Victorian weirdness aside, we then get into the meat of the episode with an as mentioned brain dead Chakotay and a non-corporeal alien with the ability to possess crew members. This on the surface is a fantastic idea and has some really great potential.
Starting off slow with Paris and Torres doing things they claim not to remember, then building the tension when the crew realizes that anyone could be possessed plays really well. But ultimately that tension is diminished with repeated use of a swoopy/blurry camera effect that telegraphs the alien presence and often times who is next in line to be taken over.
And that’s a shame because without it there would have been real confusion as to who was the alien. And the increasing paranoia of the crew causing distrust and suspicion would have been a fascinating way for the characters to grow and change the way they interact with one another not only in this episode but future episodes as well. Alas that is only hinted at and by the time the reveal of Tuvok as the primary alien focus we (the viewer) have already figured this out and are left wondering why the crew didn’t get it ages ago.
I mean c’mon…he was alone with Kess in the turbo lift with evidence of her being physically assaulted with a Vulcan neck pinch and…seriously what is wrong with you people? I mean…duh.
Anyway, I digress.
And ultimately the M. Night Shyamalan twisty, twisty ending of Chakotay being a spirit/soul wanderer/energy being/whatever (did you know he’s a space Indian with medicine power? It’s true!) and reverse possessing people isn’t really enough to save the plot, in fact it might have made it just a bit worse.
Now, everything I just said may sound like I didn’t enjoy the episode. This is not true. I actually found it very entertaining and it’s only in hindsight that the flaws begin to show. I guess what I take issue with is the potential of the premise that isn’t quite realized. So much could have been done but was left just kinda hanging there not being picked up. I suppose this is unfair – I should judge the show for what it is not what I would want it to be – but so far Voyager is so tantalizingly close to greatness but just falls ever so slightly short. It’s frustrating.
One final note: the Medicine Wheel scene with Torres and the Doctor was quite funny and charming. More of that please and less Victorian nannys.