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The Doctor joins the Monsters of Opera tour.
Jump straight to the Analysis
Captain's Log, Stardate 53556.4: we've towed a damaged vessel aboard and are attempting to repair it while the Doctor treats the Qomarian crew who have suffered minor injuries.
The Doctor has his hands full in Sickbay. Four Qomar are here, each dressed in robes of a different solid color. The two who do all of the talking wear a thin silver cord draped over their left shoulder.
The obligatory Alien Physical Distinction of the Week focuses on the bridge of the nose, which works its way up to mid-forehead. It looks similar to subcutaneous cockroaches, antennae and all, attempting to burrow their way free through the aliens' nostrils.
Oh--and they're short. Real short. Not dwarves or midgets or Little People or whatever term is in vogue these days, just--short.
Oh. And far, far too full of themselves.
If you remember Mr. Peterman from Seinfeld, the guy Doc is treating now could easily be his Mini-Me. Until he opens his mouth, anyway.
"Stay away!" the silver-haired male with black eyebrows demands nasally, squirming as Doc tries in vain to treat the blister wound on his forehead.
"If you don't cooperate, I can't treat you!" Doc gripes.
The alien fidgets. "When we agreed to be examined by this ship's medical officer, we didn't know that you were a primitive computer matrix." For a little guy, he's got pomposity to burn.
But so has the Doc, and his hackles are rising. "I assure you there is nothing primitive about me." The alien just grunts indignantly as his three compatriots--two women and a male--watch from the far end of the room.
Doc, sensing that their smug, superior attitude is a match for even his legendary smug, superior attitude, takes umbrage. "I am programmed to perform more than five million medical procedures!"
"Does that include bloodletting?" mini-Peterman whines.
Doc growls. "No, but I'll be happy to add it to my repertoire." He walks away before he says something he'll really regret.
The female with the silver sash walks over to the Doctor, and talks to him the way Chris Tucker talked to Jackie Chan in Rush Hour--loud, slow, and thoroughly insulting. ("Do yooooou unnerstand the wooooords that are comin outta my moooouuutthh?") She gesticulates wildly enough to land aircraft. "We (points to herself) are reeeeeady, to retuuuuuurn (points to the door), to our (big hand gesture) shiiiiip. Could you (picks up invisible phone) contact one of your (pantomimes kissing a very large buttock) superiors?"
Doc swallows his bile long enough to hail Janeway. On her way, she says. Doc looks down on the mocha-skinned beauty with the Forrest Gump delivery and returns tit for tat--slow, loud, and over-exaggerated.
"The Captain (he does a crisp Zieg Heil) is coming (fakes running in place) here (points at his shoes) now. If you (points at her) want to talk (makes a quacking-duck shadow puppet) to her, you (points) can have a (gestures at his left buttock) seat." His tirade concluded, Doc stalks off.
"It, is a very, irritating, program," the woman says to the silver-haired male in the same condescending way. Hmmm--maybe the Universal Translator is at fault. That, or she took acting lessons from last week's guest stars.
"Maybe we can disable its speech subroutines," the male suggests, moving his bug eyes left and right like Marty Feldman after too many double-espressos, or an Oompa Loompah on angel dust. They head for the computer terminal, but Doc--who overhears this outrage--warns them to back off.
Janeway arrives just then, looking cheerful--finally, someone on board is shorter than she is-- but on her guard. "How are our guests?" she asks.
Doc sighs, and mutters his report under his breath. "Their injuries are minor. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for their lack of manners."
"Doctor!" Janeway hisses.
"What is the status of our ship?" Mini-Peterman asks in the most annoying way possible.
"To be honest, we're having a little trouble understanding your technology," Janeway says.
"The problem is your technology!" he whines. "Interference from your antiquated scanning devices shut down our propulsion system!" Well, at least the Qomar are equal-opportunity offenders.
The female notices Janeway's hair beginning to brighten--a clear sign of danger--and rushes in to apologize. "Forgive us, Captain," she says, with the same please-smack-me tone. "We live in a closed system. We are not accustomed to interacting with other species--especially inferior ones."
Janeway reacts a bit better than Doc, but not much. She puts on a Smile Therapy grin, but her voice drips acid. "Well, then . . . I guess we'll leave the repairs in your--superior hands."
"Our injuries will have to be treated first," the male insists. "Is there someone other than this--hologram who could help us?"
I think Randy Newman had these folks in mind when he wrote "Short People."
Janeway's grin is feral. "No one who's better qualified."
Janeway sneers. "Try to bear with our deficiencies just a little longer," she purrs. Offering Doc a silent command to do his worst, the captain heads back to the bridge.
Doc sighs. "This way, please." He gestures the two talkers toward one part of Sickbay, then heads the other way to prepare a hypospray. He begins to hum while he works.
If last year was the Year of the T-Shirt, this is the Year of the Gratuitous Musical Number.
Then something odd happens. The aliens, hearing the hummed tune perk up and whip their smug little heads toward the Doctor like grazing deer hearing the cracking report of rifle fire.
Four jaws drop in unison when the Doctor starts singing. "I've been working on the railroad, all the livelong day . . . I've been working on the railroad, just to pass the time away . . . "
The aliens walk toward the Doctor like rats to the Pied Piper. Doc doesn't notice them until the old man asks, with rare politeness, "What is that?"
Doc is caught off-guard. He looks at what's in his hand. "This? A hypospray."
"No. What you were doing." The four wide-eyed faces look up to him like synchronized Yorkies begging for Snausages.
"Preparing your medication?" Doc says, guessing.
"No," the woman says. "With your voice."
Doc blinks. Blinks again. Consults the ceiling, where all such answers reside. "You mean . . . singing?"
The four aliens begin nodding, as though the word means something--or not, but they're busy committing it to memory. The woman smiles. "Singing," she repeats, as though it was the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything.
"Do it again!" the old man pleads.
"Yes, do it again!" the woman urges.
The other two nod their heads in agreement.
Let's just say that when it comes to performing, you don't have to ask Doc twice.
The fools have no idea what horrors of hubris they've just unleashed on the galaxy.
* * *
By the time the commercials end, Doc is really warming up to his captive audience. He's regaling them with "Someone's in the Kitchen with Dinah," using the whole Sickbay as his stage as the aliens pay rapt attention.
"It is a unique mathematical variation!" the woman says.
"Difficult to quantify," the man agrees.
"How do you suppose the algorithms are generated?"
"Maybe it's a fractal."
"Or wave-form calculus!" the woman suggests excitedly.
Doc is surprised by the exchange. "Do you mean to say a culture as superior as yours has never heard music of any kind?"
The aliens perk up even more. "There are other kinds of music?"
"Of course! The little ditty I just sang is an early American folk song. But countless cultures have produced thousands of types of music. Instrumental, choral, orchestral--"
"What is the purpose of this 'music'?" the man asks. "Is it an encryption code of some kind?"
Doc sighs. "There is a mathematical component to music, but--primarily it's a form of artistic expression." The newcomers stare at him blankly. Doc tries again. "Using sounds and images to convey ideas and emotions."
"Why would anyone do that?" the man asks, confused.
"Well . . . to . . . communicate their feelings."
"Can't they do that through speech?" the man asks.
"Yes," Doc admits, "but music is much more . . . expressive and entertaining."
The woman takes over. "You mean to say that this 'music' is . . . recreational?"
Doc sighs again. "It does have other applications. As a matter of fact, I've recently been doing some research into its therapeutic properties. But . . . yes, primarily we use it for . . . enjoyment."
"'We'? You mean to say others aboard your ship are capable of producing this phenomenon?" Yes, the Doc admits--though none as well as himself.
The woman turns to the man. "Maybe we judged this culture too quickly." Doc, pleased to have made a diplomatic breakthrough, offers them access to the ship's musical database.
The four seem interested in that. But on one condition. "Could you sing them for us?" the woman asks.
Weeks before The Rock is scheduled to appear, the Doc steals one of his signature moves.
The People's Eyebrow rises. The grin spreads.
Finally! . . . The Doc . . . Has returned . . . To Qomar . . . !
[cough] Sorry, folks. Been watching a little too much WWF Smackdown lately. Gotta get ready for February 9th. Kumite, or whatever it's called.
Captain's Log, Supplemental: the Qomar have completed repairs to their ship and, surprisingly, have invited us to visit their system. Apparently, it's no longer 'closed' to outsiders.
Voyager flies into some of the busiest space we've seen this side of Utopia Planetia. Ships and satellites and space station congest the sky like rush hour traffic.
Janeway turns away from the viewscreen and addresses Ops. "Harry, can you make sense of any of this?"
"We're picking up thousands of subspace transmissions--all encrypted differently," Harry says, struggling to keep up.
"Between the satellites and the spacecraft it's like navigating an obstacle course," Tom says. He seems to enjoy the challenge.
"With all this traffic, the Qomar might not even know we're here," Chakotay muses.
"Apparently, they do," Tuvok says. "We are being hailed."
We see the woman from Sickbay, who is finally given a name: "Tincoo." She stands beside a guy in a snow-white robe. "Captain, you now have the privilege of meeting Prelate Koru," Tincoo says grandly.
Koru, a giant among Lilliputians, bears a striking resemblance to Paul Williams of Phantom of the Paradise, er, fame--only with Sting's hairstyle. "Welcome to the Qomar Planetary Alliance," Koru says.
"Thank you, Prelate," Janeway says, activating the afterburners on her charm. "We're looking forward to learning more about your culture."
"Our civilization is no doubt intimidating," Koru says. "We'll do what we can to avoid overwhelming you during your stay." In addition to music, this species was born without a modesty gene.
"I--appreciate that," Janeway says. She acknowledges their technological superiority, and is willing to swallow her own pride if it might mean acquiring some of it. "I understand we're not as--advanced as you, but we're fast learners--" she says, gamely pounding her fist into her open palm, "and we'd like to--"
"We want to learn more about the algorithmic expressions you call 'music,'" the Prelate interrupts.
Janeway is surprised. "We're prepared to give you complete access to our musical database, as well as--"
"Your Emergency Medical Hologram," Koru interrupts again. "We'd consider an exchange of technology, if you give us complete access to this device." It would seem the Qomar are intrigued by Starfleet's most advanced sentient jukebox. Janeway offers them some of Doc's recordings, but the Prelate wants the real deal.
Janeway looks at Chakotay in a silent plea for help, but then she gets an idea. She suggests they have a recital. "A live performance. We can put together a program of various styles of music."
"Uh, will the Emergency Medical Hologram sing?"
Janeway beams. "He'll be the star attraction," the captain promises.
Where there's Neelix, there's a party. Faster than you can say Hey, it's Enrico Palazzo!, the recital is in full swing.
If you recall "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy," it's an odd bit of déjà vu. There's the EMH--Egocentric Musical Hologram--doing a moderately-acceptable lip-sync of an aria from Verdi's opera, Don Carlos. I'm not what you'd call an opera buff--I kick it Old School with Old Dirty Mozart and Bach Turner Overdrive. But if I'm not mistaken, this selection is Verdi's "Dio, che nell'alma infondere amor." (Yes, I had to look it up.)
Which is ironic, because it's a duet--and Doc's going solo.
It's an amiable if not impassioned performance. The crew, who has heard Doc's singing before, is polite. The Qomar are more than polite--they're completely sucked in, seduced by the performance of the EMH Formerly Known as Antiquated.
The song ends. The crew claps--and the aliens follow suit, enthusiastically if not skillfully. It's easy to see why this species has never known music--they were born without rhythm.
But hey, it's their first time. Doc absorbs the applause like a photonic sponge. "Thank you. You're very kind. That was a selection from the opera Don Carlos, composed by Giuseppe Verdi--a towering figure in Earth's musical history."
More applause. The aliens catch on fast, though they clap a bit too long.
Doc preens. "Another human musical form is called 'jazz,' which has flourished since the early 20th century. Mathematically, you'll find the rhythmic structures quite interesting--particularly the use of syncopation, which is said to make the music swing."
The aliens chatter quietly to each other, eager to see what comes next.
Doc has found his audience, and he warms to them quickly. "You may also notice some fascinating trigonometric functions in the counterpoint--but I suppose I'm going off on a tangent, aren't I?" Doc chuckles at his own little joke.
Oh, baby. Math jokes--I can't get enough of 'em. Hey, baby, what's yer sine? My diary says this is our dance, so let's log a rhythm . . .
The crew groans. Tom Paris rolls his eyes. (By the way, where's B'Elanna?)
The Qomar, however, guffaw. Math jokes are the key to this species' algorithm-loving hearts. The blonde next to Tom gets this dreamy half-lidded swooning look, and distractedly licks her lips in slow motion. And she's not the only one.
Doc's on his way to becoming a phenomenon.
"So, without further ado," Doc says, "I give you Harry Kim! And the Kimtones!"
Harry enters with his clarinet. His backup band takes their places at the drums, stand-up bass and keyboard. They play a leisurely version of "That Old Black Magic."
The crew relaxes a bit--this is more their speed. Janeway's toes begin tapping. In the back of the room, a beachball is tossed toward the ceiling. Neelix is hefted over the heads of the crowd, and he surfs his way toward the front--
But the Qomar fidget. Koru, the Sting-haired Paul Williams prelate, leans over and whispers to mini-Peterman, who is apparently the people's spokesman--because he has the loudest, most obnoxious voice. "We wish to hear the Doctor!"
Tincoo, the woman from Sickbay, concurs. "We want the Doctor!" Soon the whole lot of Qomar are catcalling.
Man. One bad act and it's Showtime at the Apollo.
Paris notices his date is getting ready to bolt; he leans forward and whispers to Doc, "They're dying up there! You've got to do something!"
So Doc leaps in and saves the day.
Hmmm. Maybe this IS another daydream.
But no, it's for real. "Pick up the tempo," Doc orders. Leaping forward to front the band, Doc provides the vocals.
That old black magic has me in its spell
That old black magic that you weave so well
Those icy fingers up and down my spine
The same old witchcraft when your eyes meet mine
The same old tingle that I feel inside
And then, that elevator starts its ride
And down and down I go
'Round and 'round I go
Like a leaf that's caught in the tide . . .
Now it's the Prelate and the alien guests who are tapping their toes, swinging more or less to the rhythm, and sighing contentedly.
Tom shakes his head sadly. Superior species, my foot.
But Doc is having the time of his life.
* * *
There's a reception after the recital. Mini-Peterman stands between the twin redwoods of Starfleet, Chakotay and Paris.
"Well, if you like jazz, you're going to love rock 'n' roll," Tom assures the Qomar. "It was one of the 20th century's greatest inventions."
"Does the Doctor sing rock 'n' roll?" he asks haughtily.
Chakotay smirks. "I wouldn't say it's his favorite genre."
"No, he's more of an opera man," Tom agrees.
Mini-Peterman looks up at the two humans and nods sagely. "As, am, I," he drawls, then moves away to look down on someone his own size.
Meanwhile, the woman seated next to Tom at the recital approaches Harry Kim. "Aren't you one of the musicians?" she asks breathlessly.
You can actually hear Harry blink--ka-CHINNG! "Uh . . . Harry Kim," Harry says, extending his hand.
"Vinka," the Swedish-sounding blonde says, batting her baby blues.
Harry smiles. "Welcome aboard Voyager. Um, if you'd like to see the rest of the ship I'd be happy to give you a tour."
"Maybe later. I was wondering if you could introduce me to the Doctor."
You can actually hear Harry's jaw drop--ker-PLUNNK!
Poor dude. But he should look on the bright side--Vinka didn't even talk to the bass player.
Elsewhere, we see Janeway mingling her way toward the Doctor. "Congratulations, Doctor, you stole the show!"
"Thank you, Captain," Doc says grandly, "but I can't take all the credit. There was something in the air--a certain . . . magic. It was one of those rare moments when audience and performer become one."
The Prelate and Tincoo approach. "I will introduce your singing to more of our people," the Prelate assures the Doctor.
"I'm flattered!" Doc says.
"You will perform on our planet." It's not a request.
Doc doesn't quite know what to say--the Prelate is being a bit rude by completely ignoring the captain. Doc smiles awkwardly. "You'll have to negotiate the terms with my . . . representative," he says, nodding nervously toward the captain.
Janeway glowers at the Doctor. Fun is fun, but he's pushing it.
"I don't understand," the Prelate says.
"I believe the Doctor is referring to me, Prelate," says Janeway. "Another concert would mean extending our stay. When would you want to schedule the performance?" As soon as possible, he says.
"The Doctor could perform in one of the lecture halls at the university," Tincoo says. She seems to be sprinting away from her original opinion of the EMH as "an irritating program."
Janeway would probably tell her she was right the first time.
Doc hedges a bit as his ego writes checks his rank can't cash. "I'm not sure a lecture hall would meet the--acoustic requirements."
"I will help you make whatever modifications you think are necessary," Tincoo assures him.
Janeway claps Doc on the shoulder. "Sounds like you've got yourself a booking, Doctor." She smiles at him for the Qomar--but when she casts another his way a moment later, the photons on the back of his neck burst into flame.
In Engineering, the Doctor and Tincoo work with B'Elanna Torres to plan his planetary concert. There's an image displayed on a monitor. "I'd like to reproduce a backdrop which was used in a production of Pagliacci at Teatro de la Scala--Earth's most famous opera house."
"It's beautiful!" says Tincoo.
Doc struts like a peacock. "Your taste in design is as refined as your taste in music." She promises to replicate it for him. "Excellent! But we still have the problem with the sight lines."
Torres groans. "What's wrong with the sight lines?"
Doc gives her a long-suffering look. "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!"
"You're right," Torres says through gritted teeth. "They won't be able to see anything but the top of your head. The glare could blind them!" Torres returns to her real work--keeping the engines tuned.
Doc glares at the engineer, then turns to Tincoo. "You'll have to excuse Lieutenant Torres. Her appreciation of music is limited to a smattering of Klingon drinking songs." He says the last too loudly for Torres to miss; she glowers right back.
"We'll have to increase the rake of the floor by five degrees," Doc says.
"You really think they're going to redesign an entire building just to appeal to your vanity?" Torres demands.
"Vanity has nothing to do with it, Lieutenant!" Doc insists. "I'm concerned about my audience."
"We are prepared to make whatever changes the Doctor thinks are necessary," Tincoo insists. She seems quite taken with Doc at the moment.
The feeling is mutual. "Thank you, Tincoo," says Doc, deeply touched.
Doc remembers one more detail. "While we're at it, Lieutenant, I'll need some help with my wardrobe."
B'Elanna rolls her eyes. "I'm an engineer, not a costume designer." Snicker.
Doc ignores her. "I'd like you to make an adjustment to my mobile emitter that would allow me to make quick changes between songs." Tincoo loves the idea: That sounds exciting! "Oh, it will be. I plan to segue from Don Juan to Rigoletto in the blink of an eye! It will be a triumph of--"
"Arrogance and self-absorption?" Torres asks, too loudly for Doc to ignore. Doc glares. Torres shrugs. "Just trying to help." With that parting shot still ringing, Torres moves out of range.
Her comment drew blood, and Tincoo--hardly a model of tact herself--picks up on it. "Your crewmates don't seem to appreciate your abilities."
"You've noticed that, too," Doc says quietly.
"That must be very frustrating for you."
Doc swallows hard. "You have no idea."
We get a quick postcard of the Qomar planet's surface, a modern enough cityscape, but nothing too special--aside from the large Willy Wonka memorial in the center square.
Tincoo joins the Doctor behind a large curtain. Doc is pacing nervously.
"We'll be starting in two minutes," Tincoo tells him.
"I'd better get into costume," Doc says. He taps his emitter, and--voila! The sad clown of life from "I Pagliacci," right down to the tall pointy hat. "How do I look?" he asks.
"You look perfect."
Doc dares a look through the curtain, and sees the audience. It's standing room only out there. He almost turns as chalky white as his clown suit. "I wish I had a subroutine to eliminate pre-show jitters," he mutters, starting to pace again.
"I could help you add one to your program," Tincoo says. She'd do it, too.
"You're very sweet," Doc says sincerely. "I'm just a little . . . nervous." Why? she asks. "I'm about to expose your entire culture to music for the first time! The responsibility is . . . enormous!"
One wonders how he fared last week, in "Blink of an Eye," when he was singing arias to the Sky Ship to packed houses--when he was supposed to be lying low.
"Your performance tonight will be transmitted to hundreds of millions of people," Tincoo says proudly.
Doc yawns in Technicolor. The photons don't leave a messy residue, but it is quite a sight. "Is that supposed to help me relax?"
The theater lights go out. Tincoo just pats him down and smiles encouragingly. "It's time." She walks off to the side of the stage, leaving Doc alone to face the world.
The curtain rises. The spotlights strike their target. Doc steps forward tentatively.
The applause from the Qomar are light at first, but grow gradually louder. Then, before he's sung a note, he gets a standing ovation--to the amazement of his Voyager colleagues, who are the last to rise.
The Doctor begins, finally, to relax and enjoy the moment.
To quote the P-Funk all star himself, George Clinton: "Free your mind, and your ass will follow."
Just be careful not to let the ass take the lead.
* * *
The bridge darkens as Red Alert goes live--to the surprise of everyone on the bridge.
"Report!" Janeway orders, running out of her ready room.
"I didn't order a red alert, Captain," Harry swears.
"Well, someone did."
Harry tracks down the source. "The command originated in . . . Astrometrics."
Speak of the devil . . . "Seven of Nine to the Captain. I've found evidence that the Qomar are attempting to sabotage Voyager."
Janeway looks up from the Ops terminal, shocked. "On my way."
"What have you got?" Janeway asks as she enters Astrometrics.
Seven is hard at work on the emergency. "I believe the Qomar are attempting to disable our com system," Seven says, moving from a wall panel to the main terminal in the center of the room. How? Janeway asks. "By overloading it with millions of teraquads irrelevant data," Seven explains.
Janeway is confused. "What do you mean by 'irrelevant'?"
Seven demonstrates. She pulls up a few thousand examples on the big screen.
Janeway frowns. "They're transmissions . . . all addressed to the Doctor."
"Precisely. I've only been able to decipher a small fraction of them so far--but they include invitations to social and scientific functions, requests for personal encounters, and cloying tributes to the Doctor's talents."
By the time Seven finishes her explanation, Janeway is on the verge of a stop, drop, and ROFL (rolling on floor, laughing.) "Computer, stand down red alert," she says.
"This isn't sabotage, Seven. This is fan mail." Seven is unfamiliar with the term. "People who admire performers are called 'fans,'" Janeway explains.
Seven thinks. "The word, I believe, derives from 'fanatic.'" Exactly, Janeway says.
[Okay, show of hands, people--when you first heard this, how many of you mooned the screen and screamed, "Derive THIS!"
Wow. I feel a great disturbance in the Force . . . ]
"Why would the Doctor inspire fanaticism among the Qomar?" Seven asks.
Janeway shrugs. "Music is new to them. Clearly, they're very excited about it."
"This glorification of the individual is irrational," Seven declares. "The Doctor is merely reproducing the work of others. Why do his fans fixate solely on him?"
Yeah, that's a good question. It's not like the Doctor helped Verdi write those songs. The crew could just as easily have whipped up a holo-Verdi and showcased the original.
All the Doctor is doing, after all, is taking someone else's hard work and adding his own spin for self-glorification--as though he had simply grabbed an episode transcript from the TV and loaded it down with tortured prose, amateurish song parodies, adverb abuse and pop-culture cliches, and passed it off as his--
Um . . .
"I suppose he's the embodiment of what they admire. He can do something they can't, and that makes him special."
"Perhaps, but that doesn't explain their interest in the minutiae of the Doctor's life," Seven says, mildly disgusted. She reads some of them aloud: "'What does he do in his spare time?' 'To how many decimal places can he calculate Pi?' This one wants to know his favorite quadratic equation."
Janeway snickers. "People have always fantasized about knowing celebrities personally. I suppose it's a way of making themselves feel more important."
Oh, man, I can so relate. The only problem is, the only celebrities I've met aren't all that famous these days. A couple of Osmonds (in Utah, they're everywhere), a few comics you may have heard of (Gallagher's brother?), a star of WKRP in Cincinnati--and I don't mean Loni Anderson. One of my brushes with fame was spending a Christmas Eve with Weird Al Yankovic's 8th grade science teacher. Half of my freshman class was featured in Footloose. I flirted with 1984's Miss America . . . in 1982. I was once in the same kosher deli with Pauly Shore.
It's sad, really. Don't even ask about me and Vanilla Ice.
For the record, Weird Al knows Pi out to 27 decimal places. He kicked hiney on the Math portion of his SATs.
But I digress.
Janeway's reverie is interrupted by a call from Tuvok. "We have a security problem on deck two."
"On my way," Janeway says, heading for the door. But she stops a few meters away, turns around, and addresses her favorite drone. "Just think, Seven. As personal friends of the Doctor, we're the envy of millions of Qomar." With that, she turns back toward the door and glides regally into the corridor.
Seven of Nine doesn't find the humor in the situation. Not at all.
The corridors are filled with chatting, giddy Qomar. Young and old, male and female, striped upper-crust and humble proletariat, the aliens are thrilled to be on the same deck as the Incredible Opera Singing Hologram.
"Our efforts to accommodate them have gotten out of hand," Tuvok says, unhappy with all the corridor congestion.
"I guess their interest in the Doctor is greater than we expected," Janeway says, casting a particularly concerned look in the direction of three aliens who have cut their hair short, dyed it black and put on Chrome-Dome wigs, all in an effort to look more like The Doctor.
Speaking of my recent Willy Wonka kick, here's an odd bit of synchronicity. A friend informs me that the Doc wannabe in the center of the trio is played by "Paris Themmen, who played Mike TeeVee" in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
"Much greater," Tuvok agrees.
The Qomar regard Janeway and Tuvok, and the other Starfleet crew, with giddy delight. Sure enough, just by knowing the Doctor, the crew has become Famous By Association.
"I recommend we refuse all further requests for transport from the surface." Agreed, Janeway says. "And we should evacuate these visitors immediately. They're interfering with normal ship's functions," Tuvok adds.
Janeway isn't quite so sure about that one. "Tuvok, when have functions aboard this ship ever been normal?"
Hey, she said it, not me.
We see the Doctor singing his little heart out. "Dio, Che Nell'alma Infondere Amor . . . "
And I do mean little. This isn't Doc. It's Mini Me! It's a holographic Singing Doc Action Figure, belting out Verdi just like the real thing!
How do we know? Because the real Doctor's head, taller by half than the animated figurine, pops into the picture.
He joins in the song. The solo becomes the duet it was meant to be.
Oh, did I mention that Doc is wearing a silk bathrobe with flared collars? Someone has been reading his own P.R.
When the song concludes, the mess hall--filled with waiting throngs of fans--bursts into applause.
"Thank you for coming," Doc says, taking a bow. He deactivates the autograph and hands it to the woman at the head of the line. "Please accept this 8 x 10 x 4 singing replica of me."
Neelix dutifully keeps the crowd in line. This is what Janeway sees when she enters--and she's not amused.
"Captain! Isn't this exciting?"
"I'm not sure that's the word I'd use for it," Janeway says, her voice down an octave--a sure sign that someone is about to die. She pushes her way through the crowd to the front.
Doc is in a giddy mood. "I'm sorry, Captain, but you'll have to wait your turn like everybody else." Oh, dude--wrong answer.
"I'm not here for an autograph. We need to talk." Doc reluctantly rises from the table and follows the captain a discreet distance away from the crowd. "I'm glad you're enjoying yourself, Doctor, but this is getting a little excessive," Janeway says.
"I'm only doing what I can to ensure that First Contact with the Qomar goes smoothly!" Doc insists.
"Does that include using our replicator reserves to create miniaturized versions of yourself?" Janeway drawls.
"I would never do such a thing!" Doc says hastily. Then he grins. "As a matter of fact, the Qomar have devoted an entire holo processing plant to manufacturing them for me."
"I see," says Janeway, as though that changed everything, which of course it doesn't. "Well, in any case, you've been neglecting your Sickbay duties. I haven't received a report in three days."
Doc laughs it off. "Oh, come now, Kathryn. It's not as though there's been a flood of medical emergencies . . . "
Janeway's not laughing. Her voice is colder than permafrost. "I wasn't aware we were on a first name basis."
Danger Will Robinson!
Doc's eyes go wide with panic. Janeway's notorious for reprogramming holograms that don't do things her way. "I-I meant 'Captain.' I'm sorry," he says, groveling.
Janeway goes all sweet on him. "Oh, that's perfectly all right, Doctor--or do you prefer 'Maestro'?"
Don't do it, Doc--it's a trick!
But he falls for it. "Please," Doc says, waving his hand in the universal gesture for Pshaw. "Either is acceptable."
Janeway grins. "Well, then, let me make it clear to both of you: Maestro, you're finished for today." Then her voice drops another octave, the smile flees, and the captain's face is a mask of absolute command. "Doctor, report to Sickbay--NOW."
Poor Doc. To get dressed up like that, only to get dressed down by a master . . .
Doc is back in uniform when he enters Sickbay. Tom Paris is here, treating the blonde he sat with at the recital, and an equally attractive brunette.
"Well, well, well," Tom says, a little annoyed--all things being equal, he'd rather be sitting in the pilot's seat. "If it isn't the wandering minstrel."
Doc accepts the comment with relative good humor. "What's the nature of their medical emergencies?" he asks pleasantly.
"Apparently, these two young ladies became dizzy and disoriented while waiting in line to see you." Tom's tone is clear--he doesn't believe the young women's story for a second.
Doc reaches for the tricorder in Tom's hand. "I'll take over from here."
Paris hands them over gladly. But he offers a parting shot. "Be careful, Doc. You seem to be hazardous to the Qomars' health." With that, Tom sprints for the corridor.
"I'm Vinka," the blonde says. How could we forget?
"I'm Azen," purrs the brunette. We won't be forgetting her anytime soon, either.
When Janeway and Seven had their little fandom discussion, they neglected to mention the phenomenon of groupies. Oh, the stories the Three Tenors could tell . . .
Doc, though, does his best to focus on work. "Hmm. Neither of you appears to be ill."
Vinka hops off the bed and invades Doc's personal space. "We wanted to meet you in a more intimate setting." Hmm. Whatever could she mean?
Azen does likewise. "So we told your security officer we were sick." The two look at him hungrily, and continue to close what little distance remains.
Doc takes the hint, and gulps. He begins to back away. "Sickbay is for medical treatment only. I'm afraid you'll have to leave."
Doctor, Doctor, tell me the news
I got a -- bad case of loving' you
Vinka advances again. "But there's so much about you we want to know."
Azen does as well. "Yes--you're a very stimulating hologram."
Just a guess--subtlety isn't the magic word this week.
"If you're here for a replica they're available in the mess hall," Doc says, looking scared, still backpedaling.
"We don't want a replica," says Azen.
"We want the full-sized version," says Vinka. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge, know what I mean, squire? Yeesh.
Doc threatens to call Security.
"I'll bet you can calculate Pi to over a thousand digits . . . " Vinka licks her teeth in slow motion. She does it rather well.
Doc runs out of room. He calls Security.
"Have you ever balanced simultaneous equations?" Asks Azen meaningfully as she and Vinka corner the helpless hologram.
Doc does the only thing he can--he tells the computer to deactivate him. His portable emitter clatters to the floor, as the two oversexed opera buffs look on with disappointment.
Tincoo finds the Doctor in the concert hall. He's pacing slowly, reading a PADD. Its contents are unknown, but he seems to find comfort here. His sickbay is no longer a sanctuary.
"Here you are!" Tincoo says.
Doc sighs. "I needed to find some peace and quiet."
"I want to show you something." Tincoo hands Doc a tablet similar to the PADD.
"You inspired me to create my own musical composition. It's based on the intersection of two fractals," Tincoo says.
Doc looks it over--and is impressed. "Tincoo, this is extraordinary!"
"I created it for you."
Doc is deeply moved. "I don't know what to say--"
"Will you sing it?" Tincoo asks.
"I'm not sure I can. It's very complex." He gives it a try, skimming over a section softly. Some he can handle, but a few notes are way the hell up there; he strains to reach them, but doesn't even come close. "The melody's lovely, but some of these notes are well beyond the human vocal range."
"You are not human," Tincoo points out.
"No, but . . . "
"I can help you reconfigure your vocal processors."
Doc smiles sadly. "I don't think there's time. My last concert's tomorrow."
Tincoo doesn't like that. "Why does it have to be your last concert?"
"Because . . . Voyager is scheduled to depart."
The Qomar never beat around the bush. Tincoo is no different. "Stay here with us."
Doc is momentarily at a loss for words. "I have responsibilities on Voyager!"
"They're a resourceful crew. I am certain they will find a way to compensate for your absence."
Doc's pride kicks in. "I'm not so sure about that. But even if they could . . . Voyager's the only life I've ever known. The crew are my friends!"
"But they don't appreciate you the way we do--you know that! You could have a new life here as a performer, surrounded by people who admire and respect your talent!"
Doc struggles to find the words. "It's very tempting, but . . . "
"By any mathematical standard, the medical care of 150 people cannot compare to the cultural enrichment of millions." The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few . . .
"You can't always explain things with an equation, Tincoo."
"What about the simplest equation of them all? One plus one." Actually, that's only an expression, not a full equation . . . but the implication is clear.
"I don't understand--" Well, maybe not 100% clear.
Tincoo approaches Doc's personal space. "The time you have been here has been the most stimulating of my life." She bats her eyes at him.
Doc smiles shyly. "I feel the same way about my time with you."
Tincoo advances yet again. "Then stay here . . . with me."
Doc smiles. Even he has to admit, it's a heck of an offer.
* * *
The captain's ready room is colder than the Ed Sullivan Theater during Dave's Top Ten List. The Doctor stands in front of Janeway's desk. The captain sits, her coffee mug beginning to frost over as the PADD she holds begins to grow icicles.
"You're resigning your commission . . . ." The PADD shatters in Janeway's grasp.
The EMH has a commission to resign?
"I've been asked to stay," Doc says bravely.
"When this all started I thought you might have a little harmless fun," the captain says, setting the remains of the PADD on the desk and folding her hands in front of her. "And that you'd be responsible enough to keep it in perspective. I can see now that I was mistaken."
"This isn't 'harmless fun' for me, Captain," Doc insists. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to realize a dream!" Which part, exactly? The singing? Being the biggest celebrity on a planet? The girl?
"What about your duty to Voyager?" Janeway whispers.
"I take that very seriously, but--"
"You're a part of this ship."
Doc stiffens. "You sound as if you're talking about a piece of equipment."
Janeway shakes her head to hide the wince. "That's not what I meant."
"Then shouldn't I be given the same respect as any flesh and blood member of this crew?" Heh. I'd say you are, Doc. Which is to say, all the respect you want--until you get on her bad side.
"Every member of this crew is expected to fulfill his obligations," Janeway says evenly.
"If Harry Kim met an alien woman on an away mission, fell in love, and decided to spend the rest of his life with her, raise a family, instead of continuing on this journey--you wouldn't stand in his way." Well, yes and no. She didn't in "Favorite Son," but Harry probably wishes she had. And in "Disease . . . "
Well, okay. In "Disease," he fell in lust and decided to spend the rest of his shift with her, get a page in the medical journals, and raise hell with interspecies protocol. Close enough.
"You're not Harry Kim. You're an Emergency Medical Hologram." Janeway drawls out the words, as though explaining to a child. Not unlike the way Tincoo did in the teaser.
And Doc doesn't react much better now. "Then you do see me as a piece of technology!"
Janeway rises from her chair and walks the room, her agitation evident. "I have given you extraordinary freedom--to explore your creativity, to go on away missions, to pursue personal relationships--but enough is enough!"
"Why?!" Doc demands. "Because you don't see me as an equal, and you never have. Admit it!"
Well, duh. Janeway's a Starfleet Captain--they doesn't see anyone as an equal.
Janeway advances. She's at the top of the stairs, so she looks down on the Doctor. "I am responsible for the medical needs of this crew," she rasps. "If I let you leave, what kind of Captain would I be?"
"Every other Starfleet officer chose to be here," Doc says, conveniently neglecting to mention all the Maquis and Borg whose choice in the matter were a good deal less free. "But I never had a choice--until now. I've given this crew everything for five years. Isn't it worth anything? Haven't I earned the right to self-determination?"
The Doctor, realizing he's coming perilously close to yelling at the captain, drops to a pleading whisper. He appeals to her resourcefulness. "You've lost other systems before and always managed to find a solution. You'll manage without me."
"What about you?" Janeway asks. "Will you manage without us?"
"The Qomar are a technologically-advanced species. I have no doubt that my maintenance requirements will be met."
Janeway throws out her hands. "Now which one of us is looking at you as a piece of technology?! I'm not talking about your maintenance needs. I'm talking about your emotional needs!" She points to the door. "You've got people on this ship who care about you!"
Doc sets his jaw. "The Qomar certainly seem to care about me."
Janeway gives him a smile that some might call cruel. "And when their tastes change?"
Doc is appalled. "What makes you think that's going to happen?"
The smile broadens. "Fame is often temporary."
Doc says what he apparently didn't want to. "This isn't just about fame." Oh, really? Janeway asks.
"If you must know . . . there's a woman involved. One who appreciates me in a way no one on this crew ever has." The way he says it, "one" almost rhymes with "drone".
Hmmm. I wonder to whom he could be referring?
Surprisingly--or perhaps not--Janeway's entire mood changes. Far be it from her to stand between a hologram and twue wuv. She does look sad--this is not a captain who takes dissent lightly--but she leaves her raised platform. Steps down. Walks behind the Doctor, and whispers as she passes. "Well, it sounds like you'll have everything you need."
Doc swallows hard. "I believe I will," he says at last.
Janeway picks up the PADD from her desk. "I hope so, Doctor--because once Voyager's gone you won't be able to change your mind."
"That's a risk I'm willing to take," he says, his voice barely audible.
Janeway taps the PADD against her chin (the shattered one was just a stunt PADD). "As your Captain, I should refuse this resignation." Then her tone softens. Her voice is sad. "But as your friend--it wouldn't be right to stand in your way."
Doc is stunned. Dang. He actually pulled it off.
Sickbay is quiet. Doc gives Tom Paris his final instructions. "And you can't let the Captain ignore her health. She's notorious for finding any excuse to miss her appointments."
"I'll send her weekly reminders," Tom promises.
"And when Mr. Neelix becomes convinced that he's suffering from the Toluncan ague--which he does every flu season--don't argue with him, just give him a placebo."
"Doc, I've been assisting you for three years! I know the drill." Oh yeah. The ship's in good hands . . .
This wasn't really what the Doctor wanted to hear. He'd rather think he was indispensable. "Yes, I suppose you do," Doc says sadly. "Remember, I'll be within com range for at least another month, so if any problems should arise--"
"Doc . . . you're not really going to do this, are you?" Tom looks at the Doctor as his friend, urging him silently to stay.
Doc is taken aback. "I would have thought you of all people would be glad to see me go."
Paris smiles. Ribs the Doc for old time's sake, but there's no heat in the words. "Are you kidding? Who am I going to torment after you're gone?"
Doc is touched. "Well . . . I've got some more good-byes. I'll check in with you before I leave."
"I'll be here," Tom promises--then adds, "--redecorating your office."
He smiles affectionately, making it that much harder for Doc to leave.
Next stop: Cargo Bay Two.
Seven of Nine is cleaning up around the alcoves when the Doctor enters.
If he thought he got a cold shoulder in the ready room, the arctic blast emanating from Seven of Nine could put a quasar in cryostasis.
"Hello, Seven," Doc says. "I wanted to see you before I left."
No answer. Seven refuses to look at him.
"I've downloaded some social lessons we haven't covered yet. There are 17 new chapters."
"Does one of them include instructions for ending a friendship?" Ooh. She's not happy. The hurt in her voice is palpable.
"Our friendship's not over, Seven."
"It will be difficult to maintain if we never see each other again."
"I know it'll be hard for you when I'm gone . . . "
"I will adapt." Seven moves over to another part of the cargo bay and continues her work, still refusing to face the Doctor.
"Yes, I suppose you will. But it'll be hard for me."
"Why? You're getting everything you've ever wanted." Ooh, she's ticked.
"I thought you'd be the first one to understand my desire to grow as an individual."
This gets her attention. Seven puts down her PADD and faces him. "What I don't understand is why you can't do that aboard Voyager." Her voice cracks a little.
Doc closes the distance between them. "I feel I've accomplished all I can here." Interesting, since they're still far from home. Technically, he won't accomplish all he can until they're back in the alpha quadrant. Safe and sound.
"Oh, there's the occasional medical mystery that challenges my programming, but mostly it's become routine." Gee, I wonder, if they took a poll on board, how many would answer the same way about their jobs? Like the ensign-for-life Harry Kim?
"And frankly, I feel my talents are often taken for granted!" You're preachin' to the choir, dude . . .
"But when I'm standing on that stage performing, and I see those rapt faces in the audience . . . I feel I finally know what it's like to be made of flesh and blood."
Granted, that is quite a rush.
But Seven isn't buying. Once connected to a collective of billions of shared minds, Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct of unimatrix 1, is difficult to impress. "You simply crave attention, applause," Seven spits, turning her back on him again. "Fan mail." She resumes her work.
Doc smiles slightly, accepting her judgment, at least in part. "What if I do?" he asks.
"Those things are irrelevant!"
"To you, maybe," Doc admits. "But to me, it makes me feel appreciated. Even loved . . . " Seven's eyes widen a little at this bit of news. "Not for what I've been programmed to do, but for who I've become." Seven's breathing grows shallow. They are so near, yet--
The ship's intercom chirps. "Doctor, you're receiving a transmission," Harry Kim says.
"Route it to cargo bay two," Doc says.
"Doctor, this is Tincoo. I want to see you immediately. I have something to show you."
Seven hears the voice. The muscles in her jaw tense; if you listen closely enough, you can hear a molar splinter. Ignoring the damage, Seven resumes her work. She stabs the PADD so hard with her finger it leaves dents.
Those guys down in steerage who assemble all the replacement shuttles might have to be placed on PADD duty for a few days . . .
"What is it?" Doc asks.
"A surprise. I think you'll be very pleased."
There goes another PADD. And another molar.
"I'll beam down as soon as I can," Doc promises. "Seven . . . "
"You shouldn't keep your fans waiting," Seven says, her demeanor back on full frost.
Saddened, Doc leaves. When the door opens, Seven turns and watches him go.
The doors close, but the camera lingers on the face of the closest friend Doc has on board. Her first dance that didn't result in an injury. Her mentor.
Oh, yeah. She wants him.
But it's a lesson she didn't learn in time. "Chapter 42--she who hesitates is lost."
The parting shot is of Seven's shuddering sigh, an almost-sob. Too little, too late.
The Doctor beams into Tincoo's lab. "Thank you for being so prompt," Tincoo says happily.
Doc approaches her. He's already learning the Qomar way--personal space is irrelevant. "Of course. What's the surprise?"
"I had an inspiration," Tincoo says, reaching for a computer control.
"Another musical composition?" Doc asks.
"Better," she says, smiling widely.
The air sizzles. Then resolves into someone who looks remarkably like the Doctor. Only more like a Qomar. He's got the roach nose and long, flowing robes.
Doc's jaw drops. "What's this?"
"I've solved all our problems."
"I wasn't aware that we had any."
"Well, you were reluctant to leave your ship, and you also doubted your ability to sing my composition, so I created a superior holomatrix."
D'Oh! "I-I don't understand."
"It's simple. Now you can stay aboard Voyager, and he can sing for us. Listen." Tincoo taps the controls again--and the New Doc--just like Doc Classic, only in new and improved packaging and with a great new taste--begins to sing scales. Up, up, up . . .
Bass. Baritone. Tenor. Alto. Soprano.
* * *
New Doc sustains the high note straight through the commercial break.
Eat that, Kenny G.
Doc Classic is horrified. "You can't make a superior singer simply by creating a new matrix!"
"I beg to differ," New Doc says--if possible, with even more haughtiness than the original. "My vocal processors are enhanced with polyphonic sequencers. I am not only capable of singing notes well beyond your limited range; I can produce multi-harmonic overtones through the use of amplitude vacilla--"
With a flick of a switch, Doc turns him off.
Wow. For a second there, I thought I was watching an episode of Frasier. The Crane boys were at it again . . .
"Why did you do that?"
Doc turns to his Qomar snugglemuffin. "Tincoo, music is more than mathematics. And I am much more than a program with musical subroutines. All of my experience, all of my passion goes into every note that I sing. When you listen to me, when my singing moves you--you're not just hearing notes! You're hearing my artistry! My . . . soul!"
Tincoo smiles that superior, smug smile of hers. "I've duplicated that, too."
Will someone plesae set phasers on Humble and fire at will?
Poor Doc just looks at her. "I thought you wanted me!"
"I did," she says sincerely, then smiles. "But now, I've developed a far more sophisticated piece of technology."
You know, as long as we're tinkering with fandom metaphors, why doesn't Doc slap her trademark-infringing hiney with a budget-busting lawsuit? That's his likeness she's co-opting without express written permission. That'll learn her.
Hey, I'm serious. We have yet to see the members of Starfleet JAG--and I'm still lobbying hard for a Catherine Bell guest slot.
Tincoo couldn't have hurt him worse if she'd run a degausser across his portable emitter. "Technology . . . " Doc whispers.
"I thought you would be pleased. You seemed reluctant to leave your ship."
"You told me that the time you had spent with me was the most--stimulating of your life!" Doc says, still in denial.
"It was!" Tincoo assures him. "You inspired me to do my greatest work." (She must mean the hologram, because she couldn't possibly mean acting.)
Doc struggles to find the words. "But I thought . . . "
"Yes?" Tincoo prompts.
"That you and I . . . "
That famous Qomar patience exerts itself. "What?"
Doc can't say it. What about that simplest equation? What about One Plus One? What, have you been taking hologram customization lessons from my captain? But he can't--he's too crushed. He just dropped trou and waved adios to the only family he's ever known, only to end up as last season's shelfware, already obsolete.
"Well, I suppose I'm no longer on the bill tomorrow," Doc says bravely.
"Of course you are! It will be your farewell performance."
Gee, thanks. "Of course," Doc says.
Back in Voyager's Sickbay, the Doctor attempts to heal himself. Or perform a self-upgrade.
And we all know how successful those usually turn out. Lock the doors, kids.
After one tweaking, Doc tries to sing a high note. It's higher, but it sounds as painful to sing as it does to hear. He grunts with frustration.
B'Elanna Torres enters, her expression defiant. "You wanted to see me?" They didn't part on the best of terms.
"I need your clearance code to delete my medical database," Doc says urgently.
"Are you sure you want to do that? If you give one of your fans a heart attack you won't be able to resuscitate him." Zzzinnng!
"I need more space in my matrix!" Doc pleads.
"To expand my musical subroutines! so that I can sing this composition." Doc shows Torres the tablet Tincoo gave him.
Torres looks at it casually. "Well, I'm surprised you're asking me for help. I recall your saying that my appreciation for music was limited to 'a smattering of Klingon drinking songs.'"
"Please, B'Elanna. I'm asking you as a friend. Everything depends on this!"
Torres drops the posturing. "What's so important about this composition?" she asks.
"Tincoo wrote it for me."
"Your girlfriend?" There's no malice in her words; it's likely the whole ship knows the reason Doc is leaving, and why Janeway let him go. Get a beau, get off the ship free.
"I--wouldn't call her that."
"Don't tell me you two had a fight."
Doc winces. "Let's just say she doesn't appreciate me quite as much as I thought she did. But that will all change. Once I perform this, she will see me for the artist I am!"
Torres considers the man standing before her. "Look, Doc, I don't know anything about this woman or why she doesn't appreciate you. And I may not be an expert on music, but--"
B'Elanna looks at him as she would a friend. No nonsense. No exchange of barbs. No beating around the bush. But with sensitivity.
"I'm a pretty good engineer. I can expand your musical subroutines all you like. I can even reprogram you to be a whistling teapot--but, if I do that, it won't be you anymore."
Aye, there's the rub.
The farewell performance begins. As before, the Doctor faces a full house.
No more clown suit. This time, he's purely penguin--tux with tails. Very formal. Very classy.
"Tonight, I was planning to perform a song composed by one of your own people. When you consider she heard music for the first time only a few days ago, it's an extraordinary accomplishment. But--although it's a very beautiful composition, I'm afraid it's beyond my abilities."
This doesn't go over well. Music Channel's tech support is flooded with calls--they want that singin' doc upgraded, and they want it now.
"So instead," Doc says, ignoring the murmurs in the crowd, "I'm going to sing an old Neapolitan ballad. It's a song about lost love."
[My thanks to "Florence M" for providing the lyrics and the translation.]
Sotto la grónda della torre antica, una róndine amica a lo sbocciar del
almondo or lui tornata. Ritorni tutti l'anni sempre alla stessa data, monti
e mari sa varca per tornar. Solo amore quando fugenda lontana sper invano,
ma non torni piu. Sper invano ma non torna piu.
[Under the eaves of the ancient tower, a friendly swallow now returns to the
almond blossoms. He returns every year on the same date, passing mountains
and seas to come back. Alone, he hopes in vain when [his] love has fled far
away, but it [she] will not return.]
The ballad is performed with passion beyond precision. Longing fills every note; sadness suffuses the subtext. This is not merely a singing hologram; this is flesh and blood.
This is music in its purest form--heart to heart communication. The ego is nowhere in evidence--this is performance at its most primal. There is no singer; there is only the song.
As for the Qomar--they observe the Doctor in silence.
The song ends. The last notes echo in the concert hall. It was the performance of a lifetime. The Doctor's finest moment, in fantasy or reality.
In the audience, Neelix and Tom Paris stare transfixed at their once and future shipmate, seeing him as though for the first time. Likewise, Captain Janeway's eyes well with tears as the essential EMH speaks to her soul.
This--this is why she was willing to let him go.
The Qomar have learned much over the past few days. How to do a standing ovation--and how to damn with faint praise. When the tepid response trickles down to the stage, the Doctor knows he has lost.
As the Doctor exits to the wings, he looks back to see what will happen next.
Tincoo takes the stage. "Thank you, Doctor. That was--fascinating. It is because of your inspiration that I can now present to you a new and exciting musical program--a singing holographic matrix designed specifically to extend the range of humanoid vocal capabilities--singing my own musical composition."
The applause is deafening. The audience members bob their head approvingly. This is more like it . . .
The Enhanced Musical Hologram takes the stage. Voyager's crew is surprised by the look of the thing--the Federation has certainly left its mark on this world. But they also feel for their friend.
This new creation has all the emotion of a Roland MT-32. And just as much range.
When he plummets into a deep bass I associate only with that guy who sings the "giddy-yap a OOM bop a MOW MOW" lines on "Elvira," Janeway's eyes bug out. Tom Paris almost bursts out laughing.
He ain't the Diva from The Fifth Element--I have proof--but he's got a noteworthy range. And he needs it; Tincoo's mathematical monstrosity of music requires a vocal breadth almost as expansive as does the Star Spangled Banner. [I've been told that the first notes of Tincoo's composition could be from "Also Spake Zarathustra." I'll take their word for it.]
Doc Classic has come a long way from the jovial tedium of "I've Been Workin' on the Railroad." But for this Math Club planet, they've found their new musical standard bearers--Tincoo and the little upgraded hologram that could. Even before the music stops, the Qomar are on their feet, stomping along to fractal rhythms only their superior minds can comprehend, in one big Fermat's Last Hoedown. The Voyager crew can't help but applaud the vocal wizardry.
And then, when New Doc sings all four parts simultaneously--well, color me impressed.
Just not all that moved.
I only have Pi memorized to 8 decimal places, so maybe I'm just not Qomar material. But I know what I like--and I'd take Doc Classic any day. The new EMH has less soul than Michael Bolton.
Doc slinks away into the shadows.
Poor fella. Now he knows what it feels like to be a KimTone.
Voyager is back on the road again.
Janeway's ready room door chimes. "Come in."
Doc enters, a humble man. "Good morning, Captain."
"What's this?" Janeway asks, looking distractedly at the PADD in Doc's hand, her head resting in the palm of her hand.
"A--formal request to be reinstated."
"So. You've taken off your tails--and put them between your legs." Janeway slouches in her chair, her body language a clear tsk-tsk. She's enjoying this.
"Yes, ma'am," Doc says, the very soul of penitence.
Janeway ends the slouch, and leans forward and shows Doc the whites of her eyes. A freakishly large field of intense white. "You offended a lot of people who care about you," the captain says curtly.
"I know," Doc admits. "I was a fool. I'm sorry, and I'm willing to do whatever I can to rectify the situation--starting with the deletion of all my musical subroutines."
Leave it to Doc. Wouldn't we all like to have it so easy. If I could delete all those Twinkies I've packed in over the years, I'd be a happy man.
"Permission denied," Janeway says.
"No 'buts,' Doctor. You're expected to follow orders--just like every other flesh and blood member of this crew. Resume your normal activities--all of them."
Whew. "Yes, ma'am," Doc says, smiling gratefully.
Janeway continues to glare. She waves her hand toward the door--shoo. "Dismissed."
Doc doesn't need to be told twice. He leaves an ion trail.
Janeway waits until it's safe--then her glower dissolves into a motherly smile.
Mini-Moi belts out "Dio, Che Nell'alma Infondere Amor" one more time before Doc stabs the Off button and slaps the novelty item off his desk, where it banks off the far wall of his office and comes to a stop in a basket filled with other such souvenirs.
If he wants to give up singing, he's always got a promising career in hockey.
Seven of Nine chooses this moment to enter.
"Oh, Seven, I didn't see you," Doc says, not in the mood to speak to anyone. "I suppose you've come to gloat."
"I have something for you," Seven says softly.
"What is it?"
A beat. "Fan mail."
Doc winces. He has trouble meeting Seven's eyes. "Delete it," he pleads. "I don't want to read another word."
"Then I'll read it for you."
"'Dear Doctor: I regret that your last performance was not as successful as you'd hoped,'" Seven reads. "'There are still those who appreciate your unique talents and admire you as an individual. I'll always consider myself your loyal fan.'"
The Doctor is moved, despite his best effort to remain glum. "Who's it from?"
"It's signed, 'Seven of Nine, tertiary adjunct of unimatrix zero one.'"
"You simply crave attention, applause," Seven spits, turning her back on him again. "Fan mail." She resumes her work.
Doc smiles slightly, accepting her judgment, at least in part. "What if I do?" he asks.
"Those things are irrelevant!"
"To you, maybe," Doc admits. "But to me, it makes me feel appreciated. Even loved . . . " Seven's eyes widen a little at this bit of news. "Not for what I've been programmed to do, but for who I've become."
Just had to make sure.
She loves him. She luuuuuuuves himmmmm . . .
You may not have heard it here first, but you did hear it here.
Seven hands Doc the PADD with the Fan Mail, then exits without saying anything further.
Doc holds it in his hand for a long moment. Then his demeanor changes completely. He smiles.
Rising, he exits his office and takes the PADD over to a terminal.
And he begins to sing.
I've been working on the railroad
All the livelong day
I've been working on the railroad
Just to pass the time away
Can't you hear the whistle blowing?
Rise up so early in the morn . . .
It may not be glamorous. But it's home. And for once, the needs of the many, the needs of the few, and the needs of the one just might all come out winners.
I keep hearing about the target demographic. Frankly, I can't imagine that opera is high on the Happy List of single guys 18-34. The lip-syncing was at times painfully obvious. And maybe it's just me, but all the singing is getting a little old.
For the second week in a row, the guest stars were--to be charitable--unimpressive.
The relationship between the Doctor and Tincoo, supposedly the key reason the Doctor and the captain both decided he could stay behind on the Qomar planet, was not, in my opinion, well handled.
But given all that, I still enjoyed it. The regular cast turned in some moving performances, and Picardo was excellent. There were several scenes made the episode worthwhile, which have relevance to the Doctor's character development and have some modern social commentary.
This episode is generally played for laughs. You know it's a comedy because nobody dies. Not that comedies can't have serious moments; the Doctor's harsh lesson in hubris certainly qualifies. But it's handled with a lighter touch this week, which was the right choice. Though there are exceptions, I tend to enjoy the Doc-centered comedies more than the Doc-centered dramas. Picardo' an excellent actor in either genre, but plots affecting the Doctor's characterization seem to work better in the comedies.
I've said it many times before, but it bears repeating--technically, the Doctor is still only five or six years old. He has a vast store of knowledge, but only a few years of real-world experience in dealing with others, and with his own responses. Whether you call it consciousness, ego, or programming, the result is the same--he's still as much artificial as actual. And though he has immense skills in medicine--most of it handed to him by his programmers--his other development is still relatively immature, but he takes more pride in them because they were learned the hard way rather than added directly.
It is around one of these personal-development issues that the story hinges--the doctor's love for music. We saw in one of his daydreams ("Tinker Tenor") that he yearns for appreciation of this talent. We also know that there's a personal significance to music--it's something he and Seven of Nine can do together ("Someone to Watch Over Me").
But the downside of his relationship with Seven is, as far as he knows, his affection for her is not returned. Why? Because she's suggested as much. If the Doctor seeks love, he believes, he won't find it on Voyager--and not for want of trying. The potentially interesting thing about this episode is that it suggests that Seven of Nine may be rethinking that earlier decision--you don't know what you're missing until it's gone. Now she has a second chance. The final scene where she offers the Doctor a fan letter--of the type that really means something to them both--gives reason for the Doc/Seven relationshippers to hope.
Or it could be a tease. It wouldn't be the first time.
The point is, music really matters to the Doctor. But unlike his medical skills, which the crew relies on for its health and survival, music is a personal taste, and the Doctor's are more highbrow than most.
But despite the Doctor's love for music, we've rarely heard him do more than dabble. When he told Tincoo about his passion, I thought back on all of his previous performances over the years--and none really demonstrated that. (the piano solo at the end of "Someone to Watch Over Me" probably qualifies, but that wasn't opera.) The affectation of passion, yes. He knew how to emote. But he never gave a performance that was as heartfelt as he suggested--until his last.
The two performances we saw--the first in the mess hall, the last in the concert hall--were effective parallels. In the first, the aliens went nuts over a mediocre performance because they didn't know any better, while his crewmates weren't all that impressed--they'd seen this show many times before. But in the last, the aliens were already tired of him because the novelty wore off, but the crew was deeply moved because they'd never seen this side of him before. At once, they understood a new truth about someone they'd often taken for granted--that he was more than the sum of his programming. And that he had needs--and obligations.
That as a "flesh and blood" member of the crew, Doc's personhood--hopefully--is no longer under question. But also, that his programming is no longer an excuse for trampling on others' feelings. He's asked for, and received, a lot--and of such, is much required.
Celebrity is a bizarre thing. Fads come and go, one-hit wonders in the music scene are common, and the idea that everyone eventually gets their "fifteen minutes of fame" is almost a given in this culture. It doesn't have to be earned; you can luck into it. That can be good luck, or bad luck. You can gain celebrity through great deeds, or incredible stupidity, or acts of nature. If you happen to have the right sound bite on the tip of your tongue when a camera is pointed in your direction, you can become an overnight sensation--and yesterday's news before the checks have a chance to clear.
The episode's comments on celebrity, and fandom, and fanaticism, are interesting. We're not just watching characters; we're watching the actors who play them. Thanks to the Trek phenomenon, each of the cast members is a cult icon--for better and for worse. Each has their devotees, and their detractors. Several may even have their own security file of stalkers. So when Janeway and Seven of Nine discuss fans, we wonder how much of that is Mulgrew and Ryan speaking. How much comes from the writers. Or the producers. Or the legal department.
Which, I think, is a fair question.
Do I think the actors--or the writers or producers or corporate suit weasels--have contempt for the fans in general? Absolutely not. Do I think they have had their share of unpleasant encounters with some fans, and wish some weren't quite so . . . intense? I can't speak for them--but some who have, have suggested as much.
Janeway's comment about how associating with celebrities makes them feel "important" got me thinking. I hope you'll bear with me.
I've been on both sides. I've been a fan of Trek most of my life. I've been a fan of musicians, athletic teams and athletes, actors, and other public figures. I've asked famous people stupid questions--not on purpose, it just kinda turned out that way. I've been tongue-tied and speechless; I've gushed shamelessly and gotten catty in print.
As for the other side--not to the extent that the actors have by any means, but in my time as a performer, and in my five years as a Voyager reviewer, I've had the opportunity to experience celebrity first-hand. I've stood before deafening crowds of thousands roaring their approval--and trudged off the stage in dead silence, drenched in flop sweat. I've signed autographs, and been heckled by people who said I sucked. I've received email from people who thank me for my reviews, and from those who tell me I have no talent and should stop wasting bandwidth. I've received marriage proposals, sexual propositions--and blistering hate mail. I'd say 90% or more of the interaction I've had with fans has been positive.
In turn, I've entertained--and I've offended. I've been grateful, and insensitive. I've been humble, and arrogant as hell. Sometimes, I crave attention--and at times, I've regretted and resented it. If I'm lucky, I've been 90% nice, and I regret the times I've stepped on toes, knowingly or not. With some, I might have built up enough of a relationship that a bad hair day message or a long delay in replying can be forgiven. But to some of those 10%, I might be 100% jerk. It can take only one unguarded comment at times to flush years worth of good feelings down the drain.
Humans have a tendency to do that--have good days and bad days. Celebrity--even in small doses--is like a magnifying glass, inflating the visibility of everything you do and are. Under the microscope, everything--good and bad--can become distorted, and seem larger than life. It doesn't matter, really, whether your experience is limited to your family or school or community, or a national or international audience--the emotions, the highs and lows, the damage that can be done by pissing off even one person with a camera or an email address or website and an axe to grind, are essentially the same. You'll feel like the same hero or the same chump, whether it's dozens or billions who are reinforcing that opinion.
One thing about the Internet--it can let everyone know what it's like to be a celebrity, in all its complexity. It's only a matter of degree. Anything you say online can potentially be viewed by the entire planet--there is little restriction to access. But whether you get a dozen hits a month or a million a day, some will love what you do, some will hate you for breathing, and some from both categories will feel strongly enough to write to you. Some of it, you'll be glad you got; others will make you wonder why you even bother to log on.
That is the essence of celebrity. It doesn't matter what you do or who you are or how many people know about you--you feel the ups and downs of being visible and vulnerable to people you don't even know. And you have a choice--to let your happiness be determined by what other people think of you, or not. If you index your happiness to your popularity, simply put, you're screwed. One way or another. You might as well chain your happiness to the weather.
Imagine being just a guy on the street who suddenly finds yourself several levels above what you're used to. You're known to hundreds. Then, overnight, you're known to millions. Say you go on that "who wants to be a millionaire" show and win a million bucks--or that you blow the pathetically easy 100 dollar question. Or you make a respectable amount, but say something that makes the Regis Philbin highlight reel. ("I'm a fat man, Regis, I can't take the pressure!") Either is likely to make you a news item for a few days, maybe longer.
This is the Doctor's dilemma.
He's known to his 150 colleagues. Suddenly, an entire planet has singled him out as the greatest thing since sliced bread--he's a phenomenon. Women are throwing themselves at him, his ego is being stoked like a coal furnace, and his every dream seems to be coming true. But when his friends try to bring him back to earth, he takes their reaction for lack of appreciation, and distances himself further. His friends reluctantly let him go--and are there to pick up the pieces when the adoration ends.
Exactly why the Doctor becomes the phenomenon is anyone's guess. What is it that the aliens see in him, and him alone? Is it that he was the first to sing? Is it that he could point out the aspects of music that they could understand--the mathematics of it? Is it that his arrogance and attitude was almost a match for theirs? Was it that he was an "antiquated" program doing something they had never before considered, and they appreciated him as long as he was a mystery to them? Who knows. This wasn't very well explored. But there were hints early on that the Qomar cared less about music than about the means to produce it. They didn't care for other musicians; they didn't care what the Doctor sang, as long as the Doctor was singing it. And when he announced his limitations, they discarded him in favor of the Next Big Thing.
He was a novelty. One that could be reverse-engineered. The Doctor was so busy enjoying the fruits of his newfound popularity that he didn't understand what made it possible, so he was equally unprepared for the withdrawal of that popularity. In that way, he's not unlike many child stars who find they can't buy a role as adults, who were swept up into an insane existence at a crucial moment in their development. Some survive more or less intact; others struggle but recover; still others emerge bitter and broken, if they're lucky enough to survive at all. But we tend to not dwell on the dustbin of entertainment history. If we do, it's often with gallows humor; the news about celebrities checking into or out of rehab, getting busted for some act of self-destructive behavior or another, etc.--because they're famous, their lives exist for our entertainment, both on and off screen. We hang on their every word. We interpret every action, or omission. We enjoy them when they do well, and enjoy kicking them when they're down.
This ought not be so. But it's a sad fact of life. Celebrity has its rewards, but it also comes at a cost. Some of it's like buying on credit--you might end up paying for your fifteen minutes of fame long after the cameras have pointed elsewhere.
This is what the doctor discovers. He buys the hype, believes he deserves it, and is desperate to regain it when he feels it slipping away. He begs to have his medical database stripped just for the chance to sing a few more notes--not unlike some performers who have plastic surgery or go on extreme diets to gain or lose weight for a particular role or to Remake Themselves so they'll once again be marketable. Later, he wants to remove the thing that he once loved, but is now a source of pain--his love for music. In the first case, Torres wisely points out that without his core programming, he'd cease to be himself. In the second, Janeway wisely points out that like all the flesh and blood members of her crew, he's stuck with the totality of his personality, and if he wants to change himself, he'll have to do it experientially like everyone else. He is who he is, for better and worse, and he'd better learn to deal with it, and with the consequences.
In the course of this episode, the Doctor learns to appreciate what he has, and to discover who his true friends are. He was a jerk for a while, and while he no doubt would have stayed if he'd seen any hope of regaining his lost glory on the planet and thus didn't really "learn his lesson" on the planet, he did learn a bit before episode's end. His humiliation opened him up to a new understanding of his fellows. In the end, Seven's fan letter is a love letter--whether platonic or more, only time will tell-- a one plus one gesture that gets the caged bird to sing again. Leave it to Seven of Nine, emotionally not too much older than the Doctor, maybe even a little younger at times, to put it in terms (her cold goodbye, her awkward welcome-home) that went to the heart of the Doctor's issues of the week.
Back to the episode.
Some less than favorite elements: the underutilization of Paul Williams. In an episode about the fickle nature of fame, Williams' perspective would have been useful to see; he knows as well as anyone, with his decades in the music industry. He merited at least one good, relevant monologue. The guest performances in general--the delivery was downright painful for the most part. The unexplained aspects of the Qomar technology, and what Voyager came away with in turn. As a general observation, all the focus we've had on singing.
I saw a comment from one reviewer who wondered, since when did Doc whistle while he worked, as though this is made up out of whole cloth. As for me, this is a non-issue. We saw Doc singing and humming while he worked as far back as the third season "The Swarm," and we saw it as recently as "Equinox, Part II." They don't do it all the time; they only do it to make a point. I didn't think, when I saw him humming as he prepared the hypospray, "gee, since when did he start doing that?" This is well within the established parameters of Doc's character. Similarly, Janeway reacting strongly when the Doctor calls her Kathryn is not something I take issue with; he picked a bad moment to use her first name that only reinforced her opinion that he was letting the attention go to his head. Janeway takes challenges to her authority very seriously, at every level.
Some of my favorite scenes: Janeway and Seven in Astrometrics--I didn't take their comments too personally. Janeway and the Doctor in her ready room, both times. The Doctor and Torres, both times. The Doctor and Paris. The first scene between the Doctor and Seven of Nine. The two opera selections, and the Qomar/Starfleet audience reactions to his performances. The singing holographic "autograph". The generally upbeat tone of the episode, and the often laugh-out-loud funny moments. Tom Paris' reaction shots; for whatever reason, it cracks me up when Doc does something and Tom makes a face in response.
All in all, I enjoyed it. Three stars.
Next week: the crew locks, loads…and laments.