Monday, April 7, 2014

Voyager, Season 2: Meld

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.html
Voyager, Season 2
"Meld"
Airdate: February 5, 1996
32 of 168 produced
31 of 168 aired

Introduction

Tuvok must investigate an apparent homicide on the ship. His investigation comes to a surprisingly quick end when he discovers the crewman responsible, but is disturbed to find him unrepentant, but apparently also without a motive.
Oh, but you are alone. Who knows what you have spoken to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all your life seems to shrink, the walls of your bower closing in about you, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in? So fair, yet so cold... like a morning of pale Spring, still clinging to Winter's chill.



Writing

Kevin: Well, this is a nice palette cleanser after Threshold, isn't it? I'm going to start by praising a few smaller choices the show makes that really help keep this episode pretty tight. First, there were no needless whodunit plotlines. We've done it before, like in State of Flux, and would only have detracted from the time the other plot got to breathe.  Second, I liked the way they pitched Tuvok's disquiet, even before the meld. Without resorting to the standard issue Vulcan dismissal of the illogical, Tuvok is genuinely perplexed by it. I think it clearly pushes him into the fairly reckless act of the meld in the first place.

Matthew: Yeah, the basic nuts and bolts of the story are very solid. The premise is inherently interesting - what should be done on a journey like this? Having a character who represents rationality come up against an inherently irrational character is also of great interest. To be fair, there is a B plot in Paris running up against ship's discipline, which will bear fruit later. It is unrelated, but the scenes we got were very good and I didn't have any huge unresolved questions by the end, so I don't think it detracted. I did think Tuvok jumped a bit too quickly to the meld, it smacked of recklessness.

Kevin: I like the look at Federation ethics and justice. Janeway, even in this extreme situation, still won't sanction the death penalty. I like that the Doctor removes the possibility that Suder is not culpable. It challenges the, frankly naive notion of something like TOS' Dagger of the Mind that all crime is the result of a mental defect. Tuvok callously offering to execute Suder and suffer the negligible inconvenience of being confined to quarters was great. It reminded me at the time of Prime Factors when he decided to break the rules on her behalf. I like Janeway's response that 75 years of solitary confinement may not be the cakewalk Tuvok alleges.

Matthew: Suder being a non-telepathic Betazoid seemed like it ought to be related to his sociopathy. There is definitely something a little odd here, though. If someone lacks the basic emotional responses to the pain of others, isn't that a form of mental disability that reduces culpability in crimes that would have been prevented or mitigated by such a response?  Anyhow, I too liked the death penalty aspect of the tale quite a bit.

Kevin: The one place the episode loses me a little is the meld stuff itself. There was a little too much medical technobabble creating and solving the problem for my taste. It's not a huge problem and it does not detract from the real success of this episode: the tone. Between Suder's icy detachment and Tuvok's building simmer, you really spend the entire episode with the hair on the back of your neck standing straight up.

Matthew: Some of the "science" of telepathy bugged me. If someone can "disable" the telepathic abilities of a being with just a few little temple-sticky-doodads, why isn't this used by everyone? I also thought that making Suder a non-telepathic Betazoid was a whiff. They may as well have just made him human. I also didn't like how Tuvok was left alone to escape, after the extensive precautions that were taken to restrain him beforehand.

Acting

Kevin: More than anything, our review of Voyager has given me a new appreciation for Tim Russ. He really nailed suppressed Vulcan rage. The only even slightly sour note for me was the line in his quarters about the number of ways he thought to kill someone with his thumb and finger, though I find that to be more because it's an inorganic line over-designed to sound creepy. Everything else just sings.

Matthew: The 5 minute scene in Sickbay was an absolute master class. It is probably the best 5 minutes of the series so far in terms of acting. Tim Russ was just excellent, and it was so exciting to watch. Russ let his emotions loose, but remained in character. That's a real feat. His physical acting was great, too, throwing the tray, straining against the force field. Kate Mulgrew had some nice reaction work to Tuvok's insults, too.

Kevin: Brad Dourif has made a career out of being the creepy guy and boy howdy does he nail it here. He keeps everything close enough to the vest that nothing ever reads over the top while still seeming really intense.

Matthew: Dourif's turn is easily one of he most effective guest spots in the series thus far, and stands up against the best of all of Trek, too. He did a wonderful job of "turning off" the normal sorts of reactions that a character normally gives to the actors around them. He also completely sunk into the world. I believed his line readings about being a Betazoid and a member of the Maquis.

Production Values

Kevin: This is a bottle show, but a great one. Crew quarters, the brig, Tuvok's office... the list goes on. The Sickbay set may actually be the best set on the ship for me.

Matthew: There are a lot of really nice shots with good camera angles that heighten drama without calling too much attention to themselves. I think the force field effects looked nice in Sickbay. Tuvok's trashed quarters didn't look particularly good, they were just OK. I would have liked to see some more detail in furnishings, trashed or otherwise.

Kevin: The one bit of makeup I thought was great was the burned arm of the dead guy. That really got me as a kid.

Conclusion

Kevin: I am going with a four. The Vulcan mind meld always runs the risk of having to many cool powers and the mechanism by which it works is always a tad over tailored to the episode. Beyond that, this episode is well acted and creepy as hell.

Matthew: I wanted to give this a 5, because the acting is so good.  But I think some of the half-baked pseudo-science holds this back just a bit. The blunting of telepathic ability, both with Suder (by story fiat) and Tuvok (by treknobabble) felt just a teensy bit like a copout, which forestalled potentially interesting story developments. But some of these scenes are positively electric, and it was a blast to watch. Our total is an 8.

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