Star Trek: Voyager: Flashback   Rewatch 
June 1, 2017 4:02 AM - Season 3, Episode 2 - Subscribe

Our heroes encounter gaseous anomalies. Tuvok experiences some more mental distress. The legendary Klingon commander Kang returns to menace Starfleet. A little girl falls to her death about a dozen times. And Janeway meets Sulu! (Sort of.)

Nice to see you on Memory Alpha one more time, Captain Sulu. Take care.

- With the date of Star Trek's 30th anniversary located early in Voyager's third season, the studio executives at Paramount Pictures requested a Voyager episode that would tie into and serve as an homage to the original Star Trek series, thereby fitting the occasion. "We already had on hand the story premise of a memory problem for Tuvok that Janeway saves him from," writer and supervising producer Brannon Braga recalled, "and when the request came down from the studio for a 30th anniversary show, that seemed like a natural to get us back into that era without yet another time travel plot." Braga also stated, "We thought, [the event was] a perfect opportunity to use the sci-fi gimmick, mind melding, and go to save Tuvok from a psychic trauma. And back [in] time, that was what we were going to do [originally]. We were going to see Janeway's first commission. It was going to be more about Janeway and that relationship. We just used that story as a departure and it worked very nicely. But the gag was always the same, to do a time travel story without doing time travel, by doing a meld."

- This episode was written and produced after UPN declared that, as they had done with the first and second seasons of Star Trek: Voyager, they would air four episodes produced at the end of the series' second season as part of its third season. This episode was, in production order, the third of the four that were written and produced during the second season of Star Trek: Voyager but intentionally included in the third season, the other episodes being "Sacred Ground", "False Profits", and "Basics, Part II".

- Brannon Braga originally wrote a scene in which Uhura, via viewscreen, provided some necessary plot points from the bridge of the USS Enterprise-A. Actress Nichelle Nichols declined her invitation to appear in the episode, however, due to the limitedness of her part. Sulu actor George Takei referred to Uhura's part of the installment as "a nice little scene" and clarified, "She would have communicated with me, as Uhura to Tuvok, over the viewscreen. I pleaded with her on the phone to do it because it would have been wonderful to have her back as well. She felt the part did not do her justice, so she passed on doing it." Brannon Braga remarked, "I would have liked to have had Uhura, but we had to write [...] her out. We couldn't make a deal with her." Partly due to the scene's deletion, the episode ended up being approximately five minutes too short, so two additional scenes were written to fill up the rest of the episode's duration: an extension of Tuvok's breakfast with Neelix, and the Keethera scene between Tuvok and Kes.

- According to George Takei, Tuvok actor Tim Russ made some changes to the script, immediately eliciting the writers to correct some discrepancies. Takei explained, "He made script changes that made Tuvok's behavior consistent with Vulcan culture where the writers had been derelict. For example, the script suggested that Tuvok had an affair with a non-Vulcan before his pon farr. He made sure that was corrected." Additionally, Russ inadvertently drove Brannon Braga to include more about Tuvok's backstory in the episode than had originally been scripted, being particularly instrumental in the writing of what Tuvok says to Janeway while in his bunk aboard the Excelsior. "Initially that whole speech wasn't in there, a page and a half of dialogue," Russ revealed. "She asked me, 'What made you come back to Starfleet?' and [Braga] had written some line which really wasn't consistent with Vulcan character. I said, 'Brannon, the line itself doesn't work.' So I said, 'Give him a real reason why he came back to Starfleet.' I expected a paragraph, and I ended up getting a page and a half of dialogue. Things like that do make a difference."

- Cast members were generally impressed by the script. George Takei described the episode's bridging of the generations as "a very imaginative" and "clever" concept, and further enthused, "I thought [...] they did an absolutely wonderful job of bridging the generations, of making Captain Sulu, Tuvok and Janeway all organic parts of the same episode."

- Both Brannon Braga and director David Livingston were very pleased that George Takei decided to participate in the episode. "It's very exciting," Livingston said, midway through filming, "to have someone from Classic Star Trek to come in and do the show. George is wonderful–with his energy and enthusiasm, I feel like an old man around him! He's incredible, and his spirit infuses everything! He's wonderful as the captain. He's got this power that's terrific, and that wonderful voice of his!"

- A specific aspect of this production that thrilled Tim Russ was how closely it related to TOS, he having been a fan of that series for many years. He noted, "To be able to get so close again to the original series after having enjoyed it so much when I was younger was just fantastic." In fact, George Takei was very impressed by how aware Russ was of the Star Trek canon, as the latter actor repeatedly reminded Takei of things he had done in TOS that he had forgotten about. "It was kind of an eerie feeling," related Takei. "He's very Vulcan in that respect." Takei also commented, "I was impressed by how Tim has totally, completely and organically absorbed in his Vulcan heritage – the culture, the persona, the physiognomy, and the psyche of a Vulcan [....] I was very impressed by him, as an actor who makes a full and total commitment."

- Kate Mulgrew remarked, "I was so impressed with George. He was fabulous to work with, very, very erudite and gentlemanly. He was full of anecdotes about the original show and full of lessons for me as an actor on a Star Trek show."

- Although the Excelsior bridge had taken the film crew of Star Trek VI twelve weeks to build from scratch, Richard James and the rest of the art department, as well as the construction and production departments, were tasked with reconstructing the same bridge set in less than two weeks. James proudly recalled, "We scurried in a mad dash and were able to recreate that set. Everybody was amazed when they came in [....] We were able to recreate that bridge and probably did it in less than 10 days. And we did a three hundred and 60 degree set. It was not like on the [episode] "Relics", where we just created a few walls and used blue screen to accomplish the total look. This was a full set. My carpenters and prop makers just did a tremendous job."

- George Takei was amazed by the attention to detail involved in recreating the scenes from Star Trek VI, particularly the use of the other performers. He reminisced, "The Voyager behind-the-scenes people did an outstanding job of recreating those sequences from Star Trek VI [....] [Rehiring some of the same performers] really lent to the verisimilitude of those scenes, which were based on scenes we had shot five years earlier." Citing one particular scene, Takei noted, "The recreation of the first explosion scene, the Praxis scene from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country; movement for movement, throw for throw, and all of the principal actors in that scene. Some had left the industry – one came back from Portland, Oregon, or some place like that, he told me, that he was no longer pursuing a career, but Paramount came after him. So, their integrity and the tremendous research they did in finding all the actors was very impressive."

- As with George Takei, news that Grace Lee Whitney would be appearing in this episode was made available on the Internet before she even knew about the upcoming episode herself. At one point, Whitney met with Brannon Braga in his office and he advised her of some rewrites and script changes. Whitney appreciated the largeness of her role in this episode. "This is really great for me because I really have dialogue," she said, "I have had an attitude, a purpose. I'm a lieutenant commander and I tell the ensign what to do!"

- Executive producer Rick Berman described this episode as "absolutely delightful." He also commented that this installment (in common with "Trials and Tribble-ations", Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's own 30th anniversary offering [FanFare link --ed.]) was "a lot of fun and [...] did very well in the ratings." On the other hand, Brannon Braga ultimately believed this episode was of lesser quality than "Trials and Tribble-ations". Of this episode in particular, he said, "It was a nice little tribute, not as good as 'Trials and Tribble-ations' from Deep Space Nine. It was OK. I just think they came up with a better idea."

- Tim Russ also liked how this episode provided much continuity for Tuvok that the actor could later draw on. Russ commented, "The whole story becoming a back-story for Tuvok... I thought was great. It tightens the relationship between he and the captain, and it exposes to the people of the audience what this character is all about, where he comes from. Because before that, we didn't have a history for him. And after that, we had a history for him. Now he's got a back-story, now he becomes a little bit more complete, as a person. Now, if he does something three episodes down the line, ah well, that's because so-and-so was established way-back-when. And that's always beneficial when you're playing the character as you have something to grab onto."

"Mr. Neelix, I would prefer not to hear the life history of my breakfast."

- Tuvok

"Structure. Logic. Function. Control. The structure cannot stand without a foundation. Logic is the foundation of function. Function is the essence of control. I am in control. I am in control."

- Tuvok, while meditating with a Keethera

"I don't know what happened to you, but there can be any number of explanations – hallucination, telepathic communication from another race, repressed memory, momentary contact with a parallel reality... take your pick. The universe is such a strange place."

- The Doctor, to Tuvok

"All right, Gamma Shift. Time to defend the Federation against gaseous anomalies."

- Janice Rand

"Mr. Tuvok, if you're going to remain on my ship, you're going to have learn how to appreciate a joke. And don't tell me Vulcans don't have a sense of humor, because I know better."

- Sulu, to Tuvok

"You'll find that more happens on the bridge of a starship than just carrying out orders and observing regulations. There is a sense of loyalty to the men and women you serve with. A sense of family. Those two men on trial... I served with them for a long time. I owe them my life a dozen times over. And right now they're in trouble and I'm going to help them; let the regulations be damned."
"Sir, that is a most illogical line of reasoning."
"You better believe it. Helm, engage!"

- Sulu and Tuvok

"Whew... Vulcans! You guys need to relax."

- Valtane

"Who the hell are you?"

- Sulu to Janeway

Poster's Log:
Well, I love Sulu and I love Star Trek VI. I've said in a previous thread that "Flashback" is easily in my top three of VOY, but since my feelings about other episodes are evolving a bit, I'll have to amend that to "top five for sure." It's got a lot of heart, arguably even more than "Trials and Tribble-ations" did, insofar as they actually brought back a bunch of previous Trek actors, rather than just the Arne Darvin dude. Giving Takei more time in the big chair earns VOY a lotta brownie points as far as I'm concerned; likewise giving Grace Lee Whitney some actually good scenes and dialogue. It's also fun to see so much more of Valtane; he comes across in the bunk scene as sort of a Blue-Collar Starfleet Regular Joe, the guy who'd drag a cooler to the tailgate of the shuttlecraft and plug in the Foreman. (They probably didn't even try to get Christian Slater back, but wouldn't that have been cool! Maybe just a shot of his back turned to the camera in the bunk scene: "Will you two shut up?")

Where this episode suffers, IMO, is in its MacGuffin. The suppressed-memory gimmick was already a little hokey before they added the really quite laughable little-girl-falling stuff. Obviously Tuvok's strong reaction to the memory is less about its content and more about the virus manipulating his brain, but since we don't know about that until the very end, it kind of pulls you out of the episode a little every time it happens in the early scenes; given the context, we'd expect his reaction to this inexplicable memory to be a much milder sort of "Huh, where's THAT comin' from," rather than "ACK, SWEET JESUS NOOO". I might've found it less distractingly dopey if she, like, got mauled by a vicious animal or something (even if offscreen). It bothers me less on rewatch, because they wisely put in the stuff at the end about how she may never have really existed, and it's suggested that the cliff scene itself could have all been symbolic in the way dreams are, etc. Anyway, it's a more minor quibble than it might otherwise be, because nobody's watching this episode for its plot.

Poster's Log, Supplemental:
That stuff about the Tuvok characterization that got added… goddamn, Tim Russ. The MVP of this series, as far as I'm concerned.

I'm sure this is pretty common knowledge, but I would be remiss if I didn't point out that George Takei's Twitter account is the bee's knees. I say "bee's knees" because it's the sort of phrase that would sound great if he said it.

Valtane apocrypha from MA: the STVI novelization, and a Peter David spinoff novel, claim that Valtane is Excelsior's first officer, but a DC comics arc said it was Rand. The latter makes more sense in light of this episode. For a first officer on a Starfleet ship to sleep in the bunks alongside ensigns…well, it'd have to be a much smaller ship. (MA also tells us "In the script of 'Flashback' (both the first and final draft of the teleplay), the adult Valtane was consistently referred to as a lieutenant" but his actual rank is apparently lieutenant commander.)

Even though this post has a longer-than-average background section, it's just the highlights, hard to believe as that may be; the MA page is wayyyyyyyyy more thorough, if you're curious.
posted by CheesesOfBrazil (8 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry I missed the last episode's discussion. So where was Hogan in "Flashback"? I didn't see him. Maybe next week!
posted by Servo5678 at 7:08 AM on June 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I liked this episode a lot. I also adored "Trials and Tribble-ations", of course, especially since that DS9 episode was done very much from the perspective of the hard-core veteran Trekkie, but this was a meatier episode, showing that the E-A wasn't the only Starfleet ship trying to get to Rura Penthe, and also adding to Tuvok's backstory and dovetailing neatly with the discussion of the previous episode re: his character in particular and Vulcans in general. I didn't remember that Tuvok himself (and not just his daughter) had undergone the kolinahr, and then abandoned that ascetic life to raise a family.

I also liked seeing more of the Excelsior and its crew than we got to see in STVI; I remember the rumors of there possibly being an Excelsior series or miniseries, and something that's been fairly persistent throughout the franchise is suggesting that each bridge crew that we see, even in fairly brief scenes, has their own history and patterns of interaction, often by careful choice of character actors (i.e. John Winston as Kyle aboard the Reliant; James B. Sikking and Miguel Ferrer as the commanding officers of the Excelsior in STIII; Alan Ruck, Jacqueline Kim as Demora Sulu, and a certain unnamed lieutenant on the Enterprise-B.) Bonus: Michael Ansara as Kang, with all the implicit threats behind his careful courtesy, and establishing a bridge between "Day of the Dove" and "Blood Oath." (And being a bit Martok-esque, I have to say.)

Also very much agree that the MacGuffin is kind of dumb. I think that Brannon Braga has a weakness for this kind of high-concept thing, and like a lot of people, tends to get a little too enchanted by them, without really thinking them through sometimes. (Viruses tend to spread, not just jump from one person to another, and a virus that disguised itself as a traumatic memory would probably be noticed pretty quickly and a cure worked on. It would make more sense for the memory-virus to disguise itself as a pleasurable memory, one that people wouldn't want to get rid of, and one that would disturb a Vulcan who would not only notice that it was something that had never happened, but that it would have been out of character for him to have experienced it in the first place. The 10% rule strikes again.)

Finally, I loved the idea of the blocks that get stacked into different shapes depending on one's mental state, giving it a physical form.
posted by Halloween Jack at 7:14 AM on June 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

Particle of the Week: Sirillium, 'a highly combustible and versatile energy source.' Honorable mention to thorons, which make yet another appearance here.
Pointless STO Comparison of the Week: The Azure Nebula comes up a lot in Star Trek Online, and is the location of a coop mission where the players can rescue captured ships from Tholians. It is not vulnerable to ignition, (maybe Sulu and Tuvok burned up all the sirillium).

Honorable mention to 'plasmatic' energy, which is featured in a number of high-end weapons in STO.

Ongoing Counts: Rolled forward.
* Maximum Possible Photon Torpedoes: 24.
* Shuttles: Down 3.
* Crew: 143.
* Other: 47 bio-neural gelpacks remaining, maybe 25-50% of the escape pods should be gone at this point.
* Credulity Straining Alpha Quadrant Contacts: Holding at 7, and I'm grateful this episode didn't raise it.
* Janeway's Big Red Button: 2 aborted self-destructs, 1 successful.

* I like this one.

I doubt this will be a controversial opinion, given what's been said already: I think this was a good episode. The mechanics of the meld are entertaining. I think they generally succeeded at what they set out to do, here. It's wonderful to see both Sulu and Rand back in action, and I'm sorry Nichelle Nichols passed - that would've been awesome too. I appreciate when episodes that are basically all about nostalgia are also any fun. (I particularly liked Sulu's reaction to Janeway on his bridge, and the nerve pinch scene with Rand.)

Michael Ansara as Kang, with all the implicit threats behind his careful courtesy, and establishing a bridge between "Day of the Dove" and "Blood Oath." (And being a bit Martok-esque, I have to say.)

He really was Martok-y, wasn't he?

The 10% rule strikes again.

True. Rick and Morty did this kind of story in a much more thoughtful way. The Falling Girl is no match for Tinkles, the Magical Ballerina Lamb.

Good show, show.

* Reading the MA stuff here makes it clear that they really were muddled backstage.

That stuff about the Tuvok characterization that got added… goddamn, Tim Russ. The MVP of this series, as far as I'm concerned.

Agreed. I'm grateful Tim Russ corrected their stuff about Vulcans. I owe him some fan mail or something. (Right after I get off my duff and write to Nana Visitor, anyway.) I'm pretty shocked by the notion of them wanting Tuvok to have had an affair. The relationship stuff on this show is *baffling.*

* Starfleet ships really have no breakers, do they?

I mostly hated Neelix at breakfast, but I laughed out loud at the eggs being destroyed by a power surge. Goddamn, starships are dangerous in Trek. :)

* Looked up Dimitri to see where I knew him from.

Turns out: 'everything.' He's one of those character actors who's been all over. That was fun.

And... hm. I feel guilty not having a ton more to say this second, but I expect we'll have more to hash out re: Vulcan stuff after gus gets to this. Oh, and I bet a real Keethera would sell - I'd totally screw around with one. (I guess generally, Jack covered my complaints pretty well already: the MacGuffin could've used just a little more script doctoring, but I was otherwise fine with this.)
posted by mordax at 9:57 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Addendum about my promise to trawl for self destruct threats:

I tried running a quick sweep of that transcript site I like with a quick search string of "destroy this ship," as I think Janeway's phrasing about that is usually pretty specific. The only additional reference that turned up in prior episodes was in Alliances, which makes some sense given events at the time. (Under the circumstances, I think I'll leave that off the tally - hypotheticals feel a little fuzzy to me, same as 'weird shit happens to Harry' counts.)
posted by mordax at 10:08 AM on June 2, 2017

Good catch with the "Total Rickall" comparison; Rick and Morty in general seems to get to a lot of the stuff that Brannon Braga always aspired to.

And I wonder if the lack of circuit breakers in the EPS system is supposed to be analogous to how electrical systems in submarines aren't really grounded. You know, if you could boldly go wherever but the drawback was that, if you ran into trouble and the ship took damage, with the result that it could incinerate your face, would you still do it?
posted by Halloween Jack at 10:35 AM on June 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

the really quite laughable little-girl-falling stuff

What really took the falling girl over the top into ridiculous hilarity was the montage of falling girl at the end of the episode that rapidly cuts between the girl repeating falling and the Children Of Many Cultures hanging over the side of the cliff watching her go. "NOOOO!~NOOOO!~NOOOO!!!"
posted by Servo5678 at 7:03 AM on June 3, 2017 [3 favorites]

First off, c'mon Janeway, a bridge officer is dizzy and disoriented with an unknown medical problem and you have him walk unaccompanied to sick bay rather than simply transport him or at least sending someone to accompany him? Pretty lackadaisical about crew member health I'd say.

Some general thoughts on the episode. Jack mentioned Braga's love of high concept macguffins, and that does seem true, but what makes Braga so effective, at least generally, I still haven't forgotten The 37's, is how well he uses some big and sometimes dopey concept as path to delve into crew interaction. In this episode, the "big idea" is this ridiculous virus concept, but having the crew focus on that provides opportunity to for each of the crew members to expand their own identities a bit by how they each are looking at the problem. The completely unnecessary, in plot terms, scene between Harry and Janeway, for example is a good example of this and adds a lot to the characters in addition to furthering the plot. Braga episodes can often seem like they must be longer than they are, not because of pacing problems, but because he puts so much more into his episodes than most of the other writers. In fact, this usually makes the episodes flow better as there isn't time wasted on completely pointless or inessential bits of activity. Even when there are moments nothing much is happening to accelerate the main dilemma, the characters are being developed in ways that feed into the whole show dynamic.

Braga also is really good at doing something similar in connecting the lead ins or set ups to the episode dilemma with the problems the show will raise in its main focus. In Deadlock it was Wildman going into labor that provided a tie in to the major problem, here it's Tuvok at breakfast. The tie isn't as tight as in Deadlock, but its still illustrative of the issue and provides the same sorts of character growth that we see in the crew handling problems. The breakfast scene here showing Tuvok's continuing irritation with Neelix, something that resonates with his relationship with Valtane later, but also gives Neelix a brief little moment of backstory regarding his mother and why he rhapsodizes about food, which is a nice little piece of character growth. Braga manages to do something like that with most of the crew members, even if it's just a brief moment, like Chakotay's exchange with Tuvok over Tuvok's health that somewhat amusingly reaffirms their relationship, while showing some genuine reciprocity of concern between them as well.

There are some really amusing moments in the episode, like how Mulgrew plays her little aside to Russ over him never bringing her tea, and Russ's slight twinge at being caught out in that part of Tuvok's past. The doctor, of course, gets some amusing lines, and to a sort of amusing purpose in regards to his "the universe is such a strange place" bit, which Braga also pointed out in Deadlock when Janeway was talking with Harry. It's a nice little joke and show recognition of their bizarre circumstance in a good way I think. The parallel attempts at solving the problem between Tuvok and Janeway in the mind meld and the doctor and Kes in sick bay is just the kind of structure that can feel more intense and, in its fanciful way, real, as it engages more of the crew in the problem and show them each working at their best to solve it, even while not working on the exact same thing at the same time. It's a nice touch, even though in this case not leading to the best end as the "virus" idea isn't the greatest in how it'll play out.

The premise behind the virus is sort of interesting and its potential metaphor is so also in a way, but neither really works as well as they could as drama due to its failings as concept, viruses really don't work like that, and as in overexplaining something better left underexamined. (That latter being a reoccuring failing of Braga's. Where he sometimes seems to go just a bit too far in explanation than he need or should in the end, getting too caught up in justifying his premise it seems.)

As a virus, there was the missed chance then to have it spread and give more of the crew a chance to work with Sulu and the Excelsior cast, something that would have been fun, but would have taken away from the focus on Tuvok, so it's understandable why that wasn't pursued I suppose. I still would have liked to see Harry meet him as George Takei wished. The idea of the virus in story terms seems to be that it was passed on to Valtane from one of the many previous hosts whose incarnations as children we see in the end of the episode, seemingly making it an Earth based phenomenon. And it appears to spread at moments of great distress, going from Valtane to Tuvok at Valtane's death and then lying quiet in the subconscious as a repressed memory until something triggers its notice, in this case the look of the gaseous nebula.

There is, of course, little sense to all that. A virus that only spreads in moments of peril isn't going to be all that successful since peril tends to lead to dramatically shorter life spans and all. If it does spread more regularly then Tuvok's likely infected a lot of people over those last 80 years, but to little matter I guess since no one will notice unless they stumble across some event that triggers a memory of a repressed moment of peril from some vague time before. Or if not peril, then memory of normal circumstance the virus spread? If that, then Tuvok might have been lucky in having his catching the virus occur at a moment of peril since those are likely easier to recall than, say, a specific random handshake or whatever many years ago. Not that it seems the virus does any harm until recalled anyway, so maybe not remembering is better anyway...hmm...none of this makes much sense does it?

As something more metaphorical, Tuvok's problem is perhaps more interesting, and I might add something on that in a bit if I get a chance.
posted by gusottertrout at 11:52 PM on June 3, 2017 [2 favorites]

I rewatched Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country just for kicks the other night since I hadn't seen it since it was on cable the year after it came out. It's pretty much a mess from a story telling perspective, but there are some interesting enough ideas there, and if one feels like speculating, which I obviously do, then one might be able to draw a tenuous line between the movie and Braga's choice in Tuvok's problem this episode.

One of the central conflicts in VI is between Spock and his protege Lt Valeris over the place of Vulcan logic in regards to relations with other species. Spock, by this time, has largely adapted himself to inhabiting a position between human emotion and Vulcan logic, where he accepts the value of humanities illogic and speaks out against too pure logic, at least that founded on errant premises. Valeris, we will come to find, while a, um, stellar success in her career in Starfleet, sees humans and other alien species as inherently flawed, and thus has a determinist outlook on the possibilities for growth or change in their behaviors. She betrays Spock and his attempt to find peace with the Klingons due to that belief which many in Starfleet, including Kirk initially, share. I won't go into the many problems the movie has in dramatizing some of this as this is not the thread for the film, I'll simply point out that Spock, in the movie, preaches faith and trust and in several notable moments has no compunction about showing his emotions. Most significantly upon his confrontation with Valeris at the end of the film where he is almost livid with rage and borders on abusive in handling her.

If we were to take the "virus" idea as more of an in show metaphor for Tuvok's relationships with humanity and logic, then the key moment is clearly not the girl on the precipice, but the event precipitating his catching the virus, which is in Valtane's death after failing to heed Tuvok's warning.

Given that as the key moment for Tuvok then we can look back to the discussion on the bunks between Valtane and Tuvok as providing some suggestion over what it is that caused/is causing the inner conflict Tuvok is experiencing. The little exchange they have over human capacity for "fun" and Tuvok's, (can we say emotional response/), to it is the crux of the memory Tuvok is reliving. Valtane speaking of the "fun" it'll be in attempting a rescue inadvertently provides a tragic irony to his death a short time later. Tuvok's warning both in the bunks and on the bridge failing to be heeded "causes" Valtane's death in a sense. But Tuvok being "right" provides no consolation as he seems to carry the guilt over the exchange and/or failure of action as a fault of his own.

The dilemma then is between his attitude towards humanity, something that Valeris shared and had a somewhat similar speech about in VI, and Valtane's attitude and sacrifice in view of Excelsior's goal. Tuvok's logic isn't enough to process the dilemma, but neither is a more purely emotional response in the face of the irony. Valtane's death isn't ridiculous or disproving of the human focus on fun, rather it challenges it even as it remains a determinant element of human actions. It is because of the "fun" that Valtane chooses to give his life, in a sense, they aren't separable into the kinds of terms Tuvok argued with Sulu. This is what Sulu was suggesting when he said Tuvok was absolutely right and absolutely wrong at the same time.

This dilemma is resolved in Tuvok's relationship with Janeway, which is the equivalent of that between Sulu, McCoy, and Kirk. She risks her safety to help him and Tuvok experiences the same sense of attachment that Sulu was speaking of. The montage of humans repeatedly failing to save the girl at the end is the summation of the dilemma, where the connection is more important than the action. Tuvok couldn't save Valtane, but that didn't, in show terms, show Valtane as "wrong" even as it cost him his life.

This all doesn't really change some of the issues surrounding how Trek uses Vulcans, having them claim no emotions while showing them, the preference for humanity no matter the flaws and how that leads to a sort of "others be wrong" attitude that works against the very values they are alleging to express and all that, but it does attempt to better square that circle and provide a better basis of seeing Tuvok. Braga resists using Vulcans as a stepping off point to show emotions are better in the more usual sense of it being a crutch for the writers to justify whatever attitudes or actions of the moment they need or want, and instead attempts to put him more in the Spock space of existing somewhere between "pure" logic and human emotion. Which is sensible enough for the character and removes at least some of the biggest problems Trek has had in dealing with the Vulcans.

I also neglected to mention in my last post how enjoyable and well done Braga's handling of the flashback action mixed with "current" asides to Janeway was. That was pleasingly handled, where Tuvok would address Janeway about the cause or circumstances of events and then act them out as they occurred, or vice versa. The filming too was a lot of fun, when, for example, they first start appearing on the Excelsior bridge and Tuvok hovers over Valtane's body while speaking to Janeway, with no indication that body is of any significance until events play out further. A nice touch that. (I also meant to add that while I liked the idea of the blocks taking the shape of the mind of the manipulator, I do wish they looked a little less children's toyboxy.)
posted by gusottertrout at 2:43 PM on June 4, 2017 [3 favorites]

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