Star Trek: Voyager: Latent Image   Rewatch 
December 28, 2017 6:31 AM - Season 5, Episode 11 - Subscribe

Or: "One of Our Hologram's Memories Is Missing"

Okay, everybody smile and say "Memory Alpha":

- Robert Picardo was delighted with this episode, citing it as "perhaps my favorite show, dramatically" and expressing his reasons for liking it so much as "because it was so different [...] and I love the writing in [it]." The actor additionally enthused, "I was proud of that show. I thought it was a great idea to have The Doctor's adaptive programming double-cross him, so to speak [....] That he would relive [a strictly objective] moment of decision over and over again, and torture himself with the guilt of having saved one of two equally injured people because of a personal relationship, was a great concept for an episode." A particular scene that delighted Picardo was the one in which The Doctor changes from conversing with Neelix in the mess hall to questioning, aloud, his reasoning for "killing" Jetal. "I think it's as nice a dramatic moment as I've had on the show," enthused Picardo. Another of his favorite scenes from the installment was the final version of its conclusion. "In trying to reconcile those feelings [of tragedy and guilt or doubt about choices], people create art, which is why I love the last scene. I think it had a very unusual ending for one of our episodes. The poem [that The Doctor reads, from the book La Vita Nuova] says something like, 'Here begins a new life.' I think it worked on two different levels. The poem was suggesting how, having had this experience, the rest of The Doctor's 'life' would be changed. The other level is that, I think that you could say that it's his true, first-hand, emotional discovery of art. That poem, which was written a thousand years ago, could reach across a millennium and touch his own experience deeply and perfectly [....] It was not wrapped up in a neat package by the end."

- While writing the episode's teleplay, Joe Menosky – who wanted the episode to have "some kind of dramatic resolution" – struggled with the scripting of the conclusion. Menosky recalled the original version: "Janeway is holding this vigil, and because of her exhaustion, she just drifts off to sleep. [The Doctor] has something dark and sad and also moving to say. He looks up and she's asleep. He gets up, picks up the book and he reads a little, end of story." Extremely uncomfortable with this version of the final scene, Brannon Braga made changes to it. Menosky commented, "He just cut out a bunch of dialogue. He restructured certain things [....] In the newer version, despite the fact that 90% of the dialogue is there, the structure of the scene was different. [Janeway] ends up leaving." The used edit of the ending was not selected until later in the installment's evolution.

- Janeway actress Kate Mulgrew was one of several cast members who, according to Joe Menosky, particularly liked his original version of the episode's ending. "Kate said, 'That scene was perfection, perfection,'" remembered Menosky.

- The confusion over the episode's ending had an impact on the installment's production. "I walked down to the set," Joe Menosky reflected, "and everybody was looking at me like somebody had just drowned my puppy." It was at this point that Kate Mulgrew voiced her appreciation for the conclusion's first version. Menosky continued, "Everybody loved it but Brannon [Braga] [....] They were all very supportive. A few hours later, the director and the actors called Brannon and said they really wanted to do the original scene as it was written. Brannon relented and said, 'Go ahead and shoot both versions of the scene.'" The shooting company then filmed Braga's version of the scene. When (at 1 or 2 a.m.) it came time to set up for Menosky's version of the scene, the actors and director instead opted not to film it. "They just said, 'Let's just hope it works. Let's go home,'" Menosky explained. "I didn't fault them for that. You can expect people to fight for you up and to a point."

- Joe Menosky's opinion of this episode was influenced by his disappointment at having the final scene be rewritten. He said of the original version, "[It] was one of the better scenes I have ever written [....] I think [Brannon Braga] made it slightly less effective." Concerning the fact that Braga's revision had Janeway ultimately leave the holodeck, Menosky remarked, "In my mind [it] is absolutely against the premise of the scene." He concluded by saying of the episode, "I just will never be satisfied with it because of that process."

- Robert Picardo noted that, as far as he was aware, the ambiguity he sensed in the episode's conclusion was not a major hurdle for most fans. "I was happy that the fans, the ones I have spoken to, seemed to accept the ambiguity," he said, at about the end of the fifth season.

- In the episode teaser, whenever The Doctor takes a picture of the crew members, the diaphragm effect is actually a mosaic of Ensign Jetal's face.

"Captain's log, supplemental. Our doctor is now our patient. It's been two weeks since I've ordered a round the clock vigil. A crew member has stayed with him at all times, offering a sounding board and a familiar presence while he struggles to understand his memories and thoughts. The chances of recovery? Uncertain."

- Janeway

"The primordial atom... burst. Sending out its radiation, setting everything in motion. One particle collides with another, gases expand, planets contract, and before you know it we've got starships and holodecks and chicken soup. In fact, you can't help but have starships and holodecks and chicken soup because it was all determined twenty billion years ago!"

"There is a certain logic to your logic."

- The Doctor and Tuvok

"It is unsettling. You say that I am a Human being and yet I am also Borg. Part of me not unlike your replicator. Not unlike The Doctor. Will you one day choose to abandon me as well?"

- Seven of Nine

Poster's Log:
I find this to be a pretty forgettable installment. Since the original ending was apparently never filmed, we can't know precisely how well it would have played, but what's described above does seem a little more emotionally impactful than what we got.

I guess I kind of like the concept: other holographic doctors don't develop personalities and emotional connections, so they don't have to worry about this kind of breakdown. Good use of Seven here, too, as a moral guide. And there are some nifty, different directorial/editing choices in here, so it's not like you feel like you're wasting your time watching this one. (I for one felt that *a lot* with Enterprise. Just goes to show how committed I am to this franchise: I forced my way through the first two ENT seasons to get to the good stuff. (But not quite committed enough to pay for CBS All Access; I'm officially off the DISCO train as of now.))

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
I'm about five minutes from heading out the door for holiday-related travel—happy to say Mrs. CoB and I have had a safe and successful holiday—so I'll just close with season's greetings and warmest best wishes to all Voyager FF regulars, occasional visitors, and silent lurkers, and to all a good night, and god/deity/Q/hyperevolved entity bless us everyone, etc.!
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (8 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
I liked this one very much; the original ending may have been better (and the story behind it really doesn't paint a very good picture of Brannon Braga; I think that I believe Ron Moore even more when he basically put a lot of the blame for his leaving on his getting mad at Braga for decisions made on the show), but there's still a lot of good that this show accomplishes. It takes a good science fiction premise--if you have an AI that has some sort of psychological trauma, why not simply restore it to a previous save?--and not only shows why that wouldn't work, but why it shouldn't be done in the first place. The former is pretty straightforward to the point of not painting a very good picture of the crew's plan to pretend that it all never happened--was everyone simply never going to mention Jetal ever again? And what were they going to do if the Doctor noticed that he had no memory of particular stardates?--but the latter is one of those things that highlights an important issue in the Doctor's journey toward personhood: that journey isn't always progressive. Janeway's dismissal of the Doctor's rights to his psychological integrity seems pretty cold, but the essential irreplaceability of the Doctor makes that seem like the sort of command decision that she'd have to make. But then again, one of the reasons why the Doctor is irreplaceable is because of his ability to learn and grow, and part of that will have to be his ability to live with pain, loss, and knowledge of his own fallibility.

I also agree with the good Seven scene here. Janeway's attempt to rationalize her action by saying that the Doc wasn't a real person just walked right into Seven's "so what does that make me" response.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:51 AM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have jumped into Voyager (for the first time) just the last couple months, here and there, because it's on late-night if I stay up past my bedtime, and apparently my local syndication run is synced up with however you're watching yours! I really liked this episode, I thought it was cleverly-constructed to make the plot work. I liked the mystery in service of the philosophy, I liked the character moments, the whole thing was well-done.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:21 PM on December 28, 2017 [2 favorites]

I really, really liked this episode for a lot of reasons.

The writers seemed bound and determined over this and the previous season to strongly emphasize to the audience that Janeway is willing to throw ethics out the window in order to get her crew home. Here she literally erases the Doctor's memories of a crewperson that has passed away in order to make sure he can continue functioning.

At this point in the series during its original airing, I was seriously questioning Janeway's sanity and humanity. Way back in season one, she encouraged the doctor to evolve outside of his program parameters and become more sentient. Now, she's comparing him a replicator, and other members of the crew are calling her out on it. We've seen her depressed. We've seen her question her past decisions. We know her past failures are now driving her in part to get the crew home to the Alpha Quadrant. At this point we have to start asking ourselves how much she's willing to sacrifice to meet that goal.

Seven's scene with her is powerful:

JANEWAY: "You're a human being. He's a hologram."
SEVEN: "And you allowed that hologram to evolve as well, to exceed his original programming. And yet now you choose to abandon him."
JANEWAY: "Objection noted. Good night."
SEVEN: "It is unsettling. You say that I am a human being and yet I am also Borg. Part of me not unlike your replicator. Not unlike the Doctor. Will you one day choose to abandon me as well? I have always looked to you as my example, my guide to humanity. Perhaps I've been mistaken. Good night."
Loved watching the Doctor figure out what happened. A good physician is a good detective, after all. And I liked the last scene as it aired, with that bit of ambiguity and Janeway not only doing the right thing but finally treating him like a person, with respect and the dignity he deserves.

EMH: "Causality, probability. For every action, there's an infinite number of reactions and in each one of them, I killed her. Or did I? Too many possibilities. Too many pathways for my program to follow. Impossible to choose. Still, I can't live with the knowledge of what I've done. I can't."
(Janeway has fallen asleep.)
EMH: "Captain? Captain?!"
JANEWAY: "Oh, sorry."
EMH: "How could you sleep at a time like this?!"
JANEWAY: "It's been a long day. You were saying?"
EMH: "What's wrong?"
JANEWAY: "Nothing."
EMH: "You're ill!"
JANEWAY: "I have a headache."
EMH: "Fever, you have a fever!"
JANEWAY: "I'll live."
EMH: "Medical emergency!"
JANEWAY: "Doctor."
EMH: "Someone's got to treat you immediately! Call Mister Paris! You've got to get to Sickbay!"
JANEWAY: "Doctor, I'm a little busy right now, helping a friend."
EMH: "I, I'll be all right. Go, sleep, please. I'll still be here in the morning."
JANEWAY: "Are you sure?"
EMH: "Yes. Please, I don't want to be responsible for any more suffering."
(Janeway leaves her book open at the first page.)
JANEWAY: "Good night. If you need anything."
EMH: "I'll call. Thank you, Captain."
(Janeway leaves. The EMH picks up the book and reads aloud.)
EMH: "In that book which is my memory, on the first page of the chapter that is the day when I first met you, appear the words - Here begins a new life."
posted by zarq at 6:10 PM on December 29, 2017 [3 favorites]

For me, this is another one of the episodes that, in isolation, is pretty interesting, but as part of their longer narrative doesn't work for me at all. If this was one show in an anthology sci-fi series, it might be pretty good, but the arguments from the characters as they've developed are in one sense repetitive, we've been down this path with the doctor's "humanity" before and will go down it again with the same sets of arguments reused each time as if all the characters memories had been erased of them previously.

This episode once again also places Seven as some sort of moral exemplar opposing Janeway, at least at first, in ways that fit neither character and its central dilemma is also a bit hollow given how inconsistently they treat the doctor's holographic/computer program/individualism. The show continues to change the personalities and/or values of some of the main crew members to suit their dramatic wants of the moment rather than making the drama fit the characters. It's irksome. Seven's pragmatism and expediency gives way here to populism. She's always looked to Janeway for guidance? Which episodes were those? The ones where they were fighting over that very concept where Seven was arguing the opposite? Oh, sure, she didn't mean it then and really, deep down she was looking to Janeway, or not. Who knows?

Janeway is even worse off of course, given arguments designed to be refuted rather than actually providing the kind of complex and consistent point of view that might leave the ideas open and the perspectives more difficult to resolve. The show wants the doctor to be an individual so it twists the arguments to support that already determined position, even as it doesn't actually consistently treat him or holograms or computer programs the same way itself. There are interesting questions to be raised over the possibility of a computer program developing sentience, and sometimes the show bumps into these, but given it assumes the answer prior to the arguments it never really looks at these questions very deeply. The ideas are there, but the follow through isn't. As I've mentioned before, even the nature of the doctor's program is vague and hard to imagine given he's only one smallish part of a much larger, evidently non-sentient computer system and his abilities and limitations are so ill-defined. They talk about his "holographic" status as if the projected light somehow matters rather than the core files in the computer alone, but that too is vague and lacks clear sense. His projected image should, one would think, be irrelevant to anything other than how the viewer sees him.

The arguments made over the doctor's very ability to be rewritten and his individuality coming from coding that can be altered suggests avenues of exploration on the subject with delving into, but they don't pursue those arguments very far, they only nod to them as a matter of form acting like the mention alone is enough. Really, the viewer is treated much like the doctor in a sense, left to question our memories over things said and done previously that are being denied as ever happening now. A character that didn't exist develops outsized importance and history, almost as if we too missed this super important person from Voyager all this time. Given how the show rewrites the characters we do still remember, I mean see each episode it isn't much of a reach to see a parallel there.

Why is it that these significant events weren't shown to us 18 months ago as that is sort of the point of the show, giving us the important moments of Voyager's journey? It's for dramatic effect obviously, where the dilemma in being waylaid makes it less about the decision to erase the memories and the ethical consequences or competing possible results in that moment to one of it being about the effect of that decision and correcting it. The writers' choice here is in making the "correction" one for Janeway via Seven as much as it is in showing the doctor's growth as a program/individual. This dilemma could have been made in the present tense, with Janeway still allowing the doctor to work through his conflicting thoughts and feelings, but doing that removes the "mystery" aspect of the story where Janeway is cast as the villain, though for reasons with some possible justification once the fullness of events was revealed. That delay allows Seven to be given the stronger ethical perspective to the end of essentially flipping her and Janeway's relative standing in their own earlier disputes, or that seems the intent even as the extent of the connection between Seven's situation and the doctor's is more than a little hazy.

The result of all this is to render Janeway less stable, Seven even more central, and gives the doctor some dramatic moments of confrontational action, none of which really works for me in the longer term construct of the characters and show. However, as more of a stand alone episode absent concerns of continuity and character consistency it does work rather well for the most part.

I have some mixed feeling about a few of Picardo's choices, where I think he perhaps milks a scene for effect more than emotional sense at times, but overall his plight is a touching one. The feeling of being violated without knowing how or why is a powerful one and rightly disturbing. That the decision made to erase those memories from his program is potentially justifiable from a command perspective, though that justification and the argument surrounding it is rendered weaker here by only seeing it in hindsight rather than as a concern of the moment. And some of the details, like the argument over sumo wrestling and remembering add a nice touch to the debate over the importance of memory to the individual.

As a possible quandary for a sentient program too there is some nice conceptual interest here in the limits of what the rights of that program would be, the best manner of dealing with a conflict, and, most interestingly perhaps, the nature of a conflict between computing probabilities and making personal choices. That's all for the good and there are ideas that can come from those elements which do remain open at the end of the episode. I enjoyed those things quite a bit and found the ending effective enough in conveying that, though I too suspect the original end may have worked even better, though it is hard to say for sure without seeing it. The episode does "rehabilitate" Janeway from the no nonsense, no questions character we see at the start to the devoted friend and ethically considerate character we see at the end, allowing the viewer to sort of elide the less desirable aspects for the more pleasing ones if they so choose. Having Janeway open to changing her opinion too is fine, though the how of it all wasn't ideal.

I'm not sure of how to frame of ultimate feelings on this episode since they are so split between the enjoyment of the "now" of it and the disappointment in its place within the larger whole of the show and I'm also a bit undecided on the value of some of the ethical and practical questions raised, while others I found compelling. That though matches well enough with my feelings on the show overall, so perhaps I should see this episode as representative. Ah Voyager, how you annoy and please in equal measures!
posted by gusottertrout at 9:04 PM on December 29, 2017 [2 favorites]

If "Chaotic Lawful" were a possible alignment, it would be Janeway's.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 5:44 AM on December 30, 2017 [8 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Another week without.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The alien raider is clearly using a split-beam rifle with a damage-over-time upgrade. Also, antigens are one of the available commodities in Star Trek Online, presumably due to Neelix mentioning replicating them in bulk in the mess hall scene. (Never ceases to amaze me how many one-line Voyager references got folded into the MMO. I think this may be where split beam rifles come from too, since I'm struggling to remember another time I ever saw one on TV.)

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 2.
* Crew: 134. One retroactive loss.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 9.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 1 game of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

* Taken as a Doctor story, this doesn't make much sense.

You guys have covered this well enough: the way the Doctor works just isn't consistent or centered enough for this to really work in the greater Voyager/Trek scheme of things. How do holograms even work? We don't know, and this doesn't really shed any light on the subject. We've been over that ground quite a bit: how can a non-sapient computer generate a sapient subroutine? How does the Doctor's mind even work?

We don't know, they don't know. As far as the writers are concerned, the Doctor basically is a person unless it would be convenient for him not to be for a moment.

With that in mind - that the Doctor is effectively human here even though that's a wilful break from the show's premise:

* Taken as an allegory for therapy, this is a much better story than the last one.

At its heart, I feel like this is a story about mental illness. This is a story about a guy having a stress-related breakdown. Taken in that light, I feel like the lesson here is good: forcing a resolution (like they attempted with B'Ellana before) won't work. They tried the tough-love thing, stripping him of his autonomy and trying to *make* him well without his consent, and... without his buy-in, he didn't stay better. The quick fix only seemed good, while the real path to wellness was to let him work it out 'naturally,' a process that taxes not only him, but everyone around him. I've been where Janeway was at the end, reading something and feeling cranky while someone was deeply unwell not ten feet away, wishing I could fix them but knowing I couldn't.

If he were a person, getting him off active duty and sitting with him would've been the best they could do, lacking a counselor or effective psychopharmacology or the like. It's a good lesson.

So... hm. Yeah. I dunno. I feel like this is a mess, but a mess that manages to have its heart in the right place, at least at the end. That much is a welcome change, especially after so much time spent with Space Nazis recently.
posted by mordax at 1:30 AM on January 1, 2018

They tried the tough-love thing, stripping him of his autonomy and trying to *make* him well without his consent, and... without his buy-in, he didn't stay better. The quick fix only seemed good, while the real path to wellness was to let him work it out 'naturally,' a process that taxes not only him, but everyone around him. I've been where Janeway was at the end, reading something and feeling cranky while someone was deeply unwell not ten feet away, wishing I could fix them but knowing I couldn't.

If he were a person, getting him off active duty and sitting with him would've been the best they could do, lacking a counselor or effective psychopharmacology or the like. It's a good lesson.

That puts it better than I could have. I even liked the idea of the doctor himself, once he realized the extent of his troubles, being almost eager for a moment, to have those memories erased in hopes of it of it putting his mind at ease again even as it's clear that isn't a lasting fix. That kind of desperate hope to be free of anguish and have even momentary peace of mind is something that has some resonance, though of course with people the approach is often through attempts at things like self medicating rather than file deletion.
posted by gusottertrout at 3:12 AM on January 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that's a good point. Plus, the self-blame is on the money: 'I killed her!' instead of 'hey that alien killed her but I should've saved her and so I'm like 1/4 at fault, maybe up to 1/3.'

The reductive attempt to take all the blame instead of acknowledging that some elements of the scenario were beyond his control is also a familiar tune.
posted by mordax at 8:28 AM on January 1, 2018 [1 favorite]

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