WARNING: Sensors indicate spoiler signs ahead for VOY's "Lifesigns". Proceed with caution.
In brief: A mixed bag; some moments worked pretty well, but several others didn't.
Written by: Kenneth Biller Directed by: Cliff Bole Brief summary: The Voyager comes across a dying Vidiian woman, and the doctor's attempt to cure her leads to a new development in his program: romantic feelings.
Ah, spring is in the air ... and a young hologram's fancy turns to ... no, wait; that can't be right.
But it is. Following in the grand traditions of TNG's "The Dauphin" and "In Theory", "Voyager" has decided to deal with an innocent discovering love and all the attendant trials and tribulations that follow. Neither of the other two entirely succeeded, so it may not be too surprising that "Lifesigns" didn't either.
Part of the problem "Lifesigns" had with the romance angle was that it was so stereotyped. When Paris, as part of his sage advice, started telling the doctor that "women like X" and "women don't like Y", it felt like we were supposed to take it as a universal truth rather than Paris's opinion. I have a substantial problem with that: I don't think it's universally true across cultures on this planet, which makes it even less likely to be universally true across cultures elsewhere. The things Paris referred to, in my opinion, either aren't universal or are universal to all *people*, not simply women. But instead of making any points about the doctor's bluntness in general or advice on dealing with people, we got Paris essentially feeding him pickup techniques. No, thanks.
Apart from that, the only major problem with the romance storyline is that it was dull -- and that, frankly, is a problem that was true for "The Dauphin" and "In Theory" before it as well. In every case, there's been a bright spot here and there (a Riker/Guinan conversation in "The Dauphin", for instance), but nothing to justify the rest of the time spent dealing with cliche after cliche. "Lifesigns" was no exception; the doctor's line to Paris about being rejected by women was good enough to justify the next couple of minutes of Paris's stroll down memory lane, but not good enough to justify the entire episode.
What worked significantly better in "Lifesigns" was the issue of Dinara Pel's wish to be seen as a person rather than as "just a disease". This may have been because it wasn't quite so cliched; while the arguments Dinara makes could be said about almost anyone suffering from a serious illness, particularly a disfiguring one, it's rare to come across a disease which will irrevocably change you as strikingly and as chronically as the Phage does. As a result, her arguments carried some significant weight in ways not normally seen, which helped a great deal. There were enough moments where Dinara's surprise at being "healthy" again shone through that her later wish not to transfer back to her real body made a great deal of sense. And once her refusal came out, this was also one of the few places where the doctor's feelings for her really helped; when he assured her that his feelings wouldn't change one iota regardless of her appearance, he's about the only character that could actually live up to that. Given some delicate touches and good work from Susan Diol and Robert Picardo, then, the "just a disease" portion of "Lifesigns" was probably its highlight.
As a sidebar to the doctor's storyline, the doctor/B'Elanna Torres/Dinara scene was a mixed bag. On the positive side, I liked the idea of what the doctor was proposing (a neural graft from Torres to Dinara): given what we've already seen, it's perhaps plausible that Dinara would get some resistance to her disease from said graft (without it being a cure -- and oh, was I glad when the doctor said that as well!). B'Elanna's initial reaction also made a great deal of sense, given what happened to her in "Faces". However, I thought her turnaround was a bit too quick and too easy; even if Torres is trying not to be ruled by her passions quite so often, that's still a very quick change of mind.
That leaves the two running subplots: Paris's problems with his duties, and Jonas's continuing espionage for Seska. The Jonas stuff is starting to get a little tiresome, mostly because we still have no idea *why* he's doing this -- however, all indications suggest that the Jonas/Seska/espionage story is going to come to a head soon, so with luck we'll see it develop in more interesting ways soon.
The Paris stuff, on the other hand, just isn't working for me at all. For a year, Paris is trying his best to impress Janeway and carry out his duties admirably, trying to redeem himself for what he considers a life of failures -- and then, all of a sudden, he decides he doesn't like Chakotay's style and decides to go with a little adolescent rebellion? No. It's too abrupt, not well-founded enough to be convincing, and just isn't convincing. Given Paris's words to Chakotay here, this may be leading up to a mini-mutiny of sorts. If so, that could prove interesting -- but at the moment, Paris's rebellions aren't making sense. (Janeway's reactions to it aren't working either; sending Paris to the brig is only going to make matters worse, and someone needs to point this out.)
That's about it; there's really not all that much to say about "Lifesigns", since there wasn't much there. So, some shorter points:
-- Sharp-eyed TNG fans may remember Susan Diol from "Silicon Avatar"; she played a colonist who was somewhat (ahem) involved with Riker before getting zapped by the Crystalline Entity.
-- This is the third week in a row that we've had a show involving either capital punishment or the right to die. Change the record, already.
-- I think this is the first time that Trek's actually grabbed the rights to a real song ("I Only Have Eyes For You", played in the Chevy). Not a bad choice given the circumstances, either.
-- I did like the doc's ego. "I was just doing a job -- doing it exceptionally *well*, of course..." was fun.
And wrapping up...
Writing: Some nice treatment of the disease angle, but neither the romance plot nor the subplots came off particularly well. Directing: Fine. Acting: Good work from Diol and (usually) Picardo; everyone else was okay. OVERALL: About a 5.5. Some good bits here and there, but enough off moments to make it pretty neutral on the whole.
NEXT WEEK: A rerun of "Persistence of Vision". See you in a few weeks.
Tim Lynch (Harvard-Westlake School, Science Dept.) firstname.lastname@example.org "Mr. Paris, I assume you've had a great deal of experience being rejected by women." -- the Doctor Copyright 1996, Timothy W. Lynch. All rights reserved, but feel free to ask... This article is explicitly prohibited from being used in any off-net compilation without due attribution and *express written consent of the author*. Walnut Creek and other CD-ROM distributors, take note.