tough one and an easy one.

First of all, I don't know why I was so annoyed when I watched this a decade ago. "He's just a gosh darn hologram!," I thought back then. End of discussion. I was either having a bad day then or I've matured since, dunno which.

I still think the whole idea is ridiculous. One of the advantages of having a hologram as the ship's doctor is that it's infallible. It's not given to human error, including emotionality. An "ethical subroutine malfunction"? Puh-lease. Surely an ethical subroutine includes sophisticated calculations, which go beyond "both had identical injuries." Surely those calculations include variables such as rank, position, job description, intellect, qualifications, experience (i.e. "usefulness" to the vessel and crew complement), the relative age and health of the patients, the likelihood and speed of recovery, and so many others. After all, Harry "Can't-Get-A-Lock-On-Nothin" Kim and Jetal (a real cutie, BTW) were not identical twins! Even if they had have been, any programmer worth his salt would've provided for such a scenario and instructed the Doctor to flip a binary coin.

Patient = DetermineBetterCandidate(x,y)
If Patient = "neither" Then

So yeah, a provocative idea being explored but on very contrived foundations. A human going through this would make sense; a collection of subroutines doesn't.
Sat, Sep 5, 2020, 12:03pm (UTC -6)
Janeway risked the doctor's existence by returning his lost memories to him. She also risked the whole ship, since they had no other doctor available.

Better alternatives would have been:
1. Make the doctor aware of what occurred, but without restoring the actual memory. As a trained physician, he should understand it as equivalent to amputation of a gangrenous limb: sacrifice a part to save the whole.
2. Agree to return the memory upon the return to the alpha quadrant. The doc is no longer needed at that point, and if he implodes, no one else suffers.
3. Rewrite his program to allow for "no clear right call" decisions of this nature. Had he not liked Harry Kim, he might have frozen up, losing both patients.
Sat, Sep 5, 2020, 12:34pm (UTC -6)
It would be quite a bit more complicated than you imagine.
1. You had to not only cut out the actual experience but also every memory that involves that crewmember. That means every direct contact, every conversation about her and that extents into the future ergo everybody had to always remember to not talk about her when the doctor is around. They also had to limit his access so that he not by accident stumbles over her medical files or when he checks the list of dead crewmembers. The list goes on.
Top Hat
Sat, Sep 5, 2020, 3:55pm (UTC -6)
There's a missed metafictional potential to this episode. Jetal was erased not only from the Doctor's memories, but from all of our memories too! It would have hilarious to go back and edit her into reruns.
Fri, Sep 18, 2020, 6:49pm (UTC -6)
The episode's dilemma is intensly contrived. We've seen the Doctor during Year of Hell go into a bit of a funk when he decided to condemn three crewmembers to death. All it took to get over that was one stern peptalk from Tom Paris.

The plot would have been served if he writers had established the initial alien attack also destabilized the Doctor's holomatrix. That would explain his sudden inability to accept Jetal's death.
Leon Jimenez
Sat, Oct 31, 2020, 5:21am (UTC -6)
Red Dwarf's episode Thanks for the Memories inspired 2 Star Trek episodes (one TNG and this one) and they both blew it. TNG tried to focus on the mystery of the Red Dwarf Episode and this dealt with the "emotion" and both were pale comparisons.
Sun, Nov 22, 2020, 10:10pm (UTC -6)
I absolutely loved this episode. It is right up there with “Measure of a Man” for me. Brilliantly written, acted, and directed. (And I am fine with the score.). FWIW I am convinced that both the Doctor and Data are indeed sentient.

Wed, Dec 2, 2020, 1:36am (UTC -6)
Couldn’t they just put Jetal in transporter suspension like they did with the telepaths they were smuggling?
Antoine H
Sat, Dec 12, 2020, 6:52am (UTC -6)
I thought this was a great episode. Watching the EMH melt down in the mess hall was an awesome sight. If I had one complaint its that Janeway's decision to delete the EMH's memories was unraveled so easily by one single conversation with Seven. It just seemed like such an obvious counterpoint to Janeway's choice that its almost unbelievable that she didn't think of it first.

Now that I read the comments, the points about Kes are also correct. She probably could have been of some use here. Or maybe not. The EMH did say that the surgery was extremely complex.
Sat, Dec 19, 2020, 3:22am (UTC -6)
I like this episode a great deal. When the plot is fully revealed, my first reaction was that I wish I could forget some of my experiences by deleting them and my life would have been better. My second reaction was that the doc is a vital member of the crew being the only physician on board and he can't go insane. In that case, they needed to point that out and the doc should have realized that himself, if not at first, at least later when he stops functioning.

I would like to see the conclusion to be that the doc realizes this and asks the insanity memory to be removed and thoroughly like in TNG:Clues.
Tue, Feb 23, 2021, 5:32am (UTC -6)
Everybody wants to be human so bad I honestly don't see the appeal. Like the person above me said I wish I could delete bad experiences from my memory and continue on. As a hologram by all means reprogram me I won't put up a fight. I'll just happily exist in my naive little world, but that wouldn't make for an interesting character I guess.
Bob (a different one)
Tue, Feb 23, 2021, 10:55am (UTC -6)
Probably already been pointed out but the basic premise of this episode is flawed.

If the Doc's memory can be altered, why not 1) do it in a non half-assed way to begin with or 2) just do it a second time

Seems a lot easier than a massive ship wide conspiracy that nearly drives the EMH insane.
Sat, Apr 17, 2021, 4:07pm (UTC -6)
Bob, because Seven threw Janeway for a whirl. Also, Janeway did first do the erasure procedure again. She just didn't count on the Doctor's ability to keep unwrapping it.

I think this is a great episode. There are flaws, of course. I think the biggest is Janeway's seeming regression by saying the Doctor is just like a replicator. I wish that had been handled better.

I really liked Janeway refusing to even TELL the Doctor what had happened because that might set it off, and that's absolutely right. I also like how he didn't instantly go crazy when they started giving him back his memories, which also made sense.

I assume the Doctor Mark I was never given triage procedures. It doesn't seem to ever be mentioned other than maybe Janeway saying he did his duty.

That said, I don't think it would have really changed the story if he did have those procedures. . The Doctor might still believe he was not being objective.

The weirdest thing for me is probably the last scene, where the Doctor says he can't live with the knowledge of what he had done (while Janeway was asleep) then after she wakes up he tells her to go to bed because he doesn't want to cause any more suffering.

I assume it wasn't the intention, but that sure as hell is alarming talk that suggests he's contemplating suicide. Then she leaves him alone, which further implies the episode is going there in some manner.
Sat, Apr 17, 2021, 4:54pm (UTC -6)
"I assume the Doctor Mark I was never given triage procedures. It doesn't seem to ever be mentioned other than maybe Janeway saying he did his duty."
I think it was. The problem was that he had two patients who had the same chance of survival and he chose the one he was friends with. It is a classic ethical dilemma. I would assume that they didn't plan for the EMH to form friendships, otherwise RNG would have decided, I think.
Sat, Apr 17, 2021, 8:47pm (UTC -6)
@Booming said,

"The problem was that he had two patients who had the same chance of survival and he chose the one he was friends with. ... I would assume that they didn't plan for the EMH to form friendships, otherwise RNG would have decided"

Very interesting.

We humans would use RNG because we're afraid that the friendship would affect our ability to generate a probability of survival. Meaning that even if our friend has slightly less chance of survival, we might feel he has more - enough to make it equal to the other guy. And then once it is equal, we can pick our friend to save. But our incentive to subconsciously skew the prognosis is checked (somewhat) by knowing that even if the chances of survival are equal, the RNG might still pick the other guy to save. The theory being that incentives matter, even in unconscious bias.

Would the EMH's feelings skew his calculations of chances of survival? If you answer yes, I think he should probably still use RNG.

But if, because The Doctor is a program, the answer is no - he doesn't have a "subconscious" bias making him feel his friend is more likely to survive than is actually the case - well in that case, what the EMH did - picking his friend, when the two had the same chance of survival - is perfectly acceptable.
Sun, Apr 18, 2021, 12:50pm (UTC -6)
To me it was implied that the doc wasn't sure if he chose because of the personal relationship. Does that make sense for a computer. I'm not sure but it certainly makes for some interesting character drama.
Thu, Sep 2, 2021, 8:20am (UTC -6)
While 3 stars is a positive review, I feel that you are short changing this episode. The doctor delivered an amazing performance, the story was compelling and it made the viewer think, not about the doctor's emotional crisis but how it relates to ourselves which the best Star Trek episodes always deliver. It took me some time to warm up to the doctor as a sentient hologram but episodes like this one are what I need to come to grips with his evolution as an individual.
Thu, Oct 21, 2021, 12:56am (UTC -6)
I agree, @TeeBone,

Are you guys saying triage docs and medics use random number generators to decide whom to save? I've never heard of this but then I don't work in the medical field.
Sat, Nov 27, 2021, 5:47pm (UTC -6)
When they "buried" Jetal in space, the crew wore their regular uniforms. When they "buried" John Kelly in space in "One Small Step," they wore their dress uniforms. No one on Voyager knew Kelly, and he wasn’t even a member of Starfleet. If he was getting full honors, Jetal should have gotten them too.
Sat, Nov 27, 2021, 6:18pm (UTC -6)
@John Pate

"why didn't the Doctor speed himself up or activate the back-up EMH"

It’s been said many times on the show that the Doctor's program cannot be backed up (I’m stating a premise of the show, not answering John's question), despite his putative backup's being activated in the 31st century in "Living Witness." But sometimes the Voyager crew needs another doctor. Holographic characters and even holographic representations of real people seem to have the information and experience needed to reliably represent the real people of whom they are simulacra. Suppose they went to the holodeck and told it to create a hologram of the Doctor. Of course, it would be a hologram of a hologram and I guess it wouldn’t have all of the Doctor's knowledge of 47 bazillion medical texts, but I’m thinking it would be better than nothing.
Wed, Dec 15, 2021, 7:52pm (UTC -6)
Anyone notice Janeway seemed depressed for all of Season 5? She was in the season opener, but I noticed it actually lingered through all these episodes. She seems bored and sad in a lot of episodes, and I think it was done intentionally.
Sun, Apr 24, 2022, 3:24am (UTC -6)
I agree with you. Despite the problems noted by Jammer, Latent Image really deserves a higher rating than 3 stars. The writers knew what they were doing. They offer us a mystery, and a controversy about the EMH's status as a sentient being. I liked the revealing glances between Janeway and Tuvok who are part of the mystery...from the start.

The episode features some great dialogue and really effective performances. Seven is at the center of several of the best of these.

(1) When the EMH comes onto the bridge and accuses the staff of conspiracy, Seven looks up and says simply "Doctor." It's perfect in the context--Wow moment #1. Jeri Ryan is so classy in her delivery.

(2) Seven confronts Janeway at 2 a.m., about the nature of individuality /humanity, her individuality and the Doctor's. Janeway stands her ground, defending the notion that the Doctor is closer to a replicator than 'a person,' but Seven gets the last word in--Wow moment #2.

(3) Janeway, affected by Seven's rebuke, speaking of the Doctor says: "We gave him a soul, B'Elanna. Do we have the right to take it away now?

B'Elanna replies: "We gave him personality subroutines. I'd hardly call that a soul."

Janeway makes no comment--Wow moment #3.
I have a lump in my throat at that point.

I am in the camp that has lived long enough to realize that I personally display all manner of personality subroutines. If I make any progress in life, it is by recognizing weaknesses in my standard reactions to stimuli, and then begin working on altering those. I wonder about other people sometimes....are they as conscious of their ossified personality subroutines as I think myself to be?

Perhaps we all flatter ourselves by believing that we have souls....and that our individuality will persist after death. Know one knows for certain.

These are the ideas the episode plumbs. As I said, the writer knew what they were doing. What sets the whole thing off is a triage decision on the Doctor's part resulting in the death of a woman so that Harry Kim could live. The deceased is Ahni Jetal, who dies on her own birthday.**

The final scene between Janeway and the Doctor, whom she now calls "friend" is great. Wow moment #4. The music finally works and Picardo's reading of the proem to Dante's La Vita Nuova brings down the curtain--Wow moment #5. Here a tear exudes from my left eye.

How much more a member of our species knew about the soul in 1294, than anyone knows (or at least writes on publically) today.

Incipit vita nova.

**Ahni Jetal in Hindi, as near as I, poor linguist, can make it out, means something like: "Day-Winner." Irony deliver us. The heart breaks. [But maybe I have it all backwards...because I'm from the wrong world. Perhaps she is in death a winner because she is the one now free to begin a new life].
Sun, Apr 24, 2022, 10:53pm (UTC -6)
*No one knows for certain*
Latent Image (VOY season 5 ) is a great episode.
Sun, Apr 24, 2022, 10:54pm (UTC -6)
One thing that is bothering me on my 3rd rewatch in 3 decades is this. They said they had 148 crew members when they started. One or two no names or red shirts die almost each episode. Yet they still say they have 150 crew members. Like when Janeway gives some of her speeches about getting 150 people home.
Sun, May 8, 2022, 10:15am (UTC -6)
Though I agree with Jammer's chief complaint - Janeway and the Doctor's behavior would have made more sense if this episode had occurred during season 1 - I think this episode is nevertheless close to four stars.

Still, I thought one scene should have been tweaked . Instead of having Janeway immediately be "tough" and "tight-lipped" with the Doctor when he discovers that he's had his memories deleted ("Shut up and obey my orders!"), she should have played things quietly and with more compassion. She should've attempted to better assure the Doctor that the deleted memories were done in his best interest, and for the best interests of the crew. Empathize with the guy. Appeal to his "instincts" to be a caretaker. Have the Doctor reject these rational pleas by Janeway, and THEN have Janeway become tough and hard-lined.

I understand we're meant to assume that Janeway's been through this all before with the Doc, and she's tired of pandering to him, but it IMO would have played dramatically better.

I especially liked the final scene of this episode. It's probably no coincidence that Voyager's pilot is called "Caretaker"; Janeway's a maternal, protective figure, tasked with taking care of her flock. But here, in this scene, the Doctor recognizes his duty of care as well, much akin to Neelix's realization in "Mortal Coil".

And so in both "Mortal Coil" and "Latent Image", characters enter a kind of mental free-fall, "suicidally" losing faith in their abilities before eventually "curing" themselves with a kind of personal code of responsibility whereby they shunt their personal suffering aside in favor for ameliorating the suffering of others. Both episodes then end with a character sleeping, Neelix "comforting and tucking a child to bed", and the Doc fawning over a sleeping Janeway.

The series is constantly saying that Janeway's role (or burden) as a caretaker requires her to put her crew, and the lives of others, before herself. But it's also constantly reminding us that this ethos extends to the crew as well.
Sun, May 22, 2022, 11:47pm (UTC -6)
This is a good episode. Most of the Trek episodes that approach this type of question usually are, all though this one isn't quite as good as some of those others.
Dave K
Mon, May 23, 2022, 8:27am (UTC -6)
I would just like to point out that in the previous episode, Counterpoint, storing people in the transporter pattern buffer was a thing. I guess they forgot. As previously mentioned, they forgot stasis as well. Quite frankly, there are so many plot holes and inconsistencies in this episode I just concluded that we were in another mirror universe.
David Staum
Tue, May 31, 2022, 1:30pm (UTC -6)
I don't know what the writers had in mind, but my personal solution to understanding how the EMH could have evolved in such an advanced way is that once he was enhanced by 29th century technology (his mobile emitter) it enabled his program to far exceed its original intention, and made him much more "real" than, say, the holodeck DaVinci. And yes, there's a weak spot in that argument, because he's often transferred back to Voyager's computers when he doesn't need the mobile emitter in sickbay. But we can imagine that the 29th century technology isn't limited to the hardware of the emitter, but maybe is inherent to the program itself, even when transferred back to 24th century hardware.

At least that's how I personally choose to reconcile it.
Wed, Jul 6, 2022, 4:06pm (UTC -6)
Voyager & continuity ...

This show definitely was way more casual with continuity than you might expect considering it was the flagship of Paramount's new network.

That said... I'm personally gotten rather tired of every tv show being a soap opera.

And just think of how long the set up would be for a plot like this. This could easily span 2 or 3 seasons.
Fri, Sep 2, 2022, 1:45pm (UTC -6)
I would have given this episode 4 stars, or at least 3 1/2. The Doctor is borderline sentient, and it still makes sense for there to be some debate as to just how sentient he is. Also, if he goes kaput, that would spell bad news for the entire crew.

Meaty issues, great performances by all the actors.
Sat, Sep 3, 2022, 2:33am (UTC -6)
@Joel: I agree--as I said above, this is a four star episode for me. I will say that I don't know if, when I watched this and commented in Nov. 2020, I actually went back and rewatched the surgery scene specifically when I said the score sounded fine to me. I did rewatch the scene just now, and the score is inappropriate, agreed--although not so much so that it stood out to me when watching initially.
The Answer is Picard
Fri, Feb 3, 2023, 2:52pm (UTC -6)
The fault is Tom Paris. He was closer to Kim, therefore the Doctor chose Kim to please Tom. Blame Tom.
Mon, Jun 5, 2023, 12:09pm (UTC -6)
I see a lot of interesting discussions of the nature of AI. We are much closer to that now with ChatGPT.

On the other hand, I would like to add a human psychology to this. People can get obsessed over something and the mind gets stuck in a loop trying to solve a problem and end up with a nervous breakdown. I once had a mild experience of that and it took some work to get out of the loop.
Robert II
Sun, Jul 16, 2023, 8:26pm (UTC -6)
I found it hard to believe that the doctor could be drawn into such an ethical dilemma that it would cause him to short circuit. To me, this is based on a classic premise put forward on the limitations of AI, which is that, if given a certain problem, it will get caught in a heuristic loop and fail to resolve it. Humans can get caught in heuristic loops too, until they become neurodepleted and get what we call depression/anxiety. The thing is, humans, and presumably AIs, can be shown to step away from the problem so that this short circuiting does not occur.

This premise was used in TNG's "I, Borg" when they created a Borg virus based on a unique multi-dimensional shape that was unsolvable. If send back to the Borg, they would analyze it endlessly until the Borg self-destructed. Except that... any computer program in our 21st century would simply pronounce the error and STOP TRYING.

To put it simply: why does the problem HAVE to be resolved? Some problems in life are unresolvable and you just have to live with that fact. No amount of circular thinking will change what can't be fixed.

And that's what I didn't understand about Latent Image. I could accept that the doctor's program had expanded to such a degree that it created heuristic feedback loops that the original "foundation" of his program couldn't resolve. But why would he become trapped in them? Why could he not decide (or be shown how to decide) to just surrender to it?

This implies that the doctor's program is 100% pure logic, without any emotional capability or self-reflective capacity to practice acceptance or equanimity. But we know that isn't true because he has schooled others, like Seven, in how to practice those qualities.

And therein lies my core issue with this episode. Until now we have accepted that the doctor is a sentient program and treated as any other member of the crew, but the script implies that he is no more than the sum of his (apparently malfunctioning) parts. That reduces him back to a tool.

Janeway's approach in the end, which presumably saves the doctor because in future episodes this is never talked about again, implies that given enough time of "spinning his wheels," the doctor would drop it or see his way out of it in some nuanced way.

We are left wondering if the doctor is a "real" person or just malfunctioning software and it isn't in any way resolved for us.

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