Monday, February 23, 2015

Character Insight No. 133: Vic Fontaine

This is the latest installment in a series of "Character Insight" articles regarding the rich history of characters in the Star Trek universe.  An audio version will appear on the This Week in Trek podcast, available for direct download here.
Welcome back to Character Insight! This week, we review Vic Fontaine from Deep Space Nine.

Vic Fontaine.jpg 
 (Vic is a smooth and always sharply-dressed man) 
Vic Fontaine is a hologram on one of the most popular programs used by the DS9 crew, a program which simulates 1962 Las Vegas on Earth. Fontaine is the owner and entertainer in a club called Vic's Las Vegas Lounge, and he serves as a Guinan-like character for a crew that does not have a Ten Forward lounge, or at least not a sympathetic bartender in the case of Quark.  He provides another necessary relaxation or escape outlet during the stressful Dominion War seasons for the Deep Space Nine crew.

Vic was modeled after 20th Century entertainers like Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra. Indeed, Frank Sinatra Jr. was initially approached to play this role, which would have been a nice touch, but he declined because he only had interest in playing an alien character on Star Trek. Even without evoking the actual bloodline, the vocal jazz abilities of Fontaine accurately depict the entertainers of the period.

One theme which Deep Space Nine does not pick up as much as TNG or Voyager is the advancement and autonomy of artificial intelligence. Although Vic shows up much less than the EMH and Data, his programming includes high levels of perception and intuitiveness, as well as the ability to control when he is turned on and off. 

That enables some serious character self-awareness and development, making Vic almost like a real crew member rather than a hologram. If anything, these themes could have been investigated more, as it's one type of holodeck use we can almost always approve of at This Week in Trek. 

Quote from His Way:
Vic Fontaine: If you're gonna work Vegas in the '60s, you better know the score. Otherwise you're gonna look like a Clyde.
Major Kira: A Clyde?
Vic Fontaine: A Harvey, you know?
Lt. Commander Worf: Harvey?
Vic Fontaine: A square. You know what a square is, right?
Chief O'Brien: It's one side of a cube.
Vic Fontaine: Well, I guess that answers my question.


Fontaine helped some of the other real crew members overcome significant hurdles in their lives. He gives advice to Odo when he wants to start a romantic relationship with Kira, and his setup of these two leads to a positive outcome where Odo may have bumbled it by himself. Vic also helps Nog regain confidence to face the real world again after he withdraws from reality when dealing with the loss and prosthetic replacement of his leg in a Dominion War battle.  
Thus, Vic is an effective barkeep counselor role which the Deep Space Nine crew needed during the toughest times of the show. This is a rare example of a great late-season addition to balance the direction where a show is headed, and Vic even gets to sing off the Deep space Nine crew in the show finale.

Quote/Song from What You Leave Behind:
Vic Fontaine: Ladies and gentlemen, tonight is a very special night for some friends of mine. They've been together a long time. But like the man said... nothing lasts forever. So gang, this one's from the heart.  

James Darren played Vic Fontaine, and he retired from acting shortly after DS9. Darren was involved in many 1950's and 1960's TV shows, but his other most famous role likely was as Officer Jim Corrigan on T.J. Hooker.
Feedback can be sent to me with future segment suggestions on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy. Until next time, live long and prosper...

No comments:

Post a Comment