Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Everybody Loves Tuvix

I spent some time watching Star Trek last night (Thanks, Netflix!)

What should come across the screen but Star Trek: Voyager: Season 2: Episode 24: Tuvix.

The one-off episode continues none of the current story lines (those darn Kazon!), but is instead a self-contained exploration of yet another transporter accident. You would think I would be sick of poorly-functioning transporters (much like poorly-functioning holodeck safety protocols) but the writing and acting exhibited in this episode blow away the cynicism I might exhibit in other instances.

Exhibit A: Neelix

If you are familiar with the series, you know Neelix is a Talaxian hanger-on who somehow appointed himself the "morale officer" onboard Voyager. He is boisterous, obnoxious and loud. He enjoys fine food, fine drink and cooking up disgusting food combinations in the mess hall. He accidently cultivated a ship-destroying bacteria from one of his horrid cheeses. In short, he's like a Star Trek version of Bilbo Baggins. I think his feet are even furry, although he does usually wear shoes. Except for the holodeck episodes featuring swim attire (shudder).

Exhibit B: Tuvok

I really don't care what anyone else thinks. Tuvok is an awesome Vulcan. Quiet, logical and oozing moral superiority. Tuvok is a genius detective and investigator. He is Janeway's rock-solid dependable agent anytime the whole crew gets mind controlled. But underneath all his mental facilities lies a seething rage. After a while, you really get the feeling that Tuvok's powers of Vulcan emotional suppression are all that keep him from unscrewing the heads of all the other Voyager crew members and ejecting their bodies out of the airlock.

What happens when both of these bizarre personalities get pushed together Yet Another Transporter Malfunction?

Exhibit A+B: Tuvix

Bam! One guy, halfway between both characters. He has both sets of memories. A weird combination of personality traits. A bizarre, twisted outfit halfway between Neelix's loud, flowery spaceman leisure suit and Tuvok's Starfleet uniform.

A lazier episode of Voyager would have probably made Tuvix into some kind of animal, or emotionally driven slob, or evil doppleganger. A madman who comes unhinged and decides to blow up the ship or kidnap Kes.

What they did was use actor Tom Wright, who already looks kinda like a cross between Ethan Phillips and Tim Russ, and he proceeded to play an almost perfect combination of both characters. He was a more logical Neelix, and a more fun-loving, friendlier Tuvok. The normal median between the two weirdos. The best of both worlds!

Instead of finding a monster, the Voyager crew actually begin to like Tuvix better than either Neelix or Tuvok. He can cook better. He's organized. He can make jokes. He can run calculations in his head and run the tactical console like a pro. There is nothing Tuvix can't do better, as far as I can tell.

When they finally find a way to separate the two organisms, the entire crew feels the loss. Especially Tuvix, who has come to enjoy his new abilities and sees the transporter reversal as a form of death for his new personhood. They actually have to drag him kicking and screaming back to the transporter pod.

Much in the same way S:TNG writers found ways to bring Tasha Yar back using inter-dimensional time paradoxes, I wish Voyager had found a way to fit Tuvix into a few more episodes. You see the guy, and your mind automatically wonders how he would have handled the different plot complications the show threw up over the rest of the seasons.

Definitely worth repeated watchings.

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