Category Archives: 2376

“Life Line”

This disease has changed Zimmerman’s hair, removed his memory of traveling to DS9, and had profound effects on his personality.

Starfleet, working through the Pathfinder project, establishes regular contact with Voyager every 32 days. The Doctor gets a letter from Barclay telling him his creator, Doctor Lewis Zimmerman (also played by Robert Picardo) is dying of some weird illness. The Doctor convinces Janeway to send him to the Alpha Quadrant to use some of his mad Delta Quadrant skillz to treat Zimmerman. Upon arrival, Zimmerman is an old crank and the Doctor can’t get through to him. Barclay calls on Deanna Troi — was Marina Sirtis really hard up for a paycheck in 2000? — who stops by to help, yet again. After that doesn’t work, the Doctor’s matrix starts failing, forcing Zimmerman to fix him — and then, the Doctor saves Zimmerman. Of course, it was a ploy cooked up by Barclay and Troi, but the Doctor heads back to the Delta Quadrant having formed a sort of bond with his creator.

Why it’s important

The big picture item is that Starfleet and Voyager now have REGULAR contact. That’s a huge deal that will play out throughout the rest of the series. The Doctor/Zimmerman plot, while not bad, is really secondary as far as the tapestry is concerned. Interestingly, this episode was co-written by Picardo.

She’s just here for the ice cream! Or maybe the paycheck.

What doesn’t hold up

The biggest problem is that Voyager changed the Zimmerman character from the last and only time we actually saw him, on DS9’s “Doctor Bashir, I Presume”, in which Zimmerman travels to DS9 to consider using Bashir as a template for a new EMH and acts an awful lot like Voyager’s doctor. The thing with Bashir doesn’t pan out, but Zimmerman, in the episode, is portrayed as a crank and recluse who is very different than the guy we met on DS9 — and don’t get me going on Zimmerman saying he hasn’t left Jupiter Station (where he lives and works) in more than four years, when he traveled to DS9 about three years earlier. Why, Voyager? Why? You don’t need to be this sloppy. Why not just say “almost two years” instead of “more than four years”?

Bigger picture, this is just classic Voyager — in which the creators THOUGHT they needed to disregard continuity for good drama. Sure, you could argue that making Zimmerman a crank makes him more of a foil for the Doctor. But, really, it just comes across as sitcom fodder. A more complex relationship between the two could have been done with Zimmerman’s stated motivation (EMHs like the Doctor were considered failures) without making him seem like the neighbor in a ’70s comedy. Worse, Robert Picardo (playing double duty) almost pulls it off, but the episode just comes across as too ham-fisted. There’s a throwaway line about how Zimmerman’s condition is affecting his personality — but that’s a real stretch.

Finally, one wonders about the Voyager crew members who had to sacrifice their first letters home in years because of the Doctor’s trip to the Alpha Quadrant. And I guess it was a good thing that no medical emergencies happened in the month between transmissions. Tom Paris, M.D., to the rescue?

Oh, and this is the second of three Voyager episodes that Sirtis shows up on in about a year. It really comes across as the creators throwing her a bone/paycheck.

“Are you sure that’s the right Doctor Zimmerman?!”

Final thoughts

I did like the scene in which Janeway and Chakotay discuss how to respond to a Starfleet query about casualties the crew has encountered, their overall journey and the Maquis. It was a necessary discussion — one that wasn’t had in “Message in a Bottle” when there really wasn’t time — and one that, of course, is never followed up on. One thing’s clear: Continuity in Voyager got worse as the series dragged on. And that’s saying something.

Coming next week …

Can the Borg dream? And, if they do — can they dream of a civil war that will have no lasting effects? Well, it’s Voyager, so you betcha.


This is step 13 of the 12-step program to beat holodeck addiction.

Back on Earth, our old buddy Lt. Barclay (Dwight Schultz) is struggling with his life since leaving the Enterprise. He’s working on a big project aimed at establishing contact with Voyager — and he’s also recreating the crew on the holodeck, a throwback to his holodeck issues back when we first met the character in TNG’s “Hollow Pursuits”. Deanna Troi visits him to help, and he tells her about his efforts to defy orders and use an unorthodox approach to make contact. After some drama involving Starfleet and Admiral Owen Paris (Richard Herd) — Tom Paris’ father — Barclay goes against orders with his method and eventually makes brief contact, offering a glimmer of hope to the stranded Voyager crew. He also saves his career in the process.

Why it’s important

As Voyager wound down as a series, contact with the Alpha Quadrant became more commonplace. Of course, the fact that Voyager was still out there was passed on in “Message in a Bottle” two seasons earlier, but this episode provides more hope for Voyager’s safe return. Later in the sixth reason, regular monthly contact will be established.

Now we know why Tom turned into a lizard in ‘Threshold’ — it runs in his family!

What doesn’t hold up

There’s really only one flaw in this episode’s logic, and it’s that Starfleet would have any idea about Voyager’s location since “Message in a Bottle”. The ship has jumped ahead a few times — 10 years in “Timeless”, 20 years in “Dark Frontier” and smaller jumps in “Night” and “The Voyager Conspiracy” —  so one would expect that Barclay and Starfleet wouldn’t be looking for Voyager where they found the ship.

That said, the only other problem here is that Voyager’s best episodes often involve going outside the normal routine of the ship itself — sometimes by showing Alpha Quadrant happenings or by having episodes that are what-if scenarios (like “Timeless” and “Living Witness”). It’s almost as if the way the creators decided that the frame for the series didn’t work that well (huh) and that they occasionally would have to set up situations that didn’t fit in the normal framework to be more compelling. One wonders why the creators didn’t just pitch that framework (other than adding Seven of Nine to the cast, in season four) and try to do something different in a bigger-picture way.

“Let’s celebrate our first good episode in a long while!”

Final thoughts

Schultz and Marina Sirtis do a nice job in this episode, and it’s totally understandable and in keeping with the Barclay character that he would relate to the Voyager crew’s loneliness. That he becomes a recurring character over the next season and a half — even playing an important role in the series finale — is significant and also telling. Granted, Worf and O’Brien were directly taken from TNG to DS9, so the practice here wasn’t unprecedented — and it isn’t totally problematic. But it is interesting that with such a wide array of characters and a strong cast (as much as the Janeway character is portrayed poorly, Kate Mulgrew was rarely the problem) the Voyager creators needed to pull from TNG.

Coming later this week …

More from the Alpha Quadrant. More Barclay, more Troi and twice the Robert Picardo.