Star Trek: Voyager

"Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy"

3.5 stars

Air date: 10/13/1999
Teleplay by Joe Menosky
Story by Bill Vallely
Directed by John Bruno

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"His full potential's unknown, Chakotay."
"Would you be comfortable handing over your ship to a computer program?"
"I don't know if I'd take it that far."
"You might have to. He probably won't settle for less."

— Janeway and Chakotay on Doc's career possibilities

Nutshell: A pleasant, comic gem.

It's no secret that I found DS9 on the whole (and usually also in individual slices) to be superior to Voyager. While DS9 was turning out great stories in its fifth season, I was so irritated with the middle stages of Voyager's third season that some of my reviews, in looking back at them, sound almost angry. At the time, that's how frustrating Voyager was. I remember almost completely abandoning hope when "Favorite Son" aired right after "Darkling" and "Rise."

Now, with DS9 over, I currently find myself feeling better about Voyager than I have in a long, long time. Could it be that my overall good will has carried over from DS9 to make me more optimistic about Voyager?


I figured I'd ask the question before someone else did. And above lies the answer. Case closed.

Rather, what this does say to me is that Voyager is off to a very good start this season—its best start ever, I'm inclined to say. At 4-for-4 on the season, Voyager is reminding me why I watch it. The latest entry to season six, "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy," is a refreshingly funny comic piece that ranks among the better Trek comedies, and probably the best-executed since DS9's "In the Cards."

Granted, UPN continues to amaze me with its continuing one-upmanship of bad promos; from the trailers I might've predicted that "Tinker Tenor" was a retread of DS9's truly awful "Fascination." Fortunately, that's not the case at all; what we have here is a very amusing look into a character's fantasy world, reminiscent of TNG's "Hollow Pursuits," but better written and executed.

The plot is a terrific exercise in simplicity: Doc programs himself with the capability of daydreaming, and we get to see inside these daydreams. The result is always entertaining, often hilarious. The plot's comic twist introduces an alien ship whose crew is maintaining surveillance on Voyager—and one of its crafty crewmen (Jay M. Leggett) has tapped into Doc's fantasies thinking they are actually the Doctor's perception of real events.

The tone is set with an opening sequence of comic inspiration, as Doc gives a performance in the mess hall that offers the latest word in how to handle out-of-control Vulcans suffering from Pon Farr while simultaneously playing to an audience. Utilizing Picardo's singing abilities and some humorously goofy lyrics that explain Tuvok's condition as he goes berserk, this is a scene of just about dead-on perfect comic timing. Because it's a daydream, we understand the intention behind it—Doc imagining a situation where he is the hero of the day, whose actions are met with fantastically ego-encouraging cheers. Fun stuff.

The events actually happening aboard the ship are more or less your average day at the office: An away team prepares for a planetary mission; staff meetings are held; Voyager scans and observes. All the while, Doc drifts away into a series of fantasies (TV-PG fantasies, mind you).

Some of these fantasies beam in from the realm of boyhood adolescence, with the common themes of getting the girls, being the hero, and blowing stuff up. There's one daydream early in the episode during a staff meeting that has every woman in the room competing for Doc's attention, featuring plenty of exaggerated flirting, and punctuated by a heavy-on-the-sax musical score by Dennis McCarthy. It's hard to describe without it sounding like a potential embarrassment, but the execution pulls through wonderfully and makes the scene a lot of fun.

Joe Menosky's script, or John Bruno's direction (it's hard to say which—probably some of both in addition to on-the-set improvisation) (*), inserts the hilarious little details that make scenes like this laugh-out-loud enjoyable. Having Seven wink at Doc is so out of character that it's worth seeing just for the sheer novelty value, and the "note-passing" through the PADDs is a fairly brilliant idea: "DINNER TONIGHT?" appears the message from Seven on Doc's PADD; later when Torres is vying for Doc's attention, Seven e-mails "RESIST!", which flashes in red. Hee.

I was glad to see Menosky push the episode into full-blown comedy that has the memorable moments to go along with the good concept. I think back to DS9's "Rivals," also written by Menosky, and what struck me most about that episode was that it was a potentially amusing concept that just didn't have enough comic momentum or anarchy to deliver the big laughs. "Tinker Tenor" has the big laughs.

The daydream plot is concurrent with the notion of Doc wanting to expand his abilities into new areas—specifically command. He issues an official grievance to the captain regarding the crew's failure to acknowledge his sentience. Included in the memo is the official request to be made captain (the "Emergency Command Hologram") in the event of a catastrophe that leaves the captain incapacitated and the command structure broken. Janeway gives him a non-answer answer that is in reality "no" but with the stipulation that a group of engineers investigate the possibility of expanding his program when Voyager returns to the Alpha Quadrant. Sounds a bit like a thinly guised blow-off, but what else can you say when a hologram asks to be captain?

This of course doesn't stop Doc from imagining that he has become the "ECH." In one of the funniest sequences, he daydreams of a Borg attack that leaves him as the last hope for the Voyager crew. (All that's missing is Harry saying, "You're our last hope!") In a comic-book transformation idea that is not unlike Clark Kent becoming Superman, Doc's uniform turns from blue to red, and four pips appear on his collar as Seven looks on in awe. (Regarding those pips magically appearing, I'm in agreement with what is later said by Harry: "This is the part I like..."—and Janeway: "Nice touch.")

The comic twist involving the aliens is a good example of keeping the emphasis on the fun rather than making these aliens into an artificial threat. With makeup and costume design that make these guys look more like Potato People than anything else, it's hard to take them as anything but kinda goofy and funny—which is, I imagine, precisely the point. Most of this end of the plot is seen through a surveillance officer (named Philox, according to the press releases, although I don't think his name was actually mentioned in the episode). Philox taps into Doc's program and views the daydreams on his computer monitor. Using this information, he thinks he has come up with the perfect way of learning what he needs to know to understand Voyager as a target. I liked that the story focused on Philox's run-ins with his superior officer (Googy Gress), rather than resigning the story to "Voyager versus the aliens." By giving us some character interplay on the alien ship, the story is able to bring the Potato People into the comedy, rather than having them exist solely as incidentals to it.

For example, it's funny that Doc imagines that he saves the ship from a Borg threat and annihilates a Borg sphere with his fearsome "photonic cannon." But what's even more funny is Philox watching this on his monitor and his horrified gasp at what he perceives is real—and then his fearful but understated report of caution to his superior that "Voyager will not be an easy target."

Nitpick alert: Is it plausible that Philox would be able view the events on a monitor from whatever convenient camera angle best tells him what's going on? Well, probably not—if anything, one would think Philox would see the events purely from Doc's point of view. But, really, who cares?

Anyway, eventually the Voyager crew learns of Doc's daydreaming when he's forced to come forward after his program malfunctions and he begins having mind-wandering episodes whether he wants to or not. This of course leads to diagnostics that have Doc's fantasies playing out on the holodeck for those on a need-to-know basis to see.

The big commonality of these fantasies probably has to be in regard to Doc's ego. He saves the ship. He's the center of a congratulatory celebration. He's a magnet to all the women. He tries to let an affectionate Torres down easy, as Paris sits by and waves with a goofy grin. Seven poses nude for Doc as he paints her, and she tells him, pleasantly compliantly, "Whatever you say, Doctor."

Interesting is that, really, there's little sexual motivation apparent here—perhaps because this is a family show, but also because it's more about Doc inflating his own ego, which has quite an appetite. (Indeed, as Philox notes, "He seems to be in an expert in ... everything.") Doc has always had a complicated ego that is sizable but never, ever in-your-face or mean-spirited. But it's certainly capable of being heavily bruised, which we see here when his daydreams are uncorked for the crew to see. Watching Doc's grandstanding in the face of imaginary Borg is great fun—but the poignancy comes in seeing his quiet talk with Janeway where he reveals his embarrassment.

Watching this, I became thoroughly convinced that only Robert Picardo could've pulled it off. The guy is a true talent with a wonderful range. We feel for his character when reality has reined him in, and we have fun with his character as his fantasies are bouncing off the walls with imaginative absurdity. And Picardo can get away with gleefully over-the-top lines like, "just another bully who didn't know when to back off" and "over my dead program," which he delivers with hilarious conviction. The episode is a good concept, but it's up to Picardo to sell it, which he does.

In the story's final passages, Philox comes to realize the huge mistake he has made in his "surveillance" efforts, realizes he will be demoted or fired if his superiors find out, and then desperately contacts the Doctor to work out a clever trick that will hopefully prevent an attack on Voyager. The solution is that Philox will help Voyager avoid a confrontation; in exchange Doc will pretend to be the captain and convince Philox's superiors that his surveillance reports were not in error. So Janeway reluctantly turns over "command" of her ship to Doc, turning fantasy into reality.

This final showdown sequence features humor of the somewhat more standard and predictable breed (with Doc hemming and hawing his way through attempted negotiations and looking like the most awkward captain in many a moon), but with Picardo throwing himself into the role it's completely laugh-worthy, especially when Doc's jittery desperation turns to a confident, fantasy-inspired bluff involving that nefarious "photonic cannon." (Tuvok's deadpan-funny response, "Activating the photonic cannon ... sir," is hilariously Spock-like, with a masked contempt for the illogically absurd.)

Suffice it to say everything works out in the end. The ship is saved, Philox keeps his job, and Doc has gotten to be captain. But I liked that this episode also managed to work in a little bit of character relevance involving the possibility of Doc's abilities going beyond his programmed duty. Perhaps the episode's most affecting scene is Janeway's moment of realization in the holodeck where she sees that Doc simply wants to live up to his full potential so he can do more to "help the people he loves." It's hard to argue with that kind of sentiment, whether it's from a human or a hologram.

It has been reported that this story concept was originally to center around Neelix. The creators made the infinitely correct choice making it Doc's vehicle. He's the perfect candidate for this concept. And so is Robert Picardo. The result is a gem.

Next week: Paris in wonderland.

* Note: Joe Menosky informs me that all details that move a scene forward are always scripted in advance, and NOT improvised on the set by directors or actors. "Episodic television is not a Robert Altman film," he says.

Previous episode: Barge of the Dead
Next episode: Alice

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84 comments on this post

Tue, Jan 22, 2008, 9:37am (UTC -5)
A very good episode, probably the best 'fun' Voyager episode so far, I laughed out loud when they saw his fantasies
Jakob M. Mokoru
Wed, Jan 30, 2008, 2:35pm (UTC -5)
I have liked this episode when I watched it years ago - but now, being able to watch it in English on DVD I LOVE it!
Thu, Jan 8, 2009, 5:10pm (UTC -5)
Brilliant episode...the best moment..."Fire the photonic canon"...and Tuvok's reaction. Inspired and hilarious :)
Thu, Mar 26, 2009, 8:56am (UTC -5)
Yes, an absolute gem! So many great moments to choose from, but probably the best for me was the opening scene with Doc singing opera and Tuvok going through Pon Farr. Also loved the meeting room scene with the gals fawning over the irresistible EMH, heh.
Latex Zebra
Mon, Apr 20, 2009, 7:38am (UTC -5)
The opening song is gut bustingly funny. Genius writing.
Sun, Jun 21, 2009, 11:23am (UTC -5)
The part where he trys to eject the warp core was my favorite. This isn't real is it he says. Last chance to be a hero doctor, get moving! lolololol
Jason Keon
Mon, Nov 23, 2009, 3:38pm (UTC -5)
Easily the funniest episode of Star Trek ever! So many wonderfully funny moments to choose from. B'Elanna to the doc: "He's not half the man you are!". It's funny if you really listen to Garrett Wang's voice in the next line, you can tell he's trying very hard not to laugh! "Over my dead program!" AUSTRALIA RULES!
Ken Egervari
Tue, Dec 8, 2009, 2:19am (UTC -5)
The thing I don't understand... is that when Janeway denies the doctor's request to expand his program at the start of the episode... she says it will take months to do it. Didn't we have an episode last season where they made an entire Cardassian EMH in a matter of hours? While I like the fact that the logic makes sense in this episode with 'most' of the continuity... it only makes the other episode stand out as a blatant disregard for logic when they need to change it for the sake of the story.

Even worse though... and this is something I can't shake off... didn't the doctor's program go bust in one of the earlier seasons when he expanded his program too far? Was it the Swarm? Didn't they have to use the only backup matrix to fix it? If they expand it further... wouldn't take delete the Chief medical officer for good once the program got corrupted again?

See... I understand Janeway's hesitancy here... but the story doesn't bring up these concerns and relate to the previous shows. And honestly, the doctor has expanded his program far beyond the point that he did in season 2... isn't it bound to go bust very, very soon?

I also don't understand the request for more freedom and stuff. Seriously... when was the last time the crew seriously treated the doctor poorly? Season 2? This story seems really out of place in season 6.
Wed, Jul 7, 2010, 9:13am (UTC -5)
An immeasurably entertaining show, really enjoyed it! The underlying premise - i.e. a HOLOGRAM(!!!) that has sexual fantasies, demonstrated voracious careerism and throws a hissy-fit for not being chosen to go on an away-mission - is just silly, but the comedic value of this episode washes that away.

3.5 stars is about right :)
Fri, Feb 11, 2011, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
I tried to dislike it, mostly because of Trek's attempts at humour in the past. I failed. A surprisingly amusing hour :)

What I do think is that the issue of a hologram being interested in command was ripe for more serious exploration similar to those of Data's rights in TNG (imagine them arguing over it in a "Measure of a Man" type episode). But this episode is a fine example of why I should judge Voyager for what it was, not other completely different things it could have been. It was pretty good stuff.
Fri, Feb 11, 2011, 7:12pm (UTC -5)
Oh, and lols at the Sontarans from Doctor Who making an appearance :)
Sat, Feb 19, 2011, 3:13am (UTC -5)
Best comedic startrek episode ever!
Sat, Aug 20, 2011, 6:53am (UTC -5)
I may have stopped watching Voyager by this point originally (at the time I was much more into Farscape, which I still consider a vastly superior series in ever way), so maybe that's why I didn't remember this.

Between this and 'Someone to watch over me', it seems Voyager is as capable as DS9 at producing enjoyable, fun comedic episodes, when it's so inclined. This is a hugely enjoyable romp - I didn't think it was quite the classic others are hailing it as, but I was entertained throughout. Lightweight but bags of fun. It peaked, however in the hilarious teaser - I was initially wondering if this was going to be a Buffy-esque musical episode. The rest of the ep was lovely, but nothing could eclipse the Doc's singing at Tuvok, that was one of the hands-down funniest moments in Trek ever!
Sun, Jan 15, 2012, 11:29pm (UTC -5)
Three words: BEST EPISODE EVER!!!
Sat, Feb 4, 2012, 11:04pm (UTC -5)
Agree with your review completely. Just want to add: Love the computer having an attitude! "warp core breech happening really soon."

Such a goofy fun episode that is well done.
Just Another Trekkie
Sun, Mar 25, 2012, 5:30am (UTC -5)
Completely agreed--this episode represents VOY at its best: lighthearted and well-meaning, with just enough Trek-moralizing to leave a pleasant aftertaste.

Anyone else disappointed there was no follow-up to the Doctor's realization of his feelings for Seven in "Someone to Watch Over Me"? I suppose this only goes to support your theory that VOY leans too heavily on the shrink-wrapped finish.
Captain Jim
Sun, Apr 8, 2012, 9:19pm (UTC -5)
Cloudane said, "Oh, and lols at the Sontarans from Doctor Who making an appearance :)"

Glad to see I wasn't the only one who made that connection. I was reminded of them as well.

Great episode, btw.
Thu, May 24, 2012, 12:09pm (UTC -5)
Probably one of my favorite episodes of Voyager so far...maybe even all Trek.

@Just Another Trekkie/RE: SOMEONE TO WATCH OVER ME..I felt that 7 realized the Dr's feelings for her...but let him know her own in the holodeck, granted she was very subtle...but by declaring desire to not bother with dating, she included him...and he sadly, realized it...making it all the more heartbreaking...
Mon, May 28, 2012, 3:53am (UTC -5)
Best teaser ever:

(Sung to the tune of Verdi's "La donna è mobile")

"He's been seized by the Pon Farr! A neuro-chemical imbalance is driving him to mate. We won't be able to reason with him..."

Tuvok, I understand
You are a Vulcan man
You have just gone without
For seven years about

Paris please find a way
To load a hypos pray
I will give you the sign
Just aim for his behind

Hormones are raging
Synapses blazing
It's all so very

Sun, Oct 28, 2012, 12:59am (UTC -5)
Has anyone noticed that although a very different episode, the "macguffin" was essentially "The Corbomite Maneuver"?
Pusher Robot
Fri, Nov 30, 2012, 12:15am (UTC -5)
I thought it was hilarious to see Picardo playing a character trying to act like a character he's not at the direction of a voice inside his head, almost exactly like he did as Jack Putter pretending to be The Cowboy in "Innerspace!"
Sun, Dec 2, 2012, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
Around here is where the Doctor started to Steve Urkel the show, getting far more than his share of stories, and everyone else (except for 7) essentially becoming backup players.
Fri, Jan 11, 2013, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Neelix calls his planet Talaxia here, but I thought it was established as Talax back in the beginning.

Looks like a retread of the Andor vs. Andoria bit...
Sun, May 5, 2013, 8:59pm (UTC -5)
Now THIS was a good episode. It was absolutely hilarious. The Doc is my favorite character for obvious reasons.
Mon, Jun 24, 2013, 1:52pm (UTC -5)
"Warp core breach sooner than you think."

This episode was laugh-out-loud hilarious from beginning to end. Loved it! And I actually really liked Philox. I found myself caring about him as a character. He was kinda lovable, especially when he told Doc that he'd come to know and like him and didn't want him to be hurt.
Jo Jo Meastro
Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 7:08am (UTC -5)
Everything that I was going to say has pretty much already been said, but I just wanted to add my voice to the praise of this episode!

Right from the opening trailer it was full to the brim with fun, charm, intelligence and high spirits that it should go down as one of the most successful Trek comedies.

The character touches and sensitivity just cemented its 4 stars IMO. It was also well timed relief from the darkness of last episode which was brilliant in a whole other way.
Sun, Jul 21, 2013, 3:35pm (UTC -5)
Definitely one of the funniest Trek episodes ever made. My favourite line has to be the computer, in its usual deadpan voice, saying "Warning: warp core breach a lot sooner than you think."

Also worthy of mentioned is Mulgrew's perfect delivery of "You... are dissmissed." :)
Fri, Aug 9, 2013, 4:08pm (UTC -5)
I wonder in hindsight would Jammer give this 4 stars?

great episode. great comedy. great musical.

my favorite part...
Tom Paris waving with a chagrin in the corner of the mess hall. fantastic!

4 star episode. and i just saw Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy last week with Gary Oldman!
Sun, Aug 11, 2013, 3:52am (UTC -5)
Another immensely enjoyable comedic episode of Voyager. When it comes to laughs, Voyager can really bring it. Picardo was brilliant but he had a lot to work with. I laughed out loud several times, but probably laughed the hardest at the scene where Janeway, Seven, and Torres were all fighting over the doctor, with Seven essentially texting him using the PADD - RESIST!!! Too funny!!!

Loved it!
Lt. Yarko
Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 7:13pm (UTC -5)
How come that dickhead Elliott never shows up to show his agreement when Jammer gives a positive review to a Voyager episode?

Sorry - just read his moronic posts on DS9 "In The Cards" and got all riled up.

Oh, yeah. Great episode. The best episode opening of all trek series by far.
Tue, Sep 3, 2013, 4:15am (UTC -5)
LOL. Kim stares at Seven's Bazangas for like 20 seconds before turning away.

Well, it's nothing he hasn't seen before. Probably every male crewman has a Seven holodeck program. Tom probably sells them for replicator rations.
Tue, Dec 10, 2013, 7:08am (UTC -5)
Immensely entertaining episode! Voyager at its best!

I think that one of the main reasons the story works so well is because Doc's fantasies about saving the ship and getting the girls are very universal - adolescent or not.
Show of hands: who, more or less, has the same fantasies when they daydream about being part of the crew of Voyager or Enterprise? I know I do.

Getting the fantasies right is half the battle - the other half also succeeds due to great comedic timing by the director and the whole cast - first and foremost Picardo (what a great actor!).

What's not to love?
Sat, Mar 8, 2014, 8:11am (UTC -5)
Oh, I was sooo entertained by this episode back in the day. I remember when Janeway put the Doc's hand on her back end and curling my lip in disgust then laughing my butt off because the camera cut to Paris making the same face I did. I am so happy to know Mulgrew suggested and it was approved to be added. It was awkward but fun. Did Mulgrew feel a little left out hence the suggestion? I can see her say something like, I adore Picardo, but there is the political view of Janeway where she's still feeling out if he's to be treated as an equal. let me have a fun scene with him since my character is often annoyed by him."

Pon Farr scene had me in stitches.

I love the concept of the ECH.
"Nice touch."

Fun, fun episode.
Tue, May 20, 2014, 10:44pm (UTC -5)
I just rewatched it. It's fun episode. If I have a nitpick, the episode would have fit in better in the first or second season. By this point, the Doctor has been accepted as a member of the crew and as a person. They have used him for non-medical purposes before.

I think we would all find it embarrassing if someone could tap into our fantasies. I love the bluff at the end. The Doctor stops being flustered, and just plays it out. Maybe the Doctor needs to find a group to play D&D. :-)

And the end, when the Doctor gets his medal, what I wanted to see was Janeway give him a field commission, and put a rank pip on his collar.
Sat, Aug 23, 2014, 10:16pm (UTC -5)
Yep, I'm going to be that person. I dislike this episode.

Most of it has to do with the fact that the EMH is my own personal Neelix. He's selfish to the extreme, and Janeway is all too indulgent of his "grab everything I can" nature. Here he's trying to be captain, despite the fact that people who have been in Starfleet for a long time should rightfully be promoted ahead of him, even leaving all the holographic issues aside.

This episode is ruined because of the aliens, who are too stupid for words. I don't understand how Jammer can hate Rom so much and then give these guys a pass.

While I admit the part where Seven puts the doctor in his place was funny, most of this is just the doc being indulgent, and like I said, he's my Neelix.
Mon, Aug 25, 2014, 10:28pm (UTC -5)
Going back through Voyager episodes from the beginning and this has to be one of the best. Picardo is a superb actor, dramatic and comedic, and he had me laughing out loud several times, particularly with his additional lyrics to "La Donna e Mobile." And the rest of the cast also got to show their comic chops. It looked like they had a lot of fun making this episode, very funny without being forced. It was a winner.
Sun, Nov 2, 2014, 2:52pm (UTC -5)
Personally, I did not like this episode. I thought the jokes were all targeted at the doctor at an uncomfortable distance, rather than shared with the doctor in a way that would be considerate of his feelings. That is to say, the doctor is caught in such an embarrassing light that it feels invasive to be viewing him in this way. I would rather laugh at someone's trials and tribulations in a way that would be mutually beneficial to them. I know, I know, this is a fictional character, but I tend to imagine fictional characters as analogous in some way to real people.
Sat, Apr 18, 2015, 4:37pm (UTC -5)
In a word: sublime. This comedic outing was as near to perfect as I could imagine: a simple but thoroughly engaging plot, refreshingly free technobabble and deadwood subplots; brilliantly crafted gags which all hit the bullseye; pitch perfect performances from the entire ensemble including a star turn from our alien(s) of the week; and last but not least a virtuoso performance from Picardo. For me this was delicious from start to finish.

In retrospect I almost wonder if Jammer got his rating for Barge of the Dead mixed up with this weeks offering. For me, BOTD was a very enjoyable 3 to 3.5 stars, whereas this was easily a 4 star episode. An absolute joy to watch and without a doubt one of the my top 3 Voyager picks. Bravo indeed.

One minor observation that I found amusing: is it just me or is there an implicit joke in the depiction of our aliens of the week? Their vessel, (based on the brief close ups we got while ensconced in the nebular thingy) to my mind is very reminiscent of a fly, while the species themselves bear an uncanny resemblance to walking I the only one seeing a "flys on sh*t" visual gag here?!?!
Sat, Aug 29, 2015, 11:31pm (UTC -5)
This episode was fantastic! Brilliantly written, acted, and directed, to as Jammer said give us a rare comedic gem you don't often find in the Star Trek universe. That wink that Seven gives Doc had me busting a gut, it was so subtle yet so damn funny since it's out of character for Seven. Love how at the end she kisses him on the cheek that qualifies it by saying "that was strictly platonic"... Great stuff, a 4-star episode for me.
The Great Danton
Thu, Jan 7, 2016, 10:41pm (UTC -5)
This is a hilarious episode from start to finish. 4/4

Computer: "Last chance to be a hero Doctor!" LOL
Mon, Feb 8, 2016, 10:16am (UTC -5)
I'm not as big of a fan of The Doctor as some on this board, but this is really a great episode. Voyager can be a bit of a hokey show at times, but I give the showrunners credit for playing that to their advantage when making this episode.

We have what seems to be a very standard Voyager plot (The ship gets picked on by evil Delta Quadrant aliens), but it's completely inverted as the threat to the ship is never too prominent in this show. Instead, the direction is over a struggling, and for once I'd say, sympathetic doctor who struggles for command recognition.

The scenarios the Doctor dreams up are funny, too! I agree with some of the above posters that this is like TNG's "Hollow Pursuits" except that the Doctor's pursuits actually end up being used to Voyager's advantage. This makes the entertainment all the more relevant.

4 stars.
Tue, Feb 9, 2016, 10:39am (UTC -5)
So according to Memory Alpha, this was originally going to be a Neelix episode.

Wow, they dodged a bullet there. Can anyone imagine Neelix in command?
Mon, Feb 29, 2016, 10:06pm (UTC -5)
In Barge of the Dead, Jammer noted the uniqueness that the 4th-6th seasons started with the same sequence of character emphasis (Janeway - Seven - Torres). Well, this episode almost had another coincidence. This is the fourth episode of the sixth season, and starts with a comedic artistic performance by the resident AI. Meanwhile, the fifth episode of the sixth season (see, only an almost coincidence) of TNG started with a comedic artistic performance by the resident AI. So which one is funnier, the Ode to Spot or the Pon Farr Opera? Ah, who cares, both were awesome.

In any case, I agree with everyone that this episode is hilarious. And a great deal of fun is held by all. Not much to say about that. So instead, I have two small nitpicks:

1) Torres telling the EMH to turn itself off to save power seems way too out of place in the 6th season. Third season? Sure. But even B'Elanna probably wouldn't be saying that out loud.

2) More importantly, Janeway's dismissal of the Doctor's original recommendation of becoming the ECH was too abrupt. Don't get me wrong, I agree with Janeway's decision, just not the method. The way it was shown was that Janeway was irrationally shutting it down, perhaps out of bigotry or whatever. The Doctor is the main character of this episode, and so the hero. So Janeway is the adversary and so, in the view of the, uh, viewer, is in the wrong. They really should have softened this.

Why couldn't she have actually given the Doc a reason for denying his claim? I mean, it's one thing to say he should have a command module. It's one thing to say I want to make the most awesomest videogame evar, but how do I go from that line to a million lines of code? How can the Doc go from thinking he should be command to getting all the nuances of command into a program? I mean, it took Data how long in Starfleet before he became a bridge officer? Wouldn't it have been better if Janeway gave one of those as an explanation? Or maybe give an example of a friend of hers in Starfleet who everyone thought would be great in command, but never made it and is now a Lt JG in stellar cartography like Picard in Tapestry, and no one understands why he never quite made it as a leader, so if Starfleet still doesn't know what makes a great leader with humans, how would they know how to program it? Just giving her some reason to reject the Doctor's idea would soften her up without changing the rest of the episode in the slightest.

Again, these are just nitpicks, but they did throw me a bit over the course of the episode. On the whole though, a great comedy and a pretty good story as well.
Diamond Dave
Tue, Mar 8, 2016, 2:43pm (UTC -5)
I didn't fall in love with this as much as many others it seems - if anything I thought it was just a little too broad. That's not to say it isn't a fun story, with a lot of good moments. It was particularly endearing hearing the ship's computer getting into the spirit. And the story was a fresh and inventive spin on the norm.

But I just couldn't help thinking that the episode premise - which boils down as an idea pretty much to 'Captain Doctor' - is just entirely geared to reaching that end point. Dare I say it just all felt a bit too contrived to me? "Don't expect me to pose for you" indeed. 2.5 stars.
Sun, Apr 24, 2016, 1:42pm (UTC -5)
".. and even the fish begin to weep." Oh so fkn LOLZ .. Im still laughing. Im not sure how exactly you can determine if fish are weeping .. but to actually say it .. aloud .. lolz .. inspired comedic beginnings.
Sun, Apr 24, 2016, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
The Doc is perhaps my favorite character on this show, as he is the most deeply flawed - his ultimate potential is also perhaps the highest of all of the crew, but his quest to improve always leads him into interesting lateral directions.

This was an extremely fun episode, the aliens were interesting, their motivations and responses designed for comic effect - their humanity was well placed for this kind of light-hearted fantasy.

A little more of naked Seven was not at all gratuitous - if she had been jumping up and down - then perhaps I could have commented on the gratuitous nature of it all - but I think I would have remained silent and hoped for more.
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 11:14am (UTC -5)
OK, now that we have the funniest, side-splitting, roaring fun, lol episode in all of trek, will someone PLEASE fix Doc's program so he can't mess with it? I mean really, how many times is this now?

I laughed out loud reading Jammer's review. Just remembering the scenes is funny!

This episode is too much fun. I only say that because it I don't think it can ever be topped. (from a comedic sense)

"Activating the photonic cannon ... sir," That's funny, but Tovok's glance at the Doctor while saying it is just hilarious!!

"SEVEN: Congratulations, Doctor. (kisses him on cheek) That was a Platonic gesture. Don't expect me to pose for you. "

I could go on.... too many to post. :-)

I will comment that a REALLY felt for Doc when he was speaking with Janeway and fessing to being embarrassed. Can you imagine your dreams being made public to the folks in them?

Just a riot and not a bad story with. Don't understand how Jammer didn't give this gem a 4 star rating.

4 from me. ... easy.
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 2:30pm (UTC -5)
Yes, I did notice the Corbomite Maneuver in play here.
Great episode. Only nitpick: It seems the aliens were almost too dumb. They seemed to fall for it too quickly.
But then again, they can't all be geniuses.
Tue, Aug 16, 2016, 2:45pm (UTC -5)
"Most of it has to do with the fact that the EMH is my own personal Neelix. He's selfish to the extreme, and Janeway is all too indulgent of his "grab everything I can" nature."
I realize this is an old comment, but: The Doctor is essentially childlike. He didn't have to "grow up" like the rest of the crew did. Yes, there is an innocence to childhood, but there's also a grandiosity, a feeling that anything can be accomplished if those grownups would just "let me!" And extreme frustration if they don't, sometimes leading to tantrums, always leading to dramatics. Who hasn't met the toddler that's determined to rule the world but must be stopped for his own safety? And how did that child react?

Essentially, the Doctor is a genius with few limitations. But emotionally he has yet to deal with disappointments, a Mother figure who limits his capacity for his own safety, and other limitations that are bound to be frustrating.

A good character in my opinion.
Wed, Sep 7, 2016, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
Warp core breach sooner than you think.
Mon, Nov 14, 2016, 4:50am (UTC -5)
Sheer brilliance. 4 stars.

I'm kinda pissed at you though, Jammer. How could you rate "Barge of the Dead" above this episode?
Fri, Jan 13, 2017, 11:17am (UTC -5)
A decently entertaining episode, but I don't love it nearly as much as most, in large part because I find the Doctor to basically be the Steve Urkel of this show. We get this trip into Doc's fantasy and then basically the same kind of thing with Barkley less than two months later. This one is easily better than that one.
Paul Allen
Thu, Apr 6, 2017, 3:51am (UTC -5)
One of the best, most fun episodes. FANTASTIC. :) :)

and that opening!!!!
Paul Allen
Thu, Apr 6, 2017, 4:08am (UTC -5)
SEVEN: "Congratulations, Doctor. < kisses him on cheek > That was a Platonic gesture. Don't expect me to pose for you."

I'm in tears. :)
Sun, Sep 24, 2017, 2:21am (UTC -5)
Hey you guys.
Thought as a viewer of all Star trek shows and movies I also left a comment.

In general, I totally disagree with most of you here who say this is a great episode...
The plot works. The jokes are mostly good and the idea of wrapping it up this way is fine.

HOWEVER, ever since season 3 or so the doctor has become a nuisance. He is never satisfied. Constantly complains. He is arrogant by considering himself to be more capable, better and superior to the rest of the crew.
This is clearly taken to the next level here ( and will be in several later episodes). A command hologram taking over??? Why not make him full time captain of Voyager instead. I am sure these incompetent hjumaaans will make room for the new generation of holograms. Even better. No more humans in space. No human decision making. No human admiralty. And while we are at it, and since holograms are superior in so many ways and man cannot match them, they should form the top of evolution and man becomes second class.

Guys...seriously? Have you ever thought of how equality for holograms will end? Or at least what happens if we let the doctor's blown up ego continue being delusional?

Ladies and gentleman please don't clap your hands because you will kill some bacteria.
Sat, Sep 30, 2017, 8:25pm (UTC -5)
"Warp core breach. A lot sooner than you think:
"Last chance to be a hero, Doctor."

Even the computer getting in on the fun.

Best beginning sequence ever for an episode.

Loved everything about it. Seven's wink, B'Elanna's declaration of lust/admiration for Doctor + Tom pathetically waving his hand. Seven's closing warning to Doctor about not posing for him and his reply "Noted." Tuvok's face when Doctor orders the photonic canon. All of it..
Wed, Oct 4, 2017, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
OK so Picardo has become by far my favorite actor on VOY. In the early seasons he seemed stiff to me but he has blossomed in the last couple of seasons and he is the only one who could pull off this type of an episode. He's basically human -- they should just make him so.

Sometimes Trek doesn't do humor very well -- actually quite often Trek doesn't for me (all those Ferengi, Laxwana Troi, and some Q episodes were weak) but after "Someone to Watch Over Me" and this one, VOY deserves a fair bit of credit. It has done something better than DS9 and TNG.

I was thinking that VOY was running out of ideas and so they're trying something like this. It worked out really well although I wasn't sure what to think at first. The rest of the crew is quite capable in playing a good comedic support role. All they have to do is act atypically -- this is easier for 7 and Tuvok who were both fun here.

The "Potato People" as Jammer calls them were a drag on this episode -- remind me of the Pakleds from TNG ("Make us go fast"). But they provided the chance for Doc to shine as captain coming up with a great bluff a la "The Corbomite Maneuver". Some hilarious stuff from Picardo here.

3 stars for "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy" - it's refreshing to throw something like this into the mix once or twice a season. Clearly VOY has to find ways to get the doctor involved in more episodes as he's the best actor in the cast. He must be great to write for.
David trekkie
Sun, Nov 26, 2017, 8:50am (UTC -5)
I loved this episode. 4*'s from me. One of the things I've always found surprisingly enjoyable is Picardo's singing. I've got a love for good classical music but, by and large, opera never did it for me, but I haven't ever had less than a great time listening to Mr. Picardo in the various episodes where he sings. And the opening Pon Farr operatic gem was no exception. Well, I'd add the episode where Doc and Seven sing duets was delightful also since Ms. Ryan has a lovely voice too.
Some of the nitpicks people added don't make sense to me since it's a comedy that works. And that's what entertainment is about. ...Nice touch indeed! lol
Fri, Feb 9, 2018, 10:19pm (UTC -5)
Wow, I'm a bit surprised at the overwhelmingly positive reactions to this episode. Even highly-acclaimed episodes like BoBW or "Pale Moonlight" seemed to have a higher ratio of critical comments.

I consider myself generous when it comes to my overall feelings toward every series; I perhaps tend to like more episodes than most. This one though, just didn't sit well with me.

I get that its supposed to be a comedic episode, but the humor, while mildly clever at times, just felt too juvenile, even for the context. I generally enjoy the character of the Doctor and Picardo definitely brings an infectious spunk to the part, but to have fantasies where women swoon and fight over him--moreover, the same women he has known and worked closest with--made me appreciate his character less.

Some have compared this episode to "Hollow Pursuits", and while it is conceptually similar, I feel the former makes more sense story-wise. Barclay (who is making his first appearance in an episode) is an introverted outcast who uses the holodeck as an escape, a place where he can be someone different. His fantasized superiority over the characters he interacts with stems from the inferiority he feels around them in reality. This is much more sympathetic and relatable than what occurs with the Doctor, who is already well-known and respected among the senior staff and uses his daydreams as a way to reap the benefits of meeting the potential he thinks he can reach. While there is nothing wrong with believing you can be and wanting to be more than you are, there is a better way to go about achieving it than what he does: pouting about not going on an away mission and complaining about how he is underutilized.

The whole idea of the ECH was just too absurd for me to take seriously OR humorously. Not only did it smack of the Doctor becoming the later-season, do-it-all Steve Urkel of the show as some have mentioned, it flies in the face of everything we've learned about command structure in Star Trek. It takes a special kind of experience to be in command and there is always a clear, pre-established succession based on rank on every ship, e.g. Janeway to Chakotay to Tuvok to Paris to Kim. I'm reminded of a scene in DS9 that has Nog talking about commanding the Defiant and O'Brien quipping something along the lines of "if you were in command, there would be no one else left."

Yet, when the idea of the Doctor actually commanding the ship is brought to Janeway and Chakotay, they seem to thoughtfully consider it, even to the point where Janeway is consulting the Starfleet handbook for regulations on the subject. Shouldn't he take some sort of class first, or at least take the same test Troi did in "Thine Own Self"? Actually, he kind if already did something similar in "Latent Image" and it almost caused his program to crash. Seems like he has a ways to go before he earns those holographic pips.

Maybe I'm being too cynical, but this episode just didn't make sense on too many levels and kept it from being entertaining for me.
Thu, Apr 12, 2018, 12:52am (UTC -5)
Is it funny? Yes. Still, I do not like the character of the doctor. And although Picardo does act great I get a feeling that his own ambition has a part in this. Seven / Ryan who, except whit her bodily appearance, acts with understatements is the complete contradiction.

With the doctor it always gets to much . Mostly just over the limit but in the long term it runs over. I understand that many likes him because of his good acting . He is also very funny.

Even if it is far away from the level of ds9 , Troubble with Tribbles it is a good peace of Trek comedy .
Fri, Jul 6, 2018, 4:11pm (UTC -5)
I am re-watching STVOY for the first time since 2003. 15 years after and still this is an amazingly funny episode.
Last chance to be a hero Doctor, get going!
Just love it!
Wed, Nov 21, 2018, 4:12pm (UTC -5)
In the opening scene, a field of stars is shown. Is there a word spelled out? I can’t quite make it out. Doctor? Hero?
Sean Hagins
Fri, Nov 30, 2018, 1:29am (UTC -5)
A funny episode. Reminds me of the Secret Life of Walter Mitty-one of the few movies that I enjoyed both the original (with Danny Kaye) and remake (with Ben Stiller)
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
I loved this episode! Actually, any of the Doctor centric episodes are a hit with me, and this one had so many hilarious moments in it. Clearly, Seven and the Doctor are two of the best characters in all Star Trek!
Fri, Aug 16, 2019, 8:35pm (UTC -5)
Just one more thing....

This episode may win the prize for the worst looking bad-guy aliens.
They looked comparable to some 1960's episodes of Doctor Who.
Thu, Dec 5, 2019, 11:59pm (UTC -5)
A fine-tuned comic delight, chock full of delicious details and delightful character turns. You couldn’t take your eyes off the screen for fear of missing something.

Voyager does loopy comedy amazingly well. I was entertained from git to go.
Cody B
Tue, Apr 14, 2020, 10:11am (UTC -5)
Yeah this is a good one here. The moments that particularly got a smile out of me were Tuvok weeping at the doctors singing, the doctor saying the ship would be taken over “over his dead program”, and the nervous doctor waving friendly once the communications were open while he was supposed to be a stern captain. Add this one to the list of must watch Voyager episodes. Probably even Trek episodes in general.
Wed, Apr 22, 2020, 10:54pm (UTC -5)
I can't say I'm as enthusiastic as everyone else seems to be for this one, though I do think it picks up as it goes on and develops into a rather nice little Doctor story. It's just... those early daydream sequences with all the women swooning over Doc had me rolling my eyes, sorry! Even with the justification that it's only a fantasy, it just strikes me as an odd bit of characterisation that had me at odds with the episode, right up until the Borg sequence where it all started clicking into place. There's a lot of strong notes here, particularly in Doc's embarrassment over his crewmates seeing his fantasies. I do, however, have to agree with Wilshire wrt the Barclay angle making more sense it does coming from the ship's chief medical officer, regardless of whether he's felt disrespected as of late. Especially since he has much closer working relationships with Janeway, Torres and Seven than Barclay did with Troi. I can't help the feeling that the dynamics just feel off in a way that they didn't back in Hollow Pursuits. All that said, there's still a lot of poignancy to Doc's simple wish to be more respected and yes, those aliens are a lot of fun.
Kevin Cutshall
Sun, Oct 4, 2020, 5:25pm (UTC -5)
I didn't want this episode to end. It's rare that i say that for a Voyager episode.
Sat, Nov 28, 2020, 2:26pm (UTC -5)
Not just a fun episode but - as someone who daydreams A LOT - a relatable one.
JJ not Abrams 8-)
Wed, Dec 9, 2020, 11:52pm (UTC -5)
It is 2020 and we all could use The Doctor's help.

Probably just as well that the Photonic Cannon hasn't
been invented yet.
Kevin McNamara
Fri, Feb 5, 2021, 5:32pm (UTC -5)
I don't care if I've said it before, one or a number of times; I detest Robert Picardo's pantomime singing. It's the idea that there are people that think it is somehow good that riles me the most.
Tue, Mar 2, 2021, 8:46am (UTC -5)
I think I liked The Doctor better when he had terrible bedside manner. It's a fun episode but here is where the character starts to get annoying to me.

He's like a kid genius. He has all the answers so he thinks he can handle real life situations but lacks the emotional maturity. Which is why I don't understand why Janeway even considers his ECH request. One flick of a button turns off his ethical subroutines. Captains sometimes have to order someone to their death (indirectly) or kill to protect the ship. The Doctor wouldn't be able to do that without having a breakdown. So much could go wrong.

The daydreams themselves were entertaining. Of course all the women are fighting over him. When he had to actually pretend to be captain was hilarious! Him improvising and Janeway rubbing her temples visibly annoyed with him.

Although he could've just went to the holodeck if he wanted to live out a fantasy world instead of making himself drift off at times he should be paying attention.
Wed, May 12, 2021, 9:05pm (UTC -5)
I feel like an alien right now but for me every single Doctor's fantasy aside from one when Janeway sees his speech was cringe/second hand embarrassment inducing. Not funny at all. ** for scenes without fantasy.
Michael Miller
Wed, Nov 24, 2021, 12:36pm (UTC -5)
LOL that doctor should make sure his HOLOdick is set on "Can't pass through matter" mode before he puts it in Janeway's rear end 🤣
Sun, Jan 2, 2022, 7:05pm (UTC -5)
Did Mulgrew not want Picardo to touch her ass? You can see it’s Mulgrew when she turns her back on him and he starts sliding his hand down her back. When it reaches her lower back, the angle changes and you see Picardo fondling the behind of a woman in a Starfleet uniform whom you see from only the shoulders down. The Memory Alpha article for this episode lists a "stand-in" and a "photo double," but they’re both acting as Jeri Ryan.

The look on Paris's face at that point is hilarious.
Fri, Mar 25, 2022, 1:27am (UTC -5)
This is my all time favorite episodes. I've admitted many times that Voyager is my least favorite classic trek series and that it's the Doctor (Robert Picardo) that is it's major saving grace., And it's truly magnificent theme song as well.
Anyways....the part where he becomes the "ECH" is the most genuinely uproariously funny sequence I've ever seen on any trek series (quark explaining dgors financial manipulation to Gowron in Ds9 "house of Quark" is very close tho). When those pips appear on his's absolutely pure genius. Voyager was so fortunate to have Robert Picardo
Wed, Apr 20, 2022, 2:40pm (UTC -5)
"Warp core breach sooner than you think."
had to point this one out yet again.
Sun, Jul 24, 2022, 10:50pm (UTC -5)
GUYS CAN YOU.CONFIRM is. This episode.really.derivative at the end of.the Corbomite maneuver ??
.isnt that episode very if.not entirely different? Isnt the only similarly they both involve.a type of.bluff but doesn't the similarity end there??
Mon, Jul 25, 2022, 10:38am (UTC -5)
Yeah, The plots of both episodes are totally different. I don't see a lot in common between the two episodes other than the bluffing aspect. I don't think the bluffs are all that similar for that matter either. The Doctor bluffs that he has a secret weapon that he will use offensively, while Kirk claims to have a substance onboard that will destroy his ship and the First Federation ship in Balok destroys the Enterprise. A defensive bluff.

I may be misremembering the Corbomite Maneuver. It's not a favorite of mine but that's how I remember it playing out.
Wed, Sep 28, 2022, 4:58pm (UTC -5)
One of my favorite episodes, hilarious and moving at the same time. Picardo is brilliant!
Mon, Mar 20, 2023, 6:22am (UTC -5)
Absolutely ridiculous episode with more cringes than laughs
“The plot is an exercise in simplicity” my ass, this show has more holes than your average Lower Decks episode
Fri, Apr 7, 2023, 1:28pm (UTC -5)
I credit the best line of the episode to Majel Barrett as the computer:
"Warning. Warp core breach a lot sooner than you think."
Fri, Jun 16, 2023, 5:39pm (UTC -5)
A true laugh-out-loud episode.

Some comments have drawn parallels to "The Corbomite Maneuver" but there's also "The Emissary" in TNG episode in which Worf (Michael Dorn) and K'Ehleyr (Suzie Plaxson) take the Captain's and First Officer's chairs on the bridge to convince some out-of-time Klingons that things have changed. I think that's a stronger parallel.

I appreciate when an episode approaches all of the preposterousness of Trek (and it is all preposterous but can be moving, fun, dramatic, challenging, and everything in between) and uses it to tell a good story. This is a good story.

The execution by Picardo, Ryan, and the rest of the crew is top notch. These are all theater kids who grew up to be able to play make believe as adults with an considerable budget to support their acting. It's common for the Trek shows and others (think "Superstar" of Buffy, The Vampire Slayer) to draw upon the talents of their actors to do "alternative character takes." It's just the range they have as professional dramatis personae.

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