The Simple Star Trek Line That Nearly Ruined An Episode

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

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Star Trek: Voyager was a show filled with great dialogue, including everything from Q’s scenery-chewing grandstanding to Janeway’s inspirational speeches. However, in the case of the season 1 episode “Ex Post Facto,” a single line of dialogue written for B’Elanna Torres ground production to a halt. Roxann Dawson thought she didn’t have to study the script for one line and later had extreme trouble delivering it, causing director LeVar Burton to give her a pep talk and causing the press to write about her acting troubles.

Failure To Prepare Is Preparing To Fail

How did all of this drama start? Typically, actors study the script for as long as possible before filming, giving them more time to understand both their own character’s lines and the overall story. For “Ex Post Facto,” Torres actor Roxann Dawson only had a single line, and in her words, “I was actually feeling a little bit cocky,” so she decided to just “look at the lines on the morning” of the production.

Dawson admits that at the time, she was still getting a handle on Star Trek’s signature technobabble. Still, she was confident due to having so little dialogue: in “Ex Post Facto,” all her character said was “Vent a couple of LN2 exhaust conduits along the dorsal emitters. Make it look like we’re in serious trouble.”

You Had One Job

You can probably see where this is going…when it came time to film her one scene, she was on the struggle bus, later saying “For the life of me, I could not spit this line out.” Making things worse was that “Ex Post Facto” was being directed by legendary TNG actor LeVar Burton. Given his intimate familiarity with Trek’s technobabble, Dawson says that Burton put his arm around her and walked them around the bridge, trying to explain the ropes.

It was a nice gesture but actually frustrated Dawson. She recalled how she wished she could have told him “No, you don’t understand; I really can do this. I’m being an utter and complete idiot today, and you’re giving me this pep talk.”

Talking Shop is Important

With respect to Dawson’s acting difficulties, we can’t get over how in-character all of this feels. She played a new Chief Engineer and ended up getting acting advice from TNG’s beloved Chief Engineer. And it’s advice she felt she didn’t really need which, honestly, feels exactly like something her Torres character would get angry about.

Roxann Dawson might have had an easier time with her one “Ex Post Facto” line if not for the fact that the set was filled with reporters eager to tell readers about this new Star Trek series. This meant that her acting difficulties officially became news. She said that “the first magazine that I opened had a picture of [LeVar Burton] and me captioned, ‘LeVar trying to give Roxann a pep talk because she can’t do the technobabble on the show.’”

A Humbling Experience

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The entire thing was mortifying, but Dawson learned from it…specifically, she said “That taught me never to be cocky again” because she “was thoroughly and completely embarrassed.” However, there is a funny punchline to this bizarre “Ex Post Facto” story. “To this day, it’s the only line I can still remember like the back of my hand…I will always remember it because of the pressure of that day.”

Many More Years Of “Technobabble”

While “Ex Post Facto” was an interesting episode, this behind-the-scenes drama arguably makes for a better story: a single line of halted production, caused a Star Trek legend to give an unnecessary pep talk, and embarrassed an actor so much that the dialogue is forever burned into her brain. Fortunately, Dawson is a pro, and she delivers that one line with complete confidence in the finished episode.

Ironically, though, the second half of her line effectively foreshadowed her on-set difficulties: this weird dialogue did, in fact, make it seem like Dawson was in serious trouble, especially with nearly seven more years of technobabble ahead of her.