Misremembering a Murder
"Ex Post Facto" Plot Summary:
Tom Paris is tried and convicted of committing a murder on an away mission to Benea. His sentence - to have the dying memories of his victim implanted into his mind, to be replayed twice a day for the rest of his life - is carried out even though Paris claims innocence. The alien engrams are beginning to cause brain damage when Janeway and Tuvok learn of his plight from Harry Kim, who has been returned to the ship after interrogation. Janeway learns from local authorities that since Paris is clearly seen committing the murder in the thoughts of Tolen Ren, the dead man, his sentence is irreversible.
While Tuvok tries to piece together what really happened the night of the professor's death, Janeway discovers that the planet's hostile neighbors, the Numiri, have a vested interest in Paris for reasons which are unclear to her. Tuvok learns that Tom carried on a flirtation with Lidell Ren, the wife of the professor, and hears Lidell's testimony that Tom killed her husband. But he believes Paris, who claims that there was no murder and no adultery. A mind-meld allows him to see the alleged crime as it was recorded by the Beneans.
Meanwhile, the Numiri attack Voyager, but Chakotay successfully takes the ship out of the line of fire. Tuvok says he knows from the meld why the Numiri attacked. Janeway announces to the Beneans that Paris will be returning by shuttle; when he does, the Numiri try to kidnap Paris, but Janeway has him beamed away first. The Numiri withdraw when Janeway informs them that the shuttle is packed with explosives. Then Janeway, Tuvok, and Paris beam back to Benea, where Tuvok explains that he realized from the engrams that Paris was both too tall and too familiar with Benean physiology to be the killer. Moreover, someone superimposed Dr. Ren's research over the end of the recording...probably to be delivered to the Numiri. He points to the Ren's dog as proof that one of the minister's advisors, the man who implanted the engrams in Paris, was likely a spy. Paris is freed to go.
This was an interesting detective story right up to the goofy ending. When Tuvok called the dog as a witness, I stopped taking it seriously. There's something annoying about detective stories that the audience can't solve along with the detective because crucial information is withheld; we couldn't know what Tuvok thought he was seeing in the meld, particularly not the Numiri numbers, so we couldn't begin to guess what was up.
Still, I liked the way Janeway dealt both with Tom's behavior and with the Numiri threat. She gave Paris a look when he said nothing much had happened between himself and Mrs. Ren which might have been punishment enough for thinking about cheating, yet she put aside her personal annoyance and went to work protecting her crewman. I was sorry we didn't get to hear her lecture him later on how he'd jeopardized the entire crew and caused an interplanetary incident just by taking the bait and flirting with an alien, but that never happened. I hope this series starts writing Paris as a character we can take seriously soon; he's likable enough when he's not thinking with the wrong head, but that seems to be the exception rather than the rule.
I'm glad we got to see Tuvok using some of that Vulcan logic, but I hate to see the mind meld used as a gimmick; it's awfully early in the series for them to be playing that card. My favorite scene was the one where Chakotay outwitted the Numiri in the midst of bantering with Janeway about Maquis tactics. These two clearly don't worry about flirting on the bridge, so maybe they're not in the best of positions to judge Paris. Not that I'm complaining...it's a lot of fun to watch.