Almost at the end of the second season of Star Trek: Voyager, one thing is certain: in the Delta quadrant, teleportation hardly ever works, and when it does, it’s a mess. In Tuvix, two crew members go missing, and they’re two of my favorites: Tuvok and Neelix! This reminds me of another law of the Delta quadrant: NEVER let Neelix descend on any planet! He lost his lungs in Phage, he nearly lost an eye in Tattoo, and here he lost… everything! But let’s start from a plot recap.
Let’s face it: the episode doesn’t start well. While returning from a mission on a planet full of flowers, Tuvok and Neelix are merged into one creature by the transporter. The result is a cross between a Talaxian and a Vulcan wearing a Starfleet uniform decorated with Neelix’s clothing designs. Mmh… where is this going? Well, surprisingly, the episode proves to be a hundred times smarter than its premise. Instead of playing it humorously as I expected, things get serious right away. Tuvix (played neither by Ethan Phillips nor by Tim Russ, but by Tom Wright) proves to be a person with his own unique character resulting from the two very different personalities of Tuvok and Neelix, and it’s not a parody of either of them.
Given the apparent impossibility of reversing the change to make the two missing crew members reappear, for days Tuvix is allowed to work both as a tactical officer, having all the knowledge of Tuvok, and as a cook. And… he does exceptionally well! And while most of the crew seem to get used to Tuvix’s presence on board, Kes and Janeway, the closest persons to Neelix and Tuvok, respectively, cannot seem to accept what happened. And one day the Doctor manages to figure out how to bring Tuvok and Neelix back to life, by essentially splitting Tuvix into the two people who made him up in the first place. Everyone’s happy, everyone except poor Tuvix who’s sentenced to death through no fault of his own .
In fact, and rightly so, Tuvix refuses to voluntarily undergo the procedure. It’s up to Janeway to take a tough decision, also supported by an emotionally devastated Kes (this is an episode centered on my three favorite characters, how could I not like it?). The Captain considers the two crew members who’re unable to make their voices heard, and she uses her authority to force Tuvix to undergo the procedure. The poor man rebels, it’ an execution, but neither Janeway nor the rest of the crew intend to help him. And here we witness another great interpretation of Kate Mulgrew (after that of The Thaw) who with a heavy heart carries out her decision herself, since the Doctor cannot kill his own patient, in this case Tuvix. The return to life of Tuvok and Neelix only partially compensates for the harsh decisions faced by Janeway following the accident.
So here’s another spectacular finale that deals with a profound theme and does it really well. A Starfleet ship captain commits murder. Of course she does it to bring two crew members back to life, but in any case she ends a life voluntarily. As if Captain Picard killed Thomas Riker because he was simply created in a teleportation accident in Second Chances! It seems to me that some rules are changing in the Delta quadrant, despite what Janeway said in Alliances about the need to follow the Federation rules that work so well in the Alpha quadrant! Ciao!
PS: The Delta Flyers podcast shout out: Robert Duncan McNeill and Garrett Wang rightly acknowledged the high quality of the episode and, to top it off, also asked some interesting questions to Lisa Klink who co-wrote Tuvix’s screenplay with Kenneth Biller.
Previous episode: The Thaw
Next episode: Resolutions