Another in my ongoing thoughts on Star Trek…. This time about everyone’s favourite Hologram (or at least mine!) – Vic Fontaine
Holo-technology has been an important fixture in Star Trek since we first saw the holodeck come to life on our screens in The Next Generation. It’s existence allowed for the creation of Deep Space Nine’s holosuites and Voyager’s EMH (Emergency Medical Hologram), both of which became important in the development and direction of those shows.
TNG is well remembered for its popular holodeck episodes, however, it is arguably Deep Space Nine that puts the technology to a more intriguing use in the creation of a new regular character – Vic Fontaine. Fontaine coupled the holosuite’s ability to take us anywhere and any when with the potential gleamed from Voyager’s EMH. Vic’s distance from the actual events occurring in “real life” allowed for an objective observer, entertainer and friend to many of the command crew and beyond. He showed us different aspects of photonic life to Voyager’s Doctor as he was not restrained by the same pre-set codes and regulations and so was never another new Data striving to understand what it was to be human.
To that extent, Vic was never striving to be more human because he understood that he both was and wasn’t human and had a deep sense of self. Vic was created by Felix, a holo-programmer friend of Dr Julian Bashir who would hook him up with the sort of 1960s fluff Bashir enjoyed – such as his spy program. The difference with Vic however, is that unlike other holograms he is self-aware. Always his program is set in 1960s Las Vegas, Vic knows the score – something Felix purposely included as it was more natural, even essential, to the personality he created.
Who loves ya Baby!
Vic Fontaine easily became one of my favourite characters towards the end of DS9’s seven year run. When the first few episodes of season 7 were being released on VHS, I was staying with family in Australia. One day I picked up the latest release and was excited to get back to the house and watch it. My aunt decided she would watch it with me and as soon as Vic appeared on the screen she practically swooned. “Oh he reminds me so much of Jimmy Darren!” she marvelled. When I told her that the actor was in fact James Darren she was blown away. She fell in love instantly and all over again as she had in the 60s.
Vic is easy to fall in love with. He’s smart in a way that none of the other characters often are. He may not have their 24th century book learning, but he understands people and relationships on a level that most of the crew struggle with. Deep down he knows that it doesn’t matter if it’s 1960 or 2360 and your lover has a transparent skull – love is love.
Through the good or lean years
The introduction of Vic came at a time where DS9, an already darker show than its Star Trek siblings, found itself reeling from one war to the next. Ever constant threats and shifting of allies and foes made the world of Star Trek on e of the most uncertain it has ever been. The edition of Vic as a lighthearted, but not comic relief, impartial character brought something to the show. In fact, the existence of his program created some poignant moments and scenarios – helping Nog get over the loss of his leg, and even more so Sisko’s reaction to a program set in a time when people of colour were treated as second class citizens.
For me the last couple of seasons would have been very different without Vic, not least because of his final appearance on the show. In the season 7 finale, the crew meet for one last time as a group in Vic’s before saying their goodbyes. As the music plays The Way You Look Tonight, we get to say goodbye to our crew as well. In fact it is arguably the best and most complete Star Trek finale for the fact that we have this closure as an audience. Something that would have perhaps played differently if not for the existance of Vic. I still can’t watch that scene without crying like a baby. A small, hungry, angry baby.
Vic wasn’t just a character, he was a plot device and in both capacities was used to his fullest, and all to the benefit of the show.