Mark Watches ‘Voyager’: S01E08 – Ex Post Facto

In the eighth episode of the first season of Voyager, Tom Paris is accused of murder and it REALLY looks like he did it. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to watch Star Trek.

Trigger Warning: For talk of nonconsensual medical procedures, gaslighting, torture.

So, this is definitely not the first time we’ve gotten a story in the Star Trek canon that unfolds fairly similar to this one. Actually, it’s possible that all four Trek iterations I’ve seen have had an episode that follows one member of the crew being accused of murder or some horrible crime that they can’t possibly have committed. While I admit that “Ex Post Facto” was pretty fun to watch, upon reflection it strays a little too close to episodes I’ve seen before.

There are elements to this that are entertaining and illuminating, though, and I think this’ll be more fun if I largely focus on them. The Baneans have an interesting justice system, one that utilizes a form of evidence that is largely impossible for most other cultures. They’re able to access specific memories from a brain post-mortem and use that as an eye witness account. In this specific case, that means they’re able to use the deceased’s experience of their own death to clearly implicate Tom Paris in the man’s murder. Which is REALLY CREEPY when you think about it. Do the Baneans ever use this technique on living minds? Can they access memories otherwise? My guess is no, given that they mentioned needing another host to relate those memories to the court.

They were also a society who once used the death penalty as punishment, yet evolved to use a more poetic form of justice. Any murderer must re-live their victim’s death and feel the entire thing once every fourteen hours. FOREVER. That’s… pretty messed up, but it’s a step away from execution as punishment. What I found fascinating is the fact that in the face of evidence that Tom’s implant was actually torturing him and would lead to his eventual death, the Baneans relented. They changed their punishment even without any precedence for this sort of predicament! It was a genuinely surprising twist, and I think it’s actually an intriguing form of worldbuilding. What if the Baneans learned from their past and refused to ever torture those who committed crimes? What if this was just another step in the continued evolution of their justice system?

Beyond this element of “Ex Post Facto,” I was largely pleased by the noir vibe to the story. Sometimes, it worked beautifully. I enjoyed the many flashbacks from different perspectives, and I thought it was clever to intertwine these stories in a way to make it seem like everyone was telling the truth. That way, it made it much harder to determine what the hell was going on here. Plus, it meant that Tuvok – who has mostly existed on the sidelines since the pilot episode – finally got his time to shine. He becomes the determined and observant private eye here, cutting through all the political and personal bullshit in order to find the real killer. AND THEIR ACCOMPLICE.

This tone isn’t always to the benefit of the story, however. I felt like Lidell Ren was pretty one dimensional. The writers clearly made her the femme fatale of the story and then… never did anything beyond that? And because Star Trek has a long history of characters much like Tom (Riker and Kirk, for example), I felt less inclined to think of him as a morally grey player in a noir mystery and more like… well, a jerk. Just because someone ended their marriage LESS THAN TWENTY-FOUR HOURS EARLIER does mean it is a tactful time to move in on the wife. In the home they share! I mean, Harry Kim does scold Tom a bit, but once again, I felt like the writers just patted Tom on the head and said, “Oh, you wacky fool! Such shenanigans you get in!”

Anyway, I still had fun watching this, and I love that I’m getting to see how good of a face actress Kate Mulgew is. SHE IS INCREDIBLE.

The video for “Ex Post Facto” can be downloaded here for $0.99.

Mark Links Stuff

– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
- Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!

About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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