the story: The Doctor tampers with his program and inadvertently creates an evil subprogram.
what it's all about: The oddest thing about "Darkling" is that it's so similar to the later "Real Life" and yet they exist totally exclusive to each other, so that the Doctor seems to have learned nothing at all from this experience. It's the very definition of episodic storytelling, "Darkling" more than "Life." In "Darkling," the whole plot can be boiled down more to a pastiche on Jekyll and Hyde than a story about the Doctor.
But, technically, it's a story about the Doctor. Oddly, he becomes jealous of someone Kes fancies (some dude who runs around with a terrible wig, alas). He'd had a wonderful relationship with Kes (the Doctor, I mean) for much of the series to this point, Kes being about the only person who took him seriously. To drop a potential romance into this relationship seems like a horrible misstep. Later, when the same idea is attempted with Seven, it works better, because the relationship is different from the start.
So, rather than recommend it on the basis of the Doctor, I will remind the viewer that the franchise has done this sort of thing before ("The Enemy Within"), and sort of leave it at that. Making the Doctor a villain based on corrupted programming is such a slippery slope. It's not the first and not the last time his programming leave him vulnerable, but it's the least inviting.
- franchise - An episode perhaps best enjoyed by the casual fan.
series- Later developments seem to ignore this ever happened. character- See the above statement, an extremely odd thing to say about a Doctor spotlight. essential- If the season itself pretends this never happened, then maybe it's for the best.