105 – Latent Image

Grade: B-

Latent Image (1999) on IMDb


The Doctor is using a special camera to see inside each crewman. This will help him in his medical diagnosis. Then he discovers some scar tissue from an operation on Harry Kim. But neither the Doctor nor Kim remember the procedure. And yet the Doctor is certain that he must have performed it.


This has been one of my favorite Voyager episodes ever since I first saw it when it first aired. It has some of the best acting and character moments the entire series. Robert Picardo is most likely the best actor in Voyager, but he outdoes even himself here. This was a fairly demanding role and I don’t believe anyone else in this series would have been capable of pulling it off. He had to play a computer program that was caught in a recursive loop, and it was very easy for me to see this in his character as he was going through these scenes.

Speaking of which, I also really liked it that this was not a typical Voyager episode. We weren’t just dealing with an Alien of the Week, though there was a man in a goofy-looking rubber suit. Instead, we were dealing with a more intelligent plot. This was just what I would expect a computer program to do if it were presented with a no-win situation. The Doctor keeps saying that it was his fault that Ensign Jetal died, but he doesn’t say much about Ensign Kim. If he had treated her instead, Kim would have died. He doesn’t say that, but he certainly must be thinking it. When a computer program has a recursive loop, basically the machine just goes in circles forever.

There are also some really great scenes between the Captain and Seven. It is interesting to me that Seven usually says things that nobody else could say to the Captain and still get away with it. Seven has become the Captain’s main adviser and not Chakotay who is supposedly the second in command. Still, someone has to bring up these questions because Janeway clearly isn’t thinking straight. On a personal level, I am very happy to see someone finally get through to Janeway even after she has dug in her heels on her decisions. Maybe this will be the turning point in her character.

Something else that I thought was outstanding was how the episode ended. I was relieved that they didn’t find a way to bring out their patented Reset Button. If they had, I would have hated this episode. Instead, they allowed the Doctor to grow from this experience and to develop as a character. Eventually, he gets over his feedback loop, but it takes time. I think this was handled very well in this episode. Next week, the Doctor will be back to normal again, and we’ll probably never hear about this experience again, but at least this one ends without finding a way to cancelling out 42 minutes of character development by shooting the Doctor’s emitter with nanoprobes or whatever.

With that said, however, I can’t rate this episode as high as I originally wanted to. There are some pretty serious flaws at work here that were impossible for me to overlook. First of all, the music in this episode was completely out of place. The episode is dealing with some pretty serious issues but the music is completely distracting and very off-putting. I was also very annoyed by the overuse of slow motion visuals. Sometimes they work OK, but here they just are unnecessary and also distracting.

Another major flaw in this episode is the fact that every character except Seven treats the Doctor as a simple computer program. By now in the series, he has been on away missions, he has been kidnapped and rescued at the risk of the safety of the ship and the crew, and he has earned the respect of everyone on the ship and even serves as a senior staff member. When Janeway describes the Doctor as nothing more than a replicator, it really made me stop and wonder if this wasn’t supposed to have aired about 3 seasons ago. I seriously thought we had already established the Doctor as a sentient character on this ship. The arguments between Janeway and Seven were actually needed way back in Season 1 or 2, at the latest. This kind of story does not belong in Season 5.

Another problem that I have with this episode is that only 3 episodes ago, the Doctor and Harry created a Cardassian Holo-Doctor to help him operate on B’Elanna Torres. Why couldn’t the Doctor have duplicated another version of himself to operate on Ensign Jetal? This is never explained or mentioned. I know this operation took place 18 months before and not 3 episodes after Nothing Human, but they should have explained why they couldn’t just create another Doctor to help out. Don’t try to tell me that there wasn’t enough space on the computer to create a second Doctor. If that were true, then they wouldn’t have been able to have Dr. Cardassian around either.

Another major issue that I have with this episode is that the accident took place before Seven of Nine became part of the crew. Therefore, Kes was still on the ship and she had developed her medical abilities well enough that she should have been on the ship and able to help operate. With as much as the Doctor worked with her and trained her, his very first question to Janeway when she explained this experience should have been “Where was Kes and why couldn’t she help?”

One other problem that is perhaps more than just a little annoying is that they used a character who had never been seen or heard of before. Voyager is stuck 60,000 LY away from the Federation, and yet it seems to have an endless supply of characters to choose from. Just how many of its 140 original crew are still on board, and how many have we already met? It seems like we have a whole lot more than that. Anyway, it doesn’t seem logical to me to accept that in the 18 months that this has happened, NOT ONE SINGLE PERSON has ever mentioned Ensign Jetal in passing within earshot of the Doctor. That just doesn’t make any sense. Didn’t she have any friends? Wasn’t anyone close enough to her to have a relationship? Does it really make sense that nobody would have mentioned her? Besides, there have been other deaths on this ship in the past few seasons – why couldn’t they have used someone else?

Now in addition to that, she was never seen BEFORE this accident either. We never saw her in any of the incidents with the Kazon, she wasn’t in the Killing Game, she wasn’t one of the crew who was replicated in Demon, etc. So this episode carries a little less weight than it could have. But again, the problem seems to be Voyager’s complete lack of series integrity – every episode is meant to be seen completely separated from any other episode.

But the real answer is that these episodes are not meant to be a continuing story. Instead, each episode is a completely blank slate. We are meant to watch one of them at a time and completely forget about anything we have seen previously. Voyager’s writers have proven this over and over again, with all of their contradictions in character and plot development. Nothing that happens in one episode has any effect on any future episode. Voyager is at its best when you watch it one episode at a time and not necessarily in order. Personally, I don’t like it very much, but that’s how this series works.

One minor problem that I have is in some of the plot conveniences. For example, the alien that somehow beams aboard the shuttle just so happens to have a 2-barrel weapon, and wouldn’t you know it – there are two people on the shuttle plus the holographic Doctor. Not only that, but the two actual people just so happen to be positioned in exactly the right place so the alien can fire on both of them at exactly the same time. What a tremendous coincidence. If he had used a regular-shaped weapon, he may have shot on Ensign Kim first and then on Jetal, and that would have meant that their injuries didn’t happen at the exact same time and they wouldn’t have needed surgery at exactly the same time either. Whatever. I just don’t like to be manipulated this way.

So in summary, a good episode, but it could really have been great, if it had just taken a few more steps in its development.

Of Note

Apparently, there was some disagreement on the final scene. Everyone involved with Voyager agreed it had to be one way, but Brannon Braga insisted on doing it another way. Though he obviously preferred his own way, he agreed to film it both ways and then they would choose the better version. It turns out that it took a long time to film his version. They finished by 1 or 2 in the morning, and nobody wanted to re-do the set and hang around to film it the other way, so Braga’s version is what made it into the episode. It’s still a good scene, though.