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The Trek Nation - Renaissance Man

Renaissance Man

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 11:26 PM GMT

See Also: 'Renaissance Man' Episode Guide

En route to a medical symposium, Janeway and the Doctor experience unidentified turbulence. When the Delta Flyer returns to the ship, the captain claims their comm system was damaged by a species of vastly superior aliens, the R'kaal, who use advanced transphasic warp drive and consider standard warp engines a threat to subspace. In order to avoid being dismantled, she claims, Voyager must surrender its warp core. Chakotay is horrified when Janeway tells him of her plans to settle the crew on an M-class planet and give up plans to continue home.

After she gives some more strange orders and talks to herself on the bridge, Chakotay suspects this Janeway is an impostor, but she injects him with a medical hypospray before he can subdue her. Of course, "Janeway" is really the Doctor hiding behind her holographic image. Once he has stowed the unconscious first officer in Voyager's morgue, the EMH contacts alien leader Zet and demands to speak to his captain before proceeding further. The real Janeway orders the Doctor not to eject the warp core, but he has already committed to ransoming her. Since Zet is monitoring his subroutines and know everything he's doing, the Doctor agrees to their new demand for a bio-neural gel pack, transforming his appearance into that of Chakotay in order to protect himself from suspicion.

Soon Kim vanishes and Torres appears to suffer from memory lapses. Finally Tuvok discovers that the Doctor downloaded the Captain's physical parameters; because he cannot deactivate the EMH, the Vulcan shoots at him. Transferring his program into the mobile emitter, the Doctor flees through the ship. He diverts Tuvok with hundreds of holographic doubles, transforms into Chakotay to eject the warp core, then steals the Delta Flyer to tow the core to the aliens. On the enemy ship, Janeway has been bonding with Nar, an officer who specializes in obsolete engine components. She offers to buy them for Voyager, though Zet scoffs.

When the Doctor delivers the ransom, the alien leader beams the EMH to his ship instead of relinquishing the captain. Janeway remains angry that the Doctor tried to save her at her ship's expense. He insists he made the right decision: "Voyager can survive without a warp core, but not without a Captain." Retorts Janeway, "Now it doesn't have either." Once Torres restarts the impulse reactors, a dreadful version of the Blue Danube Waltz begins to play all over the ship. Seven and Kim realize the harmonics look like a warp signature, and use it to track the alien vessel.

Zet and Nar try to upload new information to the Doctor so he can perform missions for them, but they overload his compression algorithms. Meanwhile, Paris takes a shuttle with Tuvok and manages to get aboard the Delta Flyer. When Janeway manages to escape as the ships fire on each other, Paris locks onto the jettisoned warp core; with the help of Nar, he then gets Janeway and the Doctor back to Voyager. Torres and Seven try to stabilize the EMH's matrix, but believing that he's dying, the Doctor begins to make dramatically confessions. To the captain, he admits that he kept records of her questionable command decisions; to Seven, he declares that he loves her. Once Torres has saved him, the Doctor is mortified, but Janeway invites him for holographic coffee and chat, assuring him that she's his friend.

Analysis:

And so, in a single hour, Voyager eradicates all its painstaking work to make viewers take the Doctor seriously as an individual. The writers use him as gratuitous comic relief the way they use Seven of Nine as gratuitous titillation. "Renaissance Man" is the EMH's "Human Error," though it's lighter in tone and therefore more enjoyable to watch; with Bob Picardo to make us laugh, as the writers seem to believe, who needs drama, originality or genuine emotion in the series' second-to-last episode ever? Even as Enterprise hype begins to flood the media, whoever's in charge of the franchise is doing his damndest to make sure no one misses Voyager.

In the wake of "Flesh and Blood," which insisted that holograms are people too, and "Author, Author," which made a legal case for holographic rights, the Doctor gets served up as a series-long joke with his earnest love for Seven as the punchline. At the start of "Renaissance Man," he announces cavalierly that he once wanted to be a mere mortal like the captain, but he's come to realize that being a hologram is far superior. Janeway -- who has endless time for symposiums on this voyage home, she sent Chakotay and Seven to one a few weeks ago, now she's going to one herself -- smiles indulgently. Even if the Doc is taking himself seriously, she knows better than to wish to be photonic, for she knows holograms serve best as disposable love toys, not heroes to rescue starship captains in distress. Starship captains are supposed to do that themselves.

But hey, as far as the Doc is concerned, being holographic is great! We already know that he can sing, have sex, singlehandedly run the ship and write bestselling fiction. Like Data, he can also fake the voices of his crewmates -- and there's not a single safeguard in place to prevent him from taking on their roles and activating their command codes. Who'd want to be organic with advantages like these? Doc hasn't managed to win Seven's affections, but heck, neither has Harry Kim and he's been trying longer. After the EMH's over-the-top confession of love at what he believes to be his dying moment, a parodic echo of Fred Noonan's far more touching confession to Amelia Earhart in "The 37s", it's hard to care. This man -- this MAN'S man, doesn't want to kiss Paris, does have to avert his eyes at Seven's physicals -- is only artificial. So he's programmed himself to sing grand opera and to declare affection in grand style. A few tweaks and he'll recover from heartbreak, for like the Tin Man, he doesn't really have a heart.

It's not difficult for the Doctor to pretend to be Janeway, who by her own admission this episode has few friends on the ship capable of recognizing her insane behavior as out-of-character. Still, Chakotay catches on quickly: "You've consulted me on every major decision over the last seven years, except this one," he accuses. Obviously he forgot about "Maneuvers" and "Scorpion" and "Night" and "The Omega Directive" and...oh, what's the point in expecting Chakotay to stick to continuity when his show's writers can't be bothered? They stick Vorick in so there's a familiar face in engineering when faux Torres has to track down the gelpacks; with Carey killed off, Vorick's the only logical choice to stick in. But the Vulcan's too silly to wonder whether anything's wrong with his amnesiac boss. Ditto Tuvok, Janeway's oldest friend and the ship's security officer, who doesn't catch on to the Doctor's antics until Chakotay and Kim both go missing. Nor does Tom notice that "B'Elanna" has started kissing him like he's got fried chicken breath, but then, given the total lack of chemistry between Mr. and Mrs. Paris, maybe that's typical.

There are amusing moments in this comedy of mistaken identity -- Chakotay and Janeway having a meaningless but heated spat over her power plays after she orders him into her darkened quarters, the reprogrammed Doctor looking like a cross between a Pakled from The Next Generation and a Conehead from Saturday Night Live, our final glimpse of a slender Roxann Dawson as the Doctor transforms himself into Torres using her pre-pregnancy parameters...oh, and let's not forget the fun of seeing stiffs Chakotay and Harry in the morgue! We never do get to hear the Doctor's file on all of Janeway's screwups, nor the precise location of the pimple on Tuvok's Naughty Bits. But even casual mentions of such matters, while witty, demonstrate the writers' lack of respect for the characters. They're not laughing with them, they're laughing at them, and at the fans who still care about them. With one episode to go, we're seeing a wan parody of a show that didn't take itself seriously when it mattered.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.