The Cynics Corner

Star Trek: Voyager

"Life Line"

by David E. Sluss

16 May 2000

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: Superbly acted and largely well-written, but more than a bit predictable.


SURPRISE OF THE WEEK: Troi actually used some of her psychological training and her empathy, something that rarely seemed to happen on The Next Generation. And she was actually used rather effectively, with the exception of the unfortunate scene in which she walks in on Zimmerman and the Doctor and has to ask which one is Zimmerman. Hello? Empathic abilities aside, just look for the guy not wearing a three-years-out-of-style Starfleet uniform.

SURPRISE OF THE WEEK RUNNER-UP: I felt that the resolution of this episode, i.e. the Doctor's program malfunctioning and Zimmerman and the Doctor needing to cure each other, was pretty obvious. However, the fact that Barclay sabotaged the Doctor's program was a pleasant surprise, in the sense that actual human planning rather than technological contrivances played a part in the solution, something that isn't always the case on Voyager, needless to say.

NEW COMPUTER SCIENCE OF THE WEEK: We get to see the usual ridiculous hoohah regarding Voyager's inability to save a copy of the Doctor's program, of course, but as an added bonus we also get to chortle as we witness Voyager's version of "file compression," i.e. just chopping out sections of code.

COURT-MARTIAL OFFENSE OF THE WEEK: Given that the Doctor can't be copied, Janeway can't really be justified in risking the permanent loss of Voyager's only physician in this situation. As is all too often the case, Janeway's indecisiveness does her in. She makes the right call, and then, once again, lets a whining subordinate convince her to make the wrong one. Of all the "bad captain" arguments that people make about Janeway, that may be the most convincing one.

CONTINUITY WATCH OF THE WEEK: This is Zimmerman's second appearance in Star Trek lore, of course, as he appeared three years ago in the DS9 episode "Doctor Bashir, I Presume." It's also the second time we've heard of new versions of the EMH program being produced, as we saw the Mark II program two years ago in Voyager's own "Message in a Bottle." So what do the continuity police have to say? As far as Zimmerman goes, I see a few problems. For instance, Zimmerman's comment that he hasn't been away from Jupiter Station in over four years is either a lie or a continuity glitch, since Zimmerman was on DS9 (the station) three years ago. But more importantly, this Zimmerman, aside from arrogance and sarcasm, doesn't seem much like the Zimmerman we saw on DS9. DS9's Zimmerman was a confidant ladies' man, while this one is a reclusive curmudgeon with only holograms for friends, except for Barclay, who might as well be one. My guess is that Voyager's writers never saw "Doctor Bashir, I Presume" and perhaps weren't even aware of it, but you'd think Picardo, who has a story credit here, would remember. With respect to the EMH's evolution, I guess I'll buy it, although they must really be crummy if the Mark II has been supplanted by the Mark III and IV in just two years; I guess the Mark II's were all retrofitted to be drug abuse counselors...

CONTRIVANCE OF THE WEEK: The source of Zimmerman's discomfort with the Doctor is revealed to be his humiliation about the fact that hundreds of EMH's in his image are working on waste vessels. Leaving aside the question of why a society that can convert matter to energy and back even needs waste vessels, wouldn't it have been the decent thing (and a very easy thing, as we saw in this very episode) for Starfleet to give those holograms a different appearance, rather than embarrass a noted Federation scientist?

WELFARE RECIPIENT OF THE WEEK: Jack Shearer, inexplicably appearing again as The Admiral Who Died In First Contact, as he did a couple of years ago in "Hope and Fear."

FORESHADOWING (?) OF THE WEEK: Admiral Wormfood's inquiry about the Maquis drew a "Well, it's about time" reaction from this end. I'd like to think, hope against hope, that this is part of a master plan that Voyager's writers have in store for when Voyager returns home. Chakotay, Torres, and the other Maquis are, after all, wanted criminals in the Federation, and their return shouldn't be treated as all sweetness and light. Here's hoping that this does actually get some follow-up in future communications with Starfleet and when (if?) Voyager returns home. But don't hold your breath.

Previous: "Fury"
Next: "The Haunting
of Deck Twelve
NEXT WEEK: Voyager, haunted by the Ghost of Creativity Past.



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This review is copyright 2000 David E. Sluss
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