Star Trek: Voyager

"Riddles"

**

Air date: 11/3/1999
Teleplay by Robert J. Doherty
Story by Andre Bormanis
Directed by Roxann Dawson

Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan

"When is a Vulcan no longer a Vulcan?"
"When his genetic code is sufficiently altered."

— Neelix and Seven (deadpan humor, Voyager style)

(Note: This episode was re-rated from 2.5 to 2 stars when the season recap was written.)

Nutshell: An agreeable hour, but the premise deserves deeper treatment. As is, it can't transcend being an exercise.

An episode like the amiable but frustrating "Riddles" reminds me how torn I am between trying to accept what Voyager is and scrutinizing it for what it could be. Where must I draw the line in accepting that nothing of significance on this series will ever be allowed to have an impact that isn't automatically reset to zero? Perhaps more urgent concerning the hour at hand: Are the events that stand alone here engaging enough to make me overlook the use of the Voyager Reset Button?

I guess the answer to that last question is, "Well, not quite." "Riddles" has its good moments, but the more I think about this show, the more I realize that all it really consists of is moments—moments that stand alone and don't add up to mean much of anything on a bigger scale.

The episode is the first Tuvok/Neelix vehicle in quite some time—perhaps even since the awful "Rise" from season three. As a Tuvok/Neelix show, it's above average overall (although I admit that's not saying much). The story begins on the Delta Flyer with Tuvok and Neelix alone on one of those shuttle missions where the primary objective is to have two characters alone on a shuttle mission. Neelix still calls Tuvok "Mr. Vulcan," which has always annoyed me plenty, but I suppose acknowledging past characterization is a good thing. Tuvok still barely tolerates Neelix's non-stop blathering, occasionally voicing a flat, Tuvokian request for silence.

Been here and done this—but in "Riddles" the writers put a new spin on the Tuvok/Neelix relationship when Tuvok is zapped by an alien weapon, leaving him severely brain damaged and with memory loss. Doc is able to save his life, but the question is whether Tuvok will recover and reclaim who he was. Neelix becomes the guy to help rehabilitate Tuvok by re-familiarizing him with the previously familiar.

There's also a B-story here involving the crew's attempts to track down the mysterious aliens who attacked Tuvok. With the help of a representative from the Kesat society, named Naroq (Mark Moses), the crew begins a special-technology-assisted search for these mysterious aliens, called the Ba'neth, who apparently go to great lengths to hide themselves from other space travelers. The Kesat on the whole do not even believe the Ba'neth exist; Naroq comes across as a sort of Kesat equivalent of "Spooky Mulder"—he's on a crusade to prove the existence of the Ba'neth to a society that doesn't want to acknowledge the possibility.

What's strange is that the Routine Alien Subplot is actually one of the potentially least routine of its type in some time—in concept, at least. The Ba'neth could've made for a genuinely intriguing storyline—they're a mysterious, invisible society that is well-envisioned through some nifty special effects that maintain an interesting obscurity—but, alas, they're not used in very interesting ways, and turn out to be the usual xenophobes. Nine times out of 10 I'll say "who cares" regarding the alien subplot and welcome emphasis on the character story. Unfortunately, this is Case #10, where the aliens could've been a superior plot of their own. It's a shame that we see so little of them and their motives, and that this subplot chews its way along the typical lines because of the maintained emphasis on Tuvok/Neelix.

So ultimately, and not surprisingly, "Riddles" lives or dies on the strength of the Tuvok/Neelix plot. In short, while there's some decent material here, it's just not on par with the situation's potential. Ostensibly, the story is about Tuvok's battle to reclaim who he is, and then later to accept what he has become. But it doesn't demonstrate these intentions in ways that are particularly fresh. There's a scene between Neelix and Seven that appropriately uses some character history ... but to me it seems the lesson to be learned here (that of molding someone into what they can be rather than what they're unlikely to reclaim) is a pretty obvious lesson that Neelix should've learned on his own. And why is it all lessons are seemingly learned in quiet, empty, darkened rooms, anyway?

If you're on board just to see Tuvok exhibit weird, un-Vulcan-like behavior, then you'll get your money's worth. Tuvok essentially turns into a child because of his brain damage—a sort of "Flowers for Algernon" in reverse—leading to scenes where he reacts in fear, anger, and frustration for what he has lost. And, of course, a scene where he bakes cakes. Seeing an un-Tuvok-like performance by Tim Russ is an interesting experience; you realize just how perfectly controlled, pragmatic, and intentionally flat Tuvok's voice generally is, and how much range Russ milks from the Vulcan confines. Here you see facets of Russ you typically never do (although his intensity in "Meld" from several years back was far more compelling than the child-like antics here). But the story could've gone so much further than it does. I was hoping for a real challenge for Tuvok that would somehow expose the nuts and bolts of who he is.

As it is, the nature of the plot deactivates/reactivates his personality too simplistically, flipping it like a light switch. The eventual restoration of Tuvok to his normal self is entirely too cut-and-dried, without much hint that any of the experience has really affected him. The normal-and-restored Tuvok is so far removed from the damaged Tuvok that we can't see that there's been any noteworthy net change (or even realization) in the final analysis ... and that hurts. "Barge of the Dead" might not be explicitly followed up, but at least it had a sense of B'Elanna's progress and realization. Here, it's hard to see "Riddles" as much more than a pointless exercise.

Naturally, I must point out that anyone with any doubt that Tuvok would make a full recovery by episode's end has not clued into the very obvious established Voyager pattern that Nothing May Have Any Consequences. Perhaps the real tragedy is that I've become so used to the Voyager formula that I already knew how "Riddles" was going to end 20 minutes into the show. Tracking down the Ba'neth would obviously lead to a magical cure that would restore Tuvok to his normal self. While the details of the plot work for the most part, I can't say they're particularly discussion-worthy.

On the whole, "Riddles" isn't bad or misguided—it's just that the events are ho-hum when they should be genuinely involving. Pretty much every scene here had an aura of pleasant reasonableness to it, but also an aura of predictability.

What I did like about this episode was the sympathy it reveals for Neelix. Here's a guy who just wants to be friends with Tuvok, but Tuvok just won't have it. Neelix pushes hard at a guy who by definition cannot be pushed in such ways. After the brain damage we are able to see Neelix connect with Tuvok, and it's under a situation where Tuvok can return the feelings. It's nice seeing Neelix as a helpful person whose motive is not simply to bid annoyingly for Tuvok's attention.

But the episode is never able to escape its own preset "reset to zero" destination. We realize everything will be so neatly fixed by the end, and the story is never able to completely break free from that liability. The final scene is subtle. Too subtle. Tuvok makes a joke that brings a new insight to the episode's opening pun, and we wonder if maybe this experience has somewhat changed him. But the question I'm asking is why the writers seem to think Tuvok can't have friends without a switch in his brain being flipped. Vulcans do have emotions, even if they don't typically express them. The way Tuvok seems to ignore Neelix in the final scene is painful—as I'm sure it's intended to be—but I don't really buy it. Tuvok obviously remembers everything that happened, yet he doesn't acknowledge what Neelix did for him, which I don't think is the right choice by the writers. We need some evidence that this meant something for Tuvok—and I don't think his final pun is nearly enough, especially given the ambivalent-at-best reaction Tuvok has to his own joke.

Since we'll doubtlessly never hear about any of this again, I'm guessing we'll never really know what it's supposed to mean. The writers make most of the show pretty obvious, so why go subtle on us at the last minute? I suppose we can chalk it up to the mystery of the Vulcan mind. Still, I just get the feeling that even the normal-and-emotion-free Tuvok should have more depth and emotional latitude than he's allowed to have here. I know he's capable, but the writers don't seem to.

Next week: Voyager is drawn into an alien conflict. That's a pretty impressive trailer with intense visuals and quite a hook—even with the return of the Big Words [TM].

Previous episode: Alice
Next episode: Dragon's Teeth

◄ Season Index

57 comments on this review

grumpy_otter
Wed, Jul 2, 2008, 4:57pm (UTC -5)
I would have given this one 3 stars. While I agree that we all knew the reset was coming, I truly enjoyed the new Tuvok discovering jazz, and games, and pastry, and crafts ("It's not good" had such a great face to go with it).

I liked it also because Neelix was not annoying. His response to Tuvok's "illness" and his dedication to finding out what the new Tuvok COULD accomplish really moved me.

Every once in a while we get a reminder that Tim Russ is more than a one-note actor--this was one such episode, and I liked it.
Fido
Thu, Jan 8, 2009, 5:13pm (UTC -5)
I actually really liked this one. Tim Russ got to show new levels of the character...and the touching moments between Neelix and Tuvok were very moving. The moment when Tuvok tells Neelix he doesn't want to revert back to his old self because they'll stop being friends...if that doesn't pull on your heartstrings...you're a statue.
Michael
Wed, Jul 7, 2010, 1:40pm (UTC -5)
This was a really good episode, 3.5 stars, I'd say. There was slightly too much Tuvok (and Tuvok-Neelix) drama but even those scenes were not too static or saccharine. The "sci" facet of the show was entertaining and provocative.

The only annoying thing was toward the end when the time came to restore the old Tuvok and he didn't want to be changed. It's the same jaded politically-correct human-rightsy theme that's been done ad nauseam already and now recycled yet again. I'd personally have almost preferred to see Tuvok do splits on a trampoline to this.
Cloudane
Thu, Feb 24, 2011, 9:22am (UTC -5)
Tuvix 2.0 Released!

Changelog:
- Kept Tuvok and Neelix physically separate
- Made the treatment decision more politically correct following calls to have Janeway tried for murder in v1.0
- Made it more obvious that you'd have to be brain damaged to enjoy being around Neelix


(I actually quite liked it. It had some good honest moments. It's a better episode if you try to "forget" that there won't be consequences, even if it would've been awesome to keep him as he was and develop that over the remainder of the series)
enniofan
Tue, Apr 5, 2011, 10:21am (UTC -5)
strangely affecting episode; nicely done...makes me wonder though, after watching Tim Russ here, if Vulcans are actually emotionally mature. They suppress and suppress and it seems when they do release emotions somehow, it's unusually despondent and/or amazingly childlike.


3 stars for sure for me.

Robots4Ever
Sun, Nov 27, 2011, 5:58am (UTC -5)
Certain characters need to be reset. Tuvok, Seven and the Doctor (to some extent) add the much needed down to earth approach, and counter the mush that spouts from the other characters.
Just Another Trekkie
Sun, Mar 25, 2012, 5:15am (UTC -5)
Excellent points. As always, your reviews are insightful and thought-provoking.

I agree that this episode offers an interesting characterization of Neelix. Usually his cheery persistence grates on my nerves, but here we see genuine goodwill.

Though it's true that Tuvok's problem is ultimately so neatly shrunk and dessicated that it would make the Ferengi proud, Neelix's situation at the end is left more open-ended.

I think it brings up an interesting question: who does Neelix--friend to all, confidant to all, gently teased by all--really turn to for support?

Aside from the (let's face it) never remotely convincing relationship between him and Kes, Neelix doesn't seem to have that one "special relationship" that most of the other crewmen do (see: Janeway/Chakotay, Tom/B'Elanna, Tom/Harry Kim, Seven/Janeway).

In "Mortal Coil" we saw Neelix lose the foundation for his continual confidence; how has he regained it? Or has he even?

Such a social being, Neelix is a source of support for many. But who is his support?
Captain Jim
Mon, Apr 9, 2012, 9:51pm (UTC -5)
This is one of those times that I thought Jammer was too hard. I enjoyed this a lot. There are many episodes in which the use of the Voyager reset switch is a legitimate criticism, but I don't think this is one of them. Nor does knowing the obvious outcome prevent one from enjoying this. Great character moments from Neelix here. I will, however, concede that Tuvok should have acknowledged Neelix's help and at least said thank you in some awkward fashion.
Jelendra
Thu, May 24, 2012, 11:59am (UTC -5)
I just saw this one...honestly I nearly cried. I thought this was a GREAT story. I loved how Neelix and Tuvok bonded...and I realized Tim Russ' range as an actor...He does incredibly well with such sparse material seeing this makes me want to see more of his acting...I give this one 3 maybe 3.5 stars...
Destructor
Wed, Jun 13, 2012, 10:52pm (UTC -5)
Boring, forgettable.
Curtis
Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 5:21am (UTC -5)
This episode REALLY needed Tuvok to say "thank you" to Neelix at the end and continue the unique friendship. I got so tired of the reset to where Tuvok 'tolerated' Neelix. If I were Neelix, that would piss me off. The writers really had an opportunity to show that friendship and bonds come in a all shapes and sizes.
Brad Rock
Fri, Jul 20, 2012, 1:14pm (UTC -5)
That line at the end got me, caused a combination of getting misty-eyed and laughing out loud. I didn't think another tolerable Neelix episode would ever happen.
Cail Corishev
Thu, Sep 27, 2012, 8:26pm (UTC -5)
I guess I'm a sucker for a good friendship story, and this one gets me, especially the part where Neelix is willing to sacrifice the friendship because he knows it's the right thing to do for Tuvok. Normally I can't stand Neelix, especially the way he pesters Tuvok when he knows it's only going to annoy him. As an introvert myself, he's like a super-extrovert who keeps asking, "So what are you thinking? Is something wrong?" because I haven't spoken in the last 10 seconds.

But here he wasn't pestering Tuvok for his own sake, at least not after a while. He was genuinely trying to help him and do what was best for him. He enjoyed the fact that Tuvok finally liked him, but that wasn't his reason. Everything Jammer said about the Reset Button is true, but with a good enough story, I don't really care. And I thought the idea of a race so reclusive that their neighbors think they're a myth had potential, though they didn't do much with it except spout technobabble.

As for the ending, I thought Tuvok *had* changed more than he was showing, but that didn't mean he wanted Neelix popping by to listen to jazz together every evening. So he came up with the smallest gesture possible, to let Neelix know that he did remember and that it did all mean something to him, but that it didn't mean he wanted to be buddies. If he'd given any more of a thank-you, Neelix might not have been able to control himself.
Jack
Sun, Jan 13, 2013, 1:57pm (UTC -5)
Why did Tuvok wanting to stay with Neelix negate the possibility of the lunch, instead of lettign Neelix eat too...was Janeway adamant that it only be her and Tuvok, or nothing at all?
T'Paul
Fri, Apr 12, 2013, 5:30pm (UTC -5)
Neelix: "When is a Vulcan no longer a Vulcan?"

Seven: "When his genetic code has been sufficiently altered"

Loved that line...
azcats
Mon, Aug 12, 2013, 2:27pm (UTC -5)
for a character episode i liked this. how can Tim Russ show his range when his character is mono-everything. you need to find some way to alter him.

once again Jammer is on his Reset rants. you would thinkd DS9 came BEFORE TNG and TOS. lol

my favorite series is Law&Order and they are BUILT on resets, for the most part.

over 100 episodes into Voyager.....

oh well.

i give it 2.5/3 stars.
Lt. Yarko
Thu, Aug 22, 2013, 11:35pm (UTC -5)
It's just too bad that a little residual affection for Neelix couldn't have been left over. I mean a little more than a desire to expand the riddle's answer.
SpiceRak2
Mon, Sep 2, 2013, 2:45am (UTC -5)
I understand Jammer wanting story arcs to give more depth and character development but that's not what Voyager was ever about. Let it go.

As far as this particular episode, I was infuriated by Janeway's lack of emotion for Tuvok's predicament. This Vulcan is supposed to be a long time colleague and close friend, yet all she was concerned about was whether or not he could give them the cloaking frequency codes. Even when Neelix says (in an unnecessary attempt to reassure the Captain) that they will get Tuvok' back to the way he was, Janeway merely glances back over her shoulder before walking out of sick bay. The writers just neglected a key relationship (Janeway/Tuvok) in this storyline.
Nic
Wed, Sep 4, 2013, 8:22am (UTC -5)
I for one agree with Jammer. There were a lot of nice isolated moments in this episode, but they don't end up meaning anything, and that's a shame. It would have been interesting to see Tuvok re-learn his former skills throughout the course of the season rather than be magically zapped back to his old self.

Irrelevant sidenote: apparently the characters (and thus, the writers) don't know the difference between a frequency and a wavelength.
Niall
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 1:12pm (UTC -5)
This episode fails where Gravity succeeded. The latter was a much better character study of Tuvok than people give it credit for. Jammer's correct - Tuvok may be a Vulcan, but his character is written far too restrictively. Just because he's logical and doesn't express emotion shouldn't mean he's rude, inflexible, unable to articulate thanks etc. For 7 years they wrote him as a robot when they shouldn't have, and it's a real shame.
Joseph S.
Thu, Dec 26, 2013, 9:35pm (UTC -5)
I totally agree with Jammer that the ending was too subtle. Tuvok should've thanked Neelix at the end, just as others above commented. It wouldn't have had to be emotional; in fact, I think it would've been more poignant to have an unemotional Tuvok simply say: "Mr. Neelix, I must express my gratitude for your assistance while I was incapacitated." I definitely see where the writers were going, but I think that being more direct would've had a deeper payoff.

I also have to hand it to Ethan Phillips in this episode. I got the sense several times that Phillips wanted to portray Neelix as feeling guilty over Tuvok's attack. When Tuvok became despondent in sickbay, Phillips' facial expressions made me think there would be a follow-up scene where Neelix just let it all out, saying that, because his unwillingness to let Tuvok have his peace and quiet led Tuvok away from helm control and right into his attacker's grasp. I actually thought that scene would be with Seven of Nine, but alas. What a missed opportunity to add rare depth to this character.
Amanda
Tue, Feb 18, 2014, 9:56am (UTC -5)
I'd given it 3.5 if they never made Tuvix. Been done but now with a PC approach.
Amanda
Tue, Feb 18, 2014, 9:57am (UTC -5)
I'd given it 3.5 if they never made Tuvix. Been done but now with a PC approach.
Ric
Mon, May 5, 2014, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Interesting argument, with a flat, uninteresting execution.

I am not a traditional hater of Neelix, although not a lover either. But I have to say that in this episode he is in fact insupportable to watch. Every single joke he tries, fails to be funny. Even single touching line fails to be touching. Every single cute silliness fails to be cute, succeeding only in being silly. To make things worse, Tim Russ delivers mostly an uninspired, cartoonish acting.

Yeah, the main story is not bad. The idea of a species that was never seen is inspired (but wasted). The attempt to bring Tuvok and Neelix closer is commendable (and sort of works). The deeper issue of what sustains a friendly relationship could have been interesting, but was not pushed forward enough.

To summarize, the whole execution just does not stand. It is actually frustrating. Besides, holly Trek, what was that cake thing? Starfleet should certainly include bakers in all ships from now on. And what about the listening-jazz scene? Once again it looks like Trek is not ashamed to establish that there is no other music styles in the next three centuries, not to mention outside US. You know, the future is shiny...

In the end, an average-ish episode. With a finally touching last scene.
MisterFred
Sun, Jun 1, 2014, 3:06pm (UTC -5)
I've disagreed with you before on ratings, but here I'm genuinely surprised at your low rating. To be fair, the Reset Button was expected and used once again.

But this is still one of my favorite episodes of Voyager. And it managed the salvage the heretofore disastrous Neelix/Tuvok dynamic in what for me was a completely unexpected way.

Tuvok HATES Neelix. With the passion of a thousand suns that only a Vulcan can feel - and suppress.

Which leads to the double tragedy of this episode - and I'm a sucker for tragedy. The direct one, dealing with brain damage, is more poignant than you give it credit for. Yes, it should be obvious that damaged Tuvok should be taught to become what he can be, not what he was. Yet this is a lesson that people in the real world never manage to learn until something FORCES them to understand the person they knew will never be the same again.

It's an obvious lesson - but it's one that has to be learned, over and over again, so one I absolutely do not fault the script for. (Though I suppose you could argue that Trek mores are supposed to be advanced enough this would be the default Trekkian response.)

And while the primary Tuvok plot was good enough as an allegory to brain damage in our world, the Reset Button is forgiven by me precisely because it's the Reset that provides the real emotional punch of the episode.

Neelix LIKES Tuvok, and damaged Tuvok likes him back, yet Neelix must accept the death of this relationship for the good of his friend. That's powerfully sad, and yet something that can only be cheered on by Neelix himself.

A complex emotional resonance that the Reset gives us.

Tuvok HATES Neelix, yet repaired Tuvok owes Neelix an unpayable debt for Neelix's dedication to him during his recovery. And he has the memory of his gratitude for Neelix, and more, his dependence on him.

But repaired Tuvok still HATES Neelix. It quite frankly hurts him to admit any attachment to Neelix at all. Yet he is compelled to do so to the extent he can because of the unpayable debt. And so he maintains tremendous guilt for his revocation of their temporary friendship - yet proves he will humiliate himself to please Neelix (even if only a tiny bit) out of gratitude.

It's incredibly powerful stuff. Full of exceptional characterization (all the more remarkable since it ably incorporates the previous badly-written dynamic). And while I agree with you that the aliens could have been interesting & some Voyager cliches are present, as with some of your DS9 reviews, I have to say the sheer weight of the episode forgives what would otherwise be flaws.
Rod Sullivan
Sat, Jan 3, 2015, 7:48am (UTC -5)
MisterFred nailed it. Very powerful. And they both still carry the Tuvix memories. Quite a connection there. Hate and guilt. Still, Tuvok does dance as Neelix leaves in Homestead-I'm surprised he didn't carry Neelix's bag to the Transporter Room for him. I'd be equally surprised if Neelix's departure didn't throw Tuvok into a Pon Farr.....(no relation to Jamie) (=
Tuvok DESPISED Neelix! Whew!!
HolographicAndrew
Thu, Mar 12, 2015, 1:48am (UTC -5)
"Then how will you know... how much I enjoy being with you?"

What a great and memorable bromance episode. That scene made me tear up a little bit in a manly way. Tim Russ was really awesome in this one.
Garth
Wed, Jun 24, 2015, 9:27pm (UTC -5)
It's amazing how much people complain about "unbearable PC BS" to the point that the complaining itself becomes unbearable BS.
dlpb
Thu, Jun 25, 2015, 6:48am (UTC -5)
Well, the answer to that is simple, Garth: Don't do crappy PC to begin with.
darknet
Wed, Jul 8, 2015, 1:09pm (UTC -5)
What I didn't like about this episode is that it completely negates the reason Tuvok and Vulcans in general have for suppress their emotions. Vulcan emotions are intense and passionate, many times more than humans. Their emotions are suppress not out of choice but necessity. When Tuvok lets his hair down, so to speak, he is more of less like any normal human. Side from his rampage in sick bay, he has pretty good control over his emotions. I don't know if this was some left over Vulcan discipline from his true self but I expected him to be an emotional mess much like he was in Meld. He should have been dangerous. If anything, this should have been an episode focused on Nelix understanding why Tuvok needs to suppress his emotions.
Robert
Wed, Sep 2, 2015, 8:48pm (UTC -5)
I couldn't disagree more with this review. This episode certainly deserves 3-4 stars. Of course it was expected for Tuvok to be restored at the end of the episode, but this fact did not detract from its overall emotional impact. It was wonderful to see another side of Tuvok, and his bonding with Neelix (in non-annoying mode, no less) was superbly performed by both actors. Like other posters above I teared up when "new" Tuvok uttered the line "how will you know how much I enjoy being with you?", as well as Neelix's line "I'm really going to miss him."

While it would have been nice to see Tuvok express more direct gratitude at the end of the episode, this was subtly done as Tuvok offered the non-logical response to Neelix's original riddle. I think this was Tuvok's way of letting Neelix know that, despite the restoration of the "old" Tuvok, that he did appreciate Neelix for what he was, even if his "logical" self precluded him from expressing it as often as he would like.

All in all, a touching episode definitely worthy of recommendation.
Andrew
Wed, Feb 3, 2016, 12:11pm (UTC -5)
The reset button may be clearly built-in but the episode was still enjoyable and worthwhile and contributed to the characters.
Gus
Wed, Feb 17, 2016, 7:18am (UTC -5)
Loved this episode, unexpected good VOY entry. It's true that this show will continue to press the reset button, but at this point it seems better to accept that from a show like this. VOY was never like DS9 oe BSG where there is any continuous character development, but that's never been the intent. It's more like X-Files where you just enjoy entries for what they are, and enjoy stories for what they can do within the format. Even if you know that Tuvok will be his old self at the end watching him and Neelix go through the journey was still really good I thought. 3/4

Diamond Dave
Wed, Mar 9, 2016, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Not entirely successful, but for the most part a surprisingly low key and emotionally engaging episode. It's Neelix that gets the best of the story, and his concern for Tuvok is genuinely endearing. Indeed, in finally making a connection with Tuvok, this is something of a highlight in Neelix's story.

Despite some really strong moments - the dessert scene in particular is a joy - Tuvok is perhaps just a little too much a whiny kid to really hit home. And the alien chase is nothing more than standard. 3 stars overall.
Bryan
Fri, Mar 25, 2016, 1:01am (UTC -5)
I accept that pseudo-scientific contrivances are part of the glue that holds these Voyager episodes together, but was I only one bothered by how they derived the much-needed cloak frequency from the cake diagram? No amount of computer analysis will allow you to quantify anything unless you label your axes, Mr.Vulcan! I don't usually nitpick at this level but it just seemed so basic...
KB
Wed, Jun 8, 2016, 12:13am (UTC -5)
I found this episode touching especially because of Seven's insight that helps Nelix help Tuvoc. When we accept people where they are, everything works better. I think that Nelix did change as a result of Mortal Coil and that change has quietly been acted out since then. He is really annoying only with Tuvoc and I think it might have been a passive/aggressive response to Tuvok's behavior towards him. Finally, I think the last scene was esquistely and beautifully subtle. An episode I look forward to watching again.
Yanks
Thu, Jun 9, 2016, 12:12pm (UTC -5)
I'm really tired of hearing the "reset button" thing. Shall we list all the DS9 reset button occurrences?

It's a part of TV, not just trek or Voyager.

What, did you think Tuvok was going to stay unVulcan?

As Harry says later in the series, "It's all about the journey".

A couple moments that stick with me from this one.

Seven helping Neelix.

Tuvok's line: "I have much more important things to do than engage in the preparation of nutritionally deficient foods." ... lol

And Tuvok solving the riddle at the end.

Great? No, but I didn't want to strangle Neelix and Tim Russ gave a satisfactory performance. I prefer him as the normal Tuvok though.

3 stars from me.

Robert
Thu, Jun 9, 2016, 3:18pm (UTC -5)
@Yanks - Not totally fair. Jammer is not asking for him to stay broken.

"We realize everything will be so neatly fixed by the end, and the story is never able to completely break free from that liability. The final scene is subtle. Too subtle. Tuvok makes a joke that brings a new insight to the episode's opening pun, and we wonder if maybe this experience has somewhat changed him. But the question I'm asking is why the writers seem to think Tuvok can't have friends without a switch in his brain being flipped. Vulcans do have emotions, even if they don't typically express them. The way Tuvok seems to ignore Neelix in the final scene is painful—as I'm sure it's intended to be—but I don't really buy it. Tuvok obviously remembers everything that happened, yet he doesn't acknowledge what Neelix did for him, which I don't think is the right choice by the writers. "

You should be tired of hearing about Voyager's reset button, but not because Voyager hit it too often, but because Voyager hit it too hard.

DS9 gets the same crap when it hits the button too hard too (see EVERYBODY complaining about how Hard Time is never referenced again).

Poor Ensign Kim stays green no matter his experiences. He might as well be living in ground hog day. And when they actually do make a change (Kes and Neelix broke up, OMG) it doesn't even always make sense. Tuvok doesn't change at all in 7 years. Neelix doesn't really either (you'd expect him to be a little different after the masterful Mortal Coil, but no). Future incarnations of Voyager showed him in a security uniform! Alternate timelines on Voyager were always more interesting than what we actually got. Chakotay gets a nice arc in season 2, doesn't really change much after that and then just is a background decoration.

Forget about DS9's wonderful character development, let's just look at TNG. Sure, some characters do stagnate... but show me ONE character on Voyager outside of the Kirk/Spock/Bones triumvirate of Janeway/Seven/Doc that has development that compares to what Worf goes through on TNG. Or Picard. Or Data. Or heck, even Ro!

Look at the relationships on TNG. Sure, Picard and Crusher weren't allowed to seal the deal because change was bad, but they still worked that over in enough ways that it developed. Same for Riker/Troi. But beyond that... the friendships were nice. Geordi/Data. Troi/Worf. Worf/Picard. Paris/Kim looked good for a little while and then nada. They were built up to be O'Brien and Bashir 2.0 but it didn't happen. Kim and Torres seemed to have a nice friendship. But a lot of relationships were reversed, stagnated or went too far and the writers got scared. Like Janeway/Chakotay.

DS9 had such little touches that added to every character's unique relationship with every other character. Nobody wanted Tuvok to stay un-Vulcanized. But would it have been too much to ask for this to have permanently changed his relationship with Tuvok? On VOY it would be too much to ask, yes.
Peter G.
Thu, Jun 9, 2016, 3:54pm (UTC -5)
"Chakotay gets a nice arc in season 2, doesn't really change much after that and then just is a background decoration. "

This isn't even just a fan opinion, but is in fact the stated position of Robert Beltran himself. He hated how little the writers did with his character and chaffed under the lack of interesting material to work with. When your actors are pissed it's pretty clear you're doing something wrong.

Contrast with DS9, where the rebellion from the actors tended to come as a result of big changes suggested by the producers, where the cast would feel free to chime in and contribute to the process at times. Some of the changes, such as the Kira/Odo romance, which were lobbied against by the actors turned out to make them very pleased it had happened. But either way the producers knew they had to take risks in order to keep the story progressing. Risk-averse seems to have been Voyager's MO from day one. Like the child who won't jump in the pool that first time, you miss out on years of swimming and splashing around.
William B
Thu, Jun 9, 2016, 6:09pm (UTC -5)
Oddly, I don't mind Tuvok not changing that much in the series overall. I think that the show should have used Tim Russ much more, certainly, but Tuvok is a Starfleet officer, a Vulcan, working for his mentor, and we see him over seven years of a century-plus lifespan, on the tail end of it. It makes sense that his personality would be somewhat set. I have not rewatched the show and will not make statements about how Tuvok's development or lack thereof actually works on screen, but conceptually he is the character who seems most likely to remain a rock in this situation. I'm not defending this episode specifically, mind.

In addition to what Robert says, I think that part of what distinguishes Voyager from TOS or TNG, which also had a model of characterization where people did not change significantly (with some exceptions in TNG and in the TOS films) is that TOS/TNG are about professionals who are doing the job they want, having adventures and solving problems (be they technical, philosophical, personal, ...). This is not to say that there were no changes OR that the story couldn't have been enhanced by more changes. But it basically makes sense that people who have their dream job on the flagship can devote most of their energies to solving the interesting problems they encounter without feeling the need to fundamentally shake up their own lives or worldviews, especially since besides Chekov we mostly meet them once their career is mostly established. They are not necessarily happy with everything in their lives, but they are doing what they expected to do and have the full support of the Federation infrastructure, their surviving families for the handful of people who have loving families, etc.

On Voyager, I mean, no one was supposed to be there. Kim wants to be in Starfleet but he didn't want to be in the middle of nowhere, and starts off the green ensign (never to be seen again). The Maquis didn't want to be on a Starfleet ship, Paris was a criminal, people didn't expect to be in the positions they are in, Kes spends a third of her life with aliens totally unlike her own people who have considerable time to kill that she doesn't, Neelix abandons everyone he knows, etc. That some people take to this new situation as it gives them an opportunity to step up -- like Paris, who would not have been able to redeem his reputation as well elsewhere -- makes sense. But still, the show quickly establishes a new status quo which is so ad hoc (in-universe) that we would expect it to be unstable and it...isn't. It is odd. I know there was pressure not to change the show too much from the suits, but why did they choose an opening set-up that put characters in a position they would not like and which most people would adapt to by attempting to change or adjust their behaviour or worldview to accommodate being cut off from everything they had expected their life would be?
William B
Thu, Jun 9, 2016, 7:22pm (UTC -5)
Sorry I meant working for the person Tuvok has mentored, not that Janeway is his mentor (she's a child).
Robert
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 8:17am (UTC -5)
I'm ok with Tuvok not changing as a person, that's not totally what I meant. But give a quick think. Aside from his adversarial comedic relationship with Neelix.... what relationships changed with Tuvok after S3?

His relationship with Kes was great character development. Character development doesn't always mean that you change who you are, it could just mean that stuff happens to you that isn't ignored. Tuvok's final scene with the candle after Kes leaves is all it takes to really show how she affects him. Their relationship was excellent.

Even something simple like having Harry and Tuvok play Kaltoh together was nice. They just needed more of that. After Odo and Garak's outing together in S3 their relationship was never the same. Their dialogue always seemed to remember that they were a little bit more to each other. It was amazing how they always were able to layer little stuff like that in.

Take this for instance :

CHAKOTAY: Can I ask you to be honest with me, Lieutenant?
TUVOK: As a Vulcan, I am at all times honest, Commander.
CHAKOTAY: That's not exactly true. You lied to me when you passed yourself off as a Maquis to get on my crew.
TUVOK: I was honest to my own convictions within the defined parameters of my mission.
CHAKOTAY: You damned Vulcans and your defined parameters. That's easy for you.
TUVOK: On the contrary. The demands on a Vulcan's character are extraordinarily difficult. Do not mistake composure for ease. How may I be honest with you today?
CHAKOTAY: I'd just like to know, from someone else who pulled the wool over my eyes, was I particularly naive? Was I not paying enough attention? What the hell was it that let all you spies get by me?
TUVOK: Like all humans, you depend on feelings and instincts to guide you, and they invariably let you down. But particularly naive? No, Commander, and I've always considered your attention span to be adequate.
CHAKOTAY: Did you ever see anything about Seska that make you suspicious?
TUVOK: No. She quite expertly pulled the wool over my eyes as well.
CHAKOTAY: Well, that makes me feel a little better. Thanks.
TUVOK: Curious.
CHAKOTAY: What?
TUVOK: That my failure, added to your own, should improve your feelings.
CHAKOTAY: Misery loves company, Tuvok.

That was an amazing conversation! Those two characters had a troubled history. Tuvok was passed up as first officer for a criminal and Chakotay was betrayed by Tuvok. These frenemies had a really interesting vibe in the early seasons. I can't really remember a good conversation they had after S2, but I'd have liked to see something happen here.

People like me wouldn't complain about Voyager if it was bad. It was actually very good, it just always had glimmers of great below the surface that people seemed to scared to mine.
Yanks
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 9:20am (UTC -5)
Robert, et all...

I don't believe the final scene is to subtle at all.... hence why I don't like the bashing reset cop-out here. (and a lot of other places)

It isn't subtle, it's Tuvok! Neelix KNEW this before Tuvok went in to get fixed! He was IN CHARACTER!

"Because this crew needs its tactical officer on the bridge. And I wouldn't be a very good friend if I ignored that just so that you'd be nicer to me. " -- Neelix.

I've always thought Neelix's obsession with Tuvok "being nice" was a little over the top. It made Neelix seem childish.

What relationships changed with Spock in the 3 years of TOS? (outside of the big 3) ... nothing. He played the harp once with Uhura singing and spoke of love under the influence of something (I can't remember what now). He stayed in character. Spock.

B'Elanna and Tom had "character development" .... you know why Harry didn't as much? ... he wasn't good enough of an actor. They just didn't write for Wang.

You know why Chuckles didn't "get more"? ... because Beltran couldn't even be bothered to memorize his lines. He actually taped them to his little console on the bridge. He pissed them off, so they wrote him out.

It is what it is... folks wank saying Voyager need "more" character development, and at the same time DS9 when frellin overboard with the notion. They DESTROYED characters in the name of "character development".





Yanks
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 9:41am (UTC -5)
BTW....

"How may I be honest with you today? "

... best Tuvok line of the day :-)
Robert
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 10:12am (UTC -5)
@Yanks - B'Elanna and Tom had "character development" - Agreed! Their character development was a highlight.

And I wasn't personally saying the end scene was too subtle, I quoted Jammer. I was saying that complaining about the reset is not the same as saying he should have stayed brain damaged.

My own personal thoughts on the episode are that is was excellent. I don't fault Hard Time as an episode because future episodes dropped the ball with followup and I won't here either. I did not think the joke at the end was too subtle. I liked this episode a lot. I'm just sorry that they don't really followup on Neelix/Tuvok being closer because of this until Homestead... which I do think shows that they are closer.

NEELIX: I couldn't lead those people, Mister Tuvok. I'm not a fighter. I'm just a cook who sometimes imagines himself to be a diplomat.
TUVOK: On the contrary, Mister Neelix. You are much more than that. You are perhaps the most resourceful individual I have ever known.
NEELIX: I always thought you just tolerated me.
TUVOK: You do have some annoying habits. However, during your time on Voyager you've developed many valuable skills. Skills that would serve you well if you ever decided to assume a leadership role.
NEELIX: You really think so?
TUVOK: Let me be clear. I'm not urging you to do anything. I'm simply telling you that I believe that you are more than capable.

I just wish that it didn't take 2 scenes and Neelix leaving Voyager to show this kind of affection again.
Robert
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 10:12am (UTC -5)
"I just wish that it didn't take 2 scenes and Neelix leaving Voyager to show this kind of affection again. "

Sorry, that should read 2 SEASONS.
Peter G.
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 10:36am (UTC -5)
I think Yanks is right that it was hard to work with some of the actors on Voyager. But then again do the writers of all the scripts have direct contact with the actors as they rehearse or do filming? Surely the actors didn't get on the bad side of literally anyone who ever wrote a script for the show, and I somehow doubt Berman wrote all potential writers a memo instructing them to blackball Kim and Chakotay from serious stories. No, I think that in addition to the actors being weak the writers felt uninspired by their role on the show and just didn't come up with anything for them. And that, at the end of the day, is on the producers, both for how they wrote the characters, and for the casting as well.

If your actors are too weak to hold their own then you should have the guts to replace them. Or if the studio has forbidden you to change the cast in any way then the next best thing would be to man up and take those actors under your wing and try to foster them in some way. Granted, Beltran and Wang weren't as young as Cirroc Lofton in DS9 and it's not as easy to take an adult who's already trained and try to train them yourself. But nevertheless, if your crew and cast are supposed to be a family then the family has to take care of itself and nourish the members who are weak.

As it stood the series seemed more to me like survival of the fittest, where characters whose actors stood out got most of the stuff to do and the others became scenery. As I recall it seemed like the Doctor, Janeway, Seven, and sometimes Tuvok got the most episodes, with Paris and B'elanna having a middling amount, and Chakotay and Kim having the least. Neelix seems to shift over the course of the show, where early on he was taken seriously as a character and as the audience got wise to the fact that he was terminally annoying he was shunted off to be more of a comical silly character who got few episodes.

Maybe I'm remember wrong, but that's how it came across to me.
Yanks
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 11:31am (UTC -5)
Robert,

"I just wish that it didn't take 2 scenes and Neelix leaving Voyager to show this kind of affection again."

I don't think it would have been so moving had we seen more of it. The few scenes we got between Tuvok and Neelix other than the always enjoyable comedic ones, were really powerful.

Peter G.,

The acting woes in Voyager weren't really that bad. Jennifer had her issues, as did Wang, but overall, they were MUCH better than the DS9 main cast. Good lord, if acting talent was a factor in keeping the character, Sisko should have been killed off. Lofton I thought did a fine job.

But that said, Kate, Jeri, Robert got the lions share after Jeri arrived... it's pretty clear they were the best actors. I personally wish B'Elanna would have got more. I'm sure her pregnancy had something to do with that. She was always good. Tom? Eh.... kind of milk-toast.

Peter G.
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 12:15pm (UTC -5)
"The acting woes in Voyager weren't really that bad. Jennifer had her issues, as did Wang, but overall, they were MUCH better than the DS9 main cast."

Uh...agree to disagree, I guess. I would have thought even the recurring characters on DS9 alone (Martok, Garak, Weyoun, Dukat) would break this argument wide open, but I even think that most of the main cast of DS9 are consummate pros who blow most TV casts out of the water. I get that Avery Brooks divides the fans so lets leave that one up in the air, but the others provide scenes that are stunning in their own right even bereft of fancy plots or special effects. I don't see anyone on Voyager as being an Odo or an O'Brien, and no one who packs the punch of a Kira (notwithstanding that some people apparently don't like to see crying on TV [I guess they don't like Lost, either]).

But hey, to each his own.

My main complaint about Voyager was that it consistently failed to do much with the talent it did have. I really liked Kate Mulgrew on the show and was repeatedly sad that she was made to look either simple-minded or else even fascistic. The issue was the scripting, not the actress. The Doc is the only character they really jumped on and ran with, and it shows since he seem to be by far the most memorable member of the cast to people who discuss the show.
William B
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 12:17pm (UTC -5)
@Robert, I hear you about Tuvok. I just wanted to speak up a little for the case for him not changing too much over the course of the series generally. There was something of a Neelix/Tuvok arc over the series, teased out in a few isolated episodes, some of which were better than others, and which could have been more effective if there wasn't as much of a hard reset on their dynamic after each "growth" period. I think what's frustrating is not so much that things get reset as that we have kind of the same story repeating itself (Kim is green; Neelix wants Tuvok to be his friend; B'Elanna is conflicted about her Klingonness--though the last one is generally handled better and with more variation) as if we hadn't been through it before.

Re the actors (and this ep in particular): I think Tim Russ and Ethan Phillips are very good actors, but I feel like it was hard for the writing staff to figure out what kind of stories to do with Tuvok, and Phillips unfortunately was stuck with a hyper-annoying character. Possibly Phillips could have found a way to spin early Neelix in a way that made him not annoying, but I think it would be hard; eventually they started writing Neelix in a less nails-on-chalkboard way, but by that point his position as one of the less central characters was pretty established and not really shaken up. I agree with Peter G. that the producers/writers probably could have found something more significant to do for Wang and Beltran if they were going to stay in the cast. I almost wonder if giving them Timeless, the show's 100th episode, was a kind of sop to them for not giving them much else by that point in the show.
FlyingSquirrel
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 12:31pm (UTC -5)
Do you think the writing was necessarily tailored to acting ability? I am always a poor judge of acting - it has to be *really* bad for me to notice - but I had sort of assumed that the writers just found it easier to write for certain characters.

If I look at the basic premise behind each character, I'd probably say that, acting issues aside, Kim is the least interesting on paper and Chakotay just might be the second least interesting. Janeway carries a certain inherent interest as the Captain. Doc and Seven are non-humans exploring their human sides, while Tuvok is the non-human who's perfectly happy being non-human and stands out from the rest of the crew in personality. Tom and B'Elanna both have somewhat roguish, abrasive personalities. Kes and Neelix were both from Delta Quadrant cultures.

What exactly is Harry Kim's selling point as a character - that he's young? Not exactly the stuff of groundbreaking drama there. Chakotay had a little more potential as the rebel leader having to adapt to life as a Starfleet First Officer, but they probably burned through most of that material early and didn't really know what do with him after that. So I could see why they might find it difficult to write interesting stories for either of them after a while. Not saying that justifies it, just that it might have been a factor.
Yanks
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 12:59pm (UTC -5)
Peter G,

That's why I said "main cast" not supporting cast. The supporting cast (re-occurring characters) carried DS9 for the first 3 years. Hey, I'm not a DS9 hater by any means. I love it, own it and have binge watched it probably 5 times :-)

William B,

Neelix was REALLY annoying when Kes was there.... at least (IMO) his character improved drastically after she left and we didn't have to take a shower after some Kes/Neelix romance stuff. I would say a good adjective for Ethan is "professional". He kinds of bleeds over into his character. Never complained (rubber mask and all), always cheering folks up... overall great guy/person.

Nolan
Fri, Jun 10, 2016, 2:50pm (UTC -5)
Regarding how writers wrote for characters on Voyager, and who got arcs and who didn't get much for whatever reason, I think a look at an anecdote Ron Moore (who I'm aware after BSG's ending isn't everyone's favorite) shared about his short, failed time on Voyager would be of interest.

Basically, while writing Barge of the Dead, he went to the producers for background info and context on B'Elanna's character, essentially how should he write her, and the producers came back with "Write her however you want." They didn't care.

Seems as long as the characters served the plot of that week it didn't matter, as long as they followed the basic, unchanging archetypes. That's why Harry was still a green ensign after seven years.

Maybe the head writers would take a script and try to align the character to what was established, yet still fit them into the plot of the week, but that'd be dang sloppy. Main series characters shouldn't serve the plot. Plot should effect them or come from them, not characterization coming from plot.

Sure they had some token bit of dialogue that hinted at some depth, but it was all just really so shallow because at this point Star Trek was a pay-check for the producers more than anything. It's a wonder there was any character progression at all. If they didn't care, why should I? Way I see it anyhow.
FlyingSquirrel
Wed, Jun 15, 2016, 2:36pm (UTC -5)
@Nolan

I remember that anecdote from when Moore talked about his brief stint on Voyager. My recollection is that he was asking about what was already "established" about her character and was told not to worry about the past too much.

B'Elanna is a good example, though, in that even with a somewhat scattered approach to characterization, there's more to work with in the premise of who she is than there is with some of the other characters. She's ex-Maquis, half-Klingon but relatively disconnected from that side of her ancestry, known to be short-tempered at times, and didn't initially expect to find herself with as much responsibility as she has on Voyager. I'm guessing Moore had an easier time developing the idea for "Barge of the Dead" for B'Elanna than if he'd set out to develop a similar story for Harry Kim.

Like I said, I don't have a strong opinion about acting quality - just throwing out one non-acting-reason why Harry might have gotten less attention than B'Elanna, and why the episodes that did focus on him sometimes seemed strained and contrived (e.g. "Favorite Son"). His character's basic premise isn't that interesting, and they never did much to give him depth, so there isn't much to focus on unless you force him to the center of an externally imposed plot.
AA
Thu, Aug 25, 2016, 2:36am (UTC -5)
I had the same feeling as Jammer. Tuvok is mentally delayed for a while, there's a nice friendship going on with Neelix. Then they somehow manage to reverse severe brain damage completely- no residual effects, no memory loss, nothing. He's back 100%. Then we find the depths of his newfound friendship with Neelix are just lost. He's never any nicer to him, more protective of him, or anything. And Tuvok never makes dessert again.
It just seems like a potential for something that never materializes. Tuvok reverts back to the stone man, not needing or relying on anybody.
mephyve
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 5:29am (UTC -5)
A hospital show ugh. Will Tuvok be ok? Will we care how he recovers? bah (*)
David Pirtle
Thu, Sep 8, 2016, 2:18pm (UTC -5)
What I appreciate about this episode is what a terrific job it does of illustrating why Neelix is one of my favorite Trek characters. He's the kind of guy who can't stand not being everybody's friend, not because he wants attention, but rather because he's got a genuinely big heart. His nearly indefatigable efforts to help rehabilitate a character who has only ever rebuffed his attempts at establishing friendship (not always without reason, of course) warms the heart.

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