Delta Redux: A Voyager Rewatch: Lifesigns

By Last Updated: October 12, 2017Views: 2433

Hooray, a Doctor-centric episode! So far in the series the Doctor has been – to my mind – the most dynamic and genuinely interesting character on the show. He has shown the most range, from humor to anger to compassion, and has been the one character on the program to show real growth and depth.

And the episodes to focus on the Doctor have been thus far the most consistently good the program has produced. Sure there has been a smattering of excellent ones like the previous episode Death Wish and the WWII styled Resistance, but the episodes to focus solely on the Doctor have been of a higher quality than the majority of the series.

That being said this is a story that focuses on a romantic love interest for the Doctor and Star Trek as a whole hasn’t been very good at doing romance. So as it became clear that this was to be an episode that featured holographic courtship I’ll admit to being skeptical on the chances for a quality viewing experience.

Turns out I needn’t have worried. The Doctor’s charm pulled what could have been a clichéd trudge through a contrived, forced relationship into a thoroughly entertaining romp. And it even managed to add a bit of melancholy for good measure.

“Well, before you, I was just a projection of photons, held together by force fields. A computerized physician, doing a job. Doing it exceptionally well, of course, but still, it was… just a profession. Not a life. But now that you are here, and my programming has adapted, I’m not just working anymore. I’m living, learning what it means… to be with someone, to love someone.” – The Doctor

The story centers on Voyager coming across the damaged ship of a Viidian woman that gets beamed on board for the Doctor to attempt to save. It turns out that she just so happens to have a neural implant that allows the Doctor to save her consciousness to a holoprogram similar to his own so that he can heal her body and not lose her brain function, and the holoprogram creates a body for her that is without her disease.

The Viidians are of course the race that suffers from an illness called the phage that debilitates and disfigures them so that they harvest organs from other races to stave off death and also makes them look like a race of Frankenstein’s monsters. And they are one of the more interesting villains that Voyager has produced so far. The fact that they use the body parts of every race they encounter with no remorse makes them much creepier, threatening and downright horrifying than the average strong-man villain like say the menacing menace full of menace that is the Kazon. This also makes them much more subtle and nuanced.

The Viidian woman is called Denara Pei and she too is a doctor. And so the Doctor and the doctor find they have a lot in common and begin to hit it off.

At this point the show does devolve into a standard run-of-the-mill romance plot that is for the most part played for laughs. The Doctor does not understand the feelings and urges he is having and his abrupt nature is appropriately awkward and cringeworthy. This type of story has been done to death of course and had the potential to be tedious – except for the fact that Robert Picardo is so damned adorable in the role that he elevates the material into something fun to watch. His awkwardness is endearing and his abruptness delightful.

Add to this the character of Denara being unfamiliar with not being shunned and despised because of her illness and looks that she too is resistant to the relationship. This is an extra dimension to the stereotypical courtship that also elevates the material as well as giving depth to a villain that before this was just seen as someone that wanted to chop you into bits.

And of course this is episodic television so the relationship can’t last, but even this is done nicely with a touching declaration of love from the Doctor and a heartbreaking final dance as the show fades to credits.

This is not groundbreaking TV; it will never make a top 10 list. But Lifesigns handled a bog standard type of story with some intelligence, some really fun acting and a little grace at the end. All in all a nice little episode.

Oh, and there was a subplot with Tom Paris that gets paid off in the next episode.

The journey continues.

Next Time On Star Trek Voyager

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