The Great Star Trek Voyager Rewatch: Darkling

The Doctor decides to implement his latest self-improvement program, in which he incorporates the personalities of great historical figures into himself. The idea is that their enlightened views will help him to evolve and become a better doctor, but what he doesn’t realise is that all of these people had a dark side – and now their combined darker nature is within him.

First off, a quick anecdote about this episode. A few years back, one of my occasional viewing companions received some boxes of items from his parents, including one of his old Voyager VHS tapes (this was many years after I had dispensed with my own Voyager VHS tapes, and before I had the DVDs and Netflix at my command). Since he also had a working VHS player, for old times’ sake we rewatched this episode on VHS, for that genuine nineties experience.

Now onto the episode itself, a sort of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde for the 24th century. Like Dr Jekyll, our Doctor embarks on his great experiment in the hopes of improving himself, only to unleash the darkest and most hideous impulses of human nature. Unlike that classic, however, this episode does not especially stand the test of time. Yes, I like the basic idea behind the episode, but Robert Picardo hams it up a bit too much for me, coming across less as creepy and more like a Scooby Doo villain – the exception perhaps being when he paralyses B’Elanna in sickbay. And Kes’ monologue about how there’s good in everything is just a bit too preachy even by Star Trek standards. Give me complex moral debates, not absolutes about the nature of good and evil.

Points of Note

  • Janeway took a course in Klingon physiology at Starfleet Academy, which actually makes her a more qualified field medic than Paris and his one semester of biochemistry. No, I am not going to let this go.
  • In a way, it would have been nice for Kes to leave with Zahir here instead of having her magically evolve in The Gift. That being said, that would have meant we missed out on Before and After, which I do enjoy.
  • T’Pau from Amok Time is now considered a great historical figure. Her hologram is seen playing kal-toh with holographic Socrates.
  • This episode confirms that Neelix and Kes did indeed break up – indeed, Kes is already hooking up with a rebound man.
  • Unlike Portal, where momentum is preserved, The Doctor and Kes go from falling to standing still after going through the transporter.

Lost, crashed or destroyed shuttlecraft running total: 7

Possibly salvageable shuttlecraft running total: 5

Number of times Voyager gets destroyed: 1

Summary – Darkling: In which The Doctor becomes a comedy villain.

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