Star Trek: Voyager: Ex Post Facto   Rewatch 
January 26, 2017 3:40 AM - Season 1, Episode 8 - Subscribe

It was a cold night in the bad quadrant. I was playing flyboy for the kid, Kim. Hired hand, that's all. The skies were black with rain on the way down. Nothing I couldn't handle. I brought the kid dirtside to meet some physicist. They got to talking, and before too long, I'm the third nacelle. Get two science guys together? Forget it. I'd just about checked out altogether…when she walked in. Legs like the Pleasure Goddess of Rixx, forehead like a Terran horny toad. It figured. Next thing I know, she's on me like a Denevan neural parasite. And me without an ultraviolet light source. Some luck.

Memory Alpha hereby sentences you to relive the memory of this episode:

- This episode's title is derived from the Latin for "from a thing done afterward", and refers to the concept of retrospective law.

- The original idea that formed the basis of this episode involved the concept of a species who, as a means of punishment, forced the perpetrator to experience their victim's death and the last few moments of the victim's life.

- After the writers bought the premise, Executive Producer Michael Piller took the episode in a direction whereby it also served as an homage to film noir. Fellow Executive Producer Jeri Taylor said of the original story idea, "It became [...] a sort of a murder mystery device." Supervising Producer David Livingston remembered, "Piller wanted to do film noir [....] And then he wrote all this noir dialogue, literally [....] It was Michael's homage to film noir. Michael was really into Pulp Fiction at the time and he said, 'Everything should be like Pulp Fiction.' I think this was his Pulp Fiction."

- This episode's script was one of about a half-dozen that were written prior to the casting of Tom Paris. It therefore treats Paris in the same way as the character was originally conceived – as an habitual womanizer, like James T. Kirk and William T. Riker.

- For his part, Michael Piller acknowledged, "['Ex Post Facto' was] a subject of mixed opinions, because Jeri felt we had done some character damage to Paris. I thought he came off rather well." Piller also noted, "I thought it was a wonderful show for Paris." Further recalling his disagreement with Taylor, Piller said, "Jeri and I had a real argument over what the impact of 'Ex Post Facto' was. She felt we had assassinated his character in that picture [....] The idea that he would even consider a relationship with a married woman she found quite distasteful. She felt he looked like a low-life womanizer. I think that he has a character flaw, a weakness, that I can appreciate. I think a lot of men can appreciate that and that he fell victim to that flaw – but rose above it to achieve. Jeri can forgive some flaws and she can't forgive other flaws. Infidelity is one that she can't forgive."

- During filming of the mind meld scene between Paris and Tuvok, Tim Russ suddenly threw back his head and launched into his best James Brown impression, yelling, "I'm feeeeelin' goooood!"

- Ultimately, director LeVar Burton enjoyed having worked on this episode. In summation, he said, "That was a very, very cool episode for a director. It was the first time in Star Trek history we ever shot on black-and-white film stock [....] What I loved about that episode was not only the chance to do something that we had never done, but just the nightmare and the murder-mystery aspect [....] That was also the first mind-meld we've seen in a long, long time. So, shooting that was fun, too."

"There are some who'd say you risked my future on the eyewitness identification of a dog."

- Tom Paris, to Tuvok

"Her eyes were a million kilometers away, staring at stars I'd flown by the day before."

- Tom Paris, on Lidell Ren

"I appreciate you sticking up for me. I owe you one."
"I conducted a criminal investigation. If you had been guilty, I assure you, I would have pursued the truth just as vigilantly. You have no debt to me, Mr. Paris."

- Tom Paris and Tuvok

"How come I always see you down here eating alone, Lieutenant?"
"I prefer to read rather than engage in... what do Humans call it... short talk?"
"Close enough."

- Tom Paris and Tuvok

Poster's Log: The only thing that kept me from skipping this one is Tuvok. They had an intriguing sci-fi premise for it, but they blew that wad in the teaser, and the rest of the episode didn't really involve it. Mainly, I've never been able to look past how the story's nearly identical to the TNG episode "A Matter of Perspective," though at least this version wasn't quite as dull. They shot for a noir feel, and it did provide a little extra juice, but some of the dialogue overdid it, as did IMO the actress who played Shondell or Blondell or whatever. On top of that, I don't see how you can have noir make a lick of damn sense in the Delta Quadrant (unless it'd been on the Holodeck, and that might have echoed Dixon Hill too closely); these aliens are an improvement over the Polaric Self-Nuking planet, to be sure, but where they differ minimally in forehead-appliance from humans, they're way too culturally similar, because they have to be in order to achieve the noir. THEY EVEN HAVE DOGS. At least the show got over this, IIRC; I feel like most of the aliens we meet later on are at least alien enough for suspension of disbelief (e.g. the upcoming "Emanations").

Also, they stole the "dog knew the perpetrator" bit from the Holmes story Silver Blaze. Not that I mind. I feel like it's fine for VOY to steal from Doyle, even from TOS, but from TNG, and from one of its blandest episodes?…bah.

Poster's Log, Supplemental: "Talk about 'forcing us to relive painful memories'."
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (14 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Hey! I think I can watch this one! Oh, wait, it's the murder mystery episode...dang...maybe I'll lose this disc too for a little while...

Actually, episodes like this get me wondering how a whole channel devoted to Trek might be. Where all shows were set in the the future, but where there were a wider variety of show options to watch.
Like this episode could be part of a Star Trek version of Matlock. A trial lawyer taking on courts for his clients across the galaxy, or Federation Law and Order:SVU would maybe be a bigger hit. Or maybe a space version of The Odd Couple, with Tuvok and Neelix forced to live together after their wives decide to kick them out, or maybe Neelix could be one of the chefs on Iron Space Chef. Obviously you could have a futuristic version of House with a holographic doctor diagnosing horrible diseases yet to be discovered. A Game of Thrones type show set on the Klingon home world or perhaps you could have Borg Meets World chronicling Icheb's time at Starfleet Academy, really the possibilities are endless. Who wouldn't want to watch that channel?
posted by gusottertrout at 5:37 AM on January 26, 2017 [4 favorites]

I love the idea of a well realised fictional universe containing stories in different genres (which may only be tangential to the universe). I was thinking in terms of Star Wars, where you could have a Rom Com but there's Twileks in it, or whatever.
I think we haven't before had fictional universes that were not owned by a single creator in the same way.

A mini series of trek shows in different styles would be really interesting.
Like, a short run of 60 minute long unconnected episodes set in the universe but not all about star ships and the federation. It would be amazing.
One week it's the comedic (mis)adventures of a Klingon cheese merchant, the next week it's a raunchy tell all documentary about a night club on Risa. 'The Office', but it's on Ferenginar.
It's all in canon, but no one's boldy going anywhere. No famous captains turn up.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 7:33 AM on January 26, 2017 [3 favorites]

A mini series of trek shows in different styles would be really interesting.

Well, we ARE hearing that the plan for Discovery is to involve a story arc per season. I think they've been fuzzy on whether that means big cast changes each season a la Fargo, or more like season 1 is a really long movie, and each subsequent season (if any) is sort of a sequel. Regardless, I doubt style-wise there'd be as great a difference as what you describe.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 7:39 AM on January 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Particle of the Week: Not applicable for the second time this season.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: A Numiri shield is available for player use in Star Trek Online as a mission reward, (notably not involving the Numiri), but it's distinctly inferior to most other options. Regenerative shields have a lower maximum shield capacity than other shield variants, meaning that they drop more swiftly. It's good that Voyager didn't bother to try and salvage any from the Numiri patrol vessels in this episode.

Equipment tally:
No expenditure of photon torpedoes or redshirts, and Janeway actually recovers a lost shuttlecraft. I'm as surprised as you guys are about that.

* The setup here was extremely thin.

I watched the whole thing from start to finish, and I'm still pretty unclear what Voyager hoped to accomplish by sending Tom and Harry to the planet. There was brief talk about how they needed help with a technical problem, and... that's all. I don't know why the aliens of the week would agree to help them either, given Voyager's insistence on military neutrality - they didn't talk about trade goods or any other sort of incentive for the locals to render assistance, nor did they make it clear what the stakes were for Voyager if the whole thing fell through.

I'm also unclear what sort of conflict the two alien races were having. The Numiri warn Voyager that they're going into a war zone, but it looks more like a pretty half-assed planetary blockade of some kind? (If the Numiri have such inferior sensor systems, using a handful of dinky patrol ships doesn't make much sense in this context unless the Banea have an even weaker space force, but if that's the case, how is this even a space war?)

Anyway, the whole thing was gibberish, which made it harder to get into what was going on, because I kept wondering what they were even doing there in the first place.

* The problem of the week was weak but serviceable.

The murder mystery was only middling. The memory implant premise was interesting, but it relied on the notion that Voyager would both come back for Tom, and that the Numiri would be able to get the better of them. That seems like a lot of places for everything to go wrong for the conspirators. However, the whole thing played out reasonably well anyway. I agree with this:

The only thing that kept me from skipping this one is Tuvok.

Tim Russ is great at conveying Vulcan composure, and Tuvok is written as relentlessly professional. Of all the people trapped on Voyager, he seems like the person best equipped to just shrug it off and keep doing his job without complaint, and he's always fun to watch.

Also, I would love to see Russ' impression of James Brown. That sounds like a truly epic out take.

* Kes and the Doctor talking about names was all right.

We're seeing the whole 'the Doctor grows as a person' arc continue here, and it's fine. I don't think the approach Kes suggests for selecting a name is sound, but it's a believable misstep. Everything there clicked fine.

* Tom Paris is the worst, but this was a predictable problem.

It's true that he didn't commit the murder, but he did put himself in a compromising position with someone else's wife during a mission that had... some sort of stakes for the ship, I guess? At any rate, it's pretty clear that sending him unsupervised was a mistake, calling back to my complaint that people who didn't join Starfleet the right way shouldn't be given culturally sensitive missions.

Overall, I feel like this was a demonstration of Voyager's ongoing strengths and weaknesses: on the one hand, they have the kernel of an interesting story. Key performances were fine, special effects were fine. All the same, the setup and execution were lazy - no mention of resource issues, no clarity about what was up with Voyager that they needed help, no resolution about whether they'll get that help, no notion of if the Numiri will hound them later... it just sort of ends.

The longer this rewatch continues, the more I feel like the writers had some buyer's remorse about Voyager's initial premise, like half the time they wish they were just writing for TNG, and they proceed like they were even though it doesn't really make sense in context.

Well, we ARE hearing that the plan for Discovery is to involve a story arc per season.

Huh. Hope that pans out. Trek would really lend itself to a more anthology-based approach. That could get them away from the reset button without the need for heavy serialization, and there's already so much material to work with in-universe.
posted by mordax at 9:05 AM on January 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm surprised that no one picked up on this: when the Doctor was going through a list of potential names, "Spock" is one of them. Presumably, since he's discussing doctors, he's referring to Benjamin Spock, popular pediatrician of the baby boomer era (not to mention antiwar activist and Olympic gold medalist). It's a clever, multilayered joke, not only referring to the Star Trek character but also possibly alluding to how non-Trekkies (both in my personal experience and in media) would often refer to Nimoy's character as "Doctor Spock", being much more familiar with the pediatrician and conflating the two. (I'm fairly sure that Spock never earned a doctorate in anything, at least in canon; even if he had (and he could have easily done so), he was referred to in the TNG era as "Ambassador Spock.") I also found it interesting that he didn't refute Kes' assertion that he would be stuck with whatever name he chose, permanently; Kes presumably didn't know that humans change their names all the time (unless that's somehow been forbidden or looked down on particularly in the Federation), and the Doctor wouldn't know because his knowledge outside of medicine seems to be fairly restricted and he hasn't really begun to work on that. (This is where I should mention that the fanfic I'd written about the Doctor has been posted in the previous thread.)

As for the main plot... yeah, mostly what people have already said. I don't think that this is particularly noirish, as it lacks that aura of cynicism and corruption that the best noirs have; it's a more-or-less straight up murder mystery with a few thriller overtones due to the involvement of the enemy aliens. (And may I say what a staggeringly stupid scheme the whole smuggle-the-spy-info-out-in-the-superimposed-memories-of-an-alien-crew-member-of-a-starship-that-you-may-or-may-not-be-able-to-kidnap-him-from plot is. Although it did lead to some nifty dialogue between Janeway and Chakotay with its reminders that they not only had been on opposite sides before, but might eventually be again, which is a really interesting way to go with that.) It does have a few noirish elements, but I'd argue that the best noir episode in Trek is "Inter Arma Enim Silent Leges". It certainly isn't in the class of Pulp Fiction; if this was "Michael Piller's Pulp Fiction", he didn't have one in him. I also raised an eyebrow at the revelation that Jeri Taylor thought that the one really noirish element, Paris' dalliance with a woman who had an agenda of her own, broke the character; this is someone who was responsible for the deaths of fellow Starfleet officers and initially tried to cover it up, someone who is in jail the first time we see him, and his locking lips with a woman (allegedly) in a sexless marriage is the deal-breaker? I don't want to know about Taylor's personal issues (The Fifty-Year Mission gave me more than enough of Trek inside baseball), but sheesh.

Negatives aside, it wasn't the worst episode; some nice Tuvok bits, such as when he's talking to Lidell and casually mentions that he's been married for sixty-seven years. There was also that interesting interchange between Tuvok and Paris, who otherwise don't seem to have many extended interactions in the series, near the end; I'm working my way through Brooklyn Nine Nine right now, and there seemed to be some potential for a Peralta-Holt type relationship there.
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:51 AM on January 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

Like, a short run of 60 minute long unconnected episodes set in the universe but not all about star ships and the federation. It would be amazing.

Some friends and I wrote a (parody) script a few years back that was going to be news broadcasts from Federation Public Radio (though the universe was more of a generalized SF future, and we dropped the Trek specific stuff after the Axanar suit dropped). But doing more "everyday life" stuff was part of the plan after we got through a few Fleet-related stories.

Unfortunately my collaborator moved to a new time zone, so we never got it off the table.
posted by thecaddy at 3:53 PM on January 26, 2017 [1 favorite]

Starting to feel dread, the Doctor touched his combadge and called for Neelix, only to hear a chirping from near the exam table, and realized that Neelix had left his tunic, with the combadge still on it, in the sick bay. The Doctor tried calling the transporter room, the captain, anybody.

No response.

Fuckin' Neelix...

(Liked the story, a little depressing though it may be.)
posted by gusottertrout at 11:40 PM on January 26, 2017 [2 favorites]

news broadcasts from Federation Public Radio

In the same vein, there was a discussion of a series of engineering (or otherwise "factual") documentaries set in the star wars universe, which I think would just be fantastic to watch. They would need to fully commit to the tone of the documentary and the notion that this is a real documentary about real things. And of course, you just wouldn't hear about most of the characters that we see in the shows.

War documentaries about the Dominion war from different perspectives would be great.
Or keeping to voyager a history channel "Greatest Mysteries" type show that talked about the mysterious disappearance of the USS Voyager.
posted by Just this guy, y'know at 4:58 AM on January 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

War documentaries about the Dominion war from different perspectives would be great.
Or keeping to voyager a history channel "Greatest Mysteries" type show that talked about the mysterious disappearance of the USS Voyager.

Oh, that'd be neat, and could be done cheap too since you wouldn't need to actually film everything, just some short unconnected scenes of the action and maybe some "holostills", the rest could be people talking about the events just like History channel shows. It sounds pretty fun, as would a future science show for that matter.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:53 AM on January 27, 2017 [3 favorites]

Today on How It's Made: Electro Plasma System relays, bio-neural gel packs, and the Delta Flyer.
posted by traveler_ at 7:48 AM on January 27, 2017 [6 favorites]

(This is where I should mention that the fanfic I'd written about the Doctor has been posted in the previous thread.)

Thank you for sharing that, it was good! Sent you a MeMail to talk about that a little further rather than derail too much here. (I may be a serial derailer in Star Trek threads, but I know I have a problem.)
posted by mordax at 3:07 PM on January 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love the idea of a well realised fictional universe containing stories in different genres (which may only be tangential to the universe). I was thinking in terms of Star Wars, where you could have a Rom Com but there's Twileks in it, or whatever.
I think we haven't before had fictional universes that were not owned by a single creator in the same way.

I feel like the closest we get to this are Marvel/DC comics (and a little bit in the TV shows). Though the downside to them is that there's pressure on the Superhero genre to make everything about the end of the world and have tons of crossovers, which then lead to questions of continuity. The other thing is that everything still seems to be dragged back to action-oriented plots, which can be limiting.

I'd love to see a Star Trek version of a modern expanded media universe, and I get the idea that Star Trek writers in the 90's also would have loved to do it, considering the number of times they use the holosuite or someone improbably becoming a spy to break genre. The Trek universe is also expansive enough that I feel like you can get away with only passing mentions of the events on other shows, the way you can't if everyone is technically in the same borough.

Star Wars would be kind of cool, too, but I've never been as invested in various Star Wars planets.

As for this episode - I didn't realize that Tom Paris wasn't supposed to be a womanizer, considering that the last few episodes had him going after the Delaney sisters without differentiating them and then using memories of real women to populate the holosuite. Sleeping with a married woman is a scummy thing to do, but the alien lady was totally for it and Tom Paris is already the worst, so.

I did like the conversation with Kes and the Doctor - it made me think about friends who have renamed themselves to better fit their gender identity, and how that process and searching is a lot different from picking out a baby name - it does feel kind of final (even though it isn't), and there can be a lot of pressure to find something that fits everything they have been, along with everything they hope themselves to be in the future.

I would sort of assume that the Doctor would know about name changes, though, considering it's very possible that some of his patients may change their names for whatever reason and the doctor would have to have full access to their medical history from before the name change.
posted by dinty_moore at 7:20 AM on February 8, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Huh," I says to myself, "this seems awfully familiar."

Stargate SG-1 "re-used" the idea almost word for word about a decade later with Mitchell and a scientist's wife. Maybe more successfully?
posted by Kyol at 5:40 PM on August 28, 2021

They should have just stayed on the Banea planet (I guess that's its proper name?). Based on the establishing shot of their city that we see coming back after the breaks, I'm pretty sure Baneaville (Baneaburg? Baneaopolis?) connects to multiple planets in the alpha quadrant! It was just a question of finding the right door or alleyway to take them home.

Negatives aside, it wasn't the worst episode
Well sure, but that's saying very, very little. We know what the worst episode was. Curiously enough, it also hinges on Paris's inability to keep his hands off inappropriate women.
posted by Naberius at 10:32 AM on April 14 [1 favorite]

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