Monday, April 21, 2008

Star Trek 500: Tuvix

500. Tuvix

FORMULA: The Enemy Within x-1 + Facets

WHY WE LIKE IT: Tuvix may just be a better character than Tuvok and Neelix.

WHY WE DON'T: His execution.

REVIEW: First, let's get the premise out of the way. Transporter accidents are all patently absurd propositions. Kirk split into good and evil halves? Sisko reconfigured into a holodeck character? Barclay fighting giant leeches in the transporter beam? It's all crazy (and Tuvix is crazier than most). Let's just accept it and move on. Once we do so, what we have is the introduction of an interesting character and a sometimes thoughtful exploration of identity. Unfortunately, as the giant reset button looms, things start to go downhill.

Like the Odo-Curzon mash-up in Facets, Tuvok and Neelix are naturally opposite characters. Combining the robot and the clown creates a better-rounded character, more useful and personable than either of his former parts. Not necessarily pretty to look at, but engaging enough that you start to care for him within about 20 minutes. Kes' awkwardness is well written, and Tuvix gets some good scenes in both the role of security officer and head chef.

So it's all the more terrible when he's asked to kill himself in order to bring back Tuvok and Neelix, disturbing even. I'm not against being disturbed by the captain's decisions, but if you're trying to make Janeway likeable (and they were), this isn't the way (despite her pained look at the end). Tuvix begs for his life, the Doctor refuses to "do harm" and the audience knows this is wrong. Tuvix sees it as an execution, and faces the barrel of the hypospray bravely, and that's exactly how it is, because that's how it's played. The crew is so used to the reset button by now, they let it happen. The fact hat there is no epilogue is almost criminal here. We don't know what Tuvok or Neelix think of the decision or what memories they retained from Tuvix. It's just never mentioned again. RESET!

This is all very harmful to the character of Janeway, and if she lost fan support, I believe this is the most damning of all evidence against her leadership. It's really too bad, because Kate Mulgrew gets what I would pick as her Emmy Moment in this episode. She gets one stand-out scene where she reflects on her loss of Mark. Effective and touching. So let me be clear: I like Janeway (and Mulgrew in the role), I just can't get behind Janeway's decisions. I'm calling bullshit on the writing.

LESSON: No matter what, respect the contracts you signed with your actors.

REWATCHABILITY - Medium: I don't know how to make this a High because obviously Tuvix has to die at the end. It's good drama, but Janeway's final solution will make you scream at the television.


Jeff R. said...

Well, you've said most of the things I planned on, even down to pointing out the Alternate/Parallel/Fictional version of crew Members More Interesting Than The Originals. This is the point at which it became quite clear that the creators of Trek were holders of a completely defective moral compass. While there are going to be a lot more dubious moral decisions, after this, nothing is going to be able to shock the viewer (at least not until Enterprise and "Dear Doctor").

This episode needed to have taken a dive. A few changes to the final act that would have made it a bit worse would have gone miles toward making the overall show Voyager better. (Have Janeway either make the correct decision to let Tuvix live or else be unable to make a final decision at all, and then have Tuvix become unstable and rapidly dying, taking the decision away. A cop-out for this episode's dilemna, but it helps the series to no end. If you want still want to make Janeway capable of murdering innocents for her friends, then do an epilogue with her and Tuvok where she confesses that she would have forced the split even if Tuvix was stable...)

Madeley said...

Interesting to read this post and Jeff's comment above, because I always remember this being my favourite episode of Voyager. Mind you, it was a long time ago that I saw it, and I never really liked the show or any of the characters bar the Doctor, which I think affects my opinion a bit.

I found the end of the episode harrowing, and that's probably what resonated; a rather lacklustre series finally achieving an emotional response beyond boredom. But I'd guess it's only a good episode taken on its own merits rather than as one of a greater whole, because of the light it shows Janeway in.

What short-changes the series, and a lot of Trek, is the fact that these events are never referenced again. There's no further resonance for any of the characters involved, no sense of consequence or resolution. Janeway's a jerk, and she's never allowed to grow beyond, or even reflect on, her behaviour in the episode. At least current SF programmes have learned from the kind of mistakes that hindered this show.

Jeffrey said...

I agree with Jeff and madeley. One of my favorite Voyagers, and one that is out and out the worst command decisions ever. By most other Prime Directive episodes, Janeway broke all sorts of laws. Here she reverses the decision made in "Measure of a Man," where Data's distinctiveness was viewed as being paramount, placing him off limits for experimentation. Here, Janeway opts for the characters whose actors have 7 year contracts. . .

Anonymous said...

Just saw "Tuvix" for the first time last night; I knew the basic plot outline but I had to see it to believe it. I can't imagine Sisko, Picard, or even Archer deciding to murder a member of their crew, even if that crewman wasn't "supposed to exist". Nor can I imagine a single member of any senior staff on any other show going along with it.

Even the Doctor on "Voyager", the only character to refuse to help, did nothing to prevent it either. I would have been much more satisfied with a quick exchange like:

Doctor: Computer, delete transporter sequence Alpha Four Delta Ga --

Janeway (cutting him off): Computer, disable EMH.

If it were DS9, I don't think there would be any debate in Sisko's mind, and we would have had good scenes with Kira talking about respecting the will of the Prophets and not presuming to "correct" their "mistakes", Dax pointing out that a joined being is not simply a machine consisting of two parts to be disassembled at will, and Quark charging admission to view the freak.

If only they'd had enough sense to make Tuvix slightly unstable, or give him a prognosis of a short lifespan with a painful decline in his future (and no ability to separate the two UNLESS THEY ACT NOW). Then Janeway would have had some sort of argument to stand on. But a Tuvix who was smarter, happier, more personable, and (even by Chakotay's admission) more than the sum of his parts deserved better than murder.

Siskoid said...

All great points. Tuvix is wrong-headed in the extreme. Even on a practical basis, it's one less mouth to feed!

Oh wait, I forgot Voyager had no real practical problems of this kind.