Star Trek: Voyager
Air date: 2/5/1996
Teleplay by Michael Piller
Story by Michael Sussman
Directed by Cliff Bole
Review by Jamahl Epsicokhan
"Do you know what a mind meld is?"
"It's...that Vulcan thing where you grab someone's head."
— Tuvok and Suder
Nutshell: It's the inevitable "Tuvok gets emotions" episode, and it has a surprising amount of depth and a wonderful guest character.
When a crew member is murdered, Tuvok finds himself in over his head in an argument of logic versus emotion as he discovers the perpetrator has no motive or remorse—only the simple explanation that the arbitrary killing was the only option available in his mind. In a search for answers, Tuvok mind melds with the killer, only to cause his own dark side to emerge.
Well, I knew it had to happen eventually: the "Tuvok exhibits emotions" show. Face it—it's something that Tim Russ and the writers have probably been looking forward to since the onset of the series. After all, TOS had its fair share of "Spock exhibits emotions" episodes. And weren't they always something we enjoyed seeing? I'm surprised Voyager went an entire year before finally breaking down and giving this to us.
Whether you see Tuvok losing control of his emotions as completely gratuitous or not, "Meld" is an effective bottle show, featuring an admirable performance by Tim Russ and a reasonably compelling story, courtesy of resident cerebral scripter Michael Piller, from a story by Michael Sussman.
The plot centers around Tuvok's attempts to dissect the circumstances surrounding an unprovoked murder performed by Crewman Suder (Brad Dourif): a quiet, disturbed Betazoid from Chakotay's Maquis crew with a history of repressed violence and antisocial behavior.
If not stranded in the Delta Quadrant, Suder would probably be a case study. He's quiet and soft-spoken, and one day out of the blue he beats a man to death simply because he didn't like the way the man looked at him. After the killing, he covers it up and doesn't give it another thought. However, he doesn't cover his tracks well enough, and when the body is discovered, it takes Tuvok very little time to piece the clues together and arrest him.
But this murder puzzles Tuvok's logic to no end. Suder fully admits to the deed once he realizes he isn't going to get away with it. He does not, however, have any feelings of the matter, nor does he have a reason for what he did. Tuvok is not willing to leave it at this. He's curiously troubled, and wants to understand why someone would do something like this for no apparent reason.
In essence, "Meld" asks: Why does a killer kill? If for no other tangible reason, what does a person seek to gain by murdering? It's a fascinating question, I'll have to admit—and serial killer analysis is something not very often seen on Star Trek. "Meld" does a respectable job of bringing up this issue and exploring it through the Suder character, and Tuvok's frustrated perplexity over this cold-blooded killer is both an interesting and appropriate idea. Cliff Bole's direction is very good, featuring some use of shadows that accentuate the dark mood in scenes between Tuvok and Suder.
The results of Tuvok's mind meld with Suder proves entertaining and effective, even if not completely justified. While I don't quite understand why a mind meld would have such a profound effect on a Vulcan (Tuvok's virtually instantaneous transformation from his usual self into a person with even less control than Suder remains a little bit hazy to me), I do like the manner in which the episode shows Tuvok's inability to cope with the experience.
First of all (and, personally, my favorite scene), there's the holographic simulation where Tuvok strangles Neelix to death. It's simultaneously unexpected, disturbing, and hilarious in a macabre kind of way. (Haven't we all wanted to strangle Neelix on occasion when he gets annoying?)
Then there's the scene where Tuvok goes to see Suder, only to find Suder is suddenly less at the mercy of emotional impulses than he is. Here Tuvok is the victim of a classic irony: The lunatic begins appearing more sane than the psychologist.
There's also a very well-played scene where Janeway goes to Tuvok's self-destroyed quarters to find out why her security officer has isolated himself from the ship. (Naturally, it's for everybody else's protection.) Tuvok sits quietly in the corner of his room, covered in sweat, looking like a proximity bomb that could go off with the slightest provocation. Tuvok's unforgettable line, "Captain, please do not come any closer," is said and then repeated with such a calm, unemotional urgency that Janeway seems almost foolish (or really bold) to take the one more step to get within conversational distance.
Then, of course, there's the culmination in sickbay, where the Doctor puts Tuvok behind a force field and subjects him to some "therapy" to reverse the effects of the mind meld. This therapy involves temporarily disabling the part of Tuvok's brain responsible for inhibiting his emotions. The result is basically a "Tuvok uncensored," who condescends to everybody and treats Janeway with surprising disrespect. Sure, this therapy angle is no more than an excuse to give Tuvok emotions for a while, but the ends justify the means. Here Russ delivers the goods with a sense of lunacy but without going completely over-the-top, playing Tuvok as an angry, intelligent person who isn't afraid to tell everybody else what's on his mind—no matter what they're likely to think of what he says.
The episode's finale features Tuvok's choice of whether or not to use uncondoned vigilante justice on Suder for his crime. Suder turns out to be a surprisingly dimensional character, brought to life with Dourig's compelling presence. He really sounds like a guy speaking from experience on violent impulses; he understands Tuvok's dilemma, and knows that the demons within will not be silenced by just one murder.
This is somewhat highbrow storytelling. "Meld" has a number of effective subtexts in the issues of violence and antisocial behavior. There's also the relevant question of what to do with a murderer among the crew (although a polemical statement concerning capital punishment seems preachy and is introduced without the necessary depth). Giving Tuvok emotions was the easy, superficial part. But "Meld" also has the shining moments of depth.
Personally, I think that incarcerating Suder in his quarters for what he did is a fairly adequate punishment. He'd be a man isolated with no purpose. I doubt there's much more you can take away from a person.
By the way (I almost forgot), "Meld" also has a completely pedestrian B-story involving Paris running a gambling pool using replicator rations. This is the show's most notable weakness—just forgettable filler that sits there and shrugs. Chakotay shutting down the pool and putting Paris on report has an unfortunate "who cares" effect. Let's not dwell on it, though. The show more than makes up for it.
Previous episode: Threshold
Next episode: Dreadnought
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93 comments on this post
Sun, Dec 16, 2007, 6:23pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Mar 10, 2008, 12:15pm (UTC -5)
As for the filler B-part, I do like how the writers were attempting to set the stage for Paris's "leaving the ship".
Thu, Jul 3, 2008, 1:55am (UTC -5)
The only way it could have been better would be if it hadn't been a simulation.
Sun, Jun 14, 2009, 10:18pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 4, 2010, 12:55pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Feb 8, 2011, 2:25pm (UTC -5)
The "death" of Neelix is an exceptional scene, because I think many of the audience members want to see Neelix dead. Maybe it's our own violent impulses that the story is trying to tell us about that are being confirmed within us through this scene ;)
On the other hand, I just found myself not caring about the plot. Who is this unknown Maquis that's been on the ship for the last 1.5 years? He's just a convenient crew member to use a plot device. I've never seen him, even in the background.
Beyond that, this Maquis murdered someone, we found out who did it, and it was all wrapped up fairly quickly. Beyond that, the plot is fairly uninteresting.
There's no really interesting climax here. We know Tuvok is going to be reset. So he didn't give in to the violence... big deal? It didn't do anything for me.
It's also disappointing to watch an episode with some promise only to have a lack-luster ending. And in this case, the premise of the story is not believable either - due to the convenient guest star we've never seen before (who I think members of the crew would have noticed or talked about in 1.5 years of traveling in space).
Ultimately, bad beginnings and bad endings make bad episodes.
Sun, Mar 20, 2011, 7:44pm (UTC -5)
Regarding Ken's comment, it seemed that Suder worked on a different shift, so it's certainly possible we'd not have seen him in the 11 months the ship has been in the DQ.
Sun, Apr 10, 2011, 5:04pm (UTC -5)
There were still many times B'Elanna would work throughout the night or on different shifts and we would not see him.
It's really not as if we haven't seen different shifts on this show - we have.
Fri, Apr 22, 2011, 5:02pm (UTC -5)
Anyway, third me in for praising the scene where Neelix gets throttled! Every episode should have a scene like that. In fact, Neelix should have been like Kenny on South Park. Every week he dies a new death! They could have had some scenes like this:
*Janeway, Chakotay and Tuvok stand in cargo bay 2*
Janeyway: What are we going to do about this wacky spatial anomaly that's threatening our ship this week?
Chakotay: Well, I was thinking we just kind of do whatever we did the first 50 times this happened.
Tuvok: Logic dictates that we should consider not flying into spatial anomalies all together in the future. How about that? Amiright?
Neelix: Well hello there Captain, Chuckles, Mr. Vulcan! I brought you all some leftover pieces of my Jabalian Omelets from breakfast! Can't think without sustenance after all-
Chakotay: Captain, Tuvok - QUICK, GRAB HOLD OF SOMETHING STRONG!
*Cargo bay door opens, Neelix is sucked out into space*
Chakotay: WHOOPS! My finger must have slipped...
Or how about this...
*Janeway, the doctor, Neelix and Kes are all in sickbay*
The doctor: I've been working on a new cortical supplement that would vastly improve the crew's brain power.
Janeway: That's great! How does it work?
Kes: I've convinced Neelix to be our first test subject.
Neelix: Anything for you, my sweet.
The Doctor: Yes, and as Neelix is the dumbest person currently on board the ship, he also stands the most to gain by this working.
Janeway: Agreed. Let's try it.
*the doctor injects Neelix in his temples, Neelix immediately drops dead*
The Doctor: Oh well, needs work.
Anyway, in all seriousness, this was a good episode. Three stars from me too!
Tue, Jan 10, 2012, 11:59pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 13, 2012, 9:17pm (UTC -5)
Wed, May 9, 2012, 12:41am (UTC -5)
Thu, Jun 14, 2012, 8:59am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jun 12, 2013, 2:25am (UTC -5)
*Neelix walks into Tom Paris' darkened holodeck bar*
Neelix: Tom? Harry? Is anyone here?
Entire Crew: (jumping out from hiding places) Surprise!
Neelix: (surprised and smiling) Hey! Well!
*Entire crew screams, runs forward, and beats Neelix with various blunt objects until he is a bloody pile of unrecognizable flesh*
Wed, Jul 17, 2013, 11:49pm (UTC -5)
But his being unsure about the motive for murder actually resembles part of the story from TOS "Journey To Babel." Spock also is confused by seeming random acts of murder until the Andorian ambassador says quite simply "Forget logic and concentarte on motivations of passion or gain, THOSE are reasons for murder..."
Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 11:47pm (UTC -5)
Shut yo mouth, son! Tim Russ' depiction of Tuvok is, in my opinion, the second best rendition of the Vulcan archetype after Leonard Nimoy himself. Voyager was surely a severely flawed series in many ways, but I've never heard anyone accuse Tim Russ' Tuvok as one of the major contributing factors. Until now.
Fri, Sep 6, 2013, 4:14pm (UTC -5)
He perfectly conveys the ancient struggle that Vulcans endure to supress their emotion, but unlike T'Pol, does it with humor, irony, wit, mystery.
For me he saved the Vulcans from the savaging they got in later trek series.
Wed, Oct 9, 2013, 11:11am (UTC -5)
While I agree that Russ' performance was fantastic, I've truthfully always viewed Tuvok as an outcast, where Vulcans are concerned. We pretty much find that out in "Gravity."
Tuvok, vocationally and temperamentally speaking, is a warrior, in a society which completely abhors violence. Granted, Spock and several other Vulcans went through a certain amount of self-deception where their own emotions were concerned, but I never saw any of them express anywhere near the degree of internal conflict that Tuvok does. He *hates* being Vulcan, if he would only be honest with himself; it makes him miserable.
If he hadn't been married, then after Voyager got home, part of me would have advocated having Janeway recommend to him, that he move to Romulus. I think he would have been *much* happier as one of them.
Mon, Oct 21, 2013, 3:27pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Nov 26, 2013, 11:13pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Nov 27, 2013, 12:47am (UTC -5)
Piller was definitely an asset to the franchise and was responsible for "Best of Both Worlds", without which, both DS9 and Voyager (and late TNG, for better or worse) would be unrecognisable. That said, he definitely had his slump episodes on all three series for which he wrote : "Rascals", "If Wishes Were Horses" and "Ex Post Facto" all come to mind. He also did great work (besides BoBW) for those three series including "Yesterday's Enterprise", "First Contact" (the episodes), "Whispers", "Death Wish" and "Meld", which you mentioned.
Fri, Dec 13, 2013, 2:23am (UTC -5)
Thu, Feb 20, 2014, 6:16pm (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 2:50am (UTC -5)
This has to be one of the best episodes up to this point in the series, not to mention one of the best vulcan centered episodes.
Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 12:57pm (UTC -5)
I really can't see any fault with this one. Some very meaty dialogue in many scenes, great directing, standout performances, and an attention-grabbing premise. I disagree with Jammers nitpick about the ease of which Tuvok's mental disciplines were shattered. Suder is a Betazoid.
There was a comment above on how the episode fails because there's crew members involved that have never appeared on screen. Really? There's over 150 people on the ship at this point. All with varying shifts in their respective departments. I guess you would have to discount a lot of other ST episodes that involve crew members you've never seen. I make it a habit to not say anything on older comments, but I found this particular one rather...silly. No offense.
The B story for me is a non-issue. It simply is what it is and there's not enough of it to interfere, for better or worse, with the main plot.
This is one of my favorite episodes of Voyager and is also the first one to hit it out of the ballpark. Not phenomenal but extremely well done. Kudos.
Sun, Sep 28, 2014, 7:14pm (UTC -5)
Did you ever see the episode where they almost get off the island but Gilligan screws it up?
Fri, Feb 13, 2015, 8:12pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 18, 2015, 2:31am (UTC -5)
Sat, Apr 18, 2015, 2:44am (UTC -5)
Wed, Jul 29, 2015, 10:52am (UTC -5)
"TUVOK: It would be safer for the crew if I were to remain in these quarters. I remind you, I am trained in the martial arts of many Alpha quadrant cultures. Sitting here, attempting to meditate, I have counted the number of ways I know of killing someone using just a finger, a hand, a foot. I had reached ninety four when you entered."
I'm reading ahead while rewatching Voyager.
I'll be back in a couple weeks with my cut.
Tue, Aug 4, 2015, 10:55am (UTC -5)
Outstanding performances all around!
Interesting thought... didn't Janeway rule in favor of Q (Quinn) in 'Death Wish' - knowing full well what his intentions were if he was granted asylum away from the Q Continuum?
...but no "execution" for our mentally unstable Betazoid huh? ... even if he desires it with a sound mind?
I just love this episode.
Tuvok just can't come to grips with a murder with no motive, well a motive that is acceptable to him...
Brad Dourif was phenomenal here, as he was in many other sci-fi bit parts. Bravo! He plays an outstanding mental case. (see the character "Brother Edward" in BAB5)
Just watched this last night and loved it as much as the first time I saw it. I remember the first time I saw it I actually thought Tuvok schwacked Neelix :-) That scene made he think of Data choking out the Borg drone.
Then Janeway forgiving her friend and fellow officer at the end was classic.
"TUVOK: Captain, I must apologize for my inappropriate behavior.
JANEWAY: I'm just glad we have you back, Mister Tuvok.
TUVOK: I was most insulting to you.
JANEWAY: Don't worry about it. I've been insulted before.
TUVOK: I hope you understand that I have always had the greatest respect for you as a Captain, and consider you a friend.
JANEWAY: That means a great deal to me. Enough said. Get some rest. Tuvok. No more mind melds without my permission. Understood?"
Especially Betazoids :-)
Again, easy 4 star episode for me.
Sun, Sep 6, 2015, 5:56am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 10:08am (UTC -5)
He also remained the most consistent on the show from start to finish. Sometimes in season 7 everyone seemed to just go thru the motions (the aforementioned two being the exception, as well as Jeri Ryan). And whenever he was actually given screen time he easily stole the scenes he was in. I felt he actually had more presence than even Avery Brooks, and that's saying a lot. He would have been a fine addition to the Next Gen crew. At least the doctor got a little screen time with Enterprise.
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 10:31am (UTC -5)
Tue, Oct 20, 2015, 11:28am (UTC -5)
Tim Russ can act circles around Avery Brooks.
Fri, Dec 4, 2015, 11:17am (UTC -5)
Anywho, I didn't comment on this before, but watching this episode again made me realize that there is no way in hell that the question of why a person seems to kill for no reason wouldn't have been asked and dealt with by the universe long before Voyager got sucked into the delta quad. Vulcans have been around a long time and would have mind-melded with psychopaths long before this. Even today, we know that people who seem to kill for no reason have some kind of psycho/emotional/social brain problem that gives them more violent impulses than normal, difficulty controlling those impulses, and, in some cases, a lack of ability to feel bad about their violent acts. Our only questions now are how does a person get that way (nature or nurture or both), and can we repair it and/or stop it from happening? I still like the episode a lot, but it does seem unreasonable that any of this would happen at this point in history.
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 9:33am (UTC -5)
It might be because conservatives don't actually have a problem with those things. They did, after all, nominate a woman as their vice-presidential candidate back in 2008 (like her or not, she was, after all, a woman). They also currently have 22 women in the U.S. House of Representatives and 6 in the Senate (how could they have been elected if conservatives don't like women doing "man work"?).
Also, the current crop of Republican presidential candidates contains people like Ben Carson (a black man), Ted Cruz (a man with Hispanic ancestry), Carly Fiorina (a woman), Marco Rubio (a Hispanic man) and Bobby Jindal (a man with Indian ancestry). Jeb Bush is married to a Hispanic woman. For a while the numbers 2 and 3 candidates were Carson and Fiorina. As of now it looks like the numbers 2 and 3 are Cruz and Rubio. But, apparently, that all proves that conservatives hate having "non-whites [or women] in positions of leadership"?
Also, correct me if I'm wrong here, but I seem to remember not too very long ago Obama wanting to attack Syria in order to topple the Assad government and the opposition that forced him not to came from the right, most notably from Rand Paul.
What I don't know is how anybody can be a fan of Star Trek with it's overarching message of tolerance and understanding and be unwilling to offer it to people on the other side of the political spectrum.
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 9:26pm (UTC -5)
Do conservatives of today oppress women and practice racism? That's a really, really complicated question that would be horrible to answer and even if you did it would pretend that there is only one kind of conservative.
But back then? Before I was born? Ya, Uhura was a very liberal creation.
Sun, Dec 6, 2015, 9:37pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 11, 2016, 1:07pm (UTC -5)
Of course the set up is a giant contrivance, you have to wonder what drove Tuvok to get so involved, and the B-story is a nothing. So solid rather than spectacular - 3 stars.
Wed, Aug 3, 2016, 11:03am (UTC -5)
Sat, Aug 20, 2016, 6:04am (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 26, 2016, 1:49am (UTC -5)
Bonus: Neelix getting murdered by Tuvok, lol. The fact that Tuvok created a special holosuite program where Neelix becomes more and more annoying to the point where the only option is to strangle him is amusing on so many different levels.
Tue, Oct 25, 2016, 9:11am (UTC -5)
Mon, Jan 2, 2017, 12:20pm (UTC -5)
"Vulcan mind melds. Utter foolishness. Anybody with an ounce of sense wouldn't share his brain with someone else. Would you? I certainly wouldn't. And of course, when something goes wrong, and believe me it does more often than they'd like to admit, the first thing they call out is DOCTOR!" - The Doctor, to Captain Janeway
It was completely illogical for Tuvok to even suggest a mind meld with a psychopath, especially for so flimsy a reason as he wonders why irrational creatures commit irrational acts. Just ask the doctor to explain psychopathy to him.
This flaw in the premise of the episode basically torpedoed the whole experience for me. The only thing to enjoy in the episode were the performances from Tovok and the psychopath. I love seeing nut job Tuvok berate Janeway as much as the next man. However, this glaring hole in the plot was inescapable. All they had to do is give a good reason for the mind meld. Perhaps the psychopath sabotaged the ship in an escape attempt and Tuvok absolutely needed critical information on how this was done with no time to spare. ANYTHING would've been better than oh, I'm really curious about why violent amoral psychopaths with known neurological empathy deficiencies kill people so I want to invite one to become a part of me for the rest of my life, because... you know... that's how mind melds work, as has been explained to us all throughout Star Trek history. (Spock-McCoy, Sarek-Picard, really?!? )
It was quite frankly a ridiculous motivation, given the KNOWN consequences.
Fri, Jan 6, 2017, 9:34pm (UTC -5)
I really liked this episode, as it showcased the acting talents of Tim Russ and Brad Dourif. I sometimes wonder how TNG would have been different if Tim had come in first, instead of second, behind LeVar Burton. I really do like LeVar, but it's fun to think about. He did have some name recognition from Roots after all, and that series showed some of his range (I think) but I don't believe we'd have been steered wrong if Tim had been there instead.
It's something how a great actor like Brad was typecast, at least for a while, as a serial killer (or close to it), for a while. As was mentioned before, he was in an X-Files episode where he was one and was about to get his comeuppance (Beyond the Sea), then as Brother Edward in Babylon 5 (where he was a killer who was sentenced to "Death of Personality", and was made a priest/friar (Passing Through Gethsemane, great episode, highly recommended)), and then this episode where he again played a killer. I think Chatokay's description of him as someone who was This Close to killing him when he made him stand down, is a great description of what Brad is able to convey with his acting. Some people just have great eyes, and can show a great deal with just a twitch or narrowing of them. Heh, and I thought he was perfect in Lord of the Rings (extended version or nothing!). At least they (minor spoiler) brought him back later in Voyager. If you get the chance, watch those two episodes from the other series, you don't have to really know anything about those series to enjoy those two episodes. My humble opinion. :)
I believe I've come to the conclusion that sometimes, I just have to watch the actors portrayals and enjoy them, rather than worry too much about how they add to the overall series. I really do like long story arcs, even if they can be Excruciating while waiting for the eventual climax. For series that don't have as many arcs, with stories that seem to reset, I have found myself really watching the performers. My recent re-watch of all things Trek has me looking at things with a different eye, and TNG's Half a Life came to mind. I left my comments there a bit ago on the acting, in my humble opinion of course.
Have a great day Everyone... RT
Sat, Jan 28, 2017, 3:12pm (UTC -5)
While it is illogical from Doctor point of view (risky and unorthodox treatment) and to viewers. I dont see that it's illogical coming from Tuvok point of view.
Tuvok as Vulcan always undermine the logic and reason behind everything that goes around him. So i can relate for him not being able to see the reason (motive), give him trouble and unease feeling that he feel the need to resolve it.
For him it's only logical to do mind meld so he can understand the motive.
This is a real gems, and its rare on Voyager. The stories are deep and executed very well.
Outstanding performance from Brad Douriff and Tim Russ also doint great.
Suder : "We both now that I'm prepared to die, but are you prepared to kill?"
The B stories involving Paris is annoy me at first as it's totally unrelated. But since it's revealed in later episodes that this is part of the plan to uncover the spy/traitor on Voyager, I come to appreciate that.
Coming from Voyager who's notorious for having minimal to no continuity, planting this B stories for later episodes to be resolved is really good.
To top it off, we got that hillarious scene Tuvok choking Neelix to death.. :D
I dont see anyless than maximum 4 star for this episode
Sat, Feb 25, 2017, 3:58pm (UTC -5)
Being as such, I think that for Tuvok to have experienced the extra impact of the meld (struggling even more than usual for a Vulcan to suppress those violent thoughts), Ensign Suder had to have just enough telepathic ability to imprint (or trade) that violent tendency for more self-control. Also, thinking about Suder's punishment makes me think that executing him would have been too easy, so just keep him in isolation under armed guard would be more of a real punishment for him.
Tue, Mar 14, 2017, 10:39am (UTC -5)
Fantastic episode, fantastic performances. And the Paris/Chakotay thread dismissed by Jammer forms part of the longer arc. And the fact Jammer didn't notice or realise that shows how well he was worked.
Maximum I think - 4 stars.
Mon, May 29, 2017, 9:18pm (UTC -5)
Best and most chilling moment for me: when Russ/Tuvok threatens the Doctor, saying you are not indestructible hologram; a few well-chosen commands to the computer would eliminate the Doctor.
Thu, Sep 21, 2017, 12:27am (UTC -5)
Thu, Oct 5, 2017, 11:50pm (UTC -5)
It's kind of odd that one of the better Voyager episodes follows what is pretty much the worst one.
Tue, Oct 24, 2017, 1:47am (UTC -5)
The overwhelming tension of the main story is periodically broken by the mildly amusing but inconsequential subplot, where Chakotay cracks down on a rather harmless office pool in the holodeck because, to paraphrase him, "StarFleet would have a problem with that." Dude...you're STRANDED! In the middle of the Delta Quadrant! If you're lucky enough to get back to Earth someday, do you honestly think HQ is going to care that some of your crew members gambled with replicator rations?! Why would any commander in Chakotay's position be so concerned about this? This is just another example of Voyager not being true to its premise. It pays lip service to the whole "lost indefinitely in space" thing, but the crew don't behave like it, the ship doesn't look like it, and the writers don't want to deal with it. (Ron Moore hit the nail right on the head.)
Those caveats aside, I really like this episode. It underscores the great potential of Tuvok's character and adds an interesting new wrinkle to the Vulcan mind-meld. It's one of the show's finest hours and worthy of three and a half stars.
Wed, Oct 25, 2017, 1:20pm (UTC -5)
Oh, and imagine if Tuvok had assaulted the real Neelix? Or if Neelix had discovered Tuvok's desire to kill him?
Tue, Jan 30, 2018, 11:25pm (UTC -5)
The Suder character as a psychopath does send chills down the spine -- he's cold, heartless and those black contact lenses make him look totally deranged -- looks like Hannibal Lecter in "Silence of the Lambs". And the scenes with Tuvok talking to Suder while he's in the brig is very much reminiscent of that movie.
And what does Voyager do with someone who deserves life in prison? Janeway again sticks hard and fast to Star Fleet principles -- no death penalty so she confines Suder to quarters with added security measures even if he is fine with being executed. But at least this is Janeway staying true to her character.
Tuvok's performance as a Vulcan is very accurate for me. Like Odo he does a great job as an investigator. Thought it was pretty cool how Tuvok set up a holodeck program to be annoyed by Neelix as a test for himself -- and the viewer watches it thinking it's the real thing. But Tuvok unchained was awesome to watch -- the scene behind the forcefield didn't make me think of Spock with emotions as this was much darker, but seeing a good Vulcan portrayal of emotions is quite the welcomed sight.
Doc's sarcastic/pragmatic way of dealing with things is fun to watch. Picardo's a joy to watch. At least him and Janeway become very skeptical about mind melds.
Bit bogus in the ending with Tuvok being unable to complete the murder of Suder as being a sign of his recovery. How this is actually reasoned is bizarre -- perhaps the 1 weakness of the episode. But this comes after another good dialog between Suder and Tuvok about how the violence takes over the person.
Solid 3 stars for "Meld" -- great acting performances / dialogs, an intelligent examination of the serial killer / violence phenomena, and a test of Janeway's character and support for her crewmember (Tuvok). This has a lot of what makes Star Trek so good, only that formula is applied to a dark social phenomena.
Sat, Mar 10, 2018, 6:49am (UTC -5)
Tue, Apr 10, 2018, 12:14pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Aug 24, 2018, 9:58am (UTC -5)
I think the B plot was meant to mirror the A plot. Why is Paris always driven to break the rules, what's the appropriate punishment, and the like.
It's Aug 2018, and I see the political discussions above didn't age too well. Nevertheless, I am hoping humanity will somehow achieve a Trekian future.
A four star ep.
Fri, Oct 5, 2018, 9:03pm (UTC -5)
I didn’t care for the Paris gambling subplot on its own it was filler. Only worthwhile tho g came from it playing into the Paris mini arc.
The tuvok and suder story was equally dull. I thought in for an intriguing murder mystery. Nope. That was quickly dispensed with as Suder revealed he did it ten minutes in. The rest was about tuvok’s effects of his meld with suder. The histrionics and temper tantrum as I call it involving tuvok did absolutely nothing for me
Sat, Oct 20, 2018, 11:45am (UTC -5)
Tuvok: is it possible he’s psychotic?
Doctor: call up the genetic records... no, it doesn’t show any tendencies towards Bipolar Disorder...
Ok, as a person with Bipolar Disorder, I am NOT psychotic. This is very well known even in the 21st century. I’m offended that they had to put this in the show blantantly false discrimination towards mental illness.
Bipolar doesn’t make you a murderer.
That disgusted and disturbed me enough I didn’t care to watch the rest of the episode.
Sat, Oct 20, 2018, 12:42pm (UTC -5)
Doc wasn't making your assertion. He was checking for one symptom.
You should watch the rest of the episode.
Sat, Nov 10, 2018, 12:17am (UTC -5)
Wed, Dec 26, 2018, 2:50am (UTC -5)
I also feel like Janeway taking a step forward when Tuvok warned her to not come any closer was very appropriate and in character - at her core, I think she had a Kirk-like arrogance and volatility, and her impulse was always to respond negatively against threats.
There are lots of other smaller additions to this episode which stayed in my mind after watching it a couple of times, like the way the Doctor casually walks through the forcefield, or (as that other Voyager review blog pointed out) the artful direction where Tuvok sees the body (which is obscured), and a bar of line shines across his eyes. Lots of small technological details are emphasised: the type of spanner used by Suder to club Darwin, the interaction of holograms and forcefields, the manner in which Tuvok hacks through the force field with an electrical conduit (very in-character for a security officer), the cortical monitor that he sensitively detaches and deconstructs, etc.
Fri, Jan 18, 2019, 2:58pm (UTC -5)
We begin back in Chez Sandrines with Harry, fully mammalian Tom, a few scattered Voyager extras and Ricky Lake. Tom wants to put stakes on their pool game, which Ricky notes is an obvious hustle. This tired bullshit eventually leads to Tom starting an “honest” betting pool amongst the crew (they bet in rations). The only bit I find amusing is that Tom tells Harry to write down the names of the gamblers on a PADD and he dutifully complies like the good bottom bitch he is.
Meanwhile, Neelix is being his usual charming self. Pledging to Tuvok in the Mess Hall that he has chosen to make it “his duty” to get the Vulcan to smile before they reach the AQ. This is supposed to be really annoying, so I suppose we can call it successful characterisation. The scene does eventually land on an amusing note, with Neelix suggesting resurrecting an ancient Vulcan tradition on the Voyager: greased-up orgy night. I can get behind that.
Tuvok is called away to Engineering by Torres, where we learn that a bloody corpse has been left in one of the Jeffries Tubes. People really need to learn to clean up after themselves.
Act 1 : ***, 17%
The EMH reports to Tuvok the findings of his autopsy. Lt Darwin (the corpse) was murdered, most likely by Ken Ham. In the readyroom, we learn that the only person on duty when Darwin was murdered was a man called Suder. This give Chakotay the willies.
CHAKOTAY: Around us he was the quietest, most unassuming guy you'll ever meet. Typical Betazoid, Kept to himself...In combat there was something in his eyes...Sometimes I had to pull him back, stop him from going too far. And once or twice when I did he looked at me with those cold eyes and I just knew he was this far away from killing me.
It doesn't have anything to do directly with this story, but it's good to see that the Maquis-integration issues (which as I've said, are the only viable way to explore the topic without veering off into absurdity) are not yet put to rest. Oh, I'm sorry, I'm supposed to say, “Why are there holodecks? Why haven't the Maquis mutinied? Voyager sucks.”
So Tuvok calls Suder to his office to question him. Suder is of course being played by the reliably creepy-as-fuck Brad Dourif). Suder tries to turn Tuvok's suspicion around on him by accusing him of harbouring resentment towards the Maquis, but this is pretty useless with a Vulcan.
TUVOK: I assure you, I have no feelings about the Maquis.
SUDER: No, you just spied on us and were going to turn us all over to Starfleet.
TUVOK: As hard as it may be for you to understand, that did not require any feelings on my part.
Russ and Dourif have a rather unique and enjoyable chemistry. Both are playing characters who suppress their feelings but for very different reasons, and this lends an interesting subtext to their conversation. Well it turns out that, aside from establishing the creep factor, Tuvok's interview was pointless, as the EMH has used (non technobabble, amazingly) forensics to determine that Suder is the murderer.
Tuvok confronts Suder with this news and he immediately confesses, describing in detail how he performed the murder. When Tuvok demands a motive, Suder's only reply is “I didn't like the way he looked at me.” [shudder]
Act 2 : ***.5, 17%
TUVOK: Crime must have a logical purpose.
EMH: Ah yes, I see. How to close the case without understanding the logic of the crime. For a Vulcan, that would be a dilemma, wouldn't it?
We establish that most of the former Maquis have genetic markers that point towards violence and aggression, again robbing the entire premise that the Maquis themselves have any logical reason for existing, and aren't just a bunch of temperamental children.
EMH: I think you are trapped in your own Vulcan logic, Lieutenant. All of us have violent instincts. We have evolved from predators. Well, not me, of course, I've just been programmed by you predators. The question is, in a civilised world, can we suppress those instincts? Most of the time we can. Vulcans certainly can. You've got your violent feelings buried underneath centuries of control. But the rest of the humanoid races aren't always so skilled at self-discipline. Crewman Suder may have violent impulses that he just can't control.
I think most of us can admit that we have shared Tuvok's frustration over this kind of explanation. Everything has to have a reason, doesn't it? So bothered by this is he that he visits Suder in the brig to try and pry some answers out of him. What's more frustrating is Suder's lack of emotion over the incident. Vulcans objectify other cultures (one of the few phrases from Enterprise I feel is worth adopting) and thus, whatever actions they take which have no logical purpose are inevitably the result of a lack of emotional discipline. If objectifiable emotions are not responsible for an otherwise illogical crime, how can Tuvok possibly accept this situation? What's great about this setup is that this premise gives Tuvok a visceral motivation for his actions well before he is actually robbed of emotional control. With Data, it was nearly always his quest to be more human that drove his experiments. Tuvok has no such aspirations, so this is quite clever. Further complicating matters is the fact that Suder has all but volunteered to be executed for his crime, something the Federation doesn't do. With few other options, Tuvok elects to meld with Suder to understand this mystery. He justifies this approach by mentioning that some of Tuvok's mental abilities would be (temporarily) transferred to Suder, which could only aid in silencing his own demons (c.f. “Sarek”).
Act 3 : ***.5, 17%
We pick up with Paris' daily sweepstakes rewarding no one, and him making off with his booking fee to enjoy a Neelix-free lunch.
Anyway, Tuvok reports his findings to Janeway, noticeably agitated after the experience. They theorise that being cooped up on the Voyager with no regular outlet to unleash his anger is what likely drove Suder to this crime. So, they decide to coop him up indefinitely. In seriousness, I'm with Jammer on this point: executing him is barbaric and eternal confinement in his decorated cage is certainly a harsh enough punishment. SFDebris in his review suggested putting Suder in stasis, which seems very strange to me as it would mean he would sleep through his sentence. Seems much less harsh than imprisonment. Tuvok however, puts capital punishment on the table, which strikes Janeway as out of character. She wonders what side-effects may be lingering within her old friend, and orders him to mind his own needs in all this.
So Tuvok heads back to the Mess Hall for more punishment from the Morale Officer. Ethan Phillips is extraordinarily talented at playing an insufferable irritant, going so far as to shove his finger in Tuvok's mouth to prompt a smile. Then he threatens to sing, which sends Tuvok into an homicidal rage and, waddaya know, Neelix is strangled to death. Of course, this is just a holodeck simulation, but as others have noted, it is incredibly macabre and darkly humorous to assign Neelix the role of one who could affect Tuvok in this way. You have to wonder in episodes like “Rise” if this memory didn't spring up.
Act 4 : ****, 17%
We again start out with the B plot, but this time Chakotay steps in to Sandrines to put the gambling act to an end. He puts Paris on report and mentions through his teeth that Janeway will be disappointed with him. There's undoubtedly some schadenfreude involved with Chakotay confirming his own long-held suspicion that Paris is a piece of shit.
Meanwhile, Suder awakens in his cell to find Tuvok staring at him from behind the force field. Creepy is as creepy does. Suder is finding himself a bit more Tuvok-like in his objectification of his own emotions, which of course means the inverse is true of Tuvok. The Vulcan lays out the prescribed punishment for Suder, which of course in the enlightened Federation is rehabilitation; he will continue to study Vulcan discipline and be allowed the chance to exorcise his violent tendencies on the holodeck. Suder mentions that holo-violence isn't really satisfying, which of course makes one think of Worf and his Skeletor programme. In Worf's case, however, I think the programme is designed to be a work-out. Klingons have killer instincts, but they aren't blood-thirsty in the same way. Even for them, violence has to have a purpose. And Tuvok already knows first hand that holo-violence doesn't it cut it when it comes to these dark thoughts they now share.
TUVOK: I have studied violence for over a hundred years.
SUDER: Studying it and knowing it are two different things, aren't they. It's attractive, isn't it.
TUVOK: On the contrary. I find it disturbing.
The unique chemistry between the actors is again put to excellent use here. It's a common theme in Vulcan stories to explore the idea what makes us evolved humans is really just a concerted effort to suppress our natural instincts. In the Vulcans' case, the instincts are radically more intense, and thus the discipline must be radical to match. Seeing Tuvok so vulnerable to this beady-eyed Betazoid wonderfully disturbing. Suder wants to meld again, but Tuvok recognises that this is probably a bad idea. Feeling himself slip away, Tuvok retreats to his quarters, erects a force field and deletes his security codes.
Act 5 : ***.5, 17%
Janeway is summed to his quarters by the computer and she arrives to find the place completely trashed by the heaping mass of quiet rage which used to be her security chief. It's a very visceral little scene that relies almost entirely on the actors' delivery and the directing, with Tuvok crouched in the darkness and Janeway haloed in angelic light from the corridor.
He's sedated and brought to the sickbay, where the EMH confirms that the meld has caused some problems (duh), due to some incompatibilities with the Betazoid telepathic centre in Suder, which is a soft touch that I like very much. There's a brief moment for Picardo to be his usual grumpy self over Vulcan arrogance, which is always welcome, but his only prescribed treatment is a kind of neural shock therapy.
Tuvok is awakened. Again, I'm reminded of “Sarek” a bit; there's no more logical reason (ironically) for Tuvok to be awake for this procedure than there was for Picard after his meld, but it's a great excuse for some impressive acting. In his state, he takes the opportunity to berate Janeway for her choice of punishment regarding Suder. What's great about this is that this makes clear that the rationalisation for capital punishment is purely emotional and thus, unjustifiable:
TUVOK: Admit it! Part of you feels as I do. Part of you wants him to die for what he did...He has killed and you know he deserves to die! On behalf of the victim's family, Captain, I beg you to reconsider. Give them the satisfaction of his execution.
After the episode, Tuvok is sedated and left alone in the surgical bay. That night, unmonitored, he manages to break himself free from the Doctor's devices AND the force field. Nifty.
And where does he go but straight to the brig to resume with Suder.
SUDER: Have you come to kill me?
TUVOK: To execute you for your crime.
SUDER: To execute me. I see. And calling it that makes it more comfortable for you... Understand one thing, Tuvok. I can promise you this will not silent your demons. If you can't control the violence, the violence controls you. Be prepared to yield your entire being to it, to sacrifice your place in civilised life for you will no longer be a part of it, and there's no return.
Tuvok attempts the meld again, which may kill them both it seems, but in the end Tuvok finds himself unable to go through with it, and collapses.
There's a brief coda, where things are put back where they belong, Tuvok and Janeway make up, the EMH gets another quip and Suder is stored away for another day. A nice touch is Janeway replicating the gesture from “Twisted” that Tuvok used to demonstrate his affection for her (one of the few good moments of that trash pile).
Episode as Functionary : ***.5, 10%
Tim Russ is finally given a story that fires on all cylinders. We've got a bit of Tuvok the investigator, which were bright spots in several Season 1 stories; we've got Tuvok unhinged, which serves to show just how hard Russ is working every week to maintain that characteristic Vulcan cool; and we've got an effective message show wrapped up in a character piece. Piller's dialogue really sings when he's dealing with complex issues (as opposed to the pedestrian ones we've have often had to endure from him), and unlike last week, the familiar Voyager sets are shot in a way to make them feel fresh and engaging despite the bottleshow limitations in place. The B-story serves its purpose, but feels relatively benign in isolation, with some amusing tension arising between Chakotay and Paris. This finally feels like the show Voyager is capable of being.
Final Score : ***.5
Wed, Jan 23, 2019, 4:43am (UTC -5)
“What's great about this is that this makes clear that the rationalisation for capital punishment is purely emotional and thus, unjustifiable”
Why? We’re humans, not Vulcans, what makes emotions less valid than anything else?
Fri, Jan 25, 2019, 3:05pm (UTC -5)
Emotions are perfectly valid for what they are, but the point is that they are fleeting. They change, usually, and even if they don't, they are completely subjective. Determining whether or not to end someone's life based on emotions is not only illogical, it's immoral.
Sun, Apr 7, 2019, 7:19pm (UTC -5)
Now, I disagree with its positions on what violence is, on how violence is irrational and consuming. Sometimes it's rational, sometimes it's not; some people can practice it daily and not get "addicted" to it, some people can't. It's still just television. Nothing in this episode connects violence to power in any meaningful way, or questions the role of instinct, utility, or dominance in social order. The philosophy at work here is radically oversimplified and gives too many people an unjustified superiority complex for looking at an entire dimension of human experience and saying no to it.
But as an episode, it's fantastic. Brad Dourif is one of the top five guest stars in Voyager history, and Tim Russ gives a fantastic performance, no surprise given Russ' quality as an actor. Killing Neelix? Kind of satisfying to me, but evidently much more so for other people. I'm glad to see everyone enjoyed it so much. Pretty good for a TV quality social philosophy episode.
Thu, May 2, 2019, 12:02am (UTC -5)
4 Stars. Easy.
PS. "I love the fact that Tuvok has a "Kill Neelix" hologram program, though I suspect it's part of the ship's general library for any crew member to use."
Great comment XD
Sun, Oct 6, 2019, 2:37pm (UTC -5)
After the meld you can actually see Tuvok beginning to lose his Vulcan control and when he finally does Tim Russ’s performance in his quarters and in the medical bay are first rate. Also the interaction between Russ and Dourif are excellent!
On another note I couldn’t help thinking while watching Crazy Tuvok in this episode, remember the DS9 episode where Worf is forced to fight Jem H’adar warriors in single combat I that Dominion prison? Imagine Crazy Tuvok in that scenario......
Sat, Nov 2, 2019, 10:04pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Feb 24, 2020, 6:59pm (UTC -5)
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 2:16am (UTC -5)
But once the mystery was wrapped up in 15 minutes or less, we got this very good emotional journey with Tuvok.
One of the best Voyager outings so far.
Tue, Mar 24, 2020, 2:17am (UTC -5)
Mon, Apr 6, 2020, 12:37pm (UTC -5)
The truly psychotic who actually kill for no reason are extraordinary rare and would not have been as stable and eloquent as Suder was...they would have been disjointed, arrogant, and perhaps with a twisted sense of humour. The motive part of the story just seemed to cliche for me.
Tuvoc going mad didn't work for me either. It was too one-dimensional, boring and predictable (like most going mad stories). Tim's acting wasn't top notch...he could have varied his cadence more, used more eye movement, vocal inflections, arm movement etc...even when emotional he came off as robotic. What bugged me was that Tuvoc was only suppressing violent emotions, when in reality vulcons suppress all emotions. Tuvoc losing control should have been more varied and not simply being turned into a robotic killer.
Wed, May 27, 2020, 5:38am (UTC -5)
Tue, Jul 21, 2020, 10:10pm (UTC -5)
Janeway in TUVIX: "Starfleet who? I'll personally carry out the execution!"
This is Janeway in a nutshell. She changes her morals constantly to fit the outcome she wants.
Wed, Jul 22, 2020, 12:50pm (UTC -5)
Janeway in TUVIX: "Starfleet who? I'll personally carry out the execution!"
This is Janeway in a nutshell. She changes her morals constantly to fit the outcome she wants."
Not close to a fair argument. Janeway was saving 2 shipmates lives when she reversed the affects of a transporter accident.
Sat, Aug 1, 2020, 12:19pm (UTC -5)
Thu, Aug 13, 2020, 9:21pm (UTC -5)
Also, I like the subtle touch that Tuvok seems receptive to executing Suter (to the point of almost arguing for it) within hours of melding with the latter. Suder's psychosis clearly had an immediate impact. That's great writing!
Sat, May 1, 2021, 12:49pm (UTC -5)
Fri, May 14, 2021, 1:25pm (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 26, 2021, 3:54am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 26, 2021, 3:55am (UTC -5)
Sat, Jun 26, 2021, 4:41am (UTC -5)
It presents the argument for capital punishment in a negative light, strongly implying it's just an expression of violent instincts rather than something rational. But it also clearly argues against a certain liberal view that doesn't really accept that some people are violent by nature and that gives little room for motiveless hostility as a driving factor in violent crime.
Depending on your politics you'll find different parts of this more v less persuasive, but it's a lot more sophisticated than Star Trek political messaging normally gets.
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 5:36pm (UTC -5)
And compared to that hour of television, "Meld" looks rather contrived. You know Brad Dourif's character is a mad man (X-files managed to subvert this; Brad was both psycho and hero), you know Tuvok is going to go crazy, you know he's going to lose a grip on his emotions (every Vulcan hero has done the same), you know he's going to turn into a murderous madman, and you know he's going to be brought back from the brink.
On a scene-by-scene level - in terms of dialogue, performance and direction - it's a strong episode, but the actual arc of the episode is generic. I think I'd have preferred instead a straight-forward debate on capital punishment. Have Tuvoc arguing for killing the guy (he will murder again, we cannot divert ship resources indefinitely etc) and Janeway argue for life. Maybe they banish the guy to a planet and leave him there. Either way, "Vulcan losing his mind" seems an obvious trope to me, though admittedly it's only really happened a handful of times prior to this episode airing.
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 5:48pm (UTC -5)
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 6:10pm (UTC -5)
I love that idea, so long as all these debates take place around tables. My ideal Trek is always MORE GUYS DEBATING STUFF AROUND TABLES.
Fri, Sep 10, 2021, 6:46pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Nov 8, 2021, 11:46pm (UTC -5)
Mon, Jun 27, 2022, 7:35am (UTC -5)
Suder's Vulcan mode, where he starts inadvertently lecturing and counseling Tuvok is chilling AF. What works so well is that Suder is making a lot of sense here that's difficult to dispute. A meld really can be seen as a form of violence. See Undiscovered Country.
It's also quite an interesting notion that mind melding with a diseased mind might actually be dangerous.
It would have been interesting if Tuvok were permanently damaged to some degree, could have spiced up the character.
Thu, Nov 3, 2022, 9:59pm (UTC -5)
Sun, Mar 26, 2023, 11:34am (UTC -5)
This is a very good episode and one of "Voyager's" best, even if it has little to do with the premise of finding some means to get back to Sector 001 in something less than a few centuries.
Mon, May 22, 2023, 10:05pm (UTC -5)
That's an example of why I was bored. I would have liked to see a 30-second scene of them finding the murder weapon, and definitely wanted to see all of the first mind meld. I would have appreciated more question as to whether the murderer really had changed.
The ending seemed too pat for me, maybe too rushed. The murderer had no ill effects from that second mind meld? Whereas it apparently cured Tuvok? If I were Janeway, I'd have a hard time trusting him again.
I do think the guest star did a great job acting psychopathic, and Tim Russ did pretty well with his difficult part. But I just kept wanting it to be over.
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