The Delta Quadrant
I’ve been watching a lot, and I mean a lot, of Star Trek: Voyager in the last couple of months and I have to say that I’ve become extremely fond of the series. My first exposure to the show was in syndication a few years ago, but I never was able to watch it consistently. Now, with the beloved streaming service that is Amazon Prime, I’ve been able to catch up with numerous television shows and films that I missed on the first go round or never had the opportunity to see on a regular basis.
While catching up, I came across the brilliant episode entitled Tuvix. I immediately fell in love with the episode due to the moral and ethical challenges it presented to the crew of Voyager. In my opinion, Star Trek has always been at its best whenever it challenged the viewer to think. Two previous episodes of Trek that came to mind while watching Tuvix were The Devil In The Dark and Outcast. From the Original Series, Devil dealt with the Horta, a creature that is believed to be attacking miners on Janus VI, but turns out to be a misunderstood alien that is merely protecting its young. The challenge comes whenever Spock decides that the creature might be the last of its kind and shouldn’t be killed but Kirk believes that the lives of the miners are more important and that eliminating the Horta was the right thing to do. Kirk is eventually convinced that the Horta just wants to be left alone and allowed to raise its children. Together with Spock and Bones, Kirk convinces the miners to leave the Horta alone and, in return, the Horta would help the miners find valuable minerals on the planet.
The Next Generation episode entitled Outcast sees Riker befriend a J’naii scientist named Soren while the two work together to find a missing J’naii shuttle. The two eventually become romantic (surprise, surprise, Number One!), but their love is forbidden due to the fact that the J’naii are an androgynous race that see identifying as a male or female within their species as a perversion. When their romance is witnessed by another J’naii, Soren is placed on trial and sentenced to treatment in order to remove any perverse thoughts of sexual identity despite attempts by Riker and Picard to stop the process. Unfortunately Soren is “treated” and returns to an androgynous state.
Both of these episodes challenge the viewer. They make the viewer look at all sides of the story. Is the Horta worth protecting? Should Soren be allowed to follow her desires? Are the J’naii wrong for wanting to “treat” Soren? Are the miners justified in their intentions to kill the Horta? At first the answers seem clear, but looking deeper into both situations, one learns that the decision is extremely difficult depending on how you look at it.
Tuvix poses a similar question. In the episode, Tuvok and Neelix are fused together while beaming back aboard Voyager. This results in the creation of a new life form that takes on characteristics of both men. Tom Wright potrayed Tuvix in the episode and did a brilliant job of combining the Vulcan leanings of Tim Russ’ Tuvok and the humorous aspects of Ethan Phillips’ Neelix.
The holographic Doctor is unable to separate the two men into their respective beings, but vows to find a way to bring them back. In the meantime, Tuvix begins to adjust to his new life. He struggles with the memories, feelings (or lack thereof in the case of Tuvok), and relationships of both men. The crew attempts to adjust to their newest member as well, with Kes having a particular amount of trouble with Tuvix. While she showed him no ill will, she remained uncomfortable around him for a long time since she was romantically involved with Neelix and looked up to Tuvok as a mentor and good friend.
As Tuvix and the crew adjust to life with each other, he proves to be an integral part of the crew. He also develops a sense of self. He is literally a new man, and as the Doctor’s research begins to show some signs of successfully being able to separate Tuvix into the two persons that he once was, talk surfaces of actually attempting to bring Tuvok and Neelix back.
It is at this point where the crew, particularly Captain Janeway, faces a moral dilemma. On one hand, restoring Tuvok and Neelix to their distinct selves seems to be the right course of action. On the other, Tuvix has fully integrated himself into the daily activities of Voyager, bonded to varying degrees with members of the crew, and has become a unique individual.
Would bringing back Tuvok and Neelix essentially kill an individual? Despite being two men bonded into one, Tuvix is his own person.
By allowing Tuvix to remain as he is, does that mean that Tuvok and Neelix no longer exist or no longer have the right to live?
It’s a brilliantly difficult moral and ethical dilemma, one that truly has no right answer. One could argue that Tuvok and Neelix deserve to live, but Tuvix deserves to live just as much. Tuvix is adamant that he be allowed to live, essentially denying the right to life for both Neelix and Tuvok.
Even the viewers are forced to struggle with whether or not Tuvix should live. In the brief time that we get to know him, he is presented as likeable, humorous, intelligent, and a well-adjusted being. Viewers like Tuvix as much as the crew of the ship likes him. The viewers have also developed a relationship with Tuvok and Neelix over the first and second season at this point. Much like Janeway, Chakotay, Kes, and the rest of the Voyager crew, we are asked to make a decision on who is allowed to exist and who must be sacrificed.
Ultimately there is no correct answer. No matter who Janeway or the viewer decides to live, someone else has to suffer for it. That is what makes the episode so brilliant. After the credits roll, the crew of Voyager AND the viewer is left with no real resolution to the events that unfold. Unlike Devil and Outcast, where the viewer can turn off the episode knowing in their mind that they are correct about their decision on what should have happened, Tuvix leaves the viewer internally struggling with what happened, why it happened, and if it should have even happened. It’s wonderful, and has quickly made this episode one of my top ten episodes in all of Trekdom.
I highly recommend watching Tuvix if you haven’t done so. It will leave you thinking, conflicted, and longing for more episodes that are just as excellent.
Tuvix is Trek done right. Few episodes are as wonderful as this one.
As always, thanks for reading. As I watch more Trek, I’ll be sure to blog about the episodes that really stick out to me. Sooner or later I’ll address The Devil In The Dark and Outcast in their own posts. I really enjoyed writing this post, and I believe that I might focus more on content like this. Let me know in the comments if you would like for me to post more things like this.
Live long and prosper.