Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Voyager, Season 7: Renaissance Man

Voyager, Season 7
"Renaissance Man"
Airdate: May 16, 2001
167 of 168 produced
167 of 168 aired


Introduction

When the Doctor and Captain Janeway are accosted in a nebula, the Doctor must improvise a way out of their conundrum without endangering the rest of the crew.



All right, who farted?




Writing

Matthew: I think the key word to describe this episode is "momentum." The pace here never drags, and the story builds nicely from strange occurrence to body snatcher horror to action thriller. Now, I am totally aware that a similar setup has already occurred, in Season 7's "Body and Soul." But this one is different enough to not be annoying - the Doctor is impersonating crew members for mysterious purposes, and there are enough hijinks involved to keep things fresh. I enjoyed the details like placing people in the morgue, Chakotay using a fictitious memory to trip up the Janeway impersonator, the tension between them as he lost trust in her, and the various chase scenes the Doctor was involved in. So whatever else the problems here are, it is not with the overall entertainment value of the episode. Things happened and it was an enjoyable 45 minutes.

Kevin: I agree that the episode has a certain comic escalation and that is the episode's benefit. Right from the start, Janeway is just off enough to flag that something is wrong. I suppose my critique there is that the solution that it was the Doctor all along is telegraphed a little early. That said, the increasing list of bodies in the morgue and people for the Doctor to impersonate definitely have some comic zing. I think the episode loses a little of the momentum after the warp core gets ejected, since there are no more comic deceptions, and it's just felt like padding to figure out the precise shape of how the day would be saved.

Matthew: So, the Hierarchy. I think in some ways this plot was a bit too similar to "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy," at least in terms of remote viewing through the Doctor and the Hierarchy's motivation. Is something called "The Hierarchy" really just a band of space pirates who hack stuff? I would have liked a bit more insight into who they are and why. Or, alternatively, I would have preferred the cover story the Doctor concocted about a huge empire that had banned warp travel (and wouldn't Seven see though that ruse right away given her knowledge of Delta Quadrant species?) When one of the Hierarchy members develops a soft spot for the Doctor, just like TDDS, it felt a bit repetitive and plot-dictated, instead of character dictated.

Kevin: This is actually my main complaint of the episode. I didn't immediately think of Body and Soul despite the similar of the Doctor impersonating people, but I did immediately clock the similarities to Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy. It's not just the remote viewing, but the main dynamic being the Doctor's holographic trickery. Realizing the comparison to another Doctor episode actually makes this problem worse. I think the Doctor, in the end, got a slightly more intense version of what happened to Brent Spiner by the end of TNG, the faith that his comedic timing will carry anything it's asked to. We just came off another Doctor episode in Author, Author, and the combined effect for me is just a fair bit of fatigue. In the end, the main plot of this episode is a retread of an episode that we weren't that enamored when we saw it in season 6. The Hierarchy at this point just feel like warmed over Pakleds.

Matthew: Criticism aside, this episode was replete with good character moments. I enjoyed the mini B-story of Tom trying to get some last pre-kid romance in which B'Elanna, and its punchline of the disguised Doctor being kissed by Tom. I enjoyed the Doctor's deathbed confessions, as well (the last one making Seven's final episode Chakotay thing even worse).   

Kevin: The character work is good, no two ways about it. I wish it were in service of a punchier story, but I can't deny they are there.

Acting

Matthew:
This is, of course, a Picardo showcase, and he does his usual sterling job with the spotlight. He did particularly well in instances that required him to "act normally" while betraying just a slight note of frantic discomfort. Kate Mulgrew also ably provided "someone pretending to be Janeway and only getting it 95% right."

Kevin: The entire main cast did a great job of acting just enough off of their characters to give the comedy its zing, Mulgrew in particular. Picardo did an admirable job with a deathbed speech that was being played for the audience as a joke but he had to take seriously. 

Matthew:
The easy chemistry between McNeill and Dawson always makes their scenes fun, but this one adds a nice shade of emotional acting. When Tom replicated chicken and potato salad, I could feel his earnestness, I could feel B'Elanna's genuine regret at turning him down, and I could feel his disappointment and love combined.

Production Values

Matthew:
There is a lot to recommend this episode. There are a number of good exterior ship shots and the ejection of the warp core was well done. I also liked the effects of the Doctor bypassing attempt to catch him, such as diving through windows and climbing the walls in the corridor. All of these served to maintain my interest throughout the episode.

Kevin: They were nice touches, if nothing else they showed the writers were thinking about the way the Doctor is different and how that would play out. The warp core effect was pretty well done for 90s CGI. 

Conclusion

Matthew: I was consistently entertained here, and feel that this is a bit better than the last episode, which I gave a 3. The slight lack of ambition with The Hierarchy has me questioning a 4. But I think I'm going to go with a 4 anyway on the strength of the acting and production values.

Kevin: I'm honestly surprised by that 4. I get your points about the zippy character work, but we've done that before, and it doesn't feel particularly innovate the second-ish time around. Especially since after the core was ejected, the episode kind of grinds to a halt momentum-wise. This is between a 2 and 3 for me. I suppose on the strength of the acting a 2 is off the table, but this is still kind of a grudging three for me. The humor, while there, is a pretty bloodless retread, all things considered, and the Hierarchy just aren't interesting enough to compensate.

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