Darkling is yet another uninteresting episode, unfortunately. It’s one of those episodes based on “let’s entertain an actor with the evil version of his character“, a bit like Warlord with the evil version of Kes. This time it’s up to Robert Picardo and his Doctor. Amazing, you may say, with such a protagonist things can’t go wrong! You would be wrong…
This is truly a forgettable episode. Not because of Picardo, God forbid! The story doesn’t hold up, and, I’m sorry to say, Jennifer Lien here offers a very poor interpretation of Kes, who still remains one of my favorite characters along with the Doctor and the Tuvok. The screenwriters didn’t help her by giving her a scene in which her character seems to be facing an important crossroads in life in which she has to decide what to do, whether to continue on Voyager or not, only to disappear little by little and become a simple damsel in distress by the end of the episode.
The beginning of Darkling is cringeworthy. Remember how funny it was to see Data playing poker with Newton, Einstein and Stephen Hawking (played by himself in the episode of The Next Generation entitled Descent)? Well, here the Doctor studies the interactions between Lord Byron, Gandhi, Sophocles and other historical figures to enrich the personality of his program. And he does it in the horrible holodeck Hawaiian program. Not the best of premises…
And not the best of developments! Voyager is in orbit around a planet of solitary explorers (there’s a beautiful matte painting of the place where Janeway and her fellow crewmen disembark) to gather information on the next part of the journey to the Alpha Quadrant. Kes falls in love with one of these explorers (David Lee Smith) and… the crazy Doctor attempts to kill him. Then, he kidnaps Kes, while also torturing B’Elanna. Well, the story is a bit all over the place, and the only thing worthy of note is Picardo who’s very threatening as the dark version of the Doctor. But it’s not enough to save the episode.
The only thing to remember is that the story between Kes and Neelix is really over! It’s kind of weird that there was no explanation after the breakup came from villain-possessed Kes in Warlord… but I guess we must simply accept the fact that the Star Trek writers have never really been able to handle love stories. Ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers shout out: Robert Duncan McNeill reveals that he discovered that Darkling is the first of the so-called trilogy of terror, that is three episodes considered to be horrible by the fans of the series. I was not aware of it, but I agree on the quality of this one!
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