Jammer's Review

Star Trek: Voyager

"Renaissance Man"

**1/2

Air date: 5/16/2001
Teleplay by Phyllis Strong & Mike Sussman
Story by Andrew Shepard Price & Mark Gaberman
Directed by Mike Vejar

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"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

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

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.

Previous episode: Homestead
Next episode: Endgame

Season Index

26 comments on this review

Immanuel - Wed, Oct 3, 2007 - 8:01pm (USA Central)
I really like "Renaissance Man" and it easily gets a 3-star rating from me. The Hierarchy are an interesting species and I welcome their reappearance. Sure, we've seen plenty of kidnapping plots in the Star Trek franchise, but there's something refreshing about the execution here. The pacing is great, the visual effects are very cool and the ending is smile-inducing.

Noteworthy:

*I believe this is Vorik's only appearance in the seventh season.

*It seems Ayala has received a promotion; he's sporting a red uniform and is seen at the helm in this episode.
Gretchen - Mon, Oct 22, 2007 - 4:10pm (USA Central)
Not that I thought differently beforehand, but the fact that Voyager's penultimate episode is a standard, stand alone adventure, whereas both TNG's Preemptive Strike and DS9's Dogs of War were first-rate dramas with affecting ramifications.
Gretchen - Mon, Oct 22, 2007 - 4:11pm (USA Central)
Not that I thought differently beforehand, but the fact that Voyager's penultimate episode is a standard, stand alone adventure is par for the course for this show, whereas both TNG's Preemptive Strike and DS9's Dogs of War were first-rate dramas with affecting ramifications.
Michael - Wed, Jul 21, 2010 - 2:02pm (USA Central)
I LOVED this episode and it's probably my favorite. In fact, I decided to watch Voyager again just because I suddenly remembered this particular show.

It's interesting, intriguing, different, full of suspense. The use of technology is really clever. There are some funny sequences, such as Paris getting all lovey-dovey with "Torres" (The Doc). There's no "bonding" or personal drama, thank god. I wish all Voyager episodes were like this one.

I totally disagree with the low rating by Jammer. This show in my view deserves at least 3.5 stars though I'd go so far as to give it fully 4.
Elliott - Mon, Apr 11, 2011 - 2:22pm (USA Central)
@ Gretchen

I'm sorry, lasting ramifications for whom exactly? The characters in the Trek Universe, who are fictional creations...Voyager was the only member of the franchise with a premise established in the Pilot which was resolved in the series finale. About the fifth season of TNG, one realises that there's no cap to it--there's no where for them to go...so the writers just exhausted themselves until they began setting up the other two series, Voyager and DS9. Now DS9 created a destination for its series with the war but that wasn't until about season 5 either.

I'm not crazy about this episode, it's pretty mindless on its own, but there's no reason it "should" have been anything else given its placement in the series. As I've said before, I would have loved Voyager to be given long arcs and multi-parters like DS9 had, but it was not meant to be. At any rate, without that crutch of storytelling architecture, Voyager as a series makes a lot of sense and progresses continually towards a goal which was evident from the very first episode.
Cloudane - Mon, Apr 11, 2011 - 3:34pm (USA Central)
I'd have liked to have seen a more gradual end to Voyager myself, rather than having run-of-the-mill stuff right up to the penultimate episode.. but whatever. Indeed, it's befitting the series - it's not like there are a myriad of complex DS9-style ongoing stories to tie up :)

Still, I couldn't get into this episode at all. What are the Sontarans doing all the way out here? What is this all about? I guess no matter how suited it is to the series, I couldn't really get past the fact that this is the penultimate episode and they do something totally random. Then all of a sudden, next episode it's all over... no lead-up other than Neelix leaving.

At least the Doc got his feelings about Seven out in the open I guess.

Oh yeah, and nice to see that other Vulcan make an appearance again.

Still... can't really rate this ep much myself. 2 maybe. On to the finale!
LWG - Sun, Jul 10, 2011 - 6:13pm (USA Central)
Oh man did I laugh at the Doctor's Matrix wall climb when I saw that. It was ridiculous, and even funnier in slow motion. I suspected it might be mentioned in this review. It was just so weird.
Nathan - Mon, Nov 14, 2011 - 8:45am (USA Central)
We did see the Hierarchy guys in that weird hole in space.
Captain Jim - Thu, Jun 14, 2012 - 10:49pm (USA Central)
Immanuel said,

"*I believe this is Vorik's only appearance in the seventh season.

*It seems Ayala has received a promotion; he's sporting a red uniform and is seen at the helm in this episode."

Yes, it was nice to see Vorik one last time, just as it was nice to see Naomi Wildman again last episode. His presence here really wasn't required, so it's kind of one last time in the limelight, I guess.

And as far as Ayala is concerned, oh my gosh, he actually spoke! If this wasn't the only time, it certainly was one of very few over the course of seven years. (One might almost think he was mute.)

As far as the story's concerned, eh, it held my interest but certainly wasn't notable. I think after this incident, Janeway should have removed the Doc's emergency command protocol. At the very least, he should have gotten more than his "hand slapped," so to speak.
Jay - Mon, Jan 14, 2013 - 10:46am (USA Central)
@ Captain Jim,

In "Basics", Ayala said "yeah" when asked if he could run good. I think that was the first and last time before now...
Bravestarr - Tue, Feb 19, 2013 - 12:32pm (USA Central)
I fucking loved this episode. Granted, the bad guys kind of suck...but the whole Doctor impersonating everyone was pretty cool. The scene where Tuvok uses VulKarate to stop him is awesome, epic wall climb...awesome...Tom/Doctor kiss...awesome in a hilarious way.

One thing I would like to point out though...the Doctor seems superior to a regular crew in everyway...so why not have a whole ship made up of Doctors?
navamske - Mon, May 20, 2013 - 7:34pm (USA Central)
@Bravestarr

"One thing I would like to point out though...the Doctor seems superior to a regular crew in everyway...so why not have a whole ship made up of Doctors?"

I'm not sure if you're talking about a ship full of EMHs or a ship full of capable EMH-like holograms who serve nonmedical functions. In the latter case, the crew (of holograms) would never be able to leave the ship, except maybe in a shuttle; whether this limitation would be a significant impediment to a Starfleet ship's being actually useful, I can't say. In the former case, it might be useful to have a ship crewed entirely by Doctor holograms, functioning as a sort of roaming medical facility for the use of any ship that passes by and has the need.
Ian - Sun, Jul 14, 2013 - 10:30pm (USA Central)
I guess no one noticed the homage to "The Hitchikers Guide To The Galaxy?"
The line when the captain was told she would be put down on a planet whose inhabitants are "mostly harmless."
skadoo - Mon, Jul 15, 2013 - 11:52am (USA Central)
OK, for a second there when the Dr. said he wanted to spend more time with the Captain I thought he was hitting on her! If it hadn't have been for his "death bed confession" of love for Seven, I would have wondered.

This is where I wish they would have expanded a bit on the Captain's weekly dinners. They showed her and Chakotay having candlelight dinners every so often in a cheap bid to keep the J/C fans happy. But I always thought that the Captain might have had weekly dinners with Tuvok as well since they were friends and she turned to him for counsel. Well, at least she said she did-- they didnt' exactly write it in all that often...
Leah - Tue, Jul 23, 2013 - 12:00am (USA Central)
Not bad, not great. *SIGH*
azcats - Tue, Sep 3, 2013 - 12:39pm (USA Central)
interesting that the 2nd to last episode was Michaels favorite. It is not an episode i remembered off the top of my head. but it was very enjoyable. these are the episodes that make me miss voyager. more action in Voyager than the other series i think.

very fun. last 2 scenes were great.

3 stars at least.
Niall - Wed, Oct 9, 2013 - 4:42pm (USA Central)
This is a fun comedy episode - romp is the right word - and I have no qualms with it being as the penultimate episode, especially given how well it compares with DS9's Extreme Measures, another attempt at "one last romp" that didn't come off anywhere near as well.
Jo Jo Meastro - Tue, Oct 22, 2013 - 6:03am (USA Central)
I really liked it.

Although I do question why they went to the trouble of bringing back them Hierarchy aliens instead of just using someone from this season who wasn't left too far behind. Even inventing a new race would probably have went down better. I guess the Hierachy guys are taken out whenever they need comedy villains for a harmless romp.

And while I don't mind the fact that this was a fun, standalone, penultimate adventure; I would have liked if they at least had one scene were the crew pondered Neelixes' absence from their lives or a last minute Star Fleet transmission to act as a lead-in for the finale.

Other than these complaints I generally enjoyed it very much.

I especially liked the skillfully played mystery, did anybody else noticed the subtle clue dropped by Janeway/Doctor when he said the made-up aliens had a hierarchy? Its a fun little detail. I loved the Doctors' crazy action scheme, it was cool as well as funny and inventive.

All in all, 3 stars which came very close to 3.5!
Jack - Fri, Nov 1, 2013 - 3:06pm (USA Central)
This is probably one of the most uninteresting episodes. The Dcotor is blatantly disregarding the captain's orders, for no reason other that to further the "plot".
Nissa - Wed, Jan 22, 2014 - 10:59pm (USA Central)
This episode is so utterly stupid. One star. The bad guy's actions and motivations were meh, and it was difficult to watch their very stilted acting and writing. Granted, Picardo did a good acting job, and I liked the bit at the beginning where he mentioned he liked not being a human -- he's been a bit of a Data rip-off in the past, and it's nice to see him accept himself.

However, he just makes so many stupid choices. He has a line that goes something like (I don't remember the precise wording) "The ship can go on without a warp core, they can't go on without a captain". This is a very stupid reason to take a warp core to some generic baddies. Janeway herself would have sacrificed herself for the ship. Voyager is in a bad enough position as it is, and Doc's faulty reasoning ruins a lot of the fun of this episode.
Nick - Thu, Feb 6, 2014 - 6:09pm (USA Central)
This is another episode that clearly draws inspiration from the light classic star trek romps such as "Mudd's Women", wherein a rather comical and not overly dangerous villain is eventually outwitted. With all the danger and threats, no one even gets killed!

The 'insider' bonus bits for Voyager fans are touching. We get character snippets scattered throughout when the doc takes on different identities, we get insightful Janeway dialogue with the Doc (More socializing! Coffee in Brazil!), lastly we get the fantastic and hilarious non-deathbed confessions from the Doc. Yes, he does love Seven! ::sigh::: There is hope... ;)

As with many of the Seventh Season outings, this episode is tightly plotted, has a self-awareness about it, and doesn't quit until the credits roll. What more can a Voyager fan ask for? A more fitting (second) last episode couldn't be asked for.

a solid 4.5/5
Amanda - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 5:54pm (USA Central)
I enjoy watching this episode. I didn't like its placement so close to the end, it was so anti climatic as Endgame was approaching. Since it's been 13 yrs since it first aired, I've started wondering what ifs

remembered how annoyed we were at the lack of consequence for Janeway when she made bad calls? It's human to make them but it's obnoxious when she is elevated to impeachable status every other cliff hanger. Anyway, I had a thought, would you all s*** your pants if we saw continuity from Janeway's "pretend" assimilation? I would have not seen it coming if the writers had Janeway or the doctor recall Janeway having Borg shielding intact from her unimatrix days. Have her walk through their shields like water and say those immortal words to those unsuspecting potato men. Now that is an ep :-)

Still bothers me seven and the queen were written to have 99% cybernetic bodies and Picardo, but most of all the command trio, do not. Had they not shown Seven to be metal with human flesh, I might have bought the senior officer restoration. I think Janeway should have walked through the alien shields :-)
Amanda - Sat, Mar 8, 2014 - 5:57pm (USA Central)
*Picard. Not Picardo. I have Picardo in my auto correct. I better add Picard now :-)
Denes House - Fri, Mar 14, 2014 - 6:36pm (USA Central)
I found it funny that an episode that features the Potato People would also feature a dish of potato salad... with extra paprika!
Steinway - Fri, Apr 4, 2014 - 8:49pm (USA Central)
I agree with the consensus, that this was a fun episode but oddly placed in the line-up (or countdown, rather).

However, one thing really tickled me that hasn't been mentioned—there were clues early on that it was the Doctor, before the "reveal". The first was that the Doctor (as Janeway) went after Chakotay with a *hypospray*...and the second was that he (as Janeway) hid Chakotay in the *morgue*. Both those details were unusual, and after realizing it was really the Doctor, I appreciated those details.
Amanda - Thu, Apr 10, 2014 - 4:03am (USA Central)
Steinway> I didn't mention it but yes, I suspected it was the doc when Janeway started stammering on the bridge and using a hypospray on Chakotay. He was easy prey to such a tiny woman :-) I mean really? He couldn't shove her down? :-) If the doc had done a subtle seductive move to get him from behind, yes, but front attack, Chakotay looked very whimpy to me.

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