Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Voyager, Season 6: Riddles

http://www.treknobabble.net/p/rating-system.htmlVoyager, Season 6
Airdate: November 3, 1999
125 of 168 produced
124 of 168 aired


A mysterious entity injures Tuvok, stripping him of his intellectual abilities and his emotional control.

The Laughing Vulcan and His Dog


Matthew: The Tuvok/Neelix story is basically effective as both a comedy and a drama. Their relationship feels like a comfortable t-shirt by this point, which is why it is easy to deepen it with this story. In a sort of reverse "Flowers For Algernon," Tuvok's brain in jury leads to him lowering his emotional barriers and letting Neelix in as a true friend. I found most scenes affecting, particularly the flower scene. Did I know Tuvok would be back to normal by the end of the episode? Sure. But I learned something about him, and Neelix as well. That's the ultimate response to "should this story exist?" questions.

Kevin: I found this less effective, largely due to the fact that we've gone to this well with these characters before, and even if done consistently well, there is just diminishing returns. Between the very well done Tuvix and the not-so-well done one in the space elevator whose name I refuse to look up, they've already had a couple of grudging mutual respect moments. My other problem is that this the second time Tuvok has undergone a radical personality shift...and everyone likes the new one more. TOS danced on this line too, and I get that its low hanging fruit to poke fun at how uptight Vulcans are, but it starts to read as no one actually likes Tuvok or values his perspective. Even Janeway seems to slip easily into rapport with Pastry Tuvok and doesn't seem to mourn the possible permanent loss of an old friend. I'm making it sound worse than it is, but it's something that nagged me throughout the episode. Both times Tuvok has undergone this personality change, his increased emotions are treated as an unqualified good, and it starts to read as dismissive of the Vulcan philosophy. That all said, individual scenes work well, and they managed to keep Neelix on the good side of cloying in trying to help him.

Matthew: The mysterious alien/lone investigator B story was pretty mundane.Although there is a certain compelling nature to "scientists who is not believed" tales, we have seen this trope many times already in Trek. It could have been made more compelling if we had actually met the aliens. I think there is something to be done with the idea of communicating with a wholly "other" species that disgusts us (another idea that has been done, admittedly, and in Voyager no less), but here's it's just sort of a placeholder.

Kevin: If it had been the focus of the episode, there would have been the inevitable third act twist where it turns out they went invisible to hide from the hostile acts of the scientist's species. I think he gives up his invention a little too easily. I mean...these aliens have the ability to completely unobserved harm people, so it seems like even for Tuvok's benefit, that would be a bridge too far. Maybe a more Clues-style negotiation pointing out the more ships get attacked, the more people will have to come looking would have worked.


Matthew: Tim Russ did a whale of a job with this role. It's a tough one - he is being asked to basically toss out everything he's done for 6 years with the character, but to keep it close enough to be recognizable. I really felt for him, and believed his emotional journey - vulnerability, anger, remorse, friendship. It shows you what he would be capable of in a non-Vulcan role, and I think also deepens one's appreciation for the subtle shades he brings to Tuvok.

Kevin: I agree that Russ brought a lot of very delicate shading to his performance it largely carries what I still say is a somewhat creaky plot device, especially for Vulcans on the show. Even though we went down the road with Tuvix's right to exist versus Tuvok's, I found the quieter shadings of Tuvok debating the value of the new versus the old Tuvok to be quite well done.

Matthew: Ethan Phillips has really grown on me. The Neelix character was alternately insipid and wretched in the early going, and if you had told me then that I would eventually straight-up like him, I would have thought you were nuts. His level of care for Tuvok is radiant. Neelix is the kind of guy you'd want for a friend (as long as you didn't pry into his relationship history).

Kevin: I have softened considerably as well, though I don't think I can get to straight-up 'liking' him. I think he definitely keeps the most annoying qualities in check and that works well. Phillips is a good actor and it really makes you wish for some gentle retconning to fix early Neelix.

Production Values

Matthew: Another budget saver here. The only visual effects of note were the image of the alien, which was... blurry but effective? It's always nice to see the Delta Flyer interior. They did a nice job of making it feel like a real-ish place, which many shuttles have not been in previous shows.

Kevin: I always thought the back room of the Delta Flyer was a smidge too big. It's getting into runabout territory, but that's a small gripe. I liked how the alien was rendered. Enough detail to be scary, but not too much to lose the 'otherness.' It reminded me of the parasites in Phantasms.


Matthew: The B story is a dud, but I can't help but enjoy the A story. I think overall the acting performances by the two principals here make this an enjoyable, if not entirely memorable, watch. As such, I think it falls into the "mediocre" range, for a 3.

Kevin: I'll be honest, the story, if only for its repetition and a general complaint I have for rewarded Neelix's 'wear you down' form of bonding, is a 2 for me, but I can't deny that Russ gave a great performance that nudges into a 3, for a total of 6.

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