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[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Renaissance Man"

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  • Jamahl Epsicokhan
    Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager s Renaissance Man. If you haven t seen the episode yet, beware. In brief: A reasonably
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 6, 2001
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      Warning: This review contains significant spoilers for Voyager's
      "Renaissance Man." If you haven't seen the episode yet, beware.


      In brief: A reasonably entertaining romp, but it bears almost no scrutiny.

      Plot description: The Doctor is forced to carry out a secret mission where
      he must impersonate members of the Voyager crew.

      -----
      Star Trek: Voyager -- "Renaissance Man"

      Airdate: 5/16/2001 (USA)
      Teleplay by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
      Story by Andrew Shepard Price & Mark Gaberman
      Directed by Mike Vejar

      Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
      Rating out of 4: **1/2

      "Ensign, at your recital last month, I told Lt. Torres that your saxophone
      playing reminded me of a wounded targ. I should've put it more delicately!
      I'm sorry!" -- Doctor deathbed confession
      -----

      So, here we have Voyager's penultimate episode, and what is it? A routine
      kidnapping plot. Why this and why now?

      On the other hand, why not this? Voyager has proven long before this
      week's "Renaissance Man" that the show is rarely about its characters or
      bigger picture but instead about its stories. And aside from last week's
      "Homestead" where we actually had some sort of closure for a character,
      the entire wrap-up for everyone and everything is going to apparently take
      place in the final two hours of the series.

      On some level, sad as it is to say, this episode is a microcosm of much of
      Voyager's legacy to the Trek franchise: It's a reasonably entertaining
      action plot that has no lasting significance whatsoever. The Doctor is a
      great character who seemed to get the perfect final focus episode with
      "Author, Author," which followed his theme -- that of wanting to be more
      than his programming -- to a logical conclusion. But for the purposes of
      character theme, "Renaissance Man" is at best simply redundant, a routine
      action storyline that exploits his technical abilities and not so much his
      personality.

      At one point, disguised as Torres, he runs sideways up a wall and flips
      right over Tuvok, grabbing the phaser out of his hand. I've never seen Doc
      pull a "Matrix"-like move like that before, but then why did I need to?

      The framework for the story is a contrivance and a cliche: In the midst of
      an away mission, Janeway is held captive by two thieves from the
      "Hierarchy race" (see "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy"), who say they will kill
      her if Doc doesn't return to Voyager and find a way to steal its warp core
      and bring it to them. Doc must then impersonate other members of the crew,
      starting with Janeway (adjusting his holographic appearance at will) and
      working on down from there.

      It's probably a good thing this is the end of the series, because that's a
      pretty damned flimsy premise. It's the sort of thing that deserves to be
      banished to the land of sitcom fodder. Only a nitpicking jerk would bother
      to question whether the Hierarchy aliens should be here, at the very least
      5,000 light-years away from where we last encountered them. Yadda, yadda,
      yadda; blah, blah, blah.

      It's worth noting that even the goofiest and shallowest of premises can be
      made palatable with decent execution, and we get that here, which makes
      "Renaissance Man" a fairly enjoyable hour of silly plotted mayhem instead
      of brain-dead drudgery. Call it enjoyable, silly, brain-dead mayhem.

      This is an episode sold on amusing little moments, not iron-clad logic or
      solid storytelling. For amusing moments we have ourselves a scene where
      "Janeway" is on the bridge and begins talking to invisible voices in her
      head, which prompts MST3Kings of, "Well, Janeway has finally completely
      lost it." There's something hilarious about it, while at the same time
      weird and offbeat because we don't initially know what's going on (the
      plot begins as a series of subtle mysteries that are gradually revealed to
      us).

      The gimmick is that the Hierarchy guys are constantly monitoring Doc's
      actions, so he has to do the entire operation in secret, undermining his
      crew's own attempts to catch on to him. This must've been justified by all
      sorts of end-vs.-means discussions in story staff meetings, since the
      whole exercise is absurd and exists simply so that Doc can run around
      impersonating people.

      Honestly, is this plot even worth discussing at any further length? I
      doubt it. There's nothing significant about it, no issues to ponder. It's
      a romp, plain and simple. On that level it can be fun, like when Tuvok
      finally catches on to Doc's game and tries to subdue him: There's a point
      where Tuvok chases Doc into the holodeck and finds a room filled with
      holographic Doc clones, which is an amusing visual that fits the action
      relatively well. Clever, and appropriately goofy.

      I also liked the way the unconscious bodies started to stack up, making
      Doc's task harder. He has Chakotay and Harry stashed in the morgue while
      also running around impersonating Janeway and Torres. At one point he has
      to pretend to be Tom's wife, which is your Classic Awkward Situation [TM],
      although one wonders if all plot devices are recyclable; Doc earlier this
      year had to pretend to be Seven in "Body and Soul."

      The two Hierarchy guys (Andy Milder and Wayne Thomas Yorke), one nice and
      one mean, are low-rent pseudo-villains that don't honestly seem capable of
      carrying out their threat of killing Janeway if Doc fails his mission.
      These guys are devices of the plot and nothing more, but then the whole
      episode is a massive plot device -- including the use of the warp core as
      this week's McGuffin, which is hauled around from A to B in order to move
      the people from A to B. Meanwhile, Doc's abilities here open a can of
      worms that, fortunately, might not get very long to squirm seeing as the
      series is basically over. (In particular, I'd like to know how he is able
      to activate his emergency command subroutines and take control of the
      ship's command codes solely on his own volition, without any sort of
      authorized transfer from the captain or first officer. Perhaps because
      neither is present?)

      My griping makes it sound like I didn't enjoy "Renaissance Man," which
      isn't entirely true. Like many Voyager outings, it proves that a
      fast-paced episode where the plot moves effortlessly along can hold
      interest when lesser execution might've led to an unpleasant slog. By the
      time the show got to Doc's deathbed confessional, I was chuckling too much
      to feel annoyed. Little of the plot is believable in retrospect, but it
      has the will to carry us along for the ride with some snappy dialog, a few
      technical twists that are mildly clever, and actors who are convincing in
      the middle of a world of absurdity.

      Come to think of it, this episode may be even more of a microcosm of this
      series than I thought. Maybe it's appropriate as the penultimate outing of
      Voyager after all. But, then again, it must mean something when the most
      appropriate story for Voyager is one that doesn't begin to unlock the true
      potential at hand.

      --
      Next week: Time travel, Klingons, and Borg. It's all here for Voyager's
      series finale.

      -----
      Copyright 2001 Jamahl Epsicokhan. All rights reserved.
      Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this article is prohibited.

      Star Trek: Hypertext - http://www.st-hypertext.com/
      Jamahl Epsicokhan - jammer@...
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