Saturday, October 15, 2011

Star Trek: Voyager--"Virtuoso"

“Virtuoso” is one of those rare Star Trek episodes set in the 24th century that does not have a B-story breaking up the main one. Usually, that means the main story is highly involved. Not so this time around. “Virtuoso” is typical VOY filler; it is center around the Doctor, seven learns something new about humanity, the moral dilemma is glossed over, and the ending leaves us cold with a more subtle than usual Magic Reset Button, but a Magic Reset Button nonetheless.

The crew has rescued a ship filled with Qomar, an arrogant, highly advanced race of runts who openly despise in a matter of fact manner anyone else whom they deem inferior, which is everyone. While they are being obnoxious patients, they hear the Doctor humming a tune and are mesmerized. They have never heard music before. The Doctor becomes an instant celebrity on their planet. The powers that be ask him to stay. The Doctor has gone Hollywood by this point, so he agrees to stay in spite of his EMH duties on Voyager. Unfortunately, a woman named Tycoo, with whom he believes he has fallen in love, creates a more superior hologram that can hit notes he cannot. He becomes old news. Therefore, he crawls back to Voyagerfor forgiveness.

I have mixed emotions about “Virtuoso.” It is quite funny in parts. Truth be told, Star Trek is rarely does humor well. Intentionally at any rate. There are numerous VOY and ENT moments that make one want to burst out laughing in their sheer absurdity. I do not think it is a coincidence most of the genuinely humorous moments on VOY are from Robert Picardo. “Virtuoso” is a fine example. But the episode has some incredibly tough elements to swallow and is downright mean spirited in places.

Take the Qomar, for instance. How does a highly advanced race exist for so long without ever humming a tune? They are well traveled, too. How could they have never heard music before? They are a bunch of jerks who do not appreciate anyone whom they discover actually is more advanced than them. They just take whatever they like, make it their own, and dump whomever deserves thanks for it. They are written this way even in more personal moments, such as when Tyncoo is trying to convince the doctor to stay because he inspires her. He thinks it is love, but he has actually inspired her to create another, better hologram to replace him. Why are the Komar so short? Is it to make Paul Williams, who plays the--pardon the pun--Big Kahuna on the planet feel better about himself?

That is only the beginning of the mean spirited tone. There is an underlying feel here the episode is poking fan at Trekkie obsession. The Qomar begin to shave their heads to look like the Doctor. Fan mail crowds Voyager’s computer to the point Seven sounds a red alery thinking it is an attack from the Qomar. The Qomar quickly go fro obsessed to shunning their idol o’ millions within a couple scenes. Galaxy Quest poked fun at the fandom in a gentle, tweaking manner. “Virtuoso” gives Trekkies the finger. The Qomar are the kind of people the Star Trek office thinks fans are.

Oh, and no episode would be complete without Janeway being a screwy old bitty. When the Doctor is emotionally devastated by his rejection and comes to Janeway to ask for reinstatement, she gives him a dressing down which involves hints not everyone is going to be as happy to see him return as he hopes because his behavior bruised a lot of feelings. This comes a act after a mini-debate between the two in the prior act over his right of self-determination. It is true she does not consider the Doctor just another piece of equipment. In fact, she argues that his friends do not want him to leave as her primary argument, abandoning the rationale that his duties as EMH give her every right to order him to stay. She has gone against the wishes of crewmembers before in matters of life and death. She relishes it, methinks. It is a good scene, but cast in a bad light considering the ego trip she gets poking at him when he has to return. Remember, this is after he brought her to tears with his final performance. With some awful lip synching, I might add.

At least that is not the final scene we get. The Doctor and Seven had a tense goodbye in which she was very angry he is choosing his ego over his friends. In the end, after Janeway has kicked him in the gut, Seven writes him a fan letter, both to let him know he is appreciated and that she has learned what fandom is all about. Because seven has to learn something new in every episode. All right. In spite of my snark, it is a good seen to end on.

It all adds up to a mediocre episode. Picardo is great as usual, and Jeri Ryan has highly emotional scene with him when he comes to tell her goodbye. There are some genuinely funny moments interspersed, but they are interspersed between dumb moments that boggle the mind and far too brutal stabs at various subject matters. I will give “Virtuoso’ a watchable score, but it is borderline. I also note, just for amusement’s saje, that Chakotay appears in two scenes, but has no dialogue in either. There is some serious bad blood going on there. Name any show in which the second-billed star has such a diminished role.

Rating: *** (out of 5)

Speaking of Paul Williams:

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