EMH Malfunction

Story: The Swarm
Written By: Mike Sussman
Series: Star Trek: Voyager
Year: 1996

“The Swarm” is a really good episode; in rare form for this series it happens to have a solid a-plot, as well as a successful b-plot. The A-plot is the malfunction of the Doctor. Ge was never designed to be on for so long, and his memory banks are filled beyond capacity, which is causing his memory and pattern to fall apart. We get two great performances out of Picardo, as both the EMH and the diagnostics program, both of which are based on their creator, Doctor Zimmerman (who made an appearance in a DS9 episode). I enjoyed Picardo’s two performances (neither of which are really like his usual Doctor, which is also pretty cool), and I think the plot line makes a lot of sense moves in a logical flow. Really anytime we get a focus on the Doctor its bound to be a pretty enjoyable episode, but one that both brings to point the longevity of a short term medical hologram and has some real stakes makes it an even better story.
Essentially the B-plot involves Voyager being forced to go through a segment of space filled with mysterious xenophobic aliens, who destroy any ship that enters their space. The only way to avoid them is to add another 15 months to their journey home…not an attractive prospect. So they come up with a solution to try and fly through undetected. In standard Trek form the plan falls apart, they get detected and have to have a battle to get out of the predicament. It is good action fare that gives us a solid reason for Torres to not be focusing only on the Doctor’s story, while give us a few good scenes on it’s own to fill out the episode. The solution is a bit anti-climactic, but the real story is in the Doctor.

The writer of this episode, Mike Sussman, should have been contributing more to the series. His first entry ever in Trek was “Meld”, one of the best episodes of Voyager. Then he makes his second outing in this well written episode. Is it possible that some of his work stinks later on? Yes. Do I think he is one of the stronger writers so far to come into Voyager (and start on Voyager)? Yes. Some of the folks from TNG were just rehashing old shit or pushing the limits in the wrong direction or throwing in rest after reset. I think Sussman has proved to be one of the few writers that really showcases the potential Voyager had from the get go. Shame most of the writers don’t showcase the same quality of work.

NEXT TIME: Ferengi in the Delta Quadrant