Star Trek: Voyager: Meld   Rewatch 
April 20, 2017 3:16 AM - Season 2, Episode 16 - Subscribe

Or, "The One Where Tuvok Finally Murders Neelix"

Memory Alpha's mind to your mind. Memory Alpha's thoughts to your thoughts:

- Believing that Tuvok encountering random violence would make for a good story, executive producer Michael Piller sought freelance writers to pitch such a plot. "I had been after freelancers for a year or so to give me a story about Tuvok and random violence," Piller recalled, "because I felt that the ultimate nightmare for Tuvok, for a Vulcan, would be to bring some logic to the kind of random violence that you see on Headline News. As a fairly intelligent Human being, I don't understand how it occurs and I can't explain it. Imagine what it must be for a Vulcan, who must explain it in order for it to exist within his own personal set of values."

- This is the first Star Trek episode whose development involved Michael Sussman, who was a writing intern on the series at the time and went on to write or co-write ten subsequent episodes of Star Trek: Voyager and twenty-two of Enterprise. This is also the only episode of Voyager's second season that Sussman worked on. Sussman's plot concept was entitled "Genocide" and proposed that the alien serial killer whom Tuvok encountered would be a racist alien; Tuvok's mind-melding with this xenophobic killer would give vent to the Vulcan's own repressed feelings regarding Humans.

- Michael Piller conducted research for the script during the writing process. "I hired a consultant for 'Meld,'" he explained, "because I wanted to get to the roots of violence in psychology that I didn't understand. There are things that, as a writer, I'm coming at from the outside and I need somebody to help me get inside." In fact, the psychiatrist who Piller consulted was from the California Institute for the Mentally Insane. Remembering how this consultant assisted with the writing of the episode, Piller stated, "I showed him the story, the beat sheet [outlining the plot] and the script. We talked about language and exactly what we were dealing with in this story, and I began to understand the pull of violence, the seductiveness of violence." In addition, Piller recalled of their relationship, "He read the story and gave me some tips and we talked about language and about how to achieve what I wanted. He gave me some dark and sad stories. We spent hours on the telephone."

- Another source of inspiration was Tuvok actor Tim Russ, who was instrumental in changing the character of the episode's serial killer from a Human to a Betazoid. Russ recalled about the episode, "I knew it was coming up and [Piller] was open for input. One of the major changes we made was the character I meld with. Originally it was human, but it made more sense to be an alien, because we already had him meld with Humans before and there is no problem with that. When you meld you exchange yourself and this depends on the species. The idea is that this is something Vulcans do in and among themselves, but is not designed for other species. You are really rolling the dice in the game when you do that, and that is what we wanted to explore. I think with a Human he would be able to control their emotions more so than an alien. Betazoids are powerful and emotional and passionate and those elements together in this individual who is dangerous and has a great deal of anger and hostility would make a better character to meld with."

- Despite director Cliff Bole liking Brad Dourif as an actor, Bole also felt that Dourif was underused here. "I wish we had given him more to do," Bole admitted. "I don't think we showed enough duality in Suder as the maniac taking on the Vulcan's calm control. We should have played off that a little more, but there are only 44 minutes."

- Along with many of the cast, the production staffers who were appreciative of Tim Russ' performance in this episode not only included Michael Piller but also Cliff Bole as well as supervising producer Brannon Braga. Concerning the installment, Piller remarked, "The thing that really made it work was Tim Russ's performance, which was just remarkable." Similarly, Braga commented, "I think Tim Russ made himself known as one of the best actors on the show. Tuvok really broke out in that episode."

- Tim Russ enthused, "It was a great kick for me as an actor, as Tuvok was able to be completely unlocked." This was despite the fact that Russ found the installment to be "tremendously exhausting." In a 2010 interview, Russ admitted that he had included, in a performance reel he could show upon seeking acting work, the scene from this episode wherein Tuvok loses control of himself in sickbay.

- Ultimately, Michael Piller believed this episode had an obvious storyline but also a lot to say about violence. He remarked, "The interesting thing about the show was that the plot is entirely predictable. What makes it rise above is the ability to make that story talk about something, to talk about violence and to see the different facets of it."

- Brannon Braga was delighted by the installment. He raved, "Superb. It doesn't get any better than this: melding with a psychopath, and the psychopath starts to take on the Vulcan tendencies and vice versa. An exploration of murderous tendencies and evil. Just absolutely fascinating." Braga also felt that the issues explored in this episode were very contemporary. He opined, "The random violence, the causes of random violence in 'Meld', these are very Nineties issues. These aren't things that you would have seen in the original Star Trek, because they weren't issues then."


"All of us have violent instincts; we have evolved from predators... well, not me, of course. I've just been programmed by you predators."

- The Doctor


"I will not rest until I see you smile."
"Then you will not rest."

- Neelix and Tuvok


"Do you know what a mind meld is?"
"It's that Vulcan thing where you grab someone's head."

- Tuvok and Suder


"Vulcan mind melds. Utter foolishness. Anybody with an ounce of sense wouldn't share his brain with someone else. Would you? I certainly wouldn't. And of course, when something goes wrong, and believe me it does more often than they'd like to admit, the first thing they call out is DOCTOR!"

- The Doctor, to Captain Janeway


"Understand one thing, Tuvok. I can promise you this will not silence your demons. If you can't control the violence, the violence controls you. Be prepared to yield your entire being to it, to sacrifice your place in civilized life for you will no longer be a part of it, and there's no return.

- Suder, after Tuvok comes to "execute" him


Poster's Log:
And the VOY rollercoaster ride continues: immediately after one of the series' worst installments comes "Meld", which I'd likely put in my top ten of Voyager. I love Tuvok and I love Suder. Vulcans losing it is always fun, too (one imagines Janeway saying to herself, "Crap, who ever thought it'd be a good idea to allow Vulcans into the security division"), and as somebody with a bit of acting in his past I'm actually sort of jealous of Tim Russ for what was clearly some fun scenery-chewing. Moreover, the story itself is disturbing enough that one has to wonder whether somebody said to the VOY team, "Hey, you guys have to do more with the Maquis being a complicating factor on the ship," and they replied, "CHALLENGE ACCEPTED."

Piller, the writer, mentioned on the MA page that he struggled with how to end the episode, which is funny because that's where I really feel like it nails it. They never directly answer Tuvok's initial question w/r/t Suder and the murder. But I've always read this episode as, Tuvok got the answer—because of the meld. The answer was the seductive nature of violence, and particularly retributive violence; Suder, having been in the Maquis, would've enjoyed the same (illusion of) moral clarity that Tuvok himself experiences when he decides to seek "justice." Moral clarity like that is rare in the experience of Starfleet officers, and for good reason; real-world history (and news) is full of warnings about what can happen when a person is so committed to a cause, so "full of passionate intensity," as to have purged all doubt and all contemplation from themselves (one such example). But this is all subtext, and while I might be reading too much into it, I don't think that I am. And part of why the episode sticks the landing is because they did NOT get more explicit about any of this "lesson" stuff (e.g. in the form of a Janeway speech at the end).

I wouldn't go so far as to say it's a perfect episode—it's slow in spots, Suder should've had more scenes, and the Paris-Chakotay stuff is a distraction. I also wonder if the impact of Tuvok losing it might've been stronger later in the series. But it's still must-see Trek, and arguably a bit more believable as a Grimdark Trek Outing than some of the similar DS9 episodes. (But only some … aaand now I'm thinking about Garak and getting wistful.)

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
Here's a puzzler. Which of the following misuses of the holodeck is more disturbing: Tuvok murdering Neelix, or Barclay makin' it with the women on the Enterprise senior staff? I mean it: this is seriously disturbing stuff when you really imagine what would ensue if holodecks existed IRL. I have known more than one person who should never be given access to that kind of technology. Geordi and Leah Brahms was certainly squicky, but I'd put that closer to (though not quite equivalent to) making a celebrity into a holodeck character—I mean, he presumably didn't expect to actually meet the real Brahms, though perhaps he should have expected to. But programming people you know, people you work with, into a "private," "recreational" holodeck program really crosses a line. I'm gonna vote Barclay's was worse, because at least Program Tuvok Ragegasm One was an isolated incident, unlikely to recur after Tuvok's crisis passed.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (17 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
This is absolutely a great episode, and a great example of how you can often get much more out of a bottle show (see also: DS9's "The Wire" and "Duet") than you can out of building a regency romance set or animated salamanders or whatever. (Although, speaking of DS9, you've got the counterexamples of "The Visitor" or "Far Beyond the Stars." But anyway.) Dourif is a great actor to play off of; he doesn't overdo his patented Spooky Look™, but it still kind of comes in around the edges. It must have been tempting to give him a Hannibal Lecture [TVTropes], but they wisely resisted the temptation, ditto for Tuvok's sickbay rant: he's not ruthlessly analyzing them, he's revealing some uncomfortable truths about himself.

That scene, and the episode overall get into some things about Vulcans and Tuvok in particular that I'd suspected for a while. TOS would occasionally drop hints that Vulcans may not particularly approve of humans, or more emotional aliens in general; Spock would display a certain subtle superciliousness at times, particularly in response to teasing from the other crew (especially McCoy), and Sarek was shockingly rude to the Tellarite delegates, although later episodes of Enterprise would hint that rudeness was par for the course for Tellarite interaction. Diane Duane's excellent novel Spock's World would go into this in a bit more detail, since the framing of the book (which mostly covers different episodes in Vulcan history, from prehistoric times to Sarek and Amanda's courtship) is that Vulcan is considering leaving the Federation. Enterprise would also expand on this, too, with Vulcans having serious misgivings about closer ties with Terrans, in particular with sharing technology with them, although the fourth season would make the case that the then-current Vulcan government and society in general had strayed from classic Surakian philosophy. That, and a couple of notorious examples in DS9 (in The Baseball Episode and "Field of Fire") show that Vulcans can be wrong about stuff, that the whole "Our (Space) Elves are Better" trope doesn't hold up under close examination, which I like, because I hate that trope, to the extent that I put down The Lord of the Rings when I was a teenager and didn't pick it up again until over twenty years later when the movies came out, because I got to the point where I wanted to yell at them, well, if you're so fucking superior, why don't you deal with the fucking ring? You could probably do it in less than half the time and extemporaneously compose a big fucking epic poem about it at the same time, right? Sheesh. And there was more than a bit of Trek fiction floating around that likewise couldn't emphasize enough how much superior Vulcans were.

Plus, of course, Tim Russ confirmed my impression of some of what was driving Tuvok. Spock wasn't completely emotionless; he was occasionally caught smiling, and more often had this faint Mona Lisa smile. Tuvok's almost-subliminal emotion was irritation, which he'd express more or less directly (and most often at or regarding Neelix) throughout the entire series. (There was a bit in an earlier episode where Neelix makes note of Tuvok's habit of sitting with a cup of tea in the mess hall along with a PADD and facing away from everyone else.) This will be expanded on more in "Flashback", when he talks to Janeway about how he simply left Starfleet for decades because he couldn't stand humans; that definitely comes out in his sickbay rant. And it even ties into his reasons for melding with Suder in the first place: he not only doesn't get why Suder did it ("no reason, I just like doing things like that" won't cut it with him"), it offends his sense of order.

Other things: the scenes in Sandrine's seemed superfluous, although I think that it's really just setting things up for "Investigations", a rare example of continuity across episodes in this series. And I also liked that one of the things that Tuvok tried when he was behind the force-field was reaching out to Kes telepathically (shades of Spock doing the same thing a couple of times in TOS), although, instead of the Doctor simply shutting down his telepathy, I wish there had been a bit with Kes calmly saying, "Do you really think that's a good idea, Tuvok? I might lose control, and we already know that"--Kubrick Stare--"you wouldn't like me when I'm angry."
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:08 AM on April 20 [2 favorites]


Suder remains the creepiest Betazoid. We've had a crazy Betazoid before, but TNG didn't handle persons-with-mental-illness very well. (I confess I'm glad where VOY takes Barclay.)

Suder was also the first time I became aware of the all-black Betazoid eyes. I never noticed in TNG. For both him (ad Tam) I thought it was a "make them look crazier" choice until my boyfriend pointed out it's an actual race characteristic.

Tim Russ is awesome.

And those quotes remind me how much I flipping love the Doctor. He's probably my favorite star trek character, full stop.
posted by INFJ at 8:16 AM on April 20 [3 favorites]


Geordi and Leah Brahms was certainly squicky

I think the difference is that both Tuvok's and Barclay's were intentionally made fantasies. The same for Quark's holosuites.

Geordi has more in common with Janeway (and Michael Sullivan) in that regard.

Holodecks are weird things. Star Trek has always done interesting "this crosses some serious lines" sort of exploration about how weird they are.

I imagine that it would be easy to have holoemitters in your home. (if not restricted somehow, which I feel it must be otherwise Barclay would have installed some) Then you could just tailor your spouse to be exactly everything you want/need them to be. The human race would die out.
posted by INFJ at 8:22 AM on April 20


Particle of the Week: Radiogenic particles.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The main place I want to go with this is back to Mindscape, an episode I mentioned previously in these threads. During the mission, the player mind-melds with Tuvok to battle a villain that's gotten a psychic link with him. One intriguing notion here is that Tuvok retains some essence of people he's mind-melded with in the past, although Suder is unfortunately not among the ones encountered. (I assume getting Brad Dourif would've been trouble.)

Ongoing Equipment Tally:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 34
* Shuttles: Down 3
* Crew: 147. Alas, poor Darwin. It should've been Neelix! (Also, still counting Suder for now.)
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 5

Notes:
* To begin with, the awesome: Tim Russ and Brad Dourif.

I've often gushed about Voyager's casting. It really is that good, IMO: Brad Dourif is some genius casting for Suder, and Tim Russ is the best Vulcan since Leonard Nimoy. He's really underused on Voyager, and it's always fun to see him really get some space to work. It's been awhile so I'm not 100%, but I think this might be my favorite performance Tim Russ ever gives on the show.

Brad Dourif is also really good. I don't mind that he didn't get as much screen time - I think Russ earned it. It's particularly fun to watch Tuvok's evil rants. Like, the whole 'you are not *invulnerable*, hologram!' bit is particularly chilling.

* The bad: Tuvok comes across as startlingly naive here.

So, the behavior Tuvok's engaging in here would make sense out of a fresh recruit. He's projecting, assuming that a criminal's mental framework would necessarily be comprehensible to him even though the man in question is an alien, *and* Vulcans should be used to other species not sharing their approach to critical thinking.

It's ridiculous that he wouldn't know better than this by now. It's also ridiculous that a seasoned officer would indulge in something as reckless as a mind-meld over it with the crime already solved.

Fortunately, the dramatic performances here outweigh this, but it really stuck out to me when I was watching it this time.

* Seriously, no fair teasing about Neelix, show.

The bit where Neelix actually pawed Tuvok's face was a holodeck cheat, but he really, really was talking about greased up naked Vulcans in the mess hall. The real ethical questions here are probably 'how can Starfleet not have an HR department, and since they don't, why has no one killed Neelix for real?'

Also, I found myself wondering how much Tuvok could make by selling the Kill Neelix holoprogram. (Holodeck royalties are a thing later, IIRC.)

* And we're back to 'Maquis crew integration was sloppy and bad.'

I get why Chakotay would've taken some steps to protect his people when first merging the crews, and I can see why he wouldn't have wanted to stir shit up for Suder in the time since - apparently, his work was fine. However, it shows just how bad Janeway is at her job, not doing anything to work around that reluctance. (It's clear she didn't interview most of them herself, and just took Chakotay at his word - not a great plan, considering the lax internal security aboard Starfleet vessels.)

* Mixed feelings about the mental illness angle.

So on the one hand, the episode indulges in some bad stuff here. For instance, Kes and the Doc conflate bipolar and psychosis, and nobody points out that people suffering from mental illness are far more likely to be the victims of violence than the perpetrators.

On the other hand, the episode makes some good points too. For instance, the notion of catharsis has been discredited, and the episode posits it wouldn't solve the problem, which is cool.

I also appreciated the Doctor's healthy skepticism of the notion of a mind meld here, along with Vulcans generally. Vulcans have a mystique that isn't usually challenged, and it's nice to see him coming at it from a 'no actually they are just as full of shit as the rest of you' angle.

* B-plot is dumb.

On the one hand, it's good Chakotay busted Paris. On the other hand, it's hard for me to buy that people who are as good at math as Starfleet personnel are supposed to be would fall for such a dumb scam. Seriously, it sounds like someone needed an *exact* match rather than a 'close enough' match to win the pool, and if I can figure out why that's a bad idea, someone who can run a level 3 diagnostic shouldn't have any trouble with it either.

This would've been easily fixed by Paris going ahead and letting the closest match win, or 'whomever is within [x%]' win. (I get the impression he got caught because someone complained he was scamming, and there was no reason for him to - his skimming would have arguably worked better without it. A daily winner would've just resulted in a net transfer of rations to him at no personal risk.)

This is a minor quibble, just pointing it out because without minor quibbles, I'm not sure what sort of a Star Trek viewer I would be.

So... hm. Overall: this episode features some of the best dramatic performances I remember from Voyager ever, so it's definitely good. I'm impressed that Piller conducted some real research for it, and it shows - that was a good thing he did. It's undercut somewhat by the usual Voyager thing of 'this doesn't make sense if you think about it at all,' but I'd still highly recommend it to someone who wanted to get a look at what the franchise is capable of producing, so I guess that's not a big deal to me this time.

Fun watch.
posted by mordax at 9:39 AM on April 20 [2 favorites]


(Also, I want to agree with Halloween Jack's discussion of Vulcans as portrayed in Trek more, but I do not have time this minute. Be back later with my thoughts about it.)
posted by mordax at 9:44 AM on April 20


Tim Russ is the best Vulcan since Leonard Nimoy

In past VOY watches, I've idly wondered whether Russ is (warning: heresy incoming) a better Vulcan than Nimoy. Probably something for us to revisit as his character develops more.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:49 AM on April 20 [2 favorites]


Oh, and WRT the holodeck question, that's not an easy question, especially as it applies to the Doctor; later in the series, the distinction between "a fantasy that you have in your mind" and "a fantasy that you run on the holodeck" gets blurred when some of the crew get to see the former thanks to the latter, specifically the Doctor painting a nude portrait of Seven (Seven is one of the other crew there). And ditto for violent programs, as Worf runs the Battle of Tong Vey and, as Emperor Sompek, orders the slaughter of everyone in the city, warriors and civilians alike. Is it OK, or at least better, that it's a historical recreation rather than about someone alive at the present? Does it make a difference if, as the Doctor will eventually do with his holonovel, the author/creator does it in the form of a roman à clef with thinly-veiled characters? And that's not even getting into the issue of, if the problem is the person who's the subject of the holofantasy finding out about it, what does that mean for telepaths or empaths capable of picking up stray thoughts or feelings (speaking of Deanna Troi).
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:50 AM on April 20


And ditto for violent programs, as Worf runs the Battle of Tong Vey and, as Emperor Sompek, orders the slaughter of everyone in the city, warriors and civilians alike. Is it OK, or at least better, that it's a historical recreation rather than about someone alive at the present?

Undoubtedly. Otherwise, when I play Civ and annihilate every other nation, I'm morally culpable.

What I feel I could not do, morally, is make a mod of Call of Duty where the map is the building I work in and each NPC has an individual skin I've made from photos I pulled from the company's web directory, supplemented by back and side photos I've taken surreptitiously myself. Crap, someone has probably done this.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 12:41 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


Before getting into the episode, I'd suggest one significant difference between Barclay and Tuvok here is that Barclay's fantasies involve imagined consent, where the crux of the issue is Barclay understands the need for consent, but doesn't see himself as able to get to a place where that would be granted. In effect, for Barclay, the problem he's dealing with is himself and he's aware of that when in real life situations, and seeks to relieve himself of that in his fantasies. It's the more typical idea of a fantasy being a way to project a more capable version of yourself.

That doesn't mean there still aren't plenty of other issues with that or the holodeck and all its possibilities, but they are a bit more complex in some ways than they might appear. Even in the Troi/Barclay example, the difference between Barclay using a hologram for his fantasies versus something like Facebook photos or just his imagination are boundaries that have different facets to them in terms of how they might be viewed. All would make anyone who is being fantasized about deeply uncomfortable or angry, to say the least, if they didn't reciprocate those desires, even moreso if they were actively repelled by the person having them. The more "lifelike" the source of inspiration, the more disturbing to be sure, but the discomfort would exist even without that. It's generally something people don't want to think about unless it is unable to be avoided, such as the revelation of doctor's fantasies regarding Seven later, but fantasies of others are also pretty common in the most general sense, so particulars matter.

For Tuvok, his fantasies are about purposefully acting against consent in ways that would be a major threat in real life. His actions posit other people as the problem and he uses the holodeck as a remedy to the wants of the social order. His desires, should they be able to be expressed directly without fear of punishment would be inherently anti-social in the extreme, where Barclay's were more a desire to fit in to the social order, though in a way that fit his desire.

For me, there is no question Tuvok's Neelix fantasy is the worse of the two for its inherent need for violation. While the type of fantasy Barclay engages in is a more variable situation, that could involve greater or lesser violation depending on the individual circumstances of what was used for the program and what were the events being holoed, which thankfully isn't fully detailed in the show, to my memory at least. It isn't a morally good thing by any means, and could be or lead to being nearly as bad as Tuvok's depending on what one would specify as the contours of the program, but Tuvok's is unquestionably dangerous and threatening in any circumstance.

While one could suggest a universal self-copyright protection being put into place in the Federation, where holodeck copies of real people in situations without expressed permission would be denied, there's little doubt there'd be ways around that given what we've seen of computer and ship security in the series. Perhaps the best way to deal with it is in a Rodenberry sense, where values are instilled by society from early age in regards to what constitutes acceptable and unacceptable behavior involving holodecks, images, information and so on. I mean it's clear relying on Federation technology to secure things sure isn't gonna work.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:53 PM on April 20 [2 favorites]


Anyway, about the episode, yeah, it's a pip. Definitely one of the better Voyager episodes and one that I think stands with the ideals of the franchise well. It takes a real world moral issue, adds a little Trektwist to it and speaks well for humanist values in the end without overburdening the viewer with big speeches in an effort to make its points.

It seems a pretty clearly anti-capital punishment stance, but done in a way that submerges that a bit in detail so it isn't heavy handed at all, while also acknowledging some inherent complexities in thinking about violence and how we might view it in our daily lives. It flirts with notions of violent fantasy compared to violent action, restraint, and provocation.

By setting the episode up with Neelix provoking Tuvok there is the suggestion that Tuvok's interest in Suder is coming from something more than a detached want for knowledge of motivation, which, for me, removes questions about Tuvok's naivety in the matter. It suggests that the interest in control, or lack thereof, in matters of such seemingly mild provocation that can give rise to real anger is the connecting thought in the attention Tuvok gives the case. I don't mean Tuvok is looking himself to connect those two events, but that the nature of self control and the "logic of action" sort of compels him to keep digging into the matter as much to prove he can resist the impulse to anger as to find any motive Suder might have.

It's the allure of the irrational, the need people sometimes have to express violent emotions, though not necessarily in violent action, that is being observed, which when allowed free reign without restraint can lead to real destruction rather than simply verbal shows of anger. Suder is someone who feels nothing for himself or others, so his actions are only restrained by knowledge of social acceptability while Tuvok is restrained by self account, where the ideal is remove or distance from the actions or attitudes of others to a place where those things can't touch you. Both understand emotions from distanced observation, but experience them differently. Suder by unmediated expression, Tuvok through supression. The mind meld allows each to learn something about themselves in the exchange of reactive perspective. Tuvok becomes decentered, where all others are forces impinging on his self, and Suder is given a center to better see his own responsibilities in his encounters. What was most abstract to each of them is given form and force in the exchange.

Russ and Dourif are both great. It's only a little sad there wasn't more time in the episode for Dourif to get more to do since I wouldn't want less Russ, just more for him too. Mulgrew and Picardo are also really good in support here, with the doctor actually getting good doctor lines beyond the snark. I mean an interesting perspective of his own that aligns more with out ideas of normal, but without pushing that too far into preachy territory or to the point where Tuvok's ideals of self control are rendered laughable. The doctor has his points, and does suggest a good deal about Vulcan values, but he, and the rest of the episode, also show potential benefits to those ideals as well in Suder's new attitude on gaining some better control and in Tuvok's own recovery.

I never really thought about Vulcans as being space elves, exactly, more that they were show to be stronger in some ways, but more often flawed in what they lack or don't accept. For all the times Spock and Tuvok are right, they are at least as much wrong in the sense they continually underestimate emotional importance in their dealings and are, in that sense, as much foils for the show's view of humanity as any ideal to be emulated. It's more a give and take attitude than one of innate superiority I've felt. This episode too, while about Tuvok and Suder, seems to be as much interested in highlighitng the space between those two perspectives where most of us sit, by showing more extreme possibilities.

It wasn't a great episode for Neelix. I don't mean the holomurder itself, but that the show could so easily go there both required, once again, making Neelix fucking annoying, and showed how readily viewers would accept that point of view. It made sense for Tuvok and was used to great effect, but also really shows some of the problems with the character. And, also once again, how can the writers keep failing to find anything more for Kes to do? They could have gotten more out of her character in each of these last two shows, but just won't go there. They really screwed her up from the get go and can't figure out how to fix it, mostly because they seem to see her as one who is only affected by others, rather than a character who can act in her own right.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:10 PM on April 20 [3 favorites]


For me, there is no question Tuvok's Neelix fantasy is the worse of the two for its inherent need for violation.

If Tuvok were his normal self at the time, I'd absolutely agree. But I'd be inclined to endorse a plea of temporary insanity if the holo-murder went to (non-holo-) trial.

For all the times Spock and Tuvok are right, they are at least as much wrong in the sense they continually underestimate emotional importance in their dealings and are, in that sense, as much foils for the show's view of humanity as any ideal to be emulated.

And this is one of the few things I genuinely enjoyed about Enterprise: they really explored the Vulcan-Human relationship, were willing to show Vulcan flaws, and IIRC they did it well overall. And I didn't even like the T'Pol character that much.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 3:32 AM on April 21 [1 favorite]


In past VOY watches, I've idly wondered whether Russ is (warning: heresy incoming) a better Vulcan than Nimoy. Probably something for us to revisit as his character develops more.

Always a big fan of any episode that focuses on the non-human species though of course this is fiction, so they are all symbols and metaphors for ourselves.

Loving the Vulcan exploration and the variety of different opinions about particular Vulcans. My favourite Vulcan character is T'Pol though favourites don't mean better. Spock, Sarek, Tuvok, and T'Pol to me are neither better or worse than the other, just different people and it's good the franchise as a whole was able to give more diversity to the species' individuals than perhaps we could expect from a show given the production framework they have been produced within. They all share some obvious cultural similarities of course as well. I like indepedence in characters and find that though Spock and Tuvok are by no means conformists, T'Pol was even more out of the norm while remaining as extraordinary as many of the Trek characters are. In addition, having spent a lot of time with people with extreme anxiety as the result of withdrawal from certain substances T'Pol's story hits closer to home for me.

There has always been an underlying, almost modern outlook on mental health in regard to the Vulcans, as a people, for the most part deciding that they have some natural (I confess I don't know the correct terminology) emotional tendencies that are so destructive that they have to understand that, acknowledge it, and manage them or else they end up destroying themselves. It can't be easy, as all the Vulcans show from time to time, though moreso with Tuvok and T'Pol. I wonder if a particularly empathetic human would "feel" the underlying emotional tension in Vulcans if they lived amongst them.

The Romulans, I believe, handle it with a martial and totalitarian philosophy, which of course, makes them closer to ourselves, given our current situation with fascists and our history.
posted by juiceCake at 1:58 PM on April 21 [3 favorites]


I wonder if a particularly empathetic human would "feel" the underlying emotional tension in Vulcans if they lived amongst them.

Hey, that's a great point. Tam Elbrun's head might've exploded after two minutes in a population center on Vulcan.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 2:37 AM on April 22 [1 favorite]


While one could suggest a universal self-copyright protection being put into place in the Federation, where holodeck copies of real people in situations without expressed permission would be denied, there's little doubt there'd be ways around that given what we've seen of computer and ship security in the series.

I agree that copy protection wouldn't work, but I think the appropriate analogy is written fiction, here.

For Tuvok, his fantasies are about purposefully acting against consent in ways that would be a major threat in real life

The 'threat' angle is where I was wanting to go with that myself, yeah.

If I write a story that includes living people in it and keep it to myself, well... that's my business. Like, if my private diary is just a bunch of fantasies about me and celebrities, (*full body shudder*), but I never show it to anyone, that's clearly unhealthy but it's not actionable. No one is harmed. On the show, Paris' holo-girlfriend is the closest analogy: if she's based on a real person, odds are that real person never knew. (It's muddier because he shows Harry, but I'm talking about while he keeps her on a thumb drive instead of Starfleet property.)

If, however, I were to post a fantasy about murdering or having sex with someone to a public computer archive, that gets messier because now that can get back to them. Reactions to that are going to range from people looking down on me to legal action, depending on circumstances and content.

I guess what I'm saying is: leaving a 'Murder Neelix' program on the holodeck server is akin to leaving a detailed fantasy about murdering a coworker on a shared public server - it probably constitutes a threat in any healthy legal system. (In that context, I would say that the murder program is worse than the sexual ones - I agree with the notion above that there's implied consent in the sexy programs under discussion, which is in terrible taste, but not premeditation toward a crime.)

In past VOY watches, I've idly wondered whether Russ is (warning: heresy incoming) a better Vulcan than Nimoy. Probably something for us to revisit as his character develops more.

I wouldn't consider that heretical, no. He's really good at his job.

That, and a couple of notorious examples in DS9 (in The Baseball Episode and "Field of Fire") show that Vulcans can be wrong about stuff, that the whole "Our (Space) Elves are Better" trope doesn't hold up under close examination, which I like, because I hate that trope

Heh. Here, here. And yeah, I agree that the the Vulcans totally began as 'Our (Space) Elves are Better' in the TOS era. Spock doesn't come across well on the Mary Sue litmus test. Stories that give Vulcans fallibility and basic humanity are good both to make them more sympathetic, and to make the universe itself make more sense. (In that the Vulcans aren't running it.)

There has always been an underlying, almost modern outlook on mental health in regard to the Vulcans, as a people, for the most part deciding that they have some natural (I confess I don't know the correct terminology) emotional tendencies that are so destructive that they have to understand that, acknowledge it, and manage them or else they end up destroying themselves. It can't be easy, as all the Vulcans show from time to time, though moreso with Tuvok and T'Pol. I wonder if a particularly empathetic human would "feel" the underlying emotional tension in Vulcans if they lived amongst them.

The Romulans, I believe, handle it with a martial and totalitarian philosophy, which of course, makes them closer to ourselves, given our current situation with fascists and our history.


I always, always hated that about Vulcans - the idea that repression was 'logical.' Like... Vulcans don't deal with their feelings, they just pretend not to have them, which is a dangerous notion. This is how you end up with the barbarism in their culture in the TOS-era.

(This really bothered me as a kid because I was The Smart Kid, the one who should've been placed in a higher grade, etc. - and there is this cultural expectation that being smart should disconnect you from your feelings rather than making you better at navigating both your own feelings and the feelings of less smart people around you. That's not all on Star Trek, but Vulcans were not a help in how people dealt with me, or how I thought I should behave when I was too young to suss it out for myself.)

It didn't occur to me until way later that the Romulans were definitive proof they didn't need to be this way: Romulans *don't* pursue Surakian philosophy, and they still manage. Didn't kerplode themselves.

This episode is great in that the Doctor - and implied authorial intent - is clearly on the side of 'no, actually, Vulcans aren't doing this any better than anyone else.' I liked that.
posted by mordax at 1:01 PM on April 22 [2 favorites]


(This really bothered me as a kid because I was The Smart Kid, the one who should've been placed in a higher grade, etc. - and there is this cultural expectation that being smart should disconnect you from your feelings rather than making you better at navigating both your own feelings and the feelings of less smart people around you. That's not all on Star Trek, but Vulcans were not a help in how people dealt with me, or how I thought I should behave when I was too young to suss it out for myself.)

Ah, the shock of recognition.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:37 PM on April 22 [3 favorites]


"Then you could just tailor your spouse to be exactly everything you want/need them to be. The human race would die out."

You must not have taken middle school sex ed.
posted by traveler_ at 9:12 PM on April 22 [1 favorite]


"I really love the way you COMPARED TWO THINGS. You're such a handsome man, REGINALD E. BARCLAY."
posted by mordax at 5:17 PM on April 23


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