Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy


"Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy"
Star Trek: Voyager episode
Episode no.Season 6
Episode 4
Directed byJohn Bruno
Story byBill Vallely
Teleplay byJoe Menosky
Featured musicDennis McCarthy
Production code224
Original air dateOctober 13, 1999 (1999-10-13)
Guest appearances
  • Jay Leggett - Phlox
  • Googy Gress - Overlooker
  • Robert Greenberg - Devro
Episode chronology
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"Barge of the Dead"
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Star Trek: Voyager (season 6)
List of episodes

"Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" is the 124th episode of the science fiction television series Star Trek: Voyager, the fourth episode of the sixth season. The title is a parody of the famous 1974 novel Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John le Carré.

In this EMH-centric episode the fictional USS Voyager spacecraft, lost on the wrong side of the Galaxy has a run in with some mysterious aliens.

The episode's story was written by the cartoonist Bill Vallely, and is noted for its comedic elements.[1]


The Doctor (Robert Picardo) asks Captain Kathryn Janeway (Kate Mulgrew) to alter his program to allow him to captain the ship if an emergency occurs. Janeway refuses the request. Despite this, the Doctor alters his own sub-routines, allowing him to daydream, while Voyager is traveling through an apparently harmless nebula. Among other ego-fulfilling fantasies, the daydreams include one where he becomes the "Emergency Command Hologram" and defeats an attacking alien vessel using a fictional deadly photonic cannon. The Doctor finds that his daydreams are occurring when he doesn't want them to, a side effect of his faulty programming, and the crew disables the new routines.

Meanwhile, undetected by Voyager, the crew of an observation ship of the Hierarchy species has been monitoring Voyager's passage. As they have done with other ships that pass through the nebula, the Hierarchy determines whether there is any value on the ships, and if so, attacks them. They are unable to scan Voyager via normal means, and instead use a microscopic tunneling scan. This latches onto the Doctor's program, allowing them to witness events experienced by the hologram, though they are unaware of where reality stops and the Doctor's fantasies begin. Though the Hierarchy's crewman Phlox[note 1] (Jay Leggett) soon realizes their mistake, the Hierarchy has already issued the command to attack Voyager for their anti-matter reserves.

Phlox uses the tunneling scan to reactivate the Doctor's daydreaming programs to allow him to communicate with the hologram. Phlox explains the situation to the Doctor, who in turn reports this to Janeway. As Voyager's crew becomes aware of the approaching Hierarchy ships, Janeway arranges for the deception to be complete, temporarily turning the Doctor into the Emergency Command Hologram. The Doctor, less confident in reality than his daydreams, is still able to bluff regarding use of the photonic cannon and the Hierarchy quickly retreats. Janeway commends the Doctor for his performance and arranges a team to evaluate the prospects of putting the hologram in charge of the ship under emergency situations.


The episode was originally titled "The Secret Life of Neelix" and was intended to be a story about when Neelix's daydreams take on a life of their own when aliens become involved. However it was shifted around and rewritten to become a story involving the Doctor.[2] The premise is based on the short story "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" by James Thurber in which Walter Mitty daydreams heroic adventures while running an errand for his wife.[3] The title of this episode is a reference to the 1974 spy novel Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John le Carré.

Writer Joe Menosky describes the episode as "five days of scriptwriting paradise" because "the story itself becomes your friend and collaborator; it is rich enough to support you and keep feeding you ideas as you execute the script."[4] During the writing of the script, Menosky asked actor Robert Picardo for "a list of what the Doctor's fantasies might be. Needless to say, a life drawing of Seven of Nine was the first suggestion [Picardo] made."[5]

Actor Robert Picardo described the filming of the episode as "the most fun I've had in shooting the entire series ... It was great fun and one of our most successful outings at humor on our show."[3]


The episode is a significant departure from typical Voyager episodes due to the story's extensive use of comedic elements, making it a favorite among many viewers. It has been cited as "most entertaining episode of the season to date, and a Voyager classic."[6] In 2019, CBR ranked this the 15th best holodeck-themed episode of all Star Trek franchise episodes up to that time.[7]

The Hollywood Reporter rated "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" the 7th best episode of Star Trek: Voyager.[8]

In 2009, Time rated "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" as one of the top ten moments of Star Trek overall including film, and the only Star Trek: Voyager episode in their ranking.[9][10]

In 2020, SyFy Wire ranked this episode the 11th best episode of Star Trek: Voyager.[1]

Jammer's Reviews gave it 3.5 out of 4 stars and called it "A pleasant comic gem."[11]

In 2020, ScreenRant said this was the ninth best episode of Star Trek: Voyager, based on IMDB rating of 8.6 out of 10.[12]


This episode was released as part of a season 6 DVD boxset on December 7, 2004.[13]


  1. ^ Not to be confused with the character Doctor Phlox from Star Trek: Enterprise.



  1. ^ a b Pirrello, Phil (2020-01-16). "The 15 greatest Star Trek: Voyager episodes, ranked". SYFY WIRE. Retrieved 2020-01-19.
  2. ^ "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy". Lost in Space: Star Trek Voyager. Retrieved 2007-08-28.
  3. ^ a b Perenson, Melissa J. "Star Trek: Voyager's Robert Picardo considers the journey home". SciFi.com. Archived from the original on 2007-07-03. Retrieved 2007-08-29.
  4. ^ Krutzler, Steve. "Interview: Scribes Joe Menosky and Michael Taylor on Their STAR TREK Classics". Trek Web. I came out of the staff meeting when we finished that story break practically giddy with anticipation because I just knew I was in for five days of scriptwriting paradise and the end result was going to be good. In that case, the story itself becomes your friend and collaborator, it is rich enough to support you and keep feeding you ideas as you execute the script -- and you'd have to be an idiot to screw it up.
  5. ^ "Interview with Robert Picardo ("The Doctor" - VOY)". StarTrek.com. July 14, 2004. Retrieved 2007-08-30.
  6. ^ Wright, Jim (October 17, 1999). "Jim Reviews "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy"". Delta Blues - Jim Wright's Star Trek:Voyager site. All in all, this has my vote for most entertaining episode of the season to date, and a Voyager classic. It made me laugh--a lot. But it didn't do just that, and that's what I really liked. The humor didn't come at the expense of characterization or consistency.
  7. ^ "Star Trek: Ranking the 20 Best Holodeck Episodes". CBR. 2019-01-04. Retrieved 2019-06-11.
  8. ^ ""Year of Hell" - 'Star Trek: Voyager' — The 15 Greatest Episodes". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2019-02-21.
  9. ^ Cloud, John (2009-05-08). "10 Best Star Trek Moments". Time. ISSN 0040-781X. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  10. ^ "10 Best Star Trek Moments - TIME". TIME.com.
  11. ^ "[VOY] Jammer's Review: "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy"". Jammer's Reviews. Retrieved 2020-08-12.
  12. ^ "Star Trek: Voyager: Top Rated Episodes, According To IMDb". ScreenRant. 2020-04-19. Retrieved 2021-04-08.
  13. ^ "DVD Talk". www.dvdtalk.com. Retrieved 2021-02-19.


  • Hines, Edward James (October 13, 1999). "Review of "Tinker Tenor Doctor Spy"". Trek Nation.

Further reading

  • Meyer, Uwe (Nov 2001). "Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" – eine Star-Trek-Voyager-Episode im Unterricht" ["Tinker, Tenor, Doctor, Spy" - a Star Trek Voyager episode in the classroom]. Der Fremdsprachliche Unterricht Englisch [Foreign Language Teaching English] (in German). Friedrich in Velber in Zusammenarbeit mit Klett. 54 (Telekommunikation [Telecommunication]): 46–49. 526054.

External links