Star Trek: Voyager: Tuvix   Rewatch 
May 18, 2017 3:39 AM - Season 2, Episode 24 - Subscribe

On stardate 49655.2, Lieutenant Tuvok was asked to remove himself from his ship of residence to collect samples. That request came from his captain. Deep down, he knew the transporter would malfunction on the way back, but he also knew that someday, he would return to her. With nowhere else to go, his transporter pattern merged with that of his crewmate, Neelix. Sometime earlier, Neelix's biological matter had thrown him out, requesting that he never return. Can two men share a body without driving each other crazy?

I target the transporter-accident-freak and cast Memory Alpha's Disjunction!

- Ken Biller said, "It was [a] tricky episode, because it could devolve into something farcical. It is another one of those semi-hokey sci-fi premises, sort of the opposite of what I got in 'Faces' [....] We wanted to do something a little more serious and philosophical [than the original plot] and it began to emerge as we talked about it that there was something interesting there once you got past the hokiness of the set up. It started out as a joke. What do you call the guy? Neelok? Tuvix? It almost felt like a '60s sit-com. Brannon [Braga] and I even [came] up with a little theme song. So the trick was to see if we could actually make something compelling out of it."

- Initially, the episode would have ended with Tuvix realizing, through some event or the reaction of the crew, that, for the greater good, he had to submit to the procedure of being split apart. "For a while that was the idea," recalled Ken Biller, "But then we began to talk about it and consider what if he really wanted to survive and he doesn't want to die and be killed. Michael [Piller] posed that question to me so I give Michael a lot of credit." Ken Biller then aimed to dramatize Janeway's dilemma at the episode's climax as much as he could. He explained, "I hoped to create tension at the end where it would be difficult for anyone watching to know what the right thing to do was [....] I wanted to keep asking the audience, just keep poking at the audience. There isn't an answer [....] It was an opportunity to show [Janeway] making the really tough decisions which captains are faced with."

- Tuvix actor Tom Wright was unsure if he could discern a moral in the episode's plot. "Not one that I can really pick out immediately [....] There isn't any moralizing," Wright observed. "It's just a story about a character, and you follow that character during the time he is alive. You watch the birth and the life and the death of one character in one episode, and there is no struggle between good and evil. It's purely a no-win situation." When asked if he thought Tuvix should be spared the separation at the episode's conclusion, Wright stated, "I think it was inevitable that he would be separated. There would be no drama without that separation. So, I completely agree that he should have been separated."

- Neelix actor Ethan Phillips was originally considered for the role of Tuvix. Director Cliff Bole was pleased, however, that this casting idea was ultimately not given the go-ahead. "It was better to just kind of get a little different take on the character," Bole said. "Ethan is so identifiable. He might have had a problem trying to give Tuvix the elements of Tuvok's character."

- While creating such a composite character, Tom Wright was continually unsure exactly how his performance would end up. This was because the role of Tuvix in this particular installment took Wright into unfamiliar territory. He recalled, "Every now and then a character, situation or work experience forces you outside of your strength, and you have to perform in an area that is a little bit unknown. I did a lot of that in 'Tuvix', so I was completely unsure of how it would turn out. I'm very confident of my ability as an actor, but in this particular circumstance I wasn't sure how it would all pay off." Another problem that Tom Wright encountered while working on this episode was that he had little or no help from Voyager's writers and producers. "I wish I could have felt a little more support from the top end," Wright admitted. "I take it very seriously when someone hands me a character and says, 'Tom, we want you to play this role.' I don't consider that role to be my total universe, subject only to my jurisdiction and discretion. I believe acting is a collaborative form. I think that when people write a role and they create a character, they've got a specific thing in mind, and I like to know what that is." Wright also remarked, "When you're playing a character like Tuvix, which is very difficult to perform because you're taking two well-known characters and blending them into one, and you're essentially firing arrows in the dark at a very small target, you need support and guidance [....] I'm not asking anyone to hold my hand, because I've been acting for [more than 25] years. It was just a cumulative thing. And it was curious to me, because I've worked with everyone from Francis Ford Coppola to John Sayles; all types of people, and I've seen many different ships in the water. I wasn't quite sure why some things were being done the way they were."

- Despite the difficulties, Tom Wright was aware that he had to make Tuvix a likable character, to accentuate the importance of the character's "death" at the episode's conclusion. "I knew the character's warmth had to be present at all times," the actor stated, "so that over the course of the show, the rest of the characters would warm up to him. And the reason it becomes so difficult [for Janeway to separate Tuvix at the end] is that they've all grown attached to him. They've all taken a certain amount of delight in this new individual."

- One aspect of this episode that Tom Wright enjoyed was working with Kes actress Jennifer Lien. "Working with Jennifer was one of the greatest things about working on that show," Wright enthused. "I think she's very talented and I really like how she works as an actress. We also just had a lot of fun. She was really easy to work with and we had just a real good time in those scenes."

- A scene that actor Robert Picardo found notable was the one wherein his character of The Doctor, citing the Hippocratic Oath, refuses to comply with Janeway ordering him to be the person responsible for separating Tuvix into Tuvok and Neelix. Referring to Janeway and The Doctor, the actor commented that the scene was "an interesting moment for both characters."

- Janeway's dilemma at the end of this episode proved to be controversial. Ken Biller commented, "Different people had different points of view about it [....] I got a lot of mail about it. People were really moved. It provoked a lot of discussion about what Janeway had to do." In fact, according to the unauthorized reference book Delta Quadrant (p. 120), this episode was by far the most debated installment from Voyager's first five seasons, especially on the Internet, over Janeway's decision to separate Tuvix back into Tuvok and Neelix.


"... I've been poked and prodded in organs I didn't even know I had!"

- Tuvix on The Doctor's examination


"Do you mind telling me what's going on here, crewman?"
"We're making dinner."
"I see. Alright, everybody out!"
"On whose authority?"
"Chief of security or head chef, take your pick. Out, out, out!"

- Tuvix and Hogan, upon arrival in the mess hall


"We've created a monster."

- Tom Paris, on Tuvix winning four games of pool


"I assure you, Mr. Tuvix. There's nothing to worry about. We've accounted for every variable."
"Except one. I don't want to die."

- The Doctor and Tuvix, on being separated into Tuvok and Neelix again


Poster's Log:
Others may disagree, but for my part, I cannot think of a manner in which the decision to disjoin Tuvix is morally defensible. As it is presented to us, the situation Janeway is faced with here seems to me to be, from a moral perspective, basically identical to if Tuvok and Neelix had disappeared mysteriously, then a week later Voyager took on some random alien crewman, and then a few weeks after THAT, some God-Being shows up and says "I guarantee you I will miraculously deliver Tuvok and Neelix back to you, but only if you kill New Alien Crewman." We would be disgusted if she said "Sold!" in that situation.

This is also (like "Threshold") one of those where, when the Executive Producer credit pops up to signal the end of the episode, you sputter incredulously and go "Wait, that's IT?!" A critical question is left unanswered: do Tuvok and Neelix remember Tuvix's experiences? Because if they do, oh boy Janeway done fucked up here. "Hey, good to know you'll straight-up murder a member of your crew." And I may be imagining things, but there seems to be the slightest hint of reproach in Tuvok's eyes right before Janeway walks out.

That none of the writers seemed to consider any of this makes me think, to put it politely, that they couldn't think outside the "weekly TV series" box and, consciously or unconsciously, decided that any solution that brings Neelix and Tuvok back at the end of the episode is an acceptable one. (And, to put it impolitely, their heads were too far up their own asses.) Making Tuvix kind of a jerk does nothing to alleviate Janeway's moral culpability.

Now, if Tuvix turned out to be such a jerk that he was a threat to the ship's safety, THEN the disjunction is less morally reprehensible. But that's too tidy. Maybe if he'd been somehow mentally screwed-up in a way that the Doctor couldn't fix—such that he might be a threat to the ship at some point? But now I'm just re-pitching.

I mean, sure, Tuvix is a Thing That Should Not Be. But he is. The sort of thinking Janeway (along with, let's face it, the rest of the bridge crew) demonstrates here suggests prioritizing what should be over what is. History shows us that's a horrible mistake.

Anyway, ending aside, this is a surprisingly effective episode considering how tired the transporter-accident premise is. The Tuvix actor gives a performance that I can only describe as fascinating.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
The TV Trope for this premise is Fusion Dance.

I am morbidly curious to know how Biller and Braga's Tuvix theme song went.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (20 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
do Tuvok and Neelix remember Tuvix's experiences? Because if they do, oh boy Janeway done fucked up here. "Hey, good to know you'll straight-up murder a member of your crew."

I think it's a complicated question, that I can't go into at the moment in detail save to say that I don't think it's less defensible if Tuvok and Neelix remember their joint life since they both would also have a greater sense of a "real" self that existed before and after Tuvix, which they would almost certainly consider more true than a paired existence.

That, in a way, is the crux of the dilemma. The knowledge Janeway and the crew have of the two individuals before being united. Without that knowledge of the pre-existing individuals then the decision to split Tuvix becomes difficult to defend. It's only that one is aware of and familiar with those "right" identities, the one's Tuvix was created from, that the decision to restore them instead of giving preference to the new united identity makes more definitive sense.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:35 AM on May 18


Or maybe think of it this way; if Tuvix was a creation of Neelix and Tuvok's minds being connected that appeared when the two were put into a coma and would exist only as long as Tuvok and Neelix were comatose, would Tuvix have the right to demand keeping those two in such a state to continue his own life if there was a way to rouse them safely and return them to the lives they previously led? It'd be difficult, I think, to justify Tuvix's existence at the expense of the other two in such circumstances.
posted by gusottertrout at 5:43 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


As it is presented to us, the situation Janeway is faced with here seems to me to be, from a moral perspective, basically identical to if Tuvok and Neelix had disappeared mysteriously, then a week later Voyager took on some random alien crewman, and then a few weeks after THAT, some God-Being shows up and says "I guarantee you I will miraculously deliver Tuvok and Neelix back to you, but only if you kill New Alien Crewman."

Sorry, but couldn't disagree more. Because Random Alien Crewman would have existed before Tuvok and Neelix disappeared, and was not the reason why Tuvok and Neelix disappeared. Just as crucially, I think, Random Alien Crewman might have a different set of ethics WRT sacrificing oneself for the greater good, i.e. The Needs of the Many Outweigh Those of the Few, or the One. But Tuvok would subscribe to that, and probably Neelix.

This is an episode that is still being debated in the fandom, and I think that one of the primary reasons for that is that Tuvix is simply more likable than either of his progenitors; if Tuvix had had Tuvok's standoffishness and Neelix's fits of jealousy, it would have been a much easier call. This is helped by Tom Wright's charisma and how Tuvix, at least at first, is played as being (or at least seeming to be) a better person, particularly in his interactions with Kes. (Also, big props to Jennifer Lien for showing Kes' discomfort and confusion at her boyfriend and mentor becoming the same person.) It's a sort of metatextual commentary on giving the viewers what they want versus treating the story and the characters with some integrity and trusting that the viewers will eventually see that even unpleasant characters have their role in the drama. (A DS9 example would be that I'd much rather watch Jeffrey Combs play Weyoun than Brunt, but Brunt has his own role to fulfill in the show, and part of the reason why he's such an unpleasant character is that Combs deliberately portrays him that way.)

And this episode similarly does go to a less pleasant side of Tuvix, especially when he's tossing out arguments such as that Tuvok and Neelix aren't really dead since they're preserved in him, without acknowledging that the opposite should also be true if he's split. It's understandable that Tuvix, having developed a sense of self, wouldn't want that to go away, but it's still an inherently selfish impulse, on the order of evil-Kirk's not wanting to rejoin with good-Kirk in "The Enemy Within", this episode's counterpart. Regardless, I'm still firmly in Team Needs of the Many. I will say this: that one thing that the episode could have done would be to have made the division process less of a sure thing, in which case the Doctor's ethical dilemma would make more sense.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:18 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Hmm, glancing at some of those linked debates over the episode I'm disturbed to see how many are basing the ethics of the decision on how likable Tuvix is compared to Tuvok and Neelix. I mean that's really troubling and does have some real world connections in how judicial sentencing allows for testimony from loved ones over a victim's "worth". Personally, I find attempting to ascertain the "value" of a person and equate that to some greater or lesser rights, rewards, or punishment is pretty abhorrent even in theory much less practice.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:35 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Particle of the Week: Lysosomal enzymes.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: This sort of accident doesn't occur in Star Trek Online's main storyline. Occasions where Neelix and Tuvok are face to face, they do not speak of it, which seems reasonable to me.

Ongoing Equipment Tally: Rolled forward this time.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 27
* Shuttles: Down 3
* Crew: 146
* Bio-neural Gelpacks: 47
Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: Holding at 7.

Notes:
* Holy crap, Neelix is annoying.

Dialed it back up to 'throttle him' for this opening. I can't imagine what Tuvok did to deserve being stuck on the planet alone with him.

* I find this story deeply unsettling.

Unlike The Thaw, this story is existentially creepy to me. While the characters act as though Neelix and Tuvok are dead, I see the outcome as worse: they've been *subsumed*. In addition to no longer existing, all of their knowledge and feelings have been given to another person without their consent.

At the same time, from Tuvix's perspective: he's been 'born' into a life where he doesn't really belong. He remembers loving a woman who doesn't - and cannot - love him back. He remembers people on Voyager caring about him from two different frames of reference, then has to watch as they all agree to end his life to replace him with men he thinks he *is*. Thinking about stuff from his perspective is pretty horrifying too.

So... props for creeping me out? On the other hand, this is a huge deal:

This is also (like "Threshold") one of those where, when the Executive Producer credit pops up to signal the end of the episode, you sputter incredulously and go "Wait, that's IT?!"

A lot of really weird Voyager outings get a weak ending: 'we're Starfleet, weird is part of the job.' 'Thanks for piloting a shuttle at transwarp, let's never talk about our lizard babies again.'

Tuvix gets nothing, leaving it unclear what either Tuvok or Neelix experienced, or how they're processing what happened to them or anything at *all*, which renders the episode deeply flawed to me. This is one half, maybe even two-thirds of a really interesting idea, and then it just stops.

* Talking morality...

I will say this: that one thing that the episode could have done would be to have made the division process less of a sure thing, in which case the Doctor's ethical dilemma would make more sense.

This is the first place that I went when I thought about it: the basis for me judging Janeway's actions is mostly 'what are the odds this will work, and what are the possible risks if it should fail?'

If the procedure were risky, Janeway needed to go ahead and keep Tuvix rather than take a Hail Mary to recover two other people.

The cure is presented as foolproof, so I think she was obligated to use it. My reasoning is this:

1) This is a rare case of a pure 'Trolley Problem.'

In some ways, this is an ideal Trolley Problem: Janeway can decide between either Tuvok and Neelix or Tuvix. I'm a little surprised that Voyager didn't even bring it up - this speaks to the fact that the writers weren't grappling with this from a very deep place. (I've often said Voyager isn't deep, and this is a distressingly shallow look at a fascinating problem in Trek that probably should have occurred sooner. After all the things they crib, it's weird that The Fly should be left untouched so long.)

But given that their information could be rounded up to 'perfect,' Janeway had a direct choice between two lives and just the one. In some ethical frames, this would be enough, and it's as far as the episode really takes it.

2) Janeway has a responsibility to the loved ones Tuvok and Neelix are leaving behind.

Tuvix's situation doesn't map onto an alien's 1:1 because, as Jack pointed out, he had no prior existence. He isn't a part of a web of preexisting social connections. Tuvok and Neelix are leaving behind family: spouses/significant others, children in Tuvok's case. Janeway has the power to give all those people back someone they need in their lives, at the cost of someone whose connections are shallow.

To me, this is a meaningful distinction. Tuvix isn't from somewhere else where he might be returned. He isn't 'real' in the same way that, say, the colonists in The Thaw were.

3) It was understood from the outset that if a cure became available, it would be used.

Most people come into this life naturally: we're born, we grow up, we die. Even a sentient android like Data has a similar arc due to his intentional similarities to natural life.

Tuvix is an artificial construct that utilizes the lives of two other people without their consent. From the first moment he set foot on Voyager, it was made clear that if they could 'cure' his condition, they would. The ambiguity that arises later is entirely believable, but he knew the deal.

I think that makes this very different from murder, Tuvix's very understandable perspective notwithstanding.

4) It is unclear what the long term consequences would be to Tuvix if he were left intact.

Vulcans don't even have red blood. Neelix and Tuvok have extremely incompatible physiologies that may not jibe indefinitely. There's no long term study on the effects of leaving a complex life form bonded that way over years, then decades. Leaving Tuvix alive is no guarantee he'll stay that way, while 'curing' his condition may reasonably be assumed to give Tuvok and Neelix back their original lifespans.

I realize this one's a stretch because the episode doesn't address it, but I found that extremely implausible. If I wanted a new kidney, rejection would be a massive concern. I just can't picture Tuvix being as resilient in the face of half the shit the crew are going to see in the rest of the show.

So... hm. In summation: Tuvix's life is one versus two, but beyond simple arithmetic, the fact of his existence deprives two other people of their lives directly, and has a complicated impact on a web of other lives that Janeway must consider. Beyond that, Tuvix's prospects if left intact are medically problematic.

I am a reluctant supporter of Janeway's decision, and believe I'd do the same in her shoes. However, I don't envy her having to, and I can respect perspectives that differ from my own here.
posted by mordax at 8:30 AM on May 18 [4 favorites]


I've often said Voyager isn't deep, and this is a distressingly shallow look at a fascinating problem in Trek that probably should have occurred sooner. After all the things they crib, it's weird that The Fly should be left untouched so long.)

It comes up briefly (in a slightly different context) in that episode of Deep Space Nine where Odo merges with Curzon and gets drunk or something and everyone is irritated by him.
posted by dng at 8:50 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


Best intro to a post I've seen in a long time. Kudos. :)
posted by zarq at 9:02 AM on May 18 [2 favorites]


I guess the fact that this remains debatable means that the writers achieved their goal of presenting us with a bona fide moral quandary!

Before I go on to respond to y'all (and this is a great discussion already! Please, nobody get the wrong idea that I'm being pointlessly intransigent or pissy--I just enjoy a good debate), I should say that, if the episode had shown that Janeway's decision was based on the fact that, given Voyager's distance from the Federation, two qualified crew members are better and safer for everyone than one, then I'd be a lot more accepting of the ending. (Sort of a situational spin on the trolley problem that mordax rightly brings up.) It'd still be a tough spot, as the writers intended—and it'd be cool inasmuch as the medically ethical thing to do is not necessarily the militarily ethical thing to do—but it wouldn't be as amoral as this seems (to me). As shown, instead, I can't help but wonder if Janeway is significantly motivated by a selfish desire to have her friend back.

I don't think it's less defensible if Tuvok and Neelix remember their joint life since they both would also have a greater sense of a "real" self that existed before and after Tuvix, which they would almost certainly consider more true than a paired existence.

That, in a way, is the crux of the dilemma. The knowledge Janeway and the crew have of the two individuals before being united. Without that knowledge of the pre-existing individuals then the decision to split Tuvix becomes difficult to defend. It's only that one is aware of and familiar with those "right" identities, the one's Tuvix was created from, that the decision to restore them instead of giving preference to the new united identity makes more definitive sense.


I absolutely think the scenario "Tuvix" presents makes sense. But the "right"/wrong, correct/incorrect judgment that seemingly has to be made is what makes me philosophically uneasy. Like, to put it another way, around 2/3rds of the way through "Tuvix," I feel like the thing for Kes et al. to do is recognize that they'll have relationships with Tuvix, but they'll just be different. Their loss takes place in the shadow of new life, to paraphrase Kirk.

if Tuvix was a creation of Neelix and Tuvok's minds being connected that appeared when the two were put into a coma and would exist only as long as Tuvok and Neelix were comatose, would Tuvix have the right to demand keeping those two in such a state to continue his own life if there was a way to rouse them safely and return them to the lives they previously led? It'd be difficult, I think, to justify Tuvix's existence at the expense of the other two in such circumstances.

A fair analogy. Yet isn't the argument for Tuvix's personhood a little tougher in that version?

Just as crucially, I think, Random Alien Crewman might have a different set of ethics WRT sacrificing oneself for the greater good, i.e. The Needs of the Many Outweigh Those of the Few, or the One. But Tuvok would subscribe to that, and probably Neelix.

And therefore, Tuvix should too. But he doesn't. Is that a writing flaw? Maybe. But the facts of the episode are that Tuvix explicitly says he wants to live.

If the procedure were risky, Janeway needed to go ahead and keep Tuvix rather than take a Hail Mary to recover two other people.

Absolutely.

Sorry, but couldn't disagree more. Because Random Alien Crewman would have existed before Tuvok and Neelix disappeared, and was not the reason why Tuvok and Neelix disappeared.

Yet Tuvix is also blameless. Unless what you're getting at here is, there's no possibility at all of getting Tuvok and Neelix back that DOESN'T involve Tuvix's death for that reason. Which, yes, is a critical flaw in my hypothetical God-Being analogy; that version of Janeway has more options. And then we're back to the whole Janeway-needs-more-hands thing I mentioned above.

2) Janeway has a responsibility to the loved ones Tuvok and Neelix are leaving behind. Tuvix [...] had no prior existence. He isn't a part of a web of preexisting social connections. Tuvok and Neelix are leaving behind family: spouses/significant others, children in Tuvok's case. Janeway has the power to give all those people back someone they need in their lives, at the cost of someone whose connections are shallow.

To me, this is a meaningful distinction. Tuvix isn't from somewhere else where he might be returned. He isn't 'real' in the same way that, say, the colonists in The Thaw were.


This is a compelling counter-argument to mine, and definitely one that the episode could have dealt with more (though in fairness, IIRC they did touch on it). But I don't know if I'm sold on the notion that Tuvok and Neelix are therefore more deserving of existence than Tuvix.

At the risk of approaching the abortion topic…perhaps another analogy worth considering is Tuvix as an infant, and Tuvok and Neelix as his parents. Medically, isn't the procedure that you save the infant and not the parent(s)?

Given how the episode frames his creation, I view Tuvix as every bit as real as the baby you give birth to (choosing my words carefully here, heh) because your IUD was installed improperly.

And the fact that Tuvix wants to live (which is another potential point of argument I'll touch on below) should at least induce SOMEbody on the crew to go, "Ya know, sure, we lost Tuvok and Neelix, but it's not like we lost ALL of them. By letting Tuvix live, we can still honor them, and in a way, be with them."

Most people come into this life naturally: we're born, we grow up, we die. Even a sentient android like Data has a similar arc due to his intentional similarities to natural life. [...] I think that makes this very different from murder, Tuvix's very understandable perspective notwithstanding.

I'd agree that you can't quite call what Janeway does murder (my snarky tag to the contrary notwithstanding!), but I do think you have to call it in the ballpark. Because whether Tuvix came into existence with Tuvok and Neelix's consent or not doesn't, in my view, make him any less of a person. It's starting to look like the crux of the issue here may be the degree to which one considers Tuvix a person.

It is unclear what the long term consequences would be to Tuvix if he were left intact. [...] I realize this one's a stretch because the episode doesn't address it

It would've been good for the episode to address this, yeah.

Tuvix's life is one versus two, but beyond simple arithmetic, the fact of his existence deprives two other people of their lives directly

And ya know, that latter point—on top of the whole "needs of the many" thing—is really making me start to wonder if Tuvix wanting to live is a little strange. A little out of character, given what we know of the contributing factors thereto.

I might even go so far as to say that his abrupt "I want to LIIIIVE" position feels tacked-on as a result. Maybe kind of sloppy, writing-wise.

It comes up briefly (in a slightly different context) in that episode of Deep Space Nine where Odo merges with Curzon and gets drunk or something and everyone is irritated by him.

Heh, yeah, kind of a similar deal there. Except that Curzon (such as he is) will continue to exist after he gets kicked out of Odo.

I am a reluctant supporter of Janeway's decision, and believe I'd do the same in her shoes.

The thing is, mordax, I want to arrive at that point, so that the episode bugs me less :)

What would make me respect the shit out of this episode is if they'd had Janeway initially decide "Nope, Tuvix stays," even after Kes and everybody finds out that he could be split back into his forebears with 100% safety—making everybody pissed at Janeway *and* Tuvix, but she demands that the crew accept him, and then THAT's the end of the episode. Turn it into an arc, and save your Tuvok/Neelix-restoring deus ex machina (i.e. an unforeseen Tuvix medical issue) for a later episode. How badass would that have been.

I guess it really does come down to how exactly the argument is framed by the characters in the episode. The writers really bit off more than they—well, perhaps not more than they COULD chew, but more than they were willing to chew given the time constraints. Maybe this might've worked better as-is if it had been a two-parter, heh.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 1:39 PM on May 18 [3 favorites]


I guess the fact that this remains debatable means that the writers achieved their goal of presenting us with a bona fide moral quandary!

Agreed. This is fascinating, IMO.

Really, my main complaint here is that they offer something so viscerally unsettling and then they don't do anything with it. It really is like Threshold there - this is a sanity-rending Lovecraftian event, and they're just playing pool in their fucking Holodeck dive bar.

Before I go on to respond to y'all (and this is a great discussion already! Please, nobody get the wrong idea that I'm being pointlessly intransigent or pissy--I just enjoy a good debate)

Right there with ya! :)

At the risk of approaching the abortion topic…perhaps another analogy worth considering is Tuvix as an infant, and Tuvok and Neelix as his parents. Medically, isn't the procedure that you save the infant and not the parent(s)?

That's an interesting place to take this. Under those circumstances, I maintain that the lives of the parents are more important. It's the value of one potential life stacked against against two established ones.

It's starting to look like the crux of the issue here may be the degree to which one considers Tuvix a person.

I don't think it's the crux of it for me - I would describe myself as a utilitarian consequentialist at heart, (my degree is in economics, which means I know what my hat looks like). My argument's really about welfare maximization above.

However, I admit that I do consider Tuvix to be a walking existential crisis / cosmic aberration, and I can't promise that doesn't color my views about him despite my desire to see things from his point of view too. His existence isn't a one-off trade for Tuvok and Neelix - I regard him as an ongoing violation of both their minds.

So... might be for some people, and it might make me more willing to be cold here.

What would make me respect the shit out of this episode is if they'd had Janeway initially decide "Nope, Tuvix stays," even after Kes and everybody finds out that he could be split back into his forebears with 100% safety—making everybody pissed at Janeway *and* Tuvix, but she demands that the crew accept him, and then THAT's the end of the episode.

Makes me wish this had happened to some redshirts instead, to leave the outcome more in the air. The audience knows Tuvix can't stay, and that robs a problem like this of a lot of teeth, plus leaves them feeling like they can just fake the ending.
posted by mordax at 3:00 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


Before getting into the argument over the decision itself further, let me say what a fine episode this is overall, with only a couple minor glitches, and, of course, some missed potential had they been able to do more with it than the production seemed to allow.

One of the things I've frequently criticized the show for is having episodes that seemed poorly placed within the larger structure of the show. Lately this hasn't been the case, and this episode in particular seems a rather ideal cap to a run of episodes that, while not having any major story arc, share thematic interests that work as something of a developing or ongoing set of concerns for the show. The last two episodes have had characters demanding of Janeway their desire to live, and Janeway pulling the plug on each of them to vastly different effect. The strength of action her character exhibits is roughly analogous in each episode, but where in the last one it was cool reserve, here its icy and chilling.

Looking even further back, some of these same ideas of living and dying are there in Deadlock and, in a quieter way in Innocence too. Similarly, Lifesigns and Deathwish played off each other with characters debating taking their own lives, with Janeway again acting as judge in one, which too then informs these episodes about that decision being in the hands of others rather than oneself, which further develops the theme. This is, I think, a central concern for Voyager in many ways, who lives, who dies, and who decides. It's something at the heart of the episodes with alternative time lines or just alternative Voyagers where one version can exist and one will be lost depending on what Janeway or another crewmember decides. This isn't the best time to go into all of that in more detail, as the concept here is compelling enough without adding more baggage at the moment, but it is something I find worth thinking about as a hallmark of the show and what makes Voyager different than the other Treks in that way. (And also what seems to annoy some about Janeway, judging from what I've read elsewhere.)

Excellent job by Piller seeing the opportunity to take this episode in its unexpected direction, and Biller and Wright do really well within the confines of the episode to engage that idea. As I mentioned last time, when I saw the brief description of the episode and the name I dreaded watching it as it is, on the surface, as unappealing an idea as they could have had if it had played out as intended with Tuvix being all noble and whanot. It would then just have been a wacky one off without any lingering effect, completely routine. While watching it originally that is pretty much what I expected and saw, other than it being a touch more serious seeming at times than I would have guessed, especially in the initial reactions to Tuvix, where the crew has a hard time even looking at him, appraising him with expressions of vague disgust and talking about him as if he wasn't a "him" at all. Still, Tuvix eventually fits in, and everything proceeds as if it'll just be everyone acting noble and dull, vaguely sorry to see Tuvix go since he's grown on them, but quickly passed over with a few little jokes at the end from Tuvok and Neelix's and one, probably by Chakotay or the doctor at the end putting both in their place by making some aside about maybe they shouldn't have reversed the effect or some such. So it was a bit of a shock when Tuvix didn't go the noble sacrifice route, with his "I don't want to die." having even greater effect by coming so late in the episode, where I was sure it was going another way.

That his wish to live became a demand involving acts of desperation only intensified the feeling of uncertainty and constructive unease over the proceedings. Every action of Tuvix's was so clearly not Starfleet usual, that it further cemented his singularity and difference from Tuvok and Neelix. The discomfort his actions provided too breaking through the facade of the show, where all do tend to act in such predictable manners as to erase differentiation in action and encounters, a safe and, ultimately, empty way to proceed. Instead, miraculously, they ended up with an episode that contains a dilemma worthy of City on the Edge of Forever from TOS, with a different type of emotional hold on the viewer.

As a dilemma, the decision made by Janeway would almost certainly be the legal choice, where Tuvix would be seen as roughly analogous to claims over possession of stolen goods or babies switched at birth, where ownership of those goods or person is seen as illegally held regardless of intent due to the originating ownership and undesired loss of property. Tuvix has no self, in any reasonable sense, at least in the beginning. He is a composite of Tuvok and Neelix's memories, history, and physical make up, with only a bit of plant DNA as unique to himself alone. His body and thoughts come from that shared history, they do not originate with him. So, in that sense, his person is stolen from two others. His only claim of right to existence being he's visible and present where Neelix and Tuvok are not. Once it becomes clear that Tuvok and Neelix can be returned, then they are, in effect, "there" and Tuvix loses that claim.

Were Voyager to be truly devious and really want to make the most of this dilemma, they would have kept Tuvix for a season or more before having the doctor find his cure, then the dilemma becomes a truly unbearable one, but one where the same end would likely still be the legal resolution were there no other recourse. The episode does its best to suggest that possibility within a single hour by having Janeway describe Tuvix's weeks as part of the crew. It's in those weeks that Tuvix does actually become more of an individual rather than simply a composite as the actions and thoughts undertaken during that time are informed by Tuvok and Neelix's history within him, but are also his own in ways that neither of the other two would duplicate. Drawing that time out would make the weight of the decision far more difficult as it then would indeed be weighing one more complete life against the two people from which he arose. Had Kes, for example, fallen in love with Tuvix and moved on from Neelix before the cure was found would also lead to a depth of decision making that could have really given viewers something to argue about. I can't blame the show for not going that route, in part because it wasn't ever Voyager's design to have arcs like that, and in part simply because it would be such a test of their viewers, but I can't deny I still wish they had since it would be a brilliant maneuver in other ways, and one not easy to repeat.

There are, of course, other ways to look at the dilemma, but none, I think, that will provide any clearer answer to it since there would inevitably be a sacrifice involved that would prevent any decision from appearing entirely ethical. It is a no win situation in that sense. Once a cure/reversal process was found, no matter how much time had elapsed, Tuvix's existence would be hard to justify without placing enormous emphasis on what is visible as opposed to unseen. It is only that Tuvix is there that makes his claim so powerful, and Tuvok and Neelix not there that makes their's seem lesser. Once a process is found to reverse the situation, then Tuvix's visible presence should no longer be a deciding factor as the other two are at that point equally viable and "real". It's hard to accept one should win a claim by dint of being the only one in the room at the moment iof decision.

That, however does raise the interesting idea of Tuvok and Neelix being returned to their forms to give their side with the implicit possibility of recombination after making their cases was Tuvix's existence determined as the more worthy. That'd be fun too, especially if they didn't want to go back to being one. (But that isn't the Starfleet way of course.) What helps make this episode so interesting is all the other possibilities it suggests. One could go on making hypothetical scenarios all day with this sort of dilemma in mind and make some truly fiendish ones. Voyager of course couldn't go too far in that direction, but I'm pleased with how far they did push it in the end. And, really, that end was pretty perfect, avoiding summary or pushing how to think about the decisions made and allowing the viewer to fill in their own conclusions.

My only gripes about the episode are around Chakotay, who seemed to be thinking more about his Sky-kin again than focused on the issue at hand. His alleged axiom "The whole is never greater than the sum of its parts" is far more commonly mentioned in opposite form, The whole is greater than the sum of its parts, so to mention it as he does, and then reverse it by saying Tuvix disproves the saying is perverse and silly and, while I know he isn't a big Tuvok fan, pretty outlandish when you think about it. Oh, those two long time crew members we had who you really liked captain aren't as good as this guy. Not likely. The other minor bother was the uniformity of crew non-response to Tuvix's pleas, I would have preferred, and found more believable, a bit wider range of reaction from the crew, going from disgust to sympathy. Again though with Voyager largely limiting itself to self contained episodes I can see why doing that would have presented a problem were they not to pick it up again, so I can live with their choices.

That's enough for now, but I gotta love an episode that really does push the possibilities of discussion since there is still more that can be said about the dilemma this time around and likely without full agreement being reached too.
posted by gusottertrout at 4:18 AM on May 20 [4 favorites]


That's an interesting place to take this. Under those circumstances, I maintain that the lives of the parents are more important. It's the value of one potential life stacked against against two established ones.

Makes sense. One parent is another matter, but this is two metaphorical parents.

I would describe myself as a utilitarian consequentialist at heart [...] However, I admit that I do consider Tuvix to be a walking existential crisis / cosmic aberration, and I can't promise that doesn't color my views about him despite my desire to see things from his point of view too. His existence isn't a one-off trade for Tuvok and Neelix - I regard him as an ongoing violation of both their minds.

My degree is…not in anything that allows me to describe myself in terms of a philosophical school, let alone to know what a utilitarian consequentialist IS :) …but I don't think I view Tuvix in that fashion. I do think, maybe, on some lever, the writers view him in that fashion—and that that may be why he is disposed of so (IMO) callously. By contrast, look at Thomas Riker. TNG (and DS9) treated him as a complete person, despite being a creation of a technical glitch (and, yes, a walking existential crisis).

Looking even further back, some of these same ideas of living and dying are there in Deadlock and, in a quieter way in Innocence too. Similarly, Lifesigns and Deathwish played off each other with characters debating taking their own lives, with Janeway again acting as judge in one, which too then informs these episodes about that decision being in the hands of others rather than oneself, which further develops the theme. This is, I think, a central concern for Voyager in many ways, who lives, who dies, and who decides. It's something at the heart of the episodes with alternative time lines or just alternative Voyagers where one version can exist and one will be lost depending on what Janeway or another crewmember decides. This isn't the best time to go into all of that in more detail, as the concept here is compelling enough without adding more baggage at the moment, but it is something I find worth thinking about as a hallmark of the show and what makes Voyager different than the other Treks in that way. (And also what seems to annoy some about Janeway, judging from what I've read elsewhere.)

Excellent observation, gus. I think you've touched on a major thing here.

The discomfort his actions provided too breaking through the facade of the show, where all do tend to act in such predictable manners as to erase differentiation in action and encounters, a safe and, ultimately, empty way to proceed. Instead, miraculously, they ended up with an episode that contains a dilemma worthy of City on the Edge of Forever from TOS, with a different type of emotional hold on the viewer.

Yeah, and the more I think about it, the more I think you're right in that Piller/Biller (how about just *iller) made the right call having Tuvix want to live. Because "needs of the many" aside, there IS a logical case to be made for keeping Tuvix as one dude, and perhaps more significantly, we know that Neelix has a fierce possessive streak; in this context, it could manifest as a desire to keep his new melded state that's so strong as to override virtually everything else. THAT could have been explored; Kes could have been like "Captain, I'm sure that some part of Tuvix agrees with disjoining, but the green-eyed demon part of Neelix is probably overriding his good judgment" and we go from there toward firmer moral ground.

The episode does its best to suggest that possibility within a single hour by having Janeway describe Tuvix's weeks as part of the crew. It's in those weeks that Tuvix does actually become more of an individual rather than simply a composite as the actions and thoughts undertaken during that time are informed by Tuvok and Neelix's history within him, but are also his own in ways that neither of the other two would duplicate.

I'll disagree that the episode "does its best" in this regard—I think if they had, this wouldn't still be as heavily debated all these years later—but I do think they came close. And I definitely agree with what seems to be the general sentiment that, whatever its flaws, this episode is successful overall. It's just not the "grey-area-morality" slam-dunk that "In the Pale Moonlight" was.

there would inevitably be a sacrifice involved that would prevent any decision from appearing entirely ethical. It is a no win situation in that sense.

Yes, and in this way *iller achieved what they set out to do, no doubt.
(Let's make up the *iller theme song! j/k)

Once a cure/reversal process was found, no matter how much time had elapsed, Tuvix's existence would be hard to justify without placing enormous emphasis on what is visible as opposed to unseen. It is only that Tuvix is there that makes his claim so powerful, and Tuvok and Neelix not there that makes their's seem lesser.

See, I dunno about that. Aren't they there, in a sense? I.e., isn't it presumptive to suppose that their wills w/r/t To Disjoin or Not To Disjoin are being utterly suppressed? How do we know? The only gauge, really, is for the rest of the crew to compare Tuvix's apparent values to those (that they understood) of Tuvok and Neelix. Here, again, I think the show missed an opportunity by not having, for instance, Janeway say something believable and authoritative about what Tuvok would have wanted, and Kes doing the same (or pointing out the Neelix possessiveness thing that I threw out there above), and that's how they arrive at the decision. This may be the crux of why this episode bugs me. As portrayed, the decision feels less moral than it could have. I might even have made the same decision in Janeway's place, but…not in precisely this fashion.

Once a process is found to reverse the situation, then Tuvix's visible presence should no longer be a deciding factor as the other two are at that point equally viable and "real". It's hard to accept one should win a claim by dint of being the only one in the room at the moment iof decision.

Yeah, I don't see a solid counter to that.

So I'll rephrase my original statement. I can think of a manner (actually a few) in which deciding to disjoin Tuvix is morally defensible—but I don't think the decision as presented by the episode quite reaches my own threshold (d'oh) of being morally okay. It needed a postmortem with Tuvok and Neelix expressing their memories of being joined, or more open discussion of the issue (with, say, any other crew taking Tuvix's side, as gus rightly points out), or both.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 6:48 AM on May 20 [2 favorites]


This isn't the best time to go into all of that in more detail, as the concept here is compelling enough without adding more baggage at the moment, but it is something I find worth thinking about as a hallmark of the show and what makes Voyager different than the other Treks in that way.

This is worth discussing either here or later some more. We have touched on it previously - I wanna say as early as Prototype - due to Voyager's basic structural similarity to TOS. In TNG/DS9/ENT, the crew are often operating within comms range from home. That means they report to the brass, and some of their moral quandaries focus instead on 'do we listen to the brass or do what's right?' TOS had that every now and then (The Ultimate Computer), but usually Kirk was the top authority present and his decisions were it.

Voyager is indeed like that, and I think you're right that it probably contributes to what a polarizing figure Janeway is. (Ditto for Kirk, when Picard showed up.)

It's hard to accept one should win a claim by dint of being the only one in the room at the moment iof decision.

Didn't occur to me because I wouldn't have valued that. Fascinating observation, thank you. :)

My degree is…not in anything that allows me to describe myself in terms of a philosophical school, let alone to know what a utilitarian consequentialist IS :)

Utilitarianism is the general way of looking at things in modern economics. I didn't learn it there - I always basically thought in those terms. The gist is 'accomplish the most good overall.' However, as presented in modern economic teaching, it's a pretty shallow take: not a lot of time is spent in undergrad considering how the benefits of increased efficiency are distributed. Many outcomes might increase the overall 'good' - material goods, happiness - of a population, but if they skew to the top, lots of other problems will arise. (For instance, slavery can be plenty efficient if you're looking at aggregate economic outcomes, but... dude, no.)

As for consequentialism, there are several different ways of deciding what to do:
* Deontological: Outcomes should be decided on the basis of adherence to a formal set of rules, such as a legal code. UCMJ, Prime Directive, etc.

* Virtue: Decisions are based on how a given act would impact the performant's own spiritual center. Lots of religious rules are like that. For instance, the Ten Commandments don't say anything like 'honor your mother and father because they deserve it,' it says, 'Do it because your deity wants this.' This can lead to selfish outcomes, although discussion of my feelings about the failings of virtue ethics definitely exceed the scope of a Star Trek Voyager review.

* Pragmatic: this ethical frame posits there are universal truths about the morality of actions that may be figured out over time. It's the basic notion that society is able to get better at these things in an absolute sense over time.

* Consequentialist: this ethical frame favors outcomes over formal structures. Taken in an unflattering light: the ends justify the means. I prefer to look at it as, 'I am responsible for my choices, and cannot absolve myself of their weight by hiding behind a formal set of rules. It's my responsibility to know when I must follow them, and when I must not.' Basically, I'm responsible to me, not a higher power, be it temporal or spiritual.

Discussions of ethics are heavily weighted toward adherence to rules because 3/4ths of those basic schools are rule-based, and they don't look too different to a layman - two people looking at the same overall legal system from different frames will want to push the rules one way or another, but still basically agree 'we need rules.' People take a dim view of my frame because it doesn't really scale - people operating that way need to trust each other in a way that isn't required in more rules-oriented perspectives. (And indeed, my default assumption is also 'follow the rules' because I know other thinkers have already spent time trying to balance them as best they could, and due to the network externality presented by having common assumptions about behavior - I just think of them as a jumping off point, not the end of moral thought.)

So... to explain (and ruin) the joke, I just claimed two descriptors commonly associated with villains. All the same - and like any good villain - I really don't see them that way if applied properly.

By contrast, look at Thomas Riker. TNG (and DS9) treated him as a complete person, despite being a creation of a technical glitch (and, yes, a walking existential crisis).

Thomas Riker wasn't a violation though - Tuvix does not possess the same motivations as his component 'parents,' while Thomas does. He's a different kind of problem, IMO.

So I'll rephrase my original statement. I can think of a manner (actually a few) in which deciding to disjoin Tuvix is morally defensible—but I don't think the decision as presented by the episode quite reaches my own threshold (d'oh) of being morally okay. It needed a postmortem with Tuvok and Neelix expressing their memories of being joined, or more open discussion of the issue (with, say, any other crew taking Tuvix's side, as gus rightly points out), or both.

Agreed. Despite gus' very good look at this, I am unpersuaded that the ending is good - the moral discussion in the episode is shallow, (even allowing for 'most people don't see things my way'), and there's no resolution about whether Tuvok or Neelix even remember being together.
posted by mordax at 8:41 AM on May 20 [1 favorite]


(Adding, rather than editing: the main difference between deontological vs. pragmatic is whether the law is evolving over time, or should be kept in its current form.

Starfleet has a strong deontological bent - the Prime Directive is taken an article of faith by its proponents, rather than as a living, changing idea.)
posted by mordax at 8:49 AM on May 20


I'd say the moral discussion is fairly shallow due, in part, to how little time they had to broach the subject with the needed build up to the dilemma, but more importantly due to purposefully choosing to avoid making it a fully argued or explicitly rationalized choice that viewers would be able to more easily justify.

The episode has to give Tuvix's plea more space and weight to even hope of balancing out the obvious show bias for Tuvok and Neelix returning. To do this they have to give more voice to Tuvix than the other two, and leave it to the viewer to fill in their side of the argument more fully. So, for example, instead of making a rational plea for Tuvok and Neelix, they instead allow Kes to act as a sort of stand in for those claims, having her connections to each serve as the bridge to arguments they aren't explicitly going to address. Janeway even goes so far as to give voice to counter-arguments when she mentions both Tuvok and Neelix would give their lives for their comrades if needed as a way to both add some extra weight to Tuvix by giving some further element of justification to his side while also removing that consideration from further discussion and making Tuvix's own actions stand in contrast to Tuvok and Neelix singling him out further as his own person.

TV series, at least one's this side of Game of Thrones, have a strong bias towards the status quo. Gilligan can't leave the island, Downton Abbey must continue on, Ross and Rachel can't commit nor move on until the series is settled in order to maintain the working dynamic of the show, the propulsive element of the story. In the Trek series, the Prime Directive is indeed the guiding principle of Starfleet and the ideal our captians and crew must hold to for the shows to maintain their sense of "Trekness", but at the same time the Prime Directive also is what most needs to be bent to emphasize the uniquity of those individuals compared to the group and to maintain the status quo of the shows. The main philosophical bent of the shows then is divided between acting for the greater good, where heroic self sacrifice is either enacted, or more likely just signaled, and acting out of selfish interest in doing whatever it takes to return or maintain the status quo for the bridge crew, the named individuals that are the stars of the show. So Spock sacrifices himself for the needs of the many, then Kirk ignores the needs of the many for the want of Spock, Harry destroys a timeline to get back to Voyager, Janeway does the same, even though she's lived in that timeline for many years and must risk greater potential destruction to make things "right" for some of the main characters.

Removing viewers from consideration, its then acting always to save loved ones, in the long run, that is the strongest motivator of action. The Prime Directive and the ideals of acting in care of a belief encoded into law provides the background which the shows and captains must operate and, in the moment, sacrifice for the good of others regardless of personal cost is the unquestioned extension of that value all these crewmembers will follow in order to best serve their belief in that principle, but tied to that is the refusal to sacrifice a comrade for the greater good, or at least to do so without then doing whatever it takes to reverse that outcome. In hierarchical terms then, loved ones represent the most important consideration, the values of Starfleet second, and personal safety last.

Tuvix upending that order is itself interesting as it violates the norms of the show, which, one could argue, perhaps shows Tuvix as therefore clearly in the wrong according to Trek codes of conduct, but I instead take as challenging the nature of the shows implicitly holding those codes without mention. Tuvix loses, as he must, but his challenge resonates because it can't be tidily encompassed by the usual Trek methods of providing closure.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:03 PM on May 20 [1 favorite]


TV series, at least one's this side of Game of Thrones, have a strong bias towards the status quo. Gilligan can't leave the island, Downton Abbey must continue on, Ross and Rachel can't commit nor move on until the series is settled in order to maintain the working dynamic of the show, the propulsive element of the story.

And, of course, Voyager would become infamous for using the reset button often and shamelessly, to the point that it would be addressed more or less directly in the "Year of Hell" two-parter. They would sometimes change/remove minor characters (as they will a couple of episodes from now), but the only major change in personnel, a bit over a season from now, was a blatant ratings grab.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:27 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


I'd say the moral discussion is fairly shallow due, in part, to how little time they had to broach the subject with the needed build up to the dilemma, but more importantly due to purposefully choosing to avoid making it a fully argued or explicitly rationalized choice that viewers would be able to more easily justify.

That's true, and while I like that they tried to make this morally murky, I mostly wanted to know some information about the accident that could only occur after Tuvix was gone:

* What do Neelix and Tuvok remember from being merged? Do they now share memories of that time? Do they share any other memories? Is that time just blank for them?

* Are any crew upset about the loss of Tuvix? Anybody grumbling in the kitchen since he was a better cook? Did the crew have any arguments about this, heated or otherwise?

It's good that the episode doesn't take a side here. I was just lecturing a fan about this who showed me a rough draft of a story he wrote about 'pull back, don't try to force the audience to a moral conclusion.' I can see where someone might feel like even five seconds of Neelix bouncing over the Kes and hugging her might be seen as an attempt to sway audience perspective due to the greater audience attachment you've discussed.

All the same, it annoyed me because I just want to know more about how the accident was supposed to work, really.

Tuvix upending that order is itself interesting as it violates the norms of the show, which, one could argue, perhaps shows Tuvix as therefore clearly in the wrong according to Trek codes of conduct, but I instead take as challenging the nature of the shows implicitly holding those codes without mention.

This part, I agree with. Though Starfleet contains personnel with varying moral viewpoints, the organization itself encourages a generally static perspective, (like I mentioned above) - they aren't really fostering change in moral outlook. Janeway's growth on the subject of AI rights is strictly personal, and not much shared back home. (Fed AI prejudice will be a recurring topic.) The Prime Directive is an object of fetishization and worship rather than a living principle in need of extension and adjustment, (something I find creepy, personally).

They're really not very forward thinking in the TNG era - they act like they've peaked, in terms of moral development. Like, 'Earth is paradise, nobody carries money, we're good.' It's honestly kind of smug, which gets called out on DS9 a few times directly.

Tuvix really is a fun story in that it shows how full of it that perspective is: he's not easily quantified and resolved by their existing code, which does push back on 'are they really done with that yet?'

So I do see why you like that. I just wanted something more. I actually think some of it ties back to the bit with Chakotay that you pointed out, now that I've been ruminating on it a bit - Kes' side discussions here were all right, better than I gave them credit for probably - but Chakotay's discussion with Janeway wasn't. I feel like a few more personal touches about Tuvix one way or the other might have gotten me more on board, but I was irritated by the fake proverb.
posted by mordax at 9:20 AM on May 21


Yeah, I do think it was a failing of the episode not to better deal with crew reaction, not so much in explaining the events, but just as people would have divided feelings about this, even in an "enlightened" era. Chakotay most notably should have more of a reaction than he does, but so should Harry, Paris, and B'Elanna. It'd be tricky to write since they wouldn't want them to speak against Neelix and Tuvok as they'll obviously be back, but some better gauge of the different possibilities here would have provided an added layer of depth to the issue, even if it was one where most of the crew actively wanted Tuvix gone and the other two back.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:57 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


They're really not very forward thinking in the TNG era - they act like they've peaked, in terms of moral development. Like, 'Earth is paradise, nobody carries money, we're good.' It's honestly kind of smug, which gets called out on DS9 a few times directly.

Arguably even racist, because according to Roddenberry, humans are fine, it's all those other sentient species that have the problems. (Which ironically led to Worf, and by extension the Klingons in general, becoming a break-out character.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:24 AM on May 21 [1 favorite]


Arguably even racist, because according to Roddenberry, humans are fine, it's all those other sentient species that have the problems.

Yeah, I think so.

Star Trek is pretty racist overall, really: genetic/racial determinism has been a thing since its inception due to the era Roddenberry came from, (esp. Faces and Tattoo lately).

It also handles privilege very poorly: humans are able to be so 'enlightened' due to being post-economic scarcity... but they act like it's because they're awesome. Human cultural primacy is pretty irksome throughout the franchise. Even just going with minor details, I remember being pretty annoyed in Learning Curve where a Bajoran had to remove his religious earring because it 'wasn't regulation.'

I do enjoy stuff that calls this out - just the general notion 'actually humans aren't perfect,' which Tuvix does show off a little.

In other, 'I am arguably a bad guy' notes, I'm sorta with Khan about this:
I am surprised how little improvement there has been in human evolution. Oh, there has been technical advancement, but, how little man himself has changed.

- Space Seed
(I don't think Khan was the answer either, but humans acting like they're the pinnacle of stuff in Trek definitely bothers me.)
posted by mordax at 11:07 AM on May 21 [2 favorites]


I have no other thoughts about this episode other then I am always surprised at how well the costume department melded Tuvok and Nelix's outfits.
posted by INFJ at 7:36 PM on May 22


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