Ashes to AshesBy Edward James Hines
Posted at March 1, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT
"Ashes to Ashes" **
Teleplay by Robert Doherty
Story by Ronald Wilkerson
Directed by Terry Windell
After her supposed death two years ago, Ensign Lyndsay Ballard (Kim Rhodes) returns to Voyager. No one recognizes her, however, because her appearance has been altered. After burial in space, her body was recovered by the Kobali, an alien race that procreates by salvaging the dead from other races. She was reanimated, given injections to alter her DNA and physiology, placed with a Kobali family to acclimate and denied permission to contact Voyager. After two years of gaining her family's trust, however, Ballard commandeered a shuttle and spent six months trying to find Voyager. She is reunited with friend Harry Kim, who has had a crush on her since their Academy days. Despite the Doctor's efforts to give her the appearance of humanity, however, Ballard's superior Kobali physiology rejects the treatment, causing her features to begin reverting. Also, she realizes that she is too much a Kobali to ever go back to being human. Foods don't taste the same, Voyager doesn't seem as comfortable and Ballard herself, when upset or intrigued, thinks and speaks as a Kobali. To save Voyager from a deadly attack, Ballard opts to return to the Kobali and reclaim her "new" life.
Meanwhile, Seven of Nine's guardianship of the former Borg children is troubled when they begin to resist her strict, uniform regimen. Chakotay suggests that Seven allow the children to express their individuality.
The "back from the dead" angle used in the preview trailer misrepresents the episode on several fronts. The voice-over says that "they buried her in space five years ago," but by using stardates and other facts from previous shows, the actual figure is two years (which is erroneously rounded up to three in character dialogue). Season six stardates begin with "53," and Ballard died on stardate 51563 (which puts it sometime between "Hunters" and "Prey" in season four). You do the math.
What's even more nagging is that we already witnessed the death of a pretty female ensign not long ago. The demise of Ensign Jetal (Nancy Bell) was told in flashback in last season's "Latent Image." She had died 18 months prior, on or around stardate 50979 (between "Worst-Case Scenario" and "Scorpion"), coincidentally by a directed energy weapon on a shuttlecraft mission with Kim. The question is, therefore, why the "Braga bunch" failed to do their homework and make the story about Jetal, whom we already knew (if barely).
Unfortunately, despite a memorable and vibrant performance by Kim Rhodes - who takes the terrific back-story material and creates for herself a tangible tie to Voyager - the trouble with "Ashes to Ashes" is that we didn't know Lyndsay Ballard, and so her return really doesn't mean much. Writer Ronald Wilkerson, who has contributed such fabulous episodes as TNG's "Lower Decks" and "Lessons," as well as VGR's "Learning Curve," used Lieutenant Stadi and VGR's human doctor from "Caretaker" in his original treatment, but even their return would have made little sense.
Seska's reanimation, however, would have had more impact, or even Joe Carey's (who we assume is dead) or Hogan's (who died in "Basics, Part II"). Unfortunately, VGR has failed to maintain a rotation of recurring crew members, so there are almost no deceased characters who could make this kind of a heartwarming story work.
Compounding the problem is the inescapable fact that none of these characters - even Ballard - work because Voyager's slipstream ("Hope and Fear") and transwarp ("Dark Frontier") jumps have taken it years beyond the final resting places of these people. Ballard's Kobali shuttle certainly wasn't equipped with the kind of drive necessary to catch up to Voyager in only six months.
Finally, particularly vexing is the rewriting of Kim's history to the apparent exclusion of girlfriend Libby. His feelings for Ballard are clearly raw - especially when we learn that he didn't have the heart to recycle her personal effects - and he admits to having been crazy about her since they first met at the Academy. This doesn't sound like the doting boyfriend from "Time and Again" who admitted he was saving himself for his girl back home. The Braga bunch seem to have taken their magic wand of capriciousness and dismissed this fact as well as the events in "Non Sequitur," when Kim was trapped in an alternate reality, at home with fiancee Libby (Jennifer Gatti).
Also particularly disturbing is the trend of Star Trek women who have absolutely no idea that they are loved and adored by the men in their life. It took Kira Nerys almost six years to notice Odo's affection in DS9. In "Ashes to Ashes," Ballard had to die and be reanimated just to learn the truth about Kim's feelings for her. To be fair, maybe the real problem lies with these dysfunctional men and their inability to express themselves.
One of the few familiar things about Ballard is the list of things she wanted to do if she ever got back to Voyager. This is reminiscent of Robin Lefler's Laws from TNG's "The Game." Hopefully, given her fabulous performance, Kim Rhodes will one day be as successful as Ashley Judd.
The story's "exit clause," about how the Kobali reanimation process usually results in extensive memory loss, saves it from at least one picky error. Ballard is surprised by Tuvok's promotion to lieutenant commander, but if her memory were intact, she wouldn't have been. Tuvok was elevated in "Revulsion" on stardate 51186.2, when Ballard was still alive and on board. She didn't die until stardate 51563, later that same season.
The only worthwhile observation about the B-story is that Seven seems to be no better than the finicky First from "Collective," who kept the other neonatal drones on as tight a leash as Seven's regimented schedule does now. Particularly amusing, however, are Seven's directives, "fun will now commence" and "resume your disorder."
The unfortunately inane teaser involves eight-year-old Mezoti (Marley McClean) answering an incoming transmission from the Astrometrics Lab. Apparently, we are to believe that no one on the bridge heard it. A wiser construction might have involved more than Tuvok simply walking in and catching Mezoti in the act; instead, he could have rushed down from the bridge to inquire why someone in Astrometrics had intercepted the hail first.
Finally, the Kobali custom of salvaging the dead sounds a little like the Vidiians' former habit of harvesting organs, but more similar to the Borg's reanimation of James T. Kirk's body in William Shatner's popular novel, The Return.
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.