Voyager rewatch 6.04 – “Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy”

Not content with being autistic, the Doctor gives himself ADHD.

I feel like I should hate this episode. It’s another Doctor story that serves to remind us that Robert Picardo can sing, and also that the Doctor’s attitude to women is problematique.

And yet. I really enjoyed watching “Tinker, Tenor…”, and even empathised with the Doctor.

I liked this episode. I think it’s good. I’m furious.

Okay, first of all, voyager does need need to hold some mandated anti-sexual harassment training

I volunteer Tuvok for the job, mainly because he’ll hate it.

Anyway, I think it is normal to have fantasies, including romantic fantasies, about the people in one’s life. So I’ve heard. It’s just kind of ishy that the Doctor’s fantasies are about the women he works with (in fairness, everyone he knows is a work colleague) and that they’re all basically the same: hyperfeminised, out of character, profoundly humiliating for the objects of his affections.

Obviously “my friends and coworkers can see my fantasies” is a very special nightmare scenario for any of us. None of this was meant for public consumption; this is all intended to be happening within the privacy of the Doctor’s subroutines.

But it’s also a television series, written by people for entertainment, and the Doctor has spent six years crossing lines with his female colleagues. All that’s changed, really, is that Janeway is involved and Seven is naked. (Not like that. Look, I was on rec.arts.startrek.creative back in the day, I’ve written my share of J/7, but this is all very PG, not to say puerile.)

The second round of HR sessions are for Janeway and Chakotay

First of all, if someone under your management files a grievance, the solution is not to read it out loud in public and smirk about it with your other colleagues.

Second. I understand that the Doctor often comes across as entitled. I mean, I complain about it a lot.

But I don’t like the way Janeway and Chakotay go, “Well, we’ll look at giving him the illusion of professional growth and authority, but we’re obviously not actually going to put him in command.” I mean. That is a classic Blatant Gesture Towards Inclusion Without Meaningful Change not unlike making Jeri Taylor the showrunner for a season but still coming in to manipulate the writers room and change stories, not that anyone would actually do that, looking at you, Rick Berman.

I wish they had treated his suggestion of an Emergency Command Hologram with the respect it deserves — not “lol, a hologram? in charge????” but with a discussion of whether it is feasible, and whether the Doctor himself seems to have the capacity for command, and if his personality and programming allow him to develop the necessary skills.

(I would actually argue that they do not — an essential part of commanding a starship in Star Trek is a willingness and ability to make sacrifices. That’s what the Kobayashi Maru is about. Deanna Troi couldn’t pass her bridge officer qualification test until she could order a simulated Geordi into a situation where he would certainly die. We know from last season that this sort of scenario breaks the Doctor, both his psychology and his programming. Can he overcome that? Should he be allowed to try? And does he really want command, or does he want — as this episode suggests — recognition and respect and a chance to dream about being a hero?)

But other than that, Mrs Lincoln…

I completely understand if these problems make the episode unwatchable for anyone, because I was genuinely shocked to realise that I was having fun.

It’s easy to empathise with the Doctor, both the self-indulgent grandiosity of his daydreams and the utter humiliation of having his fantasies revealed. He wants to grow as a person, and I actually think having a fantasy life is an essential part of that — how can we improve if we have no dreams or goals?

But I also really liked our antagonists, the Hierarchy.

For one thing, they look like a poop emoji cosplaying as Baron Harkonnen, and I am a very simple soul who finds that sort of thing amusing.

And for another — look, they might be Poop Harkonnens, but just as we can all empathise with the Doctor’s fantasies, I think we can also empathise with Phlox1 — a low-level functionary in a boring job who yearns for recognition and advancement. It’s part of the genius of this episode that the Poop Harkonnens are bureaucratic, rule-following space pirates. Who look like poop emoji.

This is an episode with very low stakes, but the script succeeds in making us care. The Doctor is humiliated. Phlox is afraid of workplace censure. Voyager is only briefly in peril. I wouldn’t call this episode “filler”, but I respect how it makes such a small story feel big — just as the Doctor’s fantasies make him seem larger than life to Phlox.

Other observations

  • “Did Voyager ruin the Borg?” is one of those questions that feel utterly pointless to me, because TNG ruined the Borg in “Descent” and it took a whole movie to fix them again. However, I think it was a mistake to use them in this episode — if only because it’s a shame to waste such excellent and scary concepts as assimilation viruses and Chakotay sprouting a tube from his neck on a fantasy. I wish the Doctor had fantasied about saving the ship from someone we’ve never heard of.
  • I hate everything about the Doctor-B’Elanna relationship except the bit in his tragic break-up fantasy where Tom meekly sits nearby and waits for B’Elanna to come back to him. Is … is the Doctor fantasising about cucking Tom? I have questions, and on the whole I would prefer if they went unanswered.
  • “That was a platonic gesture.” Seven, like me, is far too asexual for this nonsense.
  • It’s worth flagging that something comes out of the Emergency Command Hologram program — the Emergency Training Hologram created in Janeway’s image in Star Trek: Prodigy.

In conclusion

No stakes, few regrets, we are absolutely going to have a talk about boundaries. Three and a half poop emoji out of five.

  1. Not to be confused with the Enterprise doctor, thanks a lot, Star Trek

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