Star Trek: Voyager – 2×16 – “Meld”

Star Trek: Voyager
“Meld”
Originally Broadcast February 5th, 1996
Reviewed by Christina Luckings

The Story

Stardate: Unknown

In Sandrine’s, Harry has just beaten Tom in a game of pool, when his friend suggests making it interesting by betting a couple of replicator rations on the next frame. Ricky, Tom’s holographic girlfriend, warns Harry that he is being hustled, but he is so sure that he won the game fair and square that he ups the bet to a week’s worth of rations instead. This is too much for Tom, who has to tell Harry never to play with even his best friend when he says ‘let’s make it interesting’. Instead he suggests an ‘honest’ game of chance – a ship’s sweepstake on the radiogenic particle count at 1200 hours the next day. One replicator ration per entry. Get it right and the pot is yours, less a handling fee for the bank of course. Plenty of people are interested in this, and Harry gets a PADD to start recording names and numbers.

Hogan tells Torres that they’ve narrowed down the problem with the warp drive to conduit 141. Meanwhile, in the mess hall, Neelix greets Tuvok with ‘Happy Kal Rekk’, only to be told that Kal Rekk is not for two weeks, and is a day of atonement. Neelix knows this, he has been researching Vulcan holidays as part of his morale officer duties. He has an ambition to make Tuvok smile and then mentions Rumairie. This a pagan festival which has not been observed for a millennium, but Neelix feels that if people want to cover themselves in grease and chase each other, it wouldn’t hurt morale. Tuvok does not hear this, as he has been summoned to engineering by Torres where he views the grizzly partial remains of a crewmember in conduit 141.

The EMH tells Tuvok that if the circuit had not failed, there would be no remains of Crewman Darwin to have been found. This was no accident, however, as he had been killed by a blow on the head with a heavy object In the Captain’s ready room, Tuvok gives Janeway his findings so far, while she looks at Darwin’s Starfleet record. Then Torres bursts in with the crew roster for the previous night and tells Chakotay that Lon Suder was the only one on duty in engineering. This bothers the first officer. He has never been comfortable with Suder, who seemed just a little too good at killing Cardassians, and occasionally got carried away with bloodlust. Tuvok comments that none of this was in the initial crew evaluations. Chakotay replies that he doesn’t include bad feelings in reports, and Suder did his job, both then in the Maquis and now on Voyager. Nevertheless, Tuvok has his prime suspect.

Suder reports to the Security Chief’s Office for a preliminary interview. The previous evening he had been running a fuel consumption analysis for Lt. Torres. He saw Darwin and acknowledged his presence, but they did not speak. Tuvok asks him directly if he killed Darwin, and Suder denies it. Being a Maquis does not make him a killer. Tuvok assures him that all engineering crew will be interviewed; perhaps all the ship’s crew, not just the former Maquis contingent. The time of Darwin’s death has been set by the EMH at 2214 and the computer shows that Suder’s console was logged off at 2209. Despite this, Suder calmly denies having any motive for killing Darwin, and Tuvok dismisses him. The EMH calls from the medical lab to tell Tuvok that he has found something which might help the investigation.

The DNA of another person has been found in Darwin’s head wound, and matched to Suder. Confronted by this forensic evidence, Suder confesses that he used a two kilo coil spanner to kill Darwin as he sat at the impulse system control panel, because he didn’t like the way he looked at him. Then he put his body in the conduit to dispose of it, and hid the spanner on deck seven. The crime is solved, but Tuvok is still unsatisfied.

The EMH confirms the spanner as the murder weapon. Tuvok has a Vulcan need to find a logical motive, but Suder is not psychotic. His aggressive tendencies are similar to those of other Maquis crewmembers and not worth mentioning. The EMH tries to persuade the Vulcan that just a look can provoke violence in someone who cannot always control their aggression. However, Tuvok’s logic cannot accept it, and he pursues the matter further. In the brig, he interviews Suder but gets no further forward. There is no remorse, in fact Suder tells him that unlike most Betazoids, he cannot sense his own emotions, let alone those of others. As to his punishment, that will be up to the Captain, but if he were her, Suder would have himself executed. Tuvok leaves, but before he gets to the turbolift he returns to the brig to offer Suder something that might help both of them – a mind meld. Tuvok would gain insight into Suder’s motives for killing Crewman Darwin, while Suder might gain some of Tuvok’s ability to control his violent nature. Despite thinking that this is a bad idea, Suder agrees. Tuvok orders Ayala to release the forcefield.

At Sandrine’s, and the computer announces that the radiogenic particle density was 1873 per cubic metre. No one has won the 16 replicator ration prize, but Tom, as organiser, has two extra to buy dinner with. He leaves with Harry, planning a meal of roast beef and all the trimmings.

Tuvok informs Captain Janeway of his actions in the brig, and, while pacing up and down, admits that Suder was telling the truth as he knew it. This is a violent man with no current release for his violent impulses. Janeway asks for his recommendations on what to do with him. They can’t realistically keep him in the brig for 75 years under guard, or leave him on some planet that they pass along the way. Tuvok informs her that Suder is prepared to die, but Janeway totally rejects such a course of action. She would prefer to rehabilitate him, and orders that Suder’s quarters be converted into a confinement area where he can be held without a constant guard. Tuvok objects, but that is her decision. Then she asks how he is since the meld. He admits to being disconcerted, but that he is taking steps to deal with any residual effects, while Suder appears calm and in control of himself. She tells her friend to take care of himself.

In the mess hall, Tuvok is reading a PADD when Neelix comes over, intent on making Tuvok smile. Despite several requests to go away, the Talaxian persists, until Tuvok grabs him by the throat and throttles him to death. He then ends the holodeck programme and leaves.

The next round of Paris’ radiogenic sweepstake also has no winner, as Chakotay arrives in Sandrine’s to inform Tom that he has put a stop to his little bit of fun. He confiscates the pot and says that the Captain will be disappointed after all the faith she has put in him. Paris is on report, but Tom doesn’t seem to care, and makes a barbed remark about someone having to do the tough job of writing reports, before returning to the pool table.

Tuvok visits Suder in the brig to discuss the way forward. Holodeck violence does not give the same release, and neuro-synaptic therapy has been tried and failed. Suder believes that repeated mind melds will give him the control that he needs, just as he is experiencing at the moment, then goes on to sympathise with how Tuvok must currently be feeling. The attractiveness of violence must be disturbing to him, despite 100 years of having studied it. Living on the edge, not knowing when the impulse will strike. How ironic, muses Suder, that the only person to understand what it is to be him is the logical Vulcan security chief. Then he goes on to liken a mind meld to an act of violence, before Tuvok leaves. He goes to his quarters, puts up a security field, deletes his security codes and has the computer inform the Captain that he is no longer fit for duty.

Janeway arrives with a security guard to view a trashed room, and a very unwell Vulcan who had counted 94 ways to kill someone while unarmed before she arrived. Tuvok recommends that they sedate him before transporting him to sickbay. The EMH examines Tuvok in the surgical bay, safely behind a force field. He pronounces that the problem was most likely cased by an incompatibility between Vulcan and Betazoid brains. It seems that mind meld problems are fairly common, and that there is a standard course of treatment which will help restore Tuvok’s normal mental controls.

With Janeway as an observer, Kes and the EMH begin the first of a series of three minute treatments. They take away Tuvok’s emotional controls and then wake him. The Vulcan relishes the feelings of power he is experiencing, but when the EMH refuses to allow him to stay that way, Tuvok threatens to delete his programme with a few well-chosen words. Then he turns on Janeway, criticising her lenient attitude towards violent offenders, calling her and all humans weak and disgusting. He offers to be Suder’s executioner himself with a glint of anticipation in his eyes. There are 30 seconds of the treatment left to go when Tuvok turns his attention to Kes, trying to persuade her to release the forcefield, but his telepathic abilities have also been disabled at her request and he cannot reach her. The treatment cycle ends and he collapses unconscious on the floor. However, as a precaution, they sedate him again before lowering the force field and putting him back on the bio-bed.

That night, Tuvok awakens, rips the neural devices from his temples and uses a power coupling as a tool to disable the force field. He goes to the brig, knocks out the guard and releases Suder from his cell in order to execute him. Suder, however, challenges his motives – justice or revenge – and promises that this logical use of violence will not make his demons go away. After this, he cannot return to his previous life. Tuvok grabs his head and begins a meld anyway, but cannot make the connection and collapses on the floor. Suder taps Tuvok’s comm. badge and tells Chakotay on the bridge that Tuvok needs help, then cradles the helpless Vulcan while he waits for someone to arrive.

‘Captain’s log, supplemental. Ensign Suder has been incarcerated in secured quarters where he will likely spend the rest of our journey home. Lt. Tuvok remains under observation in sickbay.’

The EMH believes that Tuvok’s inability to kill Suder means that he is on his way back to being normal. Tuvok takes the opportunity to apologise to Captain Janeway for his recent behaviour, and assures her of his respect and friendship. She accepts this, then gives him an order – no more mind melds without her permission.

Review

Here it is folks, the obligatory Vulcan loses his marbles episode. Tuvok as a character has been pretty awful so far, but then he is our first full-Vulcan regular in Trek. (Remember, Spock was half-human.) He is sneering, unsociable, possibly with a severe chip on his shoulder because Chakotay got the first officer job instead of himself. He chides Kes during their mental powers lessons for giggling, not making allowances for the fact that she is not Vulcan. Now he gets his come-uppance, and suffers the indignity of being a public spectacle with his emotions on display for all to see. However, where Spock got to have a laugh and swing upside down from a branch, Tuvok gets to be a violent evil person. Somehow you can believe that he always had it in him. After all, he is a security officer cum police detective, dealing with the seedy side of life. This could be a classic example of poacher turned gamekeeper.

Tim Russ handles the job well. He keeps all that potential anger and viciousness bubbling away just below the surface throughout, visibly menacing without becoming out and out action. This Tuvok is not someone to meet in a dark alley.

But the star of the show is Brad Dourif as Suder, who has a neat line in calm, polite, scary characters. The black contacts he wears as a Betazoid just make it even worse. Forget dark alleys, here is a character you really do not want to meet in a crowded square at noon. He carries the scenes with Tuvok wonderfully, and you quickly believe in him as a complete person. He is now in solitary confinement in his quarters. Will we hear of him again? I do hope so.

However, whatever are they doing with Paris? After Threshold and his journey to proper person, he has degenerated into petty bookmaker and general thorn in the side of the first officer. It feels terribly wrong. Almost as wrong as the awful pseudo-medicine the EMH and Kes are forced to perform remotely in order to sort out Tuvok’s mental aberration. If it hadn’t been for these, the story would have scored a lot higher.

Grade: 6/10

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