VirtuosoBy Edward James Hines
Posted at January 26, 2000 - 6:00 AM GMT
Just when you thought the 'Star Trek: Voyager' episodes "Alice" and "Riddles" were the worst of the sixth season, along comes "Virtuoso," which not only supplants them but also takes its rightful place as one of the top 10 worst of the entire series. This ridiculous, infuriating piece of fodder not only insults the core audience and takes the Doctor's "Vic Fontaine" scenario too far, but also grossly mishandles the actions and decisions of two main characters.
Despite the haphazardness, two important questions are raised but never answered, in typical Voyager avoidance of major issues: Can the Doctor resign, and does he have a right to self-determination? These are similar questions to those asked about Data in TNG's "The Measure of a Man," but there are important differences to consider. First, Data is a unique physical being, not a commonplace hologram; second, he graduated Starfleet Academy of his own volition, earning all the rights and privileges thereof, but was not specifically created for Starfleet. The Emergency Medical Hologram was, however, developed as a crisis tool for Federation starships. It should not be allowed to resign any more than a fire extinguisher should decide not to do its job when activated (unless it's broken, of course).
The Doctor is not broken in "Virtuoso"; he's simply the victim of
a poorly written, bleeding-heart captain who is more concerned for a hologram's
"feelings" than her crew's medical needs and refuses to buckle under
and make a decision. Yes, the Doctor is a piece of technology, and yes, Janeway
does not see him as an equal. Why won't she just say it? Why does she dance
around the issue? She is responsible for Voyager's medical needs, especially
since there are no other qualified medical personnel aboard. Kes might have
been a suitable substitute had she remained, but Tom Paris is not qualified
to deal with the various medical emergencies that may arise during the long
journey home. It is as ridiculous for the Doctor to renounce his oath to "do
no harm" and say, "You'll manage without me," as it is for Janeway
to renounce her responsibility in the name of friendship and grant the Doctor's
resignation. Janeway and the Doctor are not friends. On any number of occasions
oughout the series, Janeway has rolled her eyes at, and shown disapproval of, the Doctor's haughtiness and cantankerousness.
Thanks to Kes's initial intervention, Janeway granted the Doctor certain special considerations and privileges in light of Voyager's situation. She allowed him to "flex" the confines of his program to meet the long-term needs of the crew, despite his short-term design parameters. So, yes, the Doctor has a right to self-determination within limits, and for the sake of harmony, he should be accorded the same common courtesies as the crew. Does he have the right to resign? Absolutely not. Any other decision is too much "fiction" for this science fiction.
"Virtuoso" also wields a double-edge sword when it manages to lampoon both celebrities and their "fanatics." Seven of Nine says it best: "This glorification of the individual is irrational"; but on the subject of why people fantasize about knowing celebrities, Janeway (and particularly Kate Mulgrew's delivery) takes a shot at all fans when she offhandedly quips, "I suppose it's a way of making themselves feel more important." Even the autograph line is a dig - especially when Neelix starts issuing caveats.
The Qomar were written and cast a little too well in terms of the "annoyance" quotient. Tinkoo, for all her "superior intelligence," alternates between acting like a whiny child ("Why does it have to be your last concert?") and a cold fish, oblivious to sentiment - especially during the Doctor's moving Neapolitan ballad.
As nice as it was to see B'Elanna Torres in a couple of active scenes, it's a shame to notice how much her typical banter with the Doctor has lost its "snappiness" from seasons past. Her failure to attend his Mess Hall recital or, a few weeks ago, to participate in the Fair Haven holodeck scenario can be seen as an indication that she no longer enjoys the social activities of her fellows.
The Qomarian cityscape looks identical to one used in "Year of Hell," while the advent of appearance-altering adjustments to the Doctor's mobile emitter goes back to the previous episode, "Blink of an Eye." Finally, while attempting to make Janeway admit that he is unequal to the crew, the Doctor postulates that she would allow Harry Kim to disembark if he fell in love with an alien girl. This is a bad example, unfortunately, since Kim did make such a request in "The Disease" and was refused.
Edward James Hines writes weekly reviews of Voyager episodes.