Star Trek 592: Virtuoso

592. Virtuoso

FORMULA: Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy + Think Tank + The Way to Eden

WHY WE LIKE IT: Cute endings.

WHY WE DON'T: It's the one where the Doctor sings. A lot.

REVIEW: Voyager encounters a race that has never encountered art before, and music in particular, that soon becomes obsessed with the Doctor singing for them. And wow, is there a lot of singing in this thing. I don't mind the opera, really, it seems done by a professional at any rate. The public domain ditties and crooner songs poached from DS9's repertoire, however, aren't as kind to Robert Picardo. It's not that he's a bad singer, it's that he's just ok, and is asked to do too much of it.

It doesn't help that the featured aliens are soulless jackasses who seem to have been instructed to speak. Very. Slowly. To show their lack of musicality. Tincoo's is a particularly wooden performance, one I have trouble not pinning on the actress. There's unengaging and then there's this. There is something interesting about the aliens: they are emotional midgets and so they never developped means to express emotion. Less interesting is, well, everything else, especially their unwarranted obsession with the Doctor over every other musical instrument.

At the heart of this story is a commentary on Star Trek fandom which is way too self-conscious for my tastes. Janeway and Seven have a drawn out conversation about "fanatics" and celebrity-driven culture. There's fawning fan mail. There's a staged convention where the Doctor signs autographs. And the space groupies find him in sickbay for a little one-on-one. Being Trekkies, these nerds are emotionally stunted, have poor manners, and are really, really into math. I'm surprised they didn't start dressing like the Doctor (but then, have you seen the clown costume?). Voyager should be careful about biting the hands that feed it.

It's really hard to buy into the premise that the Doctor would leave Voyager for a singing career too, especially with these windbags. Tincoo is more empty a love interest than any hologram. The Qomar in general are boorish idiots who haven't actually shown him any more respect than Voyager's crew does. They're quite transparent and shallow, actually, which in return makes the Doctor a shallow prima donna. In the previous episode, he spent three years away from Voyager and seemed to even have a singing career, so what's the big deal here? Seems like we've been down the "I feel unappreciated" road too many times before with this character. Only the sweet endings have any redeeming value - Janeway's tears at the farewell concert, Seven's fan mail - but they can't save the preceding 40 minutes, which to me are a lot like the screeching Qomar singing hologram.

LESSON: It won't last.

REWATCHABILITY - Low: Wooden acting, insulting subtext, and a derivative story. Not a fan.


Jeff R. said…
It's not exactly that extended commentaries on fandom are necessarily bad (see "Love & Monsters" and, to a slightly lesser extent, "Blink" and "Random Shoes"), just that Voyager never did them well (either here or on the upcoming Planet of the Voyager Fanfic Writers episode). Luckily Enterprise never went there, unless you count the entire fourth season as the extended love letter to star trek fandom that it often appears to be...
Siskoid said…
You've named 3 episodes of Doctor Who/Torchwood I love. You might as well throw Far Beyond the Stars in there as far as good metatextual episodes go.

But like you say, Virtuoso just does a very poor job with the idea.
De said…
I'll have to dig it for Retcon Redux sometime, but I own one of Robert Picardo's music CDs.
Jack Norris said…
One thing that always kind of annoyed me about the episodes involving the Doctor's musical interests were the fact that they were another instance of Trek's whole "we have evolved beyond your vulgar pop culture for the pop culture of an earlier age as legitimized by the critical authorities of the age that spawned that same vulgar pop culture" with the whole "only opera and classic crooning will survive to be considered proper music, not your crude rock and pop." Similar to that whole TNG "we no longer have television, we put on amateur Shakespeare productions for one another" thing.

(Not that attempts to show "hip" pop culture and music of the future in genre entertainment has ever been anything but cringe-worthy, mind you.)
LiamKav said…
I always saw it as a way of avoiding becoming at dated as the hippie episode of TOS. We can assume that Mozart will be around for a few more centuries yet. But the Killers? U2? Meatloaf? That's a bit trickier to predict.

One thing is for certain though. There will always be a Batman.
Siskoid said…
I'd probably find Meat Loaf just as questionable.

What it makes me wonder though is if there's ANY popular music in that century.