Star Trek: Voyager: Riddles   Rewatch 
March 8, 2018 2:31 AM - Season 6, Episode 6 - Subscribe

What has he got in his Vulcan brainses?

Riddle me this, Memory Alpha:

- Neelix actor Ethan Phillips cited this episode among five "Best of Neelix" installments. Explaining what he believed were the assets in this episode's depiction of Neelix, Phillips remarked, "Again, it showed a great nurturing quality in Neelix and also, for lack of a better word, his humanity."

- This installment was the first Star Trek production directed by Roxann Dawson (who does not appear in this episode). She later noted, "That was my first stab at trying to figure out how to do it, how I do it." She found directing the episode was a "wonderful" experience. Although Dawson was obviously familiar with the cast and crew of Voyager when she helmed this installment, she was meanwhile unaware of how to adapt to various circumstances which might arise. "I didn't have that [know-how] when I did 'Riddles,' nor did I need it, because of that unique situation [....] I came to it with a strong vision [...] and did things I might've stopped myself from doing if I'd had more experience," she said, with a laugh.

- Roxann Dawson was also glad to find that Director of Photography Marvin V. Rush was highly supportive in helping her realize her vision for how the episode should be. "Marvin is very much a rebel. So when I came up with ideas for certain shots," she recalled, "he didn't say 'No.' We went out there and [shot the episode]."

- Roxann Dawson held "Riddles" in high esteem, thinking it had "a really good script." In 2015, she enthused, "I'm still very proud of that episode. Number one, it was very well written [....] I'm very proud of my instinctual work on that show [...] [and] the choices I made."

- This episode mirrors the events in "Tuvix" [FanFare discussion link --ed.] that involved Neelix and Tuvok becoming symbiogenetically joined as one entity. Tuvok's flair for cooking is reminiscent of Tuvix's cooking abilities, which the crew felt were better than those of Neelix. Tuvok's unwillingness to go through with the medical procedure that will restore him to his former self also mirrors Tuvix's reluctance to return to his former individual selves.


"The Vulcan brain – a puzzle wrapped inside an enigma housed inside a cranium."

- The Doctor


"You said I was supposed to stimulate his senses."
"I said stimulate them, Mr. Neelix, not annihilate them."

- Neelix and The Doctor, about playing a recording of monotonous Vulcan monk chants in an effort to help Tuvok recover


"... If I stay here and try to talk to Tuvok, I may be able to provoke some sort of response?"
"If anyone can provoke Tuvok, Mr. Neelix, it's you."

- Neelix and The Doctor


"The object of the game is to turn this jumble of rods into a perfect sphere. We take turns positioning our pieces. Whoever gets the shape to appear first, wins."
"I like the way it looks now."

- Harry Kim and Tuvok, about playing kal-toh


"You won't call it fun... you'll call it 'deriving satisfaction.' But it's basically the same thing."

- Neelix


Poster's Log:
For some reason, this episode was more memorable to me than most of early season six. And it's not just the fact that Tuvok's probably my favorite of the VOY folks… Maybe it was the staging and camerawork of the shuttle-compartment scenes.

Anyway, lots of good bits here: That startling moment where Tuvok's sitting up—startling in part because we know how dangerous off-the-hook Tuvok can be. The alien investigator dude's interactions with the crew. Tim Russ, who has never not nailed it in one of his showpiece episodes; Dim Tuvok is so charming. The writing of Neelix is better than average here, too.

For your consideration: Can one view this episode as a response/redemption/apology for "Tuvix"? Further muddying the waters: If* we retcon that Tuvok and Neelix remember everything from Tuvix's experiences, damn, that lends some extra weight to Neelix's scenes.

(* = Note: I don't actually believe we are meant to think this. Not that I believe we're meant to think they DON'T remember… I mean, I doubt any thought was put into that one way or another, on the basis of Tuvok and Neelix's post-Tuvix interactions.)

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
If the alien investigator dude seems familiar, it's because the actor played Archer's flashback dad on ENT.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (6 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
This episode goes in the Better Than I Remembered square, subdivision I Didn't Really Remember It. There was a very serious danger of it being a "Simple Jack" episode, especially given the show's track record addressing marginalized groups or their allegorical equivalents thereof. My guess is that André Bormanis, the show's science consultant, did some work in researching how neurological trauma can cause personality changes, and as noted by Cheeses, Tim Russ absolutely sells it. There's some real pathos when Tuvok says that he prefers the way he is now; I'm reminded of Spock's devastating closing line from "This Side of Paradise": "I have little to say about it, captain. Except that for the first time in my life, I was happy." (The episode also has some interesting parallels with Star Trek IV, which is in no small part about Spock coming back from an extraordinary trauma of his own, and which similarly has a great closing line in the exchange between Spock and Sarek: "Do you have a message for your mother?" "Yes. Tell her I feel fine.")

And Neelix is maybe never more sympathetic than here, with the possible exception of "Mortal Coil". As irritating as Neelix can be, particularly WRT Tuvok, this episode makes clear that he really wants to be his friend, on a level that he can personally relate to, and even knowing what The Needs of the Many are, it still hurts when it's clear that Tuvok went back to his old self... although not all the way back.

Commenter's Log, supplemental: Getting into the joke-killing groove, I don't think that someone could survive for a year on 365 dates, even if it included 52 sundaes. Also, it makes me sad that Vulcans don't believe in desserts. Nobody's perfect.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:09 AM on March 8 [1 favorite]


Just to note, in case it isn't known, Roxann Dawson is still directing, having helmed episodes of The Deuce, Runaways, Chi, and The Americans recently. Looks like the big chair really suited her. (And it makes it even more irksome they refused Garrett Wang the same chance.)
posted by gusottertrout at 7:28 AM on March 8 [3 favorites]


gus: agreed and agreed. Her and Robbie McNeill have both done a lot of directing and producing since the show ended.
posted by Halloween Jack at 8:45 AM on March 8


Particle of the Week: Veridium isotopes.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: One of the first missions in the Delta Quadrant features reuniting Neelix and Tuvok, both of whom seem happy to see each other.

Ongoing Counts:
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: -6.
* Crew: 137.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: 12.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful, 2 games of chicken, 1 ramming speed.

Notes:
* I'm also on Team Didn't Remember This One.

I'm honestly not sure I saw it. Per prior discussions, my viewing of S6-S7 is a lot spottier than I would've guessed.

* It's Space Mulder!

I was amused by the investigator, who came across very much like Fox Mulder in SPAAACE. His obsession, special gear, intensity, etc. were all pretty funny. I appreciated that he was willing to give that up in the end to help Voyager. (It's hard to tell whether that was self-preservation or a legitimate willingness to sacrifice his life's work to help Tuvok, but the ambiguity was fine too.)

* This is a pretty good standalone episode, pretty frustrating arc episode.

And Neelix is maybe never more sympathetic than here, with the possible exception of "Mortal Coil".

Right?

As a showcase for Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips, this works. Their performances are great, and the events themselves would be sensible if Tuvok were human (or at least not Vulcan). I agree that this is the most sympathetic I've ever seen Neelix, especially when he tries to spin not being friends with Original Flavor Tuvok positively.

Good first showing for Dawson, too. I found the decloaking scenes pretty effective. (I'm still impressed with how well most of Voyager's SFX hold up twenty years later.)

As a piece of Star Trek lore, this episode is frustrating two things mentioned in the post:
- It doesn't address the events of Tuvix at all, (a place I would expect Neelix to go, at least). I agree with Cheeses' assessment that nobody behind the scenes drew the parallel, despite it being so clear.
- We've seen feral Vulcans before, including feral Tuvok, and they're depicted as a lot more intense than distressed humans. Riddles-Tuvok is way more chill than I'd expect - even his outbursts are pretty toned down compared to either Spock or prior 'Tuvok goes nuts' outings.

So... mixed feelings about this one. Ultimately, I'm inclined to go easier on this for what Jack mentioned though:

There was a very serious danger of it being a "Simple Jack" episode, especially given the show's track record addressing marginalized groups or their allegorical equivalents thereof.

They treated the topic of mental illness with respect, which is the most important aspect of a story like this to me. So... props to Voyager for being responsible, even if they still can't do internal continuity.
posted by mordax at 9:17 AM on March 8 [2 favorites]


I actually remembered this one pretty well, though not at all by the title and description, but once it started it all came back. It''s not a bad episode at all, with Russ really getting a nice chance to show a different side of his talents and character, in an unusual way.

It remands me a bit of a variation on Flowers for Algernon/Charly, or something of an inverted version of it, where Tuvok's distress at what he's lost fits Charly's concern over his growing loss of intelligence, but obviously here the dynamic is reversed, with Tuvok starting more at Charly's peak intelligence and worried about returning to that isolated state. It's a nice touch, hitting some of the same ideas but from the opposite direction. It does make for a bit of an uneasy mix in some ways, where the audience can be drawn to "fun" less intelligent/logical Tuvok and feel the loss of that version of his character, giving it a bit of an anti-intellectualism hook that's all too common in popular culture. Here though it does actually make some deeper sense and is cut back against by Neelix's entreaties of need for the old Tuvok and in Tuvok's answer to Neelix's riddle showing some connection between the "fun" and "stoic" sides of his character.

The relationship between Neelix and Tuvok throughout the show's run, could sometimes be a bit annoying when handled sloppily, but it's something I'm glad they stuck with rather than abandoning it when they reworked Neelix after Kes left the show. That this episode also builds on the caretaking elements of Neelix's character too is a good way to continue to develop that more successful aspect of his character without losing sight of the continuity in his relationship with "Mr. Vulcan". Not one of the very best episodes of the show, but nicely done all around and a welcome low key excursion for the show. Even the alien encounters were well handled, with the enthusiasm for proof of theory matched against the potential cost of that desire when seen from those that proof would effect, while, from the other side, the interest in hiding, both knowledge and self, is matched against the costs that could include, all without any concrete "right way" demanded.
posted by gusottertrout at 9:04 PM on March 10 [3 favorites]


It does make for a bit of an uneasy mix in some ways, where the audience can be drawn to "fun" less intelligent/logical Tuvok and feel the loss of that version of his character, giving it a bit of an anti-intellectualism hook that's all too common in popular culture. Here though it does actually make some deeper sense and is cut back against by Neelix's entreaties of need for the old Tuvok and in Tuvok's answer to Neelix's riddle showing some connection between the "fun" and "stoic" sides of his character.

Yeah, I tend to be hyper-aware of anti-intellectualism in the media I consume, and I barely got that vibe from this episode at all, whereas you can easily imagine a version of it where it's inescapable.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil at 9:35 AM on March 11 [2 favorites]


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