It’s body swapping madness on Voyager with Tom Paris in the middle of it all.   Originally broadcast on April 8, 1998 this is Vis a Vis

The Episode:

Captain’s Log Stardate 51762.4  Vis a Vis

After rescuing an alien test pilot, Paris finds himself in the wrong body and is forced to find his way back to Voyager.

The Story:

Vis 1

Tom Paris is chastised by the Doctor for spending too much time in a ‘grease-monkey’ holo program and not tending to his new duties as the medical assistant, but is called away when a badly damaged alien ship drops out of warp. Paris determines that the ship is likely using a coaxial warp drive and a warp core breach could be devastating to the surrounding systems.   Using his knowledge, he develops a plan to save the ship and Voyager allowing them to shut down the aliens warp engines safely.   Soon the alien contacts Voyager and requests assistance in repairing their ship.

Safely aboard Voyager, Steth, informs the crew that he is a test pilot and would appreciate any help they can give in his current situation.  Paris jumps on the chance to help the alien repair his ship after receiving a talk from Chakotay about his lackluster performance in Paris’ medical duties. Paris soon has a similar confrontation with B’Elanna when she accuses him of avoiding her.  Blowing it off as needing his own time, he returns to work with Steth.

Vis 4

Paris soon devises a plan to fix Steth’s ship but there is something wrong with Steth as he keeps reverting to a she when Paris is not looking.  Steth soon begins snooping around the ship to find information on Paris, drawing the attention of Seven in the process.  Soon, however, when Steth determines that Paris has compatible DNA, he strikes. Taking the form of Tom Paris, Steth changes Paris to look like the male version of Steth and sends the test ship on it’s way with an unconscious real Paris aboard.

Steth begins to try to acclimate to life on Voyager.  Unsure of the intricacies of Tom Paris’ life, Steth begins to work his way into the relationships manipulating conversations and adapting where he can.  Eventually convincing his crew-mates that nothing is wrong, it seems no one aboard Voyager is aware that Paris has been replaced.

Vis 6

Back on the alien ship, Paris wakes to find himself alone and his ship under attack by a small fleet of aliens who claim that he is a thief.  Taken into custody, a female alien claims that she is actually Steth and that Steth had stolen her identity.  Paris tells her his story and the two begin to work together to find a way to get back to Voyager and apprehend the shape-shifting thief.

Back on Voyager it soon become clear to the crew that something is wrong with Paris as his attitude has greatly changed in the recent days. After neglecting his duties, threatening Seven of Nine and turning up drunk in the mess hall, Steth is called out by Janeway concerning Paris’ behavior.  The two soon find themselves in a confrontation and, just when it seems the shapeshifter is about to hurt Janeway, security is able to stun ‘Paris’ and take him to sickbay.

Vis 9

In Sickbay the Doctor finds he can not wake Paris even though there is nothing physically wrong with him other than a mysterious second DNA pattern in his blood.  Soon the ship is contacted by an alien who claims that he is actually Paris having been a victim of a body swap.  Janeway doesn’t believe him and has the alien ship tractor beamed.  Knowing that she has been caught, Janeway steals a shuttlecraft that has been modified with the coaxial warp engine and flees the ship.  Paris convinces Chakotay of what is going on and is allowed to pursue the fake Janeway.  After a brief battle Paris and the real Steth are able to capture the alien  Returning Janeway and Paris to their proper bodies, Steth informs the crew that he plans to help return all of the shapeshifters victim’s to their proper bodies and bring this being to justice.

After Steth leaves, Paris finally opens up to Torres and shoes her the program his has been obsessed with.  The two ‘make out’ in the Camero he had been working on.

Is this a ‘Good’ Episode:

I love the character of Tom Paris.  His has been a great journey from the start going from being a ‘reformed’ criminal on a second chance to a significant and respected crew-member aboard Voyager.  While he has had a few rocky moments, including that of being turned into a salamander, Paris has had some of the most significant development over much of the characters in the series.

Vis 2

More recently we have seen him developing a relationship and sliding into the role of the Doctor’s assistant upon the departure of Kes.  As expected, this is a little too comfortable for his taste and, so, the young Lieutenant of course begins to drift.  This is the prime opportunity for an alien shapeshifter to step in and shake things up for him. This event manages to wake Paris up to what has been taken from him giving him a somewhat renewed send of duty and responsibility.  How long this will last…well we will see, but it is a great moment in Paris’ journey.

The story itself is a simple one about shape-shifting and body swapping and, unfortunately we never get a chance to find out what happens to Steth and his attempt to find everyone affected.  Frankly I would have loved to have seen more of this alien’s adventures hunting for this shape-shifter.

Vis 3

The thing that makes this episode so worth while isn’t the story, however, but the pretty significant acting abilities of Robert Duncan McNeil, Dan Butler (Steth) and Kate Mulgrew.  It is pretty amazing how they are all able to duplicate each other in their mannerisms and speech while also seeming to be themselves.  Throughout the episode each of the actors capture the subtle nuances of the other person making their role masquerading as the other very believable.  While it is no surprise that both Robert and Kate are tremendous in their roles, it was incredible to see Dan Butler in his role as Steth.  You might recognize Dan through his makeup as the same actor who portrayed Bulldog Briscoe on the series Frasier along with numerous roles since.  Butler is a significant talent and I really do wish we could have had a spinoff series involving his attempt to find the bodies taken by the shapeshifter.  This would have been a fantastic back-door pilot to such a story.

Overall, I really dig this episode.  No, it is not world changing and really does little to move the overall narrative forward, but it is a solid story none-the-less.

Gleanings and Cool Bits:

  • 0 photon torpedoes fired, 20 remaining.
  • 0 shuttlecraft lost or destroyed, -1 remaining
  • This episode marks the first appearance of Paris’ Grease Monkey Garage.  It will not be the last.
  • This is the last we ever hear from Steth or the shape-shifting/body-swapping aliens. Shame really, this could have been explored so much further.

Thanks for reading the Retro TV Review,  I look forward to discussing the rest of the series with you, one episode at a time every Monday, Wednesday and Friday!  Next Review: The Omega Directive

For more reviews: check out the weekly series called Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday and for more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here.

Vis 7
Paris attempts to get a promotion using the Mirror Universe method…

As always, please feel free to comment below and share your experiences with these episodes as well. If you just happened by, tell me what you think! Don’t Forget To Follow me if you like the blog!

Late To The Game  10/19/2020

Special Thanks to Memory Alpha as they are one of the best sources for details on Star Trek information available.  Although I have a pretty deep knowledge on the subject, they have proven invaluable as a regular resource.

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