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Star Trek Voyager review – Renaissance Man

Summary: A “perfectly functional” episode that pretty much ties up the Doctor’s development and offers a somewhat decent adventure plot to boot. And it’s always fun to see the Doctor take Tuvok down a notch or two.

Renaissance Man isn’t a particularly inspiring episode but it is, as a Vulcan might say, “perfectly adequate.” It doesn’t measure up to

star trek voyager Renaissance Man

This is how the world ends...

the wild brilliance of Tinker Tailor, the episode it serves as a sequel to. But it does put the Doctor’s character under real pressure and creates genuine tension and conflict, something very few of the season’s adventure stories have managed so far.

Like Tinker Tailor, Renaissance Man’s villains are once again the Hierarchy race. And they use their ability to see what the Doctor sees to keep him under control. There is also the tension between the supervisor character and a more imaginatively-minded and kinder subordinate. But the episode, by attempting to recreate Tinker Tailor, misses the things that made that episode work. Where the office drone dynamic of Tinker Tailor provided a character we could relate to and linked him to the Doctor’s own troubles, Renaissance Man employs the aliens as stock characters: “bad alien” and “decent but spineless sidekick”. It’s been done more times than can be counted and Renaissance Man, unlike Tinker Tailor, brings nothing new to the table.

Indeed, the only reason for this stock relationship is to lead up to the predictable ending where the spineless alien will finally turn on his master. Worse, it’s the only reason the aliens are turned into renegades disconnected from the hierarchy. This makes the entire thing look ridiculous since basically Janeway is being held hostage by two fat guys, only one of whom is even any kind of threat. You don’t see Kirk or Picard or Sisko remaining imprisoned for long under these circumstances. But they seem to manage to produce complete chaos on Voyager. This is more than a little reminiscent of Janeway’s embarrassing struggle with two Ferengi.

On the Voyager end, though, the Doctor outwitting and even physically defeating most of the Voyager crew is certainly entertaining. The ECH once again makes a case for his abilities as he outwits Tuvok and then defeats him in hand to hand combat. He poses as three different officers, fends off Paris’s romantic overtures and knocks out Chakotay and Kim and stows them in the overhead compartment. He takes over and runs Voyager and watching him do it is fun, even if his complete capitulation to the kidnapper’s demands is a little odd. He may be fearful for Janeway’s safety but the ECH’s tactical scenarios should have told him that the best way to assure a hostage’s safety doesn’t rest in complete compliance with a kidnapper’s demands. The constant monitoring is an important tool for reinforcing the plausibility of his actions but it’s not quite enough.

Indeed, much of this episode seems to be setting up material for the series finale. That may be appropriate as Renaissance Man is the last episode before the finale but it seems weak and misplaced because the Doctor’s behavior and Janeway’s attitudes both seem a little odd. This is why arcs help set up changes in character behavior, instead of sudden changes occurring in the context of an episode. But it does serve to cap off the Doctor’s character development.

The EMH proclaims that he’s happy to be a hologram and doesn’t want to be human. He confesses his love for Seven and begins developing a friendship with Janeway. He demonstrates his ability to do just about anything and even gets to sing again. And considering that the reality is that the Doctor was always Voyager’s breakout character, far more so than Seven of Nine, and its main character as well, it’s only appropriate that he be assigned the next to last Voyager episode. Voyager’s Renaissance Man.

Next week: Voyager’s series finale. Hey, it made Mulgrew cry.

Star Trek Voyager Fury Review

What does God need with a Starship?

It was the question Kirk asked in ST5 and it was one question among many possible and obvious questions Janeway might have asked Kes in Fury but never did. Why does Kes need a starship since when we last saw her she was an energy being on a higher plane of existence. In Fury thought she’s merely a more powerful and demented version of Kes. It’s certainly a strange way to say goodbye to a beloved character, but then nothing about the Kes issue has ever been simple.

Like ST5, Fury has a strange plot with metaphysical twists that makes no real sense and like STV it takes us into the strange hall of mirrors star trek voyager furywhere fictional characters and plot lines meet real world actors and producers. It is inevitable that Fury will not be taken simply as just another Voyager episode but a commentary on Kes and Jennifer Lien the real world actress who plays her and her removal from the show.

From the start the return of Kes clearly boxes the writers into a corner. They had gotten rid of her through the expedient of sending her off to a higher plane of existence and giving her some amazing powers. There was no real plan to have her return because that would have raised the question of why she wouldn’t simply send the crew home and end the show as a result. Clearly there were two choices, to either take away Kes’s powers or to turn her into an antagonist so that the question of her sending Voyager home would never even come.

The obvious choice and the easy choice would be to deprive Kes of her powers and have her stay on Voyager temporarily until she recovers. That would have made for a feel good story in which Kes could have gotten back in touch with Neelix, Tuvok and the Doctor. You can almost see Neelix with the Welcome Back Kes cake and the entire crew hugging each other. There would be a nice moment between 7 of 9 and Kes to diffuse any lingering thoughts in the minds of the viewers on the subject of Lien’s departure and Voyager could have sailed on happily with everyone satisfied. But despite the common accusation that Voyager always makes the easy and obvious choice when telling a story, here Voyager took the most difficult and baffling road.

Instead of a warm homecoming Kes returns as an aged, crazed and violent specter haunting Voyager. She casually employs deceit and violence, betrays Voyager and plots to have everyone killed in a horrific and brutal manner. Unselfish and compulsively caring is the core description for the Kes character and this new version of Kes is completely selfish caring for nobody but herself. In short she seems to have nothing in common with the Kes anyone remembers.

When she wanders Voyager interacting with her former friends and crew mates her mind is clearly elsewhere and we almost see Paris, the EMH and Neelix as she sees them, a tiresome amalgamation of obvious repetitive traits that quickly wear on you. It takes all of her best acting abilities just to pretend that she likes these people and cares. What is disturbing here in not that she hates them which would show at least some emotional engagement but that she simply sees herself as a stranger among them and doesn’t care very much whether they live or die. The closest she comes to responding to them as human beings is her violent outburst when dealing with Neelix’s dinner arrangement.

Voyager’s escape from her plots comes through the form of Tuvok’s vision, premonitions of the future. At first there is a casual slip about the Delta Flyer, scenes of Naomi, 7 of 9 and the Borg and finally he sees the Kes Apocalypse itself in action. The timing is curious. Tuvok served as a kind of mentor to Kes and was passed on to serve that role to 7 of 9. In his vision he sees the unborn future Kes is here to destroy, Naomi, leading him to the image of 7 of 9 Kes’s successor. Tuvok’s premonition really is not only that Kes is here to destroy them all but that in the good version of the future, Voyager will be Kes-free. Aided by Tuvok’s vision and an oddly tech hobbled Kes who seems to be relying on transporters and computers like a more ordinary intruder, Janeway kills Kes who apparently isn’t on enough of a higher plane to survive a phaser set to kill. Above Chakotay freed from the suffocating moralizations of Janeway fights the good fight against the Vidians in a well executed battle scene from longtime James Cameron associate and director of Tinker Tailor, John Bruno. The battle scenes and the Vidians and John Bruno would have been better served by getting their own episode. With Kes dead, Janeway is as usual not satisfied until her opponents admit they’re wrong and so she covers up the entire encounter until Kes’s return with a brilliant plan involving old Kes chiding new Kes for being so nasty and mean. “It was your own choice to leave Ocampa.” old Kes sanctimoniously declares “and it was your own choice to leave Voyager.” (Though the extent to which these were really under her total control is questionable) And of course we can’t help but wonder if the last is really directed at the character or at Jennifer Lien or in some subtle way at the audience.

New Kes having already forgotten all about the time she was drugged and kidnapped by herself and then made a holorecording telling herself star trek voyager furyto get lost (wouldn’t you?) and though she seemed to remember everything else about Voyager instantly repents and realizes she doesn’t want to kill everybody after all. All she needed…well what was it she exactly needed? What was her motivation? She rants something about Voyager deluding her with ideas about exploration which isn’t particularly enlightening. If you have a sweeps episode dedicated to a returning cast member who tries to kill everybody, the least you can ask for is a coherent explanation. Too bad we don’t get that, instead we get the questionable sight of a senile, aged and slightly friendlier Kes flying away on her spaceship to potentially terrorize other life forms and civilizations.

As a means of neutralizing lingering issues about Kes’s departure, this episode was probably the worst possible way to go about it. Jennifer Lien might have enjoyed returning to kill everybody and the scenes of Kes striding around while things blow up all around her look good, but what’s the point? Fury might be seen as a way of acting out the suspicions of some viewers and then resolving them. Kes returns enraged at her abandonment, read firing, and begins to wreak havoc but is dismissed by a younger version of herself who points out that it was her decision to leave in the first place. As a resolution this is more then a little weak. And treating this episode on the level of a normal episode with a plot is completely pointless. So what are we left with? Director Bruno decided he had a comedy and just as in Tinker Tailor he does a great job of directing the EMH’s humorous scenes and Kes’s encounters from her perspective. The opening birthday scene works great as a way of spoofing Voyager’s tense openings and steely exchanges between Janeway and crew and its repetition reminds us of Voyager’s family feeling while the tension sets us up for the encounter with Kes that we know is coming. Lien does a great job as usual even if she has no idea of what she’s doing or why. Even Paris and Neelix have some nice scenes. Continuity is held up here with plenty of neat references and Voyager’s entire history is altered with a snap here. But beyond the gimmick of Wrath of Kes and Return of Kes, there’s no actual episode here just a bunch of scenes strung together which is what Voyager is often accused of being but rarely is.

Tuvok: “I have hallucinated but only under deep meditation.” One wonders if there was any deep meditation involved in the creation of this episode?

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