“Virtuoso” – VOY 6X13

I picked this episode fairly randomly and partly because it’s one of my friend’s favourites but I couldn’t remember having watched it. Now that I’ve gone through it again, I feel like it was always kind of forgettable (sorry, Rachel!)

The basic plot is this:

Voyager provides medical assistance to a group of Qomar: arrogant and technologically-superior aliens/an excuse for the makeup people to reuse some surplus Bajoran nose prosthetics but on the aliens’ foreheads. In Sickbay they overhear The Doctor singing quietly while he works and they become enthralled because they have never heard music.

Group of Qomar stare at The Doctor in Sickbay

Soon Voyager is making an extended stay so The Doctor can give singing performances. Janeway cautions him not to lose his head, but he ends up insulting her, B’Elanna and Seven of Nine as his ego is boosted by the Qomar crowds, the occasional groupie (!), and by one of the Qomar, a woman named Tincoo.

Tincoo surprises The Doctor backstage

The Doctor decides he’s going to leave Voyager and be with Tincoo and his fans, but just before his final concert Tincoo announces she’s made an even better hologram who has increased vocal abilities. Burned, The Doctor returns to Voyager and they continue on their way.

So here’s what worked for me:

1. Robert Picardo. His acting and singing are impressive, especially given he’s working off some fairly one-dimensional and irritating alien characters, including the slightly wooden Tincoo.

2. The scenes with Seven of Nine and The Doctor. Jeri Ryan does a typically excellent job subtly demonstrating Seven’s emotional changes. Both the scene where The Doctor comes to say goodbye to Seven and the scene where she comes to give him her “fan mail” at the end are very sweet, well-written and well-acted. 

The Doctor argues with B'Elanna

3. The Doctor’s arguments with B’Elanna and Janeway. Janeway’s arguments with The Doctor in this episode run on the now well-worn territory of whether or not The Doctor has the same rights as another sentient being. So even though it’s kind of done by this point in the series, just looking at this episode on its own, those scenes are solid. Both sides make good, thought-provoking points.

B’Elanna’s arguments with The Doctor are more sarcastic and pointed:

The Doctor (explaining how he wants his stage designed): If you consider the height of the average Qomar, it’s obvious that anyone seated in the back five rows will have an obstructed view.

B’Elanna: You’re right. They won’t be able to see anything but the top of your head. The glare could blind them.

The Doctor (to Tincoo): You’ll have to excuse Lieutenant Torres. Her appreciation of music is limited to a smattering of Klingon drinking songs.

And here’s what didn’t work so much:

1. The Qomar. They’re supposed to be comically irritating but I mostly just found them irritating (the one exception being the part where we see the male fans have shaved their heads like the Doctor’s). 

It’s disappointing Voyager would spend this much time with them and share music without any change in their attitudes. The whole episode might’ve been made more interesting if they’d added a sub-plot about interacting with the Qomar outside the direct context of The Doctor’s fame – maybe a trade negotiation or something?

Seven and Janeway in Astrometrics, looking unimpressed

2. Dumbing characters down. It’s hard to believe the Qomar could be so advanced and never have even hummed or whistled a tune or designed a computer to make patterns of sound. It’s also annoying that they had to write the women of this advanced society as so interested in heedlessly throwing themselves at The Doctor (both Tincoo during her cringe-worthy “What about the simplest equation of them all? One plus one.” scene and the groupies who fake sick to get “intimate” access to their idol.

Finally, it’s just as hard to believe that Seven of Nine would initiate a red alert because she can’t tell fan mail from sabotage.

Overall, I’d define the episode as moderately entertaining and worth watching, even if you forget it later.

What we learned from this episode:

  • Fame is ultimately hollow
  • Your biggest fan might be standing right in front of you

Bechdel-Wallace Test: Pass. Janeway talks to Tincoo briefly at the beginning and to Seven of Nine later.

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